A Steamboat State of the River Forum will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 20 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. A free chili supper will be served at 5:30 p.m. and the program will begin at 6 p.m.
Retired state climatologist Nolan Doesken will discuss how this winter unfolded and talk about the weather patterns that have created a low snow year on par with the record drought year of 2002.
Also speaking will be Andy Mueller, new general manager of the Colorado River District. Mueller will highlight river district priorities surrounding irrigated agriculture and Lake Powell, as well as talk about operations of Wolford Mountain and Elkhead reservoirs.
Other presenters include the following:
Kevin McBride, manager of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, who will talk about snowpack and reservoir operations.
Zack Smith of the Colorado Water Trust, who will discuss the Yampa River water leasing program.
Erin Light, Division 6 engineer, who will address water administration.
Jackie Brown, chair of the Yampa-White –Green River Roundtable, who will give an update on water resources planning and actions.
The meeting is sponsored by the Community Agriculture Alliance, the Colorado River District, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and the Yampa-White-Green River Roundtable.
Reservoirs full along Arkansas River in anticipation of spring release
Despite a dry winter and below-average snowpack, water levels remain high in lakes along the Arkansas River managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, causing the closing of some roads, fishing and picnic areas and even a boat ramp.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation attributes the bounty of water at Lake Pueblo State Park and John Martin Reservoir State Park to above-average runoff the previous four years in the Arkansas River Basin.
In addition, cities that own storage in the lakes filled their accounts in preparation for future drought conditions, pushing lake levels unusually high. Then a wet spring and summer on the eastern plains in 2017 caused agricultural water users to leave water in storage, further compounding the high water situation.
At Lake Pueblo State Park, the most-visited park in Colorado, high water levels have closed motor vehicle access to most shore areas including: Southfishing, N-1, Sailboard and North Picnic. Visitors can walk into the areas, but vehicles are not allowed.
Park Manager Monique Mullis said the best place to access the shoreline reasonably close to parking is in the day-use areas in Juniper Breaks Campground.
“Just remember to use the parking spaces and not a campsite,” Mullis said. “Only occupy a campsite if you have a valid camping pass.”
Even the South Ramp is closed due to high water, although the South Marina remains open.
“The South Ramp should reopen no later than April 16,” Mullis said. “We hope the water will go down quickly enough to get it open sooner – perhaps in late March.”
For now, the only place to launch is from the North Ramp, Mullis said.
She noted that CPW has no control over the water in Lake Pueblo, which is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation. The bureau built Lake Pueblo in 1970-75 as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas water diversion, storage and delivery project. It provides West Slope water to upwards of 1 million Front Range residents, primarily in southeastern Colorado. It also serves an important role irrigating farms in the region.
“We do not anticipate water levels to rise enough to close the North Ramp,” Mullis said, noting water would have to climb another 1½ feet to jeopardize it.
Lake Pueblo’s water level is measured by elevation. On Monday, its water level was 4,887 feet elevation and a Bureau of Reclamation official believes it may have peaked. The dam spillway is at 4,898.7 feet.
“The water level would have to reach 4888.5 feet for the North Ramp to be in jeopardy of closure,” Mullis said. “The highest it has ever been is 4888.3 feet in 1996. We will be in uncharted territory if it gets up that high.”
It’s a similar story downstream at John Martin Reservoir State Park near Lamar. The flood control and irrigation dam was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and opened in 1948. It is so full that water has closed several roads around its expanding shoreline, which typically stretches 22 miles.
“If we get much higher, we’ll have another county road closure,” said Dan Kirmer, park manager at John Martin. “But our park boat ramps are still accessible.”
In fact, the Corps has been releasing water intermittently from the reservoir with flows as high as 60 cubic feet per second during the winter, Kirmer said, with much smaller ongoing releases around 5 cfs. As a result, water levels have remained around 3,849.44 feet elevation, just below the maximum conservation pool of 3,851.87 feet.
“We still are a little below July 2015 levels, which were the highest I’ve seen it,” Kirmer said.
Regardless of the high water, John Martin ramps, campgrounds, picnic areas and other infrastructure are not affected, he said.
“On March 15, when the boat inspection stations for aquatic nuisance species resume operation, our park boat ramps will reopen,” Kirmer said. “Everything will be open.”
March 15 is a big day for another reason at both parks. It’s the first day agricultural users can begin “calling” for their water to be released from storage in the lakes, which could ease some of the pressure and cause levels to begin dropping.
The next key day in the world of water is April 15 when each lake must get down to “flood control” levels to ensure each has enough capacity to handle any flood waters that could occur from a quick snowmelt or heavy spring rains. There could be a significant release of water from both lakes to reach the flood control level.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is optimistically predicting about 61 percent of the long-term average streamflow on the Rio Grande, or about 395,000 acre feet, while the National Weather Service forecast is 39 percent of the long-term average at 255,000 acre feet. To some extent Cotten’s office is splitting the difference for a preliminary annual index flow for the Rio Grande of 350,000 acre feet or 54 percent of the long-term average.
Cotten said there is a big discrepancy between the NRCS and Weather Service forecasts, and he would like the NRCS forecast to be more accurate but believed the Weather Service’s forecast was probably going to be closer to the truth this year.
Likewise on the Conejos River system the NRCS forecast is 190,000 acre feet or 60 percent of the long-term average while the National Weather Service prediction is less optimistic at 140,000 acre feet or 44 percent of the long-term average. Again, somewhere in between is the Division of Water Resources’ preliminary annual index forecast of 170,000 acre feet or 54 percent of the long-term average.
Based on the division’s preliminary forecasts, the obligation to downstream states to meet Rio Grande Compact requirements will be 86,000 acre feet on the Rio Grande and 30,000 acre feet on the Conejos River system.
That water can be accounted for during the winter season, Cotten reported, meaning there should be no curtailments during the irrigation season to make those obligations. “We really shouldn’t owe much at all,” he said.
“That is the good news on that part, but it’s good news because it’s so bad,” Cotten added. There will be no curtailments because there will be no water.
“There’s a potential if we do go above that a little bit we will have some delivery obligation,” Cotten said. “Even if we go with NRCS numbers, it will be fairly low on both systems.”
It’s still not as bad as the drought year of 2002 when the index flow on the Rio Grande was 150,000 acre feet, Cotten added.
Some parts of the basin are in worse shape than others, Cotten explained, with generally less moisture in the northern part of the San Luis Valley than in the southern part, also less on the east side, Sangre de Cristos, than on the west, San Juans.
“It’s definitely not looking good for anybody but especially on the east side,” he said.
Even more bad news is the precipitation outlook for this spring (March through May), which is predicting below-average precipitation, Cotten said. By mid-summer, around July, the forecast calls for “equal chances” of average precipitation, he added.
“They’re calling for an average monsoon time period,” he said. “Hopefully later in the summertime we will get a little bit of moisture.”
With the warmer weather and lower forecasts, the water division office has permitted irrigation seasons to begin early in several parts of the Valley. The presumptive season dates are April 1 to November 1. The district permitted irrigators to begin drawing water in the drainage areas of Trinchera Creek on March 12 and La Garita, Carnero and Culebra Creeks on March 15. Several others will start next week.
“In the next few weeks we should have pretty much everybody on,” Cotten said.
The annual interstate Rio Grande Compact meeting this year will be held at the Texas capitol complex in Austin, Texas on Thursday, March 29. Cotten said the engineer advisors for each state met last week in Albuquerque to go over the compact accounting for 2017. The states do not all adhere to the same accounting method, but it appears Colorado ended 2017 with a debit of 300-400 acre feet, Cotten explained.
Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Andrew Mutter/Libby Faulk):
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued a unilateral administrative order to Sunnyside Gold Corporation to conduct groundwater investigation activities at the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Site (BPMD) in San Juan County, Colo. Sunnyside Gold is a current owner and past operator of the Sunnyside Mine in the BPMD.
“EPA remains committed to advancing the investigation and cleanup of historic mining impacts in the Bonita Peak Mining District,” said EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento. “The assessment of groundwater in the area is a fundamental step in identifying effective cleanup options for the site and improving water quality in the upper Animas River watershed.”
EPA issued the order to Sunnyside Gold Corporation to conduct a remedial investigation of the Bonita Peak Groundwater System, designated as Operable Unit 3, within the larger BPMD. EPA is ordering the company to complete this work so the agency can identify surface water impacts from the groundwater system, assess the condition of existing bulkheads associated with the groundwater system, determine the hydrological interconnection of the various underground mine workings, and evaluate potential cleanup options at this portion of the site.
It is anticipated that the RI will be conducted as an iterative fashion using adaptive management principles to identify opportunities for early or interim response actions as information and data is developed during the RI.
EPA’s order requires this work to begin in 2018, with some identified items being completed by the end of the year. The company has an opportunity to request a conference with the EPA to discuss the order before it becomes effective.
The BPMD became a Superfund site on Sept. 9, 2016, when it was added to the National Priorities List. The site consists of historic and ongoing releases from mining operations in three drainages: Mineral Creek, Cement Creek and Upper Animas, which converge into the Animas River near Silverton, Colorado. The site includes 35 mines, seven tunnels, four tailings impoundments and two study areas where additional information is needed to evaluate environmental and human health concerns.
On Dec. 8, 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt named the BPMD to a list of 21 Superfund sites across the nation which are receiving his immediate and intense attention.
Figuring out where contaminated water flows through a maze of mining tunnels and natural cracks has emerged as a primary challenge for moving forward in one of the most ambitious toxic mining clean ups attempted in the West.
Sunnyside’s properties are included in the 48-site Bonita Peak Mining District cleanup launched in 2016 after the Gold King Mine spill that was accidentally triggered on Aug. 5, 2015 by EPA contractors investigating a collapsed portal…
Local officials have raised concerns that EPA officials are studying the problem to death without getting the actual clean up done.
The EPA on Thursday issued “a unilateral order” to Sunnyside, owned by Canada-based Kinross Corp., “to begin investigation of the Bonita Peak groundwater system,” said Rebecca Thomas, the Superfund project manager.
“We need to understand how water moves through the mining system — not only the man-made structures, the adits and stopes, but also how it moves through natural faults and fissures,” she said. “This is so we can understand how best to improve water quality in the tributaries of the Animas River.”
Sunnyside Gold Corp. will review the order, reclamation operations director Kevin Roach said.
“Sunnyside is not the cause of water quality issues in the Animas River and its activities in the area, including spending $30 million on reclamation over the past 30 years, have resulted in less metals in the Animas basin than would have otherwise been the case,” Roach said. “We are hoping that our remaining assets can be efficiently utilized in timely, proven and effective solutions to improve water quality rather than pointless studies or litigation.”
Urbanization has taken billions of people from the rural countryside to urban centers, adding pressure to existing water resources. Many cities rely on renewable freshwater regularly refilled by precipitation, rather than groundwater or desalinated water.
A study led by Colorado State University found that 19 of the 29 largest cities in the world depend on evaporation from surrounding lands for more than one-third of their water supplies. Researchers also found that the dependence on this water supply is higher in dry years. The findings have implications for land managers and policymakers who oversee urban water security.
CSU research scientist Pat Keys is part of a team that had previously coined the term “precipitationsheds,” a watershed of the sky that identifies the origin of precipitation falling in a given region. The new study, “Megacity precipitationsheds reveal tele-connected water security challenges,” is published in PLOS One.
One of the study’s key findings is how moisture recycling is linked to a city’s water supply, said Keys. Cities that are most dependent on this type of recycling include Karachi, Pakistan, and three cities in China: Shanghai, Wuhan and Chongqing. At the opposite end of the scale, the research team found the cities with the least vulnerable moisture recycling include Cairo, Egypt; Paris, France; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Chicago, United States.
“A lot of these cities have complex and significant management processes for water resources and supplies,” said Keys, a researcher in the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at CSU. “Cities like Chicago have experienced water stress in the past, but they are well-buffered by water management. On the other hand, many megacities are not able to buffer themselves from fluctuations in climate and seasonal weather patterns, such as Lagos in Nigeria, or Rio de Janeiro in Brazil,” he said.
Moisture recycling occurs when water evaporates from the land and rises up into the atmosphere. This moisture then flows along prevailing wind currents through the atmosphere, falling out as precipitation elsewhere.
“What you do on the land influences that whole branch of the water cycle,” said Keys. “If you plant a forest or cropland where there used to be a shrubland or desert, it probably won’t last without substantial irrigation. If you change the amount of water or change when it is evaporated and flows up into the atmosphere, that can have impacts for other places and people.”
Tracking moisture for precipitationsheds
Researchers evaluated the sources of municipal water for 29 cities representing more than 450 million people around the world, and found that most of these cities relied on surface water. The team then used a moisture tracking model to calculate the precipitationshed for these sources of surface water.
In this way, Keys and his team explored the various changes taking place in the precipitationsheds of the 29 cities, and calculated the corresponding vulnerabilities.
The study findings are not meant to be a cause for concern, but instead to highlight vulnerabilities that people might not have known about.
“Cities and countries have limited resources,” he said. “If I were in one of those highly vulnerable cities, I’d want to look at this additional dimension of vulnerability for the water supply.”
In addition, very few of the cities highlighted in the study will shrink in size, and more “megacities” will be added to the list.
“How do cities buffer the changes?” said Keys. Reservoirs, treatment and desalination plants are potential safeguards to mitigate the changes.
Researchers did not explore climate change as part of the study, which would make an additional difference. Said Keys: “With climate change, and demographic and land use fluctuations, it is important to understand where vulnerabilities exist and have a full picture.”
Study co-authors include Lan Wang-Erlandsson, a post-doctoral fellow at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto Japan, and Line Gordon, associate professor at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water after a new analysis of some of the world’s most popular bottled water brands found that more than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic. A previous study also found high levels of microplastics in tap water.
In the new study, analysis of 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every litre of water being sold.
In one bottle of Nestlé Pure Life, concentrations were as high as 10,000 plastic pieces per litre of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 were free of plastics, according to the study.
Scientists based at the State University of New York in Fredonia were commissioned by journalism project Orb Media to analyse the bottled water.
The scientists wrote they had “found roughly twice as many plastic particles within bottled water” compared with their previous study of tap water, reported by the Guardian.
According to the new study, the most common type of plastic fragment found was polypropylene – the same type of plastic used to make bottle caps. The bottles analysed were bought in the US, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya and Thailand.
Scientists used Nile red dye to fluoresce particles in the water – the dye tends to stick to the surface of plastics but not most natural materials.
The study has not been published in a journal and has not been through scientific peer review. Dr Andrew Mayes, a University of East Anglia scientist who developed the Nile red technique, told Orb Media he was “satisfied that it has been applied carefully and appropriately, in a way that I would have done it in my lab”.
The brands Orb Media said it had tested were: Aqua (Danone), Aquafina (PepsiCo), Bisleri (Bisleri International), Dasani (Coca-Cola), Epura (PepsiCo), Evian (Danone), Gerolsteiner (Gerolsteiner Brunnen), Minalba (Grupo Edson Queiroz), Nestlé Pure Life (Nestlé), San Pellegrino (Nestlé) and Wahaha (Hangzhou Wahaha Group).
A World Health Organisation spokesman told the Guardian that although there was not yet any evidence on impacts on human health, it was aware it was an emerging area of concern. The spokesman said the WHO would “review the very scarce available evidence with the objective of identifying evidence gaps, and establishing a research agenda to inform a more thorough risk assessment.”
A second unrelated analysis, also just released, was commissioned by campaign group Story of Stuff and examined 19 consumer bottled water brands in the US.It also found plastic microfibres were widespread.
The brand Boxed Water contained an average of 58.6 plastic fibres per litre. Ozarka and Ice Mountain, both owned by Nestlé, had concentrations at 15 and 11 pieces per litre, respectively. Fiji Water had 12 plastic fibres per litre.
Abigail Barrows, who carried out the research for Story of Stuff in her laboratory in Maine, said there were several possible routes for the plastics to be entering the bottles.
“Plastic microfibres are easily airborne. Clearly that’s occurring not just outside but inside factories. It could come in from fans or the clothing being worn,” she said.
Stiv Wilson, campaign coordinator at Story of Stuff, said finding plastic contamination in bottled water was problematic “because people are paying a premium for these products”.
Jacqueline Savitz, of campaign group Oceana, said: “We know plastics are building up in marine animals and this means we too are being exposed, some of us every day. Between the microplastics in water, the toxic chemicals in plastics and the end-of-life exposure to marine animals, it’s a triple whammy.”
Nestlé criticised the methodology of the Orb Media study, claiming in a statement to CBC that the technique using Nile red dye could “generate false positives”.
Coca-Cola told the BBC it had strict filtration methods, but acknowledged the ubiquity of plastics in the environment meant plastic fibres “may be found at minute levels even in highly treated products”.
A Gerolsteiner spokesperson said the company, too, could not rule out plastics getting into bottled water from airborne sources or from packing processes. The spokesperson said concentrations of plastics in water from their own analyses were lower than those allowed in pharmaceutical products.
Danone claimed the Orb Media study used a methodology that was “unclear”. The American Beverage Association said it “stood by the safety” of its bottled water, adding that the science around microplastics was only just emerging.
Click here to go to the website. Here’s an excerpt:
The ever-growing global population faces a wide range of hazards such as tropical cyclone storm surges, heavy rains, heatwaves, droughts and many more. Long-term climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather and climate events and causing sea level rise and ocean acidification. Urbanization and the spread of megacities means that more of us are exposed and vulnerable. Now more than ever, we need to be weather-ready, climate-smart and water-wise.
This is why one of the top priorities of WMO and National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) is to protect lives, livelihoods and property from the risks related to weather, climate and water events. Thereby, WMO and its Members support the global agenda on sustainable development, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.
WMO and National Meteorological Services design operational services ranging from daily weather forecasts to long-term climate predictions that help society to be weather-ready and climate-smart. Further National Hydrological Services are essential for the sound management of fresh water resources for agriculture, industry, energy and human consumption, so that we can be water-wise. These services empower us to manage the risks and seize opportunities related to weather, climate and water.
Early warning systems and other disaster risk reduction measures are vital for boosting the resilience of our communities. Climate services can inform decisions on both climate change mitigation and adaptation. Hydrological monitoring increases our understanding of the water cycle and so supports water management.
This is a short blog post to put together a list of resources with tutorials (similar to what’s usually found on this blog) for various programming languages. It is by no means exhaustive, so please comment if you feel there’s an important one I left out.