Update on Rising Groundwater in the South Platte Basin
WATER RESOURCES REVIEW COMMITTEE
10:00 AM -- Update on Rising Groundwater in the South Platte Basin
The committee was called to order.
John Stulp, Special Policy Advisor to the Governor on Water and Chair of the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC), introduced himself and discussed the Groundwater Technical Committee. Mr. Stulp distributed his presentation to the committee (Attachment A). The committee has nine members, which include representatives from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), South Platte Basin Roundtable, and others. Jim Hall, Senior Water Resources Engineer, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, introduced himself and explained his role and the South Platte Basin Roundtable's contributions to the groundwater committee. Trudy Peterson, Town Administrator, Town of Gilcrest, provided a brief history of the Town of Gilcrest's contributions to the groundwater committee as well as a description of the current rising groundwater levels in the town.
Mr. Hall explained why the Town of Gilcrest is only allowed to pump water in high groundwater areas while there is not a call on the South Platte River in a response to questions from the committee. He also discussed other times that pumping is allowed in order to dewater areas with extremely high groundwater levels. Ms. Peterson discussed the working relationship with the ditch companies in the area in order to alleviate the rising water levels. Mr. Hall and Mr. Stulp responded to further questions from the committee regarding the dewatering of the area. Ms. Peterson explained that currently private residents do not have flooding in their homes due to the high groundwater levels.
Ms. Peterson continued her discussion regarding the role of the Town of Gilcrest in helping to dewater areas with high groundwater levels. She explained that, in partnership with the Division of Water Resources, the town has completed a study of the rising water levels in accordance with House Bill 15-1178. The bill created the Emergency Dewatering Grant Program and transferred funds to the program account from the General Fund in FY 2015-16 for implementation of the program. The legislation also required that the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), in collaboration with the State Engineer, to develop criteria and guidlines and the accompanying real-time data collection for the grant program. The CWCB and the State Engineer are required to report annually to the committee on the progress of the grant program. She also stated that the town has studied how the town can work with agricultural users to continue to study how groundwater is administered in the area.
Mr. Stulp gave further background of the Groundwater Technical Committee. He discussed House Bill 12-1278 and contributions made by the Division of Water Resources. The bill required the CWCB, in consultation with the State Engineer and the Colorado Water Institute, to conduct a comprehensive study to compile and evaluate available historical hydrologic data in the South Platte River Basin. The bill directed the CWCB to contract with the Colorado Water Institute to conduct the study. The final report from the study was presented to the General Assembly on December 31, 2013. Mr. Stulp explained that the Gilcrest-La Salle region has a flat elevation and is surrounded by areas with a higher elevation, which causes a risk for high groundwater levels. Other factors causing this high groundwater levels comes from augmentation of the alluvial aquifer.
Mr. Stulp discussed House Bill 15-1166, which implemented recommendations from the report submitted to the General Assembly in accordance with House Bill 12-1278. House Bill 15-1166 created a basin-wide tributary groundwater monitoring network in the South Platte alluvial aquifer. Mr. Stulp also discussed House Bill 15-1178, which allocated grant funding to the Town of Gilcrest's School Well Dewatering System and Dewatering and Conveyance Improvement Study. Mr. Stulp answered questions from the committee and further discussed grants awarded in accordance with House Bill 15-1178. Mr. Stulp also explained other dewatering systems in the town and explained data showing that when pumping is occurring at the Lorenz Dewatering Well, groundwater levels decrease. Mr. Stulp described future activities that will help to decrease the groundwater levels in the area, including remaining grant funding for the town of Gilcrest and improvements to the Big Bend Drain.
Mr. Stulp responded to questions from the committee regarding possible statutory changes that may need to be made in order to mediate the high groundwater levels and more permanent solutions to dewater areas with high groundwater. Mr. Hall and Mr. Stulp responded to questions from the committee regarding the management of the groundwater by ditch companies. Mr. Stulp responded to questions from the committee regarding the cost of the proposed pipeline, the Brown & Caldwell study in the area, and augmentation plans in the area.