Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation April 1 to April 27, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center
Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation April 1 to April 27, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Aspen: City Council approves instream flow for the Roaring Fork River through town

Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy
Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

In an effort to improve the aquatic environment of the Roaring Fork River as it flows through central Aspen, the city of Aspen has agreed to leave 2 to 3 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water in the river during low-flow periods this summer instead of diverting it into the Wheeler Ditch.

The Wheeler Ditch diverts water from the Fork a short distance downstream from the Aspen Club pedestrian bridge and just below Ute Park, east of Aspen. The headgate for the irrigation ditch is on the left side of the river, when looking downstream, and is visible from the upper end of the city’s Wheeler Ditch Trail.

The water in the ditch is typically used to supply small channels in the downtown pedestrian malls, to irrigate some city property, and to keep a base flow running through the city’s stormwater system.

The Aspen city council on Monday approved an agreement with the nonprofit Colorado Water Trust to leave the water in the river when river flows drop below 32 cfs, the amount identified by the state as necessary to protect the river’s environment “to a reasonable degree.”[…]

It’s the second year the city has entered into such an agreement with the Water Trust, which works to bolster flows in rivers across the state.

Last year the city announced that it would leave between 6 and 8 cfs of water in the river, but experience showed that it was more practical to leave 2 to 3 cfs, according David Hornbacher, the director of utilities and environmental initiatives for the city.

The city owns an 1889 senior water right to divert up to 10 cfs from the Fork into the Wheeler Ditch.

The agreement with the Water Trust says the city will begin bypassing water from the Wheeler Ditch when the river drops below 32 cfs. If the river drops to 31 cfs, the city will bypass 1 cfs, and so on, until the point when there is at least one cfs left in the ditch…

“The Water Trust brings structure to the effort,” Hornbacher said. “They bring resources. And they provide a framework to work toward other future agreements to benefit the river.”[…]

This year, Twin Lakes expects to divert about 55,000 acre-feet of water from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork.

Further downstream and just east of Aspen, the Salvation Ditch in mid-to-late summer often diverts more water than is left in the river below the ditch’s diversion structure…

The Salvation Ditch, which has a water right from 1902 to divert 58 cfs, was diverting 17.4 cfs that day, leaving 7.6 cfs of water flowing in the Fork.

Another 2.4 cfs was then diverted into the Wheeler Ditch that day, leaving just 5.2 cfs flowing in the river as it made its way past Rio Grande Park, the Aspen Art Museum, and under the Mill Street Bridge.

That’s a far cry from the 32 cfs the state says is required to protect the river’s aquatic environment, and the city’s effort this summer is intended to help close such gaps.

“I appreciate the city’s leadership, as it can help start the conversation,” said [Amy Beatie] of the Water Trust. “We would love everyone to really sit down and think about what they have and how they could use it strategically to put water back in the river.”

More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: The storms over the weekend boosted snowpack in southwestern Colorado #COdrought

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Cindy Kleh):

[Winter Park Resort’s] snow total for the entire season stands at 376 inches – more than 31 feet – the most since 2011, according to Steve Hurlbert, Winter Park’s Director of Public Relations and Communications. “We were 28 inches ahead of our historical average of 348 inches, which dates back to when snow records began being kept in 1976. In March, we had 61.5 inches and April finished strong with 37.5 inches, which is almost exactly average (for April).”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Snow has started melting, but water officials still expect a banner spring runoff.

“We’re running water through the Boustead Tunnel, and the native flows in the Arkansas River basin have picked up,” said Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project for the Bureau of Reclamation.

Snowpack in Colorado dropped to 102 percent of median this week after temperatures rose last week, but peak levels still finished above average.

“The normal peak is April 10, and we were well above average at that time,” Vaughan said. “The Snotel sites can be misleading, because a lot of that snow stays deep in the canyons.”

Nevertheless, runoff is occurring sooner than usual. So far, the Fry-Ark Project has moved 900 acre-feet of a projected 73,800 acre-feet from the Fryingpan River basin to the Arkansas basin.

“In 2009, we had moved 700 acre-feet by this time. It’s to be expected in a big year,” Vaughan said.

Typically, the heaviest flows in the tunnel will continue through June, and more can come through from summer rains or late runoff. The projection of 73,800 acre-feet for the Fry-Ark project was made April 1 and assumed normal precipitation on top of the already abundant snowpack. Since then, there have been several storms over the area. A new forecast will be made this week. Average Fry-Ark imports are about 54,000 acre-feet. Last year, about 47,000 acre-feet were brought into the basin.

With warmer temperatures Arkansas River flows increased last week to nearly double the previous flows. About one-sixth of the flows upstream from Lake Pueblo is water being released by Reclamation to make room for this year’s imports.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

wycoutprecipitation0401to04202014

I let you readers down. I failed to post the assessment from last week’s NIDIS webinar. Mea culpa.

Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Denver Water: Waterton Canyon will be closed May 6-9 to reduce dust on canyon road

The Southern Delivery System is on time and under budget, according to @CSUtilities

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Marija B. Vader):

Wayne Vanderschuere, general manager of the Colorado Springs Utilities water services division, said the Southern Delivery System will be completed on schedule and $150 million under the original budgeted amount.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs all utilize non-potable irrigation in city operations

Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District Hite plant outfall via South Platte Coalition for Urban River Evaluation
Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District Hite plant outfall via South Platte Coalition for Urban River Evaluation

From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Marija B. Vader):

Colorado Springs Utilities, along with Denver Water and the city of Aurora, all reuse a significant amount of water after it has gone through a treatment plant. It’s called non-potable water and as such is not acceptable for public consumption, cooking or bathing.

The wastewater system collects all the water from homes and businesses, then treats it to conditions set by the state health department. In most treatment centers throughout the state, the treated, non-potable water is then released back to the river or source whence it came. In Colorado Springs, Denver and Aurora, that water is recaptured and reused to water golf courses, public parks, cemeteries and the like. The systems do not extend to residential uses.

“The cost is extremely prohibitive to build such a system,” said Steve Berry of CSU. “Most customers would not tolerate the rate impact.” A system would cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars, he added…

The non-potable system in Colorado Springs provides a capacity of 13 million gallons a day during the summer. The Colorado Springs system has 26 miles of distribution pipelines that stretch to Bear Creek Regional Park, Kissing Camels Golf Course, Patty Jewett Golf Course, the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Peak Vista Community Health Centers, El Paso County, Memorial Park, Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado College, Valley Hi Golf Course and others. This program was put together beginning in 1961. Utilities’ charge for non-potable water is significantly less than for treated water.

Aurora’s non-potable system is used to irrigate parks, said Greg Baker, manager of public relations for the Aurora Water Department.

“It’s 5 million gallons a day we can save from potable use,” Baker said. The city’s irrigation season stretches from May 1 through Oct. 30.

“It makes perfect sense,” Baker said. “We don’t always want to apply potable water for irrigation.”

Denver’s non-potable system has a current capacity of 30 million gallons a day, expandable to 45 million gallons a day. The distribution system includes more than 50 miles of pipe with two major pump stations and storage tanks, according to Denver Water’s website. The system began operating in 2004, and when the recycled water system build-out is complete, Denver Water’s recycled supply will account for about 5 percent of the city’s total water volume annually, according to Travis Thompson, media coordinator for Denver Water.

More wastewater coverage here and here.