Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

Urban Drainage and Flood Control District

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

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More good news for Bayfield's sewage treatment plant, according to The Pine River Times. From the article:

Town and district manager Justin Clifton reported to town trustees on Nov. 6 that the state has accepted town/ district data from the past few months showing reduction of sewage strength from several businesses and the schools. As a result, the state has backed off on a requirement that every one of those customers has sewage strength at or below 300 milligrams per liter, Clifton said. That would have required weekly sampling and testing, and the town and district don't have the equipment, he said. "It's up to the district or town to decide where to test to continue to substantiate the data," he said. "The original language (in a consent agreement with the state) said if any (of the five identified) business went over 300, we would have to re-establish the moratorium" on selling new sewer taps or cut off sewer service for that customer.

Clifton told the Times, "The goal was to reduce 51.2 pounds" per day of organic loading from the identified customers - Steamworks, Aspen Plaza, Riverside RV Park, the high school and middle school. The elementary school was added later. The means to get the 51.2 pounds reduction was the 300 mgl limit on concentration, Clifton explained. The schools and the RV park achieved reductions well beyond that, around 75 pounds per day. Now the state says the situation is acceptable if effluent from the Bayfield plant is within environmental limits, which it is, Clifton said. He wrangled with the state for several months that the focus should be on effluent quality more than on the strength of sewage coming in...

The last and most expensive of the improvements at the treatment lagoons is a sand filter, which further improves effluent. It was due to go on line on Nov. 12, Clifton said. It didn't happen then, but Clifton expected it later this week. Improvements this year total just under $500,000 and are intended to satisfy the state while a new treatment plant is built. "Loading is levelling off around 800 pounds per day," Clifton said. The state permit limit is 600. But Clifton said, "It's becoming more and more clear how much improvement we've had on plant performance and commercial loading, when you take off the (loading) spikes that skew the data." Organic loading in September and October was down 21 percent from those months last year, he said. The town and district are requesting a higher state permit limit for organic loading to reflect the plant's actual performance, he said...

Clifton said the town is making sure any new business puts in the right size grease trap. They are a lot more expensive to put in after the fact. New businesses cannot exceed sewage strength of three equivalent residential taps (ERTs), Clifton said. He reported that the small Gem Village treatment plant "is in compliance (with permit limits) for the first time in awhile this month." Clifton said results so far are suggesting that a lift station to get Gem Village sewage to the new Bayfield plant once it's built is a better alternative than a new or expanded plant in Gem Village.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

In other wastewater news The Cortez Journal reports that fees are going up for customers of the Cortez Sanitation District. From the article:

The district board unanimously voted Monday night to increase monthly residential sewer rates from $21 to $25, an almost 20-percent hike. Businesses will also pay more - $25 per month for the first 10,000 gallons, and an extra $2.50 for each additional 1,000 gallons. Sanitation District Manager Jay Conner pointed to rising electricity and fuel costs, and needed pipeline replacement as reasons for the increase. "It's getting ridiculous," Conner said Tuesday. "I'm wondering where it's going to stop."

Conner estimated the district's operation-and-maintenance budget will be about 10.4 percent higher in fiscal year 2008 than in 2007. Also, about 70,000 feet of clay-tile sewer line need to be replaced, Conner said. The district repaired about 5,000 feet of pipeline in 2007, but that was because the district was able to receive a $750,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to help pay for the project. The sanitation district's last rate increase was in October 2005. The district has 4,111 ratepayers, including residents, businesses, churches and schools.

Crested Butte is going to upgrade their treatment plant, according to The Crested Butte News. From the article:

In order to meet minimal state standards and prevent a possible disastrous situation, the Town of Crested Butte will spend over $3 million in the next two years for upgrades to the town's wastewater treatment plant. The Town Council gave preliminary approval at a recent budget meeting on Friday, November 2 for the Public Works department to spend $200,000 next year for engineering work to begin the massive project that is expected to be completed in 2010...

"The biggest problem facing the plant is a lack of redundancy in a couple of major components in the plant," Balch says. "We have no back-up." The evaluation found that the plant was not in compliance with two Colorado Department of Public Health policies regarding aeration basins and clarifiers. An aerated basin is a holding and/or treatment pond provided with artificial aeration to promote the biological oxidation of wastewater to remove pollutants. A clarifier helps to remove any final contaminates in the water by using ultra-violet light so it can then be discharged into the Slate River. State statute requires wastewater treatment plants to have at least two or more aeration tanks, based on the plant's capacity. The existing facility has one aeration tank. "If we have a problem with it or we need to work on it, we don't have any redundancy," Balch explains.

Redundancy is also of concern for the clarifier. The state requires facilities to have multiple units with a minimum side water depth of 12 to 16 feet. The town's plant has only one clarifier with a side water depth of only 10 feet. "We need a second (clarifier); the current one is 30 years old and if something happens, we are in trouble," Balch says.

The Town has not determined how it will pay for the project. Parker says the town is considering various options, including community block grants, loans from the state and bonding to cover the estimated cost of $3,125,000. Although the sewer and water fund balance is over $2 million, Crested Butte finance director Lois Rozman says it's not an option for funding the project. "When you have $5 million in projects coming up, a fund balance of $2 million isn't a lot," Rozman says. Balch says rate users could potentially feel the impacts of the upgrades as well. The town is planning to increase user charges by $1, from $43 to $44, and raising the tap fees $1,000, from $13,500 to $14,500 next year. The last time tap fees were increased was in 2006. The increased fees are needed for the $350,000 in capital expenditures planned for 2008, which includes the $200,000 needed for engineering work on the plant, Balch says...

Steve Glazer, water director for the High Country Citizens' Alliance, says despite the cost, the Town should incorporate upgrades that would help prevent system overloads so the plant does not discharge partial or non-treated water. If the plant failed, Glazer says the Town would face problems with E. coli; the excess of ammonia, which could cause nutrient loading into the Slate River; and oxygen levels in the streams, which would encourage algae growth.

Category: Colorado Water

10:36:43 AM    

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From The Steamboat Pilot & Today. "Rich Levy, president of the local Sierra Club chapter, hopes a 20-minute trailer for a documentary about the Yampa River will be enough to get people interested in the river and its future. The trailer [debuted Friday] at 7 p.m. at Steamboat Mountain Theater in Ski Time Square, as part of the sixth annual Sierra Club Film Festival, which also features two environmentally minded documentaries."

More from the article:

The film is meant to address the potential consequences of the proposed project, informally dubbed the "Yampa Pumpback," as well as highlight the river's natural and historical treasures, Levy said. "It will highlight the attributes of the river, not just the threats of the river," he said. The documentary is the driving force of the Yampa River Awareness Project, a group that opposes the proposed pumpback and its 200 miles of pipeline, which would pass through Routt County if the project is implemented. "If we cut out the Yampa flow for diversion to the northern Front Range, that could affect all the Colorado River Basin states," Levy said. "It's really more than just a local issue, it's a Western Slope and western state issue."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

10:16:25 AM    

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Here's a look at the potential effects of improving irrigation efficiency in the Arkanas Valley from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Improving irrigation efficiency in the Arkansas Valley could dramatically improve water quality and reduce the amount of water available to weeds and invasive trees, research suggests. "What we're seeing is the same strategies that boost agricultural productivity will improve water quality, and that's not always the case," said Tim Gates, a Colorado State University professor who has led a study of water tables and salinity field-by-field in the Arkansas Valley since 1999.

Calling most water conservation strategies a "shell game" that merely change the way water flows back into the river, Gates said 15,000-60,000 acre-feet of "real water" could be recovered simply by lowering water tables in the valley. In the process, Arkansas River water quality would improve because salinity, selenium and metals would be reduced by 30-40 percent. "Surface irrigation is not efficient," Gates said.

CSU researchers observed about 300 irrigation events and measured 55 percent efficiency, or the amount of water used by crops or lost to evaporation. About 90 percent of the remaining water infiltrated the soil, and 10 percent ran off the fields. Of that, 30-40 percent stayed in the ground, causing water tables to rise. In addition, 20-30 percent of water moving through canals is lost to seepage. The net loss to productivity is 10-20 percent, Gates said.

The higher water tables either increase evaporation or feed weeds, tamarisks and other undesirable vegetation. The additional evaporation from high water tables alone was greater than expected: more than a foot and a half over the growing season. The wasted water leaches 1.8 tons of salt per mile per day back into the river. "Why is the water table high? From inefficient irrigation and seepage from 1,000 miles of canals," Gates said. "There is a lot of water leaving our valley every year, principally because we have high groundwater tables."

Studies now are looking at how effective several methods would be at lowering the water tables, including using sprinklers or drip systems, rotational fallowing, changing irrigation patterns, lining canals and improving drainage from fields.

"We're looking at the best way to get these things done and at the same time to meet Colorado water law and not violate the compact," Gates said. "We're developing a decision-support system that will allow us to understand how to operate Pueblo Reservoir and John Martin Reservoir to store the water and release it in a timely manner that would not violate the compact."

The irrigation report was part of Thursday's meeting of the Southeastern Water Conservancy District as reported by The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District continues to pay down its debt to the federal government for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project at an accelerated pace...At the current pace, the debt would be paid off at least eight years ahead of schedule.

The board received the $14.3 million 2008 budget Thursday and will act on it on Dec. 6. The board also is looking at a $2.3 million enterprise budget, which funds special projects of the district. The district's mill levy will decrease to 0.917 mills from 0.939 mills, because of growth in the district and state tax limitations. Property owners in the Fountain Valley Authority - Colorado Springs, Fountain, Widefield, Security and Stratmoor Hills - also are paying for the pipeline that serves their area. The bulk of revenues will go to repay the federal debt on the Fry-Ark Project, about $6.2 million. Fountain Valley Pipeline payments are $5.3 million. The district's operating budget is $2.38 million. This year, the district revenues and expenditures both fell short of the budget, with a net shortfall of $33,068. However, the district's financial position remains strong with $584,000 or unreserved, undesignated funds available, Fanning said.

Category: Colorado Water

9:54:38 AM    

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It may still be slow going for funding the Arkansas Valley Conduit even with the passage of H.R. 1495, the Water Resources Development Act, according to this article from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

The $330 million Arkansas Valley Conduit remains a largely unfunded dream, despite a congressional override last week of President Bush's veto of the water projects bill. The Water Resource Development Act passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. House and Senate and includes authorization of $79 million for the conduit. "We do not anticipate a large amount of money being available because WRDA has a large backlog ... There are projects in the WRDA bill from six years ago that have never been funded," said Chris Arbogast, federal lobbyist for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, conduit sponsors. "Right now, nothing is being done on appropriations." Congress is likely to fund federal programs with a continuing resolution through early next year, meaning additional appropriations are unlikely, she said.

The district should identify which parts of the project it would like to see funded in fiscal year 2009, perhaps using the WRDA funds as a bridge, until another bill which would authorize federal funding for the conduit as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project moves. WRDA projects are administered by the Army Corps of Engineers, while the Bureau of Reclamation handles Fry-Ark. A key difference is that the Corps requires an up-front 35 percent local match, while Reclamation works on long-term loans.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

9:41:53 AM    

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Congratulations to Adams County for winning an Engineering Excellence Award for Transportation from The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Colorado, as reported on YourHub. The winning project is the 120th Avenue extension project. From the article, "This major arterial roadway completed the missing link of 120th Avenue from Quebec Street to US 85, providing commuters in the northern metropolitan area with improved access while protecting an impressive natural habitat for wildlife. The project also provides a connection to the future Adams County Regional Park extension east of Riverdale Road.

"URS designed a unique 1,350-foot long cutoff wall to separate a water shortage reservoir from groundwater and prevent seepage through the highway embankment."

Category: Colorado Water

9:29:33 AM    

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From, "The city of Montrose will be awarded a grant to expand and improve the city's aging water infrastructure. The $500,000 grant is from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Program. The money will be used to construct a new water tank, expanding the city's water storage capacity...The city is nearing completion of the Eastside Water Tank, a three million gallon water tank on Sunnyside Road. However, additional water storage capacity is needed to meet existing and future demands. Prior to construction of the Eastside tank, the city's water storage infrastructure was last expanded in 1962."

More coverage from The Montrose Daily Press. They write:

Members of the Montrose City Public Works, Montrose City Council, city engineers and representatives from Buckhorn Geotech, Garney Construction, and water tank designer DYK Incorporated were on site at the 3-million-gallon water tank currently being built on the east side of Montrose Thursday afternoon as part of a tour to observe the tank's pre-stressing operations. The coarse outer surface of the water tank was power-blasted to allow for a pre-stressing technique that involves wrapping 17 1/2 miles of wire around the tank, and placing a layer of concrete over the wire. This will compress the tank in order to handle the massive 3 million gallon capacity of water reserve.

Category: Colorado Water

9:20:47 AM    

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Here's a cool article from Students from West Middle School recently performed water quality studies on the creek near the campus and has published some of their reports. From the article:

On October 16 th, 2007 students from West Middle School headed outdoors to test the water quality of the stream running through Castlewood Park in Greenwood Village. The hands-on field study was part of an inquiry based Ecology unit developed by science teacher, Alan Schwartz. Students learned about watersheds and possible sources of pollution.

The field study gave students an opportunity to test a variety of water quality parameters, which were used to determine the health of the stream. Students conducted chemical tests for pH, nitrate, phosphate, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, salt content and coliform bacteria. Students also calculated stream velocity and caught and identified macroinvertebrates (aka bugs). The macroinvertebrates can be used as indicators of pollution because different species tolerate varying amounts of pollution.

After the students collected and recorded their data, they determined the overall water quality and learned about possible sources of pollution. Students ranked the stream as "good" with a value of 3 on a 4 point rating scale. Students also learned simple ways for community members to help preserve and protect the quality of water in local streams.

Zoe Hawtof and Emily Matthews: Our community can help the environment in many ways. One way is to pick up after your pet. Their waste will not decompose fast enough before the rain washes the waste in to our streams. Please don't put too much fertilizer on your lawn, the aquatic plants in the stream will have an over growth which will unbalance the ecosystem. If you see trash on the ground, pick it up; it will only take five seconds of your time. If your car is leaking, please fix it. As the rain pours, the oil will also be washed to the stream. Don't waste water. As you brush your teeth, turn the faucet off while brushing. When winter comes, do not put too much salt in your driveway, it will wash in to the stream.. As the rain pours, all of these chemicals and the waste will flow into our natural streams. So how will you help your environment?

Here's a nice resource for teachers,

Category: Colorado Water

8:13:12 AM    

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Up in the high country all eyes on on the sky looking for snowstorms as ski areas hoping to open are getting anxious, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

Click: balmy fall weather. Click: brown barren slopes. Click: Scattered patches of mostly machine-made snow. From live Internet camera shots, one can easily glimpse the challenges facing resorts across the Rockies as they struggle to open for the Thanksgiving weekend. Some, including Vail Mountain and Steamboat Springs, have postponed start dates. Conspiring against them are weather systems that have kept storms away and hampered snowmaking and the fact that Thanksgiving falls earlier in the month than usual. The good news is forecasts are calling for snow next week in Colorado and Utah. "It's always nice to get open for Thanksgiving but the fact of the matter is sometimes we do, sometimes we don't," said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association trade group. "If we can be up and operating in a substantial fashion by the middle of December, it bodes well for the industry."[...]

Although resorts relied solely on natural snow to coat runs decades ago, consistent improvements in snow manufacturing have pushed the traditional ski season start to Thanksgiving weekend. To churn out the best, most consistent snow, the machines need to operate in temperatures hovering around freezing or below with low humidity. In Colorado, resort operators say it's been about 10 degrees above normal for the past couple of weeks.

Steamboat is moving ahead with snowmaking according to the The Craig Daily Press. From the article:

Snowmaking is a complicated process that involves complex machinery and jargon. Boiled down simply, it requires only three necessary ingredients: low temperatures, water and compressed air, which atomizes water as it comes out of a snow gun and rapidly drops its temperature. Low temperature has been the missing ingredient, Allen said. Contrary to popular perception, he added, the Yampa Valley's geography is such that at night and other times when the air is still, temperatures are actually warmer on the mountain because denser cold air settles near the valley floor. Allen called the phenomenon a "stratification of temperature layers."

Category: Colorado Water

8:04:06 AM    

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Capturing rainfall is not legal under Colorado water law. Here's a look at a recent study in Douglas County that could help to change the law and allow the practice, from The Rocky Mountain News. They write:

What's preventing Colorado from using rainwater harvesting? The stumbling block is that Colorado water law makes rainfall part of river water. If rainwater is harvested, Colorado law requires that it must be put back in the river for downstream users.

A recent Douglas County study challenged that concept, and could be the first step in changing our water law. The study focused on a large undeveloped area of northern Douglas County, but its findings are certainly applicable throughout the Front Range...

A consortium consisting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Dominion Water & Sanitation District, Castle Pines North Metropolitan District, Douglas County, Thunderbird Water and Sanitation District and Plum Valley Heights Homeowner Association commissioned the study. The firms of Leonard Rice Engineers Inc. and Meurer and Associates provided the technical expertise. The study used science to tackle two significant questions:

* What can we determine scientifically about how much precipitation that falls in a given location really makes it back to the stream system as either surface water or groundwater and is therefore legally spoken for?

* Can we capture water that has not historically returned to the stream system for new landscaping uses?

The study found that only a very small percentage of the total precipitation that fell on the undeveloped study site returned to the stream system - and possibly none returned. For example, the study indicated that in a dry year, none of the precipitation that fell on the undeveloped site made it back to the stream system. In a wet year, only about 15 percent of the precipitation would return to the stream system. The study is clear. When the study site is developed - and the development is combined with waterwise landscaping - harvesting rainwater would have the potential to ease pressure on existing water resources. The study showed that with just moderate conservation - sensitive landscaping outdoor water demand can be cut by approximately one-third. If there is aggressive waterwise landscaping - known as xeriscaping - outdoor water demand would be cut by more than 60 percent.

The study indicated a number of other potential benefits from practicing rainwater harvesting:

* Reducing consumption helps conserve the drain on existing groundwater, eases the pressure for more water storage projects and reduces the energy costs to treat and distribute water. It further reduces the pressure to dry up farms for the purpose of growing grass and shrubs in the metropolitan areas.

* Reducing peak summer water demands and peak summer energy demands associated with pumping water through distribution systems.

* Helping planted landscapes thrive with rainwater irrigation because untreated water is better for plants than typical deep groundwater supplies.

Category: Colorado Water

7:38:31 AM    

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