@DenverWater: Monthly #conservation tips

Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum
Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

Click here to read the article. Here’s an excerpt:

This summer has been a hot one, but the sizzle doesn’t have to burn out your water-wise mindset.

Here are recommended lawn watering times for August:

  • Fixed spray heads: 14 minutes per zone
  • Rotary/high-efficiency nozzles: 34 minutes per zone
  • Rotor heads: 27 minutes per zone
  • Manual sprinklers: 20 minutes per zone
  • On watering days — limited by the rules to no more than three a week — you can make each minute matter by cycling and soaking. Water when the time is right, which is easy if you remember that time never falls between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

    Water only when your lawn needs a drink. Besides wasting water — and your money — overwatering can lead to weeds, disease and dreaded fungus.

    And here’s a hot tip for smart savings indoors: Our rebates changed this year, so be sure to look up which toilets qualify for rebates before you buy. Only WaterSense-labeled toilets averaging 1.1 gallons or less per flush qualify for a $150 rebate. With a little bit of research, you and your new rebate-worthy throne can rule the world of efficiency.

    2016 #coleg: Let it rain (in barrels) in Colorado — The Greeley Tribune

    From The Greeley Tribune (Samantha Fox):

    Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1005 in May, and now it’s up to residents to buy and install rain barrels, as long as limitations are followed.

    Most single-family homes and townhomes can use rain barrels to collect water, but homeowners can’t have more than two 55-gallon barrels.

    Those who live in residences with homeowners associations shouldn’t buy and install rain barrels right away, though. Like the American flag, an HOA can’t ban the barrels, but it can implement requirements about how they’re used, since the barrels fall under an exterior change. Abby Bearden, office manager and architecture review committee manager for Greeley Community Management, LLC, said rain barrels should be approved prior to installment, that way there are no issues or unforeseen problems.

    Once approval is given, rain barrels can be purchased in a number of hardware stores or online. Installation is relatively simple, but TreePeople, a Los Angeles company that disseminates information about rain barrels, said the water catching devices should be installed on a raised surface, attached to a gutter. A downspout will be needed to get downpour directly into the barrel. It’s also important to make sure the barrel is secure, in case of harsh weather.

    Once the barrels start collecting rain, the water can’t be used for just anything. The new law allows for outside use on the owner’s property, so watering lawns and plants outside is OK, but greenhouses and indoor uses are not allowed.

    Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute, said the barrels should be cleared about once a week during the summer, and should be disconnected during the winter.

    It shouldn’t take too many storms before there is plenty of water gathered to use on lawns and gardens, Waskom said.

    Waskom said he doesn’t anticipate too many people running out and buying rain barrels, but he said in other states, about 10 percent of the population actually uses them. That figure shouldn’t be enough to hurt water right owners, which is a big reason why the controversial legalization of rain barrels was finally approved.

    The way Colorado’s water law works is similar to a first-come, first-serve model. It’s called prior appropriation. The first person to take and use the water for an agricultural, industrial or household reason got the first rights to that water. These are called senior water rights. Those who secured water rights later can use what was remaining after the senior water user took what they were allotted. These are called junior water rights.

    There was concern that rain barrels can prevent runoff into the water sources people have rights to, which would hurt the non-senior holders first, but Colorado State University conducted a study that showed rain barrels shouldn’t hurt the water supply.

    Not everyone was convinced, like Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. He said the bill didn’t do enough to guarantee rain barrel users would be responsible in case their use of rain barrels does hurt in senior water rights holders. He was one of three legislators to vote against the bill.

    There is a provision in case there is a loss of water due to rain barrels, though. It was written into the bill that there can be a reexamination of regulation if there wasn’t enough runoff water getting to water sources.

    “If everyone were to (buy barrels) there are the checks and balances in there so somebody can go back there and look on a regular basis to see if there is, indeed, an impact,” said Northern Water’s Brain Werner in May.

    South Metro drops plans to export Ark Valley water — The Pueblo Chieftain

    WISE System Map via the South Metro Water Supply Authority
    WISE System Map via the South Metro Water Supply Authority

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A new long-term plan by the South Metro Water Supply Authority, which serves 13 water providers in the greater Denver-Aurora area, avoids any mention of taking water from the Arkansas River basin.

    That’s significant, because the group’s 2007 master plan included two possible pipeline routes from the Arkansas River basin as a way of filling future water supply needs. Located in some of the fastest-growing areas of Colorado, South Metro’s population increased to 325,000 in 2016 from 250,000 in 2005.

    South Metro communities were built on water from the Denver Basin aquifer, but began shifting their focus to finding new renewable supplies, conservation and increasing efficiency as ways to stretch their supplies.

    “I think our members wanted to focus on projects that are on a foreseeable timetable,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of the authority. “The study confirms our region’s tremendous progress toward securing a sustainable water future. There is more to be done, but there is no question we are on the right path.”

    With Pure Cycle’s sale of its Fort Lyon Canal water rights last year, no South Metro member has any projects planned in the Arkansas Valley. Pure Cycle is connected to the emerging Rangeview district east of Aurora.

    Annual demand for South Metro is expected to more than double to 120,000 acre-feet (39 billion gallons) by 2065. Increased storage, expanded use of the WISE agreement with Denver and Aurora and continuing conservation efforts are expected to fill 38,400 acre-feet in the next 50 years.

    The WISE agreement allows South Metro areas to reuse return flows from the Denver area through Aurora’s Prairie Waters Project. Reuter-Hess Reservoir and the East Cherry Creek Valley pipeline have opened new ways to use water. Per capita use in the South Metro area has decreased 30 percent since 2000.

    Another 30,000 acre-feet annually of new supplies still are needed by 2065, according to the revised master plan released Tuesday. About two-thirds of that supply is identified in existing projects, but the plan proposes finding the remainder through cooperative agreements with other users in the South Platte and through the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, Hecox said.

    Finally, individual members of the South Metro group are developing innovative solutions. For instance, Sterling Ranch is harvesting rainwater and incorporating conservation into land-use design. Other communities have initiated landscape regulations and some are even paying property owners to remove turf or plants that use excessive amounts of water. Some rate structures have been changed to promote conservation.

    The new plan fits in with Colorado’s Water Plan, which seeks collaborative solutions rather than buying agricultural water rights and drying up farmland.

    “A remarkable transformation is happening in the South Metro region,” said James Eklund, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation board. “Colorado’s Water Plan calls for innovative water management and this study demonstrates how this important region is transitioning to a more sustainable water supply.”

    #ColoradoRiver: Lake Mead still shrinking, but lower consumption offers glimmer of hope — Las Vegas Review-Journal

    lakemeadesince200002292016capviaallenbest

    From The Las Vegas Review-Journal (@RefriedBrean):

    The reservoir that supplies 90 percent of the Las Vegas Valley’s drinking water bottomed out at 1,071.61 feet above sea level on July 1, its lowest level since May 1937, when the lake was filling for the first time behind a newly completed Hoover Dam.

    Though the surface of the lake has ticked back up by about 2 feet since then, it remains 5 feet lower than it was at this time last year and 43 feet lower than it was in early August 2012.

    But the news isn’t all bad.

    The amount of water being drawn from the Colorado River for use in Nevada, Arizona and California is on track to hit its lowest level in more than 20 years, a sign that conservation efforts and temporary cuts by river users are having an effect, at least on the demand side of the ledger…

    If the current federal projection holds, the three lower basin states will combine this year to consume less than 7 million acre-feet of Colorado River water for the first time since 1992…

    That’s a “symbolically important milestone,” said author and long-time environmental journalist John Fleck, because the region’s population has grown by roughly 7 million people since the last time consumption was this low…

    Even with reduced consumption, there will still be more water taken out of the river this year than there is flowing into it.

    As a result, the record low set on July 1 is unlikely to stand for long. Federal forecasters expect Lake Mead to start 2017 about 6 feet higher than it is now, then dip downward again into record territory in April, before bottoming out next June or July at about 1,063 feet above sea level…

    Though Lake Mead’s decline is expected to continue for the next two years at least, forecasters say the reservoir is likely to contain just enough water on Jan. 1, 2017, and Jan. 1, 2018, to avoid a first-ever federal shortage declaration that would trigger mandatory water reductions for Nevada and Arizona…

    Mack said the voluntary cuts and conservation gains made already by cities, farms and water agencies in Nevada, Arizona and California are at least partially responsible for keeping Lake Mead just out of shortage territory. And more cooperative cuts are coming.

    By the end of the year, officials in Nevada, Arizona and California hope to finalize a landmark deal outlining a series of voluntary water reductions designed to prop up Lake Mead and stave off deeper, mandatory cuts for Arizona and Nevada.

    Arizona would shoulder most of the voluntary reductions, but the tentative deal marks the first time California has agreed to share the pain if the drought worsens.

    As it stands now, California is not required to take any cuts to its 4.4 million acre-foot share of the Colorado, which is the largest annual allotment among the seven states that share the river.

    #COWaterPlan: Conservation easements are being used to protect water

    Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth
    Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Conservation easements have figured prominently in the Arkansas River Basin as a way to offer landowners incentives to retain water rights rather than selling them off the land.

    They also underpin Colorado’s Water Plan, mainly through statements in several of the basin implementation plans which fed into the final product.

    Conservation, as a term in the water plan, is often described as reducing water demand, either for urban or agricultural use, in order to protect stream flows.

    But the continued use of water on farms is an important element of the water plan in maintaining the environmental and recreational landscape that makes the state so attractive. Preserving agricultural water requires incentives to prevent it from being sold for uses that, on the surface, appear more lucrative. That’s how conservation easements fit in.

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, formed in 2002 to protect water in the Arkansas River basin, considers conservation easements one of its most valuable tools in preventing water from permanently leaving the land.

    But it’s taken a while for groups that promote conservation easements to come to the roundtables.

    The Pueblo Chieftain asked Ben Lenth, executive director of the San Isabel Land Trust, and Matt Heimerich, conservation director for the Palmer Land Trust’s Lower Arkansas Valley programs, to reflect on how their organizations will connect with Colorado’s Water Plan.

    How do we fill the gap in the Arkansas River Basin within the Colorado Water Plan and Basin Implementation Plan?

    Lenth:

    1. Financially incentivize temporary and intermittent water sharing and leasing agreements for landowners with water rights.
    2. Incentivize efficiency improvements for irrigation without penalizing the water rights holder.
    3. Prioritize water projects that have multiuse functions to benefit as many water users as possible.
    4. Continue to incentivize and/or regulate water conservation measures by municipalities and industry.

    Heimerich:
    It is important to consider that the Colorado Water Plan recognizes the importance of balancing the water needs of municipalities, agricultural and non-consumptive uses, such as recreation, and watershed health.

    As a regional organization, Palmer Land Trust is committed to preserving open spaces, outdoor recreation, and working farms and ranches. Our goals as a land trust are well-aligned with the working tenets of the Colorado Water Plan.

    Past solutions to solving water supply problems at the expense of working farms and ranches and the environment are no longer acceptable. As the state’s largest basin, it is imperative that the identified water supply gap in the Arkansas not create winners and losers over the equitable distribution of this precious resource.

    What projects do you plan to fill the gap?

    Lenth:

    1. Planning and implementing land and water conservation projects to have maximum flexibility for leasing/ sharing water over time.
    2. Water reallocation projects which benefit agriculture, municipalities, recreation and wildlife habitat.

    Heimerich:

    After an in-depth study, Palmer Land Trust made the decision to open an office in Rocky Ford with the purpose of exploring economic-based alternatives to large-scale water transfers from irrigated agricultural to municipalities. Palmer’s conservation easements use language that, in addition to tying the water rights to the land in perpetuity, allow for short-term leasing opportunities when an extended drought threatens the viability of municipal water providers.

    Palmer Land Trust is also an active participant in a coalition of farmers, water providers, locally elected officials and research institutions examining strategies on how to ensure the long-term sustainability of farming under the Bessemer Ditch as farmers face increasing competition for land and water in eastern Pueblo County.

    How do we keep the gaps for agriculture and municipalities from becoming bigger?

    Lenth:

    Integrate landuse planning and water planning. Do not allow subdivisions to be permitted without proven sources of water.

    Heimerich:

    Palmer believes that one of the ways to avert conflicts between municipalities and agriculture is to engage the urban/suburban citizen in a dialogue regarding the importance of irrigated farming to the region’s economy and cultural identity. The demand for locally-grown foods is increasing at a rapid pace.

    Drying up farms along the Arkansas River is counterproductive on many levels. Our visibility in the greater Pikes Peak Region affords Palmer a unique opportunity to help close this gap between agriculture and municipalities.

    2016 #coleg: Rain barrels in #Colorado – what you need to know — The Colorado Independent

    Governor Hickenlooper signed a rain barrel at the HB16-1005 bill signing ceremony. Photo via @jessica_goad and Twitter.
    Governor Hickenlooper signed a rain barrel at the HB16-1005 bill signing ceremony. Photo via @jessica_goad and Twitter.

    From The Colorado Independent (Marianne Goodland):

    Are you ready for rain barrels?

    Next Wednesday, August 10 is the first day that most Colorado residents can legally collect rainwater off their roofs into rain barrels.

    Mother Nature doesn’t seem to have taken much note of it – the weather forecast for much of the state calls for hot and sunny weather without a hint of rain.

    It’s taken years for this state to get there. Colorado is a “first-in-time, first-in-line” state, which means that the person who claimed the water rights first gets to use what they need, and everyone else gets what’s left. Farmers, ranchers and other water users believe that right extends to even the rain that falls from the skies, because that water drips off roofs, onto the ground and eventually into streams, rivers and underground natural storage, known as aquifers.

    After a prolonged debate, water-rights holders agreed to accept the legalization of rain barrels, as long as the law acknowledged senior water rights, and the state committed to rmonitoring rain-barrel usage.

    The law says you can have up to two 55-gallon rain barrels. The rain barrel must be sealable to prevent mosquitoes from setting up shop. You can only use rainwater for “outdoor purposes,” such as watering your lawn or garden. The rain barrel must be used for collecting rainwater through a downspout that comes off your roof. Rainwater can be used only on your own property, not your neighbor’s.

    You can get rain barrels at Home Depot, or online through a number of stores, such as Lowe’s, Amazon, Ace Hardware or through garden stores. BlueBarrel systems offers a recycled rain barrel option. A group called Tree People demonstrates how to install a rain barrel — something you might want to look at before deciding if a rain barrel is for you.

    So, how can you use your collected rainwater?

    Washing your car? Sure! Washing your neighbor’s car? Only if your neighbor moves it to your property for washing. Theresa Conley of Conservation Colorado points out that you might have some issues with water pressure.

    Washing your outdoor windows or siding? Sure!

    Putting water in your dog’s outdoor water bowl? Or maybe putting it in your livestock trough? Maybe not. The law says rainwater isn’t to be used for drinking, although that’s generally viewed as a human consumption issue, not animal.

    Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, said there were rainwater bills passed in 2009 that allowed rain barrels for homeowners with domestic well permits, for home use only. Those laws were viewed as not applying to livestock. “The only way you could allow your horse to drink rainwater is if the horse could reach through your window to the sink,” he quipped.

    Then there’s the “ick” factor. As Waskom sees it, “if you don’t lick your roof, don’t put it in your mouth.” Meaning, rainwater that comes off a roof isn’t treated and isn’t safe for consumption. Think bird or insect droppings and older roofs with deteriorating shingles that are losing gravel, tar or other bits of debris.

    Ick.

    One more thing: Rain barrels will be legal for another portion of Colorado residents – but not for everyone. The law applies to people living in single-family residences or a “multi-family residence of four or fewer units.” According to Conley of Conservation Colorado, the law does not allow rain barrels to be used by schools or for homeowners’ associations that have more than four homes connected by a common wall (think townhouses, or townhouse-style condos, which are common throughout the metro area). That said, HOAs can’t ban rain barrels for single-family homes and townhomes with four or fewer units, says Molly Foley-Healy of the Colorado Homeowners Association, which does legal work on behalf of HOAs. An HOA can impose requirements on what the rain barrel looks like and how it’s placed on the downspout, according to Conley, who helped draft the bill.

    Top ten ways you can use rainwater

    10. Washing your car;
    9. Filling your outdoor koi pond;
    8. As water for a slip-and-slide, probably okay;
    7. Dust suppression – you could use it to water off the dust on your porches and patios;
    6. Filling birdbaths;
    5. Washing your dog, as long as you do it outdoors;
    4. Cleaning outdoor equipment, such as gardening tools;
    3. Using it to put out small fires, like in a fire pit. A reminder, though, fire pits are NOT legal in Denver, although they are legal in other counties;
    2. Watering your outdoor garden. CSU Extension Service says 110 gallons, the maximum amount that can be collected in two rain barrels, would provide enough water for about 180 square feet, roughly the size of a 15-foot x 15-foot garden. Waskom says you could also water your indoor plants, if you take them outside to do it;
    1. Water your lawn or outdoor landscaping. That’s the heart and intent of the new law – to allow Coloradans to water lawns and gardens.

    Top ten ways you can’t or shouldn’t use rainwater.

    10. Filling your hot tub. Probably not so good for your hot tub’s filtration system, especially if you have an older roof;
    9. Filling your kids’ wading pool;
    8. Indoor washing – dishes, laundry, yourself or your pets;
    7. Cooking;
    6. Drinking;
    5. Filling the water tanks in your camper or RV, or flushing out the water lines;
    4. Bobbing for apples;
    3. Filling up your beer buckets for BBQs or other parties;
    2. Water balloons for outdoor water fights, squirt guns and other outdoor water toys. Again, kind of an “ick” issue;
    1. “Home-Alone”-style stunts, where you could set up a bucket of water on a railing in order for it to fall on somebody. (Yes, someone actually suggested that.)

    There will be eyes on Colorado’s new rain barrel law: the state water engineer (yes, we have that) is is required to be involved in the new law. Their biggest job for the August 10 roll-out, according to Deputy Engineer Kevin Rein, was setting up guidelines for rain barrel use, which is now on the Division of Water Resources website.
    Under the new law, the state engineer has to determine whether allowing rain barrels has caused injury to those with the first-in-line water claims.

    It won’t be easy, according to Rein. The division is currently monitoring a pilot project on rain barrels near Sterling Ranch in Littleton; otherwise, they’re likely to find out about injuries to water users through complaints and other data. “It’s information we’ll pick up,” he told The Colorado Independent Monday. “If someone believes they have been harmed by rain barrel use, we’re counting on them to let us know.”

    Even then, Rein said, it will likely be difficult to measure. Rainstorms generate a small amount of runoff from roofs and downspouts, he said, and much will depend on the magnitude of a storm.

    If there’s any harm to water users, it’s most likely to come out when the state engineer updates the legislature, but that won’t happen until 2019. The state engineer does have the ability to curtail use of rain barrels if such harm is discovered.

    The bottom line on rain barrels: Using two rain barrels to water your garden could save up to 1,200 gallons per year. And Conservation Colorado says it’s a great way to connect to the state’s water supply, because using a rain barrel tunes you into Colorado’s natural rain cycles.

    Lower Ark board meeting recap

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters
    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Improving irrigation efficiency in the Lower Arkansas Valley could improve water quality and save farmers money.

    Those are conclusions reached by Tim Gates, a Colorado State University- Fort Collins engineering professor who has overseen 17 years of a large-scale study of salinity of area farms.

    “It’s designed to address the problems facing agriculture and the environment in the valley,” Gates told the Lower Ark board at its monthly meeting this week.

    Those problems include shallow groundwater tables, or waterlogging; excessive salt buildup; crop yield reduction; and buildup of selenium, uranium and nutrient concentrations.

    Studies began in 1999 to track the rate of increase and develop strategies for dealing with the problem. Those studies have been funded by state and local sponsors, including the Lower Ark district.

    A new project, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will address changes in irrigation that can improve conditions.

    “This will make recommendations for pilot programs throughout the Arkansas Valley that will be tested,” Gates said.
    Board chairman Lynden Gill asked Gates what some examples of pilot projects would be.

    Gates responded that several have already been proven, including:

  • The Super Ditch lease-fallowing program. Letting some ground recover periodically can improve its productivity over time.
  • Improving technology, such as adding sprinklers or drip irrigation.
  • Sealing canals with PAM, which can reduce seepage by 30-80 percent.
  • Management of fertilizer to avoid excessive amounts.
  • Improving riparian corridors, which can act to filter out contaminants.
  • The district has a new goal of improving water quality in the Lower Arkansas Valley. This could improve crop production and wildlife habitat. It also might fend off future legal challenges by Kansas over water quality.