Arkansas River Basin Water Forum recap: Some of Fountain Creek’s problems were front and center in the discussion

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While Fountain Creek is a tributary midway between Leadville and the Kansas border, the growth in its basin has had consequences up and down the river. El Paso County has about 80 percent of the Arkansas River basin’s population and Colorado Springs has taken extraordinary measures to move flows from both the Arkansas and Colorado rivers into the Fountain Creek watershed. As a result, the return flows — water that comes out of sewage treatment plants or that percolates off lawns — have increased. Flows into Fountain Creek have been altered as ground where water once soaked in has been paved to accommodate urban lifestyles…

One of the major reasons the [Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.] was formed was a proposal by Colorado Springs to divert even more water for itself and its neighbors through the Southern Delivery System. Leaders in Pueblo hammered out a series of agreements to protect the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek as SDS moved through its permitting. “There are serious questions about how to manage the return flows on Fountain Creek and these workshops have brought out many things that we need to take into account as we develop the master plan,” said Larry Small, the executive director of the Fountain Creek district. “I think we have to start with taking care of the eroded areas, and shore up the creek starting from those areas.”[…]

Water rights also will come into play on Fountain Creek as projects progress, Division Engineer Steve Witte said. “Is our prior [appropriation] system flexible enough to accommodate wetlands?” Witte asked, addressing a demonstration project on Fountain Creek in north Pueblo that proposes to create a flood detention pond. “Vested water rights are entitled to a continuation of stream conditions that existed at the time of their water rights appropriations,” he said…

Tougher water quality environmental regulations are coming into play over the next decade that will affect sewage and stormwater discharges into rivers, said Dick Parchini of the Colorado Water Quality Control Division. New standards are being developed for phosphorus, nitrogen and chlorophyll, which are byproducts of both urban and agricultural uses of water. Many come from “non-point” sources which cannot be easily identified or regulated. There are conflicting ideas about what the right standards should be. Water full of nitrogen isn’t good for drinking, but benefits crops. A lake with healthy amounts of algae is good for fish, but too much can choke off oxygen supplies as the algae die, and municipalities like their supplies “gin clear,” he said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

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