Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

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From The Denver Business Journal: "Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Sen. Ken Salazar flew over natural gas-rich areas of the Western Slope in a helicopter Tuesday and renewed their calls for delays and partial bans on new drilling in the area.

Category: Colorado Water

6:31:03 PM    

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From email from the Bureau of Reclamation (Dan Crabtree). Blue Mesa Reservoir and downstream:

Runoff into Blue Mesa Reservoir has exceeded expectations by about 37,000 acre-feet and the reservoir elevation will peak at almost elevation 7515 which is 4.5 feet from full. This small bonus provides some flexibility in operating Blue Mesa Reservoir from now until the end of December. In order to meet the winter drawdown target, we feel it prudent to slowly bring up releases to a level sustainable through the rest of the summer season. Consequently, on Tuesday July 3rd, releases from Crystal Reservoir will increase by 100 cfs for a total release of 1,600 cfs.

After this change flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge will be about 600 cfs and will remain at this level until further notice. Please contact Dan Crabtree at 970-248-0652 with any questions.

Category: Colorado Water

6:08:41 PM    

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From email from the Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb). Green Mountain Reservoir:

Flows last night dropped to 750 cfs. With the decline again this morning, flows in the Lower Blue today should be around 650 cfs. Run off is definitely flattening out, now, and inflows to the reservoir have really dropped off. Even though tomorrow is a major holiday, there is still the possibility that we could drop releases down some more. If you are planning on getting up to the Lower Blue for some 4th of July fishing or boating, please be sure to check the gage before you go. Changes would most likely occur late this evening and/or early tomorrow morning.

Have a safe and fun 4th of July!

Ruedi Reservoir:

Just some quick info for the holiday tomorrow. The elevation at Ruedi Reservoir is currently about 7765 feet. Outflow to the Fryingpan is still around 212 cfs. With the Rocky Fork at about 12 cfs, we are maintaining about 224 in the Fryingpan downstream of Ruedi Dam. We do not anticipate any changes for the Holiday.

Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Reservoir:

Just a quick summary of what to expect at Horsetooth and Carter for the holiday tomorrow. The current elevation at Carter is 5718 feet. No water is coming into Carter. Just under 300 cfs is currently going out of Carter.

The current elevation at Horsetooth is 5406. About 40 cfs is going into Horsetooth. About 310 cfs is going out of Horsetooth via the Hansen Supply Canal at Horsetooth Dam. We don't anticipate any changes to the inflows at either reservoir for tomorrow. I do not suspect outflow will change drastically for either. I'll be back in on Thursday if anyone has any related questions or concerns.

Category: Colorado Water

5:50:41 PM    

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Here's a look back at over 100 years of irrigation history up in Sterling, from The Sterling Journal Advocate. From the article:

No, the North Sterling Reservoir is not quite 100 yet, but the irrigation district that brought it into being is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. On June 27, the present-day board of directors hosted a barbecue at North Sterling Reservoir State Park, with shareholders, family members and guests coming to the celebration at the park's swim beach pavilion...

[Jim Yahn, manager of North Sterling Reservoir] noted that North Sterling is the largest reservoir on the northeast plains, with the capacity to store 74,590 acre feet of water. There are 40,917 acres of land in the North Sterling Irrigation District, Yahn said, and about 34,000 of those acres are irrigated.

Today, looking at North Sterling Reservoir, so many feet higher in elevation than the South Platte River, it seems impossible that the water to fill the reservoir comes from that river. And it seems unlikely that men in the 1890s would have dreamed of such a plan -- but dream and plan they did. The 60.45 miles of inlet canal now bring the water from the river near Messex, snaking across the countryside to the reservoir at a grade slightly less than the drop in the river's elevation.

Read the whole article - they have a nice timeline of events in the reservoir's history.

Category: Colorado Water

6:13:08 AM    

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Here's an opinion piece congratulating retiring U.S. Senator Wayne Allard for bringing money to Colorado for water projects, from The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). They write:

Colorado's Sen. Wayne Allard deserves congratulations for getting $300,000 of federal money for the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District. The money obtained by the Loveland Republican will be used to fund a federal cost-share effort by the water district for water management system improvements in the South Platte River Basin by installing flow meters and automated data loggers with communications devices on existing irrigation wells, which will then enable sophisticated usage data and analysis. Those meters will enable farmers within the district, which is roughly from Brighton to Wiggins along the South Platte, to meet state pumping regulations. The meters should also provide valuable information on how much water the wells need to replace in the river each year. The district has already installed meters on 800 wells and is working to purchase and install flow meters on another 700 wells, where this funding will be utilized.

Category: Colorado Water

6:00:03 AM    

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Funding to help clean up and move the uranium tailings pile near Moab is winding it's way through the U.S. Senate, according to The Deseret News. From the article:

Progress on a Senate spending bill has put $23.9 million for cleanup at the Moab Atlas Tailings Site closer to reality, according to Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah. The funding is among millions the Senate is appropriating for various projects. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved two spending bills Thursday that push numerous Utah projects a step close to completion. The bills still must be considered on the Senate floor and then differences between the House and Senate worked out before voting on a final version that will be sent to the president. Bennett, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the $23.9 million set aside for the Energy Department's work at the Moab site, on top of the fact that the department selected a contractor last week, is encouraging.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Here's an article that looks at uranium supplies, from EnergyBiz Magazine. They write:

Will nuclear energy's progression be slowed by an inability to get uranium to feed the reactors? Some say that underutilized mines have taken a toll and will lead to hardship. Others disagree, saying that the mines can gear up and the free market can respond to changing conditions. A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says that the nuclear industry has lived off commercial and government uranium inventories that are nearly depleted. Globally, uranium production now meets only 65 percent of current reactor requirements, which has led to uranium prices rising from $7 a pound in 2000 to as much as $120 per pound just recently...

Current demand throughout the world is met by accessing mines, using utility inventories and through new fuel efficiencies that make plants more productive. It's also met by decommissioning nuclear weapons. The United States, for example, gets about half its uranium from obsolete Russian nuclear missiles under a non-proliferation nuclear treaty called Megatons-to-Megawatts. That program ends in 2013. But fears of global warming and projected fuel shortages are propelling nuclear power forward after nearly three decades of sitting on the sidelines. Globally, the International Atomic Energy Agency is predicting as many as 100 new reactors in 20 years, causing the demand for uranium to rise 200 million pounds to 240 million pounds, annually. The agency says uranium resources are more than adequate to meet projected requirements. At the same time, newer technologies are emerging and may allow spent fuel to be re-processed and then re-used, all of which would prolong that time frame. And advanced breeder reactors that are expected to be commercially available within two decades are able to produce as much fuel as they consume. They, furthermore, use a different type of uranium than plants today and one that is far more prevalent. Much of the uranium used in this country is mined in Australia, Canada and Nambia while small amounts are derived in the western United States. But those foreign sources will also get fully tapped by other nations -- China, India and Russia -- with aggressive nuclear plans, says MIT. If the United States can even access those supplies, it will pay high prices. "The take-home message is that if we're going to increase the use of nuclear power, we need massive new investments in capacity to mine uranium and facilities to process it," says Neff.

Please be sure to read the whole article.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

5:53:39 AM    

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Here's another article about the possible effects of the shutdown of the Shoshone power plant on water supplies from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (free registration required). They write:

Rifle residents may see the quality of their tapwater decline while the Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon remains shut down. For Clifton residents, the power plant shutdown and the resulting lower Colorado River flows could mean higher bills as the Clifton Water District's reverse osmosis system kicks into full gear to filter out pollutants. "As Colorado River flows decrease, there is an increase in TDS, total dissolved solids," said Rifle Public Works Director Bill Sappington. "That affects water users such as the City of Rifle and others that draw from the Colorado (River)." Total dissolved solids are substances that cause water spots on dishes and include calcium, magnesium, manganese and other substances, said Dale Tooker, manager of the Clifton Water District, whose water supply is dependent upon the Colorado River...

Whereas the Clifton Water District's reverse osmosis system filters out many of the pollutants, Rifle's more conventional system does not, Sappington said. The Colorado River, he said, is the depository for upstream sanitary sewer systems, whose pollutants can sometimes quadruple when river flows are very low. As river flows decrease, Sappington said, the volume of total dissolved solids and concentrated pharmaceuticals and chemicals in Rifle's drinking water increases. Clifton doesn't have the water quality concerns Rifle does, but it could mean higher water bills. When Shoshone is shut down and the river flows decrease, "We will treat more water through (the) reverse osmosis water treatment plant," Tooker said. "It just drives up the cost of treating water a little bit more than what it would be if the Shoshone plant was running." When the amount of total dissolved solids in the river is high, water treatment costs for the Clifton Water District increase an estimated $1 per 1,000 gallons, Tooker said. "The higher the TDS goes, the more we have to run our RO (reverse osmosis) plant," he said. "The more we have to run the RO plant, the higher the cost." The extra total dissolved solids also affect irrigators and farmers, whose crops may not be able to absorb the proper nutrients from the soil if there are high amounts of salts and other substances in irrigation water. "It hurts some crops more than others," said Richard Proctor of the Grand Valley Water Users Association. "It's a concern." The dissolved solids, he said, will particularly affect fruit trees and vineyards.

Category: Colorado Water

5:46:41 AM    

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Bump and update: Now this is a big deal. District 7 Water Court Judge Gregory G. Lyman sided with the plaintiffs in an action seeking to establish that groundwater wells, used in the production of coal-bed methane, should be regulated under the "Water Right and Determination and Administration Act of 1969." From the order, "...the Court reaches the unavoidable conclusion that non-exempted mineral-related activites, such as oil and gas activities, are subject to the scrutiny of state water law."

The order also states ruled that the use of the water wells in oil and gas production is a beneficial use, writing, "The Court finds that there is no genuine issue of material fact which prevents the Court from concluding that the pumping of water from the targeted aquifer in CBM [Coal bed methane] production is an application of a quantity of water to accomplish an intended purpose."

The court agreed that the CBM wells are wells [under the law] ("Well means any structure or device used for the purpose of with the effect of obtaining ground water for beneficial use from an aquifer."), that the water was "tributary" and that "material injury, quantity of water produced, and quality of water produced are...immaterial". In addition, the court ruled that, "the State Engineer cannot allow out-of-priotity water diversions for CBM without a well permit, and where necessary, a decree adjudicating an augmentation plan."

We'll see where this one ends up, we're sure there's a lot of court ahead. Here's a background article from The Durango Herald [Thanks for keeping the link alive!]. More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Email us at Coyote Gulch [AT] Mac [DOT] com and we'll send you a copy of the order. We haven't found it online yet.

From the press release from White & Jankowski LLP:

The District Court in and for Water Division 7 (the "Water Court"), one of seven courts in the state of Colorado charged with protecting Colorado's water users, issued an order on July 2, 2007, that will force the coalbed methane industry to comply with Colorado water law. For decades, the methane industry had refused to protect Colorado water users, and the Colorado State Engineer's Office, charged with water administration, had turned a blind eye to the situation. Jim and Terry Fitzgerald and Bill and Beth Vance, two families who have ranched in the Bayfield, Colorado, area for over 30 years, and whose ranching ways of life are dependent on the use of seeps and springs on their property, asked the court to declare the State's failure to protect their water right unlawful.

Thanks to water attorney Amy W. Beatie the heads up.

Here's the coverage from today's Denver Post. They write:

Attorneys representing the state engineer's office argued that water produced during coalbed methane production was a waste byproduct and subject only to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules. BP America Production Co., which owns 1,200 coalbed methane wells in La Plata County in southwestern Colorado, supported the state's position...

Nate Strauch, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said the ruling was still being reviewed and it has not been decided whether to appeal. BP officials said they were also reviewing the court's decision. "The company will continue to comply with the state's water laws," said Dan Larson, a Denver-based BP spokesman. "This decision creates confusion over the application of those laws, and we trust the state will move quickly to clarify these issues," Larson said. Industry officials have said that a ruling for the plaintiffs would be detrimental for the energy industry. "Paying $200 for a well permit or the expense associated with an augmentation plan is hardly catastrophic for this industry," said Sarah Klahn, a Denver attorney representing the plaintiffs. "They're going to continue to get gas out of the ground. They're just going to do it in a way now that protects landowners."

Category: Colorado Water

5:36:37 AM    

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