Aspinall Unit operation update: 350 cfs in Black Canyon

Black Canyon via the National Park Service
Black Canyon via the National Park Service

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be decreased from 1050 cfs to 950 cfs on Monday, October 27th at 10:00 AM. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association will be decreasing diversions at the Gunnison Tunnel Monday morning. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the October baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

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 1050 cfs for September through December.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are around 700 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 350 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be around 600 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will still be around 350 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

@westgov: Dairy factory just opened by @Nestle in western Mexico is the globe’s only zero-water plant

The Middle Colorado Watershed Council E-Newsletter for October 2014 is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

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

Drinking Water Well Workshop Follow-Up

The September 3rd private drinking water well workshop attracted a number of well owners curious to learn how to monitor and maintain their drinking water systems to insure safe delivery at the tap. Paul Rutledge of Sopris Engineering addressed the basics of well construction, siting, and quality influences. Morgan Hill of Garfield County discussed the what and hows of water quality monitoring along with information on lab testing services. Perry Cabot, a CSU Extension researcher, walked the participants through the steps of chlorine dosing as an annual maintenance measure. Copies of all presentations can be accessed here.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

EPA awards CU $4 million grant for research of drinking water purification

The water treatment process
The water treatment process

From (Gabriel Larsen-Santos):

In early September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted $4 million to CU Boulder’s engineering department to establish a national center to improve drinking water treatment facilities for small towns and rural communities.What do you think?

Known as DeRISK, or Design of Risk Reducing, Innovative Implementable Small System Knowledge Center, this new center will develop sustainable methods to reduce water contaminants.What do you think?

“In order to create more natural and cost-efficient water treatment systems, we’re focused on improving how these systems are implemented, as well as developing technologies that don’t require any chemical addition,” said Professor R. Scott Summers, director of DeRISK and an engineering professor at CU.What do you think?

Hundreds of various contaminants are legally discharged into rivers and aquifers across the United States every day, causing harmful chemicals to flow into drinking water.What do you think?

“This center will facilitate public health for the rural communities that don’t have access to low-cost treatment options,” Summers said.What do you think?

DeRISK has two major focuses — a front end of outreach and ease of communication, and a back end of developing non-conventional technologies for public use.What do you think?

“Part of what we’re doing is evaluating sustainability,” said Elizabeth Shilling, a 22-year-old graduate student researcher and environmental engineering major. “This includes the cost of building facilities, the ongoing cost of operations, and also environmental factors — waste and emissions management.”What do you think?

It’s more difficult for rural communities to afford the scientists and technicians that larger urban water treatment facilities employ. But other resources, such as cheaper and more plentiful land, put some rural communities in a unique position over cities to benefit from non-conventional water purification systems.What do you think?

Examples of non-conventional systems that minimize overall costs include using the sun’s ultraviolet radiation to purify water in ponds, or using bacterial filters that reduce chemical contaminants. Conventional water treatment includes methods like water chlorination, which may be right for some communities, but produces chemical byproducts.What do you think?

Most importantly, DeRISK is developing a uniformed approach to make it simpler and more affordable for rural communities to implement the water treatment technology that suits their environment. Small towns might have miles of pipeline between two houses, so water quality is more likely to degrade in rural areas as it stagnates in the pipes and develops bacterial contaminants.What do you think?

“In order to make it easier for smaller drinking water plants to figure out the best treatment system for their parameters, we’re developing a sustainability index,” Shilling said. “Basically, it will show these small town facilities which technology would be best for them in terms of long term costs and environmental impacts.”What do you think?

One of the many goals of DeRISK is to develop technologies that can be installed in the distribution systems themselves, instead of in centralized water treatment facilities, which is the solution typically utilized across the United States. This would ensure that water remains drinkable no matter how far it travels from the primary treatment center.What do you think?

“We see it as a service to public health,” Summers said. “So that when you stop at a gas station someplace out in the country and you drink from the water fountain, you won’t have to worry if the water’s safe to drink, because that gas station could double as a water treatment facility.”

More water treatment coverage here.

[Clean Water Act] Rule critical for Colorado — Alfonso Abeyta

Lily Lake via Rocky Mountain National Park
Lily Lake via Rocky Mountain National Park

Here’s a guest column in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule-making to clarify jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, written by Alfonso Abeyta that’s running in The Pueblo Chieftain:

As a fifth-generation rancher/farmer, business owner and advocate of Colorado’s rural economy, I know first-hand the importance of clean, reliable water to our way of life. That’s why I believe the 42nd anniversary of the Clean Water Act in October represents an important milestone for Colorado’s water resources.

If water is the lifeblood of agriculture, as is commonly pronounced, clean water would have to be its backbone. After all, it’s not just abundant, reliable water resources that we count on for our livelihoods, economy and health. That water must also be clean and safe.

Underscoring how far we’ve progressed as a state and nation on our water challenges, when the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 a full two-thirds of our waterways were too toxic for fishing and swimming — let alone drinking.

Some of our rivers, such as the Cuyahoga in Ohio, were so polluted from the chemicals and toxins being thoughtlessly dumped into them that they were literally catching on fire. Obviously no one wants to live near or rely on such waters. As such, the Clean Water Act passed Congress with bipartisan support to tackle these critical challenges.

Thanks to the Clean Water Act, we now have half as many polluted bodies of water as we did in the 1970s. Today most of us are able to drink from the tap and fish or swim the local river or lake without having to think too much about the safety of the water.

But we still have further to go.

Despite the success of the Clean Water Act, we have real water challenges ahead of us. For instance, one-third of American waterways are still too polluted for fishing, swimming or drinking. These toxic waterways are located in all regions of the country, including right here in Colorado.

One key to improving this situation is addressing critical loopholes in our water policies.

For instance, the Supreme Court severely hampered the effectiveness of the Clean Water Act in 2001 and 2006 rulings that limited protections just to waterways deemed “navigable.” As a result, countless miles of tributary and seasonal streams, rivers, wetlands — bodies of water that feed directly into our water supplies — have gone unprotected.

The politically motivated Supreme Court rulings are clearly against the spirit and intent of the Clean Water Act, and our water resources have suffered as a result. Adding insult to injury, as it turns out, such arbitrary water policies that are not based on logic, common sense or real-world realities are darn near impossible for agricultural water users to follow.

The good news is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently targeted this harmful loophole, with its “Waters of the United States” rule. Under this proposal, the Clean Water Act will again account for the tributary, seasonal and adjacent bodies of water that feed directly into our water resources.

The new rule also maintains helpful exemptions for ranchers and farmers irrigating crops. Win-win landowner actions that lead to cleaner water, more sustainable farming practices and increased profits would also be incentivized.

Following the closing of the extended public comment period on the clean water rule on Nov. 14, Colorado’s congressional delegation should commit to ensuring that the EPA and the White House finalize the rule without delay.

Agricultural producers, rural communities and diverse water users across America are counting on it.

Alfonso Abeyta is a fifth-generation rancher and farmer born and reared on his family farm on the Conejos River near Antonito. He is the founder of Conejos County Clean Water, an advocacy group.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.