The all-American ideal of an expansive, emerald green lawn accounts for almost two-thirds of the average Fort Collins resident’s water bill.
But the two main water providers serving Fort Collins taps — Fort Collins Utilities and Fort Collins-Loveland Water District — want to change that. The two districts are focusing increasingly on outdoor irrigation to meet conservation goals and deal with the water demands of a growing population…
Fort Collins Utilities provides water to most of Fort Collins north of Harmony. Fort Collins-Loveland Water District provides water to most of Fort Collins south of Harmony as well as parts of Loveland, Timnath, Windsor and Larimer County.
Fort Collins Utilities, whose water use has consistently declined since the ’80s, has a goal of reducing water use another 10% by 2030. Fort Collins-Loveland Water District is headed toward a goal of reducing water use 10% between 2015 and 2024.
“We know population will double by 2050, and we know the rivers won’t,” said Chris Matkins, Fort Collins-Loveland Water District general manager. “So we understand that we’ve got to make some changes.”
Fort Collins Utilities has lowered its overall water use since the ’80s, and the community’s per-capita use reached 143 gallons a day in 2018 (down from 248 in 1989). Fort Collins-Loveland Water District’s per-capita use reached about 177 gallons a day in 2014 and has significantly declined since then, Matkins said.
Two water-conservation districts are working to find solutions to a long-simmering problem on the Crystal River: In dry years, there may not be enough water for both irrigators and some residential subdivisions.
The Colorado River Water Conservation District and the West Divide Water Conservancy District plan to submit a state grant request for a feasibility study on a basinwide augmentation plan, or backup water supply plan, for the Crystal. The study would look at water demands and augmentation strategies, including the potential for a reservoir in or near the town of Marble.
he historic drought late in the summer of 2018 illustrated some long-acknowledged problems with water rights on the Crystal. In August and again in September, the Ella Ditch, which irrigates agricultural land south of Carbondale, placed a call on the river for the first time ever. This means, in theory, that junior-rights holders upstream have to stop taking water so that the Ella Ditch can receive its full decreed amount.
No back-up water supply
Most junior-rights holders have what’s known as an augmentation plan, which lets them continue using water during a call by replacing the called-for water with water from another source, such as a pond, a reservoir or an exchange.
The problem on the Crystal is that several subdivisions don’t have augmentation plans.
“This hasn’t been a surprise for at least 30 years,” said John Currier, chief engineer for the river district. “This is a well-known problem. The issue has been out there all the time, but the call is potentially becoming more frequent in those kind of dry years.”
The entities that were out of priority in 2018 — and therefore could potentially have water to homes shut off to satisfy a downstream call — include the town of Carbondale, the Marble Water Company, Chair Mountain Ranch, Crystal River Resort, Crystal View Heights and Seven Oaks Commons.
The Colorado Division of Water Resources, which administers the calls, sent these entities letters encouraging them to create an augmentation plan. Otherwise, their water could be shut off or they could be fined for every day they are using water out of priority when there is a future call by a downstream senior-rights holder.
Division 5 Water Engineer Alan Martellaro hopes it won’t come to that. Issuing fines won’t do anyone any good, he said.
“We basically told everybody: As long as we are moving forward and not dragging our feet, we are not going to issue any orders, especially since we are searching for regional answers,” Martellaro said.
West Divide, which is based in Rifle, with its boundary extending up the Crystal River Valley nearly to McClure Pass, sees the situation as an opportunity for basinwide cooperation to find what will probably be a multi-faceted solution. But that will require groups that were once at odds to work together.
“At this point, we are just getting back into this to see what’s feasible, and at this point we want to, and are open to, working with any interested parties up there,” said Bruce Wampler, a West Divide board member.
In 2011, the West Divide district and the Colorado River district abandoned their conditional water rights for nearly 200,000 acre-feet of water storage in the Crystal River drainage after local groups — Crystal River Caucus, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association — opposed the reservoirs included in the conditional rights.
At the Gunnison Basin Roundtable meeting in Montrose on Sept. 16, Wendy Ryan, project manager for Colorado River Engineering, an engineering firm that works with West Divide, asked roundtable members for a letter of support for the grant application. (The town of Marble, which could be the site of storage, is in Gunnison County, but not in the Gunnison River basin.) Some roundtable members said they want to see the involvement of environmental groups before they would offer a letter of support.
“It’s going to be a hard nut to crack,” said Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck, a roundtable member.
As of Thursday, no members of the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers board said they had been informed of the grant application or the augmentation-plan study. The group officially opposes the construction of new storage facilities in the Crystal River watershed.
To get the state money from the Water Supply Reserve Fund, the feasibility study request must be approved first by the Colorado River Basin Roundtable and then the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The request, though not yet finalized, will probably be for roughly $100,000, Currier said.
West Divide introduced the proposal to the CBRT on Monday, and plans on putting forth a formal grant request in November.
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of water and rivers. This story appeared in the Sept. 24 edition of the Times.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Duffy Hayes):
“You might ask, why is this important to the city and our community, why is the river park important? Well it’s a much improved and a safe option for users, be they kayak users, tubers or kids just learning how to fish,” Grand Junction Mayor Rick Taggart said. “It’s a very user-friendly place for them to come.”
The $1.3 million river park project will mean the creation of a new inlet channel as well as an extension of the channel that already exists. The city is touting enhanced stream hydrology and improved aquatic habitat along the stretch of the river, but it’s the recreational features in the new secondary channel that are envisioned as a future draw for floaters and boaters.
“It’s all about activation of the waterfront, as an interactive amenity for the city’s parks system, as well as increasing some of the habitat there,” said city Public Works Director Trent Prall, when the project was approved by Grand Junction City Council members in July.
The slough extension means that whenever the main stem of the Colorado measures more than 800 cubic feet per second, the city can expect a share of that water to flow through the new section, which includes a few slight drops as well as rock jetties that will form a number of pools for people on the river to enjoy. Native riparian plantings, bioengineered bank stabilization and interpretive elements will only add to the river park’s recreational capabilities.
The city secured more than $600,000 in grant dollars for the project from entities including Great Outdoors Colorado, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Colorado Basin Roundtable and One Riverfront.
Prall in July described the river park as “the last element to Las Colonias Park,” which has sprung to life this spring and summer with new roads and parking areas, initial construction of retail and restroom facilities, and the final touches on the park’s signature butterfly-inspired lake.
The park, the city notes, fits into a larger revitalization of the Riverfront area, which includes the Amphitheater at Las Colonias and the Las Colonias Business park nearby.
Longtime district engineer Ken Curtis has been appointed the new general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.
Curtis replaces Mike Preston, who is retiring after leading the organization that manages McPhee Reservoir for the past 12 years. Preston will stay on during a transitional period serving in external relations.
The two have worked closely together as a management team, said DWCD board president Bruce Smart.
Curtis served as chief of engineering and construction during the 12 years that Preston was general manager…
Preston informed the board in February his intention to retire, and recommended Curtis as his successor. The board agreed to the transition plan in order to facilitate a smooth change over…
Curtis has been involved in all aspects of water management, including delivering water to customers, oversight of project maintenance and upgrades, and invasive mussel prevention program. He also monitors reservoir levels and Dolores River inflows, conducts water policy research and community outreach, and helps coordinate the downstream fishery release and whitewater boating spill.
Here’s an in-depth look PFAS in El Paso County from Faith Miller that’s running in the Colorado Springs Independent. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
Researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health will study the health effects of toxic PFAS chemicals — found in firefighting foam used by the military — in residents of El Paso County, thanks to a $1 million federal grant.
Colorado is just one of seven states named in a multisite study into the health effects of the chemicals. Nationally, the study will recruit “at least 2,000 children aged 4–17 years and 6,000 adults aged 18 years and older who were exposed to PFAS-contaminated drinking water,” according to a statement from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which is funding the project along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Colorado School of Public Health, at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, plans to recruit 1,000 adults and 300 children for the study. Previous research has found that people who lived in the Fountain and Security-Widefield areas, near Peterson Air Force Base, prior to 2015 have higher-than-normal levels of PFAS chemicals in their blood.
The research team will include experts from the Colorado School of Mines, Children’s Hospital Colorado, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the University of Southern California, according to a statement from CU Anschutz.
John Adgate, chair of the school’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and the co-principal investigator on the study, says it’s not yet clear which members of the PFAS chemical group will be looked at, but the list will likely include “PFHxS, PFOS and PFOA, as well as a bunch of others.”
Most extensive research into PFAS chemicals has so far been focused on PFOS and PFOA, while health effects of other PFAS aren’t as well established.
“The El Paso County site is interesting because [the contamination is] mostly from firefighting foams, which results in people having elevated blood levels of what’s known as PFHxS and PFOS,” Adgate explains.
Adgate and his research team found last year that study participants who’d been exposed to the contamination had blood levels of PFHxS about 10 times as high as U.S. population reference levels. Levels of this chemical were also higher than those for residents in other communities exposed to PFAS.
The river district, which represents 15 western Colorado counties, including Montrose, recently announced its board backs Proposition DD. The ballot proposition would both legalize sports betting in the state and direct most of the revenue from it to implementing the water plan, including a possible water-demand management program to address the multi-state Colorado River Compact.
Prop DD also places a 10-percent tax on net proceeds of casinos that offer sports betting…
As described by the river district, revenues from sports betting could then be used for Water Plan Implementation Grants that fund water projects in: agriculture; conservation and land use; water supply and infrastructure; engagement and innovation and environmental and recreation. The revenues could also be used to ensure compliance with interstate water compacts.
Prop DD is estimated to bring in between $10 and $15 million per year — falling well short of the estimated $100 billion annual funding gap for water plan implementation.
Despite the focus on water in these DD spots, money for the campaign is barely trickling in from water-industry stakeholders. Instead, 97.5 percent of the $403,000 donated to the Yes on Proposition DD campaign in the first eleven days of September has come from the gaming industry, though betting is largely an afterthought in these commercials…
The Proposition DD ballot question reads: “Shall state taxes be increased by twenty-nine million dollars annually to fund state water projects and commitments and to pay for the regulation of sports betting through licensed casinos by authorizing a tax on sports betting of ten percent of net sports betting proceeds, and to impose the tax on persons licensed to conduct sports betting?”
Asked why the ads focus on the water plan, Hubbard says that the commercials are designed to help make up for what he considers confusing wording on the ballot proposal. “One of the challenges we’ve seen is that it’s unclear if you just read the ballot language that this is a tax that casinos pay and that the vast majority of the money raised goes to fund Colorado’s water plan. That’s what we’re trying to highlight for people,” Hubbard notes.
Although the ballot language may be a bit convoluted, it’s clear where the Yes on Proposition DD campaign money is coming from.
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Mike Porras):
Beginning Oct. 1, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Denver Water will begin collaborating on a month-long project to improve fish habitat within a popular stretch of the Williams Fork River near the town of Parshall. Located in CPW’s Kemp-Breeze State Wildlife Area, the section of river to be improved will not close during construction; however, the agencies advise anglers to consider fishing in alternative waters while the work is ongoing.
CPW and Denver Water officials say although they understand October is a prime fishing period along this stretch of the Williams Fork, work would not be possible until streamflow below the Williams Fork Dam slowed to approximately 75 cubic feet per second or less, expected to occur the first week of October.
“Unfortunately, this will affect some fishing trips to this area but anglers should know that the long-term improvements will be worth the temporary inconvenience,” said Jon Ewert, area aquatic biologist with CPW. “This project will turn a very good trout fishery into a great one, so we ask anglers for a little patience.”
“Habitat improvement is one of the most beneficial things we can do to help conserve our natural resources,” said Ben Gallowich, the Kemp-Breeze SWA technician for CPW. “The fish will benefit, the anglers will benefit and this state wildlife area will become an even more attractive place to spend the day outdoors catching trout.”
Ewert says the most significant, short-term impact caused by construction will be visible sediment in the water.
“Due to the type of habitat work that will occur, there will be periods of significant turbidity in this stretch and downstream beyond the confluence with Colorado River,” he said. “And of course there will be heavy equipment throughout the area so it won’t be aesthetically ideal. If anglers choose to fish here they are welcome to do so, but they should avoid machines and construction areas.”
The improvements will include reshaping the channel to enhance habitat diversity for all life-stages of trout. Currently, the river has an overabundance of long riffles. In addition, pools that provided excellent trout holding areas have filled-in with sediment. The habitat project will address these shortcomings.
Completed in 1959, Williams Fork Dam and its power plant sends water and electricity to the West Slope when Denver diverts water. The dam backs up a reservoir of nearly 97,000 acre-feet of water, creating the second-largest water body in Grand County.
For more information and details about the project, contact Denver Water at 303-628-6700.