Two water districts in Southern California will spend a total of $US 80 million this year to tear out lawns, replace inefficient toilets, and purchase more water imported from the Colorado River, a distant source that itself is in a 14-year dry spell.
Farther north, a district east of Sacramento, in an attempt to cut water consumption by 40 percent, is considering a dramatic rate increase for the heaviest users.
Taken together, the economic responses to the drought reveal two consequences: that the price of water will rise to pay for these programs and that this drought, if it continues much longer, will test the financial stability of many municipal water systems, which are tapping reserves and face higher prices for water delivered by state and federal canals.
“In a prolonged drought, a simultaneous increase in water prices and reduction in usage would put import-dependent utilities under pressure, forcing large and difficult-to-impose rate increases,” claims Fitch Ratings, a credit rating agency.
Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:
Gov. John Hickenlooper submitted today the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Partial Action Plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The State must submit the Partial Action Plan before receiving the $62.8 million in CDBG-DR Funds that HUD allocated to flood impacted communities in Colorado. The money will go toward needs not addressed through other sources of federal assistance, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“We are submitting our action plan 30 days in advance of our deadline in an effort to expedite the money coming to Colorado,” Hickenlooper said. “The CDBG-DR funds are critical to the recovery effort. Our Action Plan will allow homeowners, businesses and communities to prioritize their unmet needs and apply to the State based on those community priorities.”
Colorado’s CDBG-DR Partial Action Plan provides for grant and loan programs that will be available to flood impacted communities in housing, infrastructure and economic development. The initial allocation of the $62.8 million was announced during a December 2013 visit to Colorado from HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.
In a letter to Donovan, Hickenlooper thanked him and the Colorado Congressional Delegation for their “partnership and leadership” in bringing these important disaster recovery funds to Colorado. Hickenlooper acknowledged in the letter the public’s valuable feedback incorporated into the Partial Action Plan, “Coloradans are resilient and their commitment to building back stronger and better is reflected in this Action Plan.”
HUD requires that 50 percent of the CDBG-DR funds benefit low- to moderate-income households and that 80 percent of the funds be distributed in Boulder, Larimer and Weld counties. The remaining 20 percent can be distributed among the other 11 counties in the September Presidential Declaration.
HUD has up to 45 days to approve Colorado’s Initial Partial Action Plan, making funds available sometime in April. The Partial Action Plan, eligibility requirements and the application process for these funds can be found online at http://dola.colorado.gov/cdbg-dr.
Here’s the abstract from the USGS (Joshua I. Linard/Keelin R. Schaffrath):
Elevated concentrations of salinity and selenium in the tributaries and main-stem reaches of the Colorado River are a water-quality concern and have been the focus of remediation efforts for many years. Land-management practices with the objective of limiting the amount of salt and selenium that reaches the stream have focused on improving the methods by which irrigation water is conveyed and distributed. Federal land managers implement improvements in accordance with the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act of 1974, which directs Federal land managers to enhance and protect the quality of water available in the Colorado River. In an effort to assist in evaluating and mitigating the detrimental effects of salinity and selenium, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado River Water Resources District, and the Bureau of Land Management, analyzed salinity and selenium data collected at sites to develop regression models. The study area and sites are on the Colorado River or in one of three small basins in Western Colorado: the White River Basin, the Lower Gunnison River Basin, and the Dolores River Basin. By using data collected from water years 2009 through 2011, regression models able to estimate concentrations were developed for salinity at six sites and selenium at six sites. At a minimum, data from discrete measurement of salinity or selenium concentration, streamflow, and specific conductance at each of the sites were needed for model development. Comparison of the Adjusted R2 and standard error statistics of the two salinity models developed at each site indicated the models using specific conductance as the explanatory variable performed better than those using streamflow. The addition of multiple explanatory variables improved the ability to estimate selenium concentration at several sites compared with use of solely streamflow or specific conductance. The error associated with the log-transformed salinity and selenium estimates is consistent in log space; however, when the estimates are transformed into non-log values, the error increases as the estimates decrease. Continuous streamflow and specific conductance data collected at study sites provide the means to examine temporal variability in constituent concentration and load. The regression models can estimate continuous concentrations or loads on the basis of continuous specific conductance or streamflow data. Similar estimates are available for other sites at the USGS National Real-Time Water Quality Web page (http://nrtwq.usgs.gov) and provide water-resource managers with a means of improving their general understanding of how constituent concentration or load can change annually, seasonally, or in real time.
He said the fluid used in the hydraulic fracking, as it is called, process is 99 percent water and sand, with only a small percentage being added chemicals.
“It really is just water and sands that goes down a hole,” Fronczak said.
He said vertical fracking uses between 375,000 and 410,000 gallons of water while the more frequently used horizontal fracking uses between 2 and 4 million gallons.
“There’s a lot of logistics handling water,” he said. “We don’t want to shut down a frack due to water.”
Fronczak used a variety of charts to show the association members how the actual fracking is only a small portion of what is done with the industry’s water. Initially, water has to be sourced, then transported or transferred to the fracking site. After it is brought out of the fracking hole, the water has to be contained and treated.
“The challenge is meeting that high rate of demand in a short period of time,” Fronczak said.
He discussed the limitations of trucking water to fracking sites and the use of piping to transfer the water over distances. This also allows the industry to decrease its carbon footprint.
“Where there’s a lot of activity, there’s not a lot water,” he said, adding that industry members have work to find solutions to the water issue. “Closest water isn’t always the best. From a quality standpoint as well as from a logistical standpoint.”
Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, guaranteed that outcome [no legislative lawn limits this session] Friday when she changed her bill to limit lawn sizes into a study to be conducted this summer by the Legislature’s water committee.
Roberts had been promoting an idea by Durango water engineer Steve Harris, who proposed limiting new lawns to 15 percent of a lot if the subdivision used water converted from agricultural use. Western Slope water conservation districts got behind the idea after years of watching farms dry up when farmers sell their water rights to cities.
“No matter where you stand on this bill, you might want to contemplate what the future of Colorado is,” Roberts told senators Friday…
Roberts said she wasn’t attacking lawns, and she’s not trying to turn the Front Range into Phoenix or Las Vegas, where some lawns are not allowed. But she wants homeowners to use more water-efficient plants and create a “Colorado landscape.”
“It’s a landscape in our front yards that actually matches our topography and our climate,” Roberts said.
From the Associated Press (Kristen Wyatt) via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:
…Roberts ran into opposition from her own party. Other Republicans said the lawn limit idea was too heavy-handed on local governments, which control zoning and local land use. And some argued the bill improperly targeted residential water use but not agricultural water use.
“Why are we just attacking our green lawns?” asked Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley.
The Senate amended the bill and decided to study the lawn problem instead, sending the question to a committee of 10 state lawmakers that reviews water policy and suggests new laws. The Colorado Water Conservation Board won’t look at the 15 percent limit, but would instead be broadly instructed to look at residential and municipal water use.
The bill awaits a more formal vote in the Senate before it heads to the House.
Even in its weaker form, it sparked a lively debate among both parties about how boldly Colorado needs to address drought, water use and population growth.
Sen. Vicki Marble, a Fort Collins Republican, said Colorado needs to build more water storage, not limits on household lawns.
“We can restrict ourselves into oblivion and the greatest Dust Bowl we’ve ever seen,” Marble said.
Roberts said the bill would have set the first statewide lawn limit of its kind anywhere in the nation. Some municipalities already limit lawns, and the water district serving San Antonio, Texas, last year offered homeowners $100 vouchers in exchange of removing at least 200 square feet of lawn.