GOCO funds two San Luis Valley projects

1869 Map of San Luis Parc of Colorado and Northern New Mexico. “Sawatch Lake” at the east of the San Luis Valley is in the closed basin. The Blanca Wetlands are at the south end of the lake.

From Great Outdoors Colorado via The Alamosa News:

The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board on Thursday announced funding awards for two San Luis Valley projects.

GOCO awarded the City of Alamosa $347,794 for construction of a community park in the Montaña Azul subdivision and awarded Costilla County a $225,274 grant to add approximately 125 acres to Batenburg Meadows, creating permanent access to public lands for residents along Rito Seco Creek. The projects were two of 14 selected for funding from a pool of 59, with funding requested totaling more than triple what was available.

The GOCO Local Park and Outdoor Recreation grant for Alamosa will help complete the first phase of building Montaña Azul Park, pictured above, which currently serves as a stormwater retention area. After development, the 5.6-acre park will continue to store storm water but will also provide close-to-home recreation for residents. The dual-purpose nature of the park makes it the first of its kind for the city.

The park is within walking distance of all Montaña Azul residents, who currently have no neighborhood park and who have cited transportation as a barrier to recreation, and is a short distance from Alamosa Elementary School, which will encourage more children and their families to play.

As part of phase one, centered around development of the eastern half of the park, the city will create an irrigated, youth soccer field, which will allow for multiple uses beyond soccer including football, Frisbee ®, and kite-flying. It will build a concrete basketball court, a quarter-mile walking track with native plantings, a community pavilion and shade structures, and an adaptive, ADA-accessible playground.

Construction will begin in April, and the park is slated to open to the public this fall.

To date, GOCO has invested nearly $7 million in projects in Alamosa County and has conserved more than 10,000 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported the Alamosa Multi-Use Pavilion and Ice Rink, the Cole Park Skatepark, and the Recreation Inspires Opportunity (Alamosa RIO!) effort to get kids and families outside.

For the Costilla County project, the county has partnered with Colorado Open Lands to acquire 14 parcels comprising 125 acres of land, a particularly rare opportunity to acquire forested land for public use. Expanding Batenburg Meadows was identified by local residents as a top priority, and expanding the park will legitimize and increase public access.

Youth Conservation Camp has long been a rite of passage for generations of Costilla County youth to learn how to fish, get their hunter safety cards, and learn about local wildlife, but the program was in danger of ending due to accidental trespassing. Acquiring the additional 125 acres of land will solve that issue not only for the camp but for local residents who use the area for picnicking, fishing, and collecting firewood and piñon nuts.

Expanding public access along Rito Seco Creek will allow the county to more effectively manage wildfire risk and overall forest health. Permanently protecting the land from subdivision will also conserve wildlife habitat for elk, deer, beaver, and turkey.

In addition to the GOCO grant, $225,000 from the US Forest Service will help Costilla County complete the land acquisitions. Costilla County expects to complete all 14 acquisitions by the end of 2018 and plans to partner with San Luis Valley Great Outdoors to build a trail connecting Rito Seco Park to Batenburg Meadows.

To date, GOCO has invested $10.1 million in projects in Costilla County and has conserved more than 5,000 acres of land there. GOCO funding recently supported the Brownie Hills conservation project, which will create critical public lands access in the area. GOCO grants have also supported the Sangre de Cristo Greenbelt Trail and the county’s outdoor fitness center and exercise park.

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,000 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

How Water Reuse Can Help Meet the West’s Water Needs — @wradv

Water reuse via GlobalWarming.com.

From Western Resource Advocates (Laura Belanger):

The West faces a water supply gap, and the reasons are simple. Our quickly growing cities and towns are adding demands on our already stretched water supplies. Water reuse can help us fill the gap.

So what is water reuse and why is it important? First, it’s important to understand the difference between the two primary types of reuse: potable and non-potable reuse. Many states in the West currently allow for non-potable – or purple pipe – reuse for things like landscape irrigation, industrial purposes, commercial laundries, and fire protection, among other things. But a majority of purple pipe reuse is for outdoor landscape irrigation which really only benefits us during irrigation months (less than half of the year). But with potable reuse – where water is treated to very high quality standards to ensure it’s safe and often blended with other supplies – that water can be used anytime, anywhere and for anything. Potable reuse helps stretch supplies and meet more demand with the same volume of water. And it doesn’t require an entirely separate set of pipes (purple) to deliver it.

Western Resource Advocates is working with water utilities, local and state agencies, and other organizations to help increase water reuse around the West to address this growing problem. In Colorado specifically, WRA is working with a diverse group of stakeholders to help develop regulations for direct potable reuse and advance legislation to increase reuse to help the state’s water supplies. Recycled water has been used for decades in Colorado and states across the nation and has long been proven to be a safe, cost-effective tool for additional water supply. In fact, the State of the Rockies Poll found that 78% of westerners “support using our current water supply more wisely by encouraging more conservation and increasing water recycling.“

Currently, WRA and our partners are working to advance four bills in the Colorado legislature that would allow recycled water to be used for:

  • toilet flushing,
  • marijuana cultivation,
  • edible crop and community garden irrigation, and
  • growth of industrial hemp.
  • Other states, like Florida, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, currently allow for recycled water to be used for toilet flushing and edible crop irrigation, and have successfully supplemented their water supplies this way. Colorado’s Water Plan also specifically calls for state agencies to identify how the state can foster increased reuse to help address growing demands, and these initiatives are a great step in that direction. By embracing water reuse for these applications and others we can help bolster our stretched water supplies, and work to help shrink the gap between those supplies and the demands of our growing cities and towns. Water reuse, in concert with other water-smart tools and strategies, can help us provide for our communities while also protecting our beloved rivers and lakes, keeping them healthy and preserving the quality of life that they afford for all of us.

    We are all neighbors along the Rio Grande — Wild Earth Guardians

    The drying riverbed of the Middle Rio Grande near the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge on April 4, 2018. Photo credit: USBR

    From Wild Earth Guardians (Jen Pelz):

    To protect the river as a whole, we must join together in a basin-wide community

    I admit that I personally had all but abandoned the 1,250 miles of the Rio Grande from Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico. It is difficult to work on more than 600 miles of the river, let alone the entire 1,896 miles. It seemed necessary for self-preservation. The reality of the problems the Rio Grande faces from source to sea is vast:

  • Climate change is predicted to reduce flows in the Rio Grande by 25 percent in Colorado, 35 percent in New Mexico, and over 50 percent in Texas and Mexico in the remainder of this century;
  • A border wall (or series of walls) could destroy connections between countries as well as migratory corridors for rare and beautiful ocelots and jaguars, among other species;
  • A 200-mile stretch of the Rio Grande known as “the forgotten reach”, between El Paso and Presido, Texas (or Ojinaga, Mexico), is already channelized and bone-dry year round;
  • Flows in the 75-mile stretch of one of America’s first Wild & Scenic Rivers—the Rio Grande from the Colorado-New Mexico state line to south of Taos, NM—is in danger of disappearing due to unsustainable use in Colorado and implementation of the Rio Grande Compact, especially during dry years; and
  • The lack of flooding and peak flows, as well as the lack of accountability of agricultural water use from the Rio Grande in central New Mexico, threatens to increase ecological damage to one of the largest contiguous cottonwood forests in the world.
  • There is no doubt the solutions to these problems are complicated and hard, but we can chart a new course for this iconic river.

    You should hear what these two rock stars of climate change have to say — The Mountain Town News

    Katharine Hayhoe. Photo credit: Allen Best

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Gina McCarthy and Katharine Hayhoe both can hold a stage like few others. McCarthy, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, brims with Boston sass, her arms slicing the air as her words pound out her arguments.

    “The simple fact of the matter is that these two actions by the (Trump) administration—to pull out of the Paris agreement and also to try to repeal the Clean Power Plan—use a fundamentally flawed strategy,” she said during a recent speech at the Climate Leadership Conference in Denver. “It is fundamentally a misread of the United States of America. It is a misread of what we care about. … They have made a serious error of judgment.”

    That error, she went on to say, was to think that a new president could stop the world from changing. “The world ain’t stopping, baby. It’s changing. You can’t look at the planet and say you’re not changing.”

    Hayhoe, who is both an atmospheric scientist and an associate professor of political science at Texas Tech, lays out her arguments with less overt fire. But she, too, dazzles, her talking points sequenced like dominoes, one tripping over into the next. She employs powerful analogies.

    “Why does climate change matter?” she asked in a speech at the same conference. She pointed out that building codes, plans for snow removal, and flood-plain planning are all based on the assumption that past intervals predict those of the future.

    “What happens if the past is no longer a reliable guide and what if the variability is changing?” she asked.

    She then showed an aerial map of West Texas, flat as few places are, and the roads that are straight as arrows. You can, she said, drive down most roads looking in the rear view mirror to guide forward movement.

    But there is a highway that, after miles and miles of straight, takes a turn. She showed a picture of that curve in West Texas. Science, she went on to say, has three very important things to say about this planetary climate curve that we’re one.

    One, the climate is curving. Weather observations made over the last 20 to 30 years clearly represent a collective change in the climate. It is now changing faster than any time in the history of human civilization.

    Science can also tell us why this is happening. It’s not because of the change in solar intensity. Sunlight has been weakening for the last 40 years. Our global climate should be cooling. Instead, it is heating rapidly. Debris spewed into the atmosphere by volcanoes also fails to explain what is being observed.

    “There is no convincing alternative explanation to the warming that we see today—and trust me, we have looked at all of them,” she said.

    “There is no analog in the last 100 million years to what we see happening.”

    What does explain this rapid warming is the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, caused primarily by the exhausts from combustion of fossil fuels.

    The third thing science tells us is that the risk is serious.

    “We care about a changing climate because it takes the threats we face today and exacerbates them.” We are already, she added, in the crosshairs of change because of the impacts of floods, droughts, wildfire, heat waves, and hurricanes. They are natural events, “but they are being amplified. “

    This gives us three choices: mitigation, adaptation, and suffering, said Hayhoe.

    Hear and see Katharine Hayhoe talk about “Bridging the Gap between the Science and Stakeholders.”

    McCarthy, now a professor at Harvard University, was EPA administrator when the Clean Power Plan was drawn up. In Denver before her keynote address, she told reporters she doesn’t think the Trump administration will be able to cast aside the Clean Power Plan, as Trump has promised.

    “This is not going to be a downhill glide for them. It will be a big slog, and it will be in court for a very long time if they choose to do it,” said McCarthy, minus the theatrics but no less analytical.

    She said that the Clean Power Plan was carefully premised in science, every step taken to create a sturdy legal foundation. In issuing the rule in 2015, the EPA estimated it would reduce greenhouse gas emission from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

    In fact, by 2016, emissions from the energy sector had fallen 14 percent compared to 2005 levels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. But more narrowly within the electricity sector of energy, they were 25 percent below 2005 levels, according to a 2017 Congressional Research Service report. This occurred even as prices of wind and solar began tumbling with comparable price reductions for storage.

    Carl Pope, the former long-term executive director of the Sierra Club, drew from “Climate of Hope,” the book he and co-author Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor. In it, they argued that there was “actually nothing the president of the United States could do to prevent” the United States from its rapid adoption of a non-carbon-based economy. “So far, we look like pretty good prophets,” said Pope.

    The United States has continued to cut its carbon dioxide emissions, he added, and the pace of retirement of coal-fired power plants has accelerated.

    “We are retiring coal plants twice as fast since Donald Trump became president as we were in the period before Trump became president.”

    Transportation, now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, is also changing. Electric vehicles are coming on like a tsunami, as one speaker at the conference said. Pope pointed out that the adoption rate is accelerating. Each year, new predictions are issued for 2030. Each year is 20 percent more aggressive than the year before.

    See and hear Carl Pope.

    Pope’s observations jibed with those of McCarthy in her remarks with reporters. “The world is changing,” she said. “Are we losing any momentum? Maybe, but I haven’t see that happen yet.”

    But if the changes the Clean Power Plan sought to instigate are already happening, what should happen now is investment for innovation and technologies of the future. She said restarting the Clean Power Plan will not be enough for the next presidential administration.

    Several hours later, in a keynote address at the conference, McCarthy was back to her sassy self before a friendly, even adoring audience. Here, she skewered a favorite argument of environmentalists. Saving the planet, she said, is not an effective political argument.

    “The planet will be just fine. We won’t be able to live on it. That’s a significant clarification,” she said.

    “We need to stop talking to people about the health of the planet. I don’t give a damn about the health of the planet. I give a damn about my kids’ and my future. That is what we need to remind people of. That’s what this is all about. That’s what the Paris agreement was all about.”

    It being an awards banquet, McCarthy then swiveled to recognize the businesses being recognized for their efforts to effect an energy transition. That was a theme of the conference, perhaps a play to donors. But conveniently, there’s abundant evidence that businesses—along with cities and states —are, in fact, driving the change in the absence of federal leadership.

    “We are celebrating companies that are not really doing business as usual,” said McCarthy. “They are actually doing business as unusual. That’s what we want to celebrate. That’s not the same old, same old. Businesses, cities and states are stepping up.”

    The most effective action, especially in the environmental realm, has been driven by the grassroots. “It takes a lot of us working together,” she said.

    And then she also had this key message, another theme of the conference: Government has a key role in helping disadvantaged sectors. McCarthy spoke to this “sense of equity that government can provide when we level the playing field. ,I want everybody’s world to be stepped up, everybody’s world to be elevated.”

    Hayhoe had come at the same topic a little differently. A self-described evangelical Christian, she said part of the discussion needs to be about suffering, what does it look like around the world?

    She also talked about how to talk about climate change with those who may be dubious about the need for changes. She suggested there are ample opportunities, because the changing climate “affects everything that is already high on our priority list.”

    To create a common ground with disbelievers or those who don’t think it’s a problem, first find out what they do indeed care about it.

    If it’s about water, then talk about water variability. If they care about their kids, talk about how it can affect their kids. If they’re birders or people of faith – almost everything that people consider important offers a shared value for continued conversation. Then talk about solutions. “It’s everything to do with what they perceive to be solutions.”

    Partnering to Ensure Healthy Farms on a Healthy River — @WaltonFamilyFdn

    The Grand Valley Irrigation Canal, in Palisade, heading for Grand Junction. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Walton Family Foundation (Sheldon Alberts):

    In Colorado, Farmers and Conservationists Unite to Save Water, Protect Agriculture

    High above the fertile fields of Colorado’s Grand Valley, a century-old dam stretches almost 550-feet across the mighty Colorado River.

    For 100 years, the water stored behind the gates of this iconic ‘roller’ dam – an early 20th century engineering marvel built by the US Bureau of Reclamation – has been diverted down dozens of canals and pipeline to irrigate 33,000 acres of farmland on the state’s western slope.

    Water is why agriculture remains the engine of the economy in Grand Valley. Its reliable supply is the only reason peach orchards and corn and vineyards can thrive in this arid desert landscape at all.

    Mark Harris intends to keep it that way.

    As general manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association – the largest irrigation provider in the region – Mark’s job is to make sure he delivers the water his member farmers need to grow their crops.

    As population growth in the West fuels higher demand for water, and a changing climate increases scarcity, Mark and the GVWUA are embracing creative conservation measures – such as water banks –designed to keep the Colorado River flowing and western farms and ranches in business.

    “If you have two dry years here on the Colorado River, your toes are sticking out over the edge of the abyss from a water supply perspective,” says Mark. “We have good water here. We have a high percentage of very senior water rights. But that doesn’t make any difference if there isn’t any water in the river.”

    Concerns about water have grown steadily over the past 18 years as the West suffered through one of the most prolonged droughts in history.

    In the Colorado River’s Upper Basin, farmers and ranchers began to think the unthinkable: Would they ever be forced to curtail water use, or pressured to sell water rights, because of shortages in major cities like Denver, Phoenix or Los Angeles.

    “If we’ve got 40 million people down the river from us, looking up the river at our water, we definitely have a target on our back as far as being a potential place to look for water,” Mark says. “We wanted to get ahead of this curve a little bit. We needed to be thinking about how we protect our interests.”

    Seeking to avoid the potential chaos created by a shortage, the GVWUA is working closely with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), federal and state agencies and private funders, including the Walton Family Foundation, to test the viability of water banks as a way to prevent future crises.

    This market-based approach to conservation pays willing ranchers and farmers to temporarily limit their water use, giving them the opportunity to lease their water without selling their rights.

    In 2017, 10 Grand Valley farmers who enrolled in the Conserved Consumptive Use Pilot Project withdrew 1,250 acres of land from agricultural production, saving water they would have otherwise used to irrigate crops.

    The conserved water – about 1 billion gallons, or 3,200 acre feet – was not sent in the ditch to irrigate farms. Instead it was sent through a different ditch to the association’s hydropower plant, and returned back to the Colorado River just upstream of critical habitat for threatened native fish species. The conserved water benefited hydropower revenues and endangered fish, and bolstered storage at Lake Powell, the main reservoir in the Colorado River’s Upper Basin.

    “We are attempting to create conservation benefit that’s economically sustainable. The farmer is made whole. They receive income in lieu of his crop that he would have grown,” says Mark.

    “Instead of growing corn, or wheat, or alfalfa, on those acres, they’re actually creating available water. That’s the yield.”

    In addition to compensating farmers, the Grand Valley Water Users Association received payments to fund irrigation infrastructure improvements that will increase efficiency and keep even more water in the river.

    The $2 million program was conceived and developed over several years by the Colorado Water Bank Work Group, which brought together water users and conservationists, groups often at odds with each other.

    Taylor Hawes, director of TNC’s Colorado River Program, says farmers are willing to explore ways to protect the river because they can protect themselves in the process.

    “The one thing all water users want is certainty. Farmers and ranchers understand that if a crisis occurs on the Colorado River, they will be some of the first impacted,” she says. “They are interested in crafting a solution proactively rather than having a solution imposed on them.”

    Those scented products you love? @NOAA study finds they can cause air pollution

    Here’s the release from NOAA (Theo Stein):

    Emissions from volatile chemical products like perfumes, paints and other scented consumer items now rival vehicles as a pollution source in greater Los Angeles, according to a surprising new NOAA-led study.

    Even though 15 times more petroleum is consumed as fuel than is used as ingredients in industrial and consumer products, the amount of chemical vapors emitted to the atmosphere in scented products is roughly the same, said lead author Brian McDonald, a CIRESoffsite link scientist working at NOAA.

    The chemical vapors, known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs, react with sunlight to form ozone pollution, and, as this study finds, also react with other chemicals in the atmosphere to form fine particulates in the air.

    “As the transportation sector gets cleaner, these other sources of VOCs become more and more important,” McDonald said. “A lot of stuff we use in our everyday lives can impact air pollution.”

    Pollution sources then, and now

    Since adoption of the Clean Air Act in 1970, air quality programs have focused on controlling transportation-related pollution emitted by everything from cars and trucks to oil and gas refineries. But McDonald and his colleagues couldn’t reconcile atmospheric measurements made over Los Angeles in 2010 with estimates of transportation emissions. So, they reassessed urban pollution sources by cataloging chemical production statistics, evaluating indoor air quality measurements made by others and then determining if the new information filled the gap.

    All emissions are not created equal

    The disproportionate air-quality impact of chemical products is because of a fundamental difference between those products and fuels, said NOAA atmospheric scientist Jessica Gilman, a co-author of the new paper.

    Fuel systems minimize the loss of gasoline to evaporation in order to to maximize energy generated by combustion, she said. But common products like paints and perfumes are literally engineered to evaporate.

    “Perfume and other scented products are designed so that you or your neighbor can enjoy the aroma,” Gilman said. “You don’t do this with gasoline.”

    A pollution source hiding in plain smell?
    Gilman added that researchers studying the problem ended up taking a close look at things they once took for granted. “Some of my colleagues at NOAA literally spent days watching paint dry,” said said. “We learned a lot.”

    While the focus of this study was Los Angeles, the authors believe the results are applicable to all major urban centers.

    “We hope this study spurs collaboration between atmospheric scientists, chemical engineers and public health researchers, to deliver the best science to decision-makers,” said McDonald. “The strategies that worked in the past might not necessarily work as well in the future.”

    Variability of hydrological #droughts in the conterminous United States, 1951 through 2014

    Click here to go to the USGS website to read the report. Here’s the abstract:


    Spatial and temporal variability in the frequency, duration, and severity of hydrological droughts across the conterminous United States (CONUS) was examined using monthly mean streamflow measured at 872 sites from 1951 through 2014. Hydrological drought is identified as starting when streamflow falls below the 20th percentile streamflow value for 3 consecutive months and ending when streamflow remains above the 20th percentile streamflow value for 3 consecutive months. Mean drought frequency for all aggregated ecoregions in CONUS is 16 droughts per 100 years. Mean drought duration is 5 months, and mean drought severity is 39 percent on a scale ranging from 0 percent to 100 percent (with 100% being the most severe). Hydrological drought frequency is highest in the Western Mountains aggregated ecoregion and lowest in the Eastern Highlands, Northeast, and Southeast Plains aggregated ecoregions. Hydrological drought frequencies of 17 or more droughts per 100 years were found for the Central Plains, Southeast Coastal Plains, Western Mountains, and Western Xeric aggregated ecoregions. Drought duration and severity indicate spatial variability among the sites, but unlike drought frequency, do not show coherent spatial patterns. A comparison of an older period (1951–82) with a recent period (1983–2014) indicates few sites have statistically significant changes in drought frequency, drought duration, or drought severity at a 95-percent confidence level.

    Agricultural resiliency in the face of #drought

    The headwaters of the Yampa River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From the CSU Extension Office (Todd Hagenbuch) via Steamboat Today:

    If it feels dry and warm this winter, it’s because it is. While our snowpack water equivalent is lower than average in Northwest Colorado, it’s the warm temperatures that make it feel like even less snow as it has melted and condensed the snow considerably. In fact, every point west of the Continental Divide, from Idaho to New Mexico, has experienced unseasonably warm temperatures all winter, further exacerbating our low moisture levels.

    When comparisons are made on percentage of snow level or temperatures, they are measured against an average, even if it is sometimes listed as a percentage of normal. The reality in our area is that normal weather is variable, really variable.

    So how do landowners and agricultural producers make themselves resilient to dramatic weather?

  • Make a grazing plan for the longterm. Plan to have enough pasture for your animals no matter what happens. Yes, you may not use it all to maximum effectiveness every year, but having land in reserve for dry periods pays dividends in the longterm. Range grasses overgrazed even one year will lead to long-term, decreased production. Stressed grasses take even longer to recover from grazing, so allowing plenty of time for grass to rest during the growing season is critical, too.
  • Cull animals as appropriate while preserving genetics. If times get tough and you need to reduce the amount of forage consumed on your property, it may be time to cut numbers. Older, larger animals take more resources than smaller, younger ones, so consider that when culling. If you’ve raised your own replacement livestock, then keeping heifers/ewes and young bulls/rams with the same genetic makeup as the older animals allows you to keep the genes you’ve worked hard on promoting while reducing the forage required to keep the herd going.
  • Take advantage of moisture when it’s more likely to come. Consider taking on seeding projects and fertilization in the fall, when winter snows are more likely to guarantee moisture than unpredictable spring rains. Fertilizer depends on moisture, so move it into the soil profile quickly after application. Applying it right before snow-up helps guarantee it will move into the soil before dry air can cause volatilization of the nitrogen you’re trying to supply to your plants.
  • Use water wisely, for conservation sake and for better grass. Grass plants do not want to be wet all of the time, but do need water. Thoroughly soaking grass then letting it dry for a period of time before wetting it again helps grass remain resilient and helps your pasture retain the grasses that are best for grazing, not sedges and other water-loving plants. If you have little water, you’ll be more likely to manage it well if you’ve been practicing your irrigation skills in times of plenty.
  • Always plan for the unthinkable. Forest fires and other natural disasters can happen any summer. Be prepared with an evacuation plan for yourself, family and animals. Share the plan with your family and neighbors, and find out what their plans are. Practice when possible and make sure that everyone is on the same page so when the time comes, you’re ready.
  • There is only so much one can do to thwart the challenges Mother Nature throws at us. But thinking through possible scenarios and having a drought mitigation plan in mind before disaster strikes is paramount. Weather variability and extreme events are here to stay, and by planning ahead, you can assure that you can weather whatever comes our way.

    Todd Hagenbuch is the interim county director and agriculture agent for the CSU Extension office.

    2018 Protect Our Winters Economic Report

    Click here to read the report. Here’s the executive summary:


    In mountain towns across the United States that rely on winter tourism, snow is currency. For snow lovers and the winter sports industry, predictions of a future with warmer winters, reduced snowfall, and shorter snow seasons is inspiring them to innovate, increase their own efforts to address emissions, and speak publicly on the urgent need for action.

    This report examines the economic contribution of winter snow sports tourism to U.S. national and state-level economies. In a 2012 analysis, Protect Our Winters and the Natural Resources Defense Council found that the winter sports tourism industry generates $12.2 billion and 23 million Americans participate in winter sports annually. That study found that changes in the winter season driven by climate change were costing the downhill ski resort industry approximately $1.07 billion in aggregated revenue over high and low snow years over the last decade.

    This analysis updates the 2012 study and furthers our understanding of how warming temperatures have impacted the industry since 2001, what the economic value of the industry is today (2015-2016) and what changes we can expect in the future under high and low emissions scenarios.

    Taking another look at the changing winter sports tourism sector in America, we find:

    • In the winter season of 2015–2016, more than 20 million people participated in downhill skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling, with a total of 52.8 million skiing and snowboarding days, and 11.6 million snowmobiling days.

    • These snowboarders, skiers and snowmobilers added an estimated $11.3 billion in economic value to the U.S. economy, through spending at ski resorts, hotels, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and gas stations.

    • We identify a strong positive relationship between skier visits and snow cover and/ or snow water equivalent. During high snow years, our analysis shows increased participation levels in snow sports result in more jobs and added economic value. In low snow years, participation drops, resulting in lost jobs and reduced revenue. The effects of low snow years impact the economy more dramatically than those of high snow years.

    • While skier visits averaged 55.4 million nationally between 2001 and 2016, skier visits during the five highest snow years were 3.8 million higher than the 2001-2016 average and skier visits were 5.5 million lower than average during the five lowest snow years.

    • Low snow years have negative impacts on the economy. We found that the increased skier participation levels in high snow years meant an extra $692.9 million in value added and 11,800 extra jobs compared to the 2001–2016 average. In low snow years, reduced participation decreased value added by over $1 billion and cost 17,400 jobs compared to an average season.

    • Climate change could impact consumer surplus associated with winter recreation, reducing ski visits and per day value perceived by skiers.

    • Ski resorts are improving their sustainability practices and their own emissions while also finding innovative ways to address low-snowfall and adapt their business models.

    The winter sports economy is important for the vitality of U.S. mountain communities. This report shows the urgency for the US to deploy solutions to reduce emissions and presents a roadmap for the winter sports industry to take a leading role in advocating for solutions.


    This report is about the challenge that climate change poses to winter sports economies, but in the end, it’s about the impact warming is having on snowsports themselves. Which brings up an important question related to climate justice: Who cares? In the last year, climate-enhanced disasters—the sorts of catastrophes we can expect more of as the world continues to warm—have had a tremendous impact on human beings’ ability to simply survive, let alone ski.

    In the face of disasters like we saw in Puerto Rico or Houston this year which included the loss of lives, grid shut-downs, health crises, and housing crises, why worry at all about snowsports?

    To many Americans, the fading of winter is a visible reality, and the consequences create an emotional reaction connected to a sense of place and personal experience. Talking about snow is one particularly accessible way to engage the American population on an issue that has been viciously difficult to bring to the fore. By protecting winter and snow in mountain communities, we are also protecting the most vulnerable communities and connecting both. We hope that this report will help galvanize all Americans to act on climate —for skiing, snowboarding, and snowball fights, sure, but most importantly for a safer, more equitable future for all. Snowpack doesn’t only support winter sports, it also serves as a water reservoir and increases the albedo effect.

    Ultimately, winter sports join ranks with arts and culture, literature, music and song, to create the space for reflection that enables citizenry to care about more than just themselves and their powder turns, but also about what their role is in society. Losing snow to a warming world when we have human innovation and all of the technology at hand to save it, would be a greater loss than pure numbers can quanitfy.

    A revolution in hydropower makes waves in rural Colorado — @HighCountryNews

    From The High Country News (Carl Segerstrom):

    Big dams were the hydro giants of yesteryear. The future of hydropower is small.

    This story is a part of the ongoing Back 40 series, where HCN reporters look at national trends and their impacts close to home.

    On the Western Slope of the Colorado Rockies, winter opens the door to spring as fruit tree buds flit away and green shoots emerge from their slumber — that fish-dark sound of slow-moving water returns to the hillsides. Moving water is how the arid West has been brought to bear fruit. Now people are eyeing the irrigation works of the past as clean electricity sources for the future.

    Around three thousand years ago the San Pedro people brought water from nearby streams to maize fields near modern-day Tucson, Arizona. As waves of European settlers pushed west they introduced different technologies to irrigate the thirsty land. Beginning in 1909, canal projects in the Uncompahgre Valley, of southwest Colorado, moved water from the mighty Rockies, greening the arid lands below. For a century these canals made agriculture possible in the high desert. But only in the last five years have they started to bring electricity to the communities of Delta and Montrose.

    The big hydroelectric dams of the 20th century put the rivers of the West under their imposing concrete thumbs, but their unintended consequences have water managers and entrepreneurs thinking the future of hydroelectric power is small. Advances in technology, federal reforms and Colorado’s ideal geography and friendly policies are paving the way for a new wave of small hydropower projects in the state that could be the template for a new generation of hydroelectric power.

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    In Montrose, Colorado, in the shadows of the Elk and San Juan mountain ranges, five small hydroelectric facilities are now incorporated into a canal system that delivers water to more than 83,000 acres of farmland for the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association. The hydroelectric generators combine a diversion from the canal with metal gates and a large metal pipe that carries water into what from the outside looks like an average metal storage shed. Inside the shed the deafening drone of the turbine equipment hums along during the seven months of the year when water moves through these irrigation canals.

    One of the major selling points of this technology is that it takes advantage of the power generating potential of water that is already moving through man-made infrastructure. “It’s the same amount of water as if (the turbines) weren’t there,” says Steve Anderson, who was born about 30 miles from Montrose and is following in his father’s footsteps as the manager of the UVWUA. Anderson, who is in his sixties, wears overalls, a long-sleeved maroon shirt and a black baseball hat and “loves showing off our hydros.” He says that if for some reason the hydroelectric facilities stopped working, it wouldn’t affect the delivery of irrigation water that the surrounding communities depend on. For the stakeholders in the irrigation association, the projects have become a source of income without any sacrifice of water delivery.

    Projects like the hydroelectric facilities in Montrose are popping up across the West — in part thanks to a lobbying effort by hydroelectric interests and the advocacy group American Rivers. These groups came together in support of a 2013 bill, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act, which passed the house by a unanimous vote and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The bill encourages new projects by lessening the regulatory and permitting hurdles for hydroelectric installations. In the past small projects like these were subject to a lengthy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permitting process that, according to small hydro advocate Kurt Johnson, could be more expensive than the hydroelectric hardware itself. He says the new law is a “game changing improvement” for developing these projects on private water infrastructure.

    The Montrose hydroelectric facilites, which are part of a Bureau of Reclamation water system, have different permitting requirements. Anderson says that the permits for their hydro projects went through in about two months and were a simple process because they only affect man-made infrastructure.

    Small hydroelectric installations, like the ones in Montrose, hit a sweet spot for water managers and conservationists. These so-called conduit hydropower projects don’t inherently disrupt natural river systems and instead use existing off-stream infrastructure. Conduit hydropower can take different forms, from diversion and turbine systems on irrigation canals to micro-hydro installations that are inserted in the place of pressure-reducing valves, which are a necessary and ubiquitous component of water delivery and treatment infrastructure. Kelly Catlett, with the advocacy group Hydropower Reform Coalition, says that from an ecosystem and watershed health standpoint the only real worries are making sure that diversion points from rivers have proper fish screens and that new conduit hydropower projects aren’t used to justify larger diversions of water. Catlett says that as long as those issues are addressed, “this is one area a lot of us can agree on and be supportive of.”

    But not all of the small hydro projects promoted by the 2013 law hit this sweet spot, because the law also allows the electrification of on-stream dams that don’t already have turbines. American Rivers, which lobbied for the bill but also promotes the removal of some dams, got pushback in the conservation community for supporting the bill. Matt Rice, the program director for American Rivers in the Colorado Basin, says updating old dams and adding energy producing turbines can ultimately help improve ecosystem conditions like dissolved oxygen and stream flow, and in some cases prevent the building of additional dams on free-flowing rivers. Other river advocates see the powering of unpowered dams as a potential roadblock to restoration. Eric Wesselman, the executive director of the California-based advocacy group Friends of the River, says he’s concerned about expedited reviews of small hydropower projects because “the influence of power production could delay dam removal in the future.”

    The combination of extensive irrigation works, mountainous terrain and friendly state policies make Colorado an epicenter for the growth of small hydroelectric projects in the United States. The state is second only to California in small hydro installations and is pushing to expand in the future. Colorado Energy Office analyst Samantha Reifer says that the state is promoting small hydro projects through a combination of outreach, assistance with navigating regulatory barriers and low-interest finance programs. “Hydropower isn’t people’s first idea because in the past it’s been giant dams,” Reifer says. “We are working to raise awareness that this is an opportunity on existing water infrastructure.”

    Kurt Johnson has been at the forefront of lobbying for regulatory reform, advising Colorado on hydropower policies, and facilitating small hydropower projects as the president of the Colorado Small Hydro Association and CEO of Telluride Energy. He foresees the future of hydropower being in smaller installations more akin to rooftop solar than the large dams of the past. “It’s a political slam dunk because the industry and the environment are hand-in-hand,” Johnson says.

    Small hydropower is not a silver bullet to sate our energy appetite. But in places like Montrose and Delta counties it is already playing an important role. The five hydropower projects of the UVWUA are generating about half a million dollars of annual profit for the water users association, which it uses to keep rates low and reinvest in improving water infrastructure. The facilities, which the association is eyeing to add to in the future, account for about 13 percent of the power used by the roughly 70,000 people served by the Delta-Montrose Electric Association. “An old cowboy once told me every blade of grass is important,” Anderson says. “Well, every electron is, too.”

    San Luis Valley wetlands are critical to wildlife

    From The Valley Courier (Helen Smith):

    Wetlands are a critical part of the San Luis Valley. Not only are they a key water resource, but they also provide habitat for numerous bird species and bring tourism dollars to the local economy. They are truly part of what makes the Rio Grande Basin distinct.

    The San Luis Valley has three refuges that are overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the direction of the United States Department of the Interior. They are the Monte Vista, Alamosa and Baca National Wildlife Refuges. The first refuge to be established was Monte Vista in 1952, followed by Alamosa in 1962, and finally the Baca in 2000. These areas make up the San Luis Valley Refuge Complex and are three in a system that consists of over 560 refuges nationwide. The Monte Vista Refuge is 14,804 acres and Alamosa comprises 12,026 acres and the Baca is 92,500 acres. The primary purpose of setting these lands aside is to protect vital wildlife corridors as well as water assets that are key to the well- being of the aquifer system that is crucial to the sustainability of the valley.

    These refuges also serve as prime habitat and nesting grounds for over 200 species of birds as well as other species of native wildlife such as deer, elk, beaver, and coyotes. The Alamosa Refuge is also home to the historic Mum Well which serves as a key data collection point for Colorado and San Luis Valley Water users. The primary purpose, is to protect lands that are important and that make the San Luis Valley a beautiful place. The landscapes seen in the refuges also highlight the distinct regions of the Valley as well.

    The Monte Vista Refuge was established for the purpose of protecting migratory bird species, especially the Sandhill Crane. The San Luis Valley U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office estimates that between 23 and 27,000 Sandhill Cranes make the San Luis Valley a rest stop during their annual migration to and from breeding grounds in the northern US.

    The success of the migration north in the spring from winter habitat in New Mexico and Texas to summer habitat in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Canada and south in the fall is based largely on the birds eating enough food in the SLV to complete the trek, survive winter, and arrive healthy enough to nest and raise the next generation. Grain left after harvest on privately owned fields in the SLV is a major food source necessary to complete a successful migration. Nearly the entirety of the Rocky Mountain Population of Greater Sandhill Cranes passes through Colorado during their migration. The feed from the abundant barley and rest in wetlands that the cranes get in the SLV is critical to the success of the migration and upcoming breeding, and the most important part of the migration in Colorado is the availability of grain and roost sites in the SLV.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife also protect wetland areas across the San Luis Valley. According to a 2012 report by CPW, “The value of wetlands can’t be overstated. About 125 species that are found here in Colorado are dependent on wetlands for their survival, including 98 species of migratory birds.” The species that benefit include waterfowl and 20 priority non-game species.

    The agency mitigates wetlands based on a set of criteria that include hydrology, vegetation, land use and conservation. To manage the hydrology the goal is to maintain adequate width and depth (4–8 inches deep) for roosting, maintain flowing water to prevent spread of disease. Vegetation goals include monitoring for the availability of vegetation that produces food, controlling woody vegetation where needed, control encroaching coarse emergent vegetation and the use of livestock and controlled burns to maintain grass overstory.

    Land use surveys look at the roosting and feeding sites, provide grit (e.g., pebbles and small gravel) at roost sites if needed, and remove unused fences. Conservation goals include monitoring harvest rates to maintain desirable population numbers and forming and maintaining partnerships between agencies agricultural producers, landowners and the public.

    Like the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service (NPS), US Forest Service (USFS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) also work to protect wetland habitats. The Blanca Wildlife Habitat Area, managed by the BLM, serves as a refuge for birds, fish and other wildlife. The wetlands are a key area for birds since they provide habitat for migrating water and shorebirds. The bald eagle and the peregrine falcon also use the wetlands. Other Species of Management Priority that have been documented are American bittern, avocet, common yellowthroat, eared grebe, Forster’s tern, greater Sandhill crane, hen harrier, Savannah sparrow, snowy egret, sora rail, western grebe and yellow-headed blackbird. Shorebirds such as gulls, sandpipers and pelicans are at home in the salty environment, as well as 158 other species including a colony of breeding Snowy Plover. The Blanca Wildlife Habitat is a duck breeding concentration area, with mallards by far the most common, but good numbers of pintail and green-winged teal are also utilizing the area.

    The Valleys farms and ranches also support the areas wetlands and see them as important part of the hydrologic cycle. Wetlands work as a sponge that helps to ensure that working ag lands maintain a water source in lean years and symbiotically rotationally grazed wetland remain healthier due do reduced grass overstory and less noxious weeds. San Luis Valley agriculture producers and water managers are partnering to do timed releases of water from area reservoirs to only supply irrigation water, but to insure river and wetland habitats benefit.

    In the long run, wetlands provide wildlife habitat, grazing opportunities, groundwater recharge and sustainability of water resources.

    Helen Smith is the Outreach Specialist for the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable.

    Measuring snow persistence can help predict streamflow — @ColoradoStateU

    Abnormal snow conditions in the San Juan Mountains near Red Mountain Pass, January 2018. Photo: John Hammond/CSU

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Mary Guiden):

    With warming climates around the world, many regions are experiencing changes in snow accumulation and persistence. Historically, researchers and water managers have used snow accumulation amounts to predict streamflow, but this can be challenging to measure across mountain environments.

    In a new study, a team of researchers at Colorado State University found that snow persistence — the amount of time snow remains on the ground — can be used to map patterns of annual streamflow in dry parts of the western United States. The ultimate goal of this research is to determine how melting snow affects the flow of rivers and streams, which has an impact on agriculture, recreation and people’s everyday lives.

    Scientists said the findings may be useful for predicting streamflow in drier regions around the world, including in the Andes mountains in South America or the Himalayas in Asia.

    The study was published in Water Resources Research, a journal from the American Geophysical Union.

    Watch a video from one of the research sites at the Michigan River watershed above Cameron Pass in north central Colorado.

    John Hammond, a doctoral student in the Department of Geosciences at CSU and lead author of the study, said the research is the first of its kind to explicitly link snow persistence and water resources using hard data. Similar research has only been conducted using computer-generated models.

    Watch a video showing how Hammond and the research team monitor snowpack, soil moisture and streamflow at different elevations across the state.
    The research team examined how snow and changes in climate relate to streamflow measurements for small watersheds across the western United States, using data from MODIS, a satellite sensor, and from stream gauging stations operated by the U.S. Geological Survey. They studied mountainous regions with varying climates in the western United States, Cascades of the northwest, the Sierras and the northern and southern Rockies.

    Stephanie Kampf, associate professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and study co-author, said the snow persistence data is particularly useful in dry mountain regions.

    “If we look at how increases in snow relate to annual streamflow, we see basically no pattern in wet watersheds,” she said. “But we see a really strong increase in streamflow with increasing snow persistence in dry areas, like Colorado.”

    CSU researchers also explored snow persistence in middle to lower elevations, which are often ignored in snow research, said Hammond.

    Learn more about Stream Tracker, a citizen science-driven project Kampf oversees to improve the mapping and monitoring of smaller streams in Colorado.

    “Half of the streamflow for the Upper Colorado River Basin came from a persistent snowpack above 10,000 feet,” he said. “The snow-packed areas above 10,000 feet are really small and are also very isolated across the West. The middle to lower elevations don’t accumulate as much snow, but they cover much more area.”

    Streamflow in the Upper Colorado River Basin showed a reliance on snow persistence in these lower elevation areas, according to the study. Researchers said that this highlights the need to broaden research beyond the snow at high elevations, to not miss important changes in lower-elevation snowpack that also affect streamflow.

    Katharine Hayhoe Honored With Stephen H. Schneider Award — Texas Tech Today #ActOnClimate

    Graphic credit KatharineHayhoe.com.

    From Texas Tech Today (George Watson):

    The award recognizes leaders around the world in the realm of science communication.

    As an undergraduate nearing her degree in astrophysics from the University of Toronto, Katharine Hayhoe needed and extra course to reach the credit requirements and chose a class on climate science because it sounded interesting.

    That undergraduate class was taught by a professor named Danny Harvey, who had just finished studying under Stephen H. Schneider, a leading climate scientist and innovator of science communication. Little did she know that seemingly insignificant decision would not only change her life but also give the world one of its utmost authorities on climate science.

    Hayhoe, a professor in the Department of Political Science in the Texas Tech University College of Arts & Sciences, continues that work today as the director of the Texas Tech Climate Science Center, engaging with stakeholders in agriculture, public health, energy, infrastructure and more to communicate the relevance of a changing climate to our society today.

    In her career as a climate scientist, Hayhoe had the chance to work with Schneider, before his untimely death in 2010, on an assessment of climate impacts in California, the first study in North America to quantify the impacts of a higher-versus-lower future scenario on a broad range of impacts for a given region. That study was later cited in an executive order from the governor of California, making the state the first in the U.S. to have mandatory greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

    “Steve had a talent for attracting a huge variety of smart, engaged scholars to the field of climate science, and I still work with many of his former students and protégés today,” Hayhoe said.

    So, of all the awards and recognitions Hayhoe has earned in her lengthy career, it’s not hard to understand what it means to earn the eighth annual Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication from Climate One, a consortium under the Commonwealth Club of California that utilizes the top minds from business, government, academia and advocacy groups to advance the discussion about a clean energy future. The $15,000 award is presented to a natural or social scientist who has made significant contributions to science and communicated their findings to the public in a clear, concise manner.

    “This is such a tremendous honor,” Hayhoe said. “Stephen Schneider was a leader and an inspiration in the field of climate science, and indirectly, he is the reason I’m a climate scientist today. The foundation that Steve laid has led to the incredible work done by so many in the field, and I am honored to be included in such a prestigious group of award winners.”

    Hayhoe is considered one of the world’s leading experts on climate science. Her research focuses on evaluating future impacts of climate change on human society and the natural environment by developing and applying high-resolution climate projections. She also presents the realities of climate change by connecting the issue to values people hold dear instead of being confrontational with scientific facts.

    “For many years, Katharine Hayhoe has been a unique voice in the climate communication world,” said Naomi Oreskes, a juror for the award and a professor of the history of science at Harvard University. “With her patience, her empathy and her abiding Christian faith, she has been able to reach audiences that other climate scientists have not been able to reach.”

    In 2017, Hayhoe played a big role in the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment published by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, authoring the chapter on climate models, scenarios and projections, and co-authoring the chapters on temperature trends and the potential for surprises in the climate system.

    She was also named one of the 50 World’s Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine, which honors men and women across the globe who are helping to change the world and inspire others to do the same. In 2016, she was named to the annual Politico 50 list, which recognizes those in society who help shape policy and thinking in the U.S.

    Hayhoe reaches a global audience as well through the KTTZ PBS Digital Short Series “Global Weirding,” an online series that focuses on exploring the arguments, science, religion, culture and psychology where politics and climate change intersect.

    “Dr. Hayhoe is an exceptional scientist and communicator whose work brings international recognition to Texas Tech,” said Michael Galyean, Texas Tech provost. “Her passion for providing both the public and the scientific community with understandable messages about climate science make her an outstanding choice to receive this prestigious award.”

    #Runoff news: Early peak for the #ColoradoRiver? #COriver #Drought

    From the Associated Press via KUTV.com:

    The Daily Sentinel reports that peak flows are expected Sunday on the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, at about 8,500 cubic feet per second near the Utah line.

    Only the dry years of 1977, 2002 and 2012 have seen lower levels in 85 years of records kept by the Colorado River Conservation District. If Sunday is the peak, it will also be the third-earliest, according to district records.

    Persistent drought is affecting water levels in the river…

    River managers forecast Arizona’s Lake Powell will receive only 42 percent of its long-term average flow from the Colorado this year.

    From The Aspen Daily News (Jordan Curet):

    The Roaring Fork Conservancy is a nonprofit that works on behalf of its namesake watershed, which includes all water sources from high in the Elk Mountains and the Fryingpan basin that confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. The Roaring Fork Conservancy works year-round to provide the best science possible to decision makers and the public, taking real-world water issues and interpreting them at various levels. This includes understanding snowpack and how much water goes where, getting to know the macroinvertebrates that live in our streams and working on policy issues.

    “Our mission is to inspire individuals to explore, value and protect the Roaring Fork watershed,” said Roaring Fork Conservancy education and outreach coordinator Liza Mitchell. If people value the water, they are more likely to work together for its protection, she added.

    “Right now, we are at 61 percent of normal — that’s the snow-water content in the snowpack,” Mitchell said.

    The numbers are compared to a 30-year rolling average, from 1980-2010. “So it does not include the past eight years in that average. 2012 was a pretty dry year; in relation we are sitting just higher in terms of snowpack at this time of year,” she said.

    The seasonal snowpack peaked around April 7 and has been decreasing since then. Some of that snowpack evaporates, some saturates the soil and the rest flows into streams and rivers. Most everything below 10,000 feet has melted, but there is still a high-alpine snowpack that, while well below average for May, is still to come down as the temperatures rise.

    “We are starting to see stream flows increase,” Mitchell said. “They are still on the up, so it hasn’t peaked yet. That said, they are not predicted to get anywhere near average stream flow.”

    Cleansing flow is critical

    According to Mitchell, the local ecosystem has evolved over millennia in a manner dominated by the snowmelt cycle.

    “There is a pattern of low flow all winter, while it’s snowing. [Then] it rises, it peaks, and then it drops back down to base flow.”

    The ecological processes that occur during peak flow are of the utmost importance for the overall health of the rivers and surrounding environs. Peak flows can move rocks, which changes the substrate of the stream, knocking loose algae and debris from previous years. As the water pushes sediment downstream and clears up space between the rocks, the base of the food web can grow in those interstitial places. Macroinvertebrates are aquatic insects, at their juvenile or nymph stage. May flies, caddis flies and stone flies are most common in the Roaring Fork watershed.

    “If you never have those peak flows, flushing flows, then those areas build up with mud and suffocate the macroinvertebrates; without macroinvertebrates you don’t have trout; without trout there is no food for eagles and ospreys,” Mitchell said. Runoff also inundates the flood plains, bringing water to the riparian vegetation, which then provides shade to keep the streams cool.

    Peak flows also assist in scouring the river channel, creating a spawning habitat for trout.

    “Trout like loosely packed cobbles with water flowing through — it’s good for bug habitat as well as for laying eggs,” said Kendall Bakich, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “This is particularly an issue with recurring low-flow years, so it may not be an issue this year as long as we return to average in the future.”

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

    The snowpack of the San Juan Mountains face an increasingly alarming problem that may further vex water issues in the West: dust…

    Early findings aren’t good.

    In 2003, water districts throughout Colorado, concerned about the issue, put funding toward the creation of the Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies, which among other tasks, researches the effects of dust on snow.

    While the impacts of dust deposited on snowpack can be found in other parts of Colorado, the southwest part of the state – and the San Juan Mountains in particular – are by far the most troubled by the issue.

    “This is really ground zero,” Phil Straub, a researcher with the Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies, said last week from atop Red Mountain Pass. “It’s a growing concern that’s gaining more attention.”

    In Southwest Colorado, here’s how it works:

    Windstorms out of the southwest pick up dust from deserts in parts of the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona and New Mexico and carry it to the mountain snowpack in the high country of the San Juan Mountains.

    When dust lands on snowpack, it speeds up the rate snow melts – think how much hotter a black car is than a white car, Straub said.

    On average, this process causes snowpack to melt off 25 to 50 days earlier than normal based on about 100 years worth of data. And, runoff can decrease by 5 percent because of water evaporating through plants and soils as well as snow turning to water vapor.

    Naturally, this causes issues for water districts in timing dam releases for ranchers, and it causes the loss of water supply for the Colorado River basin, which supports more than 40 million people and millions of acres of agriculture.

    In a study published in October 2010 for the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, researchers painted a grim outlook if the issue went unchecked.

    “Climate-change studies suggest that earlier runoff and a reduction in flow will cause management challenges, including uncertainty in timing of reservoir release, large reservoir fluctuations and regular shortages,” the study said…

    Researchers from the University of Northern Arizona published a paper in 2016 that looked back on periods of dust over the last 3,000 years. Medieval times, for instance, were associated with high levels of dust.

    “These records indicate the Southwest is naturally prone to dustiness,” according to the study.

    Add human-caused factors like climate change, overgrazing and poor water management, and the situation enters the realm of unprecedented.

    “These new records confirm anomalous dustiness in the 19th and 20th centuries, associated with recent land disturbance, drought and livestock grazing,” the report said. “As global and regional temperatures rise … the Southwest will likely become dustier, driving negative impacts on snowpack and water availability, as well as human health.”

    Since 2003, researchers at the Center for Snow & Avalanche studies have noted this increase. It is likely that the San Juan Mountains have the longest and most comprehensive study on the dust-on-snow effect in the country, Straub said.

    This year, for instance, the region has already tracked seven dust storms that left a layer of dirt on snow in the San Juan Mountains, and the season for dust storms isn’t over yet. The average amount of dust storms in a full season, which can last until late June, is about seven, data indicates.

    “We’re still learning the impacts,” Straub said. “And dust is only one part in understanding the changes to snow hydrology.”

    Bruce Whitehead, executive director for the Southwest Water Conservation District, which manages the waters of nine counties in Southwest Colorado, said there’s a consensus about the need to see how dust affects water in the West.

    “It’s just one more tool we have to look and plan for runoff, or in this case, maybe how it’s going to impact drought conditions,” Whitehead said. “We really are on the front lines.”

    From The Durango Herald (Jim Mimiaga):

    A minor boost of snowfall in April helped to stave off more shortages for local farmers who rely on McPhee Reservoir, water officials said.

    As of this week, the forecast is still for full-service farmers to receive about 17 inches per acre, said Ken Curtis, of the Dolores Water Conservancy District, which manages the reservoir.

    But the final runoff amount will not be known until June, and it will be impacted in coming weeks by variables such as wind, precipitation, dust on snow and soil moisture. Overall, the spring runoff into McPhee is dismal because of a winter with barely 50 percent of average snowpack, Curtis said.

    It is thought that dry mountain soils from a dry fall are absorbing a lot of the water before it makes it to the river. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Southwest Colorado is in an exceptional drought, the most severe of five categories.

    When the reservoir fills during more average winters, farmers typically receive a full allocation of 22 inches per acre, enough for three cuttings of alfalfa.

    But significant carryover water from the previous winter’s above-average snowpack is saving farmers this year, Curtis said. “As far as runoff, we are getting close to the project’s worst year in 2002, but the difference this year is we have good carryover,” he said.

    Based on 30-year runoff data, average McPhee inflow is 295,000 acre-feet of water from the Dolores River Basin from April through July.

    This year, it is expected to be 62,000 acre-feet, or 21 percent of normal. In 2002, the reservoir received just 45,000 acre-feet, and farmers suffered more drastic shortages, receiving less than 50 percent allocation.

    For boaters, there will be no whitewater release below McPhee dam. Also, the Dolores River above McPhee will not run as high or as long this year.

    Peak flows from Rico to Dolores are coming early, and are not expected to reach more than 1,000 cubic feet per second, down from more typical peak flows of 2,000-2,500 cfs. Currently the river is running at 700 cfs at Dolores, but boatable flows are expected to end by before early June, instead of in late June or early July during more average years.

    The next chance for substantial moisture in Southwest Colorado is the monsoon season of July through September, when summer monsoons typically draw up subtropical moisture from Mexico.

    “Next year’s supply will depend slightly on monsoons later this summer and mostly on next winter’s snowpack,” Curtis said. “Ending the 2018 water year with little to no carryover increases the risk of a deeper project shortage next 2019 irrigation season.”

    Montezuma Valley Irrigation has more senior rights than McPhee Reservoir, including a direct flow right on the Dolores River up to 700 cfs. The private company stores water in Groundhog, Narraquinnep and McPhee reservoirs and closely monitors water supplies to determine potential impacts to customers.

    A recent court case that upheld a new 900 cfs in-stream flow right on the lower Dolores River from April 15 to June 15 below the San Miguel confluence does not impact McPhee Reservoir, officials said.

    The in-stream flow rights are junior to McPhee Reservoir’s more senior rights so they have no impact on the local water supply. Decreed by the state for environmental purposes, the new Dolores River in-stream flows are only available when snowpack produces sufficient natural runoff to provide the 900 cfs.

    From The Arizona Daily Star (Tony Davis):

    Longer-range outlooks for Lake Mead and the Central Arizona Project are increasingly grim due to this year’s bad runoff, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Wednesday.

    The result is that the bureau is pushing hard for states in both the Upper and Lower Basins of the Colorado River to reach agreement this year on drought planning to ease the pain of future shortages, after negotiations have so far failed.

    The bureau’s new forecast for the river shows that the chance of a CAP shortage next year is almost nil, but in 2020, it’s over 50 percent. Looking farther ahead, the chances of a shortage for 2021 through 2023 exceed 60 percent each year, the bureau said. The CAP provides drinking water to Tucson and Phoenix.

    The gloomy forecasts are based on this year’s expected poor spring-summer runoff into Lake Powell at the Utah border from the Upper Basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico. The most recent forecast, last week, was 42 percent of average runoff.

    This year “has brought record-low snowpack levels to many locations in the Colorado River Basin, making this the driest 19-year period on record,” the bureau said in a news release announcing the new forecasts. “With drought and low runoff conditions dating back to 2000, this current period is one of the worst drought cycles over the past 1,200 plus years.”

    Specifically, the bureau predicted:

  • A 52 percent risk of a 2020 shortage.
  • Shortage odds of 64 to 68 percent in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
  • The most likely shortage would cut CAP deliveries by about 20 percent. Those cuts would mainly slice water supplies to Central Arizona farmers and the Arizona Water Bank, a state program that recharges Colorado River water. Such a shortage will occur when Lake Mead drops below 1,075 feet at the end of a given year.

    Cuts would likely also affect the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District, a related agency to CAP that buys and recharges river water into the ground to compensate for groundwater pumping that serves new suburban development.

    Starting in 2021, the odds are more than 20 percent of Arizona facing a more severe shortage, in which it would lose about 26 percent of its CAP water. That shortage would happen when Lake Mead drops to between 1,050 feet and 1,025 feet.

    Lake Mead sat at nearly 1,085 feet elevation at the end of April. It’s expected to drop to 1,079 feet by the end of December.

    The Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan would require Arizona, Nevada and California to reduce their use of river water more than already required when the first shortages hit. The plan’s purpose is to prevent Lake Mead from dropping to catastrophically low levels over the coming decade.

    The plan’s approval has been delayed significantly. That’s in large part because of conflicts between the CAP and the Arizona Department of Water Resources over how this state’s share of the river’s water should be managed and who should manage it.

    The state water department and Gov. Doug Ducey tried to get the Legislature to pass bills this year to make conservation for the plan easier, but the Legislature didn’t go along.

    Last week, representatives of the three Lower Basin states met in Las Vegas to discuss river issues. At the meeting, Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman sought to get the CAP and the state water department to meet and settle their dispute, said Sally Lee, an ADWR spokeswoman, and Bart Fisher, chairman of the Colorado River Board of California.

    From The New Mexico Political Report (Laura Paskus):

    Last week, a new study in the peer-reviewed journal, Nature, also heralded troubling news. According to the authors, more than 90 percent of snow monitoring sites in the western United States showed declines in snowpack—and 33 percent showed significant declines. The trend is visible during all months, states and climates, they write, but are largest in the spring and in the Pacific states and locations with mild winter climates. To drive home the numbers, they noted the decrease in springtime snow water equivalent—the amount of water in snow—when averaged across the entire western U.S. is 25 to 50 cubic kilometers, or about the volume of water Hoover Dam was built to hold in Lake Mead.

    And conditions on the Colorado River, which feeds Lake Mead, don’t look good this year.

    The March forecast for the Colorado River Basin remains “well below average.” Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, has already dipped below 40 percent of capacity and its “bathtub ring” is about 130 feet tall. As of Sunday, the lake’s water level was 1,088 feet above sea level. If it reaches 1,075 feet, that will trigger federal rules that cut the amount of water Nevada, Arizona and California can take.

    Meanwhile, water users in the three states, including cities like Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the Central Arizona Project, irrigation districts in southern California and tribes, are all keeping a close eye on Lake Mead—and trying to work out a drought contingency plan to avoid those federally-mandated cuts if the reservoir keeps dropping.

    Hard choices

    At the same time, water managers in New Mexico know they’re also in for a tough year.

    The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation watches snowpack and streamflow forecasts closely, said spokeswoman Mary Carlson: “And the current outlook is grim,” she said.

    “We are grateful in years like this, when it appears we will have very little runoff from snowmelt, that we are able to rely on the water that has been stored in our reservoirs in previous years,” she said. “Without those reservoirs, conditions on the Rio Grande would be much more extreme in a year like this.”

    Reclamation currently has about 12,400 acre-feet of supplemental water in storage, she said, and the agency expects to get another 9,000 to 14,000 acre feet to augment Middle Rio Grande flows.

    “We are working with our partners, including our sister agency the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine when and how to use that water to benefit the Rio Grande silvery minnow and other endangered species in the area,” she said.

    The Rio Grande Silvery Minnow was listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1994. Two years later, in 1996 about 90 miles of the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque dried. Biologists scrambled over the fish, environmental groups sued, political wars waged and water managers tried to figure out how to serve cities and farmers while keeping the fish from going extinct. For 15 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) required water managers to keep at least 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water in the Albuquerque stretch of the river—even if it dried to the south, as it did many years, typically between Las Lunas and the southern boundary of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Then in 2016, FWS pivoted. Under its new biological opinion for the silvery minnow, the agency said water operations in the Middle Rio Grande were not jeopardizing the fish’s survival. It stopped requiring flow minimums and instead expects Reclamation and its partners to manage the river to improve fish densities.

    David Gensler, the hydrologist for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) said the district still has water stored in upstream reservoirs for the valley’s farmers. “But not enough. Reclamation has storage for fish, but not enough,” he said. “(There are) some hard choices facing us.”

    Typically, irrigation season runs from March 1 to Oct. 31, but due to dry conditions and low soil moisture, this year, the district started its diversions earlier.

    Last year dealt water managers a good hand, Gensler said, but this year will be the opposite. And 2018 is shaping up to be similar to that notoriously-dry 1996. “I’m optimistic we will all come together and manage through it,” he said.

    ‘This is not a place we’ve been’

    It’s not only the middle valley that’s causing concern. WildEarth Guardians attorney Jen Pelz said she’s been looking at flows in northern New Mexico in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which Congress passed in 1968 to protect “outstanding” river stretches. Specifically, when looking at Rio Grande records from the late 1960s until now, she noticed some very low years, such as 2013.

    “I was looking at how many days were below 100 and 50 cfs, and it was shocking,” she said. “This year’s way worse, and it’s going to be a problem. It’s going to be a huge challenge to do anything good for the river.”

    “Colorado’s attitude is that they only have to deliver what the [Rio Grande Compact] said, and if that means no boating in New Mexico, that’s not their problem,” she said, noting that about 150 cfs typically comes in below Colorado and also feeds the Wild and Scenic stretch. “But I’m skeptical and a little scared of what those gages are going to look like, and whether the recreation community in Taos can survive off really low flows.”

    She’s also wary about what might happen to the silvery minnow population in the Middle Rio Grande this year. After 2017’s flows, the fish’s population saw a bump, and the fall monitoring numbers were good. “My worry, is all the fish in the river you did have, and the stress of the low flows for an extended time—April through October, large stretches of the river can and will dry —and will you find any fish in the river in October?”

    She doesn’t want to see the fish’s population boom, only to bust again. “I’m really concerned about going on good faith that Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, MRGCD will do the right thing,” Pelz said. “They’re stressed and they have their own constituencies.”

    Pelz added that last year’s snowpack and water supply was an anomaly in the new climate regime.

    “Last year lulled people into this place where, there will always be a wet year that follows,” she said. “It’s swinging back the other way: now, people are hoping 2019 will be a 2017, when really it could be the first of the 2011-2013 period.”

    Existing laws, like the Endangered Species Act, don’t do enough to protect species and habitats, she said. In fact, she said, it’s time for a whole new language about rivers, as the region continues warming. “This is not a place we’ve been,” she said. “And we don’t know what it looks like.”

    Jury’s still out

    River runner and conservationist Steve Harris lives alongside the Rio Grande above New Mexico’s major diversions. Right now near Pilar, the river is clipping along at about 500 cfs, he said.

    “It’s beautiful, but soon, irrigation will start and we’ll see what’s really on the mountain,” he said. “Last year was a real joy because it was good for the river and all its denizens, and we had a great rafting season.”

    According to Harris, New Mexico has been bailed out by late-season snow before. “But when you think about the long-term climate projections—later onset of snowpack, a shorter snow season, earlier runoff—to me, this year is fulfilling the prophecy.”

    Having lived for decades in Terlingua, Texas, Harris also pays attention to the river in his old stomping grounds around Big Bend State Park. “Fifteen years ago, I had a sense we might be moving toward managing the river below the irrigation in El Paso and Juarez,” he said of the roughly 400 miles of the river that are dry in Texas. “Now, it’s not on the horizon to restore the ‘forgotten river.’”

    The river dries in southern New Mexico, too. Except during irrigation season when water is moved to farmers, or when storms flood the channel, about 100 miles of the Rio Grande above Mesilla is dry.

    “I’m at the point in my life, where I’m thinking, ‘So, what are we doing about the Rio Grande problem? How is society responding?’ Of course, the jury is still out,” he said. “People care, but people tend to be paralyzed by pessimism sometimes, particularly the policy makers, heads of agencies and legislators.”

    That doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on the Rio Grande. “I think the Rio Grande’s problem is people expected a lot more out of it than it could normally deliver,” he said. “There has to be a shift of focus back toward the Rio Grande and the dawning general realization that the river’s in trouble if we don’t act, and act on a lot of fronts.”

    ‘We’re doomed’: Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention — The Guardian

    From The Guardian (Patrick Barkham):

    The 86-year-old social scientist says accepting the impending end of most life on Earth might be the very thing needed to help us prolong it

    “We’re doomed,” says Mayer Hillman with such a beaming smile that it takes a moment for the words to sink in. “The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.”

    Hillman, an 86-year-old social scientist and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute, does say so. His bleak forecast of the consequence of runaway climate change, he says without fanfare, is his “last will and testament”. His last intervention in public life. “I’m not going to write anymore because there’s nothing more that can be said,” he says when I first hear him speak to a stunned audience at the University of East Anglia late last year…

    Our society’s failure to comprehend the true cost of cars has informed Hillman’s view on the difficulty of combatting climate change. But he insists that I must not present his thinking on climate change as “an opinion”. The data is clear; the climate is warming exponentially. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that the world on its current course will warm by 3C by 2100. Recent revised climate modelling suggested a best estimate of 2.8C but scientists struggle to predict the full impact of the feedbacks from future events such as methane being released by the melting of the permafrost.

    Hillman is amazed that our thinking rarely stretches beyond 2100. “This is what I find so extraordinary when scientists warn that the temperature could rise to 5C or 8C. What, and stop there? What legacies are we leaving for future generations? In the early 21st century, we did as good as nothing in response to climate change. Our children and grandchildren are going to be extraordinarily critical.”


    Although Hillman has not flown for more than 20 years as part of a personal commitment to reducing carbon emissions, he is now scornful of individual action which he describes as “as good as futile”. By the same logic, says Hillman, national action is also irrelevant “because Britain’s contribution is minute. Even if the government were to go to zero carbon it would make almost no difference.”

    Instead, says Hillman, the world’s population must globally move to zero emissions across agriculture, air travel, shipping, heating homes – every aspect of our economy – and reduce our human population too. Can it be done without a collapse of civilisation? “I don’t think so,” says Hillman. “Can you see everyone in a democracy volunteering to give up flying? Can you see the majority of the population becoming vegan? Can you see the majority agreeing to restrict the size of their families?”

    Hillman doubts that human ingenuity can find a fix and says there is no evidence that greenhouse gases can be safely buried. But if we adapt to a future with less – focusing on Hillman’s love and music – it might be good for us. “And who is ‘we’?” asks Hillman with a typically impish smile. “Wealthy people will be better able to adapt but the world’s population will head to regions of the planet such as northern Europe which will be temporarily spared the extreme effects of climate change. How are these regions going to respond? We see it now. Migrants will be prevented from arriving. We will let them drown.”

    @NOAAClimate: 2016 #Arctic heat would have been virtually impossible without #globalwarming

    From NOAA (Rebecca Lindsey):

    In the fall of 2016, the Arctic experienced heat that was so extreme that one expert called it a black swan event. That warmth helped set a new annual temperature record that was double the magnitude of the record set the year before. New NOAA-led research confirms that the event could not have happened without human-caused global warming and sea ice loss.

    These maps compare the observed differences from average temperature in 2016 (left) to two computer simulations of 2016 (right). The top right map shows results from models that included only natural climate influences, using estimated conditions from the late nineteenth century. The bottom right map shows results from models in which things like greenhouse gases, sea surface temperatures, and sea ice were allowed to change as they have in the real world due to human activities.

    None of the simulations using only natural climate influences were able to reproduce the extreme warmth that overtook the Arctic in 2016. Instead, those models projected that there would have been some areas that were cool and some that were warm, but not extremely so. Only the simulations that mirrored human-caused changes in greenhouse gases and the resulting sea ice loss were able to generate a realistic picture of the extreme heat. The most realistic simulations were generated by models in which sea ice was not only allowed to shrink in area, but also to thin—just as it has in the real world.

    The scientists concluded that there was virtually zero chance that such an extreme heat event would have occurred without human influence on the climate. But they also concluded that its severity—exactly how far above average the temperatures were— was partially due to natural variability, including the influence of the strong 2015-16 El Niño event in the tropics.

    This overlap of the impacts of human-caused climate change and natural variability is a common theme for many types of extreme weather events from high-tide flooding to heavy downpours. Events like the extreme warmth in the Arctic in 2016 are an early preview of what “normal” may look like within as little as a decade if greenhouse gas emissions continue their rapid rise.

    Sun, L., Allured, D., Hoerling, M., Smith, L., Perlwitz, J., Murray, D., & Eischeid, J. (2018). Drivers of 2016 record Arctic warmth assessed using climate simulations subjected to Factual and Counterfactual forcing. Weather and Climate Extremes, 19, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wace.2017.11.001

    Thornton Water Project update

    Map via ThorntonWaterProject.com.

    From TheDenverChannel.com (Russell Haythorn):

    Residents along Douglas Road north of Fort Collins are standing in the way of the pipeline project that would deliver Poudre River water to Thornton. It’s water the city of Thornton says it will desperately need in just seven years, in order to sustain its current and projected population booms.

    “This will (help) take us from the current population of about 130,000 up to about 242,000,” said Mark Koleber, water project director for the City of Thornton.

    Koleber said Thornton is simply trying to tap the water rights it bought from Weld County farmers decades ago.

    “The city started — in the mid-1980’s — to acquire these water rights and the farms that went along with it,” Koleber said…

    “We’re certainly going to give it our best try,” said Lynn Utzman-Nichols, Hillman’s neighbor who also lives just a few blocks from Douglas Road. “We really hope we can find a solution that works for everyone.”

    One of those solutions: Keep the water in the Poudre River until it’s further downstream near I-25.

    Thornton says that plan doesn’t work for them, because then it becomes a water quality issue; the further the water must travel, the more contaminated and polluted it becomes, especially passing through the City of Fort Collins. And that would add to the cost of water treatment.

    Thornton wants the water to come directly out of the reservoirs it owns north of Fort Collins.

    “Those are the reservoirs that Thornton invested in back in the mid-1980’s,” Koleber said…

    But Larimer County officials also see an opportunity in working with Thornton on the plan to bury the pipeline under Douglas Road. The county wants to widen the road – and sees the pipeline as a chance to widen the road earlier than expected.

    “If (Larimer County is) going to be tearing up the pavement, there’s an opportunity there to put the pipeline in at the same time and minimize the disruption to the area residents,” Koleber said.

    Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District shows #drought management plan at public hearing

    West Drought Monitor May 8, 2018.

    From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

    The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) board held a public hearing on [May 1, 2018] evening to discuss the 2018 Drought Management Plan and to take public comment.

    PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey began the presentation by briefly discuss- ing the precipitation levels for the district.

    “We’re just a little bit more than 50 per- cent of what we usually get,” Ramsey said. In regard to snow-water equivalency,
    Ramsey noted that, for 2018, “we’re out.”


    Triggers and levels of plan

    “The triggers are basically going to be a combination of the amount of water in the reservoirs plus the amount of water we have pulled in from the river,” Ramsey explained. “It’s going to be a ratio between that and what our expected water use for the year is going to be.”

    PAWSD is going to base these triggers off of what the district used in 2017, Ramsey noted.

    When 90 percent of that use is met, that is what will trigger level one of the drought management plan, Ramsey stated.

    Level two is triggered by 70 percent use, 50 percent would trigger level three, 40 percent triggers level four and 30 percent use will trigger level five, Ramsey described.