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From News on Tap (Steve Snyder):
Denver Water’s new, state-of-the-art drinking water facility is rapidly taking shape on a 183-acre site next to Ralston Reservoir north of Golden in Jefferson County.
Watch this video to catch up on the progress of one of Denver Water’s largest construction projects.
When complete and operational in 2024, the new Northwater Treatment Plant will be capable of cleaning up to 75 million gallons of water a day. Construction of the plant remains on time and on budget.
The new plant is part of Denver Water’s North System Renewal effort, which includes the construction of a new pipeline (completed in September 2021) to carry water from the new plant and upgrades at the old Moffat Treatment Plant built in Lakewood in the 1930s.
Learn about new case studies in water utility greenhouse gas mitigation from the Water Utility Climate Alliance, including Denver Water’s sustainable Northwater Treatment Plant. Decreasing greenhouse gas emissions is a priority for Denver Water, and projects like these help get us to our goal of reducing emissions 50% from a 2015 baseline by 2025.
The North System Renewal work brings critical updates to an aging 80-year-old system that was reaching the end of its lifespan.
The advanced new technology that is part of new Northwater Treatment Plant will provide:
Sustainability: Hydropower generation equipment at site of the Northwater plant will produce enough energy to operate the treatment plant, significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Reliability: Advanced treatment processes will improve resiliency in times of potentially challenging treatment issues, such as those created by drought or wildfires.
Flexibility: The Northwater plant was designed to be expanded if needed to meet future water demands and changing regulatory standards.
When Denver Water is finished building the new water treatment plant, redeveloping the Moffat Treatment Plant, and installing a new pipeline, the utility’s northern system will be more resilient and adaptable to changing demands for water now and into the future.
From NOAA (Tim Woollings):
This is a guest blog by Tim Woollings , a professor of climate science in the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford in the UK. Tim recently won the Louis J. Battan Award from the American Meteorological Society for his book “ Jet Stream : A Journey Through our Changing Climate.”
The term jet stream is used increasingly in both weather forecasts and news reports of extreme events, from cold spells and flooding to heatwaves and droughts. But what is the jet stream, and why do we care about it so much?
The jet stream is a fast, narrow current of air flowing from west to east that encircles the globe (not to be confused with the Gulf Stream which is instead an ocean current of drifting seawater). It was first documented by Wasaburo Oishi, whose regular weather balloon launches from Japan in the 1920s invariably ended up flying out over the Pacific Ocean at a considerable rate (footnote #1).
As revealed in Oishi’s measurements, the jet is strongest in the upper troposphere, around 6-8 miles up. This is roughly the level at which airplanes fly, and indeed they often pay careful attention to the jet stream: fuel is saved by staying in the jet if you’re heading east, and by avoiding it if you’re going west. While we describe the jet as narrow, this is somewhat subjective—it’s typically a couple hundred miles across, which gives a wide enough corridor for flight planning.
If the jet stream is so high up, why do we care about it?
It turns out that the jet, on a number of counts, directly impacts surface weather patterns.
Firstly , the jet acts to steer mid-latitude weather systems, so it can control which regions are storm-bound and, in the extreme, which can become dangerously dry.
Secondly , while the fastest winds of the jet core are far above the surface, weaker winds often extend all the way down to the surface. Many of us who live in the midlatitudes are acclimatized to prevailing westerly winds (i.e. winds that blow from west to east), and these winds are the very underbelly of the jet stream dragging along Earth’s surface.
Thirdly , the jet stream also acts as a sharp boundary between contrasting air masses, with relatively warm, tropical air to the south and much colder air on the northern, poleward side. The location of the jet, and hence also the boundary, has a strong influence on temperatures down at ground level.
Why do jet streams exist?
Because of two crucial ingredients: rotation and heating.
The planet is unevenly heated due to the disproportionate concentration of solar heating in the tropics and lack of heating in the poles. This forces the atmosphere into motion, as some bits of air become warmer and more buoyant than others. But the planet also rotates, and this imposes constraints on the resulting fluid flow, particularly in the north-south direction (footnote #2). These two ingredients mean that the resulting flow stretches out in the west-east direction and jet streams are formed.
Striking lab experiments to show that these two ingredients result in jet streams were first performed by Dave Fultz , who had witnessed the power of the jet stream first-hand as a meteorologist at the US air base on Guam during World War II. Returning to Chicago after the war, he set out to reproduce such a flow by building a spherical water tank with a heating element underneath. Then, to simulate the Earth’s rotation, he spun the tank and saw the flow break down into chaotic waves and, perhaps more excitingly, several west-to-east jet streams.
Not just one jet stream
So far we have somewhat loosely referred to the jet stream, while in fact there are several in both Northern and Southern hemispheres. One type, termed a subtropical jet, is predominantly a high-altitude feature invariably found at the edge of the tropical Hadley Cells . In contrast, eddy-driven jets (footnote #3) are deeper, and it is these specifically, which reach all the way down to the surface. They are often called sub-polar jets, even though they can be found over a wide range of latitudes. The two jets are sometimes separated in latitude (often this is the case over the Atlantic Ocean), but sometimes merged together (as is more common over the Pacific Ocean) forming a broader region of midlatitude west-to-east winds.
In much the same way that the ocean surface is never completely flat everywhere, the jet streams are generally always in motion, sometimes shifting north or south across huge regions, sometimes meandering like a lazy river. Hence their importance for forecasting; the jets can change from one week or month to the next and regional patterns of heat and cold, wet and dry will shift along with them (footnote #4).
For much of the midlatitudes, the local jet stream is typically the single most important factor in regional weather variations on these timescales, so that if you only had one piece of information about the atmosphere, you would want to know about the jet. Commonly used circulation indices such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) or Arctic Oscillation (AO) are dominated by jet variations as a result. A positive NAO index, for example, is a sign that the eddy-driven jet over the Atlantic is stronger than usual and shifted to the north.
Given this is the ENSO Blog…
Climate forecasters are largely concerned with trying to predict how the jets may behave over the coming months or seasons. While still very challenging, this task is made possible because the jets don’t just vary chaotically as the butterflies flap (although they certainly do lots of that). Particularly on seasonal timescales the jets can be nudged, or influenced, by other factors in the climate system, and ENSO is the prime example of this.
An El Niño event can affect the jets in a couple of ways: firstly, by warming the tropics and amplifying that crucial temperature contrast between latitudes, and secondly by triggering regional patterns associated with Rossby waves . The atmospheric circulation over the North Pacific this winter provides a good example of this latter effect.
In an average year, the jet extends across the Pacific towards North America, although it’s strongest over Japan. The jet first became widely known when American forces were caught off-guard during World War II, with their high-altitude bombers often stranded over Japan by raging headwinds. Meanwhile, the Japanese Fu-Go campaign used the jet to carry balloon-bombs downwind across the Pacific to America, albeit with little success because most of the bombs dropped too early, landing in the ocean.
But December 2021 was no average year; instead the classic La Niña signal, often referred to as the negative phase of the Pacific-North America pattern , was evident. Instead of the jet stream flowing due east from Japan and over the North Pacific Ocean, it snaked northward to Alaska before returning southward over the contiguous United States. This is indicative of a wave of influence originating in the tropical Pacific and curving across the North Pacific Ocean to North America.
So the art of subseasonal-to-seasonal forecasting for the midlatitudes is largely concerned with predicting the state of the jet streams. Cases such as this with a regional Pacific response to ENSO are often well predicted, and December 2021 was no exception. Other features such as the Atlantic jet are harder to predict, yet modern models often have useful skill here too (footnote #5). And hardest of all to predict is the longer-term trend: as the climate warms further, how will the all-important jet streams be affected? Clever ideas on this abound in the literature, but overall our confidence in what will happen unfortunately remains low.
Lead Editor: Michelle L’Heureux (NOAA CPC)
(1) In an attempt to reach the widest possible audience, Oishi published his results in Esperanto—an experimental “international” language invented in the late 1800s—and as a result the jet stream remained little known outside of Japan.
(2) These constraints are essentially due to conservation of angular momentum, as an air parcel moving north or south is changing its distance from Earth’s axis.
(3) ‘Eddy’ is used to describe a swirl in the atmosphere, just like a swirl of water in a river. Weather systems such as cyclones and anticyclones are examples of atmospheric eddies, so a hidden complexity here is that these weather systems actually help to ‘drive’ the eddy-driven jets.
(4) This reveals a complex two-way coupling between the jets and the temperatures. While the jets are formed in response to the same heating which gives us warm tropical and cold polar regions, the dynamics of the jet cause it to move around and the sharp boundary between the air masses is constrained to follow suit.
(5) It has been shown the jet over the Atlantic can be partially predicted for the coming season (i.e. a forecast made in November for December-January), and even beyond. However, it has less accuracy than ENSO, which can be used many months in advance (e.g. when predicting the Pacific jet).
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation:
The Bureau of Reclamation will host a webinar Friday, Jan. 28, to present the Draft Drought Response Operations Plan Framework. This will be an opportunity for Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Basin Region, staff from the Upper Colorado River Commission, and Upper Division State advisers to share information about the Upper Colorado River Basin’s Draft Drought Response Operations Plan, answer questions, and provide an opportunity for comment. This will start a 20-day public review and comment period ending on Thursday, Feb. 17.
Reclamation, the Upper Division States, and UCRC staff are developing the draft framework in accordance with the scope and purposes described in the Drought Response Operations Agreement. DROA is part of the 2019 Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan in the Upper Colorado River Basin and aims to minimize the risk of Lake Powell declining below a target elevation of 3,525 feet.
This meeting will not discuss specific hydrology and/or operational plans under DROA for 2022. Operational plans for 2022 will be developed later this spring and will be based on the finalized framework document and the best available hydrologic information available.
WHAT: Webinar for the Draft Drought Response Operations Plan Framework, via Microsoft Teams.
WHEN: Friday, Jan. 28, at 1 p.m. (MST)
WHERE: Join the webinar by clicking https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_OWY0NmVlYjEtMWU3Ny00OTZmLWEwNGUtZTQ5MTAzMzE1MmY2%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%220693b5ba-4b18-4d7b-9341-f32f400a5494%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%2297e24abe-81f3-46a0-8e8c-ab1151831be0%22%2c%22IsBroadcastMeeting%22%3atrue%7d&btype=a&role=a
WHO: The public and media are welcome to attend this stakeholder webinar. A brief question and answer period will be held for 15 minutes immediately following the conclusion of the presentation for members of the public.
MORE INFO: Additional information can be found at https://www.usbr.gov/dcp/droa.html. This link will be live just prior to the webinar and will contain a link to the draft plan framework and attachments documents. The comment and review period for the draft framework closes on Thursday, Feb. 17. Comments can be submitted by email at email@example.com.
The draft framework does not currently contain specific hydrologic information or operational plans for 2022. Operational plans for 2022 will be developed later this winter and will be based on the finalized framework document and the best available hydrologic information available.
For more information about the Colorado River Basin and current events, like and follow our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/coloradoriverbasin.
Here’s the release from the Department of Interior:
The U.S. Department of the Interior today announced the White House Council on Native American Affairs (WHCNAA) will convene an engagement session on January 31 with Tribal leaders focused on the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and public safety resources across Indian Country. The session will be led by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who serves as co-chair of the WHCNAA.
During the virtual session, Tribal leaders will share their guidance, recommendations and perspectives on the WHCNAA Committees’ all-of-government efforts. The meeting will follow nation-to-nation consultations on the Infrastructure Law to be held earlier that same week.
“The White House Council on Native American Affairs is an important tool in the Biden-Harris administration’s all-of-government approach to strengthening Indian Country,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “As we work to tackle public safety and criminal justice issues impacting Indigenous people or the implementation of the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, I’m proud to bring Tribal leaders and government officials together to further invest in our trust relationship.”
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests more than $13 billion directly in Tribal communities across the country to bolster community resilience, replace aging infrastructure, expand access to clean drinking water and help ensure everyone has access to high-speed internet.
The session will also focus on President Biden’s Executive Order on Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice for Native Americans and Addressing the Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. Within the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration, Secretary Haaland created a new Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services to pursue justice for missing or murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. Interior is committed to working with Tribal governments, law enforcement agencies, survivors, families of the missing, and all communities impacted to coordinate interagency collaboration to address this crisis.
During the November 2021 White House Tribal Nations Summit, Secretary Haaland committed to convening her Cabinet colleagues three times a year to meet with Tribal leaders to share the work of the WHCNAA and listen to feedback, questions and concerns from Tribal communities. January’s session will be the first of these meetings.
For more information, visit the WHCNAA website.
From KOAA.com (Natalie Chuck):
On Monday night, the Pueblo West Metro District Board of Directors voted to freeze applications for any new building or water tap permits, until a meeting on March 14. Board President Doug Proal says the pause will give the Water Team time to assess drought conditions and a potential new water source in Chaffee County…
At a public hearing in November, Pueblo West residents packed the room with concerns over a potential rise in costs in order to provide more water to the Metro District…
However, some developers and builders tell News 5 the several-week pause will cause major setbacks for them, especially while they continue dealing with the effect of the pandemic. Pueblo West will reevaluate how many permits are available after March 14.
From The Denver Post (Conrad Swanson):
Aside from the northeast portion of the state, snowpack levels shrank for every other area in Colorado between Jan. 5 and Wednesday, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
In the southwest corner of the state, that lead shrunk by as much as 28%. Most of the state’s snowpack remains above normal levels for this time of the year but Schumacher and Climatologist Becky Bolinger of Colorado State University said more is needed in the coming weeks and months.
Snowpack data shows that levels around Gunnison and Ouray sit at 123% of normal levels, down from 148% earlier this month. Snowpack around Durango sits at 109% of normal, down from 137%. Levels around Aspen and Glenwood Springs are 117% of normal, down from 124% and the area around Steamboat Springs sits at 107%, down from 115%. Snowpack around Denver rose over the month from 110% of normal to 114%.
Even if most of the state’s snowpack isn’t as high as it was at the turn of the year neither Schumacher nor Bolinger said they’re panicking. But both will be watching for more snow in February and March to help refill low water levels on the Colorado River and to improve drought conditions across the state.
People living in the western U.S. have been concerned about wildfires for a long time, but the past two years have left many of them fearful and questioning whether any solutions to the fire crisis truly exist.
The Dixie Fire in the Sierra Nevada burned nearly 1 million acres in 2021, including almost the entire community of Greenville, California. Then strong winds near Lake Tahoe sent the Caldor Fire racing toward homes, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people – including one of us. They followed destructive wildfires in 2020 in California, and Colorado and Oregon also saw devastating fires in the past two years.
As foresters who have been working on wildfire and forest restoration issues in the Sierra Nevada for over a quarter of a century, the main lesson we gather from how these fires have burned is that fuels reduction and forest restoration projects are our best tools for mitigating wildfire impacts amid a changing climate, and not nearly enough of them are being done.
A new 10-year plan announced by the U.S. Forest Service in early 2022 aims to change that. It outlines an ambitious strategy, but Congress will now have to follow through with enough funding to carry it out.
Fuels reduction projects can work
Fuels reduction projects include thinning out trees, burning off woody debris and reducing “ladder fuels” like small trees and brush that can allow fire to reach the tree canopy. Forest restoration projects focus on forest structure, density and composition as well as reducing fuels.
These projects create more open forests that are less likely to fuel severe megafires. They also create strategic areas where firefighters can more easily fight future blazes. And because fires burn less intensely in thinned forests, these projects leave more intact forest after a fire for regenerating new trees and sequestering carbon.
A new 10-year plan
The Forest Service’s new 10-year plan sets a goal to treat as much as 50 million additional acres across the West over 10 years, just under 80,000 square miles. For comparison, the Forest Service treats around 2 million to 3 million acres a year now.
The first priorities in the plan are high-risk areas where communities have been threatened by out-of-control fires, including in the Sierra Nevada in California, the eastern side of the Rockies in Colorado and parts of the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest.
The Forest Service already has a “shared stewardship” agreement with California, reached in 2020, aiming to treat 1 million acres annually by 2025. Though, research indicates that current levels of treatment are closer to 30% of that million-acre goal. Remember that 1 million acres is about how much the Dixie Fire burned.
A lingering question is how the 10-year plan will be paid for, considering that it will require a workforce larger than the U.S. has seen in decades.
So far, Congress has approved additional funding through the 2021 infrastructure bill, which included about $655 million a year for fire management for five years. That’s in addition to the Forest Service’s annual funding for this work, which was about $260 million this fiscal year.
But in California alone, a group of scientists, land managers and former government leaders has recommended spending $5 billion a year on proactive management, roughly equivalent to what was spent to suppress fires in the state in 2020. Known as “The Venado Declaration,” this proposal, championed by former Gov. Jerry Brown and former Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott, calls for addressing forest resiliency on every acre and acknowledges that more than just funding is needed. It also discusses building infrastructure and a workforce and reevaluating regulatory barriers.
Four key steps
To manage fires in an era of climate change, when drier, hotter weather creates ideal conditions for burning, experts estimate that the area treated for fuels reduction needs to increase by at least an order of magnitude. We believe government needs to accomplish these four things to succeed:
1) Drastically increase funding and staff for agencies’ fuels reduction projects, as well as outreach, cost-sharing and technical assistance for private forestland owners. The new plan is a good start. Funding more federal and state agency positions would add forest restoration capacity for the long term. The Biden administration’s proposal for a Civilian Climate Corps could also bring in more young workers.
2) Reduce regulations on forest and fuels management efforts for both public and private land. While California and the federal government have made recent strides to streamline regulations, land management agencies need to acknowledge the biggest risk is doing nothing. Agencies need to plan larger restoration projects and drastically cut the time needed to implement them.
3) Invest in communities’ capacity to carry out local forest restoration work by providing long-term support to local organizations that provide outreach, technical assistance and project coordination services. Funding restoration through competitive grants makes development of long-term community capacity challenging at best. The new plan’s inclusion of state, tribal and private lands is an opportunity for partnerships.
4) Provide funds and financial incentives for at-risk communities to retrofit homes to withstand wildfires and reduce fuels around homes, communities and infrastructure.
Amid a changing climate, we will have to learn to coexist with wildfires in the U.S. West. This will require concerted action and a cultural shift in how we view and manage our forests and communities to be resilient.
This is an updated version of an article first published on Oct. 13, 2021.
Ryan E. Tompkins, Cooperative Extension Forester and Natural Resources Advisor, University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Susan Kocher, Cooperative Extension Forester and Natural Resources Advisor, University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
From Boise Public Radio (Madelyn Beck) via Wyoming Public Radio:
The U.S. Forest Service plans a dramatic increase in forest thinning and prescribed burns across the West.
Its recently released 10-year plan includes treating 20 million acres of Forest Service land, and 30 million acres of other federal, state, tribal, and private lands. The agency says it has seen such proactive treatments dampen the effects of massive blazes, like in Arizona’s largest blaze, the Wallow Fire, in 2011…
The agency aims to treat forests at up to four times the current rate…
Since the late 20th century, there’s been less land management and far more spent on fighting big blazes, [Ryan] Tompkins said, “and we need to flip that investment.” He points to all the resources – more than $600 million – used to fight Northern California’s Dixie Fire for months as it burned nearly a million acres last summer…
The Forest Service also picked out areas it wants to treat first. That includes large sections of Colorado and Idaho. But Wyoming doesn’t have a single area identified.
Tompkins says there can be equity issues when you have to prioritize burns, and he’d like there to be plans for forest resiliency on every acre, but “there are so few resources available that we continue to try to address this problem through prioritization. And over decades of prioritization, we’ve ended up in a situation where we’re really in triage.”