Erie population growth is driving wastewater plant expansion

Erie Town Hall. By Bahooka – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32826717

From The Longmont Times-Call (Anthony Hahn):

Trustees earlier this month approved the foundation for such change, an expansion master plan for the site that could run the town nearly $25 million in construction costs over the next few years, and an additional $2 million for consultants to steer the early stages.

Several factors — ranging from the predictable to the esoteric — are driving the need for the facility’s expansion, according to Adam Parmenter of HDR, Inc., the firm charged with shepherding the town through the project.

According to Colorado Department of Health regulations, towns must begin to make expansion plans when their facilities reach 80% capacity; at 95%, construction must begin. Delays could get state regulators to slap communities with growth restrictions.

In 2017, Erie’s North Water site hit about 81% capacity, processing roughly 1.58 million gallons of wastewater per day. By 2020, that number is expected to hit 95% of the facility’s processing capacity, equivalent to 4 ½ Olympic swimming pools…

If Erie’s projected growth keeps pace (and with current trends, there’s no reason to expect otherwise), Parmenter said the facility’s liquid capacity would be exceeded by 2021.

Consultants are recommending a plan out to 2028, expanding the plant into a 3.03 million gallons per day system, a 50% capacity increase from what the existing facility does now.

The expansion will take place in steps, however, over the next decade, according to Erie Public Works Director Todd Fessenden.

“We will be in design over the course of the next year for the expansion of the plant” he said, “then we’ll be in construction late next year or early 2021.

“The master plan is really just laying out the next 20 years so we can have a schedule to look at,” he added, “whether that be regulatory milestones or looking at certain capacity stages, a lot of those things you have to be planning ahead for before those things hit.”

Another of the drivers, and perhaps a more pressing matter, is the plant’s solid operations. Whereas the plant’s liquid-stream processing is more of a straightforward capacity issue, dealing with the deluge of solids on a daily basis is often rooted in the quality of the science.

In order to get the solids that come through the plant to the designation of “Class A Biosolids” — a standard that meets EPA guidelines “for land application with no restrictions,” meaning reclaiming it to a point where it can legally be used as fertilizer or compost — the plant’s technology needs to perform a specific set of tasks.

As it stands now, the North Water site is essentially at capacity for processing solid waste, Parmenter said, and the “system isn’t running the way it was originally designed to create Class A Biosolids.”

Without changes, the system’s current process — which includes trucks having to move solids off-site — would cost the town roughly $1 million per year in hauling costs.

According to officials, the costs of the expansion project will be footed by the town’s growth through its existing tap fees.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the San Juan National Forest, and Trout Unlimited are partnering to repopulate Wolf Creek with San Juan Cutthroat trout

Courtesy Photo This trout is one of a new pure genetic strain of cutthroat trout (San Juan cutthroat) found recently by Colorado Parks and wildlife biologists. This photo was taken at CPW’s Durango fish hatchery via the South Fork Tines.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (John Finefrock):

The San Juan cutthroat trout, a fish native to the San Juan Wa- tershed and once thought to be extinct, will be reintroduced to the area in a project administered by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW ) and the San Juan National Forest…

In 1874, naturalist Charles E. Aiken collected and preserved samples of the San Juan cutthroat in Pagosa Springs, one of which has been stored in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., since the late 1800s.

The San Juan cutthroat was believed to have gone extinct about 100 years ago.

About 10 years ago, samples of a cutthroat were collected, but scien- tists didn’t, or couldn’t, prove that it was the same genetically pure San Juan cutthroat that originated in the San Juan Watershed and was collected in 1874.

“There were a couple populations identified around 10 years ago,” Hanks said. “People started looking at ‘em and saying, ‘Hey, what’s the deal with these, there might be something special about these. But, the consensus was that they were just some sort of hybrid.”

Last year, modern genetic test- ing was done on the fish samples collected 10 years ago that prove a genetic match between the recent samples and the Smithsonian samples from the late 1800s. “Now we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that those fish we’ve always wondered about are indeed the San Juan lineage cutthroat trout. They are not a hybrid, they are native to the San Juan Basin,” said Hanks.

Now, CPW, the San Juan National Forest and Trout Unlimited are partnering to breed and reintroduce the San Juan cutthroat, in abundance, to the area around Pagosa Springs…

The project, currently under- way, will breed the San Juan cut- throats in the Durango hatchery and ultimately release them into Wolf Creek, near Wolf Creek Pass…

Hanks explained that Wolf Creek was chosen as the site of the proj- ect because “it’s a very productive fishery.”

The San Juan cutthroat bred in Durango will be released into Wolf Creek around the summer of 2022.

Early warning for wildland fires? There could be an app for that —

Infrared images from the weather satellite GOES show the Camp Fire spreading during the four hours after ignition on Nov. 8, 2018, during which time it burned through the town of Paradise. Such images, downloaded quickly, could be used to alert fire, police and residents of developing wildland fires. (Image courtesy of Jeff Chambers)

From UC Berkeley (Robert Sanders):

While state and federal officials are looking ahead and worrying about the coming fire season and how to more quickly get in front of fast-moving blazes, a University of California, Berkeley, professor argues that the tools for rapid detection are already here.

A weather satellite, GOES 17 (GOES West), sits above California taking photos every five minutes that can show hot spots throughout the West. If visible light and infrared data from this geostationary satellite are downloaded quickly enough, a computer program could easily be written to search for hot spots and alert emergency responders within as little as 15 to 30 minutes.

Wildfire early warnings could even be delivered via a mobile phone app, just as apps today deliver weather alerts and, someday soon, earthquake early warnings.

“You could build today a fire warning app that would wake you up in the event of a nearby fire and help you decide if you need to flee,” said Jeff Chambers, a UC Berkeley professor of geography. “You could create an algorithm that would bring in all the data, detect the fire, calculate the direction it is moving and project what the fire is burning toward, maybe 30 minutes or an hour or two out. There is nothing to inhibit us from building that now.”

Chambers and a group of graduate students downloaded GOES 17 data days after the Camp Fire devastated the town of Paradise on Nov. 8, 2018, and were able to reconstruct the fire’s advance every five minutes for four hours after ignition. The images are low-resolution — each pixel is 2 kilometers square — but they could be used to quickly spot and track the spread of a large blaze almost in real time.

A close-up view of the residential and commercial structures in Paradise that were engulfed in flames as of 10:45 a.m. on Nov. 8. (Landsat data analysis and Google Earth overlay courtesy of Jeff Chambers)

Another Earth-orbiting satellite, Landsat 8, takes photos of the Western United States every 16 days and just happened to snap a photo of the Camp Fire four hours after ignition, which by that time had burned halfway through Paradise. Chambers later downloaded those images, as well, and, with the help of Google Earth Engine and the algorithms he wrote, he could clearly identify the buildings that had already burned and see the rapidly leapfrogging flames.

“At the time of the Camp Fire, we hadn’t yet built the tools to quickly synthesize all these data streams into a single application, but we’re there now,” he said.

Today’s wildfires move quickly — at one point, the leading edge of the Camp Fire was advancing over an area of 200 football fields every minute — so a 15- to 30-minute delay in accessing and analyzing satellite data would be too long to forewarn those near the fire front. But 30 minutes of advance warning could jump-start fire and police response and allow those downwind of the fire to evacuate much earlier, Chambers said.

Even better, he says, would be a geosynchronous land observation satellite dedicated to wildland fire detection, ideally with higher resolution than GOES. A dedicated fire satellite would not only enhance wildfire detection and monitoring, but could also track drought impacts, contribute to agricultural optimization efforts and assist with observation of land use and biomass change for carbon accounting, he said. Such a platform could help reduce impacts to the built environment and communities, while expanding the technology available to address today’s complex ecological and environmental challenges.

A UC Berkeley team proposed just such a satellite five years ago, dubbing it FUEGO (Fire Urgency Estimator on Geosynchronous Orbit). That group, led by astrophysicist Carl Pennypacker, estimated a cost of more than $200 million, high enough to require state and/or federal assistance or private investment.

The Camp Fire at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, four hours after it broke out, likely at the easternmost edge of the burn (right). (Landsat data analysis and overlay courtesy of Jeff Chambers)

Chambers’ analysis of the Landsat 8 and GOES satellite data from the Camp Fire clearly showed a fast-moving wildland fire, but not a forest fire, he said. Many trees survived the fire and looked green and healthy in satellite images taken weeks later, whereas chaparral and grasslands were completely consumed by the fire.

“This fire was moving so fast through the city that, in many cases, it burned right through the understory, and there wasn’t enough contact to get the flames up into the crowns of trees,” he said.

Any home or business surrounded by dry vegetation or downed or dead trees or that had gutters full of dry pine needles or leaves was vulnerable to catching fire, however. More than 10,000 structures burned in the Camp Fire.

In an article posted online today and submitted to PeerJ, Chambers described the sources of data that he employed to study the Camp Fire and that could assist in detecting future fires, now that the data analysis tools are available.

“Just months ago, this was not possible,” he said. “These tools are enabling science we couldn’t have done before, making fire information an important part of the news cycle. Part of our goal as scientists is to provide useful information to the public using available data streams and analysis tools.”

#Snowpack news: The SW basins are still way above average

Westwide SNOTEL April 20, 2019 via the NRCS.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chris Mannara):

According to data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River basins have a reported snowpack total of 160 percent of median this week — an increase from last week’s total of 152 percent of median…

The Upper San Juan site is currently sitting at 130 percent of median, an increase from last week’s total of 127 percent of median.

The Upper Rio Grande Basin snowpack total remains at 137 percent of median.

For the Arkansas River Basin, a 6 percent increase was reported, with snowpack totals going from 129 percent of median to 135 percent of median this week.

The Yampa and White River basins saw a 7 percent increase in the snowpack total, going from 110 percent of median to 117 percent of median this week.

The Laramie and North Platte River basins report a 6 percent increase, with totals going from 113 percent of median to 119 percent of median.

For the South Platte River Basin, a 4 percent increase was reported, with snowpack totals going from 112 percent of median last week to 116 percent of median this week.

The Upper Colorado River Basin is 131 percent of median this week, when last week it was 123 percent of median.

Lastly, the Gunnison River Basin jumped 6 percent from last week, going from 142 percent of median to 148 percent of median this week.

The Wolf Creek summit was 127 percent of the April 17 peak and 124 percent of the median peak. Last week, the summit was 139 percent of the April 10 peak and 132 percent of the median peak.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), there are no reports of snow on the hori- zon for Pagosa Springs; however, the NWS does indicate a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday…

NRCS District Conservationist Jerry Archuleta explained that it’s good to see the local snowpack totals staying flat.

“So, that means we’re holding that snow up there a little bit longer,” he said.

“Virtually all levels in south-central #Kansas wells were up, along with a good portion of those in northwest Kansas” — Brownie Wilson ((Kansas Geological Survey)

Dragon Line irrigation system. Photo credit: AgriExpo.com.

Here’s the release from the University of Kansas:

Groundwater levels during 2018, on average, rose slightly or remained about even throughout most of western and central Kansas, according to preliminary data compiled by the Kansas Geological Survey.

“By and large, 2018 was a good year for groundwater levels,” said Brownie Wilson, KGS water-data manager. “Virtually all levels in south-central Kansas wells were up along with a good portion of those in northwest Kansas, and although southwest Kansas saw a few decline areas in the usual spots, they were not as great as in years past.”

The KGS, based at the University of Kansas, and the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources (DWR) measure more than 1,400 water wells in Kansas annually. Most of the wells are drilled into the High Plains aquifer, a network of water-bearing rocks underlying parts of eight states and the state’s most valuable groundwater resource.

Ninety percent of the collected data comes from wells tapping the aquifer. The other wells are drilled into other aquifers underlying the High Plains aquifer and shallow aquifers adjacent to surface-water sources, such as the Arkansas River. Most of the 1,400 wells have been measured for decades.

In Kansas, the High Plains aquifer comprises three individual aquifers—the widespread Ogallala aquifer that underlies most of the western third of Kansas, the Equus Beds around Wichita and Hutchinson, and the Great Bend Prairie aquifer around Pratt and Great Bend.

Water levels in the Ogallala aquifer are influenced mainly by the amount of water withdrawn each year, which in turn is affected by the rate and timing of precipitation. Recharge, or water seeping down from the surface, adds little groundwater to the Ogallala. In central Kansas, however, recharge has more of an impact because the Equus Beds and Great Bend Prairie aquifer are shallower and average precipitation in that part of the state is higher.

Most of the wells in the network monitored by the KGS and DWR are within the boundaries of the state’s five Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs), which are organized and governed by area landowners and local water users to address water-resource issues.

In Southwest Kansas GMD 3, average levels dropped .39 feet. Although down, the change was less than in 17 of the last 20 years when levels fell between .5 and 3.5 feet annually. A rise of .05 feet in 2017 was the only positive movement during that time.

For the second summer in a row, water flowed for a time from the Colorado state line to Garden City. The river, which interacts with its adjacent shallow alluvial aquifer, has been mainly dry in western Kansas for decades.

Wells monitored in GMD 3 are drilled into the Ogallala aquifer except in a few areas where they draw from the deeper Dakota aquifer. The district includes all or part of Grant, Haskell, Gray, Finney, Stanton, Ford, Morton, Stevens, Seward, Hamilton, Kearny and Meade counties.

Western Kansas GMD 1 experienced a slight drop of .18 feet following a slight gain of .07 feet in 2017. The GMD includes portions of Wallace, Greeley, Wichita, Scott, and Lane counties, where the majority of wells are drilled into the Ogallala aquifer.

“West central was basically unchanged as a whole but the average is bookended by declines in Wallace County and rises in Scott County,” Wilson said.

Northwest Kansas GMD 4 had an average increase in water levels of .26 feet following a rise of .38 feet in 2017. GMD 4 covers Sherman, Thomas, Sheridan and parts of Cheyenne, Rawlins, Decatur, Graham, Wallace, Logan and Gove counties. Groundwater there is pumped almost exclusively from the Ogallala aquifer and shallow alluvial sources associated with streams. Besides being influenced by precipitation, water-level results in part of GMD 4 were tied to crop loss.

“Some producers south of the Goodland to Colby area got hailed out early in the 2018 growing season,” Wilson said. “With hail damaged crops and higher precipitation rates in the eastern portion of GMD 4, wells there had less declines or even slight recoveries.”

Big Bend GMD 5 had an average increase of 1.21 feet following an increase of .30 feet in 2017. The GMD is centered on the Great Bend Prairie aquifer underlying Stafford and Pratt counties and parts of Barton, Pawnee, Edwards, Kiowa, Reno and Rice counties.

Equus Beds GMD 2, a major source of water for Wichita, Hutchinson and surrounding towns, experienced a gain of 1.35 following a 1.93-foot decline in 2017. The GMD covers portions of Reno, Sedgwick, Harvey and McPherson counties.

The KGS measured 581 wells in western Kansas and DWR staff from field offices in Stockton, Garden City and Stafford measured 223, 260 and 357 wells in western and central Kansas, respectively. Measurements are taken annually, primarily in January when water levels are least likely to fluctuate due to irrigation.

The results are provisional and subject to revision based on additional analysis. Data by well is available at http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Magellan/WaterLevels/index.html.

@USBR expects above average #runoff on the #RioGrande through #NewMexico this Spring

The headwaters of the Rio Grande River in Colorado. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation:

Irrigators, municipalities, recreation community and the overall ecosystem of the Rio Grande will experience the benefits of an above average spring runoff this year. That’s according to the Annual Operating Plan based on above average snowpack in the mountains that feed the Rio Grande and its tributaries released today by the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s April streamflow forecast predicts that Rio Chama flow into El Vado Reservoir will be 142% of average, up from just 18% of average last year. This is a forecast inflow of approximately 320,000 acre-feet, up from 41,000 acre-feet at the same time last year. Rio Grande streamflow at Otowi Bridge is similarly predicted to be at 142% of average.

“This is a complete turnaround from last year when we were preparing for drying in the Middle Rio Grande in April,” said Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Office Manager Jennifer Faler. “We are looking forward to a good spring runoff that will improve storage supplies and help the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow spawn. Reclamation will continue to work closely with our water management partners at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, State of New Mexico, Bureau of Indian Affairs and irrigation districts to manage the Rio Grande safely and efficiently through the summer.”

The Rio Grande is currently operating under the Rio Grande Compact’s Article VII restrictions. Under Article VII when the combined usable Rio Grande Project storage in Elephant Butte and Caballo is below 400,000 acre-feet, storage in upstream reservoirs, like El Vado, is only allowed under limited circumstances. Reclamation expects Article VII restrictions to end in mid-May for several months, allowing for storage in El Vado during that time. Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs ended the last irrigation season holding less than 3% of their combined storage capacity. They are already rebounding and are currently holding more than 288,000 acre-feet or about 13% of capacity.

The Elephant Butte Irrigation District, El Paso County Water Improvement District Number One and Mexico plan to begin irrigation the first week in June. Reclamation will begin releasing water from Elephant Butte to Caballo Reservoir on May 3 in preparation for the irrigation season. Releases from Caballo will begin on May 31. The dry riverbed between Elephant Butte and Caballo and below Caballo will take on water quickly. As such, it will be both unpredictable and very dangerous. The public is asked to stay out of the river channel for their safety.