Using high-tech equipment in the air to measure snow on the ground — News on TAP

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.

via Using high-tech equipment in the air to measure snow on the ground — News on TAP

Reservoirs fill to the brim, topping off an outstanding water year — 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.

via Reservoirs fill to the brim, topping off an outstanding water year — News on TAP

Denver Water brings energy savings into the light — 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.

via Denver Water brings energy savings into the light — News on TAP

Our house is on fire: sound the alarm, #ClimateStrike, September 20-27, 2019 #ActOnClimate

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.

USFS has embarked on a bit of a science experiment to see if trees, willows and other vegetation are able to take root on a mine waste pile

USGS scientist measuring pH, Specific Conductance and dissolved oxygen in a remediation ditch constructed with local volcanic rock possessing some acid neutralizing capacity. Brown’s Gulch is below the Brooklyn Mine, a few miles north of Siverton, Colorado, in the Mineral Creek basin. (Credit: Douglas Yager , USGS. Public domain.)

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.

South Fork Mineral Creek, Silverton photo via

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.

How biochar works. Graphic credit: The High Country News

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.

#Drought news: Sluggish start to the #monsoon season in #AZ, #UT, and SW #Colorado = modest expansion of abnormal dryness (D0)

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…

High Plains

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…

Looking Ahead

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.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending July 23, 2019.

@Northern_Water meets with Larimer County Commissioners to craft IGA for #NISP

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

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,

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

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

    Frank Kugel will likely be the next executive director of the Southwestern Colorado Water Conservation District

    Frank Kugel. Photo credit: Upper Gunnison River Conservancy District

    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.”