Colorado’s water efficient appliances rebate website swamped on first day

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (John Aguilar):

An enthusiastic response Monday to the beginning of Colorado’s energy-efficient appliances rebate program spurred some complaints from Boulder County consumers who had trouble getting through on the state’s Web site and toll-free line to claim the popular rebate…

Todd Hartman, spokesman for the Governor’s Energy Office, said there had been “hiccups” throughout the day with spiking traffic on the state’s site — rechargecolorado.com — bogging it down since it opened for business at 8 a.m. But he said the site never crashed. Periodically throughout the day, the Governor’s Energy Office stripped its site of its usual content and dedicated it solely to the rebate program to expedite the flow of traffic, Hartman said.

The state’s program, dubbed Recharge Colorado, was created from federal economic stimulus money and aims to give Colorado $18 million in rebate funds, the bulk of which is earmarked for the larger-scale energy-efficiency projects like solar and wind installations. It is loosely modeled after the popular Cash for Clunkers automobile rebate program that ran last year, except that it doesn’t require that people trade in their old appliances. The most popular part of the program, which amounts to $4.5 million of the total Colorado received, is dedicated to the appliance rebates. Of that, 14,000 rebates worth $1.25 million were made available for the purchase of common household appliances — fridges, washing machines and dishwashers — that meet a certain energy-efficiency standard. Around 9,000 rebates worth $3.25 million cover energy-efficient boilers, hot-water tanks and furnaces. Hartman said about 8,500 rebates for all appliances were claimed by Monday evening, leaving around 14,000 rebates still available. He said the rebates would probably all be claimed by Wednesday. “They will go fast,” he said.

More conservation coverage here.

Snowpack news: Dust covers accelerates runoff

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From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

As the Aspen/Snowmass director of community and environmental responsibility, Schendler’s concerns for the disconcerting dust and dirt layers that have blanketed the slopes of his local ski areas along with mountains throughout the state this spring are considerably more comprehensive. And like so many observers of the reddish-brown dust layers that seem to be playing a more prominent — if not permanent — role in Colorado’s precious spring snowpack, he has more questions than answers. “There’s no question that it’s happening. But there’s always been dust out there, so has this always happened? Is it getting worse? All we know for sure is that it’s really bad,” Schendler said. “Our CEO has come into my office after these storms very agitated and said, ‘Auden, climate change may put us out of business eventually, but this is right now and this is a serious problem.’ Essentially your product is damaged.”

Along with its spectacular mountain scenery, Colorado’s most prized commodity arguably is its snow. Skiers and snowboarders are drawn by the millions annually to sample the celebrated snows of the Colorado Rockies, followed in spring and summer months by whitewater rafters, kayakers and fishermen savoring the snowmelt-fed rivers and streams. That’s not to mention the millions who depend upon the fresh water supply simply for survival…

Thanks to scientific studies conducted by former Coloradan Tom Painter at the Snow Optics Laboratory at the University of Utah, this much is known: In 2005 and 2006, dust-covered snow melted up to 35 days earlier than a purely clean snowpack would have in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Last year — which included 12 measurable winter/spring dust storms — snow melted 48 days earlier in the same area…

[Jeff Deems, a research scientist at the NOAA Western Water Assessment and the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder said,] “…the biggest impact is hydrologic. We’re seeing earlier and faster runoff, which makes it harder to manage resources. In the West, we depend on the snowpack as a reservoir. We can store a lot more water in the snowpack than in our surface reservoirs. If you melt everything off a month early and melt it off faster, that’s a big challenge for water managers.”[…]

As for the origin of the dust episodes impacting the Colorado snowpack, the scientists have that one figured out. Collaborating with Chris Landry at the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton, Painter and Deems examine the effects of the dust events on the snowpack. Using satellite observations and weather modeling tools, they have traced the origin of the dust to the Colorado Plateau in the Four Corners region, where impacts of years of disturbance of the fragile desert topsoil have created large quantities of dust just waiting for a strong wind to carry it away. “Basically any activity that disturbs the soil crust and vegetation in the desert causes dust,” Deems said. “When we go out and disturb it — whether by drilling, plowing, driving, cow’s hooves, mountain bikes or feet — then all of the sudden the dust is ready to be blown away by the next wind storm.”[…]

For Schendler and those who depend on snow, the ultimate question remains: What can be done to stop it? “Recognizing the driving mechanism, that topsoil disturbance, is the key. Looking for solutions that minimize and reduce the disturbance to desert dust-emitting regions, that’s the overarching goal,” Deems said. “As recreationists enjoying the desert, it’s a matter of awareness, paying attention to public land use issues, as well as being careful about where we camp and how we travel, minimizing our impact on the land. Just some common sense.”