Say hello to the new Colorado Water Congress website

May 3, 2013

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Click here to go to the new website. From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Doug Kemper):

I’m excited to announce the launch of the new Water Congress website, designed to optimize communications to you and our committees, legislative contacts, partners and the public at large. You’ll find the new site at the same Water Congress web address: http://www.cowatercongress.org.

The Water Congress’s work becomes more vital every year and it’s important that we have a modern platform to communicate relevant information to our members and constituents in a timely, organized and easy-to-use fashion. The new site does just this—plus it brings an improved design aesthetic, accomplished through a clean look and attractive imagery of our water landscape.

Highlights

  • Newly refined content: The new site emphasizes the Water Congress’s role as the leading voice of Colorado’s water community and clearly describes the purpose, work and activities of the organization.
  • Better organization: We’ve separated out sections that describe the ongoing work of the Congress from committee-specific activities, making it easier to find what you’re looking for.
  • A new blog: The blog will bring regular news posts, giving readers quick access to our viewpoints on the latest water issues, activities and more.
  • Special committee members-only sections: In the future, members of the various Water Congress committees will have new password protected access to specific information about issues and activities they are working on. Committee members should stay tuned for forthcoming communications about username and password access.
  • We hope you enjoy the new site and look forward to your feedback.


    Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Region #COdrought #ColoradoRiver

    May 3, 2013

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    Click on the thumbnail graphics for the 7-day, month-to-date and water-year-to-date maps of the Upper Colorado River region for as of April 30, from the Colorado Climate Center.

    Click here to read all the summaries.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Drought/snowpack/drought news: Things are looking up for runoff and transmountain diversions #COdrought

    May 3, 2013

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    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Tom Hacker):

    Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir, the two largest Eastern Slope vessels of the C-BT system, likely will be close to brim-full soon after Memorial Day. Carter Lake on Thursday was 94 percent full. The level is high enough that the bureau’s water managers looked for lower spots to put all the water that’s coursing through the system…

    That good news stands as a paradox for Glenn Werth, owner of Horsetooth’s Inlet Bay Marina. “We got 16 inches of snow here yesterday,” he said. “We’ve been shoveling docks instead of putting boats in. We can’t quite figure out if we’re coming or going.”

    The spring runoff has already begun even as the mountain snowpack builds, with Thursday yet another snow day at high elevations…

    Granby is the linchpin of the C-BT system, connected via a trans-Continental Divide tunnel to the Eastern Slope reservoirs. It also stood just one-third full on Thursday, awaiting the runoff from the west-slope snowpack that still remains a question mark.

    But owners of the marinas at Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake, two of the region’s most popular summer recreation destinations, know that no matter what happens west of the divide, their seasons have been saved by the late snow. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining,” Werth said Thursday as he was immersed in snow-clearing chores. “It’s not how we start the season. It’s how we finish it.”


    Parachute Creek spill: Benzene levels in the creek exceed drinking water standards #ColoradoRiver

    May 3, 2013

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Creek water tests found benzene reaching 5.3 parts per billion at the sampling spot closest to the spill from a pipeline at Williams’ gas-processing plant, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The limit for safe drinking water is 5 ppb. However, Colorado water quality overseers have set the limit for benzene in Parachute Creek at 5,300 ppb because the creek isn’t designated as a water source for people. Benzene dissipates at two sampling locations downstream. No benzene was detected in a test last week where the creek flows into the Colorado River…

    Williams crews have been aerating the creek and pumping air underground into soil — to try to remove benzene into air. “While the one test site is showing a slight increase in benzene, other sites downstream remain static or show no detection,” Williams spokesman Tom Droege said in an e-mailed response. “We believe this indicates that our remediation efforts ….. are helping us make progress.”[...]

    The creek normally feeds a Parachute town reservoir used for irrigation. But town officials have kept a headgate, 1.5 miles downstream from the gas plant, closed.
    The latest tests did not detect benzene at the headgates.

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    A CDPHE compliance advisory, dated April 30, formally notifies Williams, property owner WPX Energy and pipeline operator Bargath LLC that the spill constitutes disposal of hazardous waste without a permit…

    The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on March 20 issued notices of alleged violation to Williams and WPX. The advisory asks Williams to meet with state officials to discuss problems, schedule cleanup activities and show that laws were not broken. If state officials decide they need to order cleanup and remediation, CDPHE spokesman Mark Salley said in an e-mailed update, they can issue “compliance orders on consent” or a “unilateral compliance order.”

    Williams spokesman Keith Isbell said the warning “was fully expected.” “It does not change the cleanup work that Williams has been doing,” he said. “Our next step is to formally present our current work plan to CDPHE and get their official approval as the new lead regulator.”

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    A natural gas liquids leak that contaminated Parachute Creek hasn’t affected public health and is unlikely to do so in the future, a state health official told local residents Monday. “We have technology to deal with any level of contamination from this site in groundwater and surface water,” said David Walker, with the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    Despite such assurances, a number of the 100-plus members of the public attending an update on the situation Monday voiced concern about the contamination and skepticism about the response to it by the agencies and company involved.

    Over the weekend, it was announced that lead jurisdiction over the investigation into the incident transferred to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

    Roughly 10,000 gallons of natural gas liquids leaked into the ground from a pipeline leaving Williams’ gas processing plant, the company has estimated, although the commission “doesn’t take those numbers as gospel,” said its director Matt Lepore.

    Dave Devanney, a Battlement Mesa resident, questioned the health department’s history of commitment to protecting the public from dangers related to oil and gas development, noting its opposition to some proposed health research related to such development. “We feel that CDPHE can do a better job than they’re doing right now,” he said.

    Marion Wells of Rulison noted how the incident has continued to escalate. The leak went entirely unmonitored for two months, the pressure gauge it came from initially was said by Williams to have leaked just 24 gallons, and the incident eventually resulted in benzene reaching not just groundwater but the creek. “I just don’t trust. I don’t have it,” she said.

    Walker said that compared to other remediation sites he deals with, the Parachute one is actually fairly small, although the potential repercussions are large because of the possible impact to surface water.

    Benzene as high as about 4.5 parts per billion has been detected in the creek downstream of the pipeline. But that’s below the state drinking water standard of 5 ppb, and the state doesn’t consider the creek a drinking water source and applies a maximum 5,300-ppb aquatic standard to it. No benzene has been detected where the town of Parachute diverts irrigation water farther downstream. “There is not going to be any benzene that’s going to be in your irrigation water,” Walker said. He said aeration-related methods readily remove the carcinogen from surface water. In the worst case, installing a small dam a few feet high would aerate water enough to eliminate the benzene, he said.

    Both state agencies and Williams also sought to assure that water tests are being conducted by objective, independent entities and labs, with the state having its own testing done to compare against Williams’ results.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    The school district serving the Parachute and Battlement Mesa areas plans to begin using irrigation water from Parachute Creek after receiving assurances from state officials that doing so won’t endanger students. Ken Haptonstall, superintendent of Garfield County School District 16, said the district initially had been concerned about the benzene that has shown up in the creek as a result of the natural gas liquids leak from a pipeline leaving the Williams gas processing plant upstream. “We water the fields, that’s one thing. The fact that kids play on the fields, it’s a much bigger thing,” Haptonstall said.

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission have been investigating the leak and overseeing cleanup. Haptonstall said state officials told the district benzene shouldn’t reach its irrigation water, but testing of the creek continues and it would be notified if any problem arises.

    The district’s Center for Family Learning gets irrigation water from the town’s system, which draws from Parachute Creek and is scheduled to go into service May 8. Its Grand Valley High School fields get water from a ditch farther down the creek.

    So far, no benzene has been detected at the town diversion point or farther downstream. On Tuesday, the CDPHE reported a detection within a mile of the town diversion point, the farthest downstream so far. But the measurement was just 1 part per billion, well below the state drinking water standard of 5 ppb. Benzene as high as 4.5 ppb has been reported at one point farther upstream.

    Williams has been working with state officials to aerate creek water and treat adjacent groundwater to remove benzene. The state Health Department says such measures, and benzene’s propensity to dissipate in creek water quickly, make it relatively easy to remove the carcinogen from a creek.

    Parachute Town Administrator Bob Knight said arrangements also have been made to let Williams shut off the town diversion point and other such points downstream should contamination threaten them.

    Haptonstall said if the district had had to postpone watering for a month or so, it would have created some serious problems in terms of trying to keep fields from drying out. The town has been working to complete a pipeline from an existing reservoir to a second one it has decided to put into operation due to the Williams incident. That will provide it with some backup water in case the diversion point is shut down, as well as allowing for more dilution and treatment if any contamination occurs. Cool and wet weather this spring has allowed the town to delay when its irrigation system begins operating and do the additional reservoir work without having much effect on users of the water.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

    State health officials have issued a compliance advisory to Williams, alleging the company has violated state laws for the leak of thousands of gallons of natural gas liquids into groundwater and Parachute Creek near Parachute.

    The Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued the advisory late Tuesday, an official notification to the owner of the property, WPX Energy, and the operator of the pipeline, Bargath LLC, that the state has determined the leak constitutes disposal of hazardous waste without a hazardous waste permit. Bargath LLC is a subsidiary of Williams.

    The compliance advisory comes on the heels of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission issued notices of alleged violation to Williams and WPX on March 20.

    The compliance advisory encourages Williams officials to meet with the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division to develop a schedule for cleaning up the leak. The meeting, which is optional, also would be an opportunity for Williams officials to demonstrate that the spill isn’t a violation of state hazardous waste laws.

    Violating those laws can result in an administrative penalty of up to $15,000 per violation, per day or a civil penalty of up to $25,000 per violation, per day.

    Williams has estimated that roughly 10,000 gallons of natural gas liquids has leaked into the ground from a pipeline leaving Williams’ gas processing plant near Parachute. Benzene has been found in both groundwater and Parachute Creek, although the levels of benzene reported in the creek are below state’s drinking water standard.

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

    The level of the toxic compound benzene in Parachute Creek on Wednesday exceeded Colorado’s safe drinking water standard for the first time in more than three weeks of testing, state health officials reported on Thursday…

    Officials with the CDPHE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have promised to monitor the creek until it is clear of contaminants from the natural gas activities located there.

    In addition, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is looking into complaints from workers at the plume site, who say they were forced to work without the proper protective gear and who fear they may have been poisoned while on the job.

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.


    Runoff news: Northern Water decides to wait see how the runoff shapes up regarding C-BT quota #COdrought #ColoradoRiver

    May 3, 2013

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    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

    Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District board members met Thursday to discuss whether to raise the 60 percent quota that they issued last month. The quota means that farmers and cities will receive 60 percent of water units allotted to them under the project. The board members said they will wait at least until their next meeting before deciding whether to adjust the amount of water distributed from the project.

    Northern Water employees told board members that although state snowpack levels had risen after recent storms, concerns remained about low water-storage levels.

    Northern Water General Manager Eric Wilkinson cautioned that raising this year’s quota could limit the organization’s flexibility when it determines how much water to distribute next year. “I’m not willing to say that the drought is over,” Wilkinson said. “We’re still water short.”

    More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


    2013 Colorado legislation: Graywater bill may make it to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk this session

    May 3, 2013

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    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Dallas Heltzell):

    Co-sponsored by Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, and Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, it now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Lawmakers there will consider a $110,000 appropriation to fund development of gray-water standards by the state Department of Public Health and Environment…

    The bill directs the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission to develop minimum statewide standards for gray-water systems and lets cities and towns decide whether to approve them.

    Fischer talked with the Business Report about why the bill is needed — and why it failed last year.

    Q: What first made you aware that this was an issue in Colorado? Why did you decide to introduce this bill now?

    Answer: Dr. Larry Roesner at Colorado State University’s Urban Water Center first contacted me about the need for legislation to authorize use of gray water in late autumn 2010. I was somewhat familiar with gray water systems and their potential to significantly reduce municipal and industrial water consumption. However, I was unaware that Colorado was the only arid western state whose statutes did not recognize or explicitly authorize the installation and operation of gray-water systems. Roesner and his colleague Sybil Sharvelle and I worked to draft legislation and meet with a broad stakeholder group to develop support for legislation. I introduced our bill in December 2011 for consideration during the 2012 legislative session. Regrettably, HB 1003 fell victim to political considerations early in the session. I committed to continuing to work on the bill and reintroduce it in 2013. HB 1044 is the result of literally 2 1/2 years of work on the part of Roesner, Sharvelle and me.

    Q: If gray water is safe and beneficial to use, why are gray-water systems illegal in Colorado?

    A: Gray water derived from a properly designed and functioning system is safe for indoor use to flush toilets and for outdoor drip irrigation systems. However, current Colorado statutes do not recognize or explicitly authorize its use. The Legislature has likewise never directed the applicable regulatory agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), to promulgate rules or to set minimum statewide standards for its use. The absence of authorizing legislation, CDPHE rules and statewide standards has created regulatory uncertainty. This uncertainty prevents people from choosing to install gray-water systems because of the risk that their systems could be ruled illegal. When adopted, HB 1044 will direct CDPHE to promulgate rules and standards that will resolve the current regulatory uncertainty.

    Q: What do Northern Colorado and the state have to gain by passing your bill, both environmentally and economically?

    A: Gray water systems are capable of conserving 25 percent to 30 percent of the indoor water consumed in a typical residence. The water savings from new residential developments using gray water could be substantial and could be a cost-effective tool for helping to meet Colorado’s water needs for the 21st century. In addition, municipal water and wastewater service providers will realize energy and treatment cost savings in the operation of drinking water and wastewater treatment plants.

    Q: This is the second time you’ve introduced a bill of this nature. Why did the first one get shot down, and what is different about this bill?

    A: Bills dealing with water issues almost always are assigned to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. However, last year’s gray-water bill was assigned by then-Speaker Frank McNulty to the House State Affairs Committee for its first hearing. Regrettably, the speaker’s choice of the State Affairs Committee to hear the 2012 bill indicated that he was not going to let it advance for purely political reasons. This year, the political environment for water conservations bills such as HB-1044 is greatly improved, and Roesner and I have had an additional year to continue working with stakeholders to build support for the bill.

    Q: If passed, what are the next steps to implementing gray-water systems? Do you foresee any other major hurdles?

    A: Upon passage of HB 1044, the CDPHE will be required to promulgate rules and minimum statewide standards for installation of systems and use of gray water. The State Plumbing Board also needs to adopt a version of the International Plumbing Code that recognizes gray-water systems and provides guidance for installers. Finally, local governments will have the choice of authorizing the use of gray water within their jurisdictional boundaries. Local jurisdictions will have to adopt ordinances or resolutions authoring the use of gray water in consultation with local health departments and water and wastewater service providers. After passage of the bill, I hope that education, outreach and public acceptance will grow with time such that gray-water systems become a routine part of new residential development and that the potential for water conservation is realized.

    More graywater reclamation coverage here and here.


    Salida city councilor Jay Moore joins the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy board

    May 3, 2013

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    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Salida City Councilman Jay Moore was sworn in recently as a director on the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board. Moore replaced Reed Dils as the Chaffee County representative on the board, and he also serves on the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board and the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.

    A retired physician, Moore moved to Salida about 9 years ago and was elected to Salida City Council in 2005. He said the fact that he is term-limited as a Salida councilman should help assure county residents that he will not “over-represent Salida.”

    Moore stressed the importance of water issues to the local economy and said his experience with water issues through the Upper Ark district and the roundtable makes the new position a good fit. Moore said he promised local municipal and county officials prior to his appointment to the board that he would pass along important water information.

    As an example, Moore said, he will be reporting to local officials that flows at the Thomasville gauge recently exceeded 100 cubic feet per second, allowing water to be imported into the Arkansas Basin from the Western Slope – good news for everyone from Arkansas Basin irrigators to rafting companies. Moore added that his first task as a board member is simply to get educated: “The Southeastern district gives me a huge expansion of information I need to learn.”

    The district, which now encompasses a nine-county area, was created April 29, 1958, to develop and administer the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. On Aug. 16, 1962, Congress authorized the construction of the Fry-Ark Project, which transports water via tunnel under the Continental Divide into the Arkansas River basin for storage in mountain lakes and Pueblo Reservoir. The project delivers an average of 69,100 acre-feet of fully consumable water per year into the Arkansas Basin. But as Moore pointed out, the amount of imported project water can vary greatly. For example, the project imported 97,000 acre-feet of water in 2011 but only 12,000 acre-feet in 2012.

    “Water is terribly important to us,” Moore said, which is why he takes his role as a “water information conduit” seriously. On the other hand, “just knowing this stuff is fun,” Moore said.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


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