Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District 75th Anniversary bash September 20


Here’s the link to the 75th Anniversary webpage from Northern Water:

The public is invited to come celebrate Northern Water’s 75th anniversary at its Berthoud headquarters on Sept. 20.

The celebration kicks off at 1 p.m. with an open house and tours of Northern Water’s award-winning Conservation Gardens and an interpretive model of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project – the reason for Northern Water’s creation on Sept. 20, 1937.

The Sept. 20 celebratory remarks will begin at 2 p.m. Speakers include former Congressman Hank Brown, historian Dan Tyler and Mike Ryan, regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

After the program, Conservation Gardens tours will continue, along with the opportunity to walk through the Berthoud campus, 200 Water Ave., and learn more about Northern Water’s operations and activities from employees firsthand. Refreshments will be provided.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Climate Change and Amphibian Declines: Putting the puzzle pieces together


Here’s a blog post from the EPA weblog It All Starts with Science (Jason Rohr/Thomas Raffel):

We had similar interested as kids: a love for amphibians and exploring wetlands, and a passion for puzzles and mystery and detective movies. So, it should be no surprise that we both turned out to be scientist studying the mystery of global amphibian declines. Working to figure out how all the “puzzle pieces” of climate change, environment, and other factors contribute to the mysterious global decline of amphibians is like living in our own mystery movie: a pair of scientist Sherlock Holmes-like detectives serving as interpreters for the frogs who cannot reveal clues or communicate directly.

Upon examining the literature, we noticed that declines of Latin American frogs were occurring under three scenarios: declines were occurring in (1) warm years, in (2) cool seasons, and at (3) high elevations. What caused this peculiar pattern? The key was to find the common link among all three.

What we discovered, with research supported by EPA funds, was that the common link was temperature variability.

Frogs exposed to (1) warm years, (2) cool seasons, or (3) high elevations all experienced more variability in temperature—at both daily and monthly time scales—than those not (that is, frogs exposed to cool years, warm seasons, and low elevations).

Another clue: chytrid fungus. We found that both daily and monthly temperature variability served as positive predictors of amphibian declines thought to be caused by the fungus. Hence, the missing link seemed to be temperature variability.

We suspected that we were on to something. We hypothesized that pathogens such as chytrid fungus might benefit from temperature shifts and extremes because they are smaller and have faster metabolisms than their ectothermic (also known as “cold blooded”) hosts, and thus might acclimate faster than their hosts after an abrupt shift to a new temperature.

We conducted a series of experiments to test our hypothesis and to see if it offered a causal (“cause-and-effect”) explanation for the patterns we saw for frogs living in the field.

We discovered that frogs exposed to temperature shifts at daily and monthly time scales not only had more chytrid fungus, but were also more likely to die from these infections than frogs living in areas with more constant temperatures. Given that temperature variability and extremes are increasing in many regions, this work suggests that climate change might be a culprit in amphibian declines.

We now are trying to serve as detectives and interpreters for other declining animals by testing whether temperature shifts spark increases in their disease risk, and whether such temperature shifts benefit pathogens in general. That is, we are trying to determine if the story of the frogs is just one piece of a larger puzzle.

About the authors:

Jason Rohr, Ph.D., is an EPA-funded Associate Professor in the Integrative Biology Department of the University of South Florida. He studies interactions among climate change, pollution, and disease.

Thomas Raffel, Ph.D., is an EPA-funded Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Oakland University. He uses a combination of field studies, experiments, and modeling to study the ecology of parasitism in aquatic systems.

Drought news: Snow in Summit County

Nothing like the first snow of the upcoming winter to get me dancing around like I’ve got ants in my pants. Snow in the Blue River Basin, some of which may find its way to my tap in North Denver. Click on the link in Bob Berwyn’s Tweet below:

Does the U.S. need a water policy and top-down planning for supplies?


From (Robert Krier):

“The nation lacks a coherent approach to dealing with water,” said Gerald Galloway, a civil engineer, hydrology expert and former president of the American Water Resources Association. “Everyone is just hoping it will get better. Hope is not a method.” The nation’s hydrologic future has become increasingly uncertain because of climate change, he believes, and that uncertainty is making planning and decision making difficult at a time when both are desperately needed.

What the nation has had for many years, Galloway says, is an ad hoc, piecemeal and dysfunctional system for dealing with water issues.

There is no overarching authority, or policy, to look at the broad picture and go beyond the problem de jour, deal with the mounting water conflicts, keep track of resources and scientific data, and address the needs of a crumbling infrastructure.

Instead, there’s a disjointed mishmash of dozens of federal agencies, state, tribal and private interests, often with overlapping authority and veto power, that results in inertia.

The odds that politicians will tackle the issue, despite polls showing the public is very concerned about water supply and quality, appear slim.

More infrastructure coverage here and here.

You’re right if you feel like it’s been hot this summer — Colorado comes in ninth in the top ten hottest states


From Climate Central:

The summer of 2012 has been one for the record books in the lower 48 states. On the heels of the country’s warmest-ever spring, several record-breaking June and July heat waves kept the Southwest, Midwest and Atlantic Coast sweltering. July went on to become the all-time warmest month on record for the country. In fact, 2012 to-date has been the hottest year for the U.S. since instrument records began in 1895, and the summer was the third warmest summer on record.

The record-breaking heat has affected nearly every part of the country at some point this year, and so far there have been more than 28,000 daily high-temperature records broken or tied. This begs the question: which state was the biggest record-breaker in 2012? Or put another way: Which state had the most extreme heat?

Answering this question is not as simple as counting the number of records broken or tied in each state. If that were the case, the states with the most thermometers would almost always be the top record-breakers. When quantifying record-breaking heat by state, there are more factors to consider: How often do these stations set records? How long have records been kept for at each station? (It’s harder to break a record at a station with 100 years of data compared to one with 40.) How does this year compare to average? How many record-high temperatures compared to record lows were set in the state this year? To put it simply, finding the biggest record-breakers depends on how you look at the data.

Drought news: Denver’s Sloans Lake closing to boating today


From The Denver Post (Ryan Parker):

A record-breaking heat wave this summer, and irrigation for dry Denver Parks, have left water level at a point necessitating closure, officials said. As of Thursday, Denver has received only 6.4 inches of precipitation in 2012, which is below the normal level of 12.5 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

From Reuters (Carey Gillam):

At least “moderate” levels of drought have now enveloped more than 64 percent of the contiguous United States, up from 63.39 percent the week before, according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly compilation of data gathered by federal and academic scientists.

“This is the greatest extent of drought we’ve seen all summer,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “The drought is easing in the east, but we’re seeing more of it expand in the Central Plains, Rockies and Dakotas.”

The Drought Monitor’s measurement of the worst level of drought, “exceptional”, expanded to 6.23 percent of the land area in the contiguous U.S. for the week ended September 11, up from 6.14 percent in the prior week…

This year’s persistent high heat and lack of soil moisture have decimated the U.S. corn crop, and threaten the same to the soybean crop. Dry soils are also worrying wheat farmers who now must seed a new winter wheat crop. The U.S. Agriculture Department on Wednesday estimated that the U.S. corn crop will be the lowest in six years and soybeans the lowest in nine years due to drought losses.

Wiggins: New water treatment plant to undergo testing this week


From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The reverse osmosis filters will be installed Tuesday, and plant testing starts Wednesday, [Public Works Director Jon Richardson] said.

Unfortunately, town officials still do not know how they are supposed to complete a final section of water pipeline that would take the pipe through the town flood levee and allow water to start flowing.

Town Clerk Craig Trautwein said he spoke to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative Tuesday, and he was expecting an e mail about which plan the corps would accept — if it accepts any of the proposed plans. The representative would not disclose the results until then, he said.

One piece of good news is that Industrial Facilities Engineering has agreed to eliminate some of the exclusions it had on a plan to blend the town’s existing well water with its new water until Wiggins has enough new water for all its needs.

More Wiggins coverage here and here.

Mancos and Dolores projects update — July end of month status



From Reclamation via the Cortez Journal:

Jackson Gulch reservoir live content stood at 3,914 acrefeet with a 9,948 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 7,322 acre-feet average (1981-2010) end-of-month content. At Jackson Gulch, a daily maximum/minimum of 52/31 cubic-feet-per second was released into the Mancos River, and 69 acre-feet were released for municipal purposes.

McPhee Reservoir live content stood at 260,582 acre-feet, with a 381,051 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 315,968average (1981-2010) end-of-month content. At McPhee, 4,301 acre-feet were released into the Dolores River, and 42,398 acre-feet were released for trans-basin purposes. At McPhee, a daily maximum/minimum of 71/69 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Dolores River.

More McPhee Reservoir coverage here. More Jackson Gulch Reservoir coverage here.

Pine beetles are running out of food — U.S. forest mortality numbers show decline


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Tree mortality was reported across 6.4 million acres in 2011, down by nearly half from the 12-million acre peak in 2009, but still significantly higher than during the 1990s, when tree mortality stayed under 1 million acres per year between 1990 and 2001. Acres of forests with dead trees due to the mountain pine beetle declined from 6.8 million acres in 2010 to 3.8 million acres in 2011 in western states, according to a report released by the U.S. Forest Service last week. Mountain pine beetles accounted for about 59 percent of the total damage, the agency said.

This marks the second straight year with reduced mortality rates after steady increases between 2006 and 2009. Although Forest Service surveyors attribute some of the reductions to fewer available lodgepole pines, ponderosa pine and high-elevation white bark pine are still at risk. “Native insects and diseases run in cycles, and right now we are grateful the trend is downward,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “While the news is good, we are certain to continue to face challenges, such as the effects of climate change and the introduction of invasive species.”

Despite the decline, pine beetles still resulted in more than 3.8 million acres of mortality in 2011, with the biggest affected areas in Colorado, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

The most widespread pine beetles damage was in Montana, at nearly 1 million acres, with Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming all reporting between 700,000 and 800,ooo acres of pine beetle mortality in 2011.

In Colorado, mountain pine beetles continued to cause damage, with most of the mortality now reported east of the Continental Divide, including ornamental plantings in downtown Denver. The Forest Service said the insects are spreading readily into lower elevation ponderosa pine forests in Bouler and Larimer counties. West of the Continental Divide, mortality continues to spread around Aspen and Vail. The bugs area also starting to attack limber pines and Rocky Mountain bristlecone pines.

Forest experts said drought-induced stress and wind-downed trees helped fuel the surge in spruce beetles in the region. Spruce beetle outbreaks in Colorado include the Grand Mesa, the Wet Mountains and especially the eastern San Juans, where the bugs have marched into the headwaters of the Rio Grande and continued into the southern portions of the Gunnison National Forest.