Turning the Corner on #ClimateChange in 2016 — Western Resource Advocates

From Western Resource Advocates (Jon Goldin-Dubois):

As we begin the New Year I am filled with hope for real and concrete progress to protect the incredible place we call home. The past year has provided a strong foundation that we can build upon to reduce climate pollution and to protect western rivers and landscapes. Here’s what I mean:

Coming out of the climate agreements negotiated by 195 countries in Paris that concluded in December, many of the world’s nations are expected to take their first steps to address climate change. For the U.S. and most developed nations, this means cutting carbon emissions. For developing nations, the accord calls for financial incentives that will help them leapfrog carbon intensive development. Importantly, the agreement endeavors to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (scientists argue we must keep warming to under 2 degrees Celsius to stop climate change’s most devastating impacts).

Certainly, some advocates have argued that the agreement didn’t do enough. To be truthful, I would have liked to see stronger commitments to cut carbon pollution more quickly as well. But I think the agreement provides reason for hope. I say this for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that earlier in 2015 the EPA issued the Clean Power Plan, mandating carbon pollution reductions from U.S. power plants of about 33%. Clearly that’s not enough to address the U.S. share, but it does send a very strong message to the rest of the world that the U.S. is prepared to take action. In issuing the new standards earlier this year on coal-fired power plants, the Obama administration and EPA have taken our nation’s first real steps to address the carbon pollution that we know is leading to climate change. The rules have some other compelling attributes, including cleaning up air quality in communities across the country, substantial reductions in asthma attacks and other negative health impacts of dirty air, and saving consumers money.

The Paris Agreement, coupled with the Clean Power Plan, sends a strong message to power providers but also offers some predictability (which utilities want) and sets the stage for a carbon restrained, if not a carbon free, future.

I’m also optimistic because we now know that clean energy sources such as wind and solar can compete with coal on a cost basis, and that they are getting cheaper every day. This is a big part of the reason that in 2014, far more clean, renewable energy than fossil fuel-based energy was added to the electric grid in the United States. We will soon see the 2015 numbers, but this trend is projected to continue. In 2015 major utilities in our western region stated clearly that clean, renewable wind energy is now predictably their lowest-cost source for energy generation. And several solar projects are beating coal and gas on a head-to-head basis, leading to new projects that will come on line in 2016.

My hope goes beyond recent action on climate change. The end of 2015 provided some expectation that we will begin to face up to some of the severe challenges to the health of our western rivers. In Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper signed the state’s first water plan. This year presents the first opportunity to take action that forwards the plan’s goals of conservation, reuse and water sharing. 2015 also saw Governor Sandoval in Nevada addressing the region’s water challenges as he convened a drought forum to develop solutions for Nevada. While it is still unclear what the ultimate impact of the current El Nino weather system (which can bring above average precipitation to the Colorado River Basin) will mean to the West and our water supply, it seems like it is finally sinking in that we shouldn’t rely on the weather when it comes to water. We need to take action throughout the Colorado River states to ensure that we have the water we need to serve 40 million people that rely on the River. But we also must ensure that our rivers not only sustain life in our cities, but also can continue to provide the thrilling opportunities to raft and fish, and the habitat to sustain abundant wildlife – just a few of the things that make the West so spectacular.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of challenges.

  • The nations of the world need to respond to the Paris agreement in the spirit with which it was crafted. Individual countries (and our states here in the West) need to respond by developing aggressive plans to reduce carbon pollution.
  • Our western states similarly need to take smart steps to protect and restore our rivers, as we plan for population and economic growth. This includes conservation, reuse, recycling, sharing water between urban and agriculture users, and smart storage solutions.
  • There are several ill-advised – okay, let’s be honest – flat out stupid plans to develop oil shale and tar sands throughout wilderness-quality lands in northeastern Utah that are still on the table. These plans need to be stopped.

We’ll take on these and other issues, like protection of Great Salt Lake and other iconic landscapes in the West, while working to find smart solutions on the climate, clean energy and river- and water-related efforts described above by building on the many successes of 2015.

Six days in to 2016, and yes, I am truly excited and hopeful about the prospects for making even more progress to protect the many places that we care about here in the West.

From left, President François Hollande of France; Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister; and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during the climate change conference on Saturday in Le Bourget, near Paris. (Credit Francois Mori/Associated Press)
From left, President François Hollande of France; Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister; and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during the climate change conference on Saturday in Le Bourget, near Paris. (Credit Francois Mori/Associated Press)

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

Upper Colorado River Basin December 2015 precipitation as a percent of normal via the Colorado Climate Center.
Upper Colorado River Basin December 2015 precipitation as a percent of normal via the Colorado Climate Center.

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

The latest Water News from Denver Water is hot off the presses

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Just add water for learning fun

Kids play in water vortices. Exhibit features also include a rainstorm and thunder-maker; water tower; waterwheel; geysers; a larger than-life toilet; and river system.
Kids play in water vortices. Exhibit features also include a rainstorm and thunder-maker; water tower; waterwheel; geysers; a larger than-life toilet; and river system.

The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus has opened the doors to WATER — a 2,200-square-foot “hands-in” water laboratory focused on teaching families about how people interact with water.

The new exhibit is made possible in part by Denver Water, and will provide multiple opportunities for children and adults to experiment with and discover water in everyday, yet remarkable ways. Exhibit features include a rainstorm and thunder-maker; water tower; waterwheel; vortices; geysers; a larger-than-life toilet; and a river system.

“Denver Water is very excited to be a part of the Children’s Museum expansion,” said Matt Bond, Denver Water Youth Education manager. “To us, the WATER exhibit is the perfect place for kids and adults to learn about water in a truly experiential way and to make memories together. Water is so precious, especially in Colorado, and educating children early helps make them smart, responsible water users forever.”

Twice a year, for a one-week period, Denver Water customers will receive admission and merchandise discounts to visit the museum and experience the exhibit with their families.

#ColoradoRiver: Water Values podcast — Advancements in Irrigated Agriculture with Daniele Zaccaria, Ph.D.


Click here to listen to David McGimpsey’s (@dtm1993) latest podcast. Here’s the intro from the website:

Irrigated agriculture expert Daniele Zaccaria joins The Water Values Podcast for an in-depth look at the state of irrigated agriculture. Daniele has been around irrigated agriculture his entire life and has a lot of knowledge to share about how irrigated agriculture works and where it’s headed. Tune in for an informative and fun talk with Daniele.

In this session, you’ll learn about:

  • The size of California’s agricultural sector
  • How much water the ag sector uses in a “normal” California year
  • How that water is split between groundwater and surface water
  • Where the water comes from for irrigated agriculture
  • The different irrigation methods
  • Which irrigation methods are more water-efficient
  • The trade-offs involved with improved water-efficient irrigation
  • Where Daniele sees irrigated ag heading in terms of water use and efficiency
  • How irrigation water is priced
  • Environmental impacts of irrigated agriculture
  • #Snowpack news: Accumulations so far are good against average but it’s still early


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    So far, snowpack good, but it’s too soon to get excited

    Snow. If you’re a child, it’s a blank canvas for winter fun. If you ski or snowboard, it’s the essential ingredient for recreation.

    If you drive in the mountains, it can be a hazard or inconvenience.

    But if you drink water and live in Colorado, snow is 75-80 percent of the water supply for the state. The early results for 2016 point to an average year ahead, so far. But anyone who has watched snowpack for long would be cautious making any projections because the snow doesn’t really start to pile up before March.

    “What I see is kind of discouraging,” said Rick Sexton, caretaker at Clear Creek Reservoir for the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “But I haven’t been out in the field. So I don’t have any real good info.”

    Part of Sexton’s job is to measure snow courses at sites in the Pueblo Water collection system. But that won’t start until the end of this month.

    The data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows that snow water equivalent for the state is right about at normal, ranging from 94 percent in the northwest corner to 121 percent of median. The Arkansas River basin is at 118 percent and the Rio Grande basin at 120 percent.

    Those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

    “It’s one thing if you normally measure 9 inches and you get 14. It’s more than a site that normally has next to nothing and gets a couple of inches, but shows up as a bigger percentage,” Sexton explained. “Later in the year, you’re looking at bigger numbers.”

    Snow depth in the mountains is about 2-3 feet across the state, with the deepest measurement at more than 6 feet at Wolf Creek.

    Looking ahead, there will be a chance for snow Thursday and Friday in Pueblo and the surrounding area.

    Long-term, El Nino conditions are expected to continue throughout the spring, meaning above-average precipitation, normal temperatures and higher snow totals likely in the southern part of the state.