With the coronavirus already stretching supplies and budgets, local leaders worry that a flood could overwhelm them.
New Orleans is a hot spot for Covid-19, and thousands of cases locally means [Belinda Constant, Mayor of Gretna, LA, is] working with a skeletal staff under lockdown conditions. Meanwhile, the Mississippi has risen more than a foot in the past week, triggering emergency flood measures. And the rains keep coming.
Gretna itself is below sea level, and currently some 11 feet below the surging river. All that’s keeping the city dry is a levee built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Constant says she prays every day that it doesn’t rain any more, or that one of the enormous cargo ships making its way down the river doesn’t get caught in the currents and swept into the barrier…
Louisiana, along with the rest of the Mississippi Valley region, is in the middle of its annual wet season, which usually peaks in April. This year’s floods are predicted to be more moderate than 2019’s, which covered a record expanse of 19 states, starting in January and lasted for an unprecedented nine months and affected 14 million people.
Even a milder season could be devastating to many, however. The U.S. National Weather Service says they might still affect more than 128 million people, and several areas are approaching flood stage already.
Colin Wellenkamp is the executive director of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative, which coordinates and organizes towns along the entire river corridor. He says Mayor Constant’s anxieties are shared by many local officials. “We are averaging a 100- to 200-year flood event annually somewhere on the river,” he says. As a result, many towns’ emergency capabilities were already tapped out before Covid-19, he says.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are promising the same amount of help to states as in previous years. Yet FEMA , by its own accounting, is well below its own 2015 targets for field staffing for emergencies. And even if the big agencies could provide the level support local communities have come to depend on, that still may not be enough. “The challenges are just so much bigger this year,” says Wellenkemp.
For starters, just like everywhere else, towns facing flooding are also facing extreme shortages of protective equipment such as face masks and gloves. Not only are doctors and nurses worried about shortages, so are first responders who may have to rescue people and property during an emergency. Most towns also rely heavily on volunteers for everything from filling sandbags to moving equipment to stocking shelters for displaced families. If officials can’t guarantee adequate safeguards for health, they aren’t sure people will show up…
Town officials have similar concerns related to institutions like the Red Cross, which they rely on to set up shelters when needed. Many wonder how they’ll cope in an era where group shelters such as gyms or tents are no longer an option.
Bob Gallagher, the mayor of Bettendorf, Iowa, isn’t one of them. He’s working with both state and federal officials and is optimistic that his city could handle flooding if it occurred. For now he’s sheltering homeless people in local hotels instead of group shelters, and says that’s working fine. But he acknowledges that the outlook might not be so rosy for smaller towns that have to rely almost entirely on volunteers in big emergencies.
The good news, says Wellenkamp, is that FEMA has made spending on Covid-19 preparations reimbursable by the federal government, a standard practice for damage from natural disasters that reach the level of federal emergency. The bad news is that FEMA still hasn’t reimbursed municipalities for the 2019 flooding, and many are already carrying heavy debt. “The economic impact from this will be greater than even last year’s record flood,” he says.
The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) geographic forecast area includes the Upper Colorado River Basin, Lower Colorado River Basin, and Eastern Great Basin.
Water Supply Forecast Summary
The weather pattern during the month of March was favorable for bringing storm systems across the Lower Basin into southern Utah/Colorado, while generally missing much of the northern portions of Utah/Colorado and Wyoming. March maximum temperatures across the Great Basin and Colorado River Basin were near to below normal. This helped preserve snow, even at lower elevations, that will contribute to seasonal runoff volumes. Observed snow water equivalent (SWE) conditions as of early April are generally near to slightly above normal (median) across the Upper Colorado River Basin and Great Basin.
April-July water supply volume forecasts are generally near to below average throughout the Upper Colorado River Basin and Great Basin. The highest forecast volumes with respect to average are in the Upper Colorado River mainstem, White/Yampa, and Virgin basins, where volume forecasts are generally near the 1981-2010 historical average. Lower Colorado River Basin January-May volume guidance increased during the past month due to above average March precipitation. Most Lower Basin April 1 water supply forecasts are much above median.
Virgin River Basin water supply forecasts increased by as much as 40% during the past month as a result of a wet March. April 1 SWE is generally 130-170% of normal over the Virgin Basin. Volume forecasts during the past month generally remained the same or increased slightly (5-10%) in the Duchesne, Dolores, and San Juan basins. The improvement in forecast guidance was due to above average precipitation and increased snowpack in these areas during March. Water supply volume forecasts generally declined around 5% in the White/Yampa and Upper Colorado River mainstem due to below average March precipitation. Green River and Gunnison March precipitation was more variable, and water supply forecasts followed the trend of observed March precipitation.
April-July unregulated inflow forecasts for some of the major reservoirs in the Upper Colorado River Basin include Fontenelle Reservoir 650 KAF (90% average), Flaming Gorge 880 KAF (90% of average), Blue Mesa Reservoir 525 KAF (78% of average), McPhee Reservoir 200 KAF (68% of average), and Navajo Reservoir 440 KAF (60% of average). The Lake Powell inflow forecast is 5.6 MAF (78% of average), a two percent decrease from March 1.
Water supply volume guidance in the Great Basin is most favorable in the Bear and Six Creeks basins, where forecasts are near to below average. Conditions in the Provo and Utah Lake Basins range from near normal in the headwaters of the Provo to below and much below normal for Utah Lake and Spanish Fork locations. The water supply outlook in the Weber River Basin is near to below average, with notable increases (5-10%) at East Canyon and Pineview reservoir inflows. Sevier River Basin forecasts generally increased in the past month due to above average March precipitation.
For specific site water supply forecasts click here
Water Supply Discussion
Weather Synopsis / March Precipitation & Temperature
The weather pattern during the month of March was favorable for bringing storm systems across the Lower Basin into southern Utah/Colorado, while generally missing much of the northern portions of Utah/Colorado and Wyoming. A slow moving cutoff low pressure system produced multiple days of heavy precipitation from March 10-12 over much of Arizona and southern Utah. Widespread 2-4 inches of precipitation fell over this period across the western half of Arizona (Bill Williams, Agua Fria, Verde basins) with 2-3 inches in the mountainous areas of southern Utah (Virgin basin). Another storm system on March 18-19 moved northeastward from Arizona into southern Colorado, producing another round of impressive precipitation. These two storm systems were generally too far south to significantly impact the northern half of Utah/Colorado and Wyoming, with the exception of the Uinta mountain range. A late month storm system on March 24-25 over the Great Basin targeted northern Utah and Wyoming, producing modest precipitation amounts.
March precipitation was variable across the Great Basin and Upper Colorado River Basin. Precipitation was near normal across the Upper Green Basin in Wyoming and the Bear/Weber basins in northern Utah. Precipitation was below average across the Upper Colorado mainstem and White/Yampa basins in northwest Colorado and the Six Creeks basin in Utah. Basins in southwestern Colorado (San Juan, Dolores) in addition to the Lower Green in northeast Utah fared better with slightly above (110-130%) average precipitation. As mentioned earlier, the Lower Basin saw much above average precipitation amounts during March with many SNOTEL locations in the Verde and Salt basins in the 80-90th percentile (or 150-200% of average). March maximum temperatures across the Great Basin and Colorado River Basin were near to below normal. This helped preserve snow, even at lower elevations, that will contribute to seasonal runoff volumes.
Observed snow water equivalent (SWE) conditions as of early April are generally near to slightly above normal (median) across the Upper Colorado River Basin and Great Basin. SWE conditions as a percent of the 1981-2010 median improved the most during March in the Virgin River Basin in southern Utah after a wet March. As of April 1, SWE is generally 130-170% of normal over the Virgin Basin. With the exception of the highest elevations of the Salt basin, snowpack has almost entirely melted out across the mountainous areas of the Lower Colorado River Basin (Arizona).
Upper Colorado River Basin SWE conditions as a percent of the 1981-2010 median improved during March in the Duchesne, Lower Green, and southwest Colorado (Gunnison, Dolores, and San Juan) basins. Duchesne SWE conditions are currently slightly above normal while the Lower Green, Gunnison, Dolores, and San Juan basins are near the early April historical median. Snow conditions in the Upper Green, White/Yampa, and Upper Colorado River mainstem declined slightly during March due to below average precipitation. SWE conditions as of early April remain above normal in the Upper Colorado River mainstem and near normal in the Upper Green and White/Yampa basins.
Great Basin SWE conditions did not change significantly during the past month when compared to the percent of historical median. Early April snowpack conditions remain above normal in the Six Creek basin, and near normal in the Bear, Weber, Provo/Utah Lake, and Sevier basins. Early April observed (SNOTEL) conditions as a percent of the 1981-2010 historical median are shown in the image below.
The image below is the representation of early April CBRFC model snow conditions in areas that provide the greatest contribution of April-July runoff. Model snow conditions closely correlate to SNOTEL conditions throughout the Colorado River and Great Basins.
For updated SNOTEL information refer to click here
For CBRFC hydrologic model snow click here
CBRFC hydrologic model soil moisture parameters are adjusted in the fall after the irrigation season and prior to the winter snowpack accumulation to accurately reflect observed baseflow conditions. CBRFC model fall soil moisture conditions impact early season water supply forecasts and potentially the efficiency of spring runoff. Above average fall soil moisture conditions have a positive impact on early season water supply forecasts while below average conditions have a negative impact. The impacts are most pronounced when soil moisture conditions and snowpack conditions are both much above or much below average.
Modeled soil moisture conditions as of November 15, 2019 were variable across the Upper Colorado River Basin and Great Basin, with conditions generally declining from north to south. In the Great Basin, soil moisture conditions were near average. Within the Upper Colorado River Basin, the Upper Green and Duchesne basins entered the winter with the most favorable soil moisture conditions, while the White, Yampa, and Colorado River mainstem basins entered the winter with below average soil moisture conditions. The Gunnison, Dolores, and San Juan basins in southwest Colorado entered the winter season with much below average soil moisture conditions, primarily due to the poor 2019 monsoon season.
Soil moisture conditions tend to fluctuate more in the Lower Colorado River Basin of Arizona and New Mexico in the winter due to the frequency of rain events and possibility of melting snow. Soil conditions in the fall are less informative than they are in the northern basins that remain under snowpack throughout the winter season.
After the unfavorable 2019 monsoon season, winter soil moisture conditions have improved significantly throughout the Lower Colorado River Basin during the past several months due to a combination of above average water year (October-March) precipitation and snowmelt runoff. Lower Colorado River Basin early April soil moisture conditions are generally above average, as shown in the image below.
A cutoff low pressure system will develop off the California coast this weekend into early next week. An increase in ridging and southwesterly flow across the Colorado River Basin will bring a period of warming to much of the region, with near to slightly above normal temperatures expected. The cutoff system is forecast to slowly move eastward into Arizona and then into southern Colorado by Tuesday through Thursday of next week (April 7-9).
Precipitation chances will increase across Arizona into portions of Utah/Colorado as this system moves through the region. Overall, only modest precipitation amounts are expected at this time.The weather pattern becomes more uncertain in the 8-14 day period (April 10-16); however, a weak mean trough across the Intermountain West suggests slightly increased odds for below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation.
Here’s a great story map from Kylee Warren that you can access on the Platte Basin Timelapse website. Click through to read and view the whole thing and to view the beautiful images.. Here’s an excerpt:
It was 2008, and I was on a family road trip through familiar lands. My aunt and uncle generously included me on their thirtieth wedding anniversary vacation to see the spring sandhill crane migration. I had never seen a crane before, and little did I know this journey would change my life…
But I knew this road well. I traveled Highway 92 many times while living with my grandparents during my childhood summers. At this moment, the only unfamiliarity was the group of many tall, silvery birds feeding and lingering in spent corn fields in front of the railroad tracks. The cranes also surprised my aunt and uncle. They grew up in this area but did not remember seeing so many cranes on this stretch of highway. I wanted to linger in Lewellen to get a closer look, but I heard I would see plenty of cranes on the 70 mile stretch of river between Kearney and Grand Island.
The Power Dialog will support College and University partners across the US, focused on the potential to solve the energy side of climate change by 2030. Here in Colorado, the Dialog gives students and community members a voice in critical decisions that will determine their future, and the future of the earth.
5:00-6:30 PM MESSAGES ON COVID19+CLIMATE
Messages from National PowerDialog and Governor Jared Polis
LIVE PANEL DISCUSSION
On A Just Transition in Colorado& Beyond
Ask Questions & Talk with Panelists
Bill Ritter, Former Governor of Colorado, Center for the New Energy Economy, CSU
Jorge Figueroa, Co-Founder and Director, El Laboratorio
Max Boykoff, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research
Here’s the release from the University of Colorado:
CU Boulder will host the regional version of a national effort to “make climate a class.”
Associate Professors Max Boykoff (Environmental Studies) and Phaedra Pezzullo (Communication) along with undergraduate student Andrew Benham (Engineering) are hosting the webinar “Power Dialog: Climate Solutions for Colorado“—mainly targeted to college and high school educators—on Tuesday, April 7. The aim is to foster discussions focused on decarbonization, energy and climate change in Colorado over the next decade.
The event in Boulder is taking place simultaneously with similar online events in every U.S. state and also in Puerto Rico, as well as in Washington, D.C.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will first offer his comments on these issues in a prerecorded message specific for the event. Then, Boykoff will moderate a panel called “A Just Transition in Colorado and Beyond.”
Panelists include: former Gov. Bill Ritter, founder of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University and author of Powering Forward—What Everyone Should Know About America’s Energy Revolution; Phaedra Pezzullo, founding co-director of the Just Transition Collaborative and co-director of Inside the Greenhouse; and Jorge Figueroa, a Water Education Colorado board member who runs El Laboratorio to promote agricultural and food security in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
Teachers of all disciplines are encouraged to use this webinar to “make climate a class,” and help refocus the nation and the world on the challenge that still lies beyond COVID-19: climate change. The recorded webinar, plus subject-area online resources, will be available through May.
“The success of these efforts in Colorado over the coming decade will depend on each of us recognizing that our individual perspectives and expertise have great value when confronting a set of collective-action challenges like energy, decarbonization and climate change,” said Boykoff.
This Colorado discussion is part of a national effort of 55 university-hosted webinars, led by Eban Goodstein from Bard College in New York, with support from David Blockstein from the Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences. For more information, visit http://solveclimateby2030.org.
“We are living through a unique moment in the history of this country where the role of states in safeguarding the wellbeing of its peoples is highlighted like never before,” Boykoff said. “We are seeing in real time the criticality of cooperation, civic-mindedness and trust across our communities and institutions. Going forward, we must continue to invest in these values for the benefit of Colorado.”
This event is co-sponsored by the Colorado Energy Office, the Conference on World Affairs, the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, the Boulder Faculty Climate Science & Education Committee, the Media and Climate Change Observatory, and Inside the Greenhouse at CU Boulder.
A year after flooding battered the Missouri River’s levee system, inundating towns and farmland and causing multiple closures to the nation’s interstate highway system, early forecasts warn that more of the same could be on the way: above-normal rainfall, greater than normal spring runoff. A USA TODAY Network analysis delves into records of an aging system of nearly a thousand levees where nobody knows how many were damaged last year or how many were repaired…
The forecast is a veritable index of meteorological plagues: above-normal rainfall; greater than normal spring runoff; thoroughly saturated soils; and an aging system of nearly a thousand levees where nobody knows how many were damaged last year and in previous floods or how many were repaired.
The 855 levee systems throughout the Missouri River basin protect at least half a million people and more than $92 billion in property. Yet a USA TODAY Network analysis of Army Corps of Engineers’ records found at least 144 levee systems haven’t been fully repaired and that only 231 show an inspection date.
Of those, nearly half were rated “unacceptable,” which means something could prevent the levee from performing as intended or a serious deficiency was not corrected. Only 3.5% were deemed acceptable; the rest were found to be “minimally acceptable.”
Only 231 of the levee systems show any inspection date. For 38, the most recent inspection date was more than five years ago.
In the Army Corps’ Kansas City district, for example, about 70 projects, spanning 119 levees that requested repair assistance, are eligible for funding, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be ready if the waters rise like they did last year.
“Some of them have been repaired, but from a total system perspective, I don’t think any of them are whole,” said Jud Kneuvean, the district’s chief of emergency management, who expects full levee rehabilitation and repair to take at least another year.
In the meantime, the extent and impacts of flooding will depend on when and where the rain falls…
The 2,300-mile Missouri River begins in southwestern Montana, where the Gallatin, Madison and Jefferson rivers converge near the community of Three Forks, before gathering water from 10 states and parts of two Canadian provinces to become the “Big Muddy,” North America’s longest river.
In recent years, more rainfall has been pouring into the Missouri River basin, raising questions about whether climate change is bringing worsening floods more often. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dating back to 1895 shows record-setting rainfalls in the area occurring more often. Last year, for example, was the wettest on record in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.
All that water adds to the challenge faced by Corps policymakers, who juggle sometimes conflicting priorities that include maintaining navigation; managing the reservoir system to prevent flooding; providing farmers with irrigation and hydropower; protecting endangered species; and preserving recreational opportunities.
While the priority is protecting human life and safety, the Corps’ decision-making sometimes puts special interest groups at odds, and the agency remains embroiled in controversy over whether the engineering of the river exacerbates flooding.
Things came to a head last year when a bomb cyclone in March melted all the snow in Nebraska and Iowa at once and dumped tremendous rain, swelling not just the Missouri, but the Elkhorn, Platte, James and Big Sioux rivers.
The Niobrara River in Nebraska breached the Spencer Dam on March 14, sending a wall of water downstream and into the Gavins Point reservoir near Yankton, South Dakota. At the peak, water flowed into the reservoir at 180,000 cubic feet per second — nine times more than the normal average for March. Meanwhile water was coursing into the rivers downstream of the dam and the effects of all that water were felt in nearly every community downstream.
Two other big rain events occurred in May and September. When the Corps’ Kansas City district deactivated its emergency operations center in December, it had been open for 279 days, the longest period on record…
Construction of the higher levee is in the administrative and planning stages, with actual construction activity set for fall.
Most of the Missouri’s levees fall into one of two categories: either federally built and locally operated or locally built and operated. The Corps inspects — and helps pay to repair — only the levees maintained to federal standards that participate in the federal flood program.
That exception means no one has a full list of damaged levees still in need of repair.
The number of levees that aren’t regularly inspected doesn’t surprise Neal Grigg, an engineering professor at Colorado State University who chaired a Corps-appointed review panel after 2011 flooding.
In an ideal management system, every levee “would be under the responsibility of some authority that was responsible and had enough money and good management capability to do that,” Grigg said.
But that’s not realistic, he added, noting that the Corps has tried through a task force to get some organization to the levee systems along the river, but it’s problematic, in part, because there are so many conflicting interests.
A host of agencies are cooperating to repair levees, but the progress is slow, said Missouri farmer Morris Heitman, who serves on the Missouri River Flood Task Force Levee Repair Working Group.
In addition to the Corps, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state of Missouri, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and a large number of local levee districts all work to repair levees.
“We’re trying to dance with different agencies,” Heitman told the University of Missouri Extension. “All these agencies have their own requirements and parameters, and we’re trying to coordinate those to build a secure system against the river.”
Fixes to the 144 levee systems listed in disrepair in the Corps’ Omaha and Kansas City districts are in various stages of completion, and some aren’t expected to be done for more than a year.
In the Omaha district that includes Nebraska and Iowa, “pretty much all of the levees were damaged in one way or another,” said the corps’ Matt Krajewski.
While almost all of the district’s levees that qualify for federal aid have been restored to pre-2019 flood heights, Krajewski said they don’t offer the same level of “risk reduction” because they need final touches such as sod cover and drainage structures to protect against erosion. The Corps hopes to complete those repairs this summer.
In the meantime, the Corps is working to prepare its flood storage capacity by releasing more water than normal from its dams.
“We’re being really aggressive with our releases and trying to maintain our full flood storage,” said Eileen Williamson, a Corps spokeswoman for the Northwestern region.
But the projections for spring runoff don’t look good and may limit how much the Corps can do.
In February, the runoff was twice the normal average, said Kevin Grode, with the Corps’ Missouri River Basin Water Management district.
The James River, a tributary that flows out of South Dakota, has experienced flooding since March 13 last year and that flooding is forecast to continue. Moderate flooding is expected along the Big and Little Sioux Rivers in South Dakota and Iowa, and possibly in Montana’s Milk River basin. A risk of minor to moderate flooding is forecast from Nebraska City to the river’s confluence with the Mississippi in St. Louis.
But it’s not just the spring runoff that’s a problem, Grode said. The forecast also calls for “above average runoff for every month in 2020.”
John Remus, chief of the Corps’ Missouri River Water Management Division, said during a March briefing that if those projections are realized, “the 2020 runoff will be the ninth highest runoff in 122 years of record keeping.”
In March, a three-man team with Montana’s Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest set off on horseback for a 35-mile, five-day journey into the wild North Fork of the Sun River, a tributary of the Missouri River.
They rode horses for the first 12 miles. When they reached a foot of snow, they switched to skis and took turns breaking trail.
Greeted by a half inch of new snow each morning, higher and higher they skied, encountering snow depths of 19 inches, then 2 feet, 9 inches and finally, 3 feet, 3 inches.
At each elevation, aluminum tubes with non-stick coating were stuck into the snow to collect core samples used to measure the depth and water content of the snowpack.
“The numbers are used for everything from dam control along the Missouri River to regulating the locks on the barges of the Mississippi,” said Ian Bardwell, the forest’s wilderness and trails manager, who led the snow survey expedition. “It just depends on what level you are looking at it from.”
As of Wednesday, mountain snowpack in the Missouri River basin in Montana was 112% of normal, said Lucas Zukiewicz, a water supply specialist with the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Montana.
In 2018, Montana’s April snowpack was 150% of normal, then 7 to 9 inches of rain over six days drenched the Rocky Mountain Front, inundating communities in its shadow. The Corps was forced to release water from the Fort Peck Dam spillway, a rarity, as a result of surging flows. Had that same thing happened last year, flooding in states downstream would have been even worse.
“With the way things are changing with our climate,” said Arin Peters, a senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Great Falls, Montana, “it’s probably a matter of time before something combines to create a big catastrophe downstream.”
Yet for this year, there may be some good news downstream from the Montana snowpack, at the Gavins Point Dam in Yankton.
Gavins Point is what’s known as a reregulation dam, its purpose to even the Missouri’s flow from the reservoirs upstream. Because Gavins Point wasn’t designed to hold floodwater, its gates had to be opened last year, sending a surge downstream after Nebraska and parts of South Dakota were hit with rain and the bomb cyclone.
In November and December, Gavins Point was still releasing water at a rate of 80,000 cubic feet per second — more than five times the average flow, and something that had never happened before, said Tom Curran, the dam’s project manager.
The good news? Releasing all that water through the winter left the mainstem dam system drained to its multipurpose zone, where it has capacity to absorb runoff while also fulfilling its other functions, including recreation and downstream barge traffic.
Here’s the release from Florida International University (Chrystian Tejedor):
Even minor amounts of human activity can increase nutrient concentrations in fresh waters that can damage the environment, according to a new study.
These findings suggest most U.S. streams and rivers have higher levels of nitrogen and phosphorus than is recommended. Although nutrients are a natural part of aquatic ecosystems like streams and rivers, too much of either nutrient can have lasting impacts on the environment and public health.
In Florida, toxic blue-green algal blooms have been triggered by releases of phosphorus-laden waters from Lake Okeechobee. Algal blooms produce a foul odor along waterways, decrease dissolved oxygen, threaten insect and fish communities and can even produce toxins that are harmful to mammals and humans.
“Ecosystems are being loaded with legacy and current nitrogen and phosphorus, and their capacity to hold these nutrients in many cases is decreasing,” said FIU associate professor John Kominoski, an ecologist and co-author of the study. “Not only are they being overwhelmed by nutrients, but they also have and continue to undergo hydrological and land use alterations.”
As human populations and demands increasingly grow, more land – including wetlands – is converted to agricultural and urban uses. This can introduce more nitrogen and phosphorus onto the land, which eventually makes its way into bodies of water. To make matters worse, soil erosion and climate change are also impacting nutrient pollution, leading to nutrient export to coastal waters, Kominoski said.
Nitrogen is most likely to come from transportation, industry, agriculture and fertilizer application, while increased phosphorus is more commonly the result of sewage waste, amplified soil erosion and runoff from urban watersheds.
“High concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in our waterways are concerning because they threaten both human and ecosystem health,” said David Manning, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and lead author on the paper. “Nutrients are essential for all life, but when they get too high in our waterways, they can fundamentally change the way a stream looks and operates.”
In addition to causing algal blooms, these elevated nutrient concentrations can lead to a lack of species diversity and oxygen depletion. High nutrient concentrations can also affect the purity of the water we drink.
Nutrient pollution is a complex problem. While there’s still a lot of work to be done to develop management tools and set thresholds for nutrient concentrations in streams and rivers, better understanding of how nutrients are transported through the interconnected network of waterways can help lead to solutions. Kominoski emphasized the importance of management solutions at local-to-global scales required to effectively manage various sources of nitrogen and phosphorus.
“Water is a shared resource that connects communities, landscapes, and continents across the globe,” Kominoski said. “We must increase the protection and rehabilitation of ecosystems and water resources throughout the world, especially as human populations increase and climate changes.”
Adoption of permanent water conservation principles prior to a drought crisis makes sense. We live in a semiarid climate and will have periodic droughts. Long-term planning is always less costly and painful than crisis response.
The new ordinance addresses the frequency and time of watering for those using automatic sprinkler systems.
1. You may operate sprinklers up to three times per week, your choice of days. This is adequate frequency for turf and almost all plants that will do well in our climate.
2. Between May 1 and Oct. 15, sprinkler operation is prohibited from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. During the warm hours of the day, most water applied will be lost to evaporation. While it might seem to be a good idea to run the sprinklers mid-day when it is very warm, it will actually be less beneficial to the turf than watering at a cooler time of the day.
3. Drip irrigation, watering cans and hose watering with a shut-off nozzle are allowed at any time.
4. If you are establishing a new landscape or have other special circumstances, you can apply to Colorado Springs Utilities for a permit or allocation plan.
5. Broken or leaking sprinkler systems are required to be repaired within 10 days.
6. Water runoff across nonirrigated ground, street or sidewalks is prohibited.