Two-way radio helps Denver Water respond to emergencies.
Next-gen technology means new uses for small, remote-controlled devices.
From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):
The city announced completion of the project on Oct. 22, noting it’s one of 71 projects the city agreed to complete under a 20-year, $460-million agreement with Pueblo County. Since that deal, inked in 2016, the city has completed six projects, says city spokesperson Vanessa Zink via email.
The work on Sand Creek took 10 months and spanned a half mile, the city said in a release. Crews filled and reshaped the creek, installed grouted boulder drop structures to step the creek down and rebuilt the natural habitat along the creek. “The project raised the bottom of Sand Creek and regraded the banks back to a stable slope to prevent erosion and provide flood protection for up to a 100-year storm event through the half-mile improved section that will ultimately improve water quality for downstream communities,” the release said.
Funding for the project broke down this way: $3.9 million from a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant; $600,000 from the state and $1.5 million from the city.
From Inside Climate News (Marianne Lavelle):
[Joseph] Kopser is one of more than a dozen scientists running for Congress this November—a record number that reflects a groundswell of political activism in the scientific community triggered by the anti-science agenda of President Donald Trump’s administration, especially on climate change.
Kopser is quick to point out that the political attacks on science pre-date Trump. His district is a prime example: He’s running to fill the congressional seat of retiring Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, who spent the past six years using his power as chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to cast doubt on consensus climate and environmental science…
The scientist candidates and their supporters say the political movement has the potential to transform Congress, injecting a critical mass of evidence-based thinkers who could lessen the influence of ideology on decision-making. It could help catalyze real debate on solutions to address climate change and a host of other issues, they say.
Already, the scientists are having an impact, forcing some GOP opponents to attempt to rebrand themselves to appeal to voters who are concerned about the environment. But the collective clout of the engineers, physicians and other scientists running for Congress ultimately will depend on getting elected, and their odds vary widely depending on the political landscape of their states and local districts…
Many of the more than 60 scientist candidates who were running for Congress lost in the primaries, but that hasn’t discouraged Naughton or other supporters.
“I think that’s just a reflection that a lot of scientists are not strong on political skills,” said Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a physicist who himself made the transition from the lab to legislative chamber. Representing New Jersey’s 12th district in the U.S. House of Representatives for 16 years, at a time a handful of scientists served in Congress, Holt said he saw first-hand how their presence could make a difference.
“Almost every issue that comes before a legislature has some science, somewhere,” Holt said. “If there’s not a scientist in the room—and the way things are on Capitol Hill, there usually isn’t—the facets of an issue that could be illuminated by science won’t even be noticed.”
From Water Deeply (Hannah Holm):
Small programs can go a long way to save water and help farmers survive the coming shortages on the Colorado River. These should be the next focus for policymakers now wrestling with drought contingency plans.
Recently, policymakers in the states that share the Colorado River have made headlines for their progress toward developing a drought contingency plan. This plan is intended to keep water levels in the river’s two major reservoirs, lakes Mead and Powell, from falling too low to keep water flowing to all the people and farms that rely on it. Within Colorado and the other upstream states, the plan also seeks to preserve the ability to produce hydropower at Glen Canyon Dam and fulfill legal obligations to the downstream states.
There is significant concern that water use cuts may be required if ongoing drought makes it difficult to keep honoring those obligations. Regional water leaders have strongly advocated that any use cuts to protect reservoir levels should be voluntary, temporary and paid for.
This matters to farmers such as [Tom] Kay, because they don’t want to be legally required to cut their water use. It also matters to communities like Hotchkiss, because their economies depend on farms using water to grow crops. So a drought contingency plan that prevents a crisis in the big reservoirs and avoids legally required water use cuts would be good for Kay and good for Hotchkiss, as well as for many others in Colorado and the rest of the upstream states.
However, what about when water delivery cuts are mandated by nature rather than laws and policies? When the snow doesn’t come, and you aren’t downstream from a big reservoir, or your reservoir is already tapped out, you sometimes have to make do with less, regardless of how good your water rights are or what the policy documents say. That was the case for many irrigators this past year, and is likely to be the case more often in the future as temperatures continue to warm.
When there is simply less water to go around, infrastructure investments such as the cost-share program that helped Kay buy his sprinklers can make the difference between viability and non-viability for farms and ranches and their rural communities. There are lots of scattered programs that can help with this, some focused on water quality and habitat improvements, and others focused on irrigation efficiency. They’ve brought millions of dollars to rural communities and done a lot of good. But some programs have also suffered from excessive red tape and poor planning.
As policymakers are working to keep Lake Powell and Lake Mead functioning, it would be worth sparing some time to also think about the programs supporting drought resilience in headwaters communities, and how to make them more effective.
Here’s the release from the USGS (David Ozman):
CSM to be new home of USGS labs, 150 government scientists
Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke joined Paul C. Johnson, president of Colorado School of Mines, to announce a long-term partnership between the university and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The partnership will bring more than 150 USGS scientists and their minerals research labs to the university’s Golden, Colorado, campus where government scientists and Mines faculty and students will work together in a new state-of-the-art facility. Johnson and Zinke were joined at today’s announcement by Senator Cory Gardner and Congressman Ed Perlmutter, as well as Mines Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas E. Jorden and Roseann Gonzales-Schreiner, USGS Associate Director for Administration and Acting Director of the Southwest Region.
“This is a great day for the USGS and for Colorado School of Mines,” said Secretary Zinke. “The majority of USGS’s work is on federal lands in the west, but their research is also used by government agencies, the private sector, universities, nonprofits and partners all over the world. Partnering with Colorado School of Mines, a world-class earth science research institution, and co-locating our scientists and researchers creates incredible opportunities to spur innovation and transformational breakthroughs, while also providing an incredible pool of talent from which to recruit.”
“With this new facility, the USGS and the School of Mines will have a revolutionary shared workspace for the world-class research and education that the USGS and the Colorado School of Mines are famous for delivering to the country,” said USGS Director Jim Reilly. “We look forward to this expansion of our efforts in the great State of Colorado and I’m distinctly honored to be the Director at the time of this development.”
“The expanded USGS presence at Mines will capitalize on our collective expertise to address the availability of mineral and energy resources, environmental challenges and geo-environmental hazards, all of which are of critical importance to national security and the economies of Colorado and the nation. It will also create an incredibly unique educational environment that will produce the leaders we need to tackle future challenges related to exploration and development of resources here on Earth and in space, subsurface infrastructure and sustainable stewardship of the Earth,” said Mines President Paul C. Johnson. “We want to thank our Colorado congressional delegation, especially Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Sen. Cory Gardner, for their help in forging this exciting partnership with the USGS.”
“I’ve been working hard to convince everyone that Colorado and the School of Mines are a perfect match for the United States Geological Survey,” said Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO). “This move highlights the scientific leadership of our state. We will be putting USGS in a modern facility in a state where research on their core mission areas can be performed right out their back door. Their water resource research will be particularly useful to Colorado and other western states as we continue to grapple with long-term drought. I’d like to welcome Dr. Reilly and his team to the campus and thank Secretary Zinke for his leadership on this issue.”
“This new Subsurface Frontiers Building on the Mines Campus will be a tremendous asset for their faculty and students, and housing USGS staff and lab space will further cement the strong relationship between Mines, USGS and the Department of the Interior,” said Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-7). “This was a team effort, and I want to thank everyone for their hard work to make this happen.”
USGS and Mines, renowned for their expertise in the earth sciences and engineering, are expanding a long-standing relationship to catalyze even greater collaboration among USGS scientists and Mines faculty and students in the name of tackling the nation’s natural resource, security and environmental challenges, and exploring frontiers where the next innovations in earth and space resources, technology and engineering will occur. The relationship between Mines and the USGS goes back more than 40 years, with the USGS Geologic Hazards Science Center and its National Earthquake Information Center already calling the Mines campus home.
From Steamboat Today (Eleanor C. Hasenbeck) via The Craig Daily Press:
The past water year, which began in October 2017 and ended in September, broke records on the Yampa. Average temperatures in much of the Yampa River basin were the warmest on record, and for the first time ever, the main stem of the Yampa River was placed on call, meaning use of Yampa water was curtailed.
This summer, the portion of the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs city limits was open to summer recreation — including tubing, fishing, and paddling — for about 40 days, one of the shortest summer seasons on this stretch of river. For much of the summer, the river was under a voluntary closure as the water was too hot, too low or without enough dissolved oxygen to meet streamflow standards set by the city and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to protect river habitat.
Warm and dry summer
The Yampa and Colorado rivers peaked in mid-May, and according to long-term averages of daily flows, both rivers normally peak in June. This led to the second earliest start to tubing season on the Yampa in 10 years.
A warm spring played a role in this — as snow melted off the mountains earlier, water flowed downhill into the river and its tributaries earlier. This water year was the warmest on record in the state, according to the Colorado Climate Center.
In Routt County, about half of the county saw its warmest water year on record, while parts of central and south Routt saw temperatures in ranges that placed it among the top 10 percent of the record.
Most of Routt County received below normal precipitation this year, though the area fared better than other parts of Colorado. The National Weather and Climate Center’s snow telemetry sites in the Routt County area received 70 to 80 percent of average precipitation this year, through July, August and September saw lower rainfall compared to historic averages.
“Statewide, this was the fourth driest year in the 123-year record,” said Kelly Romero-Heaney, water resources manager for the city of Steamboat Springs. “It was fourth only to 2012, 1934 and 2002.”
This year was the driest water year on record in southwest Colorado, western Moffat County and parts of the San Luis Valley, according to the Colorado Climate Center.
Human-caused temperature increases and drought have caused earlier spring snowmelt and shifted runoff earlier in the year across the southwest, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment.
“Not only are we in situations where we get less water, but we get it earlier, which makes for a longer season of need,” said Kevin McBride, district manager of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District.
His agency operates Stagecoach and Yamcolo reservoirs.
The early runoff means producers kicked off the irrigation season earlier, too. Producers are also seeing longer growing seasons in Colorado, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Reservoir water keeps flows up
Drought conditions and warm temperatures have made supplementing the Yampa River’s natural flow with releases of reservoir water a consistent practice in recent years.
Since 2012, the Colorado Water Trust has purchased reservoir water to supplement flows in the Yampa River. This year, Tri-State Generation and Transmission also released water from Elkhead Reservoir to keep up power generation at Craig Station.
The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program releases water from Elkhead Reservoir to provide habitat for bonytail, razorback suckers, and humpback chub. These releases are determined based on the amount of water flowing by the U.S. Geological Survey’s stream gauge near Maybell in western Moffat County.
“Obviously, when you have low flow years, you have warmer stream temperatures and then less habitat available to aquatic life,” Romero-Heaney said.
In Steamboat, the river dropped to 50 cubic feet per second — low flow — during spawning season for brown trout, she added. That made habitat more difficult to come by, and Romero-Heaney said it could have impacts to fish populations in the upper Yampa.
The Yampa Valley suffered major droughts in 2002 and 2012. In 2002, the USGS reported less than 10 cubic feet per second of flow at the Maybell gauge at the Yampa River’s lowest points in the summer, said Erin Light, area division engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources.
Reservoir releases likely kept the water higher than that mark this summer. The USGS streamflow gauges can’t show how much water is natural flow and how much is reservoir water, so stream gauge measurements don’t reflect the full picture when it comes to water…
When the call was administered for about two weeks in September, the water at the Yampa’s lower reach through Dinosaur National Monument fell to about 18 cfs — its long-term average for the same time frame is about 260 cfs. At Lily Park, near the Little Snake River’s confluence with the Yampa, irrigators’ pumps were sweeping the river, Light said earlier this year.
Planning for the future
Romero-Heaney said flows on the Yampa in Steamboat were “extremely low,” falling below 34 cfs at the gauge at the Fifth Street Bridge in Steamboat…
The city outlined its plans to purchase reservoir water on contract to boost flows in dry periods in the Yampa River Streamflow Management Plan released this summer. The plan also seeks to implement voluntary projects that would pay water users to participate in projects enhancing the health of the river.
Earlier this year, some of the city’s water rights were curtailed in the call. As droughts and warm temperatures become more common, releases to augment river health will likely have to be balanced with releases to augment municipal water.