#COWaterPlan: The Irrigation and Water Efficiency Conference, January 20

Ridgway via AllTelluride.com
Ridgway via AllTelluride.com

From The Montrose Daily Press (Devin O’Brien):

The Shavano Conservation District will provide an opportunity for area residents to slake their thirst for information about the Colorado Water Plan and water management.

The Irrigation and Water Efficiency Conference will address the recently adopted plan as well as management methods, Colorado water law, funding for irrigation improvements and wildlife habitat, according to a press release. Shavano Conservation District President Ken Lipton said information about the future of water use in Colorado is applicable to those whose interest is agricultural, environmental or otherwise.

“It’s important that every citizen understands the Colorado Water Plan,” Lipton said. “It’ll affect everyone.”

One of the areas the conference will cover will be small acreage management, which, according to Lipton, is growing in popularity in Montrose and Ouray counties.

John Rizza, a Small Acreage Management Specialist, is one of the speakers at the event. Water rotation among small farms and crops able to withstand drought are among the subjects he will address.

Oftentimes small acreage farms are formed by dividing land from a larger farm. In terms of water, this means a source is being used by multiple people for the first time, according to Rizza. Communication with other landowners is necessary to ensure a water source isn’t compromised through multiple people watering their fields on the same day. This is especially important in areas prone to droughts.

Another method of small acreage water management comes in the form of the perennial farm system. Perennial crops, such as the feed crops of Needle and Thread, Blue Grama, Indiana Rice Grass and Wheatgrass, are able to adapt to waterless conditions by hibernating. What results is a crop that is able to thrive until precipitation returns to an area.

“They can handle a little bit of drought and still produce a well for landowners,” Rizza said…

Other speakers include Special Policy Advisor to the Governor for Water John Stulp and former Division Four Water Court Referee Aaron Clay.

The conference is sponsored by the Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the Natural Resource Conservation Service in addition to the Shavano Conservation District…

The event will be 2 p.m. Wednesday Jan. 20 at the 4-H Event Center in Ridgway. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP by calling (970) 249-8407, or emailing mendystewart@co.nacdnet.net

SDS — American Infrastructure Magazine “Water Project of the Year”

Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com
Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

From American Infrastructure Magazine (Genevieve Smith):

Not many cities can claim their infrastructure was of leading concern from the beginning, but Colorado Springs is one of them. Concrete evidence was left in a time capsule by one of the city’s founding engineers, Edwin W. Sawyer, via documents dated in 1901 which state, “It seems to me that nothing except the lack of water can stop the growth of a city so desirable for residence as this…Our people are becoming aroused to the need of securing at once all the available reservoir sites and water rights…”

Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation
Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

Continuing in the same water-conscious spirit as those earlier citizens, three different mayors and at least eight previous city councils have been involved and invested in the planning of the Southern Delivery System, American Infrastructure magazine’s Water Project of the Year.

Awarded for its forward-thinking and comprehensive approach to water management, the regional project will be built in phases through 2040 based on customer demands, and will bring water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs and partner communities, Fountain, Security, and Pueblo West.

The project is more than a simple fix for major pipelines that are now over 50-years-old and nearing capacity; Jerry Forte, the current CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities, hopes that this project “will serve as an engine, driving more efficiency, effectiveness, and reliability in our system.”

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

Phase I, which is now under construction, will transport water from Pueblo Reservoir through approximately 50 miles of underground pipeline, and is on schedule for April 2016. The project is estimated to cost $841 million at completion (thus far, under budget by $156 million)…

The four-part Water Resource Plan, of which the SDS is the major component, includes conservation, non-potable water development, existing system improvements, and major water delivery systems (the SDS itself). After the 2002 drought heightened public awareness of water scarcity, Colorado Springs has been able to make improvements to increase the efficiency of the existing water system before constructing SDS. Today, their per capita residential water use is among the lowest in the region. Colorado Springs also has the second-largest nonpotable water system in the state and has expanded their use of non-potable water in recent years.

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

Like any other project, this process hasn’t gone without headaches. However, clearing some of these hurdles was no easy feat, including dozens of permits and an Environmental Impact Statement that took almost six years to complete. In order to mitigate concerns that the proposed SDS would cause damage to Fountain Creek and surrounding wetland areas, a significant portion of the $1.4 billion overall cost of the project is a $75 million in wastewater system improvements to help prevent wastewater spills into Fountain Creek, a $50 million payment to the newly formed Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District; additional payments will be allocated towards various mitigation and flow maintenance programs on Fountain Creek in the future.

Reclamation Releases a Draft Environmental Assessment for the Lake Durango Water Pipeline

Lake Nighthorse via the USBR
Lake Nighthorse via the USBR

Here’s the release from Reclamation (Justyn Liff):

The Bureau of Reclamation has released a draft environmental assessment for the Lake Durango Water Pipeline Project.

The La Plata West Water Authority is proposing to construct a 4.6 mile water pipeline from Lake Nighthorse, part of the Animas-La Plata Project to Lake Durango in La Plata County, Colo. The purpose of the water pipeline is to meet the current and future needs for domestic water supply in western La Plata County.

The proposed project includes 4.6 miles of pipeline, an access road to the intake structure, a new 40×40-foot building around the existing intake chamber, a parking area, and a booster pump station. Currently, there is no way to pump water out of Lake Nighthorse. The pipeline and associated facilities will provide access and a way to deliver Animas-La Plata Project water.

The draft environmental assessment is available online at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/progact/animas/index.html, under the Environmental Compliance tab or a copy can be received by contacting Phillip Rieger at 970-385-6515.

Reclamation will consider all comments received prior to preparing a final environmental assessment. Written comments can be submitted by email to prieger@usbr.gov or mailed to Phillip Rieger, Bureau of Reclamation, 185 Suttle St. Ste. 2, Durango, CO 81301. Comments are due by Monday, January 10, 2016.

USBR: Reclamation Seeks Proposals for Water Treatment Research, Laboratory Studies and Pilot-Scale Projects for Desalination and Water Purification

Salt Works desalination process
Salt Works desalination process

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

As part of an ongoing effort to further technological advances related to imbalances between water supply and demand, the Bureau of Reclamation announced today it will seek proposals for research, laboratory studies and pilot-scale projects that target increasing the usable supply of water in the United States as part of its Desalination and Water Purification Research Program. Today’s announcement occurred as private sector and governmental representatives attended a White House Roundtable on Water Innovation being led by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and other senior Administration officials. Participants at the roundtable are discussing how to plan, efficiently use and develop new clean water supplies to ensure our nation’s resilience to water supply shortages.

Reclamation will provide up to $150,000 for the research and laboratory studies. Between five and 15 projects are expected to receive funding. Studies must be completed within one year. All applicants are required to have a minimum of a 50 percent non-federal cost-share except for institutions of higher learning. Institutions of higher learning are encouraged to have some cost-share.

For pilot-scale projects, Reclamation will provide up to $200,000 per year, per project. The pilot-scale projects must be completed within two years. Between one and five projects are expected to receive funding. All applicants must provide at least 50 percent non-federal cost-share.

Individuals, higher education institutions, commercial or industrial organizations, private and public entities (including state and local), non-profit organizations, and Indian Tribal Governments are all eligible to apply for these funding opportunities.

The Desalination and Water Purification Research Program is helping Reclamation and its partners confront widening imbalances between supply and demand in basins throughout the Western United States through testing and development of new advanced water treatment technologies.

The DWPR Program focuses on three main goals: (1) augment the supply of usable water in the United States; (2) understand the environmental impacts of desalination and develop approaches to minimize these impacts relative to other water supply alternatives; (3) develop approaches to lower the financial costs of desalination so that it is an attractive option relative to other alternatives in locations where traditional sources of water are inadequate.

The funding opportunity announcements are available at http://www.grants.gov. For research and laboratory studies, search for announcement number R16-FOA-DO-009. For pilot scale studies, R16-FOA-DO-010. Phase one applications are due by 4 p.m. MST on Feb. 8, 2016. The phase two deadline is 4 p.m. MDT on April 27, 2016.

Visit Reclamation’s Desalination and Water Purification Research Program, please visit: http://www.usbr.gov/research/programs/desalination/ for more information.

USBR: WaterSMART Grant Funding Available for Water Conservation and Energy Efficiency Projects

Orchard Mesa circa 1911
Orchard Mesa circa 1911

From the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Last month, the Bureau of Reclamation invited states, tribes, irrigation districts, water districts and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to participate in its latest WaterSMART grant opportunity. A total of $21 million in cost-shared funding is available for water conservation and energy efficiency projects that help move the West towards resilience in the face of drought and ongoing imbalances between water supply and demand.

The grant opportunity, which closes on January 20, 2016, is being highlighted as part of a series of initiatives related to water resilience the Obama Administration will feature in this week’s scheduled White House Roundtable on Water Innovation. The Roundtable will feature Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell along with other senior Administration officials and several private sector investors, in discussions on ways to plan, efficiently use and develop new clean water supplies to ensure our nation’s resilience to water supply and demand imbalances.

WaterSMART aims to improve water conservation and sustainability, helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. The program identifies strategies to ensure this generation and future ones will have sufficient amounts of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water demands.

Reclamation awarded more than $23 million for 50 Water and Energy Efficiency Grants in 2015. Since 2009, Reclamation has provided more than $174 million in funding through WaterSMART Grants to states, Tribes and other partners. That funding is being leveraged with more than $426 million in non-federal funding to complete more than $600 million in improvements, which are expected to result in annual water savings of more than 570,000 acre-feet once completed, enough water for more than 2.2 million people.

Applications may be submitted under one of two funding groups:

  • Funding Group I: Up to $300,000 will be available for smaller projects that may take up to two years to complete.
  • Funding Group II: Up to $1 million will be available for larger, phased projects that will take up to three years to complete.
  • Proposals must seek to conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, carry out activities to address climate-related impacts on water, or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict. To view examples of previous successful applications, including projects with a wide-range of eligible activities, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/weeg.

    The funding opportunity announcement is available at http://www.grants.gov using funding opportunity number R16-FOA-DO-004. Proposals must be submitted as indicated on http://www.grants.gov by 4 p.m., MST, Jan. 20, 2016. It is anticipated that awards will be made in spring 2016. To learn more about WaterSMART please visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.

    Upper #ColoradoRiver Endangered Fish Recovery Program update

    Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program
    Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

    From KUNC (Laura Palmisano):

    It all started in 1988 when the federal government signed an agreement with Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, establishing what’s called the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

    Endangered fish at various stages of development can be found at the Colorado River Fishery Project, a national fish hatchery in Grand Junction, Colorado. Right now, the hatchery is home to two species, the endangered razorback sucker and the bonytail.

    “Back when I first started, pikeminnow were probably doing better,” said Dale Ryden, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “There were more big fish throughout the [Colorado River] basin. I had worked here for four years before I ever saw a razorback sucker out of the wild. They just weren’t around anymore. Same thing with bonytail. Bonytail were extremely, extremely rare.”

    The recovery program includes federal and state agencies, environmentalists, hydropower associations and water user groups. Unlike some efforts to conserve other species, it hasn’t involved litigation.

    “Working toward the same goal of recovering the fish, while allowing water development to continue… those two at first blush don’t seem to go together,” Ryden said. “But they actually work together very well.”

    Just to the south of town on the Gunnison River, a tributary of the Colorado, sits a diversion dam built in the early 1900s. It blocked fish from traveling upstream for nearly 100 years, until Ryden said, they put a fish ladder on the dam.

    “It goes up and around the Redlands Dam and provides upstream fish passage for native and endangered fish.”

    The ladder is a selective passage. Biologists use it to trap fish traveling upstream. Then they hand-sort them so only native fish can continue up the Gunnison River. Two similar ladders have been installed along the Colorado and another is in the works on the Green River in Utah.

    Fish ladder at the Redlands diversion dam via KVNF
    Fish ladder at the Redlands diversion dam via KVNF

    The ladders might help fish get to their upstream habitats, but water levels also matter.

    Brent Uilenburg with the Bureau of Reclamation said there is some recognition that “the dams and canals we operate that take water out of the Colorado River Basin have contributed to the decline of the species.”[…]

    The bureau is also the largest single source of funding for the conservation program. States, water developers, and hydropower associations also contribute, totaling more than $350 million over the past 25 years.

    That funding helped the Grand Valley Water Users Association in Grand Junction optimize its system. Before, said Kevin Conrad, the association’s operations manager, they diverted more water than necessary.

    “Whatever they weren’t using, it went out through spillways on the canal back to the river, but it was below a point where the fish couldn’t benefit from it.”

    Conrad said the upgrades also help conserve water and keep it in place for the fish.

    The ultimate goal of the recovery program is to remove the fish from the endangered species list. Biologist Dale Ryden said habitat restoration, water flow improvements, hatchery programs, and invasive fish removal are helping the fish rebound.

    “Probably the biggest star in terms of recovery prospects is the razorback sucker,” said Ryden. “Bonytail are really doing much better with the really robust stocking program.”

    Humpback chub seem stable, but Ryden said questions remain about the Colorado pikeminnow.

    This story comes from ‘Connecting the Drops’ – a collaboration between Rocky Mountain Community Radio and the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. Find out more at http://cfwe.org.