Say hello to @Northern_Water’s new website

Screen shot of the new Northern Water website. Click the image to go to the website.

Click here to to the new website. Easy to navigate and find data:

Northern Water is proud to announce the launch of a new organizational website. The website offers a user-friendly experience with improved navigation and functionality.

With a modern, sleek design, the new website uses enhanced functionality, features and content to tell the story of Northern Water and its commitment to delivering water to more than 1 million people and 615,000 acres of irrigated farmland in Northeastern Colorado while protecting water quality on both sides of the Continental Divide.

Key features of the new website include:

  • Improved navigation that makes content easy to find;
  • A search engine that captures targeted results for visitors seeking specific information;
  • Mobile responsive design that allows website access from any device;
  • A new data portal that provides real-time data, water quality data and more;
  • A new customized water accounting portal that empowers water users to manage their portfolio, order and transfer water, and view important documents; and
  • A news blog to inform the public about Northern Water’s projects, programs and activities. New weekly content will ensure the public is kept up to date on the latest happenings.
  • The new website has been more than a year in the making with a primary goal of creating a user-friendly platform accessible from any device. Specifically, the goal was to make it easier for visitors to learn about the organization and its rich history, receive project updates and discover ways to more efficiently use water in their landscapes and daily lives.

    Paper: Multi-objective optimization of water treatment operations for disinfection byproduct control

    Click here to score a copy of the paper (William J. Raseman, Joseph R. Kasprzyk, R. Scott Summers, Amanda K. Hohner, and Fernando L. Rosario-Ortiz). Here’s the abstract:

    This paper introduces a novel decision-making framework for the optimization of water treatment plant operations. Managers at water utilities face increasing tensions between cost, public health risk, public perception, and regulatory compliance. Multi-objective optimization techniques have been developed to generate innovative solutions to environmental problems with competing objectives. By integrating these optimization techniques with water quality scenarios, water treatment modeling, and interactive visualization, our framework enables water managers to choose among an ensemble of optimal treatment operations. By automating the generation of treatment options, this paradigm represents a shift toward exploration and insight discovery in drinking water decision making. To illustrate this framework, we create a disinfection byproduct (DBP) management problem that incorporates the influence of competing risks and cost objectives on decision making. Using data from the Cache la Poudre River—a source water in Colorado with seasonally-varying water quality—and a hypothetical conventional treatment plant, we evaluate the impact of organic carbon increases on the performance of optimal treatment operations. These results suggest that the hypothetical utility should consider infrastructural improvements if organic carbon concentrations increase more than approximately 25% of maximum historical levels. An interactive exploration of the optimization results reveal to what extent there are tradeoffs between solids handling costs, chemical costs, and DBP exposure. A k-means clustering of these data illustrates that the utility can achieve compliance through a variety of treatment strategies depending on decision maker preferences for cost and risk.

    The job loss epidemic — @HighCountryNews #COVID19 #coronavirus

    From The High Country News (Jonathan Thompson) [July 23, 2020]:

    By February, the spread of COVID-19 was already eroding the global economy. First, global travel restrictions depressed the oil market. Then, as the virus reached pandemic proportions, it began hurting even the healthiest industries, throwing the global economy into the deepest rut since the Great Depression.

    The recession has been hard on clean energy, which was thriving at the end of last year despite unhelpful, even hostile, policies from the Trump administration. Between 2009 and 2019, solar and wind generation on the U.S. electrical grid shot up by 400%, even as overall electricity consumption remained fairly flat. Renewable facility construction outpaced all other electricity sources, but the disease’s effects have since rippled through the sector, wiping out much of its previous growth.

    Graphic credit: The High Country News

    Global supply chains for everything from solar panels to electric car components were the earliest victims, as governments shut down factories, first in China, then worldwide, to prevent transmission of the disease. Restrictions on construction further delayed utility-scalesolar and wind installations and hampered rooftop solar installations and energy efficiency projects. The setbacks are especially hard on the wind industry, because new wind farms must be up and running by the end of the year to take advantage of federal tax credits. Meanwhile, the general economic slowdown is diminishing financing for new renewable energy projects.

    Graphic credit: The High Country News

    Clean energy, which has shed more than 600,000 jobs since the pandemic’s onset, is only one of the many economic sectors that are hurting. In just three months, COVID-19 wiped out more than twice as many jobs as were lost during the entire Great Recession of 2008. The impacts have reverberated throughout the Western U.S., from coal mines to tourist towns, and from casinos to dairy farms. Some industries, including clean energy, bounced back slightly in June, as stay-at-home orders were dropped and businesses, factories and supply chains opened back up. But a full recovery — if it happens — will largely depend on government stimulus programs and could take years.

    Graphic credit: The High Country News

    In just three months, COVID-19 wiped out more than twice as many jobs as were lost during the entire Great Recession of 2008.

    Contracted workers clean mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Project in Nipton, California. In 2017, the facility employed over 65 workers and created 2,600 jobs during it’s three year construction period. Dennis Schroeder/National Renewable Energy Laboratory via The High Country News

    Infographic design by Luna Anna Archey; Graphics by Minus Plus; Sources: Solar Energy Industries Association, BW Research Partnership, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, New Mexico Workforce Connection, Utah Department of Workforce Services.

    Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster. Email him at

    Interview: Harmful Algal Blooms Are on the Rise — Here’s Why Stopping Them Is So Hard — The Revelator

    A dense floating mat of algae is seen on the Susquehanna Flats near Treasure Island and Havre de Grace, Md., on Aug. 2, 2019. Photo: Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program (CC BY-NC 2.0)

    From The Revalator (Tara Lohan):

    More frequent, longer-lasting blooms can harm both wildlife and human health — and even kill. Can we learn to predict and prevent them?

    From the fall of 2017 to the beginning of 2019, Florida endured a persistent and damaging algal bloom caused by the algae Karenia brevis, also known as red tide. The blooms formed in both Gulf and Atlantic waters, sickening people, killing birds, fish, dolphins, manatees and other marine animals, and driving visitors away from beach towns.

    Scientists say it’s a problem that’s going to get worse — and not just in Florida. Harmful algal blooms, which can occur in both fresh and marine waters, are becoming more frequent, lasting longer, and occurring in more places. In recent weeks news reports have warned residents in western New York, Utah and California to stay out of rivers and lakes clouded with these microscopic organisms that can sometimes be fatal to people, pets and wildlife.

    To be clear, not all algae are dangerous. In fact the vast majority are beneficial to ecosystems. They’re the base of the marine and aquatic food webs, providing nutrients for fish and shellfish, which in turn feed other animals — including people. They also produce half of our oxygen.

    “But a small handful of these organisms are harmful,” says phytoplankton ecologist Pat Glibert of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

    We spoke with Glibert about this tiny — but dangerous group — of algae, why they’re becoming more problematic, and what we can do to protect people and ecosystems.

    When algae are deemed to be harmful, what is it that they’re harming and how?

    University of Maryland phytoplankton ecologist Pat Glibert. Photo: Courtesy of Pat Glibert via The Revelator

    Some algae can grow to levels that just create a nuisance. They can overwhelm the system and when they die, their decomposition uses up oxygen, causing dead zones in the sea or fresh waters.

    In the case of red tides — named because they visibly color the water a red or sometimes brownish color — their growth reduces the light penetration in the water. So the organisms that live near the bottom, such as sea grasses, are harmed, and the organisms that depend on that bed of grass in the water are also harmed.

    But some of these species actually make toxins that can cause fish kills or harm to other marine organisms. And they can also cause harm for humans when we consume the fish or shellfish that has consumed these organisms.

    These harmful algal blooms can occur all over. What are the regional differences in the kind of algae and their potential harm?

    In marine waters we are primarily concerned with a group of organisms called dinoflagellates. And in fresh waters, the major organisms of concern fall in a category called cyanobacteria. They make very different toxins and have very different effects both environmentally as well as with regard to human health.

    The freshwater toxins are concerning for a number of reasons. On initial exposure one may have a skin rash or something uncomfortable that’s relatively mild. But they can get into drinking water and, over a long period of exposure, they are tumor promoters. We know liver cancer is associated with these toxins, and there’s increasing evidence that the freshwater toxins can also be associated with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or ALS. There’s a lot of work going in right now to understand that relationship.

    In marine waters we’re typically exposed to toxins through shellfish. The shellfish themselves are not affected by these toxins because a lot of them affect the nervous system and shellfish don’t have a nervous system. But shellfish can accumulate the toxin. One of the diseases that we are very concerned about comes from saxitoxin, which is most common if one is eating mussels. It’s from the dinoflagellate Alexandrium and it can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. It results in respiratory paralysis. With a high enough dose people do die.

    A different toxin is the Florida red tide. That toxin can become aerosolized. If people breathe that sea spray at the beach it can cause respiratory distress, including coughing. Many people can end up going to the hospital, but people aren’t likely to die from it. The other thing that many of the toxins cause is an upset stomach that may take a couple of days to get over, but people do recover.

    What about the effects on wildlife?

    That depends on the species of algae. But some things like Karenia brevis in Florida are indiscriminate killers. Fish, turtles, manatees are all affected.

    Dead fish on the shore of Padre Island as a result of a harmful algal bloom. Photo: Terry Ross, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    In California there’s a toxic diatom species, Pseudo-nitzschia, and it seems to affect sea lions and other large marine organisms. They tend to show symptoms very similar to epilepsy and disorientation. Death is one end point, but there are many other impacts on these organisms as well.

    What’s driving the growth of these harmful algal blooms?

    We certainly know that blooms are increasing in frequency, in geographic extent, and in duration in many parts of the United States and the world. A lot of this is due to the fact that we are polluting these waters with nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from the land.

    Nutrient pollution can come from wastewater, whether it’s discharged from municipal sewage treatment plants or from septic systems. We don’t always do an adequate job, in many places, of removing those nutrients.

    That’s one source. A second is runoff from fertilizer application, particularly from agricultural use, but we use a lot of these fertilizers on our lawns, golf courses and gardens as well.

    And then there’s the waste from concentrated animal feeding operations, whether it’s chickens or pigs or dairy. A lot of that waste is either held in lagoons and ultimately spread on land. Or it goes into the atmosphere and then comes down with rain. So these operations themselves are highly concentrated sources of pollution that end up in waterways.

    The other issue is that the climate is changing. Waters are getting warmer. Many organisms grow better when waters are warmer. That’s true for some of these [algae] species.

    But because of climate change we’re also seeing changes in precipitation. We’re having more storms in some areas, more hurricanes, and because the atmosphere is now warmer, when those hurricanes do develop, they are often holding more moisture. So hurricanes become wetter. That means that the rain that comes with these storms washes more of these nutrients into the sea.

    What can we do to reduce these blooms?

    This is a very difficult problem to solve. The ultimate solution is to try to reduce nutrients that are winding their way into our fresh and marine waters.

    At a personal level, we can reduce the amount of nutrient fertilizer we put on our own lawns, but the pollution that comes from the concentrated animal operations, from municipal sewage and from crop agriculture are the big issues that we have to solve. And they’re going to be very difficult to solve because we have to continue to grow our food.

    There are approaches that people are taking to try to address blooms at the time that they occur, methods to apply various products to reduce the bloom. There is some success in applying clay to the surface of the water that causes the dinoflagellates to fall to the bottom of the bay or estuary. But those are very localized solutions.

    Aerial photo of an algal bloom in Virginia’s James River near the Monitor-Merrimack Bridge. Photo: Wolfgang K. Vogelbein, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    The other approach that we are taking is to build mathematical models of when and why and where a bloom may occur and use that as an early warning system. So we may not be able to solve the problem, but at least we can protect human health or seafood resources before a problem occurs.

    There are also a number of exciting areas of research. One is my own, which focuses on understanding these organisms from their physiology — how they obtain their nutrients, how they make toxins, why they make toxins. How is nutrient pollution related to not only growth of the algae but production of their toxin?

    Also the other area that I think is so exciting is really pulling all of these factors together in building predictive models and using models to ask questions of “what if we did this, what would it show”? Or “what if we did that, what would be that effect”? We’re making great progress, but the problem is still a very large one.

    Has our response to the problem matched the scale of what’s needed and the urgency of the issue?

    It always seems to be in the forefront at the time there’s a bloom. And then as soon as that bloom subsides, the public interest and the interest in solving the problem go away.

    Clearly we need more money to address issues of nutrient pollution. We need to upgrade sewage treatment plants. We need to address the fact that so much of the country still depends on septic systems or very small “package plant” [treatment systems] that do nothing to reduce nutrients.

    The issue of concentrated animal waste is enormous because the animal waste isn’t treated and does make its way into the environment by land or sea or atmosphere, and ultimately gets discharged into waterways.

    We need more attention on those issues. We need more attention on developing preventative measures. We need to have more approaches to protect human health from these events because they are going to be increasing.

    The outlook is for more blooms and longer blooms in more places if we don’t address all of these problems of nutrient pollution and climate change collectively.

    Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.

    New manager takes reins of Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District #YampaRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridifiction

    The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

    From The Steamboat Pilot & Today (Derek Maiolo):

    Andy Rossi now manages the conservation district following more than a decadelong tenure with the group. The change comes after the retirement of former manager Kevin McBride, who managed the district since 2009.

    Rossi joined the group that same year as its district engineer. His knowledge of the district’s facilities and operations near the headwaters of the Yampa River, namely Yamcolo and Stagecoach reservoirs, was a major factor in the board’s decision to promote him, according to a news release. Before that, he worked at multiple consulting firms specializing in water resources…

    Rossi also will oversee the implementation of the district’s new strategic plan. Among the plan’s goals include developing long-term financial sustainability, protecting local water from out-of-district transfers and improving watershed management.

    With regards to that last goal, Rossi noted a need to utilize new technology and scientific-based studies for water management. For example, one of the panelists at a recent Yampa Basin Rendezvous discussion, snowpack researcher Dr. Jeffrey Deems, described his work with the Airborne Snow Observatory.

    The observatory uses specialized aircraft equipped with sensors to collect data on snowmelt across entire regions of mountains and their waterways. The data has helped communities to better manage their water supplies.

    According to Deems, the Kings River Water Association in California was able to avoid a flood declaration in 2019, which led to savings of $100 million, by basing its dam release policy on forecasts from the Airborne Snow Observatory instead of traditional measurements.

    Rossi said he would like to incorporate some of the observatory’s data next year on a trial basis, which also would help the researchers receive feedback on the new technology…

    These efforts have the overarching goal of preserving the health of the Yampa River for the people, plants and creatures that depend upon it. Rossi described the river as the most important natural resource in the area.

    “It is the natural resource that defines this valley,” he said.

    To that end, Rossi aims to maintain the district’s existing facilities, such as the dam at Stagecoach Reservoir, which not only helps to meet water demands for a growing community but also generates hydroelectric power.

    The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District formed in 1966 following the passage of the Water Conservancy Act of the state of Colorado. Its mission has been conserving, developing and stabilizing supplies of water for irrigation, power generation, manufacturing and other uses.

    Stagecoach Reservoir. Photo credit Upper Yampa River Water Conservancy District.

    @EPA Announces $4.3 Million for Tribes to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water in Schools

    Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

    Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency:

    New grant program continues implementation of…Administration’s Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposure

    (July 30, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new grant program to help protect children in tribal communities from lead in drinking water at schools and childcare facilities. With this action, the agency is continuing to make meaningful progress under the Trump Administration’s Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures by engaging with tribes and working to protect childrens’ health in these underserved communities.

    “Protecting children in tribal communities from lead in drinking water is a priority for the Trump Administration and EPA,” said U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This new funding helps tribes further reduce lead in drinking water by boosting testing for lead in schools and childcare centers. This, in turn, will increase the health and wellbeing of the coming generation.”

    Authorized by the Water Infrastructure Improvements of the Nation (WIIN) Act, EPA is making $4.3 million available to support the Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program Drinking Water Tribal Grant Program. Grantees will use the EPA’s 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water guidance to implement lead testing programs and develop monitoring, maintenance and/or sampling plans that protect children from lead exposure now and in the future. Beneficiaries of the program must be members of a federally-recognized tribe. EPA will host a webinar in August to provide more information about the 3Ts toolkit and an overview of the grant and its scope.

    For more information, visit


    While the U.S. has made tremendous progress in lowering children’s blood lead levels, some children are still exposed to high levels of lead. In December 2018, EPA with other federal partners announced the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures. Today’s announcement continues the agency’s significant progress in implementing this plan.