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

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

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Don't forget to register for the conference "Looking Underground for Water Supply Solutions." It's happening September 27th and 28th in Colorado Springs. The organizers are hoping to come up with ideas for leveraging aquifer storage to help solve some of the supply problems in Colorado. They've invited legislators interested in drafting the ideas into legislation. Sounds like a hoot to us. [Disclaimer: We'll be there covering the events.] They even have a pre-conference reading list. We'll bet that Douglas and El Paso counties will be well represented, owing to their dependence on the Denver Basin Aquifer System.

The press release follows:


Droughts and increasing demands are stressing Colorado's water resources. Can storing surplus surface water underground and then pumping it up later be part of the solution to our statewide water supply dilemma? Organizers of a September conference in Colorado Springs are bringing together a diverse team of 40+ leaders and experts to find out. The state's top water attorneys, almost a dozen state legislators, a supreme court judge, water managers, engineers & scientists and policy makers from Arizona and California who are making aquifer recharge and storage work in those states -- all are coming together to take a fresh look at the possibilities. Colorado Geological Survey studies already show that technically we can do it.

The roadblocks all have to do with water law, availability of recharge water and allocation policy. Tough questions, like how do you keep track of what happens to the water you have stored underground, so you know how much you can legally take back out? And what kind of surface water will Colorado law let you store in this manner? Can it be water leased from agriculture? Is it acceptable to use water after it has been through a city's wastewater treatment plant? Can we use water remaining after mining operations?

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is one of the nine stakeholder groups set up by the state legislature in 2005 to start looking at how to solve water issues river basin by river basin -- and then to help basins cooperate with one another to enact those solutions. The Arkansas Basin saw a need to look at the state's aquifer recharge policy, especially since a significant portion of their urban population drinks and waters their lawns with groundwater. The basin roundtable voted to use some of their funds from the Water Supply Reserve Account, administered through the IBCC (Interbasin Compact Committee) and the CWCB (Colorado Water Conservation Board) to put on the conference. They brought in the American Ground Water Trust (a non-profit education organization) -- with years of experience putting on conferences about ground water -- to help them.

The conference will take place at the Doubletree Inn in Colorado Springs September 27 and 28. The public is encouraged to join water professionals, city and county elected officials, representatives from the environmental community and others in the interactive conference format. Registration information (and full information about the conference, including the 40 plus speakers) is at

More Coyote Gulch groundwater coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:32:49 PM    

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Fremont County will have a chance to vote on joining the Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, according to The Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

Hard-working eastern Fremont County landowners have turned their attention to strategic maneuvering to convince voters to approve an issue that strikes the hearts of local farmers and ranchers. Following four years of legal wrangling to inch closer to join the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, Judge David Thorson recently ruled the committee provided enough signatures to allow voters to decide in November whether to join the district. Supporters believe the move will help protect water rights in all of Cañon City and Florence-Penrose school districts...

The ruling allows a Nov. 6 ballot question that will give voters the opportunity to join the UAWCD. District manager Terry Scanga said inclusion will cost local property owners less than a half-mill of property tax, or $3.80 each year on a $100,000 home. "That's less than two gallons of diesel fuel for my truck," said [John Sandefur, co-chair of the committee in charge of gathering signatures]. "That's pretty darn cheap for having a water attorney and engineer at our fingertips to protect our property and our water."[...]

Inclusion in the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District gives Fremont County the opportunity to secure more dependable water supplies and help preserve water flow in the Arkansas River. Advantages to inclusion, the committee said, include substantial legal resources to fight transfers of water from the Arkansas River, legislative advocacy to support laws that protect water in the basin, support for laws that protect water rights as private property, and stabilization of water supplies.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain.

Thanks to the DARCA News page for the link. More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:19:17 AM    

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Here's a look at the plans for a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in the San Luis Valley from The Alamosa News. From the article:

If all goes well, by next growing season farmers in a portion of the San Luis Valley will have a way to cut their water use and cut their losses at the same time. Plans are underway to develop a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in the area of the first water management sub-district. CREP is a federal conservation program approved in the 1997 Farm Bill that targets a specific geographic region such the sub-district. Nationally 33-34 CREP's are in existence with several others proposed in areas such as Kansas and Idaho. No new proposals are currently in the works for Colorado other than the Valley's proposal. The Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project hired consultant Tim Davis to work on a CREP application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the area to be included in the Valley's first groundwater management sub-district of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. Under the local CREP, farmers in Sub-district #1 who wanted to participate would sign a 15-year agreement to take land out of agricultural production, Davis explained...

He said the Republican River CREP required permanent water retirement. He added a certain percentage of the Valley's CREP would also have to involve permanent retirement but not all of the CREP acreage in Sub-district #1 would have to be permanently retired. That is something the sub-district needs to work out, Davis said. He said the Sub-district #1 CREP proposal is based on 27,000-30,000 acres enrollment. He added the Sub-district #1's goal is to retire about 40,000 acres to bring the aquifer back into a sustainable condition. Davis said in the Republican River CREP, farmers retired 30,000 acres of irrigated agricultural land. He said participating farmers in the Sub-district #1 CREP would be compensated for fallowing their acreage but he did not know what the rental payments would be. He said the USDA Farm Service Agency that administers CREP would determine that rental rate based on a variety of factors including soils, precipitation and crop patterns. The rate in the Republican River CREP is $115 per acre per year, he said.

Davis estimated a $59-million impact over a 15-year period in the Sub-district #1 CREP. He said Sub-district #1 is the only area he is including in his application at this point. "This proposal is not Valley wide," he said. "It's simply a proposal for the sub-district."

Thanks to the DARCA News Page for the link. It would be great if they would get an RSS feed for their news stories.

Category: Colorado Water

7:04:28 AM    

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Here's a short article on Denver Water's conservation campaign from They leave out Shower with your steady.

Category: Colorado Water

6:32:31 AM    

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It looks like farmers on the South Platte whose wells have been shut down may have some high country company up in Summit County, according to The Summit Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

When it comes to Colorado's water, every last drop counts. That's the main message the State Engineer's Office is trying to send as Colorado steps up its crackdown on illegal well-water use in Summit County. Ten Division of Water Resources engineers, brought in from other regions, will fan out across the local area this week, inspecting nearly 1,000 wells. Based on previous inspections, the officials expect to find that 40 to 50 percent are out of compliance with their permits. All those wells will be tagged with curtailment orders. The enforcement will reach across Summit County to every basin, in about 10 to 15 neighborhoods and subdivisions. After a follow-up inspection in about a month, the state will start taking additional steps. That includes potential court injunctions that could make violators subject to fines of $500 per day.

Most domestic well water can only be used indoors. Washing cars, filling hot tubs, irrigating landscaping or supplying water to accessory apartments are unauthorized uses, unless the water is augmented from another source, explained Scott Hummer, the state water commissioner for the Blue River Basin. Whitaker said the crackdown is not unique to Summit County. Similar efforts are under way in various parts of the state, from Durango, to the Arkansas River basin, he said...

The Summit County inspections this week will involve door-to-door visits, with state engineers making every effort to contact property owners in person before posting curtailment orders, Hummer said. Some unauthorized uses of well water are easy to observe, for example irrigated lawns and outdoor hot tubs. Other violations may be tougher to document. Hummer estimated there may be up to 150 cases where well water is being used illegally to supply accessory apartments. That estimate is based on a comparison between well permits and county permits for accessory units, he explained. By state law, water engineers even have the authority to trespass on private property to document and enforce violations of state water law...

Residents with wells can buy into one of two augmentation plans to compensate for the water used outdoors. One plan is offered by Summit County, the other is through a private company, Vidler Water. Buying augmentation water generally costs several thousand dollars, depending on the amount needed...

The augmentation plans developed for well users ensure that users can pump wells without reducing water downstream. Enforcing this aspect of water law is not so different from making sure that a surface water user doesn't divert more than his entitled amount for irrigation. That reduction in streamflow can affect the amount of water available to senior water downstream rights holders. For example, in Summit County, the combined effects of hundreds of unauthorized well users could make it more difficult for ranchers in the Lower Blue, and other downstream water users who have higher priority rights, to divert their entitled water. "We're trying to ensure that those who have senior vested water rights are protected," said Scott Hummer, state water commissioner for the Blue River Basin. According to Hummer, the total amount of water at issue in Summit County is about 125 acre feet. An acre foot is about 326,000 gallons, enough to supply the domestic needs of an average family for one year. It may not seem like a large amount in the bigger picture, but Hummer said it's a clear sign that there simply isn't enough water to meet all the needs...

For more information on the well issue, contact Division 5 of the State Engineer's Office at (970) 945-5665. For augmentation information, contact: Summit County, Government, P.O. Box 68, Breckenridge, CO 80424, (970) 453-3403,, or; Vidler Water Company, 704 West Nye Lane, Suite 201, Carson City, NV. (877) 885-0050, ext. 106,

Category: Colorado Water

6:26:44 AM    

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Here's a look at water requirements for the development of oil shale from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

With oil shale and other Western Slope and Front Range interests at stake in how the remainder of the Colorado River Basin's water will be divvied up, Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said Monday he believes oil shale extraction technology needs to be proven before the government can speculate about how much water it will consume. Nonetheless, he called water consumption one of the biggest unanswered questions surrounding commercial oil shale production. "I always kid my friends on the Front Range that if oil shale comes online, we're going to start stealing their water," Penry said Monday. U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said last week he believes commercial oil shale development in northwest Colorado could use up 100 percent of the unappropriated water in the Colorado River Basin. He called that "unacceptable."[...]

The state soon will begin a study of water availability in the basin, an issue that likely will emerge in the 2008 Colorado legislative session as Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, tries to get more money for the project, authorized earlier this year under Senate Bill 122. It's too early to tell how thirsty Royal Dutch Shell's in situ oil shale extraction process is, especially on a commercial scale, company spokeswoman Jill Davis said. A Bureau of Land Management environmental analysis of its commercial oil shale program is expected to address how much water the program might require, but a draft of the report hasn't been released yet. The 2005 Energy Policy Act requires the BLM to act quickly to lease land in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah for commercial oil shale development. The agency's draft oil shale environmental analysis, or programmatic environmental impact statement, is due later this year, with leasing possibly occurring late this decade.

But water use by a future oil shale industry is more complex than that. "I don't think you can make a policy determination (on oil shale)," she said. "It depends on who holds the water rights. (Oil shale companies) acquired a lot of water rights earlier on, and if they choose to develop them for this purpose, it's not something the state government can supersede."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:12:06 AM    

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