Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Basin



Click on the thumbnail graphics for the precipitation summary from the Colorado Climate Center. Here’s the link to all the summaries.

I’ve also posted the current U.S. Drought Monitor map.

From Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced today he extended an Executive Order that authorizes transports of large baled hay or baled livestock feed which may exceed lawful maximum height.

The governor signed the original Executive Order on Sept. 21. Since then, the Colorado Department of Transportation has issued 13 permits to nine different applicants.

The Executive Order suspended rules that prevent the State from issuing single-trip, extra-legal permits for divisible loads of “baled hay” or “baled livestock feed” of heights ranging from 14 feet, 6 inches to 15 feet.

“Large areas of Colorado have experienced devastating damage from drought. This has severely impacted the ability of Colorado livestock producers to acquire the requisite amount of feed for their animals,” the Executive Order said. “As winter approaches, such restrictions put Colorado livestock in severe danger and producers require immediate assistance to meet their feed requirements.”

The governor announced the Executive Order last month during the inaugural Pedal The Plains event on the Eastern Plains. The extension signed Monday is good for 30 days.

First Colorado Congreso de Acequias recap: ‘Water was not considered property, but a communal shared resource’ — Ed Vigil


From the Valley Courier (Lauren Krizansky):

This year’s presenters included Costilla and Conejos Counties’ own acequia irrigators, southern and eastern neighbors, politicians, lawyers, scholars, mothers and youth. Topics included regional challenges, legal challenges, women and youth, lessons from northern New Mexico, the coming Colorado Acequia Governance Handbook and the future of Colorado’s acequias.

Alongside the host, the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association, agencies present included Colorado Open Lands, the Natural Conservation Resource Service (NRCS), both co-sponsors; the Division of Water Resources; the National Park Service; the National Heritage Area and the Farm Service Agency.

Rep. Ed Vigil (D) opened and closed the ceremonies, and received special recognition for taking the lead on the Colorado Acequia Recognition Law.

“Everybody has an equal portion and a chance of surviving,” Vigil said in the midst of an acequia history lesson. “Water was not considered property, but a communal shared resource. People were always happy with what they could get. We survived well. That history is going to be gone and the technology is going to dwindle it down until it disappears.”[…]

The Congreso united acequia irrigators from Conejos, Costilla, Huerfano and Las Animas through an opportunity to compare and contrast systems. An uncertainty in the law and the changing environment – both natural and commercial – were echoed in each presentation.

“There are differences that we have across the river,” said Lawrence Gallegos, a Conejos County irrigator. “Some problems started back in the 1920s and 1930s when they established the Rio Grande Compact. We are still subject to that compact.”

He added, “It is a sustainable way of agriculture what we are doing today in the San Luis Valley. Mining the water, pumping the water is not sustainable.”[…]

From across the mountains, Jack Chavez, Las Animas County, and Amos Mace, Huerfano County, divulged another series of problems including greed, water quality, unclaimed water rights, taxes, natural resource development and pollution.

More water law coverage here.

‘Agriculture cannot be sustained in the Southern High Plains’ — Judy Reeves (Cirrus)


From Think Progress (Peyton Fleming):

“Agriculture cannot be sustained in the Southern High Plains,” Judy Reeves, senior hydrogeologist at Texas-based Cirrus Associates said flatly, speaking at the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) conference in water-stressed Lubbock, Texas where drought is still a daily topic. “We really need to start talking about the next economy here.”[…]

…what can water managers in West Texas and elsewhere in the arid West do to navigate these dire water challenges? Some interesting — and surprising — answers were provided at last week’s SEJ workshop, “Squeezing Blood from a Desert.”

Reality-based water pricing is a critical first step. Western water has historically been under priced, in large part because the federal government financed most of the region’s expensive water infrastructure, including pipelines and dams. But, as Sharene Leurig, water program manager at sustainability advocacy group Ceres said, “the era of federal largesse has passed.” That means Western utility water rates and revenues will need to be aligned with short- and long-term expenses. That means higher water rates.

But tools are available to curb water price inflation. Among the most appealing are strong demand management programs. By using carrots and sticks to reduce water use — especially for water-sapping lawns and landscaping — utilities can avoid having to finance expensive new water supplies…

More infrastructure coverage here.

Glenwood Springs is hosting tours of new $22.3 million wastewater treatment plant


Lucky Glenwood Springs residents. From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

The city is offering a series of public tours this week and next to show off the new, 1.9-million-gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant located at the old Chatfield Ranch near the municipal operations center on Wulfsohn Road.

The $22.3 million treatment plant, lift station, sewer pipeline and related facilities have been under construction for the past two years and were completed this past summer. The new plant replaces the old facility near the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers on Seventh Street.

Three tours per day will continue on Thursday, and again on Oct. 30 and 31…

During the tour, Tipton describes the wastewater treatment process, from the collection center at the new lift station on Seventh Street, through three miles of pipeline along Midland Avenue to the treatment plant, and into a multi-stage treatment process. In the end, the more than 90 percent pure water is returned to the Colorado River.

In the laboratory near the end of the tour, the city’s longtime wastewater lab technician Lee Jones compares two beakers of water, one containing sewer water coming into the plant and the other containing the treated water that will go out of the plant into the river.

The latter is as clear as drinking water. In fact, recent readings at the plant indicate 99 percent removal of solids from the treated water.

To get to that stage, after being pumped from the lift station, the water first enters the plant’s headworks building. There, a grit sorter removes the larger sand and grit.

“We want to get as much of the grit out as fast as we can,” Tipton said. “Through this process, we will eliminate 80 to 90 percent of the larger material.”

This is also the most volatile stage of the process, as raw sewer water can produce large amounts of methane gas. The headworks building is “explosion proof,” meaning there are no exposed electrical outlets or other potential sources of ignition. Methane gas detectors and other safety devices will also shut the system down if dangerous levels are detected.

The air ionization system that controls the plant odors is also contained in the headworks building.

From there, it’s on to the oxidation ditches, or ponds, where oxygen is added to the partially desolidified wastewater. Large, submerged paddles in the 20-foot-deep pools keep the water churning constantly.

It’s also during this stage that ammonia and nitrogen are removed from the water. The water flow continues into the “secondary clarifier” ponds, where a rubber scraper continues to remove the remaining suspended solids, which are recirculated back through the system…

An operations lab includes a main computer monitoring station, where plant operators can observe the entire process from beginning to end and can remotely open and close valves and check meters.

Before going into the river, the treated water goes through a final ultraviolet disinfection system. Meanwhile, the biosolids are sent to the digester, and the sludge is eventually hauled away.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Drought news: Jackson Gulch Reservoir at lowest level in 10 years #CODrought


From The Mancos Times (Jeanne Archambeault):

…according to the [Mancos Water Conservancy District] who keeps track of precipitation each year, there was slightly less this year than in 2002. There was a total of 12.39 inches in the 2011/12 winter, and 12.98 inches in 2002. In the last 10 years, they were the two lowest precipitation years. The highest was 2005 with 23.22 inches…

At the moment, the level of the Jackson Gulch Reservoir is “just shy of 15 percent,” [superintendent Gary Kennedy] said. The average for the shutdown, which was Sept. 20 this year, is usually 40 percent. “We let the water out of the reservoir about a month early,” he said.

Kennedy is adamant about the fact that without the reservoir being here in the Mancos Valley, the Mancos River would have been dry in June and the town would have had to take water from the river. The next step, he said, is for the town to lease water.