Pleasant View: Experimental “Water Dragon” drip system trial

Photo credit: AgriExpo.com.

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

The High Desert Conservation District has teamed up with farmer Brian Wilson and Teeter Irrigation, of Johnson City, Kansas, to determine if the company’s trademarked Dragon-Line system will work for this area.

Instead of using the nozzles on the center pivot to irrigate, a row of drip lines are attached that drag behind the sprinkler watering the crop at its base instead of from above.

“It saves water and reduces evaporation, erosion and runoff,” said Travis Custer, agricultural consultant with High Desert. “It is the first trial of the technology in the area.”

To compare crop yields, one section of the center pivot irrigates a field of wheat normally from spray nozzles, and an adjacent section utilizes a series of drip lines attached to the nozzles. After harvest, the yields will be compared. Soil moisture monitors have also been installed in areas watered by the drip and nozzle sections of the sprinkler.

The hybrid center pivot and drip line technology was created by Teeter Irrigation, and launched in 2015. The technology has proven effective in Kansas and other plain states that irrigate from an underground aquifer, Custer said.

But since local farms use surface water delivered via ditches and pipelines that carry more debris, a filter system had to be installed on the center pivot being used on the Pleasant View trial…

Farmers have switched to center-pivot sprinkler technology because it is less labor-intensive than side-roll sprinklers, which must be moved by hand. Center pivots are automated, and move in a circular pattern, watering from a row of nozzle heads. Water flow and speed are adjustable and can be controlled remotely.

But center pivots work best on flatter ground. On undulating farmland and fields with steeper slopes, center pivots can cause water to pool in low spots and run off the field or drain into the sprinkler’s wheel tracks, creating muddy conditions.

What’s exciting is that the drip-system attachment to the center-pivot could eliminate those problems because the water is delivered at ground level, said Steve Miles, board member of the High Desert Conservation District…

It appears to be working in the test plots. The lower areas of the drip-line section are not getting waterlogged, and there is less runoff the field. How often the filter-system has to be flushed is also part of the experiment.

@CPW and @JSandersonCO find ~8 week old bluehead sucker fry in Dolores River

August 16, 2017: Colorado ParksWildlife and John Sanderson found imperiled bluehead sucker fry on Dolores River — a hopeful sign.
Blue head sucker
Dolores River watershed

S.W. #Colorado “River Protection Workgroup” disbands

Proposed Hermosa Creek watershed protection area via The Durango Herald

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

After more than a decade, the River Protection Workgroup, tasked with drafting a region-wide approach to land and river management in Southwest Colorado, has decided to disband after divided interests could not reach a compromise.

“Water in the West is complicated and there are many, many interests,” said Marsha Porter-Norton, a facilitator for the group. “I think people left in a civil way … and agreed to disagree.”

[…]

Wanting to start a community-wide conversation, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, a Durango-based environmental group, proposed forming a workgroup to look at what sort of management plan may work for the region.

As a result, representatives from various interest groups partnered to form the River Protection Workgroup, including SJCA, the Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, and the Southwestern Water Conservation District – the entity tasked with developing water resources in the Southwest basin.

Over the past decade, the group embarked on an extensive public outreach effort, holding up to 24 meetings in each river basin to get a sense of how nearby residents and water users would like to see the land and water managed.

The group’s most notable success was in 2014, when after six years of negotiations, the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act was signed into law, designating 37,400 acres as wilderness area and 70,600 acres as a Special Management Area in the San Juan Mountains, north of Durango…

But as negotiations came down to the wire, the group was unable to reach agreement on a region-wide package.

The Southwestern Water Conservation District offered to place Hermosa Creek on the Wild and Scenic list, which would have been the second river in Colorado to carry such a designation, but only if the other rivers were dropped from consideration.

However, SJCA argued that Hermosa Creek is already highly protected through the 2014 act, and conservation efforts would be giving up a lot to have all those other segments taken out of the Wild and Scenic designation.

The final blow was the language in the draft legislation concerning new water projects. SWCD agreed to no new “major impoundments” on the Animas and Piedra within a quarter mile of the river corridor.

But conservation groups wanted more of a concrete definition of “major impoundment,” fearing there could be loopholes for large-scale construction projects, which could possibly impact the wild quality of the rivers.

Trout Unlimited was on board with the deal, but SJCA and the Wilderness Society were ultimately unsatisfied.

“One of the reasons to do this (workgroup) was to avoid litigation,” said Jimbo Buickerood, with SJCA. “Because there was no concrete definition (of major impoundments), we didn’t see it as progress, and that there could be litigation in the future.”

Bruce Whitehead, executive director of SWCD, said it’s the water district’s responsibility to ensure existing and future water needs, and that some of the environmental group’s demands would have conflicted with that mission.

“It’s critical for us to maintain those balances,” Whitehead said. “(The group) just kept coming back around and talking about the same issues and eventually it ran its course.”

On May 19, members of the River Protection Group decided to part ways.

Southwestern Water Conservation District annual Water Seminar presentations are now online

Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

Click here to view the presentations. Click here to go to the website:

Thanks for talking water with us!
It’s never too late to say thank you for attending the Southwestern Water Conservation District’s 2017 Annual Water Seminar! Just under 200 people gathered in early April to discuss the current funding needs for water-related projects in the state.

Missed the seminar this year? Fortunately, many of the speakers have generously shared their presentations; click on the button below to view them online. You can also read a short summary of the event in the Durango Herald, “Water conference explores financial solutions.”

Mark your calendars for the 2018 Annual Water Seminar on Friday, April 6, again at the DoubleTree Hotel in Durango.

Boaters taking advantage of McPhee Reservoir with closures on other SW #Colorado flat-water

From The Cortez Journal:

McPhee Reservoir is seeing increased use this summer because of decreased opportunities for motorized boating on other Southwest Colorado reservoirs that have been closed to guard against the introduction of aquatic nuisance species, according to the San Juan National Forest.

And to accommodate boaters during the July Fourth holiday, the inspection station for the House Creek boat ramp will extend its hours to 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Tuesday, the forest said in a news release.

The inspection station at the more crowded McPhee boat ramp will remain open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. All other access points to McPhee Reservoir have been gated to prevent uninspected boats from entering the reservoir.

McPhee is one of a few reservoirs in Southwest Colorado with mussel inspection stations that allow for motorized boating, public affairs specialist Ann Bond said in the news release.

The McPhee boat ramp has seen an 85 percent increase in inspections this summer from last year, Bond said.

“Because of the increased usage, parking areas and boat ramps are experiencing congestion, especially on weekends,” she said. “The U.S. Forest Service urges visitors to use parking areas and ramps as efficiently as possible to lessen congestion.”

The Forest Service encourages boaters to prep their craft before launching to reduce time at the ramp and to follow traffic signs to ensure safety for all visitors. Boaters who park vehicles without trailers are asked to use overflow parking areas to leave the larger parking areas available for trailers. Weekday users will find less crowded conditions.

Weekend users are encouraged to use the House Creek boat ramp, which is often less crowded.

Inspection stations are working smoothly, with previously inspected boats carrying documentation and tags moving through the process within 10 minutes. Boats that have not been cleaned, drained and dried – and require decontamination procedures – are urged to enter inspection stations during weekdays, because the decontamination process takes more time.

For more information, contact Tom Rice at 970-882-6843.

Telluride Regional Wastewater Plan update

Telluride

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Justin Criado):

Council members and several town officials visited their Mountain Village neighbors to the north in order to discuss the proposed Telluride Regional Wastewater Treatment Master Plan. The plan has not been formally finalized, but it’s not likely to change drastically, Public Works Director Paul Ruud said.

The two-hour work session included a presentation highlighting immediate, short-term and long-term goals over the next 10 years…

The current wastewater treatment plant at Society Turn serves the communities of Telluride, Mountain Village, Eider Creek, Sunset Ridge, Aldasoro and Lawson Hill.

The plant is reaching its originally designed capacity, officials explained. Plus, Department of Public Health and Environment regulations through the Colorado Discharge Permit System have been altered over the years. (Colorado Water Quality Control Division stipulations regarding acceptable metals levels in the water also changed beginning this year.)

Those variables, in conjunction with an increased waste stream and new treatment options, make updating and eventually expanding the current plant paramount within the next decade…

Immediate focuses include talking with commercial wastewater dischargers about pre-treatment agreements, seasonal restrictions on septage hauling to the plant and a receiving station for storage of septage, among other items.

Ruud called the more immediate objectives “stepping stones.”

The long-term plan, outlined until 2027, includes plant expansion to meet possible new state nutrient regulations.

The San Miguel Valley Corporation owns the land immediately around the current plant. Ruud said there have been “very preliminary” talks with corporation officials about possibly acquiring more land.

The total cost of all proposed master plan improvements would be in the $30-$40 million range. Telluride officials explained addressing future wastewater plans in annual budgets would help with the planning process. (Telluride had a specific focus on water and wastewater projects when sculpting its 2017 budget.)

The recently opened, $22 million Fruita wastewater plant was used as an example of what is possible, but Ruud explained Telluride’s wastewater flow is higher than Fruita’s, which calls for larger improvements.

Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton said none of the master plan objectives are necessarily “set in stone” just yet…

The city continues to replace outdated water lines, update treatment plant technology, and develop better ways to store and treat water and wastewater.

Water and wastewater projects are covered through separate enterprise funds, which use taxes and service fees to raise capital.//

For 2017, projected Telluride Water Fund revenues are $2.6 million, while projected expenditures are $3.5 million.

Plans to replace more pipes around town and the Bridal Veil Basin are in the works for this year, including repairs to pipes that carry water through the Lewis and Blue lakes areas. The Mill Creek Water Treatment Plant is in need of equipment and holding tank updates, which are projected to be $278,500, according to town officials.

Clifton added that exploring alternative, outside funding options will be a hot topic at future meetings.

Spring Flood on the River of Sorrows

Ponderosa Gorge, Dolores River. Photo credit RiverSearch.com.

From The Nature Conservancy (John Sanderson):

Like a Frenchman knows good years and bad years for wine, I remember years in Colorado for their snowpack. In 1995, deep snow remained well into summer. In 2002, the snow never came and Coloradans were reminded of how bad drought can be. In 2011, the snow at my family’s favorite backcountry ski trailhead was still 10 feet deep in early May. In 2012, it was drought again; later that summer fires raged west of my home in Fort Collins.

Water from this snowpack is the proverbial lifeblood of Rocky Mountain rivers. In fact, water is the lifeblood of the entire economy of the West—for brewers in cities, for corn growers east of Fort Collins, and for angling guides in our high county. Competition for water can be fierce.

Residents of the Southwest weren’t yet competing for water in 1776 when two Spanish priests — Francisco Atanacio Dominguez and Silvestre Valez de Escalante — christened one of our lifeblood rivers, El Rio de Nuestra Senora de las Dolores. Better known as the Dolores — the Sorrows — many view this epithet as reflecting the current state of the river. In 1983, the gates closed on the McPhee Dam, one of the last projects during the United States Bureau of Reclamation’s era of big dams. Within a decade, a series of dry years came along and a fight exploded over the impacts of the dam on the ecology of the river.

With its origins in the high, remote mountains near Telluride in southwest Colorado, the Dolores is a river of extremes. Fed by snowmelt gushing off the Rocky Mountains, spring flood flows before the dam could reach 1000 times the low flows of late summer. The reason people dam rivers is to make the water supply — in this case irrigation water — more predictable. Capture the spring snowmelt in a reservoir. Send the water to farm fields later in the summer. That’s good for farmers. But it’s bad for native fish.

At the time of Dominguez and Escalante, only about half a dozen fish species lived in the 175 miles of river now below McPhee Dam. These fish are all built for extremes. Aerodynamic bodies help them withstand huge floods. Tolerance for hot temperatures allow them to wait out low, warm waters during drought. Some of these fish can detect chemical and electrical signals of their prey, so they can hunt in dark murky water. Many can live for decades, allowing populations to survive a string of bad years with little or no reproduction.

The best known native of the Dolores is America’s largest minnow: the Colorado pikeminnow. The pikeminnow can reach 6 feet long and weigh up to 80 pounds. One hundred years ago, pikeminnow were so abundant that fishermen would haul them out of rivers with pitchforks. Pikeminnow harvests even supported a commercial cannery near Yuma, Arizona. This species has been around for more than 3 million years. But after just a few decades of 20th century dam building, they were nearly extinct.