#Snowpack news (January 5, 2022)

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map January 4, 2021 via the NRCS.

From The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent (Ike Fredregill):

According to SNOTEL reports, most of western Colorado is experiencing above average snowpack with the upper Colorado River watershed, which includes Garfield County, clocking in at about 126% of typical snow water equivalent measurements, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported…

Sunlight Mountain Resort…measures snow daily, and reported about 60 inches fell from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1.

Colorado Drought Monitor map December 28, 2021.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Lacey Latch):

About three inches of snow fell in Pueblo starting the night of New Year’s Eve and continuing throughout the next day, according to the National Weather Service Pueblo. While any amount of moisture is good for the prolonged drought conditions across the state, this amount of snow will likely not be enough to make any significant difference in the conditions on the southeastern plains. “In regard to the widespread drought across Southern Colorado it’s probably going to not have that much of an impact,” said NWS meteorologist Stephen Rodriguez.

“We need to see persistent [snow] and even more (amounts of snow across) Southeast Colorado.” Freezing temperatures during and immediately following the snowfall were quickly overtaken by climbing temperatures; Pueblo reached a high of 47 degrees on Jan. 3 and the forecast predicts a high of 62 degrees later this week. While this snowfall was the most Pueblo’s seen this winter, three inches of melted snow roughly amounts to about 18 inches of rain, leaving minimal moisture behind. “In terms of the southeast plains, this past snow event probably had minimal impact in regard to the drought,” Rodriguez said. Looking ahead, Rodriguez said the southeast plains have little-to-no precipitation in the forecast through at least mid-January.

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map January 4, 2021 via the NRCS.

From Out There Colorado (Tamera Twitty):

Thanks to a widespread storm system that hit Colorado on New Year’s Eve, Colorado Springs has finally seen snow for the first time this season.

Measurable snow was recorded at the Colorado Springs Airport on Saturday night by the National Weather Service, absolutely smashing the city’s record for latest first snowfall of the snow season. The prior record was set on December 2nd in 2016, meaning that the December 31 ‘first snowfall’ this year pushed this date back 29 days…

As illustrated on the chart below, the state experienced its fastest jump in snow pack so far this season over the last few days. The current snow water equivalent is 121% of the to-date median statewide, according to the USDA.

@ColoradoParksWildlife celebrates 125 years of #conservation in #Colorado

Graphic credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Travis Duncan):

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2022 by telling the agency’s long history of wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation in a series of stories, videos, podcasts and community events over the coming 12 months.

Historical Photo: Colorado Game and Fish Department – Fish Planting Car No. 1

The series will start in January with a look at the founding of CPW’s ancestor agency – the Department of Forestry, Game and Fish – in 1897 including the work leading up to it before Colorado was even a state into the modern era.

“This 125th anniversary is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s mission of perpetuating the wildlife resources of the state and providing quality parks,” CPW Director Dan Prenzlow said. “Through a year of celebrating our past, present and future, we’ll show our dedication to educating and inspiring future generations to become stewards of our natural resources.”

The past

Using Colorado Outdoors Online, the CPW website, social media channels and traditional outlets, CPW will publish a series of stories describing the history of the past 125 years of state park and wildlife conservation in Colorado. We’ll highlight stories such as:

In the Gunnison River gorge, CPW Aquatic Biologist Eric Gardunio, holds a whirling-disease resistant rainbow trout. CPW is stocking fish resistant to the disease throughout the state. Photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife
  • CPW’s terrestrial and aquatic biologists and researchers whose groundbreaking work has led the fight against chronic wasting disease in moose, elk and deer, combatted whirling disease in fish, expanded our understanding of the genetics of various species and helped the agency become a leader in balancing the carrying capacity of habitat with the various wildlife species competing on the landscape.
  • Greenback cutthroat trout photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
  • CPW’s dedicated staff has helped restore the endangered black-footed ferret, bald eagles, lynx, Peregrine falcons, the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, greenback cutthroat trout, boreal toads, Gunnison’s sage grouse, moose, Rio Grande and Colorado river cutthroat trout, and many other critical fish and wildlife species.
  • Came across an 1898 story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch about a 26-year-old woman, Annie Metcalf, a Missouri native, serving as a game warden in Colorado. She was the first woman to hold the title in Colorado and reportedly only the second nationwide. Credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife
  • A profile of Annie Metcalf, Colorado’s first woman game warden. She was appointed a deputy game warden in 1898 in Routt County. She wasn’t afraid of mountain lions but she dreaded cows!
  • The story of her modern successors, starting with Susan Smith, the first woman appointed a District Wildlife Manager in Vail in February 1975.
  • A view of the boat ramp at Horseshoe Lake, Lathrop State Park, in Huerfano County, Colorado. The Spanish Peaks are in the background. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61707075
  • The evolution of roadside parks and state recreation areas into our first state park, Lathrop near Walsenburg, on June 9, 1961, and our current roster of 43 state parks that offer world class outdoor recreation.
  • The present

    CPW will be hosting events and receptions at state parks and offices around Colorado this year. Sign up for CPW’s eNewsletters and keep your eye on your inbox for events near you.

    The future

    CPW will soon be opening our 43rd state park at Sweetwater Lake, crafting a management plan for the restoration of gray wolves and introducing a Keep Colorado Wild Pass in 2023 that can be purchased during the Colorado vehicle registration or renewal process.

    Interview with Katharine Hayhoe: An Evangelical #Climate Scientist Wonders What Went Wrong — The New York Times #ActOnClimate

    Katharine Hayhoe. Photo credit: Allen Best

    From The New York Times (David Marchese). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Such is the grimly politicized state of science these days that the descriptors typically used to explain who Katharine Hayhoe is — evangelical Christian; climate scientist — can register as somehow paradoxical. Despite that (or, indeed, because of it), Hayhoe, who is 49 and whose most recent book is “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World,” has become a sought-after voice for climate activism and a leading advocate for communicating across ideological, political and theological differences. “For many people now, hope is a bad word,” says Hayhoe, the chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy as well as a professor of political science at Texas Tech. “They think that hope is false hope; it is wishful thinking. But there are things to do — and we should be doing them.”

    Where, if any, are there areas where you see a conflict between scientific consensus and your religious beliefs? The biggest struggle I have is that in the Bible, Jesus says to his disciples, “You should be recognized as my disciples by your love for others,” and today when you look at people who self-identify as Christians in the United States, love for others is not one of the top characteristics you see. Christianity is much more closely linked with political ideology and identity, with judgmentalism, partisanship, science denial, rejection of responsibility for the poorest and most vulnerable who we, as Christians, are to care for. You know, there was a really interesting recent article about the landscape of evangelicalism in the United States, and it said that about 10 years ago if you asked people, “Do you consider yourself to be evangelical?” and they said yes, and then you asked, “Do you go to church?” about 30 percent would say no. But nowadays something like 40 percent of people who self-identify as evangelicals don’t go to church. They go to the church of Facebook or Fox News or whatever media outlet they get their information from. So their statement of faith is written primarily by political ideology and only a distant second by theology…

    Photo from http://trmurf.com/about/

    You talk a lot about the importance of trying to communicate with people outside of our respective bubbles. You do that out of necessity because you’re doing the work you do while living in an conservative part of a conservative-leaning state. Where might cross-ideological conversations, particularly about climate change, happen for people who aren’t in a similar situation? So here’s the interesting thing: Your question contains a misconception. The misconception is that climate action isn’t occurring because of the people who aren’t on board with it. The reality is that more than 70 percent of people in the U.S. are already worried about climate change, and about 35 percent of those are really worried. So the biggest problem is not the people who aren’t on board; the biggest problem is the people who don’t know what to do. And if we don’t know what to do, we do nothing. Just start by doing something, anything, and then talk about it! Talk about how it matters to your family, your home, your city, the activity that you love. Connect the dots to your heart so you don’t see climate change as a separate bucket but rather as a hole in the bucket of every other thing that you already care about in your life. Talk about what positive, constructive actions look like that you can engage in individually, as a family, as an organization, a school, a place of work. Add your hand to that giant boulder. Get it rolling down the hill just a little faster. Even if we live in a progressive bubble, most of the people are not activated, and we activate them by using our voice…

    How do you see rational thinking and emotionally driven behavior as working together — or not — in this context? That is something that I have thought about but nobody has ever asked me before. I think it’s Jonathan Haiti who says that we think that people use information to make up their minds but they don’t. People use what Haidt calls our moral judgment. We use moral judgment to make up our minds and then use our brains to find reasons that explain why we’re right. There’s no way to separate the emotional from the logical. We think it’s possible to convince people to act rationally in their best interests: Well, look at people who, as they are dying, are rejecting the fact that they have Covid. Look at people who are still rejecting simple things like taking a vaccine and wearing masks. We are primarily emotional, and emotions are engaged deeply with climate change because it brings up the most profound sense of loss: People on the right, for example, deeply fear losing their liberties because of climate solutions. So what we need to do is to show everyone how climate solutions are not only not incompatible with who they are but help more genuinely express who they are and what we care about; make us an even more-genuine advocate for national security, an even stronger supporter of the free market, an even more independent person or, in my case, a more genuine expression of my faith.

    @ColoradoStateU researchers launch $1.9 million project for #water treatment and reuse using #biochar

    Sewage treatment plant. Photo credit: Colorado State University

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Anne Manning):

    Every day, hundreds of billions of gallons of a precious, dwindling natural resource, fresh water, is used for agricultural irrigation, energy extraction and more. The demand for novel sources of clean water, in the face of a growing population and a warming planet, is at crisis levels.

    Colorado State University researchers have been given the green light on a research project that could rewrite the book on how spent water from agricultural fields or wastewater facilities are treated and reused, and how valuable commodities could be extracted from those waters. Their goal is to create new, sustainable uses for non-traditional water sources and to disrupt humanity’s reliance on traditional fresh water for crops and other needs.

    The CSU team has received a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Alliance for Water Innovation, a $110 million, multi-institutional network of scientists focused on treatment and reuse technologies for outside-the-box water sources like municipal wastewater, seawater and agricultural drainage. Thomas Borch, professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences with joint appointments in chemistry and civil engineering, is leading the awarded CSU research team and also serves on the leadership team of the national alliance.

    Reducing demand for water

    Borch and the team, which includes researchers from several institutions and an industry partner, will be focused for the next two years on developing and testing low-cost, environmentally benign materials that function as chemical sorbents, similar to sponges, for the precise removal and recovery of certain nutrients – mainly phosphate, ammonium and nitrate – from municipal and agricultural wastewaters. Their testbed will be a working wastewater treatment facility on the Hawaiian island of Maui operated by Washington-based water treatment solutions company WaterTectonics. WaterTectonics’ CEO, Jim Mothersbaugh, will serve as a key research partner in the project.

    The benefits of a successful venture would be multi-faceted, the researchers say. Treatment and reuse of wastewater would reduce demand for fresh water across many sectors, including agriculture. The phosphates and other nutrients reclaimed from that water could become valuable, environmentally friendly fertilizers for agricultural fields. What’s more, their work could lead to an overall reduction in the levels of phosphates and nitrates typically left in wastewater and that end up in lakes and oceans. These nutrients feed harmful algae blooms, disrupting delicate ecosystems including fish and aquatic plants.

    “The volumes of water we are talking about are just huge,” Borch said. “Agriculture alone is responsible for more than 42% of all fresh water withdrawals in the country. If you want to really make a different with respect to treatment and reuse of water, you will need to focus on either the agriculture or the power sectors.”

    What is biochar?

    The researchers’ starting sorbent materials of choice will be optimized and chemically tailored biochar and clay, which will be functionalized by the addition of metal oxides and biodegradable polymers. Biochar, commonly known as a soil additive, is a charcoal-like material created by burning carbon-rich biomass ­– usually wood, wheat straw, corn stalks ­or manure – in an oxygen-free environment. Its potential as a low-cost material for precision-separation of nutrients from water is being explored by multiple scientists, including the CSU team.

    For this project, the team plans to use biosolids waste from the Maui treatment plant as their starting material for making their biochar sorbents. Other members of the research team from University of Cincinnati will work on optimizing clay as a sorbent material.

    Jim Ippolito, CSU associate professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, will work on biochar synthesis and optimization. An expert in turning raw materials – including biosolids generated from sewage treatment facilities – into valuable, nutrient-rich products for agricultural land application, Ippolito will provide key expertise in both making the biochar and fine-tuning its sorbent properties.

    “The main concept with our proposal is to determine a means by which we can selectively remove even greater amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen from this water,” Ippolito said. “It’s relatively difficult to remove both of these simultaneously from the water column. Our goal is to create novel materials to do the removal for us, yet capture these nutrients in such a way so they can be reused as a fertilizer source.”

    The Maui plant has a pyrolysis unit under construction for the conversion of biosolids to biochar. Their intent is to use the manufactured biochar as a nutrient removal sponge for the wastewater. The nutrient-loaded biochar will then be used for agricultural applications in Maui, for which there is high demand. Conversion of municipal biosolids to biochar will reduce the cost of biosolids management while also assisting the facility’s sustainability goals and reducing its carbon footprint.

    The CSU team will work with WaterTectonics and the local operator of the plant to make the biochar, characterize its chemical structure, and develop a sustainable solution for the recovery of nutrients from the plant’s waste.

    “We are tapping directly into work that is ongoing, but will be responsible for development of advanced sorbent materials for selective removal of nutrients with WaterTectonics,” Borch said.

    A critical focus of the project is scalability and economic viability, which is why the researchers are choosing simpler materials like clay and biochar, rather than more exotic, rare materials. “Exotic materials might work better as sorbents, but they would be prohibitively expensive and serve only as an academic exercise,” Borch said.

    Other partners

    Other partners on the grant are researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory who will conduct environmental impact analysis and help the team compare varied materials with more traditional forms of wastewater treatment and reuse. The team also includes researchers from the Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

    To perform high-resolution molecular characterization of their unique biochars and clays, the team will also partner with scientists at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource.

    Ski-Hi Regional Complex readies for first event: Three-day ag conference set for February

    Ski-Hi Regional Complex. Photo credit: Alamosa Citizen

    From The Alamosa Citizen:

    When the 40th annual Southern Rocky Mountain Ag Conference kicks off in 29 days, attendees will christen the new Ski-Hi Regional Complex east wing complete with its spacious conference rooms – and avoid having to shuttle around to other venues in Monte Vista to catch the full flavor of the three-day event.

    It’s a dream come true for event organizers Kyler Browner and Marisa Fricke, who now can envision a growing regional conference with daily guest speakers, concurrent breakout sessions, a trade show, and cattle ranchers and crop producers together in one space networking, sharing best practices, and swapping stories.

    “Having everyone in one campus, one spot, just makes the logistics so much better,” said Browner.

    What attendees won’t see is the rush to finish. On Monday, Alcon Construction crews were busy building handrails, installing countertops, and pushing forward to complete the work before the conference’s opening day on Feb. 1 rolls around.

    Inside Ski-Hi Regional Complex. Photo credit: Alamosa Citizen

    With the COVID pandemic at play, it’s been that way throughout for Alcon on this project, first racing to get the main entrance on the west end completed in time for last July’s 99th Annual Ski-Hi Stampede and now racing to finish the east end of the 54,473-square-foot building to welcome farmers and ranchers back to the all-important ag conference.

    Alcon has done yeoman’s work, understanding the importance of the Ski-Hi Regional Complex as a Valley-wide events center and the critical task of completing it in time, first for the Ski-Hi Stampede, and now the second half of the building for the regional ag conference.

    The regional ag conference, established initially by CSU-Extension in the San Luis Valley to help share its research and embed itself among the Valley ag and farming communities, is the first big business and social event of the year in the Valley. The Monte Vista Chamber of Commerce brings the trade show together, with the goal this year of 30 additional vendor booths from years past.

    Browner has a schedule in mind on the sessions he’d like to catch: A panel with some of the top producers of meat goat; a grazing seminar with Jim Gerrish, author of “Management-Intensive Grazing: The Grassroots of Grass Farming;” a discussion with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union on federal and state legislation affecting farmers and ranchers; and then on Feb. 3, the final day of the conference, a heavy discussion on a topic that is on the minds of everyone – water and the road forward.

    “Whenever I talk to producers, I feel a lot of uncertainty,” said Browner on the mood of today’s Valley farmer. The rising cost of fertilizer and fuel, concerns about water and drought conditions, the difficulty in finding labor, all weigh heavily on the Valley’s ranchers and producers.

    “We just think we need to solve our own problems ourselves, but this kind of conference gets you out of your little bubble and helps you reconnect with people and with a set of resources we have in the Valley.”

    Alcon Construction will do its part and have the hall ready in time. When they step inside, attendees and participants to the 40th annual Southern Rocky Mountain Ag Conference will have a home that can serve their needs and bring them together like never before.

    Ski-Hi Regional Complex. Photo credit: Alamosa Citizen

    #Water rates to rise slightly in 2022: Supporting the large, complex system that provides water to 1.5 million people across the #Denver metro area — News on Tap

    From Denver Water (Cathy Proctor and Kim Unger Jay):

    Lea este artículo en español.

    Since its formation more than 100 years ago, Denver Water has always planned ahead when investing in the system that today supplies clean, safe drinking water every day to a quarter of Colorado’s population.

    And with a variety of changes — from regulations to weather patterns — expected in the future, the utility and its 1,000 employees are continuing the work needed to maintain, repair, protect and upgrade its 4,000 square miles of watershed and 3,000 miles of pipe, plus its dams, pump stations and underground storage tanks and more.

    Denver Water delivers safe, clean water to 1.5 million people every day, 25% of Colorado’s population. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    While the global COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer of complexity, Denver Water has worked to keep rate increases for customers as small as possible.

    On Oct. 27, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted new water rates that will effective Jan. 1, 2022, to help pay for critical upgrades and projects to keep this system operating efficiently. How that rate increase will affect individual customer bills will vary depending on where the customer lives in Denver Water’s service area and how much water they use.

    For typical single-family residential customers who receive a bill from Denver Water, if they use 104,000 gallons of water in 2022 as they did in 2021, the new rates will increase their monthly bill by a range of about 47 cents to $1.34 depending on where they live.

    “Denver Water’s mission is to ensure that we deliver safe, clean water to the people who rely on us every day,” said CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead. “Over the next 10 years, we are forecasting an estimated investment of $2.6 billion into our system to increase its resiliency, reliability and sustainability in the face of changes we are anticipating. From more frequent droughts and wildfires to additional regulations we expect we will be asked to meet — we will be prepared.”

    A helicopter collects water from Dillon Reservoir during efforts to contain the Ptarmigan Fire near Silverthorne, Colorado, in late September. Photo credit: John Baker, safety specialist at Denver Water.

    A customer’s monthly bill is comprised of a fixed charge, which helps ensure Denver Water has a more stable revenue stream to continue the necessary water system upgrades to ensure reliable water service, and a volume rate for the amount of water used.

    The fixed monthly charge — which is tied to the size of the meter — is increasing by 74 cents in 2022 for most single-family residential customers to ensure Denver Water is recovering 20% of its needed revenue from fixed charges.

    After the fixed monthly charge, Denver Water’s rate structure has three tiers based on the amount of water used.

    “Even with such large efforts in our future, it’s our goal to have slow and steady rate increases with even, annual adjustments that allow our customers to plan ahead and avoid rate shocks,” said Fletcher Davis, rates manager for Denver Water.

    To keep water affordable, the first tier, which covers essential indoor water use for bathing, cooking and flushing toilets, is charged at the lowest rate.

    The amount of water in this first tier is determined for each customer by averaging their monthly water use as listed on bills dated January through March each year. This is called their average winter consumption.

    Water use above the average winter consumption — typically used for outdoor watering — is charged at a higher price. Efficient outdoor water use is charged in the second tier (middle rate), followed by additional outdoor water use in the third tier (highest rate).

    Meet customers who used Garden In A Box, a Resource Central program supported by Denver Water, to beautify their landscapes with water-wise plants.

    The difference in volume rates for customers who live inside Denver compared to those who live in the suburbs is due to the Denver City Charter, which was changed in 1959 to allow permanent leases of water to suburban water districts based on two conditions: 1) there always would be an adequate supply for the citizens of Denver, and 2) suburban customers pay the full cost of service, plus an additional amount.

    Denver Water encourages customers to be efficient with their water use.

    Using less water means more water can be kept in the mountain reservoirs, rivers and streams that fish live in, and Coloradans enjoy. And using less water also can lower your monthly water bills, saving money.

    “We are continuing our work maintaining and replacing water mains in the street, building a new state-of-the-art treatment plant and water quality laboratory, preparing for the needed expansion of Gross Reservoir and replacing old, customer-owned lead service lines to protect our customers from the risk of lead in drinking water,” Lochhead said.

    “At the same time, we use the tools available to us to help pay for the necessary investment in our system and keep our rates as low as possible.”

    In addition to rates paid by customers, Denver Water relies on bond sales, cash reserves, hydropower sales and the fees paid when new homes and buildings are connected to the system.

    The utility does not make a profit or receive tax dollars. It reinvests money from customer water bills to maintain and upgrade the water system.

    Infographic credit: Kim Unger, Denver Water.