Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

March 16, 2015
Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Groundwater levels around Yale Lake have dropped approximately 1 foot in the past 2 months since the lake stopped receiving inflows from the Thompson Ditch, but the area continues to retain water within 6 feet of the surface.

Chris Manera, professional engineer, relayed the information during the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors monthly meeting Wednesday in Salida.

Reporting on efforts to dry up land formerly irrigated by the Thompson Ditch, Manera said the water level in Yale Lake is decreasing as the reservoir loses water to seepage and evaporation.

Still, the depth of the water table “is not changing quickly,” Manera said, indicating the geological presence of a “high confining layer” within 20 feet of the surface that creates a saturated zone above the surrounding aquifer.

Manera said a release of water from Harvard Lake “had no effect” on the shallow saturated zone and indicated water would likely be released from Yale Lake in an effort to lower groundwater levels below 6 feet from the surface.

Reducing the water table to at least 6 feet below the surface would put the water out of reach for plants, a key requirement for drying up agricultural land in order to change the use of the water.

Manera presented measurements recorded at nine district piezometers and nearby private wells that show water levels at 6 feet below the surface just west of Yale Lake. To the south and east of Yale Lake, however, water levels remain closer to the surface.

Manera noted a 10-foot east-to-west drop in the subsurface water gradient with groundwater flows moving west to east, directly toward Franklin Spring, which feeds Ice Lake. Manera said the receding groundwater has not affected water levels in nearby Harvard and Ice lakes.

Terry Scanga, Upper Ark district general manager, updated board members on the situation at O’Haver Lake, indicating the district is releasing water from the reservoir for augmentation operations.

Scanga said the reservoir is currently at 84 percent of its 180-acre-foot capacity, and releases will continue through March and possibly into April, leaving approximately 146 acre-feet of water in O’Haver by the end of March.
Scanga said the Upper Ark district policy has been to keep O’Haver Lake full, but like any reservoir, O’Haver loses water to evaporation. Since the district cannot capture water out of priority, it must use exchanges to keep the reservoir full.

Recent policy changes by the Colorado Water Conservation Board have made exchanges up Grays Creek virtually impossible, prompting district officials to use O’Haver water for augmentation.

Scanga said he believes the district can work with the CWCB staff to create a policy to resolve the issue, and he is hopeful that a site visit this spring will help CWCB officials better understand the issues “on the ground.”

In other business, Upper Ark directors:

  • Learned that the state approved district augmentation totaling 482.1 acre-feet of water, an increase of 196 acre-feet per month due to the inclusion of augmentation for Nestlé Waters North America’s spring water operation near Nathrop.
  • Learned that conservancy district replacements for 2014 totaled 665.41 acre-feet.
  • Learned that proposed legislation to allow senior water-rights holders to donate water to in-stream flows has been changed to apply only to the Western Slope, but if passed, the bill would deprive downstream rights-holders of return flows.
  • Heard a report showing 2,515.7 acre-feet of district water in storage.
    Reviewed a summer streamflow forecast projecting 240,000 acre-feet of water flowing past Salida, which is 98 percent of average.
  • Learned about progress toward installing a new gauge near the Friend Ranch Reservoir outflow with Poncha Springs sharing the cost of installation and maintenance.
  • Discussed efforts by Young Life to upgrade its Trail West septic system with a pipeline connecting to the Buena Vista waste treatment facility, which would require Young Life to purchase additional augmentation water from the conservancy district.
  • Approved stipulations in two Water Court cases, 04CW96 and 11CW86.

  • @NWSBoulder: Flooding can occur in many forms. Know how to keep you & your family safe!

    March 16, 2015


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

    March 16, 2015

    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

    March 16, 2015

    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

    March 16, 2015


    Snowpack news

    March 16, 2015
    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.

    FROM THE ROCKIES TO THE DESERT

    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.

    STEPS TOWARD CONSERVATION

    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

    March 16, 2015

    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.


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