#NM 2017 water year in review — @JFleck

An acequia along the Las Trampas in northern New Mexico is suspended on a trestle. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Here’s a report from John Fleck writing on InkStain. Click through and read the whole article. The graphics John has included are worth the click. Here’s an excerpt:

…however, we’re in remarkably good shape right now, the result of both a very good 2017, and significant water conservation and management efforts that leave our human water supply systems in decent shape to weather a bad snowpack.

2017 runoff on the Rio Grande was outstanding – more than a million acre feet of water flowed past the Albuquerque gauge, beneath the Central Avenue bridge. But if you look at the graph to the left, you can also see how unusual a big runoff year is. This was only the third above-average year in the 21st century. “New normal” or whatever, this clearly requires an adjustment.

As a result of the big flow year, reservoir storage is in good shape. Elephant Butte, Abiquiu, El Vado, and Heron combined (the four primary reservoirs on the Rio Grande system in New Mexico) are up a combined ~300,000 acre feet over last year at this time. “Good shape” is relative here – Elephant Butte is still only 20 percent full, far from the glory days of the 1990s. But up is still up, and the Butte is up.

The most interesting thing, to me, is Albuquerque’s aquifer. This is the vast pool of water beneath the metro area, on which we’ve depended for much of the city’s modern life. A shift away from groundwater pumping to the use of surface water from the Colorado River Basin (via the San Juan-Chama Project), combined with significant conservation measures, have led to a rebound that seems unmatched among major urban aquifers in the western United States. Modeling done by the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer suggests aquifer storage is rising by 20,000 acre feet or more a year. Beneath my house, it’s risen more than 30 feet since our 2008 water management shift began.

Fort Morgan Times Year in Review Part 2

Map via Northern Water.

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

Fort Morgan triggers building water pump station: Participants in the Southern Water Supply Project pipeline long knew that an eastern pump station may be needed to ensure enough water can be delivered to its farthest-out participants: Fort Morgan and Morgan County Quality Water District, the Times reported May 13.

Fort Morgan and Quality Water both reached their capacity of Colorado-Big Thompson water multiple times in recent summers. Gravity is currently what brings the water to Fort Morgan, since Carter Lake, where it is stored, is hundreds of feet higher than Fort Morgan. But growth in use of water by the pipeline’s participants meant less and less water can reach Fort Morgan just through gravity. All of the participants in the pipeline had the right to call for a pump station to be built, as per the original agreements. The council did approve directing staff to proceed with that request to Northern Water. But getting a pump station built will be expensive for all the participants in the pipeline, since the overall project is expected to cost about $6 million. It would take about three years from its start before the pump station would be online…

New water meter system for Log Lane: The new town water meter system will cost Log Lane Village approximately $154,520, the Times reported June 16.

The town’s board of trustees had previously approved contracting with Aclara/HD Systems for providing a new water meter system, but the costs and details had not yet been finalized. That’s happened June 14, with the board approving the expenditure and choosing the more expensive but longer-lasting scalable option of two proposals offered by contractor.

Interview: “Replenish” — Sandra Postel

I finished this book a few weeks ago. Here’s an interview with Sandra Postel from Elaina Zachos writing for The National Geographic. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project and former National Geographic Society Freshwater Fellow, demystifies humanity’s obsession with water in her new book Replenish. When National Geographic caught up with her in New Mexico, she explained how people are coming up with innovative ways to conserve water before we run dry.

The book begins in a Colorado canyon. Can you describe the scene?

The opening of the book describes a trip up through a canyon known as the Cache la Poudre. There had been a fire in this canyon the previous year, so you could see the blackened trees. I was heading to a family wedding, an outdoor wedding, and it looked like it was going to just start to pour at any minute. I was contemplating the sky. The wedding happened OK, but this was the beginning of a deluge that produced an enormous amount of flooding. Because the trees had been burned so recently, there was just a lot of erosion and a lot of tree trunks moving down through that canyon.

I opened the book with this story because I was there to see the canyon right before this happened but also to indicate that the combination of wildfires and flooding and drought is coming together. We’re moving into a very different period where the past is not going to be a very good guide for the future.

“The Arctic as we once knew it is no more” — Eric Holthaus #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

A fracturing iceberg in the Arctic Ocean. Photo/Ted Scambos and Rob Bauer, NSIDC IceTrek Web site via The Mountain Town News.

From Grist (Eric Holthaus):

Let it go: The Arctic will never be frozen again

Last week, at a New Orleans conference center that once doubled as a storm shelter for thousands during Hurricane Katrina, a group of polar scientists made a startling declaration: The Arctic as we once knew it is no more.

The region is now definitively trending toward an ice-free state, the scientists said, with wide-ranging ramifications for ecosystems, national security, and the stability of the global climate system. It was a fitting venue for an eye-opening reminder that, on its current path, civilization is engaged in an existential gamble with the planet’s life-support system.

In an accompanying annual report on the Arctic’s health — titled “Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades” — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees all official U.S. research in the region, coined a term: “New Arctic.”

Until roughly a decade or so ago, the region was holding up relatively well, despite warming at roughly twice the rate of the planet as a whole. But in recent years, it’s undergone an abrupt change, which now defines it. The Arctic is our glimpse of an Earth in flux, transforming into something that’s radically different from today.

At a press conference announcing the new assessment, acting NOAA Administrator Timothy Gallaudet emphasizes the “huge impact” these changes were having on everything from tourism to fisheries to worldwide weather patterns.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic — it affects the rest of the planet,” Gallaudet said.