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

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

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Unbossed: "Aman at Technology, Health & Development reminds us that it's World Water Week, and provides a great collection of water-related links for the occasion. Several of the articles are about a backlash against bottled water - apparently, a critical mass of people has just discovered that a) tap water is often as clean, if not cleaner, than bottled water and b) that buying bottled water is wasteful."

The article is by Liz Borkowski. She blogs at the Pump Handle, "A water cooler for the public health crowd."

Category: Colorado Water

6:47:56 PM    

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From The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (free registration required), " light of a recent Colorado River water flow agreement. 'It's an incomplete agreement because it doesn't look at the winter picture,' said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited's Colorado Water Project. 'This agreement takes care of very important issues - no question about it - endangered fish, rafting through Labor Day, and it takes care of some of the potential conflicts with the irrigators in the Grand Valley. But beyond October 31, it's a big question mark of how the lack of the Shoshone call is going to impact the trout fisheries.' Whiting said Grand Valley irrigation-related water rights don't really call for water in the winter, and there's no sign that the Shoshone hydroelectric plant in Glenwood Canyon will be repaired by winter. The plant is the only force driving flows from upper Colorado River reservoirs in the winter, she added. She was speaking about the area mostly upstream from the Green Mountain Reservoir, which lies about 20 miles south of Kremmling."

Category: Colorado Water

7:13:26 AM    

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Here's an update on plans to turn Fountain Creek into a recreation asset from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A Colorado Springs firm with experience in developing greenways along creeks and coastlines in Colorado and Hawaii will manage Fountain Creek projects under an agreement between Colorado Springs and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. THK Associates and its support team have experience in developing projects such as the South Platte River Greenway, Clear Creek Greenway and the Kauai Coastal Path. The group already is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation on a project to create a six-mile greenway along U.S. 24 through Colorado Springs - a project within the Fountain Creek flood plain...

Shanks said THK will coordinate its work with the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force, and plans to build on the progress that group has made in the past year. A common vision, management of the creek, partnerships, funding sources and demonstration projects will be used to develop a Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan, Shanks said. THK plans to use landscape architects, biologists, hydrologists, civil engineers and legal experts in the effort. Pueblo engineer Ken Conyers, who retired from the Colorado Department of Transportation, is among a team of engineers with experience working on Fountain Creek Project. Point man for the project will be Merle Grimes, a landscape architect, biologist and educator who has worked on waterway projects throughout the United States.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:05:38 AM    

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Here's a look at the economics on the proposed "Super Ditch" down on the Arkansas River from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Strength in numbers could convince ditch companies to band together in a Super Ditch rather than make separate deals with cities, an economist believes. "What's the payoff of collaborative action?" asked George Oamek, who is part of a team that has completed the first phase of a study looking at a proposed rotational land fallowing, water lease management program for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. "We looked at the difference between a one-to-one lease and working on a collaborative basis." "It's like the ditches going together could create a water OPEC," mused John Singletary, Lower Ark chairman.

Oamek looked at several hypothetical situations in which individual ditch companies might contract with cities in their own leases, then compared how deals could be improved with one, two or three other ditch companies joining without changing any details of the leases. With the four largest ditches in the proposed Super Ditch concept working together, profits from water leases could be 60 percent higher. The advantage of working together comes from the fact that some ditches, like the Fort Lyon, have more water, but others like the High Line and Bessemer have a more reliable supply, Oamek said. "In economics, you look at collaboration as a way to draw out a higher price," Oamek said.

A draft report by HDR Engineering, part of a $500,000 study by the Lower Ark, was released Wednesday, putting together elements of a plan the district has been discussing for the past year. The plan would create a "Super Ditch," actually a corporation made up of water rights holders, over seven ditch systems with headgates between Pueblo and John Martin Reservoir - Bessemer, High Line, Oxford, Otero, Catlin, Holbrook and Fort Lyon. Combined the ditches divert an average of 255,000 acre-feet a year. The value of each system has to be based on where a ditch is, how much water historically has been used to crop (versus return flows) and the transit loss of exchanging flows into storage upstream. Only the consumptive use of water from 25 percent of the land irrigated by participants in the Super Ditch would be used. Participation in the Super Ditch would be voluntary, and by-law changes in five of the ditch companies would be needed. There would be anywhere from 14,000 to 45,000 acre-feet available to lease, depending on water supply in any given year, and about 25,000 acre-feet of storage would be needed to allow the program to operate most efficiently, because of the wide range of water availability. At least $10 million per year could be brought into the valley's economy...

The program also has the advantage of keeping lease payments in the local economy, rather than the alternative of an outright sale of water, in which the money would more likely leave community, as happened in Crowley County 20 years ago, Oamek said. For cities, Oamek's research shows reduced costs would result from leasing from the Super Ditch than by buying ditch shares. One part of the study compares relative costs of obtaining water by the cities, while another specifically looks at the cost to the Pueblo Board of Water Works versus leasing. Oamek concluded the Super Ditch would be competitive and could, over time, save millions of dollars for the cities.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:00:22 AM    

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According to The Pueblo Chieftain the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District still plans a lawsuit if the Bureau of Reclamation and the City of Aurora sign the long term storage and exchange contract they've been working on. From the article:

A lawsuit is still being contemplated by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District if the Bureau of Reclamation and Aurora sign a long-term contract for storage and exchange of water in Lake Pueblo. "They didn't meet the minimum standards (of the National Environmental Protection Act) in their environmental assessment," Lower Ark Chairman John Singletary said Wednesday. "They have failed to discuss the environmental consequences on long-term productivity." Singletary said the Lower Arkansas Valley has not shared in the benefits of growth the rest of the state has experienced, largely because of ground that has been lost to production because of past water transfers from farms to cities...

The Lower Ark wants the bureau to conduct a full environmental impact statement before any contract is issued. Earlier this year, the bureau issued a finding of no significant impact, which led to the draft contract. Other board members agreed with Singletary. "We've opposed it all along, so we should pursue our options," said Wayne Whittaker, Otero County director. Singletary said the Lower Ark would not necessarily oppose year-to-year contracts like Aurora has received from the bureau since 1986, but there are too many other plans being discussed to tie up use of the Fry-Ark Project for 40 years. He said there have to be more options to allow more storage for water users within the basin to take advantage of unused space in the Fry-Ark Project before leasing it to outside entities.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

6:53:01 AM    

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Here's a look at efforts to keep Palmer Lake water depth at healthy levels from The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

For years, the town has sought ways to keep the evaporating lake, which is filled by rain runoff and natural springs, at a healthy level. Now, the committee says the town has had enough water all along. According to the committee, the town doesn't use all of the Monument Creek water it has the rights to, said Kim Makower, a geologist and committee consultant who lives in Palmer Lake. The excess water can be piped down to the lake by opening a valve near the town's water treatment plant, Makower said...

Town drinking water comes from two reservoirs between Sundance Mountain and Mount Chautauqua. It's transported down the mountain via Monument Creek and made drinkable at the water treatment plant. But the aging plant can process only about 10 percent of that water, Makower said. The rest goes downstream to entities such as the town of Monument and Colorado Springs, he said. Palmer Lake could take advantage of its water rights and put this untreated water into the lake, Makower said. The town also hasn't fully utilized its water rights on the upper reservoir, Makower said. Palmer Lake can store 147[product] acre-feet of water there each year between November 15 and March 15, but the town hasn't used that water since 2004, he said...

Palmer Lake Mayor Max Parker declined Tuesday evening to comment on the proposals, saying he'll discuss the issue at a public meeting set for 7 p.m. tonight at Town Hall, 42 Valley Crescent.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:44:34 AM    

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From The Greeley Tribune (free registration required), "Greeley should have a new city park by summer 2009 but don't expect multi-colored twirly slides, toddler swings or sandboxes. Your kids, however, should bring a fishing rod. The Colorado Division of Wildlife just gave the city of Greeley a $200,000 Fishing is Fun grant. That clears the way for the city to develop an elaborate, 90-acre place to fish at a pond where the Poudre Trail crosses 35th Avenue. Biologists from the department already are stocking the pond with bluegill and crappie, though it won't be open to the public for two years, so no cheating, said Sarah Boyd, who works with Greeley's parks and recreation department and is in charge of the fishing pond. The grant offers money for cities to improve or create places to fish. That's what the city plans to develop, with many different kinds of fish and a pond that will be free and open to the public. The city may require a boating permit if someone wants to take one out on the water."

Category: Colorado Water

6:35:30 AM    

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From today's Denver Post, "A court ruling that methane- gas wells need water permits from the state engineer could create a hardship for state regulators and the energy industry, a top state official said Wednesday. Harris Sherman, director of the state Department of Natural Resources, said the ruling 'raises serious questions' about the ability of the state engineer to process such applications and the industry's ability to find replacement water. Harris made his comments at the Rocky Mountain Natural Gas Strategy Conference at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver."

Meanwhile, Harris Sherman was on hand at this week's meeting of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, according to The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

Colorado's natural resources chief trumpeted the importance of oil and gas Wednesday, but also made it clear to industry that protecting the environment amid the energy boom was a priority of the administration of Gov. Bill Ritter. In a speech that marked the first large-scale, face-to-face meeting between the Ritter administration and oil and gas officials, Department of Natural Resources chief Harris Sherman attempted a delicate dance with an industry concerned about a tougher regulatory approach under Ritter. "Nothing can be more critical to me than we keep this dialogue going; we absolutely need to talk frequently about where we are going," Sherman said. "I want to assure all of you my door is open."[...]

Cheering industry's economic splash, Sherman said it brought $515 million to the state in 2006 via federal royalty payments, local property taxes and state severance taxes paid when minerals are taken from the ground. But he stressed that the Ritter administration will scrutinize how the bustling industry is affecting public lands, wildlife and local communities, as well as air and water quality. "Often this development occurs in isolated, rural, scenic areas, which have very high environmental and wildlife values," Sherman said. "The advent of a quasi-industrial imprint on a previously tranquil environment obviously causes issues, raises lifestyle questions and so forth." It was that kind of talk that confirmed things were changing for an industry that enjoyed eight years under former Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican and former lobbyist for oil and gas.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:20:33 AM    

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