#BlueRiver Watershed Group make a difference day 2020, August 29, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Click here to volunteer or sponsor:

Join us on Saturday, August 29, 2020 for a county-wide river cleanup. We have partnered with Summit County’s Make a Difference Day to create an event that will have a profound positive impact on the health of the Blue River Watershed.

​We will spend the morning cleaning our valley’s waterways. We had planned to
have a small celebration in the afternoon, but due to the coronavirus
we have decided not to hold that gathering.

Volunteer Team Leaders will pick up supplies for their team starting at 8 am the day of the cleanup. Cleanup of your river section will run from 9 am to noon. Remember to take photos of your strangest find for a chance to win a prize.

Navajo Dam operations update: 900 CFS in the #SanJuanRiver below the dam, August 12, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From email from Reclamation (Susan Behery):

In response to decreasing flows and a dry forecast weather pattern in the San Juan River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 800 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 900 cfs on Wednesday, August 12th, starting at 5:00 PM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program has recommended base flows as close to 500 cfs as possible for the summer of 2020. This is within their normal recommended range of 500 to 1,000 cfs. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

The Navajo Dam on the San Juan River.Photo credit Mike Robinson via the University of Washington.

On Climate, @KamalaHarris Has a Record and Profile for Action — Inside Climate News #ActOnClimate

Kamala Harris. By United States Senate – This file has been extracted from another file: Kamala Harris official photo.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64332043

From Inside Climate News (Marianne Lavelle):

In choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden put a spotlight on two key elements of his climate policy: environmental justice for minority communities and accountability for the oil and gas industry.

Harris, who will be the first Black woman to run on a major political party’s presidential ticket, only last week sought to affirm her commitment to communities of color in the climate battle—and progressives in the Democratic party—by introducing climate equity legislation. The California Senator teamed up with Green New Deal avatar Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on the effort, an outreach to the climate activist community that Biden hopes to energize behind his candidacy.

During her presidential run, Harris also frequently advocated for the federal government to take legal action against fossil fuel companies for their legacy of climate pollution. It’s another stance that resonates with many climate-focused voters, even though, as California’s attorney general, she did not go as far as other state law enforcers in pursuing litigation against the industry.

Certainly, many factors beyond climate change will decide Harris’s value to the Democratic ticket, including her ability to win over voters in states beyond California. How she handles critiques of her past work as a prosecutor will be important, especially amid the national reckoning on race and law enforcement, and how well she stands up to President Donald Trump’s attacks will be critical, as well.

But the environmental community is an important constituency that analysts believe Biden must activate to put together a winning coalition. He took an important step toward that goal last month with a greatly expanded $2 trillion plan, developed with input from advisers to his primary rival, Bernie Sanders. By bringing another rival, Harris, aboard as vice president, Biden chose a candidate already tested in the campaign spotlight with a record and profile for action on environmental issues that is winning the team praise throughout the activist community.

“A true environmental champion,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, vice president of government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters, noting that Harris has had a 91 percent pro-environmental lifetime voting record on the LCV scorecard (that’s better than Biden’s lifetime score of 83 percent). “Senator Harris has been a long-time champion for climate action and environmental justice….We know she will continue the fight for a more just solution to the climate crisis.”

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth Action, an environmental group that would like to see Biden’s recently expanded climate platform go even farther, also had praise for the choice of Harris.

“Senator Harris’ commitment to environmental justice and her desire to hold corporate polluters financially and criminally accountable for their destructive behavior is a welcome sign,” Pica said. “We hope her inclusion on the ticket provides another opportunity for Vice President Biden to increase the ambition of his climate plan and cements climate justice and climate equity as a priority for their administration.”

‘There Has Been No Accountability’

Harris brings a record on climate issues that dates back to her time as San Francisco’s district attorney, when she created that office’s first environmental justice unit in 2005. As California attorney general, she confronted the fossil fuel industry by opposing Chevron’s proposed refinery expansion in Richmond, a majority Black and Hispanic city that has waged a long battle against pollution at the Chevron site.

Harris also sued the Southern California Gas Co. over a massive methane blowout from an underground storage facility on the outskirts of Los Angeles, citing the climate threat posed by the uncontrolled emissions of the super-potent greenhouse gas. The blowout was the largest known natural gas leak in U.S. history. The case was settled three years later, after Harris’ departure for the Senate, in an agreement that some environmentalists criticized as inadequate.

As California attorney general, Harris lent her support to a coalition of 17 Democratic attorneys general who vowed in 2016 to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for climate change. The group—AGs United For Clean Power—was formed in the wake of disclosures that oil giant ExxonMobil had understood the magnitude of climate change for decades yet went on to mislead the public about the catastrophic consequences.

During one primary debate last year, Harris said, “I have sued ExxonMobil,” but in fact, she never did. (The attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts took Exxon to court—with the company successfully defending itself against the New York charges and still in litigation with Massachusetts.) Harris’ campaign spokesman at the time said that she meant that she investigated the company.

But as a presidential candidate, Harris was consistent in her call for accountability from the oil and gas industry over liability for their past actions on climate change. “Let’s get them not only in the pocketbook, but let’s make sure there are severe and serious penalties for their behaviors,” she told Mother Jones, in an interview last year on the campaign trail.

At a CNN Town Hall on climate change, she said as president she would direct the Department of Justice to launch an investigation of the companies. “They are causing harm and death in communities. And there has been no accountability,” she said.

Hungry for a ‘Transformative Change’

Harris has sometimes struggled with Black and progressive voters because of her history as a tough-on-crime prosecutor in a state where the incarceration rate for African Americans is five times higher than their share of the population.

That history looms large for Alexandria Villaseñor, a 14-year-old climate activist from New York, who founded the activist group Earth Uprising.

“I think Kamala Harris is a big win for women of color and environmental justice, however she definitely has some work to do in order to show our generation that she’s become more progressive since her prosecutor days,” she said.

But Robert Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University and author, widely known as “The Father of Environmental Justice,” told InsideClimate News last week that he thought Harris would add value to a Biden ticket at a moment when people are hungry for “transformative change.”

“We must center the fight for environmental and climate justice in the broader conversation” on race, Bullard said.

Gina McCarthy, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, called Harris “a cross-generational consensus-builder with a solid record for getting things done.” McCarthy, who served as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator under President Barack Obama, said Harris’s work in the nation’s leading clean energy state makes her a good fit to lead a national transformation.

“She’s worked to make California the nation’s leader in the clean energy jobs we need to confront the climate crisis head-on and build back better with a recovery that’s strong, durable and creates opportunity in every community in America,” McCarthy said.

In a foreshadowing of the attacks that are sure to come, the Trump-Pence campaign sent a blast email to the media Tuesday night, calling Harris “the most radical, far-left Vice Presidential nominee in U.S. history.” But many climate activists see both her and Biden as centrists. Calvin Yang, an 18-year-old Canadian climate organizer and spokesman for Fridays for Future International, commented on the pragmatism of their policy approaches.

“It’s great to have a green and relatively eco friendly duo on the presidency and vice presidency,” he said, “and the politics they implement wouldn’t be impossible to pass and would win the support of the American public.”

One Black climate activist, Catherine Coleman Flowers, founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, who served on the task force that helped craft Biden’s climate plan, sees Harris as a standard-bearer. “It is time to make change and history at the same time,” she said.

From Grist (Zoya Teirstein):

Harris — formerly the district attorney for the city of San Francisco and the attorney general of California — has been known to be somewhat of a political chameleon. Her once-promising presidential campaign failed in part because of Harris’s inability to nail down her political ideology. But, over time, the Democrat has become increasingly firm in her commitment to one particular issue: environmental justice.

When Harris was running for president in 2019, she released a climate plan that put environmental justice front and center. Last July, she and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York unveiled a plan to introduce climate legislation in Congress that would ensure new environmental regulations and legislation get evaluated through an environmental justice lens before becoming law. Last week, the two Democrats made good on that plan by formally introducing legislation called the Climate Equity Act. The act would set up a new Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability within the Office of Management and Budget.

A week prior to that announcement, Harris introduced another piece of climate legislation in the Senate: a companion bill to the Environmental Justice for All Act introduced earlier this year in the House of Representatives by Democrats A. Donald McEachin of Virginia and Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona. In an email interview with Grist ahead of the introduction of that bill, the senator explained why environmental justice is so important to her. “Our country is in the midst of multiple crises,” Harris told Grist:

“First, there’s the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus that has killed over 148,000 people. It disproportionately affects Black and brown people in part due to the high frequency of pre-existing conditions like asthma and high blood pressure. These can stem from decades of toxic pollution being dumped in communities of color and which place people at higher risk of complications. Meanwhile, there is the continuing crisis of systemic racism in America that people of color have known and experienced for generations. All of these things intersect, and we must center the fight for environmental justice in the broader conversation.”

Harris’ commitment to this kind of work dates back to her days as a district attorney. In 2005, she created a mini version of the Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability she’s proposing now within the San Francisco district attorney’s office. “Crimes against the environment are crimes against communities, people who are often poor and disenfranchised,” she said at the time.

In short, she’s got a good record on justice that’s getting better and better. That could serve Biden well as he continues to hash out his climate plans in the months leading up to the election. He’s already introduced a more comprehensive and equitable version of his initial climate plan and sought input from an array of formal and informal climate advisors from many different corners of the climate movement, including environmental justice advocates. Harris will no doubt continue to steer his campaign in a justice-friendly direction. She also supports abolishing the filibuster, a step that will likely be necessary to get any climate or environmental policy through Congress in a Biden administration.

Saving our reservoirs from invading ‘cling-ons’ — News on TAP

Vigilant inspections keep destructive mussels from causing millions in damage to Denver’s water infrastructure. The post Saving our reservoirs from invading ‘cling-ons’ appeared first on News on TAP.

via Saving our reservoirs from invading ‘cling-ons’ — News on TAP

#Drought spreads across large portions of U.S. — The Fence Post

US Drought Monitor August 4, 2020.

From the Fence Post (Holly Jessen):

More than 33 percent of the continental U.S. is in moderate to extreme drought, with another 21 percent considered abnormally dry, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map.

Compared to the previous week’s map, some areas of the U.S. saw some improvement while other areas went deeper into drought. The expansion of areas in drought outweighed the areas that showed improvement, however, meaning the U.S. drought footprint grew compared to the drought monitor update from last week…

In Colorado, the entire state is considered to be in abnormally dry to extreme drought and 59 percent of that is severe to extreme. In western Wyoming 12 percent of the state is not in drought, down slightly from 14 percent in last week’s drought map. The remainder of the state is abnormally dry to extreme drought, with 5 percent of the state in extreme drought…

In the Nebraska panhandle and northeast Colorado, moderate drought expanded from last week. A new area of severe drought was added to the map in eastern Nebraska and moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions expanded in areas of Wyoming…

Drought isn’t new in Colorado, of course. “We have some areas usually in drought almost every year,” said Becky Bolinger, assistant state climatologist at Colorado Climate Center. “But this one is a little bit more severe.”

[…]

Although conditions vary across the state, overall it’s been hot and windy with dry humidity, so a lot of precipitation evaporated before it could soak into the ground. “There has been rainstorms but they’ve been spotty,” she said. “So they are not widespread enough to be helpful.”

It’s not quite as bad as in 2012 and 2013, which had hotter and drier conditions. But it’s worse than the drought of 2018, when moisture the previous fall helped farmers bring in a good winter wheat crop, Bolinger said. This year’s winter wheat struggled and although it’s good news some was harvested, not all of it could be salvaged…

In western Colorado, the irrigated crops in a four-county area served by the Colorado State University Extension Tri-River Area are doing well, despite being in severe to extreme drought, said Susan Carter, horticulture and natural resources agent for that office. The exception is that an April frost reduced fruit production, such as peaches.

The concern moving forward is, without additional rain, irrigation water could potentially be limited, especially in counties not as close to the rivers. It’s up to everyone to conserve water, she said, so there’s enough water for agriculture and residential uses.

Drought is also putting native trees under stress, leaving them vulnerable to attack by multiple types of insects. Without enough water, more trees are dying from these attacks. “Which adds to our fire risk,” she said.

In Baca County, the furthest southeast county of Colorado, Kevin Larson, superintendent and research scientist at Plainsman Research Center, said things are actually looking better. In early July the whole southeastern corner of the state was in extreme drought, now part of that has been upgraded to severe drought thanks to July rains. It’s definitely improving,” he said.

Some of the acres of prevented plant corn were planted with grain sorghum in late June. Although those crops have come up, whether there will be a good harvest depends on if there’s an early or late frost, he said. And if moisture continues to build up farmers will be able to put in winter wheat in September. Still, it’s an improvement over earlier in the summer when virtually nothing was growing.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending August 4, 2020.

AWRA CO-CGWA Virtual Symposium: Thinking Outside the Box- A Holistic Approach to Water Resources Planning, August 31 – September 2, 2020

Black Canyon July 2020. Photo credit: Cari Bischoff

Click here for all the inside skinny and to register. Here’s the agenda:

This field near Carbondale is irrigated with water that eventually flows into the Colorado River. The state has wrapped up the first year of an investigation into a program that could pay irrigators to reduce their consumptive use in order to send water downstream to a savings account in Lake Powell. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

Monument Trustees approve continued development of water projects, site plans — The Pikes Peak Tribune

Denver Basin Aquifer System graphic credit USGS.

From The Pikes Peak Tribune (Ben Farrell):

At the Monument Board of Trustees meeting Aug. 3, 2020…approved two resolutions to continue water projects which have been on hiatus.

Trustees reviewed a resolution to award a project agreement to Forsgren Associates Inc. for the continued design and development of a new two-gallon [two million gallon] water storage tank and associated pipeline into the town’s water system. Public works director Tom Tharnish said a lot of preliminary work had already been done by Forsgren Associates and continuing the project with the firm would quicken the project’s timeline.

The agreement would allow the majority of the engineering for the project, which involved a change in the size of the tank from 1.2 million gallons. The town is already $60,000 into the project, Tharnish said. When originally developing a 1.2 million gallon tank, the additional capacity required for the upcoming reuse pipeline wasn’t considered…

Another resolution was presented to the board to award a contract to Lytle Water Solutions LLC for the design and development of a new water well at the Water Treatment Plant.

Given recent emergency repairs to Wells No. 3 and No. 8, Tharnish said the department’s senior water technicians approached him with concerns for the same incident occurring later this year…

The idea is to drill a new well on the Well No. 4-5 site and build a short pipe to the existing treatment plant. Since this would create additional flow to an existing plant, the plans for the well have to be approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Tharnish said the new well, which would draw from the Arapahoe basin, would produce 190-200 gallons per minute. Presently, Wells No. 4 and 5 produces 100 and 60 gallons per minute, respectively, which is the way the state has permitted them, he said. Trustees approved the resolution 6-0.

Town Manager Mike Foreman said the town is getting ready to sell revenue bonds prior to November to help fund the water projects planned for the next five years and a workshop with the board to review all future water projects would be forthcoming. Foreman said the town has the opportunity to sell $15-20 million in bonds over the next five years.

Tharnish noted Well No. 3 is repaired and operational, producing 25 gallons per minute more than it did previous to experiencing a failure July 5.

Goose Pasture Tarn Dam Rehabilitation Project will begin May 2021 — The Summit Daily

Goose Pasture Tarn. Photo credit: City of Breckenridge

From The Summit Daily (Taylor Sienkiewicz):

The Goose Pasture Tarn Dam Rehabilitation Project was discussed at a virtual town hall hosted by the town of Breckenridge, as the town had previously postponed the project until 2021. Greg Monley, project design engineer, said that the construction schedule is about the same as the one that was originally set for 2020, but has been pushed back by one year and is now scheduled to begin in May 2021.

The project is expected to take three years with two winter shutdowns of the project where the reservoir — the Goose Pasture Tarn — will be allowed to refill and operate as before. The first two phases of construction include the initial excavation and work on the west side of the spillways, which will take place from May to August of 2021, and work on the upstream slope, which will take place from August to September of 2021 and require draining the reservoir.

Phase II will take place from May to September of 2022. Work during this phase will include reconstructing the spillway and lowering the reservoir’s water level about 18 feet. In September, dam outlet work will require draining the reservoir again.

Construction will be completed from June to September of 2023 in Phase III.

The town will offer water assistance on a case-by-case basis to people with domestic wells who experience interruptions caused by dam work as the reservoir is lowered and drained. Town officials can be reached through the contact information listed on http://TownOfBreckenridgeGPTD.com.

For residences that need or request water assistance, the town is looking at locating water tanks at individual homes and connecting them to the home water line. Some residents near the reservoir have already received letters from the town…

The preliminary traffic control plan is to have truck traffic that comes onto Lakeshore Loop travel in a one-way direction from Lakeshore Loop down to the water treatment plant, into the project area. Trucks will exit via Wagon Road onto Colorado Highway 9. The plan also proposed a one-way direction for residential traffic along Lakeshore Loop where cars can follow a one-way exit onto Highway 9 while construction occurs…

Town hall participants asked about recreation and wildlife. Blue River Town Manager Michelle Eddy said the tarn will be closed to recreation during construction. Phelps said that as a result of draining down the tarn’s fish will not be saved and the tarn will no longer contain fish. He said the tarn may be restocked with fish after the project is complete.

Goose Pasture Tarn Dam. Photo credit: NextDoor.com

How to use ventilation and air filtration to prevent the spread of coronavirus indoors — The Conversation


Open windows are the simplest way to increase air flow in a room.
Justin Paget / Digital Vision via Getty Images

Shelly Miller, University of Colorado Boulder

The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs indoors, most of it from the inhalation of airborne particles that contain the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading in a home or business would be to simply keep infected people away. But this is hard to do when an estimated 40% of cases are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus to others.

Masks do a decent job at keeping the virus from spreading into the environment, but if an infected person is inside a building, inevitably some virus will escape into the air.

I am a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. Much of my work has focused on how to control the transmission of airborne infectious diseases indoors, and I’ve been asked by my own university, my kids’ schools and even the Alaska State Legislature for advice on how to make indoor spaces safe during this pandemic.

Once the virus escapes into the air inside a building, you have two options: bring in fresh air from outside or remove the virus from the air inside the building.

A drawing showing an air conditioning unit blowing air into a building and a fan blowing air out of an open window.
All of the air in a room should be replaced with fresh, outside air at least six times per hour if there are a few people inside.
Pico/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

It’s all about fresh, outside air

The safest indoor space is one that constantly has lots of outside air replacing the stale air inside.

In commercial buildings, outside air is usually pumped in through heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. In homes, outside air gets in through open windows and doors, in addition to seeping in through various nooks and crannies.

Simply put, the more fresh, outside air inside a building, the better. Bringing in this air dilutes any contaminant in a building, whether a virus or a something else, and reduces the exposure of anyone inside. Environmental engineers like me quantify how much outside air is getting into a building using a measure called the air exchange rate. This number quantifies the number of times the air inside a building gets replaced with air from outside in an hour.

While the exact rate depends on the number of people and size of the room, most experts consider roughly six air changes an hour to be good for a 10-foot-by-10-foot room with three to four people in it. In a pandemic this should be higher, with one study from 2016 suggesting that an exchange rate of nine times per hour reduced the spread of SARS, MERS and H1N1 in a Hong Kong hospital.

Many buildings in the U.S., especially schools, do not meet recommended ventilation rates. Thankfully, it can be pretty easy to get more outside air into a building. Keeping windows and doors open is a good start. Putting a box fan in a window blowing out can greatly increase air exchange too. In buildings that don’t have operable windows, you can change the mechanical ventilation system to increase how much air it is pumping. But in any room, the more people inside, the faster the air should be replaced.

A carbon dioxide meter mounted on a white wall showing a reading of 300 parts per million.
CO2 levels can be used to estimate whether the air in a room is stale and potentially full of particles containing the coronavirus.
Vudhikul Ocharoen/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Using CO2 to measure air circulation

So how do you know if the room you’re in has enough air exchange? It’s actually a pretty hard number to calculate. But there’s an easy-to-measure proxy that can help. Every time you exhale, you release CO2 into the air. Since the coronavirus is most often spread by breathing, coughing or talking, you can use CO2 levels to see if the room is filling up with potentially infectious exhalations. The CO2 level lets you estimate if enough fresh outside air is getting in.

Outdoors, CO2 levels are just above 400 parts per million (ppm). A well ventilated room will have around 800 ppm of CO2. Any higher than that and it is a sign the room might need more ventilation.

Last year, researchers in Taiwan reported on the effect of ventilation on a tuberculosis outbreak at Taipei University. Many of the rooms in the school were underventilated and had CO2 levels above 3,000 ppm. When engineers improved air circulation and got CO2 levels under 600 ppm, the outbreak completely stopped. According to the research, the increase in ventilation was responsible for 97% of the decrease in transmission.

Since the coronavirus is spread through the air, higher CO2 levels in a room likely mean there is a higher chance of transmission if an infected person is inside. Based on the study above, I recommend trying to keep the CO2 levels below 600 ppm. You can buy good CO2 meters for around $100 online; just make sure that they are accurate to within 50 ppm.

Air cleaners

If you are in a room that can’t get enough outside air for dilution, consider an air cleaner, also commonly called air purifiers. These machines remove particles from the air, usually using a filter made of tightly woven fibers. They can capture particles containing bacteria and viruses and can help reduce disease transmission.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that air cleaners can do this for the coronavirus, but not all air cleaners are equal. Before you go out and buy one, there are few things to keep in mind.

A stock image of an upright air cleaner.
If a room doesn’t have good ventilation, an air cleaner or air purifier with a good filter can remove particles that may contain the coronavirus.
EHStock/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

The first thing to consider is how effective an air cleaner’s filter is. Your best option is a cleaner that uses a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, as these remove more than 99.97% of all particle sizes.

The second thing to consider is how powerful the cleaner is. The bigger the room – or the more people in it – the more air needs to be cleaned. I worked with some colleagues at Harvard to put together a tool to help teachers and schools determine how powerful of an air cleaner you need for different classroom sizes.

The last thing to consider is the validity of the claims made by the company producing the air cleaner.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers certifies air cleaners, so the AHAM verified seal is a good place to start. Additionally, the California Air Resources Board has a list of air cleaners that are certified as safe and effective, though not all of them use HEPA filters.

Keep air fresh or get outside

Both the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that poor ventilation increases the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.

If you are in control of your indoor environment, make sure you are getting enough fresh air from outside circulating into the building. A CO2 monitor can help give you a clue if there is enough ventilation, and if CO2 levels start going up, open some windows and take a break outside. If you can’t get enough fresh air into a room, an air cleaner might be a good idea. If you do get an air cleaner, be aware that they don’t remove CO2, so even though the air might be safer, CO2 levels could still be high in the room.

If you walk into a building and it feels hot, stuffy and crowded, chances are that there is not enough ventilation. Turn around and leave.

By paying attention to air circulation and filtration, improving them where you can and staying away from places where you can’t, you can add another powerful tool to your anti-coronavirus toolkit.

[Understand new developments in science, health and technology, each week. Subscribe to The Conversation’s science newsletter.]The Conversation

Shelly Miller, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Navajo Dam operations update: Releases to be increased to 800 CFS on August 11, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The San Juan River, below Navajo Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Susan Behery):

In response to decreasing flows and a dry forecast weather pattern in the San Juan River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 700 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 800 cfs on Tuesday, August 11th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program has recommended base flows as close to 500 cfs as possible for the summer of 2020. This is within their normal recommended range of 500 to 1,000 cfs. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

Stocking greenback cutthroat trout into the Poudre River tributary system — @COParksWildlife

Covid-Mask-wearing Black Bear. Credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

From Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Jason Clay)

A multi-agency effort to restore the federally threatened greenback cutthroat trout into its native river basin took a giant hike upwards last week when an army of Colorado Trout Unlimited volunteers led by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service staff stocked the Colorado state fish into a new body of water.

Around 10 staffers and 40 volunteers from Colorado Trout Unlimited each hiked between 12-15 greenback cutthroat trout in backpacks into a Poudre River tributary stream. This introduction marks just the fifth body of water in the state the greenbacks now can call home, with four of those five within the South Platte River basin that the greenbacks are native to.

“Today is one of those exciting instances of getting a new population established,” said Kyle Battige, Aquatic Biologist with CPW. “We are trying to replicate and perpetuate this resource across the landscape, by getting greenbacks into more water bodies within the South Platte River basin.”

A total of 711 greenbacks were stocked on Tuesday, July 28. They came from the Mt. Shavano Hatchery out of Salida. It took the hatchery one year to take the fertilized eggs, hatch and raise the fish to five inches in length, primed for release into the wild.

“Colorado Trout Unlimited is a proud partner in the campaign to protect and restore our native trout,” said Dan Omasta, Grassroots Coordinator for Colorado Trout Unlimited. “This stocking project is another great example of how anglers and local communities can work together to save a threatened species. We had over 40 volunteers that traveled from as far as Eagle, Colo., and Wyoming to carry fish over nine miles into the backcountry on a rainy afternoon. The passion and dedication of our community is what drives an optimistic future for the greenback cutthroat trout.”

U.S. Forest Service personnel located the fishless stream in the Poudre River basin a couple years ago and the agencies did their due diligence to make Tuesday’s stocking become a reality. Aquatic biologists conducted stream sampling with backpack electrofishing units and took eDNA samples to confirm it was indeed a fishless location. Habitat suitability work also took place to ensure the fish would survive once stocked. Everything checked out and the greenbacks were stocked into a fifth body of water in Colorado.

“We’re excited and proud to be partnering with CPW on this important effort reintroducing greenback cutthroat trout and restoring part of Colorado’s natural heritage,” said Christopher Carrol, Fisheries Biologist and Watershed Crew Lead with the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland. “We especially want to thank Colorado Trout Unlimited and Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter of Trout Unlimited for organizing so many passionate volunteers and helping collect data that informed our decision for making the reintroduction. Shared stewardship and working together pays dividends for native species.

An important characteristic when looking to identify a reintroduction site is that the stream must be fishless. It must also have protection from invasion of non-native trout that will outcompete and overrun the greenbacks.

“This location is protected by a series of natural waterfall barriers, upwards of 20-feet, that ensures the reach we stocked will not be invaded by non-native fish downstream,” Battige said.

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

The greenbacks have previously been stocked into Herman Gulch, Dry Gulch, and Zimmerman Lake – all within the South Platte River drainage. These rare fish, twice believed to be extinct, are descendants of the last wild population of native greenback cutthroat trout found in Bear Creek outside of Colorado Springs in 2012. Bear Creek is the fifth body of water in Colorado where the fish currently reside.

“This project could not have been completed without the hard work and dedication of today’s volunteers. The hikes that they did range from four miles roundtrip up to nine miles and covered 1,200 to 2,400 vertical feet of elevation, so it was a pretty substantial undertaking,” Battige said.

The fish were loaded onto the hatchery truck at 3:30 a.m. and driven roughly 240 miles to the trailhead where they got loaded into bags with 1-2 gallons of water and pumped full of oxygen. The fish were put in ice water before leaving the hatchery, so they can handle the conditions better during their long journey.

“Lowering the temperature helps the fish travel well, ensures that their metabolism slows down and decreases the overall stress on the fish,” Battige said.

The water temperature in the stream was 51 degrees, so before getting stocked the volunteers tempered their fish, meaning they took time to slowly acclimate the fish to the temperature in the creek over a 10-15 minute time period.

Crews will stock additional greenbacks into the same location each summer for the next two years as they look to establish the population. They will follow up with surveys to see how the fish are doing and aquatic biologists will look for signs of natural reproduction and new greenbacks hatching in the stream in 3-4 years.

Upper #ColoradoRiver will not be ‘Wild and Scenic,’ but conservationists still satisfied with new plan — The Vail Daily #COriver #aridification

A view of the popular Pumphouse campground, boat put-in and the upper Colorado River. The BLM and Forest Service recently approved an alternative management plan that acts as a workaround to a federal Wild & Scenic designation. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Vail Daily (John LaConte):

The Catamount gauge on the Colorado River is a result of a big collaboration, and for now, it has gone a long way in quelling the concern of conservationists in the Upper Colorado River Wild and Scenic Stakeholder Group.

Couple that with a few good-faith efforts from Front Range diverters to get more water into the river, and most everyone seems to be convinced that collaboration has been a lot better than the courtroom in this case.

The stakeholder group was formed in 2008, and its mission was overt — convince the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service not to write a report stating that the Upper Colorado River is suitable for a Wild and Scenic Designation from the federal government…

But while it takes an act of Congress to welcome a new river into the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, a report from the Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service saying a river is suitable for wild and scenic designation can trigger a change in management for the river…

[Rob] Buirgy said the Colorado Water Conservation Board supported the stakeholder group using the state’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Fund for scientific studies, recreational surveys, and stakeholder group coordination and facilitation. The stakeholder group also recommended that the board appropriate three in-stream flow water rights to preserve the natural environment on the river from the confluence with the Blue River to the area just above the confluence with the Eagle River. The Colorado Water Conservation Board appropriated and the water court decreed those water rights in 2013.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is expected to help install biological metric tracking tools along the river in the coming months, and a few years ago a new USGS temperature and flow monitoring gauge was installed at the Catamount Boat Launch, near Bombardier’s house, which will measure temperature and serve as a resource guide.

While resource guides do not mandate management action based on their readings, good-faith management efforts have been undertaken based on the Catamount gauge’s readings during the collaborative process. Bombardier says the readings have been crucial for that stretch of the river, which is prone to warm temperatures…

[Ken] Neubecker said after spending more than a decade working toward Wild and Scenic designation on the Upper Colorado River, he feels the collaborative group’s plan represents the best effort conservationists could have expended toward maintaining the Upper Colorado River’s “outstandingly remarkable values,” or ORVs.

“It got all of the people who would have been opposed to actual designation to sit down at the table and work out a plan that — if everybody plays along — will have the best shot we’ve got at protecting those ORVs,” Neubecker said.

The agreement was formerly accepted by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service in July. Participating groups include: American Rivers, American Whitewater, Aurora Water, Blue Valley Ranch, Colorado River Outfitters Association, Colorado River Water Conservation District, Colorado Springs Utilities, Colorado Whitewater, Confluence Casting, Conservation Colorado, Denver Water, Eagle County, Eagle Park Reservoir Company, Eagle River Watershed Council, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Grand County, Middle Park Water Conservancy District, Municipal Subdistrict of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Summit County, Upper Colorado Commercial Boaters Association, Upper Colorado River Private Boaters Association, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, Vail Associates, Inc., and Yust Ranch.

#SanJuanRiver report: Streamflow = 40.6 CFS, median for day = 137 CFS #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chris Mannara):

River report

As of Wednesday, the San Juan River had a reported flow of 43.5 cfs. This is below the average for Aug. 5 of 214 cfs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The highest flow for Aug, 5 came in 1999 when the San Juan River had a flow of 1,050 cfs. The lowest came in 2002 when the San Juan had a flow of 18.2 cfs.

#Boulder reservoir to be drained starting sept. 1 for required maintenance work

Here’s the release from the City of Boulder (Jeff Stahla, Denise White, Samantha Glavin):

Beginning Sept. 1, 2020, until March 2021, access to Boulder Reservoir will be limited while the reservoir is drained to allow Northern Water, in coordination with the City of Boulder, to perform necessary maintenance on the reservoir and its dams.

Boulder Reservoir. Photo credit: The City of Boulder

This work will ensure visitor safety and effective water delivery to municipal and agricultural water users. Reservoir water levels will be significantly lower than normal during this time. This is routine, required maintenance work that will take place every 5-10 years.

The reservoir basin will be closed to all water-based activities, including boating, watercraft, fishing, swimming, wading and other on-water recreation once the reservoir drawdown begins Sept. 1. Passive recreation opportunities (e.g., walking, cycling and running) will still be available during this time. The main trail along on the North Shore will remain open, but access to the shoreline will be restricted. Trails in the vicinity of the north and south dams may be periodically impacted during periods of construction in those areas. A map of affected areas is available on the project website at bouldercolorado.gov/water/boulder-reservoir-maintenance#.

Performing the maintenance work this year when some recreation activities such as swimming and special events are already restricted due to COVID-19 will ensure that additional impacts will be avoided, and recreation can return to full service once the pandemic subsides. However, the city recognizes that this limitation on Boulder Reservoir use may be disappointing to impacted recreationists. The city is providing reservoir permit and pass holders with a partial refund or credit on their purchase, available through Aug. 23. Current permit and pass holders have been contacted directly with information on how to access this offer.

Additionally, Boulder Reservoir has received approval to remain open on Friday, Aug. 7, which is designated as an unpaid city closure day to address financial challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic, and offer extended hours of operation from 7-9 p.m. on Aug. 10-16. The city is able to offer these additional hours due to cost savings as a result of the draining project’s impact in shortening the fall recreation season.

The reservoir will be drained to remove sediment from the area around the reservoir outlet, which naturally builds up over time. Maintenance will also occur on dam outlet structures, and the on the land between the north and south dams known as Fisherman’s Point. Construction equipment access and activity will be in the vicinity of the north dam and Fisherman’s Point. 

Northern Water is coordinating with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and city staff to mitigate environmental impacts of the project. The reservoir will be drained outside of nesting season, limiting effects on nesting and migrating species during the most critical point in their life cycle. The reservoir will be refilled prior to spring migration and nesting seasons. While there are currently no plans to relocate the fish in the reservoir as the water level is expected to support the fish, Northern Water will monitor their environment daily. If conditions appear problematic, fish relocation may be arranged. 

The Boulder Reservoir is a key part of the city’s drinking water supply and provides water to other municipal and agricultural users. Water is delivered to the reservoir and its water treatment plant via the Southern Water Supply Project, completed in 2020, and the Boulder Feeder Canal. The City of Boulder owns Boulder Reservoir, but operations and maintenance related to water storage and dam safety are primarily managed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Northern Water). 

Additional information is available on the project webpage at https://bouldercolorado.gov/water/boulder-reservoir-maintenance#. General project questions can be directed to Water Resources Manager Kim Hutton at 303-441-3115 or huttonk@bouldercolorado.gov. For questions regarding recreation impacts, contact Boulder Reservoir Facilities Supervisor Stacy Cole at 303-441-3469 or coles@bouldercolorado.gov.

To understand the backlash against the women in the running for vice president, watch more TV — The Conversation


President Allison Taylor of ‘24’ ends up being exposed as Machiavellian.
20th Century Fox

Karrin Vasby Anderson, Colorado State University

Joe Biden’s promise to name a woman running mate has prompted familiar debates about gender and power.

Are these potential vice presidents supposed to be presidential lackeys or understudies to the leader of the free world? Should they actively seek the position, or be reluctant nominees bound by duty?

After Senator Kamala Harris’s name emerged as a short-list favorite, CNBC reported that some Biden allies and donors “initiated a campaign against Harris,” arguing that she was “too ambitious” and would be “solely focused on eventually becoming president.”

Claiming that people who want to be president make bad vice presidents might seem ill-conceived if your audience is Vice President Joe Biden. And pundits and journalists quickly pointed out that the argument was racist and sexist – like, really, really sexist.

So why were Democratic party insiders spouting it?

One clue can be found in the way we tell stories about women politicians. In our book, “Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture,” communication scholar Kristina Horn Sheeler and I examine how fictional and actual women presidential figures are framed in news coverage, political satire, memes, television and film. Our close reading of these diverse texts reveals a persistent backlash that takes many forms: satirical cartoons that deploy sexist stereotypes; the pornification of women candidates in memes; and news framing that includes misogynistic metaphors, to name a few.

But in our chapter on fictional women presidents on screen, we found something particularly relevant to the coverage of the Democratic Party “veepstakes.” Women who are politically ambitious are presented as less trustworthy than those who don’t actively seek the presidency.

Senator Kamala Harris peers out of a window at Veterans Village in Las Vegas.
Senator Kamala Harris is being attacked for trying to climb too high.
AP Photo/John Locher

There have been six series on U.S. television that follow a woman president for at least one full season: ABC’s “Commander in Chief”; the Sci-Fi Channel’s “Battlestar Galactica”; Fox’s “24”; CBS’s “Madam Secretary”; Fox 21’s “Homeland”; and HBO’s “Veep.”

It may seem like a small point, but when showrunners want to create a “likeable” woman president, they go out of their way to demonstrate that pursuing the presidency isn’t her life’s goal.

The women presidents in “Commander in Chief” and “Battlestar Galactica” didn’t campaign for the office. They ascended to the presidency as a result of tragedy. In the former, the president dies of a brain aneurism; in the latter, a nuclear attack takes out the first 42 people in the presidential line of succession, leaving the secretary of education to fill the role. (To be fair, this did seem like a woman’s likeliest path to presidential power in 2004.) Each character is portrayed as an ethical and effective leader – not perfect, but plausibly presidential.

Conversely, series like “24” and “Homeland” feature women candidates who aggressively seek the presidency. In both cases, the women start out as principled politicians, but their true nature is revealed as weak and duplicitous. Their presidential tenures end up being ruinous for the nation, and order is restored by a white male – “24’s” Jack Bauer and the male vice president in “Homeland.” HBO’s “Veep” takes the premise of a craven woman politician to an absurd extreme, with actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus winning six consecutive Emmy Awards for her burlesque send-up of the familiar female trope.

Interestingly, both “24” and “Homeland” have important connections to real-world presidential politics. Both series portray the first woman U.S. president as a veteran politician and middle-aged white woman. They bear strong resemblances to the only woman who has been a major-party presidential nominee: Hillary Clinton. Appearing in 2008 and 2017, respectively, the storylines were clearly planned to coincide with what could have been Clinton’s first term as U.S. president.

Yet “24’s” and “Homeland’s” depictions of fictional women presidents align with communication scholar Shawn J. Parry-Giles’ findings that the media framed Clinton as inauthentic, Machiavellian and, ultimately, dangerous.

President Elizabeth Keane, played by actress Elizabeth Marvel, stands at a podium in an episode of 'Homeland.'
President Elizabeth Keane of ‘Homeland’ is a craven politician who has a ruinous tenure in office.
Showtime

That brings us back to our current veepstakes.

Criticisms of women vice presidential prospects echo cultural scripts that insist women who want to be president shouldn’t be trusted. Understanding the resistance to Harris – and Elizabeth Warren, Stacey Abrams and others who announce their eagerness to serve – requires recognizing the diverse forms that backlash against women’s political ambitions can take, which span from calling a congresswoman a “f—— b—-” on the steps of the U.S. capitol to portraying women presidents as Machiavellian on television dramas.

Did pop culture cause those Biden funders to try to undermine Harris?

No. But the stories we tell ourselves on screen have taught us that women who actually want to be president can’t be trusted. That might be why people like Ambassador Susan Rice, who’s never run for office, and Congresswoman Karen Bass, who said she doesn’t want to run for president, landed on Biden’s short list to favorable coverage.

“At every step in her political career,” The New York Times wrote of Bass, “the California congresswoman had to be coaxed to run for a higher office. Now she’s a top contender to be Joe Biden’s running mate.”

Men who run for president typically have to demonstrate the requisite desire – the so-called “fire in the belly.”

Bizarrely, women are supposed to act like they don’t even want it.The Conversation

Karrin Vasby Anderson, Professor of Communication Studies, Colorado State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Fort Collins City Council votes to oppose #NISP, changing previous stance — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Fort Collins City Council voted [August 4, 2020] to oppose the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a departure from the city’s previous neutral stance on the controversial plan to siphon Poudre River water into two new reservoirs.

Council members also endorsed city staff comments expressing reservations with Northern Water’s proposed Poudre intake pipeline upstream of the Mulberry Water Reclamation Facility. They adopted their position in a 5-1 vote on Tuesday, with council member Ken Summers voting “no” and Mayor pro-tem Kristin Stephens absent.

The vote was the current council’s first opportunity to take a position on NISP. The city’s position on the project has vacillated over the years, wavering between opposition and a more neutral “can’t support” position. Council included in its opposition statement a note directing staff to continue working with Northern Water to address the city’s concerns about NISP and develop “a sustainable, long-term approach” to avoid, manage and mitigate the project’s impacts.

Council’s job on Tuesday was to decide whether to endorse staff’s comments on the pipeline, which were submitted to Larimer County, and choose between four stances on NISP ranging from the most neutral “can’t support this variant of NISP” to the most outspoken “oppose (this version of NISP) and oppose the use of city natural areas.” They chose the latter.

Poudre River whitewater park. Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Collegian

At issue Tuesday was whether the city could take that stance on the project while maintaining a foothold in negotiations with Northern Water, the organizer of the plan to supply water to 15 small-but-growing Colorado municipalities and water districts. While the city itself isn’t among the participants, which include Fort Collins-Loveland Water District (covering the city’s southern reaches) and Windsor, the project would degrade springtime river flows through Fort Collins and the Poudre intake pipeline would affect several city natural areas…

The intake pipeline is part of a concession Northern Water made to lessen NISP’s impacts on the Poudre through Fort Collins: Rather than drawing all the water off the river upstream of Fort Collins, Northern Water plans to run some of it through a 12-mile stretch of the river roughly between the Poudre Canyon mouth and Mulberry Street from fall to early spring.

The “conveyance refinement” plan would run 18-25 cubic feet per second’s worth of water through the river, increasing the volume of water to eliminate some dry spots, lower the river’s temperature and reduce harm to fish [living] in the river. The intake pipeline near the reclamation plant is where Northern Water plans to take the water back out of the river…

The influx of water will make “a very significant difference for fish” and offers clear environmental benefits for the river’s base flows, city watershed planner Jennifer Shanahan told council. But the structures involved with the intake pipeline will have temporary and permanent impacts to the Homestead, Kingfisher Point, Riverbend Ponds and Williams natural areas. Construction will have temporary impacts on traffic and visitors to those areas, including trail and parking lot closures, and more lasting impacts, including possible damage to sensitive wetlands, soil, wildlife and native vegetation and the sale of some land at Kingfisher Point Natural Area.

The city submitted its comments on the pipeline to Larimer County as part of the 1041 permitting process. Staff recommended that Northern Water work with the city to refine the pipeline plan in several ways, such as shrinking the pump station and settling ponds proposed at Kingfisher Point, moving the pipeline further from the river at Kingfisher Point and creating a more ecologically sound river diversion at Homestead Natural Area…

Council members agreed with the staff comments, but several of them offered broader criticism of NISP. Northern Water has been working for years on a broad plan to mitigate NISP’s impacts to the river, wildlife and riparian habitat, but environmental advocates say no mitigation plan can undo the irreparable damage of diverting so much water from a river that is already stretched thin. Fort Collins gets about half of its own water supply from the Poudre…

Mayor Wade Troxell, who has the longest tenure on City Council, said he’s watched the city make progress in negotiations with Northern Water over the last 13 years. He discouraged his fellow council members from making “sweeping opposition statements that don’t get us where we need to go.”

[…]

NISP is approaching a county decision on the 1041 permit that would allow construction of Glade Reservoir and four pipelines associated with the project. The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to issue its record of decision on the project as a whole this year, and if the project is approved, construction could begin as soon as 2023.

World’s three hottest Julys happened in the last five years — Reuters #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

From Reuters (Kate Abnett):

Last month was the world’s third-hottest July on record, new data show — the latest milestone in a global warming trend that has seen the three hottest Julys within the last five years.

With the heat has come a high level of ice melt in the Arctic, where the extent of sea ice last month hit the lowest level for July since the polar satellite record-keeping began four decades ago, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service…

Atmospheric temperature records dating back to the mid-19th century reveal the last five years to be the hottest yet. In terms of records for the month of July, only 2019 and 2016 were warmer than last month. (Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/3ifC6gx)

Last month, the U.S. states of New Mexico and Texas posted record highs. The Middle East also saw record heat, with Bahrain recording its hottest July since 1902.

Even above the waters of the northeastern Pacific Ocean, sea surface temperatures reached nearly 5 degrees Celsius above the 40-year average in some places, the data show.

In the Arctic, which has been warming at more than twice the global rate in recent decades, the expanse of sea ice shrank to its lowest level recorded for any July since 1979. The data service said satellite images reveal ice-free conditions “almost everywhere” along the Siberian coastline – a shipping route that, until a few years ago, could be crossed only with an ice-breaking vessel.

July Arctic Sea Ice Anomalies via Copernicus Climate Change Service

#Colorado Is Still Really, Really Dry — Colorado Public Radio #drought

Colorado Drought Monitor August 4, 2020.

From Colorado Public Radio (Claire Cleveland):

Two weeks ago, nearly all of Colorado was in a drought. This week, it’s even worse. Just over 85 percent of the state is experiencing moderate to extreme drought, and the remaining 15 percent is abnormally dry, often a precursor to drought…

But, according to the most recent map from the U.S. Drought Monitor, 26 percent of Colorado — mostly in the southern half of the state — is in an extreme drought, level D3, which is when large fires develop, insect infestations occur and water restrictions have to be implemented.

Colorado had its eighth driest stretch from January to July of this year with only 8 inches of precipitation, that’s 3.17 inches below average, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information…

Colorado isn’t alone in experiencing a dry first half of 2020, much of the West and parts of the Deep South, central Plains and the Southeast recorded below-average precipitation. Arizona ranked sixth driest while Nevada ranked 11th driest.

Throughout most of the country above average temperatures were recorded. Florida, for example, had its warmest year-to-date period on record. New Jersey ranked a second warmest period along with Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, and others.

Hard-to-predict water year leaves Ruedi Reservoir levels low — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Sailboats dock at the Aspen Yacht Club marina in 2018. Levels in Ruedi Reservoir are projected to be down to about 84,500 acre-feet around Sept. 1, which could reduce access to the club’s boat ramp. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

Ruedi Reservoir is feeling the effects of an unusual water year, with less water for endangered fish and with low reservoir levels predicted for late summer and fall.

“This year was a strange year,” Tim Miller, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist who manages operations at Ruedi, said at an annual public meeting about reservoir operations held virtually Wednesday. “For most of the year, it seemed like we were doing well, we thought we would get a fill on the reservoir. However, things really turned around in late spring and early summer.”

At the meeting convened by the Bureau of Reclamation, Miller said the reservoir, which holds just over 102,000 acre-feet of water, topped out at 96,750 acre-feet this year — about 5,000 acre-feet short of filling. That means there is 5,000 acre-feet less water available this season to boost flows downstream for endangered fish in what’s known as the “15-mile reach” of the Colorado River near Grand Junction.

As reservoir levels continue to drop over the next month, Aspen Yacht Club members may not be able to access the boat ramp over Labor Day weekend. By Sept. 1, reservoir levels are predicted to be down to about 84,500 acre-feet and the surface to be at an elevation of 7,747 feet, which is 19 feet lower than when it’s full.

“After Sept. 1, it’s going to be dicey,” Miller said of accessing the private marina’s boat ramp. The U.S. Forest Service boat ramp will still be accessible at those levels, he said.

Bruce Gabow of the Aspen Yacht Club said that when water levels are 13 feet below full, the club’s docks become grounded and inoperable. He said that most years, boats are taken out of the reservoir by mid-September, but with water levels dropping sooner this year, many will need to go before the end of August.

“Everyone has kind of been expecting it, but they will be bummed out,” he said of the club’s members.

Ruedi Reservoir is currently 92% full, at 94,065 acre-feet. It topped out on July 17 at 96,914 acre-feet. In 2018, the reservoir also didn’t fill, topping out at 92,650 acre-feet, according to Miller.

Each spring, Miller must decide how much water to release from Ruedi and when to release it to make room for inflow from snowmelt. Those decisions are based on streamflow forecasts from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, as well as the Bureau of Reclamation’s statistical forecasts.

This year’s unusual conditions made for tricky forecasting, leading some to question whether more and better data collection is needed, instead of relying primarily on snow telemetry, or SNOTEL, data. These automated remote sensors collect weather and snowpack information in remote watersheds, but they provide only a snapshot of a specific location. Each of the three forecasting agencies over-predicted Ruedi inflow for the months of April, May and June.

Usually, the amount of runoff closely mirrors snowpack. And with snowpack in the Roaring Fork River basin slightly above normal, as measured by SNOTEL sites, it seemed that is where runoff would also end up. But parched soils from a dry fall sucked up some of the moisture before it made its way to streams and eventually the reservoir. Miller also suspects that a high rate of sublimation — where snow goes from a frozen state to vapor, skipping the liquid phase — may have also played a role.

“To do our statistical forecast, it’s 90% snowpack only,” Miller said. “We had some different variables this year.”

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By the end of May, Miller realized inflow projections were too high and began scaling back releases. Ruedi also did not participate in Coordinated Reservoir Operations this year. In the annual CROS, which began around May 29, water managers from across the state aimed to enhance peak spring runoff by releasing water from reservoirs at the same time. The peak flows have ecological benefits, especially for fish in the 15-mile reach.

“It was pretty much a last-minute declaration we couldn’t do CROS,” Miller said.

This photo from August 2018 shows low water levels at the Aspen Yacht Club docks at Ruedi Reservoir. The reservoir missed filling by 5,000 acre-feet in 2020 because of low runoff. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Better data?

April Long, executive director of Ruedi Water & Power Authority, suggested that water managers should explore other ways of collecting data in addition to SNOTEL information to improve forecast accuracy. The city of Aspen and Denver Water have experimented with LiDAR technology — which analyzes the reflection of laser light to create detailed three-dimensional maps — to track the depth of mountain snowpack, providing a more complete picture of the water contained in that snowpack.

“With this year of unexpected results from our snowpack and the way it melted off, I have concern that with climate change and climate variability, we are going to see more uncertainty,” Long said in a follow-up interview with Aspen Journalism. “I wonder how much benefit we could gain if we knew a little more.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the date Ruedi storage peaked in 2020.

Aspen Journalism is a local, investigative, nonprofit news organization that collaborates on coverage of water and rivers with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers. This story ran in the Aug. 7 edition of The Aspen Times.

Twitter posts show that people are profoundly sad – and are visiting parks to cheer up — The Conversation #COVID19 #coronavirus


Central Park, New York City, on Memorial Day weekend, May 24, 2020.
Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

Joe Roman, University of Vermont and Taylor Ricketts, University of Vermont

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the “happiness” of people’s words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.

They call the tweet analysis the Hedonometer. It relies on surveys of thousands of people who rate words indicating happiness. “Laughter” gets an 8.50 while “jail” gets a 1.76. They use these scores to measure the mood of Twitter traffic.

The Hedonometer measures happiness through analysis of key words on Twitter, which is now used by one in five Americans. This chart covers 18 months from early 2019 to July 2020, showing major dips in 2020.
hedonometer.org

These same tweets also indicate a potential salve. Before pandemic lockdowns began, doctoral student Aaron Schwartz compared tweets before, during, and after visits to 150 parks, playgrounds and plazas in San Francisco. He found that park visits corresponded with a spike in happiness, followed by an afterglow lasting up to four hours.

Tweets from parks contained fewer negative words such as “no,” “not” and “can’t,” and fewer first-person pronouns like “I” and “me.” It seems that nature makes people more positive and less self-obsessed.

Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. Research has also shown that transmission rates for COVID-19 are much lower outdoors than inside. As scholars who study conservation and how nature contributes to human well-being, we see opening up parks and creating new ones as a straightforward remedy for Americans’ current blues.

Park visits are up during the pandemic

According to the Hedonometer, sentiments expressed online started trending lower in mid-March as the impacts of the pandemic became clear. As lockdowns continued, they registered the lowest sentiment scores on record. Then in late May, effects from George Floyd’s death in police custody and the following protests and police response once again could be seen on Twitter. May 31, 2020 was the saddest day of the project.

Recent surveys of park visitors around the University of Vermont have shown people using green spaces more since COVID-19 lockdowns began. Many people reported that parks were highly important to their well-being during the pandemic.

The powerful effects of nature are strongest in large parks with more trees, but smaller neighborhood parks also provide a significant boost. Their impact on happiness is real, measurable and lasting.

Twitter records show that parks increase happiness to a level similar to the bounce at Christmas, which typically is the happiest day of the year. Schwartz has since expanded his Twitter study to the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and found this bounce everywhere.

Parks and public spaces won’t cure COVID-19 or stop police brutality, but they are far more than playgrounds. There is growing evidence that parks contribute to mental and physical health in a range of communities.

In a 2015 study, for example, Stanford researchers sent people out for one of two walks: through a local park or on a busy street. Those who walked in nature showed improved moods and better memory performance compared to the urban group. And a team led by Gina South of the University of Pennsylvania showed in a 2018 study that greening and cleaning up blighted vacant lots in Philadelphia reduced local residents’ feelings of depression, worthlessness and poor mental health.

Creative strategies

It isn’t easy to create new parks on the scale of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park or the Washington Mall, but smaller projects can expand outdoor space. Options include greening vacant lots, closing streets and investing in existing parks to make them safer, greener and shadier and support wildlife.

These initiatives don’t have to be capital-intensive. In the University of Pennsylvania study, for example, renovating a vacant lot by removing trash, planting grass and trees and installing a low fence cost only about US$1,600.

Small manmade waterfall park in Seattle, Wash.
Waterfall Garden Park, a pocket park in Seattle built and maintained by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Joe Mabel/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Urban green space is most needed in neighborhoods that have lacked funding for parks, especially given COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx people.

Cities can also create parklike spaces by closing streets to cars. Many cities worldwide are currently retooling their transportation systems for the post-COVID-19 world in order to reallocate public space, widen sidewalks and make more space for nature.

Urban designers, artists, ecologists and other citizens can play a direct role, too, creating pop-up parks and green spaces. Some advocates transform parking spaces into mini-parks with grass, potted trees and seating for just the time on the meter, to make a larger point about turning so much public space over to cars.

Or cities can invest a little more. Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Arlington, Virginia, have won national recognition for their ambitious investments in public park systems. These areas could serve as models for neighborhoods that lack access to parks.

A New Park Deal?

The United States has historically driven economic recovery with major infrastructure investments, like the New Deal in the 1930s and the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Such investments could easily include nature-positive spaces.

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Parks are not panaceas, as evidenced by the widely publicized racist confrontation between a white woman and a Black birder in New York’s Central Park in early July. But Hedonometer data add to a growing body of evidence that they provide clear mental health benefits. Creating and expanding parks also generates jobs and economic activity, with much of the money spent locally.

We believe investments in nature are well worth it, offering both short-term solace in difficult times and long-term benefits to health, economies and communities.The Conversation

Joe Roman, Fellow, Gund Institute for Environment, University of Vermont and Taylor Ricketts, Professor and Director, Gund Institute for Environment, University of Vermont

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Making steel with #solar energy — The Mountain Town News #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Largest behind-the-meter solar project in U.S. provides cost edge for steel mill expansion

What might be called the world’s first solar-powered steel mill will be moving forward.

EVRAZ North America plans construction of a long-rail mill at its Rocky Mountain Steel operation in Pueblo, Colo. This decision allows execution of an agreement reached in September 2019 for a 240-megawatt solar facility located on 1,500 acres of land at the steel mill.

It will be the largest on-site solar facility in the United States dedicated to a single customer. Another way of saying it is that it will be the largest behind-the-meter solar project in the nation.

The solar production from the project, called Bighorn Solar, will offset about 90% of the annual electricity demand from the mill.

Lightsource BP will finance, build, own and operate the project and sell all the electricity generated by the 700,000 solar panels to Xcel Energy under a 20-year power-purchase agreement. Lightsource says it is investing $250 million in the solar project.

Kevin B. Smith, chief executive of the Americas for Lightsource BP, said he expects construction to start in October. Commercial operations will begin by the end of 2021. He rates the solar resource at Pueblo as 8 on a scale of 10.

Several states had been vying for the long-rail mill, which will be able to produce rails up to 100 meters long, or about as long as a football field with its end zones, for use in heavy-haul and high-speed railways. The mill uses recycled steel from old cars and other sources. The new mill is to have a production capacity of 670,000 short tons, according to a 2019 release.

The Pueblo Chieftain and other Pueblo media reported the decision to go forward on Thursday evening, citing a report from the Pueblo Economic Development Corp.

The price of the solar energy was crucial to the decision for the siting in Pueblo, says Lightsource BP’s Smith.

“The long-rail mill is a go on the basis of the EVRAZ-Xcel Energy long term electricity agreement for cost-effective electricity,” Smith said in an email interview. “Xcel was able to provide that cost-effective pricing on the basis of the Lightsource BP solar project on the EVRAZ site, which provides cost effective energy to Xcel under a 20-year contract.”

That was also the message from Skip Herald, chief executive of EVRAZ North America in a 2019 release. “This long-term agreement is key to our investment in Colorado’s new sustainable economy,” he said.

The steel mill in Pueblo was Colorado’s largest employer for a century and, for part of that time, the state’s largest consumer of electricity. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

Pueblo sweetened the pot, giving EVRAZ an incentive package reported to be worth $100 million, a portion of it to be used for environmental clean up of the site. In turn, EVRAZ needed to commit to keeping 1,000 employees, KOAA News reported in 2019. The new mill was expected to produce 1,000 new jobs that will pay between $60,000 and $65,000.

The solar farm will also help Xcel achieve 55% renewable penetration in its Colorado electrical supply by 2026. By then, two of the three coal-fired Comanche units that serve as a backdrop for the steel mill will have been retired. The new solar farm will surpass in size and production the nearby 156-megawatt Comanche solar project, which currently is the largest solar production facility east of the Rocky Mountains.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement Thursday evening saying that he’s “thrilled that the steel mill’s new expansion has passed this important milestone. Pueblo workers have been making the world’s best steel for nearly 140 years, and with this addition, Pueblo’s next generation of steelworkers can count on good-paying jobs well into the future.”

The new steel mill was still tentative in September 2019 when Polis and various other dignitaries gathered on an asphalt parking lot on the perimeters of the steel mill to announce the solar deal.

With the early-autumn sun beating down, Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar spoke, saying that people had come to Pueblo from all over the world to make the stele that created the American West. For nearly 100 yeas, he said, the mill was the largest employer in the state of Colorado. His family, he said, was part of that story, his grandfather arrived from Slovenia in 1910 and worked at the steel mill for 50 years, while his father worked there for 30 years. (See video here).

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis talks about the competitive advantages of renewable energy. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

Alice Jackson, chief executive of Public Service Co. of Colorado, the Xcel subsidiary, pointed to three years of negotiations that weren’t always easy but lauded the result as “perfective marriage of a variety of parties coming together” to show the world how to use renewable energy.

U.S. Senator Cory Gardner emphasized the combination of recyclable—the mill uses 1.2 million tons of material a year, he said—and renewable energy.

During his turn at the lectern, Polis, who had announced his candidacy for governor the prior year at a coffee shop in downtown Pueblo called Solar Roasters, emphasized the competitive edge that renewable energy provides.

“For those who wonder what a renewable energy future will look like, this is a great example of what that future will look like: low-cost energy for a manufacturing company that will stay in Pueblo and grow jobs for Pueblo residents,” he said.

Polis also pointed to symbolism on the Pueblo skyline, the smoke stacks of the Comanche power plants in the background. The steel mill—which once burned prodigious amounts of coal, with smudges of that past still evident—was the impetus for construction of the Comanche power station in the early 1970s. Now, as two of those three coal-burning units will be retired within a few years, another shift is underway.

“By working together to make change work for us, rather than against us, we can lead boldly in the future, create good jobs, create low-cost energy and cleaner air and do our part on climate,” he said.

Herald, the chief executive of EVRAZ, said his company will be making the “greenest steel products in the world.” It is a change, he said, that amazes him. “Just imagine recycled scrap metal being melted into new steel just a few hundred yards from where we stand in the electric arc furnace powered by the sun,” he said.

It is, he added, “one of the most amazing feats I’ve seen in my 40 years” in the steel industry.

This is from Big Pivots. Go HERE to be put on the mailing list.

Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist who publishes an e-magazine called Big Pivots. Reach him at allen.best@comcast.net or 303.463.8630.

The #GoldKingMine spill 5 years on

Bonita Mine acid mine drainage. Photo via the Animas River Stakeholders Group.

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

For a few days in August 2015, invisible mining pollutants could be seen by the world

Five years ago today, a breach at the Gold King Mine north of Silverton sent a deluge of water loaded with heavy metals into the Animas River, turning the waterway an electric-orange hue that caught the nation’s attention.

But five years later, and four years into the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund cleanup program, there has yet to be meaningful improvements to water quality and aquatic life.

Dan Wall, with the EPA’s Superfund program, said most of the focus since the Bonita Peaking Mining District Superfund site was declared in fall 2016 has been on studying the watershed and the multitude of mines impacting water quality.

The EPA is still in that effort, Wall said, and there’s no time frame for when the agency will present its final work plan for a comprehensive cleanup in the Animas River basin.

The EPA has spent more than $75 million on the site to date.

“It may be slower than what people want,” Wall said. “But we want to make sure our remedy selection is based on science … so the money won’t be wasted and we can be confident to see improvements based on the work we take.”

[…]

The stretch of the Animas River between Silverton and Bakers Bridge, about 15 miles north of Durango, is virtually devoid of aquatic life. Fish populations in the river through Durango are unable to reproduce, in part because of heavy metal contamination. And, years ago, the city of Durango switched its main source of water to the Florida River because of quality issues in the Animas.

The Animas River Stakeholders Group formed in 1994 and brought together a coalition of local, state and federal agencies, as well as mining companies and interested people, who sought to improve the health of the river amid heavy metal loading from legacy mines.

Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson

Despite the many Stakeholders Group successes, water quality in the Animas River in recent years has diminished, mainly from the mines leaching into one of the river’s tributaries, Cement Creek.

In 2014, the EPA decided pollution had gotten so bad that it stepped in with a $1.5 million cleanup project of its own…

Despite millions of dollars in claims, no one was reimbursed for their losses after the EPA claimed governmental immunity. A lawsuit still lingers in the federal courts from those seeking to recoup costs.

But ultimately, the Animas River did not appear to be too adversely impacted – the spill did not cause a die-off of fish, and long-term studies have shown little to no effect on aquatic life or the waterway…

The “Bonita Peak Mining District” superfund site. Map via the Environmental Protection Agency

What the spill did accomplish was to highlight the legacy of mines chronically contaminating the Animas River: The amount of metals released from the Gold King Mine spill is equal to that released every 300 days from all the mines around Silverton.

After years of the possibility of the EPA’s Superfund program stepping in, it became official in fall 2016, with the agency singling out 48 mining-related sites set for some degree of cleanup…

Gold King Mine Entrance after blow out on August 5, 2015. Photo via EPA.

Immediately after the Gold King Mine spill, the EPA built a $1.5 million temporary water treatment plant that takes in discharges from the mine and removes metals, which costs about $2.4 million to $3.3 million a year to operate.

But other than some minor projects around the basin, the EPA has focused on studies to better understand the complex mining district, and evaluate what long-term options would be best for cleanup.

The EPA is set, remedial project manager Robert Parker said, to make stronger headway on a quick action plan to address about 23 mining sites over the next few years while longer-term solutions are being examined.

Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

Webinar: Water Management, Community, and Urban Resilience — Salazar Center for North American Conservation

Poudre River Bike Path bridge over the river at Legacy Park photo via Fort Collins Photo Works.

Click here for all the inside skinny:

Communities in North America—both coastal and inland— must better manage water in the face of drought, flooding, sea level rise, and urbanization. In this session of our Connecting for Conservation webinar series, we will discuss stormwater management in cities and new ways of harnessing natural solutions and community building to promote resilience.

Aspinall Unit operations update: ~1050 CFS in the Gunnison Tunnel #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Gunnison Tunnel via the National Park Service

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be increased from 1550 cfs to 1600 cfs on Friday, August 7th. Releases are being adjusted to raise flows back to the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River. The actual April-July runoff volume for Blue Mesa Reservoir came in at 57% of average.

There is a drought rule in the Aspinall Unit Operations EIS which has changed the baseflow target at the Whitewater gage. The rule states that during Dry or Moderately Dry years, when the content of Blue Mesa Reservoir drops below 600,000 AF the baseflow target is reduced from 1050 cfs to 900 cfs. Therefore, the baseflow target for July and August will now be 900 cfs.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently below the baseflow target of 900 cfs. River flows are expected to trend up toward the baseflow target after the release increase has arrived at the Whitewater gage.

Currently, Gunnison Tunnel diversions are 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 550 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be around 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 600 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

@NOAA: Assessing the U.S. #Climate in July 2020

Photo credit: PIxabay via NOAA

From NOAA:

The July 2020 contiguous U.S. temperature was 75.7°F, 2.1°F above the 20th-century average and ranking 11th warmest in the 126-year record. For the year-to-date, the national temperature was 53.6°F, 2.4°F above average, ranking seventh warmest on record.

The July precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.93 inches, 0.15 inch above average, and ranked in the wettest one-third of the 126-year period of record. The year-to-date precipitation total for the Lower 48 was 19.29 inches, 1.20 inches above average, also ranking in the wettest one-third of the historical record.

This monthly summary from NOAA National Center for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making.

July Temperature

  • Above-average July temperatures were present across much of the West, Southwest, central Rockies and from the Mississippi River Valley to the East Coast. Virginia (tied with 2012), Pennsylvania (tied with 1955), and Connecticut (tied with 2013) as well as Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, and New Hampshire each had their warmest July and month on record with 14 additional states across the South and East having a top-10 month.
  • Below-average temperatures were limited to portions of the northern Rockies and central Plains.
  • The Alaska average July temperature was 53.3°F, 0.6°F above the long-term mean and ranked in the middle third of the historical record for the state. It was the coolest July since 2014.
    • Much of the northern and eastern portions of the state were cooler than average during July.
    • Like much of northern and eastern Alaska, Utqiaġvik (Barrow) had a high temperature for the month of 53°F — the second-lowest July maximum temperature in more than 100 years.
    • As a result of the cooler temperatures across the Interior during July and the above-average precipitation during June, the Alaskan wildfire season, to-date, is well-below average and has consumed the lowest number of acres since 2008.
    • In contrast to the cooler conditions across the northern and eastern portions of the state, southwestern, south central and portions of southeastern Alaska experienced above-average temperatures during July.
    • Kodiak had its third-warmest July since 1915, while Cold Bay tied for fourth warmest (since 1950).
    • Sea ice across the Chukchi Sea continues its summertime melt phase with a July average extent at 81% of average — the highest coverage since 2016.

July Precipitation

  • Above-average precipitation was observed across much of the northern and central Plains as well as the Great Lakes, Mississippi Valley and Gulf Coast. Kansas ranked seventh wettest for July.
  • Below-average precipitation fell across much of the West and portions of the Deep South, central Plains, Ohio Valley and Southeast. Arizona ranked sixth driest while Nevada ranked 11th driest.
  • The Atlantic Hurricane season has been active with a combination of three tropical storms and two hurricanes named during July.
    • These storms became the earliest fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth named storms on record in the Atlantic Basin.
    • Tropical Storm Edouard formed in the Atlantic Ocean on July 4 off the coast of South Carolina and moved away from land.
    • Tropical Storm Fay formed in the Gulf of Mexico on July 9 and, as a depression, proceeded to make landfall over the Florida Panhandle before emerging into the Atlantic Ocean off the Georgia coast, intensifying into a tropical storm and making landfall again near Atlantic City, NJ.
    • Tropical storm Gonzalo formed in the eastern Caribbean on July 21 and drifted westward toward the islands of Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as Trinidad and Tobago before dissipating near the Venezuelan coast.
    • Hurricane Hanna formed in the Gulf of Mexico on July 23 and tracked westward making landfall on Padre Island, TX as a strong category 1 hurricane. Hanna was the first hurricane of the season in the Atlantic Basin.
  • Hurricane Isaias formed in the Caribbean on July 30, bringing heavy winds and rainfall to Puerto Rico before strengthening and moving toward the southeastern U.S.
  • Alaska received near-average precipitation during July, but regional amounts varied. Much of the West Coast and portions of the Aleutians, Southeast Interior and Northeast Gulf divisions had drier-than-average precipitation while most of the Panhandle and portions of the Northeast Interior, Central Interior and Bristol Bay divisions received above-average precipitation for the month.
  • According to the July 28 U.S. Drought Monitor, approximately 33% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, which is about seven percentage points higher than what was reported at the end of June. Drought conditions expanded or intensified across parts of the West, South, central Plains, central Rockies, Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and Northeast. Drought intensity lessened across portions of the northern Plains and central to southern High Plains. Outside of the contiguous U.S., drought intensity lessened across portions of Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Micronesia.

  • Above- to much-above-average January-July temperatures were observed across much of the Lower 48. Florida had its warmest year-to-date period on record with New Jersey ranking second warmest and Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts ranking third warmest. The Florida statewide average temperature for the first seven months of 2020 was 72.7°F, 3.3°F above average. Three of the last four years have been the three warmest January-July periods on record.
  • Near-average temperatures were concentrated across portions of the northern Rockies and scattered over the northern Plains and the South.
  • The Alaska statewide average temperature for this year-to-date period was 26.0°F, 0.2°F above average and ranked in the middle one-third of the record. It was the coolest January-July since 2012. Above-average temperatures were limited to the northwest West Coast division as well as the Aleutians. Below-average conditions were present across much of the Southeast Interior division and portions of the Northeast Interior, Central Interior, Cook Inlet and Northeast Gulf divisions. Near-average temperatures were present across the vast majority of the state.

Year-to-date (January-July) Precipitation

  • Above-average precipitation occurred across portions of the Northwest, central Plains and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast and into the Southeast. Tennessee and West Virginia ranked fifth wettest for January-July with an additional five states ranking in the top-10 wettest for this year-to-date period.
  • Below-average precipitation was observed from the West Coast to the Rockies, from the northern Plains to southern High Plains, as well as across portions of the Upper Midwest and Northeast. Colorado had its eighth-driest January-July period on record with 8.00 inches of precipitation, 3.17 inches below average.
  • Year-to-date precipitation across Alaska ranked at the top of the middle third of the historical record. Much of the Alaskan mainland received above- to much-above-average precipitation over the first seven months of 2020, while the Aleutians, Cooks Inlet and Northeast Gulf regions received below-average precipitation.

#Drought tightens its grip on Aspen, Roaring Fork Valley in July — The Aspen Times #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

West Drought Monitor August 4, 2020.

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The hot, dry weather during July has resulted in high fire danger and low stream levels, and forecasters say little relief is in sight.

Aspen could only coax 1.17 inches of precipitation out of the clouds last month even though it rained 14 days, according to record keepers at the Aspen Treatment Water Plant. Normal rainfall for July is 1.74 inches…

For May, June and July, the water plant was down about three-quarters of an inch, or 16%, from the average of 4.85 inches. This year, 4.08 inches of precipitation fell.

Three wildfires have materialized in the region over the last week — a small one north of Ruedi Reservoir popped up over the weekend and was snuffed by Monday. Another fire erupted in steep hillsides west of Glenwood Springs on Wednesday and continued to hamper traffic on Interstate 70 on Thursday. The biggest regional wildfire is 18 miles north of Grand Junction. The Pine Gulch Fire had grown to nearly 12,000 acres as of Wednesday night…

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map released by the federal government on Thursday showed Pitkin County divided nearly evenly between severe drought on the lower elevation terrain in the western half, and moderate drought on the higher elevation lands on the eastern half.

Basalt, El Jebel, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs are all in the severe drought category…

Basalt-based nonprofit Roaring Fork Conservancy said the weather is taking a toll on local rivers and streams. The Roaring Fork River near Aspen is running at 53.4 cubic feet per second. The mean for Thursday was 84 cfs. The Crystal River at Redstone was running at 101 cfs compared to a mean of 251.

Conditions are better on the Fryingpan River below Ruedi Reservoir. The holders of senior water rights on the Colorado River placed a “call” on water, which is requiring releases from the reservoir. That’s creating increased flows on the Fryingpan River and on the Roaring Fork River below the confluence.

The Fryingpan River was running at 208 cfs on Thursday, above the mean of 191.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending August 4, 2020.

2020 Summer Convening of the Colorado Water Congress

From the Colorado Water Congress:

Water Congress will hold a virtual summer meeting beginning August 25 and will continue for 4 weeks. Sessions will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at noon with each one running 60 to 75 minutes. More information on specific topics and related workshops will be released in the upcoming weeks.

Drought news: Moderate drought (D2) was expanded in the #Nebraska panhandle and NE #Colorado

Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

This Week’s Drought Summary

As Tropical Storm Isaias churned through the northern Caribbean and then northward along the east coast of the United States, an active pattern from the central Plains through the Midwest also brought precipitation with it. Temperatures were cooler through the center of the country, with departures of 6 to 8 degrees below normal in Kansas and Oklahoma while temperatures were well above normal in the Northwest, Southwest and from the Mid-Atlantic up into New England. Several areas broke or tied temperature records for the month: Phoenix had their all-time warmest month ever with an average temperature of 98.9 degrees and Tucson also had their warmest July ever at 91.5 degrees, breaking the previous warmest July by almost a full degree (90.6 degrees in 2005). Sitka, Alaska reached 88 degrees on July 31, tying an all-time record high originally set on July 30, 1976. Richland, Washington recorded 113 degrees on July 30, tying an all-time record high first achieved on August 5, 1961…

High Plains

Cooler than normal temperatures helped to slow down some of the drought development in the region this week. Temperatures were generally 2-4 degrees below normal, with pockets in Kansas that were 6-8 degrees below normal. Precipitation was mixed as areas of eastern Kansas, eastern Wyoming, central South Dakota, south central and southwest Nebraska and far southwest Kansas all had above-normal precipitation for the week with thunderstorm activity. Improvements to the moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions were made in southeast Kansas and central Nebraska. Moderate drought was expanded in the Nebraska panhandle and northeast Colorado while abnormally dry conditions were introduced here as well. A new area of severe drought was added in eastern Nebraska in response to dryness that has lingered in the region since last fall. Moderate drought was expanded in southeast Wyoming and abnormally dry conditions were expanded in northwest Wyoming…

West

Well above normal and record-setting temperatures continued in the region, with many areas 2-4 degrees or more above normal for the week. Much of the region was dry for the week with only some spotty precipitation in places; the bulk of the precipitation was in eastern New Mexico and southwest Colorado as the monsoon brought some relief to this region. The hot and dry conditions allowed for a full category degradation over much of Arizona and into portions of southern Nevada and southern California. Even with the rains in New Mexico, the issues related to drought continued and further degradation was shown in the north and southeast portions of the state this week as a mix of both short and long-term issues continue…

South

In typical summer fashion, precipitation was spotty through the region, with Oklahoma and Arkansas and into northern Texas recording the most widespread precipitation this week. Portions of the Texas panhandle and central into west Texas as well as eastern Arkansas and into Mississippi remained dry this week. Temperatures were 2-4 degrees below normal in Arkansas, Louisiana, western Mississippi, east Texas and north Texas. Portions of central Oklahoma were 6-8 degrees below normal for the week while much of west Texas was normal to 4-6 degrees above normal. Almost a full category improvement was made from central Oklahoma into northwest Arkansas in response to both the cooler temperatures and above-normal precipitation. Areas of southeast Texas were improved with both abnormally dry and moderate drought reduced. Areas of central and west Texas had degradation with an expansion and introduction of extreme drought in this region. Continued improvement occurred over the panhandle of Texas where rains have helped local conditions while neighboring counties saw degradation. Abnormally dry conditions were improved in Louisiana but were expanded in northern Mississippi…

Looking Ahead

Over the next 5-7 days, it is anticipated that the West remains dry with only light precipitation over portions of New Mexico and southeast Arizona and into the coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest. The greatest precipitation is anticipated over the Midwest and areas from Florida north along the East coast. Temperatures during this time will be warmest over the West with departures of 3-6 degrees above normal widespread over the Southwest and into the Rocky Mountains. Cooler than normal temperatures are projected over the lower Mississippi Valley with departures of up to 3 degrees below normal.

The 6-10 day outlooks show the greatest likelihood of above-normal temperatures over the areas east of the Rocky Mountains, with the greatest probabilities over southern New Mexico and the Great Lakes. There are also above-normal chances of below-normal temperatures over the west coast and into the Great Basin. The greatest chances of above-normal precipitation are over the eastern half of the country, centered on the Midwest, and also over the Pacific Northwest. The highest chances of below-normal precipitation are centered over Colorado and New Mexico and dominating the Rocky Mountain states and into the Plains.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending August 4, 2020.

Hundreds of San Luis Valley farm wells at risk as state shortens deadline to repair #RioGrandeRiver — @WaterEdCO

A center pivot irrigates a field in the San Luis Valley, where the state is warming farmers that a well shut-down could come much sooner than expected. Credit: Jerd Smith via Water Education Colorado

From Water Education Colorado (Caitlin Coleman):

The race against time continues for farmers in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, with the state’s top water regulator warning that a decision on whether hundreds of farm wells will be shut off to help save the Rio Grande River could come much sooner than expected.

July 28, at a virtual symposium on the Rio Grande River, the state warned growers that they were running out of time to correct the situation.

“We’ll see in the next couple of years if we can turn around this trick,” said State Engineer Kevin Rein. “If we’re not turning it around, we need to start having that more difficult conversation.”

The valley is home to the nation’s second-largest potato economy and growers there have been working voluntarily for more than a decade to wean themselves from unsustainable groundwater use and restore flows in the Rio Grande. Thousands of acres of land have been dried up with farmers paying a fee for the water they pump in order to compensate producers who agree to fallow land.

Artesian well Dutton Ranch, Alamosa 1909 via the Crestone Eagle

The San Luis Valley, which receives less precipitation than nearly any other region in Colorado, is supplied by the Rio Grande, but under the river lies a vast aquifer system that is linked to the river. It once had so much water that artesian springs flowed freely on the valley floor.

As modern-day farmers began putting powerful deep wells into the aquifer, aquifer levels declined, and flows in the river declined too as a result, hurting the state’s ability to deliver Rio Grande water downstream to New Mexico and Texas, as it is legally required to do.

Between July 2019 and July 2020 the valley’s unconfined aquifer, which is fed by the Rio Grande River, dropped by 112,600 acre-feet. All told the aquifer has lost around 1 million acre-feet of water since the drought of 2002.

Through a plan written by growers in the valley and approved by the state in 2011, farmers had 20 years, from 2011 to 2031, to restore the aquifer. But multiple droughts in the past 19 years have made clear that the region can’t rely on big snow years to replenish the valley’s water supplies because there are fewer of them, thanks to climate change.

“So what is the future, the short-term future, if we can’t count on climate? And let’s admit we can’t,” Rein said. “If climate’s not cooperating the only thing that can be done is consuming less water.”

A powerful sprinkler capable of pumping more than 2,500 gallons of water per minute irrigates a farm field in the San Luis Valley June 6, 2019. Credit: Jerd Smith via Water Education Colorado

Adding to pressure on the region is a proposal by Denver developers to buy thousands of acres of the valley’s farm land, leaving some of the associated water rights behind to replenish the aquifer, while piping thousands of acre-feet of water northeast to the metro area.

Rein said drastic steps, like drying up more fields and sharply limiting how much growers can pump, are needed. But this could result in bankruptcies and could cripple the valley’s $370 million agriculture economy, which employs the majority of workers in the region. Worse still, though, would be the shutdown of all wells in the region, which is what could occur if farmers aren’t able to make progress toward aquifer sustainability.

While the deadline to restore the aquifer is set for 2031, if it becomes clear before then that growers aren’t able to restore groundwater levels, Rein will be forced to take action early by turning off all wells.

Rein said his decision likely won’t come as early as next year. But, he said, “Do we wait until 2031, the deadline? Probably not.”

The groundwater challenges and associated deadline stem from Colorado’s historic 2002 drought which led to more groundwater pumping than ever before and resulted in a falling water table, decreases in water pressure, and failing wells.

Groundwater declines have been so severe that they’ve affected surface water levels in parts of the valley. In 2004, state lawmakers passed a bill requiring the state to begin regulating the aquifer to make it more sustainable.

Landowners within the Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) responded by forming a groundwater management district known as Subdistrict 1—that was just the first of what will soon be seven approved subdistricts.

Subdistrict 1 set goals and developed a plan of water management in late 2011 that spelled out how to reduce groundwater depletions and recharge the aquifer.

In 2012 they began paying a fee for every acre-foot of water used. That revenue helps pay irrigators who elect to participate in voluntary fallowing programs and other efforts to replenish the river and reduce stress on the aquifer.

Colorado Drought Monitor August 7, 2018.

And by 2017, irrigators had restored 350,000 acre-feet of water in the aquifer, halfway to their goal. But drought and disaster struck in 2018. With less surface water available and high temperatures, irrigators pumped heavily to maintain their crops. And by September 2018, farmers had lost about 70 percent of the groundwater gains they had worked so hard to recover.

“2018 was extremely frustrating,” said Cleave Simpson, manager of the RGWCD who is also a fourth-generation grower. ”It really kind of set us back to where we were when we started this in 2012.”

It’s not over yet. Some of that groundwater lost in 2018 has been recovered and this year participation in the fallowing program is higher than ever, with more than 13,000 acres enrolled, according to Amber Pacheco who manages the RGWCD’s subdistrict programs—that’s in addition to the 8,800 acres fallowed through the conservation programs that have been running since 2012.

Simpson and others, faced with another severe drought year, are deeply worried about the success of their conservation efforts, but dire times are also boosting motivation to solve the problem, Simpson said.

“There’s a sense of urgency from the board of managers that we’ve got to keep doing more,” Simpson said. “We’ve got to get back what we lost.”

Caitlin Coleman is the Headwaters magazine editor and communications specialist at Water Education Colorado. She can be reached at caitlin@wateredco.org.

San Luis Valley Groundwater

July 2020 #Drought update — @CWCB_DNR

Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Megan Holcomb/Tracy Kosloff):

On June 22, 2020, Governor Polis activated the State Drought Mitigation and Response Plan and the supporting Drought- and Agricultural Impact Task Forces to respond to deepening drought conditions across the state. As of July 30th, dry conditions now cover 99.35% of the state with 83.72% in severe, extreme, or exceptional drought categories. To ​stay informed on the evolving 2020 drought season and response resources, please visit the Colorado Water Conservation Board ​drought website and submit questions on Twitter at ​@CO_H2O​ (observations, reports, or images can be tagged with #codrought2020).

Colorado Drought Monitor July 28, 2020.

The 90-day ​Standardized Precipitation Index​ (SPI) (April 21 to July 21) continues to show slightly below average moisture for nearly all of Colorado with deeper shortfalls now more prevalent in north central and front range mountains in addition to NE and SW corners.

El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions now show borderline La Niña conditions, with the atmospheric response at weak La Niña or neutral. Sea surface temperature outlooks continue with equal chances neutral/La Niña in the fall and winter.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center’s ​three month outlook​ maps continue to show very high confidence for above average temperatures July through Sept. and a stronger chance for below average precipitation compared to last month.

The VegDri Index (a satellite derived product that looks at how well plants are photosynthesizing) shows a bullseye of severe drought conditions in the NE (see Aug 2 map to the right).

Reservoir storage​, fell 7% over the last month (now 93% of average) with slightly better than average storage in northern CO and below average in southern CO. The Rio Grande basin-wide storage is only 55% of average for this time of year, the lowest in the state.

Several municipal water providers are reporting above average demands (10-30% above avg) and increased concerns around the lack of precipitation.

Navajo Dam operations update: Releases to bump to 700 CFS August 7, 2020 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Piute Farms waterfall. Photo credit: Bureau of Reclamation

From email from Reclamation (Susan Behery):

In response to decreasing flows and a hot and dry forecast weather pattern in the San Juan River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 600 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 700 cfs on Friday, August 7th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program has recommended base flows as close to 500 cfs as possible for the summer of 2020. This is within their normal recommended range of 500 to 1,000 cfs. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

Aspinall unit operations update: 500 CFS in Black Canyon starting August 5, 2020

Black Canyon July 2020. Photo credit: Cari Bischoff

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be increased from 1450 cfs to 1500 cfs on Wednesday, August 5th. Releases are being adjusted to raise flows back to the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River. The actual April-July runoff volume for Blue Mesa Reservoir came in at 57% of average.

There is a drought rule in the Aspinall Unit Operations EIS which has changed the baseflow target at the Whitewater gage. The rule states that during Dry or Moderately Dry years, when the content of Blue Mesa Reservoir drops below 600,000 AF the baseflow target is reduced from 1050 cfs to 900 cfs. Therefore, the baseflow target for July and August will now be 900 cfs.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently below the baseflow target of 900 cfs. River flows are expected to trend up toward the baseflow target after the release increase has arrived at the Whitewater gage.

Currently, Gunnison Tunnel diversions are 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 450 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be around 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 500 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

Reimagining the Rural West Initiative Special Report delivers ideas to re-energize communities — @WestGov

Here’s the release from the Western Governor’s Association:

As the population of the West concentrates in metropolitan areas, rural communities face increasing challenges to provide the services, infrastructure and opportunities needed to thrive. At the same time, opportunity abounds for rural areas to respond to global economic trends and technological innovation.

How do we re-energize rural communities and help them tap into an increasingly technological world? That was the question WGA Chair and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum sought to answer when he launched the Reimagining the Rural West Initiative in July 2019. The Initiative has since examined challenges and highlighted opportunities in rural economic development, infrastructure and quality of life organized around three major pillars:

Opportunity: Creating an environment in which everyone has the chance to prosper, whether as a first-time entrepreneur, seasoned business owner, recent graduate starting a career or a midcareer worker looking to learn new skills.

Connectivity: Ensuring that rural communities are connected by high-speed internet and safe efficient transportation networks, so that people in the rural West can plug into the global economy and take advantage of cutting-edge technology.

Community: Supporting community-led efforts to solve local challenges and building smart, healthy, vibrant communities.

The Initiative sought answers through several avenues, including regional workshops that attracted leading experts on rural development. WGA also developed a series of webinars to further explore ideas that arose from the workshops. And when the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, WGA launched a dedicated webinar series to explore what it meant for the communities at the heart of the Initiative’s work.

The Special Report on the Initiative shares more than a dozen policy recommendations to support vibrant rural communities in the West. Highlights include:

  • Change the way we do economic development to focus on attracting workforce and building community assets that improve quality of life.
  • Develop policy and financial solutions that can bring broadband access to all rural communities, enabling them to take advantage of remote work opportunities, distance learning and telehealth, among other things.
  • Strengthen local leadership with the capacity to develop a shared vision for the future along with their community, and then leverage local resources to achieve it.
  • The report also includes additional details about the workshops, webinars, participants, and podcast series dedicated to the Initiative.

    Read, download Special Report

    Read, download the Appendix of the Reimagining the Rural West Initiative

    #Arizona’s #megadrought worst on record — ArizonaFamily.com #drought #aridification #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Roosevelt Dam, Salt River, Arizona. By Nicholas Hartmann – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51639491

    From ArizonaFamily.com (Ashlee DeMartino):

    “This current megadrought began in the mid-1990s. So if you do the calculations, 25 years now,” said Dr. Kevin Murphy, researcher of Hydro-climatology at Arizona State University.

    Megadroughts can run 10 to 30 years. Dr. Kevin Murphy from ASU looked at tree ring records and found our current one.

    “This has been the most severe megadrought over 1,000 years; that’s what we found by looking at the records,” said Dr. Murphy.

    A drought like this can put a significant stress on our water supply.

    “The Salt River Project was formed in 1903. It was a direct result of the severe drought that occurred between 1898 and 1905,” said Charlie Ester, Water Manager for SRP. That project has kept the water supply flowing into the Valley ever since…

    The Salt and Verde rivers rely on mother nature to keep them replenished, with 75 percent of the water coming from our winter storms.

    Report provides new framework for understanding climate risks, impacts to U.S. agriculture — @ColoradoStateU

    CSU’s Peter Backlund was part of a team that looked at the U.S. agricultural system and identified climate stresses. Backlund is associate director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability. Photo: Joe Mendoza/CSU Photography

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Mary Guiden):

    Agricultural production is highly sensitive to weather and climate, which affect when farmers and land managers plant seeds or harvest crops. These conditions also factor into decision-making, when people decide to make capital investments or plant trees in an agroforestry system.

    A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture focuses on how agricultural systems are impacted by climate change and offers a list of 20 indicators that provide a broad look at what’s happening across the country.

    The report, “Climate Indicators for Agriculture,” is co-authored by Colorado State University’s Peter Backlund, associate director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability.”>Climate Indicators for Agriculture,” is co-authored by Colorado State University’s Peter Backlund, associate director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability.

    Backlund said the research team started with the scientific fact that climate change is underway.

    “We looked at the U.S. agricultural system and examined the climate stresses,” he said. “This report outlines data that farmers and land managers can use to understand how climate change is affecting their operations, and, hopefully, guide the development of effective adaptation.”

    In the report, the authors outline how the changes taking place in agriculture affect the system that many people make their livelihoods from.

    “We want to help farmers, ranchers and land managers adapt better under climate change, which requires understanding what is actually happening on the ground. These indicators offer ways to measure the impacts of change,” said Backlund.

    20 climate indicators, based on robust data

    The climate indicators described in the report are arranged in five categories, including physical (extreme precipitation and nighttime air temperature), crop and livestock (animal heat stress and leaf wetness duration), biological (insect infestation in crops, crop pathogens), phenological (timing of budbreak in fruit trees, disease vectors in livestock) and socioeconomic (crop insurance payments, heat-related mortality of agricultural workers).

    Backlund said the research team chose these indicators based on the strength of their connection to climate change and availability of long-term data, which is needed to identify how impacts are changing over time and whether adaptive actions are having the desired effect.

    “We want to help farmers, ranchers and land managers adapt better under climate change,” said Peter Backlund, Associate Director, School of Global Environmental Sustainability, Colorado State University.

    “There had to be a measurement of a variable strongly coupled with climate,” he said. “As we go forward, we will better understand the impact of climate change by using these indicators.”

    Researchers opted to include nighttime air temperatures as opposed to general temperature because nighttime temperatures have a big effect on the way plants develop.

    Some of the indicators have national data, while others are more regional. Heat stress on livestock, a huge issue for feedlot operators, will be of interest to farmers and ranchers in states including Colorado.

    “Heat interferes with the rate of reproduction and rate of weight gain,” Backlund said. “This presses on the whole operation; it’s not just that a few more animals will die from getting too hot.”

    The crop insurance payment indicator offers insight on the repercussions of climate events.

    “You can see if you have a big climate event, like drought, one region will be much more affected than another,” he said. “If farmers have good irrigation, they’ll be much more capable in dealing with periods of low rainfall.”

    Backlund said the indicator covering weed range and intensity was also notable. As carbon dioxide concentrations increase, researchers are seeing extreme northern migrations and expanded ranges for weeds.

    “Climate Indicators for Agriculture” was produced through a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Colorado State University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research under an Interagency Agreement with the National Science Foundation and Cooperative Agreement #58-0111-18-015.

    The Colorado Corn Administrative Committee will be holding four district meetings on August 11 & 12, in the districts where director positions are up for election

    Is that a new waterslide? — News on TAP

    Nope. It’s a Denver Water canal built in the 1930s and called upon to shuttle water this summer. The post Is that a new waterslide? appeared first on News on TAP.

    via Is that a new waterslide? — News on TAP

    Tackling lead at its source, the first six months — News on TAP

    Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program replaces more than 1,000 lead lines, distributes 80,000 pitchers/filters out of the gate. The post Tackling lead at its source, the first six months appeared first on News on TAP.

    via Tackling lead at its source, the first six months — News on TAP

    The Worst-Case Scenario for #GlobalWarming Tracks Closely With Actual Emissions — Inside Climate News #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    From Inside Climate News (Bob Berwyn):

    With scientists divided between hope and despair, a new study finds that the model projecting warming of 4.3 degrees Celsius is “actually the best choice.”

    The ice front of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. Photo credit: David Vaughan via the British Antarctic Survey.

    When scientists in the early 2000s developed a set of standardized scenarios to show how accumulating greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will affect the climate, they were trying to create a framework for understanding how human decisions will affect the trajectory of global warming.

    The scenarios help define the possible effects on climate change—how we can limit the worst impacts by curbing greenhouse gas emissions quickly, or suffer the horrific outcome of unchecked fossil fuel burning.

    The scientists probably didn’t think their work would trigger a sometimes polarized discussion in their ranks about the language of climate science, but that’s exactly what happened, and for the last several months, the debate has intensified. Some scientists say the worst-case, high emissions scenario isn’t likely because it overestimates the amount of fossil fuels that will be burned in the next few decades.

    But a new study published [August 3, 2020] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argues that the high-end projection for greenhouse gas concentrations is still the most realistic for planning purposes through at least 2050, because it comes closest to capturing the effects “of both historical emissions and anticipated outcomes of current global climate policies, tracking within 1 percent of actual emissions.”

    The scenarios, called Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), roughly show how much warmer the world will be by 2100, depending on how much more fossil fuel is burned, and how the climate responds. The best-case scenario (RCP 2.6) is the basis for the Paris climate agreement and would lead to warming of about 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.8 Celsius) by 2100. In that scenario, about 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs could survive, and 20 percent of Alpine glaciers would remain.

    The worst-case pathway (RCP 8.5) would result in warming of more than 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.3 Celsius) by 2100, probably killing nearly all the world’s reefs and definitely pushing vast areas of polar ice sheets to melt, raising sea level by as much as 3 feet by 2100.

    Even though it’s unlikely that coal burning will increase as envisioned in the worst-case pathway, cumulative greenhouse gas concentrations are still racing upward toward a level that will cause extremely dangerous heating, said Phil Duffy, who co-authored the paper with two other scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center.

    “For near-term time horizons, we think it’s actually the best choice because it matches cumulative emissions. What happened over the last 15 years has been about exactly right compared to what was projected by RCP 8.5,” Duffy said. “For those reasons, it’s still a plausible scenario.”

    That holds especially true for medium-term planning through 2050, Duffy said, explaining that the study grew out of some work his research institution was doing with the McKinsey Global Institute exploring the socioeconomic consequences of global warming out to about 2040 or 2050.

    “Those are the time horizons those guys care about because it affects things like home mortgages,” he said. “And what about out to 2100? Part of what I think about that is, we have different scenarios because we don’t know, and we shouldn’t characterize scenarios by saying, this one is right, this one is wrong. I think you have to be very careful about saying a scenario is wrong or misleading.”

    Stanford Earth scientist Rob Jackson, chair of the Global Carbon Project, said it’s important to remember that RCP scenarios were always intended as an intermediate step on the path to developing more accurate projections that include not only the physical effects of greenhouse gases, but also how those effects could trigger amplification of warming, for example by thawing more permafrost that could unleash unexpected quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term.

    “RCP 8.5 was never really ‘business as usual’ … though that’s what it’s called. It’s just an aggressive picture of greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, we’re much closer to it today than anyone would have wanted. It remains a useful metric,” Jackson said.

    But that usefulness may have been tarnished by widespread characterization of RCP 8.5 as a “business-as-usual” scenario, said Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project. For a while, “business-as-usual” seemed accurate because of a dramatic increase of coal burning in China, he added.

    But Canadell said most of the research suggesting a continued rapid increase in coal use is now about 10 years old. In fact, “coal emissions have been coming down since 2013, when China peaked coal emissions. Somehow, people got stuck with papers published a long time ago, which caught the imagination of many,” he said.

    Additionally, many scientists published papers about climate impacts like sea level rise and heat waves based on the worst-case outcome because they wanted to show the dramatic effects of extreme warning, he said. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s global climate assessments don’t suggest that carbon-climate feedback loops like increasing emissions of greenhouse gases from permafrost could lead to a worst-case outcome, he said.

    On a hopeful note, Canadell added that the rate of carbon dioxide emissions have slowed over the last two decades, didn’t grow at all during the last two years and “won’t grow much over the coming years or longer. Even if we resume some growth, it will be modest,” he said. “We don’t know the future, but we are going to be hovering at stabilization of CO2 emissions for quite a few years, up to a decade, and by then renewable energy will be certainly meeting more than the excess energy demand.”

    The discussion about the worst-case scenario may be distracting from more urgent matters, said Fredi Otto, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.

    “I think the scenarios are there because we cannot predict the future and thus need to explore a whole range of scenarios. What is not helpful is to choose just one scenario. And what I think is extremely unhelpful is to call it business as usual,” she said.

    “All this discussion goes very much away from the scientific understanding we are actually trying to gain and implies every scientist would have to define publicly where they are on the spectrum between denial and doom,” she said, “and that is a very stupid point we seem to have arrived at.”

    Nearly all of #Colorado is under some #drought status. A year ago, almost none of the state was parched. — The Colorado Sun #ActOnClimate

    The country’s second largest potato producing region, is in its 18th year of drought in 2020. The San Luis Valley in Colorado is known for its agriculture yet only has 6-7 inches of rainfall per year. San Luis Valley via National Geographic

    From The Colorado Sun (Evan Ochsner):

    Much of Colorado continues to suffer through extreme drought, and nearly all of the state is experiencing drought, according to the latest data released by the U.S Drought Monitor, a collaboration between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others.

    Climate change could make droughts more severe and more common and disrupt the state’s economy. And while this year’s drought isn’t the most severe of the past decade, it will take “years and years of heavy rain to get back up to normal,” drought monitor author Richard Heim said.

    The red on the map below represents extreme drought, while orange represents severe drought…

    West Drought Monitor July 28, 2020.

    A year ago, Colorado was pleasantly, surprisingly moist. The Western corners of the state were “abnormally dry,” shown in yellow, the lowest level of drought classification by the monitor. The rest of the state, shown in white, was drought-free…

    West Drought Monitor August 8, 2019.

    But conditions deteriorated over the past year, and a combination of short-term dryness and long-term dryness in the state has led to drought. Heim says Colorado has been in a “persistently dry pattern, in general, for most of the state.”

    Colorado has also been suffering from relatively warm temperatures and a high propensity for evaporation. When the air is evaporating water at a higher rate, there is lower humidity and less water in the soil, rivers and reservoirs.

    The monsoon late last summer was lackluster, which put the state on the trajectory toward drought. The state was dry going into the winter, and a dry and warm spring contributed to the current conditions…

    Another important factor in staving off dryness: snow melt. Colorado’s high country snowpack plays a critical role in maintaining moisture in the state. Alpine snow fields serve as a reservoir, and when the snow melts it feeds rivers and streams and percolates into the soil. The unusually dry spring disrupted this process, and the snow melted too quickly to feed water systems downstream.

    The past few months have been particularly dry, with vast portions of the state — shown in red in the map below — suffering from precipitation levels well below average…

    Credit: The High Plains Regional Climate Center

    Though conditions have worsened in the northwestern corner of the state, they have improved in many other places, particularly in the southern portion of the state…

    The improvement is explained at least in part by increasing rainfall in a large part of the state. “So far, the early parts of the monsoon season have been promising,” Colorado State Climatologist Russ Schumacher said.

    The drought-stricken southern portion of the state has had more rain in recent weeks, which has made a noticeable impact. Precipitation can temporarily lower fire danger and make a dent in dry conditions, but thunderstorms are not enough to lift a region out of drought…

    The long-term outlook for Colorado this summer and early fall suggests the drought will persist. NOAA forecasts predict Colorado will be among the driest parts of the country, relative to its normal levels of precipitation. Most of the state, shown in dark brown, has a 40% chance of seeing lower precipitation than normal. Those are the worst odds in the country, the model shows.

    Heat, too, will likely exacerbate the likelihood of sustained drought. Much of Colorado has a 60% likelihood of being hotter than normal in the coming months.

    “If it remains warmer than average for an extended period, even if you have normal or above-normal precipitation, it doesn’t really end the drought in that situation,” said Schumacher, the state climatologist.

    The heat projection shown above reflects recent trends, as much of the Southwest has become increasingly hot during the summer months in recent years. Experts say the western portion of the U.S. has grown hotter and hotter over the years.

    The darker the red in the map below, published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the hotter the area has been trending. According to the model, there is a “clear warming trend,” compared to previous summers.

    Summer temperatures across the country have been increasingly high compared to historical norms. The trend is most pronounced in the west. Credit: NOAA

    Climate change is causing serious concern among scientists who study drought, because it could make droughts more severe and more common. The changing climate could stress systems necessary for staving off drought.

    Colorado’s critical snowpack could be severely hit by climate change. The warming temperatures could shorten the snow season, lead to quicker melting and turn wintertime snow into rain. The high altitude of Colorado’s mountains insulates the state from some of those effects, but it’s not immune. As droughts this summer and in years past demonstrate, changes in snowpack can affect the climate year-round.

    A warming climate could also lead to less overall precipitation and increase the rate of all-important evaporation.

    “Climate change is water change,” Schumacher said.

    Because Colorado already has an arid climate, changes in precipitation caused by climate change can have a major impact on the economy and people’s livelihoods. And while drought in Colorado is not a new phenomenon, scientists are increasingly confident that climate change is playing a role.

    “What’s happening in the West is attributed to climate change,” said Heim, the drought monitor.

    If the water goes, the desert moves in: “…there’s just no low-snow anymore — and it’s not coming back (Jim Gillespie)” — Writers on the Range #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Photo credit: Jonathan Thompson

    From Dave Marston (Writers on the Range):

    Paonia, a small town in western Colorado with a handful of mesas rising above it, wouldn’t green-up without water diverted from a river or mountain springs. The lively water travels through irrigation ditches for miles to gardens and small farms below. But this summer, irrigation ditches were going dry, and one, the Minnesota Canal and Reservoir Company, stopped sending water down to its 100-plus customers as early as July 13.

    Drought was hitting the state and much of the West hard, but a local cause was surprising: Water theft.

    Longtime residents who gather inside Paonia’s hub of information trading, Reedy’s Service Station, have a fund of stories about water theft. It’s not unusual, they say, that a rock just happens to dam a ditch, steering water toward a homeowner’s field. Sometimes, says farmer Jim Gillespie, 89, that rock even develops feet and crosses a road.

    But this is comparatively minor stuff, says North Fork Water Commissioner Luke Reschke, as stealing ditchwater is a civil offense. Stealing water from a natural waterway, however, is a crime that can bring fines of $500 per day and jail time. That’s why what was happening to people who depend on the Minnesota Canal company for their fields or gardens was serious: Water was being taken from Minnesota Creek before it could be legally diverted for irrigation to paying customers.

    Once the ditch company “called” for its water as of June 8, only holders of patented water rights could legally touch the creek. Yet during three trips to the creek’s beginning, starting in mid-June, and then in mid-July, I noticed that two ranches – without water rights — were harvesting bumper crops of hay. How could that have happened unless they’d illegally diverted water to their fields?

    At first, no one would talk about the early-drying ditch except to hint broadly that it wasn’t normal. Then one man stepped up: Dick Kendall, a longtime board member of the Minnesota canal company, and manager of its reservoir. “On July 5,” he told me, “I saw water diverted from the creek onto one of the rancher’s land. And I wasn’t quiet about it.”

    Kendall reported what he saw to Commissioner Luke Reschke, who oversees the area’s 600 springs, ditches and canals. Reschke dismissed it, he told me, because “The rumor mill is something else on Minnesota Creek. The only people who give me trouble are the new people who don’t know how the system works.” But locals say that four years back, Reschke’s predecessor, Steve Tuck, investigated when locals complained.

    Though it may not be neighborly, stopping any illegal diversion is important, said Bob Reedy, owner of Reedy’s Station: “Without water, you’ve got nothing around here.” Annual rainfall is just 15 inches per year, and without water flowing into irrigation canals from the 10,000-foot mountains around town, much of the land would look like the high desert it truly is.

    But it’s not just a couple of high-elevation ranchers dipping into the creek. The West Elk Coal Mine runs large pumps that supply water for its methane drilling and venting operations in the Minnesota Creek watershed.

    Mine spokesperson Kathy Welt, said the diversion is legal, and that they only take early-season water when the creek water isn’t on call. That early water, however, is what begins to fill the Minnesota ditch’s reservoir.

    In other ways, the mine has damaged the watershed by building a sprawling network of roads in the Sunset Roadless Area (Threats at West Elk Mine). A cease and desist order from the State Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety on June 10, sought by environmental groups, halted the building of an additional 1.6 miles of new roads this spring (Colorado Sun). Satellite images of the road network resemble a vast KOA Campground: Where trees once held back water and shaded snowpack from early melting, their replacement — gravel roads –- shed water and add to early runoff.

    For all of Minnesota Ditch’s challenges, warming temperatures brought about by climate change could be the real challenge. Kendall said that this spring, when he plowed out the Minnesota Reservoir road, dust covered the parched ground beneath the snow.

    Water — so precious to grow grapes, hay, organic vegetables and grass-fed beef, and to keep the desert at bay — had vanished early on Lamborn Mesa above Paonia. Farmer Gillespie summed it up, “there’s just no low-snow anymore — and it’s not coming back.”

    David Marston. Photo credit: Writers on the Range

    David Marston is a contributor to Writers on the Range, (writersontherange.com), a nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. He lives part-time in Colorado.

    Does #coronavirus linger in the body? What we know about how viruses in general hang on in the brain and testicles — The Conversation #COVID19


    Are there places in the body where SARS-CoV-2 can hide from the immune system?
    fotograzia / Getty Images

    William Petri, University of Virginia

    As millions of people are recovering from COVID-19, an unanswered question is the extent to which the virus can “hide out” in seemingly recovered individuals. If it does, could this explain some of the lingering symptoms of COVID-19 or pose a risk for transmission of infection to others even after recovery?

    I am a physician-scientist of infectious diseases at the University of Virginia, where I care for patients with infections and conduct research on COVID-19. Here I will briefly review what is known today about chronic or persistent COVID-19.

    What is a chronic or persistent viral infection?

    A chronic or persistent infection continues for months or even years, during which time virus is being continually produced, albeit in many cases at low levels. Frequently these infections occur in a so-called immune privileged site.

    What is an immune privileged site?

    There are a few places in the body that are less accessible to the immune system and where it is difficult to eradicate all viral infections. These include the central nervous system, the testes and the eye. It is thought that the evolutionary advantage to having an immune privileged region is that it protects a site like the brain, for example, from being damaged by the inflammation that results when the immune system battles an infection.

    An immune privileged site not only is difficult for the immune system to enter, it also limits proteins that increase inflammation. The reason is that while inflammation helps kill a pathogen, it can also damage an organ such as the eye, brain or testes. The result is an uneasy truce where inflammation is limited but infection continues to fester.

    A latent infection versus a persistent viral infection

    But there is another way that a virus can hide in the body and reemerge later.

    A latent viral infection occurs when the virus is present within an infected cell but dormant and not multiplying. In a latent virus, the entire viral genome is present, and infectious virus can be produced if latency ends and the infections becomes active. The latent virus may integrate into the human genome – as does HIV, for example – or exist in the nucleus as a self-replicating piece of DNA called an episome.

    A latent virus can reactivate and produce infectious viruses, and this can occur months to decades after the initial infection. Perhaps the best example of this is chickenpox, which although seemingly eradicated by the immune system can reactivate and cause herpes zoster decades later. Fortunately, chickenpox and zoster are now prevented by vaccination. To be infected with a virus capable of producing a latent infection is to be infected for the rest of your life.

    Latent infection (left) is when a cell is infected and the virus has inserted its genetic code into our human DNA. The immune system cannot detect this cell as being infected. An HIV infection can shift from latent to active if the infected cell is producing new viruses.
    ttsz / Getty Images

    How does a virus become a latent infection?

    Herpes viruses are by far the most common viral infections that establish latency.

    This is a large family of viruses whose genetic material, or genome, is encoded by DNA (and not RNA such as the new coronavirus). Herpes viruses include not only herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 – which cause oral and genital herpes – but also chickenpox. Other herpes viruses, such as Epstein Barr virus, the cause of mononucleosis, and cytomegalovirus, which is a particular problem in immunodeficient individuals, can also emerge after latency.

    Retroviruses are another common family of viruses that establish latency but by a different mechanism than the herpes viruses. Retroviruses such as HIV, which causes AIDS, can insert a copy of their genome into the human DNA that is part of the human genome. There the virus can exist in a latent state indefinitely in the infected human since the virus genome is copied every time DNA is replicated and a cell divides.

    Viruses that establish latency in humans are difficult or impossible for the immune system to eradicate. That is because during latency there can be little or no viral protein production in the infected cell, making the infection invisible to the immune system. Fortunately coronaviruses do not establish a latent infection.

    Is it safe for a man to have sex after recovering from COVID-19?
    Andrey Zhuravlev / Getty Images

    Could you catch SARS-CoV-2 from a male sexual partner who has recovered from COVID-19?

    In one small study, the new coronavirus has been detected in semen in a quarter of patients during active infection and in a bit less than 10% of patients who apparently recovered. In this study, viral RNA was what was detected, and it is not yet known if this RNA was from still infectious or dead virus in the semen; and if alive whether the virus can be sexually transmitted. So many important questions remain unanswered.

    Ebola is a very different virus from SARS-C0V-2 yet serves as an example of viral persistence in immune privileged sites. In some individuals, Ebola virus survives in immune privileged sites for months after resolution of the acute illness. Survivors of Ebola have been documented with persistent infections in the testes, eyes, placenta and central nervous system.

    The WHO recommends for male Ebola survivors that semen be tested for virus every three months. They also suggest that couples abstain from sex for 12 months after recovery or until their semen tests negative for Ebola twice. As noted above, we need to learn more about persistent new coronavirus infections before similar recommendations can be considered.

    Could persistent symptoms after COVID-19 be due to viral persistence?

    Recovery from COVID-19 is delayed or incomplete in many individuals, with symptoms including cough, shortness of breath and fatigue. It seems unlikely that these constitutional symptoms are due to viral persistence as the symptoms are not coming from immune privileged sites.

    Where else could the new coronavirus persist after recovery from COVID-19?

    Other sites where coronavirus has been detected include the placenta, intestines, blood and of course the respiratory tract. In women who catch COVID-19 while pregnant, the placenta develops defects in the mother’s blood vessels supplying the placenta. However, the significance of this on fetal health is yet to be determined.

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    The new coronavirus can also infect the fetus via the placenta. Finally, the new coronavirus is also present in the blood and the nasal cavity and palate for up to a month or more after infection.

    The mounting evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 can infect immune privileged sites and, from there, result in chronic persistent – but not latent – infections. It is too early to know the extent to which these persistent infections affect the health of an individual like the pregnant mother, for example, nor the extent to which they contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

    Like many things in the pandemic, what is unknown today is known tomorrow, so stay tuned and be cautious so as not to catch the infection or, worse yet, spread it to someone else.The Conversation

    William Petri, Professor of Medicine, University of Virginia

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    #Wildfires can poison drinking water – here’s how communities can be better prepared — The Conversation


    The 2018 Camp Fire north of Sacramento burned everything in its path: cars, power lines, and buildings – and contaminated local drinking water.
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Andrew J. Whelton, Purdue University and Caitlin R. Proctor, Purdue University

    In recent years wildfires have entered urban areas, causing breathtaking destruction.

    The 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise and Butte County, California was the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history. It took 86 lives and destroyed more than 18,000 structures in a matter of hours.

    Almost two years later, only a fraction of the area’s 40,000-plus population has returned. This disaster followed the 2017 Tubbs Fire, which killed 22 people in California’s Sonoma and Napa counties.

    After both fires, drinking water tests revealed a plethora of acutely toxic and carcinogenic pollutants. Water inside homes was not safe to use, or even to treat. Water pipes buried underground and inside of buildings were extensively contaminated.

    We are environmental engineers who help communities affected by disasters, and supported responses to both fires. As we conclude in a recently published study of burned areas, communities need to upgrade building codes to keep wildfires from causing this kind of widespread contamination of drinking water systems.

    Survivors left everything to flee the Camp Fire’s path.
    Andrew Whelton, Purdue University

    Wildfires and water

    Both the Tubbs and Camp fires destroyed fire hydrants, water pipes and meter boxes. Water leaks and ruptured hydrants were common. The Camp Fire inferno spread at a speed of one football field per second, chasing everyone – including water system operators – out of town.

    After the fires passed, testing ultimately revealed widespread hazardous drinking water contamination. Evidence suggests that the toxic chemicals originated from a combination of burning vegetation, structures and plastic materials.

    Pipes, water meters and meter covers after wildfires destroyed them.
    Caitlin Proctor, Amisha Shah, David Yu, and Andrew Whelton/Purdue University

    Firefighting can accelerate the spread of contamination. As emergency workers draw hydrant water, they spread contaminated water through the water pipe network.

    Metal, concrete and plastic pipes can become contaminated. Many plastics take up these chemicals like sponges. As clean water later passes through the pipes, the toxic substances leach out, rendering the water unsafe.

    In the Tubbs and Camp fires, chemicals in the air may have also been sucked into hydrants as water pipes lost pressure. Some water system plastics decomposed and leached chemicals directly into water. Toxic chemicals then spread throughout pipe networks and into buildings.

    Limited water testing by state and local agencies showed benzene and naphthalene were present at levels that could cause immediate harm. These, as well as methylene chloride, styrene, toluene and vinyl chloride exceeded longer-term regulated exposure limits. Many of these chemicals cause cancer. All can cause vomiting, diarrhea and nausea after short-term high concentration exposure.

    Anyone who drinks the water containing these substances could be harmed. And simply running a faucet could cause chemicals to enter the air. Hot showers and boiling water would vaporize the chemicals and increase the dose a person breathed in. Some of these substances can also be absorbed through the skin.

    Dangerous contamination levels

    Benzene was found at concentrations of 40,000 parts per billion (ppb) in drinking water after the Tubbs Fire and at more than 2,217 ppb after the Camp Fire. According to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, children exposed to benzene for a single day can suffer harm at levels as low as 26 ppb.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends limiting children’s short-term acute exposure to 200 ppb, and long-term exposure to less than 5 ppb. The EPA regulatory level for what constitutes a hazardous waste is 500 ppb.

    In early 2019, California conducted contaminated water testing on humans by taking contaminated water from the Paradise Irrigation District and asking persons to smell it. The state found that even when people smelled contaminated water that had less than 200 ppb benzene, at least one person reported nausea and throat irritation. The test also showed that water contained a variety of other benzene-like compounds that first responders had not sampled for.

    The officials who carried out this small-scale test did not appear to realize the significance of what they had done, until we asked whether they had had their action approved in advance by an institutional review board. In response, they asserted that such a review was not needed.

    In our view, this episode is telling for two reasons. First, one subject reported an adverse health effect after being exposed to water that contained benzene at a level below the EPA’s recommended one-day limit for children. Second, doing this kind of test without proper oversight suggests that officials greatly underestimated the potential for serious contamination of local water supplies and public harm. After the Camp Fire, together with the EPA, we estimated that some plastic pipes needed more than 280 days of flushing to make them safe again.

    Plastic pipes can be damaged by heat and fire contact.
    Andrew Whelton, Purdue University

    Building codes could make areas disaster-ready

    Our research underscores that community building codes are inadequate to prevent wildfire-caused pollution of drinking water and homes.

    Installing one-way valves, called backflow prevention devices, at each water meter can prevent contamination rushing out of the damaged building from flowing into the larger buried pipe network.

    Adopting codes that required builders to install fire-resistant meter boxes and place them farther from vegetation would help prevent infrastructure from burning so readily in wildfires. Concrete meter boxes and water meters with minimal plastic components would be less likely to ignite. Some plastics may be practically impossible to make safe again, since all types are susceptible to fire and heat.

    Water main shutoff valves and water sampling taps should exist at every water meter box. Sample taps can help responders quickly determine water safety.

    Benzene contamination in the water supply slowed rebuilding efforts in Paradise, Calif., after the Camp Fire.

    The smell test doesn’t work

    Under no circumstance should people be told to smell the water to determine its safety, as was recommended for months after the Camp Fire. Many chemicals have no odor when they are harmful. Only testing can determine safety.

    Ordering people to boil their water will not make it safe if it contains toxic chemicals that enter the air. Boiling just transmits those substances into the air faster. “Do not use” orders can keep people safe until agencies can test the water. Before such advisories are lifted or modified, regulators should be required to carry out a full chemical screen of the water systems. Yet, disaster after disaster, government agencies have failed to take this step.

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    Buildings should be tested to find contamination. Home drinking water quality can differ from room to room, so reliable testing should sample both cold and hot water at many locations within each building.

    While infrastructure is being repaired, survivors need a safe water supply. Water treatment devices sold for home use, such as refrigerator and faucet water filters, are not approved for extremely contaminated water, although product sales representatives and government officials may mistakenly think the devices can be used for that purpose.

    To avoid this kind of confusion, external technical experts should be called in assist local public health departments, which can quickly become overwhelmed after disasters.

    Preparing for future fires

    The damage that the Tubbs and Camp fires caused to local water systems was preventable. We believe that urban and rural communities, as well as state legislatures, should establish codes and lists of authorized construction materials for high-risk areas. They also should establish rapid methods to assess health, prepare for water testing and decontamination, and set aside emergency water supplies.

    Wildfires are coming to urban areas. Protecting drinking water systems, buried underground or in buildings, is one thing communities can do to prepare for that reality.The Conversation

    Andrew J. Whelton, Associate Professor of Civil, Environmental & Ecological Engineering, Purdue University and Caitlin R. Proctor, Lillian Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellow, Purdue University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Say hello to @Northern_Water’s new website

    Screen shot of the new Northern Water website. Click the image to go to the website.

    Click here to to the new website. Easy to navigate and find data:

    Northern Water is proud to announce the launch of a new organizational website. The website offers a user-friendly experience with improved navigation and functionality.

    With a modern, sleek design, the new website uses enhanced functionality, features and content to tell the story of Northern Water and its commitment to delivering water to more than 1 million people and 615,000 acres of irrigated farmland in Northeastern Colorado while protecting water quality on both sides of the Continental Divide.

    Key features of the new website include:

  • Improved navigation that makes content easy to find;
  • A search engine that captures targeted results for visitors seeking specific information;
  • Mobile responsive design that allows website access from any device;
  • A new data portal that provides real-time data, water quality data and more;
  • A new customized water accounting portal that empowers water users to manage their portfolio, order and transfer water, and view important documents; and
  • A news blog to inform the public about Northern Water’s projects, programs and activities. New weekly content will ensure the public is kept up to date on the latest happenings.
  • The new website has been more than a year in the making with a primary goal of creating a user-friendly platform accessible from any device. Specifically, the goal was to make it easier for visitors to learn about the organization and its rich history, receive project updates and discover ways to more efficiently use water in their landscapes and daily lives.

    Paper: Multi-objective optimization of water treatment operations for disinfection byproduct control

    Click here to score a copy of the paper (William J. Raseman, Joseph R. Kasprzyk, R. Scott Summers, Amanda K. Hohner, and Fernando L. Rosario-Ortiz). Here’s the abstract:

    This paper introduces a novel decision-making framework for the optimization of water treatment plant operations. Managers at water utilities face increasing tensions between cost, public health risk, public perception, and regulatory compliance. Multi-objective optimization techniques have been developed to generate innovative solutions to environmental problems with competing objectives. By integrating these optimization techniques with water quality scenarios, water treatment modeling, and interactive visualization, our framework enables water managers to choose among an ensemble of optimal treatment operations. By automating the generation of treatment options, this paradigm represents a shift toward exploration and insight discovery in drinking water decision making. To illustrate this framework, we create a disinfection byproduct (DBP) management problem that incorporates the influence of competing risks and cost objectives on decision making. Using data from the Cache la Poudre River—a source water in Colorado with seasonally-varying water quality—and a hypothetical conventional treatment plant, we evaluate the impact of organic carbon increases on the performance of optimal treatment operations. These results suggest that the hypothetical utility should consider infrastructural improvements if organic carbon concentrations increase more than approximately 25% of maximum historical levels. An interactive exploration of the optimization results reveal to what extent there are tradeoffs between solids handling costs, chemical costs, and DBP exposure. A k-means clustering of these data illustrates that the utility can achieve compliance through a variety of treatment strategies depending on decision maker preferences for cost and risk.

    The job loss epidemic — @HighCountryNews #COVID19 #coronavirus

    From The High Country News (Jonathan Thompson) [July 23, 2020]:

    By February, the spread of COVID-19 was already eroding the global economy. First, global travel restrictions depressed the oil market. Then, as the virus reached pandemic proportions, it began hurting even the healthiest industries, throwing the global economy into the deepest rut since the Great Depression.

    The recession has been hard on clean energy, which was thriving at the end of last year despite unhelpful, even hostile, policies from the Trump administration. Between 2009 and 2019, solar and wind generation on the U.S. electrical grid shot up by 400%, even as overall electricity consumption remained fairly flat. Renewable facility construction outpaced all other electricity sources, but the disease’s effects have since rippled through the sector, wiping out much of its previous growth.

    Graphic credit: The High Country News

    Global supply chains for everything from solar panels to electric car components were the earliest victims, as governments shut down factories, first in China, then worldwide, to prevent transmission of the disease. Restrictions on construction further delayed utility-scalesolar and wind installations and hampered rooftop solar installations and energy efficiency projects. The setbacks are especially hard on the wind industry, because new wind farms must be up and running by the end of the year to take advantage of federal tax credits. Meanwhile, the general economic slowdown is diminishing financing for new renewable energy projects.

    Graphic credit: The High Country News

    Clean energy, which has shed more than 600,000 jobs since the pandemic’s onset, is only one of the many economic sectors that are hurting. In just three months, COVID-19 wiped out more than twice as many jobs as were lost during the entire Great Recession of 2008. The impacts have reverberated throughout the Western U.S., from coal mines to tourist towns, and from casinos to dairy farms. Some industries, including clean energy, bounced back slightly in June, as stay-at-home orders were dropped and businesses, factories and supply chains opened back up. But a full recovery — if it happens — will largely depend on government stimulus programs and could take years.

    Graphic credit: The High Country News

    In just three months, COVID-19 wiped out more than twice as many jobs as were lost during the entire Great Recession of 2008.

    Contracted workers clean mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Project in Nipton, California. In 2017, the facility employed over 65 workers and created 2,600 jobs during it’s three year construction period. Dennis Schroeder/National Renewable Energy Laboratory via The High Country News

    Infographic design by Luna Anna Archey; Graphics by Minus Plus; Sources: Solar Energy Industries Association, BW Research Partnership, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, New Mexico Workforce Connection, Utah Department of Workforce Services.

    Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster. Email him at jonathan@hcn.org.

    Interview: Harmful Algal Blooms Are on the Rise — Here’s Why Stopping Them Is So Hard — The Revelator

    A dense floating mat of algae is seen on the Susquehanna Flats near Treasure Island and Havre de Grace, Md., on Aug. 2, 2019. Photo: Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program (CC BY-NC 2.0)

    From The Revalator (Tara Lohan):

    More frequent, longer-lasting blooms can harm both wildlife and human health — and even kill. Can we learn to predict and prevent them?

    From the fall of 2017 to the beginning of 2019, Florida endured a persistent and damaging algal bloom caused by the algae Karenia brevis, also known as red tide. The blooms formed in both Gulf and Atlantic waters, sickening people, killing birds, fish, dolphins, manatees and other marine animals, and driving visitors away from beach towns.

    Scientists say it’s a problem that’s going to get worse — and not just in Florida. Harmful algal blooms, which can occur in both fresh and marine waters, are becoming more frequent, lasting longer, and occurring in more places. In recent weeks news reports have warned residents in western New York, Utah and California to stay out of rivers and lakes clouded with these microscopic organisms that can sometimes be fatal to people, pets and wildlife.

    To be clear, not all algae are dangerous. In fact the vast majority are beneficial to ecosystems. They’re the base of the marine and aquatic food webs, providing nutrients for fish and shellfish, which in turn feed other animals — including people. They also produce half of our oxygen.

    “But a small handful of these organisms are harmful,” says phytoplankton ecologist Pat Glibert of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

    We spoke with Glibert about this tiny — but dangerous group — of algae, why they’re becoming more problematic, and what we can do to protect people and ecosystems.

    When algae are deemed to be harmful, what is it that they’re harming and how?

    University of Maryland phytoplankton ecologist Pat Glibert. Photo: Courtesy of Pat Glibert via The Revelator

    Some algae can grow to levels that just create a nuisance. They can overwhelm the system and when they die, their decomposition uses up oxygen, causing dead zones in the sea or fresh waters.

    In the case of red tides — named because they visibly color the water a red or sometimes brownish color — their growth reduces the light penetration in the water. So the organisms that live near the bottom, such as sea grasses, are harmed, and the organisms that depend on that bed of grass in the water are also harmed.

    But some of these species actually make toxins that can cause fish kills or harm to other marine organisms. And they can also cause harm for humans when we consume the fish or shellfish that has consumed these organisms.

    These harmful algal blooms can occur all over. What are the regional differences in the kind of algae and their potential harm?

    In marine waters we are primarily concerned with a group of organisms called dinoflagellates. And in fresh waters, the major organisms of concern fall in a category called cyanobacteria. They make very different toxins and have very different effects both environmentally as well as with regard to human health.

    The freshwater toxins are concerning for a number of reasons. On initial exposure one may have a skin rash or something uncomfortable that’s relatively mild. But they can get into drinking water and, over a long period of exposure, they are tumor promoters. We know liver cancer is associated with these toxins, and there’s increasing evidence that the freshwater toxins can also be associated with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or ALS. There’s a lot of work going in right now to understand that relationship.

    In marine waters we’re typically exposed to toxins through shellfish. The shellfish themselves are not affected by these toxins because a lot of them affect the nervous system and shellfish don’t have a nervous system. But shellfish can accumulate the toxin. One of the diseases that we are very concerned about comes from saxitoxin, which is most common if one is eating mussels. It’s from the dinoflagellate Alexandrium and it can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. It results in respiratory paralysis. With a high enough dose people do die.

    A different toxin is the Florida red tide. That toxin can become aerosolized. If people breathe that sea spray at the beach it can cause respiratory distress, including coughing. Many people can end up going to the hospital, but people aren’t likely to die from it. The other thing that many of the toxins cause is an upset stomach that may take a couple of days to get over, but people do recover.

    What about the effects on wildlife?

    That depends on the species of algae. But some things like Karenia brevis in Florida are indiscriminate killers. Fish, turtles, manatees are all affected.

    Dead fish on the shore of Padre Island as a result of a harmful algal bloom. Photo: Terry Ross, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    In California there’s a toxic diatom species, Pseudo-nitzschia, and it seems to affect sea lions and other large marine organisms. They tend to show symptoms very similar to epilepsy and disorientation. Death is one end point, but there are many other impacts on these organisms as well.

    What’s driving the growth of these harmful algal blooms?

    We certainly know that blooms are increasing in frequency, in geographic extent, and in duration in many parts of the United States and the world. A lot of this is due to the fact that we are polluting these waters with nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from the land.

    Nutrient pollution can come from wastewater, whether it’s discharged from municipal sewage treatment plants or from septic systems. We don’t always do an adequate job, in many places, of removing those nutrients.

    That’s one source. A second is runoff from fertilizer application, particularly from agricultural use, but we use a lot of these fertilizers on our lawns, golf courses and gardens as well.

    And then there’s the waste from concentrated animal feeding operations, whether it’s chickens or pigs or dairy. A lot of that waste is either held in lagoons and ultimately spread on land. Or it goes into the atmosphere and then comes down with rain. So these operations themselves are highly concentrated sources of pollution that end up in waterways.

    The other issue is that the climate is changing. Waters are getting warmer. Many organisms grow better when waters are warmer. That’s true for some of these [algae] species.

    But because of climate change we’re also seeing changes in precipitation. We’re having more storms in some areas, more hurricanes, and because the atmosphere is now warmer, when those hurricanes do develop, they are often holding more moisture. So hurricanes become wetter. That means that the rain that comes with these storms washes more of these nutrients into the sea.

    What can we do to reduce these blooms?

    This is a very difficult problem to solve. The ultimate solution is to try to reduce nutrients that are winding their way into our fresh and marine waters.

    At a personal level, we can reduce the amount of nutrient fertilizer we put on our own lawns, but the pollution that comes from the concentrated animal operations, from municipal sewage and from crop agriculture are the big issues that we have to solve. And they’re going to be very difficult to solve because we have to continue to grow our food.

    There are approaches that people are taking to try to address blooms at the time that they occur, methods to apply various products to reduce the bloom. There is some success in applying clay to the surface of the water that causes the dinoflagellates to fall to the bottom of the bay or estuary. But those are very localized solutions.

    Aerial photo of an algal bloom in Virginia’s James River near the Monitor-Merrimack Bridge. Photo: Wolfgang K. Vogelbein, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    The other approach that we are taking is to build mathematical models of when and why and where a bloom may occur and use that as an early warning system. So we may not be able to solve the problem, but at least we can protect human health or seafood resources before a problem occurs.

    There are also a number of exciting areas of research. One is my own, which focuses on understanding these organisms from their physiology — how they obtain their nutrients, how they make toxins, why they make toxins. How is nutrient pollution related to not only growth of the algae but production of their toxin?

    Also the other area that I think is so exciting is really pulling all of these factors together in building predictive models and using models to ask questions of “what if we did this, what would it show”? Or “what if we did that, what would be that effect”? We’re making great progress, but the problem is still a very large one.

    Has our response to the problem matched the scale of what’s needed and the urgency of the issue?

    It always seems to be in the forefront at the time there’s a bloom. And then as soon as that bloom subsides, the public interest and the interest in solving the problem go away.

    Clearly we need more money to address issues of nutrient pollution. We need to upgrade sewage treatment plants. We need to address the fact that so much of the country still depends on septic systems or very small “package plant” [treatment systems] that do nothing to reduce nutrients.

    The issue of concentrated animal waste is enormous because the animal waste isn’t treated and does make its way into the environment by land or sea or atmosphere, and ultimately gets discharged into waterways.

    We need more attention on those issues. We need more attention on developing preventative measures. We need to have more approaches to protect human health from these events because they are going to be increasing.

    The outlook is for more blooms and longer blooms in more places if we don’t address all of these problems of nutrient pollution and climate change collectively.

    Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.

    New manager takes reins of Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District #YampaRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridifiction

    The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

    From The Steamboat Pilot & Today (Derek Maiolo):

    Andy Rossi now manages the conservation district following more than a decadelong tenure with the group. The change comes after the retirement of former manager Kevin McBride, who managed the district since 2009.

    Rossi joined the group that same year as its district engineer. His knowledge of the district’s facilities and operations near the headwaters of the Yampa River, namely Yamcolo and Stagecoach reservoirs, was a major factor in the board’s decision to promote him, according to a news release. Before that, he worked at multiple consulting firms specializing in water resources…

    Rossi also will oversee the implementation of the district’s new strategic plan. Among the plan’s goals include developing long-term financial sustainability, protecting local water from out-of-district transfers and improving watershed management.

    With regards to that last goal, Rossi noted a need to utilize new technology and scientific-based studies for water management. For example, one of the panelists at a recent Yampa Basin Rendezvous discussion, snowpack researcher Dr. Jeffrey Deems, described his work with the Airborne Snow Observatory.

    The observatory uses specialized aircraft equipped with sensors to collect data on snowmelt across entire regions of mountains and their waterways. The data has helped communities to better manage their water supplies.

    According to Deems, the Kings River Water Association in California was able to avoid a flood declaration in 2019, which led to savings of $100 million, by basing its dam release policy on forecasts from the Airborne Snow Observatory instead of traditional measurements.

    Rossi said he would like to incorporate some of the observatory’s data next year on a trial basis, which also would help the researchers receive feedback on the new technology…

    These efforts have the overarching goal of preserving the health of the Yampa River for the people, plants and creatures that depend upon it. Rossi described the river as the most important natural resource in the area.

    “It is the natural resource that defines this valley,” he said.

    To that end, Rossi aims to maintain the district’s existing facilities, such as the dam at Stagecoach Reservoir, which not only helps to meet water demands for a growing community but also generates hydroelectric power.

    The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District formed in 1966 following the passage of the Water Conservancy Act of the state of Colorado. Its mission has been conserving, developing and stabilizing supplies of water for irrigation, power generation, manufacturing and other uses.

    Stagecoach Reservoir. Photo credit Upper Yampa River Water Conservancy District.

    @EPA Announces $4.3 Million for Tribes to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water in Schools

    Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

    Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency:

    New grant program continues implementation of…Administration’s Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposure

    (July 30, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new grant program to help protect children in tribal communities from lead in drinking water at schools and childcare facilities. With this action, the agency is continuing to make meaningful progress under the Trump Administration’s Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures by engaging with tribes and working to protect childrens’ health in these underserved communities.

    “Protecting children in tribal communities from lead in drinking water is a priority for the Trump Administration and EPA,” said U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This new funding helps tribes further reduce lead in drinking water by boosting testing for lead in schools and childcare centers. This, in turn, will increase the health and wellbeing of the coming generation.”

    Authorized by the Water Infrastructure Improvements of the Nation (WIIN) Act, EPA is making $4.3 million available to support the Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program Drinking Water Tribal Grant Program. Grantees will use the EPA’s 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water guidance to implement lead testing programs and develop monitoring, maintenance and/or sampling plans that protect children from lead exposure now and in the future. Beneficiaries of the program must be members of a federally-recognized tribe. EPA will host a webinar in August to provide more information about the 3Ts toolkit and an overview of the grant and its scope.

    For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/safewater/grants.

    Background

    While the U.S. has made tremendous progress in lowering children’s blood lead levels, some children are still exposed to high levels of lead. In December 2018, EPA with other federal partners announced the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures. Today’s announcement continues the agency’s significant progress in implementing this plan.

    #Drought In The West Affects More Than Farmers — Wyoming Public Media #WY

    West Drought Monitor July 28, 2020.

    From Wyoming Public Media (Ashley Piccone):

    Most of the West has been experiencing drought this year. Bart Miller, with the environmental group Western Resource Advocates, said that the water levels we are seeing this year are nothing new.

    “It’s kind of slightly below average for Wyoming and even more below average for the rest of the Colorado River Basin states,” he said. “We’re part of a trend, or at least if you look over the last 20 years, there’s been consistent below average stream flow, snowpack and just water to work with.”

    Miller said areas in Colorado and other more southern states are much drier this year compared to Wyoming.

    This winter had an average snowpack, but that it melted fairly early or evaporated quickly, he said. The inflow into Lake Powell from states including Wyoming, Colorado and Utah is projected to be 61 percent of average this year…

    “Much of the state, at least half the state, is in one form of drought or another. That’s having some impact, certainly on folks irrigating but also on folks who like to fish and recreate in the outdoors,” he said. “As stream flows get low and as we get more and more years of drought, we’re seeing some of those benefits and attributes becoming more challenging.”