Aspinall Unit operations update: Lower Gunnison streamflow above baseflow target

Fog-filled Black Canyon via the National Park Service

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be decreased by 100 cfs on Thursday, October 12th. Diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel will be reduced by 100 cfs on Wednesday, October 11th so there will be a short period of flows over 1000 cfs in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon before the river returns to a flow of 950 cfs by late Thursday morning.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for October through December.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are near 975 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 950 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be about 900 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will still be around 950 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

Snowmass wastewater plant overhaul update

Graphic credit

From The Snowmass Suns (Britta Gustafson):

The water and sanitation district wastewater management plant, located next to the Snowmass Club Commons housing complex, is currently undergoing a major overhaul and expansion.

Upgrades to the current facility and a 44,000-square-foot expansion will allow the water and sanitation district to meet heightened state requirements for total removal of inorganic nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia from local streams and rivers. It also will improve efficiency as water demands increase.

Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2013 issued Regulation 85, calling for the implementation of a strategic plan for all of Colorado’s water resources with a phased schedule for statewide wastewater plants to comply.

Each of the 44 water treatment districts in the state will now be required to start implementing these new regulations. Due to its size and location in a priority watershed, the Snowmass plant falls into the Department of Health’s first phase with a 2020 deadline.

The district considered 14 different processes and plant configurations to comply with total removal of inorganic nutrients before deciding on a University of Cape Town configuration with membrane bioreactor for enhanced biological nutrient removal.

Upgraded state-of-the-art equipment — including a supervisory control and data acquisition and an industrial control system that interfaces with equipment — will allow the operation of the plant to be monitored 24/7.

Probes can now detect potential concerns on a minute-by-minute basis, even offering remote monitoring and management.

As an example, Snowmass Water and Sanitation District resident project representative Shea Meyer said, “if a restaurant dumps grease, we can detect it a good deal before it contaminates and clogs up the system.”

Additional improvements will include the installation of new high-efficiency motors and a new charcoal-odor control system…

With a price tag of nearly $24 million, which Snowmass Village voters approved in May 2016 via a mill-levy tax, expectations are high…

The new plant should last at least 30 years, potentially upward of 50 or 60, Hamby said, “assuming additional (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations do not affect us.”


After thoroughly excavating the existing holding-pond base, the initial phase of the estimated 30-month project will officially begin.

Once the concrete pour is underway, the project construction contractor, RN Civil Construction of Centennial Colorado, will prepare and issue a timeline for the project.

RN Civil project manager Dave Ortt said he expects the construction schedule to be available within the next week.

Hamby said quality, safety and cost efficiency would all take precedence over the 2020 deadline and that the district may ask for an extension if necessary.

@SCOTUS agrees to take up #TX v. #NM and #Colorado

Map of the Rio Grande watershed, showing the Rio Chama joining the Rio Grande near Santa Fe. Graphic credit WikiMedia.

From The Courthouse News (Kevin Lessmiller):

The nation’s high court also agreed to take on Texas’ lawsuit against New Mexico and Colorado over the nearly 80-year-old Rio Grande Compact.

The Lone Star State claims New Mexico’s increasing use of water from the Elephant Butte Reservoir deprives it of water apportioned to it under the 1938 deal, which governs the distribution of Rio Grande water among Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.

Dates for oral arguments have not been set in either case, both of which are original-jurisdiction cases, meaning the lawsuits were filed directly with the Supreme Court.

The Elephant Butte Irrigation District is ending deliveries for the season

Elephant Butte Reservoir back in the day nearly full

From The Las Cruces Sun-News (Diana Alba Soular):

Irrigation officials already have begun dialing back on the water flow coming from two upstream reservoirs because the Las Cruces-based Elephant Butte Irrigation District ended its water-delivery season Sept. 30.

There’s still some water continuing to flow in the Rio Grande near Las Cruces because El Paso irrigators are continuing to use water. But that flow is set to end within the next week, officials said.

“Down here, it’s mostly pecan orchards watering their trees one last time — and some alfalfa,” said Jesus “Chuy” Reyes, general manager for the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1. “We’ll be winding up between the 15th and the 18th of this month.”

At that point, after the dam at Caballo Reservoir is shut down, Las Crucens can expect to see the Rio Grande dry. Barring any large rain storms that create significant run-off, the riverbed will stay mostly dry until late next winter or early next spring, when farmers from Doña Ana County, El Paso and Mexico begin watering their crops for 2018…

Irrigators are winding down what has been a bumper water year in comparison to recent drought years. Strong water run-off from the mountains of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado fed into Elephant Butte Lake and Caballo Reservoir. Farmers locally were allotted 24-acre-inches — or 2 acre-feet — per irrigable acre. That was the most water since 2010, when Elephant Butte Irrigation District farmers received the same amount…

The bigger water allotment this year and a strong summer monsoon rainy season, which cuts down on crop water demand, helped the length of the EBID irrigation season stretch into October, said James Narvaez, district irrigation systems director…

There’s roughly 250,000 acre-feet left in storage in the two reservoirs, Narvaez said. The amount, which also has to be finalized, is about double what it was a year ago.

#ColoradoSprings: Mayor Suthers on the stump for stormwater ballot issue (2A)

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

..Mayor John Suthers is the chief spokesperson for the 2A campaign in radio ads that began airing Oct. 3.

Rachel Beck, a Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC official who’s running the Invest COS campaign committee (aka the “vote yes” committee), reports the ads will continue until Election Day and that other strategies include flyers targeting likely voters and Google and Facebook digital ads. “It’s a pretty broad audience we’re communicating with,” Beck says.

With just 54 percent of likely voters supporting the measure, according to a poll conducted in early August, Invest COS hopes to move the needle to put the measure comfortably over the top. “Our polling showed that people have a high level of understanding of the issue,” Beck says, adding the campaign is focusing on explaining “that this is the right solution, what the components are and what they can expect to get in return if they support the measure with their vote.”


The measure, if approved, would require every household, including renters, to pay $5 a month on their water bill to fund stormwater; owners of nonresidential property would pay $30 per acre. Property owners of developed land larger than five acres would pay fees set by the city’s stormwater manager, based on the area of impervious surface on the land. The city itself would also pay the fee, which Suthers says in an interview would cost about $100,000 a year. The fees would be collected for 20 years.

Two seasoned political activists are working separately against the measure. Laura Carno, a political strategist who ran the campaign of the city’s first strong mayor, Steve Bach, in 2011, has set up a new campaign committee called She says she’s raised less than $10,000 and plans a radio and digital campaign, plus TV if more money comes in. “The message will be that the city of Colorado Springs has plenty of money,” Carno says. “They just need to prioritize it.”