2023 #COleg: Bill aims to address #water quality at mobile home parks: HB 1257 supported by Latino advocacy organizations — @AspenJournalism

Brighton Village mobile home park next to a river. Multiple trailers are intersperses with bare deciduous trees on a riverbank. Photo credit: Aqua Talk

Click the link to read the article on the Aspen Journalism website (Heather Sackett):

State legislators have introduced a bill that would create a water-testing program at mobile home parks, addressing residents’ long-standing concerns about water quality.

House Bill 1257, which is sponsored by District 57 Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, D-Garfield County, would require the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to create a water-testing program that covers all mobile home parks in the state by 2028. If the testing finds a water-quality issue, the park owner must come up with a remediation plan and not pass the cost of fixing the problem on to the residents. 

The testing results would be made available to park residents and the public in English, Spanish and other languages. The bill would also require park owners to identify the water source and establish a grant program to help park owners pay for remediation options such as infrastructure upgrades. 

The bill was introduced March 26, and its other sponsors are Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, D- Larimer County, and Sen. Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County.

Velasco, who said she lived in mobile home parks growing up, said she has heard complaints from residents about discolored water that stains clothes, smells and tastes bad, causes skin rashes, and breaks appliances. But often, those complaints go unaddressed because the water may still meet the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act. 

“The odor, the taste, the color, those are secondary traits of the water, according to these regulations,” Velasco said. “These issues are in low-income communities, majority people of color. These issues are not happening to wealthy families.”

Environmental justice issue

Water quality in mobile home parks is an environmental-justice issue for the Latino community. According to the Colorado Latino Climate Justice Policy Handbook, nearly 20% of Latino households live in mobile homes. And according to survey results in the 2022 Colorado Latino Policy Agenda, 41% of mobile home residents said they do not trust or drink the water in their homes. Eighty percent of survey respondents said they support new regulations requiring that mobile home parks provide their residents with clean drinking water. 

Beatriz Soto is executive director of Protegete, a Latino-led environmental initiative of Conservation Colorado that developed the climate justice handbook. Conservation Colorado supports the bill. Soto, who also lived in mobile home parks in the Roaring Fork valley, said for years she has heard the same complaints Velasco did about water quality, so she knew it was a top priority for the Latino community. The survey results confirmed the anecdotes.

“This is not just little things we are hearing here and there in the community; this is a bigger issue,” Soto said. “When you work two jobs and you have to drive two hours to work and you come home and have to go to a laundromat because you can’t wash your clothes at your residence, there’s a real cumulative impact of living under those conditions.” 

The Aspen-to-Parachute region has 55 parks, which combined have about 3,000 homes and 15,000 to 20,000 residents. Mobile home parks are some of the last neighborhoods of nonsubsidized affordable housing left in the state and provide crucial worker housing, especially in rural and resort areas. 

Residents have complained about the water quality in some parks for years, but agencies have lacked the regulatory authority to enforce improvements. Recently, residents in parks near Durango and in Summit County have lacked running water for weeks at a time. 

Voces Unidas de las Montanas, a Latino-led advocacy nonprofit that is based in Colorado’s central mountains and works in the Roaring Fork Valley, is one of the organizations leading Clean Water for All Colorado, a committee that helped to craft the legislation. 

“Many of us who grew up in mobile home parks, myself included, have always known and normalized buying bottled water from the store, and it’s because we don’t trust our water,” said Alex Sanchez, president and CEO of Voces Unidas. “Many residents have been complaining and calling for action for decades, and no one has answered their call.” 

Sanchez said the bill is his organization’s No. 1 legislative priority this session.

Rocky Mountain Home Association and Colorado Manufactured Housing Coalition oppose the bill. Tawny Peyton, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Home Association, said the mobile home park industry has been bombarded with sweeping law changes in recent years, causing confusion and additional operation and legal costs. Laws enacted in 2019, 2020 and 2022 granted extra protections to mobile home park residents. 

“The Rocky Mountain Home Association is concerned with the entire bill,” Peyton said in an email. “Why is the mobile home park industry being singly targeted with this legislation? Industry was not made aware that mobile home park water quality was such an issue that a 23-page bill was warranted.”

Bill proponents acknowledge that the issue may take years to get resolved and that new regulations would be just the first step toward gathering data and assessing the problem. 

“This is just a first stab at trying to resolve this issue,” Soto said. “This is establishing a framework to start testing and get all the information and documenting all the water sources for mobile home parks to determine what is the problem.”

House Bill 1257 is scheduled for a hearing by the Transportation, Housing and Local Government Committee on Wednesday [April 12, 2023].

This story ran in the April 8 edition of The Aspen Times, the Vail Daily, the April 9 edition of Summit Daily and the April 10 edition of the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent.

Did you know that #water rights in #Colorado are treated like private property? — @ColoradoWaterWise

Graphic credit: Colorado Water Wise

#ArkansasRiver Basin #Water Forum, April 25-26, 2023, features top water experts

Just another day on the job in 1890 – Measuring the velocity of streams in a cable-suspended, stream-gaging car on the Arkansas River in Colorado. Photo credit: USGS

Here’s the releasee from the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum (Joe Stone):

The premier water event in Colorado’s largest river basin happens Tuesday and Wednesday, April 25-26, in Colorado Springs. The 27th Arkansas River Basin Water Forum will feature discussions and presentations on “Facing the Future Together” delivered by top water experts in Colorado and the Ark Basin.

Tuesday’s keynote speaker will be Kelly Romero-Heaney, assistant director of water policy for Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources. Kelly has over 20 years of diverse experience in natural resource issues, having worked as a consultant, hydrologist, environmental specialist and wildland firefighter. In her current position she advises top executives at DNR, the Division of Water Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board about water policy issues and legislation.

Rachel Zancanella will deliver Wednesday’s keynote address. Rachel was promoted to Division 2 (Arkansas River Basin) engineer in December 2022 following Bill Tyner’s retirement. She has held multiple positions with DWR, ranging from deputy water commissioner to water resources engineer and lead assistant division engineer. Prior to joining DWR, Rachel worked as a water resources engineer in the private sector.

Mornings at the Water Forum will feature presentations on topics like projects in El Paso County to meet future demand for water, technological advances in snow measurement, transforming landscapes to conserve water, and PFAS mitigation in drinking water supplies.

After lunch, attendees can choose from several tours and field trips. Tuesday afternoon will feature:

  • A field trip to explore aquifer recharge and water reuse in El Paso County.
  • A tour of the Mesa Garden, a demonstration garden for water-wise landscapes.
  • A tour of Fountain Creek that will highlight the importance of Plains fish conservation and visit streamgages managed by DWR and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Wednesday afternoon opportunities include:

  • A tour highlighting pioneering work in PFAS mitigation using strong base anion ion exchange resin.
  • A filed trip to Colorado Springs Utilities to see how non-potable water is being reused.
  • An Art and Ale tour that will feature murals created through the Storm Drain Art Project followed by a visit to a Fountain Creek Watershed District Brewshed Alliance brewery.

Since 1995, the Ark River Basin Water Forum has served the basin by encouraging education and dialogue about water, the state’s most valuable resource, and this year’s Forum will take place at the Doubletree by Hilton.

The Forum remains a very good value:

  • Two-day full registration, including lunches – $300.
  • One-day registration, either Tuesday or Wednesday, including lunch – $150.
  • Percolation and Runoff networking dinner – $20 (all proceeds support the ARBWF Scholarship Fund).

The real fun begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday with Percolation and Runoff, a casual networking event that raises money for the Forum’s college scholarship fund. The $20 cost includes dinner, drinks and entertaining conversation.

To register for the Forum, go to arbwf.org. For more information, contact Jean Van Pelt, Forum manager, at arbwf1994@gmail.com.

A #Colorado reservoir gets ready for an epic snowmelt — Writers on the Range #snowpack #runoff (April 11, 2023)

Ken Beck at the Pine River Irrigation headquarters

Click the link to read the article on the Writers on the Range website (David Marston):

Reservoir manager Ken Beck says wryly that he has lots of water coming his way, “and I need a hole to put it in.”

In southern Colorado, Beck is the superintendent of Pine River Irrigation District and Vallecito Reservoir, which catches water from the 13,000 and 14,000-foot-high peaks of the Weminuche Wilderness. It’s a place so wild and beautiful that Teddy Roosevelt protected it in 1905 by creating the 1.8-million-acre San Juan National Forest.

Vallecito Lake via Vallecito Chamber

The name Vallecito means “little valley” in Spanish, and the reservoir stores water for the town of Bayfield, population 2,838, as well as providing supplemental irrigation for 65,000 acres of Tribal and non-tribal land to the south.

This winter, Beck has been faced with a near-record snowpack, now expected to turn into some 320,000 acre-feet of water. His 82-year-old reservoir, however, can only hold 125,000 acre-feet. What’s more, snow was still falling in early April.

In late March, Beck saw moisture going up dramatically. Any reservoir manager has to deal with uncertainty, but Beck’s job, which he has held for seven years, has an Achilles heel.

“I was told by the Bureau (of Reclamation) to manage my reservoir so I don’t use my spillway,” he says. “We’re restricted because of the needed repairs.”

Spillways are critical elements of any dam. When oncoming water overwhelms the intakes for hydroelectric and outlet works, excess water flows into the river below. Beck has few options without the safety valve of a dependable spillway, yet he may be forced to use it.

Lawn Lake Flood

Beck is well aware that dams can fail. Six major dams have failed in Colorado since 1950, with the biggest disaster occurring in Larimer County, in 1981. When its Lawn Lake Dam failed, three people died and property damage amounted to $31 million.

Beck says Vallecito’s management challenges came to the fore after “the big wakeup call of 2017, when Lake Oroville fell apart in California.” California’s tallest dam, Oroville, resembles Vallecito in being earthen built. It nearly failed when its spillways began eroding during high runoff.

Soon after, Vallecito’s dam was closely inspected, revealing leaks and erosion in its spillway. The Bureau of Reclamation, which built the dam, patched up the spillway but also put the dam “under review.”

By the end of March, Beck had released 15 times more water daily than during the previous month. By late April, Beck estimates, the formerly half-empty Vallecito Reservoir be just 20% full, better prepared for what could be an epic snowmelt.

In the arid West, this makes Beck a reservoir apostate. Spring is when reservoir managers follow a creed that’s been honed during periodic drought: Store as much water as possible as early as possible.

For Beck, that’s not wise. “But don’t mistake my being meek as weak,” he says. “I’ve got an Abe Lincoln style: Wrap good people around you and encourage them to say things you might not want to hear.”

Beck has surrounded himself with a team of straight shooters, though he relies most on Susan Behery, a Bureau of Reclamation hydrologic engineer, based in Durango. With Behery’s advice, Beck decided that Vallecito’s reservoir needed to be dramatically drawn down.

Evidence for doing that was obvious this winter as roofs sagged, driveways became mini-canyons, and snow at the nearby Purgatory ski area outside Durango reached 20 feet high in places. USDA SNOTEL sites above Vallecito Reservoir measured snowpacks at 170% and 180% of normal.

With so much big water ready to head their way, a reservoir manager might have decided to operate quietly and hope for the best. Instead, Behery says, Beck has been transparent with the public and collaborative. She admires Beck for it.

“I’m an engineer and nobody gets into engineering because they’re super good with people. I don’t do the fluffy stuff.”

Beck makes a lot of information available. He holds open meetings and emails a weekly newsletter to anyone interested. “A lot of people are asking why we’re turning out more water,” he says, “but I just met with farmers that say I haven’t brought it down enough.”

What does Beck predict will happen to his reservoir as snowmelt barrels toward Vallecito Reservoir?

“If spring rains come it will add to the pucker factor. But the spillway will hold.” Meanwhile, he’s a little bit on edge.

Dave Marston is the publisher of Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. He lives in Durango, Colorado.

Navajo Unit Coordination Meeting April 18, 2023 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The Navajo Dam on the San Juan River.Photo credit Mike Robinson via the University of Washington.

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):


Sent via Email on April 10th, 2023

The next coordination meeting for the operation of the Navajo Unit is scheduled for Tuesday, April 18th, 2023, at 1:00 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be held in an in-person/virtual hybrid format.

*Please note that due to the rapid increase in snowpack this spring, Reclamation projects it is likely that sufficient water will be available to conduct a spring release to 5,000 cfs. The current forecast and plans will be discussed at this meeting. Updates will be sent to this email list as the plan evolves. *

The following attendance options are available:

• In-Person: The physical location of the meeting will be at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington, Farmington, New Mexico.

• Virtual Video attendance: Microsoft Teams video option at this link. This link should open in any smartphone, tablet, or computer browser, and does not require a Microsoft account. You will be able to view and hear the presentation as it is presented, ask questions and have your comments heard by the group.

• Phone line: Alternatively, you can call-in from any phone using the following information: (202) 640-1187, Phone Conference ID 125 691 028#. You will not be able to see the presentation with this option. A copy of the presentation will be distributed to this email list and posted to our website prior to the meeting for those who wish to listen by phone. You will be able to ask questions and have your comments heard by the group.

We hope the options provided make it possible for all interested parties to participate as they are able and comfortable. Please try to log on at least 10 minutes before the meeting start time to address any technical issues. Feel free to call or email me with any questions regarding attendance, or to test your connection prior to the meeting (contact information below).

A copy of the presentation and meeting summary will be distributed to this email list and posted to our website following the meeting. If you are unable to connect to the meeting, feel free to contact me following the meeting for any comments or questions.

The meeting agenda will include a review of operations and hydrology since January, current soil and snowpack conditions, a discussion of hydrologic forecasts and planned operations for remainder of this water year, updates on maintenance activities, drought operations, and the Recovery Program on the San Juan River.

If you have any suggestions for the agenda or have questions about the meeting, please call Susan Behery at 970-385-6560, or email sbehery@usbr.gov. Visit the Navajo Dam website at https://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/cs/nvd.html for operational updates.

Aspinall unit operations update April 7, 2023 #GunnisonRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification