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 17, 2007

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Here's a recap of last night's forum in Evans hosted by State Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, from The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). From the article:

Riesberg brought in three speakers who talked about irrigation well shut downs, water rights, water development and future needs, both to educate himself and update people interested in water. The meeting drew about 30 people to the Jack Meakins Community Resource Center in Evans...

Riesberg said the forum was an effort to share with the public what is happening in the area of water, noting he represents an urban sector in the center of an agricultural region where water is the lifeblood. He called on Tom Cech of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, Brad Wind of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Jon Monson, director of the city of Greeley water and sewer department, to update issues. Cech said Central is awaiting a decision by the water court in Greeley on whether 440 irrigation wells -- shut down by the state last year -- will be able to operate in the future. That decision, he said, is expected in a month...

Wind, noting the northern district does not deal with ground water, said instead its focus is on management of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which has been bringing a supplemental water supply to northern Colorado from the Western Slope since 1957, and finding ways to provide more water. He said the construction of three new water storage projects in Larimer and Weld counties is still five years away, noting a second C-BT project will be needed to meet demands of the region by 2030, "but it's not likely that is going to happen."

Monson said it was [W.D. Farr], who served as chairman of the Greeley Water Board for 39 of its first 40 years, who always stressed that focusing on today's water issues will not solve the problems of the future. Greeley, he said, has enough water to grow to 2030. But Greeley, he said, faces a decision of maintaining its tradition of buying more water for the future or depending on the water it has to meet future growth. That decision, he said, will be up to the city's residents.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:02:55 AM    

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Prospecting for uranium is picking up steam out here in the west, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

A new mining boom is on in the West, spurred by an increase in the price of uranium, used in nuclear power. Colorado, a new report says, is ground zero. Mining claims on federal land here increased 239 percent since 2003, from 5,430 to 18,391, the greatest jump in the West, according to a study released Thursday by the Environmental Working Group. Across 12 Western states, mining claims increased from 207,540 in January 2003 to 376,493 last month, the report said. The authors attributed the boom to higher prices for gold and copper and, especially in Colorado, greater global demand for uranium. The report warned that a large number of the claims are near some of the nation's most treasured national parks and other scenic destinations. Grand Canyon National Park, for example, had 805 claims staked within five miles of its borders since 2003...

Mineral mining is regulated by the 1872 General Mining Act, a law that even the mining industry agrees needs to be updated. It gives federal officials little leeway to deny mining claims, and it permits land to be sold to mining companies at a price capped at $5 an acre, called "patenting." Though Congress has been banning patents annually since 1994, those submitted before then can still gain approval, and some lawmakers have pushed to allow the cheap sales again. Congress is making the first serious attempt in a decade to change the 1872 law. Hearings have been held in Washington and another is scheduled in Nevada next week. The report was released to bring attention to that law...

Counties with the most new claims were in western Colorado, including San Miguel, Montrose, Gilpin, Rio Blanco and Moffat, as well as the mountainous region between Leadville and Fairplay. The group said there have been 2,190 claims filed within five miles of the Dolores River in western Colorado since 2003. Uranium mines can pollute water for decades and cost millions of dollars to clean up. The groups said the claims could impede access to public land. Some Colorado fourteeners -- mountains over 14,000 feet tall -- have been closed to the public for periods because of mining claims. Most of the claims are for uranium, which has seen increased demand because of the worldwide resurgence of nuclear power. Colorado has the nation's third-greatest reserve of uranium, behind Wyoming and New Mexico, according to the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. The division says there are 35 permitted uranium mining projects -- though none are actively producing -- and 28 prospecting permits in eight counties, including Fremont County.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:55:58 AM    

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The unbridled growth south of Denver is taking a toll on the Denver Basin Aquifers so the newly formed South Metro Water Authority is looking at long range plans for a sustainable water supply. Here's an article about those efforts from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

New sources of water are needed because wells in the Denver Basin, a self-contained aquifer that underlies the South Metro area, is losing head pressure as a result of development. "We could spend $4 billion to drill more wells for a nonrenewable resource that's going to run out anyway," said Kell DiNatalie of Camp, Dresser & McKee, South Metro engineering consultants. The firm also is doing the technical work for the Colorado Water Conservation Board's Statewide Water Supply Initiative, which identified gaps in future municipal water supplies.

Even with reuse and recapture of 100 percent of the water - water from wells in a non-tributary aquifer may be used to extinction - projections show 20,000 acre-feet of new water will be needed in 15 years, while nearly 50,000 acre-feet will be needed at build-out. CDM's study shows that well production will continue to decrease to just over half of what it is today. By 2010, more than half of the area's water will come from renewable supplies other than the Denver Basin. The South Metro group represents 13 districts with a population of an estimated 250,000, including Centennial, Castle Rock, Parker and 10 other neighboring districts primarily in Douglas and Arapahoe counties. DiNatalie said the area already is looking at 10 water projects to maximize the use of its existing water rights, including: Parker's Reuter-Hess Reservoir, a 16,000 acre-foot reservoir that will be expanded to 70,000 acre-feet at a cost of $80 million; East Cherry Creek Valley's Northern Pipeline, a $52 million project to transport 45,000 acre-feet per year; A $27.3 million potable reuse plant that could provide up to 7.2 million gallons per day; A possible 6,400 acre-foot annual diversion from Chatfield Reservoir.

However, the communities only will meet approximately three-quarters of their projected needs by 2020 without new water sources, the CDM study showed. In the long term, the study looks at connectivity between systems and potentially adding infrastructure - a $1 billion plan calls for pumping water 80 miles with an increase in elevation of 2,000 feet - to meet water needs. "We'll need water resources approaching the size of the city of Aurora," said Rod Kuharich, former CWCB executive director, who now is the South Metro executive director. "We're looking at land-use decisions that were made 10 to 15 years ago and responding to those needs." When lawmakers asked about the expense of some of the options South Metro is looking at, Kuharich said the area is confident it can pay its own way through bond issues. "The cost is significant," Kuharich said, citing the region's high per-capita income - Douglas County is among the top 20 counties in the United States. In addition to hefty tap fees, residents pay a $10 to $25 per month specifically for water development...

The master plan looks in detail at plans likely more than 20 years out to bring water from the Arkansas Valley, either through buying water rights or entering lease agreements. Kuharich told lawmakers additional water from the South Platte is most likely, but the region cannot rule out looking at Western Slope options, a proposed pipeline from Flaming Gorge or the Arkansas Valley. Pipelines coming from either the Avondale or La Junta areas, or both, are included in the CDM report. A 36-inch diameter pipeline from Avondale would lift water nearly 3,200 feet in elevation to the South Platte divide 60 miles away at a cost of nearly $2 billion, including treatment. From La Junta, the lift is 3,600 feet over 100 miles, with costs of up to $2.3 billion, according to the master plan. The cost per acre-foot to develop water would be more than $40,000 per acre-foot, with annual maintenance costs of about $1,000 per acre-foot. The figures are far outside the range water providers now pay...

In a side-by-side comparison, the master plan recommends developing South Platte options first, because of water quality, pumping costs, political opposition and time to implement. But the Arkansas Valley looks like the second-best option in the mix, since three potential options on the Western Slope would have uncertain timelines and opposition. A Flaming Gorge pipeline plan being promoted by Aaron Million is dismissed by CDM as "infeasible" because of permit timelines, compact considerations and potential delays in what the report calls an "optimistic" schedule. The engineering report specifically mentions the proposed Super Ditch, a rotational land fallowing, water lease management program proposed by the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, as a potential source for leasing water. The Lower Ark district has never identified South Metro as a potential customer, however. In fact, Lower Ark General Manager Jay Winner noted it was "good news" that Arkansas River options have been eliminated from potential supply sources in a preliminary alternatives study for the expansion of Reuter-Hess Reservoir because of "logistical constraints and timing."[...]

The master plan does not specifically address a plan by Pure Cycle to move water from farms it owns on the Fort Lyon Canal to the metro area or identify which canal systems would be targeted for water rights purchases.

Category: Colorado Water

6:46:56 AM    

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Here's a look at the cost of repairing the Shoshone power plant, from The Denver Business Journal. The plant has been shut down since a water pipe burst. Xcel plans to have it back online next summer. From the article:

Xcel Energy Inc.'s Shoshone power plant on the Colorado River in western Colorado will need an estimated $12 million in repairs and is expected to be back in operation by the start of spring 2008, the utility said Thursday. The 98-year-old hydroelectric plant, about eight miles east of Glenwood Springs, was shut down on June 20 after one of the nearly century-old pipes delivering water into the station burst and flooded the plant. About eight feet of water and tons of rock and dirt were washed into the plant...

While small, the plant generates 14 megawatts of power -- enough to support about 14,000 homes -- and plays a critical role in Colorado's complex water system. The plant's water rights date to 1909, giving it a "senior" right to the Colorado River's water. As such, the plant's rights have the power to shut off the owners of "junior" water rights because their right to the river is younger than the power plant's right. The water the plant effectively keeps in the river supports rafting, agriculture and municipal interests all the way to Colorado's border with Utah. When the plant shut down, and gave up its right to the river's water until it resumed operations, Front Range and Western Slope water authorities huddled to reach an agreement on how to keep water in the river. So far, that agreement hasn't been implemented due to lots of rain in the high country, said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. "But that can change in three or four days," Kuhn said. Kuhn said he looked forward to the power plant resuming operations. "It will certainly help us deal with the recreation flows in the summer in June and July [2008]," Kuhn said...

The $12 million in repairs will include repairing and upgrading the two pipes that carry water to the station. Crews will begin construction in September, Xcel said. Spokeswoman Ethnie Groves said the utility is still working out where the $12 million to pay for repairs will come from.

More coverage from The Aspen times (free registration required). From the article:

The Colorado River District has announced a plan to keep enough water in the Colorado River to benefit rafting companies and endangered fish this summer. Water flows of 1,200 cubic feet per second in Glenwood Canyon will be maintained through Labor Day for the rafting industry; flows of 810 cfs will be kept through October for endangered fish in the Grand Junction area. Conservation group Trout Unlimited has, however, expressed concern about what will happen to water levels after Oct. 31. Once the plant resumes operation, the historical balance among Colorado River water users will be restored. The generating station does not consume water, but commands important flows in the Colorado River, which benefit fish, rafters and multitudes of other Western Slope water users. Shoshone is one of seven hydroelectric power plants owned and operated by Xcel Energy in Colorado.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:27:09 AM    

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