Film: Counting Cranes — Platte Basin Timelapse

PBT Presents, “Counting Cranes”

Imagine trying to count hundreds of thousands of birds in a matter of seconds. This is what Andy Caven does every spring… from a plane. In March, upwards of a million sandhill cranes pass through Nebraska’s central Platte River Valley. For the past 20 years, the Crane Trust has conducted aerial surveys of sandhill crane roosts to get an accurate count of the number of birds that pass through.

We are happy to announce, “Counting Cranes” is now available! PBT’s Mariah Lundgren produced this short film alongside Grant Reiner and Sidney Parks in partnership with the Crane Trust.

In this film, Andy and his team take us behind the scenes to show us how the aerial surveys are done, what they have learned, and why it’s important.

Watch the film above, or click HERE.

Water Law in a Nutshell Friday, April 22, 2022 — The #Water Information Program

Click the link for all the inside skinny and to register:

Once again we are pleased to present the Water Law in a Nutshell course. A great opportunity to learn with Aaron Clay in an online setting about all aspects of the law related to water rights and ditch rights as applied in Colorado. Subject matter includes the appropriation, perfection, use, limitations, attributes, abandonment and enforcement of various types of water rights. Additional subject matter will include special rules for groundwater, public rights in appropriated water, interstate compacts and more.

From his 26 years as a water referee at the Colorado Water Court, Clay brings his wealth of knowledge that earned him a reputation as one of the top experts in water law to this “Water in a Nutshell” course.

To register or for more information click here.

Article: Untapped potential: leak reduction is the most cost-effective urban #water management tool — Environmental Research Letters

Click the link to read the article on the Environmental Research Letters website (Amanda Rupiper et al). Here’s the abstract:

Providing sufficient, safe, and reliable drinking water is a growing challenge as water supplies become more scarce and uncertain. Meanwhile, water utilities in the United States lose approximately 17% of their delivered water to leaks each year. Using data from over 800 utilities across four U.S. states, California, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas, we characterize the heterogeneity in water losses across the U.S., develop a model to assess the economically efficient level of losses, and use this model to compare the net benefits of several proposed water loss regulations and modeling approaches. Combining economic and engineering principles, our model shows that for the median utility, it is economically efficient to reduce water losses by 34.7%, or 100 acre-feet (AF) per year. The median cost of water savings from leak management is $277/AF, which falls well below the cost of traditional water management tools. However, the optimal level of water losses strongly depends on utility-specific characteristics, leading to large differences in the potential for cost-effective leak reduction across utilities. We show that water loss management can lead to water savings that generate net economic benefits, but only if management approaches incorporate economic and engineering principles.

Three Myths About #RenewableEnergy and the Grid, Debunked — Yale Environment 360 #ActOnClimate

Click the link to read the article on the Yale Environment 360 website ( Amory B. Lovins and M. V. Ramana):

Renewable energy skeptics argue that because of their variability, wind and solar cannot be the foundation of a dependable electricity grid. But the expansion of renewables and new methods of energy management and storage can lead to a grid that is reliable and clean.

As wind and solar power have become dramatically cheaper, and their share of electricity generation grows, skeptics of these technologies are propagating several myths about renewable energy and the electrical grid. The myths boil down to this: Relying on renewable sources of energy will make the electricity supply undependable.

Last summer, some commentators argued that blackouts in California were due to the “intermittency” of renewable energy sources, when in fact the chief causes were a combination of an extreme heat wave probably induced by climate change, faulty planning, and the lack of flexible generation sources and sufficient electricity storage. During a brutal Texas cold snap last winter, Gov. Greg Abbott wrongly blamed wind and solar power for the state’s massive grid failure, which was vastly larger than California’s. In fact, renewables outperformed the grid operator’s forecast during 90 percent of the blackout, and in the rest, fell short by at most one-fifteenth as much as gas plants. Instead, other causes — such as inadequately weatherized power plants and natural gas shutting down because of frozen equipment — led to most of the state’s electricity shortages.

In Europe, the usual target is Germany, in part because of its Energiewende (energy transformation) policies shifting from fossil fuels and nuclear energy to efficient use and renewables. The newly elected German government plans to accelerate the former and complete the latter, but some critics have warned that Germany is running “up against the limits of renewables.”

In reality, it is entirely possible to sustain a reliable electricity system based on renewable energy sources plus a combination of other means, including improved methods of energy management and storage. A clearer understanding of how to dependably manage electricity supply is vital because climate threats require a rapid shift to renewable sources like solar and wind power. This transition has been sped by plummeting costs —Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that solar and wind are the cheapest source for 91 percent of the world’s electricity — but is being held back by misinformation and myths.

Myth No. 1: A grid that increasingly relies on renewable energy is an unreliable grid.

Going by the cliché, “In God we trust; all others bring data,” it’s worth looking at the statistics on grid reliability in countries with high levels of renewables. The indicator most often used to describe grid reliability is the average power outage duration experienced by each customer in a year, a metric known by the tongue-tying name of “System Average Interruption Duration Index” (SAIDI). Based on this metric, Germany — where renewables supply nearly half of the country’s electricity — boasts a grid that is one of the most reliable in Europe and the world. In 2020, SAIDI was just 0.25 hours in Germany. Only Liechtenstein (0.08 hours), and Finland and Switzerland (0.2 hours), did better in Europe, where 2020 electricity generation was 38 percent renewable (ahead of the world’s 29 percent). Countries like France (0.35 hours) and Sweden (0.61 hours) — both far more reliant on nuclear power — did worse, for various reasons.

The Bungala Solar Farm for is at this point the nation’s largest operation solar PV plant. Image: Enel Green Power

Thus all sources of power will be unavailable sometime or other. Managing a grid has to deal with that reality, just as much as with fluctuating demand. The influx of larger amounts of renewable energy does not change that reality, even if the ways they deal with variability and uncertainty are changing. Modern grid operators emphasize diversity and flexibility rather than nominally steady but less flexible “baseload” generation sources. Diversified renewable portfolios don’t fail as massively, lastingly, or unpredictably as big thermal power stations.

The purpose of an electric grid is not just to transmit and distribute electricity as demand fluctuates, but also to back up non-functional plants with working plants: that is, to manage the intermittency of traditional fossil and nuclear plants. In the same way, but more easily and often at lower cost, the grid can rapidly back up wind and solar photovoltaics’ predictable variations with other renewables, of other kinds or in other places or both.This has become easier with today’s far more accurate forecasting of weather and wind speeds, thus allowing better prediction of the output of variable renewables. Local or onsite renewables are even more resilient because they largely or wholly bypass the grid, where nearly all power failures begin. And modern power electronics have reliably run the billion-watt South Australian grid on just sun and wind for days on end, with no coal, no hydro, no nuclear, and at most the 4.4-percent natural-gas generation currently required by the grid regulator.

Most discussions of renewables focus on batteries and other electric storage technologies to mitigate variability. This is not surprising because batteries are rapidly becoming cheaper and widely deployed. At the same time, new storage technologies with diverse attributes continue to emerge; the U.S. Department of Energy Global Energy Storage Database lists 30 kinds already deployed or under construction. Meanwhile, many other and less expensive carbon-free ways exist to deal with variable renewables besides giant batteries.

The first and foremost is energy efficiency, which reduces demand, especially during periods of peak use. Buildings that are more efficient need less heating or cooling and change their temperature more slowly, so they can coast longer on their own thermal capacity and thus sustain comfort with less energy, especially during peak-load periods.

A second option is demand flexibility or demand response, wherein utilities compensate electricity customers that lower their use when asked — often automatically and imperceptibly — helping balance supply and demand. One recent study found that the U.S. has 200 gigawatts of cost-effective load flexibility potential that could be realized by 2030 if effective demand response is actively pursued. Indeed, the biggest lesson from recent shortages in California might be the greater appreciation of the need for demand response. Following the challenges of the past two summers, the California Public Utilities Commission has instituted the Emergency Load Reduction Program to build on earlier demand response efforts.

Some evidence suggests an even larger potential: An hourly simulation of the 2050 Texas grid found that eight types of demand response could eliminate the steep ramp of early-evening power demand as solar output wanes and household loads spike. For example, currently available ice-storage technology freezes water using lower-cost electricity and cooler air, usually at night, and then uses the ice to cool buildings during hot days. This reduces electricity demand from air conditioning, and saves money, partly because storage capacity for heating or cooling is far cheaper than storing electricity to deliver them. Likewise, without changing driving patterns, many electric vehicles can be intelligently charged when electricity is more abundant, affordable, and renewable.

The top graph shows daily solar power output (yellow line) and demand from various household uses. The bottom graph shows how to align demand with supply, running devices in the middle of the day when solar output is highest. ROCKY MOUNTAIN INSTITUTE

A third option for stabilizing the grid as renewable energy generation increases is diversity, both of geography and of technology — onshore wind, offshore wind, solar panels, solar thermal power, geothermal, hydropower, burning municipal or industrial or agricultural wastes. The idea is simple: If one of these sources, at one location, is not generating electricity at a given time, odds are that some others will be.

Finally, some forms of storage, such as electric vehicle batteries, are already economical today. Simulations show that ice-storage air conditioning in buildings, plus smart charging to and from the grid of electric cars, which are parked 96 percent of the time, could enable Texas in 2050 to use 100 percent renewable electricity without needing giant batteries.

To pick a much tougher case, the “dark doldrums” of European winters are often claimed to need many months of battery storage for an all-renewable electrical grid. Yet top German and Belgian grid operators find Europe would need only one to two weeks of renewably derived backup fuel, providing just 6 percent of winter output — not a huge challenge.

The bottom line is simple. Electrical grids can deal with much larger fractions of renewable energy at zero or modest cost, and this has been known for quite a while. Some European countries with little or no hydropower already get about half to three-fourths of their electricity from renewables with grid reliability better than in the U.S. It is time to get past the myths.

Amory B. Lovins is an adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, and co-founder and chairman emeritus of Rocky Mountain Institute. M. V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security and director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

The Pagosa Area Water & Sanitation District cancels May, 2022 election — The #PagosaSprings Sun

A ballot box used in France. By Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr,

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

At a special meeting of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanita- tion District (PAWSD) Board of Directors on March 3, the board unanimously voted to cancel the upcoming district election.
According to District Manager and Engineer Justin Ramsey, the board had three openings and three candidates for board posi- tions after a fourth candidate withdrew…

The three candidates declared elected after the cancellation of the election are Drew Mackey and current board member Blake Brueckner for three-year terms and Bill Hudson for a one-year term.

Proposed Archuleta County Flood Map reflects changes to local flood risk, insurance rates — FEMA #PiedraRiver

Map credit: FEMA

Click the link to read the release on the FEMA website:

Updates to Archuleta County’s flood insurance rate maps are nearing completion. The new maps will provide Archuleta County with more accurate flood risk information that can help local officials and residents make informed decisions about reducing flood risks and purchasing flood insurance.

The mapping project is a joint effort between Archuleta County, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and FEMA. It is part of a nationwide effort led by FEMA to increase local knowledge of flood risks and support actions to address and reduce those risks.

Before new flood insurance rate maps become effective, there is a 90-day appeal period during which local residents and business owners can provide additional data for consideration before the maps are final. This appeal period starts on March 10, 2022.

Officials encourage residents and business owners to review the proposed flood insurance rate maps to learn about local flood risks, potential future flood insurance requirements, and any concerns or questions about the information provided.

Appeal packages may be submitted during the 90-day appeal period. The sole basis of the appeal must include the possession of knowledge or information indicating that the proposed flood hazard determinations are scientifically and/or technically incorrect.

For further details on this process, visit

To view preliminary mapping, visit the Colorado Hazard Mapping Website (, or contact your local floodplain administrator. Preliminary mapping also may be viewed on FEMA’s Map Service Center (

#SanJuanRiver #snowpack conditions March 13, 2022 — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 31.8 inches of snow water equivalent as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March. 2. That amount is up 2 inches from the snow water equivalent depth of 29.8 inches reported Wednesday, March 9. The Wolf Creek summit is at 126
percent of the March 9 snowpack median.

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 101 percent of the March 9 median in terms of snowpack.

Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership: Years-long effort aims to balance health, use of #water — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver

Swim class on the San Juan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

Current projects

WEP’s work to leverage the knowledge it has accumulated is reflected in the organization’s two ongoing stream enhancement projects.

[Al] Pfister explained that stream enhancement involves “enhancing channel stability [and] doing some reworking of the river so that you have a low stream channel instead of flat stream bed.”

WEP’s current stream enhancement projects focus on enhancements to the San Juan River both near the proposed Yamaguchi Park South and upstream from Pagosa for 2.5 miles from near Bob’s LP. Pfister stated that both of these projects build off of prior work undertaken by the Town of Pagosa Springs and its partners to enhance the section of the San Juan River that flows through downtown Pagosa.

Yamaguchi South Planning Project site layout via the City of Pagosa Springs.

Yamaguchi South project

The planned stream enhancements in Yamaguchi Park South involve both modifications to the river itself and enhancements to the recreational resources along its banks. Pfister explained that, in terms of river modifications, “There’s going to be one whitewater feature in there, but then also enhancing the stream morphology. Pfister stated that these changes are aimed at providing healthier fish habitat and promoting the health of the riparian corridor for all its users, including birds, mammals and insects. He also suggested that the stream modifications required for conservation synergize with the needs of recreational users by promoting healthy fish populations for fisher people. They also provide deep stream channels and shallow bank pools that benefit boating and riverside recreation. On the banks, the project will involve the creation of a new boat put in and take out in Yamaguchi Park South to replace the current put in at the south end of Yamaguchi Park.

Pfister commented that this will improve “access for people so there’s not the conflict that currently exists down there at the end of Yamaguchi Park now.”

Pfister elaborated, saying, “The county and town both use that as a location to fill their water trucks. So … it can create some challenges.”

Pfister explained that the new boat take out will include a gravel road to the new take out location, in contrast to the dirt road currently used to access the take out, and a larger area for taking out and launch- ing boats. Pfister said that the goal was “to have more of a permanent thing, whereas now it’s a dirt road, and having the put in or take out such that it doesn’t have negative impacts on the stream morphology/hydrology.”

Pagosa gateway project

WEP’s second major stream enhancement project is the Pagosa gateway project, which involves enhancements to the San Juan River for approximately 2.5 miles north of Bob’s LP. This project will involve similar stream improvements to the Yamaguchi South project as well as the removal of several car bodies that are currently deposited in the river upstream from Pagosa. Pfister highlighted that the removal of these car bodies is “a big issue as far as river recreationists are concerned, and it’s not healthy for the river.”

Both the Pagosa gateway and South Yamaguchi projects are await- ing the completion of final steps, including pieces of grant funding and private landowner permissions. However, Pfister expressed optimism that both projects would begin to break ground in the “next couple years.”