Tag Archives: Colorado Water Supply

What’s in the Water?

 

toothbrushpaste

Photo Credit: Jonas Bergsten

There is a high likelihood that at some point in your life, you have used a product containing fluoride. Many of us have memories of fluoride treatments at the dentist’s office—either in the form of a goopy gel oozing out of ill-fitting trays or as a liquid rinse. Even as adults, most people brush their teeth twice a day with toothpaste containing fluoride; all in the interest of keeping their teeth in tip-top shape.

But, did you know that there is a good chance that fluoride is also present in your tap water?

Almost all water has naturally-occurring fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral—like Vitamin D or calcium—that is released from rocks into our air, soil and water; however, depending on the source of the water, fluoride is not always present in concentrations that would be optimal for preventing tooth decay. It is also possible for levels of fluoride to be too high, which is why water providers test  fluoride levels in tap water, allowing them to make adjustments based on current levels.

Fluoride research began in 1901, in Colorado Springs. Initial research was conducted by dental school graduate Fredrick McKay, and in 1909, he was joined by dental researcher, Dr. G.V. Black. Upon arriving in Colorado Springs, McKay noticed that Colorado Springs natives had brown-stained teeth. Having never seen this type of tooth stain before, McKay asked Black to join him so that together, they could determine the source of “Colorado Brown Stain.”

What they discovered was a connection between fluoride in water and dental health. In Colorado Springs, the cause of stained teeth in locals turned out to be dental fluorosis, a cosmetic result of excessive fluoride consumption due to high levels of fluoride in the local water.

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Photo Credit: Matthew Ferguson

According to WebMD, dental fluorosis is caused by overexposure to fluoride—sources include water, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.—during the first eight years of life, when permanent teeth are being formed. Discoloration can range from lacy white markings to yellow or brown stains and may include surface irregularities, including severe pitting. McKay and Black determined that the high levels of fluoride not only caused the staining, but also provided an unusually high resistance to tooth decay.

In 1931, the first fluoride studies were conducted by Dr. H. Trendley Dean. Based on previous research done in the field, he hypothesized that it was possible to have fluoride levels in water that were low enough to be safe for consumption and avoid dental fluorosis, yet high enough to help prevent tooth decay.

In 1945, his hypothesis was put to the test in Grand Rapids, Michigan; the first city in the world to fluoridate its drinking water. Over the course of 15 years, 30,000 school children were monitored for tooth decay. After 11 years, the caries rate (the rate of tooth decay) was down 60 percent. The study results indicated that tooth decay could be preventable.

running-waterDean’s study spurred a national movement to add fluoride to community water systems and more than 70 years later, the majority of the U.S. population is receiving fluoridated water. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2014, 66.3 percent of the total U.S. population and 74.4 percent of the population receiving water from a community water system were receiving fluoridated water. 74 percent of Colorado residents are receiving fluoridated water, falling in line with the rest of the country.

Many people receive fluoridated water, but wonder if it’s safe to consume. Everyone has the right to know what they are ingesting and how it will impact their health—check on the fluoridation status of the water that you are receiving at My Water’s Fluoride. Learn about  other contaminants that may naturally occur in your water, or additives like fluoride, and how your water provider addresses them by finding your local Consumer Confidence Report on the Colorado Water Quality Control Division’s website here.

Some people are opposed to the addition of fluoride to public drinking water. Opponents of fluoride in drinking water are troubled by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) classification of fluoride as a drug for safety testing purposes. They see the addition of fluoride to water as being for the sole purpose of preventing tooth decay, as opposed to improving water quality, making it a medical treatment that is being imposed on them without consent.Another concern includes the inability of an individual consumer to regulate their fluoride dosage. Opponents worry that someone who drinks more water than someone else may receive a higher dosage of fluoride. In this vein, the dosage in a single glass is the same across the board, regardless of the needs of the person ingesting fluoride.

In 2013, Portland, Oregon voters rejected a ballot proposal to add fluoride to their drinking water, making it the largest U.S. city without fluoride in their water, or plans to add it. Opponents of the measure echo the belief that fluoride as a chemical will ruin the city’s pristine water supply, and that adding fluoride violates an individual’s right to consent to medication. From a USA Today article:

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Photo Credit: The.Rohit

“I don’t want chemicals in my water,” Sarah Lazzaro said after voting Tuesday. “I know that there are really no known health risks with it, but there’s a lot of things we find out later in life really do have health risks.”

During the summer of 2015, both Snowmass, Colorado and Denver Water debated the practice of adding fluoride to their public water systems. Initially, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District decided to discontinue adding fluoride to their water; however, in October 2015, under public pressure, the board reversed their decision, and will not discontinue the procedure. Denver Water also found themselves at the center of the fluoride debate, and while they have reduced the dosage of fluoride, per the recommendation of the U.S. Public Health Service, they too, continue to add fluoride to the water they provide. Many who disagree with fluoride being added to drinking water stand firm in their position, keeping the conversation flowing between them and those who view it as beneficial.

The U.S. Public Health Service recommends a fluoride concentration of 0.7 mg/L, or 0.7 parts per million (ppm), to maintain the benefits of reducing the risk of tooth decay, while also decreasing the possibility of dental fluorosis. The U.S. Environmental Protection Association regulates fluoride contamination in drinking water with an enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 4 mg/L, or 4 ppm and an unenforceable secondary standard set at 2 mg/L. Other agencies including the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Public Health Association (APHA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other major health organizations in the United States, believe that community water fluoridation, in recommended low quantities, is safe.

Having clean, safe, drinking water is important to the health of individuals and the environment. Knowing what is in your water and how policy maker decisions can affect public health is the first step in making decisions that will have a positive impact on your personal well-being.

hw_fall_2016_final_coverRead more about water and its connection to public health in the latest issue of Headwaters magazine, “Renewing Trust in the Safety of Public Water”.

Not a Headwaters subscriber? Sign up here, or 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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Filed under Colorado Foundation for Water Education, Headwaters Magazine, Water Education and Resources, Water Quality

Colorado’s Transbasin Diversions: Perspectives

“The interesting thing about all of these tunnels is you look through them and you can see a pinpoint of light at the end,” says Wayne Vanderschuere, the general manager for water and wastewater planning at Colorado Springs Utilities.  Vanderschuere was talking about transbasin diversion tunnels.

Participants on the Colorado Foundation for Water Education's transbasin diversion tour hear from Lynn Brooks with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District beside the outlet of the Homestake Tunnel near Turquoise Reservoir.

Participants on the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s transbasin diversion tour hear from Lynn Brooks with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District beside the outlet of the Homestake Tunnel near Turquoise Reservoir.

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education returned from our transbasin diversion tour last week, exploring the Fryingpan-Arkansas, Twin Lakes, and Homestake projects with experts and a great group of about 30 tour participants from different organizations, interests and geographical locations. Find photos here.  We heard about and saw the sights and workings of these important and major water diversion projects. Reporter, Dennis Webb with the Grand Junction Sentinel joined us and, in an article published this week, wrote:

Those interests met in the middle here last week, at this point where the Ewing Ditch crosses the Continental Divide, on a transbasin diversion tour presented by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. It was a chance to consider the past of water development in Colorado while also pondering its future. And where better to look back at the history of transbasin diversions than at Ewing Ditch, the oldest diversion of Western Slope water to the Eastern Slope?

This straightforward, unassuming dirt conduit seemingly defies gravity, diverting water from Eagle River tributary Piney Gulch just a short walk from Tennessee Pass, and just high enough up the gulch that the water can follow a contoured course crossing basins and head into the Arkansas River Valley.

“It’s simple, but I love simplicity. It fits my mind,” Alan Ward, water resources manager with the Pueblo Board of Water Works, joked about the ditch, which the utility bought in 1955.

Buried in Snow

Alan Ward stands at the Ewing Ditch headgate,

Alan Ward with the Pueblo Board of Water Works stands at the Ewing Ditch headgate.

It was built in 1880 and also is called the Ewing Placer Ditch, which Ward believes suggests early use of the water in mining.

As transbasin diversions go, it’s a minuscule one, delivering up to 18.5 cubic feet per second, or an average of about 1,000 acre-feet in a year. It diverts about five square miles of melt-off from snowpack that can leave the ditch buried beneath 10 to 20 feet of snow in the winter. David Curtis is in charge of clearing that snow and maintaining and operating the ditch during the seven months out of each year that he works out of Leadville as a ditch rider for the utility.

The utility says Ewing Ditch is about three-quarters of a mile long.

“I think it’s a little longer,” Curtis said, adding that at least it seems that way when he and others are busy clearing spring snow.

A chartered bus delivered more than two dozen tour participants to view the ditch, including Boulder County resident Joe Stepanek. He found last week’s two-day tour to be highly informative. He’s interested in Colorado’s history of water development, and is retired from a U.S. Agency for International Development career that had him traveling abroad.

“I come back and join this water tour and learn a lot about Colorado,” he said.

Sonja Reiser, an engineer with CH2M HILL in Denver, likewise was finding the tour to be eye-opening.

“I’m learning so much about how complicated Colorado water law is,” she said as the tour bus moved on from this tiny diversion point to the outlet of the five-mile-long Homestake Tunnel, which goes under the Continental Divide from Homestake Reservoir in Eagle County and is capable of delivering a much more massive 800 cubic feet per second to help meet municipal needs in Colorado Springs and Aurora.

CFWE published the new Citizen's Guide to Colorado's Transbasin Diversions last month. flip through or order your copy .

CFWE published the new Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Transbasin Diversions last month. flip through or order your copy.

Read another tour participant’s impressions and thoughts from the tour on the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments’ Water Quality and Quantity Blog.

For me, just being around the diversions was exciting. Only a month ago, CFWE released it’s newest publication, the Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Transbasin Diversions–  I wrote much of it. After reading about these projects, pouring over maps trying to understand collection and distribution systems and working with the Division of Water Resources to determine how much water flows through these projects, I was seeing some of them, and hearing about them again.

The guide explores the history, negotiations and future of water supply planning in Colorado. It’s a lot of information condensed into 32 pages and drawn largely from other great resources including the three books and author perspectives found at the end of the guide. And it comes at an important time, as the draft of Colorado’s Water Plan collecting input and nearing completion, water supply and the history of water supply planning in Colorado are particularly relevant. But what didn’t make it in the guide, primarily because it is a reference guide and there was an abundance of other content, were the many great interviews I conducted with water managers, leaders, planners, advocates and others about projects all across the state. The tour brought life to the Citizen’s Guide, just like those interviews, as will our upcoming webinar series (more about that two paragraphs down).

These are such important stories, and interesting people who told them,  so CFWE will be publishing excerpts from those interviews here on the blog. If you have a piece of the story that needs to be told, or wish we spoke with someone different, let us know– we welcome additional posts.  Stay posted for a great series of interviews and additional transbasin diversion programming.

If you want to hear from experts yourself, register for one or all of our upcoming transbasin diversion webinars, hosted in partnership with Colorado Water Congress. The first of the series will be held on November 12 from 9-10 am on the Technical, Political and Environmental Requirements of Transbasin Diversions. Learn more and find out how to register here.

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Filed under Colorado Foundation for Water Education, Colorado's Water Plan, Events, Staff, Water Education and Resources, Water Supply

Drought Restrictions Depend on Water Storage and Portfolios

This year we’ve seen watering restrictions come to stay or go in different parts of the state, but Coloradans don’t always realize that those restrictions mean very different things for utilities based on their water portfolios.  An interesting article published this week in the Coloradan explains the messages and portfolios of some of the northern Colorado water utilities.

Fort Collins, which lifted its mandatory water restrictions Saturday, and Loveland are trusting residents with voluntary water conservation because mandatory water restrictions don’t accomplish the same thing here that they do in other Front Range cities.Fort Collins simply lacks the storage space for mandatory water restrictions to benefit the city, said Fort Collins water resources manager Donnie Dustin.

Denver Water has space to store about 550,000 acre-feet of water in its reservoirs, but Fort Collins owns only a small fraction of the water in Horsetooth Reservoir, which is controlled by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, he said.

When Denver Water imposes water restrictions, they have a large “bank” in which to store water, he said.

“The city of Fort Collins just doesn’t have that,” Dustin said.

Of all the major cities along the Front Range, Fort Collins and Loveland own the least amount of reservoir storage, relying mostly on Colorado-Big Thompson Project reservoirs, including Horsetooth, he said.

Northern Water limits the amount of water cities can save for use in future years, and the city can’t store more there even if it wants to… read more

Of course, utilities and water providers across the state draw water from different sources and store in different ways, making each system unique. The latest issue of Headwaters magazine explores various aspects of utilities across the state, from rate structure to infrastructure, these differences are apparent. As Chris Woodka wrote for Headwaters,

Every system is unique, and every utility has some sort of rate structure that takes into account the cost to buy water, treat it, pump it and maintain the infrastructure that delivers potable water to consumers’ taps.

Although most of us (91 percent of Coloradans get their domestic water from surface supplies, while the other 9 percent rely on groundwater tapped by wells, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources) turn on the tap to draw water provided by a water utility, that water reaches us in different ways. Flip through Headwaters to learn more about utilities, take a look at COH2O to learn about restrictions in your area and let us know what your local utility is up to this summer.

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Filed under Climate and Drought, Colorado Foundation for Water Education, Headwaters Magazine, Water Supply