May precip — the dry side of #Colorado loves upslope storms @ColoradoClimate

Upper Colorado River Basin May 2017 precipitation as a percent of normal via the Colorado Climate Center.

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

@CFWEWater’s Southwest Basin Tour Next Week! Scholarship Opportunity and Optional Whitewater Rafting Add-On

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Click here for the inside skinny and to register.

From email from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education:

The itinerary for this year’s annual river basin tour in Colorado’s Southwest is full of exciting site visits and informative speakers!

We’ll be covering a wide range of local municipal, recreational, industrial, agricultural and ecological projects and priorities. This is an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

But hurry, the tour is next week and there are just eight seats left, including one scholarship spot!

Get on the bus for this year’s Southwest Basin Tour, hosted in Colorado’s beautiful San Juan mountains June 13-14. Share a unique educational experience with other tour participants, including the Colorado legislative Interim Water Resources Review Committee, and get an in-depth look at how the Southwest Basin Implementation Plan is being put into action in the San Miguel and Dolores watersheds. Review the draft agenda here, find some highlights below, and register now to reserve your spot.

On Day 1, we’ll make exciting stops at sites along the lower San Miguel watershed and part of the Dolores, hearing from agency reps, nonprofits, and civic leaders about topics such as:

  • Blending a local ag and recreational economy, and balancing the needs of multiple users
  • Using instream flow appropriations as a tool to protect Wild and Scenic Outstandingly Remarkable Values plus alternative Wild and Scenic stakeholder processes
  • Native fish restoration and the Dolores River Dialogue
  • A local municipal raw water project
  • Other Southwest Basin Implementation plan priorities
  • Plus tour the Paradox Salinity Unit and Indian Ridge Farm

On Day 2, we’ll concentrate on the upper San Miguel and explore topics including:

  • Ski industry concerns in the face of climate change and unpredictable snowpack
  • Regional cloud-seeding efforts to stimulate precipitation
  • Creative and collaborative municipal water management in conjunction with local mining and power supply
  • The evolution of watershed planning and incorporation of stream management plans
  • Plus tour the Valley Floor Project restoration site and view a special showing of the film that debuted at the Telluride Mountain Film Festival

BONUS: Participants now have the option to add on an optional whitewater rafting trip at the end of the tour and will receive a 40% discount off of normal rates. Find out more here.

*Interested in a scholarship? Email Jennie@yourwatercolorado.org to let us know what you do and why you need a scholarship to attend.

Navajo/Hopi mediation session recap

Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River.

From the Navajo-Hopi Observer:

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the Nation would continue to pursue an agreement to protect all water rights it has to the Little Colorado River and all its tributaries during a mediation session with the Hopi Tribe.

The mediation session about the Little Colorado River (LCR) Water Settlement was held May 31 and came at the recommendation of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who recognized the two tribes were at an impasse in negotiations. McCain solicited the assistance of the Udall Institute to facilitate the mediation.

“We appreciate the opportunity to have this meeting and I hope we can move these negotiations forward,” Begaye said. “We need to be further along in our negotiations at this point. This agreement is the catalyst to moving both nations forward in resolving water rights in Arizona.”

On behalf of the Udall Institute, Brian Manwaring, acting director for the U.S. Institute of Environmental Health, noted that the two tribes had come together in early 2016 with the goal of reaching agreement on a perspective of “Two Tribes, One Voice” in addressing a potential LCR Settlement.

“Sen. McCain is wanting both tribes to re-engage in their discussion,” Manwaring said. “We are here to work with the tribes to figure out what’s happening. Our responsibility is to assist both tribes.”

Manwaring said he realizes that each tribe holds strong opinions in what they feel they deserve in a settlement. The role of the mediator is to look at what is behind each side’s position to bring forth a consensus or agreement.

“If both sides are going to haggle, neither party is going to reach an agreement,” he said. “We need to look at the structure of the positions, the communication going forth and to ensure that we have the right people at the table.”

In addressing the totality of the settlement, Begaye asked the Udall Institute and the Hopi Tribe to keep in mind that both tribes comprise only two stakeholders in the settlement.

“Coming to a resolution is just the beginning,” Begaye said. “We have to keep in mind that we also face opposition from non-Native interests. There will be a bigger fight as we move into discussion with non-Native stakeholders and then onto Congress.”

The president said it’s unfortunate that the Navajo Nation was left out of the original negotiations in 1922 when water distribution was first being determined. Because of that, Begaye said the Nation will now ensure that it’s always at the table whenever water is being discussed.

“We want to make sure that we fight for every ounce of water that belongs to us,” he said.

The president extended his appreciation for the opportunity to work with the Udall Institute in addressing any of the disagreements causing the impasse.

“The Navajo Nation understands how important water is in everything we do, which is why we will do everything to protect our water,” Begaye said. “This includes protecting it against contamination and misuse. Water is life and it gives life to all our land, livestock and people.”

The Udall Institute scheduled a follow-up meeting for June 29, at a location to be determined. The trial for the LCR adjudication will commence in September 2018.

“Timing in moving the settlement forward is critical at this point,” Begaye said.

Lower Ark pens letter to @EPA chief Pruitt in support of lawsuit

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 Pueblo Chieftain (Jon Pompia):

The lower district recently submitted a letter to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, reminding him that far from “picking on” Colorado Springs — as Lamborn and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers contend — the “EPA is carrying out its statutory responsibility to enforce the Clean Water Act against a permittee that district has sought for nearly a decade to get to live up to its stormwater obligations.”

The dispatch comes on the heels of letters sent by the Pueblo County commissioners to members of the state’s federal congressional delegation, urging the EPA to follow through on its suit, which was filed in conjunction with the state in U.S. District Court in November 2016.

Signed by Lynden Gill, the lower district’s board chair, the letter goes on to highlight efforts, dating back to at least 2008, in getting Colorado Springs to comply with its stormwater permit. Those efforts extended to the lower district filing a notice of intent to file a citizen’s suit pursuant to the Clean Water Act in November 2014.

The lower district, along with Pueblo County, became parties of interest along with the EPA and the state in the lawsuit charging Colorado Springs with illegally discharging pollutants into Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

“In short,” the letter continues, “the lower district appreciates EPA’s enforcement action against the city, action the lower district had felt compelled to undertake on its own before EPA sued the city, and can now jointly pursue with EPA and the State of Colorado.”

The letter concludes with a plea for EPA not to abandon the lower district but pursue enforcement of Colorado Springs’ stormwater violations.

Jay Winner, general manager of the lower district, expressed hope the letter will serve its purpose…

Winner said that while the EPA may choose to withdraw from the lawsuit, it cannot halt it.

“That’s why Pueblo County, the lower district and the state intervened — because if they withdraw, we’re still in,” Winner said.

Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project update

Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

From The Castle Rock News-Press (Alex DeWind):

The $130 million project, called the Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project, approved in 2014will allow water storage for eight municipal water providers and agricultural organizations across the Denver metro area and northeast Colorado. Construction is expected to begin late this year and will take up to two years to complete.

“The ability to store in that much space gives Highlands Ranch new surface water supplies,” said Rick McCloud, water resources manager of Centennial Water and Sanitation District in Highlands Ranch, one of eight participants. “We can use that water instead of non-tributary (non-renewable) groundwater.”

Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Co., formed in 2015 to implement the project, hosted a May 30 open house at ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch for the public to learn about upcoming changes at Chatfield Reservoir and the surrounding state park, which is a major recreational draw for Front Range residents.

The following are five things to know about the reallocation project.

History

In 1975, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built Chatfield Reservoir at the confluence of the South Platte River and Plum Creek to control flooding following the disastrous 1965 flood.

The main purpose of the reservoir, which currently has the ability to store more than 350,000 acre-feet of water, is flood control, but it also provides space for multiuse water and maintains fisheries and wildlife habitat.

In response to a growing demand for water — the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, commissioned by the state Legislature, estimates by 2030 Front Range water demand will exceed supply by 22 percent — the corps determined Chatfield Reservoir could accommodate additional storage space.

“We are taking advantage of an existing federal structure,” said Colleen Horihan, the corps’ project manager.

Who will benefit

The project is a partnership among eight water providers and environmental organizations: Colorado Water Conservation Board, Centennial Water and Sanitation District, Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, Castle Pines North Metro District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Castle Rock, Center of Colorado Water Conservancy District and Castle Pines Metro District.

Participants will fund upward of $130 million over the next two years for construction of the project. Each provider will receive a varying amount of the additional 20,600 acre-feet of storage space for surface water in Chatfield Reservoir once the reallocation is complete.

The project allows participants to have access to renewable water supplies at an existing water storage reservoir, according to Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Co. It also provides renewable water supplies for paying customers in several communities, such as Highlands Ranch, Castle Pines and Castle Rock.

Recreational impact

In order to prepare for the reallocation project, many recreational facilities will be modified in phases starting this fall. Most modifications include moving and elevating public areas for increased flood protection and updating existing structures, including picnic structures and bathrooms. A list of detailed designs is available at chatfieldreallocation.org/recreation.

Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Co. encourages park users to follow the project on Facebook and Twitter and to ask questions and receive updates on closures and construction schedules.

“Social media channels are critical platforms,” said Ben Waymire, social media consultant of the project. “These are channels for residents to engage.”

Environment

On-site and off-site environmental mitigation will be done at Chatfield State Park to address impacts of storing more water in the reservoir, according to Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Co.

Mitigation will include an adaptive tree-management plan for the reservoir to remove dead trees and debris along the shoreline and to identify a long-term tree-monitoring program. A $424,000 budget is set aside for pre-construction weed control. Off-site mitigation is being explored for bird and Preble’s meadow jumping mouse habitats. Depleted water channels and wetlands will be restored using vegetation and structures.

“We are creating more wetland habitat than we are impacting with the project,” said Barbara Biggs, project manager.

Timeline

The reallocation project will begin in fall of this year and is expected to be complete by 2020, after which the reservoir will be able to store up to 20,600 acre feet of additional water.

Construction will be done in 12 phases, starting with the north boat ramp of the reservoir, to minimize impact on Chatfield State Park — the most visited state park in Colorado with more than 1.6 million visitors per year, according to the mitigation company. The final phase will be wetland and bird habitat mitigation of Mary Gulch, an eastern tributary of the South Platte River.

Newly identified chemicals in fire-fighting foam pose filtration challenge

Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

An Air Force-supplied filter being given to Fountain to strain out toxic chemicals from drinking water appears susceptible to a host of newly discovered compounds, a new study shows.

That type of device – called a granular activated carbon filter – wasn’t too effective at removing more than two dozen chemicals derived from a toxic firefighting foam used for decades at Peterson Air Force Base.

That means cities relying on those kinds of filters – in this case, Fountain – must replace them more often if they choose to account for the growing list of perfluorinated chemicals, some of which have only been discovered in the last year, said Christopher Higgins, a Colorado School of Mines researcher and the study’s author.

And that could mean higher costs for ratepayers.

“The carbon filters will work – you just have to change them more frequently,” Higgins said.

At issue is the danger posed by a military-grade firefighting foam that is suspected of fouling the Widefield aquifer – a key source of drinking water for the Security, Widefield and Fountain areas…

None of the area’s three largest districts still use untreated water from the aquifer.

But Higgins and other researchers across the nation have identified more than two dozen other similar chemicals derived from the firefighting foam – 13 of them in last six months.

And granular activated carbon filters are quickly overwhelmed by those other chemicals, according to Higgins’ study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

“This study basically is a way of confirming what we suspected,” Higgins said. “Which was that some of those compounds, if they get out into the environment, will likely come through carbon filters much more quickly than PFOA and PFOS do.”

The danger posed to residents by these additional chemicals remains unclear, said Jamie DeWitt, a toxicologist at East Carolina University. They include similar chemicals to those touted by the Air Force as safe for replacing its decades-old toxic foam.

“I think the first question anybody should ask is: ‘Are these truly safe for me to drink at these concentrations?’ ” DeWitt said. “And honestly, I don’t think anybody at this point can really answer that.”

After-hours calls by The Gazette to Peterson and Air Force Civil Engineer Center spokespeople were not returned.

Higgins’ study comes as Fountain leaders work to install two Air Force-supplied granular activated carbon filters this summer.

The research hasn’t changed those plans, said Curtis Mitchell, Fountain’s utilities director.

“We’ll certainly work with him (Higgins) on how long the filter run times will be, and just look at what his data is showing,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell downplayed concerns about moving forward with installation, because the Air Force’s filters can be easily substituted for a different type of treatment system – such as ion-exchange devices.

Widefield Water and Sanitation District recently became the first water district in the nation to use an ion-exchange system to treat water for perfluorinated compounds.

A six-month pilot program showed promise over the winter, and recent test results on the system after it began servicing houses in May showed no trace of six types of perfluorinated compounds, said Brandon Bernard, the Widefield district’s general manager.

“This stuff’s pretty effective,” Bernard said.

Higgins, however stopped short of endorsing such devices. They have yet to undergo the same tests as those Higgins just finished on granular activated carbon filters.

“I don’t know how well they work at removing all of these other chemicals,” he said.