Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

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Here's a recap of some of the events down in the San Luis Valley as they celebrate 100 Years of San Luis Valley reservoirs, from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The celebration of 100 years of reservoirs in the San Luis Valley was more than a look back. Tuesday the celebration hosted a daylong symposium at Adams State College with experts who not only examined the history of water use in the valley but also took a look at the immediate future, including the use of groundwater. Chief Deputy State Engineer Ken Knox reviewed the history of water use and regulation since the construction of the first well in the valley in 1850. Although Knox said there had been declines in aquifer levels in the past, he said the current effort to formulate groundwater subdistricts could remedy the aquifer's most recent decline that was exacerbated by the drought in 2002. "It's your chance to protect senior water rights and the (Rio Grande) compact," he said.

In 2004, state lawmakers created a framework for subdistricts that would pay farmers irrigating with groundwater to take land out of production. So far, one subdistrict for the north-central part of the valley has completed its petition process and had its water management plan passed on to Knox's office for review. He said the evaluation for subdistrict No. 1 would be done within weeks. "I do not plan on sitting on that for long," he said. The state is also moving forward with groundwater management rules that would apply to groundwater irrigators who do not join the subdistricts and for those areas where subdistricts fail to come to fruition...

Allen Davey, who owns a private engineering firm and also serves as chief engineer for the Rio Grande Water Conservation district, said groundwater decreased by 420,000 acre-feet during the drought that started in 2002. Following a presentation that mapped the growth in irrigation wells in the valley, Davey said surface use across the valley has shrunk in the past 50 to 75 years.

More coverage from The Valley Courier. They write:

Speakers recounted how the primary purpose of the reservoirs in the past was irrigation, but reservoirs are being utilized or considered for broader uses in the future ranging from recreational uses to increased storage. The potential for hydropower for electricity was also suggested.

Colorado Division of Water Resources Division III Division Engineer Mike Sullivan said that while early reservoirs were developed for irrigation purposes, other uses arose over the years. For example, the Colorado Division of Wildlife became interested in reservoirs for fisheries, he explained. Sullivan said even today the majority of the Valley's reservoirs are used for priority storage for irrigation districts. Winter flows are stored for release during the irrigation season, Sullivan said. He said the water division is currently undertaking an experiment to store 10 percent of what it would normally send down the river. The district is storing that water in the Rio Grande Reservoir, he said. He added he had to impose a 25-percent curtailment on water users on the Rio Grande in order to make the Rio Grande Compact accounting work, but instead of sending all 25 percent downriver right now, he is storing 10 percent of it. He said storing the water up here keeps the district from over-delivering water to Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico where the evaporation rates are much higher than the high-mountain Rio Grande Reservoir. Sullivan said reservoirs are also used to store transmountain water, and reservoirs have been used for conservation purposes. He added reservoirs are also used for augmentation purposes. For example, he said the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District, which runs the biggest augmentation plan in the Valley with more than 600 wells in its program, stores water in the Rio Grande Reservoir and releases it to make up for depletions. Sullivan said reservoirs are also used for flood prevention.

Here's a look at the status of Colorado's new groundwater rules from The Valley Courier. From the article:

Colorado Division of Water Resources Deputy State Engineer Dr. Ken Knox told Valley water users on Tuesday that he expects the state to develop well regulations by 2008. Knox was one of the presenters for the "100 Years of San Luis Valley Reservoirs" celebration in Alamosa on Tuesday. Knox said from an official regulatory point of view, his plan was to start work this winter on developing rules and regulations regarding groundwater. He said the state office would develop the rules in concert with Valley water leaders. "We will work with the water users," he said. "This will be an open transparent process like all rules that we promulgate." Knox said his intention is to have a set of rules available next summer. Public meetings will be held following the introduction of the rules, he said, "where we ask, we plead, for your comments, suggestions, that will help us make those rules more reflective of what you want ... but also conform to the legal principles that we must adhere to." Knox said he expected the rules to be filed with the Division III water court sometime in the fall of 2008. Knox also said he is the one at the state office who is reviewing the first water management sub-district's management plan and expects to make a decision regarding the plan within the next few weeks.

Thanks to SLV Dweller for the links.

Category: Colorado Water

7:05:37 AM    

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According to The Telluride Watch the town is starting a new floodplain study on Cornet Creek. From the article:

For all of those folks living along Cornet Creek who are trying to clean up and shore up after this week's flash flooding, rest assured, town officials already know what you are thinking. In fact, town officials had already been thinking it themselves: Something has to be done to mitigate the ever present dangers that precarious flood zone on the town map provides. This summer the town's public works department initiated a $60,000 study of the Cornet Creek flood plain. The work is being done by Musseter Engineering of Ft. Collins, which in the past has specialized in "water resources engineering, fluvial geomorphology, engineering geomorphology, and environmental hydraulics," but this week has a real life laboratory providing evidence for a century-old problem area to anyone who lives here...

Cornet Creek has been a historic problem spot for Telluride at least since 1914, when a spring storm turned the usually gentle creek into a torrent of mud and rocks. As it swept through town, five feet of mud came down from the Liberty Bell Mine to pretty much wherever it wanted to go on Colorado Avenue. The historic record is that one woman was killed and the Sheridan Bar was half-way filled with mud to its ceiling.

Category: Colorado Water

6:19:21 AM    

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Here's a retrospective about the 1896 flood on Bear Creek from From the article, "Today is the 111th anniversary of one of the most tragic and catastrophic events to ever take place in Jefferson County, which was the Great Flood of 1896. It was on this July 24th those years ago that nature's wrath was unleased upon the communities of Morrison, Golden, Mt. Vernon and Evergreen in a way never seen before or since, leaving untold destruction in its path and each community and beyond mourning the loss of 29 lives between them."

6:09:13 AM    

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From The Washington Post, "A leader of an environmental group has been named to a post overseeing scientific research at Grand Canyon National Park. Martha Hahn, who was associate director at the Grand Canyon Trust, will oversee 55 employees who conduct research and make management recommendations at the Grand Canyon. Hahn is calling for more proposals to conserve energy, trim carbon emissions, conserve water and do more scientific sampling beyond the banks of the Colorado River...

"The Flagstaff-based Grand Canyon Trust was founded in 1985 and focuses on efforts to protect and restore the Colorado Plateau. Before joining the Grand Canyon Trust, Hahn worked as a seasonal firefighter, worked on river management in the Grand Canyon National Park, managed other firefighters in Utah and was director of the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho, overseeing 1,000 employees."

6:00:40 AM    

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Here's a update about Aurora's Prairie Waters Project and Aurora's water rates from The Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

In a town meeting July 23 Councilman Larry Beer welcomed representatives from Aurora Water to address concerns and to discuss with residents of Ward III a new water-rate structure. The new rates were implemented in January and will help fund the Prairie Waters Project and "drought-harden" the city. Following the 2002 drought that brought Aurora water levels dangerously low, Aurora Water and City Council approved the $754-million Prairie Waters Project, designed to increase the city's water capacity by 20 percent.

More coverage from They write:

City leaders unveiled the Prairie Waters Project at Aurora Reservoir Wednesday. The first part of the project will begin with building Aurora's third water purification facility. The facility will be able to treat up to 50 million gallons of water a day which will come from the South Platter River. "What this project does is it uses pipes like this to go downstream and collect it; work against gravity to bring it back up. And then we'll treat it and flow it through our system back to the South Platte," said Binney. The City of Aurora already owns the water, but until now, had no way to access it...

This project only covers the water supply for Aurora. Unincorporated areas outside the city will not get the water. Funding for the Prairie Water Project's $754 million price tag is coming from a combination of tap fees and water rates. The project is scheduled to be finished in 2010.

More coverage from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

Officials broke ground Wednesday on a purification plant that will bring the city billions of gallons of water annually by 2010. The ceremony at the Aurora Reservoir attended by Mayor Ed Tauer and hundreds of community members marked the fruition of the Prairie Waters Project, an idea conceived after the city's reservoirs were drained to 26 percent of their capacity after the 2002 drought...

The water to be purified will come from the South Platte River and will travel through 34 miles of pipeline and three pump stations before arriving at the Aurora Purification Facilities at the Aurora Reservoir. Dave Little, manager of water resources and general planning for Denver Water, said that if the project produces a long- term water surplus, other metro-area cities potentially could benefit if Aurora makes the water available to them.

Category: Colorado Water

5:50:00 AM    

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Here's an article about a report about the effects of global warming from the Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center. From The Colorado Springs Gazette:

The Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center said during the summer of 2006, the average daily low in Colorado Springs was 2.4 degrees above normal, and the average high was 3.9 degrees above. Statewide, 2006 was the ninth-warmest on record, the study found. The year 2000 was the fifthwarmest, 2001 and 2005 tied for the sixth-warmest and 2003 was the fourth-warmest, the study said...

The study's authors argue the figures show Colorado is experiencing the same warming as the rest of the country; the national average last year was 2.1 degrees above normal. Advocates of tougher environmental standards say if the trend continues Colorado could experience water shortages from loss of snowpack, more wildfires, crop failures, destruction of animal habitat and the devastation of its ski industry. Said Baker, "I think we have a lot to lose. Water supplies, agriculture, outdoor recreation are all impacted by global warming." The group is pushing for legislation to require cleaner cars and reduce coal pollution. It also wants Gov. Bill Ritter to set climate reduction goals and join other states in the Western Climate Initiative.

While there is no disagreement it's been hot, there is no consensus on whether it's human-caused. State climatologist Nolan Doesken said there have been cycles of extended warm weather here, most recently in the 1930s. "There's not necessarily an absolute clear-cut answer, because temperatures have varied and cooled whether man was doing anything or not," Doesken said. But, he said, there is mostly consensus among scientists that the current warm period is "connected to human activity." The best indicator is nighttime summer temperatures, because they are the most stable year to year, and those have been warmer than average in Colorado Springs and across the state in recent years, Doesken said.

More coverage from The Cherry Creek News. They write:

The average temperature in Denver was 3.8°F above average in 2006, according to a new report released today by Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center. Environment Colorado said this warmer-than-normal weather is indicative of what Colorado can expect with continued global warming. "Throw out the record books, because global warming is raising temperatures in Colorado and across the country," said Meghan McCloskey, Global Warming Fellow of Environment Colorado. "The long-term forecast is for more of the same unless we quickly and significantly reduce global warming pollution from power plants and passenger vehicles," continued McCloskey. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the 2006 summer and 2006 overall were the second warmest on record for the lower 48 states. 2007 is on track to be the second warmest year on record globally. To examine recent temperature patterns in the United States, Environment Colorado compared temperature data for the years 2000-2006 from 255 weather stations located in all 50 states and Washington, DC with temperatures averaged over the 30 years spanning 1971-2000, or what scientists call the "normal" temperature...

Colorado is poised to consider global warming legislation this summer. "The heat is on Colorado decision makers to take decisive action to curb global warming," stated McCloskey. "Environment Colorado urges Governor Ritter and the Colorado legislature to follow other states by setting strong global warming pollution reduction goals, curbing pollution from coal burning power plants, and adopting the Clean Cars Program," concluded McCloskey.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

5:43:00 AM    

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Here's an update on Congress' effort to overhaul the General Mining Act of 1872 from The Denver Post. From the article:

A consortium of hunters and anglers began a push Wednesday to reform the nation's 1872 mining law, calling it outdated and environmentally damaging to public lands and water. Representatives of Sportsmen United for Sensible Mining argued that the law is an excuse for abuse by multinational mining companies that can buy bargain-priced land, extract huge riches and leave environmental catastrophes. The act was written 135 years ago, in large part to promote settlement of the West and to exploit a growing country's natural resources. The U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee is holding hearings and reviewing a bill proposed by the committee chairman, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. "Most American citizens don't know that this robbery is taking place," said outdoors-television host and columnist Tony Dean, who is slated to testify today at the congressional hearing. The consortium called for an end to issuing mine patents, and it wants the federal government to hike royalty payments to fund projects for conservation and abandoned-mine reclamation. It is also seeking tougher environmental protections on operating mines. Under the law, companies still may file claims for new mines on federal lands - even near some of the nation's most visible scenic attractions - and could "patent" or gain ownership of the claim outright for as little as $2.50 an acre, although a moratorium on the practice has been in place since 1995.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

5:33:39 AM    

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