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

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Monday, August 27, 2007

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Colorado Confidential: "Rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may be changing the makeup of Colorado's grasslands from grasses that are hospitable to livestock grazing to woody plants that cow don't eat but which some wildlife species do. Research by Colorado State University scientists indicates that rising CO2 levels may be responsible for the encroachment of fringed sage, Artemisia frigida, which is generally considered a weed.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

5:56:47 PM    

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All of you that are interested in forest fires should check out this Flickr photo set of the Altadena Fire from Altadena Above it All.

Thanks to 2020 Hindsight for the link.

Category: Colorado Water

5:44:21 PM    

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Aurora's City Council is taking up the issue of water rates tonight, according to The Denver Post. From the article:

Tonight the [Aurora] City Council will discuss lowering water rates for customers like Zang and a possible rebate program. "Obviously something is wrong with the new billing system and we need to take a hard look at it," said Councilman Bob Broom, who is pushing an ordinance to change the rate system. The city increased fees to generate 12 percent more revenue this year and next, in large part to pay for the new Prairie Waters project, an $800 million water purification facility under construction. Aside from raising water rates, the city in January implemented a tier system in which those who use the most water would see their fees jump the highest. The average customer uses 22,000 gallons of water a month in the summer and 7,000 gallons in the winter, city officials said. Residents in the upper tier average about 32,000 gallons of water a month. Melissa Elliott, spokeswoman for Aurora Water, said about 80 percent of residents fall into the first two tiers of the current rate structure. She said most have not seen huge increases because they are using less water.

Category: Colorado Water

6:46:05 AM    

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Here's an opinion piece about the farm disaster up on the South Platte River written by Dorothy Thomas Phelps in The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). From the article:, many farms near the front range in Weld, Adams and Morgan counties -- including our family's farm -- are at the brink of disaster. Metering, gradual reduction and ultimate severance of our right to pump from our wells in May 2006 is consistent with the Water Rights Determination and Administration Act passed in 1969. Basically, the act demands a correlation between amounts drawn from wells and augmentation to the South Platte River. When the law first passed, the requirement for augmentation was only 5 percent. In 2006, that percentage suddenly rose abruptly. It's now 100 percent. The reasons for this abrupt change vary from drought to the need to deliver water to Nebraska and Wyoming. Whatever the reasons, the outcome is mass erosion of public and private assets. Already the domino effect has, because farmers aren't farming, brought hard times to municipal businesses.

The first to suffer are the farmers. Some people in cities say we deserve it. They point their fingers at farmers, claiming that we use too much water. Well, we're not using it for golf courses and big lawns. We're not using it for water parks or fountains or 30-minute showers or Jacuzzis. We're using it to grow food, food that everyone eats. Whereas we easily marginalized farmers are those griping now, people in cities will soon realize the impact of loss of farmland. Unplanted, unirrigated farms pose a terrible environmental problem. Intense dust storms have developed on windy days, blowing away precious and irreplaceable topsoil, which silts in and pollutes the waterways as well as compromising air quality. Fallow fields diminish air quality in other ways by decreasing the amount of oxygen and the filtration of pollutants. This contributes to global warming...

Present water law is killing Colorado. This wasn't the intent of our forefathers, nor the intent of those who drafted our water laws. Readers who value our Rocky Mountain air, our clean water, our food independence and their voice in our safety and health should recognize that farm issues are everyone's issues. We all eat. We need to demand laws that secure our future.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:29:08 AM    

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Here's a short article about a fish kill in the Snake River, from The Vail Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

...the water has a slight tinge to it, still milky green from two recent storms that may have sent a surge of toxic heavy metals, as well as a killer load of silt, rushing down the stream. "It doesn't look quite right," says local angling guide Dale Fields, pointing out where a layer of fine brown mud has settled on the gravely banks of the river. Fields, who has been fishing local waters for more than 20 years, thinks the rainstorms in early August unleashed a heavy load of sediment that choked most of the fish in this section of the Snake River. Hundreds of fish may have died following the pair of storms, Fields estimates, and biologists this week searched for survivors in a 500-foot section of the stream...

Several weeks ago, a similar survey in the same stretch of river yielded about 40 to 50 fish, Ewert says. But this week, only two small brook trout were found. Colorado Division of Wildlife aquatic biologist Jon Ewert said he thinks the toxic metals killed many of the fish. If the fish were already stressed from ongoing exposure to metals, a sudden spike could have been enough to kill, he said. But Fields says the fish died too fast -- within a few hours of the storm -- to pin the blame on pollution from abandoned mines upstream. Because the river turned brown as chocolate milk, a heavy load of silt is the more likely cause, he said. But at this point, it's almost impossible to know for sure, since none of the dead fish were recovered and sent to a lab for analysis, where a close examination could reveal concentrations of metals in fish tissue. Nor did local water quality officials take water samples during the runoff events, so there's no way to know for sure whether there was a sudden surge in the concentrations of metals.

Category: Colorado Water

6:19:22 AM    

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Here's a short report about reservoir levels in Colorado from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Reservoir levels throughout the state have recovered to pre-drought levels. "It's taken us five years to recover from the drought of 2002, but we've got a long way to go before we're back in the good old days of the early 1990s," Mike Gillespie of the Natural Resources Conservation Service told the Colorado Water Congress last week. Gillespie recapped the water year at the group's summer convention, replaying a winter that covered the Eastern Plains with snows from several blizzards, while leaving the mountains relatively dry. Still, there has been enough moisture to fill reservoirs to 99 percent of the 30-year state average...

Only the Rio Grande basin remains significantly below average in reservoir levels. Mountain snowpack was dismal most of the year, improving slightly in March. January's snow on the Eastern Plains left mountains largely below average, but snowpack improved in March. That was the best month...Statewide, the peak snow was only 78 percent of average. In Southwestern Colorado, the peak came up to a month earlier than average.

Category: Colorado Water

6:07:53 AM    

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