Engineering a world of safer water — University of #Colorado

From the University of Colorado (Trent Knoss):

No matter where you are in the world, Professor Karl Linden wants you to be able to turn on a tap and receive clean drinking water. It’s a basic, but vital, necessity that’s still missing from large swathes of the U.S. and low- and middle-income countries.

“People deserve reliable, trusted technology when it comes to something as essential as water,” said Linden, the Mortenson Endowed Professor in Sustainable Development at CU Boulder. “Water resources are getting scarcer and we need to be thinking about the next generation of efficient, affordable treatment options.”

The World Health Organization estimates that some 785 million people lack access to even basic drinking water filtration, leaving them vulnerable to pathogens such as cholera and dysentery. The problem is expected to grow in coming decades due to population growth and increased stress on water availability.

Treatment technology, meanwhile, hasn’t changed much in over a century. Sand- or carbon-based filtration and disinfectant chemicals are commonly employed in both municipal facilities and everyday life, from household Brita filters to chlorine tablets. Both methods have their limitations, however: Filtration is expensive to deliver to rural communities at scale and chemicals can add an unpleasant taste.

Karl Linden (left) inspects a bacterial culture with graduate student Tara Randall and postdoctoral research associate Ben Ma in his lab. Photo credit: Casey Cass via University of Colorado
Karl Linden and Tara Randall check out tools for disinfecting drinking water. Photo credit: Casey Cass via University of Colorado

Linden, a member of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering who has been researching water treatment for decades, is focused on a different solution: ultraviolet disinfection. UV rays can eliminate harmful pathogens like E. coli and Giardia on a scale of seconds compared to minutes, without harmful side effects. And while it’s not a new idea—large cities like New York already use UV in their utilities—it is one that has been historically difficult to bring down to the individual consumer level.

“UV has been around for decades, and is used in municipal and industrial water treatment around the world, but its potential for further innovation and application has been slowed due to the use of hazardous, bulky mercury vapor lamps,” Linden said. “But we’re interested in new UV sources with unique architectures that will allow us to advance this promising technology.”

Rural water
In recent years, Linden and his colleagues have focused research on UV light emitting diodes, which are smaller (millimeters wide), nimbler and more durable. UV LEDs can be rigged in parallel, with multiple-emitting wavelength diodes to allow for a range of streamlined applications.

Another benefit: The UV LEDs are “instant-on” and don’t require any warm-up time before they start zapping contaminants, allowing users to save money by only running the devices when they need to. Water pulled from a well, for example, would be drinkable immediately after a quick UV treatment without the off-putting taste of chlorine.

Linden and his students recently completed a first-of-its-kind year-long study in Jamestown, Colorado, comparing UV LED disinfection to the town’s established chlorine treatment. They found that for a town of around 500 people without a large water plant, the UV technology provided equally effective disinfection capabilities without the added chemicals. The new technology only cost a few dollars a month in electricity and can run directly off solar power.

“Small-scale, rural systems are a natural place to start with this,” Linden said. “They have the majority of health violations because they typically don’t have engineers and dedicated water treatment staff. They might be relying on a system that’s not always operating correctly. So we feel this tech is a great solution because it can be operated remotely, autonomously and powered by solar to reduce energy draw.”

Earlier this year, Linden earned the Water Research Foundation’s Dr. Pankaj Parekh Research Innovation Award for his achievements in the advancement of water science.

Treatment that lasts

In the coming years, next steps could involve integrating UV LEDs directly into infrastructure. Linden envisions faucets with the diodes built right in to the taps, activating instantly when you turn on the water. His lab group has started looking at ways to build diodes into pipes to create a system-wide network of disinfectant points, mitigating biofilm growth in high-risk settings like hospitals.

“We really feel like this technology is sustainable and poised to revolutionize this field,” Linden said. “We want to work directly with more water managers to think about these improvements, try new things and ultimate bridge the research to the practical applications.”

Nationwide, momentum around the issue is building. This fall, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the creation of the $100 million Energy-Water Desalination Hub, an interdisciplinary partnership that will focus on early-stage research and development for energy-efficient and cost-competitive water treatment. The effort will be led by the National Alliance for Water Innovation, of which CU Boulder is a founding academic partner.

Linden, who will lead the CU Boulder efforts under the Hub, says that the prestigious award underscores a renewed interest in addressing water security, which has always been his calling.

“I feel like I’m on a mission to push society into the next generation of treatment approaches,” he said. “Some innovations have already taken hold and gotten traction. But we’ve had so many advances in society and technology like remote sensing, data analytics and real-time monitoring that we haven’t taken full advantage of yet for water security.”

Linden is also the principal investigator for CU Boulder’s Mortenson Center in Global Engineering on the 5-year, $15.3 million project Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership, which focuses on maintaining the successful implementation of water systems by organizations like USAID over the long haul.

“In many low resourced countries we see a handpump or water system get put in and the treatment gets set up and it works for a while, but then eventually it breaks and the progress is lost,” Linden said. “So why is that, and what can be done about that? That’s when we need to think more holistically about the system that is available to support long term sustainable water services, and improved, integrated and innovative technology, like what we are working on in the Mortenson Center, is one aspect of the solution.”

The end goal? Bringing water solutions into everyday life seamlessly all around the globe.

“You turn on the tap and the water comes out and it’s already been treated and you don’t even have to think about it,” he said. “That’s the holy grail.”

Monte Vista: Ag Water Workshop Preserving Irrigated Ag and Groundwater, November 20, 2019 — #Colorado Ag Water Alliance

RSVP for dinner here: https://agwater_monte.eventbrite.com

Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin Water Forum Day 1 recap #COriver #aridification @WaterCenterCMU

In 1922, Federal and State representatives met for the Colorado River Compact Commission in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Among the attendees were Arthur P. Davis, Director of Reclamation Service, and Herbert Hoover, who at the time, was the Secretary of Commerce. Photo taken November 24, 1922. USBR photo.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Demand management “is a form of insurance,” Anne Castle said at the ninth annual Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum, which continues today and is presented by CMU’s Ruth Powell Hutchins Water Center…

Castle and John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program, recently released a report evaluating the risk of future curtailment of river water use in Upper Colorado River Basin states under a 1922 river basin compact. The report discusses the concept of working to take an insurance-based approach to address the risk of curtailment.

“As with any form of risk, you can insure against it,” Castle said…

Earlier this year, Congress approved legislation allowing implementation of drought contingency agreements involving both Upper and Lower basin states. The agreements are aimed at helping keep water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead from falling so low as to jeopardize hydropower production and force water supply reductions. In the Upper Basin, an agreement allows in part for any water conserved by possible demand management programs to be stored in a separate account in Lake Powell to protect the reservoir’s water levels.

Colorado and other Upper Basin states since have begun exploring the possibility of pursuing demand management programs. Becky Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said at Wednesday’s forum that in Colorado, nearly 100 members of work groups have been meeting as the state begins “to investigate just the feasibility of that program.”

Colorado is looking into issues surrounding the idea of a possible program involving temporary, compensated, voluntary reductions in use by agricultural and other water users.

Castle said demand management is complex and “not an easy solution but it does give us the opportunity to plan and we can hedge our bets a little bit.”

[…]

Castle said a legal question surrounds whether the 1922 [Colorado River Compact] requirement not to deplete water means a requirement to deliver it.

If it only means don’t deplete, the Upper Basin is fine as as long as it doesn’t use more than 7.5 million acre feet a year under the 1922 compact, she said. But if it must deliver that much, it bears all the risk of climate change and reduced river flows in future years, she said…

Meanwhile, climate scientists have projected a 20 to 30% reduction in the river’s flows by mid-century, and a 35 to 55% drop by the end of the century…

She said demand management would have costs, including payments to water users and secondary impacts. Some on the Western Slope want to ensure that temporary cutbacks in use aren’t borne disproportionately by agricultural users, harming rural economies.

Castle said the costs of curtailment need to be considered as well, and those costs could be greater, could last longer and potentially can’t be planned for.

Curtailment would particularly affect municipal transmountain diversions of Colorado River water to the Front Range, because those generally involve more junior water rights.

But Castle and Fleck note in a white-paper, summary version of their report, “While that might sound superficially attractive to West Slope agricultural interests, such a prospect could motivate affected municipal water providers to buy or lease pre-Compact West Slope irrigation water rights, possibly in substantial volume. Although these would almost certainly be market-based, arms-length transactions, the resulting economic impact could be geographically concentrated and tremendously disruptive to commodity supply chains and rural communities.”

[…]

The full report may be found at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3483654. The white paper is available at https://www.getches-wilkinsoncenter.cu.law/wpcontent/uploads/2019/11/Summary-of-Risk-Assessment-White-Paper.pdf.

Photo credit: Maricopa County, Arizona

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

Declining flows could force Southwest water managers to confront long-standing legal uncertainties, and threaten the water security of Upper Basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.

A new paper by Anne Castle at the University of Colorado-Boulder and John Fleck at the University of New Mexico identified many risks facing the basin. These risks need to be addressed in order to avoid disaster for the Colorado River, a water source relied on by more than 40 million people in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, the paper’s authors wrote. (Some of Castle’s work receives funding from the Walton Family Foundation, which also supports KUNC’s Colorado River coverage).

Reclamation’s forecast for Lake Mead elevations using both the full hydrologic record from 1906 to 2017 and the stress test hydrology.

Much of the risk lies in the relationship between the river’s two basins. Ambiguity exists in the language of the river’s foundational document, the Colorado River Compact. That agreement’s language remains unclear on whether Upper Basin states, where the Colorado River originates, are legally obligated to deliver a certain amount of water over a 10-year period to those in the Lower Basin: Arizona, California, and Nevada.

According to that document, each basin is entitled to 7.5 million acre-feet of water, with the Lower Basin given the ability to call for its water if it wasn’t receiving its full entitlement. That call could result in a cascade of curtailments in the Upper Basin, where cities and farmers with newer water rights would be shut off to meet those downstream obligations. That’s a future scenario water managers need to acknowledge and plan for, Castle argues…

Back in the early 2000s the Colorado River basin saw one of its driest periods on record. Castle and Fleck’s analysis suggests that if that the dry period from 2001 to 2007 were to repeat, within a few years the river’s biggest reservoirs would decline so rapidly that the threat of a Lower Basin call would become much more real.

In the long term, Castle said, the risk grows even higher. Layer on climate change models, which project that the river will likely experience significant declines in coming decades, and “things get pretty serious pretty quickly,” Castle said.

Much like the calculation of whether or not to buy insurance to hedge against a catastrophic or costly loss of home, car or health, Castle said the Upper Basin states need to fully explore what kinds of risks they’re facing when it comes to water supplies from the Colorado River.

The latest “E-Newsletter” is hot off the presses from the Hutchins Water Center

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

CO DEMAND MANAGEMENT GROUPS
The state-led work groups investigating feasibility and technical issues related to a potential program to trim upper basin demands on the Colorado River are continuing to meet. You can find the schedule of upcoming meetings and reports from past meetings here.

Second annual CSU System Water in the West Symposium highlights cross-sector solutions — @ColoradoStateU #CSUWaterInTheWest

Poster artwork from the second annual CSU Water in the West Symposium.

From Colorado State University (Tiana Nelson):

After a bomb cyclone postponed the 2019 Water in the West Symposium, the sold-out crowd convened today at the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center to discuss solutions to a broad range of water-related challenges.

The Symposium, a preliminary program offering of the Colorado State University System campus at the future National Western Center, drew more than 375 people from across sectors — from water management to conservation to agriculture — to hear from 26 expert speakers from across the country.

“Water issues are very difficult, but we’re confronting a very serious issue here. The work you do here today will impact not just this great state, region, and country – it will inform what happens in the rest of the U.S. and globally,” said Tom Vilsack, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and special advisor to the CSU System.

Walter Robb, former co-CEO of Whole Foods Market and founder of Stonewall Robb Advisors, was the event’s keynote speaker and largely focused on food trends, including the increasing consumer desire for sustainably sourced food. Data show that millennials lead the way in making sustainable buying choices, but overall consumer behavior indicates roughly one-quarter of consumers will purchase a product based on sustainability.

“Sustainability – however you define it – is increasingly a measure of success, and will continue to be,” Robb said. “The customer is driving this revolution.”

While about 80 percent of food currently comes from 12 plants and five animals, the future of food will be more diverse, more delicious, and more sustainable, Robb said.

“We’re seeing nothing short of a revolution in today’s food value chain… how do we continue to innovate across the supply chain?”

Symposium panels focused on solutions, with topics across finance, recreation and the environment, food, beverage, and agriculture, and data and technology.

In early 2020, the CSU System will break ground on three buildings as part of the National Western Center campus near the intersection of interstates 25 and 70, a 250-acre redevelopment project at and around the current National Western Stock Show facilities.

The CSU spaces will be open to the public for experiential education, as well as a convening space for world-class researchers to collaborate on solutions to global issues around food, water, and human and animal health.

The inaugural Water in the West Symposium was held in 2018, and showcases CSU System’s plans to convene the greatest minds around the most pressing challenges of today; similar programs and events will be hosted within the future CSU Campus at the National Western Center when the location opens in 2022.

“If there is one overarching goal that I have for this Symposium, it’s that it will make a difference,” said Dr. Tony Frank, chancellor of the CSU System. “CSU has long been an expert in water issues, and the CSU Campus at the National Western Center will place these conversations on an even larger stage.”

“The University has a responsibility to use its resources and position as a land-grant institution to take the lead in convening conversations and efforts around these important global issues.”

Colorado State University Campus at the National Western Center

Colorado State University has made a long-term commitment to the future National Western Center and its surrounding communities in north Denver.

The CSU Campus at the National Western Center will focus on research and educational programming in the areas of food, water, sustainability, and human and animal health within its three buildings: the CSU Water Building, CSU Animal Health Complex, and CSU Center for Food and Agriculture. What’s inside the buildings will bring together the brightest minds, inspire the next generation, and address global challenges.

The University is currently working to engage with the community and to partner with local schools, nonprofits, and businesses to create impactful research, collaboration, and year-round programming to this unique project.

For additional information, visit http://nwc.colostate.edu.

It was an informative and thought-provoking program. Good speakers and I loved the focus on solutions. Click here to view the hash tag #CSUWaterInTheWest (click on the “Latest” tab). It was a pretty good Twitter fest yesterday.

@ColoradoStateU Water in the West Symposium #csuwaterinthewest

I’m at the Water in the West Symposium. Hash tag: #csuwaterinthewest or follow on my Twitter feed @CoyoteGulch.

#Colorado Ag Water Alliance: Integrated Water Management Planning and Ag workshop, November 12, 2019

Hay storage in the upper Gunnison River valley. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from the Colorado At Water Alliance:

Fred R. Field Western Heritage Center, 275 S. Spruce Street, Gunnison, CO 81230, 4PM – 7 PM

RSVP here.

4:00 – 4:10 Introduction – Greg Peterson, Colorado Ag Water Alliance

4:10 – 4:50 Watershed Planning and What Producers Think of Watershed Planning – Phil Brink, Colorado Cattlemen’s Ag Water NetWORK

4:50 – 5:00 Video: 5 ditches project on the Rio Grande

5:00 – 5:30 Diversion Restoration Projects on the Rio Grande – Heather Dutton, General Manager, San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District

5:30 – 6:00 Lunch & Video on diversion structures in the Mancos

6:00 – 6:30 Ditch and Irrigation Inventory in Eagle County – Scott Jones, Rancher and Eagle County Conservation District

6:30 – 7:00 Presentation from Jesse Kruthaupt on the Integrated Water Management Plan in the Upper Gunnison