2012 Colorado legislation: Are approved gray water systems on the horizon?

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They will be if CSU assistant professor, Sybil Sharvelle and CSU professor, Larry Roesner, can convince enough legislators that public health is not a concern along with the folly of not reusing outflows from dish washing, clothes washing, showers and other activiites that generate gray water in the home. Here’s a report from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

Sharvelle and professor Larry Roesner want the Legislature to pass a law that gives state water regulators the power to write new rules for reusing water from showers, sinks and washing machines.

They have run tests for several years on household systems that collect used water in tanks about the size of a hot-water heater and redirect the water into toilets or gardens.

Legislators on the Water Resources Review Committee voted 9-0 Wednesday to start writing a bill to be introduced in 2012, although some lawmakers had qualms about it.

“I’m a little gun shy, but I guess it doesn’t hurt for us to draft a bill and take a look,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.

Sonnenberg’s hesitation stems from one of the unresolved questions about gray water. His largely agricultural district lies downhill from Denver, and if many people in the metro area start reusing their water instead of literally flushing it down the drain, it could lead to less water in the rivers downstream.

More gray water coverage here.

Anticipated retirements to fuel need for approximately 2,775 new operators over the next five years in a four county area including Boulder

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Amy Bounds):

The Boulder High class is part of the “Get Into Water” project through the Boulder Valley School District’s Lifelong Learning Program, in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Section of American Water Works Association and the Colorado Workforce Development Council.

Along with the Boulder High class, two classes are offered this fall through Boulder Valley’s fee-based adult education program — Water Foundations and Wastewater Collection. Scholarships for the adult classes are available through Boulder County Workforce.

The idea, organizers said, is to connect adults with well-paying jobs and fill an industry need. Within the next five years, 25 percent of the water operators in a four-county area that includes Boulder County are expected to retire, opening up about 2,775 jobs.

Boulder High students who take the Water Foundations class this semester and a water distribution class next semester are eligible to take a state certification test. If they pass, they’re qualified for entry-level jobs…

The class covers water source, treatment and distribution, along with water regulations, storm water and water conservation with an emphasis on local water information, history and issues. The class will visit area water sources and treatment plants, along with hearing directly from those who work in Boulder’s water industry.

More water treatment coverage here.

Grand Junction: IBCC meeting Monday, CWCB meeting Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Colorado River District annual seminar Thursday

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From email from Hannh Holm (Coordinator
Water Center at Colorado Mesa University and the Mesa County Water Association):

There are a whole slew of important water meetings in Grand Junction next week that are open to the public:

* Colorado’s Inter-Basin Compact Committee is meeting out at Ute Water on Monday. For more info on the IBCC and the meeting, see: http://cwcb.state.co.us/about-us/about-the-ibcc-brts/Pages/main.aspx/Templates/Home.aspx (look in the upper right corner of the screen for mtg info).

* The Colorado Water Conservation Board is meeting at Ute Water on Tuesday Sept 13 & Wed Sept 14. On the 13th, things could get interesting, as a number of environmental advocacy groups have been encouraging people to show up to tell the CWCB not to fund a $150,000 task force to study the feasibility of the Flaming Gorge pipeline. Here’s a link to info on the CWCB & the mtg agenda: http://cwcb.state.co.us/about-us/cwcb-board/Pages/main.aspx

* On Thursday Sept 15, the Colorado River District is having their annual seminar. The topic is “Supply and Demand on an Imbalanced Colorado River,” and the agenda looks great. You can find it at: http://www.crwcd.org/

More Colorado River basin coverage here. More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More CWCB coverage here.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center: La Niña is back

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From the Climate Prediction Center:

La Niña, which contributed to extreme weather around the globe during the first half of 2011, has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter. Today, forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center upgraded last month’s La Niña Watch to a La Niña Advisory.

NOAA will issue its official winter outlook in mid-October, but La Niña winters often see drier than normal conditions across the southern tier of the United States and wetter than normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley.

“This means drought is likely to continue in the drought-stricken states of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center. “La Niña also often brings colder winters to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Plains, and warmer temperatures to the southern states.”

Climate forecasts from NOAA’s National Weather Service give American communities advance notice of what to expect in the coming months so they can prepare for potential impacts. This service is helping the country to become a Weather Ready Nation at a time when extreme weather is on the rise.

Seasonal hurricane forecasters factored the potential return of La Niña into NOAA’s updated 2011 Atlantic hurricane season outlook, issued in August, which called for an active hurricane season. With the development of tropical storm Nate this week, the number of tropical cyclones entered the predicted range of 14-19 named storms.

The strong 2010-11 La Niña contributed to record winter snowfall, spring flooding and drought across the United States, as well as other extreme weather events throughout the world, such as heavy rain in Australia and an extremely dry equatorial eastern Africa.

More coverage from Reuters Africa. From the article:

“While it is not yet clear what the ultimate strength of this La Nina
will be, La Nina conditions have returned and are expected to gradually strengthen and continue into the Northern Hemisphere winter (of) 2011-12,” the CPC said in a monthly update. It said waters in the eastern half of the equatorial Pacific Ocean cooled in August, and the “oceanic and atmospheric patterns reflect the return of La Nina conditions.”

Restoration: Hope Mine biochar application has yielded surprising results

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From the Colorado Independent (Troy Hooper):

What was once a wasteland of arsenic, cadmium, lead and zinc on a steep mountainside that abuts Castle Creek is now a haven for natural grasses and wildflowers that have stabilized the slope and drastically reduced the risk of the heavy metals crashing into the city’s main water supply.

The striking change of scenery around Hope Mine is the result of the first whole-scale reclamation project ever attempted in the United States, and possibly the world, using biochar — a type of charcoal produced through the thermal treatment of organic material in an oxygen-limited environment.

how aggressive the regrowth was,” said John Bennett, executive director of For The Forest, which teamed up with Carbondale-based Flux Farm Foundation at the request of the U.S. Forest Service, which is exploring new ways to partner with private groups to reclaim landscapes. “We did not expect waist-high grass in the very first summer. We thought it would take longer.”

Not only is biochar restoring the ecology and containing the mine tailings that fan down toward Castle Creek but experts say it is also immobilizing the heavy metals long enough so that they naturally degrade and it is sequestering carbon that would otherwise escape into the earth’s atmosphere.

Click through for the rest of the article and the cool before and after photos.

More coverage from Chadwick Bowman writing for The Aspen Times. From the article:

“This project is going better than I would have dared hoped,” John Bennett, executive director of For the Forest, an Aspen-based nonprofit focused on forest health, said Thursday during a press conference at the site.

The reclamation of the slope, south of Aspen in the Castle Creek Valley, became more pressing when it was discovered that very low levels if toxic metals had been sliding into the creek, a source of Aspen’s drinking water.

Even though the levels of toxins were minute, the reclamation plan was intended to prevent a potential landslide on a mine tailings pile — debris left from mineral extraction — that could add poisons into the creek.

“The Forest Service turned us on to the project because it’s their land,” said Kate Holstein, program director of For the Forest. “They told us there is a situation where this big slope is continually eroding into Castle Creek. … If a large erosion were to occur where the whole slope slid into the creek, it could be catastrophic.”

Holstein said such a landslide could shut down the Castle Creek water source potentially for years…

Forty-two test plots were laid out at the site; each contains different variations of biochar mixed with soil and seeds, as well as control plots that contain no biochar. Williams said there are significant differences between the plots, and that biochar is making growth happen.

More restoration coverage here.

U.S. Government Accounting Office report: Action Needed to Sustain Agencies’ Collaboration on Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water

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Here’s the link to the GAO website where you can download the full report. Here’s the summary:

Drinking water in some metropolitan areas contains concentrations of pharmaceuticals, raising concerns about their potential impact on human health. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate contaminants, including pharmaceuticals, in public drinking water systems if they may adversely affect human health among other criteria. Pharmaceuticals may enter drinking water supplies from several pathways, including discharge from wastewater facilities. GAO was asked to provide information on the (1) extent to which pharmaceuticals occur in drinking water and their effects, if any, on human health; (2) U.S. and other countries’ approaches to reducing their occurrence; and (3) challenges, if any, that EPA faces in determining whether to regulate pharmaceuticals. GAO reviewed federal and peer-reviewed reports, and surveyed a nonprobability sample of five U.S. programs designed to properly dispose of pharmaceuticals. We selected these programs based on geographic diversity and program characteristics. We also researched such programs in two countries, and interviewed scientists and agency officials.

Research has detected pharmaceuticals in the nation’s drinking water. National and regional studies by the U.S. Geological Survey, EPA, and others have detected pharmaceuticals in source water, treated drinking water, and treated wastewater; but the full extent of occurrence is unknown. The concentrations detected for any one pharmaceutical were measured most frequently in parts per trillion. Research has not determined the human health effects of exposure to these concentrations of pharmaceuticals in drinking water. However, federal research has demonstrated the potential impact to human health from exposure to some pharmaceuticals found in drinking water, such as antibiotics and those that interfere with the functioning and development of hormones in humans. Some states and local governments as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration have taken actions that could reduce the extent to which pharmaceuticals occur in drinking water. These efforts have primarily been through drug take-back programs to encourage proper control and disposal of pharmaceuticals. Additional efforts have been adopted in Europe following the European Union’s directive in 2004 requiring member states to have appropriate collection systems for unused or expired medicinal products. In addition to collection systems, Sweden also encourages actions such as writing small initial prescriptions to reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals that are disposed of if patients switch to a different pharmaceutical course. EPA faces challenges in obtaining sufficient occurrence and health effects data on pharmaceuticals and other contaminants in drinking water to support analyses and decisions to identify which, if any, pharmaceuticals should be regulated under SDWA. EPA is collaborating with the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Geological Survey on research to help obtain such data but these efforts are largely informal. EPA officials said there is no formal mechanism, such as a long-term strategy or formal agreement, to manage and sustain these collaborative efforts. A recently expired interagency workgroup, which EPA co-chaired, initiated work on a research strategy to identify opportunities that will enhance collaborative federal efforts on pharmaceuticals in the environment, but its draft report did not contain key details about how the agencies will coordinate such collaborative efforts. GAO previously identified key practices for enhancing and sustaining collaboration among federal agencies, some of which may help clarify such coordination, such as establishing the roles and responsibilities of collaborating agencies; leveraging their resources; and establishing a process for monitoring, evaluating, and reporting to the public the results of the collaborative research efforts. GAO recommends that the Administrator of EPA establish a workgroup or other formal mechanism to coordinate research on pharmaceuticals and other contaminants in drinking water. EPA agreed with the recommendation.

More water pollution coverage here.

Colorado WaterWise Annual Conservation Workshop, ‘Making Dollars and Sense of Water Conservation’ — Friday, October 14, 2011

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From email from Natalie Stevens at Greeley Water:

Colorado WaterWise Annual Conservation Workshop
“Making Dollars and Sense of Water Conservation”

Friday, October 14, 2011
8:15 am – 4:15 pm
Police Protective Association
2105 Decatur Street, Denver, CO 80211

Early Bird Registration
Members $85
Non-Members $127.50

After September 14, 2011
Members $100
Non-Members $150

http://www.coloradowaterwise.org/Default.aspx?pageId=1104658

More conservation coverage here.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service honors Scott Yates with the 2011 Outstanding Partner award for his work restoring trout habitat

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

[Scott] Yates has been working for years with private landowners and state and federal agencies to try and improve habitat for fish, and this week he was honored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the 2011 Outstanding Partner award for his collaboration with the agency’s national fish passage program, which aims to restore habitat connectivity. “Yates has worked tirelessly in collaboration with federal, state and private organizations and landowners to improve habitat to enhance populations of native Bonneville, Colorado River and Yellowstone cutthroat trout,” said Scott Roth, the fish passage program coordinator for the Mountain-Prairie region…

To meet their life cycle needs, river-dwelling fish migrate between feeding and spawning areas. But their passage is often blocked by the thousands of culverts, dikes, water diversions, dams, and other artificial barriers that have been constructed over the last century to provide water for irrigation, flood control, electricity, and other purposes. As a result, some populations of native fish have disappeared and others are on the brink of disappearing. An estimated 6 million of these barriers still exist, many of which no longer serve their original purpose and were abandoned years ago. Launched by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999, the National Fish Passage Program is a voluntary, non-regulatory effort that provides financial and technical assistance to restore aquatic connectivity by removing or bypassing barriers that impede the movement of fish and contribute to their decline.

More restoration coverage here.