The latest #ENSO discussion is hot off the presses from the #Climate Prediction Center: A #LaÑina Three-peat?

Click the link to read the discussion on the Climate Prediction Center website:

ENSO Alert System Status: La Niña Advisory

Synopsis: La Niña is expected to continue, with chances for La Niña gradually decreasing from 86% in the coming season to 60% during December-February 2022-23.

During the past month, below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) expanded across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. The weekly Niño indices indicated renewed cooling, with the latest Niño-3.4 and Niño-4 indices reaching-1.0oC. Subsurface temperature anomalies also decreased rapidly in the past month, reflecting the reemergence of below-average subsurface temperatures across the east-central Pacific Ocean due to an upwelling Kelvin wave propagating eastward. Low-level easterly wind anomalies and upper-level westerly wind anomalies persisted across most of the equatorialPacific. Convection and rainfall remained suppressed over the western and central tropical Pacific and enhanced over Indonesia. Overall, the coupled ocean-atmosphere system remained consistent with an ongoing La Niña.

The most recent IRI plume average for the Niño-3.4 SST index forecasts La Niña to persist into the Northern Hemisphere winter 2022-23. The forecaster consensus, supplemented with the latest models from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME), concurs that La Niña is the most likely outcome during the fall and winter. While a majority of NMME models suggest that La Niña will transition to ENSO-neutral in January-March 2023, forecasters are split on this outcome resulting in equal forecast probabilities for that season. In summary, La Niña is expected to continue, with chances for La Niña gradually decreasing from 86% in the coming season to 60% during December-February 2022-23.

Assessing the U.S. #Climate in July 2022 — NOAA

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

  • The average temperature of the contiguous U.S. in July was 76.4°F, which is 2.8°F above average, ranking third warmest in the 128-year record. Generally, temperatures were above average and/or record-warm across nearly all of the Lower 48, with Texas having its warmest July, May-July and April-July on record.
  • July precipitation for the contiguous U.S. was 2.74 inches, 0.04 inch below average, ranking in the middle third of the historical record. Precipitation was above average in pockets across the West Coast, Southwest, Northern Rockies and Plains, Great Lakes and from parts of the Midwest to southern Appalachians. Precipitation was below average across portions of the Northwest, southern Plains, Upper Midwest and Northeast.
  • A stalled frontal system, combined with rich Gulf moisture, resulted in historic flash-flooding events across portions of Missouri and Kentucky on July 26 and 28, respectively.
  • Several heat waves, with daytime temperatures over 100°F, occurred across much of the U.S. during July, contributing to record energy demand and heat-related illnesses.
  • The wildfire season appears to be waning across Alaska, but is still going strong across the West and southern Plains. Across all 50 states, more than 5.7 million acres burned from January 1 through July 31 — nearly 1.5 times the average for this time of year.
  • According to the August 2 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 51.4 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought. Severe to exceptional drought was widespread from the Great Basin to the Pacific Coast and across portions of the central and southern Plains.
  • Other Highlights
    Temperature

    In addition to the record warmth across Texas, near-record warmth was widespread from the Pacific Northwest to the south-central U.S. and across parts of the Northeast. Oregon had its fourth warmest July, with six additional states experiencing a top-five warmest July on record.

    For the January-July period, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 52.7°F, 1.4°F above average, ranking in the warmest third of the record. Temperatures were above average from Oregon to the Gulf Coast and from the Gulf to New England. California and Florida each ranked sixth warmest on record for this period. Temperatures were below average across parts of the Upper Midwest.

    The Alaska statewide July temperature was 53.5°F, 0.8°F above the long-term average. This ranked among the warmest one-third of the 98-year period of record for the state. Temperatures were above average across portions of the Northeast Interior and across much of the south-central and southeastern portion of the state.

    The Alaska January-July temperature was 28.6°F, 2.7°F above the long-term average, ranking in the warmest third of the record for the state. Above-average temperatures were observed across much of the state with portions of the North Slope and interior regions experiencing near-average conditions for this seven-month period.

    Precipitation

    Record rainfall received during the last week of July contributed substantially to the fourth-wettest July on record for Kentucky. Conversely, a lack of precipitation received during the month resulted in Rhode Island ranking second driest while Texas had its fifth-driest July on record.

    The January-July precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 16.58 inches, 1.51 inches below average, ranking in the driest third of the historical record. Precipitation was above average across parts of the Northwest, northern Plains, Great Lakes and portions of the Mid-Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee valleys. Precipitation was below average across much of the West, central Plains and Deep South during the January-July period. California ranked driest on record while Nevada and Texas ranked second driest and Utah, fourth driest for this seven-month period.

    Alaska had the sixth-wettest July in the 98-year record. Much of the state received average to above-average precipitation during the month with portions of the Northeast and Southeast interior regions drier than average. The Cook Inlet region ranked wettest on record for the month. Talkeetna recorded its fourth-wettest July and Anchorage ranked fifth wettest on record. This rainfall put a quick end to most of the moderate drought across the state.

    Precipitation averaged across Alaska for the January-July period ranked in the wettest third of the record and was generally above average across the North Slope and southeastern Alaska.The Central Panhandle region ranked wettest on record for the January-July period.

    Other Notable Events

    On July 26, several locations in and around St. Louis received more rainfall than on any other day on record. A stalled frontal system combined with tropical moisture resulted in precipitation totals that rivaled daily records set by the remnants of the Galveston Hurricane of 1915. Lambert International Airport reported 8.64 inches and St. Peters, MO, measured 12.34 inches of rain from this event. The extreme rainfall caused flash flooding, resulting in at least one fatality, as well as extensive damage to homes and businesses.

    Flash flooding from the same stalled frontal system impacted portions of eastern Kentucky in the early morning of July 28. Heavy rain, enhanced by the terrain, accumulated rapidly, trapping many residents in their homes. Four to eight-inch totals were widespread across eastern Kentucky and the Kentucky River crested at all-time high levels in both Whitesburg and Jackson. At least 37 fatalities occurred with this event.

    Cooler and wetter conditions across Alaska helped to reduce the spread of wildfires across the state during July. Additional significant wildfire growth is not expected for the remainder of the season, which is likely to rank as the seventh-largest season since 1950.

    US Drought Monitor map August 9., 2022.

    Drought

    According to the August 2 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 51.4 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up about 3.7 percentage points from the end of June. Drought conditions expanded or intensified across portions of the Northeast, with flash drought rapidly expanding in the southern and central Plains, Ozarks and the mid-Mississippi Valley. Drought contracted or was eliminated across portions of the Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and northern Rockies, as well as Alaska and Puerto Rico.

    Monthly Outlook

    According to the July 31 One-Month Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center, much of the West and from the Plains to the East Coast have the greatest chance of receiving above-normal temperatures in August, whereas the greatest chance for below-normal temperatures is projected to occur across portions of the Southwest and the southern half of Alaska.

    Parts of the Southwest, central Atlantic Coast and southeastern Alaska are projected to have the greatest chance of above-normal precipitation, while the greatest chance for below-normal precipitation is expected to occur from Texas to the northern Rockies and from the central Plains to New England. Drought is likely to persist across much of Texas, parts of the West, central Plains and Hawaii with some improvement and/or drought removal likely across parts of the Southwest, central Rockies, south-central Plains and Puerto Rico. Drought development is likely across portions of the Midwest and Northeast.

    According to the One-Month Outlook issued on August 1 from the National Interagency Fire Center, Hawaii and portions of the West, north-central Plains, Midwest and southern Plains have above normal significant wildland fire potential during August.

    Aspinall Unit operations update (August 11, 2022): 550 cfs in Black Canyon #GunnisonRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

    Click to enlarge.

    Navajo Dam operations update: Bumping up to 450 cfs August 12, 2022 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    SAN JUAN RIVER The San Juan River at the hwy 64 bridge in Shiprock, NM. June 18, 2021. © Jason Houston

    From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

    In response to the forecast for low flows on the San Juan River, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 450 cfs for August 12th at 4:00 AM.

    Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

    #Drought news (August 11, 2022): Temperatures averaged over 3 F above normal in a large area across the central Rockies, most of the Plains

    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

    Precipitation varied widely across the Lower 48 this week. Across the interior West, heavy monsoon rains set records in some locales, with tropical moisture streaming much farther north and west than normal (through southern Montana, the Great Basin, and parts of the Sonoran Desert). Death Valley, CA set an all-time record for 24-hour rainfall, being doused with 1.46 inches during August 5 and 6. The average annual rainfall in Death Valley is less than 2.5 inches, and the 24-hour total makes August 2022 the wettest month in Death Valley since February 2010, and more than half of all calendar years bring less rain than that 24-hour total.

    Farther east, many areas from the Mississippi River eastward through the Piedmont and Middle Atlantic States recorded moderate to heavy precipitation. Most areas from southern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas through central Illinois recorded over 1.5 inches of rain, as did parts of the Tennessee and southern Ohio Valleys, the Upper Midwest and western Great Lakes Region, the Central Gulf Coast, and northern Maine. In other areas from the Mississippi Valley eastward, heavy rain was less widespread. Still, numerous patches of land across the Upper Midwest, the middle Mississippi Valley, the Ohio Valley, and the Gulf Coast east of Texas received over 3.5 inches of rain, with isolated totals of 6 to locally 11 inches reported in a swath from the middle Mississippi and lower Ohio Valleys northward through the Upper Midwest and western Great Lakes Region. In contrast, many areas across these regions recorded only a few tenths of an inch of rain or less, with tight gradients between heavy rain and lesser amounts common. This variable rainfall pattern had a similar effect on areas of dryness and drought, with deterioration noted very close to improvement in many cases, and only a few broad swaths with a consistent pattern. Looking at the western half of the Lower 48, outside the areas affected by the monsoon, much drier conditions prevailed, though there were a few small areas recording moderate to heavy rainfall. Little or no rain fell on the central and southern Great Plains, much of the central Rockies, and the Far West. Temperatures averaged over 3 deg. F above normal in a large area across the central Rockies, most of the Plains, and the northeastern quarter of the country, exacerbating dryness in areas that missed the heavier rains…

    High Plains

    Most of the Great Plains recorded only a few tenths of an inch of rain at best last week, as did most of North Dakota. Rainfall was more abundant in central and southern Colorado, and in a swath across much of Wyoming and South Dakota. Totals of 0.5 to 2.0 inches were common in these areas, with isolated higher amounts of 2 to 5 inches soaking northwestern Wyoming, scattered areas in central and southern Colorado, and portions of central and eastern South Dakota. Fairly large areas of heavy rain were noted in south-central and parts of eastern South Dakota. Not surprisingly, parts of the wetter areas saw dryness ease somewhat while hot and dry conditions from eastern Wyoming and Nebraska southward promoted large areas of expansion and intensification there. In the last 60 days, much of this area received 35 to 65 percent of normal rainfall, but most locations recorded more. Periods of excessive heat have exacerbated the effects of the subnormal precipitation, and even some areas with near normal rainfall have seen conditions dry out due to the heat. Surface moisture shortages are now most acute in western Kansas and southwestern Nebraska, and a sizeable part of this area is in exceptional drought (D4), with the remainder in D3 along with northeastern Colorado, southeastern Kansas, northwestern Nebraska, and a newly-developed area in central South Dakota. Only the central and northern Dakotas, northeastern Kansas and adjacent areas, portions of the Colorado mountains, and part of central and northern Wyoming are largely devoid of drought, though abnormal dryness has been identified in some of those areas…

    Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending August 9, 2022.

    West

    The North American Monsoon remained robust in early August. This is continuing to bring slow relief to a region long affected by entrenched drought. Tropical moisture from the monsoon circulation reached unusually far west this past week, into the southern Great Basin and southeastern California. As a result, exceptional amounts of rain fell on the southern half of Nevada and southeastern California, resulting in a very broad area of 1-category improvement. The record rains in Death Valley brought severe flash flooding that closed about 85 miles of road for several days, making many spots in the Valley unreachable. Farther east, rainfall was less remarkable, but still above normal, improving conditions across parts of New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, and parts of the southeastern quarter of Utah. Most locales in Arizona, New Mexico, the California deserts, southern Nevada, and a few other scattered areas have measured at least 200 percent of normal over the past 2 months. Portions of southeastern California, the Sonoran Desert, southwestern and northeastern Arizona, and a large area in northwestern New Mexico have been doused by 3 to 5 times normal rainfall. Farther north, central sections of Washington and Oregon also saw dryness and drought ease a little bit. The only area currently headed in the opposite direction is central and northern Montana. They are considerably wetter than normal for the past 60 days as a whole, but conditions have been changing rapidly since then. Rainfall has become scarce and temperatures have averaged well above normal. All this resulted in a significant expansion of D0 and D1 conditions into eastern and central Montana, although little change was noted in the areas already entrenched in severe to extreme drought…

    South

    The eastern and western portions of this Region are trending in very different directions. Abundant rains have been falling on much of Tennessee, Arkansas, western Mississippi, most of Louisiana, and adjacent areas, where many areas of dryness and drought are improving. Over most of Oklahoma and Texas, however, rainfall has been scare of late, and with periods of excessive heat also affecting these areas, dryness is intensifying. In the last 2 weeks, over 3 inches of rain fell on most of Tennessee, northern Arkansas, and southern Louisiana. A few areas received over 4.5 inches of rain, with totals topping out at nearly a foot at one spot in northeastern Arkansas. Farther west, the have nots from central Oklahoma southward through most of Texas saw only several tenths of an inch, at best. From south of the Red River Valley through most of Texas to the Deep South regions, few areas saw any measurable rainfall. Conditions are not as dry in the Texas Panhandle, where enough rain fell (generally 2 to locally 5 inches) to provide some tangible relief from the recent dryness. Moisture shortages date back at least 6 months over most of Texas south of the Panhandle and north of Deep South Texas, extending across the entire breadth of the state. During the last 90 days, less than half of normal rainfall has been observed in most of these areas, with a few scattered patches getting less than 25 percent of normal. This equates to 3-month rainfall deficits of 5.5 inches or higher across most of central and eastern Texas, with parts of northeastern and southeastern Texas accumulating rainfall deficits of 7 to 10 inches. And for the last half-year, much of central and southeastern Texas racked up deficits of 11 to 16 inches. Not surprisingly, drought intensified or at best persisted across the south half of Oklahoma and most of Texas, most of the state is in extreme (D3) drought, with large swaths of D4 covering a good portion of the state from the Red River to Deep South Texas…

    Looking Ahead

    Above-normal temperatures – with the potential for excessive heat – should cover the central Plains, northern half of the Rockies, the Intermountain West (except where the monsoon is active), and the Pacific Northwest during August 11-15, 2022. The largest departures from normal are expected in the central Plains, the northern Rockies, and part of the northern Intermountain West averaging 4 to 8 deg. F above normal. In the western U.S., the only area expected to be somewhat cooler than normal are in the southern Rockies, Southwest, and Great Basin, where the robust monsoon will continue, keeping temperatures down. It should also be somewhat cooler than normal from the Mississippi River to the Appalachians, possibly spilling over into parts of the Atlantic Coastal Plain.

    Most of the Lower 48 should be drier than normal, with several tenths of an inch falling at best. But there are significant exceptions; A very robust Southwestern Monsoon should be in place through the period, bringing moderate to heavy rain to the Southwest, The eastern Great Basin, the western half of Colorado, and most of Wyoming. Portions of central Arizona, southwestern Utah, and northern Wyoming are forecast to receive 1.5 to 3.0 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts. The only other extensive areas where more than 0.5 inch is expected are south-central through southeastern Texas, the immediate South Atlantic Coast, and most of the Gulf Coast. But only east-central Texas should record over 1.5 inches of rain, except along parts of the immediate Gulf Coast. Little or no precipitation is anticipated along the western tier of the Lower 48, across a large part of the central Plains, and through much of the Upper Midwest north of the Ohio River. Little or no precipitation is also expected in southern New England. .

    The Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 day outlook (valid August 16-20, 2022) favors above-normal temperatures across a large part of the Lower 48 from the Great Basin and Southwest eastward through the lower Mississippi Valley, through almost all of the Appalachians and Eastern Seaboard. But wet weather is only weakly favored from the lower Mississippi River to the southern Atlantic States and across the Appalachians. Odds favor subnormal precipitation around the Great Lakes and across the northern tier of the Lower 48 from western North Dakota to the Pacific Coast.

    Odds significantly favor below-normal temperatures across the Ohio Valley and central Appalachians, with somewhat lower odds from the Upper Southeast northward through the middle Mississippi Valley, Great Lakes Region, Northeast, and southwestern New England. Farther west, slightly enhanced chances for milder than normal temperatures extend across the central Plains and the central and southern Rockies. Meanwhile, there is a large tilt of the odds toward warmer than normal temperatures – with the potential for excessive heat – from central California, the northwestern Great Basin, and the northern Intermountain West to the Pacific Coast and the Canadian border. The chances for warmer than normal weather exceed 80 percent across interior sections of Washington and Oregon, and adjacent Idaho. Enhanced chances for warmth are less dramatic through the rest of California, the Great Basin, and the northern tiers of the Rockies and Plains. There are also slightly enhanced chances for warmer than normal weather extend across most of Texas, the lower Mississippi Valley, the immediate Gulf Coast, and Florida.

    US Drought Monitor one week change map ending August 9, 2022.

    Using #water to fight lead in drinking water: How #Denver Water engineered a permanent solution to a legacy problem — News on Tap

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

    Protecting people from hazards that can lurk in their drinking water is the day-in, day-out job for water industry engineers, utilities and regulators.

    And at Denver Water, efforts to protect people from the health risks posed by lead from old, lead service lines getting into drinking water, has been part of the job for decades.

    There is no lead in the water Denver Water delivers to customers, but the utility regularly tests for lead in the drinking water of homes that are known to have lead water service lines, the primary source of lead in drinking water.

    Rachel Himyak, water treatment lead, collects a sample of water that’s been run through old lead service lines as part of ongoing studies at Denver Water of pH adjustment. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    In the first half of the 20th century, lead was a common, cheap and easy-to-work-with material to use when forming small pipelines that carry drinking water from utility pipelines in the street into customers’ homes. But these old lead service lines, which in Denver Water’s experience are more often found in homes built before 1951, pose a threat in the community, particularly to children, infants and pregnant women.

    Denver Water has tested for lead in customers’ drinking water for decades under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule. In 2012, the routine monitoring indicated the utility needed to investigate whether it could adjust the chemistry of the water it delivered to customers to better protect them from the risk of lead getting into drinking water.

    Read this 2019 story to learn about Denver Water’s efforts over the years to combat lead in drinking water, which culminated in the 2020 launch of its groundbreaking Lead Reduction Program.

    In short, the results of tests on customers’ drinking water launched Denver Water into years of study centered on one question: What more could it do to better protect at-risk customers?

    The first step was more testing.

    “For a utility of our size and the number of lead service lines we have, you can’t just test something by putting it into the distribution system that’s delivering water to 1.5 million people every day. That’s not acceptable to us,” said Ryan Walsh, manager of the water treatment engineering section at Denver Water.

    “We had to test things at a pilot scale, by doing the pipe loop study, before we could move forward.”

    Walsh’s team was in charge of testing various treatment options via the pipe loop study and later planned, designed and executed the treatment plant systems involved in increasing the pH level.

    Denver Water crews dug up old lead service lines from customers’ homes for years of study that led to the utility’s Lead Reduction Program. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    To build the pipe loop study, Denver Water used old lead service lines its crews removed from customers’ homes (replacing them with lead-free lines) as the crews found the old lines during their regular work on water mains across the utility’s service area.

    Denver Water plumbers connected the decades-old pipes together on racks and its treatment engineers ran water through them for hours, days and years. They tested different treatment methods to find out which worked best to reduce the risk of lead from the old pipes getting into the water passing through them.

    Watch this video to see Denver Water’s pipe loop study, which is still underway today.

    “That testing was so critical because we used the water that had been treated by our treatment plants, Moffat and Marston, the water that was going into our system to customers. The pipe loop study allowed us to test the adjustments we might do to the water to keep people safe,” said Patty Brubaker, a water treatment plant manager.

    Aaron Benko, water treatment lead, pulls a sample of water from the rack of old customer-owned lead service lines that Denver Water crews dug up from customers’ homes and researchers continue to study. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    “We tried different pH levels, we tried different phosphate levels, and we tried all of them on the actual lead pipes that had been taken from our system,” Brubaker said.

    “There were so many people involved in putting this together. We had the crews who went out and pulled those lines, the plumbers that put them together on the racks, the people who made the adjustments and tested the water as it ran through the pipes.

    All of us were studying the impacts to figure out which would be the best method to use to protect our customers from those old lead pipes.”

    Decision time

    In March 2018, based on Denver Water’s studies, state health officials told Denver Water it had two years — until March 2020 — to get ready to start using a food additive called orthophosphate to tamp down the potential for lead to get into customers’ drinking water.

    The decision worried many people inside and outside of Denver Water.

    The concern wasn’t whether orthophosphate would reduce the potential for lead to get into drinking water. They knew it would.

    Denver Water treatment engineers and operators (from left) Ryan Walsh, Aaron Benko, and Rachel Himyak at the pipe loop rack, which continues to have water running through the old lead service lines for ongoing studies. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Denver Water’s years of tests on the old pipes had shown orthophosphate would work, and other water utilities use orthophosphate to reduce the risk of lead getting into their drinking water.

    But Denver Water, environmental groups and other water and wastewater utilities downstream of Colorado’s capital city worried about the widespread, long term — and expensive — consequences of adding orthophosphate to such a large system, including the increased potential for environmental impacts in and downstream of the Denver metro area.

    Nicole Poncelet-Johnson, director of Denver Water’s water quality and treatment section, had been hired at the utility few months before the state’s 2018 decision on orthophosphate. From previous jobs involving water and wastewater treatment plants, she’d seen what orthophosphate could do at the plants and in the environment.

    Hector Castaneda, a water treatment technician, and Nicole Poncelet-Johnson, director of Denver Water’s water quality and treatment section, at the Marston Treatment Plant filter beds, where water is filtered through tiny pieces of sand and anthracite coal as part of the treatment process. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    “I’d seen the algae, which can grow faster when there are higher levels of phosphate in the water. I’d seen it coating the valves coming into the treatment plant so we couldn’t bring water in. I’ve seen how the taste and odor problems with the water were so bad that people bought and used bottled water instead of tap water,” Poncelet-Johnson said.

    “And in Colorado’s dry, arid environment, with our long, sunny days and the UV light, adding orthophosphate to our system would have created a primordial soup. Plus, after the expense of adding it to the water at the drinking water treatment plant, it’s hard, expensively hard, to get phosphorous out of the water when it arrives at the downstream wastewater plants,” she said.

    About half of Denver Water’s residential water use is outdoor water use used on lawns and gardens. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    On top of the expensive work that would be required at wastewater treatment plants, there simply was no way to recapture all the orthophosphate that would be added to Denver’s drinking water due to the way water is used in the metro area, she said.

    About half of Denver Water’s residential water use is outdoor water use, tied to the irrigation of lawns and gardens. That means some of the orthophosphate-treated drinking water was bound to run off of lawns, down the gutter and end up in the metro area’s urban creeks, streams and rivers.

    Water used for irrigation of lawns and gardens often ends up in urban creeks and streams that flow throughout the Denver metro area. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    The groups worried that under the right conditions, that additional phosphate could accelerate the growth of algae not only downstream of the city, but also in the metro area’s urban creeks, streams and reservoirs.

    There had to be another way, they said.

    Alternative path

    “We went back to the data from the years of tests we’d run. We saw that if we raised the pH level of the water, instead of adding orthophosphate, we could protect people from the lead service lines,” Poncelet-Johnson said.

    “And if we combined a higher pH with replacing those lead service lines with new, lead-free copper lines, then the lead levels would drop to the point where the tests couldn’t detect anything.”

    In 2019, Denver Water formally proposed an alternative approach to state and federal regulators.

    Denver Water’s proposal, at its core, called for raising the pH of the water delivered to customers from 7.8 to 8.8 on the pH scale, and keeping it there with relatively little variance as it flowed from the treatment plant to the customers’ homes and businesses.

    Raising the pH of the water delivered to customers strengthens an existing protective coating inside lead service lines, which reduces the risk of lead getting into drinking water. Image credit: Denver Water.

    The higher pH level would strengthen an existing protective coating inside the lead service lines, reducing the risk of lead getting into the drinking water as it passed through the lead pipes.

    And that — combined with significantly accelerating the replacement of the old lead services lines — would 1) lower the risk faster than relying on orthophosphate alone, and 2) do so without the cost and environmental concerns posed by adding the phosphate.

    This graphic (not to scale) portrays how a higher pH level creates a stronger protective coating (shown in white and brown on the left) inside a lead service line (shown in grey), separating the water (blue) from the lead pipe and reducing the risk of lead getting into the drinking water. Image credit: Denver Water.

    “It was a better solution, a permanent solution to the problem of old lead service lines, which are the primary source of lead in drinking water,” Poncelet-Johnson said.

    “Because instead of a Band-Aid approach, instead of just adding chemicals to the system and then dealing with the widespread economic and environmental consequences of that decision for decades, we went the other way and proposed permanently removing the problem by raising the pH of the water and replacing the lead service lines,” she said.

    Listen to Nicole Poncelet-Johnson, director of Denver Water’s water quality and treatment section, discuss Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program:

    Denver Water’s alternative proposal focused on five areas:

    Raising the pH of the water it delivers to 1.5 million people to 8.8, and keep it fairly constant, with very little variance, as the water flowed from treatment plant, through the distribution system, to customers’ homes and businesses.

  • Mapping the location of the customer-owned lead service lines in its service area and sharing that map with customers.
  • Replacing the estimated 64,000 to 84,000 customer-owned lead service lines in its service area with new lead-free copper lines at no direct cost to the customer.
  • Providing customers enrolled in the program with water pitchers and filters certified to remove lead to use until six months after their lead line was replaced.
  • Launching the largest public health communication effort Denver Water had ever done to educate its customers about the risks of lead, the importance of using filtered water until the old lead service lines could be replaced, and the process for replacing those lead pipes.
  • Watch this video to learn more about lead service lines.

    Breaking new ground

    The proposal broke new ground in the water industry in two main ways.

    It attacked the legacy issue posed old lead service lines from all sides — by raising the pH level, replacing customers’ old lead service lines, providing water filters to customers enrolled in the program to use until six months after their line was replaced, and educating those customers about the program.

    And Denver Water said it would tackle all those steps on a scale and at a speed never before seen in the water industry.

    Communicating with customers enrolled in the Lead Reduction Program is one of five elements of the biggest public health initiative in Denver Water’s history. Image credit: Denver Water.

    Other cities had aimed to replace a few thousand lead service lines.

    But Denver Water proposed replacing up to 84,000 customer-owned lead service lines estimated to be in Denver Water’s service area, doing it at no direct cost to the customer, and doing it in 15 years.

    And, the utility proposed sending water pitchers and filters to more than 100,000 households enrolled in the program to use for cooking, drinking and preparing infant formula until six months after their lead line was replaced.

    More than 100,000 households enrolled in the Lead Reduction Program were supplied with water pitchers and filters certified to remove lead to use for cooking, drinking and preparing infant formula until six months after their lead line is replaced. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    In December 2019, health officials at the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment agreed to Denver Water’s alternative proposal.

    Weeks later, in January 2020, Denver Water launched its Lead Reduction Program — and immediately faced a crucial deadline.

    The utility’s engineers, treatment plant operators and monitoring teams now had to implement the systems and processes that would raise the pH level of the water and maintain that level as the water flowed across more than 3,000 miles of pipe to 1.5 million people. And they had less than 90 days to do it.

    New bridge to connect #RioGrande trail system at Adams State and Cattails — @AlamosaCitizen

    Location of new pedestrian bridge over the Rio Grand in Alamosa. Photo credit: Alamosa Citizen

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

    OU’RE walking along the Rio Grande trail at Cattails Golf Course and you see the campus of Adams State across the way but can’t get to the other side. Patience, dear trail user. A crossing is on the way.

    The city of Alamosa is moving forward with plans for a pedestrian bridge crossing at Stadium Drive behind the Adams State ballfields that will connect the west levee to the east levee at Cattails Golf Course.

    The city has applied for a grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program to help fund the $4.1 million project. Other funding coming into the project is $220,000 from local contributors to cover design and permitting; SLV GO! kicked in $100,000 from private donors; the city of Alamosa $50,000; SLV Health $25,000; and Alamosa County $40,000.

    Green bar shows location
    of proposed pedestrian bridge. Read the report HERE.

    This is a long-dreamt-of project, one that would no doubt change the way locals recreate. It would, with a seamless stitch, connect the most residential parts of Alamosa with the other side of the river, cutting down travel times and encouraging walking, running, and biking over driving.

    Increased visits to Blanca Vista Park, the city’s Disc Golf Course and nearby trailheads are among the benefits, according to project consultant THK Associates. In addition, the pedestrian bridge would allow people to avoid the heavier traffic of the Highway 160 bridgeand the State Avenue bridge, giving a more direct route for runners like those from Adams State.

    “The bridge will reduce vehicular traffic and result in reduced carbon emissions, potential traffic accidents, injuries, and deaths,” THK Associates said in its report. It added the State Avenue bridge was deemed a “High Conflict Area” and that runners, dog-walkers, and families with small kids could avoid potential danger with the new bridge.

    Bridge on the river grand

    THK presented three different bridge designs and locations, along with the costs. Of the three designs, the city chose to go with a more cost-effective, shorter bridge that will span just 370 feet at one of the river’s narrowest points. This particular design cuts down on the total overall cost, and also the impact to the river beneath it. The design proved to be the most direct line of access. To have this point of access, the city will have to purchase two properties on the west levee. As THK writes in its memo, “….the acquisition of additional land at this time is beneficial to allow for expanded parking, staging and access, and other possible benefits.”

    Southwest River Engineers designed the bridge type and outlined where it would be and what it could look like. It’s a tied arch free span design that will have only two concrete supports placed on each side of the river bed. Each will impact 100 square feet of area once competed.

    The earliest construction would begin is 2023, once funding is secured. An extensive design and permitting process is required before ground can be broken. A part of that permitting process is purchasing the two properties that border the west levee. After everything is moved along, permits are permitted and the Army Corps of Engineers is satisfied, construction could be completed by February 2024.

    “With RAISE grant monies, the City will provide a safe corridor for pedestrians and cyclists separate from motorized traffic and improve economic competitiveness and resilience by supporting a growing outdoor recreation economy,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet wrote in a letter of support to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

    Keith Baker and Vern Heersink from the San Luis Valley Transportation Planning Region wrote in their letter of support, “The City of Alamosa and Alamosa County for decades have been in need of and in pursuit of a pedestrian bridge to cross the Rio Grande near Adams State University’s campus…. Multimodal projects such as this have become increasingly important to communities within the region as they develop new initiatives to improve pedestrian and bicycle routes to recreational opportunities and commercial centers.”

    “The Rio Grande Intermodal Transportation Project builds on years of community planning with diverse stakeholders to develop the infrastructure needed to connect the public to multi-use trails along the river corridor,” said Emma Ressor, executive director for the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project in her letter of support. “This will increase sustainability and pedestrian accessibility, while creating space for the community to enjoy the Rio Grande and surrounding wildlife habitat.”

    Widespread support for the project may help with grant selection. For small Alamosa, a bridge like this is apt to dissipate fear of traffic bridges, create an easier avenue to enjoy the nature and the sky, and ultimately increase the value of the town. The economic benefits from this are outstanding, yes, but the recreation opportunities are tenfold more.

    Doing the math

    Perhaps one of the most desired benefits of this project is the slashing of travel times.

    Among the information studied by the city are two tables that show current travel times and estimated travel times after construction. The tables break down distance from Adams State, and travel times for driving, walking, and cycling to the North River Pavilion Trailhead, the Disc Golf Course, Blanca Vista Park, and the State Avenue Trailhead and Boatramp.

    Say you start at Adams State University and want to catch up with some friends at the Disc Golf Course. You’re again limited to two ways to get there, but the obvious choice would be to take State Avenue. Let’s say you’re on your bike. The distance is 3.3 miles and if you’re enjoying a leisure ride, that would take you roughly 20 minutes.

    With the new connecting bridge, the distance is cut by 2.5 miles and it would take you a mere 5 minutes to get there.

    Now, of course, travel by car won’t change much if you want to park at the specific locations.

    The flip side of this travel and distance also makes its case for anyone traveling from the east and north sides of town – the county side. Anyone can drive to these places and instead of taking the car downtown, they can take their own two feet. It encourages different means of travel for everyone.

    It encourages taking the scenic route.

    And for a community that relishes its outdoors, this bridge is a step toward making Alamosa’s wide open spaces and endless sky even more accessible and enjoyable.

    In this experiment Dr Rob Thompson of @UniRdg_Met shows just how long it takes water to soak into parched ground — @WMO

    Global heating has caused ‘shocking’ changes in forests across the Americas, studies find — The Guardian #ActOnClimate

    A Sphagnum bog with spruce trees on a forested ridge in Quebec. By Boréal – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6911882

    Click on the link to read the article on the Guardian website (Oliver Milman). Here’s an excerpt:

    Trees are advancing into the Arctic tundra and retreating from boreal forests further south, where stunting and die-offs are expected

    Forests from the Arctic to the Amazon are transforming at a “shocking” rate due to the climate crisis, with trees advancing into previously barren tundra in the north while dying off from escalating heat farther south, scientists have found. Global heating, along with changes in soils, wind and available nutrients, is rapidly changing the composition of forests, making them far less resilient and prone to diseases, according to a series of studies that have analyzed the health of trees in north and South America. Many areas of forest are now becoming more susceptible to ferocious wildfires, causing the release of further greenhouse gases from these vast carbon stores that heat the planet even more. “It’s like humans have lit a match and we are now seeing the result of that,” said Roman Dial, a biologist at Alaska Pacific University.

    Dial and his colleagues have discovered that a patch of white spruce trees in north-west Alaska have “hopped” north into an area of the Arctic tundra that hasn’t had such trees in millennia. The scientists’ new research paper, published in Nature, estimates the spruce are advancing north at a rate of around 4km a decade, aided by warming temperatures and changes to snow and wind patterns influenced by the shrinkage of sea ice in the region.

    “It was shocking to see trees there. No one knew about them but they were young and growing fast,” said Dial, who first spotted the shadows of the trees on satellite imagery and then took a single-engine plane journey, followed by a five-day hike, to find and study the advancing forest.

    “The trees basically hopped over the mountains into the tundra. Going by climate models, this wasn’t supposed to happen for a hundred years or more. And yet it’s happening now.”

    […]

    Farther south, separate research has found a transformation is under way at the boundary between the boreal and temperate forests, with species of spruce and fir increasingly unable to cope with the hotter conditions. Scientists estimate that even small amounts of further heating, caused by human activity, could cause up to a 50% die-off of traditional boreal forest trees in certain places, with many other trees becoming stunted in their growth.

    “Boreal species do very poorly even with modest warming. They grow more slowly and have greater mortality,” said Peter Reich, a researcher at the University of Minnesota who co-authored the research. “Intuitively, I thought they would do slightly worse with 1.5C of warming, but they do much worse, which is worrisome.”

    […]

    The impact of the climate crisis is also being felt in the heart of the Amazon, a further study has underlined. Scientists have raised concerns that the huge rainforest ecosystem is in danger of tipping into a new, altered state, eventually becoming a savannah, and the new research found that a lack of phosphorus in the Amazon’s soils could have “major implications” for its resilience to global heating.

    North Weld County #Water District eliminates #Severance’s 25% discount on water rates — The #Greeley Tribune #SouthPlatteRiver

    1st Street in Severance. By Jared Winkler – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66581912

    Click the link to read the article on the Greeley Tribune website (Christopher Wood). Here’s an excerpt:

    The district provides water treatment and delivery for Severance and other towns and unincorporated areas of Weld and Larimer counties. Severance was found not to be in compliance with a clause in its Water Service Agreement, specifically a requirement related to water-storage capacity.

    “Under contract, the towns are required to have above their max annual use,” North Weld district manager Eric Reckentine told BizWest. “Severance’s current storage volume is below that. They’ve been above their storage requirement for a couple years.”

    Reckentine said the requirements are “to reduce their usage off of our system, which helps control peak-hour flows.”

    He said that his calculations are that elimination of the discount will cost Severance an additional $25,000 per month during peak summer months. He said he has not calculated the effect beyond the summer.

    Severance Mayor Matt Fries addressed the North Weld board Monday, requesting that the board defer the increase to Jan. 1 to enable the town to budget and appropriate the funds. He noted that the town is preparing to build a third water-storage tower “to avoid these potential penalties.”

    Tourist haven #GrandLake asks state to intervene in federal #water quality stalemate — @WaterEdCO

    Shadow Mountain Dam, astride the main stem of the upper Colorado River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

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

    Fourteen years after Colorado adopted standards to restore Grand Lake, the state’s largest natural water body once known for its astonishing clarity and high water quality continues to deteriorate.

    Frustrated and worried about the future, Grand Lake locals are asking the state to intervene to break through a log jam of federal and environmental red tape that has prevented finding a way to restore the lake’s clarity and water quality, despite a 90-year-old federal rule known as Senate Bill 80 requiring that the work be done.

    At issue: Grand Lake serves as a key element of Northern Water’s delivery system, which provides water to more than 1 million people on the northern Front Range and thousands of acres of irrigated farmlands.

    Owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and operated by Northern Water, what’s known as the Colorado-Big Thompson Project gathers water from streams and rivers in Rocky Mountain National Park and Grand County, and stores it in man-made Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Reservoir. From there it is eventually moved into Grand Lake and delivered via the Adams Tunnel under the Continental Divide to Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir, just west of Berthoud and Fort Collins respectively.

    During that process, algae, certain toxins and sediment are carried into Grand Lake, clouding its formerly clear waters and causing algae blooms and weed growth, and harming recreation.

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    In a hearing before the Colorado Legislature’s Interim Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee on Aug. 4, Mike Cassio, who represents the Three Lakes Watershed Association in Grand County, pleaded with state lawmakers to intervene and launch a study process that would help trigger federal action.

    by Jerd Smith | Aug 10, 2022 | Climate and Drought, Colorado River, Environment, Infrastructure, Recreation, Restoration, Water Legislation, Water Quality |

    Tourist haven Grand Lake asks state to intervene in federal water quality stalemate
    A woman paddles on Shadow Mountain Reservoir, which is caught in federal stalemate over how to improve water quality to help improve its neighboring Grand Lake. Credit: Daily Camera

    Fourteen years after Colorado adopted standards to restore Grand Lake, the state’s largest natural water body once known for its astonishing clarity and high water quality continues to deteriorate.

    Frustrated and worried about the future, Grand Lake locals are asking the state to intervene to break through a log jam of federal and environmental red tape that has prevented finding a way to restore the lake’s clarity and water quality, despite a 90-year-old federal rule known as Senate Bill 80 requiring that the work be done.

    At issue: Grand Lake serves as a key element of Northern Water’s delivery system, which provides water to more than 1 million people on the northern Front Range and thousands of acres of irrigated farmlands.

    Owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and operated by Northern Water, what’s known as the Colorado-Big Thompson Project gathers water from streams and rivers in Rocky Mountain National Park and Grand County, and stores it in man-made Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Reservoir. From there it is eventually moved into Grand Lake and delivered via the Adams Tunnel under the Continental Divide to Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir, just west of Berthoud and Fort Collins respectively.

    During that process, algae, certain toxins and sediment are carried into Grand Lake, clouding its formerly clear waters and causing algae blooms and weed growth, and harming recreation.

    In a hearing before the Colorado Legislature’s Interim Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee on Aug. 4, Mike Cassio, who represents the Three Lakes Watershed Association in Grand County, pleaded with state lawmakers to intervene and launch a study process that would help trigger federal action.

    “We have the highest respect for all of our partners,” Cassio said, referring to ongoing remediation efforts involving Northern Water and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    “But due to the design of the system, you have this beautiful natural lake and then you fill it up with reservoir water. Usually, in July when spring runoff is going on, Grand Lake is flowing from east to west. It is extremely clear. But as soon as Shadow Mountain’s water sits and starts to cook and grow weeds and algae, and the pumps come on, this massive plume of nitrates, inorganics, just basic muddy water flows into Grand Lake,” Cassio said.

    In 2008, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission moved to set a clarity standard, but it has since been replaced with a clarity goal and the aim of achieving “the highest level of clarity attainable.” Instead of working under a regulated water quality standard, Northern Water and others have implemented different management techniques, including changing pumping patterns, to find ways to improve water quality in all three water bodies.

    In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation took the first steps required under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) to do the scientific and engineering studies and public hearings that would be required to fix the system. But Reclamation stopped the process in 2020, saying that it could not definitively establish any structural alternatives that would work, nor could it find a way forward on funding what could be a project that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Jeff Rieker, general manager of Reclamation’s Colorado Eastern Plains office.

    During last week’s hearing, lawmakers said they want more information and that Northern Water’s system is too critical to the northern Front Range to do anything without careful consideration.

    “We are in a moment of time like none other,” said State Rep. Hugh McKean, a Republican who represents Loveland and other northern Front Range communities. He cited the warming climate and the effects of the massive East Troublesome fire in 2020, which engulfed lands around the three lakes and created additional water quality problems, which still impact the watershed today.

    “Is this the moment to create a long-term plan, when right now our water situation is in flux? I’m resistant to say let’s stop everything and study this,” McKean said.

    But Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron disagreed.

    “This is exactly the right time,” Kudron said. “Tourism impacts my community more than almost any other community in the state. One million people visited [Fort Collins’] Horsetooth Reservoir last year. Are we getting to the time when recreation on the East Side of the [Continental Divide] is more important than the West Side?”

    Grand Lake via Cornell University

    Northern Water’s Esther Vincent told lawmakers at the hearing that management efforts have improved clarity somewhat. In 1941, before the Colorado Big Thompson Project began operating, clarity was measured at 9.2 meters, Vincent said.

    “The [state’s] clarity goal is 3.8 meters,” she said. “We don’t hit it every year, but we’re doing a lot better. Over the past 17 years we’ve met the 3.8-meter goal 35% of the time and in the past five years we’ve hit the goal 60% of the time,” she said. “But East Troublesome complicates everything. We are still trying to wrap our heads around what this means for the system.”

    Still, she said Northern was committed to finding a path forward and indeed is legally obligated to do so under the terms of its operating contract with Reclamation.

    What that path may look like isn’t clear yet. Lawmakers did not recommend any action in the form of bills to authorize a study after Thursday’s hearing, according to interim committee staff.

    But Grand Lake advocates say the state rightly should step in because it was the Colorado water users in Northern’s system that repaid the federal construction loans on the project.

    “We have a lake unlike any lake in the country,” Kudron said. “The moment we start talking about closing the lake, it has a long rippling effect. There isn’t a Target [store] that will make up the tax dollars that would be lost. There are just 16,000 people in Grand County. If the natural resources that attract people to our county are interrupted, the county becomes interrupted. If we can’t rely on the water resource, we are in big trouble.”

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

    #Nebraska and #Colorado are sparring over #water rights. It could be the new norm as rivers dry up — @WaterEdCO #SouthPlatteRiver

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

    Click the link to read the article on the CNN website (Stephanie Elam and Jason Kravarik). Here’s an excerpt:

    Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts in April signed legislation that, within the terms of the compact, would allow Nebraska to build a canal in Colorado to siphon water off the South Platte River. In response, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis described the plan as a “costly and misguided political stunt.”

    But it’s a conflict climatologists say could play out more often as drought expands in the West and Central US, draining water supplies and exacerbating strains between urban growth and agriculture.

    “We go through droughts every 20 years or so, but nothing of this magnitude,” said Tom Cech, former co-director of the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University in Denver. “We are in for a wave of water rights battles through the West. This is the driest it has been in 1,200 years.”

    […]

    “Without this compact and our ability to enforce our rights, we will see the dramatic impact upon our state,” Ricketts said in an April press conference, pointing to Colorado’s ever-growing population and its estimate of nearly $10 billion for 282 new projects along the South Platte. “Should all the long-term goals be affected, they would reduce the amount of water flows coming to the state of Nebraska by 90%.”

    That rationale raised eyebrows in Colorado. “The fact is, many of those projects are not necessarily going to come to fruition,” Kevin Rein, Colorado’s state engineer and director of the Colorado Division of Water Resources, told CNN, noting that the state curtails usage based on water-rights seniority to ensure that Nebraska still gets the water it has the right to…

    The South Platte River Compact allows Nebraska 500 cubic feet of water per second — with some conditions — in the fall and winter between October 15 and April 1. However, during the irrigation season in the spring and summer, from April 1 and October 15, Nebraska’s allotment drops to 120 cubic feet per second. Critically, though, the compact permits Nebraska to build a canal on Colorado land to divert water from the South Platte “for irrigation of lands in Nebraska” and “grants Nebraska and its citizens the right to acquire by purchase, prescription, or the exercise of eminent domain” any land necessary to build and maintain the canal.

    This week’s Topsoil Moisture Percent Short/Very Short by @usda_oce

    A concerning increase in the Missouri River Basin as MT, WY, and NE are all over 70%. Parts of the Northeast have been going in the wrong direction too for some time. Lower 48 increased 2% as a whole. #drought

    Tribes in the #ColoradoRiver basin say they’re ‘in the dark’ as states discuss #water #conservation — KUNC #COriver #aridification

    Agriculture is the main economic venture on CRIT’s reservation, where a range of crops like alfalfa, cotton and sorghum thrive in the rich soil along the banks of the Colorado River. (Source: CRIT)

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

    A group of 14 tribes in the Colorado River basin is asking for a greater voice in ongoing negotiations about water conservation. In a letter to the Department of the Interior, those tribes write that they are not being adequately consulted as states ponder a plan to save an unprecedented amount of water amid this historic drought.

    “We should not have to remind you — but we will again — that as our trustee, you must protect our rights, our assets, and people in addition to any action you take on behalf of the system,” the letter reads…

    The tribes said a June pre-scoping notice about river negotiations was a good start — it mentioned a commitment to engage with tribes and consider their views— but the Interior Department has not kept its promise to keep tribes “appropriately informed.”

    Graphic credit: Chas Chamberlin/Water Education Colorado

    The Colorado River basin includes 30 federally-recognized tribes that depend on its water. Despite holding rights to about a quarter of the river’s flow, many tribes lack the funding and infrastructure to use their full allocations. They have historically been excluded from decision-making about how the river’s water is used, going back to foundational documents allocating the region’s water. They argue they are still being excluded during the unprecedented call for conservation…This is not the first time within the past year that tribes have come to the federal government with a call for greater inclusion. In November, twenty tribes within the basin sent a letter to the Interior Department broadly asking for greater inclusion in the long-term management of the Colorado River.

    North American Indian regional losses 1850 thru 1890.

    On Aug. 9, 1937, President Roosevelt signed a bill committing funds to the #Colorado-Big Thompson Project — @Northern_Water

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    Pushback on building emissions: A law passed by #Colorado legislators in 2021 requires natural gas utilities to start squeezing emissions from buildings. This could get very interesting — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround #COleg

    The downtown Denver skyline from Arvada. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

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

    To be very clear, this is the biggest energy story of the year in Colorado, in my read.

    State legislators in 2021 adopted several laws that will, in various ways, begin squeezing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.

    Now comes the implementation as the three commissioners from the Public Utilities Commission do their required public engagement in meetings held in various locations in Colorado. All available evidence suggests to me that this will come close to fist-swinging before it’s all done, at least of the wordy type. From what I hear, it already has.

    I attended the second of the six meetings, the one at Montbello Community Center in Denver. It was a bilingual meeting structure designed for consumption by people who had mostly never heard of the PUC much less clean heat plans.

    In Montrose a week later, people had heard of the clean heat plans – or least that an effort was underway to remove natural gas from buildings. According to a report in the Montrose Press, many were not in the least bit happy. “Public Utilities Commission gets an earful over Clean Heat Plans,” was the headline.

    SB 21-264, which we’ll call the clean-heat law, requires Colorado’s four privately owned natural gas utilities – Xcel Energy, Black Hills Energy, Atmos and Colorado Natural Gas – to reduce greenhouse gases 4% by 2025 and then 22% by 2030. This is compared to emissions of 2015.

    How can they do this? The law provides four ways for the utilities to do so in the heat-clean plans they must submit:

    1) Demand-side management programs, especially including improved energy efficiency.

    2) Beneficial electrification, meaning that gas use in buildings for space and hot water heating is replaced by electricity. One way of doing that is through addition of air-source heat pumps or, in original construction, ground-source heat pumps.

    3) Improved efforts to reduce methane leaks from the natural gas infrastructure.

    3) Recovered methane, such as from landfills, to supplement the methane extracted from wells;

    4) Green hydrogen, which means made from renewable resources and after (but not natural gas);

    5) Pyrolysis of tires, the recycling of tires to extract heat and energy, as is being considered at Fort Morgan.

    The latter two are likely more difficult than the first three.

    The PUC commissioners have until December to draw up the rules governing the review of these clean-heat plans.

    I see four very, very big issues here:

    First, this is a lot of work in a short time. “A heavy lift for utilities,” John Gavan, the PUC commissioner who presided at the Montrose meeting, said.

    A Black Hills representative at the Montrose meeting said that the required reduction coming on top of demand growth means that instead of a 4% reduction it’s more like a 25% reduction. Nigh on to impossible, said Mike Harrigan, the Black Hills rep.

    Second, the gas utilities are being required to radically change their business models and, in the case of three of them, to essentially make themselves less relevant. Xcel Energy will sell more electricity as it sells less gas. For Black Hills, which sells both gas and electricity, the trade-off is not as easy. It sells gas in Aspen, for example, but not electricity.

    One of the attendees at Montrose summarized it in this way: “Let me get this straight,” said David Combs, speaking to the Black Hills Energy representatives. “The products you sell, you make money on, you’re trying to reduce and you’re giving people money to use less of it?”

    There always has been a strange tradeoff between regulated utilities. They enjoy monopolies in their service territory in return for regulation. This was once reliable money. Utilities are now being required to be far more inventive.

    Third, builders and real estate developers have been enjoying a subsidy as they build new subdivisions, the gas lines that are laid being subsidized by existing natural gas customers. At the end of the day, this may be the defining issue. High-spirited filings with the PUC began in December 2021.

    Fourth, there are equity issues here as we squeeze out natural gas, replacing it with electricity. Who will pay for the aging natural gas systems? Like so many things, it’s likely to be those who can least afford to pay.

    The meeting in the Denver neighborhood of Montbello was conducted in both Spanish and English. Photo/Allen Best

    I mentioned the Montbello meeting. It was designed to reach out to an area that met the definition of a disproportionately impacted community. I can’t disagree, but I must say that I felt very marginalized. I struggle to hear well normally, and the choice of room configuration left me with my back to the speakers and trying — and almost entirely failing — to hear the English translation of what was being said in Spanish. My impression was that the meeting was designed with the intent of honoring the law, and it did achieve that. But one meeting alone will not achieve the real purpose with this particular group.

    A meeting in Grand Junction was somewhat boisterous, I heard, which did not surprise me. The first filings of opposition to clean-heat plans in the PUC docket in this case were submitted by real-estate agents and others from the Grand Valley and Montrose. Weeks later they started arriving from places like Aurora.

    Again, as Gavan identified in the Montrose meeting, the key issue here is the subsidy for gas lines to homebuilders. Nobody likes to lose their subsidy.

    Sandy Head, executive of the Montrose County Economic Development Corp. told the Press that the cost of extending a gas line to a new house was previously $250 to $300 but will now cost $800.

    This led to charges that it would become too expensive to live in a place like Delta County – which, with the exception of now pricey Paonia, remains one of Colorado’s least expensive places to live west of I-25.

    Also balled up into this issue is the high cost of natural gas and the failure of Xcel Energy to adequately prepare itself for what happened in February 2021. Xcel ended up paying $600 million extra for high-priced natural gas. But there’s also the issue of Texans going without power – which some people, apparently, still think can be blamed on the dependency on wind turbines. (It was a part of the problem, but only a small part).

    “We’re not going to shut off fossil fuel generation in the form of gas overnight,” Gavan replied, as per the Montrose Press account. “No, our plan is to add another gigawatt of combustion technology to back up renewables. It’s a balancing mix. As we transition, the resource mix will change. It will become very different, more intelligent.”

    #Arizona and #California Farmers, Targets for #ColoradoRiver Cuts, Draft Their #Conservation Strategy — Circle of Blue #COriver #aridification

    The All American Canal carries water from the Colorado River to farms in California’s Imperial Valley. The Imperial Irrigation District holds more rights to Colorado River water than any other user in the basin. Photo credit: Adam Dubrowa, FEMA/Wikipedia.

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

  • A plan is circulating among irrigation districts in southern Arizona and California to reduce Colorado River use by as much as 925,000 acre-feet.
  • Such a plan would require billions in funding.
  • These discussions foreshadow difficult negotiations in the coming years to balance water demand with a declining supply.
  • Knowing they are targets, farmers in southern Arizona and California who receive irrigation water from the Colorado River are discussing a plan that could go a long way toward meeting a federal conservation mandate in the drying basin.

    With key reservoirs Mead and Powell at record lows and despite the continued decline of the Salton Sea, federal officials are demanding historic cuts in water use next year, on the order of 2 million to 4 million acre-feet, or roughly one-third of the river’s recent annual flow.

    Irrigation districts in Arizona’s Yuma County and California’s Imperial and Riverside counties control more of the river’s water than any other entity in the basin. The Colorado River Indian Tribes, whose reservation abuts the river, also hold significant secure water rights.

    A plan is now circulating among those districts to forgo 1 acre-foot of water per irrigated acre next year. In the Yuma area that amounts to a 20 percent cut, according to Tom Davis, manager of the Yuma County Water Users’ Association.

    The emergency actions foreshadow difficult negotiations that will take place in the coming years as a river that irrigates 5 million acres and supplies 40 million people with a portion of their drinking water is decimated by a drying climate. Agriculture consumes about 80 percent of the basin’s water, making it a cornerstone for bringing demand in line with supply.

    The discussions today could set the tone. As many as 925,000 acre-feet could be part of the current deal, about half or a quarter of the total cuts the federal government is seeking.

    The forgone water would remain in Lake Mead, which is at its lowest level since 1937, when the big reservoir was being filled. Federal officials want to prevent a catastrophic outcome: the reservoir dropping so low that it can no longer generate hydropower or deliver water downstream.

    Irrigation districts are willing to contribute — as long as they are paid.

    “If agriculture steps up and makes it possible for the river to survive, they are taking a huge risk for their industry,” said Wade Noble, coordinator of the Yuma County Agriculture Water Coalition, which represents farmers in southwest Arizona. “And that risk and the cost analysis that goes into it is going to require some sort of compensation because they have a water right.”

    The dollars at play could be significant. A range of values are being discussed, but a center point is $1,500 per acre-foot. If all 925,000 acres participated in the program, the total cost would be $1.4 billion a year.

    It is unclear at this point how many irrigation districts are on board. Camille Touton, the commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, told the states to present a plan by mid-August. But observers in the basin do not consider that a firm deadline. Davis cited the accelerated timeline and delicate nature of the negotiations.

    Noble outlined the agriculture conservation plan at the July 13 meeting of the Arizona Reconsultation Committee, a group that is advising the state government on Colorado River negotiations. He suggested a four-year program with a total cost between $4 billion and $8 billion.

    “As we look at the risk to economies,” Noble added. “As we look at the risk to other industries. As we look at the risk to our urban areas, we don’t believe that you can say that is too much money.”

    Noble did not return multiple phone messages seeking comment.

    Robert Glennon, a water law and policy expert and professor emeritus at the University of Arizona said that though the dollar figures may seem high at first glance, they are miniscule compared with the risks involved.

    “Why should that be a deal breaker?” Glennon asked about a nearly $2 billion annual price tag. “I mean, it’s only a one-year deal. But it’s wet water that saves everyone’s bacon while you’re trying to develop some long-term criteria.”

    Aerial view of Imperial Valley and Salton Sea. By Samboy – I took a picture from the window of an airplane I was on, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76273834

    These irrigated areas are among the harshest climates in the United States, arid lowland regions of the Sonoran Desert that receive no more than 4 inches of rain in an average year.

    The Colorado River is the ingredient that turned these drylands green. Applying more than 5 feet of water per acre of land each year allows farmers in Imperial Irrigation District, Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation District, Palo Verde Irrigation District, and a half dozen others to produce a staggering bounty of vegetables, grains, forage, and seed crops. Growing more than 100 crops, these counties are among the richest farming regions in the country, each generating more than $1 billion in sales in 2021.

    The steady flow of the Colorado is the fuel that powers the ag machine. The threat that the spigot will be turned off has brought the irrigation districts to the table.

    If dividing the river during a period of shortage were based purely on the law, then the irrigation districts would not have to worry. They hold some of the most legally ironclad rights to the river, those that are last in line for cuts.

    Imperial Irrigation District, the largest of the bunch, has claim to 2.6 million acre-feet for irrigation, nearly as much water from the Colorado River as the entire state of Arizona. That water nurtures about 470,000 acres of alfalfa, Bermuda grass, Sudan grass, sugar beets, onions, lettuce, and other crops. Secured by a U.S. Supreme Court decree, Imperial’s water rights would be the last to be touched.

    The political reality, however, is altogether different, according to Michael Pearce, an attorney with Gammage and Burnham who has more than three decades of experience in Arizona water law and policy.

    “In a practical sense, you can’t see the cities of Phoenix and Los Angeles, and even Las Vegas and some of the cities on the Colorado River — Bullhead City, Lake Havasu City — have their water supply cut off so that you can grow alfalfa in Yuma and in the Imperial Valley,” Pearce told Circle of Blue. “This cannot be a practical solution.”

    Aerial photo – Central Arizona Project. The Central Arizona Project is a massive infrastructural project that conveys water from the Colorado River to central and southern Arizona, and is central to many of the innovative partnerships and exchanges that the Gila River Indian Community has set up. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=326265

    The Central Arizona Project, the 336-mile canal that supplies Phoenix and Tucson, has junior water rights to the Colorado River. But Arizona’s water leaders have publicly stated that they will not sign any agreement that allows the canal to run dry.

    Leaders in the four upper basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming are also looking downstream for solutions. In a July 18 letter they argued that the burden of the conservation mandate should be placed on Arizona, California, and Mexico, which together use more than double the water than the upper basin. Besides the irrigation districts, urban suppliers in the basin are also putting forward conservation plans.

    Another factor in the irrigation districts’ willingness to come to the table is that the mechanics of water delivery will eventually triumph over the law. Even the most secure legal rights are worthless if Mead sits at dead pool and no water can pass downstream.

    How might the farmers be paid off? Glennon and Pearce noted a number of options. Congress could appropriate money. A wildfire and drought response bill that the House passed at the end of July authorizes $500 million to prevent Mead and Powell from declining to unacceptable levels. Or the White House could declare a federal disaster. Any outcome, they said, would likely require states to contribute funds.

    Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck.

    Those are potential short-term actions. In the long run, the current water rights arrangement is untenable, Glennon said. The drying basin has a structural deficit — more promises of water than physical water to distribute. The states, tribes, and federal government will have to not only rebalance water supply and demand, but also address the shrinking Salton Sea.

    “That conversation has to take place,” Glennon said.

    Located north of Imperial Irrigation District, the Salton Sea is an agricultural sump, a desert depression that receives most of its water from farm runoff. Less irrigation means less water flowing into the sea. A receding shoreline exposes more seabed salts and chemicals to winds. The area has some of the nation’s worst air quality.

    Whether a system established more than a century ago that privileges desert agriculture is compatible with a hotter, drier, ecologically imperiled, urbanized 21st century is a question that will take years to resolve — but with little time to waste.

    City of #Aurora #Water #conservation ordinance passes first reading unanimously: Prohibits aesthetic #turf in new development

    From email from the City of Aurora (Greg Baker):

    At its August 8, 2022 meeting, the Aurora City Council unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance sponsored by Mayor Mike Coffman that will restrict the use of turf in new developments and golf courses. This ordinance is forward-looking, impacting new development and redevelopment by prohibiting aesthetic cool-weather turf. Parks would be permitted to use turf in sports fields, informal play areas and social areas.

    West Drought map Monitor August 2, 2022.

    Mayor Coffman noted that continual drought in the arid west and the impacts of climate change weighed heavily in his decision to sponsor this ordinance. “Colorado is in a crisis,” he said. “We need to take action to ensure that Aurora can continue to grow responsibly.”

    Credit: U.S. Women’s National Team

    The ordinance will allow cool weather turf for new development only in active or programmed recreation areas, such as sport fields and organized social/cultural gatherings. It would prohibit turf in common areas, medians, curbside landscape (“tree lawns”) and in most residential front yards, while restricting it in backyards to allow for 45% coverage or 500 sq. ft., whichever is smaller. The ordinance permits turf in the front yard in alley-loaded developments that do not include substantial backyards. It also creates a path for transition zones to allow developments with site plans that are currently approved to better blend in appearance with the new areas that will be covered by the ordinance.

    Broken Tee Golf Course via Golf Digest

    Finally, the ordinance prohibits the use of cool-weather turf for development of new golf courses and it restricts ornamental water features, such as exterior decorative fountains, waterfalls, basins and ponds. Warm weather turfs that use less than 15 inches of supplemental irrigation, such as buffalo grass, will still be permitted.

    Lindsay Rogers, Water Policy Analyst for Western Resource Advocates, a Boulder nonprofit conservation organization, provided support for the ordinance. “Aurora has long been a trailblazer and early adopter of water conservation and reuse programs and through this ordinance, Aurora is taking a critical step to ensuring water supply resiliency now and into the future,” she said during the City Council meeting.

    Assuming passage on final reading on August 22, the ordinance will go into effect beginning Sept. 30, 2022. Development with complete site plans submitted prior to that date will not be impacted.

    #Water Quality Sampling Techniques — USGS

    Water-quality sampling from Salt River cableway, Etna, Wyoming. Credit: Cheryl Eddy Miller, USGS

    Click the link to read the article on the USGS website (Water Science School):

    Checking the water quality of the Nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes is one of the main responsibilities of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Physical water measurements and streamflow are almost always taken, but often water samples are needed for chemical analyses, and sampling must follow strict guidelines to collect scientifically-viable samples.

    Water Quality Sampling Techniques

    Checking the water quality of the Nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes is one of the main responsibilities of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Physical water measurements and streamflow are almost always taken, but often water samples are needed for chemical analyses. Generally, it is imperative that water samples be representative of the whole stream, and so, sampling a stream means more than just dipping a coffee cup in at the stream bank and sending it to the laboratory. The USGS uses strict scientific methodology in taking samples of any water body.

    USGS scientists collect water samples for chemical analysis from an excavated pond in the New Jersey Pinelands. Credit: Kelly Smalling, USGS

    Sampling methodology depends on stream size

    The USGS has to utilize different methods and equipment when taking a sample of water from a stream—it all depends on the size of the stream, how deep the water is, and how fast the water is moving. Also, I should add, on the ability of the water scientist to be able to access the water. As the left-side pictures below show, often a hydrologist can simply step out into a small stream and dip a bottle in at the appropriate place, but on larger rivers, it might be necessary to build a cableway and take water samples from high above the water surface. Sampling methodology also depends on the type of water sample needed.

    Sampling a small stream

    For a small stream where the water is well mixed, it is sometimes possible to take a single “grab sample”, where the hydrologist just dips a bottle in the stream at one location, still trying to move the bottle up and down to sample the entire vertical column of water. Note how the sampler always stands downstream from the sampling point—don’t want to stir up any sediment that could alter the chemical analysis of the water sample.

    Quite often it is important to take a water sample that represents the stream as a whole. That entails taking small amounts of water from numerous horizontal sections across the stream, at regular intervals, as the middle picture shows. There is a bottle inside the white container at the end of the pole (bottom picture). The bottle has a small tube in it that allows only a small amount of flow into the bottle, and thus, the hydrologist can regulate how much water is sampled at various points in the stream. She can sample different horizontal sections separately by using a different bottle for each vertical section or use a single bottle for the whole stream.

    Sediment sampling and surrogates. Sediment work using samplers, laser diffraction, and acoustics on the Kickapoo Creek near Bloomington, Illinois, on April 22, 2011. Credit: Tim Straub, USGS

    Sampling a larger river

    It takes a lot more work to get a water sample from a larger river, as this picture shows. In larger rivers, there is more chance of variability in the water characteristics and quality across the river. There may be a tributary coming in from the left side above the sampling point or there may a wastewater treatment outflow pipe a mile upstream on the right bank.

    It takes longer for all the water in large rivers to mix together. So, to understand the water properties of the whole river it is necessary to obtain individual samples at set increments across the river. Bridges make this task very convenient, although samples can be taken using a boat, if no bridge is available.

    If the water is moving fast or if the depth is too deep, then a crane with an electric motor (or hand crank for especially hardy hydrologists) is used to obtain the water sample (above picture). The heavy metal “fish” which holds the sampling bottle is needed to keep the sampler from being pushed downstream, as it is important to representatively sample the vertical column of water at each sampling point across the river. The hydrologist has to move the sampler up and down at a steady rate until the bottle is filled, while at the same time being sure not to smash the nozzle into the mud on the stream bed!

    Sometimes only a cableway will do

    USGS hydrologists can’t always count on a nice, wide bridge being available for hydrologists to sample from, and sometimes it is too dangerous (due to high flows or floating debris) to use a boat for sampling. In these cases, a cable can be strung across the river, from which a hydrologist can move across and sample and measure the river as needed.

    Book: Tributary Voices Literary and Rhetorical Exploration of the #ColoradoRiver — University of #Nevada Press #COriver #aridification

    From email from Paul A. Formisano:

    I’m writing to quickly share a book that may be of interest to the Coyote Gulch blog audience: Tributary Voices: Literary and Rhetorical Explorations of the Colorado River https://www.unpress.nevada.edu/books/?isbn=9781647790424. It came out at the end of April and enlarges the conversation about the river’s sustainability to include historically overlooked perspectives. A timely read in light of the Compact’s 100th anniversary this year.

    From the University of Nevada Press website:

    The Colorado River is in crisis. Persistent drought, climate change, and demands from urbanization threaten this life-source that provides water to more than forty million people in the U.S. and Mexico. Coupled with these challenges are our nation’s deeply rooted beliefs about the region as a frontier, garden, and wilderness that have created competing agendas about the river as something to both exploit and preserve. Citizens and experts look to law, public policy, and science to solve worsening water problems, but today’s circumstances demand additional perspectives to foster a more sustainable relationship with the river.

    Through literary, rhetorical, and historical analysis, Tributary Voices considers a more comprehensive approach to river management. The book examines nature writing, women’s narratives, critiques of dam development, the Latina/o communities’ appeals for river restoration, American Indian authors’ and tribal nations’ claims of water sovereignty, and teachings about environmental stewardship and provident living. This innovative study models an interdisciplinary approach to water governance and reinvigorates our imagination in achieving a more sustainable water ethic.

    Click to enlarge.
    Click to enlarge.

    Releases from Stagecoach to #YampaRiver become more important as climate warms #Colorado: Water Trust has released more than 600 million gallons into the waterway since 2012 — Steamboat Pilot & Today #GreenRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Stagecoarch Reservoir outflow June 23, 2019. Photo credit: Scott Hummer

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

    Near the end of July, flows into Stagecoach Reservoir from the Yampa River dropped below 40 cubic feet per second for a few days. That threshold is important because it helps, in part, determine how much water flows out of the reservoir and continues downstream to Steamboat Springs. If the flow coming in is more than 40 cfs, then at least 40 cfs is usually discharged at the bottom of Stagecoach Dam. If the inflow drops below 40 cfs, the outflow generally would as well, leaving less water for critical fish habitat below the dam and in the river in general.

    But on July 21, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District released reservoir water to bolster the river’s outflow — part of a 10-year deal for water releases with the nonprofit Colorado Water Trust meant to protect the health of the river…

    The long-term deal is one of the first in the state and was made possible by a 2020 state law allowing such agreements. Before, groups like the Water Trust and Upper Yampa district needed to rehash out a contract each year…

    But this year has been different. While the snowpack wasn’t impressive, spring precipitation slowed melting, and there was still snow in the basin until June 23, according to the Natural Resources Conservation service. Monsoon rains have further buoyed the river, with Steamboat measuring more than 10 inches of rain from May to July. While not necessarily a good roll, this year doesn’t seem like a bad one.

    “I think it is on the low side of average,” said Emily Lowell, the district engineer for the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District. “Runoff was pretty average, and I think monsoonal rains this summer have made it sustain that average.”

    But even in a close-to-average year, releases from the reservoir are still needed, though not to the same extent. Since the first releases at the end of July, inflows and outflows have both stayed above 40 cfs and more of the trust’s water hasn’t been needed.

    West Slope #water managers ask: What authority do the feds have? — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Houseboats on Lake Powell on Dec. 13, 2021, near Wahweap Marina, where the quarter-mile-long boat ramp is unusable due to low water levels. The Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner has said 2 to 4 million more acre-feet of conservation is needed to protect the system, leaving water managers wondering what authority the feds have over upper basin water projects. CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

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

    Projects with Reclamation ties could be at risk

    As the deadline approaches for the seven Colorado River basin states to come up with a plan to conserve water, some Colorado water managers are asking what authority the federal government has in the upper basin and which water projects could be at risk of federal action.

    U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton sent water managers scrambling when she announced in June that they had a 60-day window to find another 2 to 4 million acre-feet of water to conserve or the federal government would step in to protect the system. With many reservoirs, transbasin diversion systems and irrigation projects in Colorado tied in one way or another to the Bureau of Reclamation, some are asking if the water in these buckets could be commandeered by the feds to make up the shortfall.

    “I think that there’s probably a good argument that the Secretary (of the Interior) has some authority under those projects,” said Eric Kuhn, Colorado River author and former Colorado River Water Conservation District general manager. “The projects on the Western Slope and in the upper basin states that are owned by the federal government and are ultimately under the authority of the Secretary of the Interior, those are the projects at risk.”

    There are many dams and reservoirs across Colorado that are tied to the Bureau of Reclamation’s 20th century building frenzy to impound water and “reclaim” arid regions through irrigation. On the Western Slope, some of the well-known projects include the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project (Ruedi Reservoir), Dallas Creek Project (Ridgway Reservoir), the Dolores Project (McPhee Reservoir), Paonia Reservoir, the Grand Valley Project, the Silt Project (Rifle Gap Reservoir), the Uncompahgre Project (Taylor Park Reservoir) and more.

    In general, the local entities like conservancy districts, irrigators and municipalities who use the water are responsible for repaying the Bureau for the cost of the project. But the infrastructure is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation. Some projects are operated by Reclamation and some are operated by a local entity. Many also have a hydropower component.

    “I think each project operator is having to look at their contractual obligations with the Bureau and their attorneys are going back over those with a fine tooth comb to see if the arm of the Bureau can reach up through Lake Powell and into the upper basin states,” said Kathleen Curry, a rancher and Gunnison County representative on the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “All of the upper basin projects are going to need to look real hard at what authority the Bureau has.”

    Last year Reclamation made emergency releases out of Blue Mesa, Flaming Gorge and Navajo reservoirs to prop up Lake Powell. In this instance their authority was not questioned since these reservoirs are, along with Lake Powell, the four initial reservoirs of the Colorado River Storage Project. They store what’s called “system water,” which is used specifically to help the upper basin meet its delivery obligations to the lower basin.

    But water managers still don’t know exactly what, if anything, Reclamation is allowed to do with the water contained in other reservoirs with Reclamation ties.

    The crest of the dam across the Fryingpan River that forms Ruedi Reservoir, which can hold 102,373 acre-feet of water. Some Western Slope water managers are asking what authority the Bureau of Reclamation has over water projects with Reclamation ties in the upper basin.
    CREDIT: PHOTO: COURTESY OF BUREAU OF RECLAMATION

    No answers from officials

    At the River District’s third quarterly board meeting in July, board members repeatedly tried to pin down answers from federal and state officials without much luck.

    Montrose County representative and state Rep. Marc Catlin asked state engineer Kevin Rein where he stood on whether the Bureau of Reclamation could make reservoirs with Reclamation ties release water downstream to Lake Powell to meet the 2 to 4 million acre-feet conservation goal.

    “If the Bureau of Reclamation comes into the state of Colorado and says it wants to move water… down to Lake Powell, what’s the state engineer going to do?” Catlin asked. “Are those water rights under state law or federal law?”

    Rein did not know the answer.

    “I’m not sure what authority — this is not one of those rhetorical ‘I’m not sure,’ I really am not sure — what authority the Bureau of Reclamation would have to induce a federal project with state water rights to release them to get to Powell,” Rein said.

    Later in the meeting, Katrina Grantz, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Basin Assistant Regional Director, gave a presentation and took questions from board members. Curry asked if changes could be proposed to the operation of projects within the 15 counties represented by the River District with federal ties to get closer to the 2 to 4 million acre-feet. Grantz side-stepped the question.

    “At this point we are not looking at specific locations,” she said. “I would turn it around and say: Are there areas where you locally think there might be areas to conserve?”

    River District General Counsel Peter Fleming said the authority of the feds in the upper basin is untested. This is partly because the upper basin has dozens of small Reclamation projects as well as thousands of individual water users on private ditch systems that are not affiliated with the federal government. Colorado has generally been left alone to administer this complex system of water rights under the state doctrine of prior appropriation, which means older water rights get first use of the river.

    The lower basin, in contrast, has only about 20 diversions — and only six or so big ones — from the Colorado River. And each entity that uses water from Lake Mead has to have a contract with Reclamation, meaning the federal government is directly involved with water deliveries.

    “The reason I think these issues are untested is historically the secretary’s role in the upper basin has been different than the secretary’s role in the lower basin,” Fleming said. “It’s much more hands-off. The difference in river administration is huge.”

    Fleming said that the River District does not have advice for its water users on the situation, other than to reiterate the upper basin stance that the responsibility to come up with the 2 to 4 million acre-feet lies overwhelmingly with the lower basin.

    “At the end of the day I think there will be a big effort to try to resolve things through agreement and I believe the secretary will exercise her authority to the greatest extent she can without triggering litigation,” Fleming said.

    Water managers may not have to wait long to get some clarity. The deadline for the states to come up with a conservation plan before the feds take action to protect the system is fast approaching. The upper basin states, through the Upper Colorado River Commission, have put forward a 5 Point Plan, which lays out actions they say are designed to protect the reservoirs.

    Amee Andreason, public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Reclamation, said officials may answer the question of federal authority in the upper basin at a media event on Aug. 16 that coincides with the release of the August 24-month study, which lays out reservoir operations for the following water year.

    If the feds end up curtailing uses in the lower basin, it could set a precedent that would strengthen the argument that they can do the same in the upper basin, Kuhn said.

    “That’s one I think is the elephant in the room,” he said. “The fact that the River District board was asking about authorities tells you people are thinking about it.”

    This story ran in the Aug. 4 edition of the Sky-Hi News.

    Hard choices for the #ColoradoRiver — Writers on the Range #COriver #aridification

    Click the link to read the article on the Writers on the Range website (Quinn Harper and Mark Squillace):

    The seven Colorado River states – Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming – face a daunting mid-August deadline. The federal government has asked them to come up with a plan to reduce their combined water usage from the Colorado River by up to 4 million acre-feet in 2023.

    That is a massive reduction for a river system that currently produces about 12.4 million acre-feet. The Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the Colorado River, warned that it will “act unilaterally to protect the system” if the states cannot come up with an adequate plan on their own.

    The seven states have worked cooperatively over the past two decades to identify solutions to a shrinking river. But their response now, much like the global response to climate change, seems far from adequate to the enormous challenge.

    In a recent letter to BuRec, the Upper Colorado River Commission, speaking for the four Upper Basin states, proposed a plan that adopts a business-as-usual, “drought-reduction” approach. They argue that their options are limited because “previous drought response actions are depleting upstream storage by 661,000 feet.”

    The Commission complains that water users “already suffer chronic shortages under current conditions resulting in uncompensated priority administration, which includes cuts to numerous present perfected rights in each of our states.”

    This leads the Commission to conclude that any future reductions must come largely from Mexico and the Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada, because they use most of the water.

    But the Lower Basin states have already taken a significant hit to their “present perfected rights,” and if BuRec makes good on its promise to act unilaterally, they will face another big reduction. The cooperative relationship among the Basin states will not endure if the Upper Basin refuses to share the burden by reducing its consumption.

    The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project involves raising the height of the existing dam by 131 feet. The dam will be built out and will have “steps” made of roller-compacted concrete to reach the new height. Image credit: Denver Water

    A good place to start might lie with two Colorado projects to divert water from the Colorado River basin to the Front Range. Both began construction this summer. The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will triple the size of one of Denver Water’s major storage units. Denver Water’s original justification for this project – to serve Denver’s growing urban population – seems odd given that water demand in their service area over the past two decades has shrunk, even as its population rose by nearly 300,000.

    Outflow from the dam across the Colorado River that forms Windy Gap Reservoir. Taken during a field trip the reservoir in September, 2017.

    Similar questions have been raised with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap Firming Project, which plans to store Colorado River water to support population growth in Front Range cities.

    These two projects suggest that Colorado is prepared to exacerbate the current crisis when the opposite response is so desperately needed.

    Abandoning these two projects would signal that Colorado is serious about giving the Colorado River a fighting chance at survival. It might also jump-start good-faith negotiations over how Mexico, the states, and tribes might work to achieve a long-term solution to this crisis.

    The homestead laws of the 19th century attracted a resilient group of farmers to the West who cleverly designed water laws to secure their water rights against all future water users. “First in time, first in right” became the governing mantra of water allocation, because, except for Tribal Nations, the farmers were first.

    That system worked well for many years. As communities grew, cities and water districts built reservoirs to store the spring runoff, ensuring that water was available throughout the irrigation season.

    Climate change and mega-droughts have upended that system. Nowhere have the consequences been as dire as in the Colorado River Basin. America’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead – key components of the Colorado River’s water storage system – have not filled for more than two decades. They now sit well below 30% of their capacity.

    Hotter temperatures, less mountain snowpack, and dry soils that soak up runoff like a sponge have brought us to this seven-state crisis. All seven states must now share the pain of addressing this crisis.

    The Upper Basin Commission’s anemic response to BuRec’s plea is not a serious plan. We can do better and we must.

    Mark Squillace and Quinn Harper are contributors to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. Mark Squillace is the Raphael J. Moses professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado Law School. Quinn Harper is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in natural resource policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

    High precipitation totals reported in Archuleta County — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #monsoon2022

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

    This week, according to the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) website, Station CO-AU-33, located on Cactus Drive in Aspen Springs west of Pagosa Springs, experienced the third highest rain total in Colorado of 3.46 inches for the period between July 27 and Aug. 3. CoCoRaHS also indicates that, for the period between July 20 and Aug. 3, sites in Archuleta County received between 2.85 and 4.20 inches of rain. Higher precipitation totals were concentrated in and to the north and west of Pagosa Springs, with the highest total being reported near Hidden Valley Lake up Four- mile Road north of Pagosa Springs…

    Rivers and drought

    Stream flow for the San Juan River on Aug. 3 at approximately 12 p.m. was 611 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) National Water Dashboard. This is down from a nighttime peak of 1,020 cfs at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 2. These numbers are down from a recent peak flow of 1,470 cfs at 4:15 a.m. on July 29. However, flows are up from last week’s reading of 134 cfs at noon on July 27.

    Colorado Drought map Monitor August 2, 2022.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Integrated Drought In- formation System (NIDIS) reports that 100 percent of the county is experiencing drought. The NIDIS places the entire county in a moderate drought…The NIDIS also places 46 percent of the county, primarily the southern and western portions, in a severe drought.

    Responding to #Drought in the #ColoradoRiver Basin: Federal and State Efforts — The Congressional Research Institute #COriver #aridification

    Click the link to access the report on the Congressional Research Service website (Charles V. Stern):

    The Colorado River Basin (Figure 1) covers more than 246,000 square miles in seven U.S. states and Mexico. Basin waters are managed and governed by multiple laws, court decisions, and other documents known collectively as the Law of the River. The Colorado River Compact of 1922 established a framework to apportion water supplies between the river’s Upper and Lower Basins (divided at Lee Ferry,AZ). Each basin was allocated 7.5 million acre-feet (MAF) annually under the compact; an additional 1.5 MAF in annual flows was made available to Mexico under a 1944 treaty. Since the Upper Basin’s waters were developed after much of the Lower Basin, its apportionments are significantly less than the full amount allowed under the compact and are framed mostly in terms of percentages of available supplies. The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) plays a prominent role in basin water management due to the many federally authorized projects in the basin.

    Credit: The Congressional Research Service

    The Colorado River Basin is in the midst of a long-term drought, during which consumptive use has regularly exceeded natural flows. When federal and state governments originally approved the 1922
    compact, it was assumed based on the historical record that river flows would average 16.4 MAF per year.

    Actual flows from 1906 to 2020 were approximately 13.9 MAF, with flows averaging approximately 12.5 MAF since the onset of the basin’s drought in 2000. These conditions are projected to continue.

    Observers track the status of two large federal reservoirs—Lake Powell in the Upper Basin, impounded by Glen Canyon Dam, and Lake Mead in the Lower Basin, impounded by Hoover Dam—as an indicator of basin storage conditions. Reclamation makes operational decisions for basin reservoirs in monthly 24-month studies. Recent 24-month studies projected additional reductions in water storage at both reservoirs (Figure 2, Figure 3).

    Credit: USBR
    Credit: USBR

    Mitigating Drought in the Colorado River Basin Previously, there have been multiple efforts to improve the basin’s water supply outlook, including the
    2003 Quantitative Settlement Agreement, the 2007 Interim Shortage Guidelines, and the 2019 drought contingency plans (DCPs) for the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basins. (The latter were authorized by Congress in P.L. 116-14.) The DCPs required reduced Lower Basin deliveries based on Lake Mead storage levels, authorized additional water conservation efforts, and put in place the framework for a Drought Response Operations Agreement (DROA) to coordinate Upper Basin operations to prevent the loss of hydropower generation at Glen Canyon Dam.

    Despite these efforts, storage levels at both reservoirs have continued to fall. In August 2021, Reclamation declared the first-ever Level One Shortage Condition for the Lower Basin, which formally triggered delivery curtailments for Arizona (512,000 AF) and Nevada (21,000 AF). Reclamation’s August 2021 24-month study also indicated for the first time the possibility of Lake Mead falling below 1,020 feet within two years, which resulted in agreement on a new set of actions in 2021, known as the 500+ Plan. This effort is expected to result in the conservation of an additional 500,000 AF in Lake Mead in 2022 and
    2023 (i.e., 1 MAF total).

    In March 2022, Lake Powell fell below 3,525 feet for the first time since the late 1960s. To alleviate the potential for lost hydropower generation at Glen Canyon Dam, the Department of the Interior initiated DROA operations, resulting in operational changes in July 2021 and January 2022. In May 2022, Reclamation invoked emergency authority to move approximately 500,000 AF of water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Lake Powell and held back 480,000 AF of Lower Basin releases pursuant to the 2007 guidelines.

    At a June 14, 2022, congressional hearing, Reclamation announced that states needed to conserve an additional 2 MAF to 4 MAF in 2023 to protect storage volumes over the near term (2023-2026). This estimate was the result of a 2022 Reclamation analysis. Reclamation noted that if the target is not met with voluntary commitments by August 2022, the agency would act unilaterally. In a July 18, 2022, letter to Reclamation, Upper Basin representatives declined to contribute a specific volume of cutbacks to these
    efforts, instead laying out a five-point plan as the basis for its water conservation efforts.

    Congress is involved in basin management primarily through directives and authorizations for Reclamation projects and activities. In addition to the 2019 authorization of the DCPs, Congress has authorized “system conservation” efforts in the basin that expire in 2022. Congress also has appropriated regular and supplemental appropriations for Colorado River water conservation efforts in addition to regular operational funds. Legislation under consideration in the 117th Congress would enact other new authorities aimed at improving basin water management.

    The 2007 Interim Shortage Guidelines and the 2019 DCPs are set to expire at the end of 2026. Extending or amending previous agreements is central to future basin water management. On June 20, 2022, Reclamation published a “pre-scoping” notice seeking input on how to foster participation in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to develop post-2026 basin operations. A formal notice for NEPA scoping is expected in 2023.

    Author Information
    Charles V. Stern
    Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

    Is the #ColoradoRiver a bellwether for the [#Colorado’s] other river systems? — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel #COriver #aridification

    Click the link to read the guest column on the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel website (Eric Kuhn and Jennifer Gimbel). Here’s an excerpt:

    Unfortunately, the situation on the Colorado River is not unique. Colorado’s mountains are the headwaters of four major river systems: the Colorado, the Platte, the Arkansas and the Rio Grande. Each river provides critical water supplies for the present and future needs of our state; each is being impacted by the effects of climate change; and under Interstate water compacts signed decades ago, Colorado must share each with its neighboring downstream states. Climate change, or what scientists are now referring to as aridification, has caused all of Colorado to be hotter and drier. The combined effects of climate change, interstate water compact obligations and intense competition for the available water among different communities and water use sectors within our state means that future Coloradans will have to learn to do more with less water. This will take bold action, compromise and a new era of innovation and cooperation among competing water interests within Colorado and among Colorado and its neighboring states.

    Rio Grande through the eastern edge of Alamosa July 5, 2022. Photo credit: Chris Lopez/Alamosa Citizen

    Already, the farmers in Colorado’s fertile Rio Grande Basin are struggling to maintain an aquifer by restricting pumping. They face an awful choice — reduce their collective uses of the aquifer to a sustainable level so that some farms can survive, or they all fail. At the same time, the surface water supply from the Rio Grande River, which must be shared with New Mexico and Texas, has diminished and most likely will continue to do so.

    The Republican River’s South Fork near Hale, Colorado, with the region’s seemingly endless fields. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Jeffrey Beall

    The Republican River Basin, a small but agriculturally important river system that originates on the plains and flows east to its confluence with the Missouri River, is also stressed by overuse of the river supply. Productive farm fields are being fallowed so that Colorado can comply with the Republican River Compact. Fortunately for the Rio Grande and Republican river basins, the General Assembly set aside $60 million to buy out farms in order to leave water in the aquifers and river systems. That amount is a drop in the bucket for what will be needed to recover and sustain those systems.

    The Arkansas River and South Platte River systems also have significant challenges. These basins are home to 85% of Colorado’s population and to most of its commercial agriculture. The farm economy in the Arkansas has already suffered when the Colorado State Engineer had to cut back the use of alluvial wells, which were depleting flows to the Arkansas River and causing Colorado to be out of compliance with the Arkansas River Compact. The South Platte River system, which relies on return flows to sustain the river past the state line, is seeing much higher demands. The current return flow regime is threatened by Nebraska reinvigorating the proposed Perkin’s Ditch, a century-old feature provided for in the 1923 South Platte Compact. Both these basins are being hammered by the combined impacts of Front Range cities rushing to buy and dry existing farms to provide water for future growth while their water supplies imported from the Colorado River Basin have become less reliable due to climate change caused drought and compact obligations.

    Colorado’s future economy will depend on implementing innovative methods to sustain, deliver and treat water supplies while leaving enough water in our streams to maintain healthy and thriving aquatic ecosystems. Water delivery entities need to think broader to collaborate with others on ways to manage and share their supplies and their systems.

    Tribal sovereigns complain of being left out of #ColoradoRiver negotiations — @JFleck at Inkstain #COriver #aridification

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

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

    In a July 22 letter, the leaders of 14 Colorado River Basin Tribal governments complained to the U.S. Department of Interior about being left out – again – of the current negotiations around short terms Colorado River cutbacks:

    Colorado River Basin Tribes express concern about lack of access to summer 2022 negotiations (p. 1)

    View the entire document with DocumentCloud

    At this point, a voluntary “2 to 4 MAF of additional #conservation” #ColoradoRiver deal by August 16, 2022 seems out of reach — @JFleck at Inkstain #COriver #aridification

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

    Click the link to read the article on the Inkstain website (John Fleck):

    Janet Wilson had a helpful story yesterday in the Desert Sun about California’s negotiations over its piece of the looming Colorado River cutbacks. Its bottom line is that California – the state with the largest Colorado River allocation – is talking about kicking in 500,000 acre feet of water. Or maybe it’s really just 400,000 acre feet of water – as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Bill Hasencamp told her, paraphrased, the negotiations are fluid and numbers could change.

    A reminder of what Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton told senators just seven weeks ago:

    4 million acre feet is obviously out of reach. It always was.

    But if Wilson’s numbers about California’s contributions are right – and she’s a good reporter, we have every reason to believe they’re in the ballpark – 2 million acre feet of additional conservation is beyond the grasp of a voluntary deal as well.

    The arithmetic is straightforward.

    The Upper Basin has said “not our problem“.

    Nevada’s share of the river is so tiny that its contribution is couch cushion change, a rounding error.

    That leaves, in round numbers, 1.5 million acre feet of water to come out of Arizona just to get to Touton’s bottom line number for additional conservation. That would require completely drying up the Central Arizona Project canal. (CAP is taking 1.031maf this year, and averaged ~1.4maf over the previous fives years). I’m frequently surprised by Arizona, but it seems unlikely that they’ll agree to a voluntary deal that dries up the CAP canal. If that’s where we end up, Arizona’s best alternative to a negotiated agreement will be to just make the feds do it, make them take the heat. (Worth noting that FiveThirtyEight has Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly slightly favored to hold his seat. Water politics is high stakes politics.)

    Combine that with the reality that Arizona’s Native American communities, major water rights holders, have complained that they’ve been cut out of this entire process, according to a July 22 letter just surfaced.

    I can imagine creative accounting that might allow everyone to grin through their teeth and count water moved down to Lake Powell from Flaming Gorge and other Upper Basin reservoirs as part of the 2 million. That’s pretty clearly not what Touton called for in June. It’s not “additional conservation”. But it might create some space for a face-saving deal.

    Whether that would be enough to protect us from dead pool is another question.

    A REMINDER OF THE STAKES

    The Bureau of Reclamation’s most recent “minimum probable” model runs show Lake Powell dropping below power pool – unable to generate electricity, and forced to move water through bypass tubes that Reclamation has made clear it does not trust – by October 2023.

    Under that same scenario, Lake Mead drops to elevation 992 feet above sea level over the next 24 months.

    (Trust me, having to type a Lake Mead elevation level without having to use a comma made me clench.)

    At that point, a lack of water will make massive cuts a self-executing reality. We’ve drained our buffer. You can’t use water that doesn’t exist.

    Hot Take: This renewable energy project will make you love that dirty water — @ColoradoStateU #ActOnClimate

    Credit: Colorado State University

    Click the link to read the article on the Colorado State Univesity website (Coleman Cornelius):

    AT THE NATIONAL WESTERN CENTER, an unparalleled system is mining dirty water for clean energy. It’s the largest sewer-heat recovery project in North America.

    You’re not alone if you read the word “sewer” and thought, “Wait, what?”

    Yes, this green energy relies on raw sewage from thousands of homes and businesses in Denver – a great gush of wastewater expelled from dishwashers, washing machines, sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets. Sewage often is associated with its fecal content, but it contains something far more relevant to sustainable energy. That’s heat. Consider: An 8-minute shower typically uses a whopping 20 gallons of water at roughly 105 degrees Fahrenheit. With each load of laundry, a high-efficiency washing machine could gulp 13 gallons of water at up to 130 degrees. And, with each cycle, a dishwasher might use 4 gallons of water at 140 degrees. That’s a lot of water – and a lot of heat – down the drain.

    In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that Americans send the equivalent of 350 billion kilowatt-hours of energy down our drains each year – enough to power about 32 million U.S. homes.

    “It really is just wasted heat,” said Leslie Fangman, a civil engineer and vice president of corporate development for CenTrio. CenTrio is part of a consortium called EAS Energy Partners, which was selected by the National Western Center Authority and the city and county of Denver to finance, design, build, operate, and maintain the sewer-heat recovery system.

    The sewer-heat recovery system extracts heat from wastewater in the wintertime and uses it to warm buildings. In the summertime, the system reverses and rejects heat to cool buildings. Illustration: National Western Center Authority

    The project relies on technology that is more than a decade old but has not been widely adopted, largely because of infrastructure complexities and high upfront costs. Yet, the concept is straightforward: During wintertime, extract heat from sewage and recycle it to warm a network of buildings, called an energy district; during summertime, use the same system to reject heat and cool the buildings. In so doing, dramatically reduce use of natural gas and electricity, which power furnaces and air conditioners.

    After several years of planning and construction, the sewer-heat recovery system is poised to become a highlight of sustainability at the National Western Center. The center comprises 250 acres near I-25 and I-70 in north Denver. It is a $1 billion redevelopment, transforming the historic grounds of the National Western Stock Show into a year-round site for entertainment, education, and innovation. CSU Spur is the center’s educational anchor, with three new buildings dedicated to public education, research, and community outreach around the critical topics of food, water, and animal and human health.

    “When I first heard about this system, I remember thinking, ‘Holy cow, there’s a lot of thermal energy capacity that’s going downstream that we could capture,’” said Brad Buchanan, chief executive officer of the National Western Center Authority, which contracted with EAS Energy Partners to build the sewer-heat recovery system. “It really grabbed my attention because we decided to hold a very high bar for sustainability. It seemed to be the perfect fit if we were really going to walk the talk of reducing carbon emissions.”

    eslie Fangman, vice president of corporate development for CenTrio, has led project development on behalf of a business consortium hired for the job.
    Denver, CO – April 21, 2022
    Leslie Fangman, a civil engineer and vice president of corporate development for CenTrio Energy is arranged for a portrait at the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at the National Western Center in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, April 21, 2022.
    Photographer: Matthew Staver
    303-916-6155
    http://www.matthewstaver.com
    mattstaver@hotmail.com

    The heat recovery system took 18 months to design and build. It is projected to fill 90 percent of heating and cooling needs in seven buildings encompassing more than 1 million square feet. That makes the system the largest of its kind in North America. With buildout of the National Western Center’s initial phases, the heat recovery system is expected to save 2,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year – equivalent to eliminating 6.6 million vehicle miles from roadways. And it has capacity to expand even beyond the center’s first planned phases of construction.

    The system began operating in April. For now, it serves the Vida and Terra buildings on the CSU Spur campus, as well as the nearby HW Hutchison Family Stockyards Event Center; they are the first new buildings at the National Western Center. Soon, the Hydro building will open at CSU Spur, becoming the fourth building in the energy district.

    “It’s a great way to recover resources that we usually think about as waste,” said Jocelyn Hittle, who has led development of CSU Spur for the Colorado State University System. “I love the idea of Spur being able to help advance the state of the art by using nascent technology that is novel at this scale.”

    The system diverts sewage from a 72-inch pipeline that runs along the western border of the National Western Center. The pipeline carries wastewater from tens of thousands of homes and businesses to the Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility, which is operated by Metro Water Recovery on the city’s northern edge. It is the largest wastewater treatment facility in the Rocky Mountain West.

    The side stream of dirty water enters the Central Utility Plant at the National Western Center and runs through a grinding system to break down solids before wastewater goes through a heat exchanger and then flushes back to the sewer. During cold months, an industrial plate-and-frame heat exchanger draws warmth from the dirty water and transfers it to clean water that constantly circulates through the energy district in a closed loop. Clean water never touches dirty water as it runs through this “ambient loop.” When warm water arrives at each building, equipment again transfers heat – this time, from the ambient loop to a forced-air system, which then cycles warmth through building air. Back at the Central Utility Plant, dirty water returns to the sewer; it is enclosed in pipes, so the sewage does not emit odors.

    During warm months, the process reverses: The system extracts heat from air in district buildings and transfers it to the ambient loop, then on to sewage – thereby rejecting heat from the energy district. Wastewater again runs to the Hite Treatment Facility, while cool, clean water runs into the energy district. At each building, cooler temperatures then are pulled from the ambient loop and cycled through building air.

    In both cases, heat pumps are needed to extract and exchange thermal energy, and water is the medium sharing that energy. In this way, the sewer-heat recovery system may warm or cool buildings. If clean water in the ambient loop isn’t the desired temperature, boilers give it a boost in cold months, and cooling towers reduce it in hot months.

    “You wouldn’t even be aware it exists, but the system really is revolutionary. It really represents a lot of the city’s goals toward resiliency, and it’s a great example of how we can do something creatively and innovatively,” said Mike Bouchard, program director for the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center. The city and county of Denver owns National Western Center land and several center facilities; the office spearheaded the procurement process for the heat recovery system, coordinated efforts with center partners, and constructed the ambient loop.

    he Delgany Interceptor pipes run along the border of the National Western Center and convey sewage to a treatment plant. The pipes were above ground, shown at left (Photo: Metro Water Recovery). The pipes were replaced and buried, above right, providing a prime chance to build a new green energy system.

    The system saves significant energy in part because sewage maintains a fairly constant temperature, typically ranging between 55 degrees and 75 degrees throughout the year. That means the source already is close to ideal building temperatures, said René Moffet, who managed system engineering and design for AECOM Technical Services Inc., another of the EAS Energy Partners. Saunders Construction of Denver built the system as part of the partnership.

    “This system is something we can take a lot of pride in,” Moffet said. “It’s awesome – especially with a project that’s the first of this scope in North America. A lot of people are watching this to see how it will go.”

    Top left: Wastewater enters the Central Utility Plant and runs through a heat exchanger, which extracts thermal energy and transfers it to clean water that flows to new buildings in the energy district. Bottom left: If water is not warm or cool enough, boilers or cooling towers adjust water temperature. Right: A closed pipeline of clean water, called an ambient loop, is the medium conveying thermal energy.

    The sewer-heat recovery system cost $34 million, financed through a public-private partnership spanning 40 years. At the end of that period, total system costs are expected to be slightly above those of conventional systems, Buchanan, of the National Western Center Authority, said. However, those costs would decrease if the system were expanded to additional construction at the site or if partners were able to capitalize on potential carbon offsets, he said.

    “I’m an evangelist for this system,” Buchanan said. “It will be a substantial difference maker with carbon reduction, and it’s pretty easy to get excited about that.”

    Brad Buchanan, CEO of the National Western Center Authority, says he is an evangelist for the system.
    Denver, CO – April 25, 2022
    Brad Buchanan, CEO of the National Western Center Authority is arranged for a portrait along the South Platte River near the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at the National Western Center in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Monday, April 25, 2022.
    Photographer: Matthew Staver
    303-916-6155
    http://www.matthewstaver.com
    mattstaver@hotmail.com

    The concept emerged in 2015 with Jim McQuarrie, former director of technology and innovation for Metro Water Recovery, Denver’s wastewater utility. The utility pursues sustainability and cost savings at the energy-water nexus. It also has a significant issue to manage: To meet state and federal regulations, effluent – or treated wastewater – must be a sufficiently low temperature, especially during cold months, before it can be discharged to the South Platte River. The guidelines are designed to avoid disrupting river ecology. Cooling effluent is a costly and energy-intensive undertaking, so Metro Water Recovery sought an environmentally sustainable way to do it – one that might have benefits well beyond regulatory compliance.

    An opportunity arose during master planning for the National Western Center. Among stakeholder objectives was burial of the Delgany Interceptor sewer lines – two pipes, both 6 feet in diameter, that run along the South Platte River on the west side of the National Western Center. The pipes carry Denver sewage to the Hite Treatment Facility. For years, they were above ground – an eyesore that blocked access to the river. McQuarrie and other leaders thought site redevelopment offered a chance to replace and bury the interceptor lines, while fulfilling additional goals: It would be an ideal time to install a landmark renewable energy project, which would save carbon emissions and reduce wastewater temperatures to help meet effluent guidelines; meantime, pipeline burial would open the riverfront for new trails, open space, and National Western Center programming.

    National Western Center. Photo credit: CSU

    The new system cuts “thermal pollution” in effluent and contributes to Denver’s climate goals, making it a model for utilities and municipalities nationwide, said Blair Wisdom, who succeeded McQuarrie as director of technology and innovation at Metro Water Recovery. “It’s really a recycling concept that addresses single-use heat,” Wisdom said. “Denver and the state are recognizing that a lot of greenhouse gas emissions are from people heating and cooling their built environments, and that includes household water.”

    The project, which involved dozens of National Western Center stakeholders, also demonstrates the power of collaboration, noted McQuarrie, who now leads water projects for Tetra Tech, a global engineering firm. “One of the most striking things about this whole project is the impact that can be created when people partner together and work toward a common goal,” McQuarrie said. “Something like this requires people to think big and challenge themselves about whether adhering to traditional past practices is truly the best thing for future generations.”

    The utility plant is an unobtrusive building containing leading-edge technology.
    Denver, CO – April 21, 2022
    A view of the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at the National Western Center in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, April 21, 2022.
    Photographer: Matthew Staver
    303-916-6155
    http://www.matthewstaver.com
    mattstaver@hotmail.com

    Early in the planning process, McQuarrie discussed the concept of a sewer-heat recovery system with Ken Carlson, a Colorado State University professor who served as McQuarrie’s adviser as he attained a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering. Carlson is director of CSU’s Center for Energy Water Sustainability and is an expert on water recycling technologies. He agreed the heat recovery system might work well at the National Western Center; the two pitched the idea to the CSU System, which, in turn, took it to a larger leadership group. Carlson then asked six undergraduates to study the concept – a move that fit well with CSU Spur’s educational goals.

    The students – calling themselves “the Sustainulators” – evaluated sewer-heat recovery systems as part of a senior design project, a capstone for CSU students in civil and environmental engineering. During 2015-2016, with the guidance of senior research manager Asma Hanif, the student team gathered reams of data; their meetings, site visits, and final report generated information and enthusiasm leading into formal planning for the heat recovery system. In fact, the CSU team recommended pipeline burial and system installation much like that later accomplished.

    Natalie Thompson led the student team. In May 2016, she earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering, with a minor in global environmental sustainability, and went on to attain a master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati. The CSU project heightened her interest in designing water and wastewater systems, Thompson said. Now, she’s doing that engineering work as part of international development projects throughout Uganda.

    “Our project was such an exciting time to see how you can incorporate sustainability into design, while also making a space more beautiful,” Thompson wrote in an email sent from Kampala, Uganda. “This project opened my eyes to heat recovery, which makes so much sense when thinking about all the hot water we use in America. It made me see that we should not view wastewater as a waste, but as an opportunity. That really shifted my perspective as someone who has always been inspired by sustainability.”

    Natalie Thompson, kneeling, led a CSU student engineering team that studied the sewer-heat recovery system; she’s now working on international water projects

    Viewing wastewater as an opportunity – and, specifically, as an important source of thermal energy, nutrients, and fresh water – is at the core of a principle called “One Water.” The theory holds that water has value in all its forms and may be managed through integrated systems and technologies that together improve water quality, access, and sustainability on an increasingly thirsty planet. The sewer-heat recovery system at the National Western Center exemplifies the One Water concept, and university students and researchers will continue to study the system and its benefits, Hittle said. In the forthcoming Hydro building at CSU Spur, researchers with CSU’s One Water Solutions Institute also will advance the One Water idea by testing new technologies for the treatment and use of wastewater, stormwater, and roof runoff.

    The combination of big ideas and technical challenges inspired the engineering students who first evaluated the sewer-heat recovery system, Thompson said. “It really ignited my passion for working with communities, understanding needs, and then designing,” she wrote. “I love the idea that sustainability is not just a buzzword, but a lifetime of serving a community.”

    An investment to rival those of I-70 and #Denver International Airport — @BigPivots

    I-70 on Vail Pass. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

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

    Most of the $9-$10 billion that Xcel Energy will spend in the next few years will be spent on Colorado’s eastern plains. Why is this such a big deal for Colorado?

    Click the image to go to Xcel’s project page and the interactive map.

    Colorado will soon embark on a change with few rivals in the last 100 years. Think of the dismantling of geography by construction of Interstate 70 through the tunnels, over Vail Pass, and through Glenwood Canyon. Think of Denver International Airport. Think of the arrival of electricity to farms and small towns in the 1930s and 1940s.

    Within a decade, Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electrical utility, will retire all its coal plants, convert one to burn natural gas, and add massive amounts of wind on Colorado’s eastern plains and solar generation, some of it in the Western Slope’s Grand Valley, along with batteries nad perhaps other storage, as it pursues a mid-century goal of net-zero carbon. Combined with potentially 740 miles of new transmission lines looping around eastern Colorado, this investment in new generation could hit $9 billion to $10 billion. Xcel will likely get its final green light from state regulators in the next month, maybe two.

    This has repercussions beyond Xcel Energy, which sells more than half the electricity in Colorado. It also delivers wholesale sales to some municipalities and cooperatives, including Holy Cross Energy, Yampa Valley Electric, and Grand Valley Power.

    Is this money well spent? If you’re a climate hawk, as I am, convinced we must dramatically reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, this represents a giant step forward. We must immediately reduce emissions from electrical generation and also displace fossil fuels in transportation and buildings.

    True, China’s emissions keep growing. But Colorado can lead the United States by example, and the United States can lead the world.

    Some people, even champions of this transition, disagree with the precise pathway. For example, if demand were shaved through energy efficiency and other programs, will less investment in new generating resources be needed, says Western Resource Advocates, an environmental group.

    From Colorado eastern plains, already dotted with wind turbines, come other complaints about cluttered skylines. This is not universal. Other plainsmen (and women) welcome the property taxes local governments will realize and the lease payments to land owners.

    Nuclear power represents another question. Colorado’s lone experiment with nuclear power, at the St. Vrain plant near Greeley, went seriously awry. But now come efforts with presumably smaller and hence lower-risk modular reactors, such as are being planned in Idaho and also Wyoming. Cost, more than safety, is the fulcrum for the debate. Nuclear has had exorbitant cost overruns. Will this new technology be better?

    Comanche 3, a coal plant in Pueblo, has become the symbol for this energy transition. It was approved 18 years ago by Colorado regulators, a $1 billion investment (in today’s dollars). Utilities had been building ever-bigger coal-fired coal plants, abetted by natural gas plants to meet peak demands, for a half-century. Few were willing to give credence to the vision of renewable energy. I remember in about 2008, a geologist in Meeker who still hoped for the dream of milking hydrocarbons from the oil shale of northwestern Colorado. “We can’t run a civilization on windmills,” he fumed.

    We still can’t. And as somebody pointed out to me, even wind turbines need oil and grease and so forth. But we can do far, far more than Xcel or most others thought just 18 years ago.

    Cheyenne Ridge, located between Burlington and Cheyenne Wells, near the Kansas border, is one of many wind projects on Colorado’s eastern plains. Soon, new transmission will enable far more wind and solar projects. Photos/Allen Best Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    This has come in increments. Almost simultaneous with approval of Comanche 3 came Colorado’s first renewable energy mandate. Xcel fought it. Then it set out to comply. Costs of wind tumbled dramatically, and then so did solar. Something of the same thing is now happening with lithium-ion batteries.

    It’s not yet possible on a large scale to affordably eliminate all emissions. But also note this. In 2005, when Xcel began building Comanche 3, about two-thirds of its electricity came from coal plants. Within a decade, it will be close to zero. We’re moving fast, because we can and because we must.

    Will there be adverse consequences beyond altered prairie vistas on the Great Plains? Quite possibly. With I-70, what once was close to a full-day journey from Grand Junction to Denver was shortened to a long morning. But the highway has made mountain valleys a little less lovely and far more noisy.

    This course correction in our energy foundation may also prove to have flaws that may require further altering. And in 18 years we may look back and wonder if we should have held off just a little longer for a technological breakthrough instead of making Colorado’s eastern plains look like Paul Bunyan’s playground for Erector Set creations.

    What we cannot afford is to do nothing. Given what we know today, about the cost of energy and the cost of climate change, this massive investment soon to happen looks to be the wisest path forward.

    The #ColoradoRiver Compact and the future of green spaces — #Colorado State University #COriver #aridification

    nd the proliferation of green spaces. Credit: Colorado State University

    Click the link to read the article on the Colorado State University website (Corinne Neustadter):

    This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Colorado River Compact, an innovative and influential legal agreement among seven U.S. states that governs water rights to the Colorado River. In recognition of this anniversary, the Colorado State University Libraries will be spotlighting a series of stories in SOURCE about the ripple effects of this 100-year-old document on diverse people, disciplines and industries in 2022.

    Previous stories in this series include: How Colorado water history shapes the science of snow and why Western river compacts were innovative in the 1920s but couldn’t foresee today’s water challenges.

    One hundred and fifty two years ago, Colorado Agricultural College’s first buildings sat among sagebrush and prairie grasses. As the campus grew, its center became enshrined in a green meadow ringed by elms, a space now known as the iconic Oval.

    Today, Colorado State University’s green spaces are woven into the tapestry of campus life – from the Intramural Fields to Monfort Quad, they serve as informal parks for students and faculty alike to revel in the beauty of the Front Range.

    A western campus shaped by urban ideals

    These spaces speak to the larger power of the designed landscape in American life. Popularized by the public park movement and Frederick Law Olmsted’s layout of suburban landscapes in the late 1800s, large, green public spaces provided serene outdoor recreation in cities after the Industrial Revolution.

    “The democratic nature of large, open spaces on the East Coast was brought with people as they moved West,” said CSU landscape architecture professor Lori Catalano. “It was a way of creating central green spaces that were shared, but the plants and ideas migrated from a humid climate in the East to the semi-arid climate in the West.”

    As a growing land-grant institution, CSU’s adoption of the green aesthetic instilled the idea of parks as public spaces accessible to all.

    Though the Oval’s first elms were planted in 1881, it wasn’t until 1919 that it became the center of campus, soon after Fort Collins’ City Park was established. These spaces signified how far green spaces had spread from their wealthy urban roots and democratized access to parks in northern Colorado.

    “As humans, plants, and animals moved west, they modified the landscape,” Catalano said. “Alfred Crosby’s concept of ecological imperialism helps explain how emigrants moved westward with a variety of diseases, plants, and animals co-creating an environment that reinforced the presence of open grassy fields with trees.”

    After World War II, green spaces were adopted into front lawns by middle-class residents seeking a taste of luxury. CSU’s own green aesthetic bloomed as it grew. Spaces like the Monfort Quad, the Intramural Fields and the Lagoon complemented new architecture while creating new outdoor spaces for students between classes.

    Green oases in the prairie

    “Traditionally on campuses, buildings are grouped to create a series of outdoor rooms,” Catalano said. “Aesthetically, people and students expect large areas of green lawns with trees – they don’t expect it to look like prairie.”

    In the American West, these green landscapes live on and signal the continuing legacy of centuries-old ecological imperialism, but they contrast with the region’s naturally dry, beige prairies. CSU’s green spaces remain a central part of its identity and help unify landscapes without sacrificing flexibility and durability – which is critical for a campus that has thousands of students traverse its grounds during the school year.

    “College campuses are used a lot like parks and need a surface that is flexible and durable,” Catalano said. “Grass is very durable, as it can tolerate students walking over it, (playing) frisbee, picnicking, whereas our native grasses that require less water cannot tolerate that level of compaction.”

    Lawns are also simpler to maintain compared to native plants – all that’s required is mowing, fertilizing, and watering. But throughout the American West, green lawns contrast with dry, semi-arid landscapes and may not survive a resource-scarce future.

    “If campus reflected the natural landscape of Fort Collins, we’d see grasslands with Cottonwood trees and peach leaf willows along waterways,” Catalano said. “Visually, lawns hold a cultural power. They look good, they’re green … it’s what we know and what makes us comfortable.”

    What will green spaces look like in the future?
    With an unprecedented mega-drought in the Colorado River Basin, some states have challenged the ubiquity of green lawns.

    In Las Vegas, authorities started paying people to remove their irrigated lawns in the 1980s, and the program has been largely successful in curbing residential water use. As of 2021, any “non-functional” lawns are banned in Las Vegas to conserve water, reflecting how Nevada’s lower allocation of Colorado River water is already stretched thin.

    In Colorado, House Bill 22-1151, which was signed into law this past April, requires the Colorado Water Conservation Board to create a statewide program with $2 million in funding to incentivize replacing grass with “water-wise” landscaping.

    But, according to Catalano, changing how people understand and perceive the landscape can prove daunting.

    “It takes a lot of will and intention to make a commitment to changing the landscape,” she said. “We could incentivize it, but one challenge is, the price of water is relatively inexpensive – it takes someone who’s passionate and intentional about it to be enticed by incentives, because there’s not a huge financial gain. It’s a little like solar – we all want it, but how much are we willing to pay for it?”

    Curbing water usage through changing landscape aesthetics will be necessary to ensure the long-term health of the Colorado River Basin.

    In June, the U.S. government declared that the basin must cut its water usage by 2 to 4 million acre-feet or risk federal intervention. Meanwhile, CSU researchers found that most streams flowing through the Denver parks system only exist because of runoff sprinkler water. Reducing water consumption through limiting green lawns, then, could prove effective.

    Though CSU’s campus design now seems set in stone, its history reflects a century of cultural changes that have cultivated tree-lined avenues, sprawling fields and verdant quads. A long cry from Old Main set atop rolling plains, the future of these unifying spaces will be influenced by the state of the Colorado River Basin and pending water shortages.

    “Landscapes are often unseen, undervalued, and not understood. When people can’t see or don’t understand the processes and systems involved in creating and maintaining landscapes, it is difficult for them to value making a change,” she said. “When we begin to see and value alternative landscapes that require less water, reducing the dominance of lawns is possible.”

    #Drought news (August 7, 2022): Moderate to heavy rains fell this week across portions of #Colorado and W. #KS, related to an active North American #Monsoon2022

    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

    Weather and drought conditions varied widely in the contiguous U.S. this week. From the Desert Southwest and southern Colorado eastward into the Texas Panhandle, western Kansas, eastern Colorado, northern Oklahoma, and Arkansas, heavy rainfall fell in some areas, leading to localized improvements in ongoing drought. Drier conditions in the Northeast led to the expansion of moderate and severe drought in the New York City area and in parts of New England. Drier weather also led to expansion of drought conditions in parts of the central Great Plains and Upper Midwest. Similar conditions in Texas led to expansion of drought conditions there, while recent precipitation led to some improvements in southwest Texas. For more local details, please refer to the regional summaries below…

    High Plains

    Moderate to heavy rains fell this week across portions of Colorado and western Kansas, related to an active North American Monsoon. Aside from other localized pockets of moderate to heavy rain, the High Plains region saw mostly dry weather this week. Temperatures from 2-4 degrees below normal were common across most of Kansas, southeast Colorado, central and eastern Nebraska, eastern South Dakota, and North Dakota this week. Near-normal temperatures mostly prevailed elsewhere, with parts of western Wyoming experiencing temperatures from 2-6 degrees above normal. The heavier rains in Colorado and western Kansas led to some improvements in ongoing drought, with localized removal of drought occurring, as precipitation deficits lessened. Conditions worsened in parts of southwestern, central, eastern, and northern Nebraska, and in adjacent southern South Dakota, where deficits in soil moisture and precipitation worsened. In Columbus, Nebraska, the Platte River ran dry, indicative of the moderate and severe drought conditions ongoing in and near the eastern Nebraska town. Two reservoirs in eastern Colorado are expected to run dry soon due to drought and water demand from irrigation…

    West

    In the West region, moderate to heavy rain fell across parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and far southeast California. In locations where long-term rainfall deficits, soil moisture, and groundwater improved substantially, ongoing drought conditions improved locally. A south-to-north temperature gradient set up this week, with temperatures in Arizona and southern Nevada coming in 3-6 degrees below normal in spots, while a heat wave developed in the Pacific Northwest, pushing temperatures more than 9 degrees above normal in parts of northern California, Oregon, and Washington. In southeast and east-central Oregon, the evaporative stress from the heat locally worsened drought conditions. A myriad of drought impacts continued in the West this week, including wildfires in northern Utah and a central California reservoir dropping to its lowest level in 5 years…

    South

    The South region saw highly variable weather this week. This led to a wide range of changes to the ongoing drought areas across the region. Temperatures across most of Texas were above normal for the week, with many readings of 4-8 degrees above normal. Temperatures across the rest of the South were more moderate, generally within 4 degrees of normal on either side. Heavy rainfall occurred from the central and northern Texas Panhandle eastward through the northern half of Oklahoma, Arkansas, northern Mississippi, and portions of Tennessee. This led to improvements in the Texas Panhandle, northern Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Conditions also improved a bit in southwest Texas, where recent rainfall began to alleviate short- and long-term precipitation deficits. Meanwhile, short-term drying combined with above-normal temperatures to worsen drought conditions across some other parts of Texas and Oklahoma. Drought impacts across Texas ranged from crop failure to water supply problems, in one case from a well failure…

    Looking Ahead

    From Thursday, August 4 to the evening of Monday, August 8, the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center is forecasting moderate to heavy precipitation in parts of Arizona, western and northern New Mexico, high elevation areas of Colorado, northwest Wyoming, and localized areas of east-central California, central Nevada, and western and northern Utah. Widespread precipitation is also forecast in parts of the Upper Midwest, Middle Mississippi River Valley, Ohio River Valley, and southern Appalachians. Some precipitation is also forecast in western parts of the Northeast region, and along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

    For August 9-13, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center’s precipitation forecast favors above-normal precipitation near and west of the Continental Divide, especially in eastern Nevada and most of Utah. Farther east, below-normal precipitation is favored in the Central Great Plains and Upper Midwest. A narrow swath from southern Texas northeast to southern New England is slightly favored for above-normal precipitation. In Alaska, above-normal precipitation is favored in the east, while below-normal precipitation is favored in the southwest part of the state. Below-normal temperatures are strongly favored in most of Alaska, especially in west-central areas. Below-normal temperatures are slightly favored in most of Arizona, southern Nevada, and southeast California. Above-normal temperatures are favored across most of the Great Plains, Pacific Coast, and Northwest, especially from western Nebraska to the Dakotas and eastern Montana. Above-normal temperatures are also favored for most areas along the East Coast.

    US Drought Monitor one week change map ending August 2, 2022.

    Just for grins here’s a gallery of US Drought Monitor maps for early August for the past few years.

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    Coyote Gulch’s excellent EV adventure — Sequoias Day 8 (Homeward bound)

    Denver. Photo credit: Colorado State University

    Day 8’s drive was from Mesquite, Nevada to Fruita, Colorado. I always enjoy the Virgin River Canyon. The drive takes you up from St. George through central Utah, over the San Rafael Swell and then into Colorado.

    We charged the night before in Mesquite during dinner, then again in Beaver, Utah, a short bump in Richfield, Utah, and then again in Green River. The Tesla seems to be designed for these high speed highways.

    Coyote Gulch’s excellent EV adventure — Sequoias Day 7

    Coyote Gulch’s rented Tesla Model 3 charging in Yermo, California August 5, 2022.

    We started back home from Visalia, California on Friday with a stop in Las Vegas to drop off hellchild for her flight home.

    We charged the Tesla at our hotel overnight and then once more in Yermo, California before a short charge in Las Vegas to get us to our destination, Mesquite, Nevada. The Model 3 is a fantastic highway ride. We shared every Tesla Supercharger location with others also charging and Teslas kept coming and going all the while when we were there. Tesla has done a great job building facilities for their customers.

    This was eye-opening for me as I had to wait for local government and retailers to build charging infrastructure along the highways after buying my Nissan Leaf in 2016. On my first foray to Steamboat Springs in 2017 I had to use Level 2 chargers in Idaho Springs, Winter Park, and Kremmling. Now there are DC Fast Chargers in Granby and Fraser and all along I-70 from Silverthorne to Grand Junction.

    Leaf charging at the Lionshead parking facility in Vail September 30, 2021.

    Coyote Gulch’s excellent EV adventure — Sequoias Day 6

    Sequoias in the Giant Tree Forest August 4, 2022.

    We drove to the Atwell Mill and Grove on Day 6 and then up to the Giant Tree Forest for a nice walk in the light rain. During the walk we saw the Crescent Meadow which, according to the NPS John Muir called in the “Gem of the Sierra.” There was evidence of last year’s fire all around but that didn’t detract from the beautiful landscape.

    Crescent Meadow Sequoia National Park August 4, 2022.

    The Tesla Model 3’s charge was sufficient for the entire drive and we ended up at our hotel with 35% charge. We picked up charge coming back on Mineral King Road (5%) and down from the Giant Tree forest (6%). The all-wheel drive Tesla performed well on the steep twisting road above the river on the way to the Atwell Grove and back.

    Some of the flora in the Giant Tree Forest August 4, 2022.

    Sadly, Days 7,8, and 9 are travel days back to Denver, somewhere around 1,150 miles.

    Sequoia standing tall August 4, 2022.

    Coyote Gulch’s excellent EV adventure — Sequoias Day 5

    Bear searching for dinner August 3, 2022 Sequoia National Park.

    We drove to the General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park area first thing to get in a hike and to see the many large sequoias in the area. The trails lead to trees named after the states. We then took the Generals Highway over to Sequoia National Park. There were lots of opportunities for “botanizing”. I have been informed that botanizing is the term you use when incorporating plant and tree observations into your enjoyment while hiking.

    The Tesla Model 3 had more than enough range for the day. We picked up 7% charge from the regenerative braking system traveling down to the valley to charge at Traver, California for the next day.The car was at 38% when we hooked up, after starting the day at 95%.

    Just for grins here’s a gallery of photos from Hellchild, Mrs. Gulch and myself.