Winter Water Quality Tips — @GreeleyGov

Platte River photo credit US Bureau of Reclamation.

From the City of Greeley:

Winter in Colorado marks an exciting time of year. It means skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. But winter can also mean dangerous driving conditions.

What we do to help mitigate dangerous road conditions can take a toll on our natural resources if we are not careful. What we put on our roads and driveways today may end up in our lakes, rivers, and streams tomorrow. Salt, sand, and deicers make their way into storm sewer systems and travel into local water bodies. Concentrated doses of chloride-based deicers are potentially lethal to aquatic plants and invertebrates. The introduction of sand to waterways can increase turbidity and degrade both the aesthetics and quality of the water.

Consider these best practices during the winter to help reduce pollution in our local bodies of water.

  • Shovel your driveway early during a snowfall and maintain it throughout. This will reduce the need for salt, sand, and other deicing agents by preventing ice from build-up on your driveway.
  • Use deicers according to manufacturer’s recommendations and use salt and sand sparingly, and only as needed.
  • Sweep up excess sand, salt, and deicers.
  • Consider environmentally friendly alternatives like calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), or cracked corn for traction.
  • For more information on Stormwater, visit Greeleygov.com/Stormwater

    @GreeleyWater to end indoor rebate program

    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

    Greeley officials plan to end a program at the beginning of 2019 that offers rebates on toilets and high-efficiency clothes washers as a result of dwindling participation and state regulations, according to a news release.

    The program, which started in 2006, offers up to $75 in rebates to customers who use high-efficiency residential toilets and $100 for washers.

    “Manufacturers have made products much more efficient in the last ten years,” Ruth Quade, Greeley’s Water Conservation Coordinator, said in a news release. “Also, the State of Colorado set higher efficiency standards for toilets in September of 2016. Fewer people are also participating in our programs.”

    Quade said the city is working to develop more effective ways to work with the community on water efficiency. Officials said water conservation audits pair well with the rebate program.

    Greeley to allow developers to pay cash-in-lieu of water

    Greeley in 1870 via Denver Public Library

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

    In Greeley, developers have historically been required to bring water to the table for any proposed development.

    Often, that water is associated with whatever piece of land the developer bought, so it’s an easy transfer.

    But when the land has already been dried up, developers are forced to hit the open market, competing with other developers to buy water at increasingly higher prices.

    “The way it is now, it’s kind of driving water prices up,” said Martin Lind, a major Front Range developer. “You’ve got 50 developers looking for small (portions) of water here and there.”

    In Greeley, there are fewer pieces of land with water rights still attached than ever before, and if Greeley wants to continue to grow — and city leaders say it must — officials say they’ve got to do something.

    Greeley’s solution, in the works since at least 2003, exchanges buckets of water for buckets of cash, as city leaders contemplate a transition to a system that allows developers to pay cash-in-lieu of water, a system officials say would be less burdensome on developers.

    That plan, based both on a dwindling supply of water and upon Greeley’s ability to potentially strike better deals, likely wouldn’t be approved until August.

    For Harold Evans, chairman of the Greeley Water and Sewer Board and a man who has experience in Colorado real estate, the plan would be good for everyone.

    “It gives (developers more options),” Evans said. “I think it will be a positive for the development community.”

    SMART WATER

    Greeley’s water planning goes out to 2065, and the city has been engaged in an aggressive, multi-phase water buying plan during the past several years.

    The city owns most of the water in its projected growth area — the areas not yet within city limits but expected to be one day, areas like the ones between Weld County roads 17 and 13, north of U.S. 34.

    With that in mind, it’s easy to see why there are fewer water resources available for developers.

    Take Journey Homes, which is building a 400-home development at the southwest corner of 83rd Avenue and 10th Street in west Greeley.

    Journey Homes Principal Larry Buckendorf said water comes first in almost everything Journey does.

    “For Journey, it’s water,” Buckendorf said. “That is the first consideration that we look into — what are the municipalities’ raw water requirements and what kind of water is attached to the land? It’s item No. 1.”

    Journey followed probably the simplest process available. It bought the land and the water that came with the land and deeded it to the city.

    But what happens when there’s no water attached to the land? That’s literally a growing problem as agriculture users sell their water rights to growing municipalities across the Front Range.

    The answer, for Greeley, is to let developers pay cash for water they don’t have. Buckendorf said it’s always good to have more options, and he said he has always enjoyed working with Greeley.

    Today, Greeley allows developers to pay cash-in-lieu of water for just 8 acre-feet of water.

    To give some perspective, Journey Homes’ development sits on 166 acres. Greeley requires 3 acre-feet of water for every acre of land. That means the city required 498 acre-feet of water from Journey, and Journey could bring cash to the table for just 8 of those.

    Switching fully to cash-in-lieu wouldn’t necessarily reduce developers’ costs, as Greeley will factor in not just the cost of water but the relative costs of storage expansion projects and system upkeep. But it would reduce the headache of buying water on the open market.

    “We see that we need to start to do a transition to support development,” Water and Sewer Director Burt Knight said. “If I don’t do a transition, and you don’t have water tied to the property, I’m forcing you into the market to buy C-BT (Colorado-Big Thompson). That’s a very difficult market, and it’s expensive.”

    A nice, round, roughly accurate number is $30,000 per acre-foot. If Journey paid cash, it would be out $14.9 million just in water — before selling a single home.

    To recoup those costs, Journey would need to take out about $40,000 from each of the 400 homes it’s building in west Greeley. That helps explain why housing affordability is so difficult to attain, officials say.

    “Before you’ve moved any dirt, before you’ve bought the land, before you’ve done anything, you have to calculate about $100,000 per each acre just for the water,” Greeley Community Development Director Brad Mueller said.

    It’s possible more housing stock would help drive prices lower, and Greeley does have room to grow. Today, Mueller said the city has more jobs than houses, and that’s an imbalance — although not the worst version of such an imbalance — city officials hope to fix at least in part by switching to the cash-in-lieu system.

    DIFFERENT STROKES

    Brian Werner is the spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which manages a number of projects, including the Colorado-Big Thompson project.

    That project diverts water across the continental divide to the Front Range. Talk to anyone who knows water and they’ll say it’s the best water. Why? Well, first, it comes from high in the Rocky Mountains, fed by snowmelt.

    Second, unlike almost any other water source in Colorado, it can be used for anything in the South Platte River Basin, all the way to Julesberg and Nebraska, without a decade-long water court battle to change its use. To clarify, if a city buys water that has historically been used to water crops, it must go to court and get approval to use the water for residential development.

    Because there are no such requirements for CBT water, though, it’s costly. Werner said an auction earlier this year featured $30,000-per-unit prices.

    In 1957, the first year the CBT project was in operation, units sold for $1.50 apiece, Werner said. If CBT water shares simply followed inflation, they would cost $13.47 per share today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.

    And back then, 85 percent of the units were owned by agriculture producers. Today, that’s 30 percent.

    Werner said that won’t get much lower, as there are a few large farming operations that might not ever sell.

    All of that, combined with developers needing the water to help Front Range cities grow, leads to price increases.

    It’s another reason Greeley is looking to switch to a cash-based system.

    But the same problem leads to different solutions.

    Many smaller water districts and municipalities are actually taking an opposite approach to the problem, forcing developers to bring water to the table so those water districts don’t have to deal with the open market.

    Werner said there’s no way to say either system represents a smarter approach to water policy, as a variety of factors affect any given water district. And he certainly wouldn’t criticize Greeley, a city he uses as an example of proper water planning.

    “They’ve done one of the best jobs in northern Colorado of building a water portfolio,” Werner said. “They’ve been doing it for 150 years, so they’ve got a better starting position than some of these newer communities.”

    GROWING PROBLEM

    Knight said without the impending change to the way Greeley manages water, it would be difficult if not impossible for new development to move forward.

    It begs a question, though: Is there pressure to grow at the expense of smart water policy?

    Even if Knight and Mueller said they’ve never felt that pressure, there’s enough at stake that Greeley regularly studies its neighbor municipalities when it comes to water and development policy.

    Every five years, the city looks at prices and trends and compares itself with others. The most recent study, completed in July 2015 by BBC Research and Consulting, cost $41,876.27, and the study looked at the 21 fastest-growing municipalities across the Front Range.

    That study showed Greeley’s costs, including the amount of water required to be deeded to the city, impact fees and tap fees, were above average among those municipalities, and called the high cost of water significant for developers and new homebuyers.

    The prices have only gone up since July 2015, but even then, Greeley’s costs were $36,271 per home — $8,000 higher than average. With CBT shares going for $5,000 more today than before, the costs are closer to $40,000 per home today.

    Some of the other municipalities were similar, including Johnstown, which was higher in 2015 at $35,000 per home, and Windsor ($28,500 per home).

    Others were far lower, including $11,375 in Evans and $10,000 for the Central Weld Water District, which covers a vast swath of rural Weld County from Evans and Kersey down to Firestone. Longmont and Lafayette were below $10,000.

    “There are some communities that we kind of shake our head,” Knight said, refusing to name names. “It looks either low or high. The ones that are low make us wonder, ‘Are they making themselves vulnerable in the future?’ ”

    So how does Greeley compete for new development with costs like that?

    Buckendorf said the costs tend to shake out in the end.

    “Land sellers are very astute,” Buckendorf said. “They know if the raw water requirement is less, they’ll ask for more for their land.”

    Knight said Greeley sets its rates in such a way as to ensure the city recoups the necessary costs, and typically that leaves Greeley somewhere in the middle of the city’s Front Range neighbors.

    “It’s important for Greeley residents to appreciate that we have a current water board and history of water board members who have been very serious stewards of the water for the community,” Mueller said.

    City of Greeley 2018 budget

    Greeley in 1870 via Denver Public Library http://photoswest.org/cgi-bin/imager?10009071+X-9071

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

    The council will officially vote on the $367 million budget Oct. 17…

    The city has a variety of construction projects on the horizon for 2018, but none are more costly than those projects related to water.

    Greeley’s portion of a new reservoir will cost $38.2 million, and the city will spend $44.4 million to renovate the Bellvue Water Treatment Plant near the mouth of the Poudre Canyon. Bellvue has been in operation one way or another for more than 100 years.

    Water-related projects often are paid for through municipal bonds, and the city’s water department is allowed to take on the debt without a vote of the residents because it is an enterprise fund and can charge more for services to pay down the debt.

    Milton-Seaman Reservoir expansion update

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

    Expanding the 5,000-acre-foot capacity reservoir has been on Greeley officials’ to-do list for more than a decade. But the type of work the city is planning takes a lot of time, mainly because it involves the federal government.

    If everything goes without a hitch, Greeley officials have circled 2030 as the year they’ll increase Seaman to 10 times its current capacity…

    Here’s why:

    » Greeley has never expanded any of its six reservoirs, and most have been around for nearly a century.

    » Increasing Seaman to 53,000 acre-feet of water from 5,000 acre-feet will put Greeley in position to satisfy the city’s water needs for decades. (An acre foot of water is enough water for two families to use for a year). The city uses between 25,000-30,000 acre-feet of water per year: That’s expected to reach 40,000 acre-feet by 2030.

    Harold Evans, chairman of the water and sewer board in Greeley, likens the Seaman’s expansion to the kind of planning that has kept water flowing from the city’s Bellvue Treatment Plant area since 1907…

    Right now, Greeley is working with a consultant and in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop an environmental impact statement.

    Greeley is still about two years away from having a draft of that statement.

    In the meantime, Greeley officials are working to secure more water rights. The city doesn’t have enough rights to fill the expanded Seaman Reservoir. They’re 40 percent there, and as Reckentine said, it’s an everyday process. Every year, in fact, Greeley commits millions toward purchasing water rights.

    Expanding the reservoir could cost $95 million more just in construction costs, according to an estimate provided in a Colorado Water Conservation Board document.

    Water rights come from a variety of places, including retiring farms.

    Today, Greeley typically uses its reservoirs as drought protection.

    Basically, Greeley has water rights from the Colorado, Poudre, Laramie and Big Thompson rivers. But whether Greeley is able to get all of the water it’s owed depends on the rivers’ flow levels.

    In drier years, Greeley would have to do without some of that water. That’s where reservoirs come in. Evans said the first reservoirs were used to finish Greeley area crops when river flows weren’t strong enough to do so in late fall.

    Snowmelt and water diverted into reservoirs could be tapped for that purpose. Evans said it’s like putting money in the bank. Pound-for-pound, water’s worth more than money, though.

    If and when the Seaman Reservoir expansion is complete, Greeley will likely use some of the water from that reservoir every year.

    For Evans, that’s a perfect example, among many, of an investment in the future.

    Evans mentions the new pipeline from the Bellvue Water Treatment Plant being installed now, with a lifespan of 75-100 years. The Seaman Reservoir has been around since the 1940s.

    ABOUT MILTON SEAMAN RESERVOIR

    » Built 1941

    » Storage: 5,008 acre-feet

    » Elevation: 5,478 feet

    » Dam height: 115 feet

    » Proposed enlargement date: 2029

    » Proposed storage: 53,000 acre-feet

    SET FOR LIFE?

    The Seaman Reservoir expansion will put Greeley in a good position, but Deputy Director of Greeley Water Eric Reckentine hesitates to call it the final answer.

    Greeley has a four-point plan when it comes to water:

    » Maintain what you have — Greeley has reinforced water lines with concrete and fiberglass to reduce leaks.

    » Secure supply to stay ahead of demand — The Windy Gap Project, which ensured water during lean times, is an example of this.

    » Build storage for the lean times — The Milton Seaman Reservoir expansion project is the best example of this.

    » Conserve the water you have — Greeley has a state-approved water conservation plan, and the new water budgets are another example of conservation.

    THE OTHER RESERVOIRS

    Here’s a quick look at Greeley’s other five reservoirs:

    » Barnes Meadow Reservoir — Built in 1922 and located across Colo. 14 from Chambers Lake in the Roosevelt National Park, Barnes Meadow Reservoir holds 2,349 acre-feet of water.

    » Peterson Lake Reservoir — Built in 1922, and located southwest of Chambers Lake and adjacent to Colo. 156, Peterson Lake Reservoir holds 1,183 acre-feet of water.

    » Comanche Reservoir — Built in 1924, and located along Beaver Creek and west of the Colorado State University Mountain campus, the Comanche Reservoir holds 2,628 acre-feet of water.

    » Hourglass Reservoir — Built in 1898, and also located along Beaver Creek and west of the Colorado State University Mountain campus, the Hourglass Reservoir holds 1,693 acre-feet of water.

    » Twin Lakes Reservoir — Built in 1924, and located southwest of Pingree Park off Colo. 14, Twin Lakes Reservoir holds 278 acre-feet of water.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

    Doug Billingsley doesn’t know what he’s going to do to replicate the peace and quiet of his work when he retires and re-enters the hubbub of normal life. Greeley pays Billingsley to live at Milton Seaman Reservoir, about 15-20 minutes from the mouth of the Poudre Canyon. Billingsley lives in a city-provided house, and has lived there for the past eight years with his wife, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and her caretaker.

    Billingsley monitors the Seaman Reservoir. The reservoir is Greeley’s largest, and its water levels can rise and fall quickly. He must ensure the banks and dams are sound and functioning properly, and he’s charged with releasing water down the Poudre Canyon when necessary. Call him the water shepherd.

    He’s used to the solitude, if not the quiet.

    “I drove over the road truck for 18 years, and was by myself for up to 30 days at a time — I lived in a truck,” Billingsley said. “This is no biggie; this is heaven.”

    The city pays him a salary as well as his living expenses. But there’s a catch: He’s on call 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

    The floods of 2013 are a prime example. And Billingsley spent the better part of a week stuck at home after a bridge went out, trapping folks up the canyon. Of course, he had to monitor Seaman’s water levels during the flood, as well.

    Billingsley’s wife loves having him at home every night, and he loves being there.

    Apart from animals there’s nothing to bother a Seaman Reservoir caretaker. They’ve seen elk, mountain lions, bears, but none of them hurt anybody, he says.

    @GreeleyWater wins 13th annual “Best of the Best” Tap Water Taste Test

    Cache la Poudre River

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

    Greeley ought to bottle this stuff.

    The water in your tap — the stuff you pay pennies per gallon for — just earned recognition as the best tasting water in the United States.

    This week, the American Water Works Association rated Greeley’s water the best tasting in the nation, as Greeley beat out 33 other regional winners. The city also became the first to win the national competition and People’s Choice Award at the organization’s annual conference in the 13-year history of the competition.

    Greeley also is the first Colorado municipality to win the award.

    And then there’s this: This was the first year Greeley has entered the contest.

    “I was hopeful,” Greeley Water and Sewer Director Burt Knight said. “But I never expected to win both awards.”

    Still, Knight said the awards didn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know.

    “What it does is it confirms the choice our forefathers made when they went up to the mouth of the Poudre and built the treatment plant and pipeline in 1907,” Knight said. “I know we have high-quality water. All we needed to do is get everybody else to agree.”

    Now that they have, Knight and others are pondering how, exactly, they’ll spike the football.

    “It’s something we’ll need to think about leveraging,” City Manager Roy Otto said, adding the city has used its extensive water portfolio to attract businesses in the past. “But quality is something we need to spend time communicating to people — not only to residents, but others who might be coming to Greeley, as well.”

    There are strict rules for the water competition. Greeley was sent special containers and coolers. Officials took water from one of the treatment plants and shipped it off to Philadelphia, where the annual convention was held.

    Once there, contest officials remove any labels to ensure a blind taste test for judges.

    To get there, Greeley had to win its regional competition last fall. And as a result of its national win this year, Greeley gets an automatic bid to the national competition next year.

    Will the city enter?

    “If you’re the Broncos, and you win the Super Bowl, you want to defend your title,” Knight said.

    But that’s for next year. For now, Greeley officials are happy celebrating the victory.

    Otto said he’s proud of the tradition and legacy of water in Greeley, saying the award is an affirmation of that.

    W.D. Farr

    “W.D. Farr has a big smile on his face in heaven right now,” Otto said, referencing the Greeley water pioneer.

    After Farr died, Greeley bottled some of the town’s water, labeling it “Greeley Gold.” Otto still has a bottle.

    “I would put Greeley’s water supply up against any bottled water across the country,” Otto said.

    From The Denver Post (Tom McGhee):

    Greeley, a city known for both agriculture and food processing businesses, can now boast it has the best tasting tap water in the United States and Canada.

    The Greeley Water and Sewer Department won the 13th annual “Best of the Best” Tap Water Taste Test conducted by the American Water Works Association. Montpelier, Ohio, took second place and Bloomington, Minn., had the third-best tasting tap water.

    Greeley represented the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association in the contest held in Philadelphia, Pa. The Rocky Mountain group includes water companies from cities in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, said Greg Baker, spokesman for the organization. It is the first time that any member of the Rocky Mountain association has won the contest, Baker said.

    The event, composed of regional winners from water-tasting competitions across North America, was held at American Water Works Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fifteen regions participated in the contest, including some in Canada and Puerto Rico.

    Cache la Poudre River watershed via the NRCS

    @GreeleyGov: Water & Sewer Annual Summer Tour, June 30, 2017


    Click here to register and read about the event:

    The Greeley Water & Sewer Board invites residents to this year’s facility tour to learn more about how water and sewer is treated, where the water comes from, and the various ways water is used. Residents will tour the Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) and Boyd Lake facilities and learn about system exchanges, points of diversion, and non-potable systems. A light breakfast and lunch will be provided.

    Those interested in attending should contact Ettie Arnold at 970-350-9812 before June 23. Space is limited.

    Get more information about Greeley’s Water System at http://www.greeleygov.com/water.

    Keystone: Greeley Water wins taste and odor competition at RMSAWWA conference

    LadyDragonflyCC -- Creative Commons, Flickr
    LadyDragonflyCC — Creative Commons, Flickr

    From KDVR.com:

    Nine municipalities from a three state region competed for the title of best drinking water based on taste, odor and appearance.

    The judges at a taste test at the 2016 Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works (RMSAWWA) annual conference in Keystone deemed Greeley as the city with the best water in the region.

    Nine municipalities from a three state region competed for the title of best drinking water based on taste, odor and appearance.

    The winner of this competition will represent the RMSAWWA at the national “Best of the Best” taste test at the AWWA Conference in Philadelphia next June.

    Castle Rock Water was named runner-up.

    Greeley Water closing in on new rate structure to encourage conservation

    Greeley in 1870 via the Greeley Historical Society and the Denver Public Library
    Greeley in 1870 via the Greeley Historical Society and the Denver Public Library

    From The Greeley Tribune (Catharine Sweeney):

    Greeley water officials are continuing to push a new water rate system that would provide residents with incentives to cut their consumption, and local leaders are warming up to the idea.

    The Water and Sewer Board went over the plan again during its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

    Today, Greeley residents pay a flat rate for water that doesn’t take into account how much they use, and regionally, that’s rare.

    “Really, Greeley and Loveland are the only cities left in northern Colorado that have uniform rates,” said Eric Reckentine, the department’s deputy director of water resources.

    A few cities, such as Aurora and Colorado Springs, charge their residents in uniform blocks for usage.

    Greeley officials find the blocks arbitrary. Someone who irrigates a lawn that’s 1,000 square feet obviously will use more water to do so than someone who owns a 500-square-foot lawn.

    Greeley is opting for a tiered water rate based on a water budget, or calculated allowance, water planners give residents. Planners use the number of people in a household and the amount of land the resident could irrigate to decide how many gallons a month each home should use. They allot 55 gallons per person per day. They give a little more than two gallons per square foot of irrigable land.

    A four-person family on an average lot would get 21,000 gallons per month.

    Under the new plan, the family would pay $3.88 per 1,000 gallons within the budget, and the rate would increase incrementally as the water usage exceeded the budget.

    There are four tiers. If residents are within budget, using 100 percent or less of the allotment, they get the reduced rate. If use falls between 100 and 130 percent of the allotment, it’s considered inefficient use, and it will cost $4.74 for each 1,000 gallons in that range. If residents keep overusing and get into the 130-150 percent of their allotment range, they’ll pay $6.04 for that segment. If they get past 150 percent of their allotment, that will cost $8.62 for every 1,000 gallons.

    The extra cost didn’t come in increments when city officials first heard the plan in February. Anything outside the budgeted water was charged at the highest tier a resident hit.

    “You paid that amount for all of it,” Mayor Tom Norton said during an interview. “It was kind of more of a punishment.”

    Greeley and water department officials said the goal was to recover costs for overuse, which is about 300 acre-feet every year. An acre-foot of water is how much an average family uses in a year.

    “That’s several million dollars worth of water,” Water Board Chairman Harold Evans said.

    The latest newsletter from The City of Greeley’s Water Conservation Program is hot off the presses

    waterfromtap
    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    If you notice an unexplained large spike in water use or want to find a way to lower your water bill, it may be time for a free water audit. It’s a personalized consultation on your water use. Our auditors will also install new showerheads and faucet aerators. Sign up today!

    “We spent the day at the Children’s Water Festival” — @greeleywater

    Greeley pursues $8 million bond project for sewer system improvements — The Greeley Tribune

    sewerusa

    From The Greeley Tribune (Trenton Sperry):

    At its regular meeting this week, the council introduced an ordinance allowing the city to sell $7.5 million in bonds in May. The bond revenues would be used to fund improvements to the city’s sewer system, marking Greeley’s first issuance of sewer debt since 1994.

    Greeley’s annual debt payments — estimated at $550,000 for the next 20 years — would be funded by current sewer user fees, according to the ordinance.

    Victoria Runkle, Greeley’s finance director and assistant city manager, said rate increases for Greeley’s sewer customers may be on the horizon, but they would adhere to the city’s current rate schedule, which raises rates by about 2 percent to 3 percent each year.

    “We assume we will have to raise rates over time,” Runkle said. “Will that actually come to pass? That will depend on if revenues continue as they are. There have been years when we didn’t raise rates.”

    In a draft of the bond project’s official statement, the city claims Greeley’s single-family residential customers paid less for sewer services than 17 of 24 Front Range municipalities surveyed in fall 2014. However, the city will be required to raise rates, fees or charges to balance debt payments as needed.

    The bonds are being considered to help Greeley make needed upgrades to the sewer system more quickly, Runkle said.

    “We’re not earning enough interest on the money we have in cash funds,” she said. “Interest rates are very low. We’re only able to make about 2 percent on cash reserves, but construction costs are up to 4 or 5 percent.”

    Portions of Greeley’s sewer system date to 1889, according to the ordinance, and about 4 percent of the current system is more than 100 years old.

    More infrastructure coverage here.

    The latest Greeley Water newsletter is hot off the presses

    Looking for more inspiration? After taking a drive down West Colfax Avenue, check out the xeriscape demonstration gardens at Kendrick Lake in Lakewood.
    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    Xeriscape Made Easy

    Garden In A Box offers a simple approach to learn about and plant a water-wise garden. Gardens will go on sale March 1. Be the first to know about the 2015 garden choices by signing up on the pre-sale list.

    A look at the art of water board governance from The Greeley Tribune #ColoradoRiver

    Here’s an in-depth look at the Greeley Water and Sewer Board from Sherrie Peif writing for The Greeley Tribune. Click through to read the whole article and for the sidebar with the details about the current board along with some historic notes:

    Most anyone who works closely with the water industry agrees the commodity is taken for granted by consumers, except for in a couple of instances.

    “When water doesn’t come out of the faucet,” said Harold Evans with a laugh. “And when they get their bill.”

    Evans, the chairman of the Greeley Water and Sewer Board, said it is unlikely that most know where their water comes from or how it gets to their faucets.

    It is a complicated process involving more than a dozen lakes, ponds, rivers and reservoirs across Colorado. And in Greeley, seven men oversee it all.

    It is so complicated, in fact, that fellow board member Robert Ruyle said it takes several years on the board before a member really understands it.

    “Water board members serve 10-15 years before they really know what to do,” Ruyle said. “Even if they come to the board with water experience. Our system is unique, and it takes a while to understand it.”

    It is also why, Evans said, the water board needs the absolute power it currently enjoys.

    “The primary reason for establishing it this way was to provide for long-term needs in a non-political way,” Evans said.

    Not everyone agrees, however, including a former top Greeley official who may take a proposal to the voters to put the power back into the hands of the Greeley City Council.

    Many argue the Greeley water board has too much power, and its authority to set rates, development fees and the cost to bring raw water to a new development are all too high and there is no one that can reverse its decisions.

    Members of the water board say what most don’t realize is how far ahead of the game Greeley is compared to other communities and water districts in northern Colorado.

    And that — they say — is because of the way the Greeley Home Rule Charter is set up, giving board members the power to set rates and fees, acquire water and manage the system that cleans and transports it.

    “When you think about what you pay for a cup of coffee, we supply a gallon of safe drinking water for four-tenths of one penny,” Evans said.

    Board members all believe they are assuring many more generations to come plenty of the precious resource.

    But has the original intention of Greeley’s forefathers outlived its usefulness?

    Should voters change the way water has been managed for nearly six decades?

    It all depends on who you ask.

    WHICH WAY DID IT GO?

    From as far away as Lake Granby on the Western Slope, into the Colorado-Big Thompson system, and eventually the South Platte River; or from as far away as Cameron Pass and the Poudre River, spring snow melt from the mountains flows through 500 miles of pipeline into two water treatment plants and into homes and business in Greeley.

    It didn’t take long after Greeley was founded in 1869 for its forefathers to realize they needed to secure the rights to the water coming out of the mountains.

    W.D. Farr, known to many as Mr. Water, and former Greeley Tribune publisher Charles Hansen are credited for bringing water from the Colorado River across the Continental Divide and to the Front Range. The Greeley water system is among the most elaborate and most rich in the nation, everyone close to the situation says.

    Many say that’s thanks to the authority granted the Greeley Water Board when it was formed in the 1958 charter to manage the system.

    Norman Dean, who was a member of the charter committee and one of those responsible for the Water Board’s authority, said it was a battle over who to put in charge.

    “It was a very contentious subject,” Dean said. “Some guys wanted it to be a department of the city.”

    But in the end, a University of Northern Colorado professor convinced the majority, including Dean, that it needed to be separate.

    “Water and sewer generates a lot of money,” Dean said. “He did not want it to flow into the general fund for city council to use it as they wanted.”

    Technically, it is a department of the city, but it is run by the water board.

    The other option, said Leonard Wiest, former Greeley city manager who is now a consultant, would be to make the board an advisory board. Let them continue to do what they do, but leave the final decision to the Greeley City Council.

    “We get a chance to vote on the city council,” Wiest said. “If we don’t like what they do, we can vote them out. The only thing the council can do right now to the water board is cut the budget. But they never do that either.”

    The seven members of the water board are appointed by city council to serve a five-year term and cannot be recalled by voters. At the end of that term, they must be reappointed to serve again. However, no one can recall a time when the council did not reappoint someone.

    “If at anytime they came to one of us and said, ‘We don’t think you’re doing your job,’ we would step down,” Evans said. “We may make decisions that some may not like, but we have to do what is best for the whole big picture.”

    Additionally, there are no limits to the number of terms a water board member can serve. New members are recommended to the city council by the current board, leaving some to refer to it as a “good ol’ boys club.”

    Many members have served for decades. Dean, who served 15 years on the board from 1989-1994, said that, too, was thought out by the charter committee.

    “It seemed a shame to put term limits on them,” Dean said. “They finally get to understand it all and then they have to leave the board.”

    The board controls a $26 million budget. Although city council ultimately has to approve any loans the water board requests, the water board has the authority to borrow money and sell bonds without going to voters, Wiest said.

    “It’s taxation without representation,” Wiest said. “The water and sewer board is entirely independent. They do whatever they want.”

    The board is responsible for setting water and sewer rates, plant investment fees (which are fees paid by a developer when a new home or business is constructed) and cash-in-lieu charges to get water to a new development.

    Council can raise the rates and fees, but has no authority to lower the rates below a minimum formula set by the charter, which includes things such as depreciation and maintenance.

    City Manager Roy Otto equates it to buying a car. You have to pay a minimum amount for a basic car, but all the bells and whistles are additional. If the water and sewer board wanted to raise the rates above what the formula says is needed to pay the bills, council could deny that.

    “I have never since I’ve been city manager had a disagreement over the budget,” Otto said of the recommended budget versus what the council wants. “We all understand the importance of our rate structure. We have a sound system, I would put our system up against any in the area because the charter language considers depreciation and maintenance.”

    Developers, however, have recently threatened to stop building in Greeley because development fees, especially for water and sewer, are too high, they say.

    Many developers in the area have asked Wiest to lead an effort to ask voters to amend the Home Rule Charter in November, to make it an advisory board.

    Wiest isn’t sure yet if he will, but he’s leaning toward leading the effort.

    WHO PAYS THE WAY FOR GROWTH?

    Greeley City Council has long charged its staff with the directive that growth pays its own way. In other words, fees should be charged to handle improvements or expansions when new developments come in.

    Water and sewer is no different. New developments require the developer to supply the water rights to service the area, and new residential and commercial development must pay plant investment fees to help with maintenance and expansion to the system when it is needed because of growth.

    However, the fees set by the water board are the source of disagreement.

    At several recent meetings held by the city to discuss increased development fees that go in effect March 1, real estate brokers and contractors expressed concern that development was about to stop in Greeley because they can’t afford to build here compared to other communities. In particular, many believe the water and sewer fees charged against developers are too excessive.

    Their contention is the increased fees drive up the cost of new homes in an area continuing to battle with poverty.

    A recent attempt to lower those fees failed on a 4-3 city council vote. The argument against lowering the fees is that it puts the burden of paying for growth in the water system on the current users.

    “It’s a philosophical belief,” Evans said. “Because on the other hand, you can say new development benefits everyone.”

    Wiest said the water and sewer board are more concerned about someone who may move here in 50 years than they are those who live here now.

    “The growth factor flies in our face,” Wiest said. “The person who moves here in 50 years will still have to bring their own water. But we are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for water for the future.”

    WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

    Water board members say they are only trying to continue the logic of Farr, which has made Greeley the envy of many in Colorado for its long-term planning and vision in acquiring water rights.

    “When you think about the previous boards and what they’ve done, we have the chance to stand on the shoulders of giants,” Evans said.

    He added the land around northern Colorado is drying up, and people need to remember where they live.

    “We are an arid landscape, but we want to look like the Midwest,” Evans said. “We have had water restrictions in place since 1905 for a reason.”

    Ruyle agreed, adding it is getting more and more difficult every day to acquire water.

    “It is a challenge to be able to acquire enough raw water to supply new growth for the city,” Ruyle said. “It is a limited resource in the area we live.”

    In fact, 80 percent to 85 percent of the water used in Colorado is still used for agricultural purposes. That is a real challenge, both men said, because changing water use from ag to domestic in water court is a complicated process.

    So what happens when Greeley’s economy moves away from agriculture? Evans asked.

    “It is predicted we will have more than double our population by 2050,” Evans said. “Where is the water going to come from? What is it going to look like in 2050? Who knows? We’ll figure it out, but it’s going to look different.

    “But we are fortunate to have the system we have. It allows us to do things others can’t do. When 2100 rolls around, I hope people look back on us and say, ‘Those guys in 2015 did a great job for us.’ ”

    More Greeley coverage here.

    Greeley water conservation plan under review — The Greeley Tribune

    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water
    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

    From The Greeley Tribune (Kayla Young):

    Sixty thousand is the Greeley Water and Sewer Board’s magic number. That’s how many acre feet of water the planning body expects will be needed by 2060 to sustain a population more than double its current level.

    “Right now, we have about 31,000 acre feet in supplies and our demand is about 26,000 to 28,000. So we’re ahead of our demand at this point,” said Eric Reckentine, Greeley’s deputy director of water resources.

    While Reckentine said Greeley sits in a much better spot than many other municipalities regarding water resources, the city will need to remain active is securing additional supplies to keep pace with growth.

    “Ninety percent of our job is getting ready for what happens in the future,” he said. “What we’re doing right now is preparing supplies for future growth. We’re seeing 2 to 2-and-a-half percent growth right now.”

    In October, the city released a revised version of the Greeley Water Conservation Plan to outline its supply strategy for the public.

    In broad terms, the proposal identifies four key focus areas: strengthening infrastructure, continuing water acquisition, expanding storage and continuing water conservation.

    The revised plan is open to public comment until Dec. 15.

    A final draft will be submitted to the Greeley Water and Sewer Board for approval Jan. 21.

    Broken down specifically, the water department has identified several critical projects to make 60,000 acre feet of firm, guaranteed water a reality for Greeley.

    Expansion of the Milton Seaman Reservoir from 5,000 acre feet to 53,000 is among the city’s top priorities.

    “Storage is critical because of the way Colorado water law works. You have to store your water in times of drought. That’s why we’re in some storage projects that we’re doing,” Reckentine said.

    The first environmental impact statement for the project is expected in early 2016, and groundbreaking is slated for 2025 or 2030.

    To fill the reservoir, the city will invest $90 million over the next 15 years to acquire agricultural water rights, Reckentine said.

    “These are prime agricultural supplies we want to acquire. We want to store those supplies, exchange them up and store them in Milton Seaman Reservoir and then retime those supplies in times of drought,” he said. “That will give us about 10,000 acre feet of supplies once that’s completed. I have acquired about 2,100 of the 10,000 right now that we need in this program.”

    Reckentine pointed to the city’s leasing program to dismiss concern that purchases by the city could limit water availability for agriculture.

    In 2014, the board said 20,000 acre feet of water went to serve businesses and homes in Greeley.

    An additional 24,000 acre feet of water was leased, primarily for agricultural uses. Just 300 acre feet were leased to oil and gas.

    Water and sewer director Burt Knight said oil and gas needs represent a small portion of Greeley’s water use.

    Regarding agricultural uses, Reckentine said that while spot leases could be restricted in drought years, he did not expect the industry to suffer from acquisitions by the city.

    “There are some areas that are going to dry up but it’s not going to eliminate agriculture from our economy,” he said.

    “It might be more of a cultural thing too, that people don’t want to farm as much. People have been moving to cities … that’s just the way the world is. It’s more urban and less agricultural.”

    Regarding infrastructure improvements, Knight pointed to efforts over the last decade to reline piping with cement mortar lining.

    He said this process has reduced system water loses from 20 percent to 5 percent.

    More controversial has been completion of a 30-mile pipeline to connect the Bellvue Water Treatment Plant, located northwest of Fort Collins, to Greeley’s infrastructure.

    While a majority of the pipeline has been finished, the final portion of the project has been met with opposition by property owners not satisfied to allow the pipeline to pass through their land.

    “There are three property owners that we are going to need some court assistance with to acquire the easements,” Knight said. “We try very hard to work with property owners to acquire needed easements.”

    Greeley water attorney Jim Witwer said condemnation, or eminent domain, is a last resort, but with far-reaching projects like this one, it is sometimes a necessary step to finish construction.

    One property, owned by Brinks Trust, took Larimer County to court over its approval of Greeley’s Bellvue development plans, although the case was dismissed.

    For the remaining two properties in question, one came to an easement agreement with Greeley before heading to court last week.

    The third property dispute is scheduled for court review Dec. 22.

    More Greeley coverage here.

    Greeley water conservation plan under review — The Greeley Tribune

    irrigationditchgreeleyhistoricalresources

    From The Greeley Tribune (Kayla Young):

    Sixty thousand is the Greeley Water and Sewer Board’s magic number. That’s how many acre feet of water the planning body expects will be needed by 2060 to sustain a population more than double its current level.

    “Right now, we have about 31,000 acre feet in supplies and our demand is about 26,000 to 28,000. So we’re ahead of our demand at this point,” said Eric Reckentine, Greeley’s deputy director of water resources.

    While Reckentine said Greeley sits in a much better spot than many other municipalities regarding water resources, the city will need to remain active is securing additional supplies to keep pace with growth.

    “Ninety percent of our job is getting ready for what happens in the future,” he said. “What we’re doing right now is preparing supplies for future growth. We’re seeing 2 to 2-and-a-half percent growth right now.”

    In October, the city released a revised version of the Greeley Water Conservation Plan to outline its supply strategy for the public. In broad terms, the proposal identifies four key focus areas: strengthening infrastructure, continuing water acquisition, expanding storage and continuing water conservation.

    The revised plan is open to public comment until Dec. 15.

    A final draft will be submitted to the Greeley Water and Sewer Board for approval Jan. 21.

    Broken down specifically, the water department has identified several critical projects to make 60,000 acre feet of firm, guaranteed water a reality for Greeley.

    Expansion of the Milton Seaman Reservoir from 5,000 acre feet to 53,000 is among the city’s top priorities.

    “Storage is critical because of the way Colorado water law works. You have to store your water in times of drought. That’s why we’re in some storage projects that we’re doing,” Reckentine said.

    The first environmental impact statement for the project is expected in early 2016, and groundbreaking is slated for 2025 or 2030. To fill the reservoir, the city will invest $90 million over the next 15 years to acquire agricultural water rights, Reckentine said.

    “These are prime agricultural supplies we want to acquire. We want to store those supplies, exchange them up and store them in Milton Seaman Reservoir and then retime those supplies in times of drought,” he said. “That will give us about 10,000 acre feet of supplies once that’s completed. I have acquired about 2,100 of the 10,000 right now that we need in this program.”

    Reckentine pointed to the city’s leasing program to dismiss concern that purchases by the city could limit water availability for agriculture.

    In 2014, the board said 20,000 acre feet of water went to serve businesses and homes in Greeley.

    An additional 24,000 acre feet of water was leased, primarily for agricultural uses. Just 300 acre feet were leased to oil and gas. Water and sewer director Burt Knight said oil and gas needs represent a small portion of Greeley’s water use.

    Regarding agricultural uses, Reckentine said that while spot leases could be restricted in drought years, he did not expect the industry to suffer from acquisitions by the city.

    “There are some areas that are going to dry up but it’s not going to eliminate agriculture from our economy,” he said.

    “It might be more of a cultural thing too, that people don’t want to farm as much. People have been moving to cities … that’s just the way the world is. It’s more urban and less agricultural.”

    Regarding infrastructure improvements, Knight pointed to efforts over the last decade to reline piping with cement mortar lining. He said this process has reduced system water loses from 20 percent to 5 percent.

    More controversial has been completion of a 30-mile pipeline to connect the Bellvue Water Treatment Plant, located northwest of Fort Collins, to Greeley’s infrastructure. While a majority of the pipeline has been finished, the final portion of the project has been met with opposition by property owners not satisfied to allow the pipeline to pass through their land.

    “There are three property owners that we are going to need some court assistance with to acquire the easements,” Knight said. “We try very hard to work with property owners to acquire needed easements.”

    Greeley water attorney Jim Witwer said condemnation, or eminent domain, is a last resort, but with far-reaching projects like this one, it is sometimes a necessary step to finish construction.

    One property, owned by Brinks Trust, took Larimer County to court over its approval of Greeley’s Bellvue development plans, although the case was dismissed.

    For the remaining two properties in question, one came to an easement agreement with Greeley before heading to court last week.

    The third property dispute is scheduled for court review Dec. 22.

    More Greeley coverage here.

    Greeley has drafted an updated Water Conservation Plan and would like your feedback

    Burt Knight Selected as Greeley’s New Director of Water & Sewer

    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water
    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

    Here’s the release from Greeley Water & Sewer:

    Greeley City Manager Roy Otto is pleased to announce the selection of Burt Knight as Greeley’s new Director of Water & Sewer effective August 18, 2014. When announcing Mr. Knight’s selection for the position, Mr. Otto stated, “Burt has performed duties as Interim Director with distinction. After reviewing the options before me with many trusted advisors, I believe the best choice for this important responsibility, at this critical time for our city and the Water/Sewer Department, is a promotion of our operations deputy.”

    The Director of Water & Sewer, which reports to the City Manager, will be responsible for implementation of the long-term and comprehensive plan that includes strengthening and maintaining Greeley’s water system infrastructure, continuing water supply acquisition, expanding water storage, and increasing water conservation efforts.

    Knight earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University and has over 30 years of municipal engineering and management experience. Mr. Knight began employment as the City of Greeley’s Chief Water Engineer in 2011 and was promoted to Deputy Director of Operations in 2013. Prior to his employment with Greeley, Mr. Knight served as city/county engineer for the City and County of Broomfield.

    When asked what attracted him to this position, Mr. Knight stated, “I believe in Greeley’s vision of the future and how the organization is focused on achieving community excellence. It is also a pleasure working with the Greeley staff because they are all committed to serving our citizens. I am honored by Mr. Otto’s, City Council’s and the incredible members of the Water and Sewer Board’s confidence in me, I will not let them down.”

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

    Greeley gets USACE permit for pipeline

    pipeline

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    After a 7-year process and multiple studies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a permit that would allow Greeley to build a 6-mile section of pipeline known as the Northern Segment.

    The city plans to run the pipeline under the Poudre River and through open fields on private property south of the river.

    Greeley officials plan to work with affected property owners during the coming months to get easements for the pipeline, said Eric Reckentine, deputy director of water resources for Greeley Water and Sewer.

    Construction is expected to begin in late fall and last about a year and a half. The segment is expected to cost about $25 million.

    But the fight over the pipeline is not over and could end up in court.

    Rose Brinks, who lives off Overland Trail near the river and Lions Park, stated in an email to the Coloradoan that she will not allow her family’s historic farm to be “torn up for such a pipeline.”

    Greeley could use eminent domain to get the rights of way it needs to build the project.

    “We would prefer to negotiate with property owners,” Reckentine said.

    Brinks and other affected property owners have contended for years that the project should be built along another route, such as under Larimer County Road 54G.

    But Greeley officials say their preferred route would disrupt fewer properties and would not require the removal of homes. It also would not force monthslong construction closures on LaPorte’s main street.

    As part of the process of getting the permit, Greeley had to do extensive studies on the environmental impact of the project and its potential effects on historic sites, such as a section of the old Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific Railroad line on Brinks’ property.

    Greeley plans to bore underground to get the pipeline through sensitive areas, Reckentine said…

    The 30-mile pipeline project would run from Greeley’s water treatment plant near Bellvue to Gold Hill Reservoir west of the city. Two-thirds of the pipeline is complete and operating. The segment that runs through Fort Collins ends at Shields Street.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sherrie Peif):

    After seven years of fights and headaches, Greeley officials can finally celebrate. The Army Corps of Engineers gave approval for the final 6-mile segment of the Bellvue Pipeline from the Fort Collins/LaPorte/Bellvue area.

    The final addition, which runs from Shields Street in Fort Collins to the Bellvue Treatment Plant at the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, will complete the $80 million, 30-mile pipeline. It will have the capacity to deliver an additional 50 million gallons of water per day to Greeley, enough to satisfy the projected need of Greeley’s water customers for the next 50 years.

    The city hit roadblocks every direction it turned with landowners worried about the impact on wildlife and historical structures, as well as noise and fumes and the other effects of construction.

    Then, concern over the Preble jumping mouse habitat got in the way. Greeley was required to study the mouse habitat and any impacts under the State and National Historic Preservation Acts before the permit verification was issued.

    There are still four property owners trying to hold up the process, said Eric Reckentine, deputy director of water resources for Greeley, but the city has the go-ahead for construction, which is expected to begin in the fall.

    It will run under the originally proposed 28 different properties. The city could take any remaining land through eminent domain laws if it needs to.

    “We’re still working through some issues with those landowners,” Reckentine said.

    He did not know how much the city has spent in legal fees on the project.

    Officials say the route is the least destructive. An alternative would have traveled under Main Street in LaPorte and under that town’s two schools. When completed, this will be only the second extension of water pipeline the city has done in 100 years.

    The city, which since the 1950s has had two existing 27-inch pipelines through the town, has two-thirds of the 60-inch line built and some portions already in operation.

    The line parallels about 65 percent of the city’s existing lines, but it will move through a portion of historically registered property along Overland Trail at the southern edge of LaPorte. Retired water director Jon Monson said in 2011 that the structures would be completely avoided by tunneling beneath them, roughly 18-20 feet for about 1,700 feet.

    The city still needs some additional permits to increase the water capacity, but Reckentine said he was confident they would not be a problem.

    “This is an important project for Greeley,” Reckentine said. “We are just glad we can begin construction.”

    More infrastructure coverage here.

    Greeley takes second place in nationwide water conservation challenge

    Jon Monson retires from @GreeleyWater

    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water
    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

    From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

    When Jon Monson was hired by the city of Greeley to act as director of the Water and Sewer Department 18 years ago, he was all arms in the air and enthusiasm for the job.

    “You’re on the side of angels,” Monson told The Tribune in an April 29, 1996, interview — just 10 days into the job. “You’re one of the good guys protecting the environment … and providing water that’s necessary for life. That’s exciting.”

    On Thursday — just three days into retirement — not much had changed.

    “I would like to stay involved in water,” Monson said of his plans as a retiree. “People respect the transformative power of water to create the environment we want to create.”

    Monson’s passion for the job came up a number of times among coworkers and friends at Monson’s last day this week as something they will remember him by and miss.

    Monson will be missed for his quotes from famous people like Benjamin Franklin and Plato, his “data-dense” graphics, his Socratic style and his Christmas bread, said Harold Evans, chairman of the Greeley Water Board, at Monson’s retirement party Monday.

    But more importantly, Monson will be missed for his leadership.

    “Things work well and are delivered in a cost-effective manner, plus Greeley is positioned well for the future with its critical infrastructure of water and wastewater,” Evans said. “That’s the definition of leadership.”

    In his time with the city, Monson set the tone for the development of Greeley’s water system with the 2003 Water Master Plan, helped rebuild both the Bellvue and Boyd Lake water treatment plants, was recognized by the state for the city’s water conservation program, expanded the Bellvue pipeline to near completion, acquired at least 10,000 more acre-feet of water in anticipation of population growth, oversaw a great deal of improvements on the sewer system and created more local water storage, such as at the Poudre Ponds.

    Through it all, Monson has never faltered in saying he loves his job, said Charlotte Hansen, his wife.

    “To be able to love your work, that is a true gift in life. Well, this man loves his work. Believe me,” Hansen said at Monson’s retirement party.

    There were challenges through the years, the worst of which was the painstakingly long process of environmental permitting for projects like the Bellvue pipeline or water storage, Monson said. Although even those things he said he understood as necessary components of the job.

    Greeley Mayor Tom Norton said Monson steered the city particularly well through major upgrades to Greeley’s wastewater treatment plant, which has been recognized by the EPA for sustainability and energy efficiency.

    “Jon led the way to making the wastewater facilities as important as water facilities, and our stewardship for clean water downriver as well as clean water upriver,” Norton said. “I think that’s very, very important.”

    Monson also was honored this week by the Farr family, who said W.D. Farr — a Greeley leader who left a number of legacies, including planning for water — was particularly fond of him.

    “It was such a wonderful gift that W.D. gave me in the last decade of his life, to give some inkling, some fraction of what he knew about water,” Monson said Thursday. “The more I think about it, it was a gift from me to him to give him the opportunity to share what he knew. And I hope to do that, to find some way of passing that on.”

    During retirement, Monson said he hopes to work for Engineers Without Borders and work on his fly-fishing skills. In the near future, Monson will be sailing, traveling to Europe to visit his wife’s family and track down his own ancestors and meet his daughter in Nepal as she and her husband motorcycle through South Asia.

    Before Greeley, Monson worked in south Florida as a utility director. Before that, he lived in Boulder and moved around the South as a water engineer.

    “Greeley has been really good to me,” Monson said Thursday with a nostalgic smile. “It was a good place to spend half my career.”

    More Greeley coverage here.

    Greeley: ‘One of the alternatives we need to take a serious look at is to use less’ — Jon Monson

    watersprinkler

    From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

    Greeley’s water supply will run out in about 30 years if we continue to consume water the way we do now, city officials say. By 2050, they say, half of the demand for water in Greeley will be to irrigate outdoor lawns That estimate has prompted Greeley officials to dig for more solutions to water conservation this year, which could include new landscaping and development policies.

    Everything is still in its early stages, but the city’s water experts this spring will hold a set of public meetings to spread awareness about Greeley’s water use and what could be done to curb it, said Jon Monson, Greeley’s water and sewer director.

    Greeley has been moved to action now but the city is not alone in facing limited water resources, a statewide issue. In fact, Greeley has done well purchasing water rights and creating the infrastructure to store it for future use, Monson said.

    And the city has more recently been recognized for encouraging residents to be more efficient with their water through the city’s showerhead exchange program, lawn watering schedule and water budget included on water bills.

    But conservation has been less of a focal point, Monson said.

    “One of the alternatives we need to take a serious look at is to use less,” he said, by reducing demand.

    For example, the amount of water needed to irrigate a front lawn is reduced by using native plants instead of buffalo grass.

    Monson and Brad Mueller, Greeley’s director of community development, discussed the city’s water situation and possible solutions with the city council last month.

    Mueller said the city is taking a slow approach with a number of public meetings before moving forward with any decisions or even a direction on how to lower water use.

    “We don’t want people to just go into the reaction of saying we need to be a desert, or let’s just make sure we have all of the water we could possibly buy, because both of those extremes are probably not consistent with Greeley’s values or its history,” Mueller said. “Greeley is probably not going to be a desert hole in the middle of that donut” of agricultural land, he said.

    At a council work session in January, Greeley city planner John Barnett presented some possibilities for landscaping that include a mixture of trees and native and non-native plants.

    Greeley has a semi-arid environment, meaning rain dries up quickly. With shrubs and ground cover that require low water use and trees that require medium water use, Barnett projected the city could cut back on water use by about 30 percent.

    Mueller said the city this fall will take questions to the public that include whether the mix and match option is a good one. Greeley residents will also have a chance to say how much water they think should be used for their lawns and other purposes, what the city should do differently to conserve water, what Greeley’s landscape should look like, and, if there are any new requirements that come of this process, how they should be applied to existing properties. There is no set schedule yet for when those public meetings will be, but Mueller said the city is aiming for late March or April. Monson said they hope to get input from builders, developers, homeowners and more before going back before the city council to present their findings.

    “To do something different, it’s going to take a little more effort, and it could be more expense, but we could save quite a bit of water doing it,” Monson said. “There’s always trade-offs.”

    More conservation coverage here.

    The latest newsletter from the Greeley Water is hot off the presses

    Greeley to hike stormwater rates 7% for 2014 for additional manpower

    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water
    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

    From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

    Greeley residents will pay an average of 39 cents more per month in stormwater fees next year, thanks to a 7 percent hike that must be approved by the city council each year.

    Even so, the city is about $50.4 million behind in stormwater projects that need attention, said Joel Hemesath, director of Greeley Public Works. Part of the backlog is because the city didn’t implement a stormwater fee until 2002, so stormwater for a time was competing for funding against other infrastructure needs.

    When the city began the stormwater fee, officials intended to raise rates by 7 percent each year, but rates were frozen in 2010 and ’11 because of the recession, Hemesath said.

    The average fee for residential customers next year will rise from about $5.61 per month to $6 per month. The average for commercial users will rise by $10.95 to $167.06 per month, and industrial users will pay $8.63 more, at $131.94 per month.

    The increase brings Greeley’s residential stormwater rates on par with Adams County, with the city roughly in the middle when comparing what residents pay other governments, according to Public Works data.

    Residents in Pueblo pay an average of $6.25 per month, and Loveland residents pay about $10.39 per month. Arvada residents pay about $4.30 per month, and residents of Littleton pay about $2.50 per month.

    The increase will garner an additional $263,000 to help pay for a second crew of stormwater workers to be hired by the city next year, an additional stormwater engineer and the cost of the maintenance work they will do on detention ponds and stormwater pipes, Hemesath said.

    He said the salaries of the new employees are also helped by a bolstered 2014 budget, which Greeley officials increased due to an expected rise in revenue.

    The additional crew will be available to work on the $800,000 worth of projects budgeted in the stormwater fund next year. They will work to design a project to upsize existing stormwater pipes from Sanborn Park down to the Poudre River, install a stormwater pipe before crews begin construction on East 20th Street, and install some filters that clean collected stormwater before it’s released back into the river.

    Ten projects, scheduled for 2015-22, are budgeted at $15.7 million, with the actual construction of the Sanborn Park to Poudre project at a cost of $9.6 million. That doesn’t count the 14 unfunded projects that total $50.4 million, bringing Greeley’s total future capital improvement needs in coming years to $75.9 million.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.

    Greeley Water is piloting an online water conservation tool

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    From The Greeley Tribune:

    In another effort to conserve water, Greeley officials have launched a pilot program that pinpoints residents’ water use though an online program. The WaterSmart program will allow 2,600 Greeley residents to personalize their water use online based on things like family size and the age of their toilets and sinks, according to a news release. It’s a new tool to complement the water budget, which city officials rolled out to all residential water customers this year, said Ruth Quade, a Greeley water conservation coordinator.

    The water budget accompanies Greeley residents’ water bills each month, showing how much each household used compared to what was needed based on historic averages. Randomly selected residents in the WaterSmart program can now compare their household water use with neighbors, and the program will suggest targeted conservation techniques.

    The pilot program will also allow residents to create a water savings plan and update their information for more accurate savings suggestions — all for free.

    If the program is successful, it may go citywide.

    In a test program for the water budget, city officials found that most Greeley residents are conservative with their water use, with about 18 percent using far more than necessary.

    Jon Monson, Greeley’s water and sewer director, said before the program was rolled out to all residents this year that if every household in the city that exceeds the budget could bring use down to what the city recommends, Greeley could save 700 acre-feet of water, or about $70 million worth of new water, each year.

    More conservation coverage here.

    Greeley Children’s Water Festival recap: ‘In fifth grade you get to do’ — Armando Valladares

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    From The Greeley Tribune (Sherrie Peif):

    It was clear walking around Island Grove Regional Park on Wednesday that most fourth-graders could survive on a very limited vocabulary. “Whoa,” one boy said as an employee of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District blew a giant bubble all around him. “Whoa,” another girl yelled out as water fell all around her in the 100-year flood exhibit. “Cool” and “Oh yeah,” could also be heard throughout the Island Grove Events Center, the Exhibition Building and the 4-H Building as more than 1,000 students from 15 schools across Adams, Morgan and Weld counties filled the buildings for the 23rd annual Children’s Water Festival.

    The day long event is a collaboration among the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, the city of Greeley, the West Greeley Conservation District and the city of Evans, along with numerous sponsors. It is designed to teach young children about water conservation and its uses. The “Whoas,” “Oh yeahs” and “Cools” were for good reason; each activity was designed with kids in mind and meant to be hands-on and interactive. “We want to reach kids early to teach them that water is a limited resource and things can be done to take action,” said Kathy Parker, public information/education officer for the CCWCD.

    The event consisted of dozens of booths that tested children’s awareness of water use and conservation.

    At one booth, students spun a wheel to answer either a water knowledge question or a fun facts question such as at what temperature does water freeze? What saves more water, a shower or a bath? And what is the longest river in the United States? If they answered the question correctly, they won a bracelet.

    Another “just for fun” activity, that attracted students more than most, was the bubblelogy booth, where giant bubbles were blown up around the student.

    The bubbles were made from water, dish soap and cooking oil. Students stood on bricks in a plastic swimming pool while a large hula hoop type device was dunked in the mixture and stretched around them.

    All the kids were given free T-shirts and schools that could not afford the transportation were given money for their busses to make the trip. Schools from as far away as Brush and Fort Morgan were in attendance.

    Also helping with the event were students in the fifth-grade leadership class from Dos Rios Elementary School, who taught how to pan for gold and when and why it was done in Colorado history. “It was buried here and ended up in the rivers from when the mountains grew up,” said Kenia Morales, 11.

    They all agreed that helping was just as much fun, and more, as participating. “In fourth grade all you got to do was watch,” said Armando Valladares, 10. “In fifth grade you get to do.”

    More education coverage here.

    Water utilities are booking big revenue from selling water to oil and gas companies

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    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Maggie Shafer):

    The explosion of hydraulic fracturing in the oil and gas business in Weld County is proving to be an economic boon to water utilities, allowing them to keep rates level and invest in new infrastructure…

    Last year, the Greeley Water and Sewer Department sold $4.1 million worth of its surplus water to haulers through hydrant purchases, the majority of which went to oil rigs in the area, said Jon Monson, the department’s director. The treated water is sold for $3,700 per acre-foot, many times higher than the $30 per-acre foot the agricultural community pays. All of that new revenue is put to use in a number of ways. The city designated $1 million of the added income to pay for its share in wildfire water damage mitigation in the Poudre Watershed, and invested much of the rest into its long-range plans for a new reservoir and a new transmission main to bring water from the mountains. Additionally, the department purchased needed supplies and performed general maintenance, costs of which have historically been paid for by the residents of the city via their water bill. “The oil and gas drilling throughout Northern Colorado has benefited Greeley because it is a new revenue stream,” said Monson…

    The city of Fort Lupton, meanwhile, made more than $360,000 from sales related to the oil and gas industry in 2012. City Administrator Claud Hanes said the income goes straight to its utility fund, where it is used to pay off debt incurred when the community switched from well water to Big Thompson water from the Northern Water Conservancy District in the mid-1990s. The process necessitated the construction of a new pipeline, which Fort Lupton has been slowly paying off through residential fees…

    The town of Eaton, which sold about 14 million gallons of water to haulers last year, netted about $58,000 from the sales. Town Administrator Gary Carsten said the money was used to build a new water station “big enough for a semi” that self-regulates, shutting off like a gas pump after the user has drained what was paid for…

    While the amount of water being used to drill may sound like a lot, when compared with total water usage, it only added up to 10 percent of Greeley’s surplus water last year. Statewide, the oil and gas industry’s water consumption counts for less than 1 percent of total use, Monson said.

    “We (Northern Colorado) use a lot more in any number of other industries,” said [Brian] Werner. “We’ve always used our water. For crops to eat, to brewing beer, the uses of water have kept evolving. Just because this is different doesn’t make it bad. The big-picture take-home is that there is generally enough water to go around.”

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.

    Drought news: The drought has dried up municipal leases to farmers #codrought

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    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    It’s been a bone-dry search this year for the many farmers and ranchers who depend heavily on leasing water from their municipal neighbors. Greeley, Fort Collins, Loveland and Longmont — each typically leasing thousands of acre-feet of excess water per year to local producers — have all said it’s unlikely they’ll have any extra water available in 2013. Dismal snowpack in the mountains and not having city water as a back-up option is putting farmers in a tough spot, local crop growers say.

    With spring planting beginning in the upcoming weeks, many predict they’ll cut back on production even more than they did in a drought-stricken 2012. “There’s just nothing out there to lease,” said Randy Knutson, who farms south, east and north of Greeley, explaining that, on one of his 160-acre farms where he fallowed about 30 percent of his ground last year, he’ll likely fallow about 50 percent of that ground this year.

    Knutson — who sits on the board of directors for the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Greeley No. 3 Ditch and Western Mutual Ditch companies — said, based on his conversations with farmers, there will be fallowing aplenty this year.

    Water officials from Greeley and Fort Collins said this is the first time in about 10 years they haven’t been able to lease extra water to agricultural users, and for Loveland and Longmont it’s been even longer, officials from those two cities said.

    Agriculture uses about 85 percent of the state’s water, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources, but the ag industry doesn’t own nearly that much of the state’s supply — at least not anymore.

    In 1957, when the Colorado-Big Thompson Project first went into operation, 85 percent of the water in the project was owned by agricultural users, according to numbers from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, that oversees operations of the C-BT Project. But today, only 34 percent of the water in the C-BT — the largest water-supply project in northern Colorado — is owned by agricultural users.

    For years, when there was limited money to be made in ag, growing cities along the northern Front Range bought water rights from farming and ranching families that were getting out of the business. Also, some producers who stayed in business thought it could be more profitable to sell some of their water rights at a certain price to growing cities, and then rent extra water as needed. “I can’t condemn anyone at all for selling their water rights,” said Lynn Fagerberg, an Eaton-area farmer. “Times were tough for a long, long time. “It’s just led to a complicated situation now.”

    A lot of producers today — while owning some of their water rights — play the rental market heavily, according to Brian Werner, the public information officer and historian for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. While only one-third of the water in the C-BT Project is now owned by agricultural users, about two-thirds of C-BT water in most years still goes to ag users, who lease much of that C-BT water from cities who own it, Werner said. Despite the shift of ownership, the C-BT remains the largest, supplemental water supply for ag in the state, he added. But playing the rental market, Werner noted, can make life difficult in dry years when cities are reluctant to lease water — like this year.

    In 2012, the drought forced cities and farmers to use up water in reservoirs, but they did so in hopes that this year’s winter and spring would produce at least average snowfall, or better. But through Monday, statewide snowpack was only 79 percent of average, and only 71 percent of average in the South Platte River basin — not enough to replenish reservoirs back up to levels where cities are comfortable with their supplies. According to the most recent report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, statewide reservoirs were filled to level about 30 percent below-average at the beginning of March.

    Additionally, last year’s wildfires, which took place around many high-mountain reservoirs, caused additional complications.

    Fagerberg and other farmers and ranchers have expressed frustration in that cities which aren’t leasing water to agriculture this year aren’t putting additional lawn-watering measures in place that could save water — water that could then be leased to ag.

    Jon Monson, water and sewer director for the city of Greeley, said the city’s water board will continue looking at potential watering restrictions as the year goes along.

    Monson, Fagerberg and others were quick to point out the economic impact agriculture has on Weld County — amounting to about $1.5 billion agricultural goods, which ranks Weld eighth in the nation, according to the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture. In 2011, the city of Greeley leased 25,427 acre-feet of water to agricultural users, but this year, only has enough available to honor its long-term ag-lease agreements of about 5,000 acre-feet, Monson said.

    Many ag water users are tying to decrease their dependency on leased water form cities. The board of directors for the North Weld County Water District nearly a year ago increased water surcharges in order to buy more water down the road. The board cited concerns that dairymen who are customers of North Weld Water don’t own very much of the water they use; collectively, the 20 largest dairies in the district owned only about 7 percent of the water they use, according to their numbers.

    The Central Colorado Water Conservancy District passed a $60 million bond issue last fall to purchase water needed by many of its ag users.

    None of those efforts, though, will help this year.

    In recent years, commodity prices have made farming more profitable, and since 2009, the percentage of CB-T water owned by agriculture has stayed steady at 34 percent — after gradually dropping nearly every year for decades. But the percentage of ag ownership isn’t increasing, and that’s because the water rights agricultural users sold years ago are too expensive for farmers and ranchers to buy now, Werner said. And water rights are certainly pricey in times of drought, Werner added. He said the price of a C-BT share has increased from about $9,000 last year to about $13,500 to $14,000 now. “We’re basically seeing the price increase by about $1,000 per month so far this year,” Werner said, noting that most of that water today is being bought for municipal and industrial uses. “It’s certainly not the farmers who can afford it.”

    A Brief History of the South Platte River Basin

    Here’s a great use of social media to get the word out about HB12-1278. The YouTube video — produced and directed by Colorado Water Institute, animated by Noah Besser — follows the history of the appropriation and administration of the South Platte River downstream of the mountains.

    Good luck implenting HB12-1278 Reagan and team.

    Thanks to Coyote Gulch reader Greg from Nebraska for the link.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

    ‘It costs 10 times more to clean out a reservoir than to build a new one’ — Jon Monson

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    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

    Experts from around the region painted an uncertain picture of the area’s water future Wednesday morning at Northern Water’s fall water user’s meeting in Greeley.

    As ash and silt continue their relentless descent into the Poudre River during even tiny rainstorms, Fort Collins will have to spend much more money on water filtration and purification in the coming years and potentially treat drinking water with additional chemicals to ensure the muck stays away from your faucet, Fort Collins water production manager Lisa Voytko said. The silt washing into Seaman Reservoir from the Hewlett and High Park wildfire burn areas could be costly to Greeley, said Jon Monson, the city’s water and sewer director…

    Voytko said she’s worried about spiking levels of total organic carbon in Poudre River water every time it rains. That’s because the carbon has to be removed with chlorine, a process that creates potentially toxic byproducts in drinking water that have to be removed at great expense. Polymers have to be used to remove the turbidity from the drinking water, and it’s expensive to dispose of the byproducts of that process, she said…

    The summer’s wildfires have clogged Fort Collins’ water intake structures on the Poudre River with sediment and debris, reducing their intake capacity. The sediment washing off the burn areas is so extreme that the city had to flush out its intake structures four times in September. Normally, the city flushes them once a year. Then there’s a concern all the silt and muck in the Poudre River and Seaman Reservoir could cause major algae blooms, further degrading the water quality and treatment expense, Voytko said.

    More water pollution coverage here.

    Runoff contamination in the Cache la Poudre River from the High Park Fire is causing a supply problem for Greeley Water

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    From KUNC (Kirk Siegler):

    John McCutchan of Greeley Water says since the High Park Fire, area water managers have had to throw out the book on how they treat water coming from the Poudre River.

    “It’s new for us to have to be watching the Poudre night and day. We’re all faced with the same situation.”

    Many Northern Colorado water utilities are tied to the Poudre. And McCutchan says Greeley’s water rights on the river are too important to “Let go down stream. Especially in a drought period.”

    McCutchan is the Superintendent of Greeley’s Bellevue Water Treatment Plant which filters water from the Poudre River -a key source for Greeley’s drinking supply.

    The normally “pristine” Poudre is the cleanest source of water in the country, McCutchan says. But since the recent fires, the river has been running black with ash and other contaminants. And that has the potential to clog up the Bellevue Plant…

    But runoff from the scorched-black earth around the Poudre has sent large particles of ash along with increased levels of iron and manganese swirling down the river.

    If massive amounts of these contaminates were allowed to enter the filtration system, it could render the holding ponds useless because they’d quickly fill up with sludge and sediment.

    To help mitigate any damage and very costly repairs, Greeley has limited its intake of Poudre River water to just 5 percent after the fire compared to an average of 25 percent for this time of year…

    This means the city of Greeley and John McCutchan are going to have to take a hard look at what’s going to happen when they’re forced to rely more heavily on the contaminated Poudre.

    “Everyone has had the same kind of problems. You can remove most of the contaminates, but some of the compounds that bring the taste and odor issues, the smoky flavor, are very difficult to remove.”

    The city of Fort Collins has just started blending water from the Poudre back into its supplies. Each water utility knows that things will change depending on rain and the subsequent runoff into the Poudre. They’re also looking ahead to next spring and the annual winter snow melt, and what that runoff will mean for the river and next year’s water supply.

    More Cache la Poudre River coverage here and here.

    Greeley: Water and Sewer Board recommends a 5.4% net rate hike, water up, sewer down

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    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    A 5.4 percent rate increase for the average single-family home was recommended by the Greeley Water and Sewer Board on Wednesday. The water and sewer board’s 7-0 vote sent a $52.7 million proposed budget to city council members, who, along with City Manager Roy Otto, will consider the measure during the next few months before finalizing the 2013 rates late in the year…

    Following revisions during the past month, the proposed budget brought before the board and approved Wednesday includes a 7.9 percent increase in water rates, while sewer rates would drop by 2.2 percent — amounting to an overall 5.4 percent increase for the average single-family home.

    Bringing about much of the rate increase for 2013, like other years, are the costs associated with the city’s acquisition of more water supplies, as well as the construction of the city’s new pipeline from the Bellvue Treatment Plant, its participation in the new Chimney Hollow Reservoir and the permitting costs associated with proposed reservoirs.

    More Greeley coverage here.

    Runoff from wildfire areas causes increased water treatment concerns, ‘blackwater rafting?’ #CODrought

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    From The Denver Post (Yesenia Robles):

    “Fortunately we weren’t using Poudre water anyway when the fires started, so our customers haven’t noticed any differences,” [Donna Brosemer] said. “Our main concern is we want to keep as much as we can out of that water because we can’t continue to use the Horsetooth water indefinitely.”

    While the ashy Poudre water can’t be used for drinking right now, some of it is being used by farmers, Brosemer said. “It can ultimately become a problem for them too because if there’s too much ash it can clog up their systems,” Brosemer said. “But they don’t have the same complications we do with the drinking water system.”

    From The Denver Post (Electa Draper):

    A black sludge now coats many river shores once sparkling with white, tan or pink sands. A canyon once heavily scented by pines smells like a smoky campfire. Many miles of this 126-mile-long river now evoke its namesake, the gunpowder buried by French trappers along its banks in the 1820s.

    People now enjoy “blackwater rafting,” observed homeowner Mike Smith, whose deck juts over the Poudre.

    More water treatment coverage here.

    Colorado Water 2012: Greeley and Union Colony ditch history

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    Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Water 2012 series written by Jon Monson. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Union Colonists had big plans for irrigation ditches. Ditch No. 1 was going to come from the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, roughly where the Larimer and Weld Canal is now, and irrigate almost 40,000 acres. Another 40,000 acres were to be irrigated by the No.2, which eventually became the New Cache Irrigation Company.

    They started smaller though, building the No.3 first to irrigate about 3,500 acres. The No.3 was closest to town, actually forming the southern edge of the colony. Located uphill from the Poudre, the ditch could irrigate the parks and gardens of the townspeople as it passed by to irrigate farms east and west of the city.

    Back then people were fascinated by the power of water to make the dry prairie bloom with shade and green vegetables. Everyone had a garden. Even the kids diverted water from their parents laterals to play farmer.

    The grownup farmers worked hard those first few years, learning how to manage water and how to run a mutual ditch company. Things went well until the summer of 1874 when the Poudre River suddenly dried up. Curious, someone got on their horse and rode up stream to see what was the matter. Turns out the new little town of Camp Collins had thrown a diversion across the Poudre and was taking the entire river to irrigate their farms.

    Back in the Union Colony the cry went up, “To your tents boys! Rifles and cartridges!” Remember this was less than ten years after the Civil War. Cooler heads prevailed and the two groups met in Windsor to discuss (argue?) the matter. That summer they decided to allocate the water to who ever needed it most. Now that must have been one tough job. Two years later, when the Colorado Constitution was written, Article XVI Section 6 enshrined the prior appropriation doctrine, “The right to divert the unappropriated waters of any natural stream to beneficial uses shall never be denied.”

    More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

    The High Park Fire is affecting municipal operations on the Cache la Poudre River

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    Click on the thumbnail graphic for this morning’s fire map from Larimer County. The file is quite large so it will take a while to download. Here’s a report from Brett Walton writing for Circle of Blue. From the article:

    The nearby cities of Greeley and Fort Collins have closed their water intakes on the Poudre River, said Brian Werner, a public information officer with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which provides water to 850,000 people from a Bureau of Reclamation project. The cities are now drawing exclusively from the Bureau’s Horsetooth Reservoir. Lisa Voytko, water production manager for Fort Collins, told Circle of Blue that the fire has knocked out power at the utility’s Poudre River intake. “Because we can’t monitor water quality at the source,” Voytko said, “we switched to the reservoir.”

    Werner told Circle of Blue that the High Park fire is by far the largest and most extensive ever in the district’s service area. “There will be impacts,” Werner said. “If you get a hard rain on these steep slopes, it’s going to bring all that gunk into your system.”

    From The Greeley Tribune (Dan England):

    The Bellvue filter plant, which treats Greeley’s water supply, including the water you put in your coffee this morning, was in the mandatory evacuation zone from the High Park Fire. City workers, however, remained at the plant because of a considerable defense zone, which includes the concrete Hansen canal holding water and cornfields that were being soaked from sprinklers Sunday, not to mention a large chunk of open space, with only a couple of trees, around the plant. If the fire did somehow beat those barriers, it would essentially resemble a grass fire. Just for some additional comfort, the Greeley Fire Department sent a tanker and some firefighters to man it to keep watch over the plant, said Roy Otto, Greeley’s city manager.

    So the problem isn’t the fire, it’s what it’s leaving behind. Actually, it’s both fires. May’s Hewlett Gulch fire is already causing issues. The runoff from Thursday’s heavy rains mixed with the remnants from that blaze, soiled the Poudre River beyond what Bellvue could treat, forcing the city to draw from its backup supply, the Hansen, which draws water from Horsetooth Reservoir.

    But now Horsetooth could be soiled by runoff from heavy rains mixing with soot from the High Park fire, as well. If it does rain hard enough to cause both water supplies to fill with sludge, it’s possible the city would have to shut down the Bellvue plant and draw its water from the plant at Boyd Lake. The city typically only uses Boyd Lake in the summer months, when the demand for water is at its highest, said Jon Monson, director of water and sewer for the city of Greeley.

    If the city does have to shut down Bellvue, Greeley residents would face tighter restrictions on water use. But Monson doesn’t believe it will come to that, as it would take a significant storm to force those problems. And even if some ash and soot finds its way into Horsetooth, the city draws water off the bottom, meaning the only drawback would be a smoky taste to Greeley’s drinking water.

    Mitigation from both fires will be expensive regardless of what happens, Monson said, as the city plans to dump straw by helicopter to care for 400 acres blackened by the Hewlett Gulch blaze until the natural grasses can re-establish to help filter the dirty wash that runs into the river. That straw costs more than $1,000 an acre. Now the city may have to do a lot more to treat whatever the High Park fire scorches, and High Park is already much larger than Hewlett. The city is supposed to get 75 percent of its costs reimbursed from the federal government, Monson said.

    Written in Water, from Greeley Water, features, ‘The wisdom of W.D. Farr and the poetry of Justice Gregory Hobbs’

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    “The need for water is omnipresent…,” says Hobbs, “All of Greeley would be treeless…”

    Here’s the link to the video from Greeley Water.

    Milton-Seaman Reservoir outlet works undergoing rehab

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    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    Plans for lowering the water level of the reservoir to provide access to the gates that control flows to the North Fork call for slowly “ramping up” releases to keep too much sediment from getting into the water too fast and discoloring the river…

    Seaman Reservoir was built in the 1940s and serves as drought protection for the city of Greeley’s water supply. Releases from the bottom of the reservoir are controlled by five heavy gates near the base of the dam. An inspection of the gates in 2008 found that the hydraulic controls known as actuators on two of the five gates had failed. A project to replace the 65-year-old hydraulic and mechanical systems controlling the gates has begun and is expected to last until April. The actuators currently are near the base of the dam and can only be accessed by divers unless the reservoir is completely drained. Part of the $1.6 million maintenance project will include moving the mechanical systems higher so they are more easily accessible. When full, the reservoir near the dam is 77 feet deep. The water level has been drawn down to 50 feet and is expected to come down another 12 to 11 feet…

    Greeley officials have a solid mitigation plan for the project, said Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist for the Platte River Basin with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. Lowering the reservoir level is likely to cause a fish kill when the reservoir freezes this winter, he said, and some dead fish may end up in the river. The project includes $3,000 for the division to restock the reservoir with rainbow trout, he said.

    More South Platte River basin coverage here.

    Greeley Tribune book review: ‘Cowboy in the Board Room’

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    The book is about northern Colorado legend W.D. Farr. Here’s the review from Eric Brown writing for the The Greeley Tribune. Here’s an excerpt:

    Tyler’s newest book, “W.D. Farr: Cowboy in the Boardroom,” examines the Greeley resident who was a key figure in the development of large Colorado water projects, served as president of the National Cattlemen’s Association, was an adviser to the U.S. Department of Agriculture under three U.S. presidents and was appointed by President Richard Nixon to the Environmental Protection Agency…

    But in piecing together Farr’s biography during the last three years, Tyler, who is retired and now lives in Steamboat Springs, became more familiar with the leadership qualities Farr possessed, characteristics that made his foresight — visions of bringing more water to residents of northern Colorado and improving standards and practices in the beef industry — a reality for himself and those who would reap the benefits.

    “In writing this book, it further confirmed to me what an exceptional leader he was,” Tyler said. “So many characteristics contributed to that; his willingness to learn from others who knew more than him on a particular topic, his thinking ahead, his interactions with people.

    “He’s just a great example of what can be accomplished with great leadership. I think that’s what this book highlights more than anything; how effective he was because of his leadership.”

    More coverage from Bill Jackson (former Tribune journalist) running in The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

    W.D. early on also recognized the need for more water and, with Greeley Tribune publisher Charles Hansen as a mentor, would help develop the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, a trans-mountain diversion that brought Colorado River water to northern Colorado. Hansen was considered the “father” of the C-BT and W.D. its oldest son. W.D. was quoted in the book as saying, “Probably, Charlie Hansen contributed more to the city of Greeley than any other man I have ever known.” Farr always referred to the C-BT as a second Poudre River for northern Colorado. As a member of the Greeley Water Board, which he started, and a 40-year member of the board of directors of Northern Water, W.D. was instrumental in assuring a future water supply for the city and area.

    Greeley: The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse is standing is the way of Greeley Water’s proposed pipeline from Bellvue to Greeley

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    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    In seeking a permit from the federal government to begin work on the final 6½-mile stretch of the pipeline, Greeley submitted a biological assessment that concluded the portion of the project would not have any “adverse effects” on the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse — protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act — or the northern leopard frog. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came to a different conclusion this week.

    Jon Monson, director of the city of Greeley’s Water and Sewer Department, said the city and its consulting firm — AECOM based in Denver — must now address the issues raised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Those issues, for example, include revegetating areas for the benefit of the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse and other potentially affected species. Monson described the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ response as “not completely unexpected.” Other city officials expressed frustration at the latest hitch in the project’s schedule…

    Monson said he’s hoping to get the needed approval from the federal government in time to proceed with construction plans scheduled for this winter. He added that the current delay won’t cause any additional expenditures since that portion of the project is not yet under construction…

    The presence of the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse is continually an environmental issue in construction projects along the Front Range, but this represents the first time the endangered rodent has caused a delay in the progress of Greeley’s ongoing pipeline project, which was initiated in 2003. So far, construction of the 30-mile pipeline — which will have the capacity to deliver an additional 50 million gallons per day to Greeley, enough to satisfy the projected need of Greeley’s water customers for the next 50 years — has taken place on pasture land not inhabited by the rodent. But the next and final phase of the project will take place where the animal has a presence…

    “It’s the quintessential example of the U.S. Endangered Species Act run amuck,” [Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway] said. “It’s cost businesses, municipalities and individuals millions of dollars over the years. It makes you wonder what’s being protected.”

    More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

    Greeley: Annual water and sewer facilities tour August 25

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    From Greeley Water via The Greeley Tribune:

    The city of Greeley is offering residents the chance to tour the city’s water and sewer facilities with the city’s Water and Sewer Board. The tour is set for 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 25. Residents interested in attending are asked to reserve seating by Aug. 19 to (970) 350-9812. The purpose of this annual tour is to visit water and sewer facilities to learn about new and developing projects, according to a city news release.

    More Greeley coverage here.

    Greeley: Leprino cheese factory turns dirt for new wastewater plant

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    From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey):

    Leprino has also begun construction of the core and shell building for the wastewater treatment plant at 1133 Ash Ave., by Glacier Construction, for a total valuation of $1.56 million. Nick Opper, Leprino’s Greeley plant manager, said the three-phase construction is “on time, and we’ve got a lot of people working on the site right now.”

    More wastewater coverage here and here.

    Northern Integrated Supply Project: Supplemental EIS expected, ‘…latter part of 2011’

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    From email from Save the Poudre (Gary Wockner):

    The initial release for the Supplemental DEIS for NISP was supposed to be in June of 2010, and was initially delayed until the summer of 2011, but is now estimated to be delayed until the “latter part of 2011” according to an email from [Chandler Peter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] to Save the Poudre.

    Additionally, the Draft EIS for the new Halligan (Fort Collins) and Seaman (Greeley) dams and reservoirs on the North Fork of the Poudre was slated for the summer of 2011, but is now delayed for a half year after the release of the NISP SDEIS (according to the email from Mr. Peter), which will put them into 2012 and well beyond previous estimates.

    More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

    Greeley: How much water will the new Leprino cheese plant use?

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    Here’s a look at the feed requirements for Leprino’s new cheese plant, from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

    A dairy cow will eat about 45 pounds of corn silage per day, or two to three times that of a steer in a beef cattle feedlot, [Bill Wailes, head of the animal sciences department at Colorado State University] said. That amount varies from dairy to dairy, depending on specific feed rations, but, regardless, that’s a lot of corn. Silage is a crop that has to be grown close to its point of consumption, whether it be a dairy or a feedlot. The limit on the distance it can be transported is about 25 miles because of its moisture content. Hay is another source of roughage in the diet of a dairy cow or feeder animal. It can come from farther distances, although the price of fuel will have a significant impact. Shell corn, another major component of the diet of a ruminant, can, and does, come from greater distances. And, in recent years, the byproduct from ethanol plants in the region has become a staple in the diet of dairy animals. So, using 50,000 as the number of new cows coming to Weld County, Wailes estimated an additional 410,000 tons of silage per year would be required. Based on a 30-ton-per-acre average, which admittedly is a little high, a minimum of 14,000 acres of new silage will be needed in the area to meet the needs of those cows…

    Corn silage, according to research conducted by Joel Schneekloth and Allen Andales of CSU, requires about 8 inches less a year in water than does sugar beets in the Greeley area — 30 inches for beets versus 22 inches for corn. Under ideal conditions — whatever those may be — the net requirement is reduced by rain, which in the Greeley area is about 7 inches per growing season. Depending on the efficiency of irrigation systems, the two researchers said the gross water requirements of sugar beets versus corn could be as much as 52 percent.

    More South Platte River basin coverage here.

    Greeley: Long-term water planning reveals higher rates in the ratepayers future

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    From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey):

    As Water and Sewer Director Jon Monson looks at the sizable footprint of Greeley’s future — the 2060 comprehensive plan has the city growing heavily to the north and west — “I need to look up the river quite a ways, a long time, to make sure that water will be there when people need it.”

    At the center of this multi-layered planning are residents, upon whom cities rely to fund operations and storage projects. The typical Greeley household water bill is $45.83 a month, and that, if a planned water acquisition occurs, would rise about $30 per month over the next 10 years. By comparison, rates have climbed $8.85 per month, or 24 percent, since 2003. “The only place we get our money is the ratepayers. It’s basically an investment in our water future,” Monson said. “… To grow into this area (of the 2060 plan) with the lifestyle we’re accustomed to, or we want, Tree City USA, takes water. And the time to get that water is now, when it’s available and it’s relatively inexpensive.”[…]

    Monson’s department would like to buy $90 million worth of water in the next six years. While that would help ensure the city’s needs for several decades, water rates would likely climb 84 percent in the next 10 years, or by $30 per single-family home per month. That’s compared to rates rising, if no additional water is bought, 47 percent in the next decade, or $17 per home. If the city added the $13 per month to water bills for the overall acquisition — the initial $30 million buy coming in the 2011-12 budget — rates would be in the upper third of Front Range cities if other cities do not change their rates during the 10-year period…

    “We’re not making money,” Monson said. “We’re not a for-profit agency. We’re just covering our costs.” The department’s annual costs currently are $30.5 million, breaking down to about $12 million for operations, $11 million for debt service, $6 million for depreciation and a $1 million from the general fund.

    Greeley is involved in numerous regional water storage and delivery projects, including the Haligan and Milton-Seaman reservoir expansions in the Poudre Canyon area, the Windy Gap Firming Project west of Loveland and the Bellvue Pipeline in Larimer County…

    Also, Monson said, the city is dealing with critical water maintenance projects, including headgate repair and replacement at the Boyd and Freeman ditch, from the recent flooding; ongoing cement-lining installation in older, rusting pipes in downtown; outlet gate construction at Milton-Seaman reservoir; and centrifuge replacement at the wastewater treatment plant. All those elements — plus rising electrical and power costs and the regional water projects that cost into the millions in permitting alone — factor into water rates. In Greeley, Monson said, about a quarter of a household’s water bill goes to maintenance costs…

    Also, he said, elusive future water supplies will likely be lower quality. Greeley is trying to secure as much source water as possible from close to the Poudre Canyon mouth. If the city waited until primary water sources flowed close to town, it would need to do expensive reverse-osmosis treatment and lose the natural down-gravity flow from the canyon.

    More Greeley coverage here.

    Greeley: City council is considering big rate increases and agressive purchases of water rights

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    From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey):

    …the council favors aggressively buying water — as much as $90 million worth during the next six years — an approach officials say will cost residents in the near term but offer long-range savings and security. If the city goes that route, said water and sewer director Jon Monson, water rates would rise about 84 percent in the next 10 years, equating to $30 per single-family home per month. That’s compared to rates rising, if no additional water is bought, 47 percent in the next decade, or $17 per home. Monson presented the water outlook at Tuesday’s council work session.

    Greeley’s current average water bill is $45.83 per month, he said. If the city added the $13 per month to water bills for the $90 million water acquisition, rates would be in the upper third of Colorado Front Range cities if other cities do not change their rates…

    Greeley’s existing water supplies will keep up with the city’s growth — a 2.25 average rate in recent years — for 20 to 25 years, Monson said. “But we firmly believe now if we do this revolving fund … that water may be gone by the time we need it,” he said. Under the revolving plan, Monson said, Greeley would have to wait 10 to 15 years to start to cash-fund additional water supplies. But, if water is available at all, it would be extremely expensive, adversely affecting future growth, density and irrigation. Compounding the problem, he said, is the fact that other Front Range cities are ramping up water purchases and projects in the wake of the 2002 drought. For example, Monson said, Aurora is spending $800 million on a water project. Monson pointed out that Greeley would also need to add staff — at least several positions — in order to increase the city’s supplies. Although Greeley is a statewide leader in conservation, the city, without additional acquisition, would still exceed its supplies by 2038 or 2040, Monson said…

    Under the water acquisition option, the city would, as it has historically done, rent annual excess supplies back to agriculture at cost. Plants such as Leprino Foods require substantial water resources, and council members pointed to the importance of agricultural partnerships to the city’s economic future. Norton said such partnerships with agriculture are “what northern Colorado is all about.”

    More Greeley coverage here.

    Greeley: City council voices opposition to proposed revised floodplain regulations from the Colorado Water Conservation Board

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    From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey):

    Council members sharply criticized the flood plain regulation changes being proposed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Under current rules, the city must abide 100-year flood plain precautions for all facilities, whether they’re deemed critical or not. The Conservation Board has suggested modifications that protect “critical facilities” in the event of a 500-year-flood to better ensure public safety and reduce flood losses.

    If such rules were enacted, said Derek Glosson, Greeley’s engineering development review manager, the state has “a laundry list of what it considers critical facilities.” For example, he said, a road would be considered critical and thus require a bridge to be built, “which would be a major cost to the city.” He said it would be easy to ensure that new facilities handle a 500-year-flood — of which there is a two-tenths of one percent chance any given year — but retrofitting existing structures is “very dicey.” “In that analysis you have to include the cost of restricting development and the costs of that land” in compensation to private property owners, Norton said. “I think there’s a big legal question that I think is unanswered in their rather arbitrary approach to this.”

    More CWCB coverage here.

    The City of Greeley and the American Water Works Association are celebrating Drinking Water Week

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    From The Greeley Tribune:

    Jon Monson, director of water and sewer, said the city has a four-point plan that guides water management:

    • strengthen water system infrastructure to properly deliver water to residents;

    • balanced approach to buying water from willing agricultural sellers; the city then leases it back to them for decades to allow them to keep farming;

    • expand capacity to store water, including the Milton Seaman Reservoir project; and

    • improve water conservation — an area in which the city is already a leader in the state.

    Greeley: Mandatory watering restrictions start April 15

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    From The Greeley Tribune:

    Throughout the watering season, lawn watering is not allowed between noon and 5 p.m. because it wastes water. Odd-numbered addresses are allowed to water lawns on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, while even-numbered addresses may water Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Nonresidential properties and multifamily residential properties, such as apartments and homeowner association common areas, may water lawns on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Residents who don’t comply face possible fines of up to $100 for a first violation. Outdoor use, mostly lawn watering, accounts for 55 percent of Greeley’s annual water use. The city estimates that 25 percent of the water is wasted by inefficient irrigation practices. The city offers free audits of residents’ irrigation systems, including a custom water schedule. To sign up, go to www.greeleygov.com/Water/audit.aspx and fill out the online form. For more on the city’s watering regulations, go to www.greeleygov.com/Water/news2.aspx or call (970) 336-4134.

    More conservation coverage here.

    Greeley: City council approves easement acquisitions for new pipeline

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    From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey):

    The pipeline will deliver water from Greeley Canal No. 3 to the Poudre Ponds located off north 35th Avenue, said Jon Monson, water and sewer director. The Lower Cache la Poudre River Stewardship Project will help meet the city’s water storage needs in lined gravel pit reservoirs.

    More Greeley coverage here.