National Weather Service: Forecast models did not accurately predict September flood

Wednesday June 25, 2014 is Bike to Work Day. Be careful and share the road Colorado.

Clear Comfort CEO Steve Berens talks WaterTech and #water disinfection on The Water Values Podcast

Survey of Latinos in Colorado, Florida, Illinois and New Mexico shows majority support for water protections

Acequia cleaning prior to running the first water of the season
Acequia cleaning prior to running the first water of the season

From Kansas City Infozine:

The survey of Latinos in Colorado, Florida, Illinois and New Mexico, conducted last month, showed that large majorities in each state support nationwide rules to protect wetlands and small streams, including ones that don’t flow year-round, which feed into the drinking water supplies of one in three Americans.

The federal government this spring proposed to restore anti-pollution protections to these small streams and nearby wetlands, whose status had been in legal limbo for more than a decade. But now there is a strong move by Senate Republicans to bar the EPA from completing work on the safeguards and implementing them.

“This poll shows that clean water is important to Latinos, as it is to most other Americans,” said Adrianna Quintero, director of Latino outreach for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which commissioned the poll. “The Senate should take notice. We all want the federal government to make sure that polluters don’t threaten the health and safety of our families by fouling the water they drink, bathe with, swim in, or use for fishing and boating. It’s part of Latino heritage.”

These small streams and wetlands provide crucial water quality benefits for fishing, boating and swimming, which are important for tourism in many of the states surveyed. In each poll, eight-five percent or more of the Latinos surveyed said it was important that strong clean water safety standards be set at the national level, rather than left up mostly to the states. The telephone and Internet poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling, a national firm based in North Carolina, and surveyed about 500 Latinos in each state.

Noting that these small streams and wetlands also capture floodwater, filter pollutants, and help feed groundwater that is used for drinking, farming and other businesses, the polls found that most respondents said that these waters should have protection from industry pollution. Additionally, large majorities said they had “very serious” or “somewhat serious” concerns that the uncertain legal status has endangered these waters by allowing companies to avoid preparing oil spill prevention and response plans or by allowing them to bury streams and wetlands under mining or other industrial waste.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

Westminster piloting native grasses to replace Kentucky bluegrass in some parks


From The Denver Post (Austin Briggs):

The new grass coming up on the west side of Kensington Park isn’t replacing a die-off — it’s replacing grass that was killed off.

Parks officials this year used an herbicide to kill the Kentucky bluegrass that had been there prior to planting native seeds — including fescue, rye and Canadian bluegrass.

The new ground cover will conserve water and save the city money, said Jessica Stauffer, the community outreach coordinator for the city’s Parks, Recreation and Library department.

“We went $200,000 over budget last year in watering costs for our parks,” Stauffer said. “The native grass being seeded stays greener longer and means fewer taxpayer dollars used for maintenance.”

In addition to Kensington, England and Oakhurst Park II are also being re-seeded in select spots totaling 8.4 acres away from playgrounds and high-traffic areas.

The new blend, which will grow between eight to 10 inches tall, won’t need to be mowed because it will follow a natural cycle of dormancy and growth, said parks supervisor Jerry Magnetti.

“We’ll do a second seeding this fall,” Magnetti said. “It’s a low-grow, low-maintenance seed mix that will fill in and look beautiful, especially in the fall and cooler months.”

While it’ll take another year or two for the grasses to establish, the goal is to see how this experiment works and perhaps apply it to a citywide program amid a long-term drought and rising water costs.

In 2005 the Department of Parks, Recreation and Libraries used 216 million gallons of water at a cost of $863,675 and in 2012 this grew to 319 million gallons and $1,362,975.

An acre of established native grass with trees and shrub beds costs about $500 a year to maintain, compared to $2,100 for Kentucky bluegrass.

More conservation coverage here.

Runoff/snowpack news: South Platte Basin snowpack 6th highest in period of record

Statewide Basin High/Low graph June 19, 2014 via the NRCS
Statewide Basin High/Low graph June 19, 2014 via the NRCS

From KUNC (Nathan Heffel):

According to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, peak snowpack across some of the state’s major basins was in the top 10 of the last 34 years.

Brian Domonkos, NRCS hydrologist and survey supervisor for the Colorado Snow Survey Program, said some areas of the state had exceptional snowpack this year.

“Say the North Platte, South Platte, Yampa and White; some of those snowpacks in terms of peak snowpack were in the top seven of the last 34 years,” he said.

According to NRCS data:

  • The Yampa and White saw the 8th highest peak snowpack of the last 29 years.
  • The North Platte saw the 7th highest peak snowpack of the last 34 years.
  • The South Platte saw the 6th highest peak snowpack of the last 34 years.
  • “I will say that on an average year, between 50 and 80 percent of stream flows and the water we see in our rivers and reservoirs comes from snowmelt,” Domonkos said. “Having an idea of that snowpack and what we have is kind of a reservoir, so to speak, of what we have from snowpack alone since precipitation beyond that can be very difficult to predict.”

    From KRCC (Andrea Chalfin):

    A two-mile stretch of the Arkansas River near Salida has reopened to boaters. It closed at the beginning of June due high waters that caused a hazard at a recently constructed boat chute. The portage trail used to bypass the chute had also become impassable.

    In a statement, Rob White, Park Manager at the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, said they’re still working on the diversion structure, but that the portage trail has been repaired. White added they’re working with the engineering firm that designed the chute to explore potential ways to prevent issues in high water in the future.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife says it’s mandatory for rafters to portage at the Silver Bullet Rapid or Helena Diversion. Caution is advised for whitewater canoes and kayaks.

    From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

    Despite full powerplant & bypass releases from Morrow Pt dam, flows in the lower Gunnison River at the Whitewater gage have dropped below the half bankfull target of 8,070 cfs. The forecast projects that these flows will continue to drop as tributary contributions trend toward baseflow levels. Therefore releases from Aspinall will begin to ramp down starting today, Tuesday June 24th. Releases will ramp down over the next 9 days before flows settle out at something around 1,000 cfs in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon. Releases from Aspinall will then be dependent on the amount of water needed to sustain the baseflow target of 1,500 cfs as measured at the Whitewater gage.

    Poudre oil spill cleanup update

    Cache la Poudre River
    Cache la Poudre River

    From the Associated Press via

    Environmental officials and work crews are dismantling a flood-damaged storage tank so they can remove oil-stained soil from an area where about 7,200 gallons of crude leaked into a northern Colorado river.

    Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, says Noble Energy, which operates the tank, has been cleaning up the site on the Poudre River near Windsor since the leak was discovered Friday. The bank next to the storage tank was undercut by the high spring river flows, causing it to drop and break a valve.

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

    “We consider this a significant spill,” wrote Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission spokesman Todd Hartman in an email Monday. “The vast majority of spills are far smaller. We’ve had larger spills, but those are true anomalies.”

    Colorado hasn’t seen a spill this big since September 2013, when a deluge of floodwaters in multiple rivers spilled 48,250 gallons of oil.

    The September flooding, along with spills like the one discovered Friday near Windsor, have prompted state regulators and environmental groups to consider increasing the distance between wells and Colorado’s waterways. Today, state law governing the distance between oil wells and water along Colorado’s Front Range does not take into account seasonal flooding, Hartman said.

    COGCC has one law that adjusts setbacks for high water marks that applies only to gold medal fisheries or cutthroat trout habitats. The fisheries predominately operate on the Western Slope.

    Following the floods, environmental advocates are pushing more than a dozen new oil and gas regulations toward ballots in the November election. One proposal suggests moving setbacks to 2,000 feet from bodies of water. Some experts say that would cripple oil and gas development in places like Weld County, where more than 21,000 wells operate today.

    There are about 5,900 oil and gas wells within 500 feet of a Colorado “waterway that is significant enough to be named” and more than 20,000 wells within 500 feet of water of some kind.

    The practice of drilling near water originates from “longstanding practical pressures” by mineral rights owners to confine wells to their least productive sections of land, according to a special report on oil and gas development commissioned after the September 2013 floods. It’s also easier to drill for oil in more accessible areas, particularly along waterways.

    In the post-flood report, the COGCC recommended that tank batteries “be located as far from waterways as possible,” and that all wells near an ordinary high water mark should have remote shut-in equipment, allowing them to be shut down automatically when waters are high. The report also suggested that regulations should “apply within a designated distance from the ordinary high water mark of all waterways in Colorado.”

    Since Friday, Noble Energy crews have been cleaning up after the Windsor-area spill. As of Monday, they have yet to identify any wildlife impacted by the spill, and drinking water has not been polluted, said Hartman. On Friday, Noble Energy, owners of the well, began a biological study of the spill’s impacts. Soil samples were also taken, but the results of those are pending.

    The river flooded two tanks off Weld County Road 23, an area surrounded by a cattle ranch and farm land. As crews continued work Monday, bikers sped by along the Poudre River Trail, which winds just on the opposite side of the river from the spill.

    The well feeding the tanks was shut May 24 due to spring runoff flooding. Although Noble discovered the spill June 20, the company can’t be sure exactly when the damage was done to the tank.

    Each tank can hold 300 barrels of crude oil, with about 42 gallons per barrel. Flood waters had undercut the bank below one battery, releasing the contents of 178 barrels.

    Noble has since drained the second tank, which was undamaged, said Hartman. Most of the spill was washed away in the floodwaters, which left a few stagnant polluted pools behind. Clean-up crews used absorbent pads to remove oil from vegetation and water pools. On Monday, crews began to excavate a shallow layer of soil.

    More oil and gas coverage here.

    Arkansas Basin Roundtable is soliciting public input for their basin implementation plan #COWaterPlan

    Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey
    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From the Cañon City Daily Record (Carie Canterbury):

    Each of Colorado’s nine roundtables, including the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, is working to develop its own plan that identifies challenges to a secure water future, strategies to address those challenges and projects and methods the basin may implement to meet its water needs. The Basin Implementation Plans will be incorporated into the CWP.

    The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is seeking public input to add to the Basin Implementation Plan .

    Kyle Hamilton, principal project manager for CH2M HILL, consulting, design, and program management company, said one of the constraints on the water plan is the Colorado/Kansas Compact, which places constraints on moving water down the Arkansas River.

    “The state of Colorado has to deliver to the State of Kansas at certain times, in certain volumes, based on this compact,” he said. “There are similar compacts for all the major rivers leaving Colorado.”

    Hamilton said John Martin Reservoir was constructed to provide a pool of water to help Colorado comply with those compact requirements.

    “As we develop the basin implementation plan, and those roll up to the state water plan, the plans will have to comply with all these compacts that we have with adjoining states,” he said. The compacts date back to the 1940s.

    He said Colorado must work together to manage its water, because other states are trying to position to get their water, too.

    “Colorado needs to protect its water as a a whole, against Arizona and New Mexico and others who are competing for that same water that comes down the Colorado River,” he said. “We take a lot of that water from the west slope to the east slope.”[…]

    A draft plan is due to the CWCB on July 31 and to the governor’s office December 2014. The final is due December 2015, after public comment periods and input.

    For more information, or to download an offer input, visit

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.