A unique water supply system

By: Edgar Mana-ay

COLORADO Springs, Colorado – At 6,000-foot elevation from sea level, the City of Colorado Springs is located at the southern base of the gigantic Rocky Mountain ranges where the climate is semi-arid, receiving an average rainfall per month of only 1.3 inches compared to tropical Iloilo which averages 16.5 inches of rain.

85 percent of water source for the water utility server, Colorado Springs Utilities, comes from the melting ice in this semi-arid region! Since its snow water, the consumers are the first-time users of the water source. The water utility produces 270,000 cubic meters daily (cmd) of potable and very clean water (compared to 70,000 cmd by MIWD) for a partial 471,000 consumers only.

Because of the mountainous terrain, it is next to impossible to extend the water lines to cover the entire city. Here at Cherry Crossing subdivision, my daughter has her own deep well at 160 feet, supplying sufficient and very clean potable water, usually an indication of a geologically old and continental deposit origin.

Basically the water cycle here will be like this. Moisture or water vapor from the ocean plus water vapor transpired by trees is blown by strong winds (Colorado is very windy since it is at high elevation) towards the mountain range top where temperature always stays at below zero centigrade, averaging -5C. This causes water vapor to turn into snow blanketing the top of the mountain ranges. As the sun comes up, the snow cap starts to melt and flows down very slowly through numerous small creeks and streams. There is no major river draining a major watershed that passes Colorado Springs just like the town of Concepcion where water supply is a problem.

The utility therefore has to construct a very complex diversion, catchment and reservoir system to gather all the melting snow from the different small creeks and streams as it flows down the mountain. For each of the numerous small watershed areas, a reservoir is constructed to store and regulate flow towards some main reservoirs/manmade lakes, then pumped through transmission lines which converges at two major processing plants.

Examples of these watershed/reservoir systems and its storing capacities: South slope watershed with 8 reservoirs totaling 7.6 million cubic meters; Homestale watershed with reservoir capacity of 26 million cu. m., South Slope watershed with 8 reservoirs totaling 7.6-million cu. m. storage capacity and many more.

A big city depending on snow melt for water supply belies the false claim of global warming fanatics that because of global warming, the snow caps of mountains in the U.S., including those in the North Pole, are shrinking. In fact, this is the flagship theory of global warming (which they have now changed to climate change!) of false prophet Al Gore by citing the disappearance of the beautiful snow cap of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.

Indeed the romantic snow cap of Mt. Kilimanjaro (a subject of a block buster movie starring Gregory Peck) has continued to shrink in the past 100 years and it is projected that between 2020 and 2033, it will be totally ice free.

But the cause of ice retreat at the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro is not global warming. In fact studies shows temperature in the area has gone colder in the last 50 years. The same goes true here in the Rocky Mountains. There is perpetual supply of snow melt water because there is also a perpetual replenishment of snow because of the constant cold temperature at below zero to freeze the perpetual supply of water vapor brought by the winds.

Such is not the case in Africa. Because of massive destruction of forests, which started as early as the 18th century in Tanzania and Kenya, trees vanished, resulting in an irreversible environmental degradation known as desertification. The dessert atmosphere is now devoid of moisture because there are no trees that can transpire water vapor, an essential component in snow formation. Despite the lowering of atmospheric temperature, still the snow cap of Mt. Kilimanjaro continues to retreat because there is no snow fall replacement.

At this time of the year, all the grasses in Colorado Spring are brown because of lack of rain. But because of the pre-dominant ever green pine trees all over the land, they provide the transpiration vapor necessary to form the snow in the mountain. For as long as the pine trees are there and the mountain top temperature remains at below freezing, then there will always be snow melt to supply the water of Colorado Springs.

Why can these pine trees and all other tree species bloom and exist despite the semi-arid Colorado condition? There is sufficient underground water due to a high infiltration rate of snow melts since most open grounds here are not subject to human intrusion, hence not compacted.

In the subdivision where this writer is temporarily staying, each house has a yard area of 1 hectare and is just left open, seldom stepped on by man, hence the ground is soft and allows the nightly snow accumulation to melt during the day and penetrate the ground to be part of the underground water regime.

Hopefully this article should serve as an eye opener that we have to leave our devastated Tigum-Aganan watershed on its own without human intrusion because nature has its own way of healing itself.

As Ilonggos we have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on earth as other creatures do.

Note: The writer is the Hydro-geology Consultant of the Municipality of Pavia, Iloilo.

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