Water-efficient toilets could save 170 billion GAL a year in #CO, #AZ, #CA, #GA, #TX

From BuilderOnline.com (Lauren Shanesy):

Water-efficient toilets could potentially save up to 170 billion gallons of water per year across five states facing water scarcity, according to new research from the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) and Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI).

The study focused on Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia and Texas, where water shortages are prevalent. The “Saturation Study of Non-Efficient Water Closets in Key States” research found that if non-efficient toilets in residential properties are replaced with water-efficient ones, the five states could save 170 billion gallons of potable water yearly or 465 million gallons saved per day, which is equivalent to up to 360 billion potable gallons of water per year saved nationally.

More than 13 million non-efficient toilets, defined as ones with gallons per flush (gpf) of more than 1.6 gallons, remain installed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia and Texas residences, and represent about 21% of all toilets installed in these states. As toilet flushing is the largest single indoor use of water, representing 24% of total use in single-family homes, replacing non-efficient toilets in the five states researched would save a significant amount of water overall.

@CWCB_DNR: April 2017 #Drought Update

Colorado Drought Monitor April 18, 2017.

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

With temperatures eight degrees above average, March of this year was the warmest March on record for the State of Colorado, and the second warmest on record for the nation. Late March precipitation brought much needed moisture, but the state as a whole received only 64 percent of average, in what is historically one of our wettest months. April has also been dry with only 58 percent of normal precipitation to-date. However, the forecast for the next two weeks indicates that the state will likely see cooler temperatures and more moisture.

  • Demand has already increased for municipal water providers, in some communities as much as 150 percent of average for this time of year; this is indicative of an increase in outdoor watering.
  • In Colorado, normal snow accumulation typically peaks around April 9th, yet in 2017 this occurred on March 11th, despite some recovery in late March and early April that gave the South Platte, Arkansas, and Rio Grande basins their respective peaks in early April. Additional snow accumulation is possible should adequate future weather conditions develop.
  • During the snow accumulation season all river basins were able to reach or exceed typical peak snowpack levels. Northern Basins met typical snowpack peak levels (South Platte, Yampa/White, North Platte, Arkansas & Colorado). Southern Basins exceeded typical snowpack peak levels (Gunnison, San Miguel/ Dolores, Animas/ San Juan).
  • Statewide water year- to- date snowpack as of April 19th is at 91% of normal, down from 121% on March 17th.
  • Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 110% of normal and all basins are at or above normal. March was the first month since 2009 that the Upper Rio Grande reservoirs reached 100% of normal.
  • Following two months of below average precipitation the Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) has begun to show decreased water availability particularly in the Yampa/ White and the South Platte River basins.
  • Streamflow forecasts have fallen considerably over the last month and now range from a high of 147% of normal on Tomichi Creek to a low of 78% on Antero & Yampa above Stagecoach.
  • Neutral ENSO conditions are present, and are favored to continue through spring, with the possible development of an El Nino this summer. The April-June forecast looks mixed for the season, with the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) expecting more moisture than average, while statistical tools favor drier conditions, especially over the eastern plains. The monsoon season looks favorable based on CPC forecast and current analogues. Should an El Niño develop this summer, precipitation odds during the latter half of the growing season would become more favorable.
  • Core fire season in the mountains of western Colorado is anticipated to get off to a later than average start s a result of decent moisture over the winter. Consequently below average large fire risk is predicted from May through June.
  • For the lower elevations, foothills and south eastern plains the expectation is for average large fire potential from April through July.
  • The Flood Threat Bulletin will begin May 1st and can be found at http://www.coloradofloodthreat.com/
  • A new tool for SNODAS has been developed and can be accessed at http://projects.openwaterfoundation.org/owf-
  • #Snowpack/#runoff news:

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map April 23, 2017 via the NRCS.

    From The Vail Daily (Emily Brown):

    We benefit from some of this snowmelt on a local scale, but most of the snowmelt flows into the Colorado River, whose watershed spans several states — Utah, Arizona, California and, of course, Colorado. This snowmelt supplies some of the bigger cities that are in or near the Colorado River watershed including Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles and San Diego. So you might say there are a few people who depend on this water.


    Vail usually sees an average snowfall of about 350 inches a year. Currently we have seen about 190 inches of snowfall this winter season, but the season isn’t over yet. Everything could all change in the next month, we’ll have keep our fingers crossed. On average, 10 inches of snowfall is equivalent to about 1 inch of rain. So right now we will see about 19 inches of water melting and flowing into our local Eagle River and ultimately into the Colorado River.

    We are already seeing this snowpack begin to melt. It’s more prevalent in some areas than others, but we have been getting warm days which is causing the snowpack to melt little by little every day. If we start to see significant melting happening too soon in the season, then this can be a threat for not only our skiing, but also for the animals that rely on this snowpack for warmth and cover.

    We have quite a few small mammals in our area that forage under the snow in what is called the subnivean layer. This is the layer at the base of the snowpack where the heat from the ground creates a warm habitat for small mammals like voles, shrews, mice and weasels. When the snowpack starts melting too early, water will percolate down into the subnivean layer, causing confusion for these animals and threatening their protective habitat. This is one reason why it is important to have winter-like conditions during the winter.

    So as you stand, slide, or shuffle above the snowpack this winter, remember that snow is not only pretty and fun, it’s also an important component of our local ecosystem and beyond. The crystals that sparkle and glimmer on the hillsides today will be the drops of water slithering through the valley floor tomorrow. We all depend on this snow in some way, and it’s worth taking a moment to consider its value, to us, to our neighbors down the watershed and to the wildlife that share our home.

    From The Crestone Eagle:

    “The 2016-2017 snow season has been unpredictable at best. April and May are the months were we see most of our precipitation for the year, about 21%,” says Brian Domonkos, NRCS Snow Survey Supervisor. “So we’re in in a pivotal position right now. Poor precipitation in March isn’t a great start to our most pivotal point.”

    Colorado is known for its unpredictable weather patterns. The element of surprise is also a consideration when attempting to forecast water availability across the state. “The bottom line is, across the state we need moisture if we are to remain above normal,” Domonkos goes on to say. “Although we got a great deal of snow through January, we’ve not had much since. Those hearty storm systems early on allowed us to coast thru February and March but we’re now at a point where we are reliant on future precipitation.”

    NRCS’ Snow Survey and Water Forecasting Program provides western states and Alaska with information on future water supplies through the analysis of snowpack water equivalent and depth data at 866 automated SNOpack TELemetry (SNOTEL) stations. This network relays information about the depth and water content of the snowpack, precipitation, and air temperatures and other elements to a central computer on an hourly basis. Data for the Program is also collected by measuring 1,352 manually observed snow courses in the United States and Canada including the sites in Colorado.

    “Ideally we always want to be 120 – 100% of normal snowpack because these conditions often yield the best runoff during spring and summer months provided future spring and summer precipitation is near normal,” says Domonkos. “What we also know however, is that at any given moment the various basins across the state hold various amounts of snow. Some basins reach their annual snow pack peak capacity, while others don’t. Even if a basin reaches its peak within a season, efficient runoff of that snowpack depends upon snowpack peak timing and amount as well as a host of other factors. For Example, the combined Yampa-White-North Platte River Basins already hit their typical snowpack peak for this year. But because it reached peak so early in the season, the runoff efficiency may be diminished. At the end of the day, more moisture across the state would be a nice thing to see.”

    For more information about NRCS and its Snow Survey and Water Forecasting program, please visit: the NRCS Snow Survey Webpage in Colorado.

    Fort Collins craft brewers cooperating on water issues

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacob Laxen):

    On Tuesday night, Brewater hosted a panel open to the public at New Belgium Brewing.

    “We all understand 100 percent how important water is to our product and our community,” said Horse & Dragon Brewing co-owner Carol Cochran.

    While Oregon and Washington both have state brewery watershed groups, Brewater is the only formal collection of craft brewers from the same city to collaborate on water conservation issues.

    Fort Collins craft brewers collectively use about two percent of town’s water. About half of what the craft breweries use is treated and returned to the Poudre River.

    “We feel we need to do our part,” said Katie Wallace, New Belgium’s assistant director of sustainability.

    Since Brewater was formed in 2013, equipment redesigns have saved 3 million gallons annually at Odell Brewing, 1 million gallons at New Belgium and 40,000 gallons at 1933 Brewing — which has since closed but has plans to reopen with a new concept under new owners.

    “My biggest advice is to challenge your equipment supplier,” said Odell engineer Matt Bailey. “Just because it is out there doesn’t mean it’s the best practice.”

    Water conservation tactics in Fort Collins range from New Belgium — the state’s largest craft brewer — having its own water treatment plant and converting some of its used water into electricity, to much smaller operations that do much more simple methods such as tracking beer loss.

    “The bigger breweries in town have been fantastic mentors,” Cochran said. “They set a great example.”

    And while the Fort Collins craft breweries may compete for sales and tap space, they work together on conserving water.

    “We would like to make beer in the future,” said Zach Wilson, the new owner of 1933 Brewing. “So it is really important to be involved now.”

    #AnimasRiver: @EPA is recommending a scaled-back approach for Bonita Peak superfund due to funding uncertainty

    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 Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    EPA crews in southwestern Colorado swiftly stopped an acidic, 15 gallons-a-minute flow from the defunct Brooklyn Mine, drainage that for decades has injected heavy arsenic, cadmium, lead, manganese and zinc into Animas River headwaters. That’s a tiny portion of the overall 3,750 gallons-a-minute contaminating the Animas, but is typical of the trickling from thousands of mines that slowly kills Western streams — even as clean water increasingly is coveted.

    “It took half a day. All we did was redirect the adit flow so that it didn’t cross waste rock,” EPA Superfund project manager Rebecca Thomas said…

    …EPA cleanup specialists face the practical reality that the nation’s ailing Superfund program for rectifying environmental disasters may not be able to deliver. Federal cleanups of toxic mining Superfund sites typically take decades due to bureaucracy and scarce funds.

    EPA officials have proposed 40 “early-response” fixes spanning 20 of the mine sites in the mountains above Silverton. If locals approve — public meetings are scheduled next week — EPA crews would embark on these small-scale projects to create ponds that slow drainage so that contaminants drop out, to reroute snow and rain run-off away from waste rock, and to remove tailings that slump into streams and ooze poison.

    The investigation and planning for a full Superfund cleanup still would continue, once EPA chiefs and Congress allocate funds. But the overall cleanup here at 46 sites across the newly designated, 60-square-mile Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site is complicated and costly. It requires mapping a vast underground maze of drilled tunnels and natural fissures, inserting concrete plugs and installing water-cleaning systems. EPA crews also would have to dispose of thousands of cubic yards of metals-laced sludge each year, spreading it in waste pits or possibly injecting it into super-deep bore holes to serve as a buffer and hold acidic mining wastewater inside dormant mine tunnels…

    Less money for EPA could reduce Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment testing of water quality in streams and slow completion of a toxic mines inventory to guide cleanups at thousands of the worst leaking mines, Green said. Next year, Conservation Colorado will push state-level legislation to require mining companies to post sufficient bond money to guarantee proper postmining restoration.

    In Washington, D.C., Earthworks advocates lamented that legislation Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner mulled to promote cleanups has fizzled…

    Beyond the quick fixes, EPA and southwestern Colorado officials also are working to create a scientific research center in Silverton that they envision as a hub for hydrology research to improve water quality at mining sites…

    Next week, EPA officials plan to hold public meetings with residents in Silverton, Durango and Farmington, N.M., for discussion of both the quick fixes and long-term cleanup.

    “Funding is a question,” said Thomas, the EPA project manager. “We certainly will be requesting money this year. We will start the work as soon as the funding is available — no earlier than probably the fourth quarter this year.”

    Yet tangible progress can be made sooner, she said.

    “I’m very optimistic. This is a high-visibility project. The work that we do in this district could be used as a template for hundreds, if not thousands, of abandoned mines across the Rocky Mountain West. There’s a lot of energy here at the EPA, and also at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, to make sure we do the right thing and see some improvement in environmental quality. I’m more optimistic than trepidacious for sure,” Thomas said.

    Dolores River: History of the Hanging Flume

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Bob Silbernagel):

    In May, 1891, Nathaniel Turner — manager of the firm that had recently completed the hanging flume in Dolores Canyon — optimistically told the Grand Junction News that the flume was operating just as intended to mine for gold.

    “Washing (of gravel and rock) has been in progress for the past 10 days,” the newspaper reported, based on information from Turner, “and everything looks promising for a speedy and profitable return to the company.”

    Turner’s prediction proved incorrect, however. Gold production wasn’t as great as hoped, and Turner’s company was in constant financial turmoil.

    Turner wasn’t the only one to tout the promise of the wood-and-steel engineering marvel that clings to the rock high above the Dolores River. A year earlier, the national Engineering and Mining Journal had been equally enthusiastic.

    “This work will show how easy it is, when backed up by enterprising capital, to bring water … to points which were always thought to be inaccessible,” the Journal said in May 1890. “The total cost will be about $75,000 when finished, and it is expected to be completed within a few months.”

    But the Journal was also wrong. The actual cost was between $165,000 and $175,000. And it required more than a year before the flume was partially completed. Turner’s company built seven miles of flume, and planned to construct another three miles to reach the northernmost of the company’s five mining claims along the Dolores River. Instead, it only reached the southernmost of those claims, and never went farther.

    The five mining claims were filed from 1883 to 1885 by the Lone Tree Mining Company, a group of Salt Lake City investors. Lone Tree engaged in conventional placer mining on one claim, using limited water from nearby Mesa Creek.

    In 1887, Lone Tree sold its claims to the Montrose Placer Mining Company, which consisted of investors from East St. Louis, Illinois. The company was managed by Turner, a somewhat mysterious figure who had reportedly gained experience in hydraulic mining in California.

    Turner decided hydraulic mining was the best way to utilize the claims, and conceived the idea for a canal and flume to bring abundant water from the San Miguel River for the task.

    Placer mining involves washing sand and gravel in sluice boxes so that the heavier gold is left behind. Hydraulic mining is an industrial variation in which water is shot through a nozzle at high pressure onto the face of a cliff or gravel deposit, washing away tons of gravel, rock and dirt that is run through a large–scale sluicing system.

    The Montrose Placer Mining Company constructed seven miles of flume in 1890 and 1891. Another three miles of canal carried the water from the San Miguel River to the wooden flume.

    Pine lumber was logged in the La Sal Mountains of Utah, and cut into large planks. At least 18 wagon trails were built to carry materials to locations on the rim of Dolores Canyon, where they could be lowered to the workers below.

    Workers were suspended by ropes to mark the grade the flume was to follow, and some were likely suspended while drilling holes for the thick bolts that were drilled into the rock to anchor the flume. Later, the workers used a cantilevered derrick attached to the end of one section of flume to construct the next section.

    The problem for Turner’s company wasn’t the flume. It was the ore.

    The gold recovered from the hydraulic washing proved to be too fine to be collected in appreciable amounts in the sluicing operations. The hydraulic mining in 1891 continued at least into July, but it’s not clear how long it went on after that.

    A year after Turner’s optimistic proclamation, the U.S. General Land Office informed the Montrose Placer Mining Company that it still owed money for one of its five claims. Apparently, Lone Tree Mining had not made the final payment on the claim.

    Montrose Placer Mining Company was unable to pay. Turner left the company in disgrace. But in 1893, when the company was sold at a sheriff’s sale, Turner reappeared to purchase it. He formed the Vixen Alluvial Gold Mining Company.

    In 1897, Vixen obtained $21,000 in additional financing. Turner and the company apparently intended to complete the final three miles of the flume and begin hydraulic mining on the other four claims. But that never occurred.

    The entire system was lost in a court judgment in 1899, then sold again in 1900, this time to a new company called the Montrose Mining Company, whose investors were actually from the Front Range.

    The new company filed documents saying it worked its claims for four weeks in 1903, but quit because it ran out of water.

    The property was sold one more time, but there is no evidence that any work on the mining claims was conducted after 1903. The flume and mining claims were abandoned by 1904, although settlers and ranchers had already begun scavenging wood from the easily accessible portions of the flume.

    A century after the flume was abandoned, an effort began to preserve it. The nonprofit Interpretive Association of Western Colorado, working with the Bureau of Land Management, and with assistance from a Colorado State Historical Grant, the JM Kaplan Fund and John Hendricks of Gateway Canyons Resort, contracted for studies of the flume’s construction and its history. In 2012, 48 feet of the flume were rebuilt, using construction techniques similar to those used in 1890 and 1891.

    The flume is listed on the National Register of Historic Structures and is the longest historic structure in Colorado.

    Information for this column came from “History and Background of the Hanging Flume,” by Alpine Archaeological Consultants of Montrose; “Flume Work of the Montrose Placer Mining Company,” The Engineering and Mining Journal, May 17, 1890; Interpretive Association of Western Colorado; and from Zebulon Miracle, curator at Gateway Canyons Resort.

    @MSUDenver: Rising curtains, rising tides — “The power of theatre for social change is immense” — Marilyn Hetzel

    In observance of Earth Day, we spotlight an MSU Denver theatre ensemble changing lives, one drop at a time.

    From Metropolitan State University of Denver (Cory Phare):

    In observance of Earth Day, we spotlight an MSU Denver theatre ensemble changing lives, one drop at a time.

    If you promote water conservation in the Denver area, chances are good that you’ve already heard of Water Wise.

    John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s top water advisor, has – and that’s how the MSU Denver theatre troupe got to bring its brand of advocacy-based performance to the 2017 Colorado Water Congress’ annual convention this past January.

    The Water Wise ensemble does what’s known as theatre for social change. And, as Marilyn Hetzel, Ph.D., chair of the University’s Department of Theatre noted, it’s a vehicle for delivering important messages that leave a lasting impression.

    “The power of theatre for social change is immense,” she said. “They’re stories that can teach.”

    Water we going to do about it?

    The Water Wise troupe owes its founding in part to when Tom Cech felt the impact of this kind of performance firsthand.

    “My wife, Grace, and I attended [Dr. Hetzel’s] production of ‘Here’s to Ears,’ and it was fabulous!” said Cech, the director of MSU Denver’s One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship program. “There were no props – they just told a great educational story about hearing protection.”

    Cech reached out to Hetzel, and they strategized a way to develop and stage a similar production – only this time in conjunction with Denver Water, Aurora Water and the City of Boulder’s water department. The agencies had originally contacted MSU Denver looking for innovative ways to enhance their water education programs.

    The show needed to convey the importance of conservation and a deeper understanding of natural resources. It would be performed at annual water festivals, and performances would also be integrated within the conservation-rooted school curricula already in place for fourth- through sixth-graders in the region.

    For Miles LaGree, the question of logistics was part of the creative solution when he approached writing the theatrical piece as a member of the original Water Wise theatre group.

    “The challenge was taking a list of facts, and then translating them into theatrical performances without any props or scenery,” said the senior ensemble member, who is wrapping up a bachelor’s degree in applied theatre technology and design. “How were we going to do the show with just us?”

    The answer was simple: a powerful narrative, with an innovative means of conveyance.

    Thus, Water Wise performances were born.

    Rapid growth, rapid connections

    When you do something well, word tends to get around. And just as a soft trickle builds from headwaters into a mighty roar downstream, buzz got louder about what the ensemble was doing.

    That’s what led to the Colorado Water Congress stage, where Water Wise circa 2017 performed for members, including engineers and water providers from around the state. After the troupe’s performance (greeted with thunderous applause), representatives from across Colorado approached the group to discuss future performances.

    According to Cech, another key value of theatre for social change was demonstrated: constructing a career pipeline to keep the message flowing.

    “With the students from the troupe still in the room, we asked [conference attendees], ‘How many of you are hiring right now?’” said Cech. “Hands shot up, and immediately we had connections; students provided resumes to people who were interested in what they had to say and what they could do. That’s how it works.”

    Transformative states that matter

    According to Natalie Brower-Kirton, senior water conservation specialist with Aurora Water, who served on a post-performance panel at the event, the very process of developing the piece proved transformative for students.

    “[Ensemble students] made an empowering and positive message about where our water comes from, why Colorado is unique, and what people can do to conserve it,” she said. “The best thing is not only that they reached a large audience but that they became water advocates themselves.”

    LaGree attested to this. He also pointed out that theatre works particularly well as a vehicle because it’s a live art – and one that most younger students haven’t had much experience with.

    “Not many kids are heading down to the Buell, so it’s great to bring the work to them,” he said. “And to see that fire lit in their eyes from the performances – that’s what it’s all about.”

    And so, lighting that passion for conservation is really the greatest impact of Water Wise theatre for social change. As Cech and Brower-Kirton attest, it’s an indisputably valuable tool for organizational change, and why Hetzel fondly refers to theatre as “equipment for living.”

    It’s why LaGree speaks of his time with Water Wise and the lessons learned from Hetzel as “more valuable than anything money could buy.”

    “It’s seeing that light turn on in the kids’ heads, knowing they’ve learned something,” he said. “Those smiling faces are what let you know firsthand that it’s effective, that what you’re doing matters.”