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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Saturday, October 6, 2007

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Everyone is talking groundwater recharge lately. Here's a look at the importance of playa lakes in recharging the Ogallala Aquifer from The High Plains Ag Journal. From the article:

Society is quick to point the finger of blame as to what is causing or will cause the demise of the Ogallala Aquifer. Agriculture, ethanol, expanding urban populations, global warming--you name it. There's no doubt any and all of these are impacting the aquifer now and into the future. But we are unwittingly ignoring the most important issue--how to protect the sole sources of recharge for the Ogallala--playa wetlands.

Playas are shallow, seasonal wetlands found in abundance in the Southern Great Plains. There are more than 60,000 playas perched above the Ogallala Aquifer formation in eastern Colorado and New Mexico, western Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. Playas are the primary source of recharge for the Ogallala, and are the most important wetland habitat for wildlife in the region, supporting millions of ducks, shorebirds and other migratory and resident birds and other wildlife year-round.

You may have never heard of, nor seen, a playa. That's not surprising. More than 90 percent of all playas are located on private farm and ranchland, so rarely does the general public have access to them. Playas are also seasonal in nature. Whether they are wet or dry depends on the local weather. Playas can be wet year-round, or stay dry for months and sometimes years on end. This cycle can make it difficult for the untrained eye to detect them.

Yet it is this natural, wet/dry cycle of playas that helps them recharge the Ogallala. Playa basins are lined with clay soils, so when they dry out, deep cracks form in the basin and along the perimeter of the playa. When water comes into the playa from rainfall or other runoff event, it runs through these cracks and edges and into the underlying water table.

Research has shown that playas contribute between 85 and 95 percent of the total water returned to the aquifer in the Southern High Plains. This amounts to about 1 to 3 inches per year, depending on their location and depth to the groundwater formation. The Southern High Plains encompasses eastern New Mexico, western Texas, the Panhandle of Oklahoma, southeastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

3:47:57 PM    

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Say hello to the New Cache la Poudre Irrigation Company. Here's an article about their new reservoir northeast of Greeley, from The Greeley Tribune. They write:

A northern Weld County irrigation company has completed a $10 million water project with the dedication Friday of a storage reservoir northeast of Greeley. Stockholders of the New Cache la Poudre Irrigation & Reservoir Co. approved the project in 2002. The company then got a $7 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to help with financing of the project which included the construction of two new reservoirs about 15 miles east of Lucerne. The larger of those storage facilities, the Cornish Plains Reservoir and Recharge Facility, was dedicated Friday.

Don Magnuson, the irrigation company's superintendent, said Cornish has 250 acres of surface space and will hold about 2,600 acre-feet of water once it is filled to capacity. If needed, that water can be released back to the system to be used by stockholders at the lower end of the ditch. The No. 2 ditch, which is used by the company, provides irrigation water to about 40,000 acres. It comes off the Poudre River between Timnath and Windsor. The first reservoir of the system is the Kern Reservoir, more commonly known as Windsor Lake. The ditch then comes off that lake and parallels Colo. 392 and Weld County Road 392 to Barnesville, east of Lucerne. Two reservoirs and an equalizer were built between Barnesville and Cornish, with the Cornish Reservoir being the last and largest. It was designed by Smith Geotechnical of Fort Collins and built by Schmidt Earth Builders of Windsor. "It's a big drink of water," said Jeff Smith, president of Schmidt.

Category: Colorado Water

3:31:43 PM    

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Chief Deputy State Engineer Ken Knox delivered the new rules for the Republican Basin this week out in Holyoke, according to The Sterling Journal Advocate. From the article:

Ken Knox called a meeting here Wednesday, the first in a series of five to be held Oct. 3 and 4 across the Republican River Basin. About 75 people turned out to hear about the new regulations and rules designed to bring Colorado into compliance with the Republican River Compact. Among the people accompanying Knox was Peter Ampe, from the Colorado Attorney General's office. Knox identified Ampe as the state's lead attorney on interstate water compact issues.

Knox began Wednesday's presentation by emphasizing what he had said at earlier meetings: Compliance with the Republican River Compact is not optional. Orders from the Supreme Court cannot be ignored. In August, Kansas Attorney Gen. Paul Morrison stated, "Kansas will bring decisive actions very soon to bring Nebraska and Colorado into compliance. You will see some action by the state of Kansas that will be fairly quick and fairly decisive to begin the process of enforcing this agreement." Knox said, "We have to take additional measures over and above what we've already done to meet the compact."

The plan Knox presented includes curtailing all well pumping and surface diversions within three miles of the North and South Forks of the Republican River, and allowing Bonny Reservoir to drain. This is scheduled to go into effect Dec. 1, 2008. A map showing the proposed curtailment zone was included in the handouts at the meeting. The Frenchman Creek area, including Haxtun and Holyoke, is part of the Republican River Basin, but it is not included in the curtailment zone -- yet. However, the new regulations require that all irrigation wells within the entire Republican Basin must be metered or their output measured in another acceptable manner by March 1, 2009. Wells that are not metered or otherwise measured by that date will be ordered shut down. This metering does apply to the Frenchman Creek area. One handout provided 11 pages of specifics about the well measurement. On or before Oct. 31 of each year, the state engineer will calculate the five-year running average that compact compliance is based on. This will be used to determine the level of curtailment necessary for the following year...

"There will not be curtailment during the 2008 growing season," Knox said. Someone in the audience asked what could happen if Kansas does file a lawsuit right away. "Kansas could take action as early as January 2008," Ampe said. "They could file a complaint in the Supreme Court asking for an injunction." "How quickly can something like that move?" Carlstrom asked. "It's hard to predict," Ampe said. "Kansas officials are very appreciative of what we are trying to do," Knox said. "But they aren't happy with what's happening in Nebraska." Knox said he believed if Kansas does file another lawsuit, they will again file it against both states. "We have to get to compact compliance, and if we have to take additional steps, we will," Knox said. "I'm hoping that all the steps we've taken will be viewed favorably." Someone asked how long the lag effect will take. "We've been pumping 900,000 acre feet for 40 years," Knox replied. "It's going to take time to turn that down."[...]

Several people asked about the pipeline proposal to take water directly to the measurement point. "We are using the Republican River Water Conservancy District groundwater model for that," Knox said. "If we do it, it will be based on solid science." Knox said that the series of meetings this week are mainly for informational purposes. There will be a formal hearing on the rules soon, probably before the first of the year, he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

1:00:03 PM    

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