The companies have been slow to make emissions reductions pledges, and have worked to undercut climate and environmental legislation.
Top U.S. meat and dairy companies, along with livestock and agricultural lobbying groups, have spent millions campaigning against climate action and sowing doubt about the links between animal agriculture and climate change, according to new research from New York University.
The study, published this week in the journal Climatic Change, also said the world’s biggest meat and dairy companies aren’t doing enough to curb their greenhouse gas emissions, with only a handful making pledges to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
“These companies are some of the world’s biggest contributors to climate change,” said Oliver Lazarus, one of the study’s three authors, now a doctoral student at Harvard University. “They’ve spent a considerable amount of time and money downplaying the link between animal agriculture and climate change.”
A report given to the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) on March 29 was approved by the board, leading to future considerations to be considered for the district’s West Fork reservoir and canal water rights.
The report, crafted by Wilson Water Group (WWG), reviewed the district’s water rights portfolio and other storage studies to “understand opportunities and limitations” based on original decrees, previous diligence efforts and other storage locations.
WWG was hired by the SJWCD via a board decision at a Sept. 21, 2020, meeting for a cost of $19,050.
According to the report, not only were studies done for alternative uses for the West Fork reservoir and canal water rights of the district, but analyses were done to estimate water available to the San Juan River Headwaters Project reservoir water rights and to a junior storage right.
Currently, the district has a West Fork canal water right that is specifically 50 cubic feet per second (cfs) of conditional water that includes decreed uses of irrigation, industrial and municipal.
The report notes that this right will be abandoned by the water court if not used or perfected at the time the San Juan River Headwaters Project facilities are constructed.
The SJWCD also has a water right associated with the second enlargement of the Dutton Ditch, the report describes.
This water right is 20 cfs that in- cludes decreed uses of irrigation, municipal and domestic.
This right will also be abandoned by the water court if not used or perfected at the time the San Juan River Headwaters Project facilities are constructed, the report notes.
“A significant physical limitation to development of the Dutton Ditch Second Enlargement water right is the location; there is not reliable wa- ter supply available on these smaller tributaries except during the runoff period primarily in May and June,” the report reads.
Additionally, the district has a 50 cfs conditional water right at the San Juan River Headwaters Project pumping station, the report indicates.
“This right cannot be diverted if the San Juan River at Pagosa Springs streamflow gage shows flow less than 100 cfs from March 1 to August 31 or less than 60 cfs from September 1 to February 29,” the report states. “Besides the potential cost versus benefit imbalance of pumping water for potential storage at this location, the water available in many years can be significantly limited by the stipulated flow requirements at the San Juan River at Pagosa Springs streamflow gage.”
The SJWCD also has 1.1 cfs of absolute water rights associated with shares in the Park Ditch Company at the Park Ditch, the report notes.
This water right notes that the Park Ditch must be the location to divert water to store in the San Juan River Headwaters project, among other stipulations.
According to the report, the district has storage water rights at the West Fork reservoir, which is about 24,000 acre feet in conditional water rights.
“The stipulation subordinating the West Fork Reservoir storage rights to upstream water rights senior to a December 31, 2013 is significant; as it essentially changes the water right appropriation date to January 1, 2014 as to any water rights located upstream,” the report reads. “The requirement to move the water right downstream of Boot- jack Ranch to a likely off-channel reservoir site is not as limiting, because permitting an on-channel reservoir at any location on the San Juan River would be a significant challenge. The uses under the storage right may be limiting, as it does not include the authorization to release water to the San Juan River to meeting environmental or recre- ational needs.”
The SJWCD also has 6,300 acre- feet of conditional storage rights at the San Juan River Headwaters proj- ect site and another 4,700 acre-feet on first fill and 11,000 acre-feet on refill of conditional storage rights.
“Artificially introduced” wolves are not welcome in Archuleta County, according to the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC).
At a work session held by the BoCC on April 6, the board discussed a trio of statewide concerns, including its opposition to the reintroduction of Canadian gray wolves within the county.
Commissioner Alvin Schaaf expressed his concerns and dissatisfaction with the recent approval of Colorado Proposition 114, Gray Wolf Reintroduction Initiative, that was passed in November 2020.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow when our citizens, the majority voted no on this topic and it’s still getting shoved down our throats just because there’s more population in the greater Denver area,” Schaaf said.
Later that day, the BoCC approved Resolution 2021-26, reaffirming the county’s opposition to the reintroduction of the wolves and specifically designating Archuleta County as a wolf reintroduction sanctuary…
“They’re already here. I don’t know why we’re reintroducing something that already exists,” Schaaf added.
Resolution 2021-26 highlights how the proposition was approved by voters “in only five western slope counties, including Pitkin, Summit, San Miguel, San Juan and La Plata Counties.”
At the work session, Schaaf stated, “It seems like a constant attack on the rural way of life and the ability of the American people to make a living and provide food.”
“A lot of people that live in the highly populated areas don’t understand the rural lifestyle,” Maez added. “I think in the populated areas, they need to teach them where their food comes from.”
The resolution declares Archuleta County “to be a Wolf Reintroduction Sanctuary County, allowing only for the natural migration and repopulation of Gray Wolves without the competi- tion from artificially introduced wolves.”
Water forecasting agencies in Colorado have released their April streamflow predictions, confirming what many already knew: Drought and dry soils will diminish rivers this spring.
“The main story of this water supply outlook season is the effect of last year’s drought going into winter,” said Karl Wetlaufer, a hydrologist and assistant supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service Colorado Snow Survey. “We are anticipating significantly lower runoff compared with the snowpack because we entered winter with such dry conditions that the soils are going to have to soak up a ton of moisture before it actually makes it through the system into the river.”
The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center and NRCS both released streamflow forecasts this week for the months of April through July. This is the second year in a row parched soils will rob rivers of their water.
If soils were not so dry, streamflow predictions would track closely with snowpack. But this year, in many areas streamflows are predicted to be down by 15% to 20% compared with the snowpack, and streamflow for all river basins in the state are predicted to be below average.
NRCS relies heavily on data from SNOTEL (short for snow telemetry) sites for its water supply forecasts. These automated sensors collect snow and weather data from remote, mountainous areas around the state. At the beginning of the month, the snow-water equivalent, which is a measure of how much water is contained in the snowpack, was 90% of average for the Colorado River headwaters, which includes the Roaring Fork River basin. Warm weather the first few days of the month had dropped that number to 78% by Wednesday.
According to NRCS models, streamflow for the Roaring Fork River, measured at its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs will be 70% of average. The CBRFC model predicts just 68% of average. Throughout the Colorado headwaters, streamflow predictions range from 57% to 77% of average.
According to CBRFC hydrologist Cody Moser, most river basins in Colorado were in the bottom five driest years for soil moisture going into the winter and some places, like the San Juan River basin in the southwest corner of the state, had record low soil moisture.
“We had poor soil moisture entering the season,” Moser said. “We also have below normal snow, so a lot of things are working against a good runoff season.”
The Lake Powell inflow forecast, at 3.2 million acre-feet, is just 45% of normal and a 2% decrease from the CBRFC March forecast.
Another tricky year for Ruedi
Tim Miller, a hydrologist at the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Ruedi Reservoir, said predicting inflow into the reservoir from the Fryingpan River and surrounding tributaries is like “looking out into the crystal ball.”
It’s Miller’s job to release enough water from the reservoir to make room for the inflow. Filling it to capacity — roughly 102,000 acre-feet — requires precision and can be tricky. Last year Miller missed the mark by about 5,000 acre-feet, leaving reservoir levels a bit low. It was because streamflow forecasts didn’t fully account for the spring’s lack of precipitation, warmer-than-normal temperatures and dry soils, he said.
“We were over-forecasting until right at the very end,” Miller said. “It wasn’t until the end of May and early June that we realized we just weren’t going to get that volume. Last year, because of those forecasts, I was releasing quite a bit more water at this time because I was expecting a bigger inflow.”
This year, Miller said he plans on releasing just the minimum needed to meet the instream flow needs of the lower Fryingpan until he knows there will be enough runoff to fill the reservoir. Much of the water stored in Ruedi is either “fish water,” released for the benefit of endangered fish downstream or contract water, which has been sold by the bureau to cover the costs of building and operating the reservoir. Many different entities and water providers, including Ute Water Conservancy District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board, own some of this contract water.
The reservoir has a decent chance of filling this year, Miller said, but there is another factor that could negatively impact those chances. Ruedi is currently 57% full, down from where it was at this time last year, about 66% full, according to Miller.
“Ruedi is lower starting out than what it would have been starting out last year, so that’s going to be an issue,” Miller said. “There are just a lot of things to juggle.”
The bureau is predicting about 112,000 acre-feet of runoff for the upper Fryingpan River basin this year, but about half that will be taken through the Boustead Tunnel system to the Front Range, Miller said.
So how might low runoff affect local water providers and users? For starters, the city of Aspen is still in Stage 2 drought restrictions, a carry-over from last August. That means restrictions on washing sidewalks and vehicles, and outdoor watering. One of the biggest water uses in Aspen is outdoor watering of lawns and landscaping.
“We are going to do our damnedest to make sure people are responsible,” said Steve Hunter, utilities resource manager with the city of Aspen.
Hunter said he has been talking with other local water managers about creating a valley-wide unified message about the drought, to target residents and visitors alike. The next city drought response committee meeting is April 23.
Despite the bleak streamflow outlook, weather is still a big unknown. Late spring storms and summer monsoon season — which mostly failed to materialize in 2020 — could begin to turn things around.
“We are just going to be prepared,” Hunter said. “We need to be adaptable. It may get worse, it may get better, it may stay the same.”
Aspen Journalism covers water and rivers in collaboration with The Aspen Times. This story ran in the April 9 edition of The Aspen Times.
An earlier version of this writing appeared in Archaeology Southwest Magazine, Volume 33, Nos. 1 & 2. Like many landscapes throughout the American Southwest, Hopi people maintain a cultural connection with the region now designated as part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). From a Hopi perspective, we believe that it is our ancestors who, […]