#EarthDay2019 – Protect Our Species: “In nature, nothing exists alone” — Rachel Carson, 1962

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Nature’s gifts to our planet are the millions of species that we know and love, and many more that remain to be discovered. Unfortunately, human beings have irrevocably upset the balance of nature and, as a result, the world is facing the greatest rate of extinction since we lost the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago. But unlike the fate of the dinosaurs, the rapid extinction of species in our world today is the result of human activity.

The unprecedented global destruction and rapid reduction of plant and wildlife populations are directly linked to causes driven by human activity: climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and pesticides to name a few. The impacts are far reaching.

If we do not act now, extinction may be humanity’s most enduring legacy. Here are some quick facts on the current wave of extinction and additional information about this problem here.

All living things have an intrinsic value, and each plays a unique role in the complex web of life. We must work together to protect endangered and threatened species: bees, coral reefs, elephants, giraffes, insects, whales and more.

The good news is that the rate of extinctions can still be slowed, and many of our declining, threatened and endangered species can still recover if we work together now to build a united global movement of consumers, voters, educators, faith leaders, and scientists to demand immediate action.

Earth Day Network is asking people to join our Protect our Species campaign. Our goals are to:

  • Educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon.
  • Achieve major policy victories that protect broad groups of species as well as individual species and their habitats.
  • Build and activate a global movement that embraces nature and its values.
  • Encourage individual actions such as adopting plant based diet and stopping pesticide and herbicide use.
  • Click here to view our library of resources.

    Sandhill Cranes in flight via Colorado Parks and Wildlife

    Click here to go to the NOAA website for their, “15 great reads for your Earth Day week: Our ‘click list’ of cool science stories has something for everyone:

    It’s that time again to reaquaint yourself with the health and well-being of our planet. We know what you’re thinking … but it’s not all bad news. NOAA scientists are using their expertise and innovation to help to solve Earth’s biggest challenges.

    #ColoradoRiver #drought plan could improve local drought #resilience — Hannah Holm #COriver #aridification #DCP

    Detailed Colorado River Basin map via the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Hannah Holm):

    Even as successive snowstorms obliterated drought conditions in the state of Colorado, the states that share the Colorado River put the final touches on a plan to use less water. On March 19, representatives from California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado asked Congress to approve their “Drought Contingency Plan.” Congressed obliged, and [the President] added his signature on April 16.

    The lightning speed with which the Drought Contingency Plan was approved in contentious Washington, D.C. reflects the plan’s importance. Over the past two decades, water use from the river has regularly exceed inputs from snow and rain, leading water levels in Lakes Mead and Powell to drop perilously low.

    The risk is most acute for the downstream states, because if water levels get too low at Lake Mead, no one but Las Vegas will be able to get any of their Colorado River water out. Las Vegas has spent billions on an intake at the bottom of the lake, just in case. Because of that risk, the lower basin portion of the plan has a detailed schedule of delivery cuts triggered by different lake elevations. Until the snowstorms really picked up this year, the first trigger was expected to come in 2020.

    Here in Colorado and the other upstream states, we catch whatever water falls from the sky on its way to Lake Powell. Water in Lake Powell is mainly useful to us for generating hydropower (and money from hydropower, which is spent on infrastructure and environmental projects) and for keeping us out of trouble with our obligations to the downstream states.

    Releases to the lower basin have always met or exceeded the requirements in the 1922 compact between the states, and the obligation is calculated on a 10-year rolling average. The threat of having to cut upper basin water uses to comply with the compact is therefore somewhat distant and shrouded in both hydrologic and legal uncertainties.

    Because the upper basin risk is less immediate, the upper basin portion of the Drought Contingency Plan is less tangible. It is a “plan to plan,” outlining processes for making extra releases from upstream reservoirs under certain conditions, and for developing a special account in Powell for conserved water. Water in this special account would be protected from releases to Mead under normal operations to balance water levels in the reservoirs.

    The conserved water pool in Powell can’t be used unless a “Demand Management” plan is developed and unanimously agreed to by all four upper basin states. Colorado officials are currently gathering input on what such a plan should look like. Based on what they’ve already heard, fundamental criteria are that any Demand Management Plan would be based on voluntary, temporary and compensated water use reductions: no one would be forced, no uses would be permanently retired, and whoever participates will get paid for it.

    It seems obvious that it’s a good idea to start building a savings account little by little through modest, deliberate, compensated water use cuts in order to avoid large, mandatory, uncompensated cuts in the future. But important concerns have been raised about how water use cuts would be balanced between the West Slope and East Slope, between urban and agricultural users, and between different West Slope basins. Since agriculture is the biggest user of Colorado River water, it is almost certain that under any Demand Management Plan, agricultural water use will decline, even if cities are roped into sharing some of the burden. That’s a tough pill for a lot of people to swallow.

    It sometimes seems like proactively cutting water use is just too unpleasant and complicated, and maybe doing nothing would be better. But the Drought Contingency Plan was developed for a reason. There’s less water in the river than there used to be, and our long-term warming trend suggests that there will be even less in the future.

    Last year’s miserable snowpack showed us our vulnerabilities. If the snow hadn’t come back this year, even Grand Valley farmers served by big ditches with senior rights and reservoir storage upstream would have been forced to cut their water use over the coming summer, despite a lack of compact compliance problems. And no one would have paid them for it.

    At some point, we will get two really bad snow years in a row. Participation in a voluntary, temporary, compensated Demand Management program may, if done right, help fund investments in technology and crop alternatives that enhance local farmers’ ability to stay viable when less water is available. This will benefit our entire community, regardless of whether the shortage results from downstream obligations or nature’s failure to provide.

    How to Cut Your Water Use in Half: These water-saving products and practices will save you money, too — Consumer Reports #EarthDay2019

    Xeriscape landscape

    From Consumer Reports (Mary H.J. Farrell):

    California’s seven-year dry spell may be over, but there will be another drought somewhere in the country this year—and every year.

    In fact, water managers in 40 states say that even under normal weather conditions, they expect water shortages in some part of their state over the next decade. That’s according to WaterSense, the water conservation partner of the Environmental Protection Agency.

    There are lots of water-saving ideas floating around, but two of the best ways are to replace water-wasting appliances and fixtures and to modify your lifestyle and habits.

    Neither is easy. Updating appliances requires an up-front expense, and creating new habits a long-term commitment. But do both and you can cut your usage in half or more. That’s as good for your budget as it is for Earth.

    Outdoor watering accounts for almost 30 percent of your water use, according to WaterSense. And toilets (24 percent), showers (20 percent), faucets (19 percent) and washing machines (17 percent) also use substantial amounts. Then there’s the 12 percent of water lost to leaks that you might not even know about. (To find and detect leaks, read “Is Your Toilet Running Up Your Water Bill?”)

    Here are some ways to save water and reduce your water bill from the experts at Consumer Reports, Energy Star, and WaterSense. We’ll take you room-by-room and then outside.

    Save Water in the Bathroom
    More water flows through the bathroom than any other room in the house. In fact, bathrooms account for more than half of all indoor water use.

    But advances in plumbing technology mean that newer faucets, showers, and toilets use significantly less water than older models and still deliver the rinse, spray, and flush you expect.

    Water-saving bathroom fixtures that meet federal WaterSense standards carry the WaterSense label. Here are the water-saving steps you can take:

    Replace your old toilets—all of them. Older toilets use as much as 6 gallons per flush; new WaterSense toilets do the job with 1.28 gallons or less. With new toilets, the average family can reduce water use by 20 percent per toilet.

    Take short showers, limiting them to 5 minutes. (And take showers instead of baths.) If you’re brave, turn off the water when lathering up or shampooing. And shut off the water when brushing your teeth or shaving.

    Replace your old showerhead. Standard showerheads use 2.5 gallons of water per minute. WaterSense showerheads use no more than 2 gpm. The difference really adds up.

    Replace your old faucets. Replacing leaky or inefficient faucets and aerators with WaterSense models can save the average family 500 gallons of water per year.

    Don’t use your toilet as a garbage can. It wastes water and can clog your pipes. Toilet paper is designed to disintegrate. Tissues, most wipes, and dental floss are not.

    Save Water in the Kitchen
    When it comes to wasting water in the kitchen, the dishwasher isn’t the culprit—it’s probably you.

    Too many people rinse their dishes clean before putting them in a dishwasher designed to do that very job—and do it better than you can. Here are the water-saving steps you can take:

    Don’t prerinse your dishes. An old kitchen faucet can use 7 gallons of water a minute when running full blast.

    “The Energy Star dishwashers we test use 4 to 6 gallons per cycle,” says Larry Ciufo who oversees Consumer Reports’ dishwasher tests. Water savings aside, your dishwasher will perform better loaded with dirty dishes, as CR explains in “Don’t Bother Prerinsing Your Dishes.”)

    Replace your old dishwasher. Energy Star dishwashers are about 15 percent more water-efficient than standard models. Bonus: They’re quieter, too.

    Wash only full loads of dishes. For maximum efficiency, load your dishwasher according to the instructions in your owner’s manual, which will make the most of the sprays in your machine.

    Refrigerate your drinking water instead of running the tap until it’s cool. Designate one glass or water bottle per person for the day so that it only needs to be washed once.

    Give pots and pans a soak instead of scrubbing them under running water.

    Install a WaterSense aerator on the kitchen faucet to reduce flow to less than 1 gallon per minute. It’s a cheap fix that costs only pennies. Avoid running the garbage disposal, and the water it requires, by composting your food scraps.

    Save Water in the Laundry Room
    The worst washing machines in our tests use more than twice as much as miserly Energy Star models, which use 10 to 12 gallons for an 8-pound load. Front-loaders are the most water efficient, followed by high-efficiency (HE) top-loaders and agitator top-loaders.

    Here are the water-saving steps you can take:

    Replace your old washer. Energy Star washing machines use about 40 percent less water than a regular washer. Bonus: Because high-efficiency models spin faster, the clothes need less drying time.

    Pick the appropriate water level setting—often called small, medium, large—for the load if that’s how your machine works. Front-loaders and most HE top-loaders have auto-load sensing, and a few of the latest agitator top-loaders have it, too. That feature automatically determines the load size and the amount of water needed.

    Measure laundry detergent and use HE detergents for HE machines. Regular detergents are too sudsy, and using too much can cause HE washers to use more water by extending the rinse cycle.

    Do only full loads, but don’t overstuff. Using cold water whenever possible helps save on energy costs.

    Pick the right soil setting for the load. Choosing the heavy-duty setting can use more water and extend wash time. The normal setting works for most loads.

    Save Water Outdoors
    Lawns soak up more water than any other plant in your yard, and homeowners tend to overwater their grass to keep it green.

    An established lawn needs only 1 inch of water per week in the growing season, so pouring on the water can actually harm your turf, as well as your budget.

    Here are the water-saving steps you can take:

    Let the grass grow longer by raising your lawn mower’s cutting height. Longer blades of grass help shade each other, reducing evaporation, so keep your grass between 3 and 4½ inches tall.

    Stop fertilizing; it only promotes new growth. When you mow, leave grass clippings on the lawn to retain moisture and add nitrogen. If you use a sprinkler, direct the spray to the grass and garden and not the sidewalk and street.

    Don’t use water to clean off your driveway, steps, or deck. Sweep them instead or use a leaf blower. Wash your car with water from a bucket or go to a commercial car wash that recycles water.

    When it rains, collect the water in barrels or install gutters and downspouts that direct the runoff to your plants and trees.

    Reduce the size of your lawn. Consider replacing grass with mulch, ground cover, drought-tolerant plants, or ornamental grasses. Weeds compete with other plants for water, so weed regularly. And ditch any water features unless they use recycled water. To find the best plants for your region, consult your county cooperative extension or a local nursery.

    Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation, if watering is permitted, to apply water slowly and evenly. Buy a hose nozzle with an automatic shutoff. Water early in the day when evaporation rates are low and more water is absorbed.