#Snowpack news (March 7, 2022)

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map March 6, 2022 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 6, 2022 via the NRCS.

#ArkansasRiver Report for February 2022 — The Arkansas River Collaborative

Colorado Drought Monitor map March 1, 2022.

Click the link to read the report on the Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative website:

​Colorado’s February precipitation failed to maintain Arkansas River Basin snowpack compared to the past 20 years. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows severe drought persisting in most areas in the basin with extreme drought in the southern edge of the lower Ark Basin in Colorado as well as the two western corners of Colorado (i.e., 9% of the state). The NOAA three-month temperature outlook projects higher than normal temperatures across all of Colorado through May. The three-month outlook also predicts lower than normal precipitation for the entire state.

The latest National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) report shows basin-wide snowpack at 76% of median for snow-water equivalent (SWE) and precipitation at 83% of median. The highest snowpack readings continue to be recorded at Porphyry Creek (119%) and Saint Elmo (115%). Snowpack at Fremont Pass has dropped from 102% of median a month ago to a current reading of 90%. The Apishapa SNOTEL station reports 75% while the Hayden Pass station improved from 40% a month ago to 69% at present.

Reservoir Storage
Statewide reservoir storage was reported at 78% of average and 43% of total capacity during the February Governor’s Water Availability Task Force meeting. This link accesses the latest NRCS reservoir report, which is unfortunately producing suspect and incomplete data for February. The issue should be resolved soon.

River Flows
As of March 5, Arkansas River flows were 252 cfs at Granite, 393 cfs at the Wellsville gauge near Salida and 361 cfs at Cañon City. Below Pueblo Dam, flows were 64.9 cfs, increasing to 276 cfs near Avondale before dropping to 155 cfs near Rocky Ford. The flow was 1.64 cfs below John Martin Reservoir and 10.6 cfs at Lamar. Boustead Tunnel discharge rates were not available as of this writing.

River Calls
The Arkansas River Basin had eight active calls as of March 5. The Fort Lyon Storage Canal remains the calling water right on the Arkansas mainstem with a March 1, 1910, priority date. The Holitas Reservoir has a call on the Cucharas River with a March 20, 1901, priority date. The Upper Huerfano No. 2 is the calling structure on the Huerfano River with a priority date of March 15, 1869. The Model Ditch (March 20, 1862) continues its call on the Purgatoire River, as does the Tenassee Ditch (April 30, 1880) on the South Arkansas River. Additional calls are in place on Fourmile Creek and Greenhorn Creek. The Winter Water Storage Program ends March 14, which will likely impact calling water rights.

#Colorado’s new transmission authority: Directors appointed for the ‘transmission developer of last resort’ — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate

Colorado State Capitol. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

The inaugural members of the new Colorado Electric Transmission Authority have been identified. The board was created by a 2021 law, SB21-072 “Public Utilities Commission Modernize Electric Transmission Infrastructure.” It was authorized to select a transmission operator to finance, plan, acquire, maintain, and operate eligible electric transmission and interconnected storage facilities.

This new authority has been called the “transmission builder of last resort.” It’s preferable that utilities build transmission, but if they don’t, Colorado may have reasons for wanting the transmission. This may become important as Colorado looks to build out renewable energy in more difficult places currently lacking transmission.

One such place is the San Luis Valley, rich with solar potential, among the best in the nation, but lacking transmission capacity. Louis Bacon, who owns large land amounts in the area of La Veta Pass, the logical corridor for export, blocked plans by Tri-State Generation & Transmission in years past.

Another potential application is from Craig to Wyoming, the better to integrate Colorado’s electric resources into a regional transmission organization, or RTO, and tap the resources of other areas.

A third application may be in the cases of small utilities who need transmission but do not have the capacity to build it themselves. The vulnerability of Holy Cross Energy, for example, was exposed in 2018 when the Lake Christine Wildfire came within one already-burning wooden transmission pole of being able to provide power to Aspen during the July 4th weekend, typically one of the busiest of the year in that resort community.

The law specifies that the 9-member board is to consist of:

  • 2 members appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate;
  • the director of the Colorado Energy Office or his/her designee;
  • 3 members appointed by the president of the Senate;
  • 3 members appointed by the speaker of the House
  • The law also requires expertise among the appointees. For example, one must represent the interests of organized labor, another must have knowledge of renewable energy development, and one must represent the interests of commercial or industrial customers of electric utilities.

    Those appointed to 4-year terms are:

    Chris Caskey melds science and business in innovative new ways. He has a Ph.D. in applied chemistry from the Colorado School of Mines and worked at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for a few years. It gets more interesting yet. He now operates Delta Brick Co. and has a lead role in Vessels Coal Gas, the company that operates the methane-to-electricity operation near Paonia. His resume is far more diverse than even this suggests. Oh, and he assisted a man attacked by an octopus.

    Karl Rabago is the principal of Rabago Energy, a consulting firm. Before 2019 he directed the Pace Energy & Climate Center. His experience in energy goes back decades and includes such diverse stints as being a public utility commissioner in Texas to being an energy program manager for the Environmental Defense Fund.

    Roger Freeman is an attorney who specializes in energy and environmental law. He is the chair of the board of directors for the Colorado Solar and Storage Association among other organizations. His father, the late Dyson Freeman, was a seminal thinker in the energy transition, and Roger Freeman has had pieces published in both the Sacramento Bee and in Big Pivots.

    Michelle Zimmerman directs development at SunShare, with previous experiences in the renewable energy sector.

    Rich Meisinger is the business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 111. He told Public Utilities Fortnightly Magazine in 2020 that the union has 4,225 members.

    Leia Guccione is an engineer and now is the managing director of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Carbon-Free Electricity division.

    The RMI website says this: “Leia currently leads a body of work to inform utility regulators of policy solutions for a clean energy future, as well as provide them with unique process design and facilitation as they develop and execute reform initiatives to implement these solutions.”
    Oh, and before joining RMI, she served in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear-trained surface warfare officer. She continues to serve in the Navy Reserves.

    Kathleen Staks has is the director of Western Freedom, a group advocating for a regional transmission grid and briefly before that had a public relations firm. Staks was most recently director of external affairs for Guzman Energy, a new and disruptive wholesale power provider. Before that, she was executive director of the Colorado Energy Office during the administration of Gov. John Hickenlooper. She also held other posts in Colorado state government.

    Will Toor manages the Colorado Energy Office. He has the authority to designate another individual from within his agency to be part of the authority’s activities. A physicist by training with a Ph.D., Toor previously worked for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, managing that organization’s transportation program, and before that was a Boulder County commissioner and mayor of Boulder. His life’s travels included spending part of one very cold winter in Moffat County as a sheepherder.

    Tom Figel is the senior director of policy and business development at GRID Alternatives, a national organization devoted to the renewable energy transition as a way to drive economic growth and environmental benefits in communities most impacted by underemployment, pollution, and climate change. He manages the community solar program and leads utility relations and advocacy efforts for GRID Colorado. He has prior experience in marketing, strategy, and utility relations for software and battery storage startups.

    An integrated #solar-driven system produces electricity with fresh #water and crops in arid regions — Cell Reports Physical Science

    An illustration of solar panels pulling water vapor from the air to grow crops | Credit: Renyuan Li/KAUST

    Click the link to read the article on the Cell Reports Physical Science website (Renyuan Li, Mengchun Wu, Sara Aleid, Chenlin Zhang, Wenbin Wang, and Peng Wang):


  • Recycle waste heat from PV panels to produce fresh water from the atmosphere
  • Cool down PV panel and increase its electricity generation performance
  • Integrated system (WEC2P) produces electricity with fresh water and crops
  • Application is with minimal geological constrain
  • Summary

    Stable supplies of water, energy, and food are the most essential factors to universal achievements of the United Nation’s Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This work reports a self-sustained and solar-driven, integrated water-electricity-crop co-production system (WEC2P). The design of WEC2P is based on the atmospheric water adsorption-desorption cycle (1) to generate cooling power for photovoltaic (PV) cells to increase their electricity generation performance or (2) to sustainably produce fresh water from atmospheric water vapor to support crop growth. During the 3-month-long outdoor field test, the WEC2P successfully reduced the temperature of PV panels by up to 17°C and increased their electricity generation by up to 9.9% in the PV cooling mode. Meanwhile, it produced water to irrigate crops (i.e., water spinach) hosted in an integrated plant-growing unit in Saudi Arabia, with a crop surviving rate of 95%. Thereby, WEC2P may represent a meaningful contribution to the global water-energy-food nexus.

    Chaffee Count #flood risk assessment and floodplain mapping begins in March — Ark Valley Voice #ArkansasRiver

    Click the link to read the article on the Ark Valley Voice website (Jan Wondra):

    The Chaffee County Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning (Risk MAP) Study is underway across the county through the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). The Chaffee Risk MAP Study will collect data on field conditions in areas of the county believed to be at risk for impacts from future flooding, erosion, debris flow, or related hazard events. This information will be used to update flood risk information and floodplain mapping in certain watersheds and create tools that provide a data-driven framework for land use and other decision-making in affected areas. The study is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

    Buena Vista

    The Local Risk

    Based on assessments performed for the 2021 Chaffee County Hazard Mitigation Plan, overall flood risk is an important consideration due to precipitation and snowmelt runoff, and is categorized as medium to high risk in most populated areas of Chaffee County. Countywide, an estimated $34.5 million in property losses is at risk to a one-percent annual chance flood hazard. The unincorporated areas of the county together make up the majority of this exposure, with an estimated $26.7 million in losses at risk. Of the municipalities in Chaffee County, Buena Vista is at the highest risk with $6.1 million in estimated losses in a one-percent annual chance flood, followed by Poncha Springs and Salida with approximately $1.1 million and $460,000 in estimated losses respectively.

    Floodplain survey activities are currently planned between March and June

    The survey work will be focusing on several flooding sources in all of the incorporated communities and the unincorporated county areas. According to the CWCB, the survey crews will be collecting elevation and other basic information on the land around the waterways being studied, and will not dig around nor disturb the areas…Wood and Merrick & Company are the floodplain mapping and field surveying contractors working with CWCB for Chaffee County’s study. Wood is also familiar with Chaffee County through their work with the 2021 update of Chaffee County’s Hazard Mitigation Plan.

    Information on the CWCB’s floodplain mapping projects can be found at https://coloradohazardmapping.com/.

    For questions on the Chaffee County Risk MAP Study, residents are encouraged to reach out to CWCB at 303-866-3441.

    #Water proposals trickle through #Utah Statehouse in last days — The Associated Press

    Utah Rivers map via Geology.com

    Click the link to read the article on the Associated Press website (Sam Metz and Lindsay Whitehurst). Here’s an excerpt:

    Utah — which is both one of the nation’s driest states and thirstiest consumers of water on a per capita basis — is among a larger group of states confronting the realities of prolonged drought and climate change, while also trying to prepare for population growth. The state relies heavily on the over-tapped Colorado River and its past plans to create infrastructure to siphon more river water have provoked a united outcry from other states in the region — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming. This year’s water focus is a detour from previous years for a growing state that has historically been one of the region’s most reluctant to curtail water use. Here are a few proposals on the table as lawmakers barrel toward the end of the , legislative session:


    In Utah, about 200,000 homes and businesses have access to essentially unlimited outdoor water in exchange for a flat fee. It’s considered some of the cheapest water in the country. This year, lawmakers approved a plan to spend about $250 million in federal funds to rein in what’s called “secondary metering” and install meters on those connections so the amount of water they used can be measured for the first time…The proposal would require all secondary water connections to have water meters by 2030, though some small rural areas would be exempted.

    Satellite photo of the Great Salt Lake from August 2018 after years of drought, reaching near-record lows. The difference in colors between the northern and southern portions of the lake is the result of a railroad causeway. The image was acquired by the MSI sensor on the Sentinel-2B satellite. By Copernicus Sentinel-2, ESA – https://scihub.copernicus.eu/dhus/#/home, CC BY-SA 3.0 igo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77990895


    Republican House Speaker Brad Wilson’s plan to set aside $40 million for a trust to save the Great Salt Lake got final approval this week and awaits signature from Gov. Spencer Cox. The proposal would focus on ways to get more water into the shrinking lake, which hit its lowest level in recorded history last year. It would also seek to improve the water quality and restore the wetlands around the lake. The initial investment of state money is considered a first step. It’s expected to be funded with a combination of additional public and private funds in the future, Wilson has said. He cited copper company Rio Tinto’s 2021 decision to donate water rights to the lake as an example of what the trust could facilitate…

    The Southern Nevada Water Authority offers rebates of $3 for every square foot of grass replaced with water-smart landscaping. (Source: Southern Nevada Water Authority)


    Utah lawmakers are poised to pass new laws to encourage people and businesses to replace thirsty grass with drought-tolerant landscaping that uses less water. A proposal from Ogden Republican Rep. Ryan Wilcox would prohibit cities, counties and homeowners’ associations from requiring residents to plant traditional grass yards, rather than “water-wise landscaping” such as mulch, rocks and plants that can be sustained with drip irrigation, not sprinklers. Homeowners’ associations, including in Sandy and Salt Lake City, require residents to maintain grass yards. Cities including Orem and Saratoga Springs have similar municipal ordinances. Wilcox’s bill passed the House in February and awaits a vote in the Senate. Republican Rep. Robert Spendlove wants the government to set an example in conservation. A bill he’s sponsoring would require agencies to conserve water through limiting how much grass they can plant around state-owned buildings and requiring they scale down their water consumption gradually in the next four years. It cleared the Senate Wednesday.

    Prior appropriation example via Oregon.gov


    Lawmakers are also aiming to reform a water law doctrine known as “use it or lose it” that jeopardizes property owners’ water rights for water they don’t consume, in effect, discouraging conservation. Historically in Utah, unused water that flows past cities and farms and into the Great Salt Lake has been considered “wasted” since the body is too salty for fish or most other aquatic creatures to survive. A plan from Republican Rep. Joel Ferry would allow farmers to let water flow downstream to the Great Salt Lake and other water bodies without the risk of losing their water rights — and get paid for it. Farmers would decide whether to sell their water, likely based on their harvests and balance sheets for the year. It awaits the governor’s signature.

    Lake Powell Pipeline map via the Washington County Water Conservancy District, October 25, 2020.


    In their roughly $25 billion proposed budget, lawmakers did not earmark funds for two contested water projects in northern and southern Utah. Senate President Stuart Adams and Sen. Jerry Stevenson said Wednesday that the budget did not include provisions funding dams along northern Utah’s Bear River. The dams would allow more water to flow to the growing population of the Wasatch Front, but potentially divert water from the largest tributary that feeds the Great Salt Lake. The budget also does not include funding for the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District, which wants to construct a pipeline to transport additional groundwater to Cedar City and the growing surrounding areas.