Do you think you’re using water wisely indoors? — News on TAP

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@ColoradoStateU joins $9 million Sage project, a continent-wide network of smart sensors

Photo credit: Colorado State University

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

A multi-institutional team that includes Colorado State University is launching an ambitious plan for building a continent-wide network of smart sensors for environmental monitoring. The goal: giving scientists sensitive new tools for understanding how the planet is changing, whether it’s by high-resolution cameras or by air quality and weather sensors.

The project, called Sage, is supported by $9 million from the National Science Foundation and is led by researchers at Northwestern-Argonne Institute of Science and Engineering. Among Sage’s expert collaborators are CSU scientists Gene Kelly and Jay Ham, who will help to integrate nodes of an existing NSF observatory – with sites at Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station research centers across the state – into the Sage array of environmental sensors.

The idea behind Sage is to move advanced machine learning algorithms into “edge computing,”which is a way to streamline data flowing from internet of things devices. Rather than the traditional method of deploying sensors and collecting the data later, edge computing means that data analysis takes place almost immediately, very near the site where the data was gathered.

By linking small, powerful computers directly to tools like high-resolution cameras, soil water sensors, air quality sensors, and light detector and ranging (LIDAR) systems, the new, distributed infrastructure will enable researchers to analyze and respond to data more quickly. From early detection of wildfire plumes to identifying ultrasonic bat calls, to seeing patterns of pedestrians in busy crosswalks, Sage’s artificial intelligence-enabled sensors will be a new tool for understanding the planet as a whole.

Integrating existing platforms

The new cyberinfrastructure project will be enhanced by partnerships with existing scientific instruments. CSU’s Gene Kelly, a professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and deputy director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, will lead the integration of Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station sites and NSF’s National Ecology Observatory Network (NEON) into Sage. NEON is an array of 81 instruments at terrestrial and aquatic sites across the country that collect data on plants, animals, soil, water and the atmosphere.

Kelly, who previously served as lead scientist of the NEON network, will specifically work with Sage collaborators to pilot Sage instrumentation on mobile platforms that are currently part of NEON. For example, the existing NEON tower at the Central Plains Experimental Range, 30 miles from CSU, will eventually also host a mobile platform with instruments that can be tested side by side with the NEON tower.

Ham, a professor in soil and crop sciences, is a co-principal investigator with Kelly and will set up networks for soil water monitoring and atmospheric measurements at CSU’s Agricultural Research Development and Education Center and other agricultural experiment station centers.

“We’ll deploy NEON mobile platforms and other sensors at many of our research centers, effectively creating an agricultural observatory for the state,” Kelly said.

Leaders of the project think Sage’s distributed, intelligent sensor networks will prove essential for understanding the impacts of global urbanization and climate change on agricultural and natural ecosystems.

In addition to Northwestern University and CSU, the research team includes University of Chicago, George Mason University, University of California San Diego, Northern Illinois University, University of Utah, and the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Tri-State plans 50% #renewableenergy by 2024 as member co-ops press for exit — The Loveland Reporter Herald #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

The South Taylor pit is one of Colowyo Mine’s current active coal mining site. Photo by David Tan via

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Dan Mika):

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc. said by 2024 it will draw from renewable sources at least half of the energy it sends to member power cooperatives.

In a news conference also attended by Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday, the Westminster-based power generator said it would build two wind farms and four solar farms in Colorado and New Mexico to generate an additional gigawatt of energy for its 43 member co-ops in Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and New Mexico.

Tri-State CEO Duane Highley said the plan puts the company at the forefront of the shift away from fossil fuels.

“Membership in Tri-State will provide the best option for cooperatives seeking a clean, flexible and competitively-priced power supply, while still receiving the benefits of being a part of a financially strong, not-for-profit, full-service cooperative,” he said at the news conference.

The partial shift away from non-renewable sources of power comes amid ongoing disputes among Tri-State, Brighton’s United Power Inc. and La Plata Energy Association Inc. at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The two co-ops filed suit in November, claiming Tri-State is refusing to give them permission to explore deals with other power suppliers and effectively holding them hostage while it tries to become a federally regulated entity…

Tri-State has maintained it cannot release United and La Plata while other co-op customers revise the rules for terminating contracts…

In a statement, La Plata said it supports Tri-State’s push toward renewable energy, but said the power provider’s rules are preventing it from creating its own series of renewable energy sources to meet its local carbon reduction targets.

“While Tri-State’s future goal will help meet our carbon reduction goal, we do not yet know what the costs of its plan will be to our members and what LPEA’s role will be for producing local, renewable energy into the future,” said La Plata Energy Association CEO Jessica Matlock.

Member co-ops are required to buy 95% of their power from Tri-State.

The Year of the Flood — Platte Basin Timelapse

Screenshot of the Platte Basin Timelapse “Year of the Flood” story map January 17, 2020.

Click here to view the story map from Platte Basin Timelapse. Here’s the preface:

The flood event of 2019 was historic and devastating for parts of Nebraska and the Midwest.

Platte Basin Timelapse team members Grant Reiner, Carlee Koehler, Ethan Freese, and Mariah Lundgren traveled to parts of the state to explore questions they had about this historic weather event. What happens to wildlife during these big weather events? How were people affected by the floodwaters? What does this mean for the birds that nest on the river? How many PBT cameras survived? These are our stories.

Durango: “Securing Our Water Future,” from 6 – 8 p.m., Thurs., Jan. 23, 2020 — @ConservationCO #COWaterPlan

From The Durango Telegraph (Miss Votel):

Conservation Colorado, which has offices across the state to help organize citizen activism and engagement, will be hosting “Securing Our Water Future,” from 6 – 8 p.m., Thurs., Jan. 23, at 4Corners Riversports. The goal of the event is to discuss what local residents and businesses can do to help curb water usage, build drought resilience and support the goals of the [Colorado Water Plan]. The meeting will be held in partnership with local members of the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance, which has 40 members in Southwest Colorado. In addition to free food and drinks, the evening will include an expert panel: Celene Hawkins, of the Nature Conservancy and Colorado Water Conservation Board; Marcie Bidwell, from the Mountain Studies Institute; and a representative from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

“The point is not to shame people for their water use,” Goodman said. “Instead, we will present more efficient irrigation strategies and programs.” Goodman said the biggest hurdle to implementing the state’s water plan right now is money. It’s estimated that putting the plan into action will require $100 million a year – which might seem like a lot but is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the state’s other budget items, he said. State legislators are currently looking at adding $10 million to next year’s budget toward the plan, and the recently passed Proposition DD, which legalized sports betting, will add about another $10 million a year (that number will be significantly less in its first year of implementation).

Goodman said he hopes next week’s meeting, in addition to providing a dialogue, will spur local citizens to get active and encourage their representatives to fund the water plan.

“This is a good starting point, our legislators need to know this matters to us and to make it a reality,” he said. “As great as the water plan is, if we don’t have money behind it, we won’t see results.”

Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

State Health Officials Have Sent A Clear Message: #Colorado Needs Better Air Quality Monitoring — Colorado Public Radio #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Natural gas flares near a community in Colorado. Colorado health officials and some legislators agree that better monitoring is necessary. Photo credit the Environmental Defense Fund.

From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

The message from a forum on air quality and climate change Thursday is clear: Colorado needs to do more to accurately measure emissions from oil and gas wells.

That means better technology is needed, state health officials said. And that requires more money, which is a big hurdle.

In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency downgraded the Front Range’s air quality rating to “serious.” CPR News has also found that Colorado’s records of how much methane is in the air contain potentially flawed data.

A lot has been made of compounds released into the air by oil and gas operations that contribute to ozone pollution and health problems. The panel, with state officials, researchers and health professionals, zeroed in on this and also considered how to reduce emissions from cars. Many agreed that the state needs to improve air quality monitoring…

Air quality is a priority during this legislative session, said Democratic State Senator Steve Fenberg, who attended the panel.

“We’re going to be looking at all kinds of things,” he said. “One is simply making sure we’re regulating the right emissions. One is making sure that the fees that are put on emitters are appropriate.”

Higher fees would bring in more funding, Fenberg said. So to start, he’s drafting a bill that would bring in more money by raising the cost of air pollution permits.

Some local governments, like those in Boulder County and Broomfield, have already upgraded monitors to improve air quality measurements around oil and gas production.

South Platte River Salinity Workshop recap: “Change is mandatory” — Mike Petersen

Map via Water Education Colorado.

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jeff Rice):

Stop plowing.

That’s the first instruction from Mike Petersen, a retired soil scientist and agronomist. Petersen was a presenter at Wednesday’s South Platte River Salinity Workshop presented by the Centennial, Morgan and Sedgwick County Conservation Districts.

Petersen manages the Orthman Research Farm near Lexington, Neb., and consults with growers regarding strip-till system technology, fertilizer, crop development, root development, and water management.

The agronomist addressed misconceptions about salinity in the South Platte Valley during Wednesday’s program. Chief among those misconceptions is that a good rainfall or snowmelt, along with cover crops and no-till practices will solve the problem…

Phil Brink of Colorado Cattleman’s Ag Water Network led off with an overview of the issue, which he said has been followed in the Colorado River basin for several years. Brink said salinity levels below Hoover Dam are about 723 milligrams per liter, or about what is in the South Platte just below Denver…

By the time the river gets to Sterling, however, that salinity has skyrocketed to 1,275 mg/l, almost twice as salty as the Denver reaches.

While much of the problem stems from treated wastewater discharged by municipalities and industries upstream, agriculture is compounding the problem. The re-use of return flow water from upstream irrigation is concentrating salts from cropland and leaching it into the river, where it’s diverted or pumped onto crops and the cycle starts over.

There are things that can be done to mitigate the damage, however. Petersen said no-till cultivation and leaving residue on the soil surface is the first step farmers need to take. Better water management, crop rotations and alternative crops are other methods producers can use to minimize salinity in the soil and, thus, in return flow to the river.

“That’s the good news, but it’s going to cost everyone something,” Petersen said. “And there’s just no option. Change is mandatory.”

Graphic via

#Snowpack news: Farmers, ranchers, and water providers in the West are hoping for a good water year (as always)

Westwide SNOTEL January 16, 2020 via the NRCS.

From (Rick Worthington):

Farmers and ranchers in the west are wondering if 2020 will offer enough water.

That’s because this winter has not been wet enough for many states, so far. Recently, a series of storms may help improve that, but as the USDA’s Brad Rippey explains, more is needed…

Heavy precipitation, including mountain show, fell in many of the higher elevation portions of the West this week, with the exception of the Sierra Nevada and mountainous regions of Arizona and New Mexico. Cooler than normal temperatures prevailed in southwest Colorado and eastern Utah and adjacent parts of Arizona and New Mexico, while near or above normal temperatures were commonplace elsewhere in the West. In the Four Corners region, recent precipitation in higher elevation areas improved conditions, such that severe drought lessened to moderate drought around the Chuska Mountains. Lower elevation areas, however, are still suffering from severe precipitation deficits due to the paltry rainfall from the 2019 North American monsoon, and severe drought conditions remained in some of the lower elevation portions of the Four Corners region. Moderate to large snow packs in the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Ranges in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado led to improvement from severe to moderate drought in the high country, though the San Luis Valley and other lower elevation areas in southern and western Colorado and northern New Mexico remained in severe drought.

West Drought Monitor January 14, 2020.