#LaNiña brings below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures — The Fence Post

From The Fence Post (Amy Hadachek):

After fall harvest winds down, the big question for farmers and ranchers is what will La Nina bring for this winter in the Rockies and central Plains states?

“La Nina is here, and not going anywhere. Still looking very dry on the Plains this winter,” said Kyle Mozley, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Pueblo, Colo.

The Climate Prediction Center’s early Winter Outlook issued Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, is forecasting cooler and wetter weather in the northern states, and largely warmer and drier weather in the southern states. However, being smack in the middle from Colorado to Wyoming, and into the central Plains the National Oceanic and Atmopheric Administration favors near to slightly below normal precipitation, and near to slightly above normal temperatures across the central Plains.

Looking at past moderate events, the upper pattern features ridging over the western U.S. and troughing over the east, with northwesterly flow across Colorado.

COLORADO

“Areas of the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley will likely do well this winter, while leaving Colorado and Kansas warm, dry and windy, typical for La Nina in the Rockies into the central Plains,” said Mozley, adding, “This matches up with the CPC forecast with warm and dry conditions across Colorado into Kansas, not good for our already drought stricken-rangelands.”

It has been exceptionally dry for the past six months across eastern Colorado and western Kansas…

While the climate pattern Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) will continue in a negative phase through the winter, likely enhancing warm and dry across Colorado, another climate driver the Madden Julian Oscillation forecast (an eastward moving disturbance that traverses the planet) has potential for a brief stormy pattern in late November to early December (around Nov. 24-Dec. 10). While the overall outlook is for dry, drought conditions into spring, the Arctic Oscillation (AO) could also bring surges of colder air to the Plains, Mozley said.

WYOMING

With temperatures already in the low 20’s and some snow already seen in parts of Wyoming, summer has been doing somersaults over autumn.

With drought reported to be occupying 45 percent of the U.S., largely over the western half of the country (but also in the northeast) many are anxiously hoping for moisture. However, currently most of Wyoming (almost 90 percent) is in one level of drought or another with the northwest part of the state being the only area in either pre-drought (D0) or no drought.

“Over 97 percent of Wyoming is impacted. Teton is the only county that has no drought or pre-drought in it. Given the precipitation expectations and with above normal temperatures expected for at least the next several weeks statewide (and for the upcoming months in the southwest) drought conditions, especially in the southern half of the state should be expected to continue and intensify,” said Tony Bergantino, interim director of the Water Resources Data System at the Wyoming State Climate Office and Wyoming Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow state coordinator.

In the short-term, after some brief cold and wet conditions continuing through October, Wyoming will be again looking at higher chances for above normal temperatures for November and for the November to January period…

Thankfully, for November through January, there are actually greater chances of above-normal precipitation for the northern half of Wyoming, which brings hope. The chances in the southern half are equally distributed between above normal, below normal, or normal.

NEBRASKA

A Nebraska meteorologist sees some positive signs for moisture, even during a La Nina winter. Instead of just cold and drier, that means Nebraska and the central Plains could expect a lot of ups and downs temperature-wise and the windy conditions those weather systems will bring. Then also, despite the relative confidence in the impacts of La Nina on the upcoming winter, the weather across Nebraska and Kansas may end up a bit of a mixed bag, especially in terms of temperature.

“Also, during La Nina influenced winters, temperatures often vary widely from above to below normal thanks to frequent weather systems rolling across the central Plains from the northwest. Long range precipitation outlooks are notoriously difficult, but the impacts of La Nina can be somewhat helpful in looking ahead. Typically, during La Nina winters, precipitation on the central Plains is no more than normal, and often below normal. La Nina also impacts precipitation timing, with wetter conditions in December and January, and the drier months during the second half of the winter (February and March),” said Michael Moritz, warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS in Hastings, Neb.

Should warmer than normal temperatures and near or below normal precipitation occur, the winter ahead is likely to result in expanding drought conditions across the central and southern Plains, including Nebraska and Kansas. “NOAA expects drought conditions to worsen in areas already hit hard by drought, and for drought conditions to expand from Nebraska to Texas by mid-winter. With depleted soil moisture already, the impacts of drought could spill into next spring,” said Moritz.

It will really boil down to whether the La Nina dissipates next spring or is able to maintain itself for a second consecutive year. Right now, all of the models end La Nina by late spring…

KANSAS

Kansas Climatologist Mary Knapp points out that precipitation in November is critical to maintain and establish fall planted crops, including winter wheat, canola and cover crops.

“Even wetter than normal conditions are unlikely to improve the current drought conditions,” said Knapp, assistant state climatologist at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

Kansas is expected to be on the dry side this winter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean quiet. “Strong (cold) fronts are still likely, bringing high winds without much moisture. This increases the likelihood of dust storms (such as last weekend), and high fire danger,” Knapp said.

Knapp’s other take-aways from the CPC Winter Outlook:

• It is dry and getting drier.

• Warm temperatures, low humidities and windy conditions are increasing evaporative demand, drawing down stock ponds at a faster rate than usual at this time of the year.

• Given the normally dry nature of winter even above normal precipitation may not reduce the drought.

— Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at rotatingstorm2004@yahoo.com

Northern Front Range water supply safe in spite of fires — for now — The #Greeley Tribune

Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

From The Greeley Tribune (Cuyler Meade):

…while a significant portion of the water supply that is held and accessed by the project that serves the northern Front Range communities is impacted by the fires, the water supply itself is not in danger.

According to Jeff Stahla, public information officer for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District — or simply Northern Water — the near-term supply is fine.

The decision to close off a tunnel — which transports water pumped from Lake Granby to Shadow Mountain Reservoir before traveling by gravity through the tunnel through Rocky Mountain National Park to Lake Estes and elsewhere, before eventually settling in Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake in Fort Collins and Loveland — will not impact the water supply that’s eventually drawn from those two reservoirs to supply much of Northern Water’s million-plus customers in Northern Colorado, including Greeley.

That’s because, Stahla explained, the system is proactive. While new water will not be replenished quite according to the normal schedule in the Horsetooth and Carter Lake reservoirs, that water is, in essence, paying down a future withdrawal that won’t happen for a year or more…

“The water coming out of your faucet now, if it’s this project’s water, was probably snow that fell in maybe 2018,” Stahla explained. “It ran off in spring of ’18 and filled up Lake Granby, and then around the end of 2018 into 2019, it would’ve been used to fill up reservoirs on the front range. That would’ve happened over winter of 2018-2019, and then it would’ve been in reservoirs all of 2019 and probably drawn out now in 2020. This project works on a multi-year cycle of gathering runoff, feeding reservoirs and serving the public.”

The water is still in Lake Granby, but temporarily won’t be pumped up to Shadow Mountain because of concerns that the fire will impact the power supply to the pump at Lake Granby…

However, that water is only a portion — a very sizable portion, close to half — of the water that is used by Greeley customers, according to city of Greeley water and sewer director Sean Chambers.

And, truly incredibly, the other major sources of water, four in total, from which the city draws its 20,000 to 25,000 acre feet-per-year supply are also being impacted by these unfathomable wildfires.

“We have water from four different river basins,” Chambers said. “We get water from the Poudre River Basin, that’s where the year-round treatment plan by Bellevue, northwest of For Collins is. The top of the Poudre is where the fire started. You go north and cross into Laramie River Basin — the Laramie flows north into Wyoming but we have a system of ditches and tunnels that brings water back into the Poudre. The fires burned a bit of the headwaters of the Laramie. We also get water from the Big Thompson Basin, and the Cameron Peak Fire spread southeast over the last ten days, blown over the ridge line and the divide into the Big Thompson Basin. And then the last basin is the Colorado River Basin, which is where the East Troublesome Fire comes from.”

Chambers, marveling, called this phenomenon the first time “in recorded history” that this has happened, where all four major water sources are affected by fires at the same time…

Further, while snow melt over burned land could well impact other water sources as well, there are plans in place, Chambers said.

“When the High Park Fire happened, that fire had these post-precipitation water-quality events in the river, where Fort Collins and Greeley and others, who take water directly off the Poudre River for municipal treatment, we turned off our intakes and let the bad water go by, let the water quality improve. We can do that because of the beautiful supplemental supply in the Colorado Big Thompson project.”

The flexibility requires planning, though, including, Chambers said, installing source-site filtration systems where snow runoff on its way the river systems are filtered prior to entering the water supply…

In the immediate moment, though, the water supply even well into next year is in good shape, regardless of the fires Stahla said.

“Not even just into early next year,” Stahla said. “Reservoirs are there for that kind of demand management that you can have some stocked away close to meet your needs. As of now, there’s no operational changes because of the wildfires to the water supply on the Northern Front Range. Those reservoirs will be refilled by next spring.”

As #Colorado wildfires burn, fears that #ClimateChange is causing “multi-level emergency” mount — The #Denver Post

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The record-breaking forest fires burning in Colorado even as winter sets in are the latest sign climate warming is hitting the West hard, causing scientists to up their rhetoric and warn it is past time to move beyond planning and start aggressively acting.

“We’ve got to get motivated and stop turning the thermostat up. That is urgent, not a sci-fi thing. It is us turning up the thermostat. It does not readily turn down. The farther we turn it up, the worse it will get,” said Scott Denning, a Colorado State University atmospheric scientist…

The rising heat is depleting water and drying soil across the Colorado River Basin and other river basins. Last week, federal authorities classified 97% of Colorado in severe to exceptional drought.

Mega-fires including 2020’s Cameron Peak, East Troublesome and Pine Gulch are burning hotter and longer, with record destruction this year of 700,000 acres in Colorado and 6 million around the West. The smoke that exposed tens of millions of people to heavy particulates, health researchers say, will pose an even greater risk to public health in years to come…

Yet efforts to help residents cope, and even draw down heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by re-greening farmland and cities, have barely begun. A Denver Post examination found a $4.2 billion backlog of forestry work identified by the Colorado State Forest Service as critical to protect people and property from fires…

Farmers are left largely on their own as water vanishes and crops wilt. Local governments still approve urban expansion despite water supply strains…

Colorado’s average temperature has increased since 1990 by 2 degrees, faster than the global increase, with temperatures in western Colorado increasing more, said Clay Clarke, leader of a four-member climate team in the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

“And we will see years hotter than what we’ve had,” state climatologist Russ Schumacher said. “There’s very high confidence in the climate science community that this warming is going to continue… and because the atmosphere is thirstier in hot years, what moisture you have goes away more quickly.”

[…]

Across the Southwest, the rising temperatures are drawing down water supplies, especially in the Colorado River Basin, where the crucial Lake Mead reservoir has dropped to 39% full and precious precipitation vanishes before it reaches rivers.

Streams and rivers in the basin will lose about 4% to 5% of water for every 1 degree temperatures rise, said Jeff Lukas, author of the 2020 Colorado River Basin State of the Science report done for Denver Water, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and other water agencies. By the end of the century, stream flow will decrease by 12% to 15% due to warming, he said.

A need to adapt became clear over the past 15 years as warming depleted water in the Colorado River by at least 6%, said Brad Udall, a CSU water center scientist who analyzes federal flow data.

What’s the rational response?

“Rationality means getting really serious about GHG (greenhouse gas) reductions. It also means planning for the worst with respect to water supplies and fires. We’re doing none of these things, although the water community at least realizes the threat and is making some efforts to think about it,” Udall said.

“Climate change is the ultimate ‘kick-the-can-down-the-road’ game. To fix it you have to have pain now, and reap the benefits later. That’s never a good setup for political action.”

[…]

The bigger burning, in turn, worsens respiratory health as people inhale tiny particulates that lodge in their lungs and clog airways, straining heart and lung functioning.

Multiple weeks and even months of exposure to fire smoke in cities will lead to “increased respiratory infections and mortality,” said Emily Fischer, a researcher for CSU’s program on air, climate and health, who had just measured an Air Quality Index reading of 368 — hazardous — in Fort Collins…

Colorado has nearly completed a statewide inventory that estimates emissions from multiple sources of CO2, methane and other heat-trapping gases that drive climate warming. It will lay the groundwork for enforcing tougher regulations.

Lawmakers have ordered cuts below 2005 levels — 30% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. Colorado’s emerging strategy would meet those goals by requiring a faster shift away from gas-power to zero-emission vehicles; closing coal-fired power plants; reducing methane pollution by the oil and gas industry; and making the heating and cooling of buildings more efficient.

@AuroraWaterCO inks $43.7 million in water deals on #SouthPlatteRiver — @WaterEdCO

The South Platte River runs near a farm in Henderson, Colorado, northeast of Denver. Henderson is the site of one of the possible reservoirs for the regional water project proposed by SPROWG. Photo credit: Lindsay Fendt/Aspen Journalism

From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

Thirsty Front Range Colorado cities continue to drive the market for South Platte River farm water, with Aurora announcing two major deals to acquire farms and their associated water rights for $43.7 million.

One deal involves the $16.7 million purchase of a small ditch company near Merino, as well as 1,200 acres of land. The second purchase, for $27 million, involves water rights near Evans formerly owned by the Broe Companies, according to Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker.

“The South Platte is where the water rights are right now,” Baker said. “As farmers are looking at their future, as they get out of farming, if their kids don’t want it or another farmer doesn’t want it, this is their asset to sell.”

Together, Aurora estimates the deals will provide about 2,652 acre-feet of water to the city, water equal to the amount needed to serve some 5,300 homes.

Earlier this year in another major deal, Parker, along with the Sterling-based Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, announced it would claim a major new water right in the South Platte near the Nebraska border.

The Aurora purchases, first reported by the Sterling Journal Advocate, are raising concern among Northern Colorado water suppliers and agriculture interests, who fear the sales will limit the region’s own ability to grow and could perpetuate a practice known as “buy and dry,” where farm land is purchased and its water diverted for other uses.

Such water transfers off of farms have harmed other rural farm communities in Colorado that rely on agriculture for jobs and tax revenue.

Aurora’s water purchases “do cause me concern,” said Brad Wind, general manager of Berthoud-based Northern Water, which serves such communities as Greeley, Fort Collins and Broomfield, as well as hundreds of farmers. Like the West Slope, Northern Colorado communities want the water to stay local, although legally it can be bought, sold and moved.

Aurora officials said they haven’t decided what shape the water projects ultimately will take. But they hope to avoid buy-and-dry scenarios, relying instead on long-term leases and water sharing agreements with growers in the area.

“Buying water rights in the South Platte does not mean that we’re going for a buy and dry,” said Dawn Jewell, a water resource planner for Aurora. “We need additional supplies for our build out.”

Aurora uses about 50,000 acre feet of water annually now, and could need more than twice that much to handle its growth through 2070.

“There are many unknowns right now but this gives us a prime opportunity to look at other options, such as ATMs,” Jewell said.

ATMs, or alternative transfer methods, typically involve water sharing and leasing between cities and farms and are being studied across the state as a potential tool for minimizing buy-and-dry water deals.

The South Platte River Basin, which spans from west of South Park north and east through Denver to the state line, is home to Colorado’s largest irrigated agriculture economy with roughly 1.3 million acres of irrigated farm lands.

It is also home to the state’s largest cities, whose populations are set to swell by 2050.

As a result of that growth the state estimates the South Platte’s irrigated farm lands could shrink dramatically as fast-growing, water-short cities such as Aurora, continue to search for new supplies.

The Colorado Water Plan estimates that the South Platte Basin will lose more than 100,000 acres of irrigated land due to urban growth in the next 30 years.

Urban water providers in the region will need to find at least 183,000 acre-feet of water in the next 30 years to ensure shortages don’t develop even after significant conservation occurs, according to state forecasts. That is equal to the amount of water needed to serve more than 360,000 new homes.

Some small communities along the Front Range already know exactly how much they can grow with their existing water supplies. Barbara Biggs, chair of the Metro Basin Roundtable and general manager of the Roxborough Water and Sanitation District, said her district has enough water to supply its service area, but has already told landowners on the town’s borders that it has enough water to supply only another 124 homes.

“Once those are built, we’re done,” Biggs said. Her district’s water comes from a long-term water lease with Aurora that dates back to the 1970s. Biggs said that while her district eventually will use all of its water, stopping growth, such restrictions are much harder for big cities to adopt, in part because they cause housing prices to rise.

The recent South Platte water purchases come as a major collaborative water project in the basin was gaining momentum.

Now that project, known as the South Platte Regional Opportunities Water Group, or SPROWG, is in pause mode, according to several participants. It was conceived to help numerous cities reuse water and to move water back and forth more easily between farms on the Eastern Plains and the urban areas farther south and west.

As competition for water in the South Platte heats up, talks are underway to see if smaller versions of SPROWG that could be brought on line more quickly are feasible and could provide opportunities for Front Range cities to collaborate, according to Joe Frank, manager of the Sterling-based Lower South Platte district.

“We are definitely concerned about [the Aurora purchases],” said Frank, whose district is collaborating with the Parker Water and Sanitation District on a major South Platte River project whose participants have said won’t involve buy and dry, but will rely instead on using alternative transfer methods.

“We’re not putting fault on anyone,” Frank said. “You can’t fault the farmers. Their water has value, and I’m not pointing fingers at Aurora. Their hands are tied. The problem is that there are not very many other options on the table.”

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ are widespread and threaten human health – here’s a strategy for protecting the public — The Conversation


Firefighting foam left after a fire in Pennsylvania. These foams often contain PFAS chemicals that can contaminate water supplies.
Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Carol Kwiatkowski, North Carolina State University

Like many inventions, the discovery of Teflon happened by accident. In 1938, chemists from Dupont (now Chemours) were studying refrigerant gases when, much to their surprise, one concoction solidified. Upon investigation, they found it was not only the slipperiest substance they’d ever seen – it was also noncorrosive and extremely stable and had a high melting point.

In 1954 the revolutionary “nonstick” Teflon pan was introduced. Since then, an entire class of human-made chemicals has evolved: per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS. There are upward of 6,000 of these chemicals. Many are used for stain-, grease- and waterproofing. PFAS are found in clothing, plastic, food packaging, electronics, personal care products, firefighting foams, medical devices and numerous other products.

But over time, evidence has slowly built that some commonly used PFAS are toxic and may cause cancer. It took 50 years to understand that the happy accident of Teflon’s discovery was, in fact, a train wreck.

As a public health analyst, I have studied the harm caused by these chemicals. I am one of hundreds of scientists who are calling for a comprehensive, effective plan to manage the entire class of PFAS to protect public health while safer alternatives are developed.

Typically, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assesses chemicals for potential harm, it examines one substance at a time. That approach isn’t working for PFAS, given the sheer number of them and the fact that manufacturers commonly replace toxic substances with “regrettable substitutes” – similar, lesser-known chemicals that also threaten human health and the environment.

Graphic showing how PFAS moves from many sources into soil and water
As PFAS are produced and used, they can migrate into soil and water.
MI DEQ

Toxic chemicals

A class-action lawsuit brought this issue to national attention in 2005. Workers at a Parkersburg, West Virginia, DuPont plant joined with local residents to sue the company for releasing millions of pounds of one of these chemicals, known as PFOA, into the air and the Ohio River. Lawyers discovered that the company had known as far back as 1961 that PFOA could harm the liver.

The suit was ultimately settled in 2017 for US$670 million, after an eight-year study of tens of thousands of people who had been exposed. Based on multiple scientific studies, this review concluded that there was a probable link between exposure to PFOA and six categories of diseases: diagnosed high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Over the past two decades, hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers have shown that many PFAS are not only toxic – they also don’t fully break down in the environment and have accumulated in the bodies of people and animals around the world. Some studies have detected PFAS in 99% of people tested. Others have found PFAS in wildlife, including polar bears, dolphins and seals.

Attorney Robert Billott describes suing Dupont for knowingly releasing millions of pounds of hazardous PFOA in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Widespread and persistent

PFAS are often called “forever chemicals” because they don’t fully degrade. They move easily through air and water, can quickly travel long distances and accumulate in sediment, soil and plants. They have also been found in dust and food, including eggs, meat, milk, fish, fruits and vegetables.

In the bodies of humans and animals, PFAS concentrate in various organs, tissues and cells. The U.S. National Toxicology Program and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed a long list of health risks, including immunotoxicity, testicular and kidney cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility and thyroid disease.

Children are even more vulnerable than adults because they can ingest more PFAS relative to their body weight from food and water and through the air. Children also put their hands in their mouths more often, and their metabolic and immune systems are less developed. Studies show that these chemicals harm children by causing kidney dysfunction, delayed puberty, asthma and altered immune function.

Researchers have also documented that PFAS exposure reduces the effectiveness of vaccines, which is particularly concerning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regulation is lagging

PFAS have become so ubiquitous in the environment that health experts say it is probably impossible to completely prevent exposure. These substances are released throughout their life cycles, from chemical production to product use and disposal. Up to 80% of environmental pollution from common PFAS, such as PFOA, comes from production of fluoropolymers that use toxic PFAS as processing aids to make products like Teflon.

In 2009 the EPA established a health advisory level for PFOA in drinking water of 400 parts per trillion. Health advisories are not binding regulations – they are technical guidelines for state, local and tribal governments, which are primarily responsible for regulating public water systems.

In 2016 the agency dramatically lowered this recommendation to 70 parts per trillion. Some states have set far more protective levels – as low as 8 parts per trillion.

According to a recent estimate by the Environmental Working Group, a public health advocacy organization, up to 110 million Americans could be drinking PFAS-contaminated water. Even with the most advanced treatment processes, it is extremely difficult and costly to remove these chemicals from drinking water. And it’s impossible to clean up lakes, river systems or oceans. Nonetheless, PFAS are largely unregulated by the federal government, although they are gaining increased attention from Congress.

Water treatment tanks
Part of a filtration system designed to remove PFAS from drinking water, Horsham Water and Sewer Authority, Horsham, Pennsylvania.
Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Reducing PFAS risks at the source

Given that PFAS pollution is so ubiquitous and hard to remove, many health experts assert that the only way to address it is by reducing PFAS production and use as much as possible.

Educational campaigns and consumer pressure are making a difference. Many forward-thinking companies, including grocers, clothing manufacturers and furniture stores, have removed PFAS from products they use and sell.

[Understand new developments in science, health and technology, each week. Subscribe to The Conversation’s science newsletter.]

State governments have also stepped in. California recently banned PFAS in firefighting foams. Maine and Washington have banned PFAS in food packaging. Other states are considering similar measures.

I am part of a group of scientists from universities, nonprofit organizations and government agencies in the U.S. and Europe that has argued for managing the entire class of PFAS chemicals as a group, instead of one by one. We also support an “essential uses” approach that would restrict their production and use only to products that are critical for health and proper functioning of society, such as medical devices and safety equipment. And we have recommended developing safer non-PFAS alternatives.

As the EPA acknowledges, there is an urgent need for innovative solutions to PFAS pollution. Guided by good science, I believe we can effectively manage PFAS to reduce further harm, while researchers find ways to clean up what has already been released.The Conversation

Carol Kwiatkowski, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, North Carolina State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Vote Yes on 7A for Our Water #VOTE

Here’s the release from the campaign:

Today, the Yes on 7A For Our Water Campaign launches in support of ballot Question 7A, a measure to ensure funding for the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District to protect our clean water and healthy forests, rivers, and creeks.

“Nothing is more important than clean water. We need to step up and ensure our communities have clean water to drink,” said Christopher Smith, General Manager at Left Hand Water District and St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District Board Member. “By protecting our forests, rivers and creeks we can ensure we have safe, clean reliable water. The St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District is our advocate for protecting our water. Please join me in voting Yes on 7A.”

The St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District serves communities in the counties of Boulder, Weld and Larimer, from the mountains to the plains including residents in Lyons, Longmont, Mead and Firestone and the surrounding area draining into St. Vrain and Left Hand Creeks. The District works to protect local water quality and ensure we have water supplies for generations to come.

“When we started Left Hand Brewing, we wanted to establish our brewery in a community with a long history of clean, reliable water,” said Eric Wallace, President of Left Hand Brewing. “Longmont was a clear winner, and it is no coincidence that our brewery is located right on the “Mighty St. Vrain”. I am voting yes on 7A because it is a great investment in clean water, which is essential for our business, community, and the next generation.”

“A yes on 7A Vote means we will preserve our spectacular creeks that feed our natural and human environment,” said Barbara Luneau, President of the St. Vrain Anglers chapter of Trout Unlimited. Seeing trout in a river indicates clean, high-quality water. Since the September 2013 flood, trout and native fish habitat has increased because of post-flood stream restoration. There is more work to be done to restore our creeks with limited funding available. Voting yes on 7A will bring desperately needed funding to improve our creeks and maintain our high- quality water.”

For nearly 50 years, the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District has successfully protected our water by facilitating conservation programs, protecting water quality, educating the public and developing and managing water projects. The District has never once asked voters for additional funds. Voting Yes on 7A will ensure the District can continue supporting local agriculture, healthy rivers, and a secure water future. Cost to homeowners will be approximately $9.00 per $100,000 of assessed value, similar to the cost of a cup of coffee per month. For businesses the cost is $36.24 per $100,000 of assessed value. 7A will automatically end or sunset after 10 years.

“As a representative for the nation’s oldest Cattlemen’s Association, I know how important water is for the ranching and farming community. Grazing lands within the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District are high quality – in part because of the water used to irrigate fields,” said Terry Fankhauser, Executive Vice President of Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. “Not only are these fields important for farming and ranching but they also provide food and habitat for wildlife. Voting yes on 7A is good for your local food, water and wildlife. Vote Yes on 7A.”

For more information about 7A, please visit: http://www.svlhfriend.org.

#Drought expected to worsen this winter — The Gunnison Country Times #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Gunnison Country Times (Sam Liebl):

If the forecast holds true, the effects would be “exponential” for Gunnison Valley ranchers already hard hit by a dry summer that reduced hay production and rangeland forage by 30%, said Dan Olson with the Natural Resource Conservation Service field office in Gunnison.

“One year of this drought is crippling,” Olson said. It would be “a real challenge if we had multiple years like this one.”

The weather service issued its winter outlook for the U.S. on Oct. 15 and pinned many of its predictions for the western part of the country on the continuation of a La Niña, a band of cooler-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the Central Pacific. Those cool waters began showing up on satellite images in August, and the service forecasts the pattern to continue through the winter.

La Niña years favor precipitation and cooler temperatures in the Northern U.S. Winter storms from the southwest, which tend to dump snow on the San Juans and can produce powder days in Gunnison County, are less likely to occur during La Niña. This is linked to the Pacific Jet Stream staying north of the Southwest U.S. during La Niña winters.

This jet stream pattern has been in effect for most of October, and is a main reason why Colorado has stayed mostly dry and Montana has been consistently snowy this fall.

The weather service splits Colorado in half with regards to its winter precipitation predictions. The northern half of the state is forecast to have equal chances of above-average or below-average snowfall. The southern portion of the state, however, is favored to have drier-than-average weather. Gunnison County sits on the dividing line.

Worsening drought and warmer-than-average temperatures are predicted for all of Colorado this winter. Drought in Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California and Texas will continue, worsen or develop, according to the winter outlook.

Blue Mesa Reservoir did not fill to capacity this summer, and unregulated flows into the reservoir were 64 percent of average this year. The water level in Blue Mesa dropped to 50% of capacity this month. The major water sources for the reservoir — the Gunnison River and the Lake Fork of the Gunnison — were flowing at about 53% of average as of Monday.

Construction to Begin on #UncompahgreRiver Improvement Project

Starting the week of Oct. 26, 2020 contractors working for the City of Montrose will begin a river improvement project along 0.65 miles (3,400 feet) of the Uncompahgre River.
(William Woody/City of Montrose)

Here’s the release from the City of Montrose:

Starting the week of October 26, contractors working for the City of Montrose will begin a river improvement project along 0.65 miles (3,400 feet) of the Uncompahgre River. The project will include the stabilization of riverbanks, restoration of a more natural stream system, improvement of aquatic and riparian habitats, and improvement of river access and fishing opportunities for the public.

Construction will start around North 9th Street and continue downstream within a 41-acre river corridor tract within the Montrose Urban Renewal Authority boundaries. The property was recently donated to the City of Montrose by Colorado Outdoors.

For safety reasons, public access to the Uncompahgre River within the project area will be closed throughout construction. However, the new recreation trail situated alongside the project, as well as boating access on the remainder of the Uncompahgre River, will remain open throughout the construction project. Through boaters are encouraged to take out at the West Main Trailhead upstream of the project. Although a temporary takeout will be constructed at the beginning of the project area, vehicular access to this area will be much more limited than at West Main. Project activities are expected to last until June 2021.

The river improvement project is being made possible largely due to approximately $785,000 in grants received from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The remainder of the $1.6M project is being funded by the Montrose Urban Renewal Authority.

Designing batteries for easier recycling could avert a looming e-waste crisis — The Conversation


What happens to millions of these?
Kristoferb/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Zheng Chen, University of California San Diego and Darren H. S. Tan, University of California San Diego

As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.

These trends, coupled with a growing volume of battery-powered phones, watches, laptops, wearable devices and other consumer technologies, leave us wondering: What will happen to all these batteries once they wear out?

Despite overwhelming enthusiasm for cheaper, more powerful and energy-dense batteries, manufacturers have paid comparatively little attention to making these essential devices more sustainable. In the U.S. only about 5% of lithium-ion batteries – the technology of choice for electric vehicles and many high-tech products – are actually recycled. As sales of electric vehicles and tech gadgets continue to grow, it is unclear who should handle hazardous battery waste or how to do it.

As engineers who work on designing advanced materials, including batteries, we believe it is important to think about these issues now. Creating pathways for battery manufacturers to build sustainable production-to-recycling manufacturing processes that meet both consumer and environmental standards can reduce the likelihood of a battery waste crisis in the coming decade.

Spent batteries from electric vehicles can still power devices like streetlights, but there is not currently any requirement to reuse them. Recycling them is expensive and technically complex.

Hazardous contents

Batteries pose more complex recycling and disposal challenges than metals, plastics and paper products because they contain many chemical components that are both toxic and difficult to separate.

Some types of widely used batteries – notably, lead-acid batteries in gasoline-powered cars – have relatively simple chemistries and designs that make them straightforward to recycle. The common nonrechargeable alkaline or water-based batteries that power devices like flashlights and smoke alarms can be disposed directly in landfills.

However, today’s lithium-ion batteries are highly sophisticated and not designed for recyclability. They contain hazardous chemicals, such as toxic lithium salts and transition metals, that can damage the environment and leach into water sources. Used lithium batteries also contain embedded electrochemical energy – a small amount of charge left over after they can no longer power devices – which can cause fires or explosions, or harm people that handle them.

Moreover, manufacturers have little economic incentive to modify existing protocols to incorporate recycling-friendly designs. Today it costs more to recycle a lithium-ion battery than the recoverable materials inside it are worth.

As a result, responsibility for handling battery waste frequently falls to third-party recyclers – companies that make money from collecting and processing recyclables. Often it is cheaper for them to store batteries than to treat and recycle them.

Recycling technologies that can break down batteries, such as pyrometallurgy, or burning, and hydrometallurgy, or acid leaching, are becoming more efficient and economical. But the lack of proper battery recycling infrastructure creates roadblocks along the entire supply chain.

For example, transporting used batteries over long distances to recycling centers would typically be done by truck. Lithium batteries must be packaged and shipped according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Class 9 hazardous material regulations. Using a model developed by Argonne National Laboratory, we estimate that this requirement increases transport costs to more than 50 times that of regular cargo.

Safer and simpler

While it will be challenging to bake recyclability into the existing manufacturing of conventional lithium-ion batteries, it is vital to develop sustainable practices for solid-state batteries, which are a next-generation technology expected to enter the market within this decade.

A solid-state battery replaces the flammable organic liquid electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries with a nonflammable inorganic solid electrolyte. This allows the battery to operate over a much wider temperature range and dramatically reduces the risk of fires or explosions. Our team of nanoengineers is working to incorporate ease of recyclability into next-generation solid-state battery development before these batteries enter the market.

Conceptually, recycling-friendly batteries must be safe to handle and transport, simple to dismantle, cost-effective to manufacture and minimally harmful to the environment. After analyzing the options, we’ve chosen a combination of specific chemistries in next-generation all-solid-state batteries that meets these requirements.

Our design strategy reduces the number of steps required to dismantle the battery, and avoids using combustion or harmful chemicals such as acids or toxic organic solvents. Instead, it employs only safe, low-cost materials such as alcohol and water-based recycling techniques. This approach is scalable and environmentally friendly. It dramatically simplifies conventional battery recycling processes and makes it safe to disassemble and handle the materials.

Diagram showing steps to recycle an all-solid-state battery.
A proposed procedure for recycling solid-state battery packs directly and harvesting their materials for reuse.
Tan et al., 2020, CC BY

Compared to recycling lithium-ion batteries, recycling solid-state batteries is intrinsically safer since they’re made entirely of nonflammable components. Moreover, in our proposed design the entire battery can be recycled directly without separating it into individual components. This feature dramatically reduces the complexity and cost of recycling them.

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Our design is a proof-of-concept technology developed at the laboratory scale. It is ultimately up to private companies and public institutions, such as national laboratories or state-run waste facilities, to apply these recycling principles on an industrial scale.

Rules for battery recycling

Developing an easy-to-recycle battery is just one step. Many challenges associated with battery recycling stem from the complex logistics of handling them. Creating facilities, regulations and practices for collecting batteries is just as important as developing better recycling technologies. China, South Korea and the European Union are already developing battery recycling systems and mandates.

One useful step would be for governments to require that batteries carry universal tags, similar to the internationally recognized standard labels used for plastics and metals recycling. These could help to educate consumers and waste collectors about how to handle different types of used batteries.

Markings could take the form of an electronic tag printed on battery labels with embedded information, such as chemistry type, age and manufacturer. Making this data readily available would facilitate automated sorting of large volumes of batteries at waste facilities.

It is also vital to improve international enforcement of recycling policies. Most battery waste is not generated where the batteries were originally produced, which makes it hard to hold manufacturers responsible for handling it.

Such an undertaking would require manufacturers and regulatory agencies to work together on newer recycling-friendly designs and better collection infrastructure. By confronting these challenges now, we believe it is possible to avoid or reduce the harmful effects of battery waste in the future.The Conversation

Zheng Chen, Assistant Professor of Engineering, University of California San Diego and Darren H. S. Tan, PhD Candidate in Chemical Engineering, University of California San Diego

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

#Colorado City may raise rates to patch up leaky system

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From KOAA.com (Spencer Humphrey):

… the Pueblo County town of Colorado City is at risk of having its water supply go dry within months…

[James Eccher] does have plans to help the issue long-term, which includes adding more wells to fill the lake since the city holds all of its groundwater rights.

“We’re looking at building a second dam,” Eccher said. “Which is gonna be another chunk of money.”

But none of that can’t happen right away.

“There’s a lot of forces out there and we’re not the only small town looking for money,” he said.

Eccher said he has reached out to several government agencies, including the Department of Local Affairs, to talk about funding, but hasn’t heard back.

In the meantime, he said in order to fix up the area’s aging, leaky infrastructure, they’re considering raising tap fees for water and sewer use.

@InsideClimate News: In Final Debate, [the President] and @JoeBiden Display Vastly Divergent Views—and Levels of Knowledge—On #Climate #ClimateChange #ActOnClimate

Boulder County Solar Contractor Residential Commerical. Photo credit: Flatiron Solar

From Inside Climate News (Georgina Gustin):

The candidates’ discussion on climate change Thursday revealed, again, the significant gulf between a president who has spent the last four years rolling back climate regulations, placating the fossil fuel industry and mocking the climate threat, and a candidate who has called climate change “an existential crisis” and developed a plan to tackle the problem—though one that climate progressives say still falls short.

“This debate was historic: the first-ever general election Presidential debate with climate change as a pre-defined topic and the first debate where climate change was framed out of the gate by the moderator in terms of jobs, the economy, and what the candidates’ plans were—not if the existential crisis even exists,” said Evan Weber, political director of the Sunrise Movement, in a statement.

In the debate, the last before Election Day, Trump and Biden fielded questions about a range of topics, most prominently the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, though the biggest question lingering in viewers’ minds may have been whether Trump would adhere to the debate rules and focus on issues and policy.

Late into the hour-and-a-half debate, Welker asked the candidates how they would tackle climate change, while also supporting job growth.

Trump began by reprising what has been his stock response to questions about climate change, citing the “Trillion Trees Program”—in the previous debate he erroneously referred to the program as a plan to plant a “billion” trees—and adding, “I do love the environment.”

He went on to say,”We have the lowest number in carbon emissions,” an apparent reference to emissions falling during the Covid-19 pandemic, and seemed pleased with his mastery of the term, taunting Biden about whether he was familiar with the concept.

“I’m not sure he knows what it means,” Trump said.

The Trillion Trees Program has been broadly embraced by Republicans and some Democrats, but scientists have said the plan is inadequate for addressing climate change, that it will only put a tiny dent in emissions and is a distraction from a necessary shift away from fossil fuels.

Emissions dropped during the pandemic, but are now on the rise again, continuing an upward trend that has continued since the beginning of the Trump presidency. The most recent full-year figures from the Environmental Protection Agency, for 2018, show that fossil fuel emissions drove a 3 percent rise in overall greenhouse gas emissions in that time period.

As he has throughout his bid for the presidency, Biden emphasized a shift to renewable energy, saying his $2 trillion clean economy jobs program would create more than 18 million jobs.

“The oil industry pollutes,” Biden said. “It has to be replaced by renewable energy over time…. I’d stop giving federal subsidies to the oil and gas industry.”

Trump, sensing an opportunity to appeal to voters in battleground states with strong fossil fuels ties, pounced on the comment.

“That’s the biggest statement,” Trump said, turning to look directly into the camera. “Will you remember that Texas? Will you remember that Pennsylvania? Oklahoma? Ohio?”

Trump also reiterated a trope of the fossil fuel industry, calling a shift to renewables a “pipe dream” and saying that wind turbines kill “all the birds.” In a muddled response, he misleadingly suggested that the construction of wind turbines “is more than anything that we are talking about with natural gas.”

Biden responded, “Find me a scientist who says that.”

Trump also attacked Biden’s climate plan, falsely saying it would cost $100 trillion.

“They want to take buildings down because they want to take bigger windows and make them smaller windows,” Trump said, referring to the proposal. “Little tiny windows and many other things.”

The proposal says nothing about shrinking windows.

Trump also attacked Biden on his statements on fracking and natural gas, falsely accusing the Democratic candidate of supporting a ban on fracking and changing his position to court voters in Pennsylvania, a natural gas-intensive and critical swing state, won narrowly by Trump in 2016.

Biden corrected Trump, saying he would only ban new oil and gas permitting on public lands, but supports fracking elsewhere as necessary while the country transitions to a clean energy economy—a position that has been criticized by some climate advocates in the progressive wing of the party.

Biden framed addressing climate change as an ethical matter and part of a broader shift to rejoining global peers

“We have a moral obligation to deal with it,” he said. “We don’t have much time.”

“We’re going to choose science over fiction. We’re going to choose hope over fear,” Biden said, saying that he’d advance an economy “motivated” by clean energy. “We can grow this economy,” Biden said. “What’s on the ballot here is the character of our country.”

Environmental activists largely applauded Biden’s performance, even as many vowed to push him to take bolder steps.

“We are committed to holding a Biden administration accountable to stop fracking and protect our communities,” said 350 Action North America Director Tamara Toles O’Laughlin Black. “Indigenous, and communities of color continue to bear the brunt of Donald Trump and his fossil fuel lies. It’s time for a just transition for workers across the industry. The planet can’t take four more years of Trump’s deadly mismanagement and plain incompetence.”

Weak 2020 water year comes to a close — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The Crystal River at the fish hatchery just south of Carbondale was running at about 10 cubic feet per second on Oct. 13, much lower than the state’s instream flow standard of 60 cfs. Rivers in the Roaring Fork watershed have seen below-average streamflows in water year 2020, which ended Oct. 1, despite a slightly above-average snowpack. Dry soil conditions threaten to bring a similar scenario in water year 2021. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Lindsay Fendt):

The blizzards of January and February seem like distant dreams to Colorado water managers. What started as a promising year for water supply — with above-average snowpack as of April 1 — ended Sept. 30 with the entire state in some level of drought.

The water-year calendar, which runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, is designed to account for the importance of snowpack in water supplies in the West. Every winter, precipitation builds in the mountains. Come spring, the snowmelt is stored for use throughout the summer.

Although snowpack levels have always been a critical indicator of the year’s water supply, other factors had a bigger role during water year 2020. Colorado had above-average levels of snowpack going into April, but below-average precipitation and high temperatures in spring quickly veered the state in the opposite direction. This year saw one of the driest April-May periods on record in Colorado, below the 10th percentile.

“When you get those hotter temperatures, it means the atmosphere wants to take more moisture out of the ground,” said assistant state climatologist Becky Bolinger. “So the soils are drier and the stream flows got a bit lower. Then the vegetation was also a bit dryer and not able to keep the moisture that it did have.”

The dry, hot spring gave way to a dry, hot summer — and the results were striking. The water year ended with almost every part of the state in a precipitation deficit. The southwest corner of the state was hit the hardest, with precipitation levels below 30% of normal in April, May, August and September. Several sites in southwest Colorado — specifically, the Gunnison, Dolores and San Juan river basins — registered their driest Aprils on record. Statewide, reservoir levels were at 49% of capacity, which is 84% of the average for Oct. 1.

According to preliminary data from the Bureau of Reclamation, the total inflow into Lake Powell for the 2020 water year was about 6 million acre-feet, just 55% of average. This is the 10th-lowest recorded inflow into Lake Powell. Lake Powell finished the water year at 47% of capacity.

The low inflow to Lake Powell puts Colorado and the three other states in the upper basin of the Colorado River at risk in the future. Under the 100-year-old Colorado River Compact, the upper-basin states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) must be able to release 7.5 million acre-feet of water from Lake Powell to the lower-basin states (Arizona, California and Nevada) every year. Failing to meet this obligation would trigger mandatory water cuts in the upper basin.

Every year that flows are low into Lake Powell, the upper basin relies on storage in Lake Powell to meet its flow obligations. So far, there has never been a compact call, even in drought.

“We’re 20 years into the worst drought in recorded history. Yet, in every year of the drought, the upper basin has met its river-flow obligation to the lower basin,” said Bureau of Reclamation spokesperson Marlon Duke. “In fact, across all 20 years of the current drought, we’ve released an average of 8.73 million acre-feet from Lake Powell, even in the driest years when less than 5 million acre-feet flowed into the reservoir.”

The Roaring Fork Valley reported average snowpack levels this year but saw below-average streamflow in every month except May in data available through July. The river is currently about 27% below its seasonal average. Reservoirs in the upper Colorado River basin are 82% full as of Oct. 1, which is 101% of average for the date.

The “bathtub ring” at Lake Powell evidences lower flows coming into the reservoir. According to preliminary data from the Bureau of Reclamation, the total inflow into Lake Powell for the 2020 water year was about 6 million acre-feet, just 55% of average. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

High-temperature, low-soil-moisture trend

Climatologists warn that the trend seen throughout the basin where high temperatures and low soil moisture wiped out healthy snowpack levels is likely to become more normal in the future. According to Bolinger, if high fall or spring temperatures shorten the typical snow season by even a short time, it can drastically alter the time frame for the melt season.

“Precipitation is pretty variable around our state, so we are always going to see droughts,” she said. “We are seeing a very clear warming trend, and I think it is likely that the warmer temperatures will contribute to making those droughts more severe.”

Although climatologists and hydrologists are still unsure of exactly how every variable of climate change will affect water supply in the future, repeated dry years are already taking a toll on the state. After severe droughts in 2012 and 2018, Colorado’s water managers were hoping for a string of good water years to recover. That did not happen in 2020.

“It’s been a miserable year from a hydrology perspective,” said Colorado River Water Conservation District General Manager Andy Mueller. “I would say that I think that we, as a state and as the West Slope, we need to be coming to terms with a new reality. We are seeing what used to be an every-one-in-30-year dry year coming every year instead.”

In an effort to deal with increased pressure on rivers, as well as a declining budget, the river district placed a question on the November ballot asking voters in its 15-county jurisdiction to raise property taxes that fund the district. If passed, the measure would raise nearly $5 million, most of which the district says would go toward projects supporting productive agriculture; infrastructure; healthy rivers; watershed health and water quality; and conservation and efficiency.

A cyclist takes a break from their ride to wade in the Roaring Fork River near the Hooks Spur Bridge on Oct. 13. A U.S. Geological Survey stream gauge at this location said the river was running at about 350 cubic feet per second, lower than the median of 395 cfs for this time of year. Water year 2020, which ended Oct. 1, was a “miserable year from a hydrology perspective,” said Colorado River Water Conservation District General Manager Andy Mueller.

Starting 2021 with a deficit

While policy across Colorado is still catching up to the dry conditions today, models for the upcoming year indicate that the state may need to brace for another poor water year in 2021.

“Soil-moisture conditions entering the winter can have an impact on the amount of runoff that occurs the following spring,” said Cody Moser, a senior hydrologist with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center. “Below-average soil moisture conditions have a negative impact on water-supply volumes because soil-moisture deficits are larger, leading to less-efficient snowmelt and rainfall runoff. It’s looking highly likely that soil-moisture conditions throughout western Colorado will be below normal entering the upcoming snowpack-accumulation season.”

The state also is experiencing La Niña conditions, which results in a dry fall. La Niña conditions are expected to persist into winter, which generally delivers the state a mixed bag in terms of precipitation. In a typical La Niña year, Colorado’s northern mountains see above-average snowfall, while the state’s Eastern Plains and the San Juan mountains in the southwest see less snow than usual. This could be disastrous for the southwestern corner of the state, which has experienced more-intense drought than almost any other part of the country in recent years.

Higher-than-normal temperatures also are expected to play a role in the 2021 water year.

“The climate prediction center is calling for a good chance of above-average temperatures in October,” said Bolinger. “That makes it harder for the snowpack season to start, and when you don’t start it right away, it makes it harder. You have less time to build up to your normal peak.”

This story ran in the Oct. 15 edition of the Steamboat Pilot and Today, the Oct. 17 edition of the Summit Daily News and the Oct. 21 edition of The Aspen Times.

#Mexico reaches deal to pay #water debt to US — The North State Journal #RioGrande

From The Associated Press (Mark Stephenson) via The North State Journal:

Mexico announced Thursday it has reached a deal with the United States to pay the shortfall in its annual contribution of water from border-area rivers by giving the U.S. Mexico’s rights to water held in border dams that normally supply cities and towns downstream.

The agreement announced Thursday allows Mexico to meet the Oct. 24 deadline which, if missed, could have endangered a cross-border water sharing treaty that greatly benefits Mexico. Mexican officials has also worried the water debt could have become an issue in the upcoming U.S. elections.

The deal transfers Mexico’s share of water held in the Amistad and Falcon dams to U.S. ownership. The amount of water transferred is enormous: [105,000 acre-feet].

Mexico said it still had enough water in other dams near the border to satisfy drinking water requirements for 13 border cities including Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros. The United States also agreed to help Mexico if it faces a municipal water shortage.

Mexico says the agreement will leave it with some water in the border dams it can draw on — about a three-month supply — and more water in near-border dams to supply cities and towns, mainly in the state of Tamaulipas.

Under the 1944 treaty, the quantity of water Mexico ships north from the central section of the border is only a fourth of what it receives from the U.S. along the Colorado River to the west, and it has been worried about the possibility of losing that.

Mexico was embarrassed when, over the summer, angry farmers in the border state of Chihuahua has seized a key dam there and refused to allow any more water transfers to the United States, claiming they needed the water for their own crops…

The agreement “also establishes work groups to analyze and develop water management tools to provide for increased reliability and predictability in Rio Grande water deliveries to users in the United States and Mexico,” according to the International Boundary and Water Commission, which oversees the implementation of the treaty.

The problem arose in part because of a lack of rainfall, but also because Mexico has long pursued a strategy of falling behind in water payments, hoping for a last-minute storm or hurricane that would fill border dams and streams and allow it to recoup shortfalls.

Rio Grande and Pecos River basins. Map credit: By Kmusser – Own work, Elevation data from SRTM, drainage basin from GTOPO [1], U.S. stream from the National Atlas [2], all other features from Vector Map., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11218868

2020 Annual Meeting of the #ArkansasRiver Compact Administration (ARCA) will be held on Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

From email from the Arkansas River Compact Administration (Kevin Salter):

This is the preliminary notice for the upcoming Arkansas River Compact Administration Annual and Committee Meetings. The meeting specifics and draft agendas will be provided at a later date.

Please note that the meeting dates were changed at the ARCA Annual Meeting held in December 2019. And the location was changed at the ARCA Special Meeting held earlier this month (October 2020) to allow for virtual meetings.

The 2020 Annual Meeting of the Arkansas River Compact Administration (ARCA) will be held on Wednesday, December 9, 2020. The Engineering, Operations, and Administrative/Legal Committees of ARCA will meet on Tuesday, December 8, 2020. Consideration is being given to having the committee meetings start on the morning of December 8th. All meetings will be held on a virtual meeting platform. At this time, which virtual platform to be used has not been determined. Specific information on accessing the meetings will be provided along with the draft agendas later.

Meetings of ARCA are operated in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. If you need a special accommodation as a result of a disability please contact Stephanie Gonzales at (719) 688-0799 at least three days before the meeting.

As information becomes available, it will be updated on ARCA’s website:
https://www.co-ks-arkansasrivercompactadmin.org/

Water symposium brings big speakers, national context — @ColoradoStateU

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Tiana Nelson):

In its third year as an offering of the future Denver-based CSU Spur campus, opening in 2022, the Water in the West Symposium on Nov. 18-19 will bring together diverse experts to discuss water issues in the West and beyond — a topic of increasing importance as fires and droughts top headlines.

The Symposium has always highlighted water solutions and collaboration; yet, the 2020 Symposium will take that a step further and focus on igniting action.

“To fashion the creative solutions needed to assure the future water demands in Colorado and the West, a powerful story needs to be told that motivates us all to action,” said Tom Vilsack, advisor on the CSU Spur project and former U.S. secretary of agriculture.

“The Water in the West Symposium this year focuses on how to weave that powerful story that reaches hearts and minds,” Sec. Vilsack continued. “Learning from both messaging successes and failures during this year’s Symposium will better equip all those who attend to create a powerful and persuasive story about why now is the time for action on water in the West.”

The keynote address from Gary Knell, chairman of National Geographic Partners — who previously led National Public Radio and Sesame Workshop — will focus on the power of storytelling. How messages are shared will continue with a panel titled “Moving Minds: How Social Movements, Campaigns, and Storytelling Shape Public Sentiment,” featuring speakers from TIME, Stonyfield Organic, and Stanford University. A full list of speakers is available at csuspur.org/witw.

The event typically sells out, but the Symposium’s virtual format this year provides an opportunity for a greater number of attendees and for all geographically dispersed audiences to attend.

The Symposium will eventually be held at the CSU Spur campus’s Hydro building, which breaks ground Oct. 27 and will be complete in 2022. Hydro will be open to the public with educational exhibits, have a backyard space with access to a restored South Platte River, and also will be home to research labs and Denver Water’s water quality lab. Hydro is a building meant to create understanding of and connection to water, and the Symposium is meant to be a distinct convening of that conversation — neither focus is new to CSU.

“CSU has been a global leader in water issues and education for more than a century, and our Water in the West Symposium leverages that expertise to get us talking about the most pressing water challenges facing Colorado and the planet,” CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank said.

“The beauty of Water in the West is that it brings together policymakers, practitioners, nonprofit and government leaders, academics, scientists, and students to really engage in depth around issues that are core to our way of life. It’s part of our CSU System commitment to convene conversations around important global issues — and inspire the next generation to get involved and take action.”

The 2020 Symposium is sponsored by Colorado Dairy Farmers, CoBank, Leprino Foods, Swire Coca-Cola, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Mighty Arrow Family Foundation, Denver Water, and High Line Canal Conservancy. Learn more about this year’s sponsors at http://csuspur.org/witw.

@USBR seeks ideas to make canals safer to reduce drownings and accidents

Water from the Colorado River flows through the Grand Valley Irrigation Company’s canal near Palisade, shown in a file photo. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation is launching a new prize competition to improve public safety around canals throughout the United States. Reclamation maintains approximately 8,000 miles of canals in the Western United States and more than 1,000 of those miles are in urban areas. These canals in urban areas have higher risk of drownings.

“Canals look like an inviting place to cool off on warm sunny days, but they pose dangers that we may not be able to see,” said Chief Engineer David Raff. “We are seeking innovative ideas that improve public safety.”

This competition seeks new concepts, methods and technologies to reduce public safety accidents and drownings in canals. Solutions involving ladders, ropes, signage and educational outreach have been used regarding canal safety. Additional innovative concepts beyond these strategies may further reduce the public risk around Reclamation-owned canals. Proposals that describe the sole use of fencing, ladders, buoys and signage as a solution are not eligible.

Reclamation is partnering with the Denver Water, Klamath Irrigation District, Pacific Gas & Electric, NASA Tournament Lab and Common Pool. To learn more about this prize competition, please visit https://www.usbr.gov/research/challenges/canalsafety.html.

Big remodeling job at Gross Reservoir – News on TAP

Aging outlet works at base of Denver Water dam call for major upgrade to valves, pipes.

Source: Big remodeling job at Gross Reservoir – News on TAP

#Drought news: Widespread expansion of extreme and exceptional drought occurred in #Utah, #Arizona, #Colorado, and #NewMexico

Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

This Week’s Drought Summary

Over the past week, beneficial precipitation fell over the higher elevations of Washington and Oregon, in much of Montana (particularly the mountainous western half), in the Lower Missouri River and Ohio River valleys, and in New England, leading to improving conditions in parts of these regions. Meanwhile, the southeast United States (with the exception of the Florida Peninsula) was mostly dry. Dry weather also continued across much of the central and southern Great Plains this week, as well as most of the southwestern United States. With background dry conditions in many areas that did not receive rain, combined with high evaporative demand over much of the High Plains and western United States, widespread worsening of drought conditions occurred from the Great Plains to the Southwest…

High Plains

Weather in the High Plains region was generally cooler than normal this week. Temperature anomalies ranged from normal to 6 degrees below normal in Kansas to 6 to 15 degrees cooler than normal in North Dakota. Areas of light to moderate precipitation were scattered about Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and northeast Wyoming, though amounts exceeding an inch were uncommon outside of the Black Hills. Degradation of drought conditions in the region was widespread this week south of Interstate 80, where dry weather combined with recent warm, dry, and windy conditions, leading to continued loss of near surface moisture…

West

In the West this week, widespread precipitation fell in some of the mountainous areas of western Washington and Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. In some locations in western Washington, western Oregon, and northwest Montana, the recent precipitation was enough to improve drought conditions, due to lessened precipitation deficits. To the south, however, widespread expansion of extreme and exceptional drought occurred in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. To the west of the Rocky Mountains, temperatures were warmer than normal this week; readings of 9 degrees or more above normal were found in parts of California and Arizona. Meanwhile, central and eastern Montana were much colder than normal, as much of the eastern part of the state experienced temperatures 9 degrees (or more) colder than normal. Similar to much of the Great Plains, very high evaporative demand has gripped these states over the last several months and combined with the short- and long-term precipitation deficits to continue to worsen conditions. The wildfire danger has also continued across parts of the region as a result of these conditions, and portions of Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests in Colorado have been closed in response…

South

Except for northwest Tennessee and adjacent northeast Arkansas, dry weather occurred in the South this week. Near-normal temperatures occurred in most of Oklahoma, northern Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee, while temperatures ranging from 3 to 9 degrees warmer than normal took place in southern Texas. Drought conditions generally worsened in the region, in particular in northwest Arkansas, Oklahoma, and central and western Texas. In the southern high plains, the lack of precipitation this week occurred in a region that has had very high evaporative demand over the last few months, leading to further loss of soil moisture in areas where winter wheat is planted…

Looking Ahead

A series of storm systems and cold fronts is forecast to affect the western two-thirds of the continental United States through Monday, October 26, bringing chances of welcome mountain snow to Colorado, precipitation locally exceeding a half inch to the northern tier of the continental United States, and heavier precipitation from central Oklahoma to the Great Lakes. By early next week, colder than normal temperatures are forecast to be entrenched across the western two-thirds of the continental United States, while above-normal temperatures occur in the east. From Tuesday, October 27 through the end of the month, colder than normal weather is favored from west of the Appalachian Mountains through most of the West, while warmer than normal weather is favored in the Southeast. The forecast also favors above-normal precipitation from southwest Colorado to the Great Lakes and East Coast, while below-normal precipitation is favored in the northern Great Plains, California, and the Pacific Northwest.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending October 20, 2020.

#Denver’s unique sales tax to fight #ClimateChange could be a blueprint for future action nationwide — The #Colorado Sun

Denver’s Brown Cloud via the Denver Regional Council of Governments.

From The Colorado Sun (Evan Oschner):

Denver voters this year could give the city a unique tool for fighting climate change that is unlike strategies pursued by other U.S. cities. Across the nation, local authorities are taking on responsibility for fighting the warming planet amid gridlock at the federal level.

Denver’s idea is different because ballot measure 2A would use the proceeds from a dedicated sales tax increase to raise roughly $40 million a year to invest in renewable energy, clean transportation, energy efficiency and more.

If voters approve the tax on the Nov. 3 ballot, it could serve as a model for policy options in other cities. “We truly are pioneering this,” said Councilman Jolon Clark, who sponsored the measure to get the issue on the ballot. Clark said two other municipalities have reached out to Denver to talk about implementing a similar proposal themselves.

As fires torch the West and hurricanes slam the East, the threat of a changing climate has become more pressing, and cities are more urgently taking action. The situation is so dire that local governments are more likely to try to tackle this intractable problem, said Cooper Martin, an expert in sustainability policy at the National League of Cities…

Denver’s idea is inspired by action in some other cities, Clark said, pointing to Boulder. And action by cities, regardless of the strategy, is generally driven by the lack of federal action to address the climate crisis. President Barack Obama joined the Paris climate accords and put in place emissions cutting measures through executive action, but President Donald Trump has waged a yearslong campaign to repeal many of his predecessor’s environmental policies.

The inaction at one level has led to action at another. “Local effort is really what we’ve had for the last 10 years, and I think that it’s been valuable,” said Mark Smith, an economics professor who studies environmental policy at Colorado College.

For Denver, that means raising the sales tax to 8.56% from 8.31% to support green projects in the city. If approved, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2021. The money raised would be divided among six categories covering a range of environmental issues.

The categories prioritize environmental justice and include training programs to empower people to work in clean energy as well as investment in renewable energy.

Other funds will be dedicated to making the city’s infrastructure cleaner by reducing reliance on cars and improving mass transit. According to the city, transportation is responsible for 30% of the city’s emissions. Another 50% of the city’s emissions are attributed to new and existing buildings, and the tax funds would be used to upgrade the energy efficiency of office and residential spaces.

Proponents say many of the elements of the bill are intended to offset a reality of the proposal: It is fundamentally a regressive tax. That’s because sales taxes are regressive, meaning they require lower income individuals to pay a higher proportion of taxes.

The bill that put the measure on the ballot says city officials must try to invest half of the funds it raises directly into the community and prioritize efforts to steer funds toward under-resourced communities.

Clark says these stipulations are designed to ensure lower income and marginalized communities receive more benefits from the tax than they pay into it.

Study: Water Use Dropping In Western Cities Even While Population Grows — KNAU

From KNAU (Melissa Sevigny):

Many western cities have been able to shrink their total water use in recent decades, even as their populations grew. That’s the finding of a new study published in the journal Water last week. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with lead author Brian Richter about how simple water conservation measures could be a cost-effective way to combat shortages in the Colorado River Basin.

How is this possible? How can water use drop while the population grows?

The explanation of that is that they have found ways to encourage people, to incentivize people, to use less water per person on average. What we found across the board in the western Cities that we surveyed—we looked at 20 different cities—we found their average rate of growth from 2000 to 2015 was about 21 percent, yet their average rate of reduction in their water use was 19 percent…

So how are they pulling this off, what’s happening that makes their water use per individual go down?

There were two things that really jumped out for us…. One, outdoor landscaping. It’s not uncommon for western cities to use half or more of their water outdoors, irrigating lawns, big commercial landscape areas and that sort of thing. That was the place the cities saw some of the biggest declines in use, because a lot of them had been financially incentivizing homeowners and businesses to reduce their outdoor irrigation…. The other big part of the story was indoors, on toilets… Back in 1992, we passed the Federal Energy Act—Energy Act, not Water Act. What was interesting about that was the framers, the architects of that energy act recognized that the movement of water, the cleaning of water to get it ready and make it potable for our use, was a very large portion of U.S. energy use. They said, if we can reduce water use, then we’re also going to reduce energy use…. What the Energy Act said was any new toilets sold in the United States from that day forward were going to have to be high efficiency ones. Overnight, the new toilets being sold were using half of the water that they did previously.

Historical traces of available water and actual use shown here refer to the natural supply of surface water from the Colorado River and the consumptive use of that water over time.

New research shows U.S. solar installations increased 3,000% in one decade — #Solar Power World

From Solar Power World (Kelly Pickerel):

In 2019, the United States produced 30-times more solar power and more than triple the amount of wind energy than it did in 2010, according to a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center. The project, “Renewables on the Rise 2020,” documents the growth of five key clean energy technologies during the past decade: solar power, wind power, battery storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicles.

In addition to the growth in renewable energy, utility-scale battery storage increased 20-fold since 2010, energy consumption per person declined thanks to improvements in energy efficiency, and more than one million electric vehicles were sold in the United States.

“People have always reaped the benefits of sun and wind, first to grow food, then to move ships… and now, to power the 21st century,” said Susan Rakov, chair of Environment America Research and Policy Center’s Clean Energy program. “Today nearly 50 million American homes rely on clean, renewable energy from the sun and wind. These technologies have risen to the occasion. They are transforming our energy landscape, and our future.”

Along with a national overview, the report highlights states that have made the most progress in adopting solar and wind energy, increasing battery storage capacity, improving energy efficiency, and transitioning to electric vehicles.

“America’s growth in clean energy is primarily the result of states taking action,” said Emma Searson, 100% Renewable Campaign director with Environment America Research & Policy Center. “Forward looking policies designed to tap into each state’s vast renewable resources are creating a virtuous cycle of technological advancements, falling costs and greater deployment.”

California, North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada and Texas added the most solar energy between 2010 and 2019, while the Mid- and Southwest states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois saw the most wind energy growth. In Kansas and Oklahoma, wind generation grew almost seven-fold during that time.

The New England states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts led the pack on efficiency improvements. In addition to taking first place for solar energy growth by a wide margin, California also ranked No. 1 for electric vehicle charging stations and sales (followed by New York, Washington, Florida and Texas). The Golden State was also top for growth in battery storage (followed by Illinois, Texas, Hawaii and West Virginia), thanks in part to strong policy leadership in the state.

The Complexity of Color in the Environmental Movement — Writers on the Range

Ernie Atencio

From Writers on the Range (Ernie Atencio):

This summer was a time of reckoning about race in every sector of American life, and many of us are scrambling to respond in appropriate ways — including the environmental movement I’m a part of.

We would like to forget, but the environmental movement has racist roots. One of the founders of the National Park Service was Madison Grant, whose eugenicist views inspired Hitler, and the conservation heroes, John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt, both routinely disparaged Native Americans.

Trying to heal that legacy, environmental organizations for decades have talked about how to build diverse staffs, promote parks and public lands for everyone, and seriously address environmental issues in poor neighborhoods or communities of color.

Thirty years ago, the Albuquerque-based Southwest Organizing Project wrote a letter to the “Big 10” national environmental groups outlining all the ways the movement was failing communities of color and calling for change. It was an alert that some groups took seriously. Others issued a bland statement about diversity and inclusion on their websites. Since then, change has been slight and slow.

I share this observation after working in the environmental world for over 25 years, and before that as a park ranger and outdoor instructor. But as a Chicano from northern New Mexico, who grew up in a rough inner-city neighborhood in Denver, I am an anomaly.

I got into this work because I care about wild places, not as a diversity campaigner. But it’s hard to ignore. When I returned to New Mexico in the mid-‘90s to take a job with a river group in Taos, I may have been the only Chicano in the entire state working as a full-time environmental advocate. Some called me the “Chicano poster child.”

As an executive director or on staff with other organizations, I was similarly the “only” or the “first.” The same was true during my years rangering and teaching. I stick with it because I care, and I continue working for change from inside the mainstream. I relish the privilege of access to the public commons of national parks and wilderness areas and outdoor recreation, even as I recognize that many Americans of color do not have that access.

Trust me; it’s harder than it looks being the only brown face in the room or even on a trail. Being the first to break this or that barrier, and always having to explain to someone what it’s like can get tiring.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve been asked to represent Chicano perspectives, or even all people of color, in a meeting. But it often ends up feeling like a half-hearted PC gesture for appearance sake or to satisfy a funder. Attitudes are fixed and systems in place, and once I walk out of the room I think my words are usually forgotten and it’s back to business as usual.

Despite years of experience and knowledge, a few years ago I was fired from a job with one of those big national organizations because I was “not a good fit.” For whatever best intentions this group may have had, I believe they wanted the credibility of a local ethnic face, but in the end the person behind it who did not think or act like them was a threat to the order.

It’s been a life of straddling worlds, hiding part of who I really am to try to fit in and often feeling like an outsider – and I’m not the only one.

At the same time, I sometimes feel a nagging sense of survivor’s guilt because I escaped a rough life on the streets, and am not out there in solidarity, protesting for change and getting tear-gassed and arrested. I was roughed-up by cops enough in my youth that I don’t need any more, but that does not assuage this internal conflict.

But whether you are black, brown or white, the exceptional privilege of being part of a big green group and having access to the sanity of outdoor spaces carries a responsibility to help change the status quo, to speak up for those who are not part of the mainstream dialog, to advocate for equitable access to the outdoors, and yes, to rattle a few cages.

Even though the evolution has been agonizingly slow, it seems that finally, some mainstream organizations are willing to listen and learn. This seems to be a moment of change — may the momentum last.

Paper: Tillage and residue management effects on irrigated maize performance and water cycling in a semiarid cropping system of Eastern #Colorado

Click here to access the paper (Joel Schneekloth, Francisco Calderón, David Nielsen & Steven J. Fonte). Here’s the abstract:

Residue removal from maize (Zea mays) fields offers an opportunity to increase farmer profits, but potential tradeoffs for water dynamics and crop performance merit further evaluation. This study, established in 2014, compared the effects of two tillage practices (no-till and conventional) and two residue management practices (harvested vs. kept in place) on maize grain yields, water infiltration, evapotranspiration, and soil physical attributes. On average, maize grain yields under limited irrigation increased with residue retention by 1.1 Mg ha year between 2016 and 2018, but tillage had no significant effect. Total infiltration (over 30 min) was higher with residue retention. Neither tillage nor residue management had a significant impact on evapotranspiration during the vegetative growth stage. However, there was a significant residue by tillage interaction where vegetative evapotranspiration was reduced by no-till and residue retention. Conversely, penetrometer resistance was significantly reduced by both tillage and residue retention. Volumetric water content in the soil profile at planting was higher with residue retention. These results suggest that plots with residue removal would on average require 60 mm year−1 of additional irrigation to attain the same yields as fields with residue retention. In summary, our findings suggest that high rates of crop residue removal under limited irrigation in a semiarid environment can negatively affect water conservation and yields, and that tradeoffs surrounding residue export need to be fully considered in land management and policy decisions.

Crop residue. Photo credit: Joel Schneekloth

WEBINAR: Municipal Water Infrastructure for Tomorrow October 22, 2020 — @WaterEdCO

Click here to register.

NASA Researchers Help Analyze a Historically Powerful, Costly Storm

A team of NASA researchers used this satellite and radar imagery to help officials in Iowa better understand the effects of a derecho that ripped through the state in August.
Credits: NASA, University of Oklahoma, the NOAA Storm Prediction Center, National Weather Service, and the Iowa Environmental Mesonet

From NASA (Joe Atkinson):

The powerful, fast-moving, line of thunderstorms known as a derecho, blasted across Iowa Aug. 10 with extreme winds. The derecho did catastrophic damage to corn and soybean crops, caused widespread utility and property damage, and resulted in fatalities. NOAA estimates damage totals to be $7.5 billion, making it one of the most costly severe thunderstorm events in U.S. history.

To help officials in Iowa better understand the scale and scope of the disaster, a team of NASA researchers, led by Kris Bedka, a severe storm expert at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and colleagues at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and the University of Oklahoma, analyzed the storm using data and imagery from multiple Earth-observing satellites and weather radars on the ground.

“We’re trying to understand and demonstrate how state-of-the-art satellite and radar data can be used to identify the most intense areas of the storm and the damage they produced,” said Bedka.

His team’s analysis is helping to reveal a layered picture of a storm that was historically intense — even for a derecho.

“There’s evidence based on damage patterns in pockets throughout the state of Iowa that they saw winds exceeding 140 mph, which is extremely uncommon in these derecho systems,” said Bedka. “I mean, 100 mph is usually kind of your upper end. When you get to 140, that’s just a whole new level.”

These winds weren’t sustained like they’d be in a hurricane, but even just a minutes-long burst of 140 mph wind is enough to do significant and lasting damage to vegetation and structures.

The imagery Bedka and his colleagues analyzed — visible in the compiled image series above, with the swath of the state that took the most damage outlined in white — showed remarkable agreement between what was happening in the clouds and the damage patterns the ground.

The first two images in the series are color composite synthetic aperture radar visualizations of ground vegetation taken by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite — the first before the storm, the second after. In the second image, the lighter green and some brown areas show large areas damaged by wind and, in some cases, hail, which can strip vegetation of its leaves.

The third image in the series superimposes ground wind reports, radar-detected swaths of possible hail and National Weather Service (NWS) wind estimates with the damage patterns visualized in the second image.

In the fourth image, which comes from several NWS NEXRAD Doppler weather radars, the maroon and pink represent areas of high reflectivity, a telltale signature of hail. Also, the pattern of the radar echoes changed as the derecho moved across Iowa, becoming more arc-shaped. The arc, often referred to by meteorologists as a “bow echo,” indicates where the strongest winds were occurring, which is aligned well with NWS estimates and damage evident in the Sentinel-1 data.

“Because of how the instrument aboard Sentinel-1 collects data, we were able to compare data acquired both pre- and post-derecho to understand how the structure of vegetation, especially mature agricultural crops, were impacted and changed,” said Jordan Bell, research scientist in the Earth Science Branch at Marshall. “Synthetic aperture radar is being used for more and more applications, so it was exciting to provide impactful analysis for this event.”

The cool blues in the next-to-last image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite East-16 (GOES-16) represent areas where tall, cold clouds that penetrated deep into the stratosphere were likely driving powerful wind downbursts. These are also areas where updrafts suspend water droplets long enough to form hail.

The warm yellows and reds in the final image, also from GOES-16, are areas of high lightning flash density, another indicator of storm intensity.

This layered analysis has been a valuable resource to Justin Glisan, state climatologist in the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, as he continues to unravel what happened.

“The remote sensing products produced by the NASA team have given us a tremendous set of tools to study the agricultural damage produced by the Aug. 10 derecho event that impacted 57 of Iowa’s 99 counties, one of the most significant weather events Iowa agriculture has experienced,” said Glisan. “As state climatologist of Iowa, having these additional and remarkable products in the toolbox will provide excellent guidance as we continue analyzing this catastrophic event.”

The analysis has even been useful to officials in neighboring Illinois, which also experienced severe weather from the derecho as it plowed east into the northern part of the state.

“In the several days after the event I was reaching out to folks around northern Illinois to try to determine the extent and severity of damage. Unfortunately, that kind of search usually turns up photos and reports of the most severe damage, but no context as to the extent of that damage,” said Trent Ford, climatologist with the Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois. “The satellite data and analysis shared with me by Kris and his team were very valuable to both better understand the extent of derecho damage and confirm reports of severe damage in both northwest and northeast Illinois.”

This project was funded by NASA’s Earth Science Disasters Program.

Demolition of Molson Coors Coming Soon in #Colorado — ConstructionEquipmentGuide.com

From The Associated Press via ConstructionEquipmentGuide.com:

As part of its corporate farewell to Denver, Molson Coors Beverage Co. vowed last fall to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the company’s brewing plant in Golden, Colo., the second-largest beer-making facility in the world. Now the scope of that work is coming into focus, and heavy machinery is on the horizon in Jefferson County…

G150, scheduled to stretch into 2024, will completely overhaul the infrastructure between the company’s Golden brewhouse and the packaging facility at the massive plant. New, more-efficient fermenting, aging and filtration facilities will be built. The so-called “government cellars” where beer is stored prior to packaging will also be replaced with a state-of-the-art upgrade, Coors said. That building dates back to the 1950s…

The existing fermenting, filtering and storage facilities aren’t being removed as part of the work, Coors said. Instead, they will be abandoned in place. The new tank farms coming as part of the project will be replacing surface parking lots and ponds on the property…

New facilities will mean much greater efficiency, Peter J. Coors said, something he expects to benefit the business and the environment. When it’s all said and done, G150 should mean 25 percent less beer waste and 15 percent less energy usage on an annual basis. Water usage at the plant should decrease by 100 million gallons per year…

Golden Mayor Laura Weinberg lauded the focus on reducing energy and water usage at the plant through the project.

“The city of Golden is committed to a sustainable future and its wonderful to know that Molson Coors has that same commitment as well,” she said at the groundbreaking.

Coors Brewery in Golden Colorado. Photo credit: Molson Coors via Westword

Colorado’s record-breaking wildfires show “climate change is here and now” — CBS News #ActOnClimate

From CBS News (Jeff Berardelli):

The Cameron Peak fire, a few miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado, has engulfed over 200,000 acres and it’s still growing. It has now become the biggest wildlife in Colorado history.

What’s more astounding is that the Cameron Peak fire is the second fire in 2020 to hold the title of largest wildfire in Colorado history. The Pine Gulch fire near Grand Junction briefly held that title, but for only 7 weeks, having burned 139,000 acres in late summer.

Looking at this in a vacuum, you might think of it as mere coincidence. But zooming out, you need only look two states away in California to find evidence of more unprecedented fires. Six of the 7 largest wildfires in California history have all burned in 2020, and the largest, the August Complex fire, became the state’s first ever gigafire — meaning it burned over 1 million acres, scorching more acreage than the state of Rhode Island.

The Cameron Peak fire soon after it started on Aug. 13, 2020. By Sept. 11, the fire had grown to more than 102,000 acres (now >200,000 acres) and was not expected to be considered out until Oct. 31. Photo credit: InciWeb via The Colorado Sun

This year Mother Nature has supplied us with smoking-gun evidence to prove what climate scientists have been warning about for decades. The scorched-earth impacts of climate change have arrived…

“Our 2020 wildfire season is showing us that climate change is here and now in Colorado. Warming is setting the stage for a lot of burning across an extended fire season,” says Dr. Jennifer Balch, professor of fire ecology and director of Earth Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder.

According to Balch, Colorado in the 2010s saw a tripling of average burned area in the month of October, compared to the prior three decades of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. “We do see fall fire events in Colorado, related to fast, downslope winds. But to see multiple events start this late, in the middle of October, is very, very rare.”

Perhaps it’s rare, but as of Monday 10 notable fires are burning across the state. The Cameron Peak fire’s eastern extent is just 5 miles from Fort Collins and Loveland.

Locations of Colorado wildfires as seen October 19, 2020. Credit: GOOGLE MAPS

Two of the most concerning new fires are burning in Boulder County and forcing evacuations. The CalWood fire — the largest fire ever in Boulder County — and the Lefthand fire have both exhibited extreme fire behavior, shocking even seasoned climate scientists.

“Even as a scientist studying extreme weather & wildfire in a warming climate, I was shocked by how fast #CalwoodFire roared down the Colorado Front Range foothills,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, wrote on Twitter, posting video of a swirling vortex of smoke.

“This year was shocking”

While you can’t completely separate short-term variability from longer-term climate trends, as they are intertwined, a region’s most recent weather conditions are a big factor in how extreme a fire season is.

According to the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University, for the first time since 2013 all of Colorado is experiencing drought. This is no run-of-the-mill dry spell — 97% of the state is in the “exceptional,” “extreme,” or “severe” drought categories. And it’s not just Colorado; much of the Southwest is bone dry.

West Drought Monitor October 13, 2020.

Brad Udall, the senior water and climate research scientist at the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, said 2020 started out promising.

“This year was shocking because we had a decent winter and on April 1 we had 100% of snowpack,” he said. But things quickly turned disappointing. “With 100% of snowpack, you’d expect a decent runoff year. Instead, we ended up with 52% of what is normal.”

[…]

Udall says much of the poor runoff is a result of increased evaporation due to a very warm and dry spring and summer. Over the past few months there have been a number of significant heat waves in the West, two of which were of historic proportions. The extra added heat energy vaporizes spring snow cover, and the lack of new moisture provides nothing to buffer the loss.

In the Southwestern states, June through August rainfall was the lowest since 1895 and temperatures were the highest since 1895, according to NOAA. In Colorado so far, this year is the eighth warmest and second driest on record. Denver has experienced more 90-degree days than any year in its history.

“We’ve had next to no moisture over the last 3 months which is highly unusual. The Arizona monsoon often carries moisture to Colorado but this year it was a complete bust,” said Udall…

Udall says that while most of the droughts of the 20th century were caused by lack of rainfall, today’s droughts are mainly caused by increased evaporation due to warmer weather. But drought is usually referred to as a short-term issue, and what’s happening in Colorado is not temporary. He prefers the term aridification, because climate change, due to the burning of fossil fuels and the buildup of a heat-trapping carbon pollution blanket overhead, is systematically drying out the landscape.

To be sure, climate is not the only factor driving the explosion in burned area. Excess fuel buildup due to increased fire suppression in recent decades as well as increasing ignitions due to more human activity in forested areas do play a role. But experts say the marked increase can not be explained without longer-term warming and drying.

Climate change and “the recipe for large forest fires”

If you look back over the past century, parts of Colorado have been warming faster than anywhere else in the nation. According to data from NOAA and an analysis by the Washington Post, western and northern Colorado are warming at twice the average rate of the globe, having warmed about 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895.

A study published in September found that the frequency of combined heat waves and droughts — which are more impactful when they occur in unison — has increased significantly, especially in the western U.S. For example, the type of hot-dry event that would have been expected once every 25 years in 1950, now occurs five to 10 times every 25 years…

Colorado’s state climatologist Russ Schumacher agrees, telling Colorado Public Radio this is pretty well in line with climate predictions, “What we’re seeing here is indicative of the fact that when the hot, dry years come around, they’re hotter. … I think the frequency of these kinds of summers where we get in these hot, dry conditions is probably going to increase.”

Udall agrees, and warns we should get used to what he calls “the new abnormal.” “The climate system has a really good memory and the cycle of heat and dryness is hard to break,” he said…

The effects on the Colorado environment are apparent. Since the 1930s the water available from Colorado snowpack has decreased by 30%. As a result streamflow in the Colorado River has decreased markedly. In a 2018 study, Udall and co-authors found that 50% of the river runoff decline was due to higher temperatures.

And this more arid climate has huge impacts, with larger wildfires and a longer fire season. In fact, wildfire season in the West is now two to three months longer than it was in the 1970s. And since 1984, human-caused climate change has led to a doubling of the area burned in the Western states, with about 50%of the increase being attributed to increases in the dryness of fuel…

The unprecedented wildfires of the past few years have certainly illuminated just how vulnerable we are to a climate which no longer plays by the rules our parents and grandparents took for granted. And considering the warming and drying projected in the coming decades, scientists say the rules will just keep on changing, making it “unlikely that the records from 2020 will stand for long.”

Hick on Western Slope water: ‘Don’t divert … unless it’s absolutely necessary’ — Real Vail #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

These wetlands in the Homestake Creek valley are near the site of the proposed Whitney Reservoir. The Forest Service is considering whether to issue a permit for drilling and a geotechnical study to test whether the site would support a dam. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

From Real Vail (David O. Williams):

RealVail.com also checked in with Hickenlooper — a Democrat who’s leading incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in most polls in the Nov. 3 election – on the topic of transmountain diversions of water from the Western Slope drainages of the dwindling Colorado River Basin to the Front Range cities where most of the state’s people live.

The former Denver mayor, brew pub owner and oil and gas geologist said that, as much as possible, Western Slope water should stay on the Western Slope.

“When we created the Colorado Water Plan, one of the real focuses there was to make sure that we don’t divert water from one basin to another unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Hickenlooper said. “One of the things we set up in the water plan is the process by which we debate that and when people get crosswise over water, you don’t just go to a fight.”

The context of the question was a proposal by Homestake Partners, comprised of the Front Range cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs, to conduct test drilling in the Homestake Creek drainage near Red Cliff to determine the best site for a new dam for the proposed Whitney Reservoir, which would provide the cities up to 20,000 acre-feet in average annual yield.

Local towns, politicians and statewide conservation groups oppose even the test drilling, which was delayed in the U.S. Forest Service permitting process by the record wildfire season…

Climate Change Amplifies Colorado’s Water Diversion Debate

Nearly 5 million people live on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, along what’s known as Colorado’s “Front Range,” where communities established on semi-arid prairie land need more water to keep expanding.

Now a water battle is brewing over whether the booming population centers of Aurora and Colorado Springs, with nearly 900,000 residents combined, can claim water from a remote valley on the other side of the Rockies, collect it in a new reservoir and pump it across the Continental Divide.

For many residents of bucolic Eagle County on the “Western Slope,” where Homestake Creek meanders through mountain meadows, lush wetlands and ancient fens on its way to the endangered Colorado River, it’s time to end transmountain diversions once and for all as the climate warms and drought intensifies.

But officials in Aurora, a Denver suburb, and Colorado Springs, argue they can collect the water in a new reservoir and make use of it without drastically disturbing the surrounding wilderness. More to the point: they’ve owned the rights to 20,000 acre-feet of average annual yield since 1952 and say it’s time to start exploring if they can use it—for drinking water and on suburban lawns.

“Because water is the lifeblood and it’s so important, we have been doing a relatively good job of having collaborative conversations that are getting us to a point, but the issue is growth and climate change are both happening now so fast and historically these collaborative conversations take a really long time,” said Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr.

“Are we going to be able to address that at the scale and speed that the problem is moving?” Scherr added. “So, you hate to see this end up being essentially a war for water, but if we don’t figure out how to do it in a holistic way, that could be our future.”

A #climate scientist’s up-close personal encounter with a nearby record-setting #Colorado wildfire — Yale Climate Connections

Wildfire smoke over Fort Collins. Photo credit: Yale Climate Connections

From Yale Climate Connections (Scott Denning):

Trees just can’t climb uphill to outpace fast-moving forest fires. Instead, they ‘just burn down.’

Where I live there’s a spectacular gradient of climate and vegetation extending from the semi-arid grassland around cities (5,000 ft / 1.5 km) where five-million people live to the tundra and snowfields along the Continental Divide (13,000 ft / 4 km) above sea level.

In the past decade, wildfire has burned up the whole damned thing!

In the sweltering summer of 2012, we were besieged by the High Park fire. My mother died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder that summer, her lungs ruined by a lifetime of cigarettes and weeks of wildfire smoke.

Now, in the upper reaches of the currently raging Cameron Peak fire scar, the stinging spindrift of the coming winter has begun swirling among the lichen-covered boulders. Tundra and krumholtz have frozen, and the landscape is shutting down for imminent burial in wind-driven snow. In the foothills outside the city, firefighters sweat through soot to clear brush, protect subdivisions, and hose down the dry summer grass.

Never before in my lifetime has the entire tundra-to-prairie burned like this. Compare the sizes of the recent fire scars to the ones on this map from earlier years.

Cameron Peak and High Park fire scars October 2020. Credit: National Interagency Fire Center

There are three necessary conditions for wildfire: fuel, ignition, and dry soil. Over the past 50-plus years in this region, fuel and sources of ignition – for instance lightning and campfires – have not been lacking. What’s changed is the weather.

Nearly all the soil moisture in our mountain forests comes from the melting of the winter snowpack, especially above about 8,500 feet. Rain provides precious little of the water.

Every single day from “mud season” until the snows start piling up again in October, the forest extracts water from what was stored during spring snowmelt. On hot days it extracts more, and on cold days less. The forest thrives only on the acres where tree roots stay damp until the weather turns cold.

The hotter the days, and the longer the warm season between snows, the more days there are at the end of the season when all that abundant fuel is susceptible to a lightning strike or a campfire gone wrong.

At the end of the last Ice Age, 18,000 years ago, the world warmed about 5 degrees Celsius (10 F) over 10,000 years. That’s a rate of 0.1 degree per century.

That 10 F of warming over 100 centuries caused the plant zones in our mountains to slowly creep about 5,000 feet uphill. The spruces and firs displaced the tundra. The Lodgepole displaced the spruces and firs. The Ponderosa displaced the Lodgepole and the grasses, and yucca displaced the Ponderosa.

Unlike the Ents in Lord of the Rings, our trees didn’t just get up and walk up the mountains. Rather, the poorly adapted ones slowly died out and were replaced by the seedlings of their better-adapted neighbors as the warming slowly crept up the slopes over many millennia. The cone doesn’t fall far from the tree.

By the time today’s toddlers in their 70s, our climate could very easily heat up just as much as it did in 100 centuries during the last great warming. That’s 100 times faster than the last warming. It’s less than the lifetime of a single tree, and way too fast for seedlings to displace their ancestors.

When the climate moves out from under the forest so quickly, the trees don’t just get up and walk uphill.

Instead they just burn down.

AUTHOR
Scott Denning for more than two decades taught as part of the atmospheric sciences faculty at Colorado State University. A frequent speaker and popular informal science educator, Denning says he “takes special delight in engaging hostile audiences” on climate change.

#Drought in western U.S. is biggest in years and predicted to worsen during winter months — The Washington Post #ActOnClimate

From The Washington Post (Matthew Cappucci, Andrew Freedman, and Jason Samenow):

The drought is exacerbating wildfires and taxing water resources

West Drought Monitor October 13, 2020.

The drought has already been a major contributor to record wildfire activity in California and Colorado. Its continuation could also deplete rivers, stifle crops and eventually drain water supplies in some Western states.

Nationwide, drought has expanded to its greatest areal coverage since 2013; 72.5 million people are in areas affected by drought. More than one-third of the West is in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, the two most severe categories, according to the federal government’s U.S. Drought Monitor.
In its winter outlook issued last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) cautioned drought conditions are expected to persist or worsen over large parts of the West during the December through February period, and expand farther east into the central United States.

Scenes of the CalWood Oct. 17, 2020 (Jivan West/CU Independent)

In recent months, drought has surged to extreme levels along parts of the West Coast, including Northern California, much of Oregon and the Cascades in Washington…

In Colorado, wildfires continue to rage along the Front Range, with evacuations west of Fort Collins and northwest of Boulder. The Cameron Peak Fire, which has torched more than 200,000 acres, is now the largest wildfire in Colorado history, and the CalWood Fire became Boulder County’s largest fire on record when it exploded in size over the weekend. That fire has burned at least 26 homes, though the toll is expected to increase.

There is no precedent for wildfires this severe igniting so late in the season in the Centennial State. It’s no coincidence that the entirety of Colorado is experiencing a drought for the first time since 2013. Fifty-nine percent of the state is enduring an extreme drought or worse.

2020 has been a particularly bad year for wildfires, obliterating records in California with more than 4.1 million acres scorched. This is more than twice the acreage burned during the previous record wildfire season.

An environment already parched from a lackluster monsoon

The Four Corners region is perhaps the one hit hardest, where prolonged, intense dryness has led to “exceptional drought.”

In New Mexico, an area one and a half times the size of the state of Connecticut is listed by the U.S. Drought Monitor as being in extreme drought. This includes Los Alamos and Santa Fe. Officials have noticed a dramatic decline in river flow rate feeding many aquifers, though there are no immediate drinking water supply concerns. The Drought Monitor includes the observation that “vegetation and native trees are dying” in parts of the state.

An exceptionally weak monsoon has been a major contributor to the ongoing drought in the Southwest…

In August, for example, Santa Fe picked up just one one-hundredth of an inch of rain. It averages 2.6 inches for the month. Since the start of the year, the city has had 5.44 inches of precipitation, less than half the 11.5 inches it would typically have by now.

It’s the second dud monsoon season in a row…

A large percentage of New Mexico’s rainfall — in some places more than half — comes from the monsoon…

Fontenon said that the rangeland in eastern New Mexico is suffering heavily, bringing shades of a drought early in the decade that plagued area farmers between 2011 and 2013.

Nearby in Arizona, Tucson hasn’t seen a drop of rain since August. Since the start of May, less than two inches has fallen. The year as a whole is 60 percent below average on rainfall.

Even farther north, the deficit has hit the Rockies and Intermountain West particularly hard. Grand Junction, Colo., has only seen 4.09 inches of rain this year; by now it should be in the double digits. Salt Lake City is at 7.86 inches. That’s five inches below average…

Extreme drought has also snaked its way into Wyoming, while moderate drought blankets most of Idaho and Montana…

The drought will only worsen

Forecasters at NOAA say that with a developing La Niña event in the Pacific Ocean, drought is likely to prevail and potentially worsen through the winter over large areas of the West…

Little relief in sight for most

But looking ahead, little to no wet weather whatsoever is expected in the Southwest, southern California, or the Four Corners region. And the drought will probably continue, if not intensify…

Climate change’s role

Human-caused climate change is increasing the likelihood of precipitation extremes on both ends of the scale, including droughts as well as heavy rainfall events and resulting floods. Studies consistently show that as the Southwest warms, the odds of drought are increasing.

According to the Federal National Climate Assessment in 2018, climate change intensified the severe drought in California and is worsening drought in the Colorado River Basin. Part of the reasons for this is that climate change makes such droughts hotter than they might’ve been just a few decades ago, which draws more moisture out of soils and vegetation, thereby worsening the drought in a positive feedback loop…

A recent study published in the journal Science found that the Southwest may already be in the midst of the first human-caused megadrought in at least 1,200 years, which began in the year 2000.

Navajo Dam operations update: Turning down to 650 CFS October 20, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #SanJuanRiver

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to increasing tributary flows, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 700 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 650 cfs on Tuesday, October 20th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

This scheduled release change is subject to changes in river flows and weather conditions. If you have any questions, please contact Susan Behery (sbehery@usbr.gov or 970-385-6560), or visit Reclamation’s Navajo Dam website at https://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/cs/nvd.html.

The Navajo Dam on the San Juan River.Photo credit Mike Robinson via the University of Washington.

@CWCB_DNR Notice of Public Rulemaking Hearing and Proposed Revisions to the ISF Rules

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has drafted proposed revisions to the Rules Concerning Colorado’s Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program (ISF Rules). The revisions to the ISF Rules will: (1) address the rulemaking requirements of HB20-1157; (2) update a reference to the CWCB’s website; and (3) update references to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Staff held two informal stakeholder meetings on August 3 and August 18, 2020 to discuss the draft ISF Rules revisions. Staff also has drafted a Statement of Basis and Purpose for the revised ISF Rules.

On September 16, 2020, the CWCB authorized staff to initiate the formal rulemaking process. On October 14, CWCB staff filed a Notice of Public Rulemaking Hearing and proposed revisions to the ISF Rules the Colorado Secretary of State, which will be published in the Colorado Register on October 25, 2020. The rulemaking hearing will be held on January 26, 2021. Applications for party status should be submitted to the CWCB’s Hearing Officer, Amy Beatie, by email to amy.beatie@coag.gov and will be accepted through November 13, 2020. For more details on applying for party status, see the Notice of Public Rulemaking Hearing. For more information on this rulemaking process, contact Linda Bassi at linda.bassi@state.co.us or (303) 866-3441, ext. 3204.

Aquatic ecologist Bill Miller, left, shows chair of Pitkin County Healthy Streams Board Andre Wille the three samples of macro-invertebrates he collected from Castle Creek. Some say the instream flow water rights held by the Colorado Water Conservation Board don’t necessarily go far enough to protect stream health. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

#Colorado cutthroat restored to 23 miles of Hermosa Creek — The #Durango Herald

Connor Bevel, an Aquatic technician with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, holds one the 450 adult Colorado River Cutthroat trout released into the Hermosa Creek drainage October 9, 2020. Photo credit: Joe Lewandowski/Colorado Parks & Wildlife via The Durango Herald

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

A decades-long effort to restore the Colorado River cutthroat trout to the upper reaches of Hermosa Creek has been completed, resulting in the largest continuous stretch of waterway for the native fish species in the state…

Jim White, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Durango, releases Colorado River cutthroat trout fingerlings into the East Fork of Hermosa Creek on Oct. 9. CPW released 4,000 fingerlings.
Courtesy of Joe Lewandowski/Colorado Parks and Wildlife via The Durango Herald

The upper reaches of Hermosa Creek were instantly recognized as an ideal place for a restoration project, both for its outstanding water quality as well as easy access through a Forest Service road that runs behind Purgatory Resort.

Over the years, barriers have been installed to isolate certain stretches of water and an organic poison known as rotenone has been used to clear out invasive species, like brown, brookie and rainbow trout.

All this to clear the path for cutthroat reintroduction.

Last weekend, CPW stocked an estimated 4,000 cutthroat fingerlings and an additional 475 mature cutthroats in the final stretch of the Hermosa Creek project, giving the waterway back to the native fish for the first time in 100 years.

And now, the project to restore 23 miles of cutthroat habitat is finally complete…

Hermosa Park

For the stretches of upper Hermosa Creek that have been restocked with cutthroats, populations are showing encouraging signs. White said there’s about 400 to 600 fish per mile, which he called a “nice, healthy population.”

Because the area is a popular draw for anglers, there is a strict catch-and-release policy. Local fish-guiding companies have said in the past that anglers come from all over the country to fish native cutthroats.

The Hermosa Creek project was a collaboration between CPW, the U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited.

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

Report: Naturally Stronger — How Natural #Water Infrastructure Can Save Money and Improve Lives — @AmericanRivers #ActOnClimate

The Amy Joslin Memorial Eco-Roof on the Multnomah Building in Portland, Oregon is a 12,000 square foot green roof designed to control runoff, reduce pollutant loads, and add green space to the local community | Emily Hauth, Portland Bureau of Environmental Services

Click here to read the report. Here’s the executive summary:

Communities in the United States are being threatened by sewage overflows, flooding, polluted stormwater, leaky pipes, and at-risk water supplies. These threats are a result of our nation’s outdated water infrastructure and water management strategies, and their impacts fall disproportionately on low-wealth neighborhoods and communities of color that are already suffering from a lack of investment and opportunity. To solve this problem, we do not just need more investment in water infrastructure. We need a new kind of water infrastructure and management, and we need it in the right places. The solution is the equitable investment in and implementation of natural infrastructure. Naturally Stronger makes the case that if natural infrastructure is used in a more integrated water system, we can transform and restore our environment, invigorate the economy, and confront some of our country’s most persistent inequities.

Natural water infrastructure protects, restores, or mimics natural water systems, working with traditional infrastructure, like pipes and treatment plants, and reducing the strain on those systems. Examples include protecting source water streams that provide drinking water to our communities, reducing water treatment costs; protecting natural floodplain areas to reduce flood damage; and restoring or increasing urban trees and green space to soak up and clean polluted stormwater, which reduces the surges in stormwater pipes and prevents flooding. These natural solutions add flexibility and resiliency to our water infrastructure due to their ability to complement and supplement existing infrastructure efficiently and the ease with which they can be adapted to changing community needs.

It is easy to overlook the extent to which we depend on natural infrastructure until catastrophe strikes. We take for granted that water will continue to flow from the tap, reliable and safe, that our homes are protected, and that our local waterways are healthy. We have been steadily losing the natural systems that provide communities with these benefits, and as we have lost this natural infrastructure, we have failed to adequately replace the lost services they provide. The result is decaying or outdated infrastructure that cannot keep pace with changing demand for water and wastewater treatment, growing populations, and increasingly severe storms. While these challenges affect all communities, the most severe impacts often fall on low-wealth communities and communities of color due to historic underinvestment and disinvestment in these communities.

Equitable investment in water infrastructure explicitly engages community voice, policy, planning, investment, hiring, contracting, and operations to ensure that historically underserved communities receive the water infrastructure investment they need, in a manner that improves public health, improves livability, and supports community cohesion. Since, historically, infrastructure investments have closely followed the geography of opportunity — higher income areas have high-quality infrastructure investments, and low income areas have suffered decades of underinvestment and disinvestment, and crumbling systems of transportation, schools, and, in particular, drinking water and waste water. These disadvantaged communities often lack adequate infrastructure, lack affordable water rates, and lack access to clean, safe water.

Disadvantaged communities are often located in floodplains, in drained wetlands, or adjacent to sewage outfalls, as a result of historic discrimination. Besides suffering damage to health and livelihood, their problems then flow downstream, affecting other communities and ecosystems. By addressing the infrastructure needs of vulnerable communities, we are addressing the water quality needs of everyone. New equitable water infrastructure investments can play a fundamental role in local and regional economies, and ensure that historically underinvested communities — where the greatest water vulnerabilities manifest — can both address water security and advance greater economic inclusion. To ensure equitable water infrastructure investments, vulnerable communities must have a voice in where and how investments in water infrastructure are made.

Water infrastructure and equity challenges can be effectively overcome together through a more holistic approach, particularly when natural infrastructure, with its flexibility, is included as part of the solution. This “integrated” or One Water approach to water management centers on breaking down ‘silos’ to create holistic, coordinated water systems that maximize economic, social, and environmental benefits in an equitable and sustainable manner. This integrated approach is achieved by bringing together city agencies, nonprofits, and other diverse stakeholders for collective problem-solving and decision-making that benefits all members of the community.

Natural infrastructure provides substantial economic and social benefits to the nation and to neighborhoods. The U.S. Water Alliance states in their Value of Water report that the U.S. needs to invest an additional $82 billion per year in water infrastructure — both natural and traditional — to meet projected needs. The same report states that by closing this gap over $220 billion in total annual economic activity would be added to the economy every year and would sustain approximately 1.3 million jobs over the next 10 years. In addition, investment in natural infrastructure creates local jobs.

According to a report by the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland, natural infrastructure often increases local jobs, since these practices rely more heavily on local workers for installation and continued maintenance, in contrast to traditional infrastructure, which often relies on larger firms that outsource the work. As the number and scope of natural infrastructure initiatives increase, opportunities for developing more jobs will increase as well. According to the Brookings Institute, green job growth outpaced traditional job growth at a rate of nearly 2-to-1 in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan centers from 2008 to 2010, providing diverse, career-starting opportunities in growth industries for communities that need them most.

Communities that have invested in natural infrastructure have not only reaped the economic benefits, but also have experienced other social benefits as well. Studies demonstrate that people with access to parks and green space live healthier, lower-stress lives. They have an easier time living active outdoor lifestyles, reducing medical expenses. And, of course, clean local waterways, improved by reductions in polluted runoff, mean higher-quality drinking water and safer places to recreate.

To address the significant water infrastructure needs of the nation, greater investments in both natural and traditional water infrastructure are needed. From major metropolitan areas to unincorporated rural communities — particularly those home to low-wealth communities and communities of color –investments are needed to address the consequences of long deferred maintenance, underinvestment, and disinvestment. And while infrastructure investments face budget restrictions at all levels of government, integrated water management approaches can often deliver overall cost savings by simultaneously addressing multiple issues and providing multiple benefits. Going forward, we will need to use existing water infrastructure funding mechanisms in order to implement natural infrastructure at the scale and scope needed to address our nation’s water infrastructure inequities. Funding mechanisms for natural infrastructure are diverse and include traditional mechanisms such as bonds, general funds, and state revolving funds as well as innovative approaches like public/private partnerships or incorporating water management in all types of infrastructure projects.

Naturally Stronger provides an overview and introduction to the water challenges we face and lays out the need for investment in water infrastructure and why natural water infrastructure is a necessary component of that investment. This investment comes with both economic and social benefits that can be optimized by planning, designing, investing, and implementing new water infrastructure in an intentional, equitable, and integrated fashion. But we cannot achieve these results by using the same water management strategies we have used in the past. To achieve more effective and equitable water infrastructure we must engage with multiple, cross-cutting stakeholders. Where our planning and decision-making tables are too small or exclusive, we must make them bigger and add more chairs, integrating communities and partners that have not always had a seat at the table. The water management sector must break out of the silos that constrain diverse and innovative solutions. The challenge before us is clear. The solutions are tangible. The moment to create a better future for clean water and communities is now.

After levee breaches during a large flood the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) completed two levee setback projects that reconnected over 1700 acres rather than rebuild the levees | United States Army Corps of Engineers

American Rivers would like to thank Brendan McLaughlin; Tania Briceno, Corrine Armistead, and Rowan Schmidt with Earth Economics; Kalima Rosa and Chione Flegal with PolicyLink; and Scott Miller with Resource Media for their involvement in the development and writing of Naturally Stronger. We would also appreciate the help of members of the Clean Water for All Campaign for their guidance.

Winter #Drought Relief Unlikely in Western U.S. — EOS

Sand dunes in Death Valley National Park. Death Valley, Calif., where temperatures exceeded 54°C this year, and much of the western United States will continue to see severe drought this winter. By Brocken Inaglory – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3115716

From EOS (Kimberly M. S. Cartier):

This year is still on track to be one of the hottest years on record around the globe.

This winter is likely to be warmer and drier than average for most of the continental United States, in line with the conditions of a typical La Niña year. This information is according to the most recent NOAA seasonal forecast released on 15 October.

Like the past 2 years, more than two thirds of the continental United States, northern and western Alaska, and Hawaii will likely experience hotter than average temperatures through January 2021. Southern Alaska and states along the northern U.S. border may see colder than average temperatures, and no confident temperature forecast can be made for the remaining regions…

Widespread Drought Persists

La Niña years don’t tend to summon historic winter snowstorms like El Niño years do, but they can instead worsen drought conditions. NOAA confidently predicts that the southern half of the country will receive less precipitation than average this winter in addition to experiencing hotter-than-average temperatures. Warmer and drier conditions are expected to persist in those areas through May 2021.

“This is the most widespread drought that we have seen in the continental U.S. since September 2013,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said during the 15 October event. “And the winter forecast doesn’t bode well for many of the areas around the nation currently experiencing drought with the exception of the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast, and Hawaii and Alaska.”

Thanks to a weak monsoon season and record-high temperatures, drought will likely persist in much of the western half of the United States and develop in Southern California, central and southern plains states, and northern Florida and southern Georgia. People living in the western United States have dealt with persistent drought for the past few years, which has contributed to severe wildfire seasons and heat-related health issues.

The U.S. #drought vulnerability rankings are in: How does your state compare? — @NOAA

From NOAA (Alison Stevens):

If asked where in the United States is most vulnerable to drought, you might point to those states in the West currently suffering under hot and dry conditions and raging wildfires. However, according to a new NOAA-funded assessment, what makes a state vulnerable is driven by more than just a lack of rain: it’s a combination of how susceptible a state is to drought and whether it’s prepared for impacts. And the most and least vulnerable states could surprise you.

These maps show each state’s overall drought vulnerability (red) and how it ranks in the three individual categories that make up the score: sensitivity (blue), exposure (yellow-orange), and ability to adapt (purple). Darker colors show higher overall drought vulnerability and a greater degree of factors that increase the state’s vulnerability.

Sensitivity is the likelihood of negative economic impacts, which is based on the percentage of agricultural land, number of cattle, how much the state relies on hydropower, and recreational lakes. The exposure score reflects how often a state experiences drought and what assets, like the number of people and freshwater ecosystems, are at risk when it occurs. The ability to adapt score ranks how well the state can cope with and recover from drought, which depends on whether the state has a drought plan, how equipped it is to irrigate its land, and whether it is financially strong overall.

By this scoring system, the most vulnerable states are Oklahoma, Montana, and Iowa, while Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California are least vulnerable to drought. Oklahoma gets its high vulnerability score from having an outdated drought plan and limited irrigation (low ability to adapt), as well as extensive agricultural activities and cattle ranching (high sensitivity). Despite facing recurring multi-year droughts (relatively high exposure), California ranks very low in drought vulnerability. Thanks to a strong economy and well-developed adaptation measures, it’s better prepared for an extreme drought when it occurs than most other states.

On the East Coast, the region is generally less vulnerable than other areas, given its wetter climate and lack of farming—except for New Jersey. As the most densely populated state in the country (very high exposure), it gets the region’s highest vulnerability score.

By breaking down drought vulnerability into three components, this assessment can help decision makers identify what makes their state vulnerable for better planning. And, as the study shows, even states that receive lots of rain can still be vulnerable.

Though drought is one of the costliest natural hazards in the United States, there are actions states can take to become more resilient.

This research was led by Johanna Engström, Keighobad Jafarzadegan, and Hamid Moradkhani from the University of Alabama and funded in part by NOAA’s Climate Program Office through its Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projection (MAPP) program. The MAPP Program enhances our capability to understand, predict, and project variability and long-term changes in Earth’s climate system.

Bark beetle outbreaks benefit wild bee populations, habitat — @ColoradoStateU

A high-elevation spruce beetle-affected forest. Photo credit: Seth Davis via Colorado State University

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Karina Puikkonen):

When southern Rocky Mountain forests are viewed from a distance these days, it may not look like much is left. Large swaths of dead, standing Engelmann spruce trees tell the tale of a severe regional spruce beetle epidemic in its waning stages. But among those dead trees, researchers have found good news. Zoom-in to the ground cover of these forests and there is life, even more abundant because of this disturbance.

New research led by Colorado State University and published online in Scientific Reports suggests that spruce beetle outbreaks may help create habitat for pollinator communities in wilderness settings. The research team found significant increases in floral abundance and wild bee diversity in outbreak-affected forests, compared to similar, undisturbed forest. Lead author Seth Davis said it may seem counterintuitive that landscape-level damage by one type of insect could still benefit another.

“Disturbances from bark beetles are typically regarded as undesirable for ecosystem function and human use,” said Davis, an assistant professor in the Forest and Rangeland Stewardship department. “But there is conservation value in post-outbreak forests; they appear to be the areas supporting more robust bee populations.”

This is good news for wild bee communities, which have been declining in recent years. The different bee species identified in this high-elevation study are made for harsh, cold environments. The fact that a natural disturbance can boost their presence is a boon to these rare, endemic creatures not found in warmer habitats. It’s also a benefit for these forests, because wild bees perform essential pollination services in ecosystems with very short growing seasons.

A blue vein trap at one of the study sites. Photo credit: Seth Davis via Colorado State University

A serendipitous observation

Davis regularly works in high-elevation forests. A few years ago, during another research project with department colleagues, he noticed a correlation between the number and diversity of bees observed, and the structure of the forest. He has since opened up this new thread of bee diversity research by combining it with his training in bark beetles.

“Disturbance studies on bees have primarily focused on fire,” said Davis. “There hasn’t been a lot of research looking at bee responses to beetle outbreaks.”

For this new study, his team developed a natural experiment, collecting parallel data in 28 beetle-affected and undisturbed alpine sites in north-central Colorado. They collected bees for two years at three different times across each growing season, and also recorded standard tree measurements and understory, or ground cover, plant data at the collection sites.

The team found that average floral abundance in spruce beetle-affected stands was 67 percent higher than in non-affected stands. The average number of bee species was also 37 percent greater in beetle-affected stands, with more species present in June than later in the growing season. Davis said the relationship between these insects and their surrounding vegetation may be more complex.

“It appears there are different controls over bee abundance and diversity,” Davis said. “Bee abundance was correlated to the floral species, while the diversity is more related to the forest structure, both of which are affected by bark beetles.”

In other words, bark beetles directly changed the forest structure which indirectly improved wild bee populations by providing a more robust food source for the buzzing insects on the ground.

Spruce beetle-affected forests offer a few advantages for understory plants and wild bees. Tree mortality typically opens up the forest canopy, allowing more light to reach plants and flowers on the forest floor. Dead trees also remain standing for up to 25 years after this disturbance. This offers more cavities for wild bees that nest in trees and dead wood.

Davis said he is interested in exploring this topic further to better understand these relationships over a longer time period and at a larger scale. As forests recover from outbreaks, he would like to see how long this benefit lasts. There is also the size disparity between small bee populations in one locale and the regional magnitude of these disturbances. It will be important to understand how well one small spot predicts these results at the landscape level.

While bees were captured for the purposes of this study, previous research has shown that the bee capture methods employed do not affect the overall bee community.

U.S. Winter Outlook: Cooler North, warmer South with ongoing La Nina — NOAA

Blizzard NW Chicago via NOAA.

From NOAA (Lauren Gaches):

NOAA’s winter forecast for the U.S. favors warmer, drier conditions across the southern tier of the U.S., and cooler, wetter conditions in the North, thanks in part to an ongoing La Nina. Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center — a division of the National Weather Service — are also closely monitoring persistent drought during the winter months ahead, with more than 45% of the continental U.S. now experiencing drought.

“NOAA’s timely and accurate seasonal outlooks and short-term forecasts are the result of improved satellite observations, more detailed computer forecast modeling, and expanding supercomputing capacity,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “From expansive and multi-hazard winter storms to narrow but intense lake effect snow, NOAA will provide the necessary information to keep communities safe.”

Currently, large areas of drought extend over the western half of the U.S., with parts of the Northeast also experiencing drought and near-record low stream flows. With a La Nina climate pattern in place, southern parts of the U.S. may experience expanded and intensifying drought during the winter months ahead.

“With La Nina well established and expected to persist through the upcoming 2020 winter season, we anticipate the typical, cooler, wetter North, and warmer, drier South, as the most likely outcome of winter weather that the U.S. will experience this year,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

This U.S. Winter Outlook 2020-2021 map for temperature shows above-average temperatures are likely in the South and below-average temperatures likely in parts of the North. (NOAA Climate.gov, using NWS CPC data)

Temperature
The greatest chances for warmer-than-normal conditions extend across the Southern tier of the U.S. from the Southwest, across the Gulf states and into the Southeast. More modest probabilities for warmer temperatures are forecast in the southern parts of the west coast, and from the Mid-Atlantic into the Northeast. Above-average temperatures are also favored for Hawaii and western and northern Alaska.

Below-normal temperatures are favored in southern Alaska and from the northern Pacific Northwest into the Northern Plains, with equal chances for below-, near- or above-average temperatures in the remaining regions.

This 2020-2021 U.S. Winter Outlook map for precipitation shows wetter-than-average weather is most likely across the Northern Tier of the U.S. and drier-than-average weather is favored across the South. (NOAA Climate.gov, using NWS CPC data)

Precipitation
Wetter-than-average conditions are most likely across the northern tier of the U.S., extending from the Pacific Northwest, across the Northern Plains, Great Lakes and into the Ohio Valley, as well as Hawaii and northern Alaska. The greatest chances for drier-than-average conditions are predicted in the Southwest, across Texas along the Gulf Coast, and in Florida. More modest chances for drier conditions are forecast in southern Alaska, and from California across the Rockies, Central Plains and into the Southeast. The remainder of the U.S., including the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, falls into the category of equal chances for below-, near-, or above-average precipitation.

This seasonal U.S. Drought Outlook map for November 2020 through January 2021 predicts persistent drought across much of the Western U.S. in the months ahead. (NOAA Climate.gov based on NWS CPC data)

Drought
Widespread, ongoing drought is currently in place across the western half of the continental U.S. as a result of the weak Southwest summer monsoon season and near-record-high temperatures. Drought is also present in parts of the Northeast, Ohio Valley, Hawaii and Alaska. The ongoing La Nina is expected to expand and intensify drought across the southern and central Plains, eastern Gulf Coast, and in California during the months ahead. Drought conditions are expected to improve in the northern Rockies, Northwest, New England, Alaska and Hawaii over the coming months.

Nearly Half of the U.S. Is in #Drought. It May Get Worse — The New York Times

From The New York Times (Henry Fountain):

The most widespread drought in the continental United States since 2013 covers more than 45 percent of the Lower 48 states, federal scientists said.

Nearly half of the continental United States is gripped by drought, government forecasters said Thursday, and conditions are expected to worsen this winter across much of the Southwest and South.

Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said a lack of late-summer rain in the Southwest had expanded “extreme and exceptional” dry conditions from West Texas into Colorado and Utah, “with significant drought also prevailing westward through Nevada, Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.”

Much of the Western half of the country is now experiencing drought conditions and parts of the Ohio Valley and the Northeast are as well, Mr. Halpert said during a teleconference announcing NOAA’s weather outlook for this winter.

This is the most widespread drought in the continental United States since 2013, he said, covering more than 45 percent of the Lower 48 states.
“The winter forecast doesn’t bode well,” Mr. Halpert added. Warmer and drier conditions are expected across the South and Southwest and drought is likely to develop in parts of Georgia and Florida and in Central and Southern California, where the dry conditions could add to the risk of wildfire in what has already been a catastrophic year for fires in California.

But northern parts of the country may see some relief, with wetter conditions predicted across most of the north, said David Miskus, a NOAA drought specialist…

US Drought Monitor October 13, 2020.

The American Southwest has been mired in drought for most of the past two decades. Studies suggest that the region is experiencing an emerging megadrought, similar to some periods in the past 1,200 years, when droughts persisted for 40 years or longer.

Global warming has made drought worse, in the Southwest and elsewhere, scientists say, exemplifying a trend toward more extreme weather as the climate changes.

Mr. Halpert said the likelihood of worsening drought this winter can be linked to La Niña, which developed in August and is expected to persist at least through the winter.

#Colorado reservoirs down 25 percent as #drought persists — @WaterEdCO

Standley Lake in Westminster. May 14, 2019. As Colorado emerged from drought in 2018, its reservoirs were struggling to refill. The ongoing drought, which shows no signs of easing this fall, has left Colorado’s reservoirs at just 84 percent of average capacity statewide, down from 112 percent of average last year at this time. Credit: Jerd Smith, Fresh Water News

From Water Education Colorado (Sarah Kuta):

Colorado’s reservoirs are 25 percent lower than they were last year at this time, as a hot, dry summer continues into the fall.

Statewide reservoir levels are at 84 percent of average, according to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Sept. 30 report, well below last year’s mark, when they stood at 112 percent of average.

The 2020 water year, which began Oct. 1, 2019, and ended Sept. 31, is now Colorado’s third driest on record, trailing behind only 2018 and 2002 for lack of precipitation, according to Peter Goble, service climatologist and drought specialist at Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center.

“The water year was certainly drier than average. We finished it out with some pretty startling hot, dry conditions,” Goble said.

Colorado averaged 13.09 inches of precipitation in water year 2020, which was 72 percent of the 18.01-inch historical average, Goble said.

It was also the 12th warmest year on record, with much of that warmth concentrated in the summer and early fall during a poor monsoon season, Goble said.

August, in particular, was extremely hot — it was the hottest August on record in Colorado since 1895, when record-keeping began.

Denver Water’s storage system has held up reasonably well this year, thanks to standard watering restrictions and a strong snowpack in 2019.

Denver’s reservoirs are 82 percent full, not far below the 87 percent average for this time of year, according to Nathan Elder, Denver Water’s water supply manager.

Since 2002, Denver Water has implemented drought rules that prohibit outdoor watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and encourage residents to water no more than three days a week from May 1 to Oct. 1. The water utility also has tiered rates to encourage conservation.

“We’ve had one of the hottest, driest summers and, despite that, our customers have still been really careful with their water use. We didn’t see extreme demand this year, despite the extreme weather,” said Elder, who added that a strong 2019 water year carried over into 2020 storage.

In the southwestern part of the state, however, reservoir storage levels are much lower. In the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins, reservoir storage levels finished September at 59 percent of average; in the nearby Upper Rio Grande Basin, levels were 67 percent of average.

Much of the state continues to experience severe, extreme and exceptional drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The lack of precipitation, hot temperatures and high levels of evaporation have left Colorado’s soils very dry, which has made winter wheat farming and ranching a challenge, Goble said.

“A number of ranchers across the state have had to sell cattle, and winter wheat for the coming season has had to be drilled in in many locations because the soil moisture is too lacking to plant conventionally,” Goble said.

It has also been a bad year for wildfires, with two of the largest fires on state record — the Pine Gulch and Cameron Peak fires — occurring this year.

The record-breaking snowstorm much of Colorado saw on Sept. 8-9 was helpful, but didn’t ultimately make a big difference for drought conditions, even in places like the San Luis Valley, which logged up to 14 inches in some places.

“It was one of the biggest snowstorms on record in the Alamosa area, regardless of time of year, so it did improve drought conditions in the San Luis Valley, but in an ecosystem that’s so streamflow fed and reliant on seasonal snowpack, it didn’t provide the level of relief that a good seasonal snowpack would,” Goble said.

Looking ahead, climate scientists are forecasting weak La Nina conditions and warmer-than-average temperatures continuing into the fall and winter.

A weak La Niña likely means more snow for Colorado’s northern mountains and less snow for the southern mountains, Eastern Plains and Front Range, although the exact conditions are hard to predict, Goble said.

“Even a strong La Niña doesn’t guarantee us a good winter in the Northern Rockies,” he said. “We could still see anything from quite dry to quite wet. It tilts the scale a little bit on the wet side for places like up near Steamboat and even Summit County, but it’s not as strong a predictor in Colorado as it is in some other places, like the Pacific Northwest.”

Spring 2021 is likely to be a repeat of last year, with parched soils soaking up more runoff, according to Karl Wetlaufer, a hydrologist with the National Resources Conservation Service.

“It’s very, very dry and we do expect that to carry into the spring and how that affects our streamflow runoff next spring,” he said. “A lot of that snowmelt will be absorbed into the soil structure and may not make it to the streams. If we have a near-normal snowpack again, we would expect less-than-normal runoff with the severe drought that we’re going into winter with.”

Sarah Kuta is a freelance writer based in Longmont, Colorado. She can be reached at sarahkuta@gmail.com.

The lates #ENSO discussion is hot off the presses from the Climate Prediction Center

Click here to read the discussion:

EL NIÑO/SOUTHERN OSCILLATION (ENSO) DIAGNOSTIC DISCUSSION

issued by

CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP/NWS
and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society 8 October 2020

ENSO Alert System Status: La Niña Advisory

Synopsis: La Niña is likely to continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2020-21 (~85% chance) and into spring 2021 (~60% chance during February-April).

La Niña continued during September, as evidenced by below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) extending from the Date Line to the eastern Pacific Ocean. The SST indices in the two westernmost Niño regions, Niño-4 and Niño-3.4, cooled throughout the month, and the Niño-3.4 index was -1.1C in the past week. The equatorial subsurface temperature anomalies (averaged from 180°-100°W) remained substantially unchanged, and continued to reflect below-average temperatures from the surface to 200m depth in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The atmospheric circulation anomalies over the tropical Pacific Ocean remained consistent with La Niña. Low-level wind anomalies were easterly across most of the tropical Pacific, and upper-level wind anomalies were westerly over the east-central Pacific. Tropical convection continued to be suppressed from the western Pacific to the Date Line, and a slight enhancement of convection emerged over Indonesia. Also, both the Southern Oscillation and Equatorial Southern Oscillation indices remained positive. Overall, the coupled ocean-atmosphere system indicates the continuation of La Niña.

A majority of the models in the IRI/CPC plume predict La Niña (Niño-3.4 index less than -0.5°C) to persist through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2020-21 and to weaken during the spring. The latest forecasts from several models, including the NCEP CFSv2, suggest the likelihood of a moderate or even strong La Niña (Niño-3.4 index values < -1.0C) during the peak November-January season. The forecaster consensus supports that view in light of significant atmosphere-ocean coupling already in place. In summary, La Niña is likely to continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2020-21 (~85% chance) and into spring 2021 (~60% chance during February-April; click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chances in each 3-month period).

La Niña is anticipated to affect temperature and precipitation across the United States during the upcoming months (the 3-month seasonal temperature and precipitation outlooks will be updated on Thurs. October 15th).

#Drought news: Degradations or persistence of ongoing drought was common in parts of the #Midwest, #GreatPlains, and #West that received little or no precipitation this week

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

This Week’s Drought Summary

A dry pattern continued this past week over large portions of the continental United States, with a few exceptions being areas impacted by Hurricane Delta or its remnants, parts of the Upper Midwest and middle Missouri River Valley, and parts of the Northeast. In areas of the Northeast that received an inch or two of rain, some improvements were made in the ongoing drought areas there. As a storm system and associated cold front brought showers and thunderstorms to parts of the Middle and Upper Missouri River Valley and to the Upper Midwest, some improvements were made to ongoing drought there. Abnormal dryness abated in a few areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, which received copious rainfall from Hurricane Delta. Degradations or persistence of ongoing drought was common in parts of the Midwest, Great Plains, and West that received little or no precipitation this week. Temperatures this week were warmer than normal across most of the Lower 48. The central Great Plains and middle Missouri River Valley were the warmest compared to normal, with temperatures from 9 to 12 degrees above normal common. New England experienced milder conditions this week, with a few below-normal readings taking place in northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine…

West

The West generally experienced warmer than normal temperatures again this week, with most areas coming in between 3 and 9 degrees above normal for the week. Generally, the southern half of the region stayed dry, while some precipitation occurred over the north, particularly in far northwest California, western Washington and Oregon, western Wyoming, and western portions of Montana and Idaho. Due to recent precipitation, extreme drought in western Oregon reduced in coverage. In southwest Oregon, where short- and long-term precipitation deficits were worsening, severe and extreme drought increased in coverage. Extreme drought also increased its foothold in west-central Nevada, where soil moisture profiles continued to worsen along with short- and long-term precipitation deficits…

High Plains

Drier than normal conditions continued across much of the High Plains region, where temperatures were also generally 6 to 12 degrees warmer than normal. Consequently, as short- and long-term precipitation deficits grew amid warmer than normal weather, and near surface moisture and agricultural impacts worsened, widespread degradation in drought conditions occurred. Moderate, severe, and extreme drought coverage increased across most of the region, with the exception of northeast Nebraska and adjacent portions of Iowa and South Dakota, where a storm system brought locally high amounts of rain. In the areas with highest rainfall, short-term precipitation deficits improved enough such that extreme and severe drought decreased in coverage…

South

Category two Hurricane Delta and its remnants delivered above-normal rainfall from far east Texas through most of Mississippi, southeast Arkansas, and southern Tennessee, leading to the reduction of abnormally dry areas in Louisiana and Mississippi. Elsewhere, dry conditions occurred, and existing areas of drought expanded. Short-term drought continued to plague the southern high plains regions of Oklahoma and Texas, where moderate, severe, and extreme drought continued to spread amid worsening short-term precipitation deficits, decreasing soil moisture, and drying vegetation. Temperatures in the region were also mostly warmer than normal, with the warmest areas (compared to normal) being found in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, where temperatures were 9 to 12 degrees warmer than normal…

Looking Ahead

A series of cold fronts over the next week are forecast to bring a higher chance of cooler than normal temperatures to the north-central continental United States. With the exception of the northern tier of states, much of the West is forecast to be dry through the evening of October 19. Farther east, higher rainfall amounts of a half an inch or more are possible from the Mid-Atlantic coast north, while lighter precipitation is forecast in the Midwest. Glancing ahead to the October 20-24 period, cooler than normal conditions are more likely to be widespread from the Pacific Northwest to the western Great Lakes, while in the eastern United States, warmer than normal temperatures are favored in this period. Widespread increased chances for above-normal precipitation are forecast in the northern Rockies and much of the Great Plains, Midwest, and East, while below-normal or near-normal precipitation is favored elsewhere in the Lower 48.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending October 13, 2020.

Earth just had its hottest September on record — @NOAA

From NOAA (John Bateman):

With 3 months left, 2020 could rank among three-warmest years on record for globe

Unprecedented heat around the world vaulted September 2020 to the hottest September since 1880, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

The month’s warmth also contributed to 2020’s trend as a remarkably hot year, with the year-to-date global temperatures running second highest in the 141-year climate record.

Below are more facts and stats from NOAA’s latest monthly global climate report:

Climate by the numbers
September 2020

The average global temperature in September was 1.75 degrees F — 0.97 of a degree C — above the 20th-century average of 59.0 degrees F (15.0 degrees C).

This surpasses the average global temperatures for both September 2015 and 2016 by 0.04 of a degree F (0.02 of a degree C), which previously tied for the hottest Septembers on record.

The 10-warmest Septembers have all occurred since 2005, with the seven-warmest Septembers occurring in the last seven years.

The year to date | January through September 2020
The year-to-date (YTD) average global temperature was the second hottest on record at 1.84 degrees F (1.02 degrees C) above the 20th-century average. This is only 0.07 of a degree F (0.04 of a degree C) shy of the record set for the same YTD in 2016.

The Northern Hemisphere’s YTD temperature tied with 2016 as the hottest on record, while the Southern Hemisphere saw its fourth hottest YTD.

According to a statistical analysis done by NCEI scientists, 2020 will very likely rank among the three-warmest years on record.

A map of the world plotted with some of the most significant weather and climate events that occurred during September 2020. For more details, see the bullets below in this story and more from the NCEI report at http://bit.ly/Global092020.

More notable climate facts and stats

  • Arctic sea ice was at near-record lows: Average Arctic sea ice coverage (extent) for September ranked second smallest on record. On September 15, sea ice covered just 1.44 million square miles of the Arctic, the second-smallest minimum extent on record behind September 17, 2012. The 14 smallest minimum annual extents have occurred in the last 14 years.
  • A record-hot YTD so far for some: Europe, Asia and the Gulf of Mexico had their warmest January-through-September period on record; South America and the Caribbean region had their second highest. No land or ocean areas had record-cold YTD temperatures.
  • @ColoradoDNR Announces New Initiative to Reduce Deaths and Accidents Around #Colorado Low Head Dams

    Photo credit: Colorado Department of Natural Resources

    Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Chris Arend):

    The Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today a new initiative to increase public safety around low head dams which have caused a number of accidents and fatalities on Colorado rivers in recent years. The effort includes new and planned signage around targeted low head dam sites, emergency responder education, public outreach and partnerships with private and non-profit organizations, local municipalities, and landowners and the launch of a new interactive map and webpage on DNR’s website: https://dnr.colorado.gov/colorado-low-head-dams

    “DNR’s low head dam initiative is a positive step to increase public safety and awareness around low head dams across Colorado,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “Colorado has seen an increase in outdoor recreation in recent years, particularly on our rivers and streams, but this has also led to tragic fatalities on some of our low head dam structures. These fatal accidents are avoidable and are a strong motivation for our Department to increase our public outreach and education initiatives. While some of our efforts are already underway, we know we need to do more to educate Coloradans to reduce these unfortunate accidents and ensure all Coloradans can safely recreate in our great outdoors.”

    Low head dams are engineered structures built into and across Colorado’s stream and river channels for a variety of purposes, including to divert water from streams for agricultural purposes, protect stream channels from degradation and provide recreational amenities.

    Low head dams, sometimes referred to as the quintessential “drowning machines,” can be dangerous because water flowing over dams produces recirculating currents that can trap recreators. Rafters, kayakers and those floating our rivers for recreation are often unaware of these structures and the dangers resulting from them.

    Low head dams can be difficult to detect by river users approaching from upstream due to their height, and the fact that the relatively tranquil pool they create provides no indication of the dangers just beyond the visual horizon created by the dam and ponded water. This can limit reaction time and boaters’ ability to exit the river upstream of the dam.

    General currents upstream and downstream from a low-head dam. Graphic via Bruce a. Tschantz

    “I appreciate the work being done by the Department of Natural Resources to address public safety at low head dams. Colorado rivers and streams are an enormous amenity for both water enthusiasts and fishermen,” said Ruth Wright, former Colorado legislator, public safety advocate and founder of Wright Family Foundation. “The low head dam initiative will provide valuable information to the public to help to prevent tragic and needless harm from the dangerous hydraulics of low head dams.”

    Several high profile incidents in Colorado in recent years, including 4 fatalities, and 13 since 1986 point to the need for increased education and outreach efforts as well as closer coordination with local emergency responders. The average ages of those involved with low head dam-related incidents are between 13 and 30 years of age. DNR and a private ditch company recently installed warning signs at a low head diversion dam on the South Platte River adjacent to the Jean K. Tool State Wildlife Area. This diversion dam between Ft Morgan and Brush is the site of unfortunate drowning fatalities in 2016 and 2019.

    “The Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance (DARCA) is proud to work alongside the Department of Natural Resources and the water community at large through this initiative,” remarked Amber Weber, DARCA Executive Director. “Some of DARCA’s members have been touched by the loss of life due to a low head dam structure, and irrigators know the dangers a low head dam has. DARCA is glad to take part in this effort as agriculturalists join with recreationalists to make our waters safe to traverse.”

    In response to these incidents, the DNR formed the Colorado Low Head Dam Safety Steering Committee to address safety issues around low head dams. The team of experts included; Colorado Water Conservation Board, Division of Water Resources – Dam Safety Branch, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM), Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation, the Mile High Flood District, and Wright Water Engineers. The Steering Committee oversaw the inventory study of Colorado low head dam sites, which identified and digitized the locations of diversion, grade control, and recreational structures across Colorado.

    The Low Head Dam webpage on DNR’s website includes an interactive map produced from the inventory study enabling Coloradans to research and locate potential low head dam structures before embarking on trips down their favorite river or stream. The webpage includes additional resources on low head dams, links to partner organizations, and a feedback form for Coloradans to help identify missed features on Colorado Rivers which could be included on the interactive low head dam map.

    “American Whitewater has been pleased to partner with DNR on this low head dam inventory project. Safe enjoyment of our nation’s rivers is central to our mission,” said Hattie Johnson, Southern Rockies Stewardship Director, American Whitewater. “We hope to integrate the data into our web based national whitewater inventory to help river users plan for and avoid these hazards. We are hoping to help crowdsource information to prioritize low head structures and to find solutions to improve their safety.”

    DNR’s low head dam outreach initiative is funded in part from a $31,250 Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Water Plan grant, matched with $20,000 from FEMA’s National Dam Safety Program state assistance grant and $15,000 of in-kind services from Wright Water Engineers, and a generous $20,000 donation from the Wright Family Foundation for additional signage. These donations will help future efforts including ongoing public education, increased outreach during spring months, when the Colorado recreation water season is in full swing, installation of warning signage both above and below highly visited low head dam structures, and additional outreach and education for emergency responders.

    Check out DNR’s Low Head Dam Webpage

    October 2020 La Niña update — @NOAA #ENSO

    From NOAA (Emily Becker):

    La Niña’s reign continues in the tropical Pacific, with an approximately 85% chance of lasting through the winter. Forecasters currently think this La Niña will be on the stronger side.

    Let’s check in with the tropical Pacific
    The temperature of the ocean surface in the Niño3.4 region was about 0.8°C cooler than the 1986–2015 average, according to the ERSSTv5 dataset. We monitor the Niño3.4 index with a few different temperature datasets—more on that here—but they are all comfortably below the La Niña threshold of -0.5°C. The three-month-average Niño3.4 index, called the Oceanic Niño Index (remember this for later!) was -0.6°C. The Oceanic Niño Index is our primary metric for the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, aka ENSO, the whole El Niño/La Niña ocean/atmosphere system.

    September 2020 sea surface temperature departure from the 1981-2010 average. Lots of cool water at the equator in the Pacific. Image from Data Snapshots on Climate.gov.

    The atmosphere is responding to La Niña’s cooler-than-average ocean surface. A strengthened Walker circulation is what we expect with La Niña conditions, and it’s what we have: air rising vigorously over the very warm western Pacific, traveling eastward high up in the atmosphere, sinking over the cooler central-eastern Pacific, and traveling back westward near the surface.

    Generalized Walker Circulation (December-February) anomaly during La Niña events, overlaid on map of average sea surface temperature anomalies. Anomalous ocean cooling (blue-green) in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean and warming over the western Pacific Ocean enhance the rising branch of the Walker circulation over the Maritime Continent and the sinking branch over the eastern Pacific Ocean. Enhanced rising motion is also observed over northern South America, while anomalous sinking motion is found over eastern Africa. NOAA Climate.gov drawing by Fiona Martin.

    Near-surface winds along the tropical Pacific (the trade winds) were stronger than average through the month of September and into early October, as were upper-level winds over the east-central Pacific. The two indexes we use to measure the change in sea-level pressure between the western and eastern Pacific, the Southern Oscillation Index and the Equatorial Southern Oscillation Index were positive, indicating the presence of more rising air (lower surface pressure) over the west and more sinking air (higher surface pressure) over the east—more evidence of an enhanced Walker circulation.

    What’s on deck
    Most of the dynamical computer model forecasts predict that La Niña will last through the winter and diminish in the spring. Also, there remains a substantial amount of cooler-than-average water under the surface of the central-eastern Pacific. This will provide a source of cooler water for the surface, giving confidence to the forecast that La Niña will continue.

    Difference from average (1981-2010) temperatures in the upper 300 meters (980 feet) of the tropical Pacific Ocean for the 5-day period centered on September 30, 2020. The vertical axis is depth below the surface (meters) and the horizontal axis is longitude, from the western to eastern tropical Pacific. This cross-section is right along the equator. Climate.gov figure from CPC data.

    Several computer models are predicting the Oceanic Niño Index will be, at its peak in November–January, more than 1.0°C cooler than the long-term average. We don’t have specific strength definitions for ENSO, but generally, a deviation of more than 1.0°C (1.8°F) from the long-term mean is considered a moderate-to-strong event. Stronger ENSO events don’t necessarily increase the strength of global weather and climate impacts, but they do increase the likelihood that those impacts will occur.

    Speaking of impacts…
    The altered atmospheric circulation of ENSO affects global weather (here’s how that works in general and La Niña in specific). Since ENSO can be predicted months ahead of time, a lot of research has gone into understanding the patterns of ENSO’s global weather impacts. The idea is that if we can predict ENSO, we can get an early picture of what global weather could look like months into the future.

    A recent study by some of our colleagues at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), led by Nathan Lenssen, carefully re-assessed global precipitation (rain, snow, etc.) patterns during ENSO events. They looked at La Niña and El Niño impacts separately, because the impacts are not always opposite. Meaning, although El Niño may be related to a wet winter in one location, La Niña doesn’t necessarily mean a dry winter in that location.

    Their study included every ENSO event from 1951–2016 where the peak strength, represented by the Oceanic Niño Index, was at least 1.0°C (for El Niño) or -1.0°C (for La Niña). This excludes weak or borderline ENSO events, when the atmospheric changes are not as consistent.

    La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific are known to shift rainfall patterns in many different parts of the world. The regions and seasons shown on this map indicate typical but not guaranteed impacts of La Niña. For further information, consult the probabilistic information that the map is based on. Image from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI).

    Nathan’s team assembled this map, which may look familiar to ENSO Blog readers. While maps like these are very important for an overview of La Niña’s impacts, some people may need more information about how often the impacts occurred during past La Niña events. Fortunately, the IRI team has made this information available. You can select the three-month period, El Niño or La Niña, and above/below average precipitation, and the map will show you how often this impact has occurred. For example, 70% of past La Niña winters in Florida were drier than average. Warning—that maproom can be quite a time sink!

    Turning impacts maps—either the one shown above, or probabilistic ones like on the IRI site—into an actual forecast can be a complicated process. (The second half of the IRI study assessed the accuracy of a few different forecasts based on ENSO impacts maps.) Official climate outlooks, like those from the Climate Prediction Center, take into consideration ENSO impacts, computer model forecasts, and knowledge of other climate patterns.

    One thing you can be sure about is that we’ll be right here, keeping you posted on La Niña 2020/21 as it evolves! Well, I might be in the IRI maproom.

    The October 2020 newsletter is hot off the presses from the #ColoradoRiver District #COriver #aridification

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Colorado River District works across • The Lower Gunnison Project near Montrose,
    the West Slope to improve infrastructure and restore rivers as part of its work to protect water supplies for all stakeholders.

    During the District’s Annual Water Seminar: Zooming in on West Slope Water on Sept. 22, speakers highlighted three projects that with the help of many partners, advance the District’s mission to protect Western Colorado’s water security.

    • The Elkhead Reservoir expansion near Hayden and Craig, completed in 2006, provides water for irrigators and the power industry while ensuring water is available to maintain river flow for endangered fish in the lower Yampa River.

    • The Lower Gunnison Project near Montrose Delta and Hotchkiss, is a multi-benefit project spearheaded by the District to modernize irrigation delivery systems.

    • The Windy Gap Bypass Channel Project in Grand County, still on the drawing board, will modify Windy Gap Reservoir to re- create a Colorado River channel and nearby flood plain.

    A recording of the webinar and presentation slides can be found at http://www.coloradoriverdistrict.org/annual-seminars/

    The latest briefing is hot off the presses from Western Water Assessment

    Click here to go to the Intermountain West Climate Dashboard (scroll down for the latest briefing):

    Water Year 2020 Summary (UT, WY, CO)

  • The 2020 water year was characterized by drier conditions and lower runoff than the drought-busting, high snowfall year that preceded. High 2019 seasonal runoff volumes left regional reservoir storage above average; reservoir storage at the beginning of the 2020 water year was 109% of average in Colorado, 127% of average in Utah and above average in Wyoming. Despite high snowfall and above average precipitation in the 2019 water year, June – September precipitation was much below average for most of the region. This left regional soil moisture values much below normal at the beginning of the 2020 water year Western US Seasonal Precipitation. In northern Utah and the Upper Green River basin in Wyoming, soils were wetter than other locations, but still below average. Soil moisture values in southern Utah and western Colorado were much below average (<25th percentile).
  • Total precipitation for the 2020 water year was below normal with much of the region seeing less than 70% of normal precipitation Western US Seasonal Precipitation. Western Wyoming was the one location in the region that received near-normal precipitation. Water year average temperatures were a mix of slightly-above and slightly-below normal Western US Seasonal Precipitation. In Wyoming, temperatures were 1-3°F below normal, while temperatures in much of Colorado were with 1°F of normal. Along the Wasatch Front and in central Utah, temperatures were 1-2°F above normal. Significant snowfall began during October in portions of the Colorado Rockies; accumulating snows for the remainder of the region began in November when much of the region, especially southern Utah, received much-above average snowfall. By April 1st, 2020, snow water equivalent (SWE) was near normal for most SNOTEL sites in the region Western US Seasonal Precipitation. Central and northern Colorado saw the greatest regional snowfall where many sites had 125 – 150% of average SWE on April 1st.
  • On April 1st, the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center forecasted near normal seasonal runoff volumes for the Upper Colorado, Upper Green, Bear, Yampa and White Rivers Western US Seasonal Precipitation. Other locations in the Great and Upper Colorado River basins were forecasted to see below normal runoff (60-90% average). As of April 1st, seasonal runoff forecasts were lower relative to average compared to SWE values. For example, SNOTEL sites along the Upper Colorado River were 125-150% of average on April 1st, but the seasonal runoff volume was forecasted at 90-110% of normal. This is referred to as an inefficient runoff, where above normal SWE does not translate into above normal runoff. The forecast of a relatively inefficient runoff in 2020 was in part caused by very low soil moisture values before snow began to accumulate in October – November 2019. Seasonal runoff volumes in 2020 turned out to be much lower than originally forecasted in April. The June 2020 water supply outlook, which is very close to the actual seasonal runoff volume, forecasted below to much-below normal runoff for the Great and Upper Colorado River basins Western US Seasonal Precipitation. Except for the Mainstem Colorado, Upper Green and Yampa River basins, seasonal runoff volumes in the Upper Colorado River and Great Basins were less than 60% of normal.
  • The dramatic change in seasonal runoff forecasts from April to June 2020 was caused by extremely warm and dry conditions in April – June 2020. Snow typically continues to accumulate at the higher elevations in April and May, but in 2020, warm and dry conditions melted existing snowpack at a faster rate and little additional snow accumulated in the region after April 1st. Dry conditions continued through the remainder of the water year. Much of Utah and portions of western Colorado and central Wyoming saw the driest April – September period on record Western US Seasonal Precipitation. April – September 2020 precipitation was in the bottom 10% of years for nearly all of Colorado and Utah and over half of Wyoming. Although temperatures averaged over the entire 2020 water year were generally near average, April – September 2020 temperatures were much above normal (hottest 10% of years since 1895) for most of Utah and the western two-thirds of Colorado.
  • The combination of low water-year precipitation and much above average temperatures since April caused a significant expansion and intensification of drought in the second half of the water year. On October 1st 2019, drought conditions covered only a portion of southern Utah and southwestern Colorado, with D0 conditions covering additional area in eastern Utah, southwestern Wyoming and Colorado. By the end of the 2020 water year, the entire region was under drought conditions (>D1) except for a small portion of northern Wyoming Western US Seasonal Precipitation. As of October 6th, 2020, D3 drought covers 46% of the three state region and D4 drought covers 10% of the region. Over the last 20 years of US Drought Monitor data, the current drought is one of the worst on record, in terms of regional coverage and severity. Current drought conditions are slightly more severe than in October of 2012 and 2018, but not as severe as the 2002 drought. In October 2002, D3 drought covered 63% of the region and D4 drought covered 19% of the region.
  • Latest Briefing – October 13, 2020 (UT, WY, CO)

  • Continued below average precipitation during September caused further worsening of drought conditions; extreme (D3) drought covers 46% and exceptional drought covers 10% (D4) of the region. Entering the 2021 water year, the current regional drought ranks among the worst in the last 20 years (2002, 2012, 2018). La Niña conditions currently exist and there is a 70-80% probability of La Niña conditions persisting through early winter. Drought conditions are expected to persist and potentially worsen as there is an elevated probability for below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures for the next three months.
  • Most of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming experienced below average precipitation during September Western US Seasonal Precipitation. The driest conditions occurred in Utah, where nearly the entire state received less than 25% of normal precipitation. September precipitation in Wyoming was below average with the driest conditions found in southern and western Wyoming. In Colorado, September precipitation ranged from near-average to much-below average. Isolated storms brought average to slightly-above average precipitation to several locations in central Wyoming and southern and eastern Colorado. Precipitation during July – September was very low;. July – September 2020 was the driest on record for areas of eastern Utah, northwestern Colorado and central Wyoming Western US Seasonal Precipitation. Precipitation was much below normal (driest 10% of years since 1895) for nearly the entire region.
  • Temperatures cooled relative to normal in September compared to previous months Western US Seasonal Precipitation. Except for a few isolated locations, September temperatures were within two degrees of normal in Colorado and Wyoming, and in eastern Utah and parts of central Utah. Along the Wasatch Front and in southwestern Utah, September temperatures were 2-4 degrees above normal. Temperatures during July – September were generally much above average, with most of Utah, Colorado and western Wyoming seeing temperatures that were in the top 10% of hottest July – September periods since 1895. Several locations in all three states, especially in southern Utah, saw the hottest July – Septembers on record Western US Seasonal Precipitation.
  • Streamflow in most regional river basins was below normal during September. Utah and western Colorado saw the lowest regional streamflow with most sites reporting below average (10 – 25th percentile) or much-below average (< 10th percentile) conditions. Some locations in northern Utah and along the mainstem of the Colorado and Arkansas Rivers saw near-normal (25th - 75th percentile) streamflow. Streamflow in Wyoming was a mix of below and near normal conditions during September. Regional reservoir storage remains relatively high as of October 1st, despite drought conditions across the entire region and low water year precipitation. On a statewide basis, reservoirs are at 82% of normal capacity in Colorado, 107% of normal capacity in Utah and generally above average capacity in Wyoming. Storage on large reservoirs in the Upper Colorado River Basin remains variable with Flaming Gorge Reservoir relatively full (85% capacity, 99% of average), Blue Mesa Reservoir below normal (53% capacity, 76% of average) and Lake Powell half-empty (47% capacity, 62% of average).
  • Drought conditions worsened in parts of Colorado and Utah during September. Some improvement to drought conditions occurred in western Wyoming and eastern Colorado Western US Seasonal Precipitation. Colorado saw the greatest regional degradation in drought conditions during September; D4 drought emerged in western Colorado and D3 drought expanded slightly. Nearly all of Colorado is in D1 drought, 43% of the state is in D3, or extreme drought, and 17% of the state is in D4, or exceptional drought. A one category improvement in drought conditions occurred in some areas of eastern Colorado. In Utah, D4 drought expanded significantly in central Utah and two areas of D4 drought emerged in eastern Utah. D4 drought now covers 16% of Utah. D3 drought expanded northward slightly and a one category improvement in drought conditions occurred in northern Utah. Drought conditions in much of Wyoming remain unchanged, but a one category improvement in drought occurred in western Wyoming. Northwestern Wyoming remains the only portion of the region unaffected by drought.
  • A major wildfire started in the Medicine Bow Mountains of southwestern Wyoming on September 17th. As of October 8th, the Mullen Fire burned 170, 996 acres in Wyoming and Colorado and was 14% contained. In August, the Pine Gulch Fire near Grand Junction, CO burned 151,000 acres, making it the largest fire in Colorado’s history.
  • During September, sea surface temperatures were below average in the eastern Pacific Ocean, indicating La Niña conditions. Most models for Pacific Ocean temperatures forecast below normal ocean temperatures during fall and early winter Western US Seasonal Precipitation. Early October ENSO forecasts predict a 90% probability of La Niña conditions through early winter and above a 60% probability of La Niña conditions through late winter to early spring Western US Seasonal Precipitation. On the one-month timescale, there is an increased probability for below normal precipitation for the entire region, with a greater chance of reduced precipitation in the eastern portion of the region Western US Seasonal Precipitation. On the three-month timescale, there is a slight increase in the probability of below normal precipitation for the southern half of Utah and most of Colorado, largely due to the influence of La Niña conditions Western US Seasonal Precipitation. On one-month and three-month timescales, there is an increased probability of above average temperatures for the entire region.
  • Significant September weather event. On September 8th, a strong upper-level low pressure system brought a sharp cold front to the region, which caused extremely cold temperatures, snow and high winds from the Front Range of Colorado to the Wasatch Front and further west into Oregon and Washington. Prior to the storm, much of the region experienced record to near-record temperatures in the 90s and low 100s. On September 8th, Denver, CO reported 1” of snow, the second earliest snowfall and a record low temperature of 31°F. Up to 9” of snow fell in the foothills of the Front Range and 5.6” of snow was measured in Boulder. In Wyoming, as much as 12” of snow fell in Centennial and a record 1.1” of snow fell in Cheyenne which tied the earliest snowfall for Cheyenne. Along the Wasatch Front, the storm caused a significant downslope wind event, in which winds blow from the east and accelerate as they travel down the western slope of the Wasatch Mountains. Wind gusts reached 89 mph at the University of Utah and 77 mph at the airport in Salt Lake City. The highest recorded wind speed was 99 mph in Farmington. This wind event differed from many Wasatch Front downslope wind events because the high winds extended much further west from the mountains than is typical. The storm downed thousands of mature trees, damaged powerlines and structures, closed roads and caused power outages for 180,000 customers. Strong easterly winds also occurred on the west slope of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington and led to the explosive growth of several large wildfires.
  • Ute Water wins Outstanding Treatment Plant award — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    The Ute Water Conservancy District Treatment Plant team was recently recognized with the 2020 Outstanding Water Treatment Plant Award from the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association. Photo credit: Courtesy of Ute Water via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dan West):

    The Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association recently recognized the Ute Water Conservancy District Treatment Plant with an award for its work.

    The award was the 2020 Outstanding Water Treatment Plant Award for utilities serving over 50,000 customers and is based on a number of factors including water quality, maintenance, professionalism and safety.

    Ute Water Process Control Technician Tony Ibarra nominated the plant for the award and said he was glad to see the work of the staff recognized. He said they have worked to continuously improve plant operations through facility upgrades, as well as staff training and certification…

    The Ute Water Treatment Plant has undergone facility improvements in recent years including pump station rehabilitations, pre-treatment facility upgrades, filter improvements and a motor control center replacement, among others, according to a news release.

    Treatment Plant Superintendent Ben Hoffman said he was happy to receive the recognition and noted that previous winners included larger Front Range districts. He said, typically, water districts make the news for negative reasons, but that he was happy to have something positive to share.