NREL’s new chief talks about the path to a carbon-neutral future — Denver Business Journal

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

“We need to innovate and do research on all different forms of energy,” [Martin Keller] said. “It would be a mistake to write off any — as long as the energy is carbon neutral. That’s the biggest thing, [because] burning fossil fuels is changing the environment.”

Keller took the reins at NREL, part of the network of laboratories run by the U.S. Department of Energy, at the end of November 2015. He hails from a sister DOE facility in Tennessee, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he served as the associate laboratory director for energy and environmental sciences.

He succeeds Dan Arvizu, who announced plans in March 2015 to retire from the lab after more than 10 years as its director.

Denver: Intermountain West DEWS Front Range #Drought Outlook & Stakeholder Meeting, October 25

Drought outlook through December 31, 2016 via the Climate Prediction Center.
Drought outlook through December 31, 2016 via the Climate Prediction Center.

Click here for all the inside skinny and to register.

The latest issue of “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses from the ERWC

Students pulling samples
Students pulling samples

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

Are you a teacher in Eagle County who would like to incorporate place-based, hands-on learning with a focus on our local watershed into your curriculum?

Through our Watershed Ed program, we offer individualized, standards-correlated lessons for grades K-12. Email with inquires.

Stay tuned for our next Watershed Wednesday featuring Seth and Jessica Mason of the US Men’s and Women’s Whitewater Raft Teams! They will share photos and talk about their experiences paddling rivers all over the world, and how different cultures interact with water! Details to come.

Michigan Ditch tunnel hits daylight

Boring machine photo via City of Fort Collins.
Boring machine photo via City of Fort Collins.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The rotating cutting wheel of a custom-built tunnel boring machine began to slowly emerge from a mountainside around 5 a.m., said Owen Randall, chief engineer with Fort Collins Utilities.

The breakthrough was an exciting moment for crews that have been working on the 760-foot-long tunnel near Cameron Pass since June…

Crews still have four to six weeks of work to wrap up the project, which will carry Michigan Ditch and its valuable water to city-owned Joe Wright Reservoir.

Dismantling and removing a tunnel boring machine from the mountain will take three to four days. Hydraulic and electronic equipment used to operate the machine will be stripped from the tunnel before a 60-inch diameter pipe is installed to carry the water.

Weather could be a challenge as crews hustle to wrap up the project before heavy snowfall comes to the area. A few inches of snow fell last weekend, Randall said, but has since melted away…

Crews have been working on the project 24 hours a day since mid-September to make up for delays caused by equipment problems and the challenge of cutting through exceptionally hard rock.

Michigan Ditch provides the city with 2,000 to 3,000 acre-feet of raw water a year. The water is used to meet return flow obligations on the Poudre River mandated through various water-exchange agreements.

The market value of water supplied through the Michigan Ditch-Joe Wright Reservoir system is about $180 million, according to the city.

The tunnel project is in response to a slow-moving landslide that has been affecting the ditch for several years. Damage was especially severe in 2015.

City officials decided to protect the piped ditch by sending it through bedrock that the slide can’t affect. The project is expected to cost Fort Collins Utilities about $8.5 million.

For more information on the project, see

Joe Wright Reservoir (Courtesy of Dick Stenzel at the Applegate Group) and the City of Fort Collins.
Joe Wright Reservoir (Courtesy of Dick Stenzel at the Applegate Group) and the City of Fort Collins.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 700 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

Green Mountain Dam via the Bureau of Reclamation
Green Mountain Dam via the Bureau of Reclamation

From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Green Mountain Reservoir continues to release 700 cfs to the Blue River to meet water delivery obligations. It is expected to continue for at least the next couple of weeks. Green Mountain Reservoir release includes storage water to support the Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, contract obligations and replacement water for the Colorado River Collection System.

Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin Water Forum, November 2-3 — Hutchins Water Center #COriver


Click here for all the inside skinny and for registration information.

Happy New Water Year, #ColoradoRiver Basin! Now get to work — John Fleck #COriver

Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands via USBR
Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands via USBR

From Inkstain (John Fleck):

It is worth noting some good news – despite a mediocre runoff year at 88 percent of average, storage in the basin’s two huge reservoirs, Mead and Powell, is almost exactly the same as it was last year at this time. (source pdf)

Lake Powell ended September with a surface elevation of 3,611 feet above sea level, five feet above last year. Lake Mead ended at 1,075, three feet below last year.

But it’s taken a lot of institutional duct tape to hold things together at those levels, and duct tape is not sustainable.

The current rules for allocating Colorado River water aren’t working. They allow farms and cities in Arizona, Nevada, California, Baja, and Sonora to take out more water than flows into the reservoir each year. Over short time scales in a variable system, that might make sense. The point of a big reservoir is to store water in wet years for use in dry years. But if there’s an imbalance in the long run, if we keep taking out more year after year, eventually we’re screwed unless the rules adjust as the reservoir drops.

Our current rules don’t.

I had a great pair of conversations over the last week with Ian James at the Desert Sun, who’s been doing some really thoughtful work about water use in the West (and around the world). He was kind enough to transcribe them to share with his readers some of my take on the Colorado River and why, despite its troubles, I am optimistic. This bit stuck out, when Ian asked about my assertion that “we need new rules” to govern the allocation of Colorado River water:

Clearly the rules are going to be that everybody, all of the three states in the Lower Basin, are going to be taking less water out of Lake Mead as Lake Mead drops. But how much less and how you allocate the details of those shortages, those have to emerge from the negotiations among California and Arizona and Nevada and the federal government and Mexico, and that’s the really important thing that I learned about how these negotiating processes work.

This seems like a no brainer – take less water out of Lake Mead! – but the details are hard. As I’ve been arguing over and over again in the interviews I’ve been doing to accompany the release of my book, communities in the West have shown repeated success in using less water when they have to. But no one wants to volunteer to be the one to use less, let those other people over there do it.

The “drought contingency plan” now under negotiation appears to have a good shot at fixing this problem.