Grand Junction scores the dough for Purdy Mesa Reservoir fix

The dam at Purdy Mesa Reservoir, one of Grand Junction’s reservoirs used for drought reserves on the south side of Grand Mesa, failed after it sustained a major crack and currently is drained of water.  That failure is but one of several age-related problems that need to be fixed. Grand Junction city councilors have informally agreed to a plan to borrow $2.6 million and charge water users the remainder to raise $30 million to fund capital improvements over the next 10 years.
The dam at Purdy Mesa Reservoir, one of Grand Junction’s reservoirs used for drought reserves on the south side of Grand Mesa, failed after it sustained a major crack and currently is drained of water. That failure is but one of several age-related problems that need to be fixed. Grand Junction city councilors have informally agreed to a plan to borrow $2.6 million and charge water users the remainder to raise $30 million to fund capital improvements over the next 10 years.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The city of Grand Junction is planning to fix and refill its Purdy Mesa Reservoir on the south side of Grand Mesa this year after successfully obtaining a $1 million loan and $100,000 grant last week from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The city plans to spend about $1.15 million altogether on rehabilitation of the dam, which has about an 80-foot-long crack in it and has had to be emptied pending repairs.

The reservoir, also known as Hallenbeck Reservoir No. 1, holds about 700 acre-feet. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons.

The reservoir plays a particularly important storage role in case of drought, and also lets the city regulate water in the adjacent, larger Juniata Reservoir and improve its water quality.

“It’s definitely something that we want to have in our raw water storage in event of a drought condition,” Bret Guillory, utility engineer for the city, said of the out-of-service reservoir. “It plays a fairly critical function in our raw water storage system and it will be good to have it back online.”

The reservoir also is stocked by Colorado Parks and Wildlife for fishing. Guillory said the state-record bluegill came out of the reservoir.

The crack developed in 2014 in the downstream slope of the earthen dam. Guillory said design work for the repairs is complete and the city will solicit for contractors to do the work. Repairs probably will start later in June and take six to eight weeks, after which the reservoir can start to be refilled.

The rehabilitation work will upgrade the dam to current standards and improve its structural integrity, Guillory said. Earthen dams by their nature have water seep through them, but he said what’s called a blanket filter that makes use of sand will be installed to collect seepage into piping rather than having water move through the dam in an uncontrolled manner. Earthen material will be placed over the filter to hold it in place and further stabilize the dam.

The loan for the project comes with a 2.65 percent interest rate and $10,000 service fee, and will be paid back over 20 years.

The project is one of a number of water system upgrades the city is undertaking this year and in coming years.

It has begun raising water rates to pay for them, and plans to raise rates more than 50 percent altogether over seven years. The main upgrade involves replacement of cast-iron lines with PVC lines less prone to leaking or breaking.

Guillory said that if the city hadn’t gotten the loan, it might have had to delay its water-line replacement work for a year.

Longmont Councillors opt for 10,000 acre-feet of Windy Gap water #ColoradoRiver #COriver

From the Longmont Times-Call (Karen Antonacci):

The Longmont City Council weighed adviser, resident and staff testimony about both future water needs and water rates and voted 5-2 Tuesday to go with one of the more expensive participation levels in the Windy Gap Firming Project…

The council voted to start the process of participating in the $387.36 million Windy Gap Firming Project at the 10,000 acre-foot level…

The decision before the council was whether to participate at the 6,000, 8,000 or the 10,000 acre-foot level. Staff in the past had recommended that 6,000 acre-feet of water is projected as enough to cover a one-in-100-year drought. The Longmont Water Board, meanwhile, urged council to participate at the more-expensive 10,000 acre-foot level.

Early in Tuesday’s meeting, Longmont residents spoke about the plan during the public comment portion of the meeting. Some, such as Jim Wilson, were against the idea that rates may need to increase beyond the already-approved annual 9 percent increase to pay for Longmont’s portion of the Windy Gap Firming Project.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin #COriver

Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal Water Year 2016 through February 29, 2016.
Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal Water Year 2016 through February 29, 2016.

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

The Winter 2016 edition of Headwaters magazine (from CFWE) is a great read


Click here to read the latest Headwaters. Allen Best knocks it out of the park with his article about collaboration. Here’s an excerpt:

Conflict has been our central water narrative in Colorado. It’s been shovel-wielding neighbor against neighbor, city against farm, Eastern Slope versus Western Slope, and, purely from a Colorado perspective, us versus those water-wasting scoundrels downstream in California, Arizona and Las Vegas. In headlines, for sure, and sometimes in fact, we have always been at war over water.

Water matters, absolutely. We all know that. But is conflict the only way to understand Colorado’s water history—or future? Or might cooperation and its close cousin, collaboration, also help us understand where we’ve come and guide us better through the 21st century? Your computer dictionary will probably use cooperation and collaboration interchangeably, but the Webster Third New International Dictionary suggests a distinction. Cooperation comes with allies, but collaboration especially occurs with an enemy or an opposed group. Parsing collaboration, you find the root word “labor.” To labor requires “expenditure of physical or mental effort, especially when fatiguing, difficult or compulsory.”


“The lives of birds are very closely tied to water, and our own” — Abby Burk

From the Summit Daily News (Kevin Fixler):

Tuesday marked World Water Day, an observance by the United Nations of water issues impacting the world over that dates to the early- ’90s in order to inspire action. The country’s leading advocates for bird health, the National Audubon Society, piggybacked off the occasion to spread awareness about the importance of protecting important bird areas.

The nonprofit, focused on identifying and preserving the natural environments of these wildlife-of-the-sky since 1905, notes that almost 85 million people in the United States are amateur ornithologists, or bird watchers and photographers. But aside from aesthetics, birds are important because they can act as an indicator species.

“The lives of birds are very closely tied to water, and our own,” said Abby Burk, Audubon Rockies’ western rivers outreach specialist. “They’re the canary in a coal mine, and that’s what we’re looking at with birds and rivers.”

Habitat areas along the Colorado River Basin, where more than 400 species of bird make their homes, is a particular priority of Audubon. The Colorado River and its offshoots, which include seven states and support more than 35 million people, offer food, shelter and a migratory passageway for many of those species.

It’s why Colorado is a primary place of emphasis for Audubon. The organization, through its Western Rivers Action Network, swung its weight behind the release of the Colorado Water Plan this past November and is now concentrating on implementation of the first-of-its-kind policy for the state, hoping to secure funds for stream management and river restoration plans.

“Habitat is what’s so important,” said Jennifer Pitt, director of Audubon’s Colorado River Project. “When it’s missing or invaded, there’s something awry in how the river is being managed and how it creates natural habitats. Some species have become endangered in this region, like the southwestern willow flycatcher, and we correlate that status of the bird with the condition of our rivers.”

To assist in restoration efforts of these streamside, riparian zones — what are often referred to as “ribbons of green” because of the linear growth patterns of these forests and wetlands — Audubon asks that local citizens apply a couple conservation practices. The practices help both human and winged varieties.

First, water reduction techniques are as easy as shifting from Kentucky bluegrass lawns to native plants and low-water use landscapes. Estimates put savings of 12,000 gallons of water per 1,000-square-feet of space annually. Native plants also reduce the use of pesticides, providing improved sources of food for birds.

And then the organization asks that people support agriculture through efficiencies like water banking, a water management practice that forgoes the precious resource at points of the year and stores it for later use. Audubon also supports WaterSMART, a program from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that tries to establish collaborative partnerships to stretch water supplies to meet future demands.

“One of the biggest wrestling matches is water in the West,” said Burk. “Healthy flowing rivers, benefit all water uses and users. And when you protect water, you’re protecting a resource for a huge cross-section of wildlife.”

To some, protecting waterways merely for the sake of birds and other wildlife that greatly rely on vegetation that grows along rivers and streams is a hard sell. Which is why Burk emphasizes in so doing, people also sustain other environmental purposes, in addition to Colorado’s $9 billion recreation industry that substantially benefits the local economy.

And when it comes to birds, there’s also a considerable economic benefit from those amateur ornithologists, otherwise known as birders. In just 2011, almost 47 million Americans who participated and traveled to watch our feathered friends had a total financial impact of $107 billion nationally. So the rewards for maintaining birds’ lives is multifaceted, and once more, a measure of our own health and value of water sources used by all.

“When we having diminished or reduced numbers of birds, or less diversity present and abundance dwindling, we have to look at habitat,” said Burk. “It’s an indication of habitat for us, and the abundance of water and the quality of the ecosystem. Because if it’s broken, birds won’t be there.”

Montezuma County: Four States Agricultural Forum recap

La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain
La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain

From The Durango Herald (Jacob Klopfenstein):

The Yellow Jacket project’s lead researcher, Abdel Berrada, spoke last week at the Four States Agricultural Expo at Montezuma County Fairgrounds.

The research center received almost $250,000 from a grant to fund the study, which examines how cover crops can improve soil quality for dryland farmers.

Although Berrada said he and other researchers have a long way to go before they find out what works in the region, he told a crowd of about 25 people that cover crops can increase organic matter in the soil, suppress weeds and prevent erosion.

“Cover crops make sense,” Berrada said. “We’re looking at factors to see what works best for the area.”

As part of the study, five farmers in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah are administering plots of cover crops such as yellow clover, winter peas and others.

After three years, researchers hope to quantify the effects of cover crops on ground moisture, soil health and weed control, Berrada said. Another goal of the project is to determine which cover crops are most profitable. Those goals will help determine if cover crops can enhance the sustainability of farming in Southwest Colorado and southeast Utah.

Colorado State University Dolores County Extension director Gus Westerman said researchers will collect a second round of data in the next year. They’ll use data collected at the end of the three years to compare the effects of cover crops in the region with results from other areas, he said.

Westerman said more people in the industry are becoming aware of water issues.

But the study runs for only three years, and Westerman said that’s a short time in terms of soil science. He said the project hopes to extend the grant to get more time for study.

CSU Extension West Region Specialist John Rizza said there hasn’t been much research on cover crops in the region to date. Few studies have been done to examine which cover crops are most successful for dryland farmers, he said.

Rizza and Westerman said the level of interest in cover crops is increasing regionally. More farmers are participating and it’s now easier to show people how they work, Rizza said.

“We’re getting good momentum,” he said.