Arkansas River continues to run high — The Pueblo Chieftain

May 24, 2015

Arkansas River at Avondale gage (USGS) May 1 thru May 24, 2015

Arkansas River at Avondale gage (USGS) May 1 thru May 24, 2015


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Flood stage is considered 6,000 cubic feet per second, or the effect of 6,000 basketballs tumbling past any given point at the same time.

Releases from Pueblo Dam are cut during floods and the water stored, then released as soon as practically possible. During rains earlier this month about 4,000 acre-feet (1.3 billion gallons) was stored, then released. In last week’s storms, 12,000 acre-feet was stored and was being released Thursday.

Those releases were cut back slightly Friday as Avondale pushed above 6,000 cfs again.

The Arkansas River through Pueblo and Fountain Creek were contributing evenly to the flow, about 3,000 cfs each.

Upstream of Lake Pueblo, flows at Wellsville, just east of Salida, have not reached normal levels for this time of year, because cooler temperatures are delaying runoff.

But heavy rains in Fremont County have swollen gauges there for the past two weeks.

The Huerfano and Purgatoire rivers east of Pueblo have been running well above average for the last week.

Downstream of Pueblo, the Arkansas River continues to run high, as most large irrigation canals are not taking water. At Las Animas, the river measured close to 5,000 cfs Saturday.


Southeastern Water board meeting recap: Lake Pueblo, swollen by 12,000 acre-feet of flood water

May 24, 2015
Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Water, water everywhere.

Not going to be a problem later in the year, right?

Hold on.

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday considered the possibilities of how water comes through the Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Lake under the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project.

All signs are pointing toward a more-or-less normal year in terms of water supply. Lake Pueblo, swollen by 12,000 acre-feet of flood water, is 132 percent of average. The flood water already was being released on Thursday, raising Arkansas River levels in the wake of the flood surge.

Turquoise and Twin Lakes are above average in the upper reaches of the Arkansas River, while John Martin Reservoir has begun filling again to its highest level since 2010, about 82,000 acre-feet on Thursday.

Snowpack levels in the headwaters of both the Colorado and Arkansas Rivers are back to normal, but it’s late in the season and both basins fell short of peak moisture levels this year.

But very little transmountain water has come over so far, just 4,254 acre-feet of a projected 53,000 acre-feet for the season.

“It all depends on how it comes off,” said Roy Vaughan, Fry-Ark manager for the Bureau of Reclamation.

Cold temperatures are preventing the snow from melting at prime rates, as it does at this time of year in some cases.

“The tunnel hasn’t started to run at full capacity, so we’re behind,” Vaughan said.

If it warms up too quickly, the Fry-Ark structures won’t be able to capture it. And river levels have to be met on the Western Slope, Vaughan explained.

In the past decade, the Southeastern district has adopted new policies to avoid over-allocating water early in the season, so it holds back 20 percent of the allocation.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Farms will get a boost in water supply, with nearly average allocations from the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project, but reduced requests from cities for water.

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday approved allocations from the project, based on snow forecasts, which have improved since projections of water supply were made May 1.

The district projects that 53,000 acre-feet (17 billion gallons) of water will be brought through the Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Lake. That would mean almost 45,700 acre-feet available for allocation.

Of that, about one-third will go to cities and two-thirds to farms. Under the district’s allocation principles, the split would be closer to 53 percent municipal and 47 percent agricultural.

Initially, just 80 percent of the water will be allocated in case conditions change and imports are less than expected. The remaining 20 percent will be available when imports reach the target.

If more water above the target is brought over, there could be a second allocation.

Cost of the water is $9 per acre-foot for farms and $9.75 for cities.

Municipalities reduced their requests significantly this year.

The Fountain Valley Authority (Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security, Stratmoor Hills and Widefield) requested and received 7,216 acrefeet, but was eligible for 11,625 acre-feet.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works was eligible for 4,568 acrefeet, but requested and received no water, since Pueblo Water has ample water in storage this year.

Cities east of Pueblo took slightly less water than authorized, mainly because St. Charles Mesa Water District took just one-sixth of its share. Fowler, Crowley County and Joseph Water all took significantly more water than authorized, while most others were close to average.

Cities west of Pueblo took slightly more. All received the full amount requested.

Pueblo West and Manitou Springs, which get water that was redirected from agriculture when Crowley County farms were dried up by Aurora, will each get full allocations of about 155 and 160 acre-feet, respectively.

The net effect was moving about 9,000 acre-feet to the agricultural side of the ledger, said Garrett Markus, district engineer.

On the agricultural side, Fort Lyon Canal will received the largest allocation, with 10,653 acre-feet, and it will use 3,135 acre-feet of return flows under a pilot project that allows the ditch to use its own return flows for replacement water under state irrigation rules. Only 58,618 acres of the ditch are eligible for Fry-Ark water. The ditch irrigates 93,000 acres, but owners with more than 960 acres, including Pure Cycle (which has 14,600 acres) are not eligible.

As usual, requests for ag water far outpaced the available water.

Farmers asked for 106,570 acre-feet to cover 146,000 acres on 25 canals, ditches or farms. Only 30,024 acrefeet were allocated.

Another 7,431 acre-feet of agricultural return flows were allocated, 95 percent to the three major well augmentation groups in the Arkansas Valley.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.


The case that % of normal can be misleading after runoff starts

May 23, 2015

Down in the comments for this post, Coyote Gulch reader Gunnar wrote:

Thanks as always for your tireless work. I would be interested in seeing a primer post from you explaining why “% of normal is misleading after runoff starts.”

You’ve mentioned this a few times in your posts, but I am unclear about why.

So here’s a dive into current conditions to make the case that % of normal can be misleading if you are hoping for adequate late-season water.

Below are the most recent Basin High/Low graphs for the South Platte River Basin and Arkansas River Basin in Colorado. You can click on either thumbnail to view the gallery.

Note that current snow water equivalent has blown through the median on both graphs.

South Platte diverters are confident that they will have some late season water, both because the snowpack peak just before melt-out started was close to average, and due to the current SWE volume being at 93% of that peak. The South Platte Basin still has 15 inches of SWE to melt-out and that’s a lot of water.

Down in the Arkansas it’s a different story. The current snowpack peak is 77% of the 2015 peak which was 88% of the median peak. The basin has 8 or so inches of SWE to melt-out and that’s a lot of water as well. It just depends on how fast in comes off.

This time of year it makes sense to look at the Natural Resources Conservation Service streamflow forecast issued the first of each month. Below is the May 1 statewide map and narrative. You can click on the thumbnail for a readable view.

May 1, 2015 Colorado streamflow forecast map via the NRCS

May 1, 2015 Colorado streamflow forecast map via the NRCS


The Pueblo County Commissioners hire Wright Water Engineering to review SDS 1041 permit compliance

May 22, 2015
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jeff Tucker):

If rushing water had to threaten a county road, the timing couldn’t have been better for the Pueblo Board of County Commissioners.

The commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved a contract with Wright Water Engineering to the accompaniment of text messages from the public works department informing them that the surging Fountain Creek was threatening a portion of Overton Road.

The $115,000 contract will allow the county to tap into Wright Water’s expertise as it continues to evaluate whether Colorado Springs has complied with provisions of the permit regarding stormwater control that allowed Colorado Springs to build the Southern Delivery System water pipeline from the Pueblo Dam to Springs.

County Land Use Attorney Gary Raso said that in his conversations with the engineers at Wright, they were very familiar with the Fountain Creek and its issues in the past.

The Fountain serves as the primary drainage for Colorado Springs, along with other communities including Fountain, Monument, Security and Widefield.

“Pueblo County is incurring significant costs due to the failures of the north,” said Commissioner Terry Hart.

But the study focuses on Colorado Springs, particularly whether the city’s lack of any sustainable funding for stormwater improvement projects that would mitigate the impacts to Fountain Creek is a violation of the agreement.

The county is waiting until August to decide whether to issue a showcause hearing to Colorado Springs on whether to revoke or make significant changes to the agreement.

Again, the commissioners discussed the impact of the various burn scars in the area, including the Waldo Canyon burn scar.

But Commissioner Sal Pace noted that the Springs had eliminated its stormwater enterprise long before the Waldo Canyon Fire devastated the community.

“I think talking about the burn scar is a distraction,” Pace said. “These problems existed before the Waldo Canyon Fire. It implies that this is a new problem because of an act of God, when it was an act of man.”

Commission Chairwoman Liane “Buffie” McFadyen noted that the burn scar brings the overall lack of stormwater infrastructure into greater focus.

“This particular set of storms, combined with the burn scar, combined with the lack of infrastructure, will give Wright engineering a worst-case scenario,” she said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


A favorite weather meme from a Gazette reporter #cowx

May 22, 2015

Granby dials back fluoride dosing in response to new federal guidelines

May 22, 2015
Calcium fluoride

Calcium fluoride

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Lance Maggart):

The PHS has reduced the optimum recommended amount of fluoride in municipal water systems to a maximum of 0.7 milligrams per liter. The previous recommended range, from 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams, was changed this year for the first time since 1962.

Fluoride levels in Granby’s water supply vary depending on whether the water comes from the North Service Area or the South Service Area, two separate water systems providing public water service to community residents. Historically the fluoride levels in the two different service areas have been 1.1 milligrams per liter.

Following the new recommendations the North Service Area began reducing the amount of fluoride added to the water system. Granby Town Manager Wally Baird explained the levels in the North Service Area are already down to 0.9 milligrams per liter, and the Town plans to continue to reduce North Service Area down to the recommended level of 0.7 milligrams.

The South Service Area’s fluoride levels will remain at 1.1 milligrams per liter. No fluoride is added to the water in the South Service Area, explained Superintendent of the South Service Area Doug Bellatty. Instead the water levels in the South Service Area are naturally occurring.

Bellatty explained why the fluoride levels in the South Service Area will remain the same.

“The only process available to communities to lower the naturally occurring levels is through reverse osmosis,” he said, “which is extremely expensive and energy consuming.”

Bellatty pointed out that while the recommendation levels have been dropped, the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) — the highest level of a contaminant allowed in drinking water — for fluoride is 4 milligrams per liter.

More water treatment coverage here.


Sump pumps hooked directly to wastewater lines a headache in Colorado Springs

May 22, 2015
Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ryan Maye Handy):

…some incorrectly installed sump pumps in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood, around Colorado Avenue and 31 Street, have caused Colorado Springs Utilities’ wastewater lines to overflow with groundwater.

Utilities crews have worked for the last two weeks to remove some water from overloaded wastewater systems before the contaminated water overflows manholes and rushes into the street, said Utilities spokesman Steve Berry.

Pumps hooked up directly to the wastewater system are a problem for Utilities and homeowners.

“The number one risk is really for the customer,” Berry said Tuesday. “If the sump pump is hooked up to the wastewater system … then the biggest threat is really to your home.”

If excess groundwater gets pushed into the wastewater system, it could backfire and send water back into a home or a neighboring home, Berry said…

Sump pumps are supposed to discharge excess groundwater outside a home, typically through a pipe that dumps into a yard. But, particularly in older neighborhoods such as Pleasant Valley, sometimes the pumps are connected directly to a home’s wastewater line, which connects to Utilities’ wastewater main.

Homeowners own their wastewater lines and are responsible for maintaining them, and if damage on the private line affects the main Utilities line, homeowners could be liable, Berry said. He said homeowners should make sure pumps are correctly installed, although most will likely have to hire someone to check the system.

“These folks don’t even know, and it’s certainly not their fault, but now they need to,” Berry said.

More wastewater coverage here.


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