Larimer County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife coordinate Greenback cutthroat trout release

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout
Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

Specialists with the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Parks and Wildlife carried 269 greenback cutthroat trout in backpacks — protected in small plastic bags filled with water — about 2.5 miles to a section of Sand Creek.

There, they placed the fish in the waters and let them swim free — an effort to reintroduce Colorado’s state fish into its native region, the Platte River Basin, and to study whether they will thrive in a unique stream versus non-native brook trout…

The greenbacks made their way onto the endangered species list until, several decades ago, researchers discovered what they thought were a population of this species. Efforts to revive and reintroduce the species led to the fish being downgraded to a threatened species by 1978.

But genetics, which have improved in the past 15 years, proved experts wrong. These fish were not genetically pure greenback cutthroat trout.

A colony of fish in Bear Creek near Colorado Springs, however, was discovered within the past five years and is believed to be the only one left in the state.

Genetic testing by researchers from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, University of Colorado and Colorado State University compared these fish to samples that were collected in the 1860s and preserved at the Smithsonian Institution and Harvard Museum and proved that they were in fact, pure greenback cutthroat trout, Kehmeier explained.

Fish biologists have since been conserving and growing the population of this fish to put them back into their native habitat.

Populations have been introduced into Zimmerman Lake on top of Cameron Pass and Rock Creek in South Park and now into Sand Creek on Larimer County’s Red Mountain Open Space. This fall, more will go into Sand Creek, a small 3-mile stretch that is sustained by spring inputs and rainfall, as well as into Herman Gulch in Clear Creek.

Larimer County had hoped to reintroduce the greenback cutthroat trout into Sand Creek and included that as a goal in its plan for the open space.

And recently, the timing was right because there were extra fish available at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife hatchery near Salida.

So, together, the county and state agencies put fish into the middle third of Sand Creek.

But first, they delivered an electrical shock to the one-mile middle section of the stream and removed all the nonnative brook trout to create a setting in which to study the fish. (The 875 trout they removed were donated to the Rocky Mountain Raptor Center for lunches and dinners.)

The first release, on July 21, involved putting yearlings that were about 5 inches long into one section of the water.

The second release, in September, will put fish into a section of the river in which brook trout still exist as well as the stretch that was recently stocked. These 1,000 fish will be 1-month old.

Then, biologists will study the population for years to come and see how the greenback cutthroat trout survive. And in about three years, time will reveal whether the fish not only survive but also are able to reproduce and thrive.

NASA: July was hottest month in recorded history

Turn up the heat slowly via the Sierra Club
Turn up the heat slowly via the Sierra Club

From The Independent (Andrew Griffin):

The Earth just had the hottest month in recorded history, and it’s even worse than normal.

The record comes in a run of unprecedentedly hot months. Not only does it break through the all-time record set a year before, it also continues a now 10-month long streak of months that are the hottest ever according to Nasa data.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calculates temperatures slightly differently and has said that there have been 14 months of record-breaking temperatures. It hasn’t yet released its data for July.

But this one is even more worrying than those previous record-breaking months, since it comes as the effects of the El Nino subside. Scientists have previously said that some of the alarming data could be put down to the impact of that natural effect, which warms parts of the Pacific Ocean and as a result leads to an increase in the temperature across the world.

The new results are important “because global temperatures continue to warm even as a record-breaking El Nino event has finally released its grip”, said Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb.

NOAA launches America’s first national water forecast model

Flooded confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River June 2015 photo via Andy Cross, Getty Images and The Denver Post
Flooded confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River June 2015 photo via Andy Cross, Getty Images and The Denver Post

Here’s the release from NOAA (Susan Buchanan):

New tool hailed as a game changer for predicting floods, informing water-related decisions

August 16, 2016 NOAA and its partners have developed a new forecasting tool to simulate how water moves throughout the nation’s rivers and streams, paving the way for the biggest improvement in flood forecasting the country has ever seen.

Launched today and run on NOAA’s powerful new Cray XC40 supercomputer, the National Water Model uses data from more than 8,000 U.S. Geological Survey gauges to simulate conditions for 2.7 million locations in the contiguous United States. The model generates hourly forecasts for the entire river network. Previously, NOAA was only able to forecast streamflow for 4,000 locations every few hours.

The model also improves NOAA’s ability to meet the needs of its stakeholders — such as emergency managers, reservoir operators, first responders, recreationists, farmers, barge operators, and ecosystem and floodplain managers — with more accurate, detailed, frequent and expanded water information.

The nation has experienced a number of disastrous floods in recent years, including the ongoing flooding this week in Louisiana, accentuating the importance of more detailed water forecasts to help people prepare.

“With a changing climate, we’re experiencing more prolonged droughts and a greater frequency of record-breaking floods across the country, underscoring the nation’s need for expanded water information,” said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., director of the National Weather Service. “The National Water Model will improve resiliency to water extremes in American communities. And as our forecasts get better, so will our planning and protection of life and property when there’s either too much water, too little, or poor water quality.”

Today’s announcement fulfills a commitment President Obama made to the American public on World Water Day in March. In a White House statement, he called for “cross-cutting, creative solutions to solving the water problems of today, as well as innovative strategies that will catalyze change in how we use, conserve, protect and think about water in the years to come.”
Initially, the model will benefit flash flood forecasts in headwater areas and provide water forecast information for many areas that currently aren’t covered. As the model evolves, it will provide “zoomed-in,” street-level forecasts and inundation maps to improve flood warnings, and will expand to include water quality forecasts.

“Through our partnership with the research, academic and federal water community, NOAA is bringing the state-of-the-science in water forecasting and prediction to bear operationally,” said Thomas Graziano, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s new Office of Water Prediction at the National Weather Service. “Over the past 50 years, our capabilities have been limited to forecasting river flow at a relatively limited number of locations. This model expands our forecast locations 700 times and generates several additional water variables, such as soil moisture, runoff, stream velocity, and other parameters to produce a more comprehensive picture of water behavior across the country.”

The underlying technology for the model was developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). NOAA developed and implemented the model along with NCAR, the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and federal Integrated Water Resources Science and Services Consortium partners. Continuing to leverage partnerships with the research community will prepare NOAA for new collaborations and even greater innovation in the future.

@USGS: Groundwater Recharge in Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin May Hold Steady Under Climate Change #COriver

Here’s the release from the USGS:

Groundwater movement via the USGS
Groundwater movement via the USGS

Future groundwater replenishment in the Upper Colorado River Basin may benefit from projected increases in future basin-wide precipitation under current climate projections, according to a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Reclamation.

The Colorado River provides water for more than 35 million people in the United States and 3 million people in Mexico. A recent USGS publication suggests that as much as half of the water flowing in rivers and streams in the Upper Colorado River Basin originates as groundwater. Understanding how much groundwater is available and how it’s replenished is important to sustainably manage both groundwater and surface water supplies in the Colorado River basin now and in the future.

USGS and Reclamation scientists estimated projected changes in groundwater recharge for the Upper Colorado River Basin from recent historical (1950–2015) through future (2016–2099) time periods using climate projections and a groundwater-recharge model. Simulated future groundwater recharge through 2099 is generally expected to be somewhat greater than the historical average in most decades due to an anticipated wetter future climate in the basin under the most advanced climate modeling projections. Groundwater resources are replenished through increases in precipitation, which may offset reductions from increased temperatures. The full report is available online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

While recharge simulations from a majority of the projected climate data sets result in increased recharge in the Upper Colorado River Basin during most future decades, there were some that resulted in decreased future recharge relative to the historical climate period.

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” said Fred Tillman, lead author and USGS scientist. “These results are the first step in understanding the quantity of groundwater we can expect in the Upper Colorado River Basin; however, further studies are needed to help more accurately forecast future groundwater availability.”

“Future estimates of groundwater recharge are compounded by the large-scale of the Upper Colorado River Basin and the uncertainties of future climate projections,” said Reclamation co-author Subhrendu Gangopadhyay.

“Given these uncertainties, multiple-future water supplies scenarios are used to inform Reclamation’s water management and planning within the Upper Colorado River Basin,” Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Region Water Resources Manager Malcolm Wilson added.

This study was completed with support from Reclamation’s Science and Technology Program to help meet objectives of the SECURE Water Act, which was created by Congress in 2009 as a framework for a programmatic approach to understand climate change impacts, and to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies. This act contains substantive mandates for both the USGS and Reclamation to help provide a more accurate assessment of the status of the water resources of the United States and assess the potential impacts of climate change on water management.

@CSUtilities working to update water supply system. It will take 250 years at current funding level.

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art
Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From (Dustin Cuzick):

Colorado Springs Utilities Officials respond to claims that water main breaks and sinkholes are becoming more common. They say they’re spending $13 million per-year to fix it.

When a huge sinkhole opened up in the middle of Montebello Drive on Sunday after a water main break, neighbors complained that it was the third in about the last year…

Colorado Springs Utilities officials admit there is a problem. They say that roughly 60% of the city’s 2000 miles of water pipes are at or near the end of their lifespan; many of them are cast-iron and were put in in the 1970’s.

That is why in 2005 they started a water main replacement project; a systematic plan to proactively replace aging water mains before they deteriorate completely.

Right now Colorado Springs Utilities spends $13 million on the program every year. With that money they are able to replace about 8-12 miles of pipeline. That would mean that to replace the entire system could take up to 250 years at the current pace…

Utilities officials say they are planning on asking for a utilities rate increase for the 2017 budget. They will present that proposed increase this fall to the utilities board and the Colorado Springs City Council.

That rate increase would not mean an increase in the program’s budget, officials say the increase would be needed just to maintain the current $13 million budget.

There is no word yet on how much that increase will be because C.S.U. is waiting for the results of a cost of service survey. Those results are expected to be in on Friday.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ellie Mulder):

About 4 percent of Colorado Springs’ water distribution pipes are more than 100 years old, but it’s the mid-century pipes that are causing problems around the city.

Cast- and ductile-iron pipes installed during the 1950s through the 1970s break more easily than older pipes because they have thinner walls and are more prone to corrosion, said Steve Berry, Colorado Springs Utilities spokesman.

Utilities is continually replacing as many of the problem pipes as possible…

Although crews try to “identify and prioritize areas that need attention,” Berry said, there is no way to track the city’s more than 2,000 miles of pipe. Over the past 20 years, national data has shown that these pipes have a higher failure rate, Berry said. Utilities has budgeted $13 million to upgrade water mains this year.

“It’s not an exact science, especially when you’re dealing with a system that’s as large as ours, and as spread out,” he said.

Repairs are not always straightforward, Berry said.

Simply shutting the water off is “much more complicated than it’s assumed,” he said. Then crews excavate the asphalt and assess the pipe’s condition. After it’s repaired or replaced, the line needs to be re-energized and re-pressurized, which occasionally causes a nearby segment to break.

#Colorado Springs: Erosion eats away property near Sand Creek —

Heavy rains inundate Sand Creek (2013). Photo via the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Independent.
Heavy rains inundate Sand Creek (2013). Photo via the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Independent.


A 15-foot ledge is inching its way closer to several homes in southwest Colorado Springs.

The city’s storm water manager says the fix is a priority, but can it wait?

The city admits that Sand Creek isn’t maintained. Due to recent rains and July’s huge hailstorm the channel is growing wider and washing away the land.

Homes are now just feet away from a 15-foot drop-off…

Kelley says his team is ready to take action.

“This area is a top priority. I say that because it’s actually going into construction in 2016,” said Kelley.

The city of Colorado Springs is using $1.3 million of FEMA money to secure the channel.

“We are anticipating construction to begin in November after the monsoon,” said Kelley.