#ColoradoRiver: Ruedi Reservoir expected to fill next week #COriver

Sunrise at Ruedi Reservoir October 20, 2015. Photo via USBR.
Sunrise at Ruedi Reservoir October 20, 2015. Photo via USBR.

From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Releases from Ruedi Reservoir are anticipated to remain at 125 cfs throughout the weekend. It is expected to fill next week. If the basin gets any significant rainfall, the reservoir may fill sooner and releases may have to be increased.

You may check the releases and reservoir elevation at http://www.usbr.gov/gp-bin/arcweb_rueresco.pl.

How healthy is the Poudre River? — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water
Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Citing low flows in the winter and insufficient flushing flows in the spring, river experts give the health of the Cache la Poudre River moderate marks. Ken Kehmeier, senior fishery biologist at Colorado Parks and Wildlife, gives it a “C-plus.” Ellen Wohl, a Colorado State University geosciences professor, prefers “needs improvement.”

“It’s not going to catch on fire like the Cuyahoga River did in the ‘60s, but it’s a very different river than it was in say, 1858,” she said. “I’d never give up on the Poudre. It’s ailing in health, but it can recover, and it’s not anywhere near being done.”

What does the future hold for the Poudre? That interpretation depends a lot on who you ask. It also will depend on how Northern Colorado leaders respond to potential obstacles raised by climate change, urban development and the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

Climate change

Colorado’s in a weird spot when it comes to climate predictions.

While it’s clear temperatures will increase — they already have — there’s no consensus on whether climate change will bring more, less or the same precipitation to Colorado.

Regardless, warmer temperatures are an issue for the Poudre and its aquatic life and water users. The Poudre is fed primarily by mountain snowmelt, and as Colorado’s average temperatures rise, the spring pulse — the onset of higher spring flows fed by snowmelt — will come earlier than usual.

John Stokes, Fort Collins Natural Areas director, said he already sees it happening on the Poudre.

“Our snowmelt is getting earlier and earlier. It’s probably about two weeks earlier now than it used to be,” Stokes said. “As that accelerates, what does that do to our storage in the mountains, which is snow and ice? We rely on the timing of that storage.”

Not everybody agrees with Stokes. Poudre River Commissioner Mark Simpson said flows have varied so much during the last 50 years that he doesn’t see a shift in the peak, which generally occurs around the first week of June.

[Ellen Wohl] said she hasn’t necessarily noticed that trend on the Poudre — the system is so meticulously managed that it can be hard to tell when high flows are the work of Mother Nature or water engineers, she added…


The biggest protection — literally — is a development buffer zone of 300 feet on either side of the river through most of Fort Collins. That’s nearly the length of a football field. The buffer zone, which is enhanced by city ownership of most of the land along the river, quells any fears that the Poudre will one day turn into a built-out river walk. It also mitigates flood risk.

“Maybe In a perfect world we would have had quarter- or half-mile setbacks from the river,” Stokes said. “This river used to go all over the place. It would change its course frequently. But now, it’s pretty much locked into its location because of the way we’ve developed around it.”



Proponents say Northern Colorado needed NISP yesterday. Opponents argue that the project will irreversibly damage the river that has long been a lifeblood for the region.

Reservoirs are “exhibit A” for the future of Western water, said Brian Werner, spokesman for NISP initiator Northern Water.

“We’re going to need reservoirs for the next 200 years,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out where to store that water in the wet times so you can use it in the dry times.”

It’s easy to reduce NISP to a lengthy timeline and a lot of bureaucratic jargon, but it’s more than that. The project has become symbolic of a major question about the future of water use: How do we meet the water needs of staggering population growth without harming our rivers?

NISP would divert from the Poudre during peak springtime flows. That causes concern for many because the river needs flushing flows to thrive.

“As the water moves, it has the power to carry things,” Kehmeier said. “When you take that power away from it, then all those sediment pieces drop out and deposit on the (river bed).”

Sediment buildup can make the river dirtier, smellier and fill it with algae and non-native, potentially invasive, species.

Wohl is skeptical of NISP, partially because of the flushing flows issue and partially because the river already lacks a natural flow regime.

Downstream, “the volume of the water isn’t really natural,” Wohl said. “That has a cascade of effects. If you change the amount of water in a river, you change the energy available for processes like picking up and moving sediment, you change the shape and size of the river, you change the habitat available for organisms.”

But it’s possible for NISP to coexist with a healthy river if Northern Water plans accordingly, Kehmeier said.

“With these flushing flows, you’re looking for a recurrence interval,” he said. “Every one-and-a-half to two years, you should have a flow that’s considered bank-full.”

NISP could also boost historically low winter flows on the Poudre by releasing reservoir water into the river during dry times, Kehmeier said.

“From a fisheries standpoint, the Poudre is as limited by low flows, probably more so, than it is by flushing flows,” he said. “Fish don’t survive very well without water.”

Wintertime releases are a component of Northern Water’s recently unveiled conveyance refinement proposal, which is basically a plan to run 14,000 acre feet of the diverted water through most of the Poudre’s stretch in Fort Collins. The move was partially intended to address some of the city of Fort Collins’ issues with NISP, but the city, which is not a NISP member, has yet to respond to the new plan…

What’s next for NISP:

The Army Corps of Engineers says it will release a final environmental impact statement for the project sometime in 2017. After that must come a 401 permit and a record of decision, which NISP opposition group Save the Poudre Executive Director Gary Wockner anticipates will come in 2019. If the record of decision approves the project, Save the Poudre is prepared to challenge it in court, setting off a legal battle which could take years.

#ColoradoRiver: Green Mountain Reservoir operations update #COriver

Green Mountain Dam via USBR.
Green Mountain Dam via USBR.

From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Green Mountain Reservoir is planned to reach maximum fill on July 5. On June 29, Green Mountain Reservoir had 1.4 ft of remaining capacity. Releases to the Blue River are forecasted to stay between 800 and 900 cfs. The current weather forecast has extensive precipitation in the region. If Green Mountain Reservoir was to fill early due to the precipitation, releases from Green Mountain could change rapidly. Once full Green Mountain Reservoir will need to pass all inflow to maintain a safe water surface elevation.

You can check the reservoir elevation at http://www.usbr.gov/gp-bin/arcweb_gmtr.pl.

Fort Collins stormwater efforts

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Flooding is part of our city’s history back to its beginning. A flash flood on the Cache la Poudre in 1864 wiped out an Army post in Laporte. The camp was moved east to a higher point along the river and it was named Fort Collins.

The city has seen several floods since then. In 1997, after about 14 inches of rain fell on the west side of town, little Spring Creek flash flooded. The flood killed five people and caused an estimated $200 million in damage.

Fort Collins Utilities was recently recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, for its work in stormwater. The city received a Class 2 rating under the Community Rating System, or CRS.

The program is intended to be an incentive for communities to pursue floodplain management efforts that exceed minimum requirements of the National Floodplain Insurance Program.

The city was one of only five communities in the nation to receive a Class 2 rating or higher. It was the only community recognized in FEMA’s Region VIII.

The designation means residents and businesses may receive up a 40 percent discount on flood insurance premiums for properties in floodplains mapped by FEMA.

CRS recognizes management efforts such as planning, public outreach, floodplain mapping, high regulatory standards, drainage system maintenance, flood warning and response, and so on, according to FEMA.

So the recognition is a big deal for the city and its professional stormwater enthusiasts. Their work was apparent during the fall 2013 flood that devastated parts of Northern Colorado but caused minimal damage in Fort Collins.

So it’s a good thing somebody cares about stormwater, right?

To learn more about flooding and what the city does to prepare for it, see http://www.fcgov.com/utilities.

Cache la Poudre River administration in wet and dry years


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Poudre River Commissioner Mark Simpson knows that better than anybody. It’s his job to keep track of water rights for the various groups who’ve sometimes paid roughly the price of a new car for each share of water to irrigate their crops, power their businesses and provide to their residents.

Technically, the people of Colorado own the water flowing in Northern Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River. If you want to put the water, to use, though, you have to buy a water right. That can sometimes be as simple as going to the state’s water court, paying a fee and filling out some paperwork…

If you want to use water during a dry year, you need an old water right — some date back to the 1860s and 1870s. People sell older, senior water rights for astronomical prices.

For Simpson, the last several years have been a relief because the Poudre’s flow has been higher than average. The amount of water that runs through the Poudre varies wildly annually, from 100,000 acre feet during dry years to 700,000 acre feet during historically wet years.

The average is about 300,000 acre feet, almost enough to fill Horsetooth Reservoir twice.

During dry years, when everybody wants water but few can get it, Simpson works months without a day off.

“You’ve really got to be paying attention,” he said. “You don’t want a dry-up in town because you shorted somebody. I make it a big point for myself to always be watching the river when it’s on its way down.”

Simpson estimated about 85 percent of the Poudre’s water is diverted for agriculture — mostly corn and hay — and about 15 percent is used for municipal water supplies and industry.

Some of the biggest industry users of Poudre water include breweries, microprocessor factories and other industrial manufacturers. Municipal users of the Poudre include Fort Collins and Greeley. Recreational users have an important place at the table, although their use is classified as “non-consumptive” and is free.

Click through to read the whole article. Ms. Marmaduke talks to users of the river’s water.

Upper #AnimasRiver: A whitewater hidden gem — The Durango Herald

No Name Rapid, Class V, mile 10, Upper Animas River, Mountain Waters Rafting.
No Name Rapid, Class V, mile 10, Upper Animas River, Mountain Waters Rafting.

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

For years, the railroad has offered to haul boaters and their gear up to one of the four “put-ins” at Silverton, Needleton, Tacoma Power Plant and Rockwood Gorge.

Aside from embarking on a grueling hike – carrying rafts, kayaks, food and, of course, the celebratory beer, the train is about the only way to access the roaring rapids of the Upper Animas.

Then, after taking in the dramatic scenery of the train’s slow ride into the San Juan Mountains, rafters are faced with up to 30 miles of Class IV/V continuous rapids, known for their bitterly cold water, punishing flows and rocky river bottom.

Hundreds of visitors from all over the world each year pay for the experience. Over the years, commercial rafting companies have fine-tuned how they offer trips, slowly edging toward a more cautious approach.

As Mountain Waters founder Casey Lynch explained a few years ago, the Upper Animas is the only two-day, Class V run in the Southwestern United States, with the highest commercial launch in the U.S. at 9,000 feet, which requires travel in an 1880s steam train along the edge of the largest wilderness in Colorado.

Bureau of Reclamation Selects Twenty-one Projects to Receive $2.93 Million to Study Water Treatment Technologies

In membrane distillation water is transferred though a hydrophobic membrane by difference in vapor pressure. The driving force of this process is temperature difference. The difference in vapour pressure allows water in gas form to pass the membrane pores while water molecules are rejected by the hydrophobic membranes. Graphic via BlueTec.
In membrane distillation water is transferred though a hydrophobic membrane by difference in vapor pressure. The driving force of this process is temperature difference. The difference in vapour pressure allows water in gas form to pass the membrane pores while water molecules are rejected by the hydrophobic membranes. Graphic via BlueTec.

From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López today announced $2.93 million in funding for water treatment technologies research. This funding is being provided through the Desalination and Water Purification Research Program for the development of new water treatment technologies and Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program for research into the deployment of new technologies that supports the expansion of water technologies in new locations.

“In a number of Western river basins, Reclamation and its partners are seeing demands for water exceed traditional supplies,” Commissioner López said. “Funding research into new water treatment technologies will expand the number of water supply resource options.”

The Desalination and Water Purification Research Program will provide $1.78 million for nine lab-scale and three pilot-scale projects. This program supports the development of new advanced water treatment technologies. Up to $150,000 will be provided for research and laboratory studies that must be completed within a year and up to $200,000 per year for pilot-scale projects that must be completed within two years.

For example, the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, will receive $143,869 to study approaches to increase technical feasibility of using membrane distillation for desalinating high-concentration brines, brackish waters, produced waters and seawater. [ed. emphasis mine]

The Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Research Program will provide $1.15 million to help fund nine projects in the Western United States. This program helps communities address water supply challenges by providing much-needed funding for research to establish or expand water reuse markets, improve or expand existing water reuse facilities, and streamline the implementation of clean water technology at new facilities.

For example, the City of San Angelo, Texas, will use $300,000 of federal funding and $1,094,849 of non-federal funding to perform pilot-scale testing to assess existing water treatment technologies for a direct potable reuse project. The proposed research will evaluate approaches to maximize water recovery, verify the performance of advanced water treatment processes, and assess the viability of reverse osmosis concentrate disposal using deep injection wells at an inland location.

A complete list of the Desalination and Water Purification Research Program projects can be found at http://www.usbr.gov/research/programs/desalination. A complete list of Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Research Program projects can be found at http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/title.

The funding provided today supports the White House’s Water Innovation Strategy to address Water Resource Challenges and Opportunities for Water Technology Innovation. The Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Research Program also supports the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART Program.

#Colorado Springs Utilities board votes for status quo — The Colorado Springs Independent

Colorado Springs City Hall back in the day via the City of Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs City Hall back in the day via the City of Colorado Springs.

From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

The Colorado Springs Utilities Board voted Wednesday to maintain the status quo of governance by hanging onto their jobs overseeing the billion-dollar enterprise.

The vote was 8-1, with City Council President Merv Bennett opposing the move. Bennett chairs Council, while Councilor Andy Pico chairs the Utilities Board.

Says Bennett in an interview: “I was disappointed on the vote. I’ve been really clear that we need to change the governance because of how much time it’s taking. It’s so technical. I spend 55 to 60 hours a week [on city business]. Utilities is so important to us that having a board whose total focus on that is important. City Council needs to focus on the city. My desire was to have an appointed board. But I will accept the decision of the group and move on. It’s possible a group might decide to petition something onto the ballot, and that’s OK.”

That “group” is the Colorado Springs Forward nonprofit, formed a couple of years ago with the mission to direct policy and politics in local affairs.

Science Organizations Again Urge Congress to Take Climate Change Seriously — Inside Climate News

From Inside Climate News (Lisa Song):

The letter, signed by many major American groups, pushes back against climate denial and calls for policy solutions to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Thirty-one major American scientific organizations sent a letter to Congress on Tuesday emphasizing the overwhelming consensus on climate change science and the urgent need for climate action. The letter served as a scientific counterpoint to recent actions by Congress designed to question that consensus.

Reminding members of Congress that “rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver” of global warming, they cited nearly universal support for the scientific consensus as expressed by the U.S. National Academies, the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“To reduce the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced,” said the letter, which was endorsed by institutions such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a nonprofit consortium that includes more than 100 North American universities.

“In addition, adaptation is necessary to address unavoidable consequences for human health and safety, food security, water availability, and national security, among others,” the letter continued.

Under Republican leadership, Congress has persistently worked to block President Obama’s climate agenda. A report released this spring found that a third of current Congressional representatives and Senators publicly doubt the scientific consensus on global warming.

Republican members of the House Science Committee, led by Lamar Smith (R.-Texas), subpoenaed federal scientists last year after researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a study that debunked the idea of a recent “global warming hiatus.” More recently, the committee demanded internal communications from the attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil for potential climate-related fraud.

Tuesday’s letter to Congress echoes a previous letter written in 2009, which was signed by 18 scientific societies. The updated version includes additional signatories including the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and the National Association of Marine Laboratories.

The letter concluded with an offer to help legislators understand the science: “We, in the scientific community, are prepared to work with you on the scientific issues important to your deliberations as you seek to address the challenges of our changing climate.”

Science Senator. It's called science.
Science Senator. It’s called science.