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Water Conservation- Needs and Methods

Water is a simple liquid that is of great importance for human life and sustenance. Water is a very large part of our lives.  In fact, 57% to 75% of our body is made out of the liquid. Water is very important for everyone living in this world, and to imagine life without water is impossible. There are about 1.4 billion people who don’t have access to clean drinking water, in the world of 6.8 billion people, 20.59% don’t have clean drinking water.  Obviously, water is a huge part of our daily lives and without it, you cannot live. Our daily activities are so much dependent on water that we cannot even live without water for a single day. We use water for many purposes such as drinking, washing, bathing, cleaning and agricultural purposes. Water is essential for life and it is very important to save water.

It is simply impossible to imagine human life without water, if there are no ample sources of water left then it would be a matter of great concern. Without water the will be no harvesting, no drinking water, no washing, cleaning and cooking as well. Hence it is very important to use our present water sources judiciously and try to save as much water as possible. It is very important to realize water conservation benefits and also to implement those in our day to day life. Water conservation encompasses the policies, strategies and activities to manage fresh water as a sustainable resource, and efforts to protect the water environment while maintaining a balance between current and future human demand. Population, household size and growth and affluence all affect how much water is used. Factors such as climate change will increase pressures on natural water resources, especially in manufacturing and agricultural irrigation. It is very important to realize the need for water conservation in the community as well as personal level.

Over the past few years a rapid growth in populations, modernization, growing industrialization, and expanding agriculture has pushed up the demand for water in the urban as well as rural areas. Human demands are increasing day by day but the natural resources are in a limited quantity. Efforts have been made to collect water by building dams and reservoirs, practicing rainwater harvesting, digging wells; some countries have also tried to recycle and desalinate salty water to make it fit for drinking or washing. Water conservation has become a major need of the hour. The idea of groundwater recharging by harvesting rainwater is gaining importance in many parts of the world and has been practiced successfully in many parts of the world.

Needs and Importance of Water Conservation

Water is an essential part of human life and plays a major role in human sustenance. We use water for drinking purpose, cooking, washing, for producing electricity, for farming, for industrial purpose and many other purposes that support the human lifestyle. Earth is about 70% water, but there is only a small amount of groundwater source that is fit for drinking and cooking purpose. Ninety – seven per cent of all the water on the earth is salt water which is not suitable for drinking. Only three per cent of all the water is fresh water, and only one per cent is available for drinking water. The other two per cent is locked in ice caps and glaciers. About 70% of the water source that is from the sea and oceans the major part contains saline water that is the salt level of this water is so high that it cannot be used for drinking purpose and purification process for this water is really high. Our water supply is finite, which means that we do not have an endless supply.

We only have the water that we have now. The adult human uses on average about 100 gallons of water a day which may seem to be a small figure but with the rising population and depleting water sources there is a fear that one day there will not be enough water sources available to meet even drinking demands. Seawater that is highly salty as a result is not fit for human consumption and not even for industrial purpose or for producing electricity. Since this water contains a high amount of salts, therefore, using this water in industries and for producing electricity leads to salt deposition on the machinery and this at times can get really dangerous and lead to some major industrial disasters. Hence sea water is of no major use for humans.  

As we discussed earlier that water resources are finite and there is only 3% of freshwater sources, with all the people on Earth relying on such a small percentage of all the water on Earth, it only makes sense that we must preserve and conserve our water for our own survival otherwise a day will come when all the water sources will be extinguished. Besides conserving water it is also important that we must not pollute our water sources because it is the only water we will ever have. There are a lot of people who do not realize the importance of water, and they are continually wasting and polluting it. Only about ten per cent of wastewater is disposed of properly.

It is a high time that we must start saving water today so that it will be available to us in the future. We need to think of future generations, if we go on wasting our water resources recklessly then it is obvious that in future we will not have a sufficient supply of water unless we become more concerned with how we use our water today. There are many things that we can do to help preserve water. These are not things that are hard. All it takes is a little bit of extra effort, and soon it will be second nature. Save the water, that’s all we can do.

Major Uses of Water

We all enjoy …

How to conserve water

If we all do our part in conserving precious water supplies, we can make a huge difference for the environment.

The average person uses around 140 litres of water a day. But huge water deficits are on track to occur by the 2080s – so we need to start cutting down.

Water conservation means using water wisely and not contributing to unnecessary wastage.

Top reasons to conserve water:

  • Conserving water saves energy. Energy is needed to filter, heat and pump water to your home, so reducing your water use also reduces your carbon footprint.
  • Using less water keeps more in our ecosystems and helps to keep wetland habitats topped up for animals like otters, water voles, herons and fish. This is especially important during drought periods and in areas like South East England where there is a big demand on water supplies. 
  • Conserving water can save you money. If you have a water meter then the less water you use, the less you may be charged by your water company. 

Waiting for the tap to run cold can waste 10 litres of tap water a day!

 Save water in the kitchen

  • Put a large bottle of tap water in the fridge to save waiting for the tap to run cold. Waiting for the tap to run cold can waste 10 litres of water a day! 
  • Only fill the kettle with the amount of water needed.
  • Put lids on saucepans to reduce the amount of water lost during heating.
  • Put your dishwasher and washing machine on with full loads and on an eco-setting wherever possible.
  • Use a washing-up bowl in your sink to reduce the volume of water you use to fill the area.

Save water in the bathroom:

  • Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth. A running tap can waste more than 6 litres of water a minute!
  • Purchase a water-efficient toilet (one with a dual flush) or go by the old saying ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down!’
  • Get a cistern displacement device to save up to 5,000 litres of water every year. They are free from most water companies.
  • Shower instead of bathe. An average bath uses around 80 litres of water, but a shower typically uses between 6 and 45 litres.
  • Install water-efficient taps and showers to minimise heating water – this will save you money on your water and energy bills, as well as decreasing your carbon footprint.
  • Fix a dripping tap. A dripping tap can waste 15 litres of water a day!

Save water in the garden:

  • Sprinklers can use as much as 1,000 litres of water an hour! In truth, it’s okay for the lawn to go brown, it will recover the next time it rains.
  • Use a water butt to catch large amounts of rainwater and use this to water your plants, clean your car and wash your windows.
  • Use mulch and bark in your garden, it will help to reduce evaporation by up to 75%.
  • Plant drought-resistant plants that don’t require as much watering.

More useful tips and in-depth information can be found on the Friends of Waterbury Reservoir website.…

Why Dams Won’t Solve Water Supply Needs

The era of widespread construction of large dams for the most part ended in the 1960s and ‘70s. But recently, proposals for new dams have emerged, mostly in the name of improving water supplies strained by urban growth, a desire to irrigate more cropland, or adapting to expected changes in precipitation patterns accompanying climate change.

These new dam proposals don’t have to signal a new dam building era – in the vast majority of cases, water supply alternatives, such as water efficiency and conservation, will prove less costly for taxpayers, rivers, and communities as a whole.

So You’ve Decided to Fight a Dam Proposal…

The era of widespread construction of large dams, for the most part, ended in the 1960s and ‘70s. Or so we thought. Recently, numerous proposals for new dams have emerged, mostly in the name of improving water supplies strained by urban growth, a desire to irrigate more cropland, or adapting to predicted` changes in precipitation patterns accompanying climate change. But new dam proposals don’t have to signal a new dam building era – in the vast majority of cases, water supply alternatives, such as water efficiency and conservation, will prove less costly for taxpayers, rivers, and communities as a whole.

USACE

Different Dams, Same Problems

Not all new dam proposals involve traditional dams blocking major rivers – many would dam side canyons or tributary creeks, relying on pumps from a larger river to store water for times of year (typically summer) when more water is desired. These off-channel dams share many of the environmental drawbacks associated with traditional dams: they may block fish migration, harm water quality and temperature, flood valuable riparian and terrestrial wildlife habitat, strain a river basin’s overall water budget, and reduce or alter river flows. And like traditional dams, off-channel dams can cost billions of taxpayer dollars to construct. Off-channel dams can also use a lot of electricity as water usually needs to be pumped uphill to fill their reservoirs. In dry years, the water needed to fill a reservoir may not be available, and if there is water available, much of it will evaporate (an increasingly serious issue as summers grow hotter).

That said, there may be cases where a new off-channel dam makes sense, and could actually help improve seasonal flows for fish and recreation in a nearby river. More often than not, however, the environmental and economic costs of a new dam – whether on- or off-channel – will outweigh any benefits. That’s why the potential of demand reduction strategies and alternative sources of water supply must be thoroughly analyzed and, if there is potential to meet demand, implemented before a new dam proposal receives serious consideration.

So Many Dam Alternatives

Dams are hardly the only way to meet the demand for water, whether it’s new demand due to population growth or to adjust to altered precipitation or runoff patterns resulting from climate change.

The first step in fighting a new dam is to insist that a reasonable assessment of demand for water is made available.  Without knowledge of how much water is needed, discussion of tools to meet demand is premature.  Any credible demand assessment should assume future implementation of significant conservation and efficiency measures (for more on how to define demand, link to demand fact sheet).

Once demand is nailed down, communities should seek a thorough assessment of supply options to meet that demand.

Water efficiency = Water Supply

  • Water efficiency and conservation are the simple, proven, cost-effective, and immediate ways to secure new supply and should always be the first options examined. In the Southeast, on average water efficiency costs $0.46 – $250 per 1000 gallons saved while dams cost $4,000 per 1000 gallons. Communities can also avoid or defer significant infrastructure costs through investing a fraction of the money in water efficiency measures as Seattle did when, in the late 1980s it started investing in water efficiency as water supply and avoided $100 million in long-term water supply costs by investing $30 million in water efficiency. (for more on water efficiency, see American Rivers’ Hidden Reservoir report at www.AmericanRivers.org/WaterEfficiencyReport).

Other supply options may also include:

  • Reuse: Also known as water recycling or reclamation, water reuse refers to the use of treated sewage, graywater, or stormwater for non-potable purposes such as irrigation, industrial processes, fire protection, and toilet flushing, among others. There can be drawbacks to water reuse, environmentally and financially, which include costs associated with a municipal scale dual distribution system, and water that would have otherwise returned to the source river/water body once treated is now designated for a consumptive use, in the case of irrigation, that will not return to the river and may result in decreased flows.
  • Groundwater recharge: This involves recharging underground water sources during a wet year or a season (often winter) when water is available. Drawbacks of this option can include stormwater infiltration, costs associated with pumping and piping infrastructure, and the effect on instream flows when water is pumped from a river. Also, this is not an option everywhere: many areas have underlying geology that makes aquifer storage infeasible.
  • Re-operation of existing dams: Changing the way an existing dam is used is typically cheaper and less environmentally harmful than building a new dam, and in some cases re-operating a dam can provide water for cities, farms, and fish during critical times of year without major environmental, energy-production, or flood protection drawbacks.
  • Water markets: In the western U.S., systems that allow for the buying and selling of water rights can, along with conservation and efficiency, help extend the ability of existing water supplies to meet challenges presented by growth and climate change.

In most cases, these water supply tools, whether alone or in combination, will prove far less expensive than building a new dam.  These tools also tend to be more flexible than surface storage dams when it comes to adapting water supply systems to a changing climate.  For instance, unlike traditional surface storage solutions, conservation, efficiency, …

Guest blog: More water storage needed for a sustainable future

Global declines in water storage are increasingly troubling. With greater hydrological variability due to climate change, more storage will be vital to provide the same level of security of water, food, and energy. Water storage is fundamental protection from the impacts of a changing climate, safeguarding the supply of water, and the water–food–energy nexus, even during extended drought.

Wyaralong Dam

For thousands of years, dams have stored water to irrigate crops, control flooding, and more recently to supply water for industrial and household use, and generate hydroelectric power – contributing enormously to food security, human development, and economic growth.

These days, many dams serve more than one function but remain the primary mechanism for coping with the variability of water supply and demand. During the last century, more than 45,000 dams higher than 15 m have been constructed worldwide, creating a combined storage capacity estimated to be between 6,700 and 8,000 km3, representing 17 percent of global annual runoff.

Security of water, food, and energy are inextricably linked. For example, approximately 50 percent of all large dams worldwide are used for irrigation. Without sufficient water storage, irrigated agriculture (the largest user of water at the global level, contributing 40 percent of the world’s food) is at the mercy of changing patterns of rainfall and runoff.

Understanding water storage issues is essential for successfully managing water resources. At the simplest level, it is a matter of ‘inflow (water supply) less outflow (water demand) equals the change in storage’. But it is particularly important to understand whether storage declines relate to reducing supply, increasing demand, or both. The answer is both and more.

Key factors influencing storage are greater variability of inflows due to climate change, increased demand due to population growth, reduced net storage due to sedimentation, and less dam construction occurring worldwide due to environmental and social impacts.

Climate change

The effects of climate change are predicted to increase and to result in greater magnitude and frequency of hydrological extremes, such as prolonged droughts and significant floods. With the prolonged drought, inflows to storages will reduce. If demand remains the same, stress on existing water storage will increase.

In a 2015 report, the Climate Council of Australia stated that Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Earth, with some of the world’s most variable rainfall and stream-flow. The country has been deeply affected by drought throughout its history, with the most recent being the ‘Big Dry’ of 1996–2010 (also called the Millennium Drought) which went down in history as one of the worst droughts on record for Australia, with devastating impacts.

This prolonged drought ended in some areas of Australia with major flooding. In the state of Queensland, flooding began in December 2010 and continued into 2011 with at least 90 towns and over 200,000 people affected. The final damage was estimated to be USD 2.38 billion.

Storage can help protect communities from the impacts of these extreme events.

Population growth

It is estimated that in 2017 Earth supports around 7.5 billion people, yet 200 years ago the number was less than 1 billion. Population and water demand are strongly linked. With our world population increasing at around 80 million people per year, rising demands for basic services and growing desires for higher living standards will intensify the demand for water and put additional strain on existing storage.

Sedimentation

Many of the larger reservoirs worldwide have had their lifespans reduced significantly due to deposits of sediment within the storages, diminishing net storage in many regions of the world.

A number of these reservoirs were designed for 50-65 years of functionality until sediments would reduce their operational capacity. Although in these cases the reduction in storage was expected, it still results in a reduction in total storage, and therefore requires a response.

Globally, the annual rates of loss relative to installed storage capacity are generally estimated to range between 0.5 and 1.0 percent, equating to a total worldwide loss of storage of around 40 to 80 km3 per year.

Reduced dam construction

Installation of large reservoirs peaked during the 1960s and 1970s, both in number and storage volume. However, some of these larger reservoirs caused significant environmental and social damage, bringing dam construction under great scrutiny and ultimately decreasing dam construction worldwide.

With less dam construction, some decommissioning of older dams, and loss of storage due to sedimentation, net storage worldwide is falling, most dramatically in storage per capita. Such reduction in storage is likely to undermine the reliability of supply.

graph - water storage - Entura

Few kinds of development projects arouse as much controversy as dams. However, large dams vary considerably in their environmental and social impacts. The severity of environmental impact is largely determined by the dam site. While dams at good sites can be very defensible from an environmental standpoint, those proposed at bad sites will be inherently problematic even if all feasible mitigation measures are properly implemented. The challenge is to find good dam sites to enable these necessary water storage to be developed.

It is important to note that the 2000 World Commission on Dams Report marked a new focus on sustainability in the development of dam engineering projects, requiring the participation of affected communities in the project planning phase.

How can we take action?

Good site selection is the most effective environmental mitigation measure.”

The following actions form a useful response to reduced worldwide storage and the pressing need to increase water storage to maintain reliable water supply, irrigation, and energy systems in a changing climate:

  1. Prioritise managing existing storages well, and recognise the importance of storages for maintaining reliable supply. Appropriately manage sedimentation and its impact. Employ near-real-time management of water based on improved information systems to ensure the best economic use of existing reservoirs
  2. Explore opportunities to increase the storage capacity of existing reservoirs by raising dams. Often, this can be more cost-effective and have lower environmental impacts than a new dam project. It may also be possible to improve the use of existing storages by providing greater interconnection between

Water reservoirs save lives and create value

While there is considerable opposition to dams and reservoirs in the Western world, reservoirs built to store water during the rainy season so it can be used during the dry season can save lives and secure values when the rains fail.

East Africa is in the grips of a devastating drought, an unfortunate and all-too-common tragedy. Crops are failing, and both livestock and people are dying from lack of access to food and drinking water. While there is considerable opposition to dams and reservoirs in the Western world, reservoirs built to store water during the rainy season so it can be used during the dry season can save lives and secure values when the rains fail.

How reservoirs work

Water reservoirs allow us to even out the differences in water availability between dry and wet seasons. Too much water in the wet season can cause floods, or too little in the dry season can cause droughts, both of which pose obvious problems for the people who are affected. The tropical region of East Africa may even receive enough rain during the dry season, but the problem is the duration and distribution. High-intensity rain may last for only a short period, generating floods. The water is also lost without people being able to use it.

Norway has been building hydropower installations for more than 100 years. This hydropower plant on the Nidelva River is just south of the Trondheim city center. Photo: NTNU

A region may have enough water as seen from an annual perspective, but may nevertheless experience periodic water shortages and restrictions in use, as the natural supply may be unevenly distributed over the year. The larger the difference between periods of limited water and periods of too much water, the more storage is needed. Water reservoirs smooth out these differences in water availability. A country’s water security can be described by the capacity it has to store excess water, compared to natural variations of runoff throughout the year.

Norway has developed storage capacity to ensure hydropower production throughout the winter when the natural runoff of water is low. In other areas of the world, dams and reservoirs can provide water for irrigation or drinking water, particularly where the rainy season lasts from 3-4 months and provides an abundance of water, followed by an 8-9 month-long dry period. At an international level, flood control is also one of the main reasons to build reservoirs, often in combination with one or more of the other aforementioned goals.

Drought and the development of reservoirs in East Africa

The eastern parts of Kenya and parts of Somalia are especially affected by the current severe drought. The infrastructure in this region is quite limited and poorly developed in terms of water storage. Nor is there any connection via channels or other delivery systems to areas with more abundant water resources. This kind of infrastructure would have reduced the region’s vulnerability to drought.

When parts of Ethiopia were affected by drought in 2015/2016, it was similar to the 1980s, when Bob Geldof organized the “Live Aid” concert with his musician friends, bringing an outpouring of support and focusing the whole world’s attention on the problem. Studies from NTNU in Norway, supported by an analysis from Ethiopia, suggest that a reasonable development of reservoirs and diversion channels for irrigation in the drought-prone parts of Ethiopia can save lives and value the next time drought strikes this area. When the Ethiopian drought finally ended in the spring of 2016, the same area was tragically hit by heavy rains and floods. People died in the flooding and landslides. Water reservoirs would have most likely reduced this problem.

The World Bank confirms that a steady and secure supply of water can support economic growth in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is currently building many reservoirs to improve its food and energy security. The country has great ambitions to become East Africa’s powerhouse. However, the larger reservoirs are on the Blue Nile, which flows towards Sudan and Egypt, and south on the Omo Ghibe River system, which drains into Lake Turkana in Kenya. Neither of these areas experienced the 2015/2016 drought.

Egypt controls the water

The relationship between the availability of water storage capacity and the problems posed by drought has been comprehensively documented. One commonly cited case that illustrates this relationship is the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser reservoir, which help protect Egypt from drought and food shortages. Researchers have documented how Egypt managed droughts in 1973, 1974, 1983, and 1984 because of the country’s ability to store water. Ethiopia suffered great human and material losses during these same years. It is hard to imagine that the authorities in Egypt would be able to supply a population of more than 80 million people with food without Lake Nasser. In addition, Egypt has benefited greatly from the ability to generate power while reducing flood risk along the Nile River.

he California drought

What about the 2012-2015 California drought? Many of California’s rivers are strongly regulated and the state should be better prepared than Ethiopia, for example. Reservoirs made it possible to store and allocate the little water that came as rain or snow in the best possible way, reducing damage to agriculture, private households, and ecosystems. The end of the drought was followed by heavy rainfall, filling most of the state’s reservoirs to average levels or higher. At the same time, a damaged spillway at Lake Oroville caused the state to urge nearly 200 000 people to evacuate because of fears that there would be an uncontrolled release of water.

Heavy rainfall and snowmelt caused damage to the spillway and created a dramatic situation in California. At the same time, if the Lake Oroville reservoir had not been in place, downstream areas might have suffered great damage, because the reservoir gave the state the ability to capture and regulate the large natural flood.

Reservoirs reduce damage during floods

The United Nations considers floods to be the natural disaster with the greatest potential …

The benefits of using water tanks

Why save water in water tanks?

The earth is a unique planet. Unlike any other nearby planet, the earth has water. In fact, the earth is covered by around 70% water. With all of this water, one might wonder why saving water, by using water tanks, for instance, is so important, why it is a constantly talked about issue.  The big issue revolving around water shortages is that while we have so much water, we can only consume around 2.5% of it. Our planet is mostly covered by saltwater. And what makes things even more difficult when it comes to water for human and animal consumption is that most of it are trapped in glaciers that need to remain iced to maintain the earth’s climate.

So water is a tricky subject and you can understand that saving water and storing water is a very important duty that we all need to do. While we cannot always help to prevent leaks in water pipes that belong to the local water supplier, there are benefits to installing a water tank to collect water.

Different size Water tanks from Rainbow Tanks
Water Tanks

Advantages of having water tanks

Save money

Water is a precious commodity and it is in scarce supply.  Steel Water storage tanks will enable you to collect rainwater and even surface runoff for use in the garden or to clean with. There are many water treatment options these days that will enable you to purify the water that you have collected and use it for washing dishes and clothing. Rainwater can be used to water the garden when the need arises, and it can also be used to wash the car.

Water tanks reduce flooding

Flooding happens when the natural water table can no longer hold all of the water that is bearing down on it. When this happens the water sits on the surface and the constant moisture can lead to landslides or flooding damage. By installing a water storage tank the water that would usually end up sitting on the surface will now be stored in a tank and used when needed.

Having water during a crisis

In South Africa, we are susceptible to droughts and other major water shortages. Having a water storage tank is going to enable you to have a constant supply of water even during those times when there are droughts. This water can always be purified and used for other purposes later on.

Water tanks for agricultural use
Water tanks for agricultural use

Farming irrigation

Keeping a farm irrigated can be a financial nightmare especially since the farm will require many liters of water to keep the plants lush and healthy. Farmers rely heavily on the rainy seasons to ensure that their crops flourish so that they have a harvest at the end of the season. If there is a period of no rain then the crops can either die or they will lose their health. When using rainwater you will be able to save money by using the roofs of your structures to capture the runoff. The water that would normally run off the roof and be wasted on the ground will now be captured in the tank and stored for use in the irrigation of crops and other produce.

Non-drinking uses

Water is not only used for consumption by humans and animals. You can save money by using the water to flush toilets, wash clothing, water the garden, and even clean the house.

Water storage tanks are made from materials that cannot break down and contaminate the water that they hold. They have a long life span and can be used again and again over a number of years.

Why should you be saving water?

  1. Without water there would be no plants, animals or humans. Water is a life fluid and it needs to not only be conserved but it also needs to be protected from pollution.
  2. Saving water is going to save you money and with financial times being tough at the moment every bit saved is going to be helpful.
  3. The amount of drinking water that we have on the earth remains at 1% but the 1% is not constantly found in the same place throughout the world. Water is always on the move.

Saving water is a duty that we all have if we want to continue enjoying access to this life maintaining resource. Domestic water storage tanks can be the best way in which you can start saving water today.

Waterbury Reservoir seems pristine, but look closely

Drone photography — Waterbury Reservoir

Commentary by Laurie Smith, president of the Friends of Waterbury Reservoir. The reservoir is within the Lake Champlain watershed, by way of the Little River and the Winooski River.

We also know the reservoir’s health is at risk from the thousands of annual boaters, paddlers, anglers and campers who do not always practice leave-no-trace, by the water-quality impacts of upriver agricultural and development runoff, by the introduction of aquatic and terrestrial invasive species, and by the conflicting priorities of a growing number of stakeholders.

At dawn a couple of Friday mornings ago, I launched my solo canoe onto the northern tip of the reservoir with my favorite paddling companion — a giant 6-year-old black Labrador retriever named Gabe. Gabe sleeps in the canoe, snoring loudly as his head rests on the gunwales.

At dawn, the Waterbury Reservoir is simply enchanting. In this magical moment around 6 a.m., the lifting fog races from south to north. A bluebird sky gradually emerges through a hole in the cloud. Sun rays stream urgently toward earth, and then suddenly disappear with the dissolving fog. The water sparkles with diamonds as the surface warms.

I watch for the bald eagles that nest nearby or the magnificent osprey. A fish jumps. A waterbug flitters. Canada geese and mallards fly overhead.

The lake is cool and smooth, disturbed only by the soft wake of my canoe. Water drips rhythmically from my paddle as Gabe and I slowly make our way to our favorite swimming and tennis-ball-chasing spot. A trout is startled by the shadow of my paddle overhead.

At dawn, the reservoir seems silent and pristine, until one listens and observes with intention.

An angler and a sleepy young boy cast their lines from the shore, not really caring whether they catch anything. That’s not really the point, after all. But to get to this spot, they’ve cut their way through a dense mat of 7-foot-tall Japanese knotweed, tossing the stems into the moving river.

A great blue heron — an indicator species for the health of a lake — casts her bright golden eyes on me suspiciously. It seems to me improbable that such a large bird could be held firmly upon those slender legs.

She is standing in a patch of an invasive brittle naiad and I tell her I am sorry for that, but I know that our new boat access greeter is educating people about preventing the spread of invasive species into her lake.

A nervous beaver lures me from her pups slaps the water surface, and slips into a den that this spring was adorned with a fading yellow laundry detergent bottle and a truck tire. The bottle and the tire are gone now, thanks to Green Up Day volunteers. I am proud of the two-year trash data study we conducted with support from Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean and the resulting stewardship in the reservoir community.

In the mud along the river shore, there are tracks of a bear, a deer, a variety of birds, dogs of course, and from the angler and his son’s rubber boots too close to the eroding river shoreline.

At the end of our journey, Gabe and I return to the canoe launch and slosh through the smelly, silty water, carefully step around the deep gully that flows from the busy gravel parking area directly into the river. I am proud, though, that this ecological mess will be addressed this summer with state-of-the-art, low-impact, green technology and community outreach.

Our little nonprofit is making progress on our reservoir, thanks to effective partnerships and relationships.

The lake may be our teacher. It can tell us what it needs, but only when we listen.

We know that we can address the lake’s needs only when we research, understand, experiment; when we communicate, collaborate and change our course when necessary — as do paddlers in a tandem kayak, or a Lake Champlain dragon boat.…

Waterbury Reservoir’s future could be at risk

The Waterbury Reservoir’s many swimming and boating possibilities drew 42,000 people this summer to the state park. Photo by Gordon Miller/Stowe Reporter

The Waterbury Reservoir’s many swimming and boating possibilities drew 42,000 people this summer to the state park. Photo by Gordon Miller/Stowe Reporter

This article is by Miranda Orso, of the Stowe Reporter, in which it was first published Sept. 18, 2014.

There’s a real possibility that the 850-acre Waterbury Reservoir could simply go away.

An argument about how to run the flood-control dam that creates the reservoir could lead to a decision to stop filling up the reservoir for summertime use.

And the reservoir gets a ton of summertime use. It is the centerpiece of Waterbury Center State Park, which is wrapping up a record-breaking season. This summer, more than 42,000 visitors have enjoyed swimming, boating, picnicking and hiking through the park, not to mention the naturalist programs that the park enables.

The reservoir’s future revolves around a new license for Green Mountain Power’s hydropower plant at the base of the flood-control dam. The utility has operated the hydro plant since 1953, but its license lapsed nearly two decades ago. Now, the company is seeking a new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In addition, a permit is required from the watershed management division within the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Permit questions like these involve a balancing of hydropower benefits and environmental concerns.

The state agency will look at “everything from the effects on habitats, overall water quality, water temperatures, sediment levels as well as how the water flows and what happens to water downstream,” said Jeff Crocker, a river ecologist with the watershed division.https://03a9623879a972e9a7b68ecf90d5700c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Those concerns also involve the effects on fish and other wildlife from raising and lowering the reservoir’s level season by season.

Now, the reservoir is drawn down to 562 feet above sea level in the winter, making room for the spring runoff that, except for the Waterbury dam, could cause flooding. The drawdown shrinks the surface area of the reservoir by 40 percent.

This is what the Waterbury Reservoir looked like for seven years after it was drained in 2000 for dam construction work. The 850-acre summer swimming and boating center all but vanished. Photo by Gordon Miller/Stowe Reporter

Once the runoff ends, the reservoir level is increased to 589 feet above sea level, creating the swimming-boating mecca at the state park.

The watershed division is concerned that the lowering and raising of water levels does not meet current water standards, said Bill Shepeluk, Waterbury’s municipal manager.

If the decision is to keep water levels low, then recreation at the reservoir would come to an end.

Shepeluk suspects state and federal officials have no idea of the furor that the reservoir debate will cause.

“This is a big issue to Waterbury residents, and people will be surprised at how passionate everyone feels about these things,” he predicted.

The community will have a chance to weigh in on the situation at a meeting tentatively scheduled for Oct. 7 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Thatcher Brook Primary School.

Competing interests

The Waterbury dam was finished in 1938 to prevent the kind of flooding that devastated Waterbury and other Vermont communities in 1927.

The dam holds back the water from the Little River, which flows south from Stowe toward the Winooski River. The Little River carries the runoff from the Stowe valley, including massive winter snowmelt from Mount Mansfield and the western side of the Worcester mountain range.

Once the reservoir was created, fish, loons and other flora and fauna made it their home.

Waterbury has already had a seven-year taste of what life would be like without the reservoir. In 2000, the reservoir was drained so construction workers could shore up the dam; the job took seven years and $24 million.

Shepeluk said Green Mountain Power tends to keep the summertime water level as close to 589 feet above sea level as possible, with a 1-foot leeway up or down. It uses that 2-foot range to generate electricity.

“These 2 feet of fluctuations don’t cause tremendous problems, but they can have a significant effect on water quality,” Shepeluk said.https://03a9623879a972e9a7b68ecf90d5700c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The watershed division would prefer a permit that says the reservoir depth can’t flucuate up and down, Shepeluk said. Ultimately, it would like the water level to remain low, close to the normal wintertime level, he said.

If the water level is low, Green Mountain Power can still produce electricity from the Little River’s flow. But the hydropower would be less reliable. Now, adjusting the reservoir height ensures a steady flow of water through Green Mountain Power’s turbine, but a shrunken reservoir would make the hydropower dependent on the weather — similar to the utility’s other river-run facilities across the state.

Another option is to keep the reservoir even lower, near 550 feet above sea level — a 39-foot reduction in the normal summertime depth.

In this balancing of competing interests, Shepeluk said the hydropower plant, the environment and recreation could all be losers.

“We will be looking at solutions to allow all the stakeholders to get what they want,” he said.

While Crocker wouldn’t comment in detail, he said “there’s a possibility of changes to the recreation proportions of things but the opportunity would still exist. The parks may have to be redesigned.”…

Waterbury Reservoir Risk Management Project

Waterbury Reservoir Risk Management Project

The dam at Waterbury Reservoir in Waterbury is situated on the Little River, about 2.5 miles above its confluence with the Winooski River. From Waterbury, the dam can be reached by traveling two miles west on U.S. Route 2, then right on Little River Road for three miles.

In conjunction with East Barre Dam and Wrightsville Reservoir, Waterbury Reservoir provides flood protection to the downstream communities of Duxbury, Bolton, Richmond, Williston, Jericho, Essex, Colchester, Burlington, South Burlington, and Winooski.

Construction of the project began in April 1935 and was completed in October 1938. The project consists of an earthfill dam with stone slope protection 1,845 feet long and 187 feet high; an 882-foot-long semicircular concrete conduit 10.5 feet high and 14 feet wide; two 230-foot-long steel conduits, each with a diameter of four feet six inches; a 290-foot-long steel circular conduit with a diameter of four feet; three 26.5-foot-high tainter gates, with two gates each measuring 20 feet wide and the third 35 feet wide; and a spillway cut in rock with a 154-foot-long concrete ogee weir. The weir’s crest elevation is 15.5 feet lower than the top of the dam. Waterbury Reservoir was one of four flood damage reduction projects constructed in Vermont by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. Construction was overseen by the Corps’ North Atlantic Division. Because of accounting procedures, the construction costs of Waterbury Reservoir were not calculated separately but instead lumped together with the construction costs of East Barre Dam, Wrightsville Reservoir, and the Winooski River Local Protection Project. The construction costs of these four projects totaled $13.7 million. Following completion, Waterbury Reservoir and associated lands were turned over to the state of Vermont for operation and maintenance.

Winter Work to Occur at Two Waterbury Reservoir Public Access Areas

The present-day configuration of the dam is the result of two major modifications that allow a greater amount of water to pass through the spillway, increasing the dam’s structural integrity. The first modification, which began in September 1956, included raising the dam three feet and installing the 35-foot-wide tainter gate. This work was completed in November 1959 at a cost of $861,000. The second modification began in January 1985 and involved constructing the 290-foot-long steel conduit, rebuilding the toe of the dam, and grouting the dam’s foundation to control seepage. This work was completed in December 1985 at a cost of $4.8 million.

For most of the year, Waterbury Reservoir has a pool of 860 acres with a maximum depth of approximately 100 feet. During the winter, the pool is drained to a surface area of between 250-300 acres by the Green Mountain Power Corporation, owners of the hydroelectric power plant at the base of the dam (see below), in anticipation of spring rains and snowmelt. The flood storage area of the project, which is normally empty and utilized only to store floodwaters, totals 1,330 acres and extends approximately six miles upstream through Stowe. The project and all associated lands (including part of Mount Mansfield State Forest) cover 12,912 acres. Waterbury Reservoir can store up to nine billion gallons of water for flood control purposes. This is equivalent to 4.8 inches of water covering its drainage area of 109 square miles.

The main recreational attraction at Waterbury Reservoir is the Little River State Park, a 1,100-acre block within the larger 37,000-acre Mount Mansfield State Forest. Little River State Park has a 60-acre campground on the western shore of the reservoir containing 101 campsites (20 of these sites have lean-tos), each with its own picnic table and fireplace. There are two designated swimming areas: Area A has about 300 feet of beach situated on one side of Stevenson’s Brook Cove, and Area B, located approximately 650 feet across the cove, has about 150 feet of beach. Little River State Park also has an excellent marked trail system, with dozens of hiking trails totaling about 30 miles. During the winter, about 17 miles of trail are marked for snowmobiling, with the remainder marked for cross-country skiing. The campground has a boat ramp (located in Area A); boat rentals; hot showers; drinking water; and sanitary facilities.

History buffs take note: There are three areas of archeological and historical significance within the Little River State Park. They are:

  • The Civilian Conservation Corps campsite used by the workers constructing the dam at Waterbury Reservoir. Between 1933 and 1939 over 2,000 men lived and worked here. At one time, this self contained community featured more than 80 buildings. Although a few foundations exist, none of the buildings remain. This area is located on Little River Road, about .25 mile southwest of the dam.
  • The foundations of a farm community dating back to the late 1800s. This site is situated about 2.5 miles northwest of Stevenson’s Brook Cove.
  • Several foundations of farmhouses dating back to the late 1700s. These are located near Cotton Brook, about eight miles north of dam. Note that the final six miles of travel must be made through woods; this site is not directly accessible by car.

Another recreational area enjoyed by visitors to Waterbury Reservoir is the Waterbury Reservoir Day Use Recreation Area, a 90-acre peninsula situated on Town Highway 17 (Old River Road), about .25 mile off Route 100. This site offers picnicking on 12 tables and 10 charcoal grills; swimming on 220 feet of the beach; a concrete boat ramp; snowmobiling and cross-country skiing on unmarked trails; and sanitary facilities.

Vermont State Parks - Waterbury Reservoir Remote Sites

Three other areas offer limited recreational opportunities. The Waterbury Reservoir Boat Launch Area is located immediately behind the dam and provides boaters with an area in which to unload. The Blush Hill Recreation Area, located on Route 100 about six miles north of the dam, offers snowmobiling on marked trails. The Little River Canoe Access Area, located on Moscow Road (off Route 100) about five miles north of the dam, allows canoeists easy access to the reservoir. All of the above-mentioned recreational areas are operated and maintained by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, except for the Waterbury Reservoir Boat Launch Area, …

Run-Of-River New Standard For Waterbury Dam

Last week, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation issued a water quality certification governing the future operations of Green Mountain Power’s Waterbury hydroelectric project.

The decision calls for the Waterbury Reservoir to be maintained at the current, higher summertime level year-round, and says flows should be managed to “more closely mirror the natural flow of the Little River.” However, that requirement won’t go into effect until needed work on the dam is completed.

The department’s water quality certification is part of Green Mountain Power’s federal re-licensing of its hydroelectric operation at the Waterbury Dam. And despite the fact that the decision limits the utility’s ability to manipulate river flows, Green Mountain Power applauded the state’s decision.

“We are pleased with this decision, which balances all interests, including our on-going generation of clean renewable hydropower, protecting the local environment and recreational uses,” said Josh Castonguay, GMP director of generation and renewable innovation.

draft version of the decision was issued last month, following a public hearing held in Waterbury in October. A second public hearing was held Dec. 6, drawing comments from community members and several groups that use the Waterbury Reservoir and the Little River.

Among the groups submitting written comments to the state was the Friends of the Waterbury Reservoir. That group was supportive of the draft decision stating, “Consistent with the Friends of Waterbury Reservoir’s mission, vision, and core values, and after considerable research and consultation with experts, we support the maintenance of the reservoir’s average year-round water level at so-called ‘summertime level’ of an average of 589.5 feet, with adjustments made as required and appropriate as determined by the agencies and officers who are responsible for making decisions regarding flood prevention and mitigation.”

In addition, Friends of the Waterbury Reservoir member Fred Abraham commented at the Dec. 6 public hearing, “We support the position that keeps the water levels up year-round. We believe that the main basis for doing this is the ecological integrity of … the Waterbury Reservoir  and the river basin. And we see that’s the state’s goal as well, so we’re happy to see that as their goal.”

Other groups commenting in favor of the proposed run-of-river standard included the Vermont Natural Resources Council, Friends of the Winooski River, Central Vermont Trout Unlimited, and Mad Dog Trout Unlimited.

However, some paddlers were not happy with the prospect of loosing whitewater runs. Written comments were submitted by American Whitewater  and cosigned by Vermont Paddlers Club and New England FLOW.

Bob Nasdor,  Northeast stewardship director for American Whitewater, testified at the Dec. 6 hearing that the change to flow-of-river management ignores a major recreational use of the waterway.

“We believe that you go too far in the draft water quality certification with too little basis and that the elimination of all scheduled whitewater boating opportunities is unsupported by any studies or science on the Little River,” said Nasdor.

In a press release, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation stated its decision “ensures that dam operations are conducted in a manner that protects fishing, swimming, boating and other recreational uses of both the Waterbury Reservoir and Little River. The decision also ensures that the dam will continue to serve its primary purpose of flood control.”

The dam was built in the 1930s for flood control purposes, but has also been used for hydroelectric generation for much of its existence.

“We are pleased to be issuing a water quality certification that meets our obligations to protect water quality, while ensuring continued access for the recreational uses of the Waterbury Reservoir and the Little River that are loved by many thousands of Vermonters,” Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears said in a statement when the decision was finalized.…