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PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Doug MacEachern August 15, 2019 […]
From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):
Vandals caused an estimated $1 million worth of damage to the City of Northglenn’s collection system on top of Berthoud Pass earlier this month, shutting the system down for several days. As the Grand County Sheriff investigates, Northglenn water officials say they fear the damage is the work of eco-vandals, upset over ongoing diversions from the drought-stressed upper Colorado River to the Front Range.
For years, the City of Northglenn has captured water on top of Berthoud Pass and delivered it down to its customers north of Denver.
But on Aug. 2, when water should have been flowing freely, the reading on the measuring gauge on what’s known as the Berthoud Pass Ditch fell to zero. On investigation, the city found the system had been vandalized, with diversion structures torn apart and locks cut, allowing millions of gallons of water to flow back into the Fraser River, a tributary to the upper Colorado River, instead of Northglenn’s ditch.
“It seemed very intentional,” said Tamara Moon, Northglenn’s manager of water resources. “They did a doozy on us.”
Roughly $100,000 worth of damage was done to the diversion system, with another $900,000 in water lost, according to the Grand County Sheriff’s office.
Lesser damage to the structure, part of which can be accessed off a hiking trail near the old Berthoud Pass ski area, occurred in March, Moon said.
But she believes now that both efforts are linked to the political tension over transmountain diversions from the water-stressed upper Colorado River to the Front Range.
Two major expansion projects, including an effort by Denver Water to bring more water from the Fraser River and one by Northern Water to bring over more from the upper Colorado River near Granby, have sparked major lawsuits by several environmental groups, including Save The Colorado, WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club, among others. The lawsuits are pending in court…
Though Northglenn isn’t involved in either project, Moon said the fact that her city’s diversion system is pulling from the same watershed has likely exposed it to the frustration over the diversions.
The week the system was disabled, Northglenn was delivering water to the City of Golden, one of its customers on the system.
Golden lost several days’ worth of water as a result of the incident, but because its system, like most, has benefited from an abundance of water this year, the temporary cut-off didn’t affect the city’s ability to provide water to its own customers.
“It really hasn’t had an impact on us,” said Anne Beierle, Golden’s deputy director of public works. “From our perspective though, it’s a little disconcerting and it’s disappointing. If it turns out to be [eco-vandalism], it is unfortunate.”
The Grand County Sheriff’s office is still investigating the incident.
Grand County, home to Winter Park and Granby, is also one of the most heavily diverted counties in Colorado, with millions of gallons of water from the upper Colorado and Fraser rivers being diverted to the Front Range to serve dozens of communities.
“This was a purposeful, deliberate act,” said Lieutenant Dan Mayer, the Grand County Sheriff’s public information officer.
The four diversion gates that were broken were roughly one-half mile apart, Mayer said. “Somebody wanted to break these gates. You had to [hike in to] find them.
“We have a lot of water agencies running [water] out of here. But we haven’t seen any incidents like this at other systems. It makes it seem as if it could very well be some kind of eco-terrorism, and we would very much like to find out who did it.”
Mayer said the charges any suspect would face include felony theft, felony criminal mischief, and first degree criminal tampering and trespass, all of which could result in significant jail time and fines.
In addition to installing new diversion gates and locks, Northglenn’s Moon said the city is installing remote cameras in an effort to better monitor the site and to be able to identify the culprits should they return.
“We don’t even have power up there,” she said. “There’s not a lot more we can do.”
Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at email@example.com or @jerd_smith.
Here’s the release from the USDA:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) today announced it will defer accrual of interest for all agricultural producers’ spring 2019 crop year insurance premiums to help the wide swath of farmers and ranchers affected by extreme weather in 2019. Specifically, USDA will defer the accrual of interest on spring 2019 crop year insurance premiums to the earlier of the applicable termination date or for two months, until November 30, for all policies with a premium billing date of August 15, 2019. For any premium that is not paid by one of those new deadlines, interest will accrue consistent with the terms of the policy.
“USDA recognizes that farmers and ranchers have been severely affected by the extreme weather challenges this year,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “I often brag about the resiliency of farmers but after a lifetime in the business, I have to say that this year is one for the record books. To help ease the burden on these folks, we are continuing to extend flexibility for producers with today’s announcement.”
RMA Administrator Martin Barbre added, “This administrative flexibility is not unprecedented but is a move RMA takes seriously and only under special circumstances like we’re experiencing today. Growers typically have some crop harvested and cash flow to make their billing date, but with so many late planted crops, this year will be an anomaly.”
America’s farmers and ranchers have been especially challenged throughout the 2019 crop year, struggling through severe flooding and excessive moisture conditions across the grain belt and in many other rural communities, with some areas also dealing with extreme heat and drought. Such weather conditions are expected to take a serious toll on acres planted, crop yields, and crop quality as harvest begins. One of the largest operating costs for producers is crop insurance premiums paid to their Approved Insurance Provider. Many spring crop insurance premiums are due to be paid before October 1.
Without the interest deferral, policies with an August 15 premium billing date would have interest attach starting October 1 if premiums were not paid by September 30. Now, under the change, policies that do not have the premium paid by November 30 will have interest attach on December 1, calculated from the date of the premium billing notice.
USDA announced Monday that U.S. farmers filed prevented planting claims on more than 19 million acres during the 2019 crop year. Earlier this summer, USDA announced a series of flexibilities to reduce stress on producers affected by weather, including: providing more time for cover crop haying and grazing by moving the start date from November 1 to September 1, 2019; allowing producers who filed prevented planting claims then planted a cover crop with a potential for harvest to receive a $15 per acre Market Facilitation Program payment; holding signups in select states for producers to receive assistance in planting cover crops; and extending the crop reporting deadline in select states. USDA also will provide producers with prevented planting acreage additional assistance, which will be announced in the coming weeks, through the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019.
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Patti Aron/Marlon Duke):
The Bureau of Reclamation today released its Colorado River Basin August 2019 24-Month Study, which sets the annual operations for Lake Mead and Lake Powell in 2020. Based on projections in the 24-Month Study, Lake Mead will operate in the Normal or ICS Surplus Condition in Calendar Year 2020 and Lake Powell will operate in the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier in Water Year 2020 (October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020).
The Upper Basin experienced above average snowpack, and runoff was 145% of average this past spring, raising Lake Powell’s elevation by more than 50 feet since early April. Total Colorado River system storage today is 55% of capacity, up from 49% at this time last year. In addition, critical drought contingency plans adopted by the seven Basin States, federal government and Mexico earlier this year are now in place to reduce risks to the system.
“While we appreciate this year’s above average snowpack, one good year doesn’t mean the drought is over. We must remain vigilant,” said Commissioner Brenda Burman. “I applaud everyone who came together this year to get the drought contingency plans done. The additional actions under the contingency plans will help ensure the reliability of the Colorado River system for the 40 million people dependent upon it.”
The August 2019 24-Month Study projects Lake Mead’s January 1, 2020, elevation to be 1,089.4 feet, about 14 feet above the Lower Basin shortage determination trigger of 1,075 feet. Lake Powell’s January 1, 2020, elevation is projected to be 3,618.6 feet — 81 feet below full. Because Lake Mead is projected to begin the year below the drought contingency plans threshold of 1,090 feet, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will make water savings contributions to Lake Mead in 2020.
Despite the above average 2019 snowpack, the Colorado River Basin continues to experience its worst 20-year drought on record, dating back to 2000. This 20-year period is also one of the driest in the 1,200-year paleo record. The August 2019 24-Month Study can be found at https://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/g4000/24mo.pdf
DCP’s Tier Zero Begins a New Era from the Central Arizona Project (Chuck Cullom):
Today, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation issued its August 24-Month Study Report, a two-year outlook projecting water supply and operating conditions in the Lower Colorado River Basin..
The August Report defines, among other things, the operating conditions for Lake Mead for 2020, and includes the recently enacted Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). At the end of 2019, the projected Lake Mead elevation – the measuring stick for whether there is a shortage declaration on the river for 2020 – is just shy of 1090’. And, for the first time, the Lower Colorado River Basin will formally implement reductions outlined in the DCP at the new Tier Zero beginning January 2020.
What does this mean?
In short, it shows that in its first year, DCP is already working.
While the Basin experienced a stellar snowpack year and subsequent phenomenal run-off, because Lake Mead is projected to end 2019 below elevation 1090’, the Lower Basin States (Arizona, California and Nevada) will be in a DCP Tier Zero shortage condition next year. Under Tier Zero, Arizona’s Colorado River supplies will be reduced by 192,000 acre-feet; Nevada’s will be reduced by 8,000 acre-feet; and California takes no reductions. In addition, Mexico will reduce its water use by 41,000 acre-feet, due to Minute 323, an agreement under the 1944 Treaty for water users in both countries. [ed. emphasis mine] Because of Arizona’s Colorado River priority system and agreements amongst water users, the Central Arizona Project (CAP) will take 100% of Arizona’s reductions under Tier Zero. CAP’s supplies will be reduced by 192,000 acre-feet, representing 12% of its normal annual Colorado River water supply. For CAP customers, this means eliminating the water that would have been available for underground storage, banking and replenishment. Water going toward CAP agricultural uses will be reduced by about 15%.
The Tier Zero reduction to CAP, while significant, is largely equivalent to the amount of Colorado River water CAP has been leaving voluntarily in Lake Mead since 2015 as part of our Lake Mead Conservation Program. In essence, CAP and its water users have been planning and preparing for Tier Zero reductions for the past five years. The difference is that those previous contributions were voluntary – now, under DCP, these contributions are mandatory.
Through the DCP, Arizona continues to prepare for a drier future. This year, CAP, along with the Gila River Indian Community and the Colorado River Indian Tribes, is contributing and storing 236,000 acre-feet in Lake Mead. Next year, even with the Tier Zero reductions, these same water users, along with the Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District, will continue to conserve and store additional water in Lake Mead. These efforts are part of Arizona’s plan to implement DCP developed collaboratively by the Arizona water community and legislative leaders. The plan balances the impacts of DCP amongst water users and provides additional protection to the Colorado River system, giving us a road map to follow for the next several years.
From Arizona Central (Ian James):
Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will be required to take less water from the Colorado River for the first time next year under a set of agreements that aim to keep enough water in Lake Mead to reduce the risk of a crash.
The federal Bureau of Reclamation activated the mandatory reductions in water deliveries on Thursday when it released projections showing that as of Jan. 1, the level of Lake Mead will sit just below a threshold that triggers the cuts.
Arizona and Nevada agreed to leave a portion of their water allotments in the reservoir under a landmark deal with California called the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, which the states’ representatives signed at Hoover Dam in May.
California agreed to contribute water at a lower trigger point if the reservoir continues to fall. And Mexico agreed under a separate accord to start contributing to help prop up Lake Mead, which is now 39 percent full…
Reservoirs were approaching levels last year that would have triggered a shortage and required deeper cuts, but heavy snow across much of the Rocky Mountains this winter boosted runoff and raised reservoir levels. The river’s reservoirs are now at 55% of total capacity, up from 49% at the same time last year.
But Lake Mead is still projected to be just below the threshold of 1,090 feet above sea level at the beginning of next year. That will put the reservoir in a zone called “Tier Zero,” at which the first cuts take effect.
“While we appreciate this year’s above-average snowpack, one good year doesn’t mean the drought is over. We must remain vigilant,” federal Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said in a statement. She applauded the seven states that depend on the river for coming together to finish the set of drought-contingency plans. Burman said the actions laid out under those agreements “will help ensure the reliability of the Colorado River system for the 40 million people dependent upon it.”
Arizona will see a cut of 192,000 acre-feet in water deliveries next year, or 6.9% of its total allotment of 2.8 million acre-feet. Nevada’s share will be reduced by 8,000 acre-feet, while Mexico’s will take 41,000 acre-feet less. That water will remain in Lake Mead, and will only be recovered once the reservoir rises above an elevation of 1,100 feet.
The cuts under the Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP, represent 12% of the total water supply for the Central Arizona Project, which delivers water by canal to Phoenix, Tucson and other areas. Chuck Cullom, manager of Colorado River programs for CAP, said this reduction will mean “eliminating the water that would have been available for underground storage, banking and replenishment,” and cutting CAP deliveries to agriculture by about 15%.