San Juan County Climate Awareness Coalition
CLIMATE CHANGE: WHAT IT MEANS FOR US
SAVE THE DATE! Friday March 27th
8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Cost: $5 donation encouraged at the door, no charge to register
Location: San Juan College, Farmington, NM
* Agricultural sustainability: climate change in our backyard
* Insect migration
* Disease re-emergence
* Environmental racism and the impact on Native communities
* Transitioning our energy economy
* What we can do: the personal and the political
* Film festival
And much more!
Fri, March 27, 2020
8:30 AM – 5:00 PM MDT
San Juan College
4601 College Boulevard
Farmington, NM 87402
Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS. (Click here to go to the Colorado Snow Survey interactive website, it is very cool and has many features that cannot be shown with a static image.)
Statewide snowpack February 10, 2020 via the NRCS.
Statewide SWE February 10, 2020 via the NRCS.
Arkansas River Basin SWE February 10, 2020 via the NRCS.
Upper Colorado River Basin SWE February 10, 2020 via the NRCS.
Gunnison River Basin SWE February 10, 2020 via the NRCS.
Upper Rio Grande River Basin SWE February 10, 2020 via the NRCS.
North Platte River Basin SWE February 10, 2020 via the NRCS.
San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan SWE February 10, 2020 via the NRCS.
South Platte River Basin SWE February 10, 2020 via the NRCS.
Yampa and White SWE February 10, 2020 via the NRCS.
And, here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for February 10, 2020 via the NRCS.
Originally published in WyoFile on Dec. 3. It was already dark when we crossed the Wyoming state line, but I didn’t need daylight to know what was out there. Oceans of sagebrush, the occasional pronghorn and mile upon mile of unpeopled land. I didn’t have to see the white cliffs armoring the face of the […]
Water wells within a one-mile drain path from Buckley Air Force Base will soon be tested for chemicals similar to those that have contaminated water sources adjacent to other military bases across the United States, the state health department and the Air Force announced Friday.
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment plan to begin taking sample from wells to the north and west of the base by February 18.
Well owners will be notified by February 10.
The operation seeks to determine whether firefighting foam used in prior years’ aircraft fire training exercises has accumulated to levels deemed unhealthy by the Environmental Protection Agency…
The South Adams County Water & Sanitation District shut down three wells in 2018 after the water supply near Interstate 270 and Quebec Street was found to measure high levels of PFAS. That location is approximately six miles northeast of Buckley.
Owners of wells near Buckley will be notified if testing reveals unacceptable levels of PFAS. In that case, the Air Force said it would immediately provide alternate sources of water, including bottled, and seek permanent resolution through the well owner and regulators.
Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):
Christine Arbogast, a driving force in the political world of water for four decades, received the highest water award from the Colorado Water Congress at its annual convention last month.
Ms. Arbogast was surprised to learn she is the 2020 Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” Award during the closing luncheon at the convention.
“I had no idea, but it truly is an honor,” she said.
“What is consistent about Chris is that she cares about people,” one CWC member said. “I would say she is passionate about ensuring people who wouldn’t normally have access get heard on Capitol Hill and gets their voice heard.”
The award has been presented annually since 1981 in recognition of lifetime achievements, service and commitment to Colorado water projects or programs. Ms. Arbogast is the third woman to receive the award. Nominations are screened by the CWC board and voted on by past recipients.
A native of Pueblo, Ms. Arbogast is a graduate of Southern Colorado State College (now Colorado State University-Pueblo), with a degree in journalism and political science. After working for the Fremont County Sun and Durango Herald, she began work a press secretary for U.S. Rep. Ray Kogovsek, D-Colo., in 1979.
After Kogovsek left office in 1984, Ms. Arbogast was special projects administrator for the Colorado Department of Agriculture as the Always Buy Colorado (now Colorado Proud) began. But she soon returned to politics and her old boss when she joined Kogovsek & Associates in 1985. She took over the firm in 2017 after Kogovsek’s death.
Kogovsek & Associates works primarily in Western states on resource and tribal issues as well as for local government, capital construction projects, and public land use.
Among the firm’s clients are the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the city of Pueblo, Southwestern Water Conservancy District, Rio Grande Water Conservation District, the Republican River Conservation District, the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes, and the Dolores Water Conservancy District.
Ms. Arbogast was instrumental in completing the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Rights Settlement, defeating American Water Development Inc.’s attempt to appropriate Rio Grande groundwater, and creating the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Rio Grande Natural Area.
Most recently, she helped the Southeastern District and Bureau of Reclamation secure state and federal funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
She is the current president of the National Water Resources Association, a group that connects state water agencies such as CWC to advocate for water issues on the national level. For years, she has headed the Federal Affairs Committee of NWRA, and strengthened its role.
She has been a mentor to countless people in her field, and serves as president of the non-profit Women in Water Scholarship Fund.
The action filed to the Colorado Court of Appeals raised several issues to be addressed by the higher court, including whether Boulder District Court Judge Andrew Macdonald erred in his Dec. 27 decision by concluding Boulder County had not exceed it jurisdiction, abused its discretion or misapplied the law in determining it had regulatory control over the project.
“While we appreciate the district court’s consideration, we respectfully disagree with the conclusion and have decided to exercise our right to further review by the court of appeals,” Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson said in a statement.
“The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is a vital component of developing a more secure, reliable drinking water supply for a quarter of the state’s population,” he added. “In the face of the uncertainties of climate change that bring more frequent and extreme droughts and precipitation events, we’ve come together with partners on both sides of the divide to ensure the project benefits the environmental health of our entire state.”
Denver Water, which serves 1.4 million customers in the Denver metro area, but none in Boulder County, had planned to start construction in 2019 on what would be the largest construction project in Boulder County history, raising Gross Dam by 131 feet to a height of 471 feet, and increasing the capacity of the reservoir by 77,000 acre-feet.
Read the full issue of Water & Finance Managementhere.
Stormwater and sanitary sewer systems may be some of the least technologically sophisticated systems in the utility’s arsenal. Most often, these systems are gravity-based and out of sight. As a result, operational assess- ments are limited to the occasional vi- sual inspection when an operator lifts a manhole to check conditions, or worse when called out due to backups, over- flows or odors. With this lack of visibility, operators are left to use their experi- ence, intuition and instincts to operate these vital systems.
In addition, storm and sanitary sew- er systems are often “build and forget” projects. With no data to support real- time assessments, these systems are as- sumed to be operating to specification unless there is a major problem. Or they are subjected to routine but perhaps unnecessary cleaning programs or other capacity management activities. Both these conditions create the perception of efficiency, and absent an external impetus, such as EPA-enforced consent decrees or significant property or public health impacts, the budgets for fire, police, and roads often command more financial attention than do storm and sanitary systems.
The relative invisibility of these sys- tems and a lack of continual investment means that the managers of storm and sanitary sewer systems must be able to operate at increasingly proficient levels within the financial constraints of their budgets. In the past this was based on experience. Today, these managers have a powerful tool at their disposal to achieve this: information. Through the use of data-driven analytics and remote sensing and communication tools, the operators of storm and sanitary sewer systems can elevate the performance of their systems even in the face of scarce financial resources.
In some ways, we could call this the Sewerball equivalent of the Moneyball. For those not familiar with the book, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Un- fair Game,” by author Michael Lewis takes the reader on a journey to discov- er how the Oakland Athletics maximized the potential of their undercapitalized team by focusing on data. Sabermetrics, a term coined by Bill James, can be defined as the use of statistical analysis to analyze baseball records and make determinations about player performance.
Hawthorne, California is the home of SpaceX, which launched in to orbit the Iridium Satellite network, linking sewer monitors with their customers even in the midst of extreme weather events.
Sabermetrics allowed Oakland to build a team within an existing (and minimal) budget, that in aggregate could compete with teams with comparatively unlimited resources.
In our Sewerball story, however, we apply statistical analysis to understand the performance of our storm and sani- tary sewer infrastructure and use that information to maximize its operational availability and capacity within a constrained budget.
The Transition to Data-Driven Decisions
In the 1980s, Bill James pioneered the concept that the traditional baseball data was in fact not representative of the performance of players and the sport. While statistics in baseball have been around for generations and the availability of data staggering, according to James the statistics being employed were not meaningful assessments of team or individual performance. They also failed to provide any guidance or insight into the operations of the teams. For example, the number of hits achieved by a player is not truly reflective of the effectiveness of a hitter. James’ notable insight was existing data could be combined in new ways to generate something more useful than traditional metrics. In this case, James proposed a mathematical formula to determine how many runs a hitter creates:
From the perspective of the game, this is a more effective “stat.” If the object of baseball is to score runs to defeat your opponent, then the batter who creates more runs is a more valuable player.
Interestingly, this concept has a direct parallel in the water and wastewater sector: it is data rich, but information poor and oftentimes we are not calculating the correct performance indicators to truly understand the game, or in our case, the performance of our underground system.
However, the water and wastewater sector is now amassing vast troves of data that, when combined in unique ways, can be used to derive important relationships. Large internal and ex- ternal data sets can be combined and compared against a physical model of operations that can inform the process and maximize efficiency.
As an example, using a set of sophisticated sensors within a sewer system, patterns of normal conditions and indicators of abnormal situations become apparent. By combining this level of understanding with external data sets such as NOAA’s rainfall and tidal information, the utility can make predictive assessments of how externalities are impacting the physical operations of the system — and adapt operationally. This creates a system that takes the guesswork out of understanding the real-time condition of the storm and sanitary sewer systems and allows operational decisions to be made in a timely and cost-effective manner.
The result is that for the first time, these often-ignored systems can be elevated and operated in a manner that not only guarantees compliance but can have significant fiscal benefits.
By using a data-driven decision sup- port platform combining the data from 50 sensors and providing insight into the real-time conditions in the collec- tion system, the City of Hawthorne, California, has reduced sanitary sewer overflows by more than 99 percent and saved more than $2.5 million in fines and mitigation costs over the past 13 years. Similarly, the City of South Bend, Indiana, installed a real-time monitoring system consisting of more than 120 sensors and automation to stormwater retention basins to control the release of stormwater. This resulted in the elimination of dry weather overflows and reduced combined sewer overflows by 70 percent (1 billion gallons per year) over the period of 2008 to 2014, according to EPA data.
Data-driven services can also be used to better deploy resources. For example, the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) uses trend analysis from 200 remote sensors to manage a real-time sewer cleaning optimization program. This program has allowed SAWS to strategically identify areas needing cleaning and resulted in an overall reduction of cleaning operations by 95 percent and projected saving more than $3.4 million in three years, according to SAWS data.
Finally, data can also be deployed to drive significant savings in capital expenditures. This was the case in Mt. Crested Butte, Colorado, where state regulators threatened to cancel the town’s operating permits if the sewer overflow problems could not be solved. While one traditional solution considered the investment in a $10 million project to replace the sewer main, the town was able to optimize the utility of their existing infrastructure by better understanding the way in which the system operates. With real-time visibility into their collection system — at a cost of $96,000 in sensors — the town was able to comply with the regulatory requirements and avoid the requirement to construct new facilities.
The Move to Artificial Intelligence
At the time, James was pioneering Sabermetrics and demonstrating that the methods and analysis were often correct, he was mostly ignored. This may be attributed to baseball’s tradi- tionalist roots — one where the primary senses and gut intuition determined the flow of play of the players, the teams and the sport. The same situation exists in storm and sanitary sewer systems: their relative invisibility results in their being operated by intuition based on past experience rather than on actual operating conditions assessments.
However, with real-time visibility into the conditions of these systems, that veil of intuition is being lifted and replaced by actual understanding. As the availability of highly granular, accurate and validated data increases, storm and sanitary sewer system op- erations can leverage the analytic tools of artificial intelligence to improve assessments. For example, SmartCover Systems (Escondido, California) has collected more than 200 million hours of sewer and stormwater monitoring data, which are now used in machine learning pattern recognition routines to identify common issues with our collection system infrastructure – issues that are rarely evident to operators who are “popping a manhole.” Companies such as SmartCover, EmNet, Innovyze, Echologics and OptiRTC are leveraging sensor and data technologies to create an advantage for operators who can rely on a data-driven understanding of their underground infrastructure systems for the first time in decades.
Most importantly, these technologies are more than the sensors. Data is integrated into real-time decision support tools that offer full service operational insights to provide operators and utility management staff with advanced warning of potential issues and allows them to oper- ate the system with confidence and effectiveness.