#ColoradoRiver District sees soft demand for its stored water — @AspenJournalism #COriver #aridification

A view of the upstream side of the dam that forms Wolford Reservoir, on Muddy Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River, above Kremmling. The Colorado River District has 5,000 acre-feet of water in the reservoir set aside for future water sales, but demand for the water has been flat since 2009.

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

Officials at the Colorado River Water Conservation District say the market for additional water sales to cities and the energy sector from water it owns in four Western Slope reservoirs, including Ruedi Reservoir, is flat or declining.

However, the potential to sell water from the reservoirs to increase flows in rivers for environmental purposes holds promise.

As part of a Feb. 15 workshop on the river district’s financial outlook, which is challenged by the effects of two Colorado laws that put limits on property-tax revenue, district officials briefed the district’s board of directors on the potential to increase revenue to the district from additional water sales.

Today, the district’s enterprise fund brings in about $1.2 million a year from the sale of about a third of the 24,400 acre-feet of water it has available for sale in Ruedi, Wolford, Elkhead and Eagle Park reservoirs.

But there does not appear to be much future demand for the district’s unsold water.

“Municipal entities that could benefit from either Ruedi or Wolford water are already well situated for the foreseeable future through existing Ruedi and Wolford contracts,” district general manager Andy Mueller said in a Feb. 11 memo to the board of directors. “Energy demands are expected to remain modest or potentially decline as the principal use for our marketing pool by industry has been for frac water and ancillary uses. Again, absent some large-scale, industrial demand (historically, oil shale development) demands are expected to be flat.”

The district owns 11,413 acre-feet of marketable water in Ruedi Reservoir, which holds about 102,000 acre-feet of water behind a dam on the Fryingpan River above Basalt.

Today, the district has existing sales contracts to deliver to various customers 5,263 acre-feet of water from Ruedi, leaving 6,150 acre-feet of water available to sell.

In Wolford Reservoir, the district has 8,100 acre-feet of water set aside for sales. Wolford is owned and operated by the river district and located on Muddy Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River above Kremmling. The district now has sales contracts for 3,038 acre-feet of water from Wolford, leaving 5,062 acre-feet available to sell.

In Elkhead Reservoir, on Elkhead Creek, a tributary of the Yampa River near Craig, the district has 4,457 acre-feet of water available for sale but has contracts for only 100 acre-feet of the water.

And the district owns 432 acre-feet of water in Eagle Park Reservoir, which is on the upper Eagle River. Of that, 254 acre-feet is under contract, leaving 178 acre-feet to sell.

But according to Mueller, Wolford contracts have decreased since 2009 and Ruedi contracts have been flat or decreased since 2013.

A recent exception to the trend at Ruedi is a lease for water that the district signed in July with a state agency, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, for $229,000.

In exchange for the money, the district will ask the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Ruedi, to release this year up to 3,500 acre-feet of water from the reservoir.

Releases of the water will be timed to boost instream flows in the Fryingpan River during the winter to prevent icing and to increase flows in the Colorado River later in the year to help preserve habitat for endangered fish in the “15-mile reach” below Palisade. (The Fryingpan flows into the Roaring Fork River in Basalt, and the Fork flows into the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs).

“There is a growing trend and acceptance for paying market rates for in-channel water,” Mueller said in his memo. “Evidence is the 3,500 AF lease to the CWCB, as well as prices paid for various non-diversion agreements in recent years. Staff recommends that the enterprise (fund) pursue creative ways to monetize our marketable yield for in-channel beneficial uses while preserving our ability to meet municipal and industrial demands when they arise.”

Tom Gray, who represents Moffat County on the river district board, was bullish on the idea of using water stored in reservoirs to bolster flows in the state’s rivers as an alternative to drying up agricultural fields to do so.

“I think in all the basins there is going to be money for that,” Gray said. “I think there is opportunity there.”

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism covers rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers. The Times published a version of this story on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, as did the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and the Summit Daily News.

#Snowpack news: The SW #Colorado basins continue to accumulate significant SWE

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

And heres the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map from the NRCS.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 25, 2019 via the NRCS.

Why big storms and deep snows don’t always equal full reservoirs – News on TAP

Just like taxes eat into a big paycheck, lots of factors sap Denver’s water supply.

Source: Why big storms and deep snows don’t always equal full reservoirs – News on TAP

The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests are assessing Wild and Scenic River designation eligibility within their boundaries, public comment ends March 22, 2019

From The Montrose Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

Nearly 112 miles of area rivers are eligible for Wild and Scenic River System designation, based on their outstanding, unique values.

Their eligibility does not mean area waterways necessarily would be so designated, but, under their ongoing forest plan revision, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests are required to consider rivers and streams, with public input.

“At a minimum, we have to make a determination on eligibility,” acting forest planner Brittany Duffy said Tuesday. “Ultimately, only Congress can designate rivers (as wild and scenic).”

The GMUG began the forest plan revision in June 2017. Now in its second phase, the plan is an overarching document to move the forests to resiliency over the next 15 years.

As part of the process, the GMUG is required to conduct an eligibility process under the Wild and Scenic River Act of 1968…

Prior to any recommendation being made to Congress for additions to the National Wild and Scenic River System, rivers must also be found to be “suitable.” These suitability studies are not required on the Forest Service’s planning rule and the GMUG would initiate such evaluations only upon demonstration of strong local interest or support; Congress’ express interest, or if a proposed project would alter the free-flowing nature of a stream or river, or would affect other resources that made the stream or river eligible.

The GMUG as part of the forest plan revision conducted a draft eligibility study to determine free-flowing conditions and to evaluate outstandingly remarkable values, or ORVs, of local rivers.

ORVs are unique, rare or exemplary features significant within comparable regions — such as scenery, recreation, geology, cultural, recreational or vegetation. Only one such value need be found for eligibility.

The GMUG previously conducted an eligibility study in the early 2000s, which found 76 miles in 18 segments of rivers or streams could be eligible. The new evaluation was conducted to consider changed circumstances, such as species information and classification, Duffy said.

For example, a threatened trout species has been found on the GMUG, as have additional populations of boreal toad.

“While the GMUG is producing the draft eligibility part, we are investigating the options. … We want to make sure we can get to the in-depth discussions with all the stakeholders that are necessary. We want to make sure we’re giving it as much attention as we can,” Duffy said.

Under the new eligibility evaluation, slightly more than 40 miles of waters in the Gunnison Ranger District were listed — portions of Oh Be Joyful Creek, West Elk Creek, West Soap Creek and Copper Creek, and their tributaries.

In the Ouray Ranger District, eligible waterways for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System are parts of Cow Creek, Roubideau Creek and their tributaries, a total of 33.45 miles.

In the Norwood Ranger District, about 8.5 miles of Tabeguache Creek and North Fork are listed, along with less than a mile of the San Miguel River.

The Grand Valley Ranger District rounds out the list, with more than 29 miles of the North Fork, Escalante and Kelso creeks.

Public comment is being accepted until March 22. The full eligibility report can be found at http://fs.usda.gov/goto/gmug/forestplan.

[Graywater] Water-saving rule, passed with high hopes, goes nowhere — @WaterEdCO

Graywater system schematic.

From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

More than three years after state health officials okayed the use of so-called graywater in homes and businesses [HB13-1044 (Authorize Graywater Use)], the public has shown no interest in using it, a fact that has baffled water conservation advocates and government officials.

“Unfortunately it’s had very little impact,” said Jon Novick, an environmental public health administrator for the City of Denver.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approved Regulation 86, as it is known, in May of 2015. It requires that counties opt into the program, creating their own standards and enforcement mechanisms. But Denver, which adopted the rule in 2016, and Pitkin, which adopted it nearly a year ago, are the only two of Colorado’s 64 counties that have chosen to do this. And despite the two counties’ enthusiasm for water conservation, neither the homeowners nor the businesses they serve have sought permits seeking to capture graywater for a second-time use.

Graywater flows out of bathroom sinks, tubs, showers and clothes washers. Nearly half of water used in homes on average goes to these purposes. Reusing it would generate significant water savings, something health officials and water conservation advocates say is critical as Colorado faces escalating water demands—and potential shortfalls— due to population growth, drought and climate change.

Under Regulation 86, homeowners and businesses can capture graywater and then use it to flush toilets and urinals and to water lawns if those lawns have subsurface irrigation systems. Graywater cannot be used in above-ground sprinkler systems.

Graywater is different than recycled water because it requires little treatment. Recycled water, on the other hand, is heavily treated before it is reused because it contains waste water from toilets and other sources.

Brandie Honeycutt is an environmental protection specialist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. She said it’s important that the regulation be widely adopted. To that end the state is planning a series of meetings in the first quarter of this year to examine how the program might be changed to broaden its appeal.

Colorado is among 20 states nationwide that allow use of graywater, according to Berkeley, Calif.-based GrayWater Action.

But Colorado’s Reg. 86 has numerous requirements, in some cases making it more burdensome than it is in other states. To use graywater indoors, for example, a home or office needs a dual plumbing system, with one set of pipes carrying treated drinking water, and the other set carrying graywater. Even new developments in Colorado don’t typically incorporate these dual-pipe systems, because they are expensive.

And retrofitting older homes and buildings is costly as well, Honeycutt said.

“You’re never going to see this in old construction because you would have to do a whole lot of rework,” Honeycutt said.

In addition, under the regulation, graywater has to be disinfected and cannot be stored for more than 24 hours.

Douglas County is among the dozens of counties statewide who have opted not to adopt the new rule. Officials there declined to comment on that decision, however a statement on the county’s website cited high costs, possible exposure to pathogens, as well as difficulty enforcing the rules as reasons for their decision not to allow the program in the county.

But those concerns did not prevent Pitkin County from moving forward with the new rule.

“We recognize that a number of other counties haven’t adopted [Reg. 86],” said Kurt Dahl, Pitkin County’s environmental health manager. “Being a leader [in water conservation] we thought it was important to go ahead and adopt them. But since we don’t have any takers, we’re going to have to regroup and see how to move this forward.”

Denver’s Novick and Dahl have several ideas they believe will help the graywater program catch on.

Among them is a tweak that would allow an innovative toilet system — one that doesn’t require dual-piping — to be used. Often seen in other states, the new toilets have a direct connection to a sink, so that once someone finishes washing his or her hands, for instance, the water flows into the toilet tank so that it can be reused for flushing.

This new-age loo eliminates the need for a separate tank to store graywater for toilet flushing, something now required under Reg. 86.

Another idea is to create a grant program that would provide low-interest loans or rebates to encourage homeowners and businesses to install these new toilets and sub-surface irrigation systems.

Similar programs exist to encourage installation of solar energy systems and other green technologies.

“We really need folks to install graywater systems so we can start to prove that they are not going to be a risk to public health,” Novick said. “This will increase the state’s comfort level and then we can come up with other technologies to use. We really want to see this program work.”

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

Taylor Graham’s film “Glen Canyon Rediscovered” to screen at the 14th annual Durango Independent Film Festival, Feb. 27-March 4

“Glen Canyon Rediscovered” will be shown during the 14th annual Durango Independent Film Festival. Courtesy of Taylor Graham via The Durango Herald

From The Durango Herald (Katie Chicklinski-Cahill):

Taylor Graham never thought he would have the chance to explore Glen Canyon in Southern Utah.

The canyon, in southern Utah and extending into Arizona, was flooded in 1963 when the controversial Glen Canyon Dam was built, creating Lake Powell reservoir in the Arizona portion of the canyon, leaving many side canyons and an untold number of archaeological sites buried under water.

“Glen Canyon was a place I’d always heard about growing up in Durango and growing up in the river-running community,” the documentary filmmaker said. “I’d always heard of this wonderful world that was lost when Glen Canyon Dam was built in 1963.”

Graham, a Durango native and son of former City Councilor Scott Graham and Susan Graham, now lives in Salt Lake City. He said climate change and the Colorado River being “basically sucked dry in many parts” has caused Lake Powell to drop to a level that side canyons are emerging.

“I felt like it was an opportunity for me to go back and explore some of these places that I thought I would never see in my life,” he said.

Graham chronicled his exploration in the film “Glen Canyon Rediscovered.” It is a story about an epic 350-mile journey “to the remote and lost wonders of Glen Canyon,” but he said there was a bigger purpose for making the movie.

“I set out to make the film to highlight the ways in which climate change and resource mismanagement are affecting the Colorado River and to connect my generation with the story of the loss and resurrection of Glen Canyon,” he said.

Graham and a crew of three – Courtney Blackmer-Raynolds, Micah Berman and Isabelle La Motte – loaded up sea kayaks in fall 2017 and took off on a 42-day expedition on the reservoir. According to the film’s official website, the group started in Moab, Utah, paddled through Cataract Canyon and across the length of Lake Powell to the Glen Canyon Dam site near Page, Arizona.

The film itself was about a year-and-half-long endeavor, Graham said. “Glen Canyon Rediscovered” was released in December through National Geographic, which also helped fund the project with an explorer grant. It will be screened as part of “The Cause and the Call Adventure” program during the Durango Independent Film Festival, which will run Feb. 27 through March 4.

Changes in the northeastern reaches of Lake Powell are documented in this series of natural-color images taken by the Landsat series of satellites between 1999 and 2017. The Colorado River flows in from the east around Mile Crag Bend and is swallowed by the lake. At the west end of Narrow Canyon, the Dirty Devil River joins the lake from the north. (At normal water levels, both rivers are essentially part of the reservoir.) At the beginning of the series in 1999, water levels in Lake Powell were relatively high, and the water was a clear, dark blue. The sediment-filled Colorado River appeared green-brown. To see the complete series go to: earthobservatory.nasa.gov/WorldOfChange/LakePowell. Photos via NASA

Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Drinking Water Leave Military Families Reeling — The New York Times #PFAS

Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

From The New York Times (Julie Turkewitz):

When Army Staff Sgt. Samuel Fortune returned from Iraq, his body battered by war, he assumed he’d be safe.

Then the people around him began to get sick. His neighbors, all living near five military bases, complained of tumors, thyroid problems and debilitating fatigue. Soon, the Colorado health department announced an unusually high number of kidney cancers in the region. Then Mr. Fortune’s wife fell ill.

The military, it turned out, had been leaching toxic chemicals into the water for decades.

Mr. Fortune felt “stabbed in the back,” he said. “We give our lives and our bodies for our country, and our government does not live up to their end of the deal.”

That was 2016. Since then, the Defense Department has admitted that it allowed a firefighting foam to slip into at least 55 drinking water systems at military bases around the globe, sometimes for generations. This exposed tens of thousands of Americans, possibly many more, to per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of man-made chemicals known as PFAS that have been linked to cancers, immune suppression and other serious health problems.

Though the presence of the chemicals has been known for years, an announcement last week from the Environmental Protection Agency for the first time promised regulatory action, a significant acknowledgment of the startling scope of the problem that drew outrage from veterans and others living in contaminated communities.

Acting administrator Andrew Wheeler said that the agency would begin the process of potentially limiting the presence of two of the compounds in drinking water, calling this a “pivotal moment in the history of the agency.”

The admission drew some praise, but many said that it was not enough and that millions of people would keep ingesting the substances while a regulatory process plods along. “It should have been called an inaction plan,” said Judith Enck, a former E.P.A. regional administrator appointed by President Barack Obama.

While the military has used the chemicals extensively, it is far from the only entity to do so, and in recent years, companies like DuPont have come under fire for leaching PFAS into water systems.

All told, 10 million people could be drinking water laced with high levels of PFAS, according to Patrick Breysse, a top official at the federal Centers for Disease Control. Mr. Breysse has called the presence of the chemicals “one of the most seminal public health challenges” of the coming decades.

The residents of Fountain, a mountain-flanked suburb of Colorado Springs, were told of the contamination by local officials who had been required by the E.P.A. to test the water for the substances, a step toward possible regulation. Soon dozens of communities from New York to Washington State discovered their drinking water was also polluted with PFAS.

Many people began demanding that state and military officials test their blood for the chemicals, hoping to learn the extent of their presence in their bodies.

The military has started an expensive cleanup effort that has involved shifting entire municipalities to new water sources and assessing toxic plumes that continue to spread for miles.

Maureen Sullivan, the military’s deputy assistant secretary for environment, said the government had moved “aggressively” to tackle the problem, assessing cleanup duties and looking for alternatives to the firefighting foam, a version of which the military still uses.

“I’m proud of what the Department of Defense has done in the past two-plus years,” she said.

But frustration persists. The military never alerted all of the people who drank polluted water, meaning some are still in the dark. When asked how many people were affected by contamination, Ms. Sullivan said she “couldn’t hazard a guess.”