Tag Archives: webinar

The Runoff Conundrum

When a summer storm crosses the eastern plains, drowning farmlands in a deluge, more than water ends up flowing into Colorado’s rivers, lakes and streams.

On April 13, 2017, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education was joined by Troy Bauder, with Colorado State University Extension, for a webinar in which part of the discussion centered on nonpoint source pollution. Bauder focuses on working with agricultural producers to reduce nutrient losses on their fields.

Runoff, a nonpoint source, occurs when there is more water than the soil can absorb. Agricultural runoff carries a bit of everything it touches—excess fertilizer, animal waste, soil and more. Water that is not absorbed into the ground moves across the land, picking up whatever it can carry, and drains into surface water and groundwater sources.

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Photo Credit: Lynn Betts

“Ag nutrients—nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P)—are absolutely required for productive agriculture,” Bauder says. “Of course, we need good management to prevent the accumulation of too much N and P in our soils and to reduce the potential for movement to surface and ground water.”

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Photo Credit: Dr. Jennifer L. Graham

When nitrogen and phosphorus—two nutrients found in agricultural runoff—are deposited in excess in water bodies, it leads to algal blooms, reduced dissolved oxygen content, which is harmful to aquatic plants and animals, and can compromise drinking water supplies.

If rain falls on 30 farms, with 20 of them using fertilizers to supplement nutrients in the soil, and the excess of these nutrients finds its way into the runoff, who is to blame for compromising water quality? Who is responsible for nutrient pollution? Since no one farm can be blamed for the degradation of water quality, agricultural runoff is a challenging nonpoint source pollutant to manage and regulate.

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Photo Credit: USDA

Colorado’s Regulation 85, a nutrient policy passed in 2012, regulates point sources of nitrogen, phosphorous and chlorophyll a in surface water, setting discharge limits and requiring monitoring; however, Regulation 85 currently allows for a voluntary, incentivized, approach for reducing nutrient pollution that originates in nonpoint source pollution.

“We’ve partnered with CDPHE [the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment] to produce some resources and an outreach program called Colorado AG Water Quality,” Bauder continues. “The purpose of this outreach effort is to get the word out to growers about how Reg. 85 could potentially affect them.”

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Photo Credit: USDA

Taking ownership of nutrient pollution and implementing best management practices gives agriculture the opportunity to avoid stringent state regulations. In 2022, the current, voluntary, approach will be evaluated to determine if progress has been made with the implementation and adoption of best management practices (BMP) as they relate to nonpoint source pollution, agriculture and water quality. Additional regulations may be considered depending on the results.

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Conservation Tillage Photo Credit: USDA

Reducing nutrient pollution is achieved through the implementation of BMPs, including improvements in fertilizer management, conservation tillage, irrigation, manure handling and soil erosion. The adoption of BMPs by Colorado agricultural producers benefits agriculture, as well as water quality. When implemented successfully, not only will there be a reduction in nutrient pollution, but it will reduce the need for future regulation.

“We want to work with our growers on the agronomic and economic feasibility of these practices to help them understand how they can help their bottom line,” Bauder says.

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Nitrogen Application                              Photo Credit: Bob Nichols

BMP effectiveness depends on what is known as the 4 R’s: Growers need to use the right amount (rate), right placement, right timing and right source. Combined with improved irrigation management, these BMPs improve the efficacy of the nutrients and prevent the potential for movement, which often results in nonpoint source pollution. Irrigation management can include altering the method by which water is delivered with system upgrades, combined with scheduling watering at the right time of day and in the proper amounts to reduce runoff. Ultimately, implementing these BMPs will benefit the grower’s bottom line while simultaneously protecting water sources from being impacted by nutrients.

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Photo Credit: USDA

“It’s definitely important to engage growers early and often in the process,” Bauder concludes. “Not only the growers, but their representatives, commodity groups and the people who advise them.”

While nutrients are certainly necessary for successful and sustainable agriculture, the execution of BMPs will help mitigate nutrient loss and movement, and in turn, reduce nonpoint source pollution due to runoff. Providing incentives, tools and resources to growers is critical to BMP implementation and success, as well as keeping Colorado’s water sources clean and reducing the impact of nutrient pollution.

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Photo Credit: NOAA

Learn more about cyanotoxins, algal blooms, public health and efforts to reduce nutrients in our water when you listen to the recording of this April 2017 webinar presented by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and offered in partnership with Colorado Water Congress with support from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Hear about how municipal recreational lakes are monitoring and working to reduce algal blooms, discover how agricultural producers coming together and implementing best practices to minimize nutrient runoff and learn the basics of toxic algal blooms.

hw_fall_2016_final_coverFind further coverage about this topic in the Public Health Issue of Headwaters Magazine.

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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Filed under Agriculture, Colorado Foundation for Water Education, Environment, groundwater, Headwaters Magazine, Water Quality

Talking about drought: drought management and policy webinars with the Western Governors’ Association

Western drought is in the news and Coloradans are well versed after 2002 and 2012. But it isn’t behind us, the state is always readying itself for future water shortage. The Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan prepares us for drought while the Water Availability Task Force monitors conditions on a monthly basis. Regionally, many Coloradans have shared their perspectives on how to respond to drought during a series of Drought Forum workshops coordinated by the Western Governors’ Association over the past six months, including emphasis on ways that drought response differed in 2012 compared to 2002.  From the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Denver Water, and from Badger Creek Dairy in Northern Colorado and Xcel Energy, Coloradans have played a significant role in the Drought Forum discussion. Now, through educational public webinars, there’s a new opportunity to get involved in regional drought preparedness.

By Carlee Brown, Policy Advisor, WGA

With drought conditions plaguing California, Nevada and other states – and with the widespread drought of 2012 that dramatically affected Colorado and 16 other western states still in mind – drought management and response is taking center stage across the West.

California Governor Sandoval created the WGA Drought Forum

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval created the WGA Drought Forum for regional best practice sharing on drought.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, chairman of the Western Governors’ Association, created the Western Governors’ Drought Forum as a framework for states, communities and industry to share best practices on drought policy, preparedness and management.

Now, WGA is opening the discussion to a broad audience through the Western Governors’ Drought Forum Webinar Series, which will offer five in-depth discussions on drought management and policy topics. Each of the webinars will include a 40-minute panel discussion by three expert panelists followed by a 20-minute opportunity for questions and discussion for all attendees. Webinars will be recorded and made available online.

The webinar series is free, but pre-registration is required so sign up now!

WGA will issue a final report in June of 2015 summarizing the key findings of the Western Governors’ Drought Forum.  By attending the webinar series, participants will get a preview of the central policy issues identified through the Drought Forum.

Read more through the following CFWE resources:

508-JHO_6092Carlee Brown is a policy advisor for the Western Governors’ Association.  Carlee’s work focuses on drought and water regulatory issues that uniquely impact the West. She graduated from Stanford University with a BA in American Studies and a MS in Earth Systems, both with a concentration on agricultural policy.

 

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Filed under Climate and Drought, Events, Water Education and Resources, Water Supply

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