#ShowYourStripes (1895-2021) #Colorado #ActOnClimate

Happy(?) Show Your Stripes Day. Here’s the Colorado graphic for the period 1895-2021. Are you able to spot a trend?

Colorado Show Your Stripes Day June 21, 2022

#ColoradoRiver states need to drastically cut down their #water usage ASAP, or the federal government will step in — #Colorado Public Radio #COriver #aridification

A view of Reflection Canyon in Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, in 2013. Sedimentary rock forms the landscape surrounding Lake Powell, on the Colorado River at the Utah-Arizona border. (Gary Ladd/National Park Service/Public domain)

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado Public Radio website (Michael Elizabeth Sakas). Here’s an excerpt:

During a U.S. Senate hearing on Western drought [June 14, 2022], the commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation told the states in the Colorado River Basin that they have 60 days to create an emergency plan to stop using between 2 and 4 million acre-feet of water in the next year or the agency will use its emergency authority to make the cuts itself…Touton said the seven states must “stay at the table until the job is done.”


Commissioner Touton’s directive dropped just a couple of days before the University of Colorado Boulder’s annual Colorado law conference on natural resources, which is focused on the Colorado River.

“That elephant is filling this whole room,” John Fleck, a water policy professor at the University of New Mexico, said at the start of his talk at the conference. Fleck, who has also written multiple books on the Colorado River, watched Touton’s testimony in his Alamosa hotel room en route to the conference…

Fleck said the directive, combined with the “threat” of federal action if the states don’t act, creates an extraordinary challenge for water managers and users in the Colorado River Basin — a group he noted included many of the people at the CU Boulder conference.

To explain the federal agency’s reasoning for calling for such massive cuts, bureau hydrologic engineer James Prairie presented to attendees an updated forecast of expected flows into Lakes Powell and Mead over the next few years. By early 2024, projections show water levels in Lake Powell could drop too low for hydropower turbines to operate and generate electricity.

Poll shows deep opposition to Renewable #Water Resources water export plan: #ClimateChange surfaces as top concern among #SanLuisValley residents — @AlamosaCitizen

Click the link to read the article on the Alamosa Citizen website (Mark Obmascik):

THE IRS. Head lice. Bill Cosby. Nickleback. Congress.

Every member of this unlikely group has one thing in common: Each is more popular than the Renewable Water Resources plan to pump water from the San Luis Valley to the Front Range of Colorado.

According to the Alamosa Citizen survey of voter attitudes in the San Luis Valley, the RWR plan is supported by less than 1 percent of local voters. It is opposed by 91 percent. Eight percent said they had no opinion of the water export project proposed by former Gov. Bill Owens and several other leaders of his administration.

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Widespread opposition to RWR was one of the major findings on natural resource issues to come from the random survey, which was directed by the Alamosa Citizen and financed, in part, by the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.

The survey also yielded many other strong local opinions on the health of the Rio Grande (pessimistic), climate change (it’s hurting the river), and the impact of drought on local farms and businesses (not good.) More on those issues below.

Still, it’s hard to find anything in modern American life liked less than RWR’s approval rating of 0.7 percent. Among the things with better approval ratings among voters than the RWR project: head lice, colonoscopies, used car salesmen, and dental root canal procedures, according to one national poll.

Anchovies on pizza, as well as turnips and brussel sprouts for dinner, get higher ratings than RWR. Disgraced comedian Bill Cosby is 20 times more popular in the U.S. than RWR is in the San Luis Valley. The Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Congress all get higher marks, according to another poll.

RWR backers said their own polling showed better numbers, but they declined to release the poll.

“From day one to today, our team has never wavered in visiting the San Luis Valley, meeting with individuals and educating them about what we aim to do,” said Renewable Water Resources spokeswoman Monica McCafferty in a statement. “We are naturally suspect of this survey (Alamosa Citizen) that is likely agenda-driven. We stand by our proposal, which took years to craft and presents numerous advantages for the San Luis Valley.”

The Alamosa Citizen conducted a 48-question survey which included questions on water and environmental issues. The survey was mailed to a random sampling of registered voters in each of the six counties of the San Luis Valley and was conducted by Nebraska-based rural survey specialist Craig Schroeder, who has surveyed attitudes of more than 60,000 people in 47 states over the past 20 years.

RWR proposes to pump out 22,000 acre-feet of water per year from a deep aquifer in the San Luis Valley while buying and retiring 31,000 acre feet of water currently used in the Valley for irrigated agriculture. As a result, RWR says a “surplus of 9,000 acre-feet will go back into the San Luis Valley’s shallow section of the aquifer.”

Local water officials have disputed RWR’s ability to export supplies from the Valley without harming existing farmers, wildlife, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The region faces increasing water restrictions after two decades of drought.

RWR had been wooing suburban Douglas County as a destination for the water, but the Alamosa Citizen reported last month that county commissioners there backed away from the proposal after their attorney highlighted several legal and engineering hurdles.

The company told Douglas County it is pursuing a “legislative strategy” for some of those issues.

“People here have been hearing about these water export proposals for 60 years now, and we’re just tired of it,” said state Sen. Cleave Simpson, who also serves as general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. “When it happened in other places, the outcome of selling your water rights for export has not turned out well for the community.”

HE Alamosa Citizen survey showed citizen awareness of the water project is extremely high. Nearly 94 percent of respondents said they had heard of a project to export water from the San Luis Valley to the Front Range of Colorado.

About two-thirds of respondents said they had heard specifically of Renewable Water Resources.

Of the residents who were familiar with RWR, 63 percent said they disapproved of the company. Eight percent approved. The remainder said they had no opinion about the company.

“Leave our water here,” one survey respondent wrote. “If Denver can’t handle their needs, then they need to control growth.”

“Exporting SLV water will devastate the valley – farming, wildlife, and habitat,” wrote another.

“Water export to Douglas County would be an economic death sentence for the San Luis Valley and the communities it sustains,” said another respondent.

The Alamosa Citizen survey showed the RWR plan comes at a tough time for water users in the San Luis Valley.

When asked whether the Rio Grande aquifer had enough water to share with growing areas of Colorado that need more water, Valley residents responded with a resounding no – 89 percent disagreed.

Eight of every 10 survey respondents agreed that the Rio Grande is “diminishing from severe drought.” By a 48 to 35 percent margin, Valley residents disagreed with this statement: “The Rio Grande is a healthy river.”

Two-thirds of Valley residents agreed that climate change is negatively affecting the Rio Grande. Only 14 percent agreed that the Rio Grande can “withstand climate change.”

In some ways, this means the San Luis Valley is more concerned about climate change than other regions, especially rural areas where voters have been more skeptical about the issue. The most recent national poll by Gallup on environmental issues found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the effects of climate change have already begun to happen.

The Valley’s belief in climate change is unusual especially when politics are considered. Nationally, only 11 percent of Republicans say they believe climate change will pose a serious threat in their own lifetimes. But in the San Luis Valley, most survey respondents say the threat is already here.

Only one in 10 local respondents agree that the Valley has enough water to meet local needs for the next 30 years. Nearly 85 percent of respondents say the Valley will face cutbacks in irrigation water in the next five years.

“Farmers are out of time to self-regulate,” wrote one respondent. “The state should start imposing harsh restrictions now instead of kicking the can down the road.”

“The San Luis Valley has become a desert because of climate change and the farmers / ranchers who have drained the aquifer by installing sprinkler systems,” wrote another respondent.

“Farmers don’t need bossy legislators telling them how to use their water,” wrote another. “Most farmers are already on the brink of fiscal disaster. They need help, not more laws curtailing their use of water.”

Almost every resident said there was a chance they would be personally impacted by drought.

About seven of 10 Valley residents agreed with this statement: “We need to act now to reduce water use to continue to grow the San Luis Valley’s economy in the future.”

Only 8 percent disagreed with this statement: “Rising temperatures will impact the San Luis Valley’s future water needs.”

“Climate change is bigger than we are,” wrote one respondent.

Monsoonal activity getting off to a good start in #Arizona, #NewMexico & southwest #Colorado — @DroughtDenise #Monsoon2k22 #drought

Battling #ClimateChange with #solar, #hydro and a shifting fleet Denver Water is cutting its carbon footprint, while preparing for a drier, hotter future — News on Tap #ActOnCLimate

Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Todd Hartman):

Denver Water sits on the front lines of climate change.

Rising temperatures, long-term drought and less dependable snowpack are all making the job of providing water to 1.5 million people tougher.

Denver Water’s administration building is powered by solar panels. Photo credit: Denver Water.

In response, the utility is preparing for a future with a less consistent water supply for its customers, through innovations including greater efficiency, One Water and new storage projects such as the Gross Reservoir expansion.

Learn more about how the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project makes us more resilient in the face of climate change with greater water security.

The utility also is moving aggressively to cut its own carbon footprint, striving to meet goals for producing renewable energy and reducing dependence on energy sources tied directly to warming temperatures.

In 2020, Denver Water met an organizational goal for “net zero” annual energy consumption. That’s a fancy way of saying it produced as much or more energy than it consumed, and that its energy was generated using carbon-free sources: hydropower and solar power.

To be precise, the utility produced roughly 1.5 million more “kilowatt-hour equivalents” than it used in 2020.

The utility’s solar power panels and hydropower generators produced enough clean energy to account for not only its electricity use but also the natural gas it uses for heat. Natural gas burned to supply heat is an energy category that’s not always factored into “net zero” calculations, but Denver Water made a point of including it to create a stretch goal for its effort.

Denver Water’s solar panels generated more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020. Photo credit: Denver Water

“Several years earlier, we had set a goal to hit ‘net-zero’ as a benchmark for our sustainability efforts,” said Kate Taft, Denver Water’s sustainability manager. “Hitting that in 2020 was the result of a lot of focused, dedicated work across the organization and represents an important milestone in the utility’s long history of environmental progress.”

Net-zero is a big deal in the era of climate change.

Learn more about how Denver Water has leaned into the challenge of climate change and how its work to track emissions has been recognized by outside experts.

Many major corporations are striving to attain the status, including companies such as Coca-Cola and General Motors. Many companies and governments have set net-zero goals for 2030 and 2040, for example.

Denver Water got there sooner. Though, to be sure, Denver Water benefits from — wait for it — water in this endeavor.

Water spills from Williams Fork Reservoir in 2019. The power of moving water is a major source of emission-free electricity for Denver Water. Photo credit: Denver Water

Hydroelectric power is generated at seven locations in Denver Water’s 4,000-square-mile collection area. That includes power generated at reservoirs but also at places like Roberts Tunnel, where the energy of water moving downhill through a tunnel that traverses the Continental Divide creates electricity.

All told, Denver Water’s hydropower operations generate about 65 million emission-free kilowatt-hours per year. That translates to about the amount of electricity consumed by 6,000 homes for a year.

While Denver Water generated hydropower for decades and is continuing to look for additional opportunities to generate power from moving water, including at its Northwater Treatment Plant currently under construction near Golden, the addition of solar power to its renewable energy portfolio is more recent.

At the utility’s newly redeveloped Operations Complex, completed in 2019, solar power panels on the roof of the Administration Building and atop parking structures generated more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020. That offset the Administration Building’s use with more than 300,000 kilowatt-hours to spare.

Crews install solar panels on top of Denver Water’s administration building in 2019. Photo credit: Denver Water

That’s extra clean electricity that can go back into the grid for use by others.

And in Denver Water’s new sustainability goals issued in 2021, the utility set a new target for itself: to increase its capacity to generate renewable energy by 1 megawatt and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from a 2015 baseline.

How much is that 1 megawatt? Roughly, it would be like adding another solar array about the size of the one at the Operations Complex. Or, like adding the hydropower capacity that now exists at Strontia Springs Reservoir, situated 6 miles up Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver.

Even as it works to add more green power, Denver Water may not always be able to meet its net-zero goal, at least in the short term.

That’s because maintenance projects at times take hydroelectric facilities off-line or reduce their capacity. For example, for the next five years, Gross Reservoir will generate less power because its storage space for water will be cut by about one-third while a dam-raising project proceeds.

Students learn about the hydroelectric plant at Hillcrest water storage facility in southeast Denver. Hydroelectricity at Hillcrest and six other sites is key to the utility’s ability to meet its net zero energy goals. Photo credit: Denver Water

However once that project is completed, and the capacity of the reservoir is tripled, the location is expected to be a greater source of clean energy, increasing its production capacity by nearly 15% compared to its capacity before the project.

In 2021, too, Denver Water fell short of its goal due in part to work on the hydroelectric facility at Roberts Tunnel. Work to upgrade the hydro facility at the tunnel kicked off in 2019.

Finally, while Denver Water focuses on offsetting electricity and heat generated by fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, its net-zero calculations don’t currently count gasoline burned by its fleet vehicles or propane needed at some remote sites.

“As we make a long-term shift to cleaner energy sources, there will be bumps in the road,” Taft said. “We still, inevitably, will depend on more traditional sources at times and in certain locations. But we are relentlessly pushing to generate more of our own green energy and cut emissions associated with natural gas, coal and vehicles.”

Learn more about how Denver Water has constructed a low-energy heating and cooling system and its long history of environmental stewardship.

As part of its effort to cut emissions, Denver Water is beginning the long transition to electric fleet vehicles.

The utility already has six Ford F-150 hybrid trucks and hopes to test the use of some all-electric pickups in 2023, pending supply chain challenges.

And as the utility continues to look at other electric vehicle options, it is partnering with analysts at Drive Clean Colorado and Xcel Energy’s Fleet Electrification Advisory Program to help guide the process.

“Getting this right will take time and a constant push forward,” said Brian Good, Denver Water’s chief administrative officer. “But it is the right thing to do. We are a water utility, and providing reliable, safe, clean water isn’t possible without protecting the natural environment from which it flows.”

University of #Wyoming research to examine #climate-driven #water challenges — WyoFile #ActOnClimate

A whitewater raft moves down the Wind River in central Wyoming’s Wind River Canyon. A five-year, $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation will allow UW researchers to quantify how a changing climate in one of the nation’s key headwater regions is likely to affect streamflows, aquatic ecosystems and vegetation — and the communities and people who depend upon them. (UW Photo)

Click the link to read the article on the WyoFile website (Dustin Bleizeffer):

University of Wyoming researchers are responding to rapidly shifting climate and water dynamics that threaten the state’s economy with a five-year study to help communities better prepare.

The university recently received a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation “to help Wyoming communities deal with projected significant and lasting changes in water availability,” according to a UW press release. The climate and water assessment work will focus on glacial systems and headwaters — mostly in the western portion of the state — to learn how changes there affect the future availability of water throughout the rest of Wyoming.

“What happens to water will really impact everyone, so our intention is really to understand those cascading impacts,” University of Wyoming Assistant Professor of Environment and Society Corrie Knapp said.

Interdisciplinary research

The “Wyoming Anticipating Climate Transitions” program builds on two previous NSF grants to the university to “stimulate” wide-ranging research of Wyoming water resources, according to UW. It will establish a Center for Climate, Water and People at the university, as well as a Regional Earth System Modeling laboratory that taps into the National Center for Atmospheric Research-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne.

A climate and water assessment for the Greater Yellowstone Region warns that warming temperatures and shrinking snowpack is a threat to fisheries, including the Snake River. (Charles “Chuck” Peterson/FlickrCC)

The grant will support five new faculty positions at the university. The effort will also strengthen a partnership between the university and Cheyenne-based WEST Inc., an environmental and statistical consulting firm, to develop training and labor force strategies around climate change in Wyoming.

“Our primary objective is to generate cross-cutting observations, data sets and understanding that will support the adaptive capacity of Wyoming’s rural communities and economies in the face of rapidly changing and uncertain climate conditions,” University of Wyoming professor of botany Brent Ewers said.

More than an academic effort, UW researchers and program partners will host a series of public meetings and respond to local input in assessing how communities and businesses might best prepare and adapt, according to Knapp. That includes an interdisciplinary team of university and business leaders who will make recommendations for how to educate and train a labor force for an economy that will change with the environment.

View southeast over Dinwoody Glacier August 1984. (USGS Photo Archives Digital File: Digital File:gdl00388)

“We’ll be working with communities and stakeholders in designing and then implementing the research,” Knapp said. “It’s an opportunity to not only provide really relevant, useful science when communities and stakeholders need it, but this model is really shifting how we do science.”

Climate and water challenges

The NSF grant will also support work at the UW-National Park Service Research Station in Grand Teton National Park. The research station was integral in publishing the Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment in 2021.

Among the study’s findings: snowpack is already shrinking between 5,000 and 7,000 feet of elevation; average temperatures in the region are projected to increase 0.31 degrees Fahrenheit per decade; and changes in the timing and rate of snowmelt are already impacting fish spawning and the general health of aquatic systems.

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem spans three states and multiple state and federal jurisdictional boundaries. Climate researchers say it’s important for those various authorities to work from a broader, ecosystem-wide perspective. (National Park Service)

The changes are unfolding rapidly and present a complex challenge for people in Wyoming and across the West, University of Wyoming professor of geology and geophysics Bryan Shuman said.

“Because these trends are projected to continue, water availability will become less certain and predictable, even while society’s demand for water is likely to increase,” said Shuman, who contributed to the Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment.

The same types of trends are seen statewide.

Wyoming’s annual mean temperature increased 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit from 1920 to 2020 — a rate that outpaces the global mean temperature rise of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. Especially concerning is the fact that Wyoming’s winter and spring seasons — as well as its highest elevations — are warming even faster.

Those warming trends are already having a significant impact on snowpack and annual water flows, according to J.J. Shinker, professor at the University of Wyoming’s Department of Geology and Geophysics.

“While increases in temperature don’t appear to be reflected in significant changes in precipitation, the temperature increases are impacting water resources through early snowmelt, faster runoff and greater evaporation at the surface, all of which enhance drought,” Shinker told WyoFile in November.

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 22 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily.

Wyoming rivers map via Geology.com