@DenverWater ‘evaluating options’ after Gross project ruling — The Arvada Press #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Gross Reservoir, west of Boulder. Photo by Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Arvada Press (Casey Van Divier):

A court ruling from the end of 2019 determined Denver Water officials must obtain an additional permit for the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — a project that Arvada is depending on so it can continue developing land…

Arvada has a contract to purchase raw water from the reservoir and, in return, is sharing the cost of the project with Denver Water…

Denver Water is one of two sources through which Arvada obtains its water, with the other being Clear Creek, said Jim Sullivan, the city’s former director of utilities.

In total, the city has the rights to roughly 25,000 acre-feet of water, with about 19,000 of that provided through its existing contract with Denver Water, he said.

“We have a comprehensive plan that shows what the city limits will eventually grow to” by 2065, when an estimated 155,000 people will live in Arvada, Sullivan said. This plan would require approximately 3,000 additional acre-feet of water, which will be provided by the expansion project.

If the project was canceled, the city would need to halt development until it could secure alternate resources, Sullivan said.

Those other resources “have been harder and harder to come by,” said Arvada water treatment manager Brad Wyant. Other entities have already laid claim to the other major water supplies in the area, he and Sullivan said.

“The next big water project will be some kind of diversion of water from the Western Slope to the Denver area,” Sullivan said. This would be a major endeavor and “there’s nothing even on the horizon at this point,” he said, making the success of the Gross project a necessity for Arvada development.

So far, the city has contributed about $3 million to the project, with plans to contribute about $100 million by 2030.

The contributions are funded through Arvada Water’s capital improvement budget, which consists of one-time tap fees that customers pay when they first connect to the Arvada Water system. Resident’s bimonthly water billing funds ongoing operations and will not be used for the Gross project, Sullivan said.

Denver Water has estimated the project will cost a total of $464 million.

States, Congress, Trump okay $156M to extend innovative Platte River recovery program — @WaterEdCO

Platte River Recomery Implemtation Program area map.

From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

After a year of anxious waiting, scientists and researchers who’ve helped build one of the most successful species recovery programs in the nation have gotten a 13-year extension to finish their work.

The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program began operating in 2007 with the bi-partisan backing of Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Since then it has created some 15,000 acres of new habitat for stressed birds and fish, and added nearly 120,000 acre-feet of new annual water to the Platte River in central Nebraska. An acre-foot equals nearly 326,000 gallons.

The region is critical because it serves as a major stopping point for migrating birds, including the whooping crane, the least tern and the piping plover.

In addition to helping fish, birds and the river, the program also allowed dozens of water agencies, irrigation districts and others to meet requirements under the Endangered Species Act, which can prevent them from building and sometimes operating reservoirs, dams and other diversions if the activity is deemed harmful to at-risk species.

Last year it wasn’t clear that three new governors, three state congressional delegations, and a fractious Congress could come together to re-authorize the program.

Jo Jo La, an endangered species expert who tracks the program for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said everyone was grateful that politicians united to push the federal legislation, and the new operating agreement, through. It was signed by President Trump at the end of December.

“Our program was fortunate to have the leaders it had,” La said.

But it wasn’t just politicians who were responsible for the program’s extension, said Jason Farnsworth, executive director of the Kearney, Neb.-based program.

It was the diversity among the group’s members that was also key, he said. “Everyone from The Nature Conservancy to the Audubon Society to irrigation districts in the North Platte Basin supported this. You don’t often see an irrigation district sending a support letter for an endangered species recovery program. That’s how broad the support was.”

Of the $156 million allocated, Colorado is providing $24.9 million in cash and another $6.2 million in water, Wyoming is providing $3.1 million in cash and $12.5 million in water, Nebraska is providing $31.25 million in land and water, and the U.S. Department of Interior is providing $78 million in cash, according to PRRIP documents.

With their marching orders in hand, researchers and scientists can now focus on completing the program so that at the end of this 13-year extension it will become fully operational.

Early results have won accolades from Wyoming to Washington, D.C. The CWCB’s La said congressional testimony routinely described it as one of the “marquee” recovery programs in the nation, largely because, even though it isn’t finished, species are coming back in a major way.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the endangered whooping crane, least tern and pallid sturgeon, and the threatened piping plover, were in danger of becoming extinct, with the river’s channels and flows so altered by dams and diversions that it could no longer support the species’ nesting, breeding and migratory habitats.

Today the picture is much different.

The whooping crane spring migration has risen more than 12 percent since 2007, while the number of least tern and piping plover breeding pairs have more than doubled during that same time period, a major achievement in the species conservation world.

Still ahead is the work to acquire more water and land, and research to understand how to help the rare pallid sturgeon recover. Thus far it has not responded to recovery efforts, in part because it is extremely difficult to locate.

The idea is to ensure there is enough water and habitat to keep the birds and fish healthy once the program enters its long-term operating phase.

“The intent is to spend the next 13 years working on identifying the amount of water and land that is necessary to go into [the final operating phase]. The focus will be less on acquiring and learning, and more on operating and managing,” Farnsworth 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.

The WISE Partnership recently brought home a “Community Water Champion Award” from WateReuse @DenverWater @AuroraWaterCO

WISE Project map via Denver Water

From Yourhub.Denverpost.com (Todd Hartman):

An innovative water-sharing partnership between Denver Water, Aurora Water and water utilities that serve the south metro area has won national recognition.

The WISE Partnership, WISE being short for Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, recently brought home a “Community Water Champion Award” from WateReuse, a national organization that advances the use of recycled water.

The award marks another sign of success for a project that showcases sustainability on multiple fronts.

WISE not only provides a way for Denver and Aurora to reuse water supplies, it also creates a dependable supply for 10 water providers that serve the south metro region.

That more dependable supply, in turn, reduces pressure to pull more water from the Colorado River, conserves dwindling groundwater supplies south of Denver and diminishes the need for metro area utilities to buy agricultural water in the South Platte River Basin, which can lead to drying up farmland if the water is diverted…

The unusual nature of the WISE project may have helped it capture the national award.

Awards typically recognize a specific facility, such as a water recycling plant, or a technology. WISE includes such features, but also leverages the power of a regionwide partnership to make it all work.

WateReuse described the award this way: “This innovative regional partnership for a sustainable water future will reduce groundwater reliance and bolster renewable water supplies to the South Metro area, while maximizing existing water assets belonging to Aurora and Denver Water.”

WISE works by pulling water that Denver and Aurora have a legal right to reuse from the South Platte River near Brighton. That water is then pumped via pipeline back upstream to Aurora for a series of treatment steps before distribution to project partners…

Simply put, the project’s benefits accrue this way:

  • Denver Water develops a new water supply by being able to use Aurora’s Prairie Waters system and a new revenue stream by selling unused water to the south metro area water providers.
  • Aurora Water benefits by selling unused water and putting unused treatment and pipeline capacity to use while receiving revenue that helps keep its water rates down.
  • The South Metro Water Supply Authority receives a permanent renewable water supply, helping to reduce its reliance on nonrenewable groundwater.
  • #Colorado Fire Departments Are Switching To A New #PFAS Firefighting Foam, But Concerns Linger — Colorado Public Radio

    From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

    About 60 percent of Colorado fire departments report that they have firefighting foam with synthetic chemicals known as PFAS, according to a recent survey by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment…

    “We are highly cognizant of how dangerous PFAS can be in terms of the cancer-causing properties for our firefighters,” said Greg Pixley, a public information officer with Denver Fire Department “We are working every effort we can to reduce PFAS in our day-to-day operations.”

    […]

    An older generation of the firefighting foam containing PFAS has been retired from use in Colorado, and across military bases. Now, a newer version with a different chemical formula is available. Originally it was believed to not accumulate in the body, but research is emerging that shows potentially toxic health effects are concerns for many of the firefighters who use this product on the front lines…

    State health officials know PFAS chemicals are a problem. Conducting a survey is one part of the state’s plan to address the health risks. In addition to reporting PFAS foam supplies, health officials asked which fire departments had used PFAS firefighting foam in the past. About 19 departments reporting using the foam.

    However, it’s unclear what, if any, testing will happen across those departments that reported using the foam.

    The state government has made about $500,000 available with a priority for Colorado’s 890 drinking water districts for testing of PFAS chemicals. But fire departments will be at the back of the line behind drinking water districts to access to those funds, according to state health officials…

    According to the state survey, the largest caches of the new PFAS foam is held by Suncor, the Denver Fire Department, South Metro Fire Rescue and the Pueblo Fire Department.

    The departments that have large quantities of the new form on hand use it because they respond to fires at regional or municipal airports. The Federal Aviation Administration requires fire responders at some airports to have the PFAS foam on hand to ensure “the extinguishment of the fire for the successful evacuation of passengers and aircrew during an aircraft fire,” according to a statement from the FAA.

    “It was a compromise,” said Eric Hurst, a public information officer with South Metro Fire Rescue. “We essentially worked with Centennial Airport to find the safest environmentally friendly [firefighting foam] available and used that.”

    The FAA is under the gun to find a replacement by Oct. 4, 2021, at which time it can no longer require the use of PFAS foam.

    The agency is currently researching and evaluating replacement firefighting foams. Some airports like London-based Heathrow have switched to a fluorine-free foam that doesn’t have PFAS chemicals linked to health issues…

    “[DIA] along with other commercial airports and airport industry associations, continues to press the FAA for a firefighting alternative that would satisfy commercial travel safety responsibilities while reducing the potential for environmental impact,” said Emily Williams, a public information officer with Denver International Airport.

    State law does set some limits on how the new PFAS foam can be used. Legislation in 2019 prevents fire districts from using it to conduct training exercises. It is only to be used to fight fires.

    Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

    The Year of the Flood — Platte Basin Timelapse

    Screenshot of the Platte Basin Timelapse “Year of the Flood” story map January 17, 2020.

    Click here to view the story map from Platte Basin Timelapse. Here’s the preface:

    The flood event of 2019 was historic and devastating for parts of Nebraska and the Midwest.

    Platte Basin Timelapse team members Grant Reiner, Carlee Koehler, Ethan Freese, and Mariah Lundgren traveled to parts of the state to explore questions they had about this historic weather event. What happens to wildlife during these big weather events? How were people affected by the floodwaters? What does this mean for the birds that nest on the river? How many PBT cameras survived? These are our stories.

    South Platte River Salinity Workshop recap: “Change is mandatory” — Mike Petersen

    Map via Water Education Colorado.

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Jeff Rice):

    Stop plowing.

    That’s the first instruction from Mike Petersen, a retired soil scientist and agronomist. Petersen was a presenter at Wednesday’s South Platte River Salinity Workshop presented by the Centennial, Morgan and Sedgwick County Conservation Districts.

    Petersen manages the Orthman Research Farm near Lexington, Neb., and consults with growers regarding strip-till system technology, fertilizer, crop development, root development, and water management.

    The agronomist addressed misconceptions about salinity in the South Platte Valley during Wednesday’s program. Chief among those misconceptions is that a good rainfall or snowmelt, along with cover crops and no-till practices will solve the problem…

    Phil Brink of Colorado Cattleman’s Ag Water Network led off with an overview of the issue, which he said has been followed in the Colorado River basin for several years. Brink said salinity levels below Hoover Dam are about 723 milligrams per liter, or about what is in the South Platte just below Denver…

    By the time the river gets to Sterling, however, that salinity has skyrocketed to 1,275 mg/l, almost twice as salty as the Denver reaches.

    While much of the problem stems from treated wastewater discharged by municipalities and industries upstream, agriculture is compounding the problem. The re-use of return flow water from upstream irrigation is concentrating salts from cropland and leaching it into the river, where it’s diverted or pumped onto crops and the cycle starts over.

    There are things that can be done to mitigate the damage, however. Petersen said no-till cultivation and leaving residue on the soil surface is the first step farmers need to take. Better water management, crop rotations and alternative crops are other methods producers can use to minimize salinity in the soil and, thus, in return flow to the river.

    “That’s the good news, but it’s going to cost everyone something,” Petersen said. “And there’s just no option. Change is mandatory.”

    Graphic via Aksik.org.

    Scientists Fight Back Against Toxic ‘Forever’ Chemicals — Wired #PFAS

    From Wired (Michelle Cohen Merrill):

    Once a symbol of American ingenuity, PFAS were originally conceived as wonder chemicals that could resist stains, repel water, extinguish horrific oil-based fires, and keep eggs from sticking to the pan. Today, we know them as a Frankenstein-like invention, zombie chemicals that will not die.

    Chemists created thousands of such compounds by bonding carbon to fluorine in chemical chains, forging one of the strongest bonds ever discovered. Now they have been found across the planet—even in the blood of arctic foxes and polar bears. Public health studies found PFAS in the blood of about 95 percent of Americans. While the health impact of low levels of exposure is less clear, the chemicals are linked to liver, thyroid, and immune effects, cancer, and low birth weight. It will take billions of dollars—and yet more engineering prowess—to remove PFAS from drinking water and the environment. The task seems bleak, even as the US Department of Defense prepares to spend more than $2 billion on cleaning up PFAS on its bases. Firefighting training sites, airports, and industrial sites are also big contributors.

    On Friday, the US House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act, which would require the EPA to set drinking water limits for two PFAS (PFOA and PFOS) and to designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund cleanup program. Its path forward is uncertain. Even if the Senate passes the measure, the Trump administration has called its provisions “problematic and unreasonable” and threatened a veto.

    But here’s a shred of optimism: Some new technologies show promise in breaking those ultra-strong carbon-fluorine bonds, which means the compounds known as “forever” chemicals could be removed from at least some groundwater. “I have actually started to feel a little bit of hope,” says Chris Higgins, an environmental engineer at the Colorado School of Mines and a PFAS expert. “We’re getting some technologies that seem to be working.”

    The most promising approach involves an electrical reaction that looks like lightning striking water. Contaminated water goes through a plasma reactor, where argon gas pushes the PFAS compounds to the surface. Electrodes above and below the surface generate plasma—a highly reactive gas made up of positive ions and free electrons—that interacts with the PFAS and breaks the carbon-fluorine bonds.

    “Our goal is to completely destroy the compound and not just transfer it from one phase to another,” says Michelle Crimi, an environmental engineer at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, who works on emerging technology to remediate PFAS. The plasma reactor technique was developed by her colleagues Selma Mededovic, a chemical engineer, and Tom Holsen, an environmental engineer.

    Crimi is also using ultrasound waves to create cavities—essentially holes—in the water. When they collapse, they instigate physical and chemical reactions that break apart the PFAS chains. Other researchers are working on electrochemical techniques and even soil bacteria that may metabolize PFAS.

    PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org