Denver falls well below the national average but faces the same infrastructure costs that drive up bills nationwide.
One brings trains through the Rockies. The other has been delivering much-needed water for 80 years.
Still strong and sturdy, Denver Water’s second-largest reservoir turns 85 in 2017.
Normally, we here at Water Resources prefer to stay off the topic of “weather” and, instead, stick to longer-term climate-related conditions, particularly drought.
The 2016-2017 “water year” — officially October 2016 to September 2017 — isn’t letting us do that. It’s just been too darned wet out there to avoid observing that current weather conditions are greatly impacting long-term climate conditions.
Two big, unavoidable weather stories are happening right now: The “biggest storm of the winter” that is now hitting southern California, and the more northerly disturbance following it that will push a lot of water where none is needed right now, the area of the Oroville Dam.
While the extremely wet Western winter has driven drought off the map in much of northern California, SoCal has been much drier. The sole remaining sliver of “extreme drought” in the Golden State, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, is in the…
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The negotiations to find an equitable way to stabilize the Colorado River system and, specifically, Lake Mead have been underway for nearly four years now.
In some respects, the parties at the table – including representatives of California, Nevada, the federal government and Arizona – largely have found common ground, in principle.
In other respects — notably achieving agreement among the many stakeholders with longstanding, legal claims to water from the Colorado system, as well as the big service providers — a resolution is far less clear.
Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, sat down recently to discuss the current status of the much-debated “Drought Contingency Plan” to stabilize Lake Mead, which continues dropping toward critical water levels each year, despite the occasional wet winter, such as this current one.
He also discussed – and defined – the plan that has become known as “DCP Plus”…
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Snowex is hoping to determine how to measure the effect of the tree canopy on snowpack, snow depth, and snow density, all from space. This is the first year for SnowEx and is an intense data collection phase. An airplane is used as a proxy for satellite observations during this phase which also includes a ground effort on Grand Mesa (forest canopy site) and in the Senator Beck Basin (high altitude alpine site).
The team will spend next year examining the data and hoping to model a combination of sensors (multi-sensor approach) that correlates with the ground data sites. Edward Kim (NASA) called this, “ground-truthing.”
Years 3, 4, and 5 are lined-out for more data collection.
The other two speakers, Karl Wetlaufer (NRCS), and Frank McCormick (USFS), spoke about current snowpack estimation methods, the importance of estimation of the tree canopy effect, and the potential benefits of SnowEx.
Kim listed the benefits:
1. Water is critical to society — the project aims to measure the water in the snowpack to estimate runoff.
2. Forecast the potential for snowmelt floods — (9 of the most devastating floods in US history were snowmelt driven). Forecast drought.
3. For national security reasons it is important to know who has snow, and therefore water supply.
4. Forecast changes in climate.
Snow surveys have always been a cooperative effort in the water community, he explained, citing participation by ditch companies, the NRCS, municipal providers, and others. Federal funding fired up in 1934.
Rani Gran (NASA) said that the science was at the frontier of snow science.
Frank McComick said that the USFS has been the lead agency concerned with snow water equivalent for over a century. In the West, he said, 80% of water supply comes from snowmelt from forested mountain areas.
He talked about the difficult and exacting work going on by the 100 or so ground folks including digging snow pits, from the surface to bare ground, with hand tools. At times the temperatures are well below zero. He said work in the Senator Beck basin was suspended earlier this week due to 60mph winds and white-out conditions, even though it was not snowing at the time. The field crews have been working since February 6th and plan to end the field work on the 20th.
I really liked talking to the Navy crew.
The survey requires low-level flying over the mountains. One of the pilots talked about the Rockies and how she was psyched at the chance to catch some of the views.
The other pilot was enthusiastic about his role on the team, helping the scientists aboard the aircraft accomplish their goals.
Oroville, the aerospace engineering program at CU, water rights, Colorado’s position as a the “Headwaters State”, the flood of September 2013, and how mountains concentrate streamflow, all came up in my conversations with the team members.
Thanks to Rani for organizing the event.
Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of photos from the event.