“Dust Up: The Growing Problem Affecting Snowpack and Water Supply” — @H2ORadio

Senator Beck Basin, May 2013. Photo credit: Jeffrey Deems via H2ORadio.com.

From H2ORadio Science (Click through to listen to the show):

Mountain snowfall around the globe is an important source of water. In the spring it melts and flows into rivers and reservoirs for cities and farms to use. But there’s been a growing problem that’s sweeping in and causing snowpack worldwide to melt faster.

“It looks apocalyptic,” says Jeff Deems, a research scientist at the University of Colorado. With “a big orange-red sky, it really does look Martian.”

He’s describing dust storms—layers of windblown particles that are landing on mountain peaks and leaving them coated with a dark layer of sand and soot. As anyone who has sat in a car with black upholstery on hot summer day will attest, black objects absorb more heat than lighter ones, so by the darkening the snow, it’s melting it faster.

Deems explains that “If you put dust on the snowpack, which enhances the absorption of that solar radiation, then that just pushes on the gas pedal for snowmelt.” In a recent study looking at the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Deems and lead author Tom Painter of NASA found that the amount of dust on mountain snowpack will control how fast rivers rise in the spring regardless of air temperature. And the more dust there is, the faster the runoff.

Denver Residents Benefit from a “Cool, Connected Westwood” — #HealthyTreesHealthyLives

Westwood neighborhood Denver Google Maps January 30, 2018

From the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition:

Guest post from the Colorado State Forest Service in coordination with the Western Urban and Community Forestry Network’s #HealthyTreesHealthyLives social media campaign. Explore the hashtag #HealthyTreesHealthyLives on social media to learn more.

We are privileged in Colorado to have a diverse array of partners who work together to preserve, renew and enhance our community forests, which promote health and well-being in communities across the state. A couple of exciting partnerships in the Denver area involve the Colorado Tree Coalition, The Park People, The Trust for Public Land, Groundwork Denver, Westwood Unidos, University of Colorado Community Engagement Design and Research Center, and Denver Parks and Recreation.

The Colorado State Forest Service Urban & Community Forestry Program and the Colorado Tree Coalition have long supported the efforts of The Park People (TPP), including $26,500 in grant support over the years to TPP community forestry programs. TPP is a Denver non-profit that has helped plant trees in key areas of the city for 30+ years. TPP’s Denver Digs Trees program helps residents cultivate greener, healthier, more livable neighborhoods and has provided more than 50,000 free and low-cost trees to Denver residents. Denver Digs Trees is a powerful example of community in action – fueled by residents and volunteers who plant and steward trees. The 50,000 trees planted through the program represent more than $52.3 million in community benefits.

The Park People is a part of another partnership supporting healthy trees and healthy lives: the Cool Connected Westwood project is a coalition of organizations active in the Westwood neighborhood of southwest Denver. Westwood is faced with economic and environmental challenges, including one of the city’s highest poverty rates and historically limited access to parks and tree canopy cover. Westwood is also a place of strong cultural identity (both Latino and Vietnamese) and home to vibrant community organizing.

During summer 2017, partners engaged in a neighborhood-based, green infrastructure pilot project. The project focused on tree planting and incorporated youth job training, community science, and innovative approaches for resident engagement.

By autumn’s end, 245 new trees stood tall in Westwood. These trees will beautify the neighborhood, improve walkability, build neighborhood pride, and foster a sense of safety. They will also increase the neighborhood’s climate resilience as they grow, intercept precipitation and slow the movement of water to reduce flooding during storm events; and help cool individual homes and the neighborhood at large, helping to moderate temperatures and reduce heat-related illness and death.

Every community deserves to have a healthy forest, and we’re proud of organizations and individuals working to support trees in Colorado, throughout the country, and across the world.
To learn more, please contact Keith Wood with the Colorado State Forest Service and Kim Yuan-Farrell with The Park People

#Snowpack news: High hopes for February

Screenshot of the NRCS interactive SWE map for major sub-basins on January 29, 2018.

From The Vail Daily (Scott Miller):

February will tell us a lot about a couple of things.

The first thing is whether there’s any chance of getting even sort-of caught up with the area’s annual snowpack.

The second thing is whether there’s any chance of getting even sort-of caught up with visitor numbers.

Both of those things are intertwined, of course. Snowpack is essential for water for the coming spring, summer and fall. Snowpack is also essential to bring snow-riding visitors…

“Without (a strong) February, I don’t know if we can catch up,” [Chris Romer] said. Those numbers may tell lodging and other businesses if there’s still high demand or if owners and managers need to adjust their revenue and expenses — staffing and purchasing — to adjust.

February’s snowfall will also tell us a lot about the water year to come.

Andrew Lyons, a forecaster in the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office, said a ridge of high pressure — either over California’s Pacific coast or in the desert Southwest — has for the past few months been forcing storm tracks to the north of Colorado.

The northern part of the state has done better regarding snowfall, Lyons said. Still, virtually the entire state is in some form of drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor — from “abnormally dry” to “moderate drought.”

As is usually the case in years when a La Nina pattern is established in the Pacific Ocean — even like this season’s weak pattern — Southern Colorado has borne the brunt of the dry conditions.

Assistant State Climatologist Becky Bolinger said “there’s almost zero chance” that the San Juan Mountains will catch up to anything resembling normal snowfall this season.

Still, reservoir storage around the state is in good shape to weather a one-season drought.

But water supplies in the Eagle River Valley are dependent more on streamflows than reservoir storage. The good news, Bolinger said, is that snowpack figures at higher elevations tend to be stronger than those at lower elevations.

The highest-elevation measurement site for the Eagle River is at nearby Fremont Pass, located above 11,000 feet. The snowpack there is currently at just more than 100 percent of the 30-year median snowfall amount.

Still, the current outlook is sobering for the entire Colorado River basin.

According to the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center the forecast for stations at Eagle and Gypsum is for spring runoff to be roughly 66 percent of the 30-year medians.

There’s still time to make up ground in terms of snowpack, Bolinger said — March and April are the snowiest months. Still, she said, a lot of snow is needed.

Lyons said historical patterns lean toward more snowy patterns in March and April. But, he said, the longterm outlook is for lower-than-average precipitation and warmer-than-average temperatures.

#Wyoming legislative committee hopes to add $40 million to budget for dam on the Little Snake River

Yampa River Basin via Wikimedia.

From Wyoming Public Media (Melodie Edwards):

Last week, lawmakers on the Select Water Committee agreed to put $40 million in their budget to build a new dam in southern Wyoming, but only if all the money for the project is identified first. The total cost of the dam is estimated at $80 million dollars.

Water Development Office Director Harry LaBonde says with more droughts expected in the future, more irrigation water is needed for about 25 different ranches along the West Fork of Battle Creek in south-central Wyoming.

“When you get to August, flows are low and so the irrigation purpose of this project would be to provide these late season irrigation flows so that they could continue to irrigate and enhance their grass hay crops,” said LaBonde.

Battle Creek flows into the Yampa River in Colorado and the hope is that state would help fund the project…

Water Development Office Director LaBonde said, with more droughts likely, Wyoming needs to provide for its irrigators. He said now is a good time to build dams.

“I will say also that with regards to the President’s infrastructure bills that are being proposed, there’s also potential for a component of federal funding for this project.”

LaBonde says the reservoir will also provide recreation opportunities and habitat for the imperiled Colorado cutthroat trout.

The project is one of Governor Matt Mead’s 10-in-10 water projects, an effort to build ten new water storage projects in ten years. Four others around the state are also moving forward including Middle Pioneer Reservoir and an enlargement of Big Sandy Reservoir, both in Sublette County on the Green River, a main branch on the Colorado River. Also, two dam projects in the Bighorn Basin in northern Wyoming have been funded for construction costs, including Alkali Creek Dam and Levitt Reservoir.

The Little Snake River as it passes under Wyoming Highway 70 near Dixon. Photo credit: Wikimedia

5th Annual Poudre River Forum, February 2, 2018

Click here for the inside skinny and to register:

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“Listening to Understand” is the theme of our fifth annual Poudre River Forum.

Register now to join us! Registration includes the full day’s program, as well as breakfast, lunch, and a closing beer/soft drinks celebration with opportunities to win Poudre prizes. Topics include:

  • Provocative, dialogue-stimulating “lightening talks” from a range of speakers with contrasting views about what can damage and what can improve Poudre flows
  • Can We Grow Water Smart?
  • Poudre Farmers Improving Poudre Water Quality through Air Quality Monitoring
  • Keynote Speaker: Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs (retired) will give a glimpse from his co-authored upcoming book—little known facts about Greeley’s water history

    AND MORE!

    Back from last year:

  • Poudre Splashes—snapshots of the past year’s Poudre activities—check our website for how to submit your entry
  • New this year:

  • Awarding of our first annual Poudre Pioneer Award. Check our website to find out how to nominate someone.
  • Breakfast! Enjoy a breakfast sandwich as you take in 20+ Poudre educational displays
  • .

    2018 #COleg: Is there a sentiment, outside of @GovofCO, to raise severance taxes to implement the #COWaterPlan?

    James Eklund and Governor Hickenlooper roll out the Colorado Water Plan, Thursday, November 19, 2015 via The Colorado Independent

    From Colorado Politics (Marianne Goodland) via The Durango Herald:

    Hickenlooper was initially expected to talk about his water legacy during the Colorado Water Congress luncheon in southeastern Denver, but instead, he addressed how he regards water and how the state ought to pay for the water plan’s estimated $20 billion price tag.

    Before the start of Hickenlooper’s remarks, the Water Congress took the pulse of those in attendance about what the next governor should do with the water plan. Seventy-three percent said “use it,” 8 percent said the next governor should ignore it and 19 percent said the state should embark on a different path with regard to its water future.

    Pollster Floyd Ciruli said the results show the new governor has to make sure the water plan and its issues remain a top priority, along with rural broadband, transportation and public education funding.

    Hickenlooper referred to his recent State of the State speech and his reference to “topophilia.” No, that’s not something bad – it’s a love of place, according to the governor. And Colorado must do all it can to preserve its clean air and water, two of the most important aspects of the state’s infrastructure, he said.

    Funding for the water plan has not been identified, Hickenlooper said. The governor said he is looking for a bipartisan approach to funding the water plan, in part to avoid the sensitivity that people have to being asked to pay more taxes. That could include, he said, using severance taxes.

    But it would take a structural change to how severance taxes are levied to raise the kind of revenue anticipated to cover the state’s share of the water plan costs: around $100 million per year for the next 30 years, beginning in 2020.

    Hickenlooper explained the state has some of the lowest severance taxes in the nation. And that hasn’t gotten any better after a 2016 lawsuit from BP that challenged certain deductions on oil and gas equipment. BP won that lawsuit, which forced the state to tap tens of millions of dollars from severance taxes to cover not only BP’s deductions but that of other oil and gas companies. That lawsuit exposed structural problems in the way severance taxes are collected, Hickenlooper said.

    A structural change to severance taxes is something the General Assembly will have to deal with, most likely through a ballot measure, the governor added.

    The idea of using severance tax money for the water plan isn’t that far-fetched an idea. Those dollars have been going to water projects for years, mostly to water providers for infrastructure and through grants and loans, although in small amounts. And severance taxes have been tapped directly to fund the initial implementation of the water plan, in areas such as alternative transfers of water in agriculture, conservation and water efficiency. But the state has, in times of trouble, also raided the severance tax fund to cover shortfalls in the budget, to the tune of $322 million in the past two recessions.

    Hickenlooper said he believes the oil and gas industry will not stand in the way if the state seeks higher severance taxes, based on conversations he’s had with oil and gas CEOs. “They’re not complaining” about how much severance tax they pay in Colorado, especially after winning the BP court case.

    Pitkin County population outlook

    The Roaring Fork River bounding down the Grottos on Thursday, June 16, 2016, after the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed. Photo Brent Gardner-Smith (Aspen Journalism).

    From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

    Pitkin County is part of a cluster of counties on the Western Slope and central mountains that is projected to grow by between 5,000 and 20,000 residents between now and 2050.

    Pitkin County is on the low end of that range, according to “The Population of Colorado,” a study completed by the demographer’s office in November.

    The county’s population was 18,006 last year. By 2050 it is projected to grow to 23,209, the study said. That’s an increase of 5,203 residents, or 29 percent…

    Regardless of how growth in Pitkin County shakes out, its neighbors are expected to grow at a faster clip. Garfield and Eagle counties are expected to gain about 65 percent in population between 2020 and 2050.

    Eagle County is forecast to swell from 57,571 residents in 2020 to a population of 94,459 by 2050.

    Garfield County is expected to balloon from 64,119 in 2020 to 105,711 by year 2050…

    In the bigger picture of Colorado population growth, Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties are dwarfed by the changes expected in counties of the Front Range. Denver, El Paso, Arapahoe, Adams, Weld and Larimer are all expected to gain more than 200,000 residents by 2050. Boulder, Jefferson, Douglas and Pueblo counties are close behind with estimated growth between 50,001 and 200,000 residents.