“…why I support Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir Expansion project” — Lurline Underbrink Curran

Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Lurline Underbrink Curran):

I would like to share why I support Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir Expansion project.

While located in Boulder County, the project obtains the water from Grand County — a county that is currently the most impacted county in the state of Colorado for transbasin diversions. You must wonder why the county and its citizens, stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin, along with Trout Unlimited support this project.

The reason is the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which is an historic agreement with statewide environmental benefits which were fought for and gained through sometimes difficult and long negotiations. It has been hailed as a new paradigm and one that will serve as an example of what can be gained when dealing with a finite resource like water. The signatories to this agreement represent the entire Colorado River Basin, and I had the honor of acting as Grand County’s lead negotiator in this agreement. I worked for Grand County for 33 years, retiring as county manager in 2015. I have lived in Grand County over 60 years and have deep roots and interest in the well-being of our waterways.

The environmental benefits gained by Grand County, which include additional flows, river ecosystem improvements, use of Denver Water’s system, participation in an adaptive management process called Learning by Doing, money for river improvements, just to name a few, are necessary to protect and enhance the Fraser and Colorado rivers. Without these benefits, these rivers will continue to degrade, with no hope of recovery or improvement.

Those who oppose the project offer no solutions to the already stressed aquatic environment of the Fraser and Colorado rivers. Through the Learning By Doing format and a public private partnership, partners have already implemented a river project on the Fraser as an example of what can be done. This project immediately produced improvements that were astounding. Colorado Parks and Wildlife can verify this claim. This essential work will not continue without the CRCA.

The impacts that are associated with the construction of the Gross Reservoir Enlargement are substantial and one sympathizes with those who will experience them, but the reality is they will end. Mitigation for the construction impacts can be applied. However, without the CRCA, the impacts to the Fraser and Colorado rivers will continue with no hope of improvement.

The environmental enhancements and mitigation that are part of the CRCA cannot be replicated without the reservoir expansion project, and the loss of these enhancements and mitigation will doom the Fraser and Colorado rivers in Grand County to environmental catastrophe.

@NASA: Twin Spacecraft to Weigh in on Earth’s Changing Water

Here’s the release from NASA (Steve Cole, Alan Buis):

A pair of new spacecraft that will observe our planet’s ever-changing water cycle, ice sheets, and crust is in final preparations for a California launch no earlier than Saturday, May 19. The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), will take over where the first GRACE mission left off when it completed its 15-year mission in 2017.

GRACE-FO will continue monitoring monthly changes in the distribution of mass within and among Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within the solid Earth itself. These data will provide unique insights into Earth’s changing climate, Earth system processes and even the impacts of some human activities, and will have far-reaching benefits to society, such as improving water resource management.

“Water is critical to every aspect of life on Earth – for health, for agriculture, for maintaining our way of living,” said Michael Watkins, GRACE-FO science lead and director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “You can’t manage it well until you can measure it. GRACE-FO provides a unique way to measure water in many of its phases, allowing us to manage water resources more effectively.”

Illustration of the NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) spacecraft, which will track changes in the distribution of Earth’s mass, providing insights into climate, Earth system processes and the impacts of some human activities. GRACE-FO is a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Like GRACE, GRACE-FO will use an innovative technique to observe something that can’t be seen directly from space. It uses the weight of water to measure its movement – even water hidden far below Earth’s surface. GRACE-FO will do this by very precisely measuring the changes in the shape of Earth’s gravity field caused by the movement of massive amounts of water, ice, and solid Earth.

“When water is underground, it’s impossible to directly observe from space. There’s no picture you can take or radar you can bounce off the surface to measure changes in that deep water,” said Watkins. “But it has mass, and GRACE-FO is almost the only way we have of observing it on large scales. Similarly, tracking changes in the total mass of the polar ice sheets is also very difficult, but GRACE-FO essentially puts a ‘scale’ under them to track their changes over time.”

At the Harris facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, one of the twin GRACE-FO satellites is integrated with the multi-satellite dispenser structure that will be used to deploy the satellites during launch.
Credits: Airbus

A Legacy of Discoveries

GRACE-FO will extend the GRACE data record an additional five years and expand its legacy of scientific achievements. GRACE chronicled the ongoing loss of mass from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and mountain glaciers. That wealth of data shed light on the key processes, short-term variability, and long-term trends that impact sea level rise, helping to improve sea level projections. The estimates of total water storage on land derived from GRACE data, from groundwater changes in deep aquifers to changes in soil moisture and surface water, are giving water managers new tools to measure the impact of droughts and monitor and forecast floods.

GRACE data also have been used to infer changes in deep ocean currents, a driving force in Earth’s climate. Its atmospheric temperature profile data, derived from measurements of how signals from the constellation of GPS satellites were bent as they traveled through the atmosphere and received by antennas on the GRACE satellites, have contributed to U.S. and European weather forecast products. GRACE data have even been used to measure changes within the solid Earth itself, including the response of Earth’s crust to the retreat of glaciers since the last Ice Age, and the impact of large earthquakes.

According to Frank Webb, GRACE-FO project scientist at JPL, the new mission will provide invaluable observations of long-term climate-related mass changes.

“The only way to know for sure whether observed multi-year trends represent long-term changes in mass balance is to extend the length of the observations,” Webb said.

An Orbiting Cat and Mouse

Like its predecessors, the two identical GRACE-FO satellites will function as a single instrument. The satellites orbit Earth about 137 miles (220 kilometers) apart, at an initial altitude of about 305 miles (490 kilometers). Each satellite continually sends microwave signals to the other to accurately measure changes in the distance between them. As they fly over a massive Earth feature, such as a mountain range or underground aquifer, the gravitational pull of that feature tugs on the satellites, changing the distance separating them. By tracking changes in their separation distance with incredible accuracy – to less than the thickness of a human hair – the satellites are able to map these regional gravity changes.

A global positioning system receiver is used to track each spacecraft’s position relative to Earth’s surface, and onboard accelerometers record non-gravitational forces on the spacecraft, such as atmospheric drag and solar radiation. These data are combined to produce monthly maps of the regional changes in global gravity and corresponding near-surface mass variations, which primarily reflect changes in the distribution of water mass in Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets.

In addition, GRACE-FO will test an experimental Laser Ranging Interferometer, an instrument that could increase the precision of measurements between the two spacecraft, by a factor of 10 or more, for future missions similar to GRACE. The interferometer, developed by a German/American instrument team, will be the first in-space demonstration of laser interferometry between satellites.

“The Laser Ranging Interferometer is an excellent example of a great partnership,” said Frank Flechtner, GFZ’s GRACE-FO project manager. “I’m looking forward to analyzing these innovative inter-satellite ranging data and their impact on gravity field modeling.”

GRACE-FO will be launched into orbit with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites on a commercially procured SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This unique “rideshare” launch will first deploy GRACE-FO, then the Falcon 9 second stage will continue to a higher orbit to deploy the Iridium satellites.

GRACE-FO continues a successful partnership between NASA and Germany’s GFZ, with participation by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). JPL manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information on GRACE-FO, visit:


Time to demystify your sprinkler system – News on TAP

Don’t just ‘set it and forget it.’ You may find yourself in The Twilight Zone.

Source: Time to demystify your sprinkler system – News on TAP

Summer watering rules — no sweat – News on TAP

Declining outdoor watering violations highlight how Denver is embracing water efficiency.

Source: Summer watering rules — no sweat – News on TAP

Rules are made to be broken, except this one – News on TAP

Summer watering rules run from May 1 to Oct. 1 and promote healthy lawns

Source: Rules are made to be broken, except this one – News on TAP

The latest “E-Newsletter” is hot off the presses from the Hutchins Water Center

Lake Powell April 12, 2017. Photo credit Patti Weeks via Earth Science Picture of the day.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Powell Forecast (USBR)

Expected Operations

The operation of Lake Powell and Lake Mead in this April 2018 24-Month Study is pursuant to the December 2007 Record of Decision on Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead (Interim Guidelines), and reflects the 2018 Annual Operating Plan (AOP). Pursuant to the Interim Guidelines, the August 2017 24-Month Study projections of the January 1, 2018, system storage and reservoir water surface elevations set the operational tier for the coordinated operation of Lake Powell and Lake Mead during 2018.

Consistent with Section 6.B of the Interim Guidelines, Lake Powell’s operations in water year 2018 will be governed by the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier. With an 8.23 million acre-feet (maf) release from Lake Powell in water year 2018, the April 2018 24-Month Study projects the end of water year elevation at Lake Powell to be above 3,575 feet above sea level (feet), and the end of water year elevation at Lake Mead to be below 1,075 feet. Therefore, in accordance with Section 6.B.4 of the Interim Guidelines, Lake Powell operations will shift to balancing releases for the remainder of water year 2018. Under Section 6.B.4, the contents of Lake Powell and Lake Mead will be balanced by the end of the water year, but not more than 9.0 maf and not less than 8.23 maf shall be released from Lake Powell. Based on the most probable inflow forecast, this April 24- Month Study projects a balancing release of 9.0 maf in water year 2018; however, the actual release in water year 2018 will depend on hydrology in the remainder of water year and will range from 8.23 to 9.0 maf. The projected release from Lake Powell in water year 2018 will be updated each month throughout the remainder of the water year.

Consistent with Section 2.B.5 of the Interim Guidelines, the Intentionally Created Surplus (ICS) Surplus Condition is the criterion governing the operation of Lake Mead for calendar year 2018.
The Interim Guidelines are available for download at: https://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/strategies/RecordofDecision.pdf. The 2018 AOP is available for download at: https://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/g4000/aop/AOP18.pdf

Beavers have, “immense ecological value” — Ben Goldfarb

North American beaver (Castor canadensis)

From The Revelator (Ben Goldfarb):

Whatever destruction beavers inflict, however, is far outweighed by their immense ecological value. In the course of reporting my book, Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, I’ve witnessed these miraculous mammals helping people tackle just about every environmental problem under the sun. In droughty Nevada beaver ponds are raising water tables, sub-irrigating pastures and helping ranchers feed their cattle. In Washington they’re storing water to compensate for declining snowpack. In Rhode Island they’re filtering out agricultural pollution. According to one report, restoring beavers to a single river basin, Utah’s Escalante, would provide tens of millions of dollars in benefits each year.

And beavers don’t just furnish us with ecosystem services — they also sustain a vast menagerie. From wood frogs to warblers, mink to mergansers, sage grouse to salmon, there’s hardly a creature in North America that doesn’t seek sustenance in beaver-built ponds, marshes or meadows. In North Carolina biologists are even mimicking beavers to create habitat for the St. Francis satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci), an endangered butterfly whose preferred sedges flourish only in sunlit, beaver-sculpted wetlands.

The conundrum, then, is this: What will it take to square beavers’ proclivity for nurturing life with their tendency to damage infrastructure? How do we reap their benefits without incurring their costs?

Last week I traveled to the town of Agawam, Mass., for some hands-on training in castorid coexistence. My companion for the day was Mike Callahan, founder of the nonprofit Beaver Institute. Since 1999 Callahan has installed more than 1,300 flow devices — pipe-and-fence contraptions that control beaver flooding without requiring trappers to kill the offending rodents. If you appreciate having beavers in your backyard but aren’t keen on snorkeling through your basement, a flow device might just be the solution you’re looking for.

On this day the conflict fell along a road: Beavers had wedged gooey wads of cattails, sticks and mud into a culvert, preventing the adjacent wetland from draining through the pipe. If the water rose too high, Callahan explained, it could wash out the road. To forestall that disaster, we assembled a rectangular wire fence, its sides 16 feet long, and pounded its posts into the mud at the wetland’s bottom. As we worked the vibrato screech of red-winged blackbirds and jackhammering of pileated woodpeckers attested to the pond’s fecundity. The completed flow device effectively surrounded the culvert, preventing beavers from plugging the aperture. (Other designs incorporate concealed pipes to keep water flowing without alerting rodents to the source of the leak.) While beavers would likely be tempted to dam along the fence, Callahan hoped its considerable length would discourage them.

“The goal is to end up with a truce,” he told me.

Callahan’s apparatuses might look simple, but they’re sufficient to thwart nature’s most tireless builders. In one 2005 paper, Callahan found that his culvert-protecting flow devices succeeded 97 percent of the time. Other researchers have observed equally impressive results. A 2008 study found that for every dollar the Virginia Department of Transportation spent on flow devices along the state’s roads, it reaped more than eight dollars in savings on road maintenance and beaver trapping — over $370,000 altogether. And beaver researcher Glynnis Hood recently calculated that a dozen flow devices installed in a wetland park near Edmonton could save Alberta’s government around $180,000.

Even Wildlife Services, beavers’ bete noire, shows fitful signs of coming around. In a 2013 review of various flow device models, Wildlife Services biologists acknowledged that “tools and techniques are currently available to integrate non-lethal beaver management into landscape-scale management plans.” Although the agency’s trappers have been notably slow to apply flow devices in the field, there’s reason to hope that future springs will bring lower kill counts.

“To keep every cog and wheel,” wrote Aldo Leopold, “is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” Beavers, the animals who double as ecosystems, are among our most important cogs, fundamental to the conservation of North America’s water, wetlands and wildlife. Here’s hoping our tinkering gets more intelligent in the years to come.