Water Quality / Conservation

Water Conservation Nullified by Growth

According to an early April Water Online article, while California residents are trying to conserve water, it may do little good in the face of population growth. California water agencies are on track to satisfy a state mandate to reduce water consumption 20 percent by 2020, but according to their own projections, that savings won’t be enough to keep up with population growth just a decade later.


EPA Study Confirms Fracking Affects Drinking Water

In June the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that fracking does pollute drinking water, with the release of the draft final version of its study of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas and Its Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources.


Colorado #1 Endangered River

The Grand Canyon stretch of the Colorado tops American Rivers' 32nd annual list of endangered rivers because of cumulative threats to scenery and spring water from commercial and residential development plans, and from a push to restart major uranium mining. The designation marks the third year in a row that all or part of the drought-sapped river has been at or near the top of the advocacy group's annual watch list of rivers it feels face potentially harmful actions or decisions in the coming year. A gondola-tramway plan that would drop up to 10,000 tourists daily a few thousand feet down to the canyon bottom on the river's south side helped push the Grand Canyon section of the Colorado to the top of this year's list.


Animas River Water Quality

As reported in an early June Durango Herald article, about 20 concerned people gathered at the Durango Public Library to hear one woman’s answer to an effortlessly gripping question: “Who pooped in the river?” According to Melissa May, a natural resource specialist for San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District, who analyzed microbial source tracking results for the Animas River in Colorado and New Mexico--the answer is, in short, humans pooped in it.


Conservation: Projects Aim to Remove Salt Cedars Along the Colorado and Verde Rivers

The growth of invasive salt cedars within the flood plains of the Verde River in Arizona has become a serious impediment to the flow of water into the Colorado. Extracting salt cedar from riverbeds and replacing it with native grasses is an enormous undertaking, but one that could have a dramatic impact on Colorado River water flows. At least that is part of the thinking behind conservation projects proposed to repair habitats along both of the rivers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced three such conservation projects as part of a $1.2 billion, five-year enterprise included in the massive 2014 farm bill. About 35 percent of the overall funding will be dedicated to projects such as this along the Colorado River.


Quality: Study Finds Human Waste in Rivers

As part of a two-year study of the Animas and San Juan Rivers, the San Juan Watershed Group recently reported findings of elevated levels of bacteria from human waste in the waters. Researchers focused on water quality in New Mexico, except for one point at the Colorado and New Mexico border. The point on the border was studied for only one year, making the sample size smaller. But it is a red flag, especially because the levels of human bacteria dropped at sites tested downstream. “The public should have some concern about the recreational use of these rivers,” said Geoffrey Smith, biologist at New Mexico State University, who worked on the study. However, the bacteria is not found in treated drinking water. The study found bacteria from animals such as cattle and elk in 90 percent of the samples and bacteria from humans in 80 percent of the samples across both rivers. Bacteria from human waste could be coming from leaking septic tanks, people who illegally dump waste, going to the bathroom outside or from wastewater treatment plants. These finds are concerning because bacteria from human waste is more likely to make people sick with viral and bacterial infections than animal bacteria, Smith said. Finding where the bacteria is coming from is the next step in eliminating the pollution.


Study: US Using Less Water

A study by local, state, and federal officials tracking water use has found that levels have dropped to those of at least 40 years ago. "This is the first time we've seen this large a decline nationally," said Molly Maupin, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and lead author of the study, Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2010.

Colorado River Water Conservation Programs

In October the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBOR) began soliciting project proposals in the Lower Basin states for water conservation from Colorado River entitlement holders in Arizona, California, and Nevada. Demand management and conservation measures are also being discussed for water users in the river's Upper Basin as a part of a Contingency Planning process to address future shortages. The Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Southern Nevada Water Authority, and the USBOR are providing up to $11 million to pay for new Colorado River “System Conservation Agreements” as pilot projects.


Coloradans Want Strong Conservation and Efficiency in State Water Plan

More than 18,000 people across Colorado have sent messages supporting smart water policies such as increased conservation and efficiency to be prioritized in the Colorado State Water Plan. This message mirrors a recent poll that confirms voters understand the importance of conserving water and preserving rivers and streams for future generations. “Voters believe that Coloradans can meet their water needs by reducing water use by 10 percent by 2020 through conservation, rather than building new diversion projects,” said Lori Weigel, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies. “A two-thirds majority of Colorado voters say we need to change the way the state manages our water.” Three key findings in the poll show: 
 
  1. 90 percent of voters say a priority for the Water Plan should be to keep Colorado’s rivers healthy and flowing.
  2. 78 percent of voters prefer using water conservation and recycling instead of diverting water from rivers in Western Colorado to the Front Range.
  3. 88 percent of voters support a statewide goal of reducing water use in cities and towns by 10 percent by 2020. 

‘Big Boys’ Reach Landmark Water Conservation Agreement

In August, the Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and Southern Nevada Water Authority all signed on to what is being called a landmark water conservation agreement aimed at demonstrating “the viability of cooperative, voluntary compensated measures,” according to a press release from Denver Water. With Colorado River water supplies dwindling, these organizations--the biggest water users at the table--said they’ll invest $11 million to try and conserve significant amounts of water across all sectors, including agricultural, municipal, and industrial uses.

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