Colorado Ag Water Alliance: Irrigated Meadows and Cow-Calf Operations tour, June 29, 2018

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6th Annual South Platte Riverfest, June 23rd, 2018

Click here for all the inside skinny:

It’s time! The 6th annual South Platte RiverFest presented by Elitch Gardens Revesco Properties takes place on Saturday, June 23 from 11 am-8 pm. We are moving the festival back to Confluence Park for even more access to water sports and activities!

Admission is free and provides access to live music, SUP races, SUP demos, and tube rides through the whitewater park. Food and beverages will be available for sale throughout the festival including our new food truck court!

Activity bracelets will be available for kids for unlimited fun all day long. Bracelets will be $5/child or $12/family and give unlimited access to a climbing wall, face painting, balloon animals, and trolley rides…

Be sure to invite all of your friends to Denver’s Premier River Festival. We hope to see you there!

#Drought news: Improvement eastward from W of #Denver through Kit Carson and Cheyenne Counties near the #Kansas border

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:


Hot weather (daytime high temperatures in the 90’s) stretched from Arizona eastward to Louisiana early in the drought week, before spreading rapidly northward over the Great Plains and much of the Mississippi Valley. Some locations reported triple-digit heat during the week, associated with an amplifying ridge in the middle troposphere over the central contiguous U.S. Though the observed weekly precipitation pattern was largely convective in nature, both AHPS and ACIS depict the heavier precipitation amounts (over an inch) generally across the Southeast, the central Gulf Coast area, and the northern and central High Plains. These areas of heavier rainfall were associated with Subtropical Storm Alberto and baroclinic activity. Alberto developed early in the drought week over the western Caribbean Sea and tracked north over the eastern Gulf of Mexico. By early Monday evening (May 28th, Memorial Day), the center of Alberto crossed the Florida panhandle near Panama City. Preliminary wind reports indicated 40 mph sustained winds at Panama City, with a gust to 59 mph. Near and along Alberto’s path northward, rainfall amounts of 3-8 inches were generally received, with locally heavier amounts…


Abnormal dryness was erased from southern Mississippi this week, thanks to Alberto’s rains. In contrast, recent heat and dryness promoted the expansion of D0 across northwest Louisiana and western Arkansas. The 30-day ACIS SPI has values of -1 to -2 in general across the Arklatex region. A major overhaul of the drought depiction in Texas was rendered this week, with some areas showing improvement and others showing deterioration. Recent rain in parts of western Oklahoma favored small-scale improvements in the core drought region, while the lack of significant rain in parts of eastern Oklahoma warranted one-category deterioration…

High Plains

In south-central and southeastern Nebraska, recent triple-digit heat and dryness has been an issue, especially for pastures and alfalfa. Where 90-day SPIs were less than -1.5, moderate drought (D1) was introduced. This included a small area south of Omaha, which was linked to the D1 area in nearby Iowa. Moderate drought (D1) was also expanded across northern Fillmore and northwest Saline counties. Incidentally, Omaha matched or set four days of high temperature records during the long Memorial Day weekend (Friday through Monday). The highs ranged between 97 and 101 degrees F. Across northwest Kansas, widespread heavy rain (3 inches or greater, with some isolated CoCoRaHS totals of about 9 inches) warranted a one-category improvement in the depiction. Next week, once the rainwater has a chance to either percolate into the soil or run off into streams, additional alteration of the Kansas depiction may be needed. Across the Dakotas, D0, D1, and D2 categorical areas were generally expanded in coverage, due mostly to recent precipitation deficits. There was one area of improvement (D0 was removed) in the Black Hills of South Dakota due to rainfall this past week…


Recent rain warranted a one-category improvement in drought conditions (D1 to D0) across northeast Montana, and the two areas of abnormal dryness in this region were consolidated into one. For now, despite recent heat and dryness, it was decided to hold off on introducing any D0 into extreme northwest Montana. Continuing snowmelt runoff and above average river and stream flows provide plenty of water in that area for irrigation. In addition, in nearby Idaho, some areas are coming out of their worst flooding in years. Bonner County continues to experience flooding, and farmers in adjacent Boundary County will be struggling with crop loss from the saturated soils in that region. In Colorado, some improvement in the drought depiction was made from approximately the Front Range just west of Denver eastward through Kit Carson and Cheyenne Counties near the Kansas border. Relatively small adjustments were made in New Mexico this week as well, especially in central and east-central portions of the state…

Looking Ahead

For the ensuing 5-day period (May 31-June 4, 2018), most predicted heavy rain areas (1.5-3.0 inches or greater) are expected to be east of the Mississippi River, where little dryness and drought currently exist. West of the Mississippi River, smaller-scale heavy rain areas of a convective nature are forecast over North Dakota, Nebraska, and southwestern Missouri. For the subsequent 5-day period (June 5-9, 2018), CPC predicts elevated odds of near to below normal precipitation for most of the Lower 48 states. Exceptions include in and around the Florida Panhandle, Minnesota and parts of adjacent states, and much of Arizona and New Mexico, where odds favor above normal precipitation.

@EPA assures partners will take part in lawsuit settlement talks — The #ColoradoSprings Independent

Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

The latest chapter is a March 25 letter obtained by the Indy from the DOJ to the state Health Department and Colorado Attorney General’s Office. In it, DOJ Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Wood says the federal government will “welcome and anticipate the full involvement of the State and intervenors in any such discussions with the City.”

That contrasts with the EPA’s unilateral action to reopen settlement negotiations with the city recently — without consulting other plaintiffs — after a year-long settlement discussion failed last year. The lawsuit is set for trial in August.

Ongoing #SouthPlatte Basin water storage projects

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate:

There already are six projects being pursued in the South Platte Basin to extend the water supply. These are not included in the recent South Platte Storage Survey, but have been considered and under way for some time:

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

• The NISP/Glade project — The Northern Integrated Supply Project is a proposed water storage and distribution project that will supply 15 Northern Front Range water partners with 40,000 acre-feet of new, reliable water supplies.

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

• Chimney Hollow Reservoir — A 360-foot high dam that will hold 90,000 acre feet to help supply the thirsty Thompson Valley urban area. The water will come from the Windy Gap Project, a diversion dam and pumping station completed in 1985 to provide extra irrigation and municipal water out of the Colorado River. The water originally was stored in Grand Lake, but when that is full, the water cannot be stored. Chimney Hollow, also known as the Windy Gap Firming Project, solves that problem.

Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

• Halligan reservoir enlargements — Halligan Reservoir near Fort Collins is about 100 years old. Its capacity is about 6,400 acre feet of water and the City of Fort Collins wants to add 8,125 acre feet to the reservoir by raising its dam about 25 feet.

• Milton Seaman Reservoir enlargement — Greeley originally had wanted to expand Seaman Reservoir in conjunction with Halligan, but because of diverging goals Greeley withdrew from the joint project. The expansion of Seamon now is targeted for design in 2028 and construction by 2030.

Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

• Gross Reservoir enlargement — Gross Reservoir is one of 11 reservoirs supplying water to the City of Denver and surrounding urban areas. It is on the city’s Moffat System, which diverts water from the Western Slope to the metro area. Denver Water has proposed raising the dam height by 131 feet, which will allow the capacity of the reservoir to increase by 77,000 acre feet.

Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

• Chatfield Reallocation Plan — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that Chatfield Reservoir, built primarily for flood control after the 1965 South Platte River flood, can accommodate an additional 20,600 acre feet of water storage for water supply without compromising its flood control function. This additional storage space will be used by municipal and agricultural water providers to help meet the diverse needs of the state. No actual construction is required, but the legal, environmental, and engineering concerns of allowing the reservoir to hold more water all have to be satisfied.

Sterling voters will likely be asked to decide bonding for wastewater infrastructure in November

Wastewater Treatment Process

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):

The problems faced by the wastewater system have become more urgent, as the city is now non-compliant with its existing discharge permit. Failure to move forward with upgrades could result in stiff penalties from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, to the tune of $10,000 a day assessed from the first date of the violation last November.

The Sterling City Council has long known about deficiencies in the system; two years ago, Rob Demis of engineering firm Mott MacDonald gave a preliminary overview of some of the problems presented by the aging infrastructure. In short, the system suffers from flooding and leakage issues, and also is incapable of meeting new environmental standards…

According to Demis, the system lacks the capacity to handle heavy rainfall events or river flooding, and also suffers from leaks at multiple points that allow groundwater to seep into the wastewater stream. That excess water damages equipment, overloads the system and can lead to costly permit violations, as well as disrupting the biological process that breaks down the organic material in the water.

The system also is incapable of meeting its existing compliance schedules or new regulations that are slated to be implemented by 2022. It suffers from a lack of redundancy, leaving the city vulnerable to failures that would be “catastrophic,” Demis said, and also uses obsolete and dangerous equipment and processes.

Demis explained that much of the system has reached, or exceeded, its useful life and the problems the city is facing will only get worse over time. As an example, he said the four clarifiers that are in place had been banned by the time they were installed in 1995, begging the question of how Sterling ended up with them in the first place, and one of the tanks has failed and can’t be used.

As part of the presentation, Demis went over the estimated costs, 80 percent of which was for construction and the other 20 percent for legal, administrative, engineering, permitting and other costs associated with such a project. The cost of installing a new force main and improvements to the treatment system itself make up about half of the $31 million price tag.

Demis also spoke about possible funding sources. Grants are not reliable, he said; they looked at six possible grant sources and one they identified as a possibility has not received the expected funding because of low oil prices. A review of potential loan sources showed that the State Revolving Fund would provide a lower total cost in the long run versus private loans, because of the reduced interest rate. Either way, the city charter requires voter approval for taking on debt.

The city’s existing sewer rates have not kept up with the rate of inflation, Demis said. Using simple math, he estimated that residential sewer users’ rates would increase by $23, but noted that the city would have to complete a rate study to look at the more complex issues involved in determining the revenue necessary to make the recommended improvements, operate the system and invest in other needed infrastructure. The council is awaiting a report on such a rate study that was funded in the city budget last year.

During his October 2016 presentation, Demis gave credit to the operators at the wastewater treatment plant, saying they were “willing to make their job a little bit harder to try to find the value for the city” by reusing existing equipment and infrastructure where possible. He estimated that the cost to completely start over with a new wastewater system would be between $45 and 50 million. “We think there’s very good value for the city of Sterling there.”

Sterling residents for the past two years have seen increases on both water and wastewater services in an attempt to build up the enterprise funds and address infrastructure needs. According to City Manager Don Saling, the rate hikes were intended to narrow the gap between where rates were and where they’ll need to be, pending the outcome of the rate study. One big change he expects to see from the study is a recommendation to base sewer rates on usage; the rate would be calculated from water usage in cooler months, when users are not watering outdoors. A variable rate would be more equitable — a family of four would presumably pay more than a single retiree on a fixed income — and could also encourage water conservation to lower both water and sewer bills.