Nederland budget approved

Mailboxes are laden with snow on April 17, 2016 in Nederland, Colorado. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

From The Mountain Ear (John Scarffe):

A new Waste Water Treatment facility and sewer maintenance dominated the 2018, $4.9 million budget approved by the Nederland Board of Trustees during a regular meeting at 7 p.m., December 5, 2017, at the Nederland Community Center…

Estimated expenditures for each fund: General Fund: $2,793,371; Conservation Trust Fund: $16,000; Community Center Fund: $391,068; Water Fund: $708,808; Sewer Fund: $812,422; Downtown Development Authority Fund: $30,700; Downtown Development Authority TIF Fund: $2,900. Total: $4,755,269…

The Sewer fund capital improvements have multiple items such as manhole repairs, mains and a new vehicle. The design and engineering of the Waste Water Treatment Plant Biosolids project will get up to 100 percent in 2018 but will be reimbursed by a loan, Hogan said, and will hopefully be awarded a $950,000 grant for improvements. It is a $2 million project.

Capital improvements from the water fund include the other half of the new vehicle, a Micro Hydro Feasibility Study with a matching $8,000 grant, and other projects, Hogan said.

Grant activity includes a Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant for the Biosolids project, a Great Outdoors Colorado grant for Fishing is Fun; a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment grant for Pursuing Excellence Raw Water Filtration, a Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority grant for the Micro Hydro Feasibility Study with an $8,000 match and a GOCO Parks grant with a $6,000 town match…

For the Water Fund, the changes in rates are explained in the fee schedule. Total revenue is $707,000, operating expenses are $475,000, capital improvements $91,000 and debt payments of $143,000, resulting in a net change in cash of negative $1,200.

The Sewer Fund will also contain a fee schedule increase. Total revenue is budgeted to be $814,000, operating expenditures $527,000, capital improvements $42,000 and debt payments of $244,000, resulting in a positive net change in cash of $2,000.

Hogan presented the 2018 Fee Schedule. Noteworthy increases include the water fee with a three percent increase, and the sewer fund with a four percent increase.

Fort Collins Utilities’ water treatment plant is changing treatment process

The water treatment process

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Fort Collins Utilities is changing some of its procedures after breaking two state water quality rules last month.

The associated incident happened Dec. 14 and lasted 18 minutes, from 8:41 to 8:59 a.m. Water users were never at risk as a result of the incident, which involved a malfunction in the water treatment system, water resources and treatment operations manager Carol Webb said.

The malfunction involved a portion of the system that adds lime to water to prevent pipe corrosion. Though lime is a safe and state-approved drinking water additive, the system added too much lime to water on Dec. 14, causing a spike in turbidity, or cloudiness.

The overfeeding of lime caused water midway through the treatment process to spike to 2.5 times the mandated maximum cloudiness. The state enforces turbidity requirements because high turbidity can interfere with disinfection and offer a medium for microbial growth. Turbidity can also indicate the presence of disease-causing organisms in water, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

By the time the water reached users, its cloudiness was below state-mandated levels, but the turbidity spike in the combined filter effluent is still considered a violation because the state requires monitoring of water quality at several stages throughout the treatment process.

Fort Collins Utilities also failed to notify the state of the turbidity spike within 24 hours, which elevated the issue to require public notice. The city didn’t immediately notify the state in part because the department has never before experienced a situation like this one, water production manager Mark Kempton said.

The department is reviewing its training procedures and considering changes to automated alarms to prevent future violations, utilities staff said. They also said they plan to get to the bottom of the treatment malfunction to avoid a recurrence.

2018 #COleg: LSPWCD supports Reservoir Release Bill

North Sterling Reservoir

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District’s Executive Committee voted Tuesday to support the Reservoir Release Bill that should be taken up by the General Assembly later this month.

The committee reviewed a draft of the bill at its Tuesday meeting and made clear that it supports the draft as it now exists.

The bill covers only the Northern Integrated Supply Project now, but might affect any future water project and possibly projects that include expansion of existing reservoirs. It requires Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to maintain a prescribed stream flow in the Cache la Poudre River as it passes through Fort Collins, or about 12 miles of river channel. That water flow would be regulated by releases of water from Glade Reservoir.

The proposed legislation converts into law a plan Northern Water presented last year, and that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission signed off on last September, that mitigates NISP’s impact on recreational use of the river through Fort Collins

The key to getting groups like Lower South Platte to support it is a section called “Costs of Bypass Structures.” In order for river flow to be maintained from the water release point at Glade Reservoir to the end of the project, it will have to flow past several irrigation diversion structures. Because a constant stream flow must be maintained, some or all of those structures will have to be modified because they now completely block the river and dry up the river at several places. Ordinarily, that’s allowable as long as sufficient water is returned to the river somewhere downstream.

But under the terms of the Reservoir Release Bill, the prescribed stream flow has to stay in the river, which means diversion structures will have to be rebuilt or modified to allow water to go around them.

The Costs of Bypass Structures clause puts the cost burden of those modifications on the reservoir owner, who is the party responsible for maintaining prescribed stream flow; in this case, that’s Northern Water.

Lower South Platte’s manager, Joe Frank, told the executive committee Tuesday he thought the district should publicly support the draft legislation, partly to avoid any misunderstanding.

“Last year we took a neutral stance on (a previous version) and someone took that to mean we didn’t care about it,” Frank said. “We do care, we care deeply, and we support it. What we meant was that we didn’t oppose the plan, but someone took it to mean we didn’t support it, either.”

During discussion of the legislation Bruce Phillips, the state’s water commissioner for District 64 which includes the lower South Platte, said he thought stream maintenance provisions would be required in all storage projects…

Ken Fritzler, the district’s board chairman, asked whether other committee members thought the draft legislation is something the board could publicly support. Gene Manuello answered that he thought it was.

“I think we should support the draft as it is now,” he said. “We have supported NISP all along, and I think a majority of WRASP supports it.”

WRASP stands for Water Rights Appropriators of the South Platte; it is a consortium that represents more than 240,000 irrigated acres from Barr Lake to Julesburg, and more than 1,150 high capacity irrigation wells that draw from the South Platte alluvial aquifer.

Gilcrest: High groundwater levels update

South Platte River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

Underneath Gilcrest lies an aquifer, and the water in that aquifer should slowly make its way north, underground, to the South Platte River.

When it didn’t, at least not at the rate some say it should have, downstream surface water rights holders weren’t too happy and blamed the newer wells in this area as the culprit.

Irrigation wells were first put into Colorado’s prior appropriation system following legislation in 1969. Prior appropriation is a fancy way of saying water rights, and water rights are organized by the date a farmer or ditch owner or reservoir owner or well owner first used the water. People who first diverted water have senior water rights as early as the 1850s.

So, when farmers across Gilcrest began digging wells in the early 1900s, they were infringing upon longstanding senior surface water rights downstream, because that well pumping affected downstream flows in the river.

Numerous studies have shown the negative effects of well pumping, and how it depletes river flows even years later. But for farmers around Gilcrest, the court solutions and augmentation decrees are out of balance with well owners’ perceived wrongdoings and even with Mother Nature…

The impacts of less well pumping are many:

» Less well pumping means less water for crops during crucial times, such as when Strohauer had to deal with weeds in a potato crop because he couldn’t pump enough water to treat the fields with weed killer early in the season.

» High groundwater leaves mineral deposits, including salt, near the surface, rendering portions of fields useless and stunting crop growth…

Glenn Fritzler, owner of the famed Fritzler Corn Maze, used to plant one-third of his land in onions, another third in carrots and the final third in corn. Apparently, carrot and onion mazes haven’t yet taken off.

But there’s a problem. Carrots and onions need a lot of water – about as much as corn. They’re also quite sensitive to salty soils, something exacerbated by high groundwater, which deposits salts near the surface once they recede, and by less well pumping, because over-watering is one way of dealing with salty soils.

So Fritzler has changed crops. He’s now planting a quarter of his land in onions, a sixth in carrots and the rest in corn and winter wheat, which uses less water.

Winter wheat isn’t a money maker, certainly not when compared to produce, which, when healthy during a strong market is a farmer’s lottery, capable of paying off farm equipment and setting aside a nice chunk of dough.

“You’re probably breaking even at best; probably minimizing your losses,” Fritzler said of winter wheat. “It’s better than not growing anything.”

Jan. 1, 2006.

At least half of the wells along the South Platte River Basin were either reduced or shut down. Thousands of wells, built to get farmers through dry years, couldn’t be operated without an augmentation decree from water court.

Such a decree requires farmers to replace portions of what they pump.

Even farmers who obtained such decrees saw the face of farming change overnight thanks not only to requirements that well pumpers replace portions of what they pump, but that they replace what they had pumped since 1976.

It’s called augmentation, and there are a variety of ways to do it.

One such way is called artificial recharge, and typically it involves digging a shallow pond, filling the bottom with rock or sand to make it more porous, and then filling that pond with water as often as possible.

Artificial recharge, essentially putting water back into the underground aquifer well pumping has drained, pays dividends for farmers.

Almost every acre-foot of water poured into an artificial recharge pond can be claimed to allow well pumping in the future.

It’s why Randy Ray, executive director for Colorado Central Water Conservancy District, says farmers in the LaSalle-Gilcrest area are better off today than they were in 2006.

But it has come at a cost. Some farmers weren’t able to pump their wells for seven years, including the drought year of 2012, when farmers dried up hundreds of acres of corn.

Strohauer doesn’t like to look upon his eastern neighbors with envy. But he does notice things. He has his pilot’s license, and when he was taking potato samples to Imperial, Neb., to get tested for pests in 2012, he noticed something…

For farmers, the formulas used to determine how long recharge water takes to get to the river and how many days they’re able to pump are a headache-inducing mess.

In 2010, when Strohauer’s field was full of rotting potatoes, Stulp recommended Strohauer put in a de-watering well. Essentially, he wanted Strohauer to dig a well, pump water out of that, put it in a pipeline or ditch and send it back to the river.

Strohauer threw up his hands, pointing to his existing irrigation well on the property, the one the courts shut down…

“I looked at John, and I said, ‘John, right there’s your de-watering well. It’s right there. Let us pump the stupid well, and we’ll let the surface water go down the river, and it doesn’t cost the state a single dime. It will cost us some power, and somebody receives some extra water down the river. How hard is that?'”

It’s quite hard, actually, because things are never simple when it comes to water.

If a farmer here sends that water downstream, that will affect the flow of the river, and believe it or not, even the senior water rights holders may not want that extra water all the time. For instance, those rights holders out east may not want extra water coming downstream in March because they don’t have the reservoir capacity to store it.

The formula, called the Glover formula, was first used in the 1950s, and it tells everyone how much that well pumping will affect the river and when. Nearly 70 years later, we’re still using the formula, and Ray, Strohauer, Fritzler and countless others don’t know why.

Bob Longenbaugh, who once worked in the state engineer’s office, and has spent decades studying groundwater, is one of those others.

Longenbaugh said the Glover formula overestimates the impacts of pumping on the aquifer, meaning farmers around Gilcrest are forced to push more water downstream than Mother Nature says.

Further, the formula makes too many assumptions, Longenbaugh said. Among the assumptions are no precipitation, the idea none of the water used to irrigate crops soaks into the soil to recharge the aquifer and an assumption the geology underground between any farm and the river is completely uniform.

Castle Rock: A look back at 2017

WISE System Map via the South Metro Water Supply Authority

Here’s a look back at 2017 in Castle Rock. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

What was Castle Rock’s biggest accomplishment in 2017?

[Mayor Jennifer Green:] 2017 was full of a number of accomplishments in Castle Rock. The reopening of Festival Park in downtown ranks as a wonderful achievement and provides a great place for the community to gather for years to come. The town adopted a new comprehensive plan, a new transportation master plan and new water enterprise master plans — all of these plans seek to ensure a vibrant future for our town.

What opportunity for the town are you most looking forward to in 2018?

[Mayor Jennifer Green:] The successful completion of the WISE project in 2018 will provide a new source of renewable drinking water for Castle Rock from our water partnerships in the metro area. We anticipate the start of construction for the initial phase of the Collaboration Campus in 2018 — this innovative effort with Arapahoe Community College, Colorado State University and Douglas County School District will bring a greater variety of higher education opportunities to Castle Rock. We also have transportation improvements coming along Founders Parkway, at Allen Way and Crowfoot Valley Road, and at Wolfensberger and Coachline roads.

#COleg: HB16-1256 South Platte Storage Study recommends surface and aquifer storage

Illustration shows water availability, in blue circles, compared with demand at various places along the South Platte River. The yellow area is the study area. (Illustration by Stantec).

Click here to read the report.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The best way to meet Colorado’s growing water demand and still protect irrigation water rights is probably a combination of increased surface storage and underground, or aquifer storage. But even that combination won’t bridge the gap between water demand and supply.

That’s the good news and the bad news from the recently-completed South Platte Storage Study Final Report, released Dec. 15. The report was written by Stantec, a Canada-based design, engineering and construction firm, and Leonard Rice Engineering of Denver.

The study, authorized by the Colorado General Assembly in House Bill 16-1256, looked at the stretch of the South Platte River between Kersey and the Nebraska state line in an attempt to find water storage to fill a crippling water gap that is just 12 years away. According to the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, by 2030 the need for water in Colorado will exceed supplies by 560,000 acre feet, or 182 billion gallons per year, and most of that is here in the South Platte River Basin.

Experts already have said that water conservation alone won’t bridge the gap as thirsty Front Range cities continue to grow; even legislators have made it clear that they want to see proposals for storage as much as for conservation.

But, as with everything else having to do with water, finding and then using that storage is going to be complicated.

According to the SPSS report, it’s estimated that the South Platte carries almost 300,000 acre feet of water per year out of Colorado in excess of the amount needed to satisfy the South Platte River Compact with Nebraska. There are, however, a lot of “buts” that need to be attached to that broad statement.

For one thing, that’s not an average, that’s what the study authors called an “annual median.” That’s the middle number between the largest and smallest amounts that are lost; median, or “mean,” often is used instead of average because it’s a more accurate estimate of something over time.

Actual losses over a 20-year period between 1996 and 2015 varied from a paltry 10,000 acre feet to a whopping 1.9 million acre feet. It’s important to note that stream flows during that time frame included one of the largest floods in the state’s history and a follow-up flood that did nearly as much damage in the lower reaches of the river, as well as a period of extended drought.

The report also says that considerably more water is available at the Julesburg end of the reach than at the Kersey end, primarily because of return flows from irrigation. That indicates the need for a large reservoir to capture water before it leaves the state…

That may not be easy; according to the report, massive amounts of water would have to be diverted.

“Large diversion and conveyance structures would be needed to capture and convey water from the river to off-channel storage,” the study says. “At the Balzac gage near the middle of the SPSS study area, a diversion capacity of 550 (cubic feet per second) would be needed to capture 85 percent of the available water.”

That’s as much as some of the largest diversion structures now on the river. The North Sterling Inlet Canal, for instance, was taking around 520 cfs before cold weather and icing required it to be scaled back. Prewitt Reservoir Inlet can divert as much as 600 cfs when the water’s available.

It’s important to note the phrase “85 percent of available water.” Elsewhere in its recommendations section the report states that capturing all of the excess water is simply not feasible, and that’s not just during flood conditions.

“No feasible storage concepts or reasonable combinations of concepts are capable of putting all the available flow in the lower South Platte River to beneficial use,” the report says. “Therefore as a general principle, more storage will always be ‘better’ in this region in terms of maximizing available supply for basin water users.”

Still, finding and optimizing storage is a must if there is to be any hope of providing enough water to go around. The report, naturally, recommends a combination of storage methods, and even suggests that a cooperative effort of upper basin and lower basin storage concepts would be more efficient and store more water than a major “on-stem” reservoir. On the other hand, the on-stem option would be easier to build and yield more water quickly; it also faces possibly insurmountable permitting requirements.

No water storage concept is without good-versus-bad arguments. Aquifer or “underground” storage is complicated to manage but cheaper to create, and it can be easily ramped u over time. Storage options are grater in the lower basin but they’re further from where the water will actually be needed. Underground storage is great for agricultural use but the water would have to be extensively treated for municipal and industrial use.

The study even raised some new questions and left unanswered some old ones. For instance, abandoned gravel pits weren’t even included in the project, and the SPSS authors recommend further study of that option. They also recommend further studies of the South Platte above Kersey and of the Cache la Poudre basin.

Ultimately, the study’s authors say, the SPSS is a “starting point” and further investigation of any of the storage methods or sites would be needed.

“The work in the SPSS is a starting point for more specific alternative investigations,” the study says, “but substantial additional analysis will be required to test the feasibility of specific storage options based on points of diversion, intake systems, and methods of operating to meet demands.”