The latest Water News from Denver Water is hot off the presses

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

Just add water for learning fun

Kids play in water vortices. Exhibit features also include a rainstorm and thunder-maker; water tower; waterwheel; geysers; a larger than-life toilet; and river system.
Kids play in water vortices. Exhibit features also include a rainstorm and thunder-maker; water tower; waterwheel; geysers; a larger than-life toilet; and river system.

The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus has opened the doors to WATER — a 2,200-square-foot “hands-in” water laboratory focused on teaching families about how people interact with water.

The new exhibit is made possible in part by Denver Water, and will provide multiple opportunities for children and adults to experiment with and discover water in everyday, yet remarkable ways. Exhibit features include a rainstorm and thunder-maker; water tower; waterwheel; vortices; geysers; a larger-than-life toilet; and a river system.

“Denver Water is very excited to be a part of the Children’s Museum expansion,” said Matt Bond, Denver Water Youth Education manager. “To us, the WATER exhibit is the perfect place for kids and adults to learn about water in a truly experiential way and to make memories together. Water is so precious, especially in Colorado, and educating children early helps make them smart, responsible water users forever.”

Twice a year, for a one-week period, Denver Water customers will receive admission and merchandise discounts to visit the museum and experience the exhibit with their families.

Saving the Fraser River — Grand Water #ColoradoRiver

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Lance Maggart):

Drive around Grand County for a little while and you’ll notice our profusion of bumper stickers with slogans admonishing you to “Save the Fraser River”.

For many folks in the valley their bumper stickers are a sign of solidarity but for others such statements are more than mere words, they represents a visceral call to action. The issues and obstacles that confront the Fraser River are deeply rooted and solutions can be difficult to agree on, let alone implement. The Fraser River and its tributaries experience what is called an altered flow regime, meaning the natural stream flows of the river have been altered. According to Kirk Klancke, President of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited located in Grand County, currently around 60 percent of the native flows of the Fraser River are diverted out of the valley.

“One of the problems is the stream bed is native but the flows are not,” Klancke said. “Over half are diverted out of the Fraser valley. When you have diminished flows like that the stream loses its velocity. The river needs enough velocity to flush sediment out of the rocks on the bottom.That is where the macroinvertebrate life is.”

Macroinvertebrate life, or bugs, live within the voids in the rocks on the bottom of the river, Klancke said. As the river loses its velocity the flows are not able to flush the sediment out from the rocks and the amount of bug habitat is diminished, which has a corresponding effect on the amount of bug life on the river. The amount of bug life on the river has a direct correlation to the amount of fish within the river.

The reduced native stream flows also have a strong impact on the temperature levels within the streams and rivers. “When you have diminished flows the stream becomes wide and shallow and it heats up in ways it never did before,” said Klancke. “Seventy degrees is the limit trout can withstand. We are seeing temps in some places higher than that.”

In an effort to address both of these issues several western slope interests along with eastern slope diverters such as Denver Water have partnered together to form a group called Learning by Doing. Learning by Doing is a cooperative group that seeks to address the environmental impact concerns of Grand County organizations while still providing sustained diversion of water to the Front Range. The group has been developing project ideas and in the fall of 2016 they expect to begin a large rechanneling project on the Fraser River called the Fraser Flats Habitat Project.

Project organizers are planning to rechannel approximately half a mile of the Fraser River on the Fraser Flats, just outside of the Town of Fraser. The works is being done on a section of the river owned by Devil’s Thumb Ranch. So far around $100,000 have been raised to fund the project with roughly half of those funds coming from Denver Water and the other half coming from Devil’s Thumb Ranch. Trout Unlimited also has a $5,000 grant they will apply to the project, allowing for an additional 135 feet of rechanneling.

“The idea of rechanneling is to match the stream bed to the stream flows,” said Klancke. “We create a channel within a channel.”

In the simplest terms the rechanneling work is accomplished by physically digging a deeper channel within the center of the existing streambed where water can recede to at low flow times. The new channel provides a deeper and narrower pathway for the stream to follow, increasing the velocity of water while also decreasing temperatures. The work must be performed carefully so as not to damage the natural streambed either. The native streambed remains essential for allowing larger flows of water during spring runoff. Along with digging a new channel within the Fraser River workers will also move and adjust rocks to create a healthy ratio of riffles to pools within the river.

The collaborative project is the first from the Learning by Doing group and represents a very exciting step forward for people like Klancke who spoke highly of Denver Water and that organizations willingness to engage in the process and work to further the proposed actions. Denver Water CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead echoed his views.

“The most exciting aspect to this project is that all the parties to Learning by Doing are beginning work before it is technically required under the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement,” Lochhead stated. “This is due in large part to the partnerships and relationships that have developed over the past few years, and the value we place on the environmental resources in Grand County. We don’t want to lose momentum, and the fact that Devil’s Thumb Ranch, Trout Unlimited and others in the county have stepped up to move this effort forward is a great indication of our common commitment. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to enhance the health of the aquatic environment in Grand County.”

Learning by Doing plans to put the rechanneling project out for bidding in mid Jan. and hope to have a contractor chosen by the end of Feb. Work on the project is expected to begin in the fall of 2016.

An Exit Interview With Mike King, Colorado’s Director Of Natural Resources — KUNC

Directional drilling from one well site via the National Science Foundation
Directional drilling from one well site via the National Science Foundation

Here’s an interview with Mike King who is moving on from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to Denver Water, from Bente Birkeland reporting for KUNC. Click through and listen to the whole interview. Here’s an excerpt:

Mike King, the executive director of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources, is leaving the position at the end of January 2016 to become Denver Water’s new director of planning. Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland sat down with him to talk about the future of the oil and gas and the state’s hydraulic fracturing debate, and his time heading the agency.


On Advice For His Successor

“I hope you’re heart is strong. This is a position where you take a lot of criticism. You have to come in with a dose of humility and also a strong sense of right and wrong and know that people are not going to agree with you at every turn. That’s the hardest thing, is knowing that you’re making people mad.”

“…this is a new time and Denver Water is a different organization than back in the day.” — Mike King

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

After nearly six years on the job, Mike King is leaving the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

The Montrose native who has headed the department since Gov. John Hickenlooper came into office in 2010 announced Thursday that he was trading in that job for one some Western Slope folks might find, well, somewhat interesting.

He’s to be the new director of planning at Denver Water.

In his new job, King is to oversee Denver Water’s long-range planning for treated and raw water supplies, demand and supply management, water rights, environmental compliance, watershed management and climate change preparations.

“As the son of a West Slope water lawyer and a Wayne Aspinall Democrat, this is a new time and Denver Water is a different organization than back in the day,” King said. “They’ve been moving in the right direction, and I look forward to helping them get there. They’re about as progressive as any agency I can imagine, so it’s all good.”

King added, however, that people should watch what he does and hold him accountable for it.

Hickenlooper, who said he’s still looking for a replacement, praised King for all the work he’s done during his administration, including helping to devise a statewide water plan and working on compromises on oil and gas drilling practices.

During his time on the job, King also helped Hickenlooper merge the department’s parks and wildlife divisions, and helped devise Colorado’s roadless rule with the U.S. Forest Service.

“Mike brokered the oil and gas task force, helped create the state’s first-ever water plan and recently launched Colorado Beautiful, the most ambitious trails and recreation expansion in a decade,” Hickenlooper said. “His ability to balance industry and conservation concerns is unparalleled.”

Several groups have praised King for the job he’s done leading the department.

“During that time, he oversaw important natural resource projects,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “We have appreciated Mike’s sophisticated understanding of these very complex issues and support on environmental priorities, such as protection of the Roan Plateau, negotiation of a strong sage grouse plan and advocacy on behalf of the in-stream flow program.”

King, who has worked at the department for about a decade under several executive directors before becoming one himself, said he was pleased with what he’s accomplished, but that it was time to move on.

“I put my heart and soul into it and moved the ball,” he said. “We’ve done incredible things with the water plan, the Rio Grande cooperative agreement, and watched Denver Water reach agreement with the Colorado River cooperative, so we’ve made some incredible progress on water.”

Denver Water Collection System via Denver Water
Denver Water Collection System via Denver Water

And you thought fixing the kitchen sink was tough!

Mile High Water Talk

Mechanics replace giant valves at Moffat Treatment Plant

By Jay Adams

Down in the depths and under the water filters of the 78-year-old Moffat Treatment Plant in Lakewood, Colorado, a team of Denver Water mechanics did some heavy lifting in December — very heavy lifting. The crew replaced 20 large valves that regulate the flow of water in and out of the plant’s water filters. The largest valves weigh 1,850 pounds and are roughly the size of semi-truck tires.

The valves, installed in the 1980s, were showing their age.

“We had to replace them because they were leaking and seizing up,” said Randy Slocum, assistant treatment plant supervisor. “When the valves fail, the plant loses its full capacity to treat water.”

Replacing a valve that weighs nearly 1 ton is no easy task. The work involves disconnecting each valve from the large pipe that carries water into the plant’s…

View original post 95 more words

Water Storage a Critical Question for Climate Adaptation — Circle of Blue #COP21

From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton):

Water advocates have repeatedly clamored for recognition that climate adaptation is about shifting hydrological cycles. In Paris, they are beginning to see results. But Paris is not where adaptation will take place. Fortifying modern society against the destructive potential of a new climate falls on the shoulders of public officials in countless cities, counties, and districts in countries rich and poor. In Denver and Dallas just as in Delhi and Dhaka.

Water managers have much to think about, and the considerations vary by region. Indian cities are still trying to provide 24-hours-a-day water service to their citizens, while American counterparts are encouraging residents to use less. Still, one issue more than any other is likely to dominate the water adaption discussion in the coming decades: storage. That is, how to smooth out climate irregularities into a reliable, steady water supply.

Storage is a “huge topic,” says Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a research group. Huge, because the stakes are so high. There are billions of dollars in public and private investment and engineering contracts in play. California voters, for instance, approved $US 2.7 billion last year to spend on storage projects. There is potential conflict between old practices and new ideas. Dams and reservoirs are the tried-and-true storage method. A suite of alternatives is available but they have been tested in only a few parts of the world.

The questions are many: build new dams, increase the capacity of existing facilities, or change how they are managed? Emphasize small dams or large ones or none at all? Is underground storage an option? Where are the best locations? Must laws and policies be altered? How does conservation fit in? The questions are not only a matter of engineering. They also reflect deep and serious debates about social, environmental, economic, and political values.

Dams Set the Stage

In the beginning all storage was natural. Groundwater reserves were built up over millennia. Lakes formed and reformed. Domestic and economic life was molded on the seasonal cycles of rain, snow, and heat.

Soon enough, the demands of the modern era overwhelmed the natural order, in the United States in particular but also in other large economies. For settlements to grow into cities and pioneer farm plots into vast commercial enterprises, the need for regular and predictable water supplies was an urgent matter.

Manmade reservoirs were the answer. An era of dam building began in earnest in the United States in the 1930s. Fifty years later reservoir storage capacity had increased by a factor of 10. China, India, South Africa, and other countries followed. Worldwide, dams radically altered watershed ecology, drove millions from their homes, and became flashpoints for environmental and social justice movements.

Despite the drawbacks, reservoir storage helps in several ways. It provides a long-term buffer against extended drought. Dams in the Colorado River Basin, for example, hold four times the river’s average annual flow. Storage also protects communities against floods. The Portland, Oregon, waterfront would be washed away every few decades if not for the dozens of dams upstream on the Columbia River in British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, and Washington.

Storage is a critical issue today because natural systems are faltering. Groundwater reserves are being drained. Mountain snowpack is shrinking and melting sooner, leading to drier conditions later in the summer. A U.S. Geological Survey study published last month found that the peak spring river flows in the northern U.S. plains moved one to two weeks earlier over the last century.

“Climate change is going to destroy snowpack storage,” Gleick told Circle of Blue. A large body of scientific research supports the claim. Watersheds in the American West, southern Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia that supply 2 billion people face declines in snow storage, according to a study published last month in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The snow season for several basins in the American West could shrink by two months by 2050, according to a 2014 University of Idaho study.

No single action will replace the storage that will be lost, according to Paul Fleming, manager of the climate and sustainability group at Seattle Public Utilities. That means communities must discuss the menu of options and agree on the order that works for them.

“It’s fair to say that any decision on storage needs to be rooted in the values of the location and of the people who reside there,” Fleming told Circle of Blue. Fleming was also a lead author for the adaptation chapter of the 2014 National Climate Assessment. “It’s important to think of storage not in isolation but as part of an overall strategy.”

Some regions need more storage than others — places that rely primarily on natural storage and are more exposed to the whims of weather.

“There are places where we’ve under-invested in surface storage,” Gleick said, mentioning sub-Saharan Africa as one such area. “These are places where there is a higher risk of drought and flood because they don’t have the protection that reservoirs provide.”

Dams need not be the behemoth structures that flourished in the last century and continue to be built today. Small dams can slow down rivers that are swollen from a heavy rain, hold back the water, and allow it to soak into the soil. The 2015 Stockholm Water Prize, considered the Nobel for water, went to Rajendra Singh for using such methods to restore groundwater tables in India. Singh’s organization has helped build or inspire the construction of more than 8,600 johads, or small earthen dams, in his home state of Rajasthan in the last two decades…

Using Old Dams In New Ways

Communities are also adapting by renovating old dams. Denver officials want to raise the height of Gross Reservoir, to boost storage capacity. Officials in Washington state plan to link two reservoirs in the Yakima River Basin by pipeline, to maximize storage.

Gleick points to Folsom Dam as another example of how an existing reservoir can be retrofitted to match a new climate reality. The dam, on the American River, east of Sacramento, was completed in 1956 and is operated by the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Like all dams that trap snowmelt to limit flood damage, Folsom is operated according to a set of formulas called rule curves. The curves tell managers when to transition from flood control mode, when reservoirs are emptied, to water storage mode. The shift happens in the spring, but decisions are often made with old data, Gleick said.

“We have to change those curves to reflect that the nature of storms is changing,” Gleick said.

Louis Moore, Bureau of Reclamation spokesman, told Circle of Blue that Folsom’s rule curves have been updated and that there are ongoing discussions about additional changes, to match new conditions. Paul Fleming said that Seattle is also changing how it manages its reservoirs.

Rule curves are an operational change. Reclamation is also altering Folsom’s physical structure. The agency is collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a $US 900 million upgrade to the dam’s spillway. This will allow managers to dump water more quickly during a flood and thus store more water behind the dam.

Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water
Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

Denver Water’s “Water News” for December 2015 is hot off the presses

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

Looking back, some of the 2015 highlights include:

  • A glorious rig. We placed a temporary siphon in Dillon Dam’s Morning Glory Spillway, and it was a glowing success. The siphon kept water flowing out of Dillon Reservoir, so fishing and boating could continue during the months crews worked to upgrade the facilities below the surface.
  • Liquid knowledge. We made magic happen in May, when we called on water professionals from throughout the state to share a dose of knowledge with more than 1,200 sixthgraders at the second annual Denver Metro Water Festival.
Strontia Springs Reservoir started spilling on May 2.
Strontia Springs Reservoir started spilling on May 2.
  • Bountiful fills and spills. May showers brought enough precipitation to set new records at three of our reservoirs, and a fourth saw its second-highest water levels in history. Then we got the thrill of seeing reservoirs spill, which is a beautiful thing when it comes to water supply. Water-wise weather watchers. May marked the second wettest month Denver-area residents have seen in 40 years. And customers clearly kept their eyes on the skies instead of watering blindly. Their decision to leave sprinklers off saved more than 2 billion gallons of water. Water use was the lowest since 1961 — when the population count was half a million people less than today.