Mountain Town News: Why is climate change frying the Colorado Plateau?

Map of the greater Colorado River Basin which encompasses the Colorado Plateau. Credit:

From (Allen Best):

Colorado Plateau stands out on global warming map

Graphic credit: The Washington Post (Note: NOAA does not provide data for Alaska or Hawaii for this time period.)

Climbers gather each January in the canyon shadows of the San Juan Mountains to test their skills on giant columns of ice. The towers in the Ouray Ice Park are created by feeding water to the canyon walls, but the cold is natural.

It’s not as cold in Ouray County as it used to be, though. A data set assembled by The Washington Post shows Ouray as one of the places with the most rapid rise in temperatures in the lower 48 states since the late 19th century. Average temperatures have increased 2.3 degrees Celsius, or 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Other counties in western Colorado and eastern Utah have warmed significantly. Utah’s Grand County, where Moab is located, increased 2.5 degrees C. Colorado’s San Miguel County, home to Telluride — a short distance from Ouray — had a 2.2-degree C rise.

The Washington Post drew on statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Division Database between the years 1895 and 1918. It found uneven warming across the United States, with some areas of the South actually cooling a bit. Rhode Island and New Jersey stand out for their heating, as did Los Angeles.

The biggest blob of red and burgundy on the Washington Post’s map was in the mountains and deserts of the Colorado Plateau. The newspaper noted that the area altogether has exceeded the 2-degree C threshold that policymakers, based on the advice of scientists, have identified as critical threshold for global warming.

The newspaper’s work echoes that of a 2014 report, “Climate Change in Colorado,” which also called out spiking warming in western Colorado through 2012. Every year since then with the exception of 2013 has been much warmer than the 20th century average.

Russ Schumacher, Colorado’s state climatologist, says he’s not sure why that portion of Colorado has been warming disproportionately. “We could definitely quibble about some of the details on their maps, but the overall picture is nicely represented,” he says.

The cause of rising temperatures globally has long been understood: the sharp increase in greenhouse gases, which traps heat near the Earth’s surface. The regional variations sometimes remain puzzling…

Directly linking greenhouse gases and changes in a mountain valley remains complicated. “Certainly a substantial fraction is connected to global warming, but in complex terrain areas, and with changes in land use over the last century, those factors can also be important,” he told Mountain Town News.

Broadly speaking, the higher latitudes will warm (and are warming) more than the tropics. Alaska has had outsized warming streak, but Costa Rica, not so much.

“But elevation effects are still an area of active research, in part because we don’t have a lot of reliable data at high elevations (say, above 10,000 feet) nor do models represent the terrain of Colorado particularly well.”

Several teams of scientists in recent years have issued studies that identified rising temperatures as playing a large role in declining flows of the Colorado River. About 92% of the river’s flows originate upstream of the Grand Canyon, much of it in western Colorado. Flows since 2000 have declined 19% from the 20th-century average.

Brad Udall, a scientist with the Colorado Water Institute, told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee in February that 2018 was the hottest and driest year in the Four Corners region since records were first kept in 1895.

Udall said that a study that he and two other researchers published in 2018 found 50% of flow reductions in the first 14 years of the century were due to higher temperatures. The other half were due to shifting precipitation patterns.

“It is clear the Colorado River, and the entire Southwest, has shifted to a new hotter and drier climate, and, equally important, will continue to shift to a hotter and drier climate for several decades after we stop emitting greenhouse gases,” he said.

@ASU water policy expert addresses new #drought plan: State will take less water from the #ColoradoRiver under a new contingency plan #DCP #COriver #aridification

Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, shows the effects of nearly two decades of drought. (Image: Bureau of Reclamation)

Here’s the release from Arizona State University (Marshall Terrill):

The Southwest’s long-standing drought has left the state staring down a historic and first-ever Colorado River water cutback in 2020.

Starting Jan. 1, Arizona will see a 6.9% reduction of Colorado River water under the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, which was finalized in May with California, Nevada and the federal government. Mexico will give up 3% of its allotment under a separate agreement.

The cuts are part of a plan to keep Lake Mead, a reservoir at the Arizona-Nevada boundary, functional. Water levels for both Lake Mead and Lake Powell have precipitously dropped as a result of historic over-allocation and a drought that started in 2000.

ASU Now spoke to Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, about the cutbacks and what they will mean for Arizona’s agriculture and the state’s roughly 7 million residents.

Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. Photo credit: Arizona State University

Question: Are these cuts a move that has been anticipated for some time, and should Arizona residents be worried?

Answer: Yes, the cuts have been anticipated and were agreed to by the parties to the Drought Contingency Plan or DCP. In fact, until a few months ago, we expected deeper cuts, but good mountain snowpack last winter and aggressive conservation efforts shored Lake Mead up a bit. The cuts are part of a larger plan to safeguard the Colorado River system. The plan was negotiated for several years and finalized this spring.

The Lower Basin DCP incentivizes conserving water in Lake Mead while also imposing bigger and bigger cuts should lake levels fall to certain levels. Water users on the Central Arizona Project, which brings Colorado River water to central and southern Arizona, are in line to take largest cuts because they are the lowest priority users.

The 2020 cuts won’t really be felt by Arizona water users because the state has never built out demand for all of its Colorado River supplies. For years, Arizona water managers have used “extra” Colorado River water for aquifer recharge and other purposes. Annually starting in 2015, Arizona has voluntarily conserved in Lake Mead the equivalent amount of this year’s cut.

Rather than worry, Arizona residents should continue to find ways to permanently use water more efficiently. Statewide, Arizona uses the same amount of water today as it did in the mid-1950s, though we now have seven or eight times the population and a much larger economy. There are still lots of opportunities to stretch our water supplies through conservation and efficiency measures.

Q: Who will be the first group of people to feel the sting of cuts in Colorado River supplies?

A: If Lake Mead falls below 1,075-feet elevation, Arizona will take additional cuts and farmers in Pinal County will be the first to feel the impacts. They plan to turn to groundwater (that is, water pumped from wells) to make up for some of those cuts.

Cities are in a different situation. Municipal providers that use CAP supplies tend to have high priority rights, so they would be among the last CAP users to experience cuts. Many cities in the Phoenix and Tucson areas have diverse water portfolios, including groundwater, reclaimed water and other surface water, which gives them a measure of resilience against cuts in Colorado River supplies. And since passage of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act, growth has been tied to long-term water supplies in the state’s most populous areas, so water providers must plan well in advance for foreseeable supply reductions.

Q: So if agricultural is the first to take a hit, will this mean the cost of fruits and vegetables will likely go up — and by how much?

A: That’s a question for an economist, but I will note that Arizona’s agriculture industry is not monolithic when it comes to water supplies. Right now, only Pinal County farmers are facing cuts — other Arizona farmers have higher priority Colorado River rights or get their water from other sources. Two-thirds of Pinal County’s agricultural revenues come from cattle and dairy. That production will not be directly affected by cuts in CAP deliveries. The county’s main irrigated crops are cotton and hay.

Q: What’s the effect going to be on individual households and what should consumers be mindful of, or start practicing?

A: For some households, water rates may increase as their water providers take additional steps to ensure water deliveries in the event of decreased Colorado River supplies. In addition, some households in newer developments in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima Counties depend on groundwater and are required to pay into a fund to purchase water supplies to replenish the groundwater withdrawn for their use. This amount shows up as an assessment on county property-tax bills. As fewer supplies become available, the costs of water to meet the replenishment obligation may also increase.

We should always treat water as the precious resource it is here in Arizona. The single best way for an individual household to help is to permanently reduce the amount of water used for outside landscaping.

Q: Is this going to be the new normal or a sign of things to come?

A: We should think of this as the new normal. Lake Mead is over-allocated. The prolonged drought has exacerbated the problem because it results in less extra water in the system. There are signs that the region is aridifying, meaning that average flows in the Colorado River may decrease.

We shouldn’t overlook the conservation efforts that are critical to keeping the Colorado River system functional. The Drought Contingency Plan includes important ground rules for conserving water in Lake Mead, and Arizona’s Colorado River Indian Tribes and the Gila River Indian Community, along with CAP, will be conserving and storing significant quantities of water in the lake.

Changing nature of Colorado River droughts, Udall/Overpeck 2017.

Colorado River: The West’s precious, but limited resource — Brenda Burman

From “Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and Its Tributaries” By J. W . Powell, 1875

Here’s a guest column from USBR Commissioner Brenda Burman that’s running in The Hill:

One hundred fifty years ago, John Wesley Powell and his small band of courageous explorers captured the nation’s imagination as they completed their first expedition down the Colorado River. Powell and his team faced the unknown, and they came through the river’s canyons with a hard-earned appreciation for the Colorado River as a precious, but limited resource. His vision of diverting water for agriculture contributed to the Reclamation Act of 1902 and the birth of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Powell’s descriptions of Western water scarcity helped inspire American investment in water storage and conveyance infrastructure up and down the Colorado River — forward-thinking investment that built facilities like Glen Canyon Dam with his namesake reservoir, Lake Powell; Hoover Dam with Lake Mead; and other important reservoirs.

Today, that system of reservoirs can store four times the average annual inflow of the Colorado River Basin — absolutely critical storage for the life and livelihood of 40 million people across the West. In fact, without Lake Powell, Lake Mead and other key storage reservoirs along the Colorado River, the basin would have already faced an overwhelming water crisis many years ago.

The century and a half since Powell’s expedition brought many challenges and innovative solutions for the Colorado River. A year ago, the basin was suffering its fifth driest year in over a century; another abysmal datapoint in one of the driest 20-year periods of the last 1,200 years. In contrast, as recently as 2000, both Lake Powell and Lake Mead were nearly full. The water stored in those massive reservoirs blunted the effects of prolonged drought and protected cities, farms and families across the basin from devastating water shortage impacts.

In fact, Colorado River reservoirs helped ensure water deliveries each year during the current 20-year drought — enabling certainty and predictability for water users while avoiding the need for shortage declarations. That’s the value of water storage reservoirs and the lasting legacy of past water leaders like John Wesley Powell.

Unfortunately, not all Western river basins are positioned to withstand the effects of prolonged drought. For example, water storage infrastructure in California’s Sacramento River Basin stores less than one year’s average flow — that’s not enough to sustain ever-increasing demand. As water scarcity in the West becomes more challenging, stretching existing supplies while expanding and improving water storage infrastructure is even more important. We must strengthen our ability to capture, store and deliver limited water supplies while maximizing efficiency to enhance conservation.

While our Colorado River reservoirs have performed very well through prolonged severe drought, we cannot simply maintain the status quo. In January 2019, the combined storage of Lakes Powell and Mead fell to just 38 percent of capacity. That’s what brought the seven Colorado River basin states, the Republic of Mexico, the U.S. government, Native American Tribes, conservation interests and other non-governmental organizations together earlier this year to complete historic drought contingency plans.

Water users in the Colorado River Basin have survived the drought through a combination of water storage infrastructure and voluntary actions to protect reservoir storage and water supply. Adoption of drought contingency plans this summer, developed over years of collaborative negotiation, takes the next step by implementing mandatory action to reduce risk and protect limited water supplies.

I agree with others who believe John Wesley Powell would be happy with the level and success of collaboration in the Colorado River Basin; collaboration that helps focus governance on community and local needs along the river.

On Aug.15 the Bureau of Reclamation released its 2020 operational plans for Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Looking ahead, we are pleased that the basin will avoid deep water delivery reductions or face rapidly-declining reservoirs next year. That’s welcome news and reflects the impact of 2019’s excellent snowpack and runoff into Lake Powell and Lake Mead. That above-average runoff pushed today’s total system storage to 55 percent of capacity. But, one good year can’t undo nearly two decades of drought. We must remain focused on infrastructure improvement, conservation and other efforts to protect the Colorado River’s precious limited water.

John Wesley Powell’s courage and vision introduced America to the treasure that is the Colorado River. Our courage and vision must equal his as we confront challenges like ongoing drought and growing demand throughout the basin. Like we’ve done for the 150 years since Powell first explored those awe-inspiring canyons, we must continue to collaborate and cooperate to find innovative water management solutions for today and future generations. That’s our mandate and, if recent drought contingency plans are an indication, we are up to the task.

Brenda Burman is the commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The Bureau of Reclamation is a contemporary water management agency and the largest wholesale provider of water in the country. It brings water to more than 31 million people and provides one out of five Western farmers with irrigation water for farmland that produces much of the nation’s produce. It is also the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the country.

Colorado’s drought-free streak is over: Here’s where it’s the driest —

West Drought Monitor August 27, 2019.

From (Ryan Osborne):

A sliver of Montezuma and La Plata counties in the far southwestern corner of the state were under “moderate” drought conditions, or “D1,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor . About 36,000 people live in the drought area.

D1 is the lowest drought level, followed by severe, extreme and exceptional conditions. A larger area of southwest Colorado is what the drought monitor considers “abnormally dry” but not quite to the level of drought conditions. Areas of central Colorado and corners in the southeast and northwest part of the state are also abnormally dry. (See the map on the tweet below).

The state became 100% drought-free in late May, marking first time in nearly 20 years of monitoring that no drought conditions were in Colorado…

The drought here in Colorado is part of a larger area of dry conditions across New Mexico, Arizona and parts of Utah, as some areas have experience one of their driest monsoon seasons on record…

In Colorado, many areas are above normal precipitation levels for the year but have been below normal over the last two months, according to the Colorado Climate Center.

Denver, for example, is at 12.58 inches of rain for the year, about 1.25 inches above normal, according to the National Weather Service. In the short term, only a little more than a half-inch has fallen this month, down by more than an inch of normal.

In Cortez, the closest precipitation station to the drought area, rain levels this year are at 9.78 inches, about 1.40 inches above normal. But since June 1, only 1.30 inches have fallen, nearly two inches below normal.

The Climate Center highlighted one of these variations this week, pointing out the rain levels in Walsh, in southeast Colorado. After a good rain on July 2, the area was more than 10.3 inches above normal for the year. Since then, Walsh has been more than four inches drier than normal.

Are Denver’s best practices for outdoor watering unique? — News on TAP

Take a look at some of the advice given by water utilities from California to Florida. The post Are Denver’s best practices for outdoor watering unique? appeared first on News on TAP.

via Are Denver’s best practices for outdoor watering unique? — News on TAP

Prepping next-gen engineers for careers beyond the classroom — News on TAP

CU Boulder students present their take on a major Denver Water project. The post Prepping next-gen engineers for careers beyond the classroom appeared first on News on TAP.

via Prepping next-gen engineers for careers beyond the classroom — News on TAP

@CWCB_DNR: August 2019 #Drought Update

Click here to read the update (Ben Wade, Tracy Kosloff):

August has been warmer than average across the majority of the state and each basin, except for the Republican basin, has experienced below average precipitation. The North American monsoon season has been disappointing in Colorado and other parts of the Southwestern U.S. The monsoon season sometimes results in beneficial moisture for south central Colorado and the eastern half of the state. Despite not receiving monsoon moisture, statewide precipitation for the Water Year, at mountain SNOTEL sites, is at 114% of average. After being the last state to experience a drought free U.S. Drought Monitor Map, which lasted eight weeks from late May through mid July, D0 has been introduced in various parts of the state (see map below). A portion of southwestern Colorado was downgraded to D1, moderate drought conditions. Reservoir storage across the state continues to be a bright spot at 116% of average.

Colorado Drought Monitor August 27, 2019.
  • According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, released August 29, D0, abnormally dry has been introduced in the central mountains and has expanded in the southwest part of the state. D0 has shown up in pockets in Las Animas, El Paso & Larimer counties. D1, moderate drought, has been introduced back in La Plata & Montezuma counties.
  • The weak El Niño has officially ended in favor of neutral conditions. The long term ENSO forecasts are trending toward neutral conditions remaining through the winter.
  • Statewide monthly precipitation as of August 26 at mountain SNOTEL sites has been 56% of average. For the Water Year, statewide precipitation is 114% of average. The Climate Prediction Center’s one month outlook is predicting above average precipitation and temperature for most of the state for September.
  • Reservoir storage across the state (as of the end of July) is 116% of average and 78% of capacity. At this time last year, statewide reservoir storage was at 86% of average. The Gunnison basin has seen significant recovery after storage was depleted last year. The South Platte basin reservoirs are in the best shape since the late 1990s.
  • Water providers in attendance report their systems are in decent shape but water demand has increased due to above average temperatures in the past several weeks.
  • Some agricultural producers are reporting that corn is behind schedule due to a late start to the season. They are hopeful that frost will not occur before the crops reach maturity.
  • @USBR awards $3.4 million to 19 tribes for technical assistance in water development

    Photo credit: USBR

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    The Bureau of Reclamation is awarding $3.4 million to 19 tribes across the western United States for technical assistance as they develop, manage, and protect their water and related resources. The funding is being made available through Reclamation’s Native American Affairs Technical Assistance to Tribes Program.

    “This funding provides the opportunity for Reclamation and the tribes to collaborate in finding the most effective and efficient ways to improve water reliability for these tribal communities,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman.

    The funding will be provided to the tribes as grants or cooperative agreements. The nineteen projects selected are:


  • Hopi Tribe, develop georeferenced base maps of community water systems, $200,000
  • Quechan Indian Tribe, Tonawanda Lateral Structure Replacement, $171,346
  • Yavapai-Apache Tribe, domestic water system infrastructure and repair, $200,000
  • California

  • Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria, Singley Hill well production and treatment facilities, $200,000
  • Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians, water supply well completion, $98,746
  • Cahto Tribe of the Laytonville Rancheria, baseline stream monitoring and planning, $200,000
  • Calusa Community Council, community water system improvements, $200,000
  • La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians, drinking water supply improvements, $65,299
  • Hoopa Valley Indian Tribe, assess threats to drinking water supply, $181,980
  • Pinoleville Pomo Nation, Ackerman Creek environmental streamflow conservation projects, $194,303
  • Quartz Valley Indian Community, water resource management model, $159,022
  • Round Valley Indian Tribes, groundwater model for basin-wide groundwater management plan, $200,000
  • Idaho

  • Coeur D’Alene Tribe, water quality monitoring and assessment of Lake Coeur D’Alene, $195,979
  • Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, irrigation project surface water management program, $200,000
  • Oklahoma

  • Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, process improvements for failing water treatment plants in Choctaw Territory, $197,637
  • Osage Nation, water system assessment project, $199,973
  • Oregon

  • Klamath Tribes, Sprague River watershed nutrient assessment, $96,168
  • Washington

  • Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, Upper Snoqualmie River resilient water corridor management plan, $199,995
  • Stillaquamish Tribe of Indians of Washington, water resources program development, $200,000
  • The Native American and International Affairs Office in the Commissioner’s Office serves as the central coordination point for the Native American Affairs Program and lead for policy guidance for Native American issues in Reclamation. To learn more, please visit

    High temperatures, excess nutrients, and standing, stagnant water provide an optimal environment for blue-green algae to reproduce

    Blue-Green algae bloom

    From Colorado Public Radio (Hayley Sanchez):

    The blooms — they look like thick pea soup or bright green paint on top of the water — usually pop up in July with higher temperatures and in stagnant or slow-moving water. They eventually die off around September as the weather cools down.

    Health officials and municipalities have reported they’re monitoring at least a dozen lakes in Colorado with dangerous or potentially dangerous algae. Health effects vary depending on the kind of bacteria in the algae, but symptoms are pretty nasty and include skin irritation, rashes, blisters around the mouth and nose and other problems.

    “The blooms happen when the ecosystem gets out of balance,” said Sara Erickson with Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment. “So when we have high temperatures, excess nutrients, and standing, stagnant water, this provides an optimal environment for the blue-green algae to reproduce.”

    Tracking toxic algae is difficult because no single agency is tasked with testing waters for high levels of bacteria in lakes with blue-green algae, called cyanobacteria. The process gets even more complicated because a lake can have high levels of the bacteria at one time but levels can return to acceptable limits later on.

    That was the case with Windsor Lake in Windsor. CDPHE said it examined samples of the water and found toxic algae in July, but the lake reopened a week later when levels were back to acceptable limits.

    CDPHE said it tested and confirmed three other lakes with dangerous algae blooms. Prospect Lake in Colorado Springs, Barr Lake in Brighton and a pond in east El Paso County all have harmful algal blooms, according to CDPHE.

    The pond at Homestead Ranch Regional Park near Peyton tested positive for toxic levels of blue-green algae on Friday. Fishing is still permitted but anglers should clean their fish thoroughly. People should not let their pets in the water. Boating and swimming are already not allowed in the pond.

    Pikeview Reservoir, a popular spot for anglers off Garden of The Gods Road in Colorado Springs, also tested positive for blue-green algae. The reservoir is part of the Colorado Springs Utilities’ water system but has since been removed as a source of drinking water…

    The city of Lakewood has two lakes with high levels of toxic algae — Kountze Lake at Belmar Park and Horseshoe Pond in the Bear Creek Greenbelt. A city spokeswoman said people and pets should stay out of the water.

    Sloan’s Lake in Denver tested positive for blue-green algae in July. It’s being monitored and signs have been posted warning people to keep pets out of the water. Denver’s Department of Public Health and Environment said it has tested three other lakes for cyanotoxins and tests came back negative, but that could change.

    Quincy Reservoir in Aurora had elevated levels of toxic algae earlier this month. Greg Baker with Aurora Water said the city applied an algaecide or non-toxic pesticide to kill the algae but wouldn’t impact the fish. He said toxicity levels have reduced dramatically in the past week and officials want to reopen the reservoir in the next couple of weeks. The reservoir is not used for drinking water so Aurora’s water system wasn’t impacted.

    Faversham Lake in Westminster was tested last week for toxic algae. Erin Stewart, an aquatic biologist with SOLitude Lake Management, the agency overseeing the lake, said rain helped clear the algae since the samples were collected. Even when test results come back, they’ll reflect what was in the lake a week ago and not its current condition…

    The only sure way to know if there is toxic algae in a lake is for it to be tested.

    Blooms are more likely in lower elevations with warmer air temperature and urban areas, where there is more nutrient runoff.

    CDPHE recommends people contact the agency that monitors the waterbody for testing if they’re concerned about harmful algae…

    Keep your pets away and don’t ingest the water

    It’s best for you, your pets and livestock to stay out of water if it looks questionable. Do not drink the water. Avoid boating where the algae is and clean fish caught in the water thoroughly. Ingesting the water can be deadly for animals.

    #Mexico water supply shortages loom

    Map via

    From (Victoria Harker):

    Mexico is one of a growing list of countries deemed most at risk of hitting “Day Zero” when they no longer have enough water to meet citizen needs, according to a new report by global research organization, World Resources Institute (WRI).

    The nonprofit institute categorized countries into five different levels according to their relative risk of consuming all of their water resources, ranging from “Low Baseline Water Stress” to “Extremely High Baseline Water Stress.”

    Mexico is one of 44 countries – representing one-third of the world’s population – that fall into the second-highest category, “High Baseline Water Stress,” meaning that the nation consumes between 40 and 80 percent of the water supply available in a year.

    Fifteen states in the northern and central part of Mexico fall within the “Extremely High” category, meaning they are withdrawing more than 80 percent of their available supply.Among them are some of Arizona’s closest neighbors: Sonora, Chihuahua, Baja California Sur.

    Arizona impacted by Mexican water woes

    That’s of concern to Arizona. If trends continue, this suggests that one of the world’s biggest water crises could happen at the state’s southern door.

    “Along the U.S.-Mexico border, there are significant issues with water use and they involve, particularly in Mexico, aging water infrastructure that is delivering water or treating wastewater,” said John Shepard, senior director of programs for the nonprofit Sonoran Institute in Tucson that raises funding and leads projects to protect fresh water and treat wastewater in border communities and in the massive Colorado River Delta.

    The Sonoran Institute has raised funding and support to revive former wetlands through projects like the Las Arenitas Wastewater Treatment Plant in border town, Mexicali, Mexico, where new wetlands have been established adjacent the plant and act as a natural bio filter to improve the quality of wastewater.

    That wastewater also is being used to revive rivers like the Santa Cruz and Hardy, a tributary of the Colorado RIver.

    Nogales wastewater pipeline next on list to fix

    Another goal is to raise funding to replace the 8.5-mile sewer pipeline that spills sewage from Mexico into Arizona. At one point the stink caused Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to declare a brief state of emergency.

    The pipeline, called the International Outfall Interceptor, takes sewage from the small Arizona city of Nogales and the adjacent manufacturing city of Nogales in Sonora, Mexico, to the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant in Rio Rico, Arizona. Millions of gallons flow to the plant each day that are discharged into the Santa Cruz river.

    Leaking like a sieve

    In Mexico, many water problems are the result of decaying water and wastewater infrastructure.

    Mexico City, whose severe water issues come from being built in a valley that has no above water resources. The vast majority of water is stored in an underground aquifer. Leaks and breaks in the water and wastewater systems are causing a massive water loss, including an estimated 40 percent of drinking water.

    Video: The Colorado-Big Thompson Project — @Northern_Water

    First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit Northern Water.

    #Drought news: D1 (Moderate Drought) expands in Four Corners, D0(Abnormally Dry) expands in SW, SE #Colorado and the along the central Great Divide

    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

    Summer thunderstorms brought heavy rainfall to the Central Plains into parts of the Northeast, with showers and thunderstorms also occurring across parts of the Northwest, Southern Rockies, and Central Gulf Coast. Below-average temperatures accompanied the heavy precipitation for the most part. The Southwest saw little to no rain and record to near-record heat, while heat and humidity continued to the east. The above-average temperatures and dry conditions brought elevated fire risk over the Great Basin and portions of the northern Intermountain West. South central Alaska remained dry and fires continued to burn, with smoke warnings in effect. Heavy rains, flash flooding, and severe weather occurred as a front stretched from the Southern Mid-Atlantic into the Southern Plains…

    High Plains

    In the Northern High Plains, normal conditions returned along the western to central North Dakota/Canadian border. Precipitation has been adequate and soil moisture conditions have improved. In the Southern High Plains, rainfall has been below average over the last couple of months – including the past week – in eastern Colorado while temperatures have been above average. Several areas of abnormal dryness were introduced this week, including in the central Colorado Mountains over the higher elevations, eastern Larimer and western Weld Counties and Colorado springs, and in Las Animas. With the heat, evaporative demand has been high for many of these locations. Reports from water providers indicate that there has been peak demand in the last week with lawn irrigation. Peak demand usually occurs in July. Southwestern Kansas has also seen a dearth of precipitation, and both D0 and D1 expanded westward in this area. The rest of the state, on the other hand has seen plentiful rainfall and D0 contracted westward in the central and south central region…


    With respect to precipitation, 2019 to-date is a year of extremes in parts of the West. As monsoon rains continue to fail and heat continues to build, impacts, including wildfire risk, are growing in the Southwest. After emerging from nearly a decade of drought conditions on June 11, moderate drought (D1) returned to both the eastern and western parts of Arizona this week, and abnormally dry (D0) conditions spread across much of the rest of the state, save for part of the south. Locally, many areas are experiencing one of their 10 driest monsoon seasons on record. Phoenix is also on track to have its third or fourth hottest June-August period on record and Tucson its second hottest. The D1 that spread to eastern Arizona also spread over the remainder of northwestern New Mexico into southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah at the Four Corners. In New Mexico, D1 in the south expanded eastward from Sierra County to the D1 area at the Texas border. Abnormally dry conditions also spread outward across the southwestern states, including across Imperial County, California, to join with the long-lasting D0 area in San Diego, Orange, and Riverside Counties…


    Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana saw sharp gradients and some complicated rainfall patterns, with heavy precipitation in some places and little to none in others, and so many areas saw improvement in short-term dryness and drought while many others saw degradation. Conditions improved across part of the Oklahoma Panhandle into northern Texas and also in in the central region and southeast, but there was also a degradation to extreme drought (D3) along the Texas border, encompassing parts of Kiowa, Comanche, Cotton, and Tillman Counties (and northern Wichita and northeastern Wilbarger County in Texas) where rain was scarce. This is the first occurence of D3 in Oklahoma since September 2018. Temperatures here were in the 105-109 degree F range. In Texas, the D3 area to the west expanded, as did the D3 area in the extreme south, with a new small spot as well. Primary impacts across the state include wildfires, dry stock tanks, supplemental feeding, and impacts to late-season crops, namely cotton. Moderate drought spread from east Texas into southwestern Arkansas and northwestern Louisiana. Abnormal dryness also spread eastward to south central Arkansas and central to northeastern Louisiana…

    Looking Ahead

    Over the week beginning Tuesday, August 27, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, dry conditions are expected to continue across southern Texas and much of the western third of the continental U.S., while light to heavy rainfall may occur across the remainder of the country. Parts of Kansas may receive up to about 4 inches, with isolated higher amounts. Hurricane Dorian will bring heavy rain and potential flooding to Puerto Rico and Florida, where 4-8 inches of rain are expected from the storm, with locally higher amounts. Looking further ahead to September 2-6, below-normal temperatures are favored across Maine and parts of the Northern Plains and Midwest, nosediving into Oklahoma and northern Arkansas, while above-normal temperatures are forecast forAlaska, the western third of the CONUS, across most of Texas, and into the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Much of the Southwest and Alaska are both favored to have some badly needed above-average precipitation, as is the Southeast and the northern tier of the CONUS. There are enhanced probabilities of below-normal precipitation for the Southern and Central Plains into parts of the Midwest. Please note the forecast confidence for this period is above average, according to CPC.

    US Drought Monitor one week change map ending August 27. 2019.

    Summer is almost over, but the fun has just begun — News on TAP

    Denver Water’s Youth Education Program uses fun to focus on developing future water citizens. The post Summer is almost over, but the fun has just begun appeared first on News on TAP.

    via Summer is almost over, but the fun has just begun — News on TAP

    We’ll be there, even on Labor Day — News on TAP

    A behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to keep the water flowing 24/7/365. The post We’ll be there, even on Labor Day appeared first on News on TAP.

    via We’ll be there, even on Labor Day — News on TAP

    Now that’s what we call quality — News on TAP

    National Water Quality Month reminds us all just how important it is to protect our drinking water. The post Now that’s what we call quality appeared first on News on TAP.

    via Now that’s what we call quality — News on TAP

    Wheels rollin’ keeps the water flowin’ — News on TAP

    Check out Denver Water’s new maintenance shop and meet the mechanics who maintain a $42 million fleet. The post Wheels rollin’ keeps the water flowin’ appeared first on News on TAP.

    via Wheels rollin’ keeps the water flowin’ — News on TAP

    Funding Available for Projects Addressing Forest Health, Wildfire Risk — Colorado State Forest Service

    Here’s the release from the Colorado State Forest Service:

    Wildfires are both natural and inevitable – including in wildland-urban interface settings where millions of Coloradans live. These fires can be particularly destructive in areas where forests are unhealthy, unmanaged and unnaturally dense.

    The grant program is designed to reduce risk to people and property in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). Photo credit: Colorado State Forest Service

    For those interested in taking action, but who have lacked the means, funding is now available to help address this risk.

    The Colorado State Forest Service announced today that it is accepting proposals from Colorado HOAs, community groups, local governments, utilities and nonprofit organizations seeking funding to restore forested areas, improve forest health, and reduce wildfire risk on non-federal land in the state.

    Approximately $1 million in total funding is available.

    The Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation Grant Program helps fund projects that strategically reduce the potential wildfire risk to property, infrastructure and water supplies and that promote forest health through scientifically based forestry practices.

    Reduction of hazardous fuels

    The competitive grant program is designed to reduce risk to people and property in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) and support long-term ecological restoration. Applications must not only promote forest health and address the reduction of hazardous fuels that could fuel a wildfire – such as trees and brush near homes – but also utilize wood products derived from forest management efforts.

    Long-term ecological restoration and the protection of water supplies are among the goals of the grant program. Photo credit: Colorado State Forest Service

    The state can fund up to half the cost of each awarded project; grant recipients are required to match at least 50 percent of the total project cost through cash or in-kind contributions. Projects can be located on private, state, county or municipal forestlands.

    Program funds also are allowable to fund the purchase of equipment that directly supports and expands on-the-ground opportunities to reduce hazardous fuels.

    Applicants must coordinate proposed projects with relevant county officials to ensure consistency with county-level wildfire risk reduction planning. Follow-up monitoring also is a necessary component of this grant program, to help demonstrate the relative efficacy of various treatments and the utility of grant resources.

    The CSFS will work with successful project applicants to conduct project monitoring and conduct site visits to assess effectiveness and completion of projects.

    Additional emphasis will be given to projects that:

  • Are identified through a community-based collaborative process, such as a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP)
  • Are implemented strategically across land ownership boundaries; are conducted within a priority area identified in the Colorado State Forest Action Plan
  • Utilize the labor of an accredited Colorado Youth or Veterans Corps organization
  • Include forest treatments that result in the protection of water supplies
  • Applications must be submitted electronically to local CSFS Field Offices by 5 p.m. MST on Oct. 23, 2019. A technical advisory panel convened by the CSFS will review project applications and make funding recommendations. The CSFS will then notify successful applicants next spring.

    Applications and additional information about the Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation Grant Program are available at CSFS Field Offices and online on the CSFS Grants & Funding Assistance webpage.

    UW team traces Powell’s historic journey, eyes the future — #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Looking down on camp at Big Pine, Red Canyon.
    The photo shows the SCREE Powell 150 expdition camp at Big Pine Campground in Red Canyon of the Green River, Utah. The large green tarp was set up to keep the kitchen area and campers dry. Two very large ponderosa pines are in the center of camp, and surely were witness to the 1869 Powell expedition. Photo credit SCREE via the USGS.

    Here’s a report from Katie Klingsporn writing for Click through to read the whole article and for the photos. Here’s an excerpt:

    May 24, 2019 was 150 years to the day after a scraggly and ill-prepared outfit led by a one-armed Army major gathered in Green River Station, beside the outpost’s namesake watercourse, and embarked on one of the most significant river expeditions America has ever seen.

    On the sesquicentennial anniversary of John Wesley Powell’s historic launch, a new band of river explorers assembled at the site to begin a bold journey down the artery of the American West — the Green and Colorado Rivers.

    This time, things looked starkly different. The crew, made up of academics, scientists, educators and artists from the University of Wyoming, was a far cry from the rag-tag band led by Powell. In place of the gallingly ill-suited wooden boats of Powell’s expedition, state-of-the-art 18-foot rubber rafts lined the bank. And, perhaps most notably, this crew came equipped with the tools of modern adventure such as maps, streamflow forecasts and satellite phones. These travelers were, in other words, prepared — not something Powell’s expedition had going for it as the men ventured into what was then a little-understood blank spot on the American map.

    Meet UW’s Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition, which set out on that May 2019 day to follow Powell’s arduous journey. Over 70 days and some 1,000 river miles this summer, its members retraced Powell’s route and mimicked other key aspects of his expedition — like collecting scientific data. But theirs was not to be a simple journey into the past. Instead the team set out with an eye toward the future and solutions for the river system’s modern-day problems. In this way, the expedition conducted a study not only of the geology or hydrology of the Colorado River Basin, but of Western economies, policies, climate, public lands and ideologies as they relate to the overtaxed river system…

    The inspiration

    A century and a half is a mere blip in the life of the Colorado River, but much has changed in its basin since Powell’s expedition. Cities have bloomed in the desert, diversions and pipelines have been built and a complex web of regulations has been written to divvy the water to its 40 million users. What once was a large swath of unknown today encompasses five states, two basin districts, more than a dozen dams and 15 special-management areas. Add to that ever-increasing agricultural and energy development, a nearly two-decade-long drought and wild swings brought by climate change, and the picture of the Colorado River Basin is one of a riverway so overburdened it no longer reaches the sea.

    It’s the river’s predicaments that prompted the SCREE trip, Minckley said. A paleo-ecologist, Minckley specializes in Western ecologies and long periods of drought. A few years ago, with the anniversary of Powell’s expedition on the horizon and the quandary of the basin’s water management fresh in his mind, he said, he began thinking about how Powell was one of the first people who took the concern of water in the West seriously…

    The takeaways

    Spring gave way to summer as the crew wended its way south and west, plunging deeper into the Earth as rock layers climbed above. There were guests aplenty, too many campfires to count, breathtaking vistas and a couple mishaps — a raft flipped in Cataract Canyon, an engine broke down during the slog across Lake Powell.

    When the crew arrived at its final destination, the approximate confluence of the Virgin and Colorado rivers (now under Lake Mead) on Aug. 1, it had amassed hours of recorded conversations, pages of notes and drawings, hundreds of scientific samples, many ideas for classroom curriculum and a pile of memories from an unforgettable experience.

    One thing the team did not have? The hard-and-fast answer to the Colorado Basin’s perplexing water puzzle. But, Minckley said, they’ve got a good starting place. The next step is to begin analyzing and digesting the information they gathered, while thinking about the most effective ways to move key findings into the public conversation.

    Support the High Line Canal and Rally for the Canal-ly, September 14, 2019 @COHighLineCanal

    Here’s the release from the Highline Canal Conservancy:

    Join the Rally for the Canal-ly on Saturday, September 14 from 9:30 a.m. to noon. This free event will celebrate community partnerships and launch a new initiative to revitalize all 71 miles of the High Line Canal. Rally for the Canal-ly is free and family-friendly – hosted by the High Line Canal Conservancy and supported by Schomp Subaru and Arapahoe County Open Spaces.

    Meet up near the High Line Canal’s mile 51 at Schomp Subaru, 580 S. Havana St. in Aurora (public parking available at Expo Park). Community leaders, neighbors and High Line Heroes will enjoy a picnic-style lunch and Canal cleanup. As a memento, attendees will be among the first to receive a free copy of the new High Line Canal map.

    The High Line Canal’s upcoming improvement initiative is being launched with a $56,000 donation from Subaru Share the Love – money dedicated to and donated by community members through Schomp Subaru on Havana in Aurora. The initiative is the next stage in the High Line Canal Conservancy’s work to bring new life and a bright future to the Canal. It will focus on:

    • Stormwater and maintenance
    • Landscape management and tree care
    • Access and signage
    • Safety and crossing enhancements
    • Education and stewardship
    • Local neighborhood improvements

    “The High Line Canal is being transformed from a 71-mile irrigation canal, a landmark of our agricultural heritage, into one of the region’s premier green spaces that connects neighborhoods and people with nature. The community had a vision to honor, enhance and repurpose the Canal. We’re excited for these upcoming improvements and protections that will help bring that vision to life,” said High Line Canal Conservancy Executive Director, Harriet LaMair.

    “Schomp Subaru is so happy we can help realize the High Line Canal’s important and ambitious purpose,” said Schomp Subaru owner Aaron Wallace. “We are delighted that our customers chose to support the project through the Subaru Share the Love drive. It’s a natural for Schomp and a great example of how Subaru Shares the Love.”

  • Who: Community members and leaders, High Line Canal Conservancy, Schomp Subaru, Arapahoe County Open Spaces, Denver Water and many others.
  • What: Rally for the Canal-ly – Free community clean-up event and picnic-style lunch following a brief news conference featuring community leaders. Enjoy complimentary local fare (while supplies last) and family activities. Help clean up trash along the Canal while learning about how trash impacts the community and environment.
  • When: Saturday, September 14, 2019, 9:30 a.m. until noon.
    9:30 a.m.: Project Launch with Partners and Subaru Share the Love
    10:30 a.m. – noon: Family-Friendly Cleanup and Lunch
  • Where: Near Mile 51 of the High Line Canal at Schomp Subaru, 580 S. Havana, Aurora. Check in behind Schomp Subaru and pick up trash bags and cleanup supplies provided by the City of Aurora, Denver Water and the High Line Canal Conservancy. Public parking available on the southwest side of Expo Park, 10955 E Exposition Ave, Aurora.
  • Why: To celebrate progress to preserve and enhance the 71-mile High Line Canal and to kick off the next chapter in the journey to turn the Canal into the region’s premier green space and environmental jewel. In addition, don’t miss this opportunity to pick up your free copy of the new map of the 71-mile Canal.
  • Claim Your Canal Guide and Map: Rally for the Canal-ly attendees will receive the new High Line Canal Map, recently published by the High Line Canal Conservancy. This new Guide and Map of the High Line Canal is an indispensable tool for discovering the wonders of the historic High Line Canal. It breaks down the 71-mile linear park into 27 walkable, bike- and equestrian-friendly trails and adventures, along with navigational tips and highlights of the Canal’s history and natural wonders, highlighting access points, landmarks and adjacent trails. Additional copies will be available for purchase or as a gift with High Line Hero membership.

    Contact: Connie Brown, 720-530-5446/
    Suzanna Jones, 720-767-2452/

    @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>

    @COWaterCongress Annual Summer Conference recap #cwcsc2019

    The headwaters of the Yampa River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Steamboat Pilot (Eleanor C. Hasenbeck):

    Water leaders from across the state converged on Steamboat Springs this week as part of the Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference.

    The Colorado Water Congress is a group of people who work and live in water, explained Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger…

    In a legislative update, attendees heard about three proposals that could change water management in the state. Reps. Dylan Roberts, Jeni Arndt and Donald Valdez and Sens. Kerry Donovan, Jerry Sonnenberg and Don Coram sat on the panel.

    “As somebody who represents Routt County and other Western Slope counties, we know what a dry year looks like,” Roberts said. “We just had one last year, and we’re fortunate to have a wet year this year, but we have to continuously plan for those dry years and look at any legislation that helps us to preserve and conserve as much water as possible, prevent forest fires and protect agriculture, because they’re the ones that really lose out when we have dry years.”

    Changes to a program that increases river flow in dry years

    The instream flow program allows the Colorado Water Conservation Board to designate water rights to preserve or improve the natural environment of a stream.

    In the Yampa River, this program has been used to release reservoir water to boost flows through Steamboat in dry summers.

    Under the current law, the program allows people who hold water rights to temporarily loan reservoir water to the state to boost flows in a stream three times over the course of a 10-year period. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has already used loaned water for an instream flow in the Upper Yampa River three times in 2012, 2013 and 2017.

    Though reservoir water has been released in other years, including last summer, it was under a different legal mechanism.

    Roberts, a Democrat who represents Routt and Eagle counties, introduced a bill that would allow for more instream flow releases.

    “Once the 10-year period is done, you’re done forever, and you can never do it again,” Roberts explained. “So while city of Steamboat and the Yampa River has taken advantage of that program, they’ve started their 10-year clock. Once we hit 10 years in 2022, they won’t be able to use it again, so if we have a really low water year on the Yampa in 2023 or 2024, we won’t be able to use the instream flow to keep the Yampa running through town.”

    The bill, as currently proposed, would allow these loans for five of every 10 years and allow it to be renewed twice once those 10-year periods end.

    This would improve stream habitat, Roberts said, as well as limit economic impacts due to river closures placed during low flows that impact tubing outfitters, fishing shops and the businesses that benefit from recreation in the area.

    Monger, who sits on the board of the Upper Yampa Conservancy District, said the program has “been a great thing.” The district operates Stagecoach Reservoir.

    “(The district’s) actually been fortunate enough to have some available wet water that we can send down through to the city of Steamboat Springs, and it helps with water quality as well as water temperature,” he said. “It’s been a great thing, and the upper Yampa sells a little bit of water for its revenue sources to be able to take care of the water, so that’s a good thing.”

    It would also expand the program by allowing more water to be released to create more habitat for aquatic species, whereas currently, these releases are smaller releases designated only to preserve the existing natural environment…

    Ballot measure to legalize sports betting with tax revenue funding water projects

    Earlier this year, the legislature passed a measure that will ask voters to legalize sports betting with tax revenue from the practice funding the implementation of the Colorado Water Plan.

    If approved by voters, Colorado would allow some casinos to offer a sports book, essentially a room with a betting board and “every game known to man” on television screens, as Donovan put it. Casinos could also contract with online sports betting companies, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, to operate web-based sports betting. People could bet on college, professional and Olympic games.

    While sports betting has taken place in the state, it’s currently illegal.

    “This is a chance to legalize an action that we know is happening on the ground and to provide regulation protection under that act if people choose to bet on sports betting,” Donovan said.

    A 10% tax on each wager would be paid by casinos, with the bulk of the revenue funding the Colorado Water Plan. Some revenue would be directed to administrative costs, a hold harmless fund and a gambling crisis hotline.

    The Colorado Water Plan outlines a number of actions such as conserving more water used by cities and industry, storing more water, establishing plans to protect critical watersheds and increasing public awareness of water issues. The Yampa-White-Green River Basin Roundtable would implement the plan locally.

    Earlier this year, Gov. Jared Polis requested $30 million to fund the plan and statewide drought planning. The legislature granted $8.3 million to fund the water plan and $1.7 million for drought planning…

    Using new technology to trade water rights in real-time

    Another law, passed earlier this year, establishes an advisory group to study possible uses of blockchain technology within agriculture.

    Blockchain is a way to track transactions, and it uses the same record-keeping technology as bitcoin. Each transaction within the network, whether the blockchain network is trading water or money, is recorded in a block and includes data about transactions under a unique signature, sort of like a username. Each transaction is verified by the network of computers in the blockchain.

    Evan Thomas, director of the Mortensen Center in Global Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, presented on possible applications of blockchain in the world of water rights. Blockchain could create a system to trade water by using sensors that track how much water is used or conserved to create “water credits.”

    “(Those water credits are) entered into the blockchain,” Thomas said. “Somebody requests a transaction. They say ‘I need to buy more water this month, so I want to buy somebody else’s water credits.’ You enter in that transactionm, and they buy and sell points. The sensor identifies water use and water consumption, (and) turns that into a blockchain node.”

    Thomas said this is a worthwhile tool to study in its applications for water rights, but that it is one part of a “suite of tools” that should be examined to update how water is traded.

    Water equity a concern for Western Slope water users — @AspenJournalism #cwcsc2019 #DCP #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Pitkin County is using this irrigation system to grow potatoes for vodka on county open space land. The state is exploring how a voluntary, temporary and compensated water-use reduction plan, known as demand management, could incentivize irrigators to leave more water in the river. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    Colorado’s agricultural-water users have concerns about how exactly the state would fairly implement a voluntary water-use reduction plan known as demand management.

    That was the takeaway from some of the first meetings organized by the Colorado Water Conservation Board as part of its investigation into how a demand-management program might work in the state. Water managers discussed the issue of equity at the first meeting of the agricultural-impacts workgroup in Delta in early August and again at Colorado Water Congress in Steamboat Springs on Thursday.

    If Western Slope agricultural-water users don’t see cuts being taken by water users in municipalities, on the east slope and in the lower Colorado River basin, they won’t want to participate in a demand-management program, said Ken Curtis, chief of engineering and construction for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.

    “If (Western Slope users) don’t see that question of fairness, they don’t even want to open the conversation,” he said at the meeting in Delta.

    A large irrigation canal in the Grand Valley, which relies on water from the Colorado River to irrigate fields. The state is exploring how a voluntary, temporary and compensated water-use reduction plan, known as demand management, might work. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Social and cultural perceptions

    This sentiment is not surprising to Colorado State University doctoral candidate Kelsea Macilroy, who spent last spring interviewing about 40 irrigators and water managers on the Western Slope. At CWC on Thursday, she unveiled her Nature Conservancy-funded research on the social and cultural perceptions of demand management.

    There are three key conclusions of the report: Awareness and understanding of demand management vary greatly, defining what demand management is and how it will work is not straightforward, and conversations about demand management are connected to other tensions that create a general sense of vulnerability and fear.

    “People don’t see this as a discussion about feasibility,” she told Thursday’s audience. “It feels like something that’s going to happen.”

    The CWCB has formed nine workgroups, each tasked with helping to identify and solve one of the following issues: agricultural impacts, law and policy, water-rights administration, environmental considerations, economic considerations and local government, funding; education and outreach, monitoring and verification, and tribal interests. The workgroups began meeting this summer.

    At the heart of a demand-management plan is a reduction in water use by agriculture on a voluntary, temporary and compensated basis, all in an effort to send up to 500,000 acre-feet of water downstream to Lake Powell to meet Colorado River Compact obligations. Under pilot programs, the state could pay ranchers and farmers to leave more water in the river.

    But the description “voluntary, temporary and compensated” also is the crux of the problem for many water users.

    “Compensation is one of the stickiest and hardest to define,” Macilroy said. “It’s not just a number; it’s an idea and a value. Is it even truly possible to compensate for reductions in water use? Water is more than just a commodity.”

    Water and agriculture on the Western Slope are tied to Colorado’s rural identity, culture and landscapes. Demand management provokes an emotional response for some who fear that without irrigated, green fields, a community’s way of life is threatened.

    Some said they feared that demand management is a back door to “buy and dry.” Several people invoked the tough lesson of Crowley County, a formerly agricultural hub on Colorado’s southeastern plains. Many of the county’s agricultural-water users sold off their water rights to Front Range municipalities. As irrigated farmland dried up, so did the county’s economic base.

    “I’ve been worried about this because these communities are smaller and ag-dominated,” Cindy Lair, program manager for the State Conservation Board of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said at the Delta meeting. “They don’t have the resiliency for decreased water. They don’t have the buffering capacity.”

    Macilroy’s results also revealed a complicated relationship between “voluntary” and “parity.” Water managers want to ensure that a demand-management program would spread the burden across different user groups and basins in the name of fairness. But that conflicts with the requirement that participation in any program be voluntary.

    “A voluntary program appeals to people,” Macilroy said. “It also has some major weaknesses. Because it is voluntary, it serves as a direct challenge to implementing parity. You can’t have voluntary and parity at the same time.”

    Brent Newman, head of CWCB’s section on Colorado River issues, said the research findings were not surprising. Helping people understand demand management is a key part of the program, he said.

    “I think that’s a question all the workgroups have identified as one of the key threshold questions: How do you have a voluntary program but also disincentivize negative proportionate impacts to basins?” he said. “We are just starting to wrap our heads around that.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Aspen Times on coverage of water and rivers.

    The August “#GunnisonRiver Basin News” is hot off the presses

    Click here to read the newsletter from the Gunnison Basin Roundtable. Here’s an excerpt:

    August in the Basin: High and Dry!

    Bountiful snowmelt and increased soil moisture conditions, resulted in “boomer” inflows, boosting basin reservoirs levels and causing an amazing recovery from last year’s low levels – this included Blue Mesa, Colorado’s largest reservoir – with over 160 percent of average inflow volume. Although most of the snow has melted, the Upper Basin rivers are still flowing at higher than average rates, even in the face of drying conditions (July and August precipitation has been generally below average).

    Also, very importantly Lake Powell – the Upper Basin’s largest water storage and management facility received an inflow volume of 145% of average.

    Current conditions and Aspinall Unit operations

    Aspinall Unit dams

    Noah’s Nebraska Flood Story — @USDA_NRCS

    From the NRCS (Joanna Pope):

    While there was no time to build an ark to prepare for the “bomb cyclone” that hit Nebraska and other areas of the Midwest this spring, farmer Noah Seim said one of his fields successfully braved the storm because he had established a healthy stand of rye as a cover crop.

    Noah has been planting cover crops on his cropland for over 10 years. He recently enrolled in the Nebraska Soil Health Initiative, a partnership effort between the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, to gain a better understanding of the science behind planting cover crops and the impact on soil health.

    Photo credit: NRCS

    Cover Crops

    It turns out that the cover crop he planted served as sort of an “ark” for Noah’s bean field following the severe weather Nebraska had this past March.

    “The storm went through here and it just rained and rained and rained,” Noah said. “Our ground was frozen, it could not take barely anything in at all. The creek came out of its banks and out of 75 farmable acres, 70 of them were underwater. The rye survived, and the field came out of it. I cannot imagine what that field would have looked like if the rye had not been there.”

    Aaron Hird, soil health specialist with NRCS, said cover crops can provide many benefits to cropland. While not typically planted to prevent damage from flooding, he’s noted several Nebraska crop fields that would have fared far worse after March’s severe weather if not for having a cover crop established.

    “Cover crops protect the soil with living plant vegetation above and below ground,” Aaron explained. “That protects the soil from heat, wind, rain – and in the case of Noah’s field – flooding.”

    “Crop residue, such as corn stalks, left after harvest can provide the soil some protection from erosion. But during the recent flooding, farmers noticed that crop residue would wash or float away. Since cover crops are growing in the soil, they don’t wash away, and their roots hold the soil,” Aaron said.

    Nebraska Flooding

    That was the scenario that played out on Noah’s cropland. Noah added, “The rye held everything in place. The soil stayed put and only the soybean residue had been washed around.”

    Aaron works with farmers across Nebraska and knows that not all flooded acres were able to be planted this year. Instead of leaving those acres exposed and vulnerable to further damaged from wind, heat and water, Aaron encouraged producers to plant a cover crop.

    Aaron added, “For Nebraska’s cropland that suffered significant damage, planting a cover crop can be a great way to help protect fields and help restore productivity.”

    “That flooded field will go into commercial corn this year,” concluded Noah. “We will interseed a mix of six pounds of cereal rye and four pounds of red clover and will plant it at the V-4 stage. We are looking forward to seeing how things go this year and are so thankful for that rye crop.”

    New judge for Fountain Creek degradation case — The Pueblo Chieftain

    The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewicz):

    A different judge is presiding over the 2½-year-old environmental lawsuit against Colorado Springs for degrading Fountain Creek.

    Senior Judge John L. Kane Jr. of the U.S. District Court for Colorado has replaced Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch, who died in May.

    “This is a very, very important case,” Kane said last week when he held his first proceeding, a status conference, on the case. He has been on the bench for 41 years.

    “Taking over a case (from another judge) is not very pleasant” because a lot of catching up is required, he told the attorneys. Thousands of pages of documents have been filed for the litigation.

    The federal and state environmental protection agencies filed the lawsuit in 2016, and were joined by the Pueblo County commissioners and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District…

    After a trial last year, Matsch decided Colorado Springs had violated its permit which regulates discharges of the city’s storm water sewer system into the creek.

    The next step would be another trial for Kane to determine what Colorado Springs must do to remedy the violations.

    However, The Pueblo Chieftain reported July 30 that all sides notified the judge that they have been meeting “regularly and intensively” all year to try to agree on terms to settle the dispute, instead of going to trial again.

    At their request, Kane put the case on hold until Nov. 22 to give them more time for that purpose.

    At last week’s court conference, a federal attorney told the judge that the violations “are ongoing.”

    The Science of Soil Health: Cycle, Re-cycle, Repeat — @USDA_NRCS #CarbonCycle #ActOnClimate

    Movement of carbon between land, atmosphere, and ocean in billions of tons per year. Yellow numbers are natural fluxes, red are human contributions, white are stored carbon. The effects of volcanic and tectonic activity are not included. By Diagram adapted from U.S. DOE, Biological and Environmental Research Information System. –, Public Domain,

    Carbon’s journey through the soil powers life as we know it

    As global temperatures rise, there’s growing interest in getting carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) out of the atmosphere and getting carbon into the soil.

    But what form does that carbon take and how, exactly, does the cycling process work? In the first episode of season three’s The Science of Soil Health, Dr. Will Brinton provides a brief, yet holistic explanation about this living and life-giving process. After you watch this four-minute video, you’ll never think of the soil carbon cycle the same way again.

    Rich history of gold mining left problems for #ColoradoSprings — The Colorado Springs Gazette

    Golden Cycle Mill, Old Colorado City, 1947, Pikes Peak Library District digital collection. By Source, Fair use,

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

    Undeniably, prosperity flowed from the gold mines of Cripple Creek into the streets of Colorado Springs.

    But so, too, flowed the chemical-laden byproducts of the mining process, which still remain on the city’s west side, eliciting concerns and questions from residents and experts alike.

    The lucrative connection among Cripple Creek, Colorado City and Colorado Springs was drawn, in part, by the latter two cities’ access to water and coal, said Matt Mayberry, a local historian and director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Both resources were needed to refine the gold ore mined in the mountains.

    “You either had to haul those things that Cripple Creek didn’t have up the hill, or put ore on trains and take (it) down the hill,” Mayberry said. “So they used gravity.”

    Colorado City — an industrial hamlet that Colorado Springs would later annex into its west side — grew as the epicenter of local gold refineries, Mayberry said. And money flowed between the communities.

    “Cripple Creek got the glory, but Colorado Springs got the gold,” he said.

    Much of that gold passed through the Golden Cycle Mill, the largest such facility in the country, able to process 800 tons of ore each day, according to Gazette archives.

    Certainly the mill loomed large over the others on the city’s west side from the early 1900s to its closure in 1949, Mayberry said. Crews there roasted and crushed the ore day and night…

    Those crews used cyanide, among other chemicals, in a wet process that separated the precious metals from the roasted and crushed rock, Mayberry said. The gold was kept and the wealth spread across the state. Gold from the ore even covered the state Capitol dome.

    The slurry left over — called tailings or slimes — collected onsite, however. And as they built up, mill workers built a dam to hold the slimes, creating what some call a decant pond.

    In the end, that dam rose 12 stories high and held about 14 million tons of tailings from which more than 483,441 pounds of gold had been refined, according to Gazette archives.

    The old pond reaches 130 feet deep in places, estimates engineering geologist Jonathan Lovekin of the Colorado Geological Survey.

    And it’s atop the old pond that developers built hundreds of homes, with hundreds more planned…

    For decades, many wondered whether the tailings could be reprocessed and additional gold extracted, Mayberry said…

    Some questioned if the land could serve as the last major residential infill project on Colorado Springs’ coveted west side. And in the late 1990s, Gold Hill Mesa Partners bought the 210-acre plot.

    Over the years, even as development came under consideration, poisonous compounds — including arsenic and lead — were repeatedly found at the site…

    Instability is a chief concern for geological experts and engineers when it comes to mine tailings like those beneath the development, Lovekin said.

    “There’s liquid in it,” he said. “In other parts of the waste pile you’re not going to have any fluid. So what you have is basically a deposit with different characteristics.”

    When homes or businesses are built on top of tailings with uneven characteristics, the ground can consolidate or settle at different rates, said Karen Berry, a state geologist with the CGS…

    But additional testing and research were never commissioned, newer documents from the Geological Survey indicate. Instead, city officials relied on existing, more optimistic projections from engineering firms hired by developers.

    “From a geotechnical viewpoint, there is nothing remarkable about construction of a residential project on this site that cannot be adequately addressed during the normal course of construction,” William Hoffmann, senior principal engineer and vice president of CTL Thompson, wrote in 2004.

    Construction began around 2007, guided by a state-approved plan to mitigate contaminants in the soil. That plan requires developers and home builders to top the tailings with at least two feet of mixed soil and 2 feet of clean soil. They must also install a plastic barrier to prevent residents and others from digging into the tailings.

    But that plan does not address any structural concerns previously raised, nor does it give the state regulatory power. Instead, it leaves developers to check their own compliance.

    “The voluntary cleanup statute is exactly that, voluntary,” said Doug Jamison, who leads the Superfund and Brownfield division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We have no authority … we have no enforcement authority to come in and say, ‘No, sorry, you have to do this.’”

    The plan also prevents federal agencies from examining the property further, Jamison acknowledged.

    The old mine tailings site was once considered for Superfund designation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the highest hazard designation in the country. The agency determined in 1994 that no further action was needed at the site, spokesman Rich Mylott said.

    #DavidKoch and the winters of #Aspen: The man who warmed the planet wanted to celebrate winter in Aspen — The Mountain Town News @MountainTownNew #ActOnClimate #GoodRiddance

    Graphic credit: The Washington Post (Note: NOAA does not provide data for Alaska or Hawaii for this time period.)

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Of the dozens of billionaires who have homes in Aspen and its suburbs, perhaps none have had such a large national presence as David Koch.

    The death last week of Koch at the age of 79 and with a wealth estimated by Forbes of $50.5 billion was given front-page attention by the New York Times: “Mogul Whose Fortune Steered American Politics to the Right.” In a two-page interior spread, the newspaper also pointed to Koch’s steady philanthropy, especially for the arts.

    The Wall Street Journal had the news on page 2, but the editorial page, a reliable supporter of all things capitalistic, heralded his life. “Certainly he used his money to support causes he deemed worthy, and this included promoting liberty-loving think tanks and political groups,” the Journal said.

    “But the bulk of the $1.295 billon he gave away went to medicine and the arts.” The defining aspect of Koch’s life,” the editorial went on to say, “is that he was a businessman…He helped his company make money, and he left the country richer and freer because he did.”

    “Good riddance,” was the theme of progressives in the echo chamber of Facebook when I posed the question about Koch’s interplay with Aspen. None were from Aspen, although I do count two ex-Aspen mayors among my Facebook acquaintances. But at least one Trump supporter from the Vail area had equally wilting words: “One down, one to go.”

    David Koch and his brother Charles were painted with acidy strokes by Jane Mayer in her 2016 book: “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.” In this view, the Kochs embraced libertarian views to further their chemical and fossil fuel businesses. “Lowering taxes and rolling back regulations, slashing the welfare state and obliterating the limits on campaign spending might or might not have helped others, but they most certainly strengthened the hand of extreme donors with extreme wealth,” she wrote.

    The Times noted that the influence of the Koch brothers peaked in 2015 when multiple Republicans presidential candidates flew to Los Angeles to seek support from the two men at a luxury hotel. They did not include Donald Trump, who jumped on the dark view of government but whose efforts to sharply reduce immigration and diminish free trade were antithetical to those of Koch Industries. They did not support Trump’s candidacy.

    David Koch lived primarily in New York City but had a house in Aspen that, according to The Aspen Times, he purchased in 1989 for $1.9 million. The property is now worth $16.1 million, according to county tax records, and has 8,100 square feet. He also owned an adjoining house worth $7.4 million.

    Both homes overlook Aspen Meadows, home of the Aspen Institute, which holds a conference each June called the Ideas Festival. It’s a direct descendant of a conference held in 1949 in honor of the 200th birthday of the humanist Goethe. Albert Schweitzer journeyed from his humanitarian work in Africa to speak at the conference. Many sessions of this conference occur in the David H. Koch Building.

    Even a skimpy Google search reveals that Koch and his wife, Julia, donated more than $1 million to the institute in just a few years in the late 1990s. The Aspen Institute lists the couple as being in the Paepcke Society, which “honors philanthropic leaders who have made exceptional, long-term contributions in support of the Aspen Institute’s mission.”

    Koch sat during an assembly several years ago at the Ideas Festival, the 6-foot-5 frame that made him a basketball star at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (with a scoring record that stood for 46 years) taking up a couple seats, as Valerie Jarrett, the advisor to President Barack Obama, and Paul Ryan, then the speaker of the House, spoke. Earlier, he had been in the front row when another billionaire, Tom Steyer (this year a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination), spoke about the risks of climate change.

    The Aspen Times also detailed Koch’s community engagement in Aspen. John Bennett, the mayor for much of the 1990s, said that Koch “clearly cared about this community and wanted to support local nonprofits he believed in.”

    Among his projects was an ice rink that he wanted to install seasonally in Aspen’s largest park. The city council nixed the idea for logistical reasons, but Bennett said he was fascinated by it.

    Many accused Koch of wanting to kill winter, because of his efforts to block government efforts to address the root cause of global warming, the combustion of fossil fuels.

    “Koch Industries realized early on that it would be a financial disaster for the firm if the American government regulated carbon emission or made companies pay a price for releasing carbon into the air,” wrote Christopher Leonard, author of “Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America,” in an essay published by the New York Times on Sunday. With billions and potentially trillions of dollars at stake, the Koch brothers “built a political influence machine that is arguably unrivaled by any in corporate America,” Leonard wrote under a headline: “The Ultimate Climate Change Denier.”

    While warming the planet, David Koch wanted to celebrate winter in Aspen.

    About Allen Best
    Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist. He publishes a subscription-based e-zine called Mountain Town News, portions of which are published on the website of the same name, and also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines.

    Middle #Colorado Watershed Council “Watershed by Bike Tour” #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    A feverish stream, a legion of volunteers, a $1.7 million grant. Is it enough to help the Yampa River keep its cool? — @WaterEdCO

    The headwaters of the Yampa River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Here’s a report Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith). Click through for the photos and the graphics:

    Could something as simple and natural as a ragged corridor of expansive, towering shade trees help a river arm itself against a world in which temperatures are rising?

    In northwestern Colorado’s Yampa River Basin, a 300-person-strong army of volunteers is banking on it.

    The Yampa River historically has produced so much abundant, clear, cool water that its fish, kayakers, and the farmers along its banks were rarely left wanting.

    But climate change is altering that dynamic. Last summer the river’s flows shrank sharply, and its formerly cool waters became dangerously warm, threatening the fish. Its high fever prompted the City of Steamboat Springs to close the popular stretch through town to fisherman and boaters on multiple occasions to avoid further stressing the mountain white fish, which is found in few other Colorado regions.

    The shut-down was a huge blow to the city and to local rafting and tubing companies who rely on the river for their livelihoods.

    The disturbing heat added urgency to a small program that has been gaining supporters and clout in the Yampa River Basin. The Yampa Sustainability Council (YSC), aided by $175,000 from local donors and some state grants, has ramped up a broad-based tree planting program along the river’s banks known as ReTree. Additional funding from a new $1.7 million Nature Conservancy water fund will add even more muscle to the effort.

    On a hot Friday afternoon in late June, Sarah Jones, executive director of the YSC, parks at a trailhead just east of town, slathers herself in sunscreen, and loads a white plastic bucket with small calipers, a measuring stick, a GPS device and wooden stakes to take down to the river’s edge. These are the tools she and others will use to carefully locate and measure the progress of trees planted in recent years.

    The reforesting work is conducted with a careful, slow precision. Each tree that is planted along the banks, and there are hundreds, is assessed, measured and located each season, even as more are placed in the ground.

    The trend of warming rivers is creating a need for new science and reams of field data. “This is a new, not well-understood problem,” Jones said.

    She and her partners, including the Colorado State Forest Service and the City of Steamboat, are taking the long view, carefully evaluating each year what has worked, discarding practices that have failed, and boosting those that have succeeded.

    They once used elaborate planting protocols for placing the young saplings in the ground, but the trees respond much better when their small root balls are poked into the side of the bank, almost casually, supported by simple twigs. The starter trees also like being planted in the fall, they’ve learned, not the spring.

    The Yampa River, in some ways, is a blessed stream, with more water than most Western rivers, and a community of hard-working, often wealthy, advocates.

    This year The Nature Conservancy announced it had raised $1.7 million in a long-term water fund to restore and protect the Yampa River. The goal is to raise another $4.3 million to protect the watershed.

    It is an unheard-of sum in this remote, northwestern corner of the state.

    But those who know the Yampa understand the significance of protecting it, not just for the sake of this region, but for the state of Colorado and even for the greater American Southwest.

    The river sits near the headwaters of the drought-stressed Colorado River system and is one of its last, mostly free-flowing tributaries. Because it is relatively unhindered, with only a few small reservoirs high on its mainstem, it serves as a kind of benchmark for scientists seeking to understand natural river dynamics and mimic them elsewhere.

    Keeping the Yampa healthy also helps a much broader effort in the West to bring the Colorado River system back from the edge of a crisis precipitated by population growth, a nearly 20-year drought, and rising temperatures.

    Jones and her colleague Caroline Manriquez, assistant district forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, walk slowly along a public stretch of the river. Each of them notes the young trees planted two or three years ago that are outgrowing the metal cages put in place to protect them from beavers, who are both a curse and a blessing on the river.

    “On the one hand we want them,” said Manriquez, because their work on the river creates natural dams and habitats. “But on the other hand, they’re cutting the trees we want to preserve.”

    Each tree that outgrows its anti-beaver cage will need to be visited, its protective metal enclosure cut off and a bigger one put in place.

    The re-treeing effort anticipates a Johnny-Appleseed kind of longevity, with some 200 shade trees planted annually over the next 20 years.

    “This is a huge project, and we are planting very small trees,” Manriquez said. “But given the water issues climate change is creating, we decided we had better start now.”

    Like other river basins around the state, the Yampa Basin has developed a state-funded management plan for the river. Some of that funding went toward several years of studies and planning to develop the science to support the reforestation effort, said Kelly Romero-Heaney, water resources manager for Steamboat Springs.

    “We’ve done a tremendous amount of modeling to look at what this river will look like in the future,” Romero-Heaney said.

    Just downstream of the work zone, on the opposite bank from the workers, is a nursery which houses hundreds of delicate, young willow, cottonwood, and box elder trees. These varieties are known for growing tall and spreading a generous shade canopy.

    The young seedlings have been sprouted in a nursery in Fort Collins, then transferred up to the Steamboat nursery early in the summer, all in preparation for the fall planting season.

    These seedlings will be planted in the public stretches of the river, but reforesting there alone won’t be enough.

    Jones and Manriquez know that the key to success for the project will be to bring the private landowners who control most of the land on the river’s banks into the program.

    And that’s not easy. Western ranchers are notoriously government-averse, skittish about letting federal and state environmental officials onto their property, they said.

    Rancher Steve Williams is an exception. He owns 200 acres of land along a critical reach of the Yampa east of Steamboat Springs, one that has been degraded by heavy cattle grazing, its cottonwood canopy gone, its streambed wide and much shallower than it once was.

    As a result the water temperature here each summer threatens to exceed the state’s standard for the stream. If Williams can cool down his reach of the river, it will help everyone farther down and closer to Steamboat Springs.

    To achieve this, he has partnered with federal agencies to shore up the river’s banks, deepening it as it curves, snakelike, through the wetlands and pastures above Lake Catamount.

    This land hasn’t been grazed in 10 years, Williams said, and he’s hopeful the bank restoration work, as well as the re-treeing effort, will give this stretch of the river the assistance it needs to heal.

    Williams understands the magnitude of the work that lies ahead and the challenges, the discrepancy in scale between young trees and a sprawling Western river, and the global dilemma of warming. “We will see how this goes,” Williams said. “It is a Band-aid, but it’s one I think will last at least through my lifetime.”

    Romero-Heaney and other river advocates know that they will likely never see the final results of this reforestation effort, but based on the preliminary studies, they see it as an important tool for helping this playful, powerhouse of a river flourish in a very different world than it has inhabited up until now.

    “I have to believe that if any river can persist through climate change, it will be the Yampa,” Romero-Heaney said.

    This story is made possible, in part, by The Water Desk, an initiative of the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism.

    Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at or @jerd_smith.

    Rio Grande cutthroat trout restoration project cancelled for this year — CPW

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Joe Lewandowski):

    A project to restore native Rio Grande cutthroat trout in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve has been postponed and will not occur this year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced.

    Due to the long winter and cool temperatures, biological conditions in the creek and lakes were not suitable to conduct the chemical treatment operation that was planned for the week of Aug. 26. The project will be rescheduled for next summer.

    The project was planned for Upper Sand Creek Lake, Lower Sand Creek Lake and Sand Creek.

    All regular fishing regulations for that area will resume again on Aug. 26. In preparation for the project, CPW had removed all bag and possession limits in late July.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the National Park Service and Trout Unlimited are working cooperatively on the plan to bring the native Rio Grande cutthroat back to its original habitat.

    Kevin Terry, a project coordinator for Colorado Trout Unlimited, holds up a Rio Grande cutthroat trout at Upper Sand Creek Lake.

    West wrestles with #ColoradoRiver “grand bargain” as changing climate depletes water governed by 1922 compact — The Denver Post

    In 1922, Federal and State representatives met for the Colorado River Compact Commission in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Among the attendees were Arthur P. Davis, Director of Reclamation Service, and Herbert Hoover, who at the time, was the Secretary of Commerce. Photo taken November 24, 1922. USBR photo.

    Here’s an in-depth look at governance in the Colorado River Basin in the coming years from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    The grand bargain concept arose from increasing anxiety in booming Colorado and the other upper-basin states — New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — about their plight of being legally roped into sending more water downriver, even if dry winters, new population growth and development made that impossible without shutting faucets…

    Total water is decreasing in the 1,450-mile river, which trickles from high mountain snow northwest of Denver and carves canyons up to a mile deep. Over the last 15 years, amid a climate shift toward aridity, warming has reduced the river’s flows by at least 6%, according to research based on federal hydrology and temperature data.

    Yet the Colorado River remains the primary water source for an expanding population of 40 million people and 90% of the nation’s winter vegetable production — one of the most over-allocated rivers in the world, with water taken out each year exceeding natural flows from rain and snow.

    The grand bargain would remove the legal right to “call,” or demand, more water during dry times that was established by the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

    Colorado farmers and Front Range cities no longer would face the threat of downriver states legally mandating that more water be left in the river, forcing shut-offs. In return, lower-basin states would be guaranteed a set amount, possibly less than what they’re currently using, and gain time to stop their steady draw-down of the Lake Mead reservoir, which remains less than half full even after a wet winter. The upriver Lake Powell reservoir, also less than half full, would serve as storage to help lower states adjust to living on less water…

    California officials this week indicated an interest in exploring new ways to address climate warming impacts. But Chris Harris, director of the Colorado River Board of California, told The Denver Post his state is not ready to discuss any specific bargain that would require giving up a legal right to “call” for more water. And John Entsminger, manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority manager and his state’s chief negotiator, questioned how the bargain would help the lower states.

    The serious behind-the-scenes contemplation of this bargain “reflects the current conditions on the river — the extended drought we’ve been through, the speed at which the system has gone down, the reality of a warming climate and what that is going to mean for flows,” said Jim Lochhead, the manager of Denver Water who previously served as Colorado’s director of natural resources and represented the state in river negotiations with other western states.

    While Lochhead discussed the bargain in an interview with the Post, he said he hasn’t taken a formal position supporting any specific proposal.

    “What we need is some kind of arrangement that gives the lower basin time to manage demands and solve their structural deficit problems” — overuse — “and also provide some assurance, in exchange for that time, to the upper basin that we are not going to be facing a legal crisis in the form of a compact ‘call’ or some type of curtailment,” Lochhead said.

    “From a Colorado perspective, my interest would be that Western Slope irrigated agriculture and the economy on the Western Slope be protected, and, obviously, that Front Range municipalities that rely on the Colorado River be protected in our water supplies. … That would be our starting point,” he said.

    “Given the status of the reservoirs. … the speed at which Powell and Mead have dropped, we don’t have the luxury to take a lot of time and deal around the edges of the problems. We need to think about some bigger, and different, solution to resolve the deficit that is staring us all in the face.”

    Fish ladders and boat chutes part of a massive dam rebuild on the #ArkansasRiver — @ColoradoSun

    Homestake Arkansas River Diversion. Photo credit: Colorado Springs Utilities

    From Colorado Springs Utilities:

    Project Overview / Background

    The Homestake Project is a trans-mountain raw water collection, storage, and delivery system co-owned and operated by the cities of Colorado Springs and Aurora, Colo.

    The Homestake Arkansas River Diversion (ARD), between Granite and Buena Vista, Colo., was constructed in 1964 as the original intake for the Otero Pump Station. Water is now primarily withdrawn from Twin Lakes, however the ARD remains an alternate point of diversion. The ARD has deteriorated and requires repair. The ARD was not originally designed as a navigable facility.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) manages the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) which includes the site of the ARD. CPW expressed interest in partnering with Springs Utilities on a rehabilitation project to include a boat chute for downstream navigation as this location is currently considered the only non-navigable reach of the Arkansas River between Leadville and Canon City, Colo.

    The Upper Arkansas River is both one of the most heavily used rivers in the United States for whitewater recreation and is a Gold Medal Trout Fishery. The river is managed to support multiple objectives including water supply and delivery and outdoor recreation.

    The cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs are constructing a rehabilitation project that will replace the intake and diversion, provide a boat chute for downstream navigation, and provide upstream fish passage for spawning of brown and rainbow trout. The project also included improving river safety for recreational users and providing whitewater boat portage. User safety was an extremely important design consideration.

    A physical model was constructed to test and refine hydraulic elements to optimize performance, maximize user safety and meet design guidelines for recreational whitewater for all three components: boat chute, fish passage and the new intake structure.

    The $9 million construction cost of the project is being jointly funded by the cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs. $1.2 million in grants is coming from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board through grant funding to support the Colorado Water Plan (Water Supply and Demand Gap and Environmental and Recreation Grant Programs). The Pueblo Board of Waterworks is donating the easements necessary to construct and maintain the diversion.

    Here’s a report from Jason Blevins writing for The Colorado Sun:

    But just below the former riverside mining camp of Granite, where a dilapidated dam built in 1964 has long blemished the Arkansas River’s beauty, rebar jutted from concrete blocks, preventing raft passage and spawning trout battled the steep wall of blasted rocks to reach upstream pools.

    “Not a lot of thought went into recreation or fish when this dam was built,” said Ronald Sanchez, an engineer with Colorado Springs Utilities.

    A lot of thought is going into fish and recreation now, as water managers in Colorado Springs and Aurora join the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area in rebuilding the diversion that directs water to the Front Range.

    The $9.1 million project will make the entire river from Leadville to Cañon City navigable for rafts for the first time in at least 55 years.

    It’s part of the vast Colorado Springs- and Aurora-owned Homestake Project that brings Eagle River Basin water from the Holy Cross Wilderness to the Arkansas River Basin, through the Homestake, Turquoise and Twin Lakes reservoirs for delivery to the Front Range cities.

    The cities started construction of the Arkansas River diversion in July 2018, creating three distinct channels below a rebuilt intake that serves as a backup water diversion to the Otero Pump station downstream of Twin Lakes Dam. Before the Twin Lakes Dam was built in the late 1970s, the diversion was the original intake that collected and directed water to the Otero Pump station for delivery to Aurora and Colorado Springs.

    One channel is a fish ladder for spawning brown and rainbow trout. Another channel is a spillway to accommodate flood-level flows like the ones that swelled the Arkansas River this spring. And a third is a series of six drops allowing rafts safe passage.

    The project marks a new era of collaboration between the diverse interests on the Arkansas River between Leadville and Cañon City, one of the most recreated stretches of river in the U.S.

    “For me the coolest thing about it is that you have these large water utilities in Colorado going above and beyond to do the right thing for the next 50 years,” said Salida-based whitewater park engineer Mike Harvey.

    Ten years ago, Harvey helped the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area craft a report urging Aurora and Colorado Springs to consider recreation and fish when it came time to rebuild the Granite Dam diversion…

    The Arkansas River accounts for more than $74 million of the $177 million in economic impact created by commercial rafting in Colorado. The 102 miles of river in the Upper Arkansas River Valley also ranks among the 322 miles of Colorado waterways that qualify as Gold Medal Fisheries that can yield a dozen large trout per acre. It also supplies a large percentage of water to Colorado Springs and Aurora via the 66-inch pipeline that runs from the Otero Pump Station.

    Rebecca Mitchell, the executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said the project exemplifies the collaboration of the Colorado Water Plan, which gathered perspectives from all types of water users in the state to create a policy roadmap for future water planning across the state.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the conservation board provided $1.2 million in funding through Colorado Water Plan grant programs.

    #SouthPlatteRiver cleanup

    From The Denver Post (Saja Hindi):

    Volunteers gathered at Confluence Park to remove pounds of trash as part of a monthly cleanup of the river, hosted by Environment Colorado, Colorado Public Interest Group and Patagonia. The groups host the cleanups in the warmer months and focus on advocacy indoors during winter. of trash from the river.”]

    Kristine Oblock, of Environment America, said the groups collected about 460 pounds of trash Sunday. Last month, 30 volunteers collected more than 180 pounds of trash from the river.

    Environment Colorado organizers also encouraged attendees to participate in a social media campaign where they take pictures of themselves holding up signs about why water matters to post online. Participants were encouraged to tag Denver Councilwoman Kendra Black who is working with other council members on a proposal to ban plastic bags in Denver.

    Top 10 sources of plastic pollution in our oceans.

    #Wyoming Governor Gordon praises collaborative effort in wake of positive @USDA crop insurance decision

    Gering-Ft. Laramie-Goshen canal. Photo credit: Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation

    Here’s the release from Governor Gordon’s office:

    Governor Mark Gordon expressed his gratitude to Wyoming and Nebraska’s congressional delegations, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and State of Nebraska agencies, and especially to State of Wyoming agencies for their collaborative efforts to address the ongoing needs of farmers impacted by the July 17 Goshen/Ft. Laramie irrigation tunnel collapse. These efforts contributed to today’s announcement by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency that crop losses and prevented planting due to the collapse will constitute an insurable event.

    “We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the diligent work of the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, Wyoming State Geological Survey, Wyoming State Engineer’s Office and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, alongside our counterparts in Nebraska, to help provide the necessary information to open the doors for crop insurance coverage for producers in the affected area,” said Governor Gordon. “The State of Wyoming will continue our ongoing efforts to obtain additional assistance for farmers impacted by this event. Many thanks to the numerous federal, state and local elected officials for bringing their resources to the table as well.”

    The July 17, 2019 irrigation tunnel collapse and subsequent breach of a canal wall cut off irrigation to more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Wyoming and Nebraska. Work to repair the irrigation tunnel and stabilize a sinkhole that formed above the tunnel’s roof is continuing.

    “The Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, our other sister agencies and Goshen Irrigation District have provided much-appreciated leadership since the collapse,” added Doug Miyamoto, Director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. “We need to continue this collaboration to ensure that the irrigation system is restored as quickly as possible. It is vital that we exhaust all avenues of potential assistance to our producers in the aftermath of this disaster.”

    Wyoming rivers map via

    @DenverNorthHigh Class of 1969 50th Reunion: Go Vikings!

    Denver North High School class of 1969 50th Reunion at the Mount Vernon Canyon Club August 23, 2019. Photo credit: Allen Jimenez

    I had a great time at my 50th high school reunion this weekend at Mount Vernon Canyon Club and at Denver North High School. It was amazing to see so many classmates. When I couldn’t remember someone I told them it was because I was always ditching school back then so I mainly knew my fellow juvenile delinquents.

    Denver North High School at dusk. Photo credit: Humphries Poli Architects
    From a hallway at Denver North High School August 24, 2019.
    Wood carving of a Viking ship from the Denver North High Alumni Center August 24, 2019.

    Air Force completes #PFOS/#PFOA Site Inspection at the Academy, expanded inspection set to begin

    McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, Air Force Academy, Colorado. By Greg Goebel –, CC BY-SA 2.0,

    Here’s the release from the Air Force Academy:

    Air Force officials released the results of a 2018-2019 Site Inspection at the U.S. Air Force Academy that assessed the potential for Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) presence in ground water, surface water, soil and sediment samples stemming from past firefighting activities.

    The Air Force Civil Engineer Center confirmed that groundwater samples from several areas on the Academy were found to be above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lifetime Health Advisory (LHA) levels of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA.

    PFOS and PFOA are part of a family of synthetic fluorinated chemicals called per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, used for many years in industrial and consumer products that resist heat, stains, grease and water, as well as in commercial industry and military firefighting foam.

    Colorado Springs Utilities supplies the drinking water to the Air Force Academy and has not detected these compounds at its water treatment facilities above the method reporting limit of 10 ppt, including its most recent voluntary sampling conducted in the 1st quarter 2019.

    However, because levels above the LHA were found in groundwater on the Academy, drinking water wells south of the base could be impacted.

    The Air Force will conduct an Expanded Site Inspection in the coming months to assess potential risk to private wells south of the Academy, primarily in the Woodmen Valley area

    “We share community concerns about the possible impacts past use of these chemicals may have on human drinking water sources,” said Col. Brian Hartless, 10th Air Base Wing commander. “We will work closely with AFCEC to protect human health and conduct a thorough inspection to ensure safe drinking water.”

    Where Air Force operations are found to have contributed to PFOS and PFOA levels in drinking water above the EPA LHA, the Air Force will take immediate action to ensure residents whose private drinking water wells are impacted have access to safe drinking water.

    The EPA established a LHA level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water in 2016. The Air Force Academy is one of 203 installations the Air Force identified as a potential Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) release location.

    For more information on the Air Force response to PFOS/PFOA, please visit:

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder):

    Air Force Academy firefighter training a quarter century ago released a torrent of toxic perfluorinated chemicals that seeped into groundwater and flowed into Monument Creek, a 15,000-page Air Force report released Friday shows.

    A series of tests by Air Force researchers showed groundwater had 1,000 times the level of perfluorinated compounds considered safe by state and federal regulators. Records on the training that used firefighting foam loaded with the chemicals are spotty to non-existent at the academy, the report said, but hazy recollections of the training, which ran from the late 1980s to the early 1990s at the pit, less than 100 yards from the creek, led to the recent tests.

    Colorado’s health department on Friday recommended that anyone who uses groundwater south of the academy who hasn’t had their well tested should switch to bottled water. The same holds true for anyone whose wells exceed the EPA’s health advisory of 70 parts per trillion after testing.

    About 30 domestic or household wells exist within one mile downstream of the Air Force Academy, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    The Air Force plans to go door-to-door in the affected area to determine if private wells are being used for drinking water, the agency said. In the process, the Air Force plans to take up to 125 drinking water samples from potentially affected private or municipal drinking water wells.

    “Our focus is on ensuring no one is drinking water above the EPA’s (advisory level),” the academy said in an email. “In the event any human drinking water sources (are) believed impacted … the Air Force will take immediate measures to provide bottled water or other alternative sources until more permanent mitigation can be installed.”

    Colorado Springs Utilities says the chemicals from the academy won’t impact drinking water in the city.

    The utility said its wells on and near the Air Force Academy have hardly — if ever — been used. The utility has traditionally relied solely on surface water to supply people on its system. The last time the utility used any wells in its system was around 2002 or 2003, during a significant drought, said Steve Berry, a utilities spokesman. That use was “very limited,” Berry said, though he was unsure whether wells near the academy were used at that time.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ellie Mulder, Jakob Rodgers):

    Plans are underway to begin testing drinking water wells south of the academy in the Woodmen Valley area after unsafe levels of the chemicals were found at four locations on base, the academy said Thursday.

    It was unclear Thursday evening how many people and wells could be impacted.

    The discovery of perfluorinated compounds at the academy opened a new front in the region’s battle against chemicals that have fouled an aquifer serving more than 64,000 people just 20 miles to the south, outside Peterson Air Force Base.

    And it threatened to push the price tag to remove the chemicals from drinking water here ever higher, beyond the $50 million spent by the Air Force…

    Air Force officials stressed that drinking water at the academy wasn’t affected — the base is supplied by Colorado Springs Utilities, which has not detected the chemicals in its water.

    Utilities customers south of the academy should not have detectible exposure to the chemicals, said Dave Padgett, the utility’s chief environmental officer.

    Unclear, however, is whether residents in that area are using private wells for drinking water and if the wells are contaminated.

    Lt. Col. Tracy Bunko, an academy spokeswoman, pledged relief for anyone affected.

    “Bottom line, we will do everything we can immediately to ensure people have safe drinking water,” including providing bottled water, Bunko said.

    Four sites on the academy were found to have chemical levels higher than an Environmental Protection Agency lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion, said Michael Kucharek, another academy spokesman. He declined to name the location of those sites.

    An August 2018 Air Force report, however, suggested four possible test sites during such an inspection:

    • the academy’s fire training area;

    • a fire station and a spray test area;

    • an airfield spray test area;

    • the academy’s water treatment plant and nonpotable reservoir.

    St. George, Utah: Continued growth the linchpin for The Washington County Water Conservancy District’s plan to finance the #LakePowellPipeline #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Proposed Lake Powell pipeline. Map via the City of St. George.

    From The St. George News (Mori Kessler):

    The Washington County Water Conservancy District can generate sufficient revenue to repay the cost of the Lake Powell Pipeline Project over the coming decades through a series of rate and fee increases, according to a state audit released earlier this week.

    However, the audit, released by the Office of the Legislative Auditor General, also notes that much of the water district’s repayment model for the 140-mile pipeline – estimated to run between $1.2 and $1.8 billion – is largely predicated on continuing future growth. It also points out other concerns, such as the impact of possible future recessions and a reduction in water use due to increased water rates.

    “It’s nice to have an independent party look at what we’re doing and confirm that the finance plan we have will produce enough revenue to pay for this project,” Ron Thompson, the water district general manager, told St. George News Friday.

    However, in response to some of the concerns raised in the audit released Wednesday, Thompson said, “We can’t have a ‘the sky is falling’ attitude in the water community or we’ll completely jeopardize the economy of this county.”

    Being in the middle of a desert, Thompson has previously and repeatedly stated water use is one of the foundations of Washington County’s economy and its ability to grow, which underlines the need for the pipeline.

    The water district plans to repay the state for the pipeline through increases in impact fees, water rates and property taxes over the coming years and decades.

    “The finance model is designed to let growth pay for a significant portion of the project,” Thompson said.

    Impact fees are slated to cover 70% of project costs.

    As a part of the plan to have impact fees cover the costs, the water district is adding $1,000 annually to its impact fees through 2026. The water district’s impact fees for new construction were set at $7,417 in 2017 and will ultimately rise to $15,448.

    Washington County’s impact fees are already among the highest in the state, according to the audit.

    Reliance on impact fees is contingent on continuing growth as well, which the audit said, along with other factors, the water district has no control over. If there is a population slowdown, that could also impact the water district’s ability to repay the state.

    However, Karry Rathje, public information manager for the water district, said there isn’t so much a worry about the county’s rise in population slowing down as much as it outpacing state projections, which it has on a routine basis.

    “While that is a potential risk, we consider the greater and more likely risk to be growing faster than projected – as we have done for the past 50 years – and having an inadequate water supply to support our population and economy,” Thompson wrote in the water district’s official response to the audit. “Growing at a faster rate would increase planned revenue, which is not stated in the audit.”

    Wholesale water rates, which the water district has been adding ten cents to annually since 2016 per 1,000 gallons, will eventually rise to $3.84 per 1,000 gallons by 2045. From the original wholesale cost of $0.80 in 2016, the eventual cost will hike water rates an estimated 357%.

    Though the audit states Washington County currently has low water rates when compared to other cities in other states, it also states increasing water rates will likely cause consumers to use less, which can impact the amount of revenue the water district anticipates collecting from this source…

    The 140-mile, 70-inch diameter Lake Powell Pipeline will run from Lake Powell to the Sand Hollow Reservoir with a projected route that will snake across the Utah and Arizona border over public and private land, carrying around 77 million gallons a day to 13 communities in Kane and Washington counties.

    Local water and elected officials have repeatedly stated the needs for a pipeline due to continuing growth, as well as the economic benefit it is expected to generate in the long run.

    2019 @COWaterCongress Annual Summer Conference #cwcsc2019

    Click here to view the Twitter fest around hash tag #cwcsc2019. I had a great time reading everyone’s Tweets. It is interesting to see what each person takes away from a session and what they feel is important to point out.

    Pictured: Jackie Brown, Nancy Smith, Kevin McBride, Mickey O’Hara, Kelly Romero-Heaney, Mike Camblin, Jojo La, Hunter Causey. (Not in order.)

    Here’s the link to Attorney General Phil Weiser’s remarks to the conference.

    The legislature’s Interim Water Resources Committee met after the conference. Here’s a report from Marianne Goodland that’s running in The Colorado Springs Gazette. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Colorado Legislature’s interim water resources review committee, a bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers, began its summer work by relaunching efforts to change the state’s instream flow program.

    During the 2019 session, the committee sponsored two bills that would have made some fairly big changes to the state’s instream flow (program, though neither bill made it out of Senate committee…

    Instream flow is the water that flows through a stream, river or creek. Programs that manage instream flows do so to protect fish habitats and for recreational purposes.

    Colorado’s instream flow program, according to Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Linda Bassi, is intended to “preserve the natural environment to a reasonable degree.”

    As the years have gone on, the board has also received permission to improve instream flows within the program.

    Bassi explained to the interim water committee at Wednesday’s session, held during the Colorado Water Congress summer conference in Steamboat Springs, that the program was established in 1973 to allow state control over Colorado water and under Colorado’s water rights and prior appropriation system.

    The original legislation was also intended to block ballot measures (one was already in the works) that would have allowed for private instream flow programs.

    Over the years, the Colorado Water Conservation Board has acquired water rights, often donated, to protect streams, now to the tune of 756 stream miles, Bassi explained, and for 1,700 stream segments around the state.

    Some of those water rights are new ones, others are existing and donated, although that doesn’t happen very often, she added.

    One of the program’s provisions allows for for temporary water “loans” for three years out of a 10-year period; they can be used on any segment of a stream decreed as part of the instream flow program.

    It’s a one-and-done situation; once the three years are up, that water cannot be diverted into the stream by the water provider, nor can the contract be renewed.

    Bassi told lawmakers only eight temporary leases have been developed since 2012.

    A messy problem inspires an award-winning solution – News on TAP

    Denver Water and engineering partners resolve major water quality challenge in crucial South Platte River exchange reservoirs.

    Source: A messy problem inspires an award-winning solution – News on TAP

    #Drought news: Far into the #monsoon season…the rains continue to fail in the Southwest, flash drought in #TX

    Click on a thumbnail graphic below 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 United States is in the thralls of summer, and with that can come heat, flash droughts, and occasional, if not frequent, thunderstorm activity. Several areas of the U.S. experienced extreme heat this past week, particularly notable across much of the South and in the East. Parts of western Texas and eastern New Mexico were 6-10 degrees F above their typical averages, with little rainfall to speak of in much of the region. On the other hand much of the northern tier of the U.S. into the Upper Midwest was cool for this time of year, although precipitation amounts there were a mixed bag. In the Southwest, the North American monsoon continues to fail, worsening conditions in areas that had received more than ample precipitation over the winter and spring. To the north, south central Alaska continues to see record or near-record heat and dryness, and conditions are deteriorating quickly there, with severe impacts…

    High Plains

    Eastern Nebraska was fairly dry over the past week where the D0 is present. With little rainfall over the past month and a half, the D0 area was extended slightly north into Thurston and eastern Wayne counties. To the north, some beneficial rains fell across North Dakota over the last week; however, considering local crop impact reports, only the D0 area in the west central region was improved to normal. Unfortunately, the rains were not adequate enough for improvement across the northern tier of the state…


    Far into the monsoon season, the rains continue to fail in the Southwest. Only the abundant precipitation that fell last winter is keeping substantial impacts at bay so far this summer. Even so, declining topsoil moisture and poor rangeland conditions through Mohave County, Arizona, are now being reported. Abnormally dry conditions (D0) were expanded nearby in central and north central Arizona through all of Yavapai County and most of Coconino County. It was also expanded southwestward into Riverside and Imperial Counties in California. Moderate drought (D1) was extended farther south in western New Mexico, and a small area was introduced to the south central part of the state at the Texas border. Abnormally dry conditions and moderate drought also crept into the far southeastern corner this week…


    Aside from isolated and scattered rains, most of the area was very hot and dry, with daytime temperatures climbing to near or above 100 degrees F over portions of the region. Nighttime temperatures did not help alleviate the heat stress in places. Along the northern Gulf Coast, Galveston, Texas — which had never observed a minimum temperature above 85°F since its records began in 1874 — has recorded three to date this month: on August 8th, 12th, and again on the 18th. Overall, there was some drought relief in a few spots in the South, but mostly there was drought expansion across the area where changes were made this week. There is a flash drought in north central and northeast Texas, with some stations that are 10 inches above normal for the year, but 8 inches below normal for just the past two months. In eastern Texas, abnormally dry conditions (D0) were expanded across much of the area. Reported rainfall in areas was only 20 percent of normal. The D0 in far east Texas expanded eastward into extreme southwestern Arkansas where there have been reports of a sharp drop off in the green up along the interstate across southern Miller County, with some exposed areas browning quickly, and in northwestern Louisiana where reported precipitation at some stations has been just 50-70% of normal over the past two months. In Oklahoma, much of the southwest has seen less than 25% of its normal precipitation over the past two months, and less than 50% over the past three. Severe and moderate drought were expanded here and a couple of pockets of extreme drought (D3) were introduced to the west in the Texas Panhandle. In southeastern Tennessee near Chattanooga, abnormally dry conditions and moderate drought (D1) were each extended farther to the northeast. Over the past month there have been several periods of high temperatures leading to stress on vegetation and livestock…

    Looking Ahead

    Over the week beginning Tuesday, August 20, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, dry conditions are expected to continue across much of the western half of the continental U.S. Some heavy rain may fall over parts of the Midwest and Southeast, with as much as five inches in areas of southern Iowa, northern Mississippi, eastern Nebraska, and parts of the Carolinas. Southern Louisiana may see up to seven inches. Looking further ahead to August 25-29, below-normal temperatures are favored across parts of eastern Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri, while above-normal temperatures are forecast for parts of the Southern Plains and the Southwest. There are enhanced probabilities of above-normal temperatures for most southern coastal locations of Alaska due to above-normal sea surface temperatures. Near to below-normal precipitation is possible for the west, although parts of Southern California may see above-average rainfall. Rainfall may be above normal across the central and eastern U.S., except for parts of the Northeast. Above-normal precipitation is favored across northern and eastern Alaska, but may be below-normal across southwestern mainland Alaska and the Aleutians, where drought conditions prevail. Please note the forecast confidence for this period is average, according to CPC.

    US Drought Monitor one week change map ending August 20, 2019.

    Remembering Bob Trout — Greg Hobbs

    Remembering Bob Trout
    by Greg Hobbs

    I was Bob’s colleague at Davis, Graham & Stubbs and Hobbs Trout & Raley from 1979 to 1996. Bob is one of our finest Coloradans.

    When I joined the Colorado Supreme Court in 1996 and became the Justice assigned to the Civil Rules Committee, I recommended Bob’s appointment to the committee. The best of the best trial lawyers served on this committee. They knew Civil Procedure thoroughly – engaging in prolonged, detailed, scholarly and practical debates every time they considered recommending or not recommending an amendment to the Civil Rules. At that time there was no Water Court Committee. So, Bob, the only water attorney on the Civil Rules Committee – and since water court practice also involves the Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure – through his active and intelligent participation crucially served everyone connected with water court practice and trial practice in general. I mean he held forth with the best of the civil practice attorneys, plaintiff and defense, corporate, the gamut!

    I knew Bob would serve well on Civil Rules, for I had experienced his consummate skills as a trial attorney in the federal reserved water rights case involving the forest claims in Water Division No. 1, followed by the very complicated Thornton/Bijou case in which Bob carried a heavy load on behalf of the water users. Bob’s integrity, his calmness under fire (how did he do that!), his meticulous preparation of the facts and expert testimony for trial, and his excellent presentation to the courts both as a trial attorney and an appellate attorney — he exemplified for younger attorneys the traits of a master officer of the court.

    Bob was kind, humble, straightforward, true and dedicated to his family. What a fine father to his son and daughter and husband to Jill. For the seventeen years we practiced together, I clearly saw that everyone who came in contact with him relied on his good judgement and his ability to draft all kinds of legal instruments – solving client problems practically with a great deal of equanimity. What a stellar person in all ways with staff, clients, attorneys, engineers, civic organizations and members of the public!

    There’s a reason why Bennett and I coaxed Bob to accept the Managing Partner role when we established Hobbs, Trout & Raley in 1992. Competence! We became Hobbs & Trout soon thereafter when Senator Hank Brown asked Bennett to withdraw from the firm and go to Washington D.C. to help the Senator bring about the 1993 Colorado Wilderness Act. When Bennett returned, we became Hobbs, Trout & Raley once again. The firm became Trout & Raley when I joined the Supreme Court in May of 1996. The Northern District’s legal business never skipped a beat! The Board was very confident with Bob as its Principal Counsel. So much so, the District honored his energy and light by naming the hydropower plant on the southern water supply delivery pipeline below Carter Lake’s dam and spillway after him. Very few attorneys are ever honored by such a client in such a way.

    When we look to Long’s Peak. When we see the Colorado Big-Thompson pipeline traversing the Great Divide from Long’s Peak to Carter Lake’s dam and spillway – delivering sterling water to the people, farms and businesses stretched out on the plains – we see Bob’s hand at work.

    Southern Utes approve hefty rate increase for water, wastewater users — The Durango Herald

    Photo credit: Ute Camp in Garden of the Gods – Library of Congress

    From The Durango Herald (Shannon Mullane):

    The Southern Ute Indian Tribe Utilities Division will raise water and wastewater rates by more than 90% and 50%, respectively, starting Oct. 1.

    The Southern Ute Utilities Division, administered by the Southern Ute Growth Fund, provides both treated drinking water and wastewater treatment for the tribal campus, local tribal members living near Ignacio and the town of Ignacio. Discussions of rates have caused a rift between the town and the tribe, said Mark Garcia, interim town manager. While the town and the tribe analyze their agreement, ratepayers are stuck paying ever-increasing water and wastewater utility rates.

    “Wastewater and water rates are based on usage, and they’re going up,” Garcia said. Utility customers will be hit with the increase at different times, based on their level of use for water and/or wastewater. But for overall water and wastewater rates, “all levels of users will see probably an increase in their rates starting in 2020,” he said.

    Starting Oct. 1, ratepayers will pay higher base rates for fewer correlating gallons of water. Water rates will increase from $32.80 per 8,000 gallons to $47.80 per 6,000 gallons, a 94% increase. The rates will jump again Oct. 1, 2020, to $62.80 per 6,000 gallons, a 156% increase over current rates, according to a July letter to Garcia from the tribe.

    The town charges customers additional fees for billing, repairs and collections. Garcia said the town’s water fees will increase from $24.60 to $26.48 a month starting Jan. 1, 2020, a 6.4% increase.

    Wastewater rates will also increase. Service users currently pay $72.09 per ERT, or Equivalent Residential Tap, per month. One ERT allows for 7,500 gallons of usage.

    That billing system will change. The tribal utility will charge the town based on winter usage, not ERT. This shift will also make ratepayers pay more for fewer gallons. On Oct. 1, the rate will increase to $87.09 per 6,000 gallons, a 51% increase over current rates. Wastewater rates will jump again in 2020. Users will be charged $102.09 per 6,000 gallons, a 77% increase over current rates.

    The town charges an additional $9.88 base rate to users for billing, repairs and collections.

    According to Garcia, the average town customer uses 4,000 gallons of wastewater per month, so ratepayers are paying for more wastewater than they are using.

    “With the new rates and winter flow basis, the rates that the tribe charges the town as a bulk customer will actually go down from the current bulk rate charged,” the tribe wrote in a June news release.

    70 Ranch project update

    Photo credit:

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Urban water broker builds $22 million reservoir to boost development and agricultural land

    The desire to expand housing, commerce and other development around metro Denver and on arid high plains once deemed inhospitable has driven an innovative urban water broker to build a $22 million reservoir on a ranch 70 miles east of the city along the South Platte River.

    Water siphoned from the river through a pipeline this summer has filled about a third of this 5,500-acre-foot — or 1.8-billion-gallon — 70 Ranch Reservoir. It’s the latest new storage in an expanding network of reservoirs that United Water and Sanitation District president and ranch owner Bob Lembke is installing to meet rising demands from Front Range suburbs hooked on dwindling groundwater.

    Bob Lembke. Photo credit: United Water

    The reservoir that Lembke built near his private 13,000-acre 70 Ranch, purchased in 2003, took three years to complete, the largest synthetically lined reservoir west of the Mississippi River. It reflects growing impatience with constraints that could limit development along Colorado’s booming Front Range.

    Others in northeastern Colorado also are planning, and seeking funds, to build much larger reservoirs that, like this one, would capture South Platte water otherwise bound for Nebraska. Lembke has been able to avoid red tape — and has left critics asking questions — by working with wealthy water-poor suburbs, building on land he owns and using former gravel pits off the main channel of the river.

    “We’d like to try to enhance the economic development. I’m a native. I grew up in Arapahoe County. As a native Coloradan, jobs for my kids, and eventually my grandkids, are important,” Lembke said in a recent interview in his headquarters suite at the Denver Tech Center.

    “If you look at Denver, they’ve done a wonderful job planning for their water. But outside of the Denver service area? There’s a lot of challenges in how to get water and economic growth in these areas not served,” Lembke said…

    “We have tens of thousands of acre-feet of water that, without storage, will leave the state — to no economic value here in Colorado. We can accommodate a great deal of quality growth. … I am a problem solver. I like to tackle difficult problems. Providing water increases the value of land that otherwise did not have water,” he said…

    “Whether on the South Platte River, the Colorado River or the Yampa River, we’re not in favor of converting agricultural water use to municipal use,” said Andy Mueller, manager of the Colorado River District, which represents western Colorado communities.

    The new 70 Ranch Reservoir northeast of Denver “brings up questions,” Mueller said. “Is it water to support new growth? Or is it water to support the existing population that is dependent on groundwater?”

    The hedge fund investors purchasing land and water rights in western Colorado typically seek double-digit returns, Mueller said. “They believe there’s monetary value there for their investors. We’d say that’s speculation. How do we make sure there is not emerging speculation by outside investors who may not have community values? How do we help farmers and ranchers stay in business?”

    Colorado leaders for decades have declined to regulate population growth and development. But the growing private interests in water, perhaps reviving the role private financiers played developing water systems in the 19th and early 20th centuries, has piqued concerns.

    “Because traditionally in the West we have the mind-set that water is the property of the people, we are concerned when water is being controlled and distributed by a private corporation that may have very different interests from the collective group of people who are affected by the use of that water,” said Anne Castle, formerly the top federal water official in the Obama administration, now a senior fellow at the University of Colorado Law School’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment.

    For an urban water broker to buy agricultural land and install a reservoir “is all perfectly legal and allowable,” Castle said. “But it does make us nervous because we tend to think governmental entities will have some accountability to the people to recognize the different kinds of values people put on water. We just don’t have that assurance with a private corporation.”

    Lembke in his role as president of United Water and Sanitation also serves as president of the Weld Adams Water Development Authority, which owns and operates the 70 Ranch Reservoir. He pointed out that these so-called special-use districts are governmental groups…

    SIEP Project location map via United Water and Sanitation

    Denver-based water attorney David Robbins called Lembke “a very smart man. He is an entrepreneur. He is filling a niche.”

    The 70 Ranch site also is used for experiments in drip irrigation, aimed at using water more efficiently to grow plants where otherwise vegetation might not survive…

    Lembke now is installing other reservoirs — including two that he would own privately — as part of a network that when completed would store about 30,000 acre-feet for supplying water to suburbs, agriculture, industry and other development along Colorado’s Front Range.

    He has built, or is in the process of building, four reservoirs upriver from the 70 Ranch at high-growth locations along the South Platte: in Milliken (12,000 acre-feet), between Commerce City and Brighton (3,500 acre-feet), east of Lochbuie (4,000 acre-feet) and in Fort Lupton (5,000 acre-feet).

    These will supply businesses and housing developers in each booming area “to help them achieve their goals for economic growth and development” using surface water from the river rather than by pumping from over-tapped underground aquifers, Lembke said.

    “Everything has got a finite limit,” he said. “But if we use water intelligently, we have the potential for long-term growth in this region.”

    70 Randh Reservoir: Partnering with the Platte River Water Development Authority, this facility will be used to store water for the support of 70 Ranch’s cattle and farming operations as well as provide storage for local agricultural and municipal water providers. Photo credit: 70 Ranch

    Summer is almost over, but the fun has just begun – News on TAP

    Denver Water’s Youth Education Program focuses on developing future water citizens.

    Source: Summer is almost over, but the fun has just begun – News on TAP

    Victims if Colorado adopts California’s zero-emissions standard for cars, and victims if it does not — The Mountain Town News @MountainTownNew

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Victims testified left and right at the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission hearing on Wednesday.

    Gov. Jared Polis directed the commission to consider adopting provisions of the California zero emission vehicle standard. This would require vehicle manufacturers to increase the number of electric vehicles delivered to Colorado for sale beginning in 2023. With more variety, according to the thinking, consumers will be more likely to purchase electric vehicles.

    Why electric vehicles? Two good reasons.

    One is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Colorado has adopted aggressive goals of GHG reduction. The second reason is to reduce precursors of the ground-level ozone that blankets the northern Front Range from Denver to Fort Collins and Greeley on hot summer days. This area is out of attainment with federal standards.

    The standards are based on adverse health impacts. A new study has found that air pollution— especially ozone—can accelerate the progression of emphysema of the lung. Researchers found that bad air pollution can have as much impact as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

    The Denver-based Regional Air Quality Council testified why electric cars will help the metropolitan area to improve air quality. What the agency calls “on-road mobile sources” contribute 31% of nitrogen oxides and 16% of volatile organic compounds, two contributors to ozone pollution.

    Local government groups—including representatives of both Eagle County and Aspen—as well as environmental advocacy groups testified why they supported the ZEV standard.

    Then, as the afternoon wore on, two groups with very different opinions took turns at the microphones. First was a collection of groups collectively called the Environmental Justice Coalition. Several identified themselves as being from along Interstate 70 as it passes through Globeville and other communities north of downtown Denver, east of Interstate 25. One woman, speaking in Spanish, which was interpreted, told about the injustice of sending her children to an elementary school there, near the intersection of the two interstate highways, and the pollution from the vehicles that caused harmful health effects such as asthma.

    They opposed the widening of I-70, what one speaker, Drew Dutcher, called a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem. They lost that battle. But Dutcher suggested that electric vehicles will reduce the pollution to low-income areas such as his.

    Ean Tafoya, from the Colorado Latino Forum, broadened that thought to include those who live along all busy highways. He said that Polis had visited poorer Latino communities and said that prioritizing public health was a high priority. “That’s what makes this an environmental justice issue,” he said.

    Then came a group called Freedom to Drive Coalition. It includes Mesa County, Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, Colorado Motor Carriers Association, Colorado Wheat Growers, Colorado Petroleum Association, and others.

    They reject mandates and argued that electric vehicles will be subsidized by purchasers of internal combustion engines, a cost one speaker said would amount to $500 per vehicle. They argued that upper- and middle-class residents of metropolitan Denver as well as places like Aspen would be burdening Colorado’s rural residents.

    Elise Jones, a Boulder County commissioner who is also on the Air Quality Control Commission, asked the wheat industry representative if wheat farmers were worried about the effects of climate change. They were worried, he replied, but that was a long-term threat, whereas earning a profit on next year’s crop was an immediate concern. Wheat growers only make money in one out of five years, he said.

    The testimony went on and on, and as the afternoon grew long, John Medved, talked. “I have never had anyone tell me they are going on a mountain adventure with an electric car except maybe in the summer,” he said.

    Medved also shared this detail: He makes only $400 when sale of a car. All of his significant profits come from other arms of his car dealerships.

    It’s perhaps useful to note here that electric vehicles have a reputation of requiring much less maintenance than internal combustion engines, because they have few or no moving parts. As such, they don’t need to be returned to a dealer or some other mechanic for servicing.

    What was hard to digest was the argument that rural Colorado would be forced to subsidize urban Colorado. “Simple economics,” one of the Freedom to Drive Coalition. He tried to explain, but the explanation was completely lost on me. Those simple economics also overlook the projections that electric vehicles will reach price parity with internal-combustion engines by 2024-2027.

    The Freedom folks also testified that accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles in Colorado will simultaneously raise the price of electricity and raise the price of diesel. Perhaps cause dandruff and bad breath, too?

    As I write this, late Thursday afternoon, more than two days after testimony began, the testimony and the questions continue. By the time you read this, a decision will probably have been rendered by the Air Quality Control Commission.

    Leaf Byers Canyon August 21, 2017.

    The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission did pass the standards. Air Quality Control Commission adopts a zero-emission vehicle standard (Jessica Bralish):

    The new standard will provide Coloradans with more vehicle choices

    DENVER: The Air Quality Control Commission adopted a zero-emission vehicle standard for Colorado early today in an 8-1 decision. The move is directly aligned with the commission’s mission to achieve the cleanest air practical in every part of the state.

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is pursuing aggressive strategies to reduce ozone pollution as quickly as possible, as the state continues to work to meet the federal ozone pollution standard. Fossil-fuel vehicles are a major source of ozone pollution, along with the oil and gas industry. Ozone pollution can cause asthma and other adverse symptoms. Fossil-fuel vehicles also emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.

    “We are charged up and ready to roll,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the department’s executive director. “The adoption of the zero-emission vehicle standard is a clear demonstration of our unrelenting commitment to making sure every Coloradan has clean air to breathe.”

    John Putnam, environmental programs director at the department, said, “We are committed to a state where Coloradans can zip up into the mountains in a zero-emitting vehicle and go for a hike without coughing and wheezing from ozone. It’s what Coloradans rightfully expect and deserve. We’ve made a lot of progress on cleaning up our air over the past several years, but the standards are getting more stringent. We have to rise to the challenge.”

    The new zero-emission standard requires automakers to sell more than 5 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2023 and more than 6 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2025. The standard is based on a matrix of credits given for each electric vehicle sold, depending on the vehicle’s zero-emission range.

    The new requirement does not mandate consumers to purchase electric vehicles, but experts say it will result in manufacturers selling a wider range of models in Colorado, including SUVs and light trucks.

    “The zero-emission standard does not compel anyone to buy an electric vehicle, said Garry Kaufman, director of the Air Pollution Control Division at the department. “It only requires manufacturers to increase ZEV sales from 2.6 percent to 6.23 percent. It’s a modest proposal in the face of a critical threat. Where the federal government refuses to act, states must lead. Time is of the essence.”

    The Air Quality Control Commission prioritizes stakeholder engagement and public input.

    The commission invited public comment at various hours of the day and evening, and also invited remote testimony by telephone to make it easier for those who could not travel to the Front Range. The commission’s decision came after a robust public comment period, as well as significant written and oral testimony from parties providing information on all aspects of the standard.

    “The commission was impressed by the overwhelming amount of public support for electric vehicles from urban and rural areas throughout the state,” said Trisha Oeth, the department’s director of environmental boards and commissions. “They noted that the public want these vehicles, want them more quickly, and want more choices.”

    Drought response takes hold along #ColoradoRiver — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel #COriver #aridification @USBR

    Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    Last winter’s big snowpack has helped ease the impacts that long-term drought has had on water storage in the Colorado River watershed, but reservoir storage levels are still low enough that provisions of a new drought contingency plan in Lower Basin states already are kicking in.

    Some water officials and conservationists say the triggering of plan components reflects the fact that a single bountiful water year is far from enough for storage to recover from a mostly dry period dating back to 2000, and recently adopted drought planning measures are needed to prepare for the very real possibility that drier years will return. Those measures involve Upper Basin states including Colorado.

    The reductions that the Lower Basin drought contingency plan already is requiring show that in its first year, the plan “is already working,” Chuck Cullom, Colorado River programs manager for Arizona’s Central Arizona Project, wrote in a blog on that entity’s website.

    The Central Arizona Project is a water provider that will see its supplies reduced by 192,000 acre-feet next year under the plan’s provisions. That is the entire part of the state of Arizona’s Colorado River water allocation that the state instead will leave in Lake Mead under the plan, as a result of projected water levels in that reservoir at the start of next year. Nevada and Mexico also will leave smaller amounts of their allocation in Lake Mead under the plan and a separate agreement involving Mexico.

    The actions are required based on a Colorado River Basin report released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. It projects that Lake Mead will begin next year with water at an elevation of 1,089.4 feet. That’s less than a foot under a 1,090-foot threshold set by the Lower Basin drought contingency plan, below which the mandatory austerity measures begin. California will have to start leaving a portion of its allocation in the reservoir should surface levels go below 1,045 feet.

    Lake Mead and Lake Powell upstream of it serve as the two largest storage pools in the Colorado River Basin. The Bureau of Reclamation reported that thanks to above-average snowpack, runoff from the Upper Basin into Lake Powell was 145 percent of average from April through July, raising Powell’s elevation by more than 50 feet. But it is projected to remain 81 feet below full as of the start of next year.

    The Bureau of Reclamation says that total Colorado River system storage today is at 55% of capacity, up from 49% a year ago…

    “One wet year doesn’t change the fact that we have a lot left to do,” said Bart Miller with the Western Resource Advocates conservation group.

    He said the big snowpack provides some breathing room in dealing with the longer-term drought. Both Mead and Powell were full in 2000, before the river basin began experiencing a trend of far more dry years than wet ones, he said. The drought contingency planning is an effort to get out ahead of the problem and prevent larger-scale shortages, Miller said…

    Drought contingency plans involving the Lower and Upper Basin states and the federal government took effect with their passage by Congress earlier this year. The Upper Basin plan includes provisions to operate reservoirs above Powell as needed to try to keep Powell’s water high enough to continue generating power at Glen Canyon Dam. But another part of the Upper Basin plan involves investigating the use of demand management if needed in the event of a worsening drought, to avoid a forced curtailment of Upper Basin water uses to satisfy water obligations to Lower Basin states under a 1922 compact.

    In Colorado, water officials are looking into the possibility of voluntary, compensated, temporary demand management approaches as a means of staving off mandatory, unpaid curtailments under the compact. It’s expected that many demand management approaches would involve Western Slope agricultural operations.

    Pokrandt said the milestone of the Lower Basin drought contingency provisions kicking in “certainly highlights the need” to determine if a demand management program is feasible. The Colorado Water Conservation Board recently created nine workgroups that have begun exploring the feasibility of such an approach, and entities including the river district and Grand Valley Water Users Association also are investigating the concept, Pokrandt said.

    2019 Colorado Water Congress Annual Summer Conference @COWaterCongress #cwcsc2019

    The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

    Posting to Coyote Gulch is likely to be impacted by the events this week in Steamboat Springs including the horrible bicycle commute each morning and evening between my campsite on the west edge of town and the conference location at the Steamboat Grand Hotel.

    Click here for all the inside skinny.

    Follow along with the Twitter hashtag #cwcsc2019 or my Twitter feed @CoyoteGulch.

    @MWDH2O: Metropolitan statement on #ColoradoRiver reservoir conditions #COriver #DCP #aridification

    Here’s the release from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Rebecca Kimitch/Maritza Fairfield):

    Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, issues the following statement on the Bureau of Reclamation’s latest 24-month study on Colorado River system reservoir conditions:

    “We’re certainly grateful that nature provided some relief to the critical conditions in the Colorado River Basin. But the Southwest wouldn’t be in this encouraging position without also the successful collaboration of the Colorado River Basin states to develop the Drought Contingency Plan. The DCP wasn’t just about sharing the pain of potential water cutbacks; one of its primary benefits was to incentivize storage in Lake Mead. It creates new storage opportunities for California, Arizona and Nevada and increases the flexibility to access stored water.

    “Today is evidence the DCP is working as we hoped. By the end of the year, the Lower Basin states and Mexico together anticipate storing an additional 700,000 acre-feet of conserved water in Lake Mead in 2019 – a record amount that will boost the lake’s elevation by nearly
    9 feet. Metropolitan alone will store 400,000 acre-feet this year, bringing our total stored in the lake to nearly 1 million acre-feet, another record.

    “While all that storage helps keep Lake Mead out of shortage, it also helps prepare Southern California for our state’s next drought. Being able to store water when it is available for use in times when it is not is the key to ensuring the region has reliable water in the future. We got some reprieve from drought conditions on the Colorado River this year, but Lake Mead is still less than half full. And climate change is likely to lead to drier conditions in our future. As we begin work to resolve the water supply imbalance on the river, we’re pleased the DCP helped address the immediate concerns.”

    All American Canal Construction circa. 1938 via the Imperial Irrigation District