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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Thursday, May 29, 2008

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Say hello to Coal is Dirty. They're trying to counter the messages from the coal industry.

Category: Climate Change News
6:24:10 PM    

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Here's an update on the Pioneer/Laird surface water litigation from The Yuma Pioneer. From the article:

It appears the Pioneer/Laird surface water litigation is heading to a hearing, set to begin Monday in Wray. Also, the City of Yuma has been pulled directly into the fray. The petitioners' final prehearing statements included the statement they will "present evidence that even at 20 miles from the North Fork (of the Repubican River), the ground water has more than a de minimis impact on surface waters above the Pioneer headgate, and that impact is expected to increase over time." Because of that, the petitioners (the Pioneer and Laird ditch owners) will seek to have the Northern High Plains Basin's boundaries altered by more than an average of 20 miles away from the North Fork.

That puts all of the City of Yuma's municipal wells within the potentially-impacted zone. When asked if it was to ever actually come to pass, City Attorney Roger Seedorf said Yuma would have to either have an augmentation plan or find replacement water. The general feeling, though, is the case eventually will end with the senior surface water owners' selling their rights. The question, though, is what that price will be and when will it be agreed upon.

Parties from both sides have been negotiating over the past few weeks in an effort to at least come close to an agreement, and delay an evidentiary hearing before a hearing officer for the Colorado Ground Water Commission. As of earlier this week, State Engineer Dick Wolfe said he was encouraging both sides to continue negotiations. However, it was looking very likely the hearing will begin as scheduled. That would be Monday at 10 a.m. in the meeting room at Wray City Hall. Joseph "Jody" Grantham will be the hearing officer. The hearing is expected to last up to three weeks. Both sides will make opening statements Monday, and a rough outline of a witness schedule likely will be set.

It has come to the hearing as the parties remain millions of dollars apart in regards to a buy-out. There was an effort to lease the North Fork surface water for one year, for $500,000. The idea would be that Pioneer/Laird would request the hearing be delayed until January, and the sides would continue negotiating a final settlement price. The Republican River Water Conservation District had agreed to pay $310,000 for the one-year lease, based on what it has paid for similar senior surface water rights. The newly-formed Yuma County Water Authority was attempting to come up with a plan to cover the balance. Yuma County Commissioner Robin Wiley, who spearheaded the creation of the YCWA, said the plan was to seek as much government and grant money as possible, then have a ballot question in November seeking voter approval to raise the remaining funds through some kind of tax. Such a fund-raising mechanism would have had to have been incorporated by Yuma County, and the municipalities of Wray, Eckley and Yuma, the entities that make up the YCWA. However, Wiley said the idea was to incorporate the one-year lease if the sides could get close to a framework for the outright purchase of the surface water rights. That reportedly is not the case as the sides remain far apart...

[State Engineer Dick Wolfe] said he believes everybody realizes that a buy-out is the long-term solution, and there are risks to both sides the longer they take to get to that point. He also noted the hard feelings will only intensify the longer it drags out. Nevertheless, it appears to be heading toward the evidentiary hearing. Both sides have filed their final statements, and each has a long list of witnesses they could call on to testify. The hearing is open to the public from beginning to end. The Pioneer hopes to have at least a rough schedule of witness' appearances to publish in next week's edition. It also will be available at

Following hearing, which could last until June 20, Grantham will write his initial decision and forward it to the Colorado Ground Water Commission. Both parties then can make additional statements before the commission, which would then either accept, reject or amend Grantham's decision. Those involved with the case say that at that point, the losing side likely will take the case back to Yuma County District Court, after which it probably would go into the appeals system, eventually ending up before the Colorado Supreme Court. The process could take several years before reaching a final conclusion.

We're looking through the court docs tonight. The boundaries of the Northern High Plains Basin may be required to be changed if it is proved that groundwater wells effecting the flow in the North Fork of the Republican River are currently outside the NHP boundaries. The State Engineer is statutorially required to redraw the boundaries in that case.

Category: Colorado Water
5:55:05 PM    

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Governor Ritter has signed HB 08-1141 according to a press release from Western Resource Advocates. Below is the release:

Contact: Peter Roessmann
Western Resource Advocates
Ph.: (303) 444-1188, Ext. 221

May 29, 2008

Common Sense Becomes Law: New Developments Required to Demonstrate Adequate Water Supply

Ft. Collins, CO – Today Governor Bill Ritter signed into law House Bill 1141, requiring that developers of projects of more than 50 units prove the development will have an adequate supply of water. Senator Bob Bacon, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Kathleen Curry, pushed for the bill's passage to "give local governments a necessary tool for approving sustainable development and protecting homebuyers from purchasing homes that have an uncertain water future."

The new law aims to prevent future water crises caused when developments are built first and questions about water supply are addressed later. Developers will now have to provide thorough documentation of an adequate water supply. If the local government wishes, it may request that the State Engineer review the information submitted by the applicant.

"The concept is so simple; it's embarrassing to explain that until 1141 we didn't have a statewide requirement to show an adequate water supply before issuing a building permit," commented Chris Treese of the Colorado River District.

This state law will benefit local governments, who retain the ultimate authority to approve or deny development. In addition, the bill addresses a desire by local governments to have an express statement in law that they can deny a development application solely based upon water availability concerns.

"We hear arguments all the time that we cannot link land use decisions to water availability," said James Newberry, Chairman of Northwest Colorado Council of Governments Water Quality and Quantity Committee. "This bill puts that argument to rest."

Rep. Curry notes that the law has broad support. "The Colorado River Water Conservation District, the environmental community, and the water community worked hard to bring this long-overdue legislation to fruition. Because of their efforts, local governments will now have the information they need to make knowledgeable decisions regarding the adequacy of water supply - before they approve new developments."

For homebuyers, the new law will provide an extra measure of protection when considering the purchase of a new home. Bart Miller, Water Program Director at Western Resource Advocates, points out, "We already have building codes to make sure houses won’t fall down and zoning codes to create good neighborhoods and now we have this law to prevent consumers from living in a developer-imposed drought."

This law accepts the reality that Colorado is a semi-arid state and requires development decisions to reflect that. Colorado's relative lack of water resources is compounded by the fact that most of the major river basins in the state are already over-appropriated, further inhibiting the ability of communities to find new supplies of water.

"When the West was first being settled, farmers were told that 'rain would follow the plow' onto their arid homesteads. That wasn't true. Today when homebuyers want to know their new home has a solid foundation and safe wiring, they also deserve to know that when they turn on the tap water will come out," said Stephanie Thomas, from Colorado Environmental Coalition.

When housing developments are built without adequately addressing water supply, the costs to homeowners, communities, homeowner associations and local governments can be enormous. "It is much more difficult to make smart water development choices under emergency circumstances, after the growth that needs the water has already occurred,"" said Drew Peternell, Director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. "Having a law that factors water supply into the development process should help us to avoid the necessity of making hasty or reckless decisions during an emergency."

Western Resource Advocates is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting the West’s land, air and water. Our water program works to help communities meet human needs while protecting rivers, lakes and aquifers. Visit us online at

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:54:18 PM    

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb): "Today, we are cutting back releases from around 1100 cfs to about 800 cfs. By this evening, there should be around 800 cfs in the Lower Blue."

Category: Colorado Water
5:53:33 PM    

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The Pueblo Board of Water Works is watching Colorado Springs' proposed Southern Delivery System like a hawk, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo Board of Water Works still has concerns that a $1.1 billion pipeline project could have an impact on Pueblo not addressed in a federal environmental study. The problem is caused because Colorado Springs wants to hook on to the municipal outlet at Pueblo Dam, potentially decreasing the ability of Pueblo to get water by gravity flow through the outlet. "Under certain flow conditions it could be a problem," said Terry Book, director of operations for the water board. "It would come at a time when Pueblo needs high flows and the reservoir is low." That would be in mid-summer during a drought year, and admittedly not very often, Book said. Still the water board has certain assurances under its contract with Reclamation to use the municipal outlet and wants to see those protected in any eventual contract that allows Colorado Springs to connect under the Southern Delivery System. Also involved in the project are Pueblo West, Fountain and Security...

Pueblo has contracted for the capacity to use 180 million gallons per day - about three-fourths of the outlet's total capacity. Pueblo doesn't need that much now. Its peak rate was 80 million gallons a day for a couple of hours in 2002, and 64 million gallons in a 24-hour period. "Under the right conditions, if the reservoir were very low, it could happen today," Book said. Other current users on the outlet are the Fountain Valley Authority and Pueblo West. The Arkansas Valley Conduit would also hook up to the dam. By changing valves inside a manifold that takes water from four elevations in the dam, the capacity could be increased about 25 percent, enough to satisfy current and future needs. Colorado Springs has agreed to pay that cost when the time comes, Book said. That still doesn't address the "head loss" - or pressure pushing water - Pueblo would incur with the upgraded valves, Book said in his comments to Reclamation.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:50:34 PM    

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John Martin Reservoir's permanent pool is approaching the 10,000 af level, according to The Lamar Ledger. From the article:

The permanent water pool at John Martin Reservoir grew a little larger earlier this month. The Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation combined to purchase 3,800 acre feet of water from Colorado Springs Utilities. The water, which was added the reservoir's permanent pool, raises the pool near its 10,000 acre feet maximum said Michael Seraphin, public information officer for the division of wildlife. As of May 22, the permanent pool's content was listed at 9,348 acre feet of water. The water was originally purchased in April, but its transfer was delayed until last week in an effort to mitigate transit losses said Seraphin. He said coordination between the Colorado Division of Water Resources and the utility allowed the water to be released when flows in the river were in better condition to allow for less loss during transit. In total, storage of 3,747 acre feet was added to John Martin Reservoir last week. The water purchase costs were split evenly between the DOW and the division of parks and outdoor recreation said Seraphin. DOW used resources in its real estate lease fund to cover its portion of the purchase.

John Martin Reservoir was originally constructed to mitigate flood risks in the lower Arkansas Valley. The reservoir has a total flood stage capacity of approximately 660,000 acre feet of water.

Category: Colorado Water
5:49:53 PM    

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The USDA has released their final report on The effects of climate change on agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity. Here's a report from The Denver Post:

Some of the most dramatic - and negative - effects from climate change will take place in the American West, according to a new federal study. While the East will become wetter and Midwest grain crops may benefit from longer growing seasons, the West will be drier and rangeland livestock production could decline because of stress from hotter summers. The study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture [~] a survey and synthesis of existing research - paints a picture of sweeping changes in the next 30 to 50 years. The analysis is based on an assumed rise in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide - the main greenhouse gas [~] from the current 380 parts per million to 440 ppm and a 2.16 degree Fahrenheit increase in average temperature. According to the report, Western states will face substantial challenges because of growing demand for water and big projected drops in supplies.

From 2040 to 2060, anticipated water flows from rainfall in much of the West are likely to approach a 20 percent decrease in the average from 1901 to 1970, and are likely to be much lower in places like the fast-growing Southwest. In contrast, runoff in much of the Midwest and East is expected to increase that much or more. "Some of the really marked impacts are happening in the West," said Peter Backlund, a lead author and researcher at the Boulder-based National Center for Atmospheric Research. "It is really daunting."[...]

There has been a downward trend in snowpack water over the past 80 years because of changes in temperature and precipitation. Snow is melting an average 10 to 20 days earlier in Colorado, and by 2050 runoff could be reduced by 20 percent, according to one projection.

More coverage from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

It is likely that the Earth will experience a faster rate of climate change in the 21st century than seen in the last 10,000 years, said the report, "The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources and Biodiversity." Overseen by the United States Climate Change Science Program, the USDA and a dozen other federal agencies, the report's principal authors include Peter Backlund of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.

Backlund said that like a lot of people, he would go back and forth on climate change, fluctuating between being being quite worried and not being too worried at all. But when he and the other scientists started compiling the models and tallying the effects on agriculture, forests and the like, "It was really kind of daunting." The impacts of climate change "seem to be occurring faster than we projected just five or 10 years ago. We're seeing things happening now that we didn't think would happen before 2030 or 2040," Backlund said. "I'm not saying we can't manage it - but it's going to be a race between efficiency, population growth and climate change."

In other climate change news the Environmental News Service reports, " Environment ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations concluded a three-day meeting in Kobe Monday with an agreement on the long-term goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. But the ministers failed to support specific emissions reduction targets for 2020, as recommended last year by an international body of climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC. Still, the G8 environment ministers said there is "strong political will" to reduce the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change during the G8 leaders annual summit set for July 7 to 9 on the Japanese island of Hokkaido."

Category: Climate Change News
5:48:53 PM    

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Here's a look at the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies from The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

The mountain known as "Peak 13510"" is home to Ouray County's Senator Beck Basin, where the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies has established a study area with a long term mountain systems monitoring program, and is conducting research into the effects of dust on snowmelt. "It's a pretty unique thing we have got going on here," said Chris Landry, the organization's executive director. "The mountains are understood to be the bellwether for climate change; in the U.S. there is only one other site for monitoring mountain systems in a comprehensive way, on Niwot Ridge." In Senator Beck Basin, located on Red Mountain Pass, Landry and his team monitor stream flow, along with weather patterns, snowpack, soils, radiation and the plant community, which will be inventoried every five years. "We have two major instrument arrays within the basin, and a third on the highway, at Ridgeline to monitor wind and air depths," Landry said. Five years is too short a time to draw conclusions regarding climate change, he said...

The dust project was originally brought to the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies by a Boulder scientist named Tom Painter. "He knew the San Juans were likely to get dust," Landry said. "So we got connected, and decided to collaborate. Now, for the first time anywhere we have quantified the effects of dust on the absorption of energy by snowpack. Our finding is that the dust is changing the rate of absorption when it is present at the surface, from five to 10 percent to roughly 40 to 50 percent. It is a huge change. The most direct effect is that dust is dramatically changing the timing and intensity of snow melt when it is within one foot of the surface." Since releasing their findings, CSAS scientists have been working with water managers across Colorado, Landry said. "This is so significant," he said. "These guys need to understand. Conventional wisdom is that snowmelt is driven by air temperature. But we found the change in snow 'albedo,' which is the index of reflectivity of material. Clean, new snow in January is 95 percent reflective. But dust is reducing that 'albedo' to 50 or 60 percent. So when you start stacking up relative contributors to snow melt, comparing air temperature to direct absorption of energy by dust on snow, dust is a larger contributor to snow melt than air temperature." During one stretch of clear, sunny days in May of 2005, researchers noted a mid-day peak of two to two and half times more energy contributed by direct absorption, with 500 watts of peak energy coming from net solar compared to 200 watts from warm air. A statewide dust event on Feb. 15, 2006 began on the Colorado Plateau and affected the entire state, Landry recalled. "It went all the way to the Northern Front Range," he said, noting that a resulting layer of dust was observed by many. "That spring was quite dry,"" Landry said. "All watersheds in the state saw runoff come early, and with much more intensity than was expected." Interestingly, he adds, a separate but concurrent study headed by a scientist named Jason Neff from the University of Colorado performed an analysis of lake sediment on Red Mountain Pass. "Lo and behold, they found a dramatic increase in desert dust on the Colorado Plateau when it was settled for grazing on an industrial scale," Landry said. "And a fairly dramatic drop-off of the dust rate right about the time of the Taylor Grazing Act - although it has not returned to pre-settlement rates." Only in the past 34 years have scientists begun to understand the fragility of the environment and the impact of the dust on snow, he said.

Also say hello to Ahead of the Curve a video on climate change by The Sea Studios Foundation. Thanks to grist for the link.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:48:10 PM    

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From "A town hall meeting to discuss the future of the Colorado River Basin is scheduled for June 4th at the Two Rivers Convention Center. Some of questions that will be discussed during the meeting is, how will energy development impact the basin? And how will growth on the front range impact agriculture and water issues here on the Western Slope? A state wide process to discuss these and other important water issues that will impact all Colorado citizens was established in 2005. Through this process the Colorado Basin Roundtable was established. The Colorado Basin Roundtable would like your input and feedback on these important water issues for the Colorado Basin."

Category: Colorado Water
5:47:21 PM    

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From The Vail Daily: "A flood advisory is in affect in for the Eagle River below Gypsum after the water rose six inches in 24 hours, the Eagle County Sheriff's Office says.

Category: Colorado Water
6:26:40 AM    

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Fremont County Commissioners tabled the decision about granting permits to for uranium mining in the Tallahassee Creek area, according to The Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

Almost seven hours of testimony Tuesday overwhelmed the Fremont County Commissioners with so much information on proposed uranium exploration in the Tallahassee area that they tabled a permit decision until next month. "This is not unexpected," Mike Haynes, managing director of Black Range Minerals, said following the board's unanimous vote. "There was a vast amount of information that was discussed today, and this is perfectly reasonable."

Black Range Minerals is seeking a Conditional Use Permit to drill about 800 test holes on 3,900 acres, primarily on the Taylor and Boyer ranches. The Australian company hopes to discover whether the "world class uranium district" holds the promise of a commercially-viable mining project. Controversy swirled and accusations filled the air as 70 people strode to the microphone, one after another. Speakers were evenly divided with half siding with ranch owners' rights to develop their property and the other half vehemently opposed to the project as proposed...

Susan Wyman, a water hydrologist and civil engineer from La Veta, described an aggressive groundwater protection plan to prevent aquifer cross communication, while Steve Brown of Centennial, health physicist and specialist in radiologic science, unraveled myths about radiation. "There is more radioactivity in smoke alarms than in a typical uranium ore hole," Brown said. "Uranium ore is not a hazardous material." Brown cited numerous professional references and said people who smoke an average of 1.5 packs a day receive 1,300 times more radiation than a uranium worker throughout a one-year span. He said naturally-occurring radiation is so prevalent, exploration drilling is like throwing a glass of water into a lake. Gary Tuttle, landscape architect, reassured the crowd the project will not generate traffic congestion in the area. He also said, based on other uranium activity throughout the state, housing values will not fall but instead could dramatically rise...

Both sides brought out the big guns. The Colorado Mining Association, a 132-year-old trade association, stood up for Black Range while the Western Mining Action Network, a legal group based in Durango, opposed the project...

Many spoke about the current energy crisis, the relief uranium can offer and the need to lead the way into the future. "Fremont County may be able to make a contribution to energy dependence," said Tom Pool, mining engineer and landowner who supported Black Range. "Let's find out." In the end, the input proved to be too cumbersome for the commissioners to handle in a single day. With regular session and additional discussion, the marathon session lasted almost nine hours. "I thought earlier this morning I'd be ready to make a decision," said District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden. "Given the volume of the reports we've been given today, I'm not ready to make a decision other than to table it to a later date."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
6:23:48 AM    

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Here's a short article about Glade Reservoir and the proposed Northern Integrate Supply Project from The Brighton Standard Blade. From the article:

The most hotly contested component of NISP, or the Northern Integrated Supply Project, Glade Reservoir has come to symbolize the rift between those who say increased water storage solutions are critical to the future growth of Front Range communities and those who claim that projects like NISP will destroy the wild legacy of rivers like the Cache la Poudre, Colorado's only designated wild and scenic river...

According to American Rivers, the solution lies more in conservation than storage basins, a multi-layered approach without the associated taxpayer burden a project the size and scope of NISP would engender. In a press release dated April 17, the agency claims "Colorado municipalities and water districts have yet to embrace the solutions that others across the country have. Many metropolises have adopted tiered water rates that would provide financial incentives for customers to use less water, and penalize those who are wasteful. Others provide discounted or even free water smart fixtures and appliances for residents. And farmers all across America are dumping flood irrigation, an idea straight out of the last millennium and switching to pivot and drip irrigation systems." With projected overall upfront costs bumping more than $400 million - all to be paid for by municipal water providers invested in the project - NISP carries with it a financial burden many opponents find distasteful, and to some, unconscionable as well.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:10:59 AM    

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