Intro to CRWUA: noted historian Gregory Hobbs escorts Colorado River conference attendees into the past

Arizona Water News

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It is difficult to make out, but the map above, from Justice Hobbs’ collection, is a mid-19th century “Map of the Rocky Mountain Region.”

The first event of the annual Colorado River Water Users Association meetings by tradition is a look back. Retired Colorado Supreme Court Justice and senior water judge Gregory Hobbs escorts attendees back to the early, formative days of Colorado River law, which means he examines events in the mid-1800s and beyond.

As Hobbs himself observes, knowledge of the history of the Colorado River and its tributaries is essentially for understanding where things stand now.

“The most basic and fundamental lesson we ought to teach in our schools are these (Colorado River) compacts,” said Hobbs.

“The agreements among the Colorado River states allowed each state to use their allocation as they saw fit.”

An integral part of Justice Hobbs’ presentation each year is his effective use of…

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Arizona Governor’s chief of staff makes surprise appearance at Colorado River water conference

Arizona Water News

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Ducey administration chief of staff Kirk Adams at a dinner on Wednesday hosted by Salt River Project. From Left: Hunter Moore, the Natural Resources Policy Adviser to Governor Ducey; Peter Hayes, associate SRP GM and chief public affairs executive; Mark Bonsall, general manager and CEO of SRP; Adams; David Rousseau, SRP President; Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke

Ducey chief of staff Kirk Adams attended the Colorado River Water Users Association meetings this week in Las Vegas.

Adams told the attendees with whom he met that Governor Ducey is committed to prioritizing a plan that will provide Arizona with a sustainable water future.

“We’re moving full-steam ahead with a broad coalition of stakeholders,” Adams said.

Adams addressed a theme that has become a central focus of the annual three-day CRWUA this year: pushing the long-debated Drought Contingency Plan agreement among Colorado River water users across the finish line.

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The big tank tour – News on TAP

Take a sneak peek inside a 15-million-gallon underground concrete reservoir before we fill it up.

Source: The big tank tour – News on TAP

What do Sinterklaas and Evel Knievel have in common? – News on TAP

It turns out they both have special places in our employees’ memories when it comes to the holidays.

Source: What do Sinterklaas and Evel Knievel have in common? – News on TAP

#Snowpack news: Cold and wetter weather on the way for the mountains this weekend

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

And here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for December 18, 2017 from the NRCS.’

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map via the NRCS.

@NASA: November 2017 Was the Third Warmest November on Record

The GISTEMP monthly temperature anomalies superimposed on a 1980-2015 mean seasonal cycle.

Here’s the release from NASA (Leslie McCarthy):

November 2017 was the third warmest November in 137 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

Last month was +0.87 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean November temperature from 1951-1980, an insignificant 0.03°C cooler than November 2016 (+0.90°C). The warmest month of November according to the analysis happened in 2015 (+1.03°C) due to a strong El Niño. The last three Novembers — 2015, 2016, and 2017 — are the three warmest in the entire modern record.

The past meteorological year (December 2016 through November 2017) is the second warmest such period, only surpassed by the El Niño enhanced December 2015 through November 2016 period.

The monthly analysis by the GISS team is assembled from publicly available data acquired by about 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations.

The modern global temperature record begins around 1880 because previous observations didn’t cover enough of the planet. Monthly analyses are sometimes updated when additional data becomes available, and the results are subject to change.

Related Links

For more information on NASA GISS’s monthly temperature analysis, visit: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp.

For more information about NASA GISS, visit: http://www.giss.nasa.gov.

A global map of the November 2017 LOTI (land-ocean temperature index) anomaly, relative to the 1951-1980 November average. Part of Antarctica is gray because data from some stations there were not yet available at the time of this posting.

Dolores River cleanup near Rico update

St Louis Tunnel Ponds June 29, 2010 – view south towards Rico. Photo via the EPA.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

This re-engineering along headwaters of the Dolores River requires replanting wetlands with native grasses and laying in soil to mimic natural processes — an innovative approach that may be deployed more widely across the water-challenged West, where tens of thousands of toxic mines foul rivers and streams. So far, the experiment is working, removing fish-killing zinc, manganese linked to birth deformities and cancer-causing cadmium from muck flowing from the Argentine Mine complex uphill from Rico.

“Mining is what brought communities to life at the turn of the 19th century, but now residents and visitors would like to see these scars restored as much as possible — especially focusing on water cleanup,” San Miguel County commissioner Hilary Cooper said from her perch in Telluride, 22 miles north of the mess. “For many of these areas, human intervention is required to initiate the cleanup. But planning, which ultimately allows native vegetation, restored natural floodplains and the engineering skills of beavers to assist with the cleanup is generally preferred when possible. In the end, we will find it is more effective.”

[…]

Wildlife, including river otters, may be reviving in Rico because multiple factors favor environmental recovery.

First, federal agencies enforced laws. The Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 issued an emergency order compelling action to stop contamination of Dolores headwaters after state regulators and mine owners failed to get a grip. Then, EPA officials swiftly identified and enlisted a private company legally responsible for the mess — something agency officials haven’t done at other sites, including the Gold King Superfund district, where a potentially responsible corporation is fighting the EPA in court.

And the company, Atlantic Richfield — now owned by global energy giant BP — resolutely embarked on a cleanup, investing tens of millions of dollars. This compares with less than $5 million that the EPA has mustered for cleanup of the 48-site Gold King district above Silverton. For another Superfund disaster that the EPA declared in 2008 in Creede, federal funds have been so scarce that cleanup has barely begun.

In 2012, Atlantic Richfield contractors at Rico faced rising water inside mine tunnels that threatened a ruinous blowout. The St. Louis Tunnel, within a few hundred yards of the Dolores River, had collapsed and was oozing as much as 1,300 gallons a minute of toxic muck. A lime water treatment plant installed to neutralize sulfuric acid in the flow, churning out thousands of cubic yards a year of waste solids, wasn’t working. (The acid, private contractors later determined, is mostly neutralized by natural calcium deposits inside the tunnel before the muck flows out.) Cleanup crews also had to deal with eroding, unlined tailings ponds where rain and melting snow leached toxic metals into the river…

The innovative cleanup by Atlantic Richfield modernizes the standard approach of installing water treatment plants in the high country along with bulkhead plugs to try to control leaks. Contractors scooped out and lined the old ponds, planted grasses interspersed with stones and put in a sediment mix of manure, hay, alfalfa and woodchips — all aimed at filtering out toxic metals…

This massive experiment now covers 55 acres, closed inside fences and berms, below the newly dammed St. Louis Tunnel. The toxic muck still flows at rates fluctuating from 700 to more than 1,000 gallons a minute but now is channeled through three black tubes that carry the muck through the engineered ponds and wetlands.

In one pond, the toxic mine water seeps down vertically 2.5 feet through sediment, where chemical reactions help break out the manganese, zinc and cadmium. Native sedge and rush grasses are starting to grow atop that sediment layer. In other ponds, water is pushed through wetlands created using stones and grasses that grow naturally in the San Juan Mountain to filter out and chemically extract toxic metals.

Once contractors figure out which method or combination works best, they say they’ll seek EPA approval and then fully install engineered wetlands, eventually removing fences and roads.

Dolores River watershed

Meeker Sanitation District board meeting recap

From The Rio Blanco Herald-Times (Niki Turner):

Replacing aging and failing infrastructure was the primary topic of discussion for Meeker Sanitation District board members at its Dec. 6 meeting. Cooper Best and Josh McGibbon, from JVA Consulting Engineers, presented their assessment of the town’s sewer system.

JVA had Action Services “clean and jet” the lines and record their findings, resulting in 180 hours of sewer line video…

JVA uncovered three instances of fiber optic cable punched through sewer lines. The county is paying for and finishing repairs for those now.

One of the main problems in the system involve “service laterals.” While the district is responsible for the main system, homeowners are responsible for the connection between their homes and the district line…

The assessment identified “quite a few areas” where the service laterals have become separated from the main line, allowing water and roots to get into the system.

The district is facing about $10 million worth of repairs and replacements during the next nine years, starting with the highest priority projects. Some areas will require “full line replacements.”

Funding options include capital reserves, increasing tap and user fees, but none of those options are enough to cover the costs…

McGibbon and Best outlined necessary steps for the district to qualify as a “disadvantaged community” for grant purposes.

The “disadvantaged” label is limited to the Colorado State Revolving Fund and only applies to water and sewer projects…

The board, with JVA’s help, will begin pursuing grant monies to fund the suggested repairs and replacements…

The board also approved the 2018 budget, which includes a “tax holiday” for taxpayers, temporarily reducing the mill levy from 9.47 mills to 6.47 mills. The district anticipates $769,281 in revenue in 2018. According to the budget, “For the operation of the district, the estimated expenditures for 2018 have increased by $17,379.57 from the 2017 appropriated expenditures. The district has seen an increase in the property and liability insurance, employee health insurance program, an increase in the water sampling program, an increase in sewer main maintenance, and the employees will realize a 3 percent wage increase based on the average of salaries.” The district employs five people, two in the office and three at the wastewater treatment plant.