Coyote Gulch's 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, September 28, 2007

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The Durango Herald is running an article on the proposed streamlining of state water courts. From the article:

State lawmakers are planning to reform Colorado's water courts to make the process easier and cheaper for water-rights owners. Former state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis came to the Legislature with the idea Wednesday. "This is not about substantive change in water law. This is about process," she said. "We're trying to make this process work better for the people of Colorado who need access to the water courts." Kourlis was part of the Denver University Water Futures Panel, which recommended speeding up water-court procedures in a report this month. She spoke to the Legislature's Water Resources Review Committee on Wednesday. Committee chairman Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, described the problem from the point of view of rural water-rights owners. "We've gone from a process that was all about filing for water. And that worked well when there was water to file on," Isgar said. But now, courts deal with moving water around the state and changing its destination from farms to cities. Court cases are often long, complicated and require expert witnesses and hydrological studies. Deep-pocketed developers can handle the cost, but little water districts can't, Isgar said. Legislators talked about sending the governor a letter to request action, or creating a committee on their own to recommend a fix by 2009. Isgar said he wanted to wait until the next meeting, Oct. 31, to decide on a strategy.

Category: Colorado Water

7:27:33 AM    

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The mixup of Greenback cutthroats with populations of Colorado River cutthroat can be blamed on science not mismanagement says Harris Sherman, according to The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Department of Natural Resources Director Harris Sherman said errors in Colorado's efforts to repopulate the threatened greenback cutthroat trout were the result of problems with contemporary science, not gross mismanagement. "Management decisions made by multiple fisheries' biologists at the state and federal level over the past several decades on cutthroat trout were based on the best information available," Sherman wrote in a Sept. 25 letter to four Republican lawmakers. Lawmakers, including state Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, attacked the Colorado Division of Wildlife's decades-long effort to restock the threatened fish after a University of Colorado study showed biologists were restoring the wrong species of trout...

Sherman assured the lawmakers that no state general fund dollars were spent in the recovery effort. Funding for the repopulation efforts, he wrote, have come from Great Outdoors Colorado grants. "I believe that the division has demonstrated its commitment to the very scientific controls to which you refer," Sherman wrote, citing the lawmakers' Sept. 7 letter, "and I am confident it will continue to seek the most current science-based methods to guide its recovery efforts." Penry said he was pleased with Sherman's response to his questions. He said he never intended to attack the Division of Wildlife but merely sought to perform an appropriate oversight role. "When an error like this is made, it's important for tough questions to be asked," Penry said. "We need these programs to work because of the stakes of endangered species decisions on water use in Colorado. The key," Penry added, "is to make sure that this type of mistake doesn't happen again."

More coverage from The Denver Post, including photos of both species.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:21:03 AM    

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Here's a look at Day 1 of the groundwater conference here in Colorado Springs from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Groundwater use and storage have become the critical water issues in Colorado, a top state official told a conference looking at state growth and its impact on aquifers. "We have to look at sustainability," said Harris Sherman, director of the Department of Natural Resources. "We must do whatever we can to live within our means. We cannot borrow against the future." Sherman detailed a long list of problems associated with groundwater at a conference sponsored by El Paso County Water Authority, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and the American Groundwater Trust. About 250 people are attending the two-day conference.

Three of the four major river basins in the state - South Platte, Arkansas and Rio Grande - are overappropriated. The fourth - the Colorado River - may have unappropriated water, but interstate compact obligations and potential climate change have made the supply uncertain. Sherman said growth in Colorado has been the biggest factor in the importance of groundwater to the state. "The growth of cities up and down the Front Range absolutely affects groundwater," Sherman said. "Every action (with water) in the state affects groundwater. We have to come at these problems thinking about what's best for Colorado." Developing groundwater recharge or underground storage in Colorado is important to meeting the challenge, Sherman said. The state's role will be to provide the technical knowledge to help plan for growth, Sherman said.

Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works and roundtable chairman, said the Preferred Storage Options Plan, which looks at the possibility of enlarging Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake, could have added 75,000-100,000 acre-feet of water through storage for the valley if it had been in place in 1999. "Think what that would have meant during the drought," Hamel said. "That's why we"re interested in groundwater storage." The roundtable backed a request by El Paso County water users in getting a CWCB grant for $75,000 to study aquifer recharge in the Upper Black Squirrel Creek groundwater basin, which is legally not tributary to the Arkansas River.

Category: Colorado Water

7:05:29 AM    

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Hope springs eternal for moving Yampa River water to the Front Range. Here's a report on the "Yampa Straw" from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

As a line formed for lunch at the River Walk Cafe, 12 of Colorado's most saavy water chieftains held a historic meeting in a back room. They came from the east and the west of the state, gathering on what's considered neutral ground in Colorado's increasingly fractious water world. At issue: whether a $4 billion, 227-mile pipeline should be built to carry 300,000 acre feet of water annually from the Yampa River in northwestern Colorado to the Front Range and fast-growing communities on the West Slope. Six men in the room were from the South Platte River Basin east of the Continental Divide; six from the Yampa and White river basins on the west. It marked the first time under a new state law that formerly hostile interests have met voluntarily to discuss a water project before any money has been spent, before any decisions have been made, before lawsuits have been filed. The purpose was to establish ground rules for what will become one of two things: a battle over the Yampa River or a landmark effort to see if Colorado's rural and urban interests can be united...

Eric Wilkinson, manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, explained why he thought taking a giant gulp from the Yampa is a good idea. The often fiery West Slope officials, listened carefully...

Whether the process moves forward or ends in a fight won't be clear for several more months. "We have a lot of angst," said Tom Sharp, a water attorney from Steamboat Springs and former member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. At the end of the six-hour session, the river basin reps agreed to meet again. "I guess I'm encouraged," said Mike Shimmin, a Boulder water attorney. "I didn't hear anyone say no, or hell no, or not over our dead bodies."

Coyote Gulch got a chance to talk with Don Magnuson from Northern yesterday. He sees potential benefits to 5 basins by building the pipeline. The Yampa will get more storage, the North Platte could get more water (they're not really short), the South Platte can avoid drying up more agriculture and finally the Arkansas and Colorado may not be pressed so hard by Northern, Aurora and Denver Water not having to develop rights they own. Aurora could avoid moving more water out of basin leaving water in the Arkansas for Colorado Springs to develop.

Category: Colorado Water

6:56:33 AM    

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Here's some background on the shiny new South Metro Water Authority from The Denver Post. They write:

A billion-dollar solution to the problem of south metro's diminishing groundwater likely will be official in December. Part of that tab will be the Rueter- Hess Reservoir, which will cost less than $200 million to build. But Parker-area and other water providers, include Castle Rock, will shell out more yet to find the water, treat it to drinkable standards and pump it to the reservoir on the outskirts of Parker...

Switching to renewable supplies, including river water and treated or "recycled" or "re-used" wastewater, has been hailed for years as the region's salvation. "The real solution is the importation of water from either the South Platte, the Arkansas or the Colorado" rivers, said Frank Jaeger, manager of Parker Water and Sanitation. Tapping rivers to fuel growth has been a taboo topic with environmentalists, recreational users of rivers and other water interests hoping to retain their supplies. But the region can't recycle or conserve enough water to meet its needs, Jaeger said. "Conservation isn't anything you can count on. I don't see it as a new supply. It's just good water management that helps you out during a drought."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:42:23 AM    

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Denver Water customers will be paying about 5% more for water next year, according to The Denver Post. From the article:

The rate increase will help raise an additional $9.7 million in revenue for system maintenance and upgrades. The average annual Denver residential bill, currently $280.12, would rise by about $13. The suburban customer's bill would rise an average of $21.44 from the current $476.87. The rate hike breaks down to an additional $2.22 on a bimonthly bill for an average customer in Denver who uses 120,000 gallons a year. Suburban customers use an average of 160,000 gallons annually...

In all, the added revenue will be used to upgrade water-treatment plants and infrastructure, possibly enlarge Gross Reservoir, expand conservation programs and bolster contingency reserves. The rate-setting process, an annual exercise by the five-member board, did not generate much in the way of public discussion or debate over the past month. Most controversial was a proposal to create a new, higher- priced category for commercial, industrial and governmental entities and homeowners who have separate, high-consumption taps for irrigation and landscaping. The Denver Water board voted to phase in the new irrigation rates over an undetermined number of years, but prices could jump by more than 50 percent over that period. Among the estimated 2,100 customers affected by the increases are parks and recreation districts, schools, federal agencies, churches, hospitals and shopping centers, said John Wright, manager of rate administration. Currently, these customers pay $1.89 for every 1,000 gallons in winter and $2.27 in the summer. Under the phase-in plan, they could see summer rates jump to $2.50 next year and $3.52 by 2010, but winter rates actually would decrease...

Consumers pay nearly four times as much for water in excess of 80,000 gallons used in each billing period, punishing homeowners who have large properties like his 2.5-acre lot, he said. Denver Water officials say the rates offset the costs of running a supply system sufficient to meet the highest summertime demands and that its 1.2 million metro-area residents still pay less than those in many other Western cities.

More coverage from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

The Denver Water board also voted for a new rate category - "other irrigation." This category will apply to 131 commercial, industrial or governmental customers that have outdoor irrigation systems. These users will see up to a 10 percent increase in their summer rates in 2008, but up to a 3 percent drop in their winter rates compared with what they pay this year. Rates for customers in the new category will be adjusted over the next three years. That will be done to better reflect their actual usage and the costs of servicing outdoor-only taps.

Category: Colorado Water

6:36:45 AM    

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