A representative from the San Miguel Watershed Coalition told Norwood officials at the town’s May meeting that the new technology could help local communities assess increased drought and fire risk. Adrian Bergere appeared before the board on May 11 and told directors that there is a new hydrological modeling tool that could help the coalition better understand precipitation, climate, surface water and underground waters.
A new report from the watershed coalition reveals that groundwater is the main concern. According to Bergère, this is an important element, because local experts do not have the information they need. With shorter winters and a drier monsoon season, Bergere said the coalition wants to better understand how groundwater moves through the catchment.
The San Miguel Watershed Coalition works with experts in the field of hydrological modeling. These experts include professors, geochemists, and other technicians who have the knowledge to run data-driven scenarios.
The coalition has been collecting data since 1997. This data can be used to examine the impact of wildfires, sedimentation, risk to infrastructure and water quality. Experts can run scenarios related to development, runoff and water quality, as well as water availability in the event of future drought.
“How much water will there be in 20 years? Where will this water be if we expand the supply or the treatment plant? These are questions that Bergere said could be analyzed by working with the hydrological modeling tool that the coalition wants to implement. Bergère said it was related to the work that new mayor Candy Meehan has already collaborated on in recent years.
“The list of model scenarios goes on and on,” he said. “The impact of mines, the impact of irrigation, the optimization of infiltration, the loss of irrigation systems to increase efficiency…”
Bergere said the modeling tool also allows for deeper study of invasive species like Russian olive, tamarisk and other plants that suck thousands of gallons of water from the local watershed. He said Norwood could consider maximizing water availability in these areas.
He added that the data can stay in one place, so the city, BLM, US Forest Service, watershed coalition and others can work together to review gaps in data sets.
Phase 1 of working with the modeling tool is to develop it. Phase 2 is about working with partners.
Bergere said the watershed coalition wants the modeling tool to be a cost-effective way for stakeholders to get studies and engineering work that benefits everyone. The tool has already been used effectively in other places in the West.
Specifically in Norwood, Bergere said the coalition wanted to look at the Gurley and understand how the fire could travel up the ditch corridor and how the sediment could affect local communities.
Meehan said it was an “invaluable tool”. She told the board it would be unfortunate to pass up the opportunity if it could help Norwood plan for water and the future.
Bergere asked Norwood for $2,500. The requisition is due in July, but the funds will not be collected until next year.
The coalition asked other partners like Telluride, Mountain Village and Montrose County for $10,000 each. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has been asked to donate $150,000. Naturita was asked for $500.
The administrators have approved the donation and Norwood will have access to the modeling tool.