Water-efficient toilets could save 170 billion GAL a year in #CO, #AZ, #CA, #GA, #TX

From BuilderOnline.com (Lauren Shanesy):

Water-efficient toilets could potentially save up to 170 billion gallons of water per year across five states facing water scarcity, according to new research from the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) and Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI).

The study focused on Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia and Texas, where water shortages are prevalent. The “Saturation Study of Non-Efficient Water Closets in Key States” research found that if non-efficient toilets in residential properties are replaced with water-efficient ones, the five states could save 170 billion gallons of potable water yearly or 465 million gallons saved per day, which is equivalent to up to 360 billion potable gallons of water per year saved nationally.

More than 13 million non-efficient toilets, defined as ones with gallons per flush (gpf) of more than 1.6 gallons, remain installed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia and Texas residences, and represent about 21% of all toilets installed in these states. As toilet flushing is the largest single indoor use of water, representing 24% of total use in single-family homes, replacing non-efficient toilets in the five states researched would save a significant amount of water overall.

@CWCB_DNR: April 2017 #Drought Update

Colorado Drought Monitor April 18, 2017.

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

With temperatures eight degrees above average, March of this year was the warmest March on record for the State of Colorado, and the second warmest on record for the nation. Late March precipitation brought much needed moisture, but the state as a whole received only 64 percent of average, in what is historically one of our wettest months. April has also been dry with only 58 percent of normal precipitation to-date. However, the forecast for the next two weeks indicates that the state will likely see cooler temperatures and more moisture.

  • Demand has already increased for municipal water providers, in some communities as much as 150 percent of average for this time of year; this is indicative of an increase in outdoor watering.
  • In Colorado, normal snow accumulation typically peaks around April 9th, yet in 2017 this occurred on March 11th, despite some recovery in late March and early April that gave the South Platte, Arkansas, and Rio Grande basins their respective peaks in early April. Additional snow accumulation is possible should adequate future weather conditions develop.
  • During the snow accumulation season all river basins were able to reach or exceed typical peak snowpack levels. Northern Basins met typical snowpack peak levels (South Platte, Yampa/White, North Platte, Arkansas & Colorado). Southern Basins exceeded typical snowpack peak levels (Gunnison, San Miguel/ Dolores, Animas/ San Juan).
  • Statewide water year- to- date snowpack as of April 19th is at 91% of normal, down from 121% on March 17th.
  • Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 110% of normal and all basins are at or above normal. March was the first month since 2009 that the Upper Rio Grande reservoirs reached 100% of normal.
  • Following two months of below average precipitation the Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) has begun to show decreased water availability particularly in the Yampa/ White and the South Platte River basins.
  • Streamflow forecasts have fallen considerably over the last month and now range from a high of 147% of normal on Tomichi Creek to a low of 78% on Antero & Yampa above Stagecoach.
  • Neutral ENSO conditions are present, and are favored to continue through spring, with the possible development of an El Nino this summer. The April-June forecast looks mixed for the season, with the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) expecting more moisture than average, while statistical tools favor drier conditions, especially over the eastern plains. The monsoon season looks favorable based on CPC forecast and current analogues. Should an El Niño develop this summer, precipitation odds during the latter half of the growing season would become more favorable.
  • Core fire season in the mountains of western Colorado is anticipated to get off to a later than average start s a result of decent moisture over the winter. Consequently below average large fire risk is predicted from May through June.
  • For the lower elevations, foothills and south eastern plains the expectation is for average large fire potential from April through July.
  • The Flood Threat Bulletin will begin May 1st and can be found at http://www.coloradofloodthreat.com/
  • A new tool for SNODAS has been developed and can be accessed at http://projects.openwaterfoundation.org/owf-
    proj-co-cwcb-2016-snodas/prototype
  • Teens wade in deep to learn the value of water – News on TAP

    Three-day science camp lets high schoolers across Colorado experience water from mountain top to river bottom.

    Source: Teens wade in deep to learn the value of water – News on TAP

    #Snowpack/#runoff news:

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map April 23, 2017 via the NRCS.

    From The Vail Daily (Emily Brown):

    We benefit from some of this snowmelt on a local scale, but most of the snowmelt flows into the Colorado River, whose watershed spans several states — Utah, Arizona, California and, of course, Colorado. This snowmelt supplies some of the bigger cities that are in or near the Colorado River watershed including Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles and San Diego. So you might say there are a few people who depend on this water.

    HOW’S THIS SEASON’S SNOWPACK?

    Vail usually sees an average snowfall of about 350 inches a year. Currently we have seen about 190 inches of snowfall this winter season, but the season isn’t over yet. Everything could all change in the next month, we’ll have keep our fingers crossed. On average, 10 inches of snowfall is equivalent to about 1 inch of rain. So right now we will see about 19 inches of water melting and flowing into our local Eagle River and ultimately into the Colorado River.

    We are already seeing this snowpack begin to melt. It’s more prevalent in some areas than others, but we have been getting warm days which is causing the snowpack to melt little by little every day. If we start to see significant melting happening too soon in the season, then this can be a threat for not only our skiing, but also for the animals that rely on this snowpack for warmth and cover.

    We have quite a few small mammals in our area that forage under the snow in what is called the subnivean layer. This is the layer at the base of the snowpack where the heat from the ground creates a warm habitat for small mammals like voles, shrews, mice and weasels. When the snowpack starts melting too early, water will percolate down into the subnivean layer, causing confusion for these animals and threatening their protective habitat. This is one reason why it is important to have winter-like conditions during the winter.

    So as you stand, slide, or shuffle above the snowpack this winter, remember that snow is not only pretty and fun, it’s also an important component of our local ecosystem and beyond. The crystals that sparkle and glimmer on the hillsides today will be the drops of water slithering through the valley floor tomorrow. We all depend on this snow in some way, and it’s worth taking a moment to consider its value, to us, to our neighbors down the watershed and to the wildlife that share our home.

    From The Crestone Eagle:

    “The 2016-2017 snow season has been unpredictable at best. April and May are the months were we see most of our precipitation for the year, about 21%,” says Brian Domonkos, NRCS Snow Survey Supervisor. “So we’re in in a pivotal position right now. Poor precipitation in March isn’t a great start to our most pivotal point.”

    Colorado is known for its unpredictable weather patterns. The element of surprise is also a consideration when attempting to forecast water availability across the state. “The bottom line is, across the state we need moisture if we are to remain above normal,” Domonkos goes on to say. “Although we got a great deal of snow through January, we’ve not had much since. Those hearty storm systems early on allowed us to coast thru February and March but we’re now at a point where we are reliant on future precipitation.”

    NRCS’ Snow Survey and Water Forecasting Program provides western states and Alaska with information on future water supplies through the analysis of snowpack water equivalent and depth data at 866 automated SNOpack TELemetry (SNOTEL) stations. This network relays information about the depth and water content of the snowpack, precipitation, and air temperatures and other elements to a central computer on an hourly basis. Data for the Program is also collected by measuring 1,352 manually observed snow courses in the United States and Canada including the sites in Colorado.

    “Ideally we always want to be 120 – 100% of normal snowpack because these conditions often yield the best runoff during spring and summer months provided future spring and summer precipitation is near normal,” says Domonkos. “What we also know however, is that at any given moment the various basins across the state hold various amounts of snow. Some basins reach their annual snow pack peak capacity, while others don’t. Even if a basin reaches its peak within a season, efficient runoff of that snowpack depends upon snowpack peak timing and amount as well as a host of other factors. For Example, the combined Yampa-White-North Platte River Basins already hit their typical snowpack peak for this year. But because it reached peak so early in the season, the runoff efficiency may be diminished. At the end of the day, more moisture across the state would be a nice thing to see.”

    For more information about NRCS and its Snow Survey and Water Forecasting program, please visit: the NRCS Snow Survey Webpage in Colorado.

    Fort Collins craft brewers cooperating on water issues

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacob Laxen):

    On Tuesday night, Brewater hosted a panel open to the public at New Belgium Brewing.

    “We all understand 100 percent how important water is to our product and our community,” said Horse & Dragon Brewing co-owner Carol Cochran.

    While Oregon and Washington both have state brewery watershed groups, Brewater is the only formal collection of craft brewers from the same city to collaborate on water conservation issues.

    Fort Collins craft brewers collectively use about two percent of town’s water. About half of what the craft breweries use is treated and returned to the Poudre River.

    “We feel we need to do our part,” said Katie Wallace, New Belgium’s assistant director of sustainability.

    Since Brewater was formed in 2013, equipment redesigns have saved 3 million gallons annually at Odell Brewing, 1 million gallons at New Belgium and 40,000 gallons at 1933 Brewing — which has since closed but has plans to reopen with a new concept under new owners.

    “My biggest advice is to challenge your equipment supplier,” said Odell engineer Matt Bailey. “Just because it is out there doesn’t mean it’s the best practice.”

    Water conservation tactics in Fort Collins range from New Belgium — the state’s largest craft brewer — having its own water treatment plant and converting some of its used water into electricity, to much smaller operations that do much more simple methods such as tracking beer loss.

    “The bigger breweries in town have been fantastic mentors,” Cochran said. “They set a great example.”

    And while the Fort Collins craft breweries may compete for sales and tap space, they work together on conserving water.

    “We would like to make beer in the future,” said Zach Wilson, the new owner of 1933 Brewing. “So it is really important to be involved now.”

    #AnimasRiver: @EPA is recommending a scaled-back approach for Bonita Peak superfund due to funding uncertainty

    On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
    Eric Baker

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    EPA crews in southwestern Colorado swiftly stopped an acidic, 15 gallons-a-minute flow from the defunct Brooklyn Mine, drainage that for decades has injected heavy arsenic, cadmium, lead, manganese and zinc into Animas River headwaters. That’s a tiny portion of the overall 3,750 gallons-a-minute contaminating the Animas, but is typical of the trickling from thousands of mines that slowly kills Western streams — even as clean water increasingly is coveted.

    “It took half a day. All we did was redirect the adit flow so that it didn’t cross waste rock,” EPA Superfund project manager Rebecca Thomas said…

    …EPA cleanup specialists face the practical reality that the nation’s ailing Superfund program for rectifying environmental disasters may not be able to deliver. Federal cleanups of toxic mining Superfund sites typically take decades due to bureaucracy and scarce funds.

    EPA officials have proposed 40 “early-response” fixes spanning 20 of the mine sites in the mountains above Silverton. If locals approve — public meetings are scheduled next week — EPA crews would embark on these small-scale projects to create ponds that slow drainage so that contaminants drop out, to reroute snow and rain run-off away from waste rock, and to remove tailings that slump into streams and ooze poison.

    The investigation and planning for a full Superfund cleanup still would continue, once EPA chiefs and Congress allocate funds. But the overall cleanup here at 46 sites across the newly designated, 60-square-mile Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site is complicated and costly. It requires mapping a vast underground maze of drilled tunnels and natural fissures, inserting concrete plugs and installing water-cleaning systems. EPA crews also would have to dispose of thousands of cubic yards of metals-laced sludge each year, spreading it in waste pits or possibly injecting it into super-deep bore holes to serve as a buffer and hold acidic mining wastewater inside dormant mine tunnels…

    Less money for EPA could reduce Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment testing of water quality in streams and slow completion of a toxic mines inventory to guide cleanups at thousands of the worst leaking mines, Green said. Next year, Conservation Colorado will push state-level legislation to require mining companies to post sufficient bond money to guarantee proper postmining restoration.

    In Washington, D.C., Earthworks advocates lamented that legislation Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner mulled to promote cleanups has fizzled…

    Beyond the quick fixes, EPA and southwestern Colorado officials also are working to create a scientific research center in Silverton that they envision as a hub for hydrology research to improve water quality at mining sites…

    Next week, EPA officials plan to hold public meetings with residents in Silverton, Durango and Farmington, N.M., for discussion of both the quick fixes and long-term cleanup.

    “Funding is a question,” said Thomas, the EPA project manager. “We certainly will be requesting money this year. We will start the work as soon as the funding is available — no earlier than probably the fourth quarter this year.”

    Yet tangible progress can be made sooner, she said.

    “I’m very optimistic. This is a high-visibility project. The work that we do in this district could be used as a template for hundreds, if not thousands, of abandoned mines across the Rocky Mountain West. There’s a lot of energy here at the EPA, and also at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, to make sure we do the right thing and see some improvement in environmental quality. I’m more optimistic than trepidacious for sure,” Thomas said.