Jay Winner awarded “2017 Non-Point Source Award” from Colorado Watershed Assembly

From The Pueblo Chieftain:

General Manager Jay Winner of the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District received the prestigious 2017 Non-Point Source Award at the Colorado Watershed Assembly Conference in Avon, Colorado on last month.

He was honored for his outstanding work on multiple non-point source projects as well as being the only person to combine water quality with water quantity. These projects include, but are not limited to: 2,000 acres of Best Management Practices (BMP), Soil Health, Pond Sealing, Canal Lining, Riparian Buffer Zone, Fallowing, and Dry Up.

The conference, displaying best practices for watershed plans and rivers across Colorado, acknowledged the Arkansas River for the first time in years. This conference provided an opportunity for the Arkansas River Valley farmers, producers, agencies, and other interested parties to be recognized for their efforts in water quality and quantity.

Winner thanked the Lower Ark staff and the cooperation of farmers, as these projects would not be possible without any of them.

View of runoff, also called nonpoint source pollution, from a farm field in Iowa during a rain storm. Topsoil as well as farm fertilizers and other potential pollutants run off unprotected farm fields when heavy rains occur. (Credit: Lynn Betts/U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service/Wikimedia Commons)

“Building #solar and #wind farms has started to become a cheaper proposition than running aging #coal and #nuclear generators” — Bloomberg

Graph showing the decline in costs for large lithium ion batteries in US dollars per kilowatt-hour (kWh), 2006-2016. Graphic via the Climate Reality Project.

From Bloomberg (Naureen S Malik):

Building solar and wind farms has started to become a cheaper proposition than running aging coal and nuclear generators in parts of the U.S., according to financial adviser Lazard Ltd.

Take wind: Building and operating a utility-scale farm costs $30 to $60 a megawatt-hour over its lifetime, and that can drop to as low as $14 when factoring in subsidies, according an annual analysis that Lazard’s been performing for a decade. Meanwhile, just keeping an existing coal plant running can cost $26 to $39 and a nuclear one $25 to $32.

Two years ago, “what was interesting to us was the lifetime cost of renewables on an energy basis reached parity with conventional resources in a bunch of geographies in the U.S.,” said Jonathan Mir, head of the North American power group at Lazard. “Now, what we are seeing is that renewable technologies on a fully loaded basis are beating” existing coal and nuclear plants in some regions.

The report by Lazard, whose estimates are widely used in the power sector as benchmarks, comes as President Donald Trump’s administration is vowing to stop the “war on coal” and put America’s miners back to work. Hundreds of power plants burning the fuel have shut in recent years amid escalating competition from natural gas, wind and solar. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has proposed rewarding coal and nuclear plants with extra payments for their dependability, touching off a national debate over the country’s future power mix.

“We still need, in a modern grid, fuel diversification and a diverse generation stack,” Mir said. “So someone has to think hard about how to organize this transition.”

National Climate Report: Q&A With Authors — @earthinstitute

Here’s the release from The Earth Institute at Columbia University (Kevin Krajick):

By law, every four years Congress is provided with a state-of-the-art report on the impacts of climate change on the United States. The next National Climate Assessment is scheduled for 2018, but its scientific findings were published today. The massive document was produced by 13 federal agencies including NASA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, along with top university scientists, and approved by the National Academy of Sciences. Four of its 32 lead authors are affiliated with Columbia University; two of them speak below.

Among the report’s conclusions:

-Since 2014, evidence that humans are causing rapid warming of the atmosphere and oceans has only strengthened. Many lines of evidence abound “from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” the draft says. “There are no convincing alternative explanations.”

-Average temperatures in the Lower 48 states increased 1.2 degrees F from 1986 to 2016, and are projected with very high confidence to rise faster in coming decades.

-Scientists have made significant progress in linking human influence to specific extreme weather events. Some extremes, including droughts, heat waves and huge rainfalls, have already become “more frequent, intense, or of longer duration, and many [are] expected to continue to increase or worsen.”

-The report increases the worst-case projection for global sea-level rise by 2100 to 8.5 feet, up from 6.6 feet in the last report.

-With rising sea level, tidal floods in some coastal cities have increased 5- to 10-fold since the 1960s, and continue to rise. The rate of increased flooding along the East Coast is accelerating.

-The rate of ocean acidification due to increasing carbon dioxide entering the water “is unparalleled in at least the past 66 million years.”

-Alaska, warming twice as fast as the global average, is “on the front lines,” with fast-wasting glaciers and “crumbling buildings, road and bridges and eroding shorelines.”

The report follows similar, though smaller-scale federal assessments published in the last 10 days by the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office. All the reports fly in the face of the current administration, whose top officials have publicly denied or questioned the reality of human-induced climate change. In June, the administration announced its plan to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, signed by all nations on earth except Syria. In recent weeks, the EPA has scrubbed references to climate change from its website and barred its own scientists from speaking on the subject. A recently leaked Department of Interior strategic plan shows that climate change has been expunged from consideration in favor of “energy dominance.” For all this and more, some scientists have expressed fears that the new report will be ignored.

Radley Horton is an associate research professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Timothy Hall is an adjunct professor at Columbia Engineering, and a senior scientist at the Columbia-affiliated NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

What is new about this latest report?

Radley Horton: With additional years of observations, and in many cases accelerating trends, the evidence is stronger than ever. The report reaffirms what over 97 percent of climate scientists have known for decades: the climate is changing, and humans are largely responsible. The risks to things we care about–the health of our children, our economic viability, the existence of our coastal cities–are real and growing. U.S. citizens have a right to know what risk they face.

Timothy Hall: Since 2014, the planet has experienced its warmest years on record. This renders moot previous talk about a climate-change “pause,” which was never very compelling anyway. Data continues to accumulate that shows increased rates of extreme rainfall, one of the most robust climate-change predictions. Trends in hurricane activity are beginning to pop out of the noise. Regions of peak hurricane intensity have expanded poleward in concert with expanding regions of warm seawater.

At this point, can we say specific extreme events are related to climate change?

Hall: With increasing computer power, so-called attribution studies are becoming more common and more reliable. We can now simulate an extreme event many times with and without human climate change, and say what fraction of the event’s hazard–the odds of the event occurring, rain amount, flood level, wind speed, etcetera–can be attributed to climate change. For example, attribution studies show that hurricanes Iselle, Julio and Ana, which hit Hawaii in 2014, were much more likely in a warming climate. We finished working on the report before the 2017 hurricane season. But climate change clearly played a role in Harvey’s rain-driven damage, and possibly a role in Maria’s wind-driven damage.

Could it be that we are in for bad surprises?

Horton: This is one of the most important points the report makes. While climate models incorporate many important processes, they cannot include all the possible changes that can contribute to tipping points and irreversible changes. These would be things like accelerated melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and resulting rapid sea-level rise. Or, extreme events like droughts and wildfires occurring in multiple places at the same time, or sequentially in one place. Such tipping points and compound extreme events can greatly multiply the systemic risks to society.

What is the likely damage? Will we be able to stem it?

Hall: Damage is already easy to see: more frequent events like Hurricane Sandy‘s storm surge, and Harvey’s rain flooding. More flooding like what Miami sees under clear skies. We can just sit and respond haphazardly after each crisis–more suffering and unplanned displacement–or we can adapt with some better long-term planning.

Horton: Paradoxically, there is reason for optimism. Just like it’s harder to dismiss climate change, it’s harder to dismiss the idea that we could see rapid societal transition away from a carbon-centric economy. Global CO2 emissions appear to have been level over the past couple of years, during a period of economic growth. The cost of renewable fuels such as wind and solar have decreased dramatically. This is sending powerful signals to long-term investors and businesses about which way the wind is blowing. More and more businesses are asking the question: what risks do we face if we do not plan for a changing climate?

Using reclaimed water to drive economic development

Purple, which has become the international symbol for recycled water, is used on valve boxes, manhole covers, newer sprinkler heads and even the pipes inside our Recycling Plant via Denver Water.

Here’s a guest column from Doug Pushard that’s running in The Sante Fe New Mexican. Here’s an excerpt:

Some city in the United States will become the water-recycling capital of the country. Why not Santa Fe, New Mexico? This is a logical place to grow this industry. Santa Fe by necessity has a large need for recycled water. We are an area prone to drought. We have a very high ratio of water professionals in our state. These are a few reasons we could become the water-reuse capital of the country.

Why not put programs together to make this an economic engine for the area as well as New Mexico? Israel has used its need for water conservation to grow multibillion-dollar worldwide water businesses. The Water Smart Innovation Conference is held annually in Las Vegas, Nevada, bringing together conservation professionals from around the world. These are examples of how water conservation can be linked to economic vitality…

So what would a strategy look like? It would mean our state and local economic-development efforts would target people and businesses in this industry. It would mean we put in place programs that highlight existing businesses and attract new ones to our community and state. It would mean we would have centers of excellence. It would mean we would partner with our local education institutions to make sure we’re training individuals in these fields, so companies would have ready access to a local workforce. It would mean we put programs promoting Santa Fe and New Mexico as the place to be!

Colorado State University (CSU) is teaming with the National Western Complex for the One Water Solutions Institute, connecting world-class research with real-world solutions. The university plans to complete its water laboratory, which will be a water-reuse showcase, by 2021.

New Mexico could move into a leadership position, resulting in new jobs and the ability to promote the state as having a sustainable long-term water plan. Water is key to our survival in this beautiful, but harsh state. We can lead, follow, or get out of the way. We need to grow local industries to provide good paying jobs for our communities. Why not water, why not here?

Map of the Rio Grande watershed, showing the Rio Chama joining the Rio Grande near Santa Fe. Graphic credit WikiMedia.