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 22, 2007

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State Senator Jim Isgar is considering drafting legislation laying out allocations with an eye towards making sure Colorado can keep its commitments under the Colorado River Compact, according to The Craig Daily Press. From the article:

State Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus and chairman of the Senate's Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, said Friday he might propose a bill in 2008 that would essentially place an asterisk on water rights acquired in Colorado after the bill is signed into law. Such a bill would be intended to ensure that state officials have the first priority to allocate Colorado water if storage levels -- in reservoirs such as Lake Powell, which straddles the Utah-Arizona border and supplies water for more than 20 million people in the Southwest -- drop below a certain level...

"We're having those discussions," Isgar said of such a bill. "I've been talking about it for a couple years, and others have, too. ... The situation we have today is that people file on rivers based on just what's available in that river ... without recognizing what, really, the No. 1 right is." Isgar said the "No. 1 water right" in Colorado is the 1922 Colorado River Compact, which allocates water to seven states in the Colorado River Basin and Mexico. The compact requires the Upper Basin states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico to send a designated amount of water -- 75 million acre-feet during any 10-year period -- to the Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada. "That affects every river, stream and tributary in the (Colorado River) system," Isgar said of the compact. "We can no longer move ahead ignoring that No. 1 water right."

[Steamboat Springs attorney Tom Sharp] said a bill such as Isgar's would likely drive future water owners to purchase older, unconditional water rights rather than new ones that the state could override. "It would make agriculture more of a target, which we have not really seen in western Colorado, but they have really seen it in the South Platte and Arkansas" river basins, Sharp said. "It could generate a lot of in-fighting even among users on the Western Slope, and from the perspective of the Yampa Valley, we have a lot of concerns about that." Sharp said if the Lower Basin states "triggered a curtailment in the Upper Basin" -- in other words, demanded their allocated water in a time of shortage, thus cutting off some current water uses in the Upper Basin -- water users on the Yampa River would be "in a difficult and troubled position."

Sharp and Isgar acknowledged that state water officials currently are struggling to determine how to even administer a curtailment from the Lower Basin in the event of a shortage. The Colorado Water Conservation Board currently is conducting a study to determine how much water is, in fact, available to meet obligations of the 1922 compact. Isgar said while he does not yet have draft language for a 2008 water bill, there "is a fairly good (chance) that we will come forward with something, letting people know that water rights could be conditioned in the future, based on some criteria."

Category: Colorado Water

7:59:25 AM    

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Here's a look at storm runoff and its effects on water quality in Fountain Creek from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

Most water quality problems on Fountain Creek are worse during storm runoff, while increased flows from sewer discharges are increasing the size of sediment washing down the creek, according to a recently released scientific study. The U.S. Geological Survey, in partnership with Colorado Springs, has released a study that looks at storm flows and wastewater treatment plan effluent discharges on Fountain Creek. Pat Edelmann, head of the Pueblo USGS, spoke briefly to two conservancy districts about the reports last week, and is scheduled to meet with Pueblo City Council in a work session at 5:30 p.m. today. The report, written by David Mau, Robert Stogner and Edelmann, collected data daily at several sites on Fountain Creek from 2003-06 and used data collected from 1981-2001 to study patterns that occur as a result of increased base flows and storm flows on Fountain Creek.

The results mirror numerous presentations that Edelmann has made in the past three years about the nature of storm flows on Fountain Creek: The total suspended solids, and concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria and E. coli increase dramatically during storm runoff. While the inorganic materials generally remain within state water quality standards during storm events, E. coli levels frequently exceeded standards by more than an order of magnitude, the study stated. Suspended sediments are not only coming from erosion within the creek channel, but from tributaries and the watershed to the east of Fountain and Monument creeks, an area targeted for heavy development in coming years. Sediment concentration is greatest during base flows - where effluent releases are minimal - and decrease during "normal" flows, according to the report. However, the amount of dissolved nitrates, ammonia and phosphorus immediately downstream of the Las Vegas Street wastewater treatment plant in Colorado Springs have increased significantly since 1998, according to the report. The increased "normal" flows on Fountain Creek are also transporting larger pieces of gravel downstream...

The release of the Fountain Creek report comes at the same time as another USGS report that looks at the effects of urbanization on water quality in six diverse cities, including Denver. That report said that chemicals from pesticides and fertilizers are causing water-quality issues and suggestions more careful management practices.

Edelmann also told the conservancy districts last week that a study of fish and fish habitat on Fountain Creek is expected to be released within two months. "The Arkansas darter, listed on the endangered species list, is abundant in Jimmy Camp Creek," Edelmann said, referring to an area that includes the Banning-Lewis Ranch area in eastern Colorado Springs. "It's certainly not a game stream, but is of concern." A large number of flathead chub were found downstream near Security, he added. The study also found trout above Manitou Springs on Upper Fountain Creek, but not downstream, he said.

More Coyote gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:45:58 AM    

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