Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

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SLV Dweller: "A Meeting of the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable will be held in Alamosa, Colorado on Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 5:00 to 8:00 PM at Adams State College, Student Union Room A131, First Street & Stadium Drive, Alamosa, Colorado. A light Dinner will be Served to all Participants."

Category: Colorado Water

10:12:13 AM    

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Here's an article about the District Seven Water Court's decision on Monday regarding regulation of groundwater wells used in the production of coal-bed methane from The Durango Herald. They write:

In a ruling with potentially statewide impacts, a 6th Judicial District water judge ruled Monday that coal-bed methane gas producers are no better than other water users: They need a water-well permit the same as farmers and ranchers...

The ruling Monday by Judge Gregory Lyman upheld the allegations of Jim and Terry Fitzgerald of La Plata County and Bill and Beth Vance of Archluleta County. If the ruling is upheld, it would affect coal-bed methane drillers statewide, the plaintiffs' attorney, Sarah A. Klahn, said. "The state engineer is responsible for wells statewide, not just in the San Juan Basin," Klahn said. The Fitzgeralds, who raise cattle and tomatoes, and the Vances, who raise hay, sued the State Engineer's Office in 2005. They alleged that the chemical-laced water that is injected under pressure to separate gas from a coal formation and then is extracted along with subterranean water depletes the supply of irrigation water and could result in dry wells or contaminated ground water. In response, the state engineer said the agency has no jurisdiction in the matter, alleging that water extracted from the ground to free methane gas from a coal seam is "produced" water and is not governed by the Division of Water Resources. BP America Production Co. intervened in the case supporting the position of the state engineer...

Jim Fitzgerald said Monday the plaintiffs aren't seeking monetary damages. "It's a public-interest lawsuit, not personal," he said...

In his ruling, Lyman notes there is no exemption for oil and gas wells in the state Ground Water Act. "Thus, the statute implies the dewatering of geologic formations by removing tributary ground water to facilitate or permit mining of minerals requires a water well permit," Lyman said. Tributary water is not an isolated pocket, but part and parcel of the general water supply.

Category: Colorado Water

9:26:18 AM    

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Here's an opinion piece by Chris Hunt (via New West) with some observations about former Conservationist In-Chief Theodore Roosevelt. Mr. Hunt writes:

On one of the stone tablets, for the world to read, is inscribed this quote from our former president and one of the greatest conservationists the world has known: "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value." We have failed mightily. Roosevelt, in his time, also talked about the sanctity of wild places and need to keep them intact so future generations of Americans can know their country was built atop an untamed land that, to this day, continues to provide for the everyday needs of the average citizen. He talked about the importance of experiencing the wilderness, of understanding its value left just as it is, so that one day, our children's children might wander a lonely trail into the woods and gain an understanding of wild things and wild places...

I'm angry when someone tries to tell me the price of gasoline depends on our ability to drill for natural gas atop Colorado's Roan Plateau or in the Wyoming Range, or that a new road into the backcountry is absolutely necessary for the enjoyment of the wilderness, even though the mere existence of a new road would ruin anything wild about its destination. I'm angry that oil companies, ATV manufacturers, timber companies and mining interests have been able to use our system of government to exploit the last, best places we have left. And I'm angry that many we've elected have chosen to mute the prophetic messages of a great man enough to make those who should be heeding his words seemingly forget he ever existed. (You can read the Roosevelt's Words here.)

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

9:19:39 AM    

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Here's an update on the Snake River Watershed Plan from The Summit Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

An ambitious round of water sampling this summer in the Snake River Basin will help lay the groundwork for a comprehensive watershed plan. One key goal is treating polluted drainage from the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine, near Peru Creek, where toxic zinc, cadmium and other dissolved metals are leaching into the water. Combined with pollution from other sources and naturally occurring minerals in the drainage, concentrations of metals in the Snake are so high that fish can't survive.

The sampling this summer includes EPA tests, as well as more work by state health and water quality officials, while the U.S. Forest Service will take a close look at the status of aquatic insects, the macro invertebrates that form the base of the food chain.Among the agencies doing tests is the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which has been sampling the Snake and its tributaries for three years as part of a larger assessment of the environmental effects of historical mining in Central Colorado. The USGS has sampled at six sites, including the relatively untainted North Fork of the Snake (flowing down from Loveland Pass), Peru Creek above and below the Pennsylvania Mine, Deer Creek and Sts. John Creek (above Montezuma) and the Snake River in Keystone...

Some of the tests scheduled this summer include EPA water sampling and Forest Service macroinvertebrate research next week. The Colorado Division of Wildlife will do some fish population studies later in the month, while state environmental experts will test mine waste piles and do some low-flow sampling in August. As concentrations of metals vary widely with flows in the streams, the EPA will return to do yet another round of low-flow sampling in late September, repeating some of the early July tests. A full sampling report is expected sometime this coming winter. Using the data, state experts will set new water quality standards for some of the affected Snake River segments, with public comment on those proposed changes to take place in June and July 2008. On a larger scale, Summit Water Quality/Quantity expert Lane Wyatt and Trout Unlimited's Elizabeth Russell will use the information to fill in the gaps in a proposed watershed plan for the Snake River Basin. Wyatt and Russell said previously that a treatment facility for the toxic water from the Pennsylvania Mine could be under construction as soon as 2008, barring any unforeseen pitfalls.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

9:08:02 AM    

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Here's a recap of last week's first meeting of Governor Ritter's South Platte River Basin Task Force from The Brighton Standard Blade. They write:

Increased reuse of transmountain diversions, continued transfer of senior agricultural water rights to municipal users and drought conditions are among the factors driving debate over the continued use of the South Platte wells for irrigation. "The regulation of the South Platte wells is well ahead of where other rivers are in the southwest," said Dick Wolfe, a water engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources. "Because of the 1969 (Water right Determination and Administration) Act, we have the tools in place that are necessary to achieve integration of surface water and groundwater."[...]

"I'm disappointed that only three on the list of 23 voting members have curtailed wells," said Arnie Good of Fort Morgan, one of the founders of the Water Users Defense Committee, which is looking under every rock for a way to restart the wells. Good said he didn't hear anything at the morning session that gave him much hope for a solution. "It's hard to be real optimistic because of what we've been through in the past," he said, adding that would not be more hopeful "until we can set up a system that is not so conflict rich and put in a system that encourages cooperation and coordination."[...]

Legal adviser Anne Castle walked the task through several potential issues for their consideration, including more flexible wintertime administration of reservoir calls; aggregate replacement of winter depletions; forgiving post-pumping depletion debts; allowing wells dug before the 1969 Act to continue pumping without augmentation plans; and evaluating economic options such as subsidies, buyouts or participating in government programs that provide incentives for drying up irrigated land.

State Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, was quick to point out Castle's list did not include increasing storage capacity. "We've had 56,000 acre feet of excess water leaving this sate since April 1 because we have no way to control it," Gardner said. "We have a moral obligation to the people of Colorado make sure that we are using every drop to our advantage."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:43:38 AM    

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The Aspen Daily News (free registration required) was on hand for a panel discussion on oil and gas development yesterday. From the article:

Global warming and our dependence on foreign oil may be a downer, but a diverse group of panelists, including U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado, local energy guru Amory Lovins, and top Shell oil executive Marvin Odum, see plenty of opportunity for a relatively rosy future, if federal policy helps close the gap between ideas and action. "I don't think there's much debate anymore. We're frying ourselves here," Salazar said at an Aspen Ideas Festival energy discussion Tuesday. But the solution doesn't have to be painful, he and other panelists argued. Moving into a diversified clean energy economy, they seemed to agree, is an opportunity for rural economic development, investment, energy independence, and environmental security, as well as huge cost savings from efficiency. The United States may already be making some headway on efficiency, according to Lovins, who cited a 54 percent decrease in the current amount of oil used per $1 of gross domestic product compared to the 1970s, as well as a 60 percent decrease in use of natural gas per $1 of GDP and a two-thirds decrease in water use. Companies that pay attention have improved energy efficiency 6 to 8 percent per year, he said, and have seen huge profits as a result...

Meanwhile, there are plenty of technological advances in wind power, solar energy, batteries, and biofuels to help close the gap between efficiency measures and dependence on fossil fuels, they said. Perhaps more than anybody needs, said Lovins, creating the ability to pick and choose for the greatest climate and profit benefits. For example, a single plug-in hybrid car may get about 100 miles to the gallon, according to Booz Allen Hamilton Vice President R. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA. But run that hybrid on an 85 percent ethanol-gasoline blend, and you get 500 miles per gallon of gasoline used -- effectively muffling the strategic importance of oil and moving toward energy independence. And with some minor changes in infrastructure, that hybrid battery could theoretically help stabilize energy sources like wind power when plugged into the grid, supplanting the natural gas and coal plants that usually fill gaps in production and pulling in a few thousand dollars a year for its owner.

The trouble for corporations and consumers in making the shift may be the lack of federal push from behind. "The pace of change will have to be driven by government and policy, not just corporations," Shell's Odum said. Odum called for an internationally connected federal cap and trade system, as well as carbon emissions limits and more research into carbon sequestration technologies. The Senate energy bill, which is currently in the works, might be the recipe for linking political will to action and available technology, Salazar said. That bill would provide for the creation of 32 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, with corn-based ethanol capped at 15 billion gallons to build the infrastructure to allow cellulosic ethanol, which can be made from waste products, to become commercially viable. The bill also provides for increasing vehicle fuel efficiency standards to at least 35 miles per gallon of gasoline, the mapping of possible locations for carbon sequestration (like depleted natural gas and oil fields), and a $28 million tax incentive package for renewable and "clean" technologies. In addition, the Bush administration has signed off on an effort to reduce the nation's gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years, according to U.S. Department of Energy official Alexander Karsner, who administers the DOE's $1.47 billion research and development program for environmentally friendly energy technology.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

8:26:54 AM    

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From today's Denver Post: "The South Metro Water Supply Authority has chosen Rod Kuharich as its executive director. The authority is made up of 13 water providers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties working together to develop long-term water supplies for a growing population now dependent on aquifers. Kuharich is the former director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the state agency charged with long-term planning and management for water supplies. Before working on a statewide water policy with the state Water Conservation Board, Kuharich was government affairs manager for Colorado Springs Utilities, and served the Colorado Springs Department of Utilities for 21 years.

More coverage from The Denver Post. They write:

The authority is made up of 13 water providers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties working together to long-term water supplies for a growing a population now dependant on aquifers. Kuharich is the former director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the state agency charged with long-term planning and management for water supplies. "Rod is a public utility expert with a unique historical perspective of Colorado-water issues," Charlie Krogh, president of SMWSA, said in a statement. "His intimate knowledge of water sourcing, planning and forecasting coupled with his legislative, regulatory and legal experience related to public utilities will be a tremendous asset to SMWSA. We're thrilled to welcome him to the our team."[...]

The authority is made up of Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority, Castle Pines North Metropolitan District, Centennial Water and Sanitation District, Cottonwood Water and Sanitation District, East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District, Inverness Water and Sanitation District, Meridian Metropolitan District, Parker Water and Sanitation District, Pinery Water and Wastewater District, Roxborough Park Metropolitan District, Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, town of Castle Rock and the Castle Pines Metropolitan District.

We missed the story that Rod Kuharich was no longer leading the Colorado State Water Conservation Board. Maybe he resigned to take this position. A couple of months ago some people on the west slope were calling for his head over his role in the controversy around stream flow in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Category: Colorado Water

8:12:28 AM    

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Over a hundred years ago John Wesley Powell warned western states and the U.S. government that settlement of the lands west of the 100th meridian needed to be done with careful planning and an eye towards scarce water supplies. The country didn't listen well and now we have unbridled growth in areas of the west. Sustainable water supplies might be the control that officials need to slow or direct that growth. Here's a look at conservation and growth from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

Would shutting off the spigot shut off growth? The debate is often heard in water circles in increasingly complex ways. Do conservation measures actually "increase" a city's water supply in a way that can support future growth? What impact would a drought have? Do subdivisions flow forth from pipelines? Municipal water resources engineers say their job is simply to provide water supplies for people who would come to Colorado anyway, or for those whose children decide to stay here.

Conservation groups say the current water resources should be reused before rivers anywhere in the state are tapped or more agricultural land - open spaces - dried up. Agricultural groups say a way of life is being threatened. So, let's step back and see what the one person in the state who probably has spent the most time pondering these questions has to say...

[Rick Brown, project manager for the Colorado Water Conservation Board] has coordinated the Statewide Water Supply Initiative for the past five years. The report, still a work in progress, has relied on "roundtable" discussions with diverse state interests, first to identify a municipal water "gap" in the first round of SWSI, then to figure out what to do about it. The roundtables have gotten bigger, gotten more funding and started looking at far more complicated solutions. Brown spends a lot of time at meetings walking everyone from water buffaloes to tree-huggers through a labyrinth of possible options ranging from big pipeline-and-reservoir projects to little things, like conservation. Reservoirs built to stay mostly full are now periodically emptied, much like plains ag reservoirs, Brown said.

The ag reservoirs were designed that way, to fill when the water wasn't needed and empty when it was. But a big dam like Lake Powell was built to provide electricity, support recreation and balance interstate compacts as well as supply water. Years of drought, however, have dangerously lowered its levels - much to the consternation of states that depend on the Colorado River and the glee of preservations who long to see a return of the scenic beauty of Glen Canyon. The ups and downs were anticipated by engineers of another generation...

Conservation has caught on like wildfire. Or, more appropriately, wild water. Opinion polls have shown Coloradans remain conscience of conservation even after the drought ended. Some cities - Fountain and Aurora for example - have retained water restrictions long after the drought. Others like Pueblo and Pueblo West have increased storage requirements. Colorado Springs officials have recently touted a per-capita use that dropped from 120 gallons daily per capita in 2001 to below 100 gallons today. Conservation and storage have to work together, Brown said. "If you're going to carry over conserved water, you have to have a place to put it," Brown said. At the same time, cities may be expecting to gain too much from conservation alone. "It's dangerous if we overstate what we can do with conservation," Brown said...

Brown said every city's response will be different when it comes to how conservation plays a role. Conservation can be used in three ways: To improve reliability, to encourage growth and to improve water quality. For most cities, it will be used as some balance of those factors, Brown said. Municipal planners like certainty, technological fixes rather than behavioral changes to ensure water supply. Denver and Aurora are already making plans to physically recycle their water supplies, while Colorado Springs wants a new connection to Pueblo Dam. The cities are also making plans in case predictions of radical changes in climate are correct. But new behavior patterns can take a decade to firm up and new storage, if it can be built, takes 10-20 years, Brown said. "Personally, I believe conservation in conjunction with storage is the way to go," Brown said. "If we're looking at a longer term drought, we may not have the storage we need."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:55:52 AM    

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