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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Monday, October 8, 2007

A picture named groundwateragt.jpg

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable sponsored a conference on September 27th and 28th in Colorado Springs billed as The Colorado Ground Water Management Policy: Focus on Legal and Institutional Opportunities for Aquifer Recharge and Storage. The conference, a collaboration between the roundtable, Aqua Engineering and the American Ground Water Trust, was an attempt to jump start statewide strategy for leveraging groundwater recharge for both storage and augmentation.

State Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs helped set the tone for the conference by reading his poem Coloradans:


To each of us
The land, the air, the water,
Mountain, canyon, mesa, plain,
Lightning bolts, clear days with no rain,

At the source of all thirst,
At the source of all thirst-quenching hope,
At the root and core of time and no-time,
The Great Divide Community

Stands astride the backbone of the continent,
Gathering, draining, reflecting, sending forth
A flow so powerful it seeps rhythmically
From within,

Alive to each of us,
To drink, to swim, to grow corn ears
To listen to our children float the streams
Of their own magnificence,

Out of their seeping dreams,
Out of their useful silliness,
Out of their source-mouths
High and pure,

The Great Divide,
You and I, all that lives
And floats and flies and passes through
All we know of why.

Reprinted, with permission, from Colorado Mother of Rivers, Water Poems by Justice Greg Hobbs (Colorado Foundation for Water Education, order through

Justice Hobbs laid down the law, "Don't ask me about a case that may come before the court," and explained the law, "Not non tributary," means, "Tributary." He presented a primer of sorts on state water law as it relates to groundwater recharge. Central to his presentation was the court's advice to groundwater project planners from the case, Park County Sportsmen's Ranch:

Underground aquifers are not reservoirs for purposes of obtaining an adjudicated right to store water in them, except to the extent they are filled with water to which the person filling the aquifer has a conditional or decreed right, section 37-87-101(2, C.R.S. (2006). An application for an underground storage right must meet certain conditions. Minimally, the applicant for such a right:

1) Must capture, possess, and control the water it intends to put into the aquifer for storage;

2) Must not injure other water use rights, either surface or underground, by appropriating the water for recharge;

3) Must not injure water use rights, either surface or underground, as a result of recharging the aquifer and storing water in it;

4) Must show that the aquifer is capable of accommodating the stored water without injuring other water use rights;

5) Must show that the storage will not tortiously interfere with overlying landownersâ?? use and enjoyment of their property;

6) Must not physically invade the property of another by activities such a directional drilling, or occupancy by recharge structures or extraction wells, without proceeding under the procedures for eminent domain;

7) Must have the intent and ability to recapture and use the stored water; and

8) Must have an accurate means for measuring and accounting for the water stored and extracted from storage in the aquifer.

Recharge in alluvial aquifers was emphasized both days. The subject is timely due to many groundwater wells shut down on the South Platte River in 2006 by the State Engineer. Irrigators are also facing curtailment in the Republican River Basin while in the Rio Grande Basin irrigators and water officials are working on recharge efforts in hopes of avoiding involuntary, uncompensated, shutdowns. Pressure on groundwater irrigators comes from their being junior in priority to surface irrigators in most cases and the fact that Colorado law recognizes the connectedness of surface water and the alluvial aquifers.

The compacts on the South Platte, Republican and Rio Grande are also in play. Attorney Dave Robbins reminded everyone that the compacts are "contracts between the states," so we should not, "expect them to be a source for additional water," since the other states need the water just as Colorado does. "We must manage what is apportioned to us by learning to live with what we have," he said.

The current state of science and engineering introduces guesswork and estimation into the recharge equation. Attorney Mike Shimming asked attendees, "What is the difference between recharge and storage?" His point was that recharge is possible -- many projects have shown that it works -- but the problem comes when a recharge project claims storage, hence recovery, rights. He added, "Water stored in an alluvial aquifer does not stay put," therefore, "We need the means for an accurate accounting for recharge water." Later on in a side conversation about the need for statewide cooperation he took the position that, "This will get done when the economics are right."

[Coyote Gulch reminds readers that water flows uphill toward the money.]

Alluvial irrigation wells can be shut down under Colorado law if an irrigator does not have a permanent sustainable augmentation water supply. Many irrigators on the lower South Platte are involved with recharge primarily for augmentation. Joe Frank, General Manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District was on hand to talk about the success of his organization's recharge efforts. In addition to augmentation he said that their recharge projects help with, "Wildlife habitat and wildlife recovery."

Alluvial aquifers are not the only recharge prospects in Colorado. The Centennial Water and Sanitation District is injecting water into the bedrock aquifers in the Denver Basin, according to their General Manager John Hendrick. The district serves Highlands Ranch and their supply comes primarily from surface rights on the South Platte River and Plum creek, he said. However, "When we have available water," we inject water treated to, "Drinking water standards," into the bedrock aquifer using many of the same wells that are used for production. He emphasized that they, "Only inject treated potable water."

The unbridled growth in the state, along with on again off again drought conditions and potential changes in climate, are driving interest in expanding recharge efforts. Engineer Gordon Murray presented some of the results of a study that his firm, CDM, performed for the state under authorization from SB 06-193. He said that they were directed to identify areas of the South Platte and Arkansas basins with the best potential for recharge for increased storage. They applied 10 evaluation criteria which included the hydrogeology, environment, existing implementations and transmissivity of the aquifers, he said. In addition, according to Gordon, they also looked at the availability of infrastructure to move water to potential projects.

He said they found sites suitable for pilot projects in both basins. The best candidates include the Arkansas mainstem from Buena Vista to Salida, north of the Arkansas in Crowley County and the Arkansas from Lamar to the state line, he said. He listed parts of the Denver Basin aquifer system and alluvial aquifers tributary to the South Platte River (Lost Creek, Lower Kiowa Creek and near Fort Morgan) as well. Available storage is, "estimated at 3.2 million acre feet in the South Platte Basin, .7 million acre feet in the Arkansas Basin and 2.3 million acre feet in the Denver Basin," he said.

Ralf Topper from the Colorado Geological Survey, a proponent of recharge, explained, "The technology exists, the aquifers are there, recharge technologies are proven and large storage capacity exists for both alluvial aquifer and bedrock projects." He emphasized the need for a, "Regional, holistic, water supply strategy," that would lead to regulations and a legal framework to deal with the, "Management, financing and implementation of large-scale recharge projects."

Since many of Colorado's major streams are over-appropriated it makes sense to ask where recharge projects will get water for implementation. This year's "free river" conditions on the South Platte point to one possible source, stormwater runoff surface water runoff. Other sources include, non-tributary groundwater return flows, reclaimed or recycled water and produced water from oil and gas operations, according to Topper.

As it turns out the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Groundwater Management District is looking at recycled water for their long-term sustainability. Kathy Hare, President of the district board explained their nascent efforts at recharge, saying, that the Upper Black Squirrel District, "Has been in decline for years," both in quantity and quality (nitrates from fertilizers). She added that septic systems on small parcels also contribute to declining quality.

Hare said that the Upper Black Squirrel District is hoping to use treated wastewater from a Cherokee Metropolitan District wastewater plant for recharge. They also hope to get some homes off septic systems and connected to a treatment system with some of that water going into recharge. Another source would be agricultural water from the lower Arkansas, she said, acknowledging that the water would need to be treated before injection and that the transport infrastructure is lacking.

The city of Wellington plans to use produced water from the Wellington oil field for part of their supply, according to Lisa Voytko an engineering consultant with Stewart Environmental in Fort Collins. She said that problems with produced water include uncertainty in supply, fluctuation of oil and gas prices, poor water quality and other environmental risks. She added that produced water, treated to drinking water standards, could be a new source of water for the state. It could be stored in reservoirs or used in recharge efforts.

After a long two days of lecture and conversation there was a general air of optimism apparent. Most agreed that it was an important effort at solving part of the problem of sustainability and may in fact have started important conversations. Kathleen Curry, state representative from Gunnison, when asked about the need for a statewide policy, cautioned those present during the legislative session, saying,"We're not a one-size fits all state." Recharge projects have great potential but as Colorado Springs attorney Sandy MacDougal told the crowd, "Make sure you don't harm with your plans."

Below is the play by play from the conference.

Opening remarks

Betty Konarski from the El Paso County Water Authority in Colorado Springs opened up the conference by stating why the Arkansas River Roundtable threw the shindig and asking questions that she hoped would be answered over the two days. First of all, "Does the state of Colorado need a uniform growdwater policy?" She asked us to look seriously at the subject of groudwater recharge.

The Mayor of Colorado Springs, Lionel Rivera, added that water supply is a ongoing challenge and that management and allocation of water resources is the number one issue for many across the state. Since Colorado Springs gets 80% of their water out of basin they must continue to build reservoir storage and pipelines to grow, he said, adding, "The value of groundwater cannot be questioned," and entities need to form consensus on the issue and work together to solve supply problems. He brought up the Northgate project, a groundwater and aquifer recharge project in northern El Paso County. The project is a pilot for groundwater recharge in the Denver Basin. Colorado Springs hopes to store water in the aquifer in wet years for use in dry years, he said.

Amy Stephens, State Representative from HD 20 in Colorado Springs, is a supporter of aquifer recharge. She asked us to look at successful projects around the state and the U.S. to learn best practices. She added, "Gone are the days of doing things individually."

The Executive Director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Allan Hamel, welcomed participants on behalf of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. He praised the roundtable process and added, "there is a great opportunity in aquifer storage."

Harris Sherman, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, tackled the subject, "The Importance of Finding Solutions Colorado's Ground Water Issues." He told about preparing for his confirmation hearings. He called the 9 directors at DNR to learn about the issues they were dealing with. He remembered sitting down with Hal Simpson (former State Engineer) asking, "What keeps you up at night?" Simpson answered, "Groundwater, groundwater, groundwater." Sherman said that answer, "Left an impression with me."

Sherman echoed the current political mantra, "We are all in this together." The use of groundwater is interrelated with everything we do, he said. His hope is that the Interbasin Compact Commission and basin roundtables will give the state the tools to deal with water issues. "How do we share the finite resource, where are the win-wins," he asked?

Director Sherman highlighted the issue of sustainabilty saying that, "We must learn to live within our means," with, "no borrowing from the future." He acknowledged that compliance on the South Platte is painful for some irrigators. He hopes for better planning for the Denver Basin. Colorado has a critical role in expanding the technical understanding of groundwater resources and limits, he said, adding that the state also needs to make sure that decisions are," based on thorough modeling." He mentioned the 2006 study of recharge potential as a start on building better tools while improving scientific understanding. To his way of thinking, "Better tools = Better understanding."

While the South Platte River Basin Task Force didn't find any new wet water to distribute, the meetings led to a good debate on protecting of senior water rights, under prior appropriation. He thinks that there may be ways to attain maximum utilization while protecting seniors with compensation of some type and that the legal system has the needed flexibility to allow aquifer recharge.

One role of the state, according to Sherman, is to identify recharge opportunities and locations. It can help fund projects through the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The state should be actively involved in acquiring water rights along with determining the role of groundwater in oil and gas development, water quality, sustainability of local supplies and supply issues in mountain areas. "There are plenty of reasons to be positive", he said, while citing the efforts in Douglas County by the Douglas County Water Resource Authority.

Andrew Stone: Water Storage in Aquifers - Basic Concepts and Terminology

Andrew Stone from the American Ground Water Trust was tasked with giving attendees enough engineering and science background, along with a vocabulary, to enable conversation and interaction. He stated that accurate science must be the basis of any policy. "Science does not lie but scientists can," he said, "The world's population is growing at the rate of 150 people per minute." This necessitates more storage for supplies and increased need for irrigation. Since water has traditionally been a state issue, he said, "Colorado must solve Colorado's problems."

He explained the concept of a water budget as a fundamental way of balancing water. Inflows come from preciptation, subsurface inflow, surface water, irrigation return flows and engineered recharge. Ouflows are from subsurface outflow, evapotranspiration, the base flow to the river and pumping. The groundwater system characteristics are determined by porosity (a measurement of potential storage in an aquifer), permeability (how water moves) and geometry, he said.

Stone told the attendees that climate is the fundamental driver of the water cycle and determines how much water is available. There is great variability in alluvial aquifers. He included a slide of Darcy's Law that describes the movement of a liquid through a porous material.

According to Stone, aquifer storage is environmentally friendly, it is a way to secure supplies with lower costs, and water stored in wet years helps provide flexibility to managers in dry years. There is no evaporation and there is minimal impact to existing land uses, he said.

Mr. Stone then schooled attendees on the many acronyms associated with groundwater management:

Artificial Recharge (AR): Intentional banking and treatment of water in aquifers.
Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR): Intentional banking and treatment of water in aquifers.
Artificial Recharge and Recovery (ARR): Recharge to and recovery from an aquifer, that is, both artificial recharge of the aquifer and recovery of the water for later use.
Underground Storage and Recovery (USR): Any type of project whose purpose is the artificial recharge, underground storage and recovery of project water.
Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR): Injection of water into a well for storage and recovery from the same well.
Aquifer Storage Transfer and Recovery (ASTR): Injection of water into a well for storage and recovery from a different well.
Managed Underground Storage of Recoverable Water (MUS): Purposeful recharge of water into an aquifer system for intended recovery and use as an element a long-term water resource management.

Stone closed by reminding attendees that there are many successful projects that can serve as teaching tools and that the science and engineering is well advanced. The problems with expanding aquifer recharge are primarily legal and political rather than technical, he said.

Session 1: Use of Aquifers for Storage in Other States

Moderator Denise Fort, Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico, introduced the first session. She said that the interest in groundwater is partially driven by the effects of a warming climate with less snowpack and greater evaporation, the mining of aquifers and the effect on water quality. She mentioned the National Academy of Science's panel to study groundwater resources. She added that there are many questions to answer.

She told attendees that issues exist around both the quantity of water and quality of water in groundwater recharge and that quality is driven by state law and the state legislatures and therefore the states need to address quality issues in recharge projects. States need to determine ownership of recharge water, she said, asking, "Who owns the aquifer space?" This is not an easy issue in Colorado since water rights are disconnected from land ownership, she said. She sees a need for consistent laws, statutes and regulations taking the place of common law.

Fort says that the federal role in aquifer recharge is inconsistent but that there may be no need for federal regulation. With respect to reuse of effluent she says the biggest hurdle is public acceptance, developing a public understanding of reuse. Other issues to be clarified include studying the economomics of recharge for agriculture, she said. She believes that states should draft comprehensive codes for recharge projects.

Craig Miller introduced attendees to the work of the Orange County Water District in recharging the aquifers in the Santa Ana River Basin. Their work involves recharge to prevent saltwater intrusion, groundwater replenishment, maximizing storage in the basin, maximizing use of native water supplies and providing insurance against drought.

Gregg Houtz, Deputy Counsel for the Arizona Deparment of Water Resources, talked about Arizona's use of effluent and Colorado River water to recharge their depleted aquifers. He said that the efforts were the results of a comprehensive statute giving the state the role of controlling agricultural water and recharge activities. Their aquifers are re-filling now. Arizona allows for long-term storage credits and the ability to pump even if the water is not recharged in that location. Their 1980 Groundwater Management Act tried to get people to use renewable water, prohibited development without a 100 year supply of water and limits groundwater development. The Arizona Department of Water Resources has permitted over 80 recharge facilities with an annual capacity of 2 million acre feet.

In 1996 Arizona set up the Arizona Water Banking Authority which uses funds from fees and taxes to fund recharge. This is to make sure that growth can continue -- very important to the developer community there.

Karl Dreher, former Director of the Idaho Department of Natural Resources, told the attendees that Idaho is the state most reliant on groundwater for municipal needs (over 90%). He outlined recharge operations at Micron Technology. During months where there is surplus water in the Boise River water is treated and diverted to injection wells. Water is then pumped from the wells as needed. Since the company completely covers withdrawals by recharging, their junior rights in the river are adequate. Idaho allows the company to take water out of priority. They estimate that 90% of the injected water is recoverable.

One effect of the program is that groundwater levels are rebounding in the aquifer, he said. No degradation of water quality in the aquifer has been noted. He noted that Orange County injects water without chlorinating it instead using reverse osmosis and ultra violet along with an estimated 6 months travel through the rock. Arizona injects Colorado River water and considers it non-degraded. According to Mr. Dreher, the trend is for cities to use higher quality water for recharge and domestic use.

The Challenges and Objectives of the Special Legislative South Platte Wells Task Force A picture named southplattewatershed.jpg

Alexandra Davis detailed the accomplishments of Governor Ritters task force on the South Platte River Basin. She said that the group was formed because the governor hoped to do something for the farmers whose wells were shut down over the last few years. The group intentionally invited Senator Isgar and Representative Curry who represent southwest Colorado since they, "did not have a dog in the fight." Successes for the task force include giving many differing views a seat at the table to participate in the dialogue and create connections, she said.

Background to the 1969 Water Rights Determination and Administration Act

Bob Longenbaugh, consulting engineer from Lakewood, told attendees that many of the issues around today are the same as some of the issues in the 60's, during his introduction of former State Senator Fred Anderson.

Anderson reiterated that some things have not changed. In the 60's surface irrigators were worried that groundwater pumpers were harming surface rights -- just as they are today.

During the 1960s the state supreme court directed the legislature to develop water to the highest and best use and that is what they attempted to do, he said. Anderson recommends that users take a million acre feet per year out of the South Platte alluvial aquifer to test depletions and provide for conjunctive use. "Let's not ignore what's possible," he said.

Where we are -- Where we have been since 1969

State Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs brought his historical and legal perspective to Thursday's afternoon session. He told attendees that Colorado has wisely protected the judiciary from politicization. He went through the history of the doctrine of prior appropriation in Colorado saying that an early Colorado Territorial law separated water from the streams. In 1876 the Colorado Constitution declared that all the waters of the natural stream are property of the public subject to appropriation, included tributary groundwater, according to Hobbs. "Use rights are property rights," he said, and, "streams ride on the aquifers."

Legal Issues and Experiences

Melinda Larsen from Colorado Trout Unlimited led off the session with an overview of her organization's views on groundwater recharge and withdrawals. Trout Unlimited cares about aquifer withdrawals because they are directly related to stream water quantity and quality. For them groundwater recharge and withdrawals are environmentally friendly since they don't create barriers to fish moving around in the system.

Mike Shimming, with the law firm of Vranesh & Raisch in Boulder, asked participants if there is a difference between storage and recharge. According to Shimming, the law follows science, once we know how things work the lawyers and legislature goes to work. Water stored in an alluvial aquifer does not stay put so we need to establish the means for an accurate accounting for recharge water, he said, adding that the alluvial aquifers are working well for augmentation but there are obstacles for use as storage. After the session Mr. Shimming made the statement, "This will get done when the economics are right," in answer to a question about getting everyone to work together on groundwater storage.

Attorney Dave Robbins who works for Hill & Robbins in Denver discussed the subject of groundwater storage and recharge in light of the various compacts that Colorado has entered into with other states. He said that Delph Carpenter applied compacts to interstate water and that the compacts are a contract between the states. The compacts generally do not include groundwater, he said. Also, compacts are based on a water budget and we must manage what is apportioned to us by learning to live with what we have.

Sandy MacDougal from the Colorado Springs firm of MacDougall Wooldridge & Worley took a cautious tone in his comments. He warned against projects that may be judged as speculative. He told attendees, "If you want a decree make sure you have an end use," for the water in your project. The Sportsmens Ranch decision established that water cannot be stored in an aquifer that is over-appropriated, he said. He cautioned, "Make sure you don't harm with your plans."

Recharge Stories from Colorado

Gary Thompson with W.W. Wheeler & Associates in Englewood discussed the Widefield Aquifer Management Program on Fountain Creek. He stated that the parties to the program have been successful, 40,000 people get part of their water from the Widefield Aquifer and that it is a backup for Colorado Springs Utilities. He told the attendees about the history of conflicts in the aquifer -- primarily well to well interference. In 1975, he said, a series of meetings led to modeling of inflows (18,000 acre feet per year primarily from Fountain Creek) and outflows and a management plan. The aquifer usually recovers each year according to Thompson. He went on to say that most aumentation water is from irrigation water and return flows from projects but that some effluent is used for recharge after the water is filtered and treated by reverse osmosis.

Steve Vandiver who works for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District presented on the San Luis Valley and the recharge of the unconfined aquifer north of the Rio Grande River. He said that they are accomplishing significant recharge using the 6 irrigation ditches in the area. Surface water is not used much by irrigators any longer, according to Vandiver, and so the RGWCD sought an received a decree to use surface water for recharge. The recent drought caused a large drop in the unconfined aquifer so the RFWCD formed a sub-district for reducing use and to create an economic incentive to take wells out of production for recharge, he said.

Joe Frank the General Manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District started out his portion of the session, saying of the South Platte River, that it has been, "over-appropriated since the 1890s". Therefore all reservoirs must be filled first, before recharge can be done. According to Mr. Frank recharge on the South Platte is primarily for the augmentation of alluvial wells. Managers on the river use existing surface structures to manage groundwater recharge into ponds where the water then infiltrates into the aquifer, he said. The process includes measuring inflows, allowance for evaporation and other outflows when calculating recharge. When choosing recharge sites they look for permeable soils, a low water table (> 10 feet), the proximity to surface water, land that is down gradient of the stream with no immediate elevation change down gradient and favorable transmissivity, he added. According to Mr. Frank recharge benefits include: augmentation; wildlife habitat, wildlife recovery and augmentation credits for the South Platte Recovery Program.

John Hendrick spoke about the recharge program in the Centennial Water & Sanitation District (Highlands Ranch) where he is the General Manager. He told attendees that in deep bedrock water moves slowly and that wells do not produce as much as alluvial wells. Highlands Ranch gets most of their water from surface rights in the South Platte River and Plum Creek but also pumps from the Denver Basin Aquifer system. When they have water available they pump it, treated to drinking water standards, into the aquifer, using many of the same wells as they use for supply. Aquifer recharge benefits, according to Mr. Hendrick, include: increase well production; complementary to surface storage; assistance in sustaining groundwater supplies; minimum risk of contamination: no evaporation; usefulness as a drought reserve. He emphasized that they, "Only inject treated potable water."

Practical Decision Making Issues

Dr. Tim Gates from Colorado State University started off this session by detailing some of the technical problems with groundwater recharge of alluvial aquifers. He told attendees that inflows to aquifers cause the water table to rise. He said that the inflows come from seepage from facilities (ditches, ponds, reservoirs), rainfall and irrigation. The rise in the water table can cause greater evaporation, leaving salts and minerals in the soil, impacting agriculture and natural flora, according to Gates. He went on to say that eventually the rise in salinity will reach the river.

He highlighted three main problems inherent in the recharge of alluvial aquifers, rising water table leads to increased salinity of soil, with recharge in hydraulic gradients solutes move toward the tributaries and the river and increased non-beneficial water consumption and evapoconcentration. "As we hold water tables up", he said, "we lose water to evaporation," the approximate loss is, "100,000 to 150,000 acre feet per year under not vegetated and fallowed ground in the Arkansas Valley."

Lisa Voytko an engineering consultant with Stewart Environmental in Fort Collins, spoke about produced water from oil and gas production. Her company is currently working with the town of Wellington and producers in the Wellington oil field to separate produced water from oil. She told attendees that in 2001 the oil field produced 21 billion barrels (3 million acre feet) of produced water. She mentioned several reasons that the water has traditionally not been used: Uncertainty in supply; fluctuation of oil and gas prices; produced water is often of poor water quality; and environmental risks.

According to Voytko some of the econmomic benefits of utilizing produced water include: Adding a new water source to state supplies; produced water becomes more economic as the cost of water increases; produced water can help in times of water supply shortage; energy savings since re-injection of produced water uses 20% of the produced energy on average; produced water can help in slowing down the transfer of agricultural water rights. She stated that there is recharge potential for agriculture, the water can be put into the river system as an augmentation source, it can be stored in reservoirs for later use.

The current program in the Wellington oil field is producing, "165 acre feet per year and the town of Wellington will use it for municipal water supply", she said.

It was a treat for attendees to hear from Kathy Hare who is the president of the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Ground Water Management District. Her district has been in the news recently, owing to their lawsuit against the Cherokee Metropolitan District over Cherokee's pumping from the basin to serve the thirsty eastern suburbs of Colorado Springs.

Ms. Hare told attendees that a study set up by SB 06-193 identified the Upper Black Squirrel Creek aquifer as the top basin for recharge. "Location is everything when it comes to recharge," she said. The Upper Black Squirrel Creek aquifer has been in decline for years, in fact, a 1999 estimate by the State Engineer said that there was less than 42 years of production in the aquifer, according to Hare. The aquifer is also experiencing declining water quality problems from nitrates (the area has been used extensively for sod farming) and some wells are showing concentrations above the EPA standard, she said, also adding that septic systems from sub-divided land in 2.5 to 5 acre tracts are contributing to the decline in water quality. These septic systems introduce bacteria and household chemicals and the impact is cumulative, she said, and the issues are, "Not effectively addressed by Colorado water law."

So where will the Upper Black Squirrel Basin get recharge water? According to Hare one source may be, ironically, treated wastewater from Cherokee's new treatment plant that will serve numerous sub-divisions. She thinks that they may be able to use agricultural water from farmers on the Arkansas and increased treatment in the basin by eliminating some small septic systems.

Ms. Hare explained some of the constraints for using treated wastewater in recharge: The public generally does not like the idea; El Paso County lacks a comprehensive groundwater management plan; There is a general lack of cooperation between water and wastewater providers; Lack of a short-term economic advantage; Senior water rights owners fear that they will be damaged; and Concern that senior rights holders will claim the recharged water.

She also listed constraints on the use of agricultural water for recharge: Cost for pipelines to deliver the water from the source; Cost of treatment to drinking water standards, since the Arkansas River below Pueblo is not a favorable source for drinking water; Possible legal issues with banking and recharge in a designated groundwater basin.

According to Hare there are also potential constraints on the Upper Black Squirrel Ground Water Management District. These include: Limited financial resources; The need for a full-time office manager, engineer(s), meter readers and lawyers; The job may be beyond the abilities of a 5 member all volunteer board, she said.

The last speaker in this session was Valois Shea from the EPA. Her job was to give the attendees an idea of where the EPA stood with regard to aquifer recharge and EPA regulation. She said that the EPA's role centers around powers granted to them by the Safe Drinking Water Act. She added that they are concerned that injection may cause movement of fluid containing contaminants which occurred in Chicago, Wisconsin and Florida. She went on to say that EPA approaches to aquifer recharge issues, "Vary by region," and that they are trying to mesh their approach and expertise on this, "Emerging issue." Of primary interest are chlorination by products, the potential chemical reactions in formations and the degradation of water quality in other portions of the aquifer, she said. She said that the EPA's current efforts include, developing guidance and policies, learning to ask the right questions and developing similar permit requirements across the organization.

Session 5: What is holding up our moving forward?

Deanna Durnford, a professor from Colorado State University, moderated this session. She said that there is a lack of consensus on where we want to go as a state.

Next up was Ralf Topper from the Colorado Geological Survey. He's committed to using groundwater recharge to help with sustainable water supplies. He said, "The technology exists, the aquifers are there, recharge technologies are proven, large storage capacity exists both for alluvial and bedrock projects," and SB 06-193 directed the Colorado Water Quality Control Divison to find the most technologically, ecologically and environmentally feasible areas. According to Topper everyone necessary is on board including Governor Ritter and the legislature.

The state needs a, "Regional, holistic water supply strategy", he said, along with regulations and a legal framework to deal with the management, financing and implementation of large-scale recharge projects. He added that uncertainty exists around the disposition of recharged water.

A big source of water for recharge is storm water runoff, according to Topper. Officials can also look at non-tributary groundwater return flows, reclaimed or recycled water and produced water from oil and gas operations, he said. He lamented a general lack of understanding of the groundwater environment which fosters doubt and uncertainty along with the need to overcome, "Historical institutional mindsets," and a, "Piecemeal individual-benefit approach." Also on his hit list are the regulatory and legal uncertainties, competition for excess water, the surface water mindset and a lack of temporary storage for storm runoff which must be changed for large-scale projects to take off.

Gordon Murray presented information from a groundwater study his engineering firm completed for Colorado. According to Murray SB 06-193 focused on the South Platte River and the Arkansas River basins so to begin his firm broke up the basins into 44 sub-regions including the Denver Basin aquifer system. They used 10 evaluation criteria in the report, he said, adding that the criteria included, the hydrogeology, environment, existing implentations, transmissivity of the aquifers and existing infrastructure for moving water to potential projects.

They found sites suitable for recharge projects in both basins, he said, with some of the best potential on the Arkansas mainstem from Buena Vista to Salida, Crowley County and from Lamar to the state line. The Upper Black Squirrel Creek basin also came in as a good location as are parts of the Denver Basin aquifer system and alluvial aquifers along the South Platte River (Lost Creek, Lower Kiowa Creek, Fort Morgan), according to Murray. Available storage is estimated at 3.2 million acre feet in the South Platte, .7 million acre feet in the Arkansas and 2.3 million acre feet in the Denver Basin, he said.

Mr. Murray's suggestions for implementation include: Designate an organization to coordinate and review long-term recharge projects; Regulatory guidance; Determine who pays and who benefits; Develop a public outreach program detailing the benefits and methods of recharge and opportunities; Develop strategies for capturing peak flows; Coordinate diversions and use existing reservoirs for temporary storage; and Characterize the sites more fully via pilot-scale studies (recharge rates, return flow patterns).

The last speaker in this session was Dennis McGrane with Leonard Rice Engineers in Denver. He said that groundwater recharge is the tool of choice for augmentation by junior rights owners.

Working Lunch Session for Participants

This part of the program was designed to get participants started on conversations that will be necessary before large-scale projects get underway. Attendees were charged with discussing the subject and coming up with strategies for recommendation.

Administration of Artificial Recharge for Maximum Utilization of Colorado's Water Resources

The Friday afternoon keynote was given by Dick Wolfe, Assistant State Engineer. He told participants that the state engineer may spend 60-70% of his time on groundwater issues including recharging aquifers, recharging alluvium for augmentation and recharging for water quality. Recharge is a beneficial use of water, said Wolfe, and it is the State Engineer's responsibility to get the maximum beneficial use while protecting water rights. He went on to say that, "Optimum use in attained at the point of sustainablility." He asked, "Should statewide rules be developed?" Mr Wolfe closed by saying that site rules have worked well but recharge projects may be "Limited by water quality or quantity."

Session 6: Colorado Legislators

The afternoon legislative session included, Kathleen Curry, Cory Gardner, Mary Hodge, Marsha Looper and Fank McNulty. The line of questioning (Jim Broderick) was hard to follow, both for attendees and the legislators. Curry did answer a question on a statewide policy by saying, of Colorado, that, "We're not a one size fits all state."

Update on the Progress of Basin Roundtable Initiatives

Eric Hecox, Manager, Office of Interbasin Compact Negotiations, Department of Natural Resources, Denver, was the last presenter. He said that the conference was an outgrowth of the roundtable process that has taken two years to get to this point. The challenge now, according to Mr. Hecox, is to use the institutions to solve problems across the state. He highlighted roundtable activities by saying that on Monday the Colorado River Roundtable provided feedback on the, "Study of available water in the Colorado river system." On Wednesday, he said that under the leadership of the South Platte and Yampa/White roundtables officials sat down to talk (re: Yampa Project) for the first time ever before a project was underway. The third event was the groundwater conference itself, Colorado Ground Water Management Policy: Focus on Legal and Institutional Opportunities for Aquifer Recharge and Storage, organized at the request of the Arkansas Basin roundtable.

His retrospective on the conference included, "We have a system in place for recharge along with regulations." Mr. Hecox added that when we look at issues on a case by case basis it, "Increases the transaction costs."" We need to determine when it's appropriate to review on a case by case basin and when a state level review is appropriate, he added. The challenge is to develop a, "State perspective but respect local issues and solutions." He commented that the conference may be a tipping point in the conversation. "Groundwater storage and recharge are good tools. More work is needed on the technical, legal and institutional side. We have to keep working on these issues in creative ways."

5:37:53 PM    

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Here's an in-depth look at Phoenix and Arizona's use of the Colorado River from The Colorado Springs Business Journal. First up is Phoenix's vulnerability with respect to current supplies from the Colorado River and the Salt River Project, next the potential economic effects on the city and finally a look at the city's lifestyle. Thanks to the author John Hazelhurst for the links.

Category: Colorado Water
6:59:03 AM    

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From The Pueblo Chieftain, "The InfoZone News Museum will hold the panel discussion 'Morality of Water: Whose Responsibility is Water Quality?' at 7 p.m. Wednesday...In Pueblo, the waterways flowing through the city have always played a key role in the vitality not only of this community, but Southeastern Colorado. But whose responsibility is it to maintain the water quality of the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek? Moderator Jane Rawlings, assistant publisher of The Pueblo Chieftain, will explore that question with panelists: Cynthia Peters, AWARE Colorado, a statewide program to help communities protect water quality through land use choices; Scott Cowan, Pueblo City-County Health Department; Dennis Maroney, City of Pueblo Stormwater Utility; Jay Winner, Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District; and Carol Baker, Colorado Springs Utilities. The panel discussion is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Pueblo and the 2010 Commission. The InfoZone News Museum is located on the fourth floor of Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library, 100 E. Abriendo Ave. in Pueblo."

Category: Colorado Water
5:55:48 AM    

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