Final Topsoil Moisture Short/Very Short for the Year! — @usda_oce

Comparisons (bottom number in each state) are to this time last year.

MT still leads the US in short/very short. CO/NM also above 80%. Huge jumps in the Southeast are from recent dryness. #drought

November 2021 Departure from Normal Temperature map for #Colorado via the High Plains Regional Climate Center #ActOnClimate

Map credit: The High Plains Regional Climate Center

#California, #Arizona and #Nevada in talks on new plan to save #ColoradoRiver water — The Los Angeles Times #COriver #aridification

Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with
@GreatLakesPeck.

From The Los Angeles Times (Ian James):

Two and a half years after signing a deal aimed at averting a damaging crisis along the Colorado River, water officials from California, Arizona and Nevada are discussing plans to take even less water from the shrinking river and leave it in Lake Mead in an effort to prevent the reservoir from falling to dangerously low levels.

Representatives of water agencies from the three states said they are firming up the details of a deal that would leave an additional 500,000 acre-feet of water in the reservoir next year, and the same amount again in 2023 — about double the quantity of water used annually by Las Vegas and the rest of southern Nevada.

For California, the deal would mean participating in water reductions prior to Lake Mead reaching levels that would otherwise trigger mandatory cuts.

The talks took on urgency this summer after federal projections showed growing risks of Lake Mead falling to critically low levels, despite plans for mandatory cutbacks throughout the Southwest that the states agreed to in 2019.

With the reservoir in a first-ever shortage and those cuts still insufficient, water management officials settled on a goal of together leaving half a million acre-feet of additional water in the reservoir instead of sending it flowing to farms, cities and tribal lands. The stored water would be roughly as much as 1.5 million average single-family households use in a year.

“We’ve got to stabilize the lake with this plan,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. He said representatives of California, Arizona and Nevada developed the framework of the deal within about two months after they saw projections showing growing risks of Lake Mead dropping to lows that would trigger much larger water reductions in all three states.

“I think coming together in that short a period of time is indicative of urgency we’re feeling to do more,” Buschatzke said. “If the lake keeps falling, cuts are going to be deeper and deeper and deeper. So I think it’s indicative of the risks.”

The deal would nearly double the reductions in planned water deliveries next year among the three states beyond those already planned under the 2019 agreement, called the Drought Contingency Plan. This new proposal, dubbed the 500+ Plan, would partially involve securing money to pay some water users to voluntarily relinquish water.

The water would come from various sources, including farmers who would be paid for leaving portions of their land dry, tribes that would contribute water supplies, and water agencies that would leave some water in Lake Mead instead of taking it out as planned.

Negotiations on the details are continuing, and officials from California and Arizona said they hope to have the overarching agreement ready to be signed next month at [the Colorado River Water Users Association] conference in Las Vegas.

Arizona has pledged $40 million toward the deal. Board members of the Southern Nevada Water Authority are scheduled to consider approving up to $20 million in contributions this week.

The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is scheduled to consider the proposed agreement next month…

If the details of the proposal come together as planned, 500,000 acre-feet of water over two years would translate into water levels about 16 feet higher in Lake Mead…

For now, the talks have focused on lining up funds and water for two years. But Buschatzke said it’s intended to be a five-year plan, lasting until the current agreement expires at the end of 2026, by which time the states will need to have negotiated new rules for dealing with shortages.

If the winter were to bring heavy snow to the Rocky Mountains, it could still help ease the shortages. But the region’s water managers said they’ve decided to plan for more of the dismal runoff they’ve seen in the watershed during the past two years of extreme heat and parched conditions.

Bill Hasencamp, MWD’s manager of Colorado River resources, said if such extreme dryness persists for another year or two, then Mead could end up at such low levels that cuts would become “unmanageable.”

[…]

When Buschatzke testified in a congressional hearing on the Colorado River last month, he noted that snowpack in the Colorado River Basin peaked at 89% of average this year, but runoff in the watershed was only 33% of average.

“This phenomenon is likely the result of the hotter and drier conditions caused by climate change,” Buschatzke said in his written testimony. “This trend is one that water managers must take into account as we plan for the future of the Colorado River.”

[…]

Since 2000, the Colorado River has been ravaged by a series of mostly dry years, which have been compounded by the heating of the planet with the burning of fossil fuels. In that time, the flow of the Colorado River has declined nearly 20% below the 20th century average.

Scientists have estimated that about half the decrease in runoff in the watershed since 2000 has been caused by unprecedented warming. And this heat-driven aridification is projected to significantly worsen as temperatures continue to climb.

Brad Udall, a water and climate scientist at Colorado State University, recently likened the planned water reductions under the existing deal to a parachute — one that is too small and being opened too close to the ground…

Given the alarming declines in the river’s reservoirs, the flaw with the parachute analogy is that the end of the story would put the parachutist safely on the ground, Udall said.

“We’re landing on the edge of a cliff, if you will. And there’s still further to fall. We need another parachute here,” Udall said.

Hopefully that next parachute will be ready well before 2027, he said, when the existing rules expire, and the Southwest needs to have long-term plans in place for adapting to a hotter, drier watershed and a river that yields less water.

Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam. Lake Mead last month [May 2021] fell to its lowest level since the Hoover Dam was built in 1936. The shoreline has dropped 45 meters since the reservoir was last full in 2000. Photo by Ken Neubecker via American Rivers

#Colorado issues cease-and-desist order for #Nederland-area mine that’s leaking heavy metals into water — The Colorado Sun

Barker Meadows Dam Construction

From The Colorado Sun (Michael Booth):

Tests at the Cross and Caribou mine that drains into drinking water supplies show elevated levels of lead, cadmium and other toxic minerals, as the state threatens high fines.

State water quality officials have issued a cease and desist order and threatened substantial fines against owners of the Caribou gold mine above Nederland because of heavy metals leaking into drinking water sources, hammering Grand Island Resources over repeated violations.

The dripping heavy metals are not a current threat to Middle Boulder Creek, Barker Reservoir or the parts of Boulder County downstream, state officials said. But they ordered the owners to build a new containment and cleanup system, and threatened to impose fines of up to $54,833 per day for each of multiple violations for the toxic metals and for failing to report test results.

“A notice of violation is one of the most serious actions we take, and I think this shows that we really are committed to protecting the resource up there,” said Kelly Morgan, an environmental protection specialist for water quality in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “This is a big deal to us.”

In a statement from a Nederland address, Grand Island Resources acknowledged the violations, and said that it had been moving since before the state’s notice to solve the problems and “replace the last 50 years of antiquated and obsolete water purification methods and treatments.”

“We are working hand in hand with federal, state and local agencies. . . to make all the necessary investments and capital improvements that were not made by previous operators of the Cross and Caribou Mines,” the statement said. The company said it has hired a top engineering team to design new water capture and treatment facilities as ordered by the state.

Nederland wants the Boulder County Commissioners to help monitor the situation, and is keeping careful track of water supplies fed by Coon Track Creek, where the mine discharges water, and downstream waters, town trustee Alan Apt said. Nederland over the summer passed a “natural rights of rivers” resolution for exactly this reason: protecting western Boulder County’s natural resources for the public, he noted…

The once-thriving mine is near popular backcountry attractions a few miles northwest and northeast of Nederland, including Eldora ski area, to the Rainbow Lakes and Fourth of July trailheads, to the Caribou Ranch Open Space playgrounds…

Apt said Grand Island wants to increase the amount of ore it mines at Cross and Caribou and hopes to build an ore crushing and processing plant at the site…

The company’s attorney Ed Byrne said Boulder County approved an ore processing facility in 2008 and Grand Island still plans to build it, which would save dozens of truck trips a day…

In terms of how high the eventual fines might be, Byrne said, “there was no chemical spill or release of ore processing water. The higher fine levels are typically reserved for damaging or reckless releases, not rare exceedances of stringent numerical aquatic life standards.”

[…]

The state’s cease and desist order says mine owners failed to make some required pollutant reports in March and April of this year. When the state looked deeper, it found pollutant violations in those months but also many more alleged violations before and after, spanning a period of December 2020 through August 2021.

In April, for example, Cross/Caribou self-reported copper traces of 50 micrograms per liter of water, when the state standard is a daily maximum of 20. In January, the mine reported lead of 10 micrograms per liter, when the state 30-day average limit was 3.8. The state’s order charges the mine with violating the Colorado Water Quality Control Act. The notice of violations and cease and desist order in early November say the state is continuing to investigate and may have “additional enforcement actions.”

[…]

Grand Island Resources must also answer to the state’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, and will be subject to a hearing in front of the division’s board in mid-December. The company was trying to make improvements in recent months, Morgan said, but the state hasn’t found them effective…

The violations related to failing to report tainted water were not intentional, Byrne, the company’s attorney, said. Some were “a misinterpretation on our part of the state reporting protocols,” he said, and others were related to weather delaying timely deliveries to a lab in Montana.

Greeley wastewater plant uses the (nitrification) force for sustainability — City of #Greeley

Wastewater treatment basin construction. Photo credit: City of Greeley

From the City of Greeley:

There’s a feeding frenzy going on in east Greeley and it has nothing to do with cows. Rather, Greeley’s “bugs” are chomping away while keeping the city’s wastewater environmentally sustainable.

These bugs — what our wastewater treatment operators lovingly refer to as the “Nitrifiers” and PAOs — have been happy little workers for decades. But soon, their microscopic lives will change for the better.

Wastewater treatment basin construction. Photo credit: City of Greeley

Keeping the bugs happy

Let’s face it, cleaning wastewater has never been glamorous, but these bugs might as well have a red carpet to an all-star premiere where they will munch away in the all-you-can-eat line at the buffet. Put simply, the city is working to expand their buffet table. In wastewater terms, the city is building new treatment basins where microorganisms that make up the city’s nitrifying force can eat more alongside a lot more friends.

Removing nutrients to meet new state regulation

A new regulation, also known as “Reg. 85” by the Water Quality Control Division, mandates that municipalities work even harder to reduce the amount of “nutrients” that are put back into bodies of water such as the Poudre River after treatment at the Greeley Wastewater Treatment and Reclamation Facility. There, the waste is cleaned and filtered out, with remaining treated water pumped back downstream of the Poudre River.

The regulation mandates municipalities reduce nitrogen and phosphorous levels in their effluent (treated wastewater). Nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorous — are byproducts of human and animal waste and common fertilizers. Excess nutrients in water creates blooms of algae, which use up the oxygen in the water that marine life need to survive. Too much algae can kill off an entire food chain in bodies of water such as the growing ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico.

Creating the right conditions for biology to work

The city’s job is to keep the feeding frenzy going, using biology to keep the algae fuel to a minimum. In the right conditions, monitored 24/7, nitrifiers and PAOs (phosphorous accumulating organisms) feed on the nutrients present in the municipal waste. That leads them through a complex biological process in which the nitrifiers convert ammonia into nitrogen gas, which is released into the atmosphere. PAOs collect phosphorus in the waste and congeals where operators can remove it. That is later applied to agricultural land as fertilizer.

Construction of new basins to meet regulation

To meet the new requirements, the city is undertaking a $35.5 million construction project at the WTRF. Greeley is constructing specialized treatment basins that will upgrade the site’s organic treatment capacity. The city also is rerouting the water flow in the basins, allowing the ability to take a basin off line while keeping the bugs happy and complying with the new state regulations. This is the first phase of scheduled plant improvements through 2036.

What the construction and enhancements do now to remove more nutrients will potentially earn the city extra time before having to implement even stricter nutrient removal guidelines that will come into play in the future.

Treating wastewater is getting more complicated, but Greeley operators are on top of making the entire process more environmentally sustainable so not only the state but Mother Nature can be happy – just like the bugs.

Quest begins to drill Antarctica’s oldest ice — BBC

Antarctic ice core waiting to be shelved at the National Ice Core Lab March 2010

From BBC (Jonathan Amos):

Efforts are about to get under way to drill a core of ice in Antarctica that contains a record of Earth’s climate stretching back 1.5 million years.

A European team will set up its equipment at one of the highest locations on the White Continent, for an operation likely to take four years.

The project aims to recover a near-3km-long cylinder of frozen material.

Scientists hope this ice can help them explain why Earth’s ice ages flipped in frequency in the deep past.

“Beyond EPICA”, as the project is known, is a follow-up to a similar venture at the turn of the millennium called simply EPICA (European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica).

The new endeavour will base itself a short distance away from the original at Little Dome C, an area located roughly 40km from the Italian-French Concordia Station, on the east Antarctic plateau.

At an altitude of 3,233m above sea level and over 1,000km from the coast, Little Dome C will be an inhospitable place to work. Even in summer, temperatures won’t get much above -35C.

The camp where the drill team will base itself was set up in the 2019/20. This coming season will largely be about putting in the necessary drilling infrastructure. But the technicians do aim to at least start on their core quest by getting down beyond the first 100m.

This should take the borehole past the lightly compacted snow layers, or firn, into the impervious ice layers that are the real interest for scientists.

The deep ice in Antarctica contains tiny bubbles of air. These little gas pockets are a direct snapshot of the historic atmosphere.

Scientists can read off the levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping components, such as methane.

Analysing the atoms in the water-ice molecules encasing the gases also gives an indication of the temperature that persisted at the time of the snowfall that gave rise to the ice.

When researchers drilled the original EPICA core, they uncovered a narrative of past climate temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide stretching back 800,000 years.

It’s become one of the key climate data-sets of recent decades.

It showed that CO2 and temperature moved in lock-step. Whenever the Earth went into an ice age and temperature fell, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would also decline. And when the climate warmed back up again, the CO2 rose in parallel.

These cycles occurred roughly every 100,000 years – a phasing that is most likely linked to slight shifts in the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit (a larger or smaller ellipse) around the Sun.

But it is recognised from an alternative record of past climate, which has been deciphered from ocean sediments, that deeper back in time the ice age cycle was much shorter – at about every 41,000 years.

That is a period probably dominated by the way the Earth tilts back and forth on its axis. But why the switch occurred, no-one is really sure. The new Beyond Epica core may contain some clues if its ices can extend the climate narrative back to 1.5 million years ago.

“We believe this ice core will give us information on the climate of the past and on the greenhouse gases that were in the atmosphere during the Mid-Pleistocene Transition (MPT), which happened between 900,000 and 1.2 million years ago,” said team-leader Carlo Barbante, the director of the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council of Italy.

“During this transition, climate periodicity between ice ages changed from 41,000 to 100,000 years: the reason why this happened is the mystery we hope to solve.”

To achieve an 800,000-year record, the original EPICA project drilled to a depth of 2,774m. The bedrock at Little Dome C is just over 2,800m down. The extra 700,000 years being sought by the new project should be in the additional metres of layered ice.