2016 #coleg: Conservation Colorado hands bouquets to Democrats, rocks to Republicans — The Denver Post

Roan Cliffs Aerial via Rocky Mountain Wild
Roan Cliffs Aerial via Rocky Mountain Wild

Click here to go to the scorecard page on the @ConservationCO website.

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

Graded on 17 energy and environment bills picked by Conservation Colorado, 31 of 34 Democrats in the state House scored 100. Eleven of 17 Democrats in the Senate got perfect scores, as well.

On the Republican side, Rep. Kevin Priola scored the highest in his House caucus, 44 percent. Sens. Randy Baumgardner, Bill Cadman, Larry Crowder, Owen Hill, Ellen Roberts, Mark Scheffel and Jack Tate topped all party members in the upper chamber at 27 percent each.

Of the three Democrats who were less than perfect by Conservation Colorado’s grade, Rep. Ed Vigil scored the lowest, 67 percent, for his votes on three unsuccessful bills, House Bill 1441, requiring the Public Utilities Commission to consider the full cost of carbon for electricity generation; House Bill 1310 to make operators liable for oil and gas operations; and House Bill 1355 on local governments’ authority over where oil and gas facilities locate.

Reps. Millie Hamner and Paul Rosenthal each scored 89 percent. Rosenthal was docked for his vote on House Bill 1355. Hamner was flagged for voting against House Bill 1228, which became law and allows one-year water rights transfers.

In the Senate, Mary Hodge was the lowest scoring Democrat with 80 percent. She lost points on two bills. She voted with Republicans in favor of Senate Bill 007, which would have encouraged the use of biomass fuel for renewable energy generation in areas with high risk of wildfire.

She also voted in favor of Senate Bill 210, which would have allowed voters to decide whether to borrow money to expedite major road-and-bridge projects.

Democratic Sens. Kerry Donovan, Cheri Jahn, John Kefalas, Linda Newell and Nancy Todd each scored 91 percent. They also voted for Senate Bill 007, which passed the Senate 24-11, but was killed by a Democrat-led House committee.

The lowest scores in the Senate went to Republicans Kevin Grantham, Kent Lambert and Vicki Marble, each with a 9.

The lowest scores in the House, at 11 each, were assigned to Republicans Justin Everett, Gordon Klingenschmitt, Clarice Navarro and Jim Wilson.

#ColoradoRiver: Gov. Hickenlooper endorses Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — @DenverWater #COriver

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has officially endorsed Denver Water’s proposed Gross Reservoir Expansion Project as a model for achieving a balanced approach to environmental protection and water supply development through an inclusive and collaborative public process.

The endorsement follows the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s issuance of a Section 401 Water Quality Certification on June 23, 2016, which ensures compliance with state water quality standards. The certification confirms that Denver Water’s commitment to extensive mitigation and enhancement measures for the project will result in a net environmental benefit.

“The state’s responsibility is to ensure we do the right thing for Colorado’s future, and this project is vital infrastructure for our economy and the environment,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “The partnerships and collaboration between Denver Water, the West Slope and conservation organizations associated with this project are just what the Colorado Water Plan is all about.”

The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — also known as the Moffat Collection System Project — will strengthen Denver Water’s system against drought and climate change by nearly tripling the capacity of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County.

“Colorado is a growing and dynamic state,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead. “Denver Water has the critical responsibility to sustain over 25 percent of the state’s population and the majority of our economy for decades to come.”

Since 2003, Denver Water has been involved in federal, state and local permitting processes to evaluate the proposed project and develop ways to not only mitigate identified impacts, but also to enhance the aquatic environment and the economy of Colorado. The 401 certification — one of the major regulatory requirements — recognizes and builds upon other existing Denver Water agreements such as the landmark Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, Learning by Doing cooperative effort and the Grand County Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan.

“The Denver metropolitan area is tied to the economic and environmental health of the rest of the state, and Denver Water is committed to undertake this project in a way that enhances Colorado’s values,” said Lochhead.

Denver Water expects to secure all of the major permits for the project by the end of 2017. The estimated cost of the project is about $380 million, which includes design, management, permitting, mitigation and construction.

Visit http://grossreservoir.org to read more about the project and http://denverwaterblog.org for videos with voices from a few of the many project supporters including, Gov. Hickenlooper, Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Here’s a post from Brent Gardner-Smith (Aspen Journalism) dealing with the subject but with a West Slope angle.

How healthy is the Poudre River? — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water
Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacey Marmaduke):

Citing low flows in the winter and insufficient flushing flows in the spring, river experts give the health of the Cache la Poudre River moderate marks. Ken Kehmeier, senior fishery biologist at Colorado Parks and Wildlife, gives it a “C-plus.” Ellen Wohl, a Colorado State University geosciences professor, prefers “needs improvement.”

“It’s not going to catch on fire like the Cuyahoga River did in the ‘60s, but it’s a very different river than it was in say, 1858,” she said. “I’d never give up on the Poudre. It’s ailing in health, but it can recover, and it’s not anywhere near being done.”

What does the future hold for the Poudre? That interpretation depends a lot on who you ask. It also will depend on how Northern Colorado leaders respond to potential obstacles raised by climate change, urban development and the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

Climate change

Colorado’s in a weird spot when it comes to climate predictions.

While it’s clear temperatures will increase — they already have — there’s no consensus on whether climate change will bring more, less or the same precipitation to Colorado.

Regardless, warmer temperatures are an issue for the Poudre and its aquatic life and water users. The Poudre is fed primarily by mountain snowmelt, and as Colorado’s average temperatures rise, the spring pulse — the onset of higher spring flows fed by snowmelt — will come earlier than usual.

John Stokes, Fort Collins Natural Areas director, said he already sees it happening on the Poudre.

“Our snowmelt is getting earlier and earlier. It’s probably about two weeks earlier now than it used to be,” Stokes said. “As that accelerates, what does that do to our storage in the mountains, which is snow and ice? We rely on the timing of that storage.”

Not everybody agrees with Stokes. Poudre River Commissioner Mark Simpson said flows have varied so much during the last 50 years that he doesn’t see a shift in the peak, which generally occurs around the first week of June.

[Ellen Wohl] said she hasn’t necessarily noticed that trend on the Poudre — the system is so meticulously managed that it can be hard to tell when high flows are the work of Mother Nature or water engineers, she added…

Development

The biggest protection — literally — is a development buffer zone of 300 feet on either side of the river through most of Fort Collins. That’s nearly the length of a football field. The buffer zone, which is enhanced by city ownership of most of the land along the river, quells any fears that the Poudre will one day turn into a built-out river walk. It also mitigates flood risk.

“Maybe In a perfect world we would have had quarter- or half-mile setbacks from the river,” Stokes said. “This river used to go all over the place. It would change its course frequently. But now, it’s pretty much locked into its location because of the way we’ve developed around it.”

[…]

NISP

Proponents say Northern Colorado needed NISP yesterday. Opponents argue that the project will irreversibly damage the river that has long been a lifeblood for the region.

Reservoirs are “exhibit A” for the future of Western water, said Brian Werner, spokesman for NISP initiator Northern Water.

“We’re going to need reservoirs for the next 200 years,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out where to store that water in the wet times so you can use it in the dry times.”

It’s easy to reduce NISP to a lengthy timeline and a lot of bureaucratic jargon, but it’s more than that. The project has become symbolic of a major question about the future of water use: How do we meet the water needs of staggering population growth without harming our rivers?

NISP would divert from the Poudre during peak springtime flows. That causes concern for many because the river needs flushing flows to thrive.

“As the water moves, it has the power to carry things,” Kehmeier said. “When you take that power away from it, then all those sediment pieces drop out and deposit on the (river bed).”

Sediment buildup can make the river dirtier, smellier and fill it with algae and non-native, potentially invasive, species.

Wohl is skeptical of NISP, partially because of the flushing flows issue and partially because the river already lacks a natural flow regime.

Downstream, “the volume of the water isn’t really natural,” Wohl said. “That has a cascade of effects. If you change the amount of water in a river, you change the energy available for processes like picking up and moving sediment, you change the shape and size of the river, you change the habitat available for organisms.”

But it’s possible for NISP to coexist with a healthy river if Northern Water plans accordingly, Kehmeier said.

“With these flushing flows, you’re looking for a recurrence interval,” he said. “Every one-and-a-half to two years, you should have a flow that’s considered bank-full.”

NISP could also boost historically low winter flows on the Poudre by releasing reservoir water into the river during dry times, Kehmeier said.

“From a fisheries standpoint, the Poudre is as limited by low flows, probably more so, than it is by flushing flows,” he said. “Fish don’t survive very well without water.”

Wintertime releases are a component of Northern Water’s recently unveiled conveyance refinement proposal, which is basically a plan to run 14,000 acre feet of the diverted water through most of the Poudre’s stretch in Fort Collins. The move was partially intended to address some of the city of Fort Collins’ issues with NISP, but the city, which is not a NISP member, has yet to respond to the new plan…

What’s next for NISP:

The Army Corps of Engineers says it will release a final environmental impact statement for the project sometime in 2017. After that must come a 401 permit and a record of decision, which NISP opposition group Save the Poudre Executive Director Gary Wockner anticipates will come in 2019. If the record of decision approves the project, Save the Poudre is prepared to challenge it in court, setting off a legal battle which could take years.

Local water user groups share in federal grants — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Photo via the State of Idaho.
Photo via the State of Idaho.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Two Western Slope water users associations will benefit from a federal effort to help mitigate drought issues and combat climate change.

The Grand Valley and Uncompahgre Valley water user associations were among 76 projects chosen nationwide to receive part of a $47 million grant program announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior.

For Grand Valley, that means $300,000 toward an $800,000 project to improve hydraulic efficiency for the top 500 feet of its Canyon Canal.

The association will install a polyvinyl chloride liner and a shotcrete wear surface to minimize water seepage.

For Uncompahgre, it means a $1 million grant for a $6.8 million project to install a 2.4 megawatt hydroelectric facility on one of its existing irrigation canals.

Other grants in Colorado are to go to an irrigation company that operates in Larimer and Weld counties, and a sanitation district in Arapahoe County.

“Water and energy efficiency are intricately linked,” Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan Lopez said. “When we conserve water, we also conserve the energy it takes to move it. One way we can achieve these efficiencies is to bring federal resources to the table for local projects that focus on saving water.”

The money was part of a competitive grant process called the WaterSmart sustainable water initiative.

All together, the 76 projects are expected to save about 123,000 acre-feet of water.

Drip your way to a healthy, water-wise garden — Steamboat Today

Drip irrigation graphic via Sonoma County Nurseries Resource
Drip irrigation graphic via Sonoma County Nurseries Resource

From Steamboat Today (Jackie Buratovich):

Thinking about changing your garden from a traditional sprinkler system to drip? Dazed and confused in the irrigation aisle at the garden center? No budget for an irrigation contractor? Fear not, drip irrigation is easier than it looks.

First, draw a plan of your yard. Use one corner of the lot or the house as your “control point,” measure the distance to all features from this point and transfer the measurements to paper, using 1/4 inch to represent 1 foot in the field.

Locate big things first — the house, other structures, trees, shrubs, driveway and walkways. Then locate the exterior faucets and water supply to any existing irrigation system. Measure and draw existing and planned flower and vegetable beds and turf areas. When complete, make a couple copies of the drawing for planning purposes.

Next, group plants with similar water requirements into single zones and consider how often each plant grouping/zone needs water. Turf should be irrigated with traditional sprinklers on its own zone(s) — avoid mixing drip lines and sprinklers in one zone.

Shrubs and trees need deep watering infrequently. In general, shady areas need water less often than those in full sun. Vegetables have higher water needs than flowers. Tomatoes are finicky so you may want to water those by hand. New plantings, even xeric, will need more water until established.

If you have a traditional sprinkler irrigation system, you can convert whole zones to drip. Most sprinklers are connected to water supply piping with a ½-inch threaded nipple. Simply remove the sprinkler and replace it with an adapter purchased from your local home center. From this adapter, run the larger, usually ½-inch, plastic piping along one side or in the middle of the zone; this line can be mulched over after the installation is complete.

Note: there are several brands of drip irrigation equipment and, in general, their piping and parts are not interchangeable. Select a brand that is available near you and stick with it. “Professional grade” materials seem to last longer.

There are three basic types of “drip” devices: drip emitters, micro-sprinklers and misters. Your plants’ watering needs will determine the type of drip device you install.

Drip emitters include soaker hoses, tubing with emitters embedded every 6 to 12 inches, laser-drilled tubing, adjustable emitters on stakes and single drippers rated at various flows. Micro-sprinklers are usually mounted on stakes with varying areas of coverage and flow rates. Misters are used to humidify an area or to start seeds but are not great for watering mature plants. These devices connect directly to the larger supply line or at the end of ¼-inch plastic tubing, routed to the base of plants.

Many drip systems use micro-sprinklers positioned at regular intervals; however, emitters and soaker lines do not wet the plant leaves and spread disease, or use precious water on areas with no plant roots, thereby encouraging weeds. Simply place an emitter or two at each plant or shrub, or snake a soaker hose throughout your perennial bed.

Remember that drip irrigation is very flexible and adjustable and parts can and should be changed as your landscape matures. You may start greens from seed with a micro-sprinkler, but as they emerge and become little plants, you then switch to an emitter line, reducing the chance of powdery mildew and leaf burn.

Other essential drip irrigation parts include various fittings that connect drip lines to supply lines or drip emitters/sprayers to drip lines. There are good manufacturers’ installation guides at home centers or online, and most centers have knowledgeable staff available to answer questions.

Drip irrigation uses less water at lower pressures than traditional turf sprinkler systems. Key to the success of your drip system is an adjustable pressure-reducing valve and pressure gauge on the system water supply that adjusts the outlet (system) pressure to 25 to 35 psi.

Additionally, plumbing code requires a backflow prevention device be installed. These two devices should be located on the irrigation supply line, downstream from where it connects to the house water system.

#ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan: Making water conservation a reality #COriver

Colorado River in Eagle County via the Colorado River District
Colorado River in Eagle County via the Colorado River District

From the Middle Colorado Watershed Council (Dan Ben-Horin) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

It may be difficult to think of water conservation now as we look out our windows at rivers and creeks swollen with spring runoff, but we need to remind ourselves of where we live. Here in the Colorado River Basin, we live with a constant threat of a looming drought.

As Eric Kuhn wrote in his May 12 article in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, “we cannot be fooled by talk of a continuing drought. Instead, we need to be diligent and prepared for the next drought.” Our current reality includes an increasing population and a decreasing water supply, and it is now time for us to realize how far conservation measures can improve our water use efficiency.

As part of the recently published Colorado Water Plan, one of the Colorado River Basin’s themes is to encourage a high level of conservation. Statewide, we have done a remarkable job of reducing water use, with per-capita use dropping by almost 20 percent over the past decade. Some municipalities have even cut water use by as much as 30 percent during this time period. Incredible work has been done thus far, and we can now build upon what we learned statewide.

Many entities in the state are now required to have a specific water conservation plan approved by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Locally, the Roaring Fork Conservancy partnered with the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, Ruedi Water and Power Authority and local municipalities in the Roaring Fork Watershed to develop a water efficiency plan. The plan consists of water efficiency plans for Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, as well as a regional plan that applies the common elements of the five individual plans to the watershed.

Plans such as this outline actions steps for reaching conservation goals by identifying best practices such as landscape efficiencies, water loss management features and variable rate structures. A successful conservation strategy must look beyond past accomplishments and create a specific action plan to meet conservation goals.

The water saving benefits resulting from water efficiency projects are tremendous. Reductions in water demands allow providers to save money on annual operations and maintenance. Further reductions in municipal water use would provide increased longevity on facilities right here in our communities.

In addition to these water supply benefits, we can achieve other benefits, such as an improved environment. Reduced wastewater discharges through indoor water savings can improve water quality and aquatic habitat in our lakes, rivers and streams.

Conservation also acts as a management tool to buffer against drought. Water providers can store water in a drought reserve as a long-term water conservation effort, and use those reserves during periods of shortages. As Mr. Kuhn pointed out in his May 12 article, when we entered the drought period of 2000-04, both Lake Powell and Lake Mead were completely full. Having reserves allowed us to mitigate the potentially devastating consequences of those dry years. With those lakes currently sitting at approximately 40 percent of capacity, what would happen if we were to enter into a period of prolonged drought today?

We cannot allow ourselves to become shortsighted when water is plentiful. It is time to build upon the conservation measures and efficiency savings we have already achieved. By adopting a variety of strong, permanent tools, we can fulfill our ongoing obligation to conserve water resources. The reality of climate change is that hotter, drier weather will become the new normal in the West, so conservation of our precious resource should become the new normal as well. As we learn and adapt to living in this semi-arid climate, we can make conservation become the new water reality.

Dan Ben-Horin is a watershed specialist for the Middle Colorado Watershed Council, which works to evaluate, protect and enhance the health of the Middle Colorado River Watershed through the cooperative effort of watershed stakeholders. To learn more, go to http://www.midcowatershed.org.

Meanwhile here’s a report about conservation in the water sector in California from Joshua Emerson Smith writing in The Los Angeles Times:

…a new study finds that reductions in urban water use have saved significant amounts of electricity and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The analysis, published by UC Davis, capitalized on the unique circumstances created by California’s drought. It culled statistics that electric utilities and water districts statewide were required to submit because of Gov. Jerry Brown’s unprecedented order for residents and businesses to lower water consumption by an average of 25%.

During Brown’s initial emergency conservation program that stretched from June 2015 through February, energy savings from water conservation totaled 922,543 megawatt-hours — enough to power 135,000 homes for a year, according to the data project…

The electricity saved from less water consumption was substantial enough that during peak summer months last year, savings equaled the effect of all energy efficiency programs offered by major investor-owned utilities in the state combined — and at less than a third of the cost.

“We were quite surprised when we looked at the numbers,” said Frank Loge, director of the UC Davis Center for Water-Energy Efficiency, which produced the new analysis.

“I think people have known this intuitively for a couple of years, but our analysis highlighted it,” he added.

The findings come as environmental groups and water managers have sometimes differed on how much conservation is needed, especially as new supply sources — including desalination plants, expanded reservoirs and water recycling programs — come online.