Southwest Roundtable to hold 4 meetings about their basin implementation plan #COWaterPlan

Basin roundtable boundaries
Basin roundtable boundaries

From The Durango Herald:

Four meetings on the Southwest Basin Implementation Plan, part of a statewide effort to resolve water shortages, to be unveiled next month, start next week.

Members of the public can learn about draft plans and offer opinions to water authorities.

The Southwest basin contains nine subbasins from the San Juan River to the Dolores and San Miguel rivers.

The meetings are scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the Ross Aragon Community Center, 451 Hot Springs Blvd., in Pagosa Springs; Nov. 19 at the Pine River Senior Center, 111 West South St., in Bayfield; Dec. 1 at the Mancos Community Center, 117 N. Main St., in Mancos; and Dec. 9 at the Placerville School House, 400 Front St., in Placerville.

Further information is available from Ann Oliver at 903-9361 or Carrie Lile at 259-5322.

WRA: A New Paradigm for Water Management – Managing a Cycle of Water, Energy and Resources

From Western Resource Advocates (Amelia Nuding):

1. Get rid of the term “end user.” “End user” is a term commonly used by water managers to describe the people and businesses who use water for drinking, washing, industrial operations etc. “End use” implies that delivering water to people is the “end goal.” However, a quick look at a diagram of the urban water cycle (below) clearly shows delivering water to people is not at the end. This stage is right in the middle of a cycle that repeats several times. Now, I’m not just being nit-picky, or demonstrating my mastery at reading a flow chart: the problem with the term is that it’s the wrong way to think about water. It places the emphasis on delivering water to people, and, while that’s clearly very important, urban water management should focus on more than delivering water.

Urban Water Cycle graphic via Western Resource Advocates
Urban Water Cycle graphic via Western Resource Advocates

2. Capitalize on the fact that water management is energy management. Energy generation should be co-equal goal in water management. Water has energy whenever it its flowing downward (kinetic and potential energy), whenever it contains heat (thermal energy), and whenever it becomes sewer water (chemical energy). Capturing that energy means that water can play a bigger part in our energy generation mix – not just hydroelectric dams at huge reservoirs, but in the pipes and conduits where water is regularly flowing. For example, when water pressure is too high, often a pressure regulator is used to reduce it. In many cases a small hydro turbine can do the same job as the pressure regulator and generate electricity at the same time. The heat from hot water, such as when your shower water flows down your drain, can actually be captured and put back into your water heater, reducing your energy usage and bill.

Water utilities – and especially wastewater utilities – need to see themselves as players in energy. A handful of wastewater treatment plants in the U.S. are leading the way in this, striving to achieve net-zero energy – meaning they produce as much energy on-site as they generate annually. East Bay Municipal Utility District in California actually produces more energy than they use in a year! They capture the energy in the water with hydro turbines, and they also capture energy from the biosolids (yes that’s what you think it is) extracted from wastewater. Those biosolids – along with used food scraps collected from restaurants – decompose in a controlled environment. This process creates gases that are used to spin a turbine, which then creates electricity. So not only is energy generated, but food scraps (a significant part of municipal solid waste streams) are used beneficially, rather than just decomposing in a landfill.

3. Eliminate the term “wastewater.” This term is even more offensive because “wastewater” contains approximately 10x the amount of energy that is used to treat it to drinking water standards (says WERF). WOW. The energy in the water is part thermal, part kinetic, and part chemical – and enough of it can be captured to partially or entirely offset the energy demands of the wastewater treatment plant. So let’s start calling water at this stage of the cycle “resource water.” Got a better name? Email me. It needs to be something that communicates its value, and that the water at this stage is not something to be wasted.

So what this all boils down to is that water management shouldn’t be just water management – it can be about a cycle that address multiple resources. We’ve already got the technology to do it, what’s needed now is an expanded way of thinking about all the resources that water provides, and the roles that water managers can play. It’s about managing water, energy and resource systems in the water cycle to support a community’s higher quality of life.

Results from Wyoming’s cloud-seeding efforts expected next month #ColoradoRiver

Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters
Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters

From the Casper Journal (Greg Fladager):

Wyoming’s $13 million cloud seeding experiment may be about to pay off, or at least further knowledge in the science of rainmaking.

In a talk to the Wyoming Water Association last month, Wyoming Water Development Commission Director Harry LaBonde, Jr., said the results of over eight years of study would finally be released this December.

“All I will tell you about the results is that it appears that it is positive,” LaBonde told the group in Casper. “Of course what we want to know is, what can you anticipate with winter orographic seeding? Is that a 2 percent increase in precipitation? Is that a 10 percent increase in precipitation, or what can you expect?”

Broad interest

LaBonde said Wyoming’s experiment has drawn regional as well as international attention.

“Everybody wants an answer to the question that we have been asking, and so you are going to see a lot of interest. It will then hopefully be considered and utilized in other states across the West, as well as other operations across the world,” LaBonde said.

The cloud seeding program was conducted in the Medicine Bow/Sierra Madre Mountain Range in southern Wyoming. The study was based on eight snow generators placed in two closely related areas, and in double blind experiments data gatherers were not told which valley had been seeded for a given seeding event.

“The last data collection was last spring. It ended in April, representing about eight years of data collection,” LaBonde said. “We went through some drought years which limited seed-able events. But last year was a very good year. We had about 30 seeding events last year. We ended up with a total of about 160 events over the period of time. That was determined to be a suitable amount of events that … we can make a good scientific conclusion of does weather modification work? Is there an increase in precipitation when you are seeding these mountains with silver iodide, which is the product that we have been using.”

“So, with that data complete, the scientists have been poring over that — we certainly have issues with data quality and some of that, they’ve been looking at all of those issues — but what we hope to have, and what is on the schedule now, is their final report by December of this year,” LaBonde added. “It is our hope that in fact that schedule will be kept, and that document will become public information.”

Wyoming Range and Wind River seeding projects

In the meantime, Wyoming has two other cloud seeding experiments and operations.

“Another weather mod item in Wyoming is that we funded, last year, a Level II weather modification study in the Wyoming Range,” LaBonde said. “I think a lot of you know that Idaho Power runs a very active weather modification (program) out of the Star Valley, and some (of those) seeding effects do roll over into the Wyoming Range. But we wanted to take a more thorough look at what we might be able to do if we are going to set up an operational program in the Wyoming Range. Where might you site those generators? What kind of benefits would accrue to the Colorado River drainage on the East slope of those mountains, as well as the Snake River on the backside (and) the West side of those mountain ranges? So that study is underway. We expect to have the results of that next summer. That was the continuation of what was in essence a Level I study that was started in 2008, completed and then put on the shelf pending the outcome of our scientific programs.”

Moving from study to operations

LaBonde also announced that the WWDC was successful in its effort to get funding to continue cloud seeding in the Wind River Range, and changing (operations) from a scientific study to an operational program.

“The proposal that Water Development put forth to the legislature last year was that we wanted to keep those 10 generators in operation. We wanted to shift from scientific to an operational mode,” LaBonde explained. “However, we did not feel that all of the costs should be borne by the state of Wyoming. The Green River has not appropriated water. Those waters flow out-of-state, and ultimately benefit the lower basin states. So the proposal that was put forth is that Wyoming would pay for 25 percent of the cost of the operation of those generators, but we were required to go forward and seek funding partners from other states to pay for 75 percent of the program.”

Funding buckets

“I’m happy to report today that, in fact, we have achieved the outside funding sources that were required as part of that bill, as a result we will have an operational seeding program run in the Wind Rivers this year,” LaBonde said.

“The funding partners that we’ve put together are: the Arizona Department of Water Resources; Central Arizona Water Conservation District: the Six Agency Committee, which is a group of agencies in California; Southern Nevada Water Authority; Utah Division of Water Resources — of course the Green River flows into Utah, and I think that was a little bit of a surprise that they came forward and wanted to help with the funding; the Bureau of Reclamation has stepped up and it is funding, in essence, the forecasting part of our programs. They’ve got a direct contract with NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research), and that outside funding source is $684,000. The respective Wyoming share is $28,000. There will be seeding in the Wind Rivers again, subject to appropriate storms coming across. We’ll start in November, and run into the April season, LaBonde said.”

Augmenting water

LaBonde further noted that he viewed the Wind River Range project as a first step in ‘water augmentation’ in the Colorado River Basin.

“With the ongoing drought in the Colorado River Basin — we have dropping lake levels in Powell and Mead — we thought that maybe, even though we did not have the results of the scientific study, it was appropriate to look at continuing those generators, but moving from a scientific to an operational program.”

“Colorado has a weather modification program. So does Utah. But how do we bring the lower basin states into that program?” LaBonde continued. “I know there are some committees that have been formed, they are talking about that. But with 10 generators in place last year, it was too good an opportunity to go forward — at least for a one-year program — and we, again my hope is, it is going to morph into a more basin wide program.”

LaBonde concluded he was optimistic about cloud seeding expanding to other mountain ranges in the state.

“All in all, I think it’s good news,” LaBonde said. “Finally, there’s some pieces that are going to fall into place with our scientific study coming out. Then hopefully we will see some more operational programs going forward in the future.”

More cloud-seeding coverage here and here.

Sterling water treatment system wins award — Sterling Journal Advocate

Reverse Osmosis Water Plant
Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Sara Waite):

Last week, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Colorado announced the project was one of four to receive a 2015 Engineering Excellence Award for “outstanding engineering accomplishments.”

The water treatment system came online about a year ago, five years after city received an enforcement order due to levels of uranium and trihalomethanes above the drinking water standard allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. To address that issue, as well as high levels of sulfate and total dissolved solids, the city opted to construct a new reverse osmosis water treatment plant. The plan featured a challenge because of the uranium — the result of runoff over naturally occuring uranium deposits upstream — that would end up in the treatment brine.

Engineers with Hatch Mott MacDonald came up with a solution: coupling the reverse osmosis system with EPA Class 1 deep injection wells to dispose of the waste water.

“The result enabled the city to meet its water quality goals to provide 14,000 residents with safe, clean and aesthetically pleasing drinking water — and building a 9.6 million gallon per day water treatment plant without incurring the costs and risks associated with the disposal of uranium contaminated waste,” the award announcement states.

The 7,000-plus foot wells pump the contaminant deeper than water that is used for drinking water.

The project was funded with a voter-approved $29 million loan from the Drinking Water Revolving Fund through the Colorado Resources and Power Development Authority.

City Manager Don Saling called the award “quite an honor for the engineers.” He added that the well drilling company has asked to use the wells for a case study.

He said the water treatment system was an example of a “great plan” using “great technology.”[…]

According to the ACEC-CO release, the winning projects are ranked by a panel of judges representing a cross section of industry, academia and media, assemble to rank the submissions on engineering excellence. Projects in the competition are rated on the basis of uniqueness and innovative applications; future value to the engineering profession; perception by the public; social, economic, and sustainable development considerations; complexity; and successful fulfillment of client/owner’s needs, including schedule and budget. The other projects receiving top honors were the Denver Union Station Redevelopment, new Transit Center, and Pecos Street over I-70 Bridge Replacement.

2015 Engineering Excellence award-winning projects will advance to ACEC’s national competition in Washington D.C., which will be held in April next year.

For more information, visit

More water treatment coverage here.

Whither El Paso County’s stormwater efforts now?

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

Last week, voters turned down the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority, to be funded by nearly $40 million a year in fees, despite a series of devastating floods in the area and concerns that a lack of stormwater maintenance could put Colorado Springs Utilities’ $841 million Southern Delivery System pipeline project in jeopardy.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Small says of the 53-percent-to-47-percent defeat. The public is resistant to taxes in general, he says, but there’s also the feeling that stormwater really shouldn’t be its problem, because developers should have installed adequate systems in the first place. And for most of the city, stormwater isn’t a problem. Floods tend to concentrate in certain neighborhoods.

“It’s all localized issues,” Small says, “and unless you experience those issues, you don’t relate to the need to manage that stormwater.”

The leading candidates in the April city mayoral election agree that stormwater will need to be addressed with new taxes or fees, and that the key will be communicating better with voters.

El Paso County Commissioner and mayoral candidate Amy Lathen says she sees no reason to throw away two years of work that went into the Authority proposal, including public input, engineering studies and project lists. Lathen was a key player in putting the Authority forward, and she stands by the proposal. But she says the ballot question was only approved a month before the election, leaving little time for a campaign, and misinformation was widespread.

Lathen wants to keep the task force that created the Authority proposal, but explain that proposal more clearly and tweak it to make it more palatable. She also says the task force needs to better explain that while stormwater may not flood your backyard, it can threaten the bridges you drive over daily, or even put access to clean water at risk.

Former mayor and current candidate Mary Lou Makepeace feels similarly. One difference: While Lathen says the plan and money must be regional, Makepeace is willing to consider setting aside city funds for stormwater, though she calls that option undesirable because it could mean cutting back on other city services. Like Lathen, she’d also like to try again for a regional solution, this time with better communication…

Outgoing Colorado Attorney General and mayoral candidate John Suthers, who also prefers a regional solution, says he feels a measure could pass if leaders explain to voters that stormwater infrastructure affects the economy. As attorney general, he says, he was contacted by representatives of major companies “that everyone would recognize” who said they had long considered expanding into the Springs but were dissuaded by political turmoil and poor infrastructure. He says Mayor Steve Bach should have been involved in the Authority early on, and then used his position to champion it. Not doing so, he says, echoing the other candidates, was a “failure of leadership.”

Bach, who has not yet said whether he will run again, has his own plans for stormwater. He hopes to pass a funding mechanism, perhaps a sales tax, that would pay for city infrastructure, including stormwater improvements.

Whether a stormwater program in the Springs is a requirement to operate the Southern Delivery System in early 2016 is debatable. John Fredell, SDS program director, says the permits for the projects only refer to containing additional water, which he says should be fully controlled by new drainage requirements the city set. He notes that Colorado Springs Utilities is committed to spending more than $100 million to repair and protect utility infrastructure from stormwater damage and flooding, and is on track to do so.

But Terry Hart, Pueblo County commissioner and the Pueblo County representative on the Fountain Creek District board, says stormwater work is a requirement of the permits. Pueblo County was meeting with lawyers on Monday, Hart says, to decide what legal action to pursue. That action could include suing to prevent the operation of SDS until a stormwater system is in place.

In a statement to the Independent, influential Pueblo Chieftain publisher Bob Rawlings said, “Colorado Springs and its voters have not been supportive of finding and funding solutions for flood control on Fountain Creek throughout the discussions about Southern Delivery System. It should not have been built and should not be turned on until those questions are answered.”

More stormwater coverage here.