The latest E-Newsletter is hot off the presses from the Hutchins Water Center

A chart from the Colorado River District’s Phase III risk study, showing average annual depletions from the Western Slope, including transmountain diversions, tied to both pre and post compact rights. Graphic credit: Colorado River District via Aspen Journalism

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

RISK STUDY RESULTS
Phase III of the Colorado River Risk Study spearheaded by Colorado’s Colorado River District and Southwestern Water Conservation District has yielded some modeling results on the risks of Lake Powell dropping to critical levels, as well as how various curtailment scenarios could impact Colorado River uses from different sub-basins in Colorado. The final report won’t be out until the end of the summer, but a slide show was presented at the Four West Slope Basin Roundtable meeting on June 20 in Grand Junction, and it is posted here.

The 2019 Grass Tour — Five Dimensions of Ranching: Landscape, Animals, Forage Resource, Time and The Unexpected, August 15-16, 2019

Click here for all the inside skinny:

The objective of this years Grass Tour is to learn about the Five Dimensions of Ranching: Landscape, Animals, Forage Resource, Time and The Unexpected. We will cover topics ranging from the effects of Co2 on biodiversity, differences in plant phtosynthetic cycles (C3 vs C4 vs CAM), the effects of Mycorrhizal fungi, soil health, reclamation and much more! We have invited several panelists to discuss these subjects, we will get out in the field for some hands on learning, we will have workshops, food and drink, hiking, and for those interested in spending more time with the land we invite you to our camp out/ pow-wow which we will be hosting in Grover.

Can #Colorado help in the #climatecrisis? Congressional committee comes to state seeking guidance — The Denver Post

Screen shot from the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis August 3, 2019.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

he U.S. Congress Climate Crisis Committee came to Colorado this week seeking guidance for a new national push to reduce the heat-trapping air pollution that worsens global warming — boosting the state’s position as a center for innovative action.

Members of this select committee and staffers explored energy research labs for two days. They quizzed scientists at work on accelerating a shift off fossil fuels to lower-cost wind and solar electricity.

And on Thursday the lawmakers held their first formal field hearing in a jam-packed courtroom at the University of Colorado law school, repeatedly asking state and city leaders how best the federal government could weigh in…

Gov. Jared Polis testified first, telling the lawmakers climate change poses “the existential threat” that in Colorado is affecting water supply, food production and a recreation industry that needs healthy forests. State agencies are girding for “a hotter, drier, more erratic future,” Polis said, and summarized work “to accelerate the retirement of costly coal assets” that pump out heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

Bold federal action “is more than just a moral imperative,” Polis said. “We also have an economic imperative to lead the global clean energy revolution.”

Colorado still relies on coal as the source for 52% of the electricity people use. However, gradual phasing out of coal-fired power plants, initiated by voters 15 years ago, has begun to reduce carbon dioxide…

Persuading the rest of Congress, under a Trump administration that frowns on utterances of the words “climate change,” looms as a political challenge.

Photo gallery: Pics of the month: Fires on land, fires in the sky — and snow in July? — KSL.com

Screenshot of KSL.com July 31, 2019. Photo credit: Carol Dyer

Click here to view the gallery.

Swan River Restoration Project – Midsummer Update — Summit County Open Space & Trails Department

From the Summit County Open Spack & Trails Department (Jason Lederer):

And all of a sudden it’s mid-summer! If you spent much time in Summit County this spring, you are well aware of the wet, cool spring we had with accumulating snow until the end of June. All of this weather resulted in a slow start to many constructions projects around the County and, hence, a delay in gravel removal activities from the Reach B site. However, with the winter of 2019 behind us, things are back in full swing. There is even some new signage at the site explaining the work that is happening.

Summit County’s gravel removal contractor, Schofield Excavation, has removed gravel nearly to the Reach B eastern property boundary. Once they reach the property limit, they will begin working their way out of the site, establishing final rough grades along the way.

With the Reach B gravel removal “light at the end of the tunnel” coming into focus, we are gearing up to complete the final restoration work as soon as possible once the removal work is complete. This summer, in coordination with the County’s ecological engineering consultant, Ecological Resource Consultants (ERC), we are working to optimize the conceptual restoration design by taking into account new groundwater information, post-gravel removal surface grades, opportunities for onsite wetlands creation, and other factors.

This year’s historic snow pack and runoff cycle really tested the integrity of the constructed channel and floodplain in Reach A. Two and half years following the completion of major construction, we are happy to report that the new stream fared quite well with riffles, pools, banks, and other features functioning as intended. In fact, we are even starting to see new habitat features, such as sandy point bars, form naturally.

Swan River restoration Reach A gravel removal. Photo credit: Summit County

The Reach A site did experience some erosion at the temporary overflow channel where seasonal runoff passes beneath Rock Island Road. However, in coordination with Schofield Excavation, we were able to quickly stabilize the location utilizing large boulders and gravels from the Reach B site. This temporary overflow channel was designed solely to convey spring runoff and will be abandoned when the future upstream Reach B channel is permanently connected with Reach A.

This year’s moisture has also helped riparian and upland vegetation flourish, with natural recruitment of several native plant species including rushes, grasses, sage, and others species native to the valley.

Stay tuned for more exciting announcements about the Swan River Restoration Project site later this year.

Additional information about Swan River Restoration Project is available at http://RestoreTheSwanRiver.com as well as on the Open Space and Trails Special Projects web page. If you have additional questions about the restoration project, you can contact Summit County Open Space and Trails Director Brian Lorch, or Open Space and Trails Resource Specialist Jason Lederer, or call 970.668.4060.

Greenland Ice Sheet Beats All-Time 1-Day Melt Record — EOS #ActOnClimate

Greenland Ice Sheet melting August 2019. Photo credit: PBS

From EOS (Jenessa Duncombe):

More ice melted from the ice sheet on 1 August 2019 than any other day on record.

The Greenland ice sheet broke records on 1 August 2019 by losing more water volume in 1 day than on than any other day since records began in 1950, shedding 12.5 billion tons of water into the sea.

The record-breaking day came during a weeklong extreme melt event hitting Greenland due to soaring temperatures and low snow accumulation over the winter. The warmer temperatures are part of a heat wave that scorched Europe in late July, setting records in several countries including Germany, France, and the Netherlands.

Air temperatures rose to 10°C above average in places in Greenland this week and peaked above the freezing point for hours at a time at the ice sheet’s summit more than 3,200 meters above sea level. The months of April, May, June, and July also had higher than average temperatures in Greenland.

The volume of water melted per day on the ice sheet this week has increased as temperatures have climbed. The extreme melting on 1 August liquified enough ice to fill 5 million Olympic-sized swimming pools with water, accounting for 12.5 gigatons of water. The latest findings come from observations and model calculations from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado.

“Any ice that we’re losing from the ice sheet is being put into the ocean and adding to sea level,” research scientist Twila Moon of NSIDC told Eos.

Greenland is a major contributor to global sea level rise and is projected to contribute 5–33 centimeters of sea level rise globally by 2100, according to a June 2019 study in Science Advances. The University of Colorado estimated that this week’s melt will contribute 0.11 millimeter of sea level rise to global oceans.

The last extreme ice melt event in Greenland occurred in 2012, when 98% of the ice sheet’s area experienced melting. The 2019 event is smaller by area, with an estimate of about 60% on 31 July. Scientists do not believe that the melt extent will surpass that of 2012 but speculate that the surface mass balance lost, which includes both melting and snow accumulation, could rival it. “There’s no doubt that this is a direct consequence of human-caused climate change,” Moon said, noting that humans are “active players” in determining how much ice melts around the globe.

However, “the beautiful thing is that there are many things that any individual can do,” Moon said. Reaching out to elected representatives, business leaders, and utility companies about lowering greenhouse gas emissions are three ways to get involved, she said.

From The Huffington Post (Lydia O’Connor):

The semi-autonomous Danish territory, which has 82% of its surface covered in ice, lost 197 billion metric tons of ice in July, Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist with the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), tweeted Friday.

That’s about four times the 60-70 billion metric tons the DMI would normally expect to lose in July, Mottram added.

The melt comes as the record-setting heat wave in Europe moved over the Arctic island, forming a dome of warmth over the world’s second-largest ice sheet.

Martin Stendel, another DMI researcher, noted that the melt from just the last two days of July amounts to the equivalent of nearly 5 inches of water covering the entire state of Florida.

Mark Serreze, the director of the Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, told The Associated Press that this year marks the island’s second-biggest melt area since 1981, when researchers started keeping such records. 2012 still has the record with nearly 90% of the island’s ice affected, but there’s still a month left in Greenland’s 2019 melt season.

Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization issued a firm statement about this melt’s significance.

“This is not science fiction,” he said. “It is the reality of climate change. It is happening now and it will worsen in the future without urgent climate action.”

From The Monthly (Joëlle Gergis):

The terrible truth of climate change: The latest science is alarming, even for climate scientists

As one of the dozen or so Australian lead authors on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) sixth assessment report, currently underway, I have a deep appreciation of the speed and severity of climate change unfolding across the planet. Last year I was also appointed as one of the scientific advisers to the Climate Council, Australia’s leading independent body providing expert advice to the public on climate science and policy. In short, I am in the confronting position of being one of the few Australians who sees the terrifying reality of the climate crisis.

Preparing for this talk I experienced something gut-wrenching. It was the realisation that there is now nowhere to hide from the terrible truth…

The results coming out of the climate science community at the moment are, even for experts, similarly alarming.

One common metric used to investigate the effects of global warming is known as “equilibrium climate sensitivity”, defined as the full amount of global surface warming that will eventually occur in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations compared to pre-industrial times. It’s sometimes referred to as the holy grail of climate science because it helps quantify the specific risks posed to human society as the planet continues to warm.

We know that CO2 concentrations have risen from pre-industrial levels of 280 parts per million (ppm) to approximately 410 ppm today, the highest recorded in at least three million years. Without major mitigation efforts, we are likely to reach 560 ppm by around 2060.

When the IPCC’s fifth assessment report was published in 2013, it estimated that such a doubling of CO2 was likely to produce warming within the range of 1.5 to 4.5°C as the Earth reaches a new equilibrium. However, preliminary estimates calculated from the latest global climate models (being used in the current IPCC assessment, due out in 2021) are far higher than with the previous generation of models. Early reports are predicting that a doubling of CO2 may in fact produce between 2.8 and 5.8°C of warming. Incredibly, at least eight of the latest models produced by leading research centres in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and France are showing climate sensitivity of 5°C or warmer.

When these results were first released at a climate modelling workshop in March this year, a flurry of panicked emails from my IPCC colleagues flooded my inbox. What if the models are right? Has the Earth already crossed some kind of tipping point? Are we experiencing abrupt climate change right now?

The model runs aren’t all available yet, but when many of the most advanced models in the world are independently reproducing the same disturbing results, it’s hard not to worry.

When the UN’s Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015, it defined a specific goal: to keep global warming to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels (defined as the climate conditions experienced during the 1850–1900 period). While admirable in intent, the agreement did not impose legally binding limits on signatory nations and contained no enforcement mechanisms. Instead, each country committed to publicly disclosed Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to reduce emissions. In essence, it is up to each nation to act in the public interest.

Even achieving the most ambitious goal of 1.5°C will see the further destruction of between 70 and 90 per cent of reef-building corals compared to today, according to the IPCC’s “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C”, released last October. With 2°C of warming, a staggering 99 per cent of tropical coral reefs disappear. An entire component of the Earth’s biosphere – our planetary life support system – would be eliminated. The knock-on effects on the 25 per cent of all marine life that depends on coral reefs would be profound and immeasurable.

So how is the Paris Agreement actually panning out?

In 2017, we reached 1°C of warming above global pre-industrial conditions. According to the UN Environment Programme’s “Emissions Gap Report”, released in November 2018, current unconditional NDCs will see global average temperature rise by 2.9 to 3.4°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century.

To restrict warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the world needs to triple its current emission reduction pledges. If that’s not bad enough, to restrict global warming to 1.5°C, global ambition needs to increase fivefold.

“This is an example of #climatechange in our own backyard. The reasons there are more algal blooms is because the temperatures are slightly warmer every year” — Ed Hall #ActOnClimate

Cyanobacteria. By NASA – http://microbes.arc.nasa.gov/images/content/gallery/lightms/publication/unicells.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5084332

From 9News.com (Marc Sallinger):

The City of Greeley said algae is to blame for bad-tasting drinking water in the city.

Recent hot weather caused algae blooms in two lakes where Greeley gets its water.

Lake Loveland and Boyd Lake provide more than 20 million gallons of drinking water to the City of Greeley every day. The algae bloom left that water tasting like dirt and metal.

“People don’t like water that tastes dirty,” said Ed Hall, Assistant Professor Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Colorado State University.

The blooms happen when there are nutrients in the water, hot days and not much wind…

Algae releases byproducts that cause the water to taste and smell strange. Right now, Greeley’s water department said the byproducts released from the algae are 250 times stronger than usual.

“This is an example of climate change in our own backyard. The reasons there are more algal blooms is because the temperatures are slightly warmer every year,” said Hall. “This isn’t going to go away. We really need to start thinking about how to protect ourselves and live with these as the earth becomes warmer every year.”

[…]

The city said they are now treating the water to try and get all the taste and smell from the algae out of the water. They said it should be almost back to normal by the time it gets to your sink.

From The Greeley Tribune (Cuyler Meade):

When the roughly 40 million gallons per day of potable — or drinkable — water consumed by Greeley residents started tasting and smelling noticeably different last week, the Water Department didn’t wait long to react. The department believes its swift response last weekend has effectively solved the problem, and Greeley water should now taste better.

The problem: Concurrent algae blooms in both Boyd Lake and Lake Loveland, the major peak-months water sources from which the department draws and treats the water delivered to Greeley…

That meant, Chambers said, that the option of turning off sourcing from one of Boyd Lake or Lake Loveland — from which much of the area’s water is drawn during the “peak” summer months — was not sufficient. While the department did end up turning off its delivery from Lake Loveland, where Chambers said it was determined the algae situation was “about four times” as bad as it was in Boyd Lake, the water coming from Boyd Lake was still affected with an unappealing taste and smell…

The solution, then: Increase the activated carbon used to treat the water at the Boyd Lake treatment plant.

“Activated carbon is a good way to remove (the poor taste and smell),” Chambers said. “It’s also very expensive, and it’s hard to get the dosage exactly right for the amount that we’re measuring, which is in parts per billion. Tiny, tiny molecules that have a fair amount of influence on taste and odor…

Normally, activated carbon is used to treat the water in the 25 to 27 milligrams per liter range, Chambers said. But this dual algae bloom required more.

“Last Friday, we turned off our Lake Loveland supply, which allowed our activated carbon dosage to do a better job pulling those odor-causing molecules out,” Chambers said. “Then we upped the dosage, as well.”

Chambers said they began treating the water with about 35 milligrams per liter, up about 40% from the normal dosage. The department is continuing to use that increased dosage for the time being.

“Our internal sampling has led us to believe that’s perfectly adequate for removing what’s needed,” Chambers said.

The more southerly lakes become critical sources of water in the high-usage summer months, but the “workhorse” treatment plant is actually at the Poudre River Basin in Bellvue.

“We treat our water at those two locations near the foothills where you can grab higher-quality source water than you can find in Greeley and deliver the water to Greeley,” Chambers said. “Visionary system that was developed in the early 1900s up at Bellvue.”

Chambers emphasized the fact that even before treatment, while the water may have tasted differently, it was at no time unsafe to drink.