The economic impact of water — and how technology can help — Denver Business Journal

From the Denver Business Journal (Jack Brewer):

Water is a valuable resource and we need to understand the financial reality of failing to address its importance.

Across the world there are examples of degraded water systems, and it is essential that innovations come to the forefront of this issue and present viable options to address this resource.

According to the World Health Organization, addressing both water supply and sanitation would bring about significant economic benefits. For every $1 invested in water supply and sanitation, there’s an economic return of between $3 and $34, depending on the region…

Promising technology

As we have seen in the cholera outbreak in Haiti and Malawi, and the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, we are witnessing examples of nations across the world that have had their infrastructures devastated by natural disasters and epidemics. These diseases are increasingly difficult to treat in the face of poor sanitation and a lack of adequate drinking water. Technology needs to step up to be able to provide this basic human right to nations in need.

One such technology that is making great strides in this effort is the patented Plasma Arc Flow technology by MagneGas Corp. While many of the major wastewater treatment plants take years to construct, MagneGas is a portable, easily operated technology that can be used to process these waste streams in a highly efficient manner.

The beautiful benefit of this technology is that the water becomes completely sterilized, and can then be brought back into the system for sanitation or irrigation needs. The other byproducts of this process are a fertilizer substance (if treating municipal waste) and a high-performance gas that can be used for heating or cooking.

Take time to reflect on what we stand to lose if we ignore the issue of improper treatment of the water we rely on. How we treat the water that we use has a direct impact on our personal health as well as the health of the entire ecosystem.

More water treatment coverage here.

The @NOAA Spring Climate Outlook is hot off the presses

Water Values podcast: Behind the Headgates of Colorado’s Water Plan with CWCB Director James Eklund #COWaterPlan

Governor Hickenlooper and James Eklund at the roll out of the Colorado Water Plan December 11, 2014 via The Durango Herald
Governor Hickenlooper and James Eklund at the roll out of the Colorado Water Plan December 11, 2014 via The Durango Herald

Atlantic circulation weakens compared to last 1,000 years — Scientific American

Click here to read the article.

Aspinall Unit forecast for spring operations

Aspinall Unit
Aspinall Unit

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The March 15th forecast for the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 590,000 acre-feet. This is 87% of the 30 year average. Snowpack in the Gunnison Basin is currently at 78% of average. Blue Mesa Reservoir current content is 551,800 acre-feet which is 67% of full. Current elevation is 7486.2 ft. Maximum content at Blue Mesa Reservoir is 829,500 acre-feet at an elevation of 7519.4 ft.

Black Canyon Water Right
The peak flow and shoulder flow components of the Black Canyon Water Right will be determined by the May 1 forecast of the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir. If the May 1 forecast is equal to the current forecast of 590,000 acre-feet of runoff volume, the peak flow target will be equal to 4,340 cfs for a duration of 24 hours. The shoulder flow target will be 381 cfs, for the period between May 1 and July 25. The point of measurement of flows to satisfy the Black Canyon Water Right is the Gunnison River below Gunnison Tunnel streamgage at the upstream boundary of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Aspinall Unit Operations ROD
Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the peak flow and duration flow targets in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, will be determined by the forecast of the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir and the hydrologic year type. At the time of the spring operation, if the forecast is equal to the current forecast of 590,000 acre-feet of runoff volume, the hydrologic year type will be set as Average Dry. Under an Average Dry year the peak flow target will be 8,070 cfs and the duration target at this flow will be 10 days.

Projected Spring Operations
During spring operations, releases from the Aspinall Unit will be made in an attempt to match the peak flow of the North Fork of the Gunnison River to maximize the potential of meeting the desired peak at the Whitewater gage, while simultaneously meeting the Black Canyon Water Right peak flow amount. The magnitude of release necessary to meet the desired peak at the Whitewater gage will be dependent on the flow contribution from the North Fork of the Gunnison River and other tributaries downstream from the Aspinall Unit. Current projections for spring peak operations show that flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon could be in the 5,000 to 5,500 cfs range for 10 days in order to achieve the desired peak flow and duration at Whitewater. If actual flows on the North Fork of the Gunnison River are less than currently projected, flows through the Black Canyon could be even higher. With this runoff forecast and corresponding downstream targets, Blue Mesa Reservoir is currently projected to fill to an elevation of around 7508.2 feet with an approximate peak content of 730,000 acre-feet.

Downstream flow targets and the projected spring operations to meet them will change with revisions to the forecast and are highly dependent on tributary flows throughout the Gunnison Basin.

More Aspinall Unite coverage here.

2015 Colorado legislation: The South Platte Roundtable is supporting HB15-1178 (Emergency Well Pumping Damaging High Groundwater)

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute
Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

From The Fence Post (Kayla Young):

Members of the South Platte Basin Roundtable have unanimously approved a recommendation to temporarily dewater the Gilcrest and LaSalle area, which gives a needed boost to House Bill 1178 to bring down the rising water table that has been flooding area homes and farmland.

The House agriculture committee had previously requested the roundtable’s input in order to move forward on the legislation.

Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone, and Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Severance, introduced the bill. Saine said the roundtable’s support establishes the framework necessary to accept dewatering recommendations and establish the estimated $450,000 to $500,000 in funding to dewater the zone for two years.

“The idea behind the bill is really to fix the problem that’s been generated by a change in water management,” Saine said, referring to wells that were shut off by the state in 2006. “This is a short-term solution that is desperately needed and is not being offered by any other venue.”

A potential well pumping site has been identified on a property managed by Harry Strohauer near Weld County Road 42, said Robert Longenbaugh, a water consultant engineer and member of the Groundwater Coalition.

The water pumped from this site will not be permitted for consumptive use. It will instead be directed to a drainage ditch that runs northeastward and eventually flows into the river.

To bring down the water table, Longenbaugh said the pump would run constantly throughout the year, generating an estimated electric bill of $25,000 a year. While temporary funding has been established to dewater through the end of June, Saine said she hopes most funding will come from the state.

Saine hopes to begin dewatering by April 1, when groundwater levels traditionally begin to rise again due to spring runoff and activity in irrigation ditches.

The Colorado Legislature will likely not have approved a final version of HB1178 by that time, so Saine and other dewatering advocates plan to begin pumping using independently procured funding until the state steps in.

“Groups have come forward with funding but a majority should come from the state general fund because the state caused this problem due to a change in water management,” Saine said.

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said the vote was the first time in his six years on the roundtable that a unanimous decision was reached on a proposal.

“This is the quickest, fastest way to address issues affecting Gilcrest,” he said.

While the water table has been rising and causing damage for several years now, Conway said recent cases of flooded basements and compromised farmland have made addressing the situation unavoidable.

“You cannot deny it anymore. When someone has a basement flooded, that’s real. That’s not hypothetical,” he said.

Longenbaugh said meetings will take place next week with Colorado State University and the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District to further define which wells to pump and how to monitor them. The data taken from wells pumped this year could contribute to the creation of a long-term solution.

While dewatering will provide temporary relief, Saine emphasized that it is still necessary to identify the underlying causing of the high water table in order to develop a true solution.

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Denver Water: Adapting to Climate Change — a water utility’s approach

USGS: How are floods predicted

Colorado Parks and Wildlife leases water for John Martin Reservoir

John Martin Reservoir back in the day
John Martin Reservoir back in the day

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas River is rumbling a little higher through Pueblo this week as water released from Pueblo Dam makes its way to John Martin Reservoir.

About 5,000 acre-feet (1.6 billion gallons) is being released under leases made by Colorado Springs Utilities and the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is leasing 2,000 acre-feet from Utilities and 1,000 acre-feet from Pueblo Water to boost levels at John Martin State Park.

“This is really exciting news, and we are thrilled to be able to provide additional water this year,” said Brett Ackerman, deputy regional manager for CPW. “Years of drought have really taken a toll on John Martin Reservoir and protecting this exceptional fishery has been tough at times. This will really help out a lot.”

The water will increase the permanent pool at John Martin as a safety net for the fishery.

Another 2,000 acre-feet are being moved to benefit the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, which provides replacement water for irrigation wells below John Martin Dam.

“The plan is to be done by March 30,” said Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte.

The extra water in the river — flows were 640 cubic feet per second Monday, compared with 330 cfs a week earlier — is not having a big impact on the Arkansas River levee project.

“The aqua dam is holding up. We’re doing fine,” said Rick Kidd, manager and engineer for the Pueblo Conservancy District that is overseeing the levee reconstruction.

Heavy equipment work on the levee needs to be done during months when the river is at lower levels. The first phase of construction should be completed by the end of the month.

The release of water also will help lower Lake Pueblo levels to allow for flood storage by the May 1 deadline.

From the Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

The additional water will increase the permanent pool at John Martin Reservoir to approximately 4,000 acre feet resulting in a safety net for the fishery, as well as more room on the water for boating, water skiing and angling. The water was purchased by Colorado Parks and Wildlife from Colorado Springs Utilities and Pueblo Board of Water Works and is currently in transit from Pueblo Reservoir.

“The weather this year was a huge help with regard to overall water levels,” said Ackerman. “But protecting the permanent pool would not have been possible without the help and cooperation of Colorado Springs Utilities and Pueblo Board of Water Works as well as the support of our sportsmen and anglers.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Pure Cycle sells 14,600 acres under the Fort Lyon Canal

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Farmers on the Fort Lyon Canal were shocked by news that 14,600 acres of farms on the Fort Lyon Canal were sold this week.

“The writing’s on the wall,” said Dale Mauch, a farmer who sits on the Fort Lyon board. “I’ve heard stories of three different dairies being built. If you see that happening, you know the water’s going to stay. If you don’t, we’re in trouble.”

Pure Cycle Corp. announced the pending sale of the farms to Arkansas River Farms LLC, an affiliate of C&A Companies and Resource Land Holdings LLC. C&A earlier backed a plan to pipe water from the Lamar Canal to the Front Range. Resource land has more than $550 million in assets in 25 states and Canada.

“Most people are still in shock,” Mauch said. “They’re asking, ‘When’s this company going to quit?’ They’ve got big money from back East. Is what happened to the Amity going to happen to us?”

Right now, no one can say.

Karl Nyquist, a principal with C&A, has not returned calls from The Pueblo Chieftain seeking more information about future plans. C&A is a Colorado real estate firm with residential and commercial real estate developments. But it also has 15 years of farming operations in the Lamar-Holly area, partnering with local farmer Bill Grasmick.

In 2011, Nyquist announced a plan, as GP Water, to pipe some of the water from Lamar Canal to the Front Range. Pure Cycle’s Fort Lyon farms have been targeted for dry-up so the water can be piped north.

But Mauch can see the effects of this sale.

Just 20 years ago, farms on the Fort Lyon, the largest canal in the Arkansas Valley, were selling for $700-$800 per acre (with water). When High Plains started buying farms in 2001, the price jumped to $1,500-$1,750 per acre. The latest sale raises the bar to $3,600 per acre, and there is talk that more sales are coming — up to $4,000 per acre.

“My son tried to buy a farm recently and the land was appraised at $2,500 an acre,” Mauch said. “With $4 corn and $150 hay, at $4,000 an acre? I can’t do it.”

He’s worried about the Fort Lyon after watching what’s happened next door on the Amity Canal. Tri-State Generation and Transmission purchased half of the Amity Canal beginning in 2005. He’s also worried that Main Street, Lamar, will be battered if water starts leaving the area.

Mauch believes such sales are inevitable as long as Front Range cities continue to grow.

“I can’t blame a guy for selling at this kind of money,” Mauch said. “These guys aren’t bad guys. They’re not doing anything illegal. The Front Range is going to continue to grow. It’s the way of the world. If GP doesn’t do it, the next company is going to do it.”

And what about the state water plan?

“I’d like to write the last page,” Mauch said. “Dear Governor Hickenlooper: After reading all this, here’s what it comes down to: You’ll only get the water you need at the expense of agriculture, because that’s where the water is. You only need it for growth.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.