Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

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Friday, August 10, 2007

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Gore Creek has been named a Gold Medal trout fishery by the Colorado Division of Wildlife, according to The Vail Trail (free registration required). From the article, "You may be asking yourself what exactly constitutes a 'Gold Medal' trout fishery. To have a Gold Medal designation, a fishery must meet a few different criteria: It must be easy to get to and have a large amount of aquatic life. A Gold Medal fishery must also have 12 trout per surface acre that meet or exceed 14 inches in length or 60 pounds of trout per acre."

Category: Colorado Water

7:10:19 AM    

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Bayfield has been able to negotiate an extension past the original September 3rd deadline for some of their industrial waste customers, according to The Pine River Times. From the article:

Bayfield Town Manager Justin Clifton gave some good news to the Bayfield Town Board on Tuesday night. With the help of some lobbying from Colo. Rep. Ellen Roberts of Durango, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is willing to extend a Sept. 3 deadline that required commercial users to reduce how much waste they put into the Bayfield sanitation system...

Clifton said Roberts met with Jim Martin, head of the Public Health department, and asked if the agency could work on a more "solution oriented" approach, instead of strict enforcement. State Sen. Jim Isgar also has helped with the effort, Clifton said. State and town officials might meet to re-examine the town's growth rate and decrease in building permits and certificates of occupancy in areas served by the sanitation district...

In the meantime, town crews have removed sludge from the sanitation district settling ponds and installed a new clarifying system. The town also is working with commercial users to reduce the amount of influent, particularly food, entering the system. The district might meet its influent limits in July for the first time in several months, Clifton said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:04:56 AM    

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Here's an interview with Governor Bill Ritter from The Colorado Springs Business Journal. From the article:

During a long discussion about the proposed Southern Delivery System, which would bring Arkansas River water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs, Ritter made several interesting points.

As governor, he emphasized, he has to look at the needs and capacities of the entire state, and is reluctant to involve himself directly in regional disputes, such as that between Pueblo and Colorado Springs about the nature, scope and desirability of a particular project.

But while not passing judgment on any particular aspect of SDS, the governor ticked off several conditions that he believes ought to be integral to water projects throughout the state.

Multiple uses and water-sharing ought to be encouraged, such as agreements between cities and agricultural users that call for fallowing irrigated farmland during dry years, thus giving farmers options other than the outright sale of their water rights.

Conservation is absolutely essential. Cities need to curb wasteful uses wherever possible, and encourage and/or mandate low water landscaping in new construction. Recycling is important as well, to allow water to be re-used to the greatest extent possible, thus minimizing the need for new supplies.

And finally, calling for new and/or increased storage in the Front Range, Ritter acknowledged that long-term supply problems cannot be solved by conservation, recycling and water sharing alone.

While the governor refused to speculate about the terms of a possible agreement between Pueblo and Colorado Springs, it seems clear that he would support a deal that combined SDS, an enlarged Pueblo Reservoir and extensive recycling of treated effluent from Colorado Springs. Such recycling might involve a flood control dam on the Fountain, as Pueblo leaders have suggested, or other yet-to-be-built facilities.

Category: Colorado Water

6:56:50 AM    

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Here's Part III of The Greeley Tribune's (free registration required) series on property rights along the South Platte River. From the article:

We need the guidance of specialists who have proven capabilities to manage the river system ... namely the engineers in the state engineers office. The longer the water lawyers beat each other up in court, the more money they make and the worse the situation becomes for production agriculture. Currently, the objectors to well pumping have made such a mockery of the court system that it has become a tangled, impossible mess to navigate through. For every attorney representing pumping interests, there are 30 lawyers representing the municipalities and developers. They have convinced some farmers that they can profit by joining them to make their argument appear more legitimate, and hence the propaganda of farmers fighting farmers has been perpetuated.

The fighting over the irrigation wells is not where the real battle lies. Rather, it is in the control of the surface water itself. By demanding surface water to be placed back into the river to augment wells, farmers are relinquishing the senior rights to the augmentation water in favor of the now junior ground water rights. When the required percentage of augmentation was small, this was a price that most well pumpers were willing to pay. But now that the augmentation demands are at 100 percent and possible future depletions must be paid for in advance, more surface water is required to operate a well than it can produce. This is a losing situation that no farmer can afford to pay...

We have to develop more water storage. The environmentalists object to any proposal that will dam up water and conserve it. It is time to look at the environmental devastation that will result from drying up all of North Eastern Colorado. Prior to irrigation, this was a bunch grass prairie. There wasn't enough water to support sod forming grasses. Do we want to go back to that? The higher up the mountain the water is stored, the more flexible is its use and the more times it can be used. It makes more sense to have high-mountain storage, but underground storage on the plains should also be studied.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:52:06 AM    

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Residents in the Jimmy Camp Creek Basin are concerned over Colorado Springs Utilities and Lower Fountain Metropolitan Sewage Disposal District plans to build two wastewater treatment plants in the area, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

"Many people shudder at the thought of one sewer plant, much less two as the Fountain Valley is being asked to support," Fountain Mayor Jeri Howells said Wednesday at a meeting to discuss the two plants. The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments hosted the meeting to get public comment on an amended water quality plan, which now calls for two plants at Fountain rather than a regional plant. The final say on the change of plans will be determined by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission in November, if the PPACOG board approves the change in September. About 20 residents of Fountain attended the meeting, and most expressed dismay that planning efforts for a regional plant by Colorado Springs Utilities and the Lower Fountain Metropolitan Sewage Disposal District now call for two plants about a mile apart rather than one...

Colorado Springs looked seriously at six alternatives, including the Lower Fountain site, according to its application. Al Testa, manager of the Colorado Centre Metro District, part of the Lower Fountain, agreed with Daniel's assessment. "We needed this yesterday," Testa said, pointing out that growth in the area east of Fountain has created immediate treatment needs. "We have the money to do it today."[...]

Colorado Springs Utilities is planning an 8 million gallon per day plant that would serve the Banning Lewis Ranch in the northeastern section of the city by 2012. The plant itself would cost $76.7 million and interceptor lines another $39.8 million. Initially, it could serve a population of 114,000, but could be expanded in the future. Lower Fountain is planning a 2.5 mgd plant that would serve Fountain Sanitation and Colorado Centre, the only two groups remaining in a regional planning effort that began 20 years ago. The plant would be online by 2010. Other districts in the area have already expanded or built new wastewater plants. Testa said the cost of the plant, located just over one mile east of Clear Springs, would be $27 million. To join the Colorado Springs site could add another $12 million, he said...

Colorado Springs already has two wastewater treatment plants online with capacity to treat up to 95 million gallons per day. Ten other existing plants in the Fountain Creek watershed can treat up to 18 million gallons per day. Fountain Creek drains into the Arkansas River through Pueblo.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:41:47 AM    

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In a sign of the times La Plata County is considering tougher regulations on development in an effort to make sure that there is a sustainable water supply before new housing is built, according to The Durango Herald. From the article:

La Plata County commissioners, faced with rapid growth in a region prone to drought, are considering tougher standards for proving the existence of adequate long-term water supplies for new developments. The standards, which would become part of the county's land-use code, were presented to commissioners Tuesday by the La Plata County Water Advisory Commission, which has been working on the new criteria since its formation in December 2003. The standards would require all but very small subdivisions to conduct groundwater studies to demonstrate that the total amount of water the developments will pull from the aquifer do not exceed the rate that it is recharged. They also would require water-quality testing. If the water is inadequate for drinking, developers have to show how they plan to improve the quality...

A work session about the standards will be held Aug. 30. It will be open to the public but will not include a public-comment period. Commissioners will vote on approval Sept. 4, when the public will have the opportunity to comment. The water advisory board was formed after county commissioners realized that the existing criteria weren't adequate to meet their statutory obligation to approve only projects with adequate water. Because of this, the county faced possible liability in the case of future shortfalls. Peter Butler, chairman of the advisory board, said the two stickiest issues were whether to continue to allow the practice of water hauling and whether to require even the smallest subdivisions to do a groundwater study - which can cost between $25,000 and $30,000...

As written, the standards would not allow developments to proceed if water for the subdivision has to be hauled in. An exception would be if a water hauler agreed to make a long-term commitment to serve the subdivision, but a survey by the board found that no local supplier would be willing to make such a commitment. The proposed standards would require subdivisions with five or more lots to do a comprehensive groundwater study. "Would you rather put $10,000 in and know the answer or would you rather build a couple-hundred-thousand-dollar houses and find the answer out afterward?" said Tom Brossia, a member of the board since its inception. Brossia told commissioners that the amount of irrigation water flowing back into the aquifer was shrinking and would cause some wells to go dry...

The amount of water required for each household would still be 350 gallons a day, but the new standards would allow developers to use a lower estimate if they could prove it was adequate. The board included representatives from the Animas-La Plata Project, La Plata and Florida conservancy districts, the Pine River Irrigation District, the Southwest Water Conservation District, Durango, Bayfield, Ignacio and the Southern Ute tribe.

Thanks to the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company's Water Information Program for the link.

In other news from LaPlata County the City of Durango is looking at imposing regulations on landscaping to conserve water, according to The Durango Herald. From the article:

Durango City Council passed an amendment to the Land Use Development Code on Wednesday night requiring water-efficient landscaping in new commercial and planned developments within city limits, but the decision was not unanimous and the ordinance is not complete...

The amendment, first drafted in 2003 after the drought of 2002, applies only to new commercial, planned development and mixed-use projects that have not yet been submitted to city planners for any level of approval. The changes will not apply to any current property or future single- or two-family home construction. The amendment also limits the amount of high-water-use plants to 50 percent of a project's landscaping and regulates the hours and method of irrigation. A "Durango plant list" of recommended vegetation will be added to the amendment when city staff completes it. Meigs and Rendon agreed with Durango resident Tina Evans that the 50 percent benchmark should not apply if the high-water-use landscape is used for growing food for personal consumption, what Evans called an "edible landscape." Meigs and Rendon requested that city staff draft a paragraph to include an exemption for edible landscape plant use. Council will vote on the addition to the amendment at a future meeting.

Category: Colorado Water

6:33:05 AM    

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Here's an opinion piece about development of the old Lowry bombing range and water, from The Pueblo Chieftain. The Chieftain is opposed to the project. From the article:

State Rep. Morgan Carroll and Sen. Bob Hagedorn, both D-Aurora, are worried that the development would fuel urban sprawl in the unincorporated area east of Aurora, diminish the quality of life in their city and add an estimated $800 million to metro-area infrastructure costs. "This was a sweetheart deal for the developers by (former Gov. Bill) Owens and his appointees," Rep. Carroll said. "Aurora doesn't come with an unlimited supply of water." Neither does the Lower Arkansas Valley come with an unlimited supply of water, particularly when Aurora, Colorado Springs and potentially others keep thirsting after our region's water.

The hidden danger is that this seemingly distant Arapahoe County housing development likely would get its water from Pure Cycle Corp., a Thornton-based water supplier that owns a big share of Fort Lyon Canal water in the Lower Arkansas Valley. Pure Cycle wants to get into a position to market Fort Lyon water to the old Lowry Range and potentially other paying customers in the Denver area, northern El Paso County and Douglas County. If Pure Cycle signs up enough customers and identifies a means for delivering the water, say, through a new pipeline, the company would not hesitate to move water out of the Fort Lyon, the largest irrigation canal on the entire Arkansas River...

Not only that, Pure Cycle - or others in the lucrative urban water business - might maneuver into the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District's proposed Super Ditch. The Super Ditch concept is to lease water, fallowing perhaps only 25 percent of the land in a given year without permanently drying up valuable farms and ranches. One potential fallacy is the notion of an iron-clad legal guarantee that the water leases would forever be temporary and not eventually become permanent transfers of water. To the contrary, most of the leases likely would become long-term simply because the thousands of people who come to depend on the water will expect it to be a permanent supply.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:20:42 AM    

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