Rio Grande: Special master’s report, “indicates Texas has a strong case against the Land of Enchantment” — Laura Paskus

Elephant Butte Reservoir back in the day nearly full
Elephant Butte Reservoir back in the day nearly full

From NMPoliticalReport (Laura Paskus):

When the special master’s 351-page final report arrived this week, it didn’t vary much from the draft this summer, in which Gregory Grimsal delivered some grim messages to New Mexico.

The exhaustively-researched report details the history of water agreements and disputes along the lower Rio Grande and indicates Texas has a strong case against the Land of Enchantment.

Anticipating that the case would be moving forward, earlier this year New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced a new joint defense strategy with the state’s two water agencies, the Office of the State Engineer and the Interstate Stream Commission.

The Attorney General’s office was unable to accommodate an interview this week about the new strategy, but office spokesman James Hallinan issued an email statement to NM Political Report.

“Attorney General Balderas is committed to seeking the best result for New Mexico in the decades-long water litigation he inherited from his predecessors, and will work with the joint defense team he formed with New Mexico’s Lower Rio Grande water users and the Office of the State Engineer throughout the legal process,” Hallinan said. “Attorney General Balderas knows that water is the lifeblood of New Mexico’s unique economy and culture, and now that the court has ruled on the preliminary filings, he can push forward his targeted, technical, data-driven strategy towards the most favorable resolution for New Mexico.”

NM Political Report repeatedly requested to speak with someone from the Office of the State Engineer, which is responsible for groundwater permits, or the Interstate Stream Commission, the agency authorized under state law to negotiate compact disputes.

None of those phone calls or emails were returned.

According to Balderas’ office, the three state agencies will work together and also enter into joint defense agreements with New Mexico State University, PNM, the New Mexico Pecan Growers Association, Southern Rio Grande Diversified Crop Farmers Association, the City of Las Cruces and Camino Real Regional Utility Authority.

One entity from the state absent from the list is the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, which sits below the dam in New Mexico, but in the legal world of western water, is considered a part of Texas.

‘No man’s land”

In southern New Mexico today, the Elephant Butte Irrigation District delivers water to about 60,000 acres of fields of crops like pecans, chile and onions.

The district covers more than 90,000 acres, but due to a lingering drought, some of those lands are fallow.

“These are family farms, people who are good stewards of the land,” EBID manager Gary Esslinger told NM Political Report. “It’s a different type of atmosphere here compared with large corporate farms in California that are owned by a bank or an insurance company.”

The irrigation district is different in other ways, too.

To know why, it takes understanding the 1938 Rio Grande Compact and how it divvies up the river’s water among Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

Annually, New Mexico’s fair share from Colorado is based on streamgage measurements near the state line.

Sending Texas its water is trickier. That’s because New Mexico delivers that water to a reservoir 90 miles north of the state line.

Built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over 100 years ago, Elephant Butte Dam holds back water for what’s called the Rio Grande Project—water the federal government must deliver to farmers in New Mexico and Texas, downstream cities, and Mexico.

“Farmers and ranchers need more markets, not less” — Gov. Hickenlooper


From The Yuma Pioneer (Marianne Goodland):

The administration’s tough talk on Mexico — including a suggested (and then semi-retracted) 20-percent tariff on Mexican imports, renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the construction of an $8 billion-plus wall — could lead to problems with Mexico that could hurt Colorado agricultural exports, particularly for beef and potatoes, Brown told this reporter. NAFTA is the 23-year old agreement that opened up trade and investment between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

The talk of a looming trade war with Mexico worries Brown, in part, because it’s coming at the same time prices for some of Colorado’s biggest crops — corn and wheat — sit at 30-year lows, and cattle is also going for lower-than-average prices.

“Agriculture won’t work at these prices,” Brown, a registered Republican, said. Hickenlooper appointed Brown, a third-generation Yuma County farmer and small business owner, as commissioner of agriculture two years ago.

If the [President #45] administration were to enact a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports to pay for a border wall, that could trigger Mexican retaliation against U.S. exports, including beef, potatoes and corn from Colorado. These commodities top the list of Colorado exports to Mexico, and potato exports already are restricted to the first 16 miles in Mexico south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We could double potato exports” that restriction, Brown said. He noted that cattle are Colorado’s largest export, representing 70 percent of the state’s agriculture’s economic activity. That includes beef and cattle byproducts, such as skin and hides.

More alarming is [President #45’s] threat to renegotiate NAFTA, Brown said. Roughly half of all food exports from Colorado go to Canada and Mexico, and Mexico is the biggest market for Colorado beef.

“If we rearrange NAFTA, we could lose those export markets,” he warned.

Hickenlooper said Wednesday that [President #45’s] rhetoric around Mexico makes the state’s relationship that country more difficult, given its role as Colorado’s No. 2 export market.

“If we’re going to remove ourselves from NAFTA, we’d better have another trade agreement. Farmers and ranchers need more markets, not less,” Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper pointed out he is headed to Cuba this weekend for his first visit, and he hopes it could be a new market for Colorado ag with its 10 million residents.

“The best solution for low commodity prices is more markets,” he said.

What a renegotiation with NAFTA could mean: Mexico imported more than $1 billion in Colorado products in 2015, including agricultural products, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Three of Colorado’s top six exports are agricultural — fresh and frozen beef, and cattle hides and skins — which brought in more than $700 million to the state in 2015. And the three top cattle counties in Colorado are on the Eastern Plains: Logan, Morgan and Kit Carson, all with at least 150,000 head in each county.

Colorado beef exports were among the losers last week when the president signed an executive order to take the United States out of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

The TPP had been in the works since November 2009 and proposed to link the United States and 11 mostly Asian-Pacific nations, such as Japan and Australia, as trading partners. Also included were Mexico and Canada, who were partnered with the United States through NAFTA.

While it was not at all clear that TPP would have gotten through Congress, Colorado beef exports could have benefitted from the deal, Brown said. The hope was that tariffs on beef exports to TPP nations would drop from the current 40 percent to around nine or 10 percent, which would substantially lower the price of those exports, making U.S. beef more competitive.

A looming export battle with Mexico could not come at a worse time for Colorado agriculture. For years, agriculture was second only to manufacturing as the state’s top economic driver. At its peak in 2011, farming, ranching and related activities brought in $1.8 billion to the state’s economy. And while agriculture still employs about the same number of people — 100,000 — as it did 15 years ago, agriculture’s contribution to the Colorado economy has dropped sharply, although it remains in the top five of Colorado industries. Agricultural exports in 2017 are expected to be less than $400 million, according to the 2017 Colorado Business Economic Outlook, produced by the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business.

Working in the state’s favor: We’re not in a drought and “we had a great wheat crop this summer,” Brown said. [ed. The Eastern Plains are in drought.]

But it goes downhill from there.

Prices for beef, corn and wheat have plummeted. These commodities are at 1986-price levels, but with 2017 production costs, Brown said.

Low prices mean it costs farmers more to produce those crops than can be made from selling them. Some of the crops also had record yields in 2016, but that’s not as good as it might sound. Lower demand for corn-based ethanol, partly because vehicles are more fuel-efficient, means the corn supply outstrips the demand.

It’s causing some farmers to look for other revenue sources, such as selling or leasing their water rights until market prices recover. In LaSalle, Colorado, for example, Chuck and Ronibell Sylvester sold water rights to 110 acres on their farm to the city of Aurora in December, keeping just a few acres for grazing.

The outlook for livestock, especially Colorado’s cattle industry, isn’t any better. The report said cattle prices reached a high watermark in 2014 at around $148 per hundred pounds, but prices have dropped 21 percent since then to about $123 per hundred pounds. A steer sells at around 400 to 500 pounds.

Add to falling prices a stronger U.S. dollar against foreign currencies, which is driving up the cost of Colorado agricultural exports in overseas markets, Brown said.

Global warming hampers post-fire forest regrowth in Colorado

Summit County Citizens Voice

‘We are seeing the initiation of a retreat of forests to higher elevations’

A June, 2011 wildfire in Keystone Gulch burned within a few hundred feet of vacation homes and full-time residences at the Colorado resort. A June, 2011 wildfire in Keystone Gulch burned within a few hundred feet of vacation homes and full-time residences at the Colorado resort. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Global warming is likely one of the main factors that’s preventing some Colorado forests from regenerating after wildfires.

When they started studying eight wildfire sites that burned across 162,000 acres of low-elevation forests along the Front Range, University of Colorado Boulder researchers said they expected to see young trees popping up all over the place, but that’s not what they found.

There were no seedlings at all in 59 percent of the study plots and 83 percent showed a very low density of seedlings. Future warming and associated drought may hinder significant further recovery, the researchers concluded. Only 2 to 38 percent of plots surveyed, depending on the fire…

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@CUBoulder: Newly engineered material can cool roofs, structures with zero energy consumption


Here’s the release from the University of Colorado at Boulder:

A team of University of Colorado Boulder engineers has developed a scalable manufactured metamaterial — an engineered material with extraordinary properties not found in nature — to act as a kind of air conditioning system for structures. It has the ability to cool objects even under direct sunlight with zero energy and water consumption.

When applied to a surface, the metamaterial film cools the object underneath by efficiently reflecting incoming solar energy back into space while simultaneously allowing the surface to shed its own heat in the form of infrared thermal radiation.

The new material, which is described today in the journal Science, could provide an eco-friendly means of supplementary cooling for thermoelectric power plants, which currently require large amounts of water and electricity to maintain the operating temperatures of their machinery.

The researchers’ glass-polymer hybrid material measures just 50 micrometers thick — slightly thicker than the aluminum foil found in a kitchen — and can be manufactured economically on rolls, making it a potentially viable large-scale technology for both residential and commercial applications.

“We feel that this low-cost manufacturing process will be transformative for real-world applications of this radiative cooling technology,” said Xiaobo Yin, co-director of the research and an assistant professor who holds dual appointments in CU Boulder’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Materials Science and Engineering Program. Yin received DARPA’s Young Faculty Award in 2015.

The material takes advantage of passive radiative cooling, the process by which objects naturally shed heat in the form of infrared radiation, without consuming energy. Thermal radiation provides some natural nighttime cooling and is used for residential cooling in some areas, but daytime cooling has historically been more of a challenge. For a structure exposed to sunlight, even a small amount of directly-absorbed solar energy is enough to negate passive radiation.

The challenge for the CU Boulder researchers, then, was to create a material that could provide a one-two punch: reflect any incoming solar rays back into the atmosphere while still providing a means of escape for infrared radiation. To solve this, the researchers embedded visibly-scattering but infrared-radiant glass microspheres into a polymer film. They then added a thin silver coating underneath in order to achieve maximum spectral reflectance.

“Both the glass-polymer metamaterial formation and the silver coating are manufactured at scale on roll-to-roll processes,” added Ronggui Yang, also a professor of mechanical engineering and a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

“Just 10 to 20 square meters of this material on the rooftop could nicely cool down a single-family house in summer,” said Gang Tan, an associate professor in the University of Wyoming’s Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and a co-author of the paper.

In addition to being useful for cooling of buildings and power plants, the material could also help improve the efficiency and lifetime of solar panels. In direct sunlight, panels can overheat to temperatures that hamper their ability to convert solar rays into electricity.

“Just by applying this material to the surface of a solar panel, we can cool the panel and recover an additional one to two percent of solar efficiency,” said Yin. “That makes a big difference at scale.”

The engineers have applied for a patent for the technology and are working with CU Boulder’s Technology Transfer Office to explore potential commercial applications. They plan to create a 200-square-meter “cooling farm” prototype in Boulder in 2017.

The invention is the result of a $3 million grant awarded in 2015 to Yang, Yin and Tang by the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

“The key advantage of this technology is that it works 24/7 with no electricity or water usage,” said Yang “We’re excited about the opportunity to explore potential uses in the power industry, aerospace, agriculture and more.”

Co-authors of the new research include Yao Zhai, Yaoguang Ma and Dongliang Zhao of CU Boulder’s Department of Mechanical Engineering; Sabrina David of CU’s Materials Science and Engineering Program; and Runnan Lou of the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences.

What she really wants for Valentine’s Day – News on TAP

Forget diamonds and chocolate. We have something better in mind.

Source: What she really wants for Valentine’s Day – News on TAP

SNOWPACK IN THE ROCKIES: Hey, it’s not ALL about California!

#ColoradoRiver #COriver

Arizona Water News

It’s still early, but much of Arizona’s watershed, as well as the western face of the Rockies, is experiencing higher-than-normal precipitation, too


Nothing against California, you understand. We’re all delighted to hear about this winter’s bounty of rain and snow, especially as it piles high in the Sierra Nevada.

Love all those “atmospheric rivers.”

It is great to hear of expert-level debates over whether the Golden State’s drought designations should be eased — or even lifted entirely — especially in the north of the state.

There are parts of the mountains immediately east of Sacramento and San Francisco that have experienced well over 200 percent of the official average precipitation. As they say in southern Cal: Whoa!

But, well… it’s not all about California, you know.

According to data compiled and analyzed by the National Water and Climate Center, precipitation thus far in the “water year” – that…

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