Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District ordered to check for #lead pipes — The #PagosaSprings Sun

Denver Water crews dug up old lead service lines from customers’ homes for years of study that led to the utility’s Lead Reduction Program. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Monica Nigon). Here’s an excerpt:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently made re- visions to its Lead and Copper Rule, which will require the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) to take steps to verify that water pipes of homes, businesses, schools and child care facilities aren’t made of lead. District Engineer/Manager Justin Ramsey explained this could include inspecting meter pits or questioning homeowners…

Ramsey added that PAWSD has been taking 120 samples per year for the last five to six years and has never found a detectable amount of lead in any homeowner’s or business’ water. Yet the new update requires the pipes in every home and business to be verified to be lead-free. PAWSD can do this by visual inspections or asking the homeowner, Ramsey explained…

He added that to verify the mate- rial of pipes, PAWSD can look at the meter pit or a crawl space. If it is still unable to verify the material or the structure owner is unsure of the material of their pipes, PAWSD may have to dig up lines to verify that they are made from a material other than lead. Under the update, Ramsey ex- plained, PAWSD will be required to test schools and child care facilities, which was not mandated before.

High #Water: The #SanJuanRiver running at above average levels, area lakes full — The #PagosaSprings Sun #runoff (May 14, 2023)

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Website (Monica Nigon). Here’s an excerpt:

As of 2 a.m. on May 10, the San Juan River at Pagosa Springs was flowing at 238 percent of normal at 2,940 cubic feet per second (cfs), measured at 9 feet at the gage, according to the San Juan River Basin SNOTEL site, which measures snowpack and river flows and is operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

A graph from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) clocks the snow water equivalent (SWE) on Wolf Creek Pass at 135.5 percent of normal as of May 10.

The inflow of water into [Navajo Lake] was 5,791 cfs, as opposed to May 9, 2022, when the inflow was 2,575 cfs…Furthermore, the Navajo River near Chromo sits much higher than average, running at 239 percent of normal as of May 10.

“The reservoirs are full,” said District Manager Justin Ramsey of the Pagosa AreaWater and Sanitation District (PAWSD), “and there’s still a lot of snow up there. I think it will probably be a good year.”

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

Growing eggplants & electricity to benefit both? — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate

Entrance to Mark Waltermire’s 16-acre Thistle Whistle Farm on Colorado’s Western Slope.  Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

On Colorado’s North Fork Valley, Mark Waltermire can grow hundreds of varieties of vegetables. He hopes to soon add electricity to his community offering.

At his 16-acre Thistle Whistle Farm on Colorado’s Western Slope, Mark Waltermire has become skilled at converting sunshine into useful products.

He grows several varieties of sweet corn and potatoes, 100 types of hot peppers, close to 50 varieties of sweet peppers, and more than 150 varieties of heirloom tomatoes on his farm near Hotchkiss, in the North Fork Valley. For good measure he also grows ground cherries, bitter melons and long beans. His is a museum of agricultural productivity and possibilities.

By May of 2024, he also hopes to be producing a half-megawatt of electricity in synergy called agrivoltaics.

Thistle Whistle is part of an agrivoltaics project that has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, one of 25 grants handed out as part of the National Community Solar Partnership. The program was launched in January in an attempt to further community-based solar projects.

Denver-based SunShare LLC also won a $50,000 award for expansion of a project in New Mexico. It has community solar gardens in Colorado and several other states.

The two Colorado-based programs will be eligible to win grants of up to $200,000 in the next round of the competition. Yet a third stage will offer grants of up to $150,000. The program altogether has $10 million in funding.

In the North Fork Valley project, another small farm is yet to be incorporated. The rules require projects of a megawatt of generation or more and preferably in more than one location. Total production capacity is capped at five megawatts, still well short of the 20 megawatts that defines the lower limit of utility-scale solar.

Waltermire had community goals in mind when he began talking about inserting solar panels amid his rows of vegetables and fruits. He believes in the idea of locally generated electricity and at modest scales.

Personal frustration also drove his quest to pursue agrivoltaics. Sunshine, his benefactor, can be an abuser.

“There are several things I would like to grow but don’t because of the intensity of the sunlight and the heat,” he says. “Agrivoltaics, if set up properly, will enable me to grow things that I love to grow but shy away from in the middle of summer, especially.”

Greens, such as for salads, have been difficult during summer in a valley where mid-summer temperatures often exceed 90 degrees. As for sweet peppers, they grow well but tend to blister when ripening. Waltermire thinks a bit of shade might create what he calls “more gentle” growing conditions.

What does survive the blistering summer sun gets offered at farmers’ markets from Telluride to Aspen and beyond to the Front Range.

Pete Kolbernschlag, director of the Paonia-based Colorado Farm & Food Alliance, the lead in the application, said he hopes to create a model in Delta County for rural climate action.

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In growing plants and harvesting electricity, there can be tradeoffs, he says, but the goal here is to figure out where exactly those tradeoffs are maximizing production but also maximizing production of electricity.

“Those are the types of questions we are interested in examining. What are the benefits to both—and where are the tradeoffs, and how do you manage the systems to try to get the best returns from either of those systems?” explains Kolbernschlag.

Water ranks high among the questions that team members hope their project can answer. Specifically, how much can the shade of solar panels aid in retention of soil moisture? And how can soil moisture help cool panels and make them more productive?

Rogers Mesa

Brad Tonnesson, a research scientist at the Rogers Mesa Research Station, has agreed to conduct research into these questions about agrivoltaics.

Whether this project goes forward, though, still remains in doubt. It all comes down to costs and revenue. Can Waltermire and other small farmers create enough revenue to offset their investments? The local electrical cooperative, Delta-Montrose Electric, will accept the electricity, but still to be determined is how much it will pay.

Waltermire says he also needs to get funding before he can realistically start planning what he will grow next year.

This project must be seen as a decidedly small-scale venture with an emphasis on local and community. Larger projects have provoked animosity.

For example, an October 2022 story in the Guardian (‘It got nasty’: the battle to build the US’s biggest solar power farm) told a story from Indiana where 13,000 acres of prime farmland have been targeted for solar panels. A wealthy landowner has set out to defeat the proposal, and—well, the headline sums it up.

“The ongoing fight is a sobering reminder of how (President Joe) Biden’s ambitions for a mass transition to renewables, aimed at averting the worst ravages of the climate crisis, will in significant part be decided by the vagaries and veto points of thousands of local officials, county boards and (organized) opposition (by wealthy landowners) across the U.S,” the Guardian says.

That same article points to both sources of tensions and irony amid these fields of primarily corn.

One of the farmers who wants to lease 1,750 acres of his land for the solar project sees “solar is an evolution of farming rather than a betrayal of it. He already harvests the sunlight for his crops, he reasons. He considers fears of food shortages taking land out of production overblow given that 40% of all U.S. corn is already mashed up for another form of energy—ethanol, which is added to gasoline. Farmers are also routinely paid by the federal government to keep tracts of land free from crops, in order to bolster the price of corn.”

As for local economic benefits, that same farmer In Indiana says he will make five times more from leasing his land for harvesting and converting sunlight into electricity than he gets for growing corn.

Steve Ela grows apples and other fruit in his orchards near Hotchkiss for sale at farmers’ markets along the Front Range. 2017 photo/Allen Best

Colorado has no large-scale plans at the same stage for solar. NextEra Energy and a corporate farmer, Crossroads Agriculture, recently announced their plans for one gigabyte of energy, although on dryland and not irrigated farmland. See: “A gigawatt of solar in Colorado’s wheat country.”

Xcel Energy has been taking bids and very likely has some other interesting and ambitious proposals for solar farms along its 550- to 600-mile (and $1.7 to $2 billion) high-voltage transmission line looping around eastern Colorado.

In Delta County, a far, far smaller proposal ignited controversy. That 80-megawatt project on Garnett Mesa was vetoed by county commissioners in response to opposition from neighbors who objected to industrial power production in an agricultural setting. Guzman Energy and others, agreed to run sheep amid the panels, and the commissioners approved it.

The North Fork team envisions something much smaller a megawatt or two instead of 80 or 8,000.

“It will take a lot of different approaches to get the energy we need from renewables, and where we locate them and how we can co-locate them with other uses will be super important questions,” says Kolbernschlag.

This is not the only model, he explains, but rather one that is community scale and with direct community benefits.

“Innovative solar projects involving agrivoltaics and community ownership models promise significant benefits for rural agricultural communities, and there isn’t a better place than the Western Slope to demonstrate that potential and to provide a model that can be replicated,” says team member Alex Jahp, who works at Paonia-based Solar Energy International, which trains solar installers.

Jahp also points to Delta County’s warming climate. “Delta County is one of the places facing the worst effects of climate change in terms of temperature rise,” he points out.

At his farm, which he has been working for 18 years, Waltermire says he hasn’t necessarily detected warming and aridification trends. What he is confident he has sene is greater variability. “Just crazy weather events seem to be more common,” he says.

What drew him to farming? “It does seem like I have found my passion, and the challenge is to make it work. I would be unhappy if I didn’t have a challenge in life,” he says. He also has found that being part of a community and playing a supportive role in that community is crucial to his happiness.

In that, making electricity just might complement growing eggplants.

Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist who publishes an e-magazine called Big Pivots. Reach him at or 720.415.9308.

Map of the Gunnison River drainage basin in Colorado, USA. Made using public domain USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

In case you were looking for a sign to lock your car doors – this is it — #Colorado Parks & Wildlife

‘It is a lot of balls in the air that we are juggling’: #Utah reservoir operators bracing for high #runoff, making room for #snowpack — The Deseret News

Click the link to read the article on The Deseret News website (Amy Joi O’Donoghue). Here’s an excerpt:

After years of drought, Mother Nature came through this year, and came through big, delivering record snowpack, and with that comes record runoff in many locations.

“We never quite thought we would see this,” Hess added. “It is crazy to think about how much snow is piled up in the mountains.”


[Darren] Hess said Pineview Reservoir has already been sending water to the Ogden River, which meets up with the Weber River around 12th Street in Ogden. Any flooding that has happened downstream has been the result of controlled releases, he added, as operators are jockeying to make room for more water. The basin is trying to keep Pineview as empty as possible, although that is difficult with an over-the-brim Causey Reservoir upstream that is at capacity. It empties into Pineview…

And Quick emphasized strongly this is not a guessing game for any of the water associations, system operators or anyone else involved in the intricate game of managing water that many people don’t understand — in times of drought and times like this year.

“They are not doing this willy-nilly. Just about every scenario has been analyzed.”

But consider this reality that keeps reservoir operators up at night, with a bottle of antacids at their side: