Climate change: What was once south is heading our way (Plant Hardiness Zones)

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From the Louisville Courier-Journal (James Bruggers):

The USDA this past week updated its plant hardiness zone maps, catching up to what many gardeners have known and experienced for a while — our warming climate. The maps show average annual extreme minimum temperatures. While USDA said the map does not confirm any long-term climate change because it’s not based on enough years of data, news reports, bloggers and environmental groups aren’t necessarily buying that.

Whit Gibbons: ‘Why do we need the Environmental Protection Agency?’

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From the Tuscaloosa News (Whit Gibbons). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Want to have cancer-causing, bird-killing DDT sprayed in your neighborhood? How about having high levels of brain- damaging mercury dumped into your favorite fishing spot? What about paper mill wastes clogging up rivers and fouling the air people breathe?

These health hazards were once commonplace in communities throughout our country. That they are no longer the hazards they once were is due in no small part to the Environmental Protection Agency, which protects us from these and other environmental abuses. Without EPA oversight, the United States would be a much less healthy place to live.

Those who believe we do not need federal regulation of activities that can turn the country into a toxic waste dump are likely unaware of the far-reaching environmental and human health consequences of such actions. They may also not want to accept the fact that some individuals and many corporations will put profit ahead of all other considerations–including the health and well-being of the general populace.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

Colorado Water 2012: Water is essential for health and fitness

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Kanda Misiaszek):

Did you know that your body is estimated to be about 60-70 percent water? Our blood is 83 percent water, and our muscles and vital organs contain a lot of water. Each of us needs water to regulate body temperature and provide means for nutrients to travel throughout our body…

Water exercise classes improve physical fitness by using water for resistance with only 10 percent impact on your joints

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments has released a report about the importance of water to Colorado’s headwaters counties

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Here’s the Outreach Summary from NWCCOG. Here’s an excerpt:

REPORT PURPOSE

This report describes the:
– Unique economic characteristics of six headwaters counties;
– Direct link between water and these local economies;
– Economic relationship between water and the headwaters
counties and their relationship with the Front Range and Eastern Plains, and;
– Compromised conditions triggered by transmountain diversions and other competing demands for water and potential economic consequences of over allocation of West Slope water.

The report provides a counterbalancing perspective to the recent attention to the adverse economic consequences of purchasing agricultural water rights from properties on the Eastern Plains. This report is descriptive; it does not take issue with Front Range municipal water users or Eastern Plains agricultural water users. All parties have important and worthy concerns and points of view.

KEY MESSAGES

1. Front Range water users, Eastern Plains agricultural properties and statewide economic developers need healthy headwaters county economies. There are numerous, mutually supportive economic relationships among the regions of the State.

2. Water in its natural stream course is essential to the economies of headwaters counties. Headwaters counties’ water needs are primarily nonconsumptive.

3. The West Slope is already compromised from historic transmountain water diversions. Diverting more water without full mitigation will have West Slope and statewide adverse economic consequences. From the water-basin- of-origin, transmountain water diversion is 100% consumptive.

4. Historical strategies to manage remaining West Slope water have provided mitigation relief but a continuation of these same strategies may not work in the future. We may be near the environmental tipping point.

5. Moving forward, future transmountain water diversions from the headwaters counties should only be approved after close coordination with interests of the basin-of-origin counties and robust mitigation of environmental and socioeconomic impacts. There are creative management solutions to be explored and activated. West Slope and East Slope interests have a strong history of creative and cooperative problem solving. High-level and inclusive leadership is needed now.

UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HEADWATERS COUNTIES

– Provide a source of water not only throughout Colorado, but also to six other states and the Republic of Mexico.

– The adage: “The West Slope contains 11% of the State’s population and 85% of the State’s water.” is often misinterpreted because a substantial portion of this water is legally and physically spoken for.

– Contain world-class recreation venues that attract national and international visitors and require minimal consumptive water.

– Provide the iconic image and draw for many Front Range economic development initiatives.

Download the full report here.

More coverage from Laura Glendenning writing for the Vail Daily. From the article:

The environmental consequences of pumping Western Slope water to the east include everything from lower streamflows and increased water temperatures to degradation in water quality and clarity, compromised aquatic environments and the health of fish, according to the report. But it’s the economic consequences that are often overlooked, the report says…

Streamflows in local rivers are part of the local economy, said Linn Brooks, general manager of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District. The report, she said, is raising the awareness of just how important the rivers are for the overall state economy.

“Without a good, healthy river system with all its components — habitat, clearness, flows — without that, Colorado as a whole loses out,” Brooks said. “Because if we don’t have ski resorts and fishing and hunting and all the things that people come to the Western Slope for, a lot of people won’t come to Colorado at all.”

Anglers, for example, might do most of their fishing in headwaters counties, but the impact is felt statewide. The report says that headwaters counties capture 14 percent of the total positive economic impact from anglers, while the Front Range captures 57 percent because anglers spend so much on transportation and equipment there.

Water attorney Glenn Porzak said the report is countering the thought that the East Slope should primarily focus on transmountain diversions to meet future water demands.

Eagle County has been successful in protecting its headwaters from heading east, Porzak said. In an agreement made a few years ago, the city of Denver can’t seek new water rights in Eagle County without the permission of the local stakeholders — Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, Eagle County and Vail Resorts.

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Stormwater detention/management and other improvements subject of seminar

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Balancing flood protection, water quality concerns and water rights will be necessary to develop projects on Fountain Creek and other areas. A crowd of about 100, mostly regulators or developers whose work involves stormwater control, attended a seminar last week at the Pueblo Convention Center to discuss those issues…

A study of dams on Fountain Creek by the U.S. Geological Survey will determine how effective dams at various locations would be at controlling flows, but a further study of water rights is needed, Witte said. “A big dam would be easier to regulate and easier to analyze,” he said. “There are a lot of advantages to a single flood control structure. There are also negatives to consider, like the loss of riparian habitat.” Gates at Pueblo Dam can be shut when flows exceed 6,000 cfs at Avondaleto avoid flood conditions. There is no similar mechanism on Fountain Creek, Witte said…

The seminar, now in its second year, was staged to acquaint people from Pueblo and the surrounding area with policies and laws affecting stormwater, said Louise Bosché, stormwater quality inspector for the city of Pueblo. “Stormwater is a huge issue for Fountain Creek and the city of Pueblo,” said Ross Vincent, of the Pueblo Sierra Club. “If we hope to hold Colorado Springs to high standards to protect the Arkansas River, we have to do at least as well or better here in Pueblo.

More stormwater coverage here and here.