Will the @EPA reconsider the Fountain Creek lawsuit?…@RepDLamborn pow wows with @EPAScottPruitt

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

From the Associated Press via the The Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The Denver Post reports that Lamborn has spoken twice with EPA chief Scott Pruitt about the suit, which was filed in 2016 by the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Pueblo County joined the suit this year.

Colorado Springs insists it is investing $460 million with other municipalities over the next two decades to address the problem…

The EPA declined to comment.

[Stormwater] in Colorado Springs flows into Fountain Creek and south to Pueblo, where it joins the Arkansas River. The Arkansas is heavily used by agriculture in southeast Colorado.

The EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment filed suit in 2016, alleging water quality violations.

Lamborn said he’d like to get the Colorado state agency to abandon the suit. But Dr. Larry Wolk, the department’s executive director and chief medical officer, said the agency believes “these significant violations need to be corrected in order to protect the state’s water quality.”

“It’s not just the EPA, but it’s also the state of Colorado that filed the lawsuit,” said Jane Ard-Smith, chair of the Sierra Club’s Pikes Peak chapter. “The EPA doesn’t go around suing willy-nilly. We’ve seen a history of [stormwater] violations, so I would hope that the congressman would see the value of enforcing clean water laws.”

Fountain: Water restrictions update

From KOAA.com (Lura Wilson):

Summer’s almost here, and the city of Fountain is still without it’s backup groundwater supply.

The Air Force has offered up two filtration units to the city, after the EPA found elevated levels of PFC’s–a man-made, cancer causing chemical–in water sources used by the Fountain community, among others.

“When these filtration units come online, we’ll have access to some of our groundwater and be able to remove the PFC’s from it,” said Utilities Director Curtis Mitchell.

But that could take several months to get the first unit up and running–meaning city water customers may have to cut back on water use, starting late June…

The mandatory restrictions, which are part of a plan approved by city council this week, will look what they had in place last year.

“It will limit use to two days a week for outdoor watering–and it depends on your even or odd address,” said Mitchell.

Unlike last year, the city will be enforcing these mandatory restrictions this time around. The first violation is just a warning. The second will be a $50 fee, and the third will cost you $100…

The city also recommends you start adjusting sprinkler times now, ideally between 7 p.m. and 10 a.m.

#ClimateChange and the Arkansas River

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

From KRCC.org (Dana Cronin):

The Arkansas River supports economies in Colorado from Leadville to La Junta and beyond. With base industries including tourism and agriculture, southern Colorado depends on the river’s yearly flows. But climate researchers expect declines in those flows over time, leaving the Arkansas River and its dependents at risk of facing a future with less water…

The river’s upper reach supports a booming tourism economy, while agricultural interests dominate the lower basin in Colorado.

[Bill] Banks says snowpack mostly determines a good or bad water year, but there are other factors that can come into play as well…

According to researchers, increased temperatures and earlier spring runoff are already occurring and will continue with climate change. Boulder-based Brad Udall studies the connection between climate change and water resources at the Colorado Water Institute, which is part of Colorado State University.

“There are a whole series of implications that come out of global climate change that directly tie to our water resources, and the two again, they’re joined at the hip,” Udall says. “I say climate change is water change.”

Udall released a study this year on the effects of climate change on the Colorado River. He says his findings can be directly applied to the Arkansas because of the close proximity of their headwaters. Udall says climate change will bring increasing temperatures, which will likely affect stream flow.

“What we predict is that by mid-century, the Colorado River could lose up to 20% of its flow based on temperature influences, and by end of the century up to 35% if we continue to emit greenhouse gases as we currently are,” he says. “And I think those numbers are probably valid for the Arkansas as well.”

Researcher Jeff Lukas is with the Western Water Assessment out of the University of Colorado Boulder. He’s the lead author of a 2014 report, Climate Change in Colorado [.pdf], which looks at how climate and water are connected in the state. The report also examines precipitation, which Lukas says is much more difficult to predict than temperature. He says snow and rainfall could possibly increase as the century unfolds, which could create more runoff, but he says it’s hard to tell.

“My message for the Arkansas and the other basins in Colorado is, we might get bailed out by more precipitation, but we shouldn’t count on that, and we should expect a future with less annual runoff and prepare for that,” says Lukas.

And even though precipitation predictions are hazy, Lukas says some climate models show southern Colorado’s water basins, including the Arkansas, at a higher risk of becoming drier because of their desert environments.

“The northern basins in Colorado, particularly in the northwest, so the Yampa and also to some extent the South Platte basin in the northeast, show somewhat wetter outcomes for future runoff than the southern basins, the San Juan, the Rio Grande, the Arkansas,” he says.

Colorado Water Institute’s Brad Udall says climate change is causing desert environments like in New Mexico and Arizona to creep northward, which could lead to further drying in the lower Arkansas River basin.

“It’s the lower river where there’s 400,000 irrigated acres that contribute a billion and a half dollars to the economy from agricultural production,” Udall says. “That’s the area where I think one has to worry about what happens.”

Udall says the effects of climate change could put pressure not only on agriculture, but also on municipalities and the environment. He says this is a basin-wide issue that all stakeholders should take part in mitigating.

“This is really a question of governance, it’s a question of how do we allocate a precious resource,” he says.

As for his part, Udall is currently working on developing a series of online classes for Colorado State University on climate change and water tailored to the agricultural community.

#Runoff news: Big expectations for the Arkansas River this season

From KRDO.com (Katie Spencer):

“We’re definitely looking at high water this year,” said Dennis Wied, the owner of Raft Masters.

Wied said he has high expectations for this season.

“This is going to be one of those epic kind of years where the real high water enthusiasts will be out in numbers,” Wied said.

Water flows are about 1,200 cubic feet per second in the Arkansas River right now, but rafting officials say they’re expecting that to grow three times as the snow continues to melt.

Arkansas River Basin High/Low graph May 22, 2017 via the NRCS.

#Runoff news: The Arkansas River is waking up

Browns Canyon via BrownsCanyon.org

From the Arkansas River Outfitters Association via PR Newswire:

This is the third year in a row that Colorado snowstorms preluded a strong boating season. Snowpack piled up this year to 120% of average in parts of the state…

Peak flows on Colorado’s rivers begin in late May and last until the third week of June. Difficult sections of whitewater during this time attract active and adventurous paddlers willing to get wet and paddle hard.

With more than 150 miles of Colorado’s best whitewater, the Arkansas River from above Buena Vista through Salida to Cañon City offers trips suitable for most people any time of the season.

Rafting during high water in Browns Canyon National Monument delivers faster-moving water and big waves as rocks become covered and create hydraulic river features…

For information about current water levels and booking a Colorado whitewater rafting adventure, contact an Arkansas River outfitter at http://www.ArkansasRiverOutfitters.org.

FIBArk: Sign up now

Hooligan Race 2009

From The Mountain Mail:

FIBArk organizers are encouraging volunteers, athletes and parade entrants to register for the 69th annual whitewater festival at FIBArk.com.

FIBArk will take place June 15-18 in downtown Salida.

According to a press release, several hundred volunteers are needed to assist in many capacities, helping with everything from beer tent duties to merchandise sales and athlete registration. Volunteers with river-related experience are especially needed.

Shifts are usually a couple of hours and provide a way for businesses, clubs, organizations or individuals to see friends and neighbors and greet out-of-town guests, FIBArk organizers said in the release.

All volunteers will receive a FIBArk volunteer T-shirt.

Athletes and parade entries also may register at FIBArk.com. Each year almost 800 athletes participate in FIBArk events, and organizers said registering in advance online will cut down on congestion and wait times at the boathouse.

Each year since 1949 the festival has included a parade. Sponsored by Moltz Construction, this year’s parade will begin at 10 a.m. June 17 with its traditional route along F Street. All Hooligan Race participants receive free entry into the parade.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

From the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District via The Pueblo Chieftain:

A hefty snowpack and relatively full municipal storage means farms will get a larger than usual share of Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water this year.

About 80 percent, or 44,000 of the 55,000 acre-feet allocated by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday, will go to irrigation companies throughout the Arkansas River basin. In addition, agricultural interests were allocated 20,000 acre-feet in return flows. A total of 28 ditches and three well groups will benefit.

That water comes on top of about 12,000 acre-feet leased earlier this year by Pueblo Water to farms, ditches or well associations…

“The extra water which the municipalities have no place to store is always welcome in Crowley County and the Arkansas Valley,” said Carl McClure, a Crowley County farmer who heads the allocation committee of the district.

The Southeastern allocation is about 25 percent above average, thanks to a snowpack that remains heavy and is still growing. The Fry-Ark water is imported from the Upper Colorado River basin through the 5.4-mile long Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Lake.

More than half of the water is reserved for cities, but if they have no place to store it, it is allocated to agriculture. Fry-Ark water sells for $7 per acre-foot, plus surcharges that pay for programs that benefit water users. By comparison, Pueblo Water leases averaged $55 per acre-foot this year.

The district expects to bring more than 68,000 acre-feet into the Arkansas River basin this year, but prior commitments such as the Pueblo fish hatchery, evaporation and transit loss adjustments are made before the amount of water sold can be determined.

The Southeastern district guarantees 80 percent of the water, holding back some in case the runoff fails to meet projections. The Boustead Tunnel can only take a certain amount of water at one time and only when sufficient flows, as determined by court decrees, are available on the Western Slope. The remaining 20 percent is delivered when the district determines flows will be sufficient.

That should not be a problem this year, as the Bureau of Reclamation projected imports to be about 77,000 acre-feet, well above the amount Southeastern factored in.

For municipal allocations, the Fountain Valley Authority was able to take about 7,000 acre-feet, or half of its entitlement. Pueblo Water and Pueblo West are not seeking any water. Cities east of Pueblo claimed 3,132 acre-feet, while cities west of Pueblo were allocated 1,164. Most chose not to request their full allocation.

Allocating Fry-Ark water is the primary function of the Southeastern District, which was formed in 1958 to provide supplemental water to the Arkansas River basin.