Season 2 Episode 5, Listen here: http://thisiscolorado.libsyn.com/s2-e5-precipitation-and-water-basins
Find out how to publicly shame people who disrespect Colorado nature, a current scheme to rip off Colorado River water, and all you ever wanted to know about how Coloradan’s get their water supply. We also have a new book available on Amazon called “Colorado 101” in addition to two new sponsors JLawCreations.etsy.com and EstheticsByElena.com , use our offer code “This Is Colorado” for 20% your first transaction. Thanks in advance for your support of our show, we love doing it for you
A scheme to rip off Colorado River water: http://www.coloradoan.com/story/opinion/2017/03/31/letter-water-projects-bill-harms-river-feeds-growth-addiction/99750078/
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Show Notes and Sources:
Water (I was inspired to do this episode on water because of a question I was asked by what I think was a non-local down in Denver a few weeks ago. I was working and he asked me, “Where do you think this water comes from?” The question seemed so odd to me because it comes from the mountains, duh, but in thinking about it, Colorado is unique in this way. Our water flows into 18 other states and there is only one other state in the nation that is a source of water instead of a receiver of water.
https://ccc.atmos.colostate.edu/pdfs/ahistoryofdrought.pdf (Page 7 ) Colorado gets new water suppliesfrom only one source: precipitation, in the form of rain, hail, or snow. Colorado gets all of its water from precipitation because there are no major rivers that flow INTO Colorado.2 There are several major river basins, originating in the Colorado Rockies, that flow OUT of the state, providing water to much of the southwestern United States, and contributing to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers as well. Thus, Colorado earns its title as “the Mother of Rivers.”
Although the main source of Colorado’s water supplies is precipitation, Coloradoans typically do not use water directly in the form of precipitation. Usually, water comes to Colorado as precipitation but is then stored in one of five forms of usable water: - snowpack (SN), used directly for recreation, although it also serves as a storage of water supplies; - streamflow (ST), used for recreation, habitat, irrigation and municipal water supplies, as well as to meet interstate compact obligations; - reservoir water (RW), used similarly to streamflow; - soil moisture (SM), used for natural vegetation and agriculture; and - groundwater (GW), used for irrigation and municipal water supplies.
The analysis performed in this study of 100 years of data revealed several important facts about dry and wet periods in Colorado: Drought is a very frequent visitor to Colorado
- Single season droughts with precipitation of 75% or less of average for one to three months in a row occur nearly every year in Colorado.
-93% of time at least 5% of is experiencing drought
-Drought rarely encompasses the entire state.
-Short-term droughts (3-month duration) have covered as much as 80 percent of the state. Longer-duration droughts (2-4 years) have reached to about 70 percent of the state.
http://www.denverwater.org/AboutUs/History/ Long before the city of Denver was established, the South Platte River and Cherry Creek were oases for people who traveled the semi-arid Great Plains. These early travelers could do without many things, but not water. That's why pioneers, and the American Indians before them, camped along the banks of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River. The first residents of the area drank water directly from the creek and river. Surface wells and buckets of water sufficed for a while as a delivery system, but they soon proved inadequate. Irrigation ditches were the next step forward.
https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/co/snow/products/?cid=nrcs144p2_063323 There are 7 different river basins as sources for the snowpack, they are: Yampa, North Platte, South Platte, Colorado, Gunnison, Dolores, Rio Grande and Arkansas river basins.
http://coloradogeologicalsurvey.org/water/groundwater-atlas/ According to the 2000 Census, approximately 3 million people, or 70 percent of the state’s population, live within the South Platte River basin along the Front Range urban corridor. Aside from the urban and growing suburban land use, the region is an important agricultural area with over 1 million acres of irrigated cropland.
http://www.denverwater.org/SupplyPlanning/WaterSupply/ Denver’s water comes from rivers and streams fed by mountain snowmelt. The South Platte River, Blue River, Williams Fork River and Fraser River watersheds are Denver Water’s primary water sources, but it also uses water from the South Boulder Creek, Ralston Creek and Bear Creek watersheds. Dillon Reservoir is Denver Water’s largest storage facility and holds nearly 40 percent of Denver’s water.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_water_supply_and_sanitation_in_the_United_States Denver receives its water almost entirely from mountain snowmelt in a number of highly protected watersheds in more than 9 counties. Its water is stored in 14 reservoirs, the largest of which is the Dillon Reservoir on the Blue River in the Colorado River. Water is diverted from there through the Harold D. Roberts Tunnel under the Continental Divide into the South Platte River Basin.
So now we know exactly where our water comes from, but I found some other interesting information about our water for example:
http://water.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/RainwaterCollection/Pages/default.aspx - You can collect water in a rain barrel from your roof as of 2016. Prior to that, it was illegal to collect rain water because the previous law assumed that rain water travels more than 10 feet, to collect in streams and rivers and other people own that water. The new situation states that you can only use the rain water for certain activities, but like I’m fond of saying, who is policing this? I feel like anything you do on your own property that doesn’t negatively affect others is your business, what do you think?
High groundwater causes lots of problems like the lessened ability to grow crops on the front range plains area The town of Gilcrest has had to replace liners in its water treatment ponds a few times because the ground water causes large bubbles to form in the liners and they tear.
It also contributes to foundation problems and septic system problems. (Have you or your family ever experienced a flooded basement?)
Why all of the sudden do we have a high ground water issue?
In 2002 after a drought some court cases changed the way farmers can pump from their wells and decommissioned 1800 wells in the area. What we have currently is a water system that protects the rights of senior water users at the expense of other farmers who may be sitting on top of massive quantities of water.
Reagan Waskom from the Colorado Water Institute, at Colorado State University, said“If we were starting today in 2017 to design a water management system in the South Platte we would probably do it differently than they would have set it up in 1880,” Waskom said. “Why? Because we have technology to measure what’s on top of the ground, what’s in the snow pack, what’s in our reservoirs, what’s below the ground, and put that together in a way that we use data, science, and monitoring information systems to manage the water supply for the good of the whole. That’s not the way our water system works in Colorado.” Unfortunately, Except for some temporary suggestions, the recommendations in Waskom’s study were not pursued by the legislature.
Fritzler, the farmer near Gilcrest, thinks the clearest and most obvious solution to high groundwater levels would be to allow farmers to pump their water wells—even just a little to alleviate the high water. But he’s not optimistic that would happen. He still believes in the prior appropriation system, but he says something has to be done that changes the way the state administers water.
If it doesn’t get solved, it could mean a blow to agriculture in the state and leave farmers under water—both physically and financially.
http://www.hcn.org/articles/more-than-half-of-the-rivers-in-the-upper-colorado-basin-originate-as-groundwater Then I found this article that says, “Scientists have known for a long time that flow in rivers is sustained by contributions from both snowmelt runoff and groundwater. The groundwater is composed of rivulets of water hidden below ground —some thousands of years old — that are particularly important for sustaining a river’s flow after the spring snowmelt has subsided. Less clear, however, was exactly how much of the flow in rivers came from groundwater, a critical source of much of the West’s water supply. Now, a new study, released last month by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), helps quantify just how much: more than half the flow of rivers in the upper part of the Colorado River Basin is sustained by groundwater.“
http://theprowersjournal.com/2017/04/drought-update-from-colorado-water-conservation-board/ With temperatures eight degrees above average, March of this year was the warmest March on record for the State of Colorado, and the second warmest on record for the nation. Late March precipitation brought much needed moisture, but the state as a whole received only 64 percent of average, in what is historically one of our wettest months. April has also been dry with only 58 percent of normal precipitation to-date.
Demand has already increased for municipal water providers, in some communities as much as 150 percent of average for this time of year; this is indicative of an increase in outdoor watering.
The article goes on to say that snowpack is down, streamflow is falling but Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 110% of normal and all basins are at or above normal. March was the first month since 2009 that the Upper Rio Grande reservoirs reached 100% of normal.
With all of our water sources starting in the mountains, I wondered about how the mines affect the water supply and found these two articles:
http://www.csbj.com/2016/01/14/study-local-water-contaminated/ The water in Fountain Colorado is contaminated, It could be that water from Fountain Valley wells or surface water sources are contaminated by either landfills or residue from industrial processes, but no one is really sure. As a side note, I know that some of the farming communities out east have had to install reverse osmosis water systems because the ground water they use for drinking is so contaminated with chemical run off…
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animas_River#2015_Contaminants_Spill 2015 Gold King Mine spill: a crew working for the EPA released approximately 3 million gallons of mine waste into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas. The plug was accidentally removed while investigating a leak at the abandoned Gold King Mine. The mine was last active in the 1920s, but it had been leaking toxic water at a rate of 50 to 250 gallons a minute for years. The spill contained the toxic metals arsenic, cadmium, and lead, as well as the metals aluminum and copper. There may be other toxic heavy metals in the plume. In February 2016, the Associated Press reported that the spill "dumped 880,000 pounds of metals" into the Animas River, and that "most of the metals settled into the riverbed." The metals considered are "cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, zinc, and possibly others."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadmium_poisoningSo I checked into what this actually means and :
Acute exposure to cadmium fumes may cause flu-like symptoms including chills, fever, and muscle ache sometimes referred to as "the cadmium blues." Symptoms may resolve after a week if there is no respiratory damage. More severe exposures can cause tracheo-bronchitis, pneumonitis, and pulmonary edema. Symptoms of inflammation may start hours after the exposure and include cough, dryness and irritation of the nose and throat, headache, dizziness, weakness, fever, chills, and chest pain.
Inhaling cadmium-laden dust quickly leads to respiratory tract and kidney problems which can be fatal (often from renal failure). Ingestion of any significant amount of cadmium causes immediate poisoning and damage to the liver and the kidneys. Compounds containing cadmium are also carcinogenic.
The bones become soft (osteomalacia), lose bone mineral density (osteoporosis) and become weaker. This causes the pain in the joints and the back, and also increases the risk of fractures. In extreme cases of cadmium poisoning, mere body weight causes a fracture.
The kidneys lose their function to remove acids from the blood in proximal renal tubular dysfunction. The kidney damage inflicted by cadmium poisoning is irreversible. Theproximal renal tubular dysfunction creates low phosphate levels in the blood (hypophosphatemia), causing muscle weakness and sometimes coma. The dysfunction also causesgout, a form of arthritis due to the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints because of high acidity of the blood (hyperuricemia). Another side effect is increased levels ofchloride in the blood (hyperchloremia). The kidneys can also shrink up to 30%. Cadmium exposure is also associated with the development of kidney stones.
https://www.copper.org/consumers/copperhome/Env_Health/environmentandhealth_drinkingwater.html he most serious human health effect of rapid and excessive copper intake from drinking water is short-term stomach upset and/or diarrhea.
Lead: https://thinkprogress.org/this-is-what-happens-to-humans-when-they-are-exposed-to-too-much-lead-8cf5219993d4 Infants and children exposed to lead may suffer in various ways, including delayed puberty, speech impairment, high blood pressure, hearing loss, decreased muscle and bone growth, kidney damage, and a weakened immune system. Breastfed infants are also at risk if there is lead in their mother’s bloodstreams.
Equally important, lead also affects children’s brains and nervous systems. Those exposed to lead at a young age may suffer from a coma, convulsions, or even death. Children who survive serious lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and changes in behavior, like a shortened attention span or increased antisocial behavior.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_poisoningSymptoms may include muscle weakness, poor coordination, numbness in the hands and feet, skin rashes, memory problems, trouble speaking, trouble hearing, or trouble seeing. Symptoms depend upon the type, dose, method, and duration of exposure. The effects of long term low dose exposure to methylmercury is unclear. High level exposure to methylmercury is known as Minamata disease. Exposure in children may result in acrodynia (pink's disease) in which the skin becomes pink and peels. Long term complications may include kidney problems and decreased intelligence.
And after all that, I was bummed because those are some nasty water problems. So I thought, what is fun about water and I found this on what water activities you can find in the state: http://www.colorado.com/water-activities
Boating, Fishing, Jet Skiing, Kayaking, Rafting are listed but I also thought of swimming and tubing. Mind you, even in July when it’s hot, the water coming from the mountains is still cold.
What sports have you done or seen on the water here? Anything uniquely Colorado?
Problem Solving/What we learned
1) Trail Trash is a new favorite of mine, so if I see you being a tool, I’m posting it. I hope our audience will join me in support of publicly shaming jerks.
2) Colorado is a source of water so we should have the upmost respect for it since it affects so many millions of people downstream.
3) Drought is a regular occurrence so planned and responsible water use is a must.
4) Our water use laws need revisited. We now have data to guide our decisions and I feel like we should use it.