Youth and water – conservation

Mile High Water Talk

Denver Water's Teacher Resource Packet illustrates the three Rs of water conservation. Denver Water’s Teacher Resource Packet illustrates the three Rs of water conservation.

Last week’s Youth Education blog post, Youth and water – following a water drop, focused on the movement of water through the water cycle. Now that you understand the journey of Denver’s water — let’s talk about how to conserve our most precious resource.

Week three: Use only what you need

The weather in this area constantly fluctuates (Ebbs and flows highlights the extremes we faced in 2013 alone), but it’s typically dry. Denver receives an average of 15 inches of precipitation each year, which is about a fourth of the precipitation a tropical city such as Miami receives. We’ve also experienced several severe droughts in the past that have challenged our water system. We never know the extent of a dry period or when precipitation may come, so conservation has to be a way of…

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St. Vrain Creek Restoration Master Planning Process Begins — Lyons Recorder #COflood

Storm pattern over Colorado September 2013 -- Graphic/NWS via USA Today
Storm pattern over Colorado September 2013 — Graphic/NWS via USA Today

Here’s the release from Boulder County (Stacey Proctor) via the Lyons Recorder:

As part of long-term flood recovery, Boulder County has hired consultant Michael Baker Jr., Inc. to complete a master plan for the St. Vrain Creek watershed, which includes South St. Vrain Creek, North St. Vrain Creek, and the main stem of St. Vrain Creek to the confluence with Boulder Creek.

The master plan will be used to guide the county, municipalities, and individual landowners in identification and prioritization of stream rehabilitation and restoration projects. The goal of the master planning effort and subsequent project implementation is increased resiliency in communities, economies, and river systems.

“Using an open and collaborative process among public agencies, property owners, ditch companies, stakeholders, and the public, the St. Vrain master plan will help facilitate the transition to the next phase of creek recovery,” said Dave Jula, St. Vrain Creek Watershed Master Plan Project Manager, for Michael Baker Jr., Inc.

The master planning effort is funded by a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Boulder County, and other local agencies. The project will begin immediately with public meetings, field assessments, and data analysis. The final master plan is expected to be completed by early fall.

The consultant was selected through a competitive process by the St. Vrain Creek Coalition. The St. Vrain Creek Coalition consists of representatives from Boulder County, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Town of Lyons, City of Longmont, St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District, USDA Forest Service, Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado Department of Transportation, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“After thorough review of the bids we received, the St. Vrain Creek Coalition selected Michael Baker Jr., Inc. for the project because of their strong technical expertise and their commitment to citizen participation in the process,” said Julie McKay, St. Vrain Creek Coalition lead for Boulder County.

Please refer to for the schedule of public meetings, which will be announced in May.

Similar master planning efforts are underway for many other watersheds in Boulder County, including Left Hand Creek, Little Thompson River, and Fourmile Creek. For more information on any of the master plans, please contact Stacey Proctor, Communications Specialist at 303-441-1107 or

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

The Spring 2014 newsletter from the Rio Grande Land Trust is hot off the presses


Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

… there is nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment we experience at the closing of a conservation easement.

Conserving land and water is really our core function. And it gives us the chance to work with some of the most committed and generous people here in the Valley who deeply care about the future of their ranches. This is so evident in the heartwarming story in this newsletter from Eveyln Buss about conserving the ranch that she and her brother Doug Davie inherited from their parents. We are grateful to them for protecting that beautiful ranch on the Rio Grande, and its exceptional water rights forever.

Likewise, we were able to complete the conservation easement on the lovely Garcia Ranch on the Conejos River in December of 2013. Along with his daughters, Lana and Tania, Reyes Garcia was committed to protecting the legacy of his family on that land. His article expressing the deep meaning of this was featured in our Spring 2013 newsletter (you can find that issue on our website).

Both of these ranches were featured properties in RiGHT’s 2012 and 2013 “Save the Ranch” campaigns. In so many ways, these projects were community projects, and we could not have made our way through the many challenges that easements inherently present, without the generous support of our many friends and neighbors who contribute to RiGHT’s work, with donations of time, funds, and so much more. I hope you will share in our deep sense of accomplishment, that together, we are leaving a lasting legacy of conserved land and water for future generations.

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Carter will fill Monday, Horsetooth at 88% #ColoradoRiver

Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities
Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

On Monday, May 5, we will stop pumping water to Carter Lake. Carter is about 98% full and ready for the season.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project water that was going up to Carter will now go to Horsetooth. Horsetooth Reservoir is about 88% full and its water level is still rising.

Boat ramps are open.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

apologize for a late evening notice. I’m on business travel and communicating across time zones.

This e-mail is to let you all know there are some changes coming to the river flow down the Big Thompson Canyon. Run-off is increasing and so will flows down the canyon, beginning Monday.

Currently, we are seeing run-off inflows up to 200 cfs at night. But, as you have read in previous e-mails, under Free River conditions, we have been able to divert some of that at Olympus Dam to Colorado-Big Thompson Project reservoirs like Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir. This weekend, Free River conditions are ending.

As a result, we will no longer be able to pull some of the spring run-off flows native to the Big T coming into Lake Estes out of the river. Instead, the Big Thompson will resume its native outflow through Olympus Dam to the Canyon.

Currently, we are releasing about 35 cfs. Beginning Monday, May 5, we will start incrementally increasing the releases in several steps. The resulting flows down the Canyon by Monday afternoon could go up to about 140 cfs. It is possible there could be additional increases on Tuesday.

I will send an update on Monday. Meanwhile, please let me know if you have any related questions.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

A case of #ColoradoRiver Basin Envy Syndrome #RioGrande

From Inkstain (John Fleck):

Stuck out here in the Rio Grande Basin, I’ve long suffered Colorado River Basin Envy Syndrome. The Colorado is the sexy river, which means it gets all the cool science. I dream of an analysis this rich of uncertainties in my river’s streamflow.

Turns out that even within the Colorado River Basin there’s a little Envy Syndrome going on.

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here. More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Breckenridge: “We’re a headwaters community, and we want to take a [conservation] leadership role” — Peter Grosshuesch

From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley):

The town council amended a law during a meeting Tuesday, April 22, to extend water conservation efforts during drought that limited outdoor use to three times a week.

The restrictions were last put in place in 2003 and 2012, and the new rules will take effect June 1.

“We’re a headwaters community, and we want to take a leadership role,” said Peter Grosshuesch, the town’s community development director.

Properties east of Main Street or Highway 9 may water only on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while properties west of those roads may water only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. On those days, watering is restricted to between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. the next day.

People can still keep their landscaping alive under those restrictions, Grosshuesch said, calling unlimited water use unwise, especially in a semiarid climate.

According to the Western Regional Climate Center, Breckenridge received an average of 163 inches of snow a year between 1948 and 2005. But that number translates to just 19 inches of water per year.

“Water is a valuable commodity,” Grosshuesch said. “It’s expensive to produce and deliver.”

When the town asked for public comment on how the change would affect pressure-cleaning driveways and parking lots, officials received hearty support.

“The vast majority of people said, ‘No, you shouldn’t be using water to do that. You should just sweep them,’” Grosshuesch said.

But the town exempted using water for cleaning those surfaces anyway, as long as people use hoses with shut-off nozzles.

Some businesses in the food industry expressed concern about the permanent restrictions. Due to health codes, they must clean pollen off their outdoor tables, and they like to do that with water. Grossheusch said that specific case also will be exempt.

First-time violators will be warned, but a second-time offender will be fined $250. A third-time offense warrants a $500 fine, and any offenses after that will cost $750. Out-of-town violators will be charged 1.5 times the fine for residents.

Whatever Floats Your Boat: Redefining Waters of the U.S. — Huffington Post


From the Huffington Post (Val Wagner):

“Navigable waters.” According to the Internet, the accepted definition is: “deep and wide enough for boats and ships to travel on or through: capable of being navigated.”

Apparently that’s true for everyone… but the Environmental Protection Agency.

The new proposed ruling for the expanded Clean Water Act from the EPA is meant to clarify what is determined as “Waters of the U.S.” In essence, almost any place that water could collect could be subject to regulation and the permitting process.

The CWA was started in 1972 as a way to curb pollution into what was determined navigable water from a single source — without a federal permit.

Most people would probably be amazed at what all requires permission from someone else in order to simply do something… even on your own property. There are permits to build stuff, permits to take down stuff, permits to use water, permits to take away water — I’m sure there are probably even agencies that have permits in order for another agency to allow permits. The process is essentially the same. You apply, based on whatever rules and regulations have been drawn up. You explain why you should be allowed a permit to complete whatever action or build whatever structure you have planned. You present your application with the proper fee, determined by the regulatory board or by law, and you wait to hear back.

Here’s the catch: There is no legal right to be allowed a permit. That’s right, even if you dot your I’s and cross your T’s and pay the fees and fill out each form in triplicate and you state sound reasons as to why your permit should be granted and have science on your side, you may be turned down. Because we all know that decisions don’t always make sense.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.