No Pipe Dream, Save Rural NoCo Corp. and Save the Poudre challenge Larimer County’s #NISP decision in court — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

U.S. Highway 287 runs through the future site of Glade Reservoir. The Larimer county Board of County Commissioners approved the 1041 Land Use Permit for NISP in September, 2020. Photo credit: Northern Water

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

No Pipe Dream, Save Rural NoCo Corp. and Save the Poudre filed a lawsuit in 8th Judicial District Court last week against the county commissioners, naming former commissioners Tom Donnelly and Steve Johnson specifically, as well as the NISP Water Activity Enterprise.

The lawsuit asks the judge to reverse the decision to grant a 1041 permit for the project, throw it out or send it back to the Larimer County Board of Commissioners for a new hearing.

It targets Johnson and Donnelly, the two yes votes in a split decision, saying that both Republican commissioners, who have since left office, should not have voted on the permit because of a “decade-long” record of advocacy and support for the proposed reservoir project.

And the suit also offers 44 examples of why the organizations believe the permit exceeded the county’s jurisdiction or abused its discretion, ranging from decisions around streamflow to pipeline routes to the number of alternatives considered.

The suit claims that the commissioners did not adequately look at the overall picture of how the project would affect residents, the environment, wildlife and the Cache la Poudre River…

Jeff Stahla, spokesman for Northern Water, pointed out that county staff members and the nonpartisan appointed Larimer County Planning Commission recommended approval of the permit based on the county’s regulations and the specific criteria that county officials were required to consider.

“We’re confident that the strength of the entire permitting process, local, state and federal, will prevail,” said Stahla…

“Basically the lawsuit is total crap,” Johnson responded in a text message. “Tom (Donnelly) and I were no more biased in favor of the project than John (Kefalas) was biased against the project. But as we said in the hearing, we put aside all of our opinions of the project and commented completely and exclusively on the criteria in the land use code.

“I am confident the county will have no problem defending the propriety of our actions,” he said.

Stahla pointed out that Save the Poudre also appealed the state water quality certification that was granted for the project, and the Colorado Water Quality Control Division rejected that challenge.

He added, “We look at this as another attempt to delay an important project for the long-term water supply in Northern Colorado.”

#CameronPeakFire’s threat to #PoudreRiver a concern for #FortCollins water supply — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt):

Mesmerized by miles of mountainsides of blackened trees and seared soil that hugs the banks of the upper Poudre River, it’s difficult not to reflect on the 2012 High Park Fire and 2013 flood.

You can’t help but wonder, given the steepness of the slopes and the severity of the riverside scar left by the Cameron Peak Fire, if Northern Colorado is poised for a repeat of history regarding the Poudre River.

Come spring, snowmelt, rainfall and potential flash floods are almost certain to wash large amounts of ash from Colorado’s largest wildfire, soil and even entire trees into the river that serves as a source of drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people in Fort Collins and the surrounding area…

A recent Burned Area Emergency Response assessment for the Cameron Peak Fire indicated a 90% to 100% chance that water quality would be impacted by ash- and sediment-laden runoff, nutrient loading and potential debris flows within the first few years following the fire.

And that’s only the half of it.

Fort Collins receives half of its water from the Poudre River and the other half from Horsetooth Reservoir, whose water quality could be impacted by the East Troublesome Fire in Grand County.

An assessment for the East Troublesome Fire estimated 53% of the burn area suffered moderate (48%) or high (5%) soil burn severity compared to 36% — 30% moderate and 6% high — for the Cameron Peak Fire. The Cameron Peak Fire assessment also showed more than half the soil tested to be repellent to water absorption…

By the time the 112-day Cameron Peak Fire’s flames were finally extinguished on Dec. 2, a watershed recovery collaboration of area municipalities, Larimer County, federal and state agencies, water providers and organizations such as the coalition, was already meeting to start planning efforts to address the fire’s impact.

This isn’t the first fire for many of those stakeholders, and lessons learned from the High Park Fire are helping the group quickly prepare for this spring’s impacts.

That being said, the Cameron Peak Fire was more than twice the size of the High Park Fire and paired with the 193,812-acre East Troublesome Fire — the second-largest wildfire in state history — delivered a massive one-two punch to several watersheds, making recovery even more daunting…

Mark Kempton, the city of Fort Collins’ interim deputy director of Water Resources and Treatment, said the city has implemented steps since the High Park Fire to better equip it to handle the after-effects of a major fire.

He said the city has installed warning systems along the Poudre River that alert it several hours ahead of water turbidity issues so workers can turn off the water supply. When the city turns off the Poudre River supply, it can draw on Horsetooth Reservoir water. That was the case for 100 days during the High Park Fire.

The High Park Fire taught recovery leaders to include the use of shredded tree mulch instead of straw mulch to better prevent the mulch from blowing away for soil and slope stabilization. Strategically increasing culvert size also reduced damage to roads.

Kempton said another key component will be workers removing sediment by flushing the water treatment system more often and removing sediment from the river intake system and catch basins.

Proposed #PlatteRiver #water transfer could have far reaching ripple effect — #Nebraska TV

Platte River. Photo credit: Cody Wagner/Audubon

From Nebraska TV (Danielle Shenk):

More than 65,000 gallons of water per minute is being proposed for an interbasin transfer from the Platte River to the Republican River, but Audubon Nebraska is taking legal action to stop it.

Audubon works to protect wildlife like birds and their habitats.

As part of an agreement between Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas, this water transfer would help meet the state’s delivery obligations within the Republican River Compact.

But over the years, water from the Platte River has heavily been used by municipalities and agriculture.

This has led to the compact being short on water deliveries for quite some time.

The state also has an agreement with other neighboring states to balance this overused water supply through the Endangered Species Act, which began about 30 years after the river compact, and through the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program that aims to add water back to the river…

A diversion of the already short water supply to the Republican could create a ripple effect.

“Overall, taking water from one basin that is already water short and transferring it to another basin that’s water short.. that doesn’t really give us a long term solution. It doesn’t provide certainty for water users and it potentially has ecological impacts for both river basins,” said Mosier.

Taddicken said almost 70% of the water from the Platte River is gone before it even makes it to Nebraska and an interbasin transfer would heavily impact the its supply.

“This water removed from the Platte actually leaves the basin which is a real problem. Moving water around irrigation canals and things like that, eventually a lot of that water seeps back into the groundwater and back to the Platte River. This kind of a transfer takes it out completely,” said Taddicken.

He said farmers in the Platte River Valley should be really concerned if the transfer goes through…

Streamflow also helps to create multiple channels and varying depths which attract many wildlife species, especially birds.

Sandhill Cranes in flight via Colorado Parks and Wildlife

“Sandhill cranes, whooping cranes, piping plovers and other birds.. they use those sand bars for protection. That’s where they like to nest and roost, so that’s really important. Stream flow makes that happen,” stated Mosier, “there’s also an important connection between streams on the Platte River and wetlands. Those wetlands are where a lot of birds and other wildlife find their protein sources.”

Taddicken said we’ve made a lot of compromises for wildlife already as the width of the Platte River has slowly declined and vegetation has taken over where the waters don’t extend.

The impact then extends its reach to the economy, with less sandhill cranes coming to the area that could impact tourists traveling to Central Nebraska.

Invasive species making their way into Kansas is also a concern.

Back in 2018, former Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer wrote a letter objecting to the transfer due to the risk of invasive species.

#CameronPeakFire assessment contains sobering news for watershed, recreation — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt):

Two assessments conducted by Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests officials offered a sobering look into the devastation the Cameron Peak Fire left on Larimer County’s landscape and recreational sites.

The Burned Area Emergency Response studies were released Dec. 17 as part of the initial fire recovery process.

While the Cameron Peak Fire had a fire perimeter that enclosed nearly 209,000 acres, the impacts on the landscape by the largest wildfire in Colorado history varied widely, ranging from swaths that went unscathed to areas that were severely burned.

The survey showed an estimated 36% of the area within the Cameron Peak Fire perimeter suffered high (6%) or moderate (30%) soil burn severity. That indicates an increased risk of erosion and flooding caused by the soil being less able to absorb moisture, along with a lack of vegetation to absorb water and roots to stabilize the soil…

Another 44% of the area suffered low burn severity and 20% was unburned.

The assessment said determining soil hydrophobicity, or the ability to repel water, was hampered by snowfall during the assessments. However, it estimated 55% of the burn area could contain water-repellant soil.

The assessment said there is a 90% to 100% chance that water quality would be impacted by post-fire ash and sediment-laden runoff, nutrient loading and potential debris flows within the first few years following the fire.

Options to reduce the impacts to stream flows, soil erosion and debris flows are limited due to the nature of the burn and slope characteristics, the assessment noted. It stated treatment recommendations should focus on minimizing life/safety threats and damage to property through road and trail closures, trail stabilization, campground treatments and warning signs.

A burnt sign on Larimer County Road 103 near Chambers Lake. The fire started in the area near Cameron Peak, which it is named after. The fire burned over 200,000 acres during its three-month run. Photo courtesy of Kate Stahla via the University of Northern Colorado

Given all the recreational sites in or near the burn area, the assessment said the consequences for potential impacts on life and safety are “major.”

Where it burned hottest

Soil burn severity is the result of fire progression and intensity. The longer the fire remains in an area, the higher the likelihood of high and moderate soil burn impacts. Areas burned during large runs from the wind-driven fire generally suffered lower soil burn severities due to the fire moving more through the tree canopy than on the ground.

The assessment’s soil burn severity map shows the area around the starting point on the west side of the fire near Chambers Lake suffered high soil burn severities. Other high soil severity burn areas occurred north of the Colorado State University Mountain Campus east into the Buckhorn Road area and in the northern section of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Thompson Zone of the East Troublesome Fire that burned over the Continental Divide to near Estes Park burned mostly in the low to moderate category.

Most of the fire’s rapid growth was driven by high winds usually preceding precipitation events, mostly snow. The map shows the area to the east of the fire’s initial starting point suffered low soil burn severities during such an event.

Cameron Peak Soil Burn Severity map. Map credit: Roosevelt National Forest

Analysis: Upstream detention too costly, destructive for CU South flood control — #boulder beat

Photo courtesy of the City of Boulder via boulder beat

From boulder beat:

City council this week will again consider an alternative design for flood control on South Boulder Creek, one that’s been rejected twice before. This time, staff, the open space board and an advisory group of elected and appointed officials are recommending against the plan, pushed by residents opposed to University of Colorado plans for an eventual southern campus.

If city council agrees with that assessment, it will cap an effort to protect south Boulder from flooding — a process that, by the city’s own reckoning, started, nearly half a century ago. Winnowing potential options took two decades…

Council settled on a “final” detention, dam and flood wall design in June, but their vote came with a caveat: One more look at resident-proposed design to detain water further upstream on South Boulder Creek. The Open Space Board of Trustees requested further analysis once it was revealed that flood structures would be built on open space land rather than state right-of-way along U.S. 36.

Upstream detention, as the design is referred two, was ruled inadequate by project staff in 2015 and again in 2018. This time, a staff analysis showed that upstream detention would be more costly than the current plan for the same level of protection and would impact more sensitive habitat.

OSBT agreed on Dec. 16, as did an advisory group assembled by the city that included representatives from OSBT, Water Resources Advisory Board, Planning Board and city council.

“The advisory group concluded that although an upstream alternative could be feasible, it does not perform better than the Variant 1, 100-yr design when considering the June 2020 council comparison criteria, and substantial engineered structures would still be required on OSMP lands.”

When #Wildfire Burns A High Mountain Forest, What Happens To The Snow? — KUNC

A burnt sign on Larimer County Road 103 near Chambers Lake. The fire started in the area near Cameron Peak, which it is named after. The fire burned over 200,000 acres during its three-month run. Photo courtesy of Kate Stahla via the University of Northern Colorado

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

To understand, and possibly predict what happens after a river’s headwaters goes up in flames, researchers are descending on newly created burn scars across the West to gather data in the hopes of lessening some of the impacts on drinking water systems.

On a sunny winter morning, a team of researchers led by Colorado State University hydrologist Stephanie Kampf roamed through the steep drainage of Tunnel Creek, a tributary to the Poudre River. Much of the creek burned this summer and fall during the Cameron Peak Fire west of Fort Collins, Colorado…

For more than an hour and a half, Kampf’s team searched for a flat spot to construct a temporary weather station. The university received a National Science Foundation grant to put instruments into the field quickly, before snows began to accumulate in the burned area. At more than 208,000 acres, the burn scar is the state’s largest on record.

Two other nearby fires broke size records in 2020 as well. In late October the East Troublesome Fire exploded near the headwaters of the Colorado River, burning 193,812 acres, killing two people and causing thousands to flee their homes. To the north, the Mullen Fire on the Colorado-Wyoming border topped out at 176,878 acres. Downstream on the Colorado River, the Grizzly Creek Fire torched 32,631 acres in and around Glenwood Canyon. And in the Book Cliffs north of Grand Junction, Colorado, the Pine Gulch Fire burned nearly 140,000 acres.

In the case of Cameron Peak, which acts as the headwaters for the Poudre River, Kampf and her colleagues want to know: what happens to the snow that falls on a burned area this high in elevation and this big?

“Some of these streams have burned so much, like the whole riparian zone is burned. And so there’s nothing alive at all,” Kampf said…

Existing research shows fires can affect snowpack in different ways. With fewer trees, and without their full, bushy branches, more snow tends to accumulate on the ground. Snow that’s caught in trees often blows off or turns immediately to vapor. So when a wildfire moves through a forest, scientists say to expect more snow to pile up on the ground.

But the lack of tree cover also causes that accumulated snow to behave differently. Without a shaded canopy above it, the snow is more exposed to the sun, and in the spring, melting can become erratic. Mid-winter melting can occur, which means a lessened runoff come spring.

These general findings can change, depending on the type of forest that burned, the direction the burned slope is facing, and the severity of the burn in that area…

Studies of dust on snow have shown its dramatic effect on the timing of snowmelt. The same is true of snow that’s been mixed with charred debris and smoke particles, [Anne] Nolin said. “All that black guck on the snow makes it melt a lot faster,” she said.

A mis-matched timing of snowmelt makes the job of reservoir management much harder, Nolin said. Many water providers use long-term models to gauge when to release and store water. A burned drainage area makes those historical data less reliable…

With water supply margins already tight in many portions of the West, Boisrame said, water providers, agriculturalists and environmental groups are realizing, “that we actually need to know” the detailed effects of how each individual burn scar will affect the water cycle.

That’s because no two fires are alike. Depending on weather and fuel loads, each fire burns a landscape with varying severity. And that severity matters, not just for forest recovery, but also for water quality immediately following it, said Ben Livneh, a University of Colorado-Boulder engineering professor.

“The most severe impacts actually come from moderate severity fires,” Livneh said.

In fires with lots of high severity burn, much of the vegetation is completely combusted. Dissolved organic carbon can be one of the biggest headaches for water treatment facilities following a fire. Treating it can also result in byproducts found to be carcinogenic, Livneh said. But if there’s not much organic material left in a burned area — because it all burned — it doesn’t cause as many problems.

“And so maybe somewhat counterintuitively, the most severe fires aren’t necessarily the most damaging, at least from a water treatment and water quality perspective,” Livneh said.

Research has shown too that forest management can play a big role in lessening the impacts of fire on water systems. The Desert Research Institute’s Boisrame looked closely at one creek in Yosemite National Park. In that watershed, land managers have been more hands-off with fire suppression, and allowed smaller fires to burn more frequently…

One hurdle in understanding the relationship of burn scars and snowpack is that it’s a challenge to get good data from such dynamic environments. Landslides and floods after a fire can destroy scientific instruments.

That was top of mind for Colorado State University’s Kampf as she traversed the Cameron Peak burn scar. Finding a site for a weather station is like looking for a proper campsite. Researchers want something flat, on stable ground and free from large hazards like falling rocks and trees. That’s often hard to find in a recently burned forest…

The weather station along Tunnel Creek will be compared to another site untouched by fire. Other stations will look at impacts at higher and lower elevations. They’re likely to collect data on soil moisture, solar radiation and precipitation for the next three to four years, Kampf said, though long-term funding hasn’t yet been secured.

#Climate’s toll on the #ColoradoRiver: ‘We can weather maybe a couple of years’ — AZCentral #COriver #aridification #ActOnClimate

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click here to read Ian James’ fantastic article about the current state of the Colorado River from stem to stern that’s running up at AZCentral.com. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The warming climate is intensifying drought, contributing to fires and drying out the river’s headwaters, sending consequences cascading downstream.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colorado — Beside a river that winds through a mountain valley, the charred trunks of pine trees lie toppled on the blackened ground, covered in a thin layer of fresh snow.

Weeks after flames ripped through this alpine forest, a smoky odor still lingers in the air.

The fire, called the East Troublesome, burned later into the fall than what once was normal. It cut across Rocky Mountain National Park, racing up and over the Continental Divide. It raged in the headwaters of the Colorado River, reducing thick forests to ashes and scorching the ground along the river’s banks.

The fires in Colorado spread ferociously through the summer and fall of 2020 after months of extreme heat that worsened the severe drought.

As smoke billowed over the headwaters, the wildfires raised warning signs of how profoundly climate change is altering the watershed, and how the symptoms of heat-driven drying are cascading down the heavily used river — with stark implications for the entire region, from Colorado’s ranchland pastures to the suburbs of Phoenix…

Over the past year, the relentless hot, dry months from the spring to the first snows left the soil parched. The amount of runoff into streams and the river dropped far below average. With reservoirs sinking toward new lows, the risks of shortages are growing.

Much of the river’s flow begins as snow and rainfall in the territory of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which includes 15 counties on Colorado’s West Slope. Andy Mueller, the district’s general manager, said the extreme conditions over the past year offer a preview of what the region should prepare for in the future.

“Climate change is drying out the headwaters,” Mueller said. “And everybody in the Colorado River Basin needs to be concerned.”

Mueller saw the effects while backpacking in Colorado’s Holy Cross Wilderness in the summer with his 19-year-old daughter. Above the tree line, at an elevation of 12,000 feet, they expected to see mushy green tundra. Instead, they found the ground was bone dry…

People who focus on the river have widely acknowledged the need to adjust to a shrinking system with less water to go around.

Many suggest solutions can be achieved through collaborative efforts — often with money changing hands in exchange for water — while working within the existing rules. Others say solutions shouldn’t fall on the backs of farming communities by taking away water that fuels their economies. Some people argue the river seems headed for a crash and its rules need to be fundamentally reimagined…

The deals between the seven states are designed to temporarily lower the odds of Lake Mead and Lake Powell dropping to critical lows over the next five years. The states’ representatives have yet to wade into the details of negotiations on what shortage-sharing rules will look like after 2026, when the current agreements expire.

Still unresolved are difficult questions about how to deal with the shortfall over the long term.

What’s increasingly clear is that the status-quo methods of managing the river are on a collision course with worsening scarcity, and that eventually something will have to give…

Watershed ‘thirstier’ with heat

Last winter, after a dry year, the Rocky Mountains were blanketed with a snowpack that was slightly above average. Then came extremely hot and dry conditions, which shrank the amount of runoff and flows into tributaries and again baked the soils dry.

[Andy] Mueller said the change occurred abruptly at the end of the snow season in the spring…

With the heat, some of the snow didn’t melt but instead evaporated directly into the air, which scientists call sublimation — something that has been happening more over the past two decades. The flows in streams dropped over the next few months, and then August brought record heat, which dried out the headwaters and fueled the fires through the fall…

In a 2018 study, scientists found that about half the trend of decreasing runoff in the Upper Colorado River Basin since 2000 was the result of unprecedented warming. In other research, scientists estimated the river is so sensitive to warming that it could lose roughly one-fourth of its flow by 2050 as temperatures continue to rise…

“A warmer atmosphere is a thirstier atmosphere, and we’re seeing less runoff bang for our precipitation buck,” said Jeff Lukas, an independent climate researcher in Colorado. “We’ll still have wetter and drier years, but the baseline is very likely to be shifting downward, as it has in the last 20 years.”

And when extreme heat comes, it leaves less water running in tributaries and also translates into drier forests, leading to increased fire risk.

The soils were so dry over the past year that they soaked up moisture, contributing to below-average stream flows, said Megan Holcomb, a senior climate change specialist with the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“You can think of it as like the dry sponge that you haven’t wetted in forever,” Holcomb said. “That kind of soil moisture deficit is not something that you rebound from immediately.”

Lake Powell, behind Glen Canyon Dam, shows the effects of persistent drought in the Colorado River Basin. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

After the hot spring came a dry summer. The lack of monsoon rains compounded the drought. And then came August, Holcomb said, when a map of record-hot temperatures hugged the Colorado River Basin like a “massive red handprint.”

In areas of western Colorado that drain into the river, it was the hottest and driest August on record, breaking the previous temperature record by 2 degrees F, said Russ Schumacher, Colorado’s state climatologist and director of the Colorado Climate Center.

The state usually gets its largest wildfires in June and July. But with the severe drought, the fires burned through August, and then exploded in October with unprecedented speed and intensity. The ultradry conditions, together with high winds, contributed to the three largest wildfires in Colorado history, which together devoured more than half a million acres.

In the future, rising temperatures will lead to more of these scorching summers.

Abby Burk of the conservation group Audubon Rockies noticed how low the river was in the summer when she went paddling in her kayak. In parts where the river was full and muddy a year earlier, she found bars of gravel. Where there once were channels to paddle through, she encountered dead-end lagoons.

In November, when Burk drove through the headwaters near the smoldering fires, she snapped photos of the hills and mountains, still golden-brown beneath a dusting of snow.

When the soil is so parched, it will always “take the first drink” before water reaches the streams, Burk said. “We need a lot more snow for many years to come to really replenish the soil moisture deficits that we’re seeing now.”

The fire scars will also bring challenges come spring, she said, when melting snow will send runoff carrying ash, debris and sediment into streams, potentially creating complications for water systems.

Burk said she’s hoping there will be a slow melt so the runoff comes gradually, without “bringing down the mountain into the river.”

Rancher and fly-fishing guide Paul Bruchez raises cattle on 6,000 acres near Kremmling. Bruchez has taken an active role in Colorado River issues ever since his family suffered from a critical water shortage during the 2002 drought. Photo credit: Russ Schnitzer via Aspen Journalism

A rancher looks to adapt

Paul Bruchez raises cattle on his family’s ranch in the headwaters near the town of Kremmling, where the Colorado River winds through pastures…

Bruchez has been involved in discussions about the river as a member of the Colorado Basin Roundtable. And while he’s heard many people voice alarm about the watershed lately, Bruchez said he and other neighboring ranchers have been talking about the need to adapt to a river with less water since 2002, when severe drought came.

The flows dropped so low then that even ranchers with the longest-standing water rights, known as senior rights, couldn’t get it to their fields.

“Within this river basin, we have seen a change over time of the quantity and volume of water that is available. And in that same time, we’ve seen a growth of population that relies on it,” Bruchez said. “We knew this in 2002 when we hit that drought, that if we didn’t change how we operated, we weren’t going to survive.”

Since then, Bruchez and other ranchers have been talking about ideas for adapting…

The closer the region gets to a scenario of curtailing water allotments, Bruchez said, the more investors and representatives of cities and towns are going to be contemplating ways of securing water from elsewhere.

For people in agriculture, he said, “we need to be at the table or we’re going to be on the menu.”

[…]

Blue Mesa Reservoir, Curecanti National Recreation Area. Photo credit: Victoria Stauffenberg via Wikimedian Commons

‘It affects everybody’

One of the main tributaries that feeds the Colorado is the Gunnison River, which like the mainstem has shrunk during the heat-amplified drought. Along the Gunnison, cattle ranchers got less water last year and their pastures produced less hay.

The river’s low flows also forced an early end to the river rafting season on Labor Day weekend. After that, releases from a dam had to be cut back and the Gunnison was left much shallower than usual, with rocks protruding in stretches where boats would normally be drifting until the end of September.

Sonja Chavez via Gunnison Basin Roundtable.

The river has dropped to some of its lowest levels in years, said Sonja Chavez, general manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District.

The effects are visible at Blue Mesa Reservoir, one of the state’s largest, which has declined to less than half its full capacity.

Visiting the lake, Chavez walked on sandy ground that used to sit underwater.

Looking across the inlet where the river pours into the lake, she pointed to a gray line on the rock showing the high-water mark. During spring runoff, she said, the river in this channel can reach about 20 feet higher. But with the soil so parched, its level dropped.

“When we are dry in the Upper Gunnison Basin, it affects everybody downstream of us,” Chavez said. And the swings between high and low flows, she said, have made it difficult to plan how to operate the reservoirs…

In the Gunnison Valley, a local climate action group meets to talk about potential solutions. Some conversations have focused on how to manage forests that have grown thick with vegetation over the past century as federal agencies have focused mostly on putting out fires.

While the forests have grown thicker, warmer temperatures have enabled beetles to flourish, littering the mountains with dead trees.

Chavez and others want to prioritize efforts to make the forests healthier and more fire-resilient by thinning the trees through logging, mechanical treatments or controlled burns, which they say would make the whole watershed healthier. She said the federal government needs to be more involved and the region needs funding for these projects.

“Our big push this year is to do some watershed management planning and work with the Forest Service to identify zones of concern, or areas that we can treat,” Chavez said. “We’re worried if we had a big fire what would happen.”

Alongside those efforts, water managers are discussing ways of dialing down water usage…

Ranchers, farmers consider using less

One lifelong rancher who had a smaller-than-usual hay crop was Bill Trampe, who has worked on water issues for years as a board member of the Colorado River District.

His cattle graze on meadows near Gunnison where the grasses survive year after year. He was short of water to irrigate after mid-June, which left the pastures parched.

Palisade is just east of Grand Junction and lies in a fertile valley between the Colorado River and Mt. Garfield which is the formation in the picture. They’ve grown wonderful peaches here for many years and have recently added grape vineyards such as the one in the picture. By inkknife_2000 (7.5 million views +) – https://www.flickr.com/photos/23155134@N06/15301560980/, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Over the past two decades, only a few years brought good snowpack, he said, and ranchers have repeatedly had to weather the financial hits of years when they must buy hay for their cattle…

‘We need to set the terms’

In other parts of the river basin, some representatives of agricultural water agencies are worried about the potential consequences of paying farmers to leave land dry.

One such voice is J.B. Hamby, a newly elected board member of California’s Imperial Irrigation District, who said he’s concerned that while cities and sprawling suburbs continue to grow rapidly, agricultural communities are increasingly at risk. He said people in cities need to realize there is a priority system that shouldn’t be changed…

Arizona gets nearly 40% of its water from the Colorado River. Much of it flows in the Central Arizona Project Canal, which cuts across the desert from Lake Havasu to Phoenix and Tucson.

In 2020, Arizona and Nevada took less water from the river under the drought agreement among Lower Basin states, and in 2021 they will again leave some of their water in Lake Mead. The latest projections show Mead could fall below a key threshold by summer, which would trigger a shortage declaration and larger cutbacks in 2022…

Now, with less water flowing to farms, the amount of runoff into the Salton Sea has shrunk, leaving growing stretches of exposed lakebed that spew dust into the air. The dust is contributing to some of the worst air pollution in the country, and many children suffer from asthma.

Hamby said the Imperial Valley would have been better off without the water transfer deal. Looking at the proposed approach in Colorado, Hamby said, it seems to replicate what occurred in Imperial.

“When you tie money to water, you get users who become addicted to the money and don’t actually in the end start to want to farm anymore,” Hamby said. “That is really corrosive to the long-term survival, much less thriving, of rural communities when people get more hooked on money rather than the way of life and putting the water on the land.”

He argued that such an approach would be “subverting the whole priority system” and enabling cities to avoid taking cuts themselves…

‘Are we doing enough?’

At his ranch by the river, Bruchez said he wants to be on “the preventative side,” getting ahead of the looming problems instead of reacting. And that includes studying and promoting conservation, he said, because the bottom line is “we just all have to figure out how to use less water.”

In early 2019, Bruchez began talking with Perry Cabot, a researcher from Colorado State University, about a project that would help provide data on crop water use, impacts of reduced irrigation and strategies for conserving water.

Cabot gave a presentation to the Colorado Basin Roundtable, and members supported the idea of a study. The project began in 2020 with about $900,000 in funding, including support from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and groups including Trout Unlimited and American Rivers.

A group of nine ranchers participated and were paid for leaving some fields dry or partially dry, Bruchez said. More than 900 acres weren’t irrigated for the entire year, and about 200 acres were “deficit irrigated,” meaning they received less water.

Bruchez’s ranch totals about 6,000 acres. He participated on about 41 acres, where he stopped irrigating on June 15 and didn’t water the rest of the year.

“My end goal is to understand the impacts of water conservation for agriculture so that if and when there are programs to participate, agriculture is doing it based on science,” Bruchez said…

Paul Bruchez said he’s seen that when people talk about solutions, they often seem to draw boxes around different approaches like demand management, water conservation, climate change and forest management, but he thinks they’re all quite connected.

“It’s all the same conversation,” Bruchez said. “To me, the question just comes down to, are we doing enough, quick enough?”

[…]

“It’s that water that is provided by the Colorado River that ties us all together,” Mueller said. “And truly, when we recognize the importance of the Colorado River and how it ties us together, that’s when we succeed as a society.”

Ian James is a reporter with The Arizona Republic who focuses on water, climate change and the environment in the Southwest. Send him story tips, comments and questions at ian.james@arizonarepublic.com and follow him on Twitter at @ByIanJames.

@AuroraWaterCO wins Outstanding Water Laboratory award: Seventh time Aurora Water has received this prestigious award

Aurora looking west at Mount Blue Sky

Here’s the release from Aurora Water (Greg Baker):

Aurora Water has won the 2020 Outstanding Water Laboratory Award from the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association (RMSAWWA). RMSAWWA is a nonprofit, scientific and educational association serving members in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming that is dedicated to effectively managing and treating water. The annual award recognizes a drinking water analysis lab for its exceptional performance, dedication and teamwork. Aurora Water’s Quality Control Lab is a repeat winner of this prestigious award, having won the honor a total of seven times since 2008.

Aurora Water’s quality control staff of 10 laboratory specialists conduct dozens of tests daily at the Quality Control Laboratory. Hundreds of water samples are collected each month from source to tap, ensuring that the water provided to Aurora residents is consistently and reliably safe.

“This award recognizes the hardworking professionals at Aurora Water’s Quality Control Laboratory, who are dedicated to providing excellent service to our citizens,” said Aurora Water’s Environmental Compliance Principal Sherry Scaggiari. “Through their rigorous sampling, testing and reporting on every aspect of our water and waste water system, they maintained the highest level of service, even during a pandemic.

#Elizabeth OKs 2021 budget of $12.7 million — The Elbert County News

Old Town Elizabeth Colorado. By ERoss99 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22708960

From The Elbert County News (Tabatha Stewart):

The Elizabeth Board of Trustees voted to adopt the 2021 budget at the Dec. 8 meeting. The budget was submitted in October, and a public hearing was held Nov. 24, where taxpayers were given the chance to raise any objections. The budget includes five funds—the general fund, street maintenance fund, street capital improvement fund, water sewer fund and a capital improvement fund, and the estimated balance of all funds going into 2021 totals $12,666,057…

The estimated general fund for 2021 includes $50,689 from unappropriated surpluses, and projects $2,134,782 from other sources such as water and sewer fees. Property taxes will account for $631,286, bringing the general fund total to $2,816,757. The general fund is used to pay for administration, courts, police services, community development and parks and building maintenance.

The street maintenance fund estimates $461,947, the street capital improvement fund comes in at $4,773,644, the water sewer fund is estimated at $4,243,709, and the capital improvement fund at $370,000.

Larimer County approves development agreement for #NISP — The #Loveland Reporter-Herald

Haystack rock near LaPorte. Photo credit: Active Rain

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

Larimer County has approved a development agreement that delves into details surrounding construction of certain aspects of the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

The county commissioners on Tuesday voted 2-1 to approve the agreement with the Northern Integrated Supply Project Water Activity Enterprise, putting into writing some of the specific requirements that the elected board had put into place earlier in approving a 1041 permit for the water supply project…

The agreement focuses on recreational facilities for Glade Reservoir, and the amount of money Northern Water committed to that piece, as well as pipeline details, environmental mitigations and requirements surrounding the relocation of U.S. 287.

It puts in writing that the county will be involved in construction meetings and inspections and lays out some safety requirements.

“This agreement really protects the interest of Larimer County … whether one supports this project or not,” said Commissioner Steve Johnson, who along with Commissioner Tom Donnelly voted to approve the development agreement. (Both commissioners also voted in September to grant the 1041 permit, which allows the county some input on certain aspects of this water storage and pipeline project.)

The county does not have final say over whether the Northern Integrated Supply Project will be built. That approval would come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the federal agency’s decision is expected soon, following more than a decadelong environmental process.

Johnson stressed that the county does not have final say but that he wants to have some say on safety, recreation and construction that will affect residents…

Larimer County has agreed to manage the recreation on and around Glade Reservoir, with Northern Water committing to $20.6 million for recreational facilities and with either the county or another yet-to-be-identified partner bringing $3.775 million to the table.

The money would cover parking lots, boat ramps, a visitors center, camping areas and environmental mitigations at the reservoir and on the surrounding land.

Commissioner John Kefalas, the sole Democrat on the board and the lone vote against the 1041 permit in September, also voted against the development agreement Tuesday. He said he understands the purpose is to describe the water developer’s obligations to the county and “to enhance the general welfare of the county,” but that he had concerns about some pieces of the agreement and could not vote in favor of it without further information.

The development agreement was included on the consent agenda at the commissioners’ weekly administrative matters meeting. The consent agenda typically is a list of actions approved without discussion and all by a single vote. Kefalas moved the item from that single vote so the board could discuss it.

“My rationale for pulling this item from the consent agenda is first to highlight that approval of the NISP project is indeed one of the most significant decisions made by this board of county commissioners, one that will impact Larimer County and future generations in many ways,” Kefalas said. “As such, this development merits public attention and scrutiny and, from my perspective, it is necessary for the people to see how this NISP agreement seeks to mitigate the potential unintended consequences of the proposed Glade Reservoir.”

He also expressed “serious concerns” about the overall project and said two provisions in the agreement add to those worries. He highlighted wording in the agreement that stresses that recreation is a secondary use to the water supply and that Northern Water, which will manage the project, may vary water levels and may modify design and location, at its sole discretion, for operations, maintenance or other issues to prioritize water supply over recreational uses.

“So I ask the question: What will happen to the recreational benefits of the NISP project if it takes 10 years to fill the reservoir perhaps due to higher temperatures, extended droughts and reduced snowpack?” Kefalas said. “Without a science-based answer to this question today, I cannot support this NISP development agreement.”

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

Historic #Colorado Wildfire Season Could Impact Drinking #Water — CBS #Denver

From CBS Denver (Dillon Thomas):

The historic wildfire season of 2020 could impact drinking water for more than a million Colorado residents. Environmental researchers and natural resource specialists have conducted a BAER Survey, which stands for Burned Area Emergency Response.

The survey evaluated how the record-breaking Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires could impact Colorado’s snowpack and watershed.

The Colorado Big Thompson Project, which Northern Water operates for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, lies between the Cameron Peak fire, shown at the top of the map, and the East Troublesome Fire, shown at the bottom left. Credit: U.S. Forest Service

The Poudre and Upper Colorado River Basins provide drinking water for more than a million people in northern Colorado, and soon those in Thornton. The Colorado River also flows from Willow Creek Reservoir near Granby to Las Vegas and farther southwest.

The months-long battle with both blazes charred the natural filters along rivers and creeks, which eventually provide drinking water for most of the northern front range.

“Our concerns really are actually about the entire watershed,” said Jeff Stahla, spokesperson for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

In an interview with CBS4’s Logan Smith, Stahla said the approach to preserving and protecting the watershed in the years to come was directly altered by the High Park Fire of 2012, where researchers learned what to do and what not to do.

A helicopter drops water on the Cameron Peak Fire near CSU’s Mountain Campus. Photo credit: Colorado State University

For example, pulling undersized culverts and digging water bars is more effective than reseeding or spreading hay bales.

“This is something you won’t be able to resolve by dropping seeds from a helicopter, the scale is so large,” Stahla said. “The concern is that if there is a large weather event that occurs over that area, that you will have uncontrolled removal of debris and sediment that will go in to our reservoirs.”

Ecologist Heidi Steltzer evaluates the site of a 2018 wildfire within 10 miles of her Colorado home. Changes in snow affect the disturbance regime of U.S. mountain regions. (Credit: Joel Dyar)

During the fires of 2020, water conservation experts monitored how the burn scar could impact drinking water.

“We recognized that it was no longer just a small localized event, but it was something that would effect the entire Upper Colorado River shed,” Stahla said.

Due to the extended period the fires burned, especially the Cameron Peak Fire, not every area of the burn scars impact nearby rivers and streams equally. While some portions of the terrain were significantly burned with hot fire that “resided” in the same spot for an extended period, others were more fortunate.

The East Troublesome fire as seen from Cottonwood Pass looking north on the evening of Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020. (Andrew Lussie via InciWeb via The Colorado Sun)

Stahla said many local water districts are now teaming up to help protect the health of the watershed in the years to come. By unifying and prioritizing the health of the water system as a whole, Stahla said the strength of the landscape and watershed can bounce back quicker…

Researchers hope to return to the burn scars in the spring once snow has melted to evaluate next steps. Local municipalities are working with the Bureau of Reclamation to expedite the process.

#TABOR complicates Lower South Platte Water Conservancy mill increase

Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District boundary map.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate:

Chuck Miller of Fort Morgan has been vocal in opposing action by the LSPWCD to raise its mill levy from 0.5 mill to 1 mill for the 2020 budget year and retaining that level for 2021. Miller contends that the increase is a violation of the TABOR amendment to the Colorado Constitution. He and others have appealed to county commissioners in Logan, Morgan, Sedgwick and Washington counties to refuse to certify the water district’s mill levy…

The group asserts that, although the water conservancy district freed itself from the restrictions of the TABOR amendment in 1996, it still promised not to raise taxes without a vote. The district board, however, takes the position that, when it was formed in 1964, it was statutorily authorized to levy up to 1 mill on real property within the district, and the 1996 “de-Brucing” question allows the district the right to levy up to 1 full mill; the public vote would only be needed if the district wanted to exceed its original allowance of 1 mill.

The mill levy must be certified in each of the four counties covered by the district. Only Sedgwick County, where Commissioner Chairman Donald Schneider also is a member of the LSPWCD board of directors, voted to certify the mill levy. Washington County Commissioner LeAnne Laybourn told the Journal-Advocate Thursday morning that, contrary to what was previously reported, the Washington County Commissioners pulled the water district’s mill levy from a group of levies they were to certify.

Miller said he has gotten conflicting answers to questions about who enforces the provisions of the so-called Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a 1992 amendment to the state constitution. TABOR restricts government spending and forbids raising taxes without voter approval.

Colorado Department of Local Affairs spokesperson Brett McPherson told the Journal-Advocate Wednesday that the state has no role in enforcing TABOR.

“TABOR contains the mill levy/tax rate restriction but is locally interpreted and enforced through the courts,” McPherson said. “TABOR is locally enforced by taxpayers, who elect board members and who can also bring a lawsuit against the taxing entity. There is no state agency role in enforcing TABOR.”

According to state statute, if a mill levy is not certified, the county can be instructed to extend the previous year’s mill levy which, in this case, is still 1 mill, since that was certified the previous year.

Squeezed by two megafires: @Northern_Water’s race to save #Grand Lake — @WaterEdCO #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The East Troublesome Fire in Grand County burned down to the shore of Willow Creek Reservoir, one of the lakes in Northern Water’s collection system in Grand County. Dec. 13, 2020. Credit: Jerd Smith

From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

Craig Friar and Steve Anderson had seen wildfires smolder and flare before. But they had never seen one run.

Until Oct. 21 when Grand County’s East Troublesome fire sprinted 17 miles in less than three hours, threatening to engulf communities across the county and giving these Northern Water staffers and others just hours to decide how best to move the water agency’s operations center out of Grand County and over to Northern’s emergency operations center in Berthoud, on Colorado’s Front Range.

It was unchartered territory. The backup center had never been used before.

Northern Water is the largest exporter of water from Colorado’s West Slope to the Front Range, serving farms and dozens of cities from Broomfield and Lafayette to Boulder, Loveland and Greeley.

As dark, fire-stained clouds billowed over the towns of Granby and Grand Lake that day, Northern’s West Slope team grabbed operation logs from the Farr pumping plant on the banks of Lake Granby. They tracked down the half dozen or so mechanics, electricians and operators who would need to make quick exits, and figured out how to ferry everyone to safety over the Continental Divide.

The East Troublesome Fire burns in Grand County in October 2020. Credit: Northern Water

Initially they hoped to keep most of their operators on the West Slope by moving the temporary command center farther West to another Northern operations site. But the East Troublesome Fire, already known for its cranky, unpredictable nature, changed direction, blocking access to the local site.

“Those [plans] quickly went away,” said Friar, who oversees the utility’s collection system. “When things blew up on Tuesday, we said, ‘Scrap that.’ Wednesday we had a call and began moving everyone over to Berthoud.”

Spare rooms and horse trailers

Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind and Director of Administration Karen Rademacher offered their homes to dislocated staffers until hotel rooms could be found.

West Slope staff who weren’t evacuated offered trailers to those who had been, hauling household goods and horses. They tracked down housing for co-workers who feared their homes had burned.

They had dozens of calls with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns Northern’s system, as well as emergency managers with the U.S. and Colorado State forest services and the Grand County fire and sheriff departments, and county emergency response teams.

Hundreds of homes and structures in Grand County were threatened or destroyed, and the lakes and reservoirs there that comprise Northern’s water collection system faced the same fate. The agency serves more than 1 million people on the Front Range.

Since mid-August, Northern’s team had watched the Cameron Peak Fire burning in Rocky Mountain National Park just to the north of Grand County, threatening some of Northern’s customers and watersheds, but not the heart of its collection system.

When East Troublesome exploded eight weeks later, the water utility found itself suddenly squeezed between what have now become Colorado’s two largest wildfires in recorded history, with Cameron Peak consuming 209,000 acres and East Troublesome 194,000, before both were declared contained in November.

The Colorado Big Thompson Project, which Northern Water operates for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, lies between the Cameron Peak fire, shown at the top of the map, and the East Troublesome Fire, shown at the bottom left. Credit: U.S. Forest Service

Beyond bad

“It was worse than any worst-case scenario we had,” said Northern’s Environmental Services Manager Esther Vincent during a debriefing with the utility’s customers and others post-fire.

East Troublesome Fire. Photo credit: Brad White via The Mountain Town News

Water infrastructure in the West is often built in high-altitude mountain ranges in order to collect the winter snows that fall and melt into streams.

For years, Colorado and other Western States have planned for and dealt with wildfires and their aftermath: the scorched soils and trees that clog their delivery systems, fill their reservoirs with eroded soils, and cloud their once-pristine water supplies.

But the situation now is much worse. As climate change and searing droughts have dried out the forests that blanket these watersheds, impossibly large, so-called megafires are becoming the dangerous new norm.

These fires devastated California over the summer and the same phenomenon struck Colorado in the fall.

That Northern Water found itself stranded between the two fires in hurricane-force winds was something no one had ever envisioned. There was a sense of awful wonder, amid all the emergency phone calls and late-night planning sessions, at the sheer size of the disaster.

Powering down

There was also plenty of worry. Early on, as the fire raged, Northern staffers knew power to the Farr Pump Plant would be cut off in order to keep firefighters safe from exploding transformers, falling power poles and downed electric lines.

The East Troublesome Fire burns near the Farr Pump Plant on Lake Granby October 2020. Credit: Northern Water

The pumping plant lies almost entirely below the surface of Lake Granby. Without power to run its dewatering system, the plant would flood.

But there would be an even bigger problem once the electricity was cut. The Adams Tunnel takes water pumped from Lake Granby to Grand Lake and pipes it under the Continental Divide to the Front Range. If they couldn’t get the Adams Tunnel shut down before the power went off, it would continue to deliver water, dramatically lowering Grand Lake in violation of federal law, something that would trigger an environmental, legal and political firestorm.

The prospect of such an event is unfathomable, Friar said. “I don’t know what would happen. And I don’t want to know. We don’t even go there.”

They moved quickly to get to the controls that operate the tunnel, successfully closing it down.

Ten minutes later, Friar said, the power went off.

For days afterward, they would rotate the chore of going into the silent pumping plant, filling its generators with diesel fuel and checking to make sure the dewatering system was still working.

In and out

Roads in and out of the area remained closed and it took close coordination with the Grand County Fire Department and sheriff for Northern staffers to get past the fire barricades.

“We had to make sure we could get in, get what we needed done, and get out of there,” Friar said.

If there was any comfort during the tense, fast-changing days that the fires ruled Larimer and Grand counties, it was seeing local residents pulling out clothes and food for those in need, offering up spare rooms, spare trucks and trailers, and extra flash lights, snow plows and generators.

“I don’t think anyone up here ever felt alone,” Friar said.

December has delivered more elegant white snows to Grand and Larimer counties since October, when the first winter storm calmed the fires. The white slopes, covered with charred forests that are now stark and black, are a welcome respite from the gray smoke and flames that enveloped the area just a few weeks ago.

Friar and others know they have four short months, the time until winter snows melt, to engineer and put into action a high-stakes rescue plan for the devastated watersheds and reservoirs.

Roughly 30 percent to 80 percent of Northern’s four major watersheds have burned, they estimate. Cleaning them up and protecting the lakes from the debris that is sure to come after the snow melts next spring will take one to three years of “acute” work, fire officials said, and decades of additional treatment, a process so expensive that Northern hasn’t yet put a number to it.

The East Troublesome fire as it tore through the Trail Creek Estates subdivision on Oct. 21, 2020. (Brian White, Grand Fire Protection District)

A daunting future

Denver Water, the only utility larger than Northern in Colorado, battled two smaller—but still epic—fires within the past three decades: the 1996 Buffalo Creek Fire and the 2002 Hayman Fire, which until this year had been the state’s largest. They spent $28 million cleaning up and restoring reservoirs in the first 10 post-fire years and continue to spend millions annually planting trees and doing erosion control, according to Christina Burri, a watershed scientist with Denver Water.

Northern’s Greg Dewey will oversee the fire restoration work. The prospect, he said, is daunting.

“For years we’ve planned for treatments [for the overgrown forests already decimated by pine beetles]. And the ultimate treatment is a wildfire, but I don’t think anyone could have gauged the extent of this,” he said.

The Cameron Peak and East Troublesome megafires have blazed permanent images in the minds of people across Grand and Larimer counties.

What Anderson remembers most now is returning to his Granby home when the evacuation orders were finally lifted. There, he and his family encountered a strange sight:

The house was unharmed, but the front door stood wide open.

As they walked warily up the front steps the first thing they heard was the fire alarm, issuing one piercing screech after another, providing a crazy, haunting reminder of those days in October, when two megafires ruled the skies, the forests and their lives.

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 River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Upper Thompson Sanitation District Plans For The Future — EPNews.com

From the Upper Thompson Sanitation District via The Estes Park News:

Upper Thompson Sanitation District (UTSD) was established almost 50 years ago. Since then, they have been silently supporting and growing to meet the increasing water treatment needs of Estes Park. From humble beginnings, the UTSD service operation has expanded to over 4,300 households and 96 miles of collection system infrastructure in the Estes Valley. When the plant was built in 1976, it employed some of the most innovative technologies available and provided the highest level of treatment for sensitive waterways. This technology, coupled with unwavering commitment, has enabled UTSD to continue service even through moments of crisis, from fire to flood.

Although excellent care has been taken of the decades-old wastewater treatment facility (WWTF), the effects of age, changing building codes, and outdated equipment mean it is nearing capacity to treat wastewater to the high standards that Estes Valley’s sensitive environment requires. In addition, upcoming stringent regulatory treatment requirements related to nutrients, metals and temperature will be impossible to meet with the current facility. District Manager, Chris Bieker states, “The cost of maintaining our current infrastructure is not worth the investment because it will be obsolete nearly as quickly as it’s repaired. We also have the additional challenge of meeting treatment demand during the large fluctuations of peak visitation season in the summer. We are nearing the limits of processing ability now and need to prepare for tomorrow.” To face these challenges, UTSD has been laying the groundwork to relocate and expand the WWTF to a site near the current plant. This new facility will be able to handle community and visitor growth as well as the more stringent regulatory requirements now and well into the future.

With the large-scale improvements necessary to continue safe and efficient water treatment, additional funding is needed to finance the project. The UTSD sewer rate increase has been assessed at 11% each year over the next three years; 2021-2023, and diminishing increases for subsequent years. In 2021 this translates into an extra $5.33/month for most customers in the District. This fee will vary from customer to customer assessed as a flat rate fee or calculated on metered water use.

“As residents ourselves, we share this cost and are committed to use the resources we have available as responsibly and efficiently as possible” Bieker said. When completed, the new WWTF will meet upcoming strict water quality standards. The new WWTF will also serve future customer and community demands while continuing to preserve the clean water that preserves wildlife and the natural habitat. “It means we will be able to continue to be good stewards of our environment, continue to protect the headwaters, and ensure our quality of life,” states Bieker.

“Most people don’t think about the work we do at UTSD, but it is critical to maintaining our most precious resource, our water” says Bieker. “This is our home and we want to treat it right.”

If you have questions about the upcoming changes please visit UTSD’s website at utsd.colorado.gov.

Aerial view of Lake Estes and Olympus Dam looking west. Photo credit Northern Water.

Journey of Water — Chapter 3: Treatment & Distribution — @DenverWater #ColoradoRiver #COriver #SouthPlatteRiver #aridification

Treating water to the highest quality is more than a job, while crews ensure underground pipes are up to the task.

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Broomfield #water and service charges to increase in 2021 — The Broomfield Enterprise

Broomfield

From The Broomfield Enterprise (Brooklyn Dance):

Council approved the recommended increase of 2.5% in water and 2% in sewer utility charges. For a single family residence, the average monthly water service charge is projected to increase by $1.35, and the average monthly sewer charge is projected to increase by 42 cents.

Service charge increases are necessary to continue funding operations, a council ordinance said.

“Compared to other cities, Broomfield still ranks in the bottom third in terms of rates charged for water services and in the middle for sewer services,” Chief Financial Officer Brenda Richey told Council Thursday. “The proposed rates have been recommended to incrementally increase over the years, based on a 2012 utility rate study that takes into account Broomfield’s future needs as well.”

A US District Court judge has ruled in favor of the Windy Gap Firming Project, clearing the way for construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir — @Northern_Water #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Here’s the release from Northern Water (Jeff Stahla):

A United States District Court judge has ruled in favor of the Windy Gap Firming Project, clearing the way for construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir near Berthoud. This ruling should also make it possible to move forward with environmental mitigation and enhancements related to the project, including construction of the Colorado River Connectivity Channel near Granby.

Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich dismissed a 2017 lawsuit filed by environmental groups led by Save the Colorado against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers. The ruling holds that those federal agencies complied with federal law in issuing a Record of Decision that authorizes the Windy Gap Firming Project.

The Windy Gap Firming Project includes the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir, which will be located in a dry valley just west of Carter Lake in southwest Larimer County. The reservoir will store 90,000 acre-feet of water from the Windy Gap Project for use by 12 participants, including Broomfield, Platte River Power Authority, Longmont, Loveland, Greeley, Erie, Little Thompson Water District, Superior, Louisville, Fort Lupton, Lafayette and the Central Weld County Water District. Chimney Hollow Reservoir will make the Windy Gap water supply serving those participants more reliable and help them meet a portion of their long-term water supply needs. Each participant has also enacted a water conservation plan to comply with the Record of Decision.

Environmental measures related to the Project also include the Colorado River Connectivity Channel, a newly proposed channel around Windy Gap Reservoir to reconnect the Colorado River above and below the reservoir. The channel will restore the ability for fish, macroinvertebrates, nutrients and sediment in the river to bypass the reservoir.

The Record of Decision also mandates many other environmental protections, including improving streamflow and aquatic habitat, addressing water quality issues, providing West Slope water supplies and more. Northern Water and its Municipal Subdistrict negotiated with Colorado River stakeholders to develop this package of environmental protections and received a permit from Grand County and approvals from others, including Trout Unlimited and the State of Colorado, to move forward with the Project.

Water storage such as Chimney Hollow Reservoir was specifically identified in the Colorado Water Plan as a necessary component for Colorado’s long-term water future. It joins conservation, land use planning and other solutions to meet future water needs in the state.

“This ruling marks an important milestone for the participants in the Windy Gap Firming Project,” said Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind. “Chimney Hollow Reservoir and the Colorado River Connectivity Channel will serve as examples of how statewide cooperation can produce water supply solutions and environmental improvements that benefit everyone.”

Barnard Construction Co. Inc. has been chosen as the contractor to build Chimney Hollow Reservoir, and work will commence on the project in 2021. Design work is well under way for the Colorado River Connectivity Channel, and construction is anticipated to begin there in 2022.

#Colorado mountains bouncing back from ‘acid rain’ impacts — CU #Boulder Today

Meadows, forests and mountain ridges create the high alpine landscapes of Niwot Ridge in the Rocky Mountains, 25 miles northwest of Boulder. Forty percent of the City of Boulder’s water is sourced from the Green Lakes Valley within Niwot Ridge, which the researchers analyzed in this study. (Credit: William Bowman)

From the University of Colorado (Kelsey Simpkins):

A long-term trend of ecological improvement is appearing in the mountains west of Boulder. Researchers from CU Boulder have found that Niwot Ridge—a high alpine area of the Rocky Mountains, east of the Continental Divide—is slowly recovering from increased acidity caused by vehicle emissions in Colorado’s Front Range.

Their results show that nitric and sulfuric acid levels in the Green Lakes Valley region of Niwot Ridge have generally decreased over the past 30 years, especially since the mid-2000s. The findings, which suggest that alpine regions across the Mountain West may be recovering, are published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences.

This is good news for the wildlife and wildflowers of Rocky Mountain National Park to the north of Niwot Ridge, which depend on limited levels of acidity in the water and soil to thrive. Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are also the source of a lot of water for people living in the Mountain West, and the integrity of these ecosystems influences both the quantity and the quality of this water.

“It looks like we’re doing the right thing. By controlling vehicle emissions, some of these really special places that make Colorado unique are going back to what they used to be,” said Jason Neff, co-author on the paper and director of the Sustainability Innovation Lab at Colorado (SILC).

Meadows, forests and mountain ridges create the high alpine landscapes of Niwot Ridge in the Rocky Mountains, 25 miles northwest of Boulder. Forty percent of the City of Boulder’s water is sourced from the Green Lakes Valley within Niwot Ridge, which the researchers analyzed in this study. (Credit: William Bowman)

Almost every area in the world, including Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, has been affected in the past 200 years by increased acidic nutrients, like nitrogen, contained in rain and snow. Nitrogen oxides, like nitrate, are produced primarily from vehicles and energy production. Ammonium is a main ingredient in common agricultural fertilizers.

Nitrogen is a fundamental nutrient required in ecosystems. But when nitrogen levels increase too much, this changed soil and water chemistry can make it difficult for native plants to thrive or even survive—leading to a cascade of negative consequences.

In the summer, the sun heats up the Eastern flanks of the Front Range, causing the warmer air to rise—bringing nitrogen from cars, industry and agriculture with it. As this air cools, it forms clouds over the Rocky Mountains and falls back down as afternoon thunderstorms—depositing contaminants, explained Neff.

In the 1970s, so-called “acid rain” hit East Coast ecosystems much harder than the Mountain West, famously wiping out fish populations and killing trees across large swaths of upstate New York. But scientists are still working to understand how increased levels of acidic nutrients affect the alpine region and how long these ecosystems take to recover.

To fill this gap of knowledge, the researchers analyzed data from 1984 to 2017 on atmospheric deposition and stream water chemistry from the Mountain Research Station, a research facility of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) and CU Boulder located on Niwot Ridge. They found that around the early 2000s, levels of nitric and sulfuric acid stopped increasing in the Green Lakes Valley. In the mid-2000s they started decreasing.

Their findings were not all good news, however. Levels of ammonium from fertilizer have more than doubled in rainfall in this area between 1984 and 2017, indicating a need to continue monitoring this agricultural chemical and its effects on the mountain ecosystem.

From field work to statistics

This work builds on decades of field work by Colorado researchers at CU Boulder and beyond.

Niwot Ridge is one of 28 Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network sites in the U.S., funded by the National Science Foundation. Its 4 square miles stretch from the Continental Divide down to the subalpine forest, 25 miles northwest of Boulder. Researchers at CU Boulder, as well as Colorado State University and the United States Geological Survey, have been collecting data here since the mid-1970s, hiking through snow, sleet and rain to get it.

In the 80s, 90s and 2000s they worked to bring attention to increasing acidification in Colorado mountain ecosystems as a need for pollution regulation in the Front Range.

This new research was made possible by these dedicated scientists, stresses Neff.

“We used water quality modeling and statistical approaches to analyze the long-term datasets that Niwot researchers have been collecting for decades,” said Eve-Lyn Hinckley, a co-author on the paper and fellow of INSTAAR. “The data are available for anyone to download. Our modeling approaches allowed us to evaluate the patterns they hold in a rigorous way.”

Since 1990, Bill Bowman, director of the Mountain Research Station and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, has been looking into how nutrients like nitrogen affect plants in mountain ecosystems. He’s found that alpine environments are unique in how they respond to these nutrients.

“It’s a system that is adapted to low nutrients, as well as a harsh climate and a very short growing season—and frost in the middle of the season. These are very slow growing plants. And they just simply can’t respond to the addition of more nitrogen into the system,” said Bowman, also a fellow in INSTAAR.

He has also found that these ecosystems recover quite slowly, even after acidic elements like nitrogen are no longer being added. But like Neff, who completed his undergraduate honors thesis with Bowman in 1993 using Niwot Ridge data, he sees this research as encouraging.

Even if it’s slow going, they said, these results show that the ecosystem has a chance to recover.

“We still have air quality issues in the Front Range. But even with those air quality issues, this research shows that regulating vehicle and power plant emissions is having a big impact,” said Neff.

Additional authors on this paper include lead author John Crawford of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) and CU Boulder.

Losses in #EastTroublesomeFire enormous, still mounting — The Summit Daily #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

East Troublesome Fire. Photo credit: Brad White via The Mountain Town News

From The Sky-Hi News (Amy Golden) via The Summit Daily:

Formal damage assessments for structures in the county have been completed after the East Troublesome Fire scorched through nearly 200,000 acres in northern Grand County. According to those reports, 555 structures were destroyed, nine buildings suffered major damage and 34 sustained minor damage.

Among the buildings destroyed, 366 were residential and 189 were outbuildings. More than 200 were people’s primary residences.

Two surveys went out — one to evacuees and one to homeowners — to begin connecting those in need of a place to stay with those willing to lease out their home. Darland said more than 190 homeowners signed up to offer their houses to the roughly 50 families who responded needing some sort of housing.

However, many of these homes are only available through the spring. Darland and the county are working with community partners like Snow Mountain Ranch and Sun Communities to find a longer-term solution while seeking funding from state and federal sources…

Ten buildings belonging to businesses were also destroyed in the fire.

That includes buildings at C Lazy U Ranch, Winding River Ranch and Highland Marina. Two longtime outfitters in the area — Dave Parri’s Outfitting & Guide Service and Samuelson Outfitters — have also suffered heavy losses.

Three generations of the Samuelson family have operated in the Troublesome Basin for more than half a century. Cathy Samuelson and her husband Richard “Sambo” Samuelson lost most of the 2020 hunting season because of the fire and two of their camps were destroyed. Two employees lost their homes in the fire as well…

East Troublesome Fire and Cameron Peak Fire map via Inciweb December 7, 2020.

Acreage-wise, the fire burned almost 15% of the land in Grand County. With tourism and recreation being Grand’s primary economic driver, the burn scar over public lands — spanning Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service and Rocky Mountain National Park — could hamper tourism for years to come.

The county said many ranches have reported a significant or total loss of hay intended for winter feeding of livestock. Damages and impacts associated with agricultural land and operations are ongoing.

The burned lands incorporated significant grazing leases held by local producers, and impacts to agriculture irrigation supply and delivery are being assessed…

In a letter to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, the estimated costs of the county’s response has been roughly $352,000 as of Nov. 12. Those expenses include $80,000 for staff, logistics and emergency protective actions in the Office of Emergency Management; $150,000 for evacuations and emergency protective actions for the Grand County Sheriff; and $76,000 in overtime for county government employees…

Before the East Troublesome Fire, the county had been battling the nearly 15,000-acre Williams Fork Fire for over a month. Other fires the county responded to during this dry year included the Dice Hill Fire just on the other side of the Summit County line and the Deep Creek Fire outside Kremmling.

Debris removal from the East Troublesome Fire will likely be too much for the county to handle alone. Grand has estimated that debris could exceed over 30,000 cubic yards and cost more than $27 million to haul off…

Water’s depths

Various watersheds hit by the fire — including the Poudre River, North Fork of the Big Thompson River, North Fork Colorado River, Three Lakes, Willow Creek and the East Troublesome Creek — are expected to feel the effects for a long time.

These impacts will reach far beyond Grand County, which supplies water to major cities on the northern Front Range. Northern Water provides water to more than a million people, which is equal to 615,000 irrigated acres in northern Colorado.

“Sedimentation, debris flows and water contamination will threaten drinking water supplies for years to come,” the commissioners said.

Other environmental impacts like erosion and forest health are only just beginning to be evaluated.

Hazard tree removal is another concern, as fire damage has made many trees in the burn area a falling hazard. The Colorado State Forester estimates over 1,000 trees will need to be removed in county right of ways…

Estimates peg the overall damage from the fire at nearly $200 million. That amount could go up as the aftermath grows clearer.

A burnt sign on Larimer County Road 103 near Chambers Lake. The fire started in the area near Cameron Peak, which it is named after. The fire burned over 200,000 acres during its three-month run. Photo courtesy of Kate Stahla via the University of Northern Colorado

From the University of Northern Colorado (Kate Stahla):

Ash darkens the sky. The sun is completely blacked out. Everything has an eerie orange glow. Cinders rain down and cover every surface with soot. This isn’t some apocalyptic movie or dystopian future. This is real life on the Colorado Front Range.

2020 has been an active fire year. Four of Colorado’s top five wildfires burned this year. Air quality on the front range has been dire, especially considering the ongoing respiratory pandemic. Now that the two largest fires of the summer are now both sitting at 100% containment, Colorado must face its increasingly flammable future.

The Cameron Peak fire started Aug. 13 in the mountains near Chambers Lake. It smoldered for months until a mid-October wind storm propelled it into becoming the largest wildfire in Colorado history. By the time fire crews completely contained it, on Dec. 3, it had burned up over 200,000 acres.

The East Troublesome fire has an even more explosive story. The fire was reported near Parshall Oct. 14 and contained Nov. 30, but in that short span grew to be the state’s second-largest fire. The fire grew by over 87,000 acres between Oct. 21 and 22, destroyed parts of Grand Lake and threatened Granby and Estes Park.

These fires were a consequence of the long-term drought and pine beetle epidemic that Colorado is facing. According to the official incident report for the East Troublesome fire, between 60-80% of trees burned had already been killed by pine beetles. That, combined with dry and windy conditions, created a perfect storm for fire conditions.

The outlook isn’t good for fires in the future. Many of the areas that were not burned are littered with downed and dead trees. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the entire state of Colorado is experiencing some form of drought. Some of the hardest hit areas are the headwaters of the Colorado and Cache la Poudre rivers — right where the fires started.

These watersheds are vital to the survival of the Front Range. Water from the Colorado river is pumped into the Big Thompson and supplies farms and cities throughout Northern Colorado. The Poudre river provides water and recreation to Fort Collins and Greeley. Because of the fires at their headwaters, flash floods and ash contamination are now more likely.

Ash and smoke blotted out the sky and directly impacted air quality on the Front Range. People were advised to stay inside and avoid exercising. Temperatures under the ash plumes could be 10 degrees lower than under the sun. UNC students, already coping with a deadly respiratory virus, also had to contend with dangerous levels of smoke. Callista Gallegos, a UNC student, had a difficult time facing both at once.

“Half the time I couldn’t go outside because I would not be able to breathe, so I was literally stuck inside and it was awful,” she said.

This year’s fire season is now over, but it contains lessons for the future. Colorado has been grappling with the effects of climate change for a while. Four of Colorado’s top five wildfires burned this year, and all of Colorado’s top ten wildfires have burned since 2000. Whether or not worse things are to come depends entirely on what actions are taken now.

#Colorado mitigation “bank” to offset #wetland damage, meet Clean Water Act rules — @WaterEdCO

Here at the confluence of the Big Thompson and South Platte rivers near Greeley, a new conservation effort is underway. It restores wetlands and creates mitigation credits that developers can buy to meet their obligations under the federal Clean Water Act to offset any damage to rivers and wetlands they have caused. Credit: Westervelt Ecological Services

From Water Education Colorado (Sarah Kuta):

Developers often dropped by unannounced at the Allely farm to ask if the family would consider selling their 70-acre property south of Greeley at the confluence of the Big Thompson and South Platte rivers. The answer was always no — the Allelys did not want their land, which had been in the family since in the early 1960s, to be developed, now or in the future.

So when staff from Westervelt Ecological Services first approached the Allelys about creating a habitat preservation program on their farm roughly three years ago, the family was skeptical. But over the course of many months and long conversations, they began to warm to the idea and eventually agreed.

Instead of selling their property to the highest bidder or leaving it to the next generation, the family established a conservation easement — a permanent agreement to never develop the land — and, for a fee, allowed Westervelt to create the new Big Thompson confluence mitigation bank. The project broke ground in late October.

Now, a developer who disrupts wetlands or streams elsewhere along the Front Range and in parts of eastern Colorado can offset that impact by buying credits generated from floodplain and ecosystem restoration work completed on the Allelys’ land. Purchasing credits from this new mitigation bank allows developers to meet their obligations under the federal Clean Water Act.

“It’s a very important piece of property to us as a family,” said Zach Allely, the fifth-oldest of the six children who grew up on the farm. “If there’s an opportunity for us to say, ‘No, this is a place where native fauna, native flora can thrive forever,’ we’ll take that.”

Mitigation banks, explained

Mitigation banks are not new in Colorado — there are some 21 pending, approved, sold-out or suspended throughout the state, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ database — but this is the first new mitigation bank approved on the Front Range in 20 years.

Across the country, mitigation banks have become more popular since 2008, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expressed a preference for mitigation banks (over other types of mitigation) and offered clearer guidance, standards and timelines for these projects.

Mitigation banks like this one are a byproduct of the federal Clean Water Act, first enacted in 1948 as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and then expanded and reorganized in 1972. More specifically, they relate to Section 404 of the act, which aims to protect the country’s wetlands from the discharge of dredged or fill materials during the construction of dams, levees, highways, airports and other development projects.

Under Section 404, developers must take steps to avoid and minimize damage to wetlands and streams by adjusting the scope, location, design and type of project they wish to undertake. After avoidance and minimization, they must turn to a third mitigation type: compensatory mitigation.

Under compensatory mitigation, developers can restore, establish, enhance or preserve wetlands at the project site or somewhere else nearby. But this type of work isn’t always practical or possible, which is where mitigation banks come into play. Instead of going to all that trouble, a developer can pay for someone else to do the heavy lifting at a different, nearby location.

A mitigation banker, in this case Westervelt, pays for the upfront costs of finding a suitable piece of land, gaining approval from the right regulatory agencies, and doing the actual mitigation work. Then, depending on the scope and size of the project, the banker can sell a certain number of credits to offset the impacts of future development within the bank’s general vicinity.

Restoring historical floodplain

Today, crews are hard at work on the Allely property, re-establishing the historical floodplain to help restore the ecosystem for plants and animals and improve flood resiliency for nearby communities.

This restoration work also creates 34.76 wetland credits and 460 stream credits — released in phases — that developers, public agencies, mining companies and others can buy to help mitigate the unavoidable damage their projects will cause to other Colorado wetlands and streams.

Lucy Harrington, the Rocky Mountain region director for Westervelt Ecological Services, declined to say how much the company is charging for credits from the new 72.4-acre bank, citing variable pricing and bulk discounts.

But the Colorado Department of Transportation, which regularly buys credits from mitigation banks across the state, recently paid $200,000 for a credit from the new bank to help offset the impact of its Central 70 highway improvement project, said Becky Pierce, CDOT’s wetlands program manager.

To find potential mitigation bank sites, Westervelt staffers perform geographic information system (GIS) analyses that take into account a property’s proximity to streams, hydrology, oil and gas infrastructure, and proximity to other conserved properties, among other factors, Harrington said.

The company, which opened its newest regional office in Centennial in 2016, also looks at community-identified areas for wetland restoration and conservation, as was the case with the new Big Thompson confluence bank. Westervelt staff worked with the Middle South Platte River Alliance to understand local priorities and identify possible sites for the new bank. The alliance helped introduce Westervelt to the Allely family.

“It’s really a confluence of technical work, relationship-building and a little bit of luck, to be perfectly honest,” Harrington said.

Westervelt and other mitigation bankers often buy property outright. But in this case, Westervelt paid the Allely family an undisclosed amount to use their land for the mitigation bank and, in return, the Allelys protected the property in perpetuity with a conservation easement, which comes with its own tax benefits and incentives. Westervelt and the Allelys also established a long-term endowment for the site’s management with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

After creating a detailed plan and getting approval from regulatory agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and others, Westervelt began work.

Credits going fast

The company has released its first round of credits, which includes 8.69 wetland acres and 115 functional feet of stream credits. So far, the company has sold more than half of the wetland credits, Harrington said.

“Any project, whether it’s a highway widening that may cross a river, home development that may affect ephemeral or perennial drainage, a Walmart parking lot that’s expanding, a pipeline going in, any of those development items that could impact wetlands and streams, instead of having to provide a wetland offset themselves can just come to us, write a check and just walk away,” Harrington said. “We take on all the liability of the site in perpetuity.”

Meanwhile, the Allely family knows that their property will never be developed and is instead being restored to its historical conditions. They can also still access the land under the conservation easement, which is held by the nonprofit land trust Colorado Open Lands.

Staff at Colorado Open Lands say they hope the success of the Big Thompson mitigation bank will inspire other landowners to conserve their land.

“It’s just another tool, another way for us to look at getting creative about protecting open space in Colorado,” said Carmen Farmer, conservation project manager with Colorado Open Lands. “Traditionally, we protect land throughout the state using state tax credits and federal tax deductions and incentives. Sometimes the traditional model doesn’t necessarily pencil out for landowners. This is another way for us to go about incentivizing landowners to help protect their properties and make sure they’re compensated for doing so.”

Sarah Kuta is a freelance writer based in Longmont, Colorado. She can be reached at sarahkuta@gmail.com.

The Community Foundation of Northern #Colorado has launched a fund to help restore watersheds damaged during recent forest fires #wildfire

Here’s the release from the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado:

Bohemian Foundation to match first $250,000 for NoCoFires Fund

Everyone loves a comeback story.

Northern Colorado’s two primary watersheds – the Poudre and the Big Thompson – each face a long, hard recovery from the damage caused by our recent catastrophic wildfires.
And with the support of the Bohemian Foundation, the NoCoFires Fund is working to get our vital rivers and streams back to sustaining wildlife, recreation, and agriculture, as well as supplying high-quality drinking water for 1,000,000 people.

And with the support of the Bohemian Foundation, the NoCoFires Fund is working to get our vital rivers and streams back to sustaining wildlife, recreation, and agriculture, as well as supplying high-quality drinking water for 1,000,000 people.

Here’s how it will work:

  • Bohemian Foundation has pledged to match the first $250,000 in donations made to the NoCoFires Fund.
  • Using that initial funding, the Community Foundation will leverage additional grant dollars from private, state, and federal sources.
  • The long-term goal for the NoCoFires Fund is to raise $1 million for continuing watershed restoration needs.
  • “The investment we can make together in NoCoFires Fund will have positive impacts for decades,” said Bohemian Foundation Executive Director Cheryl Zimlich. “This Community Foundation fund supports erosion control efforts that mitigate further degradation, as well as long-term restoration of vegetation and water quality. With this matching grant, we are standing with many generous Coloradans and the Community Foundation to help our region begin to heal.”

    Early estimates show that mitigation in the Poudre River watershed alone will cost around $50 million. Cameron Peak and East Troublesome Fire, the two largest wildfires in Colorado history, together burned over 400,000 acres that impact both Poudre and Big Thompson watersheds and communities downstream.

    “We’re gratified that Bohemian Foundation has signed on to match the first $250,000 raised, which we hope to further leverage into additional grant dollars; our goal is to raise $1 million,” said Mark Driscoll, chair of Community Foundation Board of Trustees.

    One Community Foundation partner is the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which is headed by Executive Director Dan Gibbs.

    In October, Gibbs was one of the 1,400 firefighters called to fight the Cameron Peak wildfire. “This was perhaps my most intense deployment in over 13 years,” Gibbs said. “The Cameron Peak wildfire burned some of our most pristine watersheds that will require both emergency protection and long-term restoration to protect our water supplies, mitigate flood threats, and preserve the outdoor economic engines Coloradoans depend on. I’m grateful for the Community Foundation’s support. These dollars fill a crucial need to support communities that are already experiencing economic stress by funding emergency protection efforts and assisting with local cost-shares that can leverage additional funding through recovery grants.”

    Another organization deeply affected by the damage to the watershed is the city of Greeley, which draws a large percentage of its water from the Poudre. Sean Chambers, director of water and sewer at the city of Greeley, hailed the attention paid to the restoration effort.

    “We are working with Larimer County to develop a watershed-scale burn assessment, and with the U.S. Forest Service on plans and permits for post-fire mitigation to protect water quality that will also protect infrastructure and habitat,” Chambers said. “A small amount of mitigation work is under way, but much work lies ahead. Stakeholders need to align with resources to prevent fire debris and sediment loading in Northern Colorado streams, rivers, wetlands, and water supply reservoirs.”

    It’s time to focus on mitigation, address the critical needs, and begin long-term recovery work. The Community Foundation has the track record, leadership, and relationships to positively impact Northern Colorado.

    Find details about how you can help the rivers make a comeback at nocofoundation.org/fires/.

    Breakout box

    Cameron Peak Fire impacts

  • 1,000+ river miles
  • 124+ trail miles
  • 40,000+ acres of designated Wilderness Areas
  • 32 miles of Wild and Scenic River corridor
  • Three watersheds
  • Five reservoirs that store and deliver water to the Front Range for agriculture and
    drinking water
  • 16 mountain communities and neighborhoods in the burn area or immediately
    adjacent to it
  • 185,000 irrigated acres rely on the Poudre River
  • Data source: Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed

    The Community Foundation of Northern Colorado has a 45-year history as a catalyst for community projects and as a service provider to philanthropists and nonprofit organizations. Through our flagship program, the Hach Center for Regional Engagement, we bring people together to collaborate on important issues – such as water – and lead visionary community initiatives for our region. nocofoundation.org.

    Record #Denver snowfall is rare for multiple reasons — The Denver Post #snowpack

    From The Denver Post (Ben Reppert):

    Denver International Airport tallied 5 inches of snow. This is a record daily snowfall for Nov. 24, breaking the old record of 4 inches set in 1946. Even more notably, it was the first daily November snow record to fall in the city since 1994. Snow totals across the rest of the metro area generally range from 3 to 6 inches, with heavier amounts up to 10 inches in the western suburbs.

    This was a rare November snowstorm in the Denver area beyond the record-breaking amount. Another rarity lies within the heavy and wet nature of the snow…

    The overall air mass above the surface was rather mild for this time of year. At the beginning of the storm, a large layer of the atmosphere above our heads was flirting with the freezing mark. The air mass sitting over the state also had quite a bit of moisture in it. The total amount of water in the air was nearly double the normal amount for late November.

    This combination of a mild and moist air mass in place led to snow reaching the ground with an extremely high water content. Heavy, wet snow is something that Denver would expect in early and late season storms, such as in September or April. Winter’s chill is typically well established by late November, promoting very powdery snow.

    Extra water in this snow is certainly beneficial for Colorado’s ongoing drought. The snow melted down to just under a half of an inch of liquid at DIA. This makes it Denver’s wettest day since Sept. 8, and the fifth wettest day in all of 2020.

    CoCoRaHS map for November 24, 2020.
    CoCoRaHS map for November 25, 2020.

    Book review: “Confluence: The Story of Greeley Water” by Gregory J. Hobbs Jr. and Michael Welsh

    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tamara Markard):

    If you are looking for a great gift for a long-time local or history buff, then you might want to check out “Confluence: The Story of Greeley Water” by Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr. and Michael Welsh.

    With water being so vital to life and agriculture, the quote by Congressman Wayne Aspinall on the book’s forward page really sums it all up — “in the West, when you touch water, you touch everything.”

    The book begins in 1870 with a single irrigation ditch and follows 150 years of development of the water system in Greeley, including the people who developed and impacted water law, engineering and agriculture including Delph Carpenter, Milton Seaman and W.D. Farr.

    Currently, the water system supports more than 140,000 people and utilizes water from four different water basins in the state.

    “The vision of this project was to tell the story to a broad audience. We didn’t want our sole audience to be the water nerds,” said Harold Evans, chairman and board member of the City of Greeley Water and Sewer Board. “We wanted to reach out to the average citizen; we wanted to reach out to other in the water profession and historians.”

    The book project began around four years ago, Evans explained.

    “The more I was involved the history and the policy of Greeley water, I felt that it was a story the community would be interested in,” he said. “I talked to Roy Otto, our city manager and the director of water and sewer and we decided to proceed with a book.”

    Evans recruited Greg Hobbs and Michael Welsh to write the book for the city.

    Hobbs currently serves as Senior Water Judge and co-directs the University of Denver Law School’s environmental and natural resources program. He is also a board member of Water Education Colorado.

    Welsh has been teaching history at the University of Colorado since 1990 and has written manuscripts for several National Park Service sites as well as full-length studies on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    “They spent the first couple of years doing nothing but research,” Evans said. “This was a well-researched book. If you look in the back of the book at the footnotes, you will see the amount of research that was done.”

    While the main premise of the book is about water, it really is a story of the Union Colony and a parallel story of the history of our area including the Poudre River, national and local events like the Great Depression and World Wars.

    One of the events Evans references from the book is the opening of the Bellvue Water Treatment Plant that opened in 1907.

    “We are still today, 113 years later, delivering water from Bellvue,” he said. “In fact, this summer marked 150 continuous years that water has been flowing through the number three ditch in Greeley.

    “Without water, we wouldn’t be here; businesses wouldn’t be here,” Evans added.

    The book also contains a variety of historical photos and maps of Greeley and Weld County and the front cover depicts a painting of the Cache la Poudre River created by award-winning artist Jay Moore. Moore specializes in paintings of the North American West.

    The book can be purchased at Tattered Cover and locally at Lincoln Park Emporium.

    So far, the book has been popular with the local community, with the first delivery selling out, and people asking to be put on a waiting list, said Emporium co-owner Mary Roberts.

    “It’s one of the most enlightening and visionary, in my view, because it shows what our history has been and what we are going to do for the future,” Roberts commented.

    People interested in purchasing the book from the Lincoln Park Emporium can call the store at (970) 351-6222 to have their name put on the list.

    For more information on Greeley Water and Sewer Department, go to http://www.greeleygov.com.

    @ColoradoStateU team lands NSF award to study streams, #snowpack in #CameronPeakFire area

    The Cameron Peak Fire burns on the ridge between Beaver Creek and the south fork of the Cache la Poudre River one mile east of
    Colorado State University’s Mountain Campus, in mid-October. Photos: William A. Cotton/CSU Photography

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Mary Guiden):

    A team of scientists at Colorado State University has received an award of nearly $50,000 from the National Science Foundation to study snowpack, streams and sediment in waterways in the areas affected by the largest wildfire in Colorado history.

    Stephanie Kampf, principal investigator and a professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, said the team came up with the study concept as they watched the Cameron Peak Fire begin to burn northwest of Fort Collins in August 2020.

    The fire was at 92% containment as of Nov. 18.

    “Given that the fire was burning in our local watershed, everyone is curious about what would happen with our waterways,” she said. “The Cameron Peak Fire has been unique, since it started at and burned a large area at high elevation.”

    Kampf said the fire is the fifth largest in a high-elevation persistent snow zone in the Western United States since 1984.

    “As researchers started looking for examples of other high-elevation fire studies, we realized that not much research has been conducted,” she said.

    CSU Assistant Professor Sean Gallen and Professor Sara Rathburn, Department of Geosciences, and Assistant Professor Ryan Morrison, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, are co-investigators on this project. Kampf said that scientists from the United States Geological Survey will also collaborate on the research.

    Historic wildfire provides unique research opportunity

    A helicopter drops water on the Cameron Peak Fire near CSU’s Mountain Campus. Photo credit: Colorado State University

    Morrison, who will study how stream channels and floodplains in the Cache la Poudre River basin are impacted by changes in sediment transport and flow after the fire, agreed that the Cameron Peak Fire had unique aspects to study.

    “The Cameron Peak Fire in northern Colorado has burned nearly 20% of the upper Cache la Poudre River basin, which supplies water to meet municipal and agricultural needs in the region,” he said. “The fire has also expanded to lower elevations, burning both transitional and intermittent snow zones.”

    Morrison said water providers, including cities in northern Colorado, are concerned about the impacts of erosion on streams and reservoirs. Snowpack is crucial for the water supply in Colorado.

    “This project will collect critical data for the first snow accumulation and melt season after the fire to address how the fire affects snow processes, flow paths and sediment movement,” he said.

    Kampf said previous research on the impacts of wildfires on snowpack have been quite variable.

    “When there’s a fire, we can see increased snow accumulation, due to fewer trees intercepting the snow,” she said. “But this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes greater exposure of the snow to the sun leads to lower snowpack after fire.”

    And while snow melt doesn’t usually create high elevation snow hazards, Kampf said it’s possible that having greater snowpack in the burn area may cause other hazards like debris flows.

    The research team only recently received approval to go into the burn area and begin field work. They hope to complete as much research as possible before there’s a lot more snow on the ground.
    Additional researchers on this project at CSU include Paul Evangelista and Tony Vorster (Natural Resource Ecology Lab), Dan McGrath and Ellen Wohl (Department of Geosciences), Peter Nelson (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), Steven Fassnacht (Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability), and Kristen Rasmussen (Department of Atmospheric Science).

    #Utah’s state engineer rejects plan to divert #GreenRiver water for #Colorado entrepreneur — The #SaltLake Tribune #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #endangeredspecies

    The entrance to the popular Gates of Lodore stretch on the Green River, not far downstream from where Aaron Million of Ft. Collins has proposed to divert 55,000 acre-feet of water from the river each year and pipe it to the Front Range. There’s plenty of opposition to the idea, but there is also interest in the water in eastern Colorado.

    From The Salt Lake Tribune (Brian Maffly):

    Utah State Engineer Teresa Wilhelmsen has rejected a controversial proposal to divert 55,000 acre-feet of the Green River’s flow from Utah to Colorado’s fast-growing Front Range cities.

    A detail of a map produced by Water Horse Resources, and published by the state of Utah, showing the proposed diversion point on the Green River, between Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument. The red and white line represents a pipeline that heads northeast out of Utah, across a corner of Colorado, and into Wyoming, where it joins an alignment of another potential pipeline that is connected to the Green above Flaming Gorge.

    Colorado entrepreneur Aaron Million has been pursuing this idea for more than a decade, resurrecting his pipeline proposal in 2018 after two prior failed attempts at approval. This time his firm White Horse Resources proposed a scaled-down pipeline tapping the Green below Flaming Gorge Dam at Browns Park and running 325 miles underground to Denver. Dubbed the “Green Sun Storage Hydro Power Project,” it would generate hydropower along its 3,800-foot decent from the Continental Divide to the Front Range.

    Wilhelmsen found the proposal ran counter to policies Utah has been pursuing for decades regarding the recovery of endangered species of fish and the Beehive State’s own interest in developing its share of water in the Colorado River system…

    Meanwhile, Wilhelmsen is considering Utah’s own proposal to substantially alter an 86,000-acre-foot water right associated with Flaming Gorge, moving the point of diversion downstream to feed the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline.

    At a hearing before the state engineer two years ago, Million likened his project to the 140-mile pipeline across southern Utah to St. George, claiming there was sufficient flows in the Green to accommodate both diversions.

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has previously twice turned down similar Green River diversions proposed by Million.

    “This [latest] decision is a big win for the Green River as well as the people and endangered fish that depend on it,” said Taylor McKinnon, a senior campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope the state engineer’s decision is the final nail in the coffin of this absurdly greedy, irresponsible plan.”

    [….]

    Diverting the water at Browns Park would have undermined costly efforts underway to rescue some of the Green’s native fish, McKinnon and other environmentalists argued.

    Click here to read the order.

    Green River Basin

    #Thornton warns of looming #water shortage that could hamper long-term growth in the northern suburb — The #Denver Post

    From The Denver Post (John Aguilar):

    …city leaders say they are increasingly frustrated by Larimer County’s unwillingness to let them build a critical pipeline that would carry the water from the Cache La Poudre River near Fort Collins to Thornton — so much so that they have started alerting developers that the city may have to stop issuing building permits.

    The new language warns that “the City does not guarantee capacity in its water or wastewater systems for proposed or future developments.”

    Among the projects at stake for the state’s 6th largest city is dense multi-family housing planned around new N-Line rail stations that just went operational in September.

    That’s frustrating to Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, who points to the thousands of acre-feet of water the city owns free and clear in the Cache La Poudre River northwest of Fort Collins — water rights it purchased more than three decades ago…

    The answer goes back to February 2019, when the Larimer County commissioners unanimously voted to deny Thornton a permit for a 72-mile-long pipeline the city wants to install to carry that water to this suburb of 140,000. Jeff Coder, Thornton’s deputy city manager of city development, said the denial essentially holds Thornton’s growth plans “hostage.”

    The city has enough water in its portfolio to supply 5,000 additional housing units, he said, or approximately 160,000 residents. The city’s long-term vision is for a population of 240,000 by 2065.

    While no builders have pulled out of the city, Coder said, that day may not be far away. Maybe as soon as 2024 or 2025, he said.

    “It’s understandably creating a great deal of concern,” he said. “In fairness to those who are making significant investments in our community, we don’t want someone who has gone through the approvals process expecting to get a building permit to have us at the last minute tell them we can’t because of this water issue.”

    We want to prepare people for a worst-case scenario.”

    […]

    Fort Collins community members kayak and sit on the shore of the Poudre River during the grand opening of the Poudre River Whitewater Park off of North College and Vine Drive Oct. 12. (Alyssa Uhl | The Collegian)

    The obvious solution, [Gary Wockner] said, is for Thornton to let its water flow down the Poudre through Fort Collins — “use the river as a conveyance” — and take it out further downstream near Windsor, obviating the need for a $450 million pipe that will require trenching and burial across 26 miles of Larimer County…

    The city counters that allowing its share of water to flow through Fort Collins — and past several water treatment facilities — would severely degrade its quality and cost the city dearly to clean it. Emily Hunt, deputy infrastructure director for Thornton, said the river option was merely one of a number of alternatives the city put on the table as it was firming up plans to access its water.

    “We specifically picked a site that was above urban impacts and the price we paid reflected that,” she said. “If we wanted a low-quality source that we clean up later, we could have done that and paid less money.”

    According to the city, Thornton paid $578 million for 289 shares of water and storage rights in the Poudre River, along with $92 million for more than 18,000 acres of farmland in Larimer and Weld counties, where it has been sending its Poudre shares by ditch over the last 30 or so years.

    But that level of investment wasn’t enough to sway the commissioners in Larimer County last year.

    Outgoing Commissioner Steve Johnson said then that the proposed 48-inch diameter pipe, which would run across the northern edge of Fort Collins to Interstate 25 before turning south toward Thornton, ranked as one of the most contentious issues he had ever seen raised in the county.

    But just this past September, the same commissioners voted 2-1 to approve a 1041 permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a controversial $1.1 billion water storage initiative that would create Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and a second reservoir out on the eastern plains.

    It also involves several water pipelines running through Larimer County.

    Thornton recently included the NISP approval in its court filings appealing Larimer County’s denial of its pipeline project, citing it as evidence that the commissioners’ 2019 decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

    City of Sterling seeking public input on plan to curb water use — The #Sterling Journal-Advocate

    Photograph of Main Street in Sterling Colorado facing north taken in the 1920s.

    From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):

    The Sterling City Council got its first look at the proposed 2021 Municipal Water Efficiency Plan put together by BBA Water Consultants of Englewood during their meeting Tuesday night. The city must have a new water efficiency plan in place in order to access the financing for the wastewater treatment plan; a previous water conservation plan was completed in 2010.

    BBA Water Resources Engineer Tara Meininger gave a short presentation on the plan that focused on the 30 “water efficiency activities” outlined for implementation in the 2021-2027 plan period. Ultimately, the goal of those activities is to reduce unbilled water consumption within the city system, as well as reduce average individual demand, thereby extending the city’s water supply and reducing infrastructure and water treatment costs.

    If adopted, the efficiency plan would call for Sterling to:

    1. Install AMR [AMI?] meters in Sterling parks that still have manual meters.

    2. Identify unmetered uses if they still exist.

    3. Identify metered taps that have been inadvertently excluded from the billing system (primarily municipal metered taps) and adding those taps into the system

    4. Consider adding a “Municipal” customer type to the water billing system

    5. Consider adding a “School” customer type to the water billing system

    6. Determine whether current billing software can enhance water bills with customer-specific water use information and comparisons to the use patterns of similar water users.

    7. After completion of the waste water treatment plant upgrades, Sterling will consider whether changes to its water rate structure (for example, transition back to an inclined tiered water rate structure) would be feasible and appropriate.

    8. Sterling water staff will attend training through the Colorado Water Loss Initiative.

    9. By 2023, Sterling will implement a year-long technology-assisted leak detection program for its potable distribution network. Mapping of Sterling’s potable distribution network will be included.

    10. Sterling will proactively repair small leaks identified by detection efforts, provided repairs are within Sterling’s budget after higher-priority leaks have been addressed.

    11. Hire a new Water/Wastewater Compliance staff member who will also contribute to water efficiency programs.

    12. Install irrigation controllers at Sterling parks.

    13. If municipal facilities are upgraded or plumbing fixtures are replaced, Sterling commits to replacing those fixtures with water-efficient models.

    14. Sterling water staff will research the possibility of equipping fire department hose trucks with water meters.

    15. Consider whether any areas (especially parks) currently served by potable water supplies could be transitioned to non-potable supplies.

    16. Inventory cooling towers in Sterling to better understand cooling water demands and potential water efficiency activities.

    17. Consider a technical assistance program to assist Riverview Golf Course and Riverside Cemetery in controlling their irrigation water use.

    18. Sterling staff will approach the Department of Corrections to propose a rainwater collection program to irrigate the approximately 8 acres of fields within the Sterling Correctional Facility compound. Depending on DOC’s responsiveness and program details, the city might consider an incentive such as project assistance or funding.

    19. Consider a rebate program for irrigation controllers, using local plumbers as the intermediary.

    20. Consider implementing overspray watering restrictions.

    21. Consider whether additional ordinances could be passed to regulate cemetery and golf course irrigation.

    22. Consider improving Sterling’s existing landscape requirements so that xeriscaping options are highlighted and so that properties that do not maintain existing turf are required to replace it with xeriscape.

    23. Consider whether point of sale ordinances could achieve both water efficiency goals and property maintenance goals.

    24. In 2021, send out at least two educational inserts with water billings: one on water softeners/in-home water treatment, with information related to both water waste and water quality, and a second insert on xeriscaping and rainwater collection.

    25. Sterling would also consider installing a xeriscape garden and rainwater collection at City Hall as an example of what can be done.

    26. Include information about water efficiency during water treatment plant tours and presentations to the public.

    27. Consider whether water staff could make informational presentations at local schools, including information on how Sterling’s water supply is treated and the importance of water efficiency.

    28. Consider sending Sterling water staff to participate in the annual Logan County Children’s Water Festival.

    29. Post monthly water-efficiency related information on the Public Works Facebook account, or similar social media platforms.

    30. As part of the permit approval materials Sterling provides building permit applicants, Sterling Planning staff will include an educational insert on rainwater collection.

    Meininger noted that Sterling’s potable water consumption has been declining since the 1990s, which is credited in part to the implementation of watering restrictions and increased water rates. But, she said, when comparing the usage rates to other, similar Colorado municipalities, there is still room to improve…

    The council voted 7-0 to put the plan out for a 60-day public comment period, after which time the council will review the comments and possibly incorporate those along with any other changes, then adopt the plan. It will then be forwarded to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for approval, which will allow the city to draw down the loan for the wastewater treatment plant improvements.

    @DenverWater Notifies Littleton Residents Of Rate Increases — Patch.com

    From Patch.com (Amber Fisher):

    Rate changes are needed to help pay for Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program, officials said.

    Denver Water has been notifying Littleton residents of rate increases, which are set to begin Jan. 1.

    Most residents can expect rate increases of less than 70 cents if they use water at similar volumes to 2020, the agency said.

    Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

    The rate changes will help Denver Water pay for its Lead Reduction Program. The agency has sent letters to hundreds of Littleton homes — those built between 1983 and 1987 — to warn of possible lead contamination. The water does not contain lead, but the homes may have lead solder between copper pipes that could contaminate the water.

    To protect customers from lead in drinking water, Denver Water raised the pH of the water in March to reduce corrosivity, and the agency will be replacing all customer-owned lead service lines over the next 15 years, officials said.

    #FortCollins #water restrictions end Tuesday, with completion of work on the outlet at Soldier Canyon dam — The Rocky Mountain Collegian

    The Soldier Canyon Dam is located on the east shore of Horsetooth Reservoir, 3.5 miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado. The zoned earthfill dam has an outlet works consisting of a concrete conduit through the base of the dam, controlled by two 72-inch hollow-jet valves. The foundation is limey shales and sandstones overlain with silty, sandy clay. Photo credit Reclamation.

    From The Rocky Mountain Collegian (Nicole Taylor):

    The mandatory water restrictions in Fort Collins are scheduled to end Nov. 10. On Nov. 8, Darin Atteberry, Fort Collins city manager, signed a declaration to end the restrictions.

    The restrictions were put in place on Oct. 1 as a level IV restriction due to the Horsetooth Outlet Project. The repairs were successfully completed over the past month with the help of backup pumps and community efforts, according to the announcement…

    Recent concerns for the water supply with the recent drought conditions and the Cameron Peak fire also played a role in the water reduction.

    The residents managed to reduce water use by 35% within the first day of restrictions, according to the HOP page on the Fort Collins Utilities website. The community then stayed below the 15 million gallons a day request since Oct. 14 rather than the usual 35-40 million gallons.

    #Loveland council to study update to raw #water master plan, water fees, November 10, 2020 — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Looking east toward the Chimney Hollow Reservoir site, which is just this side of the red ridge. On the other side is Carter Lake Reservoir and beyond that, the Loveland area.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Max Levy):

    The plan was first approved in 2005 as a way of ensuring that the city has enough water without having to cut back, even in a once-in-a-century drought. It was updated by the council in 2012.

    Prepared by city staff members, the update includes several major recommendations. First, the city recommends using a model created by Spronk Water Engineers to continue prepping for a major drought, which was modeled based on the historic drought Colorado faced in 2002.

    While the plan encourages water conservation as a buffer and a way of ensuring water security in the event of an even more severe drought, the plan notes that it is not “a tool to directly reduce future demands in long-term planning.”

    A target of 30,000 acre-feet remains the city’s long-term goal for water demand. Currently, Loveland has access to a firm yield of about 25,210 acre-feet per year, which should increase by about 5,680 acre-feet by 2031, if the Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Loveland and the Loveland Great Western Reservoir in east Loveland are completed as recommended.

    The master plan projects the resulting 30,890 acre-feet would be enough to support the city until 2056.

    Loveland customers used about 13,129 acre-feet of treated water last year, or about 0.166 acre-foot per person.

    Points of the recommended policy on developer contributions to the city’s raw water portfolio include:

  • Requiring at least half and allowing up to 100% of most contributions to be made in the form of Colorado-Big Thompson Project water, cash-in-lieu or cash credits in the Loveland Water Bank.
  • Decreasing the value of a C-BT credit from 1 acre-foot to 0.9 acre-foot.
  • Adjusting credits for ditch shares based on the content of the Spronk analysis.
  • Removing the 5% administrative cost on the cash-in-lieu fee and placing no limit on the amount of cash-in-lieu transactions, as long as they’re dedicated to a specific project.
  • Tying storage fees to the estimated cost of storage at Chimney Hollow Reservoir.
  • Including a fee of $482 per acre-foot in the native water storage fee to cover the engineering and legal costs of changing the use of native water in Colorado’s water courts.
  • Changing the name of the native water storage fee to the “storage fee.”
  • The plan also leaves open the possibility of the city exploring the use of untreated water for irrigation, taking into account “concerns of cross-contamination and the relatively high expense of building a new utility in already developed parts of the community.”

    Updates to water-related fees would go hand-in-hand with the plan and reflect the increasing costs of the Chimney Hollow project and C-BT water.

    For the cash-in-lieu fee, in addition to eliminating the 5% administrative add-on, the new calculation would divide the average annual C-BT price by 0.9. Previously, the fee was tied to the average price over the past three to six months.

    The native water storage fee would increase by between $15,132 per acre-foot of native water to $21,772 per acre-foot, depending on the source.

    Raw water impact fees would increase for commercial, irrigation and some residential taps and would be phased in over a period of two to 10 years.

    Loveland’s council will not vote on the items Tuesday, but members will give direction to the staff before the proposal comes back for a future vote.

    Fort Collins Utilities raising water rates 2%, electricity rates 3% in 2021 — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

    The Cameron Peak fire soon after it started on Aug. 13, 2020. By Sept. 11, the fire had grown to more than 102,000 acres (now >200,000 acres) and was not expected to be considered out until Oct. 31. Photo credit: InciWeb via The Colorado Sun

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Fort Collins City Council members approved the rate increases, 3% for electricity and 2% for water, with some hesitation in light of COVID-19’s continued economic impacts on the community. For the typical household in Fort Collins, the rate increase will mean an average monthly increase of $2.36 for electricity and $0.96 for water.

    Several council members said the city should consider a possible moratorium on service shut-offs if COVID-19 risk factors trigger another stay-at-home order. Cases and hospitalizations continue to mount in Larimer County, and the health department elevated restrictions on public gatherings Wednesday.

    Fort Collins Utilities recently notified about 4,000 customers that service shut-offs will resume after Nov. 13. The city is encouraging residents and businesses to apply for financial assistance with their bill or set up a payment plan…

    The 3% electricity rate increase will cover a bump in wholesale power costs and bolster Utilities reserves to prepare for future capital improvements. The 2% water rate increase is a result of the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome wildfires, which have ripped across Fort Collins’ watershed and are expected to cost the city between $1 million and $4.3 million in mitigation costs…

    The city had planned to request a 2% water rate increase for 2022, but moved it ahead one year because of the fire, said Lance Smith, Utilities strategic finance director. Utilities is likely to propose another modest rate increase for 2022.

    The Cameron Peak Fire, approaching full containment at nearly 209,000 acres, is the biggest fire in Colorado history. Utilities staff said earlier in October they expect its impact on the city’s water quality to be similar to the 2012 High Park Fire, which filled the Poudre River with ash, soil and sediment and infamously turned the stream black for a brief period. The 2013 flood eventually washed out much of the remaining debris, but city leaders consider it unlikely that Fort Collins will get another flood of that magnitude again soon…

    That means the Cameron Peak Fire’s fallout will probably persist for longer, degrading water quality in the river that makes up about 50% of Fort Collins’ water supply. The city’s share of post-fire recovery work will drain an estimated $1 million to $4.3 million from Utilities funds, and the projected 2021 rate increase will produce roughly $600,000 to offset that cost.

    Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell said he understands the necessity of the unexpected water rate increase given the “extraordinary” circumstances…

    The electricity rate increase will cover a 0.3% wholesale cost increase from Platte River Power Authority and partially address a gap between Utilities’ revenues and operating expenses. Utilities has also put a hiring freeze in place and won’t give salary increases in 2021 to address the gap between revenue and expenses…

    Council members agreed to approve the rate increases but keep the door open for future discussion about lingering utility rate issues. The time-of-day rate structure, which charges customers higher rates for electricity used during peak-use hours, has been in place for about two years. But council members are still hearing from residents who are dissatisfied with the perceived unfairness of the change and uncertain about how to navigate the rate structure without significantly disrupting their daily routines.

    Time-of-day rates, which use cost signals to flatten the community’s peak electricity demand, make “logical, connect-the-dots, engineering sense,” council member Ross Cunniff said, “but it has not made intuitive sense for most of our residents, and that’s risky.”

    Millions in new taxes approved for #WestSlope, #FrontRange #water districts — @WaterEdCO

    From Water Education Colorado (Sarah Kuta):

    Water won big in Colorado on Election Day as voters in two multi-county districts approved property tax increases to fund water projects and programs.

    Voters in two local water districts — the Colorado River Water Conservation District on the West Slope and the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District on the Front Range — said yes to ballot measures that will generate millions of dollars in new money for conservation, water education, stream health, storage and agriculture.

    Based on vote totals as of 4:30 a.m. this morning, 72 percent of voters in the Colorado River District approved ballot issue 7A, with nearly 28 percent voting against the measure.

    Meanwhile, 69 percent of voters in the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District approved a separate ballot issue 7A, with 31 percent voting against.

    Though statewide funding for water projects has historically been a tough sell for Colorado voters, local initiatives with a more direct connection to residents are finding more success at the polls in recent years. These 2020 water funding ballot measures come on the heels of similar successes in 2018, when voters in Denver, Eagle, Chaffee and Park counties approved tax increases, new taxes, and tax extensions for water and land-focused initiatives.

    “Passing any type of fiscal measures statewide in Colorado is going to continue to be an extreme challenge but it’s a much different story on the local level and the regional level,” said Matt Rice, director of the Colorado Basin Program for American Rivers, which supported the Colorado River District measure. “People in Colorado like to make their own decisions locally about fiscal issues, but also about how we manage and protect and restore our rivers for the environment, for agriculture and for local economies.”

    In deciding to ask voters for more money this year, the two districts’ leaders cited factors like growing demand for water, drought, higher temperatures, population growth, declining oil and gas revenue, and declining property tax levels under the state’s Gallagher Amendment.

    Those reasons resonated with voters on both sides of the political spectrum across the state. On the West Slope, for example, voters in right-leaning counties like Mesa and Montrose and left-leaning counties like Pitkin and Summit approved the ballot measure. (Of note: Nearly 80 percent of voters in Pitkin County approved the ballot measure, despite opposition by three county commissioners and the county’s representative on the district’s board.)

    “It’s really a testament to what can happen if people put aside partisan differences on water issues,” said Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River District. “Voters in Colorado are seeing the effects of rising temperatures, changing climate and the impact it’s having on water resources, and they know that we need to adapt and mitigate and that it’s going to cost money to do that.”

    An angler casts a line on the Roaring Fork River upstream of Basalt in Pitkin County. West Slope voters said yes to millions in new taxes for the Colorado River District. Credit: Jerd Smith, Fresh Water News

    West Slope says yes

    In the large Colorado River District, which includes 15 counties and some 500,000 residents, voters approved a mill levy increase that will double the district’s budget by generating an additional $4.9 million every year starting in 2021.

    The district spans an area that covers 28 percent of the state and encompasses the Colorado River and its major tributaries, which include the Yampa, the White, the Gunnison and the Uncompahgre rivers.

    With the passage of the ballot measure, West Slope voters approved a median residential property tax increase of $7.03 per year for residents of Grand, Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield, Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Mesa, Delta, Ouray, Gunnison and parts of Montrose, Saguache and Hinsdale counties. The increase represents an additional $1.90 per year for every $100,000 of home value.

    The district, which has 22 employees, will use the new funding for projects related to agriculture, infrastructure, water quality, conservation, efficiency, and other key priority areas determined by local communities and river basin roundtables.

    District leaders say they will also stretch the extra money further by using it to solicit matching funds from state, federal and private sources.

    Water funding on the Front Range

    It was also a historic night for the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District, where voters approved a property tax increase for the next 10 years. This is the first time in nearly 50 years — since its founding in 1971 — that the district has asked voters for more funding.

    The district’s board thought long and hard about how best to approach voters — and whether this was the right year to do it. But in the end, their approach paid off.

    “The discussions were good and essentially resulted in consensus and agreement with the board,” said Chris Smith, board vice president representing district 3, which encompasses northwest Longmont and parts of unincorporated Boulder County. “It was all done in a very thoughtful manner, which speaks a lot to having a board that represents, geographically, the entire watershed.”

    Smith said he was happy to see the West Slope ballot measure pass, too.

    “The people of Colorado have really keyed in on the importance of water,” he said. “There are so many new people moving to Colorado, it’s good to see that they’re carrying on that mantle of protecting our most important resource.”

    The St. Vrain and Left Hand district encompasses some 500 square miles along the St. Vrain and Left Hand creeks in Boulder, Weld and Larimer counties. Voters agreed to a mill levy increase from 0.156 mills to 1.25 mills through 2030.

    The tax increase will generate an additional $3.3 million per year for the district starting in 2021, up from the $421,000 generated annually by the current mill levy. On a $350,000 home, the tax increase represents an additional $2.61 per month; on a $500,000 commercial building, it’s an extra $15.10 per month.

    District leaders say they will use the extra money for projects related to water quality, river and creek health, water education, agriculture, storage and conservation, among others.

    Sarah Kuta is a freelance writer based in Longmont, Colorado. She can be reached at sarahkuta@gmail.com.

    Unusual conditions make for ‘different year,’ Brush hay producer says — The #FortMorgan Times

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Sara Waite):

    A combination of conditions have made it “a different year” for agriculture, according to Brush-area producer Dan Kendrick.

    Kendrick has plenty of experience to make that assessment. A Morgan County native, he grew up in ag and, after what he calls a “hiatus” from the industry after college, when he spend 14 years in the lending industry, he’s been a producer for the past 20 years. His operation includes growing hay and corn, some custom farming, and raising sheep and cattle. He also works in risk management for AgWest Commodities.

    Kendrick said hot, dry and windy conditions in June impacted his crops, and there wasn’t enough water in the river to go around. It wasn’t the first drought the veteran farmer has experienced – he recalled 2012 was the last really dry spell — but “it’s never fun,” he said.

    Drought conditions have been felt by farmers across the state.

    According to a Denver Post article in August, this year’s wheat harvest was one of the smallest the state has seen in the past decade. The lack of water, and its impact on rangeland, was forcing ranchers in the state to consider cutting their herd sizes.

    Fred Midcap, a Wiggins-area farmer, told The Denver Post he thought the northeastern plains had received about 14 inches of snow over the past winter, a steep decline from the 40 inches it usually gets. Yearly average rainfall is around 13 inches; Nick Midcap, Fred’s son and a partner in the family farm, estimated the area had seen just 6 to 7 inches of total precipitation.

    The Post reported that wheat yield was also down, with the USDA putting Colorado at 30 bushels of wheat per acre this year, compared to 49 bushels per acre last year…

    In northeast Colorado, most of the area is experiencing severe drought, with extreme drought in portions of Washington and Yuma counties. Northwest Logan County is under moderate drought.

    Kendrick said that in addition to drought, another weather-related phenomenon impacted his hay production this year, albeit in a much less significant way. Smoke from Colorado wildfires have obscured the sky off and on over the summer and into the fall. It was especially hazy the week he did his mid-summer cutting, and the hay took longer to dry and “bleached out” during the process.

    His experience was in line with what Dr. Joe Bummer, a forage specialist with the Colorado State University Extension, surmised could happen. He said unless smoke is extremely dense, it’s unlikely to affect the plant’s photosynthesis – the process plants use to absorb sunlight and convert carbon dioxide and water into nutrients — but he could see it slowing the drying process a bit.

    “The delayed drying would decrease the quality to some degree as there is still some respiration in the cut plants until they reach 40% or less water content,” he said.

    The result, he thought, could be a slight decrease in quality, although he said the only way to be sure would be to test the hay and see how it compares to previous years.

    West Drought Monitor October 27, 2020.

    Invasive New Zealand mudsnails found in South #Boulder Creek — 9News.com

    Here’s the release from the City of Boulder (Phillip Yates):

    Recent city wildlife monitoring in South Boulder Creek has discovered New Zealand mudsnails – an invasive aquatic species that can disrupt aquatic ecosystems, harm fish populations and displace native insects.

    With the discovery of mudsnails in a creek area near the East Boulder Community Center, the City of Boulder requests community assistance in preventing their spread to additional stretches of the creek and other water bodies. It also advises open space visitors the best way to prevent the spread of this invasive snail is to stay out of the creek.

    Adult mudsnails are about the size of a grain of rice and can rapidly reproduce through cloning – a single mudsnail can produce a colony of 40 million snails in just one year. Because they are so small, they can hitch a ride from one water body to another on everything from a dog’s paw to fishing equipment, including boots and waders. Mudsnails can also easily adapt to a wide range of aquatic ecosystems and once established in a creek, there are no practical means of removing them all.

    The city reminds residents – particularly anglers and dog guardians – to practice these responsible recreation practices:

  • Visitors should not access streams or creek areas where mudsnails have been found. If individuals fish in an affected area, they should use a wire brush to remove mud and vegetation from their boots and gear immediately after stepping back onto dry ground.
  • If dogs enter South Boulder Creek, guardians should carefully brush their paws and bellies on dry land.
  • Visitors, and especially anglers, should take precautionary steps detailed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife when they are back home or before they go to another body of water. Those measures include freezing boots and gear overnight, soaking equipment in hot water, submerging waders and other equipment in solution specified by CPW, or drying boots and gear – preferably in direct sunlight – for at least 48 hours.
  • Community members should not flush water used to clean boots or rinse equipment down storm drains.
  • OSMP has temporarily closed South Boulder Creek access south of South Boulder Road to Marshall Road to help stem further human-caused spread of mudsnails along the creek. OSMP also will install educational advisory signs along the creek encouraging visitors to stay out of the creek in areas that aren’t included in the temporary closure.
  • During this temporary closure and community-outreach period, OSMP will assess its current management of South Boulder Creek – one of the city’s most diverse creek areas and home to federally protected wildlife and plant species – and may implement additional measures and creek access restrictions. The city currently has year-round New Zealand mudsnail closures in portions of Dry Creek and Boulder Creek.

    The discovery of New Zealand mudsnails in South Boulder Creek also has led OSMP to postpone implementation of its Gebhard Integrated Site Project – a habitat protection and recreational access project planned for an area near where OSMP discovered mudsnails. The department anticipates sharing updates about this project with community members in early 2021.

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    Northern Front Range water supply safe in spite of fires — for now — The #Greeley Tribune

    Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

    From The Greeley Tribune (Cuyler Meade):

    …while a significant portion of the water supply that is held and accessed by the project that serves the northern Front Range communities is impacted by the fires, the water supply itself is not in danger.

    According to Jeff Stahla, public information officer for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District — or simply Northern Water — the near-term supply is fine.

    The decision to close off a tunnel — which transports water pumped from Lake Granby to Shadow Mountain Reservoir before traveling by gravity through the tunnel through Rocky Mountain National Park to Lake Estes and elsewhere, before eventually settling in Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake in Fort Collins and Loveland — will not impact the water supply that’s eventually drawn from those two reservoirs to supply much of Northern Water’s million-plus customers in Northern Colorado, including Greeley.

    That’s because, Stahla explained, the system is proactive. While new water will not be replenished quite according to the normal schedule in the Horsetooth and Carter Lake reservoirs, that water is, in essence, paying down a future withdrawal that won’t happen for a year or more…

    “The water coming out of your faucet now, if it’s this project’s water, was probably snow that fell in maybe 2018,” Stahla explained. “It ran off in spring of ’18 and filled up Lake Granby, and then around the end of 2018 into 2019, it would’ve been used to fill up reservoirs on the front range. That would’ve happened over winter of 2018-2019, and then it would’ve been in reservoirs all of 2019 and probably drawn out now in 2020. This project works on a multi-year cycle of gathering runoff, feeding reservoirs and serving the public.”

    The water is still in Lake Granby, but temporarily won’t be pumped up to Shadow Mountain because of concerns that the fire will impact the power supply to the pump at Lake Granby…

    However, that water is only a portion — a very sizable portion, close to half — of the water that is used by Greeley customers, according to city of Greeley water and sewer director Sean Chambers.

    And, truly incredibly, the other major sources of water, four in total, from which the city draws its 20,000 to 25,000 acre feet-per-year supply are also being impacted by these unfathomable wildfires.

    “We have water from four different river basins,” Chambers said. “We get water from the Poudre River Basin, that’s where the year-round treatment plan by Bellevue, northwest of For Collins is. The top of the Poudre is where the fire started. You go north and cross into Laramie River Basin — the Laramie flows north into Wyoming but we have a system of ditches and tunnels that brings water back into the Poudre. The fires burned a bit of the headwaters of the Laramie. We also get water from the Big Thompson Basin, and the Cameron Peak Fire spread southeast over the last ten days, blown over the ridge line and the divide into the Big Thompson Basin. And then the last basin is the Colorado River Basin, which is where the East Troublesome Fire comes from.”

    Chambers, marveling, called this phenomenon the first time “in recorded history” that this has happened, where all four major water sources are affected by fires at the same time…

    Further, while snow melt over burned land could well impact other water sources as well, there are plans in place, Chambers said.

    “When the High Park Fire happened, that fire had these post-precipitation water-quality events in the river, where Fort Collins and Greeley and others, who take water directly off the Poudre River for municipal treatment, we turned off our intakes and let the bad water go by, let the water quality improve. We can do that because of the beautiful supplemental supply in the Colorado Big Thompson project.”

    The flexibility requires planning, though, including, Chambers said, installing source-site filtration systems where snow runoff on its way the river systems are filtered prior to entering the water supply…

    In the immediate moment, though, the water supply even well into next year is in good shape, regardless of the fires Stahla said.

    “Not even just into early next year,” Stahla said. “Reservoirs are there for that kind of demand management that you can have some stocked away close to meet your needs. As of now, there’s no operational changes because of the wildfires to the water supply on the Northern Front Range. Those reservoirs will be refilled by next spring.”

    @AuroraWaterCO inks $43.7 million in water deals on #SouthPlatteRiver — @WaterEdCO

    The South Platte River runs near a farm in Henderson, Colorado, northeast of Denver. Henderson is the site of one of the possible reservoirs for the regional water project proposed by SPROWG. Photo credit: Lindsay Fendt/Aspen Journalism

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    Thirsty Front Range Colorado cities continue to drive the market for South Platte River farm water, with Aurora announcing two major deals to acquire farms and their associated water rights for $43.7 million.

    One deal involves the $16.7 million purchase of a small ditch company near Merino, as well as 1,200 acres of land. The second purchase, for $27 million, involves water rights near Evans formerly owned by the Broe Companies, according to Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker.

    “The South Platte is where the water rights are right now,” Baker said. “As farmers are looking at their future, as they get out of farming, if their kids don’t want it or another farmer doesn’t want it, this is their asset to sell.”

    Together, Aurora estimates the deals will provide about 2,652 acre-feet of water to the city, water equal to the amount needed to serve some 5,300 homes.

    Earlier this year in another major deal, Parker, along with the Sterling-based Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, announced it would claim a major new water right in the South Platte near the Nebraska border.

    The Aurora purchases, first reported by the Sterling Journal Advocate, are raising concern among Northern Colorado water suppliers and agriculture interests, who fear the sales will limit the region’s own ability to grow and could perpetuate a practice known as “buy and dry,” where farm land is purchased and its water diverted for other uses.

    Such water transfers off of farms have harmed other rural farm communities in Colorado that rely on agriculture for jobs and tax revenue.

    Aurora’s water purchases “do cause me concern,” said Brad Wind, general manager of Berthoud-based Northern Water, which serves such communities as Greeley, Fort Collins and Broomfield, as well as hundreds of farmers. Like the West Slope, Northern Colorado communities want the water to stay local, although legally it can be bought, sold and moved.

    Aurora officials said they haven’t decided what shape the water projects ultimately will take. But they hope to avoid buy-and-dry scenarios, relying instead on long-term leases and water sharing agreements with growers in the area.

    “Buying water rights in the South Platte does not mean that we’re going for a buy and dry,” said Dawn Jewell, a water resource planner for Aurora. “We need additional supplies for our build out.”

    Aurora uses about 50,000 acre feet of water annually now, and could need more than twice that much to handle its growth through 2070.

    “There are many unknowns right now but this gives us a prime opportunity to look at other options, such as ATMs,” Jewell said.

    ATMs, or alternative transfer methods, typically involve water sharing and leasing between cities and farms and are being studied across the state as a potential tool for minimizing buy-and-dry water deals.

    The South Platte River Basin, which spans from west of South Park north and east through Denver to the state line, is home to Colorado’s largest irrigated agriculture economy with roughly 1.3 million acres of irrigated farm lands.

    It is also home to the state’s largest cities, whose populations are set to swell by 2050.

    As a result of that growth the state estimates the South Platte’s irrigated farm lands could shrink dramatically as fast-growing, water-short cities such as Aurora, continue to search for new supplies.

    The Colorado Water Plan estimates that the South Platte Basin will lose more than 100,000 acres of irrigated land due to urban growth in the next 30 years.

    Urban water providers in the region will need to find at least 183,000 acre-feet of water in the next 30 years to ensure shortages don’t develop even after significant conservation occurs, according to state forecasts. That is equal to the amount of water needed to serve more than 360,000 new homes.

    Some small communities along the Front Range already know exactly how much they can grow with their existing water supplies. Barbara Biggs, chair of the Metro Basin Roundtable and general manager of the Roxborough Water and Sanitation District, said her district has enough water to supply its service area, but has already told landowners on the town’s borders that it has enough water to supply only another 124 homes.

    “Once those are built, we’re done,” Biggs said. Her district’s water comes from a long-term water lease with Aurora that dates back to the 1970s. Biggs said that while her district eventually will use all of its water, stopping growth, such restrictions are much harder for big cities to adopt, in part because they cause housing prices to rise.

    The recent South Platte water purchases come as a major collaborative water project in the basin was gaining momentum.

    Now that project, known as the South Platte Regional Opportunities Water Group, or SPROWG, is in pause mode, according to several participants. It was conceived to help numerous cities reuse water and to move water back and forth more easily between farms on the Eastern Plains and the urban areas farther south and west.

    As competition for water in the South Platte heats up, talks are underway to see if smaller versions of SPROWG that could be brought on line more quickly are feasible and could provide opportunities for Front Range cities to collaborate, according to Joe Frank, manager of the Sterling-based Lower South Platte district.

    “We are definitely concerned about [the Aurora purchases],” said Frank, whose district is collaborating with the Parker Water and Sanitation District on a major South Platte River project whose participants have said won’t involve buy and dry, but will rely instead on using alternative transfer methods.

    “We’re not putting fault on anyone,” Frank said. “You can’t fault the farmers. Their water has value, and I’m not pointing fingers at Aurora. Their hands are tied. The problem is that there are not very many other options on the table.”

    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.

    Vote Yes on 7A for Our Water #VOTE

    Here’s the release from the campaign:

    Today, the Yes on 7A For Our Water Campaign launches in support of ballot Question 7A, a measure to ensure funding for the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District to protect our clean water and healthy forests, rivers, and creeks.

    “Nothing is more important than clean water. We need to step up and ensure our communities have clean water to drink,” said Christopher Smith, General Manager at Left Hand Water District and St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District Board Member. “By protecting our forests, rivers and creeks we can ensure we have safe, clean reliable water. The St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District is our advocate for protecting our water. Please join me in voting Yes on 7A.”

    The St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District serves communities in the counties of Boulder, Weld and Larimer, from the mountains to the plains including residents in Lyons, Longmont, Mead and Firestone and the surrounding area draining into St. Vrain and Left Hand Creeks. The District works to protect local water quality and ensure we have water supplies for generations to come.

    “When we started Left Hand Brewing, we wanted to establish our brewery in a community with a long history of clean, reliable water,” said Eric Wallace, President of Left Hand Brewing. “Longmont was a clear winner, and it is no coincidence that our brewery is located right on the “Mighty St. Vrain”. I am voting yes on 7A because it is a great investment in clean water, which is essential for our business, community, and the next generation.”

    “A yes on 7A Vote means we will preserve our spectacular creeks that feed our natural and human environment,” said Barbara Luneau, President of the St. Vrain Anglers chapter of Trout Unlimited. Seeing trout in a river indicates clean, high-quality water. Since the September 2013 flood, trout and native fish habitat has increased because of post-flood stream restoration. There is more work to be done to restore our creeks with limited funding available. Voting yes on 7A will bring desperately needed funding to improve our creeks and maintain our high- quality water.”

    For nearly 50 years, the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District has successfully protected our water by facilitating conservation programs, protecting water quality, educating the public and developing and managing water projects. The District has never once asked voters for additional funds. Voting Yes on 7A will ensure the District can continue supporting local agriculture, healthy rivers, and a secure water future. Cost to homeowners will be approximately $9.00 per $100,000 of assessed value, similar to the cost of a cup of coffee per month. For businesses the cost is $36.24 per $100,000 of assessed value. 7A will automatically end or sunset after 10 years.

    “As a representative for the nation’s oldest Cattlemen’s Association, I know how important water is for the ranching and farming community. Grazing lands within the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District are high quality – in part because of the water used to irrigate fields,” said Terry Fankhauser, Executive Vice President of Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. “Not only are these fields important for farming and ranching but they also provide food and habitat for wildlife. Voting yes on 7A is good for your local food, water and wildlife. Vote Yes on 7A.”

    For more information about 7A, please visit: http://www.svlhfriend.org.

    #Denver’s unique sales tax to fight #ClimateChange could be a blueprint for future action nationwide — The #Colorado Sun

    Denver’s Brown Cloud via the Denver Regional Council of Governments.

    From The Colorado Sun (Evan Oschner):

    Denver voters this year could give the city a unique tool for fighting climate change that is unlike strategies pursued by other U.S. cities. Across the nation, local authorities are taking on responsibility for fighting the warming planet amid gridlock at the federal level.

    Denver’s idea is different because ballot measure 2A would use the proceeds from a dedicated sales tax increase to raise roughly $40 million a year to invest in renewable energy, clean transportation, energy efficiency and more.

    If voters approve the tax on the Nov. 3 ballot, it could serve as a model for policy options in other cities. “We truly are pioneering this,” said Councilman Jolon Clark, who sponsored the measure to get the issue on the ballot. Clark said two other municipalities have reached out to Denver to talk about implementing a similar proposal themselves.

    As fires torch the West and hurricanes slam the East, the threat of a changing climate has become more pressing, and cities are more urgently taking action. The situation is so dire that local governments are more likely to try to tackle this intractable problem, said Cooper Martin, an expert in sustainability policy at the National League of Cities…

    Denver’s idea is inspired by action in some other cities, Clark said, pointing to Boulder. And action by cities, regardless of the strategy, is generally driven by the lack of federal action to address the climate crisis. President Barack Obama joined the Paris climate accords and put in place emissions cutting measures through executive action, but President Donald Trump has waged a yearslong campaign to repeal many of his predecessor’s environmental policies.

    The inaction at one level has led to action at another. “Local effort is really what we’ve had for the last 10 years, and I think that it’s been valuable,” said Mark Smith, an economics professor who studies environmental policy at Colorado College.

    For Denver, that means raising the sales tax to 8.56% from 8.31% to support green projects in the city. If approved, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2021. The money raised would be divided among six categories covering a range of environmental issues.

    The categories prioritize environmental justice and include training programs to empower people to work in clean energy as well as investment in renewable energy.

    Other funds will be dedicated to making the city’s infrastructure cleaner by reducing reliance on cars and improving mass transit. According to the city, transportation is responsible for 30% of the city’s emissions. Another 50% of the city’s emissions are attributed to new and existing buildings, and the tax funds would be used to upgrade the energy efficiency of office and residential spaces.

    Proponents say many of the elements of the bill are intended to offset a reality of the proposal: It is fundamentally a regressive tax. That’s because sales taxes are regressive, meaning they require lower income individuals to pay a higher proportion of taxes.

    The bill that put the measure on the ballot says city officials must try to invest half of the funds it raises directly into the community and prioritize efforts to steer funds toward under-resourced communities.

    Clark says these stipulations are designed to ensure lower income and marginalized communities receive more benefits from the tax than they pay into it.

    Demolition of Molson Coors Coming Soon in #Colorado — ConstructionEquipmentGuide.com

    From The Associated Press via ConstructionEquipmentGuide.com:

    As part of its corporate farewell to Denver, Molson Coors Beverage Co. vowed last fall to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the company’s brewing plant in Golden, Colo., the second-largest beer-making facility in the world. Now the scope of that work is coming into focus, and heavy machinery is on the horizon in Jefferson County…

    G150, scheduled to stretch into 2024, will completely overhaul the infrastructure between the company’s Golden brewhouse and the packaging facility at the massive plant. New, more-efficient fermenting, aging and filtration facilities will be built. The so-called “government cellars” where beer is stored prior to packaging will also be replaced with a state-of-the-art upgrade, Coors said. That building dates back to the 1950s…

    The existing fermenting, filtering and storage facilities aren’t being removed as part of the work, Coors said. Instead, they will be abandoned in place. The new tank farms coming as part of the project will be replacing surface parking lots and ponds on the property…

    New facilities will mean much greater efficiency, Peter J. Coors said, something he expects to benefit the business and the environment. When it’s all said and done, G150 should mean 25 percent less beer waste and 15 percent less energy usage on an annual basis. Water usage at the plant should decrease by 100 million gallons per year…

    Golden Mayor Laura Weinberg lauded the focus on reducing energy and water usage at the plant through the project.

    “The city of Golden is committed to a sustainable future and its wonderful to know that Molson Coors has that same commitment as well,” she said at the groundbreaking.

    Coors Brewery in Golden Colorado. Photo credit: Molson Coors via Westword

    Public comment open for Gross Reservoir expansion project — The #Colorado Daily #ColoradoRiver #COriver #arifidification

    From The Colorado Daily (Deborah Swearingen):

    Community members can now share comments about Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir expansion project proposal, which is being reviewed by Boulder County.

    Although a postcard sent to property owners near Gross Reservoir said public comment about the proposed expansion project should be in by Oct. 14, county staff clarified that community members can comment at any point until the Boulder County Board of Commissioners makes a final decision.

    The current Oct. 14 deadline is for referral agencies and even that may be pushed if enough agencies request an extension. If an extension is granted, a new postcard will be sent to property owners, according to Boulder County.

    While Boulder County spokesman Richard Hackett said it’s helpful to have community comments in early, he stressed there is no official deadline or cutoff. Some adjacent property owners, such as Timberline Fire Protection District, also are referral agencies on the project, which Hackett said is part of the explanation for the postcard’s wording.

    No public meetings or hearings have been scheduled yet, but the county will announce them to its Gross Reservoir Expansion Project news list. People who want to receive emailed or text messaged notifications can sign up at here.

    Meanwhile, community members can submit questions or written comments to grossreservoir@bouldercounty.org.

    Gross Reservoir — The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will raise the height of the existing dam by 131 feet, which will allow the capacity of the reservoir, pictured, to increase by 77,000 acre-feet. The additional water storage will help prevent future shortfalls during droughts and helps offset an imbalance in Denver Water’s collection system. With this project, Denver Water will provide water to current and future customers while providing environmental benefits to Colorado’s rivers and streams. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Even in a pandemic, #drought drives water use along the Front Range — @AspenJournalism

    Golfers take shots on the green lawns of the City Park Golf Course in central Denver on Sept. 28 2020. Urban utilities this summer saw sharp increases in single-family home and outdoor water use, primarily due to drought. Photo credit: Lindsay Fendt/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Lindsay Fendt):

    The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated much of life and the economy in 2020, but when it comes to water use along the Front Range, drought is still the ruling force.

    Most municipal water providers saw commercial water use plummet at the beginning of the pandemic, but those savings were quickly erased once the hot summer rolled in and the region’s residents switched on their sprinklers.

    “The increase in residential and irrigation use have more than offset the decrease in commercial use, resulting in above normal water use across the service area,” said Todd Hartman with Denver Water. “The short story from our perspective is that we are seeing higher use this watering season because of very hot, dry conditions.”

    The entire state of Colorado has been under some level of drought since early August, meaning that grass, shrubs and trees need more water than normal. To make up for that increased demand, Front Range communities have to rely more on the Western Slope water contained in their reservoirs.

    In a typical year about 48% of Denver’s water comes from the Western Slope, while Colorado Springs pipes in about 75% of its water from the other side of the divide. Fort Collins typically gets more than half of its water from the Western Slope and Aurora Water gets 25% of its water from sources within the Colorado River basin.

    Even though most of western Colorado is now in an extreme drought, Front Range water providers are able to rely on their storage from previous years to provide that additional water and then refill the reservoirs during the next snowmelt season.

    Northern Water manages the Colorado Big-Thompson project, which pumps water from west of the Continental Divide to municipal and agricultural users along the northern Front Range. During a drought, the water district’s board generally increases the amount of water per share of the project that it doles out, known as a quota, allowing more water to be drawn from its reservoirs and increasing the amount of water delivered to shareholders. In a typical year, the project delivers about 217,000 acre-feet of water to its users. This year, to make up for drought, the board gave users an additional 31,000 acre-feet of water.

    “The more water that’s available on the Front Range, like through soil moisture and local storage, the lower the quota we set because the rest of the demand can be furnished by local sources,” said Jeff Stahla with Northern Water. “The drier it is then the higher the quota, because we’re supplementing.”

    Dillon Reservoir in late August 2020. The reservoir is the largest in Denver Water’s collection system, which delivers water to 1.5 million people. With drought leading to increased water use this year through August, Front Range water providers have had to rely more on water stored in reservoirs. Photo credit: Lindsay Fendt/Aspen Journalism

    Outdoor watering dominates

    The data from the year so far show just how overwhelming a factor outdoor water use is on overall water-use trends. Even in a pandemic, the watering needs of yards on the Front Range during drought seem to supersede any other behavior changes. In a typical year, 40% of urban water use on the Front Range is for outdoor use. That number often increases during a drought.

    Preliminary consumption numbers for the year through August show single-family use up in Denver by about 20% and multi-family use up 5%. Industrial use is down 5%, office buildings are down 9% and restaurants — which remain under limited operations due to the pandemic — are down a whopping 31%. Altogether, Denver Water saw a 12% increase in water use system wide this year, through August. The increase in single-family use began in May when many home irrigation systems were likely first turned on. Other Front Range cities saw similar trends.

    Because the pandemic overlapped with a hot, dry summer, it’s been difficult for utilities to determine how much of an effect either event had on overall water use. The most revealing data comes from the spring when businesses closed and most people had yet to turn on their sprinklers.

    At Aurora Water, the water conservation team started pulling data early in the pandemic to see if any trends emerged. Between March and April — right as the state transitioned to a stay-at-home order — Aurora saw a commercial water use drop of 14.3% accompanied with an 8.8% increase in residential water use and a 4.6% increase in multi-family use.

    But according to Tim York, a water conservation specialist at Aurora Water, the modest increases in residential water use skyrocketed once irrigation season began. Commercial use also ticked back up once businesses began reopening. According to York, Aurora Water saw a 10.3% system-wide increase from January to July that they attribute almost entirely to drought conditions.

    “Indoor use kind of is what it is, right? I mean, you’ve got to use the toilet as many times as you need to, you’ve got to do dishes when they’re dirty, you’re going to take your showers just like you normally would, but people react differently to weather,” York said.

    A couple sits at the edge of the lake at City Park in central Denver on Sept. 28 2020. In a typical year, about 48 percent of Denver’s water comes from the Western Slope. Photo credit: Lindsay Fendt/Aspen Journalism

    ‘People are home and wanting to work on their yards’

    Most utilities had an adequate amount of water storage going into the summer to make up for the increased water use. Denver, Colorado Springs and Aurora have maintained their normal summer watering restrictions, which include guidelines on when and how often to water outdoors.

    On Oct. 1, Fort Collins went under mandatory level IV water restrictions in order to avoid a water shortage in the fall. In most cases residents are no longer allowed to water their lawns and cannot wash their cars. The restrictions are due partially to drought conditions and some planned maintenance on water infrastructure, but the city is also taking preemptive measures to conserve water in case the Cameron Peak Fire begins to affect the water quality in the Poudre River.

    Though the drought has been the driving factor in water use this year, water managers say that the pandemic likely did have some effect on behavior and might even pay dividends down the line. Abbye Neel, a water conservation specialist in Fort Collins, says the city has seen a large increase in its Xeriscape Incentive Program. The program provides rebates and project support for Fort Collins residents to redesign their yards to be more water-efficient.

    “I have nothing to back this up, but I think it’s just like people are home and wanting to work on their yards,” she said. “There’s a high potential to do more projects this year as people actually get their ducks in a row and sign up.”

    This story initially ran online in the Sky-Hi News on Oct. 3 and in print in the Summit Daily News Oct. 4.

    #Boulder County’s review of proposed Gross Reservoir Expansion Project underway — The #Colorado Daily #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Gross Reservoir — The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will raise the height of the existing dam by 131 feet, which will allow the capacity of the reservoir, pictured, to increase by 77,000 acre-feet. The additional water storage will help prevent future shortfalls during droughts and helps offset an imbalance in Denver Water’s collection system. With this project, Denver Water will provide water to current and future customers while providing environmental benefits to Colorado’s rivers and streams. Photo credit: Denver Water

    From The Colorado Daily (Deborah Swearingen):

    The Boulder County Community Planning and Permitting Department’s review of a planned expansion of Gross Reservoir in western Boulder County is underway, officials announced Thursday.

    This is the latest in a years-long dispute between Boulder County and Denver Water, who owns and operates the reservoir and dam. A Boulder District Court judge in December 2019 affirmed the county’s right to require that Denver Water go through its 1041 land use review process in order to expand the reservoir…

    “Denver Water put in a request to determine if the expansion project would be exempt from our land use code,” Boulder County spokesperson Richard Hackett said.

    However, the water utility company in July dismissed that appeal soon after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted approval for Denver Water to continue with design and construction after the county told the company it would not conduct the review while the litigation was ongoing. The regulatory commission’s approval stipulates that project construction begin within two years. The project in 2017 received the other permit it needed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers…

    No public meetings or hearings have been scheduled yet, but the county will announce them to its Gross Reservoir Expansion Project news list. People who want to receive emailed or text messaged notifications can sign up at here. Hackett said the agencies reviewing the application have until Oct. 14 to return initial comments, although the county has the right to extend that deadline due to extenuating circumstances caused by the coronavirus.

    In the meantime, community members can submit questions or written comments to grossreservoir@bouldercounty.org. There is no deadline for doing so. Comments will be accepted until the Boulder County Board of Commissioners makes a decision.

    Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

    Local regs loom large in dam battle as #Colorado cities seek more Western Slope water — The Rocky Mountain Post #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Here’s a deep-dive into the proposed Whitney Reservoir Project from David O. Williams that’s running in The Rocky Mountain Post. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    With Wednesday’s move by the Trump administration to weaken one of the nation’s bedrock conservation laws – the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – all eyes will increasingly be on local opposition and regulation when it comes to major infrastructure on federal lands.

    That’s pretty much what Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry told me when I asked about the proposed Whitney Reservoir project currently being scoped out by the U.S. Forest Service along Homestake Creek in southeastern Eagle County. The reservoir is being proposed by Colorado Springs and Aurora to pump Western Slope water to the Front Range.

    All that’s currently being considered by the Forest Service is a test-drilling project to detect fatal flaws and see if one of four possible dam configurations is feasible, at which point an actual proposal for Whitney Reservoir would be submitted and considered by the feds, including a possible request to shrink the Holy Cross Wilderness by up to 500 acres to realign the road.

    The Forest Service was flooded with more than 500 online comments opposing the drilling and the reservoir, demanding higher levels of environmental scrutiny for a special use permit for the drilling project that could be issued under what’s known as a “categorical exclusion.” Opponents are demanding an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)…

    What didn’t make it into my Vail Daily story due to space constraints was the Eagle County angle. It’s important because way back in the 1990s, when I first moved to the Vail area, there was a huge battle going on over what was then called Homestake II – a reservoir proposed for the same area by the same cities, which still hold 20,000 acre-feet of water rights here.

    Eagle County used its 1041 permitting powers, which give counties some degree of local control over infrastructure projects with regional or statewide impacts, to deny Homestake II – a move that wound up in court and went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court before Eagle County ultimately won. Those 1041 regulatory powers were granted by a state law in the 1970s.

    All of that led to the Eagle River Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlines how all the various stakeholders in the Eagle River Basin would work together going forward to resolve their issues. But one important thing remains true: Eagle County, not a signatory to the MOU, still has 1041 permitting authority.

    So Chandler-Henry, the water leader on the board, had some important things to say last spring. First, on any proposal that would require redrawing the boundaries of the Holy Cross Wilderness Area: “I can tell you that’s not anything that we would ever be supportive of is moving wilderness boundaries.” Then, on the importance of local permitting power:

    Chandler-Henry points out that federal protections have been stripped away by the current administration, with fens and ephemeral streams recently being removed from the definition of Waters of the United States by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Those changes, she said, are making it much easier for water providers to get their federal permits in place.

    “Which means 1041 is all the more important for local considerations,” Chandler-Henry said, adding she believes her constituents oppose a dam. “I think that that is going to be a huge public sentiment, that we don’t want anything there.”

    That being said, the county has to be somewhat diplomatic on both the test drilling and a possible future reservoir. Eagle County officials said they are working with the Forest Service on the test drilling proposal and may comment later…

    “Eagle County cannot take a position regarding, and will not be commenting on, any future reservoir project because of its permitting authority powers,” county officials said in an email. “Eagle County must avoid prejudging a file based upon this authority.

    “Eagle County plans to meet with the USDA USFS to discuss procedural questions regarding the proposed Whitney Creek Geotechnical Investigation project. Depending upon the outcome of that conversation, Eagle County may or may not choose to provide comment [to the Forest Service],” officials added.

    Chandler-Henry, who talked to me well before the formal test drilling application and the recent Trump move to gut NEPA, said the county is keeping an open mind on 1041 permitting for whatever proposal eventually comes before the board. However, she reiterated that shrinking the Holy Cross boundary – something Congress would have to approve – is a non-starter.

    “Sen. [Michael] Bennett’s office says that whenever they’re approached by Aurora Water about moving those boundaries in Holy Cross, they say, ‘You need to go see what Eagle County thinks.’” Chandler-Henry added. “To date they have not done that because I think they know what we think about that.”

    An official with Bennet’s office confirmed they are aware of the wilderness adjustment plan but are not supportive of pulling back boundaries to make room for a proposed reservoir because there is not broad local backing. Bennet has been a strong advocate of wilderness expansion, not shrinkage…

    Conservation groups see this as a key issue, linking the test drilling to an eventual dam proposal that could lead to less wilderness. The original Homestake II proposal would have been in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area…

    Chandler-Henry said Eagle County is firm on the wilderness issue but staying openminded on 1041 so any proposal can be weighed fairly on its merits.

    “One of the things that we’re doing, which is going to be really useful, is trying to tie our 1041 permitting in with the community water plan that [Eagle River Watershed Council] is working on … because a 1041 allows us to look at environmental impact, economic impact, infrastructure,” Chandler-Henry said, adding the utility has been modeling for future growth.

    “Those are always our concerns with any sort of 1041 permit,” Chandler-Henry added. “What happens if water is dammed up in a reservoir? Then what happens to the Eagle River, to the environment, to the subdivisions that are relying on that water, to the recreation economy?”

    Chandler-Henry said Aurora Water has been a part of that planning process…

    These wetlands, located on a 150-acre parcel in the Homestake Creek valley that Homestake Partners bought in 2018, would be inundated if Whitney Reservoir is constructed. The Forest Service received more than 500 comments, the majority in opposition to, test drilling associated with the project and the reservoir project itself. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

    The U.S. Forest Service has been inundated with more than 500 online comments in opposition to a geotechnical and drilling study by the cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs to determine the feasibility of a second reservoir in the Homestake Creek drainage six miles southwest of Red Cliff, including objections from nearby towns and a local state senator…

    Operating together as Homestake Partners, Aurora and Colorado Springs own water rights dating back to the 1950s that, under the 1998 Eagle River Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), ensure them 20,000 more acre-feet of average annual water yield. They’ve been studying four potential dam sites in the Homestake Valley several miles below the cities’ existing Homestake Reservoir, which holds 43,600 acre-feet…

    Western Slope signatories of the Eagle River MOU were tight-lipped on the geophysical study and drilling. Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs for the Colorado River District, declined to comment on the investigatory test work, saying only, “Yes, we have signed the MOU. That said … we are not participating in the Whitney Creek effort.”

    Diane Johnson,communications and public affairs manager for the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, said: “The short answer is we – [ERWSD] and Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority — support [Homestake Partners’] right to pursue an application for their yield. We trust the permitting process to bring all impacts and benefits to light for the community to consider and weigh in total.” Neither organization submitted a comment to the Forest Service…

    Two prominent local conservation groups – the Eagle Valley Land Trust and the Eagle River Watershed Council – both submitted comments to the Forest Service expressing serious reservations about both the drilling and the possibility of a dam…

    The Eagle River MOU was drawn up after a lengthy court battle that ended in the 1990s when Eagle County rejected the cities’ Homestake II reservoir proposal using its 1041 powers under a state law passed in the 1970s that gives counties permit authority over certain outside infrastructure projects that could impact the local economy and environment.

    Besides Homestake Partners (the two cities), the MOU was signed by the Colorado River District, Climax Molybdenum Company, and the Vail Consortium consisting of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Vail Associates (now Vail Resorts).

    The two private companies signed onto the MOU – Vail Resorts and Freeport-McMoRan (Climax) – declined to comment on either the drilling study or Whitney Reservoir.

    Any proposed water storage project by any of the signatories has to meet the objectives of the MOU, which are, “Develop a joint use water project in Upper Eagle River basin that minimizes environmental impacts, is cost-effective, technically feasible, can be permitted by local, state and federal agencies, and provides sufficient yield to meet the water requirements of project participants as hereinafter defined.”

    ERWSD’s Johnson said the water provider can’t comment on Whitney Reservoir because its environmental impacts have yet to be defined, but she did have overall praise for the MOU.

    “To date, water users in the Eagle River basin have received great benefits from the MOU,” Johnson said. “It has been the basis to develop key elements of the local municipal and snowmaking water supplies that have been essential to the economic vitality of our community.”

    The MOU provides 20,000 acre-feet for the cities, 10,000 acre-feet of firm water yield for the Vail Consortium (meaning if there’s a shortage, those needs are met first), and 3,000 acre-feet of water storage for Climax. About 2,000 acre-feet were already developed with Eagle Park Reservoir, but that leaves 28,000 acre-feet of yield and 3,000 of storage undeveloped.

    @DenverWater: River of words when the heat is on #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Members of Learning By Doing tour the Fraser Flats on Sept. 27, 2016. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Here’s a guest column from Stacy Chesney that’s running in The Sky-Hi Daily News:

    When it comes to collaboratively managing water supplies on the West Slope, Denver Water understands that we must walk the talk.

    When talking about our new era of doing business, Denver Water’s CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead regularly cites that “instead of platitudes, politics or parochialism, you need to sit down and work together.”

    And that is exactly what has happened since the signatories of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement sat down on Sept. 26, 2013, to put the new framework into action that ultimately benefits water supply, water quality, recreation and the environment on both sides of the Continental Divide.

    From it came the Learning By Doing cooperative effort to maintain and enhance the aquatic environment in Grand County, which has already seen huge successes in the Fraser Flats River Habitat work, stream sampling programs and the removal of 2,500 tons of traction sand from Highway 40 before it could impact water quality and trout habitat downstream in the Fraser River.

    We’re also aware that dry and hot summers, like we saw in 2018 and are experiencing again this year, bring added stress to the fisheries, environment and ultimately the entire communities of Grand and Summit counties.

    When the rivers are low, talking the talk also becomes imperative.

    Water efficiency is always top of mind for the Denver metro area, and during times like this, conservation dominates our communication channels. If you live on the West Slope, you may not see Denver Water’s communications about efficiency, but we are focusing on conservation measures and fostering appreciation for our source water where it matters: our customers.

    We know that using less water means more water can be kept in the reservoirs, rivers and streams that fish live in and Coloradans enjoy. And ultimately, Denver Water’s customers are answering that call despite enduring what is turning out to be one of the hottest and driest years on record.

    Overall, residents of the Denver metro area are using less water than they did in other summers when it was similarly hot and dry. We see them being cautious and judicious with their water use and adjusting based on the weather. In fact, Denver Water customers cut their water use in half in a matter of days when it snowed earlier in September.

    This is nothing new though. After the 2002 drought, Denver Water’s conservation campaign led to our per-person reduction goal of 22% from pre-drought levels — one that we’ve continued to maintain since 2016. We’ve taken that momentum and are now working directly with our customers, sending water use reports along with rebates and tips to inefficient users on how to better use water wisely.

    We also continue to evolve everything we do, from leading the way with new water reuse solutions, to upgrading our Water Shortage Plan – developed with feedback from our partners at Trout Unlimited, Grand County and other Learning By Doing stakeholders.

    Denverites value where their water comes from. We live in this great state because of communities like Grand and Summit counties that provide resources precious to all of us. This benefit was made even more valuable because of the pandemic this year – a reality that we don’t take for granted and continually stress to the 1.5 million people we serve.

    Stacy Chesney is Denver Water’s director of public affairs.

    Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

    @Northern_Water: #Water Efficiency Programs Aim to Fill Knowledge and Financial Gaps

    Photo credit: Northern Water

    Here’s the release from Northern Water:

    With increasingly extreme summer temperatures and continued population growth in Northern Colorado, it’s no surprise that water supplies – and their users – are feeling the heat. Colorado’s arid climate has long defined water as a scarce and valuable resource, and increased water demand makes efficient water use an even greater priority. Northern Water offers a variety of programs to help our allottees conserve water where it counts: in landscapes.

    Northern Water provides supplemental water to more than 1 million people in Northeastern Colorado and 615,000 acres of irrigated farmland. More than half of the region’s municipal water supplies are used for landscape irrigation. Although awareness of “Colorado-climate friendly landscapes” is growing, most residents cite lack of knowledge as their primary obstacle for not managing their landscape to use less water. Northern Water continues to develop creative ways to address both the financial and knowledge gaps that would otherwise prevent water users from pursuing outdoor water efficiency conversions. Our irrigation audits, landscape consultations and grant program aim to do just that.

    Irrigation Audit Program

    An irrigation audit is a great place to begin if you’re looking to reduce your outdoor water use. Northern Water’s irrigation audit program, offered in partnership with Resource Central and Irrigation Analysis, provides information to help property owners identify water waste within irrigation systems and offer direction for optimal water use. By diagnosing a variety of water-wasting issues, audits can provide a starting point for system tuning, a retrofit, or even landscape conversion project or other water-saving pursuit.

    Audits offered through Northern Water are available to commercial and residential properties within district boundaries. The audit season runs from mid-June through early October. To request an appointment, please contact amazurek@northernwater.org.

    Landscape Consultations

    Envisioning the next steps for a landscape can be daunting, even if a property owner understands their specific irrigation inefficiencies and opportunities. Northern Water’s landscape consultations strive to educate and assist commercial property managers in planning a water efficient landscape conversion project

    Landscape consultations are available to commercial water customers within Northern Water’s district boundaries. Consultations may include several topics, including plant selection, turf conversion, soil management and more. Appointments are typically 60 to 90 minutes and are first come, first served. To schedule a consultation, complete the intake form.

    Grant Program

    For those seeking to take the next step, Northern Water’s Collaborative Water-Efficient Landscape Grant Program is open to new or redeveloping landscapes at public or private facilities, including cities, enterprises, nonprofits, businesses, schools, multi-family complexes and HOA-managed landscapes. Potential grant applicants are required to take part in a consultation, and possibly an audit, prior to applying for funding. To schedule a pre-application consultation contact Chad Kuhnel at 970-292-2566. Consultations for the 2020 grant funding cycle must be scheduled prior to Oct. 1.

    Envisioning the next steps for a landscape can be daunting, even if a property owner understands their specific irrigation inefficiencies and opportunities. Northern Water’s landscape consultations strive to educate and assist commercial property managers in planning a water efficient landscape conversion project

    Landscape consultations are available to commercial water customers within Northern Water’s district boundaries. Consultations may include several topics, including plant selection, turf conversion, soil management and more. Appointments are typically 60 to 90 minutes and are first come, first served. To schedule a consultation, complete the intake form.

    Grant Program

    For those seeking to take the next step, Northern Water’s Collaborative Water-Efficient Landscape Grant Program is open to new or redeveloping landscapes at public or private facilities, including cities, enterprises, nonprofits, businesses, schools, multi-family complexes and HOA-managed landscapes. Potential grant applicants are required to take part in a consultation, and possibly an audit, prior to applying for funding. To schedule a pre-application consultation contact Chad Kuhnel at 970-292-2566. Consultations for the 2020 grant funding cycle must be scheduled prior to Oct. 1.

    When it comes to outdoor water savings, replacing water-thirsty Kentucky bluegrass with low-water plant material provides the greatest impact, while maintaining a beautiful landscape. Our Water Efficiency programs are designed to provide resources, guidance and financial support to help customers reduce their outdoor water consumption.

    Boulder: City launching comprehensive #flood and #stormwater master plan update, seeking community working group members

    Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11297782

    Here’s the release from the City of Boulder (Samantha Glavin):

    The City of Boulder has kicked off its update to the Comprehensive Flood and Stormwater (CFS) Master Plan.

    The master plan was last updated in 2004 and guides city policy for flood management; stormwater quality and drainage; emergency preparedness and resilience; regulations; project prioritization; and education and outreach.

    To support the update to the plan, the city is seeking community members to join a Community Working Group (CWG). The CWG will provide feedback to city staff and the project consultant during the master planning process. It will be comprised of individuals who live in Boulder who bring a broad range of perspectives to flood and stormwater management (i.e., residents, property owners, community advocates, water professionals). The CWG will be asked to:

  • Identify and examine issues related to stormwater and flood management;
  • Review and comment on technical documents;
  • Provide feedback about plan completeness and alignment with community goals and values;
  • Assist with community outreach; and,
  • Participate at public events, including at advisory boards and City Council meetings.
  • Interested individuals can apply by submitting an application online by Oct. 14, 2020. Hard-copy applications can be requested by emailing cfsinfo@bouldercolorado.gov or calling Laurel Olsen at 720-456-8819. Chosen applicants will be informed of their selection by Nov. 30, 2020. Working group meetings will begin in early 2021.

    The CWG is the first step in the CFS master planning process, which will also include a larger public process to gather ideas and feedback from the community. Learn more about Comprehensive Flood and Stormwater Master Plan and timeline at https://bouldercolorado.gov/flood/comprehensive-flood-and-stormwater-master-plan.

    With 5 reservoirs in #CameronPeakFire burn area, #Greeley Water officials plan for erosion control — The Greeley Tribune

    From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid):

    With five of Greeley’s six high mountain reservoirs in the burn area, erosion is expected to carry sediment into Greeley’s water supply. Left untreated, that could affect the city’s water quality. But officials are already planning to make sure that doesn’t happen.

    The Cameron Peak fire ignited on August 13 on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest near Cameron Pass and Chambers Lake. Credit: Inciweb

    “When fires burn, if they’re hot enough, they can actually burn underbrush and soil,” said Adam Jokerst, Greeley’s deputy director of Water Resources, adding that vegetation is burned up as well. “With the lack of the vegetation … you can get increased erosion when it rains or when the snow melts.”

    That erosion carries sediment into the Poudre River, which pulls water from the reservoirs to supply water for the city. Water with high sediment content can be harder to treat, Jokerst said, but it is possible to treat safely.

    For better or for worse, Jokerst said, Greeley water officials have a lot of experience handling erosion into the water supply after dealing with the impacts of the High Park Fire in 2012. That fire burned more than 87,000 acres, making it the sixth-largest in state history.

    There are at least a few steps to take to mitigate erosion impacts: aerial mulching, felling trees and adding flocculants during the treatment process. For aerial mulching, crews drop shredded wheat chips or straw from a helicopter. The mulch reduces erosion and helps with revegetation. Cutting down the burned trees and letting them fall into the gullies and rills — the channels created in the soil by water erosion — prevents stormwater and meltwater from carrying added erosion into the water supply.

    Jokerst said it’s common to see the water get murkier during the runoff season every year. To provide clean, clear drinking water when that happens, crews use more flocculants, which are chemicals that help to separate the water from the sediment, in the treatment process. If there’s very high sediment content at the Bellvue Treatment Plant, officials can turn off the plant so it stop pulling water from the Poudre, Jokerst said. The city can then use the Boyd Treatment Plant…

    If the fire keeps on into snowfall season in the winter, Jokerst said crews will have to wait until the spring to start on erosion control measures. Greeley officials are working with the city of Fort Collins, Northern Water and the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed, a nonprofit Jokerst said will be a key entity in the post-fire recovery.

    #FortCollins issues water restrictions to protect supply — 9News.com

    Mammatus clouds, associated with strong convection, grace a sunset over Fort Collins, Colorado, home of the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State University. Photo credit: Steve Miller/CIRA

    From 9News.com (Janet Oravetz):

    Water restrictions will be implemented for residents of Fort Collins following extreme drought conditions and wildfires which have the area facing a potential water shortage, the city announced on its website.

    The water use restrictions will take effect Oct. 1 and will remain in effect until the order is lifted by the city manager…

    Ongoing drought conditions, the Cameron Peak Fire burning near Walden and an infrastructure repair project known as Horsetooth Outlet Project (HOP) have the city facing a projected water shortage unless action is taken, the city said.

    Typically, utilities receives about 50% of its water from Colorado-Big Thompson shares via Horsetooth Reservoir and 50% from the Cache la Poudre River. During HOP, utilities will have limited access to water supplies in Horsetooth and will rely more heavily on the Poudre River.

    If conditions during HOP – like continued drought or poor water quality due to the Cameron Peak Fire – prevent or limit the ability to deliver water from the Poudre River, a temporary backup pump system will convey water from a different Horsetooth Reservoir outlet to the Utilities Water Treatment Facility.

    The capacity of this backup system is expected to supply only average utilities winter water demands, which does not include irrigation or other seasonal outdoor uses.

    Lawn watering will not be allowed beginning Oct. 1. Trees, gardens for food production and other landscapes may be watered by hand or drip systems only. There are also restrictions on vehicle washing, power washing and street sweeping, among other things.

    As #CameronPeakFire reaches historic acreage, experts predict damage to #PoudreRiver — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Now environmental and water quality experts are bracing for more substantial impacts on the Poudre River and the people who depend on it for drinking water, farming, industry and recreation. Degraded water quality, enhanced flood risk and threats to aquatic wildlife are all distinct possibilities as the blaze takes its toll on a delicate, far-branching river ecosystem that had largely recovered from the impacts of the High Park Fire.

    The coming weeks and months will bring more news about what the Cameron Peak Fire will mean for the Poudre River. Until then, some staff of the agencies that monitor the river are in a similar position to the rest of us: Stuck in an anxious waiting game as the blaze continues, temperatures warm up and many details about the fire remain obscured in the ever-present haze.

    “There are still so many uncertainties,” said Jen Kovecses, executive director of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed. “We’re certain about how big the fire is, but we’re not certain about its intensity on the landscape and what it will look like. That’s going to be the missing puzzle piece that we need to understand the full suite of post-fire impacts from this event.”

    The aftermath of the High Park Fire offers a glimpse, albeit not an ironclad preview, of some impacts that could come from the Cameron Peak Fire. It all starts with the fire burning away the carpet of leaves, twigs, branches and other vegetation on the forest floor, known as “duff.”

    “The fire can consume both the forest canopy and the material on the ground, which is a big problem, because now we have bare soil exposed,” said Pete Robichaud, a research engineer with USDA Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station. “That forest floor duff layer is like a big sponge. It absorbs the water when it rains, it allows the water to percolate slowly into the soil — it’s great. Well, now the fire removes that, and when the rain comes, there’s no sponge.”

    The other problem is smoke, which can seep into the forest floor and cling to soil particles as it cools and condenses, making them hydrophobic — or water repellent.

    The two forces combined can leave the soil vulnerable to even a mild afternoon thunderstorm. Water reverbs off the forest floor and travels downslope to the river, dragging soil, sediment and ash along for the ride.

    That’s what happened after High Park, which infamously turned the Poudre black in summer 2012.

    “Without the ability to soak up water and temper the intensity of rain events, the system overall became a much flashier system,” said Jill Oropeza, director of sciences for Fort Collins Utilities’ Water Quality Services Division. “You’d see water levels rise really quickly; you’d see material from the hillslopes move into the river channel really quickly, and then the quality would change really quickly as well. You just had tons and tons of ash and sediment that got mobilized into the stream channel and then eventually conveyed downstream.”

    Cameron Peak Fire map August 14, 2020 via InciWeb.

    Population Growth Looms Large In Debates Over Proposed #Colorado Water Project — KUNC #NISP

    Cache la Poudre River from South Trail via Wikimedia Foundation.

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon) via Wyoming Public Media:

    Many communities in the West are growing, and in some places that’s putting pressure on already scarce water supplies.

    That’s the case in northern Colorado, where a proposed set of reservoirs promises to allow small suburbs to keep getting bigger. The project, called the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), has stirred up a familiar debate over how the West grows, and whether water should be a limiting factor.

    NISP — with its two new reservoirs, and network of pipelines across a broad sweep of Northern Colorado — is close to being fully permitted, which would pave the way to begin construction of the infrastructure project to satisfy the needs of 15 fast-growing Front Range municipalities and water providers. The project promises to give those communities water to build new homes and businesses — without buying it from farmers.

    Glade Reservoir is the proposed body of water that would fill a bathtub-shaped valley north of Fort Collins that currently acts as a straight stretch of Highway 287…