Preserving Water for Agriculture with the Colorado Ag Water Alliance

Your Water Colorado Blog

By Greg Peterson

While I was raised in Littleton, I grew up hearing stories from my family about their farm. They were farmers and ranchers along Bear Creek until their land was taken under eminent domain for the Bear Creek Reservoir. I have a hard time picturing an agricultural community in an area that is now suburbs, golf courses, and a park. To create a metropolitan area like Denver, the landscape has changed completely and will continue to change. Today, many other communities are concerned how much longer their way of life can persist in the wake of such change.

By 2050, Colorado’s population will almost double to 10 million, bringing with it a water shortage of more than 500,000 acre feet per year. Municipalities will look to agricultural water as a source of supply. In that same timeframe, the irrigated acreage in the South Platte Basin may decrease by…

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Getting the lead out when we find it

Mile High Water Talk

Since March, Denver Water has replaced more than 260 lead service lines found during our construction work.

By Jay Adams

The Postal Service delivers mail to your mailbox. The power company sends electricity to your meter. And Denver Water provides safe drinking water to your service line, which connects our water main to your home.

Denver Water foreman, Johnny Roybal, overlooks Steve Foster (left) and Daniel Rubalcaba as they work to replace a lead service line. Denver Water foreman, Johnny Roybal, overlooks Steve Foster (left) and Daniel Ruvalcaba as they work to replace a lead service line.

There are nearly 200,000 service lines connected to Denver Water’s elaborate system of water mains, which run beneath the metro area. Some of those service lines are made of lead, and this can create a health risk if the lead leaches into your drinking water.

Service lines are owned and maintained by property owners, not Denver Water. And that’s the challenge, we don’t know which homes have service lines made of lead.

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Venetucci Farm suspends sales over water concerns — KOAA

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From KOAA (Jessi Mitchell):

Venetucci Farm announced it would suspend the sale of its produce due to concerns over contamination in the Widefield aquifer.

The farm pumps its water from a well attached to the aquifer, and it was among the first properties to be tested for contamination. Those results are still pending, which led to Friday’s decision.

The EPA’s latest advisory level for PFCs is equivalent to one teaspoon of chemical in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It may not sound like a lot, but in drinking water there are proven health impacts. Scientists are still studying fruits and vegetables grown with the water, but restaurants like Tapateria in Old Colorado City are hoping for the best.

“I think we just had some beets in about two weeks ago,” says Tapateria chef Jay Gust of his dealings with Venetucci Farm. He gets much of his meat and produce from southern Colorado growers.

“There’s been a huge push in getting local farmers into restaurants and I think it’s great and we definitely need it,” says Gust. “We need more of it, and hopefully this is just a mild speed bump and get back on track and just keep on pushing local cuisine.”

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers tell Venetucci managers it could be up to two more months before there are any conclusive answers showing just how many, if any, PFCs show up in fruits and vegetables grown on the farm. So far, the EPA only advises pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoid drinking contaminated water, but there are no advisories for food at this point.

The farm’s owner, Pikes Peak Community Foundation, is acting in an abundance of caution. CEO Gary Butterworth says, “The concern was in our distribution to restaurants that we would not be able to communicate that, convey that to the end user, so we have not been providing products to restaurants directly for a period of time.”

Here’s the release from the Pikes Peak Community Foundation:

The Pikes Peak Community Foundation (PPCF) has decided to temporarily suspend sales and distribution of Venetucci Farm products until results from water, soil and produce testing are complete.
Venetucci Farm draws its irrigation water from the Widefield Aquifer, which recently was deemed to have exceeded health advisory limits for perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) levels by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“While we do not believe there are any health risks associated with the consumption of Venetucci Farm products, it is with the best interest of the community in mind that we have decided to temporarily suspend sales and distribution of our products while we gather additional information and data,” said Gary Butterworth, CEO of the PPCF. “We are awaiting more conclusive water, produce and soil test results to inform our decisions moving forward. We feel this precautionary measure is the best course of action based on the information we have today.”

The Foundation will continue to work with officials in Widefield, Security, Fountain, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the El Paso County Public Health Department as these agencies and municipalities gather additional data.

ABOUT VENETUCCI FARM
Located on the southwestern edge of Colorado Springs, this historic 190-acre urban farm, known as the “Pumpkin Farm” was established by the Venetucci Family in 1936. In later years, Nick and Bambi Venetucci were known for giving away thousands of pumpkins each fall to area school children.
Wanting to preserve this valuable piece of land as a farm, the Venetuccis put it into conservancy and gifted it to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation in 2006. Thanks to the generosity of the Venetucci Family and the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, Venetucci Farm is a working farm committed to growing healthy food and providing positive experiences for the Colorado Springs community.

ABOUT PIKES PEAK COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
The Pikes Peak Community Foundation (PPCF) was founded in 1996. The Foundation creates custom-designed charitable gift funds for individuals, families, and businesses, including donor-advised funds, donor-designated funds, endowment funds, memorial funds, and scholarship funds, providing flexible and inexpensive alternatives to setting up private or family foundations. PPCF also makes grants to support nonprofit organizations and community projects for the benefit of our community and stewards Venetucci Farm and Aspen Valley Ranch. For more information, visit http://PPCF.org.

#Drought news: The next 3-7 days will bring above normal temperatures for much of the CONUS

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

Summary

This week’s USDM period (ending on July 19) was characterized by typical hit and miss summer-time shower activity across the country, punctuated by extreme heat in the Southern Plains and the Northeast. The heaviest rains fell in southern Minnesota, southwest Iowa, much of Indiana and eastern Illinois, western Kentucky, eastern North Carolina, along the Gulf Coast and Florida. Below normal precipitation was observed in eastern Texas, northern Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New England. A strong ridge over the southern Plains contributed to abnormally warm temperatures in New Mexico and Texas during the period. Daily maximum temperatures soared well into the triple digits, as much as 10 degrees F above normal in the area. While not as intense, temperatures 6-8 degrees F above normal were observed in the Northeast. Cooler-than-normal temperatures encapsulated much of the Northwest and High Plains…

Southern Plains

Much of the Southern Plains suffered as stifling heat baked the soils while precipitation was non-existent. Recent rains over the northern half of Oklahoma did warrant some improvement, but there was huge disparity in the south central and southeast part of the state. A single-category degradation was needed due to the 30-day precipitation departures. In Texas, temperatures were for the most part 4 degrees F above normal during the period. The most intense heat was in western Texas where anomalies were around 8 degrees F above normal. According to the USDA, 64 percent of topsoil moisture conditions are in the very short to short category. Deterioration occurred in the north, southwest and eastern parts of the state…

High Plains

Precipitation in the High Plains this period ranged from greater than 300 percent in much of Montana to well below 10 percent along the North and South Dakota state border. Temperatures were muted across the region as anomalies were as much as 6 degrees below normal. Conditions continue to be drier than normal in the western South Dakota/eastern Wyoming area. Less than half of what is normally expected, in terms of precipitation, has fallen in that area during the last 30 days. 28-day stream flows are measuring in the 5-10 percent category and lower. All other indicators, including model based and satellite derived, are pointing to an extreme localized drought in the area. Ranchers and farmers in the area are experiencing no hay production at all and the cattle are already on winter pastures. There are not only water quantity issues, but also as the stock ponds and dams dry up, the water quality is suspect. Some ranchers have to haul water in every day. Wildfires are also a large concern. Based on all the indicators and impacts, all categories of drought were expanded in the area…

West

Precipitation was virtually non-existent in much of the Western region during the period. Light rain (0.5 inch) did fall in central Oregon and norther Washington. The southwest monsoon provided some relief to parts of Arizona, albeit only light amounts fell. Temperatures were cooler than normal in the Northwest, but slightly above normal for the desert southwest. The cooler than normal temperatures during July have helped suppress many new wildfires from emerging. This is the dry season for the West Coast, so changes to the drought monitor are very rare this time of year…

Looking Ahead

The next 3-7 days will bring above normal temperatures for much of the CONUS with the warmest anomalies forecasted for the Midwest and along the East Coast. Negative temperature anomalies will be confined to the Northwest. The High Plains, parts of New England, the Southeast, and Florida have the best chances of greater than normal precipitation.

The CPC 6-10 day outlook calls for the greatest chances of above normal temperatures in California and the Great Basin, as well as the East Coast. The probability is high that below normal precipitation will occur in the Northwest, especially in Washington and Oregon, and the Midwest, while odds are in favor of above normal precipitation in the Southeast and East Coast.

In #Colorado we go the extra mile to save cutthroats #HaydenCreekFire

Aerial photograph of Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery. Photo via Western State Colorado University.
Aerial photograph of Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery. Photo via Western State Colorado University.

From The Denver Post (Jesse Paul):

Some 200 of the unique cutthroat trout were removed from Hayden Creek

State wildlife officers on Wednesday rescued rare cutthroat trout from a creek in the Hayden Pass fire burn area, quelling concerns about their possible extinction because of the blaze.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife says many of the rare fish — with genetic links to the iconic, pure greenback cutthroat trout — were taken from the fire zone to an isolation chamber at the Roaring Judy Hatchery near Gunnison.

Officials were worried ash and sediment from the Hayden Pass fire would wash down into the lower prong of Hayden Creek, where the fish live, strangling their oxygen and food supplies. However, videos taken from the rescue mission show wildlife officers removing several of the trout from the stream.

The trout that live in the creek share a unique genetic anomaly with a cutthroat found in the Smithsonian Museum and said to have been taken from Twin Lakes near Leadville in 1889, CPW says.

Fire commanders say the trout mission on Wednesday resulted in the netting and removal of 200 fish. One of the firefight’s main objectives has been to protect the fish as much as possible.

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout
Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

#ColoradoRiver Day: Take care of Colorado’s great outdoors and it will take care of us — Luis Benitez

Here’s a guest column from Luis Benitez writing in The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

Those of us who live here, and the many recreationists and visitors who come to experience our state’s incredible landscapes and waterways, know exactly what I mean. It’s a beautiful compensation that as we are having the time of our lives, our love for the Colorado outdoors powers a huge economic engine for the state. The Colorado outdoor recreation economy generates $31.2 billion in revenue on a yearly basis, $994 million through taxes to our federal and state governments, and 125,000 Colorado jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. People and companies come to Colorado because they want a lifestyle that includes this unique layout of natural wonder.

At the core of our economic bounty lies a healthy river system, which allows for fishing, kayaking, healthy forests and lands, and is essential to daily life on farms, ranches, and in municipalities across the West. In Colorado alone, river-related activities account for $6.3 billion in direct consumer spending on recreation and sustain 80,000 recreation jobs. In total, according to a study commissioned by Protect the Flows, a group of Colorado River businesses, the Colorado River system is responsible for $26 billion in revenue from river-related activities across the seven basin states in the West, and supports 240,000 sustainable jobs.

Beyond the recreational activities supported by the river, more than 33 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Mexico all depend on the Colorado River for their water supply. Today, more than 1.8 million acres of land are irrigated with water from the Colorado River, producing about 15 percent of the nation’s crops and about 13 percent of its livestock generating about $1.5 billion a year in agricultural benefits.

These figures illuminate the importance of the Colorado River to our quality of life and our state’s prosperity. It’s easy to understand why we celebrate Colorado River Day on July 25 each year, the day the Colorado River was officially renamed from the Grand to the Colorado in 1921.

@CWCB_DNR: July 2016 #Drought Update

Colorado Drought Monitor July 21, 2016.
Colorado Drought Monitor July 21, 2016.

Here’s the update from DNR (Taryn Finnessey/Tracy Kosloff):

June 2016, was the 3rd warmest June on record, with only 2012 and 2002 logging hotter temperatures. Much of the state experienced average monthly temperatures four to six degrees above normal. July has seen cooler temperatures, thus far, with temperatures near normal across most of the state. The forecast for the next two weeks shows continued warm temperatures and better chances for precipitation as we move into monsoon season.

  • Statewide water year-to-date mountain precipitation as reported from NRCS is at 99 percent of normal as of July 19th.
  • July is the second consecutive month with below average statewide precipitation (June was 71 percent of average, while July to-date is 64 percent), this time of year precipitation tends to be spotty due to storms, but the WATF will continue to monitor the situation closely.
  • Reservoir storage statewide remains unchanged from last month at 108 percent. The Arkansas basin has the highest storage levels in the state at 116 percent of average; the Upper Rio Grande has the lowest storage levels at 79 percent. All other basins are near or above normal.
  •  Water providers all reported storage levels above 90 percent and are not anticipating any mandatory watering restrictions this season, however continued warm and dry conditions have resulted in increased demands.
  • The Statewide Water Supply Index (SWSI) is near normal across the majority of the state