A Look Back at Water in Colorado in 2006 (Part I)
January 17, 2007
Hello to you all. My name is John Orr and this is my first post on the Water and Wastewater Blog. I know it's very long but I thought some here would be interested in a look back at 2006 and water issues in Colorado. I usually hang out on Coyote Gulch.
I work for Wastewater Management for the City and County of Denver. My specialty is information technology, with an emphasis on Open Source and open standards based tech. I plan to post bits about Open Source GIS and other applications of technology that have enabled us to save dough and increase service to our customers.
2006 Colorado Water Year in Review
2006 was an interesting year for water watchers. Colorado's water supplies are looking pretty good at the end of 2006. The eastern plains got clobbered with storms towards the end of December. Earlier in the year, after starting out OK, the snowpack evaporated early all over the state. Farmers watched crops wither and many didn't plant due to the ongoing drought. The hopes of a few diehard rafters, thinking that they'd get a chance at the Snaggletooth rapid, during high water, were dashed when the River of Sorrows lived up to it's name. We mourned the passing of Luna B. Leopold. CSU put Delph Carter's papers online.
Along towards the end of June the North American Monsoon started, early. By October many mountain reservoirs had recharged sufficiently. There was still a lack of moisture on the eastern plains but overall things got much better. Water nuts all over the state celebrated the return of El Niño hoping that the warm water in the Pacific Ocean would be the harbinger of a wet winter.
State Water Engineer, Hal Simpson, shut down 400 or so wells in the South Platte River Basin due to a lack of permanent augmentation water from the well operators. Farmers were given time to obtain water but many could not. They were then caught short, some with crops in the ground, after the disappointing spring runoff.
2006 was the 30th anniversary of the Big Thompson Flood. Aaron Million announced his plan to build a pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the eastern plains. Purecycle Corporation purchased water on the Fort Lyons canal with hopes to pipe it east of Aurora for the development of the old Lowry Bombing Range. A federal judge set aside an agreement between the Feds and Colorado over stream flows in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
Conservation, leading to lower consumption, caused funding problems for water utilities across the state. Development was halted east of Colorado Springs because the Cherokee Metropolitan District was told to stop moving water out of Black Squirrel Basin for it's customers.
2006 was an election year in Colorado and Governor-elect Bill Ritter managed to hang 2003's failed Referendum A around Bob Beauprez's neck. Beauprez failed to rally the faithful on the rainy side of the state partially due to telling them that, "We cannot conserve our way entirely out of this problem." That was the wrong answer from Craig through Montrose, down to Cortez and all the way back east to La Junta.
Aurora moved along with their Prairie Waters Project, hoping to recapture out of basin water and reuse it to extinction. The Animas La-Plata project moved towards completion. Other projects drew the ire of conservationists and environmentalists. The Elkhead reservoir expansion was completed.
The Recreation In Channel Diversion for Chaffee County was approved. Durango applied for water rights for their water park while Palisade and Glenwood Springs hoped to build new parks.
There were many scientific (and not so scientific) projects to ponder. CloudSat and CALIPSO took off into orbit to help map storms and help predict rainfall. Wyoming hoped to settle once and for all whether or not cloud-seeding works. Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego supported cloud-seeding efforts in Colorado with money.
Scientists investigating climate change put out some dire predictions about future snowpack. The use of hail cannons kindled a bit of conflict and controversy. In May we celebrated America Wetlands Month.
Some hoped that they could get the Colorado Water Quality Control Division to regulate water from oil and gas operations. The Colorado Supreme Court paved the way for limited regulation of oil and gas development by local governments. Palisade and Grand Junction lost their bid to keep oil and gas out of their watershed. Colorado's State Geologist floated the idea that now may be the time to exploit Colorado's abundant geothermal energy.
A couple of authors got together and published a collection of articles and stories about the Cache la Poudre River. They are trying to raise awareness and keep the river wild.
Wildlife garnered support from various sources. In December everyone necessary finally signed off on the Platte River Cooperative Agreement. Denver Water stepped up with water releases for the upper Colorado River to help protect the fishery late in the summer.
In October Coyote Gulch hit the big time. We were featured in the High Country News.
Part II, next month.