Rio Grande Basin Roundtable meeting recap

Basin roundtable boundaries
Basin roundtable boundaries

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Some folks were a bit wary of a request this week from a Denver metro group for financial assistance with a water project that local water leaders were concerned might facilitate water exportation from the San Luis Valley to the Front Range.

Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, asked members of the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable water group this week for $10,000 from the roundtable’s basinallocated funds for the WISE (Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency) Project.

Hecox made his initial presentation this week and will return next month with the formal funding request. He told local roundtable members he had already visited the other eight basin roundtable groups throughout the state and they had been supportive of putting $10,000 each into this project in an effort to show cross-basin cooperation and support for local projects.

Hecox said the basin support would help leverage money from other sources and serve as a cash match. He said while most of the basin roundtables committed to $10,000 each, the metro basin committed $40,000 and the South Platte roundtable $15,000 towards the WISE project.

Hecox explained that the South Metro Water Supply Authority is made up of 13 independent water providers that serve areas like Highlands Ranch, Parker and Castle Rock.

What brought these groups together, Hecox explained, was their common issue of having non-tributary nonrenewable groundwater as their water supply. The group has been working together towards a better water source solution since the 1960’s and 1970’s , Hecox said, and had participated in the Two Forks Project, a dam project that never materialized . “Two Forks going away didn’t change the need for storage,” he said. To roundtable member Charlie Spielman’s comment that Two Forks was being built one gravel pit at a time, Hecox said rather than one big bucket, there are lots of smaller buckets filling that same need, and there are a lot of gravel pits being used for water storage.

“That’s not a component of our project,” he said. The authority has tried to reduce water use through significant conservation efforts , he added, and the per capita water use in their communities has decreased by 30 percent since the 2000’s .

The latest idea prompting the WISE project is to partner with Denver and Aurora water providers, which do have renewable supplies, to reuse their municipal effluent , Hecox explained. The WISE project will encompass a treatment facility that will treat that water so it can be distributed to participating communities through existing pipelines. The authority purchased the pipeline for $34 million, Hecox said, which is being changed from its original use to be used for this project.

The authority will pay Denver and Aurora $5.50 per thousand gallons to use their water supplies, pipe the water, treat it and distribute it to about two million people in the South Metro Water Supply Authority area.

Groundwater and surface water will be comingled in the pipeline, Hecox explained . He said the funding being requested from roundtables as a local match will help build a treatment plant for the groundwater, which will cost about $6.4 million.

The authority is combining $5.4 million in matching funds and will submit a grant request for $915,000, according to Hecox.

Hecox said the Rio Grande Roundtable should support this project because it addresses the statewide gap between supply and demand and because it would support the new approach of regional partnerships to address water issues throughout the state.

Hecox said that the communities in the South Metro authority have, much like many water users in the Rio Grande Basin (San Luis Valley), relied on groundwater resources, so they are trying to become mores sustainable, and the option of reusing Denver/Aurora effluent is one method of accomplishing that. The WISE project will allow area water resources to be reused multiple times, Hecox explained.

The water that the authority will be buying from Denver and Aurora was previously going down the South Platte, Hecox said.

“This will use water that was going downstream,” he said.

He added that Aurora had a few short-term leases on its water previously, but this would be a permanent one.

The authority is guaranteed supplies from Denver and Aurora until 2030, he said.

Roundtable member Steve Vandiver, general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, said this seemed to be opening up a new distribution system for the entire metro area that would make it easier to import water from other parts of the state, such as the Valley. He added that there is an export project currently proposed in the northern part of the San Luis Valley, and there have been continuous overtures over time from water speculators wishing to benefit from exporting water out of the Valley. It would seem that the WISE project would fit right into their plans, he said.

Hecox admitted the WISE project would not meet all of the metro water needs in the future, and the authority is looking at other water sources such as a cooperative project with Denver and the West Slope as well as an alternative agriculture transfer program in the South Platte Basin.

He said when the authority began the WISE project it was looking at a need for 60,000 acre feet of reusable supplies. With the WISE project, the authority is now looking in the 15,000-30 ,000-acre-foot range “above and beyond this,” he said.

He said some of Aurora’s water supply is coming from the Arkansas Basin “but none from the San Luis Valley/Rio Grande Basin.”

He said, “To my knowledge Aurora is not looking at any supplies in the Valley or the Rio Grande.”

Vandiver said the likely plumbing for any export from the San Luis Valley would be through the Arkansas Basin.

The plan we have seen would come out of here to the Arkansas,” Vandiver said. “This completes the pipeline from us to south metro ” The concern for us is that’s not necessarily a good thing for the Valley.”

Hecox said when this project began, Denver water leaders were concerned their water would be used for additional growth in Douglas County, and there are areas that are zoned, platted and designated for development, but the houses have not yet been built. He added that developers in Douglas County had not yet approached the metro water authority or its members to use the WISE project water.

He said the purpose of the WISE project would be to reuse existing water supplies for existing communities.

The roundtable took no action on Hecox’s request this week but may do so next month.

Dolores Community Center: Wild & Scenic Film Festival, January 22

Click here for all the inside skinny from Conservation Colorado. From the website:

Conservation Colorado is joining Montezuma Land Conservancy as they host the 5th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival! Doors will open at 5:45 PM and films will roll at 6:30 PM. FREE wine and Dolores River Brewery beer will be provided. Yummy food will be sold separately by the Dolores PTO. Eleven inspiring films will be shown, and there will be door prizes and an awesome drawing for new members. Come learn more about conservation while enjoying local beer and great films!

Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door, $5 for children.

To purchase tickets, click here.


#FlintWaterCrisis, Lead in water: What are the health effects and dangers? — Popular Science

Roman lead pipe -- Photo via the Science Museum
Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

From Popular Science (Alexandra Ossola):

The water in flint, michigan could affect children permanently

How is lead introduced to the body?

Humans have long known that lead can cause detrimental health effects—some claim it contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. But the substance’s effects were first documented in children about a century ago, says Jay Schneider, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University. However, lead was still common in many household products—especially paint, in which it was used to add color and stability the mixture, until it was banned in 1978.

Lead paint, turning into dust and chips as it falls from the walls of old houses, is one of the most common ways in which children are exposed to the substance. But it shows up in other surprising places, too—in many vinyl-based products like shower curtains and raincoats, telephone cords, and some that are even designed explicitly for children, such as lunch boxes and toys.

How is lead introduced to the body?

Humans have long known that lead can cause detrimental health effects—some claim it contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. But the substance’s effects were first documented in children about a century ago, says Jay Schneider, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University. However, lead was still common in many household products—especially paint, in which it was used to add color and stability the mixture, until it was banned in 1978.

Lead paint, turning into dust and chips as it falls from the walls of old houses, is one of the most common ways in which children are exposed to the substance. But it shows up in other surprising places, too—in many vinyl-based products like shower curtains and raincoats, telephone cords, and some that are even designed explicitly for children, such as lunch boxes and toys.

The substance’s effects were first documented in children about a century ago.

Lead can be ingested, through water or other contaminated substances–the Environmental Protection Agency limits the amount of lead in water to 15 micrograms per liter, though some toxicologists think that limit should be lowered to 10 micrograms per liter. Lead can also be inhaled or sometimes even absorbed through the skin, though lead can’t move from water into skin, so it’s safe to bathe in lead-contaminated water as long as you don’t drink it.

Once it’s in the body, lead competes with calcium to be absorbed by the body. There are lots of factors that can affect just how much of the lead is absorbed, but there is an overall higher absorption rate for lead that is inhaled versus ingested. It sticks to red blood cells—doctors usually test the blood for proof of exposure to lead—and then moves into soft tissues, like the liver and lungs. If lead is absorbed into bones, it can stay there for decades and recirculate in the person’s blood if a bone is broken or when a woman is pregnant, potentially poisoning both the mother and the fetus.

What are the health effects and dangers of lead?

When cells in the brain absorb lead, it tends to affect the frontal cortex, the area responsible for abstract thought, planning, and attention, and the hippocampus, essential to learning and memory. But the resulting symptoms vary a lot between individuals, Schneider says. “You don’t often see the same kinds of cognitive dysfunction in all kids,” he says. “From what our research has shown, there are very significant differences in the way different brains respond to this particular toxin.”

Factors like age, sex, amount of lead in the body, and genetic makeup can drastically alter the particular combination of symptoms caused by lead poisoning in the brain–younger children and boys display the strongest neurological effects.

One thing is constant, however: lead is toxic, and if it makes its way into the still-developing brains of young children, many of the effects can be permanent. Lead can change how signals are passed within the brain, how memories are stored, even how cells get their energy, resulting in life-long learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and lower IQs.

“It can really change the programming of the brain, which will have considerable effects on subsequent behavioral and brain function,” Schneider says. “As we learn more about lead and its effects on the brain, even down to these molecular levels, if anything it’s even more dangerous than we thought.”

What are the treatments for lead exposure?

If you suspect that your child might have lead poisoning, Schneider recommends getting a complete evaluation from a pediatrician.

If a child has in fact been poisoned, however, there are woefully few treatments available. For very high levels of lead in the blood, doctors can give children chelation therapy, a chemical that binds to the lead so that the body can’t absorb it. “That can help to protect the peripheral organs, but most agents used for [treatment] don’t do anything to fix the damage that’s already been done,” Schneider says. There is no treatment for low levels of lead in the blood.

#coleg: New legislation attempt would allow Coloradans to collect water from roofs — The Durango Herald

Rain barrel schematic
Rain barrel schematic

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

Another attempt to allow Coloradans to collect rain water that falls on their roofs has started with a drizzle of legislation.

Reps. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, and Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, introduced the first piece of legislation on the subject Wednesday, the first day of the new legislative session.

The measure is written similar to legislation last year, which died on the second-to-last day of the session after it never received a Senate floor vote.

“It’s so simple. You’ve got rain that falls on your roof. You want to store it in a barrel to put it, instead of on your lawn or on your sidewalk, on your tomato plants or your flowers,” said Danielson, the daughter of a Weld County farmer. “It’s really straightforward, and it makes a lot of sense.”

The bill would allow people to capture rain from their roof in up to two 55-gallon barrels for use in their garden or on their lawn…

Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, found herself stuck in the middle of the debate last year, working to convince her fellow Republicans, who control the Senate, to give the bill a floor vote, where it would have passed with her support.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, led opposition to the bill, raising concerns over eroding the state’s prior appropriations system, in which water rights are granted to the first person to take water from an aquifer or river, despite residential proximity.

Sonnenberg suggested requiring rain-barrel users to register their barrels with the state and requiring local water providers to replace water taken from rooftops.

“It was extremely burdensome and regulatory in nature, and I couldn’t support it, but I certainly appreciated him spending some time to think about what would be a path forward from his perspective,” Roberts said of Sonnenberg’s effort. “I don’t want a police state over rain barrels.”

For his part, Sonnenberg said on Friday that he is open to a new discussion this year. He is holding off on introducing his own measure on the subject to see if he can secure a compromise with the bill that has been introduced.

At the top of his list, Sonnenberg would like the Office of the State Engineer, which handles water resources, to study the issue to determine whether there would be an impact to water rights, or if the result would be too minor to merit consideration.

He would also like the legislation to consider impacts to all bodies of water in the state – such as a groundwater basin – instead of just streams.

Proponents feel vindicated after researchers with Colorado State University in September reported that allowing 100 gallons of rainwater storage per household would not decrease surface runoff by any detectable amount on a typical lot.

But Sonnenberg remains skeptical, stating that the study took into account only runoff with or without rain barrels. He said it’s possible that barrels would lead to less runoff.

“The CSU study is flawed,” he said. “CSU … has lost some credibility for not doing their due diligence with regard to water and bringing us numbers. They did not bring us numbers that add up.”

Sonnenberg has, however, backed off on the registration requirement, stating that the proposal was just a starting point.

“All I need is someone responsible and a solid legislative declaration, and I think I can convince my other folks in the water community that do not like this, that absolutely hate this, that this is a good compromise,” he said.

Find a permanent revenue stream for stormwater — Pueblo Board of Water Works to #Colorado Springs

Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday will consider a resolution that calls for Colorado Springs to find a permanent source of funding for stormwater control of Fountain Creek.

The resolution was provided to The Pueblo Chieftain by board President Nick Gradisar. It ties a recent Environmental Protection Agency audit of stormwater violations to a 2004 intergovernmental agreement among the board, Colorado Springs Utilities and the city of Pueblo as well as the 2009 Pueblo County 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System.

The action would direct Executive Director Terry Book to contact the EPA to relay the community’s concern over the stormwater permit violations, which were revealed in November.

It also supports Pueblo County in its enforcement of the 1041 permit, which could delay the expected operation of the SDS pipeline in April.

The water board resolution also says Utilities, which was the lead agency for obtaining the 1041 permit, should have more of a role in the stormwater negotiations.

“Pueblo Water believes any revised 1041 permit or agreement must provide an adequate enforcement mechanism such that future funding of stormwater infrastructure is no subject future funding of stormwater infrastructure is no subject to the whims of different political leaders in Colorado Springs or the other SDS participants,” the proposed resolution reads in part.

It also suggests the stormwater regulations need to be in place for as long as the SDS pipeline is in operation.

That echoes concerns expressed last year by Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, who suggested stormwater should be a fifth utility for Colorado Springs along with water, sanitary sewer, gas and electric service.
Colorado Springs had a stormwater enterprise in place in 2009 when it received federal and Pueblo County approval to build SDS, a 50-mile, $841 million water delivery pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs.

After a vote to sever utility payments from the city’s general fund in November 2009, Colorado Springs City Council chose to abolish the stormwater enterprise, but left other revenuesharing mechanisms in place.

The Lower Ark has placed its proposed federal court action on hold until EPA enforcement of the state stormwater permit under the federal Clean Water Act is complete.

Pueblo County is still contemplating whether Colorado Springs has met its stormwater obligations under the 1041 permit.

Pueblo City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution requiring Colorado Springs stormwater compliance at its Jan. 25 meeting.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and City Council have proposed a plan to redirect $19 million annually from other city and Utilities funds.

Meanwhile, here’s the view from upstream via The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

Colorado Springs is revving up its stormwater program, more than doubling its staff of inspectors and engineers to deflect lawsuit threats and fix problems cited by Pueblo County and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Mayor John Suthers vowed from the start of his tenure in June to address the city’s long-neglected stormwater problems, and he soon started carving $16 million from the city’s 2016 budget to add to $3 million from Colorado Springs Utilities.

“I can’t emphasize enough, this money wasn’t easy to come by,” Suthers said. “I’ve got a lot of unhappy police officers and firefighters out there,” because raises and staff additions were frozen for the year.

That $19 million dedicated to stormwater issues this year compares with $5 million from the city’s general fund in 2015, though federal grants bolster expenditures yearly. But Pueblo County officials are lamenting the loss of the Stormwater Enterprise Fund, which the City Council dismantled in 2009. They’re pointing to the eradication of that fund as cause to possibly rescind the 1041 permit they issued to Utilities to build and operate the $829 million Southern Delivery System.

The timing of the threat couldn’t be worse. The enormous project is scheduled to start pumping April 27, delivering up to 50 million gallons of water a day to Pueblo West, Fountain, Security and Colorado Springs.

Meanwhile, the EPA has threatened to sue Colorado Springs for not meeting terms of its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit, better known as the MS4. After inspections in August, the EPA reported that the city didn’t have enough resources, inspections or internal controls to maintain and operate its stormwater infrastructure properly. The city also doled out too many waivers and failed to hold developers’ “feet to the fire,” the inspectors found.

Water, of course, flows downstream. So unrestrained stormwater, excessive sedimentation and degraded water quality become problems for the people in Pueblo County.

Neither Suthers nor the City Council has denied the magnitude of those problems. Indeed, the city and Utilities have proposed an intergovernmental agreement that would guarantee a minimum of $19 million a year in floodwater projects for 10 years. Utilities would be on the hook if the city experienced an economic downturn.

In addition, the city is creating a Stormwater Division to be staffed by 58 full-time employees compared with the current 28, adding inspectors and engineers.

The budget for MS4 compliance alone is increasing from $3 million to about $7.1 million. The total comes to $8.56 million if you include the cost of MS4 responses by street sweepers, firefighters and Utilities.