Clear Creek: New water treatment under construction on the North Fork

Photo from Paul Winkle (CPW) slide show at the South Platte Forum October 26, 2016.
Photo from Paul Winkle (CPW) slide show at the South Platte Forum October 26, 2016.

From (Next with Kyle Clark):

There’s another orange, rusty flow of water coming from our Colorado mountains, this one on the North Fork of Clear Creek near Black Hawk.

A viewer sent Next a question about this, asking what was going on.

We found out that environmentalists know about it, and have known for a few years.

It happens when rocks, which have been buried for years in Colorado’s mines, reach ground water. These rocks have likely never been exposed to oxygen because of that. Once rocks touch groundwater, iron is oxidized and acid is formed. The oxidized iron turns the water orange, but the acid is the concern. Acid dissolves necessary metals in the water, and can kill off wildlife in a stream.

The substance dilutes once reaching the main stem of Clear Creek, but there is not currently wildlife living in that fork.

The water treatment plant being built will take care of all that by treating the water with lyme, which will neutralize the acid in the water. The plant opens in January.

The good news is we won’t have a repeat of the Animas River incident from 2015.

“The two point sources that are contributing to this right now have been open and they are just openly leaking into the stream continuously, and so there’s not that build up like we saw with the Animas River,” said Elizabeth Traudt, from the Colorado School of Mines. “Instead, since these have been continuously leaking, that’s why this stretch of the stream has been continuously orange and continuously contaminated.”

That’s right. The water has been orange for a while.

South Platte Forum Annual Meeting #spforum — @CoyoteGulch

South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia
South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

I’ll be at the South Platte Forum Annual Meeting for a couple of days. Follow my live-Tweets @CoyoteGulch.

Click here to check out the agenda.

Marys Lake, Lake Estes to be lowered for maintenance — The Estes Park Trail-Gazette

Marys Lake aerial photo via the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, October 2016.
Marys Lake aerial photo via the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, October 2016.

From Reclamation via the Estes Park Trail-Gazette:

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has announced that it will begin shutting down this week the Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope system for winter maintenance and system inspection.

Peter Soeth, a Bureau spokesperson, said in an e-mail that beginning Oct.27 diversions will first be stopped through the Adams Tunnel followed by the draining of Marys Lake and Lake Estes by the morning of October 31.

Flatiron Reservoir will be drained by November 4.

Maintenance activities include annual maintenance for Marys and Pole Hill powerplants, as well as the Charles Hansen Feeder Canal.

The inspection and maintenance is expected to last through the middle of December. Once complete, the system will begin diversions through the Adams Tunnel and preparing for the 2017 water year.

#Colorado Water Trust Presents: The Great Divide Screening and Fundraiser @COWaterTrust


Click here to buy your tickets. Here’s the pitch from the Colorado Water Trust:


The destiny of the west is written in the headwaters of Colorado. Tens of millions of people, billions of dollars of agricultural production, and an enormous amount of economic activity across a vast swath of America from California to the Mississippi River are all dependent on rivers born in the mountains of Colorado. In this time of increasing demand and limited supply, it is essential to promote a more informed and inclusive discussion concerning decisions affecting our water resources.

VIP Reception starts at 5:30pm in Henderson’s Lounge followed by the screening.

Proceeds from the event will go to support the Colorado Water Trust:

The Colorado Water Trust is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to restore flows to Colorado’s rivers in need. Founded in 2001, the Colorado Water Trust coordinates market-based water transactions, water-sharing agreements, infrastructure projects, and other creative solutions to restore flows to our state’s dry rivers and streams. Together with our diverse partners throughout the state, we are restoring habitat for fish and other wildlife, improving local economic opportunities, and where lost, returning to Colorado’s landscape the beauty of a flowing river.

Here’s the Coyote Gulch review of The Great Divide:

“I used to be a orthodox card-carrying humanities academic with contempt for the manipulations of nature that engineers perpetrated. And then, I realized how much a beneficiary I was of those perpetrations.” — Patty Limerick (The Great Divide)

This is an important film and Ms. Limerick hits the nail on the head with her statement. When folks understand the history of Colorado and how water has shaped that history, when they learn about the disease and hardship that goes hand in hand with scarcity of water here in the arid west, when they witness the bounty from plains farms and the western valleys and the economic drivers associated with Colorado’s cities, when they take time to sit down to talk and learn from neighbors and others, opinions can change, understanding can grow, problems can be solved, and opportunities can be realized.

Jim Havey and the filmmakers set out an ambitious goal, that is, the telling of Colorado’s water story, without advocacy and without pointing fingers. The Great Divide accomplishes the telling using a superb screenplay written by Stephen Grace, the stunning footage by Jim Havey, along with the old photographs and maps of Colorado (and the Colorado River Basin).

Prior appropriation and anti-speculation are big ideas that form the foundation of Colorado water law. Article XVI of the Colorado Constitution includes detail about the preferred uses and the rights of diverters to cross private land to put the public’s water to beneficial use. All water in Colorado belongs to the citizens but diverters gain a property right allowing them to use the water.

The filmmakers manage to explain these details well during the film. The film describes the law, the compacts between states, river administration, and the 21st Century world of water. They emphasize the work and pioneering efforts needed to get Colorado where it is today.

San Luis People's Ditch via The Pueblo Chieftain
San Luis People’s Ditch via The Pueblo Chieftain

Starting with the San Luis People’s ditch (the oldest water right in continuous use in Colorado — 1852) Coloradans have built out many projects large and small to put the water to beneficial use. The Great Divide describes many of these projects including the big US Bureau of Reclamation projects, Colorado-Big Thompson, Fryingpan-Arkansas, the Aspinall Unit, and what many think will be USBR’s last big project, Aninas-La Plata.

According to the film an early project, Cheesman Dam on the South Platte River, enabled delivery of high quality water to the City of Denver which had been plagued by outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases.

These projects have gotten Colorado to this point with over 5 million residents and a diversified economy. However, in the documentary the head of Denver Water Jim Lochhead states, “If we grow the next 5 million people the way we’ve grown the last 5 million — that may not be sustainable.”

There is a tension between environmentalists and water developers in today’s Colorado, highlighted by the film. The Great Divide explores the historical roots of the environmental movement starting with the Sierra Club effort to save Echo Park on the Yampa River, up through the legislation allowing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to hold and establish instream flow rights, the successful efforts to block groundwater withdrawals in the San Luis Valley for Front Range growth, and the mammoth decision to not permit the Two Forks Reservoir on the the South Platte River.


The City of Denver and many of the suburbs were counting on that project for future needs. It is interesting to note that the loss of Two Forks led to increased groundwater withdrawals from the Denver Basin Aquifer System and an increase in purchases of agricultural rights by municipal systems. Both of these alternatives are unsustainable but have led to recharge projects, water reuse projects by Denver Water and Aurora Water, along with serious efforts to allow alternative transfer methods for agricultural water that would protect farmers and keep the water with the land. The Great Divide touches on these newer more sustainable solutions.

Drought is a constant possibility in Colorado. The film shows how the drought of the 1930s spurred northeastern Colorado to line up behind the Colorado-Big Thompson Project for new supplies and storage.

US Drought Monitor August 6, 2002
US Drought Monitor August 6, 2002

When things turned around after the drought of 2002 The Great Divide informs us that municipalities had to rethink conservation efforts and that pumpers with insufficient augmentation water were shut down. Denver Water managed to cut per capita consumption by 20% below pre-2002 levels and other utilities noted similar savings.

The film examines the aftermath of the 2002 drought and the efforts by the Colorado legislature which passed the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act. It established the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) and the nine basin roundtables. The roundtables and the IBCC were formed as a forum to share needs but most importantly share values. One of the outcomes of the effort has been the realization, stated in the film by Travis Smith that, “We are more connected than we’d like to admit.”

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

This connectedness, along with the need to solve looming wide-ranging supply gaps were the motivation for Governor Hickenlooper to issue an executive order to the Colorado Water Conservation Board to create Colorado’s first ever water plan. The Governor has an opportunity to present his view of the need for the plan in the film. He touches on the fact that however the plan turns out it will be built by the grass roots.

During his introduction of the film Justice Gregory Hobbs advised us to listen to the words along with viewing the images. He was right, the narrative by Peter Coyote engages and informs. You cannot listen to Mr. Grace’s words without learning at the same time. And that’s the point right? Educate and inform with an accurate representation of Colorado water issues and history…

The film is a stellar vehicle for educating and generating conversation. Go see it when you can, buy the book, and then start talking and teaching.

@EPA Awarding $1.3 Million to Revitalize America’s Urban Waters and Surrounding Communities

E.coli Bacterium
E.coli Bacterium

Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Tricia Lynn):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding $1.3 million to 22 organizations in 18 states to help protect and restore urban waters and to support community revitalization and other local priorities.

“Often underserved communities in our nation’s cities face disproportionate impacts from pollution, and too often they lack the resources to do something about it,” said Joel Beauvais, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water. “EPA provides support to empower these communities to improve the quality of their waterways and to help reconnect people and businesses with the water they depend on.”

Many urban waterways have been polluted for years by sewage, runoff from city streets, and contamination from abandoned industrial facilities. Healthy and accessible urban waters can enhance economic, educational, recreational, and social opportunities in surrounding communities.

This year’s Urban Waters grantees will inform and engage residents in stormwater management and pursue community-based plans to address pollution in waterways. To accomplish these goals, many projects will address trash in waterways; test rivers, streams and lakes for pollutants; and prepare the next generation of environmental stewards for careers in the green economy. The 22 organizations receiving EPA grant funding are as follows:

Mystic River Watershed Association, Massachusetts ($60,000) will partner with towns and cities near Boston to create a multimedia education program to increase awareness of stormwater pollution for a regional coalition of municipalities.

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Massachusetts ($60,000) will develop a green infrastructure plan for Day Brook in Holyoke to reduce stormwater flow into the brook and resulting combined sewer overflow discharges into the Connecticut River.

NY/NJ Baykeeper, New Jersey ($48,150) will expand its plastic pollution reduction project by identifying, reducing, and preventing plastic transported via stormwater from reaching the lower Passaic River watershed and Newark Bay complex.

Sarah Lawrence College, New York ($60,000) will work with community scientists to investigate the severity and local sources of water pollution while increasing community engagement and stewardship in four underserved urban watersheds in the Lower Hudson River region.

Anacostia Watershed Society Inc., Maryland ($50,000) will educate and train middle-school students from low-income communities in Washington, DC on the problems associated with stormwater runoff and mitigation strategies through a variety of activities.

Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia ($59,773) will develop a community greening and green infrastructure plan for its two urban campuses and the Richmond Arts District.

The Conservation Fund, Georgia ($60,000) will expand community engagement in planning for two future green infrastructure projects aimed at reducing stormwater runoff located in the headwaters of Proctor Creek in Atlanta.

University of Tennessee, Tennessee ($59,995) will, through a community-driven effort, collect nutrient data across the Baker Creek watershed, which will help the City of Knoxville and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation develop a watershed restoration strategy.

Openlands, Illinois ($60,000) will, in partnership with the Healthy Schools Campaign, manage the Space to Grow program which transforms schoolyards into vibrant places that benefit students, communities, and the environment.

The University of Toledo, Ohio ($59,988) will, in collaboration with North Toledo community members, Vistula Management, United North, and the Toledo-Lucas County Sustainability Commission, develop a plan to incorporate green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) at low income, multi-family housing sites in Toledo, Ohio.

Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Lousiana ($60,000) will partner with several New Orleans-based underserved schools to assess neighborhood stormwater runoff. The data from which will be used to improve local pollution mitigation practices.

Amigos Bravos, New Mexico ($55,508) will work with an underserved community located in Alburquerque’s South Valley to address chronic flooding due to poor stormwater management.

Saint Louis University, Missouri ($58,793) will evaluate whether the use of brine pretreatment as an alternative to chloride used as road salt will help reduce local chloride water pollution.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska ($59,935) will improve stormwater and green infrastructure training and assistance for Omaha’s workforce, students, and residents.

City and County of Denver, Colorado ($60,000) will develop the Heron Pond Regional Open Space Master Plan to consolidate and restore into open space approximately 80 acres of land surrounding Heron Pond, with an ultimate goal of reducing urban runoff pollution, improving wildlife habitat, and creating recreation opportunities for the highly urbanized, industrial, and underserved Globeville neighborhood.

Groundwork Denver Inc., Colorado ($60,000) will work with local high school students from Sheridan, Colorado, an underserved community located at the mouth of Bear Creek, and Metropolitan State University, to determine the sources of E. coli feeding into the creek.

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, South Dakota ($58,996) will develop and promote a stormwater and green infrastructure educational program for K-12 and college students and the broader community, culminating in a community design charrette for the planning of low-impact development and green infrastructure practices for the proposed Rural America Initiatives development.

Arizona State University, Arizona ($58,227) will work with students and Girl Scouts Troops to monitor water quality in local waterways and recreational fisheries to develop recommendations for community- based solutions.

Constitutional Rights Foundation, California ($59,673) will, in partnership with Los Angeles Waterkeeper and UCLA, expand its teaching curriculum for local undeserved high school students on community stormwater assessments to include enhanced STEM education, and will conduct local civic-minded community environmental projects.

Heal the Bay, California ($59,998) will partner with Los Angeles Trade Technical College and local high schools to monitor bacterial water pollution in the Los Angeles River, which will be used to make recommendations to local government agencies and watershed stakeholders for improving water quality and protecting public health.

Lummi Indian Business Council, Washington ($56,433) will teach third- through fifth-grade students at the Lummi National Schools about how a watershed works, water quality parameters, sources of impairments, and how this impacts the salmon and shellfish that the Lummi Nation depends on for subsistence, economic, and cultural needs.

The Lands Council, Washington ($45,250) will offer green job training and career pathways through the Green Sleeves Program at the Geiger Correctional Center in Spokane and will work with local high school teachers to develop and teach a year-long environmental science curriculum focusing on stormwater pollution and low-impact remediation.

The Urban Waters Small Grants are competed and awarded every two years. Since its inception in 2012, the program has awarded approximately $6.6 million in Urban Waters Small Grants to 114 organizations across the country and Puerto Rico, with individual award amounts of up to $60,000.

To learn more about the funded projects, visit

Information on EPA’s Urban Waters program:

The latest eTap newsletter is hot off the presses from @DenverWater

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 newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Summer’s heat is off, and so are sprinklers — if you want to prevent costly damage when the first freeze falls. Winterize your irrigation system, hoses and spigots now by clearing them of any water.

Since Colorado winters can also bring periods of tepid temperatures and dry skies, trees and shrubs may still need watering. If you must water, do so the efficient way: by hand, applying water only where it’s needed.

Here are other ways to get your yard ready to weather the winter:

  • Mow. Late-season mowing helps reduce the risk of mold and other diseases. Try to get in one last cut before the next snow flies.
  • Mulch. With one easy step, you can both “rake” and bag while benefiting your yard. Just keep the bag off your mower and mulch the leaves into the grass.
  • Make plans. Start prepping next year’s garden. Consider saving water the tasty, health-conscious way by growing vegetables instead of grass. If you need inspiration, check out this customer’s veggie box haven.
  • You’ll reap the benefits of your prep work when the next growing season springs. (In the meantime, know that we’re employing some forward thinking on customers’ behalf.)

    The latest Chatfield Storage Project newsletter is hot off the presses from Leonard Rice Engineers

    Chatfield Reservoir
    Chatfield Reservoir

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

    After years of careful study and a step by step public review and approval process, the Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project is moving forward. Eight water provider entities* formed and are operating the new non-profit Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Company (CRMC). The Board of Directors moved quickly to select a program management team and signed a Master Services Agreement and Task Order No. One on October 26, 2015. Program Manager CDM Smith and Leonard Rice Engineers immediately began work on the design process to implement the approved and required project components. Sub-consultant teams were selected and approved by the CRMC Board in the following months to develop preliminary designs. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently reviewing those preliminary designs.

    Proposed reallocation pool -- Graphic/USACE
    Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE