South Platte Basin: Road de-icer and Cherry Creek

December 31, 2014
De-icer application via FreezGard

De-icer application via FreezGard

From 9News.com (Brandon Rittman):

Denver’s Cherry Creek got saltier over the past decades, with chloride levels on pace to pose a danger to fish in the city’s iconic tributary of the South Platte River…

Cherry Creek’s winter average rose closer to that threshold, measuring 174 mg/l between 2006 and 2010, which is up from a wintertime average of 122 mg/l during the 1990 to 1994 seasons – a jump of 43 percent.

The USGS says as more areas become urbanized, the use of rock salt on roads and sidewalks increases, making its way into streams.

More importantly, the data shows the problem compounding year over year because stream systems are not able to flush out all of the salt during the warm months.

The effect is a higher baseline of salt content each year, allowing the levels to inch upward each cold season in urban areas.

Salt compounds like magnesium chloride and rock salt are highly effective at decreasing the hazards of icy surfaces.

“Deicing operations help to provide safe winter transportation conditions, which is very important,” the study’s lead author Steve Corsi said in a press release. “Findings from this study emphasize the need to consider deicer management options that minimize the use of road salt while still maintaining safe conditions.”

There are few true alternatives to road salt, and other treatments can come with their own pollution problems. For instance, applying sand to roadways can cause air pollution when cars grind the material into dust.

The USGS study found similar increases over the time period in other areas of the country, with the most severe chloride pollution levels measured in midwestern cities like Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland.

Salt applied in winter is a concern year-round. The study concludes, “elevated chloride concentrations in these streams through all seasons have implications on long-term exposures to chloride for aquatic organisms.”

The average summertime chloride level in Cherry Creek rose from 62 to 101 mg/l during the time periods in the study.

By contrast, the study found streams in less-developed areas of Wisconsin and Oregon were able to maintain average chloride levels measurable in single digits.

More water pollution coverage here.


The Special District Association of Colorado recognizes Parker Water and Sanitation for collaboration

October 2, 2014
Rhode Island Hotel 1908 Parker via Best of Parker

Rhode Island Hotel 1908 Parker via Best of Parker

From the Parker Chronicle:

The Parker Water and Sanitation District is one of three special districts to be given a collaboration award this year.

The award was given by the Special District Association of Colorado during an annual conference Sept. 10-12 in Keystone. The collaboration award is given to districts “that have effectively and efficiently partnered with other entities and local governments” to benefit water users, according to a news release.

The PWSD joined with the Rampart Range and Sierra Ridge metro districts on a sewer system for the RidgeGate development in Lone Tree, which is served by Parker Water. The joint effort resulted in reduced infrastructure costs for citizens and an award for all three districts.

Ann Terry, the executive director of the Special District Association, said the project is a “true testament to the success that can be achieved through partnerships.”

More Parker coverage here and here.


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

lakeappreciationday2014cherrycreekstatepark

More Cherry Creek watershed coverage here.


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

May 11, 2014

rueter-hessplans

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

parkerrhodeislandhotel1908bestofparker.jpg

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.


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