Introduction to the Yampa/White roundtable

Basin roundtable boundaries
Basin roundtable boundaries

From Steamboat Today (Mary Brown):

As the new chair of the Yampa-White-Green Rivers Basin Round Table, I’m writing today to give an update on some of the water issues being addressed both in Northwest Colorado and throughout the state…

Members are elected and/or appointed to their positions per the requirements of the statute, and the roster is filled with people who have a passion for preserving the water in our region. Officers are elected annually and must represent the Yampa and White river basins.

Jackie Brown and Alden Vanden Brink, from Routt and Moffat counties respectively, now serve as the vice-chairs. Jon Hill from Rio Blanco is the immediate past-chair. We have met consistently since our formation to identify, quantify and address challenges of water quantity and quality for the Yampa, White and Green rivers.

The Yampa-White-Green Rivers Basin Round Table one of nine basin round tables in Colorado. During 2014 and 2015 our Round Table was engaged fully with the development of our basin implementation plan. We have authorized studies that help us understand the agricultural, industrial and municipal, environmental and recreation needs of Northwest Colorado.

Many of our members serve on state and regional committees, task forces and modeling crews. All have attended countless meetings and volunteered incalculable hours to produce the basin implementation plan, which was used in the development of the Colorado Water Plan.

#AnimasRiver: US House report on the #GoldKingMine spill


Click here to read the report.

The Rio Grande roundtable approves $10,000 for WISE project

WISE Project map via Denver Water
WISE Project map via Denver Water

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

With assurances Denver would not be coming after San Luis Valley water in the near future, the Rio Grande Roundtable this week approved $10,000 to support a south metro Denver area water project.

The decision was not unanimous, however, with opposing votes coming from Juanita Martinez, who represents Costilla County water groups, Ron Brink, who is an Alamosa County representative on the roundtable, and Gene Farish, attorney for multiple municipalities in the Valley.

Sixteen other members of the roundtable voted to support the WISE (Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency) Project with $10,000 from the funds allocated to the Rio Grande Basin. The other basin roundtable boards throughout the state have financially supported the project, which will recycle water from the Denver and Aurora water systems to south metro water providers and their customers.

The treatment plant for the project will cost about $6.5 million. The south metro water providers have already purchased pipeline to transport water from the Denver and Aurora systems to southern metro areas like Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock.

Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, made the initial presentation for the $10,000 request to the roundtable in January and made the formal request to the board this week. He said this project would reduce the draw on nonrenewable groundwater resources that have traditionally supplied the southern metro communities.

He said the project would also reduce the metro areas’ need to look to agricultural transfers or other basins for water supplies.

Hecox stressed that the water providers he represented were not after Valley water, and if they did look to other water sources outside of Denver, it would be the Colorado River system or South Platte, not the Rio Grande system.

It’s been proposed to move San Luis Valley water in the past,” he said. “There’s water projects proposed . We have not had any discussions with them. Our members have not had any discussions with them. The planning work we are doing is looking at basin solutions in the South Platte Basin or other partnerships with has support from throughout the state.

She said even though the basin might only be providing $10,000, “what you are getting is a lot more good will for yourselves “you are getting a good standing.”

She explained to Hecox that irrigating in the area she represents is still accomplished through shovels and opening irrigation ditches, and although she was fascinated by this project , which would use “left over discarded water,” she was skeptical about it.

She said she was opposed to the motion for funding, and everyone she spoke to in her county told her to not even consider it. She pointed to the Arkansas Valley where farmland has been dried up so people in the Denver area can have nice lawns and golf courses.

“It’s almost like a ghost town driving through there. It’s sad and it breaks everybody’s heart,” she said. “It’s even hard to talk about.”

Brink, who also voted against the funding, said the Denver area does not even recognize the Valley “except when they want some money or water.”

He added, “I am totally against this.”

Hecox said the project was not asking much money from the basin roundtables across the state, but one of the reasons for seeking some support from them Denver.”

Martinez said if the metro water group had no interest in the Valley’s water, then it must water “our good name” to show that it was to show cross-basin cooperation. He added that the metro water providers were trying to find solutions that would use renewable supplies, such as those from Denver and Aurora, rather than continuing to deplete nonrenewable supplies. He said the communities served by the south metro providers have also implemented significant amounts of conservation programs.

“That will go on and continue to reduce outside irrigation in south metro,” he said.

He said conservation efforts have reduced per capita water use by 30 percent over the last 10-15 years.

Rio Grande Water Conservation District Manager Steve Vandiver said he had raised concerns about supporting this project when it was initially presented, and the concern about “completing the loop” that would make it easier to export Valley water to the Denver area was still a concern of his.

However, he said after speaking further with Hecox, he believed the metro water authority had the Valley’s best interest in mind.

“They have convinced me that the project as it exists today is going to delay the need for outside supplies outside of the South Platte Basin,” he said.

Roundtable member Dale Pizel said, “There’s obviously some distrust between the San Luis Valley and the Front Range, for good reason, because we have been beaten up pretty good and had to fight off some pretty serious battles, but if we don’t solve Denver’s water problem, it’s going to keep coming back, “They are going to keep coming after our water.”

He said the Valley water leaders needed to put their distrust aside and help Denver and the Front Range solve their water problems so they don’t come after the Valley’s water.

Roundtable member Judy Lopez agreed. She commended the Denver area water providers for working together to address their water needs among themselves .

Vandiver said this project would be built whether or not it receives the Valley’s support. He wanted the minutes to reflect that the Valley supported the project with some reservation and concerns.

“We do this with some trepidation but want to support these efficiencies and conservation efforts on the Front Range to try to keep the monkey off our back as long as we can,” he said.

Rio Grande River Basin via the Colorado Geologic Survey
Rio Grande River Basin via the Colorado Geologic Survey

Mancos working to upgrade water system for $530,600 — The Cortez Journal

Mancos and the Mesa Verde area
Mancos and the Mesa Verde area

From the Cortez Journal (Mary Shinn):

The aging Mancos water system is getting a financial boost from regional agencies, and it may receive more money from the state.

The town is looking to improve its raw water system, replace a major valve that reduces pressure, and install new water-distribution lines on the south side of town.

The entire project is estimated to be about $530,600, said Town Clerk and Treasurer Heather Alvarez.

So far, the Southwest Water Conservation District has granted the project $75,000, and the Southwest Basin Roundtable has agreed to pitch about $81,800. The town currently has an application pending with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for about $265,000.

If the town receives the state grant, it have to cover about $108,324 of the project.

The town would like to finish design work for the project this year and be ready to start construction in 2017, said Town Administrator Andrea Phillips

The lines the town is looking to replace are at the end of their useful life, and replacing them should help cut down on the need for repairs…

Improving the raw water system should also help stop the spills at the raw water inlet, she said.

In addition, the valve responsible for taking water pressure down from 120 pounds per square inch to 55 pounds per square inch will be replaced with three valves to create greater redundancy in the system, said Public Works Director Robin Schmittel.

The town completed two major water infrastructure projects last year. It installed a new $1.1 water storage tank, replaced all the town’s water meters and rebuilt 100 water meter pits. The pits are plastic cylinders that protect the water meters in the ground.

In 2014, the town adopted a four-year plan to increase water rates in order to pay for water infrastructure improvements. The February bill from the town of Mancos will reflect a $2.50 increase.

The latest “Headwaters Pulse” is hot off the presses from the CFWE


Click here to read the newsletter.

Cloud seeding: “It can’t replace dams or conservation” — Joe Busto

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

From the Watch (Stephen Elliott):

[Andy VanDenBerg] is one cog in a regional cloud seeding program that purports to increase wintertime snowfall over Telluride by as much as 15 percent; he’s one of the dozen or so landowners from Dolores to the southwest to Disappointment Creek and Saltado Creek further north who have allowed Durango-based Western Weather Consultants to install cloud-seeding generators on their properties, and are paid to operate them when a promising storm system moves into the area.

“It doesn’t make much money. It’s kind of a waste of time and an inconvenience,” VanDenBerg said. “But there’s a chance it works.”

It’s difficult — nearly impossible — to prove wintertime cloud seeding’s efficacy, but that hasn’t stopped the Telluride Ski & Golf Company, Dolores Water Conservancy District, Southwestern Water Conservation Board, Colorado Water Conservation Board, California Six Agency Committee, Central Arizona Water Conservation District, Southern Nevada Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California from funding cloud seeding in the Upper San Miguel Drainage Basin, specifically on the Telluride Ski Resort.

“We’re in a 15-year drought and reservoirs are down, so we’re trying to help prevent them from going down further, and maybe bring them back up a little bit,” said Bill Hasencamp, Colorado River Resources Manager for the Metropolitan Water District around Los Angeles.

Hasencamp, like VanDenBerg, can’t be sure cloud seeding works (or at least how well it works), but his agency still enthusiastically funds the program. “There’s a general feeling that it increases snow, but no absolute proof. That’s the tough part: It’s very difficult to tell exactly,” he said.

All of the water managers involved in the Colorado cloud seeding program cite a study from Wyoming when discussing the effectiveness of cloud seeding. The study, conducted by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and several other organizations, was completed in 2014 and compared two mountain ranges in the state: the Medicine Bow and the Sierra Madre. For 10 years, researchers randomly seeded storms in one of the ranges, but not the other, in an attempt to discover if cloud seeding increased snowfall.

That study indicated a 5-15 percent snowfall increase, presumably due to cloud seeding.

“There’s not really any downside to [cloud seeding],” said Joe Busto, cloud seeding program manager with the CWCB. “It doesn’t do a lot, just a few inches more here and there. It can’t replace dams or conservation; it’s just a thing we do every year and we get a little more and that’s all it is.”


Water managers could conceivably seed clouds anywhere along the Colorado River Basin but have decided to partner with ski areas to boost recreational economies and take advantage of the funding those ski areas are willing to put up for the program.

“Although the state supports [cloud seeding], it’s not just because we want to support all the ski areas. This is a new water source, but it has the great benefit of helping out our recreational economy in Colorado,” said April Montgomery, a San Miguel County-based representative on the CWCB. “This is also a huge benefit to Norwood and the West End. We’re producing more water for our Telluride headwater reservoir, and that’s all going down to the lower ends of the San Miguel, into the Dolores, into the Colorado.”

As reservoirs along the Colorado River, including Lake Powell and Lake Mead, have dried up during the past few years, water managers downstream have turned to more experimental ways to keep them full, or at least less empty. Busto at the CWCB said the out-of-state agencies have contributed nearly $2 million to the Colorado cloud seeding program since 2007.

“The reason why the state is involved in cloud seeding is because it’s the cheapest form of new water. If you look at other ways of creating new water sources, you’re looking at desalinization or you’re looking at giant reservoir systems and new diversion systems. That costs so much money,” Montgomery said. “Our snowpack is the largest reservoir we have and if we can increase our snowpack, we are basically creating this giant reservoir that we can use later.”


But cloud seeding raises questions. Does silver iodide negatively impact the watershed once it falls out of the clouds? If we coax precipitation from clouds over Telluride, does that mean less will fall on other communities?

Cloud seeding proponents answer a resounding “No” to both questions.

The Wyoming study found silver concentrations in the water after cloud seeding in the parts per trillion range, and in the parts per billion range in soil, “about three orders of magnitude less than values considered hazardous to environmental system or human health.”

“Silver iodide doesn’t dissolve into the water,” Montgomery said. “One reason I’ve been able to embrace this technology is, as we improve and we’re being more efficient and effective with it, we’re not just throwing this up into the atmosphere.”

“This is something that doesn’t bioaccumulate,” Busto added. “When a chemical gets in the fish, then the eagles get it… That’s bioaccumulation. It’s a concern, but [silver iodide] won’t do that.”

As for cloud seeding’s effect on nearby areas, Western Weather’s founder Larry Hjermstad, who has been working in weather modification for four decades, said seeding merely takes advantage of an opportunity in a storm.

“One of the big concerns is, if we’re putting more precipitation in one area, it’s at the expense of another area. The answer is no; we’re creating a slightly better storm system,” he said.

Busto added that winter storms are typically large, often 200 miles long or more, and contain huge amounts of moisture, only a small amount of which will ever fall as precipitation. So when cloud seeding urges slightly more of that moisture out of the clouds, the vast majority of a storm’s moisture remains to fall elsewhere or stick around in the cloud.

“To say you took all the water out of a system that was 200 miles long is really a stretch,” Busto said. “Did you steal that [precipitation] from someone else? No, I don’t think so.”

The Wyoming study concurred, finding that the “downshadow effect,” or the impact of cloud seeding on areas outside the seeded area, was negligible.

NOAA: February 2016 El Niño update

From (Emily Becker):

Despite getting a little boost from some strong winds across the tropical Pacific Ocean in January, the warmer-than-average ocean temperatures that drive El Niño have likely peaked. Now that we’re looking out from the other side of the mountain, let’s answer some questions.

So is this the strongest El Niño on record, or what?
This is definitely one of the strongest three going back to 1950. It’s hard to say definitively what single El Niño is the strongest, because there are a lot of different ways to measure strength.

The Oceanic Niño Index, the three-month-average sea surface temperature departure from the long-term normal in one region of the Pacific Ocean, is the primary number we use to measure the ocean part of El Niño, and that value for November – January is 2.3°C, tied with the same period in 1997-98. There are other areas of the ocean that we watch, though, including the eastern Pacific (warmer in 1997/98) and the western Pacific (warmer in 2015/16).

Also, don’t forget the “SO” part of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is the all-important atmospheric response. All that extra heat in the tropical Pacific Ocean warms up the atmosphere above it, leading to more rising air, which changes the circulation all around the globe. By one measure (the EQSOI), the El Niño-related changes in the atmospheric circulation in 1997/98 and 2015/16 are tied; by another (the SOI), 1997/98 was stronger.

Location of the stations used for the Southern Oscillation Index (Tahiti and Darwin, black dots), the Equatorial Southern Oscillation Index (eastern equatorial Pacific and Indonesia regions, outlined in blue), and the Niño3.4 region in the east-central tropical Pacific Ocean for sea surface temperature (red dashed line). NOAA image by Fiona Martin.
Location of the stations used for the Southern Oscillation Index (Tahiti and Darwin, black dots), the Equatorial Southern Oscillation Index (eastern equatorial Pacific and Indonesia regions, outlined in blue), and the Niño3.4 region in the east-central tropical Pacific Ocean for sea surface temperature (red dashed line). NOAA image by Fiona Martin.

We also look at tropical Pacific near-surface winds, subsurface ocean temperatures, upper-atmosphere winds, cloudiness… the list goes on! The image of tropical cloudiness (an indicator of rainfall) below is a good example of how a single index number over a single region doesn’t give you the whole picture of an El Niño’s “personality.”

Clouds and precipitation during January 1998 (left) and January 2016 (right). Clouds can be detected by satellites because they block the amount of longwave radiation leaving the earth’s surface (OLR). Image by Michelle L’Heureux and, from CPC data.
Clouds and precipitation during January 1998 (left) and January 2016 (right). Clouds can be detected by satellites because they block the amount of longwave radiation leaving the earth’s surface (OLR). Image by Michelle L’Heureux and, from CPC data.

The El Niño-related cloudiness and rainfall pattern extended farther east along the equator in 1998, stretching all the way to the South American coast. These patterns are closely linked to the changes El Niño causes to global circulation, and therefore to El Niño’s impact on weather and climate.

In short, we can argue over which El Niño is stronger, or we can argue about who’s the better quarterback, John Elway or Peyton Manning. Hm… the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl in both the 1997 and 2015 seasons…

Denver Broncos quarterbacks John Elway (left) and Peyton Manning (right). Images from Wikipedia.
Denver Broncos quarterbacks John Elway (left) and Peyton Manning (right). Images from Wikipedia.

But I saw in the media that this month’s Niño3.4 is a few hundredths of a degree above January 1997. Isn’t that a record?
Maybe. Maybe not. Part of the difficulty in assigning “record” status in a close contest is that we just can’t measure the temperature of every molecule of water in the tropical Pacific. (And satellites don’t have magical space thermometers.) So there’s always some uncertainty in the measurement.

We checked with our colleagues at NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information*, who told us that, for this dataset, the ERSSTv4, the uncertainty in those final numbers beyond the decimal point prevents a declaration of “record!” The uncertainty in this one dataset is not huge, as you can see in the shaded area below, but it’s bigger than the difference between 1998 and 2016.

Monthly Niño3.4 Index, from ERSSTv4 data. Shaded area indicates the uncertainty. Image by Michelle L’Heureux and, from NCEI data.
Monthly Niño3.4 Index, from ERSSTv4 data. Shaded area indicates the uncertainty. Image by Michelle L’Heureux and, from NCEI data.

Hey, wait a second. Last month, you said the October – December Niño3.4 average was 2.3°C above normal, but now it says 2.2°C. What’s going on there?
This is related to the uncertainty I just mentioned. At the end of every month, there are some missing observations from that month. These observations have to be filled in using a statistical method, and it’s not finalized until the end of the next month. There aren’t a lot of these points, but enough that they can slightly change the average, which is what happened for October–December.

What’s the deal with California rain? And the drought?
Tom just wrote about that!

Was the East Coast blizzard caused by El Niño?
I think it was caused by the Denver Broncos. I kid!

It’s just not possible to attribute a single storm to one climate influence, especially such a complicated storm as a snowy nor’easter. A lot of components had to come together to create that blizzard, including a cold snap, warm Atlantic Ocean waters to feed moisture to the storm, and a strong frontal system, among others. El Niño’s fingerprint may have been present in some of those factors, but it’s really tough to separate it out. El Niño does tend to create conditions that steer storms across the Gulf states, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas; typically, these storms will exit to the Atlantic south of Maryland/Virginia. The more northward track of this storm is somewhat unusual for El Niño-related conditions, but not unheard of.

What’s next?
The official El Niño/Southern Oscillation forecast says it’s likely the tropical Pacific will transition to neutral conditions (sea surface temperature in the Niño3.4 region dropping below the 0.5°-above-normal threshold) in the late spring. The longer-term outlook for early fall is slightly favoring La Niña conditions by September-November, which would be consistent with the historical tendency for strong El Niño events to be followed by La Niña. Computer models still have a wide range of possible outcomes for next fall, though, so stay tuned!

North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) forecast for the monthly Niño3.4 Index. Each gray line is an individual computer model forecast (107 in total) and the black dashed line shows the average. Image by from CPC data.
North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) forecast for the monthly Niño3.4 Index. Each gray line is an individual computer model forecast (107 in total) and the black dashed line shows the average. Image by from CPC data.

* lots more information about the ERSSTv4 dataset and uncertainty can be found in this paper: Huang, B., P. Thorne, T. Smith, W. Liu, J. Lawrimore, V. Banzon, H. Zhang, T. Peterson, and M. Menne, 2015: Further Exploring and Quantifying Uncertainties for Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature (ERSST) Version 4 (v4). J. Climate. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-15-0430.1, in press. Many thanks to Boyin Huang for his help with this post.

#AnimasRiver: Environmental Protection Agency inches closer to meeting Silverton demands — The Durango Herald

Bonita Mine acid mine drainage
Bonita Mine acid mine drainage

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday sent a letter to Silverton officials proposing a Superfund site for the discharging mine district responsible for degrading water quality in the Animas River…

In his letter, Superfund remedial program director Bill Murray inches toward meeting Silverton’s terms, albeit under the legalese of a large bureaucratic federal agency.

“The EPA acknowledges that there is a vast amount of local knowledge, information and expertise relating to the potential Superfund site, and will actively involve the Town and County governments in the Superfund process to the maximum extent practicable,” Murray wrote.

Murray goes on to say the EPA is committed to considering new technologies for remediation and naming the site the Bonita Peak Mining District Site. He even suggests the community set up an advisory group to remain engaged in the cleanup process.

The actual Superfund site boundaries, however, remain unclear.

“Because the boundaries of the site are being defined so as to permit study of possible sources, if data gathered during the project demonstrate that any property is not a significant contributor to contamination of the Animas River or its tributaries, the EPA may redefine the site boundaries as appropriate and will provide a confirming letter to the relevant property owners,” Murray wrote.
Silverton and San Juan County officials have until Feb. 29 to decide whether to accept federal intervention, a notion the town has rebuffed for the last 20-plus years as water quality has worsened in the Animas basin, resulting in the decline of trout in the river.

In a prepared statement, Silverton and San Juan County spokesman Mark Eddy was noncommittal on what the town’s response to the EPA’s letter would be.

“We received the letter shortly before it was made public,” Eddy wrote. “We have made good progress in our discussions with the EPA regarding a Superfund listing. We are reviewing the letter to determine the full impact of the commitments the EPA has made.”

For Silverton and San Juan County to formally pursue a Superfund listing, officials would have to hold a special meeting and vote on a resolution, directing Hickenlooper to request the EPA’s hazardous cleanup program.

Colorado abandoned mines
Colorado abandoned mines

Meanwhile, state legislators are hoping to send a strong, unified message to the feds about the need for cleanups. Here’ a report from Peter Marcus writing for The Durango Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

State lawmakers on Thursday advanced a measure that would urge Congress to pass so-called “Good Samaritan” legislation.

The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee backed Senate Joint Memorial 1 unanimously. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

The measure calls on Congress to pass legislation that would allow government and private entities to restore toxic inactive mines, without facing liability concerns.

While the memorial is largely symbolic – as the Legislature can’t force the hand of Congress – lawmakers hope to send a strong message.

“This was stimulated in part, but not solely, because of what happened on the Animas River this summer,” explained the legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango…

“Most of those mine remediation projects have been based upon working with mine waste, even though the draining mines provide more metals to the river system than the mine waste piles do,” explained Peter Butler, co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group and former chairman of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission.

“A big part of that is because of liability issues in addressing those draining mines, so not very many of those draining mines have been addressed.”

Several legislative efforts are before Congress. State lawmakers and water stakeholders hope to encourage Congress to move faster on the Good Samaritan bills.

“Here, in Southwest Colorado, we all learned together in August 2015 that this type of threat can be directly caused by abandoned mines,” said Liane Jollon, executive director of the San Juan Basin Health Department.

Bruce Whitehead, executive director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District, said it is an issue that impacts watersheds statewide.

“Without that, and without litigation against responsible parties, there probably won’t be much more work done on these mines up here that are a problem, and will continue being a problem,” Whitehead said.

#ColoradoRiver: Glenwood Springs completes source-water protection plan

Glenwood Springs via Wikipedia
Glenwood Springs via Wikipedia

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Dan Ben-Horin):

The City of Glenwood Springs recently completed a Source Water Protection Plan, joining the ranks of Basalt, Carbondale, Aspen and 17 other small water providers in the Roaring Fork Valley that have already done so. This is a progressive step for the city, taking a proactive approach to maintaining the high quality of its municipal drinking water sources.

Source waters provide water for public drinking supplies and private wells. Surface waters such as streams, rivers and lakes, or ground water can serve as sources of drinking water. Public utilities treat most water before it is distributed for use by residents. Protecting source water reduces risks to public health from exposure to contaminated water. Protecting source water from contamination can also reduce municipal treatment costs.

Here in Colorado, the Department of Public Health and Environment completed source water assessments for most of the state in the early 2000s as a requirement of the federal Safe Water Drinking Act; Glenwood Springs’ assessment was completed in 2004. This assessment identified the sources of Glenwood Springs’ public water, while at the same time examining potential contamination sources and other threats. Equipped with this information, the city embarked on the second phase of work, the protection phase, to develop appropriate management strategies to safeguard its community water sources.

Development and implementation of a protection plan is completely voluntary. Glenwood relied on the expertise of its staff and interested residents, who formed a steering committee, to contribute to the planning efforts.

The 2004 assessment defined two source water protection areas for Glenwood Springs’ drinking water supply, the No Name and Grizzly Creek watersheds northeast of town and the Lower Roaring Fork watershed south of the city, each with their own issues of concern and potential sources of contamination.

No Name and Grizzly creeks flow from high in the Flat Tops south to where they meet the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. Wildfire, outdoor recreation and infrastructure vandalism were identified as the primary potential sources of contamination in these source waters. In contrast, the city’s other drinking water supply on the Lower Roaring Fork River is exposed to different land use practices that translate into different concerns. Here the risk of contamination comes from commercial and industrial operations, transportation and roads, and septic systems, among others.

Knowing the types and location of potential sources of contamination allows the city to take action to reduce the risk of contamination and protect the community’s source waters. An example of this work is the Glenwood Springs Fire Department’s development of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

Areas north of the drinking water intakes on No Name and Grizzly Creeks have been assigned a “very high” wildfire danger rating. Wildfires can have catastrophic effects on drinking water sources, dictating the need to prioritize wildfire mitigation efforts in these source water areas. Actions such as the placement of additional signage at trailheads, installation of expanded information kiosks and the appropriation of additional funds for wildfire mitigation in the form of fuel reduction in the source water protection areas are advised by the protection plan.

The single largest opportunity for protection of the Lower Roaring Fork River intake is through effective public outreach to encourage local businesses, property owners and visitors to employ pollution control practices that protect drinking water sources.