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Check our Blog page regularly for continually changing info, articles, news, and more!

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  • 20 Feb 2023 9:05 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    In a wastewater laboratory, we’re typically focused on effluent quality. Influent is usually only analyzed for a handful of basic analytes (BOD, TSS, pH, some metals) to calculate loading rates and provide a general understanding of how that influent could possibly impact treatment. However, the COVID pandemic has greatly changed that. The only other time I’ve been so focused on influent was during the 2013 Flood, when we were trying to figure out what was in the water that was coming into the plant.

    Many facilities have been analyzing influent for SARS-CoV-2 for almost 3 years now and we’ve learned so much during that time. At the Boulder WRRF, we first started analyzing for COVID in our wastewater in March 2019. We began with Biobot and, after a handful of samples, had a strong correlation with the case data that Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) was posting on their website. During the spring of 2019, we also participated in COVID wastewater studies with GT Molecular and the USGS and were able to compare data from different labs. Additionally, we began monitoring sub-sewershed areas to get some baseline data and evaluate the usefulness of grab samples. In the summer of 2019, we officially joined the COllaborative, a group of local utilities, CDPHE, and CSU that were aimed to put our heads and efforts together while we were all trying to figure out the best plan of action during the madness of the pandemic.

    While composite samples will always remain the gold standard in representative wastewater sampling, it’s not always feasible to have enough autosamplers to achieve this. We did a study in 2019 in our most residential neighborhood to evaluate grab samples for SARS-CoV-2. With only 7 samples, we had a fairly strong correlation (R2 = 0.96) between grab and composite samples. We learned that collecting the grab samples at “peak fecal flow” time results in the best correlation, which requires having some knowledge of the sewershed.

    We also learned several things about analyzing the data. In the lab, we tend to focus on concentration (copies/L) data. However, we’ve found that it’s more useful to look at COVID loading (copies/day) data to get a good picture of community infection. When we began receiving sewershed level case data from BCPH, we noticed case data was evaluated with a 5-day rolling average, so we started running a 5-day rolling average on our wastewater data, as well. Wastewater data can also be prone to spikes due to the challenging matrix. This means it is not useful to analyze single data points but more important to look at trends over time. We also learned that sample pickup could be a bigger headache than it should be. When the COllaborative began providing a shared, dedicated courier for multiple facilities, our sample delivery woes subsided. Also, we installed a pickup (and drop-off) tote that is just outside our gate, which allows couriers to grab samples without gaining facility access and has proven useful for the entire facility.

    In my opinion, the most important thing that we have learned is that wastewater-based epidemiology can be successful, has incredible potential, and should be explored and utilized. While our COVID case data has correlated well with wastewater data for about 2 years, in the spring of 2022 we began to see a divergence between COVID wastewater data and case data. Most of us believe this is because, after 2 years of the pandemic, most people have grown weary of testing and reporting and simply don’t care anymore. However, we’re all still pooping. So, we’ve learned that case data is influenced by social factors- people have to go get tested or test at home and then report the positive results. Therefore, wastewater data may be a better indication of community infection than data reported by public health organizations.

    We continue to analyze our influent for COVID twice per week and this data all funnels into the CDC National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) (https://www.cdc.gov/nwss/wastewater-surveillance/index.html). The CDC has also setup two Centers of Excellence, one here in Colorado (https://www.du.edu/nwsscoe) and the other in Houston, to continue advancing this field and science. The Water Environment Federation (WEF) is also involved with things like the NWSS Utilities Community of Practice (https://nwbe.org/?page_id=169), programs to provide autosamplers (https://nwbe.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/WEF-autosampler-flow-meter-invitation-2-6-23.pdf), workshops, etc. We are also beginning to look at wastewater surveillance from a global perspective and learn from other countries, as well as considering equity in monitoring. Additionally, there are still many ethical and privacy considerations to be thoroughly considered.

    However, the power of poop has been revealed and we want to be more prepared for the next large-scale pandemic or infection. The NWSS plans to add several components to its core surveillance panel in 2023 to include things like influenza, RSV, norovirus, and antibiotic resistance genes. Progress continues to be made in finding the best ways to display this data through public dashboards. And, of course, funding is key and will play a critical role in the future of this data. But it has become clear that we have more to learn from those influent samples than just calculating BOD loading. What gets flushed down the toilet and shows up at our headworks has the potential to tell us so much about a community and we’re just beginning to tap into the power of that information.

    Melissa Mimna is Laboratory Program Supervisor for the City of Boulder where she’s worked in the WRRF laboratory for the past 10 years. Melissa is also currently serving on the CO NWSS Center of Excellence Advisory Committee so please reach out with any wastewater-based surveillance questions or ideas (or if you have poop jokes or puns to share).

  • 25 Jan 2023 6:57 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    A new year brings with it resolutions, pledges, and people striving to better themselves. I thought it would be good to also highlight some opportunities where we can better our communities and beautiful public spaces this year.

    The Protect Our Rivers organization has three river cleanups scheduled for 2023 around Colorado. RSVP on the event page of their website here.

    • 16th Annual South Platte Cleanup - Saturday April 29th - Denver, CO
    • Poudre River with Weibel Auto Group and American Whitewater - Saturday August 5th - Fort Collins, CO
    • National Public Lands Day - Upper C - Saturday September 30th - Kremling, CO

    The Greenway Foundation hosts youth and high school focused events worth checking out including a South Platte River cleanup in 2023. Registration will open in March here.

    • Spring High School Stewardship Day - South Platte River cleanup along the river at Johnson Habitat Park. Food and service hours provided but is for high school aged youth only.

    The Denver Park Trust is putting on a citywide stewardship day including park cleanups at several locations around Denver. More details will be coming here.

    • Parks, Rivers, Trails & Trees - May 13th - Citywide park cleanup followed by a community celebration

    The Confluences is a family blog focused on wilderness and camping which has hosted three annual Clean Creek cleanups called A Cleaner Clear. Recaps from past events can be found on their blog here. A 4th annual cleanup should be watched for in late 2023.

    Do you have a location that you'd like to organize a cleanup for? The folks responsible for A Cleaner Clear have a blogpost laying out all of the steps you should take when planning a cleanup. If anything, it helped remind me just how much work and personal time goes into planning events like these.

    These are just some events that I've found coming up in 2023. I know that I've missed many so if there are others, please share them with the group! The year is still young so many events haven't been announced yet. Have a wonderful 2023!

    Danny McCausland is an Analyst II at Metro Water Recovery. He has over 9 years experience working in the water quality field.

  • 19 Dec 2022 8:59 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    As the ski season starts to ramp up, I became more curious of the importance of water for ski resorts in their process of snowmaking. Anyone who has been to any of these mountain resorts has probably seen their snowmaking machines pumping out snow to ensure fresh powder is available for all the skiers and snowboarders. I wanted to first investigate exactly what the process of snowmaking entailed but then also investigate where these resorts were getting their water and how various environmental impacts such as drought might impact these resorts.

    After doing some research I found Steamboat has a good blog on how their snow is made. Steamboat has been making snow since 1981 and they have been able to improve their technique over the years. They can make over 600-acre feet of snow each season using over 300 guns and 40 miles of buried pipe. The process of making snow has two important factors that impact the resort’s ability to make snow that are outside of the crew’s direct control. One is the wind and the other is wet bulb temperature. Wet bulb temperature is how air temperature and relative humidity interact with each other. The lower the relative humidity, the colder the wet bulb temperature will be. Ideally for snow making, the wet bulb temperatures are less than 26°F. So, crews are looking for low wind, temperature, and humidity. Steamboat crews use the Yampa River as the main source of water for their resort. They pump the water from the river via pipes at about 40°F, then shoot it into the air through the guns. The water will stay in the air until it freezes and turns into snow. Snowcat operators spread the piles around to make the conditions ideal for skiers.

    These resorts need a lot of water each ski season to provide artificial snow. According to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, (CDNR) Colorado uses about 2.2 billion gallons of water every year in the snowmaking process. The CDNR regulates how much water each business is allowed to use. Ski resorts have a set amount of water they can use every year from senior water rights that they obtained years ago. 

    Credit: Colorado Department of Natural Resources

    As we experience different environmental impacts such as droughts, the available water becomes scarcer. Even though a lot of these resorts own water rights it doesn’t mean water will always be available. Because of this, many resorts are working on ways they can improve the snowmaking process and help with the conservation of water. Over time, resorts have learned that dry weather and low wind help produce better quality snow that will last longer. Many resorts have figured out optimal times to make snow as well. An important factor in snowmaking is ensuring that everything you made does not melt right away. So, working around weather forecasts and keeping the snow as cold as possible is an important factor to keeping our ski resorts snowy.  

    Many of these resorts are used as “cold storage” for water. About 80% of the water used in snowmaking is recycled back into the watershed at the end of the ski season. Because of this, many resorts are now focusing on energy-efficient technology that allows them to manage their resources and use less energy. Skiing and snowboarding are great winter activities that many residents and visitors to the State of Colorado enjoy taking part in. Water is critical to keep these activities going for many years to come. It was nice to learn more about this process and the different efforts resorts are taking to keep operations going despite challenges with the water supply.



    Michael Hendricks is a Water Quality Senior Technician for Denver Water

  • 28 Nov 2022 10:02 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Deionized water (DI) or other forms of ultrapure water are extremely important to laboratory data quality. It is used for mixing reagents, rinsing/cleaning equipment, or running blanks or controls. Deionized water is generally tap water treated with one or more ion exchange resins to reduce major ions to extremely low concentrations (conductivity <4 µS/cm). For many labs, this water provides the quality necessary for reagent preparation and/or blank analyses. Additional treatment is required for some labs through one or more of the following methods, 1) activated carbon to remove potential organics, 2) ultraviolet (UV) light treatment for bacterial disinfection, and 3) fine micron filtration to remove extra small particulates and bacteria. This results in ultrapure DI water.

    In laboratory settings, DI is often the water of choice as it provides the blank slate necessary for analyses. When running instruments such as an ICP-MS, lachat, or IC, this ultrapure water is ideal as a carrier, standard, and basis for reagents. In whole effluent toxicity (WET) testing, salts are added back to the DI water in concentrations appropriate to support aquatic life. The USEPA methods specify salts and DI water quality necessary for the laboratory control water.

    Monitoring changes in DI parameters for laboratory quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) helps ensure contaminants that interfere with methods leading to poor results are not present. There are several questions to answer to set up a good monitoring program. 1) Which water should be analyzed (final DI, source water, intermediate DI, or mixed reagents)? 2) What is the frequency of analysis (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)? 3) Which analytes should be measured (just the analytes that directly impact the analysis such as nitrogen compounds for ammonia methods, or others that may not directly interfere)?

    Budgets often drive the answers to these questions, particularly for parameters that are not analyzed in-house. Workload also informs answers since staffing is not always available to analyze parameters as frequently as preferred. Timing also impacts answers to these questions. In some cases, specific timeframes may be required for regulatory purposes and in other cases analyses should be performed immediately after filters are replaced.

    In GEI’s WET lab, DI with activated carbon, UV, and bacterial filtration meets the USEPA requirements for WET methods and also meets our needs for low-level nutrient analyses. Water is tested annually to ensure metals and organics are below required concentrations. Additionally, GEI tests our DI and tap water weekly to track basic water quality parameters such as hardness, alkalinity, conductivity, total residual chlorine (TRC), pH, ammonia, and dissolved oxygen. This secondary set of analyses, added in early 2021 after a particularly difficult Ceriodaphnia dubia crash, is meant to better track the water being used (after salt addition) for culturing and controls to see whether any parameters could be linked to organism health.

    With nineteen months of data we are finally able to start assessing measured parameters against organism health. Of the measured parameters described above, only one has shown statistically significant trends with C. dubia health. The hardness of the tap water prior to treatment has shown a statistically significant trend with higher hardness leading to tests with higher variability in reproduction which is often a descriptor of poor organism health. Interestingly, resulting hardness of the DI after ion exchange shows no trends with organism health. I speculate the higher hardness taxes the resins, leading to breakthrough of other parameters which may be impacting organism health. This theory is yet to be tested.

    Another observation from more recent organism issues is tied to the TRC. As to be expected, TRC is typically detected in the tap water. The TRC has ranged dramatically since monitoring began from 0.04 to 1.43 mg/L. However, during a three week stretch from mid-July to early August, TRC was not detected in the tap water. This occurred approximately three weeks before C. dubia reproduction began decreasing. Again, we cannot definitively say whether the TRC drop led to poor performance, but it is possible that something in the tap water for those three weeks was consuming chlorine and potentially impacting resins leading to breakthrough of another parameter that impacted organism health. 

    Another frequent discussion in our lab regards whether our culture water is too clean for good organism health. While it is unlikely water could ever be too clean for instrumentation, it is possible that the organisms in WET tests need certain naturally occurring bacteria and other nutrients. By fully removing them, poorer organism health may occur. Recently GEI submitted samples of our control water and water from a different WET lab for microscopic organism identification. The results were fascinating. Some possible fungal species and some possible bacteria/cyanobacteria species were noted in GEI’s control water, whereas the control water from the other lab contained the same fungal species plus Aphanocapsa species, Planktolyngbya contorta, and Anabeaeopsis species. The GEI culture water led to poor results whereas the culture water from the other lab led to excellent reproduction. This mini microbiome appeared to help organism performance.  It’s possible GEI’s organisms would have performed equally poorly after appropriate acclimation to the microbe-rich water, but this is also untested.

    While GEI’s monitoring didn’t lead to definitive answers, it helped us better understand patterns in the source water, and we will continue our monitoring program. Does your lab monitor DI water quality? If so, have you learned any surprising facts from monitoring? Leave ideas, thoughts, or comments in the comment area.

    Natalie Love is the Laboratory Director at GEI Consultants, Inc. GEI conducts Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) Testing, low-level nutrient analysis, and benthic macroinvertebrate identifications. She lives in Denver with her husband, 2 daughters, and Belgian Malinois, Nacho.

  • 29 Oct 2022 2:25 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Making my rounds through the Great American Beer Festival and the “Water Nerd” in my head kept thinking about all the different water sources, water quality, and lab testing that occurs to make all these great tasting beers happen. Thinking about all the different lab parameters and analytes that affect the taste and quality of beer. That’s when I figured it would be a great topic for the RMWQAA blog.

    The City of Northglenn is also preparing to welcome a large-scale brewery into town called Prost Brewing Company. So, it’s also a great time to catch up on all the parameters that make beer taste refreshing, without ignoring the pretreatment side of brewing (i.e., waste) to prepare for the possible additional loading to the wastewater plant.

    First off, in order to make beer that tastes great and get through the whole brewing process, it is good to know a variety of different elements and ranges of the source water that the brewery will be working with. Throughout the brewing process multiple parameters should be monitored. And different parameters actually affect the different styles of beer, from IPAs to darker beers.

    A great start for any new or current brewery is to supply the Consumer Confidence Report and collaborate on any other parameters of interest that might affect the brewing process.

    When beer begins the brewing process, the first step is mashing, which requires a certain pH range. Mashing is when hot water steeps the barley to prepare it for the fermentation process. There’s a pH sweet spot, between 5.2 and 5.6, where the enzymes work most efficiently. Obviously as water providers we cannot provide water that low in pH but providing brewers a constant range of pH in the distribution will help ease the beginning process.

    As a brewery, they generally want to see total alkalinity less than 100 ppm and preferably less than 50 ppm. Total hardness, is preferred around 150 ppm as calcium carbonate or greater.

    The two most important anions to monitor are sulfate and chloride. Sulfate brings out hops bitterness, while chloride tends to emphasize malt and sweetness. If levels get too high, the beer will pick up harsh, minerally off-flavors or worse. A good rule of thumb is to keep sulfates lower than 400 ppm and chloride lower than 200 ppm.

    Another key cation in brewing is calcium which is preferred between 50 mg/L to 150 mg/L. Aside from its role in acidifying a mash, calcium helps yeast settle out, contributing to clarity and flavor stability. There are other major ions, such as sodium, magnesium, and carbonate, but they play a lesser role.

    Higher iron and manganese concentrations will obviously result in taste and clarity issues. Iron and manganese begin to cause taste issues and interfere with brewing at levels above 0.05 mg/L.

    Now, to the wastewater side of the brewing process.

    Like any large contributor to the collection system, it’s always a great idea to monitor what is being flushed into the system. Brewery waste can consist of extremely large amounts of BOD and nutrients. Implementing local limits on the industry will help control the wastewater influent concentrations and prevent slug loads.

    We were lucky enough to tour the New Belgium Brewery Wastewater Plant where they had an efficient system to bring loading down from 5,000 mg/L of BOD to roughly 5 mg/L. I’m sure Ft. Collins greatly appreciates the treatment of such a high loading.

    So next time you crack a cold one, think of all the water quality and testing it takes to make it taste refreshing.

    John Winterton is the Laboratory Supervisor for the City of Northglenn. He’s been working with Northglenn for over 6 years in water and wastewater treatment and water quality.

  • 29 Sep 2022 8:41 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    The Operations (Ops) challenge is a competition, organized by WEF, the Water Environment Federation, where teams of wastewater collection and treatment professionals compete and display their skills. 

    In the competition, teams compete to earn the highest score in five different events. Each team includes four members and often a coach as well. Each event is designed to test the diverse skills required for the operation and maintenance of water resource recovery facilities, collection systems, and laboratories. The five events are collections systems, laboratory, process control, maintenance, and safety.

    Safety Event

    The top three teams from the regional competition advance to the national competition in October each year.  This year, I had the opportunity to judge the laboratory event for the regional ops challenge competition.  The competition is intense and fun.

    Collections Event

    In the laboratory event, teams conduct simulated laboratory analyses such as TSS and conductivity, using standard laboratory practices and procedures.  The event is timed and the team with the best score after deductions for errors is the winner.  There are winners for individual categories and event scores are combined to determine an overall event winner.

    Laboratory Event

    Why participate?  The event fosters cross training, professional development, leadership, and teamwork.  Improve old skills, learn new skills, and prepare for the unexpected that is a win, win situation, so…why are there only four teams for the entire Denver Metro Area?

    I wondered so I asked, “Why don’t more teams participate?”  There is a big time commitment, year round.  Teams have to practice regularly and oftentimes team members are working different shifts which makes meeting as a team for practice a challenge.  Team members still have to work, keep up with certifications and training units, take care of responsibilities outside of work, and rest.  It is just not feasible for many workers. 

    I appreciate the efforts that contributed to the experience I had as a judge and hope the best for all the teams competing at the national competition in New Orleans this year.

    Excerpts taken from Water Environment Federation, WEF, www.wef.org

    Adele Rucker is the RMWQAA President and an Analytical Chemist in South Platte Renew’s Laboratory. 

  • 16 Aug 2022 9:12 AM | Tyler Eldridge (Administrator)

    In a blog post written back in 2019, when our problems were slightly less PFAS and COVID related, I mentioned a small, non-profit startup out of the Netherlands that had been working on a method to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A few times a year I try to check in and see how progress is going, but one of the recent e-mail updates I received from their organization compelled me to pass some updates along to our group.

    After a scuba diving adventure revealed that there seemed to be more plastic in the ocean than fish, a 16 year old, Boyan Slat began to turn his focus towards the idea of “just cleaning this up.” Following the momentum of his 2012 TedX talk, he founded The Ocean Cleanup, an organization focused on removing the mass amounts of large plastic debris that collect in various patches across the world’s oceans. The idea was multi-pronged; clean-up and remove the debris from the ocean as economically and environmentally friendly as possible, focus on recycling the plastic recovered once back on land, and do so while eliminating as much bycatch as possible.

    The idea behind recovering the plastic is to create an artificial coastline to help concentrate the plastic and force it into a collection net that can later be recovered by another vessel. Imagine two boats hundreds of meters apart, with a long, shallow net between them that lags behind in a u-shaped arc. The plastic is funneled to the tail end of the “U” where it is recovered and processed on the way back to shore. Using this model, two iterations of the system have effectively been deployed, with a 3rd iteration (3 times the size of the second) that began its transition in July. The second system, System 002, has already successfully removed over 100,000 kg of plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. While it may require 1000 more collections of this magnitude to clear this particular patch, the emergence of System 03 projects to collect plastic at potentially 10 times the rate of the previous system. The ability to upscale creates an opportunity to collect much more than 100,000 kg of plastic per year from this patch alone.

    At current rates of plastic emissions, by 2050 the oceans could contain nearly 4 times the amount of floating plastic than were seen in 2020. This is a major issue, and with water quality and availability decreasing throughout many regions of the world, one could assume treatment of saltwater from the oceans may be required to bridge the gap. If the source of saltwater is also tainted with mass amounts of plastic, the microplastic issue becomes even more compounded as those larger plastics continuously breakdown. This is where The Ocean Cleanup’s goal of “90% reduction of floating ocean plastic by 2040” becomes more of a necessity than just a goal. With the deployment of System 03, their models predict that as few as 10 systems could be needed to clean the entire Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A larger, more efficient system also means that the cost per kilogram removed is reduced.

    Research, development and innovation doesn’t stop here for The Ocean Cleanup. With new systems being developed seemingly on a yearly basis, they are also focusing on the source of the plastic emissions; rivers. According to their research, 1000 rivers across the world are responsible for nearly 80% of plastic pollution. Enter the new river Interceptor Barrier, Tender, and Trashfence. Already the team has deployed these devices in various rivers throughout the world, with more well on the way!

    The goals are lofty, but with one major milestone surpassed, they also seem within reach. Given all the talk of microplastics and various other pollutants in our world, it’s easy to forget just how much resides in the oceans themselves. The world needed a few great minds to put their focus on an issue at the back of most of our lists, and The Ocean Cleanup is just that! I definitely recommend checking out their website and signing up for e-mail updates and newsletters, as it has given me a greater source of optimism to focus on!

    Tyler Eldridge works for the City of Greeley's Wastewater Treatment and Reclamation Facility as their Data and Asset manager and prior Lab Coordinator.

  • 24 Jul 2022 3:27 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    For most of us in the water industry, there is a heightened level of concern about the future of water in Colorado and in the West. Images and stories of the lowered water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell are shocking. Those of us that remember Cape Town’s “Day Zero” can legitimately be concerned that something similar could happen here, on a much larger scale. While nobody is talking about shutting off the taps like they were in Cape Town quite yet, there are common concerns about sufficient flow being available for turbines in Hoover and Glen Canyon dams, and of course general water availability.

    Into the current and future water concerns in the west comes the Colorado Water Plan (CWP, or The Plan). As a headwater state, Colorado needs to be concerned about water for its 6 million residents and also has obligations to deliver water downstream to 19 other states and to Mexico.

    To be able to meet these goals, The Plan was started back in 2015. It emphasizes stakeholder input and public engagement, and is CO’s roadmap to conserve, develop, protect, and manage Colorado's water for present and future generations. The plan was first released by then Governor John Hickenlooper. It is currently being revised to meet the ever-increasing challenges of managing watersheds where demand has already exceeded supply and climate change is reducing water flow.

    The Plan is based on a water vision that includes vibrant communities, robust agriculture, thriving watersheds, and resilient planning. Much of the work is by design done at the local level, and the format chosen by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB, which administers the program) is to have nine roundtables act as the local resources. The nine roundtables correlate to the main eight basins with headwaters in CO, and one representing the Denver metro area.

    The Plan is quite extensive. It has a high emphasis on collaboration, innovation, and resilience to problem solving. The Plan covers future possible events and uncertainty including listing high impact drivers, the risk of future water shortages, and variability in the water supply. And of course, The Plan addresses just about all water uses from agricultural, to what is used in households, to instream water rights.

    Additionally, the CWCB has a stated emphasis in inclusiveness, and they want to hear multiple voices and input into their process and decisions. There is opportunity to join with your local basin, and in fact, The Plan is based on grassroots efforts from the Colorado water community.

    Figure 1: The eight CO river basin areas, as defined in the CWP.

    The CWP is by far the most extensive, established, equitable, funded, and workable framework for the future of water in Colorado. It, in my opinion, represents the best current approach for guiding Coloradoans through what looks to be a challenging water future. Involvement from smart RMWQAA membership would only help improve The Plan, and would certainly be a rewarding effort.

    There is an opportunity to provide your ideas to improve CO water management by submitting comments (public comment period ends September 30).

    You can add public comments, share your story, or get involved here:


    The Plan itself can be read here:


    Rich MacAlpine is a Laboratory Supervisor at Metro Wastewater Reclamation District. 

  • 26 Jun 2022 10:10 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    I grew up in a small town in South Carolina and we never had to water our yards because we typically had plenty of rain, sometimes too much. We had lush green lawns that would have to be mowed at least once and week and a plethora of flowers and weeds.

    My family and I moved to Colorado when I was 12 and I remember my mom complaining about having to water the yard, by hand, since we didn’t have an automatic sprinkler system. This was a new concept for my family. At that time, I didn’t think too much about it since I wasn’t the one going outside every 15-20 minutes to move the sprinklers.

    Fast forward 12 years and with the purchase of my first house I had the pleasure of watering my own lawn and trying to keep the grass from dying so I didn’t get a nasty gram from my HOA. At least I was fortunate to have a sprinkler system, but I had the same clay soil that my parents had and the same problem of trying to keep the grass green without using too much water.

    At that time, I became interested in gardening, and I had heard about xeriscaping. This was a term created by Denver Water in 1981 by combining “landscape” and the Greek word “xeros” which means dry. So I did a little research and removed some areas of grass and started planting flowers. I planted flowers that were recommended for xeriscaping such as yarrow, bearded iris, lavender, penstemon, and valerian to name a few. I found I had a ‘light green’ thumb and enjoyed watching the flowers grow.

    A few years later my husband and I moved to our second house, and I knew I wanted more than a yard full of grass. It was a new build, so the builder put in the front yard (grass, a tree, and a couple of shrubs) and we were responsible for the backyard. We spent that summer designing and creating our backyard retreat. We added a gazebo, garden (with many plants recommended for xeriscaping), patio, playset, and grass. We added grass because we had a small child that loved to play ball outside and also because it was much cheaper than plants.

    Over time the yard has gone through some renovations. The garden has matured, the playset has been removed and a playhouse and small pond have been constructed in its place.

    So, you might ask, where is she going with this story? I wanted to show you that if you want to xeriscape, you don’t have to do it all at once. You can start small, maybe with a problematic area in your yard that gets too much sun, and no matter how much you water, the grass doesn’t grow. Water efficiency is becoming more important and as our streams and reservoirs continue to dry up every drop of water that we can save matters.

    Below are some photos of my garden. Maybe it will inspire someone to give xeriscaping a try!

    Lesa Julian is the Environmental Services Superintendent for the City and County of Broomfield. She lives in Frederick and loves spending time with her family, traveling, trying new restaurants (especially BBQ), gardening, and reading.

  • 24 May 2022 9:46 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    South Platte Sally ready for a full conference week!

    South Platte Sally visits the Joint Aquatic Science Meeting (JASM) in Grand Rapids, Michigan! This conference is mostly held every five years where all nine Consortium of Aquatic Science Societies (CASS) gather for a large collaborative conference. Those societies include: American Fisheries Society (AFS), Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF), Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society (FMCS), International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR), North American Lake Management Society (NALMS), Phycological Society of America (PSA), Society for Freshwater Sciences (SFS), and Society of Wetland Scientist (SWS). Sally already has professional memberships in AFS, NALMS, and SFS and could not wait to meet other scientists and professionals within her passionate field of study!

    South Platte Sally checking the scene from the podium.

    Sally began a week of invigorating talks by listening to “Nutrients and Interactions that Impact Integrity in Surface Water,” she particularly enjoyed listening to Dr. Sylvia Seuble Lee from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and her review of Response of Chlorophyll to Total Nutrient Concentration in Lotic Ecosystems: a Systematic Review. Shortly after listening to Lester Yuan present their topic, Sally had an important meeting with Dr. Janice Brahney who studies environmental biogeochemistry and paleolimnology within watersheds at Utah State University. Dr. Janice Brahney and South Platte Sally discussed several potential anthropogenic factors that could control the nutrient cycle problems within the South Platte River.

    South Platte Sally and Dr. Janice Brahney catching up.

    Throughout the week Sally listened to different talks from “Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Contamination in Aquatic Systems” to “Conservation of urban aquatic systems: Interdisciplinary solutions to complicated problems.” After listening to the lamprey nuisance within the Great Lakes, Sally knew she had to see the one in the exhibition hall being exhibited by IAGLR. Lampreys can grow approximately 3 times Sally’s height and she was thrilled to be able to sit next to one! Once the poster sessions were up, Sally perused the 550 posters to listen to different students talk about their research. A particular poster caught her attention from Daemen University called Excess chloride impairs over-winter quality of stream algal assemblages which was published by two undergraduates: Cassandra Mayle and Jessica Bieler, in BIOS. An interesting presentation to say the least!

    South Platte Sally visiting the LIVE Lamprey.

    Most of Sally’s evenings were spent outside the conference, looking over the Grand River which runs in the middle of Grand Rapids, Michigan and hanging with colleagues she had not seen for a long time. It was great interacting with others who are working on their own rivers within their own state and noticing the differences in work each member contributes. She cannot wait until the next JASM and is incredibly sad that it will take another five years before she sees her oceanographic and wetland friends again. 

    South Platte Sally exploring the excellent student poster session.

    Blanca Hinojosa is a Water Quality Scientist at Metro Water Recovery in Denver, Colorado.  Blanca moved from Houston, Texas where she monitored 144 different stream sites in the Greater Houston Area while working as a specialized Water Pollution Investigator for the Bureau of Environmental Health in the Houston Health Department.
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