water conservation

Grand Junction Water Restrictions Imposed

The City of Grand Junction began requiring residents to restrict outdoor water use to twice per week. This changes to once per week in October. More details are available as discussed in the The Daily Sentinel.

This restriction does not apply to my neighborhood located in Mesa County with water supplied by Ute Water. At my home, we changed from less frequent watering with a longer duration to move the water deeper into the root zone of native desert plants. We've cut our water bill in half as compared to last year and our plants are doing just fine! 

Helping the Second Poorest Nation for Water Resources Find More

On August 3 – 12, I joined another American and a representative from the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit Jordan for assessing water treatment options of naturally-occurring radium in drinking water supplies. We also obtained logistical support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) office at the Embassy in Amman. The mission supports the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation. Jordan is listed as the second poorest country in the world for water resources so potable water is only distributed to communities once or twice per week! Currently, groundwater containing radium is either not used or mixed with surface water. Innovative new treatment options that conserves water are being considered to remove radium and manage low-level radioactive waste. My contributions include touring well fields, meeting officials, reviewing extensive hydrogeology, geochemistry, waste disposal options, and planning a proposed pilot test of a treatment facility to be built that uses ceramic filtration with hydrous manganese oxides. If we can obtain success at one well location, future planning will use this technology at numerous other locations.

I found the Jordanian people to be incredibly gracious, peaceful, well educated, and very respectful. It appears to be an island of peace surrounded by conflict. The water situation is made even worse by refugees coming from many nearby countries. 

Please see the photo gallery for a few of the interesting views.

Update from the 7th Annual Upper Colorado River Basin Forum at Colorado Mesa University

Is there enough water available in the Colorado River Basin (CRB) to meet all our current and future needs and obligations? According to my synthesis of information from the 7th Annual Upper Colorado River Basin Forum on November 1-2, 2017, consider this:

·         Currently about 40 million people depend on CRB water for agriculture, domestic, and recreational supplies

·         The 1922 compact with 7 states overestimated supplies so now the CRB is overallocated

·         The federal government (Bureau of Reclamation) requires adequate reservoir levels for hydroelectric generation and could override the 1922 compact

·         States are developing Drought Contingency Plans with improved efficiencies increasing supply

·         Efficient applications of drip irrigation and native plants are encouraged but not yet required

·         A US treaty with Mexico attempts to deliver some water that historically flowed to the ocean

·         Farmers consume about 90% of CRB water and have some of the oldest priority water rights

·         Some farmers are reluctant to conserve in fear of losing water rights and money

·         Colorado water law of beneficial use makes the “use-it or lose-it” mentality illegal

·         In Colorado, about 70% of water originates in the Western Slope with only 30% of the population while 30% of the water originates in the Eastern Slope (including Denver) with 70% of the population

·         Denver’s population is expected to double in roughly 30 years so demand is increasing

·         Trans-mountain diversions and priority water rights can allow the Eastern Slope to take much more than current amounts

·         Wyoming is building new reservoirs (“water banking”) on the Green River

·         In New Mexico, the Elephant Butte reservoir near Albuquerque almost went dry during recent droughts which had to be channelized and loses 250,000 acre-feet to evaporation when at capacity

·         Most vegetables in US are grown in the Imperial Valley of California using CRB water

·         The recent 5-year drought resulted in many farms going dry (crops were fallowed)

·         Beyond CRB for human consumption, recreationists (boating, fishing, etc.) demand more supply

·         The climate is changing and resulting in more variability making long term predictions difficult

 

So is there enough water available in the Colorado River Basin (CRB) to meet all our current and future needs and obligations? I would say currently no and optimistically with significant changes in the amounts of water that we consume there is the potential for saying yes.  

The forum provided great examples of techniques to measure and forecast water supplies. I suggested to the organizers for next year that additional consideration be given to water quality that is degrading or improving depending on many factors.

In summary, the Upper CRB Forum organized by Colorado Mesa University provides an incredibly valuable exchange of information in a non-confrontational environment that seeks to improve our understanding of the world we live in and how we can become better stewards of our environment.

Our Community Irrigation System Is Broken

Redlands is a community of Grand Junction, Colorado with about 10,000 residents living between the Colorado River and National Monument. Last Friday, a power generator broke down at Redlands Water and Power Company so about 4,500 irrigated acres will go without water for several days. This made front page local news! They report the golf courses have a backup plan to conserve water, limit players, and hand watering from ponds.

The company currently predicts the water will be back by July 4th and states, "We want to fill the ditches as soon as possible because we are not happy unless everybody has good water."

While this shutdown is temporary, we will be watching to see what impact occurs to the local community including peach orchards and lawns drying out.

The risk of wildfire is very high and, even before the irrigation shutdown, fireworks have been banned to non-professionals for the entire Grand Valley during the July 4th holiday.

2016 Year in Review of Conserving and Pro$pering

We’ve made great progress in our family lifestyle this year by conserving energy, food, and water to become more healthy, wealthy, and wise. This website blog exercised and demonstrated our sustainability mindfulness to:

·         Doing more with less – becoming more efficient!

·         Improving our diet, exercise, mediation, prayer, and balancing use of technology

·         Discovering benefits of acupuncture, massage, and confronting/reducing stressful situations

·         Learning to make our own meat jerky that is less expensive and delicious without preservatives

·         Growing and eating inexpensive, organic vegetables by volunteering at a community garden

·         Adding a HVAC electrostatic air filter to improve indoor air quality

·         Saving drinking water supplies with drip irrigation landscaping

·         Drinking mostly water or milk and no soda pop drinks

·         Attending conferences and workshops on water sustainability

·         Speaking to school groups about natural resources and conservation

·         Conducting a home energy audit that allowed patching of leaks and better air circulation

·         Driving a Toyota Rav4 hybrid as the only family car which saved about $650 in fuel costs, 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide not emitted to the air, and much improved safety and power features

·         Reading many books on sustainability as reviewed in several blogs

·         Becoming more aware of risks and threats to our lifestyle such as overconsumption, population growth, food and water scarcity, ignorance and denial of scientific evidence, and needless wasting of precious resources in a “use it or lose it” mentality

Without sounding too self-righteous, we still have many more opportunities to improve our lifestyle in 2017, such as becoming more self-sufficient by adding solar panels to our home or maybe supporting newer technologies like community modular nuclear reactors; purchasing an electric vehicle; becoming less dependent on banks, credit cards, or investing only in the stock market by building a variety of diverse assets; collecting rainwater (legalized in Colorado this year); planting fruit trees and stocking up on long shelf-life food supplies. Please let me know if you have comments or suggestions!

Happy New Year!

Colorado River Water Conference: Assigning Blame for Lost Opportunities to Take Meaningful Action

The annual Colorado River water conference held in Grand Junction, CO yesterday brought together outstanding speakers and a fully engaged audience of several hundred “experts” who shared diverse messages about our looming water crisis – as if we do not have one already but we don’t want anyone to panic – some want to blame the droughts which may get worse, or climate change and rising temperatures, and future population increases for declining water supplies. Many are focused on future risk scenarios on how the economies and livelihood of farmers will be destroyed and who or what’s to blame.

The state of Colorado can keep about 1/3 of the river supply while 2/3’rds are required to be delivered downstream based on current agreements between seven Western states. We heard that people who live in the desert are growing unsustainable crops like alfalfa and cotton that get huge federal government subsidizes due to our broken political system. No surprise there as it’s been going on for many decades. The state of Arizona may put an end to all farming and focus on the four million water consumers of the Central Arizona Project. Plans being discussed in Arizona are forcing them to reduce their water dependency on the Colorado River by about 20 times the amount for Nevada due to priority rights.

We heard that the beneficial use doctrine in Colorado permits no wasting of water -- that the “use it or lose it” mentality is hysterical thinking -- others who said in reality much water is being wasted and not put to beneficial use which is illegal but not enforced. We heard that on average each American consumes an equivalent of 300 gallons per day of Colorado River Water (based on food consumption). Given that California has the largest population in the West with significant senior rights on the River and provides a majority of food for the World, imagine how they are feeling and when push comes to shove everyone will need to become more aware of the urgency.

The Colorado Water Plan completed one year ago provides for great ideas spread over several decades and is moving into the implementation phase. The plan is currently an unfunded mandate for the most part and money is needed to take action. Here is the Grand Junction Sentinel article that focused on the taxes issue.

We heard that water efficiency for farmers is better than conservation and others said both are great as long as people get compensation for their loss of rights. Some said Americans want more with more, and efficiency is doing more with less while conservation is doing less with less -- so conservation to some almost sounds unAmerican! Arguments were made for which method is more appeasing to various interest groups.

I thought the talk by a local Hotchkiss farmer, Tom Kay of North Fork Organic Farm, provided the best example of someone taking action that we all need to learn from. He converted his farm to sustainable practices by going organic which on average pays three times higher for crops; created a storage pond to capture two million gallons of storage from his water right on the Gunnison River that can be used all year; built a storage area used by other organic farmers; rotates crops and farm practices to increase yields and maximize profits; and is willing to innovate and test new technology!

Overall, with all the highly qualified speakers and attendees, in my opinion another opportunity was lost for meaningful dialog that could lead to us to taking action. Much too little time for questions and answers was given at the conference and no time made after the final panel discussion, the meeting was very brief (from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm), and seemed to check the box for many groups.

Future meetings held in Grand Junction are needed to focus on ‘connecting the dots’: the issues of the Western Slope including being caught between the power centers on both sides – from Denver to California and including large parts of Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. The Western Slope needs much more awareness of these issues than only to hear about another fight on taxes as mentioned in the newspaper.

A renewed spirit of cooperation and creating new partnerships is needed for our children's survival - obviously water is connected to everything including the food we eat and supplies are not unlimited. Nature is truly interconnected and we are so dependent on the natural world; we need to find better ways to cooperatively solve problems through effective education and positive actions groups - we can all make a difference and work harder to achieve better sustainable outcomes.

 

 

 

Lawn Watering during Spring Rains

Yesterday in Grand Junction, Colorado we received about 1/4 of an inch of rain throughout the day. As we dropped our kid off to school we noticed several homes and churches watering their lawns despite the rain. There are rather simple fixes for not water in the rain such as using sensors available at the hardware store or from RainBird (R). I've heard that many of the problems with lawns are caused by improper watering. There is lots of opportunity to conserve and use less of our finite resources.

Water Conservation - it's like money in the bank!

While demand for water resources continues to outpace supplies, there are many success stories of communities making improvements through conservation. Aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) is a promising method that can save water just like putting money in the bank. Here's how it works: The utility pumps water into wells that are 100's to 1000's of feet below the earth surface. A typical sandstone aquifer has 20 to 30% open pore space to allow water storage. As water is pumped in to the ground the water table rises often replacing water that was previously removed. The process of ASR can be most effective when water is stored during wet years and pumped out during dry years.  ASR is being used by southern Denver and many other cities and may be preferred to building new reservoirs -- no water is lost to evaporation when the water is injected back in the ground. The Highland Ranch community is saving a one year supply of water by injecting 14,000 acre-feet of recycled treated water using 25 wells. That also means more water for the South Platte River ecosystem.

I've visited many locations where too much water was withdrawn from aquifers causing the ground to subside and cracked building foundations. ASR could help reverse the trend of water depletion and ground subsidence by increasing aquifer recharge.  

 

The Great Divide: A Film on Colorado's Water Issues

Colorado Mesa University's Water Center  held an event last Saturday night that drew about 300 people to see the film "The Great Divide" and discuss issues. The documentary provides a great history of water development in Colorado which ultimately impacts 18 other states in the US as headwaters run on both sides of the Continental Divide. With future populations increasing, water supplies will continue to be in greater demand and East Slope areas will likely exercise their water rights to draw more water out of West Slope basins. The need for education is the one thing that everyone can agree on and the hope is that negotiated settlements rather than legal battles will prevail.

Here is a link to a preview of the Great Divide film.

News from the 2015 Colorado River District Water Seminar

At the annual Colorado River District water seminar held on September 10th, we heard numerous speakers discuss the essential need to conserve. The western U.S. is close to a crisis as the demand for water is greater than the supply! As Lake Powell and Mead reservoirs decline, we are approaching the minimum levels needed to generate hydroelectric power. Water availability affects rural and urban areas, agriculture, and the environment. These issues are interconnected and we must work together to resolve our conflicts.

Here is the Grand Junction's Daily Sentinel article on the conference.

 

How Precious is Water? Just ask the Navajo Water Lady or contact me!

Here is an amazing CBS news story about the struggles of the Navajo People who rely totally on groundwater. No running water and indoor plumbing. They must store water outside. Luckily many Navajo people have a saintly woman to deliver water they call the Water Lady.

Can you imagine what life must be like relying on only 7 gallons of water per day? That is like only flushing a standard toilet twice per day. That's it - all you get for drinking, cooking, washing, etc! 

Click here to see the full story!

When I worked for the U.S. Geological Survey on the Navajo Reservation conducting surveys of water resources, we found that groundwater was in very deep formations and the quality of water changed depending upon location. Water is very precious - especially on the reservation!

For more information on the water quality of San Juan Basin aquifers, check out some of my old USGS reports (there are over a dozen) or contact me at info@conserve-prosper.com.

Geochemistry of the San Juan Basin

Hydrogeology of the Morrison Formation in the San Juan structural basin, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah

Hydrogeology of the Pictured Cliffs Sandstone in the San Juan structural basin, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah

 

Conservation "Shade" Balls added to protect Los Angeles reservoirs

Yesterday, Los Angeles completed a $36 million project to deploy 96 million plastic balls on a reservior to conserve water and protect water quality. Estimates are that the balls will save 300 million gallons per year and comply with new EPA standards for preventing sunlight reacting with chlorine in drinking water that produces carcinogens. 

Here are some news clips:

LA Mayor's office

 

Bloomberg News on Inventor of Conservation Balls

Will Mesa County comply or fight the Colorado Water Plan?

The Colorado Water Plan proposes a reduction of 400,000 acre-feet of water by the year 2050. In the more familiar terms of gallons, 1 acre-foot of water equals 325,851 gallons; therefore, 400,000 acre-feet equals 130 billion gallons!

How can Coloradans save this much water in the future as one of the fastest growing states (recall they legalized pot sales) and climate change makes for more extreme weather conditions including severe droughts? 

To save this much water Colorado would need to reduce the population, based on my calculations, by over 3 million people! So the fight will be over water for people vs. Mesa County agriculture - we have prolific orchards for grapes, peaches, and many other fruits. 

This blog is promoting active conservation as does the Colorado Water Plan. Mesa County does encourage voluntary dry landscaping in land use planning. However, in my opinion we need to have much more conversation statewide on how we are going to meet the needs of the state and downstream users.

 

Today's paper says 'Colorado is out of the drought' -- so does that mean we have plenty of water to waste?

Today's newspaper in Grand Junction, Colorado front page headlines:

"State out of drought, experts say

Wet weather won't last meteorologists reminds uS"

Despite the headlines, the local water managers say, "...in a desert, water is gold and that's still true, drought or no drought..."

Look for yourself how some people treat this precious resource - I caught this video this morning at of all places, I kid you not, a mortuary!  Look how the water is spraying around onto the pavement and into the air to evaporate. One problem is overpressurized sprayers in an attempt to cover such a large area of grass. Here are some great tips to correct irrigation problems from the Alliance of Water Efficiency.

 

 

"Are ya takin' a Submarine shower or a Hollywood shower?"

Growing up my Dad would tell us kids if he heard the shower running for more than a minute, "Are you taking a  Submarine shower or a Hollywood shower?" He spent his career in the Navy so he knew all about taking quick showers. He would tell us to get wet, turn the shower off, lather up, and rinse. I think the record time for the family was 30 seconds of water use. Usually we felt good to get a minute in the shower. Now a Hollywood shower obviously lasted longer - 2 or 5 minutes. So there is an immediate savings in time for people on the go but how much money can you save by conserving heated water? As water rates continue to rise faster than inflation: save water, time, and money!

Test your shower flow rate - at our house the shower allows about 6 liters/minute or 1.6 gallons/minute of water to flow out. So a 1 minute shower per day uses this amount but doing the math for a month (48 gallons) or a year (584 gallons) per person really adds up.  Likewise a 5 minute shower would use about 240 gallons/month and 2,885 gallons/year for each person in our family. 

EPA recommends to buy shower heads with the WaterSense label that use less than 2 gpm.

Here is information from the EPA website:

Water–Efficient Showerheads

Showering is one of the leading ways we use water in the home, accounting for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor water use—for the average family, that adds up to nearly 40 gallons per day. That’s nearly 1.2 trillion gallons of water used in the United States annually just for showering, or enough to supply the water needs of New York and New Jersey for a year! 

WaterSense Savings

The average family could save 2,900 gallons per year by installing WaterSense labeled showerheads. Since these water savings will reduce demands on water heaters, they will also save energy. In fact, the average family could save more than 370 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power a house for 13 days.

On a national scale, if every home in the United States installed WaterSense labeled showerheads, we could save more than $2.2 billion in water utility bills and more than 260 billion gallons of water annually. In addition, we could avoid about $2.6 billion in energy costs for heating water.

 

Which is the Most Endangered River in America?

Of all the rivers to choose from in America, can you guess which one is the most in danger of running dry? Here is a hint, it currently flows through nine (9) National Parks. Let National Geographic show you how and where this mighty river is drying up. For us in the arid west, we all can all help by conserving water: taking shorter showers and installing drip irrigation with native plants. Conservation Colorado and other groups have many activities and events to join.

CBS news reports that not only is this river drying up in America, groundwater depletion is occurring at an alarming rate - an estimated thirteen (13) trillion gallons in a decade. Obviously this is not sustainable.

Does this river make it to the ocean? No, not in the past 50 years - see what affect this is having on the people and the environment as documented by Alexandra Cousteau in a short film Death of a River. She says it would only take increasing the river flow by 1% to enable the river to return to the ocean.

The Nature Conservancy partnered with government scientists to conduct a pulse flow experiment to return water flow to this endangered River!

In future blogs, let's explore how we can contribute to the campaign of returning rivers to the ocean! Contact us at ConserveProsper@gmail.com to find out how we can join together to take action now.

 

Will Las Vegas run out of water?

While the demand for water increases and supply decreases due to droughts and other causes in the Colorado River basin, Las Vegas is a model for water recycling that many other cities will need to follow in the future. Water recycling is a process to collect and treat waste water that is returned to Lake Mead. The lake supplies 90 percent of the valley’s water and is in critical condition due to 15 years of drought dropping the lake to 38 percent of capacity. 

So to help make sure Vegas can continue to quench it's thirst, the Southern Nevada Water District proposes to build a 250-mile pipeline from rural northern Nevada to claim groundwater from the Spring Valley. Efforts to take water from Utah farmers were thwarted.

So it's a very safe bet that Vegas will have adequate water supply but prices will continue to rise. You get billed for every gallon of water you use so think about shutting off the water while you brush your teeth. It’ll save you some money!