@SenBennetCO, et al., introduce Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2017

During mining (top), the water table is often lowered to access ore, exposing the rock to oxygen and creating acid mine drainage. Sealing off a mine can return the water table to pre-mining levels (bottom), creating anoxic conditions inside the mine and preventing further acidification. Credit: K. Cantner, AGI.

From The Durango Herald (Mia Rupani):

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, along with Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., introduced the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2017 on Tuesday to update the nation’s antiquated hard-rock mining laws.

The bill would reform the General Mining [Act] of 1872 that allows companies to extract minerals such as gold and silver on federal public lands without paying royalties, and while avoiding liability for any environmental damage.

The proposed legislation would help pay for abandoned mine cleanup and prevent future disasters.

Bennet referenced the 2015 Gold King Mine spill that sent an estimated 3 million gallons of heavy-metals laced mine wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers in a news release on Tuesday…

If passed, the legislation would make seven primary changes to the General Mining Law of 1872:

  • Require hard-rock mining companies to pay an annual rental payment for claimed public land, similar to other users.
  • Set a royalty rate for new operations of 2 to 5 percent based on the gross income of new production on federal land.
  • Create a Hardrock Minerals Reclamation Fund for abandoned mine cleanup through an abandoned mine reclamation fee of 0.6 percent to 2 percent.
  • Give the secretary of the Interior the authority to grant royalty relief to mining operations based on economic factors.
  • Require an exploration permit and mining operations permit for noncasual mining operations on federal land.
  • Permit states, political subdivisions and Indian tribes to petition the secretary of the Interior to have lands withdrawn from mining.
  • Require an expedited review of areas that may be inappropriate for mining.
  • The bill is supported by leaders throughout Southwest Colorado, including La Plata County Commissioner Julie Westendorff, Durango City Councilor Dean Brookie, San Juan County Commissioner Pete McKay and Trout Unlimited’s Ty Churchwell.

    Little Thompson Water District wins AWWA #Colorado Section taste test

    Map via the Little Thompson Water District

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

    Sample No. 5, we’d find out later, was from Little Thompson, and it is this year’s winner, folks.

    Here’s how it went:

    Eight samples are set in front of you on numbered coasters. You’re given a sheet to rate each sample 1-10, with 10 being the best-tasting water on this earth and 1 being the opposite of that.

    Other than that, there wasn’t much in the way of instruction.

    So I briefly tasted each sample, starting at No. 8 and working my way down while making little marks along the way. Then I tasted the ones I marked poorly again, again working my way toward the ones that caught my attention in a good way.

    A final taste of my top three yielded a winner — at least in my book.

    But then there was a final round, then there was a tie, and each of those things caused more water to be consumed and so I can really see now why the folks running the competition recommended a pre-competition restroom break.

    Greeley, which won last year’s competition, didn’t enter this year’s competition. It didn’t have to. Consider it a first-round bye thanks to the city winning the national championship last year.

    Aurora came in second and Louisville took third. Little Thompson will go on to the national competition next, as Greeley attempts to defend its title.

    What’s really in your water? – News on TAP

    Startling social media stories often mislead and take data out of context. Here’s what you can do to stay informed.

    Source: What’s really in your water? – News on TAP

    Wellington water system taste and odor impacted by algae

    Graphic credit Encyclopedia Britannica.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    From the gravel road that borders the fenced North Poudre Reservoir No. 3, you can’t see the blue-green algae that is to blame for Wellington’s water woes.

    But if you poured yourself a glass from any faucet this summer, you probably tasted and smelled it. Your senses would’ve detected geosmin, the same compound that gives mud and rain-soaked streets that familiar earthy smell.

    In a perfect world, geosmin levels in the town water supply would hover no higher than about 20 parts per trillion parts of water, town administrator Ed Cannon said.

    As of early July, geosmin levels in North Poudre Reservoir No. 3 were about 15 times that. Summer heat invigorates the algae…

    The good news: As of Wednesday, geosmin levels were down to less than 2.5 parts per trillion in the town’s raw water thanks to a copper sulfate treatment on the reservoir, Cannon said.

    While the water tastes better than it did earlier this summer, history shows that the town has a long, expensive fight ahead of it.

    The algae problem isn’t unique to Wellington. Loveland’s Green Ridge Glade Reservoir became a veritable algae garden during last year’s steaming summer, making for earthy, pondlike water similar to what Wellington’s residents are experiencing this year.

    Loveland’s algae hasn’t gone away, but the city invested thousands of dollars in tools to beat it back, including hydrogen peroxide, four reservoir mixers and activated carbon compounds. If those tools aren’t enough, Loveland has a backup plan in the form of plentiful Big Thompson River water rights.

    Wellington’s backup plan is less airtight.

    Three algae-free wells supplement the reservoir water, but their output is limited. The town must draw even more water from the reservoir as its ranks swell and residents use more water on their lawns. That throws off the ratio of algae-free well water to algae-filled reservoir water and makes the stuff coming out of the tap smell and taste worse.

    The algae visits Reservoir No. 3 every summer, like an unwelcome house guest. Town officials say the guest was even more obnoxious this year because it started earlier and bloomed more fiercely.

    “To attack (the algae), we’re going to get extremely aggressive,” Cannon said during an interview at his office in Wellington’s town hall.

    In July, a gang of boats blasted the reservoir with copper sulfate to kill off the algae. They’ll probably have to make the rounds again this summer, Cannon said.

    The town hired additional workers for its water treatment plant and is adding another filtration process to increase the output of its Wilson Well facility, Wellington’s secondary water source. The $400,000 upgrade will supply the town with another 100,000 gallons of algae-free water each day once it comes online by this fall.

    Ashley MacDonald, one of Wellington’s six trustees, said Wellington needs to — and plans to — do two things to truly solve its water problem: Revamp the town water treatment plant and find new water sources…

    “I feel for them,” he said. “I’m dealing with the same issues. I don’t have an answer that’s going to please everybody, other than to make some assurances that we feel the investment we’re making in our water treatment plant will address that.”

    Cannon is referencing a plan to overhaul Wellington’s water treatment facility, which was built when the town was about two-thirds its current size. The upgrade will increase the plant’s capacity so it can treat water for as many as 16,000 residents. It will also make its filtration process more sophisticated so the water tastes better.

    That project is still in its design phase and will take at least 12 to 18 months to finish once Wellington’s trustees approve a game plan, Cannon said. Costs have not yet been projected.

    The other big goal to solve the problem is locking down higher-quality water sources for Wellington. The Board of Trustees hired Denver consulting firm Wright Water Engineers to help them evaluate options, including water from the City of Fort Collins, the East Larimer County Water District, the Poudre River and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

    The board will narrow down those options based on cost and efficiency in coming weeks, MacDonald said.

    Water treatment is important, but cities like Fort Collins have better-tasting water primarily because they store it in colder, deeper and higher-altitude reservoirs that are less vulnerable to algae attacks, according to Lisa Rosintoski, customer connections manager at Fort Collins Utilities…

    Wellington’s water doesn’t violate any water quality regulations, according to its most recent round of state tests in 2016. Those tests included tests for copper, lead, chlorine and uranium, among other compounds.

    A state test of raw water in North Poudre Reservoir No. 3 this summer came back absent of microcystin and cylindrospermospin, two compounds sometimes present in algae that are of public health concern.

    @AuroraWaterCO Prairie Waters Project wins national award

    From the U.S. Water Alliance website:

    At the US Water Alliance, we bring together public, private, and community leaders to advance One Water solutions—holistic and integrated water management strategies that improve economic, environmental, and community outcomes. While the challenges facing our water future are great, our capacity for innovation and problem-solving is even greater. There are inspiring examples across the country of sustainable and integrated water resource management. That is why we annually award the US Water Prize to organizations that are leading the way with creative One Water solutions…

    Aurora Water
    Prairie Waters

    Aurora, Colorado is facing the water supply problems of many cities and regions in the arid west—a changing climate alongside a growing population. To combat these issues and secure the area’s water stability, Aurora Water worked with regional partners to create the Prairie Waters system, a innovative system that recapturing and recycling water to provide drinking water and drought insurance for the region. Using a multi barrier treatment process that includes both naturally-existing systems and state-of-the-art purification systems, Prairie Waters provides an additional twelve million gallons of clean, safe and dependable water each day. The Prairie Water program will help meet Aurora’s complex water needs for decades to come and can be a model for other regions experiencing changes in their water supply needs.

    From KDVR.com (Sarah Schueler):

    Aurora’s Prairie Waters system has won the U.S. Water Prize from the U.S. Water Alliance.

    The system was given the honor for its environmentally friendly and sustainable approach to water development.

    The aware panel also said the Prairie Waters system can be a model for other regions experiencing changes in water supply needs.

    Accepting the award at a ceremony in New Orleans on Tuesday night was Marshall Brown, the director of Aurora Water.

    Sterling water wins First Runner Up from #Colorado Rural Water Association

    Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

    From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):

    Association, an organization that provides training and resources for small Colorado communities.

    The city was one of seven entries in the organization’s water taste test and received first runner up.

    Tuesday night, Sterling Mayor Dan Torres officially presented the award to the employees at the water treatment plant. He noted that the recognition comes from an outside agency that is unbiased. “To me that means more than anything else,” he said.

    City Manager Don Saling also lauded the water division workers, saying the award “says something about the great quality of product that they produce.”

    He added that those who complain about the taste of Sterling’s water likely live in homes with old pipes that affect the water quality. “I think they (the employees) do a great job,” he said.

    @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