Precipitation news: The North American Monsoon has been around for the last few days

Drought news: Map of the #FlagstaffFire, ash from the #HighParkFire turns the Cache la Poudre River black through Fort Collins #CODrought

Colorado Water 2012: Greeley and Union Colony ditch history


Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Water 2012 series written by Jon Monson. Here’s an excerpt:

The Union Colonists had big plans for irrigation ditches. Ditch No. 1 was going to come from the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, roughly where the Larimer and Weld Canal is now, and irrigate almost 40,000 acres. Another 40,000 acres were to be irrigated by the No.2, which eventually became the New Cache Irrigation Company.

They started smaller though, building the No.3 first to irrigate about 3,500 acres. The No.3 was closest to town, actually forming the southern edge of the colony. Located uphill from the Poudre, the ditch could irrigate the parks and gardens of the townspeople as it passed by to irrigate farms east and west of the city.

Back then people were fascinated by the power of water to make the dry prairie bloom with shade and green vegetables. Everyone had a garden. Even the kids diverted water from their parents laterals to play farmer.

The grownup farmers worked hard those first few years, learning how to manage water and how to run a mutual ditch company. Things went well until the summer of 1874 when the Poudre River suddenly dried up. Curious, someone got on their horse and rode up stream to see what was the matter. Turns out the new little town of Camp Collins had thrown a diversion across the Poudre and was taking the entire river to irrigate their farms.

Back in the Union Colony the cry went up, “To your tents boys! Rifles and cartridges!” Remember this was less than ten years after the Civil War. Cooler heads prevailed and the two groups met in Windsor to discuss (argue?) the matter. That summer they decided to allocate the water to who ever needed it most. Now that must have been one tough job. Two years later, when the Colorado Constitution was written, Article XVI Section 6 enshrined the prior appropriation doctrine, “The right to divert the unappropriated waters of any natural stream to beneficial uses shall never be denied.”

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Drought news: Mancos area residents are being asked to reduce water usage due to #WeberFire #CODrought


From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

In an announcement posted on the Montezuma County Sheriff’s website, Mancos Rural Water Company asked Mancos-area residents to back off of water usage in the area as the Weber Fire battle continues. “Mancos Rural Water Company does not have enough domestic water to serve the tremendous amount of water that area residents are using to soak down the areas around their homes,” the announcement states. “If you live anywhere in the Mancos Rural Water District in the quarter due west to due north of Mancos, there is no immediate need to water down your house and the immediate vicinity. Don’t do this unless you have been given pre-evacuation notice. Leave some drinking water for others on the system.”

Mancos Rural Water manager Brandon Bell said the concern was prompted by the realization that the rural water system was not created to deal with crisis like the Weber Fire. “Our main problem is that our system was just not designed with the capacity for fire protection,” Bell said. “We’ve had a lot of homes running sprinklers and watering down their property day and night and we are just not able to keep up with the demand on our system.”

Water for the Mancos Rural Water system is an allocation from Jackson Reservoir, located northwest of the small community. Following a drier-than-normal winter and a hotter-than-normal spring, the reservoir entered the summer months less than full, which means resources were strained before a greater demand was added to the system.

More Montezuma County coverage here and here.

Drought/runoff news: Rafting companies can do OK in low water years #CODrought


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Jon Mitchell):

“Our best years have been the hot years,” said 52-year-old Kevin Schneider, president and owner of Glenwood Resorts. “We’re really a family business, and moms aren’t interested in taking their kids out on the water when it’s really high and rough.”

That was definitely the case a year ago, when a massive late-season snowmelt caused high, rough waters and dangerous conditions in Glenwood Canyon and downriver. Now, with the winter snowpack long gone and temperatures routinely flirting with triple digits, water levels are at much more manageable levels.

What’s followed, as a result, is a trickle-down effect that’s helped the bottom line of local rafting companies in a big way…

There’s an obvious difference in the water flows, but the biggest difference is in the overall water-flow measurements. According to figures provided by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), river flows on June 27, 2011, measured 24,400 cubic feet per second (cfs) on the Colorado River below Glenwood Springs, reached water levels of 11.77 feet near Dotsero and were flowing at 7,220 cfs where the Roaring Fork River flows into Glenwood.

There’s a stark contrast in water levels and flows this year. As of Tuesday, the USGS reported that the Colorado River below Glenwood was flowing at 2,150 cfs, was 2.80 feet deep at Dotsero and was flowing at 727 cfs where the Roaring Fork flows into Glenwood…

The water flow from 2011, though long gone, still left an impression on the routes rafting companies take while business picks up this year. Rocks and boulders were moved by the water flow all around Glenwood Canyon, but especially around the area where Grizzly Creek meets the Colorado. In a spot guides call “Tombstone,” a new boulder moved by last year’s river flow has narrowed the water-flow gap to around 16 feet wide, upgrading the move from a Class III (moderate) move to a Class IV (difficult) move.

More whitewater coverage here.

Drought News: The Roaring Fork Conservancy is recruiting volunteers to monitor water temperatures in streams in the watershed #CODrought


From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The Roaring Fork Conservancy has identified 14 spots where it needs help monitoring water temperatures in its new Hot Spots for Trout program. The data that’s collected will be shared with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which can implement restrictions or closures of fisheries if conditions warrant. The Roaring Fork River is running significantly lower than normal for this time of year because of the low snowpack and the warm spring. That has implications for the waters in rivers and streams…

No restrictions have been placed on streams or rivers in the Roaring Fork Valley at this point, though wildlife officers are monitoring flows, temperatures and oxygen levels, said Mike Porras, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The water temperature has been recorded as high as 68 degrees on the Roaring Fork River, he said. The wildlife division typically doesn’t close a stretch of river unless the daily maximum temperature exceeds 74 degrees or the daily average temperature exceeds 72 degrees, according to the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s website…

Roaring Fork Conservancy wants to make sure the best information on river and stream conditions is available to make decisions to ensure the fishery isn’t damaged. It has a small supply of thermometers available and asks that volunteers dip them into the water for one to two minutes away from river and stream banks, Tattersall said. They are asked to repeat the procedure to ensure they are getting an accurate reading. They should record the time and weather condition and get a picture of the site. The information can be submitted online at

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here and here.

Colorado School of Mines study cites potential problems faced by water treatment operations after wildfire in a watershed


Here’s the release from the Colorado School of Mines (David Tauchen/Karen Gilbert):

As numerous wildfires burn across Colorado, a new study conducted by Mines Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate students last semester details how these fires can be detrimental to drinking water quality and suggests what municipalities could do to respond to this threat.

“While impacts of wildfires have been studied by scientists from forestry, biology and hydrology, this study is the first that combines these experiences with water treatment engineering and focuses on adverse effects on drinking water quality and appropriate response strategies,”said Professor Jörg Drewes.

Rain events following a wildfire can result in detrimental impacts on surface water quality in impacted areas. Run-off mixes with left over debris and sediment in a “chocolate milk shake-like mix” that can end up in drinking water sources. Increased turbidity (cloudiness), alkalinity and organic matter load can thwart purifying mechanisms inside a downstream water treatment plant. If a water plant is challenged by these conditions, the drinking water quality might be compromised including tap water that might have a smoky taste and perhaps doesn’t meet EPA drinking water standards.

“This project simulated a range of detrimental wildfire run-off conditions utilizing a surface water treatment pilot plant at the Colorado School of Mines in close collaboration with the City of Golden’s drinking water treatment plant,” said Drewes.

The study was conducted for the city of Golden as part of the Colorado School of Mines’ Environmental Engineering Pilot Plant class, a course in which Mines students solve real-world engineering problems. They examined how a fire in the Golden area would adversely affect the water supply in Clear Creek, the source of Golden’s drinking water. Finally, the study suggested action steps the city could take to be better prepared for these events and to protect drinking water quality based on the severity of a fire in the area.

“The aim of this project was to determine the impacts of wildfire on Golden’s drinking water supply, treat the affected water to exceptional quality, then develop preparatory suggestions for the city and an action plan for once a fire occurs,” said Alex Wing, a Mines civil and environmental engineering graduate student.

Read the full report here.

Thanks to (Alan Gathright) for the heads up.

More water treatment coverage here and here.