NOAA: South Pole is the last place on Earth to pass a global warming milestone (CO2 > 400 ppm)

Here’s the release from NOAA:

The Earth passed another unfortunate milestone May 23 when carbon dioxide (CO2) surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) at the South Pole for the first time in 4 million years.

The South Pole has shown the same, relentless upward trend in CO2 as the rest of world, but its remote location means it’s the last to register the impacts of increasing emissions from fossil fuel consumption, the primary driver of greenhouse gas pollution.

“The far southern hemisphere was the last place on earth where CO2 had not yet reached this mark,” said Pieter Tans, the lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. “Global CO2 levels will not return to values below 400 ppm in our lifetimes, and almost certainly for much longer.”

South Pole carbon dioxide record Daily average carbon dioxide levels rose to a new high level of 400 parts per million on May 23 for the first time in four million years. This chart shows readings at the South Pole from 2014 to present, as recorded by NOAA's greenhouse gas monitoring network. Credit: NOAA
South Pole carbon dioxide record
Daily average carbon dioxide levels rose to a new high level of 400 parts per million on May 23 for the first time in four million years. This chart shows readings at the South Pole from 2014 to present, as recorded by NOAA’s greenhouse gas monitoring network. Credit: NOAA

Over the course of the year, CO2 levels rise during fall and winter and decline during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer as terrestrial plants consume CO2 during photosynthesis. But plants only capture a fraction of annual CO2 emissions, so for every year since observations began in 1958, there has been more CO2 in the atmosphere than the year before.
Last year’s global CO2 average reached 399 ppm, meaning that the global average in 2016 will almost certainly surpass 400 ppm. The only question is whether the lowest month for 2016 will also remain above 400.

Upward trend continues

And the annual rate of increase appears to be accelerating. The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii jumped 3.05 ppm during 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of monitoring. Part of last year’s jump was attributable to El Nino, the cyclical Pacific Ocean warming that produces extreme weather across the globe, causing terrestrial ecosystems to lose stored CO2 through wildfire, drought and heat waves.

Last year was the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than 2 ppm – which set another record. This year promises to be the fifth.

“We know from abundant and solid evidence that the CO2 increase is caused entirely by human activities,” Tans said. “Since emissions from fossil fuel burning have been at a record high during the last several years, the rate of CO2 increase has also been at a record high. And we know some of it will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years.”

For more information, please contact Theo Stein, NOAA Communications, at or by telephone at 303-497-6288.

Supporting Creative Use of a Dam to Meet Future Water Needs – and Save Plum Creek

This picture is an example of a head cut on another stream (Image courtesy of the <a href="">New Mexico Environment Dept.</a>) and Western Resource Advocates.
This picture is an example of a head cut on another stream (Image courtesy of the New Mexico Environment Dept.) and Western Resource Advocates.

From Western Resource Advocates (Robert Harris):

Better management and use of existing dams is a key tool to minimize new expensive, energy-consuming, and environmentally damaging large scale new dams or diversions from the West’s rivers.

We are a conservation group with a priority goal of saving rivers in the West. So you would think we would be opposing anything to do with dams. But the reality is that we believe that better management and use of existing dams is a key tool to minimize new expensive, energy-consuming, and environmentally damaging large scale new dams or diversions from the West’s rivers. Which brings us to today’s story about supporting more creative management of Chatfield Reservoir and saving Plum Creek.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently approved storing more water in Chatfield Reservoir on the South Platte River southwest of Denver to help meet Colorado’s existing and growing water needs. Western Resource Advocates, Conservation Colorado, and the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club support this decision because it follows the Smart Principles of water supply management by making more efficient use of existing reservoirs and local water supplies. In our view, select new-supply projects—including holding more water in the existing Chatfield Reservoir—high rates of water conservation, accelerated water recycling and reuse, and voluntary sharing of water with agriculture for other uses all can combine to meet and exceed 2050 water demands for the South Platte Basin. “Chatfield Reallocation” exemplifies the opportunities available to state water planners to meet reasonable anticipated water needs without building more costly, politically charged, large-scale concrete and steel water project proposals that cause major harm to rivers.

However, putting more water in Chatfield Reservoir will still harm wildlife habitat provided by nearby wetlands and cottonwood stands. These habitat areas are accustomed to a lower, and less variable, water table in the reservoir. As part of the agreement to re-allocate water storage space in Chatfield reservoir, the environmental impacts must be offset, or “mitigated,” through replacement and permanent protection of other wetlands and other important wildlife habitat. To this end, the project’s beneficiaries have deposited approximately $130 million into a special bank account dedicated to environmental and recreational mitigation. Western Resource Advocates is joined by representatives of relevant state and federal agencies and other stakeholders as a member on the Technical Advisory Committee for the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project, which guides implementation of the environmental protection and restoration mitigation projects.

At its first meeting in late April, the Committee urged the mitigation company to use some of the mitigation funds to address rapidly deteriorating wildlife habitat along Plum Creek, which is above the reservoir in the park. Urban development in the Plum Creek watershed has significantly increased rain runoff flows that are scouring a deep channel into the creek bottom, and in turn, lowering the water table and draining high-quality wetlands next to the creek. This erosion, called a “head cut,” is unrelated to the Chatfield water storage project.

This year, the head cut in Plum Creek is advancing dozens of feet upstream with each rain storm. Western Resource Advocates and the Committee unanimously urged the mitigation company to stabilize the creek and stop the head cut. This will help restore Plum Creek’s health and provide good creek-side habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Mitigation projects like this one on Plum Creek demonstrate the potential of creative water supply solutions, including Chatfield Reallocation, to meet communities’ water needs and to fix significant local and regional environmental challenges. It also illustrates how dynamic mitigation projects can be since few anticipated that this habitat would, on its own, deteriorate so badly in such a short period of time. Without mobilizing the mitigation funding made possible by this project, Plum Creek’s wetlands might be lost for generations. Stay tuned to the Chatfield Reallocation Project as the stakeholders develop and implement this and other exciting protections for wetlands and rivers.

Rob Harris is a Western Resource Advocates attorney representing WRA, Conservation Colorado, and the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club on the Technical Advisory Committee for the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project.

Proposed reallocation pool -- Graphic/USACE
Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

Water and climate summit draws alumni experts from all corners — CSU

The Water and Climate Initiative drew engineering alumni and other dignitaries to campus June 13-14. Credit: CIRA/CSU
The Water and Climate Initiative drew engineering alumni and other dignitaries to campus June 13-14. Credit: CIRA/CSU

From Colorado State University (Matthew Rogers):

As befits a western land-grant institution, Colorado State University has a long history of leading water science and policy research. And over several decades, many CSU alumni – mostly from the College of Engineering – have taken prominent positions across the globe, delving into water resource and management issues on every continent.

Many of these alumni were welcomed back to campus for the 2016 Water and Climate Initiative, June 13-14. Over the two-day summit, they pooled their expertise and vision, and provided a comprehensive list of suggestions and needs to guide water resource management globally. They also provided a slate of recommendations to Colorado State University to further refine research goals around water and climate issues.

The initiative took place at the Durrell Center at CSU. It was hosted jointly by the College of Engineering, the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA, a partnership between CSU and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and Riverside Technology, Inc., a Fort Collins-based science and information technology company.

Keynotes underscore wealth of expertise

Keynote presentations ranged from climate and hydrologic forecasting and water crisis management in Asia and South America, to best practices for regional water management and observation of water resources. A focus on education needs in particular fostered debate and brainstorming. Participants, the majority of whom studied or worked at Colorado State University, came from around the country, as well as from four continents including dignitaries from Iceland, South Korea, Brazil, Egypt, and the Gulf Region of the Middle East.

Participants, many of whom hold high office in governmental or international water councils and agencies, broke into focus groups to craft position statements on the needs and suggestions of critical topics, including hydrologic uncertainty and extreme events; politics, people and governance; and water management and planning.

Suggestions and needs ranged from technical improvements in utilizing climate model outputs for hydrological modeling, and improvements in statistical analysis and investigation of major flood events, to integration of a country’s workforce and economic sectors to better influence management and infrastructure. Also discussed were philosophical and practical ways to balance financial sustainability and social justice, and how subsidies and distribution of water resources are administered, with a special interest in low-income regions.

Five-point recommendation

The initiative was facilitated by the dean of CSU’s College of Engineering, David McLean, along with Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute; Chris Kummerow, CSU professor of atmospheric science and director of CIRA; Larry Brazil, president and CEO of Riverside Technology, and Neil Grigg, CSU professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Dignitaries and workshop participants, including three CSU graduate students, presented a summary five-point recommendation to CSU Provost Rick Miranda, suggesting that CSU research efforts in water and climate could:

  • focus on integrating knowledge across climate, water, ecology and humans;
  • focus on research in climate forecasting and early warning tools related to hydrologic processes;
  • exploit global data and information to promote integration and decision support;
  • advance the university service and outreach mission through vigorous international scientific cooperation;
  • hire faculty using joint appointments, and allow graduate students to obtain interdisciplinary degrees in “water” to further integrate across disciplines.
  • Summary remarks by Miranda reiterated CSU’s commitment to leading the world in water resource and climate research expertise. Needs identified during the summit are critical, he said, in continuing the university’s tradition of excellence in teaching, research and outreach.

    #COWaterPlan: South Platte Basin Ag Producers and Water Managers Workshop July 13

    Ag Workshop South Platte Flyer 07132016

    Click here to register. Click here for all the inside skinny.

    #COWaterPlan: Ag has to be on equal footing with municipal and industrial and environmental concerns — Bill McKee


    From The Fence Post News (Nikki Work):

    During the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association annual convention last week in Colorado Springs, ranchers, business owners and ag officials discussed the ways the state’s cattlemen can make a difference in water conservation and why the beef industry needs to have a role in the conversation. Many ranchers grow feed crops for their animals, like hay or grains, rather than purchasing them. Nearly all have to worry about water when it comes to the quality of their pasture and rangeland. Even for those that rely on purchased feed or who graze on federal lands, Fankhauser pointed out that the ag industry is all interconnected.

    Fankhauser asked the group: If corn dries up, what will cattle eat? If farmers start to go out of business in an area, feedlots move out, then packing plants move out, Fankhauser said. When ranchers can’t keep the water on their land to sustain their pastures, they have to sell off their cattle herd, as they did in the 2012 drought.

    Bill McKee, a rancher who lives in Carbondale but runs cattle in both Carbondale and Platteville, said if the beef industry does nothing else, it needs to make an effort to stop buy-and-dry, a practice in which agricultural land is bought up for its water rights and taken out of production…

    Through water leasing, farmers would maintain ownership of their water, but only use a portion of it and be paid for the rest, which would be used by someone else, like a municipality…

    There are a few different ways this could look, but according to a survey done by the Ag Water NetWORK, an organization formed by the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Partners for Western Conservation, the most popular of them is for a certain portion of water to be leased, then the producer would receive reduced delivery of water over the rest of the season. About two-thirds of the respondents to the survey expressed some sort of interest in leasing their water…

    T. Wright Dickinson, former president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association who serves on the state’s Inter-basin Compact Committee, said ag water leasing is only part of the solution. Continued development of the reservoir storage system is necessary, too, but ranchers need to realize their role and the opportunities they have to manage their water in a way that protects ag’s viability.

    “If we do it right, conservation goes a long way into solving some of this gap,” said Dickinson, a Moffat County rancher. “If we do it wrong, the state won’t look the same.”

    At the convention, Carbondale and Platteville rancher McKee talked with representatives from conservation group Trout Unlimited, which works with farmers and ranchers on water management to benefit fish populations. He was looking into options to better handle water on his property, something he said he needs to do soon, because changes are coming to Colorado, and they’re coming faster than anyone is prepared for.

    “It’s time to have an intelligent discussion,” he said. “Everybody should be looking at these issues.”

    Stephanie Scott, outreach coordinator with Trout Unlimited, said she sees the conversation around water and other natural resource issues changing in the ag community every time she attends a convention like the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association’s. At first, ranchers hesitate when they see the Trout Unlimited booth. It’s nestled next to the trade show mainstays, like merchandise, livestock products and ag tech. Scott said she can see the questions in their eyes — the ones they’re afraid to ask a conservation organization.

    Trout Unlimited want to help them better manage their water because it helps both the farmer and the organization accomplish their goals, Scott said. Once farmers and ranchers realize that, the conversation about conservation really gets going.

    And as population grows and the pressure on water mounts, more people in the ag community — the whole ag community, not just traditional crop growers — are willing to try new things, Scott said.

    Since the governor’s water plan is new and fresh on the minds of legislators, McKee said now is the time for ag to have a bigger part in water conversations.

    “Ag has to be on equal footing with municipal and industrial and environmental concerns,” he said. “We have to be at the head of the table, not at the end of the table.

    #Runoff news: Lake Powell On Upward Trend #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam -- Photo USBR
    A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam — Photo USBR

    From KXAZ FM via

    Runoff on the Colorado River this past week has pushed Lake Powell to its highest level in four years. When the runoff ends in early July, the lake will be near 3,620 feet above mean sea level (msl).

    Even though runoff in 2016 was slightly below normal it was enough to boost Lake Powell 30 feet from the spring low in April. By July, the lake level will be 65 feet higher than April 2005 when the lake dropped 145 feet below full pool.

    As sure as winter snows give way to spring runoff each year to replenish our rivers, lakes and waterways, Lake Powell naysayers have flooded the opinion pages of newspapers with drain-the-lake propaganda. The reality is that Lake Powell has continued to hold its own for over a decade now and continues on a quiet upward trend toward the lake’s normal 50-year elevation of 3640 feet msl.

    “Some good news is that despite 15 years of drought, Lake Powell is storing more than 4.3 trillion gallons of water and the reservoirs above Lake Powell in the Upper Colorado River Basin have filled to near 90 percent of capacity,” said Tiff Mapel, Friends of Lake Powell spokesperson…

    “The silent but important statistic is that Lake Powell has provided extra water to Mead in five of the past 10 years, including the giant release of 12.5 maf in 2011,” Mapel said.

    These increased flows have pushed the 10-year rolling average of Upper Basin deliveries to 89.4 maf – significantly more than the obligated base flow of 82.3 maf. The difference is almost an extra year’s worth of water.

    If Lake Powell is rising, why does Lake Mead continue to drop?

    Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, recently reported the problem is that Lake Mead continues to operate with a water budget deficit of up to 1.2 million acre-feet per year.

    This deficit exists because of water delivery inefficiencies and evaporation in the Lower Basin. Lake Mead releases more water downstream than is actually allocated to California, Arizona and Nevada because of timing and other delivery inefficiencies. In addition, Lake Mead and the other downstream lakes, located in the hot Mojave Desert where temperatures can soar to 120 degrees, experience an evaporation rate that can exceed 0.6 million acre-feet per year. Together, these operating losses result in a water deficit for the Lower Basin that approaches 1.2 million acre-feet per year.

    To make up for this water budget deficit, the Lower Basin has traditionally relied on wet hydrological events in the Rocky Mountains to periodically fill and then overflow the Upper Basin reservoirs sending additional water cascading all the way down to Lake Mead. This occurred in the mid-1980s and then again in the late-1990s which helped to replenish the Lower Basin system of reservoirs.

    Today as Lake Mead continues to drop, the Upper Basin is doing its fair share to increase water deliveries downstream in accordance with existing reservoir-operating criteria between the two basins. However, the additional deliveries by the Upper Basin have largely been lost in the negative media stories about the Colorado River and the ongoing drought.

    “The real concern of the Colorado River is the failure of the Lower Basin to account for its system delivery losses and the continued reliance of overflowing water deliveries by the Upper Basin during times of hydrologic plenty,” Mapel explained. “With economic stakes high, it is a risky gamble and a choice not considered sustainable in light of ongoing drought conditions.”

    Droughts do tend to go in cycles. The multi-year Texas drought turned to flooding conditions in 2016. The fickle nature of the Colorado River and the need to store water in reservoirs during periodic wet periods was not lost on our forefathers. When there is abundant rainfall and the reservoirs are full, the infrastructure on the Colorado River may seem redundant but water managers rely on this stored water to make up the difference when the heavens don’t cooperate.

    “Lake Powell is doing exactly what it was intended and designed to do,” said Marlon Duke, spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Region. “It is storing water for Upper Basin states and helping ensure the Upper Basin can meet its obligation deliveries to the Lower Basin without curtailing entitled use by Upper Basin water users.”

    In the late 1990s, when Lake Powell and Lake Mead were both full to near capacity, environmental groups hoping to drain Lake Powell floated the notion that two large reservoirs on the Colorado River were redundant and unnecessary. They considered Lake Mead large enough to withstand a severe drought. They also claimed that keeping Lake Powell full could result in a catastrophic dam failure with significant loss of life and property downstream.

    In retrospect, it was simply another self-serving attempt to drain Lake Powell and restore Glen Canyon.

    “When the climate tables turned in the year 2000, the folly of this proposal became apparent,” Mapel said. “Thank goodness we had Lake Powell. Simply put, Lake Powell is a critical asset. It has kept Lake Mead from running empty and it also provides important regional recreational resources.”

    The notion to drain Lake Powell is a shallow idea that ignores important economic, political and resource consequences. According to officials at the Bureau of Reclamation, the loss of hydropower from Glen Canyon Dam would have a major negative impact to the western power grid and compromised rural electric rates. The revenue loss for the Upper Basin would, undermine repayment schedules for irrigation projects in the Upper Basin and reduce funding for salinity control efforts, improvements to aging irrigation systems and jeopardize existing endangered fish recovery programs.

    Additionally, draining Lake Powell would destroy a thriving and important regional economic engine. Arguably the most scenic lake in America, Lake Powell attracts millions of people each year to its inviting waters, the scenic landscape, comfortable Colorado Plateau temperatures and an unbounded sense of adventure. Lake Powell is a world class experience that offers a multitude of experiences including recreational boating, exploration of 96 lush and scenic canyons, wakeboarding, kayaking, camping, photography and outstanding fishing opportunities whether on the lake or the downstream cold water, blue-ribbon trout fishery at Lees Ferry.

    Researchers following water flow out of toxic Breckenridge mine — The Summit Daily News

    Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort
    Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

    From The Summit Daily News:

    The team is injecting fluorescent, non-toxic, green dye into water that flows into the collapsed mine shaft on Illinois Gulch Road above Breckenridge. They’re then observing and sampling the water downstream to see how much of the water filters through the mine and emerges on the other side. The hill has been mined all the way through and is rife with tailings and collapsed mine shafts. Contaminated water — a toxic tangerine from heavy iron — trickles out of the mine openings and along the ground, staining the dirt and rocks in its path.

    “Basically, the study is to figure out how the water is draining from the mine sites,” said Katherine Jenkins of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    A group of partner agencies is managing this several dayslong water tracer study at the Puzzle Willard Mine. The Illinois Gulch Tracer Study — led by Colorado Department of Natural Resources Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety and assisted by the Colorado Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service — is being conducted to trace the path of water flowing in creeks down Boreas Pass through the mine and out three adits, or openings.

    At each of the adits downstream, there is an automated sampler that tests for traces of the dye every few hours. After the injection of the dye into the mine site on Monday morning, the team will spend the next 7-10 days testing the water on the other side of the mine for traces of the dye, to see whether the contaminated water was making its way into the surface water in the Illinois Gulch drainage.

    Peter Stevenson, of the EPA, explained that the mine runoff presents no danger to the drinking water of Breckenridge residents. He said the water sources for the town are located in other drainages, and everyone who lives up near Illinois Gulch Road uses Breckenridge water. However, a small amount of this water could make its way to Lake Dillon. The stream that runs through the mine is the headwaters of Iron Springs, which feeds into Blue River and then the lake.

    At this point in the process, the investigation is intended to establish a baseline of the water quality at the site and then use the data to determine what further steps must be taken.

    “After we figure out where the water goes, then we’re going to come together with all of our partners and try to figure out what the next step is,” said Jean Wyatt of the EPA. “We’ve done fish studies, we’ve done macro-invertebrate studies and we’re still compiling all that data,”

    When the amount of water that is actually running through the mine is found, the group can assess the situation and determine whether steps need to be taken and, if so, what the best method is for preventing the water from reaching the metals in the mine.

    “We have a lot of sampling data from over the years. We need to compile it and review it and look at it. This is a piece of a multi-year assessment,” said Stevenson.

    The research team is leaving all its options for mitigation open until this assessment is complete, but they do have an expectation of what may happen to the mine tailings in the area that are not sitting in the drainage water.

    “Ultimately, I would expect this to get shaped and capped somewhere nearby,” said Stevenson

    Security: Town is looking for dough to manage perfluorinated chemical pollution


    From Colorado Public Radio (Anthony Cotton):

    In May, the agency reduced the levels for allowable contamination by perfluorinated chemicals from 0.4 micrograms per liter to 0.07 micrograms per liter, almost 10 times less. The advisory only provides technical guidelines to states and regulation isn’t mandatory, however it has had a great impact in Security.

    “The EPA lowered the standards below what we had anticipated; and then the problem was the new health advisory was so much more stringent that none of our wells would meet them,” Heald said. “Different people have different concerns. The health advisory is protecting the most sensitive members of the population — pregnant women, fetuses, infants…I’m a healthy middle-aged male so I feel my risk is low. But I understand that others rightfully have concerns.”

    Well water has been most affected by the advisory; Heald said that supply is largely being replaced by surface water. However, he adds that there’s not enough at present to meet peak demand — and water usage is as much as five times greater during the summer.

    Wells have been shut down and other steps, like the installation of new pipes and building filtration structures, are underway. The problem is paying for them. Heald says the cost will eventually have to be passed on to customers.

    “We’ve been asking for help from anyone who will listen for some financial support but no one has offered,” he said. “There’s no party that’s been found to be responsible for the contamination, so no one’s stepped up to pay for this.”

    From (Katie Pelton):

    “All of our water meets all federal and state drinking water standards,” said Roy Heald, general manager of Security Water and Sanitation Districts. “In other words, it meets all the regulations. This is an EPA health advisory, so it doesn’t rise to the level of a regulation. It just advises us and the public to be cautious.”

    Heald said if you’re concerned, you “may want to consider a different source.”

    In light of the advisory, Security has closed seven of its wells. One of them tested at a level of 1,300 parts per trillion of PFCs.

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulation is 70 parts per trillion.

    However, Heald said residents never got that amount because the water was diluted.

    Security also gets its water from surface water in the Pueblo Reservoir, which is what Heald said the community is mainly relying on for now.

    However, only certain residents are affected. The area is split into three regions…

    Security’s water department didn’t say when the problem would be fixed, but said it could take a long time before the chemicals are out of the system.

    “We’re looking at treatment over the long term because I think over the long term it’s going to be decades or maybe even generations before these chemicals work their way through the aquifer,” said Heald.

    From (Jessi Mitchell):

    Man-made PFCs have been in the ground water for years in the communities south of Colorado Springs, but last week the EPA lowered the safe level of contamination and put them in the danger zone. Now residents are paying out of pocket for bottled water and filters for their homes, which they say is not fair.

    Families in the three communities are already feeling the impact of PFCs in the water. Stories are coming out on the petition page about health problems possibly linked to the contamination. Cancer, elevated cholesterol and birth and developmental defects are among the CDC’s listed effects…

    Right now residents are buying clean water to use for drinking, cooking and bathing multiple times a week, in addition to paying their water bills, and say they should not have to. Loudenber says, “You’re talking single moms. You’re talking families that are already on assistance. They can’t afford to go get bottled water every few days.”

    The EPA is encouraging people with wells in those three districts to make appointments to get their water tested. The local water districts are only advising pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to avoid the tap water. They continue to investigate the source of the PFCs, but Peterson AFB confirms they used firefighting foam that contained the chemicals up until 2002.

    Still, people like Loudenber want action now. “I’m not saying it’s the water district’s fault,” she says. “Obviously it came from somewhere else, but it’s here now. We need to deal with it.”

    In addition to the request for free water bottles and filters for neighbors in the three communities, she hopes the water districts implement a free long-term fix for the wells there. “There are filters out there that they can put on the wells that will help with the PFCs,” Loudenber says. “They just have to be willing to do that.”

    Care and Share Food Bank will hold a meeting in the coming days to asses their supply of bottled water, and see if they will be able to get more if the water districts do not take action.

    When News 5 spoke with Security Water District on Monday, representatives said they had not heard about the petition and would not provide a comment. They did say the district was already mixing more surface water into the supply that does not contain PFCs.

    Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
    Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

    Arkansas River Basin storage administration

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    To look at the numbers, you’d expect to see otters frolicking everywhere in the Arkansas River basin.

    Then you realize that the nearly 10,000 storage vessels in Southeastern Colorado are spread over more than 28,000 square miles in mostly arid or semiarid areas. Then consider that many of the reservoirs are seldom full. Finally, the vast majority are pond-sized, not lakes.

    Still, someone has to keep an eye on them all, because water stored in them rightfully belongs to someone else. In the past 10 years, there have been 79 orders issued by the state in relation to improper storage practices.

    “The Arkansas River is a big basin, and there’s a lot of complexity in the basin,” Assistant Division Engineer Bill Tyner told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District last week. “We put our emphasis on the top 200 structures.”

    Tyner then walked the board through the different types of reservoirs that are known to exist. Even that can be a problem to determine, because reservoirs are man-made, while natural features such as lakes, ponds or wetlands on a creek might show up in aerial photographs.
    There are more than 1,500 decreed structures in the Arkansas Valley, although some may not be in use or are restricted.

    Of those, only 20 hold more than 10,000 acrefeet (3.25 billion gallons), and another 169 hold more than 100 acre-feet.

    The rest are there, legal to use, but subject to water rights administration. In other words, they cannot store water if a user with a senior appropriation right is calling for the water downstream.

    The largest reservoirs are John Martin Reservoir, which was built for flood control and to settle interstate compact differences between Kansas and Colorado, and Lake Pueblo, which was built as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project for water supply, flood control and recreation.
    There are nearly 1,800 erosion control dams, which must be under 15 feet in height, store less than 10 acre-feet and can be drained in 36 hours. They have to be dry 80 percent of the time.

    “There are a lot of these at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site to mitigate vehicle damage,” Tyner said.

    As would be expected, erosion control dams are found in the hilly areas of the basin in the Upper Arkansas, El Paso County and the Spanish Peaks area.

    There are more than 5,400 livestock tanks, which fall under a specific state statute that has the same criteria as erosion dams, but also sets a chronological priority within the same drainage.

    “Livestock ponds have a seniority system, but it’s not as formal as a decreed right,” Tyner said.

    Gravel pit ponds are a different category. There are about 750. The ponds intercept groundwater because of activities by humans, so must be augmented to replace evaporation losses. Those are most common on the Eastern Plains, where gravel mining is prevalent.

    There are roughly 140 head stabilization ponds, which are limited to storing water up to 72 hours, by state policy, primarily to reduce sediment for sprinkler or drip irrigation.

    Aside from the known reservoirs, there are unknown storage systems including post-wildland fire facilities, stormwater detention ponds and unregistered ponds used for erosion control, livestock or head stabilization.