Snowpack news: The upper Colorado River basin — 161% of average, the San Juan, Dolores and San Miguel basins climb to 100% of average

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From the Colorado Connection (Matthew Kruger):

In a banner La Nina year, the northern and central mountain ranges of Colorado have seen abundant snow, with areas around Steamboat Springs concerned about flooding in the early summer. However, a drought is intensifying on the plains, with over 10,000 acres burned in wildfires by late spring…

Most river basins and snowpack storage levels are running above average. The North Platte and Yampa basins are seeing the highest percentage of normal, while the Dolores and Upper Rio Grande are actually below normal, but not critical…

Right now, local reservoirs are at about 80% of average, which is considered very healthy. But CSU says water usage on the plains has increased earlier than expected, which will strain water availability.

From (Greg Boyce):

The Greeley Tribune reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service measured snowpack in Poudre Canyon that reached more than 160 inches, or almost 13.5 feet, at one point. Officials say the snow was almost too deep to measure in some places. They say the snow usually starts to decline this time of year.

From the North Forty News:

As of April 21, snowpack in the South Platte Basin, which includes the Cache la Poudre and Big Thompson drainages, stood at 130 percent of average, according to Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the state. Last year, the South Platte snowpack was just 73 percent of average in late April. With the high snowpack, stream runoff is predicted to be above normal this spring, and the National Weather Service in Boulder is keeping a close eye on the situation. “Flooding is definitely a concern,” said NWS hydrologist Treste Huse. “We’re watching it and getting prepared.”[…]

State water officials make runoff forecasts on the first of each month. On April 1, forecasters estimated this year’s runoff on the Poudre to be 135 percent of average. Gillespie said the May 1 estimate could be even higher. “It’s been extremely wet in the Poudre drainage,” he said. Joe Wright Reservoir, located in the Poudre drainage near Cameron Pass, set a snowpack record this year. Gillespie said the snow-water equivalent was 41.9 inches on April 21, surpassing the previous record of 35.6 inches set on that date in 1986. The average snow-water equivalent for late April is 24.2 inches at Joe Wright…

The snowpack figures in Colorado vary a great deal between north and south basins. On April 21, the North Platte drainage was at 150 percent of average, while the Rio Grande stood at just 70 percent.

National Drinking Water Week May 1-7

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Here’s the announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

People who travel abroad know the familiar problem with unsafe drinking water. At home, we scarcely give it a thought. Usually, we are right. But the sources of our drinking water are constantly under siege from naturally occurring events and human activities that can pollute our sources of drinking water.

Did you know?

– In the United States, water utilities treat nearly 34 billion gallons of water every day
– In the United States and Canada, the total miles of water pipeline and aqueducts equal approximately one million miles; enough to circle the globe 40 times
– Americans drink more than one billion glasses of tap water per day
– Children in the first six months of life consume seven times as much water per pound as the average American adult.

For some statistics on public drinking water systems and more see the folowing facts and figures page.

More coverage from the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

The safety, quality and reliability of local drinking water are priorities for Fort Collins Utilities. Drinking Water Week, which started Sunday and goes through Saturday, provides the opportunity to thank the many behind-the-scenes employees who work year-round to ensure our community’s water is remains safe, tastes good and is there when it’s needed.

National Drinking Water Week is a chance for water utilities and the customers they serve to join together and celebrate the immeasurable value of clean and safe water.

“Beyond quenching our thirst, tap water provides community services, such as fire protection, support for the economy and the quality of life we enjoy,” said Lisa Voytko, Fort Collins Utilities’ water production manager. “Tap water is so intricately a part of our lives that it’s hard to imagine a day without it.”

In recognition of the employees who make local drinking-water quality a priority, Fort Collins Utilities recently received the Directors Award of Recognition from the Partnership for Safe Water for the 11th year.

The partnership is a voluntary program that encourages members to increase water quality and safety standards and provide drinking water that surpasses federal requirements. Due to these standards and the dedication of participating water utilities, more than 85 million people currently receive higher-quality drinking water from surface water treatment plants.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Dolores River: The Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company is considering leasing water to the Colorado Water Conservation Board instream flow program

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From The Durango Herald (Dan Randolph):

A common understanding of the science and the issues is one thing. Coming up with real solutions is altogether more difficult. Yet a new option has developed. The Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co., which supplies water to a large area around Cortez and Dolores, is now considering leasing water to the Colorado Water Conservation Board to increase flows downstream of McPhee on a short-term, trial basis.

The lease would be paid for by private interests, conservation organizations and other nongovernmental sources. It would supply up to 6,000 acre feet of water in three out of 10 years, to be released from McPhee. The water would come from Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co. water held in Groundhog Reservoir, above Dolores. The company is currently asking its stockholders whether to go forward with the lease.

More instream flow coverage here.

Denver: Denver Water’s summer watering rules took effect May 1

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Lori Peck):

Denver Water would like to remind its customers that its summer water use rules began May 1. In addition to the rules, the utility encourages customers to pay attention to weather and lawn conditions before watering.

“Half of a household’s water use goes to outside watering,” said Melissa Essex Elliott, manager of conservation. “Most lawns don’t need as much water as you might think. Watering your lawn two days a week should be sufficient during May and into June.”

Denver Water’s watering rules, in effect until Oct. 1, are:

– No lawn watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
– Do not water more than three days per week (there are no assigned days for watering).
– Do not waste water by allowing it to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
– Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete and asphalt.
– Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
– Do not water while it is raining or during high winds.
– The utility will continue to enforce its rules with a team of 11 Water Savers, including four on bikes.

“The Water Savers’ purpose is as much about educating customers as it is about enforcing Denver Water’s rules,” said Elliott. “We continue to have some monitors on bikes as a more approachable way to talk with our customers one-on-one about wise water use.”

If you see water waste in one of Denver’s parks, call 3-1-1. To report waste elsewhere, call Denver Water at 303-628-6343 or fill out online form.

Colorado’s dry climate means everyone needs to take part to ensure adequate water supplies will be available well into the future. “A small step like adjusting your watering times based on the weather is a great way to become more efficient,” said Elliott. Denver Water’s long-term plan to secure water for the future includes encouraging water conservation as a permanent way of life for Denver residents.

Visit conservation for tips, rebates, irrigation calculators and many more tools for saving water outdoors, including suggested watering times.

More Denver Water coverage here.

Colorado River basin: Grand County ‘State of the River’ meeting May 4

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Here’s the announcement from the Colorado River District (Martha Moore):

Details of the historic proposed Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Grand County, 32 other West Slope entities and Denver Water will be discussed with the public at the Wednesday, May 4, Grand County State of the River meeting set for 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Mountain Parks Electric building, 321 West Agate, Granby.

Representatives from Grand County will join Denver Water Chief Executive Officer Jim Lochhead and Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn in a panel discussion of the proposed landmark water management agreement.

The meeting is sponsored by the Colorado River District.

The proposed agreement, five years in the making, seeks to address many environmental and water supply challenges in Grand County, as well as in Summit County and along the mainstem of the Colorado River all the way to the Grand Valley.
In Grand County, the proposal stems from Denver Water’s desire to permit an expansion of its Moffat Collection System. Benefits in the proposal are meant to go beyond the separate mitigation proposals Denver is making as part of its permit process. The Moffat Project would draw more water to the Front Range from the Fraser River system.

The proposal would provide more consumptive water supplies for Grand County entities as well as water for environmental flows in the late summer. Denver Water would also provide financial support for environmental projects as well as wastewater treatment plant improvements.

The Grand County State of the River will also include an update on the Grand County Water Information Network, the Grand County Outdoor Education Network and projected spring and summer operations of area reservoirs.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

The Northeast Colorado Health Department recognizes Patrick Woltemath as ‘Colorado Rural Water Operator of the Year’

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From the Northeast Colorado Health Department (Deanna Herbert) via the Sterling Journal News-Advocate:

Patrick Woltemath who was nominated for several contributions he has made in Sedgwick County, including his role as the certified water operator for the town of Sedgwick and for Lucy’s Place restaurant. His nomination reads as follows: “We have always found Patrick to be pleasant, knowledgeable and cooperative in his various roles and his expertise has led him to be awarded the 2010 Colorado Rural Water Operator of the year.” Woltemath was also recognized for his involvement with an historic lead issue at the town school as well as several other projects including his role in the town’s recent water system improvement project, his involvement in utilizing money received from the Governor’s Energy Office in changing all of the street lights in the town of Sedgwick to LED lighting, and the implementation of funding received from the William Stretesky Foundation to update both the aesthetic appearance and the energy efficiency of many buildings on Main Street. He was also recognized for his aid in helping the owner Lucy’s Place restaurant, a vital business in a very small community, come into compliance with the Colorado Drinking Water Regulations so that her restaurant could remain open. Woltemath was nominated by Carmen Vandenbark, NCHD’s environmental health director and Teena Pierce, NCHD’s environmental health representative.

More water treatment coverage here.