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

Central Colorado Water Conservancy District

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

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New irrigation rules for the Arkansas Valley have pitted irrigators against state engineering staff. This summer will see a cooperative effort to develop the new rules, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Water users throughout the Arkansas River basin will begin working on surface water irrigation consumption rules this summer under a committee being formed by the Colorado Division of Water Resources. State Engineer Dick Wolfe announced the makeup of the committee this week in an order. "The benefit of establishing an advisory committee is that all stakeholders can be represented and provide advice and recommendations to me in shaping the rules and regulations," Wolfe said in a letter seeking nominations.

The committee will meet to review how to shape state rules looking at the possibility of increased consumptive use of water through agricultural improvements like sprinklers, drip irrigation, ditch lining or pipe using a surface water supply. The rules are needed to comply with the 1949 Arkansas River Compact with Kansas, Wolfe said. Kansas has fought with Colorado over use of the Arkansas River since the early 1900s. In 1986, a U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit led to well rules in Colorado after Kansas prevailed on the issue of overpumping groundwater. Rules circulated last fall by Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte met with resistance from farmers up and down the valley. In the months since, Witte has stressed that physical improvements to irrigation systems have the potential to increase consumptive use, although they do not necessarily mean more water will be used. Many farmers have installed sprinklers or made other improvements to save on labor costs and are not irrigating more acreage, although on water-short ditch systems, more acreage could be irrigated, Witte said...

The committee would include conservancy districts, conservation districts, ditch associations, county commissioners, well augmentation groups, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, state and federal agency representatives, Colorado members of the Arkansas River Compact Administration and five members chosen by Wolfe. Some might fill more than one slot, so the total size of the group would be about 20 members, Wolfe said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:05:14 AM    

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Here's an update on the water system in Las Animas from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

The city of 2,800 is at the doorstep of a $3 million project to upgrade both the water and sewer systems, expected to be completed by 2009. The project is partly driven by the needs of growth because Corrections Corporation of America plans to double the size of the private prison to 1,400 inmates. There are also water lines up to a century old, and a sewage lift station that is literally on the wrong side of the tracks...

"Like most towns our size, we have an aging water system," [Mayor Lawrence] Sena said. In fact, the system still has about 14 percent cast-iron pipes, some mains that still run under U.S. 50 and sewer lines that underlie railroad tracks that carry 30 trains a day, said Ken Wagner, water superintendent. "The prison expansion will mean a 300,000 gallon per day increase, so we have to upgrade the capacity of the transmission pipe," Wagner said. The current water system uses between 350,000 and 1 million gallons per day...

The water project will cost $2 million, and is being funded through several state and federal sources, including $800,000 from federal community development block grants, $800,000 from the state drinking water revolving fund, $300,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board through the roundtable and $10,000 in planning funds from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The $1 million sewer project is funded in part by a $500,000 energy impact assistance grant, $377,000 from the water pollution control revolving fund and $10,000 from the state health department...

Las Animas uses well water in its system, and for years just added chlorine and pumped it directly into the 250,000-gallon water tower that still stands sentinel on the west end of Las Animas. The water was notoriously "hard," staining water fountains. The push to do something came when the state wouldn't allow prison inmates to drink the water. In 1996, the town began using a $2.4 million reverse-osmosis system, which nearly doubled rates at the time. Water is injected at high pressure through two banks of membrane filters to remove practically all impurities in the water. The total dissolved solids in the water decreases to 30 parts per million from 1,300 ppm out of the well, Wagner explained. About 50 percent of the water pumped from the well is now recovered for use in the water system, with the remainder - called brine - mixed with treated effluent and returned to the Arkansas River. Wagner said the water quality of the combined discharge meets state water quality guidelines. A new bank of membrane filters will be added under the project, increasing the yield of water from pumping to storage to about 70 to 80 percent, Wagner said.

Also during the 1990s, the city's sewer lagoon system was replaced by a lift station. Unfortunately, it was built to the south of railroad tracks. While there has never been a break under the tracks in the collection lines leading to the station, they have broken on both sides. A new lift station is planned north of the tracks to correct the problem, Wagner explained. Looking ahead, Las Animas plans to participate in the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a $300 million line that would serve 50,000 people in 42 communities in the Lower Arkansas Valley. Wagner is not certain how the conduit would fit in with or change the current plans for improving the water system...

Las Animas is a city that knows about water changes. Most of the Las Animas Consolidated Ditch was purchased for electrical power in the 1980s, but the water was never moved. Many of the farms purchased by High Plains A&M in the early 2000s were in the Las Animas area, but the water remains in farming operations. The flood capacity of the Arkansas River has been reduced by encroaching tamarisk.

Category: Colorado Water
6:58:36 AM    

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From The Yuma Pioneer: "The City of Yuma officially became a member of the Yuma County Water Authority, during its regular meeting last week. The council previously had voted to authorize an agreement. Last week, it approved the resolution adopting an intergovernmental agreement in regards to the water authority. Approval followed an executive session toward the end of the meeting. The vote was unanimous with every member in attendance. The intergovernmental agreement includes the City of Wray, the Town of Eckley and the County of Yuma. Council members then unanimously appointed Mayor Gene Seward and Mayor Pro Tem Fred Raish as the city's voting representatives on the water authority board. Councilman Tony Layson was appointed as the first alternate, and City Manager Doug Sanderson as the second alternate. Yuma County Water Authority is being put to the test immediately as it is attempting to help find the funds needed for a proposed leasing of water rights on the North Fork of the Republican River for this year. Besides helping with Republican River Compact compliance, it would provide the parties involved in the separate surface water litigation time to try to reach a mediated settlement."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:43:18 AM    

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The prospect of flooding in the San Luis Valley is subsiding a bit thanks to the cool spring Colorado has had so far this year. That may change with the heat wave expected this week. Here's an update from The Valley Courier. From the article:

Until the snow is off the mountains, however, the Valley is not out of the woods. Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division 3 Michael Sullivan said the cold-warm weather cycle occurring so far this spring has resulted in a steady runoff that reduced the potential for flooding. "The hot and cold cycle for the last few weeks has kept us on track and kept us from having a really large quick melt out," Sullivan said. He said the nighttime temperatures are still around freezing in the hills and the high temperatures have ranged from 57 nearly a week ago to 37 on Thursday...

Currently the snowpack in the mountains on the western side of the Valley is at 109 percent of average, much reduced from the 170 percent earlier this year that created concerns the Valley might experience a high degree of flooding...

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) from April to May reduced its forecast for the irrigation season, April-September, by about 65,000 acre feet down to 680,000 acre feet for the Rio Grande and reduced its prediction for that time period for the Conejos River system (Conejos, San Antonio and Los Pinos Rivers) by 40,000-45,000 acre feet. "We are still looking at a pretty high forecast in that basin," Sullivan said. In spite of the reduction the NRCS forecast will place the Rio Grande at 128 percent of normal stream flow during the irrigation season and the Conejos system at 135-159 percent of normal...

The downside of a good water year is the Rio Grande Compact obligation, Sullivan said. He said in high water years Colorado has to send more water through the system to New Mexico and Texas to meet compact obligations. The higher obligation means higher curtailments for water users, he said. Current curtailments on the Rio Grande are 22 percent and on the Conejos are 45 percent. The Conejos River system has a higher obligation under compact provisions, Sullivan said. He said he lowered the curtailments from April by about 9 percent on the Rio Grande and 7 percent on the Conejos system. Sullivan said irrigation season is in full force with water diversion priorities filled every day. He said the demand is up because of the wind. The flow at least on the Rio Grande is not big enough to bring most of the junior water rights into priority yet, Sullivan said. If the weather warms up in the next four or five days, however, some of those large junior rights will come into priority, he added.

Category: Colorado Water
6:37:55 AM    

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From The Denver Post: "Anglers now have improved access to Elevenmile and Antero reservoirs with a relaxation in boating restrictions related to zebra mussels. Through an agreement with Denver Water, the north boat ramp at Elevenmile will be open, and all trailered boats will be inspected for mussels and other nuisance species before entering the water. Denver Water will assist Colorado State Park officials with funding for an inspection that will be extended to the Witcher's Cove ramp in the near future. A similar inspection system already is in place at nearby Spinney Mountain Reservoir. Antero and Williams Fork reservoirs remain closed to all trailered boats and any craft with motors -- gasoline or electric -- until inspection procedures can be arranged with the Colorado Division. Human-powered craft such as canoes or kick boats are permitted, but must be clean and dry."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:17:35 AM    

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