Georgetown mayor Craig Abrahamson signed an agreement on July 9 to accept a $170,000 grant from the Department of Local Affairs to help subsidize the cost of its water meter replacement program. “It a pretty big project, and obviously we’re very pleased and grateful to the department of Local Affairs for their continued support in modernizing our infrastructure,” Abrahamson said.
The grant provider still has to sign its portion of the agreement before it is made official. Installation will get underway sometime in 2014. Approximately 600 meters need to be replaced at a cost of $550 each. The grant will pay for roughly half of the price. The town has to fund the additional $230,000 of the project’s cost. The town board will decide in the coming weeks how much of the town’s matching funds will come from the municipality, or if homeowners will need to pay a portion of the cost for equipment and installation.
Here’s the release from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District (Diane Johnson):
Gov. John Hickenlooper announced on July 19 that 21 municipal wastewater and sanitation districts throughout Colorado will receive a total of $14.7 million in state grants to help with the planning, design and construction of facility improvements to meet new nutrient standards. The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District submitted three grant applications totaling $1,372,400; each one was fully funded.
“Our staff was very involved with the state in developing these new regulations while simultaneously modeling the regulations’ impact to our capital investment program. This proactive approach allowed the district to strategically position itself to compete for the nutrient grant program funds,” said Board Chairman Rick Sackbauer. “These regulations are the right thing for the environment and these grant funds will reduce the overall cost of compliance to our ratepayers and taxpayers. We are grateful to the state for its contribution.”
The state’s Water Quality Control Commission adopted new standards in September 2012 to help prevent harmful nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from reaching state waters. The new regulation requires certain larger domestic wastewater treatment facilities to meet effluent limits for nutrients.
“Coloradans in rural and urban areas will benefit from these new water standards that improve and protect our water,” Hickenlooper said. “This grant funding will help communities offset the costs of bringing their systems into compliance. In addition, the grants will help ensure safe and healthy water for wildlife, agriculture, recreation, and drinking water purposes.”
Excessive nutrients harm water bodies by stimulating algae blooms that consume oxygen, kill aquatic organisms, and ultimately lead to smaller populations of game and fish. While nutrients are naturally occurring, other contributors include human sewage, emissions from power generators and automobiles, lawn fertilizers, and pet waste.
“The district has long been a steward of our local streams. We are planning the required improvements holistically, across our three wastewater treatment facilities, to provide optimal treatment at a reasonable cost for the benefit of our natural environment,” said General Manager Linn Brooks.
The Nutrient Grant Program will help wastewater facilities with the costs of planning for, designing, and implementing system improvements. Funding for the program was made available through HB13-1191 “Nutrient Grant Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant,” sponsored by Reps. Randy Fischer and Ed Vigil and Sens. Gail Schwartz and Angela Giron. There are about 400 municipal wastewater systems in Colorado. The new nutrient standards apply to about 40 systems that have the greatest impact on the waters of the state.
Here’s the announcement from their website. Here’s an excerpt:
The Project WET Foundation—publisher of the most complete water resources education materials available and leader in the field of water education in the United States and around the world—is inviting everyone with an interest in our most precious natural resource to join us in beautiful Denver, Colorado for the 2013 Project WET USA Conference.
The 2013 Project WET USA Conference will offer five conference strands, a full array of speakers, pre-conference field experiences and dedicated networking opportunities…all within easy reach of some of the best fishing, hiking, biking and other outdoor recreation anywhere.
The 2013 Project WET USA Conference begins on Tuesday evening with an opening night dinner, keynote speaker and reception perfect for networking and continues through Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with presentations, keynote speakers and vendors.
Tuesday evening’s keynote speaker will be Tom Cech, Director of the One World, One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship.
Here’s a post from Matt Bond writing for the Project Wet Blog. Here’s an excerpt:
The mere fact that you’re reading this blog means you’ve self-identified as someone interested in water education. If you’re like me, you’re even a water geek. And hopefully, as water educators, we’re all interested in telling the entire story of water. As the subject of water rises in public consciousness, and in political and social circles, the importance of educating youth about water is all the more critical. It’s just as important for students to know where their shower water comes from and where it goes as it runs down the drain as it is to understand the reason ice floats. But how do we do that if we don’t really know ourselves?
That’s where utilities come in, whether they are governmental or private, urban or rural, small or large. Or, whether they manage potable, waste or storm water. They can all help tell the parts of the story that are hardest to see. The parts underground, behind walls. The smelly parts, too.
In Colorado alone, there are more than 2,000 public water systems. According to the EPA, there are approximately 155,000 across the nation. Add to that the more than 16,000 wastewater facilities, and there’s probably an expert within easy reach of every school, environmental learning center or community educator—no matter where you are. If I’ve learned one thing in my 20 years in the water industry, those experts are proud of what they do and would like nothing more than to share that with you and your students.
The One World, One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship (OWOW) has received a $10,000 donation to establish a scholarship.
The gift from Paul and Pam Lander is for the Wes and Ethel Temple Scholarship, named in honor of Paul Lander’s maternal grandparents. They chose MSU Denver as the focus of their philanthropy because, “the University is by, for and about Colorado students.”
Tom Cech, OWOW director, credits Sandra Haynes, dean of the School of Professional Studies, “for making this happen.”
While the details are still being worked out, Cech said that in general, the scholarship will provide assistance to any first-generation MSU Denver student with a water studies minor. He hopes the first award will be made in fall 2014.
Paul Lander is a member of the OWOW advisory council and a veteran of water, energy and land conservation work. He directed the water conservation program for the city of Boulder for 16 years and is an instructor at the University of Colorado and for the American Water Works Association.
Wes and Ethel Temple grew up in the Wheat Ridge area and both graduated from Wheat Ridge High School in 1912, according to a statement from Paul Lander. He notes that his grandmother’s senior paper was on the topic of “Dry Farming in Colorado.” His grandfather held a variety of jobs, including running the Temple Ink Company, which sold printers ink to The Denver Post, and raising silver foxes with his brother in Evergreen.
Fort Collins recently received a $1.08 million grant from the state to help the city’s wastewater treatment facilities meet new state water quality standards.
The grant, from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is part of $14.7 million awarded to 21 cities for similar work. In Fort Collins, the money will be used for improvements at the Drake Water Reclamation Facility to remove phosphorus and biological nutrients from wastewater, and to investigate local carbon sources to determine the best source for further nutrient removal, according to a city release.
Of the roughly 50 people who attended the first public meeting about a proposal to form the 51st state, nearly all indicated they are in support of seceding from Colorado — an idea many acknowledged would be a tremendous feat.
Weld County commissioners on Thursday evening held the first of four meetings scheduled to allow public comment on issues surrounding their push to form a new state with other northeastern Colorado counties. At the Fort Lupton Recreation Center, all five commissioners laid out their concerns and proposed solutions regarding what they say is a lack of representation for rural voters. “I think people, when they feel disenfranchised, when they feel that their voices are not being heard, I think that’s a problem in a representative form of government,” commissioner Sean Conway said.
Commissioners told the meeting’s attendees they hope to put the 51st state initiative on the ballot come November, giving voters a chance to decide whether to start the secession process with the state. They said they’re also considering a move to change the state’s constitution and give rural counties more representation. “We believe there’s an attack on oil and gas,” commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said. “We believe there’s an attack on agriculture. I don’t think those down in Denver understand any of it.”
Commissioners pointed out several issues — including water, energy production and education — on which they see a disconnect between rural voters and urban legislators. When asked for a show of hands, all residents at the meeting indicated that they think they’re getting the short end of the stick on many of those major issues. “I have an issue with urbanites thinking it’s up to them to know what’s best,” Fort Lupton resident Elena Metro said. “I don’t know what’s best for them, and I don’t think they know what’s best for me.”
The vast majority indicated they were all for adding the 51st state initiative to the Weld ballot. Still, some were skeptical that forming another state would be the best remedy. Area farmers voiced concern over seceding from the state that holds most of their water supply. Some said the more reasonable approach seems to be to push for more representation. “I think it would serve us better to be more proactive,” Fort Lupton resident Mary Martin said.
Jeff Hare, who started a Facebook page for the commissioner’s plan to secede, said the idea of getting more representation at the state Capitol just isn’t enough. “It doesn’t right the wrongs that have been happening,” Hare said.
Commissioners and residents alike acknowledged that the secession process will be a complicated one. Meeting-goers urged commissioners to fully explain all aspects of their plan as they move forward.
Commissioners said they’ll soon announce that they’ll have the help of an educational institution in researching the logistics of forming a new state. They’ve scheduled three more public meetings in different parts of the county. “I think this is a very important dialogue to have,” Conway said. “I think it will hopefully allow us to better community with our folks in Denver.”
From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):
The State of Colorado’s DRAFT Drought Mitigation and Response Plan is now available on the CWCB website for public comment. The plan, as well as all associated appendices and documentation, can be down loaded at http://cwcb.state.co.us/. The public comment period for the Plan will be open from 30 days from July 22 through August 20, 2013.
The Drought Plan was revised as a part of the State’s Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan update in compliance with FEMA’s 3-year planning cycle. The revision process has resulted in a State Drought Plan that uses state of the art planning techniques to prepare Colorado for drought. The plan also includes an updated vulnerability assessment and a revised response framework.
From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):
Although City Council could have changed watering restrictions to three days from two, members played it safe earlier this week and kept the rules at two days for now. However, Councilors did make a concession to residents who are complaining about dying lawns by increasing to 2,500 cubic feet the amount people can use without moving into the next, higher-priced stage of rates. The previous limit had been 2,000 cubic feet. In addition, the drought surcharge was cut from twice the rate to 1.25 times the rate of the next block of charges. All of this becomes effective Aug. 1, so July billings will reflect the previous drought restrictions.
Meanwhile the City of Sante Fe, et. al, are hoping to implement a conservation plan for Colorado River Basin water they have rights to. Here’s a report from Staci Matlock writing for the Sante Fe New Mexican:
“Water demand exceeds the supply,” Santa Fe Mayor David Coss said Thursday as he announced the city’s intention to join with other municipalities in seeking specific actions to help the Colorado River. The San Juan-Chama Project, which delivers water from a Colorado River tributary to the Rio Grande, provides almost half the drinking water for Santa Fe residents through the Buckman Direct Diversion project. As water flows in the San Juan and Rio Grande shrink, there’s the potential for Santa Fe to lose the river as a source of water. The city water system has municipal reservoirs and wells supplying water as well, but those resources also will be affected by an ongoing drought.
All told, an estimated 1 million New Mexicans and 100,000 acres of farmland depend on water from the Colorado River or one of its tributaries that flow through the state. Recreation on the river and its tributaries contributes an estimated $1.7 billion to the state’s economy…
Coss and other city officials think Santa Fe is well situated to be a model for other towns. Currently, Santa Fe residents and businesses use 105 gallons per capita a day, less than several years ago.
Harold Trujillo, a farmer in Mora and vice president of the New Mexico Acequia Association, said the group is trying to help agriculture producers and acequia members find new ways to conserve water. He said the state also needs to come up with a better funding mechanism for regular maintenance, repairs and upgrades of water infrastructure.
It’s been one of those unpredictable Rocky Mountain spring/summers. One of the worst droughts in memory for most of May, June and July, and then monsoon downpours that flood both sections of the San Miguel Canyon – the Placerville to Norwood stretch first, and then a couple days later the Placerville to Deep Creek segment. The area around Newmire (Vanadium) was hit particularly hard. All the culverts got totally clogged, and water was running across the highway in one spot just upstream from the Silver Pick Road, even after most of the mud had been scraped off the highway … Road crews did a great job – both our local CDOT workers and our shorthanded but ever capable County Road and Bridge Department. Sheriff Bill Masters even did a handheld video drive-through that he posted online – better than any newscast … But, truth to tell, the unexpected is one of the things I love about the San Juans. It’s difficult terrain. Subject to rockfall, mudslide, avalanche, highway wildlife and wild storms. Not for the faint of heart … To live in the mountains, through all the various seasons – snow, mud, heat and rain – takes a special kind of person. Someone able to risk dangers and survive adversity. Soft city people need not apply. And yet even urban refugees can learn to adjust, if they’re willing. And motivated. And if they have the help of their neighbors, because that’s the secret of living in the rural West. It takes a rugged individual to cope with calamities, but it takes a community to support an individual’s grit.
The shallow aquifer that waters crops across much of the San Luis Valley continues to shrink to historically low volumes, officials with the Rio Grande Water Conservation District said Tuesday. The unconfined aquifer is down 1.3 million acre-feet from when the district began measuring it in the north-central valley in 1976 and had almost no recovery from last year, leaving many farmers with less irrigation water. “Certainly what we’re hearing is the production on the wells is getting less and less,” Steve Vandiver, the district’s general manager, said. Division Engineer Craig Cotton did not have exact figures on the number of permit applications to redrill wells received by his office.
But that number has grown as last year’s drought extended into this year. “It’s more than we had last year and the last several years,” he said.
Normally, the aquifer recharges in spring and early summer when farmers irrigate with surface water from the Rio Grande. But low flows on the Rio Grande for the last two years have limited the recharge.
A groundwater subdistrict that assesses fees on farmers for their pumping is in its second year of operation. And while its primary objective is to mitigate the impacts of pumping on surface water users, it also has the goal of raising the aquifer to at least 900,000 acres from today’s level over the next two decades.
District Engineer Allen Davey said computer modeling that would help subdistricts to form in other parts of the valley is almost complete. That state-run model would determine the amount of water that would be needed to replace depletions from pumping, but Davey said ground and surface water users still have to discuss where they might find the replacement water. “It’s quite a task to get our arms around those issues,” he said.
Imports of water from the Colorado River basin are providing a substantial amount of water to the Arkansas River basin during the drought. Almost 98,000 acre-feet of water have been imported through the three largest transmountain tunnels — Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Twin Lakes and Homestake — and more than 7,000 acre-feet through smaller tunnels and ditches. In all, the diversions added 105,500 acre-feet to the Arkansas River system this year. That amounts to about 144 cubic feet per second of river flows all day long, every day of the year in the Arkansas River. That’s a lot, considering that the flow near Salida is only around 600 cfs in the middle of summer. It’s been around 100 cfs through Pueblo most of the year, and was languishing at 270 cfs at Avondale last week.
To put it in other terms, it’s nearly four times as much water as Pueblo runs through its treated water system in a year, and about the average amount used by the Catlin Canal. According to preliminary figures from the Colorado Division of Water Resources:
The Fry-Ark Project brought over more than 46,300 acre-feet this year. It provides supplemental water to cities and farms in the Arkansas River basin.
Twin Lakes, mostly owned by Colorado Springs, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Aurora and Pueblo West, brought in 34,000 acre-feet this year.
Homestake, which delivers water to Colorado Springs and Aurora, brought in more than 17,600 acre-feet.
Busk-Ivanhoe, a tunnel owned by Pueblo and Aurora, added 3,792 acre-feet.
Columbine Ditch, near Fremont Pass and owned by Aurora and Climax, added 1,459 acre-feet.
Pueblo’s Wurtz and Ewing Ditches contributed another 2,273 acre-feet.
A series of detention ponds south of Colorado Springs to Pueblo could do nearly as much to reduce the impacts of a severe flood on Fountain Creek as one large dam. That’s the preliminary finding of a three-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey which will be completed later this year. The results were shared last week by David Mau, head of the Pueblo USGS office. “The report does not address water rights, transit loss or funding issues, just the hydrology and hydraulics,” Mau cautioned the Fountain Creek Watershed district board Friday.
The most effective means of reducing the impacts of a big flood for everyone along the creek would be to construct 44 detention ponds — water holding areas behind 10-foot berms that would not fall under the state’s classification of dams — up and down the creek to the confluence with the Arkansas River. It would include ponds on Monument Creek, the Upper Fountain and major tributaries. Combined, they would retain about 30,350 acre-feet of water and reduce the peak flow of a 100year flood by 59 percent, while reducing sediment by 18 percent.
Ponds would require regular maintenance.
An 85-foot tall dam 10 miles north of the confluence would provide nearly the same protection, reducing peak flows by 56 percent. It would retain far more sediment, reducing it by 62 percent, Mau said. That creates its own problems, however. About 64,000 tons of sediment — 2,500 truckloads of sand — plus trees and other debris would need to be cleared after a 100-year flood. The dam would have a permanent pool of 25,700 acre-feet and capture 25,000 acre-feet of flood water, as modeled in the study. It would also require moving railroad tracks and gas pipelines in Fountain Creek, as well as building a levee to protect Interstate 25.
Ultimately, the reservoir would help Pueblo, but would do little to protect El Paso County communities from flooding. It would cost hundreds of million dollars. Cost estimates have not been done in more than 40 years. Another option, however, would protect Pueblo almost as well, again with little benefit to El Paso County.
It would involve building just 10 detention ponds from Jimmy Camp Creek to Pueblo, and would have the potential of cutting the peak flows by 47 percent. The ponds would also trap less sediment, presumably requiring less maintenance and generating fewer complaints from downstream farmers who rely on flows of sediment. The ponds would have the effect of reducing a 1965-type flood to a less-damaging 1999-type flood. “When we get the $50 million from Colorado Springs, it may be a quicker fix,” said Richard Skorman, a Colorado Springs businessman and former councilman who is a member of the El Paso County stormwater task force. Skorman speculated that it would allow more time for the northern communities to solve internal stormwater problems while giving Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas Valley more peace of mind.
The detention areas could cost up to $1 million each, based on the demonstration project already in place on Pueblo’s North Side. But land acquisition costs could be higher, since the city of Pueblo already owned the land in the pilot project.
ABOUT THE STUDY
A study of dam sites on Fountain Creek by the U.S. Geological Survey won’t be finalized until later this year.
The $570,000 study included $300,000 funding from Colorado Springs as part of Pueblo County’s 1041 permit conditions for the Southern Delivery System.
It looked at 14 scenarios ranging from a few detention ponds on Monument Creek to a big dam on Fountain Creek itself.
Engineers used available records to assess how much the peak flow and sedimentation would be reduced as a result of projects at varying points along Fountain Creek.
Meanwhile the board is holding firm on their authority to review the Southern Delivery System’s potential impacts to Fountain Creek streamflow and water quality. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:
The Southern Delivery System should still be subject to review by a district formed to protect Fountain Creek, the district’s board decided Friday. Colorado Springs Utilities plans to cross Fountain Creek with its pipeline under the SDS plan. The Fountain Creek district was given primary land-use authority in the flood plain between Fountain and Pueblo, but last month El Paso County claimed that authority for utility projects.
The board plans to tell El Paso County commissioners that the county’s newly adopted 1041 regulations do not supersede the authority of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District under powers given to it by the state Legislature in 2009. A 1974 law, HB1041, allows counties to regulate projects with statewide impacts. “Why were we established?” board member Jane Rhodes asked in frustration.
“These tools on land use are tools we can use, and powers given to us by statutory right,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said, adding that the nearly broke district cannot afford its own legal counsel to protect that power.
Other Fountain Creek board members agreed and directed Executive Director Larry Small to relay their concerns to El Paso County commissioners at an Aug. 6 meeting. Even Dennis Hisey, an El Paso County commissioner, was taken aback by his board’s stance. “I don’t see how it would take our right away from this board,” he said, adding that although he directed the action, he was not among those who drafted language in the 1041.
Hart said Pueblo County has interpreted its own 1041 regulations as a layer of authority, not an absolute power. “I think our position is that any design still has to be approved by the district,” Small said.