“You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children” — @GretaThunberg #ActOnClimate #COP24 #KeepItInTheGround

Temperatures increased across almost all of the Southwest region from 1901 to 2016, with the greatest increases in southern California and western Colorado. This map shows the difference between 1986–2016 average temperature and 1901–1960 average temperature.23 Source: adapted from Vose et al. 2017.23. Map credit: The National Climate Assessment 2018

Well, #COP24 wrapped up with a commitment to implement the Paris Accords, but not before young Swede Greta Thunberg delivered a scolding message to the folks who are not treating Climate Change like the crisis it is.

From CommonDreams.org (Jon Queally):

“”We can no longer save the world by playing by the rules,” says Greta Thunberg, “because the rules have to be changed.” — Greta Thunberg

Striking her mark at the COP24 climate talks taking place this week and next in Poland, fifteen-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden issued a stern rebuke on behalf of the world’s youth climate movement to the adult diplomats, executives, and elected leaders gathered by telling them she was not there asking for help or demanding they comply with demands but to let them know that new political realities and a renewable energy transformation are coming whether they like it or not.

“Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago,” said Thunberg, who has garnered international notoriety for weekly climate strikes outside her school in Sweden, during a speech on Monday.

Thunberg said that she was not asking anything of the gathered leaders—even as she sat next to UN Secretary General António Guterres—but only asking the people of the world “to realize that our political leaders have failed us, because we are facing an existential threat and there’s no time to continue down this road of madness.”

Thunberg explained that while the world consumes an estimated 100 million barrels of oil each day, “there are no politics to change that. There are no politics to keep that oil in the ground. So we can no longer save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed.”

“So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future,” she declared. “They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge.”

“On climate change,” said Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, the teenage Thunberg “demonstrates more clarity and leadership in one speech than a quarter of a century of the combined contributions of so called world leaders. Wilful ignorance and lies have overseen a 65 percent rise in CO2 since 1990. Time to hand over the baton.”

Watch Thunberg’s full remarks:

The climate crisis, she said, “is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. First we have to realize this and then as fast as possible do something to stop the emissions and try to save what we can save.”

From Medium.com (Mark Watts):

Climate science tells us that 1.5°C is likely to become the most important number in human history

There is nothing in the laws of physics and chemistry to prevent humanity from stopping global heating getting out of control. Yet there is also no historical precedent for the scale and pace of the political and economic transformation that is needed to achieve that goal. This was the message of the the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change’s(IPCC) ‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C’ (SR1.5), released earlier this year.

While at the climate talks in Poland this week the leaders of the USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia have been explicitly arguing against using science to inform inter-governmental decisions, showing unprecedented levels of cynicism and irresponsibility, cities and their networks are clear: we welcome the clarity of the global climate science community and thank the IPCC for their fundamental work. C40, indeed, has adopted 1.5°C as our only science-based target since December 2016.

It is indeed in the world’s greatest cities that our collective fate on this planet will be determined.
As Al Gore has pointed out, the current generation of leaders are the first to benefit from unequivocal science and data on climate change. Those in office today are also likely to be amongst the last who are in a position to make decisions that will prevent global heating accelerating past 1.5°C.

It is a big responsibility but also a huge opportunity to achieve change that will reap numerous immediate rewards, as well as incalculable benefits for generations to come.

To help mayors of the world’s most influential and powerful cities to deliver on this incredible responsibility and opportunity, C40 Cities, the Global Covenant of Mayors, and 18 scientists from the IPCC SR1.5 today released the Summary for Urban Policymakers: What the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C means for cities.

The 1.5°C crossroads

The Summary makes it clear that the only “science-based” target for humanity’s long-term future, is to limit global heating below 1.5°C and sets out that:

Allowing global warming to reach 2°C or higher will massively increase food insecurity, water shortages, poverty and take a devastating toll on human health.

We are not on track: current commitments by national governments will deliver between 2.9 and 3.4 °C of average global warming by the end of the century. This is potentially devastating for human society.

To achieve a 2 in 3 chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C we must reduce our global CO2 emissions to zero within the next two decades.

Even if this is achieved, significant investments in adaptation are likely to still be required to reduce risks and impacts. However, adaptation has limits. Exceeding 1.5°C will lead us into a highly uncertain world where not all systems can adapt, and not all impacts can be reversed.

Realistically, a 1.5°C world can only happen if major policy decisions are taken in the next four to five years. Each year we delay the start of emission reductions that the science makes clear we need, the window to reach zero emissions on a pathway to 1.5°C is reduced by two years. Each year, the task becomes more difficult and more expensive.

Action in towns, cities and regions

The IPCC identifies crucial areas of action in urban areas that will be key to national governments meeting their targets and unlocking a 1.5°C future for us all. Many C40 cities have already made action commitments across these areas, which could form the basis of global targets for all towns and cities:

  • Buildings and energy: New urban construction everywhere must consume near-zero energy by the 2020s. In the Global North, 5% of all buildings must be retrofitted every year from 2020. The C40 action commitment on Buildings, signed by 22 cities, 12 global businesses, and 4 states/regions is to make all new buildings net zero carbon by 2030. A sub-set of cities have also committed to only own, occupy or lease buildings that are net zero by the same deadline.
  • Transport and urban planning: To hit the necessary emissions reductions from transport systems will require a major transformation in how citizens move around cities. Millions more journeys will need to be on foot or bike or avoided all together. Urban transport will need to run on electricity from a grid powered by renewable energy. The C40 action commitment, signed by 26 cities, is to make a major area of the city a fossil-fuel free zone, maximising cycling and walking, by 2030; and to only purchase zero-emission buses from 2025 at the latest.
  • Green infrastructure: Trees, parks, green roofs and water features must come to dominate the urban landscape, helping reduce climate risks whilst also bringing down GHG emissions.
  • Sustainable and resilient land use: Cities will be increasingly exposed to climate related floods, heatwaves wild fires and sea level rise. Planning decisions made today must help reduce those risks and prepare for those consequences.
  • Sustainable water management: Waste water recycling, storm water diversion, and smart urban design can reduce the risks of climate related flooding and reduce demand for fresh water.
  • Whilst prepared for urban policy makers, the Summary is clear that city governments cannot do this alone. Action from regional and national governments is vital to enable cities to deliver the necessary transformations. In particular, to keep global heating to a minimum of 1.5°C will require:

    1. Energy grid decarbonization: Renewables will need to supply 70–85% of electricity by 2050. Cities and urban areas can only deliver their fair share of emissions reductions if the electricity grid is decarbonised.

    2. Accountable multi-level governance: Local action and participatory processes are most effective when local and regional governments are supported by national governments.

    3. Finance: To stay below 1.5°C, we can expect the level of investment to be orders of magnitude greater than previously thought. In the energy sector alone, it is estimated that we will need an investment of US$2.4 trillion annually between 2016 and 2035 to keep to the target.

    Getting to 1.5°C: A call to action

    The sobering conclusion of the Summary for Urban Policymakers is that we need to pursue aggressive strategies to limit global heating to 1.5°C, while preparing our towns, cities for the climate impacts that are already happening.

    We have also seen in recent weeks that it is very easy to get climate action wrong. President Macron’s combination of tax cuts for the wealthy, along with fuel duty rises which have disproportionately effect those on lower incomes, has provoked a strong reaction across France. As a result, climate action is wrongly tainted as being unfair and reducing the social and economic well-being of the majority, while the one percent can afford to carry on polluting.

    Instead, climate justice and social justice need to go hand and hand. That is why we need inclusive and just climate action that delivers for all citizens in every part of the globe. Without urgent action, continued progress will become incredibly challenging. In this sense, action on climate change is development.

    Citizens are increasingly demanding action and changing their own lifestyles. Mayors can take heart from this and engage with communities to drive bigger changes. The Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this year showed the huge latent potential for regional government, business and cities to work together, whatever their respective national governments’ levels of ambition.

    Therefore, 1.5°C is likely to become the most important number in human history.

    It is already the target adopted by C40, since 2016, as the level of ambition needed to be part of our network. I am looking forward to working with C40 mayors and all our partners in 2019 to redouble our efforts to make this transformation a reality.

    From the BBC (Matt McGrath):

    Last-minute rows over carbon markets threatened to derail the two-week summit – and delayed it by a day.

    Delegates believe the new rules will ensure that countries keep their promises to cut carbon.

    The Katowice agreement aims to deliver the Paris goals of limiting global temperature rises to well below 2C.

    “Putting together the Paris agreement work programme is a big responsibility,” said the chairman of the talks, known as COP24, Michal Kurtyka.

    “It has been a long road. We did our best to leave no-one behind.”

    What did the delegates focus on?

    The summit accord, reached by 196 states, outlines plans for a common rulebook for all countries – regulations that will govern the nuts and bolts of how countries cut carbon, provide finance to poorer nations and ensure that everyone is doing what they say they are doing.

    Sorting out the rulebook sounds easy but is very technical. Countries often have different definitions and timetables for their carbon cutting actions.

    Poorer countries want some “flexibility” in the rules so that they are not overwhelmed with regulations that they don’t have the capacity to put into practice.

    The idea of being legally liable for causing climate change has long been rejected by richer nations, who fear huge bills well into the future.

    A deadlock between Brazil and other countries over the rules for the monitoring of carbon credits threatened to derail the talks.

    Brazil had been pushing for a weaker set of rules on carbon markets, despite strong opposition from many other countries. These discussions have now been deferred until next year.

    Further tensions emerged last weekend, scientists and delegates were shocked when the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to the meeting “welcoming” a recent UN report on keeping global temperature rise to within the 1.5C limit.

    The report said the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3C this century.

    In a compromise, the final statement from the summit welcomed the “completion” of the report and invited countries to make use of it.

    Is this enough?

    Laurence Tubiana, a key architect of the Paris agreement, and now with the European Climate Foundation, said the agreement was a big boost for the Paris pact.

    “The key piece was having a good transparency system because it builds trust between countries and because we can measure what is being done and it is precise enough,” she told BBC News on the sidelines of this meeting.

    “I am happy with that. Nobody can say that’s not clear, we don’t know what to do, or that it’s not true anymore. It’s very clear,”

    She said that countries like Russia- which had refused to ratify the Paris agreement because it wasn’t sure about the rules – could no longer use that excuse.

    However some observers say the deal is not sufficiently strong to deal with the urgency of the climate problem.

    In the words of one delegate, “it’s what’s possible, but not what’s necessary”.
    What about cutting carbon faster?

    There has been a big push for countries to up their ambition, to cut carbon deeper and with greater urgency.

    Many delegates want to see a rapid increase in ambition before 2020 to keep the chances of staying under 1.5C alive.

    Right now, the plans that countries lodged as part of the Paris agreement don’t get anywhere near that, described as “grossly insufficient” by one delegate from a climate vulnerable country.

    Business is also looking for a signal from this meeting about the future.

    “Companies are ready to invest and banks are ready to finance,” said Carlos Salle from Spanish energy conglomerate, Iberdrola.

    “So we need that greater ambition in the policy to enable business to move further and faster.”

    “There is No silver bullet, as they say, but there is plenty of silver buckshot” — Katherine Hayhoe

    “40 million Americans depend on the #ColoradoRiver. It’s drying up” — Grist #CRWUA2018 #COriver #aridification

    A heron on a big sandbank in upper Lake Powell, above Hite. As the big reservoir recedes due to almost 20 years of drought in the Colorado River basin, new sights are emerging. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

    From Grist (Eric Holthaus):

    Prompted by years of drought and mismanagement, a series of urgent multi-state meetings are currently underway in Las Vegas to renegotiate the use of the Colorado River. Seven states and the federal government are close to a deal, with a powerful group of farmers in Arizona being the lone holdouts.

    The stakes are almost impossibly high: The Colorado River provides water to 1-in-8 Americans, and irrigates 15 percent of the country’s agricultural products. The nearly 40 million people who depend on it live in cities from Los Angeles to Denver. The river supports native nations and industry across the vast desert Southwest — including 90 percent of U.S.-grown winter vegetables. Simply put: The region could not exist in its current form without it.

    Decades of warming temperatures have finally forced a confrontation with an inescapable truth: There’s no longer enough water to go around. This past winter was a preview of what the future will look like: A very low amount of snow fell across the mountains that feed the river, so water levels have plummeted to near-record low levels in vast Lake Mead and Lake Powell — the two mega-reservoirs that are used to regulate water resources during hard times.

    Since then, the news has only gotten worse.

    Water managers project that Lake Powell, which straddles the Arizona-Utah border, is on pace to lose 15 percent of its volume within the next 12 months. Lake Mead, which feeds hydroelectricity turbines at the Hoover Dam and is the region’s most important reservoir, will fare even worse — falling 22 percent in the next two years, below a critical cutoff point to trigger mandatory water rationing.

    “Within Arizona, we must agree to share the pain,” Governor Doug Ducey said at a meeting of state water managers in Phoenix this week. For many reasons, Arizona is going to suffer first. The state relies on the river for 40 percent of its water — and some cities, like Tucson, are entirely dependent on it. The prospect of near-term shortfalls, according to Ducey, means there’s “no time to spare.”

    […]

    To be clear: There is no remaining scenario that does not include mandatory cutbacks in water usage along the Colorado River within the next few years. The long-awaited judgement day for the Southwest is finally here.

    #CRWUA2018: Upper #ColoradoRiver Commission approves their #Drought Contingency Plan, Lower Basin gets a deadline from @USBR #DCP #COriver

    A September morning along the Green River this year was scenic, but the river was low, and has been for several Septembers in a row. Water managers in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado and working to put more water into both the Green and Colorado rivers in an effort to bolster water levels in Lake Powell. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    The Upper Colorado River Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to execute three agreements designed to bolster Lake Powell’s and Lake Mead’s water levels, which have been falling due to persistent drought and encroaching aridification in the Colorado River system.

    The members of the commission, established in 1948 to help administer the Colorado River Compact, include representatives from the “upper basin” states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, as well as a federal representative.

    The three agreements — and a set of companion agreements still being worked out in the “lower basin” states of California, Arizona and Nevada — are contingent upon federal legislation, which the involved parties hope to obtain during the current “lame duck” session of Congress.

    Before the vote, James Eklund, who represents Colorado on the commission, said the set of “drought contingency planning” agreements were “historic” in their importance.

    Asked after the meeting to put that into context, Eklund said, “I think we’re going to look back at this moment and realize that this was the opportunity we had to stand some tools up to keep the river system from crashing, or at least mitigate the impacts of it crashing.”

    The first agreement OK’d by the commission allows the upper basin states to coordinate with the Bureau of Reclamation on releasing water from Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa and Navajo reservoirs to send downstream to Lake Powell, currently 43 percent full and at a surface elevation of 3,585 feet above sea level.

    If Lake Powell, a huge reservoir formed by Glen Canyon Dam, falls to an elevation of 3,525 feet, then the “coordinated reservoir operations” agreement will kick in and water will be released from the three big upstream reservoirs to ensure that Lake Powell does not fall to 3,490 feet, which is the “minimum power pool” level when the dam’s hydropower generation ceases.

    It’s also the level at which it becomes harder to release enough water from the dam to meet the upper-basin states’ obligations, under the terms of the Colorado Compact, to annually deliver more than 8 million acre-feet of water to the lower-basin states.

    The second agreement approved Wednesday sets up a program where water can be stored in Lake Powell without the water being subject to a 2007 agreement that seeks to equalize the water levels of Lake Powell and Lake Mead, which today is 38 percent full. Under the terms of the compact, Lake Mead is considered to be in the lower basin.

    The water eligible under the agreement to be stored in Lake Powell, which would not be subject to being sent down to Lake Mead, must come from “conserved consumptive use,” or water that otherwise would have been mainly used in the growing of crops — such as alfalfa and hay — in the upper basin.

    Such a water-use-reduction effort is called a “demand management” program, and the details of programs in each of the upper-basin states still need to be worked out. But the second agreement approved Wednesday will create a way for the upper basin to securely store such “conserved” water in Lake Powell.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board, which manages water-supply planning in the state, recently adopted a policy saying it is committed to setting up a demand-management program that is “voluntary, temporary and compensated,” although there are fears, especially on the Western Slope, that such a program could become mandatory, long-term and uncompensated.

    The second agreement approved Wednesday allows for as much as 500,000 acre-feet of water to be stored in a demand-management pool in Lake Powell. By comparison, Ruedi Reservoir, above Basalt, holds 100,000 acre-feet of water.

    The third agreement is a “companion agreement” to a set of agreements that are still being negotiated in the lower basin that provide for water entities in California, Arizona and Nevada to reduce their water use and store the water in Lake Mead in an effort to keep operational that reservoir, formed by Hoover Dam.

    Patrick Tyrrell, who represents Wyoming on the upper-basin commission, echoed Eklund’s sentiments about the nature of the drought-management agreements, saying before the vote that “it is necessary and important to get this done at this time.”

    Tyrrell said the upper-basin states were going to keep urging the lower-basin states, especially Arizona, to come to terms on their draft agreements, as it was important for all the entities that depend on the river.

    Lake Powell, and an increasingly familiar bathtub ring. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

    Not ‘done done’

    The approval of the three agreements happened in Las Vegas, the location of the annual meeting of the Colorado River Water Users Association, where it is customary for water managers from both the upper basin and lower basin to meet for three days in mid-December in the conference center at Caesar’s Palace.

    There has been intense pressure for months on the lower-basin states to approve their set of “drought-contingency planning” documents during the conference, as the upper-basin states did Wednesday, but there are still complicated issues to be worked out among water entities in Arizona.

    Terry Fulp, the regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation in the lower Colorado River region, on Wednesday told the ballroom full of water managers from the upper basin that the lower-basin entities were making progress and were closer than ever to reaching consensus.

    He also said he’s learned to distinguish between agreements that are “done” and those that are “done done,” or truly finalized.

    “We’re definitely not ‘done done,’” Fulp said of the lower basin. “And we’re probably not ‘done,’ but we’ve come a long way.”

    He also said that over the past three months, the process has managed to step over any number of stumbling blocks that could have set back the entire process.

    “It’s within our power to keep ourselves on the trajectory that this basin has been on for two decades,” Fulp said, referring to the overall Colorado River basin. “And that trajectory is one of collaboration and problem solving and doing it together, and not waiting until the secretary of the Interior, or someone, has to come in and solve it for us.”

    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.

    Federal deadline

    Fulp’s boss, Brenda Burman, is the commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, which is part of the Interior Department.

    If the upper- and lower-basin states can’t find a way to keep Lake Powell and Lake Mead functioning, it’s up to Burman to intervene.

    On Thursday, Burman spoke to the attendees at the Colorado River Water Users Association meeting and set a Jan. 31 deadline for parties in Arizona and California to approve the proposed drought contingency agreements.

    “It is high time to wrap up these efforts,” she said.

    If the parties have not do so by then, Burman said Reclamation will publish a notice in the federal register and give the parties 30 days to submit proposals to the Secretary of the Interior on what next steps he should take to avoid a crisis in the basin.

    “We will act, if needed, to protect this basin,” Burman said.

    The possibility of direct federal intervention on the Colorado River system is something that many water managers in the seven basin states want to avoid.

    Burman said the combined level of storage in Lake Mead and Lake Powell is at 46 percent, the lowest combined level since 1966, when Lake Powell was filling for the first time.

    “It is time for us to pay attention,” Burman said. “We are quickly running out of time.”

    She praised the upper basin states for reaching agreement, and she challenged the entities involved in California and Arizona to “step up, compromise and contribute.”

    She also said just getting close to an agreement was not the point.

    “Close isn’t done, and we are not done,” she said. “Only done will protect this basin.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism covers water and rivers in collaboration with The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and other Swift Communications newspapers. The Post Independent published a version of this story on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2018. This version was updated on Thursday to include Commissioner Burman’s comments.

    From The Arizona Republic (Ian James):

    Federal Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman set a firm deadline for Western states to finish a set of Colorado River drought agreements, telling Arizona and California they need to sign on by Jan. 31.

    If states fail to meet that deadline, Burman said, the federal government will get involved and step in to prevent reservoirs from falling to critically low levels.

    “We are quickly running out of time,” Burman told water managers from across the West at an annual Colorado River conference. “Today’s level of risk is unacceptable and the chance for a crisis is far too high.”

    She pointed out that Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the river’s two main reservoirs, are together at their lowest level since Glen Canyon Dam was built and Powell was filled in 1966.

    “To put it in more personal terms, these are the lowest reservoir levels in my lifetime,” Burman said. “We are teetering on the brink of a shortage today, and we see real risk of rapid declines in reservoir elevations, particularly at Lake Mead, in the very near future.”

    […]

    Burman’s remarks met resistance in Arizona, where legislative leaders cautioned against rushing into action and said they wanted time to study the final version of the agreement…

    “Close isn’t done, and we are not done. Only done will protect this basin,” Burman said. “It is high time to wrap up these efforts.”

    […]

    She said based on current trends, the level of Lake Mead, which now stands at an elevation of 1,079 feet, is projected to fall about 30 feet, below 1,050 feet, by the summer of 2020 — a level that would put the biggest reservoir in the country deep into a shortage.

    “It is time for us to pay attention,” Burman said. She said she’s encouraged by recent progress in the negotiations, and Arizona has made “remarkable progress” in developing the outline of an agreement for the state to participate in the larger three-state deal with California and Nevada.

    She warned, though, that the Interior Department can’t wait much longer for the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP, until it takes action.

    The Central Arizona Aqueduct delivers water from the Colorado River. Photo credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

    From The Arizona Daily Star (Tony Davis):

    Commissioner Brenda Burman said she would take unspecified actions to protect Lakes Mead and Powell and the river itself if the states don’t approve drought contingency plans by the end of January. Acknowledging that both states are close to approving plans, she emphasized, “almost is not done.”

    While it’s unclear what she would ultimately do, officials of the basin states have long speculated that Reclamation would order specific cuts in river supplies to individual states to keep the reservoirs from crashing.

    The states have their own legal allocations to water supplies from the river due to the 1922 Colorado River compact, which all basin states have signed. But given federal control over management of the entire river basin, state water officials have long feared such federal intervention if they couldn’t come up with their own drought plans to adapt to river flows that have steadily declined since 2000.

    Burman’s statement and a subsequent talk she gave Thursday at a Colorado River conference in Las Vegas focused on the ailing reservoirs, Lakes Mead and Powell. They store drinking water and generate electric power for the basin states. Mead stores water for the Central Arizona Project that is Tucson’s main source of drinking water.

    Burman noted that Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Nevada have all adopted drought contingency plans although Arizona and California have not.

    “This is not the (Reclamation) department’s preferred course of action, but action must be taken to protect the basin,” said Burman, who received a University of Arizona law degree and worked in the past for Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona and for the Phoenix-based Salt River Project.

    Reaction to Burman’s warning was very favorable from many Arizona water officials, experts and activists.

    “Right on Commissioner Burman! That’s what she should be doing — keeping the pressure on,” said former Arizona Department of Water Resources director Kathy Ferris.

    This isn’t the first time the feds have threatened a takeover of river management to prod the states into action on drought plans. But Burman’s threat is more specific and more imminent than those made during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

    From The Nevada Independent (Daniel Rothberg):

    Looming in the background of her comments was Lake Mead. As nearly two decades of drought and overuse has strained water supplies, the country’s largest reservoir — impounded by the Hoover Dam about 30 minutes outside of Las Vegas — has dropped to nearly 38 percent of its capacity. That means less water stored for users at farms and cities across the arid Southwest.

    “We are teetering on the brink of a shortage today,” said Burman, after offering a sobering hydrologic assessment. “It is time for us to pay attention. We are quickly running out of time.”

    Even before Jan. 31, Lake Mead will feel the effects of not having a drought plan in physical and concrete ways. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California plans to begin taking stored water out of the reservoir starting in January, said its general manager, Jeff Kightlinger.

    The district, a wholesale water provider for Southern California cities, currently stores surplus water in Mead to keep reservoir elevations above a shortage level. With a drought plan in place, it would not be able to access that water in times of shortage. Because of uncertainty with the drought plan, Kightlinger said his staff is planning to begin removing the water in early January. That would further lower the reservoir level, making a shortage at Lake Mead even more likely.

    “That’s not what we want to do,” he said, noting that the district needed to protect access to its water but that it could put the water back in the reservoir when a drought plan is agreed to.

    “This is not something we do lightly,” he said. “But I don’t want to jeopardize my constituents.”

    […]

    During a panel Thursday, Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager John Entsminger applauded the commissioner for “laying down the gauntlet” to get a drought plan completed.

    “I think the states need it,” Entsminger said. “I think this is the appropriate juncture to have it.”

    But Entsminger said the Drought Contingency Plan was still the preferred approach. When Lake Mead slips into shortage, that plan would require the states to take additional cuts in their river allocations, which were set forth in the Colorado River Compact of 1922. Because of conservation, the water authority has long argued that it would be able to weather the cuts in its supply.

    The idea is that by taking voluntary cuts, the states can avoid even more severe cuts in the future or cuts that might be required by the federal government if it took unilateral action.

    The water authority approved the drought plan in November, as have most large-scale users in California (with stipulations to see the final approvals). The primary holdout is Arizona, where cuts in the drought plan would be the most significant for agriculture and some developers.

    Arizona negotiators Tom Buschatzke, the head of the state’s Department of Water Resources, and Ted Cooke, the general manager of the Central Arizona Project, said they are close to a deal. But echoing the theme of the Colorado River conference, they both said close is not done.

    Unlike in Nevada and California, where state negotiators like Entsminger can sign on behalf of the state, any Arizona drought plan must receive approval from state legislators, making an already complex problem of water law an even more complex problem involving state politics.

    In a joint interview after the morning panel, Buschatzke and Cooke said they are working to execute side agreements with stakeholders to ensure that there is enough political support among cities, tribes and agricultural interests to convince the Legislature to pass a resolution…

    Kathryn Sorensen, the director of Phoenix Water, said that what Arizona is going through is a challenging discussion of how to lose less water in a basin where that is a reality amid drought and climate change. There is more water on paper than there is actual water to go around.

    “Central Arizona is looking at losing potentially half of its [Colorado River] water supply through the [drought plan],” she said. “Every single drop of water is accounted for and being used. So of course, those are really difficult conversations. So we have to come up with a way to make those reductions in a collaborative manner because everyone holds veto power over everybody else in some fashion. And plus, you want to look at the equity of the proposition as well.”

    In Arizona, agricultural interests have pushed for the state and federal government to provide funding to offset the water they would lose under the drought plan. Under the plan, farmers would receive water for three years and then be required to switch to groundwater. The state and federal government plan to commit funding to help farmers make that transition to wells…

    What concerns Entsminger and others is the forecast that federal water managers are likely to declare a Lake Mead shortage as early as 2020. Such a declaration would be unprecedented, and water managers have stressed that they want to be prepared before a shortage, not after.

    “I don’t think responsible water managers can go into Water Year 2020 without a plan,” he said…

    James Eklund, the negotiator for Colorado, said the approval was a big deal for the states. But he noted that a full drought plan would not be complete until the Lower Basin states signed on. Even though the short-term plan to use less water across the Colorado River is attempting to address drought, Eklund said that it is, in some ways, also addressing climate change.

    For nearly 20 years, the Colorado River Basin has faced a drought that has challenged the assumptions that the watershed would be able to provide the amount of water that states are legally allowed to take from it. Studies have linked warm temperatures with reduced streamflow in the river and have predicted that climate change to continue drawing down future supplies.

    “It is inextricably linked with climate,” Eklund said. “There is an existential question on this river about how we deal with climate. It’s not so much climate itself. It’s how we respond — if we respond. And the Drought Contingency Plan is an answer, but it is unlikely to be a panacea, a silver bullet that fixes this for all time. But we have to do what we can when we can.”

    From Nevada Today (Andrew Davey):

    Officials from the federal government and seven states are meeting in Las Vegas this week to discuss the future of the Colorado River. The original plan was for the states to unveil an unprecedented set of drought contingency plans to adapt to continually dropping Colorado River levels. But due to protracted negotiations within California and Arizona, that isn’t happening.

    Instead, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation warned everyone that if all drought contingency plans are not submitted by January 31, 2019, the federal government will prepare to potentially mandate cuts in 2020. How might this affect Nevada, how are we preparing for prolonged drought becoming permanent “aridification”, and how might we have to change to ensure we’re never left high and dry?

    At last year’s Colorado River Water Users’ Association (CRWUA) annual conference, newly confirmed U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman encouraged all seven Colorado River states (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California) to present their drought contingency plans (DCP’s, or comprehensive agreements that include voluntary water cuts) by December 2018. Federal and state officials then prepared to present all seven states’ DCP’s here in Las Vegas this week.

    That’s not happening. Though California may be close to finalizing their own DCP, Arizona stakeholders continue to debate what exactly will constitute their DCP, from Phoenix’s City Council at a stalemate over a water rate hike to pay for infrastructure improvements to the Arizona Legislature preparing to debate the overall DCP when they convene next month. The Arizona officials who spoke at the conference claimed all sides have made considerable progress in nearing a final agreement, a sentiment that Burman herself also expressed today.

    In June, High Country News’ Emily Benson wrote about how the word “drought” is no longer the most accurate way to describe the Southwest’s ongoing dry spell. Instead she used the word “aridification”, and Esquire‘s Charlie Pierce followed suit this week as he described the tension that’s led into this year’s CRWUA Conference. Due to that (not-so-little) thing called climate change, this frightening terminology is becoming less of a far-off “worst-case scenario” and more of a clear and present danger that must be solved right here and now.

    So how does this aridification affect our already very arid expanse of Southern Nevada? According to Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) General Manager John Entsminger, it’s something they’ve already been preparing for: “Anyone who has lived in Southern Nevada has seen Lake Mead declining. The drought contingency plan […] makes sure more water stays at Lake Mead, but it also gives users flexibility to make sure our supplies are sufficient.”

    Unlike Arizona, Nevada has already approved its DCP, as Nevada only needed the SNWA board’s approval and the Nevada Colorado River Commission‘s approval. So what exactly does this DCP entail? According to Entsminger, “For Nevada, that contingency plan requires us to leave more water at the lake at certain levels. It also gives us more tools to bring water into the lake, and take it out when we need it.”

    And how exactly will Nevada make this work? For Entsminger, this is why it’s made sense to “stay water smart”. As he put it, “Our community has done a fantastic job with conservation. As a result, we have extra water to leave at the lake. This deal will allow us to leave water in the lake for future use.”

    “When you live in the driest state in the union, everything is on the table […] But again, if we can take care of the conservation, we’re not going to need to worry about new sources of water for decades to come.” – John Entsminger, SNWA

    So what else can we do? For Entsminger, removing more ornamental lawn grass and reaching the goals set by the conservation standards we already have on the books will make a huge difference: “I believe that removing the 5,000 acres of nonfunctional turf [grass] from the valley and enforcing the rules we have on the books will guarantee us a safe and reliable water supply for the next 50 years.”

    From Arizona Public Media (Luke Runyon):

    To a gilded Caesars Palace conference room of more than 1,000 attendees of the annual Colorado River conference, the message from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation commissioner Brenda Burman was simple: Finish these deals before the federal government is forced to step in.

    “We are teetering on the brink of shortage today,” Burman said. “And we see real risk of rapid declines in reservoir elevations.”

    “We all know it is high time to wrap up these efforts,” Burman added.

    Out of the seven U.S. states that pull water from the river, Arizona has struggled the most to figure out which water users would see cutbacks first, by how much and under what conditions. The debate has pitted farmers against the cities, home builders and tribes who rely on deliveries of Colorado River water from a 336-mile canal.

    Completion of the plans became more urgent after the record hot and dry conditions within the Colorado River Basin this past year, Burman said. Portions of Colorado and Arizona experienced their record hottest and driest summer during 2018. Snowpack this winter is hovering around average levels.

    A final deal will require federal legislation and approval by the Arizona Legislature before it can be put into action.

    Salton Sea screen shot credit Greetings from the Salton Sea — Kim Stringfellow.

    From the Associated Press (Ken Ritter) via The Denver Post:

    Burman identified California and Arizona as the holdouts.

    “Close isn’t ‘done,’ ” she told a standing-room crowd at the Colorado River Water Users Association conference at a Las Vegas Strip resort. “Only ‘done’ will protect this basin.”

    The river that carries winter snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico is plumbed with dams to generate hydropower and meter water releases. It provides drinking water to 40 million people and cities including Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Phoenix and Las Vegas. It irrigates crops in wide areas once deemed as reclaimed desert in the U.S. and Mexico.

    The keys to contingency plans are voluntary agreements to use less water than users are allocated from the river’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Powell behind the Glen Canyon Dam on the Arizona-Utah state line and Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam just east of Las Vegas…

    Indian tribes also are involved, and Burman on Thursday announced publication of a report called the Colorado River Basin Ten Tribes Partnership Tribal Water Study . It charts water claims and use by tribes that hold rights to divert almost 20 percent of the water in the river.

    A drought-shortage declaration next year would cut 11.4 percent of Arizona’s usual river water allocation beginning in 2020, and 4.3 percent of Nevada’s share. That amount of water, combined, would serve more than 625,000 homes. California would voluntarily reduce its Colorado River use by about 6 percent…

    In California, the largest municipal suppliers have signed on, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California serving some 19 million people.

    However, the sprawling Imperial Irrigation District, which holds some of the largest and oldest rights to river water, has so far granted only tentative approval. James Hanks, board president, said in an interview the district wants to be last to sign so it can see what others agree to.

    It also wants government help to save the Salton Sea, a briny shallow desert lake east of Palm Springs, California, that is fed primarily by agricultural irrigation runoff. Dusty hot winds blowing across exposed former shorelines are blamed for asthma by area residents who also complain of sometimes brackish smells…

    “Everyone thinks their own water use is justified and no one else’s is,” observed Kathryn Sorensen, Phoenix city water services director.

    Keith Moses, vice chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribal Council in Arizona, offered what he saw as a key to complex water questions.

    “To me, the best way of conserving water is not to use it,” he said before adding that he knew that would mean limiting growth so as not to continue to drain the Colorado River.

    “Realistically,” he added, “looking at it, that’s not going to happen.”

    Take some time to review the #CRWUA2018 Twitter stream. Folks have been very active.

    Detailed Colorado River Basin map via the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    #Drought news: No change in depiction for #Colorado

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

    Summary

    Over the past week, moderate to heavy precipitation fell over much of the southern tier of the United States. The highest amounts occurred from eastern Texas through the Carolinas, and relatively high amounts also fell in southern California and southwestern Arizona. Elsewhere, precipitation also fell in the Coastal Ranges from northern California to the Canadian border. Cooler than normal weather occurred over most of the United States east of the Continental Divide, while warmer conditions were found in parts of California, Arizona, and southeastern New Mexico. Improvements in drought conditions occurred in the Mojave Desert regions of California and Arizona, from San Francisco Bay into the Central Valley. Drought developed or worsened in central Nevada, northwestern Oregon, from northeastern Oklahoma into southwestern Missouri, and in the Florida Peninsula…

    High Plains

    Weather across the High Plains this week was generally dry, with cooler weather taking place in Nebraska and Kansas, and more variable temperatures occurring in the Dakotas and in the high plains sections of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Abnormally dry conditions improved in north-central Montana, as long-term precipitation deficits had lessened such that conditions were no longer abnormally dry. Elsewhere, the drought depiction was unchanged…

    West

    Moderate to heavy precipitation fell in the Mojave Desert region of California and Arizona, giving some of these areas 10-25% of their annual precipitation. This lessened long-term deficits in southeastern California and parts of southwestern Arizona, leading to widespread one-category improvements. Moderate drought also was removed from the San Francisco Bay to the Central Valley area, where short- and long-term precipitation deficits had been reduced enough to bring them out of moderate drought. Despite some recent precipitation in northwestern Oregon, short- and long-term precipitation deficits were large enough and surface and groundwater shortages severe enough to expand the footprint of extreme drought in this area. In central Nevada, moderate drought was introduced where precipitation deficits grew on multiple time scales and streamflow conditions worsened. Abnormally dry conditions expanded through parts of the mountains of central Idaho and in mountainous regions of northwestern Montana, where low snowpack existed and short-term precipitation deficits grew…

    South

    Moderate to heavy precipitation took place this week from western Texas through southern Oklahoma and central and southern Arkansas, into the Southeast. Slight improvements were made in southwestern Texas, where recent heavy rain was enough to lessen the extent of abnormally dry conditions since short-term precipitation deficits improved here. North of where the precipitation fell, abnormally dry conditions and moderate drought were expanded in north-central and northeastern Oklahoma. Elsewhere, given the widespread precipitation that fell, no changes were made to the drought depiction…

    Looking Ahead

    Next week, a strong storm system is forecast to develop over the southern Plains and move eastward across the United States. Moderate to heavy rain, perhaps mixed with some snow, is forecast in north Texas, and this precipitation is expected to move eastward to the southeastern U.S. coast. Windy conditions are likely in the southern Plains on Thursday and Friday as this storm system moves across the region, which may lead to increased evaporative demand in the region. Generally warmer than normal conditions are also forecast in much of the continental U.S., though short periods of cooler than normal weather may occur from Texas eastward to the Atlantic Coast.

    Drought Monitor one week change map through December 11, 2018.

    @ColoradoClimate: Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

    Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

    Little Snake River Dam backers forge ahead with $11 million, seek more from feds — WyoFile.com

    Proposed dam site on West Fork of Battle Creek, Little Snake River watershed S. of Rawlins, Wyoming via the Wyoming Water Development Office.

    From WyoFile.com (Angus M. Thuermer Jr.):

    The plan to impound 10,000 acre feet of water on the West Fork of Battle Creek barely survived a legislative roadblock earlier this year when the Wyoming House stripped $40 million from a water bill that had been earmarked for the project. A compromise with the Senate saw $4.7 million in appropriations restored, but with caveats requiring further legislative approval for expenditures and pro-rata financial participation from potential beneficiaries in Colorado.

    Dam backers are not for the moment returning to Wyoming’s financial well. Neither of two draft 2019 water bills that propose more than $28 million for water planning and development statewide include funding for the project, according to a review of draft bills posted online. But two water districts — one in Colorado and one in Wyoming — are asking for a total of $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct environmental reviews of the dam and reservoir that would be constructed in the Medicine Bow National Forest, officials say.

    Meantime, dam backers failed to win full-throated support for the $80 million project from a water coalition in Northern Colorado. Instead, members of the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable said they supported further evaluation of the proposed dam, but not yet construction of the facility itself (see letter below).

    Dam backers also must figure out whether Wyoming and Colorado’s new governors — both of whom were elected in November — will support the project and to what degree. Wyoming Water Development Office Director Harry LaBonde said he continues to work with his counterpart in Colorado to obtain support and money but the election means dam backers have to undertake a new round of lobbying.

    “Every time there’s a new governor, all those conversations start over,” he said in a telephone interview.

    Show-me tour wins tepid Colorado support

    To build Colorado support, Wyoming officials took members of the Colorado roundtable on a tour of the dam site and surrounding area last summer. LaBonde drafted a letter of support that the Colorado group could consider signing its name to in late November, group chairman Jackie Brown said. “We require[d] that,” she said of the draft correspondence.

    It proposed that the roundtable, a coalition of water users that includes irrigators, municipal interests, and recreation representatives, write the following; “We would like to offer this letter of support for the project and look forward to working with your office to continue to move this project forward for the mutual benefit of water users in both states.”

    LaBonde’s version stated that the project would have $92 million in benefits. It said the Wyoming Legislature has already appropriated $11.3 million to build the dam and that Colorado irrigators could have a chance to buy some of the stored water. The $11 million figure comes from a $7 million planning appropriation, very little of which was used, plus the conditional $4.7 million appropriation earlier this year.

    “As the project is currently configured approximately 4,000 – 5,000 acres of irrigated lands in Colorado would be potentially eligible to purchase supplemental irrigation water from the project,” LaBonde’s draft said.

    The Colorado roundtable adopted most of the proposed language. But “the group stopped short of supporting the project,” LaBonde said, backing an investigative process only.

    “At our November 14th meeting, the Roundtable unanimously approved the support for the process of reviewing a reservoir at the west fork of Battle Creek,” the final roundtable letter, dated Nov. 27, reads. “The membership would like to be clear that this is not support of the reservoir itself, only the process of the exploration, as approval of a reservoir would need to come before the membership in a final format, after [National Environmental Policy Act analysis] has been completed.”

    The roundtable also dropped proposed language that stated it “would like to continue … identifying other funding opportunities for this project.” Instead, the Colorado group said it “supports the development of water resource in the basin and would be happy to work with local water users in Colorado and Wyoming and the State of Wyoming.”

    The proposed dam on the West Fork of Battle Creek would serve 67 to 100 irrigators, studies commissioned by the Water Development Office say. The most likely beneficiaries in Colorado would appear to be members of the Pot Hook Water Conservancy District that joined the Savery-Little Snake district in applying for the $1.2 million federal grant.

    That district appears to be relatively small. In 2017 it held a successful election to impose a four-mill property tax that would raise $12,831.48 in 2018, and similar amounts in subsequent years. The tax money will “meet the future needs of landowners within the district” and “proactively protect … existing water rights,” according to a description of the measure. It passed on a 13-7 vote.

    O’Toole agreed with LaBonde that the fresh administrations in Cheyenne and Denver will require a renewed effort securing support — support that backers couldn’t find in their home House of Representatives. “I’m going to watch and see who gets picked for positions and go from there,” O’Toole said.

    Among the considerations is the announced retirement of Wyoming State Engineer Pat Tyrrell who has held the cabinet-level position since 2001. A gubernatorial appointee who’s considered the state’s water czar, his office resolves conflicts among users and represents Wyoming during inter-state negotiations. When Tyrrell retires in January, he will have served under four governors.

    Meantime, conditions in the Little Snake River Basin are deteriorating, O’Toole said, as a 19-year-drought is forcing water users to plan for shortages. “We saw the [Little Snake] River in a state I’ve never seen,” he said. This summer, for the first time ever, there was a call for regulation on Colorado’s Yampa River as water users asked state regulators to enforce prior appropriation doctrine and law. Those ensure that during low flows the holders of earlier water rights get their allocation before holders of more recent rights can divert river flows.

    Backers want federal funds but not oversight

    West Fork Dam supporters want a land exchange that would give Wyoming some 100 acres of federal property in the Medicine Bow National Forest to construct the proposed dam and impound the reservoir. Such a deal would exempt the project from some aspects of the demanding NEPA process, likely making it easier to accomplish. So far, the federal agency hasn’t received any formal requests for development, forest spokesman Aaron Voos said in a telephone interview from forest headquarters in Laramie.

    Yampa River Basin via Wikimedia.

    Coyote Gulch outage #CRWUA2018 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    I’m heading to Las Vegas for the Colorado River Water Users Association Annual Conference. Posting here may be intermittent.

    You can follow along with the hash tag #CRWUA2018 or follow @CRWUAwater.

    I love this conference. The networking opportunities blow me away. I’ll be up front in the sessions live-tweeting the goings on. Stop by and introduce yourself.