Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
New website offers better access to Windy Gap Firming Project info
Northern Water and the Municipal Subdistrict have launched a revamped website to provide easy-to-find data regarding the Windy Gap Firming Project and its chief component, Chimney Hollow Reservoir.
The site, http://chimneyhollow.org, offers answers to frequently asked questions, information for potential contractors and download-ready fact sheets. In addition, it offers a video from Gov. John Hickenlooper that discusses his endorsement of the project as well as its place in the the Colorado Water Plan.
As the project moves forward, the site will also present information related to the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir as well as the mitigation and enhancement efforts being conducted by Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict.
The project also has a presence on Facebook, found here.
Click here to listen to the podcast from H2O Radio. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:
Agriculture uses a lot of water. But what if that water were used for more than growing food? What if it could generate energy—renewable energy? It can, and a program in Colorado is helping farmers harness hydropower to lower costs, save time—and conserve the water itself.
Tyler Snyder ranches just outside Yampa, Colorado, in the northwest part of the state, and he has several hundred acres that were part of several old homesteads. Back in the early 1900s, farmers grew potatoes, head lettuce, and strawberries on his fields by flooding meadows with diverted water.
Snyder is pretty impressed that those early settlers dug ditches in these rocky conditions using only picks and mules pulling plows—partly because he recently spent months digging miles of trench himself. It was slow going and time-consuming because he had to screen out rocks to make sure nothing would sit against pipe he was laying.
More than a century later, Snyder has installed pipelines that move water differently on his property than those historic ditches—a move that is saving him time, labor, and money—plus conserving the water itself.
A whooshing sound pierces the air as water starts to flow through the pipe. It’s going to a “center pivot” in the meadow where we’re standing. A center pivot is a way of irrigating that makes those bright green circles you see from airplanes. Water comes up in the middle of a field and motorized wheels move a long arm with sprinklers around in a circle.
But Snyder’s center pivot is different that ones you might see in other parts of the country. It’s a “hydro-mechanical” center pivot for irrigation. It’s called hydro-mechanical because it’s powered by moving water—no diesel or electricity are required to make it work—just gravity. The pressure that builds as the water is piped down the hillside is great enough to spin a turbine, which provides energy for its hydraulic motors.
After the pivot pressurizes, water starts to spray out of nozzles strung along the long arm that stretches over a quarter of a mile out into Snyder’s field, putting the droplets exactly where they need to go.
Snyder says that flood irrigation uses only about 30-40 percent of the water in order to grow the same quality crop as you do with an efficiency project that uses all the water that you put on because it doesn’t run off. He says when he was flood irrigating the water would collect at the bottom of his fields, often leaving the top land burnt and dry.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt>
An active weather pattern brought rain to areas of the northern Rocky Mountains, northern Plains, Upper Midwest and Southwest and along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida. The rain in the Southwest was from the remnants of tropical storm Bud, which came up the Gulf of California and brought much-needed moisture into the region. Tropical moisture also flowed inland off the Gulf of Mexico, bringing heavy coastal rains at the end of the current U.S. Drought Monitor period. A series of events brought heavy rains from Montana to Wisconsin along the northern tier of the country, with up to 6-8 inches of rain over much of Wisconsin for the week. Temperatures for the week were at or above normal for most of the country, with only the northern Rocky Mountains, portions of the Southwest, and the Eastern Seaboard being below normal. Areas of the Plains had triple-digit heat, with areas of Nebraska and Kansas having departures of 6-10 degrees above normal for the week…
The northern portions of the region were cooler than normal with widespread rain over the western Dakotas while most of the rest of the region had temperatures that were 6-9 degrees above normal, and most areas from central and eastern Nebraska into eastern Kansas were drier than normal for the week. Precipitation amounts that were 1-2 inches above normal fell along the Nebraska and South Dakota border and in and around the Omaha metro area in eastern Nebraska. Improvements were made over most of northern and western North Dakota, where moderate and severe drought was improved and the extent of the abnormally dry areas was also reduced. A full category improvement was also made over western South Dakota as the short-term pattern has brought enough precipitation that only lingering long-term issues remain. The impact designation over the western Dakotas was also changed to long-term. In eastern South Dakota, the short-term dryness as well as the heat allowed for the expansion of both moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions to the south. Moderate drought was expanded in southeast Nebraska along the Kansas border…
Most of the region was near normal precipitation for the week, with portions of west Texas and areas along the Gulf Coast receiving above-normal precipitation. Some areas of south Texas and near the Louisiana border were 5-7 inches above normal for the week as tropical moisture flowed onshore, bringing good coastal rains. Widespread improvements were made over western Texas and into the panhandles of both Texas and Oklahoma, with a full category improvement where the best rains occurred. A full category improvement was also made along most coastal areas from southern Texas and into Louisiana. Degradation took place over much of eastern Texas and Oklahoma, Arkansas and northwest Louisiana. The short-term dryness and heat has allowed for drought to continue to develop quite rapidly. A large area of severe drought was introduced this week over southeast Oklahoma, northeast Texas and into southwest Arkansas. Moderate drought filled in most of east Texas and more of northwest Louisiana and southwest Arkansas…
Most of Montana has been quite wet over both the short- and long-term, but there are pockets of dryness remaining and developing in the northwest portion of the state. Widespread precipitation over much of eastern Idaho, Wyoming, and southern Montana has kept these areas drought free. Tropical moisture came up the Gulf of California and into the Southwest over the weekend, bringing cooler temperatures and widespread precipitation over both Arizona and New Mexico and into central Colorado. No changes were made in Arizona, but the rains allowed from some improvement to the severe and extreme drought over eastern New Mexico as well as some minor improvements in southeast Colorado. Abnormally dry conditions were introduced into northwest Montana, northern Idaho and extreme northeast Washington while moderate drought was introduced into north central Montana…
Over the next 5-7 days, an active weather pattern continues to slowly move east out of the Plains and into the Midwest, bringing with it cooler temperatures and very heavy rain. The areas forecast to have the greatest precipitation are in the northwest portions of Iowa southeast into southern Indiana, the Gulf coast of Texas, and northeast Oklahoma, northwest Arkansas, and southwest Missouri. Much of the eastern two-thirds of the country is expecting precipitation while the West and Southwest will remain dry. Temperatures will remain below normal in the areas of the Plains and Midwest where the greatest precipitation occurs while the West and Southwest should expect daily high temperatures to be 8-10 degrees above normal.
The 6-10 day outlooks show that the chances for above-normal temperatures remain quite high over most of the United States, with the exception of Alaska, the northern Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest. The wet pattern looks to continue as the central and northern Plains, Midwest, and South all are showing above-normal chances of recording above-normal precipitation, with the greatest chances over the Midwest. Higher than normal chances of below-normal precipitation look to be projected from the Pacific Northwest southeast into Texas during this time as well.
Here’s the release from the USGS (Mia Drane-Maury, Cheryl Dieter):
Reductions in water use first observed in 2010 continue, show ongoing effort towards “efficient use of critical water resources.”
Water use across the country reached its lowest recorded level in 45 years. According to a new USGS report, 322 billion gallons of water per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn for use in the United States during 2015.
This represents a 9 percent reduction of water use from 2010 when about 354 Bgal/d were withdrawn and the lowest level since before 1970 (370 Bgal/d).
“The downward trend in water use shows a continued effort towards efficient use of critical water resources, which is encouraging,” said Tim Petty, assistant secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior. “Water is the one resource we cannot live without, and when it is used wisely, it helps to ensure there will be enough to sustain human needs, as well as ecological and environmental needs.”
In 2015, more than 50 percent of the total withdrawals in the United States were accounted for by 12 states (in order of withdrawal amounts): California, Texas, Idaho, Florida, Arkansas, New York, Illinois, Colorado, North Carolina, Michigan, Montana, and Nebraska.
California accounted for almost 9 percent of the total withdrawals for all categories and 9 percent of total freshwater withdrawals. Texas accounted for about 7 percent of total withdrawals for all categories, predominantly for thermoelectric power generation, irrigation, and public supply.
Florida had the largest share of saline withdrawals, accounting for 23 percent of the total in the country, mostly saline surface-water withdrawals for thermoelectric power generation. Texas and California accounted for 59 percent of the total saline groundwater withdrawals in the United States, mostly for mining.
“The USGS is committed to providing comprehensive reports of water use in the country to ensure that resource managers and decision makers have the information they need to manage it well,” said USGS director Jim Reilly. “These data are vital for understanding water budgets in the different climatic settings across the country.”
For the first time since 1995, the USGS estimated consumptive use for two categories — thermoelectric power generation and irrigation. Consumptive use is the fraction of total water withdrawals that is unavailable for immediate use because it is evaporated, transpired by plants, or incorporated into a product.
“Consumptive use is a key component of the water budget. It’s important to not only know how much water is being withdrawn from a source, but how much water is no longer available for other immediate uses,” said USGS hydrologist Cheryl Dieter.
The USGS estimated a consumptive use of 4.31 Bgal/d, or 3 percent of total water use for thermoelectric power generation in 2015. In comparison, consumptive use was 73.2 Bgal/d, or 62 percent of total water use for irrigation in 2015.
Water withdrawn for thermoelectric power generation was the largest use nationally at 133 Bgal/d, with the other leading uses being irrigation and public supply, respectively. Withdrawals declined for thermoelectric power generation and public supply, but increased for irrigation. Collectively, these three uses represented 90 percent of total withdrawals.
Thermoelectric power decreased 18 percent from 2010, the largest percent decline of all categories.
Trends in total water withdrawals by water-use category, 1950-2015.
A number of factors can be attributed to the 18 percent decline in thermoelectric-power withdrawals, including a shift to power plants that use more efficient cooling-system technologies, declines in withdrawals to protect aquatic life, and power plant closures.
As it did in the period between 2005 and 2010, withdrawals for public supply declined between 2010 and 2015, despite a 4 percent increase in the nation’s total population. The number of people served by public-supply systems continued to increase and the public-supply domestic per capita use declined to 82 gallons per day in 2015 from 88 gallons per day in 2010. Total domestic per capita use (public supply and self-supplied combined) decreased from 87 gallons per day in 2010 to 82 gallons per day in 2015.
The USGS is the world’s largest provider of water data and the premier water research agency in the federal government.
In a joint interview, Tom Buschatzke, the director of Arizona’s Department of Water Resources, and Ted Cooke, the general manager of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, said they have been talking for the past several weeks.
Federal officials will visit Tempe next week for a briefing on the Colorado River. The event features a keynote speech from U.S. Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, who in late May urged the Lower Basin to finish DCP.
“On the one hand, I don’t want to say that the only reason that Tom and I are [embarking on] this initiative is because we’ve been pressured to do so by folks,” Cooke said of the renewed effort to finish DCP. “On the other hand, I don’t want to say it’s a complete coincidence of timing.”
Having Burman kick off a public process will serve to remind people, Buschatzke said, that Arizona has been better off when it avoid lawsuits. “When the state’s moved with the federal government into that paradigm, away from ‘let’s have a bunch of big fights and litigation,’ we better controlled our own destiny,” he said.
The rest of the basin looks on
Fights and litigation would only delay a coordinated response to continued high temperatures and slipping water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell.
“The situation in Arizona is a topic of a lot of discussion in the upper basin,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water.
He said Arizona’s internal conflict has led to political problems in Colorado.
“It puts pressure on Denver Water as a municipal utility, taking water out of the Colorado River, and it exacerbates historic animosities and relationships between Western Colorado and Denver Water,” Lochhead said.
Lochhead sent a letter to the Central Arizona Project in April threatening to pull out of a program to conserve water unless the lower basin made real progress on its plan.
Shortage is so imminent, California has even agreed to take reductions — something the current rules don’t require it to do.
“And you have to ask yourself, given the position that you are in, why would you let that opportunity go by?” said Pat Mulroy, a longtime water leader in Nevada who is now at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
But before it can sign a Lower Basin plan, Arizona needs its own internal deal.
One sticky subject is what to do about farmers in central Arizona, who would take a big hit under the current rules.
“How do we find a way to make things less painful for them? Not completely painless, but less painful,” Cooke said.
Another big issue is determining who gets to decide when certain conserved water stays on Lake Mead
It’s a major question that Buschatzke said was still “under discussion.”
“We will work that out,” Cooke said.
To get to “yes,” Buschatzke and Cooke agreed they’ll have to avoid letting side issues divert the talks.
Buschatzke said his task is “to find a collective way to create a package where everyone is better off with the package, even though there might be individual pieces of that package that they might not particularly like 100 percent.”
By rebooting negotiations, Arizona gets another chance at writing something it can live with.
Bret Jaspers reports for KJZZ in Phoenix. This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a new multimedia collaboration between public radio and TV stations in the West, and part of a project covering the Colorado River produced by KUNC in northern Colorado.
Local, state and federal officials told residents in the western Boulder County area served by the Sugarloaf Fire Protection District they will meet soon to create a plan for future testing, as needed, for perfluorinated compounds in area well water.
Those intentions were shared with about 50 homeowners in the Sugarloaf area who attended a Tuesday evening board meeting of the Sugarloaf district at its Station 2.
The session was attended by, in addition to the concerned residents, representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Boulder County Public Health and the fire protection district.
Inquiries by homeowners, according to county health department spokeswoman Chana Goussetis, included questions about “type B” firefighting foam, which has been discussed as a potential cause of the well contamination; how to select a lab for testing of private well water; recommendations for reverse osmosis filters to make water safe; and future testing plans…
Representatives from all of the agencies will meet soon to create a plan, “which will include where additional sampling is needed,” Goussetis wrote in an email. “This will involve looking closely at the geology of the area to identify homes that most likely will be impacted.”
Well water at both Stations 1 and 2 have now been tested, and they each tested positive for perfluoroocatanaic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulphate (PFOS) at levels far exceeding the EPA’s advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.
That prompted the district to test wells of 10 homeowners living within 1,300 feet of Station 1.
Sugarloaf volunteer John Winchester said that of those 10, six had no detectable PFCs, and the other four had “various” levels. He said specific data would not be released out of respect for homeowners’ privacy.
However, the Boulder County Health Department has said that only one of the 10 showed levels above the EPA advisory levels. That homeowner has not returned calls from the Camera seeking comment on the situation.
Goussetis on Wednesday reported that no other homeowners to date have been found to have wells showing contamination above the EPA advisory level. However, she added, there may be homeowners who had ordered tests whose results are not yet known.
Future testing, she said, “will likely” also include homes near Station 2, due to the levels of PFCs already detected there.
County health officials are recommending that mountain area residents test their well water not only for PFCs, but also for heavy metals, E. coli and other bacteria to fully understand the status of their water.
Meanwhile a report finds that PFCs are more toxic than originally thought. Here’s a report from Ellen Knickmeyer writing for The Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette. Here’s an excerpt:
The chemicals are called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl. They were used in such goods as fire-suppressing foam, nonstick pans, fast-food wrappers, and stain-resistant fabric and carpet, but are no longer used in U.S. manufacturing. Water sampling has found contamination in water around military bases, factories and other sites.
Exposure at high levels is linked to liver damage, developmental problems and some forms of cancer, among other risks.
A draft of the report, by the Department of Health and Human Services’ toxicology office, had set off alarms within the Trump administration earlier this year. A January email from a White House official, released under the Freedom of Information Act, referred to the findings as a “potential public relations nightmare.”
The draft went under months of government review before Wednesday’s publication, but the key finding — that the chemicals are dangerous at specific levels much lower than previously stated — was not changed.
The EPA, which scheduled a series of hearings on the chemicals, said last month that it would move toward formally declaring the two most common forms of PFAS as hazardous substances and make recommendations for groundwater cleanup, among other steps.
U.S. manufacturers agreed in 2006 to an EPA-crafted deal to stop using one of the most common forms of the chemical in consumer products.
The findings will likely lead state and local water systems with the contaminant to boost filtering.
“The more we test, the more we find,” Olga Naidenko, a science adviser to the Environmental Working Group nonprofit, said Wednesday.