The next @CWCB_DNR Water Availability Task Force meeting, April 18

Stagecoach Dam and Reservoir via the Applegate Group

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

The next Water Availability Task Force meeting will be on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 from 1:00p-3:00pm at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Headquarters, 6060 Broadway, Denver in the Red Fox Room.

An agenda will be posted at the CWCB website. In the event you are unable to attend the meeting in person, please email Ben Wade at for call in & web conference information.

@USGS Assessment of Brackish Water Could Help Nation Stretch Limited Freshwater Supplies

Here’s the release from the USGS:

A new nationwide assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that the nation’s brackish groundwater could help stretch limited freshwater supplies.

This study, the first of its kind in more than 50 years, found that the amount of brackish groundwater underlying the country is more than 800 times the amount currently used each year. With issues like drought, groundwater depletion, dwindling freshwater supplies, and demand for groundwater expected to continue to rise, understanding brackish groundwater supplies can help determine whether they can supplement or replace taxed freshwater sources in water-stressed areas.

“This assessment lays the foundation for building a deeper understanding of brackish groundwater resources and how they might be used to better ensure our water security,” said Jennifer Stanton, a USGS hydrologist and lead author of this assessment.

In general, brackish groundwater is groundwater that has a dissolved-solids content greater than freshwater but less than seawater. It is defined for this assessment as having a dissolved-solids concentration ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 milligrams per liter.

This new assessment was authorized by the 2009 SECURE Water Act and builds on a 1965 study which, for more than five decades, has served as the primary source of information on the national distribution of brackish groundwater. By incorporating data from more than 380,000 sites, compared to about 1,000 for the 1965 study, the 2017 assessment provides more comprehensive, nationwide data on the quantity and quality of brackish groundwater across the country. This includes information like chemical composition of the water and well yields, which are necessary for understanding the potential — at the National and regional scales — for expanding brackish groundwater development and for informing decision and policy makers.

All water naturally contains dissolved solids that, if present in sufficient concentration, can make the water brackish, or slightly salty. Sources of these dissolved solids can include ancient seawater, coastal seawater, dissolution of naturally occurring minerals, leaching from saline soils, road salt, brine from oil and gas wells, or other human activities.

The assessment provides data for states and other public agencies interested in using brackish groundwater. It also supports the efforts of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to promote sustainable water treatment for brackish aquifers. “The use of brackish groundwater to augment water supply in the West has been analyzed as a potential adaptation strategy in a number of studies under Reclamation’s Basin Studies Program,” said Katharine Dahm, an engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Advances in desalination technology and increases in demand for uses that don’t need high-quality water, like mining, oil and gas development, and thermoelectric power generation, have led states like Texas and California to turn to brackish groundwater as an alternative to freshwater.

Data from the study released today indicate that brackish groundwater is present at some depth within 3,000 feet below ground beneath parts of every state except New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Using available data, a conservative estimate for the volume of brackish groundwater underlying the country is more than 35 times the amount of fresh groundwater currently used each year. Consequently, it is reasonable to consider brackish groundwater a substantial water resource available for use by the nation.

In some parts of the country, freshwater has become more limited and brackish groundwater use has been increasing. This graph shows the number of municipal desalination facilities through 2010. The blue line shows the number of facilities that are processing brackish water (mostly groundwater) and the red line shows the number of facilities that process seawater. Growth in brackish groundwater facilities is likely due to the fact that brackish water is cheaper to process than seawater and not limited to coastal areas. In 2010, there were 649 active desalination plants in the United States with a capacity to treat 402 million gallons per day. (Shea, 2010) (Public domain.)

Despite the availability of this new information, there’s still more to uncover on sustainable development of brackish groundwater. For many locations, data haven’t been collected for depths greater than 500 feet. “Until recently, brackish groundwater has mostly been overlooked. It was difficult to find data for depths greater than 500 feet below ground in many parts of the country,” said Stanton. “More work is needed to fully understand the resource. Although this assessment can’t answer all of the questions related to sustainable use, it represents a starting point for identifying the gaps in our knowledge and for directing research to locations where further study would be most beneficial.”

The March 2017 Water Information Program newsletter is hot off the presses

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Get Your Feet Wet for River Health!

The Animas Watershed Partnership held two Willow Planting Days during the Spring of 2016 on the Florida River (click above to watch the video). About 15 volunteers from Trout Unlimited, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, La Plata Conservation District, and individuals came out to help restore native shrubs to the riverbanks. Volunteers cut willows onsite then used rebar, mallets, and a hydraulic “waterjet” stinger to plant the cuttings. The “waterjet” stinger was loaned by the La Plata Conservation District and uses water pressure to poke holes into the ground with little to no manual force.

AWPs upcoming Willow Planting opportunities are April 8th, 22nd, 29th, and May 6th from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Each volunteer will have the opportunity to cut willows, use rebar and mallets, and use the stinger to plant willows on a stretch of the lower Florida River. Lunch will be provided thanks to City Market Durango! No experience is needed and onsite training will be provided on site. The event will be outside next to the river, so be prepared for all weather, terrain, and getting your feet wet! Come join us for a fun filled day of work for river health! Contact Rachel Hoffman at by March 24th if you’re interested!

The latest @CWCB_DNR “Confluence” newsletter is hot off the presses

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (PRRIP)

PRRIP is working to recover four threatened and endangered species (the whooping crane, interior least tern, piping plover and pallid sturgeon) in Nebraska, which in turn, allows water use and development to continue on the Platte River by addressing ESA compliance. The States of Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska, federal agencies, and several water, power and environmental interests, all participate in PRRIP. Learn more.

The CCWCD April 10, 2017 Newsletter is hot off the presses

Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

Click here to read the newsletter from the Central Colorado Water Conservation District. Here’s an excerpt:

2017 Pumping Quota Set

The CCWCD Board announced the 2017 Pumping Quota at the annual Member Meeting held at the Island Grove 4H Building on March 23. GMS 55% and WAS 55%. GMS say an increase of 5% from last year making it the highest since 2004. Prior to 2004 GMS had no pumping restrictions. WAS members have seen an increase from a 5% quota in 2013 to 55% during the 2016 growing season and again for the 2017 growing season.

The annual assessments paid by the Groundwater Management Subdistrict (GMS), the Well Augmentation Subdistrict (WAS) and bond funds from the 2012 election are used to purchase new water storage facilities and purchase water shares that will help our augmentation plans. To date, CCWCD has purchased 631 acre feet of senior water rights and 8,724 acre feet of storage related project using the 2012 bond funds. The Hokestra Reservoir Complex near Firestone is being purchased from Weld County using member’s annual assessments. Hokestra will increase GMS water supplies by 1,100 acre feet.

The CCWCD Board is dedicated to building a water supply to accommodate both augmentation plans. To read more on our projects please visit our website at http://CCWCD.ORG.

Colorado Coal Country Sees Economic Salvation In Solar, Organic Farming — @NewsCPR

West Elk Mine. Photo credit Division of Reclamation Mining & Safety

From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

Workers at the last mine standing in the region, West Elk, met President Donald Trump’s executive order with cautious optimism. But travel to the west central Colorado region, it’s clear that the area isn’t banking on coal coming back to what it used to be. And the decline is clear. It’s meant a few empty storefronts in Paonia, a drop in Delta County School District students, and fewer fully ensured health care patients in the region.

And there’s another challenge: In contrast to big coal producers such as Wyoming and the Appalachia region back East, federal grant dollars to ease the transition away from coal aren’t flowing as freely into Colorado. That’s according to Democratic state Sen. Kerry Donovan, who represents Delta County.

“I think what’s unique about Colorado is it’s not thought of as coal country, Donovan said. “Those federal programs have focused on the more traditional West Virginia, Appalachia communities that we think of as coal country. So I think in Colorado it’s going to fall more on the shoulders of the state.”


With planning help from state economic developers, Delta County Economic Development Inc. drew up its future plans in 2016. Here’s a look at the key items.

  • Solar: With the help of training school Solar Energy International, the North Fork Valley could see more rooftop solar. Delta County’s high poverty rate has translated into low demand for rooftop panels. With Solarize Delta County, SEI plans to make the energy more accessible and affordable by spurring more local investment. SEI has also launched efforts to retrain coal workers, although SEI Director of Operations Kris Sutton said the effort has been slow going in the short term: “If coal miners here want to pursue solar jobs. They’re going to have to probably move,” Sutton said, referring to the fact that most solar installation jobs are along the Front Range.
  • A specialty food manufacturing incubator: Delta County School District, which runs the region’s technical college, purchased a 22,000 square foot building that will eventually house classrooms, a commercial kitchen and a warehouse. Entrepreneurs could get classes, marketing assistance and a space that helps them create food products out of regional produce from the valley, including organic foods, Ventrello said. “It’s value added. Rather than just selling tomatoes, can you make a high end salsa?”
  • Organic food: In Hotchkiss, Big B’s Juices has evolved from from a shed that sold organic fruit to an outfit that sells juice and a hard cider line across the country. Ventrello says the incubator could help existing businesses like Big B’s expand their business, and hire more folks including out-of-work miners. Shawn Larson, who moved to the area from Utah in 2010 to help start Big B’s hard cider line says every extra job helps. ““We sell products nationwide. You know, we have that reach, but also affect our community,” he said.
  • Recreation and tourism: In its economic blueprint, the county’s economic development group plans to beef up its Gunnison Riverfront property with more access points for water sports, trails and picnic areas. It also calls for a hotel and conference center to make the city more of a destination for travelers.
  • Broadband: Delta-Montrose Electric Association will spend up to $125 million on high-speed broadband internet to the region in the coming years, which includes the towns of Paonia and Hotchkiss. Paonia was one of the first towns to be fully wired with the broadband. Mayor Charles Stewart said it will be one key to recruiting new businesses and drawing more residents to the region. “People like those amenities. When you can say to folks, ‘Yes, you can live in the North Fork and still have high-speed internet access,’ that’s a positive,” said Stewart.
  • Other renewables: It’s not just individual homeowners that could see more solar in Delta County. The region’s electricity provider, Delta-Montrose Electric Association, is also seeking to add more solar and hydroelectric power to its grid. Meantime, regional economic development leaders like Tom Huerkamp are eyeing the region’s shuttered mines and seeing another economic opportunity: generating power from methane that naturally vents from shuttered underground mines. “If we tap the old coal mines, this community has the ability in the next maybe five to 10 years to disconnect from the grid,” Huerkamp said.