#CDPHE is considering limits for PFCs

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Colorado health officials grappling with groundwater contamination from firefighting foam — containing a toxic chemical the federal government allows — have proposed to set a state limit to prevent more problems.

A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment limit for the perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) also could give leverage in compelling cleanup by the Air Force, which has confirmed high levels of PFCs spreading from a military air base east of Colorado Springs. More than 65,000 residents who relied on the underground Widefield Aquifer as a water source have had to find alternative supplies or install new water-cleaning systems as a plume of PFCs contamination moves south through the Fountain Valley watershed.

“We need to be able to have not just a carrot, but a stick,” CDPHE environmental toxicologist Kristy Richardson said last week, discussing the effort to set a state limit.

The proposed maximum allowable level of 70 parts per trillion in groundwater — matching a health advisory level the Environmental Protection Agency declared in May 2016 for two types of PFCs — wouldn’t be finalized until April, Richardson said. A boundary has yet to be drawn for where the limit would apply.

But such regulatory action could help state officials navigate a complex environmental problem. Other states have set PFC limits as scientists raise concerns about PFCs, which have been linked to health harm, including low birth weights and kidney and testicular cancers. Few public health studies have been done, even though people south of Colorado Springs apparently have ingested PFCs for years in public drinking water.

An Air Force investigation confirmed contamination of groundwater by PFCs used in the aqueous film-forming foam that fire departments widely use to put out fuel fires, such as those caused by airplane crashes. PFCs also are found widely in consumer products, including stain-proof carpet, microwave popcorn bags and grease-resistant fast-food wrappers.

The chemical properties that make make PFCs useful keep them from breaking down once spilled, especially in water. Scientists say people and wildlife worldwide have been exposed at low levels.

At the Peterson Air Force Base, PFCs contamination of groundwater has been measured at levels up to 88,000 ppt with soil contamination levels as high as 240,000 ppt. And Richardson said PFC levels in groundwater south of Colorado Springs — communities including Security, Widefield, Fountain, Stratmoor Hills, Garden Valley and the Security Mobile Home Park — were measured at a median level of 120 ppt — well above the EPA health advisory limit.

Richardson favored a broad area for the groundwater limit — “so that maybe we can begin to look at other sources. … My biggest concern is the extent” of the plume, she said.

@USBR Launches New Basin Studies in #NewMexico and #Arizona

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Bureau of Reclamation Acting Commissioner Alan Mikkelsen announced that Reclamation is launching two new basin studies. The Rio Grande Basin Study in New Mexico and Eloy and Maricopa-Stanfield Basin Study in Arizona will help inform water managers within their respective basins.

“Growing imbalances between supply and demand are impacting many basins throughout the West,” Mikkelsen said. “Through collaboration and using the latest science and data we can develop solutions that will help ensure a sustainable water supply.”

The Rio Grande Basin Study in New Mexico is focused on the Middle Rio Grande from the Colorado-New Mexico border to Elephant Butte Reservoir. The basin has been fully allocated since 1907 and future potential conditions in the basin could result in decreased water supply and quality. Reclamation is partnering with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District on this study.

The basin study will enhance existing models and data to evaluate infrastructure and operations. It will also develop strategies to improve water supply reliability and improve stakeholder collaboration and water management in an area of competing needs. Reclamation is providing $498,000 and the non-federal partners are contributing $517,000 for a total study cost of $1.12 million.

The Eloy and Maricopa-Stanfield groundwater basins in Southern Arizona encompass most of the corridor between Phoenix and Tucson. The area receives about 340,000 acre-feet of water annually through the Central Arizona Project, which is used in conjunction with more than 435,000 acre-feet of groundwater for agricultural, municipal and industrial uses. The basins also provide aquifer storage of CAP water to increase regional supply reliability. The groundwater is being overdrafted by about 230,000 acre-feet per year and is causing severe subsidence in the basins, putting critical infrastructure at risk.

The study will help water managers in the basins update existing models, bring together diverse stakeholders and the public, and develop adaptation strategies to better manage groundwater supplies with future uncertainties in Colorado River supplies. Reclamation and the non-federal partners will each contribute $680,000 for a total study cost of $1.36 million.

Reclamation is partnering with the Central Arizona Project, Arizona Department of Water Resources, Pinal County, Pinal County Water Augmentation Authority, Global Water Resources, Arizona Water Company, City of Casa Grande, City of Eloy, Maricopa Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District on this basin study.

The Basin Study Program is part of WaterSMART. WaterSMART is the Department of the Interior’s sustainable water initiative that uses the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. For more information on the WaterSMART program, visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART. To learn more about the Basin Study Program or the projects announced today, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/bsp.

Albuquerque is embarking on a $6 million ASR project

Map of the Rio Grande watershed, showing the Rio Chama joining the Rio Grande near Santa Fe. Graphic credit WikiMedia.

From The Albuquerque Journal (Olivier Uyttebrouck):

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority recently began drilling a pair of injection wells that will allow it to build up a water “account” that it can draw from when the Rio Grande is running at a low ebb.

“This project is designed to address those times when we don’t have that flow in the river,” said Katherine Yuhas, the utility’s water resources manager.

When the utility begins banking water in October 2018, the $6 million demonstration project will allow the utility each year to store up to 5,000 acre-feet, or about 1.6 billion gallons. Over a period of 20 years, that will amount to enough water to meet the demand of customers for about a year, Yuhas said.

El Paso County inks deal with Forsgren Associates, Inc for water master plan

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Rachel Riley):

Last week, county commissioners approved a roughly $272,000 contract with Englewood-based engineering firm Forsgren Associates, Inc., to develop a water master plan. The document, expected to be finished by the end of 2018, will map providers’ water sources and infrastructure, clear the way for water to be considered earlier in the county’s development review process and make forward-thinking recommendations, Dossey said.

As the region’s population increases, so does the demand for water, a dwindling resource in the arid high desert of Colorado’s Front Range and plains. Small, rural districts can’t rely indefinitely on overdrawn aquifers. Nor can they afford massively expensive pipeline projects, such as Utilities’ $825 million Southern Delivery System, or to buy rights to water west of the Continental Divide, where most of the state’s supply is found.

“We’re talking 50 to 100 years out that we’re going to see issues, potentially, with water supply,” Dossey said. “It’s important that the county take the lead and work with each of the providers to work on a plan for the future.”

If water providers in the Colorado Springs vicinity don’t replace existing groundwater sources with more reliable water supplies by 2030, it could result in an annual regional shortfall of up to 25,000 acre-feet, or more than 8 billion gallons, according to Utilities’ Integrated Water Resource Plan, which was approved in February.

“There’s a huge gap to fill if we’re going to continue to grow,” said Dave Doran, a director for the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Ground Water Management District in eastern El Paso County. “There’s just so many more straws in the ground. Inevitably, these aquifers are dropping rapidly.”

Tens of thousands of residents rely on groundwater drawn from the depleting aquifers of the Denver Basin, according to local water officials.

How fast water levels within the Denver Basin aquifers are falling is up for debate. Kip Petersen, general manager for the Donala Water and Sanitation District, believes the aquifers could dwindle to a point where it would no longer be cost-effective for providers to pump water from them within the next 50 years.

“The water that we’re pulling out has been there for millions and millions of years. Once that water’s out, it’s out,” said Petersen, whose district services about 2,800 homes in the Gleneagle area. “That’s the big search right now – how do we offset a declining aquifer like the Denver basin with a renewable source?”

Petersen’s district is one of the few in the county that’s secured renewable water sources, including water rights to a Leadville ranch and Fountain Creek, to serve about a third of its customers, he said.

Utilities’ water resource plan, a roughly $2 million project, explores options for how the agency might help smaller providers fill a supply gap. One possibility would allow the providers to use Utilities’ delivery infrastructure during wetter years when demand falls in Colorado Springs. Another potential solution would involve Utilities selling other entities water to supplement existing resources. But with so-called “regionalization” comes a host of technical and legal challenges. The Utilities Policy Advisory Committee is researching the risks and benefits of working with smaller providers in the Pikes Peak region, said Steve Berry, a Utilities spokesman.

#COleg: HB16-1256 South Platte Water Storage Study to debut soon

South Platte River alluvial aquifer

From Colorado Politics (Marianne Goodland):

Almost 8 million acre-feet of water has left Colorado in the past 20 years that the state could have kept, according to preliminary data from a legislative-commissioned study expected later this year…

That takes us to what happened to that 8 million acre-feet of water on the South Platte. It went to Nebraska. There’s a compact, like a contract, between Colorado and Nebraska, dating from 1923, that dictates that a certain amount of water from the South Platte goes to Nebraska, which preserves the river’s downstream environment and aquatic wildlife.

The 8 million acre-feet exceeds what Colorado was legally required to send to Nebraska. But the problem for Colorado is that there’s no place to put that water.

Lawmakers and water experts have been jawing about the lost water problem for years. In 2016, Rep. J. Paul Brown of Ignacio sponsored a bill to put some teeth into the conversations, by asking how much water is being lost to Nebraska and where it can be stored.

The final answer won’t be known until the end of this year, but earlier this month, an interim water committee at the state Capitol took a first look at the data and some of the sites where storage might happen.

It’s not an easy conversation. Building new reservoirs takes decades and often has to survive lawsuits and complicated federal and state permitting processes.. Look at the Northern Integrated Supply Project near Fort Collins, which could lead to a new reservoir and expansion of a second. The project is in its 14th year and will likely take another five or six years to get through all the permitting. In the life of a reservoir, that’s short. Compare that to the Animas-La Plata reservoir in southwestern Colorado, where construction was declared finished in 2013. The project began construction in 1968.

While new storage is definitely possible for that South Platte water, other storage ideas are being considered in the study. According to Andy Moore, a senior water resources specialist with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the state’s primary water agency, 147 sites were identified on first blush for water storage.

Those sites fall into three categories: new reservoirs, rehabilitating and/or expanding existing reservoirs, or refilling underground storage. That’s water that would be pumped into aquifers, which are underground rock formations that hold water. Colorado has four major aquifers, with the three largest all along the Eastern Slope. In 2000, the South Platte aquifer, according to the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, served about 70 percent of the Front Range population.

The site list has been pared down several times, to eliminate sites too far from the main body of the South Platte or for sites that were too small to be useful. That leaves 16 sites, mostly in northeastern Colorado. Over the next several months, those sites will be evaluated for cost, benefits and other factors.

The first look at possible storage along the South Platte was welcomed by Chris Treese, external affairs manager for the Colorado River Water Conservancy District, the water agency in charge of the Colorado. “The Western Slope has long thought that as Coloradans we’re in the water world together, but every basin should look to own resources and capabilities first before looking for outside resources,” he said.

Treese wasn’t surprised by the numbers. “This is what Brown and others in the South Platte have been saying – that it’s a problem with a suitable storage location.” He added that the study will identify whether storage is “one silver bullet or a lot of smaller opportunities.”

Rep. Jeni Arndt of Fort Collins, a Democrat who chairs the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, favors refilling aquifers first and looking at other possibilities next. Arndt sponsored a bill, signed into law this year by the governor, that allows the state engineer to set up rules for the use of water that is pumped into nontributary aquifers. Those are aquifers not connected to surface water, like rivers.

Refilling aquifers, Arndt told Colorado Politics, is environmentally friendly, with less evaporation and less permitting. It is also practical from a political standpoint, she said, meaning that there should be less opposition to refilling aquifers than to building new reservoirs.

Refilling is “appealing, makes sense, it’s cost effective and it’s politically doable,” she said.

Brown was pleased with the study’s first data.

“This is the kind of information needed to make good decisions about what to do on the South Platte,” he said this week. He pointed out that the Arkansas, Rio Grande and Colorado rivers all have instream storage, and the only place without it is the South Platte.

For years, “the low-hanging fruit has been West Slope water,” Brown explained. And while Colorado has always delivered its Colorado River water as it should under the compact, the supply is just not there anymore. “It’s not just a West Slope issue – it’s an issue for the entire state. People who know water are very interested in making sure we don’t waste any and don’t send any more water to Nebraska than what they’re entitled to.”

NGWA Seeks Volunteers To Review Water Well Construction Standard

Typical water well

From PublicWorks.com:

The National Ground Water Association is seeking volunteers to assist in reviewing and updating the ANSI/NGWA-01-14 Water Well Construction Standard, which was last approved in 2014. This process is being initiated according to the American National Standards Institute’s requirement that all standards be routinely revised, reaffirmed, or withdrawn to ensure content remains relevant.

The Water Well Construction Standard is a performance standard encompassing municipal, residential, agricultural, monitoring, and industrial water production wells. Sections include well site selection; casing and casing installation; screens, filter pack, and formation stabilizer; grouting; plumbness and alignment; well development; testing for performance; data recording; disinfection with chlorine; water sampling and analysis; and permanent well and test-hole decommissioning.

Volunteers will assist NGWA’s Standard Development Oversight Task Group by reviewing the entire standard using NGWA’s standard development process briefly outlined below:

  • Review each section of the standard to determine if revisions are necessary
  • Revise sections requiring further consideration
  • Publish the revised standard for public review and comment
  • Respond to and resolve all public comments
  • Vote to approve the revised standard
  • Submit the standard to ANSI for review and action once consensus has been achieved (i.e., affirmative votes from the Standard Development Oversight Task Group, all comments responded to and resolved, no outstanding negative votes with comment).
  • Throughout the process, NGWA’s Standard Development Oversight Task Group will include representation from three interest categories: contractors—those who complete the physical groundwater work, manufacturers/suppliers—those who make the equipment to install the materials to retrieve the groundwater or provide the contractors with this equipment or these materials, and other—those who have a demonstrable material interest in the standard that do not identify with the other interest categories listed. The group will be composed to achieve a balance of interests, without dominance from any specific interest category, individual, or organization.

    The group is specifically seeking those identifying with the manufacturer/supplier and other interest categories to help with this process. Membership with NGWA or any other organization is not required to participate.

    The Standard Development Oversight Task Group will meet via conference calls and an in-person meeting scheduled during NGWA’s 2017 Groundwater Week in Nashville, Tennessee.

    #Utah #GoldKingMine lawsuit lacks details

    This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

    From the Associated Press (Dan Elliot):

    Utah’s $1.9 billion claim against the Environmental Protection Agency for a multi-state mine waste spill says Utah’s water, soil and wildlife were damaged, but it offers no specifics.

    The Utah Attorney General’s Office provided a copy of the claim to The Associated Press Wednesday…

    Utah’s claim from the spill is believed to be the largest of 144 filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people to seek government compensation without a lawsuit. The claims seek payment for lost crops, livestock, wages and income and other damages.

    The Navajo Nation filed a claim for $162 million and the state of New Mexico for $130 million. Both have also filed lawsuits against the federal government.

    Utah also filed suit, but it named mine owners and EPA contractors as defendants, not the government.

    The EPA said January it was prevented by law from paying any of the damages under the Tort Claims Act, angering many. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who took over after President Donald Trump assumed office, has said the agency will reconsider at least some of the claims.

    Utah’s claim cites damage to the San Juan River and Lake Powell, a vast reservoir on the Colorado River which the San Juan feeds into. It also cites damage to other waterways, underground water, soil, sediment, wildlife and other, unspecified natural resources.

    It does not say how state officials arrived at the $1.9 billion figure.

    Dan Burton, a spokesman for Attorney General Sean Reyes, said the state’s lawyers came up with the number after consulting with Utah Department of Environmental Quality scientists and others.