The latest newsletter from the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University is hot off the press #ColoradoRiver


Click here to read the newsletter.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Chatfield Reallocation Project update: ‘We seem to be getting there, finally’ — Randy Knutson


From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Weld County farmers working against the clock to acquire more water could finally be nearing the finish line in one of their endeavors.

This month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moved forward with its plan to nearly double the size of Chatfield Reservoir south of Denver — a project that would store and deliver more water to farmers in the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley, along with other water users. After conversations of the project started in the 1980s and permitting efforts began in the mid 2000s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final environmental impact study of the Chatfield Reallocation Project earlier this month and will accept comments regarding its final EIS until Tuesday. Afterward, recommendations will be forwarded to the assistant secretary to the Corps of Engineers, who will make the final decision.

Central Water executive director Randy Ray and Randy Knutson — a Weld County farmer who serves on the board of directors for Central Water — both said the final decision on the project could be released as early as the start of 2014. “We seem to be getting there, finally,” Knutson said. “It’s a good thing.”

Central Water, which provides augmentation water to more than 100,000 acres of irrigated farm ground in the area, is one of 11 water-providers participating in the proposed Chatfield project. The $184 million Chatfield Reallocation Project would raise the Denver-area lake by as much as 12 feet, and, in doing so, would provide an additional 2,849 acre-feet of water annually to some of Central’s users.

But before additional water can be stored at Chatfield Reservoir, facilities at the state park must be relocated to higher ground and new wildlife habitats must be created, along with many other measures.

While farmers in Weld County and others have supported the project, some people have been against it, questioning if enough efforts are in place to mitigate the potential impacts to wildlife and recreation in the area.

Local farmers say they need to secure such water supplies, and quickly, because the cities around them are growing and are increasing their own water needs.

Central Water and the farmers within its boundaries have long been dependent on leasing excess water from local cities, but those supplies are becoming more limited, and expensive. Farmers need augmentation water to make up for depletions to the aquifer and surrounding surface flows caused by pumping water out of the ground.

In addition to battling cities for supplies, more augmentation water is needed since many of the groundwater wells in Central Water’s boundaries were either curtailed or shut down in 2006, when the state made augmentation requirements more stringent. Some farmers haven’t been able to use their wells since then because they haven’t had the necessary amount of augmentation water to do so.

More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here.

51st State Initiative (secession): ‘I don’t have time for things I don’t think are serious or have any credibility’ — Terry Hart


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Nick Bonham):

The push of some in Northern Colorado to secede from the state have invited southern communities to join, including Pueblo. Members of the 51st State Initiative met this week with commissioners from Huerfano and Las Animas counties.

The group asked for a meeting with Pueblo County commissioners as well, but they declined the invitation. “We’re not interested in meeting with them. Thanks, but no thanks,” Commission Chairman Terry Hart said. “I don’t see it as a serious political issue at all. I’m not in favor of it. We are tackling a number of incredibly serious issues right now. I don’t have time for things I don’t think are serious or have any credibility.”

Commissioners in Huerfano and Las Animas said they listened to the group’s presentation but are far from making a decision. “We understand the concerns Northern Colorado has about what’s been going on in the last several years. We’ve not taken any formal action. I don’t know if we want to at this point. We’ve just listened to the presentation and understand what’s it’s about,” said Max Vezzani, a Republican and Huerfano County commissioner.

Mack Louden, a Republican commissioner in Las Animas County, said the meeting was informative, but he still has questions. “Like with every new thing, you have to peel back the skin and see what’s underneath,” Louden said.

The drive behind the Northern Colorado secession is the turn in state politics and policy priorities that favors urban and metro Front Range communities, not rural Colorado. Actions and laws by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature on gun-control measures and renewable energy standard for rural electric cooperatives are issues in the movement.

Jeff Hare, a movement leader, said their idea was well-received in Huerfano and Las Animas counties. “The primary emphasis we’re talking about in the movement is restoring liberty; restoring it to the local level with emphasis on local control, and both of them liked that message and that idea. We have a lot of ideas and wanted to fill them in. Both (counties) were open to the idea and we’re interested in hearing from those folks in the community,” Hare said.

More coverage from Analisa Romano writing for The Greeley Tribune:

Lincoln County commissioners on Friday joined nine other northeastern Colorado counties in placing the 51st state initiative on this November’s election ballot.

Lincoln commissioners originally dropped the initiative earlier this year when those interested in the secession plan met in Akron , but Lincoln County Commission Chairman Ted Lyons said several dozen people representing all areas of the county turned out Friday to plead with commissioners to place the initiative on the ballot. “We don’t have a problem putting it on the ballot and giving the opportunity to vote for it one way or the other,” Lyons said.

He said more than anything it’s an opportunity to express discontent over what all of those involved in the 51st state initiative say is an urban attack on rural industries and lifestyles.

Lincoln Commissioner Greg King said he is not in favor of the 51st state, but he agrees rural needs and protests are falling on deaf ears at the state capitol. King said he prefers the Phillips County proposal, which aims to change representation in the state Legislature so that rural representatives can carry more weight with their votes.

Commissioner Doug Stone echoed some of Lyons’ comments. “I’m not very convinced we are ready to jump on the bandwagon right now, but we are putting it on the ballot to see how other people feel in Lincoln County.”

Elbert County commissioners on Wednesday joined the 51st state movement, meaning the effort is up to 11 counties total in Colorado that have placed the secession measure on their ballots, including Moffat County, which is in the northwestern corner of the state.

According to the Sky-Hi Daily News, Grand County commissioners will consider secession ballot language on Tuesday. Grand County sits on the western side of Boulder County.

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said on Friday he has also heard rumblings that Mesa, Las Animas and Huerfano counties are considering a vote for 51st state ballot language next week.

“We’re going to end up with far more counties than we ever thought we would have,” Conway said.

Mesa County sits on Colorado’s western border and is not contiguous with Moffat County. Las Animas sits on Colorado’s southern border near the east corner, and Huerfano County borders it to the northwest.

Commissioners have until Sept. 6 to send ballot measures to their county clerks.

More 51st State Initiative coverage here.

Salida wastewater treatment plant tour


From The Mountain Mail (Casey Kelly):

City staff led residents through Salida’s largest capital improvement project to date, the Wastewater Treatment Plant, during an open house Thursday [August 15]. Salida Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager Randy Sack led about 37 residents through the plant for the first tour of the day, explaining the process that raw sewage takes through the plant to become clean, disinfected water.

Raw sewage enters the facility in the pretreatment area of the plant’s west side. The sewage is run through a bar screen to separate inorganic and organic material and sent to the primary treatment area. In primary treatment, the waste is run through the plant’s clarifier to be separated. Heavy organic materials sink to the bottom and are sent to the anaerobic digester, while the liquids are sent to the secondary treatment area.

In the secondary treatment area, the sewage flows into the Integrated Fixed-film Activated Sludge (IFAS) system, which removes ammonia nitrogen and suspended solids with the help of bacteria in the IFAS system.

After the IFAS system, the water is run through a second clarifier to further separate the materials. Organic material is sent to the anaerobic digester, and liquids are sent to tertiary treatment.

In tertiary treatment, the liquids are run through disk filters to remove any remaining organic material, and the water is then passed under ultraviolet light to kill any remaining bacteria or viruses before flowing out into the Arkansas River.

Organic materials removed from the sewage during the process are taken to the anaerobic digester, where bacteria break down the material into gases, biosolids and water. The biosolids are removed and sent to processing, and the gas is captured and used to heat the facility.

In biosolid processing, the solids are laid out to dry, decompose and sanitize for 1 year. After a year, the facility offers the material free of charge to the public for use as fertilizer.

The new plant has improved the plant’s ability to filter out gases and solids from the water that is drained into the Arkansas River. The outgoing water now meets Environmental Protection Agency regulations that weren’t met prior to the plant’s upgrade.

For instance, the plant has seen a 99.9-percent reduction in ammonia nitrogen in outgoing water, from 27.6 milligrams per liter in 2012 to 0.008 milligrams per liter in July. The EPA maximum limit for ammonia nitrogen is 18 milligrams per liter. The plant has seen a 91-percent decrease in the amount of “suspended solids” in water sent from the plant into the river, from 40 milligrams per liter in 2012 to 3.5 milligrams per liter in July. The EPA maximum limit for suspended solids is 30 milligrams per liter.

More from the article:

Wastewater Treatment Plant finances

• Total cost of the project: $17.6 million.

• How it’s being financed: a $12.1 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a $1.35 million Department of Local Affairs grant (with matching funds from the city) and a $2.6 million USDA loan the city received in 2009.

• Terms/rates: 40-year term at an interest rate of 2.5 percent.

• How it’s being paid for: City Administrator Dara MacDonald said in April when the city adjusted sewer rates, it was done in anticipation of the facility upgrade and the debt service that would come along with it. She said then that revenue from the city’s sewer enterprise fund is projected to cover the cost of the annual payments, along with the plant’s operation and annual maintenance costs.

• Annual payments: The city is required to make a minimum payment of $480,405 each year, but it can make higher payments to lower the amount of total interest paid over the life of the loan. If the city makes only the minimum payments, it will pay $7.1 million in interest over the life of the loan.

City Finance Director Jan Schmidt suggested at a February city council meeting that the city make payments of $542,844, which assumed the previous higher interest rate, which would have the city paying off the loan 8 years earlier and saving nearly $2.5 million in interest. Council will decide each year during the annual budget process whether to pay the minimum or the higher annual payment. She said the city is scheduled to make its first annual payment of $542,844 in September.

More wastewater coverage here.

Public fish salvage begins at Barr Lake August 30


Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is announcing a public fish salvage at Barr Lake State Park beginning today, August 30. Due to high irrigation demand created by severe drought, the water level in Barr Lake will be drained to a conservation level of 442 acre feet to meet the needs of its intended agricultural use.

The public salvage is being announced in order to optimize use of the fishery resource as outlined:

–A valid Colorado fishing license is required in accordance with state statutes.

–A state parks pass is required ($7 Daily Pass or $70 Annual Pass).

–All legal fishing methods are allowed.

–Small boats such as kayaks or canoes can be launched –no large boats allowed.

–Bag, possession and size limits are suspended for Barr Lake only until this emergency public salvage is lifted.

The end date of the public salvage effort will be announced by Park Manager Michelle Seubert or district wildlife manager Joe Padia.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

CSU Professor Ellen Wohl Awarded American Geophysical Union 2013 Fellowship


Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

Colorado State University Geology Professor Ellen E. Wohl has been selected as a 2013 Fellow of the American Geophysical Union for her continued leadership in the geologic world. Only 0.1 percent of AGU members across the country are selected to join the prestigious ranks of Fellows each year, and this year features the highest number of female AGU Fellows ever selected.

With the primary qualification for the elite program being “a major breakthrough or discovery, paradigm shift, or sustained impact,” Wohl was selected for her ongoing, groundbreaking contributions to understanding the geomorphology, evolution, and restoration of mountain, bedrock, and tropical rivers. Wohl will be formally awarded with her Fellowship on Wednesday, Dec. 11, during the Honors Ceremony and Banquet held at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

Wohl has been a professor in the renowned Department of Geosciences at CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources for 24 years, and has been invited to present her work at universities and symposiums around the world. Her primary interest area is fluvial geomorphology, with a focus on bedrock canyons and mountain rivers. Among her current research projects are long-term monitoring of in-stream wood and logjams in the mountainous headwaters of Rocky Mountain National Park, and the effects of logjams and beaver dams on channel complexity, productivity of the river ecosystems, and carbon storage.

“Professor Wohl is a leader in the geosciences field who has been driving innovative science through her collaborative research across Colorado and around the world,” said Joyce Berry, dean of CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources. “The College is honored to have her as a member of our faculty, and our students’ academic and professional careers an enriched by her inspired teaching.”

Among her many career honors, Wohl is also a Geological Society of America Fellow and has received numerous awards, including the Gladys W. Cole Memorial Award from the Geological Society of America; Kirk Bryan Award, Geological Society of America; G.K. Gilbert Award, Association of American Geographers; and the Award for Outstanding Contributions to Interdisciplinary Water Education, Research, and Outreach, Colorado State University Water Center.

Reclamation: Nine Projects Selected to Share $1.1 Million for Desalination and Water Purification Research


Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor announced that nine entities will share more than $1.1 million in awards in support of laboratory and pilot scale research studies in the field of water desalination and purification. Through required cost shares of up to 75%, Reclamation’s funding will be leveraged to support a total of $3 million in research.

“Desalination and other advanced water treatment technologies have the potential to provide new water sources for communities,” Commissioner Connor said. “This research effort will examine innovative technologies that have the potential to reduce the cost of treating brackish water – helping to create new tools for addressing future water challenges.”

The funding was provided through Reclamation’s Desalination and Water Purification Research Program. Through this program, Reclamation works in partnership with entities to develop more cost-effective and efficient ways to desalinate water.

The laboratory scale projects selected for funding this year are:

  • Membrane Structural and Transport Fundamentals for Augmenting Traditional Water Supplies; Pennsylvania State University, $95,467 – This project will look at developing detailed metrics to learn how current membranes could be improved for inland water treatment challenges. The purpose is to demonstrate the feasibility of low-energy membranes for inland water treatment applications and augmenting usable water supplies for inland states.
  • Evaluation of a Small Rural Community Zero Liquid Discharge Desalination System; Trussell Technologies Inc; $149,446 – Trussell Technologies of Pasadena, Calif., will perform a process evaluation study on a unique, zero liquid discharge desalination system specifically being used for a small, rural community. This research will aid in development of zero liquid discharge water treatment system for small rural communities at a reasonable cost and with a realistic operation strategy.
  • Energy-efficient and Sustainable, Microbial Electrolysis-Deionization System for Salt and Organics Removal; University of Tennessee, $150,000 – The University of Tennessee will investigate the capability of combining microbes and electrolysis to treat wastewater and produced water to augment water resources and water reuse for various uses. This combination of treatments can provide a sustainable treatment option while recovering energy and nutrients.
  • Barometric Evaporator Desalination Project; Sephton Water Technology, $29,836 – Sephton Water Technology, Inc. of Kensington, Calif., will test a prototype barometric evaporator at the existing pilot facility in Imperial County, Calif., which is currently testing the vertical tube evaporator technology. The goal of this project is to test the barometric evaporator prototype and apply the technology to provide steam generation for a vertical tube evaporator to treat water at the Salton Sea.
  • Autonomous Low Energy Consumption Cyclic Desalination Systems; University of California Los Angeles, $150,000 – University of California, Los Angeles has proposed a new technology concept of cyclic reverse osmosis in order to obtain a smaller and mobile unit to treat impaired and underutilized water sources. It is expected that the operational and configuration flexibilities of this technology will enable a wide variety of water sources over a wider range of salinities while using optimal energy.
  • Operation of Commercial Sized Solar Desalination Still; Suns River, $45,022 – Suns River, located in Many, La., will continue its research and work on a solar desalination still that has been tested at a small scale at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Facility last year. A larger scale solar still will be constructed to help further research already conducted and identify feasibility of the solar still to treat brackish groundwater in small rural areas.
  • Evaluation and Development of a New Type of Polymer-based Water Desalination Membrane; University of Colorado, $134,544 – The University of Colorado will investigate two aspects of a new thin film composite lyotropic liquid crystal polymer membrane system; scaling up the preparation of the new membrane material and design more economical and easily synthesized monomers. This new membrane is focused to work as a nanofiltration and reverse osmosis type polyamide membrane.
  • The pilot scale projects selected for funding are:

  • City of Corpus Christi Desalination Pilot Study; City of Corpus Christi, Texas, $200,000 – Corpus Christi has been dealing with drastic drought conditions over the last decade and this pilot project will aid in exploring a variety of options to optimize the pre-treatment process. The results will form the basis of design for a full-scale facility including operating parameters, cost information and product water quality to assess feasibility of a seawater and/or brackish groundwater supply.
  • Reverse Osmosis Concentrate Management through Halophyte Farming; University of Arizona, $148,053 – This project will continue building on some previous research done in the area of concentrate management via halophyte farming and using this salt resistant crop to manage concentrate produced from water desalination. The pilot project would be conducted at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Facility in Alamogordo, N.M., and will enable the construction of the agricultural research testing area at the facility.
  • Successful applicants were chosen through a competitive, merit-reviewed process. Entities that were eligible include individuals, institutions of higher education, commercial or industrial organizations, private entities, public entities or Indian Tribal governments. Entities, except institutions of higher learning, must cost-share at least 75% of the project cost.

    You can learn more about Advanced Water Treatment at:

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.