Strontia Dam is spilling

May 13, 2015

Ft Collins reduces amount of fluoride in drinking water

May 13, 2015

Silverthorne: 22nd annual State of the River recap

May 11, 2015
Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

From the Summit Daily News (Ali Langley):

Summit’s Blue River Basin recorded snowpack near the 30-year average, and the six speakers at the 22nd annual State of the River meeting on Tuesday, May 5, stressed that local residents should feel fortunate that the headwaters community was spared the immediate water supply problems others are facing around the West.

“Everybody has Blue River envy,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District. “You’re the sweet spot this summer.”

However, the event’s speakers also emphasized the coming impacts of long-term drought and overconsumption on Summit and other communities that supply the majority of the West’s water.

Kuhn said major water players including Denver Water, which owns and operates Dillon Reservoir, are for the first time loudly prioritizing certainty of water supplies over development because they are worried about their future abilities to deliver water to their current customers…

County Open Space director Brian Lorch and Blue River Watershed Group board treasurer Jim Shaw said restoration projects on the Swan River northeast of Breckenridge and the Tenmile Creek east of Copper Mountain are moving forward with success.

Summit County water commissioner Troy Wineland said Summit’s snowpack didn’t quite reach average this winter, according to data from the Blue River Basin’s four SNOTEL measuring sites. Half of the snowpack arrived in November and December, and it was gone at lower and middle elevations by the end of March, which was unusually dry and warm.

Runoff started sooner this year, and Tenmile Creek flows in early April were five times greater than average, Wineland said. He predicted peak runoff will occur in early June depending on the weather.

On Monday, May 4, Wineland said Old Dillon Reservoir achieved its first complete fill of 303 acre feet. The reservoir is jointly operated by the county and the towns of Silverthorne and Dillon, and it was stocked with golden trout from California that Wineland said should mean good fishing in the next year or two.

Wineland stressed the role that Summit residents can play in shaping the state’s first-ever water plan, which will outline Colorado’s water policy priorities for the next 50 years and will be handed to the governor in December…

Bob Steger, water resources engineer with Denver Water, said his calculations of Summit snowpack included data from Fremont Pass, which is why he measured Summit’s snowpack as above average but “nowhere near the snowpack that we had last year.”

The Blue River Basin may be the only basin in the state that peaks above average, and Denver Water’s No. 1 priority of filling Dillon Reservoir “should be no problem,” he said. “We’re only two feet from full right now.”

It should be a great summer for boating as well as rafting and kayaking below the dam, Steger said. “The fishing will eventually be good, but if you don’t like high water you probably better stay out until sometime in July.”

He answered a question about Antero Reservoir in Park County, which Denver Water will empty this summer ahead of repairs to the 100-year-old dam. The phase that requires draining the reservoir should be done by the end of 2015 with refilling beginning next spring. Steger also said Denver Water is still working on a permit to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County.

Ron Thomasson, a hydrologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation who oversees Green Mountain Reservoir operations, said runoff flows won’t be high enough this year to allow coordinated reservoir operations that would protect endangered fish on the Colorado River.

Peak flows must be between 12,900 cfs and 23,000 cfs to do that, and the current forecast is for 9,600 cfs, he said…

Kuhn presented last and detailed continued threats facing Lake Powell and Lake Mead operations.

“We’re going to have to cut back our uses,” he said, “after 100 years of develop more, develop more, develop more.”

Lake Mead could likely see its first shortage next year or in 2017, he said, and “bad things happen when Lake Mead and Lake Powell get drained.”

Allowing Lake Powell’s water level to fall below the amount needed to generate electricity would lead to dramatically higher utility bills costs, the elimination of funding for the important environmental programs funded by the hydropower revenue noted above that protect current and future water use in Colorado.

If Colorado and the other Upper Basin states violate the 1922 Colorado River Compact and fail to provide enough water to Lower Basin states, the West could be fighting over water in lengthy court battles and Colorado could be forced to prohibit some water uses.

Western states could lose control of water to the federal government, Kuhn said, and Colorado would likely lose power in management of the Colorado River and water in the state.

When asked about building an interstate water pipeline to solve some shortages, Kuhn said water managers have discussed pipelines of absurd lengths and he doesn’t think that method will work.

“To expect that we can export our problems to somebody else, I just don’t see that somebody else will willingly accept them,” he said.

@NWSBoulder: Heavy snow will continue tonight. Up to 2 inches of snow per hour will be possible with the heavier snow bands

May 9, 2015

Larimer County is looking at alternatives to ban on development in floodplains

May 6, 2015

Cache la Poudre River

Cache la Poudre River

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

Larimer County is going ahead with a pilot study of potentially tying rebuilding rules in the floodway to the level of hazard instead of a blanket ban.

County Engineer Mark Peterson updated the commissioners at a public meeting Tuesday that the pilot portion of the study will focus on two stretches of the Poudre River and look at ranking the hazard based on depth and velocity.

Based on a recommendation of the flood review board, the county will look at three different levels of measurement, all which are higher than the measurement used by the city of Boulder, which has a similar ranking system.

That portion of the pilot study should be complete by July, then the county will look at erosion hazards in the same two areas of the Poudre River.

The data is expected to reveal to the county how such a system would work and allow the commissioners to decide whether it is an option they would like to pursue.

The floodway is the area closest to the river within a flood plain, and currently, county rules prohibit rebuilding of any structures that are destroyed or more than 50 percent damaged within that area. The ban applies to flood damage as well as destruction from fire, earthquakes, tornadoes and other disasters.

Residents have complained that the rule affects their property values and ability to sell their homes and asked the county to repeal the ban altogether and allow them to rebuild as long as they elevate the structure to state and federal standards.

More Cache la Poudre River coverage here.

“We spent the day at the Children’s Water Festival” — @greeleywater

April 30, 2015

Westminster’s Answer to a Catch-22 of Water Conservation — National Geographic

April 27, 2015


From the National Geographic (Sandra Postel):

A few years ago, the town of Westminster, Colorado, just north of Denver, came eye-to-eye with an issue many water-conserving cities face when a resident posed this question at a public meeting, “Why do you ask me to conserve, and then raise my rates?”

With droughts dotting the country and a growing number of areas facing water shortages in the years ahead, conservation is a core strategy for meeting present and future water demands.

Yet water utilities often find themselves in a conundrum: how to encourage households to reduce their water use without (1) losing vital revenue to maintain their water systems or (2) facing a public outcry over the raising of water rates.

Much of the money needed to expand and upgrade water infrastructure – from pipes and pumps to treatment plants – comes from selling water. By some estimates, fixing and expanding the nation’s water infrastructure will require at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years.

It seems like a catch-22. Rivers are running dry and groundwater is being depleted, so conservation is an imperative. But conservation means a drop in the volume of water sold, which can cause a utility’s revenue to drop.

The obvious answer is to lift water rates, the price charged per gallon used. But that’s not always easy. Even though U.S. residents typically pay a lot less for water than they do for their cell phones or cable television, raising water rates by even a small amount can risk a public backlash…

So, to provide a satisfactory answer to the customer’s question at the public meeting, two of Westminster’s analysts, Stuart Feinglas and Christine Gray, along with water conservation consultant Peter Mayer, dug in and undertook some research. They presented their results last fall at the WaterSmart Innovations conference in Las Vegas, as well as in a report published by the Chicago-based Alliance for Water Efficiency.

The results were illuminating — and a resounding endorsement of the economic benefits of water conservation.

Between 1980 and 2010, water use person in Westminster had dropped from 180 gallons per person per day to 149 gallons, a decline of 21 percent.

The staff attribute the drop in part to the national plumbing codes passed in 1992, which reduced the water used by new toilets, faucets and showerheads, and effectively built conservation into new homes and offices. The utility’s own conservation efforts also played an important role. Inclining block and seasonal water rate structures, for example, motivated conservation and discouraged high water use at peak times, such as hot summer days.

The research team then asked, what would water rates be today if that 21 percent reduction in per capita water use hadn’t occurred?

The answer: without conservation, water rates would have nearly doubled.

That’s because the city would have had to find and deliver an additional 7,295 acre-feet (2.38 million gallons) of water a day, necessitating a capital investment of nearly $219 million.

It would also have had to satisfy a much higher peak demand. Back in 1980, before the conservation efforts began, peak water use was 3 times higher than average use. Conservation measures, including effective pricing, brought that ratio down to 2 to 1.

Building the additional water treatment and other infrastructure to meet that higher peak demand would have required an additional capital investment of $130 million.

Since water used indoors for showering, flushing toilets, other uses then goes to a wastewater treatment plant, using less indoors means less water to treat. Conservation saved the city an additional $20 million in avoided capital costs for wastewater treatment.

Adding in avoided debt financing expenses, the conservation program saved Westminster a total of $591,850,000 in new infrastructure costs. It also reduced water and wastewater operating costs by more than $1.2 million per year.

Bottom line: single family rates and fees in 2012 would have been 91 percent higher without conservation than they were after all the conservation efforts– $1,251 per household versus $655.

More conservation coverage here.


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