Say hello to the @AZWater #ColoradoRiver System Dashboard #COriver

Click here for all the inside skinny on the Colorado River Basin.

Graphic via @AZWater
Graphic via @AZWater

@CFWEWater: 2016 Water Educator Symposium, November 17

From User Generated Education Jackie Gerstein.
From User Generated Education Jackie Gerstein.

Click here to go to the Colorado Foundation for Water Education website for all the inside skinny.

Innovative Water Education in the 21st Century: Visual storytelling, using technology to share Colorado’s Water Stories

Join the Water Educator Network of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education to explore exemplary visual storytelling techniques for water and river education and outreach. Presenters include Will Inveen, Director of Education at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority in Australia; Tracy Ferdin, creator of the Waters to the Sea program at Hamline University; the Open Water Foundation, Open Media Foundation, and others. Learn how you can implement visual storytelling using technology to expand your message and reach new audiences across Colorado and beyond.

Presenters include:

  • Beyond the Mirage, Filmstacker, University of Arizona
  • Watershed Mapping, Colorado Geographic Alliance
  • Texas Water Explorer, Nature Conservancy
  • Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Australia
  • Open Water Foundation
  • ColoradoChannel.net, Open Media Foundation
  • Model My Watershed, Stroud Water Research Center
  • Waters to the Sea, Center for Global Environmental Education

When: November 17th, 2016 8:15 AM through 4:30 PM
Location: 1628 Sts John Rd, Keystone, CO 80435

Air Force: Toxic wastewater sent into Fountain Creek [via sewer system] up to three times a year until 2015 — The Colorado Springs Gazette

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 The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder):

Peterson Air Force Base sent water laced with toxic firefighting foam into Colorado Springs Utilities sewers as often as three times a year, the service said in an email response to Gazette questions.

The service said the practice of sending the wastewater mixed with perfluorinated compounds from the firefighting foam into sewers stopped in 2015 and said criminal investigators are looking into a discharge of 150,000 gallons of chemical-laden water from the base announced last week…

The Air Force contends its earlier discharges of contaminated wastewater were “in accordance with (utilities) guidelines,” which Colorado Springs Utilities disputes.

“I’m not aware that we have ever authorized them to discharge that firefighting foam into the system,” Utilities spokesman Steve Berry said.

The chemicals in the firefighting foam, which can’t be removed by the Utilities sewage treatment plant, flowed into Fountain Creek, which feeds the Widefield Aquifer. Unlike other contaminants which settle out of water into sediment, perfluorinated compounds remain in solution, increasing the likelihood of contamination stemming from a release into the sewer system.

The impact on other water users is unclear. Colorado Springs’ and Pueblo’s drinking water does not come from the creek…

Berry said the last release of contaminated water from Peterson flowed through the Las Vegas Street sewage treatment plant before the utility was told of the 150,000-gallon discharge from a holding tank on the base. That means utility workers had no way to measure the toxicity of the water.

“Once we were notified, that stuff had long moved through our system and out of service territory,” Berry said.

The Air Force said an investigation into the discharge is ongoing and involves the service’s Office of Special Investigations and experts from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Last week, Peterson officials said releasing the contaminated water from a holding tank near the base fire training area required opening two valves and activating an electric switch, making it possible that the release was intentional.

The fire training area includes a collection system meant to contain the foam in a pair of holding tanks…

Berry said in the wake of the latest incident, Utilities has told the Air Force that its firefighting foam isn’t welcome in city sewers.

He called on the Air Force to release the alleged “guideline” the service cited to justify its earlier releases.

“That does not sound right to me at all,” he said.

The Air Force on Friday reiterated its contention that the service has been a good neighbor. The service has contributed $4.3 million toward filtering water for Security, Widefield and Fountain. Peterson is also replacing the foam in its firetrucks this week with a substance deemed less hazardous. The old foam is being disposed of as toxic waste.

But scrutiny is building for the Air Force, which faced fire from Pikes Peak region politicians this week after a Gazette investigation showed the service ignored decades of warnings from its own researchers in continuing to use the foam. Air Force studies dating to the 1970s determined the firefighting foam to be harmful to laboratory animals.

“We are working together with the community as a good neighbor who has a portion of our 12,000 employees in the affected area,” The Air Force said Friday.

#Snowpack news: Terrible start to the snow accumulation season

Colorado statewide snowpack map October 28, 2016 via the NRCS.
Colorado statewide snowpack map October 28, 2016 via the NRCS.

From 9News.com (Matt Renoux):

“This has been a meager October for snowfall we’re about 50 percent of average for snow,” said [Rick Bly].

In fact in his 120 years of records this October ranks as about the 18th driest which may not be a great sign for the season. Seventy percent of the time October reflects the snow season.

A dry October leads to a dry snow season while above average October moisture often means an above average snow season.

“Statistically over the years October is a good indicator of the amount of snow we will get for the season,” said Bly.

It’s big percentage but not set in stone. October of 2008 was dry but the following ski season ended well above average.

“Good 2008, 2009 season probably 25% above average,” said Bly.

Greeley: New water budget will most likely save you money — Burt Knight via The Greeley Tribune

Greeley in 1870 via Denver Public Library http://photoswest.org/cgi-bin/imager?10009071+X-9071
Greeley in 1870 via Denver Public Library http://photoswest.org/cgi-bin/imager?10009071+X-9071

From The Greeley Tribune (Burt Knight):

When Greeley’s new water rates take effect in early 2017, more than 80 percent of the city’s single-family residential accounts will likely see a drop in their monthly bills — thanks to a water budget rate structure that rewards efficient usage.

For three years now, Greeley Water and Sewer has included an informational water budget on customers’ statements, showing them how much they actually needed for their indoor and outdoor use. Based on family size, yard area, and real-time Greeley weather, each water budget is personalized; each is more than enough to provide for both indoor and outdoor needs.

While you’ll still be charged only for the water you use, you’ll pay the lowest rate when you stay within your water budget. It’s a completely personalized approach that, combined with a rate structure that starts lower than the current uniform rate, makes it the most equitable way to promote and reward water efficiency.

But the question on most customers’ minds is probably … Why?

It all comes down to planning, because as our population increases, so will our need for water. Greeley alone has grown threefold in the last 50 years, and all estimates point to that trend continuing — not only within our city limits, but also throughout northern Colorado. In fact, the Weld County and Fort Collins-Loveland metropolitan statistical areas ranked sixth and 10th in the nation for population growth in 2014 and 2015.

Because competition for water supplies increases along with this rapid growth — not to mention the fact that actually acquiring that water is getting more and more expensive — the ability to provide for the future has to begin with conservation.

That’s in part why Greeley Water and Sewer, under the leadership of the Greeley Water Board, developed a long-term and comprehensive Four Point Plan.

Designed to ensure that our community has a safe and reliable water supply for years to come, the plan focuses on improving conservation through audits, rebates, and education; strengthening infrastructure through regular maintenance, upgrades, and the addition of new capacity; continuing acquisition through buying water ahead of demand; and expanding storage to both protect against drought and to hold spring runoff for use in the summer.

The water budget program is an integral part of the Four Point Plan, just as it is a continuation of Greeley’s legacy of forward-thinking water stewardship.

But even if the region weren’t facing rapid population growth, the water budget program would still be the right thing to do. Securing safe and sufficient water supplies for future generations of Greeley residents, particularly in the face of uncertainties like drought and climate change, remains a major challenge. And ensuring that we’re as efficient as possible — while still having access to the water we need — is an important part of mitigating that challenge.

We all know that, as a limited natural resource, water should be used wisely. Greeley’s water budget program helps all of us do just that. By focusing on conservation and efficiency; by reducing unnecessary strain on the city’s water infrastructure, some components of which have been in use for 75 years or more; and by rewarding efficiency with the lowest rates, it’s good not only for our community and its future water supply, but also for you and your family.

To learn more about Greeley’s water budget program, visit http://www.EfficiencyRewarded.com.

Burt Knight is the Director of the City of Greeley Water and Sewer Department.

War and peace on the #ColoradoRiver — The High Country News #COriver

waterisforfightingoverandothermythsaboutwaterinthewestjohnfleckcover

From The High Country News (Matt Jenkins):

It’s been 30 years since Marc Reisner’s landmark history of Western water, Cadillac Desert, was first published. The book’s dire tone set the pattern for much subsequent water writing. Longtime Albuquerque Journal reporter John Fleck calls it the “narrative of crisis” — an apocalyptic storyline about the West perpetually teetering on the brink of running dry.

When the book’s second edition was released in 1993, on the heels of a particularly dry string of years in California, Reisner saw fit to characterize the drought as a “punishment meted out to an impudent culture by an indignant God.”

Thanks to books like Cadillac Desert, Fleck writes, “I grew up with the expectation of catastrophe.” Yet in his own reporting, Fleck, who recently became director of the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program, discovered a very different story.

“Far from the punishment of an indignant God,” he writes, “I found instead a remarkable adaptability.”

Fleck’s new book, Water is for Fighting Over … and Other Myths about Water in the West, chronicles the remarkable and often-overlooked adaptive capacity of the farmers and millions of urbanites who depend on the Colorado River. He highlights several irrigation districts and cities that have substantially reduced water use while enjoying higher farm incomes and supporting bigger populations, despite more than a decade and a half of serious drought.

The most fascinating parts of the book focus on river politics. One of Fleck’s great insights is that the Colorado is essentially a decentralized system where “no one has their hand on the tap.” The fundamental challenge is “problem solving in a river basin where water crosses borders, where it must be shared, but where no one is in charge.”

The book draws its title from the old saw — often misattributed to Mark Twain and endlessly reiterated — that whiskey is for drinking but water is for fighting over. This is the primary “myth” Fleck takes on. The ferocity of Colorado River politics has been likened to the Middle East conflict, but Fleck notes that over the last two decades, a surprising spirit of collaboration has arisen on the Colorado.

Rather than fighting, he writes, the river’s water bosses have crafted a series of agreements that have increased water-use flexibility and buffered some of the effects of extreme drought. The members of the “network,” as Fleck puts it, are able to do that because they have a deeply rooted distrust of the vagaries of court, and have “come to the shared conclusion that arguing over legal interpretation is the wrong path.”

Indeed, the network’s members haven’t taken each other to court since 1952. But in arguing that collaboration is the great untold story, Fleck overlooks one of the most fascinating aspects of the Colorado’s recent history: the aggressive brinkmanship that also drives its politics.

Far from being averse to fighting, some members of the network — most famously Pat Mulroy, the former head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority — have actively used the threat of litigation to force their counterparts to compromise and cooperate. That coercive pressure is the antagonistic yang to the cooperative yin. And therein lies the great paradox of the 21st century Colorado River: The credible threat of legal assault, artfully deployed, has provided the anvil against which many of these cooperative agreements have been hammered out.

In fact, it was just such a provocation that ultimately catalyzed the agreements that Fleck lauds. In 2004, as the drought worsened, some water managers began telegraphing meticulously coded threats to each other over disputed interpretations of critical parts of the law of the river. The network effectively stood at the brink of legal war.

Not long ago, John Entsminger, who worked as a lawyer for Mulroy at the time and is a prominent figure in Fleck’s story, told me: “It was unclear at that point whether we were going to negotiate, or whether we were headed toward the U.S. Supreme Court.”

It wasn’t a fight, but the plausible prospect of a fight, that forced water managers out of their entrenched positions to begin developing the series of agreements that, they hope, will keep us one step ahead of climate change and the still-deepening drought.

These days, the network’s members are loath to talk about this coercive element in river politics. That’s largely because after their acrimony in 2004 spilled into public, they made a pact to keep their differences out of the media. But in spite of the apparent outbreak of peace, the water bosses continue to prepare for the possibility of war.

The story that Fleck tells is a hopeful one, and a very important one. But it’s not quite the whole story. Two and a half years ago, Entsminger replaced Pat Mulroy as the head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Entsminger is far more conciliatory than Mulroy. Yet in a candid moment not long after he took charge, he acknowledged to me that, sometimes, water really is for fighting over. Those who think otherwise do so at their own peril.

“We don’t want to fight,” Entsminger said. “But if we fight, we want to win.”

John Fleck’s book is a great read, click on the cover graphic above and order a copy. You can subscribe to The High Country News here.

Longmont water rates keep going up

From The Longmont Times-Call (Karen Antonacci):

The Longmont City Council opted for the middle-of-the road option for funding Longmont’s portion of the Windy Gap Firming Project, despite survey responses of residents that indicated most favored an all-cash option.

The decision, along with the March decision to participate in the water storage project at 10,000 acre-feet, will likely mean water rate increases of 8 percent in both 2017 and 2018, above the 9 percent increases in both years that have already been approved.

The council had three funding options to choose from, while many residents in a survey commissioned for the city expressed doubt that Longmont needs the 10,000 acre-feet of water storage instead of the 6,000 that was originally proposed.

The money for the 6,000 acre-feet is already in the bank and the rate increases and debt come into play to pay for the additional 4,000 acre-feet of storage, Longmont general manager of public works and natural resources Dale Rademacher said Tuesday.

Rademacher said the city needed an extra $16 million to pay for the extra water storage. The council chose to raise $10 million of that cost in “cash” that will come from the rate increases. The remaining $6 million will be debt, which will need to be approved by the council but won’t need to go on a ballot like a larger amount of debt would require.

Some council members expressed surprise that of the 848 households who returned a random city survey on the issue, most favored an all-cash option. Survey data was weighted to more closely match Longmont demographic data. The survey has a 3 percent margin of error.

The all-cash option to raise the money would have raised rates 13 percent in 2017 and 12 percent in 2018 above the already-approved 9 percent increases in both years.

Most people who completed the scientific mail survey favored this all-cash option, with 46 percent of respondents saying they either “strongly support” or “somewhat support” it.

The city also released a web comment form where any resident — not just the ones who received the mailed survey — could tell the council about their preferences. While not scientific, most people online said they didn’t want any of the three options, but of the three, most supported a high-debt, low-rate increase option.

The third option would have required a vote of the people to issue $16.7 million in debt and mean water increases of 5 percent in both 2018 and 2019 above the already 9 percent increase.

Former Mayor Roger Lange spoke during the public-comment portion of the meeting, urging the council to keep water rates as low as they can by reducing the participation in the project back to the 6,000 acre-foot level and use debt.

“It’s surprising that option 1 — the all-cash option — appeared to be favored by the people who got the survey,” Lange said. “In the web response survey, option 1 got the least favorable comments and many said they want none of the options. So it seems these surveys are diametrically opposed.”

Former City Manager Gordon Pedrow also spoke and reiterated that he thought the city should have stayed with the 6,000 acre-feet participation level rather than the increased 10,000 acre-feet level.

“With that rash decision, you have forced upon your residents options along with these horrible rate increases,” Pedrow said. “When residents receive their bills and realize what you’ve done, it will result in a complete loss of trust in you elected officials.”

The Times-Call published a letter to the editor from Pedrow in September that touched on many of the same points, plus urged residents to recall any “draconian” water rate ordinance so it can be put to a general vote. Nine of the respondents in the web survey referenced the letter and said they don’t see the need for the extra 4,000 acre-feet of water storage.

The amount of participation in the Windy Gap decision was strange in that the Longmont water board recommended 10,000 acre-feet while city staff recommended 6,000 acre-feet. The higher participation level passed the council 5-2 with Councilwomen Polly Christensen and Joan Peck dissenting.

Water board Chair Todd Williams spoke during the public-comment portion of the meeting on Tuesday, defending the board’s March recommendation.

Windy Gap is a relatively low-cost option to add water to the collector system, plus is the project that is farthest along in the lengthy approval process, Williams said.

“By the time Windy Gap stores one drop of water, it will have been 20 years since the project started because of all the studies and permits associated with starting it. All other projects have much more uncertainty in terms of implementation, cost and timing,” Williams said.

Williams added that the variables determining how much water Longmont will need in the future are not set in stone. If other entities that Longmont trades water with walked away from the agreement, for example, Longmont would lose some sources of water, Williams said.

Mayor Dennis Coombs said if new information becomes available on whether Longmont needs 6,000 or 10,000 acre-feet of participation, he would like it presented to council. Christensen said she didn’t vote for the 10,000 acre-feet and she would be happy to return to the lower level, but none of the other council members seemed to support the idea.

Coombs said he noticed that people older than 55 years old wanted debt while younger people seemed to lean toward cash.

“My job is to do what I think most people in the city want and not favor one age group over another,” Coombs said. “Option 2 seems to thread the needle and satisfies the most people.”