Cash for Grass: #Colorado to pay for turf removal, boost #water #conservation — @WaterEdCO

Thornton home and lawn 2019. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Caitlin Coleman):

A new turf replacement program, set to roll out in Colorado in 2023, will pay to convert some of the grass in urban areas and residential yards into more water-efficient landscaping. This is the first time the State of Colorado has dedicated funds expressly to turf replacement. It’s an important step to increase water conservation and get it closer to where it needs to be, said state officials and conservation leaders at a confab earlier this month. But this version of cash for grass will be just one of many tools — and maybe not the most influential one — that will transform landscaping in the state in response to climate change and reduced water availability.

As climate change, drought, and crisis on the Colorado River intensify, outdoor water use and nonessential turf become increasingly important targets for water conservation. Today, 40% of Colorado’s municipal and industrial water use goes toward outdoor irrigation.

“Water conservation is critical. We’re talking about how we can build the landscapes of tomorrow, today,” said Russ Sands section chief of water supply planning for the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) in kicking off the Colorado Landscape Summit on November 9. More than 150 people attended, either online or in person, this first-ever landscape summit hosted by the CWCB at Metro State University in Denver. “Outdoor turf removal is a really critical part of this discussion.”

The outdoor water-saving conversation has been gaining momentum in Colorado. The state legislature passed House Bill 1151 in June 2022, requiring the CWCB to develop a turf replacement program that will provide incentives for replacing nonessential irrigated turf with more water-wise landscaping. According to the bill, examples of nonessential turf include medians, land adjacent to open spaces, stormwater detention basins, commercial or industrial properties, portions of residential lawns, and more. The new law also came with an allocation of $2 million to finance the program.

Now the agency is working to set up that grant program, with details expected this spring and applications set to open sometime after July 2023. Local governments, special districts, nonprofits, and tribal nations will be eligible to apply, and individuals interested in receiving funds may be able to work with those entities to access the money.

But the program’s $2 million in initial funds won’t stretch far or transform the state’s turf on its own, said Peter Mayer with Water Demand Management, or WaterDM, an engineering consulting firm.

“The amount of money being spent in Colorado is ultimately nothing compared with what’s being spent in a single year in southern Nevada or southern California,” Mayer said.

After subtracting staffing and administration costs, some $1.5 million will remain for incentives to transform landscapes. That money is expected to be distributed in two cycles of $750,000 over two years, with the majority funneled into existing local turf replacement programs. For the program to continue beyond 2025, Colorado will have to find additional funding. However, though not specifically set aside for turf replacement, the CWCB’s Water Plan Grants and Water Supply Reserve Fund Grants may also be used to fund turf replacement work.

In August 2022, some public water providers and cities who rely on water supplies from the Colorado River Basin, including Aurora Water, Denver Water and Pueblo Water, signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing to reduce per capita water use. On November 15, additional water providers and agencies signed on, bringing the total to more than 30 entities across the West. The MOU says each of the water providers will introduce a program to reduce the amount of “non-functional turf grass by 30% through replacement with drought- and climate-resilient landscaping, while maintaining vital urban landscapes and tree canopies that benefit our communities, wildlife and the environment.” Details about how this will be accomplished have not yet been released.

Colorado is hoping to maintain those same qualities with its turf replacement program, said Sands.

But there’s still a lot to learn about how much savings Colorado can expect from turf replacement, what level of incentives are necessary to encourage participation, and what other potential costs and benefits there may be.

The state is trying to learn from neighbors with large-scale programs. The Southern Nevada Water Authority, which provides water to Las Vegas and surrounding cities, has been collecting data on its turf replacement program for almost 25 years, providing a helpful resource for Colorado officials.

Since the late 1990s, the authority has converted about 4,600 acres of turf, saving 467,000 acre-feet of water, at a cost of around $285 million. The average landscape conversion through the authority’s program resulted in a 19% to 21% reduction in water use. Among other findings, participation in the authority’s program correlates with the scale of the incentives – when cash incentives increase, participation increases.

Colorado should expect about one-third of the water savings that Nevada has seen, said Doug Jeavons, managing director with BBC Research, a firm that served as the CWCB’s water economy specialist in working on the 2019 Technical Update to the Colorado Water Plan. That is because of cooler temperatures and the fact that we don’t water turf year-round here, which means a lower starting point for outdoor water use and therefore less potential savings from turf replacement.

“Lower [water] savings basically means less favorable economics for a property that wants to participate in this program,” Jeavons said. In other words, it will take a property in Colorado more time to see the cost savings that result from reduced water bills due to their landscape conversion than it does in Nevada.

Economics aren’t the only reason to convert a property’s turf to water-wise landscaping. A 2018 Alliance for Water Efficiency study on landscape transformation found that most customers aren’t happy with their landscaping and 69% of all respondents have already considered taking out their lawns, said Mayer, who led the study.

“There’s just not enough [state] money to buy [out] all the landscapes [to transform them from grass to water-wise vegetation] so we have to do the work ourselves toward changing the market and shifting the culture,” Mayer said. “We have to create a new Colorado landscape ethos of less water use, minimizing outdoor water use.”

According to Mayer, incentives aren’t the only way to encourage that change. Codes, ordinances, regulations, land use planning and zoning, water bills, and ultimately education and culture change all play a role, he said. But while making those changes, it’s important to minimize any unintended negative impacts, maintain the tree canopy, minimize the heat island effect, and transform landscapes in an equitable way.

To date, 22 turf replacement programs exist across Colorado, and many other utilities have water conservation programs that target outdoor irrigation.

Colorado Springs Utilities offers a turf replacement rebate and works to incentivize customers to update their landscaping, shifting to plants that can thrive on 12 inches of irrigation per year or less, said Julia Gallucci, the water conservation supervisor for the utility. The city is also focusing on retrofitting parks and public areas where people can see examples of different types of water-wise landscaping.

Colorado’s West Slope communities are also looking to reduce outdoor water use, but face different challenges.

Some residents in the Roaring Fork Valley, for instance, use untreated water for outdoor irrigation that is not metered through the utility, complicating conservation efforts. “We have raw water supplies so it’s difficult to put in outdoor water restrictions because a neighbor might be pulling water from a ditch, so there’s confusion,” said April Long manager of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority. “I think we still need to do some work on changing expectations.”

Meanwhile, the City of Aurora, which offers a grass replacement incentive, upped the ante. In August 2022, the city passed an ordinance that restricts turf in new developments. The city no longer allows “non-functional,” cool weather turf to be installed at new development projects, redevelopment, or at new golf courses. The installation of turf is also banned from medians, curbsides and residential front yards.

“The key is to not put turf in in the first place,” said Tim York, water conservation supervisor for the City of Aurora. In developing its ordinance, Aurora engaged developers and community members. “You want them to get involved because it’s the right thing to do, not because we told them to do it.”

Caitlin Coleman is a contributor to Fresh Water News and is editor of Water Education Colorado’s Headwaters Magazine. She can be reached at caitlin@wateredco.org.

Borne of Water — American Rivers

Borne of Water illustrates the journey of water, from mountain snow to flowing rivers. Inspired by a historical Hopi event, the film shows how climate change is impacting water and rivers today. Reduced snowpack and shrinking flows impact all who live along the river. Tiyo, a Hopi boy, grows curious about where the water goes once it passes through his village on the Colorado River. To quench his curiosity, he traverses the Colorado River in hopes of saving his village from drought. Through Tiyo’s journey and lessons about what changes and what remains, we find deeper meaning in how water connects us to past, present, and future.

Imperial Irrigation District approves possible $250 million #SaltonSea deal with feds, state — The Palm Springs Desert Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

The New River, a contaminated waterway that flows north from Mexico, spills into the Salton Sea in southwestern California’s Imperial Valley. (Image: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

Click the link to read the article on the Palm Springs Desert Sun website (Janet Wilson). Here’s an excerpt:

Southern California’s powerful Imperial Irrigation District voted late Tuesday [November 22, 2022] 3-2 to ink an agreement with federal and state officials that could yield as much as $250 million for Salton Sea restoration projects in exchange for not using another 250,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water. An acre-foot is enough to supply about two households. The vote came despite livid objections from Imperial County farmers and environmental groups, who questioned why such a major agreement was being voted on just 24 hours after it was made public, and four days before two newly elected board members are slated to be sworn in to the five-member panel, replacing outgoing president Jim Hanks and outgoing director Norma Galindo, two of the three backers of the agreement on Tuesday…

“Most of us heard about this four-way deal for the first time through the news media Monday afternoon …. The omission of public input borders on a violation of human rights when dealing with something essential to living like water,” said Jose Flores, research and advocacy specialist at Comite Civico del Valle, a nonprofit community advocacy group, who denounced it as a “half-baked deal.”

[…]

But director JB Hamby, agreeing with a majority of the board and the district’s general manager and water director said, “there is no down side” to the agreement with the U.S. Department of Interior, the California Natural Resources Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District because while it does not bind the district to cuts, it guarantees critical federal support if cuts are implemented. The agreement also would release IID from liability for wind-borne pesticides and other toxics contained in exposed lake bed, and loss of habitat for endangered birds and other species. Instead the state of California would absorb that risk. In exchange, IID agreed to guarantee state contractors long-sought access to its lands to construct restoration projects, and to provide up to 100,000 acre-feet from New River supply, not Colorado River supply. Outgoing president Hanks said the agreement guarantees up-front for the first time in decades of cuts that federal and state officials will pay for impacts to the Salton Sea from reduced Colorado River supply. The sea is dependent on runoff from Colorado River water provided to farms along its shores for its continued existence. Since 2003, a series of agreements have diverted large amounts from the farms and the lake to urban areas.

Reclamation selects nine projects to receive $1.69 million to test innovative and new #water treatment technologies: Technologies may increase access to water that was not previously usable

Excess nitrogen and phosphorus in waterbodies, known as nutrient pollution, is a growing problem in Utah and across the country. Nutrients are linked to cyanobacterial growth, including harmful algal blooms, and can lower dissolved-oxygen levels in waterbodies, adversely affecting aquatic life. This pollution comes from a variety of sources, including wastewater treatment plants, nonpoint source pollution from agricultural operations, and residential and municipal stormwater runoff. Nutrient pollution poses a significant threat to Utah’s economic growth and quality of life, leading to substantial costs to the state and taxpayers if left unaddressed.

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

The Bureau of Reclamation is providing $1.69 million to nine projects that offer innovative and novel water treatment technologies that may make previously unusable water available. The funding is being provided for the recipients to conduct pilot testing on their proposed technology.

“Reclamation has been supporting utilizing new and novel technologies for water resource development for 120 years,” said Chief Engineer David Raff. “Water treatment technology is evolving rapidly, and these projects can improve and expand the accessibility to previously unusable water, especially for communities with some of the most urgent water needs.”

The projects were selected through a unique, two-stage process. For the first stage, a project description was submitted summarizing a research idea. Reviewers evaluated these ideas against the provided criteria. Those projects selected from the first stage then pitched their idea to a panel of experts through a live presentation and answered the same experts’ questions.

The selected projects are:

Carollo Engineers, Inc.: Pilot Testing of a Novel Energy Efficient Configuration for Carbon Diversion and CEC Removal, $200,000

Carollo Engineers, Inc.: An Innovative Ion Exchange-Based Advanced Treatment (XBAT) Approach for Direct and Indirect Potable Reuse, $199,989

Enspired Solutions LLC: Reductive Defluorination PFAS Destruction Field-scale Pilot Test, $200,000

Hazen and Sawyer: Improving RO Recovery through Optimization of Flux and Pump Usage with Real-Time Sensor Connectivity, Data-driven Modeling, and Automation, $197,294

Hazen and Sawyer: Pilot Scale PFAS Destruction in Membrane Concentrate via Electrochemical Oxidation, $196,916

Orange County Water District: In-Situ Gravity Driven Removal of PFAS During Groundwater Recharge to Protect Drinking Water, $199,430

South Platte Renew: Retrofitting Existing Infrastructure for Sidestream Biological Phosphorus Treatment to Reduce Coagulant Costs and Discharged Salts Associated with Chemical Phosphorus Removal, $100,000

Southern Nevada Water Authority: Assessment of Innovative Dissolved Air Flotation Approaches for Conventional Water Treatment, $200,000

The Research Foundation for The State University of New York – Stony Brook University: Enhancing the Removal of Hydrophilic Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) by Granular Activated Carbon using Hydrophobic Ion-pairing as Pre-treatment, $199,601

Learn more about Reclamation’s Desalination and Water Purification Research Program and how it expands access to water by visiting www.usbr.gov/research/dwpr.

It’s Time to Drain #LakePowell: The West is in severe #drought. Which is exactly why now is the moment to bypass one of the region’s biggest dams and rewild Glen Canyon — Gizmodo #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Updated Colorado River 4-Panel plot thru Water Year 2022 showing reservoirs, flows, temperatures and precipitation. All trends are in the wrong direction. Since original 2017 plot, conditions have deteriorated significantly. Brad Udall via Twitter: https://twitter.com/bradudall/status/1593316262041436160

Click the link to read the article on the Gizmodo website (Peter Deneen). Here’s an excerpt:

Floyd Dominy. Public Domain

The date is Feb. 9, 1997, and the man responsible for one of the most egregious environmental follies in human history is sitting at a restaurant in Boyce, Virginia, with the leader of the movement seeking to undo his mistake. Of the hundreds of dams Floyd Dominy green lit during his decade running the Bureau of Reclamation, none are as loathed as his crown jewel, the Glen Canyon Dam. In 1963, Dominy erected the 710-foot (216-meter) tall monument to himself out of ego and concrete, deadening the Colorado River just upstream of the Grand Canyon, drowning more than 250 square miles (648 square kilometers) in the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and inventing Lake Powell in the middle of a sun-baked desert. After a couple of drinks, Dominy asked his dinner guest, Glen Canyon Institute founder Richard Ingebretsen, for an appraisal of the effort to drain Lake Powell. “It’s pretty serious, Mr. Dominy,” Ingebretsen recalled telling him, holding back the seething discontent of the broad coalition he represented. When Ingebretsen described his hypothetical plan to drill through the twin boreholes bestriding Glen Canyon dam, Dominy replied, “Well, you can’t do that. It is 300 feet of reinforced concrete.” Then Dominy did something extraordinary—he lowered his glasses, pulled out a pen, and diagrammed precisely how he would do it on a cocktail napkin. A stunned Ingebretsen could hardly believe what was happening.

“This has never been done before,” Dominy said. “But I have been thinking about it, and it will work.”

The back of Glen Canyon Dam circa 1964, not long after the reservoir had begun filling up. Here the water level is above dead pool, meaning water can be released via the river outlets, but it is below minimum power pool, so water cannot yet enter the penstocks to generate electricity. Bureau of Reclamation photo.

In the 58 years since Glen Canyon was flooded, memory of what was lost has mostly been forgotten. Submerged beneath the water lies a desert canyon like none other that stretches some 200 miles (322 kilometers). The Colorado River was the wildest river in North America before it was arrested by the Bureau of Reclamation during the frenetic dam-building era last century. But in this section of the river, the current flowed calmly through fern-covered walls. “It was a kind of Eden,” as Elizabeth Kolbert described it in The New Yorker this summer, “more spectacular than the Grand Canyon and, at the same time, more peaceful. It was a fairy-tale maze of side canyons, and side canyons with their own side canyons, each one offering a different marvel.” Hundreds of ephemeral streams and tributaries joined the Colorado River here, each of them achingly abundant with riparian habitat and mind-bending geomorphology, where beavers and fish thrived beneath soaring rainbows of salmon-colored rock arches.

A bend in Glen Canyon of the Colorado River, Grand Canyon, c. 1898. By George Wharton James, 1858—1923 – http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll65/id/17037, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30894893

Glen Canyon is a natural wonder that’s been wasting the past six decades as an unnecessary water storage facility for the Bureau of Reclamation. The last time Lake Powell was as low as it is today, Neil Armstrong had yet to set foot on the moon. But the climate crisis and decades of water overuse have sent Powell’s shoreline receding. The telltale bathtub ring of the previous high water mark isn’t the only sign of change; habitats that were swallowed by the reservoir have sprung back to life—baby cottonwood trees, canyons full of frogs and maidenhair ferns, birds, bees, bears, and beavers have reclaimed their old territory…

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

Dominy’s dam, which the former House Interior Committee Chair Mo Udall as well as five-term Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater have called “the biggest mistake in their legislative careers,” killed what was the biological heart of the Colorado River. With more than 79 species of plants, 189 species of birds, and 34 species of mammals, it was an ecological marvel. The canyon was also home to a staggering array of Indigenous sites and artifacts dating back hundreds of years, all of them now underwater. All that was traded away for the longest reservoir in the world, with approximately 2,000 miles of coastline. Unfurled, Lake Powell’s shoreline would stretch from Maine to Florida. Its primary function? To temporarily detain water for metered release to replenish Lake Mead. As Kolbert put it, Dominy built a reservoir for a reservoir. The redundant Glen Canyon Dam harnesses the Colorado River just upstream from Lee’s Ferry, an arbitrary point chosen to delineate “upper basin” states—Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming—from “lower basin” states—Arizona, California, and Nevada. Separating the river into two jurisdictions is seen as one of the original sins for the world’s most litigated river. Ingebretsen said Lake Powell was born as a security measure, founded on the distrust between upper and lower basin states.

#Drought news (December 1, 2022): Drought-related conditions improved in areas of #Arizona, #NewMexico, #Nevada, #Washington, #Colorado, #Wyoming, and #Montana

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

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

This Week’s Drought Summary

This U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week saw areas of moderate to heavy rainfall along the central and western Gulf Coast region as well as areas further inland in the eastern half of Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, and southwestern Arkansas. In these areas, targeted improvements were made in drought-affected areas. Additionally, an outbreak of severe weather, including severe thunderstorms with tornadoes and wind damage, impacted areas of the South (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama) overnight on Tuesday (Nov 29), resulting in severe damage and loss of lives reported. In the Southeast, isolated heavy rainfall accumulations led to improvements on the map in areas of Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. Elsewhere in the Southeast, short-term dryness over the past 90 days led to expansion of areas of severe drought in the Florida Panhandle, where rainfall deficits ranged from 3 to 9+ inches. In the Northeast, only minor changes were made on the map in areas of eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island in response to precipitation shortfalls during the past 30–60-day period as well as below-normal streamflow activity and lack of groundwater recharge in areas of Cape Cod. In the Midwest, areas of moderate drought expanded in southern Michigan and northern Illinois where short-term precipitation deficits are negatively impacting soil moisture and streamflow levels. In the High Plains, generally dry and warmer-than-normal temperatures (2 to 10+ deg F above normal) prevailed across much of the region during the past week. Out West, drought-related conditions improved in areas of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. In terms of snowpack conditions in the region, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) SNOTEL network is currently reporting the following region-level (2-digit HUC) snow water equivalent (SWE) percentages of median for the date (Nov 29): Pacific Northwest 134%, California 135%, Great Basin 157%, Lower Colorado 152%, Upper Colorado 98%, Rio Grande 76%, Arkansas-White-Red 66%, Missouri 101%, and Souris-Red-Rainy 81%. Looking back at the last several months, the contiguous U.S. experienced its 8th warmest September-October period on record since 1895 in terms of average temperatures (+2.2-deg F anomaly) and maximum temperatures (+2.6 deg F), according to NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Precipitation in the contiguous U.S. during the September-October 2022 period ranked as the 11th driest (-1.14-inch anomaly)…

High Plains

On this week’s map, improvements were made on the map in the greater Denver-Boulder area of Colorado and in portions of eastern Wyoming in response to above-normal precipitation in the short-term. Elsewhere in the region, no changes were made on the map. For the week, average temperatures were well above normal across the Northern Plains with average temperatures ranging from 2 to 10+ deg F above normal. However, the warmer temperatures melted the portions of the snow in areas of North Dakota allowing for beneficial percolation of meltwater into the still-unfrozen soils. According to NOAA NCEI, the Great Plains Region saw its 9th warmest (+3.0-deg F anomaly) and 8th driest (-1.4-inch anomaly) September-October on record. Statewide, Wyoming experienced its 3rd warmest (+4.2-deg F anomaly) and Colorado its 8th warmest (+3.1 deg F anomaly) September-October period on record…

Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 29, 2022.

West

Out West, some minor changes were made on the map in southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, east-central Nevada, and north-central Montana. In east-central Nevada, areas of Extreme Drought (D3) were reduced in White Pine County in response to improving conditions following above-normal precipitation during the monsoon season as well as from above-normal SWE levels currently observed in the Schell Creek and Snake ranges. Likewise, in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, above-normal precipitation during the monsoon season as well as over the past several months led to the removal of areas of Severe Drought (D2). Further to the north in Montana, above-normal precipitation since the beginning of the Water Year (Oct 1), led to reduction of areas of Extreme Drought (D3). In terms of snowpack conditions across the region, near-normal to above-normal SWE levels are being reported across the basins of the Sierra Nevada, Great Basin ranges, Cascades, Northern Rockies, Wasatch, and areas of the Central Rockies. Further south, the basins of Southwest Colorado and the Rio Grande are currently below normal. For the week, average temperatures continued to be cooler than normal (2 to 10 deg F below normal) across much of the region except for areas of Northern California, Montana, and eastern portions of Colorado and Wyoming. Overall, much of the region was dry this week, however, some significant snowfall accumulations were observed in Pacific Northwest mountain ranges including the Olympics, Cascades, and Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon. Likewise, snowfall was observed this week in the Wasatch Range as well as the Northern and Central Rockies, with additional mountain snow forecasted to impact areas of the West this week. According to NOAA NCEI, the September-October 2022 period was the warmest (+4.3-deg F anomaly) on record for the Rockies and Westward Region, 3rd warmest for the West Climate Region (includes California and Nevada) (+4.8-deg F anomaly), and warmest on record for the Northwest Climate Region (+5.5-deg F anomaly)…

South

In the South, improvements were made across areas of the eastern half of Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, western Arkansas, and southern Mississippi where locally heavy rainfall accumulations (3 to 8+ inches) were observed. Despite this week’s rainfall in portions of Texas, streamflows in the Hill Country remain below normal with numerous gauging stations reporting levels in the bottom 10th percentile, according to the USGS. In terms of reservoir storage in Texas, monitored water supply reservoirs statewide are currently 69.9% full, according to Water Data for Texas. Some low reservoir storage levels are currently being observed in the western half of the state, including at Medina Lake (west of San Antonio) which is currently 6.7% full. According to NOAA NCEI, the South Climate Region experienced its 13th driest (-2.34-inch anomaly) September-October period on record, with Louisiana observing its 6th driest (-4.35–inch anomaly) for the contemporaneous period…

Looking Ahead

The NWS WPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for moderate-to-heavy precipitation accumulations (including heavy snowfall accumulations) ranging from 2 to 5+ inches (liquid) across much of the Cascades of Oregon and Washington, Klamath Mountains, Coast Ranges of Northern California, and the Sierra Nevada Range. In the Intermountain West, 1 to 3+ inch (liquid) accumulations are expected in central and northern Idaho ranges as well as in the Teton Range of Wyoming. Elsewhere in the conterminous U.S., heavy precipitation accumulations are expected in Kentucky and Tennessee (3 to 5+ inches liquid) as well as in areas of the Northeast including New York, New Hampshire, and Maine. The CPC 6-10-day Outlooks call for a moderate-to-high probability of above-normal temperatures for the South, Southeast, and Mid-Atlantic regions, while much of the West, Plains, and Midwest are expected to be cooler than normal. Precipitation is forecasted to be above normal across the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, and across much of the Eastern Tier. Below-normal precipitation is expected in Florida.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 29, 2022.

#Colorado Republican Result Worse than Debacle in 2018 — The Buzz @FloydCiruli

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

I asked in a November 2 blog post if Colorado Republicans would best the 45 percent high they won in statewide races in 2018–answer, No. Jared Polis won the governorship in 2018 by 10 points. This year, Polis won by 19 points.

Along with the state sweep, Republicans were beaten in the marquee Federal competitions. Senator Michael Bennet was reelected by 15 points and the new 8th Congressional district rated leaning Republican, was won by the Democrats in a close race with more than 1500 votes. The seemingly safe district of controversial Congressperson Lauren Boebert was held by only 500 votes.

RELATED: Will Colorado Republicans Win More Than 45% of the Vote?

Winter #wheat has been helped by rain on the southern Plains and snow on the northern Plains, but this crop will still need some assistance over the winter and especially next spring — @DroughtDenise

Never write off winter wheat, though. It’s a tough crop. H/t Brad Rippey @usda_oce

EVs now across #Colorado — @BigPivots

Leaf charging in Frisco September 30, 2021.

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

Every corner of the state now has EV owners. I am told that one of Colorado’s 64 counties has no registered EVs, but my trolling of the Colorado Energy Office EV Dashboard could fine none.

Not surprisingly, the highest-per-capita rate for EVs were in Boulder County, with almost 36 per 1,000 residents, and Pitkin County – home to Aspen – with 28.75 per thousand. And Douglas County (Castle Rock) comes in third at about 20 per thousand.

After that, it’s a mixture of resort counties like Eagle, Summit, Larimer, and Denver, who all come in at 16 to 17 per thousand.

Cheyenne Wells (top photo), on the state’s eastern tier, too small to have a restaurant with operations aside from a few hours at mid-day, still manages to have 4 EVs on its roads adjacent to Kansas. On the opposite side of the state, Dolores County has 6 on the roads going into Utah.

The dashboard also says that pickup trucks now represent 17% of EV vehicles in Colorado, behind electric SVS at 39% and passenger cars at 19%.

For a deeper dive, go to the Colorado Energy Office EV Dashboard.

The current soil moisture percentile is less than 10% for parts of the Great Plains and Midwest — @DroughtDenise

Soils freeze amid the cold winter temperatures, and dry conditions allow soils to freeze to greater depths. https://cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/Drought/Monitoring/smp.shtml

The amount of topsoil moisture rated short to very short is highest in #Nebraska and #SouthDakota at 89% and 88%. The value for the contiguous US is 50%, which is considerably higher than the previous 7 years. This is the last USDA issuance of moisture values for 2022.

Editorial: An unhappy 100th for the #ColoradoRiver Compact — The #ColoradoSprings Gazette #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Glen Canyon Dam, seen here in May 2022, was a major electrical generation but has produced less as volumes in Lake Powell have declined. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

Click the link to read the editorial on The Colorado Springs Gazette website. Here’s an excerpt:

As The Gazette’s report reminded us, our state’s defining river today is in greater peril than it has been at any time in history amid the West’s explosive growth and a 23-year drought that has limited the river’s flows year after year…conservation efforts alone seem like half-measures that inevitably lead to diminishing returns. As we asked here recently, what if we started putting more water into the Colorado River Basin instead of ratcheting down ever further how much is taken out of it? Increase supply, in other words, instead of futilely trying to curb demand. Some are taking up that challenge.

Arizona’s state government is laying plans with Mexico for a jointly developed desalination plant that would turn seawater into fresh water along the Arizona-Mexico border, where the Colorado River empties into the Sea of Cortez. That has the potential to lower water use downstream and leave more up river in Upper Basin states. There’s also great potential in new technology enabling water reuse, which is not so much a form of conservation as it is turning old water into new. Israel recycles and reuses nearly 90% of its water and Spain over 30%, a water expert recently wrote in a Gazette commentary.

Let’s Stop Blaming the Compact — Sustainable Waters #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Members of the Colorado River Commission, in Santa Fe in 1922, after signing the Colorado River Compact. From left, W. S. Norviel (Arizona), Delph E. Carpenter (Colorado), Herbert Hoover (Secretary of Commerce and Chairman of Commission), R. E. Caldwell (Utah), Clarence C. Stetson (Executive Secretary of Commission), Stephen B. Davis, Jr. (New Mexico), Frank C. Emerson (Wyoming), W. F. McClure (California), and James G. Scrugham (Nevada) CREDIT: COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY WATER RESOURCES ARCHIVE via Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on the Sustainable Waters website (Brian Richter):

While floating through the Grand Canyon recently, river guide extraordinaire Bruce Keller taught me a new word: “mumpsimus.”

It means “a traditional notion that is obstinately held although it is unreasonable.”

I immediately thought of the way that the Colorado River Compact is being repeatedly blamed for the current water crisis in the Colorado River system. The oft-stated accusation is that the water shortages we’re experiencing now can be blamed on the fact that the framers of the Compact allocated too much water — much more than the river system could actually deliver. “The river was over-allocated from the beginning.”

In full disclosure, I must admit that I have made similar statements myself in the past. I am guilty of mumsimus. But I have reconsidered my position.

I’ve concluded that blaming the Compact is misleading and unhelpful. Implicating a Compact fashioned 100 years ago obfuscates rightful accountability. The situation we’re in now is not the fault of the Compact’s architects. This one’s on us, on our generation, not theirs.

Here’s my rationale.

We’ve Never Used as Much as Was Allocated

The framers of the Colorado River Compact of 1922 allocated 15 million acre-feet (MAF) per year for use within the US: 7.5 MAF each for the Upper and Lower Basins.** They anticipated that more water would eventually need to be allocated to Mexico. A 1944 treaty with Mexico set that country’s allocation at 1.5 MAF/year.

In sum, a total of 16.5 MAF/year has been allocated for human use.

Annual human uses of the river’s water have never come close to 16.5 MAF. According to estimates by the US Bureau of Reclamation, the average annual consumption for human uses since 2000 is about 12.6 MAF — far below what the Compact allows. The annual use would have likely been higher than 12.6 MAF if not for the Compact. In the early 2000s, California was beginning to use more than its 4.4 MAF portion of the 7.5 MAF/year allocated among the Lower Basin states of California, Arizona, and Nevada, but the federal government reeled it back in so that the total Lower Basin use would not exceed 7.5 MAF.

Yes, There Were Big Oversights 

If the Compact is to be faulted, it should be for the things it didn’t say or anticipate. The framers of the Compact didn’t account for three critically important uses and needs for the river’s water today: (1) water rights legally held but not yet used by Native American tribes; (2) water needed to sustain natural ecosystem health; and (3) evaporation from the many reservoirs that would eventually be built.

Evaporative losses from the reservoirs, plus what is evaporated and transpired from the river and its associated riparian and wetland ecosystems, accounts for another 2.4 MAF/year, bringing the total volume of water consumed for human and natural purposes to about 15 MAF/year.

Still well below what was explicitly allocated in the Compact and the international treaty with Mexico.

I’ll return to the issue of Native American rights and ecosystem needs in a moment.

The Compact Held Up for Nearly 80 Years

Perhaps the greatest tribute to the durability of the Compact is the fact that cities and farmers were able to prosper for nearly 80 years after the Compact was put into place. Cities dependent on the river grew exponentially, and basin farmers were able to grow food for our country and other nations.

The reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin were nearly full in 2000. Virtually nobody was concerned about water shortages. In fact, the conversation at that time was centered on how to share surplus water!

Updated Colorado River 4-Panel plot thru Water Year 2022 showing reservoirs, flows, temperatures and precipitation. All trends are in the wrong direction. Since original 2017 plot, conditions have deteriorated significantly. Brad Udall via Twitter: https://twitter.com/bradudall/status/1593316262041436160

And Then the Climate Changed

During the 20th century, an average of 16.4 MAF/year of water flowed into and through the Colorado River each year, enough to fully serve all human uses and losses of water to evaporation.

Since 2000, that flow of water has decreased to 13.5 MAF/year, the combined result of a warming climate and lessened precipitation — now recognized as the driest 23 years in the past 1200 years. That has left a shortfall of 1.5 MAF/year, and we’ve been pillaging the water stored in big reservoirs such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell to make up the deficit.

The true reason we are experiencing a water shortage crisis in the Colorado River Basin is not because of flaws in the Compact. It is because we have been unable to reduce our use of water commensurate with the reality that the river no longer produces what it did in the last century. If we can’t own up to this truth we will not be able to build a water-secure future.

Making Things Right

It is high time to reckon with the river’s limits, and with the inherent rights of the indigenous inhabitants of the river basin. This is the time — at the 100th anniversary of the Colorado River Compact — to make things right.

The allocations of water made in the Compact and subsequent agreements are now clearly unattainable and should be revised. Given that reality, let’s take the opportunity to also address some shortcomings in the way the Compact was structured. Any reallocation of the river’s water should begin with an inalienable reserve of water for Native Americans — including both what they are already able to use, plus the other water to which they are legally entitled but not using presently. What is not presently being used by the tribes should be left in the river for use by its oldest inhabitants: ancient native creatures like the Colorado pikeminnow and the humpback chub that have been swimming in the river system for millions of years but now teeter at the brink of extinction.

Once the indigenous reserve is legitimately accounted for, the remainder of the 13.5 MAF/year flowing downriver should be shared equitably — in portions that will likely need to be renegotiated among the states and Mexico.

Only by adjusting human needs to what the river is able to give, and only by aligning those needs in a just, equitable, and sustainable manner with native peoples and ecosystems, will we be able to again realize the prosperity envisioned by the Compact’s architects.

Dories at rest on a glorious Grand Canyon eve. Photo by Brian Richter

** The Compact also allowed the lower basin states to use their own tributaries to the Colorado, but that additional 1 MAF doesn’t get included in the river’s annual budget tracking so I’ll ignore it here as well simply to match numbers with the Bureau of Reclamation. However, true and full water budget accounting for the river basin should include the water supply from the tributaries in the Lower Basin as well as the uses of that water.

R.I.P. Christine McVie “And the songbirds are singing, like they know the score”

Christine McVie performing in 2019. By Raph_PH – FlMacWerchter080619_59, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=101141876

Click the link to read the obit on The New York Times website (Jim Farber). Here’s an excerpt:

As a singer, songwriter and keyboardist, she was a prolific force behind one of the most popular rock bands of the last 50 years...

Ms. McVie’s commercial potency, which hit a high point in the 1970s and ’80s, was on full display on Fleetwood Mac’s “Greatest Hits” anthology, released in 1988, which sold more than eight million copies: She either wrote or co-wrote half of its 16 tracks. Her tally doubled that of the next most prolific member of the band’s trio of singer-songwriters, Stevie Nicks. (The third, Lindsey Buckingham, scored three major Billboard chart-makers on that collection.) The most popular songs Ms. McVie wrote favored bouncing beats and lively melodies, numbers like “Say You Love Me” (which grazed Billboard’s Top 10), “You Make Loving Fun” (which just broke it), “Hold Me” (No. 4) and “Don’t Stop” (her top smash, which crested at No. 3). But she could also connect with elegant ballads, like “Over My Head” (No. 20) and “Little Lies” (which cracked the publication’s Top Five in 1987)…

All those songs had cleanly defined, easily sung melodies, with hints of soul and blues at the core. Her compositions had a simplicity that mirrored their construction. “I don’t struggle over my songs,” Ms. McVie (pronounced mc-VEE) told Rolling Stone in 1977. “I write them quickly.”

In just half an hour, she wrote one of the band’s most beloved songs, “Songbird,” a sensitive ballad that for years served as the band’s closing encore in concert. In 2019, the band’s leader, Mick Fleetwood, told New Musical Express that “Songbird” is the piece he wanted played at his funeral, “to send me off fluttering.” Ms. McVie’s lyrics often captured the more intoxicating aspects of romance. “I’m definitely not a pessimist,” she told Bob Brunning, the author of the 2004 book “The Fleetwood Mac Story: Rumours and Lies.” “I’m basically a love song writer.” At the same time, her words accounted for the yearning and disappointments that can lurk below an exciting surface. “I’m good at pathos,” she told Mojo magazine in 2017. “I write about romantic despair a lot, but with a positive spin.”

Inflation Reduction Act Funds Landmark Agreements to Accelerate #SaltonSea Restoration — The U.S. Department of Interior #ColoradoRiver #COriver #CRWUA2022

Birds gather at the Salton Sea and important stop on the Pacific Flyway. Photo credit: The Revelator

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

The Department of the Interior today announced a historic agreement funded by the Inflation Reduction Act that will mitigate impacts from the worsening drought crisis impacting the Salton Sea in Southern California.

Established by Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau and leaders from the California Natural Resources Agency, Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD), the agreement will accelerate implementation of dust suppression and aquatic restoration efforts at the Salton Sea in Southern California. The agreement, which is set for consideration by the IID board of directors at its meeting tomorrow, will expedite implementation of the state’s 10-year plan and enable urgent water conservation needed to protect Colorado River reservoir storage volumes amid persistent climate change-driven drought conditions.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to bringing every resource to bear to help manage the drought crisis and provide a sustainable water system for families, businesses and our vast and fragile ecosystems. This landmark agreement represents a key step in our collective efforts to address the challenges the Colorado River Basin is facing due to worsening drought and climate change impacts,” said Deputy Secretary Beaudreau. “Historic investments from the Inflation Reduction Act will help to support the Imperial and Coachella Valley and the environment around the Salton Sea, as well as support California’s efforts to voluntarily save 400,000 acre-feet a year to protect critical elevations at Lake Mead.”

The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, is receding due to the drought crisis gripping the West and resulting necessary conservation actions in the Imperial Valley that have reduced inflows to the Sea. Exposed lakebed is contributing to harmful dust emissions to the surrounding environment and reducing important environmental habitat for wildlife.

Under the agreement, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation will provide $22 million in new funding through the Inflation Reduction Act in fiscal year 2023 to implement projects at the Sea, support staffing at the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe, and conduct scientific research and management that contributes to project implementation.

Subject to the implementation of voluntary conservation actions proposed by IID and CVWD, Reclamation will also provide an additional $228 million over the next four years to expedite existing projects and bolster staffing capacity at the water agencies to help deliver new projects. This is in support of California’s commitment to voluntarily conserve 400,000 acre-feet annually, starting in 2023. This $250 million investment from the Inflation Reduction Act will complement the $583 million in state funding committed to date.

“This agreement is a huge step forward,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “It builds our momentum delivering projects at the Sea to protect communities and the environment and ensures that California’s leadership conserving Colorado River water supplies doesn’t come at the expense of local residents.”

Under the agreement, the California Natural Resources Agency commits to accelerating project delivery through permit streamlining and use of its full contracting authority. It also commits to continue pursuing additional funding for projects to build on state funding already committed to Salton Sea Management Program implementation.

The Interior Department, IID and CVWD have agreed to establish programmatic land access agreements to enable state agencies to implement projects. In addition, the two water agencies will provide available future water supplies for new projects. This will enable California water agencies to commit to voluntarily reduce their water usage each year beginning in 2023 through 2026 to protect critical elevations in Lake Mead.

The Colorado River provides water to two countries, seven western states, 30 Tribal Nations and 40 million residents. It is currently experiencing the longest and worst drought on record, driven by hotter temperatures under climate change. Efforts continue in California and across the Colorado River Basin to find ways to stabilize water storage volumes in Lakes Powell and Mead. Reclamation and water agencies are working closely to take extraordinary actions to protect the Colorado River System.

Southern California water agencies have agreed on a deal to cut back on the amount of water they use for the Colorado River, some of which is used to grow crops in the Imperial Valley. Ted Wood/The Water Desk

Click the link to read “Drying California lake to get $250M in US drought funding” on the Associated Press website (Kathleen Ronayne). Here’s an excerpt:

The future of the Salton Sea, and who is financially responsible for it, has been a key issue in discussions over how to prevent a crisis in the Colorado River. The lake was formed in 1905 when the river overflowed, creating a resort destination that slowly morphed into an environmental disaster as water levels receded, exposing residents to harmful dust and reducing wildlife habitat. The lake is largely fed by runoff from farms in California’s Imperial Valley, who use Colorado River water to grow many of the nation’s winter vegetables as well as feed crops like alfalfa. As the farmers reduce their water use, less flows into the lake. California said it would only reduce its reliance on the over-tapped river if the federal government put up money to mitigate the effects of less water flowing into the sea. The deal announced Monday needs approval from the Imperial Irrigation District, the largest user of Colorado River water. The water entity’s board will take it up on Tuesday. Both the district’s general manager and board member JB Hamby applauded the deal Monday.

“The collaboration happening at the Salton Sea between water agencies and state, federal, and tribal governments is a blueprint for effective cooperation that the Colorado River Basin sorely needs,” Hamby said in a statement.

The $250 million will come out of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, which set aside $4 billion to stave off the worst effects of drought across the U.S. West. Most of the money is contingent on the Imperial Irrigation District and Coachella Valley Water District making good on their commitments to reduce their own use of river water. Both submitted proposals to cut back their usage for payment as part of a new federal program.

The Salton Sea is a major nesting, wintering and stopover site for about 400 bird species (Source: California Department of Water Resources)

Click the link to read “U.S. government pledges $250 million to help ailing Salton Sea” on The Los Angeles Times website (Ian James). Here’s an excerpt:

This year, federal officials demanded large-scale water cutbacks throughout the Southwest to try to prevent the Colorado River’s reservoirs from dropping to dangerously-low levels. Four major California water districts have proposed to reduce water use by up to 400,000 acre-feet per year for the next four years, about 9% of the state’s total water allotment.

The Imperial Irrigation District has pledged to take on the largest share of California’s reductions, up to 250,000 acre-feet of water per year.

“From the outset, IID made it clear that taking action to protect the Colorado River system would have significant impacts on the Salton Sea, and that IID’s participation was conditioned on real efforts and dollars to protect public health and wildlife around the sea,” Hamby said.

He said the federal government’s new commitment “makes it much easier and simpler for us to make large contributions toward the Colorado River system.”

The infusion of federal money is the central feature of an agreement among the federal government, the Imperial Irrigation District, the California Natural Resources Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District. The Interior Department announced the plan on Monday, and the Imperial Irrigation District’s board narrowly endorsed the agreement in a 3-2 vote at a meeting Tuesday. The debate was contentious, with some farmers, community advocates and local officials saying they didn’t think the agreement was a good deal for the Imperial Valley, or that the community should have more time to weigh in.

Luis Olmedo, executive director of the nonprofit group Comite Civico del Valle, said his organization opposed what he called a “hastily announced, half-baked deal.” He said in a statement, which a colleague read at the meeting in El Centro, that the board was deciding with little public scrutiny.

Looking Back and Looking Forward: The #ColoradoRiver Compact Turns 100 — #Water For #Colorado #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the blog post on the Water For Colorado website:

On November 24, , the Colorado River Compact celebrates its 100th birthday. This 4-page document  — signed in Santa Fe, N.M. by the seven states through which the Colorado River flows — became the foundational document governing management of America’s hardest working — and most endangered — river. The Compact was successful in its stated goal,  jump-starting “the expeditious agricultural and industrial development” of the West, but a century after its signing, the Compact governs a Basin that is growing beyond recognition, and faces a far different reality than the framers dreamed.

A hotter, drier reality grips the Basin due to drought, explosive growth, and climate change. Historic shortage declarations, dwindling flows, and threats of a hydropower crisis endanger the West daily. But the Compact had shortcomings from the start. It failed to involve Tribal Nations — long-term stewards of the land and river — as separate sovereigns with rights and interests on the River. It did not consider and incorporate environmental values in river management decisions. It overestimated the available river flows to be apportioned within the Basin. After 100 years, these limitations weaken the management system that teeters on the edge of a crisis in the face of drought accelerated by climate change across the fastest growing region of the country. The river simply cannot keep up. When the old way of doing things doesn’t work anymore and survival is threatened by seemingly insurmountable problems, the system can either crash,  or people will come together to innovate solutions around a resource that literally supports everyone in the basin and across the country. 

Crises provide an opportunity to do things we couldn’t anticipate or imagine. We have, lying before us, the potential to build a future that better fits the needs and values of today.  It doesn’t require a renegotiation of the Compact, but does require adapting the original Compact’s application across the Basin to be relevant today. To succeed, we need to act now. 

It’s often said that, in times of crisis, acceptance is the first step. We need to acknowledge that climate change has thrown a wrench into our 100-year old river management framework, and that clinging to old ways as the Basin’s hydrology changes from one of abundance to one of scarcity, risks an uncertain future for communities, economies, and ecosystems throughout. Communities across the West are already facing these impacts daily, whether by the inability to safely access clean water, harming birds and wildlife, closing  essential economic activities like river recreation due to dwindling flows, or drying up family farms that have been operating for generations. 

Gravel bar Ruby Horsethief Canyon. Photo credit: USFWS via University of Colorado

Once we’ve acknowledged the current state of the crisis and how we got here , it’s essential that everyone  accept responsibility as members of the Colorado River community, and adopt a water-wise ethic to do what it can to sustain the basin. No one water user, water sector, state, basin or government can independently achieve the changes needed to sustain a functioning river system. By recognizing that everyone has a role in the Basin community, we can work together to: 

  • update operations to do more than rely on practices implemented for the past 100 years; 
  • reduce and adapt water uses to fit within the river we have, not the one we imagined a century ago, or the one we just wish would return through by mere hope; 
  • respect that healthy watersheds, National Parks, and river systems are more than mere luxuries that can be overlooked or sacrificed.   
Colorado River in Grand Junction. Photo credit: Allen Best

The Colorado River community and everyone who depends upon it has a significant opportunity to do just that as it embarks on updating the operational guidelines for the river system. To address the crisis through this process, the community will need to: (1) be realistic about the available hydrology and river conditions going forward; (2) plan for possible worst case scenarios; and (3) create greater flexibilities and resiliencies within the system to help the basin adapt to existing and future conditions. To this end, we will need to be flexible, balanced and also transparent in the process. This includes involving all stakeholders — especially Tribes —  in the process.

We are already seeing progress in some areas. Transformational federal funding is flowing to Western water in a way that’s never been seen before, with the recent appropriations provided through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Inflation Reduction Act, Farm Bill, and other pieces of Federal legislation that promote resilience building throughout the Western United States. 

But more needs to be done. It’s essential that Colorado and other Basin communities effectively capture and implement the available funding while maintaining pressure on elected officials to continue prioritizing funding for critical resilience strategies in the Basin. Moreover, we must recognize that the threat of litigation is not a good water management strategy. It puts the entire Colorado River community at risk by providing  no meaningful clarity on how to efficiently adapt to actual conditions in the Basin, it hinders problem solving, stifles collaboration, and promotes an adversarial stance, rather than thoughtful, intentional, and honest collaboration.  

The signers of the Colorado River Compact recognized that the Colorado River is essential to life and critical to our ability to thrive in the West. A century later, they could not anticipate the values and conditions challenging the Basin today.  Therefore it is  incumbent upon us to pick up where the Compact negotiators left off and build on the framework  they provided. The turbulence of our time will leave a legacy with long-term consequences. Unrelenting uncertainty can make us anxious and fearful, but it can also highlight and inspire our resilience, but only if we do it together.

Colorado River. Photo credit: University of Montana

2022 Annual Meeting of the #ArkansasRiver Compact Administration (ARCA) will be held on Thursday, December 8, 2022

Map of the Arkansas River drainage basin. Created using USGS National Map and NASA SRTM data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79039596

From email from ARCA (Kevin Salter):

These meetings will be held at the Lamar Elks Lodge No. 1319, 28157 US Highway 287, Lamar, CO 81052, on December 7th and 8th.  We are planning on an in-person meetings with a virtual option.  That being said, we cannot guarantee effective technology to facilitate listening in on these meetings at this point though we will do our best.  A Zoom meeting link can be requested by contacting Stephanie Gonzales at arca.co.ks@gmail.com on December 6th.

As of now, there are no restrictions that would affect having these meetings in person, but that is subject to change.  These are public meetings, between the States of Colorado with other local, State, and federal agencies participating.  There may be restrictions for those attending and we hope that you can respect those restrictions.  If you are unable to do so, please consider participating in the virtual meeting option.

This is the final notice for the upcoming Arkansas River Compact Administration Annual and Committee Meetings.  Please note that the meeting dates and location were changed at the ARCA Annual Meeting held in December 2022.

The 2022 Annual Meeting of the Arkansas River Compact Administration (ARCA) will be held on Thursday, December 82022.  The Engineering, Operations, and Administrative/Legal Committees of ARCA will meet onWednesday, December 72022.  These meetings are to be held at Lamar Elks Lodge No. 1319, 28157 US Highway 287, Lamar, CO 81052.  The meetings are intended to be in person, but as noted above there will be a virtual option.

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

This and additional information can be found on ARCA’s website, please check back often since the meeting information will be added as it becomes available:

If you have any questions please feel free to contact Andrew or myself.

Cloud seeding adds to local winter — The #CrestedButte News

Graphic credit: “Literature Review and Scientific Synthesis on the Efficacy of Winter Orographic Cloud Seeding” — CIRES

Click the link to read the article on The Crested Butte News website (Katherine Nettles). Here’s an excerpt:

The Upper Gunnison Basin Cloud Seeding Program started in the 2002/2003 winter season, following a feasibility study the year prior funded by Gunnison County in response to significant drought in 2002. After the program’s first year, the UGRWCD took over and in the time since it has grown to 15 generators, on both public and private land. The UGRWCD wants to add more generators in other qualified locations, starting with one on private land on Black Mesa.  According to the UGRWCD, cloud seeding is one of the cheapest forms of augmentation water for the river basin at an estimated $0.53 per acre-foot annually. And it can provide critical water to support Gunnison River basin flows, Blue Mesa Reservoir and the local economy.

“Typically, what we plan for is that in the last five years or so the programs run at about $114,000 to $118,000 per year,” says Sonja Chavez, general manager for the UGRWCD. 

The Colorado Water Conservation Board gives anywhere between $67,000 and $94,000 and the UGRWCD covers the remaining $20,000 to $45,000. Chavez says that program costs are increasing, however. “We are adding a new generation site, and we are going to be looking for new funding partners,” she says…

Cloud seeding cannot create a snowstorm, but it can increase the precipitation from a storm that already exists. Cole Osborne, project meteorologist for NAWC, explains how the process works using manual and remote-controlled generators and propane tanks to blast a mix of silver iodide and sodium iodide into the atmosphere. 

“The solution attracts liquid particles in a cloud, and the water molecules develop into ice crystals…so you can speed up the process and make a cloud more efficient at producing precipitation,” he says…

The UGRWCD and NAWC believe a remote generator placed at Black Mesa between Crested Butte and Gunnison will do more than any other program enhancement, in terms of water augmentation in the Gunnison Range and to Blue Mesa Reservoir. The UGRWCD, with financial assistance from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, has decided to fund the initial set-up and infrastructure costs for the remote generator for approximately $67,600.  Osborne says there’s a huge area they are trying to target to lead to increased spring runoff and rises in reservoir levels. According to a memo from the UGRWCD earlier this month to potential funding partners, “NAWC analysis indicates that the generator will have significant direct benefits to northern and southern tributaries to Blue Mesa Reservoir and to eastern tributaries due to positive downwind cloud seeding impacts. The remote generator would permit cloud seeding during almost all storm periods that impact the Upper Gunnison River watershed. Seeding could occur during periods with winds ranging from northerly to southerly. 

#CRWUA2022: #ColoradoRiver users, facing historic uncertainty, are set to meet in Las Vegas next month — The #Nevada Independent #COriver #aridification

A portion of Lake Mead as seen from an airplane on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Click the link to read the article on Nevada’s only statewide nonprofit newsroom The Nevada Independent website (Daniel Rothberg):

As Colorado River water users prepare to meet in Las Vegas next month, the reality they face is one of growing uncertainty with few simple options left on the negotiating table. The math is well understood: There are more demands for the river than there is water coming into its reservoirs. 

But cutting back at the scale necessary — and on a voluntary basis — has proven painstakingly difficult this year as top officials from across the Colorado River watershed have failed to reach a settlement. If the cuts are inevitable based on physical realities, questions remain about what form they will take. Will they be voluntary? Mandatory? Both? And how would they be enforced?

The federal government is pursuing a two-pronged strategy: On the one hand, it is seeking to fund voluntary conservation programs, paying irrigators to forgo water. But federal officials are also analyzing mandatory cutbacks if a negotiated deal cannot be reached among water users.

How the two strategies will work together — and in light of a century of contracts, agreements and guidelines that govern the river — remains a lingering question as water managers prepare for a conference in Las Vegas next month. The conference, hosted by the Colorado River Water Users Association, or CRWUA, brings together water officials, policymakers and interest groups from across the basin, which includes seven U.S. states, 30 Native American tribes and Mexico. 

The conference will cap a dizzying year of crisis on a river beset with long-term challenges and inequities weaved into its foundational rules. In June, as negotiators were looking at reworking the operating rules on the Colorado River (set to expire in 2026), the federal government called on water users to agree on substantial short-term cuts that would stave off disastrous declines in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the river’s largest reservoirs. Yet with such deep cuts needed, negotiators failed to develop a binding agreement after an August 15 deadline came and went. 

“The level of uncertainty is increasing,” Tom Buschatzke, who directs the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said. “I haven’t seen anything that’s got the pendulum to stop swinging in the increasing direction and maybe at least stop — and maybe start going the other way.”

Since 1922, the Colorado River Compact has guided development in the watershed. On top of that foundational document are a century of treaties, federal laws and agreements dictating how the river and shortages are apportioned. But those deals have not shielded those reliant on the river, which serves 40 million people in the Southwest, from low reservoirs and mounting risk. 

Together, the many reservoirs that store water for Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico, are 33 percent full. Lake Mead, held back by the Hoover Dam and the reservoir from which the Las Vegas Valley draws 90 percent of its drinking water, is 28 percent full. Upstream at another large reservoir, Lake Powell, low water has exposed submerged landscapes. It is 25 percent full.

Modeling by federal water experts forecast both Lake Mead and Lake Powell continuing to drop below critical levels. Without changes in water use, Lake Mead, over the next two years, could drop below the threshold triggering deeper water shortages. And Lake Powell could drop below its minimum power pool, the point at which water is so low the dam cannot generate electricity. 

In June, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton called on all water users and all sectors on the Colorado River to come together with a plan that would cut a huge amount of water — about 2 million to 4 million acre-feet — as a measure to stabilize the two reservoirs (an acre-foot is enough water to roughly fill a football field to a depth of one foot). 

That put most of the onus on the Lower Colorado River Basin, the states downstream of Lake Powell (Arizona, California and Nevada), where most of the water is consumed in cities, farms, businesses and lost to evaporation. Of the seven states that rely on the Colorado River, Nevada has the smallest apportionment, with entitlements to only 1.8 percent of all the water that’s been allocated. Still, Las Vegas is also heavily dependent on the river as a long-term water supply. 

John Entsminger, the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said in a recent interview that Nevada faces less physical risk than water users downstream of Lake Mead. The agency recently completed construction of a low-level intake and pumping station that allows it to draw water out of Lake Mead, even in the most extreme water-shortage scenarios. Still, the interstate negotiations are highly consequential for shaping what future cuts might look like.

“So our risk really has to be evaluated in terms of how big of a reduction we could face and what are our plans for dealing with that,” he said. “I think we have the ability to adapt to anything that might come our way… We’re not going to start publicly negotiating against ourselves about how low we think our reduction might be, but we do internal modeling and look at additional steps we can take in conservation, and I think we’re at a pretty good place to take care of ourselves.”

With no agreement in place to cut close to 2 million acre-feet, the federal government has been stepping in. Earlier this year, the federal government injected an infusion of cash — $4 billion — into managing the river, a portion of which was set aside for conservation. In October, federal water managers began soliciting proposals to pay irrigators $330 to $400 for each acre-foot of water they conserved (federal officials said they would also accept different pricing proposals). 

The proposals for voluntary and compensated conservation closed last week. California said it would commit to cutting 400,000 acre-feet of water (it is entitled to 4.4 million acre-feet), a mix of water from irrigation districts and through the primary municipal provider for Southern California. 

“This isn’t the grand solution or all that California is going to do as we look to right sizing water usage,” said Wade Crowfoot, California’s natural resources secretary. “But our take was we’re on borrowed time so let’s step up and do as much as we can do collectively, voluntarily.”

In Arizona, the Gila River Indian Community announced that it would commit to forgo 125,000 acre-feet of water, according to The Arizona Republic. Native American tribes hold some of the oldest and most valuable rights to the Colorado River, but were excluded from the compact, one of the many fundamental injustices embedded into the framework of the river’s operating rules. At the same time some Native American tribes are stepping up to help conserve water, many are still fighting for their water rights, and face systemic barriers in putting the water to use. 

California uses the majority of the water in the Lower Basin, followed by Arizona (it is entitled to 2.8 million acre-feet). But a federal law gave California a priority to water relative to the Central Arizona Project, a 336-mile canal running from the river through the Phoenix and Tucson areas. In theory, that means that in times of severe shortage California can use all its water before the canal gets any. Arizona says that’s not an equitable solution, and the law is not as clear-cut. 

As a result of the differing priorities to water, Arizona has already made significant cuts to its water use in past years, including through the Drought Contingency Plan, while California has not. Buschatzke said he wanted to see the state commit to further cuts, closer to the 525,000 acre-feet in additional cuts that Arizona said it had put on the negotiating table this summer. 

“I think California’s number should be closer to whatever Arizona has to do,” he said. 

How the commitments to conserve water translates into actual water savings is another issue that water managers are grappling with. It’s one thing to make a commitment. It’s another thing to get individual irrigators to cut back as farmers place water orders and prepare for the growing season. Many point to the 500+ Plan as an example. It was a voluntary program, signed by the states at the Las Vegas conference last year, and pledged to save 500,000 acre-feet of water. 

“The 500 Plus plan existed in 2022,” said Colby Pellegrino, Southern Nevada Water Authority’s deputy general manager. “We just didn’t have enough interest in voluntarily participating.”

Crowfoot said he is “confident” that California water users can meet the conservation goal, but he recognizes “that there’s work to do to actually turn that commitment into wet water.”

Voluntary programs are not the only action that water users might expect to see within the next year. There remains a second approach on the table that could result in reductions for states across the basin. Last month, federal water managers initiated a formal process to conduct an environmental analysis that could result in mandatory water use reductions in the Lower Basin. 

The federal government is evaluating a number of options, including holding back water in Lake Powell, redefining existing cuts and accounting for the significant amount of water that is lost to evaporation and leaky infrastructure. According to an analysis from the Southern Nevada Water Authority, accounting for evaporation and other losses could save about 1.5 million acre-feet.

Accounting for conservation could meet challenges. Some users said their legal priority to water should be factored into any discussion about evaporation. Otherwise, as JB Hamby, a board member for the Imperial Irrigation District (with the river’s largest single allocation) argues, “it’s an attempt to redistribute shortages from junior users to senior primarily agricultural users.” (In Western water law, those with newer “junior” rights are typically cut first in times of drought).

Hamby said the district was submitting a proposal to cut its use by about 250,000 acre-feet for a negotiated price, but he suggested uniform accounting for evaporation loss was a non-starter. 

“The shortage,” Hamby said, “was not created by those who were there first, and there was still water gushing into the Sea of Cortez.” Instead, he said it should fall on more recent water uses. 

But Buschatzke said his opinion is that everyone relies on infrastructure where evaporation is occurring, regardless of their priority. As such, all users have a responsibility in accounting for it in their water budgets. Still, he conceded that not all Arizona water users share this opinion. 

“If you are using Colorado River water…, you own a piece of that evaporation loss,” he said.

Entsminger echoed this, saying that priority should not have anything to do with it. While there has been little overall progress on a negotiated approach, Entsminger pointed to one sign that parties, with varying interests, can still work collaboratively in the Colorado River Basin. 

Last week, 30 municipal water providers from across the watershed signed a memorandum of understanding that pledged to increase water conservation and remove non-functional turf. For the larger cuts, Entsminger said that a consensus-based deal is still his preferred outcome. 

“I still think it should be the path forward because your entire universe of options is contained within negotiation, litigation or legislation, and I’m not a fan of litigation or legislation,” he said.

Colorado River Allocations: Credit: The Congressional Research Service

A century ago in #ColoradoRiver Compact negotiations: Heading Home — InkStain @jfleck @R_Eric_Kuhn #COriver #CRWUA2022

The Colorado River near Black Canyon before Hoover Dam. Photo via InkStain.

Click the link to read the article on the InkStain website (Eric Kuhn and John Fleck):

After signing the Colorado River Compact on Friday, Nov. 24, 1922, the commissioners and their advisors returned to their home states. The compact would not become effective until it had been ratified by the legislatures of each of the states and the United States Congress. It was now time to prepare reports, answer questions, and work for state approval.

The ratification process was difficult. It would take 78 months before Congress finally approved a six-state pact and 22 years before all seven states agreed to it.

ARIZONA: NORVIEL

Arizona’s Winfield Norviel had the most difficult path ahead. Governor-elect George Hunt was opposed to the compact. Norviel knew that his job as the state’s water commissioner would be ending soon after Hunt took office. It’s a credit to Norviel that he simply didn’t tell the other commissioners that, given Hunt’s position, Arizona was not interested in agreeing to a compact, pack his bags and go home. Instead, he went back to Arizona and advocated for ratification. Hunt was reelected in 1924, again in 1926, lost in 1928, then won for the last time in 1932, always championing his opposition to the pact. Norviel died in 1935, nine years before Arizona ratified the compact.

UTAH: CALDWELL

Utah’s R.E. Caldwell returned to Salt Lake City and wrote a detailed report recommending ratification of the compact. The Utah legislature quickly complied. Caldwell resigned as State Engineer on July 1st, 1924, to “attend to personal business.” There is no evidence in the record that Caldwell stayed involved in Colorado River issues after his resignation. George Dern, who defeated Charles Mabey in 1924 for governor became Utah’s point man on the Colorado River. Caldwell died in 1959.

CALIFORNIA: MCCLURE

California’s W. F. McClure returned to Sacramento and wrote a short report. With the help of the Imperial Irrigation District, he obtained a clean ratification on February 3rd, 1923. In 1925, the California Legislature made its approval of the compact contingent upon Congressional approval of the Boulder Canyon Project. McClure never developed an effective working relationship with nor gained the full trust of the Imperial Irrigation District officials and the other Southern Californians with interests in Colorado River. He was a critic of the All-American Canal Project. McClure died in 1926. To represent the state on Colorado River matters California created the five-member Colorado River Commission in 1927 which became the Colorado River Board of California in 1937.

NEW MEXICO: DAVIS

New Mexico’s Stephen Davis wrote a short report recommending ratification and, like Utah, its legislature quickly ratified the compact. On the same day that it approved the Colorado River Compact, February 7th, 1923, it also ratified the La Plata River Compact. The compact which covers a small tributary of the San Juan River shared by New Mexico and Colorado was negotiated by Carpenter and Davis and signed on November 27th. During the negotiations, Davis, who had resigned from the New Mexico Supreme Court when he was named its Colorado River Compact Commissioner, gained Hoover’s respect and confidence. In 1923 he became Solicitor of Hoover’s Department of Commerce. He later practiced law in New York from 1928 until death in 1933.

NEVADA: SCRUGHAM

James Scrugham, who had been elected Governor in November 1922, returned to Carson City and wrote a short report. Nevada’s legislature became the first state to ratify the compact on January 27th. He lost his bid for reelection in 1926. From 1932 – 1942 he was Nevada’s sole member of the U. S. House of Representatives. He was elected to the U. S. Senate in 1942, serving until his death in 1945.

WYOMING: EMERSON

Wyoming’s Frank Emerson wrote a detailed report. The Wyoming legislature ratified the compact on February 9th, 1923. Emerson also became a governor, elected both in 1926 and 1930. As governor, he was actively involved in Colorado River matters, pressing Congress for approval of the compact and authorization of the Boulder Canyon Project. Emerson died while in office in 1931.

Governor Clarence J. Morley signing Colorado River compact and South Platte River compact bills, Delph Carpenter standing center. Unidentified photographer. Date 1925. Print from Denver Post. From the CSU Water Archives

COLORADO: CARPENTER

Colorado’s Delph Carpenter returned to Greeley, Colorado where he also wrote a very detailed report, but ratification by his state was not easy. In March he had to write a supplemental report and call on Hoover to help him address several questions. Colorado ratified the compact on April 3rd, 1923. After Hunt was reelected Governor of Arizona in 1924, Carpenter became convinced that Arizona would not ratify the compact, so he became the quarterback of the six-state approval process that was implemented in 1928 when Congress passed the Boulder canyon Project Act. Carpenter, heralded as the father of interstate water compacts, was afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. He became bed-ridden in 1933 and died in 1951.

CHAIRMAN HOOVER

Commission Chairman Herbert Hoover worked with the other commissioners to obtain ratification by their states. In 1928, he was elected as the 31st President of the United States. As president, on June 25th, 1929, he issued a proclamation declaring the Boulder Canyon Project Act effective. The act provided Congressional approval of the compact and authorized the construction of Boulder Dam, now Hoover Dam, and the All-American Canal. The legislation included a six-month window for California to limit its uses to 4.4 million acre-feet per year of Article III(a) water (plus ½ of the unappropriated surplus), for Utah to approve a six-state compact, and for the basin states to make one more attempt to make an agreement with Arizona. They failed. Hoover lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. He died in 1964.

RECLAMATION’S DAVIS

The Commission’s primary technical advisor was Arthur Powell Davis, Director of the Reclamation Service. Davis returned to Washington D.C. where he helped Hoover address Congressional questions about the pact. More of a hands-on engineer and visionary than an administrator, Davis saw the compact as key to approval of the Boulder Canyon Project, which would reenergize his struggling agency.

The struggles ran deep. Two decades after the Reclamation Act laid out a vision for irrigating the West, projects were floundering, with farmers largely unable to repay the ten year interest free “loans” from the federal government that were the projects’ financing mechanism. The original ten year payback scheme had already been extended to twenty, but many irrigation projects were nevertheless abandoned because the irrigators could not pay.

On June 19th, 1923, the day after the Reclamation Service became the Bureau of Reclamation, Davis was dismissed by Interior Secretary Hubert Work. A year later Elwood Mead was hired as Commissioner. Under Mead, the Bureau of Reclamation would become a major agency building the world’s tallest dam, Hoover Dam, and the world’s largest hydroelectric project, Grand Coulee. Davis then became a consultant for California agencies. He died in 1933. In 1941, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes proclaimed that the dam being planned on Colorado River below Hoover dam at Bullshead (also known as Bullhead) would be named after Davis.

THE OTHERS

Two technical advisors, Colorado’s R. I. Meeker and Utah’s Dr. John Widstoe participated in both the 1922 and 1948 Compact negotiations. For the 1948 Upper Basin pact, Meeker was an advisor to Arizona.

As far as the authors can tell, no women were listed in the attendees to the Colorado River Compact negotiations. It is likely that Commission Secretary Clarence Stetson had clerical help. If so, they were never acknowledged.

There is no evidence that any Tribal members attended, or were even consulted, about the fate of the river in whose basins they had been living for time immemorial.

Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives

A century ago in #ColoradoRiver Compact history: the deal signed, the rhetoric soars — InkStain @jfleck @R_EricKuhn #COriver #CRWUA2022

waxing poetic

Click the link to read the article the InkStain website (Eric Kuhn and John Fleck):

As the Colorado River Compact’s negotiators trekked home in the final week of November 1922 following the completion of their task, the rhetoric soared.

Newspapers across the basin published the text of the Compact in full, and the leaders of the negotiation effort fanned out to praise the effort and lay the groundwork for the next steps.

Herbert Hoover, the Commerce Secretary, Commission chairman, and the diplomat who had steered the negotiations through the narrow space for compromise available, spared little in his enthusiasm, nor in his optimism of the next steps. From a Los Angeles radio address:

“The foundation has been laid for a great American conquest. The harnessing of the giant Colorado river will follow the ratification of the pact by the seven states of the Colorado river basin. With such ratification, the next step will be the construction, without delay, of a control dam, under authorization of congress.

“Then the southwest will come into its magnificent heritage of power and life giving water, and all the nation will be vastly benefitted.”

Arthur Powell Davis, head of the Reclamation Service and technical leader of the Compact efforts, framed the agreement as an end to conflict over the river’s water:

“It will obviate the delay and acrimonious litigations which a year ago seemed imminent and has cleared the way for the provision of flood control and irrigation storage urgently needed and indispensable to further development in the Colorado river basin.”

There would be “millions of homes” (Hoover’s words), a vast expansion of irrigation, and flood protection for the Imperial and (Hoover was at pains to point out to the Arizonans) Yuma valleys.

THE SALES PITCH – PLENTY OF WATER FOR ALL

Reclamation’s Davis laid out the central sales pitch:

“The natural flow of the Colorado river averages nearly 20,000,000 acre feet per annum.”

The Upper Basin’s 7.5 million acre foot allocation was “more than double its present needs,” enough to bring another 3 million acres under irrigation, “sufficient for all feasible projects, and some of doubtful feasibility.”

Similarly, with the creation of storage, the Lower Basin would be able to greatly expand its irrigated acreage.

And will all that, Davis argued, the deal left a 4 million acre foot “surplus”, enough to meet the needs of a future treaty with Mexico and to return in the future to reallocate the rest.

NEXT STEPS

The next steps – ratification, legislation, construction – seemed naively simple.

“Confidence that all the state legislatures will approve the compact was expressed by various commissioners,” the wire services reported out of Santa Fe.

As if ratification might be treated as a formality, attention turned immediately to Congress, where officials eyed the pending Smith-McNary bill as a vehicle to launch the Colorado River projects.

Both would take far more time – six years for Congressional action, more than two decades for state ratification, with the start of construction sandwiched in between.

But the changes to the West to be wrought by the Compact’s fewer than 2,000 words were now underway.

Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives

Project 7 wins grant funds — The #Montrose Press

Sneffels Range and Ridgway Reservoir. CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56735453

Click the link to read the article on The Montrose Press website. Here’s an excerpt:

Project 7 Water Authority scored another grant to help it add critical infrastructure. The Colorado River District’s Accelerator Grant program awarded Project 7 $46,600, to be used in developing a competitive federal funding application.

Project 7 provides drinking water for about 60,000 people in the Uncompahgre River Valley and is in the process of developing a backup treatment facility to deliver treated water from Ridgway Reservoir. Currently, Montrose, Delta and Ouray counties’ drinking water comes from a single treatment plant, using water from Blue Mesa Reservoir that is delivered via the Gunnison Tunnel.

The Colorado River District funding will help pay for a feasibility study and a grant application to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for funding to treat hard water with high levels of minerals in Ridgway Reservoir. This study and application will include the results of a pilot project that tested out different means of softening and filtration so that when the backup plant is built, the water it treats will be of the same quality as the current treatment plant. Once the study is accepted by BuRec, Project 7’s Regional Water Supply & Resiliency Program is eligible to apply for federal funding through the bureau’s Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse grant opportunity. Earlier this year, Project 7 secured $612,059 from BuRec’s Desalination and Water Purification Research Program, which paid for the pilot project (with a funding match from Project 7).

The push for a second treatment facility is on, because the current, single source puts the region’s drinking water supply at greater risks from wildfire, drought and infrastructure failure. Having a second treatment plant will provide another source of drinking water (from Ridgway Reservoir) and provide a backup option in the event of infrastructure failure at the current plant.

Where did the #PFAS in your blood come from? These computer models offer clues — Environmental Health News

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org.

Click the link to read the article on the Environmental Health News website (Marlowe Starling):

New research could help pinpoint “forever chemicals” exposure — giving communities a roadmap for cleanup and individuals direction on what to avoid.

Downstream of a Chemours fluorochemical manufacturing plant on the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, people living in Brunswick and New Hanover counties suffer from higher-than-normal rates of brain tumors, breast cancers and other forms of rare — and accelerated — diseases.

Residents now know this isn’t a coincidence. It’s from years of PFAS contamination from Chemours.

It wasn’t easy to make the connection. More than a decade of water testing and lawsuits identified the link between aggressive cancers and per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS – a class of more than 9,000 toxic and persistent man-made compounds known informally as “forever chemicals.” They’re commonly found in nonstick cookware, water-resistant clothing, firefighting foam, cosmetics, food packaging and recently in school uniforms and insecticides.

The difficulty of tracing these chemicals to a specific source is that Americans — 97% of us, by one estimate — are exposed to potentially thousands of PFAS.

New research published in Science of the Total Environment now finds that tracing models can identify sources of PFAS contamination from people’s blood samples. Instead of using environmental measures of PFAS as a proxy for how people are exposed, the methods use blood samples as a more direct way to map people’s exposure.

“If this works, it would allow us to identify, without any prior knowledge, what people are being exposed to and how they’re being exposed to it,” Dylan Wallis, a lead author of the paper and toxicologist formerly at North Carolina State University, told EHN.

The research, while not yet perfect, marks the beginning of what could become a wide-scale method of determining where the PFAS in our blood came from—such as our food, drinking water or use of nonstick cookware—and how much of it came from each source. But its effectiveness hinges on the need to collect more comprehensive data on where PFAS occurs in people’s bodies, the environment and sources. If scientists can collect this data, then these methods would be able to draw a roadmap for people’s exposure, allowing us to pinpoint problem areas, avoid contamination and implement regulatory changes.

PFAS in blood samples

For this tracing method to work, scientists need an idea of which compounds exist in air, water, food and everyday products in a determined community. First, they have to know where to look for PFAS. This study used data from previous research to identify the types of PFAS in drinking water. Then, they test blood samples for which PFAS are in people’s bodies—although using blood alone gives us only part of the contamination picture, Carla Ng, a chemical and biological engineer at University of Pittsburgh, told EHN. Once they match PFAS proportions in blood to what’s in their drinking water, as in this study, they can gain clues to which sources contributed the chemicals showing up in people’s blood.

“You start to build this picture of what are the inputs, what’s the material they’re getting their exposure from, and then what’s in their blood,” Ng, who was not involved in the study, explained.

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

The new study analyzed blood samples taken in 2018 and 2020 from residents in Wilmington, North Carolina, and three towns in El Paso County, Colorado. Both communities are near well-known PFAS polluters: the Chemours facility in North Carolina, which manufactures fluoropolymers for nonstick and waterproof products, and the Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado, which uses PFAS-containing firefighting foam, also called AFFFs.

Related: PFAS on our shelves and in our bodies

The team used computer models to identify 20 PFAS compounds from residents’ blood samples and then grouped them in categories representing different sources. Some are easy to identify because manufacturers often use a specific type of PFAS. For example, the compounds found in firefighting foam have a unique signature, like a fingerprint, making Peterson Space Force Base the obvious culprit. But more diffuse sources of PFAS, such as those in dust or food, are harder to pin down because scientists aren’t sure which PFAS are in them or where they come from.

In North Carolina and Colorado, the sources were more obvious, allowing the research team to test models’ ability to identify sources. However, to conduct similar research on a national scale is not so simple. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has tested levels of PFAS in blood samples nationwide since 1999, but it only tests for a specific list of PFAS, which could overlook the full spectrum of compounds.

Drinking water in both locations in the study shows high levels of fluoroethers and fluoropolymers, many of which are “legacy” PFAS, meaning they have been phased out of production for at least a decade but are still found in drinking water. Because the chemical bonds are so strong, they persist in the environment for years, which is why they show up in blood samples long after companies have stopped using or manufacturing them. Long-chain PFAS like PFOA and PFOS, which are the most-studied compounds with a longer structure of carbon-fluorine bonds, are harder to break down, and they bond to proteins in the blood more easily than short-chain compounds.

“These last a really long time,” Wallis said of long-chain PFAS, which were recorded at levels several times higher than national averages. “If you were drinking a really high level of it 40 years ago, you would still have really high levels of it 40 years later.”

A pollution snapshot

Wallis said they were surprised the models worked because they have never been used for PFAS before. They were built to trace other contaminants in the environment, like particles in air pollution, rather than in people.

Tracing PFAS is more challenging than tracing air pollution for several reasons, Xindi Hu, a lead data scientist at the research organization Mathematica, told EHN. Hu conducted earlier research using a different type of computer analysis of blood samples to identify the main sources of PFAS contamination in the Faroe Islands.

Many PFAS lack distinct chemical fingerprints to tell researchers exactly where a particular compound came from, Hu said. But in the study led by Wallis, the chemical fingerprints from the Space Force base in Colorado and fluorochemical facility in North Carolina are well-known.

“When you take a blood sample, it’s really just a snapshot,” she said. “So how do you translate this snapshot of concentration back to the course of the entire exposure history?”

That’s partly why the new paper’s authors conducted this study: The more compounds that are correctly linked to a source, the better these models will work, Wallis said. In essence, they need a better database of PFAS compounds so the models know how to connect the dots.

PFAS also react differently in the human body than in the environment, and scientists still don’t fully understand how we metabolize different compounds. Shorter-chain PFAS, for example, are more likely to appear in urine samples than in blood because they are water-soluble, said Pittsburgh’s Ng, who studies how PFAS react in humans and wildlife.

“If you’re doing everything on the basis of blood levels, it may not tell you everything you need to know about exposure and potential toxicity,” she said, adding that PFAS could also accumulate in the liver, brain, lungs and other locations where it’s difficult to take samples.

Worse, more modern PFAS with carbon-hydrogen bonds can actually transform into other types of compounds as the body metabolizes them, which could give a false impression of what people are exposed to.

“The key to identifying a good tracer is a molecule that doesn’t transform,” Ng said. Some PFAS are great tracers, she added, but “the more transformable your PFAS is in general, the poorer the tracer is going to be.”

That’s why newer PFAS compounds like GenX were not detected in blood samples or used as tracers in the recent study.

“These models aren’t going to account for everything,” Wallis said. “No model is.”

Stopping the contamination 

Wallis and their co-authors said they hope the models can become more accurate for less exposed communities in the future. With more data, it would be easier to suggest what to avoid instead of guessing where PFAS exposures come from, Wallis said, adding that it could lead to more protective regulations.

Although these models can vaguely help identify where compounds might come from in a particular community, it’s not a definitive solution, Alissa Cordner, an environmental sociologist and co-director of the PFAS Project Lab who was not involved in the recent study, told EHN. Even if there’s no immediate application of these methods, identifying where PFAS are is the first step.

“Everybody can point their fingers at other possible sources of contamination,” Cordner said. “The best way to address this is not to try to, after the fact, link people’s exposure to a contamination source. It’s to stop the contamination.”

From Your Site Articles

This Week in Water™: A Rail Strike Could Stop #Water Treatment Systems in Their Tracks — @H2ORadio

Click the link to go to the H2ORadio website. Here’s an excerpt:

Railroad workers in the U.S. are set to go on strike on December 9, if an agreement is not reached with their employers. If they strike, it could have impacts on water treatment plants across the country. Drinking water and wastewater systems depend on trains to deliver critical chemicals, including chlorine.

West Portal Moffat Tunnel.

Unions have been struggling to get workers paid sick leave, but a tentative deal that was reached in September did not include sick pay and was rejected by four labor organizations. Workers have also been complaining about staffing shortages and scheduling rules that keep many on call seven days a week. CNN reports that record profits have been reported by many railroads last year and are likely this year.

Rail workers are critical to all sectors of the economy. A strike would paralyze nearly one third of U.S. freight shipments, and Reuters reports it could cost as much as $2 billion a day. Earlier this month water organizations wrote to President Biden saying the stoppage of rail service would be catastrophic for utilities’ ability to operate and would pose a significant threat to human health.

E&E News reports that, in anticipation of a strike, it’s likely shipments of the critical chemicals will be halted, because they cannot be left stranded in unsecured locations. In September, deliveries were curtailed before a strike was averted at the last minute.

While only four of 12 unions may go on strike in December, it’s likely the others will honor picket lines. Railroad companies could also lock out workers if no contract is reached. There have been renewed calls for President Biden and Congress to intervene. On Thanksgiving Day, Biden said his administration was involved in talks to avoid a strike. The Railway Labor Act passed in 1926 gives Congress the power to block a strike, unlike labor laws for union members in most other businesses.

#SanJuanRiver #snowpack and streamflow report — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website. Here’s an excerpt:

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 5.7 inches of snow water equivalent as of noon on Tuesday, Nov. 22. The Wolf Creek summit is at 88 percent of the Nov. 22 snowpack median. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 93 percent of the Nov. 22 median.

River report

Stream flow for the San Juan River on Nov. 22 at approximately 11 a.m. was 75.1 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the U.S. Geological National Water Dashboard, These numbers are down from a nighttime peak of 108 cfs at 10:15 p.m. on Nov. 21. This reading is also slightly down from 84.5 cfs at 11 a.m. on Nov. 15.



Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and the San Juan Water Conservancy District boards discuss gravel pit lease extension — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

San Juan River from Wolf Creek Pass

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Dorothy Elder). Here’s an excerpt;

At a Nov. 15 joint work session, the boards of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and the San Juan Water Conser- vancy District (SJWCD) met to discuss the terms of a lease exten- sion agreement that would give the Weber family another year to operate the gravel pit at the Run- ning Iron Ranch. Both PAWSD and SJWCD are the technical landlords of the property, which is the same site being proposed to house a reservoir commonly referred to as the San Juan River Headwaters Project (SJRHP) or Dry Gulch.

In April, PAWSD originally decided to not extend the Webers’ lease, citing reasons like pricing, the benefit to PAWSD customers and the reclamation timeline of the site. However, in September, the board reconsidered after the Webers offered new lease exten- sion terms. In the new terms, Andy and Kathy Weber proposed that the lease be extended for one year at a cost of $48,137.78 with the po- tential to renegotiate or extend the lease at the end of the year. The lease terms also include that the Webers would complete structural restoration on the current gravel pit site within the year.

San Juan Basin Public Health offering free well testing for #PFAS chemicals — The #PagosaSprings Sun

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org.

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Megan Graham). Here’s an excerpt:

San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) has received a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to address contaminants in drinking water. The funding will be used to provide free testing for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which is a broad group of manmade chemicals in industry and consumer products sometimes known as “forever chemicals” because they do not easily break down in the environment or the human body…

La Plata County and Archuleta County residents can now have their private wells sampled and tested for PFAS chemicals at no cost. The program is targeting areas in the counties close to fa- cilities where PFAS chemicals are known to be used or stored, but all well owners in both counties are encouraged to have their wells tested. Facilities that may have stored or used PFAS chemicals in- clude airports, landfills and some fire stations. If you receive water from a municipality, water district or shared delivery system, contact your water provider for PFAS infor- mation. Several local public water providers have already tested their systems for PFAS contamination. SJBPH Environmental Health staff will be available to discuss test results, which will be processed by a certified independent labora- tory and can take up to 45 days to receive. Staff will assist well owners with determining next steps based on the test results. To have your well water tested, please contact us at eh@sjbpublichealth.org or (970) 335-2060…

There are several education events planned to help share in- formation on PFAS chemicals and testing options. Join us from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Durango Public Library, 1900 E. Third Ave., Durango. Additional education events in Archuleta and La Plata counties will be an- nounced in the weeks to come.

Saving the #RioGrande Cutthroat Trout: Beavers show the way — @AlmosaCitizen

Construction of Beaver Dam analogue Photo courtesy of the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project.

Click the link to read the article on the Alamosa Citizen website (Owen Woods):


THE Rio Grande cutthroat trout is the Rio Grande National Forest’s only native trout. It needs help. Biologists from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Rio Grande National Forest are trying to bring the cutthroat back to its full glory, but they need help, too. So who do the humans look to for help?

Easy answer: Beavers. 

Jason Remshardt, wildlife and fisheries program manager for the Rio Grande National Forest, recently gave a presentation on the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. He is the only fish biologist in the RGNF. He talked about the effort to create and conserve habitat for the cutthroat, and how the answer might just come from nature’s finest engineers. 

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout used to exist in just about every part of the Rio Grande basin, but due to a wide range of circumstances, these fish only occupy a fraction of the area they used to. Part of conservation and successful reintroduction is habitat restoration. Right now, the experts are looking at nature’s experts. These projects are imitating “what the beaver dams are doing,” said Remshardt. 

These “Beaver Dam Analogues” or “Temporary Wood Grade Structures,” or TWGS, (pronounced like twigs), are designed to help back up water and create a lively wetland habitat that encourages healthy biodiversity not just for the cutthroat, but the entire ecosystem. 

“Beaver Dam Analogues” or “Temporary Wood Grade Structures,” or TWGS, (pronounced like twigs), are designed to help back up water and create a lively wetland habitat that encourages healthy biodiversity not just for the cutthroat, but the entire ecosystem. They are being employed in what’s called “Process-Based Restoration.” These man-made structures are relatively easy and straightforward to make. They are built with natural resources such as wooden posts, willow branches, aspen branches, and rocks. Though they are simple to create, Remshardt said “we’re not as good at building them” as the beavers. Photo courtesy Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project

“It’s a technique that’s become increasingly popular across the western U.S. within the last few years,” said Connor Born, project manager for the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project. 

The man-made structures can help to create a more complex habitat that encourages a healthier fish population. Born says that this can mean “deeper pools that serve as low-flow refuge and slower moving water for younger fish. The structures can also benefit surrounding vegetation, provide fire breaks, increase stream shading, and grazing forage.” 

Cutthroat trout populations often live in smaller streams that don’t have much water. According to Born, “The structures can help attenuate water in these smaller streams to provide more consistent flow and temperature during periods of drought.”

Cat Creek near La Jara Reservoir once had populations of the cutthroat and beavers. For unclear reasons, the beavers left that area. Their departure, Born says, “paired with prolonged drought conditions, caused flows to become much more intermittent, eventually leading to the suspected die-off” of the cutthroat trout population there. 

So far, the groups undertaking this project have implemented 10 of these structures in the Rio Grande National Forest. Remshardt noted that “if they last for a few years, that’s great. If the beavers take them over, that’s great. If they disappear, then you haven’t lost that much. You’ve just lost like half a day’s work.” 

According to Born, the first 10 structures are in the headwaters of Saguache Creek in Saguache Park. There are 12 more ready for construction in the coming year that will be built along Big Springs Creek, a cutthroat stream near Saguache.

Born said that the restoration structures can function without beavers, but the organizations are hoping to find places where the two can combine forces. 

Beavers in the national forest are alive and thriving. Remshardt says that the RGNF is happy with current populations, but there is room for expansion and improvement. With that, the benefits of beaver dams create healthy, expansive wetlands. Beaver dams and habitats also make great fire breaks

These animals, however, are considered a nuisance species to certain areas of the Valley. Beavers can be troublesome to infrastructure like irrigation canals and roads. 

“There’s this stark contrast of existing as a pest species on the Valley floor while being highly beneficial up in the headwaters. The logical solution,” Born said, “is an efficient, legal, and humane way to translocate them to areas where their engineering is more appreciated and doesn’t impact infrastructure.”

Relocating the beavers pairs well with the restoration efforts. Born said that the structures may encourage beavers to stay in areas that “have habitat that would otherwise be too degraded.”

Remshardt says there’s plenty of space to relocate any problematic, or displaced wood-chopping rodents. 

“We’re ready to take them and we have places all over the forest to take them. Plenty of places we can put them,” Remshardt said. 

Identifying where beavers are and where beavers aren’t is a part of the job that requires a lot of work from a lot of people. Software like iNaturalist allows anyone to report animal sightings and tracks to help in identification. These reports can help biologists like Remshardt identify populations and locations to help further studies and surveys. 

Helping the beavers help us really boils down to, Remshardt said, the fact that “beavers are the best at doing their own work.”

Photo courtesy of Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project

Surveys and History

The largest effort for studying these fish are surveys. Remshardt said they conduct surveys on every population of RGCT about every five years. These surveys cover at least 40 streams in the national forest and take a large number of people to conduct. The surveys gather the number of fish and their sizes, take genetic samples, and conduct health surveys. 

Most of the streams and lakes are easy to access, but the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout lives in the alpine, too. Remshardt said almost every drainage and lake in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range has cutthroat populations. So, in order to keep these high mountain lakes stocked and healthy, they conduct High Mountain Lake Airplane Stocking. A video from CPW shows just how these operations are done. 

Conservation of the cutthroat, Remshardt said, remains the most intensive and expensive project. Ongoing research for more cutthroat introductions to expand them into their historic ranges is an ongoing and expansive effort. Currently, an effort to successfully reintroduce the cutthroat to the Sand Creek drainages at the Great Sand Dunes National Park is taking place. The project first started in 2005. 

The Rio Grande cutthroat is the only trout native to the San Luis Valley. Evidence suggests it was a native fish to Lake Alamosa 700,000 years ago. Photo credit: Ryan Michelle Scavo

blog post by Trout Unlimited’s Rio Grande Basin project manager Kevin Terry breaks down the history of this project. You can also read the USGS’s in-depth report on this effort here.

CPW estimates that the RGCT occupies just 12 percent of its native habitat. Biologists estimate that 127 “conservation populations” exist in Colorado and New Mexico. The cutthroats’ range has seen a dramatic decrease over the last 150 years. Some of the factors that have led to this decline are habitat changes, climate change, drought, water quality, hybridization with non-native Rainbow Trout and other cutthroat trout species, as well as aggressive competition from Brown and Brook trout. 

Evidence suggests that the cutthroat trout thrived in healthy populations in Lake Alamosa, a lake that existed for over three million years. 

The Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project, US Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Trout Unlimited “are hoping to identify both at-risk RGCT populations and future locations for reintroduction and enhance the habitat using these restoration techniques,” Born said.

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

#Snowpack news November 27, 2022 #CRWUA2022

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map November 26, 2022 via the NRCS.
Colorado snowpack basin-filled map November 26, 2022 via the NRCS.

A century ago in #ColoradoRiver Compact negotiations: the Compact is signed — InkStain @jfleck @R_EricKuhn #COriver #CRWUA2022

The Compact’s Signers. Photo via InkStain

Click the link to read the article on the InkStain website (Eric Kuhn and John Fleck):

The final day of the Colorado River Compact negotiations seemed almost anticlimactic.

WORDSMITHING “UNPERFECTED RIGHTS”?

Unable to reach a final agreement on Article VIII on Thursday evening, the Commission met again on Friday morning, Nov. 24, 1922, at 10 AM. They began with a discussion of “unperfected rights.”  The concept behind the article was that rights that were then using water would not be impacted by the compact but once storage of at least 5,000,000 acre-feet of capacity was available, perfected rights on the lower river, like the Imperial Irrigation District, would be solely satisfied by that storage and would no longer have the right to call for water being used by junior rights upstream of Lee Ferry. All unperfected rights, including what Hoover call “inchoate rights” – those that were being planned but were not yet using water – could only consume water apportioned to the basin in which they were situated.

There were many of these inchoate rights out there, including George Maxwell’s Arizona Highline Canal which would eventually evolve into today’s Central Arizona Project. There was also the Girand Project, a proposed large private power dam in what is now the western Grand Canyon, and Los Angeles was in the early stages of exploring an aqueduct from the Colorado River. The compact would be useless if these types of projects had potential claims on the water uses above Lee Ferry. The commission finally, but reluctantly, agreed to:

“Present perfected rights to the beneficial use of waters of the Colorado River System are unimpaired by this compact. Whenever storage capacity of 5,000,000 acre-feet shall have been provided on the main Colorado River within or for the benefit of the Lower Basin, then claims of such rights, if any, by appropriators or users of water in the Lower Basin against appropriators or users of water in the Upper Basin shall attach to and be satisfied from water that may be stored not in conflict with Article III. All other rights to beneficial use of waters of the Colorado River System shall be satisfied solely from the water apportioned to that Basin in which they are situate.”

New Mexico’s Steven Davis summed up the attitude of many of the commissioners when he declared “I will register my vote as a ‘yes’ on that article. I do it only because to my mind it is the least objectionable of the attempts that have been made to frame the idea expressed in it, and not because I approve it.” Before approving the compact, they made at least two more changes that morning. They agreed to drop the introductory sentence in Article III and they dropped the definition of “apportionment” in Article II. (Note: at some point they also changed the accounting year in III(d) from July 1 -June 30 to October 1- September 30, but there is no mention of it in the minutes.)

The Commission held one more meeting that afternoon, its 27th formal meeting. It was mainly for housekeeping matters. They refused a request by Arizona’s Norviel to either support or not oppose the Girand Project that was then pending before the Federal Power Commission. Instead, they agreed that Hoover should send a letter asking that any future power permits be made subject to the compact. They then passed a resolution supporting the construction of a large dam on the Colorado River by the U. S. Government. The two actions were related. Hoover, Arthur Powell Davis, and McClure all opposed the Girand Project because they believed it would interfere with the proposed Boulder Canyon Project.

REFLECTING ON WHAT THEY ACCOMPLISHED

Before ending the meeting, they took time to congratulate one another on what they had accomplished. On behalf of his fellow commissioners Delph Carpenter, who nearly three years ago had suggested a compact be negotiated, made the following remarks for the record.

Carpenter went on to thank Hoover:

Hoover thanked all those present noting.

Hoover went on to add that the “days of romance of the West are gone, and the job of western man is one of construction.” Adding, “It is possible this will standout as one of the landmarks of Western development.”

The commissioners then made the trek through the snow into Santa Fe where they signed the compact at the Palace of Governors.

When buying a home — think about #water — The #ColoradoSprings Gazette

Mrs. Gulch’s Blue gramma “Eyelash” patch August 28, 2021.

Click the link to read the article on The Colorado Springs Gazette website (Susan Beckman and Andrea Cole). Here’s an excerpt:

Finding and paying for water is no easy task for these developers and their communities, leading to potential water restrictions as existing resources are stretched to the limit. In addition, as communities seek to encourage lower water usage increased costs are often times passed on to the residents. As a result of these costs, many homebuyers have shifted their focus to water and affordability. Wise homebuyers understand how important the precious resource of water is to the sustainability and survival of their community and are seeking places to live that have water supply plans and water demand management systems in place that serve as a foundation for the community as a whole…

Some of the things homebuyers should consider when looking for a community with a strong water demand management foundation include:

Innovate land planning: Look for a community with thoughtful lot sizes and focused landscape areas. Each of the new homes should be designed with landscaped yard that come with a water budget, water efficient landscaping and irrigation system that is designed to minimize the use of water. Each home should also come with installation specifications that require all new construction to be equipped with water efficient fixtures and appliances linked to new technologies.

Dual water metering: Seek out modern technology that puts the homeowner in charge of the water needs and water usage. This includes separate meters for indoor (less expensive water) and outdoor (more expensive water). This takes the guess work out of how much water that a homeowner is using. The homeowner is provided technology, and a phone app, that provides real-time feedback of their water use. This tool empowers residents to monitor their water usage, it also allows them to differentiate the water that is being used outside and the water being used inside.

Smart irrigation control systems: New homes should come equipped with a smart irrigation controller (Rachio Smart Irrigation System is an example) that integrates a dual water metering system into each home. These controllers help to optimize outdoor watering patterns and gives the plants in the yard the water they need to be healthy. The systems also monitor the weather and automatically adjust the outdoor watering schedule based on local and current weather conditions, so you are not watering your lawn during a rainstorm. The smart irrigation system also alerts a homeowner to water leaks and the homeowner can shut off the water remotely to avoid a flood.

Drought tolerant plant selections and landscape guidelines: In conjunction with the Denver Botanic Gardens, some Colorado communities have identified a set of outdoor plants for use by residents that are attractive, require less water and are drought tolerant (bird friendly options are also available). Landscape reviews by community districts also provide residents with ways to manage their home’s water budget to avoid use of more expensive water without compromising landscaping design that can be enjoyed by residents. Some communities will also provide classes to educate residents on gardening and water management.

Investing in resources: Forward thinking communities have invested extensive resources in home builder and customer education about water use, installed WaterSense approved fixtures and have implemented an innovative water budget-based rate structure that provides incentives to customers to manage their outdoor water use within a water budget.

Green Mountain Falls Trustees Approve New Water Pump Station — The Mountain Jackpot News

By Smallbones – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10986442

Click the link to read the article on The Mountain Jackpot News website. Here’s an excerpt:

The Green Mountain Falls Board of Trustees approved plans last week for a new vastly expanded water pump station, being developed by  Colorado Springs Utilities.

According to a town staff report,  “the new pump station will be located at 10685 Hondo Ave. and will ensure reliable water service for residents and businesses in Green Mountain Falls. It will also provide a safer and more readily accessible working space for CSU, enabling more efficient maintenance and repair activities. CSU is currently finalizing an easement agreement with the property owner to allow the pump station to be built on the site.”

The project was recently discussed by the planning commission. At last week’s trustees meeting, the elected leaders had an extensive discussion with representatives of the project applicant, Dewberry Engineers. The trustees support the project goals, with the need for better infrastructure and the fact that the current pump station, located at the base of several prime trail areas, is outdated. The main concern dealt with a staging area for the preliminary construction efforts. Following considerable discussion, the staging area will occur at intersection of Ute Pass Avenue and Olathe Street. Not all the trustees were on board with the details, especially with the pre-construction staging area, which could involve a number of vehicles. But the Dewberry representatives stressed that they had limited options in GMF due to the small roadways.

The project will get underway sometime in 2023.

Article: Growing polarization around #ClimateChange on social media — Nature Climate Change #ActOnClimate

Click the link to read the article on the Nature Communications website (Max FalkenbergAlessandro GaleazziMaddalena TorricelliNiccolò Di MarcoFrancesca LarosaMadalina SasAmin MekacherWarren PearceFabiana ZolloWalter Quattrociocchi & Andrea Baronchelli)

Climate change and political polarization are two of the twenty-first century’s critical socio-political issues. Here we investigate their intersection by studying the discussion around the United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP) using Twitter data from 2014 to 2021. First, we reveal a large increase in ideological polarization during COP26, following low polarization between COP20 and COP25. Second, we show that this increase is driven by growing right-wing activity, a fourfold increase since COP21 relative to pro-climate groups. Finally, we identify a broad range of ‘climate contrarian’ views during COP26, emphasizing the theme of political hypocrisy as a topic of cross-ideological appeal; contrarian views and accusations of hypocrisy have become key themes in the Twitter climate discussion since 2019. With future climate action reliant on negotiations at COP27 and beyond, our results highlight the importance of monitoring polarization and its impacts in the public climate discourse.

a, Total number of Twitter posts using the term ‘COP2x’ created each day. Inset: Google Trends (GT) popularity scores for ‘COP2x’, with country-specific scores showing the local enhancement of public engagement. b, The retweet distributions for COP21 and COP26. The total numbers of retweets are shown in the top right. Extended time periods and other COPs are shown in Supplementary Figs. 1 and 2. (Click for a larger view.)

The Karuk’s Innate Relationship with Fire: Adapting to #ClimateChange on the #KlamathRiver — NOAA

Controlled burn in the Klamath River watershed. A 2011 controlled burn in a tan oak gathering area creates defensible space below a nearby home while increasing the quality of the acorns by interrupting the life cycle of the acorn weevil. Image: Mid Klamath Watershed Council.

Click the link to read the article on the NOAA webiste:

Members of the Karuk Tribe in northern California maintain that the age-old tradition of prescribed burning holds the answer to climate adaptation planning in the Klamath River range.

Fire is foundational to the Karuk Tribe, who live and manage 1.048 million acres of their aboriginal lands along the Klamath and Salmon Rivers in northern California. By removing accumlated fuels, fire makes room for new growth and change. This renewal helps ensure the quality of traditional foods and cultural materials and serves as a medium of cultural education. Ceremonies surrounding fire strengthen the Tribe’s social networks and enhance its members’ physical and mental health.

The Tribe’s proactive cultural use of fire also protects the Klamath River basin by reducing the availability of forest fuels—and thus reducing the risk of high-severity wildfire that can threaten people, their homes and businesses, and natural systems such as forests and wetlands near rivers and streams.

Wildland systems in the Klamath River range have evolved alongside Karuk management practices for thousands of years. Tribal families continue to use traditional forest management techniques—including low-intensity prescribed burns—to cultivate the forest to become a more productive resource for food and cultural materials and to reduce the availability of forest fuels. Tribal programs support and expand upon their work.

The map shows the Karuk Tribe aboriginal land base in northern California. Credit: NOAA

Traditional Karuk fire use

“Fire is a cultural resource.”—Leaf Hillman, Karuk Director of Natural Resources

Beargrass—or panyúrar in Karuk—is an important species for basket weavers and regalia makers. The blades that grow the first year after a fire are considered best for basket weaving. Panyúrar can be stimulated by fire, and is fire-adapted in that it can sprout from rhizomes following fire or re-establish by seed. At the same time, panyúrar can be damaged by fires that burn too hot. Photo credit: NOAA

Indigenous burning is increasingly recognized as a component of the ecosystem and a restoration technique. Fire is important for restoring grasslands for elk, managing for food sources such as tan and black oak acorns, maintaining quality basketry materials, and producing smoke that can shade the river for fish. Karuk fire regimes generate what is known as “pyrodiversity”—the biodiversity consequences of fire management—on the landscape by extending the burning season and shortening the intervals of fire return.

The multitude of foods, materials, and other products that come from Karuk lands are evidence of the profound diversity of fire regimes that are required to maintain relationships with hundreds of animal, plant, and mushroom species.

Tanoak acorns (xuntápan) are a staple Native food for many indigenous people and are also vital for numerous wildlife species. Additionally, the roots of tanoak trees support the growth of another important food, tanoak mushrooms. Tanoak (xunyêep) is very susceptible to high-intensity fire, but benefits from cultural burning that decreases tree and acorn pests and reduces competitive vegetation. Photo credit: NOAA

Since European contact, non-native use and management of the region has severely impacted the Karuk people’s access to cultural, ceremonial, and food resources. The region’s changing climate has exacerbated these effects, and the Karuk are now experiencing a decline in the abundance of key species, including salmon, acorns, huckleberries, hazel, and willow. Natural disasters and hazards ranging from increasing frequency of high-severity wildfire to flooding and mudslides are on the rise—generating a range of negative human health outcomes for the Karuk people.

Revitalizing Traditional Ecological Knowledge

In order to adapt to these and other ongoing challenges, the Karuk people are working to revitalize the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) inextricably tied to their ability to physically apply resource management practices. Fire has been a primary tool in Karuk wildland management systems, and the Tribe maintains that the age-old tradition of prescribed burning holds the answer to climate adaptation planning in the Klamath River range.

The Tribe has researched and published two reports concerning social and environmental climate changes and the long-term effects the Karuk people are facing with regard to knowledge sovereignty and the vulnerability of their TEK, supported by the 2015 Tribal Cooperative Landscape Conservation Program administered by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Climate Resilience Program.

One report—Karuk Traditional Ecological Knowledge and the Need for Knowledge Sovereignty—emphasizes two key concepts:

  • First, that TEK is not an isolated application, but a living system that requires ongoing practice in the landscape for survival. Preserving knowledge sovereignty is fundamentally about Karuk cultural management because this knowledge is embedded in, and emerges from, the practices of traditional management.
  • Second, it is impossible—as well as unethical—to attempt to remove TEK from its original context. Efforts to extract knowledge are a form of cultural appropriation that erodes the very foundations of tribal life. Knowledge and management techniques are at the core of tribal identity, culture, spiritual practice, and subsistence economies. Karuk people need fire in order to restore the land, strengthen cultural relationships, revitalize ceremonial education, and protect all who inhabit the Klamath River region from the adverse effects of high-severity wildfire.
Traditional Karuk acorn basket. Photo credit: NOAA

A follow-up report, entitled Retaining Knowledge Sovereignty, stresses the federal obligation to maintain Karuk knowledge sovereignty due to the likelihood of cultural appropriation and misuse of Karuk TEK. For example, the U.S. Forest Service, a federal agency, makes decisions about prescribed burning within the Klamath and Six Rivers National Forests. The report provides strategies to promote traditional knowledge sovereignty, including reference to the Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives. Tribal leaders believe that it is possible to create a meaningful collaboration with the Forest Service, the Klamath National Forest, and the Six Rivers National Forest that upholds and strengthens tribal sovereignty and recognizes the legitimacy of the Karuk’s practical ability to carry out traditional management to restore the Klamath to a safe and productive state of health.

Climate Vulnerability Assessment

In addition to the reports mentioned above, the Tribe has also undertaken and published the Karuk Climate Vulnerability Assessment (CVA), which addresses vulnerabilities to Karuk traditional foods and cultural use species, tribal program infrastructure, and management authority and political status that result from the increasing frequency of high-severity fire. The CVA makes the case that Karuk tribal knowledge and management principles regarding the use of fire can be utilized to reduce the likelihood of high-severity fires and thereby protect public, as well as tribal, trust resources.

References: 

Story Credit: 

Aja Conrad, Miakah Nix, and Kathy Lynn, Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Project/University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program

Banner Image Credit: 

A 2011 controlled burn in a tan oak gathering area creates defensible space below a nearby home while increasing the quality of the acorns by interrupting the life cycle of the acorn weevil. Image: Mid Klamath Watershed Council. Used with permission

The #ColoradoRiver Compact at 100: Can it survive another century? — Audubon #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

A March 31, 1922 photo of the Colorado River Commission. Standing left to right: Delph E. Carpenter (Colorado), James G. Scrugham (Nevada), R. E. Caldwell (Utah), Frank C. Emerson (Wyoming), Stephen B. Davis, Jr. (New Mexico), W. F. McClure (California) and W. S. Norviel (Arizona). Seated: Gov. Emmet D. Boyle (Nevada), Gov. Oliver H. Shoup (Colorado), Herbert Hoover (federal representative and chair) and Gov. Merritt C. Mecham (New Mexico). The governors were not members of the Commission. Photo: Colorado State University Library

Click the link to read the article on the Audubon website (Jennifer Pitt):

On November 24, 1922, representatives of the seven Colorado River basin states—Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming—gathered in Santa Fe, N.M., to sign the Colorado River Compact, cementing into law a regime for dividing the river’s water. Without exception, these men were newcomers to a region inhabited since time immemorial by Native American Tribes. Two of them represented states just a decade old, none represented states more than 75-years-old, and their purpose was to enable colonial settlers to establish a foothold through irrigation-driven economic development.

Updated Colorado River 4-Panel plot thru Water Year 2022 showing reservoirs, flows, temperatures and precipitation. All trends are in the wrong direction. Since original 2017 plot, conditions have deteriorated significantly. Brad Udall via Twitter: https://twitter.com/bradudall/status/1593316262041436160

On the centennial anniversary of the creation of that consequential document, as Colorado River reservoir levels have plummeted to historic lows, Native American Tribes remain deprived of access to water rightfully theirs, and we see degradation of freshwater-dependent ecosystems throughout the basin, it seems worth asking whether the Compact serves us well.

Today, elected leaders of these seven states still regard the Compact as an essential, foundational document, and despite its flaws, it is still considered the bedrock of “the Law of the River” which also includes International Treaties with Mexico, federal and state laws, and regulations.

They point to the primary intent of the Compact: “to provide for the equitable division and apportionment of the use of the waters of the Colorado River System.” By 1922, “prior appropriation” was established as the law of the land within each of the Colorado River Basin States, meaning those who first took water from the river would have senior water rights and water developments that followed would be subordinated. If there wasn’t enough water to fulfill all the rights, the senior right would get water and the junior would get none. The negotiators from the “Upper Basin” states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming shared a concern that water users in “Lower Basin” states California and Arizona would put Colorado River water to use before they could (Nevada is also in the Lower Basin, but so few people lived there in 1922 they were not seen as a threat). The evidence: in 1901, irrigators began diverting vast quantities of Colorado River water onto farms in the Imperial Valley in California and the Yuma Valley in Arizona. The Upper Basin states were not putting anywhere near those volumes of water to use and sought the right to develop at their own pace in the future, without having to worry that the Lower Basin states would claim the entire Colorado River supply in senior rights. The solution in the Compact was to divide the Colorado’s water equally between the Upper and Lower Basins, regardless of the rate at which water was developed.

It is this “equitable division” of the Colorado’s water that many continue to view as essential. A century later, “equitable apportionment” between the basins still sounds reasonable, but if the seven Colorado River Basin States want to keep the Colorado River Compact in place, they have a lot of work to do, because it is indisputable that in 2022 Colorado River management is broken. The most visible problem is evident in reservoirs at historic lows and extraordinarily high risk of crisis-level water shortages for the 40 million people, and 5.5 million acres of farmland that rely on the river—but that’s hardly the extent of it. The Compact overlooked—or deliberately avoided—values we should uphold today as important, including equity for tribal communities and sustainable ecosystem management. Today’s states may view the Compact as essential to keeping the peace, but if they want the Compact to survive, they will need quickly to adapt the Compact to today’s standards by adopting rules and agreements that solve a host of problems:

The Compact cannot not achieve what the states defined as equitable apportionment with today’s river flows. Extended drought exacerbated by climate change has led to an average Colorado River yield of 12.4 million acre-feet of water in recent decades, while the Compact is premised on a flow of at least 16 million acre-feet. The Compact defines how to accomplish equitable distribution of water between the Upper and Lower Basins by prohibiting the Upper Basin from depleting flows to the Lower Basin below an average of 75 million acre-feet in any 10-year period, but there is not enough water for the Upper Basin to meet that obligation and develop another 7.5 million acre-feet of water for annual use. Moreover, as climate change increases aridification in the basin and the average water yield decreases further, the Upper Basin’s access to Colorado River will continue to shrink. In other words, drought and climate change have thrown a wrench into the Compact’s framework for managing the basin. Going forward, the states need either to find a way to fold the realities of climate change into a workable management framework or risk the ramifications of an uncertain future for communities, economies, and ecosystems throughout.

The states negotiated the Compact domestically, and without Mexico at the table they acknowledged both the Upper and Lower Basins would have responsibilities to provide water in event of a subsequent treaty; years later the 1944 Treaty was adopted, but there’s no clarity on which basin is responsible for providing the water. The fact that the states in 1922 saw fit to allocate the Colorado’s water without including Mexico speaks volumes about how their negotiators saw their neighbors to the south. Regardless, the 1944 Treaty guaranteed to Mexico 1.5 million acre-feet of water annually except in the event of extraordinary drought. While the Compact holds that the two basins should share the obligation to deliver that water when there is not enough over and above the U.S. allocations, there is no agreement on what that means legally. For example, does the Upper Basin need to ensure flows reaching the Lower Basin include an extra 0.75 million-acre-feet every year? What would that do to the Upper Basin’s chances of being able to develop its half of the Colorado’s water?

Click the image to read the 2018 Tribal Water Study, this graphic shows the location of the 29 federally-recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin. Map credit: USBR

The Compact deliberately avoided incorporating allocations for Native American Tribes, who remain largely cut out of decisions about Colorado River management and in too many cases have not yet gained access to their water. This seems particularly egregious given that the Supreme Court ruled on the basis for determining Tribal water rights in 1908. Winters v. United States holds that Tribes could have an implied right to water based on the terms of their reservation, with seniority based on the Treaty date establishing the reservation. Today, the 30 federally recognized Tribes in the Colorado River Basin have secured rights to as much as 20% of all Colorado River water in the Basin. However, more than a third of the Basin’s Tribes have yet to settle their Colorado River water rights.  Moreover, even those with settled rights still lack sufficient infrastructure to access their water rights in a meaningful way, and all the Tribes still lack a formal seat at the table where Colorado River management decisions are made.

Red-winged Blackbird. Photo: Jake Mosher/Audubon Photography Awards

The Compact did not recognize and does not acknowledge nature’s water needs. Nowhere in the Compact is there language recognizing the value of water to natural systems as well as the legions of birds, fish, and other wildlife that depend on freshwater-dependent ecosystems. That failure underpins a century of devastating losses. Several programs have been established under the 1973 Endangered Species Act, but too many of the Colorado Basin’s rivers remain unhealthy and at risk. Dozens of species of Colorado River fish and wildlife are listed as threatened or endangered, and the Colorado River Delta, a lush ecosystem of 1.5 million acres, was allowed to dry up and disappear in the middle of the 20th century. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has raised the prospect that within the next year or two, it may become impossible to pass water through the Glen Canyon Dam, effectively eliminating the Colorado River surface flows from the Grand Canyon. The Compact’s promise of water for development depends on healthy rivers, and the region’s economies are dependent on the sustainability of natural systems. Yet, in its application, the Compact has allowed harm to the Colorado River and its tributaries, every living thing that depends on them, and all of us who value it for recreational, cultural, and spiritual reasons.

The looming water crisis in the Colorado River Basin calls for urgent management adjustments and adaptations to meet the challenges of today. As the Colorado River Basin States consider how they will share the diminishing water supply, they should at the same time be rectifying the Compact’s mistakes, oversights, and omissions. Audubon will continue to advocate for management that provides improved reliability of water for the 40 million people who depend on it, increased benefits for Native American Tribes from their water rights, and sustainable habitat for the hundreds of species of birds and wildlife that call it home. The Colorado River Basin States need to prove this can be done through adaptation within the framework of the Colorado River Compact and the Law of the River. If they instead use the Compact and other venerable laws to argue these outcomes are not possible, they will be proving the legal framework will need more than adjustment—it will need complete reform.

Map credit: AGU

For Many, the #GlobalWarming Confab That Rose in the Egyptian Desert Was a Mirage — Inside Climate News

SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT – NOVEMBER 09: Two conference participants from Tuvalu take a lunch break as they attend the UNFCCC COP27 climate conference on November 09, 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The conference is bringing together political leaders and representatives from 190 countries to discuss climate-related topics including climate change adaptation, climate finance, decarbonisation, agriculture and biodiversity. The conference is running from November 6-18. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on Inside Climate News: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24112022/for-many-the-global-warming-confab-that-rose-in-the-egyptian-desert-was-a-mirage/, a nonprofit, independent news organization that covers climate, energy and the environment. It is republished with permission. Sign up for their newsletter here.  Click the link to read the article on the Inside Climate News website (Bob Berwyn):

Amid fighting over croissants and climate, the UN’s COP27 mirrored a world that can’t come together to break free of fossil fuels and avoid a catastrophic future.

The madness of COP27 started at the airport, where 50 diesel buses idled under the hot sun with doors wide open and air conditioners blasting until they headed out, often with just a handful of attendees aboard, delivering them to a far-flung network of hotels sprawled along the reef-fringed coast of the southern Sinai Peninsula. 

Each day the fleet of buses drove hundreds of miles in endless rounds, spewing thousands of tons of carbon dioxide and soot into the air as they rolled past expanses of partly excavated desert, where more resort hotels and strip malls continue to spring up.

The carbon footprint of last year’s COP26 in Glasgow was 102,500 tons of carbon dioxide. At a price of $100 per ton that adds up to more than $10 million dollars. Might investing that money in green infrastructure upfront, before the conference, leave a lasting legacy better than the mountains of plastic waste produced at the talks each year? That conversation isn’t on the agenda.

The buses rolled on. Police cars clustered at the intersections where the bus doors open to admit new riders with their COP27 credentials flapping in the desert wind. Every quarter mile or so, black-suited men carrying clipboards stand along the road, seeking out shade under scruffy palm trees, monitoring who knows what. 

The final approach to the conference halls was through an industrial district lined by miles of tall chain link fences with surveillance cameras clearly visible every few hundred feet—we are watching you, and we want you to know it, the Egyptian government seemed to be saying, a reminder that COP27 was held in an authoritarian state that has jailed thousands of people for speaking out against the government, and that reportedly installed spyware in the official app for the conference.

Holding the global climate conference here at a time when the links between human rights and climate justice are becoming clear felt like a slap in the face to some climate and justice activists. 

“This dystopic COP laid bare the steep challenges, but also the inherent connections, between climate justice and human rights,” said Jean Su, energy and justice director and senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The credibility of these climate talks are at stake when they are hosted in countries that violate basic human rights and continue fossil fuel expansion in spite of climate science.”

COPs have previously been criticized for greenwashing, said Matt Henry, an assistant professor of environmental humanities at the University of Wyoming who studies climate justice. “But this year’s meeting under a repressive authoritarian regime amounts to the greenwashing of human rights,” he said. 

Food Fights and Climate Justice

It’s Monday, Nov. 14, the start of the second week of climate talks, and I’ve joined about 40,000 people who have gathered in this unlikely location to discuss the fate of the world, and, perhaps, to finally take decisive climate action. Most of the delegates know the latest climate science reports say that, without immediate and deep greenhouse gas emissions cuts, the planet is heading toward a hellishly hot future, with certain death for thousands and indescribable suffering for millions more from heatwaves, floods, fires and crop failures.

To avert the worst, the world has to stop the unchecked burning of fossil fuels, but so far, after six days of talks behind closed doors, in plenaries and corridors, not much has happened, so some news reports instead focused on shortages of snacks and cold beverages, a manifestation of the sense of entitlement that is one of the many roots of the climate crisis.

The food fights represented a concerning lack of collegiality that can hamper progress in negotiations, said Cara Augustenborg, an assistant professor of environmental studies at University College Dublin, Ireland, who attended COP27 as a member of Ireland’s climate change Advisory Council.

“I was in a line where the snacks were running out,” she said. “People got very aggressive and cut the line to try and get to the last croissant. I couldn’t help think, ‘Wow, if this is how we treat each other for a croissant, how on earth are we supposed to negotiate a global climate treaty?’”

The scuffle over snacks hints at some of what is at the root of the climate crisis, said Amit Singh, a climate activist in the United Kingdom. Research shows that the richest 10 percent of people produce half the world’s individual-based greenhouse gas emissions, and they always want more, he said.

“Greed and power have been built together,” he said. “There’s a long history of it and it comes from a geographical set of locations. It comes from places that have colonized the world, such as Europe, the U.K., and are still colonizing the world right now.”

At a Monday event about halting deforestation, carbon offset traders roamed the U.S. Center of the climate summit handing out business cards as they sought to cash in on the millions of dollars earmarked for such schemes in the Inflation Reduction Act. Outside, forest defenders and Indigenous groups protested, warning that the programs will result in more displacements of Native peoples.

Returning Indigenous Lands Helps the Climate, But Native Peoples Can’t Negotiate Without It

Negotiators released draft texts on Tuesday morning, Nov. 5, but they dealt with issues deep in the weeds that have little to do with the big questions of whether to phase out fossil fuels more rapidly to maintain a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or how to help developing nations that are being hit with the worst climate disasters but have done little to cause them. Nonetheless, experts parsed every word for meaning and signs of progress, while pundits explained how world events like the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine affected the climate talks.

Maybe the conferences have just grown too large to tackle the issue. The directory mapping the venue shows how participation in the climate talks has ballooned over the years. It lists countries, regions within countries, cities within regions, associations of cities, associations of countries and industries, international associations of sub-associations, all of them bringing their own representatives to participate in the climate side events that seem to dominate the space at the expense of focusing on the actual talks.

The entrance plaza was swarmed by Indigenous people from around the world, once again unified in response to weak global climate policy. Passionate speeches and angry faces broadcast impatience with the U.N.’s grinding bureaucratic process. Nearly everyone is wearing red to protest land taken by colonizers, and stolen Indigenous children. Those with no red of their own got a bright scarlet sash that they tie on their heads or hands.

Indigenous leaders rallied in the main plaza at the Sharm el-Sheikh to put a spotlight on the need for climate justice at COP27. Credit: Bob Berwyn

“What do we want? Land back!” was a call-and-response mantra. Speakers representing tribes from every continent but Antarctica explained how science shows that restoring Indigenous control of land that was stolen from them is crucial to building a more just world that will also help stabilize the climate with more sustainable use of resources, a concept that is now even supported by the World Bank, hardly a hotbed of radical activism.

Yet, within the COP27 process, there is little room for meaningful Indigenous participation, said Eriel Deranger, a Dënesųłiné climate and civil rights activist and director of Indigenous Climate Action from Alberta, where Indigenous lands have been exploited for fossil fuels.

“There’s flowery language to recognize human rights and Indigenous Peoples’ rights,” she said. “But it’s watered-down, weak language with no processes or mechanisms … that actually give us seats at the table. Right now it’s just a lot of hot air.”

Currently Indigenous people also don’t always have the ability at home to challenge false climate solutions or projects that violate Indigenous rights, she added.

“Our independent sovereign nations, as defined by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, are not being respected or recognized,” she said. “We have to fight tooth and nail to get accreditation to participate in these spaces. We’re still observers, and not true decision makers.” 

One of the biggest challenges, she said, “is that, in order to be recognized as a nation by the U.N., Indignous people must have land.

“Our people have been dispossessed of our land through different forms of colonization, she said. “Until our people have land back and are able to assert ourselves as sovereign nations with land, the U.N. will never recognize us. So I think it starts at home in our states, to rematriate or lands back to our peoples.”

Mixed Messages

Fossil fuel lobbyists were reported to arrive at COP27 in record numbers. They roamed every nook and cranny of the conference searching for new prospects, especially in the Global South, where they see vast and as-yet untapped reserves and hungry markets in the rapidly developing countries of Africa and Asia. With fossil gas, they promised those countries they can have a safe climate and economic growth at the same time. But many of the lobbyists’ prospective customers, even in the Global South, say science shows that is more a fairytale than a solution.

But it’s clear from the hordes of lobbyists and their messaging that they have not given up on efforts to write the narrative for the negotiations, which calls into question the U.N.’s idea that the industry most responsible for the problem can somehow be part of the solution.

TOPSHOT – Climate activists deploy banners as they stage a protest inside the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre, during the COP27 climate conference in Egypt’s Red Sea resort city of the same name, on November 12, 2022. (Photo by JOSEPH EID / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images)

Activists from Africa said they want energy, yes, but many of them want to leapfrog past fossil fuels to a renewable energy future. They accused their own governments of making deals with oil and gas companies that will benefit ruling classes at the expense of people who depend on forests and coastal fisheries for their livelihoods.

Still, only a tiny percentage of the thousands at the conference watched the raucous protests in the main plaza. Most days there were more people clustered around the coffee shops at various pavilions, smiling,taking selfies and enjoying the Starbucks vibe, while nearby, scientists described the coming apocalypse, showing, for example, how much of the Nile Delta, Egypt’s breadbasket, will be under water in 2100 even if all greenhouse gas emissions miraculously ceased today.

Why go outside into the bright heat when you can stay inside the wonderful climate mall, where the air is cooled by row upon row of car-size air conditioners that are hidden out of sight except from the local workers taking cigarette breaks. There, the units hum and groan and creak and the air swooshes in and out and it feels like the last gasp of a dying planet.

Little Progress Over Decades at a Time When Every Year Counts

On Friday, an end times atmosphere settled over the proceedings. Global solidarity seemed to have frayed, as some countries started to blame others for the lack of progress, while official communiques from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change gloss over the tensions with diplomatic language. Vast waves of information wash over the attendees—more data, verbiage, images and messages than a single human could reasonably process in a year, much less a couple of weeks. Any expectations for a last-minute save-the-climate plan are fading.

Instead of asking themselves why the process has struggled for 30 years, delegates blamed the host country for running an unorganized conference. There’s talk of backing off the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and no sign that negotiators will formally acknowledge that the only way to reach that goal is to end the uncontrolled use of coal, oil and gas.

The final language needs approval from every country at the table, and there are a handful that have made it clear, publicly and privately, that they intend to keep producing fossil fuels until the bitter end. A comment attributed to a Saudi official urges the world not to target sources of energy, but to focus on emissions.

Petrostates from every region of the Global North were in Sharm el-Sheikh—Norway from Europe and Canada from North America—that have all blocked language critical of fossil fuels at one time or another.The United States has been blocking effective climate policy since it failed to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and more recently, when the Trump administration used the COP process to try and advance the interests of U.S. fossil fuel industries, so the blame-Egypt card seems misplayed.

A reminder of the choices that global society has to make about the climate: Delaying action on reducing emissions commits the world to live with severe consequences. Rapid action now means a more habitable world for all. There is no going back. Choose wisely. Credit: Ed Hawkins via via his Twitter feed

Community Agriculture Alliance: The Colorado Water Plan — Steamboat Pilot & Today #COWaterPlan

The eight major river basins, plus the Denver metro area, are shown on this map from the South Platte River Basin Roundtable. Each basin has its own roundtable, made up of volunteers, to address local water issues. Credit: Colorado Water Conservation Board

Click the link to read the article on the Steamboat Pilot & Today website (Patrick Stanko). Here’s an excerpt

You cannot look at the news today and not see a story on the Colorado River and its low flows and levels of the two major reservoirs in the United States…The goal of the nine Colorado roundtables is to drive solutions from the bottom up for this and the other eight compact demands Colorado is facing. To find out more about all of Colorado Interstate Water Compacts, please visit WaterEducationColorado.org/publications-and-radio/citizen-guides/citizens-guide-to-colorados-interstate-compacts/

Your local roundtable is the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable (YWG BRT), which brings together 36 local water users and stakeholders to drive local solutions up to the state and federal levels. These stakeholders represent water providers, municipalities and industrial, recreational, environmental and agricultural communities. They work together to collaboratively find solutions to water supply gaps using a committee structure. The Big River committee reviews the issues facing the Colorado River and how it would affect the Yampa, White and Green Rivers and provides the full YWG BRT with positions and white papers. The Grants Committee reviews Colorado State grant requests for projects that could help reduce the water supply gaps within the basin. This funding has helped projects like the Maybell Canal, the city of Craig White Water Park, the White River Algae study, Walker Ditch Headgate, the Crosho Simon Dam outlet replacement and other projects. Please refer to the YWB BRT website at YampaWhiteGreen.com

The YWG BRT drives this bottom-up collaboration to the state level through the Basin Implementation Plan and the Inter-basin Compact Committee (IBCC). The Basin Implementation Plan (BIP) was released by the YWG BRT back in 2015 and updated in 2021. The BIP has the eight goals of the YWG BRT to reduce the water supply gaps in the basin. Also included in this plan are the activities to meet those goals, the changing challenges in the basin, and a list of projects that if implemented could reduce the supply gaps the basin is facing…

All this local collaboration has led to the update to the Colorado Water Plan, which is scheduled to be released on Jan. 24. The Colorado Water Plan has four action areas — vibrant communities, thriving watersheds, resilient planning and robust agriculture. CWCB also in the plan has identified 50 CWCB partner actions that can help support the water plan and 50 agency actions that CWCB and collaborating agencies will take to support local projects, conservation and wise-water development.

Colorado Water Plan 2023 update cover. Click the image to go to the CWCB website for the update.

The Water in You: #Water and the Human Body — USGS

​​​​​​​Water serves a number of essential functions to keep us all going. Sources/Usage: Public Domain.

Click the link to read the article on the USGS website:

Think of what you need to survive, really just survive. Food? Water? Air? Facebook? Naturally, I’m going to concentrate on water here. Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water.

According to Mitchell and others (1945), the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.

Each day humans must consume a certain amount of water to survive. Of course, this varies according to age and gender, and also by where someone lives. Generally, an adult male needs about 3 liters (3.2 quarts) per day while an adult female needs about 2.2 liters (2.3 quarts) per day. All of the water a person needs does not have to come from drinking liquids, as some of this water is contained in the food we eat.

Water serves a number of essential functions to keep us all going

  • A vital nutrient to the life of every cell, acts first as a building material.
  • It regulates our internal body temperature by sweating and respiration
  • The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream;
  • It assists in flushing waste mainly through urination
  • acts as a shock absorber for brain, spinal cord, and fetus
  • forms saliva
  • lubricates joints

According to Dr. Jeffrey Utz, Neuroscience, pediatrics, Allegheny University, different people have different percentages of their bodies made up of water. Babies have the most, being born at about 78%. By one year of age, that amount drops to about 65%. In adult men, about 60% of their bodies are water. However, fat tissue does not have as much water as lean tissue. In adult women, fat makes up more of the body than men, so they have about 55% of their bodies made of water. Thus:

  • Babies and kids have more water (as a percentage) than adults.
  • Women have less water than men (as a percentage).
  • People with more fatty tissue have less water than people with less fatty tissue (as a percentage).

There just wouldn’t be any you, me, or Fido the dog without the existence of an ample liquid water supply on Earth. The unique qualities and properties of water are what make it so important and basic to life. The cells in our bodies are full of water. The excellent ability of water to dissolve so many substances allows our cells to use valuable nutrients, minerals, and chemicals in biological processes.

Water’s “stickiness” (from surface tension) plays a part in our body’s ability to transport these materials all through ourselves. The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream. No less important is the ability of water to transport waste material out of our bodies.

Sources and more information:

#Drought news (November 25, 2022): Early-season #snowpack remained mostly favorable west of the Continental Divide

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

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

This Week’s Drought Summary

Cold, dry weather prevailed nearly nationwide, with a few exceptions. Notably, mid-November snow squalls developed downwind of the Great Lakes, resulting in localized totals of 2 to 6 feet or more. In addition, precipitation fell in parts of the South, East, and Midwest, primarily early in the drought-monitoring period, although most liquid-equivalent totals were under 2 inches. Snow broadly blanketed the Midwest and interior Northeast, especially on November 15-16, although amounts were mostly light to moderately heavy. Meanwhile, deep snow from a previous storm remained on the ground in much of Montana and North Dakota. As the period progressed, rain lingered in the western Gulf Coast region. Elsewhere, negligible precipitation fell across the western half of the country. On the Plains, the combination of cold weather and soil moisture shortages maintained significant stress on rangeland, pastures, and winter wheat. Weekly temperatures averaged at least 10°F below normal nationwide, except in the Desert Southwest and along the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts…

High Plains

Following the previous week’s storm, snow and ice remained on the ground in parts of Montana and the Dakotas. In Bismarck, North Dakota, where the snow depth peaked at 17 inches on November 11, nine inches remained on the ground 10 days later. The freezing and frozen precipitation provided beneficial moisture for rangeland, pastures, and winter grains. Still, drought concerns persisted, especially in drier areas across the southern half of the region. On November 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted topsoil moisture ranging from 63% very short to short in North Dakota to 87% in Nebraska. On the same date, at least 40% of the winter wheat was rated in very poor to poor condition in Colorado (52%), Kansas (40%), and Nebraska (40%). Although any changes in the drought depiction were relatively minor, worsening conditions were noted in a few areas. Drought stress on vegetation was aggravated by very cold weather, which led to several record lows. In Kansas, for example, record-setting lows for November 19 plunged to 8°F in Garden City and 11°F in Medicine Lodge…

Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 22, 2022.

West

Like much of the rest of the country, the West experienced a full week of cold, dry weather, leading to minimal changes in the drought depiction. Fog, air stagnation, and low temperatures plagued the Northwest. Daily-record lows for November 17 included -16°F in Butte, Montana, and -3°F in Burns, Oregon. On November 18-19, Big Piney, Wyoming, collected consecutive daily-record lows of -15°F. Other Northwestern locations reporting a pair of daily-record lows on November 18-19 were Eugene, Oregon (21 and 18°F); Olympia, Washington (17 and 18°F); and Montana’s Bozeman Airport (-14 and -16°F). On the 18th, lows plunged to -22°F in Butte, Montana, and -21°F at Lake Yellowstone, Wyoming. Early-season snowpack remained mostly favorable west of the Continental Divide, but a return to stormy weather will soon be needed to sustain the promising start to the water year that began on October 1…

South

Significant rain fell in parts of the western Gulf Coast region, but most of the remainder of the South experienced cold, dry weather. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oklahoma and Texas were tied for the regional lead on November 20 with topsoil moisture rated 67% very short to short. On the same date, very poor to poor rating were observed in Texas for 58% of the rangeland and pastures; 52% of the oats; and 49% of the winter wheat. Similarly in Oklahoma, 41% of the winter wheat and 75% of the rangeland and pastures were rated very poor to poor. Amid the cold, dry regime, generally minor changes were introduced, except where heavy rain fell near the Gulf Coast…

Looking Ahead

Across much of the country, milder weather will replace previously cold conditions. By November 24, Thanksgiving Day, a storm system will begin to take shape across the south-central U.S. Late in the week, portions of the southern Plains should receive much-needed precipitation, including possible wet snow. Farther east, 5-day rainfall totals from the southeastern Plains to the southern Appalachians could total 2 to 4 inches or more. Late-week rain (locally 1 to 2 inches) may also spread into portions of the East and lower Midwest, including the Ohio Valley. Meanwhile, periodic precipitation will spread inland from the Pacific Northwest to the northern Rockies. Much of the remainder of the country, including an area stretching from California to the northwestern half of the Plains and the upper Midwest, will receive little or no precipitation during the next 5 days.

The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for November 28 – December 2 calls for the likelihood of below-normal temperatures across the northern Plains and much of the West, while warmer-than-normal weather will prevail east of a line from the southern Rockies to Lake Michigan. Meanwhile, near- or below-normal precipitation in much of the southern and eastern U.S. should contrast with wetter-than-normal conditions from the Pacific Coast to the northern half of the Plains, Midwest, and mid-South.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 22, 2022.

A century ago in the #ColoradoRiver Compact: Wordsmithing details as time runs short — InkStain @jfleck @R_EricKuhn #COriver #CRWUA2022

View showing steamboat Cochan on the Colorado River near Yuma, Arizona in 1900. A photograph of the Cochan, last stern-wheel steamboat running on the Colorado River for the Colorado Steam Navigation Company between 1899 and 1909. This photo was taken in 1900. Cochan was sold to the U.S Reclamation Service in 1909. Not required by the Service, Cochan was dismantled in 1910. By Unknown author or not provided – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16588505

Click the link to read the article on the InkStain website (Eric Kuhn and John Fleck):

It was snowing like crazy at Bishop’s Lodge outside Santa Fe as the Colorado River Commission Chairman Herbert Hoover called the 24th meeting to order at 9:45 AM on the morning of Nov. 23, 1922. The Commission had only about 30 hours left before its Friday afternoon target for signing the compact and the “punch list” was long. Conceptually, the commissioners agreed on all of the compact’s major provisions, but drafting challenges remained.

They began with a discussion of “domestic.”  For the purposes of Articles III (e) and IV, rather than include a long list of water uses like mining, milling, manufacturing, and so on, they decided to define a broad group of uses as “domestic.” They could agree on what it didn’t include – it didn’t include agricultural, power generation, and navigation, so everything else would be domestic.  But it wasn’t that simple. What if a mine had its own hydroelectric power plant? Was that a mining or a power generation purpose?  They ended up agreeing to “The term ‘domestic use’ shall include the use of water for household, stock, municipal, mining, milling, industrial, and other like purposes, but shall exclude the generation of electrical power.”

The discussion then turned to Article III(d). Overnight Winfield Norviel had changed his mind. He was now OK with dropping the four million acre-feet minimum annual Lee Ferry flow requirement. It was one of many compromises Norviel had made during the negotiations, and it wouldn’t be his last.

The Commission then had a long and difficult conversation about Article IV, the priority of uses. The article had three paragraphs

  • IV(a) was a statement that the Colorado River was no longer navigable, but with language added that if Congress did not agree, the “the other provisions of this compact shall nevertheless remain binding.”
  • IV(b) made it clear power generation was a legal use but made it subservient to agricultural and domestic uses.
  • IV(c) stated that this article did not apply to the internal appropriation, use, and distribution of water within a state.

Utah’s R.E. Caldwell was opposed to the provision protecting the compact if Congress didn’t accept the navigation clause. Although he understood the reason Hoover suggested including the provision, his concern was including the language would be giving Congress the opportunity to step in and interfere with water projects within states. Ultimately, Caldwell agreed that, despite his objections, he would not vote against “the pact.”

Similarly, Colorado’s Delph Carpenter wanted to expand paragraph IV©, but ultimately agreed to only minor wording changes.

By the end of the 24th meeting, which lasted much of the day, their punch list has been whittled down to several minor wording changes and paragraph VIII. Hoover adjourned the meeting at 3 PM but asked the drafting committee to reconvene immediately. The 25th meeting would convene at the Chairman’s call after the drafting committee had done its work.

Hoover called the 25th meeting for 7:30 PM that evening. The Commission then went through a list of editing changes. Importantly, the Commission finally reached agreement on Article I, the purpose of the compact:

Turning to Article VIII, the commissioners and their advisors considered and debated 16 drafts before calling it a night without reaching a final agreement on the language.

They would have to meet again on Friday morning. There was more snow in the forecast.

In 1922, Federal and State representatives met for the Colorado River Compact Commission in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Among the attendees were Arthur P. Davis, Director of Reclamation Service, and Herbert Hoover, who at the time, was the Secretary of Commerce. Photo taken November 24, 1922. USBR photo.

The #ColoradoRiver Compact turns 100 years old. Is it still working? — KUNC #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Lee’s Ferry. Photo by John Fleck

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

On a chilly fall day, Eric Kuhn walked along a gravel path above the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The former head of the Colorado River District, a water agency based on the state’s Western Slope, paused where one of its tributaries, the Roaring Fork, spilled into the river, creating a two-tone stream at the confluence, of beige and dark brown.

“About a third of the water that originates in the Colorado River can be accounted for right at this spot,” Kuhn said. The river is fed by melting snow which gathers each winter on the high mountain peaks of the southern Rocky Mountains. “When I think of rivers, I think of, where’s the water coming from and where’s it going?” Kuhn said. “And what’s happened to this river over the last 100 years?”

In 2021 Kuhn co-authored “Science Be Dammed” with his colleague John Fleck, a water policy professor at the University of New Mexico. The book is a detailed examination of how the river’s foundational agreement — the Colorado River Compact — came together a century ago.

The legal document turns 100 years old this November. The agreement among seven western states to manage the river’s waters was groundbreaking for its time. But the anniversary of its signing, on Nov. 24 1922, comes as the river is facing arguably its most-pressing crisis. Water supplies are shrinking due to climate change-induced warming. Demands for water have yet to shrink to match the drier conditions. The river’s largest reservoirs are declining to record lows, and forecast to drop further. And that fact is prompting those grappling with the shrinking river to ask: What benefit is the Colorado River Compact still giving the region’s water users?

[…]

The river’s gap between supply and demand was baked in from the start, said Kathy Jacobs, a water policy professor at the University of Arizona. Since the Colorado River Compact was signed, a complex legal scaffolding of agreements, court decrees and laws has been built on top of it. But it remains the foundation of the river’s management…Heather Tanana, a University of Utah law professor and citizen of the Navajo Nation, said the compact also represents how Indigenous people and their interests have been excluded from river management over time.

Native land loss 1776 to 1930. Credit: Alvin Chang/Ranjani Chakraborty

Navajo Dam operations update (November 23, 2022): Bumping releases to 350 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to falling flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 350 cfs for today, November 23rd, at 4:00 PM.  

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. 

A kayaker makes her way down the San Juan River, which delivers water from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to Lake Powell. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism