Colorado Water Center a focus for resources, expertise

Reagan Waskom via Colorado State University
Reagan Waskom photo via Colorado State University

Here’s the release from Colorado State University:

The Colorado Water Center will be faculty-led, and all water faculty who want to affiliate with the Center will have that option in one form or another. The Water Center will be led by an 11-member Executive Committee. Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute, will serve as the Chair of the Executive Committee. Waskom said the focus of the Water Center will likely changeas it expands its scope.

“We will be looking at how to take our current areas that are strong or potentially strong, and drive them to the next level,” said Waskom. “This will evolve, but one thing we hope to accomplish at CSU is some strategic cluster hires to take us to national prominence in a few areas such as ecohydrology, or irrigation efficiency, or water for energy, to name just a couple of possibilities.”

Provost Rick Miranda said that this year the University has taken the opportunity to add some significant resources to support faculty efforts in water research, education, and outreach.

“I am delighted that Reagan Waskom will be directing our rejuvenated Water Center to deploy these resources to greatest effect,” he said. “I am grateful to the faculty committee, chaired last year by Gene Kelly, that drafted a useful roadmap to guide our efforts in the next years, and we are committed to making further investments in this direction in years to come. I expect that the Colleges will contribute with cluster hiring of faculty and I trust that they will coordinate these efforts to maximum effect as well. We’re excited!”
New projects from within

A revitalized Colorado Water Center will begin by looking within CSU for new projects, according to Waskom. The Center has just released its request for faculty proposals that include three types of grants: multi-disciplinary teams, multi-investigative teams and faculty fellows. Grants will range from $7,500 to $25,000. The deadline for applications is Oct. 21.
More information.

“We want to foster small grants that lead to big projects,” Waskom said. “We want to build teams and capacity where we have critical mass to do something big working together. We also want to help junior faculty by fostering their ideas and key projects.”

SoGES and Water Center

One of the first efforts will be immediate work on the undergraduate Water Minor, which will be housed in the School of Global Environmental Sustainability. Students from diverse disciplines with an interest in water issues will be able to obtain a minor in water studies by the 2014 spring semester.
The ties to SoGES are especially important to Diana Wall, director of SoGES, University Distinguished Professor, and Senior Research Scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory.

“Our Global Environmental Sustainability Minor is highly successful because students from all colleges want to make the future better,” said Wall. “The comprehensive knowledge they gain from the Water Minor will help them respond effectively to the risks and opportunities of other global environmental challenges. CSU students challenge CSU researchers to develop an integrated understanding of the complexity of environmental, societal, and economic issues. We are thrilled to house an undergraduate Water Minor which will enrich our offerings even more.”

Open house next week

The Water Center will host an open house 4:30-6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, to answer questions and discuss potential projects. The open house will be held in the Montreal Conference Room in SoGES’ offices at 108 Johnson Hall. Refreshments will be served.
Waskom, current president of the Colorado Water Congress, the state’s leading water organization established to provide leadership on key water resource issues, says the sky’s the limit for conceptualizing new, innovative water-related projects.

“Anything from research teams to seeking grants or initiating seed projects; art and humanities scholarships related to water; new curriculum being developed and implemented; national conferences held at CSU; book projects; visiting distinguished scientists; or invited speakers. The only limit is our imagination.”

More education coverage here.

Fountain Creek: The El Paso County Board of Commissioners approve stormwater regional solution resolution

Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater in 2011 -- photo via The Pueblo Chieftain
Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater in 2011 — photo via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):

The Board of County Commissioners voted on the resolution Tuesday, passing it by a 3-2 vote. Lathen said Darryl Glenn and Peggy Littleton cast the dissenting votes, noting that they wanted to wait until an Oct. 9 presentation by Mayor Steve Bach and consulting firm CH2M Hill before they gave their OK.

The City Council approved the same resolution 7-1 on Sept. 24. Helen Collins opposed it and council member Andy Pico was absent.

Bach has opposed the resolutions while awaiting the consultant’s input.

The commissioners had voted unanimously to approve a resolution in February, but the City Council waited until April after Bach insisted that a private study needed to be done. The mayor also said in February that the decision needed to wait for the new council, which was seated in April.

The outgoing council defied the mayor’s request and passed a regional stormwater resolution as one of its last actions. Scott Hente, the outgoing council president, said after the April 9 vote, “Stormwater is not politics. Stormwater is floods coming into your home. This is something that’s important to the community,” he said.

Lathen echoed Hente’s statement Wednesday when asked why the city and county needed to pass the recent resolutions after both government bodies had already voted in the joint effort. The commissioner stressed that this time, City Council and the BOCC each endorsed the same plan.

“This one is the same resolution signed by both bodies, and we’re excited about that,” Lathen said.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

For more than a year, local officials have been trying to figure out what to do about drainage. The long-overdue debate has centered on whether it’s best for Colorado Springs to go its own way, as Mayor Steve Bach wishes, or whether all agencies in the watershed need to cooperate to tackle the problem, which by one estimate will cost nearly $1 billion.

Next week, things will come to a head when Bach unveils his long-awaited proposal, along with a report from consultant CH2MHill about whether the city’s projects list alone really totals some $700 million.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Apparently, Fountain Creek is a moving target when it comes to Bureau of Reclamation environmental impact studies. Buried in the documents regarding the Arkansas Valley Conduit and master storage contract for Lake Pueblo released in August is Reclamation’s response to a concern raised by Pueblo County last year.

In a Nov. 30, 2012, letter, Pueblo County’s water attorney Ray Petros asked about the discrepancy of flows on Fountain Creek between the EIS for Southern Delivery System and the conduit when it comes to Colorado Springs’ repeal of its stormwater enterprise in 2009.

Petros also asked if Reclamation intended to reopen the SDS environmental study in light of the stormwater repeal, especially looking at the cumulative impacts of both projects.

Reclamation responded that it would not open a new investigation of Fountain Creek flows because additional storage contracts for some El Paso County cities that are tied into the conduit EIS would have only negligible impact on Fountain Creek.

With regard to the discrepancy in flows on Fountain Creek — they are reduced by 12 percent in the conduit-master contract study — Reclamation responded that different time frames were used. The SDS study looked at 2006 and compared it to 2046 projections, while the conduit study looked at 2010 and compared it to 2070.

The lack of a Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise is of concern to Pueblo County commissioners because it was in existence when a previous board issued a 1041 land-use permit in 2009. Commissioners are evaluating Colorado Springs compliance with 1041 conditions.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is preparing a federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation over its lack of action on a request to reopen the EIS for SDS because of the stormwater issue.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Environment Colorado releases report — ‘Fracking by the Numbers’

Dilbert's company embraces hydraulic fracturing for competitive advantage
Dilbert’s company embraces hydraulic fracturing for competitive advantage

Here’s the release from Environment Colorado:

As Colorado assesses the extent of pollution from gas drilling sites swamped by September’s flood, a new report charges that since 2005, fracking operations in Colorado have generated 2.2 billion gallons of toxic wastewater. The Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center report “Fracking by the Numbers” is the first of its kind to measure the footprint of fracking in Colorado to date.

“The numbers don’t lie—fracking has taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment. If fracking continues unchecked, these numbers will only get more dire,” said Lindsey Wilson, field associate from Environment Colorado. “At the very least we need to make sure that the oil and gas industry is subject to standard environmental laws, like our nation’s hazardous waste law.”

Water contamination—especially after the recent flooding across the front range—is a real concern. Cliff Willmeng, a trauma nurse who has been involved in East Boulder County’s efforts to ban fracking, was one of the first to document damaged oil and gas infrastructure during the Front Range’s historic floods. “All of these sites contain various amounts of hazardous industrial wastes that are capable of spilling into the waterways and onto agricultural land,” said Willmeng. “Many of these chemicals are carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and known endocrine disruptors.”

In addition, the “Fracking by the Numbers” report measures other key indicators of fracking threats in Colorado, including 38,150 tons of air pollution produced in 2012, and 23 million tons of global warming pollution since 2005.

The state of Colorado currently regulates oil and gas drilling, but several local communities have moved forward to ban fracking—even with the threat of lawsuits by the state looming over their heads.

“State officials must allow cities, towns, and counties to protect their own communities from the dangers that oil and gas development pose through local bans and restrictions on fracking,” said Boulder City Councilor Macon Cowles. “It is not just City Councilors who are concerned about fracking, but entire communities.”

Colorado ranks near the top of the list for all key indicators of fracking threats in the national data. In addition to the 2.2 billion gallons of toxic wastewater produced, 57,000 acres of land has been damaged by fracking since 2005—which is equivalent to one third of the acreage of Colorado’s state park system.

“The bottom line is this: The numbers on fracking add up to an environmental nightmare,” said Wilson. “For public health and our environment, we need to put a stop to fracking.”

At the federal level, the Obama administration received more than one million comments last month calling for much stronger protections from fracking for national forests and national parks. In addition, Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania (D-Scranton) has introduced the CLEANER Act (H.R. 2825)—a bill to close the loophole exempting oil and gas waste from the nation’s hazardous waste law.

“The data from today’s report shows that Coloradans are not protected from this dirty drilling,” said Wilson. “Federal officials must step in; they can start by keeping fracking out of our forests and closing the loophole exempting toxic fracking waste from our nation’s hazardous waste law.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

USFWS: Golden eagle attacks deer – photos of an epic confrontation

Cache la Poudre River: The Colorado Water Trust is spearheading a diversion dam removal and restoration project

The soon to be removed Josh Ames diversion on the Poudre River -- photo via the Fort Collins Coloradaon
The soon to be removed Josh Ames diversion on the Poudre River — photo via the Fort Collins Coloradaon

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

A decades-old water diversion that stretches across the river about a quarter mile west of Shields Street is scheduled to be removed in November. The Josh Ames diversion, which backs up the river about 100 yards, formerly fed an irrigation ditch that was abandoned in 1985.

Once the 8-foot-tall concrete wall and stout headgate that make up the diversion are removed, the river will flow freely with fish-friendly pools and riffles. “It will look like a natural river that doesn’t have a barrier across it,” said Tara Schutter, an engineer working with the Colorado Water Trust. “It will look nice.”[…]

Removing the diversion is connected to a series of projects the city of Fort Collins has going aimed at restoring the river and improving habitat. The projects include lowering the north bank of the Poudre near the North Shields Ponds Natural Area so the river can better connect with its natural floodplain.

Other projects linked to the restoration effort include replacing the Shields Street bridge over the Poudre River. Larimer County expects to replace the bridge in 2015.

Taking out the diversion structure is a critical piece of the overall project, said Rick Bachand of the Fort Collins Natural Areas Program and the project manager.

Occasional floodwater from the river will rejuvenate the area’s vegetation and boost habitat for a variety of aquatic creatures, he said. Public access to the ponds area will include pedestrian and bike trails.

More Cache la Poudre River coverage here and here.

The Colorado Ag Water Alliance and the Arkansas River Basin Roundtable workshop on the value of agriculture, October 7

Flood irrigation -- photo via the CSU Water Center
Flood irrigation — photo via the CSU Water Center

From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Candace Krebs):

On Monday, Oct. 7, water users, managers and economists will converge in Colorado Springs to discuss how to more thoroughly and accurately value water being used for agricultural production. “There are a lot of byproducts from ag production that people don’t even think about,” said Charlie Bartlett, a Merino farmer and current chairman of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance, which is hosting the workshop in conjunction with the Arkansas River Basin Roundtable.

Viable farms don’t just raise food; the commodities they produce contribute to a wide range of consumer and industrial products ranging from cosmetics to plastics, he said. Farms also preserve open space and create a refuge for birds and wildlife. Irrigation use is often responsible for maintaining stream flow, which in turn contributes to fish populations, human recreation and scenic value.

In addition, proper agricultural management provides for conservation and stewardship of natural resources, added Bartlett, as he listed off many indirect and hard-to-measure attributes of ag water use.

“We think it’s pretty important to get people thinking and to walk them through some of the possible scenarios,” he said. “If we divert water away from agriculture, we’re not only losing one of our key economic drivers, we’re losing our ability to have locally produced feed, fuel and fiber.”

Monday’s workshop is aimed at decision-makers who participate in the development of water management policies throughout the state of Colorado. Prominent legal and economic experts will share their expertise and experience.

Floodwaters have receded but health hazards have not #COflood

The mouth of Poudre Canyon September 2013 -- Photo / Drew Fisher
The mouth of Poudre Canyon September 2013 — Photo / Drew Fisher

From the Northeast Colorado Health Department via the Sterling Journal-Advocate:

The Northeast Colorado Health Department would like to remind everyone that receding flood waters don’t take all the danger with them. “Even though many residents may not have been directly affected by major flooding, there are still many lingering health and safety issues that all residents need to be aware of as we continue to clean-up and recover from this disaster,” said Dr. Tony Cappello, NCHD’s public health director.

Puddles, rivers and streams: While these may look like fun to play in, after a flood they can be deeper than they look and can be dangerous. In addition, flood waters should be considered contaminated, this water is not safe to be in at this time without proper protective equipment.

Animals: After a flood, you may find creatures in your house and yard that weren’t there before, like insects and spiders, stray dogs, or wild animals. Rabies, as well as West Nile virus, is still an issue in northeast Colorado so it’s important to follow these rules; Stay away from strange dogs and cats and other wild animals, they may be lost and scared and may bite you even though you are trying to help them. This is not the time to take in stray animals, contact animal control in your area if you come across one. If you find your dog or cat, wait and let it come to you, then consider taking it to the veterinarian for a checkup. If you see a snake, don’t touch it. Most snakes are not poisonous, but it’s best to be cautious. It is normal to see a lot of spiders and insects after a flood, especially mosquitoes. You can protect yourself from bites by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and wearing an insect repellent. Do not play in or near puddles or anywhere there is standing water. Do not touch dead animals with your bare hands. Be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands afterward. Wash your hands often.

If you touch anything that has been in the flood water, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before eating or even putting your hands near your face. If flood water touches cuts and scrapes, wash them right away.

Dr. Cappello would also like to remind residents that NCHD is providing FREE tetanus shots to anyone who had direct contact with flood waters or who are starting to clean up and have contact with flood debris. Walk-in clinics are scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25 and Friday, Sept. 27 at NCHD’s Sterling office, located at 700 Columbine St., from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; and at the Merino Community Center on Thursday, Sept., 26 from 6 – 10 p.m. NCHD is also offering free water testing for those whose wells had flooding over the well head.

In addition, NCHD has several fact sheets located under the Flood Resources page on their website. This page can be accessed on their main page, http://www.nchd.org, and it’s located on the right side under the Current Events tab. The fact sheets include information on crop and garden safety after a flood,cleanup after a disaster, cleanup after residential sanitary sewer backups, food and water safety after a flood, cleaning and sanitizing with bleach after an emergency, and information on what to do if your well or septic system floods.