#ColoradoRiver crisis: Dispute, #drought have local implications — The #Pueblo Star Journal #COriver #aridification

A view across Lake Pueblo in Lake Pueblo State Park. The view is towards the south from Juniper Road. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61042557

Click the link to read the article on the Pueblo Star Journal website (Joe Stone):

Two decades of drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin have prompted dire warnings and alarming headlines about climate change and the Colorado River water crisis. Critically low water levels in lakes Mead and Powell now threaten the ability to generate electricity at Glen Canyon and Hoover dams and spurred Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton to issue an ultimatum: On June 14, Touton announced that Colorado Basin states would have 60 days to come up with a plan to reduce water use by 2-4 million acre-feet per year. (An acre-foot of water is the amount needed to cover an acre of land with one foot of water.)

If Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California can’t agree on a plan, the bureau will use its emergency authority to make the cuts, Touton said.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Click to enlarge)

The Arkansas Basin receives about 130,000 acre-feet of water per year from the Colorado Basin – up to 23 percent of Arkansas River flows, according to Colorado Division of Water Resources data. The Bureau of Reclamation operates the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which imports an average of 57,000 acre-feet of water per year. Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Pueblo West combine to import the other 73,000 acre-feet. Fry-Ark Project water supports local agriculture, cities, towns and industry. Fry-Ark water and infrastructure also underpin the Voluntary Flow Management Program, which supports the multimillion-dollar recreation economies of Upper Ark communities as well as the Arkansas River’s Gold Medal fishery.

Water imports to the Arkansas Basin already face risks. Worsening drought conditions could impede Fry-Ark water imports as the project is required to meet minimum streamflows on the West Slope. A call for water on the Colorado River could also curtail water imports.

‘Living within our means’

The 1922 Colorado River Compact divided Colorado River water between Upper Basin states – Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico – and Lower Basin states – Arizona, Nevada and California. The compact requires the Upper Basin states, where most of the precipitation falls, to deliver a 10-year rolling average of 7.5 million acre-feet, or maf, of water to Lees Ferry, Arizona, just south of the Utah state line. Of that water, California is entitled to 4.4 maf, Arizona 2.8, and Nevada 0.3. The compact also established a benchmark of 16.5 million acre-feet (maf) of water per year for Colorado River flows. However, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that average flows from 2000 to 2021 have dropped to 12.3 maf per year.

To date, the Upper Basin states have consistently met the 7.5-maf compact requirement. At a recent meeting of the Interbasin Compact Committee, Colorado Water Conservation Board Director Rebecca Mitchell shared statistics showing that Upper Basin states have significantly reduced water usage while Lower Basin states have not.

As the numbers reveal, Lower Basin states’ water usage – more than 2 maf per year beyond the 7.5 maf delivered by the Upper Basin – has trended higher, even as the 10-year rolling average dropped to 11.78 maf for 2012-21. Specifically, 2019 saw Colorado River flows of 17.75 maf, a rare yearly surplus of 3.8 maf. In 2020, flows dropped to 9.6 maf, 4.5 maf less than the water used that year. In 2021, flows dropped further, to 7.1 maf.

Even with Upper Basin states reducing their water use by more than a million acre-feet, total water use in the basin exceeded flows by 6.4 maf in 2021.

Colorado officials have indicated they have no plans to make additional cuts to meet the federal mandate. Amy Ostdiek, a section chief with the CWCB, told the Colorado Springs Gazette that sending water downstream from Blue Mesa, Flaming Gorge and Navajo reservoirs represents a significant sacrifice in water security for the Upper Basin states. At a recent Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District meeting, Ostdiek observed that, while the Upper Basin states have always lived with the need to limit water use to whatever is available, the Lower Basin states have “drawn down reservoirs instead of limiting usage. … We are living within our means in the Upper Basin, but that’s not happening in the Lower Basin.”


Ostdiek acknowledged that Arizona and Nevada are taking cuts to their Colorado River water allocations “for the first time ever,” but what about California, the most prodigious user of Colorado River water? All seven basin states signed on to the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan, agreeing to reduce their use of Colorado River water, but the Imperial Irrigation District in Southern California’s Imperial Valley refused to compromise, according to an Aug. 27, 2021, story by ProPublica. With 3.1 million acre-feet of Colorado River water rights, the Imperial District accounts for 70% of California’s compact allotment and is by far the largest single water rights holder in the Colorado Basin.

Imperial District Board President James Hanks expressed the district’s refusal to compromise when state officials gathered in Phoenix to sign the 2019 plan.

“As champagne is being prepared for debauched self-congratulation in Phoenix, remember this: The IID is the elephant in the room on the Colorado River as we move forward. And like the elephant, our memory and rage is (sic) long,” Hanks said.

As the Bureau of Reclamation’s mandate now makes clear, the 2019 plan proved insufficient to avert the current crisis and the Imperial District is indeed the elephant in the room, refusing to recognize the current reality on the Colorado River.

Growing cotton in a desert

The Imperial Valley lies within the Sonoran Desert and receives less than 3 inches of rain per year. It was uninhabited until 1901, when the Imperial Canal brought Colorado River water into the valley from Mexico. Because of the desert climate and poor groundwater quality, virtually all water demand in the Imperial Valley is satisfied with Colorado River water. The Imperial Irrigation District delivers that water, and 97% goes to agriculture.

Food production is a critical use of water, but not all agricultural water uses produce food. Growing cotton is one example, and the Imperial District supplies Colorado River water to 463,721 acres of cotton fields, according to the District’s most recent crop report. Arizona also uses Colorado River water to grow cotton in the desert. U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that Arizona farmers grew 258,000 acres of cotton in 2021.

Water consumption data from the University of Arizona shows that growing cotton in the desert requires 41.2 inches of water per year. In other words, cotton grown in the Imperial District and Arizona requires about 2.8 million acre-feet of water per year. But while one area of the federal government (Bureau of Reclamation) calls for reduced water use in the basin, another (Department of Agriculture) subsidizes those cotton fields, providing more than $4 billion between 1995 and 2015.

Not a sudden crisis
Mitchell and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser recently penned an editorial pointing out that Colorado is one of the few U.S. states that administers water rights based on “the availability of water supply in a particular location at a particular time.” Colorado’s water management system was key to the Upper Basin reducing water usage by 25% in 2020, “a huge reduction in water use of almost one million acre-feet.” When added to the “661,000 acre-feet of water provided from Upper Basin reservoirs in 2022, the Upper Basin is providing roughly 43% of its annual water use to help protect Lake Powell.”

In spite of the disparities between Upper and Lower Basin water use, officials in Lower Basin states – like Tom Buschatzke, director of Arizona Department of Water Resources, and Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – responded to the bureau’s mandate by urging collaboration. As the numbers show, the Upper Basin states, especially Colorado, have done much more to conserve water than the Lower Basin states, which have consistently taken more than their share of water under the 1922 compact.

Another example of Colorado’s leadership in responsible water use is groundwater management. Since 1969, Colorado has recognized the physical connection between surface waters and most groundwater aquifers. The Lower Basin states have not. For example, rivers deposit rocks and sand along their channels and floodplains. River water fills the spaces between the rocks and sand, forming alluvial aquifers. These aquifers are an integral part of streams and rivers; pumping water from them reduces surface-water flows.

In general, Arizona law does not recognize the physical connection between groundwater and surface water. From a legal standpoint, Arizona allows groundwater pumping that reduces streamflows to the detriment of senior water rights. California is just beginning to legally recognize the connection between surface water and groundwater, but groundwater extraction continues to deplete aquifers and cause subsidence, a gradual sinking of land. Ground currently is sinking more than a foot per year in some parts of California, according to ongoing research and multiple news reports.

Finally, anyone reading the alarming headlines would be tempted to believe that the Colorado River crisis is a sudden, unprecedented result of accelerating climate change, but a report published in the May 2007 issue of Geophysical Research Letters indicates otherwise. The authors used paleo-climate data to reconstruct Colorado River flows at Lees Ferry dating back to the year 762. They document multiple “multi-decadal (Upper Colorado River Basin) droughts” during the past 1,260 years, including one “in the mid-1100s” that persisted for “about six decades.”

This means that 15 years ago scientists demonstrated that, even without the effects of climate change, the current 20-year drought was not uncommon and the situation can get much worse, a reality that the Lower Basin states ignored.

“It should be obvious to anyone: Trying to fill a bathtub with the drain wide open is foolish,” wrote Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. “This is precisely what the operators of the Colorado River system (lakes Powell and Mead) have been attempting to do for the past 20 years. They have disregarded the increased withdrawals by the Lower Basin states and the ubiquitous arid nature of the Southwest.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Using #water to fight lead in drinking water: How #Denver Water engineered a permanent solution to a legacy problem — News on Tap

Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Cathy Proctor and Jay Adams):

Protecting people from hazards that can lurk in their drinking water is the day-in, day-out job for water industry engineers, utilities and regulators.

And at Denver Water, efforts to protect people from the health risks posed by lead from old, lead service lines getting into drinking water, has been part of the job for decades.

There is no lead in the water Denver Water delivers to customers, but the utility regularly tests for lead in the drinking water of homes that are known to have lead water service lines, the primary source of lead in drinking water.

Rachel Himyak, water treatment lead, collects a sample of water that’s been run through old lead service lines as part of ongoing studies at Denver Water of pH adjustment. Photo credit: Denver Water.

In the first half of the 20th century, lead was a common, cheap and easy-to-work-with material to use when forming small pipelines that carry drinking water from utility pipelines in the street into customers’ homes. But these old lead service lines, which in Denver Water’s experience are more often found in homes built before 1951, pose a threat in the community, particularly to children, infants and pregnant women.

Denver Water has tested for lead in customers’ drinking water for decades under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule. In 2012, the routine monitoring indicated the utility needed to investigate whether it could adjust the chemistry of the water it delivered to customers to better protect them from the risk of lead getting into drinking water.

Read this 2019 story to learn about Denver Water’s efforts over the years to combat lead in drinking water, which culminated in the 2020 launch of its groundbreaking Lead Reduction Program.

In short, the results of tests on customers’ drinking water launched Denver Water into years of study centered on one question: What more could it do to better protect at-risk customers?

The first step was more testing.

“For a utility of our size and the number of lead service lines we have, you can’t just test something by putting it into the distribution system that’s delivering water to 1.5 million people every day. That’s not acceptable to us,” said Ryan Walsh, manager of the water treatment engineering section at Denver Water.

“We had to test things at a pilot scale, by doing the pipe loop study, before we could move forward.”

Walsh’s team was in charge of testing various treatment options via the pipe loop study and later planned, designed and executed the treatment plant systems involved in increasing the pH level.

Denver Water crews dug up old lead service lines from customers’ homes for years of study that led to the utility’s Lead Reduction Program. Photo credit: Denver Water.

To build the pipe loop study, Denver Water used old lead service lines its crews removed from customers’ homes (replacing them with lead-free lines) as the crews found the old lines during their regular work on water mains across the utility’s service area.

Denver Water plumbers connected the decades-old pipes together on racks and its treatment engineers ran water through them for hours, days and years. They tested different treatment methods to find out which worked best to reduce the risk of lead from the old pipes getting into the water passing through them.

Watch this video to see Denver Water’s pipe loop study, which is still underway today.

“That testing was so critical because we used the water that had been treated by our treatment plants, Moffat and Marston, the water that was going into our system to customers. The pipe loop study allowed us to test the adjustments we might do to the water to keep people safe,” said Patty Brubaker, a water treatment plant manager.

Aaron Benko, water treatment lead, pulls a sample of water from the rack of old customer-owned lead service lines that Denver Water crews dug up from customers’ homes and researchers continue to study. Photo credit: Denver Water.

“We tried different pH levels, we tried different phosphate levels, and we tried all of them on the actual lead pipes that had been taken from our system,” Brubaker said.

“There were so many people involved in putting this together. We had the crews who went out and pulled those lines, the plumbers that put them together on the racks, the people who made the adjustments and tested the water as it ran through the pipes.

All of us were studying the impacts to figure out which would be the best method to use to protect our customers from those old lead pipes.”

Decision time

In March 2018, based on Denver Water’s studies, state health officials told Denver Water it had two years — until March 2020 — to get ready to start using a food additive called orthophosphate to tamp down the potential for lead to get into customers’ drinking water.

The decision worried many people inside and outside of Denver Water.

The concern wasn’t whether orthophosphate would reduce the potential for lead to get into drinking water. They knew it would.

Denver Water treatment engineers and operators (from left) Ryan Walsh, Aaron Benko, and Rachel Himyak at the pipe loop rack, which continues to have water running through the old lead service lines for ongoing studies. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Denver Water’s years of tests on the old pipes had shown orthophosphate would work, and other water utilities use orthophosphate to reduce the risk of lead getting into their drinking water.

But Denver Water, environmental groups and other water and wastewater utilities downstream of Colorado’s capital city worried about the widespread, long term — and expensive — consequences of adding orthophosphate to such a large system, including the increased potential for environmental impacts in and downstream of the Denver metro area.

Nicole Poncelet-Johnson, director of Denver Water’s water quality and treatment section, had been hired at the utility few months before the state’s 2018 decision on orthophosphate. From previous jobs involving water and wastewater treatment plants, she’d seen what orthophosphate could do at the plants and in the environment.

Hector Castaneda, a water treatment technician, and Nicole Poncelet-Johnson, director of Denver Water’s water quality and treatment section, at the Marston Treatment Plant filter beds, where water is filtered through tiny pieces of sand and anthracite coal as part of the treatment process. Photo credit: Denver Water.

“I’d seen the algae, which can grow faster when there are higher levels of phosphate in the water. I’d seen it coating the valves coming into the treatment plant so we couldn’t bring water in. I’ve seen how the taste and odor problems with the water were so bad that people bought and used bottled water instead of tap water,” Poncelet-Johnson said.

“And in Colorado’s dry, arid environment, with our long, sunny days and the UV light, adding orthophosphate to our system would have created a primordial soup. Plus, after the expense of adding it to the water at the drinking water treatment plant, it’s hard, expensively hard, to get phosphorous out of the water when it arrives at the downstream wastewater plants,” she said.

About half of Denver Water’s residential water use is outdoor water use used on lawns and gardens. Photo credit: Denver Water.

On top of the expensive work that would be required at wastewater treatment plants, there simply was no way to recapture all the orthophosphate that would be added to Denver’s drinking water due to the way water is used in the metro area, she said.

About half of Denver Water’s residential water use is outdoor water use, tied to the irrigation of lawns and gardens. That means some of the orthophosphate-treated drinking water was bound to run off of lawns, down the gutter and end up in the metro area’s urban creeks, streams and rivers.

Water used for irrigation of lawns and gardens often ends up in urban creeks and streams that flow throughout the Denver metro area. Photo credit: Denver Water.

The groups worried that under the right conditions, that additional phosphate could accelerate the growth of algae not only downstream of the city, but also in the metro area’s urban creeks, streams and reservoirs.

There had to be another way, they said.

Alternative path

“We went back to the data from the years of tests we’d run. We saw that if we raised the pH level of the water, instead of adding orthophosphate, we could protect people from the lead service lines,” Poncelet-Johnson said.

“And if we combined a higher pH with replacing those lead service lines with new, lead-free copper lines, then the lead levels would drop to the point where the tests couldn’t detect anything.”

In 2019, Denver Water formally proposed an alternative approach to state and federal regulators.

Denver Water’s proposal, at its core, called for raising the pH of the water delivered to customers from 7.8 to 8.8 on the pH scale, and keeping it there with relatively little variance as it flowed from the treatment plant to the customers’ homes and businesses.

Raising the pH of the water delivered to customers strengthens an existing protective coating inside lead service lines, which reduces the risk of lead getting into drinking water. Image credit: Denver Water.

The higher pH level would strengthen an existing protective coating inside the lead service lines, reducing the risk of lead getting into the drinking water as it passed through the lead pipes.

And that — combined with significantly accelerating the replacement of the old lead services lines — would 1) lower the risk faster than relying on orthophosphate alone, and 2) do so without the cost and environmental concerns posed by adding the phosphate.

This graphic (not to scale) portrays how a higher pH level creates a stronger protective coating (shown in white and brown on the left) inside a lead service line (shown in grey), separating the water (blue) from the lead pipe and reducing the risk of lead getting into the drinking water. Image credit: Denver Water.

“It was a better solution, a permanent solution to the problem of old lead service lines, which are the primary source of lead in drinking water,” Poncelet-Johnson said.

“Because instead of a Band-Aid approach, instead of just adding chemicals to the system and then dealing with the widespread economic and environmental consequences of that decision for decades, we went the other way and proposed permanently removing the problem by raising the pH of the water and replacing the lead service lines,” she said.

Listen to Nicole Poncelet-Johnson, director of Denver Water’s water quality and treatment section, discuss Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program:

Denver Water’s alternative proposal focused on five areas:

Raising the pH of the water it delivers to 1.5 million people to 8.8, and keep it fairly constant, with very little variance, as the water flowed from treatment plant, through the distribution system, to customers’ homes and businesses.

  • Mapping the location of the customer-owned lead service lines in its service area and sharing that map with customers.
  • Replacing the estimated 64,000 to 84,000 customer-owned lead service lines in its service area with new lead-free copper lines at no direct cost to the customer.
  • Providing customers enrolled in the program with water pitchers and filters certified to remove lead to use until six months after their lead line was replaced.
  • Launching the largest public health communication effort Denver Water had ever done to educate its customers about the risks of lead, the importance of using filtered water until the old lead service lines could be replaced, and the process for replacing those lead pipes.
  • Watch this video to learn more about lead service lines.

    Breaking new ground

    The proposal broke new ground in the water industry in two main ways.

    It attacked the legacy issue posed old lead service lines from all sides — by raising the pH level, replacing customers’ old lead service lines, providing water filters to customers enrolled in the program to use until six months after their line was replaced, and educating those customers about the program.

    And Denver Water said it would tackle all those steps on a scale and at a speed never before seen in the water industry.

    Communicating with customers enrolled in the Lead Reduction Program is one of five elements of the biggest public health initiative in Denver Water’s history. Image credit: Denver Water.

    Other cities had aimed to replace a few thousand lead service lines.

    But Denver Water proposed replacing up to 84,000 customer-owned lead service lines estimated to be in Denver Water’s service area, doing it at no direct cost to the customer, and doing it in 15 years.

    And, the utility proposed sending water pitchers and filters to more than 100,000 households enrolled in the program to use for cooking, drinking and preparing infant formula until six months after their lead line was replaced.

    More than 100,000 households enrolled in the Lead Reduction Program were supplied with water pitchers and filters certified to remove lead to use for cooking, drinking and preparing infant formula until six months after their lead line is replaced. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    In December 2019, health officials at the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment agreed to Denver Water’s alternative proposal.

    Weeks later, in January 2020, Denver Water launched its Lead Reduction Program — and immediately faced a crucial deadline.

    The utility’s engineers, treatment plant operators and monitoring teams now had to implement the systems and processes that would raise the pH level of the water and maintain that level as the water flowed across more than 3,000 miles of pipe to 1.5 million people. And they had less than 90 days to do it.

    North Weld County #Water District eliminates #Severance’s 25% discount on water rates — The #Greeley Tribune #SouthPlatteRiver

    1st Street in Severance. By Jared Winkler – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66581912

    Click the link to read the article on the Greeley Tribune website (Christopher Wood). Here’s an excerpt:

    The district provides water treatment and delivery for Severance and other towns and unincorporated areas of Weld and Larimer counties. Severance was found not to be in compliance with a clause in its Water Service Agreement, specifically a requirement related to water-storage capacity.

    “Under contract, the towns are required to have above their max annual use,” North Weld district manager Eric Reckentine told BizWest. “Severance’s current storage volume is below that. They’ve been above their storage requirement for a couple years.”

    Reckentine said the requirements are “to reduce their usage off of our system, which helps control peak-hour flows.”

    He said that his calculations are that elimination of the discount will cost Severance an additional $25,000 per month during peak summer months. He said he has not calculated the effect beyond the summer.

    Severance Mayor Matt Fries addressed the North Weld board Monday, requesting that the board defer the increase to Jan. 1 to enable the town to budget and appropriate the funds. He noted that the town is preparing to build a third water-storage tower “to avoid these potential penalties.”

    Tourist haven #GrandLake asks state to intervene in federal #water quality stalemate — @WaterEdCO

    Shadow Mountain Dam, astride the main stem of the upper Colorado River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Jerd Smith):

    Fourteen years after Colorado adopted standards to restore Grand Lake, the state’s largest natural water body once known for its astonishing clarity and high water quality continues to deteriorate.

    Frustrated and worried about the future, Grand Lake locals are asking the state to intervene to break through a log jam of federal and environmental red tape that has prevented finding a way to restore the lake’s clarity and water quality, despite a 90-year-old federal rule known as Senate Bill 80 requiring that the work be done.

    At issue: Grand Lake serves as a key element of Northern Water’s delivery system, which provides water to more than 1 million people on the northern Front Range and thousands of acres of irrigated farmlands.

    Owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and operated by Northern Water, what’s known as the Colorado-Big Thompson Project gathers water from streams and rivers in Rocky Mountain National Park and Grand County, and stores it in man-made Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Reservoir. From there it is eventually moved into Grand Lake and delivered via the Adams Tunnel under the Continental Divide to Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir, just west of Berthoud and Fort Collins respectively.

    During that process, algae, certain toxins and sediment are carried into Grand Lake, clouding its formerly clear waters and causing algae blooms and weed growth, and harming recreation.

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    In a hearing before the Colorado Legislature’s Interim Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee on Aug. 4, Mike Cassio, who represents the Three Lakes Watershed Association in Grand County, pleaded with state lawmakers to intervene and launch a study process that would help trigger federal action.

    by Jerd Smith | Aug 10, 2022 | Climate and Drought, Colorado River, Environment, Infrastructure, Recreation, Restoration, Water Legislation, Water Quality |

    Tourist haven Grand Lake asks state to intervene in federal water quality stalemate
    A woman paddles on Shadow Mountain Reservoir, which is caught in federal stalemate over how to improve water quality to help improve its neighboring Grand Lake. Credit: Daily Camera

    Fourteen years after Colorado adopted standards to restore Grand Lake, the state’s largest natural water body once known for its astonishing clarity and high water quality continues to deteriorate.

    Frustrated and worried about the future, Grand Lake locals are asking the state to intervene to break through a log jam of federal and environmental red tape that has prevented finding a way to restore the lake’s clarity and water quality, despite a 90-year-old federal rule known as Senate Bill 80 requiring that the work be done.

    At issue: Grand Lake serves as a key element of Northern Water’s delivery system, which provides water to more than 1 million people on the northern Front Range and thousands of acres of irrigated farmlands.

    Owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and operated by Northern Water, what’s known as the Colorado-Big Thompson Project gathers water from streams and rivers in Rocky Mountain National Park and Grand County, and stores it in man-made Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Reservoir. From there it is eventually moved into Grand Lake and delivered via the Adams Tunnel under the Continental Divide to Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir, just west of Berthoud and Fort Collins respectively.

    During that process, algae, certain toxins and sediment are carried into Grand Lake, clouding its formerly clear waters and causing algae blooms and weed growth, and harming recreation.

    In a hearing before the Colorado Legislature’s Interim Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee on Aug. 4, Mike Cassio, who represents the Three Lakes Watershed Association in Grand County, pleaded with state lawmakers to intervene and launch a study process that would help trigger federal action.

    “We have the highest respect for all of our partners,” Cassio said, referring to ongoing remediation efforts involving Northern Water and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    “But due to the design of the system, you have this beautiful natural lake and then you fill it up with reservoir water. Usually, in July when spring runoff is going on, Grand Lake is flowing from east to west. It is extremely clear. But as soon as Shadow Mountain’s water sits and starts to cook and grow weeds and algae, and the pumps come on, this massive plume of nitrates, inorganics, just basic muddy water flows into Grand Lake,” Cassio said.

    In 2008, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission moved to set a clarity standard, but it has since been replaced with a clarity goal and the aim of achieving “the highest level of clarity attainable.” Instead of working under a regulated water quality standard, Northern Water and others have implemented different management techniques, including changing pumping patterns, to find ways to improve water quality in all three water bodies.

    In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation took the first steps required under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) to do the scientific and engineering studies and public hearings that would be required to fix the system. But Reclamation stopped the process in 2020, saying that it could not definitively establish any structural alternatives that would work, nor could it find a way forward on funding what could be a project that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Jeff Rieker, general manager of Reclamation’s Colorado Eastern Plains office.

    During last week’s hearing, lawmakers said they want more information and that Northern Water’s system is too critical to the northern Front Range to do anything without careful consideration.

    “We are in a moment of time like none other,” said State Rep. Hugh McKean, a Republican who represents Loveland and other northern Front Range communities. He cited the warming climate and the effects of the massive East Troublesome fire in 2020, which engulfed lands around the three lakes and created additional water quality problems, which still impact the watershed today.

    “Is this the moment to create a long-term plan, when right now our water situation is in flux? I’m resistant to say let’s stop everything and study this,” McKean said.

    But Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron disagreed.

    “This is exactly the right time,” Kudron said. “Tourism impacts my community more than almost any other community in the state. One million people visited [Fort Collins’] Horsetooth Reservoir last year. Are we getting to the time when recreation on the East Side of the [Continental Divide] is more important than the West Side?”

    Grand Lake via Cornell University

    Northern Water’s Esther Vincent told lawmakers at the hearing that management efforts have improved clarity somewhat. In 1941, before the Colorado Big Thompson Project began operating, clarity was measured at 9.2 meters, Vincent said.

    “The [state’s] clarity goal is 3.8 meters,” she said. “We don’t hit it every year, but we’re doing a lot better. Over the past 17 years we’ve met the 3.8-meter goal 35% of the time and in the past five years we’ve hit the goal 60% of the time,” she said. “But East Troublesome complicates everything. We are still trying to wrap our heads around what this means for the system.”

    Still, she said Northern was committed to finding a path forward and indeed is legally obligated to do so under the terms of its operating contract with Reclamation.

    What that path may look like isn’t clear yet. Lawmakers did not recommend any action in the form of bills to authorize a study after Thursday’s hearing, according to interim committee staff.

    But Grand Lake advocates say the state rightly should step in because it was the Colorado water users in Northern’s system that repaid the federal construction loans on the project.

    “We have a lake unlike any lake in the country,” Kudron said. “The moment we start talking about closing the lake, it has a long rippling effect. There isn’t a Target [store] that will make up the tax dollars that would be lost. There are just 16,000 people in Grand County. If the natural resources that attract people to our county are interrupted, the county becomes interrupted. If we can’t rely on the water resource, we are in big trouble.”

    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.

    #Nebraska and #Colorado are sparring over #water rights. It could be the new norm as rivers dry up — @WaterEdCO #SouthPlatteRiver

    The South Platte River Basin is shaded in yellow. Source: Tom Cech, One World One Water Center, Metropolitan State University of Denver.

    Click the link to read the article on the CNN website (Stephanie Elam and Jason Kravarik). Here’s an excerpt:

    Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts in April signed legislation that, within the terms of the compact, would allow Nebraska to build a canal in Colorado to siphon water off the South Platte River. In response, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis described the plan as a “costly and misguided political stunt.”

    But it’s a conflict climatologists say could play out more often as drought expands in the West and Central US, draining water supplies and exacerbating strains between urban growth and agriculture.

    “We go through droughts every 20 years or so, but nothing of this magnitude,” said Tom Cech, former co-director of the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University in Denver. “We are in for a wave of water rights battles through the West. This is the driest it has been in 1,200 years.”

    […]

    “Without this compact and our ability to enforce our rights, we will see the dramatic impact upon our state,” Ricketts said in an April press conference, pointing to Colorado’s ever-growing population and its estimate of nearly $10 billion for 282 new projects along the South Platte. “Should all the long-term goals be affected, they would reduce the amount of water flows coming to the state of Nebraska by 90%.”

    That rationale raised eyebrows in Colorado. “The fact is, many of those projects are not necessarily going to come to fruition,” Kevin Rein, Colorado’s state engineer and director of the Colorado Division of Water Resources, told CNN, noting that the state curtails usage based on water-rights seniority to ensure that Nebraska still gets the water it has the right to…

    The South Platte River Compact allows Nebraska 500 cubic feet of water per second — with some conditions — in the fall and winter between October 15 and April 1. However, during the irrigation season in the spring and summer, from April 1 and October 15, Nebraska’s allotment drops to 120 cubic feet per second. Critically, though, the compact permits Nebraska to build a canal on Colorado land to divert water from the South Platte “for irrigation of lands in Nebraska” and “grants Nebraska and its citizens the right to acquire by purchase, prescription, or the exercise of eminent domain” any land necessary to build and maintain the canal.

    City of #Aurora #Water #conservation ordinance passes first reading unanimously: Prohibits aesthetic #turf in new development

    From email from the City of Aurora (Greg Baker):

    At its August 8, 2022 meeting, the Aurora City Council unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance sponsored by Mayor Mike Coffman that will restrict the use of turf in new developments and golf courses. This ordinance is forward-looking, impacting new development and redevelopment by prohibiting aesthetic cool-weather turf. Parks would be permitted to use turf in sports fields, informal play areas and social areas.

    West Drought map Monitor August 2, 2022.

    Mayor Coffman noted that continual drought in the arid west and the impacts of climate change weighed heavily in his decision to sponsor this ordinance. “Colorado is in a crisis,” he said. “We need to take action to ensure that Aurora can continue to grow responsibly.”

    Credit: U.S. Women’s National Team

    The ordinance will allow cool weather turf for new development only in active or programmed recreation areas, such as sport fields and organized social/cultural gatherings. It would prohibit turf in common areas, medians, curbside landscape (“tree lawns”) and in most residential front yards, while restricting it in backyards to allow for 45% coverage or 500 sq. ft., whichever is smaller. The ordinance permits turf in the front yard in alley-loaded developments that do not include substantial backyards. It also creates a path for transition zones to allow developments with site plans that are currently approved to better blend in appearance with the new areas that will be covered by the ordinance.

    Broken Tee Golf Course via Golf Digest

    Finally, the ordinance prohibits the use of cool-weather turf for development of new golf courses and it restricts ornamental water features, such as exterior decorative fountains, waterfalls, basins and ponds. Warm weather turfs that use less than 15 inches of supplemental irrigation, such as buffalo grass, will still be permitted.

    Lindsay Rogers, Water Policy Analyst for Western Resource Advocates, a Boulder nonprofit conservation organization, provided support for the ordinance. “Aurora has long been a trailblazer and early adopter of water conservation and reuse programs and through this ordinance, Aurora is taking a critical step to ensuring water supply resiliency now and into the future,” she said during the City Council meeting.

    Assuming passage on final reading on August 22, the ordinance will go into effect beginning Sept. 30, 2022. Development with complete site plans submitted prior to that date will not be impacted.

    Hard choices for the #ColoradoRiver — Writers on the Range #COriver #aridification

    Click the link to read the article on the Writers on the Range website (Quinn Harper and Mark Squillace):

    The seven Colorado River states – Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming – face a daunting mid-August deadline. The federal government has asked them to come up with a plan to reduce their combined water usage from the Colorado River by up to 4 million acre-feet in 2023.

    That is a massive reduction for a river system that currently produces about 12.4 million acre-feet. The Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the Colorado River, warned that it will “act unilaterally to protect the system” if the states cannot come up with an adequate plan on their own.

    The seven states have worked cooperatively over the past two decades to identify solutions to a shrinking river. But their response now, much like the global response to climate change, seems far from adequate to the enormous challenge.

    In a recent letter to BuRec, the Upper Colorado River Commission, speaking for the four Upper Basin states, proposed a plan that adopts a business-as-usual, “drought-reduction” approach. They argue that their options are limited because “previous drought response actions are depleting upstream storage by 661,000 feet.”

    The Commission complains that water users “already suffer chronic shortages under current conditions resulting in uncompensated priority administration, which includes cuts to numerous present perfected rights in each of our states.”

    This leads the Commission to conclude that any future reductions must come largely from Mexico and the Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada, because they use most of the water.

    But the Lower Basin states have already taken a significant hit to their “present perfected rights,” and if BuRec makes good on its promise to act unilaterally, they will face another big reduction. The cooperative relationship among the Basin states will not endure if the Upper Basin refuses to share the burden by reducing its consumption.

    The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project involves raising the height of the existing dam by 131 feet. The dam will be built out and will have “steps” made of roller-compacted concrete to reach the new height. Image credit: Denver Water

    A good place to start might lie with two Colorado projects to divert water from the Colorado River basin to the Front Range. Both began construction this summer. The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will triple the size of one of Denver Water’s major storage units. Denver Water’s original justification for this project – to serve Denver’s growing urban population – seems odd given that water demand in their service area over the past two decades has shrunk, even as its population rose by nearly 300,000.

    Outflow from the dam across the Colorado River that forms Windy Gap Reservoir. Taken during a field trip the reservoir in September, 2017.

    Similar questions have been raised with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap Firming Project, which plans to store Colorado River water to support population growth in Front Range cities.

    These two projects suggest that Colorado is prepared to exacerbate the current crisis when the opposite response is so desperately needed.

    Abandoning these two projects would signal that Colorado is serious about giving the Colorado River a fighting chance at survival. It might also jump-start good-faith negotiations over how Mexico, the states, and tribes might work to achieve a long-term solution to this crisis.

    The homestead laws of the 19th century attracted a resilient group of farmers to the West who cleverly designed water laws to secure their water rights against all future water users. “First in time, first in right” became the governing mantra of water allocation, because, except for Tribal Nations, the farmers were first.

    That system worked well for many years. As communities grew, cities and water districts built reservoirs to store the spring runoff, ensuring that water was available throughout the irrigation season.

    Climate change and mega-droughts have upended that system. Nowhere have the consequences been as dire as in the Colorado River Basin. America’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead – key components of the Colorado River’s water storage system – have not filled for more than two decades. They now sit well below 30% of their capacity.

    Hotter temperatures, less mountain snowpack, and dry soils that soak up runoff like a sponge have brought us to this seven-state crisis. All seven states must now share the pain of addressing this crisis.

    The Upper Basin Commission’s anemic response to BuRec’s plea is not a serious plan. We can do better and we must.

    Mark Squillace and Quinn Harper are contributors to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. Mark Squillace is the Raphael J. Moses professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado Law School. Quinn Harper is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in natural resource policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

    Is the #ColoradoRiver a bellwether for the [#Colorado’s] other river systems? — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel #COriver #aridification

    Click the link to read the guest column on the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel website (Eric Kuhn and Jennifer Gimbel). Here’s an excerpt:

    Unfortunately, the situation on the Colorado River is not unique. Colorado’s mountains are the headwaters of four major river systems: the Colorado, the Platte, the Arkansas and the Rio Grande. Each river provides critical water supplies for the present and future needs of our state; each is being impacted by the effects of climate change; and under Interstate water compacts signed decades ago, Colorado must share each with its neighboring downstream states. Climate change, or what scientists are now referring to as aridification, has caused all of Colorado to be hotter and drier. The combined effects of climate change, interstate water compact obligations and intense competition for the available water among different communities and water use sectors within our state means that future Coloradans will have to learn to do more with less water. This will take bold action, compromise and a new era of innovation and cooperation among competing water interests within Colorado and among Colorado and its neighboring states.

    Rio Grande through the eastern edge of Alamosa July 5, 2022. Photo credit: Chris Lopez/Alamosa Citizen

    Already, the farmers in Colorado’s fertile Rio Grande Basin are struggling to maintain an aquifer by restricting pumping. They face an awful choice — reduce their collective uses of the aquifer to a sustainable level so that some farms can survive, or they all fail. At the same time, the surface water supply from the Rio Grande River, which must be shared with New Mexico and Texas, has diminished and most likely will continue to do so.

    The Republican River’s South Fork near Hale, Colorado, with the region’s seemingly endless fields. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Jeffrey Beall

    The Republican River Basin, a small but agriculturally important river system that originates on the plains and flows east to its confluence with the Missouri River, is also stressed by overuse of the river supply. Productive farm fields are being fallowed so that Colorado can comply with the Republican River Compact. Fortunately for the Rio Grande and Republican river basins, the General Assembly set aside $60 million to buy out farms in order to leave water in the aquifers and river systems. That amount is a drop in the bucket for what will be needed to recover and sustain those systems.

    The Arkansas River and South Platte River systems also have significant challenges. These basins are home to 85% of Colorado’s population and to most of its commercial agriculture. The farm economy in the Arkansas has already suffered when the Colorado State Engineer had to cut back the use of alluvial wells, which were depleting flows to the Arkansas River and causing Colorado to be out of compliance with the Arkansas River Compact. The South Platte River system, which relies on return flows to sustain the river past the state line, is seeing much higher demands. The current return flow regime is threatened by Nebraska reinvigorating the proposed Perkin’s Ditch, a century-old feature provided for in the 1923 South Platte Compact. Both these basins are being hammered by the combined impacts of Front Range cities rushing to buy and dry existing farms to provide water for future growth while their water supplies imported from the Colorado River Basin have become less reliable due to climate change caused drought and compact obligations.

    Colorado’s future economy will depend on implementing innovative methods to sustain, deliver and treat water supplies while leaving enough water in our streams to maintain healthy and thriving aquatic ecosystems. Water delivery entities need to think broader to collaborate with others on ways to manage and share their supplies and their systems.

    Hot Take: This renewable energy project will make you love that dirty water — @ColoradoStateU #ActOnClimate

    Credit: Colorado State University

    Click the link to read the article on the Colorado State Univesity website (Coleman Cornelius):

    AT THE NATIONAL WESTERN CENTER, an unparalleled system is mining dirty water for clean energy. It’s the largest sewer-heat recovery project in North America.

    You’re not alone if you read the word “sewer” and thought, “Wait, what?”

    Yes, this green energy relies on raw sewage from thousands of homes and businesses in Denver – a great gush of wastewater expelled from dishwashers, washing machines, sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets. Sewage often is associated with its fecal content, but it contains something far more relevant to sustainable energy. That’s heat. Consider: An 8-minute shower typically uses a whopping 20 gallons of water at roughly 105 degrees Fahrenheit. With each load of laundry, a high-efficiency washing machine could gulp 13 gallons of water at up to 130 degrees. And, with each cycle, a dishwasher might use 4 gallons of water at 140 degrees. That’s a lot of water – and a lot of heat – down the drain.

    In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that Americans send the equivalent of 350 billion kilowatt-hours of energy down our drains each year – enough to power about 32 million U.S. homes.

    “It really is just wasted heat,” said Leslie Fangman, a civil engineer and vice president of corporate development for CenTrio. CenTrio is part of a consortium called EAS Energy Partners, which was selected by the National Western Center Authority and the city and county of Denver to finance, design, build, operate, and maintain the sewer-heat recovery system.

    The sewer-heat recovery system extracts heat from wastewater in the wintertime and uses it to warm buildings. In the summertime, the system reverses and rejects heat to cool buildings. Illustration: National Western Center Authority

    The project relies on technology that is more than a decade old but has not been widely adopted, largely because of infrastructure complexities and high upfront costs. Yet, the concept is straightforward: During wintertime, extract heat from sewage and recycle it to warm a network of buildings, called an energy district; during summertime, use the same system to reject heat and cool the buildings. In so doing, dramatically reduce use of natural gas and electricity, which power furnaces and air conditioners.

    After several years of planning and construction, the sewer-heat recovery system is poised to become a highlight of sustainability at the National Western Center. The center comprises 250 acres near I-25 and I-70 in north Denver. It is a $1 billion redevelopment, transforming the historic grounds of the National Western Stock Show into a year-round site for entertainment, education, and innovation. CSU Spur is the center’s educational anchor, with three new buildings dedicated to public education, research, and community outreach around the critical topics of food, water, and animal and human health.

    “When I first heard about this system, I remember thinking, ‘Holy cow, there’s a lot of thermal energy capacity that’s going downstream that we could capture,’” said Brad Buchanan, chief executive officer of the National Western Center Authority, which contracted with EAS Energy Partners to build the sewer-heat recovery system. “It really grabbed my attention because we decided to hold a very high bar for sustainability. It seemed to be the perfect fit if we were really going to walk the talk of reducing carbon emissions.”

    eslie Fangman, vice president of corporate development for CenTrio, has led project development on behalf of a business consortium hired for the job.
    Denver, CO – April 21, 2022
    Leslie Fangman, a civil engineer and vice president of corporate development for CenTrio Energy is arranged for a portrait at the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at the National Western Center in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, April 21, 2022.
    Photographer: Matthew Staver
    303-916-6155
    http://www.matthewstaver.com
    mattstaver@hotmail.com

    The heat recovery system took 18 months to design and build. It is projected to fill 90 percent of heating and cooling needs in seven buildings encompassing more than 1 million square feet. That makes the system the largest of its kind in North America. With buildout of the National Western Center’s initial phases, the heat recovery system is expected to save 2,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year – equivalent to eliminating 6.6 million vehicle miles from roadways. And it has capacity to expand even beyond the center’s first planned phases of construction.

    The system began operating in April. For now, it serves the Vida and Terra buildings on the CSU Spur campus, as well as the nearby HW Hutchison Family Stockyards Event Center; they are the first new buildings at the National Western Center. Soon, the Hydro building will open at CSU Spur, becoming the fourth building in the energy district.

    “It’s a great way to recover resources that we usually think about as waste,” said Jocelyn Hittle, who has led development of CSU Spur for the Colorado State University System. “I love the idea of Spur being able to help advance the state of the art by using nascent technology that is novel at this scale.”

    The system diverts sewage from a 72-inch pipeline that runs along the western border of the National Western Center. The pipeline carries wastewater from tens of thousands of homes and businesses to the Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility, which is operated by Metro Water Recovery on the city’s northern edge. It is the largest wastewater treatment facility in the Rocky Mountain West.

    The side stream of dirty water enters the Central Utility Plant at the National Western Center and runs through a grinding system to break down solids before wastewater goes through a heat exchanger and then flushes back to the sewer. During cold months, an industrial plate-and-frame heat exchanger draws warmth from the dirty water and transfers it to clean water that constantly circulates through the energy district in a closed loop. Clean water never touches dirty water as it runs through this “ambient loop.” When warm water arrives at each building, equipment again transfers heat – this time, from the ambient loop to a forced-air system, which then cycles warmth through building air. Back at the Central Utility Plant, dirty water returns to the sewer; it is enclosed in pipes, so the sewage does not emit odors.

    During warm months, the process reverses: The system extracts heat from air in district buildings and transfers it to the ambient loop, then on to sewage – thereby rejecting heat from the energy district. Wastewater again runs to the Hite Treatment Facility, while cool, clean water runs into the energy district. At each building, cooler temperatures then are pulled from the ambient loop and cycled through building air.

    In both cases, heat pumps are needed to extract and exchange thermal energy, and water is the medium sharing that energy. In this way, the sewer-heat recovery system may warm or cool buildings. If clean water in the ambient loop isn’t the desired temperature, boilers give it a boost in cold months, and cooling towers reduce it in hot months.

    “You wouldn’t even be aware it exists, but the system really is revolutionary. It really represents a lot of the city’s goals toward resiliency, and it’s a great example of how we can do something creatively and innovatively,” said Mike Bouchard, program director for the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center. The city and county of Denver owns National Western Center land and several center facilities; the office spearheaded the procurement process for the heat recovery system, coordinated efforts with center partners, and constructed the ambient loop.

    he Delgany Interceptor pipes run along the border of the National Western Center and convey sewage to a treatment plant. The pipes were above ground, shown at left (Photo: Metro Water Recovery). The pipes were replaced and buried, above right, providing a prime chance to build a new green energy system.

    The system saves significant energy in part because sewage maintains a fairly constant temperature, typically ranging between 55 degrees and 75 degrees throughout the year. That means the source already is close to ideal building temperatures, said René Moffet, who managed system engineering and design for AECOM Technical Services Inc., another of the EAS Energy Partners. Saunders Construction of Denver built the system as part of the partnership.

    “This system is something we can take a lot of pride in,” Moffet said. “It’s awesome – especially with a project that’s the first of this scope in North America. A lot of people are watching this to see how it will go.”

    Top left: Wastewater enters the Central Utility Plant and runs through a heat exchanger, which extracts thermal energy and transfers it to clean water that flows to new buildings in the energy district. Bottom left: If water is not warm or cool enough, boilers or cooling towers adjust water temperature. Right: A closed pipeline of clean water, called an ambient loop, is the medium conveying thermal energy.

    The sewer-heat recovery system cost $34 million, financed through a public-private partnership spanning 40 years. At the end of that period, total system costs are expected to be slightly above those of conventional systems, Buchanan, of the National Western Center Authority, said. However, those costs would decrease if the system were expanded to additional construction at the site or if partners were able to capitalize on potential carbon offsets, he said.

    “I’m an evangelist for this system,” Buchanan said. “It will be a substantial difference maker with carbon reduction, and it’s pretty easy to get excited about that.”

    Brad Buchanan, CEO of the National Western Center Authority, says he is an evangelist for the system.
    Denver, CO – April 25, 2022
    Brad Buchanan, CEO of the National Western Center Authority is arranged for a portrait along the South Platte River near the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at the National Western Center in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Monday, April 25, 2022.
    Photographer: Matthew Staver
    303-916-6155
    http://www.matthewstaver.com
    mattstaver@hotmail.com

    The concept emerged in 2015 with Jim McQuarrie, former director of technology and innovation for Metro Water Recovery, Denver’s wastewater utility. The utility pursues sustainability and cost savings at the energy-water nexus. It also has a significant issue to manage: To meet state and federal regulations, effluent – or treated wastewater – must be a sufficiently low temperature, especially during cold months, before it can be discharged to the South Platte River. The guidelines are designed to avoid disrupting river ecology. Cooling effluent is a costly and energy-intensive undertaking, so Metro Water Recovery sought an environmentally sustainable way to do it – one that might have benefits well beyond regulatory compliance.

    An opportunity arose during master planning for the National Western Center. Among stakeholder objectives was burial of the Delgany Interceptor sewer lines – two pipes, both 6 feet in diameter, that run along the South Platte River on the west side of the National Western Center. The pipes carry Denver sewage to the Hite Treatment Facility. For years, they were above ground – an eyesore that blocked access to the river. McQuarrie and other leaders thought site redevelopment offered a chance to replace and bury the interceptor lines, while fulfilling additional goals: It would be an ideal time to install a landmark renewable energy project, which would save carbon emissions and reduce wastewater temperatures to help meet effluent guidelines; meantime, pipeline burial would open the riverfront for new trails, open space, and National Western Center programming.

    National Western Center. Photo credit: CSU

    The new system cuts “thermal pollution” in effluent and contributes to Denver’s climate goals, making it a model for utilities and municipalities nationwide, said Blair Wisdom, who succeeded McQuarrie as director of technology and innovation at Metro Water Recovery. “It’s really a recycling concept that addresses single-use heat,” Wisdom said. “Denver and the state are recognizing that a lot of greenhouse gas emissions are from people heating and cooling their built environments, and that includes household water.”

    The project, which involved dozens of National Western Center stakeholders, also demonstrates the power of collaboration, noted McQuarrie, who now leads water projects for Tetra Tech, a global engineering firm. “One of the most striking things about this whole project is the impact that can be created when people partner together and work toward a common goal,” McQuarrie said. “Something like this requires people to think big and challenge themselves about whether adhering to traditional past practices is truly the best thing for future generations.”

    The utility plant is an unobtrusive building containing leading-edge technology.
    Denver, CO – April 21, 2022
    A view of the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at the National Western Center in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, April 21, 2022.
    Photographer: Matthew Staver
    303-916-6155
    http://www.matthewstaver.com
    mattstaver@hotmail.com

    Early in the planning process, McQuarrie discussed the concept of a sewer-heat recovery system with Ken Carlson, a Colorado State University professor who served as McQuarrie’s adviser as he attained a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering. Carlson is director of CSU’s Center for Energy Water Sustainability and is an expert on water recycling technologies. He agreed the heat recovery system might work well at the National Western Center; the two pitched the idea to the CSU System, which, in turn, took it to a larger leadership group. Carlson then asked six undergraduates to study the concept – a move that fit well with CSU Spur’s educational goals.

    The students – calling themselves “the Sustainulators” – evaluated sewer-heat recovery systems as part of a senior design project, a capstone for CSU students in civil and environmental engineering. During 2015-2016, with the guidance of senior research manager Asma Hanif, the student team gathered reams of data; their meetings, site visits, and final report generated information and enthusiasm leading into formal planning for the heat recovery system. In fact, the CSU team recommended pipeline burial and system installation much like that later accomplished.

    Natalie Thompson led the student team. In May 2016, she earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering, with a minor in global environmental sustainability, and went on to attain a master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati. The CSU project heightened her interest in designing water and wastewater systems, Thompson said. Now, she’s doing that engineering work as part of international development projects throughout Uganda.

    “Our project was such an exciting time to see how you can incorporate sustainability into design, while also making a space more beautiful,” Thompson wrote in an email sent from Kampala, Uganda. “This project opened my eyes to heat recovery, which makes so much sense when thinking about all the hot water we use in America. It made me see that we should not view wastewater as a waste, but as an opportunity. That really shifted my perspective as someone who has always been inspired by sustainability.”

    Natalie Thompson, kneeling, led a CSU student engineering team that studied the sewer-heat recovery system; she’s now working on international water projects

    Viewing wastewater as an opportunity – and, specifically, as an important source of thermal energy, nutrients, and fresh water – is at the core of a principle called “One Water.” The theory holds that water has value in all its forms and may be managed through integrated systems and technologies that together improve water quality, access, and sustainability on an increasingly thirsty planet. The sewer-heat recovery system at the National Western Center exemplifies the One Water concept, and university students and researchers will continue to study the system and its benefits, Hittle said. In the forthcoming Hydro building at CSU Spur, researchers with CSU’s One Water Solutions Institute also will advance the One Water idea by testing new technologies for the treatment and use of wastewater, stormwater, and roof runoff.

    The combination of big ideas and technical challenges inspired the engineering students who first evaluated the sewer-heat recovery system, Thompson said. “It really ignited my passion for working with communities, understanding needs, and then designing,” she wrote. “I love the idea that sustainability is not just a buzzword, but a lifetime of serving a community.”

    The #ColoradoRiver Compact and the future of green spaces — #Colorado State University #COriver #aridification

    nd the proliferation of green spaces. Credit: Colorado State University

    Click the link to read the article on the Colorado State University website (Corinne Neustadter):

    This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Colorado River Compact, an innovative and influential legal agreement among seven U.S. states that governs water rights to the Colorado River. In recognition of this anniversary, the Colorado State University Libraries will be spotlighting a series of stories in SOURCE about the ripple effects of this 100-year-old document on diverse people, disciplines and industries in 2022.

    Previous stories in this series include: How Colorado water history shapes the science of snow and why Western river compacts were innovative in the 1920s but couldn’t foresee today’s water challenges.

    One hundred and fifty two years ago, Colorado Agricultural College’s first buildings sat among sagebrush and prairie grasses. As the campus grew, its center became enshrined in a green meadow ringed by elms, a space now known as the iconic Oval.

    Today, Colorado State University’s green spaces are woven into the tapestry of campus life – from the Intramural Fields to Monfort Quad, they serve as informal parks for students and faculty alike to revel in the beauty of the Front Range.

    A western campus shaped by urban ideals

    These spaces speak to the larger power of the designed landscape in American life. Popularized by the public park movement and Frederick Law Olmsted’s layout of suburban landscapes in the late 1800s, large, green public spaces provided serene outdoor recreation in cities after the Industrial Revolution.

    “The democratic nature of large, open spaces on the East Coast was brought with people as they moved West,” said CSU landscape architecture professor Lori Catalano. “It was a way of creating central green spaces that were shared, but the plants and ideas migrated from a humid climate in the East to the semi-arid climate in the West.”

    As a growing land-grant institution, CSU’s adoption of the green aesthetic instilled the idea of parks as public spaces accessible to all.

    Though the Oval’s first elms were planted in 1881, it wasn’t until 1919 that it became the center of campus, soon after Fort Collins’ City Park was established. These spaces signified how far green spaces had spread from their wealthy urban roots and democratized access to parks in northern Colorado.

    “As humans, plants, and animals moved west, they modified the landscape,” Catalano said. “Alfred Crosby’s concept of ecological imperialism helps explain how emigrants moved westward with a variety of diseases, plants, and animals co-creating an environment that reinforced the presence of open grassy fields with trees.”

    After World War II, green spaces were adopted into front lawns by middle-class residents seeking a taste of luxury. CSU’s own green aesthetic bloomed as it grew. Spaces like the Monfort Quad, the Intramural Fields and the Lagoon complemented new architecture while creating new outdoor spaces for students between classes.

    Green oases in the prairie

    “Traditionally on campuses, buildings are grouped to create a series of outdoor rooms,” Catalano said. “Aesthetically, people and students expect large areas of green lawns with trees – they don’t expect it to look like prairie.”

    In the American West, these green landscapes live on and signal the continuing legacy of centuries-old ecological imperialism, but they contrast with the region’s naturally dry, beige prairies. CSU’s green spaces remain a central part of its identity and help unify landscapes without sacrificing flexibility and durability – which is critical for a campus that has thousands of students traverse its grounds during the school year.

    “College campuses are used a lot like parks and need a surface that is flexible and durable,” Catalano said. “Grass is very durable, as it can tolerate students walking over it, (playing) frisbee, picnicking, whereas our native grasses that require less water cannot tolerate that level of compaction.”

    Lawns are also simpler to maintain compared to native plants – all that’s required is mowing, fertilizing, and watering. But throughout the American West, green lawns contrast with dry, semi-arid landscapes and may not survive a resource-scarce future.

    “If campus reflected the natural landscape of Fort Collins, we’d see grasslands with Cottonwood trees and peach leaf willows along waterways,” Catalano said. “Visually, lawns hold a cultural power. They look good, they’re green … it’s what we know and what makes us comfortable.”

    What will green spaces look like in the future?
    With an unprecedented mega-drought in the Colorado River Basin, some states have challenged the ubiquity of green lawns.

    In Las Vegas, authorities started paying people to remove their irrigated lawns in the 1980s, and the program has been largely successful in curbing residential water use. As of 2021, any “non-functional” lawns are banned in Las Vegas to conserve water, reflecting how Nevada’s lower allocation of Colorado River water is already stretched thin.

    In Colorado, House Bill 22-1151, which was signed into law this past April, requires the Colorado Water Conservation Board to create a statewide program with $2 million in funding to incentivize replacing grass with “water-wise” landscaping.

    But, according to Catalano, changing how people understand and perceive the landscape can prove daunting.

    “It takes a lot of will and intention to make a commitment to changing the landscape,” she said. “We could incentivize it, but one challenge is, the price of water is relatively inexpensive – it takes someone who’s passionate and intentional about it to be enticed by incentives, because there’s not a huge financial gain. It’s a little like solar – we all want it, but how much are we willing to pay for it?”

    Curbing water usage through changing landscape aesthetics will be necessary to ensure the long-term health of the Colorado River Basin.

    In June, the U.S. government declared that the basin must cut its water usage by 2 to 4 million acre-feet or risk federal intervention. Meanwhile, CSU researchers found that most streams flowing through the Denver parks system only exist because of runoff sprinkler water. Reducing water consumption through limiting green lawns, then, could prove effective.

    Though CSU’s campus design now seems set in stone, its history reflects a century of cultural changes that have cultivated tree-lined avenues, sprawling fields and verdant quads. A long cry from Old Main set atop rolling plains, the future of these unifying spaces will be influenced by the state of the Colorado River Basin and pending water shortages.

    “Landscapes are often unseen, undervalued, and not understood. When people can’t see or don’t understand the processes and systems involved in creating and maintaining landscapes, it is difficult for them to value making a change,” she said. “When we begin to see and value alternative landscapes that require less water, reducing the dominance of lawns is possible.”

    Spring Creek Flood (July 28, 1997) anniversary: Revisit the deadly night — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

    Coyote Gulch’s good friend had just sold his mobile home near Prospect Road and S. College Avenue in Fort Collins when the July 28, 1997 flood hit. The buyers were safe.

    Click the link to read the article on the Fort Collins Coloradoan website (Erin Udell). Here’s an excerpt:

    Witnesses could hear yells for help, see trailers wash off their foundations and smell the propane that streaked the debris-filled floodwaters…

    As July 28, 1997 ended and a new day began, Fort Collins was faced with a new city — one full of twisted debris, totaled cars and forever-changed families.

    Twenty years later, walk through the events of that night with this timeline of the Spring Creek Flood. See how heavy rain turned a creek into a deadly river. Watch as a festival-like atmosphere — with people kayaking in the streets — gave way to a somber city the next morning. And revisit the places that were washed away and rebuilt.

    How it started — Heavy rainfall pounded parts of Fort Collins, with isolated storms wetting the city on July 27, 1997. The following day, it was about to get worse…

    Photo shows rescuers at Coyote Gulch’s good friend’s mobile home near Prospect Road and S. College Avenue in Fort Collins when the July 28, 1997 flood hit. The buyers were safe.

    Worries rise with water — What started as heavy rain and minor flooding took a turn as the night of July 28 wore on. With a sprinkling of students, staff and facilities workers on campus at CSU, many witnessed unprecedented damages.

    The night turns deadly — “It was a night of terror at a trailer park,” televisions across Colorado boomed as footage from a 9News broadcast showed the hellish landscape along Spring Creek. Fires erupted, trailers washed off their foundations and residents clung to trees as two mobile home parks became targets for the devastation.

    Fort Collins, Spring Creek flood July 28, 1997

    Here’s a timeline of the flood from the The Colorado State University website:

    July 27, 1997
    5 p.m. – After a mostly dry July, torrents of heavy rain begin northwest of Laporte. The storm expands southward into Horsetooth Reservoir.

    6:30 p.m. – Heavy rain mostly stops. The air remains humid.

    Midnight – Southeasterly winds behind a cold front push more moist air against the eastern foothills.

    July 28, 1997
    1 a.m.
    – Steady rain develops, at first limited to a narrow band along the foothills.

    2 a.m. – Rainfall rates in excess of 1 inch per hour develop northwest of Laporte. Residents wake up to standing water.

    8 a.m. – After early morning letup of overnight rains, a brief, soaking shower catches Fort Collins morning commuters. To the northwest, major flooding begins around Laporte.

    Noon – Skies remain cloudy over the Fort Collins area Monday afternoon. Dewpoint temperatures hover in the low 60s.

    6 p.m. – A first wave of heavy showers moves into Fort Collins. Rain increases with hourly accumulations of close to 1 inch in southwest Fort Collins.

    7 p.m. – Rainfall rates approach 3 inches per hour, according to a rain gauge at the CSU Foothills Campus.

    8 p.m. – Flooding of homes and streets in Fort Collins intensifies. The water is 2 feet deep at Elizabeth and Shields streets. Flow rate along Elizabeth is comparable to that of the Poudre River.

    8:30 p.m. – Extremely heavy rain falls locally over a few square miles approximately at the corner of Drake Road and Overland Trail. Rainfall totals for a 90-minute period exceed 5 inches. The heaviest-hit area includes the Spring Creek watershed.

    9:30 p.m. – The National Weather Service issues a flash flood warning for Larimer County.

    10:30 p.m. – Floodwater bursts open the Lory Student Center’s west doors.

    11 p.m. – The water level in a nearby mobile home park rises 5 feet in 3 minutes. Five people die. A train derails. A gas leak causes an explosion south of Prospect Road and east of the railroad tracks.

    July 30, 1997
    Summer classes are back in session on campus.

    August 1997
    Fall classes at CSU begin on time.

    September 1997
    A picnic is added to President Al Yates’ annual fall address to thank the campus and community for its resilience in the wake of the disaster. The tradition continues today.

    Read more about the 1997 flood.

    (This documentary was created by the university to document the 1997 flood and recovery efforts.)

    Do You Have a Septic System? Be aware of Larimer County Requirements — The North Forty News

    Septic system

    Click the link to read the guest column on the North Forty News website (Blaine Howerton). Here’s an excerpt:

    Larimer County’s rules for selling a property with a septic system have been in place for one year now but few are aware of the new requirements. While it has always been customary for a seller to have the septic system pumped and inspected prior to closing, now it is mandatory. Why the change? The county is trying to protect buyers and uncover unhealthy systems. According to Larimer County’s website, Colorado counties operating similar programs found repairs were needed in approximately 20% of septic systems that were inspected.

    A seller must use a Larimer County certified 3rd party inspector to pump and inspect the septic. If the system is in good working order, the inspector will submit documentation to Larimer County for review. A seller must then obtain an Acceptance Document from Larimer County and provide this to the buyer.

    If the system fails, the seller must repair it. If the seller is unable or unwilling to repair the system, the buyer accepts responsibility and must obtain a permit and repair the system within 180 days of purchase.

    We have seen the cost of inspections under this new system double. Prior to implementation, the cost for a septic pump and inspection was around $350 – $400. Now sellers are paying between $750 – $850 for the extra effort of providing documentation to the county.

    Need more details? Visit http://www.larimer.org and enter Septic System Transfer of Title.

    #Johnstown implements outdoor watering limits — The #Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Photo credit: Consolidated Home Supply Ditch and Reservoir Company

    Click the link to read the article on the Loveland Reporter-Herald website (Jocelyn Rowley). Here’s an excerpt:

    Amid a sharp increase in water demand, the Johnstown Town Council voted earlier this week to enact an outdoor watering schedule for residents and businesses. Starting July 19, properties in town are required to limit outdoor watering to three days per week, before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. only…

    The new schedule limits homes and businesses with even-numbered addresses to watering lawns and gardens on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Odd-numbered addresses are limited to Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Outdoor watering is prohibited all day on Sunday.

    The town also announced that it will be curtailing municipal outdoor watering, or switching to non-potable sources. Local homeowners associations are also asked to limit their water use by adhering to the schedule for even-numbered addresses.

    The restrictions were implemented not due to a water shortage, but rather a shortage of water storage infrastructure in Johnstown. According to Barker, the typical demand of 1.5 million gallons per day “shoots up” to as much as 5.7 million during the months of July, August and September, depleting a system that has just 6.2 million gallons of total capacity.

    “We don’t have a shortage of water,” she said. “Our water portfolio is very healthy. We’re just currently dealing with a demand on our system during the hot summer weeks where we’re reaching that capacity of treated, stored water and we’re having to handle it through this water schedule.”

    Johnstown’s water is supplied from two sources — the Consolidated Home Supply Ditch and Reserve Company and the Colorado Big Thompson-Project. According to Barker, the town currently owns 4,500 acre-feet, providing 14.6 billion gallons per year or, “enough water to serve 9,000 single-family homes per year.”

    Johnstown is currently in the process of expanding its capacity to store more of that 14.6 billion gallons, and hopes to have at least one piece of the puzzle in place by the end of the year — a new water tower near the Pioneer Ridge subdivision on Weld County Road 17.

    #Water utilities see collaboration as the key to water supply, future: “Urgency lubricates collaboration” — The #Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Click the link to read the article on the Loveland Reporter-Herald website (Ken Amundson). Here’s an excerpt:

    Utility directors from Greeley and Boulder, along with the general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, talked about regional water collaboration during a panel discussion at the annual BizWest Confluence — Colorado Water Summit Thursday…

    Brad Wind, the Northern Water general manager, said that a Google search for links to discussions about collaboration renders millions of results. “But the thing that is missing (in those search results) is the element of ‘urgency,’” Wind said. Urgency drives many entities to the table to collaborate…

    As moderator [Kristin] Todd said simply, “Urgency lubricates collaboration.”

    […]

    First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit Northern Water.

    The very creation of the Colorado-Big Thompson water project that Northern Water operates came as a result of an urgent need to supply farmers with water, especially in the August and September time frame when crops needed more water in order to produce a harvestable yield. It still took 10 years for the first water to move through the Alva Adams tunnel from the Western Slope to Front Range users.

    Whooping crane adult and chick. Credit: USGS (public domain)

    Endangered species, also, resulted in water interests quickly coming together to assure stream flows in Nebraska while also maintaining water availability in Colorado.

    Population is the urgent factor now. “The population (of this region) has grown 67% in my time at Northern Water,” Wind said.

    Summer work begins at Glade Reservoir as #NISP awaits federal permit — The #FortCollins Coloradoan #PoudreRiver #SouthPlatteRiver

    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

    Click the link to read the article on the Fort Collins Coloradoan website (Sady Swanson and Jacy Marmaduke). Here’s an excerpt:

    Crews began conducting rock and soil assessments in June at the site of the planned Glade Reservoir, north of Ted’s Place on U.S. Highway 287. The assessments will give Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District officials site-specific geotechnical and geological information that will inform the design and construction of the Glade Reservoir dam…

    The assessment work is expected to continue through November, according to a Northern Water news release. This work includes:

  • Digging a 1,000-foot-long trench at the main dam site to test materials and drill the foundation
  • Building a test pad of embankment material types
  • Producing aggregates and rock fill from quarries and investigating material characteristics
  • This work is being done ahead of the project’s anticipated approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to make its final determination this year. If that happens, construction could start as early as 2023 with completion expected by 2028.

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

    Guest column #Water Talks: The crisis of the #ColoradoRiver system — The Ark Valley Voice

    Glen Canyon Dam creates water storage on the Colorado River in Lake Powell, which is just 27% full in June 2022. Bureau data on the reservoir’s water-storage volume showed a loss of 443,000 acre-feet. Credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

    Click the link to read the column on the Ark Valley Voice website (Terry Scanga):

    It should be obvious to anyone; trying to fill a bathtub with the drain wide open is foolish. This is precisely what the operators of the Colorado River System (Lake Powell and Lake Mead) have been attempting to do for the past 20 years. They have disregarded the increased withdrawals to the Lower Basin states (California, Arizona, and Nevada) and the ubiquitous arid nature of the Southwest.

    The Colorado River system and the Colorado Compact Administration were set up with a series of reservoirs recognizing the aridity of the region and the unpredictable amount of annual precipitation. With reservoirs, when water is more abundant the excess can be stored for later use when the inevitably drier periods arrive. In recent years, instead of reserving excess flows in the reservoirs, this excess was released to the lower basin states with the resultant excess draw-down of the vital storage system.

    Most of the water supply for the Colorado River System is supplied by the Upper Basin States, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico. As planned, these states have continuously supplied the required 75-million-acre feet in 10 years, or an average of 7.5 million per year.

    The amount of water that each of these states uses each year is completely dependent upon precipitation and in Colorado is allocated strictly by the prior appropriation system without the benefit of a storage system to draw upon for leaner years except for water saved under the prior appropriation system. As such Colorado’s prior appropriation system automatically operates as a forced reduction in water use—a built-in “conservation brake”.

    In contrast, the Lower Basin States, California, Arizona, and Nevada receive their Colorado River supply from reservoirs and have the luxury of taking any excess deliveries in wetter years or drawing previously saved water from storage in drier years.

    The prudent regime would be to reserve the excess amounts in storage for use during drier periods. Instead of this exercise of prudence, the Lower Basin states have continuously gambled those wetter periods would arrive and replenish the reservoirs.

    In the chart below, we clearly see how Colorado and the Upper Basin states have reduced their use during drought while the Lower Basin states have increased their use during the same period.

    The primary purpose of Lake Powell and Lake Mead is for hydro-power production and secondarily for drinking and irrigation. The falling levels of these reservoirs spell disaster for power production and now the Bureau of Reclamation is sounding the alarm.

    Unfortunately, unless drastic measures are taken that significantly reduce the annual draw by the Lower Basin States for the foreseeable future, all Colorado River reservoirs will be jeopardized. Blue Mesa and Flaming Gorge have already been lowered to rescue the Lower Basin reservoirs. The present crisis is more about having allowed the Lower Basin to over appropriate water from the system than the impact of the drier period of the past 20 years.

    In Colorado, the Arkansas Basin and the entire Eastern portion of Colorado depend on a significant portion of its water from Colorado River system imports. In the Arkansas, about 15 percent of all river flows are derived from this system.

    In drier periods these flows have always been reduced since they are regulated by the prior appropriation system. However, further reductions could come if the Lower Basin is not forced to comply with the Compact. It is possible that political forces could reduce the amount of water exported to the Eastern portion of Colorado — and that includes the Arkansas Basin.

    By: Ralph “Terry” Scanga, General Manager. Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

    Graphic via Holly McClelland/High Country News.

    Lawn Lake flood 40 years ago changed #EstesPark — The #Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Lawn Lake Flood

    Click the link to read the article on the Loveland Reporter-Herald website (Dallas Heltzell |). Here’s an excerpt:

    A disaster 40 years ago today changed the face of downtown Estes Park, and its tourism-dependent businesses still are reaping the benefits of a landscaped riverwalk and other improvements…Lawn Lake, at 10,789 feet at the headwaters of Roaring River in what now is Rocky Mountain National Park and eight miles west of Estes Park, originally was a 16.4-acre natural body of water dammed by a glacial moraine. However, in 1903, 12 years before the park’s founding, the Farmers Irrigation Ditch and Reservoir Co. added a dam to supply water to farmlands around Loveland. By 1982, the reservoir covered 48 acres and was up to 35 feet deep. The dam was allowed to remain when the park was founded, but access for maintenance and inspections deteriorated over the years…

    Within six weeks after the flood, town trustees approved the EPURA, and the foundation paid the legal costs to develop the ordinance needed. Gov. Dick Lamm obtained a federal disaster declaration from President Ronald Reagan, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency “took over the overall management of trying to put the town together again,” Rosener said. “They were tremendous.”

    Foundation members recruited urban designers and “convinced the town to hire them,” Rosener said, “and we created an urban renewal plan. All of my team worked over the next 12 to 14 months to create the plan, construction began in 1984 and was done in about two years.”

    One building at the intersection of Elkhorn Avenue and Riverside Drive had to be demolished to make way for the design’s Confluence Park, where the Fall and Big Thompson rivers met, Rosener said. Along Elkhorn, narrow sidewalks were widened and parallel parking eliminated. Private businesses were encouraged to update their properties, Rosener said, and tearing up Elkhorn Avenue to redo it revealed “a main waterline made out of wood slats wrapped in steel bands. There were all kinds of issues with telephone and gas — it was just a spider web when they opened up Elkhorn.” Because East Elkhorn Avenue carried U.S. Highways 34 and 36, “we had to convince the state to give up one lane of traffic” — a decision that aided the beautification but also, three decades later, fueled the controversial one-way “Loop” proposal. But the result, Thomas said, was that “the new urban-renewal authority formed after the flood beautified the town and created a streetscape that totally changed the face of downtown” and provided a venue for some new river-facing businesses. “Instead of having these ugly areas behind stores, they turned the focus back toward the rivers. Now we have the riverwalk, we have park benches, we have new lighting. We have trees planted along Elkhorn Avenue. All of that was the result of the Lawn Lake flood.”

    Extreme #drought, #sawfly infestation cause wheat yields to plummet: CSU scientists are working on strains of drought- and bug-resistant wheat — The #Sterling Journal-Advocate

    Peetz Town Hall via Armchair Explorer.

    Click the link to read the article on the Sterling Journal-Advocate website (Jeff Rice). Here’s an excerpt:

    Wheat production in northeast Colorado is down by half or more, according to reports from area grain elevators, and experts put the blame on .an exceptionally dry year and an infestation of wheat stem sawfly. Although no hard numbers are yet available – the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s field workers are gathering that information now – reports from elevators in Sterling, Julesburg, Peetz and Haxtun are estimating between 20 and 30 bushels per acre and, in some hard-hit areas, as little as three bushels per acre…

    Nationwide, the USDA has projected harvests of around 47 bushels per acre, or about 8 percent less than normal. But here in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, an almost complete absence of moisture has driven that number down even further…

    Colorado Drought Monitor map July 12, 2022.

    According to the U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday, northeast Colorado remains in the grip of a severe to extreme drought, wile moderate to severe drought conditions cover most of the rest of the state. The best drought conditions in the state are along the Front Range, where upslope conditions wring water out of moist air moving over the Rockies, although even there it is mostly abnormally dry…

    As if the drought wasn’t bad enough, wheat farmers face an old bug with a new appetite. Meyer said wheat stem sawfly has actually been around eastern Colorado since the late 1800s, but kept mostly to hollow-stemmed prairie grasses. The fly lays eggs on grass stems and when the larva hatch, they burrow into the stem and work their way down until the cut the stem off near the ground. Over the past five years, Meyer said, the flies have discovered wheat and increasingly migrated into wheat fields. A tour of area wheat fields by this reporter over the past two weeks showed that some fields showed as much as 50 percent sawfly destruction.

    Helicopters are back in the air to protect northern #Colorado’s #water — KUNC

    Aerial mulching. Photo credit: Colorado State Forest Service

    Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Alex Hager):

    Work to protect water quality on the northern Front Range resumes this week with a whir of helicopter blades in Poudre Canyon. For the second year in a row, those aircraft will drop mulch on areas burned by the Cameron Peak Fire in 2020 — an effort to stabilize burned soil and keep ashy debris out of rivers.

    Colorado’s largest-ever wildfire left a charred moonscape, with soil turned into gray dust and shards of blackened trees and plants littering the ground. When it rains, ash and sediment can be swept downhill into rivers that supply water to town pipes. In 2021, that forced the City of Fort Collins to stop treating water from the river and switch to an alternate supply from Horsetooth Reservoir…

    Last year, crews dropped wood shards on 5,050 acres in the Cache La Poudre and Big Thompson watersheds. This summer, they hope to cover nearly 5,000 more — with 3,500 acres identified near the Poudre and 1,200 acres near the Big Thomspon. Those efforts aren’t cheap. Last year’s aerial mulching work cost $11 million. Keeping a helicopter in the air costs $87 each minute, but local utilities justify the expense as a precaution against even more costly treatment that would be necessary without it.

    Contractors will begin 2022’s aerial mulching campaign on Thursday, July 14, 2022 starting in the Pingree Park area. It will continue through the summer and fall.

    The South Platte River Basin is shaded in yellow. Source: Tom Cech, One World One Water Center, Metropolitan State University of Denver.

    #FortCollins staff give preview of new 1041 regulations for #water, highway projects — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

    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

    Click the link to read the article on the Fort Collins Coloradoan website (Jacy Marmaduke). Here’s an excerpt:

    Earlier this year, council decided to create 1041 regulations specifically for new major water or sewer systems and new highways or interchanges. They placed a moratorium on review of those kinds of projects until Dec. 31, but that moratorium applies only to projects that would cross through city parks or natural areas…

    The proposed review process is a tiered system where the intensity of the review would depend on the impacts of the project. The draft regulations contain a long list of impact categories that staff would use to decide a route of review for the project. To name a few impact categories: local infrastructure or services such as roads, housing or stormwater management; recreational opportunities; visual quality; air quality, surface water or groundwater; wildlife; riparian areas or wetlands; and noise, dust or odors. The draft regulations also include impact categories specific to water or highway projects, such as impacts to natural resources or the productivity of agricultural lands for water projects and impacts to local traffic for highway projects. If staff find that a project isn’t likely to create any significant adverse impacts, the city could issue a “finding of no significant impacts” (FONSI) and waive the permit requirement. Projects going through the FONSI route could still be subject to other types of city review, and staff’s decision could be appealed to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission’s decision could then be appealed to City Council.

    The other two review types would be “full permit” and “administrative permit.” The full permit process would be reserved for projects that would probably create multiple types of significant impacts or require eminent domain. The administrative permit process would be reserved for projects that would probably create significant impacts in just one category and not require eminent domain. The main difference between a full permit and an administrative permit is who makes the decision. For a full permit, staff would review the application and City Council would make the final, unappealable decision on the permit. For an administrative permit, the city’s director of community, development and neighborhood services (currently Paul Sizemore) would decide whether to issue the permit. That decision could be appealed to the Planning and Zoning Commission, whose decision could be appealed to council.

    Governor Polis Visits with Farmers and Ranchers on the Eastern Plains, Discusses Ways Administration is Supporting Ag Community and #Water #Conservation Efforts

    (Governor Polis in Sedgwick County meeting with local leaders) . Photo credit: Governor Polis’ office

    Click the link to read the release on Governor Polis’ website:

    Today [July 6, 2022], Governor Jared Polis traveled across the Eastern Plains to hear directly from farmers, ranchers, and local leaders working to boost Colorado’s agriculture economy and to protect Colorado’s water.

    This morning, Governor Polis, administration officials and community members visited Julesburg Gauge on the South Platte River to discuss water issues.

    “It was great to be in Sedgwick, Phillips, Yuma, Kit Carson, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lincoln, and Elbert counties hearing directly from producers and discussing how our administration is working together even more to protect Colorado’s water, grow Colorado’s thriving agriculture industry, and support our hardworking farmers and ranchers,” said Governor Polis.

    Gov. Polis was then joined by the Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg, and toured Vision Angus, a local family owned ranch and farm in Phillips county that has been passed down for four generations. Vision Angus is a second year recipient of the Agricultural Workforce Development Program which aims to keep developing the next generation farmers and ensure our agriculture industries continued growth.

    Governor Polis then headed to the South Republican State Wildlife Area and was joined by board members and other officials to discuss groundwater conservation in Yuma county. The Republican River Basin is supported by SB22-028, which was signed by Gov. Polis creates groundwater compact compliance and sustainability fund water conservation efforts in order to protect our water supply and retain irrigation systems in the river basins across Colorado. The Polis-Primavera administration is fighting to ease the effects of climate change induced drought seen across the state.

    Governor Polis then visited the Eads Fire Department in Elbert county and met with first responders to discuss the Polis Administration’s continued support for first responders, including legislation that Governor Polis signed into law this year to provide additional resources and support for volunteer firefighters.

    Governor Polis then traveled to Kit Carson county to visit the Old Town Museum. The museum is a historic site that has been restored to display the history of the Colorado Plains and local agriculture.

    Governor Polis later traveled to Cheyenne county to sit down with local leaders and county commissioners from Cheyenne and Kiowa counties to discuss soil health and drought resilience efforts. Cheyenne Conservation District will receive support from SB22-195, a bipartisan law signed by Governor Polis which allocates additional annual funding for conservation districts across the state.

    Governor Polis then visited two recipients of the Colorado Proud grant, Grant Grains and the Cleantec Mushroom Facility in Lincoln and Elbert counties, and where he discussed the administration’s support for producers and discussed tax relief for farmers including a bipartisan bill the Governor signed into law in the form of SB21-293.

    (Gov. Polis in Phillips County touring Vision Angus family farm). Photo credit: Governor Polis’ office

    As cities watch closely, Sterling Ranch launching first rainwater harvest in #Colorado — @WaterEdCO

    A small yard in Sterling Ranch, a Douglas County community that is the first in the state to undertake a rainwater harvesting project. June 27, 2022. Credit: Jerd Smith, Fresh Water News

    Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Jerd Smith):

    Sterling Ranch, a conservation-oriented, fast-growing Douglas County community, is launching the first commercial effort to harvest rainwater in Colorado.

    If the commercial pilot project succeeds, it could be used statewide to reduce water use in new developments, creating a supply of water that legally hasn’t existed before.

    Andrea Cole is general manager of Dominion Water and Sanitation District, which serves Sterling Ranch. She said the project should prove that rain that runs off paved surfaces in developed areas can be used without harming natural water supplies that existed prior to development.

    “When you change the landscape to a hardscape you produce more runoff,” Cole said. “The point is to capture the water off of a developed site without taking the water that would naturally be there.”

    Sterling Ranch has been monitoring rainfall and infiltration of water into soils to ensure that the proposed collection system is gathering only the additional runoff from hard surfaces, and not the historic amount that the prairies collected pre-development.

    Sterling Ranch must also convince its bigger neighbors, including Denver Water and Highlands Ranch, that Sterling’s rainwater collection is, in fact, a result of higher runoff from paved surfaces, not from the naturally occurring rain that falls in Douglas County.

    “We’ve already heard from Denver and Centennial (the water district that serves Highlands Ranch) that we will have to prove we are not harming their water rights,” Cole said.

    Swithin Dick, Centennial’s water rights administrator, said his agency was taking a wait-and-see approach to the rainwater pilot.

    “If their application explains a project and plan that does not have the potential to injure Centennial’s water rights, and is consistent with existing law, it is not likely Centennial will oppose it,” Dick said via email.

    Denver Water spokesman Todd Hartman said the agency had not yet taken a formal position on the project.

    While collecting rainwater for drinking and irrigation is common elsewhere, it has been illegal in Colorado until recently because every drop of water that falls to the ground is owed to the rivers and streams, under the state’s 150-year-old allocation doctrine known as Prior Appropriation.

    In 2016, Colorado legislators passed a law allowing individual homeowners to collect rainwater in two barrels per property with a combined storage capacity of up to 110 gallons, and also authorized a pilot program to see if a larger-scale, commercial effort could be done without harming downstream water users.

    Harold and Diane Smethills began developing Sterling Ranch in 2004 and it now has 1,324 homes and will eventually have 12,050. The homes are among the most water-efficient that can be built and utilize small lots, hyper-efficient faucets and showers, and separate meters for indoor and outdoor water use.

    Most Douglas County communities rely heavily on wells that tap water from deep, non-renewable aquifers, but heavy pumping over the years has lowered the aquifers’ levels. Water was already in short supply when Smethills first proposed Sterling Ranch, and he had to convince Douglas County planners that he could build the new development using much less water than the .75 acre-feet per single-family home the county required at the time. He also had to prove that he could do it using renewable surface water supplies in the South Platte River Basin.

    He was eventually able to convince county planners that he could serve the community using .40 acre-feet of water per home, a number that now is closer to .20 acre-feet. An acre-foot equals 326,000 gallons, or enough to cover an acre of land with 12 inches of water.

    Smethills and his team have been awarded two state grants worth roughly $111,500. The latest grant, awarded in March, will be used to help complete the feasibility studies and begin design work.

    Cole said the project should generate 400 acre-feet of water annually that can be captured and used to irrigate the community’s small parks, allowing the community to use its existing supplies elsewhere.

    But hurdles remain. Sterling Ranch may have to seek new legislation in the face of new stormwater rules that require separate storage facilities for stormwater and rainwater, Cole said, because the new rules would significantly increase the capital costs of the collection and distribution systen.

    And as with almost all new water projects seeking a legal right to collect water, the project will have to go through an extensive review in a special water court, where anyone who has a water right in the region can submit concerns and challenge the process.

    Sterling Ranch will apply to water court later this year, Cole said, and because of what she believes will be significant opposition, she expects it to take up to three years to complete the legal process and win the right to legally collect rainwater.

    “Will there be opposition? Yes,” said Smethills, “Everybody else is watching to see how we do and if we can get it through water court. We’re at the bleeding edge. But this isn’t amateur night. We’ve spent millions of dollars to capture this data.”

    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.

    Possible second sabotage of #Northglenn’s #water diversion gates reported on Berthoud Pass: Grand County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information regarding vandalism — The Sky-Hi News #FraserRiver #ClearCreek

    One of the City of Northglenn’s water diversions on Berthoud Pass that was vandalized the week of June 19. | City of Northglenn / Courtesy Photo
    Unknown-1

    Click the link to read the article on the Sky-Hi News website (Tracy Ross). Here’s an excerpt:

    The Grand County Sheriff’s Office reported last Friday that several water diversion gates on Berthoud Pass that deliver water to the city of Northglenn were intentionally damaged or destroyed, creating “monumental losses” for that city. Northglenn officials first contacted the sheriff’s office on June 22. They reported a theft of water and criminal mischief of the diversion gates on the Berthoud Pass Ditch in Current Creek Basin. Northglenn collects water from the ditch and diverts it into Clear Creek, said Andy Miller, president of the board of directors of the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group. On June 22, Northglenn staff reported “a sudden and significant decrease in water output routed for Northglenn” on the two days previous to their call. When Northglenn staff responded to the ditch, they found that several water diversion gates were intentionally damaged or destroyed…

    Some are questioning whether the vandalism was sabotage by a water conservation group. Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters chapter of Trout Unlimited, said a similar act happened at the same spot several years ago. In 2019, vandals caused an estimated $1 million worth of damage to the City of Northglenn’s collection system and disrupted both Northglenn and Golden water supplies…

    Northglenn’s water right on Berthoud Pass is 600 acre feet of water per year, available between May 15 and October 15. Northglenn’s average annual water use is 6,000 acre feet, “so this is about one-tenth of our annual water supply,” said Moon. “It doesn’t seem like a lot, but on a good year, Berthoud Pass water is incredibly important to us. And now that we’re watching climate change change our weather patterns, and summer weather getting drier and drier, getting that water early in the season and being able to use it is one of the ways we can keep our residents from having water restrictions when we see our neighbors not the doing the same.”

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    The legacy of #Colorado’s largest #wildfire [Until 2020]: Years after the devastation of the #HaymanFire, the work to plant trees and regenerate the soil goes on — News on Tap

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Sabrina Hall):

    Editor’s note: This story was originally posted on TAP in 2017, 15 years after the Hayman Fire, then the largest in Colorado’s history, burned 137,760 acres in the summer of 2002. But following the summer and fall of 2020, the Hayman Fire fell to fourth on the list of Colorado’s biggest fires.

    Colorado’s biggest wildfires are: the Cameron Peak fire, which started Aug. 13, 2020, and burned 208,913 acres; the East Troublesome fire, which started Aug. 14, 2020, and burned 193,812 acres; and the Pine Gulch Fire, which started July 31, 2020, and burned 139,007 acres.

    The Hayman Fire is the state’s largest recorded wildfire. Smoke from the massive blaze could be seen and smelled across the state. Photo credit to Nathan Bobbin, Flickr Creative Commons.

    The ominous plume of smoke rising in the skies southwest of Denver. The ash falling on cars like large dried-up snowflakes. Many who lived in Colorado in the summer of 2002 will never forget the Hayman Fire, which burned 137,760 acres before it was over. Hayman still holds the dubious title as Colorado’s largest recorded wildfire.

    This June marks the 15th anniversary of the destructive blaze, and Denver Water continues to deal with the aftermath. The fire seared through sizable portions of Denver Water’s watershed, reaching Cheesman Reservoir on its second day, where it destroyed 7,500 of the 8,500 forested acres Denver Water owns at the reservoir.

    Front-row seat

    Bill Newberry, one of Denver Water’s caretakers at Cheesman, got a front-row seat to the fire’s destruction. Newberry, who retired in 2014, stood near the reservoir’s shoreline as the fire blew through the area. He said the firestorm roared like a hurricane as it approached, and there was considerable heat and smoke, though he didn’t have to go into the water to escape the blaze.

    Thankfully, the fire spared all of Denver Water’s caretakers, homes and buildings at Cheesman other than three small storage sheds. But what it left in its wake was a blackened landscape with only a few trees lining the reservoir, creating a danger of erosion and sedimentation problems from subsequent rains.

    Traps and racks

    Sediment traps made of straw bales and trash racks were fashioned from downed trees following the fire. The traps and racks were positioned across drainages to catch ash and debris after heavy rains to prevent it from entering the reservoir and causing operational challenges. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Immediately following the fire, Denver Water sent employees to help erect sediment traps made of straw bales and trash racks fashioned from downed trees. The traps and racks were positioned across drainages to catch ash and debris after heavy rains. Denver Water then built more permanent rock sediment traps to capture ash, sand and other debris from Turkey and Goose creeks, preventing that material from entering the reservoir and causing operational challenges.

    US Drought Monitor August 6, 2002

    The crews building the traps were used to spending their days laying new pipe in Denver’s streets, and many had never even used a chainsaw. But given the 2002 drought that had parched the city and led to severe watering restrictions, Denver Water had suspended new pipe installation. Each day, 40 to 45 workers were bused from Denver to Cheesman to help build the sediment traps.

    Bobby Padilla saws timber to build a sediment trap to slow runoff.

    “I was on a pipeline crew in Denver, and they moved us up there after the fire hit,” said Bobby Padilla, now a senior work planner at Denver Water. He worked at Cheesman for three years after the fire, helping with the restoration efforts. “I’ll always remember the devastation. The burnt trees looked like telephone poles with nothing on them, and everything was burnt and dark. When it rained, there were rivers everywhere — there was nothing to slow down the water.”

    Fifteen years after his unusual work assignment, Padilla is still in awe at the damage of the fire. “I can’t believe how fire damages and ruins land. You could tell it was intense,” he said.

    Financial flames

    When Hayman tore through the watershed, Denver Water was still dealing with fire fallout from the 1996 Buffalo Creek fire, which burned 11,900 acres near Cheesman. In the aftermath of both fires, Denver Water has spent more than $27 million on water quality treatment, sediment and debris removal, reclamation techniques and infrastructure projects.

    The combination of the two fires, followed by significant rainstorms, resulted in more than 1 million cubic yards of sediment accumulating in Strontia Springs Reservoir. Prior to the wildfires, the reservoir had approximately 250,000 cubic yards of sediment, which had been accumulating since 1983, when the dam was completed. Increased sediment creates operational challenges, causes water quality issues and clogs treatment plants.

    Sprouts of recovery

    A ponderosa pine seedling peeks out of the Hayman-Fire scarred landscape near Cheesman Reservoir. After the fire, Denver Water spent more than 10 years working with volunteers and Colorado State Forest Service crews to plant about 25,000 trees per year on the 7,500 acres of Denver Water property destroyed by Hayman. Photo credit: Denver Water

    After the fire, Denver Water spent more than 10 years working with volunteers and Colorado State Forest Service crews to plant about 25,000 trees per year on the 7,500 acres of Denver Water property destroyed by Hayman.

    Following the tree-planting effort, the From Forests to Faucets partnership began in 2010 between Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service – Rocky Mountain Region. More than 48,000 acres of National Forest System lands have been treated so far, accomplishing important fuels reduction, restoration and prevention activities.

    But in many areas, the fire burned so hot it changed the chemistry of the soil in the months following the fire. Natural regeneration has been difficult, which is why Denver Water continues to work to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

    After signing the renewal for the From Forests to Faucets partnership in February 2017, Denver Water CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead reiterated the need to stay vigilant. “We have a responsibility to our customers to provide safe, reliable water,” he said. “We also have an obligation to be a good steward of our natural resources. By protecting our watersheds, we’re also preserving our water.”

    More photos of the Hayman Fire aftermath:

    The devastation following the Hayman Fire, coupled with the crippling effects of a severe drought, stretched as far as the eye could see in this photo of Cheesman Reservoir taken in August 2002. The fire destroyed 7,500 of the 8,500 forested acres Denver Water owns at Cheesman Reservoir. Photo credit: Denver Water
    Subsequent rains following the Hayman Fire in 2002 led to erosion problems and silt buildup in the creeks surrounding the reservoir. Photo credit: Denver Water
    Immediately following the Hayman Fire, Denver Water sent employees to help erect sediment traps made of straw bales and trash racks fashioned from downed trees. The crews building the traps were used to spending their days laying new pipe in Denver’s streets, but given the 2002 drought parched the city and led to severe watering restrictions, Denver Water suspended new pipe installation. Photo credit: Denver Water
    Following the Hayman Fire, Denver Water built large sediment traps to capture ash, sand and other debris from Turkey and Goose creeks, preventing that material from entering the reservoir. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Take a bow ‘Use Only What You Need,’ you’re in the hall of fame!: @DenverWater’s decadelong campaign played pivotal role in creating culture of #conservation in the metro area — News on Tap

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Cathy Proctor):

    Do you know you should “Use Only What You Need”?

    If yes, then you’re familiar with Denver Water’s decadelong campaign, launched a few years after the 2002 drought, that urged customers to reduce the amount of water they used in their everyday lives.

    Denver Water’s decadelong Use Only What You Need campaign found humor in conservation. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    The occasionally cheeky campaign showcased images like a park bench with only room for one person, water from a broken sprinkler head cascading onto a giant billboard and suggestions for using less water — like showering with a friend.

    And it worked. By the time the campaign — created by Denver’s Sukle Advertising & Design — ended in 2015, water use by Denver Water’s customers had dropped 22% compared to usage before the drought.

    The “Use Only What You Need” campaign has been recognized repeatedly over the years for its effectiveness and memorability, and on May 17 the Out of Home Advertising Association of America inducted it into the OBIE Hall of Fame, a group dominated by advertising campaigns backed by national and international brand names.

    See how one Denver Water employee transformed his northwest Denver yard to make it more attractive and use less water.

    “Denver Water’s signature orange box asking customers to ‘Use Only What You Need’ became advertising legend in the Denver metro area,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/Manager.

    “In a light-hearted and at times outrageous way, the campaign led the charge for our conservation programing where we had a critical call to action: Reduce water use by 22%. Eight years after achieving that goal, Use Only What You Need has remained a one-of-a-kind catchphrase that has continued to help Coloradans embrace a culture of conservation, which is so vital in the arid West where water is such a precious resource.”

    Tip for using less water? Showering with a friend was part of a conservation campaign that reduced water use among Denver Water customers by 22% compared to usage before 2002. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Out-of-home advertising is visual advertising outside of the home, such as billboards, indoor and outdoor signs, ads on bus shelters or benches, in airports or train stations, and in a stadium or movie theater.

    Previous OBIE Hall of Fame winners include the insurance company Geico (2021), entertainment giants The Walt Disney Co. (2007) and Universal Studios (2019), brewer MillerCoors (2018) and technology company Apple Inc. (2005).

    Get simple strategies to save water inside and outside your home.

    Competition for the 2022 Hall of Fame award put Denver Water up against international heavyweights — and household names — Google, Netflix, Procter & Gamble Co., Pepsi and Samsung.

    In the 30-year history of the OBIE Hall of Fame awards, Denver Water’s award is only the second time a regional brand has won the judges’ nod. The first was the San Diego Zoo in 1995.

    “This is one of the highest creative honors in our industry, and we are immensely proud to be recognized by OAAA and our peers,” said Mike Sukle, owner of Sukle Advertising & Design.

    “Creating and managing the campaign for a decade shaped how we approach every campaign we create. It cemented our philosophy that work must be both smart and creative to generate exceptional results. And while mass media including out of home was critical, the campaign spread almost as much through word-of-mouth. Our audience became our media. That’s an important lesson for all brands. And if you can make people like you, they may also listen to you,” he said.

    The campaign encouraged customers to take a hard look at how much water they — and their lawns — truly needed. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Anna Bager, president and CEO of the association, called Denver Water’s campaign “truly brilliant and entertaining.”

    “Denver Water has achieved legendary out-of-home status with a sustained level of creative excellence over many years. Their commitment to the ‘Use Only What You Need’ headline came to life in a seemingly endless number of creative solutions,” she said.

    And while Denver Water’s message that water is precious and should be used wisely hasn’t changed, the utility’s campaign around water has evolved into a simple main message: Water is everything.

    Denver Water’s latest campaign focuses on what water brings to our lives under the tagline “Life Is Better With Water.” Image credit: Denver Water.

    Using the tagline “Life Is Better With Water,” the utility’s current campaign with Denver advertising agency Pure Brand celebrates the importance of water as a precious resource in our everyday lives and one that plays a vital role in Colorado’s unique lifestyle.

    “It’s about elevating the value of water in our daily lives. Together, we all can help create a ripple effect that ensures our Colorado lifestyle continues for generations to come,” said Kathie Dudas, manager of brand and marketing at Denver Water.

    Lawsuit pits #Colorado’s Douglas County towns against state water regulators, #Aurora, #Greeley — @WaterEdCO

    Castle Rock Water Conservation Specialist Rick Schultz, third from the right, inspects and tests a new landscape watering system in Castle Rock, one of many Douglas County communities reliant on the shrinking Denver Aquifer. In a Fresh Water News analysis of water conservation data, Castle Rock leads the state, having reduced its use 12% since 2013. Oct. 21, 2020. Credit: Jerd Smith, Fresh Water News

    Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Jerd Smith):

    Two of Colorado’s fastest-growing towns are suing the state over rules used to manage vast quantities of water that lie underground, saying that if the state moves forward with a new permitting requirement it could sharply limit their future water supplies.

    Experts say the lawsuit, filed 14 months ago by Parker Water and Sanitation District and joined by Castle Rock, could dramatically change the way underground aquifers containing millions of acre-feet of water are managed and could also impact future water supplies for dozens of Front Range communities.

    At issue is whether a 1985 state law regulates only the rate at which wells are pumped or whether the state can also limit the total volume of water pumped. Under what’s known as the 100-year rule, well owners in the Denver Basin aquifers, which underlie much of the Front Range and Eastern Plains, can pump 1% of the water estimated to be under their land annually for 100 years. The law applies to aquifers known as “non-tributary,” meaning they do not receive any natural recharge from snow and rain and are also not connected in any way to rivers.

    Water stored in Colorado’s Denver Basin aquifers, which extend from Greeley to Colorado Springs, and from Golden to the Eastern Plains near Limon, does not naturally recharge from rain and snow and is therefore carefully regulated. Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

    Last March, as part of what it describes as an administrative effort to ensure wells across the state are regulated in a uniform way, the Colorado Division of Water Resources also began including the total amount of water a Denver Basin aquifer well permit holder was entitled to pump during the lifetime of the well permit.

    “Not only is there an annual maximum, but we also interpreted the law to mean that you are limited to the total amount of water under your property,” said Tracy Kosloff, deputy state engineer at the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

    Lifetime limits?

    Parker Water and Sanitation District objected, saying that placing a lifetime limit on the total volume of water available to withdraw would improperly limit their water supplies, violating their property rights.

    At the same time Greeley and Aurora have also joined the legal battle, saying they support the state’s effort to more closely manage underground supplies by including a specific volume on permits because it will better protect everyone over the long run.

    Parker and other Douglas County entities declined to comment on the suit, but in its court filing Parker described the state’s efforts as “arbitrary and capricious.”

    The Denver Basin aquifers once served as a plentiful, pure and inexpensive water source for fast-growing Douglas County communities and others. Instead of buying expensive water rights in nearby rivers and streams, and building dams and reservoirs to store that water, developers could simply obtain a permit and drill a well.

    For years the aquifers had been accessed largely by individual homeowners and ranchers. But as growth took off in the 1970s, Parker, Castle Rock and others began drilling new high-powered wells, capable of pumping 1,000 gallons a minute, deep into the aquifers.

    Water in aquifers is often under intense pressure and when wells are drilled, pressure is released, allowing the water to rise quickly to the surface. But eventually, the pressure subsides and the water no longer rises naturally, meaning electricity has to be used to draw the water to the surface. And as the water is pumped, because there is no natural recharge, the water table gets lower and lower, requiring that expensive new wells be drilled deeper to maintain water supplies.

    Aquifer distress

    By the 1980s it was clear the aquifers were in decline, and in 1985 the state imposed the 100-year rule and began monitoring aquifer levels and calculating how much was contained in the four geographic formations that comprise the Denver Basin. But back then there was little money to do the detailed, widespread mapping and hydrological studies needed to pinpoint how much water lay under each entity’s land holdings.

    Since then more wells have been drilled, and the aquifers are being used heavily not just for water supply, but also for water storage. Cities such as Highlands Ranch, Parker and others have implemented sophisticated programs that put surface water back into the aquifer, using it like a savings account which can be accessed in drought years.

    It is this banked water that the state, and Greeley and others, want to protect.

    And that’s not an easy task, because these non-tributary aquifers have widely different geologic formations including sand, silt and bedrock, which allow water to freely move from one place to another, making it difficult to track.

    “The water in the Denver Basin aquifers isn’t static, like an ice cube in a tray. It’s a leaky ice cube tray,” said Kosloff.

    More science, please

    Sean Chambers, director of the Greeley Water and Sewer Department, said his concern is that allowing Parker and Castle Rock to pump without an overall volume limit could mean that water he and other cities are injecting into the ground is unknowingly extracted, harming their own supplies. Greeley has begun an ambitious groundwater supply program with its purchase last year of the Terry Ranch. Chambers said it is critical that the aquifers are closely monitored and managed to ensure everyone’s water supplies are protected.

    “You shouldn’t be allowed to pump water from someone else’s property,” Chambers said.

    Ralf Topper is a groundwater expert who formerly oversaw the state’s groundwater programs at the Division of Water Resources. Though Parker, Castle Rock and other communities have done a good job of regulating their non-renewable aquifer supplies and slowing the aquifers’ declines, interference between wells in urban areas is becoming more of an issue, Topper said.

    Topper and other experts say the issue will only be resolved when more sophisticated aquifer management tools are implemented, including thousands of new site-specific water studies, underground mapping, and public processes to ensure other water users aren’t injured by over-pumping.

    Chambers agrees.

    “Our fundamental concern is that we want science-based, data-driven analysis of all non-tributary aquifer determinations. Lastly, we want to be sure if an aquifer is deemed non-tributary it is deemed as such by a scientific analysis that is subject to a public hearing and appeals process,” he said.

    Topper and others have questioned whether existing state law gives water regulators the authority to make this change and that is something the court is examining now.

    Future shock

    Parker, Castle Rock and other water districts in Douglas and Arapahoe counties have dramatically reduced their use of groundwater and they intend to continue weaning themselves off the aquifers. But they still want to protect their rights to the ground water because the aquifers are the best tool they have to protect against future droughts.

    “The imposition of this condition … is a denial of a statutory right, is contrary to a constitutional right, and is a clearly unwarranted exercise [of the state engineer’s] discretion,” Parker said in its court filing.

    How quickly the court will decide the case isn’t clear yet. Still, said Deputy Engineer Kosloff, “It’s good for us to understand sooner rather than later so we can all plan for that.”

    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.

    Job opportunity: Deputy Water Commissioner for Water Districts 6 & 7 – Engineering/Physical Sciences Tech I @DWR_CO

    From email from DWR (Michael Hein):

    The Division of Water Resources, Division 1 Office in Greeley, CO is hiring for the Deputy Water Commissioner for Water Districts 6 & 7 – Engineering/Physical Sciences Tech I position. The purpose of this position is to ascertain the available surface water supply and distribute, control and regulate the surface and groundwater tributary to the South Platte River in the Boulder Creek and Clear Creek basins on a daily basis pursuant to water decrees, substitute water supply plans and state statutes, and may assist in adjacent water districts with water administration. Anyone interested in learning more about the position or seeking to apply can access the following link to the job announcement on the State of Colorado Job Opportunities website:

    https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/colorado/jobs/3594902/dwr-deputy-water-commissioner-water-districts-6-7-engineering-physical-sc?location%5B0%5D=boulder%20county&sort=PositionTitle%7CAscending&pagetype=jobOpportunitiesJobs

    The South Platte River Basin is shaded in yellow. Source: Tom Cech, One World One Water Center, Metropolitan State University of Denver.

    Poll shows deep opposition to Renewable #Water Resources water export plan: #ClimateChange surfaces as top concern among #SanLuisValley residents — @AlamosaCitizen

    Click the link to read the article on the Alamosa Citizen website (Mark Obmascik):

    THE IRS. Head lice. Bill Cosby. Nickleback. Congress.

    Every member of this unlikely group has one thing in common: Each is more popular than the Renewable Water Resources plan to pump water from the San Luis Valley to the Front Range of Colorado.

    According to the Alamosa Citizen survey of voter attitudes in the San Luis Valley, the RWR plan is supported by less than 1 percent of local voters. It is opposed by 91 percent. Eight percent said they had no opinion of the water export project proposed by former Gov. Bill Owens and several other leaders of his administration.

    SEE THE RESULTS:
    Quality of life
    Water & climate
    Education & childcare
    Employment & financial security
    Internet use

    Widespread opposition to RWR was one of the major findings on natural resource issues to come from the random survey, which was directed by the Alamosa Citizen and financed, in part, by the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.

    The survey also yielded many other strong local opinions on the health of the Rio Grande (pessimistic), climate change (it’s hurting the river), and the impact of drought on local farms and businesses (not good.) More on those issues below.

    Still, it’s hard to find anything in modern American life liked less than RWR’s approval rating of 0.7 percent. Among the things with better approval ratings among voters than the RWR project: head lice, colonoscopies, used car salesmen, and dental root canal procedures, according to one national poll.

    Anchovies on pizza, as well as turnips and brussel sprouts for dinner, get higher ratings than RWR. Disgraced comedian Bill Cosby is 20 times more popular in the U.S. than RWR is in the San Luis Valley. The Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Congress all get higher marks, according to another poll.

    RWR backers said their own polling showed better numbers, but they declined to release the poll.

    “From day one to today, our team has never wavered in visiting the San Luis Valley, meeting with individuals and educating them about what we aim to do,” said Renewable Water Resources spokeswoman Monica McCafferty in a statement. “We are naturally suspect of this survey (Alamosa Citizen) that is likely agenda-driven. We stand by our proposal, which took years to craft and presents numerous advantages for the San Luis Valley.”

    The Alamosa Citizen conducted a 48-question survey which included questions on water and environmental issues. The survey was mailed to a random sampling of registered voters in each of the six counties of the San Luis Valley and was conducted by Nebraska-based rural survey specialist Craig Schroeder, who has surveyed attitudes of more than 60,000 people in 47 states over the past 20 years.

    RWR proposes to pump out 22,000 acre-feet of water per year from a deep aquifer in the San Luis Valley while buying and retiring 31,000 acre feet of water currently used in the Valley for irrigated agriculture. As a result, RWR says a “surplus of 9,000 acre-feet will go back into the San Luis Valley’s shallow section of the aquifer.”

    Local water officials have disputed RWR’s ability to export supplies from the Valley without harming existing farmers, wildlife, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The region faces increasing water restrictions after two decades of drought.

    RWR had been wooing suburban Douglas County as a destination for the water, but the Alamosa Citizen reported last month that county commissioners there backed away from the proposal after their attorney highlighted several legal and engineering hurdles.

    The company told Douglas County it is pursuing a “legislative strategy” for some of those issues.

    “People here have been hearing about these water export proposals for 60 years now, and we’re just tired of it,” said state Sen. Cleave Simpson, who also serves as general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. “When it happened in other places, the outcome of selling your water rights for export has not turned out well for the community.”

    HE Alamosa Citizen survey showed citizen awareness of the water project is extremely high. Nearly 94 percent of respondents said they had heard of a project to export water from the San Luis Valley to the Front Range of Colorado.

    About two-thirds of respondents said they had heard specifically of Renewable Water Resources.

    Of the residents who were familiar with RWR, 63 percent said they disapproved of the company. Eight percent approved. The remainder said they had no opinion about the company.

    “Leave our water here,” one survey respondent wrote. “If Denver can’t handle their needs, then they need to control growth.”

    “Exporting SLV water will devastate the valley – farming, wildlife, and habitat,” wrote another.

    “Water export to Douglas County would be an economic death sentence for the San Luis Valley and the communities it sustains,” said another respondent.

    The Alamosa Citizen survey showed the RWR plan comes at a tough time for water users in the San Luis Valley.

    When asked whether the Rio Grande aquifer had enough water to share with growing areas of Colorado that need more water, Valley residents responded with a resounding no – 89 percent disagreed.

    Eight of every 10 survey respondents agreed that the Rio Grande is “diminishing from severe drought.” By a 48 to 35 percent margin, Valley residents disagreed with this statement: “The Rio Grande is a healthy river.”

    Two-thirds of Valley residents agreed that climate change is negatively affecting the Rio Grande. Only 14 percent agreed that the Rio Grande can “withstand climate change.”

    In some ways, this means the San Luis Valley is more concerned about climate change than other regions, especially rural areas where voters have been more skeptical about the issue. The most recent national poll by Gallup on environmental issues found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the effects of climate change have already begun to happen.

    The Valley’s belief in climate change is unusual especially when politics are considered. Nationally, only 11 percent of Republicans say they believe climate change will pose a serious threat in their own lifetimes. But in the San Luis Valley, most survey respondents say the threat is already here.

    Only one in 10 local respondents agree that the Valley has enough water to meet local needs for the next 30 years. Nearly 85 percent of respondents say the Valley will face cutbacks in irrigation water in the next five years.

    “Farmers are out of time to self-regulate,” wrote one respondent. “The state should start imposing harsh restrictions now instead of kicking the can down the road.”

    “The San Luis Valley has become a desert because of climate change and the farmers / ranchers who have drained the aquifer by installing sprinkler systems,” wrote another respondent.

    “Farmers don’t need bossy legislators telling them how to use their water,” wrote another. “Most farmers are already on the brink of fiscal disaster. They need help, not more laws curtailing their use of water.”

    Almost every resident said there was a chance they would be personally impacted by drought.

    About seven of 10 Valley residents agreed with this statement: “We need to act now to reduce water use to continue to grow the San Luis Valley’s economy in the future.”

    Only 8 percent disagreed with this statement: “Rising temperatures will impact the San Luis Valley’s future water needs.”

    “Climate change is bigger than we are,” wrote one respondent.

    Battling #ClimateChange with #solar, #hydro and a shifting fleet Denver Water is cutting its carbon footprint, while preparing for a drier, hotter future — News on Tap #ActOnCLimate

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Todd Hartman):

    Denver Water sits on the front lines of climate change.

    Rising temperatures, long-term drought and less dependable snowpack are all making the job of providing water to 1.5 million people tougher.

    Denver Water’s administration building is powered by solar panels. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    In response, the utility is preparing for a future with a less consistent water supply for its customers, through innovations including greater efficiency, One Water and new storage projects such as the Gross Reservoir expansion.

    Learn more about how the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project makes us more resilient in the face of climate change with greater water security.

    The utility also is moving aggressively to cut its own carbon footprint, striving to meet goals for producing renewable energy and reducing dependence on energy sources tied directly to warming temperatures.

    In 2020, Denver Water met an organizational goal for “net zero” annual energy consumption. That’s a fancy way of saying it produced as much or more energy than it consumed, and that its energy was generated using carbon-free sources: hydropower and solar power.

    To be precise, the utility produced roughly 1.5 million more “kilowatt-hour equivalents” than it used in 2020.

    The utility’s solar power panels and hydropower generators produced enough clean energy to account for not only its electricity use but also the natural gas it uses for heat. Natural gas burned to supply heat is an energy category that’s not always factored into “net zero” calculations, but Denver Water made a point of including it to create a stretch goal for its effort.

    Denver Water’s solar panels generated more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020. Photo credit: Denver Water

    “Several years earlier, we had set a goal to hit ‘net-zero’ as a benchmark for our sustainability efforts,” said Kate Taft, Denver Water’s sustainability manager. “Hitting that in 2020 was the result of a lot of focused, dedicated work across the organization and represents an important milestone in the utility’s long history of environmental progress.”

    Net-zero is a big deal in the era of climate change.

    Learn more about how Denver Water has leaned into the challenge of climate change and how its work to track emissions has been recognized by outside experts.

    Many major corporations are striving to attain the status, including companies such as Coca-Cola and General Motors. Many companies and governments have set net-zero goals for 2030 and 2040, for example.

    Denver Water got there sooner. Though, to be sure, Denver Water benefits from — wait for it — water in this endeavor.

    Water spills from Williams Fork Reservoir in 2019. The power of moving water is a major source of emission-free electricity for Denver Water. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Hydroelectric power is generated at seven locations in Denver Water’s 4,000-square-mile collection area. That includes power generated at reservoirs but also at places like Roberts Tunnel, where the energy of water moving downhill through a tunnel that traverses the Continental Divide creates electricity.

    All told, Denver Water’s hydropower operations generate about 65 million emission-free kilowatt-hours per year. That translates to about the amount of electricity consumed by 6,000 homes for a year.

    While Denver Water generated hydropower for decades and is continuing to look for additional opportunities to generate power from moving water, including at its Northwater Treatment Plant currently under construction near Golden, the addition of solar power to its renewable energy portfolio is more recent.

    At the utility’s newly redeveloped Operations Complex, completed in 2019, solar power panels on the roof of the Administration Building and atop parking structures generated more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020. That offset the Administration Building’s use with more than 300,000 kilowatt-hours to spare.

    Crews install solar panels on top of Denver Water’s administration building in 2019. Photo credit: Denver Water

    That’s extra clean electricity that can go back into the grid for use by others.

    And in Denver Water’s new sustainability goals issued in 2021, the utility set a new target for itself: to increase its capacity to generate renewable energy by 1 megawatt and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from a 2015 baseline.

    How much is that 1 megawatt? Roughly, it would be like adding another solar array about the size of the one at the Operations Complex. Or, like adding the hydropower capacity that now exists at Strontia Springs Reservoir, situated 6 miles up Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver.

    Even as it works to add more green power, Denver Water may not always be able to meet its net-zero goal, at least in the short term.

    That’s because maintenance projects at times take hydroelectric facilities off-line or reduce their capacity. For example, for the next five years, Gross Reservoir will generate less power because its storage space for water will be cut by about one-third while a dam-raising project proceeds.

    Students learn about the hydroelectric plant at Hillcrest water storage facility in southeast Denver. Hydroelectricity at Hillcrest and six other sites is key to the utility’s ability to meet its net zero energy goals. Photo credit: Denver Water

    However once that project is completed, and the capacity of the reservoir is tripled, the location is expected to be a greater source of clean energy, increasing its production capacity by nearly 15% compared to its capacity before the project.

    In 2021, too, Denver Water fell short of its goal due in part to work on the hydroelectric facility at Roberts Tunnel. Work to upgrade the hydro facility at the tunnel kicked off in 2019.

    Finally, while Denver Water focuses on offsetting electricity and heat generated by fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, its net-zero calculations don’t currently count gasoline burned by its fleet vehicles or propane needed at some remote sites.

    “As we make a long-term shift to cleaner energy sources, there will be bumps in the road,” Taft said. “We still, inevitably, will depend on more traditional sources at times and in certain locations. But we are relentlessly pushing to generate more of our own green energy and cut emissions associated with natural gas, coal and vehicles.”

    Learn more about how Denver Water has constructed a low-energy heating and cooling system and its long history of environmental stewardship.

    As part of its effort to cut emissions, Denver Water is beginning the long transition to electric fleet vehicles.

    The utility already has six Ford F-150 hybrid trucks and hopes to test the use of some all-electric pickups in 2023, pending supply chain challenges.

    And as the utility continues to look at other electric vehicle options, it is partnering with analysts at Drive Clean Colorado and Xcel Energy’s Fleet Electrification Advisory Program to help guide the process.

    “Getting this right will take time and a constant push forward,” said Brian Good, Denver Water’s chief administrative officer. “But it is the right thing to do. We are a water utility, and providing reliable, safe, clean water isn’t possible without protecting the natural environment from which it flows.”

    #Drought’s Spillover Effect in the American West — Circle of Blue #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Aerial photo of the California Aqueduct at the Interstate 205 crossing, just east of Interstate 580 junction. By Ikluft – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2734798

    Click the link to read the article on the Circle of Blue website (Brett Walton). Here’s an excerpt:

  • The American West has been plumbed into a series of “mega-watersheds.”
  • Because basins are connected by pipelines and canals, drought in one region affects distant watersheds.
  • A big Southern California water agency plans to draw more water from the Colorado River this year because of inadequate moisture in the Sierra Nevada.
  • On a map that might grace the walls of a high school classroom, the watersheds of the American West are distinct geographical features, hemmed in by foreboding plateaus and towering mountain ridges. Look closer and those natural boundaries are less rigid. A sprawling network of pipelines and canals pierce mountains and cross deserts, linking many of the mighty rivers and smaller streams of the West. These “mega-watersheds” have redrawn the map, helping cities and farms to grow large and productive, but also becoming political flashpoints with steep environmental costs…

    Upstream on the Colorado River, there are more links. Tributary streams in Colorado are diverted through the San Juan-Chama Project into New Mexico, where the water enters the Rio Grande system and supplies Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The Central Utah Project pulls Colorado River water into the orbit of the fast-growing Wasatch Front, which is not in the basin.

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    In the headwaters state of Colorado, 11 major interbasin transfers unite rivers on both sides of the Rockies. The Moffat and Adams tunnels cut through the Continental Divide, a feat of engineering that brings Colorado River water into the South Platte River basin, where it is gulped by Denver and other Front Range cities.

    For all the water supply flexibility they provide, these diversions are not risk-free. They have depleted water for native fish. Many of them — from the Owens River in California to the West Slope of Colorado — contend with legacies of acrimony and mistrust, feelings that arose decades ago due to the political imbalance between rural areas where water was extracted and urban areas that benefitted.

    Map credit: AGU

    Starting a water-wise garden that glows in hot, dry conditions: In 2021, #Denver-area Garden In A Box customers planted 100,000 sq. ft. of low-water gardens instead of grass — News on Tap

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Jay Adams):

    Do you recognize these plant names? Moonbeam coreopsis. Autumn joy stonecrop. Blonde ambition.

    They may not be well known among most homeowners, but they are examples of water-wise plants gaining popularity in Colorado every year.

    Water-wise plants mostly rely on what Mother Nature provides, requiring either no additional water or only a few inches during the growing season.

    Plant Select, which promotes low-water plants that thrive in Colorado’s climate, describes this plant as an “impressive, highly ornamental form of Western native grass with tall, upright stems.” We think it lives up to its name: Blonde Ambition. Photo credit: Denver Water

    The plants are an alternative to thirsty Kentucky bluegrass and thrive in Colorado’s semi-arid climate. Water-wise plants also offer additional benefits such as low maintenance and added color. Many also attract birds, bees and butterflies.

    Denver Water promotes water conservation efforts in customers’ yards and encourages them to learn about incorporating water-wise plants into their landscapes.

    Check out stories and advice from Denver Water customers who have added Garden In A Box kits to their landscapes.

    Good sources of information include Resource Central, which offers the popular Garden In A Box program, and Plant Select, which promotes plants that need less water and thrive in the high plains and Rocky Mountain regions.

    Elie Zwiebel and his partner, Laura, stand in front of their home in Denver’s Athmar Park neighborhood showing off results of their Garden In A Box. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Resource Central

    Since 2012, Denver Water has regularly supported Resource Central, a nonprofit organization based in Boulder that promotes water conservation programs.

    One of its programs, Garden In A Box, offers a variety of water-wise plants along with plant-by-number garden designs from landscape professionals. The kits also come with information about the care and maintenance needs of the plants.

    A Garden In A Box, after a few years, will delight homeowners and those who pass by. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Customers can choose from gardens with names like “Naturally Native” and “Painted Shade,” indicating the kind of plants in each garden and the type of conditions they thrive in.

    Programs like Garden In A Box are important to Denver Water because among its customers, outdoor water use accounts for about 50% of single-family residential water use. Converting a section of lawn into a water-wise garden is one way to reduce a home’s outdoor water footprint.

    “Garden In A Box started in 2003 and we’ve sold more than 41,000 kits through fall 2021,” said Elisabeth Bowman, conservation engagement manager at Resource Central.

    “Interest in the gardens has grown every year in the metro area so we’re happy to see so many people looking for water-wise landscapes.”

    Between 2003 through 2021, Resource Central estimates it’s helped plant 3.1 million square feet of low-water landscapes, saving 228.6 million gallons of water over the lifetime of the gardens sold to customers across the Front Range.


    A homeowner near Denver’s City Park removed grass from his front yard and planted a Garden In A Box. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Denver Water pays Resource Central more than $15,000 a year to set up four garden pickup events in Denver every spring, so customers who live in and near Denver Water’s service area don’t have to go far to get their gardens.

    More than 10,000 gardens have been sold to Denver-area residents since 2014.

    Garden In A Box offers water-wise plants and professional designs in each kit. Image credit: Resource Central

    “Denver Water is a huge partner for us, the support they provide makes it easy for Denver residents to pick up their kits. Over 1,000 of our gardens go to Denver residents every year,” said Melanie Stolp, manager of Resource Central’s Garden In A Box and its water efficiency Slow the Flow programs.

    And the results of the customers’ purchases are amazing.

    Just take a look at Resource Central’s 2021 numbers for Denver Water:

  • 1,834 Garden In A Box kits sold to customers who live in Denver and the surrounding suburbs of Centennial, Edgewater, Greenwood Village, Lakewood, Littleton and Wheat Ridge.
  • 100,000 square feet of low-water gardens planted, according to Resource Central’s estimates.
  • 9.5 million gallons of water saved over the lifetime of those new gardens, according to Resource Central’s estimates.
  • A Resource Central employee loads a Garden In A Box kit during the spring 2021 pickup event. Photo Credit: Denver Water

    “The Garden In A Box program helps people start small, converting a section of the lawn from turf to low-water plants,” said Jeff Tejral, Denver Water’s former water efficiency manager who guided the partnership with Resource Central.

    “It helps people learn about these plants, how to care for them and the beauty they can bring to their home. From there, they often convert more sections of grass to water-wise landscapes.”

    Customer surveys indicate about two-thirds of Garden In A Box buyers have little or no experience with water-wise plants, according to Tejral.

    The Garden In A Box kit comes with a plant-by-number guide for a landscape designed by professionals using water-wise plants. Photo credit: Denver Water

    That’s why each garden comes with a guide that helps customers through the planting and early years of the garden’s life.

    Gardens have been sold in the spring and typically sell out quickly. Resource Central continues to increase the number of kits available each year to meet the growing demand. The organization has also conducted a fall sale for about four years and in 2021 increased its offerings by 35%.

    Plant Select helps gardeners find water-wise plants that thrive in Colorado and the retailers that sell them. See their Top 10 plants from 2020.

    The fall 2021 sale sold out. Another fall is planned for 2022.

    Bowman encourages anyone interested in purchasing a Garden In A Box to check out Resource Central’s website and sign up for their newsletter.

    A Garden In A Box kit planted in southeast Denver’s Hampden neighborhood. Photo credit: Denver Water

    In addition to Garden In A Box, Resource Central also offers other water conservation programs through its water utility partners, including:

  • Lawn Removal Service program.
  • Slow the Flow consultations to improve water efficiency inside and outside.
  • Free webinars on water-wise landscaping held in the spring.
  • Cost of [Haligan Reservoir] expansion quadruples as milestones approach — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

    Halligan Reservoir aerial credit: City of Fort Collins

    Click the link to read the article on the Fort Collins Coloradoan website (Jacy Marmaduke). Here’s an excerpt:

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to release the final Environmental Impact Statement for the project next year, followed by a record of decision one or two years later. As those milestones approach, details about the project’s final cost, design and environmental impacts are coming into sharper focus. The city now expects the expansion to cost $150 million, possibly more, and begin three years of construction by about 2026.

    The expansion would involve enlarging the existing Halligan Reservoir from 6,400 acre-feet to 14,600 acre-feet. The city plans to rebuild, and raise by 25 feet, the existing dam on the North Fork of the Poudre River about 24 miles upstream of Gateway Natural Area. The expansion would reduce flows on portions of the North Fork and mainstem Poudre River by 1% to 6% during May and June. During the rest of the year, reservoir releases associated with the project would address dry spots on the North Fork.

    The goal of expanding the reservoir is to increase Fort Collins Utilities’ storage capacity for Poudre River water, which makes up about half of the city’s water supply…

    The projected cost of the project has quadrupled in the last eight years as the permitting process has dragged on, best practices for dam design and environmental mitigation have evolved, and the city has done more thorough estimations of the various costs associated with the reservoir expansion.

    A hundred years ago in #ColoradoRiver Compact negotiations: the Supreme Court Breaks the logjam — InkStain

    Click the link to read the article on the InkStain website (Eric Kuhn and John Fleck):

    With a single statement, the United States Supreme Court changed the direction and tone of the compact negotiations:

    “[T]he waters of an innavigable stream rising in one state and flowing into a state adjoining may not be disposed of by the upper state as she may choose, regardless of the harm that may ensue to the lower state and her citizens.”

    In a unanimous ruling, on June 5, 1922, the court issued its decision in Wyoming v. Colorado, ruling that Colorado could not develop waters of the Laramie River in a manner that ignored and injured downstream senior appropriators in Wyoming.

    Salt Lake Tribune, June 8, 1922 via InkStain

    The decision, and its clear implications for the development of the Colorado River, echoed around the West. “State Lines on Colorado River Are Wiped Out”, blared a front page headline in the Salt Lake Tribune, adding “Federal Officials Say California is Already Owner of Stream’s Summer Use.”

    This was the risk that states in the river’s upper basin had long feared – that the doctrine of prior appropriation, used by the states within their own borders, might be determined to apply across state lines. Nervously, they all eyed California.

    Laramie and Poudre Tunnel inlet October 3, 2010.

    The Laramie, the river at the center of the court’s ruling, has its headwaters in the Northern Front Range Mountains about 40 miles west of Ft. Collins. From there it flows 280 miles north into Wyoming, reaching the North Platte River near Ft. Laramie, WY. Wyoming farmers and ranchers began using the river for irrigation purpose in the 1880s and 1890s. Within Colorado there is little irrigable land along the river’s path, but its elevation just happens to be about 225 feet higher than the Cache La Poudre River where the two rivers are a little more than two miles apart. Thus, in 1909 two Colorado water companies, including the North Poudre Irrigation District, a client of Colorado’s Delph Carpenter, began construction of an 11,500 foot tunnel that would divert 800 cfs (essentially the entire river in low flow years) from the Laramie River into the already fully developed Poudre. In 1911 the State of Wyoming filed suit against Colorado to protect its existing irrigators.

    Over the course of the eleven-year case, the Supreme Court held three oral hearings, the last in January 1921, only weeks before the Colorado River Commission first met. Wyoming’s basic argument was that Colorado’s proposed project would cause great damage and injury to its citizens who were already using the river for irrigation. Colorado’s basic argument was that it had a sovereign right to take and use any water within its boundaries without regard to the rights of states or individuals outside of Colorado. Both states used prior appropriation, but details of how the doctrine was administered were quite different. In Colorado water rights were adjudicated by the local district court. In Wyoming they were granted by a state Board of Control.

    The opinion, written by Justice William Van Devanter, determined that since both states used prior appropriation, this doctrine would set the rule for the equitable interstate division of water on the Laramie River. The effect of the opinion was that to protect downstream senior appropriators in Wyoming, the Colorado project would be limited to an annual diversion of 15,500 acre-feet per year, about 20% of the original plan. The opinion was not a complete loss for Colorado. Wyoming had challenged the legality of the Colorado’s project because it was a transbasin diversion. The court found that there was nothing illegal with projects that move water.

    As soon as the opinion was released, Colorado River Compact Commission Secretary Clarence Stetson sent copies of the opinion to the commissioners along with a six-point summary. For Colorado’s Carpenter, the loss was probably not a great surprise, but it was nonetheless a bitter defeat. He told his upper river colleagues that the decision left them badly exposed.

    For the compact negotiations, the court decision required Carpenter to change his basic strategy. Up to this point, he and Utah’s Caldwell had held firm for a compact based on the concept that water projects in the Lower Basin would never interfere with water uses in the Upper Basin. The decision coupled with building public pressure for Congressional approval of a large storage reservoir to control floods, regulate the river, and produce much needed hydroelectric power meant that it was now time for Carpenter to propose a more practical alternative. He turned his attention to a concept proposed by Reclamation Service Director Arthur Powell Davis at the Los Angeles field hearing – a compact based on dividing the use of the river’s waters between two basins.

    Stetson’s goal was to get the Commission back together in August. Hoover had asked New Mexico Governor Merritt Mechem for a recommendation on where they might meet in relative seclusion. Mechem found such a place, but finding a date that would work for Hoover and the other commissioners would push the meeting date out to November – stay tune[d].

    Map of the North Platte River drainage basin, a tributary of the Platte River, in the central US. Made using USGS National Map and NASA SRTM data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79266632

    A River Routed Under the Mountains — NASA #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Adams Tunnel route. Photo credit: NASA

    Click the link to read the article on the NASA website:

    The rugged, steep Rocky Mountains rise abruptly in the middle of Colorado, splitting the state roughly in half between the western high country and the eastern plains. The extreme contrast of these landscapes also brings an extreme disparity in water.

    The Western Slope receives 80 percent of the state’s precipitation, as weather systems rising to cross the continental divide shed their loads of rain and snow before moving east. Water that falls to the west of the divide drains toward the Pacific Ocean, while water that falls to the east runs toward the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic.

    The plains of eastern Colorado, however, are semi-arid. In 1820, explorer Stephen Harriman Long—for whom Long’s Peak is named—famously dismissed it as a “Great Desert” unsuitable for agriculture. But the sandy, loamy soil can make fertile farmland when irrigated.

    Grand River Ditch

    In the mid- to late-19th century, the Gold Rush and the arrival of the railroad brought an influx of settlers to Colorado, including ranchers and farmers. Then in the 1880s, the plains received higher-than-average precipitation. The new settlers plowed under native drought-resistant grasses and used eastern farming techniques to grow wheat and corn, practices that would later contribute to soil erosion and the Dust Bowl.

    When drier conditions returned, the residents looked to the Rocky Mountain snowpack and the Colorado River, then known as the Grand River, as a reliable source of water for irrigation. One of the first efforts to tap that supply was the Grand River Ditch. Beginning in 1900, the ditch diverted water from the Never Summer Mountains through Poudre Pass and into the Cache la Poudre River.