Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

Urban Drainage and Flood Control District

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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From The Denver Business Journal, "Denver Water, the state's largest utility with more than 1 million customers in the city and some surrounding suburbs, on Tuesday voted to raise the cost of connecting new customers to its system, effective Jan. 14. 'Tap fees,' typically paid by developers and rolled into the cost of the home or business, will increase an average 7 percent. The increase is intended to cover the cost of adding water capacity needed by new and future water customers. Even with the increase, tap fees in Denver are among the lowest in the metropolitan area, according to the utility."

Category: Colorado Water

8:40:03 PM    

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This month's article is up at Colorado Central Magazine. Here the link to the Coyote Gulch posts we used for the article.

Also in this month's issue Ed Quillen explains the ins and outs of water conservancy districts.

Category: Colorado Water

8:30:52 PM    

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So how is Colorado's snowpack stacking up for the 2008 water year? Here's a report from The Denver Post. They write:

Mountain snowpacks are thin statewide -- a quarter as deep as normal in southwestern Colorado -- and weather forecasters are predicting a relatively warm, dry winter for most of the state. The Gunnison River Basin reported snowpack levels 29 percent of normal Monday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and the South Platte River Basin was at 57 percent of normal. The next few months do not look a whole lot better. "Oh, it's dry and grim," said Klaus Wolter, a meteorology researcher with the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder...

The Vail, Steamboat Springs and Eldora resorts all pushed back their openings by at least five days as they struggled to put enough man-made snow on the slopes. At Vail on Monday, less than 2 percent of terrain was open, and just five lifts of 34 were operating. Copper Mountain was 6 percent open, and Breckenridge 7 percent. Steamboat plans to open Friday. "I am very concerned that Colorado, which is essentially drought-free on the national drought monitor, might see regions of drought develop by spring," Wolter said.

Category: Colorado Water

7:34:51 AM    

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From The Rocky Mountain News, "Forty-four thousand customers in south Adams County will pay 25 percent more for sewer service and see a bump in water rates in January if a proposed increase gets through. The South Adams County Water & Sanitation District will hold a public hearing on Dec. 12 to consider the hikes. It would be the first rate increase since 2003, said members of the district's board of directors. It's necessary because of rising operating costs and the need to improve the infrastructure, they say. Denver Water will start charging 17 percent more for the water it supplies to the district starting Jan. 1, the directors said. Those who use the least water will see only a 2 percent increase -- about 75 cents a month. But any customer who uses more than 12,000 gallons a month would see a larger increase than that, a rate structure designed to encourage conservation. Those who use more than 30,000 a month would see the greatest rate increase. Commercial customers would get a flat 25 percent increase in their sewer bills and a flat 6.8 percent increase in their water bills. The public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. at the district's headquarters, 6595 E. 70th Ave., Commerce City."

Category: Colorado Water

7:25:44 AM    

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Drought exacerbates releases of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere according to a recent report cited by The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

The 2002 North American drought left an extra 360 million tons of heat-trapping carbon in the air, equivalent to the pollution caused that year by 200 million U.S. cars, according to Boulder scientists. The prolonged drought cut by half the continent's ability to absorb carbon dioxide, said the study released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration...

NOAA used its powerful new modeling system CarbonTracker to analyze data. CarbonTracker found that in North America, humans released 1.9 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year - through burning fossil fuels. Typically, forests, grasslands, crops and soil would be expected to absorb about one-third of those emissions in North America. But that natural ratio slumped in 2002 when the continent had one of its largest droughts in a century...

"Scientists often look at the role of greenhouse gases in producing climate extremes," said Wouter Peters, who led the study at NOAA's Earth Systems Research Lab in Boulder. "Here, we show the reverse is also true. Climate extremes can have a major impact on the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere," he said. Peters is presenting the study at the 50th anniversary of the Global Carbon Dioxide Record Symposium and Celebration this week in Kona, Hawaii. Drought and other variations in climate disturb the natural absorption of carbon dioxide by changing temperatures, rainfall, soil moisture and the length of the growing season, scientists say.

In other climate change news Governor Ritter honored the recent Colorado recipients of the Nobel Prize (along with Al Gore), according to The Rocky Mountain News.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

7:19:53 AM    

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We're out of the drought but conservation should be everyone's goal out here on the rooftop of America. Here's an article about water-efficient toilets from The Denver Post. They write:

With droughts parching the nation's southeast and chronic water shortages drying out the West Coast, water utilities across the country say they're grateful for recent advances in the toilet industry, and a number of state governments are moving toward mandating the use of the water-saving commodes. Among the manufacturers leading the way are Toto USA, a Japanese company with U.S. headquarters in Morrow, Ga., and Kohler Co., based in southeastern Wisconsin. Toilets built 30 years ago guzzled 5 or more gallons of water per flush, but in the early 1980s, manufacturers designed new models that needed only 3 1/2 gallons per flush. Congress emphasized further conservation in 1992 when it passed the Energy Policy Act, which mandated that regular toilets made starting in 1994 use 1.6 gallons. Consumers weren't pleased with those early low-flow models. The first flush didn't always clear the bowl, and subsequent flushes negated any water savings.

But the newest generation of high-efficiency toilets -- developed in the past two to seven years -- does the job on the first try and uses only 1.3 gallons per flush, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "The technology is ready, it's been tested and it's receiving rave reviews from customers," EPA spokesman Benjamin Grumbles said. "There's real enthusiasm for high-efficiency toilets. Water conservation is really the wave of the future."[...]

While a water-friendly toilet can be several times more expensive than a standard one, which typically costs less than $100, consumers can expect to recoup the cost within about two years after water savings and possible rebates from the local water company. One of Toto USA's most popular water-saving products is the Aquia, which sells for about $400.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:07:09 AM    

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Here's an update on cleanup efforts for the Pennsylvania mine in the Peru Creek Basin from The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

For nearly 15 years, the federal law meant to clean sources of water pollution such as the Pennsylvania Mine has actually prevented work to improve the water. A 1993 court ruling said that, under the Clean Water Act, anyone who tries to remediate water at an abandoned mine becomes legally liable for discharges there forever. The ruling halted efforts by the state to clean drainage from the Pennsylvania Mine and ensured that little water cleanup was done at any of Colorado's other 23,000 abandoned mines.

A decade of efforts to pass a socalled "good Samaritan" law, legal protection for groups and government agencies who want to clean up mines, has failed, mainly because of resistance from environmental groups. Both of Colorado's U.S. senators backed such a measure last year. "The Clean Water Act was written and designed to clean up problems like this, and it's the only thing stopping us from doing it, and it's so unfortunate," said Elizabeth Russell, mine restoration coordinator for Trout Unlimited, which wants to be a good Samaritan at the Pennsylvania Mine...

There are a host of nonprofit organizations, local governments and state agencies that would like to get involved in cleanup efforts, particularly in areas such as Summit County where dead, brown waterways like Peru Creek at the Pennsylvania Mine could be bad for tourism. But assuming the legal liability for all future discharges -- in today's litigious society -- is a risk none will take.

While it may seem a good Samaritan law may be a nobrainer, like most issues of environmental law, it is not. When Colorado's U.S. senators, Republican Wayne Allard and Democrat Ken Salazar, backed a bill in 2006 to remove parts of the law that discourage cleanup, it drew opposition from environmental groups. The groups worried changes could allow mining companies to come back into the mines and renew operations and not be responsible for discharges. The opposition was enough to kill the legislation, and it looks unlikely any will advance in 2007. It's an issue dividing environmentalists...

At the Pennsylvania Mine, the lack of legislation has forced cleanup advocates to get creative. Plans are in the works to create a nonprofit organization, the Snake River Water Foundation, that will take over ownership of a water treatment facility outside the mine. The foundation will have little cash or assets, so it is hoped no one would bother to sue it under the Clean Water Act. "Nobody's going to sue them because they don't have anything to be sued for. There's no money," Russell said. Numerous groups, government agencies and ski resorts are involved in the effort, though not Denver Water, because there are no human health issues for Lake Dillon reservoir downstream of the mine, which serves the water supplier. It's not the ideal way of doing cleanups -- it's taken 15 years to reach this point, and plans for the treatment facility still haven't been drawn up. It will cost from $500,000 to $1.5 million, Russell said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:58:08 AM    

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One result of open space along creeks and other streams is an increase in the population of beavers, seen both as a benefit and a nuisance, according to The Aspen Times (free registration required). From the article:

But while the critters' activities benefit the local ecological system, beaver dams can disturb the flow of water to neighboring ranches, according to Dale Will, Pitkin County's open space and trails director. The beavers have caught the attention of elected officials, too. Pitkin County commissioners recently dedicated $90,000 toward finding a solution that both preserves beaver habitat and protects ranchers' water rights. Historically, when beavers become a nuisance, ranchers either shoot the animals or destroy their dams, Will said. But because Pitkin County Open Space and Trails acquired some 232 acres along Brush Creek in 2004, the beaver population has boomed...

Indeed, the area downstream of the Snowmass Village roundabout has become a patchwork of neatly stacked beaver dams and cascading ponds. The dams create wetland watershed, fill underground aquifers and filter sediments by slowing down fast-running water, Will said. "There's a lot of ecological benefit to having beavers around," he said.

But as beavers build dams, they divert water from ditch-head gates, leaving the ditch dry. Or beavers build dams that flood the gate and overflow the ditch, and ranchers have no control over the water flow, Will said. "It's a common problem throughout Pitkin County and the mountain West," Will said. The issue is a clash of the "old West and the new West," or between the needs of ranchers' promised water and ecological concerns...

Bill Blakeslee, a water commissioner for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, has inspected the site and encouraged cooperation between county staff and the ranchers. "Ranchers have the right to protect that ditch and that water right," Blakeslee said. Beavers build dams when they see running water, Blakeslee said. He suggested a system with a perforated pipe drawing water from the bottom of a beaver pond to feed the ditch. Pitkin County staffers are looking into it. "If you further compromise the ditch operation, then I'll have to step in to try to find a different solution," Blakeslee said, and the matter could end up in court.

Category: Colorado Water

6:45:47 AM    

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