The Worst-Case Scenario for #GlobalWarming Tracks Closely With Actual Emissions — Inside Climate News #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

From Inside Climate News (Bob Berwyn):

With scientists divided between hope and despair, a new study finds that the model projecting warming of 4.3 degrees Celsius is “actually the best choice.”

The ice front of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. Photo credit: David Vaughan via the British Antarctic Survey.

When scientists in the early 2000s developed a set of standardized scenarios to show how accumulating greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will affect the climate, they were trying to create a framework for understanding how human decisions will affect the trajectory of global warming.

The scenarios help define the possible effects on climate change—how we can limit the worst impacts by curbing greenhouse gas emissions quickly, or suffer the horrific outcome of unchecked fossil fuel burning.

The scientists probably didn’t think their work would trigger a sometimes polarized discussion in their ranks about the language of climate science, but that’s exactly what happened, and for the last several months, the debate has intensified. Some scientists say the worst-case, high emissions scenario isn’t likely because it overestimates the amount of fossil fuels that will be burned in the next few decades.

But a new study published [August 3, 2020] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argues that the high-end projection for greenhouse gas concentrations is still the most realistic for planning purposes through at least 2050, because it comes closest to capturing the effects “of both historical emissions and anticipated outcomes of current global climate policies, tracking within 1 percent of actual emissions.”

The scenarios, called Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), roughly show how much warmer the world will be by 2100, depending on how much more fossil fuel is burned, and how the climate responds. The best-case scenario (RCP 2.6) is the basis for the Paris climate agreement and would lead to warming of about 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.8 Celsius) by 2100. In that scenario, about 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs could survive, and 20 percent of Alpine glaciers would remain.

The worst-case pathway (RCP 8.5) would result in warming of more than 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.3 Celsius) by 2100, probably killing nearly all the world’s reefs and definitely pushing vast areas of polar ice sheets to melt, raising sea level by as much as 3 feet by 2100.

Even though it’s unlikely that coal burning will increase as envisioned in the worst-case pathway, cumulative greenhouse gas concentrations are still racing upward toward a level that will cause extremely dangerous heating, said Phil Duffy, who co-authored the paper with two other scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center.

“For near-term time horizons, we think it’s actually the best choice because it matches cumulative emissions. What happened over the last 15 years has been about exactly right compared to what was projected by RCP 8.5,” Duffy said. “For those reasons, it’s still a plausible scenario.”

That holds especially true for medium-term planning through 2050, Duffy said, explaining that the study grew out of some work his research institution was doing with the McKinsey Global Institute exploring the socioeconomic consequences of global warming out to about 2040 or 2050.

“Those are the time horizons those guys care about because it affects things like home mortgages,” he said. “And what about out to 2100? Part of what I think about that is, we have different scenarios because we don’t know, and we shouldn’t characterize scenarios by saying, this one is right, this one is wrong. I think you have to be very careful about saying a scenario is wrong or misleading.”

Stanford Earth scientist Rob Jackson, chair of the Global Carbon Project, said it’s important to remember that RCP scenarios were always intended as an intermediate step on the path to developing more accurate projections that include not only the physical effects of greenhouse gases, but also how those effects could trigger amplification of warming, for example by thawing more permafrost that could unleash unexpected quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term.

“RCP 8.5 was never really ‘business as usual’ … though that’s what it’s called. It’s just an aggressive picture of greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, we’re much closer to it today than anyone would have wanted. It remains a useful metric,” Jackson said.

But that usefulness may have been tarnished by widespread characterization of RCP 8.5 as a “business-as-usual” scenario, said Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project. For a while, “business-as-usual” seemed accurate because of a dramatic increase of coal burning in China, he added.

But Canadell said most of the research suggesting a continued rapid increase in coal use is now about 10 years old. In fact, “coal emissions have been coming down since 2013, when China peaked coal emissions. Somehow, people got stuck with papers published a long time ago, which caught the imagination of many,” he said.

Additionally, many scientists published papers about climate impacts like sea level rise and heat waves based on the worst-case outcome because they wanted to show the dramatic effects of extreme warning, he said. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s global climate assessments don’t suggest that carbon-climate feedback loops like increasing emissions of greenhouse gases from permafrost could lead to a worst-case outcome, he said.

On a hopeful note, Canadell added that the rate of carbon dioxide emissions have slowed over the last two decades, didn’t grow at all during the last two years and “won’t grow much over the coming years or longer. Even if we resume some growth, it will be modest,” he said. “We don’t know the future, but we are going to be hovering at stabilization of CO2 emissions for quite a few years, up to a decade, and by then renewable energy will be certainly meeting more than the excess energy demand.”

The discussion about the worst-case scenario may be distracting from more urgent matters, said Fredi Otto, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.

“I think the scenarios are there because we cannot predict the future and thus need to explore a whole range of scenarios. What is not helpful is to choose just one scenario. And what I think is extremely unhelpful is to call it business as usual,” she said.

“All this discussion goes very much away from the scientific understanding we are actually trying to gain and implies every scientist would have to define publicly where they are on the spectrum between denial and doom,” she said, “and that is a very stupid point we seem to have arrived at.”

Nearly all of #Colorado is under some #drought status. A year ago, almost none of the state was parched. — The Colorado Sun #ActOnClimate

The country’s second largest potato producing region, is in its 18th year of drought in 2020. The San Luis Valley in Colorado is known for its agriculture yet only has 6-7 inches of rainfall per year. San Luis Valley via National Geographic

From The Colorado Sun (Evan Ochsner):

Much of Colorado continues to suffer through extreme drought, and nearly all of the state is experiencing drought, according to the latest data released by the U.S Drought Monitor, a collaboration between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others.

Climate change could make droughts more severe and more common and disrupt the state’s economy. And while this year’s drought isn’t the most severe of the past decade, it will take “years and years of heavy rain to get back up to normal,” drought monitor author Richard Heim said.

The red on the map below represents extreme drought, while orange represents severe drought…

West Drought Monitor July 28, 2020.

A year ago, Colorado was pleasantly, surprisingly moist. The Western corners of the state were “abnormally dry,” shown in yellow, the lowest level of drought classification by the monitor. The rest of the state, shown in white, was drought-free…

West Drought Monitor August 8, 2019.

But conditions deteriorated over the past year, and a combination of short-term dryness and long-term dryness in the state has led to drought. Heim says Colorado has been in a “persistently dry pattern, in general, for most of the state.”

Colorado has also been suffering from relatively warm temperatures and a high propensity for evaporation. When the air is evaporating water at a higher rate, there is lower humidity and less water in the soil, rivers and reservoirs.

The monsoon late last summer was lackluster, which put the state on the trajectory toward drought. The state was dry going into the winter, and a dry and warm spring contributed to the current conditions…

Another important factor in staving off dryness: snow melt. Colorado’s high country snowpack plays a critical role in maintaining moisture in the state. Alpine snow fields serve as a reservoir, and when the snow melts it feeds rivers and streams and percolates into the soil. The unusually dry spring disrupted this process, and the snow melted too quickly to feed water systems downstream.

The past few months have been particularly dry, with vast portions of the state — shown in red in the map below — suffering from precipitation levels well below average…

Credit: The High Plains Regional Climate Center

Though conditions have worsened in the northwestern corner of the state, they have improved in many other places, particularly in the southern portion of the state…

The improvement is explained at least in part by increasing rainfall in a large part of the state. “So far, the early parts of the monsoon season have been promising,” Colorado State Climatologist Russ Schumacher said.

The drought-stricken southern portion of the state has had more rain in recent weeks, which has made a noticeable impact. Precipitation can temporarily lower fire danger and make a dent in dry conditions, but thunderstorms are not enough to lift a region out of drought…

The long-term outlook for Colorado this summer and early fall suggests the drought will persist. NOAA forecasts predict Colorado will be among the driest parts of the country, relative to its normal levels of precipitation. Most of the state, shown in dark brown, has a 40% chance of seeing lower precipitation than normal. Those are the worst odds in the country, the model shows.

Heat, too, will likely exacerbate the likelihood of sustained drought. Much of Colorado has a 60% likelihood of being hotter than normal in the coming months.

“If it remains warmer than average for an extended period, even if you have normal or above-normal precipitation, it doesn’t really end the drought in that situation,” said Schumacher, the state climatologist.

The heat projection shown above reflects recent trends, as much of the Southwest has become increasingly hot during the summer months in recent years. Experts say the western portion of the U.S. has grown hotter and hotter over the years.

The darker the red in the map below, published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the hotter the area has been trending. According to the model, there is a “clear warming trend,” compared to previous summers.

Summer temperatures across the country have been increasingly high compared to historical norms. The trend is most pronounced in the west. Credit: NOAA

Climate change is causing serious concern among scientists who study drought, because it could make droughts more severe and more common. The changing climate could stress systems necessary for staving off drought.

Colorado’s critical snowpack could be severely hit by climate change. The warming temperatures could shorten the snow season, lead to quicker melting and turn wintertime snow into rain. The high altitude of Colorado’s mountains insulates the state from some of those effects, but it’s not immune. As droughts this summer and in years past demonstrate, changes in snowpack can affect the climate year-round.

A warming climate could also lead to less overall precipitation and increase the rate of all-important evaporation.

“Climate change is water change,” Schumacher said.

Because Colorado already has an arid climate, changes in precipitation caused by climate change can have a major impact on the economy and people’s livelihoods. And while drought in Colorado is not a new phenomenon, scientists are increasingly confident that climate change is playing a role.

“What’s happening in the West is attributed to climate change,” said Heim, the drought monitor.

If the water goes, the desert moves in: “…there’s just no low-snow anymore — and it’s not coming back (Jim Gillespie)” — Writers on the Range #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Photo credit: Jonathan Thompson

From Dave Marston (Writers on the Range):

Paonia, a small town in western Colorado with a handful of mesas rising above it, wouldn’t green-up without water diverted from a river or mountain springs. The lively water travels through irrigation ditches for miles to gardens and small farms below. But this summer, irrigation ditches were going dry, and one, the Minnesota Canal and Reservoir Company, stopped sending water down to its 100-plus customers as early as July 13.

Drought was hitting the state and much of the West hard, but a local cause was surprising: Water theft.

Longtime residents who gather inside Paonia’s hub of information trading, Reedy’s Service Station, have a fund of stories about water theft. It’s not unusual, they say, that a rock just happens to dam a ditch, steering water toward a homeowner’s field. Sometimes, says farmer Jim Gillespie, 89, that rock even develops feet and crosses a road.

But this is comparatively minor stuff, says North Fork Water Commissioner Luke Reschke, as stealing ditchwater is a civil offense. Stealing water from a natural waterway, however, is a crime that can bring fines of $500 per day and jail time. That’s why what was happening to people who depend on the Minnesota Canal company for their fields or gardens was serious: Water was being taken from Minnesota Creek before it could be legally diverted for irrigation to paying customers.

Once the ditch company “called” for its water as of June 8, only holders of patented water rights could legally touch the creek. Yet during three trips to the creek’s beginning, starting in mid-June, and then in mid-July, I noticed that two ranches – without water rights — were harvesting bumper crops of hay. How could that have happened unless they’d illegally diverted water to their fields?

At first, no one would talk about the early-drying ditch except to hint broadly that it wasn’t normal. Then one man stepped up: Dick Kendall, a longtime board member of the Minnesota canal company, and manager of its reservoir. “On July 5,” he told me, “I saw water diverted from the creek onto one of the rancher’s land. And I wasn’t quiet about it.”

Kendall reported what he saw to Commissioner Luke Reschke, who oversees the area’s 600 springs, ditches and canals. Reschke dismissed it, he told me, because “The rumor mill is something else on Minnesota Creek. The only people who give me trouble are the new people who don’t know how the system works.” But locals say that four years back, Reschke’s predecessor, Steve Tuck, investigated when locals complained.

Though it may not be neighborly, stopping any illegal diversion is important, said Bob Reedy, owner of Reedy’s Station: “Without water, you’ve got nothing around here.” Annual rainfall is just 15 inches per year, and without water flowing into irrigation canals from the 10,000-foot mountains around town, much of the land would look like the high desert it truly is.

But it’s not just a couple of high-elevation ranchers dipping into the creek. The West Elk Coal Mine runs large pumps that supply water for its methane drilling and venting operations in the Minnesota Creek watershed.

Mine spokesperson Kathy Welt, said the diversion is legal, and that they only take early-season water when the creek water isn’t on call. That early water, however, is what begins to fill the Minnesota ditch’s reservoir.

In other ways, the mine has damaged the watershed by building a sprawling network of roads in the Sunset Roadless Area (Threats at West Elk Mine). A cease and desist order from the State Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety on June 10, sought by environmental groups, halted the building of an additional 1.6 miles of new roads this spring (Colorado Sun). Satellite images of the road network resemble a vast KOA Campground: Where trees once held back water and shaded snowpack from early melting, their replacement — gravel roads –- shed water and add to early runoff.

For all of Minnesota Ditch’s challenges, warming temperatures brought about by climate change could be the real challenge. Kendall said that this spring, when he plowed out the Minnesota Reservoir road, dust covered the parched ground beneath the snow.

Water — so precious to grow grapes, hay, organic vegetables and grass-fed beef, and to keep the desert at bay — had vanished early on Lamborn Mesa above Paonia. Farmer Gillespie summed it up, “there’s just no low-snow anymore — and it’s not coming back.”

David Marston. Photo credit: Writers on the Range

David Marston is a contributor to Writers on the Range, (writersontherange.com), a nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. He lives part-time in Colorado.

Does #coronavirus linger in the body? What we know about how viruses in general hang on in the brain and testicles — The Conversation #COVID19


Are there places in the body where SARS-CoV-2 can hide from the immune system?
fotograzia / Getty Images

William Petri, University of Virginia

As millions of people are recovering from COVID-19, an unanswered question is the extent to which the virus can “hide out” in seemingly recovered individuals. If it does, could this explain some of the lingering symptoms of COVID-19 or pose a risk for transmission of infection to others even after recovery?

I am a physician-scientist of infectious diseases at the University of Virginia, where I care for patients with infections and conduct research on COVID-19. Here I will briefly review what is known today about chronic or persistent COVID-19.

What is a chronic or persistent viral infection?

A chronic or persistent infection continues for months or even years, during which time virus is being continually produced, albeit in many cases at low levels. Frequently these infections occur in a so-called immune privileged site.

What is an immune privileged site?

There are a few places in the body that are less accessible to the immune system and where it is difficult to eradicate all viral infections. These include the central nervous system, the testes and the eye. It is thought that the evolutionary advantage to having an immune privileged region is that it protects a site like the brain, for example, from being damaged by the inflammation that results when the immune system battles an infection.

An immune privileged site not only is difficult for the immune system to enter, it also limits proteins that increase inflammation. The reason is that while inflammation helps kill a pathogen, it can also damage an organ such as the eye, brain or testes. The result is an uneasy truce where inflammation is limited but infection continues to fester.

A latent infection versus a persistent viral infection

But there is another way that a virus can hide in the body and reemerge later.

A latent viral infection occurs when the virus is present within an infected cell but dormant and not multiplying. In a latent virus, the entire viral genome is present, and infectious virus can be produced if latency ends and the infections becomes active. The latent virus may integrate into the human genome – as does HIV, for example – or exist in the nucleus as a self-replicating piece of DNA called an episome.

A latent virus can reactivate and produce infectious viruses, and this can occur months to decades after the initial infection. Perhaps the best example of this is chickenpox, which although seemingly eradicated by the immune system can reactivate and cause herpes zoster decades later. Fortunately, chickenpox and zoster are now prevented by vaccination. To be infected with a virus capable of producing a latent infection is to be infected for the rest of your life.

Latent infection (left) is when a cell is infected and the virus has inserted its genetic code into our human DNA. The immune system cannot detect this cell as being infected. An HIV infection can shift from latent to active if the infected cell is producing new viruses.
ttsz / Getty Images

How does a virus become a latent infection?

Herpes viruses are by far the most common viral infections that establish latency.

This is a large family of viruses whose genetic material, or genome, is encoded by DNA (and not RNA such as the new coronavirus). Herpes viruses include not only herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 – which cause oral and genital herpes – but also chickenpox. Other herpes viruses, such as Epstein Barr virus, the cause of mononucleosis, and cytomegalovirus, which is a particular problem in immunodeficient individuals, can also emerge after latency.

Retroviruses are another common family of viruses that establish latency but by a different mechanism than the herpes viruses. Retroviruses such as HIV, which causes AIDS, can insert a copy of their genome into the human DNA that is part of the human genome. There the virus can exist in a latent state indefinitely in the infected human since the virus genome is copied every time DNA is replicated and a cell divides.

Viruses that establish latency in humans are difficult or impossible for the immune system to eradicate. That is because during latency there can be little or no viral protein production in the infected cell, making the infection invisible to the immune system. Fortunately coronaviruses do not establish a latent infection.

Is it safe for a man to have sex after recovering from COVID-19?
Andrey Zhuravlev / Getty Images

Could you catch SARS-CoV-2 from a male sexual partner who has recovered from COVID-19?

In one small study, the new coronavirus has been detected in semen in a quarter of patients during active infection and in a bit less than 10% of patients who apparently recovered. In this study, viral RNA was what was detected, and it is not yet known if this RNA was from still infectious or dead virus in the semen; and if alive whether the virus can be sexually transmitted. So many important questions remain unanswered.

Ebola is a very different virus from SARS-C0V-2 yet serves as an example of viral persistence in immune privileged sites. In some individuals, Ebola virus survives in immune privileged sites for months after resolution of the acute illness. Survivors of Ebola have been documented with persistent infections in the testes, eyes, placenta and central nervous system.

The WHO recommends for male Ebola survivors that semen be tested for virus every three months. They also suggest that couples abstain from sex for 12 months after recovery or until their semen tests negative for Ebola twice. As noted above, we need to learn more about persistent new coronavirus infections before similar recommendations can be considered.

Could persistent symptoms after COVID-19 be due to viral persistence?

Recovery from COVID-19 is delayed or incomplete in many individuals, with symptoms including cough, shortness of breath and fatigue. It seems unlikely that these constitutional symptoms are due to viral persistence as the symptoms are not coming from immune privileged sites.

Where else could the new coronavirus persist after recovery from COVID-19?

Other sites where coronavirus has been detected include the placenta, intestines, blood and of course the respiratory tract. In women who catch COVID-19 while pregnant, the placenta develops defects in the mother’s blood vessels supplying the placenta. However, the significance of this on fetal health is yet to be determined.

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The new coronavirus can also infect the fetus via the placenta. Finally, the new coronavirus is also present in the blood and the nasal cavity and palate for up to a month or more after infection.

The mounting evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 can infect immune privileged sites and, from there, result in chronic persistent – but not latent – infections. It is too early to know the extent to which these persistent infections affect the health of an individual like the pregnant mother, for example, nor the extent to which they contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

Like many things in the pandemic, what is unknown today is known tomorrow, so stay tuned and be cautious so as not to catch the infection or, worse yet, spread it to someone else.The Conversation

William Petri, Professor of Medicine, University of Virginia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

#Wildfires can poison drinking water – here’s how communities can be better prepared — The Conversation


The 2018 Camp Fire north of Sacramento burned everything in its path: cars, power lines, and buildings – and contaminated local drinking water.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Andrew J. Whelton, Purdue University and Caitlin R. Proctor, Purdue University

In recent years wildfires have entered urban areas, causing breathtaking destruction.

The 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise and Butte County, California was the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history. It took 86 lives and destroyed more than 18,000 structures in a matter of hours.

Almost two years later, only a fraction of the area’s 40,000-plus population has returned. This disaster followed the 2017 Tubbs Fire, which killed 22 people in California’s Sonoma and Napa counties.

After both fires, drinking water tests revealed a plethora of acutely toxic and carcinogenic pollutants. Water inside homes was not safe to use, or even to treat. Water pipes buried underground and inside of buildings were extensively contaminated.

We are environmental engineers who help communities affected by disasters, and supported responses to both fires. As we conclude in a recently published study of burned areas, communities need to upgrade building codes to keep wildfires from causing this kind of widespread contamination of drinking water systems.

Survivors left everything to flee the Camp Fire’s path.
Andrew Whelton, Purdue University

Wildfires and water

Both the Tubbs and Camp fires destroyed fire hydrants, water pipes and meter boxes. Water leaks and ruptured hydrants were common. The Camp Fire inferno spread at a speed of one football field per second, chasing everyone – including water system operators – out of town.

After the fires passed, testing ultimately revealed widespread hazardous drinking water contamination. Evidence suggests that the toxic chemicals originated from a combination of burning vegetation, structures and plastic materials.

Pipes, water meters and meter covers after wildfires destroyed them.
Caitlin Proctor, Amisha Shah, David Yu, and Andrew Whelton/Purdue University

Firefighting can accelerate the spread of contamination. As emergency workers draw hydrant water, they spread contaminated water through the water pipe network.

Metal, concrete and plastic pipes can become contaminated. Many plastics take up these chemicals like sponges. As clean water later passes through the pipes, the toxic substances leach out, rendering the water unsafe.

In the Tubbs and Camp fires, chemicals in the air may have also been sucked into hydrants as water pipes lost pressure. Some water system plastics decomposed and leached chemicals directly into water. Toxic chemicals then spread throughout pipe networks and into buildings.

Limited water testing by state and local agencies showed benzene and naphthalene were present at levels that could cause immediate harm. These, as well as methylene chloride, styrene, toluene and vinyl chloride exceeded longer-term regulated exposure limits. Many of these chemicals cause cancer. All can cause vomiting, diarrhea and nausea after short-term high concentration exposure.

Anyone who drinks the water containing these substances could be harmed. And simply running a faucet could cause chemicals to enter the air. Hot showers and boiling water would vaporize the chemicals and increase the dose a person breathed in. Some of these substances can also be absorbed through the skin.

Dangerous contamination levels

Benzene was found at concentrations of 40,000 parts per billion (ppb) in drinking water after the Tubbs Fire and at more than 2,217 ppb after the Camp Fire. According to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, children exposed to benzene for a single day can suffer harm at levels as low as 26 ppb.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends limiting children’s short-term acute exposure to 200 ppb, and long-term exposure to less than 5 ppb. The EPA regulatory level for what constitutes a hazardous waste is 500 ppb.

In early 2019, California conducted contaminated water testing on humans by taking contaminated water from the Paradise Irrigation District and asking persons to smell it. The state found that even when people smelled contaminated water that had less than 200 ppb benzene, at least one person reported nausea and throat irritation. The test also showed that water contained a variety of other benzene-like compounds that first responders had not sampled for.

The officials who carried out this small-scale test did not appear to realize the significance of what they had done, until we asked whether they had had their action approved in advance by an institutional review board. In response, they asserted that such a review was not needed.

In our view, this episode is telling for two reasons. First, one subject reported an adverse health effect after being exposed to water that contained benzene at a level below the EPA’s recommended one-day limit for children. Second, doing this kind of test without proper oversight suggests that officials greatly underestimated the potential for serious contamination of local water supplies and public harm. After the Camp Fire, together with the EPA, we estimated that some plastic pipes needed more than 280 days of flushing to make them safe again.

Plastic pipes can be damaged by heat and fire contact.
Andrew Whelton, Purdue University

Building codes could make areas disaster-ready

Our research underscores that community building codes are inadequate to prevent wildfire-caused pollution of drinking water and homes.

Installing one-way valves, called backflow prevention devices, at each water meter can prevent contamination rushing out of the damaged building from flowing into the larger buried pipe network.

Adopting codes that required builders to install fire-resistant meter boxes and place them farther from vegetation would help prevent infrastructure from burning so readily in wildfires. Concrete meter boxes and water meters with minimal plastic components would be less likely to ignite. Some plastics may be practically impossible to make safe again, since all types are susceptible to fire and heat.

Water main shutoff valves and water sampling taps should exist at every water meter box. Sample taps can help responders quickly determine water safety.

Benzene contamination in the water supply slowed rebuilding efforts in Paradise, Calif., after the Camp Fire.

The smell test doesn’t work

Under no circumstance should people be told to smell the water to determine its safety, as was recommended for months after the Camp Fire. Many chemicals have no odor when they are harmful. Only testing can determine safety.

Ordering people to boil their water will not make it safe if it contains toxic chemicals that enter the air. Boiling just transmits those substances into the air faster. “Do not use” orders can keep people safe until agencies can test the water. Before such advisories are lifted or modified, regulators should be required to carry out a full chemical screen of the water systems. Yet, disaster after disaster, government agencies have failed to take this step.

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Buildings should be tested to find contamination. Home drinking water quality can differ from room to room, so reliable testing should sample both cold and hot water at many locations within each building.

While infrastructure is being repaired, survivors need a safe water supply. Water treatment devices sold for home use, such as refrigerator and faucet water filters, are not approved for extremely contaminated water, although product sales representatives and government officials may mistakenly think the devices can be used for that purpose.

To avoid this kind of confusion, external technical experts should be called in assist local public health departments, which can quickly become overwhelmed after disasters.

Preparing for future fires

The damage that the Tubbs and Camp fires caused to local water systems was preventable. We believe that urban and rural communities, as well as state legislatures, should establish codes and lists of authorized construction materials for high-risk areas. They also should establish rapid methods to assess health, prepare for water testing and decontamination, and set aside emergency water supplies.

Wildfires are coming to urban areas. Protecting drinking water systems, buried underground or in buildings, is one thing communities can do to prepare for that reality.The Conversation

Andrew J. Whelton, Associate Professor of Civil, Environmental & Ecological Engineering, Purdue University and Caitlin R. Proctor, Lillian Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellow, Purdue University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Say hello to @Northern_Water’s new website

Screen shot of the new Northern Water website. Click the image to go to the website.

Click here to to the new website. Easy to navigate and find data:

Northern Water is proud to announce the launch of a new organizational website. The website offers a user-friendly experience with improved navigation and functionality.

With a modern, sleek design, the new website uses enhanced functionality, features and content to tell the story of Northern Water and its commitment to delivering water to more than 1 million people and 615,000 acres of irrigated farmland in Northeastern Colorado while protecting water quality on both sides of the Continental Divide.

Key features of the new website include:

  • Improved navigation that makes content easy to find;
  • A search engine that captures targeted results for visitors seeking specific information;
  • Mobile responsive design that allows website access from any device;
  • A new data portal that provides real-time data, water quality data and more;
  • A new customized water accounting portal that empowers water users to manage their portfolio, order and transfer water, and view important documents; and
  • A news blog to inform the public about Northern Water’s projects, programs and activities. New weekly content will ensure the public is kept up to date on the latest happenings.
  • The new website has been more than a year in the making with a primary goal of creating a user-friendly platform accessible from any device. Specifically, the goal was to make it easier for visitors to learn about the organization and its rich history, receive project updates and discover ways to more efficiently use water in their landscapes and daily lives.

    Paper: Multi-objective optimization of water treatment operations for disinfection byproduct control

    Click here to score a copy of the paper (William J. Raseman, Joseph R. Kasprzyk, R. Scott Summers, Amanda K. Hohner, and Fernando L. Rosario-Ortiz). Here’s the abstract:

    This paper introduces a novel decision-making framework for the optimization of water treatment plant operations. Managers at water utilities face increasing tensions between cost, public health risk, public perception, and regulatory compliance. Multi-objective optimization techniques have been developed to generate innovative solutions to environmental problems with competing objectives. By integrating these optimization techniques with water quality scenarios, water treatment modeling, and interactive visualization, our framework enables water managers to choose among an ensemble of optimal treatment operations. By automating the generation of treatment options, this paradigm represents a shift toward exploration and insight discovery in drinking water decision making. To illustrate this framework, we create a disinfection byproduct (DBP) management problem that incorporates the influence of competing risks and cost objectives on decision making. Using data from the Cache la Poudre River—a source water in Colorado with seasonally-varying water quality—and a hypothetical conventional treatment plant, we evaluate the impact of organic carbon increases on the performance of optimal treatment operations. These results suggest that the hypothetical utility should consider infrastructural improvements if organic carbon concentrations increase more than approximately 25% of maximum historical levels. An interactive exploration of the optimization results reveal to what extent there are tradeoffs between solids handling costs, chemical costs, and DBP exposure. A k-means clustering of these data illustrates that the utility can achieve compliance through a variety of treatment strategies depending on decision maker preferences for cost and risk.

    The job loss epidemic — @HighCountryNews #COVID19 #coronavirus

    From The High Country News (Jonathan Thompson) [July 23, 2020]:

    By February, the spread of COVID-19 was already eroding the global economy. First, global travel restrictions depressed the oil market. Then, as the virus reached pandemic proportions, it began hurting even the healthiest industries, throwing the global economy into the deepest rut since the Great Depression.

    The recession has been hard on clean energy, which was thriving at the end of last year despite unhelpful, even hostile, policies from the Trump administration. Between 2009 and 2019, solar and wind generation on the U.S. electrical grid shot up by 400%, even as overall electricity consumption remained fairly flat. Renewable facility construction outpaced all other electricity sources, but the disease’s effects have since rippled through the sector, wiping out much of its previous growth.

    Graphic credit: The High Country News

    Global supply chains for everything from solar panels to electric car components were the earliest victims, as governments shut down factories, first in China, then worldwide, to prevent transmission of the disease. Restrictions on construction further delayed utility-scalesolar and wind installations and hampered rooftop solar installations and energy efficiency projects. The setbacks are especially hard on the wind industry, because new wind farms must be up and running by the end of the year to take advantage of federal tax credits. Meanwhile, the general economic slowdown is diminishing financing for new renewable energy projects.

    Graphic credit: The High Country News

    Clean energy, which has shed more than 600,000 jobs since the pandemic’s onset, is only one of the many economic sectors that are hurting. In just three months, COVID-19 wiped out more than twice as many jobs as were lost during the entire Great Recession of 2008. The impacts have reverberated throughout the Western U.S., from coal mines to tourist towns, and from casinos to dairy farms. Some industries, including clean energy, bounced back slightly in June, as stay-at-home orders were dropped and businesses, factories and supply chains opened back up. But a full recovery — if it happens — will largely depend on government stimulus programs and could take years.

    Graphic credit: The High Country News

    In just three months, COVID-19 wiped out more than twice as many jobs as were lost during the entire Great Recession of 2008.

    Contracted workers clean mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Project in Nipton, California. In 2017, the facility employed over 65 workers and created 2,600 jobs during it’s three year construction period. Dennis Schroeder/National Renewable Energy Laboratory via The High Country News

    Infographic design by Luna Anna Archey; Graphics by Minus Plus; Sources: Solar Energy Industries Association, BW Research Partnership, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, New Mexico Workforce Connection, Utah Department of Workforce Services.

    Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster. Email him at jonathan@hcn.org.

    Interview: Harmful Algal Blooms Are on the Rise — Here’s Why Stopping Them Is So Hard — The Revelator

    A dense floating mat of algae is seen on the Susquehanna Flats near Treasure Island and Havre de Grace, Md., on Aug. 2, 2019. Photo: Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program (CC BY-NC 2.0)

    From The Revalator (Tara Lohan):

    More frequent, longer-lasting blooms can harm both wildlife and human health — and even kill. Can we learn to predict and prevent them?

    From the fall of 2017 to the beginning of 2019, Florida endured a persistent and damaging algal bloom caused by the algae Karenia brevis, also known as red tide. The blooms formed in both Gulf and Atlantic waters, sickening people, killing birds, fish, dolphins, manatees and other marine animals, and driving visitors away from beach towns.

    Scientists say it’s a problem that’s going to get worse — and not just in Florida. Harmful algal blooms, which can occur in both fresh and marine waters, are becoming more frequent, lasting longer, and occurring in more places. In recent weeks news reports have warned residents in western New York, Utah and California to stay out of rivers and lakes clouded with these microscopic organisms that can sometimes be fatal to people, pets and wildlife.

    To be clear, not all algae are dangerous. In fact the vast majority are beneficial to ecosystems. They’re the base of the marine and aquatic food webs, providing nutrients for fish and shellfish, which in turn feed other animals — including people. They also produce half of our oxygen.

    “But a small handful of these organisms are harmful,” says phytoplankton ecologist Pat Glibert of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

    We spoke with Glibert about this tiny — but dangerous group — of algae, why they’re becoming more problematic, and what we can do to protect people and ecosystems.

    When algae are deemed to be harmful, what is it that they’re harming and how?

    University of Maryland phytoplankton ecologist Pat Glibert. Photo: Courtesy of Pat Glibert via The Revelator

    Some algae can grow to levels that just create a nuisance. They can overwhelm the system and when they die, their decomposition uses up oxygen, causing dead zones in the sea or fresh waters.

    In the case of red tides — named because they visibly color the water a red or sometimes brownish color — their growth reduces the light penetration in the water. So the organisms that live near the bottom, such as sea grasses, are harmed, and the organisms that depend on that bed of grass in the water are also harmed.

    But some of these species actually make toxins that can cause fish kills or harm to other marine organisms. And they can also cause harm for humans when we consume the fish or shellfish that has consumed these organisms.

    These harmful algal blooms can occur all over. What are the regional differences in the kind of algae and their potential harm?

    In marine waters we are primarily concerned with a group of organisms called dinoflagellates. And in fresh waters, the major organisms of concern fall in a category called cyanobacteria. They make very different toxins and have very different effects both environmentally as well as with regard to human health.

    The freshwater toxins are concerning for a number of reasons. On initial exposure one may have a skin rash or something uncomfortable that’s relatively mild. But they can get into drinking water and, over a long period of exposure, they are tumor promoters. We know liver cancer is associated with these toxins, and there’s increasing evidence that the freshwater toxins can also be associated with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or ALS. There’s a lot of work going in right now to understand that relationship.

    In marine waters we’re typically exposed to toxins through shellfish. The shellfish themselves are not affected by these toxins because a lot of them affect the nervous system and shellfish don’t have a nervous system. But shellfish can accumulate the toxin. One of the diseases that we are very concerned about comes from saxitoxin, which is most common if one is eating mussels. It’s from the dinoflagellate Alexandrium and it can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. It results in respiratory paralysis. With a high enough dose people do die.

    A different toxin is the Florida red tide. That toxin can become aerosolized. If people breathe that sea spray at the beach it can cause respiratory distress, including coughing. Many people can end up going to the hospital, but people aren’t likely to die from it. The other thing that many of the toxins cause is an upset stomach that may take a couple of days to get over, but people do recover.

    What about the effects on wildlife?

    That depends on the species of algae. But some things like Karenia brevis in Florida are indiscriminate killers. Fish, turtles, manatees are all affected.

    Dead fish on the shore of Padre Island as a result of a harmful algal bloom. Photo: Terry Ross, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    In California there’s a toxic diatom species, Pseudo-nitzschia, and it seems to affect sea lions and other large marine organisms. They tend to show symptoms very similar to epilepsy and disorientation. Death is one end point, but there are many other impacts on these organisms as well.

    What’s driving the growth of these harmful algal blooms?

    We certainly know that blooms are increasing in frequency, in geographic extent, and in duration in many parts of the United States and the world. A lot of this is due to the fact that we are polluting these waters with nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from the land.

    Nutrient pollution can come from wastewater, whether it’s discharged from municipal sewage treatment plants or from septic systems. We don’t always do an adequate job, in many places, of removing those nutrients.

    That’s one source. A second is runoff from fertilizer application, particularly from agricultural use, but we use a lot of these fertilizers on our lawns, golf courses and gardens as well.

    And then there’s the waste from concentrated animal feeding operations, whether it’s chickens or pigs or dairy. A lot of that waste is either held in lagoons and ultimately spread on land. Or it goes into the atmosphere and then comes down with rain. So these operations themselves are highly concentrated sources of pollution that end up in waterways.

    The other issue is that the climate is changing. Waters are getting warmer. Many organisms grow better when waters are warmer. That’s true for some of these [algae] species.

    But because of climate change we’re also seeing changes in precipitation. We’re having more storms in some areas, more hurricanes, and because the atmosphere is now warmer, when those hurricanes do develop, they are often holding more moisture. So hurricanes become wetter. That means that the rain that comes with these storms washes more of these nutrients into the sea.

    What can we do to reduce these blooms?

    This is a very difficult problem to solve. The ultimate solution is to try to reduce nutrients that are winding their way into our fresh and marine waters.

    At a personal level, we can reduce the amount of nutrient fertilizer we put on our own lawns, but the pollution that comes from the concentrated animal operations, from municipal sewage and from crop agriculture are the big issues that we have to solve. And they’re going to be very difficult to solve because we have to continue to grow our food.

    There are approaches that people are taking to try to address blooms at the time that they occur, methods to apply various products to reduce the bloom. There is some success in applying clay to the surface of the water that causes the dinoflagellates to fall to the bottom of the bay or estuary. But those are very localized solutions.

    Aerial photo of an algal bloom in Virginia’s James River near the Monitor-Merrimack Bridge. Photo: Wolfgang K. Vogelbein, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    The other approach that we are taking is to build mathematical models of when and why and where a bloom may occur and use that as an early warning system. So we may not be able to solve the problem, but at least we can protect human health or seafood resources before a problem occurs.

    There are also a number of exciting areas of research. One is my own, which focuses on understanding these organisms from their physiology — how they obtain their nutrients, how they make toxins, why they make toxins. How is nutrient pollution related to not only growth of the algae but production of their toxin?

    Also the other area that I think is so exciting is really pulling all of these factors together in building predictive models and using models to ask questions of “what if we did this, what would it show”? Or “what if we did that, what would be that effect”? We’re making great progress, but the problem is still a very large one.

    Has our response to the problem matched the scale of what’s needed and the urgency of the issue?

    It always seems to be in the forefront at the time there’s a bloom. And then as soon as that bloom subsides, the public interest and the interest in solving the problem go away.

    Clearly we need more money to address issues of nutrient pollution. We need to upgrade sewage treatment plants. We need to address the fact that so much of the country still depends on septic systems or very small “package plant” [treatment systems] that do nothing to reduce nutrients.

    The issue of concentrated animal waste is enormous because the animal waste isn’t treated and does make its way into the environment by land or sea or atmosphere, and ultimately gets discharged into waterways.

    We need more attention on those issues. We need more attention on developing preventative measures. We need to have more approaches to protect human health from these events because they are going to be increasing.

    The outlook is for more blooms and longer blooms in more places if we don’t address all of these problems of nutrient pollution and climate change collectively.

    Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.

    New manager takes reins of Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District #YampaRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridifiction

    The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

    From The Steamboat Pilot & Today (Derek Maiolo):

    Andy Rossi now manages the conservation district following more than a decadelong tenure with the group. The change comes after the retirement of former manager Kevin McBride, who managed the district since 2009.

    Rossi joined the group that same year as its district engineer. His knowledge of the district’s facilities and operations near the headwaters of the Yampa River, namely Yamcolo and Stagecoach reservoirs, was a major factor in the board’s decision to promote him, according to a news release. Before that, he worked at multiple consulting firms specializing in water resources…

    Rossi also will oversee the implementation of the district’s new strategic plan. Among the plan’s goals include developing long-term financial sustainability, protecting local water from out-of-district transfers and improving watershed management.

    With regards to that last goal, Rossi noted a need to utilize new technology and scientific-based studies for water management. For example, one of the panelists at a recent Yampa Basin Rendezvous discussion, snowpack researcher Dr. Jeffrey Deems, described his work with the Airborne Snow Observatory.

    The observatory uses specialized aircraft equipped with sensors to collect data on snowmelt across entire regions of mountains and their waterways. The data has helped communities to better manage their water supplies.

    According to Deems, the Kings River Water Association in California was able to avoid a flood declaration in 2019, which led to savings of $100 million, by basing its dam release policy on forecasts from the Airborne Snow Observatory instead of traditional measurements.

    Rossi said he would like to incorporate some of the observatory’s data next year on a trial basis, which also would help the researchers receive feedback on the new technology…

    These efforts have the overarching goal of preserving the health of the Yampa River for the people, plants and creatures that depend upon it. Rossi described the river as the most important natural resource in the area.

    “It is the natural resource that defines this valley,” he said.

    To that end, Rossi aims to maintain the district’s existing facilities, such as the dam at Stagecoach Reservoir, which not only helps to meet water demands for a growing community but also generates hydroelectric power.

    The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District formed in 1966 following the passage of the Water Conservancy Act of the state of Colorado. Its mission has been conserving, developing and stabilizing supplies of water for irrigation, power generation, manufacturing and other uses.

    Stagecoach Reservoir. Photo credit Upper Yampa River Water Conservancy District.

    @EPA Announces $4.3 Million for Tribes to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water in Schools

    Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

    Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency:

    New grant program continues implementation of…Administration’s Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposure

    (July 30, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new grant program to help protect children in tribal communities from lead in drinking water at schools and childcare facilities. With this action, the agency is continuing to make meaningful progress under the Trump Administration’s Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures by engaging with tribes and working to protect childrens’ health in these underserved communities.

    “Protecting children in tribal communities from lead in drinking water is a priority for the Trump Administration and EPA,” said U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This new funding helps tribes further reduce lead in drinking water by boosting testing for lead in schools and childcare centers. This, in turn, will increase the health and wellbeing of the coming generation.”

    Authorized by the Water Infrastructure Improvements of the Nation (WIIN) Act, EPA is making $4.3 million available to support the Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program Drinking Water Tribal Grant Program. Grantees will use the EPA’s 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water guidance to implement lead testing programs and develop monitoring, maintenance and/or sampling plans that protect children from lead exposure now and in the future. Beneficiaries of the program must be members of a federally-recognized tribe. EPA will host a webinar in August to provide more information about the 3Ts toolkit and an overview of the grant and its scope.

    For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/safewater/grants.

    Background

    While the U.S. has made tremendous progress in lowering children’s blood lead levels, some children are still exposed to high levels of lead. In December 2018, EPA with other federal partners announced the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures. Today’s announcement continues the agency’s significant progress in implementing this plan.

    #Drought In The West Affects More Than Farmers — Wyoming Public Media #WY

    West Drought Monitor July 28, 2020.

    From Wyoming Public Media (Ashley Piccone):

    Most of the West has been experiencing drought this year. Bart Miller, with the environmental group Western Resource Advocates, said that the water levels we are seeing this year are nothing new.

    “It’s kind of slightly below average for Wyoming and even more below average for the rest of the Colorado River Basin states,” he said. “We’re part of a trend, or at least if you look over the last 20 years, there’s been consistent below average stream flow, snowpack and just water to work with.”

    Miller said areas in Colorado and other more southern states are much drier this year compared to Wyoming.

    This winter had an average snowpack, but that it melted fairly early or evaporated quickly, he said. The inflow into Lake Powell from states including Wyoming, Colorado and Utah is projected to be 61 percent of average this year…

    “Much of the state, at least half the state, is in one form of drought or another. That’s having some impact, certainly on folks irrigating but also on folks who like to fish and recreate in the outdoors,” he said. “As stream flows get low and as we get more and more years of drought, we’re seeing some of those benefits and attributes becoming more challenging.”

    Extreme drought shrinks in southern Colorado, conditions degrade in the north — The Kiowa County Press

    From The Kiowa County Press (Chris Sorensen):

    Recent rains from a plume of monsoon moisture have led to drought improvements across southern Colorado according to the latest report from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

    Extreme drought – the second worst category – receded in Montezuma and Dolores counties. Extreme conditions also fully retreated from Otero County, and nearly disappeared from Bent and Prowers counties. Northern and eastern Baca County also saw improvements extreme drought. In each of the areas, severe drought replaced extreme conditions.

    Colorado Drought Monitor July 28, 2020.

    Northwest Colorado saw moderate drought overtake abnormally dry conditions in northern Moffat County, along with all of Routt and Jackson and most of Grand and Summit counties. The remainder of Eagle County also moved from abnormally dry to moderate drought, as did northwest Larimer County.

    In northeast Colorado, severe drought reached northeast Logan and northwest Sedgwick counties, while slipping back to moderate drought elsewhere in the two counties. Severe conditions all but disappeared from Phillips County and much of eastern Yuma County. Northeast Cheyenne County in east central Colorado moved from severe conditions to moderate drought.

    This week’s crop progress and condition report noted that non-irrigated crop and pasture areas continued to decline in the face of drought, with some spring crops about to fail without rain.

    A drought-free area in Larimer, Weld, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson and Gilpin counties turned abnormally dry, while northeast Weld County became drought-free.

    Many of the improved areas saw an inch or more of rain over the past week. In some cases, heavy rains caused flash flooding. Despite the improvements, the U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook for August paints a grim picture for the state. Existing drought is expected to persist across Colorado, while remaining abnormally dry areas are predicted to move into drought conditions over the course of the month. Drought improvements are not forecast anywhere in Colorado. Above-normal temperatures are also expected throughout August.

    August 2020 Drought Outlook via the Climate Prediction Center

    Overall, just one percent of Colorado is drought-free, down from 3 percent last week. Abnormally dry conditions cover 16 percent of the state compared to 23 percent in the previous report. Moderate drought moved up 11 percent to 25, while severe drought also increased three percent to 32. Extreme drought shrank to 27 percent from 32 percent.

    Moderate to extreme drought conditions cover 84 percent of the state. The total exceeds 100 percent due to rounding.

    A Quarter of Bangladesh Is Flooded. Millions Have Lost Everything — The New York Times #ActOnClimate

    Submerged houses after floods in bangladesh. Photo: Bangladesh Department of Disaster Management

    Here’s an in-depth look at the current flooding disaster in Bangladesh from SominiSengupta and Julfikar Ali Manik that’s running in The New York Times. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    The country’s latest calamity illustrates a striking inequity of our time: The people least responsible for climate change are among those most hurt by its consequences.

    Torrential rains have submerged at least a quarter of Bangladesh, washing away the few things that count as assets for some of the world’s poorest people — their goats and chickens, houses of mud and tin, sacks of rice stored for the lean season.

    It is the latest calamity to strike the delta nation of 165 million people. Only two months ago, a cyclone pummeled the country’s southwest. Along the coast, a rising sea has swallowed entire villages. And while it’s too soon to ascertain what role climate change has played in these latest floods, Bangladesh is already witnessing a pattern of more severe and more frequent river flooding than in the past along the mighty Brahmaputra River, scientists say, and that is projected to worsen in the years ahead as climate change intensifies the rains.

    By Blacki Migliozzi·Source: Institute of Water and Flood Management, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology

    This is one of the most striking inequities of the modern era. Those who are least responsible for polluting Earth’s atmosphere are among those most hurt by its consequences. The average American is responsible for 33 times more planet-warming carbon dioxide than the average Bangladeshi.

    This chasm has bedeviled climate diplomacy for a generation, and it is once again in stark relief as the coronavirus pandemic upends the global economy and threatens to push the world’s most vulnerable people deeper into ruin.

    An estimated 24 to 37 percent of the country’s landmass is submerged, according to government estimates and satellite data By Tuesday, according to the most recent figures available, nearly a million homes were inundated and 4.7 million people were affected. At least 54 have died, most of them children.

    The current floods, which are a result of intense rains upstream on the Brahmaputra, could last through the middle of August…

    Poor countries have long sought a kind of reparations for what they call loss and damage from climate change. Rich countries, led by the United States and European Union, have resisted, mainly out of concern that they could be saddled with liability claims for climate damage.

    It doesn’t help that the rich world has failed to deliver on a $100 billion aid package to help poor countries cope, promised as part of the 2015 Paris accord.

    Colorado River District to explore the calls that command the #ColoradoRiver in lunchtime webinar #COriver #aridification

    Shoshone Hydroelectric plant. Photo credit: The Colorado River District

    The link to register for the event is https://bit.ly/WWLColoRiver

    Here’s the release from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):

    In the fight over Colorado River water, senior water rights dictate which direction the river flows: west on its natural route from the Continental Divide or east through tunnels to the Front Range. On the mainstem of the Colorado, the most heavily diverted of the river’s basins, two historic structures have much to say about providing water security for Western Colorado: the Shoshone Hydropower Plant in Glenwood Canyon and the Grand Valley Diversion Dam
    in DeBeque Canyon.

    The next program in the Colorado River District’s “Water With Your Lunch” webinar series on Zoom will explore the importance of Shoshone and the Grand Valley Roller Dam to all West Slope water users. The webinar is set for noon, Wednesday, Aug. 5.

    Panelists for the discussion include Andy Mueller, general manager for the Colorado River District; Mark Harris, manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association in Grand Junction; Fay Hartman, conservation director, Colorado River Basin Program at American Rivers and Jim Pokrandt, community affairs director of the Colorado River District.

    The Shoshone Hydropower Plant holds the oldest, major water right on the mainstem of the river, 1,250 cubic feet a second dated 1902. When river flows ebb after the spring runoff, Shoshone contributes most of the Colorado River’s water in Glenwood Canyon. In turn, those flows support year-round recreation opportunities and the economic benefits that come with them on the mainstem of the Colorado. The Roller Dam is where most of a suite of old water rights called the “Cameo call,” are diverted. Much of this water today provides water for both abundant agriculture and municipal water users along the mainstem of the river.

    Both structures command the river, pulling water downstream that might otherwise be diverted to the Front Range through transmountain diversion tunnels. Shoshone and Cameo water rights are filled before these diversions under the prior appropriation system. When either or both rights are calling, junior diverters must cease or replace the water they take out of priority, keeping our West Slope water flowing west and benefitting water users, recreation and ecosystems along the way, from Grand County to the Grand Valley.

    “The Colorado River District was created in 1937 to protect West Slope water and keep water on the Western Slope,” says Andy Mueller, General Manager for the Colorado River District. “The Shoshone and Cameo calls play a vital role in that effort to keep our rivers flowing and our crops growing.”

    Navajo Dam operations update: Releases to bump to 600 CFS August 3, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

    In response to decreasing flows and a dry forecast weather pattern in the San Juan River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 600 cfs on Monday, August 3rd, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

    The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program has recommended base flows as close to 500 cfs as possible for the summer of 2020. This is within their normal recommended range of 500 to 1,000 cfs. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

    A boater, John Dufficy, makes his way down the lower end of the San Juan River toward the take-out, in 2014. Photo Credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

    Video: Crop Residue Management and Water Resources — Colorado Ag Water Alliance

    Crop Residue Management and Water

    Watch the recent webinar with CSU’s Joel Schneekloth on crop residue management.

    Watch the webinar here!

    #Colorado’s #naturalgas pivot — The Mountain Town News #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Colorado begins conversation about how to crimp natural gas use in new buildings

    Colorado has started talking about how to curtail natural gas in new buildings necessary to achieve the dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions during the next 10 to 30 years as specified by state law.

    Agreement has been reached among several state agencies and the four distribution companies regulated by the state’s Public Utilities Commission to conduct discussions about future plans for pipelines and other infrastructure projects of more than $15 million. The agreement proposes to take a long view of 10 to 20 years when considering natural gas infrastructure for use in heating, cooking and hot-water heating.

    The four utilities—Xcel Energy, Black Hills Colorado, Atmos Energy, and Colorado Natural Gas—altogether deliver gas to 1.73 million customers, both residential and business.

    Unlike a toaster or even a kitchen stove, which you can replace with relative ease and cost, gas infrastructure comes with an enormous price tag—and expectation of a long, long time of use. For example, it would have cost $30,000 per unit to install natural gas pipes at Basalt Vista, an affordable housing project in the Roaring Fork Valley. Alternative technology is being used there.

    Gas infrastructure is difficult to replace in buildings where it exists. As such the conversation getting underway is primarily about how to limit additional gas infrastructure.

    “Given the long useful lives of natural gas infrastructure investments, the (Colorado Energy Office) suggests that this type of forward-looking assessment should include any significant upgrades to existing natural gas infrastructure or expansion of the gas delivery system to new residential developments,” the state agency said in a June 8 filling.

    This is adapted from the July 23, 2020, issue of Big Pivots. Subscribe for free to the e-magazine by going to Big Pivots.

    Meanwhile, the three Public Utility Commission plans one or more informational session later this year to learn about expectations of owners of natural gas distribution systems by Colorado’s decarbonization goals and the implications for the capital investments.

    HB 19-1261, a Colorado law adopted in May 2019, charged state agencies with using regulatory tools to shrink greenhouse gas emissions from Colorado’s economy 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

    Utilities in Colorado have said they intend to close most of the coal plants now operating no later than 2030. The coal generation will be replaced primarily by renewables. That alone will not be nearly enough to meet the state’s ambitious decarbonization goals. Carbon emissions must also be squeezed from transportation—already the state’s leading source of carbon dioxide— buildings, and other sectors.

    “No single strategy or sector will deliver the economy-wide greenhouse gas reductions Colorado needs to meet its science-based goals, but natural gas system planning is part of the silver buckshot that can get us there,” said Keith Hay, director of policy at the Colorado Energy Office in a statement.

    “When it comes to gas planning, CEO is focused on opportunities to meet customers’ needs that will lead to a more efficient system, reduce overall costs, and reduce greenhouse gas pollution.”

    Roughly 70% of Coloradans use natural gas for heating.

    While gas utilities cannot refuse gas to customers, several real estate developers from Arvada to Pueblo and beyond have started crafting homes and other buildings that do not require natural gas. Instead, they can use electricity, passive solar, and a technology called air-source heat pumps to meet heating, cooling and other needs. Heat pumps provide a key enabling technology.

    A glimpse of this low-carbon future can be seen at Basalt Vista, a housing project in Pitkin County for employees of the Roaring Fork School District and other local jurisdictions. The concept employed there and elsewhere is called beneficial electrification.

    In setting out to ramp down growth in natural gas consumption, Colorado ranks among the front-tier of states, lagging only slightly work already underway in California, Minnesota and New York.

    Community bans

    In the background of these discussions are rising tensions. In California, Berkeley a year ago banned natural gas infrastructure in new developments, and several dozen other cities and counties followed suite across the country.

    Protect Colorado, an arm of the oil-and-gas industry, had been collecting signatures to put Initiative 284 on the ballot, to prevent restrictions on natural gas in new buildings. The group confirmed to Colorado Public Radio that it was withdrawing that and other proposals after negotiations convened by Gov. Jared Polis and environmental groups.

    Emissions of methane—the primary constituent of natural gas and one with high but short-lived heat-trapping properties—can occur at several places along the natural gas supply chain beginning with extraction. Colorado ranked 6th in the nation in natural gas production in 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.

    Hydrocarbon processing in the Wattenberg Field east of Fort Lupton, Colo., on July 2, 2020. Photo/Allen Best

    In 2017, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, 4% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States were the result of extraction, transmission, and distribution of natural gas. However, several studies have concluded that the EPA estimate skews low. One 2018 study 2018 estimated that methane emissions from the oil and gas supply chain could be as much as 60% higher than the EPA estimates.

    Greenhouse gas emissions also occur when natural gas is burned in houses and other buildings, creating carbon dioxide. An inventory released in December 2019 concluded that combustion of natural gas in houses was responsible for 7.7% of Colorado’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

    Just how the shift from natural gas to electricity will affect utilities depends upon the company. For Atmos Energy, a company with 120,000 customers in Colorado, from Greeley to Craig, from Salida to Cortez, gas is just about everything.

    Xcel’s talking points

    Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, sells both gas and electricity. In theory, it will come out whole. But it has been leery about moving too rapidly. Technology advances and costs declines have not yet arrived in the natural gas sector, observed, Jeff Lyng, director of energy and environmental policy for Xcel, in a June 8 filing with the PUC.

    Still, Xcel is willing to have the conversation. Lyng pointed to efforts by Xcel to improve efficiency of natural gas use. The company is also participating in industry programs, including One Future, which are trying to limit methane emissions from the natural gas supply chain to less than 1%. For Xcel, he explained, that includes replacing older pipes with new materials that result in fewer emissions. It also means using the company’s purchasing power to push best practices that minimize emissions.

    The company intends to offer options to customer, including incentives for electric water heaters programmed to take advantage of renewable energy when it is most readily available. That tends to be at night.

    Xcel sees an opportunity to work with builders and developers to design all-electric new building developments to avoid the cost of installing natural gas infrastructure.

    “This may require high-performance building envelope design, specifying certain appliances and, especially load management,” Lyng wrote in the filing. “Load management is key to ensuring these new electric devices interact with the power grid and are programmed to operate as much as possible during times when there is excess renewable energy or the lowest cost electricity on the system.”

    Not least, Xcel conceded a role for air-source heat pumps, the crucial piece of technology employed in most places to avoid natural gas hookups. Heat pumps can be used to extract both cool and warm air from outdoor air as needed. Xcel sees the technology being an option when customers upgrade air conditioning units with spillover benefits for heating.

    “Through this option, given the cooling and heating capacity of air source heat pumps, some portion of customer heating load can be offset through electrification, while maintaining their natural gas furnace or boiler as a back-up.”

    Others think air-source heat pumps can have even broader application, especially in warmer areas of the state.

    Short-term costs may be higher for electrified buildings. “This will improve over time as electric technologies decline in cost and as the electric system becomes cleaner,” Lyng said. Xcel, he added, favors a voluntary approach: pilot programs that expand.

    Lyng, in his testimony, warned against trying to ramp up electrification too quickly. In 2019, he pointed out, the maximum daily demand for natural gas had the energy equivalent of 26,000 megawatts of electricity—more than three times the company’s electrical peak demand.

    An unintended consequence may be adverse impacts to people of low income. The thinking is that as the demand for natural gas declines, the cost will actually go up per individual consumer.

    “As a smaller and smaller pool of customers is left to pay for infrastructure costs, the large the cost impact will be for each remaining customer,” explained Dr. Scott England, from the state’s Office of Consumer Counsel, in a filing.

    Social cost of methane?

    Xcel has also explored the opportunities with renewable natural gas. At its most basic level, renewable natural gas involves harvesting biogas from wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairies. In its first such venture in Colorado, Xcel last fall began getting 500,000 cubic-feet per day of methane from the treatment plant serving Englewood, Littleton and smaller jurisdictions along the South Platte River in metropolitan Denver.

    A bill introduced in Colorado’s covid-shortened legislative proposed to create a renewable gas standard, similar to that first specified by voters in 2004 for electricity. SB-150 proposed targets of 5%, 10% and 15% for regulated utilities, encouraging greater use of biogas from landfills, dairies and other sources.

    The sponsor, Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, said he plans to reintroduce the bill the next session,

    Hansen said he may also introduce a bill that would require the PUC to apply the filter of a social cost of methane to its decisions when evaluating alternatives. This would be similar to the cost of carbon, currently at $46 a ton, now applied to resource generating alternatives.

    Longer term, Xcel wants to explore opportunities to produce hydrogen from renewable energy to blend into the natural gas distribution system at low levels or converted back to synthetic gas.

    The Sierra Club may push back on efforts to convert to synthetic gas. The organization recently released a report that found significant problems with renewable natural gas, a phrase that is now being used by some companies—not necessarily Xcel—to include far more than the biogas from landfills. The Sierra Club estimates that there’s enough “natural” biogas to meet 1% of the nation’s current needs for natural gas. Other estimates put it far higher.

    There will be implications left and right from this transition from gas to electricity. Lyng pointed out that solar energy will have lower value, because of its inability to replace natural gas on winter nights.

    For the testimony of Jeff Lyng and Keith Hayes and a few dozen more, as well as the filings as of July 29, go to the Colorado PUC website and look up case 20AL-0049G.

    Partners Protect Banded Peak Ranch from Development, Completing 30-Year Effort to Conserve 65,000 Acres in Southwest Colorado — Colorado State Forest Service

    Here’s the release from the Colorado State Forest Service:

    [On July 28, 2020], The Conservation Fund, Colorado State Forest Service and USDA Forest Service announced the permanent protection of the 16,723-acre Banded Peak Ranch in Colorado’s southern San Juan Mountains. The protected land will connect a largely undisturbed forest landscape, prevent development in critical wildlife corridors and conserve an essential watershed that provides water to Colorado and New Mexico communities downstream. The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund played a critical role to permanently safeguard these private forestlands from the threat of development.

    Banded Peak Ranch. Photo credit: Christine Quinlan via the Colorado State Forest Service

    The completion of a conservation easement on Banded Peak Ranch is the final phase of a 30-year effort by The Conservation Fund in the Navajo River Watershed – protecting a total of 65,000 acres that connect wilderness ranches in the upper reaches of the watershed to conserved working ranches at lower elevations on the Navajo, Little Navajo and East Fork of the San Juan rivers. Permanent protection of these lands is the product of public-private partnerships involving 10 different ranches. Over the years, the Navajo River watershed project area has attracted $37 million from federal, state and private partners, including private foundations, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the federal Forest Legacy Program, which is managed in Colorado by the Colorado State Forest Service, and private landowner donations.

    These privately owned lands are surrounded by some of the most remote, expansive and undisturbed national forest and wilderness lands in Colorado. As the last, large unprotected property in the upper Navajo River watershed, Banded Peak Ranch completes the protection of a wilderness watershed and preserves one of the most important wildlife migration corridors for mule deer and elk in the Rocky Mountain region.

    “The headwaters of the Navajo River is one of the wildest and most pristine landscapes we have protected in Colorado. It is a majestic place that has inspired many others to join us in the effort,” said Tom Macy, Western Representative of The Conservation Fund. “If we are going to see grizzlies return to Colorado, it is likely to be here.”

    Critical Water Supply, Wildlife Habitat, Working Forests

    San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

    The watershed has critically important benefits for downstream users in Colorado and New Mexico, providing irrigation and drinking water for 1 million people in New Mexico, including 90 percent of Albuquerque’s surface water supply. Protecting Banded Peak safeguards 33 miles of streams on the ranch, including a 5-mile stretch of the Navajo River, along with 850 acres of riparian and wetland habitat.

    Banded Peak Ranch – roughly 20 miles southeast of Pagosa Springs – hosts a premier deer and elk hunting program that provides stimulus to the regional economy, while the carefully managed timber operation supports regional wood processing mills. The ranch has been an active participant in the Colorado State Forest Service’s Forest Ag program for two decades and manages its forests with the guidance of a management plan written in conjunction with the agency.

    “Our family has been dedicated to land conservation and land stewardship in Colorado and elsewhere for many years,” said Karin Griscom, the family’s representative. “We were privileged to partner with The Conservation Fund, which has diligently worked with us to protect strategic lands and wildlife corridors in the Upper Navajo River watershed over the last 20 years. We also greatly appreciate the help of the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service, elected officials and especially the Wyss Foundation that were all instrumental in the protection of this legacy ranch.”

    ‘Myriad of Ecological Values’

    Navajo River Watershed map via the Colorado State Forest Service

    The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail runs along the eastern border of the family’s properties for approximately 10 miles. Almost completely surrounded by 3.75 million acres of the San Juan National Forest, South San Juan Wilderness and Rio Grande National Forest, protection of the Banded Peak Ranch enhances the adjacent public lands by maintaining healthy forests, critical wetland and riparian areas, and crucial wildlife corridors. Fire modeling shows this ranch is the first line of defense in the watershed for reducing the risk and cost of wildfire.

    The conservation easement on Banded Peak Ranch will be held by the Colorado State Forest Service. The two adjacent ranches – Catspaw and Navajo Headwaters – are owned by members of the same family and protected through a series of conservation easements held by the Colorado State Forest Service and Colorado Open Lands. These perpetual easements ensure that the natural richness and ruggedness of these lands will remain largely undisturbed, allowing ranch operations to continue while eliminating future subdivision for residential or commercial development.

    “We’re proud to partner with The Conservation Fund, USDA Forest Service and owners of Banded Peak Ranch to conserve the myriad of ecological values on the ranch,” said Mike Lester, State Forester and director of the Colorado State Forest Service. “By protecting Banded Peak and its forests from future development, we’re ensuring the public benefits that these forests provide – from clean air and water to habitat for our iconic wildlife – persist in Colorado for generations to come.”

    Support from Colorado’s Congressional Delegation

    The protection of Banded Peak Ranch was made possible by $7 million from the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, which is funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF uses offshore drilling revenue – not taxpayer dollars – to fund conservation projects across the country. The Great American Outdoors Act, a bill that has passed both the House and Senate and is on its way to the President’s desk for signature, provides full and permanent funding for LWCF and future conservation victories like this one. Colorado’s Congressional delegation, led by U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and U.S. Representative Scott Tipton, is united in its support for this program and for the protection of the Banded Peak Ranch.

    “The conservation of Banded Peak Ranch is excellent news for southwestern Colorado and a testament to the work of local leaders and landowners, The Conservation Fund, the Colorado State Forest Service and the U.S. Forest Service. Thanks to this decades-long effort, the Navajo River Watershed, and its valuable wildlife habitat, will now be protected for future generations,” said U.S. Senator Michael Bennet. “Without the Land and Water Conservation Fund, projects like this simply wouldn’t be possible. I’m glad to have supported this project throughout the process, and to have secured full funding for LWCF, so that Colorado can continue to invest in public lands, wildlife habitat and our economy.”

    “The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the crown jewel of conservation programs and has played a critical role in protecting public lands in Colorado and across the nation,” said U.S. Senator Cory Gardner. “Protecting the Banded Peak Ranch completes 65,000 acres of protected wilderness and watershed which will help wildlife in the area flourish. Additionally, preserving the streams at Banded Peak Ranch ensures that communities downstream, including areas in southwest Colorado, have access to clean water for drinking and irrigation.”

    “The addition of the Banded Peak Conservation Easement is a welcome expansion to safeguard critical wildlife habitats in southwestern Colorado,” said U.S. Representative Scott Tipton. “I am proud to have worked to permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund so that important projects like this will continue benefitting communities in Colorado for years to come.”

    Iconic Wildlife

    Realizing the opportunity to protect this last piece of the headwaters of the Navajo River, the Wyss Foundation has played an essential role in the Banded Peak Ranch project, providing funds to match the LWCF dollars.

    “Thanks to the determination of The Conservation Fund and support from Coloradans demanding more protections for their lands and waters, Banded Peak Ranch will be preserved forever,” said Wyss Foundation President Molly McUsic. “Collectively we must continue taking every opportunity to accelerate our conservation efforts, to safeguard imperiled wildlife and to ameliorate the worst impacts of a changing climate.”

    Most of the wildlife species found along southern Colorado’s Continental Divide inhabit the Banded Peak Ranch. Elk, black bear, mountain lion, peregrine falcon, bald eagles, bighorn sheep and many others thrive in the area. Federally threatened Canada lynx also live on the property. The streams on Banded Peak Ranch support the recovery of the San Juan strain of the Colorado cutthroat trout, which was presumed extinct for 100 years, until it was rediscovered on the ranch in 2018. Grizzly bears were once present in this remote wilderness area until the late 1970s. In fact, this was the last place in Colorado to host the iconic and threatened species. Two books were written about the grizzly bears’ presence in this watershed, including Ghost Grizzlies: Does the Great Bear Still Haunt Colorado by David Petersen, and The Lost Grizzlies: A Search for Survivors in the Wilderness of Colorado by Rick Bass.

    Conservation Corner: Water Law in a Nutshell recap — The Rio Blanco Herald-Times

    An alluvial plain in Red Rock Canyon State Park (California). By Matt Affolter, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14715873

    From the Douglas Creek Conservation District via The Rio Blanco Herald-Times:

    Did you learn the definition of an alluvium this weekend? Or what estoppel means? If you attended the Douglas Creek Conservation District’s “Water Law in a Nutshell” class this weekend, presented by Mr. Aaron Clay, you now know the answers to both questions.

    The Water Law in a Nutshell class covered numerous water topics pertinent to Rio Blanco County residents. Twenty-four individuals were able to take advantage of the class in-person or by Zoom.

    Primary topics included water terminology, measurements of water, Prior Appropriation Doctrine, practical application of water law, and interstate compacts. Excellent questions and engagement from the 25 participants helped everyone have a much better understanding of Colorado water law and how it affects them directly.

    One of many examples of valuable information is learning about “domestic preference” in the Prior Appropriations system. While domestic water use has preference over any other purpose, including agriculture and manufacturing, a Colorado Supreme Court case decided that provision does not alter the priority system. “However, it does give municipalities the power to condemn water rights, if the owners of those water rights are paid just compensation.”1

    Another example is how important it is to verify water rights when purchasing property with water. If the water right is stock in a ditch company, the purchaser should verify with the ditch company that the stock certificate is recorded in the current landowner’s name and the amount. If not stock in a ditch company, it is important to verify the water right at the clerk and recorders’ office.

    The seven-hour Water Law in a Nutshell class was recorded. If you are interested in viewing the class please contact the District office at whiterivercd@gmail.com or 970-878-9838 to make arrangements.

    Most Of #Wyoming Is In A #Drought — Wyoming Public Media

    Wyoming Drought Monitor July 28, 2020.

    From Wyoming Public Media (Catharine Wheeler):

    A new report shows extreme drought throughout the Bighorn Mountains.

    The latest data from the University of Nebraska’s National Drought Mitigation Center shows most of Wyoming is experiencing some level of drought. That ranges from moderate drought in the south and some eastern parts of the state to severe drought in the central region.

    Interim Director of the Wyoming Water Resources Data System and State Climate Office Tony Bergantino said there is extreme drought in Sheridan, Johnson, Natrona, Washakie and Hot Springs counties.

    “Precipitation pretty much just turned off. We had high winds and warm temperatures that just got things going dry really quick. Reports of soil moisture being really depleted up there,” Bergantino said of the factors that contributed to the drought.

    Bergantino said that extreme drought is the highest level the state has seen since October 2018. According to the Drought Monitor, the impacts of D3, or extreme drought, is inadequate surface water for ranching and farming and a poor snow pack.

    Bergantino said one of the first fires of the season occurred in Johnson County and there have been subsequent fires in the area. The snowpack had looked good early in the year and into May, but the weather shifted.

    Even if rain does pick back up, it won’t be enough to reverse the damage, he said…

    He said the agriculture industry will be the most impacted by the drought. The west and northwestern parts of the state are the only areas showing no signs of drought, and Bergantino said that’s because of precipitation they had early on.

    US Drought Monitor one week change map ending July 28, 2020.

    Nature’s Future Is Our Future — The Nature Conservancy #ActOnClimate

    San Juan wildflowers.

    From The Nature Conservancy (Jennifer Morris):

    The Nature Conservancy’s CEO Jennifer Morris shares why it’s time for radical collaboration on climate change & biodiversity loss—now more than ever.

    As a lifelong conservationist and now CEO of The Nature Conservancy, I am an impatient optimist. I hear the clock ticking on climate change. I see the threats to biodiversity and loss of nature with clear eyes. I listen to the stories from vulnerable populations most directly and immediately affected by droughts, intense storms, and other increasingly severe natural disasters.

    And yet, I am optimistic. I believe that the global community can come together and enact the right policies, shift industries toward a more sustainable path, and empower local communities to protect the resources that sustain them, for one, simple reason: I believe in the power of humanity to act.

    The health and economic wellbeing of people is tied to the health of our local environment. To better our lives we must protect nature. Photo credit: CU Boulder News

    The nature crisis is a human crisis

    I’ve always been a nature lover. Even as a kid, I would spend my summers exploring the small forest near my family’s home in Atlanta, Georgia, scribbling in my notebook the species names of birds and trees I could identify. But, twenty-seven years ago, as an English teacher in a small rural community in Northern Namibia, I began to fully understand our capacity for building a better future by protecting nature.

    After a day of helping women collect firewood and digging boreholes to access fresh water from the aquifer, my friend Ria and I sat outside under a full moon to look at pictures from her youth. She shared photos of her community surrounded by lush forests and told stories about fishing and harvesting fresh corn.

    Her life as a grown woman was much different: her home was surrounded by drought-stricken fields, and she spent much of her day traveling far distances to collect water and firewood for her family—distances that continued to grow due to deforestation. These long journeys came with increased risk of violence, less time at home, fewer hours studying in my class, and no chance to find a paying job.

    That night I began to understand on a deeper level how connected our health and economic wellbeing are to the health of our local environment. From that moment, I set out to devote my career to protecting nature and bettering the lives of all who depend on it.

    And I can’t imagine a more urgent time to be wholly dedicated to this work than now.

    Climate change and biodiversity loss pose enormous risks for communities and economies around the world. Failure to act is to be complicit in challenges that have persisted for generations. Quiver tree forest. By Bjørn Christian Tørrissen – Own work by uploader, http://bjornfree.com/, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45152535

    Climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the greatest threats the world faces. These twin crises pose enormous risks for communities and economies around the world. A failure to act on them is to be complicit in exacerbating the challenges we face as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, not to mention global conflict, income inequality, and other hardships that have persisted for generations. Action is not only a moral obligation, it is an existential imperative. And all paths to a better world depend on our ability to protect the lands and waters that provide us all with clean air and water, healthy food and a stable climate.

    Collaboration is our strongest lever for change

    Change at a meaningful scale cannot be achieved by any one organization alone. It cannot even be achieved by many likeminded organizations. Scientists, Indigenous peoples, and environmentalists have been shouting from the rooftops about the degradation to our ecosystems and changes to our climate for decades. We were warned about severe impacts to future generations. Well, those future generations are here now. And our efforts to date, while important and meaningful, have been insufficient to achieve systemic change.

    For tangible, lasting results we need to engage in radical collaboration—across sectors, across beliefs, across knowledge bases.

    This spirit of collaboration is part of The Nature Conservancy’s DNA—and a big reason why I was drawn to lead this great organization. For 69 years, TNC has rallied people together around a shared vision to protect and care for nature. As our impact grew across all 50 states and 79 countries and territories, we brought even more partners to the table. TNC’s science-first, nonpartisan approach to working with government leaders helps drive policies that incentivize the protection of nature while balancing the economic and health needs of communities. Through corporate partnerships, we engage with large, influential companies, and leverage scientific insights to influence change up and down supply chains and across industries. And together with investors and lenders, we are unlocking new sources of capital to extend the impact of our conservation work.

    Just as critical to the success of our work, and the health of our planet, is engaging and supporting Indigenous peoples and local communities who have stewarded their lands since time immemorial. Strengthening their agency and helping them manage natural territories in a way that enhances livelihoods will also drive conservation outcomes for a quarter of the world’s lands—areas rich in biodiversity that also store an immense 17% of the planet’s forest carbon.

    Science-based conservation for a changing world

    Underpinning these collaborations is rigorous science and innovation to keep pace with an ever-changing world—from launching world-class spatial mapping that helps monitor protected areas and study migration patterns, to leveraging our financial and deal-making expertise that drives private investment in nature, to scaling up the protection and restoration of forests, grasslands and wetlands that sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Our science-based, collaborative approach helps us identify where to work, how to do it, and who we need on board to get it done.

    The current pandemic has made considerable impacts to our conservation efforts and the people we work with around the world. We’ve had to pause important field projects, like clearing invasive plants to avoid water loss and protect biodiversity in the watersheds of Greater Cape Town, South Africa—a job that provided income to more than 120 local people. In places like India, we are rethinking how we can support rural communities, as hundreds of thousands of migrants return to their villages after leaving locked-down cities. And what we had hoped would be the “Super Year for Nature” is now in flux, as major international forums, where we intended to push for big policy changes, have been postponed.

    We can’t ignore these setbacks, but we can do everything in our power to focus on the long-term health of our organization, our communities, and our planet. That’s why we will be doubling down on the areas where we know we can have the greatest impact—protecting the planet’s lands, oceans, and freshwater and addressing climate change. Given the urgency of our mission we must increase our focus on these key areas, direct our resources to them to ensure results, and—in this data-rich era—strengthen our ability to measure our impact. And, just as important, we will hold ourselves accountable to our values in all we do, conducting ourselves with integrity beyond reproach and treating all of our colleagues, volunteers, and partners with dignity and respect.

    The next decade of conservation will look different as society focuses on rebuilding our economies and communities in the wake of the pandemic, and this period ahead will be critical for determining the trajectory of our planet’s health. As we chart a new course forward, nature will matter more than ever—and we have the opportunity to highlight its crucial role in sustaining our health, our livelihoods and our well-being. At The Nature Conservancy, we will be shining a spotlight on nature-based solutions that are key to addressing climate change, filtering and cleaning air and water, protecting coastal communities from increasingly severe storms and sustaining local economies.

    These are uncertain times, but around the world we are seeing now how quickly we are capable of responding to a global crisis when we work together. It’s a real source of hope. And it is this focus and scale of action that our other longer-term crises demand in order to create a more sustainable world for future generations.

    This role is more than just a job for me—it is a calling. And I know I’m not alone. I’m surrounded by thousands of colleagues, supporters, volunteer leaders, and partners who have dedicated their life’s work to protecting and restoring natural places. I am so excited to join them, and all of you. Only together can we act on the level our planet demands.

    Reservoir Releases to Bolster Flows in 15-Mile Reach of #ColoradoRiver — The #Colorado Water Trust #COriver #aridification

    A map of the Fry-Ark system. Aspen, and Hunter Creek, are shown in the lower left. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project western and upper eastern slope facilities.

    Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Trust, et al. (Mark Harris, Mark Harris, Donald Anderson, and Scott McCaulou):

    On Saturday, August 1, Colorado Water Trust, Grand Valley Water Users Association, and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District will initiate their implementation of an agreement that will deliver 877 acre-feet of water to the Grand Valley Power Plant and the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River above its confluence with the Gunnison River near Grand Junction, Colorado this summer. Grand Valley Water Users Association and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District identified available capacity in their water delivery system for Colorado Water Trust to deliver water decreed for power generation through the Grand Valley Power Plant, from where it subsequently returns to the 15-Mile Reach. This delivery will mark the second execution of an innovative agreement that Colorado Water Trust, Grand Valley Water Users Association, and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District entered last year with assistance from the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the Bureau of Reclamation.

    The agreement furthers common goals of streamflow restoration for the 15-Mile Reach and takes steps toward unlocking a $425,000 grant from Walton Family Foundation to renovate the aging Grand Valley Power Plant. Thanks to donor support, Colorado Water Trust has purchased stored water from the Colorado River District. That water will be released from Ruedi Reservoir to the Colorado River for use in the power plant and to increase 15-Mile Reach flows to support four species of endangered fish including the Colorado Pikeminnow, Humpback Chub, Bonytail, and Razorback Sucker.

    “We are so grateful to Grand Valley Water Users Association and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District for coordinating with us to boost flows in the 15-Mile Reach. Seeing the project work for a second year in a row proves the lasting success of our partnerships, and it’s particularly important to the fish this year, with flows as low as they are.” says Kate Ryan, Senior Staff Attorney for Colorado Water Trust.

    This is the second time in the past two summers that Colorado Water Trust purchased water stored in Ruedi Reservoir for release to the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River to help maintain healthy streamflow and water temperatures. Purchases since 2019 will result in delivering over 1200 acre-feet of water to the Colorado River. Colorado Water Trust works closely with Grand Valley Water Users Association and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District to identify when there is available capacity in the power plant. Colorado Water Trust also works closely with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program to determine when the 15-Mile Reach needs supplemental water most to support the fish. When these two conditions overlap, Colorado Water Trust releases the water purchased out of storage for delivery to the power plant and then the 15-Mile Reach.

    “Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and the Grand Valley Water Users Association appreciate the Colorado Water Trust’s facilitation of this agreement–it benefits our two organizations at the Grand Valley Power Plant, and the many other water users who support flows through the 15-Mile Reach. We believe these kinds of collaborative efforts to be of great value to the people of Colorado, the Colorado River, and the fish,” says Mark Harris, General Manager of Grand valley Water Users Association.

    “Maintaining adequate flows for endangered fish through the 15-Mile Reach is possible only because of the extraordinary cooperation our Recovery Program enjoys from multiple partners and stakeholders. We are delighted to add the Colorado Water Trust to that mix of cooperators. This year, in light of unusually low flow conditions in the Colorado River, the additional water made available through this leasing arrangement is especially welcome,” says Donald Anderson, Hydrologist and Instream Flow Coordinator for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

    The Roaring Fork Conservancy also helps to inform Colorado Water Trust of conditions on the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork Rivers to so that releases will complement flows on the stream sections between Ruedi Reservoir and the Colorado River. This year, the water released from Ruedi Reservoir will serve a few purposes before it supports the health of endangered, native fish in the Colorado River in the 15-Mile Reach. The water will bring flows in the Fryingpan River closer to their average, and will cool water temperatures on the Roaring Fork River. Finally, on the Colorado River, the water will generate hydropower, helping to produce clean energy.

    “Flowing rivers are an economic engine in Colorado, providing immense value to irrigators, drinking water providers, and recreation across the state,” says Todd Reeve, CEO of Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Director of Business for Water Stewardship. “It is for this reason that we are seeing more and more corporate funders step forward to invest in innovative projects like this one that help keep the rivers in Colorado flowing.”

    Essential to the project’s success are dedicated donors: Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Coca Cola, Colorado Water Trust donors, and Daniel K. Thorne Foundation. Without these generous donations and the collaborative work of local and state agencies, water releases to support the health of the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River would not be possible.

    ABOUT COLORADO WATER TRUST: Colorado Water Trust is a statewide nonprofit organization that works collaboratively with partners all across Colorado on restoring flow to Colorado’s rivers in need using solutions that benefit both the people we work with and our rivers. Since 2001, we’ve restored 12 billion gallons of water to rivers and streams across the state.

    This map shows the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River near Grand Junction, home to four species of endangered fish. Water from Ruedi Reservoir flows down the Fryingpan River and into the Roaring Fork, which flows into the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. Map credit: CWCB

    @EPA proposes permanent mine waste dump site north of #Silverton — The #Durango Herald #AnimasRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    The town of Silverton, Colorado, USA as seen from U.S. Route 550. By Daniel Schwen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10935432

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

    Project needs approval from Sunnyside Gold, a company potentially on hook for costs

    It appears the Environmental Protection Agency has found a place for long-term storage of mine waste near Silverton.

    Mayflower Mill

    The EPA announced this week it is proposing a waste repository for the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site on top of the existing tailings impoundment near the Mayflower Mill, about 2 miles northeast of Silverton off County Road 2.

    The site, EPA officials say, would serve as a long-term option to store waste that is generated from Superfund cleanup actions, as well as sludge from the water treatment plant that takes in discharges from the Gold King Mine.

    “It’s going to be there for the long haul to accommodate any waste we’ll need to remove,” said Christina Progess, the EPA’s lead for the Superfund site.

    The proposal comes with one caveat, however: The property is owned by Sunnyside Gold Corp. The EPA has asked for approval from Silverton’s last operating mining company and has yet to hear back.

    Gina Myers, a spokeswoman for Sunnyside Gold, said in an email to The Durango Herald that “SGC … had previously offered EPA the use of Mayflower ground for storage of sludge from the underutilized treatment plant.”

    Myers did not clarify whether Sunnyside Gold will allow EPA access or not.

    The need for a centrally located, permanent dump site for mine waste has been an ongoing issue for EPA ever since the Superfund was declared in fall 2016, about a year after the agency triggered a blowout at the Gold King Mine.

    The water treatment plant constructed after the blowout generates up to 6,000 cubic yards of sludge a year – or about a football field buried in 3 feet of muck – and there’s little room on-site for storage. And in the future, the EPA will need a place to take waste removed from other projects…

    In August 2019, Sunnyside Gold offered the EPA access to its property at the Mayflower tailings repository, a large series of four impoundments of historic mine waste rock that operated until the early 2000s.

    “(The site) is an ideal and proven site for a repository for the water-treatment plant, and, in the interest of good faith and improving water quality, SGC has granted EPA access for this evaluative work,” the company said at the time.

    Progess said the EPA sent Sunnyside Gold a consent for access request and hopes to hear of a final decision by mid-August…

    If access were granted, the EPA would start a phased approach at the Mayflower tailings, Progess said. A liner would be placed on top of the existing piles for the new waste, which would then be capped.

    All told, the EPA’s plan would have the capacity to store up to 609,000 cubic yards of mine waste and sludge. Use of the site, however, would vary year to year, depending on current projects and need…

    The Mayflower tailings are suspected of leaching heavy metals into the Animas River, which has prompted Sunnyside Gold to conduct its own multi-year investigation into the matter.

    Progess said the investigation remains ongoing, and the EPA would use a different, more stable location at Impoundment 1 on the site to store its waste to begin with. She said leaching is suspected at Impoundment 4.

    “We feel comfortable starting the work at Impoundment 1,” she said. “That will allow us years of use while the investigation on Impoundment 4 can continue.”

    The public can comment on the proposed plan until Aug. 27. A virtual public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Aug 11.

    Progess said the EPA hopes to have the site constructed and ready for use by fall 2021, about the time storage at the water-treatment plant for the Gold King Mine is expected to reach capacity.

    The EPA’s wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 — photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio

    Report: The economic benefits of #Colorado’s eastern plains #renewable energy industry #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Storm clouds are a metaphor for Republican strategy to politicize renewable energy for the November 2020 election. Photo credit: The Mountain Town News/Allen Best

    Click here to read the report. Here’s the executive summary:

    Electricity generation and consumption has changed rapidly over the last ten years, driven by steep price drops for generation and technological innovations impacting utilities and consumers alike. After decades of research and development, market development, and production efficiency gains, renewable energy is now a proven and cost- effective way to deliver electricity across the country.

    There is concern that the COVID-19 pandemic could negatively impact current and planned renewable energy facility investments and construction. Indeed, the pandemic is creating challenges to both supply and demand. While the risk to current and planned projects from the pandemic is unclear at this time, existing facilities should not be affected. The expectation is that these facilities will continue to provide a steady source of jobs and tax revenue to communities across the eastern plains. These benefits will prove valuable to communities as the pandemic takes a toll on many other sectors including leisure and hospitality, retail, and health care.

    For Colorado’s eastern plains communities, renewable energy and advanced energy technologies have brought thousands of jobs, and investment has supported communities across the region. The intent of this study is to profile the renewable energy industry in Colorado’s eastern plains and measure the economic benefits it provides in terms of construction, investment, employment, and business activity. For the economic benefits estimates, the study not only details construction and operations for the region’s existing renewable facilities but offers a prospective look at the benefits realized by 2024. The following bullets highlight key findings and estimates of the size and growth of these benefits.

  • In 2018􏰁, Colorado’s eastern plains comprised 􏰂5.5 percent of the renewable energy capacity in the state and represented all the state’s wind energy and about 55 percent of the state’s solar capacity.
  • Renewable energy capacity has expanded rapidly in Colorado’s eastern plains. In 2010, there was 1,253 MW of nameplate capacity in nine wind facilities in Colorado’s eastern plains. By the end of 2020, another 3,707 MW of wind and solar capacity is expected to be operable in the eastern plains. By 2024, the eastern plains’ renewable capacity is expected to expand by more than 22 percent, adding 1,109 MW and bringing the region’s wind and solar capacity to 6,069 MW.
  • By 2024, the state is expected to add its largest solar facilities and first utility-scale battery storage components with the construction of the 250-MW Neptune solar plant and the 200-MW Thunder Wolf solar plant.
  • Renewable and Advanced Energy Employment

  • From 2015 to 2019, renewable and advanced energy employment increased by more than 40 percent in Colorado’s eastern plains, growing to an estimated 6,334 workers in 366 business establishments.
  • Wind is critical to the eastern plains’ employment base, combined with wind facility installation, operations, and maintenance, wind technologies employ about 70 percent of renewable and advanced energy workers on the eastern plains.
  • Since 2015, job opportunities for solar installation have increased significantly in the eastern plains. Solar installation jobs have risen from an estimated 42 jobs in 2015 to 151 jobs in 2019.
  • Economic Benefits of Construction and Investment

  • Renewable energy development on Colorado’s eastern plains has brought significant investment to the state. From 2000 to 2024, there will have been an estimated $9.4 billion in construction and investment activity in the eastern plains. By 2024, investment will have increased by 75 percent since 2016.
  • Although many purchases for renewable energy facilities are made out-of-state, Colorado has benefited from local spending on equipment, construction materials, design, project management, planning, and local workers. As a result, the direct economic benefit in Colorado of construction and investment in the eastern plains’ renewable facilities will total an estimated $2.7 billion from 2000 to 2024.
  • By 2024, thousands of Coloradans will have benefited from work supported by renewable energy investments. An estimated 3,158 state workers will be directly employed in the construction of the facilities from 2000 to 2024. In addition, components for a handful of the eastern plains’ wind facilities have either been manufactured or will be manufactured at Vestas plants in the state. These purchases will directly employ another 2,386 workers by 2024.
  • Beyond direct output and employment, renewable facility construction and investment has supported many ancillary industries throughout the eastern plains since 2000. Combined, the total direct and indirect benefits of renewable energy development in Colorado’s eastern plains will be an estimated 􏰃5.􏰂 billion in total output ($2.7 billion direct output + $3.1 billion indirect and induced output) produced by 12,819 employees (5,544 direct employees + 7,275 indirect employees) earning a total of about $706.9 million ($355.6 million direct earnings + $351.3 million indirect earnings) from 2000 to 2024
  • Construction benefits are temporary, occurring only during construction. Economic Benefits of Annual Operations by 2024
  • The ongoing operations and maintenance of renewable facilities on Colorado’s eastern plains support long- term employment opportunities for hundreds of people in the state. By 2024, renewable facilities will support the direct employment of an estimated 352 workers.
  • By 2024, wind energy facilities will provide farmers, ranchers, and other landowners on Colorado’s eastern plains with $15.2 million in annual lease payments, up from an estimated $7.5 million in 2016.
  • Renewable energy projects will contribute an estimated $23.1 million in annual property tax revenue throughout districts in the eastern plains by 2024, up from an estimated $7.2 million in 2016.
  • Therefore, the total direct and indirect benefits in Colorado of annual renewable energy operations in the eastern plains will be an estimated $388.6 million in total output ($214.6 million direct output + $174 million indirect and induced output) produced by 1,089 employees (352 direct employees + 737 indirect employees) earning a total of about $56.7 million ($21.9 million direct earnings + $34.8 million indirect earnings) by 2024.
  • These benefits are likely to occur annually assuming similar business conditions and project parameters.
  • Opinion: #ColoradoRiver water use and states’ rights — The St. George Spectrum

    From The St. George Spectrum (David Clark):

    All Colorado River basin states have the right to develop and use their water, in accordance with the compacts that form the basis for the Law of the River. They can do so whenever in time the need arises.

    Utah is entitled to 23% of the water available to the Upper Basin. Unlike the Lower Basin states (Nevada, Arizona and California), the Upper Basin states (Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah) receive a percentage of available water rather than a set acre-foot volume so their water supplies are adjusted based on actual flows. Utah’s annual compact allocation is 1.725 million acre feet, but its annual reliable supply (or the amount of water available for development after considering climate variability) is approximately 1.4 million acre feet — or, 80% of what was allocated to the state in the compacts.

    Utah currently uses less than 1 million acre feet of Colorado River water — well under its annual reliable supply. Utah’s rapid population and economic growth has necessitated that the state develop its available water resources. Utah’s development of its currently unused Colorado River water complies with the law and does not jeopardize other state allocations.

    For nearly two decades, Utah has studied the Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP), a $1.4 billion project that would deliver 6% of its annual reliable supply of river water to the state’s driest and fastest-growing region — Washington County.

    Washington County has reduced its per-capita use by 30% while nearly doubling its population from 2000-2018. Additional conservation reductions are planned. County water use is comparable to other desert communities when calculated using similar methodologies.

    The Bureau of Reclamation recently released its draft Environmental Impact Study on the LPP and determined that the project is needed, the water is available and there are few environmental impacts.

    Individuals who suggest Colorado River basin states should “challenge” Utah’s use of its water fail to understand the Law of the River, which authorizes each state to develop and use its respective share.

    Proposed Lake Powell pipeline. Map via the City of St. George.

    #Drought news: Moderate to extreme drought covers most of #Colorado and #WY

    Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought monitor.

    Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

    This Week’s Drought Summary

    High pressure dominated the southern half of the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) again during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week. Upper-level weather systems tracked across the U.S.-Canadian border, dragging surface lows and fronts along with them. The High brought hot temperatures to much of the South, East, and West, with daily maximum temperatures exceeding 90 degrees F every day. The fronts brought cooler temperatures to the Upper Midwest at the beginning of the week, but maximum temperatures began to exceed 90 degrees across the Plains and eastward as the week wore on. The hot temperatures increased evapotranspiration (ET) which dried soils and stressed crops and other vegetation. This was seen in ET models such as the EDDI and ESI and several soil moisture models, satellite observations of soil moisture, and agricultural field reports. As noted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on July 27, 50 percent or more of the topsoil moisture was short or very short (dry or very dry) in states across the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, southern Plains, southern to central Rockies, and Far West. For the nation as a whole, 37 percent of the topsoil moisture and 35 percent of the subsoil moisture was short or very short, and 30 percent of the pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition. Drought or abnormal dryness expanded or intensified across parts of the West, Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast where little to no rain fell and 30- to 90-day precipitation deficits mounted. But locally heavy rainfall was generated by the fronts in parts of the Plains, Midwest, and East. Heavy rain also fell across southern Texas when Hurricane Hanna struck, and Hurricane Douglas graced parts of Hawaii with beneficial rain. Where the rain fell on drought or abnormally dry areas in these regions, contraction occurred…

    High Plains

    Areas of 2+ inches of rain occurred over parts of Nebraska and Kansas and a few parts of the Dakotas, while parts of Colorado had an inch or more of rain. But little to no rain fell in a few areas of Kansas, across parts of Nebraska and Colorado, across even more of the Dakotas, and across most of Wyoming. Contraction of abnormal dryness and moderate to extreme drought occurred across Kansas and parts of Colorado; abnormal dryness and moderate to severe drought contracted in parts of Nebraska; and abnormal dryness and moderate drought were trimmed in parts of the Dakotas. But abnormal dryness or moderate drought expanded in parts of Colorado and the Dakotas, and abnormal dryness and moderate to severe drought expanded in Nebraska. Wyoming saw expansion of abnormal dryness and moderate to extreme drought. Moderate to extreme drought covers most of Colorado and Wyoming…

    West
    The Southwest Monsoon sparked some showers over New Mexico, with a few showers making an appearance over parts of Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and Montana, but most of the West received little to no rain this week. Severe drought disappeared from southwest Montana, but the rain that fell in New Mexico was not enough to improve conditions there. Severe to extreme drought expanded in New Mexico; moderate to extreme drought expanded in Utah, and Nevada; moderate to severe drought grew in Arizona; abnormal dryness and moderate to severe drought added acres in Montana; and moderate drought expanded in northeast California and adjacent Nevada…

    South

    Central Oklahoma was inundated with heavy frontal rain while Hanna brought heavy rain to the Gulf Coast from southern Texas to Mississippi. Rainfall exceeded 3 inches in these areas, with locally heavier amounts. Parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, and northern Texas received an inch or more of rain. But little to no rain occurred in a large swath from southwest Texas to western Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Abnormal dryness and moderate to extreme drought contracted, especially in central Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle. Abnormal dryness contracted in parts of Tennessee and Louisiana. But abnormal dryness expanded in parts of eastern Oklahoma and parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Abnormal dryness and moderate to extreme drought expanded in other parts of Texas…

    Looking Ahead

    For July 30-August 3, the ridge of high pressure shifts to the West with a trough setting up in the upper atmosphere over the eastern half of the CONUS. Little to no rain is forecast for most of the West, with half an inch or less across parts of the Rockies and only a couple inches stretching across the middle of New Mexico. But an inch or more of rain is expected from the central Plains to southern Appalachians and southern Great Lakes, with heavy rain (4 inches or more) widespread from Missouri and northern Arkansas to Kentucky, Indiana, and western North Carolina. A tropical system is predicted to sideswipe the East Coast, dumping an inch or more of rain across Florida to the Mid-Atlantic states, 3 or more inches over southern Florida, and up to 2 inches over eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia. Half an inch or less of rain is expected from Texas to southwest Georgia, and across the northern Plains to wester Great Lakes. In the Northeast, predicted precipitation amounts range from nearly 2 inches in western New York to a tenth of an inch along coastal New England. The ridge will keep temperatures warmer than normal in the West while the trough brings cooler-than-normal temperatures to much of the CONUS east of the Rockies. The outlook for August 4-8 calls for a greater than average chance of wetter-than-normal conditions along the East Coast, in the northern Plains, across Deep South Texas, and most of Alaska. Odds favor drier-than-normal conditions across most of the West, the southern Plains, the central Gulf of Mexico coast to the Great Lakes, and over northern Alaska. Warmer-than-normal temperatures are likely across the Southwest and along the immediate East Coast, while cooler-than-normal temperatures are likely to dominate from the Plains to Appalachians, in the Pacific Northwest, and across most of Alaska.

    US Drought Monitor one week change map ending July 28, 2020.

    Navajo Nation Sees Farming Renaissance During #Coronavirus Pandemic — KUNC #COVID19

    The $1 billion Navajo-Gallup water pipeline will take 12 years to build and could serve as many as 250,000 people a year by 2040, officials say. Image via Cronkite News.

    From KUNC (Laurel Morales):

    Historically Navajos have lived off the land. But decades of assimilation, forced relocation and dependence on federal food distribution programs changed that.

    Navajo farmer Tyrone Thompson is on a mission to help people return to their roots. He’s even taken to social media to teach traditional farming techniques.

    In a recent video he demonstrates how to layer organic matter to turn dry clay into rich fertile soil.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture calls the Navajo Nation a food desert. People travel up to 40 miles to get their groceries. But Thompson says they don’t have to.

    “As we see the shelves emptying of food and toilet paper we kind of reconnect to our roots,” Thompson says. “Some of the tools that were given by our elders and our ancestors — our planting stick and our steering sticks — those are our weapons against hunger and poverty and sickness.”

    Yes, kids can get COVID-19 – 3 pediatricians explain what’s known about #coronavirus and children — The Conversation #COVID19


    Children are at risk of getting sick from coronavirus and need to practice social distancing and mask wearing too.
    AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

    Kathryn Moffett-Bradford, West Virginia University; Martin Weisse, West Virginia University, and Shipra Gupta, West Virginia University

    We are three pediatric infectious disease specialists who live and work in West Virginia. The West Virginia University health system serves 400,000 children and according to our internal data, to date, 2,520 children up to 17 years of age have been tested for the coronavirus. Sixty-seven of them tested positive and one became sick enough to be admitted to the hospital.

    We are asked almost daily about children and COVID-19: Do they get COVID-19? Should they attend day care or school, play sports, see friends and attend summer camps? What are the risks to themselves and to others?

    Based on current research and our own experiences, it would seem that kids 17 years old and younger face little risk from the coronavirus. Nearly all children have asymptomatic, very mild or mild disease, but a small percentage of children do get very sick. Additionally, there is evidence that children can spread the virus to others, and with huge outbreaks occurring all across the U.S, these realities raise serious concerns about school reopenings and how children should navigate the pandemic world.

    A doctor in personal protective gear treating a young child inside of an ambulance.
    Though somewhat rare, children can get severely ill from the coronavirus and a few have died.
    John Moore/Getty Images News via Getty Images

    Children at risk

    When considering the role of children in this pandemic, the first question to ask is whether they can get infected, and if so, how often.

    Of the 149,082 reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. as of late April, only 2,572 – 1.7% – were children, despite children making up 22% of the U.S population.

    But current research shows that children are physiologically just as likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2 as adults. This discrepancy between case numbers and biological susceptibility may be due to the fact that children generally generally have minimal to mild symptoms when infected with the coronavirus and are therefore less likely to get tested. It also may be that children in general have had less exposure to the virus compared to adults. Kids aren’t going to work, they are probably going out to stores less than adults, and in the states that had relaxed quarantine measures, they aren’t going out to bars or gyms.

    Even though children are less likely to get sick from the coronavirus, they are definitely not immune. Data shows that children less than one year old and those with underlying conditions are the most likely to be hospitalized. These kids usually experience the respiratory distress commonly associated of COVID-19 and often need oxygen and intensive care support. As of July 11, 36 kids 14 or younger had died from the virus.

    In addition to the typical COVID-19 cases, recently there have been some frightening reports of children’s immune systems going haywire after they are exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

    Notable are reports of Kawasaki disease. Normally, Kawasaki disease affects toddlers and preschool children, causing prolonged high fever, rash, eye redness, mouth swelling and swelling of arteries in the heart. The vast majority of children that get Kawasaki disease survive when given treatments that bring down the swelling, but sadly, a few children have died from it, after exposure to the coronavirus led to the disease. Physicians don’t know what causes Kawasaki disease normally or why a coronavirus infection could trigger it.

    [You’re too busy to read everything. We get it. That’s why we’ve got a weekly newsletter. Sign up for good Sunday reading. ]

    In the past few months, there have also been reports of some children, after becoming infected with the coronavirus, experiencing fever and rash along with a life-threatening blood pressure drop and sudden severe heart failure. The children and teenagers with this COVID-19-related shock syndrome – now named multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C – are older than those doctors usually see with Kawasaki disease. Experts think these two illness are not the same, despite having similar features and similar treatments.

    A group of kids without masks gather around a teacher wearing a mask outside.
    Research shows that kids are able to spread the coronavirus – older children more easily than younger children.
    AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

    Children as spreaders

    So if kids can catch the coronavirus, the next important question is: How easily can they spread it? Since children have milder symptoms, some experts think that children are probably not the drivers of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, recent research has shown that most kids who catch the coronavirus get it from their parents, not other children.

    Small children may have weaker coughs and therefore would release fewer infectious virus particles into their environment. A recent study from South Korea found that while young children seem less able to spread the disease compared to adults, children 10 to 19 years old spread the virus at least as well as the adults do. The lack of evidence that children are major sources of transmission may simply be because the pathway of infection was interrupted due to the nationwide school closures in the spring. As children resume more of their normal daily activities – like school, sports and day care – we just might find the answer to how easily children spread this dangerous virus.

    Two boys in a classroom wearing masks, with one raising his hand.
    Should schools reopen if children can get sick from and spread the coronavirus?
    AP Photo/LM Otero, File

    So what now?

    The evidence clearly shows that all people, regardless of age, can get infected by SARS-CoV-2. While research shows that kids are more resistant to severe illness from the coronavirus, they are still at risk and can spread the virus even if they themselves are not sick.

    Given all this information, a question naturally arises: Should schools reopen in the coming weeks? In places where transmission rates are low, reopening schools could be a viable option. But at the present time, in the U.S., new case numbers are surging in most states. This requires a more nuanced approach than a full-scale reopening of schools.

    Since young children face low risk of getting seriously ill, are less likely to spread the disease and benefit greatly from in-person interactions, we believe in-school learning should be considered. Opening schools for elementary school children, and coming up with increasingly online options for the older grades, could be one way to approach this thorny problem.The Conversation

    Kathryn Moffett-Bradford, Professor of Pediatrics, Division Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, West Virginia University; Martin Weisse, Professor of Pediatrics, West Virginia University, and Shipra Gupta, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Disease, West Virginia University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    @USBR to Host Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations Public Meeting #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    From email from Reclamation (Elizabeth Jones):

    The Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled the annual public meeting to discuss the Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations for the 2020 water year.

    The meeting will be held on August 5, 2020, from 6:30-8:00 pm using Webex (Webex is a web-based platform that hosts online meetings with HD video, audio and screen sharing.)

    To join from a mobile device (attendees only):
    Dial: 1-415-527-5035, 1992510741## US Toll

    To join by phone:
    Dial: 1-415-527-5035 US Toll

    The meeting will provide an overview of Ruedi Reservoir’s 2020 projected operations for late summer and early fall, which are key tourist seasons in Basalt. Also, representatives of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will give a presentation on the upcoming implementation of the Ute Water Conservancy District and Garfield County leases of Ruedi Reservoir water to the Board for instream flow use in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River. The meeting will include a public question and answer session.

    For more information, please contact Tim Miller, Hydrologist, Eastern Colorado Area Office, by phone or e-mail: (970) 290-4895, or tmiller@usbr.gov.

    The blue expanse of Ruedi Reservoir as seen from the air. Students with the Carbondale-based Youth Water Leadership Program took to the air with EcoFlight to see how people have modified water in the Roaring Fork watershed. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

    Interview: ‘Not Another Decade to Waste’ — How to Speed up the Clean Energy Transition — The Revelator #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Wind turbines, Weld County, 2015. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    From The Revelator (Tara Lohan):

    Energy policy expert Leah Stokes explains who’s pushing climate delay and denial — it’s not just fossil fuel companies — and what we need to do now

    The first official tallies are in: Coronavirus-related shutdowns helped slash daily global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14% in April. But the drop won’t last, and experts estimate that annual emissions of the greenhouse gas are likely to fall only about 7% this year.

    After that, unless we make substantial changes to global economies, it will be back to business as usual — and a path that leads directly to runaway climate change. If we want to reverse course, say the world’s leading scientists, we have about a decade to right the ship.

    That’s because we’ve squandered a lot of time. “The 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s were lost decades for preventing global climate disaster,” political scientist Leah Stokes writes in her new book Short Circuiting Policy, which looks at the history of clean energy policy in the United States.

    But we don’t all bear equal responsibility for the tragic delay.

    “Some actors in society have more power than others to shape how our economy is fueled,” writes Stokes, an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “We are not all equally to blame.”

    Short Circuiting Policy focuses on the role of one particularly bad actor: electric utilities. Their history of obstructing a clean-energy transition in the United States has been largely overlooked, with most of the finger-pointing aimed at fossil fuel companies (and for good reason).

    We spoke with Stokes about this history of delay and denial from the utility industry, how to accelerate the speed and scale of clean-energy growth, and whether we can get past the polarizing rhetoric and politics around clean energy.

    What lessons can we learn from your research to guide us right now, in what seems like a really critical time in the fight to halt climate change?

    What a lot of people don’t understand is that to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we actually have to reduce emissions by around 7-8% every single year from now until 2030, which is what the emissions drop is likely to be this year because of the COVID-19 crisis.

    Lean Stokes. Photo credit: University of California Santa Barbara

    So think about what it took to reduce emissions by that much and think about how we have to do that every single year.

    It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be some big sacrifice, but it does mean that we need government policy, particularly at the federal level, because state policy can only go so far. We’ve been living off state policy for more than three decades now and we need our federal government to act.

    Where are we now, in terms of our progress on renewable energy and how far we need to go?

    A lot of people think renewable energy is growing “so fast” and it’s “so amazing.” But first of all, during the coronavirus pandemic, the renewable energy industry is actually doing very poorly. It’s losing a lot of jobs. And secondly, we were not moving fast enough even before the coronavirus crisis, because renewable energy in the best year grew by only 1.3%.

    Right now we’re at around 36-37% clean energy. That includes nuclear, hydropower and new renewables like wind, solar and geothermal. But hydropower and nuclear aren’t growing. Nuclear supplies about 20% of the grid and hydro about 5% depending on the year. And then the rest is renewable. So we’re at about 10% renewables, and in the best year, we’re only adding 1% to that.

    Generally, we need to be moving about eight times faster than we’ve been moving in our best years. (To visualize this idea, I came up with the narwhal curve.)

    How do we overcome these fundamental issues of speed and scale?

    We need actual government policy that supports it. We have never had a clean electricity standard or renewable portfolio standard at the federal level. That’s the main law that I write all about at the state level. Where those policies are in place, a lot of progress has been made — places like California and even, to a limited extent, Texas.

    We need our federal government to be focusing on this crisis. Even the really small, piecemeal clean-energy policies we have at the federal level are going away. In December Congress didn’t extend the investment tax credit and the production tax credit, just like they didn’t extend or improve the electric vehicle tax credit.

    And now during the COVID-19 crisis, a lot of the money going toward the energy sector in the CARES Act is going toward propping up dying fossil fuel companies and not toward supporting the renewable energy industry.

    So we are moving in the wrong direction.

    Clean energy hasn’t always been such a partisan issue. Why did it become so polarizing?

    What I argue in my book, with evidence, is that electric utilities and fossil fuel companies have been intentionally driving polarization. And they’ve done this in part by running challengers in primary elections against Republicans who don’t agree with them.

    Basically, fossil fuel companies and electric utilities are telling Republicans that you can’t hold office and support climate action. That has really shifted the incentives within the party in a very short time period.

    It’s not like the Democrats have moved so far left on climate. The Democrats have stayed in pretty much the same place and the Republicans have moved to the right. And I argue that that’s because of electric utilities and fossil fuel companies trying to delay action.

    And their reason for doing that is simply about their bottom line and keeping their share of the market?

    Exactly. You have to remember that delay and denial on climate change is a profitable enterprise for fossil fuel companies and electric utilities. The longer we wait to act on the crisis, the more money they can make because they can extract more fossil fuels from their reserves and they can pay more of their debt at their coal plants and natural gas plants. So delay and denial is a money-making business for fossil fuel companies and electric utilities.

    There’s been a lot of research, reporting and even legal action in recent years about the role of fossil fuel companies in discrediting climate science. From reading your book, it seems that electric utilities are just as guilty. Is that right?

    Yes, far less attention has been paid to electric utilities, which play a really critical role. They preside over legacy investments into coal and natural gas, and some of them continue to propose building new natural gas.

    They were just as involved in promoting climate denial in the 1980s and 90s as fossil fuel companies, as I document in my book. And some of them, like Southern Company, have continued to promote climate denial to basically the present day.

    But that’s not the only dark part of their history.

    Electric utilities promoted energy systems that are pretty wasteful. They built these centralized fossil fuel power plants rather than having co-generation plants that were onsite at industrial locations where manufacturing is happening, and where you need both steam heat — which is a waste product from electricity — and the electricity itself. That actually created a lot of waste in the system and we burned a lot more fossil fuels than if we had a decentralized system.

    The other thing they’ve done in the more modern period is really resisted the energy transition. They’ve resisted renewable portfolio standards and net metering laws that allow for more clean energy to come onto the grid. They’ve tried to roll them back. They’ve been successful in some cases, and they’ve blocked new laws from passing when targets were met.

    You wrote that, “Partisan polarization on climate is not inevitable — support could shift back to the bipartisanship we saw before 2008.” What would it take to actually make that happen?

    Well, on the one hand, you need to get the Democratic Party to care more about climate change and to really understand the stakes. And if you want to do that, I think the work of the Justice Democrats is important. They have primary-challenged incumbent Democrats who don’t care enough about climate change. That is how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected. She was a primary challenger and she has really championed climate action in the Green New Deal.

    The other thing is that the public supports climate action. Democrats do in huge numbers. Independents do. And to some extent Republicans do, particularly young Republicans.

    So communicating the extent of public concern on these issues is really important because, as I’ve shown in other research, politicians don’t know how much public concern there is on climate change. They dramatically underestimate support for climate action.

    I think the media has a really important role to play because it’s very rare that a climate event, like a disaster that is caused by climate change, is actually linked to climate change in media reporting.

    But people might live through a wildfire or a hurricane or a heat wave, but nobody’s going to tell them through the media that this is climate change. So we really need our reporters to be doing a better job linking people’s lived experiences to climate change.

    With economic stimulus efforts ramping up because of the COVD-19 pandemic, are we in danger of missing a chance to help boost a clean energy economy?

    I think so many people understand that stimulus spending is an opportunity to rebuild our economy in a way that creates good-paying jobs in the clean-energy sector that protects Americans’ health.

    We know that breathing dirty air makes people more likely to die from COVID-19. So this is a big opportunity to create an economy that’s more just for all Americans.

    But unfortunately, we really are not pivoting toward creating a clean economy, which is what we need to be doing. This is an opportunity to really focus on the climate crisis because we have delayed for more than 30 years. There is not another decade to waste.

    Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.
    http://twitter.com/TaraLohan

    Mainstem #ColoradoRiver call change July 29, 2020 #COriver

    The penstocks feeding the Shoshone hydropower plant on the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon.

    From email from the Colorado Division of Water Resources (James Heath):

    This is a notification that the Shoshone Power Plant is going down to one unit and their call will be released from the stream. The Shoshone Outage Protocol will not operate due to the target flow of 1250 cfs being insufficient to maintain flows in the Grand Valley to prevent a call from the irrigation water rights. Therefore, the call will be placed tomorrow morning at Cameo under a junior swing or bypass right.

    Starting at 8:00 am on Thursday, July 30, 2020 the calling location will be the Grand Valley Canal (WDID 7200645), with the Con-Hoosier Tunnel water right (Admin Number 35927.00000).

    @CWCB_DNR Appropriates Himes Creek Water Right to Protect Rediscovered Cutthroat Trout Population

    Himes Creek. Photo credit: Colorado Water Conservation Board

    Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) received a water court decree for an instream flow water right on Himes Creek, located in San Juan National Forest, to protect a rare population of Colorado River cutthroat trout. This lineage of trout is native to the San Juan River Basin and was previously thought to be extinct.

    “This instream flow water right on Himes Creek is one of the most significant that the Colorado Water Conservation Board has appropriated in the program’s history,” said CWCB Stream and Lake Protection Section Chief Linda Bassi. “CWCB staff, along with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service, consulted with leading researchers and scientists for the past two years to develop a strategy to best protect this extremely rare and at-risk species.”

    When this instream flow recommendation was initially brought to CWCB in 2017, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) was interested in protecting flows on Himes Creek to support a genetically pure population of Colorado River cutthroat trout. During data collection, genetic testing confirmed that the fish in Himes Creek have the same genetic markers as the San Juan lineage once thought to be extinct. Researchers estimate that the total number of San Juan lineage trout in all known populations is estimated to be as few as 1,000.

    The CWCB approved the Himes Creek instream flow recommendation in March 2019, and the water court issued a decree for the Himes Creek instream flow water right on July 27, 2020.

    Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

    Some Environmental Groups In #Colorado Still Hope To Stop The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — Colorado Public Radio

    From Colorado Public Radio (Corey H. Jones):

    The fight over expanding Gross Reservoir in Boulder County continues, despite the project’s recent approval from federal officials

    “We are committed to working closely with the Boulder County community to ensure safety, be considerate neighbors and retain open, two-way communication channels during this construction project,” Jeff Martin, program manager for the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project, said in a recent statement

    At the same time, Denver Water has its own case with Boulder County, which initially denied the utility’s request to be exempt from a local review of its plan. A Boulder district judge ruled in December that Denver Water must go through the county’s review process. Denver Water has appealed that decision through the Colorado Court of Appeals and must file an opening brief by Aug. 4.

    This means that ultimately county officials could have a say over approval of the expansion. Boulder County Deputy Attorney David Hughes said they have that power thanks to a series of Colorado statutes referred to as 1041 Regulations.

    Boulder County could also request another hearing from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But Hughes declined to say whether his office will do so.

    After receiving that federal approval, Denver Water said it plans to finish the design phase of the expansion next year, followed by four years of construction.

    “The FERC order is an important advance for the project,” a Denver Water spokesman said in an email to CPR News. “From here, related to legal matters, we’ll need to take some time to evaluate our options and the appropriate next steps.”

    Invasive plants pulled from Palisade park — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dan West):

    The sound of revving chain saws and crackling tree limbs filled Palisade’s Riverbend Park on Monday morning as Western Colorado Conservation Corps crews sawed through invasive Russian olive trees and ripped up tamarisk…

    The work to restore the native habitat along the Colorado River in the park is thanks to a partnership between the Town of Palisade and RiversEdge West, which is working to remove the invasive species.

    RiversEdge West is using a grant to fund the Conservation Corps work, which will continue for four days this week, moving east of the boat ramp. Costigan explained how the non-native plants harm the river ecosystem.

    “They out-compete with the native plants, and they don’t let the native willows and cottonwoods grow how they’re supposed to,” Costigan said. “They also grow in so thick, it blocks wildlife from accessing the water. So there are a lot of reasons that we want to remove these invasive plants.”

    Troy Ward, Palisade director of Parks, Recreation and Events, said the collaboration with RiversEdge began last year and is expected to continue for some time to fully restore the riverbank in Riverbend Park…

    As part of its grant, Rivers- Edge West will also help Palisade plant native vegetation in the area.

    It has already planted several cottonwood trees in the bank it had previously cleared. In addition to cottonwoods, Ward said it will plant willows and native grasses…

    The town also has a new wood chipper it was able to purchase with grant funds, which will allow it to reuse the wood chips elsewhere in its parks. This will keep the town from having to dispose of the plant material in a less useful way, Ward said.

    “Instead of us having to send this to the landfill or burn it, we can now chip it and then we can create mulch that we can use to augment some of our soils on the badlands, if you will, out in the disc golf area,” Ward said. “If citizens want some of this mulch, we can make it available to them as well.”

    Gary Knell to keynote virtual Water in the WestSymposium

    Click here for the inside skinny and to register:

    The CSU System is excited to announce Gary Knell, chairman of National Geographic Partners, as its keynote speaker for the 2020 Water in the West Symposium.

    Prior to joining National Geographic in 2014, Mr. Knell served as president and CEO of National Public Radio (NPR), and CEO of Sesame Workshop. At the 2020 Symposium, Mr. Knell will share his perspective on the role of storytelling in connecting a broad range of water-related issues.

    This year’s Symposium will be hosted virtually on Nov. 18-19 and will include dozens of diverse speakers focused on water issues and solutions. Additional details will be released in the coming months. Register today to reserve your spot.

    How local governments can attract companies that will help keep their economies afloat during COVID19 — The Conversation #coronavirus


    Protestors voice their displeasure during a New York City Council hearing on Amazon’s plan to locate a headquarters in the city.
    Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Bruce D. McDonald III, North Carolina State University

    As companies labor to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic, some businesses that feel hemmed in by local or statewide workplace safety mandates have threatened to relocate to more accommodating locations.

    Before the pandemic, governments offered packages of tax breaks, grants and loans to entice businesses to relocate and encourage businesses to employ more people. Tax deductions allow companies to invest earnings in production and output. Economic theory suggests that the increased employment and consumption that results will spur higher rates of economic growth than what the government could have achieved with the tax revenue.

    Johnston County, North Carolina, saw just that when it lured Novo Nordisk to the area. The multinational pharmaceutical company revitalized the local economy by creating jobs and injecting new spending into the community. And in 2018, Alabama and its local governments offered more than US$800 million in incentives for the construction of a Toyota-Mazda plant outside of Huntsville. The plant is expected to bring $1.5 billion in new construction and 4,000 jobs to the region.

    As a public finance professor, I recently joined my colleagues to analyze the impact of five types of financial incentives on local economies. Though previous studies have shown that financial incentives can spark economies, we found that not all incentives improve local conditions.

    Investment tax credits, which allow businesses to deduct a percentage of their investments, research and development tax credits, offered to businesses in exchange for their engagement within the community, and property tax abatements all failed to help struggling local economies.

    It’s only when incentives are strictly tied to job creation or job training that we found positive economic impacts. That means that locales that want to attract businesses with financial incentives would do well to focus on two things: job creation tax credits and job training grants.

    Amazon, a prime example

    Local governments that decide to help finance private businesses shouldn’t forget to keep an eye on their own fiscal health.

    As Amazon searched for its HQ2 headquarters, local governments in Maryland put together incentive packages valued in the billions but with no clear plan to capture economic growth. The governments planned to receive income taxes on high employee wages, which would help defray the costs of the incentives. But the economic benefits from income taxes could take 15 to 20 years to materialize.

    People opposed to Amazon’s plan to locate a headquarters in New York City protest outside an Amazon book store.
    Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

    Amazon’s planned expansion into New York City fell flat after local opposition, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, questioned the return in value to the community that the $3 billion tax incentives would have brought. Among the concerns were fears that HQ2 would drive up housing prices, increase traffic on public transportation and require increases in local taxes to cover the cost of the incentive.

    [Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get expert takes on today’s news, every day.]

    Both Maryland and New York could have learned from our study that found incentives focused on job creation tax credits and job training grants work better than other types of incentives. These job-related incentives center on employing residents, either by helping businesses defray the cost of salaries or by funding on-the-job training programs for new employees. Both types of incentives transitioned people into better paying jobs and spurred growth.

    These findings could prove essential as states respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    We’re watching North Carolina, which has provided $6 million in training grants to help hire displaced workers by allowing businesses to recover the cost of training new employees during the pandemic. It will take at least a year before the impact of this program can be measured but our research suggests that their approach is on target.

    Since the start of the outbreak, many state and municipal governments have expanded their incentive packages by adding new grants and loans for businesses to help cover operating expenses. In San Francisco, small businesses can apply for a 0% interest hardship loan of up to $50,000. Connecticut is offering loans of up to $75,000, or three months of operating expenses, to businesses impacted by the pandemic.

    For many small businesses, these grants and loans may mean the difference between reopening and failure. At least half of U.S. small businesses could fail due to pandemic if they do not receive help, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business. As of June 15, more than 140,000 small businesses in the United States have already closed their doors.

    During the pandemic, the capacity of governments to afford financial incentives has emerged as a major concern. The recession has slashed state and local government coffers by reducing sales and income taxes they receive. Consequently, many governments have become fiscally unstable when demand for public services is at its highest.

    Still, the U.S. Senate has refused to bail out state and local governments, further shrinking their abilities to kick-start their economies. Absent federal action, local governments would do well to focus economic development on incentives geared towards employment and training, which provide benefits to businesses and their communities.The Conversation

    Bruce D. McDonald III, Associate Professor of Public Budgeting and Finance, North Carolina State University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Aquifers: sustaining life in the desert — @CAPArizona

    Infographic credit: The Central Arizona Project
    Graphic credit: The Central Arizona Project

    @ColoradoStateU partners with state of #Colorado on #wastewater surveillance project to track spread of #COVID19 #coronavirus

    Samples will be taken at the Drake Water Reclamation Facility in Fort Collins and 19 other sites. Credit: City of Fort Collins

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jayme DeLoss):

    As COVID-19 cases start to climb again in Colorado, public health officials are seeking a scientific gauge to determine public policies and safety measures. Colorado State University researchers Susan De Long and Carol Wilusz will provide the indicator they need through a $520,000 project funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The CSU team will study a readily available source that will give them valuable insights into the infection rate of specific communities: human feces.

    Sampling wastewater is a cost-effective way to test entire communities. By studying the wastewater of communities including Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder, Estes Park and Colorado Springs, the scientists and engineers can track trends in infection rates over time.

    The proof is in the poop

    Those infected with coronavirus often don’t exhibit symptoms for 10 to 14 days, and some remain asymptomatic. Regardless of their symptoms, or lack of symptoms, within two days, they start shedding the virus in their feces. Detecting the amount of virus in a community’s waste stream can warn of an impending outbreak four days to two weeks in advance.

    “We believe this could be a promising supplemental tool for helping predict an outbreak in a community, possibly a couple of days before, so we can shift additional resources to that area,” said Nicole Rowan, clean water program manager with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    So far, 16 wastewater districts have signed on to the project, constituting up to 65 percent of the state’s population. The districts will take samples twice a week and send them to CSU. All of the testing will be done at CSU’s Molecular Quantification Core facility, with the ambitious goal of delivering data to the state in three days or less.

    “It’s going to be a really important dataset for our community that will help make decisions regarding public health recommendations for distancing status and shutdown status,” said De Long, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

    Wilusz, a professor and RNA biologist in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, pointed out how cost-effective this method will be, with tests costing only a few cents per person.

    “We can test everyone in Fort Collins and it will cost pennies for each person,” she said.

    In the lab at CSU, a technician will filter the samples to remove solids, concentrate the viral particles that are dilute in wastewater, and extract nucleic acids from the viral particles. COVID-19 is an RNA virus, so researchers will extract the RNA and use enzymes to make DNA copies of the target specific to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

    Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Susan De Long works in the lab on a past project. Credit: Karen Rossmassler via Colorado State University

    “Isolating RNA from sewage is something I never thought I’d be doing,” Wilusz said. “I’ve learned a lot more about sewage than I probably ever needed to know.”

    CSU had the specialized technology in place to perform this testing, thanks to purchase of a digital PCR machine in 2015 by the Office of the Vice President for Research and other CSU units, including the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

    “The technology we are using – digital droplet PCR – is ideal for this particular application because it is resistant to the types of inhibitors found in wastewater,” Wilusz said.

    Public health agencies across the state will provide current case data for the project. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will interpret all the data and convey what they’ve found to public health professionals working on the ongoing response.

    The collaborative aims to make this information accessible with the help of Professor Mazdak Arabi, director of the One Water Solutions Institute at CSU. Arabi will create a GIS-based, interactive online map for displaying the data, incorporating socioeconomic insights to give deeper context to the results.

    A grassroots effort

    Wastewater epidemiology is not a novel concept. This method has been used to monitor polio and illegal drug use. In Colorado earlier this spring, some wastewater districts sent samples to an East Coast-based company for coronavirus testing, but it took several weeks to get results, negating any benefit from the data.

    Jason Graham, Fort Collins director of plant operations, water reclamation and biosolids, instead contacted CSU to see if the testing and analysis could be done here. “My interest in bringing CSU in was to have a local partner, reduced costs and quicker turnaround time,” he said. “I always try to partner with CSU if possible.”

    De Long saw an opportunity to expand the scope of the project beyond Fort Collins. If they were going to test local wastewater, why not also do this for the state? She reached out to Jim McQuarrie, director of strategy and innovation at Denver’s Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, and Liz Werth, laboratory support supervisor with Metro Wastewater, who already had organized a group of wastewater districts involved in COVID-19 testing. The CSU team was the solution to the high cost and long turnaround time that came with sending their samples out of state for analysis.

    “This is the kind of thing we should be doing at CSU because we’re a land-grant university and we serve our community,” De Long said. Initially, she didn’t know whether she would be paid for the work or if she would be able to publish findings, but it didn’t matter.

    “There’s a need here that we have the capacity to fill, we’re just going to do it,” she and her colleagues decided.

    De Long and her colleagues put their summer plans on hold and got to work, thanks to $20,000 in seed funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research and donation of a $12,000 ultrafiltration device from Metro Wastewater Reclamation District.

    De Long and Wilusz developed the protocol for this project with GT Molecular, a Fort Collins biotechnology company. GT Molecular will offer this testing service on their own to entities outside Colorado that are not covered by the project, and they are available to back up the CSU team, should the need arise.

    Of the overall $520,000 contract, $490,000 will go to CSU. The rest will go to collaborator Metro State, which will support analyses and process some of the samples.

    The light at the end of the sewage

    Along with being a harbinger of rising COVID-19 cases, this detection method also will inform officials if there is a downward trend in infections.

    “Not only is this an early warning signal for when things are getting worse, it’s a nice signal for when things are getting better,” De Long said.

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

    Tracking the coronavirus pandemic could soon be a bit easier because of one simple fact: everyone poops.

    Around the world , wastewater plants have become unlikely sentinels in the fight against the virus, allowing scientists to track the disease’s spread at the community level. The practice of testing sewage samples is spreading across Western U.S. states as well, with programs currently running in Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California.

    Seeing success in large-scale wastewater testing, Colorado public health officials are finalizing the details of a program that will cover upwards of 65% of the state’s population and include more than a dozen utilities, two research universities and private biotech companies…

    People infected with the virus shed it in their stool, often days before they start feeling sick, studies show . That is, if they develop symptoms at all…

    Graham is one of the original partners in a statewide wastewater monitoring program that includes the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado State and Metro State Universities, and wastewater utilities in Fort Collins, Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs and Estes Park, among others…

    Because the Colorado program is still in the initial phases, it’s unclear how the collected data will be used. Officials in Utah and in Tempe, Arizona, have set up public dashboards where wastewater testing data is uploaded regularly. How it will inform decision-making at the state and local level is an open question…

    Once Colorado’s program is officially up and running, tests for all the participating wastewater utilities will take place twice a week over the next year.

    Navajo Dam operations update: Decrease to 500 CFS July 28, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    A kayaker makes her way down the San Juan River, which delivers water from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to Lake Powell. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

    In response to increasing flows in the San Juan River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 700 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 500 cfs on Tuesday, July 28th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

    The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program has recommended base flows as close to 500 cfs as possible for the summer of 2020. This is within their normal recommended range of 500 to 1,000 cfs. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

    Fishing is Fun grants awarded for 8 Colorado angling projects — @COParksWildlife

    In-stream habitat improvements for brown trout on this section of the Conejos River in the San Luis Valley will occur thanks to this year’s Fishing is Fun grants. This is one of eight projects providing funds to improve angling opportunities in Colorado. Photo via Colorado Parks and Wildlife

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Travis Duncan):

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife has awarded $650,000 to eight Fishing is Fun (FIF) projects, all geared to improve angling opportunities in the state of Colorado. The approved projects include improved angling access, habitat improvement, and trail and boat access. Funding recipients include projects in the San Luis Valley, on the Yampa and Crystal rivers, and in the northern Front Range in Denver and Mead.

    “The angling opportunities that Colorado waters provide are part of what makes this state so special,” said Dan Prenzlow, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Not only does the Fishing is Fun program help revitalize aquatic ecosystems across the state, it also ensures that residents and visitors will continue to have improved angling access for years to come.”

    Among the projects approved for funding are:

    Wolf Lake in El Paso County
    Angling access will be significantly improved with the construction of two fishing piers on a newly constructed reservoir in a rapidly growing area on the northeastern side of Colorado Springs. The project will increase angling access on a 12-acre reservoir in a part of El Paso County that currently has limited angling options. “It is great to have a project like this that local kids can use to get introduced to the sport and that experienced anglers can use to stay engaged,” said Jim Guthrie, CPW’s Fishing Is Fun Program Coordinator.

    Conejos Meadows in the San Luis Valley
    In-stream habitat improvements will occur on 1.75 miles of the Conejos River downstream from Platoro Reservoir in the San Luis Valley. The project will address low-flow conditions during droughts and winter reservoir operations and will protect conditions for the existing self-sustaining brown trout population.

    “The Conejos Meadows Resilient Habitat project is a model for projects that benefit fish habitat and wild self-maintaining trout populations, while also providing benefits to irrigation water users below a working reservoir,” said Kevin Terry, Rio Grande Basin Project Manager for Trout Unlimited. “Partnerships on the Conejos River between Trout Unlimited, CPW, and the Conejos Water Conservancy District ensure that each project identifies and maximizes benefits for the entire water community and the environment at the same time.”

    River Bottom Park Uncompahgre River. Photo credit: PhilipScheetzPhoto via the City of Montrose

    Uncompaghre River in Montrose
    This grant will restore quality angling conditions along a 0.65-mile section of the Uncompaghre River in the heart of Montrose. The multi-year project will cover 1.6 miles of river and develop in-channel habitat, stabilize river banks and connect to a major new GOCO-funded trail system.

    “This project delivers on the Montrose community’s desire to see stewardship of the city’s natural resources, which was identified as a top priority during the city’s comprehensive planning process,” said City of Montrose Grant Coordinator Kendall Cramer. “The restoration of our river enhances aquatic and wildlife habitat, provides new opportunities for anglers and other recreationists, and will serve as a catalyst for economic growth, particularly in the outdoor industry sector in Montrose.”

    Fishing alone contributes $2.4 billion dollars in economic output per year, supporting over 17,000 jobs in Colorado according to CPW’s 2017 economic study.

    For over 30 years, FIF has supported more than 375 projects in nearly every county in the state, improving stream and river habitats, easing public access to angling waters, developing new angling opportunities for youth and seniors and more.

    The program typically provides up to $400,000 annually from the Federal Sport Fish Restoration Program (SFR). This year the program awarded an additional $250,000 from revenue generated through the wildlife sporting license plate. “Sportsmen and women who have signed up for the license plate have helped make more projects possible. That is a big boost to making angling accessible to many more people,” said Guthrie. The $650,000 total was met with more than $2 million in local support for the eight projects approved in 2020 (matching funds are required for the program).

    Additional Fishing is Fun program details and requirements can be found on CPW’s website.

    Fishing is Fun 2020 grants include:

    Denver Parks and Recreation
    Lily Pond bank stabilization and habitat improvement
    $40,000

    Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust
    Planning for 0.8 mile of in-stream habitat improvement at Pleasant Valley
    $30,000

    San Luis Valley Trout Unlimited
    1.75 miles of in-stream habitat and low-flow improvement at Conejos Meadows
    $110,600

    City of Montrose
    In-channel habitat improvement and realignment on Uncompaghre River
    $284,588

    Nor’wood Development Group, El Paso County
    Fishing piers and angler platform at Wolf Lake
    $38,075

    Town of Mead
    Fishing pier and boat ramp at Highland Lake
    $89,625

    Town of Carbondale
    In-stream habitat and angler access at Crystal River Riverfront Park
    $30,000

    Town of Parachute
    2 vault toilets near boat ramps on Colorado River
    $27,112

    The road to electric vehicles with lower sticker prices than gas cars – battery costs explained — The Conversation #ActOnClimate


    Replacing carbon-emitting gas-powered cars with EVs requires whittling away EVs’ price premium, and that comes down to one thing: battery cost.
    Westend61 via Getty Images

    Venkat Viswanathan, Carnegie Mellon University; Alexander Bills, Carnegie Mellon University, and Shashank Sripad, Carnegie Mellon University

    Electric vehicle sales have grown exponentially in recent years, accompanied by dropping prices. However, adoption of EVs remains limited by their higher sticker price relative to comparable gas vehicles, even though overall cost of ownership for EVs is lower.

    EVs and internal combustion engine vehicles are likely to reach sticker price parity sometime in the next decade. The timing hinges on one crucial factor: battery cost. An EV’s battery pack accounts for about a quarter of total vehicle cost, making it the most important factor in the sales price.

    Battery pack prices have been falling fast. A typical EV battery pack stores 10-100 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. For example, the Mitsubishi i-MIEV has a battery capacity of 16 kWh and a range of 62 miles, and the Tesla model S has a battery capacity of 100 kWh and a range of 400 miles. In 2010, the price of an EV battery pack was over $1,000 per kWh. That fell to $150 per kWh in 2019. The challenge for the automotive industry is figuring out how to drive the cost down further.

    The Department of Energy goal for the industry is to reduce the price of battery packs to less than $100/kWh and ultimately to about $80/kWh. At these battery price points, the sticker price of an EV is likely to be lower than that of a comparable combustion engine vehicle.

    [Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]

    Forecasting when that price crossover will occur requires models that account for the cost variables: design, materials, labor, manufacturing capacity and demand. These models also show where researchers and manufacturers are focusing their efforts to reduce battery costs. Our group at Carnegie Mellon University has developed a model of battery costs that accounts for all aspects of EV battery manufacturing.

    From the bottom up

    Models used for analyzing battery costs are classified either as “top down” or “bottom up.” Top-down models predict cost based primarily on demand and time. One popular top-down model that can forecast battery cost is Wright’s law, which predicts that costs go down as more units are produced. Economies of scale and the experience an industry acquires over time drive down costs.

    Wright’s law is generic. It works across all technologies, which makes it possible to predict battery cost declines based on solar panel cost declines. However, Wright’s law – like other top-down models – doesn’t allow for the analysis of the sources of the cost declines. For that, a bottom-up model is required.

    The battery pack, the large gray block filling the chassis in this diagram of an electric car, contributes the most of any component to the price of an EV.
    Sven Loeffler/iStock via Getty Images

    To build a bottom-up cost model, it’s important to understand what goes into making a battery. Lithium-ion batteries consist of a positive electrode, the cathode, a negative electrode, the anode and an electrolyte, as well as auxiliary components such as terminals and casing.

    Each component has a cost associated with its materials, manufacturing, assembly, expenses related to factory maintenance, and overhead costs. For EVs, batteries also need to be integrated into small groups of cells, or modules, which are then combined into packs.

    Our open source, bottom-up battery cost model follows the same structure as the battery manufacturing process itself. The model uses inputs to the battery manufacturing process as inputs to the model, including battery design specifications, commodity and labor prices, capital investment requirements like manufacturing plants and equipment, overhead rates and manufacturing volume to account for economies of scale. It uses these inputs to calculate manufacturing costs, material costs and overhead costs, and those costs are summed to arrive at the final cost.

    Cost-cutting opportunities

    Using our bottom-up cost model, we can break down the contributions of each part of the battery to the total battery cost and use those insights to analyze the impact of battery innovations on EV cost. Materials make up the largest portion of the total battery cost, around 50%. The cathode accounts for around 43% of the materials cost, and other cell materials account for around 36%.

    Improvements in cathode materials are the most important innovations, because the cathode is the largest component of battery cost. This drives strong interest in commodity prices.

    The most common cathode materials for electric vehicles are nickel cobalt aluminum oxide used in Tesla vehicles, nickel manganese cobalt oxide used in most other electric vehicles, and lithium iron phosphate used in most electric buses.

    Nickel cobalt aluminum oxide has the lowest cost-per-energy-content and highest energy-per-unit-mass, or specific energy, of these three materials. A low cost per unit of energy results from a high specific energy because fewer cells are needed to build a battery pack. This results in a lower cost for other cell materials. Cobalt is the most expensive material within the cathode, so formulations of these materials with less cobalt typically lead to cheaper batteries.

    Inactive cell materials such as tabs and containers account for roughly 36% of the total cell materials cost. These other cell materials do not add energy content to the battery. Therefore, reducing inactive materials reduces the weight and size of battery cells without reducing energy content. This drives interest in improving cell design with innovations such as tabless batteries like those being teased by Tesla.

    The battery pack cost also decreases significantly with an increase in the number of cells manufacturers produce annually. As more EV battery factories come on-line, economies of scale and further improvement in battery manufacturing and design should lead to further cost declines.

    Road to price-parity

    Predicting a timeline for price parity with ICE vehicles requires forecasting a future trajectory of battery costs. We estimate that reduction in raw material costs, improvements in performance and learning by manufacturing together are likely to lead to batteries with pack costs below $80/kWh by 2025.

    Assuming batteries represent a quarter of the EV cost, a 100 kWh battery pack at $75 per kilowatt hour yields a cost of about $30,000. This should result in EV sticker prices that are lower than the sticker prices for comparable models of gas-powered cars.

    Abhinav Misalkar contributed to this article while he was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University.The Conversation

    Venkat Viswanathan, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University; Alexander Bills, Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, and Shashank Sripad, Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Aurora seeks to buy Whitney Ditch water at Windsor — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Cache la Poudre River May 2018. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Ken Amundson):

    The water running through the Whitney Ditch is from the Cache La Poudre River. Seller of the water shares, which have an average yield of 1,629 acre feet of water — or about 531 million gallons, is BCI Waterco LLC, a company at 252 Clayton St. in Denver. The address is shared by The Broe Group and Great Western Railway, owners of the industrial park.

    The purchase is part of an effort that began in 2003 to buy water rights in the South Platte basin, dry up the land that had been irrigated by the water and bring the water to the thirsty urban developments within Aurora, Colorado’s third largest city behind Denver and Colorado Springs.

    While the proposed purchase agreement includes a pipeline easement for land within the industrial park, getting the water to the Denver metro region is not included in the deal, nor is the required amendment of water court decrees to specify where the water will be used.

    “We have had high level concept discussions” about getting the water to Aurora, but the city does not have a specific plan, [Dawn] Jewell said.

    Jewell said Aurora has purchased other water shares in Northern Colorado, but none from the Poudre. It has water rights from the South Platte main stem and some in the Greeley area, she said.

    The city may choose to place the water in a reservoir in the region — it has one already west of Platteville — and seek an opportunity to exchange shares with someone else.

    The deal is expected to close Aug. 31, according to city council documents.

    Yangtze Dams Spill Water — @NASAEarth

    Here’s the release from the NASA Earth Observatory:

    Since the start of Asia’s summer monsoon season on June 1, 2020, excessive rainfall has pushed lakes and rivers to record high levels in China. Flooding within the Yangtze River Basin, in particular, has displaced millions of people.

    The Yangtze River is Asia’s longest, winding 6300 kilometers (3,900 miles) through China. Together with its network of tributaries and lakes, the river system has undergone significant development as a means to generate power, store water for drinking and irrigation, and control flooding. Today the watershed is dotted with tens of thousands of reservoirs, and its rivers are spanned by numerous dams.

    During the 2020 summer monsoon, floodwater was being held, or “absorbed,” by 2,297 reservoirs in the region, including the one behind Three Gorges Dam. In an attempt to regulate the flow of floodwater, dam operators can discharge water through spillway gates.

    Those gates were open when these images were acquired on June 30, 2020, with the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. The images are composites of natural color and shortwave infrared to better distinguish the water. Note how the torrent flowing through the spillways changes how the water downstream reflects light, making it appear whiter.

    The image at the top of this page shows water moving through the gates of Three Gorges Dam. Spanning a segment of the Yangtze River in central China’s Hubei Province, the dam is 2300 meters long and stands 185 meters high. The second image shows the smaller Gezhouba Dam, located about 26 kilometers (16 miles) southeast from Three Gorges. This dam also appeared to have its spillway gates open.

    When these images were acquired in June, the waterways were trying to handle the first major flooding of the monsoon season. A second wave of severe flooding, referred to by local media as the “No. 2 flood,” hit the region in July. Between and during these flood events, continuous adjustments are made to the amount of reservoir outflow flowing through the gates.

    According to the Three Gorges Corporation, the water level in the reservoir reached a record high flood season level of 164.18 meters on July 19. The previous high level reached during the flood season since the dam became fully operational in 2012 was 163.11 meters. The reservoir is designed to hold a maximum water level of 175 meters.

    NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Story by Kathryn Hansen.

    Two dams on the Yangtze River spilling June 30, 2020 (Three Gorges and Gezhouba dams). [Click on the image to enlarge.]

    Patriot militia groups mobilize during a deadly pandemic and massive protests — @HighCountryNews #COVID19 #coronavirus #BlackLivesMatter

    Washington Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, speaks at the March for our Rights 3 in Olympia in June. Photo credit: Jason Redmond / The High Country News

    From The High Country News [July 27, 2020] (Anna V. Smith):

    “That has a real chilling effect on democratic practice.”

    In the first weeks of June, as protests against police brutality spread across the country, a group of people who were neither demonstrators nor law enforcement began to appear in the streets. These members of the Patriot militia movement — an assortment of groups defined by antigovernment, pro-gun and conspiracy-driven ideologies — watched from the sidelines, kitted out in bulletproof vests and camouflage and armed with semi-automatic rifles.

    By mid-June, there had been 136 instances of paramilitary, far-right and armed militia groups or individuals attending anti-police violence protests nationwide, according to Political Research Associates, a social justice think tank. In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, militia groups and motorcycle clubs gathered in hopes of confronting antifascists who never materialized. In Oakdale, California, rumors of a Black Lives Matter protest drew members of the California State Militia but few others. In Olympia, Washington, members of the Washington State Three Percent guarded businesses, at, they said, the owners’ request, posing for a photo with a police officer. (The police department later launched an investigation into the incident.)

    The protests and concurrent pandemic have proven a boon to extremist groups looking to increase their visibility. During the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, Patriot militia members — particularly those in the Three Percent — mobilized around food drives and “reopen” rallies. Then, as protests against police violence spread, Three Percenters and other Patriot militia groups positioned themselves as guardians of private property and free speech. The leadership vacuum left by state and federal authorities in recent months offered the groups an opening, allowing them to accrue clout, provide services in lieu of government action and build political influence.

    Source: Political Research Associates with the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights; research support Alexander Reid Ross
    Luna Anna Archey / High Country News

    “We’ve certainly seen a clear pivot from militia groups active in the so-called reopen protests to, now, armed security in local communities,” said Amy Herzfeld-Copple, deputy director of Western States Center, a politically progressive organization that promotes inclusive democracy. “That has a real chilling effect on democratic practice. We see a throughline from militia groups mobilizing to exploit the pandemic to their military presence in small towns across the West — another opening for them to try and posture as providing a service that we’d normally look to government to provide.”

    The Three Percent has been particularly visible in the Western U.S. Founded in 2008, in opposition to President Barack Obama’s administration and its perceived threat to gun rights, the movement takes its name from settler-colonial mythology: the belief that just 3% of people in the 13 British colonies took up arms to fight in the Revolutionary War (a statistic that historians dispute). Members generally describe themselves as defending individual liberty from a tyrannical government. The sprawling and decentralized movement is without a national leadership structure: Some Three Percent groups operate statewide, while others are county-based. And while some have disavowed racism, others are virulently anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant. Because anyone can claim the movement, a variety of activities, from violence to paramilitary training to nonprofit food drives, have been carried out beneath its banner.

    Still, several ideological tenets bind Three Percenters together. One is a refusal to obey “unjustified martial law” or a “state of emergency.” So when the novel coronavirus arrived in the United States earlier this year, some members were primed to oppose the policies enacted to curb it. As schools and businesses closed and governors issued stay-at-home orders, rumors of “medical martial law” circulated. Three Percenter Facebook pages roiled, comparing stay-at-home orders to the Holocaust, questioning the legitimacy of local and state public health decisions, predicting civil war and spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

    Threats, real or perceived, provided an opportunity for a show of strength by various Patriot militia groups. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Washington State Three Percent — which rejects the antigovernment, militia and extremist labels — delivered truckloads of goods to food banks, coordinated a dozen food drives and organized reopen rallies to address the twin problems of food insecurity and economic fallout, according to Matt Marshall, the group’s founder. Meanwhile, its Facebook posts included threats to contact tracers. As a registered nonprofit, the group is required to “be operated exclusively to promote social welfare.” Marshall — a Republican currently running for the Washington House of Representatives — is on a school board; other members are on city councils and run food banks. “The purpose (of the group) is to prepare, and support the community. And, if the time ever came, defend the community,” said Marshall. “Not taking a militia-type role, but a truly grassroots support role.” Marshall is also a supporter of Washington state Rep. Matt Shea, who, last year, was found to have participated in domestic terrorism by an investigation commissioned by the Legislature.

    Patriot militia groups, who generally see themselves as good community members, often use civic engagement to gain local support and new members. After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, Oath Keepers mobilized to provide boats, search and rescue operations and medical care. In the Pacific Northwest, there are at least 20 instances of Three Percent and other Patriot militia groups signing up for Adopt-a-Highway, a nationwide program that promises “positive impressions when consumers know that you are doing good for the community.” In May, the Real 3%ers Idaho coordinated the distribution of 15,000 pounds of surplus potatoes donated by a farm in Reardan, Washington, according to The Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press. Armed members of the group later showed up in Coeur d’Alene during a protest against police violence.

    Washington State Three Percenters also intertwined their pandemic efforts with a political push. In May, the group posted on Facebook asking for volunteers to help with the next food drive, while also collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to repeal Washington’s comprehensive sex education law. (In June, the petition, which was backed by anti-LGBTQ+ groups, gathered enough signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot.) Tying ideological aims to the distribution of essential goods is problematic, Herzfeld-Copple said. “Often, part of their ideology is to replace civil infrastructure. And if they have opportunities to step in and build shadow government infrastructure, it’s not going to serve the interests of the whole community.”

    THAT CONCERN IS REFLECTED in Patriot militia groups’ presence at protests as an extrajudicial authority, which they point to as another example of fulfilling a civic duty. At a Black Lives Matter protest in Sandpoint, Idaho, organizers denounced the armed presence of militia members as nothing but intimidation, saying they neither needed nor wanted their protection, according to The Sandpoint Reader.

    The mayor of Sandpoint echoed this in a statement: “Civilians have legal authority to use firearms for self-protection, not vigilante justice. It is the job and responsibility of the police to enforce the laws and protect the city from looting or violence.”

    In the past, militia groups have directed their ire and conspiracy theories primarily at the federal government, said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center of Extremism, who has been studying the groups since the 1990s. Now, for the first time, they have someone in office to stand behind. President Donald Trump has broad support within the militia movement, so groups have turned to state-level issues, focusing especially on laws limiting access to guns. In 2018, Three Percenters and Oath Keepers campaigned for an ordinance that would allow county sheriffs to disregard gun laws they deemed unconstitutional. (It passed in eight Oregon counties.) This year, Three Percenters in Oregon, Idaho and Washington are running for county commissioner, state representative and sheriff.

    Members of the Patriot militia movement watched the March for our Rights 3 in Olympia, Washington, in June.
    Jason Redmond / High Country News

    Researchers say Patriot militia group leaders are political extremists, who operate as such. “They contribute to a conflictual understanding of politics,” said Sam Jackson, who researches antigovernment extremism at the University at Albany and is the author of an upcoming book on the Oath Keepers, “where there are enemies across the political divide, and we’re in a battle against those enemies, and we need to be prepared to use whatever means necessary against those enemies.”

    Watchdogs expect Patriot militia groups to mobilize around this year’s election. It has happened before: In 2016, after candidate Donald Trump falsely claimed voter fraud, Oath Keepers showed up at polling stations. In Portland, Oregon, in 2017, the local Republican Party voted to hire Three Percenters and Oath Keepers to provide event security. This year, amid ongoing waves of the pandemic and with some states halting their reopening, “there is going to be so much distraction and calls for voter suppression by the White House between now and November,” Herzfeld-Copple said. “There are going to be lots of openings for antidemocratic groups to seize.”

    Anna V. Smith is an assistant editor for High Country News. Email her at annasmith@hcn.org.

    Will monsoons be enough to save farmers in Southwest Colorado? — The Durango Herald #Monsoon2020

    Storm over the La Garita Hills. Photo via advrider.com

    From The Durango Herald (Emily Hayes):

    Megan Holcomb, senior climate specialist for the Colorado Conservation Board, said “everyone has been wringing their hands and waiting” for the monsoon to come. It is always hard to predict when the rains will start, but last fall they were absent, she said.

    La Plata County and Montezuma County have not seen a lot of moisture either, said Cortez agriculture expert Bob Bragg. The Mancos area is running out of water, as well as La Plata County, he said. Lemon Reservoir never reached 100% capacity in the spring, with a high point of 81% capacity in early June…

    The Dolores Water Conservancy District allocates a certain amount of water per year to producers in the county, who grow mostly alfalfa – a high-quality hay, hard red spring wheat and pinto beans. Last year, the water budget for farmers was 22 inches. But the conservancy cut it back to 19 or 20 inches this year because of the dry spring.

    Mark Williams, a hay farmer along the Pine River, said the last rainstorm brought close to an inch of water, which helps because it puts nitrogen in the soil and increases how long farmers can run irrigation. And grass in the pastures jumped an inch, Williams said…

    During dry years like this, it can be more difficult to parse out water rights between different users upstream and downstream because there is less of it, Rein said.

    And even though reservoirs were 100% full across the state in the spring, “we rely on these reservoirs through the summer months,” Holcomb said.

    Up to 12″ of rain falls in #Colorado county overnight — OutThereColorado.com #Monsoon2020

    From OutThereColorado.com (Breanna Sneeringer):

    Several rounds of overnight thunderstorms soaked parts of northeastern Colorado with up to a foot of heavy rains, prompting new flash flood warnings throughout the weekend.

    Six to 12 inches of rain fell over portions of Yuma County on Thursday evening extending over the border into several counties in Kansas, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

    Yuma Colorado circa 1925

    Ogallala Aquifer’s shallowness has meant growers have to adjust — High Plains Ag Journal

    The Ogallala aquifer, also referred to as the High Plains aquifer. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration

    From The High Plains Ag Journal (Bob Kjelland):

    The vast Ogallala Aquifer has been on the minds of growers in many states but it certainly has been on the minds of growers in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska who share the crucial resource with differing regulations. We all share a common bond to try to preserve it for future generations.

    Timothy Pautler became involved with water conservation district matters with the settlement of the Arkansas River Compact dispute between Colorado and Kansas. The state of Colorado was in litigation with Kansas and Nebraska on the Republican River Compact. The state decided to approach the defense of this conflict differently than the Arkansas River Compact, so through legislation, Colorado created an entity to assist the state in achieving compact compliance and in August 2004 the Republican River Water Conservation District was formed.

    The board members represented, at the time, seven counties, seven Ground Water Management Districts and one member from the Colorado Ground Water Commission. Pautler was appointed by the Kit Carson County Commission.

    “My understanding of what was happening to the Ogallala Aquifer in my area of the basin was the driving force behind my desire to participate in the decision to assist the state,” he said. “The economy that was created by the state, in its determination to allow the mining of the Aquifer, and the resulting decline, was a concern.”

    In 2019, the boundary for the RRWCD was expanded, to include all the irrigated acres that are actually contributing to the compact issue. This change affected folks in the southeast part of Kit Carson County and the northern part of Cheyenne County and in the East Cheyenne Ground Water Management District. This change created two more board member positions, representing those two new entities. This expansion added approximately 45,000 new irrigated acres to the RRWCD fee assessment.

    The RRWCD assists the state in reaching compact compliance on the Republican River Compact that was signed in 1942. In the beginning, the state told growers that if they retired 30,000 acres from irrigation the state would be in compliance. To fund the required budget that was going to be needed, the RRWCD assessed all irrigated acres a fee of $5.50 per irrigated acre. At that point in time, the basin did not have meters on any of the wells, so a per acre charge was really the only option and was easy to do, using county assessors’ records. The RRWCD worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency, to create programs that would financially compensate producers for voluntarily retiring some of their irrigated lands.

    Over time the district has been actively involved with purchasing surface water rights on the Arikaree and the North and South Forks of the Republican. It was involved with the Pioneer and Laird ditch rights. When they were purchased by the Yuma County Water Authority, the RRWCD leased those rights from the YCWA for $5 million for 20 years. This transaction leaves water in the North Fork of the Republican, and is accounted for at the gauging station located just east of Wray, Colorado

    “We are continually working with surface water folks, in order to acquire their rights, this practice is ongoing,” he said. “Because of the way surface water irrigation is accounted for under the compact the retirement of these water rights is very helpful in achieving compliance.

    He noted the 15-member board showed tremendous leadership in helping stakeholders understand what was at stake.

    “As we moved through time, the collective efforts started to bring results for the basin. We were well on our way to retiring the 30,000 acres of irrigated land. The programs were working rather smoothly, and the process was a success,” Paulter said. “But then our general manager, Stan Murphy, and our engineer, Jim Slattery, started to look at the numbers and realized that the retirement of acres alone, was not going to get us where we needed to be, in order to be in compliance.”

    The acreage retirements were coming so far from the three streams—the North Fork, the Arikaree, and the South Fork—to achieve the goal. The retirements were still a good concept and leaving water in the hole is always a positive, the producer and board member said. But the lagged depletion effect that existed in the aquifer was not allowing the impact of acreage retirement to result in immediate stream flow. The lagged depletion, describes the impacts that distant well pumping has on stream flow. As a result of the lag effect, the impact of present day pumping will have negative effects for 30 to 50 years, according to the engineers, even though a well has been retired. The effects that those distant retired wells created, prior to retirement, continued to haunt the long-term goals of the RRWCD.

    In 2002, the Republican River settlement had been signed. The final settlement stipulation agreed that Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado would not fight about water use that was in the past, but only work toward achieving future compliance with the compact that allocates how much water each state is entitled to use, he said. As part of the stipulation between the states, the accounting for all three states started at zero, it also allowed that any one of the states could use a pipeline to get additional water to the river in order to get into compliance.

    So that became the next challenge for the board. Where do we get enough water to make a difference?

    “We started looking at an exhausting list of possibilities, including The Dakota formation below the Ogallala, areas of the basin that were under appropriated, and imports from the South Platte at the time we left no stone unturned. Every idea had issues that came along with it,” Pautler said.

    The Dakota was going to be too salty and too costly to bring to the surface and not enough water. The unappropriated area was going to require too many easements and a pipeline of extreme length. The South Platte was too expensive.

    “In the end we were able to make a deal with one family. Their water rights were located northeast of Wray. This area of the basin has absolutely the greatest amount of saturated thickness.”

    It was far enough away from the North Fork to minimize effect on stream flow, but yet close enough that the pipeline length was a doable deal, approximately 13 miles, he said. About 13,500 acre feet of historical consumptive use, from 62 permits, were acquired.

    The Colorado Ground Water Commission then approved the RRWCD application, allowing it to consolidate the 62 existing wells into 15 wells to be used for compact compliance, without any injury to surrounding water rights. Along with the water purchase, the district negotiated easements from the landowners for the pipeline route. The cost of the water and easements was $50 million. The engineers designed a pipeline system that cost $20 million.

    Informational meetings were key because a $70 million project was not an easy sell, especially when budgets were compiled. The $5.50 per acre assessment needed to go to $14.50. This created a budget of $7 million. A loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for the $60 million, at an interest rate of 2% was secured and the 20-year note will be paid off in 2028. “The public acceptance of the concept, came with a lot of questions,” Pautler said. “As their understanding of the entire compact issue increased, so did their support.”

    Not so fast

    Even with the pipeline it did not mean going back to old practices, Paulter said. Wells in every county and management district that once pumped 800 to 1,000 gallons per minute had diminished to 200 to 500 gpm.

    When the pipeline was completed and functioning, the board started to hear comments like, “now we can pump it till it is dry.”

    “The pipeline did give us all a false sense of security that nothing else has to change; the perception was the economies of the communities can now continue as always; the threat of shut downs is taken care of,” he said. “But in reality, our small communities are changing so slow we don’t even see it happening, especially in areas of the basin that never did have sufficient saturate thickness, to expect life to go on as usual, or forever.”

    A safe statement would be, “most wells in the basin, do not have the yield they originally had.” Conservation has always been an underlying effort, but the urgency to get into compact compliance was paramount and trumped conservation.

    The fee assessment has been a problem for the basin, in terms of conservation. For $14.50 per acre, a producer can pump all he wants, up to his permitted amount. Paulter said a per acre foot charge would have been better formula to achieve conservation. The meters did not come into existence until about 2010. Meters alone will not create conservation, although the irrigators, today, do pay more attention to the amount pumped. They are required to stay within their annual appropriation.

    What has worked

    Conservation has been attained in the areas where irrigated acres were retired. That unused volume assures more water for domestic and livestock use. That is vital for those areas long term. Travel west of the RRWCD boundary and there are large ranches with very limited water resources. Pipelines have been installed with USDA cost share dollars to move the water for miles. And now, even those pipelines are in jeopardy of not having enough water for livestock numbers to adequately make an economic enterprise work.

    When the pipeline was completed, the RRWCD’s Conservation Committee started looking at ways to encourage meaningful conservation. They formed a subcommittee made up of members from all the Ground Water Management Districts.

    Different soils

    The basin is very different north to south and east to west. Saturated thicknesses vary from having very little left to those areas that still have a 40-year supply left. Soil types very vastly as well.

    “We have good heavy soils that will support dry land farming, to sugar sand that without water becomes rangeland. It is a classic case of the ‘haves and the have nots,’ depending on where you are located,” Pautler said. “We are all human, and no one wants to limit their neighbor’s ability to have an economic gain. Admittedly, a tough issue to struggle with.”

    Another problem is the fact that the RRWCD has no statutory authority to impose water use restrictions on the basin. That is under the authority of the GWMD. By design, when the RRWCD was given statutory authority to help the state get into compact compliance, GWMDs were very outspoken and insisted that the RRWCD should not be allowed to take over the authority that the management districts already had. These are some of the challenges in trying to achieve meaningful and measureable conservation.

    “I would hope that we in the Republican basin can come up with a fair and equitable solution that fits the needs of all water users in the basin. The list of water users has to include discussion with the municipalities, domestic users, commercial interests, and livestock folks. Finding agreement affects everyone, not just the ag irrigators,” he said. “We all have economic interests that are effected by the discussions moving forward. The emotional part of the discussion, kind of stems from the fact that, if we do nothing, ever so slowly, the water passes by our neighbors and we don’t care until it is our turn. A restriction that imposes conservation on all water users happens immediately. The economic impact is immediate.”

    This was edited by Dave Bergmeier who can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

    Kansas River Basin including the Republican River watershed. Map credit: By Kmusser – Self-made, based on USGS data., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4390886

    How Did #Colorado’s #Drought Get So Bad So Quick? — 5280 Magazine #flashdrought

    US Drought Monitor 8 week change map ending July 21, 2020.

    From 5280.com (Andy Stein):

    It’s called flash drought, and the Eastern Plains of Colorado is discovering just how quickly it comes on.

    late May to mid July of 2019) when no drought has been desiccating the earth here. Other than that, at least one part of the state has been in a perpetual state of crisp.

    Flash drought, though—that’s special. As you might have surmised, it’s the rapid onset of drought conditions, a dastardly combination of not only a lack of rainfall, but also hot temperatures, winds, and ground water evaporation. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 84 percent of Colorado residents are living in drought conditions right now, and the situation is worsening from south to north. But a few areas across the state have seen their drought exacerbate faster.

    Take, for example, the Eastern Plains. The mass of land east of I-25 has no significant water source, is downwind of the Rocky Mountains, relies on summer and winter weather patterns for moisture, and is typically warmer and prone to strong winds. The combinations of these elements usually work out well enough to keep the area satiated. But when they are off balance…well, you can get flash drought.

    There is no definitive measurement of a flash drought, but it has become understood that if you see drought conditions worsen by a category or two within a two-month period, that’s a flash drought. (There are five categories of drought, from D-0, or abnormally dry, to D-4, exceptional drought.) During the past three months, most areas in Colorado have seen droughts worsen by one to two categories. But places on the Eastern Plains have experienced a three- or four-category increase.

    Abnormal wind patterns have been particularly unkind to the eastern part of Colorado. Most ground moisture resides within the first six-and-a-half feet of earth, and that shallow layer is affected by the sun, the wind, and other evaporation processes. Between May and June, winds across the Eastern Colorado blew 6-10 mph faster than usual—which is a large anomaly—and caused the rapid loss of groundwater. On top of that, it’s been pretty warm this year. This blend of no rain, high heat, and stronger wind can amplify drying, increasing the pace of drought by about twice the normal rate (i.e., just having a lack of rain).

    Essentially, life on the Eastern Plains has been like living underneath a blow dryer: When you blow dry hair, it dries faster than it would if you didn’t. The combination of warm air and wind is creating the same effect.

    Leprino Foods Greeley, Colo., plant recognized for its focus on sustainability — The Fence Post

    Leprino Foods headquarters in North Denver.

    From The Fence Post (Amy G. Hadechek):

    Leprino Foods Company in Greeley, Colo., has earned a 2020 sustainability award for its outstanding dairy processing and manufacturing, and has been recognized (as one of six dairy businesses across the U.S.) as a “technologically advanced and environmentally friendly dairy manufacturing facility improving the well-being of people, animals and the planet.”

    Leprino, headquartered in Denver, is a global leader in the production of premium-quality cheese and dairy ingredients. The awards program, managed by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, was established under the leadership of dairy farmers, through their checkoff, and dairy companies.

    Leprino’s employees are credited with earning this impressive award.

    “We were very surprised and honored to have our employees’ hard work recognized by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Every employee has contributed to our success in both Greeley and across our operations — starting at the top. Our leadership is committed to global responsibility and reinforcing the importance of sustainability in how we operate, every day,” said Adam Wylie, associate director of environment and global responsibility at Leprino Foods. “We have worked diligently over the past several years, but our work isn’t done. We will continue to focus on sustainability as part of the core values and priorities of our company.”

    The Greeley plant is built on an abandoned sugar-processing factory site, and is Leprino Foods’ newest facility. The company purchased the Greeley property in 2008, then began construction in 2010.

    The plant has approximately 550 employees and produces mozzarella cheese, nonfat dry milk, and several nutrition ingredients including whey protein isolate, lactose, native whey and micellar casein.

    “Leprino Foods is the largest producer of mozzarella cheese in the world and a leading manufacturer of lactose, whey protein and sweet whey,” said Leprino Foods Company President Mike Durkin. “Our commitment to sustainable operations allowed us to improve environmental performance while simultaneously reducing costs, enhancing worker safety, and benefiting the community.”

    […]

    Leprino’s dairy plant was recognized for relying on a combined heat and power system generating electricity from two natural gas turbines which handle 75 percent of the plant’s power needs. The plant uses technology that pulls water from milk during the cheesemaking process to clean the facility, which reduces the need for fresh water. Leprino also uses recycled water that goes through treatment, resulting in feedstock for the plant’s anaerobic digester, which in turn creates renewable biogas. Leprino management said these projects add up to $4.5 million in estimated annual energy cost savings and provided a quick return on investment…

    The U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards, made possible through sponsors, show appreciation to farmers, companies and organizations for their commitment to improving communities, the environment and their businesses. For this year’s awards, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy recognized DeLaval, Zoetis, Phibro Animal Health, Syngenta and USDA for their support.

    These awards are held annually. The next call for entries will go out this fall. A farmer or company is nominated by someone, to become eligible. More than 70 U.S. dairy farms, businesses and collaborative partnerships have been honored since 2011.

    “The program shines a light on the many ways our industry is leading the way to a more sustainable future,” said Dairy Management Inc. Executive Vice President of Global Environmental Strategy Krysta Harden, in a statement.

    From using an anaerobic digester to make cow bedding and crop fertilizer out of cow manure to using no-till and strip cropping in the fields, Twin Birch Dairy of Skaneateles, N.Y., partnered with an environmental group to safeguard good water quality in New York’s Finger Lakes, and also earned a 2020 Sustainability Award.

    Then, through genetics and breeding cows that live longer and are less susceptible to disease and illness, Rosy-Lane Holsteins of Watertown, Wis., earned a 2020 award for producing 70 more semi-tankers of milk a year; using the same inputs as other dairy farms.

    An award also went to Oregon’s largest dairy farm; Three Mile Canyon Farms of Boardman, for its closed-loop system of mint harvest byproducts included in the cows’ feed, manure — used as fertilizer, and its methane digester that produces renewable natural gas.

    When runoff and pollution from six states including Pennsylvania severely affected the Chesapeake Bay’s habitat, Turkey Hill Dairy of Pennsylvania partnered with local farms, the private and public sectors. That resulted in dairy farmers developing modern housing for cows, manure storage, tree planting, cover crops and nutrient management and improving the farms’ soil, the Chesapeake Bay, and earned a 2020 award.

    The sixth dairy award went to Sustainable Conservation, Netafim, De Jager & McRee Dairies, Western United Dairies of California, who together developed a subsurface drip irrigation system so crops can benefit from manure’s nutrients, which are applied closer to the the plants rootzone for improved growth.

    The awards are judged by an independent panel of dairy and conservation experts. Among the criteria to apply is participation and good standing in the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) animal care program and use of the FARM Environmental Stewardship online tool for determining their GHG and energy footprint…

    Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at rotatingstorm2004@yahoo.com.