The October 2015 Headwaters Pulse is hot off the presses from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education

Headwaters Pulse October 2015 cover

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt from Greg Hobbs’ column:

There is no vacation for Colorado’s farm families this time of year. As gold starts to settle into aspen-covered upslopes, the harvest requires the dawn-to-dusk toil necessary to bring the crops in. Dan and his partner [farmers below the Bessemer Ditch, Dan is Greg’s son], Jaime, send us on our way with a cooler full of summer heat packed into the peppers we’ll break out of the freezer in December onto our breakfast plates.

Arkansas Valley organic farmer Dan Hobbs photo via the Pueblo Chieftain
Arkansas Valley organic farmer Dan Hobbs photo via the Pueblo Chieftain

“Climate is what you expect…Weather is what you get” — Kerry Jones

Here’s a look at the difference between climate and weather in New Mexico from Laura Paskus writing for New Mexico in Depth. Click through for all the graphics. Here’s an excerpt:

“Climate is what you expect,” says the meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. “Weather is what you get.”

Climate represents general conditions in a particular region — 30 years is the standard time period experts use for talking about it. Weather happens on a day-to-day basis, and is the fluctuating state of the atmosphere characterized by temperature, precipitation, wind, clouds, and other elements, he says.

Think about it another way, he says: Climate trains the boxer, while weather throws the punches.

Science Senator. It's called science.
Science Senator. It’s called science.

Dry August and September leaves Horsetooth at 61% of capacity

Horsetooth Reservoir
Horsetooth Reservoir

From the Fort Collins Coloradan (Jacy Marmaduke):

…consistently hot temperature and little rain put the big drain on in late summer, as farmers called for more irrigation water. The reservoir on Friday was 61 percent of capacity, which is 125 percent of the average for Oct. 16.

Northern Water spokesman Zach Allen said what all that means is the reservoir is in good shape heading out of the agricultural irrigation season.

High reservoir levels at the end of 2014 coupled with a wet spring meant farmers diverted less water from the reservoir during the spring and most of the summer, water resources manager Sarah Smith said. That allowed for an excellent boating season for most of the summer.

Irrigation reservoirs, like Horsetooth, generally fill up in spring with rain and snowmelt. As summer progresses, they are drawn down as farmers’ need for irrigation increases.

While Horsetooth is doing well, the Poudre River is flowing more slowly than usual for this time of year. On Friday at the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, the river was flowing 74.6 cubic feet per second. The average for this time of year is 92 cfs.

Slower flows are likely due to the dry weather and lack of rainfall during the last several months, Smith said.

EPA: Colorado mine spill water treatment system proving effective — The Denver Post

The EPA's wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 -- photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio
The EPA’s wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 — photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio

From The Denver Post (Jesse Paul):

A newly-installed temporary wastewater treatment system at the Gold King Mine site is already proving very effective, the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday.

“The system is now operating 24 hours a day,” the EPA said in a statement to The Denver Post. “It is treating flows from 200 to 800 (gallons per minute), which includes all the flow from the mine, plus water that has been stored in ponds prior to start-up.”

The EPA on Friday began water treatment operations at the site above Silverton, where the agency on Aug. 5 spilled 3 million gallons of contaminants.

The temporary system, erected by Alexco Environmental Group Inc., is expected to operate throughout the winter and is capable of working in minus-20-degree temperatures. It will remove about 85 percent of “metals of concern,” according to the EPA, and discharged water will have a pH ranging from 6 to 9.

Neutral water has a pH of 7.

The EPA says the new system will only address contaminants still flowing from the Gold King. While it will make some improvement to Cement Creek, the agency says the system is “not intended to be a solution to the broader problem of a discharging mine in the Upper Animas.”

#COWaterPlan: Economic success — “The water plan is our first step” — Kelly Brough

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Colorado Statesman (Marianne Goodland):

Among the critical issues identified by the panelists: storage and the permitting process for building or expanding reservoirs. Former Commissioner of Agriculture Don Ament told the audience the state cannot spent another 10 years waiting on federal permits.

James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said it’s also about innovation, whether with storage, conservation, agriculture or the environment. “We have to utilize the innovative community at our disposal,” including the business community, he said.

Eric Kuhn, director of the Colorado River District, said everyone needs to recognize that every drop of the Colorado River has been used since 1998, and there isn’t any more water coming into the system. In fact, he said, there will probably be less water available from the river in the future, and what does flow between its banks is fully appropriated. It’s a cautionary note to those on the Eastern Slope who want another transmountain diversion of water from the Colorado through the Continental Divide, as has been suggested in the plan…

Robert Sakata of Brighton’s Sakata Farms noted that innovation in agricultural technology is helpful but also expensive. He showed off a GPS receiver, part of a system that helps with his farm’s water use. The receiver alone cost $8,000, and he has to sell half a million onions to cover that cost, he said.

The test of the state’s water plan will be whether it can be financed, said Ament, adding that he’s nervous about how the state will find the money and meet the regulatory requirements…

[Kelly] Brough also laid out the chamber’s wish list for the water plan. The business community must lead on this, she said. The days are gone “when we can look to somebody else to solve the challenges we face.” And this is one of those issues where Coloradans don’t want someone else to step in and solve it for them, she said.

Among the solutions: changing how Coloradans use water. As a business community, “we must lead,” by showing a commitment to conservation and efficiency, Brough said. Colorado needs to do more to support the population growth that is coming. The state also needs to move forward beyond conservation and work toward maximum economic use of water, she said. That includes more “green” infrastructure, use of recycled “grey water,” underground storage, reservoir expansion, improved permit processes and even rain barrels, she said. Brough also called on Gov. John Hickenlooper to take the lead improving the permitting process, arguing that problems with the process have caused years and even decades of delay building or expanding water storage in Colorado.

“We don’t have limited choices,” Brough said. “We have many choices.” She added that there’s a real cost to doing nothing. “I don’t know what it is,” she said, “but we can’t afford it.” State water policy must find cost-effective solutions to ensure economic success for Colorado she said. “The water plan is our first step.”

AccuWeather says El Niño will bring lots of snow to Aspen — The Glenwood Springs Post Independent #ElNino

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon) via Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

[Steve] Root has one hell of a winter forecast for Aspen and the mountains of Colorado. It’s not hype, he said, just a look ahead based on evidence from the past…

Root said he sees the winter getting off slowly with lower than usual snowfall this month, but then it will hit with a vengeance. There will be somewhat a lull in mid-winter, then the “opportunity” for a second, prolific peak of snowfall in March and April.

Here are the eye-popping numbers from Root’s forecast:

* He forecasted snowfall 150 to 170 percent of average in November.

* He foresees December to start good and remain good through the holidays. The snowfall for the month will be 190 to 200 percent of average.

* The El Niño effect will likely “wane” in January and February, though Root’s definition of wane will still make skiers and riders smile. He foresees snowfall at 110 to 120 percent of average in January and 110 to 130 percent of average in February. Both months will be cloudy and cold with intermittent snow, he said.

* Late in February comes the wildcard, according to Root. The patterns from past El Niño winters suggest a second peak of prolific snowfall starting in late February and March. There is the potential for snowfall 120 to 160 percent of average, he said.

* He expects winter to hang around well into April with snowfall approaching 200 percent of average.

Root placed a caveat on his end-of-winter forecast, starting in March. He said there is a chance the atmosphere will respond to the warm Pacific Ocean water temperatures that create the El Niño. The uncertainty of that reaction makes it “risky” to make a late winter forecast, he said.

“All El Niños are not the same,” Root said. “In fact, I look at El Niños as a four-inch fire hose. When somebody turns that fire hose on, you don’t really know where that thing is going to spray. It can spray where it did last time or it can spray in a completely different area.”

To try to figure where the hose will spray this winter, he studied the El Niño winters of 1957-58; 1965-66; 1986-87; 1987-88; 1991-92 and 1997-98, the latter being particularly strong. He risk weighted each of those winters based on factors such as whether the El Niño set up the same way and at the same time of year as this year, he said.

He concluded from the patterns in those six winters that the Aspen area will be among the lucky winners, certainly for early winter.

Average influence of El Niño on US temperature and precipitation
Average influence of El Niño on US temperature and precipitation