Environment: EPA finally agrees to study impacts of common pesticides on 1,500 endangered species

June 28, 2015

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

sfdg Crop dusting.

Settlement with watchdog group may be the first step in limiting applications of harmful chemicals

Staff Report

FRISCO — Under legal pressure, the EPA last week agreed to begin a far-reaching evaluation of how some of the most commonly used pesticides affect more than 1,500 endangered plants and animals.

The study, to be completed by 2020, could be the first step toward limiting the use of atrazine and glyphosate. The EPA will also analyze the impacts of propazine and simazine, two pesticides that are chemically similar to atrazine.

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Water Lines: Colorado water leaders set ambitious conservation goals #COWaterPlan

June 26, 2015

Basin roundtable boundaries

Basin roundtable boundaries

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

Discussions and disputes over how to meet the water needs of Colorado’s growing population typically revolve around the proper balance between taking additional water from agriculture, taking additional water from the West Slope to the Front Range, and conservation.

Conservation would seem to be the low-hanging fruit, but the nuts and bolts of how to conserve enough to avoid more transfers from agriculture or the West Slope is not as easy as it may at first appear. That scale of conservation is more than can easily be achieved simply through newer, more efficient appliances and tactics like Denver Water’s highly effective “use only what you need” campaign.

Cutting deeper into household water demands would likely require some kind of mandate, on either personal behavior or land development patterns (smaller lots equal less outdoor watering), and that flies in the face of deeply held values on private property rights and local control. From a planning perspective, it’s also harder to calculate how much water you can save from possible future changes in people’s behavior than how much water you can get from a new pipeline or water rights purchase.

These reasons played into the modest approach to conservation in the part of the first draft of Colorado’s water plan that set out “no and low regrets actions,” which are those actions that should be helpful no matter what the future brings in terms of population growth, climate change and public attitudes. This portion of the plan calls for establishing a “medium” level of conservation that would achieve 340,000 acre feet per year of water savings. An acre foot is enough water to cover an acre of land one foot deep, and it is enough to serve two to three households for a year at current use rates. Following a number of public comments and statements calling for higher conservation goals from the West Slope “basin roundtables” of stakeholders and water managers tasked with planning for their own river basins, state leaders are moving towards setting the bar higher.

On June 22, Taylor Hawes of the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC), which includes representatives from basin roundtables across the state, told the Colorado Basin Roundtable that the IBCC’s subcommittee on conservation was developing a “stretch goal” to achieve an additional 60,000 acre feet per year of savings for a total of 400,000 acre feet per year. Hawes reported that the committee is proposing that this goal be pursued in a way that respects local control and involves additional monitoring to determine what really works and whether the goal needs to be adjusted up or down.

Depending on how this work is received by the full IBCC and the basin roundtables, this is one of the changes that may make its way into the next draft of the Colorado Water Plan, which is due to be released in the middle of July, with a public comment period lasting until Sept. 17.

To learn more about the Colorado Water Plan and find out how to submit your own comments, go to http://coloradowaterplan.com. You can also plan to attend one of the public hearings the legislatures Water Resource Review Committee is holding on the plan. West Slope hearings will be held July 20 in Durango, July 21 in Montrose, July 22 in Craig, and Aug. 12 in Grandby.

For details, visit http://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cga-legislativecouncil/2015-water-resources-review-committee.

This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. You can also find the Water Center at http://www.Facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or http://www.Twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.

More conservation coverage here.

The Grand River Diversion turns 100 years old #ColoradoRiver

June 26, 2015
The Grand River Diversion

The Grand River Diversion

From the Associated Press via The Greeley Tribune:

Many people pass by and marvel at its size. At 14 feet high and 546 feet long, the Grand River Diversion Dam is one of the biggest roller dams in the world, and it just turned 100 years old.

“You know you see it with those orange towers and maybe a lot of people don’t know the significance of the dam,” said Palisade Historical District’s Charlene Weidner.

“I feel like this is a great opportunity to educate people and let them know it’s an important dam.”

The six 70-foot rollers move up and down depending on the amount of water to be let through. The water is siphoned off into the Highline Canal, sending water to 33,000 acres of farms, fields, and wineries.

“We know we live in a high desert it would just be too hot to live here, because it also waters trees, so we really wouldn’t exist without it, said Weidner.

Water first turned into the canal in 1915, and a caretaker has watched after the dam day and night ever since, KKCO-TV reported.

“I love it,” said current caretaker Alfonzo Gallegos. “The sound of the waterfall, the water sloshing up against the wall here, it is a great place to be.”

Gary Hines has a special relationship with the roller dam – his grandfather was the dam’s caretaker for 33 years.

“You walk up on the catwalk above the rollers and it still gives you that massive same impression that I had 55 years ago,” said Hines. “It’s incredibly special. I was about ten years old when my grandfather unexpectedly passed away and we kind of lost our passport to this magical land.”

A unique German design, it is one of four roller dams in the country. It is too fragile and hard to access for public tours.

Click here to visit the US Bureau of Reclamation webpage for the Grand Valley Project. Here’s an excerpt:


Water for project use is diverted into the Government Highline Canal at the Grand Valley Project Diversion Dam, about 23 miles northeast of Grand Junction. Approximately 4.6 miles below the main diversion, water for the Orchard Mesa Diversion is diverted from the canal. This water passes through the Orchard Mesa Siphon under the Colorado River, through the Orchard Mesa Power Canal to the Grand Valley Powerplant, or to the Orchard Mesa Pumping Plant, where it is pumped into Orchard Mesa Canals No. 1 and 2 for distribution to the water users.

From the Orchard Mesa diversion, the Government Highline Canal continues westward, approximately paralleling the river, distributing water to laterals of the Garfield Gravity Division. Water also is furnished to 8,580 acres in the Mesa County and Palisade Irrigation Districts which were served by private facilities prior to project construction.

Facility Descriptions

Grand Valley Diversion Dam

The diversion dam is on the Colorado River about 8 miles northeast of Palisade. This concrete weir is 14 feet high and 546 feet long. Flow over its crest is controlled by six roller gates. These gates were the first of their type designed in the United States.

Government Highline Canal System

The canal is on the west and north side of the river and extends from the Grand Valley Project Diversion Dam south and west a distance of 55 miles. It has a diversion capacity of 1,675 cubic feet per second, which includes 800 cubic feet per second for the Orchard Mesa Power Canal. The remaining flows are distributed through the Government Highline Canal and Price-Stubb Pumping Plant. The distribution system for the Garfield Gravity Division consists of 166 miles of laterals. The drainage system consists of 2 miles of closed drains and 110.5 miles of deep open drains.

The Price-Stubb Pumping Plant is on the canal near Tunnel No. 3 Outlet at the east end of the Grand Valley. It lifts 25 cubic feet per second of water 31 feet to the Stubb Ditch to serve land of the Mesa County Irrigation District. Power is provided to the hydraulic pump by water delivered to the Price Ditch for the Palisade Irrigation District.

Orchard Mesa Canal System

The Orchard Mesa Siphon conveys water from the Government Highline Canal to the head of the 3.5-mile-long Orchard Mesa Power Canal on the east side of the river. The siphon is reinforced concrete with a capacity of 800 cubic feet per second. Orchard Mesa Pumping Plant lifts water from the Orchard Mesa Power Canal to the distribution system. The plant contains four pump units: two have a combined capacity of 80 cubic feet per second and a lift of 41 feet to Canal No. 1; two have a combined capacity of 60 cubic feet per second with a lift of 130 feet to Canal No. 2. Water is conveyed to privately owned and operated laterals by Orchard Mesa Canals No. 1 and 2. The canals have capacities of 85 and 65 cubic feet per second, respectively, and a combined length of 31.6 miles.

Grand Valley Powerplant

The plant is about 1 mile south of Palisade at the lower end of the Orchard Mesa Power Canal adjacent to the Orchard Mesa Pumping Plant. It operates under a maximum head of 79 feet and has a capacity of 3,000 kilowatts. The plant was constructed by the United States with funds advanced by Public Service Company of Colorado. The company operates and maintains the plant under a rental agreement with the United States and the Grand Valley Water Users Association. Power generation averages approximately 19,350,600 kilowatt-hours annually…



Soon after their arrival in the Grand Valley in 1881, settlers began work on ditches to irrigate lowlands adjacent to the north side of the Colorado River. By 1886, the Grand Valley Canal (not part of the Grand Valley Project) was completed and the canal system expanded to serve approximately 45,000 acres of land. From 1886 to 1902, several attempts were made by private interests to construct a canal to higher lands in the valley, but because of initial technical difficulties private investors were unwilling to back the project.


After passage of the Reclamation Act in 1902, an evaluation of the proposed Government Highline Canal, now a part of the Grand Valley Project, was requested by the local citizens. In 1905, the Grand Valley Water Users Association was organized to cooperate with the Reclamation Service in developing a project. After investigation, the Reclamation Service proposed a project consisting of a diversion dam and distribution canal to irrigate lands at higher valley levels than those being operated by private interests. A board of engineers approved feasibility of the project on December 15, 1908.


The Grand Valley Project was one of the projects examined and reported upon favorably by a board of Army Engineers in accordance with the act of June 25, 1910 (36 Stat. 835) and approved by the President on January 5, 1911. The project was constructed primarily for agricultural and power generation purposes.


The Reclamation Service was authorized by the Secretary of the Interior on September 23, 1912, to begin construction on one of the smaller tunnels. Irrigation was first provided June 29, 1915, at which time the entire project was less than 60 percent completed. Cooperative drainage work in the Grand Valley Drainage District was begun in March 1918.

The Price-Stubb Pumping Plant was completed and water supplied through Government-constructed facilities to Palisade and Mesa County Irrigation Districts in April 1919. A powerplant was constructed in 1932-33 using funds advanced by Public Service Company of Colorado. Tunnel No. 3 on the Government Highline Canal collapsed in March 1950 because of landslides. In a dramatic effort to open the canal before the start of the irrigation season, a contract to construct a section of new tunnel to bypass the slide area was negotiated and the contractor broke all records in finishing the tunnel in time for the irrigation season.



Since it first delivered water in 1917, the Grand Valley Project has furnished a full supply of irrigation water to approximately 33,368 acres and supplemental water to about 8,600 acres of fertile land. The project has made possible diversified and intensified farming in the area, regularly bringing to maturity such late-season crops as fruit, alfalfa, beans, seed, corn, oats, barley, potatoes, and wheat. Favorable climate, cheap winter forage, and proximity to good range combine to make the area desirable for profitable raising of livestock. Dairying and poultry raising are also important to the project area.

Hydroelectric Power

Grand Valley Powerplant, completed in 1933, has a capacity of 3.0 MW. The powerplant was constructed by Grand valley Water Users Association. The powerplant is operated by by the Colorado Public Service Company under a lease of power privilege contract.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

The talk of the town

June 26, 2015

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

The talk of the town

The California drought was a hot topic at a water industry convention in Anaheim. Denver Water staff got an up-close look at the problems and potential solutions.

Dry river beds dot the California landscape after years of drought. Dry river beds dot the California landscape after years of drought.

By Steve Snyder

A friendly attendant in the convention center parking lot perfectly captured the moment.

“What event is going on here today?” he asked a bus full of visitors.

“We’re here for a water convention,” one visitor answered.

“Great! Can you all please do something to fix this drought?”

At the American Water Works Association’s annual convention in early June, the lingering drought was top of mind for the water professionals in attendance. Several of us from Denver Water made the trip, and we were all eager to get a first-hand look at the story that has captured so many headlines.

After all, California and Colorado

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UGRWCD: Morrow Dam spilling — beautiful

June 25, 2015

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CWCB: The June 2015 #Drought Update is hot off the presses

June 25, 2015

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of US Drought Monitor maps for late-June for the past 5 years.

Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Taryn Finnessey/Tracy Kosloff):

A cool and wet May has eliminated drought conditions across much of Colorado. With 31 weather stations recording the wettest month ever, statewide May 2015 was the wettest May since record keeping began in 1895. In total much of the state experienced 300% of normal May precipitation. June temperatures to-date have been slightly warmer than average and the short term forecast shows decreased likelihood of precipitation. Water providers are reporting full systems and below average demand compared to this time last year.

  • Water year-to-date precipitation at mountain SNOTEL sites, as of June 16, is at 97% of normal, an 11% improvement compared to the last drought update, due to record breaking May precipitation.
  • In the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins June precipitation to-date is 350% of normal, and has already exceeded average total June precipitation. Coupled with abundant May accumulation this region has received roughly 10 inches of precipitation since the beginning of May, leading to drought elimination in this area of the state.
  • Below tree-line, most basins have very little snow remaining at this time of year, although the cool and wet conditions over the last month have helped to slow melt off.
  • Cooler than average temperatures in May also contributed to greatly improved drought conditions, with most sites reporting below average evapotranspiration and some reporting record low evapotranspiration.
  • Reservoir Storage statewide is at 107% of average as of May 1st. Storage in the northern half of the state is above average with multiple basins near 110% of average. The Colorado River basin is experiencing its highest storage levels since the turn of the century. The Upper Rio Grande and the basins of Southwestern Colorado currently have the lowest storage at 66% and 89% of average, respectively. Both have seen below average storage levels for multiple years.
  • The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) is abundant in all of the South Platte, and near normal is the Colorado River, Gunnison, and Arkansas, but showing spots of moderate to severe drought in the Upper Yampa, Conejos and the Piedra. The vast majority of the state has seen improvements in the SWSI since last month.
  • El Niño has continued to gain strength over the last few months and is poised to become a strong event, if not a “Super El Niño.” The last “Super El Niño” was in 1997 when Colorado experienced above average precipitation.
  • All long term forecasting tools indicate normal to above normal precipitation in the coming months, with some indication that the monsoon season may come early.

  • #Drought news: Colorado remains #drought-free, D0 (abnormally dry) west of the Great Divide

    June 25, 2015

    Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought monitor maps for June 23, 2015.

    Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

    Great Plains

    Light to moderate rainfall, on the order of 0.5 to 1.5 inches, fell on most of the dry areas in the Plains, though little or no rain fell on dry areas from northern Kansas into southeastern New Mexico. A second week of significant rainfall led to reductions in the extent of D0 and D1 conditions in southeastern South Dakota and adjacent Nebraska, and there was further reduction in the D0 area still lingering in central Texas. Otherwise, conditions remained essentially as they were last week…

    The Rockies To The West Coast

    Little precipitation fell from the Rockies westward to the Pacific Coast last week. Overall, there was little change in conditions except along the northern tier of states from Montana westward through Washington and Oregon. Continued dryness and exceptionally hot weather kept dryness and drought increasing most significantly across eastern Washington, central and northern Idaho, and western Montana. The entire state of Washington is now covered by D0 conditions or worse, and D2 was pulled northward along the Oregon coastline, and expanded across a large part of central Idaho and adjacent Montana. These areas recorded generally 6 to 12 inches less precipitation than normal in the last 6 months, and less than half of normal amounts in the last 60 days. In contrast, recent heavy precipitation in west New Mexico and adjacent northeast Arizona led to additional improvements in these areas despite the dry week…

    Looking Ahead

    For the upcoming 5-day period (June 25-29), hot and dry weather should prevail west of the Rockies’ front range, except in parts of the desert Southwest. Little if any precipitation is expected, and daily high temperatures from Utah and Nevada northward through the northern Rockies and Intermountain West will average 9 to 18 degrees F above normal, with even higher departures possible along the east side of the Cascades. Near normal temperatures and light to moderate precipitation are forecast for the Plains and southeastern Rockies, with over an inch of possible in the higher elevations of south-central Colorado and adjacent New Mexico. Light to moderate rain is also expected across the Great Lakes and northern New England, along with cooler than normal temperatures (daily highs should average 3 to 6 degrees F below normal). Moderate to heavy rainfall, generally exceeding an inch, is expected from the Midwest, Ohio Valley, and lower Northeast southward through the Gulf Coast and Florida. Over an inch of rain is anticipated everywhere except parts of Florida, with 2 to 5 inches potentially falling on the Ohio Valley, central to northern Appalachians, and mid-Atlantic region.

    For the ensuing 5-day period (June 30 – July 4), continued above normal temperatures are favored in most of the West and across the Gulf Coast and southern Atlantic regions, including Florida. Meanwhile, the odds favor anomalously cool weather from the Plains eastward through the upper Southeast, Ohio Valley, Great Lakes, and interior portions of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Drier than normal conditions are favored across Florida and in a swath from the northern Plains to the Pacific Northwest. Enhanced chances for above-normal precipitation cover a large part of the rest of the contiguous 48 states, excepting California, the central Gulf Coast, and in a stripe from the northern Intermountain West eastward through the Dakotas and Minnesota, south of the area where subnormal precipitation is favored. Warm weather is anticipated over most of Alaska, with enhanced chances for above normal precipitation identified outside the Panhandle and east-central parts of the state.


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