Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

Project Healing Waters

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Monday, November 3, 2008

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Here's the summary for the report, CRS: Perchlorate Contamination of Drinking Water: Regulatory Issues and Legislative Actions:

Perchlorate is the explosive component of solid rocket fuel, fireworks, road flares, and other products. Used heavily by the Department of Defense (DOD) and related industries, perchlorate also occurs naturally and is present in some organic fertilizer. This soluble, persistent compound has been detected in drinking water supplies, especially in California. It also has been found in milk and many foods. Because of this widespread occurrence, concern over the potential health risks of perchlorate exposure has increased, and some states, water utilities, and Members of Congress have urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set a federal drinking water standard for this chemical. Regulatory issues involve the relative health benefits and costs of federal regulation, including environmental cleanup and water treatment costs, both of which are driven by federal and state standards. (California and Massachusetts have set standards.) EPA has spent years assessing perchlorate's health effects and occurrence (including its occurrence in food) to determine whether a national standard is warranted. Interagency disagreements over the risks of perchlorate exposure led several federal agencies to ask the National Research Council (NRC) to evaluate perchlorate's health effects and EPA's risk analyses. In 2005, the NRC issued its report, and EPA adopted the NRC's recommended reference dose (i.e., the expected safe dose) for perchlorate exposure. Subsequent studies raised more concerns about potential effects of low-level exposures, particularly for infants in certain cases. On October 3, 2008, EPA made a preliminary determination not to regulate perchlorate; a final decision is expected in late 2008. This report reviews perchlorate contamination issues and related actions.

Thanks to beSpacific for the link. More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:50:26 PM    

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Here's a shot of Colorado water history, from Chris Woodka at the Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole thing. Here are a couple of excerpts:

1940: The vision: The bleak years of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression crippled the state. Colorado water was largely hemmed in by interstate compacts that limited use within the state, although most now realized the compacts were protection against the future thirst of faster-growing states downstream. Colorado would need water in the next 50 years to rebuild its agricultural and industrial base.

The strategy: Large-scale transmountain diversions of unused water on the less-populated Western Slope, and plenty of reservoirs to hold the water. The state's two largest cities, Denver and Pueblo, would become regional providers of water, although the major need would continue to be for agriculture, which provided the backbone of the state's economy. The two cities would work cooperatively with farmers, who owned the majority of water rights, in order to protect the integrity of the rural economy.

The result: As 1990 neared, farming became tougher and the industrial base of the state changed. The water policies enacted 50 years earlier, however, led to a legal doctrine that tied water to its area of historic use -- a compromise worked out among farmers, West Slope interests and the two large cities. While the state continued to grow, the growth was much less centralized. The ag land that succumbed to municipal use tended to remain in the shadow of nearby thriving communities.

Category: Colorado Water
5:39:28 PM    

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From the Denver Post: "Denver Water has hired a forensic auditing firm and independent construction expert to review the $48 million in contracts and construction for three major projects. Former utility employees have said that contract payments for work at the Foothills Water Treatment Plant and the Roxborough and Capitol Hill pump stations were improperly handled."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:21:06 PM    

Here's a recap of last week's joint meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Interbasin Compact Committee, from Chris Woodka writing in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Should Colorado curtail growth in cities to avoid drying up farms? Should Colorado set aside water for energy development? Has growing corn become energy development? Should cities remove green belts or landscaping at shopping centers to conserve water Most importantly, does the state even have any say on issues like these or will the march of progress dictate future water development? Those were the types of questions members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Interbasin Compact Committee grappled with at a joint meeting last week. Without much resolution.

There is agreement that the state is headed for a train wreck if cooperative solutions cannot be found. The South Platte and Arkansas rivers have been overappropriated - meaning there are more water rights claimed than water is available for except during floods - for more than a century. The Colorado River is not overappropriated, but California, Arizona and Nevada have grown more quickly and are already using their full share of the river. Climate change could mean the flows of the future are much less than historical flows. A call by the downstream states could reduce the amount of water Front Range cities depend on to fill out their supplies. In short, there is not enough water to go around...

Like everyone else, farmers are feeling the pinch of the economy right now. Every time that happens, they want to sell water. In fact, there are farmers who want to sell all the time. "There are people who are more than willing to sell," said Rod Kuharich, who manages the South Metro Water Supply Authority. "The amount of water needed today is probably for sale right now." And that's a lot of water...

In the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, the CWCB estimates that at least 430,000 acre-feet - 100 billion gallons a year - need to be found to serve the 2.5 million people expected to move to Colorado by 2030. Without conservation and land-use changes, the gap would be 662,000 acre-feet. By 2050, the state's population is expected to grow by 5 million people. No one's even talked about where that water is coming from. To gain the water, without sharing or importing new supplies, the state could see more than 1.3 million acres of irrigated farmland dry up by 2050 - 70 percent of the total in Eastern Colorado and 65 percent of the Western Slope. Only two basins, the North Platte and the Rio Grande, would be insulated from the worst of the dry-up. Even using the state's presumed full appropriation from the Colorado River, if it could be moved to where it is needed, 650,000 acres could be gone. That effectively destroys agriculture in Colorado, said Ray Wright, president of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District...

Jeff Devere, an IBCC representative from the Yampa-White basin, said the water for energy development on the Western Slope is available, with proper storage, from the White River. The companies looking at oil shale already own the water rights, and when the time comes the state may not have a veto...

"Let's not dry up all the rivers," said Melinda Kassen, director of Trout Unlimited's Western Water Project. "We have to have some understanding of what it means to take water from the river." CWCB President Travis Smith of Del Norte suggested testing a couple of strategies suggested by staffers and consultants to try to predict what would happen. The IBCC asked for measurable ways to evaluate strategies at its earlier meetings...

There was some discussion of which strategies might be used, but no final decisions made last week. The strategies fall into two categories: looking at demand for water or supply.

On the demand side:

Growth, land use and density.

Conservation, either municipal or agricultural.

Reduction of water demands for energy development.

On the supply side:

Reuse and desalinization.

Optimizing and rehabilitating existing storage.

Building new storage to meet multiple needs.

Developing Colorado River resources under the Colorado River Compact.

Transbasin diversions that benefit users on both sides of the divide.

Sharing storage and supplies between ag and municipal users...

There are already several efforts under way to address many of the strategies. The CWCB will soon begin developing a decision support system for the Arkansas River basin, a process it has completed for the state's other basins over the last 20 years. The model would use all available data in a computer model that would predict effects of various water transfers. Cities throughout the state already have their own versions of these river models, but use them in legal cases and consider them proprietary information. The CWCB is also developing a water availability study on the Colorado River that will be completed within two years.

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable has completed a template that looks at agricultural to urban transfers and suggests pathways to mitigation. It's still uncertain whether it could be implemented at the county or state level, and the roundtable is looking for a project for a "test drive" of the model. The CWCB also is providing $1.5 million in funds this year to study models for ag to urban transfers, including the Super Ditch in the Arkansas Valley. The Super Ditch formed in May as a corporation that would serve as a bargaining cooperative for irrigation water rights holders. It has not made any leases yet, and would need approval of the boards of up to seven ditch systems, as well as the Division of Water Resources, to proceed. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and the CWCB have invested more than $1 million in studies for Super Ditch so far.

On the demand side, the Division of Water Resources has been wrestling with the question of how irrigation efficiency affects interstate compacts. The state already has developed well rules for the South Platte, Arkansas and Rio Grande basins. A court case that began in Alamosa last week will further restrict pumping in the Rio Grande basin. The state is spending millions in the Republican River basin, a sub-basin of the South Platte to comply with compact rules. The state last year curtailed wells in the South Platte basin to accommodate municipal and senior agricultural water rights within the state, a process ultimately driven by interstate compact concerns. Colorado also has spent millions in the Arkansas River basin in a 22-year legal fight with Kansas. State Engineer Dick Wolfe is now working with farmers and other affected parties to develop surface irrigation rules that ensure more efficiency won't increase consumptive use under restrictions placed on the state by the Arkansas River Compact.

Category: Colorado Water
6:59:45 AM    

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From the Craig Daily Press (Bridget Manley): "This week, crews will continue battling an invader threatening local habitats. Workers with the Bureau of Land Management and Moffat County Pest Management are scheduled to eradicate patches of Saltcedar [Tamarisk], a noxious weed, that has taken root in a 144-acre swath of public land about 20 miles west of Craig. The operation was scheduled to begin Wednesday, but it was postponed because chainsaw crews still were working on a prescribed burn."

More from the article:

Local efforts to eradicate the weed involves a two-part process. BLM crews first chop down Saltcedar trees, which later are burned. Workers with Moffat County Pest Management then spray cut tree stumps to prevent them from re-sprouting. Pest Management crews use the herbicide Habitat (pdf). The chemical is safe to use around rivers and streams, said Roger Beumer, Moffat County Pest Management mechanic and weed sprayer...

Pest Management workers spray Saltcedar trees wherever they see them. But occasionally, even chemicals are no match for the moisture-sucking tree. "Sometimes, we kill it and sometimes this stuff here won't touch it," Beumer said, motioning to a nearby Habitat container. However, the BLM is confident its efforts to quash Saltcedar spread will be successful. "Because we're catching the Saltcedar invasion into this area relatively early, we expect the native vegetation to re-establish itself fairly quickly after the Saltcedar removal," said Christina Rhyne, BLM rangeland management specialist, in a news release. "We will monitor the area for several years to ensure that's what is happening."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

6:43:24 AM    

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Here's a look at Colorado Springs' proposed Southern Delivery System and the city's efforts to focus the current discussion away from the problems of Fountain Creek, from Chris Woodka at the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

When it comes to Fountain Creek, Colorado Springs looks at Southern Delivery System as just one part of the whole picture. Some in Pueblo County see SDS as a lens through which past abuses on Fountain Creek can by viewed and the cumulative effects addressed...

Attention has been focused on the project in Pueblo County for the past two weeks as the SDS partners sponsored four meetings to discuss and explain impacts as part of the the county's permit process under 1974's HB1041. The Bureau of Reclamation, which is revising its environmental impact statement on SDS, also had a public hearing last week. Reclamation is taking comments through Nov. 24 on its supplemental information report to the EIS and Pueblo County commissioners have set a hearing for Dec. 9 at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center. During the meetings, Colorado Springs message was consistent: The SDS partners are using their own water rights, they will pay for the project and mitigation will be made, although specific actions would be determined by Reclamation and Pueblo County.

SDS Project Director John Fredell and Bruce McCormick, head of Colorado Springs Utilities water, were careful in the meetings to compartmentalize the impacts of SDS. Meetings were designed to discuss the impacts on Lake Pueblo State Park, along the pipeline route through Pueblo West and on Fountain Creek. McCormick acknowledged that growth in Colorado Springs, as well as in neighboring communities in El Paso County and possibly new development north of Pueblo, will have an impact on Fountain Creek. "We have been focused within the region and with our partners in the region to improve Fountain Creek," McCormick said...

McCormick highlighted efforts such as the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force, the Fountain Creek Watershed Plan and the Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan as efforts Colorado Springs is cooperating in. He said Colorado Springs has invested $120 million in improving its sewer system and was proud of the fact that Colorado Springs spilled less than 1,000 gallons of sewage from a system that treats 40 million gallons per day in 2007.

McCormick was more cautious when asked about the potential of an initiative on Tuesday's ballot to gut a stormwater enterprise formed in 2005. The enterprise raises $17 million a year to deal with a backlog of projects, and is listed in the draft EIS as part of the mitigation of Fountain Creek. Before the enterprise, Colorado Springs was able to put about $2 million per year into the same type of programs, and it is now dealing with tighter budget constraints. McCormick said the city would have to look at the impact of decreased stormwater fees if initiatives sponsored by State Rep. Doug Bruce pass...

McCormick calmly fielded the comments and reiterated Colorado Springs' position that the other efforts on Fountain Creek are good, needed, yet separate from SDS. "The process here is to address the Southern Delivery System," McCormick said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:35:12 AM    

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The boat ramps at Williams Fork Reservoir and Wolford Mountain Reservoir are now closed for the season, according to Katie Looby writing in the Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

Both the boat ramps at Williams Fork and Wolford Mountain reservoirs in Grand County have closed for the season, officials said. Williams Fork, three miles south of Parshall, closed Oct. 31, said Denver Water Recreation Manager Neil Sperandeo. It was opened year-round before other lakes in the area were infected with exotic mussels. While neither reservoir has zebra or quagga mussels, they both took precautions to make sure boats did not transfer them from nearby lakes...

The DOW inspectors were needed for the hunting season. "They have more important things that they have to do right now," [Denver Water spokesman Neil Sperendeo] said, adding that the fishery has slowed down for the season.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:26:09 AM    

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