From The Highline Canal Conservancy:
The Stormwater Transformation and Enhancement Program (STEP) will bring a new life and a renewed utility to the High Line Canal as a green infrastructure system that provides for stormwater quality management.
The High Line Canal Conservancy is working with Denver Water, Mile High Flood District and local jurisdictions through STEP to advance stormwater solutions in the Canal for both existing and new conditions.
Two Main Goals of STEP
Plan for and implement stormwater management projects in the Canal that transform it into a stormwater management system.
Develop a collaborative management, maintenance, financial and operational model to advance stormwater projects in the Canal.
Any drop of water that falls into adjacent watersheds naturally drains toward the Canal. In some areas, stormwater already enters the Canal, while in other areas, stormwater is diverted away from the Canal. Diverting that stormwater toward the Canal and holding it there briefly (less the 72 hours) can provide many benefits.
Benefits to the Canal and region include:
Reduces the amount of pollution going into the waterways, improves water quality, boosts water cycle support, upholds flood management and allows for cleaner stormwater
Improves air quality, promotes carbon sequestration, increases wildlife diversity and abundance and reduces the urban heat island effect
COMMUNITY HEALTH & LIVABILITY
Encourages healthy lifestyles, increases access, builds climate resilience, enhances human health and user experience and fosters stewardship
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewicz):
Officials of Pueblo County and of the Lower Arkansas Valley are making significant progress to resolve a lawsuit against Colorado Springs for years of defiling Fountain Creek.
“The parties have made significant progress toward settlement,” states a July 23 report obtained by The Pueblo Chieftain.
The report was submitted to a judge in Denver of the U.S. District Court for Colorado, where the lawsuit is pending.
The Chieftain reported in December that both sides of the dispute had begun meeting to discuss a potential resolution without further litigation.
The new report and the one in December were signed by attorneys for the litigants: the county commissioners, the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Public Health and Environment on one side, and the city of Colorado Springs on the other side…
After a trial last year, the judge overseeing the case decided in November that the Colorado Springs violated its permit that regulates discharges into the creek from the city’s storm water sewer system.
The next step would have been for another trial to determine what the city must do to remedy the violations.
The commissioners, the water conservancy district, plus the federal and state environmental agencies stated in December they would ask a judge to order Colorado Springs to improve its storm water system, impose monetary penalties “and other appropriate remedies” if both sides could not agree on how to resolve the dispute.
In last week’s report, all sides stated they “have been meeting regularly and intensively to reach settlement.”
They asked the judge to put the case on hold in order to give them at least until Nov. 22 “to focus on settlement.”
Senior Judge John L. Kane granted the request.
From Steamboat Today (Eleanor C. Hasenbeck):
On Monday afternoon, the river was flowing at about 200 cubic feet per second at the U.S. Geological Survey stream gauge at Fifth Street, falling over the course of the past week from just under 300 cfs on Monday, July 22. Saturday’s rainfall boosted flows back up to 300 cfs on Sunday, though the river fell back to 200 cfs by Monday.
The river typically levels out after its peak, but city water resources manager Kelly Romero-Heaney said that level varies year to year.
“We see the hydrograph tail off after the peak snowmelt, and then it hovers above 100 cfs typically for the majority of the summer, but it can depend on what’s happening with releases out of Stagecoach Reservoir and irrigation diversions upstream from town and the weather,” Romero-Heaney said…
So far this July, the area received 1.06 inches of precipitation at a National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Network weather station, below the long-term average of 1.52 inches at the same location.
From Colorado Public Radio (Dan Boyce):
The Environmental Protection Agency issued a health advisory in 2016 that warned of the connection between PFAS and certain types of cancer.
After the advisory and the discovery of widespread groundwater and soil contamination near Peterson Airforce Base, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation shut down organic vegetable production at the Venetucci farm. They opted to instead raise lower-priced feedstock for horses.
It’s one example of the financial burden this region still bears from the pollution, despite the $50 million the Air Force has spent on cleanup around Peterson.
“There are 60,000 stories just like this and they’re happening at the kitchen sink in every Fountain, Widefield and Security home,” Clark said of the communities whose water was tainted by the foam.
The foundation, as well as the nearby Security Water District, have sued the Air Force over the chemicals. District general manager Roy Heald said they had to find a new source of water for their customers, a complicated process which involved the construction of a mile-long pipeline to buy water from Colorado Springs. The cost of the pipeline and the first two years of water set the district back $6 million…
In 2018, the Air Force stepped in to cover the district’s water costs until the construction of a new treatment facility was completed. The Air Force will also pay for the facility. Still, Heald said it’s unclear what the ongoing long-term costs will be for the district when it comes to the new facility. It will be needed as long as the contamination remains in the groundwater, which could essentially be forever…
As of this June, $357 million has been spent on PFAS cleanup around 22 Air Force installations nationwide. It’s a lot of money that many who live near the sites say barely touches on the full problem…
There’s disagreement even between government agencies about what concentration of PFAS is safe for humans. A division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that levels should be set seven to 10 times lower than the EPA’s health advisory.
Genna Reed, the lead PFAS researcher for the Union of Concerned Scientists, has said the Department of Defense “misrepresented the scope of this issue in order to avoid having to pay.”
The Air Force would not grant an interview for this story, but states on the PFAS website it established that “protecting human health is our priority.”
Reed said the Department of Defense has limited which PFAS chemicals it tests for in groundwater and only releases data when the results are above the higher EPA threshold.
“Community members who have been exposed to this chemical and were not told of its release are being the ones left with the burden of paying for this contamination and paying to find out how much is in their water and also to find out how much is in their blood,” Reed said.
Rosenbaum said the full blood panel to test for PFAS chemicals costs about $700 — out of reach for many living near Peterson AFB.
Rosenbaum has organized a local clean water coalition to go after grants to test residents’ blood and water. She’s frustrated they have to do that work themselves.
“There’s absolutely no reason for our communities to go into debt over another water contamination that we didn’t cause,” she said.
From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):
Coming out of extreme drought, water releases a pleasant surprise
For 51 days this spring and summer, water managers opened the spigots on McPhee Reservoir, sending millions of gallons of water down the Dolores River – a boon to fish, farmers and boaters.
During the last 20 years, only 10 years have been boatable. But this year was remarkable for the number of boating days after extreme drought conditions in 2018.
McPhee Reservoir started 2019 with one of the poorest water levels in its history, but extraordinary snowfall allowed the Dolores Water Conservancy District to fill the reservoir and release 135,000 acre-feet of water.
The high-flow days will benefit the ecology of the entire corridor, said Mike Preston, general manager of the district. The big releases occurred between Memorial Day weekend and the first week of July, with a short intermission after Memorial Day.
The district met with stakeholders, such as boaters and biologists, weekly to determine water management strategy, Preston said.
“So far, everybody is pretty happy,” he said.
The Dolores River Boating Advocates were pleased with the number of boating days. While it was not the longest season ever, it was a good run, said Sam Carter, program and outreach coordinator for the group…
The high levels in the reservoir will allow the district to provide irrigators all the water they have rights to and hold over water in the reservoir for next season, Preston said. The releases from the reservoir will also have lasting benefits for native fish and trees along the river, experts said.
The high flows help maintain and improve habitat for three species of native fish: roundtail chub, bluehead sucker and flannelmouth sucker, said Jim White, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The bluehead and flannelmouth sucker populations are both depressed in the Dolores. Their populations have been hurt by non-native fish and changes in habitat because of the dam, he said…
This summer, White said he may have observed benefits of the last big water year on the Dolores, which was in 2017. He was surveying fish in Slick Rock Canyon and found an abundance of young flannelmouth suckers possibly from 2017 or 2018, he said. Higher water helps support spawning…
The large amount of spring runoff released from McPhee also kept the water district from needing to tap into water set aside specifically for fish, Preston said. So now the same amount of water can be released over a shorter period of time, which will be beneficial for fish.
The high-water year will also have lasting benefits for trees, such as cottonwoods and willows, because it will recharge the groundwater in the floodplain, said Cynthia Dott, a biology professor at Fort Lewis College. Dott specializes in studying the floodplain forest habitat and has worked on the Dolores River with her students.
Rainwater does not provide enough water to recharge the water table, and when the table drops too low, it can hurt large cottonwoods, she said. But there should be plenty of groundwater for the trees to tap into next year, she said.
“They will have plenty of water to keep their feet wet,” she said.
The high flows were also traditionally needed to scour the banks of rivers and leave open, muddy areas for young cottonwood seedlings to get established, she said.
However, because there have been so many years of low flows on the Dolores, willows have established themselves along the banks and high flows now are not enough to rip them free, she said.
Click here to view the stunning photographs. (No Sandhill Cranes!)
The Gering-Ft. Laramie-Goshen canal ordinarily carries water from the North Platte River to irrigate more than 100,000 acres in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. But last Wednesday, part of a 102-year old concrete tunnel on the canal collapsed, blocking that water. Wednesday, an overflow crowd packed a Scottsbluff meeting room to hear an update on the situation.
Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation District General Manager Rick Preston said officials are working on a temporary fix which will involve working into the tunnel, inserting steel ribs covered with metal plates and grout, hoping to clear a path to resume the flow.
“This is a long shot. We don’t even know what’s in there. In a perfect situation, you’re looking at 21 days before we can get water back into the system,” Preston said.
Gering–area farmer Preston Stricker said he’s coped with water shortages before, but never a complete cutoff. “The effects? Nobody’s ever tried this, so we don’t know yet. But it could be devastating, with no rain and the heat the way it generally is at the end of July, the first part of August. Corn’s in its pollinating stage within the next week to 10 days, and a very, very critical time, so the yield drag could be tremendous,” Sticker said.
Xin Qiao, a University of Nebraska irrigation management specialist, said that if corn doesn’t get any irrigation water by mid-August, that could cut yields by 80-90 percent.
In addition to how long the outage will last, other questions include who will pay for repairs, and how much, if any of the losses will be covered by crop insurance.
From the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation:
According to a Goshen Irrigation District news release, during the early morning hours on July 17, an apparent collapse in a tunnel on the Fort Laramie Canal, about one and a half miles south of the town of Fort Laramie, caused water to back up and breach the canal bank upstream of the tunnel. The Fort Laramie Canal provides irrigation water to approximately 107,000 acres in Wyoming and Nebraska served by the Goshen and Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation Districts and the Wright and Murphey Ditch Company.
Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Vice President/Goshen County Farmer Cole Coxbill says the magnitude of the tunnel collapse is devastating. “In 13 miles, the water in the canal rose by four feet in just a half hour,” he explained. “It just went from bad to worse as the severity of the washout and tunnel collapse was discovered. The crew’s quick action and response to get the canal shut down as soon as they did saved additional destruction.”
All hands are on deck to determine a plan to repair the tunnel and canal to restore service. “Tunnel experts are onsite as well as engineers, legislators, irrigation district board members and other interested parties,” Coxbill said. “Today, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon toured the damage and is in touch with and working with Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts.”
To put the scope in perspective, Coxbill explained the size of Tunnel 2; the tunnel that collapsed. “Construction started in 1916 and finished in 1917. It is 2,160 feet long; 140 foot to 180 foot below ground and it is a 14 foot by 14 foot concrete tunnel,” he explained. “The cave in blocked it off totally and backed the water up in the canal washing out a good quarter mile of the canal. All of this is about 13 miles from the diversion dam on the river and the canal’s length in Wyoming alone is 85 miles.”
According to Coxbill, a state economist gave an initial forecast guess of a $60 million direct economic impact to Wyoming and Nebraska. “That doesn’t include the turnover effect,” Coxbill explained. “That is the direct economic impact the loss of irrigation water will have on our states.”
There are approximately 52,000 acres in Wyoming impacted with the loss of irrigation water. “Farmers are all in at this point in the season,” Coxbill stated. “All our chips are on the table and now we face the outlook of no irrigation water.”
“We are hoping to have some more answers as the irrigation boards meet again tomorrow to discuss what the tunnel company found and what they think,” he said.
“The devastation and reality of no water is still setting in and on how tragic this can and will be to the farmers and the community,” Coxbill concluded.
From Colorado Public Radio (Michael Sakas):
Gregory Wetherbee, a research chemist at the U.S. Geological Survey, had been collecting rain samples to study nitrogen pollution. Instead, he found a familiar leftover of modern life.
“I thought maybe I should look at these under a microscope. And when I did, uh, I was a little shocked by the amount of plastic that I saw in them … chunks of blue, orange, pink, you name it.”
Microplastics were the “furthest thing from my mind when we first started this project,” he said. Now it’s the focus of his new research paper titled “It Is Raining Plastic.” These plastics are tiny pieces of mostly fiber material, invisible to the naked eye.
As he stood next to a rain collector in a community garden in Arvada, it wouldn’t surprise you to find plastics in the water gathered here. This spot is close to traffic, parking lots, homes and stores. There’s a lot of plastic around. What really surprised Wetherbee was when he still saw microplastic in the rainwater collected at a site 10,000 feet above sea level in Rocky Mountain National Park.
“That made me realize that what we had here was something that was quite significant because the question is how do those plastics get into that remote area?”
Wetherbee’s study doesn’t answer that big question, and he doesn’t want to speculate. But it makes him think that somehow the plastic is transported through the atmosphere. A similar study was done in France that echoes Wetherbee’s findings. In a remote part of the Pyrenees Mountains, researchers found microplastics in the rainfall.
The study’s lead author told National Geographic that “Microplastic is a new atmospheric pollutant.”
Wetherbee said the plastic he found could be coming from myriad sources. Synthetic fibers from our clothing, shreds from tires on the road. When a grocery bag or a drink bottle breaks down, it becomes tiny pieces that spread. It doesn’t go away.
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Tyler Johnson):
The Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled the annual public meeting to discuss the Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations for the 2019 water year.
The meeting will be held on August 7, 2019, from 6:30-8:00 pm at the following location:
Roaring Fork Conservancy River Center
22800 Two Rivers Road
Basalt, CO 81621
The meeting will provide an overview of Ruedi Reservoir’s 2019 projected operations for late summer and early fall, which are key tourist seasons in Basalt. Also, representatives of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will give a presentation on the upcoming implementation of the Ute Water Conservancy District lease of Ruedi Reservoir water to the Board for instream flow use in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River. The meeting will include a public question and answer session.
For more information, please contact Tim Miller, Hydrologist, Eastern Colorado Area Office, by phone or e-mail: (970) 461-5494, or email@example.com.
From The Conversation (Robert B. Richardson):
Experts widely agree that human activities are harming the global environment. Since the Industrial Revolution, the world economy has grown dramatically. Overall this is a success story, since rising incomes have lifted millions of people out of poverty. But it has been fueled by population growth and increasing consumption of natural resources.
Rising demand to meet the needs of more than 7.6 billion people has transformed land use and generated unprecedented levels of pollution, affecting biodiversity, forests, wetlands, water bodies, soils and air quality.
It’s pretty certain that humans are consuming more resources than the Earth can regenerate. An updated estimate of how fast that consumption is happening suggests it’s more rapid this year than in the past 50, according to the California-based Global Footprint Network. This environmental nonprofit calculates the annual arrival of Earth Overshoot Day – the date when humanity’s demands on nature exceed what the network’s analysts estimate the Earth can regenerate over the entire year. This year they peg the date as July 29 – the earliest date since ecological overshoot began in the early 1970s.
As an ecological economist and scholar of sustainability, I am particularly interested in metrics and indicators that can help us understand human uses of Earth’s ecosystems. Better measurements of the impacts of human activities can help identify ways to sustain both human well-being and natural resources.
Earth Overshoot Day is a compelling concept and has raised awareness of the growing impact of human activities on the planet. Unfortunately, the methodology used to calculate it and the ecological footprint on which it is based is conceptually flawed and practically unusable in any science or policy context. In my view, the ecological footprint ultimately does not measure overuse of natural resources – and it may very well underestimate it.
Rising demands, finite resources
The Global Footprint Network estimates when Earth Overshoot Day will arrive based on its National Footprint Accounts. These include extensive data sets that the organization uses to calculate two overarching indicators:
The ecological footprint, perhaps the most commonly used metric of the environmental impacts of human resource use. Each country’s ecological footprint is an estimate of the biological resources required to meet its population’s consumption demands and absorb its carbon emissions National biocapacity, which is an estimate of how well each country’s ecosystems can produce the natural resources consumed by humans and absorb the waste and pollution that humans generate.
Both of these measures are expressed in global hectares. One hectare is equal to 10,000 square meters, or about 2.47 acres.
Going into overshoot
To estimate when Earth Overshoot Day will arrive, the Global Footprint Network calculates the number of days in a given year for which Earth has enough biocapacity to provide for humans’ total ecological footprint.
When the footprint of consumption worldwide exceeds biocapacity, the authors assert that humans are overshooting, or exceeding the regenerative capacity of Earth’s ecosystems. This year, they estimate that humans are using natural resources 1.75 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate – or, put another way, consuming 1.75 Earths.
As an example, the ecological footprint for the United Kingdom is 4.4 global hectares per person, and global biocapacity is 1.63 hectares per person. Therefore, it would take (4.4 /1.63) 2.7 Earths if everyone lived like the British.
The U.K.‘s Overshoot Day would be estimated as 365 x (1.63 /4.4) = 135, or the 135th day of the year, which is May 17 based on 2016 data. The United States reached overshoot even earlier, on March 15.
What to count?
However, there are some fundamental and misleading shortcomings in these calculations. In a 2013 paper, six authors from academia, The Nature Conservancy and the California-based Breakthrough Institute analyzed how the Ecological Footprint falls short. In their view, it primarily measures humans’ carbon footprint but does not fully address other key impacts.
To calculate ecological footprints, the Global Footprint Network estimates the supply and demand of renewable biological resources across six land use types: forests, fishing grounds, croplands, grazing lands, developed lands and the area of forest required to offset human carbon emissions – that is, the carbon footprint. According to the network’s own analysis, each of these land use types is nearly in balance or in surplus, except for the carbon footprint.
The two key categories for producing food – cropland and grazing land – are defined in such a way that they can never be in deficit. And the analysis does not reflect environmental consequences of human use of these lands, such as soil erosion, nutrient runoff or overuse of water. It measures only land area.
For example, the ecological footprint for Indonesia is 1.7 global hectares per person, which is among the lowest 30% of all countries. But according to a 2014 study, Indonesia has the highest deforestation rate in the world.
Furthermore, the footprint calculation does not consider whether stocks of natural resources are decreasing or increasing as a result of human consumption. This question is critical for understanding ecological impacts.
These national ecological footprint calculations also conflate sustainability with self-sufficiency. They assume that every nation should produce all of the resources it consumes, even though it might be less expensive for countries to import some goods than to produce them at home.
As an example, the network lists Canada as an “ecological creditor” whose biocapacity exceeds its population’s ecological footprint. However, Canada is among the top 5 oil-producing countries in the world, and exports much of that oil for foreign consumption. Most of it goes to the United States, an “ecological debtor” that consumes more resources than it produces.
Thinking purely in terms of generic “resources,” everyone is better off when debtor countries can import resources from nations with supplies to spare. There are real and important environmental impacts associated with producing and consuming oil, but the network’s calculations do not address them. Nor do they reflect the decline in natural capital from extracting a nonrenewable resource.
The Global Footprint Network asserts that “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” but it may be impossible to create a single metric that can capture all human impacts on the environment. Earth Overshoot Day highlights unsustainable uses of natural resources, but we need scientifically robust ecological indicators to inform environmental policy, and a broader understanding of ecological risks.
Better measurements of sustainability should reflect changes in our supplies of natural capital, include estimates of uncertainty and incorporate multiple pathways to reduce carbon footprints. The best tool for measuring human impacts on the planet may be a dashboard of environmental indicators, not a footprint.
From email from Reclamation (Ryan Christianson):
Releases from the Aspinall Unit were increased by 500 cfs beginning on Friday, July 26th and are scheduled to continue at that rate into the near future in order to prevent Blue Mesa Reservoir from overfilling. At the current inflow and release rate it is projected that Blue Mesa Reservoir would begin spilling, as the reservoir is now full. The current forecast for the April-July runoff volume for Blue Mesa Reservoir is 1,075,000 AF of inflow, which is 159% of average. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1500 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.
Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1500 cfs for July and August.
Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are 950 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 2550 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Cool spring, late storms fill C-BT Project
A cool and wet spring in Northern Colorado coupled by unusual late snowstorms combined to top off the Colorado-Big Thompson Project in 2019.
At Lake Granby, water reached the spillway over the weekend of July 13-14. In the days before that, managers had been releasing additional water into the Colorado River to make room for incoming snowmelt.
Because of a storm that dumped snow on the headwaters of the Colorado River on June 21, the inflow into Lake Granby climbed significantly. While earlier models had indicated Lake Granby wouldn’t fill, that storm boosted streamflows considerably.
Northern Water was not the only organization surprised by the late snowmelt and heavy late-season storms. Denver Water, which manages Lake Dillon and collects water at the headwaters of the Fraser River, reported the snowpack that feeds its system was also far above normal this year.
If your yard is feeling a bit heat-stressed, follow three simple steps to return your lawn to its happy place. The post Is that patch of brown getting you down? appeared first on News on TAP.
From The Vail Daily (John LaConte):
On Thursday, representatives from Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Eagle River Watershed Council, the Town of Gypsum, the Buckhorn Valley Metropolitan District and Scott Green Excavating raised a toast to the completion of a pipeline from the creek which replaces a more than 100-year old ditch…The more than $1 million project hinges on the fish screen and the data collection station. If water levels aren’t recording properly, Buckhorn Valley won’t know when they’re able to divert, as they’ve agreed to take water only when stream levels are above 1.25 cubic feet per second.
That agreement saw some referee action in water court, said attorney Steve Bushong, who helped the metro district obtain a judge’s decree which confirmed that the project can go forward without impacting the metro district’s water rights. The decree came through in November after a slight holdup from the city of Aurora, which diverts water out of Eagle County to the Front Range via Homestake Reservoir.
“Aurora stipulated out of that case; they just asked for some kind of no precedent language, which we were able to work out and include,” Bushong said…
Another complicated part of the project is the diversion point itself — if it doesn’t allow fish to pass through safely from both sides, the whole project will have been in vain.
Designed by hydraulic/fish passage engineer Brent Mefford, the Abrams Creek fish screen benefits from Mefford’s many years of research with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation studying screen layout, orientation to channel flow, debris management and use of isolation gates.
“Having a fish person design a screen, they understand fish behavior,” said Kendall Bakich with Colorado Parks & Wildlife. “The way this screen is designed, it allows the fish to swim on the screen if it gets in there.”
On Thursday, members of Colorado Parks & Wildlife witnessed the fish screen working properly from both directions.
“Within 10 minutes (of arriving at the site) we had a fish in here,” Bakich said while examining the fish screen on Thursday. “It worked just like it should.”
Learn more about the project at tu.org.
From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):
Colorado residents sobered by years of drought are learning to take shorter showers and use low-flow toilets, water-saving habits that have helped the state reduce its domestic water use 5 percent, according to a new report released last week by the state’s lead water agency.
The report, a technical update to the Colorado Water Plan, shows that household water use statewide has dropped from an average of 172 gallons per person per day in 2010 to 164 gallons per day in 2015, the latest year for which data was analyzed.
Those numbers could continue to drop under various planning scenarios developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, with one scenario indicating that the statewide average for individual water use could fall as low as 143 gallons per person per day by 2050 as the public continues to embrace conservation and as water-saving technologies improve.
The idea behind the new water study is to help better guide the state’s efforts via the state water plan to stave off water shortages over the next 30 years, and to understand the impact of climate change on various population growth scenarios.
Despite the decline in average daily use, the state still faces future water shortages that could surge to more than 750,000 acre-feet annually if the economy and climate heat up dramatically.
But under a hypothetical scenario where the economy slows significantly and climate change moderates somewhat, Colorado’s urban areas could face shortages of just 245,000 acre-feet each year.
“We looked at five different scenarios, taking into effect climate change,” said Becky Mitchell, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which sets state water policy. “It’s a creative and innovative way to be looking at our [water supply] gaps,” she said.
So how much water do these shortage forecasts represent? A lot.
Right now, most urban households in Colorado use about ½ acre-foot a year, so a 245,000 acre-foot shortfall equals the amount 490,000 homes would use annually, while a 750,000 acre-foot shortfall equals the amount 1.5 million homes would use in that same time period.
Shortages are also projected for the state’s farms, with irrigated agriculture facing massive shortfalls ranging from 2.2 million acre-feet to 3.4 million acre-feet, depending on how population, economic growth and climate change play out.
But that’s not the case in the South Platte River Basin, where 85 percent of Colorado residents live. Though agricultural water use statewide is growing overall, in the South Platte that use is projected to shrink as cities expand onto neighboring farm lands. According to the new forecast, the South Platte’s farm economy uses about 774,000 acre-feet of water annually. But under all five planning scenarios, that number drops. Under the most extreme, “hot growth” scenario, for instance, agricultural water use in that river basin would decrease to 665,400 acre-feet annually.
In the Arkansas Basin, which is home to Colorado Springs and the state’s second-largest farm economy, agricultural water use is projected to drop under two scenarios, and increase under three. Under the “hot growth” scenario, for instance, demands for farm water are expected to surge to 819,500 acre-feet, up from 617,300 currently, a 33 percent jump, primarily because crops will consume more water as conditions become drier and growing seasons lengthen.
The report also examines how Colorado’s fish and rivers will cope as water shortages become more pronounced. Streams across the state are likely to see spring runoff from snowmelt come earlier, leaving the late summer months much drier than they are now.
And that’s bad news for fish, increasing the risk to both cold water and warm water species, the report said. But on streams where dams and reservoirs exist, some of the damage could be offset by intentional releases from reservoirs.
The state has been criticized in the past for failing to focus adequately on the water needs of the environment in its planning. A new tool the state has developed, which is designed to help analyze stream water needs by region and season, among other things, is a step in the right direction, but will need more refinement, according to Mely Whiting, an attorney for Trout Unlimited.
“I’m pleased that the tool and the review of the environmental and recreational [E&R] needs continues to be updated. But we still have a lot of catching up to do in understanding those needs,” Whiting said.
That understanding, she said, “will help us focus our efforts on cooperative projects that benefit not only E&R, but agricultural, and municipal and industrial needs as well.”
Still to come in the effort to quantify looming water shortages is work at the local level, where nine public river basin roundtables will now take the new data and tools and determine how best to reduce any forecasted regional shortages. Their work will eventually feed into an update of the Colorado Water Plan, first released at the end of 2015 and scheduled to be updated by 2022.
Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jerd_smith.
From Colorado Public Radio (Ryan Warner):
Let’s clear up any confusion about what xeriscape is and isn’t.
Xeriscape was coined in Colorado by Denver Water. Xeric means dry, Peck said. It covers a wide array of alternatives and could be a landscape with a little less lawn, a yard entirely made up of a water-conserving grass or something in between.
“Xeriscape is not rock and cactus,” she said. “It’s an idea we’ve been fighting since day one. Rock and cactus don’t even belong here. This is a grassland. Not a desert.”
There’s not enough education around lawn care, especially when it comes to sustainability, she said. And xeriscape is not the only alternative to a lawn. Here are a few suggestions to match the perfect you with the best sustainable lawn for you.
If you’re a new homeowner with a new landscape from scratch…
Homeowners should determine what their goal is first. Are you trying to conserve water or energy? Do you want to grow food in your yard? Do you want to attract wildlife? What does sustainability mean to you?
For many people, the goal is to have some combination of an outdoor living area, like a patio or deck, a garden with flowers or food and a lawn with enough room for playing.
“Sustainable landscapes can range from a low-water landscape providing wildlife habitat, to a high-water landscape that sequesters large amounts of carbon and provides an abundance of food,” she said. “The goal is to balance the resources used — water, energy and time, with the benefits created — food, habitat, carbon sequestered and happy and healthy people.”
Carbon sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon in the ocean, soil and other vegetation.
“There’s too much carbon in the atmosphere and not enough in the soil,” she said. “Encourage plants to have a big deep root system. Water them so you water deeply, which encourage roots to grow deeply. Water less frequently but water longer.”
Peck said most people rarely use their front yard so she recommends homeowners choose a landscape that compliments their house but isn’t a high water-use lawn.
For a garden, kitchen herbs, greens and vegetables balanced with perennial flowers are a good option. Peck said the area outside of the lawn can have a mix of shrubs, trees and low water grasses that will be interesting year-round and provide fruit for people or wildlife.
Bluegrass is installed in many new homes is because it’s relatively cheap upfront, everyone knows how to care for it and it looks nice.
“In the long run, there are lots of alternatives to lawns that will be less expensive when you keep in mind the cost of watering, mowing, fertilizing, all the maintenance that’s required,” she said. “Any other type of landscape is culturally a challenge.”
If you have kids or a dog, but want to save water…
If your number one priority is conservation, “think about how you’re watering” your lawn, Peck said.
She recommends an irrigation audit to see if your sprinkler system is efficient and getting a smart controller that will automatically modify your irrigation system. Some cities and water providers offer audits for free or at low cost. She also said it’s hard to efficiently water grass in small areas so just avoid it if you can.
Let’s say you want a yard for your kids and dog to play on. It doesn’t have to be your entire lot and it doesn’t need to be in both the front and back yard.
“For a lawn that will be frequently used year-round, bluegrass is usually the best choice,” she said. “I’ve tried everything I could find and there is no replacement for bluegrass in a yard that is getting a lot of wear and tear.”
Bluegrass is very resilient. Kids can run holes in it, dogs can pee and dig in it and it will grow right back, she said. But it’s a high water use plant so carefully consider how big of an area you want.
If your lawn won’t get a lot of wear and tear, you have other options.
“We have used a lot of turf-type tall fescue,” Peck said. “It has a much deeper root system which makes it much more water-conserving.”
Buffalo grass is another alternative. Peck said it’s a native grass and so long as it rains and snows, it won’t need supplemental water. But she warns it’s a warm-season grass and likes being in a hot and dry climate, like southeast Colorado. Because of that, it can be invaded by weeds. It’s also only green when the soil warms up in the spring and goes dormant when the soil cools down.
Blue grama grass is another native prairie grass but it can’t withstand wear and tear, Peck said.
If you’re ready to ditch your grass and go xeric…
“Since most of us have largely bluegrass lawns, the first place to look at is those places of your yard where it’s hard to keep up your bluegrass lawn,” she said.
In the areas where the lawn turns brown, your irrigation system doesn’t work so well and it’s just generally hard to keep up, think about what you would like to have instead, Peck said.
Also factor in your budget, timeline and goals.
“Perennial flower gardens grow in quickly, usually within a year, but are much more expensive and higher maintenance than shrub beds, which might take three to five years to fill in,” Peck said. “Successfully renovating a small area will lead to future successes, while a frustrating large project may end your sustainable landscaping ambitions.”
If you’re killing your lawn by solarizing it or “cooking” it by covering it in clear plastic, then consider doing it in sections, Peck said.
Her other advice: “Don’t plant a colorful perennial flower bed” that can easily be invaded by weeds if you want a low water and low maintenance yard. If you leave bare ground, like mulch, gravel or rock beds, something will grow there and it will probably be a weed.
“Weeds can be minimized by outcompeting them using plants that are at least 18 inches tall and dense enough to cover the ground, placed so they will entirely cover the ground once they reach their mature size,” she said. “To outcompete weeds, your best options are healthy turf or a mix of shrubs.”
Peck said depending on the plant, it’s safe to plant between late March to October, but use caution during summer heat.
Here are some of Peck’s shrub recommendations:
Lydia Broom, Autumn Amber Sumac, Gumball Spirea, Broadmoor and Blue Chip Junipers, Dwarf Blue Rabbitbrush and Pawnee Buttes Sand Cherry.
If you love wildlife…
Native plants are your best friend if you want to create a habitat for wildlife. Native plants are homes for native insects and native insects are the crucial base for the food pyramid, Peck said.
“Ninety percent of all birds depend on insects to raise their young,” she said. “This means that the insects in your yard are a resource, not a problem.”
Peck said plants in the sunflower family provide seeds for birds.
Native Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) Asters — bonus, they’re also excellent for pollinators, like bees
These are some easy-to-grow fruit that birds love.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier) Clove Currant (Ribes odoratum or aureum) Nanking Cherries (Prunus tomentosa)
You might also consider a birdbath or another water feature that can hydrate birds but also provides shallow water, wet stone or mud for insects, Peck said.
Sunflowers, mint and umbel in the parsley or carrot family give butterflies and bees nectar and pollen.
“A healthy population of birds and insects will dramatically reduce any insect pest problems,” she said. “Ladybugs and paper wasps eat aphids in the spring, while a variety of wasps eat cabbage worms and potato and bean beetles later in the summer. Our native Rabbitbrush are covered with Painted Lady butterflies in the fall.”
If you don’t want grass (or rocks)…
We said it before and we’ll say it louder for the people in the back.
“Xeriscape is not ‘Zero-scape,’” Peck said. “Rocks are not xeriscaping. There are many beautiful alternatives.”
Peck said you can have a native prairie grass with wildflowers or xeric perennial flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees. Your landscape can be designed to fit you, what you like to do outside, your budget and your schedule.
“We have created water-conserving Victorian gardens, native landscapes that require no water once established, and modern landscapes that combine very low water and maintenance areas with abundant oases that provide food for people and wildlife,” she said.
From Aspen Journalism (Elizabeth Stewart-Severy):
Development and climate change are top threats to wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and in the arid west, water supply is a consistent concern for all kinds of life. But ecologists see a simple, natural way for ecosystems to be more resilient: beavers.
When local ecologist Delia Malone walks along the Crystal River in Carbondale, she sees something missing. The footpath she takes runs through an area that used to flood during spring runoff, but with the combination of development and climate change, it doesn’t anymore. Malone said it’s also, in part, because there are no beavers on this stretch of river.
“When we lose beaver, we also lose the wetlands they create, we lose the water storage,” Malone said. “Beaver dams store tremendous amounts of carbon. When beaver dams dry out because the beaver have left, that carbon goes up and is contributing to global warming.”
People have aggressively pushed beavers out of some areas, especially when they damage irrigation systems, flood fields and roads, and cut down trees on people’s property.
The rodents also create natural water storage — even in dry years — and restore wetlands. So Malone wants to bring more of them to high-elevation public lands in the Roaring Fork Valley. She’s working with researchers at the Colorado Natural Heritage Program on a computer model that will indicate suitable habitat for beavers.
“Beaver can be a simple but a really important strategy to remediate the impacts that we’ve caused by changing our climate,” Malone said.
A 2018 survey by Colorado Wildlife Science found that when beavers return to suitable places, the health of the river ecosystem improves. The willows grow faster, there’s more food for other wildlife and there are more songbirds.
A haven at Hallam Lake
Hallam Lake, a 25-acre nature preserve tucked into a hillside behind the Aspen post office, is a haven for diverse forms of life. Water is pooling and dropping gently through several ponds, which are fed year-round by natural springs. Hallam Lake is home to the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, or ACES, and this beauty is possible because of a family who has been living here for decades.
“Beavers are maintaining this lake,” said Jim Kravitz, the naturalist programs director for ACES.
The lake is full of life. A recent study found 20 mammal species, dozens of insects and more than 150 plant species, including a carnivorous plant called the Lesser Bladderwort and 15 species of lichen.
“This is sort of this unique ecosystem here, because of the spring water, because of the beavers,” Kravitz said.
Beavers have lived under the roots of spruce trees along the banks at Hallam Lake for decades, and they work hard for the local ecosystem.
“They slow down the water, they filter out pollutants, they slow down floods, they keep the water on the land,” Kravitz said. “They have so many benefits, especially in dry places and where water is going to be a concern in the future.”
With climate change driving persistent drought, that means beavers could help out the entire western United States.
From The La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Christian Burney):
Twenty-four water systems across the Arkansas Valley are in violation of the Clean Water Act due to the levels of radioactive contaminants – some of them naturally occurring – in the water, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The systems deemed to be in open health-based violation are located in or near La Junta, Cheraw, Rocky Ford, Manzanola, Swink and Wiley, and the water produced by those facilities is high in radioactive elements, radium and uranium and, in fewer instances, gross alpha radiation.
Colorado Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Dist.35) told the La Junta Tribune-Democrat that other municipalities – such as Fowler, Ordway, Sugar City, Las Animas, Eads and Hasty – could also be affected.
While those towns were not identified by the CDPHE to be in open violation of clean water standards, various contaminants such as selenium were measured by some of their water systems, he said.
The fact that radioactive contaminants exist in some water systems is not itself a new development. As Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservation District Manager Jay Winner put it, communities in the region have been dealing with them for years…
But the CDPHE’s findings reveal that radium levels in some Arkansas Valley water systems is up to 63 times higher than levels at the Pueblo Reservoir, and the amount of uranium is up to 12 times higher, Crowder said.
What does that mean if you’re born and raised here and have been drinking the contaminated water your entire life?
Maybe nothing, but the potential does exist for health problems if the impurities in drinking water regularly exceed the maximum contaminant level (MCL) recommended by the EPA and if there is long-term exposure.
For instance, the EPA says prolonged exposure to levels of nitrate (measured as nitrogen) – which is in fertilizer and which makes its way into groundwater and aquifers via runoff – exceeding the MCL could result in serious illness and, potentially, death in infants below 6 months of age.
Long-term exposure to selenium that exceeds the MCL could result in hair or fingernail loss, numbness in fingers or toes and other circulatory problems.
Several water systems tested positive for radium 226 and 228 (combined), which the EPA says could result in an increased risk of cancer, if the exposure is prolonged and above the recommended MCL. Radium appears in groundwater through the erosion of natural deposits…
Crowder requested the water quality tests in preparation for another push to get federal funding for the long overdue Arkansas Valley Conduit, which would deliver water from the Pueblo Reservoir up to about 130 miles downstream, bypassing the sources of contamination and providing cleaner water to communities in the Arkansas Valley.
From The North Forty News (Annika Deming):
Soldier Canyon Water Treatment Authority recently broke ground on a $38.9 million expansion to the water treatment plant in Fort Collins, Colorado. Fort Collins-Loveland Water District (FCLWD) receives the majority of the water it provides to 45,000 people in parts of Fort Collins, Loveland, Timnath, Windsor and Larimer County from the Soldier Canyon Filter Plant. Slated for a 2021 completion, the project will allow Soldier Canyon to meet peak summer capacity demands without relying on any other plants. It will also improve water quality with the construction of additional taste and odor facilities.
FCLWD currently receives raw water from the North Poudre Irrigation Company, Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) project, Josh Ames, Divide Canal and Reservoir Company, and Windsor Reservoir Company. Raw Water sources must be treated before being delivered to customers. Most of the water delivered to customers for household usage comes from the Soldier Canyon Filter Plant, which pulls from the Poudre River and Horsetooth Reservoir. The plant has some of the highest quality water in the area, which is measured and reported on quarterly for the plant, and years for FCLWD. The remainder of the water comes from the City of Fort Collins Water Treatment Facility and the City of Loveland Water Treatment Plant.
After the Soldier Canyon plant expansion is complete staff will be able to treat 60 million gallons of water per day. They will also have more treatment tools available for taste and odor removal, additional flocculation and sedimentation facilities, and additional contact time for chlorine to inactivate viruses and other pathogens. The expansion will be constructed offline, meaning minimal impact to FCLWD customers. At the end of the project, it will be connected to the existing facility.
“Our mission has always been to provide high quality, secure, reliable and affordable water to our customers,” says Chris Matkins, FCLWD general manager. “As the district continues to expand, we need to ensure we can continue to provide the highest quality water in the area water to customers. We are always planning for the future and this expansion is part of a multi-prong plan to meet demand and maintain infrastructure.”
Soldier Canyon Filter Plant, located at the base of Horsetooth Reservoir, treats and distributes water for three local entities: Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, North Weld County Water District and East Larimer County Water District.
FCLWD has provided water services to businesses and citizens since 1961. The District serves approximately 45,000 people in an area that encompasses approximately 60 square miles in parts of Fort Collins, Loveland, Timnath, Windsor and Larimer County. Governed by separately elected Boards of Directors, the Districts provide the full spectrum of high-quality and dependable water treatment and delivery as well as water reclamation services. For additional information about Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, its services and project visit http://www.fclwd.com or follow us on Facebook.
For additional information and updated on the expansion as well as tips for water conservation and efficiency visit FCLWD’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/fclwd.
From The Guardian (Maria Caffrey):
I was a climate scientist in a climate-denying administration – and it cost me my job
The Trump administration’s hostility towards climate science is not new. Interior climate staffer Joel Clement’s reassignment and the blocking of intelligence aide Rod Schoonover’s climate testimony, which forced both federal employees to resign in protest, are just two of the innumerable examples. These attempts to suppress climate science can manifest themselves in many ways. It starts with burying important climate reports and becomes something more insidious like stopping climate scientists from doing their jobs. In February 2019, I lost my job because I was a climate scientist in a climate-denying administration. And yet my story is no longer unique.
This is why on 22 July I filed a whistleblower complaint against the Trump administration. But this is not the only part to my story; I will also speak to Congress on 25 July about my treatment and the need for stronger scientific integrity protections.
I have worked at the National Park Service (NPS) for a total of eight years. I started out as an intern during the Bush administration, where I experienced nothing like this. I returned in 2012 after earning my PhD, when the NPS funded a project I designed to provide future sea level and storm surge estimates for 118 coastal parks under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. This kind of information is crucial in order for the NPS to adequately protect coastal parks against the future effects of the climate crisis.
I handed in the first draft of my scientific report in the summer of 2016 and, after the standard rigorous scientific peer review process, it was ready for release in early 2017. But once the new administration came into power, publication was repeatedly delayed, with increasingly vague explanations from my supervisors. So for months, I waited. And waited. I was still waiting when I went on maternity leave almost a year later in December 2017.
It was while I was on leave that I received an email from another climate scientist at the NPS who warned me that the senior leadership was ordering changes to my report without my knowledge. They had scrubbed of any mention of the human causes of the climate crisis. This was not normal editorial adjustment. This was climate science denial.
A months-long battle ensued. Senior NPS officials tried repeatedly, often aggressively, to coerce me into deleting references to the human causes of the climate crisis from the report. They threatened to make the deletions without my approval if I would not agree, to release the report without naming me as the primary author, or not release it all. Each option would have been devastating to my career and for scientific integrity. I stood firm.
And I prevailed. Media inquiries and open records requests about my report eventually led to letters from members of Congress, and the NPS was essentially forced to publish my report as I had written it.
The NPS continued to retaliate against me. I was forced to accept pay cuts and demotions while I continued to lead several other projects. By February of this year, the NPS declined to renew my funding, despite common knowledge that my branch at the time had ample surplus funding.
When I received this news, my immediate supervisors, who wished for me to stay, asked me to apply to be a volunteer so that I could continue my work. My volunteer application was denied without explanation. If there was any question about whether my termination had to do with legitimate budget constraints or with punishing me for not altering my report to suit the Trump administration’s agenda, that answered it.
Politics has no place in science. I am an example of the less discussed methods the administration is using to destroy scientific research. I wasn’t fired and immediately told to leave; instead they sought retribution by discretely using governmental bureaucracy to apply pressure and gradually cut funding. I have been cut off from projects that I created and was working on, including one that would have provided the public with a valuable interactive way to see for themselves how sea level rise will impact our parks. This is why we need to support stronger protections for scientists.
Ultimately it will be the taxpayers who will pay the true price for our apathy towards these violations. It will become progressively costlier to alter our infrastructure to accommodate the incoming tides. And we will watch as our historic structures are swallowed by the sea. As these things are happening, remember that there were probably multiple scientists like me who warned of these dangers but were silenced. The current administration may only last a matter of years, but its actions may potentially impact our planet for centuries.
Dr Maria Caffrey is a climate scientist who formerly worked in the National Park Service Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate. She currently resides in Denver, Colorado.
From The Omaha World-Herald editorial board:
Momentum is building in Colorado to create new reservoirs to draw more water from the South Platte River, reducing the flow into Nebraska. Nebraska officials should monitor this situation closely, now and in coming years, to make sure the water volume continues to meet the requirements under a 1923 South Platte River agreement between the two states.
Maintaining a proper flow in the Platte River — formed by the confluence of the South Platte and North Platte Rivers in western Nebraska — is crucial to our state’s agriculture, hydropower and long-term metropolitan water sources for Omaha and Lincoln.
Colorado apparently has considerable room at present to make further diversions and still remain in compliance. “In many years, more water is passing that gauging station at the state line than needs to” under the agreement, Colorado State Engineer Kevin Rein says.
The proposed reservoirs, to serve Front Range urban residents, would keep about 150,000 acre-feet of water in Colorado, the Denver Post reports. That’s about half of the estimated amount that Colorado lawmakers claim their state can legally divert on average each year under the 1923 agreement. For comparison: When full, Nebraska’s Lake McConaughy has a capacity of 1.74 million acre-feet.
A 1993 study of Nebraska water history by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln stated, “Some Nebraskans may still bemoan that the state gave away too much water to Colorado in the South Platte Compact of 1923, but it was a voluntary agreement.”
The tremendous metro growth in Colorado’s Front Range is spurring the call for new reservoirs. Urban groundwater levels are declining in the face of dramatically increased demand. Meanwhile, agricultural producers in Colorado’s South Platte River basin support reservoir creation as a way to safeguard their own groundwater from urban diversion. Officials in western Colorado are in favor, saying the South Platte water could reduce the current allocation of western Colorado water to the Front Range via tunnels. Supportive, too, are Colorado water-policy officials, who included the South Platte reservoir concept in their 2015 State Water Plan.
In short, a wide-ranging set of powerful urban and rural interests in Colorado have come together to press for more South Platte water. “We owe it to our state, to our water users and our farmers to capture as much water as we can” out of the South Platte, said Joe Frank, manager of Colorado’s Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District.
Nebraskans can take heart that strong legal protections are in place to safeguard the significant water volume the state receives via the North Platte River, a vital irrigation source. The river supplies Lake McConaughy, for example, with its wide-ranging irrigation and groundwater recharge role for more than half a million acres in the Platte River valley, plus hydropower generation and recreation.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decree in 1945 setting out a legal framework for interstate water allocation along the North Platte. In 2001, Nebraska and Wyoming reached a settlement on sharing North Platte water after 15 years of legal wrangling. The agreement essentially froze Wyoming’s water use at the 2001 level and stipulated that groundwater hydrologically connected to the North Platte be included. The settlement created a committee — of federal, Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado officials — to work out future disagreements.
“In contrast to the meager and seasonal administrative execution of provisions contained in the South Platte Compact,” a 2006 UNL analysis stated, “administrative actions in the North Platte River watershed are extensive and occur year-round.”
Nebraska may have future legal leverage regarding the South Platte if any Colorado diversions raise environmental concerns, such as negative effects on protected animal species. Two examples: sandhill cranes and whooping cranes, which congregate in great numbers annually in central Nebraska.
The proposed South Platte reservoirs are “one of those rare solutions that really is good for both rural Colorado and folks who live in the Denver metro area,” a Colorado state senator stated. Evidently so, but on this side of the border, Nebraskans need to remain watchful and assertive to ensure our state’s rights are recognized and safeguarded to the full extent of applicable law.
Here’s a in-depth look wildfire in Colorado and the west from Mark Jaffee writing for The Colorado Sun. Click through for the article and the photos. Here’s an excerpt:
The heat of a warming planet, like an artist’s palette knife on a canvas, etches its way across Western forests, slowly altering ecosystems that have flourished for centuries.
Stevens-Rumann, a 33-year-old assistant forestry professor at Colorado State University, was [on site to observe the aftermath of the Spring Fire to measure and mark what comes next. In all likelihood, the ponderosa pine forest that had been there would not return.
Aspen and scrub oak have already sprouted, but all the pine trees and their cones were destroyed. No pine saplings poke through the charred soil.
Across the Rockies and even into the Sierra Nevada and the Pacific Northwest’s Cascades, forests are changing or simply vanishing. Wildfire has played a big role. Insect infestations have also had a hand, as has drought.
Behind it all is one driving force — climate change. Scientists charting the fate of forests see it, whether they are entomologists or botanists or wildfire ecologists like Stevens-Rumann. The heat of a warming planet, like an artist’s palette knife on a canvas, etches its way across Western forests, slowly altering ecosystems that have flourished for centuries.
“We are really moving out of a climate that is suitable for forests,” Stevens-Rumann said. “Old trees can persist, but when change comes in a disturbance like a wildfire and the ecosystem resets, the forests don’t come back.”
The transformation isn’t quite that simple. Lower elevation forests, like those along the Front Range, are most at risk, but as the forest rises into the mountains, the nature of the woods may change with spruce, fir and pine competing for survival even as new pests push into those higher, and now warmer and drier, mountain reaches.
“As ecosystems change, there are going to be winners and losers,” said Thomas Veblen, a biogeographer and distinguished professor at the University of Colorado. “The regulator function of the forest could diminish … leading to more runoff and flash floods. With a reduction of the forest canopy, we are going to see the potential for greater erosion. The question is how much of the forest will fail to regenerate.”
Fire changes the forest’s composition
Colorado’s Front Range has had five ecotones — shifts in plant and animal communities — from grasslands at 5,500 feet above sea level to alpine tundra at 11,300 feet.
“When we go to higher elevations under warming temperatures, we do expect the species from lower elevations to do better after a fire or other disturbance,” Veblen said.
After six years as a forest firefighter in an elite hotshot crew, Stevens-Rumann, curious about what happens after the fire is out, became a wildfire ecologist.
In a study of 1,485 sites that burned in 52 wildfires in forests from Colorado to northern Idaho, a team led by Stevens-Rumann found tree regeneration was significantly reduced at the sites that burned after 2000.
Fewer than half the spots had signs of growing back with a density of trees similar to the pre-fire forest, and nearly one-third of the sites had no trees at all.
These forests ranged from lower elevation dry conifer forests, containing ponderosa pine and Douglas fir, to moister conifer forests of Engelmann spruce and lodgepole pine. The highest elevation forests in the study were around 9,000 feet.
The researchers measured the site temperatures and moisture, and classified the areas by the severity of the burn.
It appeared that the hotter and drier the site, the less chance of a forest coming back. “There is an ecotone shift already underway,” Stevens-Rumann said. “We may see aspen and scrub oak replace pine and at higher elevations, maybe pine replace fir.”
This is happening across the Front Range. An analysis of five Front Range forest fires between 1996 and 2003 — Bobcat Gulch, Overland, High Meadow, Buffalo Creek and Hayman — found that 23% of the forest cover has been lost.
“Below 8,200 feet, we saw little generation; above 8,200 feet, where it tends to be cooler and moister, we saw more,” said Marin Chambers, a researcher at the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute and the study’s lead author.
Savage wildfires disrupt the trees’ lifecycle
At the site of the 2002 Hayman Fire — the largest in the state’s history, consuming 135,114 acres northwest of Colorado Springs — the most intensely burned areas have come back as grasslands.
The problem, Chambers explained, is that while fire releases the seeds of pine cones, they do not travel very far. And the hotter, drier and more open sites where they land are less hospitable.
Fire has been an essential component of the pine forest ecosystem. The pine and fir trees are “serontinous” — depending on fire to release their seeds and simultaneously clear an ashy, nutrient-rich bed for new seedlings.
Two things, however, have altered the natural cycle. First, a century of fire suppression — think Smokey the Bear — has prevented regeneration, creating forests of mostly large, old trees. Additionally, it has built up dead wood on the forest floor that aids fires to burn more intensely when they do happen.
And now those fires are coming more quickly and more savagely. Since 2000, there has been vastly more acreage burned in Colorado than in the three previous decades, with peaks of more than 300,000 acres scorched in 2003 and about 160,000 acres destroyed in 2013.
Across the West, about 20 million acres burned between 1979 and 2015. The average fire season grew by 26 days, a 41% increase, and high-fire-potential days increased by 17, according to a study by John Abatzoglou, a University of Idaho geographer.
Abatzoglou measured drought conditions and water availability, as well as temperature, and estimated that climate change contributed to about half the forest fire acreage as heat parched the forests, creating more dry fuel.
The analysis also found that significant declines in spring rains in the southwestern U.S. during the period from 1979-2015 and in summer precipitation in the Northwest add to the fire problem.
Another Abatzoglou study projects the shortening of the snowpack season except for in the high Rockies and parts of the Uinta and Bighorn ranges in Utah and Wyoming, as well as more precipitation falling as rain rather than snow.
How much hotter has it been? The average observed summer temperature in Colorado between 2005 and 2009 was nearly 67 degrees Fahrenheit — the hottest it has been in a century, up almost 2.5 degrees since 1989, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The temperature itself poses an ecological Rubicon. A study of 177 burn sites from 21 forest fires in the northern Rockies documented the same phenomenon Stevens-Rumann saw: fewer trees growing in the lower elevation patches and no trees at about one-third of the sites, with grasses, sedges and a wild, purple evening primrose called fireweed taking root.
The study also calculated that at summer average temperatures above 63 degrees, fir tree regeneration would be “minimal.” Ponderosa pine is slightly more heat tolerant at temperatures up to 66 degrees, the study said…
So much is at stake. And it’s not about the view.
There is much more at stake in the fate of the high-country forests than just a majestic view. The snowpack that falls in the woods, and is essential to nourishing the forest, and it is also the main source of drinking water for the state.
“Every person in Colorado gets a touch of the forest ecosystem every day when they open up the tap,” West said. But thinner forests would lead the dwindling snowpack to run off more quickly.
Even without the spruce beetle, the high-elevation forests are under threat. In a study of Colorado Front Range forests between 9,500 feet and 11,150 feet, researchers found a decrease in new spruce and fir as a result of declining snowpack and rising summer temperatures.
Above-average snowpack was found to be a key in the establishment of new Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir, according to one of Veblen’s studies. Conversely, declining snowpack along with cooler, wetter summers was related to a decrease in the number of fir and spruce establishment events from 1975.
A study of high-elevation areas in Rocky Mountain National Park warned that these ecosystems were “at higher risk of species redistribution as they are more insular and experience more rapid changes than environments at lower elevations.”
In some places, climate change is pushing forests higher or farther. In Alaska’s Noatak National Preserve, boreal forests have moved as much as 300 feet north onto what was formerly treeless tundra.
In Yosemite National Park researchers have found whitebark and lodgepole pines pushing into montane meadows as high at 10,000 feet.
From Colorado State University (Mary Guiden):
Researchers suggest new approach needed to address Anthropocene risk
A team of international researchers led by Colorado State University is calling for a new approach to understanding environmental risks in the Anthropocene, the current geological age in which humans are a dominant force of change on the planet.
Patrick Keys, a research scientist in the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at CSU, is the lead author of “Anthropocene risk,” a perspective paper published July 22 in Nature Sustainability that suggests adopting a holistic approach to understanding environmental risks. Keys said the team hopes that the article is “productively provocative.”
“The Anthropocene is a time of rapid global change – socially, environmentally, and geophysically,” he said. “Typical notions of neatly and cleanly delineating complex environmental risks are changing in unexpected ways. It’s becoming clear that a more holistic perspective, including social history, power relations, and environmental ethics may be important components of Anthropocene risks.”
As an example, Keys said it’s a common belief that the civil war in Syria has been driven by drought and climate change. While those two factors more than likely played a role in what led to the civil war, it also ignores other aspects such as incentives by Syrian government officials that kept farmers on agriculturally precarious land for decades. Keys said those incentives made it possible for drought and climate change to have such an impact.
“If we ignore the social and political economic factors that deliver us to this present, we will attribute an event to being caused by the environment when, in fact, that was just one cause or the icing on top of the cake. If we look at things only in the present, we will come up with solutions to a problem defined in the present, but we may not be defining the problem correctly.”
This point of view stems from Guidance for Resilience in the Anthropocene: Investments for Development (GRAID), a program based at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where five of the paper’s co-authors currently work.
In the paper, the research team explores four different cases outside of Europe and North America to highlight this way of looking at environmental risks and underline why people studying such risks must take a broader approach.
“As the Anthropocene unfolds, navigating new and emerging risks will require considering changes that happen over years, decades, centuries, or even millennia.” Keys said. “In this increasingly interconnected and accelerating world, it’s on us to really educate ourselves about how to interact intelligently and meaningfully to work toward a more sustainable world.”
From The Associated Press (Felicia Fonseca) via Tucson.com:
That the tiny beetles brought to the U.S. from Asia in an experiment to devour invasive, water-sucking tamarisks showed up at the Verde River in central Arizona is no surprise. But it’s further evidence they’re spreading faster than once anticipated and eventually could pervade the Southwest U.S, raising wildfire risks and allowing less time to uproot the tamarisks, also called salt cedars, and replace them with native trees.
Without those efforts, an already highly flammable tree will burn more intensely, and an endangered songbird that nests in tamarisk might not have a home.
The federal program to use the beetles to chew up tamarisk trees began as an experiment in rural Nevada in 2001 and was approved for more widespread use in 2005, as long as they were at least 200 milesfrom Southwestern willow flycatcher territory. It ended in 2010 as the beetles intruded on the birds’ habitat. An unintentional release in southern Utah also helped the insects spread into Arizona.
Johnson believes the quarter-inch beetles hitchhiked to the Verde River on clothing, a backpack or a boat. Normally, they are wind travelers but would have had to catch quite a gust to get to the river from the closest drainage where they’ve been recorded, he said.
Johnson has sent samples to a geneticist in Colorado to determine if the beetles can be traced to a population north of Arizona or a subtropical one from Texas that multiplies quicker.
Arizona once was projected to be too hot for the beetles to survive, but they’ve evolved as they’ve expanded their reach.
Dan Bean with the Colorado Department of Agriculture found even more this summer in far southwestern Arizona along the California border, where temperatures regularly top 100 degrees.
The concern now is the beetles establishing themselves in the Gila, Salt and San Pedro watersheds, which have higher concentrations of flycatcher habitat.
The beetles aren’t known to feast on anything other than tamarisks, though one beetle can’t eat much on its own. In the thousands, they can consume entire trees, Bean said.
The tamarisk leaves can grow back within the season, but repeated attacks can be fatal for the trees — a welcome result in places flycatchers don’t live.
Dead tamarisks can litter the ground with leaves and increase wildfire risks.
The trees already are notorious for burning hot and black, and beetle predation would provide more fuel.
Ben Bloodworth works with Rivers Edge West, formerly the Tamarisk Coalition, which has been tracking the beetles’ movement for years.
The group has mapped the beetles along the Green River in Utah, the Rio Grande and Pecos River in New Mexico and Texas, the Arkansas River in Colorado, the Colorado River — a major source of water for 40 million people in seven Western states — and other waterways.
“Eventually the beetles will be throughout the entire Southwest, and really what we need to do is, in areas where it’s appropriate, get in ahead of the beetle (and) plant willows and cottonwoods and other native species that can provide habitat for the willow flycatcher,” Bloodworth said.
The beetles and the songbird have been the subject of legal fights. The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in 2013.
The lawsuit alleged the damage caused by the insects through the beetle release program violated the Endangered Species Act, and argued the federal government should be held liable.
As part of a settlement, the USDA released a draft conservation plan in June for the flycatcher, which is found in parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. Under the plan, the agency would aid existing conservation programs, contribute money and monitor beetle impacts. The public has until Aug. 8 to weigh in.
The beetles would not be in the United States if not for the tamarisk that thrives along riverbeds.
Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Ben Wade, Tracy Kosloff):
July has seen above average temperatures across the state and below average precipitation. In contrast, the month of June was cool and wet. The North American monsoon season has been slow to start in Colorado, but is anticipated to bring moisture to Colorado in the next one to three weeks. July historically has been a wet month for the eastern half of the state. Reservoir storage across the state has grown considerably through June with well above average streamflows. The U.S. Drought Monitor Map of Colorado shows that a majority of the state is still free of D0-D4, despite below average precipitation and warmer than average temperatures through July 21 but D0, abnormally dry, has been introduced in the southwest corner of the state.
According to the US Drought Monitor, released July 25, Colorado’s 8 week streak of being free of D0-D4 drought ends as D0 has been added in the southwest part of the state. A weak El Niño remains in effect and is tilted in favor of wetter than normal conditions. The long term ENSO forecasts are trending toward a return to neutral conditions later this year. Statewide precipitation for July 1 to 21 at mountain SNOTEL sites has been 39% of average. For the Water Year, statewide precipitation is 119% of average. The Climate Prediction Center’s one month outlook is predicting above average precipitation for most of the state for August. Reservoir storage across the state (as of the end of June) is 105% of average and 76% of capacity. At this time last year,
statewide reservoir storage was at 92% of average.
The western and Southwest basins have seen significant recovery after storage was depleted last year. The Rio Grande basin reservoir storage levels are as high as they have been since 2000. The corn crop is approximately three weeks behind due to cooler temperatures into late spring. Producers are hoping for
normal temperatures and a late frost to ensure a viable crop.
Water providers in attendance report their systems are in good shape and water demand is down compared to this time last year. Flooding due to monsoonal moisture in the next 2-3 weeks in post wildfire burn scars remains a concern and is being monitored closely. The daily flood threat bulletin can be accessed May 1 through September 30 HERE.
From Colorado Politics (Marianne Goodland):
The U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday announced in its monthly update that southwestern Colorado is back in low-level drought, or D0.
The folks who keep an eye on drought conditions at the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) didn’t have anything good to say about it.
“Hi D0. You have not been missed,” the CWCB said in a tweet Thursday.
The news means the state is 97% drought-free rather than 100%, which is where Colorado has been for the past month…
Still, according to a Tuesday presentation for the CWCB’s Water Availability Task Force, Colorado’s snowpack has done the state well this year by every measure, and spring precipitation means many of the state’s reservoirs are full or close to capacity.
The seven reservoirs in southwestern Colorado, tracked by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are at 100% full or nearly so. That’s water from the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan rivers.
Reservoirs, however, in southern and southeastern Colorado are still well below capacity, according to the NRCS data. Of the 13 reservoirs served by the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado, seven are at 50% of capacity or below. For the reservoirs served by the Rio Grande, including those in the San Luis Valley, average capacity of its eight reservoirs is around 50%. Rainfall in the Rio Grande basin was 83% of average in June and doesn’t show much improvement for July, according to NRCS data.
The NRCS data also showed precipitation has remained strong for most of the state. The most moisture has hit northwestern Colorado, home to the Yampa, White and North Platte River basins, with precipitation at 214% of average…
The Colorado, the state’s largest river and supplier to 40 million people in seven states and Mexico, also had precipitation well above average in June, at 151%. The 10 reservoirs served by the Colorado are nearly full, averaging well above 80% of capacity in June.
June ended with above average precipitation statewide, but July has been very dry across the state, the NRCS reported this week.
The Colorado Climate Center reported Tuesday that June’s average temperature was the 42nd coldest for that month on record. The 2018-19 water year, which runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, is now the 8th wettest in state history.
Among the standouts: Grand Junction, which is experiencing its wettest year in history, according to the Colorado Climate Center. The state is still in an El Niño weather pattern, meaning above average precipitation for the the next three months for all but the southwestern portion of the state. And summer heat, which held off during June, is now in full force, Climate Center data shows.
Here’s the release from Wild Earth Guardians (Samantha Ruscavage-Barz):
Federal and local water managers, pueblos, and an environmental group finalized an agreement recently with City of Rio Rancho to protect a living Rio Grande and resolve objections to fourteen transfers of water from downstream farm uses to upstream municipal purposes. The city agreed to dedicate a portion of its pre-1907 water rights acquired through water transfers from farms over the years to bolster river flows and to provide funding to and support habitat restoration efforts along the river. Parties to the agreement include the City of Rio Rancho, Pueblo of Isleta, Pueblo of Santa Ana, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and WildEarth Guardians.
“This agreement recognizes the responsibility we all have to protect a living Rio Grande,” said Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, Managing Attorney at WildEarth Guardians. “A healthy river is key for people and wildlife and this accord helps ensure, not only that these transfers will not negatively impact flows in the river, but goes far beyond that to helping restore a living river for future generations.”
The deal crafted brings together key players in undertaking strategic restoration of flows and critical habitat along the river. The city committed to donating a minimum of 2,500 acre-feet (815 million gallons) of water per year to the State’s strategic water reserve to support flows in the Rio Grande solely for the benefit of riverine habitat, the Bosque, and endangered species recovery. An acre-foot is equivalent to 325,851 gallons of water and is enough to supply a family of four for one year. The parties will work together to deliver this water to restore flows to the Isleta reach of the Rio Grande—from just south of Albuquerque to just north of Socorro—at strategic time, places and amounts to benefit the river ecosystem.
Further, the parties agreed to cooperatively work to fund, design, and, construct restoration projects along the Rio Grande that would also benefit the river ecosystem and imperiled species. The City and Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District will provide initial funding for the yet to be determined projects that will benefits lands adjacent to the City and the Pueblo of Santa Ana initially. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will provide staff resources and pursue matching funding opportunities for the identified restoration projects.
The parties to the agreement also committed to undertake cooperative efforts to address challenges facing the river, to ensure long-term water planning, and to reform state water policy.
Here’s an in-depth look at administration of the Colorado River from Luke Runyon and Bret Jaspers that’s running on the KUNC website. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:
Climate change, growing urban populations and fragile rural economies are top of mind. Some within the basin see a window of opportunity to argue for big, bold actions to find balance in the watershed. Others say the best path forward is to take small, incremental steps toward lofty goals, a method Colorado River managers say has worked well for them for decades.
That tension was on full display at a June gathering of water agency leaders, environmentalists, scientists and federal bureaucrats in Boulder, Colorado, where they reflected on the recently signed Colorado River drought contingency plans and began to envision what might be included in a long-term solution. (The conference at the university’s Getches-Wilkinson Center was sponsored in part by the Walton Family Foundation, which also provides funding for KUNC’s Colorado River coverage)
John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico’s water resources program, and Eric Kuhn, former general manager of the Colorado River District, used the opportunity to shop around a concept they’re calling the “Grand Bargain,” which they say would address the watershed’s fundamental supply and demand imbalance.
From the beginning, Fleck and Kuhn argue in their new book, “Science Be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained The Colorado River,” scientists warned about promising water to too many people in the Southwest, but were sidelined by politicians looking to grow crops and cities. That led to inflated figures in the compact that plague water managers today. The original sin was putting more water on paper than existed in the real world.
That problem has been made clear by a 19-year drought that caused the river’s biggest reservoirs — Lakes Mead and Powell — to drop to their lowest collective volume since they were filled. Studies have shown climate change already sapping the Colorado River’s flow, causing more evaporation, and shrinking the snowpack that feeds it…
The Grand Bargain would rebalance some of the compact’s bad math, Fleck and Kuhn said. In it, the Lower Basin would agree to abandon that longstanding right to demand water from the Upper Basin if it runs short.
In exchange, the Upper Basin would agree to a cap on future water development. For more than a decade, the Upper Basin has used about 4.5 million acre-feet of water annually, well below its compact cap of 7.5 million. But a slate of projects in the Upper Basin represent an attempt to tap into that unused entitlement.
Capping Upper Basin uses and removing the Lower Basin’s ability to call for water would make the whole system more resilient, Fleck said.
“Then both sides are giving up a cherished right and (agreeing to) a compromise that has the potential to then bring some stability and balance in the long run and remove a lot of the risk of really catastrophic conflict,” he said.
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Justyn Liff, Marc Miller):
The Bureau of Reclamation invites members of the press and public to a meeting where it will begin negotiations for an operations, maintenance and replacement contract with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority for operation of federally-owned Cutter Lateral features of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, located near Bloomfield, New Mexico.
This operations, maintenance and replacement contract for Cutter Lateral will facilitate water delivery to the Navajo and Jicarilla Apache Nations. The negotiations and subsequent contract provide the legal mechanism for delivery of the Navajo Nation’s Settlement Water in the state of New Mexico. WHAT: Public meeting to negotiate the Cutter Lateral operations, maintenance and replacement contract.
WHEN: Wednesday, July 31, 2019, at 1:00 p.m.
WHERE: Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority, 1 Uranium Blvd, Shiprock, New Mexico
WHY: The contract to be negotiated will provide terms and conditions for the operation, maintenance and replacement of specific project features. All negotiations are open to the public as observers and the public will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments pertaining to the contract during a thirty-minute comment period following the negotiation session.
The proposed contract and other pertinent documents will be available at the negotiation meeting. They can also be obtained on our website at: http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wcao/index.html, under Current Focus or by contacting Marc Miller at 185 Suttle Street, Suite 2, Durango, Colorado, 81301, 970 385-6541, email@example.com.
Yesterday was Colorado River Day according to the experts at Audubon and friend of Coyote Gulch Abby Burk:
What’s in a River’s Name? How the Grand River became the Colorado.
Is the name of a river really that important? If it’s the Colorado River, absolutely. The Colorado River serves as a lifeline in the West for people and birds. Today, there is a lot of talk about another dry year in the Colorado River Basin and the increasing need for state and federal funding (and action) to protect the river’s benefits and values. July 25th, Colorado River Day, is the day we pause to celebrate and reflect on the awe-inspiring 1,450 miles of the Colorado River that flow from the high peaks in Colorado to Mexico. But the Colorado has not always traveled this distance.
Though indigenous tribes had most certainly named the rivers of the Colorado Basin, Western Europeans began applying their own names beginning with Spanish exploration in the 16th century. Until 1921, the Spanish name “Colorado”—meaning “red”— flowed exclusively below the confluence of the Grand and Green Rivers deep inside modern-day Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. As Europeans settled into the West, they named the stretch of river between the Green and the Gunnison Rivers the Grand River. Late in the 1800s the name “Grand River” replaced many other river names, and was applied to the growing river flowing from the western slopes of La Poudre Pass on the Continental Divide, in northern Colorado’s present-day Rocky Mountain National Park to the confluence with the Green River in Utah.
Today, the history of the Grand River persists in place names. The Grand River lent its name to Grand Junction, a city on Colorado’s western slope in the Grand Valley, from its location at the junction of the Gunnison and Colorado (formerly the Grand) Rivers. Both Utah and Colorado have a Grand County, named after the river. The Grand Canyon, however, was named by John Wesley Powell purely for the grandeur of the Canyon, not for the river’s upper reaches.
Early in 1921, the Colorado was at the center of a brawl over names and ownership brewing in the State of Colorado and in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Honorable Edward Taylor, a Colorado Congressman, presented a determined case to the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the United States House of Representatives. He had one goal: to convince the Committee to pass a resolution forward to Congress that would officially change the name of the Grand River to the Colorado River. Congressman Taylor had fuel for his case from supportive Coloradans and state legislators for the name change of the river. Colorado’s namesake river.
There was opposition. At that time, the Colorado River began in Utah below the confluence of the Grand and Green Rivers. Politicians from Utah and Wyoming opposed the name change based on the fact that the Green River, which runs through both Utah and Wyoming, is the longer tributary with a larger drainage area. Congressman Taylor rebutted their arguments with two justifications. First, the Grand River contributes a significantly larger volume of water than the Green River. And second, the Grand River originates in the State of Colorado and therefore should be known as the Colorado River.
Congressman Taylor’s efforts were successful. On July 25, 1921, Congress passed House Joint Resolution 460 which officially changed the name of the Grand River to the Colorado River.
Due to the historic name change, July 25th is now known as Colorado River Day. This is a day which honors not only the river’s history, but also its critical importance to both people and the environment. Riparian habitats like the forests and wetlands that line the Colorado River support some of the most abundant and diverse bird communities in the arid West, serving as home to some 400 species. The Colorado River also provides drinking water for more than 36 million people, irrigates 5.5 million acres of farms and ranches, and supports 16 million jobs throughout seven states, with a combined annual economic impact of $1.4 trillion. The value of the Colorado River is important to all of us, and it’s up to us to ensure its future.
Special thanks to Sara Porterfield, PhD, Colorado River historian for content review.
United States. Congress. Renaming of the Grand River, Colorado. Hearing before the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the House of Representatives on H. J. Res. 460. 66th Cong., 3rd sess. Washington: GPO Committee transcript Renaming of the Grand River, Colorado 1921
CO Map 1913 Showing Grand River: https://dspace.library.colostate.edu/handle/10217/2119
Flights over Summit County gave Denver Water better data on the snowpack and what was in store for the runoff season. The post Using high-tech equipment in the air to measure snow on the ground appeared first on News on TAP.
Mother Nature delivers and helps Denver Water’s storage system hit 100%. The post Reservoirs fill to the brim, topping off an outstanding water year appeared first on News on TAP.
Massive switch to LEDs saves money, cuts energy use and brightens workspaces. The post Denver Water brings energy savings into the light appeared first on News on TAP.
Fighting climate breakdown is about much more than emissions and scientific metrics – it’s about fighting for a just and sustainable world that works for all of us. If we are going to fight for this, we need everyone. Join me in a global #climatestrike Sept 20-27. http://globalclimatestrike.net
From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):
The U.S. Forest Service has embarked on a bit of a science experiment this summer, to see if trees, willows and other vegetation are able to take root on a waste pile near the Brooklyn Mine, located on a mountainside northwest of Silverton, said Gretchen Fitzgerald, a forester with the agency.
“Not much has been done with this waste rock,” Fitzgerald said. “But I wanted to try this.”
If successful, the project could have beneficial effects on water quality and set a precedent for the future restoration of toxic areas.
“It’s an experiment,” Fitzgerald said…
Because the Brooklyn Mine is located on the San Juan National Forest, the Forest Service is taking the lead on the cleanup there, said Ben Martinez with the San Juan National Forest. But it’s possible previous mining companies could be on the financial hook.
“The EPA along with its federal and state partners are coordinating on site-wide efforts to identify potentially responsible parties at the (Bonita Peak) site,” Martinez said.
In the meantime, federal agencies are going ahead with the cleanup. Martinez said the site is being investigated to find out just how much contamination the Brooklyn Mine is contributing to the headwaters of the Animas, and what the possible right steps are for long-term remediation.
Peter Butler with the Animas River Stakeholders Group said the Brooklyn Mine was included in a list of the top 33 polluting mine sites created by the stakeholders group years ago. He said the wastewater coming out of the mine, especially, poses a problem, leeching heavy metals into Mineral Creek, a tributary of the Animas River…
While the big picture cleanup is being figured out, projects like Fitzgerald’s tree planting could help with issues associated with the waste rock pile.
For the project, seeds were collected from Engelmann spruce trees right next to the pile, and native flowers were taken from Ophir, a small mountain town 13 miles west of Silverton.
The seeds were sent to a nursery and matured for two years. This summer, interns with Mountain Studies Institute, Southwest Conservation Corps and Outward Bound took on the task of planting 900 spruce trees, 300 flowers and 30 willows.
There’s a bit of technique and skill involved if you want reforested plants at an elevation of 11,000 feet to survive, Fitzgerald said…
Fitzgerald said she’s never undertaken a project quite like this, but if the plants take hold, it could stabilize the hillside and keep the waste rock out of the watershed, acting as a sort of filter.
There is some precedent for trying to grow on mine waste in Southwest Colorado.
According to a Mountain Studies Institute report, some of the most significant and enduring problems of the legacy mining in the San Juan Mountains are soil and water quality degradation associated with abandoned mine tailings and waste rock piles.
And a major impediment to reducing the amount of pollution from these sites, according to the report, is the difficulty of reestablishing vegetation.
Mountain Studies Institute tried a few years ago to test the effectiveness of biochar (a charcoal used as a soil alternative, rich in carbon) and straw compost at abandoned mine sites around Silverton…
The results were encouraging: The addition of biochar resulted in a nearly 200% increase in biomass on sites with levels of high acidity. On areas where soil acidity was low, however, biochar increased vegetation by only 6% to 11%.
That’s why the Forest Service’s experiment at the Brooklyn Mine is a little more of a test trial: Fitzgerald said the mine waste rock at the site has low acidity. But, the fact some plants are naturally starting to creep out of the ground nearby is encouraging.
Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought monitor.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
This Week’s Drought Summary
The remnants of Hurricane Barry drifted northward into the Ohio Valley, delivering widespread rainfall that mostly benefited summer crops but also sparked some flash flooding. Some of the heaviest rain, locally 4 to 8 inches or more, fell in portions of the Mississippi Delta States. Meanwhile, several cold fronts crossed the North, generating showers and locally severe thunderstorms from the northern Plains into the Northeast. Some of the highest totals, as much as 2 to 4 inches or more, fell from South Dakota into Michigan, locally accompanied by high winds, large hail, and isolated tornadoes. Meanwhile, much of the central and eastern U.S. experienced a brief period of heat and high humidity levels, followed by cooler weather and scattered to widespread showers and thunderstorms. Late-planted and poorly rooted Midwestern corn and soybeans were particularly susceptible to heat stress in areas that have recently dried out, following excessive spring wetness and acute planting delays. Temperatures soared to 90°F or higher east of the Rockies, except in parts of the Appalachians and across the nation’s northern tier. Readings topped 100°F throughout the central and southern High Plains. Elsewhere, dry weather covered large sections of the West and the southern half of the Plains. However, cold fronts delivered some light precipitation to the northernmost Rockies and Pacific Northwest, while showers associated with the monsoon circulation dotted the central and southern Rockies and the Desert Southwest…
Rainfall across the High Plains has been heavy at times in recent weeks, and most rangeland and pastures are in good shape. According to USDA on July 21, rangeland and pastures were rated at least 70% good to excellent in each of the region’s six states (CO, KS, NE, ND, SD, and WY). Although a few areas of dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) linger in North Dakota, drought effects have generally diminished. On July 21, more than three-quarters (76%) of the U.S. spring wheat crop was rated in good to excellent condition…
A sluggish start to the Southwestern monsoon season, particularly in Arizona, Utah, and southwestern Colorado, led to some modest expansion of abnormal dryness (D0). Locations in or near the new D0 areas that received only a trace of rain during the first 23 days of July included Cortez, Colorado (0.69 inch below normal), and Cedar City, Utah (0.54 inch below normal). Farther north, some reassessment of conditions near the Canadian border led to the removal of severe drought (D2) from northeastern Washington into northwestern Montana, based on recent precipitation trends, streamflow, and other drought indicators. Similarly, a small lobe of D0 was removed from southwestern Montana. Closer to the Pacific Coast, enough precipitation has recently fallen in western Washington to result in a slight reduction in the coverage of D2. Still, some significant topsoil moisture shortages exist in parts of the Pacific Northwest. On July 21, USDA rated topsoil moisture 64% very short to short in Oregon and 57% in very short to short in Washington…
The remnants of Hurricane Barry continued to produce heavy rain early in the drought-monitoring period in Arkansas and environs. On July 16, daily-record rainfall amounts reached 4.09 inches in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and 2.28 inches in Memphis, Tennessee. From July 14-16, Pine Bluff received 7.02 inches. Other July 14-16 totals included 5.35 inches in Greenwood, Mississippi, and 5.12 inches in Memphis. Storm totals topped 10 inches in parts of Arkansas and Louisiana. A state 24-hour rainfall record was established in Arkansas, where 16.17 inches fell at Dierks, in Howard County, on July 15-16. Arkansas’ previous record of 14.06 inches had been established on December 3, 1982, at a weather station near Big Fork, in Polk County. An Arkansas state record was also broken for rainfall received during a tropical event; the 16.59-inch sum in Dierks eclipsed the previous standard of 13.91 inches set in Portland, Ashley County, during Tropical Storm Allison from June 28 – July 2, 1989. Outside of Barry’s sphere of influence, slight expansion of abnormal dryness (D0) was noted in parts of Oklahoma and Texas, where very hot weather prevailed until recently. Dalhart, Texas, tallied a trio of daily-record highs (105, 108, and 107°F) from July 18-20. Elsewhere, moderate drought (D1) further expanded in portions of southern Texas. During the week ending July 21, topsoil moisture rated very short to short as reported by USDA increased from 21 to 43% in Oklahoma and from 42 to 55% in Texas…
Showers and thunderstorms will linger for the next few days in the Deep South, primarily across Florida and along the Gulf Coast. Meanwhile, a pair of slow-moving cold fronts crossing the northern U.S. will entrain moisture from the monsoon circulation, leading to spotty showers from the Southwest to the northern Plains and upper Midwest. Dry weather and near- or below-normal temperatures will prevail between the two primary areas of showery weather. Elsewhere, hot weather will dominate the Intermountain West.
The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for July 30 – August 3 calls for near- or above-normal temperatures nationwide, except for cooler-than-normal conditions in northern Washington and the lower Mississippi Valley. Meanwhile, near- or below-normal rainfall across much of the Plains and Northwest should contrast with wetter-than-normal weather in the Southwest and a broad area covering the mid-South, Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, the lower Great Lakes region, and the Northeast.
From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Craig Young):
The meeting between the three commissioners and four members of the board of Northern Water, which has been working since 2002 on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, was intended as a starting point in the two bodies’ goal to craft an intergovernmental agreement to govern certain aspects of the project.
The project known as NISP, if it receives final approval later this year or early in 2010 from the Army Corps of Engineers, would result in Glade Reservoir in Larimer County and Galeton Reservoir in Weld County, and a system of pipelines to move water to and from the Poudre River and the South Platte River and to irrigation canals.
The project, being funded by 11 municipalities and four water districts in northeast Colorado, would be capable of supplying 40,000 acre-feet of water each year…
Although the meeting was intended as a work session, with no opportunity for public input, more than 30 members of the public filled the chairs set up in the commissioners’ hearing room in Fort Collins and required more to be brought in.
At a few points in the Northern Water staff members’ presentations, low-level displays of disapproval could be heard from people in the audience.
The meeting mainly consisted of slide presentations about the three aspects of the project that Larimer County has a say in: the route of the pipeline, the rerouting of 7 miles of U.S. 287 north of Ted’s Place that will be displaced by Glade Reservoir, and recreation on the new reservoir and the property around it.
The two boards will meet again Sept. 23 to work more substantively toward an eventual intergovernmental agreement on those issues, according to staff members.
Stephanie Cecil and Christie Coleman, water resources engineers with Northern Water, laid out some details of the three areas before the commissioners:
The pipeline in Larimer County would be 32 to 54 inches in diameter. The pipe would be buried, and the construction would require a 100-foot-wide easement along its route during construction and a permanent 60-foot easement for future maintenance. After construction, Northern Water would return the disturbed property to its previous condition or better, Cecil said. U.S. 287 would be moved to the east, and its construction would be completed before Glade Reservoir is finished, to avoid traffic disruptions. The new reservoir would provide about 16,000 surface acres for recreational uses such as boating and fishing. A 170-acre area around Glade Reservoir would feature a visitor center, trails, campgrounds, boat ramp and parking areas, including a lot to allow people to carpool up the Poudre Canyon. The recreational projects that Northern Water has committed to providing were worth $9 million when last calculated. The water conservancy district would arrange with a third party to run the recreation, such as Larimer County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife or a private company.
Coleman talked about the public outreach efforts that Northern Water has conducted so far, including the feedback-gathering during the environmental impact statement process, tours, more than 60 public events, informational mailings, one-on-one meetings and the recent launch of a new public-information website, http://nisptalk.com.
From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):
One the region’s foremost water experts is being offered another job in the industry that would take him back to Durango. Frank Kugel, general manager of the Upper Gunnison River Conservancy District, is in negotiations with the Southwestern Water Conservation District for the top job.
According to the SWCD website, “on July 15, pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-6-402(3.5), the Board of Directors of the Southwestern Water Conservation District selected Frank J. Kugel as the finalist under consideration for the position of Executive Director.” The SWCD board plans to approve a conditional offer employment at its August 6 meeting and formally make the offer on August 7.
Kugel confirmed the situation and said if all goes well and the SWCD board accepts the terms of employment, he would begin the new position on September 3.
Kugel has led the UGRWCD for almost 13 years. “The Southwestern Water Conservation District serves all of nine counties, as opposed to three with the UGRWCD, so it is a higher profile position for me,” Kugel explained in an email this week. “I have worked with the SWCD for 18 years, 11 of which were while inspecting dams while living in Durango. The other seven years were while I was Division 4 Engineer in Montrose and dealing with water administration in the San Miguel and lower Dolores River basins.
“The Southwestern District shares a number of common challenges with UGRWCD, namely Colorado River issues and drought contingency planning and demand management,” Kugel continued. “They also face a challenge of having nine separate river basins, most of which individually flow out of the state.”
The SWCD board unanimously chose Kugel as the top finalist for the executive director job as the previous executive director had retired in April. Board president Robert Wolff explained there is a two-week public notice period before a formal job offer is made, so that will happen after the August meeting.
“For me personally, several things about Frank stood out,” Wolff said. “He is fluent with all the Western Slope water issues we are dealing with, and he lived in Durango back in the 1990s. He is well thought of in the water community as a whole and he seems to know how to manage a district.”
Kugel said he is fortunate to have this new opportunity and also lucky to have been in the Gunnison Valley for a dozen years. “I have been blessed with a supportive board and top-notch staff over these past 13 years,” he said. “We have done great things to develop and protect the quality and quantity of our precious water resources. The Upper Gunnison basin is a very special place and I will always hold it, and its people, near and dear to my heart.”
From The Denver Post (Chris Bianchi):
According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) official survey, Colorado’s reservoirs are officially above-average levels, largely thanks to melted snow from a significantly above-average winter. As of the end of June, the NRCS statewide statistic placed reservoirs at 105 percent of average. That’s the first time statewide reservoir storage has been above average since May of 2018, according to NRCS data…
The situation has likely continued to improve since the end of June, though. According to Denver Water’s reservoir level statistics, more than half of the 11 reservoirs in their system are completely full, and all 11 are filled to at least 92 percent of capacity. Even with statewide reservoirs above average, they were at 76 percent of capacity at the end of June, according to the NRCS. Denver Water’s statistics may indicate that reservoir levels have continued to climb in July as snow remained on the ground deep into the summer…
Most of northern and central Colorado’s reservoirs are at or near capacity. The Yampa, White, Colorado and North Platte reservoir storage systems were at 92 percent or above.
But the biggest improvement from 2018 comes in southwestern Colorado, which was ravaged by drought and wildfires last summer. The San Juan reservoir storage areas were at full capacity at the end of June, nearly double last year’s levels. Hefty improvements were also noted in the Upper Rio Grande and Gunnison storage systems as well.
From the USGS (Jaime Delano):
Food can be a common thread between peoples of history and today and it often plays an important role in morale, celebration, hardship and bringing people together. How did food influence the original Powell expedition, and how does it factor into modern long-haul rafting trips, such as the one USGS scientists and science support staff are currently engaged in?
In the 19th Century
Adequate food supply was one of the biggest hurdles for the 1869 Powell expedition. The crew started the trip assuming a relatively leisurely pace and packed enough food supplies for 10 months. The explorers had to rely on food preserved by drying (like flour, rice, beans and dried apples) or salting (like bacon). Cooking relied on fires fueled with collected branches and driftwood.
Although the boats had adequate space for a long trip, proper food storage turned out to be more of a challenge than the explorers anticipated. One boat, the No Name, was destroyed three weeks into the trip and a third of the food was lost. Within the salvaged wreckage, Powell was thrilled to discover that the barometers had survived. The crew was more excited that a smuggled keg of whiskey, until then hidden from Powell, had made its way through the rapids unharmed. Not long after losing the No Name, an out-of-control campfire caused the men to lose nearly all their kitchen supplies except for a camp kettle and a few cups and bowls.
To supplement their preserved food stores, the men would hunt, fish and gather wild plants (like currants). The crew also occasionally stole from others’ gardens. One stolen bounty proved to be a mistake — root vegetables pilfered from an interpreter’s garden on the Green River weren’t mature enough to eat, so the men cooked and ate the plant greens instead, including potato greens. Potato greens contain moderate levels of the toxin solanine. All the men became violently ill almost instantly, except for Bradley and Howland, who couldn’t stomach the bitter greens and abstained.
Early in the trip, game was more plentiful (e.g., water fowl, fish, beavers, wild sheep, and deer) but the latter part of trip provided little opportunity for fresh meat because of the steep canyon walls and scarce game. Fish were harder to catch in the lower basin, too, due to a combination of swift currents, muddy waters[DJE3] and poor understanding of the local species.
The boats were frequently flooded and splashed by water, wetting the food and causing it to spoil. Wet, spoiled flour was either thrown out or sifted with mosquito netting. The sugar dissolved into the river. The bacon became rancid, apples frequently had to be re-dried, and supplies ran low. The crew often commented on provision scarcity and how it degraded their morale. One day, while subsisting on half-rations in the Grand Canyon, the explorers happened upon a Native American garden. They stole some squash, which raised everyone’s spirits. With the exception of the stolen squash, the explores only ate biscuits made from spoiled flour and dried apples for the last month of the trip. With two weeks left, the baking soda was lost in the river and the men had to eat unleavened bread. Luckily, coffee was plentiful throughout the trip and would help warm up and lift the spirits of the damp explorers, as long as they could find enough wood to boil water. The crew emerged from the river with only a few days’ provisions left. They found settlers and were taken in and fed a large dinner that included fish and squash.
In the 21st Century
Food preservation has come a long way since the first Powell expedition. With the availability of well-insulated coolers, fresh and frozen food lasts as long as the crew has ice. For long trips, meals are pre-planned and staged in date-specific coolers to reduce ice loss from repeated opening. Canned and other shelf-stable foods are easy to find and much more varied than the dried apples, rice and flour of the Powell expedition. The biggest advancement is our ability to keep things dry in coolers, dry bags and sturdy bins, all securely fastened to rafts. The menu is only limited by the creativity and determination of the group. For longer segments, the reduced fresh food can influence morale, just as it did to the Powell crew.
The current Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition is well-provisioned. Fresh supplies are brought in coolers and bins at each segment switch. Food is cooked with propane and charcoal on grills and stoves, without having to rely on driftwood as a fuel source. The menu is varied and flavorful, and includes dishes such as fried eggs, oatmeal and French toast for breakfast; sandwiches, cookies and snack mixes for lunch; and salmon, steak, and fish tacos for dinner. Like Powell’s men, the current crew has not always had such great luck fishing, and, also like the 1869 Powell expedition, coffee remains an essential part of the trip. In addition, SCREE has located 10 Hopi heritage bean variety seeds and reached out to Native American elders in the region to recognize the stolen squash from the historic expedition.
To follow this year’s expedition, see http://www.usgs.gov/powell150.
From The Aurora Sentinel (Grant Stringer):
Local officials say damming a creek between Leadville and Minturn — and routing water normally flowing into the Colorado River — is necessary to sate the future thirsts of a city growing on land where water is scarce.
Aurora Water and Colorado Springs Utilities recently applied together for a permit to drill underground near the creek and test where a large Whitney Reservoir would be best situated.
Aspen Journalism first reported the early step to build the reservoir.
For the dam, the utilities are eyeing four possible locations about six miles southwest of Red Cliff.
But damming Homestake Creek would also require moving the boundary of the Holy Cross Wilderness, affecting ancient, pristine wetlands.
Greg Baker, Aurora Water’s manager of public relations, said the Whitney Reservoir could be built in 25 years if key steps such as test drilling on Forest Service land are approved.
Baker said it’s another creative step to make sure that Aurora doesn’t go dry.
“You don’t leave anything on the table when you’re in Colorado, because most of the water has been appropriated in river basins,” he said.
Baker said the reservoir could eventually hold anywhere from 9,000 acre-feet to 19,000 acre-feet of water. The water would then be pumped near Leadville and travel to the Front Range through tunnels to the South Platte River basin.
Currently, only Aurora and Colorado Springs would benefit, Baker said.
The project is another alliance between Aurora Water and Colorado Springs Utilities. The two cities — the state’s largest behind Denver — are both growing quickly. Baker said the new reservoir could help ensure the taps keep flowing, especially in an era with snowpack decreases that imperil creeks and rivers.
From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):
The two partners in the transmountain Homestake project have applied to the U.S. Forest Service to drill for soils testing at four potential dam sites.
The Aspen news agency also reported the partners must obtain congressional and presidential approvals to adjust the Holy Cross Wilderness boundary to accommodate a dam.
If the reservoir is built, water would be pumped through a tunnel under the Continental Divide to Turquoise Reservoir at Leadville and on to the two cities.
From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt):
Tuesday, Windsor announced it was closing Windsor Lake Reservoir because the water tested positive for cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. The test was conducted Thursday.
The popular lake’s swim beach and dog beach have been roped off. Swimming, bathing and pets are not allowed in the water. Rentals and concessions will not be available during the closure.
Permitted motorized and non-motorized boaters are allowed on the lake but tubing and water skiing are not allowed. Boat traffic actually agitates the water and helps reduce the bacteria, which is why it is allowed. Non-motorized boaters can recreate in the reservoir at their own risk.
“Out of an abundance of caution last week, we issued a precautionary health advisory,” Eric Lucas, Windsor’s Director of Parks, Recreation & Culture, stated in a release. “A new sample has been sent to the state laboratory today and we will continue to test weekly until the bacteria clears up.”
From Mother Jones (Tom Philpott):
Three ecological disasters that are worthy of hair-on-fire attention by USDA researchers.
The Trump administration’s department of agriculture has apparently settled on its strategy for preparing the food system for an uncertain future: ignore climate change.
This wasn’t always the agency’s tactic. Back in 2017, as Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich recently reported, the USDA was set to release a big plan on how to “help the agriculture industry understand and adapt to climate change.” But “top officials chose not to release the report, and told staff it should be kept for internal use only,” Bottemiller Evich wrote. Weeks before, Bottemiller Evich reported about how the USDA’s top decision makers have systematically “refused to publicize” its own scientists’ research on the impact of climate change on farming.
In the meantime, farmers have already started to feel that impact. A disastrously wet spring in the Midwestern farm belt—consistent with the types of storms that are expected to become more prevalent—delayed planting by weeks and led to the loss of millions of tons of soil. As a result, a huge swath of the US corn and soybean crops are in “poor or very poor condition,” American Farm Bureau Federation economist John Newton told the trade journal Brownfield last week. He says the 2019 harvest is shaping up the be the worst since 2012. That year, a historic drought, combined with hotter-than-normal temperatures, slashed yields in key corn growing states like Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri.
A 2018 report called the Fourth National Climate Assessment confirms that climate change is already having a dramatic impact on farms, and is only getting started. The National Climate Assessment is a collaboration among 13 federal agencies that was mandated by Congress back in 1990 and is obliged to deliver reports every four years, so the the Trump administration could not squash the release outright. Instead, it made a brave effort to to bury the assessment, literally releasing it without fanfare on the Friday after Thanksgiving…
Fruit and vegetable farms get parched. California farms are American’s main source for a roster of the foods we’re always being urged to eat more of: Altogether, they churn out more than a third of vegetables and two-thirds of both fruits and nuts grown in the country…
The corn belt gets deluged. The Midwest’s brutal spring may have been less an anomaly than the shape of things to come, the Fourth National Climate Assessment suggests. And that’s bad news for farmers in the region that supplies the food system with the corn and soybeans that drive meat production and provide cheap sweetener and fats for processed food…
The breadbasket withers. While the Midwest struggles with an overabundance of rain, especially in the spring, the much more arid Great Plains region just to the west has the opposite problem. A large swath of the area, from the Kansas-Colorado border to the Texas panhandle, sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer, a kind of vast underground lake that supplies irrigation for the “most productive farm belts in the world,” the climate assessment reports. The region’s farms produce $35 billion worth of goods annually, including “one-fifth of the Nation’s wheat, corn, and cotton, and the southern half of the region accounts for more than one-third of the beef cattle production.”
Here’s the release from the Colorado State Forest Service:
Colorado Springs Utilities, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region and Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) announced their plans to invest $15 million, over a five-year period, in forest and watershed restoration projects. These projects will occur on more than 11,000 acres in Colorado Springs Utilities’ critical watersheds located on the White River and Pike-San Isabel National Forests
Today’s announcement comes as part of a signing event held at the Mesa Conservation Center to kick off the second phase of watershed restoration efforts.
The U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region and Colorado Springs Utilities have been in partnership since 2013, and together, have reduced the risk of catastrophic wildfire, restored forests impacted by wildfire, and minimized erosion and sedimentation in reservoirs to over 12,000 acres of National Forest System lands.
“We understand the obligation to the nearly 480,000 customers within the Colorado Springs Utilities area and the importance of healthy watersheds. Thus, we place heavy emphasis on partnerships like these, which allow us to keep clean water flowing to our local communities while maintaining resilient and productive forest lands,” Regional Forester, Brian Ferebee stated.
“Our dedication to conservation and natural resource sustainability has been amplified with the inclusion of the Colorado State Forest Service.”
The agreement, which now extends the existing partnership to the CSFS, expands the capacity to implement priority projects, leverage state resources, and balance national, state and local priorities. Since 1987, Colorado Springs Utilities has partnered with the CSFS to manage forests on 13,000-acres in the Pikes Peak Watershed. Their work to protect water quality, improve water yields, and identify and reduce wildfire risk, have dramatically improved forest health.
Together, the partnership promotes an “all lands” approach that addresses watershed and forest health challenges on the National Forest System and neighboring lands.
Forest & watershed health projects
“The destruction of Waldo Canyon required a huge investment from Colorado Springs Utilities to repair damaged water infrastructure and restore severely burned watersheds,” said Earl Wilkinson, Chief Water Services Officer, Colorado Springs Utilities. “Our continued partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State Forest Service will enable critical preventative measures to protect our drinking water supply.”
Under the 2019-2023 program, Colorado Springs Utilities will invest $7.5 million in forest and watershed health projects within critical watersheds. This funding will be matched dollar for dollar by the U.S. Forest Service and the CSFS for a total value of approximately $15 million.
Management activities associated with these projects will include forest thinning, prescribed fire, invasive species management, road and trail improvements, and stream improvements.
“Through partnerships like this one, land managers and water providers in Colorado can help ensure clean, reliable water for present and future generations,” said Mike Lester, State Forester and CSFS Director.
Colorado Springs Utilities has a large mountain water system with many reservoirs and other infrastructure located on U.S. Forest Service Land. Forest restoration and wildfire fuels reduction projects will take place within watersheds near Colorado Springs, including the vicinity of Pikes Peak, the headwaters of the Arkansas River, surrounding Homestake Reservoir on the Eagle River, and in the Blue River watersheds.
The projects will reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and post-fire sedimentation and erosion upstream of Colorado Springs Utilities’ reservoirs and other water delivery infrastructure.
For details contact:
Colorado State Forest Service – Ryan Lockwood, (970) 491-8970, firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Forest Service – Lawrence Lujan, (303) 815-9902, email@example.com
Here’s the release from Governor Gordon’s office:
Governor Mark Gordon, members of the executive branch, and representatives from multiple state agencies are mobilizing in an effort to provide assistance to farmers affected by a catastrophic irrigation tunnel collapse in Goshen County.
The Governor signed an Executive Order for a Declaration of Emergency today, allowing him to deploy state resources to Goshen County as needed. The collapse occurred early in the morning of July 17 along the Fort Laramie-Gering irrigation canal west of Lingle and caused a large breach of the canal wall. The disaster inundated farmland near the breach and has left more than 100,000 acres of cropland in Wyoming and Nebraska without water during a critical period for growers. Goshen County Commissioners issued a Local Disaster Declaration earlier today.
“This is a serious emergency and we recognize addressing an issue of this magnitude will take coordination, especially because it affects so many Wyoming and Nebraska farmers,” Governor Mark Gordon said. “We are working with an understanding of the urgency of the situation, along with a need to proceed carefully. Wyoming is united in its effort to find the right way to help the Goshen Irrigation District get up and running.”
After visiting the site on Friday, the Governor and members of the executive branch met Monday morning to analyze ways to provide state support to Goshen County and the Goshen Irrigation District. The Governor’s office is assembling resources to engage federal partners and is working with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security and the State Engineer’s Office to explore potential options for resources and assistance.
State officials and representatives from Governor Gordon’s office will attend a stakeholder’s meeting organized by the Goshen Irrigation District scheduled for 2 pm Wednesday, July 24, at the Eastern Wyoming College auditorium. The meeting is open to the public and will include a discussion of the collapse and a possible timeline for repairs to the tunnel and ditch.
From the Goshen County Commissioners via The Torrington Telegram:
The Goshen County Board of Commissioners has officially declared the collapse of an irrigation tunnel along the Fort Laramie-Gering Irrigation Canal as a local disaster.
In a declaration issued Monday morning, July 22, the county stated that “extensive damage was caused to private property and the loss of irrigation water will result in an extensive loss of agricultural crops to the farmers of Goshen County within the disaster area.”
The declaration, signed by Chairman Wally Wolski, vowed to seek emergency funds from any and all sources.
“All locally available public and private resources available to mitigate and alleviate the effects of this disaster have been insufficient to meet the needs of the situation,” the declaration said. “The Chairman of the Goshen County Board of Commissioners has declared a State of Emergency on behalf of Goshen County, and will execute for and on behalf of Goshen County Commission the expenditure of emergency funds from all available sources, the invoking of mutual aid agreements, and the requesting of assistance from the State of Wyoming.”
The Goshen Irrigation District has organized a stakeholder’s meeting to discuss the Fort-Laramie Gering irrigation tunnel collapse, repairing the tunnel and the ditch, and the timeframe of the repairs. The meeting will be held Wednesday, July 24, 2 p.m. at the Eastern Wyoming College auditorium.
The GID issued a press release on Friday, July 19, to ask people to stay away from the collapse to allow the GID and various contractors space to make the necessary repairs. The collapse occurred in a remote section of the canal, with only a one-lane road to get in or out of the site.
“Goshen Irrigation District and Gering-Fort Laramie District are asking for all patrons to please observe all road closure signs near the tunnel and canal breach,” the release said. “There will be large equipment and contractors in and out of that site every day of the week and for extended hours. Please, for your safety, do not impede the work that needs to be done.”
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):
Usually, farmers are happy with any rain they can get, but too much wet stuff can cause other problems.
“My crops are fine. It’s just too much rain to get in there and harvest,” said RoseAnn DiSanti of DiSanti Farms in Pueblo County.
Just up the road on U.S. Highway 50, Kasey Hund, manager of Di Tomaso Farms, was singing the same tune.
“Its muddy out there. it’s going to slow us down a couple of weeks,” Hund said, standing at one of her pumpkin fields.
“But everything looks good out there still. As long as it doesn’t flood again or rain more. Too much is too much, but when we have really hot days, it tends to make them grow well. They should be very abundant.”
“The biggest problem right now is not being able to get the labor into the field and get the stuff out that I need,” DiSanti said.
“It hasn’t done any damage, but I do want the rain to stop. We have to wait until it dries out before we can put labor out on the fields. You don’t want to break the plants and you can’t expect the labor to work when it’s so muddy. It’s hard on them.”
DiSanti said about 2 inches of rain fell on her farm Saturday.
“We’ve been so fortunate that we haven’t got any hail. The chile and everything still looks good, but I sure wish the rain would stop. We’ve had enough,” DiSanti said with a laugh…
Hund said despite the mud, workers gathered pickle cucumbers Monday morning
“It was very muddy. Pickles are in abundance. All this rain and all the hot days really made them produce 10 times as fast. We had to get in there and pick a few.
Workers had to carry the picked crop out by hand instead of using vehicles and equipment.
They also had to wash all the mud off the pickles. It’s a longer process. The customers were calling. Our top priority right now is pickles. Everybody wants pickles,” Hund said.
There’s a lamp in the window
And a face to every being
Evenings and mornings will follow
as sure as the dries hold out
For every precious drop.
— Greg Hobbs 7/20-21/2019
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Joe Lewandnowski):
In preparation for a native cutthroat trout restoration project, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has removed all bag and possession limits for fishing on Upper Sand Creek Lake, Lower Sand Creek Lake and Sand Creek located in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the National Park Service are working to restore the Rio Grande cutthroat trout to its native waters. In late August, the lakes and creek will be treated to remove all fish from the drainage. If all goes as planned, Rio Grande cutthroats will be stocked again in the fall of 2020. These waters are located high on the west flank of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range.
Anglers must hold a valid Colorado fishing license and can only use standard methods of take. Commercial fishing is not allowed. The area holds rainbow, brook and non-native cutthroat trout. Anglers can keep all the fish they can catch starting Monday, July 22 through Aug. 25
Once the Rio Grande cutthroat trout are re-established, anglers will have the unique opportunity to catch this native fish. Cutthroat trout populations have declined over the last 100 years due to water diversions, land-use changes and competition from non-native trout that have been stocked throughout the Rio Grande drainage.
“This is a challenging project, but it will provide ideal and protected habitat for these fish,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for CPW’s Southwest Region. “We appreciate that the National Park Service shares CPW’s goals to re-establish native cutthroats in the waters of the San Luis Valley.”