Aging outlet works at base of Denver Water dam call for major upgrade to valves, pipes.
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
Over the past week, beneficial precipitation fell over the higher elevations of Washington and Oregon, in much of Montana (particularly the mountainous western half), in the Lower Missouri River and Ohio River valleys, and in New England, leading to improving conditions in parts of these regions. Meanwhile, the southeast United States (with the exception of the Florida Peninsula) was mostly dry. Dry weather also continued across much of the central and southern Great Plains this week, as well as most of the southwestern United States. With background dry conditions in many areas that did not receive rain, combined with high evaporative demand over much of the High Plains and western United States, widespread worsening of drought conditions occurred from the Great Plains to the Southwest…
Weather in the High Plains region was generally cooler than normal this week. Temperature anomalies ranged from normal to 6 degrees below normal in Kansas to 6 to 15 degrees cooler than normal in North Dakota. Areas of light to moderate precipitation were scattered about Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and northeast Wyoming, though amounts exceeding an inch were uncommon outside of the Black Hills. Degradation of drought conditions in the region was widespread this week south of Interstate 80, where dry weather combined with recent warm, dry, and windy conditions, leading to continued loss of near surface moisture…
In the West this week, widespread precipitation fell in some of the mountainous areas of western Washington and Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. In some locations in western Washington, western Oregon, and northwest Montana, the recent precipitation was enough to improve drought conditions, due to lessened precipitation deficits. To the south, however, widespread expansion of extreme and exceptional drought occurred in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. To the west of the Rocky Mountains, temperatures were warmer than normal this week; readings of 9 degrees or more above normal were found in parts of California and Arizona. Meanwhile, central and eastern Montana were much colder than normal, as much of the eastern part of the state experienced temperatures 9 degrees (or more) colder than normal. Similar to much of the Great Plains, very high evaporative demand has gripped these states over the last several months and combined with the short- and long-term precipitation deficits to continue to worsen conditions. The wildfire danger has also continued across parts of the region as a result of these conditions, and portions of Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests in Colorado have been closed in response…
Except for northwest Tennessee and adjacent northeast Arkansas, dry weather occurred in the South this week. Near-normal temperatures occurred in most of Oklahoma, northern Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee, while temperatures ranging from 3 to 9 degrees warmer than normal took place in southern Texas. Drought conditions generally worsened in the region, in particular in northwest Arkansas, Oklahoma, and central and western Texas. In the southern high plains, the lack of precipitation this week occurred in a region that has had very high evaporative demand over the last few months, leading to further loss of soil moisture in areas where winter wheat is planted…
A series of storm systems and cold fronts is forecast to affect the western two-thirds of the continental United States through Monday, October 26, bringing chances of welcome mountain snow to Colorado, precipitation locally exceeding a half inch to the northern tier of the continental United States, and heavier precipitation from central Oklahoma to the Great Lakes. By early next week, colder than normal temperatures are forecast to be entrenched across the western two-thirds of the continental United States, while above-normal temperatures occur in the east. From Tuesday, October 27 through the end of the month, colder than normal weather is favored from west of the Appalachian Mountains through most of the West, while warmer than normal weather is favored in the Southeast. The forecast also favors above-normal precipitation from southwest Colorado to the Great Lakes and East Coast, while below-normal precipitation is favored in the northern Great Plains, California, and the Pacific Northwest.
From The Colorado Sun (Evan Oschner):
Denver voters this year could give the city a unique tool for fighting climate change that is unlike strategies pursued by other U.S. cities. Across the nation, local authorities are taking on responsibility for fighting the warming planet amid gridlock at the federal level.
Denver’s idea is different because ballot measure 2A would use the proceeds from a dedicated sales tax increase to raise roughly $40 million a year to invest in renewable energy, clean transportation, energy efficiency and more.
If voters approve the tax on the Nov. 3 ballot, it could serve as a model for policy options in other cities. “We truly are pioneering this,” said Councilman Jolon Clark, who sponsored the measure to get the issue on the ballot. Clark said two other municipalities have reached out to Denver to talk about implementing a similar proposal themselves.
As fires torch the West and hurricanes slam the East, the threat of a changing climate has become more pressing, and cities are more urgently taking action. The situation is so dire that local governments are more likely to try to tackle this intractable problem, said Cooper Martin, an expert in sustainability policy at the National League of Cities…
Denver’s idea is inspired by action in some other cities, Clark said, pointing to Boulder. And action by cities, regardless of the strategy, is generally driven by the lack of federal action to address the climate crisis. President Barack Obama joined the Paris climate accords and put in place emissions cutting measures through executive action, but President Donald Trump has waged a yearslong campaign to repeal many of his predecessor’s environmental policies.
The inaction at one level has led to action at another. “Local effort is really what we’ve had for the last 10 years, and I think that it’s been valuable,” said Mark Smith, an economics professor who studies environmental policy at Colorado College.
For Denver, that means raising the sales tax to 8.56% from 8.31% to support green projects in the city. If approved, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2021. The money raised would be divided among six categories covering a range of environmental issues.
The categories prioritize environmental justice and include training programs to empower people to work in clean energy as well as investment in renewable energy.
Other funds will be dedicated to making the city’s infrastructure cleaner by reducing reliance on cars and improving mass transit. According to the city, transportation is responsible for 30% of the city’s emissions. Another 50% of the city’s emissions are attributed to new and existing buildings, and the tax funds would be used to upgrade the energy efficiency of office and residential spaces.
Proponents say many of the elements of the bill are intended to offset a reality of the proposal: It is fundamentally a regressive tax. That’s because sales taxes are regressive, meaning they require lower income individuals to pay a higher proportion of taxes.
The bill that put the measure on the ballot says city officials must try to invest half of the funds it raises directly into the community and prioritize efforts to steer funds toward under-resourced communities.
Clark says these stipulations are designed to ensure lower income and marginalized communities receive more benefits from the tax than they pay into it.
From KNAU (Melissa Sevigny):
Many western cities have been able to shrink their total water use in recent decades, even as their populations grew. That’s the finding of a new study published in the journal Water last week. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with lead author Brian Richter about how simple water conservation measures could be a cost-effective way to combat shortages in the Colorado River Basin.
How is this possible? How can water use drop while the population grows?
The explanation of that is that they have found ways to encourage people, to incentivize people, to use less water per person on average. What we found across the board in the western Cities that we surveyed—we looked at 20 different cities—we found their average rate of growth from 2000 to 2015 was about 21 percent, yet their average rate of reduction in their water use was 19 percent…
So how are they pulling this off, what’s happening that makes their water use per individual go down?
There were two things that really jumped out for us…. One, outdoor landscaping. It’s not uncommon for western cities to use half or more of their water outdoors, irrigating lawns, big commercial landscape areas and that sort of thing. That was the place the cities saw some of the biggest declines in use, because a lot of them had been financially incentivizing homeowners and businesses to reduce their outdoor irrigation…. The other big part of the story was indoors, on toilets… Back in 1992, we passed the Federal Energy Act—Energy Act, not Water Act. What was interesting about that was the framers, the architects of that energy act recognized that the movement of water, the cleaning of water to get it ready and make it potable for our use, was a very large portion of U.S. energy use. They said, if we can reduce water use, then we’re also going to reduce energy use…. What the Energy Act said was any new toilets sold in the United States from that day forward were going to have to be high efficiency ones. Overnight, the new toilets being sold were using half of the water that they did previously.
From Solar Power World (Kelly Pickerel):
In 2019, the United States produced 30-times more solar power and more than triple the amount of wind energy than it did in 2010, according to a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center. The project, “Renewables on the Rise 2020,” documents the growth of five key clean energy technologies during the past decade: solar power, wind power, battery storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicles.
In addition to the growth in renewable energy, utility-scale battery storage increased 20-fold since 2010, energy consumption per person declined thanks to improvements in energy efficiency, and more than one million electric vehicles were sold in the United States.
“People have always reaped the benefits of sun and wind, first to grow food, then to move ships… and now, to power the 21st century,” said Susan Rakov, chair of Environment America Research and Policy Center’s Clean Energy program. “Today nearly 50 million American homes rely on clean, renewable energy from the sun and wind. These technologies have risen to the occasion. They are transforming our energy landscape, and our future.”
Along with a national overview, the report highlights states that have made the most progress in adopting solar and wind energy, increasing battery storage capacity, improving energy efficiency, and transitioning to electric vehicles.
“America’s growth in clean energy is primarily the result of states taking action,” said Emma Searson, 100% Renewable Campaign director with Environment America Research & Policy Center. “Forward looking policies designed to tap into each state’s vast renewable resources are creating a virtuous cycle of technological advancements, falling costs and greater deployment.”
California, North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada and Texas added the most solar energy between 2010 and 2019, while the Mid- and Southwest states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois saw the most wind energy growth. In Kansas and Oklahoma, wind generation grew almost seven-fold during that time.
The New England states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts led the pack on efficiency improvements. In addition to taking first place for solar energy growth by a wide margin, California also ranked No. 1 for electric vehicle charging stations and sales (followed by New York, Washington, Florida and Texas). The Golden State was also top for growth in battery storage (followed by Illinois, Texas, Hawaii and West Virginia), thanks in part to strong policy leadership in the state.
From Writers on the Range (Ernie Atencio):
This summer was a time of reckoning about race in every sector of American life, and many of us are scrambling to respond in appropriate ways — including the environmental movement I’m a part of.
We would like to forget, but the environmental movement has racist roots. One of the founders of the National Park Service was Madison Grant, whose eugenicist views inspired Hitler, and the conservation heroes, John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt, both routinely disparaged Native Americans.
Trying to heal that legacy, environmental organizations for decades have talked about how to build diverse staffs, promote parks and public lands for everyone, and seriously address environmental issues in poor neighborhoods or communities of color.
Thirty years ago, the Albuquerque-based Southwest Organizing Project wrote a letter to the “Big 10” national environmental groups outlining all the ways the movement was failing communities of color and calling for change. It was an alert that some groups took seriously. Others issued a bland statement about diversity and inclusion on their websites. Since then, change has been slight and slow.
I share this observation after working in the environmental world for over 25 years, and before that as a park ranger and outdoor instructor. But as a Chicano from northern New Mexico, who grew up in a rough inner-city neighborhood in Denver, I am an anomaly.
I got into this work because I care about wild places, not as a diversity campaigner. But it’s hard to ignore. When I returned to New Mexico in the mid-‘90s to take a job with a river group in Taos, I may have been the only Chicano in the entire state working as a full-time environmental advocate. Some called me the “Chicano poster child.”
As an executive director or on staff with other organizations, I was similarly the “only” or the “first.” The same was true during my years rangering and teaching. I stick with it because I care, and I continue working for change from inside the mainstream. I relish the privilege of access to the public commons of national parks and wilderness areas and outdoor recreation, even as I recognize that many Americans of color do not have that access.
Trust me; it’s harder than it looks being the only brown face in the room or even on a trail. Being the first to break this or that barrier, and always having to explain to someone what it’s like can get tiring.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve been asked to represent Chicano perspectives, or even all people of color, in a meeting. But it often ends up feeling like a half-hearted PC gesture for appearance sake or to satisfy a funder. Attitudes are fixed and systems in place, and once I walk out of the room I think my words are usually forgotten and it’s back to business as usual.
Despite years of experience and knowledge, a few years ago I was fired from a job with one of those big national organizations because I was “not a good fit.” For whatever best intentions this group may have had, I believe they wanted the credibility of a local ethnic face, but in the end the person behind it who did not think or act like them was a threat to the order.
It’s been a life of straddling worlds, hiding part of who I really am to try to fit in and often feeling like an outsider – and I’m not the only one.
At the same time, I sometimes feel a nagging sense of survivor’s guilt because I escaped a rough life on the streets, and am not out there in solidarity, protesting for change and getting tear-gassed and arrested. I was roughed-up by cops enough in my youth that I don’t need any more, but that does not assuage this internal conflict.
But whether you are black, brown or white, the exceptional privilege of being part of a big green group and having access to the sanity of outdoor spaces carries a responsibility to help change the status quo, to speak up for those who are not part of the mainstream dialog, to advocate for equitable access to the outdoors, and yes, to rattle a few cages.
Even though the evolution has been agonizingly slow, it seems that finally, some mainstream organizations are willing to listen and learn. This seems to be a moment of change — may the momentum last.
Click here to access the paper (Joel Schneekloth, Francisco Calderón, David Nielsen & Steven J. Fonte). Here’s the abstract:
Residue removal from maize (Zea mays) fields offers an opportunity to increase farmer profits, but potential tradeoffs for water dynamics and crop performance merit further evaluation. This study, established in 2014, compared the effects of two tillage practices (no-till and conventional) and two residue management practices (harvested vs. kept in place) on maize grain yields, water infiltration, evapotranspiration, and soil physical attributes. On average, maize grain yields under limited irrigation increased with residue retention by 1.1 Mg ha year between 2016 and 2018, but tillage had no significant effect. Total infiltration (over 30 min) was higher with residue retention. Neither tillage nor residue management had a significant impact on evapotranspiration during the vegetative growth stage. However, there was a significant residue by tillage interaction where vegetative evapotranspiration was reduced by no-till and residue retention. Conversely, penetrometer resistance was significantly reduced by both tillage and residue retention. Volumetric water content in the soil profile at planting was higher with residue retention. These results suggest that plots with residue removal would on average require 60 mm year−1 of additional irrigation to attain the same yields as fields with residue retention. In summary, our findings suggest that high rates of crop residue removal under limited irrigation in a semiarid environment can negatively affect water conservation and yields, and that tradeoffs surrounding residue export need to be fully considered in land management and policy decisions.