Heeding a Spiritual and Sacred Call to Protect the #ColoradoRiver — Walton Family Foundation #COriver #aridification

From the Walton Family Foundation (Morgan Snyder):

Native American tribes are seeking a greater voice as stewards of a river that’s been home for millennia

Water is life. Water is the giver and sustainer of life.

For Daryl Vigil, a member of the Jicarilla Apache Tribe in northern New Mexico, these words hold deep cultural, spiritual and personal meaning.

They are drawn from a vision statement that Daryl and leaders of the Ten Tribes Partnership, a coalition of tribes in the Colorado River basin, wrote five years ago to guide them in efforts to gain a greater voice for Native Americans in how the river’s water is used and conserved.

Daryl Vigil. Photo credit: Lincoln Institute for Land Policy

“As Native Americans, our traditional interaction with rivers has always been one of reverence,” Daryl says. “We have understood this is the only Earth we have and that water is sacred. So we took what we needed and we made sure that if we took too much, we gave back what we didn’t need.”

It’s an ethos every water user in the basin would do well to embrace. The Colorado provides water for nearly 40 million people and is key to the economic and environmental health of seven U.S. states and two states in Mexico.

It also the lifeblood of 26 federally recognized tribes living on 29 Indian reservations within the basin’s 244,000-square-mile territory.

For millennia, the river has shaped the culture and lifestyle of native peoples.

But as the West was settled and developed – and as demands on the river increased – tribes were left out of water management decisions and have not seen the benefits derived from laws governing water use in the West.

Daryl’s mission is to change that. As water administrator for the Jicarilla tribe, temporary executive director for the Ten Tribes Partnership, and co-facilitator of the Water & Tribes Initiative, he is leading efforts to develop a process for Colorado River water use decisions that is more inclusive of tribes. He is also helping tribes build capacity to develop their own water rights.

Collectively, Native American tribes in the basin have 2.9 million acre feet of quantifiable water rights – roughly 20% of the system’s water – with many water claims still unresolved.

Tribal water rights are also among the most senior in the basin, giving tribes the potential to play a major role in balancing supply and demand for water as well as restoring the river’s environmental health.

In a policy brief, the Water & Tribes Initiative described the exclusion of tribes from decisions about the river’s management as a “socio-economic and environmental injustice.”

“Almost across the board, everyone is now saying tribes need to be at the table,” Daryl says. “If any other entity had (rights to) that volume of water, they’d be at the head of the table.”

Tribes face myriad challenges constraining their ability to develop economic benefit from the river. A lack of water infrastructure – such as dams, reservoirs, conveyance and irrigation – means many are underutilizing their rights on the river, essentially allowing other users to access tribal water for free.

For some tribes, such as the Navajo Nation, one of the Ten Tribes members, it’s a struggle just to provide their own residents with a safe, secure water supply.

“They have to haul water on a daily basis,” says Daryl. “Their development of water rights is really about providing water to their people.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Gila River Indian Community has demonstrated the value tribes can bring to water management decisions. The community played a major role in successful water conservation negotiations for the new Drought Contingency Plan.

Several tribes are actively exploring the potential for developing water markets to share, or lease, water to other river users.

“Our strategy is to help tribes build capacity,” says Daryl.

The Walton Family Foundation, along with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy, is supporting the Water & Tribes Initiative in the Colorado River Basin.

The intent of the initiative, which is co-facilitated by Daryl and Matthew McKinney, is to enhance the capacity of tribes to advance their needs and interests with respect to water and advance sustainable water management through collaborative decision-making. This work includes helping the Ten Tribes Partnership write their first strategic plan.

The foundation wants to ensure that the oldest water rights in the basin are well-represented and respected in future basin-wide policy discussions and decisions.

In everything that the Ten Tribes Partnership and the Water & Tribes Initiative is doing, Daryl says they are mindful of their vision as stewards of the river.

It calls on them to “lead from a spiritual mandate to ensure that this sacred water will always be protected and be available” and carry out their “responsibility of protecting the delicate, beautiful, balance of Mother Earth for the benefit of all living creatures” on the river.

“That holds us to account about who we are going to be in this process, as native human beings,” Daryl says.

“We want to make sure the river is available for our children and those who come after us. I think that’s our personal responsibility as human beings, to ensure we protect what it is that gives us life.”

@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.

2°C: BEYOND THE LIMIT: Extreme climate change has arrived in America — The Washington Post #ActOnClimate #aridification

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

Here’s an in-depth report from The Washington Post ( Steven Mufson, Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin and John Muyskens. Photography by Salwan Georges). Click through and read the whole article and to enjoy the photographs. Here’s an excerpt:

America’s hot spots

Nationwide, trends are clear. Starting in the late 1800s, U.S. temperatures began to rise and continued slowly up through the 1930s. The nation then cooled slightly for several decades. But starting around 1970, temperatures rose steeply.

At the county level, the data reveals isolated 2-degree Celsius clusters: high-altitude deserts in Oregon; stretches of the western Rocky Mountains that feed the Colorado River; a clutch of counties along the northeastern shore of Lake Michigan — home to the famed Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Traverse City.

Along the Canadian border, a string of counties from eastern Montana to Minnesota are quickly heating up.

The topography of warming varies. It is intense at some high elevations, such as in Utah and Colorado, and along some highly populated coasts: Temperatures have risen by 2C in Los Angeles and three neighboring counties. New York City is also warming rapidly, and so are the very different areas around it, such as the beach resorts in the Hamptons and leafy Westchester County.

The smaller the area, the more difficult it is to pinpoint the cause of warming. Urban heat effects, changing air pollution levels, ocean currents, events like the Dust Bowl, and natural climate wobbles such as El Niño could all be playing some role, experts say.

The one U.S. region that has not warmed since 1895: the South, where data in some cases even shows a modest cooling.

The only part of the United States that has not warmed significantly since the late 1800s is the South, especially Mississippi and Alabama, where data in some cases shows modest cooling. Scientists have attributed this “warming hole” to atmospheric cycles driven by the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, along with particles of soot from smokestacks and tailpipes, which have damaging health effects but can block some of the sun’s intensity. Those types of pollutants were curtailed by environmental policies, while carbon dioxide remained unregulated for decades.

Since the 1960s, however, the region’s temperatures have been increasing along with the rest of the country’s.

The Northeast is warming especially fast.

Ridgway State Park smallmouth-bass tournament yields big results — #Colorado Parks and Wildlife

A CPW staffer measures a fish last month at the Ridgway State Park Bass Tournament. Anglers caught more than 1,400 fish during the month-long tournament. Photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

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

Anglers who participated in the 2019 smallmouth bass tournament at Ridgway State Park, again, helped Colorado Parks and Wildlife on its mission to preserve native fish species.

For the fifth year in a row, licensed anglers caught hundreds of smallmouth bass that are a threat to Colorado’s native fish that live downstream in the Gunnison and Colorado rivers. A total of 79 registered anglers removed 1,498 smallmouth bass in the month-long tournament that ended July 27. Smallmouth bass are non-native and were introduced illegally to Ridgway Reservoir about 10 years ago. They are predators and could wipe out populations of native fish downstream.

“In the five years of the tournament we have reduced the population of smallmouth bass in the reservoir by 79 percent,” said Eric Gardunio, aquatic biologist for CPW in Montrose and the organizer of the tournament. “It is truly amazing what these anglers can do. They are participating directly in wildlife management in Colorado.”

Before the first tournament in 2015, Gardunio estimated there were 3,632 adult smallmouth bass in the reservoir. Adult fish measure six inches in length or more. Now it is estimated that only 763 adult fish live in the reservoir.

“We are making substantial headway in suppressing the population of smallmouth that were introduced illegally to Ridgway Reservoir,” Gardunio said.

The Ridgway tournament targets smallmouth bass because they could escape from the reservoir and migrate downstream to a section of the Gunnison River that is considered “critical habitat” for native fish.

“The work by CPW staff along with the help of anglers shows that through targeted management techniques we can enhance survival of rare aquatic species,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for the Southwest Region for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

With assistance from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, CPW was able to offer $12,000 in prize money to tournament participants.

Chase Nicholson of Ouray was the big winner this year, catching 571 smallmouth and the top prize of $5,000 for most fish caught. He also won $500 for smallest fish caught – 3.3 inches. Nicholson tied with Tyler Deuschle of Delta for biggest fish caught, 17.2 inches they split the $500 prize. Second place for most fish caught went to Lawrence Cieslewicz of Montrose, who caught 283. He also won the grand-prize raffle for an additional $2,500. Chris Cady from Delta turned in 128 fish and placed third for most fish caught.

#ElNino has ended: Here’s what that means for #Colorado and our upcoming winter season — TheDenverChannel.com #ENSO

From TheDenverChannel.com (Mike Nelson):

Using Pacific sea surface conditions to forecast winter weather for Denver and the eastern plains is tricky. The great distance between our state and the ocean means that storms will change dramatically as they traverse the mountains and California, the vast dry region of Arizona, Nevada and Utah and our Colorado mountains. By the time a potent Pacific storm finally gets to Denver and the Front Range, there is often not much moisture left.

There have been a few memorable winter storms in the Denver area during an El Niño. The Christmas Eve blizzard of 1982 was in an El Niño year, as was the October 1997 storm and the blizzard of March 2003. But, we have also had many heavy snows during non-El Niño winters.

The opposite of El Niño is La Niña, which is a large area of cooler sea surface conditions. La Niña winters tend to be drier in much of Colorado, especially the central and southwestern mountains and often have more stronger winds. The jet stream favors a northwest-to-southeast pattern across the nation. This position of the jet stream favors the northern mountain areas, such as Steamboat and Winter Park.

In the Denver area, La Niña winters see more frequent lighter snow storms and a few good cold outbreaks. There tends to be more Chinook wind events as well, so temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit along the Front Range.

A neutral pattern (not El Niño or La Niña) means that we will not see either of these forcing mechanisms play a major role in our upcoming cold season. There are other factors that come into play though, including changes in warm and cold water positions in the Atlantic Ocean – less famous than El Niño or La Niña, but also important.

At present, while we are still weeks away from the leaves changing color and the average high temperature is still near 90 degrees, we have only a basic outlook for the winter ahead. Here’s what it looks like so far:

  • Slightly warmer than average with near to above average snowfall for the northern mountains
  • Near to slightly below average snowfall for the central mountains
  • Likely a drier than average snow season for the southwest mountains
  • Denver and the Eastern Plains are harder to predict, but as of now: Near average precipitation, fewer big snowfalls, more light to moderate snow
  • Temperatures in Denver should stay a little warmer than average with a few good, bracing cold snaps. Frequent strong wind events are expected in January and February.

    Farmers use tech to squeeze every drop from #ColoradoRiver — The Associated Press #COriver #aridification

    From The Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

    This U.S. Department of Agriculture station outside Greeley and other sites across the Southwest are experimenting with drones, specialized cameras and other technology to squeeze the most out of every drop of water in the Colorado River — a vital but beleaguered waterway that serves an estimated 40 million people.

    Remote sensors measure soil moisture and relay the readings by Wi-Fi. Cellphone apps collect data from agricultural weather stations and calculate how much water different crops are consuming. Researchers deliberately cut back on water for some crops, trying to get the best harvest with the least amount of moisture — a practice called deficit irrigation.

    In the future, tiny needles attached to plants could directly measure how much water they contain and signal irrigation systems to automatically switch on or off…

    Researchers and farmers are running similar experiments in arid regions around the world. The need is especially pressing in seven U.S. states that rely on the Colorado River: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

    The river has plenty of water this summer after an unusually snowy winter in the mountains of the U.S. West. But climatologists warn the river’s long-term outlook is uncertain at best and dire at worst, and competition for water will only intensify as the population grows and the climate changes.

    The World Resources Institute says the seven Colorado River states have some of the highest levels of water stress in the nation, based on the percentage of available supplies they use in a year. New Mexico was the only state in the nation under extremely high water stress.

    The federal government will release a closely watched projection Thursday on whether the Colorado River system has enough water to meet all the demands of downstream states in future years…

    The researchers’ goal is understanding crops, soil and weather so completely that farmers know exactly when and how much to irrigate.

    “We call it precision agriculture, precision irrigation,” said Huihui Zhang, a Department of Agriculture engineer who conducts experiments at the Greeley research farm. “Right amount at the right time at the right location.”

    The Palo Verde Irrigation District in Southern California is trying deficit irrigation on alfalfa, the most widely grown crop in the Colorado River Basin…

    Sensors placed over the test plots indirectly measure how much water the plants are using, and the harvested crop is weighed to determine the yield.

    “The question then becomes, what’s the economic value of the lost crop versus the economic value of the saved water?” said Bart Fisher, a third-generation farmer and a member of the irrigation district board.

    Blaine Carian, who grows grapes, lemons and dates in Coachella, California, already uses deficit irrigation. He said withholding water at key times improves the flavor of his grapes by speeding up the production of sugar…

    He also uses on-farm weather stations and soil moisture monitors, keeping track of the data on his cellphone. His drip and micro-spray irrigation systems deliver water directly to the base of a plant or its roots instead of saturating an entire field.

    For Carian and many other farmers, the appeal of technology is as much about economics as saving water.

    “The conservation’s just a byproduct. We’re getting better crops, and we are, in general, saving money,” he said.

    But researchers say water-saving technology could determine whether some farms can stay in business at all, especially in Arizona, which faces cuts in its portion of Colorado River water under a drought contingency plan the seven states hammered out this year.

    Drone-mounted cameras and yield monitors — which measure the density of crops like corn and wheat as they pass through harvesting equipment — can show a farmer which land is productive and which is not, said Ed Martin, a professor and extension specialist at the University of Arizona.

    “If we’re going to take stuff out of production because we don’t have enough water, I think these technologies could help identify which ones you should be taking out,” Martin said.

    Each technology has benefits and limits, said Kendall DeJonge, another Agriculture Department engineer who does research at the Greeley farm.

    Soil moisture monitors measure a single point, but a farm has a range of conditions and soil types. Infrared images can spot thirsty crops, but only after they need water. Agricultural weather stations provide a wealth of data on the recent past, but they can’t predict the future.

    Pilot Dan Hesseliusl with drone aircraft. Photo credit the University of Colorado.