2016 #coleg: The ins-and-outs of rain barrels — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

Colorado residents will be able to collect rainwater from their roofs to use in gardens and yards when a new law takes effect on Aug. 10.

Water officials expect that less than 10 percent of residents will use rain barrels, and each home is allowed to have two barrels totaling 110 gallons of water.


The amount is small enough that it should not cause any measurable drops in the water feeding into rivers to supply cities, farms and businesses locally and downstream, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute.

It won’t hurt utilities and those who hold water rights, and it will only help residents by supplementing the water available for their yards and promoting conservation, he said…

Residents likely will have to supplement their rain barrel water for their yards and gardens. However, the amount needed varies upon the size of yard and the type of vegetation, for example native low-water grasses versus a typical lawn.

Under the new law, each household can have two barrels to collect water from rain gutters or off the roof. That water must be used for outdoor landscaping, such as gardens or yards, and cannot be used indoors or for purposes such as filling a hot tub, according to guidelines from the Colorado State University Extension Service.

“You need a surface you can gather it from,” said Waskom, and the new state law specifies that the water must come from a rooftop.

The law also requires that the rain barrel have a lid that can be sealed to reduce evaporation but also to prevent mosquitoes from accessing and breeding in the standing water.

Health officials also urge people to completely drain and clean the barrel weekly or at least every month also to prevent a mosquito hotbed.

Home supply stores sell granules, called “Mosquito Dunkers” or “BTI granules,” that can be used to prevent any of the pests’ eggs from hatching, noted Katie O’Donnell, spokeswoman for the Larimer County Department of Health. These are commonly used in livestock water tanks and will not hurt wildlife or plants, she noted…

Colorado is the last western state to adopt a law that allows residents to collect rain water for their yards because of the demands upon water and the complex water rights system in place, Waskom noted. Those who hold the water rights worried that they would lose precious water supply and lobbied against the new law to prevent that.

However, water officials showed that the small amount of water diverted off roofs, which will likely be from a small number of homes, will not impact that water supply, according to Waskom.

And larger utility providers testified that the use of rain barrels could positively promote conservation.

Waskom added, “Hopefully it will make us more water conscious.”

Rain barrel schematic
Rain barrel schematic

#Snowpack news: The basins are melting out in earnest, snow keeps coming

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

Westwide SNOTEL map May 18, 2016 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL map May 18, 2016 via the NRCS.

#ClimateChange: Warming due to carbon dioxide jumped by half in 25 years — NOAA

Greenhouse Gases: Graphic shows the change in the warming influence of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Credit: NOAA
Greenhouse Gases: Graphic shows the change in the warming influence of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Credit: NOAA

From NOAA (Theo Stein):

Human activity has increased the direct warming effect of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere by 50 percent above pre-industrial levels during the past 25 years, according to NOAA’s 10th Annual Greenhouse Gas Index .

In 2015, the global average CO2 concentration reached 399 parts per million, increasing by a record amount of almost 3 ppm. From the end of the Ice Age to the beginning of the industrial era, atmospheric carbon dioxide remained remarkably stable at 278 ppm.

“We’re dialing up Earth’s thermostat in a way that will lock more heat into the ocean and atmosphere for thousands of years,” said Jim Butler, director of NOAA ESRL’s Global Monitoring Division (GMD).

Overall, emissions of all heat-trapping greenhouse gases have amplified the warming impact on the planet by more than one third since 1990, scientists at GMD report.

Mauna Loa: Carbon dioxide levels have surged past 400 parts per million at Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Credit: NOAA
Mauna Loa: Carbon dioxide levels have surged past 400 parts per million at Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Credit: NOAA

The Annual Greenhouse Gas Index is a measure of the annual change in the warming influence of greenhouse gases. It was developed by NOAA to help policymakers, educators and the public more clearly grasp how quickly this warming influence is increasing.

“Climate is driven by complex systems and our ability to predict future climate impacts comes from complex models,” Butler said. “This isn’t a model. These are precise and accurate measurements, and they tell us about how humans are changing the balance of heat in the Earth system.”

Other takeaways from the 2016 report:

  • The warming impact of gases other than CO2 is equivalent to an additional 85 ppm of carbon dioxide. In other words, the atmosphere is warming as if it contained 21 percent more carbon dioxide than it does today.
  • From 2014 to 2015, levels of the potent greenhouse gas methane increased substantially faster than from 2007 to 2013. Similarly, nitrous oxide levels, another greenhouse gas, have increased at faster rates recently.
  • Chlorofluorocarbons, ozone-eating refrigerants banned by the Montreal Protocol, are declining. However, atmospheric levels of two replacement chemicals are rising.
  • Learn more about NOAA’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index.

    They don’t call #Colorado the ‘Mother of Rivers’ for nothing folks — Wired

    Black Canyon via the National Park Service
    Black Canyon via the National Park Service

    From Wired (Laura Malldneed):

    Among the many nicknames Coloradans have for their state, “the mother of rivers” is particularly apt. Roughly 8,000 miles of streams and rivers flow through a state dotted by 2,000 or so lakes and reservoirs. Much of that water flows into 17 other states and Mexico, slaking the thirst of millions.

    Despite its role as one of the nation’s primary taps, Colorado only recently adopted a comprehensive plan for managing this essential resource. Ahead of that historic moment, the Colorado Water Conservation Board asked Matt Nager to document how people throughout the state use something there simply isn’t enough of. His series Colorado Water is a breathtaking look at all the ways water shapes life in Colorado and the west. “It all revolves around water,” Nager says.

    Colorado’s water—which begins as rain or snow—generates an average of 95 million acre feet annually. Of that, about 16 million acre feet flow through the state’s streams, creeks, and rivers and about 10.5 million acre feet continue on to 17 other states and Mexico. Three major river systems—the Arkansas, Rio Grande, and Colorado—have their headwaters in the Rocky Mountains, and the Colorado River system alone provides water to one in 10 Americans. “Water [in Colorado] is not simply some far away issue,” Nager says. “The decisions of one region directly impacts those in another.”

    Those decisions have, at times, been haphazardly made, leading to recurring fights among competing interests over who gets what, when, and where. Eleven interstate compacts govern the distribution of water to other states. The $20 billion plan approved last fall focuses on water use within Colorado and aims to save 130 billion gallons annually through conservation, reuse, and smarter development. “[It] is remarkable in many respects,” says Larry MacDonnell, an expert in water law at the University of Colorado. “It is a reflection of the times, the increasing sense of uncertainty about our water future, [and] the awareness that historic practices are no longer sufficient at this time.”

    Nager, who grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and lives in Denver, pounced at the chance to travel the state exploring a topic that’s long fascinated him. “It’s something that’s always been in the back of my mind,” he says.

    Nager started his road trip in June and spent two months exploring the state with his Nikon D800 (for portraits) and Mamiya RZ67 (for landscapes). His photos reveal the beauty of the state, and all the ways people rely upon its water. Farmers tap canals to irrigate their acres of farmland. Anglers fish in the state’s many man-made reservoirs. The state’s natural bodies of water attract vacationers and locals to relax in the state’s abundant outdoor beauty.

    Nothing about the scenes in Nager’s gorgeous photos suggests Colorado, like many states, faces a critical shortage of water. The mother of rivers will always be bountiful, but only if carefully managed.

    #AnimasRiver alert system to use sensors, river spotters — The Durango Herald

    A “get well soon” balloon floats in the contaminated waters of the Animas River flowing through Durango on Monday afternoon August 10, 2015 -- photo The Durango Herald, Shane Benjamin
    A “get well soon” balloon floats in the contaminated waters of the Animas River flowing through Durango on Monday afternoon August 10, 2015 — photo The Durango Herald, Shane Benjamin

    From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

    The Durango City Council unanimously adopted the Animas River Alert and Notification Plan on Tuesday. La Plata County, San Juan County, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, regional health departments and others collaborated on the plan. The idea for the plan emerged in the weeks following the Gold King Mine blowout, said Tom McNamara, La Plata County emergency management coordinator…

    The U.S. Geological Survey installed sensors in March and April that measure indicators such as water acidity, cloudiness and temperature. If any of these indicators reach concerning levels, local researchers receive alerts in the form of text messages, emails and phone calls, to go check the condition of the river in person.

    In addition to automated notifications from these sensors, river spotters will be trained to alert officials when they see major changes in the river.

    These people will likely include law enforcement, river guides and people who operate irrigation ditches on the north end of the Animas Valley.

    “We really want folks who know the river well and who have a good idea of what’s normal and what’s not,” McNamara said.

    Call lists were also pre-built into the Durango-La Plata Emergency Communications Center’s CodeRED system to send out notifications to all the right officials.

    “It’s essentially one click to get the information out to those people,” he said.

    The public can also sign up for the alerts through the CodeRED system. Users must opt in to receive Animas River alerts.

    2016 #coleg: Rain Barrel Legalization — Worth the Effort — Western Resource Advocates

    On Thursday May 12, Western Resource Advocates joined others to celebrate HB16-1005, legalizing the use of rain barrels, becoming law.
    On Thursday May 12, Western Resource Advocates joined others to celebrate HB16-1005, legalizing the use of rain barrels, becoming law.

    From Western Resource Advocates (Jon Goldin-Dubois):

    On Thursday May 12, Western Resource Advocates joined Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, James Eklund, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, our colleagues at Conservation Colorado, Denver Water, the Colorado Farm Bureau and many others to celebrate HB16-1005, legalizing the use of rain barrels, becoming law. There was a party, there were speeches, there were toasts in celebration – and several rain barrels were autographed by the Governor. I was quoted as saying, “On this sunny day, I’m dancing in the rain!”

    But I know a number of my friends and colleagues scratched their heads at this news. I have heard some say that rain barrels and this legislative win were not very important. I want to tell you why I disagree.

    First, our opportunities to win legislative victories, in any state, on any issue, are too few and too far between. Getting legislation passed, of any kind, in our divided Western state legislatures is tough to say the least. Getting leaders to work across the aisle and achieve victories for both parties is a very difficult task. But this win was achieved in Colorado to gain final passage of rain barrel legalization after two years of effort.

    Second, don’t underestimate the power of symbolism. Rain barrels became a tangible symbol of work to fix a state law that was contrary to our desired water future. Everyone wondered why rain barrels were illegal in Colorado – and when they learned that it was because there are water interests who feared this would begin to unravel water laws from the 1800s, it became clear this was a battle over more than just rain barrels. This was a battle to get vested water holders to open up and consider new ways of doing business that help us advance water conservation. These interests are powerful and can be suspicious of change, and they successfully killed the bill last year. Passing the bill this year is a signal that Coloradans representing a variety of interests are committed to finding new, innovative strategies to manage our water resources.

    Third, Western Resource Advocates and Conservation Colorado created a campaign that garnered interest from the press, brought attention to the issue, engaged citizens, and focused policy makers on an issue that, until two years ago, they hadn’t even considered. This was a well-organized campaign that took hundreds of hours of time educating reporters, editors, citizens and legislators. There were videos, tweets, blogs, and action alerts. This campaign represented what energetic commitment by the conservation community can achieve in the face of opposition.

    Finally, legalizing rain barrels illustrates that we can create our own future and be the catalyst for change. Theresa Conley, Water Advocate at Conservation Colorado, relayed to me a story of a conversation two years ago where Western Resource Advocates and Conservation Colorado were dreaming up what we could possibly do to advance wiser water management in Colorado in a divided legislature. During that conversation, our own Drew Beckwith said, “What about rain barrels?” There are not many people out there who can claim an idea that becomes a concept, a plan, legislation, and then a law.

    I am so proud of our team, led by Drew, Bart Miller, and Maren McLaughlin-Klotz, who created amazing educational opportunities, captured people’s imagination, and changed a bad state law. I am grateful to State Representatives Daneya Esgar and Jessie Danielson and State Senator Michael Merrifield for leading on this issue. The Governor has once again shown he is a water leader and his support made the moment of “Now it’s Law” possible. I am also so proud of you and all our donors and supporters who participated in this effort and made this possible.

    We all should be very proud of our work together to legalize rain barrels. I certainly am. And we will and should rightfully claim this victory with our partners at Conservation Colorado, in particular the great work of Theresa Conley, Becky Long, and Kristin Green. Yes, there is much more work needed to conserve water, advance water reuse, and to further agricultural-urban water sharing — but this victory shows what we can do when we are committed and strategic, and when we work together to advance our vision for the future. Onward to implementing the Colorado Water Plan!

    Governor Hickenlooper signed a rain barrel at the HB16-1005 bill signing ceremony. Photo via @jessica_goad and Twitter.
    Governor Hickenlooper signed a rain barrel at the HB16-1005 bill signing ceremony. Photo via @jessica_goad and Twitter.

    Whitewater seekers might get crack at Dolores River – The Durango Herald

    Dolores River near Bedrock
    Dolores River near Bedrock

    From The Durango Herald (Sue McMillin):

    The Dolores Water Conservancy District announced on its website on Monday that recent heavy precipitation, including what’s in the forecast for this week, would likely fill McPhee Reservoir and allow for a boating release. If it happens, it would be the first since 2011.

    The water district said that the precipitation combined with a cool, slow start to irrigation season has left the reservoir just 12 feet below full.

    “A boating release will likely cover the Memorial Day weekend and last 5-10 days at 1,000 +/- CFS (cubic feet per second),” the website says.

    The district says it will continue to keep boaters updated through the week.

    The Dolores River was dammed in the late 1980s, which created McPhee Reservoir to ensure domestic water supply for Cortez and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and irrigation for more than 70,000 acres of otherwise arid land.

    For the latest on the reservoir levels, visit http://www.doloreswater.com/releases.htm.

    Senate bill would ease conduit cost to Lower Ark towns — The Pueblo Chieftain

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation
    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A bill that would ease the cost burden of the Arkansas Valley Conduit to local communities got its first hearing in the U.S. Senate water and power subcommittee Tuesday.

    The bill, S2616, would allow miscellaneous revenues from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to be applied to the local match of the conduit.

    Legislation in 2009 allowed those revenues to be applied to the federal cost of building the $400 million conduit.

    Because of the 65-35 cost share, however, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District will face heavy expenses. The bill would allow the district’s share to be paid first, with any funds not needed being used to repay the federal share.

    Under the new law, the costs of Ruedi Dam, the Fountain Valley Conduit and South Outlet Works still would be repaid before funds could be used for the conduit. Like the Arkansas Valley Conduit, they are all parts of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project which was authorized in 1962.

    The district is anticipating up to $100 million in loans from the Colorado Water Conservation Board — $60 million already has been committed, said Bill Long, president of the district board.

    He presented the committee with a letter of support from the CWCB.

    Long, a Las Animas businessman and Bent County commissioner, detailed the water quality problems faced by the Lower Arkansas Valley. Those include radioactivity, salts and sulfates. The 40 communities involved in the project serve more than 50,000 people and face increasingly strict regulatory standards, he said.

    “S2616 will achieve the goal of significantly reducing federal outlays while providing a reliable, safe drinking water supply to the rural communities in the Lower Arkansas River Valley,” Long said. “The alternative — contaminated supplies which pose a significant threat to public health and prohibitive costs for individual system improvements — is unacceptable.”

    Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., a member of the committee, and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., are co-sponsors of the legislation.

    “Water is a precious resource in Colorado and throughout the west. As home to the headwaters for 20 states, our communities continuously look for ways to conserve water,” Bennet said.

    During the hearing, Estevan Lopez, commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation, lent his support to the bill.

    “While we are still undertaking a detailed analysis of the full implications of such a reallocation of federal receipts, the reallocation of federal revenues to a non-federal entity for the benefit of that non-federal entity should be given careful consideration,” Lopez said.

    Lopez said about $21 million in appropriations already has been provided through this year. At least $3 million is anticipated this year.

    Construction on the conduit is expected to begin in 2019.

    Once the conduit is completed, there would be a 50-year repayment of the 35 percent local share that is addressed in S2616.

    #Runoff news: Cache la Poudre streamflow = 2,310 cfs yesterday

    Cache la Poudre River
    Cache la Poudre River

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

    The more than an inch of rain that fell over the last 24 hours in parts of Fort Collins has helped push the Poudre River to its highest flow of the season.

    At 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, the Poudre was flowing at 2,310 cubic feet per second in Fort Collins, which is about five times the average flow on this date. The flow was slightly higher overnight.

    Fort Collins is expected to pick up additional rain, but 9News is forecasting less than .10 of an inch of additional rain [May 18].

    Pueblo Board of Water Works meeting recap

    Fen photo via the USFS
    Fen photo via the USFS

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday approved two contracts with Colorado Mountain College to improve storage and collection facilities in the high country.

    A $50,000 contract to take a bathymetric survey of Clear Creek Reservoir and an $85,000 payment over 10 years for a fen research project near Leadville were approved.

    The bathymetric survey — basically underwater topography — will serve two purposes, said Steve Anselmo, water resources engineer. It will update the storage capacity of the reservoir by identifying areas that have silted in, and identify any sinkholes that could contribute to seepage paths into the dam’s foundation.

    The study would be conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The last time the lake bed was surveyed was in 2007, when the reservoir was drained in order to repair the outlet works.

    Pueblo Water has been participating in the fen research project since 2005, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA and Colorado Mountain College. The purpose is to see if a fen can be relocated, said Alan Ward, water resources manager.

    Fens are wetlands with certain soil characteristics that take thousands of years to develop.

    The presence of fens was the major obstacle Pueblo Water faced when it determined that it was not feasible to build a reservoir at Tennessee Creek. Aurora also faces the challenge at its proposed Box Creek Reservoir in Lake County.

    While relocation of fens is not realistic for Tennessee Creek because of the large number that are present, the research could help Pueblo Water in future projects, Ward said. That could include its Tennessee Creek Ranch as a receiving site for transplanted fens.

    Pueblo’s payment of $85,000 would go toward a total project cost of $580,000. Aurora would pay $300,000 and Denver Water $150,000.