American Water Works Association: Winner of the Best Water in the Rocky Mountain Section- Pueblo Water

Here’s the release from AWWA Rocky Mountain Section (Dena Egenhoff):

Denver, Colorado (September 18, 2018) – The water has been tasted, the water has been tested and the winner of the “Best of the Rocky Mountain Section” water taste test has been announced! Pueblo Water, Colorado took first place with a panel of veteran judges and media reporters evaluating water appearance, quality, odor, and taste, of course. Competition was stiffer this year with 11 municipalities, from Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, competing for the title of the best drinking water in the mountain west during the 2018 annual conference of the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works (RMSAWWA) in Denver, Colorado. You can learn more about the winner Pueblo Water utility by visiting http://www.pueblowater.org. Second place was awarded to City of Santa Fe Water Division, New Mexico, with Roxborough Water and Sanitation District-Littleton, Colorado coming in third.

Pueblo Water will now go on to represent the mountain west in the national “Best of the Best” water taste test at the American Water Work’s Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE 19) in Denver, Colorado June 9-12, 2019. Over 12,000 water professionals across the country will gather at ACE 19 where best-tasting tap water in North America will be declared.

Judges this year’s event were the voice of the Colorado River basin and water issues in Western U.S. Luke Runyon with KUNC Harvest Media, Jamie Sudler the voice of H2O radio and KGNU that inspire people to connect to water issues, veteran sensory taste tester Jordan Kelly with Odell Brewing, Mark Jockers the Government and Public Affairs Manager for Clean Water Services and brewer of beer from treated wastewater, Pinar Omur-Ozbek an assistant professor of engineering and renowned water expert with Colorado State University, and Alan Forrest, American Water Works Association Vice-President.

The RMSAWWA is the regional section for the AWWA, which is the largest non-profit, science-based organization for drinking water professionals in the world. The RMSAWWA covers Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico and has over 2,400 members, representing water utilities, engineering consultants and water treatment specialty firms.

From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

With high marks for its mineral-rich, clean flavor, Greeley took fifth place Monday in the American Water Works Association’s Rocky Mountain Section awards.

The city, which came into the competition to defend a national title, faced stiff competition this year from three states: Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. Pueblo Water ultimately won the competition, according to a news release, beating 11 other municipalities. The competition was hosted during the 2018 annual conference of the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works in Denver.

In 2017, Greeley won the award and went on beat out 33 regional winners to earn the distinction of having the best-tasting water in the nation at the American Water Works Association’s annual conference. It also won the People’s Choice Award, making it the first city ever to win both.

In an email, Aaron Benko of Denver Water said Greeley shouldn’t take down billboards that highlight the city’s water quite yet.

“I believe that Greeley is still the only utility to win the Best of the Best and People’s Choice,” he said.

@CSUtilities extends CEO contract offer to Aram Benyamin

Here’s the release from Colorado Springs Utilities:

Board extends offer for CEO

In an open session on Sept. 17, the Utilities Board unanimously voted to extend an offer to Aram Benyamin to be the next Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Colorado Springs Utilities.

Nearly 130 candidates from across the United States submitted their resumes for consideration. In June, the Utilities Board reviewed the top candidates and determined which candidates should complete advanced screening. In July, the Board reviewed the information and selected seven candidates to proceed as semifinalists.

Over the last few weeks, the full Utilities Board conducted seven semi-finalist interviews with internal and external candidates. Deliberations on who would be moving on as finalists were concluded prior to the Aug. 22 Board meeting.

As part of the process, there were opportunities for employees and the public to meet the CEO finalists and provide feedback to the Board. The Utilities Board incorporated the feedback they received from employees and the public and considered the information as they interviewed the candidates.

Aram Benyamin, P.E.
General Manager of Energy Supply
Colorado Springs Utilities

Aram Benyamin currently serves as the General Manager of the Energy Supply Department at Colorado Springs Utilities.

Prior to Colorado Springs Utilities, Mr. Benyamin was the Senior Assistant General Manager, head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) power system, the nation’s largest municipal utility.

At LADWP, Mr. Benyamin was responsible for 4,000 employees with an annual budget of $3.9 billion, serving more than four million residents of Los Angeles.

LADWP’s power system spans over four states. It includes 7,327 megawatts of generation capacity, 3,507 miles of high-voltage 500, 230 and 138 kV AC transmission lines, two 900 miles of 500 kV DC lines and a 465 square mile area of overhead and underground power distribution network.

Mr. Benyamin is a Professional Engineer and has a bachelor’s of science degree in engineering from California State University, Los Angeles. He also has a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from University of La Verne and a master’s degree in public of administration (MPA) from California State University, Northridge.

He has also earned a Certificate, Senior Executives in State and Local Government, Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government; Certificate, Executive Business Management Program, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Anderson School of Management; Certificate, Engineering and Technical Management, UCLA; Certificate, Business Management Program, UCLA; Certificate, Leadership for the 21st Century, UCLA; Certificate, Total Quality Management, UCLA; Certificate, Construction Management, UCLA.

Mr. Benyamin’s current and past board member and trustee affiliations include YMCA Downtown Colorado Springs Board Member, Armenian General Benevolent Union, Worldwide District Committee Board Member, Boys and Girls Scouts commissioner, troop committee member and volunteer, Trustee of Joint Safety and Training Institutes, Southern California Public Power Association board member, Large Public Power Council board member and California Municipal Utilities Association board member.

  • View Mr. Benyamin’s resume.
  • See Mr. Benyamin written responses to interview questions.
  • Read Mr. Benyamin’s video interview transcript.
  • From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    Monday, Sept. 17, the Colorado Springs Utilities Board voted to offer the energy supply general manager, Aram Benyamin, a contract as the new CEO of the $2 billion enterprise.

    Benyamin would replace Jerry Forte, who retired in May after more than 12 years as CEO.

    He came to Utilities in 2015 from Los Angeles Department of Water and Power after he was ousted the previous year due to his close association with the electrical workers union, according to media reports. He also had supported the challenger of Eric Garcetti, who was elected as mayor.

    Benyamin tells the Independent that he will accept the offer, although details are being worked out, including the salary. Forte was paid $447,175 a year.

    Benyamin will take his cues on major policy issues from the Utilities Board but does have thoughts on power supply, water rights and other issues involving the four services offered by Utilities: water, wastewater, electricity and gas.

    He says he hopes to see more options emerge for Drake Power Plant, a downtown coal-fired plant that’s been targeted for retirement in 2035. That’s way too late, according to some residents who have pushed for an earlier decommissioning date…

    Utilities has been slower than some to embrace solar and wind, because of the price point, but Benyamin says prices are going down. “Every time we put out an RFP [request for proposals] the prices are less,” he says, adding that renewables will play a key role in replacing Drake’s generation capacity, which at present provides a quarter to a third of the city’s power.

    While sources are studied, he says the city is moving ahead with “rewiring the system” to prepare for shutting down the plant. But he predicted a new source of generation will be necessary.

    Though he acknowledged he’s not fully versed in Utilities’ water issues, he says it’s his goal to “serve the city first.”

    “Any resources we have we need to prioritize them to the need of the city today and the future growth and then decide what level of support we can give to anybody else,” he says.

    The Utilities Policy Advisory Committee earlier this year called for lowering the cost of water and wastewater service for outsiders — notably bedroom communities outside the city limits which are running lower on water or face water contamination issues.

    Benyamin also says he’s open to further studying reuse of water. “Any chance we have to recycle water or use gray water for irrigation or any other use that would take pressure off our supplies, that’s always a great idea to look into,” he says.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

    “My short-term vision is to take a look at the organization and kind of recalibrate the vision of what a public utility should be and how a public utility should fit into the vision of the city itself,” Benyamin said.

    Long-term goals include identifying what fuel changes Utilities will face and examining the water supply and transmission, he said.

    Benyamin said he wants to insert leadership that will boost revenues while maintaining competitive rates. He also foresees increasing renewable energy production and energy storage.

    “Renewables and storage are the trend of the future,” he said. “That’s where we’re going.”

    Technology for storage and renewable energy, such as wind and solar, are becoming more efficient and affordable, Benyamin said. Combining those two factors with improved distribution of electricity will enable Utilities to be more versatile, he said.

    The coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant downtown is to be closed no later than 2035, but Benyamin said that date could be moved up significantly with more technology, storage and transmission options.

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

    Palmer Lake trustees pass ordinance to restrict service area

    Palmer Lake via Wikipedia Commons

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Rachel Riley):

    The Palmer Lake Board of Trustees last week unanimously passed the ordinance, which requires that developers drill wells to serve properties outside the service area, Town Administrator Cathy Green said.

    However, developers may still build within the service area and connect to existing water mains, Green said.

    The town provides water to nearly 1,000 households and businesses. An engineering services company has found the municipal water supply can support about 80 more taps.

    In late July, the town implemented Stage 2 water restrictions — preventing residents from watering their lawns and washing their cars — due to a broken pump on one of its wells and abnormally low reservoir levels.

    But the town is finishing the installation of a new pump on the well, so the emergency restrictions will be lifted soon, Green said.

    Normal year-round restrictions, which require Palmer Lake residents to water their lawns only on certain days of the week, will remain in place, she said.

    @EPA plans to release PFAS management plan by the end of the year

    Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

    From The Nashua Telegraph (Ken Liebeskind):

    After completing its final PFAS Community Engagement event in Leavenworth, Kansas, on Sept. 5, the EPA plans to prepare its PFAS management plan and release it by the end of the year.

    The first community engagement event was in Exeter in June, with follow-ups in Horsham, Pennsylvania, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Fayetteville, North Carolina and an event for tribal representatives in Spokane, Washington.

    The EPA said, “The Community Engagement events and the input the agency has received from the docket for public comments have been incredibly informative and will be used, along with perspectives from the National Leadership Summit to develop a PFAS management plan for release later this year.

    […]

    While the EPA says one of its actions will be to evaluate the need for a MCL for PFAS that may change its current level of 70 parts per trillion that is a health advisory…

    Many environmental groups are calling for lower levels that have already been established by other states.

    Arkansas River Basin Water Forum scholarships for water resources students and working professionals

    Bents Fort photo via Greg Hobbs

    Click here for all the inside skinny and to apply:

    Scholarship Details

    With the assistance of our sponsors, the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum offers scholarships each year offers scholarships each year to students and working professionals in support of their education and research in water resources, watershed studies, hydrology, natural resources management, and others. We offer scholarships in the amount of $2,000 and $1,000, plus free admission to the 2019 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum.

    The requirements of the scholarship are as follows:

    The Arkansas River Basin Water Forum (ARBWF) preference to award students scholarships who are from the Arkansas Basin and whose work the ARBWF Board expects will provide a benefit to Colorado’s Arkansas River Basin.

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    Fountain Creek trial: @EPA, et al. v. Colorado Springs begins

    The confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River in Pueblo County — photo via the Colorado Springs Business Journal

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewic):

    A trial began Wednesday to determine whether the city of Colorado Springs violated clean water laws by discharging pollutants and large-volume water flows from its storm water into Fountain Creek and other Arkansas River tributaries.

    The trial is for a 2016 lawsuit by federal and state.environmental agencies against Colorado Springs. The case is central to long-standing disputes that Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas River Valley have with the city for defiling the creek and the river.

    The environmental agencies contend the city is responsible for creating a threat to public health because the stormwaters increase levels of E. coli, pesticides and other pollutants into the creek.

    The agencies also contend discharge of “extraordinary high levels of sediment impairs (the creek’s) ability to sustain aquatic life, damages downstream infrastructure and communities like Pueblo, worsen flood damage (and) impairs farmers’ ability to irrigate and obtain water to which they are legally entitled under Colorado law.”

    Senior Judge Richard P. Match of U.S. District Court in Denver is presiding over the trial that is expected to run at least 10 days.

    The Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners and the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment as plaintiffs by intervening in the case.

    The district is comprised of Pueblo, Otero, Crowley, Bent and Prowers counties.

    The lawsuit alleges that damage to the creek and river is caused because Colorado Springs’ stormwater system is inadequate, and for numerous years has violated clean water laws by exceeding discharge limits set in permits issued by the state for the system…

    An attorney for the city, Steven Perfrement, defended the city’s efforts to operate the system, and to control discharges of pollutants and the volume of water flows. “The city has adopted programs and enforces them.”

    Chaffee County voters to decide on sales tax for watershed health in November #vote

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From The Mountain Mail (Merle Baranczyk):

    If voters approve the proposed 0.25 percent countywide sales tax at the November general election, a portion of funds would be used to treat forest lands.

    The U.S. Forest Service currently treats about 1,200 acres per year. With additional funding, that number would grow to 4,000 acres annually, nearly triple the number of acres that could see mitigation.

    The sales tax would generate about $1 million per year and would be used to:

    • Strengthen forest health;

    • Conserve and support working ranches, farms and rural landscapes; and

    • Manage impacts of growth in outdoor recreation.

    Cindy Williams, co-lead with County Commissioner Greg Felt of Envision Chaffee County, the entity that is the impetus behind the proposal, said the goal would be to treat 2 percent of forested public lands, about 4,000 acres, in the county each year.

    Responsibility for maintaining public lands in the county rests with the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Managment and state of Colorado. But, Felt said, the agencies do not have the budget or the staff to properly maintain lands under their jurisdiction.

    An example of how funding would be used is the current project on Monarch Pass. In concert with the U.S. Forest Service, a number of entities have joined forces in an effort to remove beetle-killed dead standing trees to improve forest health, reduce the danger of wildfires and protect water supplies.

    Williams said various entities, including the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, Monarch Mountain, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Pueblo and Colorado Springs water utilities, are supporting the project.

    Monarch Pass is the headwaters of the South Arkansas River, which is a source of water for the city of Salida and dozens of irrigators.

    Mitigation work, she said, would protect towns, water supplies, water infrastructure, the recreation economy, wildlife and wildlife habitat.

    Felt said Chaffee County has contributed $48,000 from the Conservation Trust Fund to the program.

    The idea behind this element of the sales tax, he said, “is to leverage interests of other water-related organizations” who have an interest in water quality and the resource.

    If the county puts $500,000 from the proposed conservation tax toward forest mitigation work, Felt said the goal would be to generate an additional $5 million from other sources.

    “The goal,” Felt said, “is not to spend a million dollars a year on conservation, but to leverage that into $5 million” to benefit the county.

    He said if there is local interest, the county will be able to do more by drawing money from other organizations and agencies…

    Williams said the net result of the tax would be to bring additional dollars through grants and participating partners into the county to be used to benefit county resources.

    Williams said representatives of agencies and foundations she has talked to about the county conservation project have said they typically do not see communities coming together like this, including governments, businesses and citizens.

    The Gates Family Foundation, she said, is monitoring the county as a possible development model with new tools for other Western states.

    Felt said Envision has “blown out of the water” representatives of foundations and government agencies who have become aware of the project and now want to play a part in the program as it evolves.</blockquote.