Proposed Water Project Tests If Northern #Colorado’s ‘Working River’ Can Handle Another Job — KUNC #NISP

Poudre River whitewater park. Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Collegian

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

The Cache la Poudre River in Northern Colorado is often referred to as a “working river.” It provides drinking water for cities and irrigation water for farms. During the summer months it’s popular with kayakers, tubers and anglers. It’s home to fish, birds and other wildlife.

But a reservoir proposal facing a key vote from Larimer County commissioners would give it one more big task, and the panel is hearing from community members who think it can handle the work, and those who don’t.

The Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) — with its two new reservoirs, and network of pipelines across a broad sweep of Northern Colorado — is seeking a 1041 permit to begin construction of the infrastructure project that would use water from the Poudre and South Platte rivers to satisfy the needs of 15 fast-growing Front Range municipalities and water providers.

The agency pushing for NISP, Northern Water, says it has made significant changes to the planned project in order to help the already overtaxed Poudre River, while opponents say it will only hurt, not help…

But with the ribbon cutting less than a year ago, [Evan] Stafford said NISP presents an upstream threat. The project’s biggest reservoir, Glade, would be miles from the park, but it would be felt by kayakers and tubers alike. NISP would pull water out of the river at the same time whitewater paddlers flock to it.

“It’s already pretty affected, but NISP would really increase that effect to almost there being no flooding or a natural kind of rise in the river due to the snow melt,” Stafford said.

That’s important, not just for kayakers, but for the river’s ecological health too. High spring flows flush sediment downstream and are critical for fish and bird habitat…

But that characterization of NISP’s potential impact is unfair, says Northern Water’s general manager Brad Wind.

“At the end of the day to fill a reservoir you’ve got to extract some water from the river,” Wind said.

Aerial view of the roposed Glade Reservoir site — photo via Northern Water

Because the project relies on relatively junior water rights, Wind says they would have to wait until the highest flows to divert water into the reservoir. Those flows come during the spring runoff. But, he said, once full, the reservoir would release water at other times of year when the Poudre is struggling because of demands from farmers…

NISP has committed to releasing so-called base flows through Fort Collins in certain times of the year to aid fish populations and fill-in dry up points that show up when demand from farmers spikes during the summer months. But it could be awhile before those releases take place. By Northern Water’s projections, construction on Glade’s dam and reservoir might take until 2027 to finish. Filling the reservoir could take up to a decade if the Poudre’s flows are reduced due to drought…

NISP is nearing the end of a more than 15-year permitting process. The latest stretch of public meetings has taken place almost entirely during the pandemic. NISP boasts a laundry list of endorsements from former governors, local business groups, farm groups, even two of three Larimer County commissioners. There’s been a renewed call from the project’s opponents for commissioners Steve Johnson and Tom Donnelly to recuse themselves from deliberations, though both continue to participate in hearings.

Fort Collins, the biggest city along the river’s course, recently voted to oppose the project, making it one of the first governmental bodies to do so…

Fort Collins city council’s opposition is more of a symbolic gesture, given that much of the project’s infrastructure falls outside city limits. The vote from Larimer County commissioners on the 1041 permit has real potential to either slow down the project’s momentum, or ease its way into being fully permitted. It still needs a record of decision from the Army Corps of Engineers, which could come as early as this fall.

All three Larimer County commissioners declined interview requests due to it being a pending land use issue.

How chemicals like #PFAS can increase your risk of severe #COVID19 — The Conversation #coronavirus

The same chronic illnesses associated with exposure to endocrine-disrupting compounds also increase risk of developing severe COVID-19.
Engin Akyurt and Kai Dahms/Unsplash

Kathryn Crawford, Middlebury

Nearly a year before the novel coronavirus emerged, Dr. Leonardo Trasande published “Sicker, Fatter, Poorer,” a book about connections between environmental pollutants and many of the most common chronic illnesses. The book describes decades of scientific research showing how endocrine-disrupting chemicals, present in our daily lives and now found in nearly all people, interfere with natural hormones in our bodies. The title sums up the consequences: Chemicals in the environment are making people sicker, fatter and poorer.

As we learn more about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, research is revealing ugly realities about social and environmental effects on health – including how the same chronic illnesses associated with exposure to endocrine-disrupting compounds also increase your risk of developing severe COVID-19.

In the U.S. and abroad, the chronic disease epidemic that was already underway at the start of 2020 meant the population entered into the coronavirus pandemic in a state of reduced health. Evidence is now emerging for the role that environmental quality plays in people’s susceptibility to COVID-19 and their risk of dying from it.

Why endocrine disruptors are a problem

Endocrine-disrupting compounds, or EDCs, are a broad group of chemicals that can interfere with natural hormones in people’s bodies in ways that harm human health. They include perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, flame retardants, plasticizers, pesticides, antimicrobial products and fragrances, among others.

These chemicals are pervasive in modern life. They are found in a wide range of consumer goods, food packaging, personal care products, cosmetics, industrial processes and agricultural settings. EDCs then make their way into our air, water, soil and food.

How PFAS chemicals get into the environment.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Research has shown that people who are exposed to EDCs are more likely than others to develop metabolic disorders, such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol, and they tend to have poorer cardiovascular health.

EDCs can also interfere with normal immune system function, which plays a critical role in fighting off infection. Poor immune function also contributes to pulmonary problems such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease; and metabolic disorders. Many EDCs are also associated with different cancers.

EDCs can mimic human hormones

EDCs affect human health by mimicking our natural hormones.

Hormones are chemical signals that our cells use to communicate with one another. You might be familiar with reproductive hormones – testosterone and estrogen – which help distinguish male and female physiology and reproduction. Yet, hormones are responsible for maintaining virtually all essential bodily functions, including metabolism and healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and inflammation.

The chemical shape or structure of EDCs resembles hormones in ways that cause the body to misinterpret an EDC for a natural signal from a hormone.

A comparison of structures of a hormone and an endocrine disruptor.
A comparison of the structures of estradiol (left), a female sex hormone, and BPA (right), an endocrine disruptor found in plastics often used in containers for storing food and beverages.

Because the human body is very sensitive to hormones, only small amounts of hormones are required to convey their intended signal. Therefore, very small exposures to EDCs can have dramatic, adverse affects on people’s health.

[The Conversation’s newsletter explains what’s going on with the coronavirus pandemic. Subscribe now.]

Environmental quality and COVID-19

Researchers are only just beginning to paint a picture about how environmental quality contributes to COVID-19 susceptibility, and there is much we still don’t know. However, scientists suspect that EDCs can play a role based on clear scientific evidence that EDCs increase people’s risk of developing chronic disease that put people at greater risk from COVID-19.

Public health organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Heath Organization officially recognize underlying health conditions – including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, immunosuppression, chronic respiratory disease and cancer – as risk factors for critical illness and mortality from COVID-19.

Scientific evidence shows that EDC exposure increases people’s risk of developing all of these conditions. Scientists are thinking about these connections, and research efforts are underway to answer more questions about how EDCs may be influencing the pandemic.

Air pollution and other environmental risks

In addition to EDCs, other environmental conditions are also likely playing a role in the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, multiple studies have reported increased risk of COVID-19 illness and deaths. The findings are consistent with those reported in China following the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003.

Recent evidence also shows that COVID-19 infection can lead to lingering health conditions, including heart damage. Environmental conditions such as heat waves are particularly dangerous for individuals with heart disease or heart damage. In places like California that are currently experiencing wildfires and heat waves, we can clearly see how multiple environmental conditions can combine to further increase risk of deaths associated with COVID-19.

In the U.S., regulations such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act have improved environmental quality and human health since the 1970s. However, the Trump administration has been trying to weaken them.

In the past three and a half years, about 35 environmental rules and regulations pertaining to air quality or toxic substances like EDCs were either rolled back or are in the process of being removed, despite unambiguous evidence showing how poor environmental quality harms human health. Allowing more pollution threatens to exacerbate the trend toward a sicker, fatter and poorer America at a time when people’s overall health is necessary for our collective resilience to COVID-19 and future global health challenges.The Conversation

Kathryn Crawford, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health, Middlebury

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

Explaining blue-green algae — @COParksWildlife

Cherry Creek Reservoir photo of algae that tested positive for toxins
Taken July 14, 2020. Credit: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

From Colorado Parks & Wildlife:

An informational video from CPW’s water quality section on blue-green algae. Toxic algae blooms are seen across the United States and have become more prevalent over the past decade. Colorado Parks and Wildlife started monitoring for toxic algae blooms starting in 2015.

Opinion: Farmers and ranchers lead the way on conserving the #ColoradoRiver — Steamboat Pilot & Today #COriver #aridification

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

Here’s a guest column from Paul Bruchez that’s running in the Steamboat Pilot & Today:

Disruptions to our daily lives have a way of making us appreciate things that we might normally take for granted. In the midst of a global pandemic, access to clean water and healthy food seems more vital than ever. This extraordinary situation motivates us all to take a step back to examine what we can do to ensure the long term security of our most precious natural resources.

This is particularly true when you consider one of our most important sources of water: the Colorado River. The Colorado River is an environmental wonder, home to countless plant and animal species that define our region.

We could all rally to conserve the natural beauty of the basin in its own right. But this hard-working river serves as an economic engine for our communities up and down the basin. The river is particularly vital to sustaining farms and ranches across Colorado and therefore to our collective food supplies.

Its waters irrigate nearly 6 million acres of farmland that sustain a $5 billion agricultural industry. On Colorado’s Western Slope, the river’s tributaries help support extensive ranch and farm operations which produce food for our state, our country and the world, underpinning the strong rural heritage and working landscape that is such an integral part of our state’s identity.

Unfortunately, some recent discussions have set up a false choice between healthy rivers and a strong agricultural economy, and we both reject that premise. The future of the Colorado River lies not in pitting the health of rivers against Colorado’s agricultural heritage, but rather in exploring creative demand management programs that can benefit both.

There’s no doubt that the river is grappling with dramatic threats in the form of climate change and an emerging megadrought. In the face of these challenges, there have been many discussions about the role farmers and ranchers can and should play in effectively managing and conserving finite water supplies and how public policy can help the agriculture community meet these challenges, in concert with conservation by cities, industries and individuals across the state.

The good news is that Colorado’s food producers have already been helping to drive the solutions. By voluntarily participating in on-the-ground, data-driven studies, Colorado’s agricultural community is playing an integral role in understanding water consumption and flexible water management options.

As critical sources of food for the West and pillars of rural economies, these largely family-owned and operated farms and ranches understand their important role in this fight for a sustainable future. Tackling our water issues won’t be simple, but we can work together to ensure the long-term future of the Colorado River — and in turn the communities, economies and ecosystems that rely on it.

This starts with empowering ourselves with the science we need to make informed decisions, because better data means better insights into the problems as well as the solutions. That’s why farmers and ranchers have stepped up and participated in programs like the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Alternative Agriculture (Water) Transfer Mechanisms (ATM) program, working together to study the efficacy of new irrigation techniques in conserving our water.

If we are committed to the survival of agriculture in Colorado, we must adapt our system of management in ways that serve the future of agriculture in balance with other demands on that water. By helping researchers study everything from how to stabilize riverbanks to the effects of irrigation at different altitudes, Colorado’s food producers are at the forefront of the water conservation movement.

However, we must do more than talk about the problems and possible solutions to the water problems facing Colorado. For the last year, the Colorado Water Conservation Board has supported working groups to talk about the problems and the feasibility of more flexible water management tools for the Colorado River Basin. As the board reviews the findings of their eight working groups, we encourage their endorsement and support for additional demonstration projects.

Because when it comes to safeguarding the Colorado River, we must take proactive, “learn by doing” approaches as we interrogate possible solutions and plan for the future.

Colorado’s food producers intimately understand this. We know that in order to thrive you need to learn how to adapt, a skill that farmers and ranchers have long cultivated. It is incumbent upon all of us to help chart a path forward that is productive, profitable and sustainable for all of us. We hope that you’ll join us in the conversation.

Paul Bruchez is a fifth-generation rancher who lives near Kremmling. Ted Kowalski is the senior program officer for the Walton Family Foundation’s Colorado River Initiative.

Team to Innovate New Ways to Predict #Drought — CIRES

Here’s the release from CIRES:

NOAA-funded CU Boulder project seeks alternatives to snow-based drought forecasting in a changing climate

Drought has become increasingly difficult to predict in a warming world, as snowpack—which typically provides early warning for drought—diminishes. So NOAA is funding a new CU Boulder-led project that will develop new techniques for drought prediction that do not rely purely on snow-based methods, harnessing alternative techniques to improve scientists’ ability to predict and respond to drought.

“In our changing climate, snow is projected to no longer hold the predictive power it has today, but yet we still heavily rely on snow information to predict drought,” said Ben Livneh, lead investigator on the new project, CIRES Fellow and Assistant Professor of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at CU Boulder. “We need to develop new techniques to advance our ability to predict drought in the future.”

Normally, water from abundant melting snowpack flows predictably into mountain streams, and eventually on to lakes and reservoirs. But as Earth’s temperatures climb and snowpack dwindles, the relationship between snow and streamflow shifts. Sparse snowpack meltwater has to travel a farther distance before reaching streams, and an unpredictable volume of water can be lost due to evaporation. So Livneh and his team plan to explore other methods of drought prediction, including water models, soil moisture, precipitation and more.

The new project is funded with $500,000 from the NOAA Research MAPP program for three years of work. A key innovation will be the use of Machine Learning tools to find ways to improve current and future drought prediction. The team will collect direct input from regional stakeholders to help shape the modeling and Machine Learning work and assess the feasibility of alternative strategies.

The findings will be presented at an interactive workshop to ensure findings are most relevant to decision makers. “We hope this work overcomes the challenges researchers have been faced with in a reduced-snow world,” said Livneh. “By innovating better drought prediction strategies we can better inform water management and planning for the western United States.”

The project’s co-investigators include Joseph Kasprzyk, also an Associate Professor of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at CU Boulder, and Benet Duncan, Managing Director of CIRES’ Western Water Assessment.

The Blue River travels north-northwest through Dillon Reservoir to its confluence with the Colorado River near Kremmling. Each spring Denver Water performs a delicate balancing act to accommodate flows from snowpack runoff. Photo credit: Denver Water via Aspen Journalism

Meeting the Financial Challenges of Improved Water Management in the West: Session One: Expanding the Toolbox of Water Financing Options, Sept. 15, 2020 — Getches-Wilkinson Center

Flaming Gorge Reservoir July 2020. Photo credit: Utah DWR

Register here

From email from the Getches-Wilkinson Center:

Improving the performance of water systems in western basins such as the Colorado River can entail a variety of expensive changes to infrastructure, policy, and management. Throughout much of the 20th century water development era, federal appropriations were sufficient to cover major investments. Today however, other sources of governmental and non-governmental funds and funding mechanisms are essential to improving water management and system performance. Determining the “how” and “who” of water financing raises several thorny questions about what approaches are most efficient, practicable, and equitable. In this webinar series, we will explore issues such as the rise of creative funding mechanisms, the role of private investments and water markets, leveraging the resources of the business community, and the linkages between healthy landscapes, climate adaptation, and improved water management resiliency.

Gone are the days when funding western water needs was merely a task of gaining Congressional authorization and appropriations for new dams and reservoirs. Today, federal funds are limited, and much of what needs to happen does not involve new infrastructure. A vast toolbox of potential funding strategies are, at least theoretically, available, although many options are unproven. Many such strategies are under consideration in Colorado for implementing the State Water Plan.