Water use down for Aurora and Denver #monsoon2017

From 9News.com (Erica Tinsley):

August has been one of the wettest months we’ve seen this year, and you can tell by looking at the numbers…

According to Denver Water, customers have been using 30 percent less water each day.

The City of Aurora says it’s seeing a 34 percent decrease in water usage so far this month.

On average, 645 gallons are used per day in August in Aurora. In July, it was 980 gallons per day.

August is the second wettest month we’ve had this year with 1.72 inches of rain.

May is first right now with 3.66 inches. Remember, we still have about two weeks left this month.

El Paso County inks deal with Forsgren Associates, Inc for water master plan

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Rachel Riley):

Last week, county commissioners approved a roughly $272,000 contract with Englewood-based engineering firm Forsgren Associates, Inc., to develop a water master plan. The document, expected to be finished by the end of 2018, will map providers’ water sources and infrastructure, clear the way for water to be considered earlier in the county’s development review process and make forward-thinking recommendations, Dossey said.

As the region’s population increases, so does the demand for water, a dwindling resource in the arid high desert of Colorado’s Front Range and plains. Small, rural districts can’t rely indefinitely on overdrawn aquifers. Nor can they afford massively expensive pipeline projects, such as Utilities’ $825 million Southern Delivery System, or to buy rights to water west of the Continental Divide, where most of the state’s supply is found.

“We’re talking 50 to 100 years out that we’re going to see issues, potentially, with water supply,” Dossey said. “It’s important that the county take the lead and work with each of the providers to work on a plan for the future.”

If water providers in the Colorado Springs vicinity don’t replace existing groundwater sources with more reliable water supplies by 2030, it could result in an annual regional shortfall of up to 25,000 acre-feet, or more than 8 billion gallons, according to Utilities’ Integrated Water Resource Plan, which was approved in February.

“There’s a huge gap to fill if we’re going to continue to grow,” said Dave Doran, a director for the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Ground Water Management District in eastern El Paso County. “There’s just so many more straws in the ground. Inevitably, these aquifers are dropping rapidly.”

Tens of thousands of residents rely on groundwater drawn from the depleting aquifers of the Denver Basin, according to local water officials.

How fast water levels within the Denver Basin aquifers are falling is up for debate. Kip Petersen, general manager for the Donala Water and Sanitation District, believes the aquifers could dwindle to a point where it would no longer be cost-effective for providers to pump water from them within the next 50 years.

“The water that we’re pulling out has been there for millions and millions of years. Once that water’s out, it’s out,” said Petersen, whose district services about 2,800 homes in the Gleneagle area. “That’s the big search right now – how do we offset a declining aquifer like the Denver basin with a renewable source?”

Petersen’s district is one of the few in the county that’s secured renewable water sources, including water rights to a Leadville ranch and Fountain Creek, to serve about a third of its customers, he said.

Utilities’ water resource plan, a roughly $2 million project, explores options for how the agency might help smaller providers fill a supply gap. One possibility would allow the providers to use Utilities’ delivery infrastructure during wetter years when demand falls in Colorado Springs. Another potential solution would involve Utilities selling other entities water to supplement existing resources. But with so-called “regionalization” comes a host of technical and legal challenges. The Utilities Policy Advisory Committee is researching the risks and benefits of working with smaller providers in the Pikes Peak region, said Steve Berry, a Utilities spokesman.

@AmericanRivers: #Colorado families need a Ford not a Ferrari for a @COwaterplan budget

Red Canyon from Roaring Fork River. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith.

From American Rivers (Sinjin Eberle, Kristin Green, Rob Harris, Brian Jackson)

A recent article suggested that the Colorado Water Plan could cost much more than anticipated – but estimates of higher cost are misguided, as all the proposals for proposed projects, and smart prioritization, is not yet final. Low-cost conservation measures will bring down the cost of the plan, and protect Colorado’s rivers for drinking water stability and healthy rivers.

SMART PRIORITIZATION AND COLLABORATION CRITICAL

Most everyone in Colorado knows that we can’t take a reliable water future for granted. Having clean, secure water for our communities, businesses, and agriculture, along with healthy rivers for respite, recreation, and to fuel our economy is not a given. In 2015, Colorado adopted a water plan, setting a course to achieve a reliable water future. Many applauded the balance of solutions and goals, including bolstering water conservation and reuse, looking for favorable ways to share water between cities and agriculture, and ensuring we had plans, and ideally actions, to keep our streams healthy.

Recently, the cost of the plan has come up in discussion.

There is no firmly identified cost to implement the water plan. We only have estimates at this time for what it will take to secure reliable water for our communities, agriculture, and environment. Those costs will become clearer as the state and water providers prioritize what water conservation, new supplies, water reuse, and stream restoration we want to do.

What we do know is that it will take resources to preserve the Colorado we love, and keep our farms productive and taps flowing. We also know that the money we need to restore and protect our rivers and streams, and find innovative ways to conserve water, are currently underfunded.

The initial estimate for the plan put the cost of implementation around $20 billion. That estimate includes the cost of the projects proposed from each basin around the state, but given the state’s limited resources that number could change as stakeholders further prioritize those projects.

We recently heard a much higher estimate cited that is simply wrong. When a Colorado family needs a new car, most are not going to go out and buy a Ferrari when a Ford affordably meets their needs – and that’s what we have here. We can achieve all of what’s needed to secure Colorado’s water needs into the future while investing only in those ideas that provide the best return to ratepayers and taxpayers. That’s what Coloradoans expect and it can be done. We need to identify what projects are a priority and which are financially feasible. We need to make sure we don’t double count projects that overlap with each other.

We encourage the state to prioritize funding the most cost-effective and feasible projects to secure a reliable water supply and protect our rivers and streams. Water conservation is one of the most cost effective ways to get where we need to go. Other innovations like water reuse and agricultural-urban sharing can provide multiple benefits and help us achieve a reliable water future.

Do we need more money? Yes. There are water funding needs identified in the plan and we will likely need to find new sources of dedicated funding. New funding sources should be used to support stabilizing a clean water supply for people, river health, agricultural conservation and efficiency, municipal conservation for smaller and medium-sized communities, and environmental water transactions. These projects are modest in costs, like adding air conditioning to a Ford, not a splurging on a lavish luxury car.

Collaboration will be critically important to shaping our water budget. We look forward to working with water providers, businesses, consumers, the state, local leaders, and other stakeholders in exploring the best way to meet the goals of the Colorado Water Plan.

@USBR needs to draw down Blue Mesa to meet winter target, water for Lake Powell

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Blue Mesa this week was brimming at 99 percent full and it was far from alone among Colorado River Basin reservoirs.

Morrow Point and Crystal reservoirs below Blue Mesa on the Gunnison River were 96 percent and 90 percent full, respectively.

“It’s going to take a lot of work” to reduce Blue Mesa’s level to 70 percent of full, or 580,000 acre-feet of water, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist Eric Knight said Thursday.

Typically, all three reservoirs are well depleted by this time of year to meet irrigation demand, as well as feeding more water into Lake Powell, the largest storage unit in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

This year, however, river managers learned late that there was more snow in the high Colorado mountains than they had believed when deciding how much water to release early on this spring, officials said during a regular update on management of the Aspinall unit.

Several factors contributed to the underestimation of snowpack, not least of them the warm March in the Colorado Rockies and the fact that some snow-monitoring gauges were covered with snow, incapable of providing accurate information, officials said.

Recent storms in the high country also have pumped more water into the reservoirs.

River managers have to balance the need to release more water out of the Aspinall unit with making sure that the Gunnison doesn’t overflow its banks in Delta.

At the same time, managers also have to get as much water as possible into Lake Powell, which can hold some 24 million acre-feet of water but which now holds about 15.2 million acre-feet.

The Bureau of Reclamation this year is to release 9 million acre-feet of water into Lake Mead.

#ClimateChange Health Impacts to Hit Some Coloradans Hardest #ActOnClimate #keepitintheground

From PublicNewsService.org (Eric Galatin):

Public health experts in Colorado are narrowing in on the effects of climate change on human health. And they’re warning that people who work outdoors, low-income families, seniors and children are among those who will bear the brunt of rising temperatures.

Rosemary Rochford, a CU Denver professor, directs the new Colorado Consortium on Climate and Health. She says climate change may not create new diseases, but it’s likely to amplify conditions that already exist.

“So, imagine if you have a child going back to school in a hot classroom, what is that going to do if they’ve got asthma?” she asks. “It’s really going to amplify the problems for our kids, and especially those children that don’t have access to good schools with air-conditioning units.”

More than half of Denver public schools – mostly in low-income areas – are not fully air conditioned. Research has also found higher rates of kidney disease in men who work outdoors due to heat stress and dehydration.

Colorado’s average temperature is expected to increase by as much as five degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, according to Colorado Water Conservation Board scientists.

Policy analyst Chrissy Esposito, a co-author of a new Colorado Health Institute report on climate, says airborne pollutants tend to “cook” during hotter days, creating ground-level ozone that can cause problems for people with asthma and heart conditions. Esposito says her research confirms that warmer conditions are also causing bigger and more frequent wildfires.

“Wildfires release a lot of particulate matter, and this particulate matter embeds into our lungs and causes lung irritation, lung diseases, and can also restrict our lung function,” she explains.

She adds a majority of Coloradans recognize that climate change is happening, but a smaller portion understands how a warming planet puts them at risk.

Rochford says the new CU research group is aimed at bringing insights together from medicine, public health and climate science to help provide a more thorough picture of what the state faces going forward.

“We do want to be cognizant of what we know and what we don’t know, and that we need to understand more of the impacts – so that we can help the population here respond to this problem, and adapt to it, so we improve the health of everybody,” Rochford adds.

This story was produced with original reporting from Jaclyn Zubrzycki for The Colorado Trust.