Castlewood Canyon State Park “Dam Day” August 2

July 31, 2014

From Colorado Parks and Wildlife via the Parker Chronicle:

Castlewood Canyon State Park will mark the 81 anniversary of Denver’s second worst flood with “Dam Day” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 2.

The failure of Castlewood Dam on Aug. 3, 1933, caused the destruction of bridges, and pastures and croplands were wiped out. Logs floated all the way into the lobby of Union Station in downtown Denver and a man named Tom Casey lost his life.

Dam Day activities will be at the visitor center, Event Facilities Shelter No. 1, on the east side of the park, and near the remains of Castlewood Dam on the park’s west side.

At the visitor center, children can experience what it was like on that dark and stormy night. They will get a glimpse at what the dam caretaker, Hugh Payne, felt and saw as he tried to walk out on the dam to open the valves to release the water and save the dam. It was 1:30 a.m. during a thunderstorm and he only had a kerosene lamp.

At EFS No. 1 kids can build candy dams mortared with frosting (a word to the wise — do not follow the design of Castlewood Dam, it lasted only 43 years). There will be a model of the canyon and dam. They can also fill the Castlewood Reservoir with water and see the effects rushing water can have on the canyon.

At the base of the dam, visitors can speak with Margaret Lucas, an area homesteader portrayed by a Castlewood volunteer, about her experiences that frightful night. Payne will be portrayed by another volunteer and explain the events that led up to the failure. The two will have pictures from 1933 that show the turmoil and damage caused by the water to Speer Boulevard and downtown Denver.

Friends of Castlewood Canyon State Park will be serving a Dam Good Lunch at EFS No. 1. It is a fundraiser to obtain funds to give Castlewood Canyon State Park a 50th birthday present of more land this year.

Programs are free, however, all vehicles entering the park must display a valid Colorado state parks pass. For more event information, call the park at 303-688-5242.

More Cherry Creek watershed coverage here.


CPW: Cherry Creek State Park is proud to host Lake Appreciation Day 2014

July 15, 2014

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More Cherry Creek watershed coverage here.


“…we have a lot of communities on a diminishing aquifer” — Eric Hecox

May 11, 2014

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From The Denver Post (Steve Raabe):

The shimmering surface of Rueter-Hess reservoir seems out of place in arid Douglas County, where almost all of the water resources are in aquifers a quarter-mile under ground.

Yet the $195 million body of water, southwest of Parker, is poised to play a crucial role in providing water to one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the U.S.

As recently as a few years ago, developers were content to tap the seemingly abundant Denver Basin aquifer to serve the thousands of new homes built each year along the southern edge of metro Denver.

But a problem arose. As homebuilding in Douglas County exploded, the groundwater that once seemed abundant turned out to be finite. Land developers and utilities found that the more wells they drilled into the aquifer, the more grudgingly it surrendered water.

“Now we have a lot of communities on a diminishing aquifer,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, a consortium of 14 water suppliers that serve 300,000 residents.

As water pressure in the Denver Basin steadily declines, developers and water utilities that rely on the aquifer are being forced to drill more wells and pump harder from existing wells.

Enter Rueter-Hess. The massive storage facility — 50 percent larger in surface area than Cherry Creek reservoir — aims to help developers wean themselves from groundwater by shifting to other sources.

The reservoir anchors a multifaceted water plan for the south metro area that includes the purchase of costly but replenishable surface water, reuse of wastewater and a greater emphasis on conservation.

Douglas County, long a magnet for builders enticed by easy access to Denver Basin aquifers, is taking the water issue seriously.

A new proposal floated by the county government would give developers density bonuses — up to 20 percent more buildout — for communities that reduce typical water consumption and commit to using renewable sources for at least half of their water.

“In the past, the county had not taken an active role in water supplies because groundwater was sufficient,” said Douglas County Commissioner Jill Repella. “But we understand that we cannot continue to be solely reliant on our aquifers. What we’re doing today will help us plan for the next 25 years.”

Parker Water and Sanitation District launched construction of Rueter-Hess in 2006 and began gradually filling the reservoir in 2011, fed by excess surface and alluvial well flows in Cherry Creek.

Partners in the project include Castle Rock, Stonegate and the Castle Pines North metropolitan district. Parker Water and Sanitation district manager Ron Redd said he expects more water utilities to sign on for storage as they begin acquiring rights to surface water.

The chief source of new supplies will be the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership, or WISE, in which Denver Water and Aurora Water will sell an average of 7,250 acre-feet a year to 10 south-metro water suppliers beginning in 2016. Most of them are expected to purchase storage for the new water in Rueter-Hess. An acre-foot is generally believed to be enough to serve the needs of two families of four for a year

Parker Water and Sanitation also is exploring ways to develop recreational uses at the dam — including hiking, camping, fishing and nonmotorized boating — through an intergovernmental agreement with other Douglas County entities.

Even three years after opening, the reservoir’s stored water has reached just 13 percent of its 75,000-acre-foot capacity. Yet Rueter-Hess is the most visible icon in Douglas County’s search for water solutions.

At stake is the ability to provide water for a county that in the 1990s and early 2000s perennially ranked among the fastest-growing in the nation. The number of homes in Douglas County has soared from 7,789 in 1980 to more than 110,000 today, an astounding increase of more than 1,300 percent.

The building boom slowed after the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009. Growth rates that had reached as high as 10 percent to 15 percent a year during the 1990s ratcheted down to about 1 percent to 2 percent.

But as the economy has begun recovering, Douglas County is once again “seeing high levels of demand” for new residential development, said assistant director of planning services Steve Koster.

One of the biggest Douglas County projects in decades is Sterling Ranch, a proposed community of 12,000 homes south of Chatfield State Park.

The 3,400-acre ranch sits on the outer fringes of the Denver Basin aquifer, making it a poor candidate for reliance on the basin’s groundwater.

As a result, the project developer will employ a mixed-bag of water resources, including an aggressive conservation and efficiency plan; surface-water purchases from the WISE program; well water from rights owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz; and a precedent-setting rainwater-collection program.

Sterling Ranch managing director Harold Smethills described the Rueter-Hess concept as “brilliant,” even though his development has not yet purchased any of the reservoir’s capacity.

“You just can’t have enough storage,” he said.

More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here. More Denver Basin Aquifer System coverage here.


Parker diverts 240 acre-feet of water so far into Rueter-Hess under free river

September 28, 2013
Rhode Island Hotel 1908 Parker via Best of Parker

Rhode Island Hotel Parker (1908) via Best of Parker

From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

The Parker Water and Sanitation District is taking advantage of the wet weather by using its diversion dam on Cherry Creek near Stroh Road. In the last two weeks, it has helped redirect 240 acre-feet of rainwater into Rueter-Hess. That’s 78,204,342 gallons, courtesy of Mother Nature. It’s among the few upsides to the soaking rains that have resulted in historic floods, displacing thousands in the north metro area, decimating roads and homes and taking eight lives along the way…

The PWSD, for the first time this year, raised its diversion structure and pulled off as much as 10,000 gallons per minute during the peak of the first day of storms. Then, just as the weekend was approaching, Cherry Creek was “called out” — in other words, those with downstream water rights declared their privileges to the flows, said Ron Redd, district manager for the PWSD. “We were pulling quite a bit off for a while,” he said. “When they put the call out, it was frustrating with all of that flooding.”

The district worked with a local water commissioner, who grants requests from water rights owners, and was able to lift the restrictions the following day. “We’ve been pumping ever since then,” Redd said.

Some of the rainwater has entered Rueter-Hess through Newlin Gulch, the drainage channel into which the reservoir was built. But much of the work has been done with the diversion dam, which was finished in 2006. It has gotten little use in recent years because of the low water level in Cherry Creek; the PWSD, however, captures alluvial flows from the creek.

The reservoir is a tool for the district to store excess flows, but if there is a call out on the river, the district must release that water, as it did last summer after heavy rains deluged northern Castle Rock, Franktown and areas south of Parker.

More Rueter-Hess coverage here and here.


Parker signs on to the WISE project for future supplies

June 27, 2013

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Parker Water joins nine other members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority that have signed on to WISE, or the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency agreement. The June 13 approval by the PWSD board of directors adds another source of water for the area’s long-term needs, said district manager Ron Redd.

Parker Water pulls much of its water supply from the Denver Basin Aquifer, but it also captures an average of 5,000 acre-feet annually off Cherry Creek. The WISE agreement will have Parker piping 12,000 acre-feet of recycled water from Aurora and Denver every 10 years for an indefinite period of time.

Water rates will likely go up 1 percent to 2 percent incrementally because of WISE, although any increases will not occur until a thorough rate analysis is conducted, Redd said. The results of the analysis will be released in mid-2014.

The PWSD will start receiving the first trickles of water in 2016 and get full delivery of 1,200 acre-feet starting in 2021. The district hopes to use an existing pipeline along the E-470 corridor to transport the water and is in the process of negotiating with the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District. If an agreement is not reached, the district would have to build its own infrastructure at a steep cost…

The supply coming from Denver and Aurora is water that has been used and treated. The district will again reclaim the water, meaning the average of 1,200 acre-feet coming in each year will actually measure close to 2,400 acre-feet, Redd said, adding there is a possibility that Parker Water might purchase more WISE water in the future…

Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which the PWSD built for storage, contains around 6,000 acre-feet. By the time the new water treatment plant off Hess Road opens in 2015, the reservoir will contain 15,000 to 20,000 acre-feet. It has the capacity for 72,000 acre-feet.

More Parker coverage here and here.


Fountain Creek: There is potential for damage to water quality from the Black Forest Fire

June 23, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Damage to water quality in the Fountain Creek watershed from the Black Forest Fire is not expected to be as great as from last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire. ”There are going to be some water quality issues, but what they are, we don’t know yet,” said Carol Ekarius, executive director of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte. “At this point in time, we would not expect the same level of issues. Right now, it’s too soon to tell.”

CUSP earlier this year finished an assessment of the Waldo Canyon Fire damage for El Paso County and Colorado Springs.

The Black Forest Fire, now 100 percent contained, burned about 16,000 acres, killed two people and destroyed more than 500 structures. Like other large fires, it could have lingering impacts on water quality.

Burned areas are more susceptible to increased flooding because vegetation has been removed, and in some cases because the soil structure has been disrupted. Debris from the fires and more sediment could flow into streams.

The Black Forest Fire straddled the Fountain Creek watershed, which flows south through Pueblo, and the Cherry Creek watershed, which flows north into the Denver area.

But the terrain of the Black Forest Fire consists of plains or rolling hills, while Waldo Canyon burned in steep canyons that are more prone to serious erosion problems, Ekarius said. A preliminary report also shows that damage was less severe in the southern part of the Black Forest burn area because of previous fire mitigation efforts.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service will spend the next two weeks evaluating the level of damage by the Black Forest Fire.

Waldo Canyon was of more concern to Colorado Springs Utilities because it threatened infrastructure, reservoirs and pipelines, while there are no water lines serving the Black Forest area, said Gary Bostrom, chief of water services for Utilities. Colorado Springs is spending more than half of its $46 million budget for stormwater projects this year in the Waldo Canyon burn area.

More Fountain Creek Watershed coverage here and here.


Parker Water and Sanitation District board is evaluating joining with Aurora and Denver in the WISE project

April 29, 2013

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

The Parker Water and Sanitation District board of directors will hear a presentation later this month from new manager Ron Redd, who will recommend that the district enter into WISE, the Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency project. Six members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, including Pinery Water and Wastewater, the Cottonwood Water and Sanitation District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, committed to WISE by signing intergovernmental agreements in late March. The agreements will bring nearly 7,000 acre-feet of recycled water to the south metro area…

The Parker Water and Sanitation District board asked Redd to examine the possibility of buying 500, 1,000 or 1,500 acre-feet through the WISE project. He was expecting to receive the results of a cost analysis on April 5 to determine the possible financial impacts. Any rate hikes on customers would likely be implemented incrementally and equate to about 2.5 percent to 3 percent per year, Redd said, cautioning that those figures are preliminary. The cost of WISE water increases annually over an eight-year period.

It would be relatively easy, Redd said, to move the reclaimed WISE water from Aurora to Parker if the district can come to an agreement to use a pipeline along E-470 owned by East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District. If the board gives approval, the intergovernmental agreement would be signed by late May…

Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which contains 5,700 acre-feet of water and was built to store 70,000 acre-feet, will be paid off by the time the Parker Water and Sanitation District takes on more debt to build pipelines to transport the water that will be needed for the future.

Meanwhile, Centennial has inked an IGA with the WISE Partnership. Here’s a report from Ryan Boldrey writing for the Highlands Ranch Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

Centennial Water and Sanitation District was one of six members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority to sign an IGA this past week committing to more renewable water by way of the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership. Through the agreement, Aurora Water and Denver Water will provide roughly 7,000 acre-feet of fully treated water annually to participating SMWSA members and deliver it in phases, starting in 2016. As part of the IGA, the participating South Metro WISE entities have agreed to fund new infrastructure that will move the water from Aurora’s Binney Water Purification Facility to its end locations. “A region-wide water solution makes more sense than having each water entity fending for themselves to source, treat and deliver renewable water to customers,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of SMWSA. “We’re excited about the progress we’re making through WISE towards transitioning the region from nonrenewable groundwater to renewable water.”

Hecox said that the agreement helps provide SMWSA with about a third of the necessary water that participating entities will need long-term. From here, work will continue on the Chatfield Reallocation Project as well as of other options and alternatives to bring more water to the region…

For Centennial Water specifically, it’s another step toward cementing a long-term supply and not relying as much on groundwater or leased water. “We’ve got many years of full supply, but some of that full supply comes from leases that are not long-term,” said Centennial Water and Sanitation District General Manager John Hendrick. “We want to add to our portfolio with long-term or near-permanent surface water sources…

Other SMWSA members committing to the project at this time are Cottonwood Water, Meridian Metropolitan District, Pinery Water, Rangeview Metropolitan District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District. Hecox said he expects Dominion, Inverness, Castle Rock and Parker water districts to sign the IGA by the end of April. SMWSA members not expected to take part in the IGA include: Castle Pines Metro, Castle Pines North, East Cherry Creek Valley, and Arapahoe.

More WISE coverage here.


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