The February 2020 “Gunnison River Basin News” is hot off the presses

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Attention K-12 teachers in the Gunnison River Basin – NEW financial assistance for water education now available (for example: bring your students to the Eureka Science Museum in Grand Junction). Please visit our website for more information.

The confluence of Henson Creek (left) and Lake Fork Gunnison River (right, against the wall) in Lake City, Colorado. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0,

Assessing the U.S. #Climate in January 2020 — @NOAA #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

From NOAA:

Contiguous U.S. fifth warmest for January, Great Lakes ice cover well-below average

In Yellowstone National Park. Photo credit: Pixabay via NOAA

During January, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 35.5°F, 5.4°F above the 20th century average, ranking fifth warmest in the 126-year record. This was the ninth consecutive January with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average for the month.

The January precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.70 inches, 0.39 inch above average, and ranked in the wettest third of the 126-year period of record. The February 2019–January 2020 precipitation total was 34.95 inches, 4.99 inches above average and ranked third wettest for this 12-month period.

This monthly summary from NOAA National Centers 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.

January Temperature

  • Much-above-average temperatures were observed across much of the Great Lakes and Northeast as well as parts of the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, the southern Plains and West. Michigan ranked fifth warmest, while Wisconsin and Rhode Island ranked sixth warmest. No state in the Lower 48 ranked average or below average for the month.
  • Temperatures during the first part of winter were warm enough across the Great Lakes to keep surface water temperatures above freezing across a large portion of the basin. As a result, lake-effect snow events become possible much later in the season than on average, which can lead to higher seasonal snowfall totals. Basin-wide ice cover spiked briefly at the end of January — approximately 35 percent of average for this time of year. Lake Erie, which averages just over 50 percent ice coverage at the end of January, was only 0.4 percent frozen on January 31.
  • In stark contrast to the record warmth experienced during 2019, the Alaska average January temperature was −6.2°F, 8.4°F below the long-term mean. This tied with 1970 as the 13th coldest January on record for the state and the coldest January since 2012.
  • McGrath ranked fourth coldest while Kodiak and King Salmon ranked fifth coldest for the month. The coldest average temperature reported across the state during January was −30.4°F in Chicken, AK — 9.5°F below average. The coldest daily minimum temperature of −62°F was also reported in Chicken on January 10.
  • Cold January temperatures aided in the recovery of the Bering Sea Ice extent during January, which increased to 81 percent of average for this time of year.
  • January Precipitation

  • During January, much-above-average wetness was observed across the Pacific Northwest as well as portions of the central and southern U.S. The state of Washington ranked fourth wettest while Oklahoma ranked sixth wettest on record.
  • Below-average precipitation occurred across much of the Southwest, Florida and portions of the High Plains and Northeast. Rhode Island ranked sixth driest and Massachusetts ranked tenth driest for January.
  • Alaska had its 14th driest January since records began in 1925 and the driest January since 2006. The Central Interior division was record dry for the month. Despite the below-average statewide precipitation, snowfall was plentiful across the Panhandle and other near-coastal locations.
  • According to the January 28 U.S. Drought Monitor report, approximately 11 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, similar to the coverage at the end of December. Drought conditions expanded and shifted slightly across parts of Oregon, the state of Washington and Idaho. Improvements occurred across portions of the Southwest and Hawaii, while drought was eliminated in both Alaska and Puerto Rico during January.
  • Secretary Perdue Announces New Innovation Initiative for @USDA

    Excess nitrogen and phosphorus in waterbodies, known as nutrient pollution, is a growing problem in Utah and across the country. Nutrients are linked to cyanobacterial growth, including harmful algal blooms, and can lower dissolved-oxygen levels in waterbodies, adversely affecting aquatic life. This pollution comes from a variety of sources, including wastewater treatment plants, nonpoint source pollution from agricultural operations, and residential and municipal stormwater runoff. Nutrient pollution poses a significant threat to Utah’s economic growth and quality of life, leading to substantial costs to the state and taxpayers if left unaddressed.

    Here’s the release from the US Department of Agriculture:

    U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the Agriculture Innovation Agenda, a department-wide initiative to align resources, programs, and research to position American agriculture to better meet future global demands. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will stimulate innovation so that American agriculture can achieve the goal of increasing production by 40 percent while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050.

    “We know we have a challenge facing us: to meet future food, fiber, fuel, and feed demands with finite resources. USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda is our opportunity define American agriculture’s role to feed everyone and do right as a key player in the solution to this challenge,” said Secretary Perdue. “This agenda is a strategic, department-wide effort to better align USDA’s resources, programs, and research to provide farmers with the tools they need to be successful. We are also continually mindful of the need for America’s agriculture industry to be environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable to maintain our position as a leader in the global effort to meet demand. We are committed as ever to the environmental sustainability and continued success, of America’s farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers.”


    The first component of the Ag Innovation Agenda is to develop a U.S. ag-innovation strategy that aligns and synchronizes public and private sector research. The second component is to align the work of our customer-facing agencies and integrate innovative technologies and practices into USDA programs. The third component is to conduct a review of USDA productivity and conservation data. USDA already closely tracks data on yield, but on the environmental side, there’s some catching up to do. Finally, USDA has set benchmarks to hold us accountable. These targets will help measure progress toward meeting the food, fiber, fuel, feed, and climate demands of the future. Some of the benchmarks include:

  • Food loss and waste: Advance our work toward the United States’ goal to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent in the United States by the year 2030.
  • Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas: Enhance carbon sequestration through soil health and forestry, leverage the agricultural sector’s renewable energy benefits for the economy, and capitalize on innovative technologies and practices to achieve net reduction of the agricultural sector’s current carbon footprint by 2050 without regulatory overreach.
  • Water Quality: Reduce nutrient loss by 30 percent nationally by 2050.
  • Renewable Energy: We can increase the production of renewable energy feedstocks and set a goal to increase biofuel production efficiency and competitiveness to achieve market-driven blend rates of 15% of transportation fuels in 2030 and 30% of transportation fuels by 2050.
  • Read more about the Agriculture Innovation Agenda (PDF, 196 KB) here.

    Southwestern Water Conservation District: 38th Annual Water Seminar, April 3, 2020

    Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:

    The 2020 Annual Water Seminar is titled “Wading into Watershed Health,” and there’s plenty to talk about. Water supply and water quality are inextricably linked to the health of our watersheds–from forest to valley floor. Irrigators, municipalities, tribes, and fish populations are among those impacted by recent wildfires. Efforts to bring significant financial support to southwest Colorado for forest management and wildfire mitigation have been successful. Also, the regional forest products industry is gaining momentum as economic incentives shift.

    From snowflake to tap — a video journey — News on TAP

    As Rocky Mountain PBS kicks off ‘Water Week,’ we present to you a behind-the-scenes feature of Denver’s water system. The post From snowflake to tap — a video journey appeared first on News on TAP.

    via From snowflake to tap — a video journey — News on TAP

    2020 #COleg: HB10-1143 [Environmental Justice And Projects Increase Environmental Fines] on the agenda for House Finance Committee, February 27, 2020

    From The Colorado Sun (Moe Clark):

    House Bill 1143 — which will be discussed in the House Finance Committee on Feb. 27 — would create a seven-member environmental justice advisory board to identify mitigation projects in affected areas. The bill also aims to add a new position in CDPHE focused on environmental justice to lead the advisory board.

    “A lot of these communities have never experienced justice,” said Rep. Dominique Jackson, an Aurora Democrat who is helping push the bill. “The health implications are substantial when it comes to air and water quality violations. These communities know what they need better than any person in the legislature.”

    The current maximum fine for air quality violations is $15,000 per day, per violation; for water quality violations, it’s $10,000. The bill would increase both fines to $42,357, which is in line with the federal maximum.

    Current law allocates all water quality fines to the Water Quality Improvement Fund. The new bill would authorize the use of money in that fund to pay for projects addressing impacts to environmental justice communities. Currently, all air quality fines go into the general fund. The bill would create the community impact cash fund to go toward environmental mitigation projects.

    “I worked really hard, with a coalition of community members, to come up with the definition of an environmental justice community,” Jackson said. “… I just really wanted to make sure that people who didn’t feel as though they have had a voice in the conversation, who’ve been experiencing impacts in their community, generally speaking for quite some time, were able to come to the table.”

    The bill defines an environmental justice community as one where residents “are predominantly minorities or have low incomes; have been excluded from environmental policy-setting or decision-making processes; are subject to a disproportionate impact from one or more environmental hazards; or experience disparate implementation of environmental regulations, requirements, practices and activities.”

    “Fines are powerful enforcement tools, but they aren’t the only options available to us,” said Jessica Bralish, a state health department spokeswoman.

    “Our priority is to bring facilities into compliance, resolve violations and take steps to ensure long-term compliance,” she said. “We assess the maximum daily fine in response to particularly egregious, dangerous or repeated violations. Our goal is always to enforce state laws in pursuit of our broader mandate — protecting and preserving the public health and environment in Colorado.”

    One hurdle for the bill: the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which limits the amount of revenue the state can collect and spend. The bill sponsors are exploring if it’s possible to classify the fines as “damages” so that the funds won’t fall under TABOR. Other prime sponsors of the bill include Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, a Denver Democrat, and Sen. Faith Winter, a Westminster Democrat.

    John Putnam, the director of environmental programs at CDPHE, said the increase in fines will bring Colorado up to federal standards.

    Rocky Mountain PBS hosts ‘Water week’ @rmpbs

    Farview Reservoir Mesa Verde NP

    Here’s the release from Rocky Mountain PBS (Hillary Daniels):

    Rocky Mountain PBS Announces “Water Week” – A Collaboration of Communities Throughout Colorado to Elevate Conversations on Water

    Rocky Mountain PBS (RMPBS) will bring Colorado-based organizations and communities together during “Water Week” in an effort to provide resources and information to a broad statewide audience by convening conversations to share the diverse perspectives of Coloradans with respect to water.

    “Water Week” features unique, historical and informational programming on RMPBS, along with digital resources, and events in communities across Colorado designed to connect experts, environmentalists and businesses to all who see water as an essential part of Colorado’s past and its future.

    “One year ago, RMPBS organized a statewide listening tour and engaged local advisory committees to better understand which topics are most important to their communities,” states Amanda Mountain, President & CEO for Rocky Mountain Public Media. “Water repeatedly surfaced as both an historic and contemporary issue, which led us to invest in programming and partnerships to continue these conversations around this critical topic.”

    Colorado’s statewide water plan prescribes that conversations about water play a role in shaping our shared future in the state and in the broader West. We asked over 40 water experts to provide feedback to RMPBS about how public media can engage those who are not otherwise actively involved in the topic, as well as how best to expand the number of perspectives represented on public media.

    “I think we’re going to see a much longer period of aridity and therefore, incredibly creative thinking that’s going to have to come about,” said Andy Mueller, General Manager for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “It doesn’t spell the end of civilization in the southwestern United States. What it means though is our civilization’s going to have to transform.”

    “Water Week” festivities begin with a variety of RMPBS hosted events across Colorado that are free to local communities including:

    • February 25 at 6:00pm in Colorado Springs at ALMAGRE Venue + Bar
    • February 25 at 6:00pm in Gunnison at Western Colorado University
    • February 26 at 5:30pm in Grand Junction at Eureka! McConnell Science Museum
    • February 26 at 6:00pm in Durango at Fort Lewis College
    • February 26 at 5:30pm in Montrose at History Colorado Ute Indian Museum
    • February 26 at 6:30pm in Pueblo where at Walter’s Brewery & Taproom
    • February 27 at 6:00pm in Denver/Littleton at Sterling Ranch Community Center
    • February 28 at 5:00pm in Durango at the Powerhouse Science Center

    All “Water Week” event details for local communities can be found at

    “Water Week” programming on RMPBS begins on February 27th at 7pm with a new episode of Colorado Experience entitled “Western Water & Power”. This program visits the history of Western arid lands could provide. “Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting,” de scribes the urgent struggle every generation of Coloradans faces to control this fleeting but precious resource — creating hydrodynamic history through structures that can propel water to run uphill toward money and power. This episode is produced in partnership with Colorado Mesa University.

    Immediately following at 8pm, Colorado Experience: “Living West – Water” will explore what happened to the Ancestral Pueblo people of Mesa Verde and Goodman Point. After settling in
    southwest Colorado for over 700 years, the ancestral Pueblo people suddenly left their cliff dwellings and spring-side kivas, leaving behind a variety of archaeological treasures. In this episode, historians and archaeologists discuss the possibility that this drastic move was caused by a devasting drought in the southwest region. Discover the similarities in historic conditions – and what the disappearance of water might mean for the state of Colorado today.

    Continuing at 8:30 pm, Confluence tells the story of The Colorado River, which runs through the Western Slope, shaping both the landscape of the American Southwest and the people living near its waters. Confluence follows an up-and-coming indie folk band as they traverse this endangered river system, documenting its places and people through original music.

    “Water Week” concludes its programming with “Arkansas River: From Leadville to Lamar” airing at 9:30pm. This program explores the economic and social importance of the river basin including its recreational, municipal, and agricultural value. By the year 2050, the population of Colorado is expected to double, but future growth and economic development hinges on a dependable water supply. In response, the state has developed a plan that will meet the needs of all water users. On RMPBS, come discover why the Arkansas River basin is an important part of that new water plan.

    Across the state, RMPBS will be celebrating water week with events. These events will take place in Colorado Springs, Gunnison, Pueblo, Grand Junction, Durango, Montrose, and Denver. Colorado Office of Film, Television & Media will have their water event on February 25 at Western State Colorado University at the University Center Theatre at 6 pm in Gunnison as part of the Colorado Experience Roadshow.

    In Colorado Springs, RMPBS will be hosting their event at Almagre Venue + Bar on February 26 at 6pm and will have whiskey tastings.

    At Walter’s Brewery & Taproom, there will be a sneak peak of Colorado Experience: “Western Water & Power” while sampling different types of beers. This event will take place on February 26 at 6:30 pm.

    In Grand Junction, RMPBS will be hosting their event at Eureka! McConnell Science Museum on February 26 at 5:30 pm. Attendees will get to mingle with local water partners, catch a short preview of Colorado Experience: “Western Water & Power”, and enjoy whiskey and beer tasting.

    RMPBS will also be in Durango at Fort Lewis College on February 26 at 6 pm. Attendees will get to watch the full screening of Colorado Experience: “Western Water & Power” with an academic panel afterwards.

    Colorado Film Commission will be hosting a screening of Colorado Experience: “Western Water and Power” with a Q&A afterwards on February 26 at 5:30 pm at Ute Indian Museum in Montrose.

    In Denver, RMPBS will be hosting an event at Sterling Ranch in Littleton on February 27 at 6 pm. While there, attendees will get to enjoy the full episode of Colorado Experience: “Western Water and Power” with beer tasting and information from local water businesses and organizations.

    RMPBS will be hosting another event in Durango on February 28 at 5 pm at the Powerhouse Science Center. At the event, attendees will get to watch the full episode of Colorado Experience: “Western Water and Power” while they enjoy beer tasting and engage with local water businesses and organizations.

    RMPBS wishes to thank all the local community and statewide partners in supporting our mission of strengthening our civic fabric and convening important conversations that impact our state including Colorado River District, Ute Water District, Peach Street Distillers, Ska Brewing, Business for Water Stewardship, Audubon Rockies, and Sterling Ranch.

    For more information regarding “Water Week,” to RSVP to events, access resources, and learn how to get involved, visit the Rocky Mountain Public Media website at: .