On Thursday Brad Udall briefed attendees about the current state of the earth’s warming climate. The planet is warming and that is causing the increase in uncertainty about water supplies. The bottom line, regarding humanity’s most important resource, water, is — stationarity (the past predicts the future) is dead.
He mentioned that in December he will be attending a meeting in California with 25,000 other scientists. He said, “I don’t know one scientist that thinks Climate Change is a hoax.”.
Of course there will still be variability in climate, and of course we had floods and droughts in recorded and paleo-history, but, the physics illustrated above is sound and policy should take it into account.
Udall detailed some of the extreme climate events that happened just this year. The April Texas and August Louisiana floods:
Temperatures above normal, May 4, 2016:
The California snowpack in 2014-2015. Despite a decent amount of precipitation the nighttime low temperatures were not cold enough to store the snow for spring. (California got through there drought, so far, by drawing on the Colorado River and pumping more groundwater):
Udall then explained the ramifications of large-scale ice loss in Antarctica. Sea level rise puts millions around the world at risk and will have devastating effects on the coastal economies around the world:
Brad explained the recently published work from Science Magazine predicting mega-droughts in the Southwestern U.S. and what that might mean for the economy and environment. Most of the water suppliers in Colorado depend on Mountain snowpack and healthy forests to store that snowpack for the runoff season. We need to be planning now for earlier runoff to ensure supplies. Most Coloradans depend on it for municipal, agricultural, and industrial supplies. Healthy watersheds have to be a priority:
Brad’s message was not all gloom and doom. “How do we solve climate change?” he asked, rhetorically. “Electrify everything,” he answered, along with, “We need more enforcement of the Clean Air Act.”
Renewable energy is already replacing fossil fuels for electrical generation due to cost savings and EPA regulation:
Renewable energy is cheaper that fossil fuels despite the fact that the fossil fuel companies pay no cost for their air pollution:
There is no “Planet B” and economics and research, along with the amazing amount of energy bestowed on the planet by the Sun, can replace fossil fuels for electric generation if the governments will just exhibit the political will.
The next focus needs to be on the transportation sector since it has now overtaken the electrical generation sector as the biggest emitter of CO2:
And, there is good news there:
Udall told everyone that if they drove their vehicle to the meeting that each one of us release, “around a 100 pounds of carbon,” into the atmosphere. It is only because the atmosphere is so massive in scale that those emissions do not cause a measurable rise in atmospheric GHGs.
Here is the path to renewables:
And the world’s political will seems to be shifting in a positive direction. Last December virtually every country on Earth signed on the Paris climate agreement:
President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” is crucial if the U.S. is to keep its commitment:
“We have the technology to solve this problem but enormous forces are aligned against us,” he said.
Statement by Ryan Cooper (The Week):
After Udall’s presentation forum speakers focused on Colorado and Climate Change.
Keith Paustian (CSU) focused on agricultural GHG emissions:
Laurna Kaatz (Denver Water) talked about Denver Water’s research on Climate Change and the utility’s new commitment to reduce their impact, “Something very new — we are adding mitigation to the conversation — we don’t want to add to the problem,” she said.
Her presentation detailed Denver Water’s plans in light of the 5 stages of Climate Change grief:
And Denver Water’s lessons learned:
Julie Traylor (Wright Water Engineers) closed out the Climate Change session with information about what is known about the current and future effects of warming on Colorado:
Projected seasonal warming 2035-2064:
Just in case you’re thinking the the South Platte Forum was just about Climate Change this year I’ll go back to other topics presented.
Groundwater, ASR, and quality were at the forefront on Wednesday morning.
Rhett Everett (USGS) detailed a study of declining levels in the Denver Basin Aquifer from which Douglas County uses 184 MGAL a day from some 9, 150 domestic wells. They’ve determined that water levels are not declining in all wells.
Rick McCloud talked about Centennial Water and Sanitation’s efforts at aquifer storage and recovery with junior surface water rights from the South Platte River watershed. They inject water treated to drinking water standards (minus disinfection chemicals) as a hedge against drought and to reduce operating costs from pumping in times of need.
According to Bob Peters, Denver Water has embarked on a project to evaluate the Denver Basin under the city for ASR.
John Stulp (Govenor Hickenlooper’s Office) spoke about the implementation of HB12-1278 (South Platte groundwater study). He said that the funding for the bill improved the groundwater monitoring system and proved up the concept of de-watering areas of high groundwater near La Salle.
Acid mine drainage is a top water quality problem for Colorado. “You’re never going to be able to stop acid mine drainage”…it will take…”continual cleanup that will never go away,” according to Bob Runkel (USGS):
In addition, Superfund was not designed for mining cleanups, according to Runkel.
Mining cleanup is a focus of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation according to Dave Holm. He took attendees on a tour of the efforts in the North Empire Creek watershed.
Mining cleanups have been a focus of the Coalition for Upper South Platte since 2009 according to Carol Ekarius. Challenges include mixed ownership of the land (federal and private) and the unsuitability of some areas due to high natural background mineralization in some areas making them unsuitable for mitigation.
The floods of September 2013 opened up an opportunity to build fish friendly structures on the the affected rivers, according to Boyd Wright (Colorado Parks and Wildlife). Folks stepped back to see if they could improve the habitat along with the rebuilding effort. Of course the timing and availability of funding was a primary impediment:
The flood recovery efforts focused efforts on stream resiliency, according to Chris Sturm (CWCB):
There was a lot more presented at the forum. The organizers provided ample time for networking between attendees and presenters. If you missed it make sure to attend next year. I think it would be great to see more attendees from the other Colorado basins to get details about the challenges and successes the South Platte Basin.
The forum concluded with a presentation about the history of Colorado Water law from Greg Hobbs. He talked about the foresight of folks in the basin and how they developed the “Colorado Doctrine” which continues to evolve and how they set the groundwork for the most active water market in the U.S.
Here’s the link to the Twitter posts about the forum.