@USGS finds that endocrine-disrupting chemicals can travel far from their source

Here’s the release from the United States Geological Survey:

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) were transported 2 kilometers downstream of a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) outfall in a coastal plain stream. EDCs persisted downstream of the outfall with little change in the numbers of EDCs and limited decreases in EDC concentrations.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists measured concentrations of select EDCs approximately 10 times in water and sediment from 2009 to 2011, at five sites in the Spirit Creek watershed near Fort Gordon, Georgia, as part of an assessment of the effects of the closure of a WWTP on EDC persistence.

Sites included a control site upstream of the WWTP outfall and four other sites in the 2–kilometer reach extending downstream to Spirit Lake, into which Spirit Creek flows. A site located at the outfall of Spirit Lake was sampled once to assess the potential for EDC transport through the lake.

A modest decline (less than 20 percent in all cases) in surface-water detections of EDCs was observed with increasing distance downstream of the WWTP and was attributed to the chemicals attaching (partitioning) to the sediment. The EDCs focused on in this study included natural estrogens (estrone, 17β–estradiol, and estriol) and detergent metabolites, which exhibit estrogenic properties. Concentrations of estrogens and detergent metabolites downstream of the WWTP remained elevated above levels observed at the upstream control site, indicating that the WWTP was the prominent source of these chemicals to the stream. The mean estrogen concentrations observed downstream of the WWTP were 5 nanograms per liter and higher, a level indicative of the potential for endocrine disruption in native fish.

Estrogens were not detected in the outflow of Spirit Lake, indicating that they were diluted, partitioned to lake sediments, or were degraded within the lake through a combination of microbial processes and/or photolysis. However, detergent metabolites were detected in the outflow of Spirit Lake, indicating the potential for EDC transport downstream.

The ongoing post–closure assessment at the Fort Gordon WWTP will provide more insight into the environmental persistence of EDCs over time and the potential for stream and lake bed sediment to serve as a long–term source of EDCs in stream ecosystems.

The Fort Gordon Environmental and Natural Resources Management Office of the U.S. Army and the USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program provided the funding for this work.

More water pollution coverage here.

Snowpack news (Part 2): “This water year [Utah] has been psychotic at best” — Randy Juliander

The Basin High/Low graphs are making that ominous downturn due to the nice weather.

California heading toward the brink? — John Fleck’s water news #ColoradoRiver

Snowpack news

Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 15, 2015
Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 15, 2015

From the Vail Daily (Tory Dille):

It’s that time of the year again — there are only a couple months left of snowfall for Colorado’s snowpack. Skiers and snowboarders are hoping for a few more key powder days, while whitewater enthusiasts are wondering what this year’s runoff season is going to hold for the area’s rivers. In the Colorado River Watershed, the gradual melting of high country snowpack sustains stream flows and the livelihoods of communities downstream. Scientists and policymakers use SNOTEL (snow telemetry) data from snow survey sites to assess snowpack depth and water content to predict water supply conditions for the coming season. As of March 4, according to the National Resource Conservation Service, the Upper Colorado River Basin was at 89 percent of its median snow water equivalent. Snow water equivalent refers to the amount of potential water available in the snowpack.


The Colorado River starts its journey in the Never Summer Range in Rocky Mountain National Park. From there, it travels 1,450 miles to its delta in the Sonoran Desert where it meets the Gulf of California. Over 33 million people across Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Mexico depend on the Colorado River for their water supply. Mark Reisner, author of “Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disappearing Water,” writes: “The Colorado’s modern notoriety … stems not from its wild rapids and plunging canyons but from the fact that it is the most legislated, most debated and most litigated river in the entire world. It also has more people, more industry and a more significant economy dependent on it than any comparable river in the world.”

The Colorado River has gone through many changes since conservationist Aldo Leopold canoed through its vibrant delta in 1922. Nearly a century of dam building and water diversion to serve growing populations, agriculture and industry have altered the course and the flow of the river. During many seasons, the river does not even reach the sea as it did for over 6 million years. The river delta itself has shrunk by more than 90 percent since the 1920s. The shrinking Colorado River is not just significant for human communities; ecological communities rely on the river as a lifeline as well. The Colorado River and its many tributaries are sources of water for plant and animal life in the basin and are critical habitats in themselves.


Nowhere is the dwindling Colorado River more apparent than in the Colorado River Delta in the Sonoran Desert of northern Mexico. The Sonoran Institute has partnered with U.S. and Mexican governments, as well as local community groups, to restore critical wetland habitat in the delta in a project that they hope will reconnect the river with the sea and inspire long-term stewardship for the Colorado River.

Work toward water conservation in the Colorado River Watershed is happening locally as well. In addition to protecting water quality in the Gore Creek and Eagle River watersheds, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District is working toward water conservation with their Use Water Wisely campaign. The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District provides education and resources for reducing water consumption for both indoor and outdoor water uses. They provide water efficiency devices including high efficiency showerheads and shower timers. Another important local group, the Eagle River Watershed Council, has led a number of watershed restoration efforts in addition to providing outreach and education on watershed issues.

This year, will be a critical year for water conservation statewide in Colorado. By the end of the year, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will present the final draft of Colorado’s Water Plan after feedback from stakeholders across the state. The Colorado’s Water Plan aims to be a diverse and comprehensive bottom-up plan for Colorado’s water future. Look for public discussions on initial drafts of the plan in the coming months.

Rio Grande Basin Roundtable meeting recap

Kerber Creek
Kerber Creek

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Scars from the San Luis Valley’s mining days are slowly healing.

Kerber Creek in the northern part of the Valley is one of the places where mining provided a temporary income and left a permanent scar on the area’s land and water.

Trout Unlimited and several partnering organizations are gradually working to revive the soil and water along Kerber Creek, which flows through Bonanza and Villa Grove, where mine tailings rendered land and fishing streams lifeless for many years. Yesterday the Valley-wide water organization, Rio Grande Roundtable, approved $30,000 out of its basin funds towards a $277,677 project covering about six acres in the middle portion of the Kerber Creek Restoration Project. Project Manager Jason Willis explained this would tie together restoration efforts already conducted in this section.

There are 13 tailing deposits in this small area alone, Willis explained, seven on one side of the creek and six on the other.

Work will begin in conjunction with 5,900 feet of in-stream improvements by Natural Resources Conservation Service this summer and wrap up this fall to improve vegetation and water quality on this stretch of Kerber Creek.

Willis explained that amendments such as limestone provided by the Bureau of Land Management will be added to the soil in phytostabilization efforts, and metal tolerant native species will be planted. The goal is to create a self-sustaining system similar to the undisturbed landscape that existed before the mining occurred, Willis explained.

He shared videotaped comments of landowner Carol Wagner who has owned a ranch along Kerber Creek since 1986. She explained how the quality of water in the creek had improved from extremely poor and unable to support fish habitat when she bought the property to a much more vibrant and beautiful state since restoration efforts began. Landowners such as Wagner contribute towards the restoration project , which includes several partners such as BLM, NRCS and the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety.

In addition to providing funds for the ongoing Kerber Creek restoration, the Roundtable yesterday heard a preliminary funding request , which will be brought back next month for formal action, from Judy Lopez for $45,300 over a three-year period from the basin account for education and outreach efforts such as newspaper articles, radio shows, educational videos, web page updates, project tours and administration. The roundtable also voted to establish an executive committee to help manage roundtable business such as planning the meetings, agendas and speakers and reviewing applications. The committee will consist of the three officers, who until the end of the calendar year will continue to be Chairman Mike Gibson, Vice Chairman Rio de la Vista and Secretary Cindy Medina, as well as roundtable members Peter Clark, Ron Brink, Judy Lopez , Heather Dutton, Steve Vandiver, Charlie Spielman, Nathan Coombs and Karla Shriver. Also during their meeting on Tuesday the roundtable members heard a presentation on geophysical and hydrophysical logging tools and techniques by Greg Bauer of COLOG who shared various tools to learn what’s going on beneath the surface. He said many of these tools could be used for well logging that could be accurate and cost effective. Theroundtablealso heard a report from Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten that the snowpack in the Rio Grande Basin is now up to 87 percent of average, about where the basin has been at this time of year for the past couple of years. The National Weather Service forecast through the summer calls for above-average precipitation.

@NOAAClimate: Do record snowstorms disprove global warming? Can it be warmer and snowier at the same time?

Aspen utilities official favors new dams on local streams — Aspen Journalism

Gravity dam
Gravity dam

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

A top utility official with the city of Aspen voiced his support last week for building “small reservoirs” on a number of streams in the Roaring Fork River watershed, including on Hunter, Castle, Maroon, and Avalanche creeks.

“Small reservoirs would improve stream flow on tributaries,” said Mike McDill, deputy director of utilities for the city of Aspen, referring to the ability to store water in the spring and release it later during low-flow periods.

“A small reservoir on Castle Creek would improve the stream health on Castle Creek and also help our drinking water reserves,” McDill said. “I think there may also be benefits to Hunter Creek, Maroon Creek and maybe even Avalanche Creek. All of our tributaries could use that kind of small reservoir and stream-flow calming.”

Today, the city of Aspen owns two diversion dams, one on lower Castle Creek next to Dick Butera’s estate, and one on lower Maroon Creek near the T-Lazy Ranch. Both of the dams are river wide and completely block fish passage, but they do not form reservoirs of water behind them.

McDill also said the city fully intends to keep its options open for two large dams on both upper Castle and Maroon creeks, which he referred to as “serious water storage reservoirs.”

McDill’s remarks were made during a public meeting of the Roaring Fork Watershed Collaborative, held at the Third Street Center in Carbondale.

At the watershed meeting, consulting engineers from SGM were facilitating a group-planning exercise in an effort to determine the top three water projects in the Roaring Fork River basin for inclusion in the forthcoming statewide Colorado Water Plan.

The effort did not result in a definitive shortlist of water projects, and no one else at the meeting spoke in favor of Aspen building new dams.

The Colorado River Basin Roundtable is slated to finalize a water project list for the entire Colorado River basin March 23.

“Serious water reservoirs”

McDill represents the city of Aspen on the Colorado Roundtable, and over the past year has consistently said the city needs to develop or acquire water storage.

“The city of Aspen, most of the cities in the region, none of them have any storage,” McDill said. “Their storage is snowpack, as is ours. I can tell you that that works great in the spring, works great through the summer. But believe it or not, our times of greatest concern are January, February, March, because Castle Creek, where we take most of water, is so low that we have to send a crew out almost every morning to chip the ice off of our intake bars, because the development of an inch or so of ice is enough to block our intake.”

McDill said the city, in addition to exploring new storage options, also is developing new water-supply projects, such as a reclaimed-water system and a deep-water well originally drilled as part of a geothermal energy project.

“The reason that we are doing that and the reclaimed water system,” McDill said, “is they are all really part of this idea of continuing due diligence to try to investigate every other possible way to provide the security for our drinking water system before we go to the point of building serious water storage reservoirs.

“We have reservoir storage rights on Maroon Creek and Castle Creek,” McDill added. “We know that’s going to be a really hard sell whenever we would start to do that, so before we even try, we’re going to look at every other alternative.”

The city holds conditional water rights for dams and reservoirs on both upper Castle and Maroon creeks.

The Maroon Creek reservoir would store 4,567 acre-feet of water behind a 155-foot-tall dam just below the confluence of East Maroon and West Maroon creeks, about a mile-and-half from Maroon Lake.

The Castle Creek reservoir would hold 9,062 acre-feet of water behind a 170-foot-tall dam located about two miles below the historic town site of Ashcroft.

The city’s conditional water rights for the Castle and Maroon creek reservoirs are officially on the state’s books through 2016, when the city will need to convince the state water court it is diligently making progress toward building the dams.

(Please see related stories: “Aspen’s Ruedi water buy may bolster prospect for new dams on Castle and Maroon creeks” and “City maintains rights for dams on Castle and Maroon creeks“)

Small and large reservoirs

When McDill was asked at Thursday’s meeting what his definition of a “small dam” is, he pointed to the city’s Leonard Thomas Reservoir at the city’s water treatment plant, which he said holds 14 acre feet of water. The dam at the reservoir is 19 feet tall.

“But it’s a good question,” McDill then said. “What’s a large reservoir?”

He went on to say that the conditional water rights for the Maroon and Castle creek reservoirs were “in the neighborhood of 10,000 acre-feet,” and that the other “smaller” reservoirs under discussion were in the “4,000 to 5,000 to 6,000” acre-foot range.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times on coverage of rivers and waters. The Times published this story on Friday, March 13, 2015.

More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here.