Western Weather Consultants has applied for a permit to perform cloud seeding intended to increase snowfall in the Central Colorado mountains, including parts of Lake, Chaffee and Summit counties.
Sponsors of the application include the Colorado River Conservation District, the Front Range Water Council and the ski areas of Keystone, Breckenridge and Winter Park.
Western’s proposed weather modification program would use silver iodide crystals from ground-based “cloud nuclei generators” to seed clouds favorable for precipitation increases.
Information on the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) website indicates that precipitation from some clouds is limited by a shortage of “natural ice nuclei.” Silver iodide crystals seeded into the clouds become “artificial cloud nuclei.”
Ultimately, that enables clouds seeded with silver iodide “to grow larger, process more water vapor and yield more precipitation.”
The program goals, as stated in the legal notice, are to increase precipitation, snowpack and snow-water content “to benefit natural habitat, agriculture, municipal water, stock growers, recreational and tourism interests and the local economy.”
The American Meteorological Society and the World Meteorological Organization support the effectiveness of winter cloud-seeding projects, indicating that between 5 and 20 percent more snow is produced in target areas.
Data from Western’s operations show precipitation increases ranging from approximately 10 to 20 percent, and the company has operated cloud-seeding programs for more than 40 years in the San Juan and Central Colorado mountains.
During the 2011-12 season, Western’s data show increased snowfall from its cloud-seeding operations of 8 to 16 inches, resulting in an additional 55,253 acre-feet of water.
According to the CWCB, Western has previously held two sequential five-year permits for cloud seeding in this target area, which is generally above an elevation of 8,500 feet.
Western proposes to operate the cloud-seeding program from Nov. 1 through April 15 under another five-year CWCB permit.
According to Western and the CWCB, safeguards will limit weather modification operations based on daily monitoring of the snowpack’s snow-water equivalent, avalanche hazard levels and National Weather Service severe weather statements.
According to Western’s operational plan, “No seeding will be initiated during a period of ‘high potential hazard.’”
Complete details of the operations to be conducted are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org…
Anyone unable to attend the public hearing can submit comments by email through Oct. 2 at email@example.com. Written comments may also be mailed by Oct. 2 to: Joe Busto, CWCB, 1313 Sherman St. No. 721, Denver, CO 80203.
All public comments will be considered for the record of decision.
Here’s an in-depth look at the decision from Gia Austin writing for the University of Denver Water Law Review. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
The parties divided the litigation into three phases. With respect to Phase I, the only phase relevant for this case, the district court held that “the reserved rights doctrine applied to groundwater and that the United States reserved appurtenant groundwater when it established the Tribe’s reservation.” Subsequently, the district court certified its order for interlocutory appeal and the water agencies petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for permission to hear the appeal. The court, on de novo review, addressed the only issue on appeal: whether the Tribe had a federal reserved right to the groundwater underlying its reservation. In so doing, the court approached its analysis in three steps.
First, the court determined whether the United States impliedly reserved water when establishing the Agua Caliente Reservation. This question is two-pronged: (1) whether water is reserved if a reservation’s primary purpose anticipates water use; and (2) if so, whether the Agua Caliente Reservation’s primary purpose contemplated water use.
The court began its analysis by examining the Winters doctrine, and found that it established that “federal reserved water rights are directly applicable ‘to Indian reservations and other federal enclaves, encompassing water rights in navigable and nonnavigable streams.’” However, the Winters doctrine is limited to certain situations; it reserves water necessary to accomplish the purported means of the reservation and reserves water if it is appurtenant to the withdrawn land. Following that understanding, the court differentiated the parties’ and the district court’s application of the Winters doctrine that specifically addressed whether the Tribe’s reserved right extended to groundwater from the more overarching issue concerning whether the mere existence of a federal reserved right depended on the Agua Caliente Reservation maintaining an implicit right to use water.
The court then evaluated the first prong when addressing the Tribe’s implied reserved right to water. The court invoked United States v. New Mexico and reasoned, “the federal purpose for which land was reserved is the driving force behind the reserved rights doctrine.” Further, that the New Mexico Court patterned a consistent conclusion whenever the reserved water rights doctrine is raised—an insufficient water supply defeats the purposes of the reservation. Therefore, the court adopted New Mexico’s holding that water is reserved when the reservation’s primary purpose foresees water use. The court then evaluated the second prong, whether the Tribe’s primary purpose contemplated water use. To answer this question, the court synthesized the Executive Orders establishing the Agua Caliente Reservation and Supreme Court precedent to conclude that “the primary purpose underlying the establishment of the reservation was to create a home for the Tribe, and water was necessarily implicated in that purpose.” Therefore, the United States impliedly reserved water for the Tribe.
Second, the court addressed whether the Tribe’s implied reserved water right extended to the Agua Caliente Reservation’s underlying groundwater. The court reiterated the Winters doctrine requirements and determined that although the Tribe met the first requirement that the reservation’s purported means necessitated water use, the second requirement that unappropriated water must be appurtenant to the reservation remained. To find a resolution, the court reasoned that appurtenance is not limited to surface water and extrapolated from Supreme Court precedent that the United States can protect groundwater and, along that vein, impliedly reserved water may include appurtenant groundwater. Further, the court considered the Tribe’s reliance on groundwater when reasoning that the minimal surface water availability conditions the Tribe’s survival on groundwater access. From this line of reasoning, the court clarified that the Winters doctrine purported to provide sustainable livelihoods to Tribes inhabiting reservations in arid areas, like the Agua Caliente Reservation, and included access to both appurtenant surface water and groundwater. Therefore, the Tribe’s implied reserved water right included groundwater.
Third, the court addressed whether the above two holdings withstood the water agencies’ arguments that: (1) the Tribe received water pursuant to California’s correlative rights doctrine; (2) the Tribe did not need a federal reserved right to groundwater in light of its allotted surface water from the Whitewater River Decree; and (3) the Tribe never drilled for groundwater on its reservation. The court rejected each in turn. First, federal water rights, such as the implied federal reserved water right, preempt state water rights. Second, New Mexico did not inquire into the current necessity of water, it focused on whether the reservation’s inception purported such a necessity. Third, lacking historical access to groundwater on the reservation did not foreclose the Tribe’s current access to groundwater. Therefore, compounded with the federal primacy of reserved water rights, the Tribe’s implied federal water right to groundwater remained intact.
Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court holding that the United States impliedly reserved appurtenant groundwater when creating the Agua Caliente Reservation.
Please join WildEarth Guardians as we launch the Rio Grande Waterkeeper—our new partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance—to protect and restore the iconic Rio Grande.
Our special guest, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Senior Attorney and President of Waterkeeper Alliance, will join Guardians for an inspiring evening of education, advocacy, and fundraising to help save America’s Great River.
As challenges continue to mount against the Rio Grande, Guardians is excited to join Waterkeeper Alliance’s global movement of over 300 member organizations fighting to protect rivers around the world.
Come celebrate with us, meet the staff, and learn our vision for a healthy, thriving Rio Grande.
When: Monday, October 9, 2017, 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.
Where: Los Poblanos, 4803 Rio Grande Blvd NW, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, NM 87107
Senator Pittman, Secretary Ickes, Governors of the Colorado’s States, and you especially who have built Boulder Dam:
This morning I came, I saw and I was conquered, as everyone would be who sees for the first time this great feat of mankind.
Ten years ago the place where we are gathered was an unpeopled, forbidding desert. In the bottom of a gloomy canyon, whose precipitous walls rose to a height of more than a thousand feet, flowed a turbulent, dangerous river. The mountains on either side of the canyon were difficult of access with neither road nor trail, and their rocks were protected by neither trees nor grass from the blazing heat of the sun. The site of Boulder City was a cactus-covered waste. The transformation wrought here in these years is a twentieth-century marvel.
We are here to celebrate the completion of the greatest dam in the world, rising 726 feet above the bed-rock of the river and altering the geography of a whole region; we are here to see the creation of the largest artificial lake in the world—115 miles long, holding enough water, for example, to cover the State of Connecticut to a depth of ten feet; and we are here to see nearing completion a power house which will contain the largest generators and turbines yet installed in this country, machinery that can continuously supply nearly two million horsepower of electric energy.
All these dimensions are superlative. They represent and embody the accumulated engineering knowledge and experience of centuries; and when we behold them it is fitting that we pay tribute to the genius of their designers. We recognize also the energy, resourcefulness and zeal of the builders, who, under the greatest physical obstacles, have pushed this work forward to completion two years in advance of the contract requirements. But especially, we express our gratitude to the thousands of workers who gave brain and brawn to this great work of construction.
Beautiful and great as this structure is, it must also be considered in its relationship to the agricultural and industrial development and in its contribution to the health and comfort of the people of America who live in the Southwest.
To divert and distribute the waters of an arid region, so that there shall be security of rights and efficiency in service, is one of the greatest problems of law and of administration to be found in any Government. The farms, the cities, the people who live along the many thousands of miles of this river and its tributaries —all of them depend upon the conservation, the regulation, and the equitable division of its ever-changing water supply. What has been accomplished on the Colorado in working out such a scheme of distribution is inspiring to the whole country. Through the cooperation of the States whose people depend upon this river, and of the Federal Government which is concerned in the general welfare, there is being constructed’ a system of distributive works and of laws and practices which will insure to the millions of people who now dwell in this basin, and the millions of others who will come to dwell here in future generations, a just, safe and permanent system of water rights. In devising these policies and the means for putting them into practice the Bureau of Reclamation of the Federal Government has taken, and is destined to take in the future, a leading and helpful part. The Bureau has been the instrument which gave effect to the legislation introduced in Congress by Senator Hiram Johnson and Congressman Phil Swing.
We know that, as an unregulated river, the Colorado added little of value to the region this dam serves. When in flood the river was a threatening torrent. In the dry months of the year it shrank to a trickling stream. For a generation the people of Imperial Valley had lived in the shadow of disaster from this river which provided their livelihood, and which is the foundation of their hopes for themselves and their children. Every spring they awaited with dread the coming of a flood, and at the end of nearly every summer they feared a shortage of water would destroy their crops.
The gates of these great diversion tunnels were closed here at Boulder Dam last February. In June a great flood came down the river. It came roaring down the canyons of the Colorado, through Grand Canyon, Iceberg and Boulder Canyons, but it was caught and safely held behind Boulder Dam.
Last year a drought of unprecedented severity was visited upon the West. The watershed of this Colorado River did not escape. In July the canals of the Imperial Valley went dry. Crop losses in that Valley alone totaled $10,000,000 that summer. Had Boulder Dam been completed one year earlier, this loss would have been prevented, because the spring flood would have been stored to furnish a steady water supply for the long dry summer and fall.
Across the San Jacinto Mountains southwest of Boulder Dam, the cities of Southern California are constructing an aqueduct to cost $220,000,000, which they have raised, for the purpose of carrying the regulated waters of the Colorado River to the Pacific Coast 259 miles away.
Across the desert and mountains to the west and south run great electric transmission lines by which factory motors, street and household lights and irrigation pumps will be operated in Southern Arizona and California. Part of this power will be used in pumping the water through the aqueduct to supplement the domestic supplies of Los Angeles and surrounding cities.
Navigation of the river from Boulder Dam to the Grand Canyon has been made possible, a 115-mile stretch that has been traversed less than half a dozen times in history. An immense new park has been created for the enjoyment of all our people.
At what cost was this done? Boulder Dam and the power houses together cost a total of $108,000,000, all of which will be repaid with interest in fifty years under the contracts for sale of the power. Under these contracts, already completed, not only will the cost be repaid, but the way is opened for the provision of needed light and power to the consumer at reduced rates. In the expenditure of the price of Boulder Dam during the depression years work was provided for 4,000 men, most of them heads of families, and many thousands more were enabled to earn a livelihood through manufacture of materials and machinery.
And this picture is true on different scales in regard to the thousands of projects undertaken by the Federal Government, by the States and by the counties and municipalities in recent years. The .overwhelming majority of them are of definite and permanent usefulness.
Throughout our national history we have had a great program of public improvements, and in these past two years all that we have done has been to accelerate that program. We know, too, that the reason for this speeding up was the need of giving relief to several million men and women whose earning capacity had been destroyed by the complexities and lack of thought of the economic system of the past generation.
No sensible person is foolish enough to draw hard and fast classifications as to usefulness or need. Obviously, for instance, this great Boulder Dam warrants universal approval because it will prevent floods and flood damage, because it will irrigate thousands of acres of tillable land and because it will generate electricity to turn the wheels of many factories and illuminate countless homes. But can we say that a five-foot brushwood dam across the head waters of an arroyo, and costing only a millionth part of Boulder Dam, is an undesirable project or a waste of money? Can we say that the great brick high school, costing $2,000,000, is a useful expenditure but that a little wooden school house project, costing five or ten thousand dollars, is a wasteful extravagance? Is it fair to approve a huge city boulevard and, at the same time, disapprove the improvement of a muddy farm-to-market road?
While we do all of this, we give actual work to the unemployed and at the same time we add to the wealth and assets of the Nation. These efforts meet with the approval of the people of the Nation.
In a little over two years this great national work has accomplished much. We have helped mankind by the works themselves and, at the same time, we have created the necessary purchasing power to throw in the clutch to start the wheels of what we call private industry. Such expenditures on all of these works, great and small, flow out to many beneficiaries; they revive other and more remote industries and businesses. Money is put in circulation. Credit is expanded and the financial and industrial mechanism of America is stimulated to more and more activity. Labor makes wealth. The use of materials makes wealth. To employ workers and materials when private employment has failed is to translate into great national possessions the energy that otherwise would be wasted. Boulder Dam is a splendid symbol of that principle. The mighty waters of the Colorado were running unused to the sea. Today we translate them into a great national possession.
I might go further and suggest to you that use begets use. Such works as this serve as a means of making useful other national possessions. Vast deposits of precious metals are scattered within a short distance of where we stand today. They await the development of cheap power.
These great Government power projects will affect not only the development of agriculture and industry and mining in the sections that they serve, but they will also prove useful yardsticks to measure the cost of power throughout the United States. It is my belief that the Government should proceed to lay down the first yardstick from this great power plant in the form of a State power line, assisted in its financing by the Government, and tapping the wonderful natural resources of Southern Nevada. Doubtless the same policy of financial assistance to State authorities can be followed in the development of Nevada’s sister State, Arizona, on the other side of the River.
With it all, with work proceeding in every one of the more than three thousand counties m the United States, and of a vastly greater number of local divisions of Government, the actual credit of Government agencies is on a stronger and safer basis than at any time in the past six years. Many States have actually improved their financial position in the past two years. Municipal tax receipts are being paid when the taxes fall due, and tax arrearages are steadily declining.
It is a simple fact that Government spending is already beginning to show definite signs of its effect on consumer spending; that the putting of people to work by the Government has put other people to work through private employment, and that in two years and a half we have come to the point today where private industry must bear the principal responsibility of keeping the processes of greater employment moving forward with accelerated speed.
The people of the United States are proud of Boulder Dam. With the exception of the few who are narrow visioned, people everywhere on the Atlantic Seaboard, people in the Middle West and the Northwest, people in the South, must surely recognize that the national benefits which will be derived from the completion of this project will make themselves felt in every one of the forty-eight States. They know that poverty or distress in a community two thousand miles away may affect them, and equally that prosperity and higher standards of living across a whole continent will help them back home.
Today marks the official completion and dedication of Boulder Dam, the first of four great Government regional units. This is an engineering victory of the first order—another great achievement of American resourcefulness, American skill and determination.
That is why I have the right once more to congratulate you who have built Boulder Dam and on behalf of the Nation to say to you, “Well done.”
Citation: Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Address at the Dedication of Boulder Dam,” September 30, 1935. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=14952.
Rarely seen back of the Hoover Dam prior to first fill
President Franklin Roosevelt at dedication of Boulder (now Hoover) Dam, September 30, 1935
Hoover (Boulder) Dam photo credit Ansel Adams circa 1942 via Wikipedia.
View of Lake Mead and Hoover dam. Photo credit BBC.
Lake Mead from Hoover Dam December 13, 2016.
The plug called Hoover Dam has created an impressive body of water from the air, even after 16 years of reduced flows. September 2016/Allen Best
Reclamation photo of Hoover Dam from Tweet August 23, 2016.
Back of Hoover Dam prior to first fill photo via Reclamation.
Hoover Dam during construction via Historical Photos.
Hoover Dam spilling back in the day.
Hoover Dam photo via the US Bureau of Reclamation
US Flag at Hoover Dam as the Olympic Torch passed over the dam in 1996
Hoover Dam during construction
Hoover Dam during construction
Drought affected Lake Mead via the Mountain Town News
President Obama at Hoover Dam
Colorado River, Black Canyon back in the day, site of Hoover Dam
Here’s a report about religious groups in Colorado and New Mexico working to abate the climate crisis from Sarah Tory writing for The High Country News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
Last year, [Pastor Jim Therrien] joined the Interfaith Power & Light campaign, “a religious response to global warming” composed of churches and faith communities across the U.S. Since 2001, the network had expanded its membership from 14 congregations in California to some 20,000 in over 40 states. The group provides resources to churches and other faith communities for cutting carbon emissions — helping install solar panels, for instance, and sharing sermons on the importance of addressing climate change.
Therrien says he is merely “following the Scripture.” In the process, however, he has joined a growing environmental movement that brings a religious dimension to the problem of climate change…
Here at his hardscrabble New Mexico parish, Therrien continues to practice what he preaches. On a hot day in July, he herded 28 visitors into the mission’s two white vans for a drive out onto the Navajo Nation. The group, mostly Easterners, ranged in age from 8 to over 60 and had traveled to the Lybrook mission as part of a weeklong fact-finding trip. Like Therrien, many were members of the Church of the Brethren, a Protestant denomination with a history of activism. More recently, their focus had shifted to environmental issues — especially climate change.
“It’s concerning that our government is pulling back from what we should be focusing on,” one of them, Jim Dodd, told me. Recently, the giant Larsen Ice Shelf had broken off from Antarctica, and Dodd was worried. “Villages already at sea level are going to get flooded,” he said.
Leading the group was David Radcliff, director of the New Community Project, a Vermont-based organization. “It’s a fairness issue for the rest of God’s creatures,” he told me. Radcliff has led “learning tours” around social and environmental justice issues for church groups, most recently, to the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Radcliff, a small, wiry man with an intense blue gaze, wore a white T-shirt with a very long slogan on the back. “Earth is a mess,” it said, and “God’s not amused.” If you aren’t satisfied, it added, “do something about it.”
For Radcliff, discussing the facts of climate change isn’t enough. That’s where religion comes in. “At a certain point, you have to talk about the consequences, and past that it becomes a conversation about morality,” he said. Take moose in the Northeast: They are dying from tick infestations exacerbated by a warming climate, caused by humans taking more from the Earth than they need, he said. “We are stealing from other living things.”
The group included elected officials, community leaders, and interested citizens who toured different farms and a research center.
The goal was to come together and discuss current water resources for agriculture and what can be done to ensure there’s enough water for the future.
Michael Hirakata, co-owner of Hirakata Farms, said, “It all starts with water. Without water we can’t grow the food.”
That’s the message Hirakata wants everyone in Colorado to hear.
“This year there’s plenty of water. It’s trying to rain right now, but Mother Nature is not always the same and we’re going to need a lot of water to feed the population of Colorado.”
The population of the state only continues to grow.
Kate Greenberg of The National Young Farmers Coalition said, “As water gets tighter, as we have more pressure on our water, it’s really going to take a lot of collaboration and alliances.”
Hirakata and other farmers are already doing that and sharing their practices with tour groups like the one that met on Wednesday.
“We told them about sub-surface irrigation and the way we manage sub-surface irrigation,” said Hirakata.
“We call it drip-tape and we put it in the ground…and the water never sees the light of day so there’s less evaporation.”
It’s a water technique he’s been practicing for many years after being hit by droughts.
“We weren’t going to have much water, also the yields-we were seeing some of our neighbors try it and the yields were a little bit higher than what we were getting so we thought well, we need to adjust our farming practices also.”
Now, he wants other people to start doing the same and to continue to come up with new ways to conserve water.
Greenberg said, “We’re all connected whether we know it or not to farming through food that we eat and the water that we use, and I think folks here today recognize that they play a role in that landscape.”
Much of the hay is bound for the Port of Long Beach, where it’s loaded onto ships and dispatched across the Pacific — to Japan, China and Korea, and farther away to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.
The hay export business is booming in the western U.S., and the trend shows no signs of letting up. The amount of hay exported annually from West Coast ports has more than doubled over the past two decades, much of it grown with water from the Colorado River. Farmers in the California desert are sending an increasing share of their crop overseas.
Growers say the reasons boil down to simple economics. The market for hay in Southern California has shrunk over the years as dairies have closed or moved elsewhere, while demand for dairy products has grown exponentially in other parts of the world.
And because the U.S. imports so many manufactured products from Asia, the large numbers of shipping containers left empty in the ports make the return shipping costs to Asia extraordinarily cheap. So cheap, in fact, that farmers say it costs less to ship hay to China than to haul the same load by truck to dairies 400 miles away in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
During the past few years, companies from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have established farming operations on thousands of acres around Blythe in the Palo Verde Valley. They’re also growing hay to the south in the Imperial Valley and to the east in Arizona…
One of the newest arrivals in the Palo Verde Valley is Saudi Arabia’s Almarai Co., one of the world’s largest dairy companies, which owns 2,248 acres near Blythe through its subsidiary Fondomonte California LLC, according to the Palo Verde Irrigation District.
The company announced in January 2016 that it paid $31.8 million for 1,790 acres. Some of its fields run alongside the Colorado River.
The company grows hay for cows in its dairy in Saudi Arabia, where the monarchy has set a policy of growing less alfalfa, wheat and corn to reduce pumping of groundwater from the depleted aquifers of the Arabian Peninsula.
When it bought the land near Blythe last year, the company said in a statement that the deal was part of its efforts to “secure its supply of the highest quality alfalfa” and was in line with the Saudi government’s “direction towards conserving local resources.”
The company bought nearly 10,000 acres in Vicksburg, Arizona, in 2014, and also owns about 320 acres in the Imperial Valley, where it has erected barns and a hay-pressing facility.
Another company with a growing presence is Wilmington, California-based Al Dahra ACX, Inc., which is owned by Al Dahra Agriculture Co. of the United Arab Emirates. The company leases 4,700 acres in the Palo Verde Valley, owns about 2,600 acres in the Imperial Valley and grows hay on several thousand acres in Arizona.
Al Dahra sells hay in the U.S. as well as to countries across Asia and the Middle East. The hay is largely used as feed for cows, but in the Middle East it’s also used for other livestock such as goats and camels…
Rising U.S. hay exports represent one of many threads in the interconnected web of the global food trade, and the percentage of U.S.-grown hay that’s sold abroad remains small compared with other products such as wheat, almonds, rice and wine, which are heavily exported. In the case of almonds, the state’s top agricultural export, nearly 70 percent of the crop is exported.
Less than 6 percent of the alfalfa grown across the U.S. is exported, said Daniel Putnam, an agronomist and the University of California, Davis. Domestic dairies continue to buy the most hay, and California alone has about 1.5 million dairy cows, many of them in the Central Valley.
Across seven western states, though, a larger share of the hay crop is sold internationally. Government figures compiled by Putnam and fellow researchers William Matthews and Daniel Sumner show about 15 percent of alfalfa and more than 44 percent of other types of hay produced in the West have been exported in recent years.
The share exported from Southern California farms is significantly higher than the regional average, the researchers said, because the closeness of the port makes trucking costs relatively inexpensive.
A record 4.8 million metric tons of hay were exported in 2016 from West Coast ports, valued at $1.4 billion.
Nearly every member of Colorado’s congressional delegation has signed a letter to the Trump administration asking for help with the emerging crisis of tiny invasive mussel larvae found in Green Mountain Reservoir…
“We urge you to respond rapidly, deploy available resources and work with the state and local communities to prevent this initial detection from growing into a full infestation,” the delegation wrote to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “A rapid response is critical during the window of opportunity immediately after the detection of invasive species.”
The letter, dated Thursday, was signed by Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, as well as Reps. Diana DeGette, Scott Tipton, Doug Lamborn, Jared Polis, Ed Perlmutter and Mike Coffman.
Rep. Ken Buck, a Weld County Republican, did not sign the letter.
“As a headwater state that is currently free of adult invasive mussels, the detection of invasive mussel larva poses a tangible threat to our economy,” the letter said. “The Department of Interior has recognized the importance of preventing invasive mussel infestations in western headwater states, such as Montana where larva was identified in late 2016 and resources were deployed to the Columbia River Basin.”
Zinke is from Montana.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said his agency has drawn more than 100 samples from Green Mountain Reservoir since the larvae were detected. “All of these samples have come back negative for all aquatic nuisance species including quagga mussels.”
Tiny mussel larvae, known as veligers, have been found in Colorado before. Lake Pueblo, for instance, tested positive for them in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.
Biologists, however, have never found an adult zebra or quagga mussel in any Colorado lake or reservoir.
Lake Powell, which straddles Utah and Arizona, has been ravaged by a mussel infestation since veligers were detected in late 2012 and four adult mussels were found on a boat that had been pulled for service in March 2013.
Boats and other watercraft can quickly spread the invasive species. Colorado wildlife officials have said the veligers found in Green Mountain Reservoir likely hitched in on a boat that had been in water outside the state.
State lawmakers during the past legislative session cited the threat of invasive mussels as one reason why they voted down a proposal to allow sea planes on Colorado’s bodies of water, saying they could act as long-range vehicles for the species.
Click here to read the article. Here’s an excerpt:
Climate change is real, and it is already affecting those of us who live, work, and play in Colorado. The longer we wait to cut our carbon pollution, the direr the consequences will be for our state, economy, and communities.
It will take a coordinated effort to address the climate crisis. Unfortunately, President Trump recently pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which set an international goal to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the level scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
In the wake of Trump’s decision, businesses, cities, universities, and states have committed to their own climate actions to reduce carbon pollution levels and avoid catastrophic impacts. Colorado Governor Hickenlooper has also issued an Executive Order to reduce pollution by 26% by 2025. For Colorado to achieve these goals, we need to do more, but the question remains: how?
Our new research lays out what Colorado needs to do to play our part in reducing emissions and reaching goals to prevent 1.5° – 2°C of warming. You can read the full report, “Colorado’s Climate Blueprint: Actions for Addressing Climate Change and Safeguarding Our Future,” or stick with us here for the highlights.
The bottom line is that Colorado’s elected officials and the current and future governors need to:
1. Adopt state-wide carbon pollution goals: we should reduce emissions economy-wide by 45% below 2005 levels by 2030 and 90% by 2050. Governor Hickenlooper’s executive order in July 2017 set a goal of a 26% reduction by 2025, but goals further into the future are needed.
2. Advance policies that drive carbon pollution reductions in key sectors: we must cut carbon pollution from Colorado’s largest sources, which includes power plants, transportation, and buildings.
3. Enact a market-based policy to reduce carbon pollution: this could be a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade program.
Here’s the release from the Metropolitan State University of Denver Center for Visual Arts:
August 4 – October 21, 2017
DENVER, CO (July 6, 2017) – Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver) Center for Visual Art (CVA) announces an exhibition that examines the loaded issue of water and promotes stewardship, advocacy and activism through the work of contemporary artists, and in direct conversation with students, policy analysts and scientists. Organized by CVA and on view August 4 through October 21, 2017, Water Line: A Creative Exchange features 19 artists working in photography, mixed-media installation, video, ceramic and sculpture.
The exhibition will feature artists’ critical response to institutional and individual actions that contribute to the water crisis, as well as imaginative solutions, practical and not, for addressing the issue. The challenge presented to artists is to engage audiences in multi-channel dialogue about water, with the intent to make visitors think differently about solutions to this problem that affects everyone, and requires the efforts of all.
“Water is the center of concern and debate everywhere,” said Cecily Cullen, CVA Managing Director / Curator. “Through the lens of art, visitors will learn not only about the challenges we face, but what can be done both individually and collectively to manage and sustain our scarce water resources.”
The artists are responding to news and reports that not only global communities are facing, but also thinking about those closer to Colorado and surrounding areas. Shrinking glaciers in Rocky Mountain National Park that source the major rivers in Colorado affect us directly, while protestors battle with oil companies for the right to protect rivers in North Dakota, and students in Michigan and Oregon have been consuming contaminated water from drinking fountains at their schools. The crisis of access to clean, plentiful water has been waged worldwide for decades. It has become an immediate and localized crisis.
Each of the artists, collectives, musicians and content contributors has been selected for their individual voice and expression addressing water struggles in compelling, provocative and poetic measure. Each contributor examines our relationship with water and reflects upon society’s role in protecting the environmental legacy for future generations.
Anna McKee is a visual artist living and working in Seattle. Her art is an exploration of memories that accumulate in the physical world – specifically where human history intersects a longer time span. McKee’s work, WAIS Reliquary, is a sculptural representation of 68,000 years of climate records taken from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The 22-foot long x 14.5-inch deep x 9-foot high sculpture consists of silk, glass, glacier water and wood. The work also includes a multi-channel soundscape by sound artist Steve Peters made from the sounds of the glass ampules used in the visual work, referencing the crystalline qualities of ice and the vertical representation of geological time implied by the drilled ice core.
Aurora Robson is a multi-media artist known predominantly for her work intercepting the waste stream. Her focus is on intercepting the plastic waste stream with the goal of shifting paradigms in human behavior. She states that humans are a self-destructive species in comparison to the other living creatures with whom we share this planet. The careless handling of plastic is threatening not only our food chain but the delicate eco-system that supports all life on earth. For the sake of circumvention, inspiration, and potentially our own salvation, Aurora makes work for the public that is as monumental in scale and lovingly crafted as possible, in order to illustrate both the urgency and sublime potential of this global problem.
Cannupa Hanska Luger
Born in North Dakota on the Standing Rock Reservation, Cannupa Hanska Luger comes from Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota, Austrian and Norwegian descent. Luger’s unique, ceramiccentric, but ultimately multidisciplinary work tells provocative stories of complex indigenous identities coming up against 21st-century imperatives, mediation, and destructivity. Luger creates socially conscious work that hybridizes his identity as an American Indian in tandem with global issues. Using his art as a catalyst, he invites the public to challenge expectations and misinterpretations imposed upon Indigenous peoples by historical and contemporary colonial social structures.
The Infamous Flapjack Affair and National Park Experience
The Infamous Flapjack Affair is an indie folk band that journeyed along the Colorado River for three weeks learning about the people and places that depend on the river system. Band members wrote original music and, in collaboration with National Park Service, created a documentary film titled Confluence. A multimedia installation of film and music will be exhibited.
Montreal-based artist, Isabelle Hayeur is known for her photographs and her experimental videos. She has also realized several site-specific installations and public art commissions. Her work is situated within a critical approach to the environment, urban development and to social conditions. She is particularly interested in the feelings of alienation, uprooting and disenchantment. Hayeur’s photo and video series titled Desert Shores (Lost America) focuses on the transformation of a place and community of people with the flooding and later drying of the Salton Sea.
Matt Jenkins and Lynna Kaucheck (Food & Water Watch)
Matthew Jenkins is an assistant professor at MSU Denver with research interests in performance art, socially engaged art, internet art and land art/environmental art. He will contribute installation work addressing water in Flint, MI. For his work in Water Line, Jenkins collaborated with Lynna Kaucheck of Food & Water Watch to obtain Flint tap water from the home of water activist Melissa Mays.
Natascha Seideneck was born in Germany, grew up in England and now lives in Denver and has been an artist for more than 30 years. Seideneck has produced numerous site specific artworks often collaborating with artists, designers and architects. Seideneck is a visiting assistant professor at MSU Denver and a member of Tank Studios. Seideneck will contribute photographs, video and installation work reflecting on the impact of global warming on water stability. In her series, Uncanny Territory, we bear witness to the melting of otherworldly ice “planets.”
Nicholas Galanin and Merritt Johnson
Collaborating since 2014, Nicholas Galanin and Merritt Johnson combine the diverse and overlapping creative vocabulary of their individual practices to create an expanded and layered conversation. Their collaborative work brings together concept, material, technology, and culture to create multifaceted reflections of the world. Their work connects past, present and future, as an investment in vision – both in our ability to see and to be seen in relation to the land and to each other. Part of Winter Count Collective, Galanin and Johnson will also contribute work that they collaborated on together. Their short film and sculpture will address the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Tomiko Jones and Jonathan Marquis
Waterlines is made in response to the urgencies of water in the age of climate change. The photographs are from sites in California following the winter floods after years of drought, from the mountain snowmelt, to reservoir, to river, and to the sea, with the cyanotypes created on the transitional shore of the Pacific Coast. Waterlines is the first stage of a collaborative project with Tomiko Jones and Jonathan Marquis, beginning in June 2017.
Vibha Galhotra is a New Dehli-based conceptual artist whose large-scale sculptures address the shifting topography of the world under the impact of globalization and growth. She sees herself as being part of the restructuring of culture, society and geography – of New Delhi and the world. Responding to the rapid environmental changes and re-zoning of land, Galhotra embodies the dense urbanization and jungles of steel and concrete through intricately sewn metal ghungroo tapestries – fusing historical grandeur with shimmering veils of steel.
Winter Count Collective
Winter Count is a union of artists (Cannupa Hanska Luger, Merritt Johnson, Nicholas Galanin, Ginger Dunnill and Dylan McLaughlin) cultivating awareness, respect, honor and protection for land and water, for all the living things that have lived here, and for all the living things to come. The artists are from Brooklyn, NY, Santa Fe, NM and Sitka, AK. They will contribute video, film, photography and sculpture focused on the threat to water and land in Standing Rock, ND.
All CVA events are free and open to the public.
Friday, August 4, 6-8
Opening reception during Art District on Santa Fe’s First Friday and summer block party Thursday, September 14, 6pm
Artist talk with Anna McKee & Jim White, C.U. professor of geological sciences and environmental studies
Wednesday, September 20, 6pm
Art, Democracy and Water, artist talk with Matt Jenkins and Lynna Kaucheck of Food & Water Watch Wednesday, October 4, 6pm
Uncanny Territory, artist talk with Natascha Seideneck
Exhibition Organization and Sponsorship
Water Line: A Creative Exchange is organized by Metropolitan State University of Denver Center for Visual Art. Collaborators include One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship, and Denver Botanic Gardens.
CVA Annual Sponsors are MSU Denver Student Affairs Board, Jan and Fred Mayer Fund, Marcia Gold Naiman Fund, Campbell Foundation Fund, Otten Johnson Robinson Neff Ragonetti PC and BBVA Compass Bank; and an Annual Partner is SpringHill Suites Downtown at MSU Denver.
The exhibition is curated by Cecily Cullen, Managing Director / Curator of CVA.
965 Gallery Concurrent Exhibition
As a complement to Water Line, the student organized 965 Gallery within CVA will show Propagate: A Backyard Revolution. The exhibition is a call to action to educate ourselves about healthful growing and eating, to stop eating food that is bad for us and our planet, and to be an example of a backyard revolutionist. Artists featured include Meredith Feniak, Eileen Roscina Richardson and Fil Merid.
Center for Visual Art is the off-campus contemporary art center for Metropolitan State University of Denver. CVA provides a year-round schedule of exhibitions that have both local significance and international reach, education programming open to the community, and immersive and entrepreneurial workforce development for students in creative fields. The center is free and open to all. For more information, visit msudenver.edu/cva.
Tuesday – Friday: 11am – 6pm
Saturday: 12pm – 5pm
Closed Sunday and Monday, and for installation between exhibitions
965 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, Colorado, 80204
Longstanding plans to ship millions of gallons of Poudre River water to Thornton are about to flow through a series of regulatory and permitting hoops.
Thornton water officials have selected a preferred route for a 48-inch-diameter pipeline that would run from Water Supply and Storage Co. reservoirs north of Fort Collins to the east side of Interstate 25.
From there, the pipeline would follow Weld County Road 13 through Timnath, Windsor and other communities all the way to water treatment facilities in Thornton. The project requires permits from each governmental entity along the way as well as agreements with property owners.
Thornton has proposed placing the pipeline under Larimer County’s jurisdiction within the right of way of Douglas Road, which is also County Road 54. The pipeline would run from roughly Bayshore Road past Turnberry Road before heading north through Thornton-owned farmland and farther east.
Construction along the 70-mile pipeline route could begin in 2019. The project, currently estimated to cost $430 million, needs to be operational by 2025 to meet Thornton’s water supply needs, said Mark Kobeler, water project manager.
The proposed alignment through Larimer County came after reviewing numerous alternative routes, Kobeler said. The city and its consultants talked to county officials, property owners, residents and homeowners’ associations to get opinions on the best route…
Thornton expects to make a formal application to Larimer County for the project within a few weeks. Hearings before the county planning commission and the county commissioners likely will be scheduled in early 2018, said Rob Helmick, senior planner with Larimer County.
A separate site-review plan process will be used in considering the design and location of a pump station for the pipeline capable of moving 40 million gallons of water a day.
The facility likely would be placed between the Water Supply and Storage Co. reservoirs and Douglas Road. Details for the pump station have not been decided, Kobeler said, but it would be designed to blend into the surrounding area…
Thornton’s share of the Poudre is diverted near Bellvue. It moves along Water Supply and Storage Co. ditches to a set of reservoirs west of Colorado Highway 1 and north of Douglas Road.
A new lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver on Sept. 25 is asking a judge to treat the Colorado River as a person rather than property, therefore recognizing its right “to exist, flourish, regenerate, and naturally evolve.” It makes the argument that if corporations in the U.S. can be granted the same rights as people, shouldn’t rivers be allowed that status as well?
The Colorado River as an ecosystem is the plaintiff in the case, with members of Deep Green Resistance, an environmental activist group, listed as guardians or next friends, acting on the river’s behalf. And it sets the State of Colorado as the defendant, seeking to set precedence for future lawsuits that could hold the government responsible for certain actions, or inactions, that have caused the river harm.
“Normally in environmental law you have to show how some sort of action, be it state action or a corporate action, injures a human being,” says Denver attorney Jason Flores-Williams, who filed the case on the river’s behalf. “Even though we know at this point scientifically that injuries to the environment are injuries to human beings, the law hasn’t caught up to it yet.”
The suit is based on the rights of nature philosophy, a growing movement in environmental law that hopes to establish the inherent rights of the natural world to exist and flourish independent of human ownership or use. Although the idea has been around for decades, it has gained momentum in recent years as climate change and other human factors increasingly threaten entire ecosystems.
“There’s a growing understanding that environmental frameworks that exist today under environmental laws are not adequate to protect the environment,” says Mari Margil, with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which is acting as legal advisor in the case. “They begin from the wrong place, the wrong premise, that nature is treated as right-less, as property, and therefore we can’t even protect its basic right to exist let alone to flourish.”
By authorizing the use of the natural environment, Margil says, existing environmental laws, such as the Clean Water Act, actually are “legalizing environmental harm.” Therefore, these laws are lacking in their attempt to actually protect and preserve the natural world, she argues.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Thank you to all that joined us for the Study Abroad Fair, Sustainability Fair, Fall Fest and the Student Water Field Conference in Keystone. We appreciate your interest in the OWOW Center and truly enjoy talking to others that have a passion about water.
Starting SPRING 2018, One World One Water Center will now offer an Water Studies Online Certificate!
What you get with the Water Studies Online Certificate:
* Flexible schedule – Control your own schedule with a self-paced format that’s 100% online
* One-on-one networking and advisement – Receive a personal advising session with an expert in the Colorado water industry
* Real-world applications – Develop a capstone project to directly apply what you’ve learned to real-world situations
For a list of courses and to register: click here.
Click here to go to the Colorado River District website for all the good stuff:
2017 Water Seminar
Themed “Points of No Return,” the 2017 seminar highlighted some of the toughest issues facing the Colorado River and the more than 40 million people who rely on its water. The seminar’s program featured presentations and panel discussions with a variety of water experts focusing on agriculture and irrigation issues, Upper and Lower Basin drought contingency planning, collaborative conservation efforts, and more.
The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar was held on Friday, September 15th in Grand Junction, Colorado and was attended by record-breaking numbers.
Here’s a recap of Ken Salzar’s presentation from Trevor C. Lambirth writing in the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, Water Law Review. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
At the 2017 University of Denver Water Law Review Symposium in Denver Colorado, former United States Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, offered his insight into what water means as a Coloradan.
Secretary Salazar began with how his history has defined what water means to him. His family has farmed and ranched the soils of the Rio Grande and its tributaries in the San Luis Valley since 1598. His family had priority number twenty-three out of the Rio San Antonio, and good and bad years affected his family’s crop. Secretary Salazar said he did not grow up rich, but he grew up surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountains and the Rio Grande and Rio San Antonio. A lot of the divine providence that guided him through the experiences of serving the people of Colorado and the United States he said started in the San Luis Valley where he learned about the nexus between humans and the planet on which we survive.
Secretary Salazar applauded Colorado for being a pioneer in dealing with water issues, but warned that the state still has a long way to go. Colorado pioneered the doctrine of Prior Appropriation, which, despite criticism, has changed and evolved to become a working system. Other historic examples of where Colorado led the way include Colorado’s efforts to integrate ground and surface water uses in the 1960s and Colorado’s creation of the Instream Flow Program in the 1970s.
Secretary Salazar next identified two major water-related challenges facing Colorado: population growth and climate change. Colorado’s population is expected to nearly double in the next forty years. The challenge Colorado faces is how to supply those additional people and still preserve the open spaces its citizens have come to love. Secretary Salazar also briefly addressed climate change. According to projections, the Colorado River and the Rio Grande basins can expect to see a significant reduction in precipitation. So, as environmental demands increase, Secretary Salazar is hopeful that society will continue to recognize the importance of protecting and restoring America’s ecosystems.
Arizona State University law professor Rhett Larson is a fan of [Minute 323], but pointed out there are other Colorado River negotiations.
“While it’s great news for relationships between the United States and Mexico, it places a lot of pressure on the lower basin states Arizona, California, and Nevada to come to an agreement between themselves,” he said.
Larson added that water laws governing the lower basin states are more rigid than U.S. and Mexico treaties. Because of that, interstate water negotiations are harder than the just-finished binational talks.
Tom Buschatzke, Arizona’s director of Water Resources, said the so-called “Drought Contingency Plan” for the lower-basin states is more or less done. But Arizona and California have some internal work to do.
“Within Arizona, it’s issues regarding the impacts to various water user groups — homebuilders and developers, agricultural tribes and cities — who are all disproportionately impacted by the additional reductions that will occur in Arizona,” he told reporters after the Minute 323 announcement on Wednesday.
Buschatske said these details need to be settled before Arizona can ink its deal with California and Nevada.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor Website. Here’s an excerpt:
Relatively quiet weather prevailed for much of the drought-monitoring period. Record-setting warmth accompanied the tranquil weather across the Midwest and Northeast. However, very cool weather and locally significant precipitation affected the Northwest, including the Cascades and northern Rockies, boosting topsoil moisture and further aiding wildfire containment efforts. Starting on September 23, heavy rain erupted along an axis stretching from the southern High Plains into the upper Great Lakes region. The rain put a significant dent in rainfall deficits for areas still experiencing dryness or drought…
A stripe of heavy rain cut across the region from the central High Plains into the eastern Dakotas. On September 23-24, rainfall totals reached 4.04 inches in Huron, South Dakota, and 3.42 inches in North Platte, Nebraska. All dryness- and drought-affected areas within the region experiencing heavy rain saw improvement in the drought situation. This area of improvement included western and central Kansas; central Nebraska; and the eastern Dakotas. There was some minor improvement noted in areas outside of the heavy rain band. Most of the region’s rangeland and pastures continued to improve. However, lingering effects from the Dakotas’ punishing summer drought left 57% of the rangeland and pastures rated very poor to poor on September 24 in both states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, South Dakota continued to lead the nation (among major production states) in very poor to poor ratings for sorghum (33%) and corn (27%)…
Most of the South was dry, but heavy rain edged into western and central sections of Oklahoma and Texas late in the drought-monitoring period. Except where the rain fell, there were general increases in the coverage of dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1), especially from northeastern Texas into western Arkansas. On September 24, topsoil moisture was at least one-half very short to short in Arkansas (57%) and Texas (52%), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Louisiana’s topsoil moisture rated very short to short jumped from 6 to 40% during the week ending September 24…
Unsettled weather continued for several days from the Pacific Northwest to the northern Rockies, leading to some further reductions in the coverage of dryness (D0) and moderate to severe drought (D1 to D2). Early-season precipitation has been especially generous in west-central and northwestern Oregon; northern, central, and southeastern Idaho; western Wyoming; southern and westernmost Montana; and parts of northern Utah. From September 18-22, Stanley, Idaho, received 2.00 inches of precipitation. In Oregon, Meacham netted 2.29 inches from September 18-20. Similarly, Pocatello, Idaho, collected 2.09 inches of rain from September 19-22, aided by a daily-record total of 1.04 inches on the 21st. Snow developed across parts of the Intermountain West, where Alta, Utah, measured daily-record snowfall totals (3.4 and 11.0 inches, respectively) on September 22 and 24. However, following last week’s much-needed precipitation in the heart of Montana, drier weather returned to northern and eastern sections of the state. As a result, the areas of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) were unchanged from last week. Rangeland and pastures rated very poor to poor on September 24 included 68% in Montana and 55% in Washington. However, topsoil moisture rated very short to short by the U.S. Department of Agriculture improved in Montana from 99 to 61% during the two weeks ending September 24, while Idaho improved from 68 to 24%. The improvements in topsoil moisture should benefit recently planted winter wheat; Washington led the nation with 53% of its wheat planted by September 24. Farther south, abnormally dry (D0) conditions expanded across parts of Arizona and New Mexico due to sub-par shower activity during the second half of the monsoon season. From August 13 – September 26, Tucson, Arizona, received rainfall totaling just 0.18 inch—on the heels of a record-wet July. During the same period, Safford, Arizona, collected just 0.16 inch, which was less than 10% of normal. And, Winslow, Arizona, received only 0.59 inch (30% of normal) from August 1 – September 26…
In the next day or so, a cold front will push eastward across the Midwest and Northeast, bringing to an end a late-season heat wave. Meanwhile, significant precipitation will fall across southern sections of the Rockies and Plains, with 5-day rainfall totals reaching 2 to 4 inches or more from New Mexico into western and southern Texas. Some flooding can be expected in parts of the middle and lower Rio Grande Valley, where rainfall could locally total at least 4 to 8 inches. During the weekend, dry weather should return to the south-central U.S., while late-season warmth should return (or continue) across most parts of the country. An exception will be the northern Plains and the Northwest, where cool, showery weather will develop over the weekend. Little or no rain will fall during the next 5 days in the Midwestern and Eastern States (except across Florida’s peninsula), as well as California and the Great Basin.
The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for October 3 – 7 calls for the likelihood of above-normal temperatures nationwide, except for cooler-than-normal conditions in California, the Great Basin, and the Northwest. Meanwhile, below-normal rainfall from the mid-South into the Northeast should contrast with wetter-than-normal weather in southern sections of Texas and Florida and from the Pacific Northwest into the upper Great Lakes region.
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Lori Kuczmanski):
UNITED STATES AND MEXICO CONCLUDE COLORADO RIVER AGREEMENT
Officials with the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, today announced the conclusion of a new Colorado River agreement, Minute 323, “Extension of Cooperative Measures and Adoption of a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan in the Colorado River Basin.” Commission officials signed the Minute on September 21 in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua and both governments approved it on September 27. The Minute’s entry into force was announced during a ceremony held at the Water Education Foundation’s Colorado River Symposium in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Minute follows more than two years of negotiations among federal and state authorities from both countries, taking into consideration recommendations from the works groups, which included water users, scientists, academics, and nongovernmental organizations.
The agreement, which will remain in effect through 2026, extends or replaces key elements of Minute 319, a previous agreement that expires at the end of 2017. Minute 323 contains the following provisions:
Allows Mexico to defer delivery of a portion of its Colorado River allotment in the event of potential emergencies, such as earthquakes, or as a result of water conservation projects in Mexico. This water, known as Mexico’s Water Reserve, will be available for subsequent delivery to Mexico as determined through its planning processes. This gives Mexico greater flexibility in how it manages its Colorado River allotment while also boosting Lake Mead elevation to the benefit of all users.
Provides additional quantities of Colorado River water to Mexico during certain high elevation reservoir conditions at Lake Mead when additional water is available to users in the United States, providing benefits to both countries.
Establishes proactive basin operations during certain low elevation reservoir conditions at Lake Mead by applying water delivery reductions in order to deter more severe reductions in the future, giving certainty in both countries’ operations when these conditions occur.
Establishes a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan so that, should a Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan be put into effect in the United States, then Mexico will also undertake water savings in parity with U.S. savings. These savings will be recoverable when reservoir conditions improve.
Implements measures to address salinity impacts stemming from the joint cooperative actions, in conformance with the provisions of Minute 242, entitled, “Permanent and Definitive Solution to the International Problem of the Salinity of the Colorado River,” dated August 30, 1973.
Identifies measures to address daily flow variability in Colorado River water deliveries to Mexico.
Through a cooperative effort among the Governments of the United State and Mexico and nongovernmental organizations, provides water for the environment and funding for environmental monitoring and habitat restoration.
Provides greater U.S. investment in water infrastructure and environmental projects in Mexico than Minute 319 in order to modernize and improve Irrigation District 014 in the Mexicali Valley in areas that wish to participate. This will generate additional volumes of water that will be shared between both countries and the environment, in accordance with the Minute’s provisions.
Notes the ongoing efforts of the binational All-American Canal Turnout Project Work Group to examine resources associated with a potential binational connection between the All-American Canal in the United States and Mexico’s Colorado River Tijuana Aqueduct Pump Station PB 0.
“Minute 323 is the result of many rounds of technical discussions involving a broad group of stakeholders from both countries. This agreement puts us on a path of cooperation rather than conflict as we work with Mexico to address the Colorado River Basin’s many challenges,” said U.S. Commissioner Edward Drusina of the International Boundary and Water Commission.
Mexican Commissioner Roberto Salmon said, “This agreement provides certainty for water operations in both countries and mainly establishes a planning tool that allows Mexico to define the most suitable actions for managing its Colorado River waters allotted by the 1944 Water Treaty.”
Joining the Commissioners at the ceremony were David Bernhardt, United States Deputy Secretary of the Interior; Thomas Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources; Hillary Quam, Border Affairs Coordinator, U.S. Department of State Office of Mexican Affairs; and, from Mexico, Director General for North America Mauricio Ibarra of the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
The International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, is responsible for applying the boundary and water treaties between the two countries. Under the 1944 Water Treaty, Mexico is allotted 1.5 million acre-feet (1850 million cubic meters) per year of water from the Colorado River
Minute 323 Agreement boosts water security for Colorado River water users, continues Delta restoration
(September 27, 2017) – Today, policymakers, water agencies, and conservation organizations from the United States and Mexico gathered to confirm the signing of Minute 323, an addendum to the 1944 Water Treaty between the United States and Mexico. The successful negotiation and signing of this agreement demonstrates the power of collaboration and cooperation between the United States and Mexico governments, and supported by the Raise the River coalition of non-profit organizations, to achieve progress on water security for Colorado River water users.
Raise the River Coalition’s public statement of support for Minute 323:
We applaud the leadership and vision of water managers and state and federal officials in United States and Mexico in adopting the Minute 323 Agreement to provide for a more secure water future for all Colorado River water users, and support continued restoration of the Colorado River Delta.
This new binational water sharing agreement shows the best of what collaboration can do, improving the reliability of the Colorado River water supply for everyone who uses it”. –Jennifer Pitt, Raise the River spokesperson and Colorado River Project Director, National Audubon Society
Officially titled “Extension of Cooperative Measures and Adoption of a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan in the Colorado River Basin”, Minute 323 commits the United States and Mexico to work together to address potential Colorado River water shortages and to meet new water conservation and storage objectives. It represents the joint efforts of local, state, and the federal governments of both countries to set a course for a more secure water future for the more than 36 million people who rely on the Colorado River in the United States and Mexico.
“This is an exciting day for both countries,” said Osvel Hinojosa, Water and Wetlands Program Director at Pronatura Noroeste, a Mexican non-profit conservation organization. “Especially for those of us who have worked in the delta for decades.”
The Colorado River is one of the most critical sources of water in the West, supplying water to 36 million people and 5.5 million acres of agricultural land in seven states in the U.S. and two states in Mexico. More than 17 years of drought have diminished the reliability of the Colorado River water supply, putting an enormous population and economy at risk of disruptive water shortages. Proactive investments in water conservation, paired with agreements among Colorado River water users about how to share when the water supply is limited, will create the certainty needed to ensure that the region’s economies continue to thrive.
As the Colorado River is shared by both the United States and Mexico, it is subject to various binational agreements extending back to the 1944 Water Treaty for the Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande.
The International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) and its Mexican counterpart (CILA) are the U.S. and Mexican federal agencies that negotiate and implement binational water treaties and water allocations. In 2012, the IBWC and CILA successfully negotiated Minute 319, an agreement that helped the two countries better implement the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty (these types of supplementary treaties agreements are referred to as ‘Minutes’). The result of this extraordinary binational collaboration, Minute 319 provided multiple benefits for water users on both sides of the border. It broadly provided for the United States and Mexico to share surpluses in times of plenty and reductions in times of drought and provided for water flows for the environment. The agreement also served to recognize the Colorado River Delta as a place of ecological significance for both countries.
Minute 319 concludes on December 31, 2017. Its successor agreement, Minute 323, promotes a more secure water future while scaling up ongoing environmental restoration projects in the Delta.
Specifically, Minute 323:
Provides for Mexico to continue to store its water in Lake Mead, helping to keep reservoir levels high enough to avoid triggering dramatic cuts to Colorado River water users.
Includes an agreement between both the United States and Mexico for voluntary water cutbacks in times of droughts that further staves off triggering a shortage declaration. Should a shortage be declared, these new commitments will slow progress towards even larger water shortages.
Commits US water managers to invest $31.5M in water efficiency projects in Mexico that will result in savings of more than 200,000 acre-feet of water. In return, the U.S. entities will receive a one-time water exchange, and over the long term, Mexico will benefit by generating additional water from these conservation programs and improved infrastructure.
Obliges both the United States and Mexico to each provide water and funding for continued habitat restoration and scientific monitoring in the Colorado River Delta through 2026, with Raise the River contributing matching amounts.
“We have worked closely with the governments of Mexico and the United States to demonstrate the Colorado River Delta’s tremendous resilience,” states Hinojosa. “Through a combination of limited water deliveries and on-the-ground work to restore natural habitat, native vegetation is sustaining a great diversity of life in these sites and there has been a renewal of the community relationships and engagement that promote long-term stewardship of the river.”
Raise the River has been a leading advocate of – and active participant in – the negotiation and drafting of Minute 323 to support continued cooperative Colorado River management between Mexico and the United States.
“Minute 323 recommits the United States and Mexico in their successful partnership with NGOs to restore the Colorado River in its long-desiccated delta; this is a big win for people and for nature,” says Pitt.
Raise the River’s successful habitat restoration under Minute 319 helped lay the foundation for Minute 323. Between 2013 and 2017 Raise the River provided active management of restoration sites, including base flows – smaller, periodic releases of water – to restore over 1,000 acres of riparian habitat along the river’s main channel, where more than 230,000 native cottonwoods and willow trees were planted. Raise the River was also an active participant in the scientific monitoring of the results of these environmental water flows.
In addition to these restoration results, Raise the River established a water trust in Mexico that permanently acquired water rights from voluntary sellers in the Mexicali Valley to support their commitments. This was funded by raising more than $10M for restoration and water acquisition from US and Mexico foundations, corporations, federal agencies, and individuals.
Raise the River engaged over 9,800 local residents, school children, and volunteers from around the world in on-site restoration work and environmental education programs, as well as created more than 140 jobs in 2016 alone, related to completing the restoration work.
“Minute 323 represents a global model for managing shared watersheds in response to declining water supplies or long-term drought,” explains Pitt. “It also sets a standard of international cooperative management for countries working together to achieve mutually desired outcomes both for water users and for the environment.”
Raise the River’s primary goal is to bring water and life back to the Colorado River Delta, and in doing so, create a model for future trans-national river restoration efforts throughout the world. In meeting our goal, we will rebuild the habitats that support local communities and wildlife.
Officials from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday signed a new water pact that brings Mexico in as a full partner on the Colorado River and could boost Lake Mead.
The historic agreement, known as Minute 323 to the Mexican Water Treaty of 1944, spells out how much Mexico would have to reduce its river use in the event of a shortage on the Colorado and how much extra water the nation would get in a surplus.
It also opens the door to more cross-border cooperation on water efficiency projects — including some paid for by the Southern Nevada Water Authority — that could help slow the declining water level in Lake Mead.
To that end, Mexico has agreed to a series of voluntary reductions in its Colorado River use to prop up the reservoir east of Las Vegas and stave off more severe mandatory cuts.
Nevada, Arizona and California have agreed in principle to similar voluntary cuts as part of a so-called Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan. Water managers hope the three states will finalize that plan sometime next year.
The treaty amendment was signed by representatives from the International Boundary and Water Commission of the United States and Mexico during a Sept. 21 meeting in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It took effect Wednesday, after the governments of the two countries approved it.
The treaty amendment also sets aside some river water and funding to support environmental restoration work south of the border, where the Colorado River Delta has been left dry by upstream diversions to farms and cities in the U.S. and Mexico. Aside from a few isolated floods, the river stopped emptying into the Gulf of California in the 1960s with the construction of Glen Canyon Dam and the creation of Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border.
The new agreement extends and expands upon a 2012 deal between the two countries that allowed Mexico to store some of its unused river water in Lake Mead. That pact, known as Minute 319, was due to expire at the end of the year.
Under Minute 323, the water authority, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and water agencies in Arizona and California will provide up to $31.5 million for water efficiency improvements in Mexico through 2026. In return, the contributing agencies would share as much as 229,100 acre-feet of Colorado River water, which is almost enough to supply the entire Las Vegas Valley for one year.
Mexico is expected to use the money to line canals, repair pipes, curb runoff from farm fields and make other water-saving improvements, mostly to its thirsty agricultural sector.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority will get 27,275 acre-feet of water for its initial $3.75 million investment south of the border.
If additional projects are identified after the first round of work in Mexico is done, the authority would chip in up to $3.75 million more in exchange for another 27,275 acre-feet from the river.
One acre-foot of water will supply two average valley homes for just over a year. About 90 percent of the valley’s water supply comes from the Colorado by way of Lake Mead.
The signing of the agreement in Santa Fe, N.M., was led by the International Boundary and Water Commission. The agency is responsible for overseeing water treaties between the United States and Mexico and is composed of representatives from both countries…
Several water agencies in California, Nevada and Arizona have anticipated the agreement for weeks and were optimistic the conservation efforts aimed at Mexico would ultimately lead to more secure water supplies for residents and farmers who rely on Lake Mead and the Colorado River.
Some of the conservation efforts in Mexico funded by the United States would include relining leaky canals, improving water pump systems and using more advanced runoff capture systems that allow water to be reclaimed and stored, according to officials familiar with the agreement.
Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager John Entsminger, who attended the signing in New Mexico, said in a statement that the agreement was critical for long-term sustainability…
Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said that the river is already close to a critical shortage and that the agreement helps all parties navigate the effects of climate change on the river’s future.
The commission said officials from the two nations signed the agreement in a ceremony in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Wednesday. Under the deal, the U.S. government and Southwestern water users will invest up to $31.5 million in water delivery systems and farm efficiency upgrades south of the border.
In exchange, Mexico will parcel out a portion of its river allotment to various U.S. water agencies over nine years and will reduce the risk of shortages for all of the Southwest by storing some of its water in Lake Mead near Las Vegas.
“This agreement puts us on a path of cooperation rather than conflict as we work with Mexico to address the Colorado River Basin’s many challenges,” U.S. Commissioner Edward Drusina said in a statement.
After the deal’s signing, he added that it’s “not necessarily the complete fix,” given the region’s long-term drought, but is a “monumental achievement in collaboration.”
Water certainty during drought
The deal “provides certainty for water operations in both countries,” Mexican Commissioner Roberto Salmon said, and allows Mexico to better plan its water use.
A 2007 rule adopted by the states allows the federal government to restrict some of Arizona’s water whenever Lake Mead’s elevation drops below 1,075 feet above sea level to start a year.
That reservoir had threatened to drop that low before a healthy snowfall in the Rocky Mountains last winter raised levels, but officials project there’s still about a 1-in-3 chance it could happen by 2019.
Here’s the release from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Bob Muir/Armando Acuña):
METROPOLITAN GENERAL MANAGER’S STATEMENT REGARDING BINATIONAL AGREEMENT ON COLORADO RIVER DELIVERIES, STORAGE
Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, issued the following statement regarding the conclusion of Minute 323, the new binational water agreement between the United States and Mexico addressing Mexico’s Colorado River deliveries and storage through 2026:
“Today’s milestone continues the spirit of cooperation and collaboration forged among users of the Colorado River in both the United States and Mexico. This agreement carries on and augments the progress made under Minute 319 and recognizes that management of the Colorado River is most effective when the two countries jointly manage the river’s available resources.
“Under the measures announced today, Metropolitan and the Imperial Irrigation District once again will join with agencies in Arizona and Nevada to provide critical funding for conservation projects in Mexico that will benefit both countries for the next decade. In exchange, the funding agencies will receive a portion of the water conserved that will be stored in Lake Mead to help meet future water supply needs, increase lake levels and help address long-term drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin.”
With an eye to long-term, binational cooperation and to managing a more stable Colorado River System, representatives of the United States, Mexico and the Colorado River Basin States of the U.S. on Wednesday celebrated the “entry into force” of an agreement deemed essential to the System’s future.
The American signing, conducted at an “entry into force” ceremony in Santa Fe, N.M., applies the final flourish to the intensely negotiated agreement known as “Minute 323.”
“The State of Arizona appreciates the efforts of the United States and Mexico to continue binational cooperation on long-term water management,” said Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
Buschatzke participated in the Santa Fe ceremony and played a central role in the portions of the complex negotiations that were conducted among the U.S. Lower Basin participant-states.
“This agreement provides substantial benefits to Arizona, particularly regarding opportunities for augmenting existing water supplies, which is a top priority for Governor Ducey,” he said.
“In addition to the diligent efforts of the Commissioners, we’d also like to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of all the parties involved.”
The implications of the agreement for helping stabilize and augment Arizona’s water supplies are significant.
Officially, Minute 323 is the “Extension of Cooperative Measures and Adoption of a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan in the Colorado River Basin.” It is an implementing agreement for the 1944 United States-Mexico Treaty on Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande.
On the U.S. side, Minute 323 was negotiated among representatives of the U.S. International Boundary and Waters Commission (IBWC), the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and the seven Colorado River Basin States, including Arizona, which was represented by Director Buschatzke.
The Minute 323 entry establishes a program of joint cooperative actions to improve Colorado River water management through 2026.
Like Minute 319, the new Minute 323 provides for the U.S. and Mexico to share proportionately in Lower Basin shortage and surplus, and allows Mexico to create water savings in the Colorado River System in the U.S.
Also like Minute 319, the updated agreement opens up opportunities for U.S. water users to fund conservation programs in Mexico, which in turn create “Intentionally Created Surplus,” or ICS, in Lake Mead, which benefits all of Lake Mead’s 35-million-plus water users in the Southwest.
The new agreement’s most important features, many of which are carried over from Minute 319, include:
Allowing Mexico to defer delivery of a portion of its Colorado River allotment in the event of potential emergencies, such as earthquakes, or as a result of water conservation projects in Mexico.
This gives Mexico greater flexibility in how it manages its Colorado River allotment while also boosting Lake Mead elevation to the benefit of all users.
Providing additional Colorado River water to Mexico during certain high elevation reservoir conditions at Lake Mead when additional water is available to users in the United States.
Establishing a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan so that, should a Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan be put into effect in the United States, Mexico will also undertake water savings in parity with U.S. savings. The Minute stipulates that the savings will be recoverable when reservoir conditions improve.
Providing for U.S. investment in water infrastructure and environmental projects in Mexico – investments that provide initial water benefits to the U.S. agencies while generating water efficiencies for Mexico in the long term.
New features that are unique to Minute 323 include the extension to 2026; creation of the Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan; measures addressing salinity; measures addressing daily flow variability; and, providing water for the environment and funding for environmental monitoring and habitat restoration.
Speaking on behalf of the Basin States, Director Buschatzke acknowledged the “trust and friendship we built as part of the process” during the signing ceremony in Santa Fe.
“That same spirit of cooperation and collaboration served us well in the negotiations that led to Minute 319 and now in Minute 323.”
Throughout much of the long negotiations, which straddled two U.S. presidential administrations, the Treaty’s update was known as “Minute 32x.” The execution and implementation of Minute 32x required a series of domestic agreements among the U.S., the IBWC, Reclamation, the Basin States, and U.S. water users.
Nowhere in the U.S. were those negotiations more challenging than in Arizona, which – unique among the Basin States – required Director Buschatzke to seek the approval of the Arizona Legislature before he could agree to “forbear” portions of the State’s Colorado River allotment.
The agreement allows Arizona water users to join users in California and Nevada in benefitting from the intentionally created surpluses generating from the water-savings projects the states fund in Mexico.
On March 2, 2017, Governor Ducey signed House Joint Resolution 2002, authorizing the director of Water Resources to execute the forbearance agreement on the assumption it met certain conditions and that the final form of Minute 32x – now, Minute 323 – would not harm Arizona water users.
In a letter to Arizona legislative leaders, the Director noted the establishment of a Binational Desalination Work Group, which will investigate desalination opportunities in the Sea of Cortez.
Minute 323 creates opportunities to augment Arizona water supplies, including a binational desalination plant near the Sea of Cortez.
“As you are aware,” wrote Buschatzke, “a binational desalination facility in the Sea of Cortez could be a critical component in Arizona’s long-term future water supplies.”
The following statement is from Ted Kowalski, director of the Colorado River initiative at the Walton Family Foundation, in support of the U.S.-Mexico Colorado River agreement announced today:
“This agreement is a home run for the long-term health of the Colorado River basin, the security of water for the future and the river environment in the United States and Mexico. The agreement also includes important incentives that encourage lower basin states to complete a drought contingency plan.”
The Walton Family Foundation joined several other foundations in releasing a letter today pledging support for the implementation of the agreement. Ted Kowalski:
“The philanthropic and nonprofit communities are eager to do their share to make sure the agreement is implemented and successful.”
The agreement to be signed Wednesday calls for the U.S. to invest $31.5 million in conservation improvements in Mexico’s water infrastructure to reduce losses to leaks and other problems, according to officials of U.S. water districts who have seen summaries of the agreement.
The water that the improvements save would be shared by users in both nations and by environmental restoration projects
The deal also calls on Mexico to develop specific plans for reducing consumption if the river runs too low to supply everyone’s needs, said Bill Hasencamp of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies water to about 19 million people in and around Los Angeles.
Major river consumers in the U.S. would be required to agree on their own shortage plan before Mexico produces one, he said.
The deal will extend a previous agreement that both countries would share the burden of water supply cutbacks if the river runs low, Hasencamp said.
The International Boundary and Water Commission, which has members from both countries and oversees U.S.-Mexico treaties on borders and rivers, declined to release a copy of the agreement before Wednesday’s signing ceremony in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Officials with the Mexican foreign ministry said in an email Tuesday they had no immediate comment, but U.S. officials who have been briefed on the details said the deal will help both sides.
“It’s good news for both nations, for water users in the U.S. and Mexico,” said Chuck Collum of the Central Arizona Project, another Colorado River user that will help fund the infrastructure improvements in Mexico.
The agreement provides more certainty in how the two countries will deal with the risk of a shortage and recognizes the danger the river faces, he said.
“It’s an acknowledgement that the U.S. and Mexico both share risk due to a hotter and drier future,” Collum said.
Sitting in an overcrowded hotel ballroom in Santa Fe, New Mexico, late yesterday afternoon, I was privileged to see that happen. In the midst of bellicose rhetoric about border walls and NAFTA trade battles, of “rapists” and “bad hombres”, representatives of the two nations’ border and water management community signed the final paperwork for the entry into force of a sweeping new Colorado River agreement.
The deal extends the core terms of “Minute 319”, a landmark agreement between the U.S. and Mexico that enabled a rich new suite of collaborative measures to managing the shared river – Mexican storage of water in U.S. reservoirs, shared surpluses and shortages, opportunities for U.S. water agencies to collaborate with their Mexican counterparts on conservation measures and a shared effort to restore water to the Colorado River Delta environment.
Two years of work by Obama administration folks and their Mexican counterparts had led to an near-agreement they came to call “Minute 32x” because of the quirks of the numbering system, but it didn’t quite get over the finish line before the change of administrations.
Yesterday, despite the fears of many (including myself), we saw the agreement survive, as Petersen-Perlman put it, “conflict … being waged over other issues.” Here was the Trump administration’s new Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, standing at the podium before an international audience praising his predecessor, Obama administration Deputy Interior Secretary Mike Connor, who stood quietly leaning against the back wall.
Connor and Estevan López, his Commissioner of Reclamation during the final years of the Obama administration, stood together. They two of them had led a determined push in the months after the election to try to get the deal done before the new administration took office, amid fears that a souring U.S.-Mexico relationship might make a Colorado River agreement impossible.
If successful, [the lawsuit] could upend environmental law, possibly allowing the redwood forests, the Rocky Mountains or the deserts of Nevada to sue individuals, corporations and governments over resource pollution or depletion. Future lawsuits in its mold might seek to block pipelines, golf courses or housing developments and force everyone from agriculture executives to mayors to rethink how they treat the environment.
Several environmental law experts said the suit had a slim chance at best. “I don’t think it’s laughable,” said Reed Benson, chairman of the environmental law program at the University of New Mexico. “But I think it’s a long shot in more ways than one.”
The suit was filed Monday in Federal District Court in Colorado by Jason Flores-Williams, a Denver lawyer. It names the river ecosystem as the plaintiff — citing no specific physical boundaries — and seeks to hold the state of Colorado and Gov. John Hickenlooper liable for violating the river’s “right to exist, flourish, regenerate, be restored, and naturally evolve.”
Because the river cannot appear in court, a group called Deep Green Resistance is filing the suit as an ally, or so-called next friend, of the waterway.
If a corporation has rights, the authors argue, so, too, should an ancient waterway that has sustained human life for as long as it has existed in the Western United States. The lawsuit claims the state violated the river’s right to flourish by polluting and draining it and threatening endangered species. The claim cites several nations whose courts or governments have recognized some rights for natural entities.
The lawsuit drew immediate criticism from conservative lawmakers, who called it ridiculous. “I think we can all agree rivers and trees are not people,” said Senator Steve Daines of Montana. “Radical obstructionists who contort common sense with this sort of nonsense undercut credible conservationists.”
The office of Mr. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, declined to comment.
The lawsuit comes as hurricanes and wildfires in recent weeks have left communities across the country devastated, intensifying the debate over how humans should treat the earth in the face of global climate change.
Finding solutions to keep more water in the Colorado River for people and nature is the goal of the 2017 Southeastern Utah Water Workshop on Monday, Oct. 16. The Colorado River supplies drinking water to more than 36 million people, irrigates more than 5.5 million acres of land and supports a $26 billion recreation and tourism industry. However, this lifeline of the West is facing serious challenges, including water quantity and quality.
Featuring prominent speakers from across the region addressing key topics on water-related issues around southeastern Utah and the Colorado River Basin, the workshop will be held at the Moab Valley Inn, 711 S. Main St.
“Enduring solutions to our most pressing water issues (depend) on the active involvement of people and partners,” said Sue Bellagamba, Canyonlands Regional Director for The Nature Conservancy in Utah. “This inclusive event is designed to generate positive action that provides the most benefit for people who live near, use, visit and otherwise depend upon the waters (of) the Colorado River system.”
“As the second driest state in the nation, Utah faces a constant challenge to its limited water resources that sustain our communities, our farms and industries and our natural world,” Emery Water Conservancy District Manager Jay Humphrey said. “By working cooperatively together, we can develop solutions that benefit both people and nature.”
Increasing water demands and climate change bring immense challenges to water users in seven states. The workshop will showcase an innovative, market-based conservation program that allows landowners, ranches and cities to take part in a voluntary, compensated water use reduction program. There will also be presentations on endangered fish species, the Colorado River Compact, policy, water-resilient landscape design and nature-based solutions, among other subjects.
The event is coordinated by The Nature Conservancy, Utah State University-Moab, Hutchins Water Center at Colorado Mesa University, the Utah Division of Water Rights and the Emery Water Conservancy District.
The workshop begins at 9:30 a.m. and runs to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 16. Early-bird tickets cost $30 before Friday, Oct. 6. All ticket sales after Oct. 6 are $40. Spots are limited. Register at: http://coloradomesa.edu/water-center.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):
Under a bill approved by the Legislature in 2014 a year before the plan was implemented, the committee that reviews and suggests new legislation dealing with water issues is required to review specific elements of the plan.
Although it is not required to, the committee then can suggest bills altering that plan, but such measures would require the full approval of the Legislature and the governor.
The committee is scheduled to vote on final recommendations on the plan on Oct. 5.
The current plan, called for by Gov. John Hickenlooper back in 2013, sets a number of goals for water basins in the state to meet by 2050 in order to ensure there is enough water for a growing population, while still maintaining adequate in-stream flows for environmental and recreational purposes.
A new report released earlier this month updating how the plan is being implemented says those goals are being met.
Here’s a report from Dan Elliott writing for the Associated Press. Click through to read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
The agreement to be signed Wednesday calls for the U.S. to invest $31.5 million in conservation improvements in Mexico’s water infrastructure to reduce losses to leaks and other problems, according to officials of U.S. water districts who have seen summaries of the agreement.
The water that the improvements save would be shared by users in both nations and by environmental restoration projects
The deal also calls on Mexico to develop specific plans for reducing consumption if the river runs too low to supply everyone’s needs, said Bill Hasencamp of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies water to about 19 million people in and around Los Angeles.
Major river consumers in the U.S. would be required to agree on their own shortage plan before Mexico produces one, he said.
The deal will extend a previous agreement that both countries would share the burden of water supply cutbacks if the river runs low, Hasencamp said…
The agreement provides more certainty in how the two countries will deal with the risk of a shortage and recognizes the danger the river faces, he said.
“It’s an acknowledgement that the U.S. and Mexico both share risk due to a hotter and drier future,” [Chuck] Collum said…
The deal being signed Wednesday, known as Minute 323, is an amendment to a 1944 U.S.-Mexico treaty that lays out how the two nations share the river. The treaty promises Mexico 1.5 million acre-feet (1.9 billion cubic meters) of water annually…
The new agreement, which will be in force for nine years, does not include a repeat of the historic 2014 “pulse” that sent about 105,000 acre-feet (130 million cubic meters) of water surging into river’s delta in Mexico, the U.S. water officials said…
But the agreement does include up to 210,000 acre-feet (260 million cubic meters) for environmental restoration projects, according to a briefing from Southern California’s Imperial Irrigation District, one of the funders of the Mexican infrastructure projects.
Here’s a report from Luke Runyon writing for KUNC. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
[In the drought year of 2002] streams that flow from the nearby San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains slowed to a trickle, some of them before the normal irrigation season had even begun. Rushing water created by snow from the previous winter failed to materialize. That left the ditches, creeks and rivers that recharge the valley’s aquifers dry. The precious groundwater had plenty of demands, and no supply.
“The aquifer was declining,” Messick says. “But nobody really started noticing until they started sucking air instead of water.”
Farmers began to cast blame as to who caused the problem. Fingers pointed at the state, water managers, Mother Nature, and among the farmers themselves, divided into camps depending on where they got their water. All the while, many farmers kept pumping whatever water they could find and the aquifer continued its unprecedented decline.
Instead of giving in to the divisions that could have so easily fractured the rural valley of about 47,000 residents, a group of farmers decided to embark on a risky experiment — the first of its kind in the United States. They agreed to pay more money for the water they pump out of the ground by imposing fees, a kind of tax, per acre-foot of water. To get to that point, family farmers had to put aside old grudges and recognize their shared fate in the aquifer under their feet.
Seeing hope in the farmers’ efforts, researchers are studying the risky gambit to see if it is working…
Community At A Crossroads
By the end of 2002, it was clear the valley’s farmers were fast approaching a crossroads. Colorado’s top water enforcer, the state engineer, made clear that if the farmers continued to pump from the underground aquifer he would be forced to shut them down.
They were running afoul of the state’s [prior appropriation doctrine] water laws, which prioritize water rights based on their effective date. Some farmers who held rights to divert water from streams dating back to the late 1800s were seeing their supplies drop, partially thanks to water wells dug decades later in the 1950s and ‘60s. In Colorado, when a younger water right is curtailing an older one, it is a serious problem.
In the years that followed the 2002 drought, scientists did enough research and monitoring to link the reduction of the aquifer to the limited availability of surface streams.
For the farmers that depend on the aquifer, the choice was simple: keep pumping until everyone’s supplies ran out and risk the ire of state water officials; or, find a way to curb their pumping.
“It was really the first effort here in a recognition that if they didn’t do something that the consequences would be pretty grave,” says Cleave Simpson, director of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, the valley’s main water management authority.
After years of litigation, court cases and a round of state legislation, the farmers formed a plan. A majority made a painful decision. They agreed that it was in everyone’s best interest to pay more money for water, hoping that the higher cost would cause them to think twice when turning on their pump…
Communities formed a network of subdistricts that could levy fees on water use, self-governed by the farmers themselves. Subdistrict one, the largest and most heavily irrigated in the valley, was the first.
“This is kind of a classic ‘tragedy of the commons’ situation,” says Kelsey Cody, a doctoral student at the University of Colorado-Boulder who is part of a research team that studies groundwater pumping in the valley. “As an individual, I have no incentive to leave any water in the ground because any water I leave in the ground I know my neighbor is going to take out. And he knows the same thing.”
Today, farmers in subdistrict one pay $75 for each acre-foot of water they pump and another $8 for every acre of crops where that water is used. An acre-foot is the standard unit of measurement when talking about vast amounts of water, and easy enough to visualize. It’s the amount of water spread out over an acre at a depth of one foot.
If those same farmers are recharging the aquifer by applying surface water to their crops, they’re given a credit for that added water. Some farmers who pump end up paying nothing at all if their water use finds a balance between the amounts pumped and recharged.
For some bigger farms without surface water rights, that is not the case. Their annual water use fees can total tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of dollars. That money is then invested in a fallowing program that pays farmers not to plant or to purchase farmland outright. While the fees have been tough for some farmers to swallow, at least a majority have internalized the goal.
Here’s a report from National Geographic. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
One more reason to marvel: The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country, with more than 1,300 inhabitants per square mile. It’s bereft of almost every resource long thought to be necessary for large-scale agriculture. Yet it’s the globe’s number two exporter of food as measured by value, second only to the United States, which has 270 times its landmass. How on Earth have the Dutch done it?
Seen from the air, the Netherlands resembles no other major food producer—a fragmented patchwork of intensely cultivated fields, most of them tiny by agribusiness standards, punctuated by bustling cities and suburbs. In the country’s principal farming regions, there’s almost no potato patch, no greenhouse, no hog barn that’s out of sight of skyscrapers, manufacturing plants, or urban sprawl. More than half the nation’s land area is used for agriculture and horticulture.
Banks of what appear to be gargantuan mirrors stretch across the countryside, glinting when the sun shines and glowing with eerie interior light when night falls. They are Holland’s extraordinary greenhouse complexes, some of them covering 175 acres.
These climate-controlled farms enable a country located a scant thousand miles from the Arctic Circle to be a global leader in exports of a fair-weather fruit: the tomato. The Dutch are also the world’s top exporter of potatoes and onions and the second largest exporter of vegetables overall in terms of value. More than a third of all global trade in vegetable seeds originates in the Netherlands.
The brain trust behind these astounding numbers is centered at Wageningen University & Research (WUR), located 50 miles southeast of Amsterdam. Widely regarded as the world’s top agricultural research institution, WUR is the nodal point of Food Valley, an expansive cluster of agricultural technology start-ups and experimental farms. The name is a deliberate allusion to California’s Silicon Valley, with Wageningen emulating the role of Stanford University in its celebrated merger of academia and entrepreneurship.
Ernst van den Ende, managing director of WUR’s Plant Sciences Group, embodies Food Valley’s blended approach. A renowned scholar with the casual manner of a barista at a hip café, van den Ende is a world authority on plant pathology. But, he says, “I’m not simply a college dean. Half of me runs Plant Sciences, but the other half oversees nine separate business units involved in commercial contract research.” Only that mix, “the science-driven in tandem with the market-driven,” he maintains, “can meet the challenge that lies ahead.”
Click here to read the discussion and to check out the graphics.
ENSO Alert System Status: La Niña Watch
Synopsis: There is an increasing chance (~55-60%) of La Niña during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2017-18.
Over the last month, equatorial sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were near-to-below average across the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. ENSO-neutral conditions were apparent in the weekly fluctuation of Niño-3.4 SST index values between -0.1°C and -0.6°C. While temperature anomalies were variable at the surface, they became increasingly negative in the sub-surface ocean, due to the shoaling of the thermocline across the east-central and eastern Pacific. Though remaining mostly north of the equator, convection was suppressed over the western and central Pacific Ocean and slightly enhanced near Indonesia. The low-level trade winds were stronger than average over a small region of the far western tropical Pacific Ocean, and upper-level winds were anomalously easterly over a small area of the east-central Pacific. Overall, the ocean and atmosphere system remains consistent with ENSO-neutral.
A majority of the models in the IRI/CPC suite of Niño-3.4 predictions favor ENSO-neutral through the Northern Hemisphere 2017-18 winter. However, the most recent predictions from the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFSv2) and the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) indicate the formation of La Niña as soon as the Northern Hemisphere fall 2017. Forecasters favor these predictions in part because of the recent cooling of surface and sub-surface temperature anomalies, and also because of the higher degree of forecast skill at this time of year. In summary, there is an increasing chance (~55-60%) of La Niña during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2017-18 (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period).
[The] biggest challenge [for Christian La Bar and Harper Kaufman] was rationing water. They have limited rights to a historic ditch that serves the property. They had to quit watering their potato and beet crops late this summer and hope for rain. It didn’t fall so their yield was probably stunted a bit, La Bar said.
La Bar and Kaufman achieved their goal of turning a profit in just their second year working 0.83 of an acre on the land owned by Mike and Allison Spayd…
The Saturday Market in Aspen has been a godsend for their Two Roots Farm. They have built a loyal following by offering greens and veggies different from what established farmers from the North Fork Valley in Paonia delivered. Aspen-area shoppers responded.
They also sell direct to restaurants and provide produce for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) allotments, where customers pay in advance and receive bounty on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
“People are excited to see new farmers, young farmers close to home,” La Bar said.
There’s been a mini-explosion of young entrepreneurs getting into agriculture in the Roaring Fork Valley. A documentary on their trials and travails, “How We Grow,” is being made by valley residents Tomas Zuccareno and Haley Thompson.
La Bar and Kaufman, both 26, worked as the agriculture managers at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies’ Rock Bottom Ranch, learning from ranch manager Jason Smith before heading out on their own.
Other aspiring farmers have taken advantage of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program’s interest in promoting sustainable agriculture and food self-sufficiency.
Cooper Means, 25, pitched a winning proposal for agricultural use of 10 acres of the 40-acre Lazy Glen Open Space parcel, acquired in 2015. Means’ Shining Mountains Farm LLC received a 10-year lease that started this year. He doesn’t have to pay for use of the land, but pays $600 per month for a small apartment attached to a barn on the site…
Means is focused on protein production — raising chickens and lambs on pastures. He’s also using two rooms in the barn to grow mushrooms. The demand for the mushrooms has exceeded his ability to supply them.
He said he knew he wanted to be a farmer since he was a 9-year-old student at Aspen Community School and did a mentorship at Sustainable Settings, an educational farm and ranch outside of Carbondale.
Williams Energy hydraulic fracturing operation near Rulison via The Denver Post
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
The area subject to testing has been reduced from 25 square miles, encompassing a circular area extending three miles in all directions from what’s known as the Project Rulison blast site, to an oval area of just under 6.3 square miles, and ranging from 1.5 to two miles away from the site.
The revised plan also gets rid of a limit on the number of drilling rigs concurrently operating in the monitoring zone “because this has not been an administrative problem in recent years,” it says.
Project Rulison involved the explosion of a nuclear bomb more than 8,000 feet underground in the mountains south of Rulison in a federal/private experiment to try to boost natural gas production in the Williams Fork sandstone formation. The project succeeded in producing gas, but it was radioactive and was flared off as part of the experiment.
More recently, energy companies have extensively produced gas in the Williams Fork formation through the use of hydraulic fracturing to crack open the sandstone and foster gas flow.
The federal government restricts drilling deeper than 6,000 feet in a 40-acre area at the blast site. Currently there are no wells within a half-mile of Project Rulison, and any applications to drill that close would be subject to a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission hearing process.
The state also subjects companies to two levels of sampling and testing requirements for radioactivity when it comes to things such drilling cuttings, produced gas and produced water. One level has applied to wells within a mile of the blast site, and it continues to apply under the new plan.
The second level had applied to an arbitrary circular testing area having a three-mile radius, but the revised plan says it now applies to a smaller ellipse aligned with the pattern for fractures in the Williams Fork formation in the area of the blast site.
The plan also eliminates an environmental monitoring program for ground and surface water, stating that “there is no credible mechanism to transport Rulison-related activity to the surface except through natural gas production,” which the sampling plan already covers.
The plan says numerous monitoring studies conducted by federal agencies and oil and gas companies show that “no known release of radionuclides has occurred from Project Rulison,” except during natural gas flaring and production tests immediately following the blast.
The monitoring program is intended to protect workers, the public and the environment during oil and gas operations, the plan says.
Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, who is presiding over the lawsuit, stated Thursday that pre-trial preparation will continue until April. Matsch, in a written order, said he will set a trial date after that.
In pre-trial work so far, Colorado Springs has turned over 1,275 boxes of documents to the EPA and the state environment department to examine for possible evidence. That is part of the legal process known as “discovery.”
Matsch earlier this year granted requests from the Board of Pueblo County Commissioners and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District to intervene in the case, on the side of the environmental agencies. Intervention allows the commissioners and the conservancy district to have a direct voice in the litigation in order to protect their interests.
The district encompasses Bent, Crowley, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo counties, where considerable produce is grown. District officials told Matsch they want to ensure the quality of the river water.
Colorado Springs has denied it is violating the laws. Mayor John Suthers has pointed to its commitment of money and manpower to improve its stormwater system.
The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the city “to develop, implement and enforce” its storm management program, as required by permits issued by the environmental agencies.
In late August, a federal court ruled on a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, tribes and local governments over the BLM’s granting of a right-of-way for the 250-plus-mile pipeline. The judge said the agency had fulfilled its duties “for the most part,” but needed to provide better plans for mitigating wildlife habitat lost to pipeline construction. A separate lawsuit challenges the amount of groundwater involved; those hearings will be held later in September.
Starting at 8:30 a.m. Monday, State Engineer Jason King is slated to hear two weeks of testimony for and against the controversial, multibillion-dollar project.
The hearing on 25 groundwater applications could decide how much the authority would be allowed to pump from Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys in Lincoln County and Spring Valley in White Pine County.
Water authority spokesman Bronson Mack called it “a significant stage in the permitting process.”
Simeon Herskovits, attorney for some opponents of the project, put it another way: “I guess you could say everything is at stake,” he said.
Just don’t expect a ruling anytime soon.
“It will be months,” said Susan Joseph-Taylor, deputy administrator for the Nevada Division of Water Resources. “These things take a while to put together. They’re complicated.”
Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Anne Manning):
From rising temperatures to eroding beaches and increased flood and wildfire risks, a warming climate will have ripple effects across the world – and the U.S. military wants to be ready.
Colorado State University civil engineers, climate modelers and natural resource managers are working together to help set military priorities to prepare for worst-case scenarios tied to climate change.
A CSU research team led by the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMML) is supported by a nearly $3 million grant from the U.S. Air Force to help its most vulnerable installations – bases, facilities and other Air Force-owned properties – prepare for the threat of climate change.
A year into their initial efforts, the CSU team has defined the assessment process and completed an analysis for California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, with 67 more installations on their list to tackle.
“One of CEMML’s strengths is understanding the information needed by installation leaders in terms of natural resources,” said Liz Caldwell, project lead and CEMML associate director. “We are able to take all the modeling information and bring it down to what we call ‘red, yellow green’ – most urgent, to least.”
Multiple disciplines, common goals
The CSU team includes Ken Carlson, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Chris Thornton, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Dennis Ojima, senior research scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory in the Warner College of Natural Resources; CEMML program manager Mindy Clarke; and 20 or so graduate students and researchers. The North Central Climate Science Center has also provided staff and computing resources for the project.
The team brings together individual expertise in military land use, civil infrastructure, hydrology, natural resources ecology and climate modeling. Together, they are assessing potential climate change-induced impacts on installation resources, with the goal of recommending tangible adaptation strategies to support short- and long-term management decisions to minimize these impacts. According to the researchers, the transdisciplinary nature of the team is paramount to its success.
“Our three groups collaborating together has opened our eyes to what each group can do, and we think this is just the start,” Carlson said.
Vandenberg threatened by sea level rise
For each of the U.S. Air Force bases, the researchers are looking beyond baseline conditions by applying two carbon emissions estimate scenarios – moderate and high – and extending the analyses through the years 2030 and 2050.
For example, for the Vandenberg Air Force Base report just completed, the team modeled the hydrology and hydraulics of the Santa Ynez River and San Antonio Creek basin to project flooding risk in the years 2030 and 2050. Flooding could worsen due to sea level rise, storm surges and tides.
They pointed to such concerns as a disturbance in the equilibrium state of the Bishop Pine forest due to rising temperatures. They also included potential impacts on animal species like the red-legged frog and the California least tern due to worsening drought conditions. In addition, projections of flooding inundation were overlaid with built infrastructure to highlight vulnerabilities of roads, buildings and other structures.
Their recommendations for adaptation strategies included channel modifications, diversion spillways, storm surge gates and culvert expansions, as well as erosion monitoring, bulkheads and artificial breakwaters.
The researchers are now applying a similar method to assess other installations, including Bellows Air Force Station in Hawaii, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Misawa Air Base in Japan.
Integration into larger plans
The lists of adaptation strategies being prepared by the CSU team will fold into Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense. Each branch of the U.S. military is required to submit these planning documents to “implement landscape-level management of their natural resources” at individual installations. The plans help ensure sustainability of realistic habitat conditions and high-quality lands for military training, biodiversity and recreation.
CEMML is a service, education and research unit within the Warner College of Natural Resources. For more than three decades, the center has supported military readiness and resource conservation.
Orchard Mesa Pump & Power Plant site
Lunch at a farm
Las Colonias Park/Watson Island
Happy Hour at Edgewater!
This event is being organized in collaboration with Business for Water Stewardship, Alpine Bank, Colorado River District, Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, Grand Junction Economic Partnership, and the Grand Junction Outdoor Recreation Coalition.
Sponsors: Hutchins Water Center at CMU, Business for Water Stewardship, Denver Water, Walton Family Foundation
In drought-prone states like California, Colorado and others, every drop of water is precious. A newly published national report provides comprehensive guidelines for innovative water-saving techniques, with Colorado State University expertise playing a key role.
Sybil Sharvelle, associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and co-leader of CSU’s One Water Solutions Institute, recently chaired a national committee of experts who wrote the new guidelines. They call for safe, cost-effective expansion of water reuse systems in commercial and multi-residential buildings, as well as municipal districts.
The new “Risk-Based Framework for the Development of Public Health Guidance for Decentralized Non-Potable Water Systems” outlines how to design reliable, efficient and safe building-scale water reuse systems. Such systems aren’t yet widespread, and thanks to the committee’s efforts, municipalities now have guidance to provide developers with regulations, and a consistent approach to projects. A non-potable water program was pioneered in the City of San Francisco several years ago, with a handful of projects coming online in recent years.
Recycled water for non-potable uses
Decentralized non-potable water systems use various local water sources and extend to the building, neighborhood or district scale. The report focused on these complex, multi-use systems that go beyond the single residential scale, Sharvelle explained.
The water systems can use graywater, blackwater, wastewater, roof runoff or stormwater that is collected onsite. This water can then be used for non-potable applications like flushing toilets, running laundry machines or irrigation.
“These systems are up and coming,” Sharvelle said. “More and more developers are wanting to do them, and systems have popped up here and there, but everything to date has been case by case.”
Sharvelle, who previously served on a National Research Council panel providing analysis of stormwater and graywater for recycling, chaired the national committee, funded by the Water Environment and Reuse Foundation. The committee created guidelines for protecting public health as decentralized non-potable water systems come online. The guidelines included a microbial risk assessment to determine pathogen reduction targets that was based on new U.S. EPA research.
“The critical thing here is that developers are wanting to build buildings that are off-the-grid with efficient and sustainable use of resources,” Sharvelle said. “And aside from that, there is the benefit of reduced water use in buildings. Water savings of around 50 percent are easily achieved through these systems. It’s a great way to diversify the portfolio of water sources in a city, in a way that’s not infrastructure-intensive for utilities.”
The ballot question seeks to raise the district’s mill levy to 1 mill for 30 years and allow the district’s debt be increased by $2 million with a maximum repayment of $2,885,803.80 for the purposes of acquiring additional land for its reservoir project…
Holsinger was the first to speak, explaining that he serves as legal counsel to the SJWCD.
“Water is Colorado’s most precious natural resource,” then explaining that water storage has “transformed the West.”
He also noted the agreement among experts that water storage is vital and reported that the demand for water continues to grow, with Archuleta County’s population projected to more than double in the next 30 years.
“Conservation alone doesn’t cut it,” he said, also suggesting that the project could become a “crown jewel” in the state park system.
As the city of Loveland prepares its 2018 budget for final approval, at least one thing is certain: Water and wastewater rates will go up.
Two years ago, the Loveland City Council approved a 10-year plan for increases in rates for water, wastewater and power. The reasons included supporting aging infrastructure maintenance and new capital projects.
In 2017, the rates went up 9 percent for water and 11 percent for wastewater and are expected to go up by the same percent increase in 2018.
Despite these recent increases, the city of Loveland’s rates aren’t the highest in the region.
A presentation to the Fort Collins City Council ranked Loveland lowest in water rates and second lowest in wastewater rates in 2017, among the major Northern Colorado cities. Among a larger pool, Loveland’s rates were ranked in the middle…
Commercial customers don’t have a tiered rate structure but instead an allotment, depending on the size of their connections to the city’s system, as well as excess water use charges if applicable.
Wastewater has a minimum charge and is based on usage.
Here’s a report from Emily Benson writing in The High Country News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
If the Delta tunnels deal sinks, it could mean increased pressure on the already-strapped Colorado.
California’s water supply relies in part on a system of canals — the State Water Project and the federally-managed Central Valley Project — fed by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the estuary upstream of San Francisco Bay. The canals irrigate 3 million acres of farmland and supply drinking water for 25 million people south of the Delta. Two pump stations drive the system, but they’re so powerful that they can reverse the current of the rivers and trap fish, imperiling endangered species like Delta smelt. Environmental regulations stipulate that the pumps power down at certain times, allowing water to flow to the bay instead of the farms and cities at the other end of the canals.
The Delta tunnels project, also called California WaterFix, would consist of two huge tunnels 30 miles long and 40 feet in diameter — more than twice as tall as a semi-truck. By altering how water moves through the Delta, state officials say the tunnels would make California’s water supply more reliable while helping to keep threatened fish species away from the pumps. Opponents say continuing to divert critical freshwater flows would further destroy the delicate ecosystem of the Delta. Better options include conservation measures like drip irrigation and regional self-sufficiency, especially as water supplies dwindle under a changing climate, says Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, the executive director of environmental group Restore the Delta. “The water supply reliability that they’re promising is not going to be there with climate change,” she says.
A reliable supply of water from the Delta is crucial for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves 19 million people in Los Angeles and other southern California cities. On average, Metropolitan gets more than half its water from the State Water Project; the rest comes from the Colorado River, says Bill Hasencamp, the water district’s manager of Colorado River resources.
If the Delta tunnels aren’t built — and government officials don’t find another way to shore up water supplies to Metropolitan and other water districts — that could leave Southern California more reliant on the Colorado, says Jeff Kightlinger, the general manager of Metropolitan. The issues in the Bay Delta are one of the major obstacles that California faces in agreeing to the “drought contingency plan,” an agreement among California, Arizona and Nevada on how to pull less water from the Colorado River during droughts. “We need to understand with some certainty where we stand on the Delta to make commitments on the Colorado River,” Kightlinger says.
Water agencies plan to finish the drought contingency plan next year, and Kightlinger says he’s still hopeful that they can stick to that timeline. Though last winter’s wet weather gave water managers a slight reprieve in urgency, climate change is shrinking the water supply in the Colorado Basin over the long term. “We know we’re going to need (the drought contingency plan) eventually,” Kightlinger says. “The more progress we can make now, ahead of a crisis, the better off we’re going to be.”
A $16 billion-dollar plan to upgrade California’s water system would increase a ratepayer’s water bill upwards of $3 a month. However, the Metropolitan Water District and Department of Water Resources said the upgrade is necessary to update a 50-year-old system, improve water reliability, and protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta environment.
“It’s absolutely essential that we take care of this,” said Department of Water Resources Director Grant Davis. “This resource is akin to the heart and lungs of the state of California.”
San Diego County gets roughly 30% of its water from the delta. MWD officials said it’s still cheaper than desalination or purified recycled water.
If approved by several state water agencies and organizations, California WaterFix would take years to complete. The Metropolitan Water District, which sells the Delta water to the San Diego County Water Authority, will vote on WaterFix October 10th. The Westlands Water District voted against the project Tuesday. However, water officials were unclear what impact that would have on the overall project.
Filling abandoned pipelines with yellow-colored cement, ensuring small flow lines connected to wells are secure, and clarifying which agency has jurisdiction over oil and gas pipelines are the goals of new rules the state is considering in the wake of the deadly Firestone home explosion on April 17.
The new rules— slated for public hearings in December — is part of the seven-point plan rolled out by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Aug. 22…
[Matt] Lepore said the effort has several goals — updating existing regulations as well as adding new requirements. Several of the goals focus on the circumstances that surrounded the explosion that killed two men and seriously injured a woman…
Part of the rulemaking is to ensure there’s no confusion about active and abandoned pipelines in the future…
Lepore said the proposed rules will ensure all pipelines are tested to find leaks — including the smallest lines that previously had been exempted from routine, annual testing.
The pipeline at the center of the investigation into the explosion was a 1-inch flow line.
Lepore said the state also will look at how pipelines are abandoned, with the initial thought that it’s OK to leave them in the ground, as long as they’re severed from the well, the ends cut off below the ground, and the pipeline filled with a “cement slurry type material.”
Lepore said the rule is likely to call for that cement to be yellow colored, the same color the 811-Call Before You Dig program uses to mark oil and gas lines…
Lepore said he hopes to ensure oil and gas companies are not only part of the state’s 811-Call Before You Dig program, but that they’re Tier 1 members. Tier 1 members work more closely with the 811 organization than Tier 2 members…
One area of concern is the industry’s use of pipelines to transport oil from wells in the field to processing facilities.
Local governments and neighborhoods have clamored for energy companies to invest in pipelines to transport the oil or water pumped from the well to a larger processing facility. It’s a way to reduce dust and traffic from tanker trucks that traditionally have pulled the mix from storage tanks at the well site.
But there’s a question over who has jurisdiction over those pipelines — the COGCC, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission or the federal government, Lepore said.
Similar questions surround the pipelines used to carry produced water from the well site — water that flows up through the well and often is mixed with oil and natural gas, he said.
The COGCC also is asking other states how they handle the issue, he said.
From email from the New Mexico Environment Department:
The New Mexico Gold King Mine Spill Citizens’ Advisory Committee, based out of San Juan County, New Mexico, meets Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the San Juan Community College Student Center – SUNS Room (accessible through the Henderson Fine Arts Building).
Shannon Manfredi, Coordinator, Animas River Community Forum (ARCF) in Durango will discuss the role of the ARCF and related organizations, membership composition, and issues.
The Citizens’ Advisory Committee is a group of 11 citizen volunteers from Northern New Mexica, including the Navajo Nation, who provide a forum for public concerns while tracking the scientific long-term monitoring of the Gold King Mine spill’s effects in the state. The CAC works with New Mexico’s Long-Term Impact Review Team established by Governor Susana Martinez to both monitor and discuss with the public the continuing effects of the 2015 mine blowout, caused by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that released three million gallons of mining wastewater laden with 880,000 pounds of metals into the Animas and San Juan River system.
Essentially, the facility would operate like an underground reservoir, and the city says it has its benefits. Permitting an underground storage facility isn’t as expensive as an above ground reservoir and capital costs are lower, according to city water officials. There are also fewer environmental impacts, and because the storage is underground the water supply doesn’t evaporate like it would aboveground.
The big challenge of underground facilities, such as the one Aurora and Castle Rock are looking into, called the Lost Creek Underground Storage Pilot Project, is engineering, said State Engineer Kevin Rein.
In the case of Lost Creek, there is already groundwater in the area. It’s in an “almost transient state,” Rein said. That means the water would eventually make its way to a river. Keeping stored water from also escaping to a river requires careful planning.
“It takes a lot of engineering and calculation,” Rein said.
But the project is completely doable, officials said. There is one underground storage facility that benefits the metro area, Centennial Water uses a system similar to what Aurora and Castle Rock are considering. That project serves Highland Ranch. For Denver, the city recharges aquifers. Rein said the rules that apply to those sites may look similar to the rules his agency is being charged with writing for underground storage facilities.
Aurora has ventured into similar storage projects before, but those facilities are used less for storage and more as a natural filter. The three underground facilities Aurora currently operates are part of the Prairie Waters project. Each is around 50-feet deep and as large as a football field.
Aurora City Council has approved an agreement to pay $50,000 to partially fund the Lost Creek Underground Storage Pilot Project, located northeast of the city in the Lost Creek basin. Castle Rock will pay $50,000 for the study too — which will survey the area, drilling bore holes to reaffirm the area is suitable for an underground storage facility.
The first phase of the Lost Creek project will look at data gathering. If all is successful in establishing a location for the facility, phase II will encompass feasibility, according to Alex Davis, Deputy Director for Water Resources in Aurora.
The feasibility side of project would address how obtainable the land is, what other data might be needed and who to collaborate on the project with.
This year the Colorado Legislature granted $200,000 for underground storage pilot studies. The joint effort between Aurora and Castle Rock is expected to cost $150,000, with the Colorado Water Conservation Board picking up a portion of the tab.
The pilot project’s first phase is expected to start this fall and take no longer than one year to complete. Aurora is working alongside Castle Rock, as the two have partnered on other water projects. Davis said the two have proven to be successful partners on water issues in the past, making this venture a no-brainer.
The 2016 State Water Plan identified 400,000 acre feet of water that needs storage by 2050. So it’s possible that underground storage facilities may become even more popular, Rein said.
To be filed next week in federal district court in Colorado, the lawsuit Colorado River v. State of Colorado seeks a ruling that the Colorado River, and its ecosystem, possess certain rights, including the right to exist, flourish, evolve, regenerate, and restoration.
Further, the lawsuit seeks a declaration from the federal court that the State of Colorado – the defendant in the case – may be held liable for violating the rights of the River.
The Plaintiff in the action is the Colorado River itself, with members of the environmental organization Deep Green Resistance serving as “next friends” in the lawsuit on behalf of the Colorado River ecosystem. They are represented by Jason Flores-Williams, a noted Colorado civil rights attorney.
CELDF has been at the forefront of the growing movement to recognize the rights of nature, and has assisted the first places in the world to develop laws that establish legal rights of nature. This includes dozens of municipalities across the United States which have rights of nature laws in place, as well as the country of Ecuador.
Mari Margil, Director of CELDF’s International Center for the Rights of Nature, explained, “This action is the first of its kind in the United States, and comes as courts around the world are beginning to hold that nature and ecosystems possess legally enforceable rights. Recently, courts in India and Colombia held that rivers, glaciers, and other ecosystems possess rights of their own. Building on ongoing lawmaking efforts, we believe that this lawsuit will be the first of many which begins to change the status of nature under our legal systems.”
In 2008, CELDF assisted with the drafting of Chapter 7 of the Ecuador Constitution, which secures rights of nature, or Pacha Mama. CELDF is working in a number of other countries, including India, Nepal, and Australia, to advance legal frameworks that recognize legally enforceable rights of ecosystems and nature.
This fall, CELDF, with Tulane University Law School, will host the Rights of Nature Symposium. This will bring together rights of nature experts from around the world for a public conference in New Orleans on October 27.
About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature. http://www.celdf.org/.
The restoration economy evolved slowly over the past 40 years as states from New York to Colorado to California realized it was often more efficient to restore natural systems that protect coasts and manage water than it was to build substitutes from concrete and steel. The city of New York, for example, has long saved money on water filtration costs by paying farmers in the Catskills to restore natural grasses that absorb farm runoff, while the city of Denver is funneling water utility fees into forests that store and filter water, and California uses meadows and streams to filter and store the water that feeds into its famous aqueducts.
Closer to hurricane territory, the state of Texas is home to one of the country’s largest for-profit restoration projects, while studies have shown that Louisiana can earn billions by restoring its coastal mangroves – or lose multiples of that by letting them die.