2018 Sustaining #Colorado Watersheds Conference — The Color of Water: Exploring the Spectrum October 9 -11, 2018

Avon photo via Jack Affleck and the Mountain Town News.

Click here to view the announcement and to register. Here’s an excerpt:

The Color of Water: Exploring the Spectrum
October 9 -11, 2018
Westin Riverfront Resort – Avon, CO

FEATURED PRESENTER: ANTHONY POPONI

In a galaxy far, far away in another lifetime Anthony was a watershed professional and worked on rivers and creeks in the Gunnison Valley for several years. During his professional career Anthony has always been a communicator and favored roles where he either entertains or educates and occasionally he even does both. Anthony loves connecting dots in both simple drawings and in complex settings where his inner-networker brings together individuals to catalyze collaboration and patnerships. He does it all with an authentic personality and always weaves in humor into everything he touches. Laugh and learn along the way with Anthony.

This Is What @POTUS’s Fuel Economy Rollback Means for the #Climate #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Rush hour on Interstate 25 near Alameda. Screen shot The Denver Post March 9, 2017.

From Earther (Brian Kahn):

The plan calls for 2020 fuel-efficiency standards to be frozen in place through 2026 while sorting out what a new rule could look like, as well as ending California’s ability to set its own, more stringent standards. The end result will be a huge uptick in carbon emissions.

The Obama rules were made in 2012 after consultation with the auto industry and would have increased car fuel-efficiency standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2026. The new proposal—announced by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation—would freeze efficiency standards at 43.7 mpg through model year 2026.

California has the ability to set even stricter standards for auto emissions, thanks to a waiver the EPA granted the state in 2013. There are a dozen other states that follow those standards as well. Revoking that waiver, despite the EPA commitment to “cooperative federalism,” is an, uh, odd move.

Robbie Orvis, an analyst with policy research group Energy Innovation, told Earther that revoking California’s waiver is “not in the spirit of the Clean Air Act, and the way it’s been implemented in the past.”

On an existential front, the new rule proposal will commit a hell of a lot more carbon to the atmosphere. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that it will result in an extra 130 million metric tons of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere in 2030. That’s the equivalent of adding 30 coal-fired power plants to the grid.

Because people are likely to hang onto their cars for many years, the impacts would continue to play out beyond 2030. An analysis by Energy Innovation found that by 2035, U.S. transportation emissions will be 11 percent higher than they would be if the Obama-era standards and California’s waiver were kept in place.

The move will also put the U.S. behind the curve globally. While our weirdo climate-denying president obviously doesn’t care about the atmosphere or having a habitable planet, other countries do. And they’ve responded by putting in place stringent fuel efficiency standards, including many based on those in California.

The rollback ensures that the U.S. will be spinning its wheels on climate while the rest of the world forges ahead. That could have very real impacts on the fate of U.S. automakers viability and profits as they produce a wider range of cars. It could also inspire countries to be less ambitious.

“The top vehicle standards in the rest of the world are in line with existing standards,” Orvis said, referring to the Obama-era standards. “Undoing this will make U.S. automakers less competitive with automakers in other markets who are moving ahead making more efficient vehicles. It’s moving us in the wrong direction and making us less competitive with the rest of the world.”

Stanford study reveals the changing scope of Native American groundwater rights – and opportunities for better freshwater management

Aqua Caliente Reservation in 1928. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From Stanford University (Josie Garthwaite):

Stanford researchers map out groundwater at stake in the wake of a court decision that bolsters Native American rights to the precious resource across an increasingly arid West.

California’s Coachella Valley may be ground zero for a new chapter in water rights for Native American tribes, according to a new Stanford study published in the journal Science.

Local water agencies have pumped so much water from aquifers to supply homes, farmland and resorts in the Coachella Valley that the land is sinking. The Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, created in 1876, runs in a checkerboard pattern in the area of Palm Springs. (Image credit: Tim Roberts Photography / Shutterstock)

Better known for lush golf courses, glittering pools, a popular music festival and temperatures topping 120 degrees, this inland desert is also home to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which has fought since 2013 for federal courts to affirm its right to groundwater beneath its reservation. Lower courts ruled in the tribe’s favor, and in late 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal.

Observers immediately recognized that the decision could set a powerful precedent for tribal groundwater claims, which have suffered murky legal status for more than 100 years. But how much groundwater is at stake as tribes assert this newly bolstered right – and where these claims may clash with nontribal users in an increasingly arid West – remained uncharted until now.

Sizing up water rights

The study reveals that court decrees and settlements have resolved or proposed rights for tribes in western states to use more than 10.5 million acre-feet of surface water and groundwater annually. To put that in perspective, this would be nearly enough water to irrigate all of the alfalfa, almond and rice fields in California for a year. “It’s a major volume,” said lead author Philip Womble, a PhD student in environment and resources in the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth).

Most unresolved Native American claims to groundwater exist in areas where there’s reason to believe major aquifers could yield significant amounts of groundwater, including in some places where nontribal wells already dot the landscape and increased pumping by tribes might disrupt their production. (Image credit: Philip Womble)

Before the Agua Caliente ruling, the study shows, tribal rights exclusively for groundwater made up a small portion – 4 percent – of all tribal freshwater rights in 17 western states. Now, more tribes will likely seek to resolve their rights to control and use water from the aquifers beneath their land, according to Womble and his co-authors, who include Water in the West executive director and Woods Institute of the Environment professor Leon Szeptycki, as well as Water in the West non-resident fellows Debra Perrone and Rebecca Nelson.

This shift comes at a time when questions of who owns the aquifer and how they can use the water holds increasing urgency, as western states face the likely prospect of demand outstripping the supply of legally available freshwater in most western watersheds by 2030.

“Indigenous communities in several countries have struggled to gain rights to their natural resources,” said study co-author Steven Gorelick, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford Earth and director of the Global Freshwater Initiative. Almost half of all homes on Native American land lack adequate access to drinking water or waste disposal facilities, compared to less than 1 percent for U.S. homes overall. The Agua Caliente ruling, Gorelick said, “is a very important step forward in restoring balance to those injured Native American tribes.”

Competing for a precious resource

In the Coachella Valley, the Agua Caliente tribe has for decades purchased water from local agencies, which have pumped so much water from the region’s aquifers that the land is sinking. Now, as the next phase of Agua Caliente’s lawsuit unfolds in federal court, the tribe is seeking to have judges put a number on its groundwater rights, establishing how much water it can pump from the Coachella Valley aquifer – potentially before most other users are entitled to a single drop.

Before the Agua Caliente ruling in late 2017, tribal rights exclusively for groundwater made up a just 4 percent of all tribal freshwater rights in 17 western states. (Image credit: Philip Womble)

Today, the study shows, fewer than 60 tribes in the western U.S. have this level of legal certainty around their rights to fresh water from any source – whether from lakes and rivers on the surface, or from aquifers underground. Many more tribes have unresolved rights: According to the study, as many as 236 tribes in the western U.S. have lands with groundwater rights that have not been finally quantified in court or in settlements. In all, the research suggests, tribes control at least some water from so many aquifers across the West that any plan to sustainably manage water in the region would be incomplete without considering their role.

These unresolved groundwater claims span large swaths of Arizona, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah, and smaller clusters can be found in all other western states except Colorado. Most of them exist in areas where there’s reason to believe major aquifers could yield significant amounts of groundwater, including in some places where nontribal wells already dot the landscape and increased pumping by tribes might disrupt their production.

Ripple effects for laws and markets

“Court disputes usually focus on the specific facts of a given case,” said Womble, who specializes in water policy in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER) at Stanford Earth. He is also an attorney. His team has captured a bigger picture that could help inform decisions about groundwater management throughout the U.S. and in other countries that recognize indigenous community water rights, including Australia, Canada, Chile and New Zealand.

“Even though a U.S. court decision clearly isn’t binding in another country,” Womble said, “it could provide a persuasive precedent that courts confronting this issue in other nations might look to.” Historically, he said, courts in Canada and Chile have adopted some terminology and approaches from U.S. water law.

Already, Gorelick added, the study results suggest that the creation of market-based systems for renting water rights could work to indigenous communities’ advantage. “With this ruling,” he said, “Native American tribes with higher priority rights are now in the driver’s seat to potentially benefit from participating in water markets.”

Steven Gorelick is also Stanford’s Cyrus Fisher Tolman Professor and a senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment. Additional co-authors are from the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Washington Law School and Harvard Law School.

The research was funded by the Switzer Foundation and the Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship.