From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):
The May 15th forecast for the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 825,000 acre-feet. This is 122% of the 30 year average. Blue Mesa Reservoir current content is 681,000 acre-feet which is 82% of full. Current elevation is 7502.4 ft. Maximum content at Blue Mesa Reservoir is 829,500 acre-feet at an elevation of 7519.4 ft.
Based on the May 1st forecast, the Black Canyon Water Right peak flow target is listed below:
Black Canyon Water Right
The peak flow target is equal to 6,427 cfs for a duration of 24 hours.
The shoulder flow target is 831 cfs, for the period between May 1 and July 25.
The May 15th forecast of 825,000 af is now in the Average Wet category and the Aspinall Unit ROD flow targets have changed. Based on the May 15th forecast, the flow targets are listed below:
Aspinall Unit Operations ROD
The year type is currently classified as Average Wet.
The peak flow target is 14,040 cfs and the duration target at this flow is 2 days.
The half bank-full target is 8,070 cfs and the duration target at this flow is 20 days.
The spring peak operation has reached peak release level. The release increase made this morning, May 24th, should result in the first day of flows > 14,000 cfs at the Whitewater gage, arriving by the afternoon of May 25th. Today, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon have reached 11,500 cfs. The current rate of release is planned to continue through Sunday, May 28th. At this time it is projected that there is additional water that needs to be released from the Aspinall Unit to prevent overfilling at Blue Mesa Reservoir, therefore the peak release is continuing to meet more than the 2 day duration target.
From The Farmington Daily Times (Noel Lyn Smith):
Two studies conducted in response to the Gold King Mine spill show levels for heavy metals in the San Juan River on the Navajo Nation meet water quality standards set by tribal and federal environmental agencies.
Karletta Chief, a hydrology professor at the University of Arizona, has been leading a research team to study heavy metals in the San Juan River since fall 2015.
The study — a collaboration between the university, Tó Bei Nihi Dziil, Northern Arizona University, Diné College, Fort Lewis College and the Navajo Nation Community Health Representatives program — is also examining sediment and human health…
For the study, the group focused on lead and arsenic because exposure to both over a long period can be harmful to humans, she said.
Chief explained that 288 water samples were collected from the river, irrigation canals and wells located in Upper Fruitland, Shiprock and Aneth in November 2015, March 2016 and June 2016.
The study used drinking water standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and water standards for animals and plants were screened using standards set by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Chief said levels for arsenic and lead were within the standards for drinking water and for plants and animals.
The group is waiting for results for sediment tests. Information from health assessments conducted on 123 participants could be released in the fall, she said.
San Juan River Dineh Water Users Inc. CEO Martin Duncan said after listening to the report that people want to know if the river water is safe to use for irrigation.
“We need to find out if the water is safe now,” Duncan said.
In response, Chief said results show the levels do meet water quality standards for agricultural purposes.
The Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency also has been monitoring heavy metal levels in the river since the spill.
Results from the study were presented by Steve Austin, a senior hydrologist with the Water Quality Program under the tribe’s EPA.
Austin said the program has collected water and sediment samples from 10 locations along the river and from the Fruitland and Hogback canals, which supply river water to farms on the reservation. Samples were collected from August to October 2015 and in March 2016 to April 2017.
Those samples were measured using the tribe’s surface water-quality standards from 2007, which also received approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he said.
“For water quality, none of our irrigation standards have been exceeded since 2013. We don’t see an issue with irrigating from the San Juan River,” Austin said.
Austin said the only time the concentration of heavy metals has exceeded standards for irrigation use was when the Fruitland canal reopened. But levels subsided after the canal was flushed.
He added that program officials will continue monitoring the river, and they are waiting for results for fish tissue testing.
The Colorado River District has announced an additional funding opportunity (up to a total of $1.8 million) to support qualifying applicants for planning and implementation of irrigation efficiency improvement projects in the Lower Gunnison Project area. Applications from landowners that address identified resource concerns within the Bostwick Park, Paonia, Smith Fork, and Uncompahgre project areas will be accepted through July 21, 2017, for funding consideration.
This announcement of funding opportunity is an expansion of on-going, cooperatively-managed activities made possible by the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for on-farm improvements, like conversion to pressure-piped sprinklers.
“We are excited to be able to continue to provide this funding that can be used to make our agricultural partners more productive and competitive while helping to meet important water resource management objectives,” explained Dave Kanzer, Project Manager and Deputy Chief Engineer of the River District.
Successful producer-applicants will receive financial assistance to plan, design and install advanced irrigation systems that address identified natural resource concerns. For example, these include projects that improve: 1) water availability (i.e., water use efficiency), 2) water quality (e.g. salinity and selenium loading), 3) soil health (e.g., cover cropping), and 4) fish and wildlife habitat (i.e., projects that benefit water quantity / quality). The Lower Gunnison Project uses an integrated application, contract process and a favorable cost-share ratio.
Interested applicants, landowners, and/or producers are encouraged to attend a Lower Gunnison Project Funding Interest Meeting in their area:
- Hotchkiss: June 29 (6-6:15 pm light food/refreshments; Main program starts at 6:15 pm). Hotchkiss Memorial Hall, 276 W Main Street, Hotchkiss, CO 81419
- Montrose: June 28 (6-6:15 pm light food/refreshments; Main program starts at 6:15 pm). Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), 11925 6300 Rd, Montrose, CO 81402
An application and more information can be obtained by visiting the Shavano Conservation District (102 Par Place, Suite #4, Montrose, CO 81401 / Phone (970) 249-8407 Ext. 115) or Delta Conservation District (690 Industrial Blvd, Delta, CO 81416 / Phone (970) 399- 8194). Interested individuals can also contact the Colorado River District at (970) 945-8522 or go to the following website: http://gunnisonriverbasin.org/projects/lower-gunnison-project/
This funding opportunity complies with the rules and regulations of the Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentive Program and is open to all eligible agricultural producers without discrimination or bias.
From The Summit Daily News (Kevin Fixler):
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area — the last resort still open in the state — reported more than 22 inches of snow over a four-day period to end the week, with the bulk falling very early Wednesday into Thursday and then most of the day Thursday into Friday. That total brings May’s snowfall in the area up to 24.5 inches, just the fifth time it has hit 24 inches or more since the start of the 20th century.
It’s the liquid-equivalent within the snow that matters most for water experts, however, and that remains difficult to determine until it eventually melts and can be properly measured. Even if historically this storm was a bit larger than those that typically descend upon the region in the spring, it is still not expected to represent more than 3 percent of the total moisture for the year.
“The runoff forecast doesn’t look at snow, it looks at total precipitation and the water content of the snow,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District. “Snowpack doesn’t tell you much, because cold weather can slow it and if it’s warmer it can accelerate it. It is a boost … but it could still end up average (levels) with this storm, it just depends on what happens in the next 10 days.”
Still, the approaching water year is predicted to remain at or perhaps slightly above average for the Colorado River as it snakes its way through Colorado and Utah (with allotments also for Wyoming and New Mexico) to Arizona’s Lake Powell before concluding in Nevada and California. The annual inflows into Powell function as the gauge of the West’s most recent runoff, and this year stands to be solid, but not considerable.
“It’s one of those years where we’ll take it,” said Kuhn. “It’ll bump Powell up 20-to-25 feet in elevation, which is good, but that’s still a long ways away from being full. It’s still down and there’s a bathtub ring.”
Another factor for what ends up in Powell, in addition to farther down in lower basin states, is what’s drawn off of it for drinking, recreation and crop irrigation en route. Transmountain diversions, which slurp up water off the Colorado River for the state’s dense population bases in cities like Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs, are part of the reality, and a new one could soon be added to the equation.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers firmed up its approval of the Windy Gap Firming Project in northern Colorado to pull at least 30,000 more acre-feet from the state’s headwater region. The venture would construct the Chimney Hollow Reservoir, with a proposed capacity of 90,000 acre-feet, near the city of Loveland, and further expend the Colorado River before fulfilling out-of-state demands guaranteed under federal law.
From The Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):
Building concrete bulkheads in 130-year-old mine tunnels and stopes that connect Aspen and Smuggler mountains underneath town could form storage vaults capable of holding between 1,000 and 2,000 acre feet of water, according to a report from Deere and Ault Consultants of Longmont, presented in a work session to Aspen City Council last week.
The report listed pros and cons of using underground mines, which are an alternative approach to water storage the city is investigating as it looks for options other than 150-plus-foot tall dams creating reservoirs on upper Castle and Maroon creeks. Council also heard a presentation on Monday from Deere and Ault about a preliminary review of “in situ” storage — meaning in lined storage vaults underground where water mixes with gravel and is then covered. The golf course was identified as a site that could lend itself to such a reservoir, the consultants told council.
Deere and Ault’s review of underground mine storage, resulting in a 20-page report, found that the pros of using Aspen’s underground mines for storage — such as proximity to water rights and infrastructure, usefulness as drought hedging and good baseline water quality — to be outweighed by the potential cons.
“Maintaining dominion and control” of stored underground water is first among those concerns, according to consultants. Even with a complex system of bulkheads at virtually every level in the mines, “water could still potentially leak out through the natural faults, shear zones and fracture zones,” the report says.
Constructing the vaults would be hazardous, since water that collects naturally in the tunnels would have to be pumped out. When water is pumped out of old mines, “that’s when collapses occur,” Victor deWolfe, with Deere and Ault, told the council.
Raising the water table — hard to avoid with underground storage — also carries risk. It could create more surface landslides and exacerbates flooding issues. And while water occurring in the limestone layers has tested for good quality overall, raising it and lowering it above the water table could “exacerbate metal leeching and acidification.” That contaminated water could then leak into neighboring freshwater streams.
The city would also have to build an expensive pumping and pipeline system to connect the vaults to the water treatment plant near the hospital. New treatment techniques and infrastructure may also be needed to deal with alternative water storage method.
“We noted that there is no real precedence in Colorado for storing raw water in underground hard rock mines for municipal use,” the report says.
The consultants did envision a possible system, however, where water from the Salvation Ditch is used to fill the Molly Gibson Shaft. Or, bulkheads could be installed to raise water levels beneath Aspen Mountain, and the city could tap water flows coming out of the Durant Tunnel at the base of the mountain, where it owns a 3 cubic feet per second water right.
Aspen’s complex geology is well understood, the consultants note, and their study drew on maps showing the many rock layers and mine tunnels. The pond at the current Glory Hole Park, off Ute Avenue, formed in the mining era when alluvial soils were swallowed by a sinkhole, taking a locomotive and two boxcars with it.
Council members thanked the consultants for the report — the study, which included site visits, cost the city $15,000 — but showed little appetitive for pursuing the issue further. Councilman Bert Myrin said it’s crucial for the city to determine how much water it needs to store before it can make sense of options.
Deere and Ault will continue looking into the “in-situ” reservoir concept, which also could yield 1,000 or more acre feet of storage.