The ongoing Swan River Restoration Project logged another successful year of undoing the damage of dredge mining, which took place a century ago. Revegetation work wrapped up in November on more than 30 acres of riparian and upland areas adjacent to the recently restored river. This work was supported by $100,000 in grant funding from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. OST staff and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps assisted in planting thousands of willows, upland shrubs and mature trees across the site. Gravel removal commenced upstream of the recently restored section of the Swan River, with over 70,000 tons of material leaving the site.
“We estimate that this is roughly one-quarter of the total material that needs to be removed before the next phase of stream channel restoration work can begin,” Lederer said. “The contractor also imported about 8,500 cubic yards of soil, which will be critical for completing riparian and upland restoration.”
Summit County’s abandoned-mine cleanup efforts in the Peru Creek drainage took another step forward in 2017. On the heels of a successful multi-year effort at the Pennsylvania Mine, Summit County coordinated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address contaminated water draining from the Jumbo Mine into Peru Creek, a major tributary to the Snake River above Keystone. Summit County purchased the land surrounding the abandoned Jumbo Mine in early 2016 for public open space, setting the stage for EPA’s cleanup work. OST also facilitated efforts to reclaim two settling ponds near the Wellington Neighborhood in Breckenridge, to improve safety and aesthetics and create a transit bus turnaround.
Lake Mead ends 2017 at elevation 1,082.5, almost two feet above last year at this time. Lake Powell ends the year at 3,623, up more than 20 feet from a year ago. Combined storage in the two primary Colorado River reservoirs ends the year up more than 2 million acre feet.
This is in part the result of a good snowpack in the winter of 2016-17, but is more than that. Excess runoff into Powell this year from that snowpack was 1.14 million acre feet. The only way you get from there to an increase in storage of 2 million acre feet is by using less water. And that is perhaps the most remarkable piece of Colorado River news as we end 2017.
In the lower basin states of Arizona, Nevada, and California, this year’s preliminary estimate of total use – 6.77 million acre feet – is the lowest since 1987.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
PLANNING FOR LOWER FLOWS
So far, 21st century flows in the Colorado River are on average significantly lower than 20th century flows. Updates on how climate change is reducing flows in the Colorado River and “drought contingency plan” negotiations are provided in this recent article in The Desert Sun and this KUNC story.
State and federal agencies task the office of Environmental Health and Safety at CU Boulder with ensuring everyone on campus does their part to keep our water clean by preventing chemical waste and other pollutants from being disposed of into storm drains and sanitary sewer lines.
As a large, eco-conscious community at CU Boulder, we have the great opportunity to become educated and work together to reduce our impact on stormwater. Small amounts of contaminants from all over the landscape add up to cause pollution in our water. It is important to remember even the little things matter. You will make a difference, no matter how small, if you can adopt simple habits and change the way you look at water quality.
A few important tips to keep in mind include:
Do not dispose of chemicals down the drain.
Report anything suspicious or unusual around stormwater.
Clean up after your pets, and do not litter.
Do not maintain or wash your car in public areas, where runoff will easily flow to storm water.
From Governor Martinez’s office via The Taos News:
Gov. Susana Martinez announced Friday (Dec. 22) she had appointed Jack King, a Lincoln County rancher, to the Interstate Stream Commission. Three of the commission’s nine members resigned in October, citing issues with the commission’s legal ability to manage the state’s water.
King is also a retired chief of the New Mexico Environment Department Environmental Health Bureau.
The governor also appointed John Cyle Sharp of Clovis to the state’s Soil and Water Conservation Commission. “He is a rancher and board member of the National Association of Conservation Districts,” the press release states.
COLORADO RIVER BASIN – Developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and presented to the governor in November 2015, the state water plan recommended creating a data-based water education plan, creating a new outreach, education and public engagement grant fund, and improving the use of existing state education resources.
While many water professionals are beginning to understand the importance of education, one Colorado River Basin Roundtable member has long understood the importance of an education and communications strategy. At-large roundtable representative Diane Johnson is also the communications and public affairs manager for the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.
In this position, she works in a variety of ways to engage the community, including through weekly spots on local radio station KZYR to talk about things like the preventive maintenance of drain cleaning, safe drug disposal (not flushing them down the toilet) and other issues the district faces. The district also staffs a water station at the farmers market, which Johnson said is a fantastic opportunity to talk with people about how the district brings safe drinking water to the masses.
“We all have much more ability to get our message out to people directly via social media or to your inbox,” Johnson said. “It’s great to have the e-news thing, but you’re not growing the engagement pie. So that’s the whole thing. You get that by having your voice in different places.”
Communicating with the public
The Colorado River Basin Roundtable, which meets in Glenwood Springs, has not formally “gone pro” in terms of hiring a specialist. Johnson said she sees the benefits of the Colorado roundtable having a position focused on education, but there are currently no plans to hire anyone. The roundtable is working on launching and updating a website as a means to get information to the public about its message, goals, and projects.
“I certainly understand why you would want to have someone that [education] is their focus and will keep getting information out about all this work and conversations that are going on every month,” Johnson said. “So much information is competing for our attention, and we know people care about things they are connected to, so whatever we can do to get more people to care, it just creates an informed citizenry in the state.”
The nine basin roundtables were established in 2005 to facilitate discussions on water management and encourage local solutions. While there is information about each basin roundtable on the Colorado Water Conservation Board website, some roundtables have created their own website, including the Gunnison and Arkansas roundtables.
Two Front Range roundtables have created a position that will help implement their education action plan, their basin implementation plan, as well as Colorado’s Water Plan.
The South Platte and Metro roundtables, which meet in Longmont and Denver, respectively, joined forces this fall and hired Lacey Williams as their first-ever education coordinator. The two basin roundtables (the Metro Basin is located entirely within the South Platte Basin) first combined their resources in 2014-’15 to provide educational outreach activities, but this is the first time a position has been dedicated solely to education.
Williams, who has worked with the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association and American Water Works, will provide information on water projects and studies and encourage community and stakeholder participation in discussion of issues and solutions.
“Most people don’t know where their water comes from, so they take it for granted,” Williams said. “They don’t necessarily always use it carefully or appreciate or value it. We’ve got to be cognizant of the future and planning appropriately to handle the supply gap that is coming.”
Williams will be paid $44,000, and her contract runs through 2018. A Water Supply Reserve Fund grant provided by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and administered through the Colorado Watershed Assembly funded the position.
Executive director of the Colorado Watershed Assembly, Casey Davenhill, said the sheer number of new people moving to the Front Range is a main reason the education coordinator position is needed.
“I think most of the roundtables have come to see that the task of engaging the public and keeping a robust volunteer group functioning at a high level requires some extra work,” Davenhill said. “New people coming into the community from outside Colorado may not understand about how [water] is used and how important it is and how they can be engaged in decisions that are made around water.”
Water Education Colorado
The statewide, nonprofit group Water Education Colorado is also prioritizing the importance of educating the public and has rebranded itself to help achieve that. Created by the state Legislature in 2002, the organization was previously called the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. In October, it rolled out the new name to match its new ambitions.
“Colorado Foundation for Water Education was very long, people can’t remember the acronym, and the word ‘foundation’ was tripping people up,” said Stephanie Scott, Water Education Colorado leadership programs manager. “We wanted to eliminate that confusion. Our new brand is moving toward being a new resource in Colorado.”
The organization has two main goals: developing skills and knowledge through its water leaders program and publishing a variety of news and information, including Headwaters magazine. The organization is looking to hire a content manager to organize all the published information from the last 15 years to make it searchable on the website, as well as a water reporter.
“I think the water industry as a whole is starting to value what outreach can do for them,” Scott said. “This burst of education in the state is long overdue and very much needed.”
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Vail Daily, the Summit Daily News, The Aspen Times, and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on coverage of rivers and water. The Vail Daily published this story on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, in both its print and online editions. The Summit Daily News published it online on Dec. 27. And The Aspen Times published it on Dec. 30.