Sterling councillors are asking voters to fund a new wastewater treatment plant

Photograph of Main Street in Sterling Colorado facing north taken in the 1920s.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):

At their regular meeting Tuesday, the Sterling City Council approved a resolution asking voters to take out a loan of up to $37 million to replace aging infrastructure and address “inflow and infiltration” issues. The interest rate on the bond would not exceed 3.25 percent.

City Manager Don Saling assured the council that the actual debt and interest rates should be less than the city is asking for, but the cost of the project has not been completely nailed down, and interest rates are also fluctuating. Because of that, he said, “limits were set conservatively.”

Repaying the wastewater bond will require city sewer rates to go up, but how much has not been identified. The council has been awaiting the results of a rate study for water and sewer services that looked at infrastructure needs, debt service and operational costs, but an evaluation of the wastewater treatment system done in 2016 by engineering firm Mott MacDonald suggested they go up $23. Since then, the city has implemented flat rate hikes annually, in anticipation of higher rates to pay for the required system upgrades.

The ballot question specifies infrastructure improvements that include changes to the headworks building, which suffered extensive flood damage in 2013; replacing the existing force main and constructing a redundancy in case of failures; modifications to the main plant; lift station replacements and corrective measures for the collection system. One of the problems the system has is leaks from the storm sewer system that can flood the wastewater lines and disrupt the treatment process after heavy rain events.

Failure to make the improvements could result in hefty fines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as much as $10,000 from the date of the first violation in November 2017.

@USBR: #RioGrande Basin Reservoirs Provide Water Through Dry Summer #drought #aridification

New Mexico water projects map via Reclamation

Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Mary Carlson):

Several Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs in New Mexico will end this summer with minimal pools of water, after having done exactly what they are intended to do – provide water stored during wet times for use in dry periods. Through most of this summer, the reservoirs have released water for farmers, municipalities, industrial use, and recreation.

Due to water stored in previous years, farmers along the Rio Grande received irrigation water, municipalities received water and hundreds of thousands of people enjoyed recreational benefits in New Mexico in spite of a hot, dry summer that followed one of the driest winters on record.

Heron Reservoir in northern New Mexico stores water as part of the San Juan-Chama Project for various municipal and agricultural uses including the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. Heron is currently holding approximately 101,000 acre-feet of water, which is 25 percent of its capacity. That quantity will decrease steadily through the end of the year as San Juan-Chama Project contractors use their supplies or move them downstream.

El Vado Reservoir reached a low point of about 5 percent of capacity at 9,344 acre-feet earlier this summer before the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District ran out of storage in the reservoir. El Vado is currently holding only San Juan-Chama Project water, and should remain relatively steady until next spring.

Elephant Butte Reservoir is expected to reach a low of about 49,000 acre-feet at the end of September when irrigation releases for the Rio Grande Project and deliveries to the Republic of Mexico conclude. That content would be the lowest in Elephant Butte since 1971. This would be less than 3 percent of the reservoir’s capacity. The reservoir is then expected to start gaining storage through the winter. Caballo Reservoir is expected to end the season with about 25,600 acre-feet of water, which is 11 percent of its capacity.

Water levels at these reservoirs are on track with Reclamation forecasts presented this spring, when Reclamation shared expectations for a year with one of the lowest snowpacks and spring runoffs on record.

“It’s important that we recognize that these reservoirs stored water in 2017 and earlier years, when we had better supplies, and released it in 2018 when there was very little natural flow in the Rio Grande,” said Albuquerque Area Manager Jennifer Faler. “We know that our reservoirs are low as we head into September, but they have provided water throughout the summer, and there are still great recreation opportunities such as fishing, boating and camping to be had at all of our reservoirs. Rafting flows on the Rio Chama are also expected to remain good into mid-September.”

Colorado Watershed Assembly: 2018 Sustaining #Colorado Watersheds Conference “The Color of Water: Exploring the Spectrum” October 9 – 11, 2018

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“The Color of Water: Exploring the Spectrum”


Early Bird Registration is Now Open

Here’s the pitch from Water Education Colorado:

In 2018, our conference will focus on “The Color of Water: Exploring the Spectrum.” Our theme this year intends to tap into the creativity of our community and investigate how diverse watershed interests interact. Water touches us all from forests to farms. We’ve branched out this year to delve into water for environment, agriculture, recreation, mining, energy, forest health, city water, rural water, source water, recycled and reuse water. We even have an acronym, ROYGBIV:

  • Red Tape – Improving policy/permitting processes locally or nationally to get good projects on the ground
  • Opportunities – Finding the funding and identifying new collaborators that can make projects possible
  • Yielding Results – Innovative design in watershed restoration that’s proving effective on the ground
  • Green vs Gray – Advances in stormwater management practices that utilize natural infrastructure
  • Barrier Busting – Going beyond philosophical divides and building political will for good solutions
  • Industry Voices – Forest, agriculture, mining and energy practices to meet multiple stakeholder priorities
  • Vulnerability – Addressing drought, floods, fire and climate change uncertainties to better inform planning