Governor Gordon Requests Disaster Declaration for Five #Wyoming Counties

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

Governor Mark Gordon has sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue requesting a Disaster Designation for five Wyoming counties where agriculture producers were impacted by powerful early-season snowstorms.

The request covers Laramie, Goshen, Platte, Park and Big Horn counties. The scale, severity and timing of freezing and snow events that occurred in October were devastating to crops, particularly sugar beets. While producers did their best to maximize their harvest, damage from the storms was severe.

A copy of the Governor’s letter can be viewed here.

Wyoming rivers map via

A solution for cleaning up #PFAS, one of the world’s most intractable pollutants — @ColoradoStateU

An electrochemical flow cell with a stainless steel cathode and a boron-doped diamond anode is used to treat a concentrated waste stream of GenX. Photo credit: Colorado State University

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Anne Manning):

A cluster of industrial chemicals known by the shorthand term “PFAS” has infiltrated the far reaches of our planet with significance that scientists are only beginning to understand.

PFAS – Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – are human-made fluorine compounds that have given us nonstick coatings, polishes, waxes, cleaning products and firefighting foams used at airports and military bases. They are in consumer goods like carpets, wall paint, popcorn bags and water-repellant shoes, and they are essential in the aerospace, automotive, telecommunications, data storage, electronic and healthcare industries.

The carbon-fluorine chemical bond, among nature’s strongest, is the reason behind the wild success of these chemicals, as well as the immense environmental challenges they have caused since the 1940s. PFAS residues have been found in some of the most pristine water sources, and in the tissue of polar bears. Science and industry are called upon to clean up these persistent chemicals, a few of which, in certain quantities, have been linked to adverse health effects for humans and animals.

Among those solving this enormously difficult problem are engineers in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering at Colorado State University. CSU is one of a limited number of institutions with the expertise and sophisticated instrumentation to study PFAS by teasing out their presence in unimaginably trace amounts.

Cleaning up ‘GenX’

Now, CSU engineers led by Jens Blotevogel, research assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, have published a new set of experiments tackling a particular PFAS compound called hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid, better known by its trade name, GenX. The chemical, and other polymerization processes that use similar chemistries, have been in use for about a decade. They were developed as a replacement for legacy PFAS chemicals known as “C8” compounds that were – and still are – particularly persistent in water and soil, and very difficult to clean up (hence their nickname, “forever chemicals”).

GenX has become a household name in the Cape Fear basin area of North Carolina, where it was discovered in the local drinking water a few years ago. The responsible company, Chemours, has committed to reducing fluorinated organic chemicals in local air emissions by 99.99%, and air and water emissions from its global operations by at least 99% by 2030. For the last several years, Chemours has also funded Blotevogel’s team at CSU as they test innovative methods that would help the environment as well as assist the company’s legacy cleanup obligations.

Treatment train

Writing in Environmental Science and Technology, Blotevogel teamed up with Tiezheng Tong, assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering, to demonstrate an effective “treatment train” that combines multiple technologies to precisely isolate and destroy GenX residues in water.

One of the current practices for treating GenX-contaminated water is high-temperature incineration – a process that is “excessively expensive,” according to the researchers, and very wasteful for water and energy recovery. “It works,” Blotevogel said, “but it’s not sustainable.”

The researchers are offering a better solution. Tong, a leading expert in membrane filtration and desalination methods for environmental hazards, employed a nanofiltration membrane with appropriate pore sizes to filter out 99.5% of dissolved GenX compounds. Once that concentrated waste stream is generated, the researchers showed that electrochemical oxidation, which Blotevogel considers one of the most viable technologies for destructive PFAS cleanup, can then break down the waste into harmless products.

Currently, companies can also use several measures for removal of PFAS from water to acceptable levels: adsorption to activated carbon, ion exchange, and reverse osmosis. While all three of these technologies can be highly effective, they do not result directly in destruction of PFAS compounds, Blotevogel said.

The CSU researchers alternative solution of electrochemical treatment uses electrodes to chemically change the PFAS into more benign compounds. Blotevogel’s lab has demonstrated several successful pilot-scale decontamination efforts, and is working to continue optimizing their methodologies. Combined with Tong’s nanofiltration system, the waste stream would be directed and concentrated, saving companies money and lowering the entire process’s carbon footprint.

The researchers hope to continue working together to refine their process, for example, by testing different types of filtration membranes to determine the most optimal materials and design.

Aspinall Unit operations update: Blue Mesa releases to be bumped up to meet reservoir icing targets

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be increased to 1600 cfs on Monday, December 9th. Blue Mesa Reservoir elevation remains above the winter icing target level. Releases will be maintained at this level with the goal of lowering the reservoir to the icing target elevation of 7490 feet by December 31st. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for September through December.

Currently, there are no diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 1000 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be at zero and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 1600 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

Aspinall Unit

When it’s frozen outside, what it takes to fix a pipeline — News on TAP

Neither ice nor snow stop Denver Water’s Emergency Services crews. The post When it’s frozen outside, what it takes to fix a pipeline appeared first on News on TAP.

via When it’s frozen outside, what it takes to fix a pipeline — News on TAP

“Lidar technology more accurately measures snow depth” — The Durango Herald #snowpack

This map shows the snowpack depth of the Maroon Bells in spring 2019. The map was created with information from NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory, which will help water managers make more accurate streamflow predictions. Jeffrey Deems/ASO, National Snow and Ice Data Center

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

At a time when monitoring mountain snowpack is crucial for communities throughout the American West, has the next generation of measuring snow depth arrived?

Some top researchers seem to think so.

“We really feel we have the next evolution for water management,” said Jeffery Deems, a research scientist for the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

For years, the go-to monitoring method for measuring snowpack in the mountains has been a network of weather stations, known as Snotel sites, which are dispersed throughout the West to gauge snow depth and the amount of water contained in the snow.

But the system has its limitations: There are only about 730 sites across the entire western U.S. and Alaska, which is a small sample pool and doesn’t provide a comprehensive picture of entire basins. And, the technology for Snotels hasn’t been seriously updated since being installed in the late 1970s and early 1980s…

Combined lidar and aerial mapping

A better way?
In the early 2010s, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory teamed with the California Department of Water Resources to create the Airborne Snow Observatory to develop a new way of tracking snowpack in the mountains, looking to Light Detection and Ranging (lidar), a 3D scanning system, as a possible answer.

Lidar is not new technology. For years, it has been outfitted on planes to send beams down to earth to map elevations on the landscape, evaluate flood plains and even find the remnants of archaeological ruins underneath the ground.

But researchers started wondering if it could be applied to measuring snowpack.

The first flights were conducted in California in fall 2012 to create a baseline model of the mountains without snow, flying about 20,000 feet off the ground for five to six hours in a back-and-forth pattern.

Then, after a few storms, planes took flight again, and researchers were able to subtract elevation amounts to determine precise snow depths through high-resolution maps.

“We see it as moving from a sparse-point base network (with Snotel) to a system that can map the entire snowpack in a river basin,” Deems said. “It is really an enabling technology.”


This map shows the snowpack depth of Castle and Maroon valleys in spring 2019. The map was created with information from NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory, which will help water managers make more accurate streamflow predictions. Jeffrey Deems/ASO, National Snow and Ice Data Center

Flying isn’t free
While those in the water world are excited about the potential of lidar, there is less enthusiasm for bringing out the check book.

Frank Kugel, the new director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District, said he saw the benefits firsthand when he was working in Gunnison, a time when many of the flights were in the experimental stage…

But Kugel said it could cost somewhere around $400,000 a year to fly the entire boundaries of the southwest district and convert that data to maps and usable information…

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is investing $250,000 in 2021 to conduct flights in the Gunnison basin, but Skeie said he hopes the project expands to other parts of Colorado in the coming years. But how that will look is yet to be determined.

In California, for example, lidar planes fly about 10 times a year, starting in January. When snowmelt begins around April, those flights ramp up.

Deems said the needs of each basin in Colorado, and how often water managers want flights, will vary, and the project can be tailored to those needs.

Note: I caught up with Jeff Deems last summer at the Colorado Water Congress Annual Summer Convention to ask about measuring density, which LIDAR and current aerial technology cannot do. He told me that we still need the SNOTEL sites and, in fact, we need more.

“The term regenerative agriculture has been around for more than 80 years but with the very real threat of climate change, the words have taken on new importance” — Libby James


From The North Forty News (Libby James). Click through and read the whole article to learn about some local efforts. Here’s an excerpt:

The term regenerative agriculture has been around for more than 80 years but with the very real threat of climate change, the words have taken on new importance. The United States Congress called the waste of soil and moisture resources in farmland across the country a “menace to the national welfare.” Early in the 1930s, Congress reacted by establishing what has become NRCS, the National Resources Conservation Service, confirming the government’s commitment to conserving the nation’s soil and water resources.

The first soil experiment stations were established as early as 1929 and in 1932, under President Roosevelt’s New Deal, demonstration projects in eroded areas pointed out the benefits of soil conversation with farmers experiencing the devastating effects of the Dust Bowl. Widespread crop failures had exposed the soil to blowing winds noticed as far away as Washington DC and 300 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

By 1936 the government had initiated plans for flood control, drainage, and irrigation. Three thousand conservation districts were established across the country. A thousand dams were built on 2,000 watershed projects.

A drought in the 1950s resulted in the Great Plains Conservation Act that provided financial assistance to farmers for retiring cropland and planting protective cover crops. More laws were passed in the 1960s and the first Earth Day was held in 1970. Another farm crisis in the 1990s resulted in establishing tillage practices and restoration projects worked to select seeds and plants suitable for reviving wetlands and prairies.

More financial help and innovative programs aimed at evaluating conservation issues were undertaken by the government in that decade. And still, solutions remained elusive.

Today concerns with global warming have come increasingly to the forefront making efforts to promote regenerative agriculture more important than ever before.