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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Project Healing Waters

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

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From the Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker): "Wiggins Town Council members approved buying the rights to 10 shares of Weldon Valley Ditch Co. water on a 4-2 vote at a special meeting Wednesday night. That action prompted the Wiggins Committee of Concerned Citizens to withdraw a planned recall effort, committee representative Ron Blauer said Thursady morning. He said those who had volunteered to run for the council during the recall said they 'refuse to be party to irresponsible acts, and potential legal consequences on the decision.'"

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
10:33:45 AM    

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From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner): "Valley attorney Paul Snyder addressed concerns to the Westcliffe town board Tuesday night about the letter of intent the Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District recently signed with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District...Snyder voiced his concerns during the Westcliffe town trustees' meeting held on Dec. 2. Snyder said he wasn't concerned about the merits of the agreement, however, he was concerned about the process.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
10:13:50 AM    

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb): "The State of the Roaring Fork Watershed Report intensively evaluates not only the Roaring Fork River, but also its tributaries. The report analyzes water quantity and quality as well as water-dependent ecosystems for the 1,453-square-mile watershed of the Roaring Fork. The second-largest tributary to the Colorado River within the state, the Roaring Fork runs from below Independence Pass above Aspen to Glenwood Springs. The report identifies threats to local water resources from pollution, diversions, channel instability and other sources. It also points to gaps in existing data. Totaling more than 500 pages, it's the first phase of the Roaring Fork Watershed Plan. The next steps will be to develop goals aimed at preserving and improving local waters and to come up with actions that can be taken by water managers, governments and individual water users."

More from the article:

The new report identifies global warming as one threat to the watershed. Warming will result in more rain rather than snow, earlier snowmelt and runoff, and decreased runoff, the report says. Besides causing effects such as increased fire risk and insect outbreaks, it will create more water demand challenges for a watershed already heavily taxed in that regard. "Overall, competition for water will increase among municipal, agricultural, recreational, industrial and ecological uses," the report says. Already, it notes, an average of 37 percent of the annual water yield of the upper Roaring Fork River is removed by a transmountain diversion project.

Elsewhere in the watershed, "Woody, Little Woody and Collins creeks are often dried up downstream of large diversion structures in the summer and fall, disconnecting them from the Roaring Fork River," the report says. But it also points to areas of improvement. For example, Aspen cut its municipal water use almost in half since 1993, to the benefit of Maroon and Castle creeks, both water sources for the city.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:46:40 AM    

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Here's a recap of the Glen Canyon Institutes's shindig -- Adjusting to less water: Climate change and the Colorado River -- at the University of Utah this week, from Judy Fahys writing in the Salt Lake Tribune. From the article:

The institute now focuses on scientific issues surrounding the vitality of the Colorado River, and much of Thursday's program was devoted to updates about how climate change might affect the 27 million people and 3.5 million acres of farmland that rely on the 1,450-mile river.

The Institute awarded their David R. Brower Award for Conservation to California Democratic Congressman George Miller. More from the article:

"The Bureau of Reclamation has to reinvent itself," said U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. and longtime leader on natural resource policy. "It has to address the future in an innovative way and not be tied so strongly to the past." [ed. the Colorado River Compact?][...]

Miller was a driving force behind legislation in the early 1990s to complete the Central Utah Project -- the water program behind construction of the Jordanelle Dam in Wasatch County -- along with the creation of a mitigation fund to address the environmental damage caused by decades of dam-building in Utah. He also pushed for moderating flows through the Glen Canyon Dam to lessen the harm high-energy water releases were causing to Grand Canyon National Park.

The northern California lawmaker served from 1991 to 1994 as the chairman of the House committee that oversees the nation's mining programs, water, national parks and other natural resources. Miller attacked the departing Bush administration for what he described as a culture of corruption in the Interior Department. Science, he added, was "tampered with" and "pushed aside." "You don't get to change the conclusions for political reasons," he said. Instead, with a change in administration in Washington, science should be harnessed to help make smarter decisions about preserving already-taxed water supplies...

Tim Barnett, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, told the conference that no models of Colorado River water -- even without climate change factored in -- predict an increased flow. "You have a river that's on the brink of failure," he said.

More coverage from John Hollenhorst writing for From the article:

A pessimistic outlook on the long-term water supply for the desert Southwest dominated a conference in Salt Lake today. It also hinted at changes that could flow from the Democratic resurgence in the national election, possibly even involving the future of Lake Powell. The political shift is emboldening environmentalists, like many at the conference at Fort Douglas, who insist our water management policies are out of whack. With Democrats taking the White House and a firmer grip on Congress, the critics could move into the driver's seat, including a powerful congressman we spoke with today.

As Lake Powell and Lake Mead declined in the last decade, scientific studies have revealed that the dry era now is more or less normal. The previous century was abnormally wet, compared with the last thousand years. Scientists at the conference warned of long-term water shortages in the growing Southwest, which depends on the Colorado River...

It's fueling calls for reform. California Congressman George Miller will be a key player with his powerful committee assignments. "Unfortunately, over the last eight years, while we were trying to look toward the future, we had an ideological jihad going on against the scientists," he said. He suggests a strong legislative push on global warming, conservation, and water management reform. One issue being pushed here is that two big reservoirs waste too much water through evaporation...

Miller did not detail any particular agenda to us, but he questioned the value of Lake Powell and big dams in general. "We continue to make policy based on [OE]If we'll just build one more reservoir, we could solve the problems.' That hasn't worked throughout the West," he said...

[Richard Ingesbretsen of the Glen Canyon Institute] said, "The agenda we want to see is to have the water that is in Lake Powell stored in Lake Mead. There is a movement generally to move in that direction."

Dennis Strong, Utah's director of water resources, said, "I'm still optimistic that through management we'll have the need for both reservoirs and that we'll have enough water to meet our future demands."

More coverage from the Associated Press via the Vail Daily.

Category: Climate Change News
9:34:56 AM    

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Here's a report about the EPA's comments on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project which includes Glade and Galeton reservoirs, from Steve Porter writing in the Northern Colorado Business Report. From the article:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is throwing some stumbling blocks in front of a proposed giant water storage and supply project that opponents are hoping will stop the project. Supporters, meanwhile, are saying the EPA's issues can all be addressed without derailing the planned $400-plus-million Northern Integrated Supply Project, which includes the construction of Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and Galeton Reservoir northeast of Greeley...

The EPA cites many areas of the draft EIS that it feels do not sufficiently address water quality concerns and possible impacts to wildlife. Concerning water quality, Rushin noted that the draft EIS "does not adequately address the project's potential to exacerbate water quality impairments to the Poudre and South Platte Rivers." Rushin notes that portions of both rivers are already "impaired" following analysis by the Colorado Water Quality Control Division, which found two segments of the Poudre with levels of pH, copper, selenium and E. coli in excess of state water quality standards and excessive levels of selenium in the South Platte...

In summation, the EPA warns against the Corps of Engineers moving forward to a final EIS without addressing its concerns. "If the Corps does not choose to accept these comments ... EPA may further consider its next steps for review of this project based upon the significance of potential adverse environmental impacts to waters of the U.S.," the letter states. Chandler Peter, Corps of Engineers spokesman, said his agency plans to address the concerns. "We're working with the EPA to clarify their comments and address the issues they've raised," he said. Peter acknowledged that the EPA can have the last word. "They can still veto the decision the Corps ultimately makes," he said. "They can do it on any decision we make." Peter said some of the EPA concerns have already been dismissed. "Some of the comments they've made we've found were not germane or at issue and nothing will be done about it," he said. "I'm trying to evaluate which comments require further analysis and which have been addressed in reports. All of that determines if a supplemental EIS may be needed." Peter said it will be "well into December or possibly January" before his office can respond fully to the EPA's concerns and decide if the project can proceed to a final EIS.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:16:04 AM    

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From the Fairplay Flume (Linda Bjorklund): "The Fairplay Board of Trustees voted to adopt the 2009 budget and approve the mill levy for property taxes at its Dec. 1 meeting...The Water Enterprise plans to spend $783,405 out of $855,600 in expected revenue, of which $464,600 should be from water service income."

More from the article:

Town Water Operator Jeff Goble presented two alternatives for the trustees to consider for the operation of the water distribution system during 2009. One alternative was for a reduced contract that would provide for Goble's supervisory services, with the Town's Public Works Department taking up the actual service work. Although Public Works Director John Schmidt agreed to the added responsibilities, the trustees felt that it would put an undue burden on that department. The board opted to accept and approve the other alternative, a full-service contract, for the following year. Goble pointed out that his fees had increased from this year's total of $50,400 to a total of $52,000 in 2009. In approving the contract, trustees said they were pleased with Goble's dedication to the job as well as his looking forward to future needs of Fairplay. Goble noted that he had submitted a grant application in time to meet a Dec. 1 deadline to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to finance a water storage tank for construction in 2009.

Category: Colorado Water
9:02:33 AM    

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Here's an update on plans for a second pipeline (in addition to the Southern Delivery System) from the Arkansas River to northern El Paso County to supplement their declining fossil water supplies, from Scott Rappold writing in the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

It's technically possible-but expensive and probably impractical-to build a second new water pipeline in addition to Colorado Springs Utilities' (CSU) proposed Southern Delivery System (SDS) from the Arkansas River to El Paso County, a new study shows. The Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, a consortium of water suppliers from outside Colorado Springs, commissioned the $120,000 study to find ways to augment their disappearing groundwater supplies...

The study looked at the costs and options for bringing water from Avondale, about 15 miles east of Pueblo, to eastern El Paso County and Monument. It is based on the willingness of a group of farmers in southeast Colorado, who recently formed the Super Ditch to sell their unused water. It's a long distance, dozens of miles, rising in elevation-from 4,520 feet at the river to 6,520 feet at a possible storage reservoir in eastern El Paso County, and 7,210 feet at Monument. The water, less clean than water from upriver sources, would have to be heavily treated. "Most of the challenge is we're a long way from the river and it's uphill all the way," said authority manager Gary Barber.

The cost to bring 15,235 acre feet a year could range from $450 million to $486 million, to as much as $1 billion to bring 50,000 acre feet. "The numbers are staggering, but I would not say it's not doable by any means," said Richard Landreth, director of public works for Monument, one of the seven water suppliers in the authority. "Most of us up here in northern El Paso County need a longterm water source other than ground water."

The discussion is theoretical, because the water districts have not sought approval for such a pipeline. And they probably won't. "Our community does not need two pipelines, .. but we had to know for ourselves what the relative costs would be," Barber said. Barber added the water suppliers will become "cheerleaders for Southern Delivery" in hopes they can negotiate with CSU to buy water from the pipeline once it is completed. "We spent $120,000-got a lot of really good answers-but if we wanted to switch into engineering mode, we would spend millions like they have, and that doesn't make sense in my mind," Barber said. A CSU official in charge of the SDS project was unavailable for comment Friday.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:55:03 AM    

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From the Aspen Daily News (David Frey): "Conservation organizations are asking President-elect Barack Obama to reverse the Bush administration's efforts to speed oil shale development in western Colorado, eastern Utah and southern Wyoming. Twenty-one local, regional and national organizations are asking the incoming administration to withdraw the Bush administration's last-minute rules governing oil shale development and wait until after the results of a research and development program are known.

"In a Dec. 4 letter to Carol Browner, the former Environmental Protection Agency director under President Bill Clinton who heads Obama's Energy and Environmental Policy Working Group, the organizations say 'the United States should work to wean itself off fossil fuels, not invest further in expensive, dirty fuels, especially one that is unproven and untested, such as oil shale.'

"The latest letter is signed by local and regional groups including Wilderness Workshop, EcoFlight and Western Colorado Congress, as well as national groups like The Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and National Resources Defense Council."

Meanwhile Glenwood Springs is considering filing for a Recreational In-Channel Diversion to protect their whitewater park (and a possible future expansion) in case the oil shale and oil and gas industries buy up water rights downstream from the town for development, according to Pete Fowler writing in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

Mayor Bruce Christensen has visions of another whitewater feature near Glenwood's new whitewater park, perhaps something like Buttermilk or Highlands is to Aspen Mountain. He sees expanding the park as a long-range possibility for the city if whitewater activities continue to grow in the U.S. and abroad. If that vision is ever to become a reality, or even if it doesn't, establishing water rights for the whitewater park could help by securing water for the park's famous gigantic waves in case other interests demand flows to the point where the park doesn't produce a good wave. The Glenwood Springs City Council decided Thursday night to hold a closed-door meeting on Monday morning to seek legal advice about possibly filing for water rights for the park before the end of the year.

Jason Carey, an engineer who designed the whitewater park and runs, said establishing water rights probably wouldn't be essential in the next few years, but it could be critical decades down the road. He said development of water-intensive oil shale extraction is just one example of something that could threaten the park's flows. "It's so water-intensive that it could drive the industry to up the value of water and potentially buy out orchards and that type of thing that currently pull the water through Glenwood Springs," he said. He said many communities have filed for water rights before constructing a whitewater feature. Filing before the end of the year would result in a 2008 appropriation date, and waiting till 2009 means the filing wouldn't have priority over any other 2009 applications, Carey said...

Additional construction of on-shore amenities at the whitewater park like parking, restrooms and a spectator area isn't scheduled until August. A $200,000 Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant application was rejected in the fall but there's another opportunity to ask for the grant again in February or March. Christensen said last year that the city decided not to apply for a GOCO grant previously because it was told it would have a better chance of getting the grant if it promised not to apply for water rights for the park. But GOCO denied that was the case, saying it refused a request from the Colorado River Water Conservation Board that it not fund projects that could involve filings for recreational water rights. Christensen said Friday the city must take GOCO at its word and discussing filing for water rights for the park now has nothing to do with the latest GOCO grant application denial.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Climate Change News
8:35:30 AM    

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State Engineer Dick Wolfe plans to show Kansas Colorado's unfinished irrigation rules for the Arkansas Valley dealing with more efficient methods at next week's meeting of the Arkansas River Compact Administration meeting in Lamar, according to Chris Wooka's report in today's Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Sharing unfinished rules for surface irrigators with Kansas is a way to head off future objections from Colorado's neighbor on how water is used in the Arkansas River basin, state Engineer Dick Wolfe said Thursday. The rules have been the subject of meetings over the past year in Colorado, and are meant to prevent Colorado irrigation improvements from sprinklers, drip systems and canal lining from increasing consumptive use or decreasing return flows. Some remain unconvinced about the need for or the form of the rules, and especially sharing them with an opponent in a 23-year-old U.S. Supreme Court case...

"I understand we never want to put ourselves in a position to be in violation of the compact, but I think it's a mistake to present rules we haven't agreed to," Singletary said. "This could have a great impact on the farmers of Colorado."

On the other hand, Wolfe said it is better to present the rules to Kansas before they are complete, so that Colorado water users can head off possible challenges. The latest version of the rules will be formally presented to Kansas at the annual Arkansas River Compact Administration meeting next week in Lamar. "The timing makes sense," Wolfe said. "It gives us a chance to talk to them and get their feedback." Kansas has committed to getting comments on the rules to Colorado in January, and those comments can be reviewed by the Colorado advisory committee in February. Colorado is not spilling the beans in offering Kansas this chance, Wolfe added. The draft version of the rules has been posted on the state Web site throughout the committee's deliberations...

There is still much work to do before the rules are taken to Division 2 Water Court, and once they are, there will be opportunity for legal challenges within Colorado, Wolfe said. Among the tasks to be completed are the scope of the CWCB grant, the work of a solutions subcommittee that will begin meeting this month and refining the technical models that would be used to evaluate consumptive use, Wolfe said. "There is still a lot of work we're doing," Wolfe said. "We're not finished and we are still developing the final version."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:29:01 AM    

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Here's an update on the proposed Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District, from Chris Woodka writing in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Commissioners in Pueblo and El Paso counties will vote later this month on an intergovernmental agreement that could lead to formation of an authority on Fountain Creek. Meanwhile, two lawmakers have committed to sponsored state legislation that is still being drafted by attorneys for the two counties in the next session of the General Assembly. El Paso County commissioners will vote Dec. 15 and Pueblo County on Dec. 16 on a final draft of the IGA, which was presented Friday to the consensus committee of the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force.

If the counties approve the IGA, other governmental entities such as cities and special districts would have the opportunity to sign on as well. The IGA envisions a special district with a nine-member board that would have land-use jurisdiction over a corridor along Fountain Creek from south of Fountain to north of Pueblo. The board would have input from a technical advisory committee and a citizens advisory group. The district would not have its own funding unless voters in both counties approve a property tax increase, but could serve as a conduit for local, state, federal and foundation funding for projects in the corridor. State Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, and state Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, have agreed to sponsor legislation, which probably would be introduced as a late bill in January, said Gary Barber of the El Paso County Water Authority. The district would be called the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District...

There are possibly four projects that could come from the two-year, $600,000 Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan being developed by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Colorado Springs: A park at the Fountain Creek-Arkansas River confluence, an interpretive center at Pinon, a trail system at Clear Springs Ranch in El Paso County and an "eco-fitness center" south of Colorado Springs. Farther up Fountain Creek, beyond the initial boundaries of the proposed district's influence, there is a project to improve Upper Fountain Creek through the Colorado 24 corridor. Manitou Springs also is working to improve the Upper Fountain, and it already is viewed as an amenity in that community. The district will work to improve the most contentious part of Fountain Creek, the part that periodically dumps huge flows loaded with mud, trees and debris Pueblo's way and which is suffering from more erosion and sedimentation as flows increase...

Even the staunchest environmental critic of Fountain Creek contamination, Ross Vincent of the Sierra Club, gave guarded approval to the proposed IGA. "I don't think this is the total answer, but it leaves us much further ahead than three years ago," Vincent said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:14:56 AM    

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Here's a press release from the USGS about their testing for manmade chemicals in water supplies in several states, including Colorado. From the article:

Scientists tested water samples for about 260 commonly used chemicals, including pesticides, solvents, gasoline hydrocarbons, personal care and household-use products, disinfection by-products, and manufacturing additives. This study did not look at pharmaceuticals or hormones. Low levels of about 130 of the man-made chemicals were detected in streams and rivers before treatment at the public water facilities (source water). Nearly two-thirds of those chemicals were also detected after treatment. Most of the chemicals found were at levels equivalent to one thimble of water in an Olympic-sized pool. "Low level detection does not necessarily indicate a concern to human health, but rather indicates what types of chemicals we can expect to find in different areas of the country," said USGS lead scientist, Gregory Delzer. "Recent scientific advances have given USGS scientists the analytical tools to detect a variety of contaminants in the environment at low concentrations; often 100 to 1,000 times lower than drinking-water standards and other human-health benchmarks."

Testing sites include the White River in Indiana; Elm Fork Trinity River in Texas; Potomac River in Maryland; Neuse River in North Carolina; Chattahoochee River in Georgia; Running Gutter Brook in Massachusetts; Clackamas River in Oregon; Truckee River in Nevada; and Cache La Poudre in Colorado [ed. Emphasis ours]. The populations in communities served by these water treatment plants vary from 3,000 to over a million.

This study is among the first by the USGS to report on a wide range of chemicals found before and after treatment. The full source-water quality assessment and listing of chemicals are available online. Chemicals included in this study serve as indicators of the possible presence of a larger number of commonly used chemicals in rivers, streams, and drinking water. The most commonly detected chemicals in the source water were herbicides, disinfection by-products, and fragrances. Many of these chemicals are among those often found in ambient waters of 186 rivers and streams sampled by USGS since the early 1990s, and are highly correlated with the presence of upstream wastewater sources or upstream agricultural and urban land use. About 120 chemicals were not detected at all. Measured concentrations of chemicals detected in both source and treated water were generally less than 0.1 part per billion. Although potential human-health effects and risk were not assessed in this study, adverse effects to human health are expected to be negligible based on comparisons of measured concentrations and available human-health benchmarks.

More than 75 percent of source-and treated-water samples in this study contained 5 or more chemicals. The common occurrence of chemical mixtures means that the total combined toxicity may be greater than that of any single contaminant present. The USGS report identifies the need for continued research because the additive or synergistic effects on human health of mixtures of man-made chemicals at low levels are not well understood. The study also did not look at implications to ecosystems or aquatic health. USGS findings are used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the States, utilities and many nongovernmental agencies to help protect streams and watersheds that serve as water supplies and to guide those involved in decisions on treatment processes in the future. The USGS is a non-regulatory agency which often monitors the quality of available, untreated water resources. These studies begin to relate the quality of these resources to drinking water. USGS studies are intended to complement drinking-water monitoring required by Federal, State, and local programs, which focus primarily on post-treatment compliance monitoring. The USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program is planning to complete as many as 21 additional surface-water assessments through 2013 ( A companion study is scheduled for release in 2009 that summarizes the occurrence of the same chemicals in high-production wells and the associated treated water in 13 states.

More coverage from Trevor Hughes writing in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

"The Cache la Poudre is relatively pristine compared to the other sites we looked at," said Lori Sprague, a Denver-based hydrologist for USGS. "A lot of these other sites have substantial populations and agricultural activity upstream of where they are drawing the water."

USGS scientists, including Sprague, tested water samples from nine rivers for about 260 commonly used chemicals, including pesticides, solvents, gasoline hydrocarbons, personal care and household-use products, disinfection by-products and manufacturing additives. It did not look for the presence of pharmaceuticals or hormones; those have been examined in other studies...

Rowe said the test results show that some water treatment systems are more effective at removing some of the chemicals and compounds than others. He noted that Fort Collins officials tend to be more interested in knowing what's in the water than their counterparts in some other cities and towns. "As we look back on our environmental past, a lot of things that we thought were benign were actually found to have health risks," Rowe said. "We're trying to do a broad survey to find what kinds of chemicals are in the source water ... and what compounds are making it into the drinking water supply. It's really up to EPA and other folks to assess the risk."

He noted that cities such as Fort Collins could choose to install treatment systems that remove certain contaminants, even if there's no legal requirement to do so. Keith Elmund, environmental services manager for Fort Collins Utilities, said the city has, for about five years, had the ability to add powdered activated carbon into the water - an additive that can improve taste and water clarity. But in the past couple years, the city "beefed up" its activated carbon system - powdered coconut shells - because the additive can also help strip out gasoline and other contaminants, such as endocrine disruptors, Elmund said. He said Fort Collins Utilities has for more than 25 years looked at the federal standards and tried to improve them. "It's very much a part of our culture and has been for 25 years. We put things in writing and made a commitment to how we are going to behave," Elmund said. "It's part of our culture to go beyond that." The city's drinking water is "made" at a plant on West LaPorte Avenue, at the foot of Soldier Canyon Dam. The plant produces about 20 million gallons of drinking water daily, Elmund said.

Fort Collins' drinking water comes from the Poudre River and from Horsetooth Reservoir. In the Poudre Canyon upstream of Fort Collins, the Poudre carries a federal Wild and Scenic designation. But a section of the river as it runs through Fort Collins is on the state's list of dirty waters because it doesn't meet water-quality standards for copper and pH levels.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:05:53 AM    

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