#Drought news: ‘Abnormally dry’ summer across Boulder County — the Longmont Times-Call

Colorado Drought Monitor August 9, 2016.
Colorado Drought Monitor August 9, 2016.

From The Longmont Times-Call (Charlie Brennan):

Boulder County has gone entirely yellow.

On the map of the U.S. Drought Monitor, that’s not a good thing, as it equates to “abnormally dry.”

As lawns and grasslands across the Front Range plunge further and further into such aridity that green is a faint memory, a swath of yellow — one step short of “moderate drought” — now sweeps down on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s map from north-central Colorado toward the southeast, enveloping all of the thirsty Boulder-Denver metro area.

As recently as Aug. 2, much of Boulder County was already in the “abnormally dry” classification, but a sliver of east Boulder County had not yet merited that designation. No more.

“It has indeed been a dry summer for Boulder (and for Denver and Fort Collins),” meteorologist Matt Kelsch said in an email…

Typically, Boulder County’s precipitation for June, July and the first half August is 2.04 inches, 1.91 inches and 0.87 inches, respectively, for a total of 4.82 inches in that 2 ½-month stretch.

In the particularly parched summer of 2016, the precipitation recorded for that period was a 2.37 in June, then a mere 0.61 for July and 0.24 so far in August. That’s a total of 3.22, or, about two-thirds of average.

“It’s even worse when you consider that nearly half of June’s rain fell on June 1st,” Kelsch said. “Since June 1st, there has not been a single day that produced at least a half-inch of rain.”

Colorado Springs completes first stormwater project promised under new commitment — KRDO.com

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

From KRDO.com (Chris Loveless):

The City of Colorado Springs says it has finished building a detention and water quality basin on the city’s northeast side as part of a new commitment to stormwater projects.

The city has committed to spending $19 million a year on stormwater projects.

The new detention basin at Woodmen Road and Sand Creek cost $3 million and is designed to reduce the velocity of flows in Sand Creek and to prevent downstream erosion while creating a more natural environment.

The city says 71 projects were selected based on negotiations with Pueblo County to identify and prioritize stormwater projects that would benefit both Colorado Springs and downstream communities…

All of the projects are designed to reduce flooding, provide improved water detention, and reduce flows, sediment and other pollutants entering drainages and going downstream.

Northwest Douglas County Water Project slated to be online in 2017

Denver Basin Aquifers confining unit sands and springs via the USGS. Page for report where graphic was taken: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1770/
Denver Basin Aquifers confining unit sands and springs via the USGS. Page for report where graphic was taken: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1770/

From The Wheat Ridge Transcript (Alex DeWind):

A regional partnership called the Northwest Douglas County Water Project will result in renewable water for existing homes and businesses in rural, northwest Douglas County by spring 2017.

For the past 20 years, residents in Plum Valley Heights, Chatfield Estates/Acres, Chatfield East and the Titan Road Industrial Park Chatfield have been using well water, a nonrenewable source…

The water agreement — among Douglas County, Aurora Water, Centennial Water and Sanitation District, Roxborough Water and Sanitation District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board — will deliver treated water to about 180 homes and 31 businesses in the northwest communities by February.

The county’s role in the partnership is its Water Alternatives Program, which was created in 2013 in an effort to help communities that owned wells. The county also took the lead in securing Aurora Water as a partner, according to a media release from county officials.

Communities will share infrastructure, Moore said, which is much more cost-effective.

Roxborough Water and Sanitation will deliver treated water from Aurora Water to paying customers in Plum Valley Heights. Centennial Water and Sanitation will treat, store and deliver water from Aurora Water to paying customers in Chatfield Estates, Chatfield Acres and Titan Road Industrial.

Construction of the appropriate delivery infrastructure is expected to begin next week.

#ColoradoRiver: Lake Mead on the way to a shortage declaration in 2018? #COriver

Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam December 2015 via Greg Hobbs.
Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam December 2015 via Greg Hobbs.

From the Associated Press via The Denver Post:

A federal report shows the surface level of the lake behind Hoover Dam is expected to remain high enough this year to avoid a shortage declaration in 2017. But it’ll still be a mere 4 feet above a 1,075-foot elevation action point.

For 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projects the lake level could fall short — by less than 1 foot.

That would trigger cuts in water deliveries that an official said would most affect Arizona farmers.

Chuck Cullom, Colorado River programs chief for the Central Arizona Project, said cities and tribes wouldn’t immediately be affected.

But his agency, based in Phoenix, would enact plans to drain underground storage supplies and cut irrigation allocations by half.

“It’s good to know we won’t be in shortage in 2017,” Cullom said. “We’re hopeful we can again avoid shortage in 2018.”

Las Vegas, which draws 90 percent of its water from Lake Mead, might not feel much effect of a shortage declaration because conservation and reuse programs have in recent years cut the amount of water the area consumes by about 25 percent, Southern Nevada Water Authority spokesman Bronson Mack said.

Still, conservationists said such a close call should be a wake-up to water-users.

“The good news is that we missed the trigger level. The bad news is that we missed it so narrowly and we remain dangerously close to automatic cuts,” said Nicole Gonzalez Patterson, Arizona director of the organization Protect the Flows.

“This is the loudest of wake-up signals for the region’s water managers,” she said…

Public water managers in Nevada, California and Arizona said they’ve been working together for years to avoid a shortage declaration.

They cite swaps and storage programs that have propped up the lake level, by at least temporarily reducing the amount of water drawn for use elsewhere.

John Entsminger, head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, pointed to one program that lets water agencies in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Denver and Phoenix pay water rights holders to conserve and reduce their water use.

Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Rose Davis said part of the reason that the lake level will be 4 feet above shortage this year is because agencies been working since 2014 to keep water in it.

“The partners have all been tested and no one’s had it easy,” she said. “But they’re keeping to their agreements and continuing to talk.”

[…]

A shortage declaration would cut 11.4 percent of Arizona’s promised 2.8 million acre-feet, and 4.3 percent of Nevada’s allotted 300,000 acre-feet…

Even if a shortage is declared, drought-stricken California will be able to draw its full 4.4 million acre-foot allocation of Colorado River water…

William Hasencamp, Colorado River resources chief for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said he thinks that in the end a shortage declaration is inevitable.

“It’s not ‘if,’ but ‘when,’” said Hasencamp, whose agency serves nearly 19 million customers from Los Angeles to San Diego. “The fact that we’re not in shortage now is a testament to what we’ve been doing.”

Colorado River Basin, USBR May 2015
Colorado River Basin, USBR May 2015

Peterson AFB likely source of Widefield aquifer PFC pollution

Photo via USAF Air Combat Command
Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

The state Department of Public Health and Environment said Wednesday it hasn’t ruled out additional sources, but officials believe at least some of the chemicals came from Peterson Air Force Base, where firefighters used the foam in training exercises.

The foam contained perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, which have been linked to prostate, kidney and testicular cancer, along with other illnesses.

The comments by state officials were the most definitive statement to date linking the contamination to Peterson. It came hours after the military released a report identifying six sites at the base where the foam may have escaped into the environment after firefighting drills or fire equipment tests…

Colorado and Air Force officials will meet next week to discuss their next steps, said Roland Clubb of the state health department. The next phase will include drilling monitoring wells and taking soil samples, which the Air Force announced last month.

Clubb said state officials also want assurances from the Air Force about seven other sites at Peterson where the foam was used, but where the military said no follow-up investigation is needed. The Air Force said any foam released at those sites went through a treatment system…

The Security Water District has shifted almost entirely to surface water — from rivers and lakes — since the PFCs were found, Manager Roy Heald said Wednesday. Previously, about half the district’s water came from wells and half from surface water.

Heald expects the district to soon use surface water entirely, after modifications to the system.

The Fountain Water Department has not used wells since October and got through this summer’s peak demand period entirely on surface water, Utilities Director Curtis Mitchell said.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder):

Six sites at Peterson Air Force Base were singled out for follow-up tests, the report submitted by the Army Corps of Engineers found.

The firefighting foam was used most heavily from about 1970 through the early 1990s at two fire training areas, which have since been decommissioned, the report said. A former assistant fire chief, however, told investigators that he remembered it twice being used in a lined basin during the last decade.

Also at risk of exposure is the installation’s golf course, which sits on a former leach field and is watered from an untreated pond that collects all runoff from the central and western areas of the base, the report said. Investigators were not certain how much firefighting foam made its way into the pond since it was built in 1979.

The chemicals also have been used during equipment tests in two areas, including a dirt-and-grass volleyball court near one fire station and along a concrete road near another, the report said…

The EPA says the chemicals are “toxic to laboratory animals and wildlife, producing reproductive, developmental, and systemic effects in laboratory tests.”

In the new report, investigators say none of the sites on Peterson contaminated with the firefighting chemicals “identified as presenting an imminent risk to public health or the environment.”

The base has at least 600 gallons of the chemicals in storage. The military has said it’s working to find a replacement for the firefighting chemicals.

Studies of the contamination, including the drilling of test wells, are expected to continue through the fall. Another report is due in March.

This year, the military said 664 sites in the U.S. and elsewhere may have used the toxic firefighting chemicals. They were mixed with water to create a foam used to extinguish fuel fires.

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

You can fish. You can boat. But you can’t swim.

Mile High Water Talk

The very complicated reason swimming isn’t allowed in our reservoirs: Too. Cold.

By Jimmy Luthye

Taking a page out of the #SochiProblems playbook, officials in Rio di Janeiro are imploring athletes to be careful if they compete in an outdoor swimming event. Apparently, the water is roughly 1.7 million times more worrisome than the threshold for concern in the United States or Europe.

Rio di Janeiro, home of the 2016 Olympic games, and some serious water quality concerns, particularly for outdoor swimmers. Photo credit: sama093, Flickr Creative Commons. Rio di Janeiro, home of the 2016 Olympic games, and some serious water quality concerns, particularly for outdoor swimmers. Photo credit: sama093, Flickr Creative Commons.

Wow.

Naturally, we’re quite fortunate we don’t have to worry about those issues in our system, which includes 12 major reservoirs and ample recreation opportunities.

So then, why can’t people swim at any of our facilities?

Is it because we’re worried it would drum up too many people at our reservoirs, making it difficult to operate our facilities?

Nonsense — the…

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