Eagle River Regional Water Efficiency Plan available for review

From the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District:

The draft Eagle River Regional Water Efficiency Plan is available for review by the public, which can submit comments through July 30.

The plan is a joint effort by the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority that outlines actions the organizations will take to meet increasing regional water demands with available supply into the future in an environmentally and fiscally responsible manner.

Community members can review the draft plan at the district office in Vail during business hours and anytime online.

Both the district and the authority are required to have a water efficiency plan on file with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which is part of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. The CWCB awarded grant funds to the district and authority to assist with plan development and there must be a period for the public to comment on the proposed plan. This public comment period follows an extensive stakeholder outreach process where the plan was presented to nearly 20 community groups, several of which can be viewed on the High Five Access Media website (watch a video). Feedback at those presentations has informed the current draft.

All comments received will be considered for integration into the final plan and will be noted in a plan appendix. The district and authority boards of directors will review the final plan in August and approve its submittal to the CWCB, which makes the final determination that the plan meets state guidelines and accepts it.

To submit comments, contact water demand management coordinator Maureen Mulcahy by email, phone (970-477-5402), or mail: 846 Forest Road, Vail, CO 81657. Written comments are preferred for better tracking and inclusion in the final plan.

Click here to view the draft plan. For more information call Mulcahy at 970-477-5402.

Report: The High Cost of Hot — @ClimateCentral #ActOnClimate

Click here to read the report.

From Climate Central:

As additional carbon pollution continues to trap more and more heat in the atmosphere, the higher temperatures that result can come with a hefty price tag. Some of those costs hit our wallets in the form of higher energy bills from greater use of air conditioning. Warmer temperatures can also have major health impacts, increasing our vulnerabilities to allergies, asthma, heat stroke and even death. To better understand how this is impacting local communities, Climate Central analyzed trends in cooling degree days and minimum temperatures. Of the 244 cities analyzed, 93 percent had an increase in cooling degree days. Much of this warming occurs at night, demonstrated by the fact that of those same cities, 87 percent see an increase in the occurrence of overnight low temperatures above a threshold of either 55°F or 65°F.

Warm Nights

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the optimal temperature for sleeping is around 65°F. Unfortunately, daily minimum temperatures, which most often occur at night when our bodies rest and recover, have been increasing as a result of climate change. And in many places, those minimums have been increasing at a faster rate than the average temperature. The jump in overnight lows is driving much of the overall temperature increase in the United States. According to calculations by NOAA/NCEI, the rate of warming for overnight temperatures since 1900 is more than 20 percent higher than the daytime rate.

Climate Central analyzed the trend in nights above 65°F for cities across the country. For a smaller set of cities that rarely experience nights above 65°F, we dropped that temperature to 55°F for this analysis. Overall, our analysis found that 87 percent of U.S. cities are experiencing more warm nights since 1970. El Paso, Las Cruces, and Fresno all see an increase of more than 50 nights over 65°F, while San Francisco had the biggest increase of 80 nights over 55°F.

Why birders and wildlife advocates should care about #LakeMead — Audubon #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Upper Lake Mead dawn patrol. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Audubon (Haley Paul):

Audubon Arizona’s objective is to make sure that the solutions to our water challenges serve both people and wildlife. Water management policies that provide more certainty and reliability for all users are of critical importance to Arizona’s economy as well as its cities, farmers, birds, and other wildlife.

As United States Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman (her federal department manages the water on the Colorado River) highlighted in her recent visit to Tempe, Arizona, if the states cannot come together to stabilize Lake Mead through collective and collaborative agreements to leave more water behind Hoover Dam via the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) we face a potential crisis.

But why care? Water in Lake Mead and the surrounding environment is not the only game in town when it comes to birding and valuable wildlife habitat (never mind the nine Important Bird Areas that surround the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River). But really, as a bird and wildlife advocate, why care about the stabilization of Lake Mead? What’s at stake?

If Arizona-specific parties affected by DCP cannot get to yes, and instead hydrology catches up to us and Lake Mead declines to critical elevations, water users may look elsewhere for water to make themselves whole. Water resources like groundwater, and existing Arizona regulations that promote sustainable water planning, may come under increased scrutiny and pressure. Arizona’s valuable rivers, streams, and the habitats they provide for birds could be at risk if groundwater pumping increases. Not to mention the negative headlines that are sure to result if we cannot agree on a plan to use less Colorado River water.

As opposed to unmitigated shortages that leave people out on the hunt to solve their water supply problems, a much better option is a plan that everyone agrees to. Some of what that currently looks like in Arizona is monetary compensation to use less water, and changes in the way accounting is done on Lake Mead so that willing water users can leave more of their water behind the dam. Through careful negotiation with the affected water users, people can get to yes, and there can be faith in the process and the result.

Another reason to care? We’ll take Commissioner Burman’s lead on this one: Because if Lake Mead gets low enough, “dead pool” could be reached and that means no water is getting past the dam. No Colorado River water is flowing out of Mead. That’s a scary scenario for farmers, cities, and wildlife. Commissioner Burman is clearly worried about a situation like that—hence her urging of the states to commit to Drought Contingency Plans ASAP.

We’d like to thank Commissioner Burman for amplifying the message on this critical issue. We anticipate more information in the weeks and months ahead from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District on progress toward a DCP. Then, it will be in the hands of state lawmakers and Governor Ducey to construct and pass legislation that allows Arizona to participate in getting DCP done.

At Audubon Arizona, we’ll be watching and participating as the process continues. Being involved in the conversation when policymakers are talking water—one more way we are advocating for our rivers and the wildlife, habitat, and humans who depend on them.

5 things I love about my smart sprinkler clock – News on TAP

Denver Water is turning 100 years old. Your sprinkler timer shouldn’t be.

Source: 5 things I love about my smart sprinkler clock – News on TAP

Say hello to the new @WaterEdCO website

Water Education Colorado website July 13, 2018.

From email from Water Education Colorado:

It’s official! We are excited to announce the launch of our new website! We are confident that this innovative and user-friendly site will make interacting with Water Education Colorado easier and more useful!

Click here to check it out

Meanwhile, here’s the link to their latest “Fresh Water News” newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Drought worsens in Colorado

Fourteen people gathered around a table in a Denver conference room deep within the confines of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife complex and showed one another chart, after chart, after chart.

Lines depicting vanishing snowpack fell farther and farther toward zero on their graphs and deep red stains on maps outlining the boundaries of this year’s dry season grew brighter and larger.

It was mid-June and those members of Colorado’s Water Availability Task Force (WATF) gathered in Denver could see what was becoming clearer each week. That 2018 was shaping up to mirror three other alarming drought years this century that nearly brought Colorado to its knees: 2002, 2012 and 2013. The task force, a group of water managers, scientists and hydrologists, is charged with monitoring water supplies for farms, cities and industry statewide.

Peter Goble, a staffer with Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center and a member of the WATF, had been anxiously watching precipitation levels for weeks. May, he reported, was the second driest May on record, based on measurements dating back to 1895. The absolute driest May occurred in 1934, the fourth year of the Dust Bowl.

“It’s pretty startling,” said Taryn Finnessey, senior climate change specialist with the Colorado Water Conservation Board and chair of the WATF.

Summer temps soar

Though reservoirs are fairly full this year, demand is rising quickly in dry spots such as the Arkansas and Southwest Basins. And even on the Front Range, where snowpack was close to normal, weeks of searing 90-plus degree days have sprinklers running at full force and reservoir levels dropping quickly.

In May, after a recommendation by Finnessey and the task force, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper activated the state’s drought response plan for 34 southern counties, making them eligible for millions of dollars in federal drought relief, among other forms of assistance.

Within weeks, wildfires began chasing one another across the state, spreading at rates never seen in the dry southwestern counties. The Spring Creek fire is on track to becoming one of the largest ever in the state, while the 416 fire outside Durango temporarily shut down some of the state’s most treasured tourist spots, including the scenic Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

But unlike the earlier drought years of this century, 2018 is no longer viewed as a standalone event. It’s been given a much chewier title. Scientists and water managers call it an entry into a multi-decadal drought period, and some worry it may signal a transformation of Colorado’s climate. Where this was once considered a semi-arid region, this 18-year dry spell may signal a dramatic change in the landscape—one in which Colorado becomes known largely as an arid, rather than semi-arid region.

Aridification is the term Brad Udall likes to use to describe what’s been going on since 2000, if not earlier. Udall is a scientist with Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute and a member of the multi-state Colorado River Research Group, based at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Finding the right word

“Using old terminology, we could call it a drought,” Udall said. But he believes the term aridification is more accurate because of the ongoing reductions in snowpacks and subsequent river flows that have been seen this century.

Here’s what Udall and others find worrisome:

The Colorado River, whose headwaters lie in the Never Summer Mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park, has seen a 20 percent reduction in flows since 2000, the date many use to describe the beginning of this multi-decadal drought period, according to the Colorado River Research Group.

In the same period, only five years have delivered above average flows into Lake Powell, which along with Lake Mead, serves as one of the two largest reservoirs on the river.

Three of the four driest years on record in the Colorado River Basin have occurred during this 18-year period, with 2012 and 2013 being the driest consecutive years since 1906, according to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico are responsible for delivering roughly 8.23 million acre-feet (MAF) of water to the lower basin states each year by releasing it from Lake Powell. But since 2000, inflows into Lake Powell, where those deliveries are stored, have averaged just 5.74 MAF annually, meaning trying to keep up with the required deliveries is now a losing game.

Shrinking river flows

Adding to those concerns is this river-busting year of 2018, when just 2.64 MAF is expected to flow into Powell, 37 percent of average, according to data from the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center in Salt Lake City.

“2018 will not be remembered as a good water supply year for the Colorado River Basin,” Finnessey said.

Why should Coloradans care so much about the Colorado River? Because it keeps huge tourist, fishing and farm economies on the West Slope alive, it delivers roughly half the water used on Colorado’s Front Range, and it serves millions of people in Arizona, Nevada and California.

If the hydrology is changing permanently, it means most of the state’s water users will be forced to use less, and in some years, if Colorado can’t deliver enough to Arizona, Nevada and California, as the law requires, they might have to do with a lot less.

The grim scenario isn’t lost on Jesse Kruthaupt. He and his family operate a small 500-acre ranch outside Gunnison. For decades its luscious hay meadows have flourished along the banks of Tomichi Creek. Typically the creek will go dry late in the summer. “But right now,” he said, in late June “our diversion is totally dry.”

Kruthaupt will see his hay production drop this year but at least he will have a crop and enough to feed his cows and calves. “I know we will be short,” he said. “I just don’t know by how much.”

On the urban Front Range, 2018 has been a year to count blessings. In Highlands Ranch, Water Resources Administrator Swithin Dick watched his district’s reservoirs fill nicely, because in the South Platte Basin, which serves metro Denver and much of the urban north, snowpack came in at nearly normal levels.

“The South Platte Basin is the place to be this year,” Dick said. Still, the district has permanent conservation measures in place that prohibit its 96,000 residents from watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., among other things.

“Our snowpack was diminished, but it’s not dire like it is for southern Colorado and southwestern Colorado,” he said.

Looking ahead, if 2019 delivers the same brand of dry as this year did, it will be much harder to tolerate because reservoirs from Durango to Denver will be depleted and will struggle to refill.

Front Range communities that lucked out this year, may not next year.

Thirsty urban customers

Denver Water, the largest municipal water utility in the state, has seen conditions deteriorate since April. It thought then that its reservoirs would fill completely, thanks to late spring snows.

But that didn’t occur, and Greg Fisher, Denver Waters manager of demand planning, said the super hot temps this summer have everyone at the agency keeping a close watch on the weather and how much water customers are using.

“We find ourselves in extremely hot, dry conditions and our use is up for sure,” Fisher said.

To date there hasn’t been a huge spike in demand and as a result the agency does not intend to impose water restrictions.

“We got very, very lucky this year,” Fisher said. “But the fact that our system didn’t fill is concerning. That often marks the start of a drought cycle for us.”

Despite the growing frequency of dry years, Udall sees some cause for optimism. “We’ve learned a lot in the last 15 years in terms of how to work with each other and how to come up with solutions that benefit everybody. Colorado has more going on in water in a good way than anywhere else in the West,” he said.

The state has, for instance, created nine regional roundtables representing its river basins and the metro area. These groups operate to address their own water issues, while working with other basins with whom they share supplies.

Those collaborative efforts are evident every month at the Water Availability Task Force meetings, where Eastern Plains ranchers weigh in with West Slope water managers and others representing Denver Water, Colorado Springs Utilities and Aurora Water, among others.

Still this year the work has been grueling. When one scientist asked if the group wanted to look at one more water supply index last month, John Stulp, Gov. Hickenlooper’s water policy adviser, smiled and said no, not really.

“I think we’re depressed enough,” he said. And he was only half joking.

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, at jerd@watereducationcolorado, and @jerd_smith on Twitter.

Swan River Restoration Project – BRWG Call to Action – July 10th July 24th Summit County BOCC Hearing

Swan River. Photo credit: Summit Magazine

Update: from email from Jennifer Hopkins:

Good afternoon!

I wanted to let you know that a request has been made to the BOCC by staff and the permit applicant to continue the Mascot Placer hearing to a date certain of July 24, 2018, to allow staff time to further analyze the cumulative traffic impacts this applicant presents for the use of Tiger Road. This request would be granted at the discretion of the BOCC at the meeting on Tuesday the 10th. The opportunity for public comment on Tuesday would also be at the BOCC’s Discretion.

BRWG appreciates your support and we hope, instead of the meeting on the 10th, you can join us at the meeting on July 24th. It is at the same time and place, 1:30pm in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room in Breckenridge.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks,

Jennifer
Blue River Watershed Group

From email from the Blue River Watershed Group (Jennifer Hopkins):

The Blue River Watershed Group (BRWG) is reaching out to supporters and stakeholders of the Swan River Restoration Project to notify you of an upcoming Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) hearing that will have a significant impact on the project. As you know, the Swan River Restoration is a collaborative, multi-year effort to restore sections of the Swan River affected by historical dredge mining. The first section of the river has been restored on Summit County/Town of Breckenridge property. In order for restoration work to continue on additional reaches of the river, dredge rock tailings must be processed and removed from the sites.

The Board of County Commissioners is holding a hearing on July 10th to decide on a Conditional Use Permit that would allow Peak Materials to add a rock crushing operation at the Mascot Placer, located along the Swan River on privately owned land (comprising the third phase of the four-phase restoration project). Peak Materials has been operating a rock screening and sales operation at the site since 2003. BRWG supports the approval of the Conditional Use Permit as it will confer a number of public benefits and allow the Swan River Restoration Project to continue.

BRWG is asking supporters to attend the BOCC meeting on July 10th in support of the Swan River Restoration and approval of the Conditional Use Permit. Peak Materials is offering in-kind donations of significant crushed rock materials and other work at the site needed for the restoration (valued at approximately $1.5 million). Milling these materials on-site will decrease the amount of material taken off-site and reduce the need to import material for the restoration. The 5-year permit will expedite the removal of the dredge rock and preparation of the site for restoration activities. In addition, the private landowner has agreed to grant a public access easement covering a future stream and riparian corridor to perpetually ensure that the corridor remains undeveloped and available for public use. Without the permit, the restoration project would not receive these benefits and would likely not continue to move forward on this section of the river. At best, the restoration effort would need to find an additional $1.5M and at worst the project could be stopped entirely if the owner refuses to grant the easement if the crushing permit is denied.

It is crucial that we show community support for this permit. I would love the opportunity to discuss this issue with you further and to answer any questions you might have. Please let me know if there is a time we can chat before July 10th and I will be happy to call you. And please join us at the BOCC meeting. Here are the details:

Date: July 10th, 2018
Time: 1:30pm
Location: Commissioners’ Hearing Room, 208 E. Lincoln Ave., 3rd Floor, Breckenridge, CO 80424

Thank you for your continued support of this important project.

#Drought news: Warm water temperatures are stressing cold water fish across #Colorado

The upper Colorado River, looking upstream toward Gore Canyon, near Pumphouse. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Summit Daily (Deepan Dutta):

Colorado’s fish are in hot water. Low river flows and high water temperatures are endangering trout in rivers and streams across the state, and wildlife officials are urging anglers to fish early in the day and take their lines out when water warms in the afternoon.

“We’re experiencing some extreme high water temperatures in some of our rivers and streams, high enough to stress out trout,” said CPW aquatic biologist Jon Ewert, who oversees aquatic life in Grand and Summit counties.

Ewert said that trout thrive around 50 degrees, get lethargic in the 60s and become very stressed in the 70s. Trout mortality is likely at 74 degrees and above.

The worry about water temperature is verified by data from the water monitoring gauge at the Pumphouse recreation site near Kremmling, a very popular place for wade and float fishing. At one point this season water temperature there reached 70 degrees and has been holding steady between 60 and 70 since.

“We’re in the worst shape when it comes to conditions,” said Lori Martin, CPW’s senior aquatic biologist for northwest Colorado. “The snowpack melted early, and it’s constantly hot and dry.”

Martin referred to the snowmelt that peaked in mid-May in Summit, a month earlier than normal, causing water flows to bottom out much earlier in the season.

Historical data from the Pumphouse gauge showed that the typical water flow at this point in July is usually around 1,200 to 1,400 cubic feet per second. But this year, water levels peaked in mid-June and have been hovering around 850 cfs for over a week.

Water levels are important when it comes to temperature, as higher levels mean water warms up more slowly while the opposite is true for lower levels. With early melt-off, the hottest part of the summer is coinciding with the lowest water levels…

Ewert said that anglers should not be fishing after 1 p.m., as it is the hottest part of the day and when fish are most stressed…

“It’s a little frustrating that these reservoirs are full but they’re not letting any of it out,” said [Jack] Bombardier. “But the primary function of those reservoirs is for human consumption to mitigate low summer flows, and not for fish.”

As with anything water-related this summer, the hope comes in the form of rain. Monsoon season is expected to be wetter than average and the cloud coverage is expected to help cool streams enough to keep trout happy. Ewert said that the water temperature situation isn’t dire yet, but if rains don’t come soon the state may likely consider voluntary fishing closures in Summit County.