Denver: Rain Bird Academy for irrigation professionals March 5-9

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Here’s the announcement from Colorado Water Wise:

Rain Bird Academy is pleased to announce our revised training dates for classes in Denver, CO. Please come and join us March 5 – 9, 2012 on the University of Denver campus for our Regional Irrigation Training Camp. Do not miss this great opportunity to enhance your irrigation knowledge and develop your skills in the irrigation industry. If you would like more information regarding the classes being offered or for more information regarding Rain Bird Academy, please visit our website:

http://www.rainbirdservicescorporation.com/training/index.htm?fc_c=3585703x14443460x536812648

NASA Finds 2011 Ninth Warmest Year on Record

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Here’s the release from NASA (Steve Cole/Leslie McCarthy):

The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated analysis that shows temperatures around the globe in 2011 compared to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago. The average temperature around the globe in 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline.

“We know the planet is absorbing more energy than it is emitting,” said GISS director James E. Hansen. “So we are continuing to see a trend toward higher temperatures. Even with the cooling effects of a strong La Nina influence and low solar activity for the past several years, 2011 was one of the 10 warmest years on record.”

The difference between 2011 and the warmest year in the GISS record (2010) is 0.22 degrees F (0.12 C). This underscores the emphasis scientists put on the long-term trend of global temperature rise. Because of the large natural variability of climate, scientists do not expect temperatures to rise consistently year after year. However, they do expect a continuing temperature rise over decades.

The first 11 years of the 21st century experienced notably higher temperatures compared to the middle and late 20th century, Hansen said. The only year from the 20th century in the top 10 warmest years on record is 1998.

Higher temperatures today are largely sustained by increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. These gases absorb infrared radiation emitted by Earth and release that energy into the atmosphere rather than allowing it to escape to space. As their atmospheric concentration has increased, the amount of energy “trapped” by these gases has led to higher temperatures.

The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was about 285 parts per million in 1880, when the GISS global temperature record begins. By 1960, the average concentration had risen to about 315 parts per million. Today it exceeds 390 parts per million and continues to rise at an accelerating pace.

The temperature analysis produced at GISS is compiled from weather data from more than 1,000 meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea surface temperature and Antarctic research station measurements. A publicly available computer program is used to calculate the difference between surface temperature in a given month and the average temperature for the same place during 1951 to 1980. This three-decade period functions as a baseline for the analysis.

The resulting temperature record is very close to analyses by the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Hansen said he expects record-breaking global average temperature in the next two to three years because solar activity is on the upswing and the next El Nino will increase tropical Pacific temperatures. The warmest years on record were 2005 and 2010, in a virtual tie.

“It’s always dangerous to make predictions about El Nino, but it’s safe to say we’ll see one in the next three years,” Hansen said. “It won’t take a very strong El Nino to push temperatures above 2010.”

For more information on the GISS temperature analysis, visit: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp

NASA Sees Repeating La Niña Hitting Its Peak

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Here’s the release From NASA:

La Niña, “the diva of drought,” is peaking, increasing the odds that the Pacific Northwest will have more stormy weather this winter and spring, while the southwestern and southern United States will be dry.

Sea surface height data from NASA’s Jason-1 and -2 satellites show that the milder repeat of last year’s strong La Niña has recently intensified, as seen in the latest Jason-2 image of the Pacific Ocean, available at: http://sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov/images/ostm/20120108P1.jpg.

The image is based on the average of 10 days of data centered on Jan. 8, 2012. It depicts places where the Pacific sea surface height is higher than normal (due to warm water) as yellow and red, while places where the sea surface is lower than normal (due to cool water) are shown in blues and purples. Green indicates near-normal conditions. The height of the sea surface over a given area is an indicator of ocean temperature and other factors that influence climate.

This is the second consecutive year that the Jason altimetric satellites have measured lower-than-normal sea surface heights in the equatorial Pacific and unusually high sea surface heights in the western Pacific.

“Conditions are ripe for a stormy, wet winter in the Pacific Northwest and a dry, relatively rainless winter in Southern California, the Southwest and the southern tier of the United States,” says climatologist Bill Patzert of JPL. “After more than a decade of mostly dry years on the Colorado River watershed and in the American Southwest, and only two normal rain years in the past six years in Southern California, low water supplies are lurking. This La Niña could deepen the drought in the already parched Southwest and could also worsen conditions that have fueled recent deadly wildfires.”

NASA will continue to monitor this latest La Niña to see whether it has reached its expected winter peak or continues to strengthen.

A repeat of La Niña ocean conditions from one year to the next is not uncommon: repeating La Niñas occurred most recently in 1973-74-75, 1998-99-2000 and in 2007-08-09. Repeating La Niñas most often follow an El Niño episode and are essentially the opposite of El Niño conditions. During a La Niña episode, trade winds are stronger than normal, and the cold water that normally exists along the coast of South America extends to the central equatorial Pacific.

La Niña episodes change global weather patterns and are associated with less moisture in the air over cooler ocean waters. This results in less rain along the coasts of North and South America and along the equator, and more rain in the far Western Pacific.

The comings and goings of El Niño and La Niña are part of a long-term, evolving state of global climate, for which measurements of sea surface height are a key indicator. Jason-1 is a joint effort between NASA and the French Space Agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES). Jason-2 is a joint effort between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, CNES and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). JPL manages the U.S. portion of both missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.

For more on how La Niña and other climate phenomena are affecting weather in the United States this year, see: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/17jan_missingsnow/.

For more information on NASA’s ocean surface topography missions, visit: http://sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov.

Meanwhile La Niña cooled the earth in 2011 according to this report from Doyle Rice writing for USA Today. From the article:

The release of the two primary climate data sets — from the National Climatic Data Center and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) — both show the Earth as much warmer than average, but not as warm as recent years have been. The climate center reported that the globe had its 11th-warmest year on record, while NASA marked the year as the ninth-warmest on record. For the most part, the two organizations use the same climate data sources but have slightly different methods of interpreting the data. Climate records go back to 1880…

Since 2011 was the second-coolest year of the 2000s, does this mean global warming has slowed? “There is no long-term cooling trend,” said climate scientist Jake Crouch of the NCDC.

Colorado Water 2012: Save water and save money

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jimmy Rogers):

Chances are that the greatest “water-waster” inside your home is that constant flow in your toilet tank. That spill can waste one gallon every 24 minutes, or more than 60 gallons per day, which could cost over $4 extra each month on your water bill…

So, when I flush my toilet or turn on my shower, I think about everything it takes to bring that water to my house. I know it takes a lot of money to keep the water flowing and I’m concerned that some of that money could be used for police departments, fire protection and schools.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Proposed new state nitrogen and phosphorus standards for wastewater plants are under attack

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Here’s a report from Barbara Cotter writing for The Colorado Springs Independent. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The proposed regulations are meant to address a stronger nationwide push from the Environmental Protection Agency to cut the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus discharged from wastewater treatment plants into rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs. But opponents question the science used to support the need for the regulations, and warn that water bills could double or even triple for some Colorado ratepayers if municipalities are forced to upgrade their facilities.

Earlier this month, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments sent a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper urging him to block the proposed regulations. The same day, Republican state Sen. Steve King of Grand Junction introduced a bill that would essentially place a moratorium on the adoption of regulations.

“This action is not mandated by federal law, nor is it based on any demonstrated adverse environmental impacts occurring in Colorado waters from our facilities,” the PPACG wrote to Hickenlooper. “The cost of implementing such regulations on small and medium-sized communities will be staggering, and we ask for your intervention to stop this regulatory mandate.

Steve Gunderson, director of the Water Quality Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, defends the science, but acknowledges that compliance could be costly. However, he notes, only about 30 percent of wastewater plants in Colorado would be affected by the regulations, which are, at the outset, more lenient than what some environmentalists might consider ideal.

Mostly, he says, the state needs to act before the EPA steps in. “We continue to believe that is to Colorado’s benefit to start addressing the nutrients so it’s not forced on us by means of a lawsuit of the EPA dictating to us what needs to be done,” Gunderson says…

To [Tad Foster, a Colorado Springs environmental attorney specializing in water quality issues], the site-specific approach is ideal, but given the reality of the situation, he and the Colorado Nutrient Coalition are proposing that limits be imposed on phosphorus, not nitrogen, at least for the time being. “Why? Because the cost of doing total nitrogen is six times the cost of doing total phosphorus,” Foster says.

He estimates the cost to wastewater plants to control just phosphorus would be $635 million, compared with $2.46 billion to regulate both nitrogen and phosphorus. And that’s just to meet less restrictive standards. To go whole-hog with the “ultimate set” of restrictions for nitrogen and phosphorus would, according to varying estimates, cost from $20 billion to $25 billion.

Gunderson says the state is proposing regulations on both nitrogen and phosphorus for a reason. “Our science, and what we assert, is, you really have to address both of them,” he says. “If you address one and not the other, you’re not going to see a lot of progress. They’re both fertilizers; if you put nitrogen on your lawn and not phosphorous, your lawn will still turn green.”

But the proposed regulations do not impose the most restrictive limits, he says. “It starts knocking it down. We’re trying to find a way to start putting a dent in this thing,” Gunderson says…

Still, there’s fear among many communities that they’ll be socked with a massive bill. Like the PPACG, the Colorado Rural Community Coalition wrote a letter to Hickenlooper that was signed by 12 wastewater dischargers in El Paso County, expressing concern about the regulations. Gunderson says that about half of the opponents who have signed letters wouldn’t be affected by the current proposal.

Gunderson understands the opposition to the regulations, but says doing nothing is not an option. “I continue to believe that it makes sense to do this here, rather than having it forced upon us, which one day it will.”

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Officials with the Colorado Water Quality Control Division say the new rules are needed to prevent even stricter ones from being imposed on the state by the federal government. At the same time, local wastewater experts say the proposed rules, known as Regulations 31 and 85, will do little to nothing to clean the state’s waterways. The issue centers on the amount of nutrients that end up in the state’s rivers and lakes. Having too many nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorus — causes algae to grow. That, in turn, saps oxygen from the water, creating so-called dead zones, places where nothing can grow and fish can live, said Steve Gunderson, executive director of the water division.

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency isn’t mandating what Colorado is considering, the federal agency ultimately will impose something even more stringent if the state doesn’t act on its own, he said. “The EPA has been pushing for states to do something for quite a few years,” Gunderson said. “It is one of the nation’s biggest water quality challenges. (The nutrients) causes a water body to get choked. It will rob the water body of oxygen, and it will raise the pH, the level of corrosivity, in the water. It can adversely impact aquatic life.”[…]

The division has filed about 600 pages worth of rules and other accompanying documents with the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission that call for lowering phosphorus and nitrogen levels to virtually zero over the next 10 years. The commission is holding a public hearing on the rules in the spring, with an expectation of having them go into effect by June 1…

Eileen List, industrial pretreatment supervisor for the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant in Grand Junction, said the city still is studying the proposed rules, but that it could cost as much as $24 million to comply with just with one portion of them. “When you get into Reg 85, there are impacts not just to wastewater facilities, but there are impacts to stormwater facilities as well as drinking water facilities,” List said. “This is where the city is still in the process of understanding the regulation.”[…]

So far, officials from 32 local entities have signed a letter complaining about the proposed rules, including the Clifton and Orchard Mesa sanitation districts, the Grand Valley Drainage District, the Battlement Mesa Metropolitan District and the towns of Rangely, Cedaredge, De Beque and Nucla. In the letter that is to be sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper by the end of the week, the officials say the regulations will cost all of them about $2 billion to be in compliance, and ask that he delay it until more scientific research can be done. “The state has not been able to show us that Colorado has a problem with nutrients,” said Michael Wicklund, manager of the Monument Sanitation District, who started the letter. “There is no funding from the state for any of this, or the federal government.”[…]

Eric Brown, the governor’s press secretary, said Hickenlooper will allow the public hearing process to run its course, and doesn’t plan to intercede.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, said he plans to introduce a bill when the Legislature reconvenes next month calling for a five-year moratorium on the rule, to give local communities more time to study its impact. King said the proposed regulation is contrary to an executive order issued by the governor earlier this year to limit state regulations that prove too onerous while the state is recovering from the recession.

More wastewater coverage here.