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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Thursday, November 20, 2008

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From email from the Oil Shale & Tar Sands Programatic EIS website:

Oil Shale/Tar Sands EIS Record of Decision Available

The United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announces the availability of the Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments/Record of Decision document for the Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.

The Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments/Record of Decision document is available at the following Web page:

These are the rules that have everyone riled up -- pro and con.

Category: Climate Change News
7:04:07 AM    

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From the The Watch (Beverly Corbell): "The [Ouray city] council took no action on the first reading of a resolution to raise water rates by $1.34 per month, to $14.78 per month on average, considerably lower than in larger cities."

More from the article:

Ouray has never had to worry about water, but if another drought occurs like the one in 2002, the results could be quite different, [Andy] Mueller said. "Historically, Ouray County didn't care about (water) diversions," he said, but a drier climate or drought could force a change in that perception...

Front Range interests are always trying to get their hands on Western Slope water, Mueller said, and at least half a dozen lawsuits over water diversion are currently in the courts. Although Ouray County has not been affected by water shares going to the Front Range or other states, he said, that could change. Mueller said states to the south and west depend on water from the Colorado River, and about 55 percent of that water comes from Colorado's snow pack. "If the snow pack is low, we have to deliver from Lake Powell," he said. "That's our buffer." But if that buffer is gone - if the lake can't be sufficiently refilled - water shares in Ouray could be called up by other areas and states with more senior rights to the water...

It's unlikely that a municipality would have its water taps cut off, he said, but other water interests could come in and buy ranch land just for the water rights, as has been done in the eastern side of the state, and leave the land high and dry. To combat future shortages, the Colorado Water District is encouraging municipalities to have a "water bank" to make sure they have enough water for homes and firefighting. Planning for water shortages could require a balance of allowing the city to draw from irrigation ditches in dry years and in other years keep fields green, which could mean subsidizing farmers and ranchers to let some fields lie fallow in certain years...

Even Weehawken Spring, the source of Ouray's water, might not be immune if its water shares were to be called up under existing water contracts with other areas. "Weehawken is not senior water rights and Ridgway is in the same position," he said. In an extreme scenario, if the Front Range runs too low on water, it has the right of condemnation over water rights on the Western Slope, he said...

But there's hope, he said, if cities and towns act now to protect their water by accessing grants offered by the Colorado River District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to help them plan now for future droughts.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

6:50:49 AM    

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Here's a recap of the Colorado Water Conservation Board's Tuesday meeting, from Chris Woodka, writing in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Colorado Conservation Board Tuesday funded three projects for a total of $500,000 to study ways to soften the blows of water transfers from farms to cities. Previously, the board approved $1.3 million for similar studies aimed at avoiding buy-and-dry scenarios, including funds allocated through the Interbasin Compact Committee and basin roundtables. Two of the projects are in the Arkansas River Basin, while a third will look at the South Platte basin.

An $80,000 grant was awarded to the Colorado State University land fallowing study at the Rocky Ford Agricultural Research Center. The study, now in its second year, is looking at the effects of leaving ground fallow for three consecutive years. The study so far has found there was no loss of productivity in leaving ground fallow for one year, Research Center Director Mike Bartolo said Wednesday. Next year, ground left fallow for two years will be planted, with the last plot, fallowed for three years, to be planted in 2010...

The CWCB also granted $70,000 of a $325,000 request from the High Line Canal, but attached a lengthy list of conditions and additional information that would be needed. One of the notes from CWCB staff indicates the High Line proposal is in competition with Super Ditch and asks the High Line to explain how its effort is different. The High Line leased water to Aurora in 2004-05, and the proposal discusses setting up a water bank and broker for water leases...

The CWCB also approved $350,000 for the Colorado Corn Growers Association for a plan that would study alternatives to municipal purchases of farmland. Partners in the project include Ducks Unlimited and Aurora, with the environmental engineering firm of Brown and Caldwell. The project will evaluate three alternative agricultural water transfers...

The board rejected a request by Park Water and Sanitation District for its ongoing South Platte studies on alternatives to agricultural dry-ups. It already has agreed to provide $627,000 toward the project. Earlier, the CWCB awarded $200,000 to the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Co. to assist in funding alternative water transfers.

Category: Colorado Water
6:41:01 AM    

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Here's a recap of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District's board meeting yesterday, from Chris Woodka and the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A $1 billion pipeline that could serve El Paso County water users is both economically and technically feasible, a consultant told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District on Wednesday...

The pipeline would be separate from the Southern Delivery System, which also proposes a $1.1 billion pipeline through Pueblo County. Boyle Engineering last month completed a study of a pipeline or combination of pipelines to bring water from eastern Pueblo County or a site near Las Animas to as far north as Monument at the request of the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority. The Pueblo County site would be the Stonewall Springs Ranch, where Colorado Springs developers Jim and Mark Morley plan to build a reservoir. No specific site was chosen, but there are opportunities to lease former gravel pits for storage.

The pipeline is important to the Lower Ark District because it has been the primary sponsor of studies to help farmers in the valley market water through the Super Ditch. The Pikes Peak authority consists of Cherokee, Fountain, Donala, Monument, Palmer Lake, Triview and Woodmoor water districts in El Paso County. While Super Ditch does not have any contracts to lease water, the Pikes Peak group has been at the top of the list of prospective customers. The study looked at bringing partially treated water - salinity would be reduced through reverse osmosis - as far as 90 miles north through 54-inch pipelines that would provide up to 40,000 acre-feet annually, with peak capacity of 65 million gallons per day. Several alternatives were studied, with the most feasible solutions costing $830 million to $1.1 billion. The cost includes treatment of water, storage of 10,000 to 25,000 acre-feet at both ends and leasing the water. The cost would be $24,000 to $28,000 per acre-foot, Price said. Costs do not include land or easement acquisition or permitting.

The costs would add about $9 to $10 per 1,000 gallons for customers, who typically pay $6 to $7 per 1,000 gallons in the affected communities. Most are served by wells. The water would be treated by reverse osmosis for the same reasons La Junta and Las Animas treat water - to reduce salinity to drinking water quality, Price said. Part of the high cost is for the energy required to run reverse osmosis systems and for brine disposal. The Boyle report indicates the price of the pipeline would be in line with other Front Range water projects of this scope...

The report indicates permits for the pipeline would be needed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Department of Health and Pueblo County, among other government or private agencies.

More from the meeting from Chris Woodka writing in the Pueblo Chieftain:

While the concentration of salt in the Arkansas River is highest at the Kansas state line, most of it enters the water before the river hits irrigation systems in the Lower Arkansas Valley. That information is nothing new, but has been poorly communicated, said Pat Edelmann, head of the U.S. Geological Survey office in Pueblo. "What the research shows is that downstream of Avondale, about one-third of the salt is loading. That means about two-thirds comes from above Avondale," Edelmann said.

Additionally, only about 10 percent of the salinity - measured as total dissolved solids - in Fountain Creek enters the water below Fountain. The rest is coming from above. The numbers represent the total loading of salts at various points in the Arkansas River, rather than concentration. The river and its tributaries pick up and distribute salts all along their routes and the rates have been measured every half hour each day for many years. It also moves sediment, but the salts represent the material that dissolves in water. If the concentrations are too high, the water must be treated before people can drink it. Saline water also can reduce crop yields for irrigators. Edelmann said the USGS system of stream gauges gives a much more complete picture of river conditions for salinity than point-in-time sampling for other materials in water...

Looking at numbers from 2000 to 2007, water in the Upper Arkansas River loads about 45,000 tons of salts annually by the time it reaches Canon City. Between Canon City and Lake Pueblo, the river picks up 170,000 tons of salts. Fountain Creek adds 90,000 tons. At Avondale, the load increases to 310,000 tons, and at the state line it is 465,000 tons per year. An earlier study from 1990 to 2001 showed that about 850,000 tons of salts annually are deposited on fields through irrigation above John Martin Reservoir and similar conditions exist downstream from John Martin. Concentrations of salts in the upper reaches of the Arkansas River above Lake Pueblo are generally far lower than downstream because that is where most of the flows in the river are generated. As the water moves downstream, it is used and reused and salinity increases, Edelmann said. The studies show, however, that the cumulative loading of sediment occurs all along the river and primarily in the reaches between Canon City and Lake Pueblo, Edelmann said.

After reviewing existing studies and surveying water users, three major issues about water quality in the Arkansas River basin have emerged, Edelmann said. The discharge, migration and impact of heavy metals discharged into the Upper Arkansas River. The effects of urbanization on water levels, operation and biology at Lake Pueblo. The effects of land-use changes and urbanization on Fountain Creek.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:28:37 AM    

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It looks like were going to have a La Niña winter. La Niña is often the harbinger of good snowfall but a dry spring. Here's a report from the AP via the Loveland Reporter Herald:

Colorado's northern and central mountains could get normal or above-normal snowfall this winter, a federal climatologist says. Colorado is headed toward a La Niña winter, which tilts the odds toward more snow. The downside is La Niñas -- long-term wind patterns tied to lower Pacific Ocean temperatures -- also can bring a dry fall and spring, said Klaus Wolter, a climatologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder. Wolter said Wednesday he was "guardedly optimistic" the winter will deliver enough snow to make up for a dry fall and produce a "near-normal" snowpack. But he also said it's too early to tell if the La Niña pattern will continue into spring.

Colorado's overall snowpack dropped to 49 percent of average on Wednesday after being in the 60 percent range last week. Because snowfall is relatively small so early into the season, one or two storms in coming weeks could boost those percentages, said Mike Gillespie, snow surveyor supervisor for the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service...

La Niña winters tend to be colder and stormier across the northern U.S. Wolter said the Southwest, including southern Colorado, usually gets less snowfall than Northern Colorado. There's no scientific consensus that La Niña conditions exist this year, and Wolter acknowledges that water temperatures haven't dropped enough by NOAA guidelines. But his model takes into account trade winds and the movement of tropical thunderstorms, and he said his findings show that there is a weak to moderate La Niña taking shape.

Category: Colorado Water
6:17:39 AM    

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