@USBR awards $5.1 million in research for new ways to desalinate and treat water

Desalination and water purification research, like this being undertaken at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico, will help communities treat impaired or otherwise unusable water. Photo credit: Bureau of Reclamation

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation announced that 30 projects will receive $5.1 million from the Desalination and Water Purification Research Program to develop improved and inexpensive ways to desalinate and treat impaired water.

“We are awarding grants to a diverse group of projects to reduce the cost, energy consumption and environmental impacts of treating impaired or otherwise unusable water for local communities across the country,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “This funding is a direct result of the Trump Administration’s commitment to increase water supply and delivery through improved technology.” Twenty-five awards are for laboratory-scale projects, which are typically bench scale studies involving small flow rates. They are used to determine the viability of a novel process, new materials or process modifications. Awards are limited to $150,000.

Five projects are selected as pilot-scale proposals, which test a novel process at a sufficiently large-scale to determine the technical, practical and economic viability of the process. Awards are limited to $400,000 and no more than $200,000 per year.

Types of projects funded include modeling, testing new materials such as nanomaterials, and improvements on known technologies such as distillation and electrodialysis. Projects are funded in the following states:

More detail on each project is available at http://www.usbr.gov/research/dwpr.

Governor Kelly appoints three members to #Kansas Water Authority

Rivers of Kansas map via Geology.com

Here’s the release from Governor Kelly’s office:

Governor Laura Kelly appointed three members to the Kansas Water Authority. The Kansas Water Authority plans for the development, management and use of state water resources by state or local agencies.

Kelly appointed the following members:

1) David Stroberg (R), Hutchinson, for the central Kansas groundwater management district seat, from names provided per statute K.S.A. 74-2622 by districts #2 and #5.

2) Chris Ladwig (U), Derby and Spirit Aerosystems, for the industrial water users seat, from names provided per statute K.S.A. 74-2622 by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

3) State Senator Carolyn McGinn (R), Sedgwick, for the environment and conservation seat, replacing Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Secretary Brad Loveless.

The Kansas Water Authority is made up of 24 members. Of these 24 members, 13 are appointed positions. The governor appoints 11 members, including the chair. One member shall be appointed by the President of the Senate, and one member shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Of the members appointed under this provision, the Governor appoints from the following requirements:

1) One shall be a representative of large municipal water users;
2) One shall be a representative of small municipal water users;
3) One shall be a board member of a western Kansas Groundwater Management District;
4) One shall be a board member of a central Kansas Groundwater Management District;
5) One shall be a member of the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts;
6) One shall be a representative of industrial water users;
7) One shall be a member of the state Association of Watershed Districts;
8) One shall have a demonstrated background and interest in water use, conservation and environmental issues;
9-10) Two shall be representatives of the general public.

Figuring out the flow in the North Fork — News on TAP

What Denver Water’s Roberts Tunnel can — and can’t — do to enhance water levels on cherished stretch of river. The post Figuring out the flow in the North Fork… 6 more words

via Figuring out the flow in the North Fork — News on TAP

How much water does your landscape really need? — News on TAP

New summer water use reports help customers understand how efficient they are with outdoor watering. The post How much water does your landscape really need? 6 more words

via How much water does your landscape really need? — News on TAP

Historic dam puts on a spectacular water show — News on TAP

Denver Water’s Cheesman Dam fills and spills thanks to last winter’s abundant snowfall. The post Historic dam puts on a spectacular water show appeared first on News on TAP.

via Historic dam puts on a spectacular water show — News on TAP

The tyranny of lawns and landlords — @HighCountryNews

From The High Country News (Kevin Kelley):

Renting culture puts dreams of cultivating wildness out of reach.

Before I rented my first house in Boise, Idaho, a city with little precipitation and lengthy dry spells, I dreamt of having a xeriscaped paradise complete with a pollinator garden, raised beds of squashes with drip irrigation, and a rain-catchment system to store all the water I needed for my yard. Ten years and three houses later, I am scattering seeds of Kentucky bluegrass and pellets of fertilizer, and routinely using the sprinkler. What happened to my dream?

For renters like me, conservation can be difficult, or even impossible: According to a recent University of Utah study, renters of single-family houses in the state were 94% less likely than homeowners to make landscaping decisions. Meanwhile, the Pew Charitable Trust estimates that the percentage of renters nationally is at a 50-year high. In the three most populous Western states, the percentage of renter households ranges from more than a third of Washington and Arizona residents to almost half in California.

Fresh turf, in Thornton, near Denver.

In the yard of my first Boise rental, splotches of withered grass grew, but little else. The grounds were sprayed by a powerful herbicide that killed everything but the grass, and dust from the patches of empty dirt blew into my living room. The landlord told me I could not transform the yard with rocks and mulch. Instead, I had to “maintain” it.

At the time, I was reading Thoreau’s Walden. I decided to put one of his ideas into practice: “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” I let new elm trees sprout to shade the yard. I let clovers and dandelions propagate to provide pollen for bees and nitrogen for the soil. I watered as little as I could, spread native grass seed, pulled weeds by hand, and put decorative rocks in front of the house to reduce the space I needed to water.

After a year without fertilizers, pesticides or mowing, the grasses grew tall, and they seeded new grass that sprouted the following spring. The yard did not look like the conventional grassy lawns of my neighbors, but it thrived in its own wild way.

At the end of my two-year stay, my landlord made me re-think Thoreau’s maxim: He kept my deposit and billed me for yard work performed on my behalf.

I drove by the property a few weeks later. Everything but the grass patches and oldest trees was gone. Without shade from the elms or groundcover, sunlight cooked the dirt into dust. The landlord’s mission to bring the land back to a monocultured lot negated any environmental good I thought I had done.

Landlords might install grassy yards to maintain property values or homowners’ association rules, or they might assume that a grass yard is both more desirable and easier to maintain than other yard types. In the arid West, about 70% of residential water is used for landscaping, and most of this water ends up on grass. Yet even during droughts, renters are told to maintain thirsty lawns.

Landlords might be surprised by how attractive a more natural yard can be, or by its other benefits. In addition to saving water, practices such as xeriscaping can require fewer chemical inputs. Pesticides can directly harm people, and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between 40% and 60% of the nitrogen used on lawns runs off into rivers and lakes, harming fish and other wildlife. Smarter decisions about Western yards can improve the health of people and the environment.

Even when landlords are flexible, the impermanence of renting can get in the way of environmental dreams. After living for nearly a year in Laramie, Wyoming, in a 100-year-old house carved into four apartments, I potted plants to attract lacewings and butterflies, I put together a composter for food and yard scraps, and I built three large planter boxes — all with the permission of my landlady. A month before I was due to re-sign the lease for another year, the landlady decided to sell the house. With no place to store anything and nowhere to replant any of my plants, everything ended up in the nearest dumpster.

I’m still inspired by Walden, but unlike Thoreau at his cabin on the pond, I have landlords who expect lawncare. Currently, at my new place in Denver, I am being cautious. The houses around me sell quickly, and my current landlady floated news that she might be selling soon. Luckily, with my lease signed for another year, I recently unboxed my composter. I might not be able to transform the entire yard, but I am pulling weeds by hand, and I have sown pollinator plants in a small box built in the backyard. This will not become the xeriscape paradise I dreamed of, and I won’t get away with not watering the lawn, but at least I know that this summer, a few butterflies and bees might visit.

Kevin J. Kelley is a writer and educator. Find more of his writing at http://authorkevinkelley.com.

A look at the history of Dillon Reservoir

Dillon townsite prior to construction of Dillon Reservoir via Denver Water

Here’s a report from The Summit Daily (Deepan Dutta). Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

The lecture, titled “Dillon, Denver and the Dam,” took place in the old Historic Park Chapel behind the museum, where every pew was filled and the audience spilled out of the door. Mather, a former president of the Summit Historical Society who has written 20 books about Summit County’s rich history and has a doctorate in physical geography, spoke to the capacity crowd on why the reservoir was built and the numerous challenges it faced being built…

The reservoir’s need was first realized in 1907, when the city of Denver realized it would require a lot more water as it grew. In 1913, Denver Water started buying water rights around Summit County, seeing the area’s natural geography as ideal for a reservoir.

“This was a huge catchment area,” Mather said. “You had a confluence of three streams, the narrowing of the valley north of Dillon, you would have gravity flow through the tunnel across the Continental Divide, and all were very important.”

Unfortunately, many benefits that were found in geography were lost to the local geology. There were numerous challenges in trying to find a place to put the dam, and once it was found a whole lot of earth-moving had to be done to artificially strengthen the foundation and ensure water would not start leaking under the dam.

Before constructing the dam itself, a core trench was dug 90 feet deep under the entire length of where the dam now stands, down to the bedrock. Another trench was dug into the bedrock itself, and then giant holes were dug into that trench 300 feet deep and filled with concrete. Suffice to say, the dam built on top of that foundation is well reinforced.

When the dam was finally completed in 1963, it stood 231 feet tall, 5,888 feet long and over 580 feet wide. Twelve million tons of fill was used to build the dam, with most coming from borrow pits in the reservoir area.

Aside from the dam, constructing the reservoir itself was a herculean endeavor itself. Given that the entire purpose of the reservoir is to impound water for use elsewhere, the reservoir needed to be lined and segregated from the ground [water].

That’s why a steel liner was installed to ensure the water stayed in the reservoir and didn’t get contaminated. The liner – a quarter-inch thick, highly polished steel – was pieced together at the bottom of what is now the reservoir in 30-foot long pieces.

There’s also the matter of managing overflow. That job goes to a morning glory spillway, which is basically a giant cement funnel at the dam’s maximum capacity height of 9,017 feet. All overflows fall into this spillway, which features fins at the top to prevent a whirlpool at the top, which would create air bubbles that can deteriorate the spillway’s cement.

Overflow water runs straight down the gullet of the spillway, which is 15 feet wide at its narrowest part, before turning 90 degrees and running into the Blue River through a 15-foot wide fixed-wing gate, which can be opened and closed to regulate water flow into the Lower Blue River.

Denver Water employees Rick Geise and Nate Hurlbut assisted in setting the plug, which helps prevent chunks of ice and snow from falling into the spillway. Photo credit: Denver Water

When fall comes and the reservoir is lowered, the spillway is no longer in use. Mather explained that since cold water sinks, the spillway can get iced up inside, damaging the concrete. To prevent this, Denver Water uses a crane to lift a giant “plug” — a 6-ton steel disc — and lower it into the spillway, preventing ice and debris build-up.

Mather described another key component of the entire reservoir system, the Roberts Tunnel. The 23-mile long tunnel, which when built was the second largest in the world, takes water from the reservoir in the West through a 10-foot wide pipe across the Continental Divide and down 174 feet of elevation to the eastern portal in Grant.

Mather said the construction of the tunnel began one month to the day before she was born, on September 17, 1942. Construction of the tunnel officially ended two months to the day after Mather graduated from college, when the eastern portal opened 22 years later, on July 17, 1964.