H2O Catalyst Virtual Town Hall Wednesday May 11, AMERICA’S WATER: INFRASTRUCTURE IN PERIL

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art
Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From H2OCatalyst.org:

Join David Brancaccio of American Public Media’s Marketplace on Wednesday, May 11th along with national experts and journalists for the first in an urgent H2O Catalyst series of interactive town hall broadcasts that explores the nation’s decaying water systems.

America built its water systems to last. But they will not last forever. Communities throughout the country face an era of replacement, repair, and reinvestment.

The stakes are high. Leaky pipes waste trillions of gallons per year. Droughts and floods inflict deep financial wounds. Lead contamination in Flint, Michigan, and countless other cities shows the risks to public health and economic well-being because of outdated infrastructure.

Beginning May 11 and running through fall 2016, Circle of Blue, American Public Media, and Columbia University — and a global audience — will dig deep and explore the state of the nation’s water infrastructure. From what happens when pipes and policies fail to the opportunities for innovative finance, policy, and technology.

Bring your voice Wednesday May 11, 10 a.m. — 11:30 a.m. (EDT) for the first of four dynamic town halls about America’s water infrastructure.

Register here.

2016 #coleg: #Colorado Establishes First State Public Lands Day in the Nation — @ConservationCO #keepitpublic

Here’s the release from Conservation Colorado (Jessica Goad):

The Colorado state legislature on Friday night passed a bill establishing the third Saturday in May as a holiday to celebrate, as the bill’s summary states, “the significant contributions that national, state, and local public lands within Colorado make to wildlife, recreation, the economy, and to Coloradans’ quality of life.” The bill passed with bipartisan support, with a 36-29 vote in the House and a 25-8 vote in the Senate. It is now headed to the governor’s desk.

“Colorado is a national leader when it comes to conservation issues, and our support for public lands is no exception,” said Scott Braden, Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “People come from far and wide to visit our mountains, deserts, forests, and grasslands, and for that they deserve to be celebrated.”

The effort to establish a Public Lands Day in Colorado was put forth, in part, as a contrast to response to extreme land seizure efforts such as the weeks-long siege of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed militants in January.

“Coloradans want to celebrate, not seize our national public lands,” continued Braden. “We have no patience for extremist attempts to privatize or undermine our shared outdoor heritage. We hope that our efforts here in Colorado send a message to the Bundys and their political sympathizers: we are going lead the West in turning the tide away from their dangerous agenda.”

More details:

  • Colorado has 24 million acres of national public lands, including mountains, deserts, forests, and grasslands.
  • 59 percent of Colorado voters oppose efforts to turn national public lands over to the state.
  • The outdoor recreation economy generates $13.2 billion per year and supports 125,000 direct jobs in Colorado.
  • faceplantviastevelacey

    #Snowpack #Runoff news: The basins are melting out, be cautious about snowpack numbers

    Clear Creek at Golden gage April 1 through May 9, 2016 via the USGS
    Clear Creek at Golden gage April 1 through May 9, 2016 via the USGS

    Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    Finally, here’s the Westwide SNOTEL map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    Westwide SNOTEL map May 9, 2016 via the NRCS.

    #AnimasRiver: “The problem requires critical thinking, and most people won’t take the time to do that” — Brian Burke

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

    Halfway through a public comment period, a mere five short responses have been posted regarding the proposed Superfund designation for the mining district north of Silverton…

    In the wake of the blowout, impromptu emergency meetings lighted up with bombardments toward federal agents and impassioned calls for a swift and immediate cleanup of the river.

    Social media transformed into a stomping ground for the concerned, the opinionated and the distrustful – an Aug. 6, 2015, Durango Herald report generated 404 comments. And months later, several Facebook groups cropped up, dedicated to the spill.

    As alarmed anger transformed into serious conversations on how to address the long-standing problem of metal loading in the Animas watershed, an even more controversial prospect entered: a Superfund designation that had been opposed for nearly two decades by Silverton and San Juan County.

    Yet pressure from downstream communities swelled. After much negotiation and discussion with the EPA, Superfund listing was sought by area and state officials. Labeled the Bonita Peak Mining District that includes 48 mining-related sites, a 60-day public comment period began on April 6.

    But now, it seems the flood of convictions has subsided to a trickle of concerns.

    The few responses include the plain and simple: “Add the Bonita Peak Mining District in San Juan County, CO to the NPL.”

    The wary: “Yes it’s scary that this could or already has happened again, but as a tourious (sic), that loves to go ATVING with my family to see all the history of the area, I’m afraid that by cleaning up all these sites, the tourisium (sic) with (sic) domenish (sic) and the towns of Silverton, Oray (sic), and many others will suffer.”


    And another disagreed with inclusion of the Little Nation mine, located in the Upper Animas, on the listing.

    “The Little Nation mine has no water discharge,” wrote Brad Clark, pinning a nearby drainage tunnel as the culprit discharging mine wastewater into a wetland…

    First, the pre-problem stage, in which an existing issue alarms experts, but hasn’t captured much public attention. Then comes alarmed discovery: an event that thrusts the problem into the spotlight, and jars people to awareness, who in turn call for a quick fix.

    In the final three stages general interest wanes. The public realizes there are no silver bullets; solutions are complicated and time intensive. Some feel discouraged, overwhelmed or bored and the issue recedes to the backgrounds of people’s minds.

    And by that time, a new problem has taken its place.

    Brian Burke, a psychology professor at Fort Lewis College, agreed. He said the sight of orange water activated public interest. But now, it’s out of sight, out of mind.

    “The problem is much more complicated than the EPA making a mistake and leaking some disgusting poison into our river,” he said. “The problem requires critical thinking, and most people won’t take the time to do that.

    “Now that it’s not orange anymore, it’s harder to notice, although pollutants are being dumped daily.”

    Sally Jewell sees progress in #ColoradoRiver talks #COriver — The Desert Sun

    From The Desert Sun (Ian James):

    American and Mexican officials have been negotiating an agreement to replace their current five-year accord, which expires in 2017. Jewell said she is optimistic about those talks, and also about recent negotiations between states on sharing cutbacks if the levels of reservoirs continue to drop.

    “The Colorado River is over-allocated. There are more water demands on that river than there are resources,” Jewell said Wednesday during a hike in the newly created Sand to Snow National Monument. “What has been happening in a really powerful way is seven basin states have been getting together outside of politics to say, ‘What are we going to do about this collectively?’ Because we have a problem together that we need to solve.”

    Representatives of California, Arizona and Nevada said last week they hope to have a deal finalized by the end of the year for all three states to accept cutbacks in order to keep more water in Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, and stave off a more severe shortage.

    “I think it’s extraordinary collaboration. It’s extraordinary in terms of its scope and scale and the fact that people are staying at the table and working together,” Jewell said. Without mentioning California specifically, Jewell noted that some states have water rights “that don’t require them to be at the table, but they’re at the table anyway.”


    She said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López is deeply involved in the talks with Mexican government officials.

    “We need to get the next minute renegotiated – Minute 32X we call it – with the Mexican government. And those negotiations are going really, really well. So we would love to get this wrapped up,” Jewell said. “I feel optimistic that we’re going to get in a good place with the Colorado River because we have to.”

    Mexico receives a share of the flows from the Colorado River under a 1944 treaty. In 2012, American and Mexican officials reached their most recent agreement, Minute 319, which specified how reductions would be shared in the event of shortages.

    That landmark agreement made possible the 2014 “pulse flow” flood in an effort to help restore the long-dry Colorado River Delta. The agreement also enabled Mexico to keep some water in Lake Mead near Las Vegas for future use.

    “Right now, Mexico is storing extra water in Lake Mead. That is helping drive hydroelectric power generation, and also just the elevation in that lake. That is so important for where the outtakes are from the lake,” Jewell said. “It is really important that we get that next part done because it was only a five-year program, so we don’t want the clock to run out on that.”

    Much is riding on the separate negotiations between states, and between Mexico and the United States. Without changes in how the river’s flows are allocated, the potential scenarios appear dire. The Bureau of Reclamation could declare a shortage during the summer if it projects Lake Mead’s elevation would sink to an elevation 1,075 feet or lower at the beginning of next year. The U.S. Department of the Interior would take charge of water allocation if the reservoir’s level were to sink to an elevation of 1,025 feet.

    “If we don’t work this out around a negotiating table, people that understand these issues deeply – and they are complicated and they are technical – we will end up in an environment that is driven by the courts and is driven by politics, and I think that’s a huge mistake,” Jewell said.

    Lake Mead’s levels have declined during 16 years of drought, and climate change is projected to add significantly to the strains on the river.

    Officials in California, Arizona and Nevada say that while they’ve discussed the outlines of proposals, difficult negotiations remain between water districts in each state and between the states. The federal Bureau of Reclamation is also involved in the talks.

    Tanya Trujillo, executive director of the Colorado River Board of California, said recently that if agreements are reached to plan for various scenarios, “then we have that basic framework in place that we can rely on.”


    The Upper Colorado River Basin states – which include Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona – also have been considering measures aimed at ensuring the levels of Lake Powell don’t reach critical lows. Don Ostler, executive director and secretary for the Upper Colorado River Commission, called it a “parallel process” to the talks in the Lower Basin states, but with different circumstances.

    Ostler said the Upper Basin states are considering “what may be possible on a voluntary, temporary and compensated basis” to keep Lake Powell from hitting shortage levels.

    Jewell said the growing stresses on the Colorado River make it vital for all of the parties to be at the table and working together.

    “If we want to actually have a long-term solution to this incredibly complex issue, we need to keep politics out of it,” she said. “We need to keep the experts at the table. We need to understand each other’s issues and work through those.”

    The Colorado River Basin. The Upper Colorado River Basin is outlined in black.
    The Colorado River Basin. The Upper Colorado River Basin is outlined in black.

    Aspinall Unit operations update: Black Canyon peak flow target 5,000+ cfs over 10 days

    Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn
    Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn

    From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

    The May 1st forecast for the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 525,000 acre-feet. This is 78% of the 30 year average. Based on the May 1st forecast, the Black Canyon Water Right and Aspinall Unit ROD peak flow targets are listed below:

    Black Canyon Water Right

    The peak flow target will be equal to 3,349 cfs for a duration of 24 hours.

    The shoulder flow target will be 300 cfs, for the period between May 1 and July 25.

    Aspinall Unit Operations ROD

    The year type is currently classified as Average Dry

    The peak flow target will be 8,070 cfs and the duration target at this flow will be 10 days.

    Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations ROD, releases from the Aspinall Unit will be made in an attempt to match the peak flow of the North Fork of the Gunnison River to maximize the potential of meeting the desired peak at the Whitewater gage, while simultaneously meeting the Black Canyon Water Right peak flow amount. The latest forecast for flows on the North Fork of the Gunnison River shows a peak of around 2,000 cfs occurring this weekend. This peak is followed by a couple days of lower flows and then higher flows are expected to return by the next weekend. If the forecast for flows on the North Fork of the Gunnison River continues to show a rise, the start of the ramp up towards the peak release may begin next week.

    It is expected that the ramp up to the peak release will take 8 days. The current projection for spring peak operations shows flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon in the 5,000 to 5,500 cfs range for 10 days in order to achieve the desired peak flow and duration at Whitewater. If actual flows on the North Fork of the Gunnison River are less than currently projected, flows through the Black Canyon could be even higher.

    With this runoff forecast and corresponding downstream targets, Blue Mesa Reservoir is currently projected to fill to an elevation of around 7499.0 feet with an approximate peak content of 654,000 acre-feet.

    Dolores water district unveils $8 million in upgrades — The Cortez Journal

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

    From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

    Five automated, high-tech pumping stations do the heavy lifting of pulling water from canals and pushing it through pipes to farms. Another pump system at the Great Cut Dike pulls water from McPhee Reservoir into the Dove Creek Canal and onto the pumping stations.

    The Dolores Water Conservancy District and the Bureau of Reclamation have teamed up for $8 million worth of upgrades for the 20-year-old pumping stations.

    The four-year plan includes upgrading the electronic communication control system, or SCADA, which operates irrigation deliveries from a main control room.

    So far, three out of six pumping plants have been overhauled: Fairview, Pleasant View and Ruin Canyon. Next on the list are Dove Creek, Cahone, the Great Cut Dike and the SCADA system. Final upgrades will begin after irrigation seasons and be completed over the next two years.

    Water officials and engineers touted the upgrades during a public tour Thursday at the Pleasant View pump station. At Ruin Canyon, two pumps were rebuilt, and two variable-speed electric motors were replaced. The electronic drive systems were also replaced.

    The same upgrade occurred at the Ruin Canyon pump station, with a total cost for both upgrades of $1.25 million.

    “They are more efficient, run cooler and require less maintenance,” said DWCD engineer Lloyd Johnson. “They will last another 20 to 25 years.”

    The variable speed pumps adjust to irrigation demand. As the pressure fluctuates, the electronic drive system directs the pumps to adjust and keep the pressure steady. The drive system automatically turns on other static pumps as demand requires.

    “We’re here to meet demand of the farmer,” said engineer Ken Curtis. “They pay high dollar for volume when they want it, and that is why we have a big crew of electricians and mechanics to ensure it is all working.”

    The Bureau of Reclamation built the dams and reservoirs and pays to update them, said Brent Rhees, BOR’s regional director for the Upper Colorado River region.

    He explained that a portion of power revenues generated from Glen Canyon dam and other BOR hydro-electric plants are set aside to pay for project upgrades like the one at the Dolores Project.

    “These upgrades are satisfying to see because they keep us grounded in our mission to deliver water,” Rheese said. “The BOR has transitioned to resource management of existing projects.”

    DWCD chipped in $1 million toward the project.