The 30 federally recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin depend on the Colorado and its tributaries for a variety of purposes, including cultural and religious activities, domestic, irrigation, commercial, municipal and industrial, power generation, recreation, instream flows, wildlife, and habitat restoration. Twenty-two of these tribes have recognized rights to use 3.2 million-acre feet of Colorado River system water annually, or approximately 25 percent of the Basin’s average annual water supply. In addition, 12 of the tribes have unresolved water rights claims, which will likely increase the overall volume of tribal water rights in the Basin. With the oldest water rights in the basin, tribes are poised to play a significant role in balancing water demand and supply and otherwise shaping the future of the region. Join leaders of the Water & Tribes Initiative in a conversation about the role of tribes and other sovereigns and stakeholders in advancing a sustainable vision for the Colorado River.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Noon – 1:30 PM (Mountain Time)
(Link provided upon registration confirmation and to the email provided)
From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):
Thank you for all who attended the April 20th, 2021 Navajo Unit Coordination Meeting. Please see the links below for the meeting summary and slides. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. The next meeting is scheduled for August 24th, 2021 at 1:00 PM.
Here’s the release from the Department of Interior:
Interagency effort will coordinate resources across the federal government to bring immediate relief to irrigators, Tribes, and western communities
The Biden-Harris administration today announced the formation of an Interagency Working Group to address worsening drought conditions in the West and support farmers, Tribes, and communities impacted by ongoing water shortages. The Working Group will be co-chaired by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture to build upon existing resources to help coordinate across the federal government, working in partnership with state, local, and Tribal governments to address the needs of communities suffering from drought-related impacts. The White House released a readout from today’s National Climate Task Force Meeting announcing the new Working Group.
“Water is a sacred resource. This Interagency Working Group will deliver a much-needed proactive approach to providing drought assistance to U.S. communities, including efforts to build long-term resiliency to water shortages,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “We are committed to using every resource available to our bureaus to ensure that Tribes, irrigators and the adjoining communities receive adequate assistance and support.”
“In the United States, intense droughts threaten major economic drivers in rural communities such as agriculture and recreation, disrupts food systems and water supplies, endangers public health, jeopardizes the integrity of critical infrastructure, and exacerbates wildfires and floods. With our interagency Working Group, we will collaborate with Tribes, agricultural producers, landowners, and rural communities to build regional resilience to drought,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Water allocations are at historic lows, including in areas like the Klamath River Basin and the Colorado River Basin, creating an urgent need to minimize the impacts of the drought and develop a long-term plan to facilitate conservation and economic growth. The Working Group will work to identify immediate financial and technical assistance for impacted irrigators and Tribes. Development of longer-term measures to respond to climate change and build more resilient communities and protect the natural environment will also be a priority, including through President Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan and through a recommitment to strengthening the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP). Formed in 2013, the NDRP brings together multiple federal agencies to build long-term drought resilience, including developing innovative science-driven actions to address water supply challenges.
From CU Boulder Today (Kelsey Simpkins):
After a year of historic wildfires and floods, a global pandemic and unprecedented political unrest, it can be easy to dwell on bad news. But while there is still much work to be done to reduce carbon emissions and pollution, as well as advance environmental justice, much progress has been made since the first Earth Day was organized by Senator Gaylord Nelson and activist Denis Hayes on April 22, 1970—and more progress is in the works.
In celebration of Earth Day’s 51st anniversary, CU Boulder Today explores 10 research-related discoveries that have the potential to positively change the way we live and soften humanity’s imprint on our precious planet.
We can reshape our streets
Reduced vehicle traffic in America’s cities amid the pandemic resulted in cleaner air, and once-busy streets became quiet. Some cities temporarily took urban streets back from cars, prioritizing pedestrians and bicycles. According to Kevin J. Krizek, professor of transport in the programs of Environmental Design and Environmental Studies, this sudden change shows us that there are positive ways that the pandemic could quickly reshape our streets and relationship to cars. Increasing and incentivizing transportation options for cyclists and pedestrians over cars could lead to safer streets and fewer carbon dioxide emissions.
Transit is charging ahead
There’s also exciting research advances being made in the realm of electric transit—and not just with the vehicles themselves. ASPIRE—Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification—is a new center focused on developing infrastructure and systems that facilitate the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. Think electrified highways, optimally placed charging stations, data security and workforce development. CU Boulder will play a major role in this new center, headquartered at Utah State University.
Mimicking nature makes for a solid foundation
After water, concrete is the second most consumed material on Earth: 2 tons per person are manufactured each year. The production of cement alone—the powder that is used to make concrete—is responsible for about 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions. What if there was a way to drastically reduce cement and concrete emissions? CU Boulder researchers have discovered that a synthetic molecule based on natural antifreeze proteins minimizes freeze-thaw damage and increases the strength and durability of concrete, improving the longevity of new infrastructure and decreasing carbon emissions. In the face of climate change, Wil Srubar III, assistant professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, is creating solutions that will last a lifetime.
The future is at home
What if your house could power itself even in the coldest of climates at high altitudes? That’s what a team of CU students set out to prove, and in the process, won first place in the 2021 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Build Challenge. The CU Boulder “SPARC” house (Sustainability, Performance, Attainability, Resilience and Community) was designed and built to address the housing attainability crisis and construction challenges faced by mountain towns across the country. With its state-of-the-art energy efficiency systems, the SPARC house is already selling energy back to the local power grid—all while temperatures still drop below freezing at night and the new homeowners use it to charge their electric car.
Mountains can mount a comeback
In the mountains west of Boulder, Colorado, a long-term trend of ecological improvement is appearing. Researchers have found that Niwot Ridge—a high alpine area of the Rocky Mountains, east of the Continental Divide—is slowly recovering from increased acidity caused by vehicle emissions in Colorado’s Front Range. This is good news for the wildlife and wildflowers of Rocky Mountain National Park to the north and for water quality in the Front Range. According to Jason Neff, director of the Sustainability Innovation Lab at Colorado (SILC), by controlling vehicle emissions, the places we value in Colorado are returning to how they used to be.
What’s common is crucial
The next time you go for a hike, take an extra moment to appreciate the seemingly ordinary life all around you. A house fly, humble yarrow weed and other “generalist” plants and pollinators play a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity and may also serve as buffers against some impacts of climate change, finds new CU Boulder research. Keep a lookout for bumblebees, flies and moths, as well as daisies, roses and lupines: They are all important players in keeping mountain meadows merry and Colorado’s state flower captivating.
Slow and steady can be sustainable
Conventional wisdom suggests that target fishing levels for oceans—set with hopes to maximize harvest while keeping a fishery sustainable—should be approached as quickly as possible to reap benefits immediately. However, researchers say that raising fishing to the same target level a bit more slowly could sustain both a fishery and an ecosystem that would otherwise collapse. This recommendation is based on new award-winning findings that show marine ecosystems are highly sensitive to how quickly a target fishing level is reached. Surprisingly, this pattern in the ecosystem is driven by the social behaviors of individual coral reef fish. These new findings—on not only how many, but how fast fish can be sustainably harvested—can inform local and regional scale management decisions that deal with fishing quotas.
Better predictions improve food security
Ocean acidification is admittedly not good news. But CU Boulder researchers have developed a method that could enable scientists to accurately forecast ocean acidity up to five years in advance. This would enable fisheries and communities that depend on seafood to adapt to changing conditions in real time, improving economic and food security in the next few decades. With this information, fisheries and communities can better plan for where and when to harvest seafood, and to predict potential losses in advance.
We have the power to protect more
The Antarctic region is home to as many as 10,000 species—including whales, seals, penguins, fish, corals and giant Antarctic sea spiders—many of which are found nowhere else in the world. As far as scientists know, none of them have yet gone extinct from climate change or other human actions. But only 5% of the Southern Ocean is protected, leaving biodiversity hotspots exposed to threats from human activity. Cassandra Brooks, assistant professor in the Environmental Studies Program, knows that time is of the essence and has been working to help establish marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean. An international council known as the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), made up of 25 countries and the European Union, has the power to soon make these protections a reality.
Read: Marine protection falls short of the 2020 target to safeguard 10% of the world’s oceans. A UN treaty and lessons from Antarctica could help; Humans threaten the Antarctic Peninsula’s fragile ecosystem. A marine protected area is long overdue; More protections needed to safeguard biodiversity in the Southern Ocean
Comedy can help communicate climate change
Did you hear the one about the 16 comedians who walked into a Creative Climate communication course during a global pandemic? No joke. CU Boulder’s Beth Osnes and Max Boykoff note that the Stand Up for Climate Comedy Show, a project to advance creative climate communication, exemplifies what their research on comedy and climate change shows to help people “process negative emotions, feed hope and sustain climate action.” Tune in on April 22, 2021, at 10 a.m. MDT.
From Al Gore:
Almost five and a half years ago in Paris, the world finally committed to take bold action to address the climate crisis. But even then, leaders knew the commitments were not enough to meet the urgency of the challenge we face. If we want to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, we must work to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That means we need significant emissions cuts not in 20 or 30 years, but in this decade.
Today, President Biden showed that his administration is up to the task of tackling the climate crisis by announcing his commitment to reduce the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions 50-52% by 2030. This is a groundbreaking step for our country – the world’s second largest emitter of global warming pollution – and is a strong signal to leaders around the world that as a global community, we have no more time to waste. This ambitious goal is one that we must reach. I know that with the Biden Administration’s whole-of-government approach, paired with investments in green jobs and infrastructure under consideration in Congress, we can.
The eyes of the world, and particularly those of the youngest generations, are on leaders in government, the private sector, and civil society to deliver plans by the next climate talks in Glasgow that finally meet this moment and create the sustainable and just future the people of this planet deserve. I am encouraged by the latest commitments from other nations and strongly urge more leaders to heed the United States’ example and make similarly bold emissions reduction plans so that we can finally turn the tide on the climate crisis.
Click on a thumbnail graphic 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
The upper-level circulation over the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week consisted of a ridge over the West Coast and trough over the north central states. Strong closed lows rotated within this upper-level flow, bounding from the Southwest to the Northeast in their trek across the country. The ridge blocked Pacific moisture from entering the country and kept the West Coast warmer than normal for the week. The trough funneled cold and dry Canadian air into the Plains. The cold fronts moved south and east, bringing colder-than-normal air to much of the CONUS from the Great Basin to the Appalachians and beyond to the Mid-Atlantic Coast. Only parts of the Southeast and Northeast averaged warmer than normal for the week. The fronts and their surface lows brought rain and snow to the northern and central Rockies as they bumped up against the mountains, with precipitation amounts meeting or exceeding weekly normals in parts of the northern to central Rockies and High Plains. The fronts and surface lows spread above-normal rainfall across Oklahoma and northern Texas to Florida, with amounts along the northern Gulf Coast exceeding 5 inches in places. They also brought rain to the Northeast, with some areas nearing or exceeding weekly normals. But much of the West, northern Plains to Ohio Valley, Southeast, and Maine were drier than normal for the week. Streamflow was well below normal all along the West Coast and in the interior West, in North Dakota and northwest South Dakota, parts of southern Texas, the southern and eastern Great Lakes, and parts of the Northeast. Soils continued to dry out in the West and Southeast, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports. Satellite and station reports, as well as modeled indices, showed dry soils across the West, northern and southern Plains, the southern and eastern Great Lakes, and into the Northeast, as well as parts of the Southeast. Groundwater observations from wells and estimated from satellite measurements revealed dry conditions across the West, northern and southern Plains, Northeast, and parts of the Southeast. The cumulative effect of lack of precipitation and drying soils has stressed vegetation, as seen in such indices as the Vegetative Health Index and VegDRI, as well as field reports…
Cooler temperatures and snow spread across parts of the northern Plains this week. Western and southern parts of the High Plains region received 0.5-1.5 inches of precipitation this week, while the Dakotas were mostly dry with less than 0.25 inch. Precipitation in Wyoming in recent weeks has improved several drought indicators, especially the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), resulting in significant contraction of the D3 area in the central part of the state. D0-D2 shrank in other parts, but D1-D2 expanded in western Wyoming. Colorado saw contraction of D1-D2 in the north. Half an inch to over an inch of precipitation in southwest South Dakota shrank D2, while D2 was removed from southeast South Dakota due to improving indicators. Even though much of Montana received welcome snow this week, in most areas it amounted to below-normal precipitation, so D1-D3 expanded. Abnormal dryness contracted in south central Montana where precipitation has been above normal. In North Dakota, the snow was enough to prevent further deterioration but not enough to reduce deficits. Parts of the state remain in a burn ban and are experiencing dry soils, poor pasture conditions, and drying ponds and dugouts, some of which were testing high in TDS and sulfates. Producers are selling or making plans to cull more livestock. Dust storms have been reported recently in North Dakota and Montana. USDA reports show 78% of North Dakota, 61% of Montana, 58% of South Dakota, 56% of Wyoming, and 49% of Colorado with topsoil moisture short or very short…
Just the higher mountains of northern Utah, northeast Nevada, and the Sierra Nevada in California received any precipitation this week, and that was only 0.25-1.5 inches, which was barely normal for this time of year. Most of the rest of the West received no precipitation. Low streamflow, dry soils, and precipitation deficits over the last 3 months or longer prompted expansion of abnormal dryness and drought all along the West Coast. In Washington, D0 expanded to the coast and D1 spread northeastward, with only above-normal snow water content (SWE) and water-year-to-date (WYTD) precipitation keeping the Olympic and Cascade Mountains free of abnormal dryness. The D1, and some D0, spread across northern Idaho and into northwest Montana. D1-D2 expanded in western and northeastern Oregon. D1-D3 expanded in California to better reflect the soil moisture, streamflow, and SPI indicators. Agricultural impacts along the southern California coast were especially severe. The sparse timing of rain that has occurred this season (end of December and end of January) has contributed to especially poor growth of the annual grasses that are needed for livestock feed. According to reports, the amount of forage on rangelands is low, with producers in Ventura County already shipping whole herds of cattle out of county because there is almost no forage. As the USDM week ended, California Governor Newsom declared a drought emergency in Mendocino and Sonoma counties. Other drought impacts around the region: Historically low water levels caused the closure of some launch ramps on Lake Powell. The Klamath Project will receive 33,000 acre-feet of water in 2021, about one-tenth the average amount, for the lowest allocation in the project’s history, due to drought and low inflows into Upper Klamath Lake. Dust storms have been reported recently in Oregon and blowing dust in eastern Washington. According to USDA reports, the percentage of topsoil moisture short or very short jumped this week to 65% of California and Oregon and 60% of Washington. The percentage increased slightly to 87% of New Mexico. April 21 reports of mountain SWE in California included 32% of normal in the North, 37% in the Central, and 16% in the South…
Heavy rains fell across frontal zones over Louisiana and southern Mississippi where up to 5 inches was reported for the week. Rainfall totals of 2 inches or more covered most of Louisiana into northeast Texas and parts of Oklahoma. Half an inch or more was widespread across Arkansas, eastern to central Oklahoma, and northern, eastern, and extreme southern Texas. Meanwhile, most of the Rio Grande Valley, west Texas, and western Oklahoma received little to no precipitation. Drought and abnormal dryness contracted in parts of Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, while extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought expanded in parts of west Texas. The rains improved soils across parts of Texas and Oklahoma, but USDA reports still have 60% of Texas and 26% of Oklahoma with topsoil moisture short or very short…
A weather system moved across the Northeast as this USDM week ended and the new week began. During April 22-27, the western ridge will break down, allowing a couple weather systems to move across the CONUS. One will move across the South and Southeast at mid-week, while another moves into the West as the USDM week ends. Much of the CONUS is expected to receive 0.10-0.25 inch of precipitation, with 1.0-2.0 inches in the mountains of the Coastal, Cascade, and Sierra Nevada ranges and northern Rockies. But the heaviest precipitation will be from eastern Texas to South Carolina, and southeast Kansas to southern Illinois, where 1.0-3.0 inches is forecast to fall. An inch or more is expected across a broad area from eastern portions of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, across the Ohio Valley, to the Mid-Atlantic coast; south to the Gulf of Mexico coast; and across New England. Temperatures are expected to be cooler than normal in the east as the Canadian air masses exit the CONUS, then moderate to near to warmer than normal CONUS-wide. The outlook for April 28-May 1 warmer than normal in the East and cooler than normal in the Pacific Northwest. Odds favor wetter-than-normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest; along the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee Valleys; and in the Great Lakes; with below-normal precipitation in most of the southern Plains. In Alaska, odds favor below-normal precipitation across the state except the panhandle, warmer-than-normal temperatures in the west, and cooler-than-normal temperatures in the east.
Here’s the release from Northern Water:
The Northern Water Municipal Subdistrict has voted to approve a settlement of a federal lawsuit over Chimney Hollow Reservoir.
In a meeting Wednesday, the Municipal Subdistrict Board voted 10-1 to authorize its participation in the settlement.
The settlement means construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir will begin this summer and the Colorado River Connectivity Channel in Grand County next year. In return, the Municipal Subdistrict will contribute $15 million to a foundation to pay for projects that enhance the Colorado River and its many watersheds in Grand County.
“This settlement shows there is an alternative to costly litigation that can provide benefits both to the environment in Grand County and the Colorado River, as well as acknowledging the need for water storage,” said Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind.
The compromise will bring to a close a lawsuit in federal court filed by Save the Colorado, Save the Poudre, WildEarth Guardians, Living Rivers, Waterkeeper Alliance and the Sierra Club in October 2017. The suit challenged the permit issued by the Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers for the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir. On Dec. 19, 2020, the federal court ruled against the environmental organizations. The ruling was then appealed in February, and as part of the appeals process, both sides were required to engage in court-ordered mediation, which resulted in this settlement.
Chimney Hollow Reservoir, the key component to the Windy Gap Firming Project, will bring a reliable water supply to the 12 municipalities, water providers and utilities paying for its construction as well as provide a much-needed recreation area to be managed by the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources. Chimney Hollow Reservoir will be located in a dry valley just west of Carter Lake in southwest Larimer County and will store 90,000 acre-feet of water from the Windy Gap Project for use by 12 participants, including Broomfield, Platte River Power Authority, Longmont, Loveland, Greeley, Erie, Little Thompson Water District, Superior, Louisville, Fort Lupton, Lafayette and the Central Weld County Water District. Chimney Hollow Reservoir will make the Windy Gap water supply serving those participants more reliable and meet a portion of their long-term water supply needs. Each participant will also enact a water conservation plan to comply with state law and permit requirements.
The compromise will also move forward other environmental measures related to the Project, including the Colorado River Connectivity Channel, a newly proposed channel around the existing Windy Gap Reservoir to reconnect the Colorado River above and below the reservoir. The channel will restore the ability for fish, macroinvertebrates, nutrients and sediment in the river to bypass the reservoir. Many other environmental protections are included, such as improving streamflow and aquatic habitat in the Colorado River, addressing water quality issues, providing West Slope water supplies and more.
The Northern Water Municipal Subdistrict negotiated with Colorado River stakeholders to develop this package of environmental protections and received a permit from Grand County and approvals from others, including Trout Unlimited and the State of Colorado, to move forward with the Project.
Water storage such as Chimney Hollow Reservoir was specifically identified in the Colorado Water Plan as a necessary component for Colorado’s long-term water future. It joins conservation, land use planning and other solutions to meet future water needs in the state. To learn more about the project, go to http://www.chimneyhollow.org.
From The Colorado Sun (Michael Booth):
Northern Water will begin construction of the 25-story Chimney Hollow dam this summer.
complex Front Range dam-building project that includes transferring water from the Colorado River will move forward this summer after Northern Water agreed to a settlement putting $15 million in trust for waterway improvements in Grand County.
Environmental opponents begrudgingly accepted the mediated settlement of their lawsuit against Northern Water’s Windy Gap Firming Project, which involves a menu of waterworks construction including Chimney Hollow dam near Loveland and rerouting the Colorado River around Windy Gap Dam near Granby.
The settlement resolves litigation in the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Northern Water said it now can begin construction of the 25-story Chimney Hollow dam this summer. The dam will plug the northern end of a dry valley northwest of Carter Lake. It will eventually be filled using Colorado River rights purchased by municipalities that are members of Northern Water. The Northern Water rights can be tapped only when Grand County is wet enough to supply other, higher priorities first…
An alliance of environmental groups opposing the project wants to stop any more transfers of Western Slope water, which would ordinarily flow west in the Colorado River, to Front Range reservoirs that supply growing Colorado cities and suburbs.
In the case of Chimney Hollow and Windy Gap, the environmentalists say damage has already been done to the Colorado River in Grand County, and the settlement can help them reverse some of the hurt…
The Northern Water Municipal Subdistrict Board voted 10-1 Wednesday to participate in the settlement. A federal district court had rejected the environmental groups’ challenge of permits for the Windy Gap and Chimney Hollow projects issued by Army Corps of Engineers, and mediation was required as part of the appeal.
Chimney Hollow water will be used by 12 of Northern Water’s members: Central Weld County Water District, Little Thompson Water District and the Platte River Power Authority, and the cities of Broomfield, Erie, Fort Lupton, Greeley, Lafayette, Longmont, Louisville, Loveland and Superior. The members say they need more water storage to accommodate future growth in homes, industry and agriculture.
From KUNC (Luke Runyon):
Environmental groups, including WildEarth Guardians, Save the Colorado, Save The Poudre, Sierra Club, Living Rivers, and the Waterkeeper Alliance, filed a lawsuit in Oct. 2017 challenging the project’s federal permits. A federal judge in Dec. 2020 ruled against the environmental groups.
In a settlement reached with Northern Water — the agency pursuing Windy Gap on behalf of a municipal subdistrict of Front Range water providers — the environmental coalition agreed to withdraw their lawsuit, while securing $15 million for projects aimed at improving water quality, river health and fish habitat. The Grand Foundation in Grand County, Colo. will be the recipient of those funds. An advisory panel will be made up of representatives appointed by Northern Water and the environmental groups, and will decide how the money is spent. The funds will be issued in installments as the project is built…
The additional environmental mitigation joins other projects already negotiated between Grand County, Trout Unlimited and Northern Water, among other partners…
That previously agreed to package of environmental mitigation includes the Colorado River Connectivity Channel, which is to be constructed around the existing Windy Gap dam and reservoir, and is designed to reconnect a portion of the Colorado River below its confluence with the Fraser River. The channel is meant to allow for more natural conditions to return, like allowing sediment to move downstream and providing more habitat for fish and aquatic insects. Monitoring programs and riparian restoration were also a part of the deal negotiated among those parties.
The connectivity channel was a recent recipient of a $1 million grant from the Colorado River District, becoming the first project to receive funds generated from ballot question 7A which appeared on the Nov. 2020 ballot in the district’s boundaries…
Despite the additional funding, representatives from the environmental coalition that sued to halt construction remained alarmed about the project’s legal success, and said the $15 million is a drop in the bucket…
Northern Water plans to begin construction on the Chimney Hollow dam this summer and on the Colorado River Connectivity Channel in 2022.