Here’s the release from the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer / Interstate Stream Commission:
The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC), in collaboration with the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer (OSE), has released the 2018 Draft New Mexico State Water Plan. The State Water Plan provides important information about the state’s water resources and strategies to plan for the state’s water future. For the first time, a public review and comment period has been incorporated for the Draft State Water Plan.
The ISC began working on the State Water Plan in April 2017, following the completion of the last Regional Water Plan. This draft plan has been developed on schedule and under budget.
“Getting the public’s input is a valuable aspect to ensuring all New Mexicans have a say in planning for New Mexico’s water future,” said Interstate Stream Commission Director John Longworth. “This plan will help New Mexicans make informed decisions that will allow the state to grow and change as needed and yet still preserve what people love about the state.”
The plan has three parts:
Policies: provides descriptions of proposed water resource management policies.
Technical Report: The 16 Regional Water Plans and attendant recommendations developed through a collaborative process at the December 2017 New Mexico State Water Plan Town Hall have informed and influenced the state water policies.
Legal Landmarks: provides summary information about historic decisions in New Mexico water law establishing the legal structure for water resource administration.
The 16 Regional Water Plans and attendant recommendations developed through a collaborative process at the December 2017 New Mexico State Water Plan Town Hall have informed and influenced the state water policies. Additionally, many state agencies have participated in the review of the draft plan and provided valuable input. The ISC has also been active in conducting tribal consultation to ensure tribal concerns have been incorporated in the State Water Plan.
There will be a 30 day public comment period. Comments on the plan can be submitted online via the above website or can be mailed to Lucia F. Sanchez, Interstate Stream Commission Water Planning Program Manager, 407 Galisteo Street, Santa Fe, NM 87504. The Draft New Mexico State Water Plan can be accessed at http://nmose.isc.commentinput.com.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
Over the last week, relatively warm weather was common over much of the country, particularly in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, and California. Widespread rainfall fell over parts of Pennsylvania and New York, Illinois, and from southwest Nebraska to the Michigan Upper Peninsula. Elsewhere across the central and eastern United States, rainfall, some moderate to heavy, was generally hit or miss. In the western United States, monsoonal rains fell over Arizona and New Mexico and parts of southern Utah and Nevada, keeping temperatures in the areas receiving rain near or cooler than normal. Most other areas, with the exceptions of eastern Wyoming, the Montana high plains, and parts of Colorado, stayed mostly dry…
Warm conditions over the last week took place in eastern Nebraska, eastern South Dakota, and eastern Kansas. Warm temperatures also occurred over much of western Wyoming and the high plains of Montana. Moderate to heavy rain fell over roughly the eastern half of Wyoming, much of Nebraska (excluding the Omaha and Lincoln areas), and parts of South Dakota and central Kansas. Heavy rainfall Monday night prevented the introduction of abnormal dryness in south-central Nebraska and north-central Kansas, where some long-term precipitation deficits and groundwater shortages are present. Heavy rain this week in parts of central Kansas led to small areal improvements where severe and extreme drought conditions were present. Meanwhile, in areas that mostly missed the rain, short- and long-term deficits caused degradation of conditions. Exceptional drought was introduced in a small area of east-central Kansas, and extreme drought was introduced in the Kansas side of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area and in far southeast Kansas. Conditions remained mostly status quo in Montana and the Dakotas, with a minor improvement from moderate drought to abnormal dryness southwest of Denver, Colorado, due to heavy rain…
Generally warm conditions were found across the South during the last week. Scattered, generally disorganized areas of moderate to heavy rain fell over parts of Oklahoma, Texas (excluding central and south Texas), Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Improvements in drought conditions occurred in parts of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, while drought expanded in other parts of the panhandles. Extreme drought developed over a small area of northeast Oklahoma as a result of short- and long-term precipitation deficits. Scattered heavy rain over north Texas led to changing drought conditions as many areas that received heavy rain saw improvements to their conditions. Heavy rain in southwest Texas also partially alleviated drought conditions. The hit-and-miss rains in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi led to small changes in areas of mostly moderate drought and abnormal dryness that were caused by short-term precipitation deficits. In western Tennessee, which mostly missed this week’s heavier rains, conditions continued to dry out in the short term, which may soon lead to abnormal dryness…
Very warm and generally dry weather occurred over the last week in California, Oregon, and Washington. Meanwhile, in southern Nevada, southeastern California, and parts of Utah and Arizona and New Mexico, scattered monsoonal rains continued, leading to localized heavy rains. Because of the short- and long-term precipitation deficits present in much of the region coming into this past week, large amounts of rainfall were needed for drought conditions to improve. Improvements in extreme and exceptional drought conditions occurred over parts of Arizona where enough rain fell to substantially reduce the ongoing deficits. Conditions in Washington continued to dry out in the short term. Combined with warm temperatures, this led to the development of moderate drought in the Olympic Peninsula and the expansion of abnormal dryness in parts of eastern Washington. Abnormally dry conditions also developed in parts of the Idaho Panhandle because of precipitation deficits and low streamflow…
Over the next 5-7 days, the southern Plains and the Northwest are forecast to remain mostly dry. Rain chances will likely continue over the Southwest, though the focus of the heaviest precipitation will likely be from the mountains in Colorado and New Mexico northeastward into the southern and central High Plains. Rain is also forecast in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest. The best chances for heavy rain amounts during the next week will generally be east of the Mississippi River. The highest chances for warmer than normal temperatures over the next week will be in Alaska, New England, the Florida Peninsula, the Intermountain West, the Desert Southwest, and the Pacific Northwest. In between these areas, the greatest chances for cooler than normal temperatures will occur in the central and northern Plains and in the Upper Midwest.
From the Associated Press:
Climate change protesters are claiming victory in their effort to present an unusual “necessity defense” against felony charges stemming from efforts to shut down oil pipelines.
The Minnesota Supreme Court declined Wednesday to review a ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals that backed the protesters, who will still face an uphill legal battle when their case goes to trial this fall.
Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein acknowledge turning the emergency shut-off valves on two pipelines in 2016 in Clearwater County of northwestern Minnesota as part of a coordinated nationwide action. Eleven activists were charged in all.
The Court of Appeals ruled in April the two Seattle-area women can argue that they believe the threat of climate change from Canadian tar sands crude is so imminent that they were justified.
From The Denver Post (Kieran Nicholson):
Wildfires have scorched more than 175,000 acres this season, leaving lands stripped of trees, brush and other vegetation. When rains come, water washes down barren landscapes, uprooting fire debris and channeling mudslides and flash floods.
Rocks, dirt, tree limbs, logs and other debris are often swept into floods and slides, creating dangerous situations. Structures, roads, vehicles and energy infrastructure, including power poles and energy lines, can be damaged or destroyed.
A flash flood warning was posted Tuesday, by the National Weather Service, through 9 p.m. for north and central La Plata County.
U.S. 550 north of Durango, in the 416 fire area, was closed from La Plata County Road 203B to Hermosa Meadows Road by a mudslide, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. A section of U.S. 160, in the Chimney Rock area, between Bayfield and Pagosa Springs, was shut down by heavy rains and mudslide, according to San Juan National Forest officials.
The highways were shut down when heavy rains from thunderstorms swept through the area between 5 and 6 p.m., the weather service said. Areas that were flooding included Rockwood, Hermosa and Trimble…
A KOA campground on County Road 250, north of Hermosa, was evacuated Tuesday evening because of mudslides. Evacuated campers were instructed to go to La Plata County County Fairgrounds for safety…
The fire, which started on June 1 about 13 miles north of Durango, has burned more than 54,000 acres and was 50 percent contained Tuesday night.
LAKE CHRISTINE FIRE
The Upper Colorado River Type 3 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire on Monday. The incident command post is now located at Basalt Fire Station 42, on JW Drive in El Jebel.
Fire crews on Tuesday mopped up and worked on control lines on the west and south flanks of the fire. They were supported by helicopters dropping water on hotspots. Isolated torching is ongoing, but fire spread is limited to the steep, rocky terrain around Basalt Mountain, according to fire officials. “Smoke will be visible in the coming days and may impact residents as interior fuels burn themselves out.”
The fire, which started on July 3 and was human caused, has burned more than 6,800 acres and was 59 percent contained Tuesday night.
SPRING CREEK FIRE
The fire, the third largest in Colorado history, has burned more than 108,000 acres and was 91 percent contained Tuesday night. In 2013, the West Fork Complex fire, which was sparked by lightning, burned 109,049 acres. West Fork holds the No. 2 spot…
The human-caused fire started June 27 about 5 miles northeast of Fort Garland.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):
Southern Colorado is experiencing plenty of wildfires, thirsty lawns and stressed trees, all of which are leaving water suppliers working overtime to keep up.
In Fremont County, employees at the Florence Water Treatment plant are feeling the greatest impact as they work to supply water to the Fremont County Airport where air tankers are filling up for water and retardant drops on wildfires throughout the region.
From The Colorado Springs Independent (Faith Miller):
Tests showed perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, in certain groundwater wells that supply drinking water to north metro Denver, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced July 12. PFCs are toxic chemicals used in a variety of products, including firefighting foam, that have contaminated water supplies near military bases around the world — including in El Paso County.
So far, South Adams County Water and Sanitation District officials have detected PFCs in 12 municipal wells along Quebec Parkway near Interstate 270, The Denver Post reports. Those wells supply water to 50,000 residents across 65 square miles.
The District’s water system manager is quoted in the Post’s article as saying that the wells’ PFC levels ranged from 24 parts per trillion (ppt) to 2,280 ppt. That’s up to 32 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s current acceptable limit for PFCs, which is 70 ppt. A study released June 20 by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry suggests that safe drinking water should contain less than 12 ppt.
“We are working with our partners at EPA and local governments to address this issue and protect public health,” Ron Falco, safe drinking water program manager for the Water Quality Control Division, is quoted in the CDPHE’s statement.
Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:
Gov. John Hickenlooper today signed an executive order that aims to address safety concerns with more than 260 orphaned wells and 360 orphaned sites in Colorado. The executive order follows a review that the governor ordered in the aftermath of the Firestone house explosion in 2017 that killed Joey Irwin and Mark Martinez and injured Erin Martinez.
“That tragedy was a catalyst that compels us to improve the safety of Colorado’s oil and gas industry,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “We send a strong statement of unity when stakeholders throughout the industry agree to take action to remediate orphaned wells and orphaned sites and prevent the issue in the future.”
The executive order provides the following directives:
A reduction in the backlog of high- and medium priority orphaned wells and orphaned sites to zero. Engagement of the oil and gas industry in the plugging, remediation and reclamation of these wells and sites. A system of financial assurance that prevents future orphaned wells and orphaned sites by providing sufficient funding for plugging, remediation and reclamation activities.
The public will have access to a list of known sites by Aug. 1, 2018. That list will be updated annually by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
“The order announced today will accelerate our ongoing work to properly plug and safeguard orphaned wells,” said Julie Murphy, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. “This approach is designed to address the issue comprehensively – through more effective prevention of future orphaned locations and more aggressive work to remedy existing priority sites.”
View the executive order here.
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife via The Pagosa Daily Post:
Drought, hot weather… and ash and debris flows from the 416 Fire… are meeting in an unfortunate sequence of events to hit the Animas River this summer, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials.
Because of the river’s low flow, the water temperature has been higher than normal and on some afternoons has risen above 70 degrees. Water temperature that high can cause fish to die. Consequently, CPW is requesting that anglers cooperate with a voluntary closure on fishing from noon to 7pm when the water temperature reaches 70 degrees.
Historical records for the river show that in mid-summer the Animas River averages 58 degrees.
“The temperature of the water does drop at night, so when the water clears we suggest fishing in the morning hours until noon,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for CPW’s Southwest Region. “The fish are already stressed because of the warm water and their stress level only goes up when they start fighting a hook and line. Anglers can also go to high-elevation creeks where the water stays cool.”
Besides the water temperature, ash and debris flow increased this week; the river is running brown and fish are dying.
On July 10, after a local family reported dead fish in the river north of Durango, CPW determined that forest-fire ash flushed by heavy rain off the charred slopes killed the fish. Since then people are reporting seeing dead fish in the river from north of Durango all the way through town. The ash and debris flow came from the Hermosa Creek drainage which meets the Animas River about 10 miles north of Durango.
“We inspected the fish and found their gills were coated in ash, which caused them to suffocate,” Alves said. “In burned areas, the absence of vegetation and the presence of hydrophobic soils can lead to flash flooding and debris or ash flows even after small thunderstorms.”
The family that made the initial report collected 21 dead fish, 15 of them were brown trout. Those fish ranged in size from 16 inches to an inch or less.
Alves said that ash flows and sediment run-off are likely to continue throughout the summer as monsoon rains settle in; but some ash and sediment could continue to run off steep slopes for more than a year. The river, as of July 17, was running at about 300 cubic feet per second, compared to an average for this time of year of about 1,000 cfs.
“The water in the Animas River is so low that it can’t dilute the ash and sediment flow,” Alves said.
Trout are also stressed by all the float-craft on the river. When trout see something above they will seek cover in deep pools, behind rocks and under banks. When they’re forced to move they must use extra energy to stay safe; and because there is so little water in the river there are fewer places for fish to hide.
For anglers, CPW offers these suggestions to reduce stress on fish:
Buy a small thermometer and take the temperature of the water. If the temperature is 70 degrees or above, stop fishing. Fish in the morning when the water temperature is cool. Fish high-elevation streams which usually stay cool. Use heavier tippet and land the fish quickly. Don’t “play” or tire fish. Use barbless hooks which allow a quick release. Those using spinning gear – who don’t intend to keep fish – should press down the barbs of metal lures. Release fish as fast as possible; minimize handling of fish and the amount of time they’re out of the water. Skip the photos for now. Be sure to know the regulations for the river you’re fishing.
“Monsoon rains and, hopefully, snow next winter will help the river and fish recover,” Alves said. “But we can all do a little now to reduce stress on fish and on the river.”
CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 41 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW’s work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Liz Forster):
Ash and debris carried by heavy rains from the 416 fire burn scar into the Animas River north of Durango suffocated thousands of fish, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said.
“We’re seeing thousands of fish struggle for their last gasp of air on the river 10 to 15 miles north of Durango, likely down into New Mexico,” said the spokesman for the Southwest Region of Colorado Parks and Wildlife Southwest, Joe Lewandowski. “We can’t even get an exact number because the river is so dark and brown, and we can’t do much about it until the runoff flushes out.”
Lewandowski added that the Animas River has not seen such a massive die-off from wildfire debris runoff in recent memory, though the Missionary Ridge fire wiped out the fish population in the Florida River northeast of Durango in 2002.
The hardest rains hit areas of the 54,129-acre burn scar about 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Durango Herald reported. The flooding and debris flows forced the closure of U.S. 550 and halted the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train. About 400 passengers were shuttled off the train, and about 200 campers at the KOA near East Animas Road were bused to the La Plata County Fairgrounds.
Wildlife officials and members of the public are primarily finding dead rainbow and brown trout as well as flannel mouth and bluehead suckers. The flannelmouth and bluehead suckers are of particular concern, since the two species are native and endemic to the Colorado River basin.
“They’re very hearty fish that have endured huge runoffs, low water levels, high temperatures and a variety of other pressures,” Lewandowski said. “But we’re not sure how they’re going to do with this type of ash and debris runoff because we’ve never seen anything like this.”
Parks and Wildlife’s first gauge on the severity of the fish kill will likely come in September.
Biologists plan to conduct a fish survey in 6 miles of the Animas River that run through downtown Durango in which they electroshock the fish and record their numbers, weight, size, species and other observations.
From The Colorado Independent (Alex Burness):
Colorado’s scorching summer of 2018 may signal a new normal.
Best-case scenarios show 100-degree days becoming seven times more common in coming decades, while worst-case scenarios show temperatures topping the century mark on roughly 10 percent of days by 2080.
Much of this depends on the near-future global efforts o reduce emissions and stem global warming, but Colorado climate scientists are clear that emissions cuts won’t determine whether extreme heat becomes more common in the state, but how much more common.
On July 11, Denver had its 30th day of 2018 at 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. That mark had never previously been crossed so early in the year.
But, Stephen Saunders of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, warned, “What we’ve seen so far is probably only a small taste of what lies ahead of us.”
Saunders was the lead author on a series of recent studies examining extreme heat scenarios in various segments of Colorado’s Front Range, including Denver, Boulder County and Larimer County.
Those studies, conducted in 2016 and 2017 and funded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, present some almost unfathomably scorching scenarios.
For example: At the current rate of global emissions, Denver will see 25 days per year above 100 degrees by mid-century during extreme summers, like the current one, the researchers found.
It’s unlikely, though, that the current rate will be maintained. Every country in the world, other than the United States, is signed onto the 2015 Paris agreement, which calls on individual nations to voluntarily work to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.
The central goal of the Paris agreement is, as the United Nations puts it, “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) … and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Saunders’s team wondered just how much hotter Colorado would get if the 2-degree Paris goal is reached.
On average, the state will see 2 days per year with temperatures over 100, they found, under a scenario of enormous global success in limiting emissions. That might not sound like too many extra-hot days every year, but consider that over the past century, Colorado’s averaged only one day above 100 every three years, roughly.
Kevin Trenberth, who holds the title of distinguished senior scientist at Boulder’s National Center for Atmospheric Research, isn’t optimistic that the world will achieve the Paris goals.
“I personally think there’s no way that’s going to happen,” he said of the goal to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, “and I think it’s very unlikely we meet 2 degrees Celsius. I think we’ll zoom right by that around 2050.”
The United States’s lack of formal participation in the Paris accord — a reversal by President Trump of the country’s Obama-era course, inspired many cities and states, including Denver, to commit to their own, local 2050 emissions targets. But, Trenberth said, that’s likely not enough.
The U.S. has, over time, produced far more heat-trapping pollution than any other nation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
It’s fallen behind China in annual pollution, but in overall emissions, remains above everyone else. And while the country is economically, intellectually and industrially capable of dramatically shifting focus toward lowering emissions, its present administration has rarely even acknowledged the existence of human-caused climate change, much less taken steps to lead on the issue.
“It’s been very hard to get across to the general public and to politicians that we can’t simply turn back the clock very easily on this issue,” Trenberth said. “There are long-term consequences.”
Trenberth explains how he sees these consequences playing out:
There is more heat beating down on our planet than can escape the atmosphere because of the blanket of greenhouse gases the U.S. helped knit. That blanket prevents heat from going out to space.
So, the temperature goes up, on average, and the added heat means moisture evaporates more quickly. In turn, the extra water in the atmosphere fuels storms that are heavier and more vigorous than those we’ve historically seen.
And, in the places it’s not raining, the heat saps needed moisture and the risk of wildfire goes up.
This summer in Colorado already has seen a point at which eight different wildfires were burning at once. Gov. John Hickenlooper said this week that the state’s now over budget for addressing wildfires.
And if our current June and July become the norm, Coloradans can come to expect worse fire seasons and government budgets unequipped to keep pace.
“We can avoid a really fundamental transition of our climate if we reduce emissions,” Saunders said. “But that takes our entire planet doing it.”
From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):
Aurora’s futuristic recycled water project — Prairie Waters— is running at full-tilt for the first time in its eight-year history, a move designed to make the city’s water supplies last longer in the face of severe drought conditions.
“We’re pushing it as hard as we can,” said Greg Baker, a spokesman for Aurora Water.
In February, as mountain snows failed to accumulate, Baker said the city began mobilizing to ramp up plant operations, knowing its reservoirs would likely not fill this summer. “We were very worried.”
By April, Prairie Waters was running at full speed, generating 9.7 million gallons a day (MGD), up from 5.1 MGD last summer, a 90 percent increase in production.
“We could possibly push it to 10 MGD,” said Ann Malinaro, a chemist and treatment specialist with Prairie Waters, “but we consider 9.7 MGD full capacity.”
“Prairie Waters was huge, not just in terms of volume, but also because it’s really helped us advance as a state in accepting potable [drinkable] reused water,” Belanger said. “Historically, there has been a yuck factor. But Prairie Waters has helped folks understand how systems can be designed so they are safe and effective.” [Laura Belanger]
Twenty-five Colorado cities, including Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Louisville, operate recycled water facilities, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, but that water is used primarily to water parks, golf courses and to help cool power plants, among other nonpotable, or non-drinkable, uses.
But Aurora, faced with fast-growth and a shortage of water, realized more than a decade ago that reusing its existing supplies and treating them to drinking water standards was the only way to ensure it could provide enough water for its citizens.
Completed in 2010, the Prairie Waters Project recaptures treated wastewater from the South Platte River and transports it back to Aurora through a series of underground wells and pipelines. As the water makes its 34-mile journey from a point near Brighton back to the metro area through subsurface sand and gravel formations, it undergoes several rounds of natural cleansing.
Once it reaches the Prairie Waters treatment facility near Aurora Reservoir, it runs through a series of high-tech purification processes using carbon filters, UV light and chlorine, among other chemicals. Then, before it is delivered to homes, the reused water is mixed with the city’s other supplies, which derive from relatively clean mountain snowmelt that is carried down from the mountains.
Denver Water volunteers welcomed by thirsty throngs at summer festivals.