CPW is implementing voluntary fishing closures on sections of the Eagle River, Colorado River, Crystal River, and Roaring Fork River in northwest Colorado.

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Due to high water temperatures and low flows, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is implementing voluntary fishing closures between 2 p.m. – 12 a.m. on sections of the Eagle River, Colorado River, Crystal River, and Roaring Fork River in Northwest Colorado. The fishing closure is effective immediately, until further notice.

Although anglers are not legally prohibited from fishing in these stretches, CPW is asking anglers to fish early in the day and find alternative places to fish until conditions improve.

Sections for the voluntary fishing closures include:

Eagle River from Wolcott downstream to its confluence with the Colorado River

Colorado River from State Bridge downstream to Rifle

Crystal River from Avalanche Creek downstream to its confluence with the Roaring Fork River

Roaring Fork River from Carbondale downstream to its confluence with the Colorado River.

“We appreciate the patience of our angling community as we work through some tough climate conditions,” said Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke. “Conserving our state’s fisheries is critical, not just for anglers, but for the local communities and businesses that rely on these resources for their livelihoods.”

CPW will place signs along the four sections of rivers to notify anglers and encourage them to consider fishing at higher elevation lakes and streams where environmental factors are much less severe, particularly during the afternoons and evenings.

If current conditions persist, CPW may consider further fishing restrictions which may include all-day voluntary fishing closures or mandatory fishing closures.

CPW recommends anglers contact their local CPW office for the most recent information relative to fishing closures, fishing conditions, and fishing opportunities.

Local watershed organizations are also good resources for information on river health including the Roaring Fork Conservancy, Eagle River Watershed Council, and the Middle Colorado Watershed Council.</blockquoteL

@Northern_Water: NISP Final EIS released

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

Here’s the release from Northern Water:

Officials from the Army Corps of Engineers have released a Final Environmental Impact Statement that explores the alternatives for supplying a reliable water supply to 15 municipalities and water providers in northeastern Colorado.

The document outlines the impacts of Northern Water’s preferred alternative, the Northern Integrated Supply Project, as well as three other potential reservoir projects. It also looks at the effects to the environment if no action alternative is approved.

Northern Water officials began the formal permitting process to build NISP on behalf of the 15 participants in 2004, which resulted in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in 2008. A Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released in 2015.

“This is another step in the process and a very thorough one at that,” said Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind. “We’re encouraged that it shows that no new significant issues have popped up and that the impacts can and will be mitigated.”

The Northern Integrated Supply Project includes the construction of Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and Galeton Reservoir northeast of Greeley. Five pump stations and 85 miles of pipeline would convey water to communities participating in the project as well as some farmers in the Cache la Poudre River basin.

The operation of the project would include minimum guaranteed stream flows through downtown Fort Collins, bypass of peak flows in most years, improvements to stream channel and riparian areas along the Poudre River and establishment of a recreation complex at Glade Reservoir.

“The NISP participants have really come a long way and stepped up to put together one of the most-robust mitigation and enhancement plans ever,” said NISP Participants Committee Chairman Chris Smith. Smith, the general manager of the Left Hand Water District added, “We are committed to the $60 million plan to protect and enhance the environment.”

In the 14 years since the permitting began, Northern Colorado has continued to grow at a record pace with seven of the top-growing cities within the NISP Participants Committee. Smith said, “we are the bullseye for growth in Colorado with the fastest-growing cities in the state all being NISP participants.”

In addition to NISP, which is the preferred alternative, federal officials looked at alternatives that included a different combination of reservoirs and conveyance methods. Out of 215 elements studied such as reservoir expansion, new reservoirs and groundwater storage, the Corps identified four that would meet the project purpose and need. The Corps also considered the impact of removing irrigation water from nearly 100 square miles of land in Northern Colorado, which, the FEIS illustrates, would occur if NISP is not approved.

NISP participants include the communities of Erie, Windsor, Fort Morgan, Evans, Fort Lupton, Eaton, Severance, Lafayette, Firestone, Frederick and Dacono. Also, the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, Left Hand Water District, Central Weld County Water District and Morgan County Quality Water District are participants.

The public has 45 days to provide comments to the Corps on the FEIS. A Record of Decision based on the document and public input will be issued by the Corps and is expected in 2019.

To view the document, go to: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory- Program/Colorado/EIS-NISP/
Hard copies may be found at locations listed at http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Releases/Article/1580028/final-environmental-impact-statement-for-the-northern-integrated-supply-project/

Comments about the FEIS may be sent via email to the Corps, NISP.EIS@usace.army.mil. For more information, visit http://www.gladereservoir.org.

From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

The Army Corps of Engineers’ report, about 1,400 pages in all, explores all facets of the project, which leverages water rights purchased by Northern Water in the 1980s along with proposed reservoirs to store and release those rights as necessary.

Getting to this point has taken 14 years, and puts in site potential approval of the project in 2019.

“There’s a lot of smiles around here today,” said Brian Werner, Northern Water spokesman. “This has been a long process.”

Werner said the participants can now see light at the end of the tunnel. He could have said water, as the NISP plan would provide 40,000 acre feet of water per year to the partners. That’s roughly enough water for 80,000 families.

The proposal calls for two reservoirs: one called Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins, and the other, Galeton Reservoir, north of Eaton.

The Glade Reservoir would be fed by the Poudre River, and the Galeton Reservoir would be fed via a pipeline from the South Platte River.

The Corps also looked at three potential alternatives, and analyzed impacts ranging from fish and wildlife to vegetation and water quality.

Most of the impacts analyzed in the report were considered minor or subtle, but there were areas of concern highlighted:

» Water quality in the proposed Galeton Reservoir, north of Eaton.

» Destruction of wildlife habitat with the Glade and Galeton reservoirs.

» Reduced flows along the Poudre River, particularly during peak flow months.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has now opened a public comment period, which will stay open until Sept. 4.

Werner said he saw no surprises in the report, and he said Northern Water is prepared to mitigate any impacts.

Werner said there will be a guaranteed minimum flow through Fort Collins throughout the year, something he said hasn’t been done.

“It’s taken 15 years, and those participants’ need hasn’t lessened. They still need the water, and that need has increased,” Werner said.

Windsor stands to get about 3,300 acre-feet of water, which would amount to double what the town’s currently uses, 3,400 acre-feet per year. When reached for comment Friday, Town Manager Shane Hale said officials there are pleased to have reached this step.

“Windsor’s one of the fastest growing communities in the state,” Hale said. “This is the cost of growth.”

Evans will get 1,600 acre-feet of water from the project, and City Manager Jim Becklenberg called the environmental impact statement an important milestone.

“Evans looks forward to continued community discussion of the project’s value to the community and how it fits into our long-term water and development planning,” Becklenberg said in a prepared statement.

The Central Weld County Water District, which supplies much of the rural residential tap water in Weld County, would gain 3,100 acre-feet from the project, adding to it’s 5,800 acre-foot annual allotment today.

“This would carry us for many years,” said Jim Park, president of the district’s board.

Greeley is not part of the project, and officials here have expressed concerns throughout the process. The official line, City Manager Roy Otto said, is that the city recognizes the need for all reservoirs in northern Colorado.

“Our only concerns are impacts to our water supplies, and how to mitigate (those impacts),” Otto said.

First and foremost, Otto said, he wanted to congratulate Northern Water.

“I think it’s very safe to say our water board is on the record supporting every single water storage project,” Otto said.

The plan goes beyond storage, or at least it’s storage-plus. The proposed Glade Reservoir would offer recreation opportunities, including boating and fishing, and would feature a visitor’s center.

There’s no such luck for Weld County residents, as the Galeton Reservoir would be off limits to those kind of recreation opportunities, apart from, perhaps, wildlife viewing, Werner said.

Even then, the Galeton Reservoir is expected to remove 215 acres of prairie dog colonies, 1,753 acres of swift fox habitat, 777 acres of grasslands and 964 acres of native shrublands, according to the report.

Werner, for his part, stands by Northern Water’s work to mitigate the negative impacts of the NISP.

“They’re always saying it’s not enough mitigation,” Werner said. “I would argue this is the most robust mitigation plan of any Colorado water project — it’s 136 pages. There will be impacts whether you’re building a highway, a school or a reservoir. We certainly believe we’ll mitigate those impacts.”

@CSUtilities and the Lower Ark work out long-term water sharing agreement

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

The Lower Arkansas Water Management Association (LAWMA) Board has announced it will participate in a permanent water sharing agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities.

LAWMA and Colorado Spring Utilities have discussed ways to continue their long-term arrangement of water sharing. The agreement would allow Colorado Springs Utilities to acquire 2,500 LAWMA water shares from an existing LAWMA member and take deliveries in 5 out of 10 years. The boards of both entities have voted to approve the agreement.

“This is a very positive arrangement for LAWMA shareholders,” said Don Higbee, LAWMA general manager. “We will gain a more reliable water supply that will increase crop yields for the average shareholder in both wet and dry years.”

Colorado Springs Utilities purchased the water shares for $3,500 per share. Utilities will take delivery of that water in only 5 out of 10 years. In non-delivery years, other LAWMA members will receive the water, effectively increasing the per-share yield of each LAWMA share…

The next step in the process is to obtain a water court decree formally changing the shares to be used for municipal and augmentation use.

Colorado Springs Utilities has been working with agricultural water entities in the Lower Arkansas Valley through short term, informal agreements for decades.

Over the past two decades, it leased 23,000 acre-feet of water to LAWMA and 33,150 acre-feet of water to Fort Lyon Canal Company. In addition, Colorado Springs Utilities also has provided 20,000 acre feet of water to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for use in John Martin Reservoir in Bent County.

“We are interested in water sharing agreements with the agricultural community and have been involved in leasing agreements since the 2002 drought,” said Pat Wells, General Manager, Water Resources, Colorado Springs Utilities. “Utilities has had successful, informal water sharing agreements with LAWMA for many years. This is an extension of that proven relationship.”

“This arrangement continues LAWMA’s positive long-term relationship with Colorado Springs Utilities. They have a proven track record leasing water to us at very reasonable rates,” said Higbee.

As part of the agreement, Colorado Springs Utilities will also reimburse LAWMA $1.75 million for 500 acre-feet of water storage. This storage will give LAWMA added flexibility to manage its water rights both in times of drought and excess. In the years LAWMA receives the water, it can be stored for future use. In the years Utilities receives the water, LAWMA members will be able to rely on the stored water to maintain steady irrigation.

“If we are collaborating with municipalities, we are not competing with them for water. The alternative is we risk buy and dry, which permanently removes water from the valley,” Higbee explained. “This project helps us avoid that.”

@COWaterTrust scores water for the Yampa River

Stagecoach Reservoir. Photo credit Upper Yampa River Water Conservancy District.

From Steamboat Today (Eleanor C. Hasenbeck):

The Colorado Water Trust will release a total of 600 acre-feet of water from Stagecoach Reservoir, initially at a rate of 15 cubic feet per second. The releases began on Saturday, said Zach Smith, an attorney for the organization.

“We’ve worked with them to deliver water to and through Steamboat Springs to improve both the fishery and the recreational opportunities that folks there have,” Smith said.

For the most part, the river has hovered between 80 and 90 cfs since July 7. Since the releases, about 90 to 100 cfs of water have been flowing under the Fifth Street Bridge in downtown Steamboat.

Even with the boost, the river is flowing well below its average for the date. It was flowing at 90 cfs at 11 a.m. Tuesday, about 32 percent of its long-term average flow of 273 cfs for July 17…

Though the river is up, it’s unlikely the city would lift voluntary recreational closures on the river through Steamboat.

“At this point, it is not likely that the increased flows from the release are enough to lift the river closure with the current weather patterns that we are seeing,” Craig Robinson, interim director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, wrote in an email.

The river is still heating up with water temperatures above 75 degrees, he added. That high temperatures stress trout and other aquatic species that are adapted to live in the Yampa’s cold-water ecosystem. The high water temperatures also decreases the amount of oxygen available to organisms in the river.

“The flows are very helpful for river health as conditions would likely be worse without this additional flow,” Robinson wrote. “If the monsoon season started, and we had a pattern of daily moisture and cooler temps, these combined factors with the additional cfs from the release could reduce the stressors, and the closure could be lifted.”

A mandatory fishing closure is still in place in the tailwaters of Stagecoach Reservoir. The river is closed between the dam and the lowermost park boundary. Anglers who violate the Colorado Parks and Wildlife closure order could receive citations.

The agency also has instituted a voluntary closure of the river from Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area to the western edge of Steamboat. Area Wildlife Manager Kris Middledorf said wildlife managers and biologists continue to discuss river conditions and evaluate the agency’s closures.

Once snowpack melts, increases in the Yampa’s flow come from the area’s sparse rainfall, reservoir releases and groundwater that returns to the river after it’s used to irrigate agriculture.

Since 2012, reservoir releases have boosted flows in the Yampa in every year except 2014, Smith said. Last year, the Yampa saw the last release allowed under an approval issued by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which allowed for three years of releases to benefit in-stream flows over the course of 10 years.

Current releases operate outside of the Water Conservation Board program and are designated to benefit municipal users.

“The fish don’t care by which legal mechanism that water is in there, as long as the flow is up,” Smith said.

The Water Trust purchased the water using funding from the Nature Conservancy, Tri-State Generation and Oskar Blues Brewery’s CAN’d Aid Foundation.

Should flows in the river remain low once the Colorado Water Trust’s initial 600 acre-feet of water is sent downstream, the trust could use other funding sources to purchase more water, Smith said. In the past, the city has cooperated to release city-owned water from the reservoir after the Colorado Water Trust has released its allocation of water, he added.

“We know that the community up there loves this river, and they love it enough to know when to get out of it when it’s stressed,” Smith said. “If we can improve it with additional flow for the community up there, that’s what the Water Trust is around for.”

From Steamboat Today (Eleanor C. Hasenbeck):

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is lifting the mandatory fishing closure on the sixth-tenth mile section of the Yampa River below the dam at Stagecoach State Park, effective immediately…

Voluntary closures remain in effect on the river through Steamboat Springs between the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area and the west end of town.

Parks and Wildlife officials caution some form of angling restrictions could be re-enacted should environmental conditions worsen…

“Fish early when it’s cooler, and take care when handling fish,” he said. “Land them quickly, handle them gently with wet hands, or use a net, then return them to the water as soon as possible.”

The mandatory closure was implemented June 14 to protect the fishery after minimal snowpack resulted in low stream flows during the hottest time of the year. Since then, Parks and Wildlife has been continuously monitoring conditions on this stretch of river.

Anglers are encouraged to call their local Parks and Wildlife office for the latest information about fishing closures, fishing conditions and alternative places to fish.

For more information, contact Stagecoach State Park at 970-736-2436, or Parks and Wildlife’s Steamboat Springs office at 970-870-2197.

@CWCB_DNR OKs leases for Ruedi Reservoir water to help endangered fish — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver

A map of the Fry-Ark system. Aspen, and Hunter Creek, are shown in the lower left. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project western and upper eastern slope facilities.

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board on Wednesday approved two leases of water from Ruedi Reservoir designed to help different types of fish populations in the Colorado and Fryingpan rivers.

For the fourth year in a row the state agency will lease water from the Ute Water Conservancy District to bolster flows in what’s known as the “15-mile reach” of the Colorado River between the Palisade area and the confluence of the Gunnison River in Grand Junction. That stretch of the river is critical habitat for native endangered fish species, including the humpback chub.

This year’s renewed lease agreement will allow the CWCB, which was meeting this week in Glenwood Springs, to release from Ruedi Reservoir 6,000 acre-feet of water held for the Ute Water Conservancy District by the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the reservoir.

At $7.20 per acre-foot, it will cost $43,200 and come out of the CWCB’s species conservation trust fund. The water releases will take place during September and October, according to Linda Bassi, chief of the CWCB’s stream and lake protection department.

“It’s really important for us to be providing water to the 15-mile reach,” Bassi told the directors of the CWCB. “Every drop counts.”

The directors of the CWCB met Wednesday and Thursday as part of their practice of meeting in different parts of the state. On Tuesday, the agency’s board of directors took a tour of Ruedi Reservoir and attended an informational event at the Aspen Yacht Club on the reservoir hosted by the Southeastern Water Conservancy District.

On Wednesday, Bassi described for the directors some of the drastic impacts that low flows can have on fish, including making fish more vulnerable to avian predators, leaving them stranded in small pools or even causing them to get sunburned.

Large diversions on the Colorado River above Palisade that send irrigation water to the Grand Valley, along with other diversions upstream on the river system, can cause the 15-mile reach flows to plummet to detrimental levels.

To help offset the diversions, officials with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program have set a low-flow target of 810 cubic feet per second this year. The leased water aims to help meet that target.

Since the beginning of July, the flows in the 15-mile reach have fluctuated between about 400 to 500 cfs, well below the target of 810 cfs.

A condition of the lease between Ute Water and the CWCB is that releases from Ruedi will not exceed 300 cfs and will not cause flows in the lower Fryingpan River below the reservoir to exceed 350 cfs, as flows at that level can make it difficult for anglers to wade in the popular fly-fishing river.

The lower Fryingpan on Wednesday flowed at 150 cfs.


The CWCB board also approved a lease from the Colorado River Water Conservancy District to increase winter flows on the lower Fryingpan. The proposal was first introduced in May.

The lease will boost the minimum instream flow below Ruedi Reservoir between Jan. 1 and March 31 from 39 cfs to 70 cfs in an effort to prevent the formation of anchor ice.

Low streamflows, combined with frigid temperatures, can lead to ice forming on the bottom of the river. This has a negative effect on aquatic insects, which are food for the brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout that call the lower Fryingpan home.

Under the agreement, the CWCB will pay $65.25 per acre-foot to lease up to 3,500 acre-feet from the River District, for a total cost of $228,775.

The district owns a total of 11,413.5 acre-feet of water in Ruedi, with 7,500 acre-feet of that available for leasing. Of the total the district owns, 5,412.5 acre-feet is to support flows for the endangered fish recovery program.

The proposal to maintain a healthy food source for the “gold medal” fishery’s population of trout was a collaboration between the River District and the Roaring Fork Conservancy, which is based in Basalt.

“We are excited to see [the lease] approved and to partner with the CWCB and the River District,” said Heather Tattersall Lewin, watershed action director for the Conservancy. “It’s really the first lease of its kind.”


Although the CWCB board unanimously approved the Ruedi water leases, two board members raised questions about the differing cost per acre-foot for the two projects.

At more than $65 per acre-foot, the River District water costs roughly nine times more than the water leased from Ute Water.

Over the previous three years, the CWCB has spent a total of $194,400 on the Ute Water lease for a total 27,000 acre-feet.

Board member Patricia Wells, who represents the city and county of Denver, said she was trying to reconcile the dramatic difference in price.

Jim Yahn, the current CWCB chair, who represents the South Platte River basin, asked whether CWCB staff had negotiated the cost of the lease with the River District. They did not, Bassi said.

“It struck me, the price difference,” Yahn said.

River District Chief Engineer John Currier explained that earlier this year, in response to the leasing proposal, his organization created a third use-category in addition to its existing categories of agriculture and municipal/industrial: in-channel use.

The River District then decided to market the water at the same price as they do for agriculture use.

“The River District runs a water marketing enterprise,” Currier said. “It’s my job to make sure that enterprise runs in the black.”

Ute Water External Affairs Manager Joe Burtard said the water provider does not try to generate revenue with its leases; instead it simply wants to cover its costs associated with operation and maintenance of the reservoir.

The cost of the River District water didn’t seem to bother board member Russ George, who represents the Colorado River basin on the CWCB board. He said the instream flow leases demonstrate the importance of Ruedi as a storage unit.

“I’m delighted the River District bought the water and we have it for use today,” he said.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times and Glenwood Springs Post Independent on the coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

#NewMexico: 2018 Draft State Water Plan Released

A forested lava dome in the midst of the Valle Grande, the largest meadow in the Valles Caldera National Preserve

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.

#Drought news: Minor improvement SW of #Denver due to heavy rain

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…

High Plains

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…

Looking Ahead

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.

Minnesota Supreme Court allows “necessity defense” for pipeline protesters #ActOnClimate

A sign along U.S. Highway 20 in Stuart, Nebraska, in May 2012. Stuart is on the edge of the Sand Hills, a few miles from Newport. Photo/Allen Best – See more at: http://mountaintownnews.net/2015/11/15/rural-nebraska-keystone-and-the-paris-climate-talks/#sthash.Hm4HePDb.dpuf

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.

#Wildfire update

Spring Creek Fire becomes third largest in state history (July 2018). Photo credit: Wildfire Today

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.

416 FIRE

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.


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.


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.

#Drought news: Despite recent rainfall S. #Colorado still impacted by deepening #drought

Florence back in the day via Epodunk.com.

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.

Perfluorinated compounds found in Adams County groundwater wells

Graphic vis the National Institutes of Health

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.

Governor Hickenlooper signs executive order addressing orphaned wells

Wattenberg Oil and Gas Field via Free Range Longmont

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.

    #AnimasRiver: Sediment runoff from the #416Fire = fish kill

    Screen shot of Animas River debris flow July 2018 aftermath of 416 Fire (CBS Denver).

    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.

    Think it’s hot now in Colorado? Just wait — @COindependent #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    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.”

    @WaterEdCO “Fresh Water News’: Aurora’s recycled water plant running at full-tilt

    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.

    Water trailer mission: to surprise and delight – News on TAP

    Denver Water volunteers welcomed by thirsty throngs at summer festivals.

    Source: Water trailer mission: to surprise and delight – News on TAP

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

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

    What we know so far about Denver’s commitment to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 — @COindependent #ActOnClimate

    Xcel Energy proposes to close two of its coal-fired generating units at Comanche, indicated by smokestacks at right. The stack at left, for the plant completed in 2010, provides energy for a portion of Aspen and for the Roaring Fork and Eagle valleys. In the foreground is the largest solar farm east of the Rocky Mountains at its opening. Photo/Allen Best

    From The Colorado Independent (Shannon Mullane):

    Denver has now become the 10th, and largest, Colorado municipality to commit to 100 percent of its electricity being powered by renewable energy.

    Mayor Michael Hancock announced the initiative at Monday’s State of the City address, then offered some details at a Tuesday news conference.

    The goal is part of Denver’s new 2018 80×50 Climate Action Plan, which targets sectors with the highest greenhouse gas emissions and establishes a strategy to reduce those emissions by 80 percent, compared to 2005 levels, by 2050.

    “While the White House has made a show of stepping back on this issue, it’s important to know that we listen to the people of our city; we listen to our stakeholders, and Denver can keep moving forward and we will remain committed,” Hancock said.

    Aspen already uses 100 percent renewable energy sources to power the city, and Boulder, Breckenridge, Lafayette, Longmont, Nederland, the City and County of Pueblo, and Summit County have each committed to doing the same, according to the Sierra Club.

    Denver currently ranks third in the nation for the worst urban heat island effect. Caused by human land uses like large paved areas, this effect causes Denver to heat up to 23 degrees hotter on average than nearby rural areas, according to the 2017 80×50 Climate Goal: Stakeholder Report. The report also says Denver can expect other climate impacts, such as increased frequency of extreme weather events, plus reduced snowpack and earlier snowmelt.

    “This isn’t just an environmental issue. … It’s about health, it’s about equity, … it’s about community and it’s also a jobs issue,” Hancock said. “We took all that information and the science behind it, and we developed a pathway to get us to 80 percent reductions by 2050.”

    Three sectors — buildings, transportation and electricity supply —make up 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Denver. The 80×50 plan involves a series of interim goals to reduce emissions in each sector.

    For example, in 2025, all municipal buildings will use renewable electricity, Hancock pledged. By 2030, he said, the entire Denver community will use 100 percent renewable electricity.

    In order to achieve this goal, Denver must work closely with Xcel Energy Colorado, Denver’s main electricity provider. In early March, Hancock and Xcel Energy Colorado president David Eaves signed the Energy Future Partnership, a formal commitment to collaborate as Denver pursues its renewable energy goals.

    In August 2017, Xcel laid out a plan to draw 55 percent of its energy statewide from renewables by 2026, a proposal that is currently under review by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

    Right now, 44 percent of the electricity Xcel provides Denver comes from coal, while natural gas and renewable energy sources are almost equal, at 28 percent and 25 percent respectively, according to Xcel’s 2017 Annual Community Energy Report for Denver.

    With Xcel’s 2026 target, Denver would already receive 55 percent of its energy from renewable sources.
    “That allows us to chart a path to say, given what we know, what do we need for Denver to get to 100 percent?” said Thomas Herrod, climate and policy analyst for the city.

    Although Denver will still receive 45 percent of its energy from non-renewable sources after 2030, it will implement enough other renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to achieve net-zero non-renewable energy use, Herrod said.

    Many of these projects involve the building and transportation sectors, which will take until 2050 to reach their end goals, the city has said.

    While Denver plans to reach 15 percent electric vehicle registrations in Denver by 2025, its goal is that all passenger vehicles, taxis and transportation network vehicles, such as Uber and Lyft, will be electric by 2050. The hope is that all public transportation will be carbon-free, and after infrastructure expansion, more commuters will depend on telecommuting, biking, walking or using public transit to get to work.

    Denver’s population has also doubled since 1960, increased by nearly 25 percent since 2000, and was estimated at over 700,000 as of 2017.

    While the city expands, low-income families are pushed farther out, said Jeff Su, executive director of Mile High Connects. The city is partnering with Mile High Connects, a collaborative of 23 grassroots or philanthropic organizations and financial institutions, to make sure that public transportation is affordable for low-income families.

    “Families that are already spending 50 percent of their income on housing and transportation cannot afford any more increases on their energy bill as we make this shift to renewable energy,” Su said.

    For four years, the city and Mile High Connects have been working on a low-income transit fare. In September, the Regional Transportation District board will be voting on a 40 percent discount for all families at 185 percent or below the federal poverty level, Su said, asking that city and community groups urge the RTD board to accept this low-income fare.

    For building infrastructure, the plan includes six benchmarks, starting with a 15 percent reduction in energy use in commercial buildings by 2020, moving to a 20 percent reduction in residential homes, and ending with 50 percent reduction of energy use in commercial buildings in 2050. The plan also sets goals for reducing thermal heating emissions and making new buildings net zero energy.

    This means more aggressive energy codes, incentives for new buildings, and a home-energy rating system for residential buildings so that owners, renters and potential buyers can make informed decisions about a home’s efficiency and operating costs, according to the Climate Action Plan.

    Denver first began working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2007 when it released the 2007 Climate Action Plan and current governor and then-mayor John Hickenlooper, signed on to the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

    In 2012, the city accomplished these goals when it reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent per capita relative to 2005 values. Then, in 2015, Denver released the first version of its 80×50 goal in its 2015 Climate Action Plan, followed by a two-year stakeholder input process that incorporated expertise from 44 different organizations.

    In order to meet The 2020 Sustainability Goals, the first set of benchmarks in the city’s long-term plan, Denver has two years to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions by about a million metric tons, from 12.79 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent to 11.8 mmtCO2e. and to meet a variety of consumption reduction targets and identified metrics for improving air quality, food, health and nine other quality of life categories.
    “Let’s be clear, there’s a lot that needs to be done to get us there, but we have a lot to build on as well,” Hancock said, referring to the Energize Denver Program and plans to build more electric charging stations, bike paths, walking paths and more efficient public transportation.

    “This plan shows that the tools to solve this generational challenge are available and affordable today.”

    @CSUtilities: Expanding our renewable energy portfolio #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

    From From the ReSources Blog (Amy T.)

    We are excited to announce the start of two utility-scale solar projects that will significantly increase our amount of renewable energy to power the Pikes Peak Region.

    “We are committed to offering our customers a cleaner, more diverse and affordable energy portfolio to power their homes and businesses,” says John Romero, general manager of Energy Acquisition Engineering and Planning.
    The two projects totaling 95 megawatts will add enough solar energy to power about 30,000 homes annually and increase our solar energy offering to 130 megawatts. Combined with hydro power, our renewable energy portfolio will total about 15 percent of our summer generating capacity when the projects come online.

    The peak use of electricity in Colorado Springs typically occurs in the afternoon on hot, sunny days. This high use coincides with the prime time for solar generation.

    “The contribution of solar energy to our grid during these peak times is extremely valuable,” explains Romero. “These projects will enable us to have a clean source of generation that decreases the demand on our grid and provides a fixed price for energy over the next 20 years.”

    We will purchase the energy generated by both projects combined for less than $31 per megawatt hour.

    Palmer Solar Project
    We signed a 20-year contract with Colorado-based renewable energy company juwi Inc. (juwi) to supply us with renewable energy from the Palmer Solar Project totaling 60 megawatts.

    The approximately 500-acre site selected for this project is part of Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District’s property, located in El Paso County. juwi will be responsible for developing, building and operating the facility planned to come online by December 2020.

    “Working with Springs Utilities has been a first-rate experience, and we’re grateful for their commitment to bring safe, clean, cost-effective and reliable energy to their customers,” says Mike Martin, juwi’s president and CEO. “We’re especially excited to be building once again in our home state, and we look forward to our continued relationship with Springs Utilities, the landowners and El Paso County as we operate the facility over the coming decades.”

    Grazing Yak Project
    We signed a 25-year contract with NextEra Energy Resources (NextEra), the largest generator of solar and wind power in North America, to supply us with renewable energy from the Grazing Yak Project totaling 35 megawatts.

    The approximately 270-acre site selected for this project located south of Calhan, Colo. NextEra will be responsible for developing, building and operating the facility planned to come online in late 2019.

    “We are pleased to work with our partners at Springs Utilities to develop another solar energy center,” says Kevin Gildea, vice president of development, NextEra. “Once operational, this project will provide an important source of additional tax revenue for the county and will generate cost-effective, home-grown solar energy for Springs Utilities customers for years to come.”

    #Drought news: “It feels like the edge of that desert has moved 50 or 75 miles in my lifetime” — Ed Zink #aridification

    West Drought Monitor July 10, 2018.

    From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

    “Most of the pasture we used last year we’re not using this year because there’s no moisture,” [Matt] Isgar said of the land he ranches in Hesperus, west of Durango. “There’s no new growth.”

    With the dark red bull’s eye of exceptional drought looming over the Four Corners region, Isgar has lowered his grazing standards. He sold off 35 cows to stave off financial bleeding, but there are still costs.

    “We’re spending more material and labor fixing fences and hauling water, and we’re supplementing with protein. So every day is more expensive to operate,” he said.

    Hot and dry conditions have become an insidious foe to Colorado ranchers and farmers. While dry summers aren’t new, a winter and spring with little snow and rain have pushed parts of the state to get drier, faster. June marked the third warmest on record for the entire state. Colorado should soon see normal monsoon moisture, but that won’t help Rocky Ford cantaloupe farmer Greg Smith. The legendary local crop grows out on the southern eastern plains, another region dealing with exceptional drought.

    Smith saw the writing on the wall with the spring’s low snow pack and only planted a third of his 100 acre farm.

    “It’s just brown dry,” he said. “A match gets started on fire and you have a prairie fire that may run for miles.”

    There’s a cost to leaving fields empty. Smith still treats the soil to prevent weeds. And financially, even with fewer acres planted, he has the same bills to pay. Even his retirement plans got delayed. His intention to build a second retirement residence was torched by the Spring Creek Fire…

    Nearby Baca County was the epicenter of the 30s dust bowl, so dryland wheat farmer Brian Brooks said he’s seen worse. His crop yields are down by about 5 bushels per acre. Prices have decreased slightly. His only saving grace at the moment was above average rainfall from last year that supercharged the soil. Farming advances have allowed him to conserve that moisture for his benefit for now.

    The future likely will mean hotter temperatures which can prolong drought. Roger Pulwarty, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said hotter temperatures can prompt flash droughts, like in 2012, when the majority of the U.S. dried in just a few months.

    “This idea of intensification in drought is what makes drought very unique … By the time it’s intensified, we’ve used up all the buffers we’ve relied on, [like] cheaper grain. And now we’re at the mercy of a very, very strong event,” he said.

    It feels like that hotter drier future has already arrived for hay grower Ed Zink. For 70 years he’s lived on Waterfall Ranch, near Durango. He typically sees the namesake waterfall on the nearby rocky cliffs — but not this year. It’s a first for Zink…

    Zink watched the 416 Fire come within a half mile of this property in June, another first. Ample water rights for his property have meant little difficulty for growing hay this year. But 70 years ago, Zink said his property was situated at the edge of alpine forest. He could see desert to the south. That desert has started marching northward toward his farm.

    “I don’t know how to exactly put it in perspective,” he said. “It feels like the edge of that desert has moved 50 or 75 miles in my lifetime.”

    Zink’s neighbor’s wells have started to dry up, another change in his lifetime. Groundwater is on the decline, and the cause is not fully known. La Plata County plans on a comprehensive study of the problem. The picture adds up to a landscape of more people making due with less water.

    @USBR provides 27 projects $2.6 million in WaterSMART Cooperative Watershed Management Program grants

    The Rio Grande flowing through the Colorado town of Del Norte. Photo credit: USBR

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    Funding supports the establishment or further development of watershed groups to address water quantity and quality issues in the West

    Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman announced that 27 entities were selected to receive a total of $2.6 million to establish or further develop watershed groups in order to address water quantity or quality through Cooperative Watershed Management Program Grants. Of the 27 entities selected, 19 are existing watershed groups, including one from the Virgin Islands, and 8 are establishing a new watershed group.

    “Reducing conflict over water is an important goal,” Commissioner Burman said. “Working collaboratively with locally-led groups is the best path forward to reduce conflict and develop solutions that will lead to the long-term viability of watersheds.”

    Selected entities may use their funding to develop bylaws, a mission statement, complete stakeholder outreach, develop a watershed restoration plan, and to conduct watershed management project design.

    A complete list of the selected projects is available at https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/cwmp.

    A cottonwood forest. Credit: Matthew Schmader/Open Space Division

    The Save Our Bosque Task Force in Socorro, New Mexico, is one of the groups selected to receive funding. It will receive $100,000 to update their 2004 conceptual restoration plan on the Rio Grande floodplain through Socorro County where flooding can devastate farms, infrastructure and small communities. Recent drought conditions have limited available surface water supplies in the watershed, increasing wildfire risk and reliance on groundwater, which also strains aquifers. The task force will work with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, New Mexico State Forestry and numerous other local, state and federal agencies to complete outreach to stakeholders.

    The Coral Bay Community Council on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands will receive $99,155 to complete a five-year update to its watershed management plan and develop a visioning document for the Coral Bay Watershed. The group has spent a significant amount of time characterizing source pollution into Coral Bay, including unmanaged stormwater, sediment transport and an inadequate solid waste system. In addition, back-to-back hurricanes in 2017 have increased the need for updated planning efforts. The council will hold stakeholder meetings to help inform the public of the importance of watershed planning and to incorporate diverse perspectives in the updated plan and visioning document.

    Through WaterSMART, Reclamation works cooperatively with States, Tribes, and local entities as they plan for and implement actions to increase water supply through investments to modernize existing infrastructure and attention to local water conflicts. Visit https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart for additional information about the program.

    Wildfire update #ActOnClimate

    The map, color-coded by day, shows the rapid daily progression of the fire. (Great Basin Interagency Incident Management Team)

    From The Nevada Independent (Daniel Rothberg):

    The Martin Fire broke out in the morning hours of July 5th and ripped through dry vegetation to quickly become the largest blaze in the United States, the largest this season and the largest single fire in Nevada history. As of Wednesday night, the fire had burned in more than 439,000 acres, or about 686 square-miles, an amount of land more than twice the size of New York City. It has not only destroyed grazing areas but has damaged an ecosystem for the sage grouse, the bird that has been a focal point of political wrangling because of the impact of its possible inclusion on the endangered species list.

    On Wednesday, less than one week later, Stewart said that the fire had burnt nearly all of the ranch’s 100,000 acres of grazing land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.

    “It’s gone, it’s gone” he said. “Riding across there, it feels like you are on the moon.”

    Federal land managers and rangeland ecologists expect there to be lasting impacts on grazing, wildlife and sagebrush habitat in the burned areas, with a full recovery taking up to a decade…

    They also said that the fire is indicative of new dynamics on the range that leave more areas open to fire potential and make it possible for fires to grow faster and spread greater distances.

    A spokesperson for the Martin Fire response team said there was 200 to 400 percent more fuel on the range because of a wet winter followed by a dry winter this year. And even though less-than-average snow fell on the Great Basin this year, there was considerable precipitation in the spring, Gardetto noted, which resulted in vegetation growth. But in turn, an especially hot summer meant that much of the vegetation that grew had dried up when the fire started last week.

    “It’s creating a lot of extreme fire behavior that is making these fires very difficult to control,” Gardetto said. “That’s why you are seeing fires like the Martin Fire that just blow up.”

    At times, the 25-mile wide front of the fire moved at 11 miles per hour. High winds contributed to why the Martin Fire moved so rapidly, growing to about 421,000 acres in just four days. Another reason the fire grew to such a large size was the presence of cheatgrass, a highly flammable invasive species that has overtaken much of the range in several Intermountain West states.

    “Once cheatgrass is dominant, in a sense, the damage is done,” said Erica Fleishman, a professor at Colorado State University who has done work on the Great Basin ecosystem.

    The flammable invasive species is the most responsive grass to precipitation and once it has grown in an area, it is hard to eliminate. Its seeds are also resilient and grow in burnt areas. Although livestock can feed off of cheatgrass, ranchers prefer other grass species for cattle.

    The Nevada Department of Agriculture has received reports of burns at six ranches.

    “We are fielding reports from ranchers and will assist with anything from identifying livestock to traffic control, as requested by other agencies,” JJ Goicoechea, state veterinarian and deputy administrator for the NDA’s animal industry division, said in an emailed statement. “We are also standing by in case an emergency declaration is made or funding becomes available and will work with the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] to coordinate and assist affected ranchers.”

    Ranchers like Stewart, who saw most of their grazing areas burnt by the fire, face tough decisions about how to operate in the coming months and even years. They might have to decide whether to sell some of their cattle or find empty grazing areas in other parts of the state.

    Through the federal government, some ranchers might be eligible for compensation if their cattle were engulfed or injured during the fire, or if the fire burnt their grazing areas. At this point, there is no estimate for how many livestock or cattle had been killed during the fire…

    Greater sage grouse via Idaho Fish and Game

    The vast majority of the fire burned in sensitive habitat for sage grouse, land managers have said, and the blaze is likely to be a setback for sustaining habitat for the bird. For years, federal regulators have been working on a conservation framework to boost dwindling populations of the bird and keep it off the endangered species list, which would devastate rural economies.

    Sage grouse rely on the presence of sagebrush in the Great Basin for protection and food.

    “When we have these anthropogenic fires, based largely around the fact that we’ve introduced cheatgrass, it becomes a tremendous challenge for the bird to reproduce,” said Brian Rutledge, the vice president and director of the Audubon Society’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative.

    The concern, among many, is that wildfire will put more pressure on sage grouse populations, which could land the bird on the endangered species list when the federal government revisits the issue. It’s an outcome that many Westerners have worked to avoid for decades. A listing would mean the curtailment of many activities in rural counties, including mining and ranching.

    The impact on sage grouse could depend, in part, on how the fire burned. Since the burn was not continuous — there was some land untouched — there might be some habitat within the 292 mile radius of the burn that is preserved, land mangers said. Although land managers are still assessing the damage, the fire has likely altered mule deer habitat and other wildlife.

    At a public meeting in Winnemucca on Wednesday evening, first responders said all of the parties affected by the fire, including ranchers and wildlife managers, will meet in the coming weeks to discuss how to rehabilitate the range and damaged ecosystems. They stressed they would take a collaborative process and undertake projects likely to include seeding and building new fences.

    “This is going to be a very, very large project,” said Donovan Walker, a fire management officer.

    But restoration can be difficult and expensive. Fleishman said cheatgrass seeds are so resilient it is hard to prevent the invasive species from growing and crowding out space for native grass.

    “Restoration is possible in small areas with a lot of labor and financial resources,” she said.

    Thad Heater, a former state biologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services, said there have been some effective sagebrush restoration efforts. He pointed to areas burned by the Soda Fire, a devastating blaze that eliminated valuable sagebrush habitat in Idaho.

    “It’s really bounced back well,” said Heater, who also works with grouse through as the coordinator of the Sage Grouse Initiative. “You can get the habitat responses for wildlife by working together.”

    According to land managers, the Martin Fire is the largest single fire that has burned in Nevada. The Southern Nevada Complex, a devastating burn in the Spring Mountains near Las Vegas in 2005, burned more acres but comprised multiple fires, whereas the Martin Fire was one blaze.

    In limited circumstances and on smaller scales, fires can benefit the range. Yet in the case of massive human-caused fires such as the Martin Fire, nearly everyone — ranchers, ecologists and land managers — agree they often destabilize the ecosystem and the activities that rely on it.

    “It’s becoming a determining factor of whether the primary stewards of land — ranchers — can succeed or not,” said Rutledge, who works on sagebrush ecosystems with the Audubon Society. “It’s a human challenge as well as an avian challenge and an ecosystem challenge.”

    As of Wednesday, the more than 600 personnel that responded to the Martin Fire had contained about 60 percent of the blaze. Nearly all of the western, eastern and southern edges of the fire have been blunted, but there is a possibility that islands within the boundaries could flare up.

    Three smaller fires are burning in Eastern Nevada near the Utah border.

    Across the country, Gardetto said this season has been above average for wildfires, and it’s part of a broader trend that land managers have observed across the West over the last decade.

    “What we do know is that over the last 10 and 20 years, we are seeing longer fire seasons, we are seeing more extreme fire behavior” due to cheatgrass and hotter temperatures, she said.

    Meanwhile the effort to restore burn scars is ongoing (The DenverChannel.com, Stephanie Butzer):

    As wildfires start to weaken around the state, the Colorado State Forest Service has offered up way you can help the areas affected by the new burn scars: replanting trees.

    The CSFS-administered Restoring Colorado Forests Fund uses donations to purchase seedlings and plant them in areas affected by wildfires, floods or other disasters. Every $2 donation purchases one seedling. The seedlings are grown at the CSFS Nursery in Fort Collins.

    The fund, which was established in 2003, has been used to provide more than 122,000 trees.

    “When a destructive wildfire hits, the first priority is protecting human life and property,” said Mike Lester, state forester and CSFS director. “But for the long-term recovery of our communities and forests, planting trees provides an important means to help stabilize soils, protect water supplies and restore the landscape.”

    In the past decade, this fund has been used to replant areas in the burn scars of the High Park Fire west of Fort Collins, the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs and the Weber Fire near Durango.

    The loss of trees and other vegetation in those areas led to runoff and erosion, which resulted in damaged hillsides, polluted waterways, highway closures and road damage.

    This year, the Girl Scouts of Colorado made a donation that helped the Restoring Colorado’s Forests Fund provide 7,500 seedling trees for reforestation efforts.

    “We will forever be grateful for the seedlings we received because of the generosity of people giving to the Restoring Colorado’s Forests Fund,” said James Williams, a Larimer County landowner…

    To make a donation to the Restoring Colorado’s Forests Fund, visit http://www.advancing.colostate.edu/RestoringColoradosForests.

    From The Denver Post (Kirk Mitchell):

    Nearly a third of the 47 wildfires actively burning across the country are in Colorado, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The state’s 15 actively-burning wildfires don’t include previously-extinguished fires.

    Ash and silt pollute the Cache la Poudre River after the High Park Fire September 2012

    From Western Slope Now (Colette Bordelon):

    The Lake Christine Fire has burned over 6,800 acres, and it has many people hoping for rain. But, once the fire is put out, the rain could cause an entirely new problem. If a storm rolls through the area, it could wash all of the ash and debris into the waterways, and water providers in Mesa County could feel the ripple effect.

    If rain washes the remains of the Lake Christine Fire into the water, it could float to the Grand Valley. “That fire could result in being deposited into the Frying Pan, and then the Roaring Fork, and then eventually the Colorado River,” said Dale Tooker, the manager of Clifton Water District.

    Filtering the ash out of the water can be a difficult process. “Ash can be removed relatively easily, it’s the odor and the color… It does smell like liquid smoke if it’s at high concentrations,” said Tooker.

    Clifton Water District depends on their advanced treatment plant process and take daily samples of the river to test it. If worse comes to worse, there are other options. “We would actually step in and supplement their water supply and provide their customers with domestic water,” said Joseph Burtard, the external affairs manager for Ute Water Conservancy District.

    When it comes to our water, it all leads back to one common goal. “Anticipating the ash coming down, we’re preparing for that, we’re meeting, we’re having those discussions now. And so that when it does happen, our customers both Clifton Water and Ute Water customers don’t really even realize that it’s happening,” said Burtard.

    Domestic water providers are hosting a water workshop for HOA’s on July 19. Those with Ute Water Conservancy District said it’s a chance for people to ask questions about fires near our watersheds, among other topics. RSVP by visiting http://www.utewater.org.

    TV weathercasters hear about climate change — The Mountain Town News #ActOnClimate

    Atmospheric scientist Scott Denning of Colorado State University, left, and Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Photo/Allen Best

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Slipping in climate change amid the daily weather on TV in Colorado

    Television meteorologist Mike Nelson has two-and-a-half minutes each night to recap the day’s weather and inform viewers of Denver’s KMGH-TV what to expect in the hours and days ahead. Rarely does he have time to mention the changing climate.

    Nelson, though, does speak up when he can. “It’s not just about polar bears. It’s about our children and our grandchildren,” he said on a recent Saturday morning in downtown Denver as he showed a picture of his own grandchildren. “This is really important stuff.”

    A handful of representatives from TV stations in Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction were at the session held on the Auraria campus. Nelson, chief meteorologist at Channel 7, had helped organize the program with the National Weather Service, bringing in two climate scientists to talk about how greenhouse gases are warming the planet and changing the climate.

    It was a low-key affair in an ordinary classroom in the Science building. There was coffee in the back and pink-glazed donuts, but also carrots and dip. Few of the faces were familiar to casual TV watchers. Other than Nelson, only Danielle Grant, a relatively recent addition to the prime-time slots at Channel 9, stood out. Nelson has been reciting the temperatures and dishing out predictions of rain, snow, and sunshine in Denver with his signature voice, smooth and calmly authoritative, since 1991.

    The scientists talked about weather and climate, physics and politics, despair and optimism.

    Greenhouse gas emissions have actually accelerated in the last three years, said Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist with the Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. “We’re not making a dent in the problem so far,” he said. Half of all modern emissions have occurred since 1985.

    Trenberth, whose accent betrays his New Zealand roots, has been consulted frequently by reporters for national news organizations such as when Hurricane Sandy flooded Manhattan. While temperatures have clearly been rising, Trenberth was among the first to proclaim the increased energy could also be detected in extreme weather.

    About 90 percent of the increased heat goes into the ocean, causing expansion of the water and rising sea levels. Trenberth said he believes that hurricanes are a way that oceans use to shed heat, much as a body sheds heat perspiration. The warming climate may not result in more hurricanes, he said, but it is already increasing their severity by 5 to 15 percent. The effect of warming produced by accumulated greenhouse emissions can be found in the deeper droughts and more ferocious storms.

    Dealing with detractors

    In 2009, hijacked e-mails from Trenberth and others were cited by climate contrarians as proof that climate change, as President Donald Trump has said more recently, is nothing more than a giant hoax.

    One of the quotes cited as evidence had been sent by Trenberth to climate scientists in Great Britain. “We cannot show any warming, and it is a travesty that we cannot,” he had written. His detractors had conveniently neglected to provide the context. He was referring to the lack of an adequate monitoring system to show the warming in the deeper waters of the ocean.

    Nelson said that he, too, often gets angry e-mails and phone calls when he mentions climate change. “Spare me,” was in the subject line of one e-mail he got last October.

    “Stick to making erroneous forecasts like you always do and let the real scientists discuss climate change,” said the viewer. “BTW, we’ve had climate change for 4.5 billion years, always have always will. This is just a minor blip.”

    Detractors don’t stop Nelson. He speaks to about 50 schools per year, 15,000 students altogether. Youngsters want to hear about tornadoes, he said, but it’s important to also explain the basics of climate change. He also challenges the students to come up with inventions and innovations to solve the problem.

    “I tell students the problems are real, but the solutions can be found,” he said. “I thank them for the solutions they will find in the next 25 to 30 years.”

    Nelson also uses social media to occasionally push climate change education. He recently interviewed both Trenberth and another climate scientist, Scott Denning, of Colorado State University, for 20 minutes each on Facebook. Those interviews have had 25,000 views.

    Denning also spoke to the weathercasters, at first in deference. His audiences usually consist of maybe a couple dozen students. “Every day you talk to hundreds of thousands of people. It’s amazing.”

    Then he laid out Climate Science 101 to people with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The basic mechanism of the greenhouse effect, he said, is really no more difficult to understand than the science taught in grade schools.

    “This really isn’t complicated.” The absorption spectrum of carbon dioxide, he said, was first measured by Irish scientist John Tyndall in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln was president. “This is not something we discovered 20 or 30 years ago.”

    Denver can expect the heat of Albuquerque, located almost 500 miles to the south, in coming decades, and Estes Park, at 7,500 feet in elevation, the heat now of Denver, 2,300 feet lower in elevation. Trail Ridge Road will be as warm as Estes Park.

    “This is huge, and it’s here,” he said. The warming now underway is the most rapid that has occurred on the Earth since the end of the last Ice Age. The post-glacial warming that took 100 centuries is now expected in just 100 years—some of it inevitably, even if rapid progress can be made in abating emissions.

    Denning calls his presentation “Simple. Serious. Solvable.” He brings a performer’s intensity to each theme. “This is so depressing I don’t even want to talk about it,” he said, flipping past one no-doubt serious slide.

    Then came the solvable, which he suggested is simple enough. Converting to 100 percent non-carbon energy will only cost about 1 percent of the gross domestic product. “That’s what it cost to retrofit the world’s cities with indoor plumbing a century ago,” he added. “It was so worth it.”

    Our future well-being need not be based on “stuff we extract from the ground,” he concluded. Changing our technologies will not require us to go back to shivering in the dark. “That is a grim, awful view of human progress.”

    What the survey results found

    Ten or 15 years ago, many TV meteorologist were deeply skeptical of the conclusions being reached by climate scientists. Some still are. At the Colorado Water Congress several years ago, Brian Bledsoe, chief meteorologist at KKTV in Colorado Springs, argued strongly that the vast majority of climate scientists had it all wrong. Bledsoe, who grew up in a ranching and farming area of eastern Colorado, retains a core audience in the agriculture community for his forecasting service, Weather5280.com.

    Even now, broadcast meteorologists altogether remain notably skeptical about the conclusions being drawn by climate scientists. A 2017 survey of 486 participating broadcast meteorologists by the American Meteorological Society found that 95 percent thought climate change is happening. However, only 49 percent of broadcast meteorologists said they were convinced that the changed climate observed during the past 50 years has been mostly or entirely due to human activity.

    Another 21 percent attributed the changes equally to human activity and natural forces, and the final 21 percent said the changes were entirely natural.

    Members of the American Meteorological Society altogether are far more accepting of the human role in the changing climate. So are Americans altogether. Gallup has asked Americans since 2001 whether they believe global warming is caused by human activities. The percentage has increased from 57 early in the century to a high of 68 percent last year. In the March poll, it fell back to 64 percent.

    Opinions differ sharply based on political affiliation. The Gallup poll in March found that 69 percent of Republicans think the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated, and 33 percent of independents agreed, compared to just 4 percent of Democrats.

    Democrats and Republicans even disagree in what they think they hear scientists saying. Some 86 percent of Democrats say most scientists believe warming is occurring, compared to 65 percent for independents and 42 percent of Republicans.

    Nelson likes to say that TV meteorologists like himself are as close as most people get to a scientist on a daily basis. He first encountered climate science as a student in the 1970s at the University of Wisconsin. “The talk was of global cooling due to dust, but even then, the majority of scientists thought the CO2 would eventually win out,” he says. By the 1990s, he began thinking about greenhouse gas emissions again and, eventually, his responsibility to insert climate change into his public conversations.

    “When we have a climate-related news story in the newscast, I try to have it positioned to lead into my report, so I can comment, perhaps have a supporting graphic or have something posted on social media that I can have the viewer check,” he says.

    Nelson had said he hoped the session at Auraria would embolden younger weathercasters to talk about climate change, despite the risk of what he calls “nasty-grams.”

    “The fact is we need to talk about it,” he told his younger colleagues while describing climate change as the “most existential threat” to civilization. But, he added, it’s a simple matter of physics—and solutions can be found.

    Afterward, Nezette Rydell, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service office in Boulder, defended the turnout to the session, despite the shortage of marquee faces. Like Nelson, she tilted forward with a glimmer of a smile. “Climate scientists used to be so depressing,” she said. “It’s not the end of the world anymore.”

    We need a new word for #drought (#aridification?) in the #West

    From Colorado Public Radio (Nathan Heffel):

    When is a drought so dry it can no longer just be called a drought? In Colorado, that time may be right now. At least, that’s what University of Colorado researcher Douglas Kenney thinks. Kenney directs the school’s Western Water Policy Program, which recently released a paper called “When is Drought, Not a Drought: Drought, Aridification, and the “New Normal.”

    Kenney talked to Colorado Matters about why he and his peers believe that aridification is the more appropriate word. [ed. Click through to listen.] Aridification describes a period of transition where an environment becomes increasingly and permanently water scarce — a new reality for the Western U.S.

    Take a trip down memory lane through mid-July West Drought Monitor maps.

    An Ode To The Toilet, A Water #Conservation Champion — @LukeRunyon

    Low flow toilet cutout via The Ultimate Handyman

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

    Since the 1990s, a strange phenomenon has played out in arid Western urban areas. Populations are booming while overall water use is staying the same or going down. The trend is clear in Denver, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, San Diego and Phoenix: Cities are growing and using less water in the process.

    It’s impossible to give credit to one single solution, but one could make a strong case that the M.V.P. award for water conservation efforts should go to the modern toilet.

    The toilet is the single largest user of water in the home. It uses more than the washing machine, the dishwasher, the shower or the kitchen faucet. About a quarter of all water that enters a home will flow through the toilet according to a 2016 study. Each day the average toilet will use about 33 gallons of water.

    That might sound like a lot, but it’s a big improvement. In 1999 the average toilet guzzled more than 45 gallons of water daily…

    The road to high-efficiency toilets began back in 1992. The concern was less about water scarcity in the West and more about overwhelmed sewage systems on the east coast.

    Congress was feeling pressure to pass national standards for water use and came up with the Energy Policy Act, a law that spawned a generation of low-flow fixtures.

    For the plumbing industry, it was a huge deal.

    “Absolutely, it was an extremely watershed moment, no pun intended,” says Pete DeMarco with the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials.

    The law mandated that toilets only flush using 1.6 gallons of water or less. Throughout the 1990s, low-flush toilets flooded the market. DeMarco says even though the regulations received input from toilet manufacturers, the new models received heaps of scorn from users who complained that their new and improved toilets performed worse, unable to finish the job in a single flush.

    “There were some poor-performing products back in the mid-90s. I think the regulation caught some manufacturers off guard,” he says.

    In many cases, DeMarco says, manufacturers had simply reduced the amount of water a toilet used without making significant changes to its inner workings. A lower flow just couldn’t cut it.

    The frustrated customers sent toilet-makers back to the drawing board. A new test from a company called Maximum Performance allowed manufacturers to demonstrate that their low-flow toilets could actually evacuate the bowl with one flush. In simulations, toilets would be loaded up with logs of miso paste to show their effectiveness.

    DeMarco says toilets can’t take all the credit, but this one innovation is a big reason why cities have been able to grow and still keep their water use in check. Indoor use dropped 22 percent nationwide between 1999 and 2016, much of that due to swapping out old fixtures.

    In recent years some states with water scarcity problems — like Colorado and California — have passed even tighter regulations on how much water toilets can use…

    Even though some conservationists feel like the indoor water use fruit has been plucked, a 2017 Alliance for Water Efficiency study found that more than 13 million non-efficient toilets — those that flush more than 1.6 gallons — remain installed in five states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia and Texas.

    A nationwide push to rid the country of old toilets could have a significant effect.

    If all toilets were high-efficiency indoor water use could drop an additional 35 percent to below 40 gallons per person per day, the study projected…

    This story is part of a collaborative series from the Colorado River Reporting Project at KUNC, supported by a Walton Family Foundation grant, the Mountain West News Bureau, and Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a new multimedia collaboration between public radio and TV stations in the West, supported by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    South Adams County Water and Sanitation shuts down 3 wells citing PFC pollution

    Typical water well

    From 9News.com (Allison Sylte):

    A news release about the contamination was distributed on Friday morning. This comes after the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District found perfluorinated compounds (commonly known as PFCs) in water samples from certain shallow groundwater wells. These chemicals are known to pose significant health risks if people are exposed to them – especially expectant mothers and young children.

    Now, the Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, and the Tri-County Health Department are working to find the source of the contamination.

    However, health officials say the water distributed to the 50,000 customers in the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District is safe after three wells with the highest concentration of the PFC chemicals were shut down earlier this month. This means the district is taking 40 percent of its water supply from Denver rather than the usual 20 percent.

    The concern now, according to South Adams County Water and Sanitation District Water Systems Manager Kipp Scott, are private wells and the people who use them – which is what prompted the advisory to the public in the first place.

    “When we find something that is of a concern like this, we notify the health department,” Scott said. “The concern is, we are treating for that chemical here and removing it to levels below the health advisory, but the concern is with other people that maybe using wells that are not on our system and supplied water by our district.

    Scott said some wells tested positive for PFCs in May. When that happened, they tested the treatment process – and results took five weeks to come back. Next came contact with the health department.

    Brian Hlavacek, the director of environmental health at the Tri-County Health Department, issued a statement to 9NEWS that said:

    “Tri-County Health Department is working closely with EPA, CDPHE and SACWSD to identify the extent and source of contamination. TCHD is working to identify private drinking water wells in the initial area of investigation in order to sample for PFC’s. Sampling could begin as early as next week as we identify any wells. Residents who receive their water from a private drinking water well, are near this area, and are concerned about PFC levels can call Tri-County Health Department at 303-288-6816 or email questions to ehwater@tchd.org.”

    #Drought + pipeline break = shutdown of boat ramp at Rampart Reservoir

    Rampart Reservoir. Photo credit: The Applegate Group

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Liz Forster, Brian Blevins):

    The immediate cause was the diversion of more than 3 billion gallons to other reservoirs in late January when a 100-foot section of pipeline broke, Utilities spokesman Steve Berry said.

    And, Abby Ortega, Utilities’ water resource manager, remains confident that its reservoirs are holding enough water to last more than three years.

    Unless the drought persists and it doesn’t snow enough next winter to bring the snowpack up to normal. Then, Utilities officials said, residents could be looking at restrictions on when they can water lawns and wash cars by August 2019.

    “The lower reservoir level is because of the break, not so much the drought,” Berry said. “Looking ahead, our reservoir capacity and its impacts on customers really depends on how we look going into next year. What is the fall like? What is the winter like, especially in the high country where we collect a lot of our water.”

    Rampart Reservoir is at 65 percent capacity, 10 percent below the 10-year average, Ortega said. Early snow is needed to get Rampart’s levels back to where they need to be in April, when the reservoir’s storage levels are at their peak.

    Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lake, two of the other reservoirs on the Western Slope that feed into the Homestake Pipeline that ruptured in January, are full…

    The Utilities Board would consider restricting water use — generally limiting the days when outdoor watering and washing vehicles is permitted — if water stored in reservoirs dropped to a 1½-year supply, Ortega said.

    The last time Utilities imposed water restrictions was in 2013 during the seventh driest 12-month period in recent Colorado history, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported. That June, Colorado received less than 50 percent of normal precipitation.

    When Stage II restrictions were approved by the Utilities Board, the city had an estimated two-year supply, Ortega said.

    But 2013 paled in comparison to 2003 and 2004, when the city’s reservoirs held less than a two-month supply.

    That experience combined with the city’s comprehensive Integrated Water Resource Plan gives the city the flexibility to deal with droughts, Berry said.

    The 93-page plan approved by Utilities in February 2017 looks at the city’s water supply for the next 50 years, taking into account six variable factors: climate, population growth and demand, water rights challenges, aging infrastructure, environmental risks and state regulations. Its ultimate goal is to maintain a minimum of one-year’s storage at all times and a year-and-a-half’s at least 90 percent of the time…

    Only hand-launched, nonmotorized watercraft will be permitted between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday at Rampart Reservoir for the remainder of the season.

    Gunnison: #Colorado Water Workshop recap

    Western State Colorado University Gunnison

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):

    Which brings us to today’s topic: How do we prepare tomorrow’s decision-makers today, when we can’t be sure what tomorrow is going to look like?

    This is the trial facing the Colorado Water Workshop held annually at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison. This spring the workshop marked its 44th gathering by asking a select group of participants, most with long ties to the workshop, to look to the future and decide possible options for the workshop to follow.

    Even though the WSCU gathering is older than most, if not all, of its competitors, there are plenty of the latter. At last estimate, 11 similar workshops are conducted around the state. And they all (but for one or two notable exceptions) are cookie-cutter reproductions of “water geeks talking to other water geeks,” as one CWW participant said this year.

    And why attend the WSCU conference if it doesn’t provide something different?

    Workshop director and WSCU environmental studies professor Jeff Sellen admitted this year that although the Colorado Water Workshop is a “different kind of workshop, we recognize the need for change.”

    He called it a “retooling” of the workshop aimed at increasing involvement of WSCU students and connecting them to established water leaders and those water managers (a very broad category) early in their careers.

    It’s an opportunity, Sellen said, to design a “future for western water that acknowledges new challenges.”

    Which eventually boiled down to the existentialist question of why and for what does the conference exist? OK, that’s two existentialist questions.

    This year’s pared-down conference included in its invitation-only audience not only the well-experienced (including conference founder and longtime Gunnison water attorney Dick Bratton) as well as a half-dozen or more present-day WSCU students in Sellen’s environmental studies program…

    The 30 or so participants seemed to agree that inviting “water geeks” (and you know who you are) to talk arcane language and hydrologic philosophy to similarly inclined devotees has its place and certainly provides opportunities for education, although perhaps only to like-minded adherents.

    But does it reflect the best option for Western State and its role in the future of water education and management?

    Education seems to be the key and that, said John Hausdoerffer, director of the school’s Center for Environment and Sustainability, remains the provenance and function of Western State Colorado University.

    “What is it we add to the conversation?” Hausdoerffer asked during a thoughtfully taxing presentation.

    Focusing on the generations of students that will be needed to make effective decisions, Hausdoerffer urged the conference to explore at least 10 years ahead, developing the tools and skill sets needed to deal with climate change and similarly perplexing hurdles.

    These include communicating with the public, dealing with rapid environmental and climatic changes, and most of all, continuing to learn and adapt.

    “Who have we been educating and who do we want to educate?” posed George Sibley, author and former Colorado Water Workshop director and a well-respected voice in Colorado’s water matters. Education, he said, necessarily involves breaking away from the old regimes and means involving new voices.

    Some of those voices were heard from the handful of past and current WSCU students at the workshop, predominantly female and well-spoken on what they need to be successful in what is a mostly male-dominated field.

    “Speak to all levels” of water knowledge and “push for education disciple,” urged Sara Porterfield, former WSCU student and newly minted Ph.D (history). “The purpose of a discipline is to challenge assumptions.”

    And don’t be afraid to “cross-pollinate” among academic disciplines with collaboration and the sharing of educational resources, said Hannah Holm, coordinator for the Ruth Powell Hutchins Water Center at the Colorado Mesa University.

    “We don’t want (to seek answers in) traditional continuity,” added George Sibley. “What we’ve been doing won’t work for the future.”

    In closing, Jeff Sellen said educational institutions sometimes must “swim upstream against cultural currents” in developing answers to present and expected conditions.

    “I’m excited for the future of the Western Water Conference,” he said. “We just don’t yet know what it is.”

    #LakeMead and the lower #ColoradoRiver Basin DCP recap #dcpnow #COriver

    From The Arizona Daily Star (Tony Davis):

    At a presentation before hundreds of local and state officials, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman and a top aide warned that the risks to the lake are unacceptable. They said it’s urgent that Arizona officials resolve their differences over the drought plan and get on board with six other Colorado River Basin states that are moving toward adopting one.

    Since the seven states approved a set of guidelines for managing the river’s reservoirs in 2007, the risks of Lake Mead dropping to very low levels has increased by three to six times, the bureau officials said.

    They spoke at a briefing that also found once-warring Arizona Department of Water Resources and Central Arizona Project officials moving closer together on issues that had split them apart for well over a year. Both ADWR chief Tom Buschatzke and CAP general manager Ted Cooke enthusiastically endorsed the idea of a drought plan, although Cooke warned that the resulting reduction in river water use would boost water rates the CAP charges to Tucson, Phoenix and other municipal customers over time.

    “We are not here to scare you. We are just presenting the best information we have,” Burman told a gathering that virtually filled a 275-person auditorium at the Arizona Historical Society Museum in Tempe.

    “Keeping our fingers crossed, hoping for good hydrology” and waiting for the current and future interior secretaries to ignore the laws of the Colorado River that require protecting its reservoirs from depletion is not how to deal with this problem, she said.

    “It’s not how we’ve dealt with it in the past, and it’s not how Arizona wants to deal with it in the future,” said Burman, a longtime Arizonan who has worked for the Salt River Project utility and for former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona in the past.

    The bureau’s forecasts for how far and fast Lake Mead’s elevations could fall were most severe when the forecasters used what they called a “stress test.” It relies on computer models assuming a continuation of the last 30 years of unusually dry weather.

    Less severe risks of such declines were predicted when the bureau relied on the river’s entire historical record, covering 1906 to 2015, which included several much wetter spells, including the wettest period on record for the river, in the early 20th century.

    In 1922, Federal and State representatives met for the Colorado River Compact Commission in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Among the attendees were Arthur P. Davis, Director of Reclamation Service, and Herbert Hoover, who at the time, was the Secretary of Commerce. Photo taken November 24, 1922. USBR photo.

    From The Arizona Republic (Joanna Allhands):

    And if we repeat the hydrology from 1988-2015 – where dry years were punctuated by a few wet ones, not a great scenario but certainly not the worst case – Lake Mead has a one in five chance of dropping to 1,000 feet of elevation before 2026.

    That should give you goosebumps, because it doesn’t just mean significant cuts to the water supply on which Pinal County agriculture and the state water bank relies. (That scenario, which will play out when the lake hits 1,075 feet, is already likely to happen in the next year or two).

    If Lake Mead drops to 1,000 feet, that means massive cuts have already hit the water supplies fueling Arizona cities, and we’ll need to cut even more to keep the lake from spiraling into dead pool, where water levels have fallen so low that none can leave the lake.

    That is a horrifying prospect.

    And let me repeat this: There’s a one in five chance of it happening sometime in the next few years if something doesn’t change…

    Here’s the bad news:

    Reclamation says that if the plan was in place, it wouldn’t lower the risk of a shortage being declared. In fact, even with the DCP, Lake Mead likely will hit 1,075 feet before 2026, cutting water from the state’s lowest-priority water users (mostly Pinal County farmers, though it wouldn’t be limited to them).

    That will hurt.

    But here’s the good news: It would significantly lower the likelihood of the lake reaching critically low levels, requiring heftier cuts from cities and other higher-priority water users.

    Here’s the video of the meeting. (Water folks on the hotseat.)

    And the good people of Phoenix are cutting water use. Here’s a report from (Joshua Bowling) writing for The Arizona Republic. Here’s an excerpt:

    Salt River Project officials say water use is down one-third, even though Arizona’s population has doubled.

    But even as a historically dry winter and low snowpack numbers set reservoir levels back, officials say it isn’t all bad news.

    Salt River Project announced in June that water use among its users has decreased by one-third since 1980, even though the state’s population has doubled since then.

    That’s due to conservation efforts, recycling wastewater and recharging water underground for future use, SRP officials say. The agency managers and delivers water from the Salt and Verde rivers to users in Maricopa County.

    The Central Arizona Aqueduct delivers water from the Colorado River to underground aquifers in southern Arizona. UT researcher Bridget Scanlon recommends more water storage projects like the aqueduct to help protect against variability in the river’s water supply. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    From The Arizona City Independent (Jake Kincaid):

    Top officials in the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project shelved disagreements from the last legislative cycle and presented a united front along with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on the need for reductions of Colorado River water.

    Proposed reductions have the entire agriculture pool of Central Arizona Project surface water being slashed if Lake Mead goes into a Tier 1 shortage — below 1,075 feet elevation. This year analysts set Lake Mead at just 1,083 feet.

    In a best-case scenario presented in the brief, basing predictions on hydrology going back to 1906, there is a 65 percent chance Lake Mead will drop below this level in 2026.

    Making predictions using hydrology records going back to only 1988, which means assuming the hotter, drier climate is here to stay, there is a 90 percent chance Lake Mead will drop below 1,075 feet in 2020 without a drought contingency plan, and a 40 percent chance it will drop that year even with the plan.

    It is unlikely the agriculture pool of CAP water will survive even in the best of scenarios under the drought contingency plan.

    Paul Orme, who serves as general counsel to five special districts in Pinal County, including Central Arizona Irrigation and Drainage District and Maricopa–Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District, said that DCP is not really designed to preserve the agriculture priority pool.

    But there is support for measures to mitigate the burden on agriculture. Stakeholders are working on fleshing out ideas that are “not ready for the press,” Orme said. He recently received a letter appointing him to represent Pinal County agriculture on the steering committee for the drought contingency plan.

    “I think people generally agree it’s not fair for agriculture to bear the entire burden of DCP when it’s not really intended to benefit us,” Orme said. “The real purpose of DCP is to keep Lake Mead above 1,020 (feet). That’s really what the primary focus is, and that only protects the long-term allocations of the tribes and the cities — agriculture is long gone.”

    Orme said that about 80 percent of the CAP surface water allotted to agriculture goes to Pinal County farmers, making up about half of their total water supply. Taking away CAP water would be economically devastating for agriculture and could ultimately result in about a third of farmland being taken out of production in Pinal County.

    Colorado River Basin. Graphic credit: Water Education Colorado

    From Audubon (Haley Paul):

    This almost 20-year drought is affecting water supplies across the Southwest. We already know the Colorado River System is over-extended — more water is taken out by water users than is put back in by snowpack and rainfall. Millions of people, businesses, birds, fish, and wildlife all rely on a healthy Colorado River and the water it provides.

    Given today’s hydrologic trends, in order to stabilize our water supply and reduce the chance that Lake Mead declines more rapidly, we’ll need to incentivize those who would take their water to leave it behind Hoover Dam instead. Enter the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP).

    The DCP, according to Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, is a seven-year agreement to “buy down risk” on the Colorado River system. She said it in the first word: BUY. In other words, DCP is going to cost money.

    A couple of reasons why DCP will cost money:

    Certain water users will need a financial incentive, aka payment, to leave their water in Lake Mead, instead of using it.
    Since some water users will be leaving more water in Lake Mead, less water will be coming down the 336-mile long Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal. When there is less water ordered, there is less water sold, yet the fixed costs to maintain this large piece of infrastructure remain. There are fewer units over which to spread costs. Therefore, cost per unit of water rises.
    However, not implementing the DCP, not implementing a formal mechanism to encourage water users to leave more water in Lake Mead is far too risky, and potentially more costly, or catastrophic, to our economic and environmental livelihood. The cost of no DCP may be much greater than the cost of having a DCP.

    DCP acts as an insurance policy to buy down risk. We buy down the risk of climate change and an over-allocated Colorado River system by using less water now. Our economies and our environment depend on it.

    Gila River watershed. Graphic credit: Wikimedia

    From The Phoenix Business Journal (Patrick O’Grady):

    Such a scenario is extremely likely, according to new federal studies, and deciding who gets water first could impact businesses from agriculture to home building throughout the state.

    The Wall Street Journal reported the Central Arizona Project and the Arizona Department of Water Resources are attempting to overcome differences on how to spread out less Colorado River water among its users. Arizona is the last of seven states using the river’s water to come up with a drought contingency plan.

    Currently, Lake Mead’s water elevation sits at 1,077 feet, two feet away from a level that would signify cutbacks to California, Arizona and Nevada, all of which rely on the the lake to store their allotment of Colorado River water.

    The challenge for Arizona is further cutbacks that could be triggered if the lake elevation falls to 1,025, which has a 40 percent chance of happening by 2026, according to a new U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report.

    CAP and ADWR have not been able to find agreement on where cuts to water deliveries should happen, according to the WSJ. Agriculture could get the biggest impact, but many businesses would be affected.

    Arizona gets about 40 percent of its water from the Colorado River.

    Central Arizona Project map via Mountain Town News

    From The Arizona Report (Ken Lynch):

    10 CAP Facts: The Canal that Made Modern Arizona

    About those ten facts! Here they are:

  • The 336 mile-long canal, its pumping stations, and turnouts are operated entirely remotely from a control room in north Phoenix. A rotating team of three or four operates the secure facility 24/7/365, running the entire system from a bank of computers while monitoring a display that takes up two walls of a room the size of your basic city council chamber. It’s efficient, cost-effective, and pretty damn cool.
  • The original Waddell Dam sits at the bottom of Lake Pleasant, intact. Completed in 1927, the dam was submerged when the lake was expanded to hold CAP water by the construction of the New Waddell Dam, completed in 1994.
  • An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons, the volume required to cover a square acre to a depth of one foot. If you are a ‘typical family of four,’ you use about one-third of an acre-foot per year, around 108,000 gallons.
  • The CAP pumps water at a rate of roughly 3,000 cubic feet per second from Lake Havasu. That’s one acre-foot every 14 seconds. A typical family of four would be knocked into New Mexico standing in front of a stream that powerful.
  • Only 4% of CAP water is lost to seepage and evaporation. Covering the canal was discussed early on. It would have quadrupled the construction cost and required untold billions in ongoing maintenance, basically forever. Those costs would have been passed to y-o-u.
  • CAP water begins its journey by being pumped almost straight uphill more than 800 feet. This marvel of sheer power takes place at the massive Mark Wilmer Pumping Station (pictured below in 1981) at Lake Havasu and looks like the world’s most dramatic roller coaster climb. (Illustrating the importance of the legal water wars in Arizona, this very first facility on the CAP is named for Wilmer, a water attorney.)
  • The canal is bigger and deeper than it looks. It’s hard to appreciate when you are concentrating on your driving, but the CAP is 80 feet across, narrowing to 24 feet at the bottom. Average depth is between 16 and 17 feet. There is a section serving as internal storage that is 160 feet wide and 80 feet deep.
  • Water leaving Lake Havasu takes 3-4 days to make it to the end of the line. This means the canal is pushing relentlessly along at 3-5 miles per hour. It does not stop, and as mentioned above, it’s deep. Do NOT let the kids get near it and don’t ever enter the water yourself. It’s not meant for recreation. It’s dangerous. It’s against the law. You will be very sorry.
  • The end of the line is 12 miles southwest of Tucson. Water arriving there is used to replenish Tucson-area groundwater.
  • A woman named Nellie T. Bush commanded the “Arizona Navy” in the 1934 California water dispute. Bush owned the boats Arizona Governor Moeur commandeered in the mobilization, so he made her an admiral on the spot. A prominent Arizonan, Bush was a lawyer admitted to practice in California and Arizona. She became Justice of the Peace in Parker; was elected to the Arizona legislature, and was a delegate to the 1932 Democratic National Convention that nominated FDR for the first time. In 1982, Nellie T. Bush was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame.
  • Arizona Navy photo via California State University
  • The CAP uses 2.8 billion KwH of electricity per year: That’s enough energy to, well, push 1.5 million acre-feet of water 2,400 feet uphill for 336 miles. Water in Arizona also generates power, so part of almost everyone’s household electrical bill is water generated.
  • Bonus Fact:

  • The CAP canal in the Phoenix area is marked by “Hayden- Rhodes Aqueduct” signs. CAP and ADOT put up the signs to call attention to the canal and memorialize the contributions of Senator Hayden and former Rep. John Rhodes, who was a driving force in the House when the 1968 authorization bill was signed.
  • Bonus to the bonus:

  • Rhodes went on to become known as one of three political leaders (Barry Goldwater and Pennsylvania’s Hugh Scott were the others) who delivered the news to Richard Nixon that he did not have enough support in Congress to stave off impeachment and probably faced conviction, triggering Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency in 1974.
  • Lake Havasu is a large reservoir behind Parker Dam on the Colorado River, on the border between California and Arizona. Lake Havasu City sits on the lake’s eastern shore. Photo credit MyGola.com.

    From Parker Live (John Wright):

    The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) was one of many Arizona entities and stakeholders who met to discuss contingency plans to deal with the worsening drought conditions in the southwestern United States.

    The water officials committed last Thursday to reach a multi-state plan by the end of the year to stave off potential shortages. The move comes after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has been pushing western states to come up with solid plans about water usage, with steady declines in the Colorado River year on year…

    Tribal water is increasingly being seen as part of the solution to the problem, by both the representatives of metropolitan areas, which require the highest water usage, and by tribes like CRIT who have rights to many hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water that they do not use.

    A proposed CAP program would potentially allow tribes, who have senior rights, to store water behind Lake Mead, which could be a way to mitigate the shortage-created loss of water rights by central Arizona farmers, who need it to keep producing crops.

    In such an environment, there are few such solutions, which has forced CRIT to the table. But the potential benefits to CRIT are also clear, according to the tribe’s water attorney Margaret Vick, with many of the state’s entities talking about creating positive solutions now rather than leaving it too late and having less desirable solutions imposed by the federal government later.

    “We can buy insurance now to provide more certainty for the coming years,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “It’s Arizona’s history that we face problems head on.”

    Burman said other states would pressure her agency to limit Arizona’s water deliveries if it doesn’t agree on an effective drought plan, and predicted that there would be lawsuits. The agency has said it would rather the states negotiate a solution that includes all entities with rights to the river.

    Lake Mead December 2017. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

    From The Arizona Daily Star (Tony Davis):

    For the first time in well over a year, a clear path exists for completion of Arizona’s share of a three-state drought plan for the Colorado River.

    The plan would step up already-approved requirements for cuts in water deliveries to Arizona, Nevada and eventually California as Lake Mead drops below certain key levels.

    While many hurdles and potential disputes remain, water officials said last week they’re ready to work together and hold public meetings to solicit comments on the plan from various water users and other interest groups. The first such meeting will be held July 26 in the Phoenix area.

    Officials hope to have a plan ready for the Legislature to approve next year, with “zero no votes,” said Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke at Thursday’s briefing in Tempe on the drought plan.

    Officials laid out four key elements of a drought plan Thursday but said the details will be worked out by a steering committee of water officials and interest group representatives that will meet publicly.

    The key elements are:

  • A plan for what to do with what officials call “excess water,” Central Arizona Project water that isn’t used in a given year by the city, irrigation district or Indian tribe that has the rights to it.
  • A plan to mitigate the drought plan’s impacts on farmers, who will take the biggest hit by far from future cuts in CAP water deliveries.
  • A plan to allow tribes to leave some of their water in Lake Mead and take it out later, when necessary.
  • An overall “Arizona Conservation Plan,” whose purpose and details were not made clear.
  • Unknowns include:

  • At the briefing, officials from the federal government, the state water department and the CAP said the tribes’ role in this plan will be crucial. But the details of setting up a program for how it would happen remain unknown.
  • When Lake Mead drops below 1,075 feet at the end of any year — the threshold for the first shortage on the river — Pinal County farmers would lose all their CAP water. That would likely force them to resume what everyone agrees is unsustainable groundwater pumping to stay in business. But at a news conference following the briefing, CAP General Manager Ted Cooke demurred in response to a question about whether and how some water belonging to other parties could be reallocated to agriculture. “I don’t really want to get ahead of the conversation,” Cooke said.
  • Whether to let the dwindling supply of “excess” CAP water stay in Lake Mead to prop it up, or whether CAP officials should continue to sell it to other parties such as its own sister agency that recharges it into the ground to serve future growth. With Lake Mead falling, Cooke said, “There will not be very much … excess water very much longer.”
  • Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives

    From KJZZ (Bret Jaspers):

    The Rest Of The Basin Looks On

    Fights and litigation would only delay a coordinated response to continued high temperatures and slipping water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

    “The situation in Arizona is a topic of a lot of discussion in the Upper Basin,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water.

    He said Arizona’s internal conflict has led to political problems in Colorado.

    “It puts pressure on Denver Water as a municipal utility, taking water out of the Colorado River, and it exacerbates historic animosities and relationships between Western Colorado and Denver Water.”

    Lochhead sent a letter to the Central Arizona Project in April threatening to pull out of a program to conserve water unless the lower basin made real progress on its plan.

    Shortage is so imminent, California has even agreed to take reductions — something the current rules don’t require it to do.

    “And you have to ask yourself, given the position that you are in, why would you let that opportunity go by?” said Pat Mulroy, a longtime water leader in Nevada who is now at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

    Inside Arizona

    But before it can sign a Lower Basin plan, Arizona needs its own internal deal.

    One sticky subject is what to do about farmers in central Arizona, who would take a big hit under the current rules.

    “How do we find a way to make things less painful for them?” Cooke asked. “Not completely painless, but less painful.”

    Another big issue is determining who gets to decide when certain conserved water stays on Lake Mead.

    It’s a major question that Buschatzke said was still “under discussion.”

    “We will work that out,” Cooke said.

    To get to “yes,” Buschatzke and Cooke agreed they’ll have to avoid letting side issues divert the talks.

    Buschatzke said his task is “to find a collective way to create a package where everyone is better off with the package, even though there might be individual pieces of that package that they might not particularly like 100 percent.”

    The lower Colorado River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Arizona Public Media (Casey Kuhn):

    Central Arizona Project General Manager Ted Cooke says partnerships will be crucial to finally getting a drought contingency plan (DCP) approved.

    “Or the result will be that somebody perceives that they’re being ‘stuck’ with the outcome of doing DCP and that will make it much more difficult to have the folks coming together when we do go to the Legislature: ‘We all think this is a good thing. Let’s do it. Please approve it.”

    The next step is assembling a large committee of stakeholders such as agriculture operations and tribal leaders who hold water rights.

    Water officials hope to craft a plan that gets Arizona lawmakers’ approval, and then have the Department of Water Resources director put it into action next year.

    @NOAA webinar: Detection and Attribution of Climate Change from the (Climate Science Special Report) U.S. Perspective, Thursday, July 19, 2018

    Click here for all the inside skinny and to register.

    Water treatment operators are in high demand across #Colorado

    Filter beds at a Denver Water treatment plant. Fluoride is added after filtration, prior to disinfection. Learn more about the treatment process: denverwater.org/WaterQuality/TreatmentProcess

    From KOAA.com (Caiti Blase):

    David Stanford, a water treatment operator in charge of Beulah’s water systems, says there’s a lot of opening in different parts of the state because older operators are retiring. However, between the years of training and sometimes small wages, replacing those people isn’t just a simple hire.

    Russell Chambers, an operator in training, said, “There’s a lot to learn. It’s a pretty challenging job if you like a challenge.”

    Chambers has been working at the water districts in Beulah for about four months and it’s just the beginning of his journey to get a Level B certification in order to become a qualified water treatment operator in the valley.

    Stanford said, “It does take a lot of learning, a lot of certification, a lot of on the job training.”

    The training can take several years.

    Stanford said, “You have to know and understand every facet of how to get the water here, get it through the plant, and get it to the customer.”

    Which is why it’s time to start training the next generation.

    “In the state of Colorado the operators from the 70’s and 80’s, that team is retiring for the most part so there’s a lot of openings in many, many places for training operators.”

    Stanford knows just how important this position is.

    “I’m responsible for the lives of nearly 600 people that live in this valley. On a daily basis it is my responsibility to deliver to them drinking water that is safe to drink.”

    Until Chambers is fully-certified, Stanford is “the guy that has to call the shots and is ultimately responsible for everything that happens with the water.”

    It’s why bringing in and training newcomers is an important facet for towns like Beulah.

    @OmahaUSACE: Urban Waterways Study Recommendations. Join us July 31, Aug. 1 and 2

    This is an email update. The Corps of Engineers want to hear from everybody. From their email:

    This is a friendly reminder to come and learn about and provide feedback on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommendations for the South Platte River, Weir Gulch, and Harvard Gulch.

    All meetings begin at 5:30 pm. There will be a presentation at 6:00 pm followed by an open house until 7:30 pm.

    July 31, Weir Gulch Study – Barnum Recreation Center, 360 Hooker Street.

    August 1, South Platte River Study – REI, 1416 Platte Street (3rd Floor).

    August 2, Harvard Gulch Study – Porter Hospital, 2525 S. Downing Street (Grand Mesa Conference Room).

    In 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City and County of Denver began a feasibility study of three urban waterways in Denver. Previous rounds of public meetings were held in both 2015 and 2016. General study background and information on the previous public meetings is available for review at http://www.denvergov.org/denverwaterways.

    The ecological health of the South Platte River has been adversely affected by encroaching urbanization and past flood control projects. The primary goal of the South Platte River recommendations is to develop a cost-effective, multi-pronged approach to river restoration that will restore ecosystem habitat, with secondary goals to improve water quality and reduce flood risk, where feasible.

    Weir Gulch and Harvard Gulch have been primarily impacted by encroaching urbanization. For Weir Gulch, the primary goal is flood risk reduction, with a secondary goal of ecosystem restoration, where feasible. For Harvard Gulch, the primary goal is flood risk reduction through implementing nonstructural flood risk management measures to individual homes and businesses within the floodplain. On all three waterways, a complementary goal is to improve community access to recreational and environmental education opportunities.

    The draft feasibility report and environmental impact statement and study recommendations will be released on July 2nd and will be available at: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Planning/Project-Reports/

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is partnering with the City and County of Denver, the Greenway Foundation, the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to complete the study.

    The Denver Urban Waterways Restoration Study is scheduled for completion in 2019. The study marks the beginning of a long-term partnership to secure funding, plan, design, and build the selected alternatives.

    From email from Zoeller Consulting (Hora Neureiter) via the City and County of Denver (Denver Urban Waterways):

    The public is invited to learn about and provide feedback on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommendations for the South Platte River, Weir Gulch, and Harvard Gulch.

    All meetings begin at 5:30 pm. There will be a presentation at 6:00 pm followed by an open house until 7:30 pm.

    July 31, Weir Gulch Study – Barnum Recreation Center, 360 Hooker Street.

    August 1, South Platte River Study – REI, 1416 Platte Street (3rd Floor).

    August 2, Harvard Gulch Study – Porter Hospital, 2525 S. Downing Street (Grand Mesa Conference Room).

    In 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City and County of Denver began a feasibility study of three urban waterways in Denver. Previous rounds of public meetings were held in both 2015 and 2016. General study background and information on the previous public meetings is available for review at http://www.denvergov.org/denverwaterways.

    The ecological health of the South Platte River has been adversely affected by encroaching urbanization and past flood control projects. The primary goal of the South Platte River recommendations is to develop a cost-effective, multi-pronged approach to river restoration that will restore ecosystem habitat, with secondary goals to improve water quality and reduce flood risk, where feasible.

    Weir Gulch and Harvard Gulch have been primarily impacted by encroaching urbanization. For Weir Gulch, the primary goal is flood risk reduction, with a secondary goal of ecosystem restoration, where feasible. For Harvard Gulch, the primary goal is flood risk reduction through implementing nonstructural flood risk management measures to individual homes and businesses within the floodplain. On all three waterways, a complementary goal is to improve community access to recreational and environmental education opportunities.

    The draft feasibility report and environmental impact statement and study recommendations will be released on July 2nd and will be available at:


    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is partnering with the City and County of Denver, the Greenway Foundation, the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to complete the study.

    The Denver Urban Waterways Restoration Study is scheduled for completion in 2019. The study marks the beginning of a long-term partnership to secure funding, plan, design, and build the selected alternatives.

    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.


    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.

    The North American #Monsoon is expected to be active this weekend #ColoradoRiver #COriver #drought

    From AccuWeather (Renee Duff):

    Showers and thunderstorms will help ease drought conditions in the southwestern United States into the weekend, but also enhance the risk of flash flooding and dust storms.

    “Monsoonal moisture will remain in place from part of Southern California to Colorado and New Mexico,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Jordan Root.
    Moisture will continue to stream into the region through the balance of the week.

    Graphic credit: AccuWeather.com

    As is typically the case when the monsoon kicks in at this time of year, storms will tend to blossom over the highest terrain during the afternoon hours and drift toward lower elevations into the evening and overnight.

    North American Monsoon graphic via Hunter College.

    Tracing Denver’s water history – News on TAP

    Interactive timeline travels back in time before Denver Water was even born 100 years ago.

    Source: Tracing Denver’s water history – News on TAP

    Ireland votes to divest from fossil fuels #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    By Jeff Schmaltz – NASA Earth Observatory, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14627545

    From The Guardian (Damian Carrington):

    Bill passed by parliament means more than €300m shares in coal, oil, peat and gas will be sold ‘as soon as practicable’

    The Republic of Ireland will become the world’s first country to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies, after a bill was passed with all-party support in the lower house of parliament.

    The state’s €8bn national investment fund will be required to sell all investments in coal, oil, gas and peat “as soon as is practicable”, which is expected to mean within five years. Norway’s huge $1tn sovereign wealth fund has only partially divested from fossil fuels, targeting some coal companies, and is still considering its oil and gas holdings.

    The fossil fuel divestment movement has grown rapidly and trillions of dollars of investment funds have been divested, including large pension funds and insurers, cities such as New York, churches and universities.

    Supporters of divestment say existing fossil fuel resources are already far greater than can be burned without causing catastrophic climate change and that exploring and producing more fossil fuels is therefore morally wrong and economically risky… [ed. emphasis mine]

    The Irish fossil fuel divestment bill was passed in the lower house of parliament on Thursday and it is expected to pass rapidly through the upper house, meaning it could become law before the end of the year. The Irish state investment fund holds more than €300m in fossil fuel investments in 150 companies.

    “The [divestment] movement is highlighting the need to stop investing in the expansion of a global industry which must be brought into managed decline if catastrophic climate change is to be averted,” said Thomas Pringle, the independent member of parliament who introduced the bill. “Ireland by divesting is sending a clear message that the Irish public and the international community are ready to think and act beyond narrow short term vested interests.”

    Éamonn Meehan, executive director of international development charity Trócaire, said: “Today the Oireachtas [Irish parliament] has sent a powerful signal to the international community about the need to speed up the phase-out of fossil fuels.”


    The bill defines a fossil fuel company as a company that derives 20% or more of its revenue from exploration, extraction or refinement of fossil fuels. The bill also allows investment in Irish fossil fuel companies if this funds their move away from fossil fuels.

    Gerry Liston at Global Legal Action Network, who drafted the bill, said: “Governments will not meet their obligations under the Paris agreement on climate change if they continue to financially sustain the fossil fuel industry. Countries the world over must now urgently follow Ireland’s lead and divest from fossil fuels.”

    #Drought news: Drought and dryness expands from SW to NE in #Colorado

    Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:


    An active summer pattern continued over the central and northern Plains and into the upper Midwest, with several areas seeing well above normal precipitation associated with thunderstorms. Along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida, precipitation was plentiful and widespread as ample moisture continued to be transported into the region. The precipitation along the Gulf also helped to keep temperatures 1-3 degrees cooler than normal for this time of year. Some monsoon activity started up in the Southwest with some scattered precipitation while most of the rest of the West remained warm and dry with an increase in fire danger and active fires throughout the region…

    High Plains

    An active thunderstorm pattern helped to bring ample precipitation to North Dakota, northern South Dakota, central and eastern Nebraska, and portions of western Kansas. The precipitation last week along with recent rains has allowed for improvements in the Dakotas. Severe drought was eliminated from both North and South Dakota while abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions contracted as well. All of the abnormally dry conditions were eliminated from northwest South Dakota and southwest North Dakota. Eastern Kansas remained dry and severe drought expanded through northeast Kansas and was introduced into southeast Kansas while moderate drought expanded as well. Southwest Kansas had a full category improvement to drought conditions this week as the recent wetness has helped improve drought in this part of the state. In Nebraska, the recent rains in June and early July did not impact all of the state equally and portions of southern Nebraska are starting to show lingering impacts due to dryness going back to the autumn of 2017. This area will need to be monitored closely for development in the coming weeks.

    Portions of southeast Colorado improved this week in response to the recent wet pattern, but a new area of exceptional drought was introduced in eastern Colorado as conditions have been rapidly worsening in both the short and long term…


    The southern portions of the region had the most precipitation as the Gulf Coast continued to be wet and also cooler where the most rain occurred. Areas of eastern Oklahoma and northern Arkansas into northern Mississippi continued to remain dry with some short-term impacts starting to develop. Areas of the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles had improvements this week as the rains continued in the short term and continue to improve the longer-term issues that allowed exceptional drought to be removed in Oklahoma. Severe drought was introduced into northeast Oklahoma, and abnormally dry and moderate drought were also expanded. Moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions were also expanded in northern and central Arkansas and into eastern Mississippi. Improvements were made in southern Louisiana where the most recent rains helped in the short term.

    In Texas, conditions improved along the Gulf Coast and Rio Grande regions where exceptional drought was eliminated and extreme drought contracted. Northeast Texas also saw some improvements to moderate and severe drought while abnormally dry conditions were also improved in east Texas into Louisiana. In central Texas, severe drought was introduced and moderate drought expanded, and extreme drought was expanded in northern Texas. West Texas had moderate drought introduced, while other areas had improvements to abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions…


    Most of the region was dry this week and also recorded temperatures that were 3-6 degrees above normal. Portions of Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah, and eastern Nevada did see some monsoon activity with scattered precipitation in both states. The hot and dry conditions have allowed for quite a rapid expansion of drought in portions of Utah and Colorado. A full category degradation was introduced over much of eastern Utah and western Colorado, bringing most of the area into exceptional drought conditions. Moderate drought was expanded to most of northwest Colorado while moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions migrated to the east in Colorado to include the Denver area. Moderate drought was introduced into northwest Montana and the panhandle of Idaho while abnormally dry conditions expanded over northeast Washington. Moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions were also expanded over central Oregon and Washington because of the short-term issues combined with dryness through the winter. Abnormally dry conditions were also expanded in southwest Wyoming. Eastern New Mexico did have some improvement where exceptional drought was retracted in the northeast portion of the state, and some improvements were also made along the border with Texas…

    Looking Ahead

    Over the next 5-7 days, the active precipitation pattern is expected to continue over the Southwest and into southern Colorado. The central Plains and Upper Midwest as well as areas of the Southeast also should see widespread rain. Temperatures will be warmest over the West and Great Basin as well as over most of the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, with departures 6-9 degrees above normal in the West and 3-6 degrees above normal over the East.

    The 6-10 day outlooks show that greatest probabilities of above-normal temperatures are in the West and also from the southern Plains through the Midwest and across much of the East, while much of the central Plains and Alaska have the best probabilities of below-normal temperatures. The greatest probabilities of above-normal precipitation are from the Southwest into the central Plains and into the Mid-Atlantic and New England. The highest probabilities of below-normal precipitation are in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains, the northern Plains and much of Texas.

    Eagle turns dirt on second water treatment plant

    The water treatment process

    From The Vail Daily (Randy Wyrick):

    A groundbreaking ceremony saw the first shovels of dirt turned Tuesday, July 10. Excavation should continue through the summer, and concrete should follow in the fall.

    Water is scheduled to begin flowing in the fall of 2020…

    The town’s current and only water treatment plant runs at 90 percent capacity during peak demand, and some days it’s higher, said Brandy Reitter, Eagle town manager. The new plant will generate as much as 2.5 million gallons of water per day and can be expanded to 5 million gallons per day. It should fulfill the town’s projected growth needs for the next 20 years.

    “The town must accommodate its existing users. We also want to accommodate new customers and growth. We cannot consider new development unless we have the water to serve,” Reitter said. “Now is the time. The demands have increased significantly and we cannot wait any longer.”

    This new water plant will be on the Eagle River. The current plant is on Brush Creek and is the town’s only source of water.

    The town has good water rights on the Eagle River, thanks to tireless work by former town manager Willy Powell, Reitter said.

    Bryon McGinnis, Eagle’s public works director, said the second water plant will help the town preserve those hard-won water rights…

    A second water plant is also a public safety issue, McGinnis said, pointing out the many wildfires burning around Western Colorado.

    The Lake Christine fire near Basalt hit that town’s watershed and strained its system. However, Basalt has a system of wells near the Roaring Fork River, and that second water source kept the water flowing, McGinnis said.

    The town of Eagle saved $10 million and used it as a down payment on the new plant.

    “Development has, for many years, paid its own way. The town has collected and saved fees to help pay for this,” Reitter said.

    The remaining cost will be covered by a low-interest, 20-year loan from a state revolving fund.

    Broomfield-based MWH Constructors will build the plant.

    Proposed Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Dedication of Mitigation Releases for Instream Flow Use in the Cache la Poudre River @Northern_Water @CWCB_DNR

    Cache la Poudre River. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

    Here’s the notice from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

    Proposed Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Dedication of Mitigation Releases for Instream Flow Use in the Cache la Poudre River (Water Div. 1)

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board will be considering a proposal from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (“Northern Water”) for a proposed donation of a contractual interest in “Protected Mitigation Releases,” as defined in section 37-92-102(8), C.R.S. for instream flow use in a segment of the Cache la Poudre River (“Poudre River”). The Board will consider this proposal at its July 18-19, 2018 meeting in Glenwood Springs. The agenda for this Board meeting can be found at:

    Consideration of this proposal initiates the 120-day period for Board review pursuant to Rule 6b. of the Board’s Rules Concerning the Colorado Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program (“ISF Rules”), which became effective on March 2, 2009. No formal Board action will be taken at this time.

    Information concerning the ISF Rules and water acquisitions can be found at:

    Click to access Final%20Adopted%20ISF%20Rules%201-27-2009.pdf

    The following information concerning the proposed lease of water is provided pursuant to ISF Rule 6m.(1):
    Subject Water Right:

    Source: Cache la Poudre River
    Decree: 03CW0405
    Appropriation Date: 5/2/1980
    Adjudication Date: 12/31/1980
    Decreed Amount: 220,000 Acre Feet

    Source: Cache la Poudre River
    Decree: 03CW0405
    Appropriation Date: 5/2/1980
    Adjudication Date: 12/31/1980
    Decreed Amount: 5,400 Acre Feet

    Proposed Reaches of Stream:

    The reach of stream proposed for use of Northern Water’s Mitigation Release water is the Cache la Poudre River extending downstream from the Poudre River Delivery Pipeline (the point where releases from Glade Reservoir enter the Poudre River) to the Poudre River Intake Diversion. The segment extends from near the mouth of the canyon through the City of Ft. Collins for approximately 13 river miles.

    Purpose of the Acquisition:

    The water rights proposed to be donated to the CWCB would be up to 14,350 acre-feet per year of water available to Northern in the to-be-constructed Glade Reservoir and Glade Forebay in Larimer County. Based upon discussions with Northern Water and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (“CPW”) regarding the need for and use of the donated water, Staff recommends that the CWCB acquire a contractual interest in the mitigation release water of up to 14,350 acre-feet.

    The acquired water would be used to preserve and improve the natural environment in the Poudre River to a reasonable decree by protecting Mitigation Releases up to 18-25 cfs to meet the Mitigation Plan targets and CPW’s recommended flows in the Poudre River. The CWCB shall use the Protected Mitigation Releases to help maintain stream flows in the Cache la Poudre River to preserve and improve the natural environment to a reasonable degree within the Qualifying Stream Reach in amounts up to the target rates of (a) winter flows of up to 55 cfs to preserve, and flows from 55 cfs to 85 cfs to improve, the natural environment to a reasonable degree, and (b) summer flows of up to 85 cfs to preserve, and flows from 85 to 130 cfs to improve, the natural environment to a reasonable degree.

    Proposed Season of Use:

    The CWCB does not currently hold an ISF water right within this reach of the Poudre River. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (“CPW”) and others have been studying and collecting field data in this segment of the Poudre River for over 10 years. CPW evaluated the studies and data by means including R2CROSS and PHABSIM modeling techniques to develop target flow rates for this section of the Poudre River. CPW’s preliminary target flow recommendations for this stream segment are as follows:

    Season of Use: Winter (approx. November-April), Preserve Target Rates: Up to 55 cfs, Improve Target Rates: Between 55 and 85 cfs.
    Season of Use: Summer (approx. May-October), Preserve Target Rates: Up to 85 cfs, Improve Target Rates: Between 85 and 130 cfs.

    Supporting Data:

    Available information concerning the purpose of the acquisition and the degree of preservation of the natural environment, and available scientific data can be found on CWCB water acquisitions web page at: http://cwcb.state.co.us/environment/instream-flow-program/Pages/NISPCacheLaPoudre.aspx

    Linda Bassi
    Stream and Lake Protection Section
    Colorado Water Conservation Board
    1313 Sherman Street, Room 721
    Denver, CO 80203
    303-866-3441 x3204

    Kaylea White
    Stream and Lake Protection Section
    Colorado Water Conservation Board
    1313 Sherman Street, Room 721
    Denver, CO 80203
    303-866-3441 x3240

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

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

    #Drought news: Yampa River Commercial & Voluntary Closures

    The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

    Here’s the release from the City of Steamboat Springs:

    Due to high water temperatures and low flow in the Yampa River, the City of Steamboat Springs is implementing closures for all commercial activities on the Yampa River and asking the public to abide by a voluntary closure for all recreational river use. The river closure, which began today, Monday, July 9, 2018, will remain in effect until rescinded.

    The Yampa River experienced water temperatures greater than 75 degrees for two consecutive days, July 7 & 8, which exceeds the threshold for a mandatory river closure as outlined in the Yampa River Management Plan. Low water flows, high water temperatures, and low levels of dissolved oxygen are all unfavorable conditions to aquatic life and any one of these factors can trigger a closure.

    Stream flows are currently hovering around 90 cubic feet per second (cfs); however, it is anticipated based on current trends to continue dropping and fall below the 85 cfs level. Average flow for this day in July is 445 cfs, which the river is well below at the current time.

    “A mandatory closure of the Yampa River isn’t something the city takes lightly and goes directly to the long-term health of the community’s number one natural resource,” said Craig Robinson, interim Parks & Recreation Director. “We would like to thank the community, especially our commercial operators, for their cooperation and support during this time.”

    Commercial tubing companies have suspended operations until river conditions return to acceptable levels. Commercial river recreation companies must also adhere to regulations adopted in the Yampa River Management Plan.

    River users – tubers, SUP-ers, swimmers, anglers – are requested to adhere to the voluntary closure and avoid river recreation. Please be mindful of the impacts your actions may have on the Yampa River and its wildlife.

    In addition to the mandatory closure of commercial activities on the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is initiating a voluntary fishing closure between the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area and the western edge of Steamboat Springs.

    Although anglers are not prohibited from fishing in this stretch, CPW and Steamboat Springs is asking anglers to find alternative places to fish to protect the popular fishery.

    “Great fishing can be found at several area lakes and ponds, as well as the high-country,” said Bill Atkinson, area aquatic biologist for CPW. “Anglers still have great opportunities to fish while helping us protect this local resource.”

    Trout are cold water fish that have evolved to function best in 50-60 degree waters. When temperatures exceed 70 degrees, they often stop feeding and become more susceptible to disease.

    A wide range of temperature tolerances for trout have been reported, but upper lethal limits range from 74 to 79 degrees. According to local officials, water temperatures in the Yampa River are now exceeding 75 degrees in the afternoons.

    “When water flows are minimal, fish become concentrated in residual pool habitat and become stressed due to increased competition for food resources,” said Kris Middledorf, CPW’s area wildlife manager in Steamboat Springs. “Because the fish are already stressed by poor water quality conditions, any additional stress from being hooked could make them even more vulnerable to disease and death.”

    Middledorf reminds the public that the mandatory fishing closure on a six-tenth mile section of the Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir remains in effect, enforced by law.

    City staff will continue to monitor flows and river temperatures at the 5th Street Bridge. Water temperature monitoring was incorporated in November 2017 through a partnership with Mt. Werner Water, the Colorado River District and the USGS.

    Notices will be posted at popular river access points and requests everyone’s cooperation in protecting the Yampa River by staying out of the river until conditions improve. The health and protection of the Yampa River rates high with residents. Thank you for Respecting the Yampa and helping to protect the health of the river.