#Drought news: The Town of Beulah’s water supply is in rough shape

This natural-color image was captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, MODIS, instrument on October 17, 2016 at 19:50 UTC (1:50 pm MT). Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red. NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. Caption by Lynn Jenner with information from the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Image credit: NASA

From KOAA.com (Caiti Blase):

Extreme drought conditions, fire danger, and contaminated water in creeks: that’s the critical situation going on in the small town of Beulah.

On Tuesday, News 5 spoke with residents on how these conditions are impacting them. Gary Kyte, chair of Pine Drive Water District wants people in Beulah to know that the water flowing into their homes is safe. It’s coming from water tanks that have already been treated. However, people are under a critical usage policy because of just how dry it is. The town did get some rain last week, but all it did was make things worse.

Kyte said, “Evidently, that particular rain rained over the burn scar, the Junkins burn scar.”

It’s been almost two years, but Beulah is still feeling the effects of the 2016 Junkins Fire. Last week’s rain caused debris and ash from the burn scar to flow into creeks.

“We feel that it impacted our raw water intake.”

What the town needs now is another good rain, but not on the burn scar.

“It would flush or kind of scour out the creek bed and hopefully if it rains some more we could go back to treating water.”

Kyte says between the contamination and the low water levels in the creeks doing treatment right now wouldn’t be worth it.

“We’re entering into a critical drought state. We’re going to have to make water or we’re going to have to purchase water.”

The town is trying to hold on as long as possible by restricting water to residents. Households supplied by the Pine Drive Water District are allowed to use 60 gallons of water a day. Those using the Beulah Water Works District are allowed 80 gallons a day…

Kyte says he and the chair of the Beulah Water Works District have been speaking with Pueblo County’s emergency management staff. They are looking at various short and long-term options for assistance (such as hauling water) if conditions don’t improve.

#ArkansasRiver: Voluntary Flow Management Program helps rafting industry and Gold Medal fishing

Browns Canyon via BrownsCanyon.org

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

“The whitewater boating has been spectacular to date,” said Rob White, manager of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. “With the hot weather, (visitors can) cool off by enjoying a whitewater boating trip on the Arkansas River.”

White credits the cooperation between federal, state and local officials working with public and private water users to manage flows in the river.

“In such a dry year as this, it takes a lot of cooperation from a variety of water interests to ensure a great whitewater boating season,” White said. “We appreciate the fact that Pueblo Water moved some of its water from Clear Creek to Lake Pueblo in late June.

“In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District has assured us that we will have 10,000-plus acre feet of water available for the Voluntary Flow Management Program this summer.”

The flow management program is used to buoy water flows of 700 cubic feet per second through Aug. 15, so rafters and kayakers can take advantage of summer boating opportunities.

“The additional flow management program water helps ensure great flows for rafting and kayaking through the hottest of the summer months,” White explained…

During the rest of the year, the flow management program is used to protect and enhance the fishery by boosting minimum flows to protect trout. As a result, the Arkansas River has been named a gold medal fishery because of its world-class brown and rainbow trout fishing opportunities.

#ArkansasRiver calls go senior

Arkansas River near Salida.

From The Mountain Mail (Paul Goetz):

Local calls on the South Arkansas River, Browns, Bear and Cottonwood creeks are normal during a dry year, but what is unusual this year, District 11 water commissioner Brian Sutton said, is just how senior they are right now.

That means, because of the dry weather, water calls are reaching to and affecting more senior rights.

“We are more senior than normal. This year on the South Ark we are on a April 30, 1880, and the Cottonwood is on a Dec. 31, 1872,” he said. “Those are unusual call dates during the summer.”

What that means for water rights owners is that someone isn’t getting water downstream…

Cottonwood may stay in 1872 a little longer, but the South Ark may go more senior depending on the rain, he said…

The city of Salida has fairly senior rights from the 1870s or 1860s on the Harrington and Tenassee ditches, Sutton said.

While those rights aren’t in any imminent danger of going out of priority, being able to physically take water from the South Ark becomes more difficult as the creek drops…

Over the past nine months, precipitation received in Salida is 38.4 percent of average.

According to The Mountain Mail rain gauge at 125 E. Second St., Salida has received 2.86 inches of precipitation in the nine months since Oct. 1, 2017.

According to information compiled by climatologists at Colorado State University, the city’s average for the period is 7.44 inches.

From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, Salida received 0.88 inch of moisture. The average for the three months is 2.77 inches.

From Jan. 1 through June 30, the city received 1.98 inches compared to the average for the six months of 4.67 inches.

June was the driest month. Salida received just 0.03 inch of rain in June, 3.6 percent of the average for the month of 0.83 inch.

#ColoradoSprings stormwater fees start

Heavy rains inundate Sand Creek. Photo via the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Independent.

From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

City stormwater fees, approved by voters in November 2017, will finally be billed this month. For most, the fees aren’t based on impact — or square footage of impermeable surface, such as rooftops or driveways, that lead to runoff. Instead, residential properties will pay a flat $5 a month, whether for a palatial estate or a tiny studio apartment, bringing in an estimated $7.9 million a year.

Nonresidential property owners, who are expected to pay around $8.2 million a year, will be billed $30 per developed acre per month. But properties that are 5 acres or less will pay the fee without any adjustment for impermeable surface, while those larger than 5 acres will be charged fees determined by the city’s stormwater manager based on impermeable surface.

#Runoff news: Low flows in the Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam

From KOAA.com (Caiti Blase):

he Colorado Division of Water Resources says the levels this year are abnormal and putting the area in almost a drought situation. The conditions are making it difficult for water lovers to do their activities in Pueblo, particularly at the Whitewater Park. In turn, revenue is down at some businesses.

The park is usually a summertime hot spot that draws people from all over Colorado…

Philip Reynolds, reservoir operations specialist for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, said, “It would probably rank in one of the ten worst snow melt seasons for the Arkansas River.”

He says during a normal year at the park the rate of flow in the river is well over 1,000 cubic feet per second. Current conditions are only 600-800…

Surfers and kayakers are going to places like Florence where conditions are better. Reynolds says flows will increase part-time in July and August as part of the Voluntary Flow Management Program. Extra water will be released from the Clear Creek Reservoir to help out water enthusiasts.

Tamarisk Program Begins Restoration Phase — The Prowers Journal

From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

A tamarisk eradication spray program begun almost ten years ago along a portion of the Arkansas River has transitioned into a restoration project this year by the Colorado Division of Natural Resources and Parks and Wildlife. Travis Black, Colorado Parks and Wildlife area manager, said a restoration program has begun which will re-seed the areas between Granada and the Kansas State Line. “The area will be re-vegetated with natural grass species along with willow shrubs and we’re planting cottonwood poles as well,” he explained, adding that the eradication program took some hops and skips between the towns along the river to the Kansas border.

Tamarisk, similar to Russian Thistle, is an invasive plant introduced into southeast Colorado decades ago. Unfortunately, it consumes hundreds of gallons of water per plant and is very hard to kill. Its growth along the Arkansas River allowed it to spread, siphoning off thousands of gallons of water and added to the salinity of the river. Another drawback was in flood mitigation as the plant, growing along the banks of the river, restricted the water flow along the channel which created backups and flooding. The trick to effectively killing off tamarisk is patience. Even after a comprehensive spraying program, it takes a minimum of three years to be sure the limbs, seed and especially roots are dead.

A collaboration of a number of groups including the NRCS and Prowers County sought grant funding to finance the aerial spraying of approximately 400 acres to begin with in 2009, but because of increased funding and a lower cost of service, the area was increased to 1,500 acres. Contributing groups included the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado State Land Board, Holly Flood District, Tri-State G & T and the Northeast Prowers Conservation District among others and some private landowners.

Black said, some of the spraying was more effective than anticipated as a lot of the undergrowth was killed off along with the tamarisk and that eliminated the cover for local wildlife species. The revegetation program will help restore the riparian areas to their natural state and habitat. Not all of the funding is complete for the entire stretch of river into Kansas, but the acreage has been cleared along the Arkansas River, especially visible as you cross the bridge along Highway 50 just a few miles west of Holly. He said there’s no end date to the restoration program, but it will continue when new funding streams become available. The dead tamarisk plants were excavated and ground up on the spot, using specialized equipment that is loaned out to projects around the state.

#ColoradoSprings: Voter approved stormwater fee collection starts July 1, 2018

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From KOAA.com (Tyler Dumas):

The fee, which was Ballot Issue 2A, was passed by 54 percent in the November 7, 2017 special combined election. The ballot measure approved a dedicated municipal government storm water fee that will generate $16 – $17 million in annual funding for critical storm water infrastructure, regulatory permit compliance, and maintenance operations for the City’s storm water program, according to the City.

What this means for Springs residents is all residential units with water services through Colorado Springs Utilities will be assessed a $5 per unit monthly fee that will be collected through residents’ utilities bill. The City said it has partnered with Colorado Springs Utilities to administer the monthly residential fee on its behalf as it is the most cost effective billing mechanism. Residential units within the city limits without an active water services agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities will be billed through a separate billing agency.

The monthly fee for non-residential parcels will be $30 per acre. Non-residential parcels over five acres will be individually assessed and undeveloped or unimproved land will not be counted as they do not significantly contribute to storm water runoff.

With this dedicated funding mechanism freeing general fund dollars, the City said it plans to hire an additional 20 police officers, eight firefighters and two fire inspectors in 2018. These positions are part of a larger plan to add 120 police officers over the next five years.

For more information about the storm water fee and the City’s storm water program, visit http://ColoradoSprings.gov/stormwater or call (719) 385-7876.