Spring brings more fears for #MissouriRiver flooding — The Kirksville Daily Express

2019 Nebraska flooding. Photo Credit: University of Nebraska Lincoln Crop Watch

From The Kirksville Daily Express (Mike Genet):

A year after flooding battered the Missouri River’s levee system, inundating towns and farmland and causing multiple closures to the nation’s interstate highway system, early forecasts warn that more of the same could be on the way: above-normal rainfall, greater than normal spring runoff. A USA TODAY Network analysis delves into records of an aging system of nearly a thousand levees where nobody knows how many were damaged last year or how many were repaired…

The forecast is a veritable index of meteorological plagues: above-normal rainfall; greater than normal spring runoff; thoroughly saturated soils; and an aging system of nearly a thousand levees where nobody knows how many were damaged last year and in previous floods or how many were repaired.

The 855 levee systems throughout the Missouri River basin protect at least half a million people and more than $92 billion in property. Yet a USA TODAY Network analysis of Army Corps of Engineers’ records found at least 144 levee systems haven’t been fully repaired and that only 231 show an inspection date.

Of those, nearly half were rated “unacceptable,” which means something could prevent the levee from performing as intended or a serious deficiency was not corrected. Only 3.5% were deemed acceptable; the rest were found to be “minimally acceptable.”

U.S. levee systems map via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Click on the map to go to the interactive website.

Only 231 of the levee systems show any inspection date. For 38, the most recent inspection date was more than five years ago.

In the Army Corps’ Kansas City district, for example, about 70 projects, spanning 119 levees that requested repair assistance, are eligible for funding, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be ready if the waters rise like they did last year.

“Some of them have been repaired, but from a total system perspective, I don’t think any of them are whole,” said Jud Kneuvean, the district’s chief of emergency management, who expects full levee rehabilitation and repair to take at least another year.

In the meantime, the extent and impacts of flooding will depend on when and where the rain falls…

The 2,300-mile Missouri River begins in southwestern Montana, where the Gallatin, Madison and Jefferson rivers converge near the community of Three Forks, before gathering water from 10 states and parts of two Canadian provinces to become the “Big Muddy,” North America’s longest river.

In recent years, more rainfall has been pouring into the Missouri River basin, raising questions about whether climate change is bringing worsening floods more often. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dating back to 1895 shows record-setting rainfalls in the area occurring more often. Last year, for example, was the wettest on record in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

All that water adds to the challenge faced by Corps policymakers, who juggle sometimes conflicting priorities that include maintaining navigation; managing the reservoir system to prevent flooding; providing farmers with irrigation and hydropower; protecting endangered species; and preserving recreational opportunities.

While the priority is protecting human life and safety, the Corps’ decision-making sometimes puts special interest groups at odds, and the agency remains embroiled in controversy over whether the engineering of the river exacerbates flooding.

Things came to a head last year when a bomb cyclone in March melted all the snow in Nebraska and Iowa at once and dumped tremendous rain, swelling not just the Missouri, but the Elkhorn, Platte, James and Big Sioux rivers.

The Niobrara River in Nebraska breached the Spencer Dam on March 14, sending a wall of water downstream and into the Gavins Point reservoir near Yankton, South Dakota. At the peak, water flowed into the reservoir at 180,000 cubic feet per second — nine times more than the normal average for March. Meanwhile water was coursing into the rivers downstream of the dam and the effects of all that water were felt in nearly every community downstream.

Two other big rain events occurred in May and September. When the Corps’ Kansas City district deactivated its emergency operations center in December, it had been open for 279 days, the longest period on record…

Construction of the higher levee is in the administrative and planning stages, with actual construction activity set for fall.

Most of the Missouri’s levees fall into one of two categories: either federally built and locally operated or locally built and operated. The Corps inspects — and helps pay to repair — only the levees maintained to federal standards that participate in the federal flood program.

That exception means no one has a full list of damaged levees still in need of repair.

The number of levees that aren’t regularly inspected doesn’t surprise Neal Grigg, an engineering professor at Colorado State University who chaired a Corps-appointed review panel after 2011 flooding.

In an ideal management system, every levee “would be under the responsibility of some authority that was responsible and had enough money and good management capability to do that,” Grigg said.

But that’s not realistic, he added, noting that the Corps has tried through a task force to get some organization to the levee systems along the river, but it’s problematic, in part, because there are so many conflicting interests.

A host of agencies are cooperating to repair levees, but the progress is slow, said Missouri farmer Morris Heitman, who serves on the Missouri River Flood Task Force Levee Repair Working Group.

In addition to the Corps, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state of Missouri, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and a large number of local levee districts all work to repair levees.

“We’re trying to dance with different agencies,” Heitman told the University of Missouri Extension. “All these agencies have their own requirements and parameters, and we’re trying to coordinate those to build a secure system against the river.”

Fixes to the 144 levee systems listed in disrepair in the Corps’ Omaha and Kansas City districts are in various stages of completion, and some aren’t expected to be done for more than a year.

In the Omaha district that includes Nebraska and Iowa, “pretty much all of the levees were damaged in one way or another,” said the corps’ Matt Krajewski.

While almost all of the district’s levees that qualify for federal aid have been restored to pre-2019 flood heights, Krajewski said they don’t offer the same level of “risk reduction” because they need final touches such as sod cover and drainage structures to protect against erosion. The Corps hopes to complete those repairs this summer.

In the meantime, the Corps is working to prepare its flood storage capacity by releasing more water than normal from its dams.

“We’re being really aggressive with our releases and trying to maintain our full flood storage,” said Eileen Williamson, a Corps spokeswoman for the Northwestern region.

But the projections for spring runoff don’t look good and may limit how much the Corps can do.

In February, the runoff was twice the normal average, said Kevin Grode, with the Corps’ Missouri River Basin Water Management district.

The James River, a tributary that flows out of South Dakota, has experienced flooding since March 13 last year and that flooding is forecast to continue. Moderate flooding is expected along the Big and Little Sioux Rivers in South Dakota and Iowa, and possibly in Montana’s Milk River basin. A risk of minor to moderate flooding is forecast from Nebraska City to the river’s confluence with the Mississippi in St. Louis.

But it’s not just the spring runoff that’s a problem, Grode said. The forecast also calls for “above average runoff for every month in 2020.”

John Remus, chief of the Corps’ Missouri River Water Management Division, said during a March briefing that if those projections are realized, “the 2020 runoff will be the ninth highest runoff in 122 years of record keeping.”

In March, a three-man team with Montana’s Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest set off on horseback for a 35-mile, five-day journey into the wild North Fork of the Sun River, a tributary of the Missouri River.

They rode horses for the first 12 miles. When they reached a foot of snow, they switched to skis and took turns breaking trail.

Greeted by a half inch of new snow each morning, higher and higher they skied, encountering snow depths of 19 inches, then 2 feet, 9 inches and finally, 3 feet, 3 inches.

Karl Wetlaufer (NRCS), explaining the use of a Federal Snow Sampler, SnowEx, February 17, 2017.

At each elevation, aluminum tubes with non-stick coating were stuck into the snow to collect core samples used to measure the depth and water content of the snowpack.

“The numbers are used for everything from dam control along the Missouri River to regulating the locks on the barges of the Mississippi,” said Ian Bardwell, the forest’s wilderness and trails manager, who led the snow survey expedition. “It just depends on what level you are looking at it from.”

As of Wednesday, mountain snowpack in the Missouri River basin in Montana was 112% of normal, said Lucas Zukiewicz, a water supply specialist with the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Montana.

In 2018, Montana’s April snowpack was 150% of normal, then 7 to 9 inches of rain over six days drenched the Rocky Mountain Front, inundating communities in its shadow. The Corps was forced to release water from the Fort Peck Dam spillway, a rarity, as a result of surging flows. Had that same thing happened last year, flooding in states downstream would have been even worse.

“With the way things are changing with our climate,” said Arin Peters, a senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Great Falls, Montana, “it’s probably a matter of time before something combines to create a big catastrophe downstream.”

Yet for this year, there may be some good news downstream from the Montana snowpack, at the Gavins Point Dam in Yankton.

Gavins Point is what’s known as a reregulation dam, its purpose to even the Missouri’s flow from the reservoirs upstream. Because Gavins Point wasn’t designed to hold floodwater, its gates had to be opened last year, sending a surge downstream after Nebraska and parts of South Dakota were hit with rain and the bomb cyclone.

In November and December, Gavins Point was still releasing water at a rate of 80,000 cubic feet per second — more than five times the average flow, and something that had never happened before, said Tom Curran, the dam’s project manager.

The good news? Releasing all that water through the winter left the mainstem dam system drained to its multipurpose zone, where it has capacity to absorb runoff while also fulfilling its other functions, including recreation and downstream barge traffic.

Created by Imgur user Fejetlenfej , a geographer and GIS analyst with a ‘lifelong passion for beautiful maps,’ it highlights the massive expanse of river basins across the country – in particular, those which feed the Mississippi River, in pink.

#Snowpack news: @Northern_Water directors give preliminary recommendation for a 70% quota

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt):

Colorado’s above-average snowpack for the second consecutive year has created similar reservoir storage excess, which is good news for farmers, city municipalities and residents.

On Thursday, Northern Water board of directors gave a preliminary recommendation of a 70% water quota, the same as last year when Colorado had robust snowpack.

The board sets a quota of 50% in November then increases or decreases the water quota as the water season plays out.

…Tuesday. Snowpack, reservoir storage, stream flows and a projected April precipitation forecast are all indicating ample water, which prompted the board to make its initial recommendation. A final decision will be made at next week’s board meeting.

“We anticipate this summer that farmers will have the water supply they need for the summer growing season,” said Jeff Stahla, Northern Water spokesperson. “And the same will be true for businesses and residents throughout the year.”

That’s not only good news for farmers but recreationists as well. Horsetooth Reservoir is already more than 90% full, and Stahla said he expects an ample water supply at the popular reservoir throughout the boating season…

How snowpack is faring in each of Colorado’s basins

As of Tuesday, average snowpack over the eight basins statewide was at 108%, marking the second consecutive year of above-average snowpack. It’s the third time in four years the state’s basins have hit that mark.

The South Platte River Basin, which includes Fort Collins and Denver, led the state at 118% of average, which is just shy of where the basin was during last year’s big snow year.

Russ Schumacher, director of the Colorado Climate Center, said the key snowpack station for the Poudre River is at Joe Wright Reservoir. It was at 111% of the median.

The North Platte River Basin and Yampa/White River Basin each were at 113%; Upper Colorado River Basin was at 111%; Arkansas River Basin and Upper Rio Grande River Basin were at 101%; San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basin was at 100% and the Gunnison River Basin was at 98%…

What to expect in April

April is the city’s third wettest month with normal precipitation of 2.06 inches, trailing May and June. Average snowfall is 6.2 inches, but Schumacher said April, like March, has shown it can bring snowstorms producing 12 inches or more of snow.

Four of the city’s top 10 snowstorms have occurred in April, with all dumping more than 20 inches on the city.

Westwide SNOTEL April 3, 2020 via the NRCS.

Our first crack at legislation ends in success! — @COWaterTrust

Poudre River Bike Path bridge over the river at Legacy Park photo via Fort Collins Photo Works.

From the Colorado Water Trust (Kate Ryan):

Last week, Governor Polis signed into law two bipartisan bills that will help us in our mission to restore water to Colorado’s rivers in need. We couldn’t be more excited about HB 20-1037—a bill that provides direction for instream flow augmentation plans—and HB 20-1157—a bill that expands a program for temporary loans of water to the environment. Each of these bills was two years in the making, and ended up better for it. Water users from across the state weighed in on how these changes could work in tandem to both complement historical water uses, particularly agricultural, and to improve environmental conditions.

So, how will these bills work to restore water to rivers in need? We refer to HB 20-1037, as the the instream flow augmentation bill. This bill will facilitate court-approved plans under which water users can add water back into hard working, heavily used rivers under the auspices of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). Water added back to the river will be protected as “instream flow,” or water that is designated for environmental purposes, but other water users can continue to divert water from the river for consumptive uses like agriculture and municipal delivery just as they always have. It’s a brand new concept using augmentation plans for instream flow—and required this clarification of old law. With this change, we can now move forward on our long-time goal of connecting the Cache la Poudre river from Fort Collins to Greeley.

HB 20-1157 is what we call the instream flow loan bill. It will add tools to a loan program that the CWCB has managed for some time. Until this bill, a water user could only loan their water right to the CWCB to be used for instream flow use in 3 out of 10 years. This legislation increases that to 5 out of 10 years. Additionally, in the past, only one ten-year loan period was allowed, but now that loan period can be extended for two additional ten-year periods. In sum, a water user can now loan their water to the CWCB for up to fifteen out of thirty years. There are many more details under this program, but what the legislation boils down to is a big benefit to aquatic environments and flexibility for water users who want to engage in this program, often for compensation.

We are proud to have worked with project partners including Cache la Poudre Water Users, the cities of Thornton, Fort Collins and Greeley, Northern Colorado Water Conservation District, the CWCB and Colorado Parks and Wildlife as proponents of the instream flow augmentation bill. It was our first foray into original legislative work, and a big success. And, we are thankful to The Nature Conservancy and Conservation Colorado for spearheading the legislative effort for the instream flow loan bill. Now, we can’t wait to do what the Water Trust does best—use these tools for projects that will restore water to our rivers. First stop, the Cache la Poudre River with the instream flow augmentation bill. Onward!

Study: $3.2B-plus collaborative water system on #SouthPlatteRiver could work, may signal new era of cooperation — @WaterEdCO

Ducks patrol the South Platte River as construction workers shore up bank. Oct. 8, 2019. Credit: Jerd Smith

From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

As COVID-19 continues to roil Colorado and the world, experts are suggesting that the pandemic may teach all of us to work together better. If that’s the case, then a collaborative water system for the Front Range may be a harbinger of things to come, according to a new study.

Released March 10, just days after Colorado reported its first cases of COVID-19, the study indicates that if Front Range cities band together to build a large-scale water reuse and delivery system, water sufficient to serve 100,000 homes could be developed.

It would rely on moving water between cities and farms, building new pipelines, as well as storing water underground and in off-channel reservoirs, and could be done without tapping new sources on the West Slope.

Such a project, if built, would cost $3.2 billion to $4.4 billion, according to the study, a price that is in line with other water delivery systems now being developed.

That cost includes 50 years of operations and maintenance and assumes the water would likely need to be heavily treated.

The study comes as the Front Range faces the most acute water shortages in the state, with a gap between water supply and demand for municipal and industrial users of as much as 540,000 acre-feet projected by 2050, according to a recent analysis by the state. Farmers could face a gap nearly twice that large, particularly in dry years.

Lisa Darling, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, helped oversee the study. She said once Colorado recovers from COVID-19, she hopes communities will be able to use it as a roadmap toward future water supplies. (Editor’s note: Darling is president of Water Education Colorado, the non-partisan nonprofit that sponsors Fresh Water News.)

“It shows that it’s feasible, and it will allow people to see exactly what it might look like,” she said.

The South Platte Regional Opportunities Water Group (SPROWG), a group that includes dozens of Front Range water districts, sponsored the work. The study analyzed different alternatives for capturing water in the South Platte River as it approaches the Nebraska border, an area where flows are typically more abundant than they are closer to metro Denver, where the river is heavily used and its waters largely claimed by existing users.

Because the river’s supplies in average years are already spoken for, any new water would be developed by capturing some during flood years and, in other years, reusing water already diverted from other basins via new water treatment plants and pipelines, making that water supply go farther.

Funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and several cities, including Denver and Aurora, the study was geared to help taxpayers from metro Denver to Brighton to Greeley and beyond determine whether they want such a project, how it would be configured, and who would benefit and shoulder the cost.

A group called the South Platte Regional Opportunities Working Group, or SPROWG, is proposing to store 175,000 acre-feet of water in a series of reservoirs on the South Platte River, from north of Denver to the Morgan County line. The project also includes a long pipeline to pump water from the river back to the metro area to be cleaned and re-used. Graphic credit: CWCB via Aspen Journalism

“The price tag sounds like a lot, but it is comparable to other projects in the South Platte Basin,” said Mary Presecan, a consultant with Leonard Rice Engineers and one of the study’s authors.

Water sold through the Loveland-based Colorado-Big Thompson Project is selling for $78,000 to $92,000 an acre-foot, Presecan said, while the SPROWG study analysis shows water developed through this new partnership would cost from $44,000 to $58,000 an acre-foot. An acre-foot equals nearly 326,000 gallons, enough water to serve on average two urban homes for one year.

In addition to water for fast-growing small communities, the study examined providing water to farmers on the Eastern Plains. These farmers control some of the oldest, most senior water rights in the region, but the water is increasingly being sold to thirsty cities, threatening local economies and the livelihoods of farmers left behind, and ultimately reducing the state’s ability to grow food.

A collaborative reuse project could provide additional water to water-short farms, as much as 35,000 acre-feet a year, allowing them to maintain their agricultural production.

“If there is an opportunity to be part of a regional partnership and address the ag gaps, we are all for it,” said Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, a sponsor of the study.

“SPROWG is a concept where we are starting at a high level and drilling down. Can we bring the whole [South Platte River] Basin together to figure out if this can work,” Frank said.

Early on, the study drew fire from West Slope interests and environmental groups, who feared it would inevitably lead to bigger efforts to tap the drought-stressed Colorado River and could harm the South Platte River.

But feedback from dozens of meetings with citizens, environmentalists, taxpayers and water officials during the past year led the study’s authors to conclude that the project can be structured in such a way to provide environmental benefits, as well as water for cities and farms.

“This is a collaborative way, and an innovative way to conjunctively manage and use a variety of water sources for multiple beneficiaries,” said Matt Lindburg, a consultant with Brown and Caldwell and one of the study’s authors.

State water officials, such as Gail Schwartz, who represents the Colorado River Basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said she believed the regional, collaborative premise underlying the early work could be utilized elsewhere.

“It’s a great model for collaborative thinking,” she said, at the CWCB’s March board meeting in Lakewood. “I think it could work for other parts of the state too.”

Whether the pandemic will bench the work on this new South Platte water delivery planning isn’t clear yet.

But Frank is optimistic work will continue. “The pandemic could slow us down, but it definitely won’t stop us. Now the next step will be determining [which communities] are really serious about coming together and taking this to the next level,” he said.

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

#Colorado water officials to hoarders during #COVID19 crisis: Quit buying bottled — @AspenJournalism #coronavirus

City of Aspen Utilities Director Tyler Christoff and Operations Manager Justin Forman check for anchor ice formation at the city’s Maroon Creek diversion. Colorado water managers have said there is no risk to water supplies from COVID-19 and therefore no need to stock up on bottled water. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (David O. Williams):

Municipal water providers in Aspen, Vail, Steamboat and other communities say there is no threat from COVID-19 in their water supplies and that people do not need to hoard bottled water — provided that the employees who operate the various water plants can still come to work.

And yet, two weeks into Colorado’s crisis, you still see people exiting the state’s grocery stores with shopping carts brimming with multipacks of 4-ply Charmin or Angel Soft toilet paper. And buried under the TP, you’ll spot the 48-bottle cartons of Arrowhead or Fiji water.

Toilet paper aside, water systems operators around the state — including ski towns, which are among the hardest-hit areas for the novel coronavirus pandemic — do not understand why people think they need to stock up on bottled water.

“Aspen Water provides safe, high-quality water that exceeds all stringent state and federal drinking-water regulations,” said City of Aspen spokeswoman Mitzi Rapkin. “Aspen’s water-treatment methods use filtration and disinfection process which remove and inactivate viruses.”

The same is true for Front Range water utilities.

“We have wastewater-treatment facilities that work above and beyond the standards devised for us, so there is no worry that water would be impacted by COVID-19,” said Ryan Maecker, spokesman for Colorado Springs Utilities, where surrounding El Paso County is second only to Denver in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state.

Those drinking-water standards, established by the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974, are enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“The water is treated and it’s disinfected, which takes care of all viruses,” said Linn Brooks, general manager of Eagle River Water and Sanitation District in eastern Eagle County, which has the third-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state.

Officials say water should be the least of anyone’s concerns during the growing outbreak, which has prompted an unprecedented statewide stay-at-home order and has seen most nonessential businesses and schools shut down.

“No, there are no water shortages. No, municipal water is not a vector for COVID-19,” said Zach Margolis, utility manager for Silverthorne Water & Sewer in Summit County.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus is thought to spread in the following manner: “Mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) … through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”

Michelle Carr, distribution and collection manager for the City of Steamboat Springs Water and Sewer, attended a CDC webinar on the topic of COVID-19 and drinking-water systems.

“It said that the coronavirus is essentially very susceptible to our disinfection processes, and that while our disinfection process targets bacteria, bacteria is less susceptible than this virus,” Carr said. “So, the fact that we’re treating for killing bacteria means that we should adequately be taking care of the COVID virus.”

Buying bottled water during the ongoing pandemic makes no sense, she said.

“Our water is completely safe to drink,” Carr said. “I don’t anticipate that there will ever be an issue where we’re spreading COVID-19 through the treated potable water system. The bottled water is completely unnecessary.”

Brooks won’t speculate on why people are hoarding toilet paper, but she does have a theory regarding the stockpiling of bottled water.

“I think (people) see communications on how to isolate at home, how to prepare to a shelter in place, how to deal with emergencies, and those instructions almost always tell you to get bottled water,” said Brooks, adding that some people inexplicably prefer to drink bottled water all the time. “I don’t particularly understand that because our water here is so great, and (bottled water) certainly has an environmental impact.”

The approximately 10-acre-foot Leonard M. Thomas reservoir holds water diverted from Castle and Maroon creeks and serves as a holding pond to settle water before it is sent into the city’s water treatment plant. Colorado water providers have said there is no direct threat to water supplies from COVID-19. Photo credit: Jordan Curet/Aspen Daily News via Aspen Journalism

Staffing concerns

Various municipal, county and state emergency declarations have been enacted, covering water systems, but officials say those mostly just allow them to apply for state and federal funds or obtain additional equipment if necessary. Most water providers and wastewater-treatment operators are planning for staff shortages and doing everything they can to keep their staff healthy.

“We are not aware of any specific threats to our water system,” said Aspen’s Rapkin. “We have taken proactive measures to isolate our operations staff in order to continue to provide this critical community resource.”

Brooks agrees that staffing is the biggest concern as the virus spreads.

“Our biggest risk is absenteeism of our operators,” she said. “But, that being said, we can run with a pretty lean crew even if we got into some pretty significant absenteeism, as long as it doesn’t hit everyone at once, which we don’t think is likely at all.”

Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, which treats and provides water for users from East Vail to Wolcott along Interstate 70, took steps to mitigate against absenteeism early on.

“We knew that that was going to be our biggest risk and that protecting our employees was the most important thing that we could do. That’s our highest priority — to keep our staff healthy,” said Brooks, who added that any staffer with a symptom of any kind must stay home from work and not return until they have been free of symptoms for 72 hours.

Even if smaller mountain utilities were to be hit suddenly by a COVID-19 outbreak and get into staffing problems, other water-systems operators would step in to help. A cooperative venture among all utilities across the state and codified with intergovernmental agreements dictates that if a utility needs assistance, others will provide aid.

“So, if there’s somebody that has a plant failure, and we have staffing, we will send our staffing to them,” City of Aurora Water Department spokesman Greg Baker said during a call with other Aurora and Colorado Springs water officials. “I know Colorado Springs has been heavily involved in (mutual assistance) as well, so that should really not be a major concern.”

The desire to hoard bottled water, on the other hand, escapes officials.

“The bottled-water hoarding is a phenomenon we do not understand, because we bring safe, high-quality drinking water to your house,” Baker said. “We deliver it for a half a penny a gallon, so why are people going out and buying water? We do not understand that at all.”

Also, all the plastic is an environmental issue, Baker said, and transporting it around the state or out of state in bottles removes local water from Aurora’s extensive reuse system for irrigation and agriculture.

“So, whenever people take bottled water and start shipping it out, you’re kind of losing that reusable component, and that impacts our culture because we’re so used to reusability. So that hurts us there,” Baker said. “It also hurts us through the fact that, frankly, we have some of the highest-quality water in the state, and why do you need it in a bottle? It’s as irrational as the toilet-paper hoarding.”

Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of water and rivers. This story ran in the March 28 editions of The Aspen Times and the Vail Daily.

Larimer County sets #NISP hearings despite limits to gathering size during #coronavirus pandemic — The Loveland Reporter-Herald #COVID19

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

Opponents ask county to delay the hearings

Larimer County has tentatively scheduled hearing dates for a county permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project — hearings that are expected to draw crowds in a time of social distancing.

Northern Water applied in February for what is known as a 1041 permit for the project, which calls for county approval of pieces of the project including a pipeline, highway relocation and recreation plan associated with the water project.

Northern Water proposes pulling 42,000 acre-feet of water, primarily from the Poudre River, and storing it in two reservoirs on behalf of 15 water providers. The largest of the two reservoirs, Glade, is proposed to be built northwest of Fort Collins, with recreation to be managed by the county.

The overall permit to build the project will come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with some requirements from state agencies as well, the result of an environmental permitting process that has stretched over a decade. A federal decision is expected this year…

Right now, the county is navigating ways to move to virtual public hearings, allowing public comments over the phone and through email for all of its meetings. There have been some hiccups as the county works to streamline the process to promote social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic…

For the Northern Integrated Supply Project, as of now, the plan is to have a public hearing before the Larimer County Planning Commission on May 6 and the Board of County Commissioners on June 8…

However, Jeff Stahla, spokesman for Northern Water, said the water district has been working on this project for a long time, has collected and is continuing to collect public input on the process. He said Northern Water will continue to work with the county to achieve that result through this hearing process.

“We want to make sure the public has a chance to offer their input on this application,” Stahla said. “I applaud the county for trying to accommodate the public while acknowledging the health risks that are out there. We want to make sure there’s a public an deliberative process, so we’ll work with the county to make sure that happens.”

Pentagon IDs Four More #NewMexico Sites At Risk Of #PFAS Contamination — New Mexico in Focus

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org. [Click the map to go to the website.]

From New Mexico in Focus (Laura Paskus):

On Friday, March 13, just as federal and state agencies ramped up emergency efforts to address the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Defense released a report summarizing its progress on PFAS issues through the end of last September.

According to its updated list, the military will assess whether activities at the Army National Guard armories in Rio Rancho and Roswell, the Army Aviation Support Facility in Santa Fe, and White Sands Missile Range have polluted groundwater with PFAS. The toxic compounds do not biodegrade, and have been linked to cancer and many other health problems.

Nationwide, the updated list of military sites under investigation swelled from 450 military locations to 651. The military does not appear to have notified states, including New Mexico, prior to making the list public.

According to the report from the Defense Department’s PFAS Task Force, the military’s earlier investigations focused on contamination from aqueous film forming foams, which the military used for firefighting and training from the 1970s until just a few years ago.

The updated progress report notes that the task force’s expanded investigations now also focus on “installations where PFAS may have been used or released.”

The report does not include details about specific activities that might have exposed people or the environment to PFAS. Defense Department spokesman Chuck Pritchard could not be reached for additional information before publication…

The recent Defense Department report also notes that the funding for PFAS cleanup included as part of the newly-passed National Defense Authorization Act is inadequate.

According to the report, aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicles will need to be retrofitted entirely—meaning that each vehicle component that came into contact with the firefighting foams will need to be replaced—at a cost of almost $200,000 per vehicle. That alone, according to the report, adds $600 million to earlier cleanup estimates.

Alternately, replacing the Defense Department’s current fleet of about 3,000 contaminated vehicles will cost $4 to $6 billion—and take 18 years.

The report also notes that as part of the Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Department has committed $30 million to study PFAS exposure in eight communities near former and current military installations. Those studies are happening in West Virginia, Colorado, Alaska, Massachusetts, Texas, New York, Washington, and Delaware. The military is also “developing a framework” to annually test the blood of military firefighters for PFAS levels.