H.R. 3481: To provide for the protection of the quality of water in the Lower Colorado River and the development and implementation of a comprehensive plan for the prevention and elimination of pollution in the Lower Colorado River and the maintenance of a healthy Lower Colorado River ecosystem

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From the Imperial Valley News (Green Liver):

The bill will provide for the development and implementation of a comprehensive plan for the prevention and elimination of pollution in the Lower Colorado River and the maintenance of a healthy Lower Colorado River ecosystem. “The habitat along the Colorado River has been altered by dams, human interference, and non-native plant and animal species,” Grijalva said. “The effects of the massive population growth in the Southwest have threatened the Lower Colorado River. The bill will work to reduce the destruction to the River and thereby protect it from future damage.”

The Colorado River supplies drinking water for more than 25 million people and irrigates over 80 percent of winter vegetables consumed in the United States. The Colorado River and its tributaries are home to many rare and unusual species including 36 native fish species (not including two that have already gone extinct), of which 25 are found nowhere else.

Preserving the water quality of the Lower Colorado River is essential to the health, economy, security, and ecology of Arizona, Southern California, and Southern Nevada. As the climate changes and the population of the region grows, the Lower Colorado River will come under increasing stress. The Lower Colorado River Protection Act will safeguard the region’s add drinking water supply and protect its precious natural resources.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Tapped trailer

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He’re the link to anti-bottled water documentary Tapped. Thanks to Salida Citizen for the link.

More Nestle Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here.

Greater Arkansas River Nature Association and Trout Unlimited offering free class on stream ecology

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From the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association via the Salida Citizen:

GARNA and Trout Unlimited are teaming up to offer a free class on stream ecology. Topics will include factors that make up good fish habitat, and how water quality and bug presence influence fish health. The group will collect water samples and run quality tests including pH, dissolved oxygen and hardness & alkalinity. The class will do a “kick” in the pond and river and analyze collected sediment under a microscope—learning something about the variety of insect populations. The class is on Saturday, August 15 from 8:00 to about 10:30 AM. Meet instructor Ed Eberle from Trout Unlimited at the upper parking area of Sand Lake in Salida and please bring water, a snack, and shoes that can get wet. A Habitat stamp is required for anyone under age 64 and can be purchased at the Division of Wildlife. This class is free but please pre-register by calling GARNA at 719-539-5106. Limit 15 participants.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Workers during the 1950s exposed to cancer-causing levels of radiation

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From The Durango Herald (Jo Hanel):

Public Health Service official Duncan Holaday was in charge of the study, and he quickly found evidence that unventilated mines were exposing workers to cancer-causing levels of radiation. Vents would have helped lessen the danger. But the Public Health Service couldn’t get access to the mines without permission from mine owners. To get permission, inspectors promised the mine owners not to warn workers of radiation hazards, Holaday testified in a lawsuit brought by Navajo uranium miners. “You had to get the survey done, and you knew perfectly well you were not doing the correct thing … by not informing the workers,” Holaday said, according to the Openness Project report.

More energy policy nuclear coverage here.

Southwestern Water Conservation District looking into state’s 10,460 acre-feet share of the Animas-La Plata project

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

But if Colorado doesn’t exercise its option – pay its share of project construction costs by the time final cost calculations are made – its 10,460 acre-feet of water (5,230 acre-feet of depletion, as it’s known) pass in equal shares to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. The two tribes already own the majority of the A-LP water. Neither Ute tribe responded immediately to a request Monday to comment on the possible use of extra water. Southwestern Executive Director Bruce Whitehead said at the Silverton meeting that the district could be called on someday to help hands-on water districts or water providers acquire water. Southwestern addresses only broad issues of water supply and demand that affect six counties and parts of three others in the watersheds of the Animas, San Juan, Dolores and San Miguel rivers. “If we can help other districts or water providers, it might be worth looking at the state water,” Whitehead said…

Two recently formed water-interest groups already have told the state they could use some of its water. They are the La Plata-Archuleta Water District, organized to bring drinking water to southeast La Plata County and southwest Archuleta County, and the La Plata West Water Authority, which would do the same for southwest La Plata County. La Plata West already has 700 acre-feet of usable A-LP water through the Animas La Plata Water Conservancy District, an A-LP sponsor, but it hasn’t found funding to pay for it. The conservancy district also acquired 1,900 acre-feet of usable water for the city of Durango. The Ute tribes joined La Plata West in paying for a $6 million water intake structure on Lake Nighthorse to serve the southwest corner of the county. In exchange, the tribe can use the La Plata West treatment plant and trunk lines for its own projects.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

South Boulder Creek: Water for instream flow to be part of Gross Reservoir expansion?

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Here’s a look at a proposal to add 5,000 acre-feet or so to Denver Water’s expansion of Gross Reservoir for instream flow in South Boulder Creek, from Clay Evans writing for the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

Denver Water authorities are pursuing permission to draw even more water from the Fraser River to nearly triple the storage in Gross Reservoir. While that will put a much bigger “straw” into the Fraser — and, of course, the Colorado — some are asking that the plan be slightly expanded to provide much-needed water for South Boulder Creek.

The cities of Boulder and Lafayette and Trout Unlimited, the national conservation organization with an office in Boulder, aren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of further allocating water from the Fraser. But if it’s going to happen, as most expect it will, they’d like to see 5,000 acre-feet of storage added to the proposed 72,000-acre-feet expansion and use it to ensure adequate winter flow in South Boulder Creek. “It’s a stream that needs help,” said Drew Peternell of Trout Unlimited.

The problem, as always, is how to pay for it all. The additional storage for South Boulder Creek would cost around $8 million. Lafayette, Boulder and Denver have said they’d help fill the pitcher, but not enough to top off the project, according to Denver Water.

More instream flow coverage here.

Here’s a release from Denver Water via YourHub.com:

This summer’s wet weather has many people shutting off their lawn sprinklers to take advantage of what Mother Nature is offering, and Denver Water couldn’t be happier. Customers are using less water this year compared to recent years, but that’s prompted some to ask what it means for the utility’s revenues.

In March 2009, Denver Water reduced its operating budget by 12 percent and adjusted its 2009 revenue expectations downward by 5 percent to respond to the downturn in the economy. However, due to the unusually wet weather, the utility anticipates an additional $16.4 million – or 8 percent – less revenue than expected for the year, which will be covered by reserves the utility maintains for seasonal variations.

“We aggressively encourage conservation and wise water use and plan our budget accordingly,” said Chips Barry, manager of Denver Water. “Our customers continue to do a great job using water efficiently, so we expected water usage to be down because of our conservation plan. However, we’ve had an unexpectedly wet summer, and as a result, actual water use through July is even lower – about 18 percent less than we anticipated compared to recent years. Our financial planning routinely factors in variables like Denver’s weather, so a single year of extra precipitation doesn’t force us to do anything out of the ordinary.”

Denver Water’s rates are based on mostly fixed costs for infrastructure and on operating expenses that don’t change if water use fluctuates. While it is too early to know what Denver Water’s rates will be for 2010, the utility says customers can expect rate increases over the next 10 years to upgrade, repair and maintain its 2,650 miles of pipe and aging infrastructure – some of which is more than 100 years old. The public agency is not funded by taxes, but instead is funded by water rates and new tap fees (also called system development charges).

“In the long-term, we are planning for customers to become more efficient and use less water in the future,” said Barry. “We live in a dry climate and are glad to see customers taking advantage of the rain and not watering. Ten years ago, we wouldn’t have seen this type of response in rainy weather. Conservation is critical to having a reliable water supply in the future.”

Denver Water proudly serves high-quality water and promotes its efficient use to 1.3 million people in the city of Denver and many surrounding suburbs. Established in 1918 as a nonpolitical municipal agency independent of city government, it is Colorado’s oldest and largest water utility.

More Denver Water coverage here.

Rural water systems face myriad problems

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Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Water service has been out for more than a week in the Zinno subdivision on St. Charles Mesa; Olney Springs was under a state boil order last month; and Rye came off a yearlong boil order in May. The problems faced by those water systems could affect numerous others in the Arkansas Valley and around the state. While the number of incidents statewide is not alarming, there are common problems that should be addressed…

There are almost 2,000 water systems in the state, and nearly half of those are community water systems – cities, districts or private companies that provide water to multiple households – according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. About 90 percent of those serve less than 10,000 customers. Many, like the Joseph Water Co. that serves the Zinno subdivision, have small populations around 100 customers or fewer. Some companies serve only 15 or 20 customers. Zinno residents found themselves at the mercy of a faulty pump without a backup plan last week. The problem is complicated because the water system is operated by an out-of town company. Once the problem is corrected, the system must be certified by the state health department…

The state health department investigates about 50 cases a year where water quality might be suspect, and about three-fourths of those result in boil or bottled water orders, said spokesman Mark Salley. Currently, there are 13 water systems in the state under such orders, including Zinno, affecting about 2,000 customers. There are about 60 companies statewide doing the same work as H2O consultants, the Woodland Park company that has managed Zinno since July 1. Most have more than one client and are not always located near the water systems they serve.

“They provide certified operators, who are becoming harder to find,” said Hayes, who sits on the state board that certifies operators. The level of certification depends on the type of water treatment and size of plant. Some of those in the private consulting businesses are retired from or even actively employed by the larger municipal systems in the state. A small system usually can’t afford to hire or train its own operator to the level of certification needed…

…when salmonella was found in the Alamosa water system last year, the city’s 8,500 residents were under a bottled water order. The situation took the tone of a relief operation, as outside agencies – including the Pueblo water board and the Rural Water Association – sent people to Alamosa to get the system up and running again.

More stringent state regulations also are putting pressure on the smaller systems. Many of the wells rural customers rely on will be subject to new standards on radium and uranium levels and are looking at potentially spending millions of dollars to treat the water to standards…

Coupled with an aging infrastructure – about $1 trillion in repairs to water systems are needed nationwide – and the difficulty in finding trained workers in rural areas, small water providers face a daunting task. While larger systems are looking at expanding, smaller districts may be just trying to survive. Hayes said the current economic conditions have slowed growth in some areas, and noted larger systems have to be maintained as well. The large municipal providers may be better equipped to maintain them than smaller communities with aging populations.

More infrastructure coverage here.