#Runoff news: Cool temps have dampened snowmelt

From 9News.com (Matt Renoux):

Usually peak runoff hits sometime during the first week of June but cool weather has kept snow from melting on the higher peaks with the states snowpack 191 percent of normal on June 1.

“It’s been a slow start to the season with the cold weather we have had this year,” said McGrath…

The Colorado River near Glenwood and Clear Creek near Georgetown are all below average, and Dustin Doss with Breckenridge Outfitters says the Blue River near Breckenridge is also flowing below average.

Westminster Historical Society’s latest exhibit: “The Driving Force: The story of Westminster water.”

Crews work to build a channel to guide water for Westminster residents and farms in this historic photograph. Credit Westminster Historical Society via The Englewood Herald.

From The Englewood Herald (Kevin M. Smith):

[Phil] Goedert was among the volunteers who worked on the Westminster Historical Society’s latest exhibit: “The Driving Force: The story of Westminster water.”

Six panels explain the history of the water in words, photos and maps in addition to additional panels with a timeline and summary of the water laws. There are also a few artifacts, like a cast iron pipe laid in about 1911 next to a PVC pipe that is commonly used today.

Ron Hellbusch said the exhibit is appropriately named.

Modern-era

Hellbusch was in charge of figuring out the city’s water issue in the 1960s — one of the pivotal times that created a channel to the current day Westminster.

“To see it develop it where the city has grown … a lot of it, you can point to having sufficient water to control your destiny and to control your growth and keep local decisions,” Hellbusch said.

A drought in the 1960s along with the city’s water rights at the bottom of the barrel spurred residents to campaign for change. The water Westminster received had gone through other water treatment plants first before hitting household taps here…

Hellbusch was asked to spearhead a proposal for the city’s own system because he started working for the city’s utilities department part-time in 1953 when he was a sophomore in high school. He continued working summers through high school and college.

He wasn’t an engineer, but he had more field experience than anyone in the city.

In addition to being at the bottom of water rights, city leaders feared that Denver would dictate Westminster’s growth by restricting the number and types of new buildings to stem water usage.

In 1963, a ballot question put the fate in the city of Westminster’s hands instead of Denver’s and it won — by just 170 votes, a 4.4 percent margin.

“That’s when they started to acquire surface water rights,” Goedert said.

Instead of relying on ditch water and canals running through Golden where others had first rights and wells that dried up during droughts, the city made a deal to tap into Standley Lake. Standley Lake was built and owned by Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (FRICO).

“Those guys are very protective of their water and they didn’t want any municipalities fussing around with what they could — until they started to have serious problems with the dam,” Goedert said.

The dam was cracking and FRICO didn’t have the money to repair it.

“So Westminster bought into it and said, `We’ll fix the dam and raise it if you give us half the water.’ And they said, `It’s a deal,’ ” Smith said.

And that holds true today.

Westminster added 12 acres of height to the dam. The city has rights to more than 50 percent of Standley Lake water with Northglenn, Thornton and FRICO getting the rest.

Further back

But the water issues started with the first population influx during the Gold Rush in the late 1850s.

“At the time, there were no water laws,” Goedert said. “Whoever was there first, that’s whose water it was.”

First, placer mines, which separated sand from gold, were made from ditches off Clear Creek.

“We started out with the ditches and the canals,” Smith said.

Those were dug with livestock on either side of the ditch dragging a bucket to scrape out earth.

The miners drew farmers and ranchers.

“So that started to expand the ditches,” Goedert said.

Eventually, FRICO built its reservoir in about 1907 to serve agricultural and livestock needs.

Westminster was incorporated in 1911 and included an $11,000 bond issue to drill the city’s first well.

More in the exhibit

The exhibit also covers water as recreation, like the bond issue in 1979 to build Water World and building city swimming pools.

Smith said he hopes to add to the exhibit throughout the next few months and eventually move it to city hall.

The Westminster History Center, 7200 Lowell Blvd., is open 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and by appointment. For more information, call 303-428-3993.

Standley Lake sunset. Photo credit Blogspot.com.

#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.