Merry Christmas

Christmas Elk via the Middle Colorado Watershed Council December 2013

Holiday wishes from the brilliant Greta Thunberg.

#Colorado rafting team poised for second attempt at breaking speed record down #GrandCanyon — The Colorado Sun #WhiteWater

The U.S. Rafting Team has enlisted three veteran Grand Canyon guides in a mission to set a new speed record for descending the Colorado River’s 277 miles through the canyon. The team tested a new raft design last month on the Ruby Horsethief and Westwater canyons, rowing from Loma to Utah’s Dewey Bridge in about nine hours. (Robbie Prechtl, special to The Colorado Sun)

From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

U.S Rafting Team is back with a new raft design and veteran guides in mission to row 277 miles in less than 34 hours.

In January 2017, the U.S. Men’s Whitewater Rafting Team’s speed-record dream died in the Colorado River’s stout Lava Falls rapid.

Lava Falls: “This, I was told, is the biggest drop on the river in the GC. It’s 35 feet from top to bottom of the falls,” John Fowler. The photo was taken from the Toroweap overlook, 7 June 2010, via Wikimedia.

They had been rowing for more than 20 hours and were on pace to set a record for the fastest descent of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon when their customized cataraft failed in the roiling rapid. After four hours of repairs in the dark, they limped to the take-out more than five hours past the 34-hour, two-minute record set in 2016 by kayaker Ben Orkin.

Colorado River from Lee’s Ferry. Photo credit. Gonzo fan2007 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Three years later, the Colorado-based team is back with a slightly different boat design and a trio of veteran Grand Canyon guides onboard. They plan to launch from Lees Ferry on Jan. 9 and row their custom-made raft through 130 rapids over 277 miles, rowing six at a time to reach Grand Wash Cliffs in less than 34 hours.

“Everything is going to have to be perfect,” said Edwards-based team captain John Mark Seelig. “The weather has got to be right and water has got to be right where we need it and we are going to have to hit our lines perfectly. We’re feeling good.”

The team, which competes in four-man and six-man whitewater races around the world, kept their heads down as they planned the last attempt, trying not to attract too much attention. They didn’t want to seem presumptuous, dropping in from Colorado for their first speed attempt and possibly irk the tight-knit Grand Canyon rafting community. And while they weren’t breaking rules, they did have sandal-maker Chaco helping with support. The National Park Service doesn’t smile on promotional campaigns in their parks…

[The USA Rafting Team has never won a world championship. With full-time jobs, families, and responsibilities, these scrappy 30-40-year olds use their free time and vacation days to train, travel the world, and race against competitors sometimes half their age. They’ve been close, but never the best. On January 13, 2017, they set their sights on making history, attempting to break a legendary speed record down 277 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Their goal was 34 hours. In a custom-built 48 foot raft and with ultramarathon effort, “The Time Travelers” is the story of ordinary people attempting something extraordinary on one of the world’s most breathtaking stages. 34 hours – just a blip in the scope of geological history – could be both their defining moment and the ride of their lives.

A Gnarly Bay Production and a Forest Woodward + Brendan Leonard Collaboration.

Music: Marmoset
Special Thanks: NRS, Yeti Coolers, Jack’s Plastic Molding, and Cataract Oars]

This time the team is self-funding its mission and using the record-setting attempt to raise money for Grand Canyon Youth, a nonprofit in the Southwest that gets kids on rivers. They want to raise $10,000 for the group.

The U.S. Rafting Team’s Seelig, Robbie Prechtl, Jeremiah Williams, Matt Norfleet and Kurt Kincel have enlisted experienced Grand Canyon raft guides and endurance athletes Lyndsay Hupp, Omar Eli Martinez and Justin Salamon for the 2020 attempt.

“The first attempt, we didn’t really talk about it. The narrative of the story has changed this time. It’s something more meaningful to us,” Seelig said. “We feel more supported by the Grand Canyon community this time and we are leaning on them for their knowledge.”

Map of Grand Canyon National Park via the NPS

Seelig said the expert guides, while maybe not as familiar with the raft, have decades of experience rowing the canyon and can provide critical navigational help as they line up daunting rapids in the dark. Each of them has logged dozens of descents of the canyon, mostly shepherding guests, and they are pining for a speed descent, Seelig said.

The U.S. Whitewater Rafting Team trains on its custom-built raft in December on the Colorado River. The team was on pace for a record descent of the 277-mile canyon [January 14-15, 2017] when a wave broke the frame and punctured a tube. Photo Special to The Denver Post by Forest Woodward.

#2020: What will it hold for the #water sector? — AquaTech

Graphic via wamda

From AquaTech Trade (Emma Weisbord):

As the digital transformation of the water sector continues to increase in pace and scale, we predict 2020 will be the year of lessons learned and enlightenment. The last few years were marked by peaks of inflated expectations over several emerging technologies, notably blockchain and AI/ML, both enabled by the ability to outsource storage and computing to the cloud. While these technologies and others remain exciting tools to improve efficiency and reduce costs, the integration into business operations has been lacking…

The key is to ensure that digital transformation is done with vision, purpose, and strategy. This brings us to the slope of enlightenment, which will be the key trend in 2020. The enlightenment trend of 2020 will be supported by change managers who will guide the water sector’s adoption and strategic integration of digital technologies.

Whereas the last few years highlighted technologists, we predict that 2020 will place a spotlight on the guides, those able to work between business and technology to seamlessly integrate the two.

This next year is when the rubber hits the road on large scale digital transformation. The water sector will need change agents to help establish vision, value, business imperatives, identify wins and friction points, and set out strategic roadmaps for water utilities.

The slope of enlightenment will continue to be lit by these guides, leading the water sector onto the plateau of productivity, where technologies are integrated to reduce business costs and increase efficiency, allowing us to achieve our goal of universal access to safe water and sanitation…

2020: Digital, decentralized and democratized
Will Sarni, CEO, Water Foundry

In the world of water, 2019 was an inflection point and in some respects a departure from the past. The digital transformation of the water sector took hold, centralized water systems continue to fail calling attention to the opportunities with decentralized systems and we moved closer to democratizing access to real time data, actionable information and alternative hydration.

Looking ahead to 2020, I see three major trends.

Digital: Analog water solutions are well on their way to extinction as the digital transformation of the water sector accelerates. Digital water technologies continue to scale with public and private enterprises and the innovation pipeline for new digital technologies is thriving. Digital technologies and start-ups such as satellite data acquisition for real time water quality monitoring and flood prediction, AI applications for asset and resource management and real time water quality monitoring at the tap are scaling.

Decentralized: Centralized water systems are aging, underinvested and increasingly fail. Decentralized (and distributed) water systems are emerging as viable alternatives to capital intensive centralized water systems. These decentralized systems are more resilient to extreme weather events and provide more affordable alternatives to capital intensive centralized systems.

Democratized: The tragedy of lead contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan was not an isolated occurrence and served as a wake-up call that democratized access to real time data and actionable information is now essential. Imagine if the residents of Flint had affordable and reliable real time water quality data at their taps? Imagine if safe drinking water was available via small scale air moisture capture technologies?

Don’t view these as separate trends. For example, digital technologies are enabling the adoption of decentralized systems and democratized data and information and access to water. 2020 will be the year of digital water fuelling decentralized and democratized access to water.

The Ten Biggest Colorado Environmental Stories of 2019 — Westword

From Westword (Chase Woodruff):

There has always been a bit of a mismatch between Colorado’s environmentally friendly self-image, its knack for salesmanship, and the messier reality on the ground. We wax rhapsodic about escaping to the mountains for the weekend, then sit for hours in traffic in our gas-guzzling SUVs to get there. We wear $300 Patagonia jackets made from recycled polyester and boast one of the worst waste diversion rates in the country.

In 2019, some of these contradictions were more apparent than ever — and many of the biggest stories in the realm of environmental policy and activism involved attempts to reconcile them…

Colorado Prepares for a Clean-Energy Revolution…
Most of them didn’t receive a fraction of the attention that SB 181 did, but a slate of clean-energy bills passed by lawmakers in 2019 could end up having a much more transformative effect on Colorado’s economy. Legislation to set statewide goals for greenhouse gas emissions cuts, speed up the decarbonization of the electric sector, incentivize electric vehicle purchases and more passed out of the legislature and boosted the state’s efforts to tackle climate change.

…but a Denver Climate Tax Goes Up in Smoke
While climate activists celebrated some big wins at the state level in 2019, they were left frustrated by events on the other side of Civic Center Park, where Mayor Michael Hancock quashed an effort to put an energy tax on the ballot in order to better fund the city’s climate programs. In a compromise with city council members who supported the measure, Hancock agreed to boost climate funding in his 2020 budget and launch a climate action task force that will make recommendations — including for a possible tax measure — next year.

Youth Climate Strikes and the Greta Effect
The largest day of climate demonstrations in history saw more than 5,000 activists, many of them young people, march through the streets of downtown Denver and rally at the State Capitol, joining millions around the world to demand that governments take more aggressive action to combat the climate crisis. “We’re the generation that’s going to have to deal with years of irresponsible climate policy by outdated politicians,” high school student Amelia Gorman told Westword. “It’s going to really affect our future, so it’s our job to speak out about it now.”

The activist who helped inspire this global Youth Climate Strike movement, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, drew another big crowd when she visited Denver a few weeks later, while young Denverites like Thomas Lopez emerged as leaders in their own right, challenging Hancock on stage at the Sustainable Denver Summit in December. There’s a new generation of climate activists making their voices heard, and they’re only going to get louder.

Photos from the Climate Strike September 20, 2019 in Denver, Colorado.