Monument proposes steep increases to water bills —

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From (Andy Koen):

Water bills will likely get more expensive in Monument this year. Under a proposed rate schedule, customers could end up paying nearly double what they did for water last year.

The largest increases will be applied to base rates. For residential customers, the base rate would increase nearly 5 fold from the current $8.80 per month to $40. Commercial customers would see their base rate grow some 789% from $9 per month $71.

The Town of Monument uses a tiered water rate structure that increases the price depending on the volume of water consumed. Rates would also be increased at each of the four tiers under the proposed schedule.

Factoring for water usage of between 3,000 and 6,000 gallons per month, the Town calculates a sample residential bill increasing from $28.76 per month to $46 in the winter. With a usage at 31,000 gallons per month, that same bill increases from $214.49 to $329.75 during the summer.

The worksheet also shows winter bills for commercial customers growing from $430.42 to $651.50 per month and from $805.95 to $1,267.25 in the summer.

The board is also proposing an additional 8 percent increase to the base rate every year through 2021.

Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Kaiser said previous Boards of Trustees kept water artificially low for too long.

“For the last 20 years, there has not been a water rate increase for a small subset of our population who are serviced by the town’s water district,” said Jeff Kaiser, Mayor Pro Tem.

He said the water enterprise has run deficits each year since 2012. Trustees have paid the bills by redirecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the general fund. Kaiser said that is unfair to citizens who get water from other utilities such as Woodmoor Water and Sanitation and the Tri-View Metro District.

“Those citizens who are paying their fair share for the water, yet are being asked to in addition to that, subsidize 20 to 30 percent of our citizens such that they can enjoy extremely low water rates,” Kaiser said.

But business leaders warn the new rates are jumping too fast.

#Drought news: In #Colorado, reservoirs are averaging close to normal — US Drought Monitor

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:


The week following the major East Coast snowstorm/blizzard was characterized by the passage of several cold fronts across the contiguous U.S., frequently changing temperature patterns related to deamplifying flow aloft, and widespread precipitation across the Great Lakes, the Southeast and the West. By the end of the observed period (Tuesday morning, 7am Eastern time), a major storm system had developed across the Southwest and was moving across the Central states, attended by areas of heavy snow (and in some cases, blizzard conditions), heavy rain, flash flooding, and severe weather…

The Far West

Western Washington, western Oregon, and approximately the northern half of California reported large precipitation surpluses during the past two weeks. The largest surpluses (4-8 inches or greater, liquid equivalent) were noted across the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, extreme southwestern Oregon, northwestern California, and in the northern Sierras. Viewed from a somewhat different perspective, AHPS Percent of Normal Precipitation (PNP) values ranged primarily between 150-300 percent of normal. In contrast, the coastal region of southern California had PNPs ranging between the 25th and 50th percentiles of the historical distribution.

Preliminary PARS data from the USDA (through January 30th) provides an informative look at reservoir conditions for the state of California. From about Sacramento northward to the Oregon border, PARS values generally range between 70-120 percent of average, though there are values that fall outside this range. Between Sacramento and Bakersfield, PARS values generally range between 20-70 percent of average, while south of Bakersfield, there are large variations between reservoirs, in addition to a relatively small sample size, making it difficult to approximate a useful range of values.

As of February 3rd, SNOTEL basin-average Snow Water Content (SWC) values in the California Sierras range from 110-150 percent of average. SWC values in northwestern Oregon range from 25-125 percent of average, and between 125-150 percent of average in the southwestern part of the state. In western Washington, SWC values range from 90-110 percent of average.

Despite heavy rainfall in January, an above-average snowpack and rising reservoirs in many areas, the California State Water Resources Control Board recently approved an 8-month extension of existing drought-related emergency regulations. This is a reminder that although El Nino-related precipitation has been bountiful so far this winter, the drought situation in California remains very serious.

It was decided to hold off on making substantial changes to the depiction in the far West until next week, despite heavy precipitation and rebounding stream flows in the short-term (past few weeks). This is because it takes time to assess the impacts all this moisture will have on long-term deficits and other hydrological considerations. The only change made this week was in the northern Sierras of California (El Dorado County), where the coverage of exceptional drought (D4) was reduced…

The Great Plains and Upper Mississippi Valley

For the few remaining areas of drought across the Plains and Upper Mississippi Valley, precipitation for the past two weeks has been generally close to, or slightly above, normal. In Texas, January 2016 precipitation was about 62 percent of normal statewide. Consideration of various 2-6 month precipitation indicators supported the introduction of D0 to Tom Green County in west-central Texas, and the introduction of D0 to Nueces and San Patricio Counties (along the southern coast near Corpus Christi). These same precipitation indicators, and the occurrence of fairly substantial evaporation, supported the expansion of pre-existing D0 conditions across Starr and Hidalgo Counties in far southern Texas. Decent precipitation fell in western Kansas prior to the data cutoff time (12z Tuesday) from a potent storm which brought a variety of weather hazards and precipitation types to the Central states. The amount of precipitation received thus far does not appear to be enough to eliminate the residual area of D0 in west-central Kansas, though it is enough to at least offset the dry pattern experienced during the last 30-days. In Nebraska and the Dakotas, the preliminary Percent of Average Reservoir Storage (PARS) data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as of January 31, 2016, shows values that generally range between 90-140 percent of average. In North Dakota, lack of snow cover, and 30-day and 60-day PNP ACIS (Applied Climate Information System) maps warranted a generous expansion of D0 conditions from its current location northward to the Canadian border (as far east as Rolette County), and as far west as the Missouri River. This is also consistent with neighboring dryness/drought across the border in southeastern Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba…

The Rockies and Intermountain region

During the last 14-days, northern and central portions of both the Rockies and Intermountain region experienced near- to above-normal precipitation amounts. Southern portions of both the Rockies and Intermountain region saw near- to below-normal precipitation amounts during the same observational period. PARS data indicates that reservoirs in Montana near the Continental Divide are generally running about 60-120 percent of average, and reservoirs across the High Plains of Montana are running about 105-150 percent of average. The only change to the depiction in Montana this week was to trim the severe drought (D2) area away from the Canadian border. This was based upon several considerations. The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) and the Standardized Precipitation Evapo-transpiration Index (SPEI) from 1-4 months, current stream flows running close to normal, and relatively wet conditions just north of the border in neighboring parts of Alberta and British Columbia. In Wyoming, PARS values range from about 95-175 percent of average, while in Colorado, reservoirs are averaging close to normal. Significant snowfall was reported in Colorado during the past few days (many areas received a foot or more of new snow). Reassessment of conditions next week will be needed to see if the removal of existing D0 areas in Colorado is warranted…

Looking Ahead

During February 4-8, 1-3 inches of precipitation is expected to fall across New England, New York, and the mid-Atlantic region, while 2-5 inches is forecast across parts of the Southeast. This should reduce, if not eliminate, some of the D0 coverage in this part of the country. For the northwestern quarter of the contiguous U.S., the mountainous areas can expect precipitation amounts (liquid equivalent) to range from about 0.5-1.5 inches, with perhaps as much as 4-6 inch amounts confined to the Olympic Peninsula and northern Cascades in Washington state.

During the ensuing 5 days (February 9-13), there are elevated odds of above-median precipitation from the Dakotas eastward across the Great Lakes to the northern Atlantic Coast, as well as for most of Alaska. Below-median precipitation is favored for most of the remainder of the contiguous U.S.

#Snowpack news: Last Minute Storms Stave Off Dry January — NRCS


Here’s the February 4, 2016 release from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Brian Domonkos):

According to NOAA’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC) nearly all of Colorado was covered in snow on February 3rd, thanks to two significant snow storms that graced Colorado near the first of the month. Statewide Colorado mountain snowpack on February 1st was 111 percent of normal, up from a January low of 105 percent on January 28th. “Without these two storms January precipitation totals would have only been near 70 percent normal, however as a result of these late January storms, statewide January precipitation closed out the month at 98 percent of normal and109 percent of the year-to-date total,” states Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Snowfall continued through February 3rd, which placed some extra icing on the cake and increased snowpack totals up to as high as 117 percent of normal on the morning of February 4th. The mountains of Southern Colorado saw the greatest increase in snow water equivalent, affecting the San Juans and Sangre De Cristos. From January 28th to February 3rd total snowpack depth increased as much as 30 inches at Cumbres Trestle SNOTEL in the San Juan Mountain range.


On February 1st snowpack in only a handful of minor watersheds across the entire state of Colorado were below the 100 percent mark, yet these were close to normal at above 90 percent. All other drainages were above to well above normal. While the late January storms benefitted the entire state, January precipitation as a whole was particularly slim in the Arkansas and Upper Rio Grande basins and storms only amounted to about 75 percent of normal monthly snowpack accumulation.


For more detailed information about individual Colorado watersheds or supporting water supply related information, have a look at the Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report or feel free to go to the Colorado Snow Survey website at:

Or contact Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor at or 720-544-2852.

R.I.P. Maurice White

Maurice White performing in 1982, with Earth, Wind, and Fire at the Ahoy Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Photo via
Maurice White performing in 1982, with Earth, Wind, and Fire at the Ahoy Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Photo via

From NBC New York (David Bauder and Hillel Italie):

Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, whose horn-driven band sold more than 90 million albums and made hits like “September,” ”Shining Star” and “Boogie Wonderland,” died Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles, his brother Verdine said…

“My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep,” Verdine White, also a member of the band, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

#Snowpack news: Fresh snow over most of #Colorado

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Colorado’s snowpack was at 117 percent of average as of Tuesday, according to federal Natural Resources Conservation Service data. If coming months deliver even average snowfall, it will mean plentiful runoff reaching reservoirs this spring and abundant water this summer for Currier and others to use to irrigate fields.

If anything, the rest of the snow season should be above-average. Cory Gates, a meteorologist with in Aspen and formerly a National Weather Service forecaster, said the El Niño weather pattern that has brought so much moisture so far this fall and winter probably will result in a normal February, followed almost certainly by a wet March and April.

“The rest of the winter is still going to be an El Niño-type winter. Even though it’s weakened out there, there’s plenty of characteristics of it still,” he said.

El Niño winters stem from warmer ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. This year’s El Niño is one of the strongest on record. From early on, it had forecasters predicting a wet start to the season’s snowfall, possibly a slowdown in snowfall in mid-winter, and then a wet March and April if the El Niño conditions held on that long.

Fortunately, even January remained above normal for local snowfall, Gates said.

The bountiful snowfall carried into the start of February this week, as everyone knows, from skiers enjoying powder days to students who reveled in rare school snow-day closures.

Gates said Aspen ski resorts got about 40 inches of snow in the last three days.

“The skiing is epic. I talk to a lot of people every day. It’s up to their waists and they’ve got on big powder skis and they’re having fun,” he said.

Snowpack Tuesday in the Upper Colorado River Basin was at 116 percent, and the Gunnison Basin was at 122 percent. Snowpack ranged from 102 percent in the Laramie/North Platte basins to 130 percent in the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins. El Niño winters are usually particularly generous in terms of snowfall in southwest Colorado, and less so in northwestern Colorado.

According to a weekly update from the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University, which works with the National Integrated Drought Information System, “Western Colorado saw mostly above-average precipitation over the past month, generally more than 200 percent of normal. The San Luis Valley was a dry area though, with parts of Alamosa and Conejos counties down to 20 percent of normal.”

Statewide snowpack is actually down a bit from 121 percent as of Dec. 30. Levels in the Upper Colorado and Gunnison basins increased slightly during the last month.

Currier also is involved with Colorado water policy as a member of the state Interbasin Compact Committee. He said the state’s water picture looked bleak as recently as last April, before being boosted by strong spring snow and then a lot of rain in the summer.

“And then the start of the snowpack this year has been really good news,” he said.

An automated snowpack measurement at Park Reservoir on the Grand Mesa already shows 19 inches of snow water equivalent. That’s promising for irrigators, because usually if it peaks at around 23 to 25 inches for the winter, reservoirs on the mesa will fill, Currier said.

He’s less certain what might happen to water levels this year in Lake Powell, which states in the Upper Colorado River Basin rely on to meet water delivery obligations to downstream states. Currier said it all depends on what happens in March and April, which are crucial months for snowpack, and he noted that one Upper Basin state, Wyoming, has below-average snow.

“We’ve still got some catching up to do in the northern part of the Colorado River Basin to have as much as we’d like to have,” he said.

Gates’ confidence that a snowy March and April are coming leads him to believe that Lake Powell’s water level will go up “a lot” — probably between 40 and 47 feet, he said.


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

This week’s snow added to an already abundant snowpack in Colorado.

As of Wednesday, all areas of the state were above the median snowpack for the date, with most areas about 10,000 feet already above 60 percent of the average peak snowpack for the year, with some places above 75 percent or more. The peak usually is reached in April.

“All of our snow courses were at 100 percent of average at the end of the month,” said Rick Sexton, caretaker for Clear Creek Reservoir for the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “That was before the most recent snow.”

Pueblo Water keeps track of snow in the mountains as an indicator of how much water transmountain diversions likely will bring in through ditches and tunnels for the coming year.

Statewide, the snow water equivalent for the state was 117 percent of median, with both the Arkansas River and Rio Grande basins at 121 percent. The measurement is made by estimating how much moisture is in the snowpack, based on depth and temperature. In the Arkansas River watershed, the snow water equivalent ranges from 3-12 inches at Natural Resources Conservation Service stations.

Southern Colorado recorded more than a foot of snow in some places, including northern El Paso County and Colorado City. There were 3-14 inches in the Upper Arkansas Valley and 2-5 inches east of Pueblo. About 3-5 inches fell in Pueblo and Pueblo West. More snow or drizzle Wolf Creek Pass, as usual, is reporting the greatest snow depth in the state, with 86 inches at the NRCS station and the ski area reporting a midcourse depth of 102 inches.

Pueblo’s official precipitation for the year has reached 0.83 inches, which is more than twice the average.

The Fryingpan Arkansas Project is on track to bring in 67,800 acrefeet, well above normal, according to the Feb. 1 forecast by the Bureau of Reclamation. That usually changes as weather conditions fluctuate.

“It’s still early,” said Roy Vaughan, Fry-Ark manager for the Bureau of Reclamation. “We rely on the May 1 forecast.”

With reservoir levels above average, there could be issues with storing water in Lake Pueblo and other places this spring once the snow starts melting. Fry-Ark project water has first priority.

Climate models are predicting a strong El Nino (warming of the Pacific Ocean) will continue, meaning above average precipitation in Southern Colorado through this spring.

From (Marc Stewart):

“The average snow pack is about 120% of normal in the mountains right now, so we’re in really good shape, especially in early February,” said Denver7 Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson.

According to Denver Water: Collection in the Upper South Platte watershed is 126% of normal and in the Upper Colorado River watershed it is 118% of normal…

The snow helps to keep the ground moist, so wildfires don’t spread. More water in the reservoirs can mean fewer restrictions when watering your lawn this summer.

The months ahead are encouraging.

Warm waters in the Pacific Ocean could lead to more snow and rain here in the Rockies in March and April – a phenomenon known as El Nino.

Still there is cautious optimism.

“It’s way too early to be cheering victory or saying that we’re already going to have a great summer of water supply We still have some big months ahead of us as water supply goes,” said [Travis Thompson].

From (Maya Rodriguez):

Our recent winter storm in Colorado put the state back on track when it comes to snowpack levels in the mountains. The snow — which was measured in inches in the metro area, but in feet in the mountains — means Colorado’s snowpack rebounded after a slow January.

“Statewide, it was a huge factor,” said Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor with the USDA/NRCS. “Without the storm, snow totals and precipitation totals for January were going to be in about the 70 percent of normal range.”

Now, though, statewide snowpack is up to about 118 percent of what it would normally be at this time of the year. What does that mean? For now, you can expect good skiing, and later on in the year, it could be good news for Colorado’s drinking water supply…

What happens in January and February, though, isn’t always an indicator of what might happen from March until May. Still, the influence of El Nino out in the Pacific, usually means there is the potential for more snow in Colorado. In the mountains, snowpack season is longer than the traditional winter start of Dec. 21. Snowpack season starts in October and runs through April, when the snow begins to melt.

“We’re, at this point, about two-thirds of the way through the typical snowpack accumulation season,” Domonkos said.

Historically, February is one of the winter months which sees that lowest snowpack accumulation, before it picks up again in March and April. That means, from here on out, every flake of snowfall counts.

#AnimasRiver: Durango sends letter to Colorado governor in support of Superfund — The Durango Herald

Animas River through Durango August 9, 2015 photo credit Grace Hood
Animas River through Durango August 9, 2015 photo credit Grace Hood

From The Durango Herald (Jessica Pace):

Mayor to meet Friday with Hickenlooper

As Silverton and San Juan County officials continue struggling with the terms of Superfund designation, Mayor Dean Brookie said the city of Durango sent a letter this week to Gov. John Hickenlooper supporting National Priorities Listing for a Silverton-area mining network, pointing to concerns about water quality for Durango residents.

“What Durango needs might be different from what Silverton needs,” Brookie said. “This is not to upstage Silverton in any way, but the 20,000 people on our water system, compared with the repairs needed on our water system, creates vulnerability for next summer. This is a way to make sure we have a safety net in the event of another spill.

“This is fairly urgent on our part, and independent of Silverton action.”


Last month, the La Plata County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution of support for Superfund designation. Commissioner Julie Westendorff has expressed in public meetings that she thinks La Plata County should take a supporting role to Silverton’s lead, though Commissioner Gwen Lachelt said she would support sending pro-Superfund communication to the governor ahead of Silverton.

However, all commissioners are unanimous in their support for Superfund.

Brookie said he will meet with the governor on Friday to discuss Durango’s needs.

Two water wells in Security shut down as precaution over chemical — The Denver Post

Typical water well
Typical water well

From The Denver Post (Kieran Nicholson):

Concerns over a chemical found in water wells in El Paso County have resulted in the shutdown of two wells as a precautionary measure.

The chemical known as PFOA has been detected in two wells in the Windmill Gulch aquifer.

Those wells have been voluntarily shut down, Security Water District manager Roy Heald said last month in a Fountain Valley News Facebook post.

In 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency detected PFOA in 94 public water systems in 27 states, including wells in Security, Widefield and Fountain.

The chemical, used in Teflon, can cause cancer, birth defects and heart disease, and weaken the immune system.

The Security wells in question pump water into a tank that “commingled” with water from the Fountain Valley Authority, diluting the Windmill Gulch water to safe, acceptable levels, Heald said in the post.

Still, the two wells have been “turned off indefinitely,” and Security will consult with the EPA on “how to move forward.”

The well in Fountain is a backup, used only in peak water use times, during summer months, said Fountain Utilities director Curtis Mitchell.

PFOA readings at that well have never exceeded EPA standards, Mitchell said Tuesday night.

Water from the Fountain well in question also commingles with other water — from the Pueblo Reservoir, the chief surface supply for Fountain — when it enters the system, Mitchell said.

Fountain will continue to monitor its water on a “voluntary” basis, Mitchell said. Fountain water recently met with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to probe and discuss the situation.

At this time of year, Fountain doesn’t use well water…

Widefield average levels are .034 ppb, “which are well below” the maximum recommended level, the district said.

Fort Lyon Canal board postpones well augmentation dry up hearing

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A hearing next week on a plan to dry up about 6,700 acres on the Fort Lyon Canal has been canceled because some shareholders have complained about potential conflicts of interest.

The Fort Lyon board made the decision Tuesday night after about 10 percent of the shareholders filed a petition alleging conflicts with the canal company’s attorney and engineer. The move cancels the Feb. 11-12 hearings that were planned in Las Animas.

The hearing is for Arkansas River Farms, which bought 14,600 acres of Fort Lyon farms for $53 million last year and announced plans to dry up some of the ground at the annual meeting in December. Fort Lyon shareholders agreed to a public hearing to resolve some issues before a change of use application is filed in water court.

John Lefferdink, the attorney for the Fort Lyon Canal Co., is related by marriage to Bill Grasmick, who is working with Karl Nyquist for Arkansas River Farms.

Duane Helton, the engineer for Arkansas River Farms, was the Fort Lyon Canal’s engineer for 35 years. Tom Williamsen, the canal’s engineer, was Helton’s partner before Helton went into business for himself.

“I didn’t feel there was a conflict of interest,” said Dale Mauch, a board member of the Fort Lyon Canal. “If anything, John (Lefferdink) would be even more conservative in dealing with this.”

But the Fort Lyon board has decided to seek an outside attorney and engineer because of the potential that any decision made by the shareholders at next week’s meeting would not stand in court, Mauch said.

“We felt like we didn’t have a choice,” Mauch said. “Why go through the proceedings if they are going to be challenged?”

The hearing could be rescheduled as soon as April, or as far off as July. The board does not want to schedule it in May or June, when farmers will be busiest in the fields.

Arkansas River Farms, an affiliate of C&A Companies and Resource Land Holdings wanted to move ahead with its plans to use water from the dried-up farms as part of wellaugmentation plans this year. The water would replace depletions from wells further downstream, and a plan has to be filed with the state engineer by March 1.

C&A is the parent company of GP Resources, which announced a plan in 2011 to pipe treated water from the Lamar Canal to the Front Range. That plan has been put on hold in favor of new plans for a large dairy in Prowers County.

The farms on the Fort Lyon Canal were purchased from Pure Cycle Corp., which bought them from High Plains A& M. Those companies once planned to move the water off the farms to Front Range communities.

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