Aspen: Objectors plan to give city reservoir rights a “substantial haircut” during diligence filing process

Gravity dam
Gravity dam

From The Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

Will proceed with diligence filing

Eliminating the city’s future possibility to build reservoirs that would inundate portions of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness would be irresponsible, given the uncertainties presented by climate change, Aspen City Council members said on Tuesday.

The board was unanimous in its direction to file a diligence application that would maintain the city’s water rights, first decreed in 1971, to build dams that would create the reservoirs on upper Maroon and Castle creeks.

“I have no more interest in building these dams than anyone else in this room,” councilman Art Daily said in the work session attended by about a dozen members of the public, most of whom wanted the city to abandon the water rights.

Yet Daily, like the rest of his council colleagues, said he would need more information about how the city could meet future water supply challenges without the dams, before he could agree to sign away a later council’s ability to pursue their development.

“I can’t in good conscious say we are going to drop these rights without knowing what the viable alternatives are,” Daily said, while acknowledging that a future where they would be necessary feels like an “almost unforeseeable possibility.”

[…]

Ann Mullins said she cannot predict what will happen in 50 years, and officials in the city utilities department have noted that the snow pack around Aspen could look very different under some climate projection scenarios.

“I think it’s the unpredictable part of climate change that is probably the scariest,” she said…

Council members were clear that the city will continue to study alternative water management strategies that will hopefully preclude the need to ever build the dams. This includes increasing conservation and pursuing other supply and storage initiatives.

Within the next year or two, for example, the city hopes to pump treated wastewater from the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District up hill from the treatment plant near the Aspen Business Center to irrigate the municipal golf course. The city is also exploring developing water supply from deep-underground wells…

Opposition strategies

Numerous parties, including environmental groups, stream-side property owners and the U.S. Forest Service have indicated they will file statements of opposition to the diligence application should it go forward.

Will Roush, conservation director at Wilderness Workshop, made the case at Tuesday’s meeting that the Maroon Bells are too important a resource to keep the possibility of the dams alive. The regulatory hurdles the city would encounter if it ever tried to develop the reservoirs would be too extreme, and would require an exemption signed by the president to federal wilderness area rules, Roush has said previously.

Paul Noto, a local attorney who is working on behalf of the conservation group American Rivers, said that once the application is before a water court judge, the discussion will enter a new phase. A judge would approve any amendment to the water rights that was mutually agreeable to the city and opposing parties, Noto said.

That means changes to the size and placement of the dams and reservoirs would be on the table. Noto, who argued Tuesday that the city doesn’t need the water that would be stored behind these dams, said there’s a strong possibility that the size of the would-be reservoirs is in for a “substantial haircut” in the water-court process.

Security now on 100% surface water

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From KOAA.com:

All Security Water District customers are now using Perflourinated Chemical (PFC) free surface water. According to Security Water officials, the surface water is brought in from the Pueblo Reservoir. Groundwater wells in the area have been shut down since the EPA found elevated levels of PFC’s, a man-made chemical, in water sources used by Fountain, Security, and Widefield.

The US Air Force plans on changing the type of firefighting foam it uses because of concerns that the foam is responsible for the water contamination.

Photo via USAF Air Combat Command
Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

The move by Security Water and Sanitation Districts signaled the last time that contaminated water is expected to reach residents’ homes, said Roy Heald, the water district’s general manager.

“We’re confident now that we can maintain this, really, until we can get treatment online,” Heald said.

Security’s announcement comes as temperatures cool and the summer watering season comes to a close.

Water districts in Security, Widefield and Fountain have traditionally relied largely on surface water pumped into the area from the Pueblo Reservoir during winter months. However, those water districts relied much more heavily on the Widefield aquifer during the spring and summer months to meet demand.

That strategy became a problem in May when the Environmental Protection Agency tightened its guidelines over perfluorinated compounds and left residents in Security, Widefield and Fountain scrambling to find other water sources.

Fountain managed to go the entire summer without dipping into the aquifer, due largely to watering restrictions.

Widefield Water and Sanitation District, however, does not expect to completely wean itself from the contaminated aquifer until “sometime in October,” according to Brandon Bernard, Widefield’s water department manager.

In Security, multiple projects are underway to ensure the chemicals no longer get into the drinking water, Heald said.

This year, the district purchased extra surface water from Colorado Springs Utilities to limit its well water use.

And this winter, Security plans to install a second line connecting it to the Southern Delivery System – a move that should significantly boost its capacity for bringing in cleaner water from the Pueblo Reservoir.

Both moves are meant to keep the district from using well water until it can be filtered. The Air Force has promised to provide nearly $4.3 million in water filters to affected water systems and well owners, though Security may not get any filters until next year…

The chemicals have been associated with a host of health ailments, including kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease and high cholesterol.

Two lawsuits seeking class-action status have been filed on behalf of residents in the area against the manufacturers who produced and sold the chemicals.

The “Blue Book” for the November election is hot off the presses from the General Assembly

Click here to go the the website to view the Blue Book and other election materials.

A man votes his ballot in the U.S. midterm elections at a polling place in Westminster, Colorado November 4, 2014.    REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES)
A man votes his ballot in the U.S. midterm elections at a polling place in Westminster, Colorado November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES)

@NOAA: August marks ongoing trend of record-breaking heat for the globe

Here’s the release from NOAA:

Put away your party hats: August marks a not-so-sweet 16 months of record warmth for the globe, the longest such streak in 137 years.

August 2016 was 1.66 degrees F above the 20th-century average, breaking last years’ record for the warmest August on record by 0.09 degrees F, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. The June–August seasonal temperature was 1.6 degrees F above average, surpassing the heat record for this period set in 2015 by 0.07 degrees.

For the year to date, the average global temperature was 1.82 degrees F above average, also breaking the heat record set in 2015 by 0.29 degrees.

World map of significant global climate extreme events in August 2016. August 2016 was another record-breaking month for the globe. (NOAA NCEI)
World map of significant global climate extreme events in August 2016. August 2016 was another record-breaking month for the globe. (NOAA NCEI)

More notable findings around the world include:

  • The globally averaged sea surface temperature was second warmest on record for August and warmest on record for both the season (June–August) and the year to date (January–August).
  • The globally averaged land surface temperature was record high for August, the season (June–August) and the year to date (January–August).
  • Record-warm continents: Africa and Asia had their warmest August; South America had its second; North America its sixth; Europe its 10th; and Oceania its 19th.
  • The average Arctic sea ice extent for August was 23.1 percent below the 1981–2010 average. This was the fourth smallest August extent since records began in 1979.
  • The average Antarctic sea ice extent for August was 0.2 percent above the 1981–2010 average, the 19th largest on record for the month.
  • More: Access NOAA’s report and download images by visiting the NCEI website.

    Johnstown water officials cause fish kill with algae treatment — The Greeley Tribune

    Copper Sulfate
    Copper Sulfate

    From The Greeley Tribune (Catharine Sweeney):

    Johnstown water officials are under investigation for inadvertently killing almost 1,000 fish in the town’s reservoir this summer.

    In an effort to treat an algae outbreak, a worker put a chemical compound into the water that ended up suffocating 972 fish, Jennifer Churchill, a spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said on Thursday.

    On July 29, the employee applied 40 pounds of copper sulfate — often used as a pesticide — to the reservoir.

    “That has been used in the past with no issues,” she said.

    That wasn’t the case this time.

    Several days later, hundreds of dead fish washed ashore. Officials instructed the Johnstown Police Department’s animal control division to clean the mess, and then reported the incident to the division of wildlife, Churchill said.

    The reservoir, which is north of Colo. 60 and east of High Plains Boulevard, is used for the town’s drinking water and recreational fishing. Officials didn’t express any concern about public health as a result of the chemical in the water. Higher concentrations can cause nausea. The compound can cause eye irritation, but swimming isn’t allowed in the reservoir.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials got involved because the agency supplies the fish for the lake, as it does for many fishing ponds across the state.

    “When we have fish killed, it’s not uncommon for there to be reimbursement for the fish,” Churchill said.

    As of today, Churchill said officials aren’t considering criminal charges or fines.

    “We’re hopeful that we can get it resolved without any kind of litigation,” said Johnstown Town Attorney Avi Rocklin.

    Officials didn’t notify residents of the kill on its website or Facebook page.

    “There was talk about putting something out there, but I can’t tell you whether that was done or not,” Rocklin said.

    It also hasn’t been on any town council meeting agendas for public discussion.

    “Obviously, we’re still in the middle of an investigation,” she said. “It may be premature to be having conversations about it.”

    Copper sulfate-caused fish kills aren’t unique, according to a fact sheet from the National Pesticide Information Center.

    However, the chemical doesn’t poison them. Sudden plant death and decomposition depletes the lake’s oxygen, and dead plants can clog gills.

    Neither Greeley’s water department nor the Northern Water Conservancy District use the compound.

    Greeley supplies water to its residents as well as Evans and parts of Windsor. Northern Water administers the Colorado Big-Thompson project supplies water to about 900,000 people in northern Colorado.

    Although Greeley might use the compound in park ponds, it doesn’t go into Greeley’s drinking water, said Water and Sewer Director Burt Knight.

    Instead, Greeley uses a carbon-based compound to eliminate algae, odor, and tastes, he said.

    Northern Water used to use copper sulfate on reservoirs to control algae and aquatic weeds, said Water Quality Engineer Judy Billica,but it stopped in 2008.

    “Copper, (even) at very low concentrations, can impact aquatic life, including fish,” she said.

    #ColoradoRiver: The latest “e-Waternews” is hot off the presses from Northern Water #COriver

    Graph showing historical total active storage for Sept. 1. The green line indicates average storage, which is 492,333 AF via Northern Water.
    Graph showing historical total active storage for Sept. 1. The green line indicates average storage, which is 492,333 AF via Northern Water.

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

    C-BT Project Update
    Going into September, C-BT Project storage continued to be above average. On Sept. 1, 2016, total active storage was 619,418 acre-feet, which is approximately 128,000 AF above average for this time of year.

    For the 2016 water year, 142,579 AF has been delivered with 42 percent of the deliveries 0 from Carter Lake and 49 percent from Horsetooth Reservoir. The remaining nine percent is delivered from the Big Thompson River and the Hansen Feeder Canal.

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water
    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    Questions remain on use of rain barrels — The #Colorado Springs Gazette #coleg

    Photo via the Colorado Independent
    Photo via the Colorado Independent

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jim Flynn):

    At the heart of this [water law] system, and protected by a section of the Colorado Constitution, is a concept called “prior appropriation.” The way this works is that some water users have priority over other water users, with the effect that, in times of scarcity, holders of senior water rights receive their water and holders of junior water rights do not. The seniority of water rights is generally based on a first-to-use-wins concept, meaning the most senior (and therefore the most valuable) water rights go back to the 1800s.

    Any upstream activity even remotely threatening to downstream water rights holders is cause for great alarm. This came to light in the 2016 session of the Colorado Legislature when a bill (House Bill 16-1005) was introduced intended to regulate the collection of rainwater in barrels.

    What finally emerged, after heated debate, is a new law allowing rainwater running off the rooftop of a residential property containing no more than four dwelling units to be collected in no more than two barrels having a combined storage capacity of no more than 110 gallons. These barrels must have a sealable lid; the water from the barrels can only be used at the property where the water is collected; and it can only be used for outdoor purposes “including irrigation of lawns and gardens.” The water “shall not be used for drinking water or indoor household purposes.” (Whether the water could be used for bathing activities if conducted outdoors is not clear.)

    The state engineer, “to the extent practicable within existing resources,” is instructed to provide information on his agency’s website about the permitted and prohibited uses of rain barrels and water collected therein. The state engineer is also given authority to curtail rain barrel usage in situations where it might impair the rights of downstream water users. And the state engineer is required to diligently study whether rain barrel usage is causing injury to holders of downstream water rights and to report back to the Legislature on this issue by no later than March 1, 2019.

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also gets into the act. That agency is instructed, “to the extent practicable within existing resources,” to develop “best practices” intended to address nonpotable usage of collected rainwater and issues relating to disease and pest control. When and if such best practices are developed, they are to be posted on the department’s website and on the state engineer’s website. Alternatively, the state engineer’s website can provide a link back to the department’s website.

    Finally, knowing the penchant of homeowners living in common-interest ownership communities to fight over almost everything, the Legislature added language to the new law addressing rain barrel usage in these communities. An owners association in a common-interest ownership community cannot prohibit rooftop water collection using rain barrels. The association can, however, “impose reasonable aesthetic requirements that govern the placement or external appearance of a rain barrel.” So, for any of you who have the misfortune of serving on your neighborhood architectural control committee, it’s time to develop design guidelines for rain barrels.