#Runoff news: Streamflow declining in the Arkansas River

Arkansas River at Parkdale gage March 1 through June 29, 2016 via the USGS.
Arkansas River at Parkdale gage March 1 through June 29, 2016 via the USGS.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas River is rolling back into place as the runoff season winds down.

Snowpack piled up in late April and temperatures stayed cool in May, piling up a decent snowpack. Hot weather during most of June contributed to higher than average flows for the entire month. But that came to an end this week, as river levels at Parkdale and Avondale again hit the median mark.

Flows at Parkdale were 1,760 cubic feet per second and falling Tuesday, slightly below average. At Avondale, flows dropped to 2,000 cfs, just about normal. That’s about half of what they were two weeks ago.

Those numbers are still good for the rafting industry upstream and for farmers downstream.

The Arkansas River Outfitters Association calls the flows “ideal” on its website, saying the flows provide a combination of whitewater and technical rafting. The Royal Gorge is still rated high in intensity.

Downstream, the priority call date is 1890 or 1893, which provides water to most of the larger canals. Some canals are also releasing water which had been stored in Lake Pueblo to boost flows.

The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which provides supplemental water for farms and cities, has brought over about 51,000 acre-feet so far from the Western Slope. That’s about three-quarters of the total that is expected to eventually be brought into the Arkansas River basin.

Flows in the Boustead Tunnel, which brings water into Turquoise Lake near Leadville, have dropped, but are expected to bump up again on Friday, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. The amount of water that can be brought through the tunnel is tied to river levels in the Roaring Fork River basin.

Meeting will address concerns about #Colorado Springs-area water issues — The Colorado Springs Gazette

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

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers and Ellie Mulder):

Representatives from the EPA, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Air Force, El Paso County Public Health and local water systems will discuss drinking water in the area and answer residents’ questions, El Paso County Public Health announced.

The meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. on July 7 in Mesa Ridge High School’s auditorium, 6070 Mesa Ridge Parkway.

The meeting comes amid rising concern about the presence of perfluorinated compounds – toxic chemicals that may cause low infant birth weight and certain cancers, which have been found in the Widefield aquifer. The EPA suspects those conditions may happen after years of using contaminated water.

Local water system managers have been working to dilute water taken from the aquifer, to lower the prevalence of those toxic chemicals.

A website established by Colorado’s health department shows three areas along the western edges of Security and Widefield where the water in public systems may exceed the EPA’s recommended levels for the toxic chemicals. Private wells also are at particular risk of being over the EPA’s recommended level.

From KOAA.com:

The utilities department says they are reaching peak demand, and in order to avoid using well water have implemented the water restrictions.

City irrigation is limited to Monday and Friday. Residential irrigation for even numbered addresses is limited to Sunday and Wednesday, irrigation for odd number address is limited to Tuesday and Saturday. Commercial and industrial irrigation is limited to Monday and Friday.

The utilities department is also encouraging customer to irrigate between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. on designated irrigation days.

Groundwater movement via the USGS
Groundwater movement via the USGS

Fountain limits outdoor watering — The Pueblo Chieftain

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

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

City wants to avoid using wells that could become contaminated

Fountain restricts outdoor watering to avoid well use.

Fountain gets its primary water supply through the Fountain Valley Conduit from Lake Pueblo and other surface sources, but wants to avoid using wells from the Fountain Creek aquifer.

In May, the Environmental Protection Agency issued advisories for wells in the area south of Colorado Springs for chemicals known as PFOA and PFOS, which were used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics, cookware coatings and firefighting foam, particularly at airports.

Widefield, Security and Fountain are potentially affected, but all of the communities have other supplies and are not in crisis mode. Tests showed evidence of contamination in about one-third of Security’s wells, which were shut down. No contamination was found in Fountain.

“In an attempt to avoid using our well water as a last resort to meet peak demand, and to continue providing 100 percent surface water, we are asking our customers to conserve,” said Curtis Mitchell, utilities director.

Outside irrigation in Fountain will be limited to two days per week for city, residential and commercial uses.

“We will continue to monitor the water supply and water usage and keep the public updated,” Mitchell said.

#Colorado Springs helps districts with water contamination — KOAA.com

From KOAA.com (Jessi Mitchell):

The water districts are all connected through the Fountain Valley Authority and the Southern Delivery System project, which just went online last week. Right now, the SDS is coming in handy for Fountain, Security and Widefield.

Colorado Springs ratepayers turned Thursday’s public meeting about updates to the long-term Integrated Water Resource Plan into a Q&A session, asking what happens when neighboring districts are impacted by fracking, drought and contamination. Springs Utilities revealed to News 5 that the company is already helping in the efforts to deliver clean water to the three impacted communities after learning they had man-made compounds above the EPA’s new advisory level in their groundwater. “Right now, Springs Utilities staff is working with the staff of those entities to determine how they can use their allocations through the Fountain Valley Authority and SDS to augment their groundwater sources,” says CSU water resources manager Brett Gracely.

Colorado Springs shares the Widefield aquifer where the PFCs were found, but it has not used any water from it since the early 2000s. Now the other, smaller districts are scrambling to find other options. Springs citizens agree they should be good neighbors, but are still concerned about their own water. Ratepayer Dennis Moore says, “We’ve got to do something to help them, but how do we help them within our own resources without depleting our resources? It’s going to be interesting, so they’ve got to find a manageable way to do that.”

Instead of using its planned share of Pueblo Reservoir water through SDS and the FVA pipelines, Colorado Springs is letting the others siphon off a greater allotment, using other already established sources to provide water to its customers. Gracely says, “Because it’s a joint public health concern, it’s not well-defined, so we’ll do what we can in terms of in-kind services and our existing collaborations.”

As Colorado Springs continues to explore new options for retaining and delivering water for future generations, citizens agree that it is better to have extra as an insurance plan, since you never know when you will need it. “I remember back when, when people were fighting SDS and everything,” says Moore, “and now I’m beginning to see it’s a very good reason to have it.”

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

Colorado Springs woman fights for free bottled water for Security-Widefield, Fountain residents

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

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ellie Mulder):

In an online petition that has received about 2,000 signatures, Callie Loudenber is asking local and state officials to pay for bottled water and filters for El Paso County residents whose water she calls “dangerous.”

[…]

After reading about the issue Friday, Loudenber ran an online search on how to create a petition. She was directed to change.org.

She began sharing the petition on her personal social media, and it soon took off.

Although she is asking for short-term solutions, including free bottled water, she also is advocating for a long-term solution “that doesn’t increase these residents bills to pay for a problem they didn’t create and have been living with for years,” according to the petition.

She emphasizes that someone doesn’t have to live in the Security area to be concerned about the issue of contaminated water.

“I want it in people’s minds. I want people to be talking about it, thinking about it – not just in Colorado,” she said. “This could happen anywhere, and it’s something we need to take seriously.”

She’s a stay-at-home mother who lives in Colorado Springs, but she has already witnessed the effect the situation is having on her family members who live in Security Water District’s Zone 1. Her aunt, for example, has asked family not to visit because “she doesn’t feel comfortable” about it, Loudenber said.

In addition to creating the petition, she has reached out to businesses and organizations, including Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, which will hold a bottled water distribution for affected residents from 10 a.m. to noon Friday at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, 5354 U.S. Highway 85.

Loudenber said she plans to volunteer at the distribution.

Shannon Brice, Care and Share’s marketing and communications director, said the organization wants to make sure residents don’t have to cut into their food budgets to buy bottled water.

“We’re well aware of the need for people to have healthy food and nourishment for their bodies,” Brice said. “We wanted to make sure we were part of the solution.”

Danielle Oller, spokeswoman for El Paso County Public Health, said a community meeting is planned for 6 p.m. July 7 to provide “clear information to residents to address the concerns that they’re having. Information about the location will be released shortly.

The county will also test private wells for free, Oller said. For more information, call El Paso County Public Health at 575-8602.

On the petition’s page, Loudenber shares links to articles and places to go for further information. Many include examples of how other states have dealt with similar issues.

“I’m really careful to make sure I stay away from anything that looks like it might be relayed to a conspiracy theory, because I don’t want to invalidate what we’re doing,” she said.

The petition, titled “Free Bottled Water for Security, CO,” can be found at http://change.org/p/colorado-governor-free-bottled-water-for-security-co.

Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival slated for Friday and Saturday

Photo via Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival
Photo via Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Boat races, bounce houses, live music and plenty of refreshments are all in the lineup for this year’s Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival slated for Friday and Saturday.

Competitors will take on the waves of the Arkansas River to try everything from freestyle and downriver kayak, raft and paddle board races to inner tube and Build Your Own Boat races. For those who want to stay on dry land, competitions held in the Whitewater Kayak and Recreation Park section of the river are visible from Centennial Park and the Fourth Street pedestrian bridge.

Throughout the two-day event, live music will run on two stages. Performances are slated to kick off at 3 p.m. Friday at Centennial Park with the Polynesian- influenced alternative rock performer Kai’mi Hanano’eau of Hawaii.

In addition to dozens of water-related events, the festival will feature the Whitewater Adventure Race, or WAR, where runners get obstacles like a mud pit, ice bath, pipe crawl and other challenges thrown at them. A fun zone full of bounce houses for children, merchant and food vendors, a beer garden, yoga and a fly-casting competition will round out offerings.

Other stage performers will include the Eric Tessmer rock and blues band, the Judd Hoos country rock band, Colorado based reggae band Irie Still, country musicians Adam Ashley and Kinsey Sadler and Colorado Springs rock band Wrestle With Jimmy.

The festival favorite, the BYOB (Build Your Own Boat) Race, is slated for 5:15 p.m. Saturday and gives spectators the thrill of watching amateur watercraft builders and their crews take to the river in an all-out sprint for buoyant glory.

Admission to the festival is $5 per person. Cost for a fun zone wristband and all-day access to bounce houses is $10 per child.

For a complete schedule of events log on to http://royalgorgewhitewaterfestival.com.

Widefield aquifer: Looking for the source of PFC pollution

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

From KKTV.com (Alyssa Chin):

The Widefield Water and Sanitation District said while their PFC levels are not too far above the limit.

During a public meeting this afternoon, they suspected firefighting foam used at Peterson Air Force base years ago could be the culprit.

Perflourinated chemicals, also known as PFCs, were found in wells in Security, Widefield and Fountain.

That prompted a health advisory for pregnant women and babies, and that concern is spreading…

The Air Force started using PFC based firefighting foam in 1970 to put out fuel based fires and told us they stopped using it about 10 years ago.

A map outlines where PFC foam was used at nearby local military installations in relation to Security and Widefield.

Fort Carson told us, their one fire training site will be tested in the near future. But, added their water couldn’t have moved uphill to the affected area.

Peterson Air Force Base told us, they just tested their two fire training sites. Those preliminary results will be public in the next few months. They are scheduled to have the sites tested again in May 2017, but said, based on the results of the preliminary test, that date could be moved up.

That’s where Widefield believes their problem begins.

In May 2016, the EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) lowered the allowed limit of PFCs in the water.

Widefield Water said more than 60% of their water has no traces of PFCs. And before the new guidelines, they were well below the accepted levels.

In security, the PFC levels tested much higher than Widefield’s. The water department there said it could be decades before the chemicals work their way out of the water supply.

“It made me immediately stop using everything- ice included. I don’t want another Flint happening here,” Security resident Latisha Mapu previously told us.

Widefield Water said they hope to have a plan ready to fix the problem in the next few months.

In the meantime, they said homeowners can install a reverse osmosis system or use carbon water filters in the home.

For a look at the affected areas in Security, Widefield, and Fountain click here.

For Colorado Springs Utilities customers and Pueblo Water Works customers, they told us this issue wouldn’t happen because those utilities get their water from places like Pueblo Reservoir and not well water.

From KRDO.com:

Members of the Widefield Water District held a public meeting this week, where citizens asked many questions. The most common question asked, was how people can protect themselves.

“You can get an activated carbon filter and a reverse osmosis filter,” said Brandon Bernard with Widefield Water District.

The different filter options cost anywhere from $30 to $500.

“Make sure the filters are NSF (National Science Foundation) approved, and follow all the recommended guidelines when you purchase your filter,” Bernard said.

But the idea of filters isn’t easing everyone’s mind…

Water district members say Widefield does not have a higher rate of cancer or developmental issues compared to anywhere else in Colorado.

“Widefield is going above and beyond, we’re improving our blending stations and looking into future treatment options,” said Brenard.

Meanwhile, local water companies are seeing a sudden spike in bottled water sales.

“This is by far the most interest in bottled water that we’ve seen here by far,” said Rick Baker, co-owner of Springs Mountain Water in Colorado Springs…

In just two days the business sold one month’s worth of water jugs.