Graduate watershed seminar discusses water quality regulations — @ColoradoStateU

The Poudre River is one of the sources of water used in the city of Fort Collins (Jack Starkebaum | Collegian)

From The Rocky Mountain Collegian (Julia Trowbridge):

Watershed science majors listened to and discussed water quality control and clean water regulations for an interdisciplinary water resources seminar class Monday evening.

Patrick J. Pfalzgraff, the director of the Water Quality Control Division of the Local Public Health and Environment Resources Department, spoke to watershed sciences majors for a GRAD 592 interdisciplinary water resources seminar class, which are open to the public. Pfalzgraff works with regulations of water quality control in terms of clean water and drinking water.

According to the syllabus, the purpose of this course is “to prepare students in water resources by increasing their understanding of how water is actually managed in Colorado.” The seminar class brings in professionals in the water resources industry to speak about their work in the field.

The Water Quality Control Division issues regulations on water treatment, pollution control, and does some water tests, with regulation standards finalized by state politicians.

“Almost all of the decisions we make are based on some form of data, whether that is science data or weather data, we pull the data from these sources to determine the stream or lake health,” Pfalzgraff said.

The division also aides smaller communities with meeting water regulation standards by providing funds or services if the communities do not have access to them.

“A lot of small towns don’t have a lot of revenue because they don’t have a big population or industry, and they may or may not have the resources or revenue in order to do necessary upgrades,” Pfalzgraff said. “That’s where we can step in and get them back on their feet.”

Patrick J Pfalzgraff, the Director of the Water Quality Control Division of the Local Public Health and Environment Resources Department (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Clean water, like the water in the Poudre River, have to pass regulations regarding pollution levels. A common pollution level issue is the concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous in water levels, which can either come from human pollution or agricultural pollution.

High concentrations of these elements in water, called nutrient loadings, can make the crops have excessive amounts of these elements, and the crops might not pass regulation standards for consumption.

“We try to maintain that environmental balance with how pollutants are discharged throughout the state,” Pfalzgraff said.

Clean water and clean drinking water are completely different standards. Drinking water is regulated through chemically treating clean water to insure that the water is safe and clean to distribute out to the public to prevent things like waterborne diseases being distributed in the drinking water.

“In Puerto Rico, there are waterborne diseases,” Pfalzgraff said. “That’s not an issue in Colorado. We haven’t had a wate borne disease in the last five years.”

The study of watershed sciences and the design of water flow is especially important in Colorado. According to Pfalzgraff, the population of Colorado is predicted to double by 2050, which creates a strong need in water quality regulation and the delegation of water resources.

“There are a lot of uses on what are already stressed resources,” Pfalzgraff said.

Stressed resources has been brought up by groups like Save the Poudre, who advocate that diversion plans made by the Northern Integrated Supply Project would drain even more water from the already depleted river. The river also has to pass a minimum water flow, which could cause problems with these diversion plans.

Regardless, the growing population of Colorado needs to access water, whether it is by the proposed plan or another alternative.

Cache la Poudre River from South Trail via Wikimedia Foundation.

Advocating an expanded approach to collective action for water — @WillSarni

From GreenBiz (Will Sarni):

I was at an event on the Colorado River Basin that focused on issues such as state and international water allocations, the “drought” and policy issues. The private sector was woefully under-represented except through NGOs.

My concern about the siloed nature of the water sector also applies to water technology events — multinationals, NGOs and academics are typically not in attendance to a significant extent.

While attendance at conferences doesn’t tell the entire story of collective action in the water sector, I believe it does signal the need for dynamism in building cross-sector programs and strategy to address water challenges. There is an opportunity to broaden our view of stakeholder ecosystems so we are not always ranting in an echo chamber. Consider the potential value of an expanded ecosystem in the water sector to ensure economic development, business growth, social well-being and ecosystem health.

I am particularly concerned about the pace of progress as we face the deadline to achieve SDG 6 by 2030. We don’t have time for business as usual.

What has to change? I believe we need to do more of the following.

  • Establish ecosystems (PDF) of stakeholders across industry sectors dedicated to solving specific private and public sector issues. An example of such an ecosystem is the Cross-Sector Biodiversity Initiative, a partnership between IPIECA, the oil and gas industry association; the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM); and the Equator Principles Association “to develop and share good practices related to biodiversity and ecosystem services in the extractive industries. The initiative supports the broader goals of innovative and transparent application of the mitigation hierarchy in relation to biodiversity and ecosystem services.”
  • Further expand the role of water funds to include actions beyond conservation. Water funds have been successful in cost-effectively addressing water risks but could be expanded to fund innovation and scaling of new technologies (digital water technologies) and business models (water as a service).
  • Proactively include industry in watershed level public policy programs. For example, why not establish a Colorado River Basin coalition of industry stakeholders with a commitment to support state and regional water public policy programs within the basin? This will require developing a platform for public sector, NGOs and companies to engage in dialogue and commit to actions to address issues such as the over-allocation of water and readily available access to water data.
  • Engage the information, communication and technology (ICT) sector. These companies should be encouraged to broaden the reach of their water footprint and stewardship programs to focus on how ICT technologies actively can be deployed to increase water efficiency, reuse, recycling, resource recovery, etc.
  • The “wicked” problem of water will not be solved with the same suspects and the same solutions. There is a lack of exponential progress in addressing water issues. We need to engage a broader group of stakeholders to solve 21st-century water challenges and be more like the tech sector — driving invention and innovation. These challenges will not be solved via more presentations to siloed stakeholder groups.