Parker Water and Sanitation District board is evaluating joining with Aurora and Denver in the WISE project

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

The Parker Water and Sanitation District board of directors will hear a presentation later this month from new manager Ron Redd, who will recommend that the district enter into WISE, the Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency project. Six members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, including Pinery Water and Wastewater, the Cottonwood Water and Sanitation District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, committed to WISE by signing intergovernmental agreements in late March. The agreements will bring nearly 7,000 acre-feet of recycled water to the south metro area…

The Parker Water and Sanitation District board asked Redd to examine the possibility of buying 500, 1,000 or 1,500 acre-feet through the WISE project. He was expecting to receive the results of a cost analysis on April 5 to determine the possible financial impacts. Any rate hikes on customers would likely be implemented incrementally and equate to about 2.5 percent to 3 percent per year, Redd said, cautioning that those figures are preliminary. The cost of WISE water increases annually over an eight-year period.

It would be relatively easy, Redd said, to move the reclaimed WISE water from Aurora to Parker if the district can come to an agreement to use a pipeline along E-470 owned by East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District. If the board gives approval, the intergovernmental agreement would be signed by late May…

Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which contains 5,700 acre-feet of water and was built to store 70,000 acre-feet, will be paid off by the time the Parker Water and Sanitation District takes on more debt to build pipelines to transport the water that will be needed for the future.

Meanwhile, Centennial has inked an IGA with the WISE Partnership. Here’s a report from Ryan Boldrey writing for the Highlands Ranch Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

Centennial Water and Sanitation District was one of six members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority to sign an IGA this past week committing to more renewable water by way of the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership. Through the agreement, Aurora Water and Denver Water will provide roughly 7,000 acre-feet of fully treated water annually to participating SMWSA members and deliver it in phases, starting in 2016. As part of the IGA, the participating South Metro WISE entities have agreed to fund new infrastructure that will move the water from Aurora’s Binney Water Purification Facility to its end locations. “A region-wide water solution makes more sense than having each water entity fending for themselves to source, treat and deliver renewable water to customers,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of SMWSA. “We’re excited about the progress we’re making through WISE towards transitioning the region from nonrenewable groundwater to renewable water.”

Hecox said that the agreement helps provide SMWSA with about a third of the necessary water that participating entities will need long-term. From here, work will continue on the Chatfield Reallocation Project as well as of other options and alternatives to bring more water to the region…

For Centennial Water specifically, it’s another step toward cementing a long-term supply and not relying as much on groundwater or leased water. “We’ve got many years of full supply, but some of that full supply comes from leases that are not long-term,” said Centennial Water and Sanitation District General Manager John Hendrick. “We want to add to our portfolio with long-term or near-permanent surface water sources…

Other SMWSA members committing to the project at this time are Cottonwood Water, Meridian Metropolitan District, Pinery Water, Rangeview Metropolitan District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District. Hecox said he expects Dominion, Inverness, Castle Rock and Parker water districts to sign the IGA by the end of April. SMWSA members not expected to take part in the IGA include: Castle Pines Metro, Castle Pines North, East Cherry Creek Valley, and Arapahoe.

More WISE coverage here.

Conservation: Right Plants Right Place Help to Save Water and Save Money #COdrought

Thanks to the Douglas County Water Resource Authority for this video link:

Forecast news: Storm on the way Tuesday into Wednesday #COdrought #COwx

Snowpack/drought news: Denver Water sees a drop in consumption for early spring #COdrought

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Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current US Drought Monitor, the current drought outlook from the Climate Prediction Center and the current statewide snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

On average, Denver Water’s customers use 120 million gallons in March. This year that figure dropped by 16 million gallons. For the first 17 days of April, customers used 40 million gallons less water — 105 million instead of the normal 145 million. That’s more than 21 percent less water used for the early spring period…

Denver’s weather-monitoring site at Denver International Airport has received 20.4 inches of snow in April, a month when it normally gets 9. Closer to the mountains, Wheat Ridge has collected 29.5 inches this month, according to the National Weather Service. In March, Denver received 23.5 inches of snow, helping boost the city’s total for the season to 75 inches, way above the average tally of 57.5, according to the weather service’s data.

From The Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner):

This week’s snow/water equivalent is 15 inches or 71 percent of average. The average for this time of year is typically 21.1 inches. The current Arkansas River basin-wide snow/water equivalent is 80 percent of average…

The precipitation measurement is yearly snow, rain, hail and sleet. This week’s year-to-date precipitation is 18.8 inches or 79 percent of average. The average for this time of year is 23.9 inches.

The basin-wide year-to-date precipitation is currently 72 percent of average for the Arkansas River Basin, while the snowpack stands at 79 percent of average.

Statewide, snowpack levels are at 90 percent of average, based on the following averages for the state’s eight river basins: Upper Rio Grande 70 percent; San Miguel/Dolores/Animas/San Juan, 71 percent; Arkansas 79 percent; Gunnison, 88 percent; South Platte 88 percent; White/Yampa 98 percent; North Platte 102 percent; and Colorado, 103 percent.

From The Fort Morgan Times (Bruce Bosley):

The South Platte communities from Kersey to Sterling have received from 2.66 to over 3.13 inches total precipitation this year so far. Greeley, Iliff, and Crook weather stations have recorded less total precipitation: 1.44″, 1.78″ and 2.32″ respectively.

These same storms have missed much of the high plains south and east of the South Platte Basin. In this area, Akron and Holyoke have received the most: 1.43″ and 1.38″ respectively. Farms south and east of there have missed many of these storms, getting just a fraction of the moisture during this same period. Yuma, Wray, Burlington, Stratton and Last Chance weather stations have received less than 0.8 of an inch this year.

Dryland winter wheat fields in the High Plains region and further south are struggling to survive. March and April precipitation has helped fields located in the South Platte basin to catch up to seasonal average soil moisture reserves after the lingering effects of the 2012 drought. The lack of precipitation for this same period south and east of the South Platte Basin has further resulted in droughty soils. The freeze injury on the wheat plants is only part of the challenges that fields in this area have to cope with.

Making matters worse for the high plains farmers is that, while wheat is their No. 1 crop, the continued drought may prevent them from planting corn, millet, sunflowers and other summer crops unless they get favorable rains later this month through early June.

Here’s an editorial about Aurora’s water customer reactions to the city’s drought mitigation efforts from The Aurora Sentinel. Here’s an excerpt:

Here’s the problem. For the past decade, as Aurora water and tap rates have climbed ahead, and far ahead, of other metro-area water rates, city officials have assured everyone that the much ballyhooed Prairie Water Project, which cost about $660 million, would “drought harden” the city’s water system, preventing water shortages during lean snow-pack years. The fear of going dry was instilled in city lawmakers after a sustained drought at the turn of the century, prompting a complex marvel that pumps South Platte water miles downstream of Aurora back up to the city.

Here’s the public-relations problems Aurora has painted itself into:

Each time city council members approved water rate hikes, they lauded the Prairie Water project publicly for protecting the city during droughts. In 2010, water rates increased by 7.5 percent over 2009, in 2009 they increased by 8 percent, and in 2008, 2007, and 2006 there was a 12-percent increase. In 2003 and 2004 water rates increased by 15 percent over the previous years to pay for the Prairie Waters project.

It was a lot of rate hikes, and a lot of bragging. Last year, the city controversially agreed to sell water to Andarko for fracking, sell water for bottling, lease water to other cities, and kept bragging about how lucky city residents are for having invested in the Prairie Waters Project.

City residents are feeling so lucky right now as they look at big water bills and big water restrictions, the same restrictions other metro-area cities must endure without the financial burden of the magnificent Prairie Waters Project…

But for most residents, the perception is that Prairie Waters did nothing to “drought harden” the water system, but it did plenty to hike their water bills. They have nothing else to conclude since they’re under the same watering restrictions as their municipal neighbors paying much less for their restricted water…

The reality is, Aurora’s water system and problems are hugely complicated. Even though the city is netting more potentially potable water, it needs more local storage. And the reality is, we don’t have more storage, we can’t afford to build more storage, and the city’s available water situation isn’t as dire as Aurora officials are making it out to be.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

A Bureau of Land Management official says recent precipitation has boosted the prospects for reseeding efforts taking hold in the area of the Pine Ridge Fire, and he is hoping for more moisture. “This last storm that we got, where we got the snow here in the valley, was very timely because it was starting to dry out,” said Jim Dollerschell, a rangeland management specialist for the BLM in Grand Junction.

Last summer’s Pine Ridge Fire burned some 14,000 acres near De Beque in the largest fire ever within the Grand Junction BLM office’s jurisdiction. Continuing dry weather last year limited seed germination of a temporary, quick-growing cover crop. The BLM this year did aerial seeding involving a variety of vegetation, mostly native, with an eye toward longer-term stabilization. Dollerschell said he visited the area a few weeks ago and some grass seedlings were sprouting. With the recent storms being followed by warmer temperatures, he’s expecting more growth now.

Seeing some germination has been promising. He’s hoping for rain to get through May and June, with the expectation that the vegetation then benefits from monsoon moisture in July and August. “June is a tough month, so dry and hot. If we can get plants up pretty good before that hits, they’ll stand a pretty good chance of surviving,” he said.

The susceptibility to erosion was demonstrated shortly after the fire occurred. A storm resulted in ash and debris reaching the Colorado River. The Clifton Water District shut down its river intake for more than a day. Part of the problem is that a lot of the burned area consisted of solid sagebrush or piñon-juniper forest, without much existing understory vegetation that could grow back after the fire, he said. He said that with the time it will take for the reseeding to take hold, “nothing’s really going to be too stable up there for another year or two.”

The Barr Lake State Park May/June Oasis newsletter is hot off the press

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Click here to read the newsletter.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Telluride’s water system upgrades $500,000 over budget this year

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From The Watch (Samantha Wright):

Council had originally budgeted $6.5 million for the 2013 portion of the ambitious project, which aims to provide a state-of-the-art water distribution and treatment system to ensure a reliable, high-quality water supply for the Town of Telluride. This number, however, did not incorporate the so-called Falls Crest Diversion outlined in the Comprehensive Settlement Agreement which the town and Idarado entered into late last year. The agreement brought a 20-year legal battle over water rights between the two entities to an end.

The elaborately engineered Falls Crest Diversion brings one source of water from Bridal Veil Basin via pipeline across the cliff face directly below Bridal Veil Power Station to tie into the tailrace (where another source of water comes out of the turbine). The water then flows into a collection system vertically down toward Black Bear Road, eventually reaching the Pandora Water Treatment Plant currently under construction. The CSA calls for Idarado to contribute about a quarter of the cost for the Falls Creek Diversion – roughly $125,000 – with the Town of Telluride picking up the rest of the tab.

Also not included in original cost projections for 2013 were the “zero-discharge” processes that are an essential part of this project as it has been negotiated in the CSA. Initially, Telluride Public Works Director Paul Ruud explained, the design for the water treatment plant included a discharge component that would release some untreated water into Marshall Creek. The CSA’s zero-discharge requirement scuttled that plan. “There won’t be anything coming out of the plant except clean water,” Ruud explained. “This did add considerably to the expense of the plant.”

Beyond the cost overruns for construction in the current year, council also discussed the fact that the overall construction cost for the project (including the small hydro component) is estimated to come in at around $15 million – significantly more than the $10 million bond approved by Telluride voters to pay for the project in 2005. This money, mobilized in 2010, has gone toward improvement of complicated diversion and conveyance infrastructure over the past two years that is intended to get the water from Bridal Veil Basin to the site of the new Pandora water treatment plant. Last fall, the Telluride Town Council approved an additional $2 million transfer of Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) funds from the Capital Improvement Fund to the Water Fund to cover additional costs for the project through 2013…

Despite of the Pandora Water System Project’s hefty and ever-mounting price tag, council generally agreed in the end that it was a price worth paying. “I am thankful that past council members made the decision to get us started,” said Councilor Ann Brady. “Imagine if we were just starting this project, with the climate change we are facing now. Thank goodness the people before us took the step (of securing the $10 million bond). Even though it was skimpy, at least it got us started.”

Clifton echoed Brady’s sentiment, adding, “This will bring the town well into the future in terms of our domestic water supply.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

2013 Colorado legislation: HB13-144 (Authorize Graywater Use) passes state Senate Ag committee #COleg

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From KUNC (Nathan Heffel):

[Patti] Mason says water rights concerns, specifically the idea that every drop of rain is already bought and paid for, has kept state lawmakers from loosening their grip over graywater usage, despite the fact that using it would help conserve the precious resource…

Senator Ted Harvey, a Republican from Highlands Ranch, agrees. “The bill is different from the one last year,” Harvey says. “This is very voluntary. It does not require local water providers to regulate it, so it’s not a mandate on water providers.” Harvey, who supports the bill, says water conservation is increasingly on the mind of lawmakers at the State Capitol. “This is not a partisan issue; water is never a partisan issue,” said Harvey…

Patti Mason says the graywater bill has a pretty good chance of passing. But she says it’s just the first step in educating lawmakers about the full potential of graywater use.“I do think that broadening the community’s ability to capture precipitation is next,” said Mason. “There are examples of existing policy in place that has allowed for precipitation harvesting to take place in limited scale. “

The graywater bill easily passed through the House, and was approved unanimously in its first Senate hearing. If the bill is approved by both chambers, it would become law later this year.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Parachute Creek sprill: ‘We don’t see any particularly large (red) flags right now’ — Guy Patterson #ColoradoRiver

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Dilution should protect De Beque from benzene contamination in an upstream tributary of its water supply, the Colorado River, the town’s manager says. “We don’t see any particularly large (red) flags right now,” Town Manager Guy Patterson said Thursday.

The river is the town’s sole source of potable water, and De Beque is about 10 miles downstream from Parachute Creek, the site of benzene contamination from what Williams says was a natural gas liquids leak from a pipeline leaving its gas processing plant.

Groundwater and soil contamination involving thousands of gallons of hydrocarbons was discovered last month, but benzene hadn’t been found in the creek until last week. However, the benzene levels remain below the state drinking water standard of 5 parts per billion in Parachute Creek. Also, no benzene has been detected where the town of Parachute diverts its irrigation water supply 2.7 miles downstream of the leak source area, or at the creek’s mouth at the Colorado River.

“Since we’re much further downstream it looks like we’re safe but we’re continuing to monitor the situation,” Patterson said.

Like others, De Beque was concerned about a lack of notification about the incident when it was first discovered. Officials first learned of it through media accounts. But Patterson said the town is now being kept up to date about surface water test results.

Williams said Thursday it has completed installing a water aerator in the creek to remove benzene and other volatile organic compounds. Installation of similar systems making use of what are called air sparging devices are either pending or nearly complete in both the creek and underground along the creek bank where a trench also is being built to try to keep benzene-tainted groundwater out of the creek.

Williams has installed another well for recovery of liquid hydrocarbons, and two more are planned. It has continued to drill monitoring wells to delineate the extent of contaminated groundwater.

The highest benzene measurement in the creek so far was 3.9 ppb, on Tuesday. The high reading Thursday was 3.2 ppb, with additional detections of 1.4 and 1.3 ppb at the next test locations downstream.

The state Water Quality Control Division doesn’t consider the creek a drinking water supply, and has set a maximum benzene standard in the creek of 5,300 ppb to protect aquatic life.

While the creek is used for irrigation and livestock graze near it and drink from it, the division hasn’t established agriculture-based standards for organic chemicals.

“However, in general, aquatic life and drinking water uses are much more sensitive than agriculture uses, meaning that standards established for those uses are much more stringent,” said division director Steve Gunderson, who also noted that benzene typically dissipates quickly in streams.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The responsibility of overseeing the investigation and cleanup of the natural gas liquids leak near Parachute will shift from state oil and gas regulators to health officials, authorities said Saturday. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the state Department of Public Health and Environment have agreed that the health department will assume primary jurisdiction, according to Todd Hartman, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Williams has said thousands of gallons of natural gas liquids leaked from a faulty pressure gauge. Benzene has been discovered in Parachute Creek and in groundwater.

Meanwhile, Garfield County will hold a 6 p.m. community meeting Monday about the leak. Representatives from four agencies will answer questions. The event will be at the Grand Valley Fire Protection District building, 0124 Stone Quarry Road, in Battlement Mesa.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.