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

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

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Here's an update on the EPA cleanup of Leadville from The Denver Post. From the article:

Leadville won't be removed from the list of the nation's most polluted sites until local officials enact permanent land-use restrictions and other safeguards to prevent exposure to heavy metals, according to a new federal review...

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has overseen a cleanup effort for the past 24 years, including construction of a new water-treatment plant, consolidation and capping of waste-rock piles and creating a blood-lead monitoring program. Still, to the chagrin of local officials, the $150-million cleanup isn't complete, in part due to ongoing battles over binding agreements to continue monitoring and operating expensive environmental efforts. "Virtually nothing has changed from five years ago" when the last progress report was issued, said Lake County Commissioner Ken Olsen, an EPA critic. "We are just achingly close" to completing the cleanup, said Rebecca Thomas, an EPA project manager who began doing technical work on the site for the agency in the late 1980s. Although some of the 12 major cleanup projects have been successful, notably restoring the Arkansas River, others have seen little progress or even setbacks, such as new leaching of heavy metals. EPA officials want binding agreements with the county and mining companies to cover the ongoing funding of the water-treatment plant and other programs, such as the county's monitoring of blood-lead levels in children.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:55:36 AM    

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Here's a look at last week's What's in your river? meeting about the Uncompahgre River, from The Montrose Daily Press. The shindig was thrown by Friends of the River Uncompahgre. From the article:

Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association manager Marc Catlin, City Park Planner Dennis Erickson, County Land Use Director Steve White, and FORU member Hank Hotze all shared their views of the river, and their ideas for future conservation and preservation. "Some of the issues we deal with are brand new, some of the issues are old, and some are right on the horizon," Catlin said, noting the importance of continued discussion and education. Montrose County's economic viability revolves primarily around the Uncompahgre River, Catlin said. The abundance of agriculture -- ranging from corn fields to apple orchards -- makes up one third of the local economy. Without the Uncompahgre River, agriculture in the valley would be greatly jeopardized, he said...

But agriculture is not the only thing that relies on the river. Boating, fishing, and just having the river there for recreation uses is extremely important to the community, Catlin said. From the county's perspective, White said he and the Board of County Commissioners see the river as a great asset to the county, and are working to include river corridor conservation in the future master plan. "We live and see growth because of water in the valley," White said. He urged the community to express interest and support by attending meetings regarding river conservation.

Category: Colorado Water

6:49:05 AM    

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Here's a look at Douglas County's efforts at finding new renewable water sources, from The Douglas County News-Press. From the article:

The progress outlined in the South Metro Water Supply Authority Master Plan at the 2007 Water Summit showed collaborative steps taken toward a sustainable water future through mass conservation efforts and long-term acquisition and infrastructure developments...

Centennial Water and Sanitation District made progress this year, setting the tone for the Douglas County area by providing 100 percent of its water supply from renewable water resources...

Centennial recently brought online its South Platte Reservoir and Water Treatment Plant which treats 40 million gallons per day. East Cherry Creek Valley Western and Northern pipelines are existing infrastructure that could potentially yield water for the South Metro area. The Upper Cherry Creek Water User Association and the Joint Water Purification Plant are working to capture renewable water return flows...

In addition to those developments, the ongoing Rueter-Hess Reservoir construction will be complete in a few years and will house more than 6,400 acre-feet of raw water storage for domestic use. Rueter-Hess is a project of the Centennial Water and Sanitation district, which serves nearly 90,000 residents in Highlands Ranch. The biggest challenge water authorities face amid progress is developing a large enough supply of renewable water to sustain the county, as well as importing that supply. Douglas County needs somewhere between 45,000 and 60,000 thousand acre-feet of renewable water to sustain the county, Boand said. The county must prove to surrounding areas and the state it is able to store and recover water in order to recruit help importing water.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:39:48 AM    

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From The Craig Daily Press, "Long-awaited repairs to the Hayden water plant's intake pipe on the Yampa River began last week after several delays. Before the damaged pipe can be replaced, expert divers must partially dam and drain the river. Repairs are estimated to take at least two weeks to complete. The problem was first noticed at the plant in September 2006, when intake from the pipe dropped to 625 gallons per minute, down nearly half from its usual level of 1,000 gallons per minute, according to Plant Operator Scott Price."

Category: Colorado Water

6:28:13 AM    

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A sub-committee of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable is tackling the subject of water transfers, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

What does an ideal water transfer look like? Whose interests should be considered? How are emerging concerns about recreation, environment and water quality incorporated? A committee of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable is taking up those difficult questions in an attempt to help develop a template that could be used in water transfers within or among basins. The committee met Monday in the latest of a series of meetings that began more than a year ago to look at the concerns of Las Animas Mayor Lawrence Sena about urban growth and water development. In particular, Sena was concerned that water from the Arkansas Valley had fueled growth in Colorado Springs and Aurora...

Many past deals were permanent transfers of water rights in which agricultural ground was dried up. In some cases, the transfers were between ditches, while many have involved water rights transfers to nearby cities. In the case of urban transfers when water is used outside the area, the water has been leased back to farmers until the cities need it. Currently, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is trying to convince water rights shareholders to pool resources in a Super Ditch concept. Meanwhile some large water users, including the Pueblo Board of Water Works, South Metro Water Users Authority and the Pikes Peak Water Authority, may be in the market for Arkansas Valley water rights. Smaller transfers of cities buying nearby ag rights are also making their way through water courts...

Monday's meeting was the first of three meetings the group is using to create a framework to discuss transfers. In later meetings, the committee will talk to various water professionals and academic advisers to develop standards. "Where we've erred in the past is that we've never looked at the impact," said Virgil Cochran, who works for Prowers County's land use and water planning department. "I don't think that we can solve every problem that comes up. I do think we have a responsibility to ourselves, each other and the environment. Do you want to move water and create a biological or environmental nightmare?"

The group looked back Monday at past water transfers, attempting to determine who benefitted and evaluating what could have been done differently. Members sorted through more than 50 criteria collected from their statements at earlier meetings under the supervision of Mary Lou Smith of Aqua Engineering, who is facilitating the meetings through the state roundtable process. While looking at past water deals, the group identified how third parties are affected by water transfers beyond the simple interests of buyers and sellers...

On the other hand, even understanding the basic economics of a water deal could lead to the most desirable result from all points of view, said Mark Pifher, deputy director for Aurora Water. Knowing the true costs to all concerned as a deal is forming could help all concerned, he said. "A city could start out with a buy-and-dry plan, but decide at some point a long-term lease might make more sense," Pifher said.

Category: Colorado Water

6:11:34 AM    

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Here's a look at water quality issues in Summit County from The Summit Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

A number of fish kills in local streams shows water quality is an ongoing concern. Most recently, the trout population was wiped out in a section of the Snake River at Keystone. Wildlife officials said a surge of acid mine drainage from Peru Creek was the cause, but a lack of timely data prevented experts from making definitive conclusions. Local fishing guides were also concerned when a number of dead fish were found in Silverthorne's North Pond. The trout may have been mishandled by anglers, but Colorado Division of Wildlife biologists also said the deaths may have resulted from an algae bloom and subsequent oxygen deprivation...

Across the watershed, stream depletion is the most widespread problem. Snowmaking diversions during the late fall, when streams are already at their lowest levels, place additional stress on trout. The Blue River, the Snake River, the North Fork and Tenmile Creek are all tapped for snowmaking. In some cases stream flows drop near and even below levels set by the state to protect the aquatic environment to a "reasonable" degree...

Water quality has improved in Straight Creek, where local groups and the Colorado Department of Transportation have made a concerted effort to reduce or capture highway traction sand. But other streams in the county, notably the pristine North Fork of the Snake River, are completely off the radar screen when it comes to controlling sediement buildup...

Sediment runoff is also an issue at Summit County ski resorts. The Forest Service and ski area operators work hard to try and control the impacts from ski trail clear cuts and service roads, but often struggle to meet the agency's own stream standards. Similar issues are widespread across National Forest lands in Summit County, where runoff from unpaved roads impacts numerous streams. Many Forest Service roads do not meet the agency's own construction and maintenance standards. Walking along Forest Service roads in areas like Montezuma makes it clear that the agency doesn't come close to having a handle on controlling runoff from the far-flung network of backcountry roads. A dramatic increase in logging during the next few years will exacerbate this problem unless logging roads are monitored and maintained to the highest possible level. And the vast areas of dead forest left in the wake of the pine beetle infestation will present another huge water quality challenge...

Trans-mountain diversions to the Front Range mean that the Blue River below Silverthorne often flows at near-minimum levels for extended periods of time. The river always meets the state-set instream flow, but that level (about 60 cfs) may not be adequate to sustain a healthy aquatic ecosystem in the long run...

Summit County and local towns have adopted stringent rules on controlling runoff from construction sites, but the rules are only loosely enforced. Only about 10 percent of local sites meet all the permitting requirements, according to an expert who inspects erosion control measures. Efforts focusing on education and voluntary compliance have been partly successful, but widespread runoff from construction sites is still a source of a cumulative impact on local streams...

Theoretically, at least, there is enough water in the Blue River Basin to meet local needs at build-out. But this summer's crackdown on well-water users indicates that state officials are concerned about the overall amount of water available in the basin...

In recent years, several pumpback projects have been discussed locally, including a plan to shunt water from near Dillon Reservoir back up to Breckenridge. On an even bigger scale, engineers are currently studying the feasibility of bringing water from Green Mountain Reservoir back up to Silverthorne, or even all the way to Dillon Reservoir. Advocates have said the pumpbacks could help address both water quality and quantity concerns. But the projects could also have unanticipated consequences downstream, and create a reliance on "new" sources of water that might not be available when the next drought hits.

They're also running a cool map of the problem areas [pdf].

Here's a recap of last week's watershed conference in Breckenridge, from The Summit Daily News (free registration required)>. They write:

County Commissioner Tom Long said the area is in good shape, based on long-running efforts to protect and restore local streams. "I think in Summit County, in all honesty, we are ahead of many other areas," Long said, highlighting projects like sediments reduction in Straight Creek (in partnership with the Colorado Department of Transportation), and controlling phosphorus loading in Dillon Reservoir. Many of the issues other watershed groups are tackling have already been incorporated in local policies and regulations, Long said. Summit County may not be getting enough credit for its efforts, simply because local officials have been "in the trenches" so long, steadily working on watershed issues...

Looking ahead, Long said dealing with acid mine drainage is one of the biggest challenges for the area. Long also advocated for the development of additional water storage for local use. An enlargement of Old Dillon Reservoir is under consideration. A potential reservoir site in the Swan River drainage has also been discussed, and Breckenridge is also eyeing property at the north end of town for additional storage. New reservoirs would provide additional supplies for anticipated growth in Summit County, but could also help provide water for fish in local streams, some of which are depleted below sustainable levels by diversions to the Front Range, or for snowmaking.

Category: Colorado Water

5:59:03 AM    

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The East Cherry Creek Water and Sanitation District is looking at recycled wastewater to increase supplies, according to The Denver Post. From the article:

East Cherry Creek Valley Water & Sanitation District will conduct tests next year using an expensive reverse osmosis technology to filter its wastewater. The system could expand the drinkable supply by 17 percent. "This project is looking into the future and allowing us to stretch out our supplies by using technology," said Kipp Scott, the utilities manager for East Cherry Creek Valley Water & Sanitation. The Colorado Water Conservation Board, a state agency, will pony up most of the $400,000 cost. East Cherry Creek Valley will put up $55,000, and the South Metro Water Supply Authority will chip in $20,000. The authority is a coalition of south metro water providers.

Reverse osmosis filtration already is used to clean up industrial pollution and to filter sea water in water-strapped coastal regions, but it has not been used for residential water supplies in the interior United States because of the expense. "We're advancing the science to see if we can come up with a cost-effective way of doing this," said Kelly DiNatale of water engineering consultant CDM, which is overseeing the study. DiNatale also was the technical director for the Water Conservation Board's Statewide Water Supply Initiative, a study of the state's water needs and possible solutions. He's also the former water resources and treatment manager for the city of Westminster...

None of East Cherry Creek Valley's 50,000 customers in Centennial and unincorporated Arapahoe County will be served with any of the water used in the tests, Scott said. The tests will begin in April and stretch into the summer of 2008.

Category: Colorado Water

5:45:51 AM    

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