Water Quality / Conservation

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.

Lawn Bill Designed to Conserve Water

Senate Bill 17 proposed to limit the size of new lawns for entities using water from permanent agricultural dry-up. Ag dry-up occurs when someone purchases land and moves the water into the municipal system. The concept was developed by Steve Harris of Harris Water Engineering in Durango and sponsored by Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango). In early August water resource leaders from Durango and Southwest Colorado briefed lawmakers in Denver on the legislation.

Water Quality Impacts on Human Health

A new analysis of 56 studies shows that increasingly, global temperatures and severe weather events will continue to have a major impact on global health.

Water Quality to Improve on the Animas River

According to a Durango Herald article, in 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to plug the abandoned Red Bonita mine near Silverton in an effort to help reduce the flow of heavy metals draining into Cement Creek, which ultimately flows into the Animas River.

New Program Pays Users to Conserve Colorado River Water

Farmers, cities, and power plant operators could soon be paid to cut their use of the Colorado River under a new interstate program aimed at keeping more water in Lake’s Powell and Mead. The four largest communities fed by the Colorado River will contribute millions of dollars into a fund to help farmers and industrial operations pay for efficiency improvements and conservation measures to cut their water use. Known as the Colorado River System Conservation Program, it will be seeded with $2 million each from the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, Denver Water, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Another $3 million will come from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.


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