Lawsuit pits #Colorado’s Douglas County towns against state water regulators, #Aurora, #Greeley — @WaterEdCO

Castle Rock Water Conservation Specialist Rick Schultz, third from the right, inspects and tests a new landscape watering system in Castle Rock, one of many Douglas County communities reliant on the shrinking Denver Aquifer. In a Fresh Water News analysis of water conservation data, Castle Rock leads the state, having reduced its use 12% since 2013. Oct. 21, 2020. Credit: Jerd Smith, Fresh Water News

Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Jerd Smith):

Two of Colorado’s fastest-growing towns are suing the state over rules used to manage vast quantities of water that lie underground, saying that if the state moves forward with a new permitting requirement it could sharply limit their future water supplies.

Experts say the lawsuit, filed 14 months ago by Parker Water and Sanitation District and joined by Castle Rock, could dramatically change the way underground aquifers containing millions of acre-feet of water are managed and could also impact future water supplies for dozens of Front Range communities.

At issue is whether a 1985 state law regulates only the rate at which wells are pumped or whether the state can also limit the total volume of water pumped. Under what’s known as the 100-year rule, well owners in the Denver Basin aquifers, which underlie much of the Front Range and Eastern Plains, can pump 1% of the water estimated to be under their land annually for 100 years. The law applies to aquifers known as “non-tributary,” meaning they do not receive any natural recharge from snow and rain and are also not connected in any way to rivers.

Water stored in Colorado’s Denver Basin aquifers, which extend from Greeley to Colorado Springs, and from Golden to the Eastern Plains near Limon, does not naturally recharge from rain and snow and is therefore carefully regulated. Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

Last March, as part of what it describes as an administrative effort to ensure wells across the state are regulated in a uniform way, the Colorado Division of Water Resources also began including the total amount of water a Denver Basin aquifer well permit holder was entitled to pump during the lifetime of the well permit.

“Not only is there an annual maximum, but we also interpreted the law to mean that you are limited to the total amount of water under your property,” said Tracy Kosloff, deputy state engineer at the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

Lifetime limits?

Parker Water and Sanitation District objected, saying that placing a lifetime limit on the total volume of water available to withdraw would improperly limit their water supplies, violating their property rights.

At the same time Greeley and Aurora have also joined the legal battle, saying they support the state’s effort to more closely manage underground supplies by including a specific volume on permits because it will better protect everyone over the long run.

Parker and other Douglas County entities declined to comment on the suit, but in its court filing Parker described the state’s efforts as “arbitrary and capricious.”

The Denver Basin aquifers once served as a plentiful, pure and inexpensive water source for fast-growing Douglas County communities and others. Instead of buying expensive water rights in nearby rivers and streams, and building dams and reservoirs to store that water, developers could simply obtain a permit and drill a well.

For years the aquifers had been accessed largely by individual homeowners and ranchers. But as growth took off in the 1970s, Parker, Castle Rock and others began drilling new high-powered wells, capable of pumping 1,000 gallons a minute, deep into the aquifers.

Water in aquifers is often under intense pressure and when wells are drilled, pressure is released, allowing the water to rise quickly to the surface. But eventually, the pressure subsides and the water no longer rises naturally, meaning electricity has to be used to draw the water to the surface. And as the water is pumped, because there is no natural recharge, the water table gets lower and lower, requiring that expensive new wells be drilled deeper to maintain water supplies.

Aquifer distress

By the 1980s it was clear the aquifers were in decline, and in 1985 the state imposed the 100-year rule and began monitoring aquifer levels and calculating how much was contained in the four geographic formations that comprise the Denver Basin. But back then there was little money to do the detailed, widespread mapping and hydrological studies needed to pinpoint how much water lay under each entity’s land holdings.

Since then more wells have been drilled, and the aquifers are being used heavily not just for water supply, but also for water storage. Cities such as Highlands Ranch, Parker and others have implemented sophisticated programs that put surface water back into the aquifer, using it like a savings account which can be accessed in drought years.

It is this banked water that the state, and Greeley and others, want to protect.

And that’s not an easy task, because these non-tributary aquifers have widely different geologic formations including sand, silt and bedrock, which allow water to freely move from one place to another, making it difficult to track.

“The water in the Denver Basin aquifers isn’t static, like an ice cube in a tray. It’s a leaky ice cube tray,” said Kosloff.

More science, please

Sean Chambers, director of the Greeley Water and Sewer Department, said his concern is that allowing Parker and Castle Rock to pump without an overall volume limit could mean that water he and other cities are injecting into the ground is unknowingly extracted, harming their own supplies. Greeley has begun an ambitious groundwater supply program with its purchase last year of the Terry Ranch. Chambers said it is critical that the aquifers are closely monitored and managed to ensure everyone’s water supplies are protected.

“You shouldn’t be allowed to pump water from someone else’s property,” Chambers said.

Ralf Topper is a groundwater expert who formerly oversaw the state’s groundwater programs at the Division of Water Resources. Though Parker, Castle Rock and other communities have done a good job of regulating their non-renewable aquifer supplies and slowing the aquifers’ declines, interference between wells in urban areas is becoming more of an issue, Topper said.

Topper and other experts say the issue will only be resolved when more sophisticated aquifer management tools are implemented, including thousands of new site-specific water studies, underground mapping, and public processes to ensure other water users aren’t injured by over-pumping.

Chambers agrees.

“Our fundamental concern is that we want science-based, data-driven analysis of all non-tributary aquifer determinations. Lastly, we want to be sure if an aquifer is deemed non-tributary it is deemed as such by a scientific analysis that is subject to a public hearing and appeals process,” he said.

Topper and others have questioned whether existing state law gives water regulators the authority to make this change and that is something the court is examining now.

Future shock

Parker, Castle Rock and other water districts in Douglas and Arapahoe counties have dramatically reduced their use of groundwater and they intend to continue weaning themselves off the aquifers. But they still want to protect their rights to the ground water because the aquifers are the best tool they have to protect against future droughts.

“The imposition of this condition … is a denial of a statutory right, is contrary to a constitutional right, and is a clearly unwarranted exercise [of the state engineer’s] discretion,” Parker said in its court filing.

How quickly the court will decide the case isn’t clear yet. Still, said Deputy Engineer Kosloff, “It’s good for us to understand sooner rather than later so we can all plan for that.”

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.

Upper Taylor and Soap Creek designated as ‘Outstanding Waters’ — The #Gunnison Country Times #GunnisonRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

The Taylor River, jewel of the Gunnison River basin. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on the Gunnison Country Times website (Bella Biondini). Here’s an excerpt:

On [June 14, 2022] the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission designated the headwaters of the Taylor River and lower Soap Creek as “Outstanding Waters,” a label that will protect the water quality of the stream reaches for future generations. During its June rulemaking hearing, the state commission voted to protect 25 of the 26 stream segments proposed — encompassing 520 river miles throughout the Animas, Gunnison, San Juan, San Miguel and the Upper Dolores basins. The proposal, three years in the making, was created by the Southwest Colorado Outstanding Waters Coalition, a group of stakeholders and organizations from across the state, to conserve the segments’ exceptionally high water quality and the benefits they provide for wildlife and communities throughout southwestern Colorado.

Through the Clean Water Act, the state can designate a waterway as “outstanding” to protect it from actions that would permanently degrade the water quality such as mining, road development and oil and gas extractions.

The commission reviews each river basin across the state for new designations every three years. The process to nominate a stream is rigorous, and includes year-round water sampling, data analysis and evaluation and widespread public outreach. A stream must meet three main criteria to qualify as outstanding. First it must have either exceptional recreational or ecological significance. Examples include Gold Medal fisheries as well as waters within national parks and monuments. Nominees must also need additional protections from the state to maintain existing quality, and meet water quality standards that support aquatic life, recreation and domestic water supply use — requiring measurements of pH levels, dissolved oxygen, E. coli, metals and other trace elements.

Reclamation welcomes public input on development of future #ColoradoRiver operations during historic #drought #COriver #aridification

Photo shows the Colorado River flanked by fall colors east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Photo credit: USBR

Click the link to read the release on the Reclamation website (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation today published a Federal Register notice to assist in its efforts to develop future Colorado River operating provisions. Several decisional documents and agreements that govern the operation of crucial Colorado River facilities, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, and the management of Colorado River water will expire at the end of 2026. The notice seeks specific input on how to foster meaningful participation by all stakeholders in preparation for beginning the National Environmental Policy Act process to develop post-2026 operating approaches for the Colorado River, and operating strategies to address post-2026.

“In my testimony last week, I stressed the need for a quick response and action from across the basin to reduce water use and protect the sustainability of the Colorado River system,” said Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “As we focus on these short-term response actions, we also clearly recognize the importance of simultaneously planning for the longer-term to stabilize our reservoirs before we face an even larger crisis.”

The publication of this notice is not the start of the NEPA process but is a tool to seek input and encourage brainstorming and input before the formal initiation of the NEPA process.Reclamation is targeting an early 2023 start for the NEPA process to develop post-2026 operating guidelines.

“We want to hear from everyone who has a stake in this basin. We intend to develop our next operating rules in an inclusive, transparent manner, relying on the best available science,” said Senior Water Resources Program Manager Carly Jerla. “We’re seeking input to foster a meaningful participation of Colorado River partners and stakeholders and to gather ideas and strategies for the post-2026 operations that should also be considered in the NEPA process.”

The notice asks for specific suggestions on the process and the substance of how best to analyze future operations and what those operations should include. It also highlights the changing circumstances in the Colorado River Basin since 2007, including declining hydrology, drought and low-runoff conditions impacted by a warmer, changing climate, inclusivity in Colorado River decision-making and the need for continued operational alignment and partnership with the Republic of Mexico.

Specific documents and agreements that expire at the end of 2026 include the December 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead, among other essential management documents, both within the United States as well as international agreements between the United States and Mexico under the 1944 Water Treaty.

The Colorado River Basin is experiencing a 22-year drought and low runoff conditions, and reservoirs within the basin are at historic low levels. There are extensive impacts throughout the Colorado River Basin, including water for homes and crops to the generation of electricity that supports everything we do.

While continuing to work with its partners to mitigate the impacts of this 22-year drought, Reclamation is focused on the next phase of Colorado River operational decision-making.

To help explain the process and answer questions, Reclamation is hosting two webinars:

July 12 at 10 a.m. MDT
Click here to join the meeting
Or call in (audio only)
+1 719-733-3211,,100899510#
Phone Conference ID: 100 899 510#

July 14 at 10 a.m. MDT
Join on your computer or mobile app
Click here to join the meeting
Or call in (audio only)
+1 202-640-1187,,795497392#
Phone Conference ID: 795 497 392#

The public input period ends September 1, 2022.

To learn more about the operations on the Colorado River, please visit https://www.usbr.gov/ColoradoRiverBasin/.

A subtraction problem:’ A shrinking #ColoradoRiver faces sharp, sudden cuts — The #Nevada Independent #COriver #aridification

Southern Nevada Water Authority Intake #1 exposed April, 2022. Photo credit: SNWA

Click the link to read the article on the Nevada Independent website (Daniel Rothberg). Here’s an excerpt:

The ongoing drought and climatic conditions facing much of the West are “unprecedented,” said Camille Calimlim Touton, who leads the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the agency responsible for managing water infrastructure across the region. Touton told federal lawmakers on June 14 that Colorado River users must reduce diversions by a substantial amount: 2 to 4 million acre-feet. One acre-foot, alone, is a massive amount of water. It is enough water to fill one acre, about the size of a football field, to a depth of one foot. It is 325,851 gallons of water and weighs about 2.7 million pounds. Multiply that by two to four million, and that is how much water the states are being asked to conserve. For perspective, Nevada has the legal right to consume 300,000 acre-feet, about 1.8 percent of all the legal entitlements in the Colorado River system. Together, Arizona, Nevada and California used about 7 million acre-feet from the Colorado River last year.

The cutbacks are necessary, Touton explained, to stabilize Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two largest reservoirs on the Colorado River. Over the past year, both reservoirs have hit record-low levels and have continued to drop. If they drop further, the West faces extreme risks in the production of hydroelectric power — which is shepherded across the region — and the deliveries of water downstream for millions of residents and farmers in the Southwest.

The size of the cutbacks is not necessarily a surprise. Nearly all of the state water officials and experts I’ve spoken to have crunched the numbers and come to a similar conclusion. But the speed at which the cuts must be made presents a challenging task for negotiators.

#Colorado Air Pollution Control Division: Upcoming Recovered Methane Stakeholder Meetings / Próximas reuniones de partes interesadas sobre metano recuperado, June 25 and 28, 2022 #ActOnClimate

CH4 trend: This graph shows globally-averaged, monthly mean atmospheric methane abundance determined from marine surface sites since 1983. Values for the last year are preliminary. (NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory)

The Air Pollution Control Division invites you to two upcoming stakeholder engagement meetings on the to-be-proposed Recovered Methane Protocol rule. Come learn more, ask questions, and share your thoughts!

Registration is required.

Saturday, June 25 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. REGISTER HERE:
https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUpdOugrj4tEtUyUwyZcVIVdOtAE4HyFanM

Tuesday, June 28 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. REGISTER HERE:
https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAvceGsrzoqGNeCK1MicXdBis1Osq78nqTT

Background:

To address climate change and meet requirements from Senate Bill 21-264 and House Bill 21-1238, the Division will develop recovered methane protocols for use in Clean Heat Plans to help demonstrate greenhouse gas reductions by gas utilities, and a crediting and tracking system for recovered methane projects. In July 2022 will propose a rule to the Air Quality Control Commission to establish recovered methane protocols and a crediting and tracking system for recovered methane in Colorado, as required by statute. The rulemaking will take place in November 2022.

Under state statute, recovered methane includes biomethane, coal mine methane, methane derived from municipal solid waste, wastewater treatment, or the conversion or thermal decomposition of biomass, and methane that would have leaked without repairs of the gas distribution and service pipelines from the city gate to customer end use.

La División de Control de la Contaminación del Aire lo invita a dos próximas reuniones de participación de las partes interesadas sobre la regla del Protocolo de Metano Recuperado. ¡Ven a aprender más, haz preguntas y comparte tus pensamientos!

Es necesario registrarse.

Sábado 25 de junio 10:00 a 11:30 REGÍSTRESE AQUÍ: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUpdOugrj4tEtUyUwyZcVIVdOtAE4HyFanM

Martes 28 de junio 18:00 h. a las 7:00 p. m. REGÍSTRESE AQUÍ: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAvceGsrzoqGNeCK1MicXdBis1Osq78nqTT

Fondo:

Para abordar el cambio climático y cumplir con los requisitos del Proyecto de Ley del Senado 21-264 y el Proyecto de Ley de la Cámara de Representantes 21-1238, la División desarrollará protocolos de metano recuperado para usar en Planes de Calor Limpio para ayudar a demostrar reducciones de gases de efecto invernadero por parte de las empresas de servicios públicos de gas, y un sistema de acreditación y seguimiento para proyectos de recuperación de metano. En julio de 2022 propondrá una regla a la Comisión de Control de la Calidad del Aire para establecer protocolos de metano recuperado y un sistema de acreditación y seguimiento para el metano recuperado en Colorado, según lo exige la ley. La reglamentación tendrá lugar en noviembre de 2022.

Según la ley estatal, el metano recuperado incluye el biometano, el metano de las minas de carbón, el metano derivado de los desechos sólidos municipales, el tratamiento de aguas residuales o la conversión o descomposición térmica de la biomasa, y el metano que se habría filtrado sin las reparaciones de las tuberías de servicio y distribución de gas de la ciudad. puerta al uso final del cliente.

Opinion: Act now to claim federal water infrastructure dollars — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel

Wildlife biologist Bill Vetter and Western Rivers Regional Program Manager with Audubon Rockies Abby Burk walk along an irrigation ditch in Grand County. An avian monitoring program aims to learn more about how birds use irrigated agriculture.
CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

Click the link to read the opinion piece on the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel website (Gail Schwartz and Abby Burk). Here’s an excerpt:

It should come as good news then that the bipartisan infrastructure package Congress passed last fall appropriated a landmark $8.3 billion for investment in western water, along with $50 billion earmarked for projects to bolster resilience to climate change. Collectively, the infrastructure package is the largest investment in water infrastructure and the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history. Additionally, last year’s American Rescue Plan Act delivered $3.8 billion to Colorado, a portion of which will fund necessary and overdue investments in projects to protect sources of drinking water, increase resilience to climate-driven drought, and provide capital for critical infrastructure that would finally deliver safe, reliable drinking water to Tribal communities.

While these historic federal investments have been made, the equally vital work of putting them to use has only just begun. Given the high demand and the competitive nature of the funding available through the federal infrastructure bill, Colorado must take proactive steps to secure these federal funds. As two Western Slope residents — one a former state senator and CWCB director, one the Western Rivers Regional Program Manager for Audubon Rockies — we thank the general assembly and Governor Polis for making Colorado more competitive by passing and signing into law HB22-1379 and SB22-215 this past legislative session. This is a down payment toward a more secure water future…

The billions of dollars that have been set aside for western water and climate resilience in the infrastructure package represent an unparalleled opportunity for state decision makers to advance implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan. The coalition members of Water for Colorado, along with our partners across the state, stand ready to help the administration expedite the pace and scale of efforts to fund and implement water projects across Colorado. Our investment in these efforts now will pay dividends to strengthen Colorado’s communities and protect Colorado’s water resources for future generations.

Capturing these federal funds isn’t a given. It necessitates a concerted effort and leadership from local governments and state agencies such as the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado State Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Public Health and Environment to apply for federal infrastructure funds and work with eligible entities to move swiftly, implementing projects that protect our water resources. Additionally, in many cases, access to funds is contingent upon being matched by state or private dollars, making it critically important that money appropriated toward that end from HB1379 — Wildfire Prevention Watershed Restoration Funding and SB216 — Responsible Gaming Grant Program reaches its goals. Multi-benefit projects that support healthy watersheds, protect rivers, enhance climate resilience, accelerate urban water conservation and work toward a future in which everyone has access to clean, reliable water supplies are within reach if we meet this moment.

Where Colorado River no longer meets the sea, a pulse of water brings new life — The Los Angeles Times #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Water flows in the Colorado River Delta. Photo: Claudio Contreras Koob

Click the link to read the article on the Los Angeles Times website (Ian James). Here’s an excerpt:

For decades, so much water has been diverted to supply farms and cities that the Colorado River has seldom met the sea and much of its delta in Mexico has been reduced to a dry riverbed, with only small remnants of its once-vast wetlands surviving. Over the last eight weeks, water has been flowing in parts of the delta once again, restoring a stretch of river in Mexico where previously there had been miles of desert sand. The water is being released from an irrigation canal to aid the delta’s parched environment as part of an agreement between the Mexican and U.S. governments and with support from environmental groups. Those who are involved in the effort say that even as severe drought and the warming climate sap the Colorado River, the initiative shows how small amounts of water can be used to benefit struggling ecosystems…

This site, a habitat restoration area called El Chausse, is located in the southern portion of the delta, downstream from long stretches of dry riverbed, and was chosen as a place where limited water releases would boost the ecosystem by nourishing vegetation and expanding habitat for wildlife. It’s one of a few sites in Mexico where conservationists have been restoring wetlands and forests along the path where the river once flowed. Six years ago, workers removed invasive tamarisk trees at the site and planted a forest of native cottonwoods, willows and mesquites. Those trees have grown rapidly and now drape the wetland in shade, attracting a variety of birds, such as yellow warblers, blue-gray gnatcatchers and vermilion flycatchers…

This is the second straight year of water releases in Mexico. When the water flowed through part of the delta last year, plants released seeds that settled along the banks. [Eduardo] Blancas and his colleagues have seen vegetation flourish along the river channel. They’ve spotted about 120 species of birds in the area.

Paper: By Land, Air, and Water—U.S. Geological Survey Science Supporting Fish and Wildlife Migrations Throughout North America — USGS

Click here to access the paper on the USGS website. Here’s the abstract:

Countless species of animals—big game, birds, bats, insects, amphibians, reptiles, and fish—migrate to reach suitable habitats to feed, reproduce, and raise their young. Animal migrations developed over millennia commonly follow migration corridors—unique routes for each species—to move among seasonal habitats. Changes along those corridors, whether from human development (buildings, roads, dams) or from natural disturbances (for example, climate change, drought, fire, flooding, or invasive species), can make them harder to navigate. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Ecosystems Mission Area provides science that assists land managers in mapping, enhancing, protecting, and reconnecting migration corridors critical for diverse fish and wildlife populations that migrate, such as Odocoileus hemionus (mule deer) and Antilocapra americana (pronghorn), trout and salmon, salamanders, tortoises, bats, and Danaus plexippus (monarch butterflies).

Watershed Summit 2022 recap #shed22 #ClimateChange #COriver #ColoradoRiver #aridification #ActOnClimate

Denver Botanic Gardens was live-Tweeting from the summit yesterday. Here’s their Twitter feed. (They did not use the hash tag #shed22.)

Here’s the link to the #shed22 Twitter stream. I am always blown away at the insight and awareness displayed by others around me at theses events.

Denver Botanic Gardens is a great venue for the summit. If you need to get up and walk around to clear your mind you can take in the sights of the gardens.

Beavers & Why They Matter: A Ranch Talk with author Ben Goldfarb, July 16, 2022 — RM Land Library

Click the link for all the inside skinny and to register on the RM Land Library website:

Please join us at South Park’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch as author Ben Goldfarb discusses the world of beavers and the landscapes they create. Ben is the author of of Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, the winner of the 2019 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award and named one of the best books of 2018 by the Washington Post. This special event is FREE for all who register!

Buffalo Peaks Ranch will stay open after Ben’s talk,until 3pm. We’ll be offering a Ranch Tour, and the opportunity for you roam the ranch and river, with time to sketch, take photos, and add to the ranch’s Bird List. Bring a picnic lunch if you like. You’ll also be able to explore the ranch’s new beaver pond — but be sure to bring your boots for that!

American beaver, he was happily sitting back and munching on something. and munching, and munching. By Steve from washington, dc, usa – American Beaver, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3963858

#ColoradoRiver district offering aid in tapping water funds — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel #COriver #aridification

A view looking up the Colorado River from the pedestrian bridge over the river, just upstream of the river’s confluence with the Roaring Fork River. The location is one of three sites where the City of Glenwood Springs plans to build a whitewater park using a water right for recreation. CREDIT: BRENT GARDNER-SMITH/ASPEN JOURNALISM

Click the link to read the article on the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel website (Dennis Webb). Here’s an excerpt:

The tax-funded West Slope entity has launched a special round of “Accelerator Grant” opportunities aimed at providing support for grant-writing, feasibility evaluation, design, preliminary environmental review, benefits analysis, and engineering to support applications for federal funding made available by the law. The district will consider paying for up to 85% of the funding needed by an applicant to pursue the federal funds. It also is planning a free online webinar June 29 to help Western Slope water users navigate the funding opportunities provided by the law and discuss the Accelerator Grant program. District staff will discuss federal funding categories for water projects, how to put together a successful federal grant application, and how to leverage other grant opportunities to maximize funding and project impacts…

The financial aid the river district is offering to help entities apply for federal funding is made possible by a tax measure that voters in its 15 counties approved in 2020. Some of the tax revenues go toward the district’s operations, but most of it, more than $4 million a year, goes to support entities on a range of water-related projects.

The deadline to apply for Accelerator Grants is Aug. 1. More information may be found by visiting https://www.coloradoriverdistrict.org/ and clicking on the Community Funding Partnership link.

To register for the June 29 event on the infrastructure funding and Accelerator Grants, visit https://www.coloradoriverdistrict.org/2022/06/how-to-make-it-rain/. The event is part of the district’s Water With Your Lunch series.

Revised Xcel Settlement Benefits the Climate with 2031 Retirement of Comanche 3 and Reduced Reliance on Fossil Gas — Western Resource Advocates #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Solar installation in the San Luis Valley. Photo credit: Western Resource Advocates

Click the link to read the blog post on the Western Resource Advocates website (Julianne Basinger):

Western Resource Advocates signed on to a revised settlement agreement filed today in Xcel Energy’s Electric Resource and Clean Energy Plan proceeding before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The new settlement includes accelerated dates for retiring the Comanche 3 coal unit, helps avoid building unnecessary and potentially stranded new fossil gas generation, and establishes commitments to achieve interim carbon emission reductions in 2024 and 2027.

“If approved, this settlement secures the next stage of Colorado’s energy transition, ensuring commitments from Xcel to reduce its harmful fossil-fuel emissions that contribute to climate change,” said Gwen Farnsworth, Western Resource Advocates’ managing senior policy advisor in Colorado. “The earlier date for retiring Comanche 3, plus cutting the assumed lifetime for any new fossil gas generation and establishing interim targets for reducing carbon emissions, will all help Colorado reach its climate goals. Important provisions also extend community assistance to the Pueblo community for 10 years and will help in the transition to new economic opportunities as the coal-fired Comanche unit closes.”

These are all key improvements to the settlement WRA has advocated for during the commission proceeding on Xcel’s plan. WRA opposed a previous version of the settlement signed by other parties late last year. Specifically, the new settlement calls for Xcel to:

  • Retire Comanche 3 by January 1, 2031 — four years earlier than the original settlement, which will avoid an additional 3.5 million tons of carbon emissions compared to the original settlement filed in November and will cut toxic local air pollutants in Pueblo;
  • Commit to interim reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, with targets of a 50% reduction by 2024 and 65% by 2027, compared with the utility’s 2005 levels;
  • Cut the modeled lifetime for any new fossil gas generation to 25 years; and
  • Expand Xcel’s Just Transition Plan, by extending the community assistance benefits for Pueblo to 10 years.
  • The settlement overall will provide more than 17 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions reductions. Reducing these fossil-fuel emissions will help curb the harmful effects of climate change. The Comanche generating station is also responsible for over 80% of all toxic chemicals released into the surrounding community of Pueblo.

    Several provisions in the revised settlement reduce the utility’s expected future reliance on fossil-fuel gas generation. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reducing methane emissions from fossil-fuel gas is one of the biggest and fastest strategies for slowing climate change.

    The Xcel settlement today follows the utility’s February 2021 announcement of its Clean Energy Plan committing to achieve an 85% reduction in carbon emissions and 80% renewable energy generation by 2030, as well as 100% clean energy by 2050. A 2019 Colorado law requires Xcel to reduce its emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2030. In 2019, the Colorado Legislature also passed House Bill 1261, requiring the state to reduce its economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

    #Drought news (June 23, 2022): Targeted improvements were made in parts of #Colorado and northern #WY due to a robust Southwest Monsoon and an active storm track across the Northern Tier

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

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

    This Week’s Drought Summary

    Much above-normal temperatures plagued much of the central and eastern contiguous U.S. (CONUS) this week from the Great Plains eastward to the Mississippi Valley and Southeast. The western third of CONUS, the Northeast, and coastal Mid-Atlantic experienced seasonal to below-normal temperatures. Precipitation was lacking in many locations that experienced excessive (in some cases record) heat, leading to widespread expansion of abnormal dryness and moderate drought conditions along the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, the Southern Plains, and the Southeast. From the Central Plains northward, despite the excessive heat (daytime high temperatures above 100°F several days this week), recent improvements driven by an active storm track leading up to this week resulted in modest, more targeted degradations in the drought depiction. Another week of heavy rainfall warranted improvements in Montana. In the Pacific Northwest, below-normal temperatures and recent improvements from an active weather pattern leading up to this week resulted in improvements in some of the long-term drought indicators. Heavy rainfall associated with the Southwest Monsoon also fell across parts of the Four Corners region. However, this only acted to halt any further degradations this week. Given drought is strongly entrenched in the Four Corners, an active Southwest Monsoon circulation will need to persist for conditions to improve…

    High Plains

    Much of the High Plains Region has seen beneficial rainfall and temperatures averaging near to below-normal over the past 30 days, with the exception of a few locations. Some targeted improvements were warranted across parts of southeastern Nebraska this week, which picked up 1.5 to 3 inches of rainfall (per AHPS estimates). Targeted improvements were also made in parts of Colorado and northern Wyoming due to a robust Southwest Monsoon circulation and an active storm track across the Northern Tier, respectively. Conversely, high winds and hot temperatures, which exceeded 100°F several days this week, resulted in high evapotranspiration rates and, subsequently, degradations for parts of the Central Plains. Evapotranspiration rates approaching 0.5 inches per day were reported in western Nebraska…

    Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending June 21, 2022.

    West

    Much of the Northern Tier of the U.S. from the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains has seen marked improvements in recents months due to a persistent storm track and near to below-normal temperatures. That same pattern continued this week, leading to 1-category improvements from the Pacific Northwest eastward to Montana. Improvements in Montana are the result of 7-day precipitation surpluses of more than 1 inch for many locations and near to below-normal temperatures. In the Pacific Northwest, long-term indicators continued to improve due to the recent storminess and below-normal temperatures leading up to this week. In the Four Corners region, heavy rainfall was observed in a large swath stretching across western New Mexico, due to a robust Southwest Monsoon circulation. However, there were no marked improvements to drought indicators this week to warrant improvements. Given drought is strongly entrenched in the Four Corners, an active Southwest Monsoon circulation will need to persist for conditions to improve…

    South

    Extreme heat, high winds, and below-normal precipitation continued in Texas, leading to another round of degradations this week across the state. Extreme heat and below-normal precipitation also lead to the widespread expansion and addition of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) across the Lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys. Soil moisture conditions quickly deteriorated this week (falling below the 30th percentile across many areas that saw expansion). Additionally, daily and 7-day average USGS stream flows fell below-normal (below the 24th percentile) and vegetation indices are also indicating increased stress to plants. Short-term (30 to 60-day) deficits are starting to accumulate also, with many areas across the Lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys experiencing 4 to 6 inch rainfall deficits over the last 60 days…

    Looking Ahead

    A storm system near the coast of the Carolinas will bring chances for heavy rainfall to parts of the Eastern Seaboard over the next couple of days (June 23-24). Meanwhile, another storm system will intensify and move eastward from the Northern Plains to the Great Lakes. The trailing frontal boundary associated with this system will bring increased chances of rainfall to much of the eastern U.S. However, rainfall is likely to be hit-or-miss and remain below-normal for many locations, especially along the Lower and Middle Mississippi Valley. The passage of the frontal boundary in the eastern U.S. should bring more seasonal daytime temperatures by the start of the work week (Monday, June 27). An active Southwest Monsoon circulation is forecast to bring increased precipitation and below-normal maximum temperatures to parts of the Four Corners region, with below-normal maximum temperatures extending into the Central Plains.

    The Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 day outlook (valid June 28 to July 2, 2022) favors above-normal temperatures across much of California, the Great Basin, and Eastern Rockies. Above-normal temperature probabilities also extend from the Central and Southern Plains eastward to the Appalachians and southward to the Gulf Coast. Near to below-normal temperatures are favored across the Northern Tier of the contiguous U.S. (CONUS), as mean mid-level high pressure is expected to remain farther to the south. Below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation are favored for much of the Four Corners region, associated with a robust Southwest Monsoon circulation. Near to above-normal precipitation probabilities also extend along the Northern Tier from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes, associated with storm activity. Increased chances of below-normal precipitation across the northern Great Basin and from the Middle Mississippi Valley to the Northeast are associated with dry northerly mean surface flow and surface high pressure, respectively.

    Drought Monitor one week change map ending June 21, 2022.

    What Happens If Glen Canyon Dam’s Power Shuts Off? #LakePowell is drying behind one of the Southwest’s largest hydropower plants — @CircleOfBlue #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Ariz., forms Lake Powell. It’s still unclear how Colorado would participate in a federally mandated plan to conserve 2 to 4 million acre-feet water to protect the Colorado River system.
    CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

    Click the link to read the article on the Circle of Blue website (Brett Walton):

  • Glen Canyon Dam is operating at 60 percent of its hydroelectric capacity.
  • Hydropower generation will likely shut down when Lake Powell’s elevation drops below 3,490 feet. Currently the lake is at 3,534 feet.
  • Besides the kilowatt-hours it generates, Glen Canyon provides key services to the electric grid.
  • Critics of the Bureau of Reclamation had a favored slur for the concrete and earthen walls that the federal agency raised across magnificent canyons of the Colorado River watershed: cash register dams.

    The dig wasn’t wrong, especially during the agency’s mid-20th century construction spree. For decades, hydroelectric dams in the Colorado River Storage Project supplied cheap power and a relatively steady revenue stream from electricity sales that helped repay dam construction and operation costs while also subsidizing crop production and settlement of the American West.

    Today, the cash registers are ringing at much lower decibels. Sapped by a warming climate, the grand reservoirs of the Colorado River are in a two-decade decline, dropping low enough that hydropower from one of the grandest, Lake Powell, may soon be in doubt.

    The country’s second largest reservoir and a lynchpin in the intermountain electric grid, Powell is more dirt than water these days. The reservoir holds just 27 percent of its full capacity. In April it dropped to a level not witnessed since Glen Canyon Dam was completed nearly six decades ago. Water in Powell is released through turbines in the dam, generating power that electrifies homes, businesses, rural coops, and irrigation pumps across six states and more than 50 Native American tribes.

    Lake Powell’s feeble condition is part of a climate reckoning in the West that links water, ecosystems, food production, and energy generation. A drying climate and withering heat in recent years have pummeled the region: water cuts to farmers, dry wells, mass fish and bird die-offs, and depleted reservoirs that have decimated hydropower output.

    Glen Canyon Dam is now operating at about 60 percent of its designed hydroelectric capacity, according to Nick Williams, the Upper Colorado River Basin power office manager for the Bureau of Reclamation. Rated for 1,320 megawatts — roughly the size of a large fossil fuel plant — the dam is now capable of only 800 megawatts.

    The failure of Glen Canyon Dam to produce hydropower, in isolation, would be bothersome for energy markets but not a catastrophe. It would raise the cost of electricity for 5 million retail power customers, increase greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generation, and eliminate key grid-support services that hydropower provides.

    But a loss of generating capacity at Glen Canyon at the wrong time — in the summer, for instance, when electricity demands are high — combined with other power station outages could contribute to an electric supply contagion, grid strain, and blackouts in the western states, according to a recent reliability assessment from a national energy watchdog.

    Recognizing this, the Department of the Interior took emergency action last month to throw a life preserver at Lake Powell. The Bureau of Reclamation’s parent agency ordered it to hold back more water in the reservoir and at the same time release reinforcement supplies from Flaming Gorge, a smaller reservoir higher in the watershed. Together the actions will add nearly 1 million acre-feet to Powell this year, equivalent to 16 feet of water in the beleaguered reservoir.

    Explaining the decision, Tanya Trujillo, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for water and science, said that the integrity not only of the dam’s power generation but also its water delivery system was at stake if Powell were to breach elevation 3,490 feet — the level at which hydropower generation at Glen Canyon Dam would likely cease.

    “In such circumstances,” Trujillo wrote to water leaders in the basin states, “Glen Canyon Dam facilities face unprecedented operational reliability challenges, water users in the Basin face increased uncertainty, downstream resources could be impacted, the western electrical grid would experience uncertain risk and instability, and water and power supplies to the West and Southwestern United States would be subject to increased operational uncertainty.”

    Glen Canyon Dam from the east side. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

    Uncertain, Unstable Times
    A dress rehearsal already occurred last summer when Lake Oroville, California’s second largest reservoir, dropped below its minimum power level, and Hyatt Powerplant stopped producing electricity due to low water for the first time in its history. The same fate could await Lake Powell.

    Bureau of Reclamation projections indicate the reservoir has a 10 percent chance in the next two years of breaching 3,490 feet. As of June 5, the reservoir’s elevation was 3,534 feet and slowly climbing as melting snow and Interior’s emergency actions contribute to a seasonal rise that has added nearly 12 feet to the reservoir since it bottomed out in April. It is out of the danger zone, for now.

    Water users in the Colorado River basin are already feeling the effects of depleted reservoirs. Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir and located on the Colorado River a few hundred miles downstream, also plunged to a record low this spring. A subsequent shortage declaration means that Arizona and Nevada must reduce their withdrawals.

    Water reaches Mead by flowing through Glen Canyon. The Interior Department moved this spring to prop up Powell because it worried about Glen Canyon’s water delivery system in low-water conditions. Water is released downstream through the penstocks, which feed the dam’s turbines. If the lake drops too low to produce power, that route is cut off. Water would instead be released through the outlet works, which are untested in extended use as the primary water delivery option.

    Glen Canyon’s power customers are also in a pinch.

    When Powell drops closer to the 3,490-foot level, operating the dam becomes a game of inches, Williams said. The top of the penstocks — the 15-foot diameter pipes that send water to the turbines — are at elevation 3,477.5 feet. But as the reservoir approaches that level, vortexes could form as water is drawn into the pipes. The violent whorls can injure the dam’s power-generating equipment.

    For now, 3,490 feet is the red line because that was the designer’s safe estimate and Glen Canyon was able to generate at that level when Powell was being filled in the 1960s. Even so, Williams, the power office manager, said that Reclamation staff is modeling operational changes to eke out a few more feet of operating range.

    The power that Glen Canyon generates is pooled with other federal dams in the upper basin and sold by the Western Area Power Administration. Until last December, WAPA was purchasing power for its customers to compensate for the hydropower shortfall. That model led to a financial cliff.

    Due to the expense of market-rate replacement power, WAPA was at risk of depleting the upper basin fund. The fund functions as a checking account, taking in power revenues and paying out costs. Those costs include dam construction repayment and annual dam operations and maintenance. They also include successful environmental programs intended to protect endangered fish in the Colorado and San Juan rivers, reduce salt loads in the river, and make Glen Canyon water releases less damaging to the river corridor.

    In 2021, the fund was in jeopardy due to declining hydropower generation. The fund balance was cut in half, dropping from $146 million in January 2021 to $74 million by the end of the year. That resulted in an emergency rate change in December that is expected to stabilize the fund, said Lisa Meiman, a WAPA spokesperson. In most cases, WAPA will no longer buy market-rate power. Individual utilities will shoulder all the added expense. One other action alleviated financial pressure on the basin fund: direct appropriations from Congress to the environmental programs.

    Less hydropower will force utilities to look elsewhere for replacement supplies, including from fossil fuel sources. The effect of a hydropower shortfall varies with region, weather, and time of day or year. More coal and natural gas will certainly increase greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.

    But how much? Kelly Sanders of the University of Southern California says the magnitude of a carbon emissions increase due to drought is difficult to calculate, owing to the complexity of electricity supply and demand. The answer is usually only apparent much later, after rigorous data analysis. However, losing a carbon-free source like hydropower means that, all else being equal, the average carbon emissions for electricity goes up.

    Customers of Glen Canyon power are confronting those tradeoffs as they search for replacement power.

    As a share of its electricity supply, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is one of the biggest consumers of Upper Colorado hydropower. In 2020, NTUA acquired 42 percent of its electricity from the Upper Colorado dams.

    If power generation forecasts hold true, NTUA estimates that the utility would pay $4.5 million more for electricity this year, according to Srinivasa Venigalla, the deputy general manager. Those costs would be passed on to the utility’s roughly 43,000 residential and commercial customers, he said.

    Venigalla hopes Glen Canyon does not go dark. But his utility is preparing in case that day comes. NTUA already has 55 megawatts of solar generation capacity on Navajo lands and another 4 megawatts will come online by the end of this year.

    The solar installations won’t completely replace Glen Canyon’s hydropower, Venigalla said. But they will reduce the utility’s purchases of market power.

    A diversity of power sources will help other utilities that receive Glen Canyon hydropower. Tri-State Generation and Transmission, a cooperative with 42 utility members in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Wyoming, usually acquires 8 percent of its power from the Upper Colorado hydroelectric system.

    Lee Baughey, vice president for communications, said that the utility expects its hydropower allocation to drop by a third this year.

    “It places pressure on our costs, but we can manage through,” Baughey said.

    Households have company in that regard. Roosevelt Irrigation District pumps water to about 38,000 acres in Maricopa County, Arizona. Donovan Neese, the district superintendent since 2011, said retail power customers span the breadth of the county’s agribusiness: cold storage facilities for fruits and vegetables, dairies, cotton gins, and feed mills.

    About half the district’s power comes from Glen Canyon and Hoover dams. Neese is in the process of developing the budget for the next fiscal year and did not have exact numbers, but the effect for Roosevelt customers is the same as elsewhere: less hydropower means higher costs.

    “That means we continue to advocate for water conservation,” Neese said.

    Farm fields in Arizona, where irrigation pumps are partly powered by Glen Canyon Dam. (Source: Water Education Foundation)

    Hydropower as a Service

    Glen Canyon’s value extends far beyond the customers. The dam is more than just the kilowatt-hours it generates, said Nathalie Voisin of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. It also plays an important role in the operation of regional electric grids.

    In the southwestern states encircling the Colorado River basin, the majority of power generation is not derived from the force of flowing water. Most comes from fossil fuels, wind, and solar. Nonetheless, hydropower fulfills a valuable niche. Because its generators can deliver electricity quickly — “ramping” in the lingo — hydro bridges the period when solar and wind power wane and before gas-fired turbines can power up. This quick-start capability is especially important when electricity demand is high, such as summer heat waves.

    “The economic and reliability values from ramping are very large,” said Voisin, who studies hydropower and its response to changes in climate, season, and technology. “There’s a lot at stake for not being able to get Glen Canyon working for hydropower operation during the summer time.”

    Lake Powell, in effect, functions as a large battery, able to be turned on and off to meet fluctuating power demands. Even if Powell were to be drained and the water stored in Lake Mead, as some environmental groups advocate, the grid benefits of Glen Canyon would still need to be reckoned with.

    “Glen Canyon cannot be easily replaced with other renewables because Glen Canyon is already critical in their integration into the grid,” Voisin explained. “The replacement technology needs to compensate for the range of grid services provided by Glen Canyon, which is more than capacity and generation. Storage in particular would be needed.”

    A rapid increase in water storage behind Glen Canyon is unlikely. Analysts at the Bureau of Reclamation simulate future Colorado River conditions every month. The latest model scenarios show a 10 percent chance that Lake Powell drops below 3,490 feet by April 2024. That’s less than two years away. Not enough days to completely reconfigure the region’s energy services. But plenty of time to ponder a future without Glen Canyon hydropower.

    Job opportunity: Deputy Water Commissioner for Water Districts 6 & 7 – Engineering/Physical Sciences Tech I @DWR_CO

    From email from DWR (Michael Hein):

    The Division of Water Resources, Division 1 Office in Greeley, CO is hiring for the Deputy Water Commissioner for Water Districts 6 & 7 – Engineering/Physical Sciences Tech I position. The purpose of this position is to ascertain the available surface water supply and distribute, control and regulate the surface and groundwater tributary to the South Platte River in the Boulder Creek and Clear Creek basins on a daily basis pursuant to water decrees, substitute water supply plans and state statutes, and may assist in adjacent water districts with water administration. Anyone interested in learning more about the position or seeking to apply can access the following link to the job announcement on the State of Colorado Job Opportunities website:

    https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/colorado/jobs/3594902/dwr-deputy-water-commissioner-water-districts-6-7-engineering-physical-sc?location%5B0%5D=boulder%20county&sort=PositionTitle%7CAscending&pagetype=jobOpportunitiesJobs

    The South Platte River Basin is shaded in yellow. Source: Tom Cech, One World One Water Center, Metropolitan State University of Denver.

    President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to Provide $25.5 Million for #Water Efficiency Projects in Eight Western States — Reclamation

    Canal downstream of Lind Coulee Siphon # 1.

    Click the link to read the article on the Reclamation website (Peter Soeth):

    Investments will fund water efficiency and drought resilience projects in California, Colorado, Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming

    The Department of the Interior today announced $25.5 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds for WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants to safeguard local water supplies in the face of severe western drought.

    Fourteen projects in eight western states will be awarded funding to help local communities improve water use efficiency by lining canals, upgrading water meters, installing automated gates to control water flow and making other infrastructure improvements. The projects are anticipated to save more than 12 billion gallons of water annually – enough to fill over roughly 880,000 swimming pools–through reductions in residential water use and improvements to increase irrigation efficiency. Two of the projects will also receive funding for solar energy installations to power the affiliated water facility and water district buildings. Including non-federal funding contributions, the projects represent more than $130 million in water management improvements.

    “Through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are making a historic investment in drought resilience and water infrastructure to help more families, farmers and Tribes gain access to clean water,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo. “The WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants will help communities conserve and use water more efficiency, increase the production of hydropower and help us tackle historic drought.”

    “Delivering water more efficiently is key to helping Western communities become more resilient to drought. These community-led projects are an example of how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law supports our work to minimize drought impacts and develop long-term solutions to facilitate water conservation and economic growth.” said Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “These grants represent a once in a generation opportunity to meet the long-term adaptation for drought and a changing climate.”

    President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocates $8.3 billion for Bureau of Reclamation water infrastructure projects to repair aging water delivery systems, secure dams, complete rural water projects, protect aquatic ecosystems and fulfill Indian Water Rights Settlements. The funding announced today is part of the $160 million in WaterSMART grants provided by the Law in 2022. Local governments in eight states set to receive funding must complete their project within three years.

    Greeley in 1870 via Denver Public Library

    The projects selected are:

    Click to enlarge.

    In the face of #ClimateChange, beavers are engineering a resistance — KUNC

    A beaver dam on the Gunnison River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Alex Hager). Here’s an excerpt:

    [Emily Fairfax’s] latest publication suggests that ecosystems, broadly, could stand to benefit from beaver wetlands in ways that are uniquely resistant and resilient in the face of climate change. Scientists have already touted the benefits of process-based restoration, a low-tech means of rebuilding floodplains over time. The new paper contends that beavers are “a force of 15-40 million highly skilled environmental engineers” whose tiny hands and teeth are ready to help implement that restoration.

    The study is largely a summary of existing research, pulling together and contextualizing established science about rivers and beavers. It makes the case that beavers were once pivotal in shaping and maintaining healthy riverscapes before their populations were crippled by years of trapping. Chris Jordan, an Oregon-based ecologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, is one of the study’s co-authors. He said the research stands in the face of “dire warnings” and the “doom” of harm beyond our control.

    “In reality,” he said, “it’s not out of our control. Here is something that we can do. Here is something that we can think about as an adaptation and mitigation strategy – returning riverscapes to their natural state. And that’s going to give us climate change protection and resilience.”

    That protection and resilience comes in a few forms. The first is a safeguard against flooding. Warming temperatures are increasing the frequency of heavy rain and rapidly melting snow. In the channel of a narrow stream or river, that surge of water is likely to quickly overtop the banks and flood. Beaver wetlands, with their wide swaths of soggy land, would help spread some of that water out and limit flooding downstream.

    Just as they are helpful in the face of too much water, beaver complexes have proven useful in areas with not enough. High-mountain snow serves as a kind of natural reservoir for the region, slowly releasing water throughout the spring and early summer, assuring a steady supply to the places where humans divert and collect it. But as the West rapidly warms and dries, snowpack is getting smaller and melting earlier. Beavers, meanwhile, are essentially building miniature reservoirs in mountainous areas throughout the region.

    Drought also means an increased risk of wildfires, and beavers have proven their mettle against the flames. Even in areas completely ravaged by wildfire, where tree trunks are scorched into blackened toothpicks and soil is left gray and ashen, beaver complexes survive unscathed. The wet earth and thriving greenery resist burning, leaving oases of green in the middle of the lifeless moonscapes left behind by wildfire.

    Spreading water out across valley floors also has proven benefits for water temperature, water quality and even carbon sequestration. Water laden with sediment, nitrates or carbon slows down in beaver ponds, allowing particles in it to settle or get consumed by microbes, unlike in a fast-moving stream…

    Jordan said allowing or helping beavers to expand their work would help more areas, at least locally, steel themselves against more extreme weather conditions brought on by climate change. But he is candid that the animals won’t turn things around entirely.

    #ShowYourStripes (1895-2021) #Colorado #ActOnClimate

    Happy(?) Show Your Stripes Day. Here’s the Colorado graphic for the period 1895-2021. Are you able to spot a trend?

    Colorado Show Your Stripes Day June 21, 2022

    #ColoradoRiver states need to drastically cut down their #water usage ASAP, or the federal government will step in — #Colorado Public Radio #COriver #aridification

    A view of Reflection Canyon in Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, in 2013. Sedimentary rock forms the landscape surrounding Lake Powell, on the Colorado River at the Utah-Arizona border. (Gary Ladd/National Park Service/Public domain)

    Click the link to read the article on the Colorado Public Radio website (Michael Elizabeth Sakas). Here’s an excerpt:

    During a U.S. Senate hearing on Western drought [June 14, 2022], the commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation told the states in the Colorado River Basin that they have 60 days to create an emergency plan to stop using between 2 and 4 million acre-feet of water in the next year or the agency will use its emergency authority to make the cuts itself…Touton said the seven states must “stay at the table until the job is done.”

    […]

    Commissioner Touton’s directive dropped just a couple of days before the University of Colorado Boulder’s annual Colorado law conference on natural resources, which is focused on the Colorado River.

    “That elephant is filling this whole room,” John Fleck, a water policy professor at the University of New Mexico, said at the start of his talk at the conference. Fleck, who has also written multiple books on the Colorado River, watched Touton’s testimony in his Alamosa hotel room en route to the conference…

    Fleck said the directive, combined with the “threat” of federal action if the states don’t act, creates an extraordinary challenge for water managers and users in the Colorado River Basin — a group he noted included many of the people at the CU Boulder conference.

    To explain the federal agency’s reasoning for calling for such massive cuts, bureau hydrologic engineer James Prairie presented to attendees an updated forecast of expected flows into Lakes Powell and Mead over the next few years. By early 2024, projections show water levels in Lake Powell could drop too low for hydropower turbines to operate and generate electricity.

    Poll shows deep opposition to Renewable #Water Resources water export plan: #ClimateChange surfaces as top concern among #SanLuisValley residents — @AlamosaCitizen

    Click the link to read the article on the Alamosa Citizen website (Mark Obmascik):

    THE IRS. Head lice. Bill Cosby. Nickleback. Congress.

    Every member of this unlikely group has one thing in common: Each is more popular than the Renewable Water Resources plan to pump water from the San Luis Valley to the Front Range of Colorado.

    According to the Alamosa Citizen survey of voter attitudes in the San Luis Valley, the RWR plan is supported by less than 1 percent of local voters. It is opposed by 91 percent. Eight percent said they had no opinion of the water export project proposed by former Gov. Bill Owens and several other leaders of his administration.

    SEE THE RESULTS:
    Quality of life
    Water & climate
    Education & childcare
    Employment & financial security
    Internet use

    Widespread opposition to RWR was one of the major findings on natural resource issues to come from the random survey, which was directed by the Alamosa Citizen and financed, in part, by the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.

    The survey also yielded many other strong local opinions on the health of the Rio Grande (pessimistic), climate change (it’s hurting the river), and the impact of drought on local farms and businesses (not good.) More on those issues below.

    Still, it’s hard to find anything in modern American life liked less than RWR’s approval rating of 0.7 percent. Among the things with better approval ratings among voters than the RWR project: head lice, colonoscopies, used car salesmen, and dental root canal procedures, according to one national poll.

    Anchovies on pizza, as well as turnips and brussel sprouts for dinner, get higher ratings than RWR. Disgraced comedian Bill Cosby is 20 times more popular in the U.S. than RWR is in the San Luis Valley. The Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Congress all get higher marks, according to another poll.

    RWR backers said their own polling showed better numbers, but they declined to release the poll.

    “From day one to today, our team has never wavered in visiting the San Luis Valley, meeting with individuals and educating them about what we aim to do,” said Renewable Water Resources spokeswoman Monica McCafferty in a statement. “We are naturally suspect of this survey (Alamosa Citizen) that is likely agenda-driven. We stand by our proposal, which took years to craft and presents numerous advantages for the San Luis Valley.”

    The Alamosa Citizen conducted a 48-question survey which included questions on water and environmental issues. The survey was mailed to a random sampling of registered voters in each of the six counties of the San Luis Valley and was conducted by Nebraska-based rural survey specialist Craig Schroeder, who has surveyed attitudes of more than 60,000 people in 47 states over the past 20 years.

    RWR proposes to pump out 22,000 acre-feet of water per year from a deep aquifer in the San Luis Valley while buying and retiring 31,000 acre feet of water currently used in the Valley for irrigated agriculture. As a result, RWR says a “surplus of 9,000 acre-feet will go back into the San Luis Valley’s shallow section of the aquifer.”

    Local water officials have disputed RWR’s ability to export supplies from the Valley without harming existing farmers, wildlife, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The region faces increasing water restrictions after two decades of drought.

    RWR had been wooing suburban Douglas County as a destination for the water, but the Alamosa Citizen reported last month that county commissioners there backed away from the proposal after their attorney highlighted several legal and engineering hurdles.

    The company told Douglas County it is pursuing a “legislative strategy” for some of those issues.

    “People here have been hearing about these water export proposals for 60 years now, and we’re just tired of it,” said state Sen. Cleave Simpson, who also serves as general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. “When it happened in other places, the outcome of selling your water rights for export has not turned out well for the community.”

    HE Alamosa Citizen survey showed citizen awareness of the water project is extremely high. Nearly 94 percent of respondents said they had heard of a project to export water from the San Luis Valley to the Front Range of Colorado.

    About two-thirds of respondents said they had heard specifically of Renewable Water Resources.

    Of the residents who were familiar with RWR, 63 percent said they disapproved of the company. Eight percent approved. The remainder said they had no opinion about the company.

    “Leave our water here,” one survey respondent wrote. “If Denver can’t handle their needs, then they need to control growth.”

    “Exporting SLV water will devastate the valley – farming, wildlife, and habitat,” wrote another.

    “Water export to Douglas County would be an economic death sentence for the San Luis Valley and the communities it sustains,” said another respondent.

    The Alamosa Citizen survey showed the RWR plan comes at a tough time for water users in the San Luis Valley.

    When asked whether the Rio Grande aquifer had enough water to share with growing areas of Colorado that need more water, Valley residents responded with a resounding no – 89 percent disagreed.

    Eight of every 10 survey respondents agreed that the Rio Grande is “diminishing from severe drought.” By a 48 to 35 percent margin, Valley residents disagreed with this statement: “The Rio Grande is a healthy river.”

    Two-thirds of Valley residents agreed that climate change is negatively affecting the Rio Grande. Only 14 percent agreed that the Rio Grande can “withstand climate change.”

    In some ways, this means the San Luis Valley is more concerned about climate change than other regions, especially rural areas where voters have been more skeptical about the issue. The most recent national poll by Gallup on environmental issues found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the effects of climate change have already begun to happen.

    The Valley’s belief in climate change is unusual especially when politics are considered. Nationally, only 11 percent of Republicans say they believe climate change will pose a serious threat in their own lifetimes. But in the San Luis Valley, most survey respondents say the threat is already here.

    Only one in 10 local respondents agree that the Valley has enough water to meet local needs for the next 30 years. Nearly 85 percent of respondents say the Valley will face cutbacks in irrigation water in the next five years.

    “Farmers are out of time to self-regulate,” wrote one respondent. “The state should start imposing harsh restrictions now instead of kicking the can down the road.”

    “The San Luis Valley has become a desert because of climate change and the farmers / ranchers who have drained the aquifer by installing sprinkler systems,” wrote another respondent.

    “Farmers don’t need bossy legislators telling them how to use their water,” wrote another. “Most farmers are already on the brink of fiscal disaster. They need help, not more laws curtailing their use of water.”

    Almost every resident said there was a chance they would be personally impacted by drought.

    About seven of 10 Valley residents agreed with this statement: “We need to act now to reduce water use to continue to grow the San Luis Valley’s economy in the future.”

    Only 8 percent disagreed with this statement: “Rising temperatures will impact the San Luis Valley’s future water needs.”

    “Climate change is bigger than we are,” wrote one respondent.

    Monsoonal activity getting off to a good start in #Arizona, #NewMexico & southwest #Colorado — @DroughtDenise #Monsoon2k22 #drought

    Battling #ClimateChange with #solar, #hydro and a shifting fleet Denver Water is cutting its carbon footprint, while preparing for a drier, hotter future — News on Tap #ActOnCLimate

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Todd Hartman):

    Denver Water sits on the front lines of climate change.

    Rising temperatures, long-term drought and less dependable snowpack are all making the job of providing water to 1.5 million people tougher.

    Denver Water’s administration building is powered by solar panels. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    In response, the utility is preparing for a future with a less consistent water supply for its customers, through innovations including greater efficiency, One Water and new storage projects such as the Gross Reservoir expansion.

    Learn more about how the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project makes us more resilient in the face of climate change with greater water security.

    The utility also is moving aggressively to cut its own carbon footprint, striving to meet goals for producing renewable energy and reducing dependence on energy sources tied directly to warming temperatures.

    In 2020, Denver Water met an organizational goal for “net zero” annual energy consumption. That’s a fancy way of saying it produced as much or more energy than it consumed, and that its energy was generated using carbon-free sources: hydropower and solar power.

    To be precise, the utility produced roughly 1.5 million more “kilowatt-hour equivalents” than it used in 2020.

    The utility’s solar power panels and hydropower generators produced enough clean energy to account for not only its electricity use but also the natural gas it uses for heat. Natural gas burned to supply heat is an energy category that’s not always factored into “net zero” calculations, but Denver Water made a point of including it to create a stretch goal for its effort.

    Denver Water’s solar panels generated more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020. Photo credit: Denver Water

    “Several years earlier, we had set a goal to hit ‘net-zero’ as a benchmark for our sustainability efforts,” said Kate Taft, Denver Water’s sustainability manager. “Hitting that in 2020 was the result of a lot of focused, dedicated work across the organization and represents an important milestone in the utility’s long history of environmental progress.”

    Net-zero is a big deal in the era of climate change.

    Learn more about how Denver Water has leaned into the challenge of climate change and how its work to track emissions has been recognized by outside experts.

    Many major corporations are striving to attain the status, including companies such as Coca-Cola and General Motors. Many companies and governments have set net-zero goals for 2030 and 2040, for example.

    Denver Water got there sooner. Though, to be sure, Denver Water benefits from — wait for it — water in this endeavor.

    Water spills from Williams Fork Reservoir in 2019. The power of moving water is a major source of emission-free electricity for Denver Water. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Hydroelectric power is generated at seven locations in Denver Water’s 4,000-square-mile collection area. That includes power generated at reservoirs but also at places like Roberts Tunnel, where the energy of water moving downhill through a tunnel that traverses the Continental Divide creates electricity.

    All told, Denver Water’s hydropower operations generate about 65 million emission-free kilowatt-hours per year. That translates to about the amount of electricity consumed by 6,000 homes for a year.

    While Denver Water generated hydropower for decades and is continuing to look for additional opportunities to generate power from moving water, including at its Northwater Treatment Plant currently under construction near Golden, the addition of solar power to its renewable energy portfolio is more recent.

    At the utility’s newly redeveloped Operations Complex, completed in 2019, solar power panels on the roof of the Administration Building and atop parking structures generated more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020. That offset the Administration Building’s use with more than 300,000 kilowatt-hours to spare.

    Crews install solar panels on top of Denver Water’s administration building in 2019. Photo credit: Denver Water

    That’s extra clean electricity that can go back into the grid for use by others.

    And in Denver Water’s new sustainability goals issued in 2021, the utility set a new target for itself: to increase its capacity to generate renewable energy by 1 megawatt and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from a 2015 baseline.

    How much is that 1 megawatt? Roughly, it would be like adding another solar array about the size of the one at the Operations Complex. Or, like adding the hydropower capacity that now exists at Strontia Springs Reservoir, situated 6 miles up Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver.

    Even as it works to add more green power, Denver Water may not always be able to meet its net-zero goal, at least in the short term.

    That’s because maintenance projects at times take hydroelectric facilities off-line or reduce their capacity. For example, for the next five years, Gross Reservoir will generate less power because its storage space for water will be cut by about one-third while a dam-raising project proceeds.

    Students learn about the hydroelectric plant at Hillcrest water storage facility in southeast Denver. Hydroelectricity at Hillcrest and six other sites is key to the utility’s ability to meet its net zero energy goals. Photo credit: Denver Water

    However once that project is completed, and the capacity of the reservoir is tripled, the location is expected to be a greater source of clean energy, increasing its production capacity by nearly 15% compared to its capacity before the project.

    In 2021, too, Denver Water fell short of its goal due in part to work on the hydroelectric facility at Roberts Tunnel. Work to upgrade the hydro facility at the tunnel kicked off in 2019.

    Finally, while Denver Water focuses on offsetting electricity and heat generated by fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, its net-zero calculations don’t currently count gasoline burned by its fleet vehicles or propane needed at some remote sites.

    “As we make a long-term shift to cleaner energy sources, there will be bumps in the road,” Taft said. “We still, inevitably, will depend on more traditional sources at times and in certain locations. But we are relentlessly pushing to generate more of our own green energy and cut emissions associated with natural gas, coal and vehicles.”

    Learn more about how Denver Water has constructed a low-energy heating and cooling system and its long history of environmental stewardship.

    As part of its effort to cut emissions, Denver Water is beginning the long transition to electric fleet vehicles.

    The utility already has six Ford F-150 hybrid trucks and hopes to test the use of some all-electric pickups in 2023, pending supply chain challenges.

    And as the utility continues to look at other electric vehicle options, it is partnering with analysts at Drive Clean Colorado and Xcel Energy’s Fleet Electrification Advisory Program to help guide the process.

    “Getting this right will take time and a constant push forward,” said Brian Good, Denver Water’s chief administrative officer. “But it is the right thing to do. We are a water utility, and providing reliable, safe, clean water isn’t possible without protecting the natural environment from which it flows.”

    University of #Wyoming research to examine #climate-driven #water challenges — WyoFile #ActOnClimate

    A whitewater raft moves down the Wind River in central Wyoming’s Wind River Canyon. A five-year, $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation will allow UW researchers to quantify how a changing climate in one of the nation’s key headwater regions is likely to affect streamflows, aquatic ecosystems and vegetation — and the communities and people who depend upon them. (UW Photo)

    Click the link to read the article on the WyoFile website (Dustin Bleizeffer):

    University of Wyoming researchers are responding to rapidly shifting climate and water dynamics that threaten the state’s economy with a five-year study to help communities better prepare.

    The university recently received a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation “to help Wyoming communities deal with projected significant and lasting changes in water availability,” according to a UW press release. The climate and water assessment work will focus on glacial systems and headwaters — mostly in the western portion of the state — to learn how changes there affect the future availability of water throughout the rest of Wyoming.

    “What happens to water will really impact everyone, so our intention is really to understand those cascading impacts,” University of Wyoming Assistant Professor of Environment and Society Corrie Knapp said.

    Interdisciplinary research

    The “Wyoming Anticipating Climate Transitions” program builds on two previous NSF grants to the university to “stimulate” wide-ranging research of Wyoming water resources, according to UW. It will establish a Center for Climate, Water and People at the university, as well as a Regional Earth System Modeling laboratory that taps into the National Center for Atmospheric Research-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne.

    A climate and water assessment for the Greater Yellowstone Region warns that warming temperatures and shrinking snowpack is a threat to fisheries, including the Snake River. (Charles “Chuck” Peterson/FlickrCC)

    The grant will support five new faculty positions at the university. The effort will also strengthen a partnership between the university and Cheyenne-based WEST Inc., an environmental and statistical consulting firm, to develop training and labor force strategies around climate change in Wyoming.

    “Our primary objective is to generate cross-cutting observations, data sets and understanding that will support the adaptive capacity of Wyoming’s rural communities and economies in the face of rapidly changing and uncertain climate conditions,” University of Wyoming professor of botany Brent Ewers said.

    More than an academic effort, UW researchers and program partners will host a series of public meetings and respond to local input in assessing how communities and businesses might best prepare and adapt, according to Knapp. That includes an interdisciplinary team of university and business leaders who will make recommendations for how to educate and train a labor force for an economy that will change with the environment.

    View southeast over Dinwoody Glacier August 1984. (USGS Photo Archives Digital File: Digital File:gdl00388)

    “We’ll be working with communities and stakeholders in designing and then implementing the research,” Knapp said. “It’s an opportunity to not only provide really relevant, useful science when communities and stakeholders need it, but this model is really shifting how we do science.”

    Climate and water challenges

    The NSF grant will also support work at the UW-National Park Service Research Station in Grand Teton National Park. The research station was integral in publishing the Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment in 2021.

    Among the study’s findings: snowpack is already shrinking between 5,000 and 7,000 feet of elevation; average temperatures in the region are projected to increase 0.31 degrees Fahrenheit per decade; and changes in the timing and rate of snowmelt are already impacting fish spawning and the general health of aquatic systems.

    The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem spans three states and multiple state and federal jurisdictional boundaries. Climate researchers say it’s important for those various authorities to work from a broader, ecosystem-wide perspective. (National Park Service)

    The changes are unfolding rapidly and present a complex challenge for people in Wyoming and across the West, University of Wyoming professor of geology and geophysics Bryan Shuman said.

    “Because these trends are projected to continue, water availability will become less certain and predictable, even while society’s demand for water is likely to increase,” said Shuman, who contributed to the Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment.

    The same types of trends are seen statewide.

    Wyoming’s annual mean temperature increased 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit from 1920 to 2020 — a rate that outpaces the global mean temperature rise of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. Especially concerning is the fact that Wyoming’s winter and spring seasons — as well as its highest elevations — are warming even faster.

    Those warming trends are already having a significant impact on snowpack and annual water flows, according to J.J. Shinker, professor at the University of Wyoming’s Department of Geology and Geophysics.

    “While increases in temperature don’t appear to be reflected in significant changes in precipitation, the temperature increases are impacting water resources through early snowmelt, faster runoff and greater evaporation at the surface, all of which enhance drought,” Shinker told WyoFile in November.

    Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 22 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily.

    Wyoming rivers map via Geology.com

    Race is on for #ColoradoRiver basin states to conserve before feds take action: #Colorado’s contribution to keep system from crashing remains unclear — @AspenJournalism #COriver #aridification #GetchesWilkinson2022

    This photo from December 2021 shows one of the intake towers at Hoover Dam. Federal officials said basin states must conserve 2 to 4 million acre-feet to protect reservoir levels in 2023. CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

    Click the link to read the article on the Aspen Journalism website (Heather Sackett):

    As water experts gathered this week for an annual conference in Boulder, it was with the sobering knowledge that despite everything they have done so far, it is still not enough to keep the Colorado River system from crashing.

    Federal officials this week made the earth-shaking announcement that the seven basin states must quickly conserve an enormous amount of water and threatened unilateral action if they do not. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton, testifying at a U.S. Senate hearing on drought on Tuesday, said an additional 2 to 4 million acre-feet of conservation was needed just to protect critical reservoir levels in 2023.

    Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo reiterated this position in a talk at Thursday’s Conference on Natural Resources at the University of Colorado Law School. She said the federal government has the responsibility and authority to take action to protect the system and the infrastructure if the states can’t reach an agreement on their own.

    “We are facing the growing reality that water supplies for agriculture, fisheries, ecosystems, industry and cities are no longer stable due to climate change,” Trujillo said. “Our collective goal is to be able to very quickly identify and implement strategies that will stabilize and rebuild the system so we don’t find ourselves constantly on the brink of a crisis.”

    Houseboats on Lake Powell on Dec. 13, 2021, near Wahweap Marina, where the quarter-mile-long boat ramp is unusable due to low water levels. Federal officials have threatened unilateral actions to prop up levels in the nation’s largest reservoirs and protect the Colorado River System.

    Worsening conditions

    Over the past year, water managers have implemented measures to keep water levels from falling below critical thresholds for hydropower production in the nation’s two largest reservoirs, including a plan for holding back water in Lake Powell, emergency releases from upstream reservoirs, and a much-celebrated plan to save 500,000 acre-feet in Lake Mead.

    The actions taken in the 2022 Drought Response Operations Plan will add about 1 million acre-feet, or 16 feet of elevation, to Lake Powell.

    But these actions are not enough.

    “It’s buying us a bit more time, but not much,” said James Prairie, the upper Colorado basin research and modeling chief for the Bureau of Reclamation.

    Prairie kicked off the conference by sharing numbers from the Bureau’s June 24-month study, which predicted that 2022 will be another anemic year for spring runoff into Powell at just 55% of average. Total Colorado River system storage stands at about 35% full; last year at this time it was about 42% full. In March, Lake Powell dipped below a critical threshold of 3,525 feet, just 35 feet above the minimum level needed to generate hydropower for millions of people in the southwest.

    The announcement of what one water expert dubbed the “2-to-4-million-acre-foot challenge” overshadowed many of the conference’s planned topics and left some presenters scrambling to change their talks or at least their tone. Debating the finer points of the Colorado River Compact, which divided the waters between the upper and lower basin states and marks its 100th anniversary this year, all of a sudden took a backseat.

    “Everything has changed beneath our feet with Commissioner Touton’s announcement Tuesday,” said author and conference moderator John Fleck.

    Touton gave the states until Aug. 16 to figure out a path to conservation before Reclamation would take unilateral action to protect the system. That’s when Reclamation’s August 24-month study comes out, which lays out a plan for how the agency will operate its reservoirs in the coming year.

    Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Ariz., forms Lake Powell. It’s still unclear how Colorado would participate in a federally mandated plan to conserve 2 to 4 million acre-feet water to protect the Colorado River system.
    CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

    Upper basin contribution

    Federal officials made it clear that conserving the 2 to 4 million acre-feet is the responsibility of all seven basin states: Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nevada, California and Arizona. But they were not prescriptive about how to do it or how the shortages should be shared; that’s for the states to figure out among themselves.

    “Do we have any specific recipe in mind? The short answer is no, we don’t have a formula already pre-baked and pre-worked,” Trujillo said. “We are likely going to be in a situation of doing things we have never done before.”

    How Colorado will conserve is unclear, especially since the state’s exploration of a demand management program that would have paid water users to cut back has been shelved for now. The program proved a hard sell, especially for some agricultural water users who questioned why Colorado should send water to prop up Lake Powell and fix a problem that is caused by what they say is over-use in California, Nevada and Arizona.

    The compact divided the flows of the Colorado River equally between the upper and lower basin at 7.5 million acre-feet each. But the upper basin has never come close to using its full allocation, while the lower basin, by some estimates, uses more than 8.5 million acre-feet. Meanwhile, climate change and a two-decade-long drought have diminished river flows basin-wide in the 20th century by about 20%; scientists say about one-third of that loss can be attributed to warmer temperatures.

    Chuck Cullom, the executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, said that while all seven states share the resource of the Colorado River and have an obligation to contribute to conservation, most of the water savings should come from the lower basin.

    “Everyone needs to participate, but the vast majority of the effort needs to come from the lower basin because that’s where the preponderance of the uses are,” he said.

    Upper basin water managers point to the emergency releases of 161,000 acre-feet last year from Blue Mesa, Flaming Gorge and Navajo reservoirs as a way they have responded to the crisis. But that decision was made unilaterally by Reclamation and is not the same as conservation.

    Colorado’s commissioner to the UCRC and head of the Colorado Water Conservation Board Rebecca Mitchell did not give specific examples of where Colorado could increase its water conservation, but said the state will continue to work with other basin states, the federal governments and tribal nations to find solutions.

    “Colorado water users are on the front lines of climate change,” Mitchell said in an emailed statement. “We are continuing to work closely with our federal and state partners across the basin to address water shortages.”

    Fleck ended Thursday’s session by striking an emotional tone that captured the mood in the room. We are at a moment of reckoning and realizing the West of the future will look much different than it does now, he said.

    “We are in a moment of grieving,” he said. “The tools we developed were not enough.”

    This story ran in the June 17 edition of the Vail Daily.

    Low waters in Navajo Lake impact recreation, marina — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Navajo Reservoir, New Mexico, back in the day.. View looking north toward marina. The Navajo Dam can be seen on the left of the image. By Timthefinn at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4040102

    Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’a an excerpt:

    According to the Lake Navajo Water Database, the lake was at 56.4 feet below full pool, an eleva- tion of 6,028.6 feet, on June 12 and at 55.78 percent by volume of full pool on that same date. Before this year, the lowest level that had been observed in Navajo Lake on June 12 in the last 10 years was in 2013, when the lake was at 6,029.17 feet of elevation. Last year, the water level on June 12 was 6,041.47 feet of elevation. The Navajo LakeWater Database also notes that the San Juan and Piedra rivers, which feed Navajo Lake, are at 11.92 percent of their combined aver- age and that inflows for water year 2022, which began on Oct. 1, 2021, and ends on Sept. 30, 2022, are at 89.6 percent of those for water year 2021.

    In an interview with The SUN, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Manager for Navajo State Park Brian Sandy explained the impact the low water levels have had on the park. He commented that the low water levels have had a “really negative impact” on the park’s marina and the services it can provide, with the on-the-water fuel pump dock and the pump-out station for houseboats both inactive. He noted that no slips are available at the dock, with the few that remain usable reserved for patrol and rental boats. He added that the water level in the mooring cove is sufficiently low to render most of the mooring balls unusable. Sandy stated that the low water level has had a particularly severe impact on houseboats, many of which depend on the mooring cove and the pump-out station…

    Sandy commented that water levels in the reservoir are likely to continue to drop over the season with water commitments for the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project and municipal water for communities including Farmington, N.M., contributing to the decrease in lake levels, along with the drought and high winds.

    Sandy added that releases of water from the reservoir also occur for the purposes of improving endangered fish species habitat downstream by raising water levels in rivers.

    San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

    Microplastics found in freshly fallen Antarctic snow for first time: New Zealand researchers identified tiny plastics, which can be toxic to plants and animals, in 19 snow samples — The Guardian

    Ross Ice Shelf, 1997 The Ross Ice Shelf from the NATHANIEL B. PALMER Ross Sea, Antarctica. Photo credit: Public Domain

    Click the link to read the article on The Guardian website (Eva Corlett). Here’s an excerpt:

    Microplastics have been found in freshly fallen snow in Antarctica for the first time, which could accelerate snow and ice melting and pose a threat to the health of the continent’s unique ecosystems. The tiny plastics – smaller than a grain of rice – have previously been found in Antarctic sea ice and surface water but this is the first time it has been reported in fresh snowfall, the researchers say. The research, conducted by University of Canterbury PhD student, Alex Aves, and supervised by Dr Laura Revell has been published in the scientific journal The Cryosphere.

    Aves collected snow samples from the Ross Ice Shelf in late 2019 to determine whether microplastics had been transferred from the atmosphere into the snow. Up until then, there had been few studies on this in Antarctica…“We were optimistic that she wouldn’t find any microplastics in such a pristine and remote location,” Revell said. She instructed Aves to also collect samples from Scott Base and the McMurdo Station roadways – where microplastics had previously been detected – so “she’d have at least some microplastics to study,” Revell said. But that was an unnecessary precaution – plastic particles were found in every one of the 19 samples from the Ross Ice Shelf.

    “It’s incredibly sad but finding microplastics in fresh Antarctic snow highlights the extent of plastic pollution into even the most remote regions of the world,” Aves said.

    EPA Announces New Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFAS Chemicals, $1 Billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding to Strengthen Health Protections #PFAS

    PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org. [Click the map to go to the website.]

    Click the link to read the release on the EPA website:

    Agency establishes new health advisories for GenX and PFBS and lowers health advisories for PFOA and PFOS

    Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released four drinking water health advisories for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the latest action under President Biden’s action plan to deliver clean water and Administrator Regan’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. EPA also announced that it is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion – the first of $5 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant funding – to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water, specifically in small or disadvantaged communities. These actions build on EPA’s progress to safeguard communities from PFAS pollution and scientifically inform upcoming efforts, including EPA’s forthcoming proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for PFOA and PFOS, which EPA will release in the fall of 2022.

    “People on the front-lines of PFAS contamination have suffered for far too long. That’s why EPA is taking aggressive action as part of a whole-of-government approach to prevent these chemicals from entering the environment and to help protect concerned families from this pervasive challenge,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are also investing $1 billion to reduce PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water.”

    “Today’s actions highlight EPA’s commitment to use the best available science to tackle PFAS pollution, protect public health, and provide critical information quickly and transparently,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “EPA is also demonstrating its commitment to harmonize policies that strengthen public health protections with infrastructure funding to help communities—especially disadvantaged communities—deliver safe water.”

    Assistant Administrator Fox announced these actions at the 3rd National PFAS Conference in Wilmington, North Carolina.

    $1 Billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding

    As part of a government-wide effort to confront PFAS pollution, EPA is making available $1 billion in grant funding through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help communities that are on the frontlines of PFAS contamination, the first of $5 billion through the Law that can be used to reduce PFAS in drinking water in communities facing disproportionate impacts. These funds can be used in small or disadvantaged communities to address emerging contaminants like PFAS in drinking water through actions such as technical assistance, water quality testing, contractor training, and installation of centralized treatment technologies and systems.

    EPA will be reaching out to states and territories with information on how to submit their letter of intent to participate in this new grant program. EPA will also consult with Tribes and Alaskan Native Villages regarding the Tribal set-aside for this grant program. This funding complements $3.4 billion in funding that is going through the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) and $3.2 billion through the Clean Water SRFs that can also be used to address PFAS in water this year.

    Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisories for Four PFAS

    The agency is releasing PFAS health advisories in light of newly available science and in accordance with EPA’s responsibility to protect public health. These advisories indicate the level of drinking water contamination below which adverse health effects are not expected to occur. Health advisories provide technical information that federal, state, and local officials can use to inform the development of monitoring plans, investments in treatment solutions, and future policies to protect the public from PFAS exposure.

    EPA’s lifetime health advisories identify levels to protect all people, including sensitive populations and life stages, from adverse health effects resulting from a lifetime of exposure to these PFAS in drinking water. EPA’s lifetime health advisories also take into account other potential sources of exposure to these PFAS beyond drinking water (for example, food, air, consumer products, etc.), which provides an additional layer of protection.

    EPA is issuing interim, updated drinking water health advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) that replace those EPA issued in 2016. The updated advisory levels, which are based on new science and consider lifetime exposure, indicate that some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water that are near zero and below EPA’s ability to detect at this time. The lower the level of PFOA and PFOS, the lower the risk to public health. EPA recommends states, Tribes, territories, and drinking water utilities that detect PFOA and PFOS take steps to reduce exposure. Most uses of PFOA and PFOS were voluntarily phased out by U.S. manufacturers, although there are a limited number of ongoing uses, and these chemicals remain in the environment due to their lack of degradation.

    For the first time, EPA is issuing final health advisories for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS) and for hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt (“GenX” chemicals). In chemical and product manufacturing, GenX chemicals are considered a replacement for PFOA, and PFBS is considered a replacement for PFOS. The GenX chemicals and PFBS health advisory levels are well above the level of detection, based on risk analyses in recent scientific studies.

    The agency’s new health advisories provide technical information that federal, state, and local agencies can use to inform actions to address PFAS in drinking water, including water quality monitoring, optimization of existing technologies that reduce PFAS, and strategies to reduce exposure to these substances. EPA encourages states, Tribes, territories, drinking water utilities, and community leaders that find PFAS in their drinking water to take steps to inform residents, undertake additional monitoring to assess the level, scope, and source of contamination, and examine steps to reduce exposure. Individuals concerned about levels of PFAS found in their drinking water should consider actions that may reduce exposure, including installing a home or point of use filter.

    Next Steps

    EPA is moving forward with proposing a PFAS National Drinking Water Regulation in fall 2022. As EPA develops this proposed rule, the agency is also evaluating additional PFAS beyond PFOA and PFOS and considering actions to address groups of PFAS. The interim health advisories will provide guidance to states, Tribes, and water systems for the period prior to the regulation going into effect.

    The EPA’s work to identify and confront the risks that PFAS pose to human health and the environment is a key component in the Biden-Harris Administration whole-of-government approach to confronting these emerging contaminants. This strategy includes steps by the Food and Drug Administration to increase testing for PFAS in food and packaging, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help dairy farmers address contamination of livestock, and by the Department of Defense to clean-up contaminated military installations and the elimination of unnecessary PFAS uses.

    To receive grant funding announced today through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, states and territories should submit a letter of intent by August 15, 2022.

    To provide the public with more information about these actions, EPA will be hosting a webinar on June 23, 2022 at 12:00 pm Eastern. Learn more or register for the event.

    A whistleblower and watchdog advocacy group used an EPA database of locations that may have handled PFAS materials or products to map the potential impact of PFAS throughout Colorado. They found about 21,000 Colorado locations in the EPA listings, which were uncovered through a freedom of information lawsuit. Locations are listed by industry category. (Source: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility analysis of EPA database)

    Click the link to read “EPA warns toxic ‘forever chemicals’ more dangerous than once thought” on The Washington Post website (Dino Grandoni). Here’s an excerpt:

    The guidance may spur water utilities to tackle PFAS, but health advocates are still waiting for mandatory standards

    The new health advisories for a ubiquitous class of compounds known as polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, underscore the risk facing dozens of communities across the country. Linked to infertility, thyroid problems and several types of cancer, these “forever chemicals” can persist in the environment for years without breaking down…

    The guidance aims to prompt local officials to install water filters or at least notify residents of contamination. But for now, the federal government does not regulate the chemicals. Health advocates have called on the Biden administration to act more quickly to address what officials from both parties describe as a contamination crisis that has touched every state…

    Agency officials assessed two of the most common ones, known as PFOA and PFOS, in recent human health studies and announced Wednesday that lifetime exposure at staggeringly low levels of 0.004 and 0.02 parts per trillion, respectively, can compromise the immune and cardiovascular systems and are linked to decreased birth weights.

    Those drinking-water concentrations represent “really sharp reductions” from previous health advisories set at 70 parts per trillion in 2016, said Erik Olson, a senior strategic director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. The announcement, he added, sends “an important signal to get this stuff out of our drinking water.”

    More significantly, the EPA is preparing to propose mandatory standards for the two chemicals this fall. Once finalized, water utilities will face penalties if they neglect to meet them. The advisories will remain in place until the rule comes out. The EPA also said Wednesday that it is offering $1 billion in grants to states and tribes through the bipartisan infrastructure law to address drinking-water contamination.

    These five people could make or break the #ColoradoRiver — The Los Angeles Times #COriver #aridification

    The All American Canal carries water from the Colorado River to farms in California’s Imperial Valley. Photo credit: Adam Dubrowa, FEMA/Wikipedia.

    Click the link to read the article on the Los Angeles Times website (Sammy Roth). Here’s an excerpt:

    Alex Cardenas. J.B. Hamby. Jim Hanks. Javier Gonzalez. Norma Sierra Galindo. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of them. But with the Colorado River in crisis, they’re arguably five of the most powerful people in the American West. They’re the elected directors of the Imperial Irrigation District, or IID, which provides water to the desert farm fields of California’s Imperial Valley, in the state’s southeastern corner. They control 3.1 million acre-feet of Colorado River water — roughly one-fifth of all the Colorado River water rights in the United States.

    And if you live in Southern California — or in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver or Salt Lake City — the future reliability of your water supply will depend at least in part on what IID does next…

    That’s because the Colorado River has been over-tapped for a century — and now climate change is making things worse, sharply reducing the river’s flow. Lake Mead is just 28% full, its lowest level ever. Lake Powell is at 27%. A federal official said this week that the seven states dependent on the river — including California — will need to cut their water use between 2 million and 4 million acre-feet next year to avoid outright catastrophe at the two major reservoirs…

    Those kinds of cutbacks almost certainly won’t be possible without IID’s help. And that help is not guaranteed.

    The Imperial Valley’s landowning farmers have fought bitterly to protect their senior water rights — hence the importance of the five individuals whose campaigns they fund, and whose actions they closely scrutinize. In 2002, for instance, the IID board voted down a proposal to sell lots of Colorado River water to San Diego County. Under pressure from the George. W Bush administration, they eventually reversed themselves — a move that invited the wrath of farmers, with long-lasting political consequences. As recently as last year, IID didn’t participate in a deal between California, Arizona and Nevada agencies to leave more water in Lake Mead. Two years earlier, the district sued to block a similar agreement known as the Drought Contingency Plan.

    Colorado River drought contingency plans signing ceremony in May 2019. Photo: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

    Shifts in #ElNiño May Be Driving #Climate Extremes in Both Hemispheres — Inside Climate News #ActOnClimate

    La Niña intensifies the average atmospheric circulation—surface and high-altitude winds, rainfall, pressure patterns—in the tropical Pacific. Over the contiguous United States, the average location of the jet stream shifts northward. The southern tier of the country is often drier and warmer than average. NOAA Climate.gov illustration.

    Click the link to read the article on the Inside Climate News website (Bob Berwyn). Here’s an excerpt:

    Global warming is shifting cyclical temperature swings in the Pacific Ocean, and that affects floods in Australia, fires in South America and even temperature in the polar regions.

    Other “unthinkable” extremes hit the Northern Hemisphere in the months before that. A December wildfire in the Rocky Mountain foothills of Colorado completely changed how some forest and fire scientists see the fire risk in that area, and the Pacific Northwest heat wave that started in June 2021 was an extreme not forecast by climate models. As that heat wave ebbed in July, parts of several German towns were destroyed by flooding rainstorms that were intensified by global warming. And in recent days, temperatures surged to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the Siberian Arctic near the North Pole and above the adjacent Arctic Ocean.

    Scientists exploring possible connections between the remarkable series of extremes in both hemispheres say they are increasingly certain that the powerful El Niño-La Niña cycle in the Pacific Ocean is one of the key links. New research shows the cycle has shifted in a way that is likely to fuel extremes, including wild swings between heat and drought and flooding rains.

    In the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), huge masses of water surge eastward and westward every two to seven years along a vast region of the equatorial Pacific. One of the strongest El Niños on record in 2016 helped boost the average global temperature to a new record high that year.

    It’s Happening. Now

    The most recent global science report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected that the global warming fingerprint on the El Niño-La Niña cycle would become apparent after about 2050. But the accelerating pace of record-breaking weather events shows that the destructive effects are already here, said Wenju Cai, director of the Center for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia…

    Oceans hold 93 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gasses, and the tropical Pacific is the biggest tank for this heat, pure energy for the climate system. The El Niño-La Niña cycle is the pump distributing that energy, as heat and moisture, to the global climate system, to the east and west of the equator, as well as the north and south.

    Under federal pressure, #ColoradoRiver water managers face unprecedented call for #conservation — KUNC #COriver #aridification

    Sustaining Lake Mead for the benefit of downstream water users in the Lower Colorado River Basin has been a key objective of the 2007 Interim Guidelines and the 2019 Drought Contingency Plans. (Source: Lighthawk via The Water Desk)

    Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Alex Hager). Here’s an excerpt:

    Colorado River water managers are facing a monumental task. Federal officials have given leaders in seven Western states a new charge — to commit to an unprecedented amount of conservation and do it before an August deadline. Without major cutbacks in water use, the nation’s two largest reservoirs — Lake Powell and Lake Mead — are in danger of reaching critically low levels.

    Camille Calimlim Touton being sworn in as Reclamation’s Commissioner by Secretary Deb Haaland.

    On June 14, Bureau of Reclamation commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton came to a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing with a prognosis, a goal and a threat.

    First came the prognosis for the beleaguered river that supplies 40 million people in the Southwest and has seen its flows reduced due to 22 years of higher temperatures…

    The Colorado River’s big reservoirs are at record lows. Lake Mead sits at 28% of its capacity, and Lake Powell is at 27% capacity. They’re both projected to drop further as the year progresses.

    Touton set the goal to keep them from dropping to levels where hydropower production ceases and where it becomes physically impossible to move water through the dams…

    Touton finished her remarks with the threat. If the seven states that rely on the Colorado River can’t cut their own use, the federal government is prepared to do it for them, Touton said. She gave a 60-day deadline to craft a deal.

    #Drought’s Spillover Effect in the American West — Circle of Blue #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Aerial photo of the California Aqueduct at the Interstate 205 crossing, just east of Interstate 580 junction. By Ikluft – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2734798

    Click the link to read the article on the Circle of Blue website (Brett Walton). Here’s an excerpt:

  • The American West has been plumbed into a series of “mega-watersheds.”
  • Because basins are connected by pipelines and canals, drought in one region affects distant watersheds.
  • A big Southern California water agency plans to draw more water from the Colorado River this year because of inadequate moisture in the Sierra Nevada.
  • On a map that might grace the walls of a high school classroom, the watersheds of the American West are distinct geographical features, hemmed in by foreboding plateaus and towering mountain ridges. Look closer and those natural boundaries are less rigid. A sprawling network of pipelines and canals pierce mountains and cross deserts, linking many of the mighty rivers and smaller streams of the West. These “mega-watersheds” have redrawn the map, helping cities and farms to grow large and productive, but also becoming political flashpoints with steep environmental costs…

    Upstream on the Colorado River, there are more links. Tributary streams in Colorado are diverted through the San Juan-Chama Project into New Mexico, where the water enters the Rio Grande system and supplies Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The Central Utah Project pulls Colorado River water into the orbit of the fast-growing Wasatch Front, which is not in the basin.

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    In the headwaters state of Colorado, 11 major interbasin transfers unite rivers on both sides of the Rockies. The Moffat and Adams tunnels cut through the Continental Divide, a feat of engineering that brings Colorado River water into the South Platte River basin, where it is gulped by Denver and other Front Range cities.

    For all the water supply flexibility they provide, these diversions are not risk-free. They have depleted water for native fish. Many of them — from the Owens River in California to the West Slope of Colorado — contend with legacies of acrimony and mistrust, feelings that arose decades ago due to the political imbalance between rural areas where water was extracted and urban areas that benefitted.

    Map credit: AGU

    A short rope for Xcel and pumped storage — @BigPivots

    Scenic Unaweep Canyon. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    Xcel Energy asked for permission to spend up to $15 million in investigating whether a pumped-storage hydro project in Unaweep Canyon, south of Grand Junction, is feasible.

    No, said Colorado Public Utility Commission members at a meeting on June 10. You can get $1 million that can be recovered from customers but no more.

    Pumped hydroelectric generation illustrated. Graphic via The Mountain Town News

    The company has filed for a preliminary permit application with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, putting it in more or less the same stage of the planning process as the Craig-Hayden projects. Which is to say early.

    “I just see this project has having enormous environmental, financial and technological risks,” said Commissioner John Gavan.

    Eric Blank, the commission chairman, had said he would be willing to go for $5 million as there seems to be a gap in funding for development of ideas and before they can be solidified. “It’s a little bit of a chicken-and-egg problem.”

    Megan Gilman, the third commissioner, said she was inclined to reject Xcel’s proposal.

    The canyon does have tremendous vertical relief. It’s a canyon without a river, although some geologists have conjectured it was originally a pathway for the Colorado River.

    Donated 3.5-megawatt engine supports clean-energy #hydrogen fuel research at #Colorado State University

    The 3.5-megawatt turbine was donated to Colorado State University by San Diego-based Solar Turbines and will support hydrogen combustion research at the CSU Energy Institute.
    Photos by Allison Vitt.

    Click the link to read the release on the Colorado State University website (Allison Vitt):

    Colorado State University’s Energy Institute is revving up its hydrogen and natural gas research capabilities with the recent arrival of an industrial turbine generator slated to be installed at the Powerhouse Energy Campus. The acquisition positions CSU among just a handful of academic institutions across the U.S. that have similar engines for conducting large-scale research and testing.

    San Diego-based manufacturer Solar Turbines donated the turbine, which will be stationed in the Powerhouse’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory. Solar Turbines is a subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc., the world’s leading manufacturer of diesel and natural gas engines.

    The turbine’s arrival at the Powerhouse this past spring marked the beginning of its new life in higher education research.

    Capable of producing 4,700 horsepower and 3.5 megawatts of electricity, the massive turbine will dwarf the existing research engines at CSU – and at nearly any other academic institution – by a long shot: In just one hour of runtime, the generator could produce enough energy to power the average U.S. household for more than three months.

    “We have a track record of working with Caterpillar on large-scale energy solutions over several decades, and now this collaboration with Solar Turbines and the equipment they’ve provided will allow us to expand our work on clean turbine technology even further,” said Bryan Willson, Executive Director of the CSU Energy Institute.

    The Energy Institute’s 30-year history partnering with Caterpillar on engine research projects has resulted in numerous applied solutions for improving engines and decreasing emissions across industries, he said.

    “This new turbine will provide truly unparalleled access for faculty and students to advance their research on these critical greenhouse gas emission reduction technologies and develop solutions around combined hydrogen and natural gas power generation,” Willson said. “It will be an incredible addition to the facility and our research capabilities.”

    The turbine being delivered to the Powerhouse Energy Campus on April 4, 2022. Photo credit: Colorado State Universtiy

    Hydrogen combustion research
    Bret Windom, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is leading CSU’s team of researchers developing kinetic models of hydrogen combustion. This work is part of a larger four-year, $4.5 million U.S. Department of Energy project led by Solar Turbines to develop a retrofittable dry, low-emissions gas turbine combustion system that can run on 100% hydrogen as well as blends of hydrogen and natural gas. Researchers from University of California-Irvine, Energy Research Consultants, Ltd., and the Southwest Research Institute are also contributors to the project.

    “We’re currently in phase one of this project, where we’re developing combustion models and supporting computer-aided engineering of the combustor design,” Windom said.

    In collaboration with Solar Turbines, Windom’s team will also be studying the turbine’s potential to run on varying fuel blends of natural gas and hydrogen and what, if any, modifications need to be made to the equipment to account for the enhanced reactivity of hydrogen and its unique combustion behaviors. This research could play a key role in advancing hydrogen-powered turbine technology, work that could have scalable impacts on decarbonization in the industrial and power generation sectors, he said.

    “We have a track record of taking solutions from the laboratory and getting them into the field at-scale, and the addition of the turbine in our lab facility is going to allow us to do that now,” Windom said.

    For CSU student Miguel Valles Castro, the addition of the turbine will bring more than just new equipment into the lab; it will broaden opportunities for students to develop and apply their research skills in a real-world setting. Valles Castro is a mechanical engineering doctoral student, graduate research assistant and Cogen Renewable Energy Fellow working with Windom on internal combustion engine modeling.

    “The Energy Institute at CSU has many years of experience in internal combustion engines and other renewable energy devices to reduce emissions,” Valles Castro said. “The arrival of the turbine is exciting because it expands our areas of expertise.”

    Starting a water-wise garden that glows in hot, dry conditions: In 2021, #Denver-area Garden In A Box customers planted 100,000 sq. ft. of low-water gardens instead of grass — News on Tap

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Jay Adams):

    Do you recognize these plant names? Moonbeam coreopsis. Autumn joy stonecrop. Blonde ambition.

    They may not be well known among most homeowners, but they are examples of water-wise plants gaining popularity in Colorado every year.

    Water-wise plants mostly rely on what Mother Nature provides, requiring either no additional water or only a few inches during the growing season.

    Plant Select, which promotes low-water plants that thrive in Colorado’s climate, describes this plant as an “impressive, highly ornamental form of Western native grass with tall, upright stems.” We think it lives up to its name: Blonde Ambition. Photo credit: Denver Water

    The plants are an alternative to thirsty Kentucky bluegrass and thrive in Colorado’s semi-arid climate. Water-wise plants also offer additional benefits such as low maintenance and added color. Many also attract birds, bees and butterflies.

    Denver Water promotes water conservation efforts in customers’ yards and encourages them to learn about incorporating water-wise plants into their landscapes.

    Check out stories and advice from Denver Water customers who have added Garden In A Box kits to their landscapes.

    Good sources of information include Resource Central, which offers the popular Garden In A Box program, and Plant Select, which promotes plants that need less water and thrive in the high plains and Rocky Mountain regions.

    Elie Zwiebel and his partner, Laura, stand in front of their home in Denver’s Athmar Park neighborhood showing off results of their Garden In A Box. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Resource Central

    Since 2012, Denver Water has regularly supported Resource Central, a nonprofit organization based in Boulder that promotes water conservation programs.

    One of its programs, Garden In A Box, offers a variety of water-wise plants along with plant-by-number garden designs from landscape professionals. The kits also come with information about the care and maintenance needs of the plants.

    A Garden In A Box, after a few years, will delight homeowners and those who pass by. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Customers can choose from gardens with names like “Naturally Native” and “Painted Shade,” indicating the kind of plants in each garden and the type of conditions they thrive in.

    Programs like Garden In A Box are important to Denver Water because among its customers, outdoor water use accounts for about 50% of single-family residential water use. Converting a section of lawn into a water-wise garden is one way to reduce a home’s outdoor water footprint.

    “Garden In A Box started in 2003 and we’ve sold more than 41,000 kits through fall 2021,” said Elisabeth Bowman, conservation engagement manager at Resource Central.

    “Interest in the gardens has grown every year in the metro area so we’re happy to see so many people looking for water-wise landscapes.”

    Between 2003 through 2021, Resource Central estimates it’s helped plant 3.1 million square feet of low-water landscapes, saving 228.6 million gallons of water over the lifetime of the gardens sold to customers across the Front Range.


    A homeowner near Denver’s City Park removed grass from his front yard and planted a Garden In A Box. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Denver Water pays Resource Central more than $15,000 a year to set up four garden pickup events in Denver every spring, so customers who live in and near Denver Water’s service area don’t have to go far to get their gardens.

    More than 10,000 gardens have been sold to Denver-area residents since 2014.

    Garden In A Box offers water-wise plants and professional designs in each kit. Image credit: Resource Central

    “Denver Water is a huge partner for us, the support they provide makes it easy for Denver residents to pick up their kits. Over 1,000 of our gardens go to Denver residents every year,” said Melanie Stolp, manager of Resource Central’s Garden In A Box and its water efficiency Slow the Flow programs.

    And the results of the customers’ purchases are amazing.

    Just take a look at Resource Central’s 2021 numbers for Denver Water:

  • 1,834 Garden In A Box kits sold to customers who live in Denver and the surrounding suburbs of Centennial, Edgewater, Greenwood Village, Lakewood, Littleton and Wheat Ridge.
  • 100,000 square feet of low-water gardens planted, according to Resource Central’s estimates.
  • 9.5 million gallons of water saved over the lifetime of those new gardens, according to Resource Central’s estimates.
  • A Resource Central employee loads a Garden In A Box kit during the spring 2021 pickup event. Photo Credit: Denver Water

    “The Garden In A Box program helps people start small, converting a section of the lawn from turf to low-water plants,” said Jeff Tejral, Denver Water’s former water efficiency manager who guided the partnership with Resource Central.

    “It helps people learn about these plants, how to care for them and the beauty they can bring to their home. From there, they often convert more sections of grass to water-wise landscapes.”

    Customer surveys indicate about two-thirds of Garden In A Box buyers have little or no experience with water-wise plants, according to Tejral.

    The Garden In A Box kit comes with a plant-by-number guide for a landscape designed by professionals using water-wise plants. Photo credit: Denver Water

    That’s why each garden comes with a guide that helps customers through the planting and early years of the garden’s life.

    Gardens have been sold in the spring and typically sell out quickly. Resource Central continues to increase the number of kits available each year to meet the growing demand. The organization has also conducted a fall sale for about four years and in 2021 increased its offerings by 35%.

    Plant Select helps gardeners find water-wise plants that thrive in Colorado and the retailers that sell them. See their Top 10 plants from 2020.

    The fall 2021 sale sold out. Another fall is planned for 2022.

    Bowman encourages anyone interested in purchasing a Garden In A Box to check out Resource Central’s website and sign up for their newsletter.

    A Garden In A Box kit planted in southeast Denver’s Hampden neighborhood. Photo credit: Denver Water

    In addition to Garden In A Box, Resource Central also offers other water conservation programs through its water utility partners, including:

  • Lawn Removal Service program.
  • Slow the Flow consultations to improve water efficiency inside and outside.
  • Free webinars on water-wise landscaping held in the spring.
  • $32 million settlement reached over toxic #GoldKingMine spill damages — The Farmington Daily Times #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5, 2015. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

    Click the link to read the article on The Farmington Daily Times website (Mike Easterling). Here’s an excerpt:

    A little less than seven years after contractors working at the site of an abandoned mine in southwest Colorado triggered a spill of toxic materials that led to perhaps the worst environmental disaster in the history of the Four Corners region. Federal and New Mexico officials announced during a June 16 press conference they had agreed on a settlement of $32 million to compensate the state for damages related to the incident…

    The announcement came on the same day that Navajo Nation officials announced in a statement that they had reached a $31 million settlement with federal officials for damages caused by the same incident…

    [Governor] Lujan Grisham noted New Mexico’s settlement with the EPA does not include an additional $11 million the state has received from private entities that shared responsibility for the Aug. 5, 2015…

    “The river has largely healed, which is incredible,” Lujan Grisham said while announcing the settlement, adding that a variety of partners worked together to resolve the issues created by the spill. “What hasn’t happened is creating a holistic investment in the community.”

    Cost of [Haligan Reservoir] expansion quadruples as milestones approach — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

    Halligan Reservoir aerial credit: City of Fort Collins

    Click the link to read the article on the Fort Collins Coloradoan website (Jacy Marmaduke). Here’s an excerpt:

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to release the final Environmental Impact Statement for the project next year, followed by a record of decision one or two years later. As those milestones approach, details about the project’s final cost, design and environmental impacts are coming into sharper focus. The city now expects the expansion to cost $150 million, possibly more, and begin three years of construction by about 2026.

    The expansion would involve enlarging the existing Halligan Reservoir from 6,400 acre-feet to 14,600 acre-feet. The city plans to rebuild, and raise by 25 feet, the existing dam on the North Fork of the Poudre River about 24 miles upstream of Gateway Natural Area. The expansion would reduce flows on portions of the North Fork and mainstem Poudre River by 1% to 6% during May and June. During the rest of the year, reservoir releases associated with the project would address dry spots on the North Fork.

    The goal of expanding the reservoir is to increase Fort Collins Utilities’ storage capacity for Poudre River water, which makes up about half of the city’s water supply…

    The projected cost of the project has quadrupled in the last eight years as the permitting process has dragged on, best practices for dam design and environmental mitigation have evolved, and the city has done more thorough estimations of the various costs associated with the reservoir expansion.

    Bruce Babbitt and Brian Richter: Saving The Colorado River — The Salt Lake Tribune #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Some of the snowmelt flowing in the Blue River as it joins the Colorado River near Kremmling, Colo., will reach the Lower Basin states. Dec. 3, 2019. Credit: Mitch Tobin, the Water Desk

    Click the link to read the opinion piece on The Salt Lake Tribune website (Bruce Babbitt and Brian Richter). Here’s an excerpt:

    Water managers and political leaders are attempting to stave off [water] bankruptcy by juggling water balances among the reservoirs, by holding back and delaying water releases and by looking to cloudless skies for relief that is not coming. As the crisis deepens these short-term patches will no longer suffice. The only way to secure the future is to devise a long-term plan to balance our accounts, to withdraw and use only that amount of water that the river provides each year. For a long-term sustainable plan, the states will need to build upon existing drought response measures agreed to in 2019, called the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). The DCP has two parts: one governing the Lower Basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada and another for the Upper Basin states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico.

    Signing ceremony for the Colorado River upper and lower basin Drought Contingency Plans. Back Row Left to Right: James Eklund (CO), John D’Antonio (NM), Pat Tyrell (WY), Eric Melis (UT), Tom Buschatzke (AZ), Peter Nelson (CA), John Entsminger (NV), Front Row: Brenda Burman (US), and from DOI – Assistant Secretary of Water and Science Tim Petty. Photo credit: Colorado River Water Users Association

    The Lower Basin DCP sets out a schedule for California, Arizona and Nevada to achieve balance by reducing their use by 1.4 million acre-feet each year. To date these three states are less than halfway toward that target, having reduced withdrawals from Lake Mead by only 533,000 acre-feet each year. The DCP delays the remaining cuts by allowing the three states to continue depleting reserves in Lake Mead until the lake level approaches dead pool, at which point both power production and downstream releases are in jeopardy. The time for taking these risks, wagering that drought relief will soon arrive, is over. The Lower Basin states must agree to a definite timeline for making the remaining reductions.

    The Upper Basin is even farther behind. The Upper Basin states have yet to set reduction targets, or even to agree on a procedure for making cuts.

    Meanwhile the crisis deepens at Lake Powell, where waters have fallen to a level that threatens both power production and the integrity of the dam structure itself. A recent analysis by the Utah Rivers Council (“A Future on Borrowed Time”) demonstrates that Upper Basin states are presently diverting 500,000 acre-feet per annum more water than can be sustainably withdrawn under existing rules. If the Upper Basin states cannot soon reach agreement on necessary reductions, all options must be on the table. The federal Bureau of Reclamation has the regulatory authority to intervene to reduce water deliveries to federal irrigation projects in the Upper Basin states. Such an intervention in water allocation decisions, normally left to the states, would be unprecedented and unwelcome, but these are times that call for forceful action.

    Despite all the bad days and mean people, I still believe in good days and kind people. Plus, there are always dogs — @tinybuddha

    Coyote Gulch and Olive 2021

    Secretary Haaland Announces Members of the First-Ever Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee — Department of Interior

    Photo credit: The Department on Interior

    Click the link to read the release on the Department of Interior website:

    In remarks at the National Congress of American Indians 2022 Mid Year Conference today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced the launch of the first-ever Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC).

    The STAC, which was announced as part of the 2021 White House Tribal Nations Summit, will ensure Tribal leaders have direct and consistent contact and communication with the current and future Department officials to facilitate robust discussions on intergovernmental responsibilities, exchange views, share information and provide advice and recommendations regarding Departmental programs and funding that impact Tribal Nations to advance the federal trust responsibility.

    “Tribes deserve a seat at the decision-making table before policies are made that impact their communities. Tribal members who are joining the first-ever Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee will be integral to ensuring Tribal leaders can engage at the highest levels of the Department on the issues that matter most to their people,” said Secretary Haaland. “I look forward to continued engagement and ensuring that the Department honors and strengthens our nation-to-nation relationships with Tribes.”

    The STAC is composed of a primary Tribal representative from each of the 12 Bureau of Indian Affairs Regions (BIA), and one alternate member from each region. The members are appointed on a staggered term for up to two years. The Secretary, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, will designate one member of the STAC to serve as chairperson.

    The members of the STAC, listed by BIA Region, are below:

    Alaska Region

  • Primary member: Robert Keith; President, Native Village of Elim
  • Alternate member: Gayla Hoseth; Second Tribal Chief for the Curyung Tribal Council
  • Eastern Region

  • Primary member: Kelly Dennis; Councilwoman, Shinnecock Indian Nation
  • Alternate member: Stephanie Bryan; Tribal Chair, Poarch Creek Indians
  • Eastern Oklahoma Region

  • Primary member: Gary Batton; Chief, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • Alternate member: Del Beaver; Second Chief, Muscogee (Creek) Nation
  • Great Plains Region

  • Primary member: Dionne Crawford; Councilwoman, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate for the Lake Traverse District
  • Alternate member: Cora White Horse; Councilwoman, Oglala Sioux Tribe
  • Midwest Region

  • Primary member: Whitney Gravelle; President, Bay Mills Indian Community
  • Alternate member: Michelle Beaudin; Councilwoman, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
  • Navajo Region

  • Primary member: Jonathan Nez; President, Navajo Nation
  • Alternate member: Daniel Tso; Council Delegate, Navajo Nation
  • Northwest Region

  • Primary member: Kat Brigham; Chair of the Board of Trustees, Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation
  • Alternate member: Timothy Greene; Chairman, Makah Tribe
  • Pacific Region

  • Primary member: Erica Pinto; Chairwoman, Jamul Indian Village of California
  • Alternate member: Reid Milanovich; Chairman, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
  • Rocky Mountain Region

  • Primary member: Jody LaMere; Councilwoman, Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation
  • Alternate member: Jordan Dresser; Chairman, Northern Arapaho Business Council
  • Southern Plains Region

  • Primary member: Walter Echo-Hawk; Chairman, Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma
  • Alternate member: Reggie Wassana; Governor, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma
  • Southwest Region

  • Primary member: Mark Mitchell; APCG Chairman, Pueblo of Tesuque
  • Alternate member: Christopher Moquino; Governor, Pueblo de San Ildefonso
  • Western Region

  • Primary member: Amber Torres; Chairman, Walker River Paiute Tribe
  • Alternate member: Terry Rambler; Chairman, San Carlos Apache Tribe
  • North American Indian regional losses 1850 thru 1890.

    An even worse #drought 2,000 years ago: #ColoradoRiver reservoirs are far closer to empty than full. Now comes evidence of a worse drought long, long ago — @BigPivots #COriver #aridification #ActOnClimate

    Lees Ferry, located 15 miles downstream of Glen Canyon Dam is the dividing line between the upper and lower Colorado River basins. Photo/Allen Best

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    The Colorado River Basin has suffered a handful of extended, deep droughts. We’re in one of them. But as bad as the current drought is, leaving reservoirs far more empty than full, new evidence has emerged of an even worse drought. It occurred 2,000 years ago.

    “The new findings should “help water managers plan for even more persistent and severe droughts than previously considered,” said Subhrendu Gangopadhyay, the lead author of the study that was published in Geophysical Research Letters. Gangopadhyay is principal engineer for the Water Resources Engineer and Management Group at the Bureau of Reclamation.

    September 21, 1923, 9:00 a.m. — Colorado River at Lees Ferry. From right bank on line with Klohr’s house and gage house. Old “Dugway” or inclined gage shows to left of gage house. Gage height 11.05′, discharge 27,000 cfs. Lens 16, time =1/25, camera supported. Photo by G.C. Stevens of the USGS.
    Source: 1921-1937 Surface Water Records File, Colorado R. @ Lees Ferry, Laguna Niguel Federal Records Center, Accession No. 57-78-0006, Box 2 of 2 , Location No. MB053635.

    The definition of average used by the team of researchers was the average of flows recorded at Lees Ferry since 1906. This location below Glen Canyon Dam is the official dividing line between the lower Colorado River Basin and the upper basin. The latter is where nearly all of the river flows originate, more than half in Colorado.

    The new research finds that compared to the current 220-year drought in the Colorado River, with only 84% of average water flow, it was surpassed by a 22-year period in the second century, when the average water flow was 68% of average.

    Farview Reservoir Mesa Verde NP

    Paleoclimatologists have long known of severe droughts in the Colorado River. One occurred in the late 16th century, about the time Spanish colonists were staking claims in the Southwest, and others occurred midway through the 12th century, and again in the late 13th century, about the time the ancestral Pueblo were vacating cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde.

    This new study stretches the record deeper into the past.

    “This new finding suggests that the range of natural hydroclimatic variability in the Colorado River is broader than previously recognized, setting a new bar for worst-case scenario from natural variability alone,” the study concludes.

    In other words, Mother Nature could deliver even worse.

    Annual CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, by world region

    That’s not even including the effect of artificial heating of the atmosphere caused by accumulating greenhouse gases. Previous studies have calculated that a third to a half of the reduced precipitation is due to global warming.

    New tree ring studies in Alaska help shed light on climate-change impacts to forests.

    Paleoclimatologists have a variety of tools for establishing precipitation of past centuries. Tree rings reflect growing conditions, especially precipitation. Wider bands correspond with more moisture, narrower rings less.

    These tree ring studies have been catalogued at many areas. For example, one of the researchers in the current study, Connie Woodhouse, then affiliated with the University of Colorado at Boulder but now with the University of Arizona, has studied Douglas fir trees near Eagle among many other places.

    San Juan Mountains December 19, 2016. Photo credit: Allen Best

    Prominent in this study was research conducted in the San Juan Mountains southwest of Alamosa, near the former mining site of Summitville. It is not in the Colorado River Basin but it does reflect the climate in the San Juan Mountains, which provides a tributary for the Colorado River. That particular site showed a severe drought in the second century, the driest in the last 2,250 years.

    For this study, tree rings were not enough. There were just a few fragments. “Tree-ring records are sparse back in the second century,” said Woodhouse. “However, this extreme drought event is also documented in paleoclimatic data from lakes, bogs, and caves.”

    Researchers also used statistical method called grid-point reconstructions.

    The take-away, once again, is that the natural drought could lift from the Colorado River Basin next year. Or it could deepen.

    As for the aridification caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we’re likely stuck with that even if a miracle occurs and the world figures out how to stop the production of carbon dioxide and other gases.

    #Drought news (June 16, 2022): Areas in S.W. #Colorado and just east of the Front Range in #WY experienced some degradation

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

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

    This Week’s Drought Summary

    The storm track remained active across much of the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) this week. Much of the Northern Tier states experienced beneficial rainfall and near to below-normal temperatures, predominantly leading to drought improvements from the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains. Storm systems and clusters of thunderstorms also resulted in some improvements from the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast. However, where the heaviest rains did not fall, there was some deterioration and slight expansion of abnormal dryness or drought conditions, particularly in parts of the Southeast and Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. Above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation was the main story across much of the southwestern CONUS, extending into Texas, leading to general persistence and degradation of drought conditions. Weak trade winds in Hawaii and below-normal precipitation in Alaska have continued, resulting in degradations this week. Warm and dry conditions also contributed to worsening conditions in Puerto Rico…

    High Plains

    Much of the High Plains Region has seen beneficial rainfall and temperatures averaging near to below-normal over the past 30 days. However, above-normal temperatures finally crept in this week, as temperatures ran more than 3°F above-normal for much of the region. Despite the above-normal temperatures, precipitation was also above-average for many locations, warranting broad 1-category improvements in the drought depiction where more than 1 inch 7-day surpluses were observed and where longer-term deficits were appreciably diminished. Only areas in southwestern Colorado and just east of the Front Range in Wyoming experienced some degradation, as temperature anomalies were highest in those areas (6°F to 9°F above-normal). Also, high winds have helped to exacerbate ongoing drought in those locations…

    Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending June 14, 2022.

    West

    Much of the Northern Tier of the U.S. from the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains, has seen marked improvements in recents months due to a persistent storm track and near to below-normal temperatures. That same pattern continued this week and continued to eat away at long-term precipitation deficits and indicators, such as groundwater. Additionally, some high-elevation locations have even picked up additional snowpack and stream flows are running near to much above-normal over the past 28 days. Given the wet conditions in recent months and the continuation of the active storm track, broad improvements are warranted again this week. The only exception is parts of north-central Montana, where precipitation has generally missed many areas near the Golden Triangle in recent months, warranting some slight degradation this week, as precipitation again missed these areas. Elsewhere in the Western Region, despite the much above-normal temperatures, a general status quo depiction was warranted, the exception being Nevada and New Mexico. A slight expansion of extreme drought (D3) was warranted in central Nevada, where 7 to 28-day average stream flows are running below the 5th percentile of the historical distribution, vegetation indices are indicating similar signals as D3 areas to the east, and KBDIs are indicating high soil moisture deficiency in the upper layers. Despite some nearby monsoon precipitation in parts of New Mexico and Arizona, accumulations were not enough to change the severe (D2) to exceptional (D4) drought depictions in areas where the rains fell. Given the temperatures were running anywhere from 5°F to 10°F above-average, and coupled with windy conditions, additional degradations were made in parts of western and southern New Mexico. Additionally, CPC soil moisture continues to remain below the 5th percentile much of the region and nearby stream flows are averaging in the bottom 2 percent of the historical distribution.

    South

    Short-term (30 to 60-day) rainfall deficits continue to mount across parts of the Lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys. Coverage of D0 (abnormal dryness) was generally expanded, although coverage is sporadic. Seasonal temperatures in these areas helped keep evapotranspiration rates at bay this week. However, daily soil moisture anomalies continue to become more negative, particularly over the past couple of weeks from northern Louisiana, extending northeastward toward the Tennessee Valley, as several locations have seen continued declines in surface moisture. Similar to the Carolinas, these areas will need to be watched in the coming weeks, as potentially excessive heat and below-normal precipitation is forecast through the end of the month. Drought deterioration is also warranted across much of Texas, which saw another week of much above-normal temperatures, high winds, and below-normal precipitation. Some of these degradations extended into western Louisiana also. However, in eastern Louisiana, a cluster of thunderstorms provided some relief to abnormally dry (D0) and moderate drought (D1) areas. Improvements are also warranted in western Oklahoma, particularly in areas that received at least 1 inch rainfall surpluses this week. Some 2-category improvements occurred in areas where year-to-date precipitation deficits declined and daily soil moisture estimates improved to near-normal down to 200 cm…

    Looking Ahead

    A storm system with a trailing frontal boundary will exit the northeastern contiguous U.S. (CONUS) over the next 2 days (June 16-17), bringing below-normal temperatures and chances for precipitation to parts of the Great Lakes and Northeast. High pressure is forecast to build over the central CONUS and spread eastward through Tuesday, June 21. Maximum temperatures across parts of the north-central CONUS may reach 15°F to 20°F above-normal. The northwestern CONUS is expected to remain active, as another storm system is forecast to push onshore into the Pacific Northwest and into the Intermountain West during the weekend and leading up to the Tuesday cutoff. With it will come increased chances for precipitation in areas that experienced improvements in recent weeks. Below-normal temperatures are also forecast across much of the western third of the CONUS, in the wake of this passing system.

    The Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 day outlook (valid June 21-25, 2022) favors above-normal temperatures and near to below-normal precipitation across the eastern CONUS. Below-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation are favored across the Pacific Northwest and northern Great Basin, in the wake of a passing storm system near the start of the 6-10 day period. However, there is a weak tilt in the odds toward above-normal precipitation in northern Washington. A surge of moisture is expected to bring increased chances of precipitation to the Four Corners region, signaling a potential early start to the Southwest Monsoon season, with probabilities of above-normal precipitation extending northeastward into portions of the Central and Northern Plains. Near to below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures are favored over much of California.