Join the OWOW Center for Episode 5 of TomTalks where co-director Jennifer Riley-Chetwynd joins an online conference hosted by Environment America. Jennifer presents the importance of the Colorado River and our state’s role as a headwaters state.
In part 2 of Colorado- The Headwaters State, co-director Jennifer Riley-Chetwynd talks with Environment America about how Colorado provides water for 19 states and Mexico through thick and thin.
Since 2017, the OWOW Center has been fortunate to establish collaborative connections in Italy with the Universita de Stranieri di Perugi, its water research center WARREDOC, and organizations like UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the UNESCO World Water Assessment Program.
In the spirit of everything that water does – nourish, support, and protect – we’re Toasting to Italy in this week’s TomTalks and the next couple installments. Alla vostra salute amici italiani!”
From the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University of Denver:
The OWOW Center has launched a new series of educational videos to help us all feel a bit more connected during this very disconnected time. Every couple weeks Tom Cech will sit down with experts, some new faces and some you may recognize, to discuss and dissect the many facets of water in Colorado and around the world. So top off your water bottle and join us for the very first episode of TomTalks!
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Auraria Campus Water Competition
This fall semester, six MSU Denver classes participated in the first Auraria Campus Water Competition. The students were asked to create innovative projects to increase water conservation and education on campus. This project was part of a grant awarded to the One World One Water Center by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to increase awareness of the Colorado Water Plan and to lead in university water conservation projects. Of the participating classes, the winning projects were a new and improved Public Relations plan for the OWOW Center, implementing a centrifuge machine at the Tivoli Brewery to reuse water efficiently, and a landscape plan from campus that incorporated xeriscaping and other water saving methods.
Each class was paired with a water industry expert to help create projects and increase understanding of water in Colorado. The experts then served as the judges for the competition and scored projects based on their connection to the Colorado Water Plan, ability to engage the public about a water issue, raise awareness of water issues, provide resources and tools for action, and a level of feasibility for real-world integration.
The event was very successful in bringing industry experts, students, and community members together to engage and learn from one another during the final judging session and the tabling event that immediate followed. The OWOW Center is excited to host another round of the competition in the fall of 2020.
From the Water Education Foundation (Gary Pitzer):
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: A UC BERKELEY SYMPOSIUM EXPLORES APPROACHES AND CHALLENGES TO MANAGED AQUIFER RECHARGE AROUND THE WEST
To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy task.
Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though, landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally recharged.
It’s not a new problem, but one that is emblematic of California’s long-standing separation of surface water and groundwater in its management oversight. Some say it’s a problem the state should have been working on long ago as other states around the West have done.
“We are so far behind everybody else,” said Felicia Marcus, former chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “As we get to the point where managed aquifer recharge is the obvious answer to a regular person, a regular person would assume we’re already doing this.”
Until the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014, there was no statewide governance regulating groundwater pumping. California was the last state in the West to address its groundwater crisis with regulation.
Landowners could take as much as they wanted, if it was put to a beneficial use. In good times, with stable imported water deliveries and relatively healthy aquifers, pumping is not a problem. But decades of overdraft have put a significant dent in parts of the San Joaquin Valley. The land surface has literally sunk in certain areas because of the large-scale pumping of water. Finally, in 2014, lawmakers sought to put the brakes on the problem with SGMA. Sustainability plans required under SGMA for the most overdrafted areas are due in January 2020.
Heavily opposed during its introduction and still facing resistance today, SGMA emphasizes a ground-up approach that requires local leaders to devise the means to bring the most severely depleted aquifers into balance in the next 20 years.
One way to do that is by managed aquifer recharge, or MAR. Surface water or flows from storm-swollen rivers are steered onto land where the water percolates into the ground. It is a straightforward process that works within the right parameters, experts say.
On average, aquifers provide about 40 percent of the water used by California’s farms and cities in a normal rain year, and significantly more in dry years. There’s a growing recognition that surface water and groundwater are connected: Surface waters gain volume from the inflow of groundwater through the streambed. That volume is lost when groundwater pumping rates exceed natural recharge.
Managed aquifer recharge projects strive to replicate the natural process in which winter rains soak into the ground and replenish water above and below ground. However, projects require extensive monitoring and management to be successful. Farmers for years inadvertently recharged their aquifers through flood irrigation of certain crops and orchards. If they’re asked to act intentionally to recharge, they want assurances they can reap the benefit.
“If we put water in, we want to retain the right to take it out,” Don Cameron, vice president and general manager of Terranova Ranch, 25 miles southwest of Fresno, said at the Berkeley symposium. Terranova has been a leader in using winter runoff to flood its fields for groundwater recharge. “To me that’s the incentive for a grower to do groundwater recharge. I want water security just as much as anyone else does.”
In the West, managed aquifer recharge projects in Colorado, Idaho and Washington state are looking to boost depleted aquifers while at the same time strengthening streamflow and benefiting the environment. “Any time you have more water in the river, it’s good for everyone,” said Jennifer Johnson, hydrologic engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Pacific Northwest Region’s Water Management Group, which is working to replenish aquifers in the Yakima River Valley in south central Washington.
Leaving Water in the Ground
In California, every drop of surface water is accounted for, even the bonus flows that come during very wet years.
In the strict, defined world of the state’s water rights, quantity, beneficial use and avoiding wasteful use is paramount. Beneficial use means exactly that. It’s the water people use at home each day, the irrigation that raises crops and the hydroelectric power so crucial as a renewable energy source.
It’s also the water that pulses through major waterways, keeping fish like salmon alive and healthy as they migrate to and from the ocean.
While helpful, the act of storing water to recharge aquifers is not a designated beneficial use, according to the State Water Board. Obtaining a water right to divert water to underground storage means identifying the eventual beneficial use of that water, the board says. That could include uses that allow for water to remain in the aquifer, such as to prevent land subsidence.
That process is not as difficult as it sounds because a wide interpretation exists for beneficial uses, especially as it relates to avoiding some of the undesirable results identified in SGMA.
Managed aquifer recharge and groundwater banking are essentially the same practice with different outcomes. Managed aquifer recharge boosts overall health of aquifers and nearby rivers and streams. In some instances, some of the water can be pumped back up. In groundwater banking, water is intentionally injected or percolated strictly for later withdrawal. Groundwater banks such as those in the southern San Joaquin Valley store vast quantities of imported water that faraway partners use through a complicated exchange process.
The key is having the available water to get into the ground — not always an easy task. “We’ve had two very wet years recently, but in most years, we don’t really have excess surface flows that can be recharged to groundwater, at least not in significant amounts,” said Dave Owen, professor at UC Hastings College of the Law. “And even when we do have flood flows, they aren’t always in the places that most need” the water.
Incremental Implementation – Colorado and Idaho
Managed aquifer recharge is instrumental in preserving the health of the South Platte River in northeastern Colorado, where groundwater pumping has been depleting flows in the river. There, well owners have been paying taxes and annual assessments since 1973, in part to construct groundwater recharge sites.
In 2006, due to a drought and changing legal parameters, the annual assessments were increased 400 percent and about $100 million of bonds have been approved since then by voters. Some of those funds were used to construct recharge projects, said Cech with Metropolitan State University in Denver.
In Idaho, about a third of the state’s economy relies on the agricultural products from the region known as the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer in southern Idaho. A decade ago, with the water table dropping, lawmakers saw the coming crisis and adopted a comprehensive water management plan for the area.
“The declining spring river flows as a result of the declining aquifer would have resulted in curtailing most of the groundwater users in the area,” said Wesley Hipke, recharge program manager with the Idaho Department of Water Resources. “This would not only have affected agriculture, but also the cities and towns and related industries that are currently in place.”
Idaho decided to tackle managed aquifer recharge from a state perspective because of the scale of the project (10,000 square miles), the aversion to a new tax and the realization that the cost of doing nothing was not acceptable, Hipke said.
“Obviously without a stable water supply, the prospect of future growth is slim,” he said.
The state’s plan outlined the means to manage overall water demand while increasing aquifer recharge and reducing withdrawals. Grabbing as much natural flow as possible, the plan’s aim is to reach 250,000 acre-feet of annual recharge by 2024.
Challenges and Potential for MAR in California
As vital as groundwater is to California’s water supply, the extent of expanded managed aquifer recharge remains to be seen. Aquifers are recharged naturally every time it rains and snows, but carefully managed recharge is happening on a limited basis.
“There’s no question it can expand. The question is by how much,” said Owen with UC Hastings.
In its review of groundwater recharge, the Public Policy Institute of California noted in September that a key challenge is inadequate conveyance for moving storm flows to suitable recharge locations. There is “significant potential” to increase MAR on farmland if local agencies adopt better incentive systems and water accounting, PPIC wrote.
Getting water in and out of aquifers using MAR is a big challenge, from an infrastructure standpoint of getting the water when it’s available and moving it to where it can sink into the ground, Owen said in an interview. In addition, there’s not a perfect accounting process for tracking those water molecules. Even in cases where groundwater is being banked, getting the water back out that someone has put in can be complicated in aquifers with “unrestrained, poorly regulated” pumping.
“If you put water into a bank, you may have a legal right to withdraw it,” Owen said, “but that legal right does you no good if someone else has pumped out the physical water.”
Reach Gary Pitzer: email@example.com, Twitter: @gary_wef
Know someone else who wants to stay connected with water in the West? Encourage them to sign up for Western Water, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
While the end of drought conditions is widely considered a positive, water experts warn that existing conditions could be a double-edged sword for Colorado.
On the positive side, the “amazing” June snowpack is good news for Colorado’s river-related recreation economy, said Tom Cech, director of Metropolitan State University’s One World One Water (OWOW) Center for Urban Water Education. Whether the snow melts gradually or in a late-spring or early-summer surge, it’s good news for tourists recreating on the state’s rivers and mountain creeks, though safety will be paramount as flows rise.
Likewise, Colorado’s water infrastructure is capable of capturing large volumes of water in reservoirs for flood control and future use, said Thomas Bellinger, Ph.D., a hydrologist who teaches environmental science and policy, snow hydrology and water law in MSU Denver’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science.
“Past high-snowpack years – 1995 and 2003, for instance – proved that the state’s infrastructure can handle these conditions,” he said.
Reservoir storage remains generally low in anticipation of rising stream flows as rivers have yet to peak, the USDA NRCS said in a June 6 press release. Below normal reservoir levels will help in absorbing above normal stream flows.
Just don’t expect those full reservoirs to lead to lower municipal and commercial water prices, Cech said.
“In general, expect water prices to continue to escalate,” he said.
But a stretch of warm days in the High County – especially with rain added in – could melt a lot of snow quickly, sending a “pulse of water” into the Front Range via waterways such as Cherry Creek, Coal Creek, Boulder Creek and other tributaries that merge into the South Platte River north of Denver, Cech said.
Compounding the danger of a fast melt is the fact that the state’s snowpack is actually deeper than the data indicate, Bellinger said. Snowpack data cited in this story and other publications come from “snowpack telemetry” stations – known as SNOTEL – that are between 10,000 and 12,000 feet of elevation.
“There is a lot of snow above that elevation, and while it may melt slower because of cooler temps up there, much of it will melt into already-full rivers,” he said.
While it may defy logic, the current wet conditions in the mountains may increase the danger of wildfires, Bellinger said.
“The mountains are so green right now, and if this snowpack and a wet spring lead to a lot of undergrowth, that could become fuel for forest fires if it dries out in the late summer or fall,” he said.
Cech and Bellinger warn that the current drought-free conditions do not portend a drought-free future.
“This will likely be a good recovery year, but we’re coming out of an El Niño cycle, which tends to be wetter, and entering a La Niñacycle, which tends to be dryer,” Bellinger said.
El Niño patterns develop when water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator warm above average, according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research. La Niña conditions occur when that water is cooler than average.
Likewise, the long-term trends of climate change point toward extended periods of drought in Colorado, Bellinger said.
“With climate change, we can still expect these periods of relief,” he said. “But the trends point toward extended periods of drought in the American West.”
Click here to go to the Resource Central website for all the inside skinny:
The Watershed Summit is rapidly becoming the region’s top event for water industry leaders. Join 250+ water utility executives, business leaders, conservation experts, and other professionals to gain the new insights you need to help position your organization for success.
Watershed Summit 2019 is produced through a collaborative partnership between the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Denver Water, the City of Boulder, Aurora Water, the One World One Water Center, Resource Central, and the Denver Botanic Gardens. Building on the success of the last 4 years, this one-day summit helps you get connected to industry leaders and what works best across the Mountain West.
Standard Registration: $65
We are thrilled to feature a dynamic line-up of experts in the water field who are excited to share their knowledge and join in on the conversation.
Special Guest: Phil Weiser, Attorney General for the State of Colorado
J. J. Ament, CEO, Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation
Ze’ev Barylka, Marketing Director US, Netafim
Cynthia S. Campbell, Water Resources Management Advisor, City of Phoenix
Beorn Courtney, President, Element Water
Lisa Darling, Executive Director, South Metro Water Supply Authority
Carol Ekarius, Executive Director, Coalition for the Upper South Platte
Jorge Figueroa, Chief Innovation Officer, Americas for Conservation
Brent Gardner Smith, Journalist, Aspen Times
Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources
Kate Greenberg, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, State of Colorado
Jim Havey, Filmmaker, HaveyPro Cinema
Jim Lochhead, CEO/Manager, Denver Water
Peter Marcus, Communications Director, Terrapin Care Station
Fernando Nardi, Professor, Università per Stranieri di Perugia, Italy
Cristina Rulli, Professor, Milan Polytechnic, Italy
Luke Runyon, Reporter, KUNC
Harold Smethills, Founder, Sterling Ranch
Jamie Sudler, Executive Producer, H2O Radio
Weston Toll, Watershed Program Specialist, CO State Forest Service
Chris Treese, External Affairs Manager, Colorado River District
Larry Vickerman, Director, Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms
Scott Winter, Water Conservation Specialist, Colorado Springs Utility
Panel Topics Include:
The Colorado River
Water and Business
Conservation and Storage
MSU Denver sustainable-systems engineering senior Michael May talks about the atmospheric water capture appliance at Denver Botanic Gardens and how it utilizes two energy methods. Photo by Alyson McClaran
Denver Botanic Gardens via the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University at Denver.
Denver Botanic Gardens via Metropolitan State University at Denver
The large and exceptionally smelly Amorphophallus titanum or corpse flower is almost ready to bloom. (Courtesy: Denver Botanic Gardens)
Click here for all the inside skinny and to apply:
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.
Grand Junction back in the day with the Grand Mesa in background
The new “re-regulating” reservoir in the service area of the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, which helps the district manage water deliveries more effectively. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
Grand Mesa rises in the distance above a street running through Olathe, Colorado. Photo credit: Emily Benson/High Country News
Grand Mesa mudslide May 2014 via The Denver Post
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Student Water Field Conference
Join us September 21-23, 2018 on Grand Mesa in Western Colorado. Spend a September weekend in the aspens on western Colorado’s Grand Mesa learning about water management, snow science and aquatic ecosystems with college students from across the state! A registration fee of $20 covers lodging in cabins at Vega Lodge as well as some meals.
For registration, itinerary, and event details Click Here
As you read this, you’re surrounded on all sides … by water.
Even in the driest of climates, it’s everywhere, found in gaseous form as an integral part of Earth’s hydrosphere. And though not as apparent as its solid and liquid counterparts, vapor may prove a crucial tool in the future of sustainable humanitarian and agricultural infrastructure.
“There’s largely untapped water resource all around us,” said Michael May, a senior sustainable-systems engineering major at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “It was intuitive to ask about accessing it – and how to put it to use in a dry environment.”
One approach that water futurists such as May are interested in is coupling “horizon materials” – those that aren’t yet feasible to scale – with existing technologies to bridge the gap between imagination and reality.
“Think about silica-gel packets that come with new shoes; they absorb moisture, and you can extract the water, but it requires too much energy to do so at scale,” May said. “Right now, though, there are some promising studies happening in this area, and we could see a potential increase by an order of magnitude – 10 times over on the low end.”
Another budding area of development is community partnerships to harvest that ever-present vapor around us.
“We brought in an expert who talked about technologies like fog nets for air-based extraction,” said Jennifer Riley-Chetwynd, director of marketing at Denver Botanic Gardens and co-director of the One World One Water Center at MSU Denver. “That planted the seed – if we could use renewable resources to harvest water without burning fossil fuels, it would be a game-changer.”
After subsequent research, Denver Botanic Gardens then acquired several atmospheric-water-capture devices, called SOURCE, from Arizona-based Zero Mass Water.
The apparatus uses solar-electric and solar-thermal panels to power fans that draw in ambient air; vapor is then passed through a condenser and collected via an onboard reservoir.
In addition to three at its York Street headquarters and one at its Chatfield location, Denver Botanic Gardens donated a device to MSU Denver, currently outside the Jordan Student Success Building (another was donated to University of Colorado-Boulder as well).
May was also involved in the equipment deployment as a guest lecturer for a CU Boulder environmental-design class.
Though SOURCE is devised to provide potable water to drink, Denver Botanic Gardens is also the first location to test modified versions for irrigation purposes, with one located next to the Hive bistro for a tasty slice of stewardship.
“The garden we’re using it in is producing squash, tomatoes, herbs and other ingredients you can order on your pizza,” Riley-Chetwynd said.
This is all more than pie-in-the-sky, too – the implications are international.
Take the scenario facing Africa, which is home to 1.2 billion people; that number is expected to more than double by 2050. And the impact of that will be felt everywhere, said Aaron Brown, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering technology.
“We all need water to live, and a huge population explosion is going to happen on the poorest continent,” he said. “These kinds of problems are often best solved from a mulitidisciplinary perspective, and here at MSU Denver we look at research in humanitarian technologies for vulnerable populations.
“We’re training students to address the nexus of energy, water, food and health in a holistic, systems way.”
That’s Brown’s approach to this fall semester’s Sustainable Development Strategy course. Following up on a 2016 trip to Bhopal, India, where students worked in a local integrative-health clinic, the class is a launching pad for a study-abroad effort that will map geographic information systems’ health data compared with water delivery and water tables to see if there’s a correlation between pollution migration and health.
It’s part of a comprehensive community-based conservation conversation. And though using technology such as atmospheric water capture to irrigate beyond small plots of land isn’t currently viable, future research is encouraging.
“If you can pull two to three liters of water from the air in Denver, with 25 percent humidity, that’s really promising for more-humid environments,” Brown said.
For May, whose continued commitment to advancing sustainable solutions included a recent Colorado Science and Engineering Policy Fellowship, coupling innovative material with emerging practices is less of a silver bullet than one of many silver BBs, as he quoted John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s special policy advisor for water.
And thanks to partnerships such as the one between MSU Denver and Denver Botanic Gardens, today’s water stewardship is built to scale for tomorrow’s world.
From Metropolitan State University of Denver (Matt Watson):
Sometimes putting plastic in the river can be a good thing.
That was the idea put forth by the MSU Trash Getters, one of eight student teams from the Colorado School of Mines, MSU Denver and the University of Colorado Denver to participate in the Clean River Design Challenge.
The Trash Getters designed 3D-printed fish heads to float atop a waterway and collect trash in their mouths. The brightly colored bits of plastic, printed on campus at the Auraria Library, sit in the water and call attention to the very problem the design challenge hopes to combat: trash in our water.
The Greenway Foundation, a nonprofit helmed by Executive Director and MSU Denver Trustee Jeff Shoemaker, works to advance the South Platte River and surrounding tributaries as a unique environmental, recreational, cultural, scientific and historical amenity that links Denver’s past and its future. The foundation held its first-ever student design challenge in 2015-16 and a second competition in 2017-18. The competition is coordinated and led by TGF’s policy and water-resources arm, the Water Connection (TWC).
“The basis of this is to continue to bring awareness that trash in my neighborhood is trash in my waterways,” Shoemaker said. “That’s the education aspect; the other, more pragmatic aspect is we’re trying to create devices that can be taken from a scale version, put into a working prototype and actually be placed in Cherry Creek or the South Platte River.”
The student teams were scored in Round 1 on their trash-collection designs in December, with two teams from Mines placing first and third and an MSU Denver team second. The teams with the top six designs were given $1,000 to build scale models, which were then put to the test for Round 2 in April in a flume at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. In addition to educating people and looking for innovative solutions, the design challenge provides students with hands-on, competitive experience.
“For students to spend a semester coming up with a concept, then have to stand up in front of a dozen working professionals in the world of water and defend their model – in a competitive way, where there are actually winners and losers – is a very valuable experience,” Shoemaker said.
In the BOR Hydraulics Lab testing, which was Round 2 of the competition, MSU Denver students shined. The first-place team was the Water Association of Student Steward Urban Program, the student water-education club associated with the One World One Water Center. The Trash Getters’ fish-head design finished third behind the Colorado School of Mines, which took second.
The top three models will be displayed July 26 at the 15th annual Reception on the River, where students will get a chance to network with more than 200 people from the water industry. The hope is that one of the models, or a combination of them, will work its way into the water in the coming years. TGF/TWC just got the first draft of professional engineering drawings based on the 2015-16 contest winner and will develop a prototype in the coming months for planned testing in Cherry Creek .
The water-cleanup efforts at the Greenway Foundation and MSU Denver aren’t limited to design and engineering, either. Foundation volunteers regularly pick up trash from Denver waterways, while the WASSUP club has adopted a section of Cherry Creek for a monthly cleanup project and University faculty, staff and students partnered with the Greenway Foundation as part of Roadrunners Give Back Day.
To learn more about Denver’s waterways, contact the Greenway Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s “Shed ’18” Watershed Summit is going to be better than ever! With over 200 water utility executives, business leaders, conservation experts, and other professionals coming together and sharing tested solutions, you will surely come away with new insights and ideas to help position your organization for success.
This year’s event will highlight… Resiliency: Preparing and Recovering from Fire, Flood, & Drought
Colorado Water Plan Funding
Activating Communities for Change
Responsible Growth in Agriculture and Urban Water
And much more!
The “Shed ’18” Watershed Summit is produced through a collaborative partnership between the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Denver Water, the City of Boulder, the One World One Water Center, Resource Central, and the Denver Botanic Gardens. Building on the success of the last 3 years, this one-day summit helps you connect with industry leaders from across Colorado.
MSU Denver’s Water Studies Online Certificate is one of the only certificates in the country with a special focus on water in Colorado and the American West. The certificate will allow you to expand your knowledge about water stewardship under the direction of highly qualified instructors, in a self-paced format, with an applied real-world project.
What you get with the Water Studies Online Certificate:
Flexible schedule – Control your own schedule with a self-paced format that’s 100% online.
Expert faculty – Our instructors are experts in their field, with deep experience in water.
One-on-one networking and advisement – Receive a personal advising session with an expert in the Colorado water industry.
Career opportunities – Find job demand in a growth industry. Wherever you live, someone’s job is to be in charge of water.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Thank you to all that joined us for the Study Abroad Fair, Sustainability Fair, Fall Fest and the Student Water Field Conference in Keystone. We appreciate your interest in the OWOW Center and truly enjoy talking to others that have a passion about water.
Starting SPRING 2018, One World One Water Center will now offer an Water Studies Online Certificate!
What you get with the Water Studies Online Certificate:
* Flexible schedule – Control your own schedule with a self-paced format that’s 100% online
* One-on-one networking and advisement – Receive a personal advising session with an expert in the Colorado water industry
* Real-world applications – Develop a capstone project to directly apply what you’ve learned to real-world situations
For a list of courses and to register: click here.
From Metropolitan State University at Denver (Terry Bower):
In response to the reality of declining water resources, Metropolitan State University of Denver Innovative and Lifelong Learning has partnered with the One World One Water Center to offer a new Water Studies Online Certificate, an opportunity to learn about the history, law, and management of water in Colorado and the western United States.
From lifelong learners who want to know more about water preservation to those working in green and sustainable professions, this unique certificate provides introductory level training and skills relevant to a wide range of fields in the nonprofit, corporate, and public sectors, including water industries, conservation, agriculture, construction, engineering, and law.
What you get with the Water Studies Online Certificate:
Flexible schedule – Control your own schedule with a self-paced format that’s 100% online
One-on-one networking and advisement – Receive a personal advising session with an expert in the Colorado water industry
Real-world applications – Develop a capstone project to directly apply what you’ve learned to real-world situations
Career opportunities – Find job demand in a growth industry. Wherever you live, someone’s job is to be in charge of water.
Registration opens October 3. Courses start January 2018. For more information, please contact Innovative and Lifelong Learning at email@example.com or 303.721.1313.
Here’s the release from Metropolitan State University at Denver (Dan Vaccaro):
Denver’s urban university and botanic garden team up to make an even bigger impact on water issues in Colorado.
The next time you’re sitting in traffic on Interstate 25 (this afternoon, probably), consider this: Colorado’s population is expected to grow by 1.5 million by 2030. And that doesn’t just mean more traffic. It means more pressure on the state’s scarcest natural resource – water.
Between the population boom and rising global temperatures, the imagination doesn’t need to wander far to see what the future of Colorado might look like. Hint: If you thought lawn-watering restrictions were bad, how about living in a world like the one imagined in the movie “Mad Max: Fury Road”?
Thankfully, there are people and organizations teaming up to tackle water issues in the state. This past spring, the Denver Botanic Gardens and the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University of Denver signed a partnership that will have long-term implications for the future of water education and stewardship in the Centennial State.
“Both organizations were already pursuing similar objectives,” says Jennifer Riley-Chetwynd, director of marketing and social responsibility for the Denver Botanic Gardens. “By joining forces, we can do so much more and have a bigger reach for our work.”
The plan includes stronger collaboration between MSU Denver professors and Botanic Gardens scientists, shared research projects and the pursuit of joint funding. Wherever possible, the aim is to involve students. The end goal, Riley-Chetwynd says, is to make an even bigger impact on watershed restoration and health.
As part of the agreement, Riley-Chetwynd also becomes co-director of the OWOW Center in addition to her work at the Botanic Gardens, helping to further unite the organizations. She already serves as an affiliate faculty member in the Journalism and Technical Communication Department at MSU Denver.
For Tom Cech, co-director of the OWOW Center, the partnership will help better educate future water leaders and stewards. “Our goal has always been to raise awareness of current water challenges and opportunities both in the Colorado community and among our students,” he says. “This partnership amplifies those efforts.”
While MSU Denver students have interned at the Botanic Gardens, Cech sees increased opportunities in light of the new agreement. He also imagines more events like the recent Shed ’17 water summit, co-hosted by the organizations June 29 at the Gardens.
The event brought together nearly 200 leaders from across the state and country to discuss water challenges and co-create solutions. Topics at the conference included the importance of watershed health and outdoor recreation, agriculture’s role in Colorado’s water future, and the evolution of conservation. The keynote speaker for the event was Mike Nelson, chief meteorologist at Denver7, who spoke about climate change.
Another distinctive feature of the agreement is the development of a co-branded logo, which will appear at water-related events, an aspect that Deputy Provost Sandra Haynes describes as “unique.”
“It is a testament to the breadth and depth of this collaboration between two of Denver’s most recognized institutions,” she says.
Haynes hopes the partnership will also provide more exposure for innovative university programs such as the water studies and urban agriculture minors.
This partnership comes at an important time in state history, Riley-Chetwynd says. A statewide water plan released in 2015 creates a roadmap for the future of water in Colorado. One of the main principles is removing silos to ensure that diverse groups are working efficiently and effectively.
“We need to work together to answer questions about how to deal with our population growth, where our water will come from and how we will keep urban communities viable without endangering our environment,” she says. “No one group can do all of that alone. It’s the only way forward if we’re going to make Colorado’s future sustainable.”
If all goes according to plan, the only “Fury Road” in Colorado will be I-25, particularly during rush hour.
What a hoot at Thursday’s Shed ’17 summit at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Great program and an outstanding venue, the Denver Botanic Gardens. Organizers included volunteers from Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Water, Aurora Water, City of Boulder, Center for Resource Conservation, Colorado Division of Water Resources, Colorado Water Conservation Board, the the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University at Denver. (Go Roadrunners!)
Mike Nelson’s keynote focused on Climate Change. He cited the increase in frequency of large-scale storminess and emphasized that humnankind is changing the water cycle. He is working for the future of his grandchildren he said at the end.
To close out the presentations Brad Udall outlined major events related to climate change since last fall’s election. He ended with a series of maps showing public opinion strongly in favor of policies to combat the effects of climate change.
A panel discussion followed Brad’s presentation. Sam Mamet explored climate change from the municipal perspective. He talked about the challenges to the folks on the front lines, city and town administrators, boards and councils, and their role in planning for a warmer future. Funding heads the list of concerns for the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. Close behind is the uncertainty about policy, rule-making, and priorities for the new administration. Maggie Fox urged climate educators to find common ground with those they seek to influence. She was adamant in her plea for everyone to stay engaged and active politically.
We heard a great story from the recreation folks. Recreation is a muti-billion dollar industry and is responsible for many jobs across the state. The industry also has many interests aligned with the environment. Recreational In Channel Diversions, for example, can call out juniors to help keep water in the stream. The wave feature at Glenwood Springs is a great recreation draw in the valley.
Conservation efforts are morphing towards a focus on resiliency and bolstering the natural environment. Kevin Reidy pointed out a large statewide uptick in interest for developing and revising conservation plans. In the Roaring Fork Valley entities worked together to develop a regional plan.
Farmers are still resistant to Alternative Transfer Methods. One reason is the desire to sell their water rights when they retire. Another is the heightened risk that comes with agriculture year after year — the reality that good years are what get farmers through the other years. There is great uncertainty at the beginning of each growing season.
Corn field in Colorado. Photo credit Wikimedia.
Drought impacted corn. Water stress can lead to insufficient water supply for cities, agriculture, and vegetation. Dry vegetation may facilitate the propagation and increase the risk of wildfires.
Flooded corn crop September 2013.
John Echohawk spoke just before lunch. He catalogued the struggle to litigate Native American water rights. Most of the time the tribes are successful leveraging the Winters v. United States Supreme Court decision and the date a reservation was established. The cost of litigation is prohibitive.
Thanks again to the committee that put this together. Sean Cronin did a great job keeping the agenda on track. It was a treat touring the gardens.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
“Shed ’17” Watershed Summit
The Watershed Summit is rapidly becoming the region’s top event for water industry leaders. The event’s focus on “Water Is Your Business” seeks to add new voices to the discussion, introduce innovative ideas, and break down silos. Topics include water conservation, watershed health, climate change, water’s economic impacts, and agriculture – including emerging trends and opportunities.
Registration scholarships are available to qualified participants. Please note that the scholarship deadline has been extended to June 16th. Scholarship Application
From Metropolitan State University of Denver (Cory Phare):
In observance of Earth Day, we spotlight an MSU Denver theatre ensemble changing lives, one drop at a time.
If you promote water conservation in the Denver area, chances are good that you’ve already heard of Water Wise.
John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s top water advisor, has – and that’s how the MSU Denver theatre troupe got to bring its brand of advocacy-based performance to the 2017 Colorado Water Congress’ annual convention this past January.
The Water Wise ensemble does what’s known as theatre for social change. And, as Marilyn Hetzel, Ph.D., chair of the University’s Department of Theatre noted, it’s a vehicle for delivering important messages that leave a lasting impression.
“The power of theatre for social change is immense,” she said. “They’re stories that can teach.”
Water we going to do about it?
The Water Wise troupe owes its founding in part to when Tom Cech felt the impact of this kind of performance firsthand.
“My wife, Grace, and I attended [Dr. Hetzel’s] production of ‘Here’s to Ears,’ and it was fabulous!” said Cech, the director of MSU Denver’s One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship program. “There were no props – they just told a great educational story about hearing protection.”
Cech reached out to Hetzel, and they strategized a way to develop and stage a similar production – only this time in conjunction with Denver Water, Aurora Water and the City of Boulder’s water department. The agencies had originally contacted MSU Denver looking for innovative ways to enhance their water education programs.
The show needed to convey the importance of conservation and a deeper understanding of natural resources. It would be performed at annual water festivals, and performances would also be integrated within the conservation-rooted school curricula already in place for fourth- through sixth-graders in the region.
For Miles LaGree, the question of logistics was part of the creative solution when he approached writing the theatrical piece as a member of the original Water Wise theatre group.
“The challenge was taking a list of facts, and then translating them into theatrical performances without any props or scenery,” said the senior ensemble member, who is wrapping up a bachelor’s degree in applied theatre technology and design. “How were we going to do the show with just us?”
The answer was simple: a powerful narrative, with an innovative means of conveyance.
Thus, Water Wise performances were born.
Rapid growth, rapid connections
When you do something well, word tends to get around. And just as a soft trickle builds from headwaters into a mighty roar downstream, buzz got louder about what the ensemble was doing.
That’s what led to the Colorado Water Congress stage, where Water Wise circa 2017 performed for members, including engineers and water providers from around the state. After the troupe’s performance (greeted with thunderous applause), representatives from across Colorado approached the group to discuss future performances.
According to Cech, another key value of theatre for social change was demonstrated: constructing a career pipeline to keep the message flowing.
“With the students from the troupe still in the room, we asked [conference attendees], ‘How many of you are hiring right now?’” said Cech. “Hands shot up, and immediately we had connections; students provided resumes to people who were interested in what they had to say and what they could do. That’s how it works.”
Transformative states that matter
According to Natalie Brower-Kirton, senior water conservation specialist with Aurora Water, who served on a post-performance panel at the event, the very process of developing the piece proved transformative for students.
“[Ensemble students] made an empowering and positive message about where our water comes from, why Colorado is unique, and what people can do to conserve it,” she said. “The best thing is not only that they reached a large audience but that they became water advocates themselves.”
LaGree attested to this. He also pointed out that theatre works particularly well as a vehicle because it’s a live art – and one that most younger students haven’t had much experience with.
“Not many kids are heading down to the Buell, so it’s great to bring the work to them,” he said. “And to see that fire lit in their eyes from the performances – that’s what it’s all about.”
And so, lighting that passion for conservation is really the greatest impact of Water Wise theatre for social change. As Cech and Brower-Kirton attest, it’s an indisputably valuable tool for organizational change, and why Hetzel fondly refers to theatre as “equipment for living.”
It’s why LaGree speaks of his time with Water Wise and the lessons learned from Hetzel as “more valuable than anything money could buy.”
“It’s seeing that light turn on in the kids’ heads, knowing they’ve learned something,” he said. “Those smiling faces are what let you know firsthand that it’s effective, that what you’re doing matters.”
From the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University at Denver newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
P.A.U.S.E. for Fly Fishing
Peter Stitcher of Ascent Fly Fishing knows that there is no such thing as a “lucky fly that will produce every trip to the river”. However, if you P.A.U.S.E. – mother nature can be your guide to a rewarding day at the river.
Parking Lot: As you step out of your car, be sure to take note of the bugs that collided with your windshield and grill. The wings of mayflies and grasshopper legs will be a strong clue for what flies to use that day.
Above the Water: Swallows flying over the water, swarms of invertebrates over the water and streamside vegetation are signs that you should use your dry flies.
Under the Water: Observe the surface of a rock that you pull from the curren t. Pick a fly that mimics the color and size of the bugs on the rock.
Spider Webs: Locate spider webs along the river and “match the Hatch”. Find a fly that resembles what the spider has caught.
Eddies: The swirling and reverse currents attract the most active bugs in an on the water. Check your fly box for the closest resemblance.
“For the fly fisher who takes a moment to PAUSE and observe, the rewards will be immediate, the fish will be more frequent, and the experience on the water will be that much richer!”-Peter Stitcher.
If you have grandparents then you’ve probably seen a rain barrel. You know the one – a lidless plastic garbage can with a window screen balanced on top, placed just beneath a downspout. The high-end models even feature a rock holding the screen in place. And the water, well, let’s just say even the plants are a little suspicious of the quality.
Ironically, rain water collection was illegal in Colorado until last year (not that it stopped your grandparents). When that century-old law was scratched from the books in 2016, it seemed like a good time to rethink – or even better, redesign – grandpa’s humble rain barrel.
That’s what professor Ted Shin had in mind when he assigned the task to students in his Intermediate Industrial Design Studio class at Metropolitan State University of Denver. But this class project had an added wrinkle – a design competition with cash prizes doled out to the winners.
“The goal is to create a better, more functional rain barrel; to take a relatively simple object and try to imagine it in a new way,” says Shin, chair of the Industrial Design Department. “The competition element just makes it a little more fun.”
To raise the stakes, students were split into seven teams. Each was given six weeks to complete the same task: design a 55-gallon barrel that prevents mosquito breeding, eliminates the first polluted flush of rainwater off a roof, allows for efficient transport to landscaping sites, and looks good doing it.
Teams will present their design concepts on March 15, including ideation, sketches and even small-scale models. The competition will be judged by working professionals from Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Water and sustainability consulting firm the Brendle Group.
The top two teams will receive cash prizes, and if they impress the right judge, maybe even get their design out of the classroom and into the real world.
The event is sponsored by the One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship at MSU Denver. Center Director Tom Cech played a crucial role in developing the project. He also recruited the judges and provided early feedback to students on their concepts.
For Shin, this type of real-life project not only prepares students for how they’ll work in the field, but also imparts another important lesson: “Design is not just about making pretty things. Working on a project like this also helps students think about how their work can have a positive impact on the environment and public health.”
Not to mention backyard gardeners – even grandparents.
Colorado’s Water Plan sets forth the measurable objectives, goals, and critical actions needed to ensure that Colorado can maintain our state’s values into the future. This is an update on implementation progress.
SUPPLY DEMAND GAP
Reducing the supply and demand gap is ultimately tied to actions in conservation, storage, land use, and ATMs. Updating the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) to provide accurate and current technical information for many of these efforts is fundamental to success. The SWSI update process kicked off July 2016.
The CWCB and the IBCC are working to revise the Water Supply Reserve Fund criteria and guidelines to explicitly link funding requests to the goals and measureable outcomes identified in the Basin Implementation Plans and Colorado’s Water Plan. This will ensure that our funding decisions are congruent with the goals of Colorado’s Water Plan. Draft criteria and guidelines were presented to the CWCB Board in July and the IBCC in August. Final criteria and guidelines will be presented to the CWCB Board for approval in November.
The CWCB is financially supporting a variety of storage efforts and innovations, including a study of storage options in the South Platte (required under HB 16- 1256), exploring groundwater storage technology, and conducting a spillway analysis to identify existing storage that could be expanded.
Earlier this year, state and federal partners, as well as community stakeholders, completed a Lean event on the water project permitting process. The Lean team is focused on implementing its recommendations to streamline the permitting process while maintaining rigorous environmental protection.
CONSERVATION AND LAND USE
The CWCB is developing a variety of trainings that will be held over the next couple of years for local governments, utilities, and land use planners to increase water-saving actions and the integration of land use and water planning. The first of the trainings focused on “Breaking Down Silos: Integrating Water into Land Use Planning Webinar Series” was held on September 13th. There were over 100 participants in the webinar. There will be two other webinars and a train-the- trainer session over the next few months.
For the Colorado Water and Growth Dialogue, the second exploratory scenario planning workshop was held in July 2016. The Keystone Policy center is working with Denver Water, Aurora Water, and the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) to model the data to quantify the future scenarios.
The CWCB is looking at lessons learned from the legislation on indoor watersense fixtures to inform the legislation on outdoor watersense requirements called for in the plan.
The CWCB and IBCC are hosting an Ag Viability Summit in partnership with the Colorado Ag Water Alliance (CAWA) on November 29. The agenda will include discussions about how to encourage regional planning for system-wide conservation and fleshing out the needs for an ag viability grant program.
The CWCB is participating in a workshop at CU on meeting the Alternative Ag Transfer Mechanisms (ATM) goal in Colorado’s Water Plan on October 7th. Discussions will include creative ways to support and facilitate ATM projects. CAWA, the Ditch & Reservoir Company Association, and Colorado Cattlemen’s Association have also been working on ATM education and development.
The Arkansas Basin pilot water sharing project with Catlin Canal is in its second year with favorable results that suggest statutory changes aimed at incenting alternatives to buy-and-dry transactions.
WATERSHED HEALTH, ENVIRONMENT & RECREATION
We are looking at providing an additional $5 million (through the CWCB funding plan) to the Watershed Restoration Program to work with roundtables and stakeholder groups to develop watershed restoration and stream management plans and projects for the priority streams identified in Basin Implementation Plans (BIPs) and other watershed planning documents.
The CWCB helped put on workshops at the Colorado Water Congress summer conference in August 2016 on Stream Management Plans: what they are and how to develop one. Another workshop will be hosted on Tuesday, October 11th at the Sustaining Colorado Watersheds conference.
The CWCB will be including climate change impacts in the SWSI update.
The CWCB is working with the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and the One World One Water Center at Metro State University of Denver to develop a proposal for a Water Education Assessment to improve long-term water education program evaluation, identify gaps in water education, and develop case studies of successful programs and best practices to share statewide. The assessment will help align funding with educational priorities statewide.
The CWCB created an e-newsletter to update stakeholders on Colorado’s Water Plan implementation and the work of the CWCB Board and staff, IBCC, basin roundtables, and local communities. The next issue will go out the first week of October.
The CWCB is working to connect with and create partnerships with the innovation community, including the Colorado Innovation Network (COIN) and Something Independent, to create pathways for the private sector and the water community to work together to tackle the state’s water challenges and focus on innovating with water data.
Funding is critical to many of our implementation efforts. The CWCB will continue to align funding decisions with Colorado’s Water Plan. We are developing a 3-5 year funding plan that will create a repayment guarantee fund, bolster the WSRF program, and support several education, conservation, reuse, and agricultural viability actions called for in the plan. The following funding plan is being developed by the CWCB staff, which will seek approvals from the CWCB Board and the legislature through the annual project’s bill, to kick-start water funding for plan implementation:
o a one-time investment of up to $50 million (as available) into a repayment guarantee fund;
o an annual transfer of $10 million for the Water Supply Reserve Fund;
o an annual transfer of $5 million for the Watershed Restoration Program;
o and an annual transfer of $10 million for additional non-reimbursable CWCB programming to implement Colorado’s Water Plan.
USE OF $5 MILLION FROM 2016 PROJECTS BILL
Of the $5 million transferred in the 2016 Projects Bill to assist in the implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan, staff is recommending the following approximate amounts to the Board for appropriation in 2017:
$1 million will support efforts with watershed-level flood and drought planning and response;
$.5 million for grants to provide technical assistance to irrigators for assistance with federal cost-sharing improvement programs;
$1.2 million for water forecasting and measuring efforts;
$1.3 million to update reuse regulations as well as to fund a training program for local water providers to better understand AWWA’s methodology for water loss control; and
$1 million to support the Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program.
Today’s water managers are faced with huge challenges and will need new paradigms for future water resource issues. However, legal and institutional constraints limit what can be done with physical and institutional infrastructure that has been built up during the past centuries.
How do we provide adequate water supplies for growing populations? Is it best to allow individual states to enact water laws, or would a federal approach provide greater protection for the environment and other public issues? How can we manage our current water systems in the face of changing climate patterns? How can we afford to make necessary system improvements amid economic downturn? And how do we protect, and even enhance, our environmental systems? Is more money the answer? Or are we at a flashpoint in our history of water management which will require entirely new paradigms?
The Reclamation Era of the past century shows the ability of the U.S. to fund and construct massive irrigation, flood control and hydropower projects. These efforts have changed the face of the western U.S. Megacities have evolved, desert lands have greened, economies have flourished, and air conditioners purr across the landscape. Other changes have been equally dramatic – Native American communities were permanently uprooted by dam construction projects, free-flowing rivers are now captured and held behind massive storage structures and some fish spawning routes have been destroyed.
Coupled with the influx of population is climate change. This will lead to warmer temperatures, which in turn will cause earlier snowmelt runoff – and less water availability during the dry summer months of July and August. Water managers will face challenges to account for increased water needs over changing precipitation patterns.
The water history of the western United States can provide examples and lessons of how certain management schemes can be accomplished, and how other management systems are lacking. Our challenge is to learn from the mistakes and accomplishments of the past to prepare for the water needs of the future.