Some good news on funding for water: Sports betting tax revenue gaining strength — @WaterEdCO

The 2015 Colorado Water Plan, on a shelf, at the CU law library. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Water Education Colorado (Sarah Kuta):

Coloradans legally bet more than $1.1 billion on sports in 2020, exceeding expectations and funneling some cash to the Colorado Water Plan sooner than anticipated.

Colorado collected more than $3.4 million in sports betting taxes in 2020, with operators running from May through December. Voters agreed to legalize and tax sports betting in November 2019 with the passage of Proposition DD, which also directed much of the tax revenue to the Colorado Water Plan, a comprehensive vision for the state’s water future created in 2015.

Colorado’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30, which makes the sports betting numbers even more promising, since December was only the halfway mark for the current fiscal year. From July to December 2020 — the first half of the current 2020-21 fiscal year — Colorado collected $3.1 million in sports betting tax revenue.

Even with six months remaining in the fiscal year — a span that includes big-time sporting events like the Super Bowl, March Madness, the Kentucky Derby and more — that $3.1 million is already double the gaming division’s initial projections of $1.5 million to $1.8 million for the full 2020-21 fiscal year. That means the Colorado Water Plan could see sports betting funds as soon as this fall, a year earlier than initially projected.

“We took a very conservative approach based on how fast the market would pick up, how fast people would embrace it, what effect we were going to have on moving people from the black market to the regular market, and we’ve just really blown all of those things out of the water — no pun intended for the water front,” said Dan Hartman, director of the Colorado Division of Gaming. “We really moved a lot of needles a lot further, a lot faster that we thought we were going to. We’re optimistic and really excited about where sports betting is and, ultimately, that there’s going to be better-than-projected amounts going to the water plan.”

Based on tax revenue collected in the first half of the current fiscal year, and factoring in the other ways sports betting tax revenue must be spent under the new law, the water plan so far stands to gain a little more than $1 million — and counting.

That’s still well short of the $100 million officials estimate they need each year in new funding to accomplish the water plan’s goals by 2050, but sports betting was never expected to fully fund the water plan — and every little bit counts, said Alec Garnett, D-Denver, the lead sponsor of the sports betting bill.

“We’ve always known that Coloradans love sports. We always knew that there was a black market and that people were already doing this,” Garnett said. “From a regulatory standpoint, I feel very strong and good about what these numbers mean for the market we created.”

If these early numbers are any indication, the sports betting program is likely to continue to grow in future years as the market matures and sports calendars get back to normal.

Though he has not created an official updated projection based on 2020’s wagers and tax revenue, Hartman said he believes annual sports betting tax revenue could double by next year.

“I’m comfortable in projecting that we’re probably on pace to do twice as much next year as we did this year,” Hartman said.

Sports betting got off to a slow start in Colorado, since it launched in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic when many sporting events were canceled. But as the sports betting program got underway and more live sporting events were held (often without fans in the seats), the tax revenue started growing.

Even so, before any of that money goes to the Colorado Water Plan, the gaming division must first pay back the $1.7 million lawmakers allocated from the state’s general fund to start the new sports betting program, which will likely happen at the beginning of March, Hartman said. The program’s ongoing operating costs are paid for with fees from licensed sports betting operators in the state, which now number 17.

The gaming division must also set aside 6 percent of tax revenue for a hold-harmless fund, provide $130,000 per year to the Colorado Department of Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health, and give $30,000 per year to Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners to operate a gambling hotline.

Any remaining tax revenue can then go to the Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund, pending the approval of the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission, according to Suzi Karrer, a spokesperson for the Colorado Division of Revenue.

“The gaming commission will take that up in one of their meetings in the fall,” Hartman said. “Legislatively, it’s been turned over to the commission to follow the formula and give [the funds] to the beneficiaries.”

The early sports betting numbers were also a small bright spot for the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), the state agency tasked with administering the water plan, which expects to be rationing much of its current funding over the next two years.

CWCB hasn’t received any of the sports betting tax revenue yet and, since it’s difficult to predict how much Coloradans will wager in future years, the agency hasn’t yet made plans for spending it.

“Based on what has been collected so far, sports betting revenue does look promising as an additional — and more permanent — funding source for the water plan and important water projects, but again, it is still new, and we really don’t know yet what the revenue generation capacity will be,” said Sara Leonard, CWCB spokesperson.

As of right now, the CWCB is not planning to ask the Colorado Legislature to allocate funding to the Colorado Water Plan for the next two years and will instead rely on the 2020-21 allocation of $7.5 million, according to Leonard and state budget officials speaking at recent CWCB meetings.

The approval of the new sports betting tax, which created a dedicated funding source for the Colorado Water Plan, was an accomplishment in a state where voters have historically rejected statewide water funding efforts. But it’s still not enough to meet the ambitious goals outlined in the plan.

To that end, state and local water leaders plan to re-start conversations about water funding this month. Those talks will begin at the Feb. 23 meeting of the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC), according to the committee’s director Russell George. The IBCC, created in 2005, is a statewide public board that helps set policy and coordinate talks between river basins.

“We’re going to re-ignite that large discussion and see where we can go,” said George during his Jan. 25 update to the CWCB. “I don’t have to tell you the need for an input, an infusion of capital, in all of the things that we’re trying to do…It’ll just be the beginning of a conversation that I think’s going to go on until we’ve succeeded.”

Garnett said he wasn’t aware of any upcoming legislation related to new funding sources for the water plan, but said he was happy that funding for Colorado’s water future remains in the public eye.

“There’s just a lot of focus on this area because of the pressures that are being put on our most precious natural resource,” he said. “It’s always hard to find dedicated revenue streams in Colorado and it was certainly a hard process to get Proposition DD passed. I’m sure everyone has their eyes wide open about the challenges.”

Sarah Kuta is a freelance writer based in Longmont, Colorado. She can be reached at sarahkuta@gmail.com.

What exactly is the #PolarVortex? — The Conversation


The polar vortex influences the jet stream, which can bring cold winter weather to the U.S. and Europe.
AP Photo/Bill Sikes

Zachary Lawrence, University of Colorado Boulder and Amy Butler, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

At the start of February 2021, a major snowstorm hit the northeast United States, with some areas receiving well over two feet of snow. Just a few weeks earlier, Spain experienced a historic and deadly snowstorm and dangerously low temperatures. Northern Siberia is no stranger to cold, but in mid-January 2021, some Siberian cities reported temperatures below minus 70 F (minus 56 C). Media headlines hint that the polar vortex has arrived, as if it were some sort of ice tornado that wreaks wintry havoc wherever it strikes.

As atmospheric scientists, we cringe when the term polar vortex is used to loosely refer to blasts of cold weather. The actual polar vortex can’t put snow in your backyard, but changes in the polar vortex can load the dice for wintry weather – and this year, the dice rolled Yahtzee.

A man skies through Times Square in New York City.
A weak polar vortex in early 2021 created a curvy jet stream that brought cold and winter storms to the northeastern U.S.
AP Photo/John Minchillo

The winds of winter

The polar vortex is an enormous, three-dimensional ring of winds that surrounds the North and South poles during each hemisphere’s winter. These winds are located about 10 to 30 miles (16 to 50 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, in the layer of the atmosphere known as the stratosphere. They blow from west to east with sustained speeds easily exceeding 100 mph (160 kph). In the darkness of the winter polar night, temperatures within the polar vortex can easily get lower than minus 110 F (minus 79 C).

Fortunately for everyone, the stratospheric polar vortex itself won’t appear outside your front door. The polar vortex does influence winter weather, but it is more like a domino – when it is knocked over, it can start a chain of events that later result in wild weather.

The strength of the polar vortex can vary widely during winter, and these variations can lead to shifts in the strength and position of the jet stream, the fast-flowing river of air in the troposphere beneath the polar vortex. When the jet stream changes, it affects the movement of weather systems, causing different parts of the world to see much warmer or colder, or much wetter or drier conditions.

The disruption of the polar vortex during the beginning of 2021 was dramatic. Zachary Lawerence/CIRES/NOAA.

The domino effect

Since the Earth’s atmosphere is one giant shell of air that moves like a fluid, the polar vortex is interconnected with the weather that moves around the Earth at lower altitudes. Normal variations in the jet stream and weather can disturb the structure of the vortex in the stratosphere. Like an elastic band, the vortex usually rebounds back to its normal shape and size, maintaining its strong winds and low temperatures.

Two side by side images showing the polar vortex as a nice circle over the north pole and another one showing it offset and deformed into an L-shape.
Between December (left) and January (right), the polar vortex moved entirely off the North Pole and lost much of its structural integrity.
Zachary Lawrence/CIRES/NOAA

But sometimes, these weather and jet stream variations can knock the polar vortex off balance, causing significant wobbles in its shape, location, temperatures and winds. When this happens, the structural integrity of the polar vortex begins to break down. If this happens often enough over a period of time, everything can go haywire with the polar vortex as the winds break down and the vortex warms up.

Side by side images showing a relatively circular jet stream and a very wavy jet stream.
As the polar vortex deforms between December and January, the jet stream became much wavier and brought cold storms farther south.
Zachary Lawrence/CIRES/NOAA

This is precisely what has unfolded this year: On Jan. 5, the polar vortex was completely thrown out of whack by an event called a sudden stratospheric warming. Sudden stratospheric warming is the technical name for these violent disturbances that severely distort and weaken the vortex, knocking it off of the pole or even ripping it apart. When this happens, temperatures in the normally cold polar stratosphere explosively rise by as much as 90 F (50 C) over the span of a few days – hence the name of these events.

At this point, the domino has tipped over: Eventually the jet stream feels the effects of the weakened polar vortex above, and it can begin to undulate. When the jet stream gets wavy, it can dip farther south, bringing cold air and winter storms with it.

The January 2021 event pushed the polar vortex from its normal position over the North Pole all the way over to Europe and Siberia, nearly pulling it apart multiple times in the process. It can take weeks or months for the polar vortex to recover from something like this. While the vortex pieces itself back together, the undulating, curvy jet stream can bring frigid Arctic air and winter storms to the U.S. and Europe while allowing unusually warm weather to get into the far north.

A strong polar vortex means warmer, not colder, weather

In some winters, weather systems barely affect the polar vortex at all, allowing the vortex to grow colder with faster winds. This can have the opposite effect on the jet stream, causing it to keep cold Arctic air from the polar regions locked up north. This is what happened during the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2020, when the polar vortex was extraordinarily strong and many regions experienced an exceptionally warm and mild winter.

Calling any blast of cold air a polar vortex is wrong. The behavior of the polar vortex doesn’t just portend colder weather – it can also foreshadow much warmer weather. Most of the time the polar vortex has little influence on winter weather as it flows like normal, miles above the surface. But forecasting and monitoring huge disturbances to the polar vortex allows us to anticipate the chain of events that may leave feet of snow and frigid weather at your doorstep.

[The Conversation’s science, health and technology editors pick their favorite stories. Weekly on Wednesdays.]The Conversation

Zachary Lawrence, Research Scientist, University of Colorado Boulder and Amy Butler, Chemistry & Climate Processes Research Scientist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Diving in to inspect pipes from the inside out — News on Tap

From Denver Water (Jay Adams):

High-tech device ‘swims’ through Denver Water pipelines looking for trouble spots.

How do you inspect a water pipeline buried several feet underground and far too small to safely walk through?

In some cases, you send in a tool specifically designed to go with the flow and collect data along the way.

In the fall of 2020, Denver Water tested a somewhat unusual looking, high-tech device called a PipeDiver to inspect several miles of buried pipeline.

The PipeDiver is a state-of-the-art piece of equipment operated by Pure Technologies, a division of Xylem Inc., a company that specializes in pipeline monitoring and assessments for clients around the world. The company has been using the tool for inspections since 2010.

“We have about 3,000 miles of pipes in the metro area and we take a proactive approach toward monitoring their condition,” said Devin Shable, an engineer at Denver Water. “We have several methods to inspect our pipelines, but this was our first time using the PipeDiver.”

Workers from Pure Technologies carefully insert the PipeDiver into a water pipeline. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Denver Water used the PipeDiver to inspect two pipelines, a 3.7- mile stretch of pipe in Centennial that runs under open space, University Boulevard, East Dry Creek Road and Colorado Boulevard. The other inspection was on a 2-mile stretch of pipe under West Alameda Avenue and West Bayaud Street in Denver’s Baker and Valverde neighborhoods. The pipelines range in size from 30 to 36 inches in diameter.

Over time, pipelines can deteriorate, leading to leaks and ruptures. Many sources of stress from inside and outside the pipe can take a toll on a pipeline’s condition. These sources include soil type, how the soil interacts with the pipe, age, pipe material and how the pipe was constructed.

“Based on problems we’ve had on other pipelines of similar age and conditions, we wanted to do a thorough assessment of these two pipelines to see if there are any issues,” Shable said. “Proactive inspections are a critical part of our operations to prevent pipe breaks.”

Shable said buried pipelines are challenging to inspect for many reasons.

A Pure Technologies worker checks the balance of the PipeDiver in a pool before inspection. Photo credit: Denver Water.

First off, exterior inspections of pipelines would be costly and very disruptive to the community, as they would require large excavations to expose long exterior sections of pipe for inspection.

As for inspecting a pipe from the inside, some pipes are too small for a person to walk through. Even if a pipe is large enough, there are many safety and logistical challenges to overcome before allowing someone to perform an internal “manned” inspection.

Another challenge is that traditional “manned” inspections require draining a pipe, which can lead to lengthy disruptions in water service to customers.

The PipeDiver solves many of these issues.

“One of the biggest benefits of the PipeDiver is that we can leave a pipeline in service while we do the condition assessment,” said Brian Hext, project manager for Pure Technologies. “This tool can be more convenient for water utilities.”

The PipeDiver allows water utilities to keep a pipeline in service during an inspection. Photo credit: Denver Water.

But using the PipeDiver to inspect a buried pipeline still requires extensive planning, coordination and proper execution.

“Each time we do an inspection, we have to custom build the PipeDiver for the specific type and size of the pipe,” Hext said. “For Denver Water, we used two different PipeDivers for the two pipelines.”

The PipeDivers used for the Denver Water inspections look like 10-foot-long, mini-submarines made of several tube-like canisters that contain the electronics systems.

The articulated sections of the PipeDiver allow it to bend around sharp turns in the pipeline, much like the joint at the middle of a “bendy bus” allows it to weave through city streets.

On the front of the PipeDiver is a special nose that helps guide it through valves inside the pipeline. About 24 flexible, flower-like plastic petals stick out of each section to keep the device centered in the pipe as it moves along.

The PipeDiver is equipped with either ultrasonic or electromagnetic technology to inspect concrete or metallic pipes. Photo credit: Pure Technologies.

One of the PipeDivers used in Denver Water’s inspections was equipped with high-definition cameras on the tail to capture images inside the pipe.

“We like to joke that it looks a little bit like a prehistoric fish,” Hext said. “It does not have a motor and simply uses the flow of the water to move through the pipe.”

Crews must carefully assemble, test, balance and disinfect the device before each inspection.

Maintaining safe water quality is critical during the inspection process. In addition to an extensive cleaning and disinfection process for the PipeDiver, Denver Water had a water quality operations expert on hand to run tests during the inspection to ensure the utilities’ safe drinking water standards were not impacted by the inspection.

Once the PipeDiver is put together, the Pure Technologies team inserts it into an access point in the pipeline. The devices are equipped with GPS technology so crews can keep track of them as they float through the pipe.

After the PipeDiver completes its route, crews use custom-designed nets to catch the device and pull it out of the pipe.

The PipeDiver goes through several rounds of disinfection before being inserted into the pipeline. Photo credit: Pure Technologies.

To inspect pipes made of metal, such as cast iron, the PipeDivers are fitted with ultrasonic technology while electromagnetic technology is used to inspect pipes made of concrete.

“What we’re looking for with the concrete pipe are the wires wrapped around the pipe that help hold it together,” Hext said. “If those wires break, it can cause the pipe to burst.”

This photo is an example of a prestressed concrete cylinder pipe with wire damage. Photo credit: Denver Water.

The ultrasonic technology used for metallic pipes measures the thickness of the pipe and areas of corrosion.

“If we find a place where the thickness is less than what it should be, we pinpoint that location as a potential issue,” he said.

“As with any new inspection technique, there was a learning curve that we had to work through to complete the inspection with the PipeDiver tool,” Shable said.

Denver Water crews worked with the Pure Technologies team to open all the valves in the pipeline, to give the PipeDiver a clear path through the pipe sections it was inspecting. Another challenge involved adjusting the flow of water through the pipes to ensure the PipeDiver moved at the optimal speed for data collection.

Denver Water crews adjust valves and the flow of water for the inspection. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Following the inspection, Pure Technologies will analyze the data from the inspections and then send reports with the findings to Denver Water.

“The inspection went well and the PipeDiver did its job,” said Luke Switzer, field team leader with Pure Technologies. “We should be able to get some good data to help Denver Water make informed decisions down the road.”

In addition to using the PipeDiver, Denver Water’s proactive approach to assessing pipelines includes “manned” inspection techniques and real-time pipeline monitoring equipment.

Manned inspections require draining the water from the pipeline to allow for an inspector to walk through and assess the pipe.

Denver Water used the PipeDivers for the first time during two inspections in 2020. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Real-time monitoring equipment, used on some sections of important pipelines, includes the use of acoustic fiber optic monitoring systems (read a TAP story about that technology here) and equipment designed to detect pressure changes and leaks.

Data from inspections also helps in the planning process of prioritizing when pipes should be replaced. This is important because replacing large water pipelines is expensive. For example, a project to replace 2,205 feet of pipeline in north Denver in 2020 cost nearly $4 million dollars.

Denver Water uses inspection data as well as other factors including number of leaks, breaks, maintenance projects and outages to collect a full picture of a pipelines’ overall health.

Once all the information is compiled, the utility decides if small “targeted” repairs are needed or if certain sections need to be repaired to maintain a desired level of pipeline reliability.

If those options are not deemed to be cost effective, then full replacement of the entire pipeline may be needed.

“Having a good understanding of the condition of the pipe allows us to make decisions about the timing of replacement and allows us to push expensive projects out into the future,” Shable said. “The inspections help inform our decisions on what we need to address today and what we need to plan for down the road.”

Jim Broderick received Aspinall Award from the #Colorado Water Congress

Jim Broderick. Photo credit: The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

Jim Broderick honored by Colorado Water Congress with Wayne N. Aspinall Award

Jim Broderick, a Pueblo native who has spearheaded regional and state water projects for nearly two decades, was given the top honor at the 2021 Colorado Water Congress convention.
Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, was presented the 2021 Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” award at the CWC virtual water conference Tuesday.

“What a great honor,” Broderick said, after being surprised by the award. “Let me thank the past winners for this award. I’d also like to thank the Southeastern Board of Directors for giving me the opportunity to do the work I love to do. I have been privileged to have people on staff who have helped me… Most of all, I thank my wife (Cindy) and daughter (Amy).”

“I couldn’t be more honored to present this award,” said Christine Arbogast, a water consultant who received the Aspinall Award in 2020. She grew up in Pueblo at the same time as Broderick, and works for the Southeastern District.

Southeastern Board President Bill Long praised Broderick for advancing the Excess Capacity Master Contract for storage in Pueblo Reservoir, hydroelectric power at Pueblo Dam, and the Arkansas Valley Conduit, as well as other District improvements.

Eric Wilkinson, retired executive director of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and an Aspinall Award recipient himself, praised Broderick for his service to Water Congress.

Also on hand for the presentation were Southeastern Board Members Alan Hamel (a 2012 Aspinall recipient), Kevin Karney and Seth Clayton, who were gathered for a presentation on AVC immediately following the Aspinall presentation.

Broderick said he had no idea he was there for anything other than the AVC presentation.

Although about 250 people were in the virtual meeting at the time, only a few were in the Zoom meeting room with Broderick. Normally, there would be a larger crowd, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, only a few presenters were on-screen during the presentation.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Broderick was named executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District on November 1, 2002. The Southeastern District is the state authority for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which was created by an Act of Congress in 1962. Its primary purpose is to deliver a supplemental supply of water to the Arkansas River basin from the upper reaches of the Colorado River.

At the helm of the Southeastern District, Broderick completed the Excess Capacity Master Contract for storage in Pueblo Reservoir. The contract enables stakeholders to store non-Project water in Pueblo Reservoir for 40 years when space is available. The Master Contract covers environmental compliance issues which otherwise would require annual analysis, and firms up storage options for participants.

Broderick oversaw the construction of a 7.5-megawatt hydroelectric power plant at Pueblo Dam under a Lease of Power Privilege with the Bureau of Reclamation. The facility opened in 2019 and the Southeastern Board voted to name the James W. Broderick Hydropower Plant in his honor. The plant provides a source of clean energy, which is being purchased by the city of Fountain and Fort Carson (through Colorado Springs Utilities).

Broderick revived the Arkansas Valley Conduit project, meeting with stakeholders for a decade, shepherding the AVC through the NEPA process, working with Reclamation to develop AVC, and tirelessly urging Congress to fund the AVC. Those efforts paid off in 2020 with the first federal appropriation for construction of the AVC, which will begin by early 2022. The AVC will be a 130-mile long pipeline that will provide fresh drinking water to 40 communities with 50,000 people east of Pueblo.

Broderick in 2020 completed a two-year term as President of the Colorado River Water Users Association, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides a forum to exchange ideas and perspectives on the Colorado River. Its members include Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and the Ten Tribes Partnership. The group also works closely with Mexico. During his tenure at the helm, the seven states reached a Drought Contingency Plans agreement that describes how states will operate if there is a shortfall of water on the Colorado River basin.

Broderick is past president of the Colorado Water Congress and Arkansas Basin Roundtable. He is also a member of the National Water Resources Association and Family Farm Alliance.

He also served as a director for the Arizona Water and Pollution Control Association from 1996-1999, resided as president on the board from 2001-2002, chaired the Arizona Section of AWWA from 2001-2002., and was President of the Arizona section of WEF from 2001-2002.

Prior to joining the Southeastern District, Broderick was the Business Administrator for Tucson Water which served 700,000 customers at the time in Tucson, Arizona. In that position, he oversaw Financial Services, Operations & Maintenance Budgets, Capital Budgets, Rate and Revenues analysis, Asset Management, Information Technology Systems, Customer Service and Billing, Enterprise Call Center, Meter Reading, Demand-side Energy Efficiency Planning and reengineering for a multi-site operations.