COVID-19: What the public needs to know about water and sanitation — The Pagosa Sun

Pagosa Springs Panorama. Photo credit: Gmhatfield via Wikimedia Commons

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

At a regular meeting of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors on March 12, District Manager Justin Ramsey noted that COVID-19 cannot be spread through drinking water.

“It’s very susceptible to chlorine,” Ramsey said. “We do keep chlorine in our water.”

However, COVID-19 can be found in sewage, Ramsey noted, adding that there are other unhealthy things found in sewage as well…

The only way PAWSD could be affected by COVID-19 is if too many staff members were to get sick, Ramsey added later.

According to Ramsey, the state of Colorado has put together a program, called CoWARN [Colorado Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network] that allows PAWSD to “share” equipment and staff.
“So if PAWSD gets hit real hard with this, I can call Durango and say ‘I need two water operators’ and if they have them available, they’ll send them to us,” he said. “It sets out how we’re going to pay for it and pay them back and so on and so forth.”

In a follow-up interview on March 17, Ramsey noted that PAWSD is now a part of CoWARN.

Additionally, Ramsey noted that PAWSD has run into issues with citizens using and flushing items that cause problems with PAWSD’s infrastructure.

“It is causing somewhat of a problem. It’s not a major catastrophe, but it is definitely clogging some pumps and causing a little bit of issues,” he said.

On March 17, PAWSD’s administrative offices closed to the public indefinitely, Ramsey explained in an email.

PAWSD customers will still receive regular water and wastewater service, Ramsey noted.

Sedimentation problems necessitate diversion structure overhaul for Lake Nighthorse intakes

From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

No water will be pumped from the Animas River into Lake Nighthorse this year.

That is because the headgates at the dam southwest of Durango, Colorado, have to be destroyed and replaced, according to Animas-La Plata Project Operations, Maintenance and Repair Association General Manager Russ Howard.

Howard told the San Juan Water Commission on March 4 that the $6.5 million project is needed because the design was not appropriate for the location. This work is being done by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

He said work was also done prior to choosing to replace the gate. Howard said $1.5 million was spent “over the years trying to put a Band-Aid on something that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

When asked about the gate, Howard said the design, known as an Obermeyer, gate is not a bad design, but it was not appropriate for the Animas River.

Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Justyn Liff agreed with Howard that the design was a good design but was not compatible with the Animas River’s conditions. She said on another river it would have worked fine, but the bureau had not realized how muddy the Animas River is.

The amount of mud in the Animas River caused problems and filled the pipes with mud.

In addition to the $6.5 million replacement of the headgates, Liff said the the gate’s original construction, retrofits to keep them operational and engineering studies and design cost about $6.2 million.

2020 #COleg: HB20-1095 [Local Governments Water Elements In Master Plans]

From The Durango Herald (Shannon Mullane):

Colorado House Bill 1095 says if a local government’s comprehensive plan includes a water-supply element, it must also include conservation policies. While there might be disagreement on how to conserve, some planners are already incorporating water into their land-use decisions…

In the Southwest basin, water demand is projected to increase between 17,000 and 27,000 acre feet by 2050, according to the Basin Implementation Plan. That’s with some conservation by users…

According to scientific models, the Southwest is also more vulnerable to drought as the climate warms, said Gigi Richard, director of the Four Corners Water Center at Fort Lewis College.

“One, we know our population is growing. Two, we know our climate is warming,” Richard said. “Those two things are going to put stresses on the quantity of water available.”

Durango and Bayfield have already included some water conservation measures into their community planning. Ignacio lacks any specific water conservation measures.

The town does not have a comprehensive plan, an advisory document that outlines long-term goals for community development required by state statute…

Vallecito Reservoir during Missionary Ridge Fire via George Weber Environmental.

In Durango, the comprehensive plan references a 2015 sustainable action plan and a 2011 water efficiency management plan. The last time the city implemented water restrictions was in 2002, the year of the Missionary Ridge Fire.

“If that bill passed, I feel confident that we’ve integrated enough … that we would meet those requirements,” Biggs said. “We could always do more and do better.” In Bayfield, the town’s 2005 comprehensive plan does not include some of the town’s updated policies. For example, the 2018 Water Master Plan includes water supply requirements, and those would be incorporated when the comprehensive plan is updated. The town started looking at its emergency water measures during the drought in 2018.

“Every time we have a project in Bayfield, ‘Hey, is there adequate water?’” said Bayfield Mayor Matt Salka. “The answer is yes, but for the town of Bayfield, we always have water in mind.”

Water conservation and efficiency can be a charged topic among users.

Durango water users’ opinions on conservation methods are a “mixed bag,” Biggs said. Some people are actively trying to conserve, while others value a healthy lawn.

In Bayfield, most people seem to support the idea of water conservation, Salka said. “I don’t think it’s a big topic here from a development perspective,” Garcia said of Ignacio. “Some folks are looking at water conservation for reducing their own use and bill.”

For Richard, the more planning, the better.

Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership awarded grant for #solar project — The Pagosa Sun #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

The dome greenhouse gleams in the Sun at the center of the park. To the right is a new restroom and on the far left is the Community Garden. Along the walk way is a small paved amphitheater like space for presentations and entertainment. Photo credit The Pagosa Springs Journal.

From The Pagosa Sun:

The La Plata Electric Asso- ciation (LPEA) Board of Directors voted at its meeting last week to award the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) $13,000 from its Renewable Generation Funds Grant program to support a solar installation to generate electricity for the GGP site in Centennial Park.

Projects were selected based on visibility to the local community, level of innovation, and the potential to blend renewable technologies with educational elements and community engagement.

Grant monies are sourced from LPEA’s Local Renewable Generation Fund — an opt-in fund to which LPEA members can contribute to support the development of renewable energy generation projects in the service territory.

For more information on the program, LPEA members should call 382-3505.

Southwestern Water Conservation District: 38th Annual Water Seminar, April 3, 2020

Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:

The 2020 Annual Water Seminar is titled “Wading into Watershed Health,” and there’s plenty to talk about. Water supply and water quality are inextricably linked to the health of our watersheds–from forest to valley floor. Irrigators, municipalities, tribes, and fish populations are among those impacted by recent wildfires. Efforts to bring significant financial support to southwest Colorado for forest management and wildfire mitigation have been successful. Also, the regional forest products industry is gaining momentum as economic incentives shift.

#Snowpack news: Halfway through the snow accumulation season the #ArkansasRiver basin #runoff prospects are looking good

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 23, 2020 via the NRCS.

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

This week, [San Juan River watershed] snow water equivalency (SWE) is listed at 19.5 inches. Last week it was 19.1 inches.

The precipitation average increased from last week, going from 23.7 inches to 25.2 inches this week.

Arkansas Valley cantaloupe planting April 2012 photo via The Pueblo Chieftain

From KOAA.com (Tyler Dumas):

The National Weather Service is reporting that the Arkansas River Basin’s snowpack, which feeds into the Arkansas River, is at about 116 percent of its average.

At this rate, chile and cantaloupe farmers downstream can expect a good amount of water coming their way by the time the run off starts.

“People that are use to getting water, farmers, municipalities, they should be getting their normal load. If we continue to build up a bigger snowpack, then more people are going to get water as the year moves on,” said service hydrologist, Tony Anderson.

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors will continue to eschew fluoride dosing, CDPHE presentation on tap

Calcium fluoride

From The Pagosa Sun (John Finefrock):

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors briefly discussed fluoride in drinking water at its meeting on Feb. 13.
PAWSD stopped putting fluoride in the local water supply in 2005.

“The state has contacted us, and they would like to give us a presentation on the pros and cons of [fluoridation of] the water,” PAWSD Manager Justin Ramsey said. “We do not put fluoride in the water. I have no wish to put fluoride in the water. I told the state I’ll be happy to sit through their little spiel.”

[…]

Asked for comment on the fluoride issue, San Juan Basin Public Health’s (SJBPH) Brian Devine, Water and Air Quality Program manager, sent the following statement via email: “SJBPH supports the evidence-based practice of public water providers distributing water with the optimal levels of fluoride for public health. For some water providers, that means adding fluoride to drinking water, for others in naturally highly-fluoridated areas, it means removing it. Optimal levels of fluoride strengthen growing teeth in children and protect tooth enamel from plaque in adults, leading to less tooth decay. This means lower lifetime health costs and improves the opportunity for everyone to live a healthier life. These benefits led community water fluoridation to be named one of the top ten public health achievements of the twentieth century by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”