Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

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According to the Vail Daily (free registration required), "Effective July 1, 2007, the fee to permit the construction of a new Individual Sewage Disposal System (ISDS) in Colorado will increase by $23."

Category: Colorado Water

7:18:21 AM    

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Customers of the Cherokee Metropolitan District are looking for answers from officials that have imposed watering restrictions, according to From the article:

Cherokee water district is in its third days of severe water restrictions. And customers are not taking it well. The district is an unincorporated area just east of Powers Blvd with about 7,000 households and 400 businesses. Water authority general manager Kip Petersen says workers had cited 50 violators by Friday morning. Roughly 500 citations for illegal watering have been issued this past month. But no tickets were issued this past weekend. "This weekend I had to pull staff off, one worker was literally surrounded by angry neighbors and I feared for their safety," Peterson said. Hoses are dry, lawns are slowly browning and the districts water storage tanks perilously low. When the weather turned hot and dry, literally hundreds of people chose to break the two hours per day twice per week watering rules. "People jumped on and said, 'I'll cheat and nobody else will.' Unfortunately it snowballed," Peterson said. When the tanks only contained a two day supply, the district went to stage 4 last Friday. Almost all outdoor watering is now banned.

Category: Colorado Water

7:12:50 AM    

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Colorado, Utah and Wyoming have vast reserves of oil shale. As usual the U.S. government and others are looking west to exploit the resources here. One thing is different now from the past; conservationists, sportsmen, water officials, environmentalists and Monkey Wrenchers [ed. We just threw that in ] are looking back. Here's an article from today's Denver Post arguing that pollution from oil shale extraction needs to be factored in to accurately cost out the effects. From the article:

Commercial production of oil shale in western Colorado will require new power plants that will greatly increase pollution, according to an analysis released Monday by a coalition of conservation groups. The same groups that two weeks ago publicized the vast water needs for commercial oil shale production attacked the power needs for oil shale production as envisioned by the federal government. One million barrels per day will require an estimated 12,000 megawatts of capacity annually, the groups said. That is three times all the electricity produced in Colorado in 2005.

The environmental coalition that has been highlighting the potential impacts of commercial oil shale development is arguing that decisions about commercial leasing of federal lands for oil shale should be slowed down. The federal government has issued research and development leases to three companies in Colorado that are studying new ways to melt shale rock in the ground and extract oil and gas from it. Commercial leases are planned to be released in several years. Legislation pending before the House of Representatives would slow the Bureau of Land Management's leasing process. "It's a fool's errand to unlock commercial leasing before more is known," said Robert Randall, staff attorney for Western Resource Advocates.

Randall said a consultant for the coalition came up with pollution predictions using information about power needs gleaned from several sources, including a 2005 Rand corporation study and a 2004 U.S. Department of Justice analysis. The predictions show production of a million barrels of oil per day could: Release more than 105 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, a roughly 80 percent increase in the carbon dioxide emitted by all electrical generating units in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah; Increase sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions by more than 35,000 tons each year; Have a significant impact on visibility in protected areas around the Piceance Basin in northwestern Colorado.

More from email (Thanks Theo):

Developing oil shale on the west slope is going to require about 12,000 megawatts of electricity from somewhere, probably coal-fired power. But the new limits on ozone proposed by the EPA means that there is very little room for new industrial development that adds to air pollution. And the ozone issue is just the tip of the iceberg - 12,000 megawatts of coal-fired power will have a host of impacts, from mercury in water supplies to a huge increase in global warming pollution from Colorado.

Existing power plants are nearing their full production rates. To keep up with demand, the electricity for oil shale development will likely have to come from new power plants. The most readily available fuels for new plants are coal and natural gas. And the currently low cost of coal will make this dirtiest of fossil fuels the more economically attractive choice for power production. Our experts did an analysis of the likely impact that would come from producing one million barrels of oil per day from shale. That's the low end of what the Department of Energy projects could be operational within two or three decades. The bottom line: The new power plants needed to support a one million barrel-per-day industry could emit 105,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year. That's about 80 percent more than was released by all existing electric utility generating units in the states of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah in 2005. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions, the major culprits in acid rain, could increase by over 35,000 tons per year each. That's 20 percent more sulfur dioxide and 16 percent more nitrogen dioxide than was emitted by all of the electrical generating units in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming in 2002. If these emissions are concentrated where the oil shale deposits are, namely the Piceance Basin in Colorado and the Green River Basin in Utah, they could further impair air quality in a region that's already seeing spikes in air pollution from the natural gas boom. Of course, major new generating stations will also require significant water supplies for their cooling systems.

More coverage from The Rocky Mountain News. They write:

The concerns were the second major salvo from green activists against oil shale. Earlier this month, the same groups warned that oil shale development on the Western Slope could require water equal to the amount consumed by two Denver-sized cities annually.

Industry officials were critical of the environmentalists' claims. One called the numbers guesswork: "It's an assertion based on a hypothetical that is akin to shadowboxing," said Greg Schnacke, executive vice president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:55:05 AM    

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A new study from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder cites dust as one of the causes of Colorado's snow melt occurring earlier each year, according to the Denver Post. From the article:

Desert dust loosened by cattle's hooves and miners' machinery is blowing onto Colorado's snowcapped mountains, catching the sun and making snow melt faster, according to a new report. More than a month faster. "The snowpack 150 years ago was probably much cleaner, and by being cleaner, it lasted longer, potentially weeks longer," said Tom Painter, a researcher with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder. The faster melt means less water late in the summer for farmers relying on flowing streams, and less for city water providers, who also use mountain snowpacks to store water for later in the summer, Painter said. Dirty snow could also mean more warming in the region, he said, as white snow reflects solar radiation back into space, and dark grit absorbs heat.

In 2006, eight dust storms from northern Arizona and New Mexico covered Colorado's San Juan Mountains with layers of orange and red grit, Painter and his colleagues reported. In most years there are fewer than four such dust storms. Last year's dusty snow melted 24 to 35 days earlier than in dust-free years, the scientists reported, based on computer water models and ground data. The study is published online and in the current edition of Geophysical Research Letters.

More coverage from The Rocky Mountain News. They write:

The wind-blown dust came from the Colorado Plateau, 200 miles southwest of the San Juan Mountains, which are in southwestern Colorado, said Painter, whose study appears in the current edition of Geophysical Research Letters...

The CU team collected snow at precise locations. They scraped the dust from some of the snow, but left the dust on other samples, then compared results...

Prior to large-scale human settlement in the American Southwest, the grasses on the deserts and plateaus held most of the dust in place, says Painter. But after a century of breaking up the desert's crust, the dust blows freely in storms, he said...

It doesn't happen every year, he said. But while dust-covered mountains were a rarity 100 years ago, these days it happens every year when there is a drought in the desert and several sustained wind events, he said. That's what happened in 2006 -- eight significant wind events in the Four Corners area, versus three or four a year the previous few years, he said. Most global warming models predict increased drying and warming in the American Southwest, Painter noted. If that's the case, the dust storms could get stronger and more frequent. The key factor is how long the dust stays on the surface of the snow. If it collects early in the year, but then is covered by a lot of snow that's not accompanied by a big wind event, the snow won't melt very fast.

Category: Colorado Water

6:35:18 AM    

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Runoff has peaked on the Colorado River, according to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (free registration required). They write:

Brian Wright, co-owner of Glenwood Canyon Kayak, said that at 3:15 p.m. June 19, the Dotsero gauge of the Colorado River peaked at 6,770 cubic feet per second. It remained in the 4,400-cfs range throughout Monday. Wright said the Barrel Springs section of the canyon, between Hanging Lake and Shoshone about one mile upstream of the [Shoshone] power plant, is running at a solid Class 5 level. The rapid called Upper Death, located just below the diversion dam, is flowing around a Class 6 category, Wright said. "That's pretty much unrunnable unless you're really hot," he said. On the International Scale of River Difficulty, Class 5 calls for advanced whitewater experience, while Class 6 requires expert skill level.

Category: Colorado Water

6:23:06 AM    

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