#Snowpack news: Water officials cautiously optimistic about #drought — The Westminster Window

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 10, 2017 via the NRCS.

From The Westminster Window (Scott Taylor):

“The big snow events in the metro area honestly do not help us,” said Emily Hunt, Thornton’s water resources manager. “We’d really much rather see the snow up in the mountains. But if we can keep cold weather down here through March, with the trees barely starting to come out in April and people not turning on their irrigation systems until May, that’s ideal for us. Ideally, we don’t want people to have to water their lawns and trees until after Mother’s Day.”

The latest reports for Colorado’s Front Range put snowpack depth at between 120 and 160 percent of annual averages, according to the National Resources Conservation Service.

It’s one of the several measurements local water officials monitor all year long as they prepare for the summer.

“It’s great when the snowpack tracks its normal route, or it’s above-normal route like this year,” Hunt said. “But the other measure is the snow water equivalent, and that really tells us how much water is actually in the snowpack. For us, that usually maxes out about 15 inches.”

NRCS measures show the Snow Water Equivalent along the Front Range at between 13 and 17 inches.

“If we get to 15 inches or higher, then we feel like we are having a normal year,” Hunt said.

Those show that the Denver metro area should avoid drought conditions and water restrictions for another summer…

Hunt said the weather down here can have just as much impact. People use more water when it gets warm. She’d prefer that waits until the local reservoirs have started filling up.

Westminster, Thornton, Northglenn and the Farmer’s Reservoir and Irrigation Company all rely on Standley Lake as one of their main water supplies, but each city has a number of other reservoirs and canals that feed municipal water treatment plants.

@denverpost: Jeffco Open Space plans to repair, reopen historic Welch Ditch

A portion of the Welch Ditch in Clear Creek Canyon. Photo credit Jefferson County Open Space via The Denver Post.
A portion of the Welch Ditch in Clear Creek Canyon. Photo credit Jefferson County Open Space via The Denver Post.

From The Denver Post (Josie Klemier):

The unique trail is one of a few projects planned at the mouth of Clear Creek Canyon

Jefferson County Open Space will be hosting a community meeting in January looking at a handful of projects planned for the mouth of Clear Creek Canyon.

Among them are development of the Welch Ditch Trail, a unique project reviving a trail atop an irrigation ditch first built in the 1870s to divert water from Clear Creek to around 4,000 acres of farmland in Jefferson County.

In a presentation created for the meeting, Jefferson County Open Space calls it “one of the most remarkable engineering achievements in Jefferson County.” The Golden Historic Preservation Board listed it as one of the most endangered sites in the area in 2003 and 2006.

Parts of the ditch are wooden flumes handbuilt in the 1930s and are elevated above the creek, particularly where it begins near Tunnel One in Clear Creek Canyon, offering a unique overhead view, said Nancy York, a planning supervisor for Jefferson County Open Space.

“It is an absolutely magical experience,” York said.

The ditch, in Jeffco Open Space’s Clear Creek Canyon Park, used to be open to hikers but much of it was closed in 2013 due to hazardous conditions.

York said it is an exciting project for its history — Open Space hopes to work with local historians to install educational signs along the way — but it is also an opportunity for a hiker-only trail alongside the Peaks to Plains Trail being built through the canyon.

York said Open Space is exploring the possibility of a suspension bridge connecting the ditch to the Peaks to Plains trail via a suspension bridge near the popular Twilight Zone and canal Zone climbing areas.

The community meeting, scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Golden Community Center, 1470 10th St., Golden, will also provide updates on the ongoing work on the Peaks to Plains Trail, which received grants from Great Outdoors Colorado and the Colorado Department of Transportation, according to a Jeffco Open Space release.

CDPHE: Water Quality Information Bulletin

Click here to read the bulletin. There will be an informational briefing concerning Clear Creek at the December 12, 2016 meeting.

Clear Creek, Standley Lake watersheds including the Standley Lake Canal Zone via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation.
Clear Creek, Standley Lake watersheds including the Standley Lake Canal Zone via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation.

Clear Creek: New water treatment under construction on the North Fork

Photo from Paul Winkle (CPW) slide show at the South Platte Forum October 26, 2016.
Photo from Paul Winkle (CPW) slide show at the South Platte Forum October 26, 2016.

From 9News.com (Next with Kyle Clark):

There’s another orange, rusty flow of water coming from our Colorado mountains, this one on the North Fork of Clear Creek near Black Hawk.

A viewer sent Next a question about this, asking what was going on.

We found out that environmentalists know about it, and have known for a few years.

It happens when rocks, which have been buried for years in Colorado’s mines, reach ground water. These rocks have likely never been exposed to oxygen because of that. Once rocks touch groundwater, iron is oxidized and acid is formed. The oxidized iron turns the water orange, but the acid is the concern. Acid dissolves necessary metals in the water, and can kill off wildlife in a stream.

The substance dilutes once reaching the main stem of Clear Creek, but there is not currently wildlife living in that fork.

The water treatment plant being built will take care of all that by treating the water with lyme, which will neutralize the acid in the water. The plant opens in January.

The good news is we won’t have a repeat of the Animas River incident from 2015.

“The two point sources that are contributing to this right now have been open and they are just openly leaking into the stream continuously, and so there’s not that build up like we saw with the Animas River,” said Elizabeth Traudt, from the Colorado School of Mines. “Instead, since these have been continuously leaking, that’s why this stretch of the stream has been continuously orange and continuously contaminated.”

That’s right. The water has been orange for a while.

Arvada: Rate increase in the cards?

arvadareservoir
Arvada Reservoir via the City of Arvada.

From The Wheat Ridge Transcript (Shanna Fortier):

Owners of a typical single family home in Arvada will likely have to pay $1.41 more a month — or $16.90 additional a year — for water and sewer services fees in 2017.

The average single-family home is considered to be 3.2 people and a yard. And the average single family drinking water bill in Arvada runs about $481 annually and $291 annually for sewage.

Jim Sullivan, director of utilities for Arvada, said the average single-family account in Arvada uses 120,000 gallons of water each year for domestic and irrigation purposes and generates 60,000 gallons of sewage. Single-family accounts form the largest customer group in Arvada, using about 60 percent of the water.

Arvada City Council heard the proposed rate increases at the Sept. 26 workshop and will discuss the proposals during council meetings on Oct. 3 and Oct. 17, also the date of a public hearing. The rates have been raised every year over the past decade.

When taken separately, the proposed increases amount to 2 percent for water and 3 percent for wastewater. A 1.45 percent increase for water tap fees is also proposed. Stormwater and sewer tap fees are not projected to increase, city officials said.

The increases are needed because of rising vendor prices, new equipment and materials, and employee salary raises, Sullivan said.

Sullivan added that over the next 10 years, water operation costs will likely slowly increase as the city prepares to contribute payment for the Denver Water Gross Reservoir expansion project.

Sources of water

Arvada has two sources of water. The first is a 1965 contract with Denver Water. The second source is the city’s Clear Creek water right holdings.

But “these two sources will not be sufficient to meet the residents’ needs at buildout of the city,” Sullivan said. “The city has entered into an agreement with Denver Water to financially participate in the Gross Reservoir expansion in exchange for additional water supplies. This project should increase Arvada’s water supplies sufficiently to meet the city’s needs at buildout.”

Gross Reservoir, named for Denver Water former Chief Engineer Dwight D. Gross, was completed in 1954. It serves as a combination storage and regulating facility for water that flows under the Continental Divide through the Moffat Tunnel and supplies water to Denver Water’s North System.

The reservoir was originally designed with the intention of future expansion to provide necessary storage.

With demand expected to increase in coming years, expanding Gross Reservoir will increase sustainability to the water supply as part of Denver Water’s multi-pronged approach that includes conservation, reuse water and developing additional supply to meet customers’ future needs.

“We think we have enough money in the fund to avoid issuing debt for this project,” Sullivan told city council.

The proposed 2017 water fund budget is $29 million, with 75 percent going toward water system operations, 8 percent for debt services and 17 percent for capital improvements. The Gross Reservoir project is the majority of the capital improvements area.

The city’s current debt service is $2.2 million, paid mostly from tap fees, Sullivan said. He added that in 2020 the water bonds issued in January 2001 will be paid off.

The projected increase in the operations budget for water is $656,000 or 3 percent. However, the bond repayment in 2020 will reduce operating costs by $445,000 annually. Because of this, city staff is proposing to increase water rates by 2 percent rather than 3 percent in 2017, smoothing out future rate changes.

The proposed 2 percent rate increases the water fee part of the bill by $8.52 annually or 71 cents per month. The 3 percent increase for wastewater amounts to $8.40 annually or 70 cents per month.

It is expected that by 2023, the 20-year program to rehabilitate the sanitary sewer system in the city will end and the $2 million needed annually will drop to $500,000 for major repairs and maintenance.

The water tap fee increase of 1.45 percent applies to new construction and would increase by $275, bringing the total cost of a single family water tap to $19,275.

Denver Water is seeking approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the state of Colorado to expand Gross Reservoir, which is southwest of Boulder. The 77,000 acre-foot expansion would help forestall shortages in Denver Water’s water system and offer flood and drought protection, according to Denver Water.
Denver Water is seeking approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the state of Colorado to expand Gross Reservoir, which is southwest of Boulder. The 77,000 acre-foot expansion would help forestall shortages in Denver Water’s water system and offer flood and drought protection, according to Denver Water.

Clear Creek Watershed Festival recap

From The Clear Creek Courant (Corinne Westeman):

Saturday’s eighth annual Clear Creek Watershed Festival was a fun and educational experience for children and their parents. More than 20 local businesses, government agencies and nonprofits put together booths and stations for families to visit. For each station visited, the attendee would have her “passport” stamped. A full passport book earned a prize.

The event was started as a way to celebrate and educate the community, specifically children, on the importance of the watershed and how best to keep it clean…

Organizers Chris Crouse and Dave Holm said the festival is a way to teach attendees about watershed use and cleanliness factors, including wildlife/urban balance, high altitude, land-use impacts. The Clear Creek watershed not only supplies water for several communities, they said, it also supplies several breweries and Water World in Federal Heights.

This year, Crouse and Holm said, they tried to promote the event at schools as much as possible, as an opportunity to stimulate learning outside the classroom. And, overall, they anticipated about 500 people to visit the festival throughout the day…

Cannon said the festival is a great way to “get people exposed to what’s going on” in terms of water cleanliness. Cannon displayed various types of bugs from Clear Creek. He said the presence of certain bugs is “used as an indicator of healthy water,” and that it’s important to keep Clear Creek clean and safe.

“Anything that keeps kids connected to the environment is a good, healthy thing,” he said.

Denver Water digs into Vasquez Canal Project — The Sky-Hi Daily News

The south portal of the Vasquez Tunnel is shown in this 1957 photo. Via Denver Water.
The south portal of the Vasquez Tunnel is shown in this 1957 photo. Via Denver Water.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Lance Maggart):

The Vasquez Canal Project is a multi-year multi-million dollar project that continues efforts by Denver Water to improve existing water diversion infrastructure. Work on the Vasquez Canal Project focuses on removing sections of the existing Vasquez Canal and replacing removed sections with a 114-inch diameter concrete reinforced pipe.

Work on the project has occurred in previous year with Denver Water replacing between 5,000 and 6,000 feet of the Vasquez Canal over the past two decades. Officials from Denver Water say they plan to replace about 2,000 feet of the Vasquez Canal in 2016, leaving roughly 15,000 feet to be replaced in the future.

Officials from Denver Water did not provide an overall projected cost on the project pointing out that, “funding allocation for this project is reassessed annually”. In previous year the project averaged around $750,000 per year in costs. Future projected cost estimates on the Vasquez Canal Project total between two to three million dollars annually.

Monies used for the project come directly from Denver Water which is funding operation, as it does all operational and capital projects, through water rate fees, bond sales, cash reserves, hydropower sales and system development charges for new services.

Work on the Vasquez Canal Project consists primarily of excavation and earth moving to facilitate the canal upgrade. “Crews will demolish the old concrete liner and covers, excavate the area and install the new 114-inch pipe, piece by piece,” stated Denver Water Communication Specialist Jimmy Luthye. Luthye explained Denver Water plans to, “work aggressively to complete this project in the next few years in an effort to replace aging infrastructure and improve the safety and strength of the entire water system.”

Ames Construction is the contractor of record for the project. For the past 20 years though, as previous sections of the Vasquez Canal have been replaced, employees of Denver Water performed the upgrade work. According to Denver Water this is the first year work on the project has been contracted out.

The Arapaho National Forest prepared an environmental assessment of the Vasquez Canal Project. All construction work on the project is being conducted entirely on National Forest System Lands. According to Denver Water that environmental assessment determined, “there would be no significant environmental impacts.” Officials from Denver Water went on to state, “They approved the project along with required best management practices, design criteria and monitoring designed to protect the area during construction.”

The Vasquez Canal is part of Denver Water’s historic water diversion network that brings mountain runoff to the Front Range and Denver Metro area. The original canal was completed in the late 1930s. According to Denver Water, information on the original construction of the canal is fairly limited but officials from the municipal water supplier stated, “we suspect that some of it (Vasquez Canal) was originally dug by hand because the canal had to be cut into the side of a steep mountain… making it difficult for machines to access.”

In the late 1950s Denver Water covered the originally open Vasquez Canal, effectively creating a tunnel. A drought during the early 1950s prompted the action, which was intended to mitigate evaporation as water traveled through the diversion system.

Water utilized by the Denver Water’s diversion system follows a zigzagging path of infrastructure as it descends from snowmelt in the high Rockies to homes along the Front Range.

Diversion structures in the Upper Williams Fork River send water through the Gumlick Tunnel, formerly known as the Jones Pass Tunnel, where the water passes under the Continental Divide. From there water travels through the Vasquez Tunnel, which brings the water back through to the other side of the Continental Divide, where it enters into Grand County and Vasquez Creek. The water is then diverted through the Moffat Tunnel back under the Continental Divide for a final time and into South Boulder Creek, feeding into Gross Reservoir, a major water storage reservoir for Denver Water.

Colorado transmountain diversions via the University of Colorado
Colorado transmountain diversions via the University of Colorado