Natural gas and wind energy killed coal, not ‘war on coal’ — @CUBoulderNews

Colorado Green, located between Springfield and Lamar, was Colorado’s first, large wind farm. Photo/Allen Best

Here’s the release from the University of Colorado (Andrew Sorensen):

Cheap natural gas prices and the increasing availability of wind energy are pummeling the coal industry more than regulation, according to a new economic analysis from the University of Colorado Boulder and North Carolina State University.

Co-lead author Daniel Kaffine, CU Boulder associate professor in economics, looked at natural gas, wind and coal-fired power generation across 20 U.S. states from 2008 to 2013 in the study, which was published in the American Economic Journal this month.

The study found a “significant” link between plummeting natural gas prices, increased wind generation capability and the drop-off in U.S. coal burning.

“While either factor in isolation would have cut into coal’s share of the market, the combination of the two factors proved to be a potent one-two punch,” Kaffine said.

When the researchers applied 2013 natural gas prices and wind generation levels to the 2008 energy market, they found utilities likely would have cut coal-fired generation overnight. That suggests federal regulations like the 2014 Clean Power Plan have not been main drivers in the decline of coal-generated electricity in the U.S.

“The biggest single factor here is the decline in natural gas prices due to advances in drilling and production technologies used in natural gas extraction,” Kaffine said. “To the extent there is a ‘war on coal’, it’s a war being fought primarily in the marketplace between gas and coal.”

Coal-fired generation, according to the paper, dropped roughly 25 percent from 2007 to 2013, while natural gas prices decreased dramatically, largely due to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Wind generation increased over that period thanks to state-level renewable energy portfolio standards and declining costs.

The study, The Fall of Coal: Joint Impacts of Fuel Prices and Renewables on Generation and Emissions, found natural gas prices had a larger impact on nationwide coal-fired generation than wind, but geography plays a factor Kaffine said.

“In the eastern U.S., where wind generation is less prominent and natural gas was particularly cheap, the fall in coal generation is almost completely driven by declining natural gas prices,” Kaffine explained. “However, in the central part of the U.S., wind played a more important role, though was still relatively less important than falling gas prices.”

Along with the blame for killing coal, natural gas and renewables also deserve some credit. According to the study, the decrease in coal burning from 2007 to 2013 curbed carbon dioxide emissions by 500 million tons annually, the equivalent of taking more than 100 million cars off the road each year.

Kaffine and his co-author Harrison Fell plan to follow up their research by diving into the local environmental impacts of wind generation in densely populated areas.

Scaling back a corrosive topic: lead pipes – News on TAP

Denver Water is pushing for a more thorough review before changing treatment methods to further minimize water corrosivity.

Source: Scaling back a corrosive topic: lead pipes – News on TAP

Water Supply Conditions Vary Widely Across #Colorado #drought #snowpack #runoff

Here’s the release from the NRCS (Brian Domonkos):

In a given year, more than half of Colorado’s annual water supply comes from seasonal mountain snowmelt. “Maximum snowpack each year is an important factor in how much water individual basins might expect because as this snow melts it drives the highest river flows of the year and a substantial portion of total annual streamflow” says Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor. Maximum snowpack values, otherwise known as peak snowpack, were mostly below to well below normal this year. The South Platte snowpack this year peaked near 90 percent of normal while the Upper Rio Grande and the combined Southwestern Colorado basins’ snowpacks peaked near 50 percent of normal. While peak timing was near normal this year at various points in April, since then nearly all mountain snowpacks have started to melt. April temperatures and lack of precipitation caused steep snowpack declines specifically in the Rio Grande and combined Southwest basins bringing snowpack to 12 percent of median on May 1. The situation is somewhat better in northern Colorado where snowpack is generally between 76 and 92 percent of normal. In between, the Gunnison river basin is at 38 percent of normal snowpack. Statewide snowpack also fell from 68 percent of normal last month to 57 percent this month.

Weather patterns typical of a La Niña year continue to deprive the southern half of Colorado of normal precipitation while allowing near to slightly below normal precipitation for the northern half of Colorado. According to mountain SNOw TELemetery (SNOTEL) stations, areas showing the greatest shortages occurred in the combined San Miguel, Dolores Animas & San Juan basins with a recorded 38 percent of average monthly precipitation this April and the Upper Rio Grande with 43 percent of normal. In stark contrast to the southern basins, near normal precipitation occurred in the northern reaches of the state including the Colorado, South Platte, & combined Yampa, White & North Platte basins, where month-to-date precipitation was 107, 94, and 98 percent of normal respectively. The Gunnison basin was on the more favorable side of the storm patterns this month receiving 78 percent of normal month-to-date precipitation, which compared to other months proved to be the second best month since the start of the water year, second only to the month of February with 107 percent of average precipitation.

Below normal snowpack peaks combined with a shortage in recent precipitation across most of the state means many watersheds in Colorado will see below normal streamflows this summer. Nowhere in the state is the low snowpack more evident than the southern half where many rivers are forecast below 50 percent of normal.

For more detailed information about May 1 mountain snowpack and streamflow forecasts refer to the May 1, 2018 Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report. For the most up to date information about Colorado snowpack and supporting water supply related information, refer to the Colorado Snow Survey website. Or contact Brian Domonkos – Brian.Domonkos@co.usda.gov – 720-544-2852.

#Drought/#Snowpack/#Runoff news: Most SNOTEL sites below 10,000 feet are melted-out

From The Aspen Daily News (Madeleine Osberger):

Rafting companies, who count novices and families among their core clientele, might actually see more customers when rapids are less intimidating and the rivers are running slower, said two people in the industry Monday. The local fly fishing industry, another popular visitor activity, also doesn’t foresee negative impacts to business, at least during the first part of summer.

“In a light snow year when rivers drop and clear sooner, it’s better for the fishing industry,” said Will Sands, senior manager at Taylor Creek Fly Shops. “In our valley there are more visitors here in June, when the water typically is too high to fish.”

The statewide rafting industry that in 2017 carried a record number of boaters — about 575,000 — has the flexibility to take advantage of the preferable flows, be they on the Arkansas, Roaring Fork or Colorado rivers, said David Costlow, executive director of the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

Aspen Whitewater Rafting owner Jim Ingram, who has commercial permits to run those rivers, agreed.

“We’re not going to see epic water. It should be decent in Slaughterhouse through June and maybe into July,” he said, using one local example.

The city of Aspen may also be proactive in reacting to the drought conditions.

During today’s city council work session, in which Aspen snowpack and stream flows will be discussed, staff is expected to recommend that a stage one water-storage resolution be adopted at the next regular council meeting, which is May 14…

A recent map produced by the U.S. Drought Monitor “identified Pitkin County as displaying mostly moderate drought conditions, with severe drought conditions in the western tip of the county and abnormally dry conditions in the northeastern tip,” wrote Margaret Medellin, the city’s utilities portfolio manager, in a memo to council members…

The snow-water equivalent in the Roaring Fork watershed as of Monday was 61 percent of median. Last year at this time it was 116 percent of median; in 2016 it was 94 percent of median and in 2015, snow-water equivalent was 76 percent of median, she said.

Measurements are taken at seven stations, ranging from Ivanhoe Lake above Ruedi Reservoir, which is a little over 100 percent of normal right now, to McClure Pass…

“All SnoTel sites below 10,000 feet are completely melted out or are reporting negligible amounts of snowpack left,” said Mitchell.

She added that the Ivanhoe reporting station has been reporting relatively high snow totals all season, but it may be at a location where wind loading occurs.

Upper Colorado, Great, Virgin River Basins: 2018 April-July forecast volumes as a percent of 1981-2010 average (50% exceedance probability forecast)

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the Colorado River is expected to carry only 43 percent of the average amount of water into Lake Powell, one of two huge reservoirs that store and distribute the river.

It’s the fifth-lowest forecast in 54 years…

But officials have said that Lake Powell and its companion, Lake Mead, will be high enough to avoid mandatory cutbacks for water users this year…

The river is under increasing stress because of rising demand and declining flows. The region has been in a drought for 18 years — long enough that some researchers say it may represent a permanent shift.

Global warming is also contributing to the reduced river flows, scientists said.

Last year’s snowfall was uneven but mostly below average across the mountains that feed the Colorado.

The western Wyoming mountains that give rise to the Green River, the Colorado’s largest tributary, received 116 percent of their average snow at the peak of the winter, Smith said.

But river valleys in southwestern Colorado ranged from 44 to 56 percent of average at their best.

“Southwest Colorado had their lowest precipitation on record,” Smith said.

One significant storm hit the Colorado River region in April, but snow fell only at the highest elevations, Smith said. Lower regions got mostly rain, and unlike snow, rain runs off immediately and can’t be as easily captured in reservoirs for later use.

Water levels in some mountain rivers will peak in the next week or so as the snow melts, Smith said. That’s earlier than usual but mostly within the normal range, he said.

West Drought Monitor May 1, 2018.

From The Produce News (Kathleen Thomas Gaspar):

As a means to cope with water shortages in Colorado’s Lower Arkansas Valley, Hirakata Farms in Rocky Ford will cut back its melon acreage this season, according to sales rep Gene Schneider.

“There’s a drought situation in the Arkansas Valley,” Schneider said. “Last year we suffered from it as well.”

He noted that water officials have told growers to plan on a 40 percent reduction in surface water.

“That means we have to cut back on acreage in most of our crops,” he said.

Schneider said in mid-April the 2018 planting, which began in late April, would see cantaloupe and seedless watermelon acres each down by 10 percent. Honeydew is down by 30 percent, he said. Acreage for the operation’s mini watermelons, which have proven to be a favorite with consumers, will remain the same.

“We know if we don’t plant and perfect the mini watermelons, we’re losing out on an important market segment,” he said. “We can grow a really tasty mini — a very flavorful watermelon — and we’re pretty happy about that,” he said.

Staggered seeded field plantings began the third week of April, and transplants were scheduled to start early May. Schneider said the majority of product comes from transplants, and 90 percent of the operation’s organic volume is from transplants.

The planting is planned for orderly harvests, with cantaloupe traditionally coming off July 17 and running through Sept. 21. Honeydew come off Aug. 1 and run through Sept. 14; watermelon, both mini and full sized, come off Aug. 3 and run through Oct. 1; and pumpkins for pie and carving come off Aug. 25 and run through the third week of October.

Dan Hobbs planting near Avondale. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

From KOAA.com (Tom Kackley):

The Town of Monument announced water restrictions will start next Tuesday and will last through the end of September this year.

The announcement applies to all Town of Monument water customers. People living at even numbered addresses will be able to water Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday while people living at odd numbered addresses will be able to water Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Watering will only be allowed on those days before 9 am. and after 5 p.m.

No outdoor watering will be allowed on Sundays.

Anyone who needs sod permits should call 719-884-8037.

The restrictions will be in place from May 15 to Sept. 30.

Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum