It was a hoot yesterday in downtown Denver.
I don’t have time to write up yesterday’s symposium — I’m heading to downtown Denver for the People’s Climate March.
Here’s the link to my Twitter notes. Be sure to click on the “Latest” tab to view the whole stream.
Everyone that I talked to praised the program afterward. Thanks to Laurna Kaatz and the rest of the volunteers that pulled it off.
Good luck to Dick Wolfe. He is moving on from State Engineer after 10 years. I’ll miss our conversations about the great rock and roll stars we both admired.
Denver Water celebrates Arbor Day with a tribute to Mother Nature’s own water filtration process.
JIM LOCHHEAD OF DENVER WATER REVEALS COMMUNITY VISION PLAN
FOR THE HIGH LINE CANAL FRIDAY
Celebration and tree planting acknowledge multi-jurisdictional
endorsement and launch membership program
Who: District 4 Councilwoman Kendra Black, Denver; Nina Beardsley Itin, High Line Canal Conservancy Board Chair; Chris Castilian, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Executive Director; and Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO.
What: A press conference with Jim Lochhead and other dignitaries marks the completion of the first phase of planning for the High Line Canal – a critical first step to ensuring a vibrant future for the 71-mile recreational and ecological corridor. The vision has been endorsed by Denver Water and all 10 jurisdictions along the Canal’s reach – Arapahoe County, City of Aurora, City of Centennial, Cherry Hills Village, City and County of Denver, Douglas County, Greenwood Village, High Line Canal Conservancy, Highlands Ranch Metro District, City of Littleton, South Suburban Parks and Recreation District.
Following the press conference, Jim Lochhead, along with key elected officials, will plant a tree and reveal a stone engraved with the community-driven vision statement to be placed along the Canal.
Anyone can participate throughout the event on social media by following @COHighLineCanal and using the hashtag #71Miles.
Where: Mamie D Eisenhower Park (east end) and High Line Canal, 4300 Dartmouth Ave, Denver, CO 80222
When: Friday, April 28, 2017
9:30 am – 9:50: Press conference
9:50 am: Stone reveal and tree planting
10:00 am: Celebration
Why: Tackling the challenges of a growing region requires different ways of thinking, increased collaboration and new types of partnerships. The Community Vision Plan for the High Line Canal represents a model of regional cooperation – led by an effective partnership between the High Line Canal Conservancy, Denver Water and representatives from every jurisdiction actively and eagerly “at the table.” Thousands of community members actively participated in the writing of the Vision Plan, helping to shape the next 100 years for the beloved regional greenway.
While the vision planning initiative was the public’s first real opportunity to engage with planning for the future of the Canal, the community’s voice and support moving forward is arguably even more important. The event will mark the soft launch of the High Line Canal Conservancy’s membership drive, an important next step for the public’s engagement.
BE A HIGH LINE HERO. Joinhighlinecanal.org
ABOUT THE HIGH LINE CANAL CONSERVANCY
The High Line Canal Conservancy was formed in 2014 by a passionate coalition of private citizens to provide leadership and harness the region’s commitment to protecting the future of the High Line Canal. With support from each jurisdiction and in partnership with Denver Water, the Conservancy is connecting stakeholders in support of comprehensive planning to ensure that the Canal is protected and enhanced for future generations. The Conservancy is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization.
Learn more about the Conservancy and planning initiative here: highlinecanal.org
From The Aspen Times (Rick Carroll):
An Aspen city councilman said this week he erred by voting in favor of potentially damming Castle and Maroon creeks, but he failed to persuade his fellow elected officials to rescind their unanimous decision from October.
Bert Myrin conceded that it was “my mistake” when he voted in favor of the city’s pursuit of preserving its water rights on the two pristine streams.
Myrin’s proposal, which was not on the council’s Monday meeting agenda and had not been formally noticed to the public, came eight days before the May 2 municipal elections.
Council members Art Daily and Ann Mullins are up for re-election and face four challengers. Mayor Steve Skadron is seeking re-election to his third and final two-year term. Lee Mulcahy is the challenger.
The dam issue has been one of the hot-button issues of the election season.
Candidates Ward Hauenstein and Torre, both of whom have Myrin’s public support, have been vocal in their opposition against the city preserving its water rights, as has Mulcahy. Council candidate Skippy Mesirow has expressed a desire to preserve the water rights but not dam the streams. And at a candidate forum last week, candidate Sue Tatem vowed to lay down in front of a bulldozer if and when construction on the reservoirs ever begins.
Others, however, have argued that candidates are capitalizing on an issue that has been overblown because the city has regularly extended its water rights for the two streams since 1971.
Those conditional water rights allow the potential for building a 9,062-acre-foot reservoir in Castle Creek Valley and 4,567-square-foot reservoir in Maroon Creek Valley.
The issue is now pending before the District 5 Water Court in Glenwood Springs, where several parties, including Pitkin County, have filed opposition to the city’s extension.
Elected officials and city officials also have maintained they must renew the water rights in preparation for 50 years from now when Aspen’s population could be nearly triple what it is today, as well as climate change’s impact on the water supply. Maroon and Castle creeks supply the city’s drinking water.
From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):
On Thursday, the U.S. Forest Service announced the ban of motorized boats on Lemon Reservoir, which joins two other Southwest Colorado lakes – Totten and Narraguinnep – that were closed this year because of the threat of invasive species…
While some Southwest Colorado lakes offer a boat inspection, the Forest Service said the resources are unavailable to fund and staff an aquatic nuisance species inspection station at Lemon Reservoir.
Motorized boats in recent years have become significant transmitters of invasive species – such as the New Zealand mud snail, Asian carp and rusty crayfish, among other plants and animals – into uninfected waters.
But the main culprits, microscopic zebra and quagga mussels, can quickly infest a waterway, clog reservoir infrastructure and endanger other aquatic life. Costs to treat an infestation, the Forest Service said, are expensive.
According to the Forest Service, the decision to close Lemon Reservoir to motorized boat use was made after local irrigators, recreationists, the Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, La Plata County commissioners and the city of Durango showed significant support…
The city of Durango pulls its main water supply from the Florida River, out of a reservoir downstream of Lemon Dam. If mussels were introduced into Lemon Reservoir, it wouldn’t take long for the city to feel the impact, Salka said…
According to the water district’s website, releases from Lemon Dam, about 14 miles northeast of Durango, provide irrigation water for nearly 19,500 acres.
The Forest Service said a barrier and sign will be installed at the Miller Creek boat ramp, and the closure will be enforced by the agency seven days a week.
Invasive aquatic species, and finding the money for inspections, are increasingly becoming a problem in Southwest Colorado.
At Vallecito Reservoir, a popular boating and fishing destination 20 miles northeast of Durango, the boating season this summer was in jeopardy when Colorado Parks and Wildlife said it was unable to fund an inspection station…
As a result, businesses and community members dependent on the tourism dollars generated from lake users raised $10,500 to help cover operating costs for the inspection station, Beck said.
The effort was set to raise more, Beck said, when CPW last week said it could cover the remaining $43,500 needed to fund a full season of operation, which starts May 1.
Beck added that managers were forced to close boat access on the north end of the Vallecito Lake after several incidents where people illegally put their boats into the reservoir.
Beck said launching a boat illegally could result in a $75 fine, but the agency has “tried not to bite down that way.”
He said CPW proposed a bill in the state Legislature this year that would require boaters to purchase a $25 aquatic nuisance species sticker that would fund an inspection station program throughout the state.
From The Greeley Tribune (Joshua Polson):
Colton Lancaster, 10, tries to stay dry as he stands in a rain simulator Wednesday at the 26th Children’s Water Festival at Island Grove Regional Park in Greeley.
The annual event hosted students from schools from across the state to learn about water in Colorado.
This year’s theme was “Water is Life,” and it looked at how water is essential for life everywhere.
The event creates lasting lessons, said Kathy Parker, public information and education officer for the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District.
“It makes the learning experience so memorable they’ll never forget what they learned today,” she said.
From Colorado Public Radio (Rachel Estabrook):
Ten farmers in the Grand Valley won’t plant some of their fields this summer as part of an experiment that could help them — and other users along the Colorado River — prepare for future water shortages.
Grand Valley water manager Mark Harris is leading the water banking pilot program. He says current forecasts about the effects that population growth and climate change could have on the Colorado River require him and others to prepare for “what if” scenarios, like extreme or prolonged drought.
Participating Grand Valley farmers will fallow fields that otherwise would have grown corn, wheat, alfalfa and other grains. Together, they expect to keep about 3,500 acre-feet of water in the Colorado River and Lake Powell. That amount of water supplies about 7,000 households each year. Farmers will be compensated with money raised from the state, organizations like The Nature Conservancy, and water providers like Harris’ group.
Harris cautions that even if the 2017-18 program is successful, it would take a lot more work to scale it up to achieve the kinds of water savings the area may need in the future.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
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.
During the 7-day period (ending Tuesday morning), widespread heavy rain eased drought but caused local flooding from Oklahoma to the Carolina Coast. In contrast, dry, hot conditions caused drought to intensify over the lower Southeast, though tropical downpours afforded some drought relief in southern Florida. Additional improvements to drought intensity and coverage were noted in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic in response to late-spring rain as well as recovering groundwater levels. Conditions also improved on the central Plains, while drought remained largely unchanged elsewhere…
Wet weather brought drought relief to the southern half of the region, while conditions remained unchanged on the northern High Plains’ long-term drought areas (denoted by an “L” on the map). Precipitation amounts were highly variable, but well-placed moderate to heavy rain and wet snow (1-3 inches liquid equivalent, locally more) led to reductions of Abnormal Dryness (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) over southern-most portions of Wyoming, northern and northeastern Colorado, as well as the northwestern and southeastern corners of Kansas. Additional D1 and D0 reductions were made from eastern Colorado into southwestern Kansas despite lighter rainfall (half inch or less), as precipitation totals over the past 90 days were now mostly well above normal, with 30-day totals locally more than three times normal. Meanwhile, despite recent wet weather, long-term deficits linger in the north’s D1 and D0 areas; 12-month precipitation stood at 65 to 80 percent of normal in northeastern Wyoming and adjacent portions of the Dakotas, though some parts of southwestern South Dakota were closer to normal and may be removed from D0 in the near future…
As the region’s climatological wet season draws to a close, there were no changes made to the drought depiction from the Rockies into the Southwest. Farther east, well-placed moderate to heavy rain and wet snow (1-3 inches liquid equivalent, locally more) led to reductions of Abnormal Dryness (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) over southern-most portions of Wyoming as well as northern and northeastern Colorado. Additional D1 and D0 reductions were made in eastern Colorado despite lighter rainfall (half inch or less), as precipitation totals over the past 90 days were now mostly well above normal, with 30-day totals locally more than three times normal…
The focus for heavy rainfall will shift to the nation’s mid-section over the next 5 days. An area of low pressure and its attendant cold front will produce moderate to heavy showers and thunderstorms as it moves from the Mississippi Valley toward southern Canada and the Atlantic Seaboard, though rain from this system will largely bypass the East Coast States. In its wake, another storm system will develop over the south-central U.S. during the weekend and lift slowly northeastward, producing heavy rain from the central Gulf Coast into the central Great Lakes Region; moderate to heavy wet snow is likely in the colder air on the northwest side of the storm over central and southern portions of the Rockies and High Plains. Combined, these two storms are expected to produce a large swath of 1- to 3-inch precipitation totals from the central Plains to the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley, with excessive rainfall (4-12 inches) possible from the northern Delta into the central Corn Belt. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for May 2 – 6 calls for above-normal precipitation across much of the nation east of the Mississippi as well as central and northern portions of the Rockies and High Plains. Conversely, drier-than-normal conditions are expected from Texas into the upper Midwest and from the Great Basin into the Northwest. Colder-than-normal conditions from the western slopes of the Appalachians to the High Plains will contrast with warmer-than-normal readings along the Atlantic Coast as well as California and the Southwest.
From Aspen Public Radio (Elizabeth Stewart-Severy):
The Roaring Fork has been on Colorado’s impaired rivers list for five years, and the city of Aspen is working with Pitkin County to put together a plan to improve its health.
“This stretch of river through the city of Aspen is the most threatened stretch in the entire river,” said April Long, who heads up Aspen’s Clean River Program.
A variety of factors may be contributing to the Roaring Fork’s degrading health. Water is pulled out of the river through a transbasin diversion, and lawns have replaced natural river bank in many areas. Plus, stormwater from the city core contributes pollutants.
Long and the city of Aspen have been working for years on improved stormwater systems, and now staff is looking at other projects to improve water quality.
The city and county are working together to develop a river management plan, and Long said public involvement is critical. There will be an open house Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Old Powerhouse Property in Aspen.
From Climate Central (Bob Berwyn):
The American West has already lost between 10 and 20 percent of its mountain snowpack since the early 1980s, and climate change is partly to blame, new research shows. If greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed, the region could lose 30 percent of the snowpack the region relies on for irrigation and drinking water—and potentially as much as 60 percent—over the next 30 years, the authors write.
The loss can’t be explained by natural climate variations alone, however it is consistent with model simulations that include both natural and human-caused changes, the study says.
“These results add to the evidence of a human influence on climate that will have severe impacts on our water supply,” said Benjamin Santer, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientist and a co-author of the paper, published last week in Nature Communications.
Less snowpack is more than just a blow to the skiing and snowboarding industries. The snow that falls in winter, and melts slowly during spring and summer, fills regional reservoirs and is used for irrigation, hydropower and drinking water. The Western snowpack, spread across thousands of miles of high-elevation terrain, holds far more water than all the reservoirs in the region combined.
“A 60 percent loss would be a huge concern to farmers, ranchers and water managers,” said lead author John Fyfe, a senior research scientist with Environment Canada, who did some of the earliest studies on global warming impacts to western water supplies.
The findings are based on data collected between 1982 and 2016 from 354 snow measuring stations across 11 states, from the Cascades of Washington and Oregon through California’s Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and New Mexico. The stations measure the amount of water in the snow, a critical metric for calculating downstream water supplies.
The maximum amount of water in the snowpack declined at 307 (87 percent) of the sites between 1982 and 2016 at a rate of about 9.5 percent per decade. Projecting ahead, the models show a range of potential losses over the next 30 years reaching as high as 60 percent under a high-emissions scenario but likely closer to 30 percent, the authors write.
Fyfe said the models his team used to project the snowpack decline are similar to those used for attributing the man-made global warming to single climate events like heatwaves or droughts. The models reproduce many possible climate outcomes from a single starting point in 1950. Running the models with and without the effects of greenhouse gas forcing factored in enables the scientists to separate the effects of natural cycles like El Niño from the effects of heat-trapping gases.
Douglas Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Project at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said the projections reinforce the need for immediate actions to avert water shortages in the West, including massive conservation efforts, more efficient agricultural irrigation and rethinking how water from the region’s major rivers is allocated.
From KOAA.com (Zach Thaxton):
A group of around a half dozen southeastern Colorado water and wildlife leaders toured Phase One of a three-phase improvement project on flood-damaged Camp Creek in Garden of the Gods Wednesday. The tour was part of the two-day Arkansas Valley River Basin Water Forum, happening in Colorado Springs. The group observed part of the Camp Creek Stream Stabilization Project, which was completed last fall as Phase one of the Camp Creek Drainage Improvement Project.
“They’re protecting the channel and providing storage for stormwater, so that will benefit the community down below,” said Gary Bostrom with the Southeast Colorado Water Conservancy District. The $1 million project is designed to channel floodwater coming out of Queens Canyon, ravaged during 2012’s Waldo Canyon Fire, through Garden of the Gods and into the Camp Creek channel along 31st Street in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood. Flooding in 2015 spread coarse sediment through the northern section of the park, destroying trails.
Phase Two of the project is construction of an $8.5 million detention basin below The Navigators. “The detention facility is a huge part of holding back flows and making the lower reach much more safe,” said Richard Mulledy, Water Resources Engineering Division manager for the City of Colorado Springs. Construction on the basin is set to begin in late 2017 following the conclusion of monsoon season.
Phase Three includes rebuilding of the 31st Street channel and making landscaping improvements and adding sidewalks and bicycle paths. View details of the entire project HERE.
From the City of Steamboat Springs:
Water Providers Announce Mandatory Water Restrictions
With minimal precipitation, above average temperatures and runoff steadily increasing, coupled with a very dry February and March, the four districts which provide water to the Steamboat Springs area – Mt. Werner Water, City of Steamboat Springs, Steamboat II Metro District and Tree Haus Metro District – will institute mandatory stage 2 water restrictions starting May 1, 2017.
“Even with our recent moisture, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone,” said Frank Alfone, Mt. Werner Water District General Manager. “With lower than normal precipitation so far this year and a still fluctuating summer forecast, the early adoption of stage 2 restrictions and a conservative approach made sense for the conditions we’re seeing at this point.”
The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is still predicting average precipitation this summer with a good chance (40%) for above average temperatures. Steamboat depends upon a combination of natural flows and reservoir releases from the Fish Creek watershed to carry it through the summer, fall and winter.
“It’s good to see the return of rain and snow this week,” said Jon Snyder, Public Works Director for the City of Steamboat Springs. “However, we’ll need consistent and steady precipitation for the foreseeable future to move away from restrictions and we appreciate everyone’s cooperation over the coming months.”
Early implementation of Stage 2 watering schedule will also allow lawns, shrubs and trees to adapt early in the growing season and enables automatic systems to be set by landscapers, businesses and homeowners to the Stage 2 schedule right from the start of the season.
Through these restrictions and continued efforts by water users to reduce water demands, the community is able to strike a balance between conserving water supplies in the reservoirs and maintaining the riparian health of Fish Creek and the Yampa River.
Stage 2 water restrictions are in accordance with the Steamboat Springs Water Conservation Plan adopted in 2011 by the Steamboat Springs City Council and Board of Directors of Mt. Werner Water District. Stage 2 mandatory restrictions were most recently enacted in 2015, 2013 and 2012.
From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):
According to the Tower weather monitoring station at 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass, 12 inches of snow had fallen by Tuesday morning.
The weather station on Rabbit Ears Pass at 9,400 measured 8 inches of new snow.
The town of Yampa had 5 inches of snow while Clark had 2 inches.
Ski areas still operating benefited with Winter Park receiving 7 inches of snow. Loveland Ski Area saw 5 inches.
The current snow depth on Buffalo Pass is 105 inches. That’s the equivalent of 41.8 inches of water.
On average for April 25, there is 49.3 inches of snow equivalent water at the Buffalo Pass monitoring station, meaning snowpack is 85 percent of average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Historically, snowpack on Buffalo Pass peaks on May 9.
Snow depth on Rabbit Ears is 43 inches with the equivalent of 16.7 inches of water. The snowpack for Rabbit Ears is 65 percent of average.
The snowpack for the entire Yampa and White river basins was at 78 percent of average as of Tuesday.
Denver Water celebrates Arbor Day with a tribute to Mother Nature’s own water filtration process.
From Earth & Space Science News (Scott Tyler, Sudeep Chandra, and Gordon Grant):
Much of the landscape of the American West is under federal and state management, and the [20th Annual Lake Tahoe Summit] identified five key initiatives that the research community, in partnership with management agencies, could implement to improve water management:
Implement a new cross-agency/cross-disciplinary audit of monitoring networks. An examination of our existing research networks, including critical zone observatories, long-term ecological research sites, and other experimental forest and range sites, would help determine their sustainability and value in assessing how extreme climate events influence hydrology and ecology. Integrate research programs to design resilient forests. Research should focus on reducing water stress, quantifying the water storage potential in snow and the subsurface, and incorporating emerging science on ecophysiology and mortality, climate variation, and climate change. Implement a major program to advance hydrologic monitoring in the mountains of the western United States. Measurements should focus on precipitation, snowpack, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, and groundwater across the West. Couple atmospheric, terrestrial, and marine observatory networks to improve prediction. Linking offshore measurements to the land at both regional and river basin scales would improve predictions of atmospheric rivers, drought, El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and other episodic events ranging from days to decades. Target field campaigns using novel technologies. Novel technologies (i.e., new sensors, drones, and airborne platforms) can help assess and fill data gaps that currently limit the accurate understanding of water availability at all geographic scales.
The workshop concluded that it is time for a western-focused, integrated center to develop science- and social science–based solutions for addressing water scarcity and resilience to change in the West. Such a center would bring state-of-the-art scientific, engineering, and socioeconomic findings to bear on critical water issues in the context of public policy, planning, and socioeconomic trends. And now given the swing to flood conditions as we enter the spring of 2017, the need for resilience is even more pronounced.
From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has leased the land around Lonetree Reservoir and the body of water itself for recreation as a state wildlife area for decades, at least back to the 1970s. The reservoir, south of Loveland, is a popular fishing and wildlife viewing spot.
The current lease with Consolidated Home Supply Ditch and Reservoir Co.expires June 30, and officials with the state wildlife agency and the ditch company have been talking about the future and negotiating a new lease.
Nothing has been firmed up, but at this point, it looks as though they will agree to a one-year extension to allow for further talks about fair lease rates and the length of any new lease, said Larry Rogstad, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife…
The ditch company was formed in 1882 in Loveland to deliver water to farmers through a system of ditches and reservoirs in both Larimer and Weld counties. At least two of those, Lonetree and Boedecker, are leased to Colorado Parks and Wildlife as state wildlife areas.
The lease at Boedecker expires in 2020, while the previous 20-year lease at Lonetree ended last June. The ditch company and the wildlife agency extended that for one year to continue negotiations and, according to Rogstad, it looks as though the same thing will happen this year.
Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS. Since the melt-out has started focus on percent of peak instead of percent of normal.
Here’s the westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for April 25, 2017 from the NRCS.
From Capital Thinking (Sarah Vilms and Mallory Richardson):
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated its plans to solicit comments by June 19 as to how the agency should rewrite the “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule following President Trump’s February 28 executive order (EO) directing the agency to revise the contentious Obama Administration rule. Following the EO, EPA specified its plans to revise the rule through a formal notice-and-comment rulemaking process. While this is typically a lengthy procedure, the Trump Administration has expressed its interest in replacing the rule by the end of the year.
This follows a meeting last week that was held between the EPA and a number of groups representing state and local officials, including the National Governors’ Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties and the Environmental Council of the states, where participants discussed the Trump Administration’s rewrite of rule.
From The Colorado Independent (Susan Greene):
Science, they say, is a left-brained endeavor. But, in light of Saturday’s March on Science, The Colorado Independent sought out some decidedly right-brained conversations with three Coloradans working in various capacities around federally funded climate change research. Here’s what they had to say about proposed Trump administration budget cuts, the role of scientists in a purportedly “post-truth” era, and how they’re coping as national faith in their work takes some big blows.
The catcher in the rye
Josh Tewksbury came to his job the long way.
The former University of Washington ecologist spent 10 years researching why chilies are hot. His many trips through the forests of central Bolivia gave him a poignant look at organisms and ecosystems withering from climate change. For him, questions about the heat of the peppers came to seem far less burning than those about the heat of the planet.
Tewksbury – 47 and now director of Future Earth’s U.S. hub at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University – shifted his focus to global sustainability out of a sense of weary responsibility he likens to that of Holden Caulfield, the teenage narrator of “Catcher in the Rye.” He cites the title passage in which Caulfield imagines standing in a rye field surrounded by younger children.
“Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.”
In Tewksbury’s version of the rye field, the kids are peppers, plants, critters and ecosystems strained by changing climate patterns. The cliff is the point on the climate trajectory beyond which they won’t survive. As he tells it, “Scores of scientists are alone out there in the ryegrass trying to save this species or that incredibly complex ecosystem that they’ve spent their lives understanding, and at this point they’re at a loss about why all this understanding is not enough to allow these things to last another generation.”
There’s something manic about Tewksbury – his rush of speech and urgency of tone, his impatience, it seems, with the knowledge that, as you’re asking questions and as he’s answering, some species is in its last gasp because, despite ample evidence, scientists couldn’t convince a policy-maker to save it.
It’s lonely, he says, to research a problem, identify its cause, and prove it with sound evidence, only to realize that isn’t enough to prompt political action. His job, and the mission of Future Earth, is to harness that loneliness and organize some 50,000 scientists around the world to combine their efforts so that when science is produced, policymakers heed it, regardless of whether the truth revealed is inconvenient.
In case Tewksbury isn’t getting his point across, he cites a study showing that 51 percent of Americans don’t know there’s a scientific consensus that climate change is real and human-caused. What he calls “very crafty opposition messaging” by corporate and political interests still manages to convince a slight majority – including his own mother-in-law – that climate change is theory rather than fact.
This hurts Tewksbury’s head.
“When people you love are making decisions that have a direct impact on your children, it’s demoralizing and antithetical to a democracy and actually very hard to counter because as long as people believe there’s no scientific consensus, there will be no mandate to act.
“So if I’m honest, really honest about how this impacts me, it’s a deep disappointment in our country and in our inability to recognize facts when we see them and distinguish them from statements that are politically expedient. It makes me mad, very mad because the consequences of this one are so broad.”
Tewksbury is at his best channeling his inner-Holden Caulfield. In his anger, his breathless indignation, the hot pepper researcher has found his calling in the slow burn of the global sustainability movement to which he’s marshaling scientists who have nothing to lose but their loneliness.
The marcher who didn’t march
Judging from his credentials, you’d figure Peter Backlund would have rallied for science this weekend as he has for decades within federal labs, agencies and even the White House.
But Backlund stayed home in Boulder nursing a cold and licking his wounds, convinced that waving signs on a spring Saturday won’t heal what’s ailing the planet and his profession.
“Marching is not a solution. It is a symbolic act. I feel like it’s a bit too easy,” he said between coughs and sneezes.
Backlund, 56, has built a career on the right-brained practice of explaining why the fruits of left-brained inquiry matter. He was a senior advisor in the Clinton White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, worked at NASA and spent twelve years helping run the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder before joining Colorado State University’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability as associate director. He has fought his whole career for scientific research, especially on climate change, and for its use informing public policy.
Scientists are nothing if not pragmatic. And from a practical standpoint, Backlund suspects that Saturday’s March for Science in Denver and cities throughout the U.S. gave participants a false sense that, by attending a rally, they’ve done what they could to help preserve federally funded research and defend the values behind it. He winces at the thought of Saturday’s marchers shrugging off their activism like an old pussy hat.
“It won’t amount to anything if they don’t get more deeply involved and stay involved.”
Involved, as he sees it, entails sustained engagement working to elect candidates whose policy decisions pivot on evidence and facts, and working to elect more scientists in particular. It means attending city council and county commission meetings, bending the ears of state lawmakers, showing up at the Rotary Club, the Elks Club, building trust as citizen scientists who do research for reasons beyond just that it’s interesting. He urged his students to march Saturday if they were inspired, but also to work well beyond one rally spreading awareness about how their research – or any solid research – promotes understanding and progress.
For Backlund, the Trump administration’s climate change scepticism isn’t just an attack on research and global sustainability, but also a denunciation of intellectualism, expertise, and evidence-based policy-making. He says the cuts Trump has threatened on environmental and medical research stem less from underestimating the value of those inquiries than from a perceived threat posed by “an elite profession with elite knowledge.”
“There has always been a segment of the population that is hostile to science, universities, and ‘experts.’ Many politicians have pandered to this segment. But this administration feels like it is taking anti-intellectual sentiment to a new level. This scares me as much as budget cuts,” he said.
And so Backlund worries.
He worries that the spectacle of scientists marching Saturday will backfire, spurring even more misperceptions that scientists are driving a globalist conspiracy to take away people’s cars, jobs and profits.
He worries that, in crying out against budget cuts, scientists will seem like an elite group merely trying to preserve their elite status at tax-funded research universities and federal labs.
He worries about Donald Trump making things up, especially about climate change. During Backlund’s years advising Bill Clinton’s administration on science policy, he said, “The one thing we did more than anything was to make sure the President always had the correct information.”
“We would have felt physical pain if the President said something wrong,” he added. “How can you have an administration in which being correct, factually correct, isn’t valued?”
He also worries about his own credibility. Although he backed Hillary Clinton – and was part of the team helping craft her climate change policies – he took a measured view of 2016’s election in his professional life, assuring CSU students, colleagues and visiting researchers that science policy pendulums long have swung back and forth and that “Republicans have done a lot of great things for the environment.” Five months later, he cringes at the memory of his optimism.
“Now I’m pretty sure those people are thinking ‘Wow, that guy is really an idiot’,” he said. “I now feel more worried about the political situation in the United States than I’ve felt in my entire life.”
Backlund struggles with this dark view, his inability to offer young researchers a sunnier forecast about their careers. He’s tempted to “shake people” about threats of Trump’s apparent science agenda, and to shout, “This is just the beginning, this is just getting started.” But nobody wants to be the one squawking that the sky is falling.
He’s well aware that, just when a pro-science megaphone is perhaps most needed, he’s hesitant to use it. Why is it, he was asked, that he has marched for women’s rights, against wars, and even as a young boy behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Albuquerque, but sat out Saturday?
He paused before answering.
“It’s weird, I know. I know it’s weird,” he said. “I guess I’m more comfortable marching for other people’s causes than for my own.”
The risk taker
Things are stressful these days at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, and not just because of its ever-mounting evidence that the planet is overheating.
Scientists throughout NCAR’s campus are on edge anticipating Trump-era budget cuts that may slash their research and many of their jobs.
One of them, Sociologist Paty Romero Lankao has worked nearly 11 years at NCAR studying the human dimensions of energy and water consumption, urban development and climate change. Like her colleagues, she long ago understood the climate trajectory as the factual baseline and primary challenge of her work. It motivates rather than rattles her.
What’s alarming, she says, is that years of quantifiably verified evidence apparently aren’t enough to affect policy in a country to which she immigrated because of the value it once put on research. What hurts is realizing her work isn’t making enough impact.
It’s tempting to suck it up and keep quiet, as some of her colleagues have advised. And on a few mornings, “there has been the urge to leave, or just give up.” But most days she has a stronger impulse to speak up and fight.
“I can understand if people say they don’t care about science. But I can’t understand anyone saying they don’t care about science and nobody else should, either,” she said.
“About that, I can’t stay quiet.”
And so, in her rain boots, poncho and “Forget princess. I want to be a scientist” T-shirt, Romero Lankao set out with her husband and daughter for Denver on Saturday to make some noise. She was buoyed by the crowds and humbled by so many non-scientists marching in support of research like hers and the principles behind it – ideas she realizes “aren’t so sexy” that they typically inspire action.
She delighted in demonstrators’ energy and creativity. “The signs. Oh, I love the signs,” she said, noting with a loud and glorious belly laugh one particular that read, “Earth is not flat. Neither is Uranus.”
She was especially fond of a sign reading, “Climate Change is Real. Denial is Deadly,” for which she complimented the woman carrying it. The woman handed it to her. The 54-year-old researcher waved it with pride and incredulity. She’d never expected to be marching for facts.
Romero Lankao realizes there are risks to speaking out against the administration that signs her paychecks. She has taken such risks before, both as a graduate student and as a professor in Mexico where she spoke against corruption in her academies. She lost the grad school job. As for the professorship, she quit and left Mexico in search of a place to research with integrity.
In her work at NCAR, she studies the ways people in different urban areas live, sleep, eat, get around and play, and which practices are more sustainable in terms of climate change than others. She suspects her research wouldn’t be much appreciated by a president who built his brand on luxury developments, a gilded airplane, and well-watered golf courses.
“It’s not desirable under this administration. In this political climate, it’s not welcome. I know how they look at me. I know I represent someone who threatens to take away their freedoms,” she said of a collective “they” who, sooner or later, she understands may try to silence her.
She figures at some point the risk of losing your job is outweighed by the risk of keeping quiet. If she has learned anything as a researcher, it’s that facts don’t change by ignoring them.
“It’s like journalists, you’re also being attacked on those grounds – that facts, uncomfortable ones, aren’t tolerated. What do you do? Would you let this happen? Stay silent? No. You’d feel the need to speak out about the problems we see in front of us. We are not only scientists. We are citizens, people. We feel. We dream.
“And we live here, like everyone else.”
Top photo by Kelsey Ray. Others courtesy of Josh Tewksbury, Peter Backlund and Paty Romero Lankao.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):
[A] contentious battle over a proposed gravel pit at Badger Hills between Avondale Boulevard and 40th Lane came to an end with a granted permit from the Pueblo County Planning and Development Board.
If appealed, the decision would go to the Pueblo County commissioners.
The company has been granted a special-use permit for a 1,500-acre mineral and natural resource extraction and mining operation.
Those in opposition of the proposal have complained about the amount of truckloads that would travel along 36th Lane to U.S. 50 in front of Vineland Elementary School and Vineland Middle School.
The opponents said they do intend to appeal the decision. They have 10 days to do so.
Earlier, there even was contention on the vote. The permit passed 5-1. Donald Thorne voted no. Then he resigned from the commission. He said he was not happy with some of the decisions the planning commission has made recently.
Fremont Paving has an existing gravel pit on 36th Lane. If the commissioners allow the permit, a private road would connect the existing gravel pit to the new operation. The haul route from there would continue on 36th Lane.
John Paul Ary, of Fremont Paving, said his company is limited to 70 trucks a day from the new site to the existing one. Those in opposition said there would be 200 plus trucks a day when added to the truckloads already coming from the older operation.
Those in opposition also have said the operation would cause environmental concerns in the area and thick dust.
Here’s the release from the World Meteorological Organization:
Working paper seeks to support policy and practice on drought mitigation and preparedness
Significant progress has been made over the past decade in improving understanding of droughts and their impacts. However, several questions remain, including the real costs to a country’s economy, and whether the price of preparing for droughts is worth it. A new study released by the World Meteorological Organization and Global Water Partnership seeks to answer these questions.
The working paper reviewed an extensive range of literature on the benefits of action and costs of inaction of drought mitigation and preparedness. It was prepared for the Integrated Drought Management Programme as part of efforts to support the development of more proactive drought policies and better predictive mechanisms.
“Identifying not only the costs of inaction, but also the immediate and long term benefits of being better prepared for drought will be crucial in making a convincing case for mitigating drought risks. This study on the current state of the knowledge will be an important contribution in moving towards a more proactive approach to address drought risks” said Oyun Sanjaasuren, Chair of the Global Water Partnership.
“Unlike floods and tropical cyclones, drought is a slow onset disaster. But – as the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa shows – its impact is just as devastating in terms of human suffering and loss of livelihoods. We need to move away from the traditional piecemeal, crisis-driven response and adopt modern tools, in the form of integrated drought management policies, to increase climate resilience,” noted Robert Stefanski, WMO’s Head of the Integrated Drought Management Programme Technical Support Unit.
The paper reviews economic drought impact assessments and describes the main obstacles and opportunities facing the transition from crisis management to risk management. Presently, many available estimates of drought costs are partial and difficult to compare. Too little is known about the costs of indirect and longer-term drought impacts because of lack of data.
Droughts: recurrent feature of climate
Droughts are a recurrent and normal feature of almost any climate, even in comparatively water-rich countries. One study indicates that that about 10% of the territory of the United States is affected by drought at any given time. Between 2000 and 2006, 15% of the European Union’s land area was affected by drought. Droughts have occurred in different locations across Vietnam in 40 out of the past 50 years.
The countries that are most vulnerable to Gross Domestic Product losses due to droughts are in eastern and southern Africa, South America, and South and Southeast Asia, according to one study cited in the working paper.
It features a case study on Brazil, where droughts, especially in the northeast, are expected to increase in frequency and intensity as a result of global climate change. Drought and climate change combined with existing pressure on freshwater availability and quality are likely to lead to new and increased water management challenges. These have been recognized by the Brazilian water community, including resource managers and users, researchers and policymakers.
Drought preparedness and risk mitigation helps lower the eventual drought relief costs. For example, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimated that the US would save at least USD 2 on future disaster costs from every USD 1 spent on drought risk mitigation, the study shows.
“Given the scale of the issue and the likely drought trends under climate change, it is essential to have a well-defined strategy for mitigating the impacts of drought and enhancing drought preparedness,” conclude the paper’s authors, Nicolas Gerber and Alisher Mirzabaev.
Integrated Drought Management Workshop
The working paper was released ahead of a workshop on the benefits and costs of drought mitigation and preparedness organized by the World Bank, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Global Water Partnership (GWP) Integrated Drought Management Programme on 26 and 27 April in Washington DC, USA.
“The workshop aims to achieve a better understanding of the drought costs, impact pathways, vulnerabilities, costs and benefits of drought crisis and risk management approaches as well as the co-benefits of risk management approaches,” highlighted Frederik Pischke, GWP’s Integrated Drought Management Programme Senior Programme Officer.
It will explore the benefits of actions and the costs of inaction of drought preparedness, which includes the evolution of resilience across time scales, namely how lessons on pro-active drought management have been learned (and which actions were taken) over time and in different sectors.
The working paper is available at http://www.droughtmanagement.info/literature/IDMP_BACI_WP.PDF
From the Colorado River District:
What are the State of the River Meetings?
Each spring, during snowmelt runoff, the River District organizes informational “State of the River” meetings across parts of the Western Slope of Colorado to help educate the public and water users. Meeting speakers offer up-to-date information on snowpack figures, water supply forecasts and anticipated stream flows and upcoming conditions.
Specifically, reservoir operators and climate profession will discuss the amount of water expected to flow into the local reservoirs due to melting snow and will forecast how conditions may affect the rise and fall of reservoir levels and the amounts and timing of water to be released to the rivers over the upcoming season.
Here’s the release for the May 4, 2017 meeting in Silverthorne:
Top researcher on rising temperatures speaking at Summit State of the River meeting
Brad Udall, renowned climate researcher with the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, will keynote the Summit State of the River meeting set for 6 p.m., Thursday, May 4, 2017, at the Silverthorne Pavilion. Bureau of Reclamation and Denver Water officials will discuss reservoir operations at Green Mountain and Dillon.
Learn about the health of the snowpack and what it forecasts for river flows and reservoir operations at the 24th annual Summit State of the River meeting set for 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, May 4 at the Silverthorne Pavilion. This free, public event is sponsored by the Blue River Watershed Group and the Colorado River District. Finger-food and refreshments will be served.
The special guest keynote speaker will be Brad Udall of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, who recently co-authored a study that describes how rising temperatures are as villainous in reduced Colorado River flows as the drought itself between 2000 and 2014.
In this time period, flows averaged 19 percent below the 1906-1999 average, the worst 15-year drought on record. At least one-sixth to one-half of this loss is due to unprecedented temperatures (0.9°C above the 1906-99 average). This confirms model-based analyses that continued warming will likely further reduce flows, according to the paper.
Another top speaker is Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn, who is retiring next year. Kuhn has been a leader in the Colorado River Basin in cautioning that low reservoir levels at Lake Powell threaten dire consequences for the entire basin unless water management policies change.
Summit County Water Commissioner Troy Wineland will discuss local water supply and streamflow predictions. Also, officials from the Bureau of Reclamation and Denver Water will be on hand to detail operations this year at Green Mountain and Dillon Reservoirs, two key water bodies in Summit County.
For more information, contact Water Commissioner Troy Wineland at 970-355-4516 or Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado River District at 970-945-8522.
From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):
The bill would have allowed Northern Water to run Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, water through 12 miles of the Poudre River in Fort Collins and recapture it at the Timnath Reservoir inlet for storage east of Fort Collins.
The bill failed 6-5 last week in the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, with Democrats and Republicans voting against it…
Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said the district will still go through with its plan to run 14,000 acre feet of water through the river in Fort Collins with the goal of maintaining flows of 18 to 25 cubic feet per second. He attributed the lack of consensus on the bill to “uneasiness” in the water community about unintended impacts of the legislation.
“We’re still going to do it,” he said of the so-called “conveyance refinement plan.” “We’re just going to look at Plan B, probably.”
Whether Northern Water needs legal permission to carry out the plan remains a “gray area,” Werner said. But he added Northern Water will pursue the plan regardless of whether formal legislation is passed.
Werner wasn’t sure if Plan B would come in the form of another bill or pursuing the plan without legislation. He said Northern Water was trying to pass a bill to make its case “air-tight.”
From BuilderOnline.com (Lauren Shanesy):
Water-efficient toilets could potentially save up to 170 billion gallons of water per year across five states facing water scarcity, according to new research from the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) and Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI).
The study focused on Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia and Texas, where water shortages are prevalent. The “Saturation Study of Non-Efficient Water Closets in Key States” research found that if non-efficient toilets in residential properties are replaced with water-efficient ones, the five states could save 170 billion gallons of potable water yearly or 465 million gallons saved per day, which is equivalent to up to 360 billion potable gallons of water per year saved nationally.
More than 13 million non-efficient toilets, defined as ones with gallons per flush (gpf) of more than 1.6 gallons, remain installed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia and Texas residences, and represent about 21% of all toilets installed in these states. As toilet flushing is the largest single indoor use of water, representing 24% of total use in single-family homes, replacing non-efficient toilets in the five states researched would save a significant amount of water overall.
Click here to read the update. Here’s an excerpt:
With temperatures eight degrees above average, March of this year was the warmest March on record for the State of Colorado, and the second warmest on record for the nation. Late March precipitation brought much needed moisture, but the state as a whole received only 64 percent of average, in what is historically one of our wettest months. April has also been dry with only 58 percent of normal precipitation to-date. However, the forecast for the next two weeks indicates that the state will likely see cooler temperatures and more moisture.
Demand has already increased for municipal water providers, in some communities as much as 150 percent of average for this time of year; this is indicative of an increase in outdoor watering. In Colorado, normal snow accumulation typically peaks around April 9th, yet in 2017 this occurred on March 11th, despite some recovery in late March and early April that gave the South Platte, Arkansas, and Rio Grande basins their respective peaks in early April. Additional snow accumulation is possible should adequate future weather conditions develop. During the snow accumulation season all river basins were able to reach or exceed typical peak snowpack levels. Northern Basins met typical snowpack peak levels (South Platte, Yampa/White, North Platte, Arkansas & Colorado). Southern Basins exceeded typical snowpack peak levels (Gunnison, San Miguel/ Dolores, Animas/ San Juan). Statewide water year- to- date snowpack as of April 19th is at 91% of normal, down from 121% on March 17th. Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 110% of normal and all basins are at or above normal. March was the first month since 2009 that the Upper Rio Grande reservoirs reached 100% of normal. Following two months of below average precipitation the Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) has begun to show decreased water availability particularly in the Yampa/ White and the South Platte River basins. Streamflow forecasts have fallen considerably over the last month and now range from a high of 147% of normal on Tomichi Creek to a low of 78% on Antero & Yampa above Stagecoach. 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 mixed for the season, with the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) expecting more moisture than average, while statistical tools favor drier conditions, especially over the eastern plains. The monsoon season looks favorable based on CPC forecast and current analogues. Should an El Niño develop this summer, precipitation odds during the latter half of the growing season would become more favorable. Core fire season in the mountains of western Colorado is anticipated to get off to a later than average start s a result of decent moisture over the winter. Consequently below average large fire risk is predicted from May through June. For the lower elevations, foothills and south eastern plains the expectation is for average large fire potential from April through July. The Flood Threat Bulletin will begin May 1st and can be found at http://www.coloradofloodthreat.com/ A new tool for SNODAS has been developed and can be accessed at http://projects.openwaterfoundation.org/owf-
Three-day science camp lets high schoolers across Colorado experience water from mountain top to river bottom.
From The Vail Daily (Emily Brown):
We benefit from some of this snowmelt on a local scale, but most of the snowmelt flows into the Colorado River, whose watershed spans several states — Utah, Arizona, California and, of course, Colorado. This snowmelt supplies some of the bigger cities that are in or near the Colorado River watershed including Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles and San Diego. So you might say there are a few people who depend on this water.
HOW’S THIS SEASON’S SNOWPACK?
Vail usually sees an average snowfall of about 350 inches a year. Currently we have seen about 190 inches of snowfall this winter season, but the season isn’t over yet. Everything could all change in the next month, we’ll have keep our fingers crossed. On average, 10 inches of snowfall is equivalent to about 1 inch of rain. So right now we will see about 19 inches of water melting and flowing into our local Eagle River and ultimately into the Colorado River.
We are already seeing this snowpack begin to melt. It’s more prevalent in some areas than others, but we have been getting warm days which is causing the snowpack to melt little by little every day. If we start to see significant melting happening too soon in the season, then this can be a threat for not only our skiing, but also for the animals that rely on this snowpack for warmth and cover.
We have quite a few small mammals in our area that forage under the snow in what is called the subnivean layer. This is the layer at the base of the snowpack where the heat from the ground creates a warm habitat for small mammals like voles, shrews, mice and weasels. When the snowpack starts melting too early, water will percolate down into the subnivean layer, causing confusion for these animals and threatening their protective habitat. This is one reason why it is important to have winter-like conditions during the winter.
So as you stand, slide, or shuffle above the snowpack this winter, remember that snow is not only pretty and fun, it’s also an important component of our local ecosystem and beyond. The crystals that sparkle and glimmer on the hillsides today will be the drops of water slithering through the valley floor tomorrow. We all depend on this snow in some way, and it’s worth taking a moment to consider its value, to us, to our neighbors down the watershed and to the wildlife that share our home.
From The Crestone Eagle:
“The 2016-2017 snow season has been unpredictable at best. April and May are the months were we see most of our precipitation for the year, about 21%,” says Brian Domonkos, NRCS Snow Survey Supervisor. “So we’re in in a pivotal position right now. Poor precipitation in March isn’t a great start to our most pivotal point.”
Colorado is known for its unpredictable weather patterns. The element of surprise is also a consideration when attempting to forecast water availability across the state. “The bottom line is, across the state we need moisture if we are to remain above normal,” Domonkos goes on to say. “Although we got a great deal of snow through January, we’ve not had much since. Those hearty storm systems early on allowed us to coast thru February and March but we’re now at a point where we are reliant on future precipitation.”
NRCS’ Snow Survey and Water Forecasting Program provides western states and Alaska with information on future water supplies through the analysis of snowpack water equivalent and depth data at 866 automated SNOpack TELemetry (SNOTEL) stations. This network relays information about the depth and water content of the snowpack, precipitation, and air temperatures and other elements to a central computer on an hourly basis. Data for the Program is also collected by measuring 1,352 manually observed snow courses in the United States and Canada including the sites in Colorado.
“Ideally we always want to be 120 – 100% of normal snowpack because these conditions often yield the best runoff during spring and summer months provided future spring and summer precipitation is near normal,” says Domonkos. “What we also know however, is that at any given moment the various basins across the state hold various amounts of snow. Some basins reach their annual snow pack peak capacity, while others don’t. Even if a basin reaches its peak within a season, efficient runoff of that snowpack depends upon snowpack peak timing and amount as well as a host of other factors. For Example, the combined Yampa-White-North Platte River Basins already hit their typical snowpack peak for this year. But because it reached peak so early in the season, the runoff efficiency may be diminished. At the end of the day, more moisture across the state would be a nice thing to see.”
For more information about NRCS and its Snow Survey and Water Forecasting program, please visit: the NRCS Snow Survey Webpage in Colorado.
From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacob Laxen):
On Tuesday night, Brewater hosted a panel open to the public at New Belgium Brewing.
“We all understand 100 percent how important water is to our product and our community,” said Horse & Dragon Brewing co-owner Carol Cochran.
While Oregon and Washington both have state brewery watershed groups, Brewater is the only formal collection of craft brewers from the same city to collaborate on water conservation issues.
Fort Collins craft brewers collectively use about two percent of town’s water. About half of what the craft breweries use is treated and returned to the Poudre River.
“We feel we need to do our part,” said Katie Wallace, New Belgium’s assistant director of sustainability.
Since Brewater was formed in 2013, equipment redesigns have saved 3 million gallons annually at Odell Brewing, 1 million gallons at New Belgium and 40,000 gallons at 1933 Brewing — which has since closed but has plans to reopen with a new concept under new owners.
“My biggest advice is to challenge your equipment supplier,” said Odell engineer Matt Bailey. “Just because it is out there doesn’t mean it’s the best practice.”
Water conservation tactics in Fort Collins range from New Belgium — the state’s largest craft brewer — having its own water treatment plant and converting some of its used water into electricity, to much smaller operations that do much more simple methods such as tracking beer loss.
“The bigger breweries in town have been fantastic mentors,” Cochran said. “They set a great example.”
And while the Fort Collins craft breweries may compete for sales and tap space, they work together on conserving water.
“We would like to make beer in the future,” said Zach Wilson, the new owner of 1933 Brewing. “So it is really important to be involved now.”
From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):
EPA crews in southwestern Colorado swiftly stopped an acidic, 15 gallons-a-minute flow from the defunct Brooklyn Mine, drainage that for decades has injected heavy arsenic, cadmium, lead, manganese and zinc into Animas River headwaters. That’s a tiny portion of the overall 3,750 gallons-a-minute contaminating the Animas, but is typical of the trickling from thousands of mines that slowly kills Western streams — even as clean water increasingly is coveted.
“It took half a day. All we did was redirect the adit flow so that it didn’t cross waste rock,” EPA Superfund project manager Rebecca Thomas said…
…EPA cleanup specialists face the practical reality that the nation’s ailing Superfund program for rectifying environmental disasters may not be able to deliver. Federal cleanups of toxic mining Superfund sites typically take decades due to bureaucracy and scarce funds.
EPA officials have proposed 40 “early-response” fixes spanning 20 of the mine sites in the mountains above Silverton. If locals approve — public meetings are scheduled next week — EPA crews would embark on these small-scale projects to create ponds that slow drainage so that contaminants drop out, to reroute snow and rain run-off away from waste rock, and to remove tailings that slump into streams and ooze poison.
The investigation and planning for a full Superfund cleanup still would continue, once EPA chiefs and Congress allocate funds. But the overall cleanup here at 46 sites across the newly designated, 60-square-mile Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site is complicated and costly. It requires mapping a vast underground maze of drilled tunnels and natural fissures, inserting concrete plugs and installing water-cleaning systems. EPA crews also would have to dispose of thousands of cubic yards of metals-laced sludge each year, spreading it in waste pits or possibly injecting it into super-deep bore holes to serve as a buffer and hold acidic mining wastewater inside dormant mine tunnels…
Less money for EPA could reduce Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment testing of water quality in streams and slow completion of a toxic mines inventory to guide cleanups at thousands of the worst leaking mines, Green said. Next year, Conservation Colorado will push state-level legislation to require mining companies to post sufficient bond money to guarantee proper postmining restoration.
In Washington, D.C., Earthworks advocates lamented that legislation Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner mulled to promote cleanups has fizzled…
Beyond the quick fixes, EPA and southwestern Colorado officials also are working to create a scientific research center in Silverton that they envision as a hub for hydrology research to improve water quality at mining sites…
Next week, EPA officials plan to hold public meetings with residents in Silverton, Durango and Farmington, N.M., for discussion of both the quick fixes and long-term cleanup.
“Funding is a question,” said Thomas, the EPA project manager. “We certainly will be requesting money this year. We will start the work as soon as the funding is available — no earlier than probably the fourth quarter this year.”
Yet tangible progress can be made sooner, she said.
“I’m very optimistic. This is a high-visibility project. The work that we do in this district could be used as a template for hundreds, if not thousands, of abandoned mines across the Rocky Mountain West. There’s a lot of energy here at the EPA, and also at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, to make sure we do the right thing and see some improvement in environmental quality. I’m more optimistic than trepidacious for sure,” Thomas said.
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Bob Silbernagel):
In May, 1891, Nathaniel Turner — manager of the firm that had recently completed the hanging flume in Dolores Canyon — optimistically told the Grand Junction News that the flume was operating just as intended to mine for gold.
“Washing (of gravel and rock) has been in progress for the past 10 days,” the newspaper reported, based on information from Turner, “and everything looks promising for a speedy and profitable return to the company.”
Turner’s prediction proved incorrect, however. Gold production wasn’t as great as hoped, and Turner’s company was in constant financial turmoil.
Turner wasn’t the only one to tout the promise of the wood-and-steel engineering marvel that clings to the rock high above the Dolores River. A year earlier, the national Engineering and Mining Journal had been equally enthusiastic.
“This work will show how easy it is, when backed up by enterprising capital, to bring water … to points which were always thought to be inaccessible,” the Journal said in May 1890. “The total cost will be about $75,000 when finished, and it is expected to be completed within a few months.”
But the Journal was also wrong. The actual cost was between $165,000 and $175,000. And it required more than a year before the flume was partially completed. Turner’s company built seven miles of flume, and planned to construct another three miles to reach the northernmost of the company’s five mining claims along the Dolores River. Instead, it only reached the southernmost of those claims, and never went farther.
The five mining claims were filed from 1883 to 1885 by the Lone Tree Mining Company, a group of Salt Lake City investors. Lone Tree engaged in conventional placer mining on one claim, using limited water from nearby Mesa Creek.
In 1887, Lone Tree sold its claims to the Montrose Placer Mining Company, which consisted of investors from East St. Louis, Illinois. The company was managed by Turner, a somewhat mysterious figure who had reportedly gained experience in hydraulic mining in California.
Turner decided hydraulic mining was the best way to utilize the claims, and conceived the idea for a canal and flume to bring abundant water from the San Miguel River for the task.
Placer mining involves washing sand and gravel in sluice boxes so that the heavier gold is left behind. Hydraulic mining is an industrial variation in which water is shot through a nozzle at high pressure onto the face of a cliff or gravel deposit, washing away tons of gravel, rock and dirt that is run through a large–scale sluicing system.
The Montrose Placer Mining Company constructed seven miles of flume in 1890 and 1891. Another three miles of canal carried the water from the San Miguel River to the wooden flume.
Pine lumber was logged in the La Sal Mountains of Utah, and cut into large planks. At least 18 wagon trails were built to carry materials to locations on the rim of Dolores Canyon, where they could be lowered to the workers below.
Workers were suspended by ropes to mark the grade the flume was to follow, and some were likely suspended while drilling holes for the thick bolts that were drilled into the rock to anchor the flume. Later, the workers used a cantilevered derrick attached to the end of one section of flume to construct the next section.
The problem for Turner’s company wasn’t the flume. It was the ore.
The gold recovered from the hydraulic washing proved to be too fine to be collected in appreciable amounts in the sluicing operations. The hydraulic mining in 1891 continued at least into July, but it’s not clear how long it went on after that.
A year after Turner’s optimistic proclamation, the U.S. General Land Office informed the Montrose Placer Mining Company that it still owed money for one of its five claims. Apparently, Lone Tree Mining had not made the final payment on the claim.
Montrose Placer Mining Company was unable to pay. Turner left the company in disgrace. But in 1893, when the company was sold at a sheriff’s sale, Turner reappeared to purchase it. He formed the Vixen Alluvial Gold Mining Company.
In 1897, Vixen obtained $21,000 in additional financing. Turner and the company apparently intended to complete the final three miles of the flume and begin hydraulic mining on the other four claims. But that never occurred.
The entire system was lost in a court judgment in 1899, then sold again in 1900, this time to a new company called the Montrose Mining Company, whose investors were actually from the Front Range.
The new company filed documents saying it worked its claims for four weeks in 1903, but quit because it ran out of water.
The property was sold one more time, but there is no evidence that any work on the mining claims was conducted after 1903. The flume and mining claims were abandoned by 1904, although settlers and ranchers had already begun scavenging wood from the easily accessible portions of the flume.
A century after the flume was abandoned, an effort began to preserve it. The nonprofit Interpretive Association of Western Colorado, working with the Bureau of Land Management, and with assistance from a Colorado State Historical Grant, the JM Kaplan Fund and John Hendricks of Gateway Canyons Resort, contracted for studies of the flume’s construction and its history. In 2012, 48 feet of the flume were rebuilt, using construction techniques similar to those used in 1890 and 1891.
The flume is listed on the National Register of Historic Structures and is the longest historic structure in Colorado.
Information for this column came from “History and Background of the Hanging Flume,” by Alpine Archaeological Consultants of Montrose; “Flume Work of the Montrose Placer Mining Company,” The Engineering and Mining Journal, May 17, 1890; Interpretive Association of Western Colorado; and from Zebulon Miracle, curator at Gateway Canyons Resort.
From Metropolitan State University of Denver (Cory Phare):
In observance of Earth Day, we spotlight an MSU Denver theatre ensemble changing lives, one drop at a time.
If you promote water conservation in the Denver area, chances are good that you’ve already heard of Water Wise.
John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s top water advisor, has – and that’s how the MSU Denver theatre troupe got to bring its brand of advocacy-based performance to the 2017 Colorado Water Congress’ annual convention this past January.
The Water Wise ensemble does what’s known as theatre for social change. And, as Marilyn Hetzel, Ph.D., chair of the University’s Department of Theatre noted, it’s a vehicle for delivering important messages that leave a lasting impression.
“The power of theatre for social change is immense,” she said. “They’re stories that can teach.”
Water we going to do about it?
The Water Wise troupe owes its founding in part to when Tom Cech felt the impact of this kind of performance firsthand.
“My wife, Grace, and I attended [Dr. Hetzel’s] production of ‘Here’s to Ears,’ and it was fabulous!” said Cech, the director of MSU Denver’s One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship program. “There were no props – they just told a great educational story about hearing protection.”
Cech reached out to Hetzel, and they strategized a way to develop and stage a similar production – only this time in conjunction with Denver Water, Aurora Water and the City of Boulder’s water department. The agencies had originally contacted MSU Denver looking for innovative ways to enhance their water education programs.
The show needed to convey the importance of conservation and a deeper understanding of natural resources. It would be performed at annual water festivals, and performances would also be integrated within the conservation-rooted school curricula already in place for fourth- through sixth-graders in the region.
For Miles LaGree, the question of logistics was part of the creative solution when he approached writing the theatrical piece as a member of the original Water Wise theatre group.
“The challenge was taking a list of facts, and then translating them into theatrical performances without any props or scenery,” said the senior ensemble member, who is wrapping up a bachelor’s degree in applied theatre technology and design. “How were we going to do the show with just us?”
The answer was simple: a powerful narrative, with an innovative means of conveyance.
Thus, Water Wise performances were born.
Rapid growth, rapid connections
When you do something well, word tends to get around. And just as a soft trickle builds from headwaters into a mighty roar downstream, buzz got louder about what the ensemble was doing.
That’s what led to the Colorado Water Congress stage, where Water Wise circa 2017 performed for members, including engineers and water providers from around the state. After the troupe’s performance (greeted with thunderous applause), representatives from across Colorado approached the group to discuss future performances.
According to Cech, another key value of theatre for social change was demonstrated: constructing a career pipeline to keep the message flowing.
“With the students from the troupe still in the room, we asked [conference attendees], ‘How many of you are hiring right now?’” said Cech. “Hands shot up, and immediately we had connections; students provided resumes to people who were interested in what they had to say and what they could do. That’s how it works.”
Transformative states that matter
According to Natalie Brower-Kirton, senior water conservation specialist with Aurora Water, who served on a post-performance panel at the event, the very process of developing the piece proved transformative for students.
“[Ensemble students] made an empowering and positive message about where our water comes from, why Colorado is unique, and what people can do to conserve it,” she said. “The best thing is not only that they reached a large audience but that they became water advocates themselves.”
LaGree attested to this. He also pointed out that theatre works particularly well as a vehicle because it’s a live art – and one that most younger students haven’t had much experience with.
“Not many kids are heading down to the Buell, so it’s great to bring the work to them,” he said. “And to see that fire lit in their eyes from the performances – that’s what it’s all about.”
And so, lighting that passion for conservation is really the greatest impact of Water Wise theatre for social change. As Cech and Brower-Kirton attest, it’s an indisputably valuable tool for organizational change, and why Hetzel fondly refers to theatre as “equipment for living.”
It’s why LaGree speaks of his time with Water Wise and the lessons learned from Hetzel as “more valuable than anything money could buy.”
“It’s seeing that light turn on in the kids’ heads, knowing they’ve learned something,” he said. “Those smiling faces are what let you know firsthand that it’s effective, that what you’re doing matters.”
From Climate Central (Brian Kahn):
The roar of the crowd of thousands of scientists and supporters rippled up and down Constitution Avenue like a wave on Saturday. It found two fitting sounding boards on either side of the street.
On one side, the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum and research program. It’s a literal institution in the science community, with its research cutting across all disciplines. In many ways, it’s above reproach and apolitical, something march organizers said was a central tenet of the march.
On the other side, the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency run by an administrator that denies the established science of climate change and an organization that the Trump administration has proposed radical cuts to. It’s the epicenter for a war on science increasingly being waged on partisan grounds, and one that marchers were intent on pushing back against.
That paradox is also why climate change emerged as a central part of Saturday’s march and the movement surrounding it, which organizers said included more than 600 marches around the world (Climate Central was among the organizations that partnered with the march). The reality of climate change has turned into a left-right issue despite being indisputable and posing an existential threat.
“The signs around here say it all,” said Liz Kohan, a fifth-grade teacher from Columbiaville, Mich., as she stood on the National Mall ahead of the march. “There is no Planet B.”
The marchers, who braved a mist that turned into a steady rain, said they were trying to reclaim the high ground and advocate for policies based on the best science. Many said the partisan divide had left them no choice but to mobilize and make their voices heard. [ed. emphasis mine]
From The Colorado Independent (Kelsey Ray):
For the first several blocks, Saturday’s March for Science in downtown Denver was remarkably quiet.
No hey-hey’s or ho-ho’s, no calls and no responses; just a crowd of scientists and their supporters — Facebook says it was more than 10,000 — walking in the streets with their snarky, clever signs.
They bore slogans like “You can’t repeal physics” and “Evidence is not optional” and “The revolution will be peer reviewed.” One sign had no message, just a large, hand-drawn graph of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over the past 400,000 years. An eighth grader held up that one-word quote from The Lorax: “Unless.”
These protesters — these costumed Doc Browns, Captain Kirks and Ms. Frizzles, these young women who deemed themselves STEMinists and white-haired men in the witty-T-shirt-and-hiking-boots uniform of aging Colorado academics — were clearly passionate about the state of science in society. So why weren’t they louder?
I told Mary Fran Park, a science teacher in Englewood, that it seemed almost metaphorical: Just as scientists tend to let the facts speak for themselves, they were here letting their signs do the talking for them.
“I think that’s exactly right,” she said. “Scientists, a lot of us — unless we’re teaching — we’re doing our thing.” One sign put it well, she said — “You know it’s serious if the introverts are out.”
Fran Park has been to other marches this year, but for many, Saturday marked a first foray into activism. It certainly was for Xin Sheng, a researcher at CU Medical Center. He and his three colleagues marched for the first time, all in agreement that the political threat to science had finally reached “a tipping point.” Originally from China, Sheng said, “In the past, U.S. climate policy was good, but now…it’s not good.”
President Donald Trump has been notably outspoken against climate change and environmental research. His budget blueprint, essentially a wish list for budget boosts and cuts, proposed slashing EPA funding by 30 percent and reducing funds for environmental research agencies like the National Oceanic and Environmental Administration.
In the lead-up to the march, numerous editorials questioned the premise of scientists acting as activists. Is there a place in science for activism? Should scientists speak about political issues? Perhaps fearful of backlash and further cuts, most government-funded research agencies have forbid their employees from talking about politics.
Many of those at the march, particularly the career scientists, had considered these questions. But they ultimately decided that recent political attacks on climate science were too worrisome not to show up.
“It breaks my heart that we have somehow politicized science,” said Kelsey Elwood, a first year graduate student at CU Boulder whose work includes environmental and climate change-related research.
“It’s perfectly reasonable for politicians to be part of the scientific process…for the scientists to present the facts, and then the politicians to figure how to solve problems,” she said. “But it’s not reasonable for the politicians to figure out what the facts are. That’s not their job.”
Rebecca Raph, another graduate student at CU Boulder, agreed. “I certainly don’t think of myself as a particularly political person — or certainly didn’t before the election. But I think scientists are taught to hedge, and to say that we aren’t experts, because we don’t want to overstate what we know, which can create a vacuum,” she said. ” It’s time to step up and say what we know.”
Engineers, physicists and geologists said the same thing: Scientists shouldn’t necessarily be political, but this is too serious not to speak up.
Several blocks into the hour-long march, the crowd did find its voice. As if they’d read my mind, they began with a simple chant: “Science not silence,” they shouted. “Science not silence.”
Here’s a photo gallery from The Denver Post.
From The Pueblo Chieftain:
Robert Hoag Rawlings was named Saturday as the first person to enter the newly established Colorado Press Association Hall of Fame…
His impact on his community was profound, from his role in forming the Pueblo Economic Development Commission, to his support of Colorado State University-Pueblo and the Pueblo Library District, to his relentless battle against cities to the north of Pueblo that have tried to obtain water owned by landowners in the Lower Arkansas Valley.
In describing Rawlings to the conventioneers here Saturday, Chieftain Managing Editor Steve Henson recalled one of many conversations he had with his boss about water.
“He told me one time, ‘Those SOBs just keep growing and growing, but they don’t have the resources to support it. So they want our resources and don’t give a damn about drying up our communities. We will fight them.'”
You owe it to the folks that drive our economies and keep us healthy. They are putting us on the right path as we deal with the climate crisis.
From the Associated Press (Seth Boronstein) via The Pueblo Chieftain:
The March for Science, coinciding with Earth Day, was set for more than 500 cities, anchored in Washington and to be joined by dozens of nonpartisan scientific professional societies in a turnout intended to combine political and how-to science demonstrations.
Marchers in Geneva carried signs that said, “Science — A Candle in the Dark” and “Science is the Answer.” In Berlin, several thousand people participated in a march from the one of the city’s universities to the Brandenburg Gate landmark. “We need to make more of our decision based on facts again and less on emotions,” said Meike Weltin, a doctorate student at an environmental institute near the capital.
In London, physicists, astronomers, biologists and celebrities gathered for a march past the city’s most celebrated research institutions. Supporters carried signs showing images of a double helix and chemical symbols.
The protest was putting scientists, who generally shy away from advocacy and whose work depends on objective experimentation, into a more public position.
Organizers portrayed the march as political but not partisan, promoting the understanding of science as well as defending it from various attacks, including proposed U.S. government budget cuts under President Donald Trump, such as a 20 percent slice of the National Institute of Health.
From the Natural Resources Defense Council (Christina Swanson):
“Science is curiosity in action!” This was how NRDC scientist Vignesh Gowrishankar describes science, a powerful statement that epitomizes the wonder and fun of science that draws so many of us to the field.
But science is also a serious and vital endeavor. It is the essential tool for protecting our environment, helping people and saving lives. And that’s why it is at the core of NRDC’s work to protect people and the environment, and has been for more than forty years.
We use science to identify the environmental problems that we need to tackle, to understand the causes of those problems, and then to help forge effective, evidence-based legal, policy and management solutions. Our amazing and talented scientific team includes experts in biology, forestry, geology, hydrology, chemistry, toxicology, physics, engineering, medicine, public health and more. On any given day, they may be researching how to most effectively integrate wind and solar energy into the electricity grid, evaluating the prevalence of toxic chemicals in drinking water supplies, or working with local communities to build climate resilient cities. Combine this with the work of NRDC’s policy experts, attorneys, advocates and communicators—and science is turned into action!
From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):
And what remains uncertain
Runoff has begun, the streams and creeks soon to roar as the deep snowpacks of this year’s full-throated winter melt in Jackson Hole, Ketchum, and other mountain towns of the West.
But runoff this year, if it hews to trends of recent decades, will peak earlier, leaving a longer and probably hotter summer. Temperatures have been rising globally, with the three hottest years on record occurring in the last three years.
This warmth is driving changes in trees, and by enabling more rapid infestations by bark beetles and other pathogens. During the longer dry season, this also makes forests more vulnerable to fire, according to experts at a recent forum in Colorado sponsored by a group called Carpe Diem West.
The general trend described by Tony Cheng, director of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, is of a longer fire season, now beginning some years in March. Fires have been burning hotter. Even now, 15 years after the Hayman Fire of 2002, the largest fire in Colorado’s recorded history, which also occurred in the foothills southwest of Denver, lands have been slow to regenerate.
“This is not what we might have expected under historic fire regimes, indicating a likely loss of forest resilience,” he said. Some research suggests it will take the forest 900 years to regain its resilience, he added.
The event at which Cheng spoke featured both water providers and environmental organizations, all focused on the idea of creating partnerships for forest management. Most if not all concur with the idea that forests in key areas need to be thinned, to reduce risk of fire impacts to streams and rivers, after a century or more of fire suppression.
Cheng warned against expecting too much. “We can’t necessarily stop these types of fires, but we can influence the impacts,” he said.
A group of water providers and land management agencies called the Front Range Roundtable was formed to serve as a focal point for coalescing efforts to improve what is often called forest health. In other words, in most cases they want to thin forests.
In one such project, Denver Water in 2010 put in $16.5 million toward forest management, with that amount matched by the U.S. Forest Service and other state and federal agencies. Recently it renewed that commitment for another five-year run, with work planned for both Summit and Grand counties at the headwaters of the Colorado River. If located across the Continental Divide, Denver draws water from both places.
“You can’t treat everywhere,” said Cheng. “You have to be realistic about what you are trying to do.”
He also warned against expecting that fire can be stopped altogether. “There is no published paper that says that treatment will stop fire, you can’t stop fire. You can only modify fire behavior and the effects up to a certain point.”
If fire is natural on the landscape, and climate change, too, most of the climate change now underway is unnatural, the result of greenhouse gases and other human activities.
Jeff Lukas, a scientist from the Western Water Assessment in Boulder, Colo., outlined the evidence for rapid change: the last three years have been the warmest on record and, in Western states, the temperatures have increased 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the last three decades. Heat waves have been longer, and the same is true of frost-free season—no doubt a welcome respite in many mountain towns.
Snowmelt has come earlier. “Peak runoff is earlier virtually everywhere, and in particular in the more coastal regimes,” he said, referring to both the Sierra Nevada and to the Cascade Range.
But annual streamflow is declining in most areas, as more precipitation is lost to the atmosphere as a result of both evaporation and transpiration.
“The atmosphere giveth, and the atmosphere taketh away,” explained Lukas. This thirsty atmosphere is called the vapor-pressure deficit. What’s important is that the thirst that causes soil to dry out and streams to evaporate increases exponentially with temperature. Generally, the atmospheric thirst is projected to increase 10 to 25 percent by mid-century.
The upshot of this progression of warmth is more rain in place of snow, reduced late-summer flows, and more severe droughts. Droughts, in turn, stress trees leading to more vigorous insect infestations and disease outbreaks.
There’s also this: more frequent and destructive wildfires. And finally: over time, changes in the trees and plants you will see outside your mountain town window.
Lukas emphasized uncertainties. Climate models use different approaches, and although many concur in key predictions, there is no universal certainty. “Don’t let them give you just one number,” he said. “There should be a range.”
For example, the models concur about increased warming. There is high confidence of this. But there is a range of predictions about how much: 2.5 to 6.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. Part of this depends upon to what extent the emissions of greenhouse gases can be slowed or even withdrawn from the atmosphere.
Physics of clouds continue to confound scientists. There is no clear understanding of how much increased water vapor—itself a greenhouse gas—in the atmosphere will in turn cause increased heating.
For that matter, it’s unclear whether warming temperatures will cause more or less precipitation. Most models suggest less moisture in places like Mammoth and Telluride, but with more precipitation in Ketchum, and almost certainly so in Canada. But again, this is likely to come increasingly as rain, not snow.
Climate models show warming as inevitable. Absent the moderating effects of a nearby ocean, Colorado and other states in the continent’s interior are expected to see temperatures rising more rapidly. It might already be happening, but the effect is not as obvious we might be expected, says Lukas.
Higher-elevation mountains are expected to warm even more as the snow gives way to bare ground for more of the year, which absorbs solar radiation instead of reflecting it, as snow does. This more rapid elevation gradient warming has been detected in the Himalayas, but there are too few high-quality temperature mountains in the mountains of Colorado to confirm it here.
Heat has a muscular effect among these changes. For example, If precipitation increases 100 percent but evaporation and transpiration increase 50 to 90 percent, that means 50 percent less runoff.
If drought obviously stresses trees, scientists remain unclear about the exact mechanisms by which trees die.
Further, not all forests turned red by bark beetles can be blamed solely on drought and warmer temperatures. But they have played a factor in the 40 million acres in western North America affected since the late1990s.
Frequency and scale of fires in the West has increased, owing to earlier snowmelt and drier fuels. One new study concludes that roughly 50 percent of the total burned area in the West since 1984 is due to climate change—a figure that Lukas said he doubts. Also, it’s important to remember that even bigger fires occurred naturally before the 1800s, when Euro-American settlers arrived. Fire is a component of the landscape.
But warming will produce changes. Trees will want to shift upslope or, more slowly, to more northerly latitudes For example, the Engelmann spruce and subalpine fire forests found today in Colorado at 10,000 feet might be replaced by lodgepole pine, and lodgepole might be replaced by ponderosa.
At least in Colorado, the vast majority of moisture falls in the form of snow in the elevation band of 9,000 to 11,000 feet, mostly spruce-fir forests. “We need to keep our eye on the spruce-fir zone in terms of watershed impacts.” said Lukas. “That’s where most of our water comes from in the West.”
PowerPoint slides courtesy of Jeff Lukas and Tony Cheng.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
DOUBLE PEAK SNOWPACK MELTING
The amount of water in the Upper Colorado Basinwide snowpack peaked early, started to melt and then bumped back up, before dropping steeply again. Similar stories unfolded in the sub-basins, with the Upper Green and Duchesne groups showing the most impressive peaks and the Yampa/ White group the only one to post lower than average numbers. To see how the total accumulations by month add up in Colorado’s basins, choose the stacked bar option on this page.
From Climate Central (Andrea Thompson):
Since the days of the great early 20th century polar explorers, scientists have noticed the unbelievably bright blue ponds and streams of meltwater that can form on the glaciers and ice shelves of Antarctica and were even crucial to the recent collapse of one ice shelf.
While most research into Antarctic ice melt has concentrated on the impacts of warming ocean waters that are eating away at the ice from below, a new continent-wide survey shows that these surface meltwater drainage systems are much more prevalent around the continent than was previously thought.
From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):
The April 15th forecast for the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 850,000 acre-feet. This is 126% of the 30 year average. Snowpack in the Upper Gunnison Basin is currently 124% of average. Blue Mesa Reservoir current content is 623,000 acre-feet which is 75% of full. Current elevation is 7495.3 ft. Maximum content at Blue Mesa Reservoir is 829,500 acre-feet at an elevation of 7519.4 ft.
Black Canyon Water Right
The peak flow and shoulder flow components of the Black Canyon Water Right will be determined by the May 1 forecast of the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir. If the May 1 forecast is equal to the current forecast of 850,000 acre-feet of runoff volume, the peak flow target will be equal to 6,427 cfs for a duration of 24 hours. The shoulder flow target will be 831 cfs, for the period between May 1 and July 25. The point of measurement of flows to satisfy the Black Canyon Water Right is the Gunnison River below Gunnison Tunnel streamgage at the upstream boundary of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Aspinall Unit Operations ROD
Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the peak flow and duration flow targets in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, will be determined by the forecast of the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir and the hydrologic year type. At the time of the spring operation, if the forecast is equal to the current forecast of 850,000 acre-feet of runoff volume, the hydrologic year type will be set as Moderately Wet. Under a Moderately Wet year the peak flow target will be 14,350 cfs and the duration target at this flow will be 10 days. The duration target for the half bankfull flow of 8,070 cfs will be 40 days.
Projected Spring Operations
During spring operations, releases from the Aspinall Unit will be made in an attempt to match the peak flow of the North Fork of the Gunnison River to maximize the potential of meeting the desired peak at the Whitewater gage, while simultaneously meeting the Black Canyon Water Right peak flow amount. The magnitude of release necessary to meet the desired peak at the Whitewater gage will be dependent on the flow contribution from the North Fork of the Gunnison River and other tributaries downstream from the Aspinall Unit. Current projections for spring peak operations show that flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon could be over 9,000 cfs for 10 days in order to achieve the desired peak flow and duration at Whitewater. If actual flows on the North Fork of the Gunnison River are less than currently projected, flows through the Black Canyon could be even higher. With this runoff forecast and corresponding downstream targets, Blue Mesa Reservoir is currently projected to fill to an elevation of around 7507 feet with an approximate peak content of 719,000 acre-feet.
From CanoeKayak.com (Eugene Buchanan):
The Dolores River Monitoring and Recommendation team recently agreed on a plan to release water from the dam, which involved input from water managers, boaters, scientists, environmental groups, federal lands agencies, and local governments.
Surplus water is expected to spill from the McPhee Dam from April 13 until mid-June, with 45 to 60 days of flow planned at 2,000 cubic feet per second. Water managers plan to release an even larger burst of water, expected at 4,000 cfs, during three days in late May (May 19-22). Scientists say the extra water will flush extra sediment downstream and create better habitat for native fish.
“That’s a great flow level, something we haven’t seen in years,” says local rafter Sean McNamara. “Bring on Snaggletooth!”
Despite the extra water, water managers say all water allocations will be met, including those for agricultural use.
From KOAA.com (Lena Howland):
In order to mitigate the risk, the city has been working on a number of stormwater projects along North Douglas Creek, South Douglas Creek and Camp Creek, all runoff areas from the burn scar.
“We have not let our guard down, ever since the Waldo Canyon Fire, we’ve had so many opportunities to do repairs and projects in order to prevent any more damage coming from the burn scar, as much as practical,” Kelley said.
All lessons learned, Kelley says they are more prepared to handle flash floods now than they were five years ago.
“We have an operations and maintenance division which responds on the spot to any types of flooding concerns, our emergency operations center is fully functioning and everybody is prepared for this type of an event to occur,” he said.
The City of Colorado Springs has created an Emergency Preparedness Manual for everyone which can be found here.
From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):
“Colorado basically has the number one economy in America,” the governor remarked, stressing that the demands for agricultural products will remain one of our economic mainstays as it did to help the country out of the Great Depression decades ago. Hickenlooper acknowledged the disparity of growth between the Front Range and rural areas of the state, explaining that he wants to see more technological growth in rural areas including more access to broadband capabilities in the smallest towns in the state.
The governor addressed changing technologies as well, “Automation has begun to eliminate a lot of jobs in the U.S.,” he explained, adding that this change can foster tremendous wealth in some companies which flows upwards to the top 1% earnings bracket. “I’d like to see a way to recoup some of that wealth. I believe the top 1% has an obligation to help create and develop new industries; not as a hand-out, but as a way of sustaining job growth for new sectors of the economy.” The governor also mentioned employing the new Jumpstart program which can provide tax incentives to new businesses after they have been in operation for several years…
John Stulp gave a brief description of future water demands in Colorado, given the state’s growing population. “We’re going to see as many people move to the state over the next 30 years as there will be born from current residents,” he explained, saying that will double the current 5,000,000 residents by the year 2050. Stulp said this will call for more efficient uses of energy and conversation measures as well as planning ahead for additional water storage throughout Colorado.
Regarding the development of more solar and wind power in Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper said it is remarkable that for the first time in almost 50 years, the country will be in a position to be a net exporter of energy by 2018. He said we are facing a challenge with the construction of transmission lines in the region. “The city doesn’t build them, the county doesn’t either. It has to go through the Public Utilities Commission and that is a long and involved process and they are held responsible for making the most cost-effective decisions for their customers.” The governor said he believed the state will see increased construction and use of wind and solar power in the years to come.
The meeting was attended by numerous elected officials as well as representatives of local government and civic organizations. When asked if the topics covered in the public meeting were any different from an earlier private meeting the governor held with some of those officials, the Prowers County Commissioners said some other topics included the on-going issues with conservation easements and the impact CDPHE rulings would have on small communities with regard to maintenance of their landfills.
From The Water Values (David McGimpsey):
Episode TWV #100!!! Three prize winning water innovators from around the globe come on The Water Values Podcast to describe their innovations, the problem they sought to solve and how their innovations solve those problems. These innovators are based in Europe, Nepal and Uganda, so we really spanned the globe for you on this episode. Ku McMahan (from TWV #059) also returns to provide a quick introduction as to how Securing Water For Food chose these innovators as their prize winners. It’s a great study in innovation and problem solving by first examining the problem and they crafting solutions to remedy the problem.
In this session, you’ll learn about:
Securing Water For Food and what it does How silicone helps plants increase crop yields How silicone makes for hardier plants Why silicone is so difficult to get into plants How NewSil solved the problem of getting silicone into plants Why Nepal, a land of 6,000 rivers, has trouble providing irrigation to riparian lands capable of being farmed How aQysta developed a water wheel that allows previously non-irrigated land along rivers to become irrigable Why digesters in Africa are abandoned so quickly after installation for lack of sufficient water How Green Heat figured out how to reduce water use in digesters and produced a valuable byproduct along the way
From Climate Central (Brian Kahn):
On Tuesday, the Mauna Loa Observatory recorded its first-ever carbon dioxide reading in excess of 410 parts per million (it was 410.28 ppm in case you want the full deal). Carbon dioxide hasn’t reached that height in millions of years. It’s a new atmosphere that humanity will have to contend with, one that’s trapping more heat and causing the climate to change at a quickening rate.
In what’s become a spring tradition like Passover and Easter, carbon dioxide has set a record high each year since measurements began. It stood at 280 ppm when record keeping began at Mauna Loa in 1958. In 2013, it passed 400 ppm. Just four years later, the 400 ppm mark is no longer a novelty. It’s the norm…
Carbon dioxide concentrations have skyrocketed over the past two years due to in part to natural factors like El Niño causing more of it to end up in the atmosphere. But it’s mostly driven by the record amounts of carbon dioxide humans are creating by burning fossil fuels.
“The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease,” Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. “But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.”
Even when concentrations of carbon dioxide level off, the impacts of climate change will extend centuries into the future. The planet has already warmed 1.8°F (1°C), including a run of 627 months in a row of above-normal heat. Sea levels have risen about a foot and oceans have acidified. Extreme heat has become more common.
All of these impacts will last longer and intensify into the future even if we cut carbon emissions. But we face a choice of just how intense they become based on when we stop polluting the atmosphere.
Please consider coming by the Community Building at Thornton’s Community Park on May 16th. I’ll be speaking about the climate crisis as part of the Climate Reality Project. Children are welcome. We’ve already baked in a lot of uncertainty about the future for them. The presentation revolves around three questions: Should we act; Can we act; and, Will we act? I’ll bring you up to date on the engineering effort around renewable energy.
What: Climate Change is Water Change: Colorado Update
Where: Thornton Community Park Community Building (Near the swimming pool), 2211 Eppinger Blvd, Thornton, CO 80229
When: Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
About the Climate Reality Project:
With glaciers melting, seas rising, and 14 of the 15 hottest years on record coming this century, the threat of climate change has never been clearer. But with solar, wind, and other clean energy solutions becoming more affordable and accessible every year, neither has the way forward. And with 195 countries signing the historic Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gases the world is finally united in working to seize the promise of renewables and create a safe, sustainable, and prosperous future powered by clean energy.
What’s in the way? Powerful fossil fuel companies and their government allies spreading fear and misinformation.
Led by Vice President Gore and CEO Ken Berlin, we’re here to change that. We connect cutting-edge digital media, global organizing events, and peer-to-peer outreach to share the truth about climate change and the solutions in our hands today with people everywhere. And with our more than 10,000 Climate Reality Leader activists building support for pro-climate policies at every level, and millions joining us to accelerate the global transition to clean energy, we have the chance to stop climate change and together create a future we can be proud of. We’re not about to waste it.
Here’s the release from the USGS:
As part of an ongoing effort to improve the suite of hydrography web-based map services, the USGS will separate the services for the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD).
Currently, the NHD dynamic service, “Hydrography (inc. watersheds)” includes both NHD and WBD layers. The existing address will be updated to include only NHD layers, and a new endpoint will be designated for WBD services.
The NHD and WBD represent inland waters for the U.S. as a part of The National Map. The NHD represents the drainage network with features such as rivers, streams, canals, lakes, ponds, coastline, dams, and streamgages. The WBD represents drainage basins as enclosed areas in eight different size categories.
Focusing these services to two endpoints enables the USGS to isolate changes and issues, and continue to improve the performance of each set of services independently. When complete, users will have the choice to consume the services of NHD or WBD independently. Accessing the WBD services will not require users to consume the additional NHD layers, and accessing NHD services will not require users to have to consume the additional WBD layers. Separating the services and increasing resources available has improved performance.
This change will impact applications presently consuming the combined NHD and WBD layers from the existing service address. Once this is implemented, users who would like to consume the WBD dynamic services will need to use the new service endpoint. In addition, users currently consuming the combined service may need to update application configurations for display of the desired layers.
Additionally, two NHD/WBD-related web services are being retired at the end of April. See the summary below for more information.
An announcement will be posted in the “What’s New” section on the The National Map website once changes are implemented.
New – Hydrography data service endpoints:
1. National Hydrography Dataset
Function: Provides national hydrography data Endpoint: https://services.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/nhd/MapServer This NHD endpoint remains the same, the WBD layers have been removed.
2. National Watershed Boundary Dataset
Function: Provides watershed boundary data Endpoint: https://services.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/wbd/MapServer
3. Hydrography (cached)
Function: Provides a fast USGS Topo styled hydrography overlay Endpoint: https://basemap.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/USGSHydroCached/MapServer This service was announced and made public March 2017 and is also available as a WMTS service.
Retiring at the end of April 2017
NHD Base Map (former primary tile cache) Function: Cached base map of hillshade, NHD and WBD combined Endpoint: https://basemap.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/USGSHydroNHD/MapServer
USGS NHD Base Map – Below 18K Scale Dynamic
Function: Dynamic map service used below 18K to work along with older NHD Base Map cache. This also contains hillshade, NHD and WBD combined Endpoint: https://services.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/USGSHydroNHDLarge/MapServer
For any questions, comments, or concerns regarding this update, please contact Ariel Doumbouya (firstname.lastname@example.org).