#Drought news: One class degradation in the #SouthPlatteRiver, #ArkansasRiver, #ColoradoRiver, and #RioGrande basins in #Colorado

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

For much of the drought-monitoring period, the remnants of Hurricane Nicholas continued to produce heavy showers across the South. Toward the end of the period, residual tropical moisture was drawn northward in advance of a strong cold front, further enhancing rainfall in several areas. At the Tuesday morning (September 21) cutoff, rain was falling in several areas—including parts of the Midwest—that have been experiencing dryness or drought. Meanwhile, the Northwest also received some precipitation, including high-elevation snow, providing limited drought relief. In many sections of the country, however, dry weather favored summer crop maturation and harvesting, but reduced topsoil moisture for newly planted winter grains. Some of the most significant short-term dryness, aggravated by late-season heat, existed across the southern Plains. Mostly dry weather also prevailed across the nation’s southwestern quadrant, including central and southern California. Near- or above-normal temperatures covered much of the country, except briefly in the wake of the previously mentioned cold front…

High Plains

Heavy rain clipped some eastern sections of the region, but many areas were dry, or nearly so, during the drought-monitoring period. A surge of heat in advance of a cold front, peaking on September 18, resulted in unusually high temperatures, followed by cooler conditions. On the 18th, there was a flurry of daily-record highs, including 98°F in Chadron, Nebraska; and 96°F in Dickinson, North Dakota. Still, drought conditions in many parts of the High Plains have modestly improved in recent weeks. Due to that beneficial rain, exceptional drought (D4) was removed from central North Dakota. A few other areas also noted drought improvements of up to one category, as moisture has generally increased for newly planted winter wheat—and some pastureland has begun to respond. Even with the rain, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that on September 19, topsoil moisture across the region ranged from 41% very short to short in Nebraska to 88% in Wyoming. Some rangeland and pastures continue to reel from drought that appears to have peaked earlier in the year; on September 19, the Dakotas led the region in very poor to poor ratings—83% in North Dakota and 80% in South Dakota. Wyoming’s rangeland and pastures were rated 71% very poor to poor…

Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending September 21, 2021.


Any meaningful precipitation was confined to the northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest, resulting in modest improvement in the drought depiction for those areas. As colder air arrived on September 19, precipitation changed to snow in Yellowstone National Park and other high-elevation sites in the northern Rockies and Northwest. In Oregon, record-setting rainfall totals for September 18 reached 1.31 inches in Portland and 1.13 inches in Salem. With a 0.42-inch sum, Spokane, Washington, also collected a record-setting total for September 18. Portland’s 3-day (September 17-19) rainfall reached 2.52 inches. However, Washington’s topsoil moisture, as reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, improved only from 100 to 90% very short to short during the week ending September 19. The precipitation had little impact east of the northern Rockies; Montana led the nation on the 19th with topsoil moisture rated 95% very short to short. Meanwhile, producers along and northwest of a line from California to Wyoming continued to deal with abysmal rangeland and pasture conditions, which (as reported by USDA) ranged from 55% very poor to poor in Idaho to 91% in Montana and Washington. Farther south, the 2021 North American monsoon has withdrawn from the Southwest, roughly on schedule, following a summer of beneficial rainfall that provided relief from short-term drought but left significant, underlying long-term drought issues such as groundwater depletion and low reservoir levels. Areas that received substantial monsoon-related rainfall are designated on the map with an “L” label, indicating that long-term drought persists. Elsewhere, several wildfires continued to actively burn, especially in parts of California. The latest “hot spot” for wildfire activity was the southern Sierra Nevada, where the Windy Fire and the KNP Complex were the most significant incidents. The KNP Complex, a 28,000-acre, lightning-sparked fire, was burning in California’s Sequoia National Park. The Windy Fire, which has charred more than 31,000 acres of vegetation and was also igniting by lightning, was burning in several jurisdictions, including the Tule River Indian Reservation and the Sequoia National Forest…


The region remained a contrast between wetness in areas affected by the remnants of Hurricane Nicholas (and previous tropical systems) and rapidly developing dryness (D0) and moderate to extreme drought (D1 to D3) in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, topsoil moisture rated very short to short increased at least 10 percentage points during the week ending September 19 to reach 72% in Oklahoma and 69% in Texas. Broad deterioration of up to one category was observed across the driest areas. One of the driest spots was Tulsa, Oklahoma, where August rainfall totaled 0.78 inch (23% of normal) and September 1-21 precipitation stood at one-tenth of an inch (4% of normal). Tulsa also reported high temperatures of 90°F or greater on each of the last 26 days of August and first 20 days of September, but the 46-day streak finally ended with a high of 80°F on September 21. By September 19, USDA reported that winter wheat was 20% planted in Texas and 15% planted in Oklahoma; that crop will soon need rain to ensure germination and proper establishment…

Looking Ahead

On September 22, a slow-moving cold front will press toward the Atlantic Seaboard, delivering some additional heavy rain. Rain will also linger through Thursday in the lower Great Lakes region. Although cool, dry air will overspread much of the East by Friday, rain will continue into the weekend across New England and southern Florida. However, most of the remainder of the country will experience dry weather during the next 5 days. In fact, any precipitation west of the Mississippi Valley should be limited to showers in the Desert Southwest and Pacific Northwest. From the Pacific Coast to the Plains, summer-like warmth will accompany the mostly dry conditions. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for September 28 – October 2 calls for the likelihood of near- or above-normal temperatures nationwide, except for cooler-than-normal conditions in the Pacific Coast States and the western Great Basin. Meanwhile, below-normal rainfall in most areas from the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast should contrast with wetter-than-normal weather in other areas, including northern California, the Northwest, the Intermountain West, and the central and southern High Plains.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending September 21, 2021.

Study: Dry Future Likely Unavoidable for Southwest, But Reducing Greenhouse Gases Can Still Help — NOAA

Photo credit: NOAA

From NOAA:

For the past two decades, the southwestern United States has been desiccated by one of the most severe long-term droughts—or ‘megadroughts’—of the last 1,200 years. And now, scientists say the risk of similar extreme megadroughts and severe single-year droughts will increase in the future as Earth’s temperature continues to rise, according to a new study in Earth’s Future sponsored by CPO’s Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) program and led by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). The study was also supported by the CPO-led National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).

More specifically, the study showed that, regardless of future levels of greenhouse gas emissions, the warming climate has locked in an elevated risk of intense megadroughts for the region. However, mitigation measures—efforts to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—can and do reduce the risk of intense single-year droughts. The severity of megadroughts declines with mitigation as well, making their impacts less damaging.

“The ongoing Southwestern drought highlights the profound effects dry conditions have on people and the economy,” said Ko Barrett, NOAA Research Senior Advisor for Climate and Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “The study clearly highlights the positive impact that greenhouse gas mitigation could have on the occurrence and severity of Southwestern drought. It is not too late to act and blunt impacts.”

Co-author Kate Marvel, a research scientist at GISS and Columbia University, added, “There is never going to be a temperature threshold we exceed where mitigation is not going to have an impact or where it’s not going to matter.”

The graphs show the risk of severe single-year droughts (left) and 21-year megadroughts (right) by 2100 under low, intermediate, and high emissions scenarios compared to observations and modeled history. The risk of both single-year and 21-year drought events increases with higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Even under a low emissions scenario, the research team found at least a roughly 50% chance of severe megadroughts by the end of the century. Graphic credit: Cook et al. 2021

Megadroughts are intense drought events that last for at least 20 years. The research team selected the severe 21-year megadrought of 2000-2020 and single-year drought of 2002 and as analogs, or representatives, of extreme droughts that could become more prevalent as the climate changes under future emissions trajectories. Severe single-year droughts can drain water resources, wither crops, and fuel fires, causing major economic losses. And the longer droughts last, the more their many impacts get compounded and the longer recovery takes—meaning even one or two really wet years may not be enough for a return to pre-drought conditions.

To see how rising temperatures might contribute to severe droughts like the analogs in the future, the authors examined historical reconstructions, models and instrument measurements of soil moisture data, as well as projections out to the year 2100 using the latest generation of climate models. They also investigated how mitigation under three different emissions scenarios would affect the outcomes.

The results showed that in both the past and the future, as temperatures rise, the factors contributing to drought intensify, increasing the risk of severe short- and long-term droughts on par with the 2002 and 2000-2020 droughts. Notably, the research team found at least a roughly 50% chance of severe megadroughts by the end of the century, even under a low emissions scenario. However, mitigation measures do reduce long-term drought intensity by lowering the risk of extreme single-year droughts during megadrought events, according to the findings.

Rising temperatures, thirsty atmosphere

The authors point to precipitation changes and a “thirstier” atmosphere as the main drivers of increasing extreme drought risk in the Southwest.

Ideally, winter snow in the mountains melts to fill streams and lakes in the spring, its slow release and accompanying spring rains supplying a steady source of water for drinking and agriculture. But warming temperatures disrupt this process. More precipitation falls as rain instead of snow, and the smaller snowpack melts earlier. If the soil is already dry from the previous year, it may simply absorb the melting snow, instead of leaving excess that runs off into bodies of water, said lead author Ben Cook, research associate at NASA GISS, an adjunct associate research scientist at Columbia University, and a member of the Drought Task Force organized by CPO’s MAPP program. This is one variable that has contributed to historic droughts in California and other parts of the west in 2021.

As the atmosphere warms, it also gets temporarily drier, or “thirstier.” Dry air acts like a sponge, absorbing water out of plants and soil. Because warm air can hold more moisture than cold air, rising temperatures mean more moisture getting pulled from the ground into the atmosphere.

Results show that both of these factors contribute to pronounced, widespread drying in all three warming scenarios.

The maps show the projected change in summer soil moisture by the late 21st century under low, intermediate, and high emissions scenarios. Darker shades of brown mean drier soil and darker shades of green mean wetter soil. Both precipitation changes and a “thirstier” atmosphere contribute to pronounced, widespread drying under all three scenarios. Credit: NOAA

The southwestern United States has been prone to drought for millennia, and as the warming temperatures make the soil drier, that natural dryness becomes the backdrop for a higher risk of severe droughts, Marvel said.

Mitigate or Adapt? Yes.

Despite a dry future, mitigation can still reduce drought severity and adaptation can help communities plan for the worst. Mitigation can include preventing new emissions, such as by shifting to clean energy, or removing greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, such as by planting trees or through technology. In contrast, adaptation refers to actions that help humans and the environment prepare for changes that are already happening or cannot be avoided.

“Mitigation has clear benefits for reducing the frequency and severity of single-year droughts,” Cook said. “We may have more of these 20-year drought periods, but if we can avoid the really sharp, short-term, extreme spikes, then that may be something that’s easier to adapt to.”

The graph shows the risk of extreme single-year droughts during 21-year megadrought events under low, intermediate, and high emissions scenario. Results show that mitigation measures reduce long-term drought intensity by lowering the risk of extreme single-year droughts during megadrought events. Credit: NOAA

This means even if global warming is not halted immediately, taking action can still help, said Marvel.

“There’s going to be a new normal regardless,” Marvel said. “There’s going to have to be some adaptation to a drier regional climate. But the degree of that adaptation—how often these droughts happen, what happens to the drought risk—that’s basically under our control.”

NOAA and NASA’s freely available data are a vital part of both mitigation and adaptation efforts. By studying and understanding our planet, scientists, resource managers, farmers, policymakers and others can make decisions that not only help mitigate climate change, but adapt to a warmer future as well.

Dire Federal #Water Projections Demand Urgent Action from State Leaders — Water for #Colorado

The Colorado River meanders through ranch land near Kremmling on Aug. 17, 2021. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Here’s the release from Water for Colorado:

The Water for Colorado Coalition today released the following statement in response to the release of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s 2-Year and 5-Year Probabilistic Projections. The projections, which come shortly after the first-ever Tier 1 shortage declaration in the Colorado River Basin, indicate a high likelihood that water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead could reach critically low levels as early as next year, and demonstrate the immediate need for action.

“These latest projections from the Bureau of Reclamation further demonstrate the risk that Colorado faces as water levels in Lakes Powell and Mead are likely to continue to decline. Our state is rapidly warming, and flows in several of our major rivers have dropped drastically in the face of ongoing drought and climate change. Coloradans are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate and today’s projections confirm that incremental solutions to protect the Colorado River and our state’s water future are no longer enough.

“These new projections signal a paradigm shift in Colorado River Basin conditions, and they must be met with bold climate and water management action by leaders that prepare our state for a hotter and drier future. We must improve protection for, and restoration of, our rivers and watersheds through policy change and targeted funding for high-impact water and river pilots and projects. Additionally, Colorado can – and should – implement common-sense strategies that prioritize conservation and efficiency in the near term to help increase our resilience to drought and provide long-term water security for all Coloradans. As Colorado works to update its state Water Plan, leaders must continue to engage with all communities across the state to understand local needs while also planning for how to best deploy any infusion of federal or state funding to support the protection and restoration of working lands and healthy, flowing rivers.

Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2019 of the #coriver big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck

“As climate change continues to reduce flows in our rivers and threaten Colorado’s water supply, it is time to acknowledge that we are living in an era of less and thus must take meaningful action to improve the resilience of our rivers for all people, wildlife, and economies that rely on them.”

About the Water for Colorado Coalition

The Water for Colorado Coalition is a group of nine organizations dedicated to ensuring our rivers support everyone who depends on them, working toward resilience to climate change, planning for sustained and more severe droughts, and enabling every individual in Colorado to have a voice and the opportunity to take action to advocate for sustainable conservation-based solutions for our state’s water future. The community of organizations that make up the Water for Colorado Coalition represent diverse perspectives and share a commitment to protecting Colorado’s water future to secure a reliable water supply for the state and for future generations.

11th Annual Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin Water Forum “Negotiating Resilience”, November 3-4, 2021 — #Colorado Mesa University Hutchins #Water Center

USBR releases updated projections of #ColoradoRiver system conditions: Modeling results assist drought response planning in the Colorado River Basin #COriver #aridification

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Becki Bryant and Patti Aaron):

The Bureau of Reclamation today [September 22, 2021] released updated modeling projections of major reservoir levels within the Colorado River system over the next five years. These projections are used by Reclamation and water users in the basin for future water management planning. The new projections show continued elevated risk of Lake Powell and Lake Mead reaching critically-low elevations as a result of the historic drought and low-runoff conditions in the Colorado River Basin.

Today’s announcement comes as the Administration pursues a whole-of-government approach to drought mitigation via the Interagency Drought Relief Working Group, co-chaired by the Department of the Interior. The Working Group is coordinating with partners across the federal government, providing assistance to impacted communities, and developing long-term solutions to climate change.

Projection of Lake Powell end-of-December reservoir elevations. The colored region, or cloud, for the hydrology scenario represents the minimum, 10th percentile, 90th percentile, and maximum of the projected reservoir elevations. Solid lines represent historical elevations (black), and median projected elevations for the scenario (yellow). Dashed gray lines represent important elevations for operations, and the vertical line marks the adoption of the 2019 Drought Contingency Plans. Graphic credit: Bureau of Reclamation

Lake Powell Projections

At Lake Powell, the projections indicate the potential of falling below minimum power pool as early as July 2022 should extremely dry hydrology continue into next year. Beyond 2022, the chance Lake Powell could fall below minimum power pool ranges from about 25% to 35%. Elevation 3,525 feet, the target elevation in Lake Powell, has an almost 90% chance of being reached next year. That target elevation provides a 35 vertical-foot buffer designed to minimize the risk of dropping below the minimum power pool elevation of 3,490 feet and balances the need to protect the infrastructure at Glen Canyon Dam and meet current operational obligations to the Lower Basin States of Arizona, California and Nevada.

“The latest outlook for Lake Powell is troubling,” said Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Basin Regional Director Wayne Pullan. “This highlights the importance of continuing to work collaboratively with the Basin States, Tribes and other partners toward solutions.”

After consultation with – and acknowledgement from – all seven Basin States and other partners, under the emergency provisions of the 2019 Drought Response Operations Agreement (DROA), Reclamation started supplemental water deliveries in July 2021 to Lake Powell from the upper reservoirs of Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa and Navajo. Those supplemental deliveries will provide up to an additional 181 thousand acre-feet of water to Lake Powell by the end of the 2021.

As the Upper Basin States continue to work towards the development of a Drought Operations plan that will govern potential future supplemental deliveries, previous modeling assumptions regarding any additional or continued DROA releases have been removed to provide a clearer representation of future risk. The removal of these assumptions was the main contributor in the increase in risk between the last set of projections released in June of this year.

Projection of Lake Mead end-of-December reservoir elevations. The colored region, or cloud, for the hydrology scenario represents the minimum, 10th percentile, 90th percentile, and maximum of the projected reservoir elevations. Solid lines represent historical elevations (black), and median projected elevations for the scenario (yellow). Dashed gray lines represent important elevations for operations, and the vertical line marks the adoption of the 2019 Drought Contingency Plans. Graphic credit: Bureau of Reclamation

Lake Mead Projections

At Lake Mead, today’s projections indicate the chance of Lake Mead declining to elevation 1,025 feet (the third shortage trigger) is as high as 66% in 2025, and that there is a 22% chance of the reservoir elevation dropping to 1,000 feet the same year.

Reclamation continues to work with all seven Colorado River Basin States to address current conditions in the Colorado River Basin.

“This five-year probability table underscores the need for additional actions beyond the 2007 Guidelines and the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan to be taken to enhance our efforts to protect Lake Mead, Lake Powell and the Colorado River system overall,” said Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

Most of the flow of the Colorado River originates in the Rocky Mountains. The Upper Basin experienced an exceptionally dry spring in 2021, with April to July runoff into Lake Powell totaling just 26% of average, despite near-average snowfall last winter. Total Colorado River system storage today is 39% of capacity, down from 49% at this time last year.

Today’s release also includes updated presentations that utilize additional forecast information to improve public understanding of Reclamation’s future hydrologic projections. In keeping with its commitment to better inform all water users and the public regarding the hydrologic tools available, Reclamation has added in-depth information on its website about modeling and projections in the Colorado River system. A new interactive tool also allows users to explore projected reservoir conditions under a range of inflow forecasts.

“We’re providing detailed information on our modeling and projections to further generate productive discussions about the future of Lake Powell and Lake Mead based on the best data available,” said Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Basin Regional Director Jacklynn Gould. “Being prepared to adopt further actions to protect the elevations at these reservoirs remains a Reclamation priority and focus.”

To view the most recent Colorado River system projections, visit https://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/g4000/riverops/crss-5year-projections.html.

John Kerry’s Sales Pitch to Save the Planet (Actually species, the planet will survive #ClimateChange) — The New York Times

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, left, talks with China’s special representative on climate change Xie Zhenhua prior to the opening of the COP21 conference in Le Bourget, France on Saturday. (Francois Mori / AP)

From The New York Times (Lisa Friedman):

John Kerry, the former United States senator and secretary of state, is now a kind of pedigreed traveling salesman for the environment, shuttling from country to country, with an urgent pitch to save the planet.

He’s visited 14 countries in nine months, some of them more than once. He flies commercial these days and, at 77, the travel is tiring. But President Biden’s special climate envoy is under mounting pressure.

The graph shows average annual global temperatures since 1880 (source data) compared to the long-term average (1901-2000). The zero line represents the long-term average temperature for the whole planet; blue and red bars show the difference above or below average for each year. (These data were among the sources of data used in the State of the Climate in 2020’s temperature analysis, but here are compared to the 20th-century average. In the report, they are compared to the 1981-2010 average.)

With just 40 days before leaders from around the world gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for a pivotal United Nations climate summit, Mr. Kerry needs to convince other countries to commit to sharply turn away in this decade from burning coal, oil and gas and cut the resulting carbon emissions, which are heating the planet to dangerous levels.

His sales approach is simple. “We’ve got to do what the science tells us to do,” he said.

But his task is enormous. Mr. Kerry is trying to reassert American leadership and illustrate Mr. Biden’s claim that “America is back.” That’s a difficult proposition following the go-it-alone approach of former President Donald J. Trump, who questioned the science behind climate change and pulled the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord, the only one out of 197 nations to withdraw.

Allies openly ask Mr. Kerry whether they can still count on the United States. “I said ‘Look, come next election, you may have Trump back,” R.K. Singh, India’s power minister said a day after meeting with Mr. Kerry. “So then what happens?”

Mr. Kerry’s mission is further complicated by political fissures at home and the fact that President Biden’s ambitious climate agenda may not survive a divided Congress.

Republican leaders argue that transitioning away from the fossil fuels that have underpinned the American economy for more than a century risks national security…

Mr. Kerry described his decision to return to government as “what the fight of public life is all about.”

“I deeply believe that this is a major crisis for our world,” he said, as he relaxed in his hotel suite after a battery of meetings with Indian ministers and business leaders. “And this is a moment where we have a chance to do something about it. And who can say no to a president of the United States who asks you to do that at this particular moment in time.”


His trip last week ended without a commitment from India, the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitting country, that it would raise its ambitions to fight climate change. He ended a recent trip to China, the top emitter, similarly empty-handed. Brazil, which plans to continue burning coal for the next 30 years and where deforestation of the Amazon is a major contributor to climate change, skipped a virtual climate meeting convened by Mr. Biden last week.

Richard N. Haass, president of the Council of Foreign Relations, said signs don’t portend well for Mr. Kerry’s efforts and the looming U.N. summit in November. “Glasgow will come up short,” he predicted.

Still, Mr. Kerry pushes on. He plans to meet again with China’s top climate diplomat, Xie Zhenhua. It will be the 19th discussion between the two men since January, according to his staff.

As part of the Paris accord, countries agreed to restrain the increase in average global temperature “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and, preferably 1.5 degrees, compared with temperatures before the Industrial Revolution. For every fraction of a degree of warming, the world will see more frequent, intense and deadly heat waves, wildfires, drought and floods as well as species extinction.

What’s more, a new analysis released last week by the United Nations found that the Paris commitment is insufficient; even if countries carry through on the promises they made in 2015, the global average temperature will rise 2.7 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by century’s end. “The world is on a catastrophic pathway,” United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said.

The goal at Glasgow is to compel the biggest polluting countries to commit to action that is more ambitious than outlined in the Paris accord.

Mr. Kerry said he believed that nations would rise to meet the challenge.

“I’m an optimist,” he said. “I think most of the problems on Earth are caused by human beings. And if we cause them, we ought to be able to solve them or prevent them.”


As secretary of state during the Obama administration, Mr. Kerry was confident that the United States and China could cooperate on climate and end the “You go first. No, you go first,” stalemate that had stalled action for decades.

So he initiated secret negotiations, including hosting Chinese leaders at a Legal Sea Foods restaurant on the docks of Boston Harbor. That laid the groundwork for a joint pledge in 2014 by the United States and China to cut emissions, albeit at different paces. The following year in Paris, nations took the unprecedented step of pledging climate action in their own countries — an accord that Mr. Kerry helped craft.

Mr. Kerry’s approach to diplomacy remains largely the same today: optimistic and relentless, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former aides and colleagues.

“He doesn’t believe in walking away, and that’s his strength as a negotiator. If the door is closed, he looks for an open window,” said Martin Indyk, Mr. Kerry’s former Mideast envoy.

“He’s quintessentially American,” Mr. Indyk said. “He never met a problem he didn’t think he couldn’t solve.”

Aides say he is focused on details, texting his staff late into the night to seek a country’s solar capacity statistics or economic data or with more obscure questions, like Mr. Modi’s stated spiritual connection to environmental issues…

During his brief hiatus from public life, Mr. Kerry created an interdisciplinary climate program at Yale University, his alma mater, and launched “World War Zero,” a bipartisan group of world leaders and celebrities to combat climate change…

Friends and colleagues were not surprised when in January he accepted Mr. Biden’s offer to serve as the first presidential climate envoy.

Retirement never suited Kerry, who wants to be in the arena, said Thomas Vallely, a longtime friend who is a senior adviser for Mainland Southeast Asia at Harvard University’s Ash Center. “This is like bullfighting. He’s addicted.”

Upon his return to government, Mr. Kerry said he found that the Trump years damaged America’s credibility, saying it “was chewed up and spat out” after Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement…

As a result, Mr. Kerry’s approach is a delicate attempt to try to understand what countries need, as opposed to making demands. In India, for example, he announced a partnership to help the country meet its goal of ramping up its renewable energy capacity.

He won’t even suggest what emissions target should be set by China, the biggest emitter, even as that country plans to develop 247 gigawatts of coal power domestically, nearly six times Germanyʼs entire coal-fired capacity. “I don’t want to be in a position where China reads it and they say, ‘Oh, there’s Kerry, telling us what we have to do.’”

Mr. Kerry and his team of about 35 policy experts have had some success. On Tuesday, President Xi Jinping announced at the United Nations that China will stop financing overseas coal projects, an issue that Mr. Kerry had made a priority during his discussions with Chinese leaders. Earlier this year Canada, South Korea and Japan raised their climate targets, all in large part because of prodding from the United States. And several administration officials said that President Biden’s announcement Tuesday that he intends to double aid on climate change to developing countries was a result of direct conversations with Mr. Kerry who argued that increasing climate finance will be critical to the success of the Glasgow summit.

Mr. Kerry insisted he is “hopeful” that the biggest economies will take meaningful climate action in Glasgow, if not because of the scientific imperative but because of market forces. Capital is shifting away from fossil fuels and towards new global investment in wind, solar and other renewable energy that does not emit greenhouse gases, he said. About 70 percent of the $530 billion spent worldwide on new power generation this year is expected to be invested in renewable energy, according to the International Energy Agency. Technology is improving, the costs of clean energy are dropping and markets are moving.

“You know, right now, everything’s a question mark,” Mr. Kerry said. But, he added, “I think the world is coming around.”

Jackpot: #Colorado stimulus funds boost #water grants to $13M — @WaterEdCO

ooking west across the 445 acre-foot Windy Gap Reservoir, which straddles the Colorado River (Summer 2011). Photo By: Jeff Dahlstrom, NCWCD via Water Education Colorado

From Water Education Colorado (Allen Best):

Thanks to a major infusion of COVID-related state stimulus cash earlier this year, nearly $13M in grants was awarded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board on Sept. 16 to projects designed to improve irrigation systems, aid the environment, improve water storage, and reconnect a critical channel on the Colorado River in Grand County.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has historically dispensed $7.5 million annually in grants to assist projects that align with the goals of the 2015 Colorado Water Plan.

Thanks to the state stimulus funding, state legislators delivered $15 million in cash to the grant program, more than double last year’s amount. The funds must be awarded by July 2023.

In addition to supporting the water plan, the grants are designed to benefit multiple segments of the state’s economy, according to Anna Mauss, the CWCB’s chief financial officer.

“That can be hard to define,” she says, “but we are looking at solutions that benefit all sectors.”

The projects and their grants can be found here:


Environment and recreation projects represented the largest slice of the pie at $6.6 million. The second largest slice, at $4.2 million, went to water storage and supply projects. Four agriculture projects together got $1.5 million.

The largest recipient of grants funds, at $3.8 million, is the Windy Gap Dam bypass, a project that will reconnect a critical channel on the Colorado River in Grand County. It has federal, state and county funding and cash from conservation organizations and landowners, all working under the umbrella of the Northern Water Conservancy District, which oversees Windy Gap for its owner, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Proposed bypass channel for the Colorado River with Windy Gap Reservoir being taken offline, part of the agreements around Northern Water’s Windy Gap Firming project.

The dam was constructed in the 1980s just below the confluence of the Fraser with the Colorado River west of Granby. Aquatic life has since diminished. The new channel is to reconnect the Colorado downstream from the dam with its upstream habitat.

According to the application, the project will expand the river’s gold medal trout fishery and make this segment more resilient in the face of increased water diversions, wildfires and climate change.

Center pivot sprinklers in the Arikaree River basin to irrigate corn. Each sprinkler is supplied by deep wells drilled into the High Plains (Ogallala) aquifer.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture got nearly $300,000 for a soil health project that will focus on the Republican River watershed for three years. Program directors expect 10 farmers to participate, incorporating water-saving actions into their land-use planning in a way that will conserve 47,000 acre-feet annually. In this way, according to the grant application, the project will also help sustain the Ogallala Aquifer.

Barr Lake State Park photo via Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Two other projects getting funding are on the Front Range. At Barr Lake, located along Interstate 76 northeast of Denver, the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Co. plans to enlarge the storage capacity. A new study of regional extreme precipitation by the Colorado Dam Safety found that raising the spillway culvert would safely accommodate 1,500 acre-feet of additional storage. This, however, will inundate structures in the surrounding state park. The $279,000 granted the company will provide partial funding to mitigate the higher water levels on the park facilities.

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

Trout Unlimited was awarded $300,000 for efforts to restore populations of the greenback cutthroat trout, Colorado’s state fish, at the headwaters of the Cache la Poudre River. The species is native to the Eastern Slope, but the Poudre is augmented by diversions from the headwaters of the Colorado River in Rocky Mountain National Park. Most prominent of those diversions is the Grand River Ditch. The $300,000 granted to Trout Unlimited will go to creating a fish barrier in the Grand Ditch where it flows across the Continental Divide and into a tributary of the Poudre River.

David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said that the project will take about 10 years. The greenback is currently federally listed as threatened by the Environmental Protection Agency, but Trout Unlimited hopes that a recovery stronghold on the Poudre can result in delisting. The full project will provide connected habitat for the trout species to more than 38 miles of stream and more than 110 acres of lakes and reservoirs.

Long-time Colorado journalist Allen Best publishes Big Pivots, an e-magazine that covers energy and other transitions in Colorado. He can be reached at allen@bigpivots.com and allen.best@comcast.net.

The Ute Indian Tribe #Water Claims against Deptartment of Interior/State of #Utah Dismissed — Utah Attorney General’s Office #GreenRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Green River Basin

Here’s the release from the Utah Attorney General’s office (Richard Piatt):

A federal [United States District Court for the District of Columbia] judge dismissed claims in a lawsuit filed by the Ute Indian Tribe against the U.S. Department of Interior, the State of Utah, and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District. The Tribe alleged mismanagement of water-development projects in northeastern Utah.

In 2018, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation filed two lawsuits against the Department of Interior regarding water issues. The State of Utah intervened in one action and was later named as a defendant. The suits claimed that the federal government was perpetuating historical discrimination regarding water rights on Tribal lands, violating the Tribe’s sovereignty, and questioning whether the government had fulfilled necessary trust responsibilities.

“All along, the State of Utah has maintained there was no discrimination regarding the Tribe’s water rights, and we’re grateful the judge affirmed that,” said Teresa Wilhelmsen, Director of the Utah Division of Water Rights and State Engineer. “Difficult emotions can arise from cases like this, and the State is ready to move forward. It intends to continue working with the Tribe in the administration of the Tribe’s significant water rights in a cooperative and mutually productive way.”

The court dismissed 12 of the 16 claims against the United States and the State of Utah and transferred the remaining four claims to the District of Utah Federal Court.

Read the judge’s ruling here.

More on Ute Tribe water litigation:
Background and Joint Statement by State of Utah

In 2018, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation filed lawsuits against the United States Department of Interior in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (CFC) in Washington, D.C.

Among other things, the lawsuits alleged that:

(1) the United States breached several trust, contractual, and constitutional obligations to the Tribe;
(2) a 1965 agreement quantified the Tribe’s reserved water rights;
(3) the 1992 Central Utah Project Completion Act (CUPCA), enacted in part to settle the Tribe’s water rights and water right claims, actually took Tribal property; and
(4) only the Tribe has jurisdiction over Tribal water rights.

CFC case brought similar assertions but sought only money damages while the District Court case sought declaratory relief relating to the water issues.

The State of Utah intervened in the initial U.S District Court case as a sovereign, having a direct interest in the administration of water across the state on behalf of all Utah water users, including the Tribe. The Ute Tribe then amended the complaint to name the State of Utah, Governor Herbert, the Utah State Engineer, and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District as defendant parties and included the state in some of the claims brought against the United States. The Tribe also asserted an additional claim, alleging that the State defendants had historically deprived the Tribe of due process and equal protection rights.

In July 2021, D.C. District Court Judge Carl J. Nichols heard argument on the defendants’ separate motions to dismiss the lawsuit and, by Order dated September 15, 2021, granted those motions, dismissing the Tribe’s trust, contract, jurisdictional, and civil rights claims. The Court held that the Tribe had not demonstrated specific, enforceable trust duties that compelled the United States to build or rehabilitate the facilities the Tribe demanded. In addition, the Court noted that the Tribe had waived the claims, or otherwise settled them under CUPCA and by a separate settlement negotiated between the United States and the Tribe in 2012. The Court also held that several of the Tribe’s claims were untimely. In dismissing the Tribe’s separate but related lawsuit earlier in February 2021, the CFC had also cited the Tribe’s waiver of claims in the 2012 settlement and CUPCA. The CFC decision also noted that CUPCA payments “put the Tribe in the same position it would have enjoyed” had the water facilities contemplated in the 1960s been constructed and that the CUPCA settled “once and for all” the Tribe’s water claims. The CFC noted that the Tribe has received over $354 million in compensation pursuant to that Act.