NWS: South Platte River’s response to today’s rain event

Colorado Foundation for Water Education ‘Water Fluency Webinar’ Thursday September 13

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From email from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education:

Water Fluency Webinar. Thanks to the Colorado Municipal League, join CFWE’s Kristin Maharg; the Colorado Climate Center’s Wendy Ryan; and the Governor’s Water Advisor, John Stulp, via webinar on Thursday 9/13 at noon. Hear about drought, water supply, and resources you can use to learn more and to celebrate water across the state. Free to all Municipal Members, but registration is required. Register online and learn more about the event.

Speaking of CML, check out the article about CFWE in the latest edition of Colorado Municipalities Magazine.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here and here.

6,000 people participate in 90 by 20 conference call

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From Westword (Patricia Calhoun):

More than 6,000 people called in to the teleconference. “The response we had on the call was tremendous,” [Former Governor Bill Ritter] said. “Clearly Coloradans understand the singular nature of the 800,000 jobs and 35,000,000 drinking water consumers that the Colorado River supports. To sustain and restore the river, we need to adopt 90 By 20 and like measures.”

According to the campaign, if every community along the Colorado River basin were to adopt the 90 By 20 benchmark, the water savings in one year would be enough to service the entire city of Denver for three years.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Uncompahgre Valley water tour September 25

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From Colorado Mesa University:

Uncompahgre Valley Water Tour
September 25, 2012
7:30am – 5pm

Meet at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center at Confluence Park in Delta, CO

Co-hosted by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users, the Delta-Montrose Electric Association and the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University.

Learn about the history of the Uncompahgre Valley Project, the South Canal Hydro Project, and current irrigation issues and practices. See complete itinerary below.

Cost: $40 – includes transportation, breakfast and lunch; $30 if you drive your own vehicle.

To register and pay on-line, click here.

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here and here.

Drought news: Finally, a beautiful rain here in the Denver area

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the 24 hour precipitation map from the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District map as of 5:10 AM. The station nearest Gulch Manor has recorded 51 hundredths and it is still raining.

I’ve also posted a screenshot of the Nexrad from the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Flood DSS website. Click on the thumbnail to see the map at 5:20 AM.

Here’s the 5 to 10 day outlook, issued Monday, from the CWCB’s Flood Threat Portal:

Mid-level monsoonal moisture returns on Tuesday. This moisture along with afternoon heating could allow storms to become strong enough to warrant a Low Flood Threat. Storms that develop over the west slope could create up to 1.00” in 30-45 minutes. For the lower elevations, a strong cold front will move into the state Wednesday morning. This frontal passage along with overrunning monsoon moisture should present a LOW FLOOD THREAT to the Front Range burn areas. Foothills thunderstorms could drop a 0.75” to 1.50” inches of rain. This threat will exist both during the passage on Wednesday and post passage on Thursday afternoon. This cold front and disturbance could create a Low Flood Threat for West Slope with some mountain peaks possibly seeing some snow. This front will drop temperatures dramatically with afternoon highs only expected in the 60s over the plains. No other organized flood threats are on the horizon for this period.

More from Twitter:

Brush: Council raises stormwater rates

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From the Brush News-Tribune (Katie Collins) via The Fort Morgan Times:

Stormwater rates will experience a three-cent hike as of October 1, meaning that owners or occupants of any real property in Brush will see an increase to their city bill near the end of October. The rate hike follows on the heels of the city’s Stormwater Activity Enterprise, established by a previous ordinance that assigned that enterprise the fiscal responsibility for both street cleaning and stormwater system maintenance and operation. With Brush looking to tackle not only drainage issues downtown, but in four other areas of the municipality, the increase will sufficiently aid in providing funding for such projects. Although the City of Brush did not raise stormwater rates in 2011, the three-cents per lineal foot hike has generally been an annual increase and this move will set rates from the previous $.16 per month per lineal foot of a property’s frontage to $.19 cents.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

CU-led mountain forest study shows vulnerability to climate change

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Here’s the release from the University of Colorado at Boulder (Noah Molotch/Jim Scott):

A new University of Colorado Boulder-led study that ties forest “greenness” in the western United States to fluctuating year-to-year snowpack indicates mid-elevation mountain ecosystems are most sensitive to rising temperatures and changes in precipitation and snowmelt.

Led by CU-Boulder researcher Ernesto Trujillo and Assistant Professor Noah Molotch, the study team used the data — including satellite images and ground measurements — to identify the threshold where mid-level forests sustained primarily by moisture change to higher-elevation forests sustained primarily by sunlight and temperature. Being able to identify this “tipping point” is important because it is in the mid-level forests — at altitudes from roughly 6,500 to 8,000 feet — where many people live and play in the West and which are associated with increasing wildfires, beetle outbreaks and increased tree mortality, said Molotch.

“Our results provide the first direct observations of the snowpack-forest connections across broad spatial scales,” said Molotch, also a research scientist at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. “Finding the tipping point between water-limited forests and energy-limited forests defines for us the region of the greatest sensitivity to climate change — the mid-elevation forests — which is where we should focus future research.”

While the research by Molotch and his team took place in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, it is applicable to other mountain ranges across the West, he said. The implications are important, since climate studies indicate the snowpack in mid-elevation forests in the Western United States and other similar forests around the world has been decreasing in the past 50 years because of regional warming.

“We found that mid-elevation forests show a dramatic sensitivity to snow that fell the previous winter in terms of accumulation and subsequent melt,” said Molotch, also a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “If snowpack declines, forests become more stressed, which can lead to ecological changes that include alterations in the distribution and abundance of plant and animal species as well as vulnerability to perturbations like fire and beetle kill.”

A paper on the subject was published online Sept. 9 in Nature Geosciences. Co-authors on the study include Ernesto Trujillo of INSTAAR and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, Michael Golden and Anne Kelly of the University of California, Irvine, and Roger Bales of the University of California, Merced. The National Science Foundation and NASA funded the study.

Molotch said the study team attributed about 50 percent of the greenness in mid-elevation forests by satellites to maximum snow accumulation from the previous winter, with the other 50 percent caused by conditions like soil depth, soil nutrients, temperature and sunlight. “The strength of the relationship between forest greenness and snowpack from the previous year was quite surprising to us,” Molotch said.

The research team initially set out to identify the various components of drought that lead to vegetation stress, particularly in mountain snowpack, said Molotch. “We went after snowpack in the western U.S. because it provides about 60 to 80 percent of the water input in high elevation mountains.”

The team used 26 years of continuous data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer, a space-borne sensor flying on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite, to measure the forest greenness. The researchers compared it to long-term data from 107 snow stations maintained by the California Cooperative Snow Survey, a consortium of state and federal agencies.

In addition, the researchers used information gathered from several “flux towers” in the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range, which measure the exchanges of carbon dioxide, water vapor and energy between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere. Instruments on the towers, which are roughly 100 feet high, allowed them to measure the sensitivity of both mid-level and high-level mountainous regions in both wet and dry years — data that matched up well with the satellite and ground data, he said.

“The implications of this study are profound when you think about the potential for ecological change in mountainous environments in the West in the not too distant future,” said Molotch, an assistant professor in the geography department. “If we take our study and project forward in time when climate models are calling for warming and drying conditions, the implication is that forests will be increasingly water-stressed in the future and thus more vulnerable to fires and insect outbreaks.

“When you put this into the context of recent losses in Colorado and elsewhere in the West to forest fire devastation, then it becomes something we really have to pay attention to,” he said. “This tipping-point elevation is very likely to migrate up the mountainsides as the climate warms.”