New wells, treatment improvements erase Wiggins’ water supply problems


From the Brush News Tribune (Stephanie Alderton):

After many years of struggling to provide enough clean water for the town’s growing population, Larino reported Feb. 24 that Wiggins now has more than enough for several years to come — even taking into account the two new housing developments that will begin construction this year.

Much of the water system’s success can be attributed to improved filtration methods, new wells the town has added over the last few years and some recent water deals with the Front Range. But although the water system is in better shape today than it has been in years, Larino said there’s still room for improvement.

“A lot of people don’t recognize, I think, over the last couple of years, how (the water system) has changed and diversified,” he said.

Wiggins gets most of its water from three wells that pull from the Kiowa Bijou basin, and two more recently dug wells that pull from the South Platte River.

The town also owns permits for two more Kiowa Bijou wells that have not yet been drilled. These wells are augmented by a 112-acre recharge pond facility north of town, shares in Weldon Valley ditch water and a recently approved lease agreement with the city of Castle Rock for augmentation water over the next three years.

The town also has two more recharge ponds and a few more Weldon Valley shares pending court approval.

Larino also pointed out that, thanks to an improved cleaning and filtration system, Wiggins’ water is well below the state limit for nitrates and other chemical content.

The water’s quality, particularly its nitrates level, has been a problem for the town in the past, but Larino said those days are over.

In 2015, the town pumped about 182 acre feet of water out of the 256 available acre feet. Thanks to the new water agreements, Larino said they will be able to pump up to 737 acre feet in 2016 and for the next two years.

“We have a lot of water,” he said. “Three times the town, basically.”

Gary Boyce dies


From The Denver Post (Tom McGhee):

Gary Boyce, a flamboyant rancher whose attempt in the 1990s to export San Luis Valley water to urban markets sparked a battle over water that continues to this day, has died.

Friends of Boyce, who was 68 and died early Wednesday, remembered him as a self-made man who loved the land and attempted to market water from the historic land-grant Baca Ranch in order to endow a wildlife preserve.

“When they decided to sell the Luis Maria Baca Grant No. 4, Gary purchased it,” recalled John Lubitz, a Denver lawyer who knew Boyce for more than 25 years.

Backed by Farralon Capital Management, a San Francisco-based investment partnership, Boyce bought the 100,000-acre ranch, created by an 1824 Mexican land grant.

He proposed drilling wells into the deep aquifer beneath the Baca and pumping the water to the Front Range.

“His goal was to endow that ranch to create a wildlife preserve,” Lubitz said.

But Boyce had more than altruistic aims in selling water.

“Struck by the prospect of selling water at the prevailing rate of $4,000-$7,000 an acre-foot, Boyce announced that he and his Stockman’s Water Co., were ‘in the San Luis Valley to do business,’ ” according to “The San Luis Valley and the moral economy of water,” a case study included in “Water, Place and Equity,” a book that explores water policy.

The plan failed amid resistance from residents (many of them potato farmers), the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and environmental activists.

The Nature Conservancy later purchased the Baca ranch, and it is now public land that includes the Baca National Wildlife Refuge.

In 2014, Boyce launched another attempt to sell water from the Valley; he was still pursuing that plan at the time of death. “I assume his investors will still be interested in doing that,” said George Whitten, a former member of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District’s board.

Steve Vandiver, general manager of the water district, often opposed Boyce’s plans but considered him a friend.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Gary Boyce, a Crestone-area rancher who spearheaded two efforts to transport groundwater from the San Luis Valley, died Tuesday.

He was 68.

Boyce died following a battle with pancreatic cancer, said Gene Kirby, an office manager for the Boyce Land and Cattle Co. His latest effort to tap the groundwater beneath the valley came on behalf of Sustainable Water Resources.

The Denver-based company aims to pump up to 35,000 acre-feet per year of groundwater from the north end of the valley, over Poncha Pass and on to cities on the Front Range.

Spokeswoman Monica Mc-Cafferty said the company was deeply saddened by Boyce’s passing, but that it would continue to push its water project. “We don’t expect any changes on that front,” she said.

The company has unsuccessfully sought support from the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and Saguache County, an effort that included mitigation payments of up to $150 million for schools and local governments.

It has yet to apply to the water court in the valley for the needed approval to move forward.

Boyce, who was born in Del Norte and spent part of his childhood growing up north of Monte Vista, grabbed the attention of his valley neighbors in the 1990s with his first proposal to export groundwater.

He called for pumping between 100,000 acrefeet to 150,000 acre-feet from underneath the Baca Ranch.
In 1995, Boyce and his financial partners purchased the 100,000-acre ranch from American Water Development Inc. after the latter group lost its court case seeking the right to develop its own export scheme.

Boyce’s scheme, commonly referred to as the Stockman’s Water Co. proposal, never made it to water court for the approvals it would have needed to move forward.

Nevertheless, his unsuccessful effort to get two statewide ballot measures passed to meter valley groundwater wells and to fine the pumping of groundwater from state lands in the valley stirred intense opposition from local water users.

While the export of valley groundwater has yet to materialize, an indirect legacy of Boyce’s efforts was the creation of the Baca National Wildlife Refuge and the designation of Great Sand Dunes as a national park by Congress in 2000.

Valley, state and federal officials pushed both moves, in part, to protect the valley’s groundwater and negotiated the sale of the Baca Ranch with Boyce’s partners.

#Drought news: Area of D0 added to SE #Colorado

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


Early in the period, a strong storm system tracked from the western Gulf Coast northeastward into interior New England, triggering numerous and widespread showers and thunderstorms across most of the eastern third of the Nation. Some of the storms produced severe weather that included numerous reports of tornadoes, some with fatalities, in the Southeast (February 23) and the mid-Atlantic (February 24). As the system traversed the Northeast, moderate to heavy (more than 2 inches) rain fell on most locations as temperatures were well above freezing. In the central Great Lakes region, however, colder air allowed snow to fall, with up to 15 inches measured in northwestern Indiana. As the storm exited the U.S., colder and drier weather enveloped the East. Elsewhere, after a dry start, weak Pacific systems brought light precipitation to the Northwest during the last 4 days of the period, eventually spreading eastward into the Midwest and south-central Great Plains by week’s end. Unfortunately, precipitation bypassed most of the southwestern quarter of the lower 48 States and northern Plains, and weekly temperatures averaged above normal in the West and across the northern half of the Nation. The El Nino induced dryness across Hawaii has started producing negative impacts as parts of the islands were degraded…

Southern Plains

After last week’s welcome rains and improvements to short-term dryness and drought in Texas, lingering precipitation from the departing storm system early in the week (12Z Tue-12Z Wed) brought another 0.5-2 inches of rain to northern, eastern, and southeastern Texas, and southeastern Oklahoma, while the Texas Panhandle received 0.1-0.3 inches. Then late in the week (12Z Mon-12Z Tue), eastern Oklahoma recorded another 0.5-2 inches of rain. Accordingly, in Texas, some D0 was removed in the north-central Panhandle, northern (along Red River), and southeastern (near Houston) portions. D0 was also removed in eastern Kenedy and Willacy counties as leftover soil moisture from the October deluges plus the lack of persistent lower humidity days away from the coast has kept these two South Texas counties from degrading.

In contrast, mostly dry weather covered the rest of Texas (southwest, south-central, and far south) and Oklahoma (Panhandle and northwest). Where little or no rain fell this week in Texas, D0 persisted and slightly expanded in extreme southwestern, far southern, east-central (going into northwestern Louisiana), and far northeastern Panhandle (continuing into north-central Oklahoma), while D1 expanded into Nueces County. Although surplus precipitation has fallen since the start of the Water Year (Oct. 1) in much of Texas and Oklahoma, recent short-term (60- and 90-days) dryness, unseasonable warmth, and strong winds have created numerous wild fires (including a 17,000 acre fire in Harper County, OK, on Feb. 18 when Buffalo hit 91F). In addition, the unseasonable warmth caused the winter wheat crop in Cimarron County, OK to break dormancy early, thus producing some stress to the crop due to inadequate topsoil moisture. Therefore, a new D0 area was added in the Oklahoma Panhandle, southeastern Colorado, and southwestern Kansas…

Central and Northern Plains

From South Dakota into Kansas, little or no precipitation fell, except for a band of precipitation (0.2-0.5 inches) in southeastern Montana, central South Dakota, southern Minnesota, northern Iowa, and southern Wisconsin. Recent surplus precipitation, however, over the past several months was enough to keep this region drought free with the exception of a few small lingering D0 areas. A watchful eye, however, will be necessary from northeastern Oklahoma northeastward into northwestern Illinois as short-term (2-months) dryness has so far been offset by very wet conditions at 3-months and longer. For example, as of March 1, Kansas City, MO had 28 consecutive days without measurable precipitation, the longest stretch since 41 days in 2002; however, Nov. 1-Dec. 31, 2015 precipitation totaled 7.67 inches, or more than twice of normal (208%).

In southwestern North Dakota, recent dryness at 60- and 90-days, along with unseasonably mild readings and minimal snow cover (mainly due to melt, sublimation, and evaporation), created similar conditions that justified the merging the two D0 areas in southeastern Montana and central North Dakota. In southeastern Montana, however, re-evaluation of the tools pointed to wet conditions out to 4 months, thus the D1(S) was removed there…

Rockies, Intermountain West, and Southwest

In the northern Rockies, light to moderate (0.5-1.5 inches) amounts fell, but the central and southern Rockies saw little or no precipitation as temperatures averaged above normal. The Water Year To Date (WYTD; since Oct. 1) basin average precipitation in the Rockies was close to or above normal, with most basins between 90-110%. The lowest values were found in Wyoming (between 60-95%). Basin average Snow Water Content (SWC) on March 1 in the Rockies was also close to normal in most basins, with Wyoming coming in again at the lower end (64-99%). Based upon information from Canada regarding southern British Columbia winter precipitation and drought conditions (none), northwestern Montana was re-evaluated and determined to be wetter than depicted. Accordingly, the western and northern D2 area was shrunk (improved), and the D1 area shifted southward away from the U.S.-Canadian border. Short-term tools were wet (out to 6-months), but 9- to 12-month indices were quite dry. In contrast, recent dryness and warmth in the north-central Rockies and High Plains called for expansion of the D0 and D1 into south-central Montana (while D1 was removed from southeastern Montana – see Central and Northern Plains), and for some D1 and D2 increases in central Wyoming due to recent dryness, warmth, and minimal SWC. Surprisingly, percent of average reservoir storage was close to or above normal as of Feb. 29 at most locations in the northern and central Rockies. No changes were made in the central Rockies and Intermountain West.

In the Southwest, the WYTD basin average precipitation was a mixed bag, with above-normal totals in central Arizona and New Mexico, but below-normal amounts in southern California and southwestern Arizona. March 1 average basin SWC was also mixed, with central Arizona and western New Mexico ranging between 4-45%, but northern New Mexico from 80-121%. With recent precipitation below normal in southern California, Arizona, and western New Mexico, December-February climatologically wet in western sections, and low SWC in Southwest basins, D0 was expanded across most of Arizona and western New Mexico, D1 slightly increased around the Yuma, AZ area, and D2 edged into California’s eastern Imperial Valley. With much of this area semi-arid and irrigated, impacts were difficult to determine. The Impact lines were also redrawn to depict the short-term, long-term, and both types of drought…

The Far West

With only weak Pacific storm systems entering the Northwest, moderate precipitation (2-4 inches) was limited to coastal Washington, parts of coastal Oregon, and the central Cascades. Lighter amounts fell on interior sections of Washington and Oregon and northwestern California. WYTD average basin precipitation continued near to above normal in Washington, Oregon, northern Nevada, and California’s Sierra Nevada, but March 1 average basin SWC declined from earlier values in Washington and Oregon, now ranging between 80-119%. However, central Oregon conditions continued to improve with decent snows and good inflows into reservoirs, hence D1 was trimmed a bit. Elsewhere, with conditions better than a year ago but nothing extraordinary about this week, status-quo was the story for Washington, Idaho, Nevada, and the rest of Oregon.

In northern and central California, after experiencing decent December and January precipitation and mountain snows, February (normally a wet month) was rather disappointing. The Feb. 1 average snow water equivalent (SWE) for the northern, central, and southern Sierras (23, 22, and 17 inches) was 120, 117, and 105% of normal, respectively. By March 1, the SWEs in all 3 basins were still the same as Feb. 1, but the percent of normal had declined to 89, 85, and 75%, respectively, as the SWEs should have increasing during February but instead remained static. The peak SWEs in the Sierra normally occurs on April 1, so there is still March left to build the snow pack. Even with the subnormal February precipitation, reservoirs were mostly stable as there was some carryover from high January flows and low elevation February snowmelt that kept inflows from being exceptionally low. On Feb. 24, with decent December and January precipitation, the California Department of Water Resources increased the allocation of 2016 State Water Project water for the long-term contractors from 631,115 acre-feet to 1,268,724 acre-feet, or 30% of the requested allocation, an increase from 15% earlier this year. However, recipients were warned that continued dry weather could force an allocation reduction. Except for the minor changes (1-cat deterioration) in extreme southeastern California, the rest of the state was unchanged…

Looking Ahead

During the next 5 days (March 3-7), heavy precipitation is expected to drench the Pacific Coast. Totals include up to 9 inches in western Washington, 7.3 inches in northwestern California, 8.2 inches in the northern Sierra Nevada, 5 inches near San Francisco, and 1-2 inches near San Diego and Los Angeles. The precipitation will extend eastward into the Intermountain West and northern Rockies, albeit with lower amounts. Unfortunately, little or no precipitation is forecast for the Southwest and southern half of the High Plains. Light to moderate amounts are predicted for most of the eastern half of the Nation, except for dry conditions in Florida. Temperatures should average above-normal in the western half of the U.S., especially the High Plains, and below-normal in the Northeast.

For days 6-10 (March 8-12), the odds favor above-median precipitation in the western third and eastern half of the Nation, with the highest probabilities in Oregon and northern California, and the Delta. Below-median probabilities were limited to the northern half of Alaska. Above-median temperatures are likely in the eastern two-thirds of the lower 48 States and southern Alaska, especially the eastern Great Lakes region and Ohio Valley, while below-normal temperatures are favored in the Southwest and western Alaska.

#ClimateChange: “The Old Normal Is Gone”: February Shatters Global Temperature Records — Future Tense


From Future Tense (Eric Holthaus):

Our planet’s preliminary February temperature data are in, and it’s now abundantly clear: Global warming is going into overdrive.

There are dozens of global temperature datasets, and usually I (and my climate journalist colleagues) wait until the official ones are released about the middle of the following month to announce a record-warm month at the global level. But this month’s data is so extraordinary that there’s no need to wait: February obliterated the all-time global temperature record set just last month.

Using unofficial data and adjusting for different base-line temperatures, it appears that February 2016 was likely somewhere between 1.15 and 1.4 degrees warmer than the long-term average, and about 0.2 degrees above last month—good enough for the most above-average month ever measured. (Since the globe had already warmed by about +0.45 degrees above pre-industrial levels during the 1981-2010 base-line meteorologists commonly use, that amount has been added to the data released today.)

Keep in mind that it took from the dawn of the industrial age until last October to reach the first 1.0 degree Celsius, and we’ve come as much as an extra 0.4 degrees further in just the last five months. Even accounting for the margin of error associated with these preliminary datasets, that means it’s virtually certain that February handily beat the record set just last month for the most anomalously warm month ever recorded. That’s stunning.

It also means that for many parts of the planet, there basically wasn’t a winter. Parts of the Arctic were more than 16 degrees Celsius (29 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than “normal” for the month of February, bringing them a few degrees above freezing, on par with typical June levels, in what is typically the coldest month of the year. In the United States, the winter was record-warm in cities coast to coast. In Europe and Asia, dozens of countries set or tied their all-time temperature records for February. In the tropics, the record-warmth is prolonging the longest-lasting coral bleaching episode ever seen.

#AnimasRiver: Secretary Jewell on the hot seat #GoldKingMine

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]
This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

House Republican lawmakers grilled Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Tuesday challenging her agency’s review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gold King Mine disaster — and Jewell maintained it was an accident.

“Do you want to amend that statement or retract it at all?” House Natural Resources Committee chairman Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said in a brief exchange during a three-hour budget oversight hearing.

Bishop showed an Aug. 7 e-mail from a Bureau of Land Management official in Colorado. That official informed superiors that “the EPA was attempting to relieve hydrologic pressure behind a naturally-collapsed adit/portal of the Gold King Mine. … While removing small portions of the natural plug, the material catastrophically gave-way and released the mine water.”

House staffers interpreted that e-mail to mean the EPA was “deliberately” removing small portions of a plug to relieve pressure when the Aug. 5 blowout occurred.

Jewell told Bishop she stood by her previous testimony to committee lawmakers and the conclusions of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation technical review of EPA actions leading up to the mine disaster.

But Bishop said the e-mail “basically says the EPA was deliberately removing a small portion of the plug to relieve pressure in the mine.”

Jewell said the EPA work at the mine was “preparatory” for future work at the mine — rejecting notions that the EPA purposely triggered the blowout.

“It was an accident,”Jewell said…

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, noted that Jewell runs the Interior Department, which is separate from the EPA, and cannot compel the EPA to produce requested documents. Grijalva also put the 3 million-gallon Gold King deluge in the context of more than 330 million gallons leaking annually from the Gold King and other inactive mines in the area — “which the EPA was trying to fix.”

EPA officials on Tuesday declined to comment directly on House Republicans’ interpretation of the BLM e-mail. However, EPA spokeswoman Nancy Grantham referred to an EPA addendum to its internal review of the blowout that describes the EPA crew on Aug. 4 “slowly and carefully” scraping away “loose soil and rubble” near the mine opening to try to find blockage. On Aug. 5, the EPA crew “began additional excavation to identify the location of bedrock above and around the adit. Through this careful scraping and excavation, they were able to locate the bedrock.”

Then as state mining officials who had been at the scene moved to other nearby mining sites, the EPA document says, somebody at the site “continued to oversee the final cleanup work, which included clearing of the loose colluvium near the adit. Just prior to finishing, the team noticed a water spout a couple of feet high in the air near where they had been excavating above the top of the adit. Within a few minutes, the spout had turned into a large gush of yellow/orange water that ultimately resulted in a release of an estimated 3 million gallons.”

#Snowpack news: Slopes around Aspen get 63 – 76% of normal snowfall in February

Westwide SNOTEL map March 2, 2016 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL map March 2, 2016 via the NRCS.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Scott Condon):

Aspen-area ski slopes ended up with only 63 to 76 percent of average snowfall in February after the faucet was abruptly turned off after a promising start to the month.

But weather experts said Tuesday skiers and snowboarders shouldn’t worry — winter will return next week and possibly stick around for a long, long time.

“Things get better next week,” said Ryan Boudreau, a partner in Aspen Weather, a micro-forecasting subscription service. “It’s (going to be) pretty active next week through May, really.”

Boudreau said his partner, Cory Gates, is envisioning a May that could mimic the month in other “super El Nino years.” The winter of 1982-83 was another strong El Nino, like this year, with a record 41 inches of snow in Aspen in May — the most ever for the month. Even higher amounts fell on the slopes.

February started off gangbusters. The Aspen Water Plant’s weather trackers recorded that 20.5 inches fell Feb. 1 through 3, and then warm and mostly dry weather took over. Only 5.5 inches of snow fell the rest of the month. Nevertheless, February squeaked by the average of the month of 26.12 inches of snow.

The dry conditions hit the ski slopes even harder. Snowmass saw 33 inches of snow for the month, according to Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle. That was 63 percent of average. Of the total, 22 inches of snow fell Feb. 1 and 2.

Aspen Mountain recorded 38 inches of snowfall in February, with 26 inches falling in the first two days. The total was 76 percent of average, according to Skico records.

The Aspen-area snowpack paid the price for warm, dry weather. The snowpack at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River east of Aspen soared to 117 percent of average on Feb. 3, according to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. It dropped to 99 percent of average late last week.

For the heart of the winter, it’s been slightly dry and warmer than average, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. For December, January and February — which the weather service refers to as meteorological winter — the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport picked up 3.06 inches of liquid precipitation, including the water equivalent in the snowfall. That was about one-quarter inch below average for the three months, said Jeff Colton, a meteorologist with the weather service. The average temperature was 1.7 degrees above average for that three-month period, according to the agency.

Like Aspen Weather, the National Weather Service is also forecasting a change next week. The Grand Junction office posted on its website to expect a “significant change to the weather pattern over the western U.S. by early next week.”

Colton said a ridge of high pressure that has deflected most storms to the north of Colorado over the past few weeks is breaking down.

“It’s going to open up the door for El Nino to get going again,” Colton said. The weather service foresees a wetter-than-normal last half of March and April, he said.

2016 #coleg: How will HB16-1005 (rain barrels) fare in the State Senate?

Rain barrel schematic
Rain barrel schematic

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

The Colorado House on Tuesday gave overwhelming bipartisan approval to a bill that would allow Coloradans to collect rain water that falls on their roofs.

The House passed the bill 61-3…

House Bill 1005 now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate, where Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, has previously objected to the measure. He chairs the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, where the bill was assigned last year and delayed in committee over objections from Sonnenberg.

The concern is with 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.

A study by Colorado State University in September, however, stated that allowing 100 gallons of rainwater storage per household would not decrease surface runoff by any detectable amount on a typical lot.

With the amendments added this week, and the momentum behind the bill, it has its best chance of passing through the Legislature this year…

“The people of Colorado have spoken and their elected officials have listened,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “Citizens in our state want the senseless ban on rain barrels to be lifted so they can use this conservation tool to water their lawns and gardens.”

Colorado Sens. Bennet, Gardner urge law to spur cleanup at old mines — The Denver Post

Bonita Mine acid mine drainage
Bonita Mine acid mine drainage

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Colorado’s senators Wednesday urged fellow lawmakers to support “good Samaritan” legislation to spur voluntary cleanups at dormant mines polluting waterways around the West.

Sen. Michael Bennet also is pushing a more-ambitious reform of the nation’s 1872 Mining Law to raise funds.

The bill he and Sen. Cory Gardner propose would protect companies and conservation groups if things go wrong.

“There’s no time like the present,” Gardner said in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing.

Bennet called the bill “a very important step forward.”

But with thousands of mines draining acid heavy metals into western headwaters — for which the EPA estimates cleanup costs as high as $50 billion — Bennet and others say voluntary work isn’t sufficient.

“The Gold King Mine spill has served as a catalyst to focus Congress’ attention on the dangers posed by the thousands of abandoned mines in Colorado and throughout the West,” Bennet said.

“Mining has been intrinsically linked to our history, economy, development and culture, but it’s also left scars that are hurting communities in our state. We need to take action to help clean up the hundreds of mines in Colorado that are leaking acid mine drainage, polluting our headwaters and worsening water quality for the communities downstream.”


“It requires a large-scale solution — 1872 Mining Law reform,” Jennifer Krill, director of the advocacy group Earthworks, said at the hearing. “We’re looking forward to moving beyond the good Samaritan debate to get to the heart of the problem: the lack of funding for cleanups.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., lauded Gardner and Bennet but cited “problems” with the bill. “I want to make improvements to the legislation so that it will protect the environment and ensure that taxpayers will not be on the hook if a good Samaritan makes the pollution worse.”

Bennet said volunteers causing a spill “is extremely unlikely.”

CDPHE tags 105 miles of the Lower Dolores River as impaired

Dolores River watershed
Dolores River watershed

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Colorado has listed 105 miles of the Dolores River between Slick Rock and the Utah state line as an impaired waterway because of high water temperature from chronic low flows.

The Water Quality Control Commission of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment ruled on the river’s impairment status during a hearing in December.

The section on the Lower Dolores River is “considered impaired because the temperature was greater than standards adopted to protect aquatic life,” said Meghan Trubee, media relations official with the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. “We’re mostly concerned about the fish and macro invertebrates.”


“Because the stream is listed as impaired, the division is responsible for developing a plan to address the temperature impairment known as total maximum daily load (TMDL),” Trubee said. “The segment will remain on the 303(d) list until a TMDL is developed and approved by the EPA.”

A year’s worth of temperature data from a water-quality station at Slick Rock showed the river went above the daily maximum temperature standard 10 times – five in September 2013 and five in June 2014.
The separate readings went above daily maximum standard for March to November of 28.6 Celsius, or 83 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Warmer water has less ability to hold dissolved oxygen, which fish need,” said Jim White, a fish biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “The other reason is that higher base flows in the summer would create more habitat for growing invertebrates, the food relied on by native fish.”

The impaired section is below McPhee dam and reservoir and has not had a recreational whitewater release since 2011.

Water allocated for fish habitat, about 31,796 acre-feet, is held in McPhee reservoir and released throughout every year. In the winter, flows below the dam are 20-30 cfs. During summer, they reach 60-80 cfs if there is no whitewater release.

A series of low snowpack years have left the reservoir below full and only able to supply irrigation demands. A whitewater release occurs when there is more runoff than the reservoir can hold.

The Dolores Water Conservancy objected to the lower Dolores impairment listing, but wasn’t successful