Historically Left Out, #ColoradoRiver Tribes Call For More Sway In Western #Water Talks — KUNC #COriver

Many Indian reservations are located in or near contentious river basins where demand for water outstrips supply. Map courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

“It’s time to protect Lake Mead and Arizona,” the state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, said in his state of the state address in January 2019. He spoke to lawmakers in the midst of uncomfortable, emotional discussions at the statehouse in Phoenix about who gets access to water in the arid West, and who doesn’t.

“It’s time to ratify the Drought Contingency Plan,” Ducey said to a round of applause.

The multi-state deal was the first issue Ducey brought up in the speech, and indicated it should be the legislature’s first priority. The deal was designed to keep the Colorado River’s largest reservoir — Lake Mead outside Las Vegas — from dropping rapidly and putting the region’s 40 million residents in a precarious position.

Within weeks Arizona finished its portion of the plan. Tribal leaders in the state didn’t receive any accolades in Ducey’s speech. But a recent Arizona State University report suggests they should have. The report’s authors said without the actions of two tribes — the Gila River Indian Community and the Colorado River Indian Tribes — the deal would’ve likely collapsed.

“We know that you have to live in harmony with your surrounding community, with the water resources, you have to respect that,” Gila River Indian Community governor Stephen Roe Lewis said after Ducey’s speech.

To get the deal across the finish line, Lewis’s tribe agreed to lease a portion of its water to the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District, which supplies water for new homebuilding in the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas. The Colorado River Indian Tribes agreed to fallow cropland on its reservation, which spans the Arizona-California border, and leave the unused water in Lake Mead.

“This is a legacy, history making moment for all of Arizona,” Lewis said.

Arizona’s portion of the Drought Contingency Plan became a unique example in the basin of tribal leaders asserting themselves in broader discussions about the river’s management. Historically, tribes in the Colorado River basin have been marginalized and ignored, left out or outright banned from discussions of Western water development.

With the drought plan done, some tribal leaders say their water rights can’t be ignored any longer, and that it’s irresponsible of Western water leaders to leave them out of large multi-state agreements. And a recently finished federal study is amplifying tribes’ call for a seat at the table to negotiate the river’s future.

“Early on, five years ago, the tribes didn’t think, well, how do we participate in this process?” said Daryl Vigil, member of the Jicarilla Apache Nation in northern New Mexico, and acting director of the Ten Tribes Partnership, an organization that represents the interests of 10 Colorado River basin tribes.

“But, I think given the nature of the senior nature of tribal water rights, they absolutely needed to be involved in that process,” Vigil said.

In December 2018, the federal government released the Tribal Water Study, which looked at water use within tribes, and projected future demands. One big takeaway from the report gained attention across the Southwest: On paper, tribes have rights to about 20% of all the water in the Colorado River watershed. Tribes aren’t using all the water they have rights to, but they plan to, which will have ripple effects throughout the entire southwestern watershed, Vigil said…

Celene Hawkins, who heads up The Nature Conservancy’s work on tribal water issues in the Colorado basin, said while tribes were largely left out of the negotiating process that led to the 2007 guidelines, the tone is different now. (The Nature Conservancy receives funding from the Walton Family Foundation, which also supports KUNC’s Colorado River coverage)

“I am hearing more conversation throughout the basin about tribal inclusion in the process,” Hawkins said. “I don’t know how it’s going to look yet, but there seems to be a commitment to doing better by having the tribal voices at the table this time.”

When the tribes show up to negotiate, they’ll be entering the room with some of the most senior water rights in the basin, which comes with their own level of value and power. Selwyn Whiteskunk, who manages water issues for the Ute Mountain Ute tribe in southern Colorado, said he plans to push for more flexibility in the tribe’s water rights portfolio.

@ColoradoClimate: Weekly #Climate, #Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center. Here’s the summary:

Summary: January 21, 2020

Last week has continued the very typical winter pattern of drier conditions in the lower elevations of the Intermountain West, with around a quarter to half inch of moisture in the mountains. Temperatures for the week were very close to average for this time of year.

Snowpack is keeping in good condition, with most basins in the IMW near to above average. Individual SNOTEL site percentiles range from the 40s to the 70s, with a bit drier showing in precipitation percentiles around the Upper Green in western Wyoming.

Short-term Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) are showing some drying around the Colorado Front Range and in Big Horn basin in northern Wyoming, with mostly near normal conditions around the rest of the IMW. As we extend to the longer-term, 120-day and 6-month SPIs show the extreme dryness in the areas where current drought is most severe in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

The outlook shows more typical precipitation for the next week, with lower accumulations around the lower elevations and higher accumulations in the mountains. Temperatures for the next week are expected to be near to above normal for most of the IMW.

As the Southwest dries out, water managers increasingly look to cloud seeding — The Durango Herald

Cloud seeding ground station. Photo credit H2O Radio via the Colorado Independent.

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

For decades, Western states have tried to offset long-term drying trends and dwindling water supplies of the region by sending up a specialized concoction into the atmosphere as winter storms approach, which proponents say boosts snowfall.

Across a sliver of Colorado from Telluride to Pagosa Springs, a total of 36 cloud-seeding generators are strategically placed, typically 5 miles apart, to cover a wide range of the high country of the San Juan Mountains for this purpose.

In 2020, the Southwestern Water Conservation District has set aside $27,000 for a new remote generator. While the station’s location is being decided, the aim is to place it at a higher elevation site where there is a gap in the network of generators.

“The majority of our water supply comes from snowpack, so if we can provide any additional amount, it has a huge benefit to our basin,” said Frank Kugel, executive director of SWCD, which represents nine counties in Southwest Colorado.

Waters managers who rely on the Colorado River are dealing with an array of issues as more people move into the region and demands increase on a waterway that is seeing less water every year because of issues directly related to climate change.

In adapting to this new reality, cloud seeding, they say, is just one part of the attempted solution…

Does it work?

How much additional snow falls as a result of cloud seeding has been a hot topic among water managers for years, and most agree, more detailed research needs to happen to pin down just how much additional snow is extracted from the practice.

Yet, most accept an estimated range between 2% to 15% more snow per storm.

Statewide, about $1.2 million is spent annually toward cloud seeding, with money coming from local and state water districts, as well as lower basin states that rely on the Colorado River, said Andrew Rickert, program manager for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Supporters of the project have said that for every $1 in cost, about $3 worth of water is produced…

The future

Better technology, more generators in high-elevation spots and more stations in general are the top priority with cloud seeding going further.

Experiments have been conducted in recent years that show releasing silver iodide by plane gets more out of storms, but the practice is expensive, and cost-prohibitive, Kugel said.

Southwestern Water Conservation District, along with its partners, will take the coming weeks to find the best spot for the new remote generator in the region. The district spends about $117,000 on the entire cloud-seeding effort in the region.

Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters

Tri-State CEO says wholesaler’s clean energy transition will pay dividends — Energy News Network

The coal-fired Tri-State Generation and Transmission plant in Craig provides much of the power used in Western Colorado, including in Aspen and Pitkin County. Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office has a plan to move the state’s electric grid to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Energy News Network (Allen Best):

The Colorado generation and transmission co-op announced a major renewable expansion it thinks can save money.

Duane Highley arrived in Colorado last year with a mission: Transform one of the nation’s heaviest coal-based wholesale electricity providers to something different, cleaner and greener.

As the new chief executive of Tri-State Generation and Transmission, Highley began meeting with legislators and other state officials, whose general reaction was of skepticism and disbelief, he recalled.

“‘Just watch us,’” he says he answered. “We will deliver.”

Last week, Highley and Tri-State took a step toward that goal by announcing plans for a major expansion of renewable generation. The power wholesaler will will achieve 50% renewable generation by 2024 for its Colorado members, up from 32% in 2018. Unlike its existing renewables, much of which comes from federal dams, Tri-State plans six new solar farms and two more wind farms.

With continued retirement of coal plants, Tri-State expects to achieve 70% carbon-free electricity for its Colorado customers by 2030. Those customers represent two-thirds of the wholesaler’s demand across four states.

“The prices of renewables have fallen dramatically in the last 10 years,” Highley said in an interview with the Energy News Network. Solar and wind have dropped “significantly below the operating costs of any other project. It gives us the headroom to make these changes,” he said, adding that he expects downward pressure on rates for member cooperatives.

The politics and the economics of clean energy have aligned. “It helps us accelerate the ride off coal,” Highley said. The temptation, he added, was not to wait, but rather to announce the shift sooner, before details had been lined up.

Rebecca Barnes Receives Major NSF Grant for Carbon Watershed Research — Colorado College

Here’s the release from Colorado College:

$849,234 grant is first CAREER award to Colorado College

Rebecca Barnes. Photo credit: Colorado College

Colorado College Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Rebecca Barnes has received an $849,234 CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation for a project titled “The Legacy of Wildfire on Carbon Watershed Biogeochemistry.” The highly prestigious award, from NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development Program, is CC’s first CAREER grant.

In the project summary Barnes submitted to the NSF, she notes that wildfires occur more regularly and with greater severity throughout the Western United States. In addition to threatening residents’ safety, fires also change ecosystems. “Severe fires release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Wildfires also change the way carbon and water move and are stored within ecosystems,” says Barnes.

Her project aims to understand how severe fire alters the movement and fate of carbon from land to water over multiple timescales and forest types. “Field observations, laboratory experiments, and computer models will quantify the size and fate of terrestrial and aquatic carbon pools. Results will improve our ability to understand the feedbacks between a changing climate, increasing wildfires, and forest carbon cycling,” says Barnes.

The five-year CAREER award, which begins in May, will provide a multitude of research opportunities for students both within and outside the classroom. Barnes plans to create a partnership between Colorado College and two large, research-focused universities — the University of Utah and Texas A&M University — with the project involving more than 75 undergraduate students and two postdoctoral scholars.

Barnes’ proposal notes that severe fire results in large shifts in terrestrial ecosystem carbon stocks and alters watershed hydrology, shifting flow paths and thus the sources and processing of organic matter to aquatic ecosystems. Currently, terrestrial ecosystem carbon models do not adequately incorporate inland waterways, resulting in a significant overestimate of net ecosystem production, that is, the size of the terrestrial carbon sink.

CC Provost Alan Townsend says that CAREER proposals are one of the most prestigious and important grants awarded by the National Science Foundation.

“I know this quite well from having directed the division from which Becca’s award comes. Critically, these grants must hit high marks for both research excellence and educational creativity and commitment. For anyone to land one is a significant, career-defining moment, but to do so from a small liberal arts college is even more impressive,” says Townsend. “This absolutely reflects not only her excellent research but her unwavering commitment to students.”

The proposed work builds on three summers of student-collaborative results funded by the Dean’s Office, the Grant Lyddon Fund, the Jackson Fellowship, and the SEGway program, which aims to help faculty develop more competitive grant proposals. Results from the work, conducted within the Hayman burn scar, near Deckers, Colorado, as well as within other severely burned sites across the state, will be shared with the Colorado Springs community through an outreach-oriented exhibit at the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College via a partnership with an artist.

As a biogeochemist, Barnes is interested in how understanding how aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems process nitrogen and carbon. As this project shows, she is particularly interested in unraveling how disturbances such as nitrogen deposition, land use change, warming, fire, etc., affects these critical global cycles.

Barnes, who joined the Colorado College faculty in 2014, earned a Ph.D. in Forestry and Environmental Studies from Yale University, master’s degrees in environmental science and public affairs from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and a bachelor’s degree in geology from Oberlin College. Her research reflects this interdisciplinary training, with her work centered at the intersection of society, hydrology, and geochemistry.

Barnes was recognized for her work in 2019 with the Sulzman Award for Excellent in Education and Mentoring from the American Geophysical Union. She has served in the leadership of the Earth Science Women’s Network since 2012, developing and facilitating professional development trainings; was co-principal investigator of a NSF IUSE award in 2014-2019 that developed evidence-based mentoring programs that increase the retention of women in the geosciences (PROGRESS); and is a co-principal investigator of the ADVANCEGeo Partnership aimed at improving workplace climate by addressing harassment and bullying in the geosciences.

#GretaThunberg’s Remarks at the Davos: “Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour” #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 The New York Times:

Greta Thunberg spoke here Tuesday afternoon at an event hosted by The New York Times and the World Economic Forum. Here is the full transcript of her remarks:

One year ago I came to Davos and told you that our house is on fire. I said I wanted you to panic. I’ve been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do. But don’t worry. It’s fine. Trust me, I’ve done this before and I can assure you it doesn’t lead to anything.

And, for the record, when we children tell you to panic we’re not telling you to go on like before. We’re not telling you to rely on technologies that don’t even exist today at scale and that science says perhaps never will.

We are not telling you to keep talking about reaching “net zero emissions” or “carbon neutrality” by cheating and fiddling around with numbers. We are not telling you to “offset your emissions” by just paying someone else to plant trees in places like Africa while at the same time forests like the Amazon are being slaughtered at an infinitely higher rate.

Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough of what is needed and it cannot replace real mitigation and rewilding nature.

Let’s be clear. We don’t need a “low carbon economy.” We don’t need to “lower emissions.” Our emissions have to stop if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5-degree target. And, until we have the technologies that at scale can put our emissions to minus, then we must forget about net zero. We need real zero.

Because distant net zero emission targets will mean absolutely nothing if we just continue to ignore the carbon dioxide budget — that applies for today, not distant future dates. If high emissions continue like now even for a few years, that remaining budget will soon be completely used up.

The fact that the U.S.A. is leaving the Paris accord seems to outrage and worry everyone, and it should. But the fact that we’re all about to fail the commitments you signed up for in the Paris Agreement doesn’t seem to bother the people in power even the least.

Any plan or policy of yours that doesn’t include radical emission cuts at the source, starting today, is completely insufficient for meeting the 1.5-degree or well-below-2-degrees commitments of the Paris Agreement.

And again, this is not about right or left. We couldn’t care less about your party politics. From a sustainability perspective, the right, the left as well as the center have all failed. No political ideology or economic structure has been able to tackle the climate and environmental emergency and create a cohesive and sustainable world. Because that world, in case you haven’t noticed, is currently on fire.

You say children shouldn’t worry. You say: “Just leave this to us. We will fix this, we promise we won’t let you down. Don’t be so pessimistic.”

And then, nothing. Silence. Or something worse than silence. Empty words and promises which give the impression that sufficient action is being taken.

All the solutions are obviously not available within today’s societies. Nor do we have the time to wait for new technological solutions to become available to start drastically reducing our emissions. So, of course the transition isn’t going to be easy. It will be hard. And unless we start facing this now together, with all cards on the table, we won’t be able to solve this in time.

In the days running up to the 50th anniversary of the World Economic Forum, I joined a group of climate activists demanding that you, the world’s most powerful and influential business and political leaders, begin to take the action needed.

We demand at this year’s World Economic Forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments:

Immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction.

Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies.

And immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels.

We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021. We want this done now.

It may seem like we’re asking for a lot. And you will of course say that we are naïve. But this is just the very minimum amount of effort that is needed to start the rapid sustainable transition.

So either you do this or you’re going to have to explain to your children why you are giving up on the 1.5-degree target. Giving up without even trying. Well I’m here to tell you that, unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight.

The facts are clear, but they’re still too uncomfortable for you to address. You just leave it because you think it’s too depressing and people will give up. But people will not give up. You are the ones who are giving up.

Last week I met with Polish coal miners who lost their jobs because their mine was closed. And even they had not given up. On the contrary, they seem to understand the fact that we need to change more than you do.

I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing a climate chaos that you knowingly brought upon them? That it seemed so bad for the economy that we decided to resign the idea of securing future living conditions without even trying?

Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.

Thank you.

Norwood Water Commission board meeting recap #PFAS

Lone Cone from Norwood

From The Norwood Post (Harley Workman):

Each year, the board votes on a new chairperson that is from either location; a town member is appointed to lead on odd years, and a rural member is appointed on even years. The opposite happens for the vice chairperson.

For 2020, the board voted Jim Jensen, who represents the surrounding rural area, as chair. He replaces Finn Kjome, who lives in town limits. Kjome was appointed as the new vice chair at last week’s meeting.

Other water commission board members are Mike Grafmyer, Jim Wells, Ron Gabbett and John Owens.

Tim Lippert, the town’s public works director and operator, gave the board several updates. The first item was the repair work needed on a town vehicle and the possibility of purchasing a new vehicle as a replacement. Lippert said the repairs would cost approximately $1,000.

He also presented new raw water data to the board, as they’d requested information on how the new system was impacting the town’s reserves. However, the water data is based on only the first year of operation and study for Norwood’s new system. The board agreed that additional data over several years is needed to ensure data collected on the raw water system is accurate.

Lippert informed the board of a state program, which is offering free testing of municipal water for the chemical Teflon, a substance dangerous to drinking water and frequently found in fire-fighting foam.

Lippert told the board that the testing is not mandatory, but could possibly be in the future.

Teflon testing has been occurring across the nation since 2013 and has recently started in Colorado. The test looks for Teflon in amounts as small as 70 parts per trillion.

Norwood’s board expressed willingness to do the Teflon testing if the tests are paid for by the state program. Board members said they don’t want to have to pay for the testing with the town’s money.

Currently, the state has roughly $500,000 in funding for the free testing. Lippert said on Monday the Town of Norwood did apply for funds and will know in the near future if the test will be conducted locally.

At the same time, board members also said they don’t believe that the chemical will be found in Norwood’s water, because of the lack of forest fires that have occurred on the Lone Cone. Still, they said they are open to running the test to be certain.

How will Western water be affected by climate change? A tiny Colorado flower may have the answer — The Colorado Sun

From The Colorado Sun (Mark Jaffe):

The buildup of man-made greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is raising global temperatures, which are linked to melting ice sheets in Greenland and rising seas eating away at islands like Tuvalu in the South Pacific.

For the West, the prime climate question will be about snow: how much of it will fall on the Sierra Nevada, the Cascade Range and the Rocky Mountains and how much water it will yield.

Scientists are searching for a solution to the conundrum using supercomputers, laser radar, climate data from centuries past, measurements of stream flow and snowpack across the region and, in [Heidi] Steltzer’s case, by dropping a small plastic tent over prairie smoke to measure its breathing out of oxygen and water and its breathing in of carbon dioxide…

Prairie smoke is one of the plant species Fort Lewis College researcher Heidi Stetzer is studying to try and understand how a warming climate will influence snowfall in the West. (USFWS Mountain-Prairie Region)

“The snow systems on our planet are changing as places are getting warmer,” said Steltzer, a 47-year-old biology professor at Fort Lewis College in Durango, “and the coldest places on Earth are getting warmer faster.”

It isn’t only the water budget that is changing. Forests are turning into shrub lands at lower elevations, forest fires are becoming bigger and more common in tinder-dry lands, and mountain plants are taking advantage of the earlier melt and warmer temperatures to bloom sooner.

As those plants, like the prairie smoke, grow, they absorb more water, which they release into the atmosphere along with oxygen through small openings in their leaves called stomata while they take in carbon dioxide.

The process, known as evapotranspiration (ET), is not trivial. In the Colorado River Basin, 75% of the water comes from snow and nearly 80% of that ends up being soaked up by plants and released through leaves and evergreen needles.

This is where Steltzer’s work comes in. To better understand how much water will be lost to the air in a warmer world, she is creating an early snowmelt on plots of mountain meadows outside of Crested Butte – at elevations between 9,100 and 11,400 feet – and measuring how the plants behave and how much water they send skyward.

Steltzer’s work is part of a multimillion-dollar project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and overseen by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory called the Watershed Function Scientific Focus Area.

To understand the area’s hydrology, some researchers are drilling wells, some are making detailed snowpack measurements, while still others have installed gauges in the East River to record when and how much water makes it to the waterway as it heads to the Gunnison River and then on to the Colorado River.

“An overarching question is how mountain systems retain and release water,” said Kenneth Hurst Williams, who oversees the project for the Berkeley lab. “The East River watershed is emblematic of many Colorado River watersheds.”

The goal is to develop a model that can tell water managers how much water they can expect in a river based on snow depth, temperatures, groundwater hydrology, ET and stream flow – a tool that can be used on a year-to-year basis.

While in the first instance the project is focused on the here and now, Steltzer’s work to better understand how plants move water to the atmosphere has broader implications.

To peer into that future of a warming planet, scientists use earth system models (ESM), computer simulations that try to replicate the world’s physical, chemical and biological systems. One thing the models have trouble doing is simulating evapotranspiration…

“Evapotranspiration is also difficult to observe in the real world,” Lehner said. “The point is, we don’t have very good data to vet our models with.”

Evaporation and transpiration graphic via the USGS