Aspinall Unit operations update: Coordination meeting January 19, 2023

Part of the memorial to Wayne Aspinall in Palisade. Aspinall, a Democrat, is a legend in the water sector, and is the namesake of the annual award given by the Colorado Water Congress. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The next coordination meeting for the operation of the Aspinall Unit is scheduled for Thursday, January 19th, 2023 at 1:00 pm

As of now, the meeting is planned to be held in person as well as virtually. 

The meeting is planned to be held at the Western Colorado Area Office in Grand Junction, CO. Even if the in-person meeting needs to be cancelled, the meeting will still be held via webinar.

Information for connecting to the meeting virtually will be emailed out prior to the meeting, along with the agenda and handouts.

New state senate district: For Simpson, it’s still about #water — @AlamosaCitizen #SanJuanValley #RioGrande

Cleve simpson, Colorado Senate District 6 map. Credit: The Alamosa Citizen

Click the link to read the article on the Alamosa Citizen website (Chris Lopez):

WHEN State Sen. Cleave Simpson reports for duty at the Colorado Capitol this week, he does so representing a newdistrict that was carved out as part of the 2021 Colorado redistricting process.

What isn’t changing is his legislative focus and the issues he plans to continue working on. He also has some serious thinking to do, specifically on what his political future may look like entering 2024.

Colorado redistricting shifted Simpson into Senate District 6 which consists of the San Luis Valley’s six counties and then lower southwest Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and counties north to Montrose County. In 2020, when he was first elected, he represented state Senate District 35 which included the San Luis Valley and counties of southeastern Colorado.

“It’s really about people, and honestly it will still be about water,” Simpson told Alamosa Citizen ahead of the 2023 legislative session. “Folks on the Rio Grande and the Arkansas (River) worry about water. The folks on the Western Slope, given the condition of the Colorado River and how much water gets moved out of that transbasin to support front range interests, that similarity will continue and that sense of urgency may even escalate more going west.”

AS a Republican in a Colorado Senate controlled by Democrats, Simpson finds himself in an oddly comfortable spot. In his two years as state senator, he’s managed to carve out a reputation as a leading bipartisan legislator who Republicans and Democrats alike can work with.

He has major pieces of bipartisan legislation to his name, including Colorado’s 988 Crisis Hotline in 2021 and the Groundwater Compact Compliance Fund which remarkably sailed through both the state senate and state house with no opposition in the 2022 session. He’s also focused his early legislative work on behavioral health legislation and sits on the legislature’s influential Capitol Development Committee and his favorite, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.

“I like to think I spent two years building some credibility where folks will listen to what’s important to me, which is hopefully what’s important to rural Colorado,” he said.

“It’s been very intentional,” he said of his bipartisan approach, “but it’s also who I am. I didn’t change who I was when I got elected to the legislature. It feels like I’ve built that reputation in two years and folks on the other side of the aisle are always willing to engage with me.”

Not always the case with the Colorado Republican Party. He still smarts about the time the party chair wouldn’t help when he was rallying state leaders to oppose the proposed transbasin diversion of water from the Rio Grande to Douglas County that former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, a fellow Republican, is behind through Renewable Water Resources. Owens himself has called out Simpson. “When the attorney general and state Sen. Cleave Simpson claim they will do all they can to stop the voluntary selling of water rights, they are saying to Coloradans that they know better than you do what to do with your private property,” Owens penned in an op/ed published just a year ago.

Will he run again?

Simpson finds himself uncomfortable with the politics of the time and wonders if he will run again when his state senate term expires in two years. His job as general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and farming with his dad and son provide him with more than enough to do. When he travels north for legislative work he thinks about the work he’s leaving behind and wonders if being a gentleman legislator it’s what he truly wants to do.

Friends back home in the Valley are in his ear about running again in 2024, some even suggesting he challenge Rep. Lauren Boebert to represent the 3rd Congressional District. He’s heard the calls and understands the water issues he cares so much about will find their way to the nation’s capital.

Like others in the water community he’s frustrated by Boebert’s apparent lack of engagement on the critical issues of the Colorado and Rio Grande basins. There was frustration at the Rio Grande Water Conservation District that a federal House bill called the Rio Grande Water Security Act was introduced last session by New Mexico Rep. Melanie Stansbury without their knowledge and without Boebert, their congressperson’s, involvement.

The bill actually made it out of the House but was detoured through the U.S. Senate through political maneuvering to make sure it wouldn’t advance into law. Simpson and his team at the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, along with staff in U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s office, helped bring attention to the flaws they saw in the bill.

If Simpson is tempted to challenge Boebert it would be because of the water issues on the Colorado and Rio Grande basins.

He’s vowed to work the 2023 legislative session and then give more thought to his political future. He has a new state senate district to represent and spent the summer traveling to Telluride, Cortez, Durango and other communities west of the San Luis Valley which coincidentally aligns to the 3rd Congressional District.

“They are definitely different, but they are also similar in a lot of respects,” he said of representing communities west of the San Luis Valley versus his travels east the past two years.

“It’s still rural Colorado,” he said. “The southeast is dominated by irrigated agriculture. There is certainly an abundance of some of that going west but not to the same level. There will be more ranching and there’s a lot more public land going west.”

And there’s the Colorado River and its troubles, which Simpson is deeply attuned to given his work at the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and efforts to recover the Upper Rio Grande Basin.

It’s the water issues on the Colorado and Rio Grande that Simpson said are most critical and where he plans to continue to focus his legislative attention.

“There’s just such a compelling and growing concern on my part and others about where water is going to push this state, and I think legislators need to be better engaged and better informed,” he said.

Heading into this third legislative session he enters the Capitol more confident and with friends, as they say, on both sides of the aisle.

Colorado State Capitol. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

Bipartisan bill aims to extend protections of endangered fish: Upper #ColoradoRiver and #SanJuanRiver Basins Recovery Act targets preservation of native species — The #Durango Herald #COriver #aridification

Endangered Razorback sucker. Photo credit: Reclamation

Click the link to read the article on The Durango Herald website (Megan K. Olsen). Here’s an excerpt:

U.S. Sens. John Hickenlooper and Mitt Romney, along with Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse, have teamed up to ensure the continuation of conservation programs aimed at protecting native and endangered fish species through the Upper Colorado and San Juan Basins Recovery Act. The recovery act has been included with the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Government Funding Bill that has already been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and is awaiting approval from President Joe Biden…

The Upper Colorado and San Juan River Recovery Programs are set to expire on Sept. 30. The recovery act would extend any programs that currently study, monitor and stock four endangered fish species of the Upper Colorado and San Juan rivers through the end of 2024…

{Senator] Romney also showed interest in the impact of human activity and climate change on the Colorado River and its native species in 2021, when he went on a rafting trip with Sen. Michael Bennett and the Colorado River Commissioner and director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Becky Mitchell.

#Snowpack gaining from ‘rivers’ of moisture (January 9, 2023) — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel

Click the link to read the article on The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel website (Dennis Webb). Here’s an excerpt:

A series of so-called atmospheric rivers flowing in from the West have been drenching Colorado with welcome snow that by Friday had helped lift the state’s snowpack level to 124% of normal for this time of year…In Colorado, [Atmospheric Rivers have] helped produce snowpack levels now totaling 146% of normal in the Yampa/White river basins, 136% in the Gunnison River Basin, 128% in the Upper Colorado River Basin, and 122% in combined river basins in far-southwestern Colorado, which has been particularly hit by drought over the years. Only the Arkansas River Basin (78%) and Upper Rio Grande Basin (91%) have below-normal snowpack in Colorado, according to federal Natural Resources Conservation Service snow-measurement data…

West Drought Monitor map January 3, 2023.

As of this week, none of western Colorado remains in drought. The last remaining areas of drought in the region, in far-southwestern and far-northwestern Colorado, improved after heavy snowfall consisting of 1 to 3 inches of liquid equivalent fell over the past week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Much of eastern Colorado remains in various stages of drought. Snowpack on Grand Mesa, important to meeting irrigation needs in surrounding valleys and providing some local municipal water supplies, is ranging between 130% and 157% of normal, according to the NRCS. Powderhorn Mountain Resort says it has gotten 150 inches of snow so far this season.

Carlyle Currier, a Molina rancher and president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, said that on top of the considerable snowpack, the ground under the snow is wet, “so that’s different than it’s been the last several years, since we’ve had a lot of rain in the fall.”

NRCS snowpack basin-filled map January 8, 2023 via the NRCS.

EPA Requires Reporting on Releases and Other Waste Management for Nine Additional #PFAS

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via

Click the link to read the release on the EPA website:

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the automatic addition of nine per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) list. 

TRI data are reported to EPA annually by facilities in certain industry sectors and federal facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use TRI-listed chemicals above certain quantities. The data include quantities of such chemicals that were released into the environment or otherwise managed as waste. Information collected through TRI allows communities to learn how facilities in their area are managing listed chemicals. The data collected also helps to support informed decision-making by companies, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the public. 

The addition of these PFAS supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to address the impacts of these forever chemicals, and advances EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap to confront the human health and environmental risks of PFAS. 

“Communities have a right to know how and where PFAS are being managed, released, or recycled,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “EPA continues to work to fill critical data gaps for these chemicals and ensure this data is publicly available.”

These nine PFAS were added to the TRI list pursuant to the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which provides the framework for the automatic addition of PFAS to TRI each year in response to certain EPA activities involving such PFAS. For TRI Reporting Year 2023 (reporting forms due by July 1, 2024), reporting is required for nine additional PFAS, bringing the total PFAS subject to TRI reporting to 189.

Addition of four PFAS no longer claimed as confidential business information

Under NDAA section 7321(e), EPA must review confidential business information (CBI) claims before adding a PFAS to the TRI list if the chemical identity is subject to a claim of protection from disclosure under 5 U.S.C. 552(a). EPA previously identified four PFAS for addition to the TRI list based on the NDAA’s provision to include certain PFAS upon the NDAA’s enactment. However, due to CBI claims related to their identities, these PFAS were not added to the TRI list at that time. The identities of these PFAS were subsequently declassified in an update to the TSCA Inventory in February 2022 because at least one manufacturer did not claim them as confidential during prior CDR reporting. Because they were no longer confidential, pursuant to the NDAA, the four chemicals were added to the TRI list:

  • Alcohols, C8-16, γ-ω-perfluoro, reaction products with 1,6-diisocyanatohexane, glycidol and stearyl alc. (2728655-42-1)
  • Acetamide, N-[3-(dimethylamino)propyl]-, 2-[(γ-ω-perfluoro-C4-20-alkyl)thio] derivs. (2738952-61-7)
  • Acetic acid, 2-[(γ-ω-perfluoro-C4-20-alkyl)thio] derivs., 2-hydroxypropyl esters (2744262-09-5)
  • Acetamide, N-(2-aminoethyl)-, 2-[(γ-ω-perfluoro-C4-20-alkyl)thio] derivs., polymers with N1,N1-dimethyl-1,3-propanediamine, epichlorohydrin and ethylenediamine, oxidized (2742694-36-4)

Addition of five PFAS with final toxicity values

The 2020 NDAA includes a provision that automatically adds PFAS to the TRI list upon the Agency’s finalization of a toxicity value. In December 2022, EPA finalized a toxicity value for Perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), its anion, and its related salts. Pursuant to the NDAA, the following five chemicals have been added to the TRI: 

  • PFBA (375-22-4) 
  • Perfluorobutanoate (45048-62-2)
  • Ammonium perfluorobutanoate (10495-86-0) 
  • Potassium perfluorobutanoate (2966-54-3)
  • Sodium perfluorobutanoate (2218-54-4) 

As of January 1, 2023, facilities which are subject to reporting requirements for these chemicals should start tracking their activities involving these PFAS as required by Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. 

As part of EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, the Agency also proposed a rule in December 2022 to enhance PFAS reporting to TRI by eliminating an exemption that allows facilities to avoid reporting information on PFAS when those chemicals are used in small, or de minimis, concentrations. Because PFAS are used at low concentrations in many products, this rule would ensure that covered industry sectors and federal facilities that make or use TRI-listed PFAS will no longer be able to rely on the de minimis exemption to avoid disclosing their PFAS releases and other waste management quantities for these chemicals.

Learn more about the addition of these PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).

How #California could save up its rain to ease future droughts — instead of watching epic #atmosphericriver rainfall drain into the Pacific Ocean — The Conversation

Heavy rain from a series of atmospheric rivers flooded large parts of California from late December 2022 into early January 2023. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Andrew Fisher, University of California, Santa Cruz

California has seen so much rain over the past few weeks that farm fields are inundated and normally dry creeks and drainage ditches have become torrents of water racing toward the ocean. Yet, most of the state remains in severe drought.

All that runoff in the middle of a drought begs the question — why can’t more rainwater be collected and stored for the long, dry spring and summer when it’s needed?

As a hydrogeologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz, I’m interested in what can be done to collect runoff from storms like this on a large scale. There are two primary sources of large-scale water storage that could help make a dent in the drought: holding that water behind dams and putting it in the ground.

Why isn’t California capturing more runoff now?

When California gets storms like the atmospheric rivers that hit in December 2022 and January 2023, water managers around the state probably shake their heads and ask why they can’t hold on to more of that water. The reality is, it’s a complicated issue.

California has big dams and reservoirs that can store large volumes of water, but they tend to be in the mountains. And once they’re near capacity, water has to be released to be ready for the next storm. Unless there’s another reservoir downstream, a lot of that water is going out to the ocean. Video captures flooding from record rainfall on the last weekend of 2022.

In more populated areas, one of the reasons storm water runoff isn’t automatically collected for use on a large scale is because the first runoff from roads is often contaminated. Flooding can also cause septic system overflows. So, that water would have to be treated.

You might say, well, the captured water doesn’t have to be drinking water, we could just use it on golf courses. But then you would need a place to store the water, and you would need a way to distribute it, with separate pipes and pumps, because you can’t put it in the same pipes as drinking water.

Putting water in the ground

There’s another option, and that’s to put it in the ground, where it could help to replenish groundwater supplies.

Managed recharge has been used for decades in many areas to actively replenish groundwater supplies. But the techniques have been gaining more attention lately as wells run dry amid the long-running drought. Local agencies have proposed more than 340 recharge projects in California, and the state estimates those could recharge an additional 500,000 acre-feet of water a year on average if all were built.

One method being discussed by the state Department of Water Resources and others is Flood-MAR, or flood-managed aquifer recharge. During big flows in rivers, water managers could potentially divert some of that flow onto large parts of the landscape and inundate thousands of acres to recharge the aquifers below. The concept is to flood the land in winter and then farm in summer.

Illustration showing different techniques with fields flooded in different ways
Flood-managed aquifer recharge methods. California Department of Water Resources

Flood-MAR is promising, provided we can find people who are willing to inundate their land and can secure water rights. In addition, not every part of the landscape is prepared to take that water.

You could inundate 1,000 acres on a ranch, and a lot of it might stay flooded for days or weeks. Depending on how quickly that water soaks in, some crops will be OK, but other crops could be harmed. There are also concerns about creating habitat that encourages pests or risks food safety.

Another challenge is that most of the big river flows are in the northern part of the state, and many of the areas experiencing the worst groundwater deficits are in central and southern California. To get that excess water to the places that need it requires transport and distribution, which can be complex and expensive.

Encouraging landowners to get involved

In the Pajaro Valley, an important agricultural region at the edge of Monterey Bay, regional colleagues and I are trying a different type of groundwater recharge project where there is a lot of runoff from hill slopes during big storms.

The idea is to siphon off some of that runoff and divert it to infiltration basins, occupying a few acres, where the water can pool and percolate into the ground. That might be on agricultural land or open space with the right soil conditions. We look for coarse soils that make it easier for water to percolate through gaps between grains. But much of the landscape is covered or underlain by finer soils that don’t allow rapid infiltration, so careful site selection is important.

One program in the Pajaro Valley encourages landowners to participate in recharge projects by giving them a rebate on the fee they pay for water use through a “recharge net metering” mechanism. How recharge net metering works.

We did a cost-benefit analysis of this approach and found that even when you add in all the capital costs for construction and hauling away some soil, the costs are competitive with finding alternative supplies of water, and it is cheaper than desalination or water recycling.

Is the rain enough to end the drought?

It’s going to take many methods and several wet years to make up for the region’s long period of low rainfall. One storm certainly doesn’t do it, and even one wet year doesn’t do it.

For basins that are dependent on groundwater, the recharge process takes years. If this is the last rainstorm of this season, a month from now we could be in trouble again.

Andrew Fisher, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz

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

The snow water equivalent in the #MissouriRiver Basin was 114% on January 5, 2023 — @DroughtDenise

Map of the Missouri River drainage basin in the US and Canada. made using USGS and Natural Earth data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

How can cities across the American West reuse and recycle #water to combat drought? — The #Denver Post

The Las Vegas Wash is the primary channel through which the Las Vegas Valley’s excess water returns to Lake Mead. Contributing approximately 2 percent of the water in Lake Mead, the water flowing through the Wash consists of urban runoff, shallow groundwater, storm water and releases from the valley’s four water reclamation facilities. Photo credit: Southern Nevada Water Authority

Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Conrad Swanson). Here’s an excerpt:

Even when water is scarce, “people still flush their toilets,” former U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Dan Beard said.

This story is one part of a broader series about ways to save water from the drying Colorado River. See the full project here.

We all use the bathroom, clean our clothes, wash our dishes, take showers or baths, why not collect that water and reuse it? It’s already happening around the world and it’s a technology that’s proven to work.

Graywater system schematic.

Water providers can collect what’s called grey water from sinks, bathtubs, showers and laundry machines or even sewage, called blackwater, and treat it for reuse. Fort Collins began allowing grey water systems to be installed in the new buildings this summer and that water can be used to flush toilets or for below-ground irrigation. Mayor Jeni Arndt said using that water twice, whenever possible, is the responsible thing to do. She acknowledged that the approach might only save a few gallons per home each day but everything counts, plus the approach is a good way to encourage residents to think more sustainably about their water use…In some cases, the water can be treated and transformed back into drinking water. But it’s even easier to use the water again for non-potable purposes like irrigating crops, watering lawns, recharging groundwater sources and industrial uses, depending on how thoroughly it’s treated. Unlike desalination plants, Beard said water treatment plants could be built for much less money and within the span of a year or two. So they’re relatively quick and effective and a wise way to care for the water that’s already in use…

Plus, Jay Famiglietti, director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan, said there’s only ever going to be so much water available for reuse.

“It’s driven by your supply of human waste,” he said. “That’s as much as you’re going to get.”