Archive for November, 2013

River of Words

River of Words is a poetry and art competition for students grades K–12 throughout Colorado. The theme for the contest is watersheds and the environment, and the competition is designed to help youth explore the natural and cultural history of the place they live, and to express what they discover in poetry and visual art.

Denver Water has sponsored the River of Words competition for three years. In a forward for the 2011 Student Literary Awards Anthology, Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead wrote: “… getting students excited about water is no easy task, and it takes a collaborative effort from the entire water community. Our partnership with River of Words allows Denver Water’s Youth Education program to branch out from the sciences, where our program traditionally has had its largest footprint, and bring a water education focus into literacy and the arts.”

Congratulations to Grace Bailey for earning recognition as a national finalist in the 2013 River of Words competition for her painting "Canyon Moonlight." Grace is a fifth-grader from Greeley.

Congratulations to Grace Bailey for earning recognition as a national finalist in the 2013 River of Words competition for her painting “Canyon Moonlight.” Grace is a fifth-grader from Greeley.

Winners of the River of Words competition have their work published in the annual Student Literary Awards Anthology and receive prizes from local businesses. River of Words winners are also published in the Colorado Foundation for Water Education publication, Headwaters.

Colorado Humanities & Center for the Book, in affiliation with The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, implements River of Words statewide judging and coordinates the Student Literary Awards in the spring.

Check out the 2013 Student Literary Award winners and see photos from the award recognition ceremony.

Hey teachers

There also is curriculum for Teaching the Poetry of Rivers, with lesson plans, readings, activities, photographs and much more. The curriculum includes suggestions to modify the lessons for different grade levels.

Save water this holiday season

Are you hosting a family dinner this holiday season? If so, it could mean unnecessary water waste in your home. Thankfully, it’s easy to keep water usage to a minimum; just follow these simple tips compiled from Denver Water’s conservation department, the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program and Water – Use It Wisely.

©iStockphoto.com/Lisa Thornberg

©iStockphoto.com/Lisa Thornberg

Meal prep

  • Don’t use running water to thaw a frozen turkey or other food. For water efficiency and food safety, defrost food in the refrigerator.
  • Wash vegetables and fruits in a bowl or basin using a vegetable brush instead of letting water run. Use the extra water on plants.
  • Cook food in as little water as possible. This also helps it retain more nutrients.
  • Select the proper pan size for cooking. Large pans may require more cooking water than necessary.

Dinner time

  • Enjoy the side dishes! Corn, apples and potatoes require only 84, 108, and 132 gallons of water per pound to grow, respectively. Meats such as beef and lamb require many more times the amount of water per pound to produce.
  • Reuse leftover water from cooked or steamed foods to make a nutritious soup.
  • Designate one glass for each guest to use for drinking water. This will cut down on the number of glasses to wash.
  • Chill drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the faucet until the water is cold.

Clean-up

  • Scrape dishes – don’t pre-rinse – before putting them in the dishwasher. Energy Star-qualified dishwashers and today’s detergents are designed to clean without needing a pre-rinse.
  • Make sure the dishwasher is full before running it. Avoid cycles like pre-rinse and rinse-hold that use heated water but may not be necessary to clean your dishes.
  • Reduce the number of times you run your garbage disposal by composting your non-salty, non-greasy, non-dairy foods. Even if you live in an apartment, you can still compost by learning to do worm-composting. Compost can also be made from your fall leaves. Ask your Colorado State University Cooperative Extension expert for more details.
  • When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.

Kids

  • Need something for the kids to do? Here are some fun online games from Water – Use It Wisely.
  • Teach children to turn off faucets tightly after each use.
  • Reward kids for the water-saving tips they follow.

Before the next party

  • Check your toilet for leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank and waiting 5 to 10 minutes. If the color shows up in the toilet bowl, you have a leak. Replace that leaky toilet with help from a Denver Water rebate.
  • Install water-saving aerators on all of your faucets.
  • Grab a wrench and fix that leaky faucet. It’s simple, inexpensive, and you can save 140 gallons a week. Learn how to use your water meter to check for leaks.

Do you have a water-saving tip to share this holiday season? If so, add it to the comments below or send a tweet to #HolidayWaterTip.

NewDogBowl

The Value of Water

Your Water Colorado Blog

By Mark Scharfenaker, Denver resident

Last week I paid $70 for 750ml of a nice single malt scotch whiskey (should fuel me for a few weeks), $45 for 13 gallons of gas (should fuel my car for about a week) and $4 for 3 gallons of bottled water (slaked my thirst during three days of deer hunting in the juniper hills above the Yampa River).

These liquid purchases came to mind when I stumbled on an excellent article in the Winter 2013 issue of CFWE’s Headwaters on the rising price of tap water, where typical rates in Colorado have about doubled in the last decade, according to the author, CFWE staffer Caitlin Coleman.hw cover

That made me pull out my last Denver Water bill, which was $32 for 6,000 gallons of water that arrived at my home every minute of every day in October after its descent from high mountain…

View original post 530 more words

Gross Reservoir neighbors get a boost from Denver Water crews

By Ann Baker, Denver Water Communications and Marketing

A Denver Water crew has spent weeks in Coal Creek Canyon, near Gross Reservoir, repairing washed-out roads like this one.

A Denver Water crew has spent weeks in Coal Creek Canyon, near Gross Reservoir, repairing washed-out roads like this one.

September’s flooding caused unprecedented destruction to Denver Water’s facilities at Gross and Ralston reservoirs — causing $15 to $16 million in damages.

But residents who live near Gross Reservoir also were suffering, facing impassable private roads and driveways, as well as long waits for help.

So Denver Water offered a hand.

A Denver Water crew that usually spends time laying pipe and repairing roads in the metro area spent much of October and November in Coal Creek Canyon, southeast of Gross Reservoir, regrading roads, installing new drainage culverts and repairing holes that could swallow a car.

Roughly a dozen homes were trapped by the impassable roads. Denver Water’s heavy equipment and manpower helped those residents reach their homes — and outside community — once again.

Tips and tricks for planning and designing your own xeric garden

This guest blog post is part of our Transforming Landscapes series, introducing fresh, new ideas for upgrading your lawn to a more water-efficient landscape. Also check out Wildscaping: Landscape for healthy habitat and Plants that add color to help you think outside the box when planning for your landscape transformation next spring.

 

Morgan Zeliff

Morgan Zeliff

Tips and tricks for planning and designing your own xeric garden

Morgan Zeliff is the program manager for research and evaluation at the Center for ReSource Conservation. She works with the sustainability division to evaluate the impact of CRC’s programs on the greater Colorado community.

Creating a xeriscape garden doesn’t have to be scary or even difficult. In Colorado there are an increasing amount of resources specifically designed to help homeowners and businesses convert their yards to more water-efficient, climate-appropriate and drought-tolerant landscapes.

And, the good news is that xeric gardens can be very attractive too.  But what if you don’t know the first thing about landscape design?

Here are some tips, tricks and insights that will start you on the path to a beautiful new plot of low-water landscape, and advice from a once-novice, Colorado gardener.

Established Garden-In-A-Box.

Established Garden-In-A-Box.

First, it’s good to consider where you want to plant your garden and what you want that space to be used for in the future. Sketch out a diagram of your property or walk outside to observe the area while asking some questions, including:

  • How big is the space?
  • How much sun does it get?
  • Is there a big tree or building next to it that blocks sunshine for several hours of the day?
  • Does the area get full sun from morning until night?
  • Is it on a slope?
  • Will it be an area that has a lot of dog traffic?
  • Will it primarily serve to enhance your property’s visual appeal?

For further help with this process, check out Colorado State University Cooperative Extension’s gardening website.

Next, it’s time to choose the plants. Yikes! This is another difficult step for a gardening novice. The list of things to consider for each plant can be overwhelming.

One great place to start is the Garden-In-A-Box program, offered by Denver Water, and run and operated by the Center for ReSource Conservation. The GIAB program provides professionally designed “plant-by-number” water-wise gardens to residents and businesses across the Front Range. Each garden consists of 15-30 plants chosen specifically for the climate and soil types in Colorado, and includes care instructions for each plant. These gardens make the planning, designing and basic care of a xeric garden simple for the beginning gardener. You can sign up now at the program website to receive an alert when the 2014 gardens go on sale in March.

One of the plant-by-numbers designs that is included with Garden-In-A-Box.

One of the plant-by-numbers designs that is included with Garden-In-A-Box.

Beyond this program there are several online resources that offer help with plant selection and landscape layout design specifically for the Colorado climate:

  • Planttalk Colorado This site provides up-to-date advice on all things related to growing plants in Colorado.
    • See their design link to get started. They also have an easy form to submit questions to their experts who will reply directly to you via email.
  • Plant Select®, which is an extension of Planttalk, has free, xeric garden landscapes designs in PDF form.
  • A non-website-based, free resource for all kinds of gardening questions is the Colorado Master Gardner hotline (Denver specific number is 720-913-5278).
Gleason completely converted her front yard to Xeriscape using Garden-In-A-Box. Photo courtesy of Julie Gleason.

Gleason completely converted her front yard to Xeriscape using Garden-In-A-Box. Photo courtesy of Julie Gleason.

Also, the Garden-In-A-Box program has helped many novice gardeners plant high-quality, beautiful xeriscape gardens. Julie Gleason, GIAB customer, said that while she lacked gardening knowledge and was not “creative enough to design a garden,” she was determined in her quest for a better yard.  She couldn’t afford a landscaper, but when she came across the GIAB program a few years ago, it sounded like it would be worth a try. After four years, she eventually converted her whole front yard using the GIAB professionally designed gardens.

Gleason explained that one of her favorite aspects of the GIAB gardens is that the plants are all perennials, meaning that once planted and established, they keep growing year after year. When asked to give tips to others who may be starting in the same place she was a few years ago, Gleason recommends going to demonstration gardens for inspiration. You can find gardens in Denver and nearby communities online, including:

While the sources listed above are not all-inclusive, hopefully this is a good start to get any level of gardener up and moving toward a more sustainable and beautiful landscape. Fall is a great time to start thinking about what you want to turn your yard into next spring and summer. So, be persistent, and start planning your xeric garden today!

Wildscaping: Landscape for healthy habitat

Transforming Landscapes is a new series of blog posts to introduce fresh, new ideas for upgrading your lawn to a more water-efficient and aesthetically pleasing oasis. Changes don’t need to be extreme, or even happen all at once, but it is never too early to start planning for what solution works best for you. We hope this series helps you think outside the box when it comes to planning what your landscape can transform into next spring and beyond.

Susan Tweit

Susan Tweit

Wildscaping: Landscape for healthy habitat

Susan Tweit is a plant biologist and award-winning author, speaker and teacher. She is the winner of the Colorado Book Award, the EDDIE and the Colorado Author’s League Award, and is past chair of the National Writing Panel for YoungArts. The author of 12 books, she serves as Communications Director for the Be A Habitat Hero project.   

What if you could save water, energy and money, provide a habitat that would help songbirds and pollinators thrive and still have a beautiful yard?

You can.

A suburban wildscape that echoes Colorado’s diverse habitats, from prairie to mountain forest. Photo courtesy Susan Tweit.

A suburban wildscape that echoes Colorado’s diverse habitats, from prairie to mountain forest. Photo courtesy Susan Tweit.

How? By “wildscaping,” landscaping for wildlife. Wildscaping does not mean letting your yard or landscape go untended; it means landscaping designed as healthy habitat for people and wildlife.

What is Wildscaping?

As it turns out, what’s good for birds, butterflies and other wildlife also is good for people. Transforming a yard from turfgrass lawns to more diverse landscapes not only saves water – the EPA estimates that Americans pour 9 billion gallons of water every day on our lawns during the growing season – it can also reduce maintenance costs and time, while creating opportunities for our families and friends to enjoy and learn about nature.

And we can do all this while maintaining a landscape that is attractive, fun and beautiful.

Close-up of a front-yard wildflower meadow. Photo courtesy of Susan Tweit

Close-up of a front-yard wildflower meadow. Photo courtesy of Susan Tweit.

Wildscaping Basics

■            Shrink the lawn – grow turfgrass only where you’ll really use it; replace with edibles, perennials, trees and shrubs.

■            Use less water and fertilizer by planting natives and plants adapted to our Rocky Mountain region.

■            Plant bird- and butterfly-friendly species that provide year-round food, cover and shelter.

■            Reduce or eliminate yard-chemical use.

■            Control invasive plants that degrade habitat in and beyond our yards.

Hummingbird visits native ‘Mexican Bluffs’ Vermillion sage at the City of Westminster’s Legacy Ridge Golf Course. Photo courtesy of Shalene Hiller.

Hummingbird visits native ‘Mexican Bluffs’ Vermillion sage at the City of Westminster’s Legacy Ridge Golf Course. Photo courtesy of Shalene Hiller.

Your landscape can add critical habitat

Residential lawns (not including parks, commercial landscapes or industrial areas) cover more than 20 million acres in the United States. If all those yards were transformed into small habitat patches, the additional wildlife habitat would be comparable to increasing the area of the entire National Wildlife Refuge system by 20 percent! The wildlife benefits would be enormous, and we’d all experience the joy of doing something positive for our environment.

Even small patches of wildscape can provide oases for wildlife-like butterflies and native bees by creating green corridors that link your wildscape to larger wild lands.

Be A Habitat Hero is a project of Audubon Rockies, the Terra Foundation, Plant Select® and High Country Gardens.

Be A Habitat Hero is a project of Audubon Rockies, the Terra Foundation, Plant Select® and High Country Gardens.

What Does A Wildscape Look Like?

They’re as varied as the people who create them, whether formal gardens or extended borders enclosing lawn areas, whole-yard habitats or wild islands, big swaths or tiny refuges. Here are some examples from the 2013 Habitat Hero Awards, a program honoring gardens in Colorado and Wyoming that exemplify wildscaping principles. (All of the photos in this post are from Habitat Hero gardens.)

Formal Garden

Native penstemon attract hummingbirds and butterflies to this formal wildscape. Photo courtesy SE Colorado Water Conservation District.

Native penstemon attract hummingbirds and butterflies to this formal wildscape. Photo courtesy SE Colorado Water Conservation District.

Here’s a formal wildscape, complete with classic paths, radiating beds and a traditional bird bath – using native Colorado plants that require no fertilizer or other chemicals, and very little water. This is part of a 3-acre demonstration garden in Pueblo established to inspire gardeners to use water-wise techniques. It also includes prairie areas, and attracts wildlife from hummingbirds and butterflies to native lizards.

Borders Go Wild

An exuberant border that attracts songbirds and butterflies galore. Photo courtesy of Tanya Fisher, Colorado Vista Landscape Design.

An exuberant border that attracts songbirds and butterflies galore. Photo courtesy of Tanya Fisher, Colorado Vista Landscape Design.

This front-yard wildscape is an enlarged perennial border, complete with recirculating stream. It features a diversity of native and regionally adapted plants that offer nectar, fruits and shelter, and is an example of integrating a wildscape into a traditional yard, while shrinking the lawn and increasing diversity.

Tiny City Refuge

A brand-new habitat garden replaces a postage-stamp-sized patch of lawn. Photo courtesy of Crystal Reser.

A brand-new habitat garden replaces a postage-stamp-sized patch of lawn. Photo courtesy of Crystal Reser.

How do you find sanctuary in a tiny, unshaded city backyard barely big enough to turn the lawnmower around in? For these homeowners, the answer was to rip out the lawn and plant a sanctuary, selecting trees, shrubs, vines, wildflowers and grasses that will provide food and shelter for birds and butterflies, and beauty for people. A habitat garden does not have to be big; only a few weeks after planting, this one is already inviting.

Yard-scape: Formal Prairie with Woodland Edges

Glorious Colorado-centric woodland border completely conceals the neighboring yard and provides food and cover for an abundance of wildlife. Photo courtesy Lauren Springer Ogden.

Glorious Colorado-centric woodland border completely conceals the neighboring yard and provides food and cover for an abundance of wildlife. Photo courtesy Lauren Springer Ogden.

This once-exposed half-acre suburban yard has been completely transformed into water-wise, healthy habitat for critters and people, including areas of prairie, woodland and cactus and succulent garden, plus a front yard “pollinator jungle.” Watered only occasionally by hand, this yard is a true refuge, and an inspiring example of melding horticultural art and habitat.

Get inspired. Transform your yard with a wildscape. Whether only a small amount, or the whole landscape, you’ll be making a healthy, water-wise change. Join the movement – be a Habitat Hero!

Contributed by Be A Habitat Hero, a project of Audubon Rockies, Terra Foundation, Plant Select® and High Country Gardens.

Fraser River is 680 tons better

From October 21-22, 2013, crews worked to remove sediment from settling pond on the Fraser River on the east side of U.S. Highway 40 near the entrance of the Mary Jane ski area. (Photo courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation)

Oct. 21-22, 2013, crews worked to remove sediment from settling pond on the Fraser River. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation.)

Hot Sulphur Springs, Colo. — The Fraser River is breathing a bit better after 680 tons of sediment — created by sand applied to Berthoud Pass to improve winter driving conditions — were removed.

Completed in 2011, a project between entities on both sides of the divide to construct a settling pond on the Fraser River has paid off.

The settling pond was constructed in Denver Water’s existing diversion facility. The project included building an access road and establishing a mitigation pond – or, new wetland area – downstream of the project. The settling pond traps and removes sediment that enters the Fraser River below Berthoud Pass. This project builds on previous efforts funded by a Colorado Nonpoint Source Program grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which involved an initial construction phase years ago and helped pay for this new design.

The cooperative effort was initiated to improve habitat in the Fraser River. Each year, CDOT evaluates whether the pond needs to be cleaned out. Once the decision is made, Denver Water operates its facility to divert the river around the settling pond, which allows CDOT to remove the debris. CDOT works with Grand County to dispose of the material.

The work to clean out the pond occurred Oct. 21-22, and the project was successful in removing 680 tons of sediment from the settling pond.

“Sediment impact to the Fraser River has been a major concern of many citizens,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry. “The sediment captured and removed from the detention pond is significant and will help address that issue.”

Crews work to construct the settling pond on the Fraser River on the east side of U.S. Highway 40 near the entrance of the Mary Jane ski area. (Photo taken September 2011.)

Crews work to construct the settling pond on the Fraser River on the east side of U.S. Highway 40 near the entrance of the Mary Jane ski area. (Photo taken September 2011.)

“We are happy that it is a successful project and believe it demonstrates the benefit of collaboration, ingenuity and the value of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement,” said Dave Little, director of planning for Denver Water.

“This process is very important for keeping the Fraser River clean — so there are many stakeholders,” said Andy Hugley, CDOT maintenance supervisor for the east Grand County area. “Our plan is to clean the sediment pond each fall, but that could vary depending on water flows and how much sediment has been collected during the previous winter.”

The project was funded through multiple partners. Led by president Kirk Klancke beginning in 2002, the East Grand Water Quality Board acquired a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado River Roundtable in 2008 for $187,900 to construct the settling pond. Grand County administered the grant and contributed more than $45,000. In addition, CDOT contributed more than $175,000 toward project engineering and construction. As part of the enhancements recently agreed to in the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, Denver Water contributed more than $95,000 toward construction, and managed project construction.

The settling pond, located on the east side of U.S. Highway 40 near the entrance of the Mary Jane ski area, was the result of collaboration between CDOT, Denver Water, Grand County and Town of Winter Park, along with the U.S. Forest Service-Sulphur Ranger District, East Grand Water Quality Board, Army Corps of Engineers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

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