2010 Colorado elections: The candidates for Attorney General were glad-handing in northern Colorado last week

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

[Attorney General John Suthers] said his office has done a good job of dealing with settling issues surrounding the Republican River Compact, although is was painful to have to shut off some wells to comply with the agreement. Unfortunately, Kansas decided to sue Nebraska over the issues, which may mean the compact will go to the U.S. Supreme Court, as such interstate conflicts do, and that may mean starting over, he said. His office filed a response to the lawsuit Wednesday, saying Colorado believes the disagreements can be settled within arbitration, Suthers said.

Suthers also said he was sympathetic to the plight of South Platte River basin farmers who lost their rights to use wells. A pipeline to bring water to the Front Range may help with water issues, but there is little chance that the farmers will be able to use the wells again, he said.

[Boulder County district attorney Stan Garnett] said his mother was born in 1930 and lived on a 200-acre farm on Beaver Creek in Morgan County. Her family used water from the creek and wells to support the farm, but the aquifer is so depleted that people cannot do that anymore. Water issues affect life on the land, and if elected, he would fight for Colorado rights in water compacts and fight to prevent pollution of aquifers and other waters so that people can maintain their farming way of life, Garnett said…

Garnett also said he also hears a lot about the need to protect water, environmental concerns and public safety issues, which he would make priorities.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

University of Arizona Flandrau Science Center: Monsoon monitor

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Here’s the release from the University of Arizona (Jeff Harrison):

The monsoon is coming. Perhaps this weekend. Maybe.

It’s always a guessing game when and where and to what extent the annual summer thunderstorms will appear. This year is no different.

Two summers ago, the monsoon season produced a spectacular 9 inches of rain. Last year, it was only a meager 4 inches.

And forecasters, pointing to temperature changes in the Pacific Ocean, suspect it may only produce an average amount of rainfall this summer.

A new website and a new exhibit at the University of Arizona Flandrau Science Center offer plenty of information about monsoon activity in Arizona, said Gary Woodard, the associate director of the UA’s Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas, or SAHRA, now part of Biosphere 2.

Woodard said SAHRA’s Monsoon Monitor website is still a work in progress, but it already offers a webcam view of the Tucson Basin from the UA campus, a drought monitor, rainfall data and weather radar. Another window shows a video clip of the previous hour of sky activity in Tucson, which is especially captivating when clouds start to build up.

The monsoon exhibit at Flandrau includes graphics on the structure and mechanics of monsoon storms, lightning, measuring precipitation, rainwater harvesting and thunderstorm photography.

There also is an exhibit of fulgurites, sometimes called petrified or frozen lightning. These are tubular structures created when lightning strikes silica-based soil and heats it to about 3,300 degrees Fahrenheit. The tubes it creates are formed in less than a second.

Woodard also said monsoons are the active focus of a number of UA faculty members at SAHRA and elsewhere on campus. Projects range from basic research on storm modeling, forecasting and tracking sources of monsoon moisture to lightning detection, the quality of storm water runoff and flash flooding in urban areas.

Christopher Castro, an assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at the UA, is researching the role of surface water temperatures in the Pacific in predicting both summer and winter rainfall patterns in Arizona. Castro said predicting current monsoon activity remains elusive but scientific modeling that integrates regional climate data for seasonal forecasts integrated with hydrologic models is one active area of research.

One important factor in improving forecasts is establishing relationships with scientists in Mexico.

“There is a big hole in data gathering in Mexico. If you miss the location of a significant upper-level circulation feature or a surge of moisture from the Gulf of California, that has a really big impact,” he said.

There are other reasons to study monsoons. Peter Troch, a professor in hydrology and water resources, said water and fire managers depend on reliable data to avoid shortages and schedule crews to fight wildfires.

Troch pointed to data that show a projected decline of 10 percent to 30 percent in runoff in the seven-state Colorado River Basin over the next 50 years. At the same time, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that population growth in the lower parts of the already parched basin will increase by more than 20 million over the next two decades.

Fires also are a monsoon-related threat this time of year. Winter rains fueled heavy vegetation growth, especially at lower elevations, Troth said.

There already have been a number of fires across Arizona, including three in the Flagstaff area. Some were caused by campfires and other human activity, but others were started by another phenomenon common to monsoons, lightning.

Woodard said technology developed at the UA is improving the ability of forecasters to predict in real time when and where lightning will be a threat. A spinoff company was created by UA researchers and later bought by a company that manufactures detection equipment for meteorologists.

He also acknowledged that Arizona is not the lightning capital of the U.S. That would be Florida.

“But we have quality lightning,” Woodard said. “It’s no surprise that scientists come from all over the world to study lightning here.”

He said that’s because clouds here rise thousands of feet in the air and create the ice at their tops believed to be necessary for electrical discharges in the atmosphere. Plus the clear air and mountain backdrops make lightning strikes visible for miles.

Said Woodard: “That makes us the lightning photography capital of the world.”

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Supporters are planning a rally on Thursday

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State Representative B.J. Nikkel is trying to rally the troops with this opinion piece running in the Berthoud Recorder. She writes:

In the 1930’s, W.D. Farr and other visionaries led the effort to build the Big Thompson Water Project. Today, this tremendous project provides an invaluable supply of water to our ranchers and farmers, and families living in our Northern Colorado communities.

Over the past 30 years, Northern Colorado’s population has more than doubled and yet no new significant water supply facility has been built. Growing cities in the Denver metro-area are looking north to find the water supply their communities need and they have their sights on thousands of acres of irrigated farmland in Northern Colorado.

Without a new significant water project, a recent environmental study showed that more than one hundred square miles of currently irrigated productive farmland will be dried up forever. The result would be catastrophic and would be an environmental and economic disaster for Northern Colorado.

Today the Recorder is running the rebuttal from Mark Easter and Gary Wockner (Save the Poudre. They write:

In their ground-breaking report “Farming on the Edge: Sprawling Development Threatens America’s Best Farmland”, the American Farmland Trust identified the Cache la Poudre Valley as some of the best farmland in the world. The report identifies our Ag heritage as critically endangered due to poor land use planning, sprawling development, inefficient use of water resources and inadequate protections for agricultural water rights.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

The upper Arkansas valley stands to gain five new weather stations

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Right now, knowing the evapotranspiration rate is important to determining how much water you’re using,” said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “What makes this valuable is that 10-20 years from now, you’ll have good data. If you don’t have good data, then you’re not going to be able to prove consumptive use.”

The Upper Ark district is enlisting partners to install five stations in the Colorado Agricultural Meteorological Network. Two would be in Chaffee County, two in Fremont County and one in Custer County. Scanga said each station costs about $2,000 annually to operate, and all should be up and running by the end of the year. The network, sponsored by Colorado State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, operates about 15 stations in the Lower Arkansas Valley from Pueblo to Holly, and five in the Rio Grande basin. Statewide, there are about 70 sites…

…the data also are critical in other areas. At CSU’s Rocky Ford Agriculture Research Center, information is used for everything from crop variety analysis to calibration of a weighing lysimeter that is being used to develop a better regional ET model.

The Upper Ark district is inviting conservation districts, ditch companies or other agricultural interests to participate in the program.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.