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 31, 2007

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Here's a recap of this week's meeting of Governor Ritter's South Platte River Basin Task Force, from Brighton Standard Blade. From the article:

Gov. Bill Ritter delivered a pep talk Monday to his South Platte River Task Basin, encouraging members to set aside parochial interests in favor of finding common ground in the decades-old fight over water in northeastern Colorado. "Think about this problem in terms of not just how impacts you and the interests you serve, but where there is common ground," Ritter said in opening the fourth of five scheduled meetings of this summer's task force. "The only way this group can get to a solution that makes the best sense for the people of the state is to not think of your own interests but more broadly about the other interests at the table," he said...

Among the 10 legislative members of the task force are Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, and Reps. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, and Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. Other members include Greeley water manager Harold Evans, Morgan County irrigator Arnie Good, Morgan Ditch president Harold Griffith, Sterling City Manager Joe Kiolbasa, Jim Yahn of Sterling, who manages both the Pruitt and North Sterling Reservoirs, and Manual Montoya of the Brighton-based Farmers Irrigation and Reservoir Co.

Despite the governor's encouragement, the group made little progress in their day-long long meeting to solidify recommendations to be presented next month to the Colorado Legislature's Interim Water Resources Review Committee. Instead of narrowing the scope of options, the group actually discussed new proposals, including three from former State Engineer Hal Simpson. They included reforming water courts by making current referees into special masters to conduct formal hearings on technical issues before applications go to a water judge; restoring to the state engineer the authority to promulgate rules for administering groundwater rights; and creating basin-wide South Platte River Water Conservation District to coordinate, fund and assist with resolving water conflicts along the river. Some members complained the new proposals went beyond the scope of the governor's executive order to consider possible ways to "provide relief to junior water users without injuring senior water right holders."[...]

Revisited, but not acted upon Monday, were suggestions to allow more flexibility for water users to buy and sell excess augmentation credits during good water years; allowing the prepayment of winter depletions during the peak storage season; and forgiving well depletions prior to 1974, when the new augmentation rules took effect. "None of these ideas will resolve the problem, but they are small pieces that will allow for the maximum utilization of the water without impacting surface water," said District 1 Water Engineer Jim Hall.

Good asked for more consideration of engineering studies that deal with how long it takes replacement water to get to the stream from wells further away from the river. He said some well users are being put out of business "under a presumption of injury to the seniors. The water is tied up in faulty depletion models," Good argued. "There are serious questions on the depletion tails that last longer than five years." Simpson, Hall and Deputy State Engineer Dick Wolfe all said the completion of the South Platte Decision Support System in two or three years would help clarify some of the presumptions in administering current water law. There was no discussion of Good's other suggestion to allow a two-year moratorium on curtailing wells until the decision support system is completed. Objectors to continued pumping of the wells long have argued the well owners have missed several deadlines to get augmentation plans approved. "If I really thought I was stealing someone's water, I would not be sitting at this table," Good said. "I believe that is some water to be had out there to keep my wells going."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:15:41 AM    

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From, "Colorado School of Mines will play a role in addressing global water supply issues through advanced research at a new water technology center on campus. AQWATEC, the Advanced Water Technology Center, officially opened on campus during a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Aug. 29...

"The new center will provide research opportunities for Mines students in Environmental Science and Engineering, Hydrologic Sciences and Engineering as well as other Engineering programs. AQWATEC serves as a cornerstone supporting the campus research focus areas of environment and energy.

"AQWATEC faculty sustain a research funding base of more than $4.5 million through active grants and contracts from the AwwaRF, Water Environment Research Foundation, WateReuse Foundation, National Science Foundation, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and private industry."

7:01:40 AM  

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The buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere effects the rate of groundwater recharge, according to the USDA. From the article:

If atmospheric CO2 levels double within this century, as many climate models predict, some areas could experience large increases in the rate of groundwater recharge, the process by which water filters through the soil and enters aquifers. That's the conclusion of a recent study conducted by ARS scientist Tim Green, a hydrologist in the agency's Agricultural Systems Research Unit at Fort Collins, Colo. Green worked with Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to investigate how climate change impacts groundwater and the vadose zone, the region between soil surface and water table. The rate at which water filters through the vadose zone is controlled by interactions between soil, water and plant systems. Green and his colleagues found that this rate was increased by the changes in precipitation and temperature that elevated CO2 levels are expected to bring about.

The scientists developed a method for simulating the effects of elevated CO2 levels on plants, groundwater and the vadose zone. Then they applied it to two locations in Australia -- one subtropical, one Mediterranean -- where eucalyptus, pine and native perennial Australian grasses grow. They found that the Mediterranean location responded more to temperature changes, whereas the subtropical climate was more influenced by the frequency and volume of precipitation. In both locations, changes caused to soil, precipitation and plant transpiration by simulated climates with twice the existing CO2 led to significant changes to the rate of groundwater recharge. Water recharged from 34 percent slower to 119 percent faster in the Mediterranean climate, and from 74 to 500 percent faster for the subtropical climate. While the opportunity for decreased recharge rates exists, the general trend is towards increase. Future research will investigate whether those changes would benefit or harm those ecosystems. A paper on this research was published in the August issue of the Vadose Zone Journal.

Category: Colorado Water

6:51:27 AM    

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