Fort Collins water facility wins prestigious award — Fort Collins Coloradoan

The water treatment process
The water treatment process

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Fort Collins Utilities’ water treatment facility recently won the American Water Works Association’s “Presidents Award,” which was given to 34 treatment plants in the nation.

The award honors water treatment plants with high-level filter performance. The Fort Collins facility uses a meticulous treatment process to remove potential contaminants from source water, and the end product has consistently met federal safety requirements and won accolades for taste.

“Receiving the Presidents Award status demonstrates the hard work and dedication of our employees and their commitment to provide great-tasting, high-quality drinking water to our community,” Water Production Manager Mark Kempton said in a city press release.

For more information on local water, visit http://fcgov.com/water , email utilities@fcgov.com, call 970-221-6700 or V/TDD 711. To learn more about the Partnership for Safe Water, visit http://awwa.org/partnership.

Fish Recovery and its Economic Implications in the Big Thompson — KUNC

Fly fishing below Olympus Dam (Colorado-Big Thompson Project) September 17, 2015 via the Bureau of Reclamation
Fly fishing below Olympus Dam (Colorado-Big Thompson Project) September 17, 2015 via the Bureau of Reclamation

From KUNC (Maeve Conran):

Every fall, biologists count the fish to get an overall view of the river’s health. A healthy river means a lot of healthy fish, trout in this case, rainbow and brown. And a healthy fish population means a healthy local economy with jobs dependent on the fishing and recreation industry.

“People come to Estes Park for a lot of reasons, and fishing is one of them,” says Jack Deloose, who has been a fishing guide in Estes Park for four years. “We get an awful lot of people. We’ll probably end up with 600 people that will fish with us this year.”

An estimated 50,000 anglers descend on this area annually, spending on average $103 each on everything from fishing guides and equipment to lodging and food…

About $4 million a year flows into local coffers as a result of this river. As so much tourism depends on the fish, the results of the annual fish count are closely watched.

The biologists conduct the count at two separate sites. This area is in good shape. There are shallow spots where the fish like to spawn, and rock pools for winter habitat. Further downstream, it’s a different story.

Immediately after the 2013 flood, the fish population there was zero. It slowly recovered, but a concrete spill into the water earlier this year during road repairs set the recovery back.

Permanent repairs have begun on the parts of the river and adjoining highway that were most damaged by the floods, but Swigle says the repairs will also tackle problems dating back 40 years.

“We’ve been educated from two floods, 1976 and 2013. In both cases, the flood won and the river lost,” says Swigle. “Now we’re building a road that is resilient in the face of flooding, so when it happens again—and it will—we won’t have to spend $500 million to repair the road.”

The repairs will raise the adjoining road and create a wider floodplain. That will help the river cope with future floods.

After collecting the fish, the task of counting, weighing and measuring them begins. The number of fish in this stretch amounts to almost 4,000 total per mile, indicating a healthy section of the river. Further downstream, as predicted, the fish count is much lower, in the low hundreds of fish per mile. But Swigle is hopeful that those numbers will improve in the future.

“Ultimately we’d like to see the number of trout that we found here, downstream in the same abundance,” Swigle says.

Repairs on that lower stretch started in October and will likely continue through June 2017.

LaSalle farmers sell water shares to Aurora — @GreeleyTribune

The Platte River is formed in western Nebraska east of the city of North Platte, Nebraska by the confluence of the North Platte and the South Platte Rivers, which both arise from snowmelt in the eastern Rockies east of the Continental Divide. Map via Wikimedia.
The Platte River is formed in western Nebraska east of the city of North Platte, Nebraska by the confluence of the North Platte and the South Platte Rivers, which both arise from snowmelt in the eastern Rockies east of the Continental Divide. Map via Wikimedia.

From The Greeley Tribune (Samantha Fox):

Selling 17 of his 21 water shares was the practical thing to do, even if Chuck Sylvester feels a little guilty.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said.

Sylvester and the Hays family, both of LaSalle, recently sold water shares to the city of Aurora. Sylvester feels guilty because of his ancestors. They not only owned the water, they helped dig part of the ditch with oxen — that’s how far back the ownership goes.

He didn’t say how much he made off the shares, but with the growing demand for water in municipalities and agriculture alike, shares are not cheap. Even so, the shares Sylvester sold were decreasing in value. Now was a good time to unload.

It’s rare for farmers to just sell their water, so when he approached the city of Aurora about buying shares, it was something officials weren’t going to turn down.

But those in Aurora are just in planning mode, accounting for an expected population increase within the next 40 years, according to Greg Baker, manager of Aurora Water public relations.

Since Aurora didn’t immediately need the 33 total shares — 17 of which were Sylvester’s — both families are leasing the water back from Aurora. This will allow the families to continue their operations as they’ve been.

The sale gives him a chance to continue farm operations for the time being. But how long he could sustain those crops is a bigger question, which prompted his decision to sell.

He said his inability to pump the land is leaving water under his property that makes the ground too soggy to grow crops. The state shut in more than 400 wells in 2006 to preserve groundwater in the South Platte Basin, and the rights of those who had seniority over the water. Junior rights-holders are at the mercy of the senior holders in a given year.

But since then, high groundwater has become a concern, and the state directive on preserving that groundwater hasn’t changed. With extra supply, that reduces demand, and therefore the price.

Sylvester said he doesn’t see the value going up anytime soon either. That’s why he decided now was the right time to sell.

“I see this getting worse and worse. I’m going to a state that has better water law,” Sylvester said.

Sylvester won’t be moving to Wyoming, but he plans to invest the profits into a farm out there to give a younger farmer a chance to stay in agriculture. Sylvester already owns three farms in Wyoming and plans to sell one of them. He said reinvesting in the next generation makes him feel less guilty about selling the shares.

While Sylvester wouldn’t reveal the price he fetched for the sale — which were South Platte River shares — he likely took home a nice nest egg…

Attempts to contact the Hays family about their reasons and plans were unsuccessful.

Until the water is needed in Aurora, the purpose will stay agricultural. When the leases are up, and city demand increases, officials will decide the water’s purpose — stay as is, or divert it for urban use.

If the water use stays as is, it’ll be used as a way to replenish the city’s current water source, or city officials can petition to get the water use changed for municipal use. The city wants the water either way, like most cities, for expected population increases.

It’s common for many cities to own water in areas away from the city. The city of Thornton in the 1990s [ed. purchase was in the 1980s] purchased water in the Pierce area, a water bank, of sorts, for future demand.

“They’re looking to the future,” Sylvester said.

So is he.

$4 million repair project brings elite team to reservoir – News on TAP

In the dark, frigid waters 200 feet below the surface, divers fix a critical emergency system at Strontia Springs Dam.

Source: $4 million repair project brings elite team to reservoir – News on TAP

Merino: The trials and tribulations of reverse osmosis

Ashcraft & Brown Building, Merino, Colorado, as it appeared on a 1909 postcard. Image courtesy of Ken Wilson.
Ashcraft & Brown Building, Merino, Colorado, as it appeared on a 1909 postcard. Image courtesy of Ken Wilson.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The Merino Town Board learned during its regular meeting Monday night that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Hazardous Waste Group had some pretty stringent criteria for granting the town a permit to build and operate the “brine pits” needed for the new water treatment system. There was no way, the trustees said, they could afford what the state was proposing.

The reverse osmosis system Merino plans to use results in effluent containing all of the contaminants that have been filtered out of the water. That effluent is pumped into a series of ponds in rotating order. Once one pond is filled, the effluent is directed to another pond while the first pond evaporates out and the dried waste is removed and sent to a landfill. Because the dried waste is considered hazardous, Merino has to be able to remediate the pond site, should it ever be abandoned.

The CDPHE had proposed that the town set aside $10,000 a year for ten years to go toward that eventual reclamation. But even the $100,000 that would result was less than one-third of what Merino’s consulting firm, Rocky Mountain Water Solutions of Broomfield, estimated it would cost to remediate the abandoned brine ponds. Town officials said Monday night they had been told CDPHE thought that estimate was high, but didn’t indicate what they thought a more accurate number might be.

The funds to be set aside would have to come from revenue generated by the town’s water enterprise fund. Water rates were recently increased in anticipation of building the new water treatment facility. And town officials said they have no idea what it’s going to cost to run the new system; they have estimates based on other towns’ experiences, but conditions and estimates vary widely.

The problem is, regardless what the real number is, it’s doubtful Merino can afford it, and the town certainly couldn’t afford the $100,000 over ten years the state agency was suggesting.

Boyd Hanzon, Merino’s contact at RMWS, said Monday night that CDPHE was setting up a conference call for Tuesday morning to discuss the reclamation amount. Hanzon was told, if the state sticks to its $100,000 goal, all bets were off.

“We’d have to start over with engineering fees, consultant fees, the whole thing,” said Trustee Dan Wiebers. “Would they go for, say, $5,000 a year for ten years and then stop? Would they let us just run the things for a year or two until we know how much it’s going to cost?”

Hanzon said those all were questions the trustees needed to ask during the conference call.

“So, basically, the future of this project hinges on this one phone call,” Wiebers said.

“I think they’ll be pretty reasonable,” Hanzon said, “but it could be a very stressful call.”

By Tuesday afternoon, the stress levels has subsided markedly. Reached at his office, Hanzon said the CDPHE officials had tentatively agreed to an amount Merino’s trustees thought they could live with, but he wasn’t prepared to say what that amount is yet.

“I’ll be working on getting that finalized. We should know something in about a week,” he said.

Once this issue is settled, Hanzon said, Merino will be able to move ahead almost immediately in awarding contracts to begin building the system.

Reverse Osmosis Water Plant
Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

Loveland: Solar to replace hydro from damaged Idylwilde dam

Idylwilde Dam via Loveland Water and Power
Idylwilde Dam via Loveland Water and Power

From TheDenverChannel.com (Kurt Sevits):

The city of Loveland has finished work on a large-scale solar power installation that aims to replace the damaged Idylwilde hydroelectric dam.

The dam, built in 1917, was badly damaged in the Sept. 2013 floods that devastated the Front Range corridor.

Loveland received about $9 million in disaster recovery funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to construct the new Foothills Solar and Substation project, which the city says is capable of producing more power than the dam.

The Idylwilde Dam’s hydroelectric facility was capable of producing 900 kilowatts of electricity before it was removed. The new solar project, on the other hand, has a capacity of 3.5 megawatts, more than tripling the output of the dam.

City officials said the solar project is expected to produce about 6,813 megawatt hours of electricity each year — enough to power about 574 homes.

To produce as much power as possible, the array uses solar tracking technology, which allows the panels to move throughout the day so they’re always facing the sun.

Boulder-based Namaste Solar designed and built the solar array.

The city said the project is the first energy-producing facility to receive approval through FEMA’s “Alternate Project” program, which permits the use of federal money for new construction when restoring a damaged building isn’t considered to be in the public interest.

$5.1 million of the FEMA funds were used to build the solar array. The remainder will be used to construct an electric substation on the site. It’s expected to be completed in the spring.

Early season turnaround bodes well for water supply

Mile High Water Talk

Despite a parched start to winter, snowpack levels are on track thanks to a snowy December and early 2017 storms.

Denver Water's Winter Park crew works around the clock to ensure facilities are accessible during snowstorms. Denver Water’s Winter Park crew works around the clock to ensure facilities are accessible during snowstorms.

By Travis Thompson

Like carpenters, water supply managers use an assortment of tools to get the job done. But instead of tape measures and hammers, their tool boxes are filled with charts and graphs, computer models and good old-fashioned experience.

With 80 percent of Denver’s water supply coming from snowmelt, no tool is used more during the winter months than the charts showing snowpack levels in the mountains above Denver Water’s facilities.

And this year is proving to be one of the more interesting in recent memory.

With more than half of the snow season still ahead, water managers have already seen near historic lows and highs to kick off the winter.

“Our…

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