Climate change will likely bring stronger storms and more 100-degree days to the Front Range — Denverite


From Denverite (Ashley Dean):

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization released reports yesterday predicting a more extreme climate in metro Denver and Boulder and Larimer counties.

Stephen Saunders, president of the RMCO and lead author of the report said that “our current path of steadily increasing heat-trapping emissions” will create a climate that is “fundamentally different from the climate we have known in Colorado.”

In Boulder County, that means temperatures of 100 degrees or more for an average of eight days a year by mid-century, and an average of 35 days a year late in the century.

In Larimer County, they’re predicting those days will come four times a year by mid-century and 23 days a year by the end of the century.

The report for metro Denver is still in the first phase, but early projections are looking at an average of seven days per year over 100 degrees by mid-century and 34 days per year by late century.

Those predictions are for a world in which we continue to release very high emissions. Very low emissions bring the projections down to one or two days a year in which temperatures climb over 100 degrees.

Those reports also project that storms of a half-inch of precipitation or more in one day will be more likely with continued high emissions:

  • 16 percent more frequent by mid-century and 36 percent more frequent by late-century in Boulder County;
  • 12 percent more frequent by mid-century and 33 percent more frequent by late-century in Larimer County;
  • 15 percent more frequent by mid-century and 31 percent more frequent by late-century in metro Denver.
  • From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    “By the middle of the century, summers here will be as hot as summers have been recently in El Paso,” said Stephen Saunders, director of RMCO, who led the research.

    “Half the houses in Denver today do not have air conditioning. We’re going to be facing serious threats to people’s health because of these temperature increases,” Saunders said.

    “Temperature increases also will drive wildfires, increased evaporation from reservoirs, changes in snowpack, and enormous increases in energy use for air conditioning. These temperature changes will affect every aspect of our life,” he said.

    The average number of days with temperatures above 100 degrees in the metro area is 0.3 days.

    But summers are already getting hotter. This year, the average temperature in Denver for June, July and August was 72.7 degrees — 1.5 degrees higher than the annual average of 71.2 dating to 1872, said Kyle Fredin, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Boulder.

    The reports were done for the purpose of helping Colorado prepare and are based on government temperature data and university consortium climate models. RMCO does advocacy work in favor of limiting greenhouse gas emissions in addition to climate research. Denver environmental health officials commissioned the Denver climate analysis. Boulder and Fort Collins analyses were done as part of a $57,300 project run by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

    Denver officials commissioned this study for $9,000 “as a way to frame our actions on climate, both for the mitigation of climate altering greenhouse gas emissions and the adaptation to a warming, altered climate,” city spokeswoman Kerra Jones said. “This study was intended to bring real data into models that could project what that might specifically mean for Denver and the metro area.”

    If current trends in heat-trapping emissions continue, Denver residents by 2050 will face an average of 35 days a year where temperatures hit 95 degrees or hotter, the study found. Right now, the average is five days a year.

    The study also found that storms dropping less than a quarter inch of precipitation will happen about as often as today regardless of emissions levels but that storms dropping more than a quarter inch or rain or snow will become 15 percent more frequent by 2050 and 31 percent more frequent late in the century.

    Boulder by 2050 will have an average 38 days a year with temperatures exceeding 95 degrees and, by the end of the century, an average of 75 such days a year. The studies found Fort Collins by 2050 will have an average 24 days with temperatures exceeding 95 degrees and 58 days on average by the end of the century.

    While RMCO researchers project more extreme precipitation — intense storms dropping rain and snow — these projections are considered more uncertain because they depend on more variables including air currents, terrain and storm patterns.

    Denver officials last year issued a Climate Action Plan calling for citywide cutting of emissions by 80 percent, below 2005 levels, by 2050. But local efforts to reduce emissions from vehicles, factories, the oil and gas industry and other sources in Colorado likely would make a small difference because climate change is driven by global-scale increases in heat-trapping gases.

    “All this depends on global emissions,” Saunders said. “However, people around the world will be looking to see what we do here in response.”

    CU grads invent water filter that targets hormones —


    From (Nicole Brady):

    Hormones can get into the water by seeping out of of landfills, through human and livestock waste, and industry waste. A filter like Brita won’t get rid of hormones. An expensive reverse osmosis filtration system will, but Noestra is designed to be an affordable alternative — and well worth that price, considering the impact hormones can have on our health.

    “Over time, we’ve found those hormonal balances really do add up and it does have a serious effect on your overall well-being,” co-creator Emma Jacobs said.

    And if you need evidence that hormones are indeed messing with our natural balance, consider what the Noestra creators found when they tested water from the Boulder Creek.

    “This is what usually scares people,” says Eversbusch. “You can measure the amount of hormone by semester. So in the fall and spring it’s pretty high, and when all the students leave in the summer it’s much lower.”

    @CWCB_DNR: Reservoir levels OK despite dry September

    Colorado Drought Monitor September 20, 2016.
    Colorado Drought Monitor September 20, 2016.

    From (Maya Rodriguez):

    …things look pretty good, according to the state’s Water Availability Task Force.

    It’s all thanks to more rainfall than normal in August in most of Colorado, which left reservoirs across the state with an average of seven percent more water than they would normally have at this time of year.

    “Our reservoirs are at pretty high levels for this time of year,” said Tracy Kosloff of the Colorado Division of Water Resources and co-chair of the task force. “That’s giving our water providers a lot of confidence going into the coming months.”

    But rainfall in September has been below average and water providers on the Front Range are reporting low stream flows…

    That is why state officials are waiting to see what snow might eventually come.

    “We’re more looking forward to the winter season and what type of snowpack we’re going to accumulate in our mountains,” Kosloff said. “That’s really going to be the driver of our water supply going into the 2017 water year.”

    The report from the task force notes the long-term forecast is still uncertain. El Nino is over and it’s not clear if a La Nina might develop. La Nina can mean drier conditions for Colorado.

    In-stream flow rights offer alternative to federal water claims — The Pine River Times

    Vallecito Lake Weminuch Wilderness via
    Vallecito Lake Weminuch Wilderness via

    From The Pine River Times (Carole McWilliams):

    Four streams in the San Juan National Forest, including Vallecito Creek, are being looked at as relatively non-controversial ways to promote this by acquiring junior in-stream flow rights to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which administers the in-stream flow program within the prior appropriation system.

    The section of Vallecito Creek being discussed runs 17.7 miles from a high-elevation cirque lake south to the Forest Service boundary above Vallecito reservoir. The other creeks are Himes Creek in Mineral County, Little Sand Creek in Hinsdale County, and Rio Lado Creek, a tributary to the Dolores River.

    The La Plata County Commissioners got an update on this on Sept. 13. The federal claims have been seen over the years as a threat to the state’s prior appropriation system and state administration of water rights – especially claims on lower elevation rivers and streams that could threaten upstream private or municipal water rights.

    “We’ve come close to resolving this in District 7 (Water Court), but not quite,” said Bruce Whitehead, director of the Southwest Water Conservation District. “Right now it’s still an active case. Within the last year or two, the Forest Service and state started having discussions… The Forest Service was interested in how in-stream flow could help resolve the reserve rights. We looked at the streams the Forest Service was interested in. If we’re successful, it could be a great tool to resolve these outstanding cases without being litigated.”

    He continued, “We’re looking for certainty, that they are state appropriated rights. We don’t want to expand the state in-stream flow program. We’re kind of in a wait-and-see mode.”

    Forest Service staffer Anthony Madrid said, “In the 1990s, there was a big effort to work out a settlement. That stalled out. This past year, we’ve put more effort into it. We want free-flowing streams to support aquatic and riparian values. We’re really excited to engage in this new process.”

    Jeff Baessler, director of the CWCB’s in-stream flow program, told commissioners that back in 1973, in-stream flow was not considered a beneficial use in state water law. State legislators passed SB 97 that year to make it a beneficial use and gave the CWCB authority to acquire those rights to ensure reasonable preservation of the natural environment and provide regulatory certainty for current water users under prior appropriation…

    “Today I’m only talking about new appropriations. This new right probably would be January 2017,” Baessler said.

    Whitehead added that the proposed in-stream right on Vallecito Creek won’t change anything. “It preserves the status quo,” he said.

    The Forest Service came to CWCB in January this year with its recommendations for the four streams, Baessler said. He said before the nine member CWCB can make an in-stream flow recommendation, there has to be a determination that a natural environment exists, that there’s an “indicator species” to be protected, that the natural environment can be preserved with the amount of water available for appropriation, and that there won’t be injury to senior water rights.

    The in-stream right will be “the minimum amount necessary” to serve the purpose, he said. “We have to quantify that amount. Sometimes people say, ‘I’ve seen this stream dry, so that’s the minimum.’ The minimum is the amount necessary to preserve the natural environment, such as the fishery. We look at median flow over time.”

    Those studies are now happening on the proposed section of Vallecito Creek. Madrid said, “If the weather holds, we should have the data collection by the end of the month.”

    Whitehead said that if CWCB supports a recommendation, it directs staff to file for the in-stream right in Water Court. Those can be contested. “At this point, we’re supportive of the whole process. Everyone is waiting to see the data, to make sure it’s reasonable,” he said. “Technically we’re still in litigation (with the Forest Service). We need to see where everything goes.”

    Baessler acknowledged, “The in-stream flow program is controversial. There’s an impact we can have to other users, especially lower on the river. When senior users file for a change of use or something, we’ll file a statement of opposition if we think there’ll be harm to the status quo. That’s where it gets controversial.”

    These four streams are high elevation on Forest Service land, he said. He doesn’t think they’ll be contested.

    Whitehead added, “There are many counties that have contested in-stream flow because of impact on future growth. These shouldn’t be.” And the hope is they can become a model to resolve the federal reserved rights claims from 1973 within the state appropriation system, he said. “If they are successful, there may be other streams in the future to use this process. They are in areas that we hope will be the least controversial. This could be the start of what the Forest Service will do in the future.”

    Acting San Juan National Forest Supervisor Russ Bacon said, “On Division 7 (Water Court), we haven’t used this process before. We’d prefer a local solution to a process that involves judges. The next big step is the data. There are still a lot of unknowns… We’re always looking for a better path than reserve water rights.”

    #Colorado Springs Parks department wrestling with the cost to irrigate

    Monument Valley Park photo via
    Monument Valley Park photo via

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

    Colorado Springs’ parks, grass and trees need more water. About $450,000 worth of water. And they need it soon, a parks manager told the Utilities Board on Wednesday.

    Water costs paid to Utilities have escalated, said Kurt Schroeder, park operations and development manager.

    While the Parks Recreation and Cultural Services’ budget was slashed by 80 percent between 2008 and 2010, potable water rates doubled between 2008 and 2012, from $93 to $188 for 1 inch of water on 1 acre, Schroeder said.

    Meanwhile, drought conditions in 2008, 2010 and 2012 brought the city less precipitation than the average in bone-dry Tucson, Ariz.

    So Parks sprang into action, reducing its bluegrass by 10 percent and reducing watering levels by installing irrigation systems with web and smart-phone controls.

    But while Parks is saving 6 acre-feet of water a year, it’s also facing a crunch after this June proved to be the city’s third-warmest on record, followed by the seventh-warmest July on record, Schroeder said.

    “We’ve got an expectation of what citizens want their community to look like,” he said. “We’ve been watering at a deficit for many, many years and only now are beginning to catch up. If we cut back? We would see the turf degrade, and the trees wouldn’t get any better.”

    Utilities Board members empathized. Merv Bennett said some trees have died for lack of water. Some of those were Gen. William Jackson Palmer’s original trees, said fellow board member Jill Gaebler.

    But Utilities has its own challenges, including a push to replace water mains before the city paves streets using Ballot Issue 2C sales tax dollars, noted Chief Financial Officer Bill Cherrier.

    “Historically, over the past three years, park watering hadn’t spent all its money,” said board member Don Knight. “I really appreciate all the hard work Parks has done in conservation. Water usage is very, very weather dependent.”

    He suggested a five- or 10-year plan be crafted so Parks could get extra money when needed to compensate for the years it had leftover water funds. Cherrier said Utilities will work on a plan to present to the City Council, whose members make up the Utilities Board, at its work session Monday.

    “We are bumping up against the time of warm weather,” Schroeder warned, “and the dollars I have could be burned away quickly. I need to get a determination quickly.”