The district’s new, $27 million-plus wastewater treatment facility is nearing the end of its finishing touches after a three-year construction process. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new plant is tentatively set for Thursday.
Financed by a mill levy approved by the SWSD’s voters in May 2016, the facility was completed in March, whereupon the old plant was retrofitted to work in tandem with the new plant. Now, both facilities are online and working as designed, according to Hamby.
Some $23.3 million in bonds were sold for the project; the additional $4 million for the retrofitting of the old wastewater plant was financed through development-fee revenue from Snowmass construction projects, the district manager said.
In a tour of the new plant last week, Hamby beamed with pride as he described the reasons for the new plant, the complicated construction process of integrating the two plants and how SWSD employees accomplished retrofitting the old plant themselves…
While the plant took three years to build, the actual work started in 2013 when SGM, the Glenwood Springs-based company of consulting engineers, began talking to SWSD about new regulations that had recently been passed in 2012 in Colorado to reduce nutrient pollution in lakes, rivers and streams.
Regulation 85 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regulates nutrient discharges such as nitrogen and phosphorus and requires wastewater treatment plants to reduce both substances in the water that they discharge.
In the beginning, SGM and SWSD considered retrofitting the existing SWSD wastewater plant that was originally constructed in 1968 after the Snowmass ski area opened and then modified since then with additional construction.
A challenge for SWSD and the design and construction companies working on the new plant was the fact that the existing wastewater plant had to remain in operation while the new one was being constructed in order for Snowmass to meet current water regulations.
Because of this, the project was built in phases over the three-year period.
“Both plants have to be run in tandem to make this work, so we first had to build this new plant and put it online,” explained Hamby.
“Once it was constructed, we took the old plant offline, retrofitting it with new equipment, but we also had to remove a lot of the equipment that was over there. Our own people did the retrofitting work so it is really extraordinary to me that the people that maintain the plant also took responsibility to build basically a new plant inside,” he said.
In 2012, the state of Colorado passed Regulation 85, or Reg 85, which dealt with point source and nonpoint source water contaminants. Point sources, like wastewater treatment plants, were hit with strict measures for managing pollutants. Nonpoint sources, like parks, golf courses and agriculture, were not.
However, Reg 85 began a 10-year period where the agricultural community is encouraged to do voluntary measures for managing nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Agricultural organizations like the Colorado Livestock Association and Colorado Corn Growers Association were involved in those early discussions and pushed back against the assumption that agriculture is the main contributor of nutrients to streams and rivers in Colorado.
In 2022, the Water Quality Control Commission will determine if the agricultural community needs regulations or if we will continue voluntary measures. The first hearing on Reg 85 is in October, and it is an opportunity for the agricultural community to tell their story and keep Colorado as a voluntary state.
The main issue is not the voluntary measures. Farms and ranches throughout the state have been changing and adapting their practices constantly. Many practices, which have been implemented to simply keep a farm or ranch efficient or profitable, have also improved the management of nitrogen and phosphorus. Colorado producers will continue to invest and adopt practices that manage nutrients and are compatible with their operations.
The issue is telling this story to those outside of the agricultural community, and there are multiple opportunities to do just that.
A team with Colorado State University is conducting multiple edge-of-field studies to show the benefit of specific operations and practices on nutrient management. These studies provide us with valuable data to show the positive benefit of practices on the majority of farms and ranches today.
Additionally, these studies can help the landowner have a better understanding of their own application rates of nitrogen and phosphorus and how well those are being used by the crop.
There is also work being done to demonstrate past improvements through programs like EQIP — Environmental Quality Incentives Program —administered by Natural Resources Conservation Services. Every year, millions of dollars in federal and private funding are spent on Colorado farms and ranches that have had positive impacts on managing nitrogen and phosphorus. These studies can show us how much work has been done throughout the state in reducing loads of nitrogen and phosphorus because of new agricultural practices.
If there is a project that will benefit your farm or ranch and have a positive water quality impact, there is a lot of funding out there. We want to focus that money on projects that are compatible with farms and ranches, making them even better.
If you are interested in participating in any of these opportunities, want to know more about Reg 85 or are interested in project funding, please contact Greg Peterson at the Colorado Ag Water Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-244-4629.
Greg Peterson is the executive director of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance.
From the South Platte Sentinel (Forrest Hershberger):
The Logan County Commissioners Tuesday received a report on an effort to lower the water level in the Pawnee Ridge and Country Club Hills subdivisions…
The legislature approved HB 12-1178 which was authored to address the rising ground water in the three communities.
In November 2015, the Logan County Commissioners agreed to act as the fiscal agent for a grant application for projects to correct the problem.
Tuesday the commissioners met with a geologist from the Colorado [Division of Water Resources].
Andy Horn, a geologist, is working with homeowners in the subdivisions who have been affected by high water. In some places, the water table is within inches of the ground surface. Horn approached the commissioners Tuesday about acting as the fiscal agent for a grant application.
He said there will be two applications, one for Pawnee Ridge and the second for the Country Club Hills subdivision.
“The issues in each subdivision are different,” Horn said.
He said HB 12-1178 allocates grant funding for two fiscal years. The Sterling subdivisions will be competing with Gilcrest and LaSalle communities for a share of the $290,000 budgeted.
The plan for the Pawnee Ridge subdivision includes piping water from dewatering wells and discharging it into the Gentz pond. Two wells will be manifold together and a flow meter installed. Horn expects about 400 gallons per minute to be discharged from the wells.
Another area of Pawnee Ridge, near Dakota Road and Westwood Drive, have only a couple of houses with issues, he said. The proposal includes installation of a subsurface drain along Westwood Drive.
He said there is one area that in December had water about six inches below ground level.
“We’ve got applications and also prepared right of way requests for Dakota Road,” he said.
The project in Country Club Hills could involve easements on land under the trust of the board of county commissioners, according to Horn.
The project will also include excavating and installation of a sump by Cottonwood Lane under Forest Road. The pipeline would be four to six inches and move about 100 gpm, he said. Horn said the pipe is bigger than needed. The design is to decrease the resistance.
“The water table doesn’t seem to be rising as much as Pawnee Ridge,” Horn said.
Power for the pump will be paid the first couple of years by a grant, according to Horn.
The Commissioners and County Attorney Alan Samber expressed concern with leaving the cost of the pump’s energy to individual landowners. Samber said a special tax district.
Horn said he would like applications completed and submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation District board by the end of February. The board meets in March.
Many Northern Colorado wells were shutdown, or access to them was reduced, by a 2006 Colorado Supreme Court ruling. Other owners had to follow augmentation plans, spending thousands of dollars to replace water they’ve taken out of the South Platte River.
Prompting the study was the issue of high groundwater in some locations along the river. When some farmers weren’t allowed to pump, homeowners were starting to see flooding in their basements.
Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute spent more than a year holding stakeholder meetings and researching the 209-page report [.pdf] — much of it before last year’s flooding. The report found a connection between the lack of pumping and required augmentation plans. It also said the system helped to protect senior surface water rights from injury.
The study proposes reintroducing well pumping as a way to manage the issue in specific locations like Gilcrest and Sterling. Other CWI recommendations call for more data collection abilities for the Colorado Division of Water Resources and a basin wide entity focused on more flexible management of water rights…
Longtime farmer Bob Sakata poked at the augmentation policy requiring well owners to cover past depletion of surface water. He thinks the situation was improved by the September floodwater.
“We should not have to pay past depletion,” said Sakata to applause. “That is the biggest nonsense there is in the rule.”
Republican State Senator and gubernatorial hopeful Greg Brophy enthusiastically took on the issue of erasing all past well debt along the South Platte.
“I agree with you guys,” Brophy said, announcing plans to co-sponsor a bill with Democratic Rep. Randy Fisher to wipe out those past pumping depletions as of Sept. 12, 2013.
Scientists question just how much September’s floods filled up the South Platte’s aquifers.
Colorado Water Institute Director Reagan Waskom says that floodwater replenishment may be true for wells right next to the South Platte. But that’s not the case miles away from the river.
“The groundwater data outside of the river floodplain was not affected by the flood,” Waskom said.
Meantime, Colorado legislators will need to introduce other bills to implement the recommendations of the Colorado Water Institute.
Rep. Randy Fisher says study recommendations that require funding — like proposed pilot projects in Gilcrest and Sterling — will require follow up…
In the last decade, [Nursery owner Gene Kamerzell] says state management of water rights has become more political than scientific, and farmers are suffering.
“A lot of our friends have gone out of business,” Kamerzell said. “We have friends that have large operations that have relocated to New Mexico because the water policy in this state isn’t being managed right.”
Kamerzell hopes that the scientific report and the proposed legislation will help restore a different balance. Along with most things in Colorado water policy though, he knows it can take years — not days — to measure progress.
Here’s a great use of social media to get the word out about HB12-1278. The YouTube video — produced and directed by Colorado Water Institute, animated by Noah Besser — follows the history of the appropriation and administration of the South Platte River downstream of the mountains.
The public is invited to Gilcrest on Thursday to attend the last of three meetings about the ongoing groundwater study in the South Platte River basin. The study, being conducted by the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, is studying groundwater’s interactions with streamflows and how current augmentation requirements are impacting the alluvial aquifer.
Earlier this year, Colorado House Bill 1278 was passed, authorizing the comprehensive groundwater study, which is the first since 1968, according to CSU officials. Members of the Colorado Water Institute study team have already met with the public in Longmont and Sterling this month to talk about the study, which will conclude at the of this year.
They will have another public meeting from 68:30 p.m. Thursday at Valley High School, 1001 Birch St. in Gilcrest.
Here’s a recap of yesterday’s meeting about the South Platte River Basin groundwater study authorized last session by the legislature [HB12-1278], from Grace Hood writing for KUNC. Groundwater levels are rising, some say, due to the alluvial wells that have been shutdown and augmentation. Here’s an excerpt:
Reagan Waskom is director of the Colorado Water Institute, which hosted the event. He framed the issue this way:
“Are these the only areas in the basin? Is this beginning of a trend toward higher groundwater levels? Are we at the end of something? Was it a blip in time?”
Waskom is working with dozens of scientists, and aggregating data from as far back as the 1890’s to find the answer.
It’s something that matters to farmers like Robert Sakata. Speaking in a facilitated dialogue, Sakata explained he used to own and use wells connected to the South Platte. In the ’70s, he and other junior water rights holders were required to replace the water they used.
“We just felt like it wasn’t economically viable for us as a vegetable farmer to do that,” he said. “Our returns are usually between .5 to 1 percent. That additional cost we just couldn’t justify. So we ended up unhooking the wells.”
Fortunately for Sakata, he also owned surface water rights he could use to irrigate his crops. But other farmers weren’t as lucky. The drought of 2002 and a subsequent state Supreme Court decision in 2006 resulted in thousands of wells being curtailed and about 400 being shut down completely.
“That’s almost the analogy that I see in the state right now is that to make sure we’re not injuring every person along the way, we have to have an oversupply along the whole system,” said Sakata.
Meantime, Joe Frank with the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District spoke of another reality: some of his water rights owners aren’t getting all the water they’re entitled to.
“Going into this next year, if we continue this drought, we’re going to see severe curtailment,” he said. “So ultimately it comes down to water supply. We’re water short in this basin. We need to work together to develop that supply.”[…]
The meeting raised a lot more questions than it answered for the more than 100 who attended. But Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said it was a good beginning.
“Everyone who spoke here today said the big problem was we aren’t taking advantage of our compacts to capture the necessary water that we’re going to need as a state over the next 50 years for agriculture, municipal use.”
Conway is referring to the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), which would build two water storage reservoirs in the region. In recent years it’s become a hotly contested project in the area. Despite the intractable nature of these water debates, the Colorado Water Institute’s Reagan Waskom said he’s determined to make the South Platte River study meaningful.
The South Platte Roundtable — made up of water officials and experts in the region — meets quarterly to discuss what’s needed to avoid future water shortages, but John Stencel with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union proposed Tuesday to meet at least every other month, beginning with its next meeting in January…
As was discussed on multiple occasions at the meeting, without new supply projects, municipalities and industries will continue buying up irrigated agriculture water as a way of meeting their growing water needs. Because new water supply projects are multi-year or even multi-decade endeavors, members said there needs to be more push to get them completed. Evans said the group will continue discussing its focus for 2013 at its next meeting on Jan. 8…
Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute, provided an update regarding the ongoing South Platte Basin groundwater study, which began in August. The study Waskom is heading, which will examine the relationships between groundwater and surface flows in the basin, was approved this summer when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1278 into law. Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, and Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Eaton, sponsored the measure in an effort to better understand the cause of the high groundwater levels in the LaSalle and Gilcrest areas and other regions in the basin. The overflowing aquifers have flooded basements and fields in recent years, causing damage to homes and in lost agriculture production. Many local farmers believe the high groundwater levels are a result of wells being shut down or curtailed in 2006, when the state determined the pumping of those wells was depleting flows in the basin’s rivers.
The South Platte Roundtable is serving as an advisory group for Waskom and his research team during the study. Waskom told members he’s in favor of opening up dialogue as much as possible to make sure they’re looking at all needed data, and exploring all avenues of collecting information. As Waskom explained, he’s so far coming across “a lot of data gaps” as he collects information.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed several bills today in Poncha Springs, Alamosa and South Fork…SB12S-002, Water Conservation Board Construction Fund Projects, Schwartz & White / Sonnenberg & Baumgardner, Concerning the funding of Colorado Water Conservation Board projects, and, in connection therewith, making appropriations.
Senate Bill 132, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, would have required the state to approve or reject such permits within 12 months. The Senate passed it 30-5 on May 2 after Grantham said some companies have had to wait for years to find out if they were getting permits and have delayed expansions. But Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, told the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources committee Monday that CDPHE officials pledged to work with industry leaders to address problems that have delayed permits. A department official said the same to committee members.
FromThe Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown) via Windsor Now!:
By a 9-4 vote, HB 1278 — sponsored by Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins — received approval to again go before the House Appropriations Committee. The appropriations committee, after voting last week to send the bill back to the ag committee for a second look, will discuss the bill Friday, Fischer said.
Back in February, Fischer’s bill — which proposes a study of the high groundwater levels in the South Platte Basin that have flooded basements and destroyed crops in the LaSalle, Gilcrest and Sterling areas — received approval from the ag committee to be passed along to the appropriations committee. That marked the first time a bill expected to help with the groundwater problems received a favorable vote from state lawmakers.
However, last Friday, the appropriations committee agreed that enough changes had been made to the bill in the previous weeks that it required another look by the ag committee — much to the disappointment of Fischer and the farmers and residents affected by the problem. Fischer stressed that action needs to take place soon, since residents have been experiencing problems for years, and because there’s only so much more time before the legislative session ends.
Fischer had made changes to his bill in recent weeks out of fear that its original price tag — $3.8 million all together, with about $130,000 having to come out of the state’s General Fund — would prevent it from passing through the appropriations committee. With the changes Fischer has made, including taking out an entire section of the bill and scaling back the extent of the groundwater study, the bill’s price tag is now $2.47 million, with no dollars coming out of the General Fund.
Here’s an analysis of the bill from Amy Huff writing in The Durango Herald. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
Senate Bill 97 creates a new category of water court application – A Simple Change in a Surface Point of Diversion – that enjoys a rebuttable presumption that the change will not enlarge the historic use of the water right and that eliminates the requirements to satisfy “can and will” and the anti-speculation doctrine…
This new less onerous procedure for changing the point of diversion for water right is available only when the change involves a surface diversion and there are no intervening water rights between the decreed point of diversion and the new point of diversion. It can be utilized for either conditional water rights or absolute water rights with respect to a change that has already been physically accomplished or one that is anticipated.
The Applicant for A Simple Change in Surface Point of Diversion, however, still must prove that the change will not result in the diversion of a greater flow rate or amount of water than has been decreed and is physically and legally available at the original point of diversion and that the change will not cause injury to other water rights. Those burdens of proof are consistent with the requirements for any change of water right.
From email from the Ditch and Reservoir Company Association (John McKenzie):
The General Assembly of the State of Colorado passed HB 12-1010 in March and it was signed by the Governor on 3/15/12. This legislation amends the procedure for replacing lost ditch stock certificates. Prior to this change in the statute, an owner of a lost certificate had to wait three years before a ditch company could issue a replacement certificate. The new bill eliminates the three year waiting period. It takes effect on August 8, 2012.
Please remember that the alternative of a lost instrument bond may be
acceptable by ditch companies.
During the legislative process, Jeffrey J. Kahn, Esq., of Lyons Gaddis
Kahn & Hall, PC testified on behalf of DARCA’s support for the bill.
FromThe Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown) via The Fence Post:
The first talks about a proposed bill aimed at addressing high groundwater problems in the South Platte River Basin concluded that night when the Colorado Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee voted 3-3, killing the measure.
The bill [ed. SB12-142, Pilot Projects Reduce Augmentation Requirements] — sponsored by Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, and Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, — would have created a pilot program to allow some water rights holders to pump more water from wells where groundwater levels are historically high. Such a move would have allowed those wells to be studied, as well as pump water from the wells to potentially bring down groundwater levels that, according to some experts, are at record highs and causing problems for many who work and live along the river.
Brophy — along with Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, and Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton — voted in favor of the bill Thursday night, after about four hours of discussion and testimony, while Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, and Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, voted it down.
Sen. Kevin Grantham…sponsored [Senate Bill 12-132: Issue Air & Water Quality Permits Within 12 Months]. It aims to set a one-year deadline for the issuance or denial of permit applications. Grantham said during a tour of the state over the summer, many businesses complained to him that the slow permitting process has interfered with expansion, hindering job creation. “A company in this situation obviously faces many difficult personnel decisions over this period as they await the final determination, which in many cases takes a little over a year,” Grantham said…
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is responsible for air and water permitting, opposes the bill. Will Allison, director of the health department’s air-quality division, said the department is understaffed and overburdened by permit applications. That has hampered the department’s ability to meet the 18-month deadline on some permit decisions, much less the 12-month timeline that Grantham seeks to impose. “Frankly, we are currently experiencing delays meeting the existing statutory deadlines,” he said. The current backlog of pending air permits at the department is about 140, according to Allison.
The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee passed the bill 4-3, with Republicans voting in favor of it and most Democrats, including Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, opposing it.
State Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, is sponsoring the “Water Rights Protection Act,” which, if passed, could affect future oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in eastern Larimer County where there are underground uranium deposits…
Carroll’s bill, sponsored in the House by Rep. Roger Wilson, D-Glenwood Springs, seeks to require the state to write new rules that would regulate fracking near federal Superfund sites and sites containing radioactive materials.
Energy companies would be required to report to the state how much water they plan to use to frack a specific well and submit water quality reports for all water wells within a half mile of a fracked oil well.
The bill would prohibit fracking within a half mile of any surface water unless the driller keeps all the fracking fluid contained within a “closed-loop” system, which would prevent the fluid from escaping into the environment.
Energy companies would also be held responsible for any water pollution that occurs within a half mile of a well and its bottom-hole if that pollution occurred within six months of drilling…
She said the bill, primarily written to address issues with fracking near unexploded munitions and places where depleted uranium was stored at the former Lowry Bombing and Gunnery Range in Aurora, would apply to areas with uranium deposits, possibly including Powertech’s Centennial Project site between Wellington and Nunn.
Lawmakers in the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee voted 5-4 to quash the measure late Wednesday, according to a statement from state House Democrats. Introduced by Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, the bill aimed to create a legal definition of graywater, which comes from showers and sinks.
Graywater can be used for toilet flushing, outdoor irrigation and other purposes. Currently classified as wastewater that cannot be legally reused in Colorado, graywater is used in homes and businesses in other Western states, according to House Democrats.
The bill would have ordered the state Water Quality Control Commission to enact public health guidelines that promote its use.
“If we don’t defeat these initiatives, those uneducated about water will take control and irrigated agriculture will cease to be important,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, D-Sterling…
The [Colorado Water Congress] has opposed two initiatives by Richard Hamilton of Fairplay and his attorney Phil Doe of Littleton. Those measures seek to supplant constitutional provisions that form the basis for Colorado’s prior appropriation doctrine and replace it with a public trust doctrine. The CWC has hired attorney Steve Leonhardt to fight the ballot initiatives during the early stages and has received support of other water groups, such as the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, in its effort. The CWC plans to appeal the state title board’s approval of ballot measures 3 and 45 because they include multiple subjects in violation of Colorado law, Leonhardt said…
Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, said more education of the state’s population about water issues is needed to defeat such ballot measures.
More coverage of the CWC annual convention from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
“The good news is that Colorado is coming out of the recession. It’s slow. It’s hard, but it’s there,” said Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee. The state has siphoned $200 million in mineral severance funds meant for water projects to bolster the general fund since 2008.
This has the potential to damage water availability in the future as more projects are backlogged. “We need something to show our grandchildren about our investment in water in Colorado,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village…
“Without water, we have limited jobs and growth,” [State Representative Jerry Sonnenberg] said. “We have water leaving the state beyond our compact obligations. Water storage has to be a priority.”
[Senator Ellen Roberts] got senators to agree to her Senate Joint Resolution 4, which points out the dangers of spending down the accounts Colorado uses to build pipelines, repair dams and increase the size of reservoirs. The resolution simply states that the Legislature “should avoid future diversions” of money set aside for water projects…
But legislators are unlikely to heed their own warning. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s 2012-13 budget calls for another $33.9 million transfer out of the water account, and no serious effort has emerged among legislators to block the transfer.
Here’s a report from Barbara Cotter writing for The Colorado Springs Independent. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
The proposed regulations are meant to address a stronger nationwide push from the Environmental Protection Agency to cut the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus discharged from wastewater treatment plants into rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs. But opponents question the science used to support the need for the regulations, and warn that water bills could double or even triple for some Colorado ratepayers if municipalities are forced to upgrade their facilities.
Earlier this month, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments sent a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper urging him to block the proposed regulations. The same day, Republican state Sen. Steve King of Grand Junction introduced a bill that would essentially place a moratorium on the adoption of regulations.
“This action is not mandated by federal law, nor is it based on any demonstrated adverse environmental impacts occurring in Colorado waters from our facilities,” the PPACG wrote to Hickenlooper. “The cost of implementing such regulations on small and medium-sized communities will be staggering, and we ask for your intervention to stop this regulatory mandate.
Steve Gunderson, director of the Water Quality Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, defends the science, but acknowledges that compliance could be costly. However, he notes, only about 30 percent of wastewater plants in Colorado would be affected by the regulations, which are, at the outset, more lenient than what some environmentalists might consider ideal.
Mostly, he says, the state needs to act before the EPA steps in. “We continue to believe that is to Colorado’s benefit to start addressing the nutrients so it’s not forced on us by means of a lawsuit of the EPA dictating to us what needs to be done,” Gunderson says…
To [Tad Foster, a Colorado Springs environmental attorney specializing in water quality issues], the site-specific approach is ideal, but given the reality of the situation, he and the Colorado Nutrient Coalition are proposing that limits be imposed on phosphorus, not nitrogen, at least for the time being. “Why? Because the cost of doing total nitrogen is six times the cost of doing total phosphorus,” Foster says.
He estimates the cost to wastewater plants to control just phosphorus would be $635 million, compared with $2.46 billion to regulate both nitrogen and phosphorus. And that’s just to meet less restrictive standards. To go whole-hog with the “ultimate set” of restrictions for nitrogen and phosphorus would, according to varying estimates, cost from $20 billion to $25 billion.
Gunderson says the state is proposing regulations on both nitrogen and phosphorus for a reason. “Our science, and what we assert, is, you really have to address both of them,” he says. “If you address one and not the other, you’re not going to see a lot of progress. They’re both fertilizers; if you put nitrogen on your lawn and not phosphorous, your lawn will still turn green.”
But the proposed regulations do not impose the most restrictive limits, he says. “It starts knocking it down. We’re trying to find a way to start putting a dent in this thing,” Gunderson says…
Still, there’s fear among many communities that they’ll be socked with a massive bill. Like the PPACG, the Colorado Rural Community Coalition wrote a letter to Hickenlooper that was signed by 12 wastewater dischargers in El Paso County, expressing concern about the regulations. Gunderson says that about half of the opponents who have signed letters wouldn’t be affected by the current proposal.
Gunderson understands the opposition to the regulations, but says doing nothing is not an option. “I continue to believe that it makes sense to do this here, rather than having it forced upon us, which one day it will.”
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):
Officials with the Colorado Water Quality Control Division say the new rules are needed to prevent even stricter ones from being imposed on the state by the federal government. At the same time, local wastewater experts say the proposed rules, known as Regulations 31 and 85, will do little to nothing to clean the state’s waterways. The issue centers on the amount of nutrients that end up in the state’s rivers and lakes. Having too many nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorus — causes algae to grow. That, in turn, saps oxygen from the water, creating so-called dead zones, places where nothing can grow and fish can live, said Steve Gunderson, executive director of the water division.
While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency isn’t mandating what Colorado is considering, the federal agency ultimately will impose something even more stringent if the state doesn’t act on its own, he said. “The EPA has been pushing for states to do something for quite a few years,” Gunderson said. “It is one of the nation’s biggest water quality challenges. (The nutrients) causes a water body to get choked. It will rob the water body of oxygen, and it will raise the pH, the level of corrosivity, in the water. It can adversely impact aquatic life.”[…]
The division has filed about 600 pages worth of rules and other accompanying documents with the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission that call for lowering phosphorus and nitrogen levels to virtually zero over the next 10 years. The commission is holding a public hearing on the rules in the spring, with an expectation of having them go into effect by June 1…
Eileen List, industrial pretreatment supervisor for the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant in Grand Junction, said the city still is studying the proposed rules, but that it could cost as much as $24 million to comply with just with one portion of them. “When you get into Reg 85, there are impacts not just to wastewater facilities, but there are impacts to stormwater facilities as well as drinking water facilities,” List said. “This is where the city is still in the process of understanding the regulation.”[…]
So far, officials from 32 local entities have signed a letter complaining about the proposed rules, including the Clifton and Orchard Mesa sanitation districts, the Grand Valley Drainage District, the Battlement Mesa Metropolitan District and the towns of Rangely, Cedaredge, De Beque and Nucla. In the letter that is to be sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper by the end of the week, the officials say the regulations will cost all of them about $2 billion to be in compliance, and ask that he delay it until more scientific research can be done. “The state has not been able to show us that Colorado has a problem with nutrients,” said Michael Wicklund, manager of the Monument Sanitation District, who started the letter. “There is no funding from the state for any of this, or the federal government.”[…]
Eric Brown, the governor’s press secretary, said Hickenlooper will allow the public hearing process to run its course, and doesn’t plan to intercede.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, said he plans to introduce a bill when the Legislature reconvenes next month calling for a five-year moratorium on the rule, to give local communities more time to study its impact. King said the proposed regulation is contrary to an executive order issued by the governor earlier this year to limit state regulations that prove too onerous while the state is recovering from the recession.
“We have seen our water projects not being developed at a rate necessary to meet our future demand,” said Mike King, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources.
Dating back to 2008, the state has filled holes in its budget with severance tax money derived from drilling and mining. Funding pools that support construction of water projects have been raided to the tune of $173 million to balance the budget, and Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed to move another $30 million from water projects to the general fund in the 2012-13 budget. The Department of Natural Resources has identified $100 million in potential projects, but most will have to wait until sunnier budget times to complete them because a meager $22 million remains in the funding pool for projects.
A handful of projects will receive enough funding for partial completion this year. The Rio Grande Reservoir in the San Luis Valley is one of them. Water is seeping through its permeable base and needs reinforcement. Adding capacity to the reservoir also is on the wish list…
Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, represents the San Luis Valley. She said the budget wrangling of recent years has ignored state law that dictates how severance tax funds are to be used. “We are paying a price, ultimately, by not addressing the state’s water concerns,” she said. “This has been a choice of all of us (in the General Assembly) that we have just created different priorities. The question is: How do we realign ourselves with this priority long-term?”
John B. Stetson left Pennsylvania in the early 1860s, suffering from tuberculosis, and came west. He soon found himself panning for gold in the Colorado Rockies. Fierce storms, without warning, would come up over the mountains and drench the mining camp. Mr. Stetson saw a problem in need of a solution, and he had a unique skill. His father had taught him hatting as a kid, and he made a felt hat that could protect him from wind and cold. The other miners were envious. One fellow bought the hat right off his head for a $5 gold coin. A business was born. By 1906, Mr. Stetson was selling 2 million hats a year. Cowboys would sleep on their Stetson or bend it to provide better visibility. They would fill the hat up with water – ever heard of the 10 gallon hat? – because it was water proof on the inside. Cowboys still do this … and even a smattering of our legislators…
…costly litigation and endless court battles have characterized the state’s water policy over many years – the Interbasin Water Roundtable Process represents a better way forward. The process created a historic agreement announced last year between Denver and the Western Slope…
We must preserve Colorado’s great landscapes, protect the state’s water and keep the air clean. Not just because this will attract businesses, but also because it is part of our moral obligation to future generations.
“Produced water can be used, but it depends on whether it’s tributary or nontributary,” said Kevin Rein, assistant state engineer. “If the water is nontributary, it could be put to use on-site for fracking, well construction or dust suppression. If it is tributary, an augmentation plan is required.”
State Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, says she plans to introduce legislation to determine water quantity and quality impacts of oil and gas exploration. The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission does not track the industry’s water use, but estimates it to be less than 1 percent of total water use.
Water is used for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of deep wells and varies from 1 million to 8 million gallons of one-time use per well. Rein said the Division of Water Resources is working on estimates of how much water is actually used in mining operations, but said the number is “relatively minuscule” compared to agricultural, urban or other industrial totals.
The use of water produced in mining operations has led to controversy in Colorado. A 2009 Colorado Supreme Court decision in Vance v. Wolfe determined that water used in mining is a beneficial use. In the past, mining companies treated it as a waste product. Since the 2009 ruling, a well permit is needed if water produced during drilling is tributary to surface waterways. That means water from other water rights must be obtained for augmentation.
From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):
Colorado Springs Utilities is required to serve Banning Lewis Ranch under the annexation agreement, in which the annexor relinquishes the land’s water rights to the city forever, except for 2,000 acre feet of groundwater on the south end. That water, about 652 million gallons, is to be split between the city and annexor.
But Utilities, still building the SDS pipeline, hasn’t heard a water request from Ultra, says spokesman Dave Grossman. He says the city doesn’t know how much is needed, because “fracking is new to our area, so we don’t have past data for planning purposes.” Ultra did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but Montgomery says 1 million to 5 million gallons is used per frack.
If the 326 million gallons to which Ultra would have access under the annexation agreement isn’t enough, and the company doesn’t want to buy water from Utilities, Cherokee Metropolitan District, which serves the 18,000-customer Cimarron Hills enclave east of Powers Boulevard, is open to the idea of selling water, manager Sean Chambers says. Five years ago, Cherokee lost its use of several wells in the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Ground Water Management District, east of its service area, after illegally exporting water from the basin to its customers.
Chambers now wonders if that water, which Cherokee still owns, could be sold to drillers.
“We would consider it, so long as we were assured certain protections and we could confirm our decrees are consistent with what’s allowable,” he says. “The state is a little unsure … They don’t want this oil bonanza to turn into a water problem.”[…]
[Charlie Montgomery, energy organizer of the Colorado Environmental Coalition] says the next battle will be over local control. The Pueblo Chieftain has reported that Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, wants to require a more comprehensive state accounting of oil and gas drilling’s water needs. Meanwhile, the Longmont Times-Call says that Rep. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, wants to give local governments more control over the industry, including fracking.
“It is ordered that Resubmitted Plan for districts for the Senate and House of Representatives shall be, and the same hereby is approved,” the court said in a short order issued today, rejecting Republican arguments that the maps were unconstitutional. “It is further ordered that the resubmitted plan shall be filed with Colorado Secretary of State no later than Dec. 14, 2011.” The state’s high court earlier this year kicked back a first set of maps drawn by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission, agreeing with Republican arguments that the maps — which had been approve on bipartisan votes — split too many counties. The commission then went back to the drawing board in late November, approving a new set of maps – drawn by Democrats – on 6-5 votes over Republican objections.
The maps would make 38 of 100 legislative seats competitive, with 24 in the 65-member House and 14 in the 35-member Senate.
More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:
The court accepted a map that puts Durango and Gunnison in the same state House district and ships off conservative Montezuma County to join a Montrose-based district…
Monday’s three-paragraph decision did not elaborate on the justices’ reasoning, and it did not say how each of the seven justices voted.
The new map makes big trouble for many Republicans, including Rep. J. Paul Brown of Ignacio. Brown now will have to travel three mountain passes between Durango and Gunnison, and he will be in a district that is much easier for Democrats to win than his old one, which was drawn along the Cortez-Durango-Pagosa Springs axis…
Other Republicans were angry, including Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs. “It is disappointing to see the Supreme Court validate such blatantly partisan and politically vindictive maps. It is clear that the reapportionment process in Colorado is broken and in need of reform,”
Cadman said in a news release. Cadman now shares a Colorado Springs district with Sen. Keith King, the Senate Republican with the most experience in education policy. Only one of them will survive past 2012. Other senior and up-and-coming Republicans also will have to run against each other in primaries if they want to stay in the Legislature.
The map harms a few Democrats, too, by either putting them in safe GOP districts or into districts with other incumbent Democrats. But Democrats were happy about Monday’s decision, which creates – by their definition – 35 House and Senate districts that both parties have a chance to win. “These new districts will favor representatives who are accountable and responsive, and Democrats will field candidates who fit this profile,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio in a news release.
More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:
Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West, landed in House District 46, where Pueblo City Councilman Leroy Garcia, a Democrat, had announced his candidacy months earlier. The new House District 46 is 40 percent Hispanic. Voter registration, based on the 2010 election, is 48.66 percent Democratic, 25.82 percent Republican and 25.06 percent unaffiliated…
The bipartisan Colorado Reapportionment Commission has met and heard public testimony on reapportionment since May. The first set of maps it submitted to the Supreme Court enjoyed broad support on the commission from Democrats and Republicans alike. However, the court ruled that the original submission did not sufficiently minimize splitting counties and cities into multiple districts and rejected it. When the commission resumed its work, Mario Carrera, its unaffiliated chairman, sided with Democrats to cast the deciding vote. Republicans reacted fiercely to the outcome and criticized Democrats’ re- drawn proposals as an opportunistic strike to pit incumbent GOP leaders in districts with each other.
“It’s not required that incumbents be protected,” [Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party] said…
Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, finds himself in a district with Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs. “It is disappointing to see the Supreme Court validate such blatantly partisan and politically vindictive maps,” Cadman said. “It is clear that the reapportionment process in Colorado is broken and in need of reform. I am now considering sponsoring a bill for the 2012 session to address this problem.”[…]
“I am confident that with hard-working candidates and a winning message of economic growth and job creation Republicans will expand our majority in the state House (and) win a majority in the state Senate,” [Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party] said.
“When you level the playing field, Democrats are going to prevail,” Palacio said. “They are the candidates standing up for middle-class families, as opposed to today’s Republicans, who are standing up for corporate interests.”
More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
House District 47 now spans from eastern Fremont County through Otero County, lassoing much of Pueblo County in between. No incumbent lives in the district, so an election will be held next year to fill it. Las Animas County now is paired with Eastern Plains counties in a House district.
In the Senate, another orphan district was created by peeling eight counties from District 2, currently held by Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City. The new district spans from the San Luis Valley to the Lower Arkansas Valley, taking away a portion of District 5 represented by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village.
More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Newly created Senate District 35 will stretch from the San Luis Valley to the Kansas line, snaring 16 counties — but no incumbent — along the way. Half of the counties in the new district were plucked from present day Senate District 2, where Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, was elected just last year, and another seven counties were extracted from the district represented by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village. “It’s going to be a pretty tough district to campaign and represent,” Grantham said. “It’s very big, but the interests are the same in rural Colorado — the interests that I have still. I’ll represent rural interests whether I technically represent the Arkansas Valley or not.” Grantham’s new district will link Fremont County to El Paso, Teller and Park counties. He will represent the district in part of 2012 and all of 2013 and 2014, when he will be up for re-election…
Las Animas County, which objected that it originally was split into two districts and paired with Pueblo in one, will be in a rural, Eastern Plains district that stretches east to Kansas and north to Washington County. Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Cokedale, lives in that district. He is term-limited, and the seat will be up for grabs next year.
More coverage from Ivan Moreno writing for the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic. From the article:
The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to approve the maps gives Democrats a sweep in the once-a-decade redistricting battles. The new congressional maps the court approved last week were also drawn by Democrats and give them a chance to unseat Republican Rep. Mike Coffman next year in a district never held by Democrats.
The court did not immediately issue a written opinion on the state legislative maps, which were drawn in a process that became tense with partisanship during the last meetings of the 11-member redistricting commission.
Republicans criticized the maps, calling them “politically vindictive” because they pair several GOP incumbents in the same districts. The most notable are House Republican Leader Amy Stephens and Senate Republican Leader Bill Cadman, both of whom will be in the same districts as members of their own party in El Paso County.
“I’m surprised the court would put its seal of approval on the most partisan state map in 30 years,” said Rob Witwer, one of the Republicans on the commission.
Pairing Republican incumbents in contests could increase Democrats’ five-vote advantage in the Senate and jeopardize the GOP’s one-vote edge in the House…
The new maps for the Colorado House and Senate also mean that 38 of the Legislature’s 100 districts will be considered competitive in the coming years. Because of the state’s growing Latino population, 24 seats would be in districts where Hispanics would account for at least 30 percent of the vote.
Bob Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College and Republican member of the commission, said his feelings about the maps were “quite mixed.” He said he approves that there are more competitive districts, but he criticized Democrats for what they did to Republican incumbents in leadership…
But [Bob Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College and Republican member of the commission] said it may not be all bad for Republicans in the end, noting that Republicans now have 35 seats in the Legislature that are considered safe, compared with the Democrats’ 25. “The long-range view is that Republicans didn’t do badly,” he said.
More coverage from Lynn Bartels and Tim Hoover writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
But House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said that even with a Democratic “gerrymander,” the GOP is still in good shape to keep control of the House. “The Democrats are still fighting an uphill battle,” McNulty said. “Colorado continues to be a center-right state.”…
The open-and-shut ruling by the Supreme Court on Monday raises the question: Would Republicans have been better off if they hadn’t appealed the initial maps approved by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission? “No one realized the Democrats would be so vindictive when they drew the second set of maps,” said Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray…
Under the new maps, a variety of Republicans will have to either face off in primaries or agree on who bows out to avoid a fight. This dynamic, coupled with hard feelings toward Democrats over the maps, is not likely to make for a pleasant 2012 legislative session. “I think this might be the session you wouldn’t wish on your friends or your enemies,” said House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument. “It’s going to be tough.”[…]
“The stars are perfectly aligned for a difficult, contentious and frustrating legislative session,” said John Straayer, a political-science professor at Colorado State University. “You have disgruntlement over apportionment and redistricting, a 2012 presidential election and, with the Lobato (school funding) case, enormous financial pressures on the state. It will take an enormous level of statesmanship to get through the session.”
More coverage from Lynn Bartels writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
“It’s plain dirty politics and we’re going to remind the voters of that at election time,” said [House Majority Leader Amy Stephens], R-Monument…
But one Democrat on the reapportionment commission, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, argued that Republicans did it to themselves by appealing to the Supreme Court a pair of maps that had passed with bi-partisan support. When the court sent the maps back to the commission saying too many communities had been split, Democrats drew new maps reducing the splits but pairing GOP incumbents in the same districts…
…Webb said anyone who thinks it was “dirty politics didn’t watch the process.”
More coverage from Charles Ashby writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:
Under the new maps, Grand Junction becomes its own House district while the rest of the county continues to be paired with western Delta County in a separate district.
The amount of water required per oil well can vary from 1 million to 8 million gallons, depending on where the well is. That’s a one-time use over the life of the well. In a vertical well, fracking may occur only once. In a horizontal well, it can be done up to 40 times. “The most we’ve seen in Colorado is a dozen,” Kerr said.
Of more concern are the chemicals used in fracking, which can affect water quality. About half of the drillers voluntarily provide the state with information about which chemicals are being used. Next month, the commission will have rule-making hearings that include a requirement to divulge the chemicals used.
The state already requires concrete casing of oil wells to a depth of 50 feet below the deepest aquifer. The Niobrara is 8,000 feet under the Denver Basin. Water wells in the area are 500 to 2,000 feet deep. State rules also require isolating the fracking zones to prevent migration of chemicals into water supplies.
State Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, plans to introduce legislation that would require a more complete state accounting of the water needs of oil and gas drilling in the state.
From the Colorado Water Congress’ current newsletter:
he Water Resources Review Committee approved five bills and one resolution for committee sponsorship during the 2012 legislative session. Bills are identified by letter until formal introduction after the session is convened January 11.
Bill A eliminates the requirement for drinking water treatment facilities to obtain a certificate of designation from local government as a solid waste site.
Bill B exempts water taken up by plants from calculation as part of a hardrock mine’s augmentation requirement.
Bill C extends until 2015 the requirement for replacement of stream depletion due to pumping from the Dawson aquifer and replacement for pumping from Denver basin aquifer only if necessary to compensate for depletions causing injury.
Bill D consolidates various funds within the Water Resources Division to provide for flexibility and efficiency in administration.
Bill E eliminates the three year waiting period to obtain replacement of a lost share certificates in mutual ditch company and allows a lienholder of a share certificate to request replacement.
Resolution A calls upon the legislature to avoid diverting severance tax revenues intended for water infrastructure to balance the state budget and to instead use the money for its statutorily intended purpose.
Proposed bills on requirements for low-flow toilets, graywater re-use, and medication disposal failed to receive sufficient committee votes for interim committee sponsorship; however it is likely that those bills may be introduced by individual legislators once the session convenes.
From the Cortez Journal (State Senator Ellen Roberts):
Any legislator can carry a bill relating to water policy outside of those approved by the committee, but the value of having the committee’s approval at the start of the next session is that the subject matter of the bill has already been discussed and debated, with a supermajority of committee members voting to advance the idea on to the full legislature in January.
My being a member of the water committee was valuable for hearing the current water issues and concerns as presented by experts on various topics affecting our state water policies. I’m pleased to report that a resolution that I presented to the committee, which restates and reinforces the need to respect existing law regarding adequate funding to support Colorado’s water infrastructure, passed by a wide margin and will be introduced as a committee resolution this winter.
Too often, the funds for water infrastructure have been shifted to other uses in the budget and, like the energy impact funds for local communities, the legislature needs to apply the necessary fiscal discipline and foresight to use the funding for its original purposes. To do otherwise is another unfortunate example of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:
[Governor] Hickenlooper’s budget for next year, released Tuesday, gives rural lawmakers a few glimmers of hope. He proposes leaving $10 million in an account filled by taxes on gas and oil production so the state can resume making grants to local governments affected by gas drilling…
The state Department of Local Affairs stopped making grants in 2009 and instead shoveled the gas and oil severance tax money into the ailing general fund budget.
Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, sponsored bills this spring to halt the practice. Both bills died in a committee in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Roberts called the $10 million that Hickenlooper has left for local grants a step in the right direction, “although only a baby step at this point.” “Still, I’d like to commend him for recognizing that those funds are by current law supposed to go to local communities and are important for putting people to work in the areas of the state where unemployment is very high,” Roberts said in an email interview…
Hickenlooper said he had no choice but to go after the money again. Otherwise, his proposed education cuts of $175 million would have to be even larger. “Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to make sure all the severance taxes go back into that grant program for the Department of Local Affairs,’ Hickenlooper said. “That’s how the old school politics worked. Give out these grants in the right places, and things went well.”
Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West, joined fellow Republicans in their reluctance to support a government-mandated type of toilet. He said conversations with a representative of the Pueblo Regional Building Department led to other objections. Swerdfeger said he has no doubts that toilets with 1.28-gallon flush capacities are basically as effective as the 1.6-gallon models that are the present flow limit, but he worries that the lower flow would not sufficiently move solid waste through below-ground sewer lines.
“The technology’s good, the intent is good, but we also have some unintended consequences below the toilet,” Swerdfeger said. He expressed concern that costly, premature replacement of sewer lines could result.
“We have some research that really disputes that,” said Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo…
She said Republicans ignored the work of the Interbasin Compact Commission, which last year — after years of development — released a far-reaching strategy aimed at meeting the state’s agricultural and urban water demands in the future. The commission’s recommendations included elements as basic as low-flow toilets and water-conserving shower fixtures and as ambitious as massive water storage projects…
Jay Winner of Pueblo, who serves as the Arkansas River basin’s representative on the IBCC, shared Giron’s frustration. Resistance from Republican lawmakers who represent agricultural areas baffled him. He said the 20,000 acre-feet of water that the measure is estimated to conserve is that much less that will be available for agricultural use.
Winner characterized the Republican opposition to the toilet restriction as dismissive of the IBCC’s work and recommendations. “Toilets are an easy step toward conservation. What happens when we bring a tough project like storage forward?” Winner said. “Is this just a waste of time for the IBCC? This vote does not give the IBCC a vote of confidence. I think it’s a blow to the IBCC.”
More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:
The panel shot down two bills Tuesday that sought water savings from toilets. Republicans expressed concerns about increased regulations and the effects on rural communities that depend on generous flushing from Front Range cities to fill eastern Colorado rivers.
The vote was a setback for the Interbasin Compact Committee, a group the Legislature created in 2005 to find a peaceful solution to the state’s West vs. East water wars. The IBCC last year endorsed strict statewide plumbing standards for a variety of appliances. The bill that failed Tuesday focused only on toilets, setting a 1.28 gallons-per-flush standard for new toilets sold in stores, tighter than the national standard of 1.6 gallons.
IBCC member Taylor Hawes urged legislators to vote “yes” to send the IBCC a message that its work matters, especially because the panel is proposing other options that are even more politically unpalatable. “This is the easy path. We have much, much harder choices in front of us,” Hawes said.
The bill failed on a 5-5, party-line vote Tuesday in the Water Resources Review Committee, with only Democrats supporting it. Had the bill succeeded, it would have received a powerful endorsement from the committee in January, when the Legislature begins its 2012 session…
The committee also turned down a bill to allow people to use “graywater” – domestic water that already has been used once in the house – for toilet flushing. [Sen. Ellen Roberts] sided with Democrats and voted for the bill, but the 6-4 tally was short of the supermajority the bill needed to get the water committee’s endorsement.
They’ve asked lawmakers to consider setting a statewide toilet standard of 1.28 gallons per flush. Toilets account for about a quarter of household water use, and the new standard could save 44,000 acre-feet of water a year by 2050…
New toilets sold today use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush, in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency limits set in the 1990s. But in Denver, an abundance of homes still have old-style fixtures that use an average volume of 3.14 gallons per flush, according to Denver Water’s latest “end-use study.”[…]
State Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, said the proposal will be considered along with other water-conservation measures that have become a top priority for Colorado. “This not only saves water consumption overall, but it also provides an opportunity to reduce the amount of water sent to wastewater treatment,” she said. “If consumers can save money and also work toward saving water, I think this might be popular.”
Toilet manufacturers backed the measures because they are eager for more people to buy new products. Plumbing Manufacturers International “drove” the passage of flush limits in California and Texas, PMI executive director Barbara Higgens said. “People typically only replace a toilet when something goes wrong,” she said. “We really like them to embrace the new technology, just as they would a computer or cellphone.”
They will be if CSU assistant professor, Sybil Sharvelle and CSU professor, Larry Roesner, can convince enough legislators that public health is not a concern along with the folly of not reusing outflows from dish washing, clothes washing, showers and other activiites that generate gray water in the home. Here’s a report from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:
Sharvelle and professor Larry Roesner want the Legislature to pass a law that gives state water regulators the power to write new rules for reusing water from showers, sinks and washing machines.
They have run tests for several years on household systems that collect used water in tanks about the size of a hot-water heater and redirect the water into toilets or gardens.
Legislators on the Water Resources Review Committee voted 9-0 Wednesday to start writing a bill to be introduced in 2012, although some lawmakers had qualms about it.
“I’m a little gun shy, but I guess it doesn’t hurt for us to draft a bill and take a look,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.
Sonnenberg’s hesitation stems from one of the unresolved questions about gray water. His largely agricultural district lies downhill from Denver, and if many people in the metro area start reusing their water instead of literally flushing it down the drain, it could lead to less water in the rivers downstream.
Lawmakers on the Water Resources Review Committee agreed to prepare draft legislation that would make the restriction of toilet flows in Colorado stricter than federal Environmental Protection Agency standards adopted in 1996. But some on the committee wondered whether government has a place in citizens’ bathrooms…
Toilets installed after 1996 are capped at a 1.6 gallons maximum flush volume, and urinals at 1 gallon maximum under EPA standards. Melissa Elliott of Denver Water told the committee that the legislation the utility is pushing would cap new toilets at a maximum of 1.28 gallons per flush and 0.5 gallon for urinals. “We’ve actually done a survey in our service area in 2005,” Elliott said. “It showed the average toilet flush at 3.14 gallons. We still find ones that flush 7 gallons.”[…]
As Denver Water envisions the proposed law, it would not require immediate replacement of less efficient toilets, but it would apply statewide…
In October the Water Resources Review Committee hopes to have a draft of the proposed toilet-efficiency standard legislation for consideration and to hear from representatives of the industries that it could potentially affect.