Yet another #drought for the hard-working #ColoradoRiver — The Mountain Town News #COriver

Just inside the Mexican border, at San Luis Rio Colorado, nothing remains of the Colorado River except for its sandy bed. Photo/Allen Best

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Drought again? Or is something else going on in the slimming Colorado River?

Peak runoff in the Colorado River this year has arrived exceptionally early and with unusual modesty. It’s part of a pattern in the 21st century, one that scientists warn will become even more common in the future.

One measuring site is at Cameo, located amid sandstone cliffs coated with desert varnish two hours downstream from Aspen and Vail and a short distance from Grand Junction. There, runoff in the Colorado River reached 6,650 cubic feet per second on Monday. Unless surpassed by a second surge of runoff predicted for Saturday, it is likely to be the earliest date for peak runoff at the site in 50 years, according to the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

It’s also a runoff of modest flows, the fourth lowest in 85 years of record-keeping at Cameo. The lowest was in 1977, according to the Glenwood Springs-based River District, followed by those of 2002 and 2012—and now 2018.

Winter was warmer and drier than usual, and the last month has been the same: 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average. Spring precipitation has similarly lagged across western Colorado.Also contributing to this year’s runoff story have been six dust storms since late March, the most recent last weekend. The darker desert dust sprinkled on the high-mountain snows absorbs more sunlight, helping speed melting.

“If you ask why there is so little runoff in the Colorado and other rivers this year and why it has come so early, the No. 1 reason is we didn’t get much snowfall. That explains the bulk of this anomaly,” said Jeff Lukas, a research integration specialist with the University of Colorado’s Western Water Assessment. “But the temperature, much warmer than normal, especially from November to January, is a part of the story.”

Beginnings. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Lukas, the lead author of a 2014 state-commissioned synthesis report called “Climate Change in Colorado,” also points to the clustering of unusually low runoffs in the last 16 years. It is “suspicious, let’s say, and may speak to the contribution of human-caused warming,” he observes.

Taking the long view, Lukas notes there’s a lot of “noise” or natural variability in the climate records. But this clustering suggests a changed norm. What used to be the sort of runoff that might occur every 25 years could now, perhaps, be expected about every 10 years.

Lukas has also studied growth rings of trees in the Colorado River Basin to document past environmental conditions as far back as 762 A.D. Those tree rings directly correspond to wetter and dryer, hotter and colder periods during the last 1,000 years. The trees also reveal droughts longer than any in the roughly 150 years of recorded history on the Colorado River.

In 2007, a University of Arizona team reported finding evidence of 13 consecutive years of sub-average flows. It was part of a longer 60-year period of drought in the 11th and 12th centuries that archaeologists believe was at least a significant factor in why the ancestral Pueblo, also called the Anasazi, abandoned their cliff dwellings in Chaco Culture National Historic Park and Mesa Verde National Park.

West Drought Monitor June 19, 2018.

Even in 2007, scientists were saying that these mega-droughts of the past might be similar to the Southwest in a world warmed by greenhouse gas emissions. But the past is an imperfect guide to the future. “We need to consider that if these extended droughts occur, they will occur under warmer conditions than those of the past, so they won’t be analogous with respect to the impacts of temperature on drought, although the moisture deficits could be similar,” according to Connie Woodhouse, a co-author of that 2007 report.

In 2017, two climate and water researchers issued a paper that concluded that the warming world is producing drought-like conditions. Jonathan Overpeck, one of the authors, was in Santa Fe recently, where he warned against thinking of it as a drought as conventionally understood.

“Precipitation in this current drought is a contributor, a secondary contributor. The main cause of this drought is temperature,” he said at the Next Generation Water Summit. Showing a chart, he observed that the temperature line corresponds with declining flows.

“This is the kind of drought we will have to deal with in the future,” he said.

Temperatures in the region have increased, and as they do, the warming atmosphere needs more moisture. Overpeck and his co-researcher, Brad Udall of Colorado State University, concluded that the moisture is being induced into the atmosphere through increased evaporation and transpiration. “This turns out to be the very biggest consequence of the temperature-induced drought in the Colorado River Basin,” he said.

“Wildfire is going crazy in the Southwest, and it’s for the same reason,” added Overpeck, who is now dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. He was formerly at the University of Arizona and still has a cabin in the San Juan Mountains near Telluride.

The Colorado River in De Beque Canyon, near Grand Junction, Colo. Photo/Allen Best

Can this be called a megadrought? He said he gets asked that often, and technically, no, it’s not. It’s only lasted 19 years, and the definition of megadrought that he and others agreed upon earlier in the century begins at 20 years. But, he added, this certainly looks a lot like the megadrought of 900 years ago discovered by dendrochronologists.

The pails of water in the West went from full to the brim to half empty or less in a short time. Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the two giant reservoirs of the Colorado River Basin, were full in 1998, as were most of the smaller reservoirs at the headwaters near the ski towns. They’ve been mostly ebbing ever since. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Monday reported that Lake Powell was at 52 percent of capacity and Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, was down to 39 percent of capacity.

These shrinking reservoirs have caused some to call for what Edward Abbey mirthfully imagined in the “Monkeywrench Gang,” the dismantling Glen Canyon Dam and draining of Lake Powell. The argument is that this will reduce evaporation and more efficiently store the water that is likely in the warming Southwest.

The idea has received little traction, but University of Utah professor Jack Schmidt said it’s worth thinking about. “It’s an idea that, no after how much you think you understand the details, the idea won’t go away,” he said at the River District’s annual seminar in Grand Junction last September. He said he’s undecided, as there’s not enough yet known to understand the implications.

In April, a dispute about how much water is released from Lake Powell to flow downstream into Lake Mead flared among the seven basin states. Denver Water and representatives of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico dispatched letters to the Central Arizona Project accusing that water agency of manipulating water supplies and demands at the expense of teamwork and collaboration.

The Central Arizona Project delivers Colorado River water to Phoenix, Tucson and a host of towns and farms along the way. “It’s one water user taking advantage of a situation for their own benefit, to the detriment of a river that supplies nearly 40 million people,” Jim Lochhead, manager of Denver Water, told the Associated Press.

Denver Water gets about half its water from the Colorado River Basin and supplies about a quarter of all Colorado residents. Many other cities of the West not actually within the basin also get Colorado River water, including Cheyenne, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, but even Santa Fe.

Speaking in Santa Fe, Overpeck noted the sharp words among formerly collegial water users in the basin as a reflection of the rising tension about declining flows.

Flows in this 21st century temperature-induced drought are down 19 percent, said Overpeck.

A field of produce destined for grocery stores is irrigated near Yuma, Ariz., a few days before Christmas 2015. Photo/Allen Best – See more at:

Future flows will almost certainly decline even more, he said. Even if greenhouse gas emissions get contained as outlined in the Paris climate accord, another 1 to 1.5 degrees C (1.8 to 2.7 degrees F) of temperature increase can be expected by 2100. If burning of fossil fuels continues unconstrained, temperatures might increase 5 to 7 degrees C (9 to 12.6 C).

This latter, even hotter climate, he said, will reduce flows in the river by 50 percent. An uptick in wildfire and spring duster storms can also be expected as well. “They’re all related to the same thing.”

Might a warmer atmosphere also produce more precipitation? Don’t bet on it, he said. Even if it does, as some colleagues have persuaded him is possible, he remains sure that warmer temperatures will cause that precipitation to vanish.

Why is he so sure? He points to the climate and hydroclimate modeling that, he said, have produced results consistent with experimental evidence and ongoing observations. In other words, the models seem to work.

As Lukas said, it looks suspiciously like this sort of drought year won’t be all that uncommon in the future.

Mcphee Reservoir

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Inflow into McPhee Reservoir from the Dolores River has dropped to a historic low, falling below the 2002 levels that were the previous driest year since the reservoir was built.

As a result, supply in the reservoir has also dropped slightly to 16.7 inches per acre, down from earlier estimates of 17 inches per acre for full-service irrigators. During full supply, the rate is 22 inches per acre…

Since April 1, estimates by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center for Dolores River inflow into McPhee dropped by nearly half, from 89,000 acre-feet to 46,000 acre-feet…

Because of an extremely low snowpack this winter and a hot, dry summer, the runoff forecast is at 15 percent of the historical 30-year average of 295,000 acre-feet for April through July. Precipitation for the 2018 water year at McPhee Reservoir, as measured at the Great Cut Dike, is the lowest recorded in the last 35 years.

Mancos River in Montezuma County

From The Cortez Journal (Stephanie Alderton):

The town of Mancos is implementing mild water use restrictions to prepare for potential shortages later this year.

On June 14, Town Administrator Heather Alvarez announced that the town would be restricting residents’ outdoor water use. Residents will only be able to water on certain days, depending on their addresses, and only for four hours in the morning and evening. The town is not facing a water shortage right now, Alvarez said, but town staff want to be prepared for one if their water rights are temporarily called by the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

A rafter on the Colorado River looking upstream toward Glenwood Springs. The Middle Colorado Watershed Council has recently received a $104,000 state grant for its $415,000 integrated water management plan for the Colorado River between Dotsero and DeBeque. It will look at recreational and environmental flows, as well as consumptive use of water by ag and cities. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

From The Denver Post (John Meyer):

Northern rivers are running at moderate levels or better and flows are excellent on the Arkansas, which ranks annually as the state’s most rafted river by far. Things are more challenging in the southern part of the state, which has been hit hardest by drought.

“For some outfitters, it’s very good right now,” said David Costlow, executive director of the Colorado River Outfitters Association. “Right now it’s very moderate levels on most of the streams. I talked to an outfitter that’s having a record year so far, another one that’s on track to having a record year. It’s a little bit of a mixed bag, but I think most people are doing quite well.”

The Arkansas, which typically accounts for 35-40 percent of the state’s rafting business, sits in the state’s largest river basin. Southern reaches of that basin had dismal snowfall, which bring down the average for the drainage as a whole, but things were better in its northern reaches to the benefit of prime rafting areas. That was true for other drainages in the north of the state as well…

In fact, conditions are said to be outstanding on the Cache La Poudre, west of Fort Collins, which could be Colorado’s best bet for rafting this summer…

Clear Creek west of Denver is the state’s second-busiest stream for rafting, accounting for 15 percent of user days last year, and it’s doing fine…

The Upper Colorado was running low last week, but that had more to do with water management to fill reservoirs than a lack of snowfall or precipitation, and the river rose this week…

Outfitters also are hopeful that the onset of monsoon season will augment water levels in the coming weeks.

Map of the Rio Grande watershed, showing the Rio Chama joining the Rio Grande near Santa Fe. Graphic credit WikiMedia.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

One headwaters tributary curling around the Great Sand Dunes National Park has dried up. The main stem of the Rio Grande probably won’t make it out of Colorado to New Mexico this summer, state water authorities calculate, let alone Texas and Mexico.

The federal government has designated the San Luis Valley, like most of the land along the Rio Grande’s route to the Gulf of Mexico, as in “extreme drought.” And years of gains by farmers ordered to replenish a depleted underground aquifer, the water equivalent of a savings account, may be lost if farmers with wells turn back to pumping to survive…

The pressure hitting food growers along the Rio Grande headwaters in southern Colorado reflects a widening water squeeze that has revealed the precariousness of life across the southwestern United States, where prolonged dry times and climate change increasingly force adaptation.

Exceptionally low snow in the Rocky Mountain region this year, at 37 percent of “normal” atop the Rio Grande River Basin, is playing out in water volumes less than 20 percent of the 120-year average.

San Luis Valley agricultural leaders warn that the low flows may accelerate a projected loss of 100,000 acres of irrigated land, a fifth of the food production in an area dependent on farming. The low water also is hurting ecosystems, hastening the slide toward extinction of endangered species, including the southwestern willow flycatcher, western yellow-billed cuckoo and Rio Grande silvery minnow…

“The overall point is that river flows are being affected by climate change. We can expect lower flows than the historical average going forward. We need to prepare for that,” said former U.S. interior secretary for water and science Anne Castle, a senior fellow at the University of Colorado.

Southern Colorado, including the San Luis Valley, stands out — with water flows in the Gunnison, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel rivers all less than half of average this year — among the fastest-changing areas…

Like many people, [Cleave] Simpson has access to wells drilled into Rio Grande headwaters alluvial sediment. But he has avoided tapping this source. “I can pump groundwater, but there are consequences of us continuing to overdraft our aquifers,” he said…

Meanwhile, discontent festers downriver, despite the compact that locks in each state’s share of Rio Grande water.

That compact, finalized in 1938, ignores environmental needs. And this year, the low flows along headwaters already have led to a dry-up of the Rio Grande through sensitive stretches south of Albuquerque, hastening the demise of the silvery minnow, one of the nation’s most endangered fish.

“Climate change is exposing the flaws in our system, and these low flows are showing that we cannot continue to allocate water the way we do,” said Jen Pelz, an attorney for WildEarth Guardians, which has filed lawsuits under the Endangered Species Act seeking reduced human use to save species. “Farmers have been given the right to water. But the river does not have any right to water. And when a river does not have water, the trees, the ecosystems, do not receive water. If there’s another dry year, we will have a critical situation on our hands.”

In the Southwest, ‘drought’ doesn’t tell the whole story — @HighCountryNews

From High Country News (Emily Benson):

In early June, more than 1,000 people near Durango, Colorado, had to leave their homes as the 416 Fire swept across the landscape. Following a dismal snowpack, the region experienced a spring so hot and dry that the U.S. Drought Monitor labeled conditions “exceptional drought,” the worst category.

Colorado wasn’t alone. An irregular bull’s-eye of dryness radiated outward from the entire Four Corners region, where Colorado meets New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. These circumstances offer something of a preview of the coming decades: While experts say the Southwest will continue to experience swings in precipitation from year to year, overall climate change is making the region and its river basins hotter and drier. That means humans must adapt to life with less water. “We have to fundamentally change the mindset of the public, and the way we manage this resource,” says Newsha Ajami, a hydrologist and the director of urban water policy at Stanford University’s Water in the West program. “And one of the ways you do it is, you have to change the terminologies that we use in dealing with water.”

The 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, ignited on June 1, 2018. By June 21, the wildfire covered more than 34,000 acres and was 37 percent contained. Photo credit USFS via The High Country News

This spring, the Colorado River Research Group, an independent team of scientists focused on the river, labeled the climate transition in the Colorado River Basin “aridification,” meaning a transformation to a drier environment. The call for a move away from the word “drought” highlighted the importance of the specific language used to describe what’s going on in the Southwest: It could shift cultural norms around water use and help people internalize the need to rip out lawns, stop washing cars and refrain from building new diversions on already strapped rivers. As Brad Udall, a member of the research group and a water and climate researcher at Colorado State University, puts it: “Words matter.”

Linguists have long argued over the extent to which words and language influence one’s thoughts and worldview. One commonly cited example of evidence that they do is an Indigenous Australian language that doesn’t use words for left and right. Its speakers orient themselves by the cardinal directions — north and south, east and west — rather than the relative terms typically used in English. Research suggests that in their thoughts and interactions with others, their conceptions of space are radically different from those who speak languages with relative spatial terms. Other studies have probed the ways linguistic differences may influence a wide range of attitudes and outcomes, including support for political policies; entrepreneurial gender gaps among countries; and environmental attitudes of tourists.

But beliefs are not behaviors. Reframing our understanding of the Southwest’s climate — thinking of it as a place experiencing aridification, a dry place getting drier, rather than a place simply waiting for the next drought to end — will have major ramifications only if it changes how people actually use water.

There is some evidence of the inverse — that when people conceive of the problem as a temporary one, they use more water after they believe the emergency has passed. During California’s recent five-year drought, residents of the Golden State cut their water use by a quarter or more amid intense media coverage and water use restrictions. This spring, a year after California Gov. Jerry Brown pronounced that drought over, Californians were using nearly as much water as they had before drought was declared.

How people perceive and value water is essential to shaping how much of it they use, says Patricia Gonzales, a doctoral student studying water resources at Stanford University. And those perceptions and values aren’t created in a vacuum. Officials, experts and the media frame and define the issues; social pressures also play a role. For example, when an entire community is aware that water is scarce, people might avoid washing their cars in order to duck the scorn of water-conserving neighbors. “Everyone can do something,” Gonzales says, even as she and other experts acknowledge that irrigation gulps up most of the West’s water. “But even the small pieces kind of add up when you look at the whole picture of how much water we have available.”

While climate change is already shrinking water resources in the Southwest, we shouldn’t throw out the word “drought” completely, says Connie Woodhouse, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona. It’s important to recognize that even a drier future will contain variability. “We’re going to have periods that are wetter, and we’re going to have periods that are drier, within this baseline that almost certainly will be more arid.”

Still, people in the Southwest must adjust to a more parched landscape. “There’s a need to (fundamentally change) the way we talk about these things, to bring attention to the fact that drought is normal,” Gonzales says. In other words, even after the bulls-eye dissipates from this summer’s drought monitor maps, Southwesterners need to keep acting as if that red swath were permanent — a lasting marker of a more arid reality.

West Drought Monitor June 19, 2018.

Emily Benson is an assistant editor at High Country News.

This article was first published online at High Country News on June 22, 2018.

July through September 2018 Outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center

It looks to be warm out here in the West.

And the CPC is still bullish for the North American Monsoon.

And bullish for drought improvement for the Four Corners and across S. Colorado.

Upper Colorado River pilot program paying irrigators to leave water for Lake Powell will end after 2018 — @AspenJournalism

Wyoming rancher Freddie Botur walking across rocks that form the diversion structure at his headgate on Cottonwood Creek, a tributary of the Green River. Botur was paid to let water flow past these headgates and down the river system toward Lake Powell as part of the System Conservation Pilot Program. Photo credit: Jim Paussa via Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

A four-year pilot program that paid ranchers and farmers in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico about $200 per acre-foot of water saved by fallowing fields in order boost water levels in Lake Powell will be put on hold after 2018.

On Wednesday, the five members of the Upper Colorado River Commission unanimously passed a resolution to that effect at a board meeting.

“Although the pilot (program) has helped explore the feasibility of some aspect of demand management programs, it does not provide a means for the upper (basin) states to account, store and release conserved water in a way which will help assure full compliance with the Colorado River Compact in times of drought,” the resolution said.

“Demand management” generally means finding ways to save, or conserve, water by paying willing irrigators to divert less water from streams and rivers by fallowing some of their fields for all, or part, of an irrigation system.

The Upper Colorado River Commission, meeting in Santa Fe on June 20, 2018. Don Ostler, seated third from left, gets a round of applause as the outgoing executive director of the Commission, which helps manages the upper Colorado River system for Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming. Ostler is leaving after 14 years and being replaced by Amy Haas of New Mexico, who currently serves as general counsel to the commission. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Still interested

This year, $3.9 million is expected to be paid out to ranchers and farmers in the upper basin, which will make it the biggest year of the program, but that will be it for the System Conservation Pilot Program in the upper basin.

The ending of the program in the upper basin does not mean the commission is giving up on getting more water into the upper Colorado River system in order to raise water levels in Lake Powell, as that interest continues to grow as the drought that began in 2000 lingers.

“I view it more of a change in direction rather than a value judgment of system conservation,” said Pat Tyrrell, who represents Wyoming on the commission and also is the Wyoming state water engineer.

In introducing the proposed resolution, Tyrrell said “there are some things (the pilot program) simply cannot do.”

The pilot program “does not allow the upper (basin) states to sufficiently investigate storage or the additional administrative, technical, operational, economic and legal considerations necessary to explore the feasibility of demand management as part of its ongoing emergency drought contingency planning efforts,” the resolution adopted by the commission states.

Andy Mueller, the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District based in Glenwood Springs, supported the commission’s decision.

“I think it is an appropriate temporary halt in the Upper Colorado River Commission’s support for the SCPP,” he said after the meeting in Santa Fe. “Mainly because in order for a conserved consumptive use program like this to work, the upper basin needs a pool of water designated in Lake Powell that we can use as a water bank. We don’t currently have that, and until that’s there, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of our of society’s resources on the program.”

A wall bleached, and stained, in Lake Powell. Photo credit Brent Gardner-Smith @AspenJournalism.

Declining levels

Lake Powell is 53 percent full today, and if the water level in the huge reservoir falls much further, it will mean that first, hydropower can no longer be produced by the turbines in Glen Canyon Dam, which forms the reservoir, and second, that not enough water can physically be released to meet the upper basin state’s obligations under the Colorado River Compact to send water to the lower basin states, which include California, Arizona and Nevada.

So while there is room in Lake Powell to hold more water sent down from the upper basin states, there is no way to securely store the water from a legal perspective. Today, any water that reaches Powell is fair game to be sent on to Lake Mead and the lower basin states, which defeats the purpose of sending water there to bolster its operational water level.

But there is a legal way to protect such a pool of water in Lake Mead. It’s called an “intentionally created surplus” (ICS). Water managers in the upper basin states would like to see something similar created in Lake Powell through federal legislation, although they prefer the term “demand management storage” to distinguish it from “intentionally created surplus,” which is a term shaped by, and tied to, the 2007 interim guidelines that currently dictate how Lake Powell and Lake Mead are managed together.

The pilot program began paying ranchers and farmers in 2015 to fallow fields and let water run down the river system toward Lake Powell. Originally set-up as a two-year program, it was extended for one year in 2017, and then another in 2018.

The program has paid for fallowing in both the upper Colorado River basin states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico and in the lower basin states.

The overall system conservation program initially was funded by an $11 million pool provided by the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Denver Water, in partnership with Reclamation.

The Walton Family Foundation also contributed financially to the upper basin program through a contribution to Denver Water (the Walton Family Foundation also supports Aspen Journalism), and Trout Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy invested a lot of staff time to help make the program work.

The funding for the program, which includes both a lower basin and an upper basin component, grew over the years, with the upper basin eventually having access to a $9.5 million pool of funds, according to Amy Haas, the incoming executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission.

(Haas is replacing Don Ostler, who is stepping down into a consulting role after 14 years at the commission. Haas, who is from New Mexico, is the current general counsel of the commission and officially starts as executive director on July 1).

Haas said she expects the system conservation program in the lower basin will continue if pending legislation in Congress is approved to re-authorize the program, and she clarified that the commission’s resolution passed this week only applies to the upper basin program.

In the first three years in the upper basin, 45 fallowing efforts were funded, including 15 in Colorado, at an average cost of $205 an acre-foot of conserved consumptive use — water that would have otherwise been consumed by various crops.

And not all of the funds in the system went to irrigators, as two municipal projects were also involved in the first three years of program, including one with the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

In those three years, about 22,116 acre-feet of water was left in the upper Colorado River system at a total cost of $4.6 million.

Individual contracts in the first three years of the program ranged from $6,300 to $635,000, depending on the number of acres fallowed and for how long.

The 22,000 acre-feet of water sent down to Lake Powell in the first three years of the pilot program represents a tiny drop in a big bucket, as the reservoir holds 24.3 million acre-feet of water when full.

It’s also not clear how much of the non-diverted water reached Lake Powell. Program administrators knew there was no guarantee the water would make it past other diverters without the legal ability to “shepherd” the water downstream.

On the other hand, fallowing projects were chosen in part because of their locations. Water from the Colorado River not consumed in the Grand Valley, for example, has a decent chance of making it through Westwater and Cataract canyons to reach Lake Powell.

However, officials said the experimental effort was not ever meant to physically change the level of Lake Powell, but to see what lessons could be learned from setting up such a program.

According to a candid report on the program released by the commission in February, the lessons learned in the upper basin included that the program was valued by some ranchers and farmers, but distrusted by others, that the program was hard to administer due to the many individual contracts required, and that in order for the program to really make a difference, it would need to be dramatically scaled up, and the resulting saved water would need to be securely shepherded to, and held in, Lake Powell or some other reservoir, and not just sent into the river system.

On June 22, Scott Yates, the director of Trout Unlimited’s Western Water and Habitat Program, issued a statement praising the program.

“We’re extremely proud to have worked with agricultural producers interested in the System Conservation Pilot Program,” Yates said. “The SCPP has proved the enormous potential for water demand management to address drought and climate impacts on the Colorado River Basin’s water supplies.

“We’ve learned that there is significant interest among ranchers and farmers for a program that compensates them for voluntary, temporary reductions in water use. That was a key question about SCPP — would agricultural producers respond to market-based incentives? The answer is an unqualified ‘yes.’

“TU believes that the SCPP in the Upper Basin has been successful in allowing producers to explore whether using their water right in this innovative way can benefit their operations. Many participants embraced the SCPP approach, especially if such a program can operate over the longer-term,” Yates said.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times on the coverage of rivers and water. The Times published this story in its print edition on Friday, June 22, 2018.

Amy Beatie for #Colorado House District 4

I’ve already cast my ballot for Amy Beatie, won’t you join me? The Colorado General Assembly will be well-served with a water attorney who knows how to work within the legal system and find environmental benefits. If you live on the Northside please cast your primary vote for Amy. If you know folks that live up here please let them know how important it is to vote for her.

Click here to go to the website.

Please vote for the environment in the #Colorado primary election #ActOnClimate

Left: Fossil fuel emissions 1850 to 2010 and since 2000. Right: Amount of fossil fuel emissions to keep warming under 2 C, vs. potential emissions from proven reserves. Fossil fuel companies know that they cannot compete with renewable energy v. cost. The competitive cost advantage will be advanced if the fossil fuel companies are compelled to pay a cost for their pollution.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):


Cary Kennedy: Will “guarantee” all Colorado homes and businesses can choose 100 percent renewable energy and double the state renewable energy standard, which currently requires cooperative utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewables.

Jared Polis: Pledges to protect public lands from “Donald Trump and polluters.” Will create path to 100 percent renewable energy as way to protect the environment and create “good-paying green jobs that can’t be outsourced.” Says 100 percent renewable energy is achievable “by 2040 or sooner” (Colorado Independent).

Donna Lynne: Advocates for a “‘no slogans’ balanced approach to energy production” that includes local control on where and how energy production happens, property rights, and people who work in extraction industries. Says “health and safety of all Coloradans is our top priority when we are dealing with energy and the environment.”

Mike Johnston: Launched his campaign with the 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 pledge. Wants to increase setbacks for oil and gas wells, cap orphan wells and “avoid drilling in ecologically sensitive areas.”


Walker Stapleton: Calls for a “stable business environment to ensure a low-cost energy supply that will attract and retain businesses in Colorado.” Says he won’t pursue “agenda-driven, burdensome, job-killing regulations.” Wants better state-federal communication on how federal lands are managed. Says he is running because he fears a Democratic governor would “end the energy industry” in Colorado (Colorado Independent).

Greg Lopez: Argues that the state coal industry “has been unfairly treated by bureaucrats” from out of state and reminds people that coal-fired plants are likely what’s charging their electric cars. Does not think 100 percent renewable energy is feasibly by 2040 and says diversification “remains the most prudent approach” to energy. (Colorado Independent)

Doug Robinson: Says the oil and gas industry “plays a vital role” in the state and can balance environmental protections “by supporting common sense regulations.” Supports all-of-the-above energy strategy and says “it is not the role of government to pick winners and losers,” in reference to a push for 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 (Colorado Independent).

Victor Mitchell: Says climate change “is likely real” and that the federal government should launch “moonshot” initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Says government also should not choose “winners and losers,” either with subsidies or “excessive” taxes and regulations. Notes fossil fuels are currently most reliable and least expensive energy, but it could be different tomorrow. Calls preserving the environment, air quality and water supply “paramount to our future and quality of life.”

#ColoradoSprings: Voter approved stormwater fee collection starts July 1, 2018

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From (Tyler Dumas):

The fee, which was Ballot Issue 2A, was passed by 54 percent in the November 7, 2017 special combined election. The ballot measure approved a dedicated municipal government storm water fee that will generate $16 – $17 million in annual funding for critical storm water infrastructure, regulatory permit compliance, and maintenance operations for the City’s storm water program, according to the City.

What this means for Springs residents is all residential units with water services through Colorado Springs Utilities will be assessed a $5 per unit monthly fee that will be collected through residents’ utilities bill. The City said it has partnered with Colorado Springs Utilities to administer the monthly residential fee on its behalf as it is the most cost effective billing mechanism. Residential units within the city limits without an active water services agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities will be billed through a separate billing agency.

The monthly fee for non-residential parcels will be $30 per acre. Non-residential parcels over five acres will be individually assessed and undeveloped or unimproved land will not be counted as they do not significantly contribute to storm water runoff.

With this dedicated funding mechanism freeing general fund dollars, the City said it plans to hire an additional 20 police officers, eight firefighters and two fire inspectors in 2018. These positions are part of a larger plan to add 120 police officers over the next five years.

For more information about the storm water fee and the City’s storm water program, visit or call (719) 385-7876.