Community Open House & Reception: Edwards wastewater facility improvements, September 26, 2017

Edwards Wastewater Treatment Facility photo credit Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.

Click here to view the Eagle River Water & Sanitation event page and to register:

Join us for a reception and tour of the $25 million Edwards wastewater treatment facility solids handling improvement project. Now that the landscaping is done, we’re ready for visitors!

Please register so we can plan enough food for all participants.

  • 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Open house, facility tours, and complimentary food.
  • Noon to 1 p.m. – Welcome, acknowledgements, speakers, and short tour.
  • […]

    Improvements include:

  • Preliminary treatment enhancements.
  • Expansion of the solids digestion process.
  • Rehabilitation of solids dewatering.
  • Landscaping and aesthetic updates.
  • New odor control systems.
  • @CWCB_DNR/@DWR_CO: September 2017 #Drought Update

    Here’s the update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado Division of Water Resources (Taryn Finnessey/Tracy Kosloff):

    Following cooler than average temperatures in August across much of the state, September has been hot and dry. Consequently, both abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions have expanded across western Colorado. Reservoir storage is well above average, and municipal water providers have no immediate concerns with levels of supply and demand in their systems.

  • After receiving only 69 percent of statewide average precipitation in August at SNOTEL stations, September precipitation to date remains low at 30 percent of average as of September 14. The South Platte was the only basin to receive normal precipitation levels in August (100 percent); while the Arkansas is the only basin to receive above normal precipitation (122 percent) September to date. All other basins are experiencing well below average precipitation for the month, ranging from zero (Yampa/ White) to 44 percent (Upper Colorado).
  • Reservoir storage statewide is at 120 percent of normal, with all basins above average. The Rio Grande basin is reporting above average storage (133 percent) for the first time since 2009. The Colorado and Yampa/ White basins have the lowest storage levels in the state at 110 percent of normal.
  • 31 percent of Colorado is classified as abnormally dry (D0), while 4 percent is classified as experiencing moderate drought, predominantly concentrated in Rio Blanco and Garfield Counties.
  • Warmer than normal temperatures have affected Colorado over the last few weeks, with western slope temperatures averaging as much as eight degrees above normal.
  • ENSO-neutral conditions remain, but a La Nina watch has been issued by NOAA with more than 50 percent likelihood of a La Nina developing. Short term forecasts show that temperatures should cool off, with parts of the west receiving significant precipitation. This is a welcome change for those areas currently battling forest fires.
  • Long term forecast shows no major indication towards wet or dry in the upcoming months. If La Niña conditions set in, mountain snows are often enhanced during the winter season, but fall and spring tend to be dry.
  • @SenBennetCO, et al., introduce Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2017

    During mining (top), the water table is often lowered to access ore, exposing the rock to oxygen and creating acid mine drainage. Sealing off a mine can return the water table to pre-mining levels (bottom), creating anoxic conditions inside the mine and preventing further acidification. Credit: K. Cantner, AGI.

    From The Durango Herald (Mia Rupani):

    Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, along with Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., introduced the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2017 on Tuesday to update the nation’s antiquated hard-rock mining laws.

    The bill would reform the General Mining [Act] of 1872 that allows companies to extract minerals such as gold and silver on federal public lands without paying royalties, and while avoiding liability for any environmental damage.

    The proposed legislation would help pay for abandoned mine cleanup and prevent future disasters.

    Bennet referenced the 2015 Gold King Mine spill that sent an estimated 3 million gallons of heavy-metals laced mine wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers in a news release on Tuesday…

    If passed, the legislation would make seven primary changes to the General Mining Law of 1872:

  • Require hard-rock mining companies to pay an annual rental payment for claimed public land, similar to other users.
  • Set a royalty rate for new operations of 2 to 5 percent based on the gross income of new production on federal land.
  • Create a Hardrock Minerals Reclamation Fund for abandoned mine cleanup through an abandoned mine reclamation fee of 0.6 percent to 2 percent.
  • Give the secretary of the Interior the authority to grant royalty relief to mining operations based on economic factors.
  • Require an exploration permit and mining operations permit for noncasual mining operations on federal land.
  • Permit states, political subdivisions and Indian tribes to petition the secretary of the Interior to have lands withdrawn from mining.
  • Require an expedited review of areas that may be inappropriate for mining.
  • The bill is supported by leaders throughout Southwest Colorado, including La Plata County Commissioner Julie Westendorff, Durango City Councilor Dean Brookie, San Juan County Commissioner Pete McKay and Trout Unlimited’s Ty Churchwell.

    CPC issues La Niña watch

    Typical La Nina weather patterns over North America via NOAA.

    From 9News.com (Cory Reppenhagen):

    La Nina alters the flow of the Polar Jet Stream over the United States. This will often track storms just to the northeast of Colorado, and it lowers the probability of us getting southern storm tracks that deliver upslope winds, which the Front Range and the Foothills rely on for big snow.

    But when the NOAA Winter Outlook is issued with a La Nina, it usually shows little impact one way or the other for Colorado, because our winters can be so variable anyway, but historically, the data does allow you to draw some conclusions.

    La Nina winters have historically, brought warmer, and drier conditions to the Denver metro and the bulk of the I-25 corridor.

    Last year, La Nina conditions developed in August and carried into January, and we finished the winter with neutral conditions. That resulted in the lowest amount of snow that Denver has seen in 128 years.

    While a La Nina doesn’t guarantee less snow for Denver, the data allows some conclusions to be drawn. The last four La Nina’s have resulted in below average snowfall, and 15 out 19 La Ninas since 1950 have also resulted in below average snow for Denver.

    Our mountains have a different La Nina story. They had record snowfall in many areas, during last year’s La Nina. That’s because they can benefit from different jet stream patterns, like a straight westerly jet stream pattern, that is sometimes referred to as the Pineapple Express.

    The mountains intercept the moisture coming from the Pacific Ocean, while the lee side of the mountains, where Denver is, catch nothing but warm, dry air.

    That’s just how the last few La Nina winters have played out for Denver.

    #AnimasRiver: #GoldKingMine update

    On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
    Eric Baker

    From The Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

    The 12-inch (30-centimeter) valve will regulate wastewater pouring from the Gold King Mine in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, where the EPA inadvertently triggered a wastewater spill while excavating at the mine entrance in August 2015…

    The valve will be mounted in a steel-and concrete barrier about 70 feet (20 meters) inside the mine. The barrier will have water-tight access doors so workers and equipment can get deeper into the mine for cleanup and investigation.

    The EPA is also drilling a 170-foot (50-meter) horizontal well into another part of the Gold King to drain any water building up there. That water would be routed through a temporary treatment plant below the mine where wastewater draining from the main entrance is cleaned up.

    The EPA said it can control the flow of wastewater from the new drain to avoid another blowout.

    The documents did not say say how much the work will cost and the EPA did not immediately respond to emails and a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.

    The work is expected to be completed next month.

    Peter Butler, a leader of the volunteer Animas River Stakeholders Group, which works to improve water quality in the area, said he agreed with the EPA’s decision to install the barrier and drainage well.

    “It’s probably a good idea,” he said. “They are showing an abundance of caution.”

    Wastewater has flowed from the Gold King for years, and since the 2015 blowout, it has poured out at a rate of about 500 gallons (1,900 liters) a minute.

    Mine waste flows are unpredictable In the San Juan Mountains, where underground water flows through an interconnected warren of mine tunnels and natural faults.

    Precautions such as the barrier, valve and horizontal drain will make it safer for investigators to enter the mines and try to figure out the water flows, Butler said.

    The Gold King and dozens of other mining-related sites in the region were designated a Superfund district in 2016.

    Solving the problem of the declining Ogallala aquifer: “It’s for the generation that’s not here” — Dwane Roth

    The High Plains Aquifer provides 30 percent of the water used in the nation’s irrigated agriculture. The aquifer runs under South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.

    From The Hutchinson News (Amy Bickel):

    Because of technology, [Dwane] Roth is working to embrace what might seem like an unfathomable concept in these parts – especially when you can’t see what is happening underground.

    Sometimes the crop isn’t thirsty.

    “It’s difficult to shut off,” Roth said. “But I called my soil moisture probe guy. He said the whole profile was full and it was only the top 2 inches that was actually dry. So there was no need to turn that irrigation engine on and pump from the Ogallala.”

    Now he is hoping to change the mindset of his peers across a landscape where corn is king and the Ogallala Aquifer – the ocean underneath the High Plains – has been keeping the decades-old farm economy going on the semi-arid Plains.

    At least it is for now.

    Underlying eight states across the Great Plains, the Ogallala provides water to about one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle production in the United States. It’s also a primary drinking water supply for residents throughout the High Plains.

    But the aquifer that gives life to these fields is declining. It took 6,000 years to fill the Ogallala Aquifer from glacier melt. It has taken just 70 years of irrigation to put the western Kansas landscape into a water crisis.

    An economy centered on water is drying up.

    With his own water levels declining, Roth wants to make sure there is water for the next generation, including his nephews who recently returned to the farm.

    On this hot, summer day, water seeped out of a high-tech irrigation system he is testing on his Finney County farm. Soil probes are scattered about, telling him what is happening below the surface.

    Roth also has pledged to the state to cut back his usage by 15 percent through changing farming practices and implementing new technology.

    He wants to make a difference, but, he stressed, he can’t slow the decline alone.

    For the past two years, Roth’s fields have been part of a closely watched demonstration project aimed at showing farmers how to use less irrigation water on their crops. Now he he is taking it a step further.

    With some areas in northern Finney County declining by more than 70 feet since 2005, Roth is helping spearhead a regional effort to curtail pumping through a Local Enhanced Management Area. LEMAs were implemented five years ago as a tool to extend the life of the state’s water resources.

    He’s not the only one looking toward the future. A small but growing group of irrigators are considering different tools to cutback water use. Some are implementing technology. Some are looking at LEMAs. Others are forming their own, farm-wide plans for mandatory cutbacks.

    “It’s for the kids you don’t see yet,” Roth said of why he’s doing this. “It’s for the generation that’s not here.”

    Ogallala aquifer via USGS

    A quick look at Ogallala Aquifer water rights governance

    Ogallala aquifer boundaries

    From High Plains Public Radio (Susan Stover):

    Texas manages groundwater with the Rule of Capture. The groundwater belongs to the landowner without a defined limit. It’s sometimes known as the Law of the Biggest Pump.

    Colorado and Kansas water law is based on prior appropriation, known as First in Time, First in Right. A water right owner can pump their permitted amount if it doesn’t impair a more senior right – a water right that was established earlier in time. When there isn’t enough water to meet all needs, the owners of senior water rights have priority. The priority system works well for streams. When stream flow is low, it is generally clear which upstream, junior users must be cut off to protect the more senior water rights.

    For groundwater, it is more complex to identify which water wells are impairing a more senior water well. Groundwater often provides a baseflow to streams; when heavy groundwater pumping lowers the water table so there is no longer a connection to the stream and stream flow declines, is that impairment?

    Colorado state law dealt with such concerns by defining “designated groundwater basins,” those in which groundwater contributes little to stream flow. The Ogallala aquifer lies in designated groundwater basins. This allows more groundwater to be pumped, which lowers the water table, but with less risk of impairing surface water rights.

    In Kansas, action is taken when a junior water right well’s pumping directly impairs a senior water right well, whether it uses groundwater or surface water. However, no action is taken if problems are due to regional groundwater declines. Like Colorado, Kansas allows the decline of the Ogallala aquifer to get the economic benefit from the water.

    Management of the Ogallala aquifer is a balance between protecting existing water right holders and conserving water for the future. Attitudes change over time on what is a proper balance. Much water law encouraged development of the aquifer and protects current users. Is that balance shifting more toward conserving and extending this resource further into the future?