Imperial Irrigation District seeks #SaltonSea consideration in lawsuit over #ColoradoRiver water — The Palm Springs Desert Sun #DCP #COriver #aridification

Signing ceremony for the Colorado River upper and lower basin Drought Contingency Plans. Back Row Left to Right: James Eklund (CO), John D’Antonio (NM), Pat Tyrell (WY), Eric Melis (UT), Tom Buschatzke (AZ), Peter Nelson (CA), John Entsminger (NV), Front Row: Brenda Burman (US), and from DOI – Assistant Secretary of Water and Science Tim Petty. Photo credit: Colorado River Water Users Association

From The Palm Springs Desert Sun (Mark Olalde):

The Imperial Irrigation District has filed its opening brief in a case against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that it launched last year in an attempt to halt the implementation of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan for the Colorado River. IID wants to see it paused until the Salton Sea is also considered.

The two behemoths in the world of Western water are locking horns in court over the plan, which is an agreement made between California, Nevada and Arizona to keep more water in Lake Mead, the man-made lake created by the Hoover Dam. Nearly 40 million people rely on water from the Colorado River system, but growing demand across the West and a warming climate are threatening the important waterway…

In its 38-page brief filed on July 8, IID attorneys argue that Metropolitan’s approval of the Drought Contingency Plan in March 2019 was improper because it did not include an environmental analysis conducted under the California Environmental Quality Act. IID asked the court to stop Metropolitan from acting on its plan until a CEQA review had been completed…

In a statement sent to The Desert Sun, Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said the the two water agencies already spoke about the Salton Sea when the Drought Contingency Plan was created.

“During that negotiation, we worked closely with IID to ensure that the agreement has no adverse impacts on the Salton Sea, as the water contributions made to Lake Mead will not affect the amount of water flowing into the sea,” Kightlinger said.

But in its court filing, IID questioned the math underpinning Metropolitan’s contribution to the Drought Contingency Plan, saying it “relied on statistical slight-of-hand” that needed to be studied further.

Caption: Imperial Valley, Salton Sea, CA / ModelRelease: N/A / PropertyRelease: N/A (Newscom TagID: ndxphotos113984) [Photo via Newscom]

Between amendments to the plan in December 2018 and March 2019, Metropolitan said it would take over what had originally been IID’s responsibility to keep 250,000 acre feet of water in Lake Mead over the first two years when it eventually fell to the level that would trigger the Drought Contingency Plan. This was a “sudden and abrupt departure” from earlier decisions and cut IID out from the negotiations, the rural water agency alleged in its court filings…

The Coachella Valley Water District, the Palo Verde Irrigation District in Blythe and the city of Needles are also listed as interested parties on the brief, as they are the other three agencies within California that have rights to divert water from the Colorado River.

Ortega said Metropolitan has until September 25 to file its response.

#Colorado Water Officials Create First-Ever Regulations For ‘Forever Chemical’ #PFAS — Colorado Public Radio

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via [Click the map to go to the website.]

From Colorado Public Radio (Sam Brasch):

The state’s Water Quality Control Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to enact a policy to put new limits on per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS. The class of chemicals is a common ingredient in everything from nonstick pans to foam used to smother flames from jet fuel.

A growing body of scientific evidence has linked the chemicals to a range of health problems, including cancer and pregnancy issues. Meanwhile, federal efforts to regulate the chemicals have lagged, leaving states to take action on their own.

Liz Rosenbaum, founder of the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition, was relieved to see Colorado join the list of states cracking down on the chemicals…

Rosenbaum’s community just south of Colorado Springs is widely seen as ground-zero for Colorado’s growing PFAS pollution crisis. In 2016, scientists found elevated levels of a specific PFAS in the drinking water for Security, Widefield and Fountain. The study traced the contamination to firefighting foam used at Peterson Airforce Base. Two years later, another study found elevated levels of the same chemical in community members’ blood.

Further testing has since revealed the chemicals in waterways across the state. Recent results from a state study found four water sources where levels exceeded a health guideline set by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008. All of the samples had some detectable levels of the chemicals.

In an effort to control the problem, the Colorado Water Quality Control Division proposed rules to require wastewater treatment plants and industrial sites to monitor the chemicals. It also established the authority for the state to limit the chemicals in future wastewater permits.

But the focus on wastewater was met with a fierce backlash from cities and private interests.

Three days before the commission hearing, Aurora, Colorado Springs and Greeley joined utilities and water districts in demanding regulators pause deliberations over the new rules. The motion to vacate claimed the rules focused on wastewater treatment plants, which do not add PFAS to water systems.

The groups called on the regulators to instead focus the source of the chemicals, like companies making carpet products or consumers using nonstick pans.

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, which serves more than 2 million people around metro Denver, put an especially shocking number behind their objection. If the state required wastewater districts to clean up the chemicals, it could cost ratepayers over $700 million.

Representatives for the Colorado Water Quality Control Division dismissed those concerns. Manufacturers and airfields would also face new scrutiny to clean up the chemicals, which means the wastewater district probably wouldn’t end up stuck with the problem. Under the rules, the district also likely wouldn’t face any of the new limits on PFAS until 2031. Meg Parish, a permit manager with the division, said by then it could be far cheaper to clean up the chemicals.

#Monsoon outlook: ‘There’s hope’ — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel #drought

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

With the continuing dry conditions, the local National Weather Service is starting to be asked the annual seasonal question: Are we seeing any signs of the imminent arrival of monsoon season with its welcome rainfall?

“There’s hope. Let’s just put it that way. There’s some hope,” said Tom Renwick, a forecaster with the agency’s Grand Junction office.

The National Weather Service in Tucson says in an online forecast discussion for that Arizona city that the monsoon season there “finally looks to be getting into the swing,” and cites the anticipated moisture levels with storms expected into next week. The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson reported Sunday that the monsoon season’s first storm helped lead to 92% containment of a major wildfire in that part of the state. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the National Weather Service is forecasting “wetting storms” this week as monsoon moisture increases there.

And so monsoon season has made its way to the Southwest. But Renwick adds, “It’s just not reaching here.”

But he takes some heart in a shift in the local weather pattern that could presage the monsoon season’s arrival.

The season occurs in mid to later summer as a high pressure system sets up with winds circulating around it clockwise to funnel moisture up into the region from the Gulf of Mexico. Renwick said high pressure is moving into Texas, but not yet far enough east for the monsoon to reach Colorado.

North American Monsoon graphic via Hunter College.

Renwick said the region is seeing typical summer convection activity over higher terrain where rising air and the presence of some moisture can produce brief thunderstorms of the kind weather forecasters call “pop-and-drop” storms. Monsoon season by contrast is marked by a persistent pattern of sometimes moisture-laden storms. Renwick said those storms can contain enough water to cause flash flooding.

Monsoonal moisture would be welcomed by area agricultural producers, municipal water providers worried about water supplies, and firefighting agencies dealing with tinder-dry conditions and a growing number of wildfires in the region. Mesa County is currently in severe drought, according to the federal U.S. Drought Monitor.

West Drought Monitor July 7, 2020.

Renwick said precipitation in Grand Junction for the year so far has totaled 2.85 inches, compared to 4.5 inches on average.

June is typically the driest month of the year in the city, averaging 0.44 inches based on historical National Weather Service data from 1900-2006. This June brought 0.51 inches of precipitation, still less than the average amount that falls locally any other month than June.

In July average precipitation locally inches up to 0.61 inches, and in August it reaches 0.99 inches. Much of that jump is due to monsoon rain.

Renwick said the monsoon can arrive by mid-July or earlier locally, but usually shows up in force by later July into August…

Just 0.1 inches of measurable rain has fallen in Grand Junction so far this month, being recorded on Sunday. Renwick said that compares to just 0.21 inches on average by this point in July.

Report: #Coal and #water conflicts in the American West — Energy Policy Institute #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Click here to read the report from the Energy and Policy Institute (Joe Smyth). Here’s the executive summary:

Burning coal to generate electricity consumes large quantities of water, which exposes the electric utilities that operate coal plants to water supply risks. Large coal plants consume millions of gallons of water each day, which can also lead to legal disputes and conflicts with other water users, increased costs when water supplies are disrupted, and other challenges. Those water conflicts and risks are magnified in the American West, where water supplies are already scarce and increasingly threatened by persistent drought and hotter temperatures driven by climate change.

Several utilities have recently announced plans to close coal plants that they operate in order to reduce costs and meet the expectations of their customers, regulators, and investors for a cleaner power supply. Those closures will free up large quantities of water, creating potential economic and environmental benefits while also raising questions among communities, utilities, and regulators over the fate of that newly available water.

Still, many coal plants in the Western U.S. do not yet have clear closure plans, and the utilities that operate them will continue to face water supply risks and conflicts.

Recent reports by Moody’s Investors Service and BlackRock have highlighted the growing risks of climate change impacts to electric utilities and the power plants they operate, including water supply risks and drought. Major electric utilities also acknowledge those risks; in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the largest electric utilities and coal plant operators in the Western United States – including Xcel Energy, PNM, Arizona Public Service Company, Pacificorp, Talen Energy, and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association – reported that drought in the region could disrupt water supplies consumed by their coal plants. Utilities that don’t disclose risks in SEC filings, like Basin Electric and Arizona G&T Cooperatives, have nevertheless faced water supply challenges at their coal plants.

Some parties propose keeping coal plants online by installing infrastructure to capture their carbon emissions. Carbon capture infrastructure nearly doubles the water consumption of a coal plant, significantly increasing the water supply risks for companies that pursue carbon capture instead of closing coal plants.

This report explores the water supply risks facing coal plants in the American West, and the conflicts and legal disputes over water that have already arisen between communities and the utilities that operate coal plants. We show how much water each coal plant in the Western U.S. consumed in recent years, and estimate how much more water each will consume until its closure. And we discuss key water supply risks facing particular coal plants in the American West, based on documents filed with the SEC and state utility regulators, annual reports, local news articles, and correspondence with utilities in the region. Those include legal disputes over water rights between Native American communities and utilities, increased water needs of a carbon capture proposal in New Mexico, groundwater consumption by coal plants in Arizona, the impacts of drought on coal plants in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming, and more.

Cumulatively, 30 coal plants in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Montana, and Wyoming consumed 370,555,000,000 gallons [ed. 1,137,190 acre-feet] of water between 2014 and 2018, according to data published by the Energy Information Agency (EIA). On average, that amounts to more than 76 billion gallons of water each year, or 208 million gallons [ed. 638 acre-feet] each day. Coal capacity owned by Pacificorp consumed over 102 billion gallons of water between 2014 and 2018, 27% of the total and the most of any utility in the region.

Combining coal unit water consumption data with coal unit closure dates (announced as of July 2020) shows that coal plants in the Western U.S. could consume 886 billion gallons of water between 2020 and 2040. That figure could be reduced as more utilities announce additional coal plant closures, close coal units before their scheduled retirement dates, and operate coal plants less often.

Most coal plants in the Western U.S. consume surface water, including from the Colorado River, Yellowstone River, Green River, San Juan River, Laramie River, North Platte River, Arkansas River, Yampa River, San Miguel River, Cottonwood Creek, Sevier River, Huntington Creek, Hams Fork River, and the Bighorn River.

Nine coal plants consume groundwater, including in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada, a practice that is rare outside of the Southwest. Two coal plants in Colorado consume reclaimed municipal water, which reduces but does not eliminate water supply risks. Three coal plants in Wyoming use dry cooling systems instead of water-cooled systems, which reduces water consumption but increases costs and air pollution.

Coal plant water consumption in the American West. Graphic credit: The Energy Policy Institute

@USBR launches prize competition seeking innovative sediment removal solutions for critical water infrastructure

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

The Bureau of Reclamation is launching a new prize competition that is seeking crowdsourced ideas that will lead to innovative sediment removal solutions for water infrastructure. The “Guardians of the Reservoir” challenge seeks ideas to remove or transport the amount of sediment building up in the reservoirs, replacing available space for water storage, that provide critical water supplies for the country. There will be up to a total of $550,000 in cash prizes available for the three-phase the competition.

“Reclamation is the largest water wholesaler in the country, reliably delivering water and power in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner,” Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said. “We are excited for this prize competition and the new ideas that it will bring as we seek to better manage sedimentation at our facilities.”

This competition delivers on the Department of the Interior and Reclamation’s commitment to address challenges shared by Reclamation and its water customers and stakeholders for many years – how to extend the service life of our reservoirs in the face of accumulating reservoir sediments.

Sedimentation in reservoirs occurs when faster moving rivers transport sediment into slower moving water in reservoirs where it falls out and begins to fill the reservoir. Sedimentation reduces the amount of storage available in a reservoir, impacting the ability of reservoir owners to store water or reduce the risk of floods.

Reclamation is partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NASA Tournament Lab and HeroX on this crowdsourcing competition. To learn more about this competition, please visit

Reclamation conducts prize competitions to spur innovation by engaging a non-traditional, problem solver community. Through prize competitions, Reclamation complements traditional design research to target the most persistent science and technology challenges. It has awarded more than $1,000,000 in prizes through 22 competitions in the past 6 years. Please visit Reclamation’s Water Prize Competition Center to learn more.

Graphic credit: Gregory Morris/National Reservoir Sedimentation and Sustainability Team via H20 Radio

One of Denver’s most devastating hailstorms happened 30 years ago —

Hailstone formation.

I was working for a software company 30 years ago when this storm swept across the Denver Metro area from Boulder to my office near County Line Road and I-25. The storm just missed my house in North Denver (all of my neighbors got new roofs) and then travelled out to Douglas County and bashed my car into a golf ball looking mess. I remember one of my colleagues’ wife coming into the office quite upset. She had gotten caught on the road as it bashed out the back window of their SUV. From (Cory Reppenhagen):

On July 11, 1990, a thunderstorm gave Colorado a new definition of how bad a hailstorm could be.

The storm took a very unusual path, coming from the north and clinging to the west of Interstate-25 all the way to El Paso County. It hit peak intensity over the west Denver metro area.

Golf ball to baseball size hail slammed a large portion of the Denver area. Boulder, Arvada, Wheat Ridge, Golden and Lakewood took the heaviest damage.

At the time, the $625 million in damage far surpassed a June 1984 storm, which was also in the Denver metro area, as Colorado’s most damaging hailstorm.

When adjusted to 2020 dollars, the damage from the July 1990 storm stands at $1.23 billion, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. That benchmark that would stand atop the list of Colorado’s most damaging hailstorms until May 8, 2017, when a even more destructive storm caused $2.4 billion (adjusted for 2020) in damage…

July has been historically a bad hail month for Colorado, but then again, what month hasn’t?

The now most destructive storm happened in May. Four of the top 10 worst hailstorms in the state happened in June. The record largest hailstone ever recorded in our state fell in August last year. We typically say that a hailstorm like the one in July 1990, can happen any day between May 1, and the end of September, but there was even a rouge hailstorm on October 1, 1994 that still stands as the Colorado’s 10th most destructive hailstorm.

New Colorado records in 2019. Credit: Becky Bollinger/Colorado Climate Center

Headwaters Summer 2020: Keeping Up With Aging Infrastructure — @WaterEdCO

The Aging Infrastructure Issue

Colorado has grown and changed around the water infrastructure installed decades to more than a century ago, leaving today’s water users and managers to grapple with the prospect of failing pipes, dams and ditches—the result of age and a lack of routine maintenance. Now, though the challenges and costs to rebuild and repair are significant, Coloradans have new opportunities to do so thoughtfully. View or download a flipbook of the magazine.