@USGS: Next Generation Water Observing System: Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin #COriver

From the USGS:

The Next Generation Water Observing System provides high-fidelity, real-time data on water quantity, quality, and use to support modern water prediction and decision-support systems that are necessary for informing water operations on a daily basis and decision-making during water emergencies. The headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison River Basin provide an opportunity to implement the NGWOS in a snowmelt-dominated system in the mountain west.

The USGS Next Generation Water Observing System (NGWOS) is generating integrated data on streamflow, groundwater, evapotranspiration, snowpack, soil moisture, water quality, and water use. When fully implemented, the NGWOS will intensively monitor at least 10 medium-sized watersheds (10,000-20,000 square miles) and underlying aquifers that represent larger regions across the Nation.

The USGS will be installing new monitoring equipment and enhancing existing streamgages in the headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison River Basin (Upper Colorado River Basin) beginning in 2020, subject to availability of funding. Credit: USGS

The USGS has selected the headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison River Basin (Upper Colorado River Basin) in central Colorado as its second NGWOS basin. This decision was based on rigorous quantitative ranking of western basins, input from USGS regions and science centers, and feedback from targeted external stakeholders in the west.

The Upper Colorado River Basin is important because nearly all flow in the Colorado River originates in the upper basin states and runoff from the Upper Colorado River Basin is nearly three times that of other basins in the area. Thus, the Upper Colorado River Basin is particularly critical for downstream users.

Long-term drought conditions facing the Upper Colorado region, interstate ramifications of the drought, water-quality issues, stakeholder support, and alignment with Department of Interior and USGS priorities make the Upper Colorado an ideal basin to implement the USGS’s integrated approach to observing, delivering, assessing, predicting, and informing water resource conditions and decisions now and into the future. Of note, a newly released (October 2019) Federal Action Plan for Improving Forecasts of Water Availability includes a milestone to pilot long-range water prediction in the Upper Colorado River Basin, an activity that will greatly benefit from the newly selected USGS NGWOS basin.

An integrated data-to-modeling approach in the Upper Colorado River Basin will help improve regional water prediction in other snowmelt dominated systems in the Rockies and beyond. The approach is useful for addressing issues of both water availability and water quality and for evaluating the effects of both short-term climate perturbation (for example, fire, insect mortality, drought) and long-term climate change.

Water Resources Challenges in the Colorado River Basin

The Colorado River supplies water for more than 40 million people and nearly 5.5 million acres of farmland across the western United States and Mexico. The Colorado River and its main tributaries originate in the mountains of western Wyoming, central Colorado, and northeastern Utah. The large amount of snowmelt that feeds the Upper Colorado is central to water availability throughout the Basin. In 2019, urgent action was required to prevent previously developed rules from potentially reducing Colorado River water allocations to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico due to declining water levels in the two largest reservoirs within the Colorado River Basin—Lake Powell and Lake Mead. A Colorado Drought Contingency Plan was signed in April 2019.

NGWOS Characteristics

  • State-of-the-art measurements
  • Dense array of sensors at selected sites
  • Increased spatial and temporal data coverage of all primary components of the hydrologic cycle
  • New monitoring technology testing and implementation
  • Improved operational efficiency
  • Modernized and timely data storage and delivery
  • The latest “#GunnisonRiver Basin News” is hot off the presses from the Gunnison Basin Roundtable

    Sonja Chavez via Gunnison Basin Roundtable.

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

    Chavez to Take the Lead at UGRWCD

    Sonja Chavez has been selected to serve as the General Manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. When asked about her new role, Ms. Chavez said, “I look forward to working with my local community and our Upper Gunnison Board of Directors and staff to continue to ensure that all water needs within the Upper Gunnison basin are being addressed, with other regional water users to speak with one voice on water resource issues affecting west slope communities, and with other state and federal entities to make informed decisions and have respectful dialogue around our current and future water use.”

    As a native Coloradan, Sonja’s passion for water and agriculture is deeply rooted in her family’s ranching heritage. She grew up in a small community in southwestern Colorado along the banks of the Purgatoire River.

    Ms. Chavez received a BA in Environmental Biology and an MA in Limnology (study of freshwater systems) from the University of Colorado. Her areas of expertise are in water quality, water resources management, funding acquisition, environmental and natural resource sciences, and policy and planning.

    Early in her career Sonja worked in both the private and public sectors in Colorado (Water Quality Control Division, Department of Transportation and Summit County Government). In 2002, she moved to the Gunnison community and started her own consulting firm, assisting west slope water providers and water users planning and implementation of over $38 million dollars of water-quality and agricultural efficiency improvement and hydro-electric projects.

    In 2015, she left the consulting world to join the Colorado River Water Conservation District as a Water Resource Specialist where her responsibilities included the management of off- and on-farm agricultural efficiency, system optimization and water-quality improvement projects, environmental compliance, funding acquisition, and grant management, and drought contingency planning and demand management including the evaluation of water banking.

    From http://www.ugrwcd.org

    Montrose: City hires engineering firm to study temp and flow of #UncompahgreRiver at the #wastewater plant — The Montrose Press

    River Bottom Park Uncompahgre River. Photo credit: PhilipScheetzPhoto via the City of Montrose

    From The Montrose Press (Andrew Kiser):

    The city council voted unanimously Tuesday to hire Wright Water Engineers out of Durango $50,000 to design a data collection system.

    The city is required to collect continuous temperature data on the Uncompahgre River upstream from the treatment plant found north of town, said City of Montrose utilities manager David Bries. This is needed as part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit — which was provided by the EPA — that the city recently received, he added.

    Bries said that as part of a review, staffers discovered a lack of good, low-measurement near or at the river, as well as the treatment plant discharge location…

    With this design in place, it’ll be the first time the city will collect data of the river flow and temperature of the discharge of the treatment plant, Bries said.

    He also said this process will “capture that data” so decisions can be made for the river.

    “We felt it was very valuable and imperative to have both flow relationships and temperature relationships,” Bries said. “We can make sure we are doing what is environmentally the right thing to do.”

    Partnership puts valuable water quality information from Western Slope online — @CUBoulder

    From the University of Colorado Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science:

    Results from a new voluntary survey of private drinking water quality on the Western Slope through a partnership between CU Boulder, Delta County and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are available online now.

    Ken Nordstrom, the environmental health director for the Delta County Health Department, looks at a physical version of the map. Photo credit: University of Colorado at Boulder

    Prior to this study, there was no data on private drinking water quality in this six-county area, and the findings have proven to be relevant to many residents. Of the 457 wells analyzed in the survey, 11% have arsenic concentrations exceeding the Colorado primary drinking water standard maximum contaminant level. Additionally, 15% of the well water that was tested exceeded at least one primary drinking water contaminant standard from the state.

    Residents can explore results through an interactive online map created by Holly Miller as part of her recently completed master’s degree in the Environmental Engineering Program at CU Boulder. The site shows locations for all the tested wells, provides links to request free testing kits and houses detailed water-quality information.

    Miller’s work was partially funded through a CU Boulder Outreach Award and was a small part of a study funded by the CDC into this issue. That larger project is entering its fifth year and is led locally by the Health Department of Delta County with work being done in Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties, where about half of the residents are on private wells.

    Samples for the survey came from volunteers in those communities. Miller’s work was done under Professor Joe Ryan, who said the database was an important step toward public awareness. That is because water quality is an important factor in overall health, but privately owned wells are unregulated and mostly untested for things like arsenic. Putting the survey results online gives residents, many of whom rely on well water, information about their home’s water quality and that of their neighbors so they can make informed health decisions.

    “With the maps she created, you can see if you are in an area that already has problems, or areas you may want to avoid if you are drilling a new well,” said Ryan, who is based in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering.

    Arsenic in groundwater can occur naturally, or it can come from human sources like agriculture, where it was used as a pesticide, or mining operations. Ingestion can have short-term effects, including nausea and fatigue, as well as long-term effects like skin thickening and discoloration. Ryan said that more testing was needed, but the source of the higher levels in this case was likely geologic. He added that better understanding of that aspect would be valuable when making decisions about new wells and development needs in those communities.

    Ken Nordstrom, the environmental health director for the Delta County Health Department, said that without a healthy drinking water source, you cannot have a healthy community.

    “CU Boulder has helped us develop this resource for individual homeowners to ensure that they have a healthy drinking water supply,” he said.

    Holly Miller. Photo credit University of Colorado at Boulder

    “Collaborating with Delta County has been a great asset for my professional career. I gained valuable research and outreach skills, which ultimately created the foundation for my current position where I work as the project manager for my program’s geographical information systems database used to map information about abandoned mine-land sites across the state,” she said.

    The project is nearing completion, and sample kits have now been sent to approximately 1,000 volunteers. From that group, results have been returned to over 750 of them. Miller said the plan is to update the interactive map by the end of the year, and the Delta County Environmental Health Department staff is planning to survey residents in the counties to identify the impacts this project has had on helping private well owners keep their water safe.

    Ryan said this type of work was just as important for students in his lab starting their careers as it is to the communities they are serving.

    “This type of work is important because I can bring students into it – but it isn’t just having them take samples and analyzing them. It’s a good case where we are getting them into a mode where they are trying to find out the client’s problem and the best way to address it,” he said. “This kind of work provides extra opportunities for students and real benefits to communities we work with.”

    This map shows estimates of how many private domestic well users in each county may be drinking water with high levels of arsenic. An estimated 2.1 million people throughout the U.S. may be drinking domestic well water high in arsenic

    From 9News.com (Anusha Roy):

    The Delta County Health Department (DCHD) paired up with the University of Colorado to study water quality in private wells. They said they got definitive data that shows not everyone can trust the water they are drinking.

    DCHD oversees six counties: Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel.

    Approximately 36,000 people, or 60% of the population, in this area drink water from private wells that aren’t regulated because they’re privately owned, according to the department’s director, Ken Nordstrom.

    Nordstrom said there are around 10,000 private drinking water wells in the six-county region his department oversees and that until this point there was no information readily available to the public about the quality of water in those wells…

    So with the help of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant, the DCHD started taking a closer look at gathering data and CU Boulder joined in 2016.

    #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

    @USBR reduces salinity and improves water quality in western slope canals

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Justyn Liff, Lesley McWhirter):

    The Bureau of Reclamation is reducing salinity and improving water quality in the Colorado River Basin by reducing salt loading into the river from the Crawford Clipper Center Lateral in Delta County and the Gould Canal in Delta and Montrose Counties. Naturally-occurring salts in the sediment along the canals are picked up by water leaching from the earthen ditches and entering the Colorado River system. The resulting reduction in water quality creates a negative economic impact to downstream infrastructure and crops. The purpose of the projects is to prevent seepage and reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Basin.

    The Crawford Clipper Center Lateral Pipeline Project will replace approximately 4.3 miles of open irrigation ditch with buried pipe. The Gould Canal Improvement Project will convert 12.4 miles of the canal to pipeline and geomembrane lining. These improvements will reduce seepage along the canals, enhancing water supply and improving water quality by preventing approximately 8,303 tons of salt per year from entering the Colorado River.

    “Reducing salt along the Clipper Center Lateral and the Gould Canal will help improve the water quality, crop production and wildlife habitat in the Colorado River Basin,” said Ed Warner, area manager for Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office.

    Copies of the final Findings of No Significant Impacts and Environmental Assessments on the projects are available online at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/envdocs/index.html or by contacting Reclamation. Historical and photographic documentation on the canals is available at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wcao/rm/cr/index.html.

    Piping and lining of the projects tentatively scheduled to begin in November 2019.

    Piping an irrigation ditch. Photo credit NRCS via the Julesburg Advocate.

    The latest “#GunnisonRiver Basin News” is hot off the presses

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

    Funding opportunities in the Gunnison River Basin

    Funding opportunities for water projects that help improve and conserve water and land resources can be found on http://gunnisonriverbasin.org, including:

  • US Department of Agriculture federal grants and loans
  • Colorado Water Conservation Board state grants and loans
  • Additional Grant Funding Opportunities
  • Click here to view a table of grand funding opportunities.

    Upper Gunnison watershed May 2019. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs