Observed temperature This summer has been the 6th warmest summer on record, and the 2nd warmest summer on record for Colorado in terms of average low temperatures due to consistent warm nights. While warm nights indicate more humidity and less evaporative demand, they put stress on people and livestock. September continued the trend of above average temperatures.
Observed precipitation and drought conditions September precipitation was normal to above normal in all but the northern part of the state due to the early onset of the monsoon, particularly in southern Colorado. This summer was the 34th wettest summer on record, and the first above average summer since 2015. However much of this precipitation occurred in the southern part of the state, while the Northeast was very dry.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, much of Colorado experienced drought condition improvement with parts of central Colorado moving out of drought altogether. About 45% of the state remains in drought conditions (D1 and above), and 15% of the state has no level of drought. Persistent drought conditions still continue in the northeast portion of the state, whereas conditions have improved along the Continental Divide and in southern CO. Water year to date precipitation statewide is just above the median, picking up in mid-June after a dry spring. Most basins are near the long term average for the water year, though the northeast corner and Baca county remain dry. Portions of Phillips and Sedgwick Counties are now in exceptional drought. Summer of 2022 was warm and wet, with above average precipitation in most of the state and temperature 1.5 degrees warmer than average. According to the Drought Monitor, Weld and Yuma counties have been in D3 for 13 consecutive weeks, Yuma for 11 weeks, Phillips and Sedgwick have been in D4 for 7 weeks, and Montezuma County was in D3/D4 for 122 consecutive weeks.
Observed streamflows Even though higher than normal precipitation in the southern part of the state slightly improved streamflows, below normal streamflows were observed across most of the state for the April-July time period.
Snowpack and reservoir storage Reservoir storage remains below normal in most of the state as a result of lower than expected stream flows attributable to dry soils, as well as warm, dry conditions over several years. The statewide average sits at 78% of normal. The Rio Grande and South Platte basins have the most plentiful storage at 103 and 97 percent, respectively. Reservoir storage is especially low in the Gunnison basin, due predominantly to releases from Blue Mesa, and in the southwest part of the state.
Seasonal outlook La Niña looks likely to continue through fall and into the winter, and the Climate Prediction Center indicates Colorado is more likely to experience warmer than average conditions through the end of the calendar year. While precipitation outlook is less certain, the outlook leans toward drier than average conditions.
Following a drier-than-normal September for a majority of the contiguous U.S., this dry pattern continued into early October for many areas. Therefore, drought coverage increased and intensified throughout the Pacific Northwest, Great Plains, Ohio River Valley, and Southeast. From October 4-10, heavy rainfall (1 to 3 inches) was limited to the northern Mid-Atlantic, southern New England, and parts of the Southwest. New Mexico was especially wet this past week and this much above-normal precipitation extended eastward into west Texas. 7-day temperatures, ending on October 10, averaged above-normal across the West. Cooler-than-normal temperatures were observed from the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast with the first freeze of the season affecting parts of the Midwest…
30 to 120-day SPI along with soil moisture indicators supported expansion of moderate drought (D1) throughout northern and eastern North Dakota. Based on a consensus of indicators, severe drought (D2) was added to central North Dakota. Severe (D2) to extreme (D3) drought was expanded slightly across east-central Nebraska based on SPI at multiple time scales and soil moisture. Likewise, these indicators supported a 1-category degradation in parts of south-central and southwestern South Dakota. Impact reports from these areas of South Dakota include: zero soil moisture down to three feet on several fields and low stock ponds. The most widespread degradations made to Kansas were in northeast and east-central parts of the state, consistent with 90 to 120-day SPEI along with soil moisture indicators. An expansion of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) was made to southeastern Colorado, based on 30-day SPIs, declining soil moisture and streamflows, and very dry VegDRI. Conversely, heavy rainfall (1 to 2 inches) since the beginning of October prompted a 1-category improvement for parts of southwestern Colorado. Slight improvements were justified across northwestern Wyoming, due to positive values of 30 to 90-day SPI and favorable soil moisture response from recent precipitation…
Increasing 90-day precipitation deficits of more than 6 inches and above-normal temperatures during September resulted in the continued expansion of moderate drought (D1) across western Washington and northwest Oregon. SPI values, soil moisture indicators, and 28-day streamflows strongly support D1 in these areas. According to the NCEI statewide rankings, Montana had its warmest July-August-September on record. Based on the 90-day SPEI along with 24-month SPI, extreme drought (D3) was expanded across northern Montana. D3 was eliminated in parts of eastern Montana due to the lack of support from SPI and SPEI values at various time scales. Based on longer-term SPIs and local feedback, 1-category improvements were made to parts of Utah along with bordering northeast Nevada…
Widespread, heavy precipitation (1 to 3 inches) during early October along with a wet 2022 Monsoon supported large-scale improvements across New Mexico. These improving drought conditions extended eastward to include western Texas. During the past week, rainfall amounts ranged from 2 to 4 inches, locally more, across the Davis Mountains, Trans Pecos, and southern Permian Basin of western Texas. Farther to the east across central and eastern Texas, another week of degradations were made. Based on 120-day, soil moisture, and impact reports, the coverage of D3 (extreme) to D4 (exceptional) drought was expanded across parts of Oklahoma. Rainfall was not enough to justify any improvements in southwestern Oklahoma with little to no response in soil moisture. Increasing 30-day deficits resulted in a 1-category degradation across parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The expanding D3 area in Arkansas was based on 30 to 60-day SPI and soil moisture indicators…
From October 13 to 17, a series of cold fronts are forecast to progress southeastward across the central and eastern U.S. The heaviest precipitation (more than one inch), through Oct 17, is forecast across the Northeast and also extending from the lower Mississippi Valley west to New Mexico. Mostly dry weather is likely to persist across the north-central U.S. and Pacific Northwest. Above-normal temperatures are forecast to continue throughout the northwestern quarter of the U.S., while below-normal temperatures expand from the northern Plains to the Corn Belt and Ohio Valley.
Spanish The Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 day outlook (valid October 18-23, 2022) strongly favors below-normal temperatures across the eastern and south-central U.S. with a persistence of above-normal temperatures over the West. A majority of the contiguous U.S. is likely to experience drier-than-normal conditions with the largest probabilities (50 percent) for below-normal precipitation forecast across the north-central Great Plains. Elevated probabilities for above-normal precipitation are limited to the Southwest.
Colorado regulators, after years of study, negotiations and testing, approved a new rule that clears the way for drinking treated wastewater this week, one of only a handful of states in the country to do so.
The action came in a unanimous vote of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission Oct. 11.
Direct potable reuse (DPR) involves sophisticated filtering and disinfection of sewage water for drinking water purposes, with no environmental buffer, such as a wetland or river, between the wastewater treatment plant and drinking water treatment plant. That water is then sent out through the city’s drinking water system.
Colorado joins Ohio, South Carolina and New Mexico in setting up a regulated DPR system, with California, Florida and Arizona working to develop a similar regulatory scheme, according to Laura Belanger, a water reuse specialist and policy advisor at Western Resource Advocates.
Ron Falco, safe drinking water program manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), said the new regulation would provide communities across the state important access to a new, safe source of drinking water, a critical factor in a water-short state.
“This is going to be a need in Colorado and we want to be prepared,” he said. “Can DPR be done safely? Our answer to that is yes.”
Aurora has had a reuse system in place for more than a decade that also uses treated wastewater. But Aurora’s water is treated and released from the wastewater treatment plant into the South Platte River, where it flows through the river’s alluvial aquifer, before Aurora pumps it out through groundwater wells. Aurora then mixes it with raw mountain water before treating it and distributing it to customers. That practice is known as indirect potable reuse — there’s an environmental buffer between the wastewater plant and the drinking water plant, in Aurora’s case, that’s the river. Indirect potable reuse is used by several big cities nationwide, including San Diego.
Under Colorado’s new regulation, water providers will be required to show they have the technical, managerial and financial resources needed to successfully treat wastewater.
Communities will also be required to show how they will remove contaminants in their watersheds before the water reaches rivers and streams.
Wastewater intended for drinking will require extensive disinfection and filtration, among other techniques, all of which are intended to eliminate pathogens like viruses and bacteria, and remove drugs and chemicals to safe and/or non-detectable levels, according to CDPHE.
And any community that seeks to add treated wastewater to its drinking water system will have to set up extensive public communication programs to show the public its process and to help educate residents about this new water source.
Communities will also have to collect a year’s worth of wastewater samples and prove that they can be successfully treated to meet the new standards.
Western Resource Advocates’ Belanger, who has long advocated for the use of DPR, said the approval has been a long time coming and is cause for celebration.
“We believe DPR is a very important water supply for our communities now and into the future. We feel [this new regulation] is robust and protective of public health.”
But key to tapping the new water source will be helping the public get over the “ick factor,” officials said.
Jason Rogers, vice chair of the Water Quality Control Commission who is also Commerce City’s director of community development, said public outreach should be carefully monitored to ensure it is actually reaching people in all communities and that it is being well-received.
“When thinking about that public meeting, where does it occur? People in some of these communities may have a high reliance on multi-modal transportation, it may not allow for that meaningful engagement,” Rogers said. “And if it isn’t being well received, we need to have them go out and do more public engagement.”
With a mega drought continuing to grip the Colorado River Basin and other Western regions, Colorado’s multi-year process to develop a sturdy new drinking water regulation drew widespread attention, said Tyson Ingels, the head drinking water engineer at the state’s Water Quality Control Division.
Ingels said Utah and Arizona participated in Colorado’s work sessions, demonstrating the interest in what could become an important new water source in the West. Arizona is just now kicking off its own rulemaking process, Ingels said, and Utah, while not yet regulating DPR, has seen a handful of communities proposing to use DPR.
Colorado’s rulemaking process, which dates back to 2015, was at times fractious, with water providers and wastewater operators concerned that the proposed regulation would interfere with what they’re doing already and could add burdensome costs to efforts to develop new water sources.
Ingels said the addition of a third-party facilitator was essential to resolving everyone’s concerns.
Jeni Arndt, a former lawmaker who also serves on the water quality commission, said finalizing the groundbreaking new regulation signaled an important step forward in navigating difficult public policy issues. [Editor’s note: Arndt is a former board member of Water Education Colorado, which sponsors Fresh Water News.]
“Gone are the days when we were struggling to come to agreement,” Arndt said. “I’m very excited to move forward into a new era.”
On Tuesday, several water utilities spoke in favor of the new regulation, including the Cherokee Metropolitan District, Castle Rock, and the City of Aurora.
Matt Benak, Castle Rock’s water resources manager, said the regulation will give his town the certainty it needs to move forward developing new water supplies. “DPR is a critical tool for sustainable water resources. Creating this regulation will allow water providers like us to plan and to potentially implement DPR,” he said.
Tuesday’s approval was contingent on fixing minor clerical errors in the regulation. Commissioners will give final formal approval of the regulation at its November meeting.
Wolves and frogs can’t vote, a lake or river can’t call their elected representatives, and a polluted ravine can’t blow the whistle on a toxic coal plant.
But you can do all those things — and more.
The trouble is, not enough people who care about climate change, the extinction crisis or environmental justice make themselves known to the people who can make a systemic difference.
“The truth is the environmental movement needs more political power,” says Nathaniel Stinnett, executive director of the Environmental Voter Project. “We can’t rely on politicians doing the right thing. Instead, we need to get more political power so that they lead on our issues because it’s politically smart.”
So how do environmentalists get that power, especially in an age when so many feel powerless? One route starts by engaging in democracy — not just by voting in the midterms or general elections, but by participating in our civic systems year-round, at the federal and local levels, on an ongoing basis.
“Voting isn’t important just because you can elect the right people,” Stinnett says. “It’s also important because in between elections is when policy is made.”
It’s hard to influence policy, though, if people don’t participate in the political system. And if people don’t feel they have a voice, it can create a feedback loop that makes them even less likely to vote.
“In certain states, the number of unlikely voters who list climate and the environment as their top priority is twice as large as the number of likely voters,” Stinnett says. “You can see that data and get frustrated, or you can see it as an enormous opportunity.”
That opportunity comes from getting more people who care about the environment to vote and otherwise engage — something those who are already active on those fronts can encourage by being public about their environmental concerns and what they’re doing about them.
That will help build support for issues that, ironically, people already care about but don’t speak of in political contexts.
“Human beings are social animals,” Stinnett adds. “One of the most impactful things environmentalists can do in the civic sphere and the political sphere is to be loud and proud about being an environmental voter and a political activist. Your friends and colleagues look to you for cues as to what is good behavior, and it’s up to everyone who cares about the environment to model that voting is part of what makes a good environmentalist.”
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, says the most important thing beyond voting itself is to speak proudly about your environmental commitments. “One of the ways in which we could increase the likelihood that we perceive that climate action itself is normative is for us to speak out more as individuals and find ways to represent our climate commitments as a form of almost personal witness.”
Our personal achievements and goals have another benefit: They work as an antidote to the feeling of helplessness that pervades society and erodes trust in our institutions.
“Your vote is an expression of your commitments to things, and that has an impact,” says Jamieson.
So let’s increase that impact. Here are 30 ways environmentalists can participate in democracy to better themselves, their communities and the planet throughout the year.
1. Vote. That’s job one, in every election, no matter how big or how small, and whether it’s national or local. Too many environmentalists don’t vote, and that means their voices get lost.
“The simple truth is that politicians don’t care about the priorities of non-voters,” says Stinnett. “Politicians don’t poll unlikely voters. They don’t poll the people who stay at home. So simply by voting, you become a first-class citizen. You make sure that your policy preferences and your policy priorities drive decision-making.”
2. Encourage others to vote. Are your friends, family members and neighbors registered? They can check their registration status at Vote.org, where they can also make a pledge to vote. Come to think of it, you can do that, too.
3. Help others vote. Sometimes just getting to the polls can be an overwhelming challenge. You can help by freeing up peoples’ time — for example, by offering free babysitting — or volunteering to drive someone who lacks access to transportation or has health issues that prevent them from driving. Your community may already have initiatives you can volunteer through, or you can find people in need through Carpool Vote. (Need a ride? You can also find one there.) And of course, carpooling is always a greener option than each person driving.
4. Demand a plan and an accounting. Insist that political candidates and elected officials publish their proposed and current climate policies — then take that idea much further and make it broader. “I want everybody to have a climate action plan for themselves and for every community and organization,” says Jamieson. Each climate action plan, she says, should be “real and accountable, with demonstrated benchmarks.”
And this isn’t just about government. Jamieson says we should expect the same from our employers, our kids’ schools, our places of worship, and the companies with which we do business.
5. Keep track. Once people and organizations make their climate plans known, hold them to it. “We know when people make public commitments, you increase the likelihood they act on those commitments,” says Jamieson. “They’re going to be accountable.”
6. Learn how to sort fact from fiction during election season. The News Literacy Project and the League of Women Voters will host three webinars about disinformation over the next few weeks.
7. Be a good boss. Got employees? Give them paid time off to vote. Maybe close your business to the public for half a day so you can all go together. (Got a boss? Ask for time off yourself.)
8. Sign up to be a poll worker. Anyone can volunteer to do this essential job, not just retired folx (and unfortunately the need has never been greater due to ongoing threats against election workers). The website Stacker has compiled details on how to become a poll worker and what to expect from the experience.
“The people who are most likely to care deeply about climate and other environmental issues are young, lower income and people of color — and they also happen to be the three groups that are always the objective of voter-suppression efforts,” says Stinnett. Volunteering or donating to groups like Fair Fight, the ACLU, Voting Rights Lab or the NAACP Legal Defense Fund can help ensure everyone can always freely elect their representatives and shape environmental policy.
10. Support ranked-choice voting. As we discussed in a recent op-ed, this is a great way to weed out extremist candidates and balance bipartisanship.
A notable victory took place this year in Australia, where ranked-choice voting helped push coal-supporting politicians out of power — even with the country’s media dominated by notoriously climate-denying publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. “I really love that it made a difference in Australia,” says Jamieson. “They basically managed to defeat the Murdoch anti-climate agenda with ranked-choice voting.”
11. Support environmental groups. Whether you donate or volunteer, they’ll amplify the collective voices of people advocating for better environmental laws and policies.
12. Advocate for or against specific regulations, either by yourself or as part of a broader grassroots environmental effort. Rules and opportunities vary by state, so check with the groups and experts in your area.
13. Run for office (or encourage a friend to run). You don’t need to run for president to make a difference. Local offices like city councils, parks commissions, utilities and school boards — a particular target of extremist takeover attempts — can have tremendous impact on a region’s environmental policies.
14. Volunteer for local positions. Nonelected government and community positions need climate expertise. Is there a role for you and your environmental perspective on your local planning commission, library board, arts council, parks and recreation committee, PTA, homeowners’ association, Rotary Club or other institution?
15. Write to elected officials. Your opinions matter year-round, so drop your senator, mayor, governor or other representative a line to discuss what matters to you or how they’re doing. (You can do this on social media or through their official phone and email channels, which tend to have more impact.)
16. Sign petitions. Amplify your voice through collective impact. Whenever possible, focus on petitions organized by groups that actively collect and deliver your signatures.
17. Submit public comments on proposed regulations and projects. You may be surprised how few people do this, and you don’t want anti-environmental advocates to have the only say. You can find open calls for comment on the federal level at Regulations.gov, or do a web search for your state or county for more local opportunities (which you may find listed under multiple agencies).
19. Read banned and challenged books — and share what you learn from them with friends, colleagues and elected officials. Nothing scares authoritarians and corporatists more than independent thinking and dangerous ideas — well, dangerous to them, anyway.
22. Send local story tips to the media or share ideas for environmental coverage with the bigger outlets. Journalists depend on an active populace, and you should never underestimate the power of a good whistleblower. (Hint: We like tips.)
23. Have discussions. Not everyone fully understands the threats of climate change or biodiversity loss or comprehends the systemic causes of environmental injustice. Sometimes that means breaking through their sources of disinformation (Skeptical Science can help with that). Other times it requires some back and forth. The First Amendment Museum offers tips on having a civil conversation that will change someone’s mind, while Psyche magazine offers advice on how to have better arguments.
24. Avoid the cult of personality. Talk about issues and the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of specific environmental legislation rather than individual candidates. (And if your preferred candidate doesn’t win, don’t take it personally or get dissuaded.)
25. Show up and speak at town halls, planning board meetings, school board meetings — anywhere the public can help shape policy. The Earth can’t speak for itself, so someone needs to — especially since proponents of development or other destructive projects will certainly show up.
26. Propose ballot initiatives or their local equivalents. The process and nature of these types of initiatives, which allow citizens to vote directly on major issues, vary by state and municipality, so check with your local experts to see what you can do.
27. Self-advertise. Those ubiquitous “I voted” stickers on election day serve multiple purposes: They display our pride and remind others to get to the polls. But why limit that to one day a year? Buttons, bumper stickers, social-media icons and even memes can remind people year-round of the need to vote or otherwise participate — and hold you up as an example of someone who does.
28. Support libraries, museums, community centers and local organizations that themselves support an engaged, educated community. Encourage them to set up displays on environmental topics, organize speakers, conduct outreach efforts, or whatever best fits their mission.
29. Spread the news about the ways democracy is in peril. Attacks on voting, the right to protest, the media, LGBTQ+ rights and other freedoms are symptoms of the worldwide rise in authoritarian forces. And as authoritarian governments rise, environmental protections fall. (Nazi Germany and modern-day Russia are notable examples.) Keep track of these threats, especially the home-grown kind, and spread the word about the dangers they pose. (There’s no single source devoted to tracking this, so it may require keeping your eyes open. A good starting place, though, is these newsletters from Democracy Docket.)
30. Have (and share) a contingency plan. In our age of ever-increasing climate disasters, far too many people every year find themselves displaced by fire, smoke, flood or other kinds of crisis. Don’t let that interfere with your ability to vote and otherwise participate. Do your research early so you know how to contact your representatives or election officials in case something forces you to flee your community. And share what you learned with your neighbors so others aren’t disenfranchised.