News on Tap: Upgraded storage for the water down below

From Denver Water (Jimmy Luthye):

$100 million Hillcrest project concludes a decade of improvements to underground reservoirs and pumping stations.

When it comes to storing water, Denver’s picturesque mountain reservoirs get all the glory.

Less visible, but just as important, are the 30 underground storage tanks in 18 locations around the metro area, each storing anywhere from 2.5 million to 25 million gallons of water, delivered from one of Denver Water’s three drinking water treatment plants.

In 2011, Denver Water embarked on a decade-long transformation project that began with the expansion of the Lone Tree underground storage site. Three projects later, those efforts will culminate in 2020 when we complete a $100-million overhaul of the Hillcrest water storage facility in southeast Denver.

Hillcrest was born in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Denver Water built a state-of-the-art storage and pumping facility to replace several small, temporary pumping stations.

Much has changed in 50-plus years, and with increased water demands from the ever-booming Denver metro area, particularly southeast of town, it was time for a makeover.

The existing pumping station at Hillcrest was completed June 19, 1964.

Since early-2016, Denver Water has worked to replace Hillcrest’s two existing 15-million-gallon rectangular storage tanks with three 15-million-gallon, circular, “post-tensioned” concrete tanks…

The new tanks will sit slightly south of the existing tanks and will be buried up to their roofs, which will be visible.

In addition to the new tanks, the Hillcrest pumping station — one of 22 in the Denver Water distribution system — is getting its own upgrade.

Beyond Hillcrest, Denver Water plans to spend $1.25 billion on 143 capital improvement projects throughout the water system over the next five years.

Those projects include a $400 million state-of-the-art water treatment plant north of Golden, upgrades to the dam at Ralston Reservoir and replacement of a major water delivery pipeline in Jefferson County.

News on Tap: Your water bill is going up (slightly). Here’s why

Wood stave pipe installation on May 14, 1910. Photo credit — @DenverWater

From Denver Water:

That small increase helps us make big system upgrades, ensure water reliability and plan for future needs.

Nobody likes to pay a bill.

No matter how much you like a service or how essential it may be, handing over your hard-earned money to somebody else — particularly if that bill often increases from year to year — is never fun.

But when it comes to your water bill, the simple fact is the cost of running a complex water system continues to rise. Your bill helps to maintain and upgrade a vast infrastructure that allows us to collect, treat and deliver safe, reliable water, while also providing for essential fire protection services.

You’ll see some slight increases in your water bill starting March 1, 2018.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Farmington: #GoldKingMine advisory group meeting Monday, November 27, 2017 #ColoradoRiver #COriver

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

From The New Mexico Political Report (Laura Paskus):

The New Mexico Gold King Mine Spill Citizens’ Advisory Committee will meet Monday evening in Farmington.

According to the New Mexico Environment Department, the committee includes 11 citizen volunteers from northern New Mexico, including the Navajo Nation, and works with New Mexico’s Long-Term Impact Review Team to monitor and understand the long-term impacts of the 2015 Gold King Mine accident…

Monday’s meeting will include a presentation on the area’s hydrogeology and geochemistry and provide an opportunity for public comment.

In May, the team released a long-term monitoring plan for the Animas River.

In addition to monitoring the impacts of the Gold King Mine spill, the work scientists are doing will help people understand how waste runoff from other mines affects surface and groundwater resources in the area. The work will also help identify how any future releases from abandoned mines might affect the Animas watershed.

To read the plan click here. You can also find an associated, peer-reviewed study from the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources here.

Monday’s meeting will begin at 5:30 and be held in the SUNS Room at San Juan Community College in Farmington. For more information: http://www.NMEDriverwatersafety.org or http://NMENV-Outreach@state.nm.us

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

#Drought news: Uncertainty for folks in the Grand Valley #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Colorado Drought Monitor November 21, 2017.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Erin McIntyre):

Much of western Mesa County is in a “moderate drought” according to the updated U.S. Drought Monitor released this week, which reflects the change for several counties in western Colorado and eastern Utah…

Forecasters are expecting the majority of precipitation to fall in the northern mountain ranges of Colorado in the near future, as the La Nina weather pattern seems to leave the southern half of the state in a drier situation.

“It’s very uncertain what will happen,” Bolinger said. Last year, the winter season started out bleak, with lagging snowpack until December, when a few hard-hitting storms dumped precipitation on the mountains. “You’re right in an area where it could go either way but with the dry conditions that are occurring already I wouldn’t be surprised to see that pattern persist.”

While it’s early in the season to be considering snowpack data and streamflow information, other indicators led experts to recommend labeling a strip of western Colorado with moderate drought conditions, one step further than “abnormally dry.” The amount of water in reservoirs is in good shape, Bolinger said, but snowpack is beginning to lag in the southern part of Colorado compared to other years.

The Climate Prediction Center is expecting a warmer-than-average winter in Colorado, and if the jet stream brings windy, fire-prone conditions.

@amwater: We Care — Corporate Responsibility Report 2015-2016

Click here to read the report. Here’s an excerpt:

The only way to do business is to do it responsibly

This is American Water’s fourth biennial Corporate Responsibility Report. It was published in October 2017, and covers our corporate responsibility performance for the 2015 and 2016 fscal years, which ran from January 1 to December 31.

The data contained was generated using systems audited by our internal staff. The report has been created in reference to Global Reporting Initiative G4 guidelines.

Preparing this report is a valuable opportunity for us to assess and improve upon our corporate responsibility progress and performance. To continue to do so, we welcome your feedback.

Amory Lovins’s long, soft, and creatively optimistic path — The Mountain Town News

Amory Lovins has harvested bananas 61 times from his solar-passive house near Aspen since the early 1980s. Photo used with permission, ©Judy Hill Lovins via The Mountain Town News.

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Lovins recently traveled from his home near Aspen to talk about growing bananas at 7,100 feet in the Colorado Rockies. The house was built in the early 1980s, he told an audience at an energy conference held at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and since then he’s had 66 harvests.

But his point wasn’t really about the bananas. It was about the energy used to grow the bananas.

Temperatures in the Aspen area then could reach 46 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, he said. “But my house has no combustion (furnace),” he went on to say. “That is so 20th century.”

Lovins, considered by many to be among the most important thinkers about energy of the last half-century, has told about his bananas many times and in many places. It’s his look-see visual proof for the enduring theme of his career. For decades he has been saying that we need to embrace energy efficiency through both more thoughtful design and readily available technology.

His thoughts cohered In 1976 a seminal essay published in Foreign Affairs called “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?” He was a young scholar at Oxford then. An Arab oil embargo in 1973 had left people in block-long lines waiting for their chances to refuel cars at gas pumps. The United States was binging on construction of new coal-fired power plants and also enraptured with nuclear energy even as the arms race of the Cold War continued.

In his essay, Lovins defined the soft energy path as a future where energy efficiency and renewable energy sources steadily replace a centralized energy system based on fossil and nuclear fuels.

Lovins, a friend of David Brower, the famous long-time leader of the Sierra Club, argued not environmental ethics but rather the business case. You should do it because you will save money, he said.

He made that same case in Fort Collins, at a conference sponsored by the Center for the New Energy Economy. His house near Old Snowmass, he explained, is designed with 99 percent passive solar and 1 percent active solar. Naturally, it’s super insulated, but even the stale air is processed to recover heat. The payback on this 1982 technology was about 10 months. The house, he added, has now inspired 40,000 such passive-solar houses.

On the dais at the energy conference, Lovins barely paused, the numbers and facts and thoughts rolling out precisely, pleasantly, and always with supreme authority, as if he was the smartest guy in the room. That confidence annoys lots of people, but they concede: He probably is the smartest guy in most rooms where he speaks.

Elizabeth Kolbert, now a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, was among those who have been to Lovins’s house to see his bananas and hear his gospel. “He is routinely described, even by people who don’t particularly like or admire him, as a ‘genius,’” Kolbert wrote in a 2007 report for the New Yorker. The story was headlined “Mr. Green: Environmentalism’s optimistic guru Amory Lovins.”

Responding to that profile, David Roberts, then with Grist, conceded Lovins’s genius. “Reading Lovins for the first time can be a life-changing experience, one of those moments when your entire perception of the world shifts and you see everything in a new light,” Roberts wrote. “But there’s the nagging thought. Lovins can always talk and explain and persuade better than we can—he’s a friggin’ genius—but the intuitive question keeps returning.”

Responding to that profile, David Roberts, then with Grist, conceded Lovins’s genius. “Reading Lovins for the first time can be a life-changing experience, one of those moments when your entire perception of the world shifts and you see everything in a new light,” Roberts wrote. “But there’s the nagging thought. Lovins can always talk and explain and persuade better than we can—he’s a friggin’ genius—but the intuitive question keeps returning.”

That intuitive question in 2007 was why wasn’t this happening, this new world of energy that Lovins had then been describing for three decades. The Economist, which has tracked Lovins’s work frequently through the years, in 2008 said this:

“Though he is now 60, Mr Lovins shows no signs of slowing down. The Sage of Snowmass is still busy coming up with big new ideas, though if history is any guide, they will take a while to catch on. Watch this space—for ten to 20 years.”

Almost a decade later, it does appear finally that Lovins’s predictions are coming true. Whether it is happening quickly enough given the ever-more troubling news about global greenhouse gas emissions is the big question.

But Lovins, as the New Yorker headline in 2007 suggested, has always been one to look into the future with a sly, knowing smile, not a frown. At the recent conference, Colorado’s former governor, Bill Ritter, asked about optimism vs. pessimism.

In his answer, Lovins cited the counsel of his late friend, the Sierra Club’s Brower, who had described optimism and pessimism as being on “opposite sides of the same coin, the same irresponsible surrender to fatalism, in which you treat the future as fate and not choice, and not taking responsibility for creating the future you want.”

“We call it applied hope,” Lovins went on to say, referring to his think-tank, the Rocky Mountain Institute. “It’s not theoretical hope. It’s not anywhere near blind optimism. It’s making choices each day to create a world worth being hopeful about,” he said.

“You can’t depress people into action,” he added.

Tankers, presumably carrying oil, roll through downtown Denver. Photo/Allen Best

Earlier in the program, Lovins had described the industrial titans of the early 20th century: Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and John Rockefeller. The three men changed the world in ways that are now very much familiar.

Until very recently, with the arrival of LED lighting, most of our light came from incandescent bulbs, little changed from Edison’s invention. We’re mostly still driving internal-combustion cars fueled by the oil that made Rockefeller a name synonymous with wealth.

But we’re on the cusp of great change “because we have 21st century technology and speed colliding head-on with 20th century and even 19th century institutions, rules, and cultures.”

“The first two of these great industries are coming together to eat the third one.”

Lovins sees a dramatic reduction in demand for oil and tough times ahead for utilities that try to stick to existing business models. We’re on the cusp of massive adoption of electric cars. (See MTN story about adoption rates in Colorado). The batteries of those EVs will then be connected to the electrical grid, storing renewable energy. More renewable energy can be generated locally, instead of the giant central station power plants favored by utilities for the last 60 years.

Wind now undercuts all other new energy sources; power-purchase agreements with utilities last year averaged 2.5 cents a kilowatt-hour and some recently have come in at 1.2 cents a kilowatt-hour. That’s lower than coal, lower than gas, lower than just about anything. The resource has been enlarged by two-thirds, he added “not because the wind blew harder, but because we got better at capturing it.”

Electric cars, cheap renewables, and what do you get? “This is a perfect storm brewing for the oil and car industries,” he said.

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter interviews Amory Lovins at the Center of the New Energy Economy conference on Oct. 30. Photo/Maury Dobbie

Lovins frequently invoked his 2012 book, “Reinventing Fire,” and its “rigorous” research that shows how to triple U.S. efficiency and quintuple renewables by 2050, eliminating the need for coal, oil, and nuclear energy and a third less natural gas. This would “save $5 trillion in net-present value, grow the economy 2.6 fold, strengthen natural security and cut carbon emission 282 to 286 percent.”

This can all be accomplished by adoption of smart policies at the state and local levels and driven by businesses seeking to maximize profits. For inflexible utilities and oil and gas companies, though, these changes pose an existential risk, he said.

“You’re really a markets guy,” said Ritter, the former governor, before asking whether Lovins thought markets could achieve what its needed in a timely manner.

“Where allowed to work, yes, but policy and other factors can get in the way,” Lovins answered. But markets are good at short-term allocation of scarce resources. They were never meant to substitute for politics, ethics or faith.

Referring to “Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution,” a book Lovins wrote with his ex-wife, Hunter Lovins, and Paul Hawken, he said that “markets make a great servant, a bad master, and a worse religion.”

Don’t renewables get subsidies? Yes, but they are being phased out, Lovins answered—and besides, other forms of energy also have received subsidies and continue to get them.

The Aspen Skiing Co.’s Auden Schendler, who once worked at Lovins’s Rocky Mountain Institute, believes that the big story is that “the trends have caught up to his predictions. Solar, wind, and batteries have finally started to decline in cost in ways that can enable a takeover of traditional technologies; and nukes, coal, and combustion engines are going extinct for all the reasons Amory has long argued,” he said in an e-mail.

“The challenge has always been how quickly this will all play out, and whether markets, such as they are, will be enough to get us to the finish line before the planet is cooked. For all the good news, the unfortunate fact is we’re not making it, as global emission data released today show.”

That was on Nov. 13, the start of the world climate conference in Bonn. In the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists reported a 2 percent increase in burning of fossil fuels in 2017 after nearly no growth in 2014, 2015, or 2016, mostly because of increased burning of coal by China. “It was a bit staggering,” said one of the scientists, Ralph Keeling, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “We race headlong into the unknown.”

Carbon dioxide emissions measured by Keeling’s father, Charles David Keeling, on Mauna Loa in Hawaii in April 1958 were 317 parts per million. By the time Lovins’s Foreign Affairs essay was published in 1976 they were at 334 ppm. Now, they’re at 409.

The message from Colorado State, though, was don’t get depressed, but do get active—and make a buck along the way.

This was in the Nov. 15 issue of Mountain Town News, a weekly e-magazine sent to subscribers. For subscription details, see click here.

For access to the videotape of this and other sessions at the conference, see: http://energytransition.colostate.edu/symposium-2017/videotaped-sessions-2017/

The conference was sponsored by Energy Institute and the School of Global Environmental Sustainability, both at Colorado State University, and the Center for the New Energy Economy.

#Drought news: D1 (Moderate drought) expanded in W. #Colorado, Four Corners

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

Summary

With a few exceptions, dry weather dominated the contiguous 48 states this past week, particularly in areas already experiencing dryness and drought. Heavy precipitation fell on the orographically-favored areas in the West (specifically, the Sierra Nevada, windward slopes of the Cascades, and much of the coastline from northern California to the Canadian border). Anywhere from 4 to locally 12 inches doused much of these areas. Between 2 and 4 inches fell from central and eastern Illinois eastward across central and northern sections of Indian and Ohio, Michigan, and northwestern Pennsylvania, and similar amounts were more isolated across the higher elevations of the northern Idaho Panhandle, south-central Idaho, western Wyoming and adjacent areas, and a few scattered areas in northern sections of Nevada and Utah. Southern New England and eastern Maine recorded 1 to locally 3 inches of precipitation. Elsewhere – the vast majority of the country from the Great Basin and Southwest eastward across most of the Rockies and Plains, the Mississippi Valley, the Southeast, and the mid-Atlantic region – only a few tenths of an inch of precipitation was recorded, if any…

South and Central Plains

Negligible precipitation, if any, was observed in areas of dryness and drought from Missouri and Kansas southward through Texas and Louisiana. As a result, short-term dryness continued to intensify at a fairly rapid clip, particularly from central Arkansas and adjacent Oklahoma southward. D1 and D2 conditions expanded in southeastern Oklahoma, part of southern Arkansas, northeastern Texas, the northern half of Louisiana, and west-central Mississippi. More limited growth of D0 and a small D1 areas was assessed from central Kansas southward through central and western Texas. For the last 3 months, accumulated precipitation deficits exceed 8 inches in most areas across northeastern Texas, central and western Arkansas, southeastern Oklahoma, and southern Missouri; shortfalls one foot in a small part of west-central Arkansas…

Northern Plains

Very little precipitation fell on northern Minnesota, the Dakotas and the dry areas of Montana, but this is a dry time of the year climatologically for the region, so no substantial increase in precipitation deficits was noted, and last week’s depiction was not changed…

West

In the northern Intermountain West, light to moderate precipitation fell on the D0 areas in southern Idaho and interior Washington, with only scattered light amounts reported across interior Oregon; however, despite this week’s unimpressive precipitation, impacts resulting from below-normal precipitation have gradually eased over the past several weeks, and all abnormal dryness was removed from the region. Farther south, little or no precipitation fell on the Four Corners States and Southwest, as was the case in most of the other dry areas across the country. Drought evolves more slowly in this part of the country than in the climatologically wetter parts of the country, but some limited deterioration seemed appropriate in a few areas. Abnormal dryness was introduced in central Utah, leaving only the northwestern part of the state free from dryness. Farther east, moderate drought expanded into southwestern and west-central Colorado, east-central Utah, and the adjacent fringe of northwestern New Mexico…

Looking Ahead

The next 5 days (November 22-26) look similar to this past week, with most of the contiguous 48 states expecting little if any precipitation. Marginal relief may come to northern Florida and southeastern Georgia, where up to 1.5 inches of precipitation are forecast, and similar amounts should moisten the dry areas of eastern Maine. Moderate precipitation is also possible in far northwestern Montana and adjacent Idaho, but for the rest of the country, including the vast majority of the Nation’s dry areas, little or no precipitation is anticipated. In addition, the dry weather may be exacerbated by well-above-normal temperatures from the Plains westward to the Pacific Coast. Temperatures are expected to average at least 9 degrees F above normal across the western half of the 48 states, reaching as high as 20 to 24 degrees F in central and northern sections of the Rockies and High Plains, as well as the central Intermountain West.

During the 6-10 day period (November 27- December 1), abnormally light precipitation once again looks to dominate the 48 states. Odds favor below-median precipitation in the Southwest, central and southern sections of the Rockies and High Plains, most of the Great Plains and Mississippi Valley from South Dakota and central Minnesota southward to the Gulf Coast, and throughout the Nation east of the Mississippi River, save part of the northwestern Great Lakes Region. Odds favor above-normal precipitation in North Dakota and Montana, which would bring some needed moisture into the broad areas of D2 and D3 covering much of those states. The warmth observed in the central and western U.S. is expected to spread eastward to cover the entire country west of the Appalachians, though the intensity of the abnormal warmth may modify.