As Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry Will Be No Stranger to International Climate Negotiations — Inside #Climate News #ActOnClimate

From left, President François Hollande of France; Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister; and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during the climate change conference [December 2015] in Le Bourget, near Paris. (Credit Francois Mori/Associated Press)

From Inside Climate News (Phil McKenna):

President-elect Joe Biden’s announcement on Tuesday that Kerry—a former secretary of state, senator and presidential candidate—would serve in the newly created role of special presidential envoy for climate underscored the importance the Biden administration will place on international negotiations to address climate change, as illustrated by Kerry’s work in Kigali.

“Even the United States, for all of our industrial strength, is responsible for only 13% of global emissions,” Kerry said during a joint appearance in Wilmington, Delaware, with Biden and other newly announced members of his national security team. “To end this crisis, the whole world must come together. You’re right to rejoin Paris on day one, and you’re right to recognize that Paris alone is not enough.”

Kerry is likely to try to build on the success of the Kigali Amendment by taking swift action to work with other countries to reduce emissions from other sectors of the global economy, Zaelke said.

One place he might look is the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency whose member states cooperate on regulations governing the international shipping industry. In 2018, the IMO agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from ships by 50 percent by 2050, but the organization later failed to approve any specific emissions reduction measures.

Another is the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN agency that is currently working to offset growth in carbon emissions from international flights after 2020.

A third possibility would be expanding the scope of the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement developed in the 1980s to phase out the production of ozone depleting chemicals. Some climate policy experts say the agreement should now be extended to reduce emissions of other greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas produced in chemical manufacturing that is nearly 300 times more potent at warming the planet than carbon dioxide, and also causes depletion of atmospheric ozone.

These lesser-known agreements and UN organizations have the ability to require mandatory emission reductions, giving them more teeth than the more well-known Paris climate agreement, which is voluntary.

“We have to have these sister agreements moving ahead to plug in and support the Paris Agreement,” Zaelke said.

Another place strong U.S. leadership could spur greater international action on climate change is the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a voluntary U.N.-administered organization, formed in 2012 with support from the Obama administration.

The Coalition focuses on reducing emissions of “short-lived climate pollutants” including methane, HFCs, black carbon and ground level ozone, which are all climate super-pollutants that remain in the atmosphere for a relatively short period of time. Reducing these pollutants is widely seen as a way to quickly begin to address global warming.

The Coalition, in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, the European Commission, the Environmental Defense Fund and leading oil and gas companies, announced a new effort to report and reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector on Monday.

“Kerry can redouble the efforts and make it go twice as fast, and can also bring it to the highest level of government,” Zaelke said of the Coalition.

However, before the U.S. can seek to lead on any international climate agreement, it must first return to the Kigali Amendment, which the nation abandoned after Kerry had championed the agreement.

More than 100 countries have signed the amendment, which the U.S., China and India have yet to ratify.

U.S. ratification could come quickly. Legislation that would mandate the phase down of HFCs, a prerequisite for U.S. ratification of the Kigali Amendment, is now making its way through the U.S. Senate.

The legislation has rare, bipartisan support and is backed by a broad group of environmental organizations and business interests, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

The groups say it would both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs by stimulating the development of new, more climate friendly chemical refrigerants. In a Nov. 18 letter to Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, the groups called for swift passage of the bill during the current, “lame duck” session of Congress.

“There is a remarkable span of support for this among stakeholders and quite remarkable bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate,” said David Doniger, senior strategic director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate and Clean Energy Program. “I remain somewhere between hopeful and optimistic that this can succeed in this lame duck session.”

As #LakePowell Recedes, River Runners Race To Document Long-Hidden Rapids — KUNC

Sand and silt are piling up on the Colorado River above Lake Powell, as water levels continue to fall due to persistent drought and encroaching aridification. Water managers from San Diego to Wyoming are working to find ways to keep the river’s reservoirs, and water delivery systems, functioning.

From KUNC (Molly Marcello):

Climate change and overuse are causing one of the Colorado River’s biggest reservoirs, Lake Powell, to drop. While water managers worry about scarcity issues, two Utah river rafters are documenting the changes that come as the massive reservoir hits historic low points.

For the past three years, Moab-based river runners Mike DeHoff and Pete Lefebvre have carefully photographed and mapped Cataract Canyon on their boating trips. For decades, Lake Powell buried the lower portion of the beloved canyon under flatwater. But now that the lake’s water levels are dropping, things are rapidly changing in the canyon…

The pair photograph these returning rapids year to year, illustrating in real time what it looks like as Lake Powell’s water levels drop and shift. Lefebvre says he was inspired by Chasing Ice, a 2012 film that documented shrinking glaciers from a sustained rise in global temperatures…

It wasn’t long before their hunt for new rapids sent them digging into the past. DeHoff has spent hours poring over old river maps, guidebooks, and historic photos in search of clues…

Their first “eureka moment” came when they correctly matched a 1921 photo from a survey of the Colorado River with one of their own. The picture shows a boat running through a dynamic stretch of Lower Cataract, where the reservoir’s mostly flatwater exists today. But Lefebvre says, some character is now coming back to the area.

“It started with just like a little ripple in the water to the surface, and then there was a little burble. And then oh, there was the tip of a rock sticking out,” Lefebvre said. “And then another rock was sticking out, and then eventually you start seeing this thing turn into a riffle.”

They named the area La Rue’s Riffle for E.C. La Rue, the U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist who took that photo nearly a century ago.

Fed up with the slow rate of guidebooks, the pair recently published their own supplemental river map on their website, Returning Rapids of Cataract Canyon. It lays out the freshest, gnarliest rapids of the lower canyon…

Cataract Canyon is becoming a well-known place to study what happens to an ecosystem when a reservoir recedes, and a river has a chance to return to a sense of former wildness.

“We’ve taken some people who are highly trained scientists, and geologists, and whatever out there,” DeHoff said. “And it’s really neat to see their faces where they’re like, ‘I’ve been studying geomorphology for 15 years and here I am out here seeing it right before my eyes, happening faster than I can even believe it’s happening.’”

Whether due to overuse, prolonged drought, or political change, researchers are beginning to contemplate a future for a severely diminished Lake Powell. This October the reservoir dropped to just under 11 million acre-feet of water, or just 45% of its total capacity. With a dry and warm winter on the horizon in 2021, there’s no relief on the horizon.

The Returning Rapids project is showing a silver lining to a reduced reservoir, Lefebvre said. It’s not only about new thrills for rafters – they’re also watching an entire ecosystem shift.

“Instead of this monoculture of weeds and a mud canal…we’re getting all this character back with rapids, beaches, currents, eddies, animal life, and native vegetation,” Lefebvre said. “And so that’s how I see [Cataract Canyon] recovering. It’s a nicer place to be now.”

Lake Powell, created with the 1963 completion of Glen Canyon Dam, is the upper basin’s largest reservoir on the Colorado River. But 2000-2019 has provided the least amount of inflow into the reservoir, making it the lowest 20-year period since the dam was built, as evidenced by the “bathtub ring” and dry land edging the reservoir, which was underwater in the past. As of October 1, 2019, Powell was 55 percent full. Photo credit: Eco Flight via Water Education Colorado

#Drought news: One class degradation in NE #Colorado along the #KS #NE border

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

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

This Week’s Drought Summary

Several Pacific weather systems, in the form of shortwave troughs, moved in the jet stream flow across the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week. The weather systems brought rain or snow to parts of northern California and the Pacific Northwest, western Colorado, the northern Plains to Mid-Mississippi Valley, and Tennessee Valley to Northeast. Rain also fell across parts of Florida. The rest of the CONUS had little to no precipitation. Even where the precipitation fell, it was mostly below normal for the week. Areas receiving above-normal precipitation included parts of the Sierra Nevada, southern Idaho, other scattered parts of the Pacific Northwest, strips across the central Palins to Ohio Valley and across New England, and parts of Hawaii. Improvement in drought conditions occurred where precipitation was above normal, while drought expanded or intensified in some areas where dryness continued. Temperatures were largely warmer than normal across the CONUS, with anomalies 9 degrees F or warmer from the Southwest to northern Plains. Parts of the Pacific Northwest and East Coast were near to cooler than normal. SNOTEL observations of mountain snowpack showed increases in snow depth in the Sierra Nevada and parts of Oregon and Washington, and snow water equivalent (SWE) values were in the high percentiles in the Sierra Nevada, and Pacific Northwest, but this is early in the snow season when the snowpack is just getting established. SWE values were in the low percentiles from Nevada eastward. Western reservoirs continued quite low, especially in Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Mounting dryness was indicated in several drought indicators and indices. Maps of 7-day, 14-day, and 28-day USGS streamflow measurements were consistent in showing below-normal streamflow from northern California, Nevada, and southern Idaho, across the Southwest, to the central and southern High Plains; across southern Texas; across western Puerto Rico; and in parts of Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and the Northeast. The satellite-based Vegetation Health Index shows stressed vegetation across the California valleys and southern California, the Southwest, parts of the central Plains and Ohio Valley, and especially in southeastern New Mexico to western Texas. Where VegDRI is still in season, it shows drought across much of the West (especially the Southwest and west Texas) and parts of the Northeast. Where QuickDRI is still in season, it shows very dry conditions across the West (except for a very small part of coastal southern California) to southern and central Plains; much of Texas, and parts of the Midwest and Northeast. The KBDI shows significantly dry conditions in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Evapotranspiration (EDDI) for the last week has been high in the southern to central Plains, southern Alabama, and the Midwest to Northeast; at the 2- to 3-week timescales, across much of the CONUS from the Southwest to Northeast; and at longer time scales (1-3 months), in the Southwest to central Plains, and from the Ohio Valley and southern Great Lakes to Northeast. NIFC wildfire maps show large wildfires still burning in California and Colorado, several across Oklahoma, and some in other parts of the West, Kansas, Texas, Mississippi, the Florida panhandle, and central Appalachians. USGS real-time groundwater level data show low groundwater at points across the West, in northern Indiana, southern Georgia, and parts of the Northeast. NASA GRACE satellite-based groundwater estimates show low groundwater across most of the West to central and southern High Plains, most of New York to New England, much of Texas, and parts of North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, and Florida. Soil moisture is dry across the West from California to the southern and central Rockies, in the southern and central High Plains, in North Dakota, across Nebraska and Iowa, across central Illinois to northern Indiana, parts of Pennsylvania and New York, and (for some indicators) most of New England and southern Alabama (CPC, NLDAS, and UCLA/VIC models; satellite-based AAFC/SMOS, GRACE, and NASA/SPoRT analyses). The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) shows dry conditions in various places at different time scales. These include North Dakota to Minnesota, Wyoming, New England, and southern Texas to the Lower Mississippi Valley (at the 1-month time scale); California to the central and southern Rockies, much of the Great Plains, Iowa and Missouri to Indiana, parts of the Northeast, and southern AL (2 to 4 months); California to the central and southern Rockies, much of the Great Plains, Iowa, Indiana to Ohio and Michigan, most of Northeast (6 to 12 months); parts of Pacific Northwest (9 to 12 months); and the Southwest to southern and central High Plains, and parts of Pacific Northwest, Texas, Iowa, Indiana, and the Northeast (24 months). When the desiccating effects of hot temperatures are included, the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) shows more intense drought conditions over the SPI dry areas than indicated by the SPI…

High Plains

Half an inch of precipitation fell over parts of western Wyoming and the Colorado mountains, with a strip of half-inch precipitation bisecting Kansas. But for most of the region, it was a dry week with less than a quarter inch falling or no precipitation. Moderate and severe drought was trimmed slightly in western Wyoming, but the big story was expansion of severe and extreme drought in parts of Kansas and Nebraska; moderate drought also expanded in eastern Kansas. This expansion was prompted by several indicators, including SPI at several time scales and multiple soil moisture tools. According to USDA reports, half to two-thirds of the topsoil moisture was short to very short in all of the High Plains states except Colorado, where 87% of the topsoil moisture was short to very short. USDA statistics show that 43% of the winter wheat was in poor to very poor condition in Colorado, which is a jump of 11% compared to a week ago. In Nebraska and Kansas, the winter wheat statistics were 20% and 26%, respectively, poor to very poor…

West

Parts of northern California and the Sierra Nevada and the western parts of Oregon and Washington received half an inch to over 2 inches of precipitation this week, with locally over 4 inches in Oregon and Washington. Parts of the Rocky Mountains received half an inch to 2 inches. While beneficial, the precipitation was not enough to overcome deficits that have built up over much of 2020. An exception was contraction of abnormal dryness in a couple spots in Washington. Moderate drought retreated in central Montana, reflecting moisture which has fallen in recent weeks. Severe to extreme drought were expanded in parts of northeast California, northwest Nevada, and adjacent Oregon where precipitation this week was light and deficits over the last several months continued to mount.

Southern portions of the West region received little to no precipitation this week. Moderate to severe drought expanded in the San Joaquin Valley and abnormal dryness expanded in southern California. The failure of the summer monsoon resulted in record dryness to the Southwest states, and record heat over warm season increased evapotranspiration, resulting in record SPEI values over the last 3 to 6 to 9 months. The SPEI values were not only record, they exceeded previous records by huge margins. Extreme to exceptional drought expanded to reflect this prolonged dryness in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. According to USDA reports, topsoil moisture was short to very short across 81% of New Mexico, 75% of California and Utah, 58% of Montana, 55% of Idaho, and 40% of Nevada and Oregon. Parts of interior southern California, the southern Great Basin, and the Desert Southwest have had a seven-month dry streak. According to National Weather Service records, the last measurable precipitation in Bishop, California occurred on April 17, 2020, and the last measurable precipitation in Las Vegas, Nevada occurred on April 20, 2020…

South

Half an inch or more of rain fell across parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas, but other than that the South region was dry. Abnormal dryness expanded in parts of all of the states in the South region. Moderate to exceptional drought were expanded across various parts of Texas; moderate drought was introduced in Arkansas and Mississippi and expanded in Louisiana; and moderate and severe drought expanded in Oklahoma. In the Oklahoma panhandle, moderate and severe drought retreated. According to USDA reports, topsoil moisture was short or very short across 69% of Texas, 41% of Oklahoma, 31% of Mississippi, 24% of Louisiana, and 14% of Arkansas; 38% of the winter wheat was in poor to very poor condition across Texas…

Looking Ahead

The jet stream will continue to be active during the next couple weeks, sending a parade of Pacific weather systems into the CONUS. For November 25 to December 1, precipitation will fall across the Pacific Northwest, where the coastal mountains may receive over an inch of precipitation, and widespread precipitation is forecast to fall from the southern Plains to East Coast. Amounts may exceed 3 inches from southeast Texas to the southern Appalachians and parts of New England, with an inch or more surrounding these core areas from Texas to Kansas, from the Gulf Coast to Great Lakes, and from the Florida panhandle to the Northeast. A fourth of an inch or less is forecasted to fall across most of the West, from the northern Plains to Upper Mississippi Valley, and over much of Florida. The forecast models predict above-normal temperatures east of the Rockies with near to below-normal temperatures across the West. The outlook for December 2-8 is mostly dry. Odds favor below-normal precipitation across most of the CONUS, with only the Rio Grande Valley and eastern two-thirds of Alaska having odds favoring wetter-than-normal conditions. Odds favor warmer-than-normal temperatures across the West, central to northern Plains, Great Lakes, and eastern Alaska, with below-normal temperatures likely across the southern Plains, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and western Alaska.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 24, 2020.

“…all signs point to a future where every competing water use is a valid one and there isn’t enough water to quench them all” — Joanna Allhands #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From AZCentral.com (Joanna Allhands):

Opinion: We’ve known for years that a shortage is coming, but it’s alarming how quick the conditions are changing. The Colorado River system was not set up for this.

Glen Canyon Dam aerial. Photo credit: USBR

This warm, dry weather we’ve been having may be good for moving activities outside.

But it’s bad news for our water supply.

The chances are growing – and quickly – that a warm, dry winter could push Lake Powell to a trigger point about a year from now that could result in significantly less water for Lake Mead, which supplies about 40% of Arizona’s water supply.

That likely would push Mead into a first-time shortage declaration. And if the same thing were to happen the following year, it would likely plunge Mead into a more severe shortage – a depth from which the lake is unlikely to recover any time soon.

Like I said, bad news.

Why would Mead get less water?

The 2007 operational guidelines lay out how much water is released from the upstream Powell to the downstream Mead. In “normal” years (and yes, I use quotes because nothing about the Colorado River is normal these days), Mead gets about 8.23 million acre-feet.

That drops to 7.48 million acre-feet once Powell’s levels fall below a certain depth. This occurred once before, in 2014, and luckily, Mead was nowhere close to a shortage then.

But lake levels plunged that year and never recovered, even in wet years and despite millions of acre-feet of water that Arizona and others have stored in Mead.

The lake is currently less than 10 feet above its shortage elevation trigger of 1,075 feet. Yet a 7.48 million acre-feet release in water year 2022, which begins in October 2021, could drop levels on Lake Mead by nearly 20 feet.

That could plunge us into shortage

That would place us solidly into a Tier 1 shortage – which for Arizona, means no more Colorado River water for Pinal famers and some water lost from the non-Indian agricultural (NIA) pool, which is a rung higher on the priority list and despite its name, mostly supplies tribes and cities.

Should conditions persist and Mead get another 7.48 million acre-feet release in water year 2023, that would likely plunge us deep into a Tier 2 shortage, nixing most of the NIA water that some cities use for existing development and others had wanted to shore up their long-term supplies.

Without that water, cities will need to find other, more secure sources. Which means if the battle to transfer water from on-river communities to Queen Creek is fierce now, new ones are likely to get a lot fiercer.

How likely is this 7.48 scenario?

We’ve known for years that a shortage would eventually come to Lake Mead, and that when that happens, Arizona – the state with junior water rights – would be the first to face more severe consequences.

But it’s alarming how quickly the conditions are changing.

The chances of a 7.48 million acre-feet release have increased markedly – from less than 20% in April to more than 50% in August, depending on which hydrology forecast you use. The chances of a Tier 1 shortage on Mead were as high as 30% in August, up from roughly 10% in April.

That may not sound like a lot, but it’s enough to keep risk-adverse water managers up at night. Consider that a 1 in 5 chance of Lake Mead tanking was enough to drive ratification of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, which buys time for the lake through mandatory cuts to our water supply.

So, what is provoking such quick forecast changes?

Last winter was relatively wet. It looked like we were on par for an average runoff year. But the ground was dry before all that snow fell, and as it began to melt, a lot of it sunk into the parched soil.

In the space of a few weeks, what looked like a decent runoff year turned into a mediocre one.

Then we had a record-breaking hot and dry summer. The soil is again parched.

But, unlike last winter, we are now in a relatively strong La Nina weather pattern, which historically has meant warm and dry winters for all but a small corner of the Colorado River basin.

It’s a double whammy. If this winter plays out as expected, we’ll have a meager snowpack that is unlikely to produce much runoff because warm winds blowing over the snow can suck out moisture. And much of what is produced could sink into the ground before it ever makes it to our reservoirs.

If this is the future, then what?

It’s early in the snow season, of course. Things could change.

But while few parts of the Colorado River basin were facing drought conditions a year ago, most are now in extreme or exceptional drought, the most severe categories.

And some worry that this could be the beginning of a multiyear string of similar dry conditions – a la what we saw most recently in 2012-13, the lead-up to the last 7.48 million acre-feet release on Powell.

The good news, if you want to call it that, is that Arizona’s water leaders already assumed that we’d already be in a Tier 1 shortage by now. We have plans to handle these shortages in the short term, even if the details – like forcing Pinal farmers back solely on groundwater – are less than ideal.

The more daunting challenge lies in 2026, when the drought contingency plan and the 2007 guidelines expire. Because, as bad as this winter may look, the science suggests we are in for many more of them as the Colorado River basin gets warmer and drier.

We have a system that assumes water allocations will be steady as she goes, when the best-case scenario may be one of feast or famine.

And all signs point to a future where every competing water use is a valid one and there isn’t enough water to quench them all.

How do we decide who gets what when a dwindling supply becomes even more volatile? That is the fundamental question we must now address.

Reach Allhands at joanna.allhands@arizonarepublic.com. On Twitter: @joannaallhands.

Record #Denver snowfall is rare for multiple reasons — The Denver Post #snowpack

From The Denver Post (Ben Reppert):

Denver International Airport tallied 5 inches of snow. This is a record daily snowfall for Nov. 24, breaking the old record of 4 inches set in 1946. Even more notably, it was the first daily November snow record to fall in the city since 1994. Snow totals across the rest of the metro area generally range from 3 to 6 inches, with heavier amounts up to 10 inches in the western suburbs.

This was a rare November snowstorm in the Denver area beyond the record-breaking amount. Another rarity lies within the heavy and wet nature of the snow…

The overall air mass above the surface was rather mild for this time of year. At the beginning of the storm, a large layer of the atmosphere above our heads was flirting with the freezing mark. The air mass sitting over the state also had quite a bit of moisture in it. The total amount of water in the air was nearly double the normal amount for late November.

This combination of a mild and moist air mass in place led to snow reaching the ground with an extremely high water content. Heavy, wet snow is something that Denver would expect in early and late season storms, such as in September or April. Winter’s chill is typically well established by late November, promoting very powdery snow.

Extra water in this snow is certainly beneficial for Colorado’s ongoing drought. The snow melted down to just under a half of an inch of liquid at DIA. This makes it Denver’s wettest day since Sept. 8, and the fifth wettest day in all of 2020.

CoCoRaHS map for November 24, 2020.
CoCoRaHS map for November 25, 2020.

#Colorado Looking to Issue Comprehensive Guidance for Waters of the United States (#WOTUS) — Lexology

Photo credit from report “A Preliminary Evaluation of Seasonal Water Levels Necessary to Sustain Mount Emmons Fen: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests,” David J. Cooper, Ph.D, December 2003.

From Lexology.com (Spencer Fane):

How is Colorado Dealing with “Gap” Waters?

The scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act remains perplexing, particularly now that Colorado is the only state in the nation where the Navigable Water Protection Rule did not take effect June 22, 2020. In the context of a lengthy “stakeholder” process, on November 20, 2020, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) issued a White Paper addressing its regulatory options in light of the new federal WOTUS rule. Construction companies, developers, and other businesses seeking to permit activities around wetlands, ephemeral waters, and intermittent streams in Colorado would benefit from reviewing this comprehensive discussion of the multitude of dilemmas Colorado and others states face in light of the new rule.

See White Paper here.

The state’s White Paper includes background on these topics –

  • Federal permitting including Section 402 and 404 permits.
  • State waters and the state’s regulation of discharges to state waters.
  • The Supreme Court’s Rapanos decision and subsequent guidance.
  • The 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule.
  • Litigation of the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule.
  • And perhaps most importantly –

  • Potential impacts of the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule if it were to go into effect in Colorado.
  • Of most significance in terms of the impacts to state regulatory programs, the White Paper states:

    The rule includes several definitions that further limit how the EPA and the Corps will define WOTUS in contrast to the existing regulatory framework. First, it restricts the definition of protected “adjacent wetlands” to those that “abut” or have a direct hydrological surface connection to another jurisdictional water “in a typical year.” 33 C.F.R. § 328.3(c)(1); 40 C.F.R. § 120.3(3)(i). Wetlands are not considered adjacent if they are physically separated from jurisdictional waters by an artificial structure and do not have a direct hydrologic surface connection. The 2020 Rule also limits protections for tributaries to those that contribute perennial or uncertain levels of “intermittent” flow to traditional navigable waters in a “typical year,” a term whose definition leads to additional uncertainty. 33 C.F.R. § 328.3(c)(12); 40 C.F.R. § 120.2(3)(xii); 33 C.F.R. § 328.3(c)(13); 40 C.F.R. § 120.2(3)(xiii).

    Collectively, these new definitions in the 2020 Rule will reduce the scope of waters subject to federal jurisdiction in Colorado far below that of the 2008 Guidance. The state waters that would no longer be considered “waters of the United States” under the 2020 Rule have been referred to as “gap waters” and are further described in Section II below. Historically, not all of Colorado’s state waters have been considered WOTUS. However, the [CDPHE] has maintained that the number of state waters considered WOTUS under the 2008 Guidance is far more than would be considered WOTUS under the 2020 Rule. [Emphasis added.]

    Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

    2020 Annual Meeting of the #ArkansasRiver Compact Administration (ARCA), December 9, 2020

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

    Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

    #Flint attorneys to detail proposed $641-million water crisis settlement in virtual briefing Monday afternoon — MLive.com

    From MLive.com (Ron Fonger):

    Flint River in Flint Michigan.

    A proposed $641-million settlement of water crisis lawsuits was filed in U.S. District Court last week, $20 million of which would come from a city insurance policy — if approved by the Flint City Council.

    If approved by Judge Judith Levy, the settlement would establish a claims process for those harmed by Flint water and ultimately payouts depending on which of 30 categories individuals fall into, the extent of damages and how many claims are filed.

    The council is scheduled to address the settlement in a closed session at 5:30 p.m. Monday, but several members have blocked similar private briefings in the past, saying that the overall settlement that’s been proposed doesn’t provide enough money to those harmed by Flint water or doesn’t divide the settlement fairly.

    Flint children who were 6 years old and younger at the time they were first exposed to Flint River water would receive 64.5 percent of the proposed settlement.

    Council President Kate Fields has urged other members to be briefed on the city’s portion of the settlement so that they can be informed on the deal before they vote to accept or reject it.

    Attorneys involved in negotiating the settlement say lawsuits will continue against the city and its employees in state and federal courts if the settlement is not approved by the council.

    More than 100 lawsuits are pending related to the water crisis, alleging parties including the city and the state have responsibility for the distribution of water with elevated levels of lead, bacteria and chlorination byproducts in Flint in 2014 and 2015.

    In addition to having had regulatory responsibility for Flint water, the state appointed emergency financial managers to run the city before and during the water crisis.

    The briefing at 2 p.m. Monday is designed to give residents the chance to hear “directly from the city’s attorneys on what this settlement would mean to residents,” Neeley said in a statement issued by the city. “This is about transparency and about making sure that residents have access to accurate information regarding the proposed water lawsuit settlement.”

    Because the settlement documents were filed in federal court on Tuesday, Nov. 17, city officials said they can now openly discuss them.

    #Snowpack news: #Utah’s water year so far, and why people should ‘think snow’ — The Deseret News

    From The Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

    The southern half of the state, as of Monday, was sitting in the 60% of normal accumulation of snowpack, and the Lower Sevier River Basin at 36% of normal is experiencing abysmally dry conditions.

    West Drought Monitor November 17, 2020.

    In fact the U.S. Drought Monitor, in data updated last week, shows a large swath of central Utah in the exceptional drought category and the majority of Utah in extreme drought.

    Those conditions persist throughout states in the Southwest, including Arizona, New Mexico and portions of western Colorado. Utah’s neighbor, Nevada, is also experiencing extreme drought as moisture-giving storms avoid most of the region.

    Much of the West, in fact, is in some sort of drought with the exceptions of the coastal areas of Southern California, northern Washington, portions of Idaho and extreme northern areas of Montana.

    Earlier this year, a grim study released by Columbia University said the entire West is likely headed into a climate-driven “mega drought” based on data from tree rings. The study area stretched across nine U.S. states from Oregon and Montana down through California and New Mexico, and part of northern Mexico. If the study’s predictions prove true, it would be the worst drought in the region in 1,200 years.

    Utah’s only “average” areas for accumulation this year so far are the Weber-Ogden River Basin at 102% and the Bear River Basin sitting at 111%.

    Westwide SNOTEL November 24, 2020 via the NRCS.

    Elsewhere along the Wasatch Front, the Provo-Utah-Jordan River Basin is struggling at 87% of normal, but again it is early in the accumulation season.

    @CSUSpur “Water in the West” symposium recap #CSUWaterInTheWest

    The findings pinpointed basins around the world most at risk of not having enough water available at the right times for irrigation because of changes in snowmelt patterns. Two of those high-risk areas are the San Joaquin and Colorado river basins in the western United States. Photo: Kevin Bidwell/ Pexels

    From AgInfo.net (Maura Bennett):

    The Symposium is hosted by Colorado State University and sponsored in part by the Colorado Dairy Farmers.

    It’s the farmers like Chris Kraft of Kraft Family Dairies near Fort Morgan whose livelihoods depend on the increasingly scarce resource.

    Kraft: “Without that, we don’t do what we do. So this is critically important for us.”

    Kraft says times have changed with more people living in Colorado and a growing dairy industry making water issues more severe.

    Kraft:” We’re interested in all the ways water is being discussed. A lot of the water that we use in on dairy farms in Colorado is historically old water rights, some of them going back to before statehood. Our industry doesn’t exist without that water. We have to have that water and we’re interested in making sure that we’re at the table when these kinds of discussions are going on.

    Gary Knell, chairman of National Geographic Partners was asked for his focus on the power of storytelling. A panel discussion focused on how social movements, campaigns, and storytelling shape public sentiment.

    A dialogue between Vilsack and Axelrod concluded the symposium.

    John Wesley Powell. By Painter: Edmund Clarence Messer (1842 – 1919) – Flickr, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7299882

    From Ag Journal Online (Candace Krebs):

    Highlighting [John Wesley] Powell’s devotion to science, his foresightedness and his willingness to speak up was the starting point for the recent annual Water in the West Symposium, hosted by Colorado State University’s new SPUR campus in Denver. Keynote speaker Gary Knell, chairman of National Geographic Partners and former president and CEO of the National Geographic Society, related Powell’s story as he sketched out a history of how early exploration of the West led to formation of the National Park Service and an ethic of conservation that was soon interwoven into the American mindset.

    “Facts belong in the domain of science, but the best stories make the facts relevant in ways people can visualize and identify with,” he said. “Embrace the power in your own story to change hearts and minds, and together we can change the world.”

    […]

    Stories nestled within other stories is how this year’s symposium served to illustrate many of the ideas the speakers shared as they reflected on the role of storytelling to motivate change, address challenges and produce lasting results.

    Water issues are complex, and perspectives are wide-ranging, which means listening and respecting is as important as speaking, for writers and photographers as well as influencers and advocates, Knell said…

    Gary Hirshfield, co-founder and now “Chief Creative Officer” of Stonyfield Yogurt, emphasized repeatedly the importance of making the message “visceral,” by relying on ingenuity and originality.

    “We launched an organic yogurt company in 1983 at a time when nobody was eating yogurt and no one knew what organic was,” he recalled.

    Hirshfield had to come up with creative ways to persuade consumers to buy an unfamiliar product at a steep price premium to conventional brands.

    “We had no money, but we had cows. So we came up this very simple idea that if you sent in five yogurt labels, you would get to adopt a cow,” he recalled.

    He also used “moos-letters,” farm cams and Yo-Tube, his original version of a YouTube message channel, to sell a fun hip image, while reaching out to bloggers and influencers to spread brand recognition and enthusiasm to millions of followers.

    “We had fun. We didn’t take ourselves too seriously but focused on keeping it upbeat, positive and funny,” he said.

    Social media “is an artform now,” he added. “It’s highly refined and oversaturated, so how you cut through that is critical.”

    Keep the message simple, don’t overwhelm with facts, be positive and solution-oriented, and listen instead of doing all the talking, he advised…

    Justin Worland, a journalist covering energy, environment and climate for Time Magazine, talked about choosing to pursue articles that educate and move a larger conversation forward…

    Sarah Soule is an academic researcher at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and has written extensively on corporate responsibility and social movements.

    “Why are some social movements successful when others are not? That’s one of the big research questions we study,” she said.

    Key factors include how the issues are framed, the overall political environment, available resources and the role of media.

    #Water lease agreement could help fish and help meet #ColoradoRiver Compact requirements — The Farmington Daily Times #COriver #aridification #endangeredspecies

    From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

    The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and The Nature Conservancy hope to demonstrate that the strategic water reserve can help endangered fish recover while also providing the ability to meet water compact requirements in the San Juan Basin.

    San Juan River. Photo credit: USFWS

    The Interstate Stream Commission approved allowing ISC Director Rolf Schmidt-Petersen to continue negotiations with the Jicarilla Apache Nation to lease up to 20,000 acre feet of water annually that became available as it is no longer needed for operation of the San Juan Generating Station.

    San Juan Generating Station. Photo credit: Jonathan Thompson

    The Jicarilla Apache Nation acquired rights to water stored in Navajo Lake in 1992 and has the authority to lease this water to other entities to help the tribe. Up until recently, the nation has leased water to Public Service Company of New Mexico to operate the San Juan Generating Station.

    Navajo Lake

    But the potential of the power plant closing in 2022 as well as a reduction in the amount of water needed to operate it due to the closure of two units in 2016 means that this water is now available for the state to potentially lease.

    The water would be placed in the strategic water reserve, which has two purposes: assisting with endangered species recovery and ensuring the state meets its obligations under water compacts. When needed, the water could be released from the reservoir to help with the fish or to meet the requirements of the 1922 Colorado River Compact…

    Terry Sullivan, the state director of The Nature Conservancy in New Mexico, said the organization has been working on the San Juan River for 15 years trying a variety of restoration projects to help create habitat. The fish rely on slow backwaters for reproduction…

    Sullivan said the water lease is a great step forward to achieve both compact requirements and benefits to endangered species.

    The amount leased each year would depend on funding available. One of the details of the lease agreement that has not yet been determined is the price…

    Peter Mandelstam, the chief operating officer for Enchant Energy, said in a statement that the company believes it has enough water rights without the Jicarilla Apache lease to successfully retrofit the San Juan Generating Station with carbon capture technology and operate it.

    San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

    #Snowpack news: Weekend storm fizzles percent of normal dropping

    Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

    And here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for November 23, 2020.

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map November 23, 2020 via the NRCS.

    Consulting firm gives update on ongoing analysis pertaining to San Juan Water Conservancy District’s water rights — The Pagosa Springs Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

    From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chris Mannara):

    An update was given on Wilson Water Group’s (WWG) efforts in completing a water use and water demand analysis for the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) and completing a water availability analysis for the West Fork reservoir and canal water rights during a regular meeting on Monday.

    WWG was hired by the SJWCD via a board decision at a Sept. 21 meeting for a cost of $19,050 and will complete the efforts by the end of 2020.

    Currently, WWG has been working on its first task, which is to develop a water demand analysis strategy, Project Engineer Brenna Mefford noted, adding that the first task would be completed in the next week or so.

    The next task, to complete a current water use and water demand analysis, will be completed soon after, Mefford explained.

    Task three, which is to complete a water availability analysis, will be started in December, Mefford added…

    If the SJWCD were to go through with diligence on the West Fork water rights, it would have to show it has a potential demand for the water and that the district needs it, Mefford explained, adding that the SJWCD needs to show water availability.

    “Finally, you have to show that you have the means to develop that water and put it to that use that you had identified earlier,” she said…

    “We’ve talked to most of the people we planned to try and fig- ure out how we’re going to lay out this analysis and now we’re going to move into task two, where we’re actually going to do the current water use and water demand analysis. For this task there are a few more people that we need to reach out to and have talks with about water demand,” Mefford said, adding that WWG will need to talk to PAWSD, for example.

    @Boulder and @CañonCity have been going in opposite directions since the 1870s. They did so again in their utility franchise votes — The Mountain Town News

    Skyline Drive at night Cañon City. Photo credit: Vista Works via Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Beyond both being in Colorado and along the state’s Front Range, Boulder and Cañon City could not be more different. The differences go back to the state’s founding.

    Cañon City had the choice of getting the state penitentiary or the state university. It chose the former, so Boulder got the latter.

    In both cities, a franchise vote with the existing utility provider was on the ballot on Nov. 2. This time, they went in different directions once again. The fulcrum in both cases was cost, if the formula was more complex in the case of Boulder.

    Boulder voters, after exploring municipalization for a decade, agreed to a new 20-year franchise agreement with Xcel Energy. Xcel had continued to supply the city’s residents with electricity after the last franchise agreement lapsed in 2010.

    The new agreement garnered 56% voter approval. Even some strong supporters of the effort to municipalize had agreed that the effort by the city to create its own utility had taken too long and cost too much money, more than $20 million, with many millions more expected. They attributed this to the power of Xcel to block the effort.

    Boulder’s effort had been driven primarily by the belief that a city utility could more rapidly embrace renewables and effect the changes needed to create a new utility model. In short, climate change was the driver, although proponents also argued that creation of a city utility would save consumers in the long run. Consumers just weren’t willing to wait long enough.

    Going forward, Boulder will have several off-ramps if Xcel stumbles on the path toward decarbonization of its electrical supply. The city will also retain its place in the legal standings, if you will, should that be the case. Also, Xcel agreed to a process intended to advance microgrids and other elements, although critics describe that as toothless. Undergrounding of electrical lines in Boulder will not commence anew as a result of the new franchise agreement.

    Cañon City is Colorado’s yin to Boulder’s yang. Located along the Arkansas River in south-central Colorado, it has become more conservative politically even as Boulder has shifted progressive. In the November election, 69% of votes in Fremont County—where Cañon City is located—went for Donald Trump, who got 21% of votes in Boulder County

    Economically, they walk on opposite sides of the street, too. The statewide median income in Colorado in 2018 was $68,811. Boulder County stood a shoulder above (and Boulder itself likely even more) at $78,642. Fremont County was at waist level at $46,296.

    And along the Arkansas River…

    Cañon City also went in the opposite direction of Boulder in the matter of its franchise. There were differences, of course. Boulder turned its back on municipalization in accepting a new franchise.

    In Cañon, about 65% of voters rejected a franchise agreement with Black Hills Energy, Colorado’s second investor-owned electrical utility. The city council had approved it, but the city charter also required voter approval.

    Unlike in Boulder, decarbonization and reinvention was not overtly among the topic points. Some people in Cañon City do care about decarbonizing electricity, says Emily Tracy, the leader of a group called Cañon City’s Energy Future, which she put together in January 2018. But the cost of electricity was the fulcrum and, she believes, a reflection of how the community feels about Black Hills.

    The old franchise agreement with Black Hills expired in 2017. Tracy and other members of Cañon City’s Energy Future persuaded council members to put off a new agreement but failed in their bid to have a community dialogue.

    “The power industry, the electric industry, are so different than they used to be, and we simply want the city to explore its options,” she says.

    In stories in the Pueblo Chieftain and Cañon City Daily Record, city officials said they had evaluated options before seeking to get voter approval of the franchise.

    Partially in play was the effort underway in nearby Pueblo to break away from Black Hills and form a municipal utility. The thought was that if Pueblo voters approved that effort, Canon City could piggyback to the new utility. The proposal lost by a lopsided May vote after a campaign that featured $1.5 million in advertising and other outreach by a pro-Black Hills group.

    Black Hills rates are among the highest in Colorado. Tracy illustrates by citing those she pays to Xcel Energy in Breckenridge, where she has a second home.

    “I pay 77% more for a kilowatt-hour of electricity for my house in Cañon City than I do to Xcel in Breckenridge,” she says.

    This is from the Nov. 20, 2020, issue of Big Pivots, which chronicles the great energy transition in Colorado and beyond. Sign up for copies at BigPivots.com.

    Opponents of the franchise renewal were heavily outspent in the campaign. Records that Tracy’s group got from the city clerk showed $41,584 in spending by Power Cañon City, the pro-Black Hills group, through mid-October. Tracy’s group spent less than $5,000, counting in-kind contributions. Tracy suspects that Black Hills didn’t entirely take the vote seriously.

    Now it’s back to the drawing board for the Cañon City Council. Tracy hopes for more transparent discussion about the options.

    But it’s all about the money.

    “You take a poor community like Cañon City or Pueblo, then add in the fact that we’re paying the highest electricity rates in the state, and there’s no doubt it has an impact on families, businesses and attempts to do economic development,” says Tracy.

    Frances Koncilja, a former member of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission has offered her legal assistance to Cañon City’s Energy Future.

    As for why Cañon City wanted the state prison instead of the state university in the early years of Colorado’s statehood, keep in mind the times. Crime did pay for Cañon City in the 19th century, when few people had or needed college degrees. It was well into the 20th century before this shift toward greater education began.

    Understanding abandoned #water rights — The Rio Blanco Herald-Times

    From the Colorado Ag Alliance (Phil Brink, Greg Peterson) via The Rio Blanco Herald-Times:

    Every 10 years, the Colorado Division of Water Resources’ (DWR) publishes its water right abandonment list. The list — released on July 1, 2020 — represents water rights that each division engineer is recommending for abandonment based on real or perceived non-use over the last 10 years. A water right may be placed on the abandonment list if the amount of water diverted over the past 10 years is less than the decreed amount.

    The DWR defines abandonment as “the termination of an absolute water right in whole or in part as a result of the intent of the owner to permanently discontinue the use of the water under that water right.” It is rare that an agricultural water right holder actually intends to abandon their water right.

    “There can be several reasons why the decreed amount is not diverted in a given year or for multiple years” says water attorney David Kueter of Holsinger Law in Denver. The water source may be dry, or the water right may not be in priority at times when the field needs to be irrigated. Timely precipitation may reduce the need for irrigation. Repair or replacement of irrigation infrastructure — from headgates to ditches to land application equipment — may temporarily prevent diversion of water. Economic, health or legal obstacles can all stymie intentions to fully utilize a water right. Sediment and debris flows can block diversion structures and river and stream hydrology can change, rendering a diversion structure semi-functional or even non-functional. New property owners may not be aware of their water rights.

    Management changes can also impact use. A few years ago, Mike Camblin, rancher and manager of the Maybell Ditch, took over irrigation of some fields that had not been fertilized previously. The addition of fertilizer increased grass production three-fold, which also increased the field’s consumptive use of water.

    Increased consumptive use may also result from warmer summers, which are predicted by climate models. CSU research has found that evapotranspiration comprises more than 99 percent of plant water use. Increased temperatures drive forage and crop consumptive use higher. Cutting ag water rights down to their current consumptive use will permanently hurt growers’ ability to adapt to a warmer climate.

    Water users who wish to challenge termination of their water right due to abandonment should file a written statement of objection with the Division 6 Engineer. An objection statement is needed for each water right. The deadline for filing is July 1, 2021, but Kueter recommends getting started now as it may take time to pull together supporting evidence. “Usually there are no silver bullets,” says Kueter, “it’s more the totality of the circumstances that caused the water right to be under-utilized.”

    A water right is removed from the abandonment list if the Division Engineer agrees with the supporting evidence provided. A revised abandonment list will be published by Jan. 31, 2022. Protests to the revised list must be filed with division Water Court by June 30, 2022. The Water Court will begin considering protests in October 2022.

    The Colorado Ag Water Alliance will be hosting a workshop on this and other issues on Dec. 7 in Craig.

    Phil Brink is the Consulting Coordinator of Colorado Cattlemen’s Ag Water NetWORK. Greg Peterson is the Executive Director of Colorado Ag Water Alliance.

    Book review: “Confluence: The Story of Greeley Water” by Gregory J. Hobbs Jr. and Michael Welsh

    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tamara Markard):

    If you are looking for a great gift for a long-time local or history buff, then you might want to check out “Confluence: The Story of Greeley Water” by Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr. and Michael Welsh.

    With water being so vital to life and agriculture, the quote by Congressman Wayne Aspinall on the book’s forward page really sums it all up — “in the West, when you touch water, you touch everything.”

    The book begins in 1870 with a single irrigation ditch and follows 150 years of development of the water system in Greeley, including the people who developed and impacted water law, engineering and agriculture including Delph Carpenter, Milton Seaman and W.D. Farr.

    Currently, the water system supports more than 140,000 people and utilizes water from four different water basins in the state.

    “The vision of this project was to tell the story to a broad audience. We didn’t want our sole audience to be the water nerds,” said Harold Evans, chairman and board member of the City of Greeley Water and Sewer Board. “We wanted to reach out to the average citizen; we wanted to reach out to other in the water profession and historians.”

    The book project began around four years ago, Evans explained.

    “The more I was involved the history and the policy of Greeley water, I felt that it was a story the community would be interested in,” he said. “I talked to Roy Otto, our city manager and the director of water and sewer and we decided to proceed with a book.”

    Evans recruited Greg Hobbs and Michael Welsh to write the book for the city.

    Hobbs currently serves as Senior Water Judge and co-directs the University of Denver Law School’s environmental and natural resources program. He is also a board member of Water Education Colorado.

    Welsh has been teaching history at the University of Colorado since 1990 and has written manuscripts for several National Park Service sites as well as full-length studies on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    “They spent the first couple of years doing nothing but research,” Evans said. “This was a well-researched book. If you look in the back of the book at the footnotes, you will see the amount of research that was done.”

    While the main premise of the book is about water, it really is a story of the Union Colony and a parallel story of the history of our area including the Poudre River, national and local events like the Great Depression and World Wars.

    One of the events Evans references from the book is the opening of the Bellvue Water Treatment Plant that opened in 1907.

    “We are still today, 113 years later, delivering water from Bellvue,” he said. “In fact, this summer marked 150 continuous years that water has been flowing through the number three ditch in Greeley.

    “Without water, we wouldn’t be here; businesses wouldn’t be here,” Evans added.

    The book also contains a variety of historical photos and maps of Greeley and Weld County and the front cover depicts a painting of the Cache la Poudre River created by award-winning artist Jay Moore. Moore specializes in paintings of the North American West.

    The book can be purchased at Tattered Cover and locally at Lincoln Park Emporium.

    So far, the book has been popular with the local community, with the first delivery selling out, and people asking to be put on a waiting list, said Emporium co-owner Mary Roberts.

    “It’s one of the most enlightening and visionary, in my view, because it shows what our history has been and what we are going to do for the future,” Roberts commented.

    People interested in purchasing the book from the Lincoln Park Emporium can call the store at (970) 351-6222 to have their name put on the list.

    For more information on Greeley Water and Sewer Department, go to http://www.greeleygov.com.

    Going electrofishing on the Fraser Flats – News on TAP

    Over the last five years, Learning By Doing has made significant progress toward fulfilling its mission to maintain and improve Grand County’s aquatic environment.

    Source: Going electrofishing on the Fraser Flats – News on TAP

    Time to help a tree out – News on TAP

    How much water do trees and bushes need during winter dry spells in Denver? Winter watering tips from Denver Water.

    Source: Time to help a tree out – News on TAP

    Getting ready for big river flows – News on TAP

    Denver Water is replacing a flume at Eleven Mile Dam to protect the river and increase climate resiliency.

    Source: Getting ready for big river flows – News on TAP

    First-of-its-kind study estimates daily #PFAS dietary exposure from vegetables in adults and children — #Colorado School of Mines @mines

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

    Here’s the release The Colorado School of Mines (Emilie Rusch):

    Published today in Environmental Science and Technology, the research was led by Mines’ Chris Higgins and Juliane Brown

    Chris Higgins. Photo credit: Colorado School of Mines

    If state and federal regulators focus only on the safety of drinking water, the public could still be exposed to concerning levels of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) via the vegetables on their dinner plate if those vegetables are grown with PFAS-impacted water, according to a new study from researchers at Colorado School of Mines and engineering firm Geosyntec.

    Published today in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study is the first of its kind to examine PFAS in water that is used to grow crops. Researchers compiled available data on how much individual PFASs are taken into vegetable crops irrigated with contaminated water – in this case lettuce – to estimate the daily dietary exposure intake through vegetables of these so-called “forever chemicals” for both adults and children.

    Graphic credit: Colorado School of Mines

    “While there has been an emphasis on identifying and cleaning up drinking water impacted by PFASs, much less attention has been given to assessing risks from consuming produce irrigated with PFAS-contaminated water,” said Juliane Brown, an environmental engineering PhD candidate at Mines who led the research. “This study brings much needed attention to this issue and highlights the potential risks associated with this critical exposure pathway.”

    PFASs are a large and diverse group of synthetic chemicals used in many commercial and household products, including Class B fire-fighting foams, nonstick-coated cooking pan production, food contact materials, waterproof textiles and many others. An emerging body of evidence shows PFAS exposure can cause cancer and developmental, endocrine, renal and metabolic problems.

    Globally, PFAS contamination of irrigation water and soils in agricultural areas has arisen from a variety of sources, including the use of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) on military bases and airfields, the application of treated sewage sludge as agricultural fertilizer and releases from nearby industrial facilities.

    But currently, many state and federal agencies are primarily focused on drinking water exposure, missing a potentially importance exposure pathway via irrigation water, said Christopher Higgins, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Mines and senior author of the study.

    “Even when drinking water has been treated and is considered safe, there is a potential for exposure from vegetables irrigated with contaminated water or grown in contaminated soil,” Higgins said. “This study shows that regulations that solely target perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water are inadequate to protect human health risks from PFASs.”

    By using statistical modeling techniques akin to the election model prediction forecasts, the Mines-led team was able to consider a range of variability and uncertainty to identify the “most likely” intake and hazard associated with consuming PFAS-contaminated vegetables, using lettuce as a proxy for produce. The team also predicted risk-based threshold concentrations in produce and irrigation water to provide screening levels for assessment. These represent the range of concentrations for individual PFASs in irrigation water predicted to be below a level of concern for human health.

    Using the lowest available human health toxicity reference values and a conservative 5th percentile approach, estimated risk-based threshold concentrations in irrigation water were 38 nanograms per liter (ng/L) for PFOA and 140 ng/L for PFOS, two PFASs commonly targeted by regulators.

    In the case of PFOA, this suggests that even if irrigation water meets the current 70 ng/L PFOA and PFOS U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lifetime health advisory for drinking water, this may not be fully protective of PFOA exposure due to vegetables grown in that water, at least compared to toxicity reference values used by the State of California, which has the lowest toxicity reference value for PFOA in the U.S., Higgins said. Importantly, PFAS contamination also typically includes more than just PFOA or PFOS.

    “Another major implication of this study is we really need to come up with a plan to address PFAS mixtures, as these chemicals are nearly always present as a mixture,” Higgins said

    The team used real-world data from PFAS-contaminated groundwater to conduct a hazard analysis of a theoretical farm comparing different risk estimates based on established state, federal, and international toxicity reference doses. This analysis showed estimated exposures to most PFASs exceeding available or derived human health toxicity reference values – indicating water-to-crop transfer is an important exposure pathway for agricultural communities with PFAS-impacted irrigation water.

    The full study, “Assessing human health risks from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)-impacted vegetable consumption: a tiered modeling approach,” is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.0c03411. In addition to Brown and Higgins, co-authors were Geosyntec principal scientist Jason Conder and project scientist Jennifer Arblaster.

    This research was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (under Assistance Agreement No G18A112656081.)

    Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District Hite plant outfall via South Platte Coalition for Urban River Evaluation

    Here’s the abstract:

    Irrigation water or soil contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) raises concerns among regulators tasked with protecting human health from potential PFAS-contaminated food crops, with several studies identifying crop uptake as an important exposure pathway. We estimated daily dietary exposure intake of individual PFASs in vegetables for children and adults using Monte Carlo simulation in a tiered stochastic modeling approach: exposures were the highest for young children (1−2 years > adults > 3−5 years > 6−11 years > 12−19years). Using the lowest available human health toxicity reference values (RfDs) and no additional exposure, estimated fifth percentile risk-based threshold concentrations in irrigation water were 38 ng/L (median 180 ng/L) for perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and 140 ng/L (median 850 ng/L) for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Thus, consumption of vegetables irrigated with PFAS impacted water that meets the current 70 ng/L of PFOA and PFOS U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory for drinking water may or may not be protective of vegetable exposures to these contaminants. Hazard analyses using real-world PFAS- contaminated groundwater data for a hypothetical farm showed estimated exposures to most PFASs exceeding available or derived RfDs, indicating water-to-crop transfer is an important exposure pathway for communities with PFAS-impacted irrigation water.

    Are Colorado’s Rules Strong Enough to Halt Water Profiteering? A new group aims to find out — @WaterEdCO #COleg

    South Platte River at Goodrich, Colorado, Sunday, November 15, 2020. Photo credit: Allen Best

    From Water Education Colorado (Sarah Kuta):

    Colorado’s anti-speculation water laws are considered some of the toughest in the West. Still, state lawmakers worry those laws may not go far enough. That’s why an 18-member work group is exploring ways to strengthen the rules. Recommendations for proposed changes are due by August 2021.

    “In my mind, I think speculation is going on,” says Sen. Don Coram, a Republican who represents several Western Colorado counties and who co-sponsored SB20-048, which directed Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources to form the work group. “There are situations that are just not meeting the smell test for me. We need to look under the tent and see what’s going on.”

    With water demand and prices soaring, lawmakers worry about loopholes in Colorado’s anti-speculation laws, pointing to recent investment group purchases of farmland and their senior water rights on the West Slope and in the San Luis Valley. So far, the investors are using the water for irrigation, a legally beneficial use, but lawmakers worry they’re making a speculative play, banking on a massive increase in the value of those rights with the intention to profit from them in the future. Irrigation may just be an interim placeholder that’s part of a larger investment strategy.

    So, how will the work group’s members make recommendations for improvement? They’ll likely start with a thorough history lesson and a deep dive into existing anti-speculation law, says Kevin Rein, Colorado’s state engineer. Rein leads the group alongside Scott Steinbrecher, a Colorado assistant deputy attorney general. Other participants include water engineers, attorneys, members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, farmers and ranchers, representatives of environmental nonprofits, and water managers. Given the diversity of group members and knowledge, the group is well-poised to tackle the challenge at hand, Rein says.

    But some work group members are already contemplating how changes to Colorado water law could hurt landowners. Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District in northeastern Colorado, plans to participate in the work group with an open mind but has questions: How will the changes impact an irrigator’s ability to sell their water and land? Will the value of their land or water suffer because of these changes?

    “There’s this tension here, especially in our basin, but also statewide, of a high demand for water, which inflates the value of it—it’s hard to blame farmers for wanting to sell their water because of all different kinds of circumstances,” Frank says. “We would prefer them to keep their water and stay in agriculture because that’s the economic base for our area. But you can’t just go say, ‘We’re going to put a stop to it.’ Now you’re impacting somebody’s property rights.”

    Frank said he also has some questions about the constitutionality of any changes the group may propose.

    “I do have some reservations about whether this will actually solve a problem without causing another one,” he says. “You don’t want to cause unintended consequences here.”

    Sarah Kuta, a Nebraska native and graduate of Northwestern University, is a freelance writer based in Longmont, Colo.

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    Here’s an explainer for the High Plains A&M LLC speculation ruling from BLW Law (Stephen H. Leonhardt, Scott A. Clark and Alix L. Joseph). Here’s an excerpt:

    High Plains A&M LLC filed two almost identical applications for changes of water rights in late 2002 and early 2003. The Water Court consolidated the two cases. In its Applications, High Plains claimed to own or control of about 30% of the shares in one of the largest irrigation systems in Colorado. High Plains asked the Water Court to approve changes to its water rights from irrigation and other decreed uses in the lower Arkansas River Valley to any beneficial use, including over fifty identified potential uses, in any location within twenty-eight Colorado counties. High Plains’ applications did not identify any end users of the water besides the farmers who currently use the water. In High Plains A&M, LLC v. Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, 120 P.3d 710 (Colo. 2005), Burns, Figa & Will, P.C., on behalf of our client, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, successfully argued that High Plains’ application for a change of water right was properly dismissed because the application did not state with specificity the use or location of use of the changed water rights, thus violating Colorado’s anti-speculation doctrine.

    Navajo Dam operations update: Turning down to 300 CFS November 21, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

    In response to decreasing tributary flows, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 350 cfs on Saturday, November 21st, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

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

    San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

    How #RenewableEnergy Could Power Your State — The Revelator #ActOnClimate

    Boulder Housing Partners with solar PV modules. Photo: Dennis Schroeder / NREL (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    From The Revelator (Tara Lohan):

    Some parts of the United States could easily generate 10 times their energy needs, according to a new report.

    How much of U.S. energy demand could be met by renewable sources?

    According to a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the answer is an easy 100%.

    The report looked at how much renewable energy potential each state had within its own borders and found that almost every state could deliver all its electricity needs from instate renewable sources.

    And that’s just a start: The report found that there’s so much potential for renewable energy sourcing, some states could produce 10 times the electricity they need. Cost remains an issue, as does connecting all of this capacity to the grid, but prices have dropped significantly, and efficiency continues to improve. Clean energy is not only affordable but could be a big boost to the economy. Locally sourced renewables create jobs, reduce pollution, and make communities more climate resilient.

    So where are the opportunities? Rooftop solar, the study found, could supply six states with at least half of their electricity needs. But wind had the greatest potential. For 35 states, onshore wind alone could supply 100% of their energy demand, and offshore wind could do the same in 21 states. (The numbers overlap a bit.)

    The study follows a similar report conducted a decade ago and shows that the clean energy field has made substantial progress in that time.

    The Revelator spoke with Maria McCoy, a research associate at the Institute and report co-author, about what’s changed and how to turn all the potential into reality.

    What’s changed in the 10 years since you last looked at the potential for instate renewable energy?

    Maria McCoy. Photo: Courtesy of ILSR via The Revelator

    There’s definitely been technology improvements in all the energy sources, but especially solar. Obviously there’s the same amount of sun, but the solar panels themselves have a higher percentage of solar photovoltaic efficiency. Most states, on average, had 16% more solar potential this time around than they did a decade ago.

    And for the other technologies, it’s a matter of either more space being available or the technologies themselves improving. Wind turbines now can generate a lot more energy with the same amount of wind.

    Where do you see the most potential?

    There’s been a lot of development in offshore wind and I think it’s on the cusp of really becoming a big player in the clean energy field. But regulations, including at the federal level, have blocked it from happening at scale in the United States. Whereas in Europe there’s already some incredibly efficient offshore wind farms that are generating a lot of electricity. Those companies are just starting to move into the U.S. market.

    But it’s onshore wind that has the biggest potential. Our research found that some states could generate over 1,000% of their energy with onshore wind if they really took advantage of it.

    Your report didn’t consider the potential of large-scale solar. Why?

    We looked at the potential of rooftop solar rather than large-scale solar because as an energy democracy organization, we’re really focused on distributed and community-owned energy. But it’s also because pretty much every state has enough capacity to completely be powered by large-scale solar. It just then becomes an issue of land-usage debates and other challenges.

    Your research shows there’s a ton of potential for renewables across the country. How do we realize that potential?

    Graphic: ILSR, Energy Self-Reliant States 2020 via The Revelator

    Continued support for renewable energy is a big one. There are a lot of credits that are phasing out and without renewing those, it will make it a little bit tougher for the market.

    We were looking at just the technical ability to produce the energy and not necessarily the cost effectiveness, but we did recognize in the report that the costs have come down. The cost of solar PV, for example, has dropped 70%. So this is not really a pie-in-the-sky goal. It’s definitely gotten a lot more feasible and many cities are already doing it or planning to in the near future.

    I think the will is there and people want renewable energy, it’s just a matter of fighting the status quo. A lot of these utilities have been using the same business model for decades and they’re not really keeping up with where things are going and where the community wants things to go.

    They’re holding on to their fossil fuel infrastructure and their business model that profits off building more fossil gas plants when solar plus storage is already a cheaper energy source for customers. And wind is very cheap. If utility regulators and state and national policy could hold these utilities accountable to serving the public, which is their job as regulated monopolies, we could finally get to see some of this potential becoming a reality.

    Having the ability to generate energy locally and store it and use it locally will create jobs and provide a lot of resilience to the grid and communities. And with climate change, I think that’s becoming more and more important.

    Was there anything that surprised you about your findings?

    We definitely expected things to be better but I don’t know if we expected them to be this much better in 10 years. Seeing all this potential and these ridiculously high percentages — I mean, being able to generate greater than 1,000% of the electricity we need with renewables in some states is just a sign of how abundant clean energy is.

    And it’s kind of sad, I guess, that some states aren’t even able to get to 25% or 50% clean energy goals in their renewable portfolio standards. I would hope that the train starts rolling a little faster.

    And I hope our research can inspire others who think maybe their state doesn’t have a lot of renewable energy capacity in their area to realize that they do, and it could provide for all that they need and more.

    Roadless areas greater than 300,000 acres from Bob Marshall’s 1936 Inventory h/t @jonnypeace

    From Wikipedia:

    Robert Marshall (January 2, 1901 – November 11, 1939) was an American forester, writer and wilderness activist who is best remembered as the person who spearheaded the 1935 founding of the Wilderness Society in the United States. Marshall developed a love for the outdoors as a young child. He was an avid hiker and climber who visited the Adirondack Mountains frequently during his youth, ultimately becoming one of the first Adirondack Forty-Sixers. He also traveled to the Brooks Range of the far northern Alaskan wilderness. He wrote numerous articles and books about his travels, including the bestselling 1933 book Arctic Village.

    Bob Marshall.

    A scientist with a PhD in plant physiology, Marshall became independently wealthy after the death of his father in 1929. He had started his outdoor career in 1925 as forester with the U.S. Forest Service. He used his financial independence for expeditions to Alaska and other wilderness areas. Later he held two significant public appointed posts: chief of forestry in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, from 1933 to 1937, and head of recreation management in the Forest Service, from 1937 to 1939, both during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. During this period, he directed the promulgation of regulations to preserve large areas of roadless land that were under federal management. Many years after his death, some of those areas were permanently protected from development, exploitation, and mechanization with the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

    Defining wilderness as a social as well as an environmental ideal, Marshall promoted organization of a national group dedicated to the preservation of primeval land. In 1935, he was one of the principal founders of The Wilderness Society and personally provided most of the Society’s funding in its first years. He also supported socialism and civil liberties throughout his life.

    Marshall died of heart failure at the age of 38 in 1939. Twenty-five years later, partly as a result of his efforts, The Wilderness Society helped gain passage of the Wilderness Act. The Act was passed by Congress in 1964 and legally defined wilderness areas of the United States and protected some nine million acres (36,000 km2) of federal land from development, road building and motorized transportation. Today, Marshall is considered largely responsible for the wilderness preservation movement. Several areas and landmarks, including The Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana and Mount Marshall in the Adirondacks, have been named in his honor.

    Despite recent snowstorms, #Colorado’s #drought conditions continue in “anomalous” direction — The Colorado Sun

    From The Colorado Sun (Lucy Haggard):

    Thursday’s drought monitor report estimates that 27.22% of the state is in “exceptional” drought, a category indicating drought conditions that historically have occurred every 50 years.

    This is up from 24.64% last week. The week-to-week increase came mostly from the southwestern corner of the state, which was previously in the “extreme” category. This category is for conditions historically occurring every 10 years.

    Colorado Drought Monitor November 17, 2020.

    Some of the reasons for the current drought include the low snow totals from last winter, little rain this summer and a continued lack of precipitation into the fall. In the southwest, these factors have meant that soil moisture has continued to drop, and stream flows are much lower than normal.

    Rich Tinker, a meteorologist with the Climate Prediction Center and author of this week’s report, noted that even after the state’s recent snowstorms, it’s too soon to tell if they indicate a change in momentum, or if they’re “just a blip on the radar” in what could be a very dry winter…

    All of Colorado has been in some degree of drought since mid-October. The last time this happened was in 2013, and even then, “exceptional” drought was not as widespread as it is now.

    US Drought Monitor November 5, 2013

    Of the 1,090 weeks that the U.S. Drought Monitor has put out its national report, Colorado has seen just seven weeks when “exceptional” drought was this widespread, Tinker said. They all occurred in 2002.

    US Drought Monitor August 6, 2002

    “This is a pretty anomalous situation that we’re in,” he said…

    Tinker noted that the impacts of climate change further emphasize the need to put data in an updated context. “When does dry become normal if it’s always dry?” he said.

    From The Rifle Citizen Telegram (Ray K. Erku) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

    Garfield County is on track to endure one of its worst droughts since 2002, according to a National Weather Service meteorologist…

    Meanwhile, exceptional drought conditions – the highest intensity on the drought monitor – cover the majority of the rest of the Western Slope and Southwest regions of the state. To the east, the Front Range and High Plains are also threatened by either abnormally dry or moderate to severe drought conditions…

    But, Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs for the Colorado River District in Glenwood Springs, said the currently dry soils of the Western Slope could pose a threat to the efficacy of a good snowpack altogether.

    The same thing happened this past year. The Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys welcomed an average to slightly above average snowpack. The snow, however, fell on dry soils, causing a domino effect on the ensuing spring and summer seasons.

    “What it means is, we’re going into this snowpack season with dry soils once again,” Pokrandt explained. “The problem with dry soils is that they have a degrading effect on next spring’s runoff.”

    There is, however, another factor that could make or break next year’s soil conditions: La Nina.

    Pokrandt said the entire country this year falls under this weather pattern, meaning time will only tell whether the valley gets hit with a decent amount of snow this coming winter season. Typically, places like Wyoming, Utah and mostly northern Colorado reap the benefits of a precipitation-heavy La Nina.

    On the flipside, La Nina is a phenomena that typically leaves parts of southwest Colorado, New Mexico and California high and dry, according to Pokrandt. It’s sibling weather pattern, El Nino, means dryer conditions in the northern part of the Rockies.

    @ColoradoStateU team lands NSF award to study streams, #snowpack in #CameronPeakFire area

    The Cameron Peak Fire burns on the ridge between Beaver Creek and the south fork of the Cache la Poudre River one mile east of
    Colorado State University’s Mountain Campus, in mid-October. Photos: William A. Cotton/CSU Photography

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Mary Guiden):

    A team of scientists at Colorado State University has received an award of nearly $50,000 from the National Science Foundation to study snowpack, streams and sediment in waterways in the areas affected by the largest wildfire in Colorado history.

    Stephanie Kampf, principal investigator and a professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, said the team came up with the study concept as they watched the Cameron Peak Fire begin to burn northwest of Fort Collins in August 2020.

    The fire was at 92% containment as of Nov. 18.

    “Given that the fire was burning in our local watershed, everyone is curious about what would happen with our waterways,” she said. “The Cameron Peak Fire has been unique, since it started at and burned a large area at high elevation.”

    Kampf said the fire is the fifth largest in a high-elevation persistent snow zone in the Western United States since 1984.

    “As researchers started looking for examples of other high-elevation fire studies, we realized that not much research has been conducted,” she said.

    CSU Assistant Professor Sean Gallen and Professor Sara Rathburn, Department of Geosciences, and Assistant Professor Ryan Morrison, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, are co-investigators on this project. Kampf said that scientists from the United States Geological Survey will also collaborate on the research.

    Historic wildfire provides unique research opportunity

    A helicopter drops water on the Cameron Peak Fire near CSU’s Mountain Campus. Photo credit: Colorado State University

    Morrison, who will study how stream channels and floodplains in the Cache la Poudre River basin are impacted by changes in sediment transport and flow after the fire, agreed that the Cameron Peak Fire had unique aspects to study.

    “The Cameron Peak Fire in northern Colorado has burned nearly 20% of the upper Cache la Poudre River basin, which supplies water to meet municipal and agricultural needs in the region,” he said. “The fire has also expanded to lower elevations, burning both transitional and intermittent snow zones.”

    Morrison said water providers, including cities in northern Colorado, are concerned about the impacts of erosion on streams and reservoirs. Snowpack is crucial for the water supply in Colorado.

    “This project will collect critical data for the first snow accumulation and melt season after the fire to address how the fire affects snow processes, flow paths and sediment movement,” he said.

    Kampf said previous research on the impacts of wildfires on snowpack have been quite variable.

    “When there’s a fire, we can see increased snow accumulation, due to fewer trees intercepting the snow,” she said. “But this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes greater exposure of the snow to the sun leads to lower snowpack after fire.”

    And while snow melt doesn’t usually create high elevation snow hazards, Kampf said it’s possible that having greater snowpack in the burn area may cause other hazards like debris flows.

    The research team only recently received approval to go into the burn area and begin field work. They hope to complete as much research as possible before there’s a lot more snow on the ground.
    Additional researchers on this project at CSU include Paul Evangelista and Tony Vorster (Natural Resource Ecology Lab), Dan McGrath and Ellen Wohl (Department of Geosciences), Peter Nelson (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), Steven Fassnacht (Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability), and Kristen Rasmussen (Department of Atmospheric Science).

    #GlenwoodSprings gets $8 million loan for water-system upgrades following #GrizzlyCreekFire — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    The Colorado River divides Glenwood Canyon slurry on the ridge from the Grizzly Creek Fire on Monday, August 24, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times via Aspen Journalism)

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    Glenwood Springs has received approval for a loan of up to $8 million from the state to upgrade its water system to deal with the impacts of this past summer’s Grizzly Creek Fire.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved the loan for system redundancy and pre-treatment improvements at its regular meeting Wednesday. The money comes from the 2020 Wildfire Impact Loans, a pool of emergency money authorized in September by Gov. Jared Polis.

    The loan will allow Glenwood Springs, which takes most of its municipal water supply from No Name and Grizzly creeks, to reduce the elevated sediment load in the water supply taken from the creeks as a result of the fire, which started Aug. 10 and burned more than 32,000 acres in Glenwood Canyon.

    Significant portions of both the No Name Creek and Grizzly Creek drainages were burned during the fire, and according to the National Resources Conservation Service, the drainages will experience three to 10 years of elevated sediment loading due to soil erosion in the watershed. A heavy rain or spring runoff on the burn scar will wash ash and sediment — no longer held in place by charred vegetation in steep canyons and gullies — into local waterways. Also, scorched soils don’t absorb water as well, increasing the magnitude of floods.

    The city will install a sediment-removal basin at the site of its diversions from the creeks and install new pumps at the Roaring Fork River pump station. The Roaring Fork has typically been used as an emergency supply, but the project will allow it to be used more regularly for increased redundancy. During the early days of the Grizzly Creek Fire, the city did not have access to its Grizzly and No Name creek intakes, so it shut them off and switched over to its Roaring Fork supply.

    The city will also install a concrete mixing basin above the water-treatment plant, which will mix both the No Name/Grizzly Creek supply and the Roaring Fork supply. All of these infrastructure improvements will ensure that the water-treatment plant receives water with most of the sediment already removed.

    “This was a financial hit we were not anticipating to take, so the CWCB loan is quite doable for us, and we really appreciate it being out there and considering us for it,” Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Matt Langhorst told the board Wednesday. “These are projects we have to move forward with at this point. If this (loan) was not an option for us, we would be struggling to figure out how to financially make this happen.”

    Without the improvement project, the sediment will overload the city’s water-treatment plant and could cause long, frequent periods of shutdown to remove the excess sediment, according to the loan application. The city, which provides water to about 10,000 residents, might not be able to maintain adequate water supply during these shutdowns.

    According to the loan application, the city will pay back the loan over 30 years, with the first three years at zero interest and 1.8% after that. The work, which is being done by Carollo Engineers and SGM, began this month and is expected to be completed by the spring of 2022.

    Langhorst said the city plans on having much of the work done before next spring’s runoff.

    “Yes, there is urgency to get several parts and pieces of what the CWCB is loaning us money for done,” he said.

    The impacts of this year’s historic wildfire season on water supplies around the state was a topic of conversation at Wednesday’s meeting. CWCB Director Rebecca Mitchell said her agency has hired a consultant team to assist communities — through a watershed restoration program — with grant applications, engineering analysis and other support to mitigate wildfire impacts.

    “These fires often create problems that exceed impacts of the fires themselves,” she said. “We know the residual impacts from these fires will last five to seven years at minimum.”

    Aspen Journalism is a local, nonprofit, investigative news organization covering water and rivers in collaboration with The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent and other Swift Communications newspapers. This story ran in the Nov. 19 edition of the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent.

    #Utah’s state engineer rejects plan to divert #GreenRiver water for #Colorado entrepreneur — The #SaltLake Tribune #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #endangeredspecies

    The entrance to the popular Gates of Lodore stretch on the Green River, not far downstream from where Aaron Million of Ft. Collins has proposed to divert 55,000 acre-feet of water from the river each year and pipe it to the Front Range. There’s plenty of opposition to the idea, but there is also interest in the water in eastern Colorado.

    From The Salt Lake Tribune (Brian Maffly):

    Utah State Engineer Teresa Wilhelmsen has rejected a controversial proposal to divert 55,000 acre-feet of the Green River’s flow from Utah to Colorado’s fast-growing Front Range cities.

    A detail of a map produced by Water Horse Resources, and published by the state of Utah, showing the proposed diversion point on the Green River, between Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument. The red and white line represents a pipeline that heads northeast out of Utah, across a corner of Colorado, and into Wyoming, where it joins an alignment of another potential pipeline that is connected to the Green above Flaming Gorge.

    Colorado entrepreneur Aaron Million has been pursuing this idea for more than a decade, resurrecting his pipeline proposal in 2018 after two prior failed attempts at approval. This time his firm White Horse Resources proposed a scaled-down pipeline tapping the Green below Flaming Gorge Dam at Browns Park and running 325 miles underground to Denver. Dubbed the “Green Sun Storage Hydro Power Project,” it would generate hydropower along its 3,800-foot decent from the Continental Divide to the Front Range.

    Wilhelmsen found the proposal ran counter to policies Utah has been pursuing for decades regarding the recovery of endangered species of fish and the Beehive State’s own interest in developing its share of water in the Colorado River system…

    Meanwhile, Wilhelmsen is considering Utah’s own proposal to substantially alter an 86,000-acre-foot water right associated with Flaming Gorge, moving the point of diversion downstream to feed the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline.

    At a hearing before the state engineer two years ago, Million likened his project to the 140-mile pipeline across southern Utah to St. George, claiming there was sufficient flows in the Green to accommodate both diversions.

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has previously twice turned down similar Green River diversions proposed by Million.

    “This [latest] decision is a big win for the Green River as well as the people and endangered fish that depend on it,” said Taylor McKinnon, a senior campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope the state engineer’s decision is the final nail in the coffin of this absurdly greedy, irresponsible plan.”

    [….]

    Diverting the water at Browns Park would have undermined costly efforts underway to rescue some of the Green’s native fish, McKinnon and other environmentalists argued.

    Click here to read the order.

    Green River Basin

    #Drought news: Dryness persisted or worsened throughout the large area of entrenched drought from the Rockies westward, and dry conditions are intensifying quickly across the central Plains

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

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

    This Week’s Drought Summary

    Heavy precipitation – from 2 to locally near 8 inches – pelted the Carolinas, southern Appalachians, mid-Atlantic region, Pacific Northwest from the Cascades westward, higher elevations of the northern Intermountain West and western Wyoming, northeastern Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Lesser amounts of 0.5 to locally over 2 inches dampened most of a large area from eastern sections of the central and northern Great Plains eastward through the middle and upper Mississippi Valley, Great Lakes Region, Appalachians, and Atlantic Coast States. Similar amounts fell on lower elevations of the northern Intermountain West and Pacific Northwest. Meanwhile, light precipitation at best fell on the central and western Gulf Coast States, most of the Plains, and the Southwest. Meanwhile, temperatures were generally cool in the West and warm in the East. Temperatures average 12 to 15 degrees F above normal from the Carolinas through Alabama. above normal from the High Plains of subnormal temperatures. In contrast, it was 8 to 12 degrees F cooler than normal from Montana southward through Utah, Arizona, the Southwest and the Great Basin. This pattern brought areas of improvement to parts of the Northeast the western Ohio Valley, the northern half of the Mississippi Valley, and northern sections of the Rockies, Intermountain West, and Pacific Northwest. In stark contrast, conditions deteriorated through most of central and eastern Texas, parts of the central Great Plains, the southern High Plains, and the central tier of the Four Corners States. As the period ended, dryness had persisted or worsened throughout the large area of entrenched drought from the Rockies westward, and dry conditions were intensifying quickly across Texas and the central Plains…

    High Plains

    A few inches of precipitation fell on the highest elevations, particularly in western Wyoming. This induced some reductions in drought severity there, but broad areas of extreme to exceptional drought remained across the rest of Wyoming and Colorado, with the most severe classification D4 almost ubiquitous across western Colorado. Farther east, moderate to severe drought persisted across North Dakota, and generally moderate to severe drought stretched over much of Kansas and Nebraska. Conditions deteriorated across most of Kansas, but conditions were more stable farther north…

    West

    Exceptional D4 drought now extends across large sections of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah as conditions intensified along the middle tier of the Four Corners States. In some areas, moisture budget shortages date back to the weak monsoon season of 2018. Across most of Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico, precipitation totals were among the driest 5 percent on record at many locations. Surrounding these areas, a large area of D3 extreme drought extended from New Mexico and Colorado [westward] through most of Arizona and Nevada, and D3 also stretched from northern California northward through a large part of Oregon into southern Washington. This despite patches of improvement from moderate to heavy precipitation in parts of the Pacific Northwest and northern sections of the Intermountain West and Rockies. Dryness has not been as severe along the northern tier of the region compared to areas farther south, and precipitation was sufficient to remove all dryness from central and northern Idaho eastward across western and much of northern Montana…

    South

    Dryness and drought expanded and intensified significantly across Texas and adjacent parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas. Since mid-September, precipitation totals were 4 to locally 8 inches below normal across central and northeastern Texas, southern Oklahoma, and adjacent Arkansas. D0 and D1 broadly expanded across central and eastern Texas. Drought is more entrenched farther west in Teas, where many areas near New Mexico declined into D3 and D4 this week. Drought has been entrenched longer here than farther east. In the last half-year, much of western Texas outside the Panhandle received only 15 to 35 percent of normal precipitation…

    Looking Ahead

    Through November 23, 2020, moderate to heavy precipitation should primarily fall on a swath from Kansas and Oklahoma through the lower Great Lakes Region, the Ohio Valley, and upstate New York. Over 1.5 inches are expected across parts of southern Illinois, central Missouri, and southeastern Kansas. Through the rest of the country, amounts over 1.5 inches should be restricted to the northern half of the immediate West Coast and the windward Cascades. Light to moderate precipitation – from a few tenths to about an inch – is forecast in the Sierra Nevada and the higher elevations across Idaho, western Montana, northwestern Wyoming, and central Colorado. Light to moderate precipitation could also fall on Florida’s immediate Atlantic Coast, and a few tenths of an inch should dampen the Northeast. Little or no precipitation is expected elsewhere, including most areas in the West experiencing extreme to exceptional drought. Specifically, a dry week is expected in the Southeast, the Gulf Coast, Texas, the northern Great Plains, the High Plains, lower elevations of the Four Corners States, the valleys of the Pacific Northwest, the Great Basin, and the Southwest. Meanwhile, unusually mild weather will prevail across most of the country. Most areas from the interior Atlantic Coast States through the Rockies should average at least 6 degrees F above normal, with means exceeding 12 degrees F above normal over a large area from the Plains through the Southwest. Only portions of the northern Intermountain West and West Coast can expect near to slightly below-normal temperatures…

    The Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 day outlook (November 24-28) favors subnormal precipitation to continue across most of the Plains, the upper Great Lakes Region, the Rockies, the Four Corners States, the Great Basin, and most of the Southwest. Subnormal precipitation is also favored in northwestern Alaska. Meanwhile, odds tilt toward surplus precipitation in southern Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, from the southeastern Great Plains and lower Great Lakes Region eastward to the Atlantic Coast. Meanwhile, a large part of the country has enhanced chances or warmer than normal weather, including central and western Alaska, the southern Rockies, the Plains, the Ohio Valley, the Southeast, and the mid-Atlantic region. Subnormal temperatures are not significantly favored anywhere in the continental 49 states.

    US Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 17, 2020.

    No, soaring #COVID19 cases are not due to more testing – they show a surging pandemic — The Conversation #coronavirus


    Access to testing had been improving across the U.S., but as cases increase, more testing is needed.
    AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

    Zoë McLaren, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

    COVID-19 cases are surging upward around the U.S., reaching 100,000 daily cases for the first time on Nov. 4 and 150,000 only eight days later. Some believe this increase in reported is a result of increases in testing, as more than 1.5 million tests are performed every day in the U.S. But the evidence is clear that these high numbers reflect a true increase in the number of COVID-19 infections.

    Hospitalizations, deaths and test-positivity rates are going up. Taken together, this means that serious COVID-19 illness is on the rise and cases are being undercounted.

    Steep increases in hospitalizations and deaths

    Rather than being an artifact of changes in testing policy, the rise in cases reflects ongoing transmission and serious illness.

    Even as COVID-19 treatments have improved and death rates have fallen, record-breaking levels of hospitalizations are already overwhelming ICUs in many parts of the country. Hospitalizations and deaths will continue to climb even if the surge in new cases abates because the majority of cases are diagnosed before serious illness develops. Today’s new infections will add to the death toll for weeks to come.

    These hospitalizations and deaths represent confirmed COVID-19 infections. A COVID-19 diagnosis for hospitalized cases must be justified based on symptoms and test results. COVID-19 is simply the only plausible explanation for ongoing high hospitalization and death rates.

    High and rising test positivity

    High and rising test-positivity rates provide more evidence that COVID-19 is spreading uncontrollably around the country.

    Test positivity is the percentage of all COVID-19 tests for active infection that come back positive. For example, Iowa’s test-positivity rate of 51.7% as of Nov. 17 means that for every 100 COVID-19 tests performed, 51 are positive.

    Test positivity tells public health officials whether a testing program is casting a wide enough net to catch the majority of COVID-19 cases.

    A high test-positivity rate indicates that the people getting tested are mostly those who have symptoms or think they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19. But people can be infected or contagious even if they aren’t showing symptoms. A low test-positivity rate means that access to testing is wide enough to reach large numbers of people who may not know they have the coronavirus. This greatly increases the chances of diagnosing people without symptoms or known exposure who may nonetheless be infected.

    The World Health Organization recommends a goal of 5% test positivity or less, but test-positivity rates in many parts of the U.S. are well above that. As of Nov. 17, 44 states had test-positivity rates above 5%, meaning their testing programs were not casting a broad enough net and were likely missing many undiagnosed cases.

    Three ambulances lined up in front of a hospital.
    Hospitalizations and deaths are also rising, though they lag behind increases in diagnoses.
    AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

    Things are worse than they seem

    The data on hospitalizations, deaths and test positivity clearly show that the worst of the surge is yet to come. High test-positivity rates mean the current confirmed case numbers are undercounting total cases.

    A test-positivity rate above 25%, as is the case in several states, implies there may be more than 10 times as many cases in the population as have been diagnosed. Many of these undetected cases may be contagious even though they have no symptoms, which further contributes to the spread of the virus. Considering the lag between new cases and hospitalization or death, the current surge does not bode well for the coming winter.

    [Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get expert takes on today’s news, every day.]

    Overstretched testing programs

    The record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations around the U.S. represents a true increase in infections and serious illness rather than an increase in testing. In fact, high test-positivity rates show that cases are undercounted because of limited access to testing. Hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise in the weeks ahead.

    Overstretched testing programs remain a weak link in the U.S. pandemic response. Diagnosing cases – and catching them as early as possible – will help cut off transmission chains of the deadly virus. When people learn they’re infected, they’re more likely to take necessary precautions to avoid exposing family, friends and others to the virus. Contrary to what some ill-informed people may be saying, the U.S. should be expanding access to testing to curb the spread of COVID-19. More testing would actually be a crucial step toward finally getting the virus under control.The Conversation

    Zoë McLaren, Associate Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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

    Helping the ski industry with better #climate data — @ColoradoClimate Center #ClimateChange #ActOnClimate

    Photo credit: Colorado State University

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Katie Courage):

    The ski slopes of the Rocky Mountain West are facing new challenges as a shifting climate brings shorter winters and more severe droughts.

    Few people, of course, are more aware of this than those in charge of running these ski resorts. But new research by the Colorado State University-based Colorado Climate Center found that these same ski managers often lack the tools and information to integrate the latest and most local climate data into operations and in planning for a successful future.

    The interdisciplinary center, which is housed in the Department of Atmospheric Science at the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, recently conducted in-depth interviews with 21 ski area managers and critical staff members from 11 Rocky Mountain ski resorts, including seven in Colorado, about their use of climate data.

    “Many ski areas we talked to recognized that they were doing the bare minimum and there was so much more to be learned,” said Natalie Ooi, an assistant professor in Warner College of Natural Resources’ Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. “They are hungry for this information to best position their business, and their communities, to address climate change for the sustainability of the destination.”

    Properly informed planning can help ensure the survival of this critical regional industry, which provides not only a popular pastime but also generates $4.8 billion and creates 46,000 jobs annually in Colorado alone.

    How resorts are planning for climate change

    Snow depth, lift operations, avalanche mitigation, overnight temperature. Ski area managers have a lot of moving pieces to worry about to keep their resorts running smoothly and safely each day. So it’s no surprise that most managers have little bandwidth to integrate complex climate modeling and projections in their already hectic jobs.

    In their research with ski area operators, the Climate Center team, which is also supported by the Colorado State Agricultural Experiment Station, found that “climate data, whether historical climate averages or future climate model projections, were generally beyond the planning ranges of most decision makers,” said Trevor Even, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology and Geography in the College of Liberal Arts.

    That doesn’t mean the mountain resorts aren’t taking general climate-preparedness steps. Aware that winter temperatures are steadily rising and precipitation patterns are changing, essentially every ski resort in the United States now incorporates some sort of artificial snow-making to help ensure enough of the powdery stuff for visitors. Many are shoring up these efforts by buying additional water rights and creating water storage facilities. They are also buffering against fluctuating oil prices for this energy-intensive work by shifting to renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, and hydroelectricity.

    Additionally, some resorts are working to mitigate risk from wildfires and changes in forest health. They are also investing heavily in fall and summer attractions to diversify revenue streams.

    And they are learning about weather and climate as they go. “They have become – often self-taught – weather experts in their local mountain environment,” said Ooi, who is also the program coordinator of the Ski Area Management program. “However, many are unaware, beyond general climate change studies and data, of the kinds of changes they can expect to see – and therefore plan for – at the local level.”

    Even agreed, adding that, “even for those few resorts and companies that were looking out to the long-term horizon, climate change was treated more as a generalized issue, without much time being put into understanding the local-scale implications.”

    How the Colorado Climate Center can help

    Becky Bolinger. Photo credit: Colorado State University

    The Colorado Climate Center is tasked with providing climate services and support to the state.

    “We already have long-standing relationships with the agricultural and municipal water sectors, but we have had more limited relationships with recreation,” like the ski industry, said Becky Bolinger, the assistant state climatologist for Colorado. “We have a wealth of climate information to share, and the ski industry is particularly sensitive to climate variability.”

    So they saw an opportunity to help.

    Newly informed by their conversations with the ski industry managers, the Climate Center team is now working to create a dashboard to bring together key weather and climate forecasting – tailored specifically for winter mountain recreation businesses. Bolinger noted that her group is also on hand to help ski areas make sense of climate data.

    These conversations also help Bolinger and her colleagues find out what more they can do. “Sometimes it helps us identify gaps between what the ski area managers want and what is currently available.”

    The sharing goes both ways. Ski resorts have been collecting extremely detailed slope-side weather information for decades. This sort of granular data could go a long way in making weather forecasting and climate modeling more accurate for these niche locations. This will help scientists “understand how high elevation, topographically complex areas fit into the overall weather and climate data picture – because these areas have been notoriously difficult to provide accurate predictions and modeling outputs for,” Even said.

    Filling in these gaps in forecasting will be a big help, Ooi added, because “many ski areas acknowledged a difference between what they see out their window on the mountain versus what the weather forecasts say for their region or nearby town.”

    Deepening these lines of communication can also help “develop a foundation of trust between those generating information and those receiving it,” Even said.

    It will also help resort managers make a case to their directors or shareholders for the smartest preparations to weather the near- and long-term changes, “such as bigger investments in forest management and wildfire mitigation,” Even noted. “More importantly, ski areas can play a huge role in helping the broader population understand changes that are already occurring locally – and what sort of cherished experiences and places are at stake when we’re thinking about the real impacts of climate change,” he said.

    This partnership work can also reassure people that Rocky Mountain skiing has a future.

    “The surprise is that many ski areas are more vulnerable to the public perception of drought and climate change impacts” than the changes themselves, Bolinger said. “This is an opportunity to share with people what the ski industry is doing to tackle these issues – and also to communicate that this industry is resilient and, with proper planning, can continue to be successful in the midst of a changing climate.”

    Uncommon Raptors of Colorado: Red-Shouldered Hawk — @COParksWildlife

    In this video, Anne Price, president of the Raptor Education Foundation, gives a presentation about the Red-Shouldered Hawk.

    LM Collaborates with Gunnison County, #Colorado, to Ensure a Safe Water Supply — US Department of Energy

    Here’s the release from the Department of Energy:

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM) is collaborating with Gunnison County, Colorado, to connect more domestic residences with private water wells within the groundwater contamination boundary at the former Gunnison uranium mill site to a municipal water supply.

    “This is a major milestone that reflects LM’s mission of protecting human health and the environment,” said Jalena Dayvault, site manager for LM’s Gunnison, Colorado, Site. “Gunnison County Public Works Director, Marlene Crosby, worked diligently to get remaining domestic well users on-board so this project could move forward.”

    The Gunnison site is a former uranium ore processing site located about a half-mile southwest of the city of Gunnison. The mill processed approximately 540,000 tons of uranium ore between 1958 and 1962, providing uranium for national defense programs. These ore processing activities resulted in contaminated groundwater beneath and near the site.

    In 1994, a water treatment plant, storage tank, and distribution system were partially funded by DOE and installed to supply municipal drinking water to all residences within the contaminated groundwater boundary. This project was part of the remedial action plan at the former uranium mill site and is considered a protective measure in case the contaminated groundwater plume was ever to affect domestic well users within this boundary.

    A small handful of homeowners with domestic wells in use before the cleanup continue to use those wells for drinking water. As part of LM’s long-term stewardship activities at the site, the office has monitored these wells annually to verify that mill-related contaminants have remained below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum concentration limits for the groundwater.

    Working closely with Gunnison County Public Works, LM made funds available in September 2020 to support Gunnison County Public Works in connecting more residences with domestic wells to the municipal water supply. Excavation work began in November to connect the first residence to the alternate water supply.

    “We started putting a game plan together back in early January of this year, reaching out to homeowners to get their buy-in and preparing a scope of work and budget for the project,” said Joe Lobato, site lead for the Legacy Management Support Partner (LMSP). “The LM and LMSP team has a great working relationship with Gunnison County.”

    This map shows the municipal water system that provides clean water to residents near the former uranium processing site. Credit: Department of Energy

    Chaffee County calls for more time, study of contentious Nestlé water-bottling plan — The #ColoradoSun

    From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

    Commissioners want to measure the potential impact of Nestlé’s proposal to pump, truck and bottle up to 65 million gallons of water a year.

    After several meetings in the last two months featuring hours of public input — virtually all of it opposing the plan — and executive session discussions with attorneys, the county’s three-member board of commissioners on Tuesday announced a plan to hire an economic analysis firm to study the economic impacts of the water-pumping proposal.

    “I want to make the best decision I can with just three people here trying,” Commissioner Greg Felt said on Nov. 10 as he floated the idea of hiring an economist to study Nestlé’s request for a 10-year permit to pump and bottle water from a network of wells on the Arkansas River.

    Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company, began drawing water from the valley in 2009 as part of a 10-year permit. That permit allowed the company to drill wells, build a pipeline and truck water to Denver for bottling under the Arrowhead brand. The company acquires water from the Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District every year to augment flows in the river and replace its removal of groundwater.

    Last year the company asked for a permit renewal and, after pandemic delays, the county began studying the request in October. Chaffee County’s commissioners have heard from dozens of residents that a lot has changed in the decade since Nestlé first arrived…

    Nestlé earlier this year announced a plan to replenish all the water it sucks from watersheds and offset the carbon impact of bottling and transporting water. That “zero environmental impact” sustainability plan was followed by news that the international conglomerate was exploring the sale of bottling operations in the U.S. and Canada. The possibility of a sale troubled Chaffee County commissioners. The board drafted new permit rules that, if approved, would require local approval of a new owner to operate under the Nestlé permit.

    Nestlé Waters North America was amenable to the new requirement. And the company earlier this month, in response to local input, crafted new conditions for the permit that would direct more Nestlé money into the local community…

    The new conditions divide the company’s contributions to the county into two tiers based on how much water is extracted for bottling.

    When the company pumps less than 125 acre-feet, or roughly 41 million gallons a year, the school districts in Buena Vista and Salida would get $15,000 a year for the length of the 10-year contract and up to $10,000 more a year for each school district depending on matching funds…

    Ruby Mountain Springs site. Photo credit: Nestle Waters North America

    The commissioners will meet again on Dec. 8 to discuss a contract with an economic advisory group — the cost of which will be covered by Nestlé Waters North America — as well as the possible extension of the company’s permit during the analysis.

    Helping farmers while keeping water in the #ColoradoRiver — Western Resource Advocates #COriver #aridification

    A powerful sprinkler capable of pumping more than 2,500 gallons of water per minute irrigates a farm field in the San Luis Valley June 6, 2019. Credit: Jerd Smith via Water Education Colorado

    From Western Resource Advocates:

    When Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, it included provisions tailored specifically to help Western farmers, ranchers, tribes—and for the first time, irrigation districts—transition to water-efficient practices. The new programs help meet several important needs for farmers, irrigators, and the environment. Unfortunately, many potential applicants are too busy handling the day-to-day challenges of their farming operations to learn about the funding and other assistance.

    That’s where Kim Mitchell, Western Resource Advocates’ Arizona-based senior water policy advisor, comes in.

    Mitchell is a native Arizonan and hydrologist who has worked to solve some of Arizona’s biggest water challenges. She knows how important water efficiency is to revitalize the Colorado River and benefit farmers struggling with more frequent drought brought on by climate change. She saw that by connecting farmers and irrigators with the Farm Bill’s new funding and programs, she could help growers and advance WRA’s goal of keeping more water in the river.

    Mitchell assembled a fact sheet about the Farm Bill programs and started reaching out to state agriculture officials, decision makers, irrigation districts, producers, and Arizona’s tribal communities.

    The COVID-19 pandemic hit just as Mitchell was starting her outreach, so she moved some of her meetings to Zoom. Still, she’s been able to have a few—socially distant—field visits to learn more about how to help growers connect the resources in the legislation with their everyday challenges.

    For example, she visited an Indigenous community interested in improving water conservation by transitioning from flood furrow irrigation to sprinklers or drip and adding other infrastructure improvements.

    Mitchell is talking to other growers who are considering changing cropping patterns or transitioning to less water-intensive crops—like substituting cotton or alfalfa with wheat that uses about one-third less water. This can be unaffordable because such lower-value crops often bring in less income. The Farm Bill provides financial incentives, but growers have to know about the programs to take advantage of them. That’s one reason Mitchell’s outreach is so valuable.

    November 2020 La Niña update: just us chickens — NOAA #ENSO

    From NOAA (Emily Becker):

    La Niña strengthened over October, with both the tropical Pacific Ocean and the atmosphere clearly reflecting La Niña conditions. Forecasters estimate at least a 95% chance La Niña will last through the winter, with a 65% chance of it hanging on through the spring.

    The October sea surface temperature anomaly (departure from the long-term average) in the Niño 3.4 region of tropical Pacific was -1.3°C according to the ERSSTv5 dataset, substantially cooler than the La Niña threshold of -0.5°C. This is the eighth-strongest negative October value in the ERSSTv5 record, which dates back to 1950. I’ll talk more about feats of strength (vis-à-vis La Niña, that is) later.

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

    Let’s count our chickens
    First, we’ll check in with the tropical Pacific ocean-atmosphere system. One of the ways we monitor the atmospheric response to ENSO is through satellite images of the amount of thermal radiation leaving the Earth’s surface. Clouds block this outgoing long-wave radiation, so when the satellites see less outgoing long-wave radiation than average, it means more clouds and rain than average. Conversely, when the satellite picks up more OLR, the skies are clearer than average.

    During La Niña, we’d expect to see less rain than average over the central tropical Pacific and more rain over Indonesia—the strengthened Walker circulation, La Niña’s atmospheric response. The OLR map for October 2020 shows this pattern clearly.

    Outgoing long-wave radiation anomaly in October 2020. Regions with more clouds and rain than average are shown in green; areas with fewer clouds and less rain are shown in brown. Figure from the IRI from CPC data.

    Another component of the strengthened Walker circulation is stronger Pacific trade winds, the near-surface winds that blow from east to west near the equator, and stronger west-to-east winds high up in the atmosphere. Both strengthened wind patterns were observed during October, providing more evidence that the ocean-atmosphere coupling we expect during both phases of ENSO is present.

    As Michelle discussed just a couple of weeks ago, this coupling is a feedback mechanism that strengthens ENSO. In the case of La Niña, cooler-than-average waters in the tropical Pacific mean the difference between the warm western Pacific and the cooler central Pacific is greater than average. This greater difference leads to the stronger Walker circulation, and the stronger trade winds further cool the surface water in the central Pacific and also pile up warm water in the west. For more details on this feedback, and a whiff of fresh-baked bread, check out Michelle’s post.

    Eggs in baskets
    Several computer models are suggesting that this La Niña is likely to be a stronger event, with a Niño 3.4 anomaly during November–January cooler than -1.5°C.

    Climate model forecasts for the Niño3.4 Index. Dynamical model data (black line) from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME): darker gray envelope shows the range of 68% of all model forecasts; lighter gray shows the range of 95% of all model forecasts. NOAA Climate.gov image from University of Miami data.

    The substantial atmospheric coupling supports these predictions, as does the amount of cooler water under the surface. These cooler subsurface waters, which are also evidence of the coupled system, will provide a source of cooler-than-average water for the surface over the next few months. October’s average subsurface temperature was the 7th-coolest October since 1979.

    The Climate Prediction Center is now providing a probabilistic outlook for the strength of El Niño and La Niña events. Tom described this new technique in a blog post a little while back—it’s too much to get into here, so please check out his post for the details. While forecast probabilities are provided for every season, it is the November–January season that has the largest chance (54%) of Niño-3.4 being below -1.5°C. This would make it a strong event; of the 23 La Niña events since 1950, seven have had maximum Niño 3.4 cooler than -1.5°C.

    What came first
    As we’ve observed in a few earlier posts about this La Niña, it appears to be relatively rare in our observed record (starting in 1950) for La Niña to develop following a neutral or slightly warm winter like we had in 2019–2020. I got curious about this, so I thought I’d exercise my newfound Python skills a bit and look at the data. (Python is a computer programming language. I’m not a snake wrangler…yet!)

    Relationship between the Niño3.4 index in one November–January (vertical axis) with the Niño3.4 the following October (horizontal axis). Figure by climate.gov; data from CPC.

    It turns out that the previous La Niña events we’ve observed so far (dots below the blue line) have all been preceded by either El Niño or La Niña. 2020 stands out, following a winter where tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures were slightly warm, but not quite El Niño. Since we only have about 70 years of observations, it’s hard to say exactly how unusual this is—we’d need to do more studies with climate models to find out, but that’s a lot for my monthly ENSO Blog post, to say nothing of my Python skills!

    When the conditions come home to roost
    We pay so much attention to ENSO because it affects global weather and climate; a stronger La Niña event means these effects are more likely. We’ve already seen hints of some of the weather and climate patterns we’d expect during La Niña. The most obvious one of these is the extraordinarily active Atlantic hurricane season. La Niña leads to reduced shear (the change in wind from the surface to the upper levels) in the atmosphere over the Atlantic, allowing hurricanes to grow and strengthen.

    Although October is a little early for clear La Niña impacts, global precipitation and temperature patterns during the month did give some hints of a La Niña effect, including more rain in Indonesia, drier conditions in southeastern China and the U.S. Southwest, and cooler weather in Canada and into the U.S. Northern Plains. I wrote about potential impacts in more detail last month, so check that out if you missed it.

    Nat will cover the winter outlook for North America in his post later this month. And of course, we’ll be here, brooding over La Niña and keeping you up-to-date.

    The November 2020 newsletter is hot off the presses from the Water Information Program

    Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt (Elaine Chick):

    The Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District (ALPWCD) Celebrates Final Water Purchase from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority

    The Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District (ALPWCD) celebrates the Districts final purchase of the water from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority.

    On Saturday, October 17th the ALPWCD held a celebration at the Tribute Gardens at Lake Nighthorse commemorating the final payment option of their incremental purchase from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority (CWR & PDA) for their share of 700 AF of depletion purchased as part of the Animas La Plata Project.

    First authorized by the U.S. Congress on September 30, 1968 (Public Law 90-537), the Animas-La Plata Water Project experienced a few decades of delays due in part to political concerns, farming claims, environmental challenges, cost overruns and government funding issues. A breakthrough to the delays came with the Colorado Ute Settlement Act Amendments in December 2000 (Public Law 106-554).

    Christine Arbogast, Kogovsek & Associates, lobbyist at that time with ALPWCD for the project, stated, “Advocacy is all about relationship. This project would not have happened if all of the partners for the project had not stuck together in that family relationship that is ALP.”

    The Bureau of Reclamation began construction in 2003, with the reservoir filling to capacity on June 29, 2011 at a total cost of $500 million. Lake Nighthorse is named in honor of former United States Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo. The reservoir is part of the Animas-La Plata Water Project, providing water storage for tribal and non-tribal water right claim-holders on the Animas River in both Colorado and New Mexico.

    The Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District was one of the seven original sponsors of the ALP Project: The other sponsors included the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, State of Colorado, La Plata Conservancy District in New Mexico, and San Juan Water Commission in New Mexico.

    The general purpose of the District includes, but is not limited to: “acquire and appropriate waters of the Animas and La Plata rivers and their tributaries and other sources of water supply by means of ‘works’ as defined in the ‘Water Conservancy Act’ and to divert, store, transport, conserve and stabilize all of said supplies of water for domestic, irrigation, power, manufacturing and other beneficial uses within and for the territory to be included in the District.”

    The ALPWCD Statutory Project Allocation was purchased in advance on behalf of local entities by the Colorado Water and Power Resource Development Authority. ALPWCD being one of those entities, worked for many years to make that incremental purchase from the Authority, and now that water is in local hands and is being put to use. ALPWCD has made subsequent sales of their portion of the original allocation of that water that provides multiple benefits to the community. One of ALPWCD’s principle missions is to develop water for the benefit of the local community, and that has happened!

    The City of Durango has purchased the remaining amount of the original ALPWCD Project Allocation from the Authority to firm up their future water supplies, and the La Plata West Water Authority and Lake Durango Water Authority have made subsequent purchases of water from the Animas-La Plata District which is being put to use for rural domestic water in the western part of La Plata County.

    The Animas-La Plata Project is managed by the ALP Operations, Maintenance and Replacement, Association, and includes representatives from the project participants. (ALPOM&R Association). Recreation at Lake Nighthorse is managed by the City of Durango in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation.

    Water projects can take decades to come to fruition, but after many years of hard work by countless individuals and organizations uses are occurring from this reservoir and associated project facilities. This is one more step in making the water in Lake Nighthorse of beneficial use to local communities!

    U.S. Forest Service approves protection of Colorado’s Sweetwater Lake, but big questions remain

    Sweetwater Lake, Garfield County, Colorado. Photo credit: Todd Winslow Pierce with permission

    From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

    Interior Sec. David Bernhardt’s order on Friday requires new provisions for Land and Water Conservation Fund allocations, further clouding the Great American Outdoors Act.

    The White River National Forest’s request for Land and Water Conservation Fund money to permanently protect Garfield County’s Sweetwater Lake — a pristine oasis surrounded by public lands — has been granted.

    But the agency did not say how much of the requested $8.5 million from the fund will be distributed. That’s just one of several recent examples of foot dragging by Trump Administration land managers who have missed critical deadlines imposed by the Great American Outdoors Act, a sweeping public lands bill that President Donald Trump promoted to help buoy Republican senators facing tough re-election bids in the West.

    The Forest Service on Friday released its 2021 list of Land and Water Conservation Fund projects for state grants under the Forest Legacy Program and for land acquisition. The list was due Nov. 2 as part of the passage this summer of the Great American Outdoors Act, which promised to whittle down an estimated $20 billion in deferred maintenance on public lands and directed $900 million a year into the Land and Water Conservation Fund. (The fund is supported by oil and gas royalties paid by energy companies exploring and drilling on federal land and water.)

    The Great American Outdoors Act requires the Forest Service and the Department of Interior to submit “a detailed description of each project, including the estimated expenditures from the fund for the project for applicable fiscal years,” by Nov. 2. Both agencies missed that deadline. The list released Friday by the Forest Service also lacked the dollar figures required by the legislation.

    As an added twist, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Friday issued an order that added new provisions to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, including severe limitations on the Bureau of Land Management’s ability to add new acreage. Bernhardt’s Secretarial Order 3388 prioritized land acquisitions by the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the BLM.

    A vague list he scripted last week distributing $900 million worth of Land and Water Conservation Fund money sent just $2.5 million to the BLM for land acquisition, and dismissed six projects that had been previously trumpeted by the Trump Administration during the summer’s cheerleading for the Great American Outdoors Act.

    “That is consistent with the disdain Bernhardt has had for the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Aaron Weiss, the deputy director for the Center for Western Priorities. “He tried to defund it for three years and now he’s throwing sand in the gears before he leaves. Really, these guys are just making it up as they go along right now because they know it doesn’t matter. They are going to be gone soon.”

    Bernhardt’s order also requires both the approval of state governors and local county leaders for all federal land acquisition. The Garfield County Commissioners have long opposed adding federal land in their county but they do support the protection of Sweetwater Lake…

    In the final line of Friday’s order, Bernhardt added a legally questionable clause.

    “The termination of this order will not nullify the implementation of the requirement and responsibilities effected herein,” he wrote.

    A workaround emerges

    But there is another option for seeing the Great American Outdoors Act fully deployed. Congress could force Bernhardt and the Forest Service to fund all the projects that were part of the promotions for the legislation. And lawmakers appear to be preparing to do just that.

    The U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released funding recommendations for the Interior Department and Forest Service with specific projects and dollar amounts. The committee plan directs $54.1 million to the BLM — a $51.6 million increase over Bernhardt’s plan — and $120 million to the Forest Service for land acquisition. The committee’s list for LWCF acquisition projects includes $8.5 million for the Forest Service for Sweetwater Lake.

    Sweetwater Lake and the surrounding 488 acres has been owned for decades by private developers who pondered a luxury retreat, a golf course and even a water-bottling facility. The White River National Forest’s request for Land and Water Conservation Fund support was among the agency’s Top 10 priority projects for 2021.

    Officials with the White River National Forest directed all calls about plans for Sweetwater Lake to the agency’s national press office, where spokeswoman Babete Anderson said there was no more information to share…

    When, or if, the land becomes part of the National Forest System, the White River has a long list of priorities for Sweetwater Lake, including improvements to the water supply on the property and upgrades to a campground and boat launch.

    The agency is in talks with Colorado Parks and Wildlife about a shared management plan at Sweetwater Lake that could lead to the property becoming a new state park.

    “Sweetwater checks some important boxes for CPW and what we want stuff to look like. There is obviously water recreation and we also like the location as close as it is to I-70,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton. “Then there’s the access it provides to federal land, just a massive amount of land. So yes, there are many reasons we want to be part of that conversation with the Forest Service. We are in a mode right now where we are looking at other parcels. The governor has let his intention be known that he wants more state parks.”

    The 77-acre Sweetwater Lake and more than 400 acres surrounding it could be open to the public if a conservation plan shifts the property into the White River National Forest. (Provided by The Conservation Fund via The Colorado Sun)

    More fires, bigger fires trend likely to continue in #Colorado — The #ColoradoSprings Gazette

    The East Troublesome fire as seen from Cottonwood Pass looking north on the evening of Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020. (Andrew Lussie via InciWeb via The Colorado Sun)

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Evan Wyloge):

    Over the past two decades, fire seasons in Colorado have consistently grown larger and more destructive. The three largest wildfires in tracked history ignited within 10 weeks of one another this year, putting the year’s total wildfire-burned acreage above the past six years combined.

    It’s a trend caused by several factors, experts and researchers say, and it’s likely to continue.

    large fires that characterized this year, said Camille Stevens-Rumann, a Colorado State University professor whose research focuses on fire ecology.

    “If you think about other areas like California, or even other Rocky Mountain states, like Montana or Idaho,” she said, “they’ve had huge fires. We’ve not seen those. We had Hayman in 2002, then bad years in 2010 and 2011, but we haven’t had to face this reality until this year.”

    Hotter, drier seasons, along with some misguided forest management practices, are to blame, she and other experts agree.

    Fires in Colorado are a natural event, they stressed. The lodgepole pine is cited as an example of how the ecology has evolved to coexist with regular fires. The tree’s pine cone opens and releases the seeds when it raises to a certain temperature. And the natural cycle is for the adult lodgepole pines to be burned…

    Higher temperatures — average global temperatures have risen about 1 degree Celsius since the middle of the 20th century — mean the mountain snowpack doesn’t last as long, Hurteau said. The same higher temperatures that shorten the winter then, in the summer, sap moisture from the ecosystem, priming Colorado’s forest vegetation for a fire.

    Two key metrics quantify for researchers how much the higher temperatures cause the more rapid drying of the environment.

    “Vapor pressure deficit and climatic water deficit: How much moisture does the atmosphere want to pull out of the soil, versus how much there is,” Stevens-Rumann said. “As temperatures increase, there’s more demand in those two metrics.”

    The natural process plays out every summer, but with snowpack disappearing earlier in the year and not arriving until later, it happens more intensely and for a longer duration…

    Bark beetle is another factor that stokes Colorado’s wildfires. If a patch of trees becomes infested, after time, the trees die, leaving dead, drying timber that’s primed to ignite because of the drying pattern, the experts said. And while pine needles, twigs, loose foliage or leaves on the forest floor can burn quickly without burning larger trees, standing dead trees burn hotter for longer, further contributing to more intense fires…

    Forest management practices have contributed to the problem as well. The doctrine of extinguishing forest fires as quickly as possible, without regard to the natural cycle of burning and regeneration for forests, has led to more fire-prone wildland…

    He said there are now efforts to bring a better approach to forest management, which lets some of the fuel burn, to better match the natural cycle.

    Why understanding #snowpack could help the overworked #ColoradoRiver — The Deseret News #COriver #aridification

    Horseshoe Bend.

    From The Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

    The U.S. Geological Survey is in the beginning stages of learning more about this river via an expanded and more sophisticated monitoring system that aims to study details about the snowpack that feeds the river basin, droughts and flooding, and how streamflow supports groundwater, or vice versa.

    Begun earlier this year, the probe is part of a larger effort by the federal agency to study 10 critical watersheds throughout the country by expanding its monitoring capabilities.

    According to the research agency, it maintains real-time monitors that provide data on the nation’s water resources, including more than 11,300 stream gauges that measure surface-water flow and/or levels; 2,100 water-quality stations; 17,000 wells that monitor groundwater levels; and 1,000 precipitation stations.

    While that may seem like a lot, the network falls short of meeting the demands of modern-day analysis. The monitors in place cover less than 1% of the nation’s streams and groundwater aquifers and were designed to meet the needs of the past, according to the agency.

    The USGS will be installing new monitoring equipment and enhancing existing streamgages in the headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison River Basin (Upper Colorado River Basin) beginning in 2020, subject to availability of funding. Credit: USGS

    Because of this, the agency is investing in the Next Generation Water Observing System, which will tap sophisticated new monitoring capabilities resulting from recent advances in water science.

    The effort will also bring together the knowledge and expertise of agency scientists, resource managers and other stakeholders to determine water information needs not only now, but into the future.

    The system will use both fixed and mobile equipment — including drones — to collect data on streamflow, evapotranspiration, snowpack, soil moisture, water quality, groundwater/surface-water connections, stream velocity distribution, sediment transport and water use.

    When it comes to the Colorado, understanding snowpack is critical because the Upper Colorado River Basin supplies about 90% of the water for the entire Colorado River Basin — with about 85% of the river flow originating as snowmelt from about 15% of the basin at the highest altitudes.

    The lower basin is arid and depends upon that managed use of the Colorado River system to make the surrounding land habitable and productive.

    “New monitoring technology is essential to addressing many issues associated with our annual water balance in the Upper Colorado River Basin,” said Dave “DK” Kanzer, who is deputy chief engineer at Colorado River Water Conservation District.

    #Nebraska expects to meet #RepublicanRiver pact with #Kansas — #Kearney Star-Herald

    From The Associated Press via The Kearney Star-Herald:

    Todd Siel with the Lower Republican Natural Resources District said he expects the state will be able to meet the terms of the Republican River compact next year without putting additional restrictions on irrigation or pumping additional water into the basin.

    Siel told the Kearney Hub that Harlan County Lake is still mostly full thanks to the extremely wet weather of 2019, and that is a major factor in helping Nebraska comply with the river pact next year.

    The Republican River Compact allocates the waters of the basins between the states of Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.

    Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado have fought for decades over water entitlements provided under the compact. The compact has resulted in lawsuits among the states, which regulate access to the water.

    The compact signed in 1943 gives Nebraska the rights to 49 percent of the river’s water, while Kansas receives 40 percent and Colorado gets 11 percent. The Republican River originates in Colorado, crosses the northwestern tip of Kansas into Nebraska, then runs through Nebraska before re-entering Kansas through its northeastern corner.

    More than 9,000 Landsat images provide vegetation health metrics for the Republican River Basin. Credit: David Hyndman

    #Snowpack news: The #RioGrande leads in early snowpack totals = 154% of normal

    Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

    And here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for November 16, 2020.

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map November 16, 2020 via the NRCS.

    Next Generation Water Observing System: Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin — @USGS #COriver #aridification

    Colorado River. Photo credit: USGS

    Here’s the release from the USGS (Chad Wagner):

    The Next Generation Water Observing System provides high-fidelity, real-time data on water quantity, quality, and use to support modern water prediction and decision-support systems that are necessary for informing water operations on a daily basis and decision-making during water emergencies. The headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison River Basin provide an opportunity to implement the NGWOS in a snowmelt-dominated system in the mountain west.

    The USGS Next Generation Water Observing System (NGWOS) is generating integrated data on streamflow, groundwater, evapotranspiration, snowpack, soil moisture, water quality, and water use. When fully implemented, the NGWOS will intensively monitor at least 10 medium-sized watersheds (10,000-20,000 square miles) and underlying aquifers that represent larger regions across the Nation.

    The USGS will be installing new monitoring equipment and enhancing existing streamgages in the headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison River Basin (Upper Colorado River Basin) beginning in 2020, subject to availability of funding. Credit: USGS

    The USGS has selected the headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison River Basin (Upper Colorado River Basin) in central Colorado as its second NGWOS basin. This decision was based on rigorous quantitative ranking of western basins, input from USGS regions and science centers, and feedback from targeted external stakeholders in the west.

    The Upper Colorado River Basin is important because nearly all flow in the Colorado River originates in the upper basin states and runoff from the Upper Colorado River Basin is nearly three times that of other basins in the area. Thus, the Upper Colorado River Basin is particularly critical for downstream users.

    Long-term drought conditions facing the Upper Colorado region, interstate ramifications of the drought, water-quality issues, stakeholder support, and alignment with Department of Interior and USGS priorities make the Upper Colorado an ideal basin to implement the USGS’s integrated approach to observing, delivering, assessing, predicting, and informing water resource conditions and decisions now and into the future. Of note, a newly released (October 2019) Federal Action Plan for Improving Forecasts of Water Availability includes a milestone to pilot long-range water prediction in the Upper Colorado River Basin, an activity that will greatly benefit from the newly selected USGS NGWOS basin.

    An integrated data-to-modeling approach in the Upper Colorado River Basin will help improve regional water prediction in other snowmelt dominated systems in the Rockies and beyond. The approach is useful for addressing issues of both water availability and water quality and for evaluating the effects of both short-term climate perturbation (for example, fire, insect mortality, drought) and long-term climate change.

    Water Resources Challenges in the Colorado River Basin

    The Colorado River supplies water for more than 40 million people and nearly 5.5 million acres of farmland across the western United States and Mexico. The Colorado River and its main tributaries originate in the mountains of western Wyoming, central Colorado, and northeastern Utah. The large amount of snowmelt that feeds the Upper Colorado is central to water availability throughout the Basin. In 2019, urgent action was required to prevent previously developed rules from potentially reducing Colorado River water allocations to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico due to declining water levels in the two largest reservoirs within the Colorado River Basin—Lake Powell and Lake Mead. A Colorado Drought Contingency Plan was signed in April 2019.

    NGWOS Characteristics

  • State-of-the-art measurements
  • Dense array of sensors at selected sites
  • Increased spatial and temporal data coverage of all primary components of the hydrologic cycle
  • New monitoring technology testing and implementation
  • Improved operational efficiency
  • Modernized and timely data storage and delivery
  • Briefing sheet

    The USGS Next Generation Water Observing System Upper Colorado & Gunnison River Basin: Briefing sheet

    The hydraulics of the world’s first industrial plant: a unique construction in the Barbegal water mills —

    View of the ruins of the Barbegal mill complex in 2018. Photo credit: Universitaet Mainz

    Here’s the release Universitaet Mainz:

    An elbow-shaped water flume as a special adaptation for the Barbegal mill complex and a symbol of the ingenuity of Roman engineers

    The Barbegal watermills in southern France are a unique complex dating back to the 2nd century AD. The construction with 16 waterwheels is, as far as is known, the first attempt in Europe to build a machine complex on an industrial scale. The complex was created when the Roman Empire was at the height of its power. However, little is known about technological advances, particularly in the field of hydraulics, and the spread of knowledge at the time. A team of scientists led by Professor Cees Passchier from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) has now gained new knowledge about the construction and principle of the water supply to the mills in Barbegal. The research results were published in Scientific Reports.

    A mill complex consisting of a total of 16 water wheels in two parallel rows

    Watermills were one of the first sources of energy that did not depend on the muscle strength of humans or animals. In the Roman Empire they were used to make flour and sawing stone and wood. As one of the first industrial complexes in European history, the Barbegal watermills are an outstanding example of the development at that time. The mill complex consisted of 16 water wheels in a parallel arrangement of eight wheels each, separated by central buildings and fed by an aqueduct. The upper parts of the complex were destroyed and no traces of the wooden structures have been preserved, which is why the type of mill wheels and how they worked remained a mystery for a long time.

    However, carbonate deposits that had formed from the flowing water on the wooden components remained. These were stored in the archaeological museum in Arles and only recently examined in detail. The researchers found an imprint of an unusual, elbow-shaped flume that must have been part of the mill construction. “We combined measurements of the water basins with hydraulic calculations and were able to show that the flume to which this elbow-shaped piece belonged very likely supplied the mill wheels in the lower basins of the complex with water,” said Professor Cees Passchier. “The shape of this flume was unknown from other watermills, either from Roman or more recent times. We were therefore puzzled as to why the flume was designed this way and what it was used for.”

    Carbonate deposits from the side wall of the elbow-shaped water flume, which have formed on the inside of the wooden flume. The vertical patterns are imprints of saw marks on the wood. Photo credit: Universitaet Mainz

    An elbow-shaped flume as a unique adaptation for the Barbegal mills

    At first glance, the team found such a flume unnecessary and even disadvantageous, because it shortens the height from which the water falls onto the mill wheel. “However, our calculations show that the oddly shaped flume is a unique adaptation for the Barbegal mills,” explained Passchier. The distribution of the carbonate deposits in the elbow-shaped flume shows that it was inclined slightly backwards against the direction of the current. This created a maximum flow rate in the first, steep leg of the flume, and at the same time the water jet to the mill wheel obtained the correct angle and speed. In the complicated mill system, with small water basins, this unique solution was more efficient than using a traditional, straight water channel. “That shows us the ingenuity of the Roman engineers who built the complex,” emphasized Passchier.

    “Another discovery was that the wood of the flume was probably cut with a mechanical, water-powered saw, which is possibly the first documented mechanical wood saw – again evidence of industrial activity in ancient times.” The research was carried out by a multidisciplinary team of experts in geology, geochemistry, hydraulics, dendrochronology, and archaeology.

    Sketch of the Barbegal mill complex with the lower three water basins with mill wheels and water flumes: The lower basins most probably had elbow-shaped flumes. Credit: Cees Passchier

    The carbonate deposits that formed on the ancient hydraulic structures are an important tool for the researchers for archaeological reconstructions. In an earlier project, the team led by Professor Cees Passchier was able to show that the flour from the Barbegal mills was probably used to make ship biscuits. “The carbonate deposits give us extremely exciting insights into the skills of Roman technicians at a time that can be seen as the direct predecessor of our civilization,” added Passchier, Professor of Tectonic Physics and Structural Geology at the JGU Institute of Geosciences from 1993 to 2019, now Senior Research Professor in Geoarchaeology.

    #Thornton warns of looming #water shortage that could hamper long-term growth in the northern suburb — The #Denver Post

    From The Denver Post (John Aguilar):

    …city leaders say they are increasingly frustrated by Larimer County’s unwillingness to let them build a critical pipeline that would carry the water from the Cache La Poudre River near Fort Collins to Thornton — so much so that they have started alerting developers that the city may have to stop issuing building permits.

    The new language warns that “the City does not guarantee capacity in its water or wastewater systems for proposed or future developments.”

    Among the projects at stake for the state’s 6th largest city is dense multi-family housing planned around new N-Line rail stations that just went operational in September.

    That’s frustrating to Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, who points to the thousands of acre-feet of water the city owns free and clear in the Cache La Poudre River northwest of Fort Collins — water rights it purchased more than three decades ago…

    The answer goes back to February 2019, when the Larimer County commissioners unanimously voted to deny Thornton a permit for a 72-mile-long pipeline the city wants to install to carry that water to this suburb of 140,000. Jeff Coder, Thornton’s deputy city manager of city development, said the denial essentially holds Thornton’s growth plans “hostage.”

    The city has enough water in its portfolio to supply 5,000 additional housing units, he said, or approximately 160,000 residents. The city’s long-term vision is for a population of 240,000 by 2065.

    While no builders have pulled out of the city, Coder said, that day may not be far away. Maybe as soon as 2024 or 2025, he said.

    “It’s understandably creating a great deal of concern,” he said. “In fairness to those who are making significant investments in our community, we don’t want someone who has gone through the approvals process expecting to get a building permit to have us at the last minute tell them we can’t because of this water issue.”

    We want to prepare people for a worst-case scenario.”

    […]

    Fort Collins community members kayak and sit on the shore of the Poudre River during the grand opening of the Poudre River Whitewater Park off of North College and Vine Drive Oct. 12. (Alyssa Uhl | The Collegian)

    The obvious solution, [Gary Wockner] said, is for Thornton to let its water flow down the Poudre through Fort Collins — “use the river as a conveyance” — and take it out further downstream near Windsor, obviating the need for a $450 million pipe that will require trenching and burial across 26 miles of Larimer County…

    The city counters that allowing its share of water to flow through Fort Collins — and past several water treatment facilities — would severely degrade its quality and cost the city dearly to clean it. Emily Hunt, deputy infrastructure director for Thornton, said the river option was merely one of a number of alternatives the city put on the table as it was firming up plans to access its water.

    “We specifically picked a site that was above urban impacts and the price we paid reflected that,” she said. “If we wanted a low-quality source that we clean up later, we could have done that and paid less money.”

    According to the city, Thornton paid $578 million for 289 shares of water and storage rights in the Poudre River, along with $92 million for more than 18,000 acres of farmland in Larimer and Weld counties, where it has been sending its Poudre shares by ditch over the last 30 or so years.

    But that level of investment wasn’t enough to sway the commissioners in Larimer County last year.

    Outgoing Commissioner Steve Johnson said then that the proposed 48-inch diameter pipe, which would run across the northern edge of Fort Collins to Interstate 25 before turning south toward Thornton, ranked as one of the most contentious issues he had ever seen raised in the county.

    But just this past September, the same commissioners voted 2-1 to approve a 1041 permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a controversial $1.1 billion water storage initiative that would create Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and a second reservoir out on the eastern plains.

    It also involves several water pipelines running through Larimer County.

    Thornton recently included the NISP approval in its court filings appealing Larimer County’s denial of its pipeline project, citing it as evidence that the commissioners’ 2019 decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

    TomTalks Episode 16: Veterans to Farmers — One World One Water Center

    This TomTalks was a huge labor of love! Josie Hart, from the Denver Botanic Gardens, joined us on site at DBG’s Chatfield Farm to discuss their Veterans to Farmers program and the incredible healing nature of farming. We did have some issues with wind and apologize for the sound issues. We hope you enjoy learning about this great program that aims to honor, support, and educate veterans.

    #Denver aims to raise awareness of steadily worsening #airquality on Front Range — The #Colorado Sun

    Photo credit: NOAA

    From The Colorado Sun (Michael Booth):

    Denver is expanding its air quality monitoring and education program to combat high rates of asthma in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color, focusing on school-age children.

    The city’s Department of Public Health and Environment is on schedule with a multiyear grant to install air monitors at 40 public schools and tie them together with a consumer-friendly “dashboard” that families can use to assess danger and alter their activity. Denver will replicate the dashboard and the accompanying clean-air curriculum for the Tri-County Health Department, serving Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, after Tri-County received a state grant.

    Urgency for attacking inequitable asthma rates increased through a summer and fall of lung-straining wildfires, and a viral pandemic that has underscored threats to respiratory health, Denver officials said. Metro Denver has this year recorded the highest number of particulate warning days — the form of pollution exacerbated by wildfire smoke — in at least 10 years. Respiratory physicians report a spike in asthma and other complaints among regular patients…

    The state’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap released this fall, the official guidance for setting new policies, addressed inequities directly: “In communities that face disparate impacts from pollution—often including the confluence of industrial facilities, highways, and other sources of air pollution—there is greater frequency of more intense exposure to pollution, and a correlation to higher frequency of upper respiratory and other dangerous health impacts,” the report states…

    Denver now has real-time air quality “dashboards” available online for 19 schools, on its way to 40, though installation of monitors and smoothing out the technology at the remaining schools on the list were paused by the pandemic.

    The Denver health department developed science and health curricula to go along with the dashboards, with the aim that local teachers would help spread word to families about the available air quality information by talking about it in classes. With many elementary students away from classrooms for months because of the pandemic, the health department pivoted to creating instructional videos and worksheets accessible from home, Ogletree said.

    Other health departments and school districts can install their own low-cost air quality monitors and replicate the online dashboards and curriculum, he added, with Tri-County Health being the first to work with Denver. Denver trademarked the “Love My Air” program name, and offers free licensing agreements and toolkits for those who want to use it.

    The next step, Ogletree said, is working with app developers to turn the Love My Air program into a smartphone tool showing real-time sensors, and also using GPS to automatically detect and display data from the closest monitor. Schools could use the app to push out campaigns like anti-idling at dropoffs and pickups, a common environmental pollution cause at many schools.

    On environmental protection, @JoeBiden’s election will mean a 180-degree turn from [the current administration’s] policies — The Conversation


    President-elect Joe Biden opposes proposals to allow uranium mining around the Grand Canyon, which the Trump administration supports.
    Michael Quinn, NPS/Flickr, CC BY

    Janet McCabe, Indiana University

    The Trump administration has waged what I and many other legal experts view as an all-out assault on the nation’s environmental laws for the past four years. Decisions at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department and other agencies have weakened the guardrails that protect our nation’s air, water and public lands, and have sided with industry rather than advocating for public health and the environment.

    Senior officials such as EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler assert that the Trump administration has balanced environmental regulation with economic growth and made the regulatory process less bureaucratic. But former EPA leaders from both Democratic and Republican administrations have called this administration’s actions disastrous for the environment.

    Rolling back laws and hollowing out agencies

    The Trump administration has used many tools to weaken environmental protection. For example, Trump issued an executive order in June 2020 to waive environmental review for infrastructure projects like pipelines and highways.

    The EPA has revised regulations that implement the Clean Water Act to drastically scale back protection for wetlands, streams and marshes. And the administration has revoked California’s authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own standards for air pollution emissions from cars, although California is pressing ahead.

    The Trump administration has also changed agency procedures to limit the use of science and upended a longstanding approach to valuing the costs and benefits of environmental rules. It has cut funding for key agency functions such as research and overseen an exodus of experienced career staff.

    Worker at Iowa wind turbine plant
    A worker installs components at the base of a wind turbine blade at the Siemens plant in Fort Madison, Iowa. President-elect Joe Biden views renewable energy as a major source of high-wage manufacturing jobs.
    Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images)

    A quick about-face

    I expect that the Biden administration will quickly signal to the nation that effectively applying the nation’s environmental laws matters to everyone – especially to communities that bear an unfair share of the public health burden of pollution.

    With a closely divided Senate, Biden will need to rely primarily on executive actions and must-pass legislative measures like the federal budget and the Farm Bill to further his environmental agenda. Policies that require big investments, such as Biden’s pledge to invest US$400 billion over 10 years in clean energy research and innovation, can make a big difference, but may be challenging to advance. Coupling clean technology with infrastructure and jobs programs to build back better is likely to have broad appeal.

    I expect that officials will move quickly to restore the role of science in agency decision-making and withdraw Trump-era policies that make it harder to adopt protective regulations. A Biden EPA will end efforts to impede states like California that are moving ahead under their own authority to protect their residents, and will make clear to career staff that their expertise is valued.

    The agency is likely to withdraw or closely scrutinize pending Trump proposals, such as the ongoing review of the current standard for fine-particle air pollution. Officials also will review pending litigation, much of which involves challenges to Trump administration rule revisions and policies, and decide whether to defend any of them. There likely won’t be many.

    In their final campaign debate, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden offered sharply contrasting views of how environmental protection affects the economy.

    One area where EPA can quickly change course is enforcement. Biden’s climate and energy plan pledges to hold polluters accountable, and his administration reportedly plans to create a new division at the Justice Department focused on environmental and climate justice. Biden has promised greater attention to environmental justice communities, where neighborhoods are heavily affected by concentrations of highly polluting sources such as refineries and hazardous waste sites.

    [Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]

    Many of these actions can be done quickly through new executive orders or policy changes. Regulatory changes will take longer. In my view, Biden’s biggest challenge will be deciding what to prioritize. His administration will not be able to do (or undo) everything. Even with a revitalized career workforce and political staff all rowing in the same direction, there won’t be enough bandwidth to address all the bad policies enacted in the past four years, let alone move forward with a proactive agenda focused on public health protection and environmental justice.The Conversation

    Janet McCabe, Professor of Practice of Law, Indiana University

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