@CWCB_DNR: May 2018 #Drought Update

Colorado Drought Monitor May 15, 2018.

Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Taryn Finnessey) and the Colorado Division of Water Resources (Tracy Kosloff):

In order to respond to persistent and prolonged drought conditions throughout the southern half of the state and along the western border, the Governor activated the Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan for the agricultural sector on May 2, 2018 , in the following counties:Montezuma, La Plata, Archuleta, Conejos, Costilla, Las Animas, Baca, Prowers, Bent, Otero, Huerfano, Alamosa, Rio Grande, Mineral, Hinsdale, San Juan, Dolores, San Miguel, Ouray, Montrose, Saguache, Custer, Pueblo, Crowley, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Lincoln, El Paso, Elbert, Gunnison, Mesa, Delta, Garfield and Rio Blanco. All of these counties are experiencing severe, extreme or exceptional drought as classified by the US Drought Monitor , and many have already received some level of drought designation from USDA . If present trends continue, other regions and sectors of the state’s economy may also be affected. Those areas will continue to be monitored closely.

■ October 2017 through April 2018 was the 5th warmest and the 5th driest on record for the state as a whole. Some locations throughout southern CO have experienced their driest and/or warmest Oct-Apr period on record.
■ Most regions of Southern Colorado reached their snow accumulation peak two to three weeks early and have experienced rapid snowmelt, resulting in melt out occurring three weeks earlier than normal.
■ Streamflow forecasts in the southern half of the state are extremely low, with multiple sites showing below 15 percent of normal.
■ Demand is increasing and reservoir storage in the most heavily impacted areas, the Southwest basins of the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas & San Juan have seen significant decreases in reservoir storage over the last two months. This combined basin currently has 91 percent of normal storage, the lowest storage levels in the state.
■ Isolated cattle sell off and prevented planting of some acreage has been reported. Due to high hay prices we anticipate additional cattle sell off, and unless conditions improve additional prevented and failed crop acres are likely.
■ Windy, dry conditions fueled fires in April leading to numerous large wildfires on both the west slope and the eastern plains. Current forecasts indicate above average potential for large wildfires through June (see image on reverse side) with late summer fire potential dependent on monsoon conditions.
■ As of May 15, exceptional drought, D4, continues to affect southwest Colorado and has also been introduced in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, covering eight percent of the state. Extreme drought, D3, covers 23 percent of the state; severe drought 20 percent and 14 percent is classified as moderate drought. An additional 14 percent of the state is currently experiencing abnormally dry conditions (see image on reverse side).
■ Reservoir storage statewide is at 111 percent of normal, with all but the southwest basins above average. The Arkansas basin is reporting the highest average storage at 129 percent. Front Range water providers mainly draw water resources from areas of the state that received near normal winter precipitation, and are therefore expecting reservoirs to fill, and are not anticipating any water use restrictions outside normal operations.
■ The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) values have declined slightly May 1, with much of the western slope classified as extremely dry. These values are largely driven by below average streamflow forecasts. The sub-basin with the highest value includes Lake Granby, a large reservoir.

@ColoradoClimate: Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

Click here to read the current assessment from the Colorado Climate Center. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

#Snowpack/#runoff news: #SouthPlatte Basin update

South Platte River Basin High/Low graph May 20, 2018 via the NRCS.

From 9News.com (Jordan Chavez):

“Snowpack in the South Platte collection system… is well below average,” said Travis Thompson, a spokesperson for Denver Water.

The other half of Denver Water’s supply comes from the Colorado River Basin which also isn’t running at the level it usually does. The river’s water flows have already peaked, according to the National Weather Service.

Colorado Water Trust told 9NEWS this is extremely early.

“It looked like a very unusual year,” said Andy Schultheiss, Colorado Water Trust’s executive director. “It was a La Nina year and a lot of storms passed to our north. It was looking bad quite early this year.”

The collection systems from both rivers are made up of snowpack which is important when it comes to putting out wildfires, according to Schultheiss.

“People think summer storms help with wildfires but they don’t actually prevent it,” he said. “It’s those snowpacks that infiltrate into the soil that really control wildfires. So, when you have a year like this, when there’s very little snowpack, the potential for a serious wildfire goes way, way up.”

New #Colorado rules prompt Garfield County to update septic system rules

Septic system

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Jon Nicolodi):

Garfield County is revising its onsite wastewater treatment system regulations following new regulations put forth by the state. Does this impact you? Considering the consequences of a poorly maintained onsite wastewater treatment system, and with approximately 3,500 out of about 17,000 housing units in Garfield County relying on onsite wastewater treatment systems, the answer could be “yes.”

Some homeowners like septic systems because they don’t have a regular sewage bill from their municipality. Instead, they must properly maintain their system, but they have control, and more ownership, of what goes into their system and how much and how regularly they have to pay for maintenance. By only flushing human waste and toilet paper, by properly disposing of chemicals, and by using a compost collection service or backyard system to break down cooking grease and other food waste, all maintenance is preventative. With care and preventative maintenance, septic system owners can save in the long run.

Septic systems go astray, however, when they aren’t cared for. Septic system leakage isn’t a foreign concept to health and environment officials. Toilet water leaking into the ground untreated might make its innocent way down through hundreds of feet of soil before being neutralized by the soil microbes. More likely, the wastewater will leak into a nearby stream, creating algal blooms and wreaking havoc on the balance of water quality in the ecosystem.

If your home isn’t connected to a public sanitary sewer system, you may be utilizing a private drinking water well. This water source may be near your septic system. Phosphorus, nitrogen and bacteria aren’t exactly the constituents of quality drinking water.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division adopted Regulation 43 nearly a year ago, and counties have until June 30th of this year to adopt versions of this regulation that are at least as stringent as the state’s. Among other items, the regulation specifies the categories and type of material installed in and around the leach field, and it requires additional inspection of systems to ensure that they meet industry standards.

Septic systems should be inspected at least every three years, and typically pumped free of their settled solids every three to five years. Contact your local county officials to learn what you have on your site, and to learn who to call for a quality service provider. Be thoughtful about what you put down the drain and how much you use your garbage disposal. Mark the free hazardous waste collection day at the local landfill on your calendar. Practice water conservation by installing high-efficiency toilets, shower heads and laundry machines. Take one more step to being considerate of your local streams, and of your own and your community’s drinking water supply.

The Past, Present, and Future of Carbon Pricing in #Washington State #ActOnClimate

Fog rolls in below snow-dusted peaks on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. In relatively humid places like the Pacific Northwest, more water melts from the snowpack during the wintertime than in more arid regions. Brooke Warren/High Country News

From the Union of Concerned Scientists blog (Adrienne Alvord):

Despite what’s shaping up to be a summer of uncertainty in DC, with President Trump’s EPA attempting to dismantle a generation’s worth of science-backed environmental protection and climate progress, momentum is building in Washington state to move forward on innovative climate policy.

Washington has a lot at stake. Climate change impacts including increased wildfires, drought, flooding, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and changes to agriculture threaten the state today, and will get much worse unless we take action.

To prevent the worst impacts of climate change, Washington voters and legislators in recent years have considered – but not approved — binding carbon pollution limits and a price on carbon pollution. This year, a proposed ballot initiative measure, Initiative 1631 would create a fee for carbon polluters. It is sure to add to a robust and healthy nationwide discussion about what are the best policies to reduce carbon and prevent the worst impacts from climate change.

Carbon pricing is a way to help incentivize reducing climate pollution while providing revenue to invest in clean energy and fuels and provide transition assistance to workers and communities. The initiative could show how state-level action can be a potent antidote to retrograde motion in DC.

Past progress and approaches to pricing

Washington state, like the entire West Coast, is a leader on forward-thinking climate policy with legislative targets for emission reductions, a greenhouse gas inventory of major emitters, and a Clean Air Rule adopted by the Inslee Administration. The state has not yet instituted an economy-wide carbon price but has considered two approaches previously.

In 2016, Washington debated ballot initiative I732, a carbon tax measure that would have instituted a carbon tax offset by a 1 percent cut in sales tax, a cut to manufacturing taxes, and a low-income tax credit. I732 was intended to be revenue-neutral and to provide a progressive tax rebate. However, the initiative failed decisively at the polls after drafting errors came to light, and other controversies divided climate action supporters . (UCS was neutral on the measure, for reasons we described here.)

In 2017, the legislature considered a measure backed by Governor Jay Inslee, SB 6203 (Carlyle et al) that would have instituted price on fossil fuels that would rise gradually until 2035. The funds were to be used for carbon reduction measures, forestry, water improvements, low-income assistance, community investment, rural economic development, and utility rebates. The bill also exempted so-called “energy intensive, trade exposed” (EITE) industries that could be economic disadvantaged by competition from out-of-state entities not subject to a carbon fee. Despite diverse support from Washington business, labor, environmental, and social justice groups (and thanks to opposition from some industrial, business, and agricultural entities) the bill didn’t advance to a floor vote, in part because 2017 was a short, two-month session that didn’t allow sufficient time to consider the complexity of the measure.

And now a unified proposal from a broad coalition

While the other measures were being debated, a coalition of environmental, environmental justice, business, labor, tribal, public health, faith and other groups under the banner of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, has been hard at work finding common ground on climate policy. Now, the group has introduced initiative 1631 that incorporates both a polluter-pays carbon fee starting at $15 per ton of CO2 in 2020 and an investment plan for clean energy, forests, water, and healthy communities.

The initiative provides exemptions for certain EITEs and provides rebates to utilities while investing heavily in job assistance for displaced fossil fuel workers and also in tribal and low-income areas. The fee is increased at a rate of $2 per year plus inflation to an estimated level of about $55 and stays at that level if the state is on track to meet its 2035 emissions reduction target of 25 percent below 1990 levels.

The unique design of this carbon fee was arrived at after intensive consultation among many Washington communities, businesses, and groups. It differs from California’s cap and trade program, British Columbia’s carbon tax, and Oregon’s proposed carbon cap and invest policy (similar to California’s, to be taken up in the 2019 legislative session.)

The fact that different jurisdictions are looking at different approaches towards carbon pricing shows that there is latitude among pricing design to meet local needs and conditions. Some programs, like California’s that is linked to Ontario and Quebec, are designed to encourage participation from other jurisdictions, in part to lower costs. Washington’s program would not link out of state, but would provide a level of price certainty in the fee structure that other programs do not have.

For our future, the most expensive thing we can do is nothing

Despite the hard work of a large group of interests who have found a common vision for carbon pricing in Washington, I 1631 is certain to generate intense opposition from the fossil fuel industry and their allies. They will invoke the usual pieties about how yes, climate change is real, but this approach is all wrong. They will say that it’s bad for the economy. Of course oil producers and other fossil fuel interests do not want to help the state transition away from their products and the harm they cause. The fact is that carbon prices are features of several state and national economies, including British Columbia and California, that are thriving.

While carbon pricing is not the only approach to reducing emissions, it does start to internalize the costs of climate pollution and make the needed investments for a safer, healthier future. UCS has long supported carbon pricing and we recognize that there are different advantages to different approaches, along with numerous economic benefits. The greater threats to our economy, not to mention our well-being, are climate change-related impacts that are already costing billions of dollars, devastation of property and the environment, and loss of life. In fact, the most expensive thing we can do is nothing.