A wet winter won’t stave off the #ColoradoRiver’s #water cuts — The Washington Post #COriver #aridification

Lake Powell has been about a quarter-full. The snowpack looks strong now, but it’s anybody’s guess whether there will be enough runoff come April and May to substantially augment the reservoir. May 2022 photo/Allen Best

Click the link to read the article on The Washington Post website (Joshua Partlow). Here’s an excerpt:

The abundant snow in the Rocky Mountains this year has been a welcome relief but is not enough to overcome two decades of drought that has pushed major reservoirs along the Colorado River down to dangerous levels, Camille Calimlim Touton, the commissioner for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said on Monday at the outset of a three-day trip along the river with a bipartisan delegation of senators to push for an agreement on how to conserve an unprecedented amount of water.

SNOTEL stations Colorado River Basin via the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center

The snowpack that feeds the Colorado River — which 40 million people rely on in the West — is currently at 154 percent of average for this time of year, Touton said…

The trip comes as negotiations between the seven states of the Colorado River basin have stalled, with California proposing one plan for cuts and the other six states — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah — offering another. The Interior Department is expected to publish an environmental review later this month intended to clarify its authority to make unilateral cuts to water usage and how those could be distributed if the states don’t reach an agreement…Colorado Democratic Sens. Michael F. Bennet and John Hickenlooper joined Wyoming Sen. Cynthia M. Lummis (R) for the trip, which is expected to include visits to Arizona, Nevada, and California — the Lower Basin states where the most contentious decisions will need to be made to reach the scale of cuts that the federal government is calling for.

“The future of the American West is at stake,” Bennet told reporters…

the states have yet to resolve their differences. In January, the six states agreed to an approach that would cut 1.5 million acre-feet by attributing losses mostly to evaporation of the water as the river travels through a network of reservoirs and canals in the southern states on its way to Mexico. That method would translate to particularly large cuts for California, which uses the biggest share of the river. California has rejected that approach and said that it goes against the long-standing system of water rights that has been established over more than a century. Under laws and court rulings dating back decades, in times of shortage, Arizona would lose its right to its water before California. California’s plan calls for more gradual initial reductions that intensify as reservoirs fall further, hitting Arizona particularly hard. Arizona water authorities view the California plan as impossible for their state to stomach.

Map credit: AGU

Registration open for #ArkansasRiver Basin #Water Forum

Photo shows Tennessee Creek near the confluence of the East Fork Arkansas River in winter with snow on the Continental Divide of the Americas. Photo: Reclamation

Here’s the release from the Arkansas Rover Basin Water Forum (Joe Stone):

Registration is now open for the 2023 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, slated for Tuesday and Wednesday, April 25-26 at the Doubletree by Hilton in Colorado Springs. Since 1995, the Forum has served Colorado’s Arkansas River Basin by encouraging education and dialogue about the state’s most precious resource – water.

The 27th Forum will feature top water experts in Colorado and the Arkansas River Basin discussing issues critical for all water users, from everyday citizens and entrepreneurs to the water managers, attorneys and engineers who work to ensure a reliable water supply for Basin cities, farms and businesses.

Speakers, presentations, panel discussions and field trips will engage attendees in seeking solutions to the many challenges that must be met in planning for a secure water future for the largest of Colorado’s river basins.

Tuesday’s plenary session will provide an Arkansas Basin perspective on Colorado’s 2023 Water Plan. Upper Ark Water Conservancy District General Manager Terry Scanga will moderate a panel discussion featuring:

  • Russ Sands, Colorado Water Conservation Board water supply planning section chief.
  • Mark Shea, Arkansas Basin Roundtable chair.
  • Anna Mauss, Colorado Water Conservation Board chief operating officer.

Wednesday’s plenary session will examine strategies for preserving agriculture and urban landscapes in a climate of increasing water scarcity. Matt Heimerich, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board member, will moderate the session. Panel members are:

  • Kelly Roesch, Colorado Springs Utilities project manager.
  • Dillon O’Hare, Palmer Land Conservancy community conservation manager.
  • Catherine Moravec, Colorado Springs Utilities senior water conservation specialist.

In addition to expert presentations and panel discussions, a variety of tours and field trips will be offered on the afternoons of both days of the Forum. More information about registering for the Forum, including afternoon field trips, is available at arbwf.org.

Registration costs for the Forum remain a very good value:

  • Two-day full registration, including lunches – $300.
  • One-day registration, either Tuesday or Wednesday, including lunch – $150.
  • Percolation and Runoff networking dinner – $20 (all proceeds support the ARBWF Scholarship Fund).

Tuesday evening features the funnest part of the Forum, the Percolation and Runoff social networking event, which raises money for the college scholarship fund. The $20 cost includes dinner, drinks and lively conversation. All proceeds from this event support the scholarship fund, enabling the Forum to help students and working professionals in their education and research in water resources, watershed studies, hydrology, natural resources management and other water-related fields.

For more information, contact Jean Van Pelt, Forum Coordinator, at arbwf1994@gmail.com.

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

Nature’s Supermarket: How Beavers Help Birds — And Other Species: New research shows that these ecosystem engineers can be an “ally in stopping the decline of biodiversity” — The Revelator

A chickadee feeding in the beaver pond. Photo: Putneypics (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Click the link to read the article on The Revelator website (Tara Lohan):

Researchers in Poland have found another reason to love beavers: They benefit wintering birds.

The rodents, once maligned as destructive pests, have been getting a lot of positive press lately. And for good reason. Beavers are ecosystem engineers. As they gather trees and dam waterways, they create wetlands, increase soil moisture, and allow more light to reach the ground. That drives the growth of herbaceous and shrubby vegetation, which benefits numerous animals.

Bats, who enjoy the buffet of insects found along beaver ponds, are among the beneficiaries. So too are butterflies who come for the diversity of flowering plants in the meadows beavers create.

Some previous research has found that this helping hand also extends to birds. For example, a 2008 study in the western United States showed that the vegetation that grows along beaver-influenced streams provided needed habitat for migratory songbirds, many of whom are in decline.

A beaver dam in Bierbza Marshes, Poland. Photo: Francesco Veronesi (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The new study published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management found further evidence by focusing on birds in winter. The researchers looked at assemblages of wintering birds on 65 beaver sites and 65 reference sites in a range of temperate forest habitat across Poland. Winter can be a challenging time for birds in that environment, as they need to reduce energy expenditures in the cold weather and find habitat that has high-quality food and roosting sites.

Wintering birds, it turns out, find those qualities near beaver habitat.

The researchers found a greater abundance of birds and more species richness near areas where beavers had modified waterways. Both were highest closest to the shores of beaver ponds.

One of the reasons that birds are attracted to these areas in winter has to do with warmth: The open tree canopy caused by flooding and tree diebacks lets in more sun, and ice-free beaver ponds can release heat, previous research has found.

The changes beavers make to the landscape also provide for different kinds of birds. Standing dead wood caused by flooding is sought after by woodpeckers, and then by secondary cavity nesters that follow. The diversity of plants that grow in beaver areas produce fruits and attract insects — and therefore frugivorous and insectivorous birds.

“All beaver-induced modifications of the existing habitat may have influence on bird assemblage,” says Michal Ciach, a study co-author and a professor in the department of Forest Biodiversity at the University of Agriculture in Krakow, Poland. “But different bird species may rely on different habitat traits that emerge due to beaver activity. It’s like a supermarket.”

Just how far into the forest do beavers’ benefits extend?

While the study found that the number of bird species and the number of individuals were significantly higher in the study areas closest to beaver ponds, “for some species this tendency also held in forests growing at some distance from beaver wetlands,” the researchers wrote.

The Eurasian beaver. Photo: Per Harald Olsen/NTNU (CC BY 2.0)

Those instances, though, weren’t statistically significant. But Ciach says beaver effects can be far-reaching in other cases. He’s the coauthor of a study published last year that found a greater number of wintering mammal species near beaver ponds, which extended nearly 200 feet from the edges of ponds.

And it’s likely that what’s good for birds may be good for many other species, too.

“Birds are commonly considered a good indicator of biodiversity,” he says. [ed emphasis mine] “If they positively respond to beaver presence, one may expect that such patterns will be followed by other groups of organisms. At this moment we are sure it works for wintering mammals. Other groups of organisms need investigation, but I’m quite sure many other organisms will do the same.”

The growing research about beavers suggests a greater need to protect their habitat and understand their important role in the ecosystem.

“Beaver sites should be treated as small nature reserves,” says Ciach. “The beaver, like no other species, is our ally in stopping the decline of biodiversity.”

A beaver dam on the Gunnison River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

California’s #snowpack is among the deepest ever. Now get ready for the perilous ‘big melt’ — The Los Angeles Times #runoff (April 4, 2023)

West snowpack April 3, 2023 via the NRCS.

Click the link to read the article on The Los Angeles Times website (Sean Greene and Hayley Smith). Here’s an excerpt:

The snowpack is so deep that it currently contains roughly 30 million acre-feet of water — or more water than Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, according to a Times analysis of snow sensor data. But though the bounty has eased drought conditions, experts warn that the dense Sierra Nevada snowpack will soon melt, potentially unleashing torrents of water and creating considerable concern about spring flooding in valleys, foothills and communities below…

State officials announced the record snowpack Monday at their fourth snow survey of the season at Phillips Station near South Lake Tahoe. The surveys are conducted monthly, with April 1 serving as the benchmark date when the snowpack is typically deepest. The statewide snowpack on Monday was 237% of normal for the date — the deepest on record since the state’s network of snow sensors was established in the mid-1980s. The snow water equivalent — or the amount of water contained in the snow — was 61.1 inches. It is also deeper than previous records of 227% set in 1983 and 224% set in 1969, and tied with the record of 237% set in 1952, measured using earlier tools and baselines. Those were the only other years with April snowpack above 200%, said Sean de Guzman, manager of snow surveys for the Department of Water Resources…

Snowpack in the southern Sierra was even deeper, measuring a record 306% of normal for the date…The abundance of water allowed state and federal agencies to drastically increase allocations for water providers across the state and also prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to roll back some of his drought emergency restrictions, which were issued in 2021 amid the state’s driest three years on record.

West Drought Monitor map March 28, 2023.

But though the U.S. Drought Monitor and other indicators of dryness are significantly improved, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, experts said.