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@rfconservancy: Join us next Thursday Sept 4th for our annual Carbondale Bicycle Ditch Tour

Aspinall unit operations update: 1100 cfs through the Gunnison Tunnel diversion

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be reduced from 1800 cfs to 1600 cfs on Tuesday, August 26th at 4:00 PM. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1500 cfs. Significant rainfall has been occurring in the basin this week and the river forecast shows flows continuing to remain above the target for the 10 day forecast period.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1500 cfs for August. For September, the baseflow target will be 1050 cfs.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are 1100 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 750 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be 1100 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 550 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

The Colorado River District, et al., are closely monitoring the settling of Ritschard Dam (Wolford Mountain) #ColoradoRiver

Ritschard Dam and Wolford Mountain Reservoir
Ritschard Dam and Wolford Mountain Reservoir

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Lance Maggart):

Ritschard Dam impounds Wolford Mountain Reservoir, located on Muddy Creek just north of Kremmling. Construction on the Dam was completed in 1995 and falls under the auspices of the dam’s owners the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

Ritschard Dam is an earth-filled dam. As [Jim] Pokrandt explained, “With anything involving earth, settlement is expected.”

Unfortunately, as Pokrandt went on to explain, a portion of the dam has settled faster than the dam designers expected.

“The variations are small, but there is an abundance of caution,” he said…

“We are monitoring the conditions at the dam. The dam is not considered unsafe,” said Bill McCormick, chief of the Dam Safety Branch of the Division of Water Resources.

McCormick explained, “approximately four to five years ago there were anomalous instrumentation readings showing the dam had settled unexpectedly in ways that were not predicted in the design.”

“We have not identified a safety concern that has required us to put a restriction on the reservoir,” he pointed out.

According to Pokrandt, construction equipment visible on the dam is part of ongoing work to install measuring devices to gauge both water levels and movements within the dam.

Data collection and analysis regarding settlement of the earth-fill structure has been under way for several years now and the process will continue.

Pokrandt explained that any construction on the dam undertaken by the District, “will be very expensive” and the District wanted more information and data before any decisions were made regarding new construction.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Getting #energy from oil & gas doesn’t require fresh groundwater

Woodland Park stormwater management

From the Colorado Springs Independent (J. Adrian Stanley):

These are the facts accepted by all parties: Last summer and this summer, Green Mountain Falls has seen destructive floods following unusually heavy rains. The town was not affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire. The floods are not the result of runoff from a burn scar. And Woodland Park, located up the pass, has added major developments in recent years, including some alongside Fountain Creek.

Public officials interviewed for this story said they weren’t ready to start playing the blame game. But some people in Green Mountain Falls, especially those who live or own businesses along the creek, are getting edgy. A few have seen bridges washed out multiple times. Mayor Lorrie Worthey says even her home, which is located on a hill, recently had a flooded mudroom.

“There is more water coming down from Woodland; Woodland has grown a lot,” Worthey says carefully. “With that, we are going to get more water.”

Bill Alspach, Woodland Park’s public works director and city engineer, also is cautious when speaking of the Green Mountain Falls flooding. “Woodland Park has strived to be a good steward of the headwaters,” he says.

Woodland Park development affects two watersheds, Fountain Creek and the South Platte. Since the 1990s, the Fountain Creek side has seen the building of Walmart and Safeway stores, each with sprawling parking lots. An apartment complex is also currently under construction.

Alspach says Green Mountain Falls shouldn’t be affected by such development because Woodland Park has had strict stormwater development requirements since 1994. Driving behind the Walmart, he points out two large, grassy retention ponds that slowly release runoff during storms. He’s checked those ponds during downpours, he says, and they’ve been doing their job.

The Safeway doesn’t have such ponds, but Alspach says that’s on purpose, because allowing the water to run off there was found to reduce peak flows in the creek. The apartment complex also has retention ponds, and sits next to a $2.1 million stormwater project that was recently completed by the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Water flows in an underground box culvert, and is slowed by barricades before it hits a large channel.

He also points out private and public retention ponds that dot the town, especially in newer developments.

Woodland Park just forked over $100,000 for stormwater repairs needed after a damaging July storm, and is still paying off bonds from major stream work in 1998 and 1999. Alspach says he’s working his way west-to-east along Fountain Creek, doing upgrades. By the end of next year, he hopes to be close to finishing all the improvements in the city area, and to have a study in hand of what needs to be done on private and Teller County land that stretches between the eastern edge of the city and the Walmart.

All this work has been done, Alspach notes, with money from grants, Woodland Park’s limited general fund budget, a special streets fund and stormwater fees. It’s been done despite the fact that the town is too small to be bound by state permits for water quality.

“We have really endeavored to do the right thing for a long time,” he says.

More stormwater coverage here.

Meeting growth estimates with conservation, adios bluegrass? #COWaterPlan #drought

Sprawl
Sprawl

From KUNC (Stephanie Paige Ogburn):

As Colorado plans for a future with more people and less water, some in the world of water are turning to the problem of lawns.

In the 2014 legislative session, state senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) introduced a bill [.pdf] that would limit lawns in new developments if they took water from farms. Although the bill was changed dramatically before it passed, that proposal opened up a statewide conservation about how water from agriculture and the Western Slope is used – particularly when it is growing Front Range grass.

Roberts’ proposed bill set at 15 percent the amount lawn area in new developments, excluding parks and open space, said Steve Harris, the Durango water engineer who pitched her the idea.

“So essentially 15 percent kind of worked out to being that you could have grass in the backyard or front yard, one or the other, but not both,” said Harris.

The bill did not pass in its original form, and the issues it addressed were referred to a committee. Now, the conversation about using ag water to grow lawns has morphed into one about the ratio of indoor to outdoor water use, said Harris.

Indoor water is generally recycled, as water goes back into the system, whereas much of the water used for landscapes does not make it back into the water treatment system.

Statewide, that indoor/outdoor ratio is about half-and-half – numbers from Denver Water, which serves residential customers in the city and in many surrounding suburbs, match the state average. The city of Greeley uses a slightly higher percentage of its water for outdoor use, with 45 percent going to indoor uses and 55 percent outdoors.

Harris’s part of the state, though, is pushing for change. In its basin plan released July 31 as part of the state’s water planning process, the Southwest Region called for water providers to aim for a 60-40 ratio by the year 2030. For those taking new water from agriculture or the Western Slope, the standard would be even higher, with a ratio of 70 percent indoor to 30 percent outdoor use…

The idea of setting limits on that grass, though, is receiving pushback from Front Range water utilities and developers. Many utilities point to their existing leadership in conservation, and say a statewide limit takes control away from localities.

But many in rural Colorado are wary of drying up ag land for development. The Colorado Farm Bureau supports limits on farm water being used for turf.

“The rural areas are saying, wait a minute, we are not keen on taking out productive commercial agriculture that is producing something so that you can grow grass in your front yard,” said Harris.

Beckwith and Harris both see Colorado as a place where a discussion on indoor versus outdoor use is just beginning. At some point, said Harris, there will be limits on water use for lawns in Colorado. It’s just a matter of when.

Right now, there is little consensus between Colorado’s different basins on how water use for new lawns should be limited, or even if it should be. But, said Harris, based on the bill from last year’s session, at least there is now a conversation about it.

“If we wanted to create talk, we have created talk,” he said.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

CWC Summer Conference recap: Managing the supply from the #ColoradoRiver and #drought

Colorado River Basin
Colorado River Basin

From Aspen Public Radio (Marci Krivonen):

As cities grow and climate change continues, water managers are nervous. In the middle of a drought in 2012, they began to lay out a contingency plan. John McClow is President of the Colorado Water Congress. He says the idea was to come up with solutions in case the drought continued.

“Well it didn’t, as you know. But, we still feel like the potential is there and we need to have that plan in hand in order to be prepared should it occur. Because the results are catastrophic.”

McClow joined others from the seven Colorado River basin states on Wednesday in Snowmass Village to discuss how to respond to extreme drought.

One state that depends on the river is Arizona. Tom McCann manages the Central Arizona Project that delivers water to 5 million people. He says his organization could lose one-fifth of its supply by 2017.

“So what have we been doing to prepare for this coming shortage and the issues that we see on the river. One of the things we’ve done for some time now is to invest in system conservation and efficiency type projects,” he says.

His group is spending millions to conserve water. They’re also storing the resource underground and funding weather modification programs – like cloud seeding – in upper basin states, such as Colorado and Wyoming.

Still, there’s a problem, McCann says. The lower basin states, like Arizona, use more water than they get from Lake Mead so they depend on “equalization releases” from Lake Powell. Lake Powell supplies the upper basin with water.

“All of us in the lower basin and the basin in general, share the same risk. It’s the risk of Lake Powell going down creates risk of Lake Mead going down. The two reservoirs are operated together. We all live and die together as a basin,” McCann said…

Utah is one of the upper basin states. [Eric] Millis’ primary concern is that drought will bring Lake Powell down to critical levels. His state is expanding weather modification projects, looking to draw more water from upper basin reservoirs and increasing water conservation efforts…

“We’ve also been experiencing above-normal temperatures,” says Tanya Trujillo with the Colorado River Board of California. She says the temperatures have been “really increasing the challenges of trying to keep the water resources down. The hotter it is, the more water that tends to be applied, especially in outdoor situations.”

She says the Colorado River is the “good news” story for California this year because a full supply – partly from a good Colorado snowpack – helped fill a gap from dry California reservoirs.

The state has historically used water other lower basin states didn’t need but, that’s changing. Now states like Arizona are growing and need their full share. So, California’s investing in efficiency projects and fallowing farmland in order to transfer that water to cities.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.