2017 #coleg: SB17-036, on to conference committee

Groundwater movement via the USGS

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Sens. Ray Scott and Don Coram wanted to simply accept a change to their groundwater appeals bill Wednesday, but the rest of the Senate wouldn’t let them.

The two Republicans from Grand Junction and Montrose, respectively, told the Senate that a change the House made to their measure, SB36, was a minor one.

But Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and others in the Colorado Senate said it weakened it too much.

The bill was designed to prevent moneyed interests, such as developers, from retrying groundwater rights cases that have been determined by the Colorado Groundwater Commission.

Under current law, appeals from that commission to district courts can include evidence not presented to the commission, essentially retrying the cases.

The House altered it to allow that to happen only if the district judge determines that evidence was wrongly excluded or new evidence was discovered.

“What this (bill) now does is, it takes and allows any evidence that may not have been discovered,” Sonnenberg said. “(But) no discovery can fall under that category and can be used in an appeal, essentially creating a scenario where (water) speculators can then lawyer up, engineer up, as we were trying to address in this bill.”

On a 24-10 vote, the Senate rejected Coram’s and Scott’s request to accept the change, forcing them to send the bill to a special conference committee made up of three senators and three legislators from the House to work out that issue.

@ClimateReality: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power #BeInconvenient #ActOnClimate

The premier is July 28, 2017.

I will be speaking about the climate crisis on Monday, April 3, 2017, in Thornton. Click here for the details.

@Utah.gov: Rare Historical Photos of San Juan County (and Montezuma County, CO) Now Available Digitally

Golconda Placer Mine, The Afton Watkins Gardner Photograph Collection, ca. 1920s, Date 1893 via Utah.gov.

Click here to go to the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts website to check out the photos.

Why can’t I use the water in my own backyard? – News on TAP

Summit County eighth-graders are learning about water management — and asking the best questions.

Source: Why can’t I use the water in my own backyard? – News on TAP

A sneak peek at rain barrels of the future – News on TAP

Industrial design students think beyond convention to improve how customers collect the water in their own yards.

Source: A sneak peek at rain barrels of the future – News on TAP

Cutting down on problematic pipes – News on TAP

Denver Water’s five-year capital plan provides $76 million to repair and replace water mains.

Source: Cutting down on problematic pipes – News on TAP

Scientists Are Poised to Start a New Movement — @blkahn #marchforscience #ActOnClimate

Photo credit Dave Moskovitz.

Please consider attending my presentation “Climate Change is Water Change: Colorado Update” Monday night in Thornton. Click here for the inside skinny.

From Climate Central (Brian Kahn):

Raised fists, tricorn hats, banners proclaiming “we are the 99 percent” and Gadsden flags are among the countless symbols and slogans that have pervaded social movements in recent years.

They’re images and words that rattle around the brain and have the power to affect serious change — or be relegated to the footnotes of history.

Donald Trump’s election has spawned a new series of burgeoning movements. That includes one where lab coats and chants of “science, not silence” are the new Revolutionary War-era garb and cries of “don’t tread on me.”

The current political climate has spurred a growing cadre of scientists to emerge from their labs, offices and fieldwork sites to contest an administration that’s openly hostile to scientific inquiry — particularly when it comes to climate change — and coined the term “alternative facts.”

“We’ve tried to let our data do the talking for us and that has failed miserably,” Kim Cobb, a coral researcher at Georgia Tech, said.

Scientists staged a thousand-strong rally in Boston during the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in late February. Much bigger protests are afoot with the March for Science and its 190 satellite marches planned for April 22. Scientists are also organizing support groups and many have said they are considering running for public office.

#Snowpack news: Good snowfall forecast

From The Longmont Times-Call (Charlie Brennan):

Coming in just under the wire, Boulder County could see its first measurable snow for the month of March on its last day. But maybe not.

March is typically the snowiest month of the year in the Boulder area, but snow has been a no-show this month, which has been far drier and more mild than average.

It’s going to change as the final hours of the month tick down, with up to 8 inches of snow possible in the area through Saturday.

A Pacific storm system already affecting the Great Basin and heading into the Four Corners region will be making its presence felt along the Front Range early Friday morning with a chance of showers developing after midnight.

The chance of rain increases to 70 percent during the day Friday, with the day’s high topping out around 44 degrees.

After rush hour Friday evening, the rain should be mixed with snow, and changing entirely to snow by the early morning hours, with Friday’s overnight low to be 30 degrees.

In his weather blog, Boulder meteorologist Matt Kelsch said “the changeover to snow in lower elevations is likely to occur around the time of the most steady and heavy precipitation late Friday afternoon and evening. A small shift by a few hours can have a big impact on snow amounts.”

All of eastern Colorado should get significant precipitation, Kelsch said, although a potential shift in the storm’s heaviest impact toward the south of Colorado Springs — and the timing of such a shift — could affect the outcome, in terms of how much falls and where.

The snow will make a bigger impact above 7,500 feet, where 10 to 20 inches could fall, with some portions of the Front Range seeing more than 2 feet.

In Boulder County, new snow accumulation of 4 to 8 wet and slushy inches is possible, but it is uncertain how much of that will be credited to March, and how much will fall after record keepers have flipped the calendar to April Fools’ Day.

That, Kelsch said, is because for official record-keeping purposes, the books will be closed on March at 6 p.m. Friday. Snow that falls at 6:01 p.m. Friday or later will be credited to April’s totals…

It is rare, but not unheard of, for Boulder to see no measurable snow in March. Kelsch said Boulder was shut out for measurable March snow most recently in 2012. With only a trace amount of rain that month, it remains Boulder’s most arid March on record.

#ColoradoRiver: Navajo Nation negotiated settlement bill introduced #COriver

Navajo Reservation map via NavajoApparel.com

From The Deseret News (Jason Romboy):

After 13 years of talks, a federal negotiations team review and the Navajo Nation Council’s approval, the state and tribe agreed to resolve the water rights claims through a negotiated settlement rather than the courts.

The bill authorizes the federal government to spend up to $198.3 million for Navajo water projects, including wells, pipelines and water treatment plants. Utah would pitch in $8 million. In exchange, the legislation would limit the legal exposure and litigation costs of the federal government and the state…

Navajo Nation Speaker of the House Lorenzo Bates said the legislation is a great step forward in bringing safe, clean drinking water to Utah Navajo communities.

The settlement is a win-win for the nation and the state, said Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye…

The settlement would give the tribe 81,500 acre-feet annually of Utah’s unused share of water. The Navajo Nation could draw the water from aquifers, as well as the San Juan River and its tributaries. It also could divert water from Lake Powell, though it has no plans to do so, the Associated Press reported last year.

The Navajo communities in Utah currently use only a fraction of the water allocated in the settlement. But the agreement would allow for economic development and leasing of water to entities off the reservation, and the tribe wouldn’t lose any water it did not put to use, according to the settlement…

Gov. Gary Herbert said the agreement did not happen overnight.

“This deliberative process has led to a fair and equitable agreement which will benefit Utah, the Navajo Nation, the federal government and all water users in the Colorado River Basin alike,” Herbert said in a statement.

2017 #coleg: Funds for invasive species boat inspections diverted by the Colorado Supreme Court

Harvey Gap Reservoir via the Applegate Group.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

A Colorado Supreme Court ruling last year eliminated severance tax revenues for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s aquatic nuisance species program, forcing the end of inspections at some sites, CPW says.

As a result, CPW has agreed to close Harvey Gap Reservoir northwest of Silt to watercraft normally requiring such an inspection, due to the agency’s inability to conduct inspections there for species such as invasive zebra and quagga mussels. Hand-launched vessels exempt from the inspections still will be allowed there, including rafts, kayaks, belly boats, float and inner tubes, canoes, windsurfer boards, paddle boards and sailboards.

Hand-launched boats with electric motors will be allowed there, but gas- or diesel-powered engines will be prohibited because they are more at risk of hosting invasive species. The boat ramp will remain closed and all boats must be carried from parking lots or roads.

Meanwhile, the Cortez Journal reports that Totten and Narraguinnep reservoirs in southwest Colorado will be closed to all boating because of concerns among authorities responsible for those sites about possible infestation due to a lack of inspections.

The funding situation also helped prompt CPW this year to pass new regulations subjecting all watercraft, including those exempt from inspection requirements, to a “clean, drain and dry” requirement between each launch. The agency also requires boat operators to pull water drain plugs and remove plants from boats and other equipment upon leaving the water and before leaving the parking area…

CPW says it has coordinated a successful mandatory statewide inspection and decontamination program since 2008, preventing an infestation in the state. The agency says that’s of not just statewide but national importance, because the other primary way mussels can spread is by downstream travel.

The agency says oil and gas severance tax revenues are a primary source of money for the aquatic nuisance species program, but those revenues were eliminated by last year’s court ruling.

In that ruling, the state’s high court overturned the Colorado Court of Appeals and sided with BP America Production Co., finding that a company’s cost of capital is a proper severance tax deduction when claiming deduction costs associated with natural gas transportation and processing.

The decision affected not only BP but other energy producers that have been able to seek refunds on tax payments, reportedly resulting in an impact of tens of millions of dollars to the state. It also means they’re able to pay less in taxes going forward.

CPW’s efforts to shore up its aquatic nuisance species program may be in for some help soon. On Thursday the state Senate unanimously gave final approval to Senate Bill 259, which among other actions would provide $2.45 million to the agency’s aquatic nuisance species fund on the parks and outdoor recreation side, and another $1.2 million to the program’s fund on the wildlife side.

The measure still awaits action in the House, where state Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, is its main sponsor.

Earlier this year, CPW also suggested to lawmakers that an aquatic nuisance species fee be assessed on boats, at an amount of $15 for nonmotorized boats, $25 for motorized boats for Colorado residents, and $50 for out-of-state motorized boats.

Meanwhile, CPW said in its release that it “has allocated internal funds and worked with a broad partnership group to raise funds for the 2017 boating season and find sustainable funding solutions.”

It says it has sought help from partners including municipal water providers, irrigation and water districts, federal and state agencies and counties that would share the risk if infestation occurred.

Those partners have provided nearly $1 million in assistance so far.

However, the existing funding shortfall means inspections may be reduced at some stations, and a few lower-risk waters that previously had inspections won’t have stations in operation this year unless the state and its partners are able to find new funding.

Harvey Gap Reservoir is owned by Farmers Irrigation Co. and the Silt Water Conservancy District operates and maintains the reservoir and associated irrigation water delivery infrastructure. CPW leases the reservoir surface and manages its fishery as well as area trails and day-use areas.

CPW restricted boat use at the reservoir at the request of the water district…

Local CPW spokesman Mike Porras said the funding situation remains fluid. He said in northeast Colorado some bodies of water were able to keep inspection stations after local water districts agreed to fund them for the short term. Porras recommends that before trying to go boating at any specific location, people call that location or check the agency’s website, http://www.cpw.state.co.us, to see what restrictions may apply.

Here’s a report about Vallecito Reservoir from Carole McWilliams writing in The Pine River Times. Here’s an excerpt:

Boating access at Vallecito and other Colorado lakes might be threatened by state budget issues.

Jim Schank from the Vallecito Sporting and Conservation Association told the Times, “There’s no money for zebra mussel inspections on lakes in the area.”

The Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife has been in charge of inspections to prevent introduction of invasive zebra and quagga mussels into clean lakes. People bring boats that have been in infested water, such as Lake Powell, and the mussels can reproduce prolifically and clog pumps, pipes, and other structures.

The Sporting and Conservation Association took over operation of the Vallecito marina two summers ago after the previous private operator pulled out and no other private operator wanted to take it over…

Park and Wildlife “will match what we raise,” Schank said. “Right now it would be Friday to Sunday to have the boat ramp open. There are a lot of people here that rely on that.”

He urged people to contact state legislators about this.

Durango Parks and Wildlife Office spokesman Joe Lewandowski told the Times his department isn’t definite what sort of match DPW might provide…

DPW is working with irrigation, water, and recreation districts around the state to find a solution, Lewandowski said. “Vallecito isn’t the only lake affected. It’s lakes all over the state. … It’s a pretty major problem throughout the state. We’re as concerned about it as anybody else, to make sure recreation stays open.”

Pine River Irrigation District Superintendent Ken Beck told the Times that there have been a series of meetings with the Sporting and Conservation Association, DPW and other entities. “We’re trying to generate a fundraising campaign and let folks know that the money we received from CPW has dried up… It took 21 reservoirs out of funding for boat inspections.”

He continued, “Last year we had around $48,000 to fund recreation” at Vallecito. PRID budgets dam operation and maintenance functions separate from recreation. Beck noted that Vallecito is an irrigation project. In the past, PRID shareholders have made it clear they don’t want their assessments used to subsidize recreation.

The goal is to get $48,000 for this year if local fundraising can bring in $24,000, and hope DPW can match it, Beck said.

He is sending solicitation letters to individuals and entities that could be affected by a lack of boating access.

“We’ll continue to meet,” Beck said. “We’ll fund it and have the lake open. If we don’t receive anything, there will be significant impacts.”

“We have a clean reservoir now,” he said, but noted there have been boats at Vallecito that tested positive for the mussels. “We were able to decontaminate them before they went in the water. … It’s a lot easier to prevent infestation than to remediate. That could get really expensive.”

@CWCB_DNR board meeting recap: E. Slope v. W. Slope — @AspenJournalism

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via The Aspen Times:

A funding request for a Western Slope water study to figure out how to keep enough water in Lake Powell became a hot potato last week and was tossed back and forth across Colorado’s Continental Divide.

Officials from four Western Slope basin roundtables and two water-conservancy districts had asked the Colorado Water Conservation Board to contribute $40,000 toward the $100,000 cost of the second phase of a study looking into potential changes to regional water use during a severe drought.

But the chairs of three East Slope roundtables told the directors of the CWCB they didn’t feel comfortable with the first phase of the study or how the second phase was shaping up.

They recommended to the CWCB directors that they deny state money for the second phase, and if they did fund the study, to include a disclaimer saying it did not represent the views of the state.

The CWCB directors, meeting in Greeley last week, were suddenly caught between fractious basin roundtables, which have been praised in the past for their collaborative work on the 2015 Colorado Water Plan.

“There was a fuss,” Russ George, who represents the Colorado River basin on the CWCB, told the members of the Colorado basin roundtable in Glenwood Springs on Monday. “We’re of course sitting in periods of probably continuous shortages, continuous draw downs of the big reservoirs. I think everyone is as edgy as ever.

“It bothered us all to see that controversy just erupt,” George also said of the study request. “The touchiness still exists, even though we’ve made enormous progress in the last 10 and 12 years, as we all know, in working together and making decisions.”

After a flurry of last-minute negotiating, the CWCB directors voted Monday to approve the requested $40,000 in state funding, but also agreed to the East Slope’s request to include a disclaimer in the study’s scope of work: “This work product is solely that of the applicants and the applicants do not claim that it represents the views or interests of the state of Colorado.”

Patricia Wells, a CWCB director representing the city and county of Denver, and who is general counsel for Denver Water, said of the study, “This isn’t the state’s position on anything. And it really belongs to the West Slope roundtables to help them make some decisions.”

DIVIDE EMERGES

The Colorado, Gunnison, Southwest and Yampa/White/Green basin roundtables had recently all approved spending $10,000 from their allotments of state funds on what’s known as the “risk study,” and then sent a joint funding application for $40,000 to the CWCB directors, who must approve all roundtable grants.

And the four western roundtables were being supported by another $30,000 each from the Colorado River Water Conservation District in Glenwood Springs and the Southwestern Water Conservation District in Durango.

Meanwhile, on the East Slope, the chairs of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables were united in their call for the CWCB to distance the state from the study.

“The East Slope roundtables strongly recommend that CWCB only be involved if it is part of an equal management partnership between all affected regions and the state,” a March 23 letter to the CWCB said.

The letter said the study should not be “biased toward any particular regional interests,” noting that “the discretion to define the modeling runs and their assumptions is retained by the Colorado River Water Conservation District,” which represents 15 West Slope counties.

The East Slope also said that the myriad of assumptions used in the study’s hydraulic modeling would “afford great latitude to reflect certain desires and points of view that in turn implicate state water policy and East Slope interests.”

After the vote, Barbara Biggs, the chair of the Metro roundtable, which includes Denver and neighboring cities, told the CWCB directors that the decision to fund the study, even with the disclaimer, may not satisfy everybody.

“I’ll be very honest,” Biggs said. “I suspect I will not be welcomed with hugs and kisses by all of the members of my roundtable. I think they were hoping for more.”

Of chief concern to both east and west interests is the potential for a new transmountain diversion that would move more water to the East Slope.

“This is not a water availability study, but there are real limits on how much Colorado River water Colorado can consume without causing an unacceptable risk to existing users,” said a March 23 letter to the CWCB signed by the four West Slope roundtable chairs and the directors of the two conservancy districts.

RISK AHEAD

Underlying the tension over the second phase of the study are the results of the first phase, which cost $52,000 and included $32,000 in state money from the CWCB.

“Droughts similar to those in the recent past could cause Lake Powell to, within a few years, drop to levels that jeopardize Glen Canyon Dam’s ability to generate electricity, and create a risk that the Upper Colorado River Basin would be unable to meet its delivery obligations under the 2007 Interim Guidelines and potentially the Colorado River Compact,” the grant application to the CWCB said, summarizing the study’s phase one findings.

It also said “the higher the consumptive use in the Upper Basin going forward, the greater the risk to all water users.”

After last week’s CWCB vote on the study, Wells from Denver said the second phase of the study did not need to be collaborative, and that the West Slope could explore water management scenarios on its own.

But she cautioned about wielding the results of the study as a weapon.

“If the modeling is used externally as a weapon in negotiations, as proof of something to the other states in the Colorado basin, then it’s a problem,” Wells said. But if it is not used that way, she said, then “the East Slope won’t have to be worried, and they won’t have to try to tear it down.”

Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Post Independent, Aspen Times, Vail Daily and Summit Daily News on coverage of rivers and water in the upper Colorado River basin. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West — @ColoradoClimate #ColoradoRiver

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through March 27, 2017 via the Colorado Climate Center.

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

#Snowpack news: Moving on up to a second peak

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

Here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for March 30, 2017.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 30, 2017 via the NRCS.

#Drought news: Improved depiction E. #Colorado

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

Summary

PLEASE NOTE – The Drought Monitor reflects observed precipitation through Tuesday, 1200 UTC (8 am, EDT); any rain that has fallen after the Tuesday 1200 UTC cutoff will be reflected in next week’s map (in particular, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s heavy rain on the central and southern Plains).

During the 7-day period (ending Tuesday morning), renewed Pacific storminess brought increasingly wet, mild weather to a large swath of the country. Precipitation was heaviest from the central and northern Pacific Coast into the central and northern Rockies, while a secondary area of locally heavy rain and wet snow developed over the central High Plains and environs. Farther east, an influx of Gulf moisture led to widespread moderate to heavy rain from the lower and middle Mississippi Valley into the interior Southeast, while somewhat lighter precipitation was observed across the Midwest (mostly rain) and New England (wintry mix). As a result, widespread reductions in drought intensity and coverage were made where the heaviest precipitation fell, although the lower Southeast (including Florida) remained unfavorably dry..

Northern Plains

There were no changes to this region’s drought depiction, with light to moderate showers (locally more than 0.5 inch) bypassing the lingering long-term Moderate Drought (D1) area…

Central and Southern Plains

Locally heavy precipitation in western- and eastern-most portions of the region afforded some drought relief, while mostly dry weather prevailed during the period elsewhere. Moderate to heavy rain and wet snow (1-3 inches, liquid equivalent) led to reductions in Abnormal Dryness (D0) as well as Moderate to Severe Drought (D1 and D2) from central Colorado northeastward into central Nebraska. A secondary precipitation maximum (1-4 inches) likewise led to reductions of D0 and D1 across eastern Kansas. The remainder of the region was mostly dry, though heavy rain (1-3 inches, locally more) was recorded during the 24-hour period from Tuesday into Wednesday morning over southern and central Kansas into central and western Oklahoma; as this rain fell after the 1200 UTC Tuesday cutoff, the impacts will be incorporated into next week’s analysis…

Texas

There were minor changes to the drought depiction in Texas, with minor improvements in eastern portions of the state contrasting with subtle expansion of dryness farther west. Rain amounts across eastern Texas were highly variable, with amounts of 1 to 3 inches affording some reduction of Abnormal Dryness (D0) or Moderate Drought (D1). Meanwhile, D0 was expanded north of Midland after another dry week left precipitation over the past two months less than 60 percent of normal. It should be noted the recent heavy rain (1-4 inches) over north-central Texas fell after the Tuesday 1200 UTC cutoff, and will be incorporated into next week’s drought assessment…

Western U.S.

Despite renewed heavy locally heavy rain and mountain snow across central as well as northern portions of the region, the precipitation largely bypassed the lingering long-term drought areas (denoted by an “L” on the map) across southern California and the Southwest…

Looking Ahead

The storm responsible for the heavy rain that has fallen since Tuesday morning over the southern and central Plains will move slowly east, bringing welcomed showers and thunderstorms to the eastern third of the nation. The greatest likelihood for an inch or more of rain will be from the Midwest into the Northeast, with the more appreciable rainfall totals bypassing the lower Southeast’s drought areas. Meanwhile, another moisture-laden Pacific storm will track from the Northwest across the northern Great Basin, emerging onto the central High Plains before reorganizing and strengthening over eastern Texas. This latter system will produce a swath of rain and mountain snow from the Pacific Northwest into the central Rockies, while moderate to heavy rain (2-6 inches) develops across the south-central U.S. by early next week. Moisture from this second system is expected to reach the Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast by Tuesday morning. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for April 3 – 7 calls for above-normal temperatures nearly nationwide, with the greatest likelihood of warmth occurring in the southern Atlantic States. Meanwhile, near- to above-normal precipitation across most of the country will contrast with drier-than-normal weather from parts of California to the Rio Grande Valley.

@SenBennetCO, @SenCoryGardner Public Lands Bills Approved by Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Here’s the release from Senator Bennet’s office:

Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) today released the following statements after five Colorado-specific public lands bills were unanimously approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Bennet and Gardner introduced the bipartisan bills earlier this year.

“Our public lands define Colorado and help drive our outdoor recreation economy,” Bennet said. “These bipartisan, commonsense bills will expand outdoor access and preserve and protect wildlife habitat for years to come. The Committee’s approval of these measures is a win for Colorado, and we’ll continue to work to advance these measures in the Senate.”

“Protecting and promoting Colorado’s public lands is not a partisan issue, and I’m proud to work across the aisle to move these priorities forward,” Gardner said. “Each piece of legislation is important to Colorado and I’ll continue to support efforts that will ensure future generations of Coloradans are able to enjoy our state’s natural treasurers.”

Mountains reflect off of Bolts Lake as seen from US 24 S in Colorado. Photo via
LessBeatenPaths.com.
  • The Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act (S. 285) would authorize special use of the Bolts Ditch headgate and the segment of the Bolts Ditch within the Holy Cross Wilderness Area, allowing the town of Minturn, Colorado to use its existing water right to fill Bolts Lake. This would solve a problem created in 1980 when Congress designated Holy Cross Wilderness area, but inadvertently left Bolts Ditch off of the list of existing water facilities.
The main entrance is about 30 miles west of Colorado Springs. Photo credit UncoverColorado.com.
  • The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (S. 287) legislation will allow for enhanced wildfire protection as well as additional habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for visitors. Established as a national monument in 1969, the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is located west of Pikes Peak and less than 40 miles from Colorado Springs. The monument is home to diverse fossil deposits, maintaining a collection of over 12,000 specimens. It also provides recreational experiences and curriculum-based education programs for its visitors. A private landowner submitted a proposal to donate 280 acres of land adjacent to Florissant Fossil Beds Monument, but due to current law the land donation cannot take place. This commonsense legislation would permit a landowner to donate private land to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
  • The Wedge Act (H.R. 688) would aid the Forest Service in acquiring several parcels of land adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park. This Act would help preserve critical wildlife habitat, Colorado River headwaters, and a highly visible view shed in the area commonly referred to as the Wedge.
  • The Crags are rock formations located south of Divide, facing the northwest slope of Pikes Peak. It’s a beautiful hike popular with families. Photo credit Colorado Springs Hikes.
  • The Crags, Colorado Land Exchange Act (H.R. 618) is a federal land exchange where the Forest Service would acquire pristine land in the Pike National Forest allowing for more outdoor recreation near Pikes Peak.
  • The Elkhorn Ranch and White River National Forest Conveyance Act (H.R. 698) would correct the discrepancy that took place from conflicting land surveys and require the Forest Service to convey acreage to private ownership that is rightfully private property, according to the Forest Service’s own conclusion and recommendation. For nearly 100 years, 148 acres of land has been used as private land even though it is included in Forest Service survey maps, and this legislation allows for the resolution between the Forest Service and the private landowner.

Not your grandparents’ rain barrel — @MSUDenver

From the Metropolitan State University Insider:

If you have grandparents then you’ve probably seen a rain barrel. You know the one – a lidless plastic garbage can with a window screen balanced on top, placed just beneath a downspout. The high-end models even feature a rock holding the screen in place. And the water, well, let’s just say even the plants are a little suspicious of the quality.

Ironically, rain water collection was illegal in Colorado until last year (not that it stopped your grandparents). When that century-old law was scratched from the books in 2016, it seemed like a good time to rethink – or even better, redesign – grandpa’s humble rain barrel.

That’s what professor Ted Shin had in mind when he assigned the task to students in his Intermediate Industrial Design Studio class at Metropolitan State University of Denver. But this class project had an added wrinkle – a design competition with cash prizes doled out to the winners.

Industrial design students show some of their early sketches of a rain barrel. Photo: Tom Cech

“The goal is to create a better, more functional rain barrel; to take a relatively simple object and try to imagine it in a new way,” says Shin, chair of the Industrial Design Department. “The competition element just makes it a little more fun.”

To raise the stakes, students were split into seven teams. Each was given six weeks to complete the same task: design a 55-gallon barrel that prevents mosquito breeding, eliminates the first polluted flush of rainwater off a roof, allows for efficient transport to landscaping sites, and looks good doing it.

Teams will present their design concepts on March 15, including ideation, sketches and even small-scale models. The competition will be judged by working professionals from Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Water and sustainability consulting firm the Brendle Group.

The top two teams will receive cash prizes, and if they impress the right judge, maybe even get their design out of the classroom and into the real world.

Student concepts for a new and improved rain barrel. Industrial design students will compete for cash prizes on March 15. Photo: Tom Cech.

The event is sponsored by the One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship at MSU Denver. Center Director Tom Cech played a crucial role in developing the project. He also recruited the judges and provided early feedback to students on their concepts.

For Shin, this type of real-life project not only prepares students for how they’ll work in the field, but also imparts another important lesson: “Design is not just about making pretty things. Working on a project like this also helps students think about how their work can have a positive impact on the environment and public health.”

Not to mention backyard gardeners – even grandparents.

Student concept for a new and improved rain barrel. Photo: Tom Cech

Chatfield Reservoir environmental storage pool project scores $400,000 from @WaltonFamilyFdn

Chatfield Reservoir

From the Walton Family Foundation via The Villager:

The Walton Family Foundation has provided $400,000 in support of The Greenway Foundation and Denver Water pledge drive for the environmental pool at Chatfield Reservoir. If the pledge drive is successful, the foundation’s funding will purchase of 45 acre-feet of storage in the reservoir.

The pledge drive, announced last August, will add 500 acre-feet of environmental storage at Chatfield Reservoir through a community coalition. Denver Water has committed nearly $2 million to fund the purchase of 250 acre-feet of storage space in Chatfield — if The Greenway Foundation can raise the funds necessary to match that amount.

Ted Kowalski, who leads the Colorado River Initiative for the Walton Family Foundation, stated: “The foundation focuses on developing sustainable water management practices for the Colorado River basin. This innovative project pairs agricultural water users located downstream on the South Platte River with holders of existing storage located upstream at Chatfield Reservoir, to benefit both parties and the intervening riparian environment of the South Platte River. This could be a model for use throughout the Colorado River basin, and other basins.”

The 500 acre-feet of water would be added to the 1,600 acre-feet for an environmental pool being developed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board through the Chatfield Reallocation Project, for a total of 2,100 feet of storage.

The environmental pool will be set aside for releases of water that will provide environmental and water quality benefits to the South Platte River below Chatfield during low-flow periods of the year when additional stream flow levels are critically needed.

In addition to the commitment from the Walton Family Foundation for the 45 acre-feet of storage, the grant to The Greenway Foundation also provides funding for the creation of a management plan to maximize the effectiveness of the water releases to the South Platte River.

“The Greenway Foundation is grateful for the very generous grant from the Walton Family Foundation as well as Denver Water’s commitment for support through the fundraising challenge” said Jeff Shoemaker, The Greenway Foundation’s executive director. “Contributions to the environmental pool are a one-time only cost for environmental, water quality, and recreational benefits that will last for generations.”

The Greenway Foundation has secured the following additional commitments toward meeting the challenge grant from Denver Water:

  • City and County of Denver – 50 acre-feet
  • The Greenway Foundation – 10 acre-feet
  • The Colorado Parks Foundation – 10 acre-feet
  • Shoemaker Family – 10 acre-feet
  • Rinehart Family – 1 acre-foot
  • Capitol Representatives – 1 acre-foot
  • Total to date (to match Denver Water challenge): 82 acre-feet
  • Arapahoe County Open Spaces Program and the cities along the South Platte River within Arapahoe County are also actively working to make a contribution to purchase 50 acre-feet to the environmental pool. The jurisdictions collaborate as members of the South Platte Working Group, which is seeking to make funding commitments by the end of this year.

    “Our goal is to enhance efforts to improve the urban reach of the South Platte River, helping to ultimately create a fishable river right in the heart of Denver,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead. “We believe that with the commitment of the community, this river that has been ignored can be healthy and beautiful to help ensure Denver remains a vibrant, exciting city.”

    Outreach and engagement efforts are also underway with numerous additional public and private entities and individuals to secure the remaining support needed to meet the Denver Water challenge. The goal is to have commitments for the full 250 acre-feet by the end of August 2017.

    The environmental pool storage will be filled by a water right owned by the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, a major agricultural district downstream from Denver. Releases from the environmental pool will flow through the Denver metro area, providing environmental, recreational and water quality benefits, and then be used by Central for agriculture. Every drop of water in the environmental pool will provide multiple benefits.

    The environmental pool is part of the overall Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project which, when completed in 2019, will allow for an additional 20,600 acre-feet to be stored in the reservoir.

    Durango fluoride dosing vote update

    Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

    From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

    Durango voters are being asked April 4 to decide whether to remove fluoride from the city’s drinking water. Most-recent campaign filings show the pro-fluoride campaign has outraised and outspent its rival committee.

    The campaign to preserve fluoride in the water, Healthy Kids Healthy Durango, collected $22,465 in cash and in-kind donations through March 16. The campaign spent $8,769.

    Clean Water Durango, the group fighting against water fluoridation, collected $1,045 in cash through March 16 from three people. The group disclosed spending $2,641 through March 16. Much of the spending – $2,462 – was part of an addendum that was not formally added to the donation total.

    Bob Lieb, who filed the report and donated to the campaign, said the anti-fluoride campaign plans to raise and spend a total of $5,000, mostly for signage, advertising and informational brochures. He said most of those donations are coming through the campaign’s website.

    Lieb said the campaign relies on volunteers, as opposed to the pro-fluoride side, which has hired people to advocate.

    “It’s a David and Goliath campaign, no doubt about it,” Lieb said. “And we’re the David. They’ve brought a lot of out-of-town money.”

    Most of the donations to the pro-flouride campaign came from Healthier Colorado, a Denver-based nonprofit that contributed $17,340 of in-kind support such as mailings, web marketing and other contributions. The campaign also collected $5,125 in cash donations from 30 individuals – including 11 dentists.

    Healthier Colorado is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to improve public health through public policy.

    Kate Stigberg, director of activism for Healthier Colorado, said an email from concerned residents in Durango, including oral health professionals, asked the group for help.

    The group has been supporting water fluoridation since January 2016 in partnership with Colorado Children’s Campaign, Delta Dental and the Colorado Dental Association.

    #Snowpack news: March precipitation below average in Steamboat Springs

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 29, 2017 via the NRCS.

    From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

    Snow is more of a sure thing at Breckenridge at an elevation of 9,600 feet, with an 80 percent chance of receiving 1 to 3 inches Friday. Saturday’s accumulations in Breck are expected to be about an inch.

    More snow could fall in the San Juans and the West Elk Mountains to the south. Intellicast rates the chance that Telluride will see 3 to 5 inches of snow on Saturday at 100 percent. Crested Butte, at the headwaters of the Gunnison River, has a 70 percent chance of 3 to 5 inches of snow on Friday and a 60 percent chance of 1 to 3 inches on Saturday.

    Kate Gmeiner’s weather station, between downtown and the base of the ski area, confirms that precipitation has come in dribs and drabs early and late this month, with nothing but trace amounts in the middle of March. There was no measurable precipitation from March 12 to 24.

    In spite of the dry spell that began here in February, moisture for the water year, which began Oct. 1, 2016, is still at 105 percent for the combined Yampa and White river basin. However, the water stored in the standing snow at higher elevations has slipped to 93 percent.

    Much of that moisture fell in December and January, when the ski area saw back-to-back 100-inch snow months at 9,000 feet.

    @CWCB_DNR board approves lease with @UteWater for #ColoradoRiver endangered fish program — @AspenJournalism

    Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via The Summit Daily News:

    Anglers on the Fryingpan River can expect again this year to see as much as 300 cubic feet per second of water released from Ruedi Reservoir in late summer and early fall to bolster flows in 15 miles of the Colorado River near Grand Junction to benefit endangered fish populations.

    Water released from Ruedi flows down the Fryingpan to the Roaring Fork River and then into the Colorado River.

    The directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board at a regular meeting on March 23 approved a third annual lease with the Ute Water Conservancy District that allows for CWCB to release 12,000 acre-feet of water from Ruedi at a cost of $86,400, or $7.20 per acre-foot.

    Ute Water, which provides water to 80,000 people in the Grand Junction area, paid $15.6 million in 2013 to store 12,000 acre-feet of water in Ruedi each year. Ute Water considers its Ruedi water to be a backup supply, but since the water can also be used for environmental and “instream flow” purposes, it’s willing to lease it on a year-to-year basis to the CWCB.

    In turn, the CWCB works with officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the release of water as part of the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program, which is working to maintain populations of four species of large native fish: the Colorado pikeminnow, the razorback sucker, the bonytail and the humpback chub.

    For the third year in a row, state and federal water managers have pledged to release no more than 300 cfs of water from the Ute Water pool in Ruedi, and work to keep all flows in the Fryingpan under 350 cfs in order to preserve the wade-ability of the popular fly-fishing stream.

    Flows of about 220 cfs are considered ideal for fly-fishing clients by two local commercial guide services working on the Fryingpan, and flows of about 300 cfs in late 2015 brought complaints of high water to the CWCB from guides and their clients.

    But last year, anglers seem to have gone with the steady flow on the Fryingpan of just less than 300 cfs from mid-August to late September, as no formal complaints were lodged with the CWCB, according to Linda Bassi, chief of the agency’s stream and lake protection section.

    Rick Lofaro, executive director of the Roaring Fork Conservancy, said last year appeared to have gone OK on the river for wading clients.

    “The flow stayed where they said it would and I did not hear any complaints,” Lofaro said via email. “However, I think people do mind, especially if the level exceeds 300. The two fly shops in town would be quick to register concern. So far, it seems to be working.”

    Last year, a special meeting was held in the spring to discuss the pending releases of fish water from Ruedi. This year, after having contacted local stakeholders, the CWCB decided the issue could simply be discussed at the regular annual meeting on Ruedi operations held by the Bureau of Reclamation.

    As the endangered fish do better with more water in the river, a key part of the recovery effort is keeping flows in the 15-mile reach at least as high as 1,240 cfs in an average year and 810 cfs in a dry year, although the target flow levels are often not met.

    The 15-mile reach is depleted by two large irrigation diversions — the Grand Valley Project in DeBeque Canyon and the Grand Valley Irrigation Canal in Palisade. Last year during the critical months of August and September, they diverted at a steady rate of about 1,600 cfs, primarily to irrigate alfalfa, according to state records.

    That level of diversion leaves about 400 cfs in the Colorado River, but the “fish water” sent downstream brings the river back toward the 1,000 cfs level.

    In 2015, the first year of the lease with Ute Water, the CWCB and Fish and Wildlife released 9,000 acre feet from the total pool of 12,000 acre feet owned by Ute Water in Ruedi.

    In 2016, after approving a second one-year lease, the two agencies released all of the 12,000 acre feet, with half of it flowing down the river between Aug. 27 and Sept. 11 and half released between Sept. 25 and Oct. 14.

    Fish and Wildlife also has access to other pools of “fish water” in Ruedi, and all told in 2016 there were 27,413 acre feet of water released from Ruedi to the benefit of the endangered fish. But Ruedi is not the only source of water for the 15-mile reach.

    Green Mountain Reservoir, located in the northern end of Summit County on the Blue River, released 55,390 acre feet in 2016 for the 15-mile reach, according to Don Anderson, a hydrologist with the recovery program. Wolford Reservoir, north of Kremmling, released 5,766 acre feet for reach, while Granby Reservoir in Grand County released 5,413 acre feet and Williams Fork Reservoir, east of Kremmling, released 234 acre feet.

    In all, that’s 94,216 acre feet of water sent down the Colorado River to the 15-mile reach. By comparison, Ruedi holds 102,373 acre feet of water.

    The 94,000 acre feet of water sent to bolster flows in the 15-mile reach is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount taken out by the two largest diverters above the reach.

    In 2016, state diversion records show that about 1 million acre-feet of water were diverted by the Grand Valley Project and the Grand Valley Irrigation Canal, although a portion of that was diverted to make electricity and was immediately returned to the river.

    The big diverters on the river, which include the Grand Valley Irrigation Company, the Grand Valley Water Users Association and the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, are, however, paying increasing attention to the 15-mile reach and do work cooperatively on a weekly conference call with officials at Fish and Wildlife and CWCB to manage flows.

    The irrigators also have been working to improve the efficiency of their irrigation systems and are more willing than in past years to approve late-season releases of “surplus” water held in Green Mountain Reservoir, according to Michelle Garrison, a water resources specialist at the CWCB.

    “So there is progress being made,” Garrison said.

    Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily News on coverage of rivers and water in the upper Colorado River basin. More at AspenJournalism.org.

    @SenBennetCO calls out administration for anti-climate @POTUS executive order #ActOnClimate

    I’ll be speaking about the climate crisis this evening in Denver. Click here for the inside skinny. I hope to see you there, please bring your children.

    Here’s the release from Senator Bennet’s office:

    Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today released the following statement in response to President Trump’s Executive Order that attempts to reverse multiple major U.S. initiatives to combat climate change.

    “This anti-climate Executive Order is a direct assault on the health of our children and clean energy economy,” Bennet said. “President Trump’s decision to rewrite the Clean Power Plan could jeopardize thousands of new jobs and billions to our economy, and produce a confusing patchwork of state laws for American businesses. It also could prevent the EPA from regulating clean air and water, sacrificing a rigorous scientific process in the name of ideology. Instead of leading the fight against climate change and transition to clean energy, this Administration has abandoned it.”

    “Despite this disturbing action, Colorado will continue to lead the nation by growing its clean energy economy and meeting its target under the Clean Power Plan,” Bennet continued. “I’ll continue to work across the aisle to combat climate change for our businesses, our children’s health, and the future of our planet.”

    Bennet, along with nine other U.S. Senators from six Western states, sent a letter to President Trump urging him to rescind the Executive Order.

    The Executive Order calls for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reevaluate the Clean Power Plan, which set the first-ever national standards to reduce carbon pollution from power plants 32 percent by 2030. The Clean Power Plan would have provided $54 billion in climate and health benefits each year, prevented thousands of premature deaths and asthma attacks in children, reduced electricity bills for homes and businesses, and created thousands of good-paying jobs.

    The Executive Order also calls for the Office of Management and Budget to review the Social Cost of Carbon, which has been used since the Bush Administration to ensure that our regulations reflect the full cost of climate change.

    And the Nature Conservancy weighs in:

    The Nature Conservancy strongly supports actions to address climate change and that affirm the basic safeguards that protect our air, land and water from pollution. The executive order signed today on climate solutions and environmental protections takes us in the wrong direction.

    Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek said, “The Nature Conservancy strongly supports continued US leadership in fulfilling the promises of the Paris Agreement, and believes that federal action, including a price on carbon, are essential to addressing the threats a changing climate poses to our economy, our communities, and natural systems.

    “We also support the efforts of the many state governments that are encouraging the already strong demand for renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. Because of these efforts, many states are making significant progress towards reducing carbon pollution, but even greater efforts are needed and would benefit from national leadership. For example, federal fuel economy standards are essential in driving the development of technologies that lower fuel use, reduce automobile emissions, and save consumers money at the gas pump. The economic gains we stand to make if we stay committed to a low-carbon future are too significant to ignore.”

    “The very real losses to our economy and our community from ignoring climate impacts are considerable, but we’re also missing a substantial opportunity. These solutions bring with them more jobs, more innovation, more choices for consumers, cleaner air and water, and better health. These are benefits the American people want for themselves and for their families.”

    Governor Hickenlooper had this to say:

    Today’s Executive Order by the President pulling back on policies addressing climate change will not deter Colorado’s efforts. Natural gas has become more economical than coal, and Colorado is a national leader on wind and solar energy, which are a boon to our economy, jobs and the environment.

    Our efforts to clean our air and protect the natural environment are part of what draws young people, families, and businesses to Colorado. Our outdoor recreation industry, which helps create jobs all across the state, is dependent upon cleaner air and water. We have a history of solving complex problems and taking action to move the state closer to meeting its clean air goals, and we have shown that we can have cleaner air and reduce harmful carbon emissions at essentially no additional cost‒ potentially even saving money for Colorado families.

    We will keep building a clean energy future that creates Colorado jobs, improves our health and addresses the harmful consequences of a changing climate. [ed. emphasis mine]

    Saving our reservoirs from invading ‘cling-ons’ – News on TAP

    Vigilant boat inspections keep destructive mussels from causing millions in damages to our water infrastructure.

    Source: Saving our reservoirs from invading ‘cling-ons’ – News on TAP

    Cleaner dishes the lazy way — and more water-saving tips – News on TAP

    Advances in technology help you save more water at home while keeping more money in your pocket in the long run.

    Source: Cleaner dishes the lazy way — and more water-saving tips – News on TAP

    #Snowpack/#Drought news: Is there snow on the horizon for Fort Collins?

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 26, 2017 via the NRCS.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Weekend rains dropped up to half an inch of rain on parts of a parched Choice City, and more rain is on the forecast for this week. But with one week left of what’s historically our snowiest month of the year, forecasters are divided on whether we’ll see any measurable snow at all.

    The Coloradoan’s official Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network rain gauge at 1300 Riverside Avenue recorded 0.16 of an inch of rain Sunday…

    Meanwhile, our lack of snow is becoming downright strange.

    Fort Collins receives an average of 12.6 inches of snow in March, according to 1981-2010 normals from the Colorado Climate Center. This March, we’ve received only a trace of snow. Fort Collins hasn’t seen measurable snow in about a month, since a late-February storm left us with about 3.4 inches and 0.1 inches fell on the last day of February.

    We’re also way behind on precipitation this month, with 0.19 inches compared to a normal amount of 1.31 inches by March 26. Rains this week should inch us a bit closer to the monthly normal of 1.59 inches, but barring any big downpours, we’ll probably still fall short for March.

    The lack of moisture matters because Fort Collins has been in a drought since August. Our drought classification was recently elevated to “severe,” the third of five levels of drought intensity. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center predicts we’ll remain in drought during the next three months.

    If drought persists, residents can expect damage to crops and pastures, developing or imminent water shortages and a request for voluntary water-use restrictions. Snowpack in the South Platte River Basin mountains, which make up much of our regional water supply, has been steadily slipping during the last few weeks and now sits at 103 percent of the average for this time of year.

    A snowless March is highly unusual but not unprecedented in Fort Collins. It’s happened about six times in recorded history, most recently in 2011 and 2012, when historic drought covered the state and Fort Collins received a trace of snow in March. The last March before that with no measurable snow was March 1966.

    West Drought Monitor March 21, 2017.

    2017 #coleg: SB17-036 — Appellate Process Concerning Groundwater Decisions clears State House

    Colorado Capitol building

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

    House Bill 1151, introduced by Reps. Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, and Chris Hansen, D-Denver, removes electric bicycles from the motor vehicle definition as long as they don’t go too fast.

    Under the bill, the bicycles are considered electrical only when the rider is pedaling and its motor ceases when the bike reaches speeds of 20 to 28 mph depending on which of three classes the bicycles fall under.

    The measure cleared the House 52-13 in late February. When the Senate took up the bill earlier this month, it made one change, which Hansen and Willett made fun of when the House gave its final approval on Monday…

    The measure bars anyone under the age of 16 from riding a class 3 electric bike except as a passenger, and then they must wear a helmet…

    The House gave final approval to a bill Monday that would prevent parties that appeal to district court water rights decisions made by the Colorado Ground Water Commission from introducing new evidence in the court.

    The measure, SB36, tries to address an issue that its sponsors — Sens. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, and Don Coram, R-Montrose — said was an unfair one. Currently, parties that appeal such water decisions by the commission could present new evidence not heard by the commission.

    The two lawmakers said that was unfair to ranchers and farmers who couldn’t afford to retry whole cases.

    Scott and Coram tried to get the bill through last year’s Legislature, but failed because of heavy lobbying, much of which came from former Gov. Bill Owens, who at the time was working with a land and water development company.

    #Snowpack is holding on, rain and snow on the way

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 26, 2017 via the NRCS.

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Colorado’s mountain snowpack water supply registered healthy Sunday, but exceptionally high temperatures in metro Denver over several months — 9 degrees above normal so far in March — rendered the past winter relatively wimpy.

    While December and January temperatures dipped a bit below normal, February and March in metro Denver meant enduring temperatures at least 7 degrees higher than the average, according to National Weather Service data. And metro Denver temperatures during the pre-winter month of November also measured above normal.

    Even at higher-elevation icy areas, such as Leadville, late winter temperatures this year in Colorado turned mild. Leadville’s average temperature was 5 degrees warmer than normal in February, 4.7 degrees in March through last Wednesday and 4 degrees in November.

    For Denver, weather service meteorologists on Sunday said storms this week could pull down the plus-9 degree March average of 48.7 degrees through Saturday, well above the March norm of 39.7 degrees. However, precipitation doesn’t guarantee lower temperatures, meteorologist Natalie Sullivan said. Denver residents were told they would face temperatures in the 50s and 60s through the week…

    For Colorado food producers and urban residents, this is the key time of year for assessing mountain snowpack. The snow serves as slow-release water storage, closely watched by irrigators and municipal supply managers, because melting snow determines the amount of water that will end up in streams, rivers, reservoirs and irrigation canals. Water in mountain snowpack normally peaks in April.

    @CWCB_DNR: March 2017 #Drought Update

    Click here to read the update (Taryn Finnessey/Tracy Kosloff). Here’s an excerpt:

    February of this year was the second warmest February on record, and the warmest since 1954. Well above average temperatures have continued into March. Precipitation in February was average but has slowed considerably with only 29 percent of average month –to-date in March. However, the forecast for the next two weeks indicates that the state will likely see cooler temperatures and more significant moisture. Demand has already increased for municipal water providers, indicative of an increase in outdoor watering typically not seen for another month. Agricultural producers are also expressing concern and are hopeful that forecasted storms will materialize and help to alleviate worsening drought conditions. Fires have already been an issue in the foothills and on the eastern plains.

  • Statewide water year- to- date snowpack as of March 20th is at 116 percent of normal, down from 133% of normal on March 1st. The Upper Rio Grande currently has the lowest snowpack in the state at 105 percent of normal while the basins of the Southwest and Gunnison have the highest snowpack at 130 percent of normal.
  • Above average temperatures have resulted in snowpack beginning to melt off at some mountain locations. All basins have seen a decline in snowpack with respect to normal since March 1st due to combined dry and warm weather. This is typically the snowiest month of the year in the Colorado mountains. Normal peak accumulation typically occurs around April 9th,so the possibility remains to return to snowier weather and accumulate more snowpack potentially providing a higher peak snowpack this year.
  • Following an average February, all basins are well below average for precipitation thus far in March, with accumulation ranging from a low of 19 percent in the Gunnison to a high of 55 percent in the Yampa & White. Statewide March-to-date precipitation is only 29 percent of average.
  • Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 107% of normal. The Yampa & White River basins along with the Southwestern basins have the highest storage levels in the state at 127 and 114% of average, respectively. The Upper Rio Grande has the lowest storage levels at 91% percent. Reservoirs are already beginning to see inflow from the early snowmelt.
  • Reservoir storage and above average streamflow forecasts have resulted in the Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) indicating slightly wet to moderately wet across most of the state, with the eastern plains showing less available water than the west slope.
  • Streamflow forecasts, while still above average, have been trending downward over the last month and without additional snow accumulation are expected to continue decreasing.
  • Neutral ENSO conditions are present, and are favored to continue through spring, with the possible development of an El Nino this summer. The April-June forecast looks dry for the season, with the promise of an enhanced monsoon season based on current analogues. Should an El Niño develop this summer, precipitation during the latter half of the growing season becomes more favorable.
  • Short term forecasts show an increased probability of precipitation across most of the state over the next two weeks with widespread 1-4 inches of moisture expected over the mountains and northeastern plains.
  • Colorado Drought Monitor March 21, 2017.

    Boulder County adopts new oil and gas regulations

    From KUNC (Jackie Fortier):

    The county calls them the “most restrictive” of such regulations in Colorado. They are about 60 pages and require a much higher environmental and public health standard than the state. Boulder County began the new rule process following two state Supreme Court decisions in 2016 that invalidated hydraulic fracking bans or long term moratoriums.

    “In light of those decisions, the board terminated our moratorium that was in effect until 2018, and established a new moratorium until May 1, 2017, for the purpose of allowing us [Boulder County planning department] to update the regulations that we had adopted in 2012 and prepare for their implementation,” said Kim Sanchez, chief planner for the county.

    Now that the commissioners have adopted these regulations, here are three key takeaways:

    These regulations are ‘the most restrictive’ in Colorado

    Boulder County wants to push the envelope. For example, an oil or gas company that wants to drill in unincorporated Boulder County would have to give notice to surrounding landowners and residents, have multiple public meetings, and do soil and water testing, which could be a very long and probably more expensive process than anywhere else in Colorado. State officials told Boulder County it is overstepping their local authority, a position that Commissioner Elise Jones said they would defend.

    “Our focus is on adopting regulations that we think are the strongest possible, for our citizens and the environment, and our understanding of the law as we see it,” she said. “If the state disagrees well, so be it, we’ll deal with that. If the state wants to pre-empt local governments, on oil and gas then they need to do their job and protect us from the impacts of oil and gas, and they are not doing that. And until they do that, local jurisdictions like Boulder County will continue to push to do that work themselves.”

    What can the state regulate and what can local governments like Boulder County regulate?

    The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulates location and construction of drill sites and associated equipment, for example what machinery is used. Local governments like Boulder County have substantial regulatory authority through their land use code, such as building permits for structures, traffic impact fees, and inspecting for compliance with local codes and standards related to water quality and wildlife impacts. Boulder County’s new regulations are the most stringent in terms of land use.

    You could get paid to live by oil and gas drilling

    One of Boulder County’s regulations could require a company to pay residents “disruption payments.” Not every company would have to do this; it’s an option for the county to require. Within a mile radius of the drill site, companies would need to pay residents enough money to move and pay rent somewhere else during some operations. The closer you are to the drill site, the more money you would get. The amount would be calculated based on federal data for the area. Every month residents would get a check. It would be up to them if they would want to move temporarily or just keep the money.

    Commissioner Jones said they thought disruption payments were necessary to include.

    “Industry has never been required to say ‘Yes, I’m impacting those people’s lives and I’m going to pay to help move them to a place so their quality of life isn’t diminished by my noise and my dust and my vibrations and my emissions,’ Jones said. “We think that it’s an important first step in industry taking ownership of the significant impacts that drilling has, particularly when you’re drilling near homes and schools and the like.”

    Alamosa: Councillors review augmentation, loan, project plans

    Alamosa railroad depot circa 1912

    From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

    Like all other larger well owners in the San Luis Valley , the City of Alamosa has to comply with groundwater regulations filed by the Colorado Division of Water Resources State Engineer and pending court approval.

    Those regulations require well owners to make up for the injuries they are causing senior surface water rights. The regulations also require measures to help replenish the basin’s aquifer levels.

    The City of Alamosa staff and council have been working on means to comply with the new rules including acquisition of water to offset the city’s well pumping.

    The city is setting up financing to cover those costs, which the city has capped at $4.3 million. The city will basically use a portion of its ranch property as collateral to finance the city’s water compliance efforts…

    Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks explained that the city allowed flexibility in authorizing up to $4.3 million to include the East Alamosa Water & Sanitation District, if it wished to participate in the city’s plan.

    If East Alamosa opts to develop its own augmentation plan, or other costs for the city’s water plan are not as high as expected, the city will have leeway in the $4.3 million for other projects, Brooks added. The city would also have the option of paying the money back earlier, she said. The city staff and council identified some projects they felt were appropriate to use this money for, if it was not all needed for the water augmentation plan.

    These include: water and sewer mains; sanitary lift stations; and levee rehabilitation to meet FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and CWCB (Colorado Water Conservation Board) requirements.

    Including these projects in the financing ordinance does not mean they will be completed, but it gives the city more options with the financing , Brooks explained.

    “It allows flexibility,” she said. She said the identified projects need addressed. For example, some of the pumps on sanitary lift stations are 30 years old “essentially at the end of their life” and if they were to be replaced, it would increase efficiency, use less electricity and require less staff time.

    Likewise, there are sewer and water lines that need to be replaced. Last year lines even collapsed in a couple of areas, Brooks said.

    The city also has to recertify the levee and cannot use enterprise funds for that, Brooks said. Councilors agreed it was a good idea to have some flexibility.

    “It leaves the door open ” in case we need it,” said Councilor Liz Thomas Hensley . “It doesn’t cost anything extra than what we are already doing.”

    […]

    The council unanimously approved on first reading the ordinance amendment and scheduled the second reading and public hearing during the city’s 7 p.m. meeting on April 5.

    Bailey: STEM education

    Students pulling samples

    From The Fairplay Flume (Lori Bennet):

    Dropping eggs from second floor buildings and programming robots sounds like fun. True, but these activities are preparing students for jobs that use serious science, technology, art and math skills.

    “We are giving kids skills for jobs in the 21st century that may not even have been created yet,” said, Ginger Slocum, principal of Fitzsimmons Middle School in Bailey.
    You may have heard the term, STEM, in schools when discussing science skills. However, STEM is much more than just a science class.

    “STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach,” per the website, http://www.livescience.com.

    The Women on the Front Lines of Climate Change — @PacificStand

    Kalee Kreider is a climate consultant, a climate change adviser to the U.N. Foundation, and a former adviser to Al Gore. (Photo: Ali Berrada) via The Pacific Standard.

    Here’s a look at 9 women in the lead in the fight to mitigate the climate crisis from Kate Wheeling & Ted Scheinman writing for Pacific Standard Magazine. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Twenty-six million people around the globe have been displaced by climate change since 2010; 20 million of those climate refugees — more than 75 percent of them — are women. But women are not merely victims of climate change: They also have the potential to create lasting solutions. In the global north, women make 80 percent of consumer decisions. In developing countries, the vast majority of water-collection and food-production tasks fall to women. Meanwhile, as Kalee Kreider notes, women are increasingly controlling the upper levels of climate diplomacy, from the executive secretariat of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to the working group in charge of implementing the Paris Agreement.

    In this special series from Pacific Standard, we highlight the work of nine extraordinary women who are shaping the future of our planet, at all levels of the climate struggle.

    For an opportunity to learn about the climate crisis please consider coming by Smiley Library this Wednesday, March 29th. I’ll be addressing the 3 questions: Should we change; Can we change; Will we change?

    @NOAAClimate: 2017 U.S. spring climate and flood outlook — Red River, Snake River at elevated risk for snowmelt flooding #runoff

    Here’s the 2017 U.S. spring climate and flood outlook from NOAA:

    Spring Outlook: Risk of major flooding in North Dakota, moderate flooding in Idaho

    Warmer-than-average temperatures favored in much of U.S. this spring

    Northern North Dakota—the Souris River, Devils Lake and the northernmost reaches of the Red River—has the greatest risk of major flooding this spring, while moderate flooding is possible over southern Idaho in the Snake River basin, according to NOAA’s Spring Outlook released today. California, which saw extensive flooding in February, is susceptible to additional flooding from possible storms through the remainder of the wet season and later, from snowmelt.

    U.S. areas at risk for minor (light blue), moderate (medium blue), or major (dark blue) flooding this spring due to winter precipitation and temperature patterns. NOAA Climate.gov map, based on data from the National Weather Sevice.

    “If you’re in northern North Dakota, or in the Snake River basin in Idaho, prepare for moderate to major flooding this spring,” said Tom Graziano, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction. “Snowpack is heavy in the West and northern plains, and if our long term warm-up coincides with spring rains, already saturated soils will not be able to absorb the increased water, which would lead to increased runoff and potential flooding.”

    But while the extreme north could see flooding, the rest of the country could be warmer than average, forecasters said. “Above average temperatures are favored for much of the U.S. this spring with the south-central Plains and eastern U.S. having the highest chance for warmer than average conditions,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief, Operational Prediction Branch, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

    There was a remarkable turnaround in California’s five-year drought over the winter. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, issued today, the geographic extent of drought in the state dropped from 73 percent three months ago to eight percent this week, due to near-record precipitation from a series of powerful winter storms. Also, in February, only three percent of the contiguous U.S. saw severe to exceptional drought, the lowest level in seven years.

    “If you’re in northern North Dakota, or in the Snake River basin in Idaho, prepare for moderate to major flooding this spring,” said Tom Graziano, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction. “Snowpack is heavy in the West and northern plains, and if our long term warm-up coincides with spring rains, already saturated soils will not be able to absorb the increased water, which would lead to increased runoff and potential flooding.”
    But while the extreme north could see flooding, the rest of the country could be warmer than average, forecasters said. “Above average temperatures are favored for much of the U.S. this spring with the south-central Plains and eastern U.S. having the highest chance for warmer than average conditions,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief, Operational Prediction Branch, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
    There was a remarkable turnaround in California’s five-year drought over the winter. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, issued today, the geographic extent of drought in the state dropped from 73 percent three months ago to eight percent this week, due to near-record precipitation from a series of powerful winter storms. Also, in February, only three percent of the contiguous U.S. saw severe to exceptional drought, the lowest level in seven years.
    U.S. drought conditions at the start of the winter wet season in the West. Much of California was in exceptional (dark red) or extreme (bright red) drought going into winter. NOAA Climate.gov map based on data from the U.S. Drought Monitor project.

    Driving the forecast for major flooding in northern North Dakota is an extensive snowpack, containing up to four inches of liquid water that could increase with additional storms through April. When this snowpack melts, the already saturated and frozen soil won’t be able to absorb it, creating runoff and potential flooding. The location of greatest concern is Devils Lake, where forecasters are projecting a near record runoff that could cause the lake to rise three to four feet, possibly exceeding its record high flood level set in June 2011.

    Read the whole press release.

    Spring 2017 temperature outlook

    Shades of red show parts of the United States where the chances of a much warmer than normal spring are greater than the chances of a near-normal or cooler than normal spring. Shades of blue show places where the odds of a much cooler than normal spring are higher than the odds of a near-normal, or warmer than normal spring. The darker the color, the greater the chances of the respective outcome. White areas mean there is an equal chance (~33%) for a warm, near-normal, or cool spring. The large version of the map shows Alaska and Hawaii. NOAA Climate.gov map based on data from the Climate Prediction Center.

    Spring 2017 precipitation outlook

    Shades of green show parts of the United States where the chances of a much wetter than normal spring are greater than the chances of a near-normal or drier than normal spring. Shades of brown show places where the odds of a much drier than normal spring are higher than the odds of a near-normal, or wetter than normal spring. The darker the color, the greater the chances of the respective outcome. White areas mean there is an equal chance (~33%) for a dry, near-normal, or wet spring. The large version of the map shows Alaska and Hawaii. NOAA Climate.gov map based on data from the Climate Prediction Center.

    Busting the tree ring — @HighCountryNews

    These bigleaf maples in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest were cut down during the course of an illegal timber harvesting operation. Photo credit the U.S. Department of Justice, via OPB.org.

    Here’s a report about fighting illegal logging from Ben Goldfarb writing for The High Country News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

    Cutting bigleaf maple is generally legal, with the right permits, on private and state land in Washington. In national forests, however, protections on old growth keep the tree strictly off-limits. But in Gifford Pinchot, the law’s arm didn’t reach too far. Malamphy, who’d served as an officer with the U.S. Forest Service since 2000, patrolled the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, a rough triangle formed by Mount Adams, Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. His jurisdiction covered 575,000 acres — one cop, responsible for an area almost twice the size of Los Angeles. He cruised the woods alone in a Dodge pickup, inspecting meth paraphernalia dumps, checking hunting licenses, conducting traffic stops. In some ways, the job has changed little since the early 20th century, when Pinchot himself dispatched a ragged band of recruits to help a strange new agency called the Forest Service wrangle illegal loggers and miners. Everyone Malamphy met in the woods carried a gun or a knife, and usually both. Backup was hours away. In 2008, a Forest Service officer was murdered by a tree-trimmer down a remote road on the Olympic Peninsula. Malamphy was a tough customer — he had an offensive lineman’s physique, and hands that could crack walnuts. Still, he kept his Glock .40 close.

    @EklundCO, Colorado’s top water official, leaves CWCB for law firm in Denver — @AspenJournalism @COWaterPlan

    The building in Denver, not far from the state Capitol, that houses the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    Here’s an update to yesterday’s post about James Eklund’s leaving the Colorado Water Conservation Board from Brent Gardner-Smith (Aspen Journalism):

    James Eklund, the governor’s point person on the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, is leaving his post as director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board on March 31 to go work as an attorney helping to develop private-sector water projects.

    Eklund, 41, has been at the top of the state’s water-supply planning agency since July 2013. He gave notice to the CWCB’s board of directors on March 13 and starts his new job at the Denver office of a large law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, on April 3.

    “The private sector needs to make sure it is pulling its weight” when it comes to water infrastructure “and I’m going to see if I can help do that,” Eklund said.

    Eklund was appointed director of the Water Conservation Board by Gov. John Hickenlooper after the governor signed an executive order in May 2013 calling for a new state water plan by December 2015.

    At the time, Eklund was serving as senior deputy legal counsel in the governor’s office. By July 2013 he had replaced Jennifer Gimbel at the top of the CWCB, becoming the 10th director in the agency’s now 80-year history.

    James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, on the road promoting Colorado’s Water Plan.

    The plan

    What followed was an intense two-and-a-year effort by Eklund and CWCB staff members to produce “Colorado’s Water Plan,” including a long series of meetings and presentations around the state.

    When Eklund got up in front of an audience to tell them about the water plan, he often appeared to be a Denver attorney in a three-piece suit. But he almost always began his presentations by invoking his great-grandparents, Ole and Mary, immigrants from Norway who homesteaded his family’s ranch in Plateau Valley near Collbran.

    James Eklund, in the state Capitol building in Denver, while serving as an attorney in the governor’s office.
    James Eklund, with his father Larry Eklund, on the family homestead in western Colorado. Photo via Aspen Journalism.

    Old talking points

    By sharing his roots, Eklund was reaching out to Coloradoans on both sides of the Continental Divide, knowing that the Western Slope water interests often start conversations about more transmountain diversions with “Not one more drop,” while Front Range interests usually revert to “See you in water court.”

    “The toughest thing has been really trying to change that,” said Eklund. “And it’s like turning a cruise ship. It takes awhile, but it’s rewarding when it happens, and as it is happening. I certainly wanted it to turn faster than it has turned, or is turning.

    “People go back on their old talking points on this stuff,” Eklund added. “And in some instances, they go back to their grandparent’s and great-grandparent’s talking points. Getting a different level of conversation going, was, and probably will continue to be, the most difficult part of the whole thing.”

    From left, Russ George, a CWCB board member, Andrew Gorgey, then Garfield County manager, Peter Fleming, general counsel for the Colorado River District, and James Eklund, director of the CWCB, talking about the potential for new transmountain diversions outside of the Garfield County building in Glenwood Springs in 2015.

    Big river

    Eklund was also appointed by Hickenlooper to serve on the Upper Colorado River Commission, which works to administer aspects of the 1922 Colorado River Compact in conjunction with a lower basin commission.

    He has not resigned from that seat, and said for now he is still serving at the pleasure of the governor on the commission.

    He said the issues that divide the upper and lower Colorado River basins – think Colorado versus California – “is kind of like Colorado’s transmountain diversion conundrum on steroids.”

    And he said the solutions to both conundrums lie in people, not in water.

    “The art of this whole business is to get the two sides to see water as a linkage between them, as a common element that they all need, ” Eklund said. “Then they can get sit around a table and discuss things, instead of pulling pistols on each other and litigating.”

    The confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers, fall 2016. If water makes it here, it’s bound for the lower Colorado River basin, so just how much water gets to this point matters to people in seven states. Photo credit Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism.

    Running hot

    Eklund’s resignation after nearly four years at CWCB was a bit of a surprise to some professionals in the Colorado water sector, as the delivery of the water plan is often cited as a successful exercise that galvanized both the state’s water wonks and water users. The result was a glossy and readable policy document, but not an exact prescription for which projects to build or rivers to restore.

    “In my tenure, he’s probably made more presentations about what the CWCB does than about the rest of [the agency’s directors] put together,” said Eric Kuhn, who has worked at the Colorado River District for 36 years. “That’s what I think the state is going to miss with James leaving — his energy and his reaching out. The water business is a pretty insular community, and James was unwilling to accept that, and was more willing to get out and talk to everybody about what it is we do.”

    Eklund was also known within the CWCB for the mock headlines he presented during his director’s reports at CWCB meetings, doing so to make a point. Sometimes the headlines, attributed to various local newspapers, got a chuckle, sometimes a groan.

    On Wednesday, at his final CWCB board meeting, the last of Eklund’s headlines read: “CWCB Spokesman tweets: ‘Smart ass director, his “fake news” headlines, & reign of terror finally over.’”

    The reference to a “reign of terror” may have been Eklund’s way of acknowledging he pushed the CWCB staff hard during the development of the water plan.

    “It was very intense,” Eklund said of the two-and-a-half-year water plan process, which had firm deadlines for both the draft and final versions. “Everybody had to be all in. The engine was running at a very high level. We kept dumping in new oil, but it runs hot when you have to do something that aggressive.”

    Not long after the water plan was duly delivered to the governor at the end of 2015, at least six mid-level and senior employees left the CWCB.

    Asked at the time about the turnover at the agency, Eklund said that in many cases it was his staff’s good work on the highly visible water plan that led to them getting better job offers and opportunities.

    “Because it has been so successful,” Eklund said of the water plan, “it has raised the brand of each of the individuals who’ve worked on it.”

    That may be true of Eklund as well.

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism collaborates with the Post Independent, Aspen Times, Vail Daily and Summit Daily News on coverage of rivers and water in the upper Colorado River basin and the state. The Post, the Times and the Vail Daily published a version of this story on Thursday, March 23, 2017.

    R.I.P. Robert Hoag Rawlings

    Bob Rawlings. Photo credit The High Country News.

    Here’s the obit from The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

    Almost immediately after taking over the reins of the newspapers from his late uncle, Frank Hoag Jr., in 1980, he began using the editorial pages to advocate for Pueblo and Southeastern Colorado. He fought to protect institutions such as Colorado State University-Pueblo and the Colorado State Fair, but was best known for his battle to protect the quantity and quality of water that flows into Pueblo from Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

    Unleashing his newsroom and his editorial writers, Rawlings’ Chieftain published thousands of stories on the topic of water, and won numerous state and regional awards for its reporting and editorials. As a direct result of Rawlings’ efforts, Northern Colorado communities that tried to buy water rights from the Arkansas River Valley were thwarted or forced to accept numerous conditions such as financial payments to government and revegetation of lands dried up.

    Also, thanks mostly to Rawlings, the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District was approved by voters to likewise fight to protect the area’s water.

    It also is safe to say that many significant projects — such as the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, several multi-million dollar school bond issues, and the acquisition of university status for the University of Southern Colorado, now Colorado State University-Pueblo — might not have taken place without the constant advocacy for and support of Rawlings and The Chieftain.

    When Pueblo needed a new main library, voters approved a large, efficient and modernized project. But Rawlings donated an additional $4 million to the project, and the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library on Abriendo Avenue became one of the community’s most dazzling landmarks. The architectural wonder is one of many projects throughout the community that have been made possible thanks to Rawlings’ generosity.

    Always fascinated by politics, he became friends to governors, U.S. senators and members of Congress — as long as they supported Pueblo and Southeastern Colorado. He worked closely with innumerable City Council members, county commissioners and school board members, pushing them constantly to make his beloved Pueblo even better.

    Click here to view the Chieftain Rawlings photo gallery.

    More about Bob Rawlings from The Pueblo Chieftain.

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Identify clouds with a #cloud wheel from the @RMetS, free download

    From the Royal Meteorological Society: We’ve made a cloud wheel that can be cut out and used to identify clouds. Download the free pdf here: http://ow.ly/26AL30a93DV.

    Cloud wheel via the Royal Meteorological Society.

    Fort Collins: Community issues forum, Saturday, March 25, 2017

    Old Town library, Fort Collins. Photo credit Larimer County.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):

    Fort Collins’ Democratic lawmakers will host a community issues forum Saturday to talk about Colorado water.

    Planned topics include how to tackle water conservation and agricultural water use. Kirk Russell, deputy director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will join them.

    Rep. Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, in particular has been working on water issues in the state. That includes a bill to create rules for aquifer recharging and more recently, having bills make it out of committee that aim to promote conservation by not allowing conservation efforts to diminish water rights, to slow “buy and dry” — the act of buying land solely for the water rights — and open up money for water storage and conservation projects around the state.

    Rep. Joann Ginal and Sen. John Kefalas, also Fort Collins Democrats, will also be in attendance.

    The free event is open to the public. It will run from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Old Town Library, 201 Peterson St.

    Colorado’s top water official leaves for Denver law firm — @AspenJournalism

    James Eklund, the director of the CWCB, hails from a Western Slope ranching family. He often works to add a touch of levity to otherwise serious-minded state-level water meetings. James left the Colorado Water Conservation board in Spring of 2017.
    James Eklund, the director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, hails from a Western Slope ranching family. He often works to add a touch of levity to otherwise serious-minded, state-level water meetings. Eklund announced his resignation as director of the CWCB in March of 2017.

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent:

    James Eklund, the governor’s point person on the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, is leaving his post as director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board on March 31 to go work as an attorney helping to develop private-sector water projects.

    Eklund, 41, has been at the top of the state’s water-supply planning agency since July 2013. He gave notice to the CWCB’s board of directors on March 13 and starts his new job at the Denver office of a large law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, on April 3.

    “The private sector needs to make sure it is pulling its weight” when it comes to water infrastructure “and I’m going to see if I can help do that,” Eklund said.

    Eklund was appointed director of the Water Conservation Board by Gov. John Hickenlooper after the governor signed an executive order in May 2013 calling for a new state water plan by December 2015.

    At the time, Eklund was serving as senior deputy legal counsel in the governor’s office. By July 2013 he had replaced Jennifer Gimbel at the top of the CWCB, becoming the 10th director in the agency’s now 80-year history.

    What followed was an intense two-and-a-half-year effort by Eklund and CWCB staff members to produce “Colorado’s Water Plan.” The resulting glossy, thick and surprisingly readable policy document came after a seemingly endless series of meetings and presentations by Eklund and CWCB staffers around the state.

    And when Eklund got up in front of an audience to tell them about the water plan, he often appeared to be a Denver attorney in a three-piece suit. But he almost always began by invoking his great-grandparents, Ole and Mary, immigrants from Norway who homesteaded his family’s ranch in Plateau Valley near Collbran.

    In doing so, Eklund was reaching out to Coloradoans on both sides of the Continental Divide, knowing that the Western Slope water interests often start conversations about more transmountain diversions with “Not one more drop,” while Front Range interests usually revert to “See you in water court.”

    “The toughest thing has been really trying to change that,” said Eklund. “And it’s like turning a cruise ship. It takes awhile, but it’s rewarding when it happens, and as it is happening. I certainly wanted it to turn faster than it has turned, or is turning.

    “People go back on their old talking points on this stuff,” Eklund added. “And in some instances, they go back to their grandparent’s and great-grandparent’s talking points. Getting a different level of conversation going, was, and probably will continue to be, the most difficult part of the whole thing.”

    Eklund was also appointed by Hickenlooper to serve on the Upper Colorado River Commission, which works to administer aspects of the 1922 Colorado River Compact in conjunction with a lower basin commission. He has not resigned from that seat, and said for now he is still serving at the pleasure of the governor on the commission.

    He said the issues that divide the upper and lower Colorado River basins – think Colorado versus California – “is kind of like Colorado’s transmountain diversion conundrum on steroids.”

    And he said the solutions to both conundrums lie in people, not in water.

    “The art of this whole business is to get the two sides to see water as a linkage between them, as a common element that they all need,” Eklund said. “Then they can sit around a table and discuss things, instead of pulling pistols on each other and litigating.”

    Eklund’s resignation after nearly four years at CWCB was a bit of a surprise to some professionals in the Colorado water sector, as the delivery of the water plan is often seen as a successful exercise that galvanized both the state’s water wonks and water users, if not an exact prescription for which projects to build or rivers to restore.

    “In my tenure, he’s probably made more presentations about what the CWCB does than about the rest of [the agency’s directors] put together,” said Eric Kuhn, who has worked at the Colorado River District for 36 years. “That’s what I think the state is going to miss with James leaving — his energy and his reaching out. The water business is a pretty insular community, and James was unwilling to accept that, and was more willing to get out and talk to everybody about what it is we do.”

    Eklund was also known within the CWCB for the mock headlines he presented during his director’s reports at CWCB meetings, doing so to make a point. Sometimes the headlines, attributed to various local newspapers, got a chuckle, sometimes a groan.

    On Wednesday, at his final CWCB board meeting, the last of Eklund’s headlines read: “CWCB Spokesman tweets: ‘Smart ass director, his “fake news” headlines, & reign of terror finally over.'”

    The reference to a “reign of terror” may have been Eklund’s way of acknowledging he pushed the CWCB staff hard during the development of the water plan.

    “It was very intense,” Eklund said of the two-and-a-half-year water plan process, which had firm deadlines for both the draft and final versions. “Everybody had to be all in. The engine was running at a very high level. We kept dumping in new oil, but it runs hot when you have to do something that aggressive.”

    Not long after the water plan was duly delivered to the governor at the end of 2015, at least six mid-level and senior employees left the CWCB.

    Asked at the time about the turnover at the agency, Eklund said that in many cases it was his staff’s good work on the highly visible water plan that led to them getting better job offers and opportunities.

    “Because it has been so successful,” Eklund said of the water plan, “it has raised the brand of each of the individuals who’ve worked on it.”

    That may be true of Eklund as well.

    Aspen Journalism collaborates with the Post Independent, Aspen Times, Vail Daily and Summit Daily News on coverage of rivers and water in the Colorado River drainage and the state. More water http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

    Make your neighborhood ‘greenery’ with envy – News on TAP

    This spring, transform your yard into a water-wise landscape with these six native plants.

    Source: Make your neighborhood ‘greenery’ with envy – News on TAP

    A perfect time to rethink your yard. (That would be now) – News on TAP

    Changing seasons, changing landscapes: How to turn your yard into a water-efficient urban oasis.

    Source: A perfect time to rethink your yard. (That would be now) – News on TAP

    Fixing a leak in all the right places – News on TAP

    Household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water every year in the United States.

    Source: Fixing a leak in all the right places – News on TAP

    Gauging our water supply: It ain’t over ’til it’s over – News on TAP

    It may be a cliché, but when it comes to predicting summer water reserves, we really do take it one day at a time.

    Source: Gauging our water supply: It ain’t over ’til it’s over – News on TAP

    #Drought news: In #Colorado, unseasonable warmth (7-day average temperatures up to 18°F above normal), expansion of D2 (Severe) N. and Central

    Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

    Summary

    A late-winter cold snap over the eastern half of the nation contrasted with warmer-than-normal conditions from the Plains to the Pacific Coast, save for lingering chilly weather in the Northwest. The eastern cold spell was accompanied by mixed precipitation across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, resulting in widespread drought reductions. Much of the south experienced drier-than-normal weather, which coupled with recent dryness led to widespread expansion of drought. Drought conditions across the west remained unchanged, though renewed Pacific storminess was taking aim at the region at the end of the period…

    Northern Plains

    There were no changes to this area’s drought depiction, with light showers (less than 0.5 inch) offering no substantial relief to the Long-term Moderate Drought (D1)…

    Central and Southern Plains

    Drier- and warmer-than-normal weather persisted, maintaining or worsening the region’s drought. Across southern Nebraska and much of Kansas, 7-day average temperatures up to 7°F above normal coupled with increasingly dry conditions noted out to 60 days (locally less than 25 percent of normal, deficits of 1 to 3 inches) led to widespread expansion of Abnormal Dryness (D0). In eastern Kansas, 90-day precipitation less than 50 percent of normal (locally less than 30 percent) continued to deplete soil moisture, resulting in the expansion of Moderate Drought (D1). In Colorado, unseasonable warmth (7-day average temperatures up to 18°F above normal) and protracted dryness (6-month precipitation averaging 30 to 50 percent of normal) led to the expansion of Severe Drought (D2) in north-central portions of the state; rain will be [needed] soon everywhere east of the Rockies to prevent a rapid intensification of drought as winter wheat continues to break dormancy and soil moisture requirements increase. The same held true in Oklahoma, where weekly average temperatures up to 10°F above normal (locally higher in the Panhandle) and persistent dryness (6-month rainfall averaging 50 to 70 percent of normal) led to an increase in D2…

    Texas

    The short-term trend toward increasing dryness and drought continued, though some benefits from recent rain were noted in the south. In Deep South Texas and along the Gulf Coast, 2-week rainfall of 2 to 6 inches resulted in widespread reductions of Abnormal Dryness (D0). In contrast, unseasonable warmth (10-15°F above normal) and dryness (60-day rainfall 30 to 50 percent of normal) led to widespread expansion of D0 from Amarillo to Lubbock. Similarly, 60-day rainfall less than 30 percent of normal led to the introduction of Moderate Drought (D1) in north-central portions of the state. The northeastern corner of Texas has also seen some of the driest conditions over the past 60 days, with precipitation totaling less than 50 percent of normal (locally less than 20 percent); consequently, D1 was expanded to reflect the pronounced short-term dryness…

    Western U.S.

    Outside of New Mexico, conditions remained unchanged to region’s predominantly long-term drought. A pronounced dry signal over the past 60 days (10-35 percent of normal) led to an increase in Abnormal Dryness (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) across eastern New Mexico. Meanwhile, the Southwest’s lingering long-term drought areas are still exhibiting deficits beyond the 2-year window, with 3-year precipitation totals averaging 60 to 75 percent of normal. More rain will be needed to fully eradicate the lingering impacts and deficits of the region’s 5-year drought, particularly in southern California…

    Looking Ahead

    A dry start to the period featuring lingering late-winter chill over the east will give way to increasing chances for rain and mountain snow from the Pacific Coast States into the nation’s mid-section. A cold area of high pressure will slide off the East Coast, allowing a pair of slow-moving disturbances to track from the Pacific Coast into the middle Mississippi Valley. These systems will ultimately slow in response to building high pressure over the upper Midwest, resulting in potentially heavy rain (1 to 4 inches) from the central Gulf Coast into the middle Mississippi Valley, with a secondary swath of moderate to heavy rain (locally more than an inch) from the central High Plains into the Great Lakes and Northeast. Likewise, locally heavy rain and mountain snow will return to the west, though the precipitation will largely bypass the lingering long-term drought areas in the Southwest. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for March 28 – April 1 calls for near- to above-normal temperatures and precipitation over most of the nation, with cooler-than-normal conditions confined to northern New England and drier-than-normal weather limited to California and southern Florida.

    #ClimateChange: Earth sizzles in February

    From the Associated Press (Seth Boronstein):

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calculated that February 2017 averaged 55.66 degrees (13.08 degrees Celsius). That’s 1.76 degrees (.98 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 20th century average.

    It was also the second hottest winter in the northern hemisphere on record. Records go back to 1880.

    In the past, Earth doesn’t come near record heat if there’s no El Nino. This year it did — on every continent.

    NOAA climate scientist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo called it clear evidence of climate change.

    She calculated that the rate of February warming since 1980 is twice as high as since 1880.

    #WorldWaterDay: 6 trends for optimism

    From Water Currents (Brooke Barton):

    On World Water Day 2017, here are six positive trends that give me hope:

    1) Global Companies are Embracing Sustainable Development Goals

    Launched by the United Nations in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a target to ensure everyone has access to safe water by 2030. Big companies that use a lot of water around the world, such as BASF, Coca-Cola, Diageo, Novozymes and Unilever are integrating these water goals into their sustainability plans. Diageo, the company that brings you Guinness, for example, released an ambitious plan that includes a 50 percent improvement in water use efficiency and 100 percent recycling of wastewater. It’s also developing community projects in water stressed areas where its production sites are located and has thus far provided 600,000 more people with access to safe drinking water.

    These companies are recognizing that to ensure long-term water supplies for their business, they must give water back to the communities where they operate.

    2) The World’s Biggest Water User is Making Strides

    That’s agriculture, of course. From farm to factory, producing food is the most water intensive business on earth. More than 70 percent of the world’s freshwater is in fact used to irrigate crops and raise livestock. Through their massive purchasing power, the companies that buy, process and sell the food we eat have the power to raise the bar for sustainable water use in farming. And more of the largest food companies – from PepsiCo to Campbell’s Soup to Driscoll’s are starting to do just that, by evaluating their growing regions most at risk for water scarcity, and developing plans and targets for working with farmers to conserve water resources.

    Last fall, in fact, a number of food companies – including Hain Celestial, Hormel Foods, PepsiCo and WhiteWave Foods – worked with Ceres and the World Wildlife Fund to set new commitments to address water risks as part of the AgWater Challenge.

    Among the commitments, PepsiCo is working with its agricultural suppliers to improve the water efficiency of its direct agricultural supply chain by 15 percent by 2025 (compared to 2015) in high water risk sourcing areas, including India and Mexico. And Hormel Foods is developing a the first comprehensive water stewardship policy for a meat company, setting water management expectations that go beyond regulatory compliance for its major suppliers, contract animal growers and feed suppliers.

    3) Companies in the West are ‘Walking their Talk’ on Water Conservation

    Increasingly, companies operating in water-stressed regions are proactively taking action to conserve and protect water sources. Kellogg’s, Gap, and Genentech are among a growing cadre of companies engaging with California policymakers on the urgency for stronger water management policies in this drought-prone state. Even in the era of Trump, companies are seeing it in their collective interest to help get water policy right.

    Many of these same companies are also using innovation to reduce their water consumption, such as by adopting large-scale water reuse practices. Or some, like General Mills and Sierra Nevada, are collaborating with stakeholders at the local, watershed level on the development of groundwater management plans, helping to implement California’s new groundwater law. These companies understand that staying in business over the long-term will require a fundamental shift in how they use water.

    4) Cities are Driving Innovation

    The tragedy in Flint, Michigan and widespread concerns about lead contamination in drinking water are grabbing news headlines, and rightfully so. Aging infrastructure leaves many around the U. S. vulnerable to tap water with high lead levels. It is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed by government leaders.

    Yet at the same time, many cities are deploying innovative solutions to protect and preserve water resources. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, one of the first public agencies to remove lead pipes from its water infrastructure decades ago, remains on the cutting edge, implementing numerous water reuse and reclamation projects as well as innovative wastewater and storm water management projects.

    In Philadelphia and Syracuse, New York, local water officials are implementing storm water management programs that use green infrastructure to help capture runoff and protect their water supply. Big Spring and Wichita Falls in Texas have developed potable reuse — “toilet to tap” — facilities that clean wastewater to drinking water quality. In Washington, D.C., local officials are producing renewable power from its wastewater by “pressure cooking” the solids left over at the end of the wastewater treatment process.

    5) Wall Street is Becoming Water Aware

    Devastating droughts in California, Brazil, South Africa and elsewhere, coupled with global trends of groundwater depletion and water quality degradation are motivating investors to become more water aware. Many are increasingly recognizing that the global water crisis is not only a social, but an economic, concern, and they’re moving their money to help tackle the crisis.

    In little more than one year, for example, Ceres’ network of institutional investors focused on water has grown eight-fold, from a group of 10 investors managing $1 trillion in assets, to 80 investors with some $19 trillion in assets.

    Today’s announcement by Ceres partner ACTIAM, a European asset manager with approximately $56 billion in assets, is an example of what investors are doing to lift all boats on water issues. ACTIAM has pledged to achieve a water neutral portfolio by 2030, meaning that it expects the companies in its investment portfolio to develop plans to consume no more water than nature can replenish and cause no more pollution than is acceptable for the health of humans and ecosystems.

    6) Science-Based Water Reduction Targets are Picking Up Steam

    If you’re curious whether companies’ water neutrality goals can actually result in meaningful water conservation, a consortium of NGOs, including the World Resources Institute (WRI), CDP and WWF have been working with companies on that score. They’re taking companies’ water neutrality, or balance goals, and helping them set science-based water reduction targets that reduce business risks while serving communities’ water needs. It’s the next wave of science-based targets for companies, following the campaign for science-based GHG emissions targets.

    The World Resources Institute, for example, has been working with Mars Inc. to develop an approach for setting water targets informed by science, and measuring impacts and tracking performance over time. These targets take into account the latest science on the global carbon budget, water stress and other ecological limits.

    About the Author
    Brooke Barton is the Senior Program Director for the Water and Food Programs at Ceres, a nonprofit organization mobilizing business and investor leadership on global sustainability challenges. Connect with her by email at barton@ceres.org. Learn more about Ceres at http://www.ceres.org.

    @ColoradoClimate: Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.