“What we are beginning to understand is that ecosystems work like tapestries, and that losing one river is like pulling at a thread” — Elizabeth Miller

Gila River watershed. Graphic credit: Wikimedia

From New Mexico In Depth (Elizabeth Miller):

One proposal…a diversion to run more water to farms in the Cliff-Gila Valley, has persisted to this year, and the deadline for its review by the Bureau of Reclamation is looming. Opponents argue the diversion will reduce the Gila from a trickle to a dry streambed, as it is in Arizona, where Phoenix and Tucson siphon so much water the Gila runs dry for nearly 300 miles. But there’s staying power to the notion that with a diversion will come more opportunity, more investors, more entrepreneurs, more business — plus more security in the face of climate change.

After all, arid Western cities and towns need more water. And diversion boosters say the water can be stored and utilized without significantly compromising river ecology. Plus, once that unencumbered New Mexico Gila water crosses the state border, Arizona uses it up anyway. Might as well get your fair share.

Both sides come back to the same point: This work is about what to leave the next generation. Those fighting for a free-flowing Gila, though, are doing so, for the first time in decades, without Salmon, who died in March at age 73 after a bout of pneumonia. His death came at a moment when it seemed the combined forces of Gila advocates’ work and a shifting political climate would put an end, at last, to the battle that he fought for half a lifetime. What happens this year could secure the fate of the river as forever wild, or forever changed. It’s a choice about what the next generation will need most: more water, or more wild…

The Gila River pours from its namesake wilderness area, its path dictated by rock walls before it fans out over polished stones where the canyons relent. It threads downed trees and churns past hot springs. Nothing out here competes with the moon and stars, so the Milky Way runs its own strong current across the night sky.

Hike the surrounding plateaus covered in pine trunks blackened by wildfires and knots of pinyon and juniper, and the river is invisible. “The one thing about the Gila is that you can’t really see it until you’re on it,” said Cherie Salmon, Dutch’s widow. “Once you get down in the canyons, you get the real flavor of it, and it’s those very canyons where, if you dam a river, they’re gone.”

In 1968, the bill that authorized the Central Arizona Project, which today funnels Colorado River water to Phoenix and surrounding areas, also permitted New Mexico to pull 18,000 acre-feet of Gila water. The first proposal was the Hooker Dam, which was to sit just inside the Gila National Forest boundary and would have backed up the river into the Gila Wilderness. Conservationists were aghast at the idea of the country’s first wilderness area, set aside in 1924, being violated with a reservoir. They were offered a string of buoys across the water to mark the wilderness boundary so motorboats wouldn’t cross it. People were unappeased. The dam idea languished another 14 years, then died.

But the bill authorizing it allowed for the Hooker “or suitable alternative.” “That ‘suitable alternative’ language was really critical, and haunts us to this day,” Schulke said. Next up, in the 1980s, was the Connor Dam proposal to pour concrete 20 miles downstream, in Middle Box Canyon.

The impact of a dam can be difficult to comprehend. So while Connor was still being debated (some locals, Salmon included, spelled it “Conner”), Salmon packed up and started for the headwaters of the Gila River, beginning a 200-mile journey from its highest tributaries and ending in Arizona. At some point, he swapped his hiking boots for a canoe, and added to the load both his dog Rojo and a nameless tomcat, who’d been water-tested when Salmon plunged the cat into a reservoir and raced him back to shore…

On a Tuesday in early September, blue jeans, button-up shirts, and cowboy boots abounded at the Grant County Administration Center in Silver City. The occasion was a meeting of the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity, the organization working to secure the additional Gila water allocated to the state in the 1968 Central Arizona Project legislation. Two people stood for the public comment period that kicks off the meeting, both voicing objections to the money being spent on a diversion when it could be funneled to projects that improve water efficiency and conservation.

Entity chair Darr Shannon had a simple counter: “If we’re not allowed to divert some of this water, then Arizona continues to get it all, and they become wealthier and wealthier as time goes by.”

The current framework stems from the federal 2004 Arizona Water Settlements Act, which for the first time allocated money for any diversion or storage project to serve the 60,000 people in four rural counties in southwestern New Mexico. It also adjusted New Mexico’s share to 14,000 acre-feet of water (if downstream commitments to the Gila River Indian Community are met), a figure lower than the original 1968 allocation, but still a significant increase to what farmers are currently able to funnel off the river for irrigation via homemade dams. The state was promised $100 million from the federal government — two-thirds of it for water conservation projects, and one-third for the construction of a diversion.

Since New Mexico was first allocated its share of Gila water in 1968, some 900,000 acre-feet of water entitled to southwest New Mexico has run downstream to Arizona, Vance Lee, vice chair of the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity, told the state legislative finance committee last September.

“At a time when other regions of the state are struggling to get enough water to meet their needs and in consideration of potential future needs of water in our arid southwest corner of the state, it only takes a little common sense to realize that, if we have the available water and we have the funds to develop it, that we keep every legally available drop of water in New Mexico,” the bullet points of Lee’s comments to the state finance committee read. (Multiple members of New Mexico CAP entity, including executive director Anthony Gutierrez, declined requests for an interview.)

Roughly $14 million of the $66 million the feds initially allocated for water conservation projects has been spent on planning the diversion. If New Mexico were freed from pursuing a diversion, the rest of that money could be spent on other water conservation projects to serve broader swaths of the region, rather than just the cluster of farmers near the river. But in that case, the state would forgo the $34 million originally earmarked for diversion construction.

Per the 2004 legislation, the Bureau of Reclamation must sign off on a diversion plan by the end of 2019, but the Entity’s legal counsel, Pete Domenici, Jr. — whose father ushered the Arizona Water Settlements Act as a U.S. senator for New Mexico — has asked Reclamation for an extension. As late as July, in the midst of the environmental reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act, the plan was still shifting, shedding storage ponds and small dams.

“My opinion is, we’ve got to have control of our own destiny, and control of the water,” said Joe Runyan, who serves on the CAP Entity and runs a farm at the end of one of the ditches the diversion would feed. Then, he said, “when we go to the table with the rest of the people on the Colorado River, we’ve got a little leverage.”

If New Mexico had access to more water, maybe that would bring growth to this sleepy valley, the thinking of diversion proponents goes. And, while the first 4,000 acre-feet diverted from the river would go to farmers, the remaining 10,000 could go to municipalities or industry.

“I just think it’s a pretty good idea,” Runyan said of the diversion. “To me it would be totally irresponsible to deny the future generation in New Mexico access to that 14,000 acre-feet.”

Look southwest from a promontory at the edge of the Mogollon Mountains, and the Gila River lays down a dense ribbon of cottonwoods, their emerald color bleeding into the surrounding irrigated fields and pastures spotted with cattle, horses, and, occasionally, goats. That shade fades out to tan hills knotted with mesquite, pinyon, and yucca topped with towering blossoms. The river supplies agricultural fields, the lifeblood for small farming communities that don’t seem to have a tighter hold on the place than by their fingernails. The towns of Cliff and Gila consist of a few loosely clustered houses, a gift shop, a post office, and a café…

I was observing this scene with Schulke and Allyson Siwik, the Gila Conservation Coalition’s executive director. The pair donned broad-brimmed hats and lightweight, pale, long-sleeved shirts — standard-issue defense against the desert sun — and narrated the landscape. On the far horizon, where the Gila River drops into the Middle Box, is where the Connor Dam would have flooded habitat for some 300 species of birds on a list of boggling biodiversity where the mountains meet desert. The ditches through the floodplain are rimmed in green, a corridor of habitat for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo. Cuckoos spend winter in Central or South America, but have such fidelity to their nest sites that a single pair was tracked returning to the same tree by the river in repeat years. Where the river flattens and slows into riffles, loach minnow like to tuck in. The Gila trout seeks out the bubblier, faster moving sections.

“This area is the only place in the Lower Colorado River Basin that still has its full complement of native fish,” Siwik said.

Some of the river’s bends, even from miles away, are visibly dry. That’s in part because the monsoon that typically refills it in the mid-summer months has been absent, but also because of “push-up” dams farmers create by bulldozing small earthen walls in the river. The proposed diversion would replace these mud and rock dams, which the river eventually breaks down, with concrete, and take from one spot four times as much water as what’s currently withdrawn in three push-up dams. Taking more water from one place, Schulke and Siwik worry, would increase both the length of dry stretches and their duration, which could devastate aquatic and riparian species and the rest of an ecosystem that relies on flooding rivers to recharge nutrients and groundwater and sprout seeds.

Looking upstream from that same ridge, the Gila River vanishes into peaks where ponderosas shade clusters of lupine and penstemon. Up there, the Gila’s no placid irrigator — it’s a wild mountain river whose rapids form a 40-mile classic stretch of whitewater. That’s if you can catch it; some years, the river is runnable by raft, kayak, or canoe for just a few days during spring snowmelt, then maybe again in late summer or early fall if the monsoon comes. Search and rescue crews are routinely called by stranded hikers who underestimate the swiftness and depth of the water, the steepness of the cliffs around it, and the remoteness of their undertakings in a national forest that covers 3.3 million acres, 792,584 of which are federally designated wilderness…

With the canyons safe from a dam, the fight now is less about the landscape and more about the water itself. The cropland the diverted water would reach currently grows pasture grass, a low-cost, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance crop. Whether any farmers in the valley could afford to purchase water made available through the diversion, however, trends toward speculation. That’s in part because the water doesn’t come free and clear: For every acre-foot of Gila water New Mexico diverts, the state would have to pay Arizona to purchase a corresponding amount of Colorado River water.

With the water, though, might come entrepreneurs, people who want to build greenhouses and grow produce. Runyan, the farmer on the CAP Entity committee, said that among the 10 farmers on the Gila Farm Irrigation Association, he’s “heard from some members” that they would plant additional winter crops, including winter wheat, oats, peas, turnips or garlic.

But if farmers switch to high-value crops to cover the cost of more expensive water, those crops would rely on a constant supply of water, and former Interstate Stream Commission chair and career engineer Norman Gaume said that’s not a guarantee. During eight of the last 81 years, he said, there wouldn’t have been enough water in the Gila to divert. In short, he said, “the [environmental impact statement] says there’s dependable water, but there’s not.”

Climate change has already reduced winter snowpack that feeds this river, and research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that, perhaps as early as mid-century, the Gila will cease to be a snowpack-fed river.

“The desert mountain areas of the Southwest are ground zero for climate change, and the Gila is evidence of that,” said Sinjin Eberle, communications director and executive producer with American Rivers, which named the Gila the most endangered river of 2019 due to the diversion proposal. “How I think about it is, do we have to dam and divert every river that we have, and do we have to dam and divert every tributary that we have, just because it happens to be wild? … The Gila is too valuable to continue slicing away at it.”

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced during her campaign last year she planned to abandon the diversion, and vetoed state funding for it. But the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity has enough federal funds to continue its work, and the state’s members of the Interstate Stream Commission have not yet moved to halt the diversion. If the diversion proceeds, Eberle said, it would be met with a legal challenge.

Just 37 percent of the 246 longest rivers in the world flow freely their entire length, and most of those are confined to the remote regions of the Arctic, Amazon, and Congo basins, according to research published earlier this year in Nature. Only 23 percent of those run without impediment all the way to the ocean…

In the western United States, a rare few show what a river can do when left to its own: the Yellowstone in Montana, the John Day in Oregon, all three forks of the Salmon in Idaho, and the Yampa in Colorado. The Yampa came perilously close to a dam during the 1950s. But still, on spring days after a snowy winter, you can paddle down the dam-moderated and appropriately emerald Green River into Echo Park, where the Yampa comes in strong, its surge seeming to shove the Green’s water back upstream. Progress slows to a drift as the muddy Yampa water appears like blossoms underneath the clearer Green’s flows.

What we are beginning to understand is that ecosystems work like tapestries, and that losing one river is like pulling at a thread. It can unravel the whole system, taking with it a curtain filled with birds, insects, fish, frogs, snakes, coatis, wolves, coyotes, and jaguars. That the native fish remain in the Gila river is testament to this particular weave holding, and that here, the systems still function largely as they have for thousands of years, which is rare enough to consider guarding well, or so goes the point Salmon and the advocates he mentored have long been making…

“[Aldo] Leopold,” he continued, “says wilderness is the raw material out of which we’ve hammered the artifact we call civilization, so to save a portion of that country is probably the most fundamentally conservative thing you can do. In other words, saving the Gila is a patriotic act.

This article first appeared on New Mexico In Depth and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Adams State University Hosts Salazar Center Public Water Forum and State Water Officials Association Water Program October 2-3, 2019 — Greg Hobbs

Greg Hobbs was once again traipsing around Colorado, photographing, educating, and story telling.

Adams State University Hosts Salazar Center Public Water Forum and State Water Officials Association Water Program October 2-3, 2019!

Highway 285 over Kenosha Pass through Poncha Pass into the Valley and Alamosa (passing by the Decker fire in the Sangres).

COLORADANS

To each of us
the land, the air, the water,
mountain, canyon, mesa, plain,
lightning bolts, clear days with no rain,

At the source of all thirst,
at the source of all thirst-quenching hope,
at the root and core of time and no-time,
the Great Divide community

Stands astride the backbone of the continent,
gathering, draining, reflecting, sending forth
a flow so powerful it seeps rhythmically
from within,

Alive to each of us,
to drink, to swim, to grow corn ears,
to listen to our children float the streams
of their own magnificence,

Out of their seeping dreams,
out of their useful silliness,
out of their source-mouths
high and pure,

The Great Divide,
you and I, all that lives
and floats and flies and passes through
all we know of why.

DIVIDE

The mystery of a divide
is this, you can stand on opposites
and not lose your balance.

Draw a straight line from the sky
through the middle of your forehead,
half of you belongs to the other ocean.

Half your mind and half your heart,
you share downstream equally
and never drift apart.

COLORADO
MOTHER OF RIVERS

When I was young the waters sang
of being here before I am,
of falling sweet and soft and slow
to berry bog and high meadow.
And held me in her lap and cooed
the willow roots, the gaining pools,
and called me through bright dappled grass
and called me O, My Shining One;

And shaped a bed to lay me on
and played the flute so high and clear.
And shape the stones to carry me,
when I am young and full of fight
for roaring here and roaring there,
for pouring torrents in the air.
When I am young as mountain snow
in crag and cleft and cracked window;

I call the green-backed cutthroat trout,
I call the nymph and hellgrammite,
I call the hatch to catch a wind,
I call upon the mountain track;
I call the scarlet to the jaw
as morning calls her own hatchlings,
call Yampa, White, the Rio Grande,
San Juan, the Platte, the Arkansas.

(in celebration of Colorado’s instream flow law)

Greg Hobbs

IPCC report demonstrates how melting snow in mountains affects water quantity — The Daily Californian

The Arapaho Glacier is the largest in Colorado and a key component of Boulder’s water supply. Over the last 100 years, it has receded dramatically, and climate researcher P. Thompson Davis worries it could disappear completely. Photo credit: American Alpine Club via the Colorado Sun

From The Daily Californian (Maxine Mouly):

For the first time since 1996, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, has dedicated a chapter to mountains in one of its reports.

One of the lead authors of the report is Heidi Steltzer, a member of the Department of Energy’s Watershed Function Scientific Focus Area at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and professor of biology at Fort Lewis College in Colorado. According to her, the chapter in the report focuses on where and how the cryosphere — any part of the planet with a significant amount of frozen water — in mountains is changing.

Steltzer said she has been explaining the language of her study on social media, and Merriam-Webster posted an article that said it is watching the word “cryosphere” and is considering adding the word to the dictionary. Steltzer added that the IPCC made a “bold move” to use “cryosphere” in the name of the report, because most people are not familiar with the term.

“We can now start to talk holistically about one of the spheres of our planet,” Steltzer said. “The frozen parts of our world where there’s frozen water … that’s a huge move forward, because language can sometimes limit our understanding of something.”

In a recent report by the IPCC, the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate used the latest scientific literature to describe climate change’s impacts on the ocean and cryosphere.

Melting glaciers, snow and permafrost morph the cryosphere in mountains because of climate change. This reduced snowpack occurs in the habitats of ice-dependent species and in watershed sources for humans. With less snow, there is less water available on an annual basis.

The population of the western United States is reliant on water from melting snow to fill reservoirs that are used for the remainder of the year, according to Kenneth Williams, the deputy director of the Watershed Function Scientific Focus Area at Berkeley Lab. He added that people view mountain snowpacks as the “water towers of the world.”

“Decisions need to be made about water utilization, because that annual water tower will not be filling up the same way it once did,” Williams said.

Steltzer said she wants to continue studying and understanding the climate systems. She added that we are seeing impacts due to climate change that we can feel and that are in the media.

“We don’t need to look to the future, climate change is here, it’s happening now, and we can start to ask questions and understand it better,” Steltzer said. “We need to act now to adapt and mitigate for climate change more than we need more data.”

Research by the DOE Watershed Function SFA project team takes place year-round in a research area along the East River catchment near the Upper Colorado River headwaters. One of the busiest times for sampling is during peak snow. (Photo courtesy Watershed Function SFA)

From the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Christina Procopiou):

The image of huge chunks of ice breaking away from glaciers and ice sheets, then floating out to sea in Earth’s most remote places, may be the most iconic symbol of a warming planet. And while most people will never see these familiar phenomena up close, what’s happening within some of the iciest settings still affects people and regions thousands of miles away.

Ecologist Heidi Steltzer, a Fort Lewis College professor and member of the Department of Energy’s Watershed Function Scientific Focus Area (SFA) project led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, studies how reduced snowpack and earlier snowmelt caused by climate change impact water supply in high-mountain areas. She is a lead author of a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) assesses the latest scientific literature to describe the impacts of climate change on the ocean and cryosphere – water in its solid state, which in mountains includes glaciers, permafrost, and snow.

Steltzer drew upon experience working in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado near the headwaters of the Colorado River in co-authoring the report’s chapter on high mountains. This marks the first time since 1996 that the IPCC has featured a chapter on mountains within one of its reports.

“Mountain systems provide water to people – water that is essential for drinking, growing food, industry, and energy systems. Available water depends not just on how big a glacier is or how much snow falls or how fast melting happens, but also on how the ice and snow affect plants, microbes, and soils,” said Steltzer.

Ecologist Heidi Steltzer evaluates the site of a 2018 wildfire within 10 miles of her Colorado home. Changes in snow affect the disturbance regime of U.S. mountain regions. (Credit: Joel Dyar)

The power to move mountains

The IPCC invites select scientific experts to evaluate thousands of scientific papers published each year in order to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. Authors of the content on mountainous regions scoured the scientific literature for articles covering all high-mountain regions where the cryosphere is present year round or seasonally.

The SROCC adds to knowledge of glacier mass loss, thawing permafrost, and decreasing snow cover and snow duration, which affect mountain ecosystems, water supply, disturbances, and hazards. Authors of the chapter on high mountains assert that multiple hazards and risks stem from changes in the mountain environment, including impacts of variability and trends in water supply on hydropower production and implications for energy policy and water governance.

The report describes a lengthening of the growing season and more plant growth in some regions, such as the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, due to shorter duration of snow cover. Yet, in other regions, such as the U.S. Rocky Mountains where Steltzer and the Berkeley Lab Watershed Function team are working, plants aren’t growing more even though the growing season is longer.

Susan Hubbard is lead of the DOE Watershed Function SFA project and Associate Laboratory Director for the Earth & Environmental Sciences Area at Berkeley Lab. According to Hubbard, “The multidisciplinary approach of the Watershed Function SFA aims to understand how disturbances such as earlier snowmelt influence interactions between bedrock, soil, microbes, and vegetation across changes in elevation and gradients and how this in turn affects downstream water supply and water quality.”

“Heidi’s expertise in mountain ecology is invaluable to this project, as is her understanding about how different mountainous watersheds across the world are responding to changing conditions.”

Filling the gaps

Recent SFA findings will help fill gaps identified in the SROCC report and serve as a resource for future IPCC reports. For example, the report explores the huge change in the amount of snowfall from year to year over the past three years across Colorado and many regions of the Western U.S. Also, during low-snow, early melt years, plant growth is increasingly synchronized across different elevations. Under climate change, the timing of plant growth is changing, which will affect water availability and nutrient retention and loss through plant interactions with microbes.

According to Eoin Brodie, Deputy Director of Climate and Ecosystem Sciences at Berkeley Lab and Watershed Function SFA project member, “The timing of snowfall and rate of snowmelt control microbial processes that appear to exert a significant control on nitrogen export from hillslopes to the river.”

@CWCB_DNR: September 2019 #Drought Update

Here’s the September 2019 Drought Update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado Division of Water Resources (Ben Wade, Tracy Kosloff):

August and September to date have both been warm, although the water year as a whole is the coldest since 2010. Above normal temperatures are predicted to continue in October. Recent months have also been dry although for the water year as a whole, precipitation ranges from average to above average statewide. ​The North American monsoon season was disappointing in Colorado and other parts of the Southwestern U.S. The monsoon season sometimes results in beneficial rainfall for Colorado, particularly in the southern portion of the state.

The map of Snotel precipitation for the last 90 days (June 27- September 24) compared to the average for that time period shows how dry the summer has been in Colorado’s mountain areas.

Colorado Drought Monitor October 1, 2019.

● 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.

● Reservoir storage across the state (as of the end of August) is 116% of average and 70% of capacity. At this time last year, statewide reservoir storage was at 82% of average.

● According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, released September 24, D0, abnormally dry, and D1, moderate drought, now cover 66 percent of Colorado.

● Water providers reported their systems are in good shape but water demand was high in August and September and they hope for beneficial moisture over the winter to avoid high demand next spring before runoff has refilled storage supplies.

#Drought news: Precipitation deficit = 27.53% of #Colorado in D1 (Moderate Drought)

Colorado Drought Monitor October 1, 2019.

From The Denver Post (Chris Bianchi):

Only a few months removed from a rare and mostly drought-less summer, more than a quarter of Colorado (27.5%) is officially in a drought, according to the United States Drought Monitor’s weekly update, released on Thursday. In addition to the drought conditions, about 70% of the state is now also considered to be “abnormally dry”, as a recent summer dry spell continues. Abnormally dry conditions are the step just below an official drought.

In Denver, August, September and October (so far) have each seen below average precipitation. Since Aug. 1, Denver’s total rainfall of just 1.08 inches is less than half of the average 2.19 inches for that time period. Similar numbers were observed throughout the Front Range, as a dominating ridge of high pressure suppressed and reduced rain chances, and boosted September temperatures. A lackluster monsoon season is also contributing to the growing drought.

It’s also the lack of a monsoon season that has mainly Southern Colorado feeling the greatest pinch of drought. And it’s not just Colorado; drought conditions are worse in neighboring New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. Pockets of severe drought are now in place in parts of Arizona and New Mexico, based on this week’s drought monitor update.

In southwestern Colorado, precipitation deficits are greater here than those along the Front Range and the rest of the state. Since Sept. 1, Cortez, Grand Junction, Montrose and Aspen have all received less than a quarter of their typical precipitation for that time period.

From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

The State of Colorado began its 2019-2020 study of our drought situation this past Tuesday, October 1st noting that nearly 70% of Colorado is in the lowest level of drought classification, D-0 or ‘abnormally dry’. This classification registers for 596,000 residents in the state or 12% and covers 42.4% of Colorado. The only other classification now indicated, D-1, or ‘moderate drought’ impacts 2,712,000 residents and makes up 54% of the state’s population and covers 27.5% of the state.

South central and southwestern Colorado have moved into the D1 moderate level and is where the drought can be most severe.

The D-0 or abnormally dry classification describes short-term dryness slowing planting and growth of crops, shows some lingering water deficits and pastures or crops are not fully recovered. The D-1 or moderate drought classification describes conditions showing some damage to crops and pastures, some water shortages are developing and voluntary water-use restrictions are requested.

R.I.P. Ginger Baker: “Had to cry today”

Black and white image of Baker playng an elaborate drum kit withe Cream 1968. By Omroepvereniging VARA – http://www.beeldengeluidwiki.nl/index.php/Bestand:FTA001009845_006_con.png, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20520339

From Wikipedia:

Baker lived in Parker, Colorado between 1993 and 1999, in part due to his passion for polo. Baker not only participated in polo events at the Salisbury Equestrian Park, but he also sponsored an ongoing series of jam sessions and concerts at the equestrian centre on weekends.

From Westword (Susan Froyd):

Fourteen Songs That Rocked the Radio in 1968

14) Cream: “Sunshine of Your Love” From the 1967 breakout album Disraeli Gears but released as a single in ’68, “Sunshine of Your Love” is driven by Cream’s blend of poetry and pure power -trio sonics. As a band whose members always seemed to be working with — and against — one another in a web of dynamic tension, the amalgam of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker still sounds fresh decades later. “Sunshine of Your Love” breaks the aesthetic down to its true nitty gritty.

From The New York Times (Peter Keepnews):

Ginger Baker, who helped redefine the role of the drums in rock and became a superstar in the process, died on Sunday in a hospital in southeastern England. He was 80.

His family confirmed his death in a post on his official Twitter account.

Mr. Baker drew worldwide attention for his approach to the drums, as sophisticated as it was forceful, when he teamed with the guitarist Eric Clapton and the bassist Jack Bruce in the hugely successful British band Cream in 1966.

Keith Moon of the Who was more uninhibited; John Bonham of Led Zeppelin — a band formed in 1968, the year Cream broke up — was slicker. But Mr. Baker brought a new level of artistry to his instrument, and he was the first rock drummer to be prominently featured as a soloist and to become a star in his own right. Mr. Clapton praised him as “a fully formed musician” whose “musical capabilities are the full spectrum.”

Both as a member of the ensemble and as a soloist, Mr. Baker captivated audiences and earned the respect of his fellow percussionists with playing that was, as Neil Peart, the drummer with the band Rush, once said, “extrovert, primal and inventive.” Mr. Baker, Mr. Peart added, “set the bar for what rock drumming could be.”

But Mr. Baker, who got his start in jazz combos and cited the likes of Max Roach and Elvin Jones as influences, bristled when the word “rock” was applied to his playing. “I’m a jazz drummer,” he told the British newspaper The Telegraph in 2013. “You have to swing. There are hardly any rock drummers I know who can do that.”

Mr. Baker’s appearance behind the drum kit — flaming red hair, flailing arms, eyes bulging with enthusiasm or shut tight in concentration — made an indelible impression…

Drawn to the drums at an early age, Mr. Baker talked his way into a job with a traditional-jazz combo when he was 16 despite his lack of professional experience. Before long, he was well established on the London jazz scene…

n 1962 Mr. Baker joined Blues Incorporated, one of the earliest British rhythm-and-blues bands, beginning his contentious but musically rewarding association with Mr. Bruce. When the organist and saxophonist Graham Bond left that band in 1964 to form his own group, the Graham Bond Organisation, Mr. Baker and Mr. Bruce went with him.

Two years later they teamed with Mr. Clapton, whose work with the Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers had made him one of Britain’s most celebrated guitarists, to form Cream…

Mr. Baker’s next band was, on paper, even bigger than Cream: Blind Faith, in which he and Mr. Clapton joined forces with the singer, keyboardist and guitarist Steve Winwood, known for his work with the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. (The less famous Ric Grech was the bassist.) Hopes were high, but Blind Faith imploded after one album and one tour, the victim of excessive hype and conflicting egos…

Mr. Baker and the other members of Cream were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. The band reunited for concerts in London and New York in 2005 and received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2006…

Asked in [an] interview how he would like to be remembered, he paused for a moment and then gave a one-word answer:

“Drummer.”

Pueblo Board of Water Works board election crucial to Pueblo’s future — Alan Hamel

Loaf ‘N Jug Presents the Chile & Frijoles Festival (2015), Historic Downtown Pueblo, CO. Photo Credit: Extremeshots Photography

Here’s a guest column from Alan Hamel that’s running in the La Junta Tribune Democrat:

There are two six-year term board seats and one two-year term seat to be filled on the Pueblo Board of Water Works. One incumbent and three new candidates are running for the two six-year seats, and one short-term incumbent and a new candidate are running for the two-year seat.

This election could be historic, in that, in a short two-year time span, the board could have four new members. A major part of the organization’s success in serving Pueblo with high quality water in a sufficient supply and at a reasonable cost, supported by a highly qualified leadership team and dedicated and qualified employees, is having a tenured board of highly motivated business men and women committed to that mission.

Not only must they look at today, but 50 years out. That is why this election is so crucial to our future.

Let’s for a moment reflect on a just few of Pueblo Water’s major successes. First, water supply. Pueblo Water is currently the completing the acquisition of 28 percent of the Bessemer Irrigating Ditch Company. With this addition to Pueblo’s supply, the system can serve a population of 200,000 and through the year 2070.

Second, water treatment and quality. The system’s water treatment equipment and laboratories are state of the art, meeting or exceeding all state and federal which continually are becoming more demanding. Pueblo Water continually adopts the newest and best methods to deliver the highest quality water to its customers. The water treatment plant capacity is 84 million gallons per day. With Pueblo’s current maximum day usage in the low 50 million gallons per day, the plant is capable of serving Pueblo’s needs well into the future.

Third, water rates. Pueblo continues to have the lowest rates for potable water of any major utility along the Front Range. Pueblo water rates are 33 percent below the average and 67 percent below the top. This is being done while having an ample supply of water and a modern, dependable and well-maintained system.

Fourth, long range planning. Pueblo Water has been a leader in its implementation of long range planning, dating back to the 1970s. Over the years, it has enhanced those efforts greatly. Currently in place are plans that span the next 30 years, and in the case of water supply, 50 years.

This has been a direct result of having a strong and committed elected board, supported by an exceedingly qualified leadership team and backed by highly component and trained employees. The elected board, leadership and employees are all dedicated to serving the customers/citizens of Pueblo.

With all this in mind, I truly believe it is imperative we re-elect Mike Cafasso to another term to the Pueblo water board. He has served the citizens of Pueblo with distinction and strong leadership in this position for the last 12 years and will provide strong leadership in this historic period in Pueblo Water’s history and in our future.

He has served as the board president for a total three years during his tenure. His private sector experience is extensive. He is the current chief executive officer at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center and during his career in banking, he has been president and CEO of two banks in Pueblo.

Along with his comprehensive experience as an administrator and in finance, he has taken extensive leadership, customer service and innovation practice training over the years. And now he applies that in his everyday life. Pueblo Water and their customers have benefited from his service and training.

I now want to make one more recommendation for the other six-year seat. I would recommend Chris Woodka, who has been involved for more than 34 years in water supply issues and would be able to transition quickly into a position as a Pueblo water board member. Currently, he is the senior policy and issues manager for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, a position he has held for three years.

For the previous 31 years, Woodka worked in various positions at The Pueblo Chieftain. He wrote and researched water issues during his entire career. From 2004 to 2016, his primary emphasis was on water reporting. During that period I got to know him well. In my opinion, he was the most knowledgeable water reporter in Colorado, covering the complex world of water. He thoroughly understands all aspects of Pueblo Water.

In closing, Pueblo would be well served by electing Mike Cafasso and Chris Woodka to the Board of Water Works.

Alan Hamel retired from the Pueblo Board of Water Works after 52 years, including 30 years as executive director. He now serves as a board member for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and a volunteer in the Pueblo mayor’s office.