@USGS: Assessment of Moderate- and High-Temperature Geothermal Resources of the United States

Map showing the location of identified moderate-temperature and high-temperature geothermal systems in the United States. Each system is represented by a black dot. Credit USGS.
Map showing the location of identified moderate-temperature and high-temperature geothermal systems in the United States. Each system is represented by a black dot. Credit USGS.

Here’s the release from the USGS:

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently completed an assessment of our Nation’s geothermal resources. Geothermal power plants are currently operating in six states: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. The assessment indicates that the electric power generation potential from identified geothermal systems is 9,057 Megawatts-electric (MWe), distributed over 13 states. The mean estimated power production potential from undiscovered geothermal resources is 30,033 MWe. Additionally, another estimated 517,800 MWe could be generated through implementation of technology for creating geothermal reservoirs in regions characterized by high temperature, but low permeability, rock formations.

Proposed constitutional amendment would limit Denver-area housing growth — Denver Business Journal

Denver photo via Allen Best
Denver photo via Allen Best

From The Denver Business Journal (Ed Sealover):

Dismayed by highway congestion and hamstrung government budgets, the author of Golden’s 21-year-old housing-growth limitations has submitted an initiative for the 2018 ballot that would cap the number of new homes and apartments going up along most of the Front Range.

Daniel Hayes’ effort must be categorized, at least for now, as a long shot.

Not only has he not solicited funders or backers for the campaign, but he said in an interview Thursday that he plans to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the recently passed Amendment 71, arguing that it would be nearly impossible to meet the new threshold of 55 percent approval to pass a constitutional amendment like his.

But local economic-development leaders are already concerned about the implications of any such proposal on being able to attract more jobs and workers if the supply of housing dries up.

And Hayes said he believes he can tap into a growing sentiment among Colorado residents that people should be able to control the amount of new housing before its effects and the effects of a booming population weigh even further on the crowding of highways, schools and other infrastructure.

“The growth is completely out of control. And it’s costly,” Hayes told the Denver Business Journal. “Excessive growth will bankrupt the state. There’s already no money for highways.”

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Colorado’s population grew 8.5 percent between 2010 and 2015, reaching a level of nearly 5.5 million people. The growth rate is one of the fastest in the country during that time period, and roughly two-thirds of the growth comes from in-migration rather than the natural cycles of state residents’ birth over death, studies have shown.

Hayes’ proposed constitutional amendment would, beginning in 2019, limit the number of new residences in the seven-county Denver metro area and in El Paso, Larimer and Weld counties to no more than 1 percent growth per year. Homes would be counted as one structure in that calculation and each apartment in a new apartment building would also be counted as one structure.

In addition, the proposal would allow residents of any other city or county government to petition to put a similar growth limitation on their local ballot. And it would allow growth limitations to be amended or repealed by initiative or referendum beginning in 2021.

Grand Valley farmers participate in drought planning — The Glenwood Springs Post Independent

West Drought Monitor November 29, 2016.
West Drought Monitor November 29, 2016.

From the Hutchins Water Center at Colorado Mesa University (Hannah Holm) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

It’s been very dry in Colorado’s mountains this fall. It’s still early, and the snowpack could catch up to “normal,” but when I flew over those mountains on Nov. 15, they were brown. Just the barest dusting of white covered the highest ridges and north-facing slopes.

This delayed onset of winter provided a sobering backdrop to ongoing discussions about what to do if the Colorado River Basin slips back into severe drought with Lakes Powell and Mead, the two largest reservoirs in the basin, already half-empty.

If Lake Mead drops too low, farms and cities in the lower basin that have become accustomed to steady water supplies will have to drastically cut back. If Powell drops too low, Glen Canyon Dam will be unable to keep generating power or maintain sufficient releases to honor the 1922 agreement between the states that share the river.

No one knows exactly how upstream water users would be affected in that scenario, but if it’s a crisis reaction, it’s unlikely to be pretty. The environment could take a hit as well because low lake levels would make it impossible to conduct periodic high releases designed to mimic historical floods in order to benefit habitat conditions in the Grand Canyon.

In the lower Colorado River Basin, discussions among Arizona, California and Nevada have centered on who will cut their water use, by how much, and at what “trigger” levels in Lake Mead. This is necessary even without an intensified drought, because lake levels keep falling even with normal water deliveries from Lake Powell. The degree of drought just ratchets the urgency up or down.

In the upper Colorado River Basin, which straddles Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, there is no single outlet at the top of the system that can be cranked up or down. Instead, there are thousands of drainages feeding into the Colorado River, with widely dispersed ranches, farms and communities taking sips and gulps along the way, including some sizeable straws pulling water across the Continental Divide to Colorado’s Front Range.

A recent modeling effort coordinated by the Colorado River District concluded that if we were to experience another drought like the one of the early 2000s, with the reservoirs levels as low as they are now and without any additional conservation, Lake Powell could essentially be drained in just a few years.

Efforts are underway to figure out how to craft a demand management system that can entice upper basin water users to voluntarily dial back their consumption and get paid for it, in order to keep Powell from falling to critically low levels.

That’s complicated. For an agricultural demand management system to work for farmers, it needs to provide adequate compensation, not impede long-term operations, have simple paperwork and not put water rights at risk. For irrigation providers, it needs to pay its own way, be easy to manage, and not put water rights at risk. And for such a system to work for communities, you can’t have large swaths of fields left brown and unkempt, supply dealers left without customers and farmworkers left jobless.


A pilot project in Western Colorado’s Grand Valley is testing an approach to cutting back agricultural water use that seeks to work for everyone.

The location, just east of the Utah state line, is significant. About half of the water that flows into Lake Powell flows through Colorado’s Grand Valley first, some of it flowing through the river, and some detouring through irrigation ditches and farm fields before returning. Much of the water diverted does not return, of course, instead getting transpired through leaves of alfalfa, corn or grass, or plumping up peaches and wine grapes.

The Grand Valley Water Users Association (GVWUA), the biggest irrigation provider in the valley, is managing the pilot project to reduce that water consumption. At an October meeting to explain the pilot program to other regional water managers and irrigators, GVWUA manager Mark Harris said that the potential for future water shortages is driving the organization’s participation in the pilot.

For the 2017 irrigation season, GVWUA will conduct the $1 million pilot with funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Nature Conservancy and the Water Bank Work Group.

In 2017, 10 farm operators dispersed across the valley, each with 120 or more acres under irrigated cultivation, will participate in the GVWUA program.

The total reduction in water consumption achieved by the GVWUA pilot is predicted to be 3,200 acre feet, only a drop, but an important first drop to test the system. So far, the project appears to be on course work well for the participating farmers and the GVWUA. There is adequate compensation, management isn’t too complicated and water rights are protected.

Making the program acceptable for the rest of the community isn’t too complicated at this small scale, although some eyebrows may be raised at the odd brown field in the spring. If brought to sufficient scale to meaningfully benefit Lake Powell, however, this would become a more significant consideration.

In the meeting about the GVWUA program, several people voiced concern that agriculture was being expected to shoulder the burden of bringing supply and demand back into balance in the Colorado River Basin. Some cities are, in fact, also participating in programs to cut diversions to protect the reservoirs, and most have made large strides in conservation in recent decades. However, there is still a feeling that they can do more, particularly in the area of integrating land use and water planning.

If snow piles up in the mountains at reasonable levels over the next few years, it will buy time to fine tune and gradually scale up programs like the one GVWUA is testing, as well as experiments underway in other settings and on other crops, like high mountain hay meadows. Bolstering administrative capacity to coordinate a broad suite of such programs and developing legal mechanisms to ensure that conserved water reaches Lake Powell without being intercepted by other users must occur before such programs can be effective at a large scale.

If a moderate amount of conserved water is sent to Lake Powell each year or retained in upstream reservoirs, it will reduce the chances that more drastic cuts will be needed in any one year – avoiding the deepest impacts to agriculture and communities.

If the mountains keep staying brown late into the fall, however, the upper basin’s demand management efforts will have to accelerate significantly. Under that scenario, it will be harder to keep everyone happy.

Hannah Holm is coordinator at the Hutchins Water Center at Colorado Mesa University.

@NatlParkService: The Second Century Will Be A Lot Different Than the First — Climate Central

Click here to read “This is What The Future of National Parks Looks Like In the Face of Climate Change” from Brian Kahn writing for Climate Central. Click through for the full text and the photos. Here’s an excerpt:

“The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has a vested interest.” — Stephen Mather in 1920

NEARLY A CENTURY LATER, the words of Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, still ring true. The big three parks — as well as the 412 (actually make that 413 as of Wednesday!) other National Park Service sites — are something all Americans are vested in.

Maybe it’s because those park sites are home to cherished memories — a favorite fly fishing trip, hiking a mountain trail or a picnic under a canopy of ancient trees. Maybe it’s because of a summer job or that Junior Ranger badge still in a box under your bed. Or maybe it’s just the lure of some future adventure.

Whatever the reason, we have a huge stake in the present and future health of national parks because ultimately, these cherished places are a reflection of who we are as individuals, and as a nation.

In this, the 100th year of the National Park Service, there’s a lot to laud about the agency’s accomplishments and the role of parks in our cultural consciousness. Since Mather’s report, the number of annual visitors has risen to 300 million from 1 million and there are 377 more parks, monuments and other sites under the agency’s domain than there when it was born on August 25, 1916.

But after Thursday’s official celebration has passed, there will still be an incredible array of challenges ahead for this disparate collection of national treasures to remain viable in the 21st century.

There’s no bigger task than dealing with climate change. Well, tasks actually. There’s no single solution to combatting climate change in national parks (aside from cutting fossil fuels, of course) and many of the remedies being pursued or discussed have never before been tried on such a large scale.

“In order for us to cope with climate change, we have to change the way we think about conservation, protecting nature and national parks,” said Jon Christensen, an environmental historian at UCLA.

Lower Ark district joins federal lawsuit against #Colorado Springs — @ChieftainNews

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has joined a federal lawsuit against Colorado Springs for not controlling stormwater flooding and discharging pollutants into Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

The lawsuit was filed last month in U.S. District Court in Denver by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment.

Essentially, the suit argues that Colorado Springs has continued to violate federal clean water standards with discharges into Fountain Creek that sometimes contain high levels of E. coli bacteria and fecal coliform.

The lack of stormwater controls isn’t in question. Colorado Springs officials have negotiated a deal with Pueblo County to spend $460 million over 20 years on flood control.

When the lawsuit was filed, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers complained that any money the city spends fighting lawsuits over stormwater flooding would be better spent on fixing the problems.

But the Lower Arkansas board decided last month that too little has been done. Its lawyers urged the board to join the lawsuit to make certain the district participates in any negotiated settlement with Colorado Springs over flooding problems on Fountain Creek.

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

#ColoradoRiver District: The 2017 Grant Program cycle opened December 1, 2016 — @ColoradoWater

Deadline for submission of a grant application is January 31, 2017

Grant applications for projects that protect, enhance or develop water resources in the 15-county area covered by the District are eligible for funding consideration. This includes all watersheds in north- and central- western Colorado, except the San Juan River basin.

Colorado River District land area.
Colorado River District land area.

Eligible projects must achieve one or more of the following:

  • develop a new water supply
  • improve an existing water supply system
  • improve instream water quality
  • improve water use efficiency
  • reduce sediment
  • implement watershed and riparian management actions
  • Past projects have included the construction of new water storage, the enlargement of existing water storage or diversion facilities, rehabilitation of non-functioning or restricted water resource structures, implementation of water efficiency measures and other watershed improvements. Such projects that utilize pre-1922 water rights will be given additional ranking priority over similar projects that do not. Each project will be ranked based upon its own merits in accordance with published ranking criteria.

    Annual Grant Program Standard Guidelines and Criteria

  • 2017 Grant Program Application (PDF fillable)
  • 2017 Grant Program Application (PDF printable)
  • For more information please contact Dave Kanzer or Alesha Frederick at 970-945-8522; Colorado River District, 201 Centennial St., Glenwood Springs, CO 81601 or by e-mail to grantinfo@crwcd.org.

    Please note: The River District is not responsible for lost and/or undelivered applications. The sponsor of the application will receive a confirmation from the River District when an application is received.