Category Archives: Events

How Austin, Texas got Water Wise Using Data

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At the most recent Colorado WaterWise Lunch n’ Learn, Robb Barnitt talked about the success of Austin Water’s pilot program with Dropcountr.

Ever forgotten to lock the front door or close the garage when leaving the house? Luckily there are home security apps that will fix that for you, but what if a faucet is leaking in your home or the hose outside is still on? There’s an app for that, it’s called Dropcountr.

Colorado WaterWise, an organization that serves as a leader in efficient water use in Colorado, featured Dropcountr during their most recent Lunch n’ Learn on July 13 with a presentation from Robb Barnitt explaining how the app saved 41 million gallons of water in Austin, Texas. The Dropcountr app gives homeowners and water utilities access to real-time water-use data in an organized format.

Austin Water tested Dropcountr with their users and saved 41 million gallons of water over the first year. Austin, Texas, one of the fastest growing metro areas in the United States, relies on Texas’ Colorado River and groundwater to hydrate their people, lawns and animals. Austin Water was looking for a way to accommodate the water needs of their fast growing city and encourage water conservation.logo-1[1]

Water data can be intimidating and difficult to understand because of the sheer amount of data. For most people, looking at water bills can be confusing, time consuming, and difficult to understand their home water use. To address this issue, Austin Water started a pilot program with the Dropcountr app in June 2015 with about 8,500 customer accounts. The app provides the user with a dashboard that shows water usage data every hour, data from previous weeks, months, and years, and will allow the user to compare their household with other similar households in the neighborhood. The app can send alerts if it detects a leak in your home, making homeowners more aware so they can fix leaks in order to save water and money. Users also have the opportunity to set goals for water usage. This encourages people to conserve water and provides homeowners with tips for how to conserve and rebates for purchasing high efficacy appliances. Austin Water saw a nine percent reduction in water usage. In the top 20 percent of highest water users, they saw reduction of 17 percent.

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Dropcountr shows real-time water usage amounts as well as data from past months and years.

Dropcountr estimates users save 30 gallons per day because they are aware of how much water they are using or aware of leaks in their home. This type of access to real-time water data will bring awareness to the amount of water that is being used in a household and provide tips for conservation.

For Austin Water, the app seemed like a no-brainer as everyone has a cell phone on them at all times so it seemed like the most efficient, effective way to reach water users.

Denver Water is also involved in an pilot program with Dropcountr! Are you a Denver resident? Download the app and start tracking your usage and data.

summer2017datahwcoverFind further coverage of water data in the Summer 2017 Data Issue of Headwaters magazine. Intrigued with access to real-time water-use data? Check out the story on page 16 of Headwaters and listen to the latest episode of our radio series, Connecting the Drops Using Real-Time Data to Encourage Water-Wise Habits.

Not a Headwaters subscriber? Visit yourwatercolorado.org for the digital version. Headwaters is the flagship publication of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and covers current events, trends and opportunities in Colorado water.

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Lessons in Ag Water

By Greg Peterson, the Colorado Ag Water Alliance

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Weld County farmer Dave Eckhardt at the crossing point of the Western Mutual and Union Ditches near La Salle, CO.

I could be wrong, but Longmont farmer Jerry Hergenreder is probably twice my age and can set a dozen siphon tubes while I’m still struggling with one. By the tenth attempt, I was gazing longingly at the center pivot sprinkler in the next field wondering how he does this at 6:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 10:00 p.m. to irrigate his sugar beet field. Despite seeming inefficient, this method of irrigation is ideal for certain crops, producing better yields than more “modern” irrigation methods. However, this revelation didn’t compare to when I learned that you only get one mature ear of sweet corn for each stalk or how to tell a bale of hay from a bale of alfalfa (one is greener, but be careful, sometimes they mix hay and alfalfa). These lessons are important, especially for a city slicker like me who consumes food every day but doesn’t really understand the infrastructure, work, and water necessary for the food I eat.

Jerry Hergenreder’s farm was just one stop on a recent tour by The Colorado Ag Water Alliance for people outside of agriculture to learn more about irrigation, conservation, how water is used in agriculture, and what problems farmers face. Water resource engineers, consultants, legislators, lobbyists, students, conservationists and congressional staff joined us on two tours: one in the Greeley area and another in Longmont, Fort Lupton and Brighton.

It was a great opportunity to meet farmers and ask them directly how they use water, the different types of irrigation they use and why they grow certain crops. Both tours began with a presentation by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the Division of Water Resources and an overview of the value chain of agriculture in Colorado. With this as the backdrop, we quickly got into the fields.

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Kendall DeJonge, USDA-ARS agricultural engineer, describes the drip irrigation system at the USDA testing site in Greeley, CO.

Up in Greeley, the tour explored several sites including the Eckhardt Farm and Fagerberg Farm, ditch diversions, recharge ponds, and a U.S. Department of Agriculture- Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS) testing site. Speaker after speaker emphasized the importance and complexity of return flows and showed how farmers along the South Platte are interconnected through water and irrigation practices. In Longmont, Fort Lupton and Brighton, we also toured the Fulton and Brighton Ditches, spoke with ditch riders, and visited Sakata Farms and River Garden Vineyard, the only vineyard in Weld County. The programs also included presentations on ditch administration, soil health, and the state of young farmers in Colorado.

On the tours, the impact of Colorado’s growth is hard not to notice. Rapid urbanization, the transfer of water rights to municipalities, traffic and even trash, are now everyday obstacles farmers along the Front Range. With all of this growth and change, CAWA wants to emphasize that agriculture isn’t a relic of an older time that needs to make way for progress. These farming communities provide a lot of social, economic, aesthetic and environmental benefits that we may not be fully aware of.

CAWA is working with the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and National Young Farmers to host a similar tour late September in Rocky Ford.  You can learn more about us and stay informed at coagwater.org.

CAWA relies on grants and sponsorships for most of our funding. These tours wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Metro Basin Roundtable, Agfinity, Colorado Corn, Northern Water, Denver Water, Aurora Water, Pawnee Buttes Seed, the City of Longmont and the West Adams and Boulder Valley Conservation Districts.

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Greg Peterson has recently been involved in water issues in Colorado after receiving a Masters in Political Economy of Resources from The Colorado School of Mines and working as a teacher before that.  He has worked as a research associate at the Colorado Water Institute and is currently working with the Colorado Ag Water Alliance and enjoys learning about economics, agriculture and rural Colorado. 

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South Platte Bike Tour June 2017

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The 2017 Urban Waters Bike Tour started at Johnson Habitat Park and ended at Globeville Landing Park.

Each year, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education leads an urban waters bike tour through Denver. This tour is open to water professionals and citizens alike to learn about the South Platte Watershed and what is being done to make the 8-mile stretch of the river more user-friendly.  On my first day as a Colorado Foundation for Water Education intern, I was able to participate in the 2017 bike tour, offered by CFWE in partnership with the Barr Lake and Milton Reservoir Watershed Association and the Colorado Stormwater Council. We started at Johnson Habitat Park and ended at Globeville Landing Park, with a few stops in between, where we heard from multiple guest speakers about the health of the South Platte, opportunities for recreation, and current and upcoming projects along the river.

At Johnson Habitat Park, we heard from the executive director of The Greenway Foundation, Jeff Shoemaker. Shoemaker spoke about the days when the river was ecologically dead, especially at that specific location because it used to be a dump so the water was heavily polluted, and no fish were present in the water. In 1974, The Greenway Foundation started to clean up the pollution and restore the riparian environment by using rocks and plants to create a more natural, less urban setting. Today there are many cold water species such as carp and rainbow trout that not only live in the South Platte, but thrive in it. For The Greenway Foundation, the main focus in recent years has been restoring and creating riverfront parks along the South Platte to provide areas for recreation and learning opportunities for children. In addition, we heard from Scott Schreiber, a stream restoration engineer at Matrix Design Group who also serves as president of the Denver Trout Unlimited (DTU) chapter. Schreiber spoke about water quality and maintaining a healthy river. There are about 70 days out of the year when no water flows through the South Platte, which is of concern because the more water that is present in the river, the healthier it will be. In order, to address this problem, DTU negotiated with Denver Water to release 10 acre-feet on those no-flow days.

We then pedal our bicycles along the South Platte River to our first stop at Weir Gulch, where we heard from Jill Piatt-Kemper with the City of Aurora. Jill spoke about ways that the cities of Denver, Lakewood, and Aurora are working together to ensure that they handle stormwater properly, as it can be a source of pollution for the South Platte. Pavement and concrete increase the rate at which runoff from storms reach the river, and the water picks up pollution from parking lots or roads it flows through, depositing that pollution into the river. Piatt-Kemper’s work aims to keep water away from homes so that storms and flooding cause minimal property damage, create a habitat for wildlife

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Tour participants learn about stormwater at Weir Gulch.

along the riparian zone, and filter the runoff using grass. Filtering runoff is important because fish can’t survive when nutrient levels are too high in the river. The excess nutrients cause more plants to grow, therefore increasing the biological oxygen demand (BOD). An increase in BOD means that the plants are using all of the oxygen in the water, starving the fish of oxygen.  The grass along the riparian zone will filter these nutrients out, use the nutrients to grow, and deliver fresh water to the river.

Our next stop was at Shoemaker Plaza at Confluence Park. There, we heard from Mike

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Mike Bouchard with the City and County of Denver describing the reconstruction of Shoemaker Plaza at Confluence Park.

Bouchard who is a landscape architect with the City and County of Denver. Bouchard spoke about the reconstruction of Shoemaker Plaza and the history of Confluence Park which is where the city of Denver first started. In the early years, parts of the South Platte and Cherry Creek were used as the city’s sewer and dump, and became channelized as a result of urbanization. In 1965, a flood drowned the city and caused millions of dollars in damage. As a result, Chatfield Reservoir was built, making areas along the South Platte safe and accessible again. In order to increase river access, Denver started construction on Shoemaker Plaza in 1974. In spring 2016, reconstruction started to make the plaza larger and more user-friendly as the area is seeing more use. However, two months into the project, workers found coal tar, a byproduct of energy production. They had to stop construction in order to clean up

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Shoemaker Plaza at Confluence Park is under construction to improve river accessibility.

all of the coal tar to ensure that it did not make its way into the water. The site is now clean and construction can continue to create a place where people today and future generations will be able to come and enjoy Colorado’s most precious resource.

Our last stop was Globeville Landing Park where we heard from Celia Vanderloop from the City and County of Denver. Celia spoke about the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative Project in the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are historically poor and have been neglected. This project will create a water feature that will hold water during large rain events in order to control flooding and give access to a green space, restore walkability, water quality, and water accessibility. Part of this project is to clean up the Superfund site near the Denver Coliseum.

As Denver continues to urbanize, there is an increased environmental impact. The challenge is to integrate having a thriving city and a thriving environment. Denver has done a great job in ensuring that the balance is met and that everyone has access to a green space or park where their children can explore and appreciate nature in our beautiful state.

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In Bloom

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Ferril Lake Without Algae                  Photo Credit: Rolf Krahl

Ferril Lake in Denver’s City Park is a favorite summer stop for those looking to relax in the sun or take a trip around the lake in a paddle boat. Last summer, a perfect storm of heat and increased nitrogen from goose droppings allowed algal blooms to thrive. Blooms of up to 10 feet thick sprung from the lake’s bottom and, at one point, coated nearly ninety percent of the surface—sidelining paddle boats, releasing a foul stench, destroying the aesthetics of the lake and causing additional ecological issues below the surface.

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Photo Credit: Justin Henry

The presence of blue-green algae, known as cyanobacteria, in Ferril Lake is not uncommon. An increase in nutrients—nitrates and phosphates—along with increasingly warm temperatures, encourage the growth of cyanobacteria in lakes, streams, ponds and other surface waters. For years, the city of Denver has been looking for solutions to the now annual, and growing, issue.

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Urban Runoff                         Photo Credit: Robert Lawton

In the case of Ferril Lake, the algal bloom is a result of non-point pollution sources—urban runoff (grease, oil and chemicals) from Denver’s streets and the aforementioned goose droppings. Other non-point pollution sources include the excess use of fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides from large-scale agriculture, as well as home gardens, energy production and sediment.

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Photo Credit: Hans W. Paerl

The presence and exponential growth of algae blooms in water sources deplete the water of dissolved oxygen, killing aquatic plant and animal life that depend on specific oxygen levels for survival. Without an increase in oxygen through treatments or during seasonal turnovers, lakes overrun with algae blooms will eventually “die,” unable to support life again.

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Photo Credit: Mary Cousins

 

In certain conditions, the cyanobacteria will also produce cyanotoxins, which are harmful to the environment, animals and humans, whether through direct contact, inhalation and/or ingestion. Human symptoms range from headaches, stomach cramps and allergic reactions to more severe cases of seizures and respiratory arrest. In the most extreme cases, contact with cyanotoxins can also lead to death. Coloradans in rural and urban areas are working together to monitor and address these threats to our water quality and public health.

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Photo Credit: Grendel Kahn

Learn more about cyanotoxins, algal blooms, public health and efforts to reduce nutrients in our water with a FREE webinar tomorrow Thursday, 4/13, at 9 a.m. Hear how municipal recreational lakes are monitoring and working to reduce algal blooms, learn about agricultural producers coming together and implementing best practices to minimize nutrient runoff and discover the basics of toxic algal blooms. Come ready to ask questions!

Offered in partnership with Colorado Water Congress with support from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/82877169749383938

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Water Leaders for Colorado’s Future

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December is full of holiday celebration, time with friends and family, and for the Colorado Foundation for Water Education (CFWE); it is the time when applications open to one of our flagship programs, Water Leaders.

The Water Leaders program is recognized as the premier professional development course for the water community in Colorado. Each year, 15 water professionals from across Colorado are accepted to the program. These individuals will spend seven months together traveling the state, meeting face to face four times and expanding their leadership skills together. The course has been uniquely designed to cover water management topics, while at the same time, honing in on each individual’s leadership skills.

While everyone is making their list and checking it twice for the holidays, potential Water Leaders will also be working on their applications. Applications for this program opened December 1 and will be accepted through January 13, 2017.

Today at 12:30 pm, we are hosting a webinar for interested applicants to talk through the program in more detail and answer any questions. Register for this webinar at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8332492019955043587. If you are unable to attend the webinar, you can request a copy of the recording to be sent to you. To request a copy of the webinar or for additional questions about the program please contact Stephanie Scott, Stephanie@yourwatercolorado.org or 303-377-4433.

Learn more about the program and apply here.

Also, CFWE has a similar program called Water Fluency, which focuses not on leadership skills but on building knowledge of water resource and policy issues for local decision-making processes. This year, Water Fluency will be held in the Grand Junction to Glenwood Springs corridor of Colorado. Stay posted and look for program dates, curriculum and registration opening soon.

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It’s Colorado Gives Day!

facebook-badge-i-gaveSurely you’ve heard by now and hopefully you’ve already supported your favorite nonprofits in Colorado…but if you didn’t know, today is Colorado Gives Day!

For about 9.5 hours more, until midnight tonight, Dec. 6, Coloradans across the state are invited to give where they live by donating online through coloradogives.org. But it’s more than just one day, it’s a movement that inspires and unites donors to support their favorite causes online. Plus, a $1 million incentive fund boosts every donation so there’s a benefit for all participating nonprofits.

At the Colorado Foundation for Water Education we hope you’ll remember us today, but also encourage you to support all the water organizations that matter to you—from local watershed groups to statewide advocacy groups and everything in between. There are a lot of great nonprofits doing important work in Colorado water and we all depend on your support.

CFWE remains Colorado’s only non-biased nonprofit water education organization that brings people together statewide to facilitate meaningful learning and purposeful dialogue about our water. We like to work with individuals, stakeholders, and organizations on all sides of any water issue—every voice is important. Support today on Colorado Gives Day allows us to continue bringing together diverse perspective about water and building relationships where uncommon allies work together. Through collaborations, publications like Headwaters magazines and Citizen’s Guides, resource materials, online learning, public presentations, community tours, workshops, hands-on experiences, the Water Educator Network, the Water Leaders Program, the Water Fluency Program, and Connecting the Drops radio shows, CFWE is bringing water education to thousands of people across Colorado. But with more resources, we can do so much more. Support CFWE on Colorado Gives Day here.

Celebrate philanthropy, make your voice heard by supporting the organizations you stand behind and join thousands of Coloradans in donating on Colorado Gives Day!

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Learning to practice effective collaboration for better water decisions

Collaboration! view_across_independence_pass_from_north-600x600Everyone seems to be talking about it. Most everyone in Colorado’s water community agrees we are at a juncture where it is critical for us to collaborate. But what does this mean? How is this lofty idea actually put into practice? How is collaboration different from its distant cousin—compromise—in which all parties give up something and no one ever emerges very happy?

True collaboration takes a whole new way of looking at things.

We all worked hard to craft the voluminous Colorado Water Plan. Now it is time for the challenging conversations and decision making among the diverse stakeholders in our state to put it into practice. Maybe we have the motivation to do that, and even the energy. But do we have the know-how and the skills to practice effective collaboration?

For those who want to gain that know-how and those skills, or to practice and fine-tune what they already know in theory or from past experience, Colorado Water Institute at CSU is once again teaming up with CDR Associates to offer a hands-on workshop on ‘Strengthening Collaborative Capacity for Better Water Decisions.’  This fall’s training will take place November 9-11 at the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, west of Loveland. It is the second such workshop CSU and CDR have offered, following a similar workshop last fall in Palisade.  One participant from the Palisade training said, “Given the complex water issues we face in Colorado, it’s inspiring to learn skills to help transcend the polarized positions of different geographic and stakeholder sectors.  I can’t wait to apply these new tools to improve collaboration as I approach water challenges in my work.”  Participants came from state and federal agencies, ditch companies and conservancy districts, basin roundtables, and non-governmental organizations.

“That mix of sectors involved in water throughout Colorado is a real strength of the training,” says MaryLou Smith of the Colorado Water Institute. Participants are able to jump right in, bringing with them their real-world challenges and some success stories. “They bring their own set of experiences and issues that provide really good material for us to work with,” Smith says. Smith, along with CDR’s Ryan Golten, and the Colorado River District’s Dan Birch, will staff the training.

The retreat-style workshop is an opportunity for “collaboration in action,” as participants learn right off how to establish trust and relationships critical for collaboration—not by just hearing about it, but by practicing it.  The workshop offers a dynamic blend of discussions, presentations, practice and role playing.  Key topics include understanding the dynamics of conflict; moving from positional bargaining to interest-based thinking; when and under what circumstances collaborative processes are most effective; and the mechanics and skills-building of designing, facilitating and/or participating in collaborating in problem-solving processes. The workshop offers participants a greater toolbox, concrete skills, and confidence in their collaboration practice, whether as conveners, facilitators or stakeholders. “This is very much hands-on training,” Smith says, “which is what makes it so valuable. Attendees practice role-playing in which they’re challenged to come to agreement in a collaborative setting.”

Learn more and register here to attend November 9-11

Colorado’s Water Plan has a subtitle: “Collaborating on Colorado’s Water Future.” The first page of the executive summary says “This is the beginning of the next phase in Colorado water policy, where collaboration and innovation come together with hard work to meet and implement the objectives, goals, and actions set forth in Colorado’s Water Plan.”

Register now to get some down-to-earth instruction and practice in collaboration and innovation critical to Colorado’s water future. For questions, contact MaryLou at MaryLou.Smith@colostate.edu.

hw_winter_16coverRead more about collaboration in the Winter 2016 issue of CFWE’s Headwaters magazine “The Collaborative Alchemy Around Water Today.”

And join CFWE on Monday 9/12 to learn about collaborative water management on a tour throughout the Roaring Fork’s watershed. Learn more and register here.

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