Native American Affairs-Indian Water Rights- Video 9: CRC100 — Reclamation

Reclamation’s Ernie Rheaume talks about the Federally recognized Tribes in the Colorado River Basin and how Tribal engagement and consultation are on the forefront of Reclamation’s activities.

Less #water, fewer farmers: the future of agriculture on the #OgallalaAquifer — KUNC

Yuma Colorado circa 1925

Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Rae Solomon). Here’s an excerpt:

“The yields are off,” [Ruben] Richardson explained. “We’re a little bit short of water. This soil – you have to water a bunch every day to maintain it.” He had to use a lot more water in his fields than usual this year, just to produce any crop under drought conditions. That water was delivered by 58 center pivot sprinklers, across Richardson’s fields of irrigated corn and sugar beets. The sprinklers were fed, in turn, by 45 high-capacity wells pumping groundwater out of the Ogallala Aquifer, far below the ground…

Ogallala Aquifer. Credit: Big Pivots

Picture a bathtub. But this bathtub has a very rocky, jagged bottom. When you pour in the water, the tub doesn’t fill evenly. Instead, it forms pools of different sizes within the crags and pits of that rocky floor. Now imagine that bathtub is huge: 175,000 square miles huge. It stretches across 8 stations, from South Dakota all the way down to Texas, including parts of eastern Colorado. Also, the whole thing is deep underground. That is the Ogallala Aquifer. A vast, but uneven reserve of freshwater stored under the earth. The people who live on top of the aquifer pump it out of the ground. More than 90 percent of Ogallala water is used for agriculture, and that water transformed the high plains dust bowl of eastern Colorado into highly productive farmland.

But according to Meagan Schipanski, an associate professor at Colorado State University and Co-Director of the Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project, the aquifer has its limits. The water has been over-allocated for decades. The current drought is exacerbating the shortage. “That water is a nonrenewable resource,” Schipanski said, “we’re going to use it faster than it can recharge itself.”

The hydrology and terrain of the aquifer is highly variable, making it difficult to generalize about just how much water has been depleted. But across northeastern Colorado, on average the aquifer is down about 30% from where it started before groundwater irrigation became widespread in the mid 20th-century.

What are teleconnections? Connecting Earth’s #climate patterns via global information superhighways — NOAA

Click the link to read the article on the NOAA website (BREANNA ZAVADOFF AND MARYBETH ARCODIA):

This is a guest post by Breanna Zavadoff and Marybeth Arcodia. Dr. Zavadoff is an Assistant Scientist at the University of Miami Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies. Her current research focuses on U.S. West Coast atmospheric rivers as well as subseasonal Madden-Julian Oscillation predictability. Dr. Arcodia is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Colorado State University working in the Barnes Group. Her current research explores sources of climate predictability from subseasonal to decadal timescales using explainable artificial intelligence techniques. She also writes for the Seasoned Chaos blog, a subseasonal to seasonal forecasting blog for scientists and non-scientists alike. The blog was created by five graduate students and features posts on atmospheric and climate phenomena described in fun and digestible ways (some linked in this post), including quality graphics and even some code!

When looking at the forecast on your favorite weather app, it may be hard to imagine that forecast could be connected to atmospheric and ocean conditions all the way across the globe. Fortunately for us, these connections can allow us to make predictions weeks to months in advance. How is this possible?

Buckle up! It’s time to go for a ride on our planet’s information superhighway.

When the jet stream interacts with an atmospheric Rossby wave, it develops crests and troughs that create alternating high (red) and low (blue) pressure zones in the upper atmosphere. These connected climate patterns—teleconnections—travel along the jet stream like vehicles on a globe-spanning highway. NOAA image.

What is a teleconnection?

Teleconnections are significant relationships or links between weather phenomena at widely separated locations on earth, which typically entail climate patterns that span thousands of miles. Many teleconnection patterns behave like a seesaw, with atmospheric mass/pressure shifting back and forth between two distant locations—an increase in, say, atmospheric pressure in one location results in a decrease in pressure somewhere far, far away [1]. There is even evidence of Viking settlers noticing the opposing pressure patterns between Greenland and Europe dating back to ~1000 AD, which today is referred to as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) [2,3].

Late winter temperatures compared to the 1981-2010 average when the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) was strongly negative (top, Jan-March 2010) and when it was strongly positive (bottom, January-March 1990). Winters are often cooler than average across the mid-latitudes when the NAO is negative, and warmer than average when it is positive. NOAA image, based on data from the Physical Sciences Lab.

If you’re thinking to yourself that you’ve seen this teleconnection business before, you are absolutely right! One of the most famous drivers of teleconnection patterns is our good buddy ENSO (perhaps we are a little biased) a.k.a the El Niño/Southern Oscillation. The “Southern Oscillation” refers to changes in sea-level pressures that are centered over the eastern tropical Pacific and over Indonesia (learn more here and here). Followed closely in notoriety is the Pacific-North American pattern, an oscillatory pressure pattern over the Pacific Ocean and North America, which influences North American and European temperature and precipitation.

Difference from average sea level pressure during winters when the Southern Oscillation Index is strongly positive (top) or negative (bottom). During La Niña (positive SOI), the pressure is higher than average (red) over the central Pacific near Tahiti, and lower than average (gray) over Australia. During El Niño, the SOI is negative, and the anomalies are reversed. NOAA image, based on data from the NOAA Physical Science Lab.

Rossby waves: the original global delivery service

How do these teleconnections relate to weather patterns around the globe? Let’s move into high gear on atmospheric dynamics! Don’t worry, we won’t throw equations at you. Foundational to teleconnection patterns are large-scale atmospheric waves, specifically Rossby waves, named after the world-renowned meteorologist Carl-Gustaf Rossby. Rossby waves can persist from days to months and can vary from a few hundred miles long to spanning the entire planet! We’re calling the routes that Rossby waves travel “information superhighways,” as the waves carry information that can affect weather along their paths.

What exactly is this information that Rossby waves carry? When you see a wave traveling along the surface of water, there are peaks and troughs in the water height. The same happens in the atmosphere with a traveling Rossby wave – as the Rossby wave travels through the atmosphere, the peaks and troughs of the wave produce regions of high and low air pressure. These resultant pressure patterns, i.e. the “information” carried by Rossby waves, influence temperature, rainfall, wind, etc. In short, Rossby waves are fundamental to teleconnection patterns! (footnote 1)

When a Rossby wave perturbs the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitude jet stream, warmer, high-pressure air is transported poleward into the wave crests, and cooler, lower-pressure air is transported equatorward into the troughs. The jet stream becomes a waveguide, steering the oscillation of the Rossby wave. NOAA image.

Where do they come from? Where do they go?

Rossby waves differ a bit from the large waves we are used to seeing in the ocean, which move up and down (vertically). Instead, Rossby waves in the atmosphere travel in the north-south direction (horizontally) due to the Earth rotating faster at the equator than at the poles. This leads to the Coriolis force, which causes moving air parcels to turn to the right as they move away from the equator toward the North Pole, where the effect (i.e., apparent deflection) of the Coriolis force is stronger. These rightward deflections turn the air back towards the equator, then the air is once again redirected back towards the poles as we move higher in latitude (footnote 2). This balancing act of air moving towards the poles and back towards the equator results in the development of an oscillating wave, which is how many planetary Rossby waves are formed (footnote 3).

Atmospheric Rossby waves (footnote 4) exist on time scales from just days to months and can be triggered by air flowing over Earth’s complex geography, like mountain ranges, as well as circulation patterns that arise due to unequal temperature heating (the equator gets more sunlight than the poles). Large regions of towering showers and thunderstorms near the equator, which are related to phenomena like ENSO and the MJO can also be responsible for revving the engine (i.e. triggering) of Rossby waves [4, 5] by disrupting the atmosphere via the heating that occurs when water vapor condenses into clouds. This heating causes rippling waves to form—much like dropping a stone in a lake.

Rossby waves are often rerouted and carried along by the jet streams, which are often considered as “waveguides” for Rossby waves. In other words, the jet streams set up the routes for the Rossby waves to flow through, similar to how a carved path in the sand is where water tends to flow. Whisked along by the jet streams, Rossby waves transport heat and momentum from the tropics toward the poles (south-to-north) and polar air towards the tropics (north-to-south). Thus, the location, strength, and even waviness of the jet stream dictates a substantial portion of the mid-latitude weather, including whether or not Arctic air will be dipping down into your neighborhood.

Rossby waves can be either stationary or transient. While stationary Rossby waves simply undulate over a region, meaning the peaks and troughs of the wave do not change location (like the standing wave in this previous ENSO blog post), transient Rossby waves traverse the globe, traveling west-to-east over thousands of miles. Scientists and forecasters study both types of Rossby waves due to their wide-ranging impacts and use them to predict where and how the weather may change anywhere from a few days to a few months in the future.

Signed, sealed, delivered

When transporting goods from one place to another, one could argue the transport isn’t complete until everything has been unloaded from the vehicle. In other words, it’s not enough to simply get from point A to point B. The same goes for the Rossby waves traveling along our global information superhighway. While all Rossby waves carry important information, some deposit larger signals along their shipping routes than others through a phenomenon called “Rossby wave breaking”. When Rossby waves break (imagine an ocean wave breaking on the beach or a towel folding) information is exchanged from the Rossby waves to the rest of the atmosphere through both the vertical and horizontal mixing of air parcels [6,7], completing the information transfer journey that began thousands of miles away.

The oscillation of the Rossby wave can become so exaggerated that the wave breaks. Embedded air masses spin out of the jet stream: clockwise from ridges (in the Northern Hemisphere) and counterclockwise from the troughs. The breaking waves “hand off” the information they were carrying to the local atmosphere. NOAA image.

The information transfer facilitated by Rossby wave breaking has been associated with a multitude of phenomena around the globe. In the midlatitudes, breaking Rossby waves have been shown to modulate the phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation, the location of landfalling atmospheric rivers along the western coastlines of the United States and Europe [8,9,10,11] and the onset/dissipation of atmospheric blocking events [12,13,14]. When Rossby waves break more frequently closer to the equator they can also create an unfavorable environment for tropical convection [15,16,17], which serves to induce dry spell episodes in the Indian summer monsoon [18] and reduce the number of tropical cyclones that develop in the North Atlantic [19,20].

The frequency and location of Rossby wave breaking is primarily controlled by the jet stream [21,22], A.K.A. the backbone of the global information superhighway. The jet stream, in turn, is modulated by climate patterns of variability that exist on subseasonal (Madden-Julian Oscillation; [23,24], interannual (El-Nino Southern Oscillation; [25,26]) and multi-decadal (Pacific decadal oscillation, Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation; [27,28,29]) timescales. Each of these climate patterns can alter the infrastructure of our information superhighway by causing roadblocks, forcing detours, and/or building new routes. This means that, depending on the phases of the different climate patterns, Rossby waves that enter our information superhighway at the same on-ramp could end up with completely different MapQuest directions (remember those!?), travel times, and final destinations!

Last Stop!

In the atmospheric science community, Rossby waves are considered to be some of the most fundamental and important components of our weather and climate systems. Guided along by the jet stream, these Rossby waves serve as the foundation for teleconnection patterns, which provide a pathway for information (like temperature and pressure) to be transferred to and affect weather patterns in places thousands of miles away. Rossby waves are the vehicles that travel along our global information superhighway that keep our climate system fully connected and in constant communication. Thank you for traveling with us, we hope you enjoyed the ride!

Lead editors:  Tom DiLiberto and Nat Johnson.


1) For those more math-inclined folks, Rossby waves can be derived from the non-divergent barotropic vorticity equation which describes conservation of absolute vorticity. By further applying assumptions and getting into some nitty-gritty algebra, we can also derive properties of Rossby waves, such as the dispersion relation (how waves relate to each other), phase speed (speed at which waves propagate), and group velocity (velocity of the wave packet). [30, 31]

2) Rossby waves specifically form from the conservation of potential vorticity. As fluids move from the equator towards the poles and are influenced by the Coriolis force, the conservation of potential vorticity acts as a restorative force to maintain the north-south direction of the oscillating wave. (Vallis, Geoffrey K. Atmospheric and oceanic fluid dynamics. Cambridge University Press, 2017.)

3) To better understand how Rossby waves are formed, let’s follow a parcel of air through the following thought experiment. The deflection of air can be thought of as a source of “spin” or rotation of a parcel of air and a parcel of air has to conserve its “total spin” (the Earth’s spin + the atmosphere’s relative spin). Think of a parcel of air that is pushed northward (in the Northern Hemisphere). The parcel moves into an area where the Coriolis force (i.e., the earth’s contribution to the spin) is larger. Because the parcel conserves its spin, its relative spin has to decrease or move in the opposite direction of the Earth’s spin. That corresponds to a clockwise rotation, which pushes the air that was originally displaced northward back to the south. When that air overshoots its original position, it then has to start spinning clockwise to conserve total spin, pushing the air back northward. And thus, the basic Rossby wave is formed. 

4) Rossby waves don’t just exist in the atmosphere though, they also can form in the ocean! Oceanic Rossby waves are massive undulations of water traveling horizontally across ocean basins, usually taking months or years to cross. Interestingly, oceanic Rossby waves displace surface water on the order of inches, but water deep below the surface (~200ft down) undulates on the order of feet!


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[2] Van Loon, Harry, and Jeffery C. Rogers. “The seesaw in winter temperatures between Greenland and northern Europe. Part I: General description.” Monthly Weather Review 106.3 (1978): 296-310.

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[5] Arcodia, Marybeth C., Ben P. Kirtman, and Leo SP Siqueira. “How MJO teleconnections and ENSO interference impacts US precipitation.” Journal of Climate 33.11 (2020): 4621-4640.

[6] Scott, R., and J. Cammas, 2002: Wave breaking and mixing at the subtropical tropopause. J. Atmos. Sci., 59 (15), 2347-2361.

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[8] Payne, A. E., and G. Magnusdottir, 2014: Dynamics of landfalling atmospheric riversover the North Pacific in 30 years of MERRA reanalysis. J. Climate, 27 (18), 7133-7150.

[9] Zavadoff, B. L., and B. P. Kirtman, 2020: Dynamic and Thermodynamic Modulatorsof European Atmospheric Rivers. J. Climate, 33 (10), 4167-4185.

[10] Mundhenk, B. D., E. A. Barnes, E. D. Maloney, and K. M. Nardi, 2016: Modulationof atmospheric rivers near Alaska and the USWest Coast by northeast Pacific height anomalies. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 121 (21), 12751-12765.

[11] Hu, H., F. Dominguez, Z. Wang, D. A. Lavers, G. Zhang, and F. M. Ralph, 2017: Linking Atmospheric River Hydrological Impacts on the US West Coast to Rossby Wave Breaking. J. Climate, 30 (9), 3381-3399.

[12] Nakamura, H., 1994: Rotational evolution of potential vorticity associated with a strong blocking flow configuration over Europe. Geophys. Res. Lett., 21 (18), 2003-2006.

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[15] Knippertz, P., 2007: Tropical-extratropical interactions related to upper-level troughs at low latitudes. Dyn. Atmos. Oceans, 43 (1-2), 36-62.

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[17] Allen, G., G. Vaughan, D. Brunner, P. T May, W. Heyes, P. Minnis, and J. K Ayers, 2009: Modulation of tropical convection by breaking Rossby waves. Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc., 135 (638), 125-137.

[18] Samanta, D., M. Dash, B. Goswami, and P. Pandey, 2016: Extratropical anticyclonic Rossby wave breaking and Indian summer monsoon failure. Clim. Dyn., 46 (5-6),1547-1562.

[19] Zhang, G., Z. Wang, T. J. Dunkerton, M. S. Peng, and G. Magnusdottir, 2016: Extratropical impacts on Atlantic tropical cyclone activity. J. Atmos. Sci., 73 (3),1401-1418.Zhang, G., Z. Wang, M. S. Peng, and G. Magnusdottir, 2017: Characteristics and Impacts of Extratropical Rossby Wave Breaking during the Atlantic Hurricane Season. J. Climate, 30 (7), 2363-2379.

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[21] Thorncroft, C., B. Hoskins, and M. McIntyre, 1993: Two paradigms of baroclinic wavelife-cycle behaviour. Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc., 119 (509), 17-55.

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[31] Isaac Held Blog.

‘It is going to take real cuts to everyone’: Leaders meet to decide the future of the #ColoradoRiver — KUNC #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Interior celebrates the 200th anniversary of diplomatic relations between 🇲🇽 and 🇺🇸 at @CRWUA_water to honor the crucial role of the U.S. International Boundary Waters Commission and Comisión Internacional de Límites y Aguas entre México y Estados Unidos – Sección Mexicana in ensuring the equitable and sustainable use of the Colorado River for the benefit of us all. Photo credit: Tanya Trujillo’s Twitter Feed

Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Alex Hager). Here’s an excerpt:

The most powerful policymakers in the arid Southwest spent three days in Las Vegas, reviewing the grim state of a river that supplies 40 million people from Wyoming to Mexico. Federal and state authorities emphasized the need for collaboration to avert catastrophe, but have been reticent to make sacrifices during negotiations over plans that would reduce demand for water. This year marked the 76th meeting of the Colorado River Water Users Association and the event’s first ever sold-out attendance. Journalists, scientists, farmers and city officials packed the conference center at Caesar’s Palace to watch water managers hash out the river’s future in the public eye.

“There’s no substitute for being face-to-face,” said John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which supplies Las Vegas. “It’s a lot easier to talk a little smack, call some people some names, when you’re not looking them in the eye.” […]

The current guidelines for the river are set to expire in 2026, and states are largely focused on coming up with new ones before that deadline. A century-old agreement governs how water is allocated across the arid Southwest, Meanwhile, some experts suggest that agreement, the Colorado River Compact, should be replaced to meet the modern demands of a region with sprawling fields of crops and booming urban populations.

“I think there is some heavy optimism that hopefully everyone will come to something that we can all agree on,” said Becky Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the state’s top water policy agency. “But it is going to take real cuts to everyone.”

Updated Colorado River 4-Panel plot thru Water Year 2022 showing reservoirs, flows, temperatures and precipitation. All trends are in the wrong direction. Since original 2017 plot, conditions have deteriorated significantly. Brad Udall via Twitter:

Tribal #Water Rights to Play Role in #ColoradoRiver’s Dry Future — Bloomberg Law #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Click the link to read the article on the Bloomberg Law website (Bobby Magill). Here’s an excerpt:

“We are trying to be part of the decision-makers and what’s happening,” said Manuel Heart, chairman of Colorado’s Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, speaking Thursday at the conference. “We, too, have needs.” […]

Manuel Heart at the Colorado River Water Users Association Conference December 2022. Photo credit: Peter Mayer via his Twitter feed.

But as water in the Colorado River diminishes, nobody knows yet how much of it belongs to the the Navajo Nation and other regional tribes, since their water rights have never been quantified. There already isn’t enough water for all the Colorado River Basin’s 40 million people, and tribes could be entitled to as much as 25% of it, according to the multistate, multitribe Water & Tribes Initiative.

“It would be difficult to overstate the importance of tribal water rights as a wild card. They’re very significant,” Jason Robison, a law professor at the University of Wyoming who is affiliated with the Water and Tribes Initiative, said before the conference…

Heather Tanana, a law professor at the University of Utah who is Navajo, said tribes’ lack of resources to tap Colorado River water for their residents has had devastating public health consequences.

As many as 40% of Navajo residents don’t have access to running water and have to haul it to their homes, which created a public health crisis on the Navajo Reservation during the Covid-19 pandemic, she said.

“If their water rights had been settled and quantified, and actually delivered, then hundreds—thousands—of lives would be saved during the pandemic,” Tanana said. “It’s a life or death matter connected to public health.”

The need for tribal water rights agreements is urgent because tribes need to be able to use the water they’re entitled to and the states need to know how much water they can use as the West dries up, Weiner said.

#Colorado launches $25 Million, multi-state effort to improve soils, reduce ag #water use — @WaterEdCO

Derek Heckman, who farms near Lamar in eastern Colorado, is implementing various soil health practices to build the organic matter of his soil, improve water retention, and stretch limited water supplies farther. Credit Allen Best

Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Allen Best):

This simple statistic may shock you: Each time a farmer plows his or her field, the soil loses three-quarters of an inch of moisture.

The solutions? They’re more complicated and part of new and expanding soil health programs that seek to help farmers explore how to retain water, improve fertility, and create greater resilience to buffer weather extremes.

Now, with the aid of $25 million in new federal funding, the Colorado Department of Agriculture plans to expand a program called STAR — an acronym for Saving Tomorrow’s Agricultural Resources — from 124 producers, including both farmers and ranchers, to 450. The conduit has been through 16 of the state’s 74 conservation districts, along with three organizations representing corn, sugar beet, and other crop growers. The funding comes through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Project.

It’s a “game changer,” says Jim Pritchett, an agriculture economist at Colorado State University who grew up on a farm in southeastern Colorado.

“In my career and my childhood in Colorado, I’ve never seen this much direct investment at the producer level,” Pritchett said in September when the grant was announced.

The expanded program, called STAR Plus, will allow Colorado to assist six other Western states in implementing soil health practices and advancing learning. The states are Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Washington. CSU, with a $6 million share of that grant, will be the focal point for quantification, verification and other research.

State officials say that fostering techniques to improve soils, making them more sponge-like, can help Colorado improve water quality and use existing water more efficiently. Agriculture continues to account for more than 80% of Colorado’s water use.

For example, healthier soils can absorb moisture from hard rains, while unhealthy soils allow the water to run off. That improved retention also sets the soils up to better withstand dry periods and greater heat. Some techniques in particular, such as less frequent tilling and use of cover crops, can help farmers in the face of rising temperatures.

In 2021, Colorado legislators passed two bills to ramp up efforts to improve soil health. One bill, HB21-1181, authorized creation of a voluntary soil health program housed within the Colorado Department of Agriculture and overseen by an advisory committee composed of representatives from around the state. Another bill, SB21-235,  appropriated $2 million in state stimulus funding for the program. With other grants and funding sources, the three-year program had $5 million to work with through 2022.

Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg said her department began asking farmers and ranchers in 2019 how adoption of soil health practices might best be accelerated.

The resulting programs are both voluntary and incentive based. They also are highly tailored to individual growers. Instead of top-down regulation, which Greenberg says would “quelch imagination” and necessary innovation, the Star Plus program seeks collaboration, recognizing that farmers bring much expertise to the table and that great uncertainties remain about how best to achieve soil health objectives.

Improvements in soil health won’t occur immediately. The programs have three-year terms for participants during which they will get technical help, including soil testing. CSU researchers meanwhile have been testifying the efficacy of various techniques.

Crop residue. Photo credit: Joel Schneekloth

Experts say that five principal tools enhance soil health including keeping the soil covered; keeping living roots in the soil; diversifying crops; minimizing disturbances—for example using no till or minimal till field preparation—and incorporating livestock grazing into land management.

Soil health can be defined as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and people.

“The key thing in that definition is that soil is alive,” said Shawn Bruckman, an educator and former professional composter who is on the Eagle County Conservation District Board of Directors. She is also on Colorado’s soil health advisory committee.

“When we are looking at soil health, we are not looking at certain properties of the soil independently,” said Bruckman. “We are looking how it all works together as a whole.”

Bruckman emphasized that soil health varies greatly depending upon climate, soil types and other factors. It can vary greatly even within close proximity, from one field to another.

Given that variability, the Star and Star Plus programs were designed with flexibility as a high value. “You can’t cut and dry the approaches and put them in boxes,” said Bruckman. “They vary so much.”

Some producers may feel comfortable only adopting one or perhaps two of the approaches.

Derek White Heckman values the voluntary nature of the program. He has implemented cover crop, rotation and other soil health practices on 200 acres in the Arkansas River Valley near McClave, Colorado. Next spring he expects to add another 120 acres of the 1,000 acres that he and his father farm.

“I do believe that soil health is very beneficial,” he says. “It has helped our farm out. But I don’t want to ever see things being forced on guys. It really turns them off.”

Allen Best grew up in eastern Colorado, where both sets of grandparents were farmers. Best writes about the energy transition in Colorado and beyond at

What will it take to stabilize the #ColoradoRiver? A continuation of the current 23-year-long #drought will require difficult decisions to prevent further decline — Science Magazine #COriver #aridification

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on the Science Magazine website (KEVIN G. WHEELER , BRAD UDALLJIAN WANGERIC KUHN[…], AND JOHN C. SCHMIDT). Here’s an excerpt:

Municipalities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, Denver, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, and Tijuana rely heavily on the river for their water supplies. About 70% of the water is used to irrigate nearly 5.7 million acres (2.3 million hectares) of agriculture. The basin is home to 30 recognized Native American Tribes that hold senior legal rights to divert substantially more water than they currently use. Between 2000 and 2021, the average annual energy generation from the two major dams was 7.6 terawatt-hours (TWh)/year, enough to serve 2.5 million people. The river’s landscapes and ecosystems provide critical habitat for federally protected species and support an extensive recreation-based economy. Today, the entire flow is diverted along its 1400-mile course. In its lower reaches, only 10% of the natural flow reaches Mexico; rarely does the river flow to the Gulf of California…

Current reservoir storage levels could, however, be stabilized if consumptive uses decrease under different scenarios (see fig. S1). If the Upper Basin commits to limit water uses to 4.5 MAF/year (60% of their 7.5 MAF/year allocation, approximately 0.8 MAF/year higher than recent use), then the Lower Basin and Mexico must commit to more than doubling their current maximum reductions in existing use to 3.0 MAF/year (see the figure and fig. S1). In this scenario, the Lower Basin and Mexico receive 66.7% of their allocation, nearly matching the Upper Basin percentage. If the Upper Basin limits their depletions to 4.0 MAF/year (53.3% of their allocation, 0.3 MAF/year higher than recent use), then the Lower Basin and Mexico would need to decrease uses by approximately 2.0 MAF/year to stabilize the reservoirs (see the figure and fig. S1), assuring 77.8% of their allocation. This is close to recently proposed maximum Lower Basin and Mexico commitments to reduce existing use, which would not be invoked until Lake Mead declines further by 3 MAF. Delaying these reductions until then would result in greater loss of storage and stabilization occurring at lower levels than shown in the figure…

Our results show that although current policies are inadequate to stabilize the Colorado River if the Millennium Drought continues, various consumptive use strategies can stabilize the system. However, these measures must be applied swiftly. Although these concessions by both basins may seem unthinkable at present, they will be necessary if recent conditions persist.

Average combined storage assuming drought conditions continue Average end-of-year combined Lake Powell and Lake Mead storage is shown, assuming hydrologic conditions of the Millennium Drought continue. Results show combined reservoir contents using a range of Upper Basin consumptive use limits (colored ribbons) along with a range of Lower Basin maximum consumptive use reductions (line styles) triggered when the combined storage falls below 15 million acre-feet (MAF). The status quo lines use the 2016 Upper Colorado River Commission (UCRC) projections and existing elevation-based shortage triggers. All water use and shortage values are annual volumes (MAF/year).

Sambrito Wetlands restoration project beginning in January at Navajo State Park — #Colorado Parks & Wildlife #SanJuanRiver

The Sambrito Wetlands at Navajo State Park will undergo a project to restore 34 acres of the wetlands and streamside habitat beginning the first week of January. John Livingston/CPW

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website (John Livingston):

A project to restore an additional 34 acres of wetland and streamside habitat is set to begin its final phase in January at the Sambrito Wetlands Complex at Navajo State Park. The area will be closed to the public during construction and will be well marked with closure signs.

This project, coordinated by the Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Ducks Unlimited, will bring to life the vision of a myriad of partners who have participated in various planning efforts for the project during the last decade.

“We are happy to see this project come to fruition after multiple years of work and planning,” said CPW Deputy Southwest Region Manager Heath Kehm. “Through the work of key partners and funding through several grants, we are eager to see this area of Navajo State Park restored for the benefit of wildlife, wildlife viewing and waterfowl hunting here in southwest Colorado.”

The Sambrito Wetlands are on federal land owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and managed under agreement by CPW. Sambrito is part of a wetland complex in Colorado that was enhanced to benefit wildlife during construction of Navajo Dam on the San Juan River.

Since its construction, the water infrastructure and ditches have fallen into disrepair, resulting in diminished environmental and recreational benefits.

In 2012, CPW commissioned a management plan that identified several areas where infrastructure improvements could be made to restore wetland function and increase recreational opportunities. In 2013, CPW funded an initial phase of work which was completed in 2016.

This current project will continue and complete all work identified in the management plan published in 2013 to restore the Sambrito Wetlands to full functionality.

The Sambrito and adjacent Miller Mesa Wetlands Complex were intensively managed for wildlife between 1964 and 1993 through habitat improvements, food production units and wetland creation and enhancements. However, the complexes were not as actively managed in the intervening years and became dilapidated because of limited resources.

The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius luteus) is native to the southern Rocky Mountains. It is 7 to 9 inches long including its tail, which is more than half of its length. The mouse is a jumper, making use of its inch-long back feet. It lives among dense, tall, herbaceous (non-woody) plants that are next to flowing streams and eats a variety of plant material, such as grass seeds and flowers. Photo credit: National Park Service

The current project will reinvigorate waterfowl habitat and improve recreational opportunities by renovating and repairing the existing water diversion and conveyance system, which will deliver water from West Sambrito Creek (Vallejo Arroyo) to five wetland impoundments. The project will also restore hydrologic functions to a section of West Sambrito Creek and potentially benefit the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.

Strategies to avoid and minimize impacts to the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse and its habitat guided development of the project, and Bureau Reclamation staff will be onsite to monitor construction activities occurring in critical habitat.

Ducks Unlimited designed and engineered the wetland improvements and will lead as the project manager. Geringer Construction, a contractor from the San Luis Valley experienced in wetland restoration, will work on the project from early winter through spring 2023.

“We are very excited to move forward with this project,” said John Denton, Colorado Manager of Conservation Programs for Ducks Unlimited, Inc. “The habitat improvement work in this unique and important wetland complex will highlight this great conservation partnership and will pay dividends for wildlife and the public for years to come.”

CPW will provide any ongoing management and maintenance for the wetlands.

Funding for this project has come through the Colorado Water Conservation Board Water Supply Reserve Fund grant, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant and the CPW Colorado Wetlands and Wildlife Program grant.

The Southwest Wetlands Focus Area Committee has also been a champion for the project through its continued leadership and support.

CPW’s ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Wetlands for Wildlife Program is a voluntary, collaborative and incentive-based program to restore, enhance and create wetlands and riparian areas in Colorado. Funds are allocated annually to the program, and projects are recommended for funding by a CPW committee with final approval by the Director.

For more about the CPW wetlands project funding, go to:

Navajo State Park is a major recreational facility in southwest Colorado, drawing more than 300,000 visitors every year. The 2,100-acre park offers boating, fishing, trails, wildlife viewing, 138 camp sites and three cabins.