Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

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This month's article for Colorado Central Magazine is up now at their website. The magazine concentrates on central Colorado issues and events. Here are the links to the Coyote Gulch posts we used as background.

Category: Colorado Water

7:34:27 PM    

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Check out the photographs of Noctilucent Clouds from NASA. From the article:

The first observations of these "night-shining" clouds by a satellite named "AIM" which means Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, occurred above 70 degrees north latitude on May 25. People on the ground began seeing the clouds on June 6 over Northern Europe. AIM is the first satellite mission dedicated to the study of these unusual clouds.

These mystifying clouds are called Polar Mesospheric Clouds, or PMCs, when they are viewed from space and referred to as "night-shining" clouds or Noctilucent Clouds, when viewed by observers on Earth. The clouds form in an upper layer of the Earth's atmosphere called the mesosphere during the Northern Hemisphere's summer season which began in mid-May and extends through the end of August and are being seen by AIM's instruments more frequently as the season progresses. They are also seen in the high latitudes during the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere.

Very little is known about how these clouds form over the poles, why they are being seen more frequently and at lower latitudes than ever before, or why they have been growing brighter. AIM will observe two complete cloud seasons over both poles, documenting an entire life cycle of the shiny clouds for the first time.

"It is clear that these clouds are changing, a sign that a part of our atmosphere is changing and we do not understand how, why or what it means," stated AIM principal investigator James Russell III of Hampton University, Hampton, Va. "These observations suggest a connection with global change in the lower atmosphere and could represent an early warning that our Earth environment is being changed."

AIM is providing scientists with information about how many of these clouds there are around the world and how different they are including the sizes and shapes of the tiny particles that make them up. Scientists believe that the shining clouds form at high latitudes early in the season and then move to lower latitudes as time progresses. The AIM science team is studying this new data to understand why these clouds form and vary, and if they may be related to global change.

Category: Colorado Water

10:10:41 AM    

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From email from the Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb): "Sounds like we're going to wait until Sunday to reduce releases from Ruedi Dam. After that change, we are still anticipating flows in the Fryingpan to be between 165-180 cfs for next week. For tonight and tomorrow, flows in the Fryingpan will be around 290 cfs."

Meanwhile, "We dropped releases from Green Mountain down to 1050 cfs today. There is a possibility releases will drop again over the weekend. But tonight, the Lower Blue will be at 1050 cfs. Check the gage before you go up, this weekend."

Category: Colorado Water

9:31:45 AM    

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Brad Allenby (via GreenBiz): "A recent book, 'Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can't Predict the Future,' argues that quantitative modeling, the basis of much environmental science, cannot predict outcomes of complex natural processes. While this is somewhat contested terrain, it points to a profoundly challenging underlying issue. Put simply, how do humans design and manage in a world where they increasingly dominate the dynamics of most major earth systems, when the complexity of those systems assures that any coherent framework with which they approach the issue will, by virtue of being coherent, necessarily be incomplete and inaccurate?"

On climate modeling:

The same is true with models. The essence of modeling is intelligent simplification of a more complex reality by capturing the information that is "important" and "relevant," and ignoring non-relevant information. This is a perfectly legitimate way to do science: Newton, after all, developed his laws of motion by ignoring minor forces (such as friction) which would have made his simple, and therefore powerful, conclusions far more complicated and confusing.

How does one know what information to drop when constructing a model? As with any observation of a complex system, that is a function of the reason for which the model is being created, and the structure of the underlying system. It is neither pure creation of the observer, nor is it a product of the underlying system; it partakes of both.

A properly created model is therefore one that calls forth the information necessary to understand the query posed by the modeler. Each model will have boundaries within which it is useful - that is, within which the information and model structure are appropriate to the queries addressed to it. But the boundaries are frequently not obvious, and especially in highly politicized debates there will be powerful tendencies to extend the model beyond them. Thus, for example, models of global climate change create probabilistic future scenarios that can inform public debate - but to present those results as inevitable, or demanding certain social responses, is invalid.

Please be sure to read the whole thing.

"Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children's lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land." -- Luna Leopold

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

8:55:54 AM    

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From The Cañon City Daily Record, "There may be evidence of leakage from Cotter Mill's primary impoundment into area ground water, but its impact "is very limited," a state geologist said Thursday. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment geologist Edgar Ethington reported research, which examined wells surrounding the primary impoundment, during a Community Advisory Group meeting. His findings were based on data obtained from early 2006 through the first quarter 2007. Ethington tested ground water elevations in selected wells surrounding the mill's primary impoundment to determine any physical evidence of release from the impoundment. Higher water elevations in the area beyond natural flow water could be an indication of leakage. While he concluded the wells were impacted by release from the impoundment, he stopped short of proclaiming it to be a significant problem."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:47:53 AM    

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There's nothing like being able to get most of your drinking water from the high mountain snowmelt. Colorado Springs' water was one of the finalists in the water taste competition at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' 75th annual meeting in Los Angeles. St. Louis won the honors for the best tasting water, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette.

Category: Colorado Water

8:25:48 AM    

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Here's a recap of the first meeting of Governor Ritter's South Platte River Basin Task Force from The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). From the article:

The process to find solutions to a growing water crisis on the South Platte River began Friday in Greeley. About 150 people attended a day-long session of the South Platte River Basin Task Force at the Union Colony Civic Center and 20 members of the task force heard a host of problems facing surface and well users along the river, along with a like number of possible solutions. It was the first of six meetings the task force will conduct prior to making a final report to Gov. Bill Ritter, legislative leaders and the legislature's interim committee on water resources by mid- to late-September.

The day started with briefings by attorneys Jim Locchead and Anne Castle, both non-voting members of the task force, along with Dick Wolfe, assistant state engineer, and it concluded with four hours of public comments. The session focused on the effect pumping of irrigation wells has had on senior surface water right owners, a situation that was brought to a crisis level by a drought that started in 2002, and in 2006 resulted in the shut down of more than 400 of those wells in Weld, Adams and Morgan counties...

What the task force it attempting to do is find a way to keep as many wells operating as possible. But Wolfe said there are an estimated 4,000 wells in the river basin that are not operational, another 900 are pumping at 30 percent of their capacity and another 2,400 that have been ordered to cease pumping for one reason or another. Wolfe said the basin comprises 1 million acres of irrigated land, 18 percent of which is irrigated by ground water only -- by wells -- 27 percent by a combination of ground water and surface water, and 55 percent by surface water only -- from the South Platte and its tributaries. There are 9,000 high-capacity wells in the system and Wolfe said state officials think 80 percent are still in existence but only about 15 percent are being used. There also are 125 water replacement plans for 1,300 wells filed with the water court. Essentially, there is more demand than supply, especially with a growing population...

What's next: The next meeting of the South Platte River Task Force will be July 16 in Sterling at a location to be announced. Other meetings in Denver will be July 22, Aug. 13 and 27 and Sept. 6. Proceeds from the meetings and other information about the task force is available at

More coverage from The Rocky Mountain News. They write:

Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, told water users that the state was looking for fresh ideas, and would not attempt to undo hard-won legal decrees or strict new laws designed to protect the river. "We're not a court. We're not here to overturn court decisions. We're here to focus on the facts and potential solutions," Sherman said...The task force will hold five meetings this summer to meet its September deadline at the state Capitol, when a special legislative panel will convene, if potential resolutions are at hand.

More coverage from The Denver Post. They write:

Farmers who draw surface water from the South Platte River squared off Friday against farmers who depend on wells at the first meeting of the South Platte River Basin Task Force. Hundreds of wells have been shut by the state engineer because farmers couldn't prove they were replenishing the river water they were taking. That was the issue before the 23-member task force created by Gov. Bill Ritter to find solutions to the conflict. A Colorado State University study says shutting down the wells has led to the fallowing of 30,000 acres and has cost the local economy $13 million to $28 million a year...

Tim Buchanan, an Arvada attorney representing senior water users, said the state's water priority system was established in 1876 and it should be honored. "The priority system provides security, protection of property rights," he said. "It's crucial and a fundamental backbone of our water system. This system is working and working well."

More coverage of the economic hit, from The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). They write:

The shutdown of hundreds of irrigation wells along the South Platte River in northeastern Colorado has taken about 30,000 acres of farmland out of production and led to economic losses as high as $28 million, according to new research [from Colorado State University].

The CSU study, scheduled to be released in July, calculated that irrigated farming in the area generates more than $680 per acre in economic activity. The cost of losing the 30,000 acres depends on the type of crops that may have been lost, said CSU associate professor James Pritchett, co-author of the study. If the land had been planted in such high-end crops as onions, sugar beets or potatoes, it would have generated up to $28 million, he said.Lower-value crops such as alfalfa would have generated about $13 million, he said.

Here's the list of voting members and contact information for the task force. More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:15:13 AM    

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From The Aspen Times (free registration required), "Lake Christine in the Basalt State Wildlife Area is closed until September, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has announced. The closure will allow a contractor to rebuild a dam and dredge the lake. Inspectors determined the old dam needed to be rebuilt or removed because of the threat of a failure and potential for flooding. Dredging will clear out silt that has accumulated in the lake for decades. Deeper water will improve the quality of the habitat for fish and improve fishing prospects for anglers, the wildlife department said.

Category: Colorado Water

8:03:51 AM    

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