Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

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From email from the Bureau of Reclamation (Vern Harrell): "McPhee Reservoir filled May 23 and operators have been releasing inflows less reservoir demand since then. The forecast today indicates that we can expect downstream releases between 600 and 400 CFS through Thursday and then base flows of 70 CFS the rest of the month.

"Forecasts are not always accurate and can change without notice due to weather conditions and reservoir usage."

From email from the Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb): "Releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue have dropped another 100 cfs. There should be about 350 cfs in the Lower Blue by this afternoon/early evening."

Category: Colorado Water

6:09:06 PM    

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From today's Denver Post: "Warm and dry weather in May caused a quick melt-out for most of the state's snowpack, according to statistics released Monday by the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Statewide snowpack decreased to 40 percent of average on Friday. This year's late-season readings were 157 percent of those same measurements a year ago. [Allen Green, state conservationist] said water managers can continue to expect below-average runoff from this year's snowmelt across most of the state, particularly across the Western Slope. Runoff is expected to be about average in the South Platte and Arkansas basins, he said."

Category: Colorado Water

6:54:42 AM    

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Here's an article about the melting rate of the Bering Glacier from the Alaska Report. They write:

New measurements have confirmed that North America's largest glacier has been melting away about twice as fast as scientists previously thought. The immense Bering Glacier - which covers more than 2,000 square miles on Alaska's "lost coast" between Prince William Sound and Yakutat - has been spewing more than seven cubic miles of water into the Gulf of Alaska each season, according to calculations by Robert Shuchman, co-director of the Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI). That's about 1.1 trillion gallons of water, more than twice the volume found in the Colorado River system, Shuchman said. It's about 20 times the annual flow of the Yukon River, based on an annual estimate of 225,000 cubic feet per second...

Famous for its sudden surges that can overtake and flatten new growth, the Bering Glacier extends about 120 miles into Alaska's coastal mountains, and once covered more than 2,000 square miles (about 80 percent the size of the state of Delaware.) But the glacier has been retreating up to 10 miles per year.

Live Science: "At least 400 species of birds could become endangered within the next 50 years as a result of global warming and changes in land use, a new study finds. Climate change and the destruction of habitats through deforestation and the conversion of grassland to cropland have already pushed many species to extinction, and the process will only accelerate over the next century, the authors of the study said. The extinction count grows much higher at the turn of the next century, they said."

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:28:44 AM    

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Fort Morgan residents can expect a higher water bill in the future, according to the Fort Morgan Times. From the article:

A $4.86-a-month water rate increase appears definitely in Fort Morgan residents' future. City Council members are scheduled to act on the hike, from $27.34 to $32.20, Tuesday night. The increase was recommended after a water rate study was conducted with $1 million included for a 1,000-acre-foot raw water reservoir. The city would stop purchasing Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) water units for the water enterprise, and the money would be earmarked for the planned Northern Integrated Supply Project. NISP is proposed to bring additional C-BT water to Fort Morgan if the city remains in the project throughout its design and construction.

Category: Colorado Water

6:23:40 AM    

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Here's a article about a product called the Toilet Lid Sink from the Colorado Springs Gazette. They write:

Your mother badgered you to wash your hands after using the toilet. She never suggested using the toilet to wash your hands. But that's the whole point of the Toilet Lid Sink, available through a company called Gaiam. The sink, made of a white plastic that its makers swear looks just like porcelain, fits on the top of almost any toilet tank. It uses the clean water from the tank, which then drains (when installed correctly) into the toilet's bowl, where pristine water isn't so much of an issue. These sinks are already popular in Japan, a nation obsessed with both cleanliness and toilets. And in places such as Colorado, where water availability is an issue, using toilet water twice seems to make sense. But Gaiam says there's more at play here than just saving water. The sink can help homeowners detect insidious toilet leaks.

The sink retails for $89 (add another $12 to $20 for shipping and handling) and is available at

Category: Colorado Water

6:17:19 AM    

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Ed Quillen weighs in on the controversy brewing over Aurora's long term storage contract with the Bureau of reclamation in his column in today's Denver Post. He writes:

We have the makings of an excellent water war along the Arkansas River, where deadly disputes go back to 1875 when Judge Elias Dyer, son of the famous Methodist missionary John L. Dyer, was gunned down in his own courtroom in a dispute that started over an irrigation ditch.

This time around, the conflict involves the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, known locally as "Fry-Ark." It was constructed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and is administered by the nine-county Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Fry-Ark takes about 70,000 acre-feet of water each year from the Fryingpan River above Aspen on the Western Slope, and delivers it to Arkansas drainage through a tunnel under the Continental Divide. President John F. Kennedy visited Pueblo in 1962 to sign it into law. The plan was to provide water to cities and towns in Arkansas drainage in Colorado and to provide "supplemental irrigation water" to farmers. One major feature was Pueblo Reservoir, a few miles upstream of its namesake city. So there's water coming from one basin on the Western Slope to another on the Eastern Slope. Enter another Eastern Slope basin - the South Platte, wherein lies the city of Aurora...

In the 1980s, Aurora began buying agricultural water rights east of Pueblo. It can take water from the Arkansas at the Otero Pump Station, a few miles up the river from Buena Vista. Thus there are diversions from Arkansas to South Platte drainage, and Aurora wants to use Pueblo Reservoir for storage to facilitate the process. Aurora is willing to pay, but there's a legal issue: Can Fry-Ark facilities, designed to serve southern Colorado, be used to benefit an entity in northern Colorado? Expensive litigation may answer that question...

In our arid West, if there's a choice between getting people to move where the water is, or moving water to where the real-estate developers are, we move the water. Denver, Phoenix and Los Angeles have demonstrated this, and Aurora is coming along quite nicely.

The Pueblo Chieftain editorial staff has an opinion about the controversy. They write:

Over the past generation, the water buffaloes have perverted the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project so that it hardly resembles what its founders envisioned back in the 1950s. Those founders - mainly Pueblo businessmen - had seen with their own eyes the devastating effects the drought of the 1930s had on farms and towns in the Lower Arkansas Valley from Boone all the way to Holly. They knew the valley needed supplemental water for agriculture and that as towns grew they would need additional water too...

The purpose of the bill was and remains quite clear: to bring West Slope water into the Arkansas Valley, particularly for those farms and towns in the Lower Valley. It was not to take Arkansas River water out of the valley and to Aurora. But that purpose has over the years been perverted by the water buffaloes representing the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs, Aurora and the Bureau of Reclamation...

And a real culprit in this environmental crime is the Bureau of Reclamation...Of course, as [Southeastern District President Wally Stealey] noted, the Bureau is run out of Arapahoe County, referring to the center of Aurora. He might well have added the Bureau also is run out of the headquarters of Colorado Springs Utilities. Mr. Stealey also was critical of the proposal called the Preferred Storage Options Plan, which seeks enlargement of Lake Pueblo to benefit mainly to Colorado Springs and Aurora. PSOP is included in legislation sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs - a city that was Johnny Come Lately to Fry-Ark...

Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera sniffed that Colorado Springs taxpayers pay about 75 percent of the repayment of Fry-Ark construction costs. We'd remind hizzoner that Colorado Springs gets 250 percent more water out of Fry-Ark than the second largest entity, Pueblo, and 600 percent more than all the Upper Arkansas communities. A whole series of bad decisions during the past 25 years - made behind closed doors by the water buffaloes - have left Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas Valley with the short end of the stick while facilitating Aurora's raids of Arkansas Valley water. That's not what the Fry-Ark founders had in mind, and it's not what Congressmen Chenoweth and Aspinall had in mind either.

The Colorado Springs Gazette editorial staff also has an opinion. They write:

As galley slaves on the good ship Gazette, we couldn't leave our oars long enough to attend a congressional field hearing on regional water issues in Pueblo on Friday. But based on published reports, a review of the written testimony and the accounts of several attendees, it was pretty much what we expected -- a simplistic water policy morality play in which villainous urban areas, a la Snidely Whiplash, plot to dry up agricultural areas of the Arkansas Valley in order to satisfy their unquenchable water lust.

The reality is far different, of course, since agricultural interests still use about 85 percent of the water in Colorado. And despite all the talk about how agriculture is getting shortchanged, one witness pointed out that the Fryingpan-Arkansas project disproportionately benefits farmers. When President John F. Kennedy dedicated the project in 1962, it was supposed to balance the needs of urban and rural water users. But today, as Bill Long of the Southeastern Colorado Conservancy District pointed out, agricultural interests make up 75 percent of project beneficiaries, while cities use just 25 percent of project assets. The intended balance has not been struck, in other words, even though the people of El Paso County have paid $65 million into the project. Kennedy warned in 1962 about those who would use water, and this project in particular, to pit agricultural and urban areas against each other. It was prophetic, since Friday's hearing was organized by, and packed with, people seeking to do just that...

Attendees heard a one-sided story about how Colorado Springs, Aurora and other cities are drying-up the lower Arkansas Valley, though none of these water transfers were the result of theft, skullduggery or coercion. These water rights were acquired honestly, from willing (and sometimes eager) sellers -- from ranchers or farmers who for whatever reason decided they didn't want to farm or ranch any more. These were their rights to relinquish. They were paid a price they found fair. And if fault for this must be assigned, it lies not with the buyers of these water rights, who are putting them to a beneficial use, but with changing market conditions and a rigid farm sector that[base ']s living in the past...

Rural hard times weren't created by Colorado Springs or Aurora, but by a changing world and American farm policies that never evolved beyond the Depression era. It's the result of an agricultural welfare state that[base ']s sinking under its own weight, and farmers and ranchers who have been hooked on government handouts and can't or won't change. And rural folk who lecture city folk about our water quality sins are hypocrites, given how much water pollution agriculture creates...

Those who missed Friday's field hearing but still want to get a taste of the anti-Springs propaganda can do so this evening, at an equally one-sided "forum" taking place at Colorado College. Pueblo Chieftain assistant publisher Jane Rawlings -- whose boss and father, Bob Rawlings, leads the anti-Springs contingent in the Steel City -- will "moderate" a hand-picked panel presenting Pueblo's side of the story on water issues. Former City Councilman Richard Skorman will participate, but his ability to bring a semblance of balance to the discussion is questionable, since he[base ']ll be there representing Sen. Ken Salazar, not Colorado Springs. The show begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Gates Common Room in Palmer Hall (1025 North Cascade).

The meeting tonight in Colorado Springs will focus on the Southern Delivery System according to the sponsors.

Are we having fun yet?

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:40:21 AM    

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Here's a article about the two bills that have been introduce in the U.S. Congress designed to recover water from oil and gas operations for irrigation and/or industrial use, from the Glenwood Springs Independent (free registration required). From the article:

Two new bills making their way through the U.S. Congress could set the stage for treating water produced by oil and gas drilling and making it useable by farmers and ranchers for irrigation. The "More Water and More Energy Act," House bill 902, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mark Udall (D-Eldorado Springs), would fund research and development pilot programs in several western states to find ways to use produced water for agriculture. If it passes, it would require the Department of Interior to carry out the study and provide $5 million in funding. A companion bill, "More Water, More Energy, Less Waste Act of 2007," Senate bill 1116, is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colorado)...

In 2003, EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), one of the top natural gas producers in the Piceance Basin of northwest Colorado, built a water treatment plant on Hunter Mesa south of Rifle. Originally, it processed water produced not only from its typical local wells, but also from 24 experimental coal bed methane wells, which have since been capped. The plant continues to treat produced water from its other wells. Coal bed methane development poses its own problems with water disposal because coal seams must be dewatered in order to release the gas. The Hunter Mesa plant, as well as two plants added in 2004 in the Parachute area, removes hydrocarbons and dissolved solids, especially salts, and is then reused for drilling operations. The treated water meets state water quality standards for discharge into the Colorado River, although no water was disposed of in that way, said EnCana spokeswoman Wendy Wiedenbeck...

As more wells are drilled each year, gas developers are reaching their capacity to use what water they produce. "Currently our water handling facilities are at maximum capacity," Wiedenbeck said. Williams, also a top gas producer in the Piceance, does not have water treatment plants and recycles all of its produced water, said Williams spokeswoman Susan Alvillar. "In about 10 years we will have to have a disposal plan," she said. Energy trade groups in Colorado have come out in support of the Salazar and Udall bills. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association endorsed the bills, said Denver attorney Ken Wonstolen, who represents COGA...

Because it comes from deep underground, produced water would not be subject to state water law because it is not tributary to surface waters, said Dave Merritt, chief engineer with the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District. "Essentially, it would be administered outside the priority system," he said. But gas operators would have to prove that in water court, said Division 5 engineer Alan Martellaro of the Division of Water Resources, which administers state water law. Once that water is turned to a beneficial use, such as irrigating a farmer's crop, it would be subject to state water law. Martellaro said buying treated produced water could prove too costly for farmers and ranchers. "Under current laws (gas developers) would need a well permit" that is established in state water court. The attendant legal and engineering fees would add to the selling price of the water.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:30:42 AM    

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