#Flint attorneys to detail proposed $641-million water crisis settlement in virtual briefing Monday afternoon — MLive.com

From MLive.com (Ron Fonger):

Flint River in Flint Michigan.

A proposed $641-million settlement of water crisis lawsuits was filed in U.S. District Court last week, $20 million of which would come from a city insurance policy — if approved by the Flint City Council.

If approved by Judge Judith Levy, the settlement would establish a claims process for those harmed by Flint water and ultimately payouts depending on which of 30 categories individuals fall into, the extent of damages and how many claims are filed.

The council is scheduled to address the settlement in a closed session at 5:30 p.m. Monday, but several members have blocked similar private briefings in the past, saying that the overall settlement that’s been proposed doesn’t provide enough money to those harmed by Flint water or doesn’t divide the settlement fairly.

Flint children who were 6 years old and younger at the time they were first exposed to Flint River water would receive 64.5 percent of the proposed settlement.

Council President Kate Fields has urged other members to be briefed on the city’s portion of the settlement so that they can be informed on the deal before they vote to accept or reject it.

Attorneys involved in negotiating the settlement say lawsuits will continue against the city and its employees in state and federal courts if the settlement is not approved by the council.

More than 100 lawsuits are pending related to the water crisis, alleging parties including the city and the state have responsibility for the distribution of water with elevated levels of lead, bacteria and chlorination byproducts in Flint in 2014 and 2015.

In addition to having had regulatory responsibility for Flint water, the state appointed emergency financial managers to run the city before and during the water crisis.

The briefing at 2 p.m. Monday is designed to give residents the chance to hear “directly from the city’s attorneys on what this settlement would mean to residents,” Neeley said in a statement issued by the city. “This is about transparency and about making sure that residents have access to accurate information regarding the proposed water lawsuit settlement.”

Because the settlement documents were filed in federal court on Tuesday, Nov. 17, city officials said they can now openly discuss them.

#Snowpack news: #Utah’s water year so far, and why people should ‘think snow’ — The Deseret News

From The Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

The southern half of the state, as of Monday, was sitting in the 60% of normal accumulation of snowpack, and the Lower Sevier River Basin at 36% of normal is experiencing abysmally dry conditions.

West Drought Monitor November 17, 2020.

In fact the U.S. Drought Monitor, in data updated last week, shows a large swath of central Utah in the exceptional drought category and the majority of Utah in extreme drought.

Those conditions persist throughout states in the Southwest, including Arizona, New Mexico and portions of western Colorado. Utah’s neighbor, Nevada, is also experiencing extreme drought as moisture-giving storms avoid most of the region.

Much of the West, in fact, is in some sort of drought with the exceptions of the coastal areas of Southern California, northern Washington, portions of Idaho and extreme northern areas of Montana.

Earlier this year, a grim study released by Columbia University said the entire West is likely headed into a climate-driven “mega drought” based on data from tree rings. The study area stretched across nine U.S. states from Oregon and Montana down through California and New Mexico, and part of northern Mexico. If the study’s predictions prove true, it would be the worst drought in the region in 1,200 years.

Utah’s only “average” areas for accumulation this year so far are the Weber-Ogden River Basin at 102% and the Bear River Basin sitting at 111%.

Westwide SNOTEL November 24, 2020 via the NRCS.

Elsewhere along the Wasatch Front, the Provo-Utah-Jordan River Basin is struggling at 87% of normal, but again it is early in the accumulation season.

@CSUSpur “Water in the West” symposium recap #CSUWaterInTheWest

The findings pinpointed basins around the world most at risk of not having enough water available at the right times for irrigation because of changes in snowmelt patterns. Two of those high-risk areas are the San Joaquin and Colorado river basins in the western United States. Photo: Kevin Bidwell/ Pexels

From AgInfo.net (Maura Bennett):

The Symposium is hosted by Colorado State University and sponsored in part by the Colorado Dairy Farmers.

It’s the farmers like Chris Kraft of Kraft Family Dairies near Fort Morgan whose livelihoods depend on the increasingly scarce resource.

Kraft: “Without that, we don’t do what we do. So this is critically important for us.”

Kraft says times have changed with more people living in Colorado and a growing dairy industry making water issues more severe.

Kraft:” We’re interested in all the ways water is being discussed. A lot of the water that we use in on dairy farms in Colorado is historically old water rights, some of them going back to before statehood. Our industry doesn’t exist without that water. We have to have that water and we’re interested in making sure that we’re at the table when these kinds of discussions are going on.

Gary Knell, chairman of National Geographic Partners was asked for his focus on the power of storytelling. A panel discussion focused on how social movements, campaigns, and storytelling shape public sentiment.

A dialogue between Vilsack and Axelrod concluded the symposium.

John Wesley Powell. By Painter: Edmund Clarence Messer (1842 – 1919) – Flickr, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7299882

From Ag Journal Online (Candace Krebs):

Highlighting [John Wesley] Powell’s devotion to science, his foresightedness and his willingness to speak up was the starting point for the recent annual Water in the West Symposium, hosted by Colorado State University’s new SPUR campus in Denver. Keynote speaker Gary Knell, chairman of National Geographic Partners and former president and CEO of the National Geographic Society, related Powell’s story as he sketched out a history of how early exploration of the West led to formation of the National Park Service and an ethic of conservation that was soon interwoven into the American mindset.

“Facts belong in the domain of science, but the best stories make the facts relevant in ways people can visualize and identify with,” he said. “Embrace the power in your own story to change hearts and minds, and together we can change the world.”

[…]

Stories nestled within other stories is how this year’s symposium served to illustrate many of the ideas the speakers shared as they reflected on the role of storytelling to motivate change, address challenges and produce lasting results.

Water issues are complex, and perspectives are wide-ranging, which means listening and respecting is as important as speaking, for writers and photographers as well as influencers and advocates, Knell said…

Gary Hirshfield, co-founder and now “Chief Creative Officer” of Stonyfield Yogurt, emphasized repeatedly the importance of making the message “visceral,” by relying on ingenuity and originality.

“We launched an organic yogurt company in 1983 at a time when nobody was eating yogurt and no one knew what organic was,” he recalled.

Hirshfield had to come up with creative ways to persuade consumers to buy an unfamiliar product at a steep price premium to conventional brands.

“We had no money, but we had cows. So we came up this very simple idea that if you sent in five yogurt labels, you would get to adopt a cow,” he recalled.

He also used “moos-letters,” farm cams and Yo-Tube, his original version of a YouTube message channel, to sell a fun hip image, while reaching out to bloggers and influencers to spread brand recognition and enthusiasm to millions of followers.

“We had fun. We didn’t take ourselves too seriously but focused on keeping it upbeat, positive and funny,” he said.

Social media “is an artform now,” he added. “It’s highly refined and oversaturated, so how you cut through that is critical.”

Keep the message simple, don’t overwhelm with facts, be positive and solution-oriented, and listen instead of doing all the talking, he advised…

Justin Worland, a journalist covering energy, environment and climate for Time Magazine, talked about choosing to pursue articles that educate and move a larger conversation forward…

Sarah Soule is an academic researcher at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and has written extensively on corporate responsibility and social movements.

“Why are some social movements successful when others are not? That’s one of the big research questions we study,” she said.

Key factors include how the issues are framed, the overall political environment, available resources and the role of media.

#Water lease agreement could help fish and help meet #ColoradoRiver Compact requirements — The Farmington Daily Times #COriver #aridification #endangeredspecies

From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and The Nature Conservancy hope to demonstrate that the strategic water reserve can help endangered fish recover while also providing the ability to meet water compact requirements in the San Juan Basin.

San Juan River. Photo credit: USFWS

The Interstate Stream Commission approved allowing ISC Director Rolf Schmidt-Petersen to continue negotiations with the Jicarilla Apache Nation to lease up to 20,000 acre feet of water annually that became available as it is no longer needed for operation of the San Juan Generating Station.

San Juan Generating Station. Photo credit: Jonathan Thompson

The Jicarilla Apache Nation acquired rights to water stored in Navajo Lake in 1992 and has the authority to lease this water to other entities to help the tribe. Up until recently, the nation has leased water to Public Service Company of New Mexico to operate the San Juan Generating Station.

Navajo Lake

But the potential of the power plant closing in 2022 as well as a reduction in the amount of water needed to operate it due to the closure of two units in 2016 means that this water is now available for the state to potentially lease.

The water would be placed in the strategic water reserve, which has two purposes: assisting with endangered species recovery and ensuring the state meets its obligations under water compacts. When needed, the water could be released from the reservoir to help with the fish or to meet the requirements of the 1922 Colorado River Compact…

Terry Sullivan, the state director of The Nature Conservancy in New Mexico, said the organization has been working on the San Juan River for 15 years trying a variety of restoration projects to help create habitat. The fish rely on slow backwaters for reproduction…

Sullivan said the water lease is a great step forward to achieve both compact requirements and benefits to endangered species.

The amount leased each year would depend on funding available. One of the details of the lease agreement that has not yet been determined is the price…

Peter Mandelstam, the chief operating officer for Enchant Energy, said in a statement that the company believes it has enough water rights without the Jicarilla Apache lease to successfully retrofit the San Juan Generating Station with carbon capture technology and operate it.

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

#Snowpack news: Weekend storm fizzles percent of normal dropping

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

And here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for November 23, 2020.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map November 23, 2020 via the NRCS.

Consulting firm gives update on ongoing analysis pertaining to San Juan Water Conservancy District’s water rights — The Pagosa Springs Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chris Mannara):

An update was given on Wilson Water Group’s (WWG) efforts in completing a water use and water demand analysis for the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) and completing a water availability analysis for the West Fork reservoir and canal water rights during a regular meeting on Monday.

WWG was hired by the SJWCD via a board decision at a Sept. 21 meeting for a cost of $19,050 and will complete the efforts by the end of 2020.

Currently, WWG has been working on its first task, which is to develop a water demand analysis strategy, Project Engineer Brenna Mefford noted, adding that the first task would be completed in the next week or so.

The next task, to complete a cur- rent water use and water demand analysis, will be completed soon after, Mefford explained.

Task three, which is to complete a water availability analysis, will be started in December, Mefford added…

If the SJWCD were to go through with diligence on the West Fork water rights, it would have to show it has a potential demand for the water and that the district needs it, Mefford explained, adding that the SJWCD needs to show water availability.

“Finally, you have to show that you have the means to develop that water and put it to that use that you had identified earlier,” she said…

“We’ve talked to most of the people we planned to try and fig- ure out how we’re going to lay out this analysis and now we’re going to move into task two, where we’re actually going to do the current wa- ter use and water demand analysis. For this task there are a few more people that we need to reach out to and have talks with about water demand,” Mefford said, adding that WWG will need to talk to PAWSD, for example.

Understanding abandoned #water rights — The Rio Blanco Herald-Times

From the Colorado Ag Alliance (Phil Brink, Greg Peterson) via The Rio Blanco Herald-Times:

Every 10 years, the Colorado Division of Water Resources’ (DWR) publishes its water right abandonment list. The list — released on July 1, 2020 — represents water rights that each division engineer is recommending for abandonment based on real or perceived non-use over the last 10 years. A water right may be placed on the abandonment list if the amount of water diverted over the past 10 years is less than the decreed amount.

The DWR defines abandonment as “the termination of an absolute water right in whole or in part as a result of the intent of the owner to permanently discontinue the use of the water under that water right.” It is rare that an agricultural water right holder actually intends to abandon their water right.

“There can be several reasons why the decreed amount is not diverted in a given year or for multiple years” says water attorney David Kueter of Holsinger Law in Denver. The water source may be dry, or the water right may not be in priority at times when the field needs to be irrigated. Timely precipitation may reduce the need for irrigation. Repair or replacement of irrigation infrastructure — from headgates to ditches to land application equipment — may temporarily prevent diversion of water. Economic, health or legal obstacles can all stymie intentions to fully utilize a water right. Sediment and debris flows can block diversion structures and river and stream hydrology can change, rendering a diversion structure semi-functional or even non-functional. New property owners may not be aware of their water rights.

Management changes can also impact use. A few years ago, Mike Camblin, rancher and manager of the Maybell Ditch, took over irrigation of some fields that had not been fertilized previously. The addition of fertilizer increased grass production three-fold, which also increased the field’s consumptive use of water.

Increased consumptive use may also result from warmer summers, which are predicted by climate models. CSU research has found that evapotranspiration comprises more than 99 percent of plant water use. Increased temperatures drive forage and crop consumptive use higher. Cutting ag water rights down to their current consumptive use will permanently hurt growers’ ability to adapt to a warmer climate.

Water users who wish to challenge termination of their water right due to abandonment should file a written statement of objection with the Division 6 Engineer. An objection statement is needed for each water right. The deadline for filing is July 1, 2021, but Kueter recommends getting started now as it may take time to pull together supporting evidence. “Usually there are no silver bullets,” says Kueter, “it’s more the totality of the circumstances that caused the water right to be under-utilized.”

A water right is removed from the abandonment list if the Division Engineer agrees with the supporting evidence provided. A revised abandonment list will be published by Jan. 31, 2022. Protests to the revised list must be filed with division Water Court by June 30, 2022. The Water Court will begin considering protests in October 2022.

The Colorado Ag Water Alliance will be hosting a workshop on this and other issues on Dec. 7 in Craig.

Phil Brink is the Consulting Coordinator of Colorado Cattlemen’s Ag Water NetWORK. Greg Peterson is the Executive Director of Colorado Ag Water Alliance.

Book review: “Confluence: The Story of Greeley Water” by Gregory J. Hobbs Jr. and Michael Welsh

Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

From The Greeley Tribune (Tamara Markard):

If you are looking for a great gift for a long-time local or history buff, then you might want to check out “Confluence: The Story of Greeley Water” by Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr. and Michael Welsh.

With water being so vital to life and agriculture, the quote by Congressman Wayne Aspinall on the book’s forward page really sums it all up — “in the West, when you touch water, you touch everything.”

The book begins in 1870 with a single irrigation ditch and follows 150 years of development of the water system in Greeley, including the people who developed and impacted water law, engineering and agriculture including Delph Carpenter, Milton Seaman and W.D. Farr.

Currently, the water system supports more than 140,000 people and utilizes water from four different water basins in the state.

“The vision of this project was to tell the story to a broad audience. We didn’t want our sole audience to be the water nerds,” said Harold Evans, chairman and board member of the City of Greeley Water and Sewer Board. “We wanted to reach out to the average citizen; we wanted to reach out to other in the water profession and historians.”

The book project began around four years ago, Evans explained.

“The more I was involved the history and the policy of Greeley water, I felt that it was a story the community would be interested in,” he said. “I talked to Roy Otto, our city manager and the director of water and sewer and we decided to proceed with a book.”

Evans recruited Greg Hobbs and Michael Welsh to write the book for the city.

Hobbs currently serves as Senior Water Judge and co-directs the University of Denver Law School’s environmental and natural resources program. He is also a board member of Water Education Colorado.

Welsh has been teaching history at the University of Colorado since 1990 and has written manuscripts for several National Park Service sites as well as full-length studies on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“They spent the first couple of years doing nothing but research,” Evans said. “This was a well-researched book. If you look in the back of the book at the footnotes, you will see the amount of research that was done.”

While the main premise of the book is about water, it really is a story of the Union Colony and a parallel story of the history of our area including the Poudre River, national and local events like the Great Depression and World Wars.

One of the events Evans references from the book is the opening of the Bellvue Water Treatment Plant that opened in 1907.

“We are still today, 113 years later, delivering water from Bellvue,” he said. “In fact, this summer marked 150 continuous years that water has been flowing through the number three ditch in Greeley.

“Without water, we wouldn’t be here; businesses wouldn’t be here,” Evans added.

The book also contains a variety of historical photos and maps of Greeley and Weld County and the front cover depicts a painting of the Cache la Poudre River created by award-winning artist Jay Moore. Moore specializes in paintings of the North American West.

The book can be purchased at Tattered Cover and locally at Lincoln Park Emporium.

So far, the book has been popular with the local community, with the first delivery selling out, and people asking to be put on a waiting list, said Emporium co-owner Mary Roberts.

“It’s one of the most enlightening and visionary, in my view, because it shows what our history has been and what we are going to do for the future,” Roberts commented.

People interested in purchasing the book from the Lincoln Park Emporium can call the store at (970) 351-6222 to have their name put on the list.

For more information on Greeley Water and Sewer Department, go to http://www.greeleygov.com.

First-of-its-kind study estimates daily #PFAS dietary exposure from vegetables in adults and children — #Colorado School of Mines @mines

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org. [Click the map to go to the website.]

Here’s the release The Colorado School of Mines (Emilie Rusch):

Published today in Environmental Science and Technology, the research was led by Mines’ Chris Higgins and Juliane Brown

Chris Higgins. Photo credit: Colorado School of Mines

If state and federal regulators focus only on the safety of drinking water, the public could still be exposed to concerning levels of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) via the vegetables on their dinner plate if those vegetables are grown with PFAS-impacted water, according to a new study from researchers at Colorado School of Mines and engineering firm Geosyntec.

Published today in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study is the first of its kind to examine PFAS in water that is used to grow crops. Researchers compiled available data on how much individual PFASs are taken into vegetable crops irrigated with contaminated water – in this case lettuce – to estimate the daily dietary exposure intake through vegetables of these so-called “forever chemicals” for both adults and children.

Graphic credit: Colorado School of Mines

“While there has been an emphasis on identifying and cleaning up drinking water impacted by PFASs, much less attention has been given to assessing risks from consuming produce irrigated with PFAS-contaminated water,” said Juliane Brown, an environmental engineering PhD candidate at Mines who led the research. “This study brings much needed attention to this issue and highlights the potential risks associated with this critical exposure pathway.”

PFASs are a large and diverse group of synthetic chemicals used in many commercial and household products, including Class B fire-fighting foams, nonstick-coated cooking pan production, food contact materials, waterproof textiles and many others. An emerging body of evidence shows PFAS exposure can cause cancer and developmental, endocrine, renal and metabolic problems.

Globally, PFAS contamination of irrigation water and soils in agricultural areas has arisen from a variety of sources, including the use of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) on military bases and airfields, the application of treated sewage sludge as agricultural fertilizer and releases from nearby industrial facilities.

But currently, many state and federal agencies are primarily focused on drinking water exposure, missing a potentially importance exposure pathway via irrigation water, said Christopher Higgins, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Mines and senior author of the study.

“Even when drinking water has been treated and is considered safe, there is a potential for exposure from vegetables irrigated with contaminated water or grown in contaminated soil,” Higgins said. “This study shows that regulations that solely target perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water are inadequate to protect human health risks from PFASs.”

By using statistical modeling techniques akin to the election model prediction forecasts, the Mines-led team was able to consider a range of variability and uncertainty to identify the “most likely” intake and hazard associated with consuming PFAS-contaminated vegetables, using lettuce as a proxy for produce. The team also predicted risk-based threshold concentrations in produce and irrigation water to provide screening levels for assessment. These represent the range of concentrations for individual PFASs in irrigation water predicted to be below a level of concern for human health.

Using the lowest available human health toxicity reference values and a conservative 5th percentile approach, estimated risk-based threshold concentrations in irrigation water were 38 nanograms per liter (ng/L) for PFOA and 140 ng/L for PFOS, two PFASs commonly targeted by regulators.

In the case of PFOA, this suggests that even if irrigation water meets the current 70 ng/L PFOA and PFOS U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lifetime health advisory for drinking water, this may not be fully protective of PFOA exposure due to vegetables grown in that water, at least compared to toxicity reference values used by the State of California, which has the lowest toxicity reference value for PFOA in the U.S., Higgins said. Importantly, PFAS contamination also typically includes more than just PFOA or PFOS.

“Another major implication of this study is we really need to come up with a plan to address PFAS mixtures, as these chemicals are nearly always present as a mixture,” Higgins said

The team used real-world data from PFAS-contaminated groundwater to conduct a hazard analysis of a theoretical farm comparing different risk estimates based on established state, federal, and international toxicity reference doses. This analysis showed estimated exposures to most PFASs exceeding available or derived human health toxicity reference values – indicating water-to-crop transfer is an important exposure pathway for agricultural communities with PFAS-impacted irrigation water.

The full study, “Assessing human health risks from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)-impacted vegetable consumption: a tiered modeling approach,” is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.0c03411. In addition to Brown and Higgins, co-authors were Geosyntec principal scientist Jason Conder and project scientist Jennifer Arblaster.

This research was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (under Assistance Agreement No G18A112656081.)

Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District Hite plant outfall via South Platte Coalition for Urban River Evaluation

Here’s the abstract:

Irrigation water or soil contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) raises concerns among regulators tasked with protecting human health from potential PFAS-contaminated food crops, with several studies identifying crop uptake as an important exposure pathway. We estimated daily dietary exposure intake of individual PFASs in vegetables for children and adults using Monte Carlo simulation in a tiered stochastic modeling approach: exposures were the highest for young children (1−2 years > adults > 3−5 years > 6−11 years > 12−19years). Using the lowest available human health toxicity reference values (RfDs) and no additional exposure, estimated fifth percentile risk-based threshold concentrations in irrigation water were 38 ng/L (median 180 ng/L) for perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and 140 ng/L (median 850 ng/L) for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Thus, consumption of vegetables irrigated with PFAS impacted water that meets the current 70 ng/L of PFOA and PFOS U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory for drinking water may or may not be protective of vegetable exposures to these contaminants. Hazard analyses using real-world PFAS- contaminated groundwater data for a hypothetical farm showed estimated exposures to most PFASs exceeding available or derived RfDs, indicating water-to-crop transfer is an important exposure pathway for communities with PFAS-impacted irrigation water.

Are Colorado’s Rules Strong Enough to Halt Water Profiteering? A new group aims to find out — @WaterEdCO #COleg

South Platte River at Goodrich, Colorado, Sunday, November 15, 2020. Photo credit: Allen Best

From Water Education Colorado (Sarah Kuta):

Colorado’s anti-speculation water laws are considered some of the toughest in the West. Still, state lawmakers worry those laws may not go far enough. That’s why an 18-member work group is exploring ways to strengthen the rules. Recommendations for proposed changes are due by August 2021.

“In my mind, I think speculation is going on,” says Sen. Don Coram, a Republican who represents several Western Colorado counties and who co-sponsored SB20-048, which directed Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources to form the work group. “There are situations that are just not meeting the smell test for me. We need to look under the tent and see what’s going on.”

With water demand and prices soaring, lawmakers worry about loopholes in Colorado’s anti-speculation laws, pointing to recent investment group purchases of farmland and their senior water rights on the West Slope and in the San Luis Valley. So far, the investors are using the water for irrigation, a legally beneficial use, but lawmakers worry they’re making a speculative play, banking on a massive increase in the value of those rights with the intention to profit from them in the future. Irrigation may just be an interim placeholder that’s part of a larger investment strategy.

So, how will the work group’s members make recommendations for improvement? They’ll likely start with a thorough history lesson and a deep dive into existing anti-speculation law, says Kevin Rein, Colorado’s state engineer. Rein leads the group alongside Scott Steinbrecher, a Colorado assistant deputy attorney general. Other participants include water engineers, attorneys, members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, farmers and ranchers, representatives of environmental nonprofits, and water managers. Given the diversity of group members and knowledge, the group is well-poised to tackle the challenge at hand, Rein says.

But some work group members are already contemplating how changes to Colorado water law could hurt landowners. Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District in northeastern Colorado, plans to participate in the work group with an open mind but has questions: How will the changes impact an irrigator’s ability to sell their water and land? Will the value of their land or water suffer because of these changes?

“There’s this tension here, especially in our basin, but also statewide, of a high demand for water, which inflates the value of it—it’s hard to blame farmers for wanting to sell their water because of all different kinds of circumstances,” Frank says. “We would prefer them to keep their water and stay in agriculture because that’s the economic base for our area. But you can’t just go say, ‘We’re going to put a stop to it.’ Now you’re impacting somebody’s property rights.”

Frank said he also has some questions about the constitutionality of any changes the group may propose.

“I do have some reservations about whether this will actually solve a problem without causing another one,” he says. “You don’t want to cause unintended consequences here.”

Sarah Kuta, a Nebraska native and graduate of Northwestern University, is a freelance writer based in Longmont, Colo.

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

Here’s an explainer for the High Plains A&M LLC speculation ruling from BLW Law (Stephen H. Leonhardt, Scott A. Clark and Alix L. Joseph). Here’s an excerpt:

High Plains A&M LLC filed two almost identical applications for changes of water rights in late 2002 and early 2003. The Water Court consolidated the two cases. In its Applications, High Plains claimed to own or control of about 30% of the shares in one of the largest irrigation systems in Colorado. High Plains asked the Water Court to approve changes to its water rights from irrigation and other decreed uses in the lower Arkansas River Valley to any beneficial use, including over fifty identified potential uses, in any location within twenty-eight Colorado counties. High Plains’ applications did not identify any end users of the water besides the farmers who currently use the water. In High Plains A&M, LLC v. Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, 120 P.3d 710 (Colo. 2005), Burns, Figa & Will, P.C., on behalf of our client, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, successfully argued that High Plains’ application for a change of water right was properly dismissed because the application did not state with specificity the use or location of use of the changed water rights, thus violating Colorado’s anti-speculation doctrine.

Navajo Dam operations update: Turning down to 300 CFS November 21, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing tributary flows, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 350 cfs on Saturday, November 21st, 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 recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

Despite recent snowstorms, #Colorado’s #drought conditions continue in “anomalous” direction — The Colorado Sun

From The Colorado Sun (Lucy Haggard):

Thursday’s drought monitor report estimates that 27.22% of the state is in “exceptional” drought, a category indicating drought conditions that historically have occurred every 50 years.

This is up from 24.64% last week. The week-to-week increase came mostly from the southwestern corner of the state, which was previously in the “extreme” category. This category is for conditions historically occurring every 10 years.

Colorado Drought Monitor November 17, 2020.

Some of the reasons for the current drought include the low snow totals from last winter, little rain this summer and a continued lack of precipitation into the fall. In the southwest, these factors have meant that soil moisture has continued to drop, and stream flows are much lower than normal.

Rich Tinker, a meteorologist with the Climate Prediction Center and author of this week’s report, noted that even after the state’s recent snowstorms, it’s too soon to tell if they indicate a change in momentum, or if they’re “just a blip on the radar” in what could be a very dry winter…

All of Colorado has been in some degree of drought since mid-October. The last time this happened was in 2013, and even then, “exceptional” drought was not as widespread as it is now.

US Drought Monitor November 5, 2013

Of the 1,090 weeks that the U.S. Drought Monitor has put out its national report, Colorado has seen just seven weeks when “exceptional” drought was this widespread, Tinker said. They all occurred in 2002.

US Drought Monitor August 6, 2002

“This is a pretty anomalous situation that we’re in,” he said…

Tinker noted that the impacts of climate change further emphasize the need to put data in an updated context. “When does dry become normal if it’s always dry?” he said.

From The Rifle Citizen Telegram (Ray K. Erku) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

Garfield County is on track to endure one of its worst droughts since 2002, according to a National Weather Service meteorologist…

Meanwhile, exceptional drought conditions – the highest intensity on the drought monitor – cover the majority of the rest of the Western Slope and Southwest regions of the state. To the east, the Front Range and High Plains are also threatened by either abnormally dry or moderate to severe drought conditions…

But, Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs for the Colorado River District in Glenwood Springs, said the currently dry soils of the Western Slope could pose a threat to the efficacy of a good snowpack altogether.

The same thing happened this past year. The Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys welcomed an average to slightly above average snowpack. The snow, however, fell on dry soils, causing a domino effect on the ensuing spring and summer seasons.

“What it means is, we’re going into this snowpack season with dry soils once again,” Pokrandt explained. “The problem with dry soils is that they have a degrading effect on next spring’s runoff.”

There is, however, another factor that could make or break next year’s soil conditions: La Nina.

Pokrandt said the entire country this year falls under this weather pattern, meaning time will only tell whether the valley gets hit with a decent amount of snow this coming winter season. Typically, places like Wyoming, Utah and mostly northern Colorado reap the benefits of a precipitation-heavy La Nina.

On the flipside, La Nina is a phenomena that typically leaves parts of southwest Colorado, New Mexico and California high and dry, according to Pokrandt. It’s sibling weather pattern, El Nino, means dryer conditions in the northern part of the Rockies.

@ColoradoStateU team lands NSF award to study streams, #snowpack in #CameronPeakFire area

The Cameron Peak Fire burns on the ridge between Beaver Creek and the south fork of the Cache la Poudre River one mile east of
Colorado State University’s Mountain Campus, in mid-October. Photos: William A. Cotton/CSU Photography

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Mary Guiden):

A team of scientists at Colorado State University has received an award of nearly $50,000 from the National Science Foundation to study snowpack, streams and sediment in waterways in the areas affected by the largest wildfire in Colorado history.

Stephanie Kampf, principal investigator and a professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, said the team came up with the study concept as they watched the Cameron Peak Fire begin to burn northwest of Fort Collins in August 2020.

The fire was at 92% containment as of Nov. 18.

“Given that the fire was burning in our local watershed, everyone is curious about what would happen with our waterways,” she said. “The Cameron Peak Fire has been unique, since it started at and burned a large area at high elevation.”

Kampf said the fire is the fifth largest in a high-elevation persistent snow zone in the Western United States since 1984.

“As researchers started looking for examples of other high-elevation fire studies, we realized that not much research has been conducted,” she said.

CSU Assistant Professor Sean Gallen and Professor Sara Rathburn, Department of Geosciences, and Assistant Professor Ryan Morrison, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, are co-investigators on this project. Kampf said that scientists from the United States Geological Survey will also collaborate on the research.

Historic wildfire provides unique research opportunity

A helicopter drops water on the Cameron Peak Fire near CSU’s Mountain Campus. Photo credit: Colorado State University

Morrison, who will study how stream channels and floodplains in the Cache la Poudre River basin are impacted by changes in sediment transport and flow after the fire, agreed that the Cameron Peak Fire had unique aspects to study.

“The Cameron Peak Fire in northern Colorado has burned nearly 20% of the upper Cache la Poudre River basin, which supplies water to meet municipal and agricultural needs in the region,” he said. “The fire has also expanded to lower elevations, burning both transitional and intermittent snow zones.”

Morrison said water providers, including cities in northern Colorado, are concerned about the impacts of erosion on streams and reservoirs. Snowpack is crucial for the water supply in Colorado.

“This project will collect critical data for the first snow accumulation and melt season after the fire to address how the fire affects snow processes, flow paths and sediment movement,” he said.

Kampf said previous research on the impacts of wildfires on snowpack have been quite variable.

“When there’s a fire, we can see increased snow accumulation, due to fewer trees intercepting the snow,” she said. “But this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes greater exposure of the snow to the sun leads to lower snowpack after fire.”

And while snow melt doesn’t usually create high elevation snow hazards, Kampf said it’s possible that having greater snowpack in the burn area may cause other hazards like debris flows.

The research team only recently received approval to go into the burn area and begin field work. They hope to complete as much research as possible before there’s a lot more snow on the ground.
Additional researchers on this project at CSU include Paul Evangelista and Tony Vorster (Natural Resource Ecology Lab), Dan McGrath and Ellen Wohl (Department of Geosciences), Peter Nelson (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), Steven Fassnacht (Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability), and Kristen Rasmussen (Department of Atmospheric Science).

#GlenwoodSprings gets $8 million loan for water-system upgrades following #GrizzlyCreekFire — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The Colorado River divides Glenwood Canyon slurry on the ridge from the Grizzly Creek Fire on Monday, August 24, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times via Aspen Journalism)

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

Glenwood Springs has received approval for a loan of up to $8 million from the state to upgrade its water system to deal with the impacts of this past summer’s Grizzly Creek Fire.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved the loan for system redundancy and pre-treatment improvements at its regular meeting Wednesday. The money comes from the 2020 Wildfire Impact Loans, a pool of emergency money authorized in September by Gov. Jared Polis.

The loan will allow Glenwood Springs, which takes most of its municipal water supply from No Name and Grizzly creeks, to reduce the elevated sediment load in the water supply taken from the creeks as a result of the fire, which started Aug. 10 and burned more than 32,000 acres in Glenwood Canyon.

Significant portions of both the No Name Creek and Grizzly Creek drainages were burned during the fire, and according to the National Resources Conservation Service, the drainages will experience three to 10 years of elevated sediment loading due to soil erosion in the watershed. A heavy rain or spring runoff on the burn scar will wash ash and sediment — no longer held in place by charred vegetation in steep canyons and gullies — into local waterways. Also, scorched soils don’t absorb water as well, increasing the magnitude of floods.

The city will install a sediment-removal basin at the site of its diversions from the creeks and install new pumps at the Roaring Fork River pump station. The Roaring Fork has typically been used as an emergency supply, but the project will allow it to be used more regularly for increased redundancy. During the early days of the Grizzly Creek Fire, the city did not have access to its Grizzly and No Name creek intakes, so it shut them off and switched over to its Roaring Fork supply.

The city will also install a concrete mixing basin above the water-treatment plant, which will mix both the No Name/Grizzly Creek supply and the Roaring Fork supply. All of these infrastructure improvements will ensure that the water-treatment plant receives water with most of the sediment already removed.

“This was a financial hit we were not anticipating to take, so the CWCB loan is quite doable for us, and we really appreciate it being out there and considering us for it,” Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Matt Langhorst told the board Wednesday. “These are projects we have to move forward with at this point. If this (loan) was not an option for us, we would be struggling to figure out how to financially make this happen.”

Without the improvement project, the sediment will overload the city’s water-treatment plant and could cause long, frequent periods of shutdown to remove the excess sediment, according to the loan application. The city, which provides water to about 10,000 residents, might not be able to maintain adequate water supply during these shutdowns.

According to the loan application, the city will pay back the loan over 30 years, with the first three years at zero interest and 1.8% after that. The work, which is being done by Carollo Engineers and SGM, began this month and is expected to be completed by the spring of 2022.

Langhorst said the city plans on having much of the work done before next spring’s runoff.

“Yes, there is urgency to get several parts and pieces of what the CWCB is loaning us money for done,” he said.

The impacts of this year’s historic wildfire season on water supplies around the state was a topic of conversation at Wednesday’s meeting. CWCB Director Rebecca Mitchell said her agency has hired a consultant team to assist communities — through a watershed restoration program — with grant applications, engineering analysis and other support to mitigate wildfire impacts.

“These fires often create problems that exceed impacts of the fires themselves,” she said. “We know the residual impacts from these fires will last five to seven years at minimum.”

Aspen Journalism is a local, nonprofit, investigative news organization covering water and rivers in collaboration with The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent and other Swift Communications newspapers. This story ran in the Nov. 19 edition of the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent.

#Utah’s state engineer rejects plan to divert #GreenRiver water for #Colorado entrepreneur — The #SaltLake Tribune #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #endangeredspecies

The entrance to the popular Gates of Lodore stretch on the Green River, not far downstream from where Aaron Million of Ft. Collins has proposed to divert 55,000 acre-feet of water from the river each year and pipe it to the Front Range. There’s plenty of opposition to the idea, but there is also interest in the water in eastern Colorado.

From The Salt Lake Tribune (Brian Maffly):

Utah State Engineer Teresa Wilhelmsen has rejected a controversial proposal to divert 55,000 acre-feet of the Green River’s flow from Utah to Colorado’s fast-growing Front Range cities.

A detail of a map produced by Water Horse Resources, and published by the state of Utah, showing the proposed diversion point on the Green River, between Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument. The red and white line represents a pipeline that heads northeast out of Utah, across a corner of Colorado, and into Wyoming, where it joins an alignment of another potential pipeline that is connected to the Green above Flaming Gorge.

Colorado entrepreneur Aaron Million has been pursuing this idea for more than a decade, resurrecting his pipeline proposal in 2018 after two prior failed attempts at approval. This time his firm White Horse Resources proposed a scaled-down pipeline tapping the Green below Flaming Gorge Dam at Browns Park and running 325 miles underground to Denver. Dubbed the “Green Sun Storage Hydro Power Project,” it would generate hydropower along its 3,800-foot decent from the Continental Divide to the Front Range.

Wilhelmsen found the proposal ran counter to policies Utah has been pursuing for decades regarding the recovery of endangered species of fish and the Beehive State’s own interest in developing its share of water in the Colorado River system…

Meanwhile, Wilhelmsen is considering Utah’s own proposal to substantially alter an 86,000-acre-foot water right associated with Flaming Gorge, moving the point of diversion downstream to feed the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline.

At a hearing before the state engineer two years ago, Million likened his project to the 140-mile pipeline across southern Utah to St. George, claiming there was sufficient flows in the Green to accommodate both diversions.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has previously twice turned down similar Green River diversions proposed by Million.

“This [latest] decision is a big win for the Green River as well as the people and endangered fish that depend on it,” said Taylor McKinnon, a senior campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope the state engineer’s decision is the final nail in the coffin of this absurdly greedy, irresponsible plan.”

[….]

Diverting the water at Browns Park would have undermined costly efforts underway to rescue some of the Green’s native fish, McKinnon and other environmentalists argued.

Click here to read the order.

Green River Basin

#Drought news: Dryness persisted or worsened throughout the large area of entrenched drought from the Rockies westward, and dry conditions are intensifying quickly across the central Plains

Click on a thumbnail graphic 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

Heavy precipitation – from 2 to locally near 8 inches – pelted the Carolinas, southern Appalachians, mid-Atlantic region, Pacific Northwest from the Cascades westward, higher elevations of the northern Intermountain West and western Wyoming, northeastern Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Lesser amounts of 0.5 to locally over 2 inches dampened most of a large area from eastern sections of the central and northern Great Plains eastward through the middle and upper Mississippi Valley, Great Lakes Region, Appalachians, and Atlantic Coast States. Similar amounts fell on lower elevations of the northern Intermountain West and Pacific Northwest. Meanwhile, light precipitation at best fell on the central and western Gulf Coast States, most of the Plains, and the Southwest. Meanwhile, temperatures were generally cool in the West and warm in the East. Temperatures average 12 to 15 degrees F above normal from the Carolinas through Alabama. above normal from the High Plains of subnormal temperatures. In contrast, it was 8 to 12 degrees F cooler than normal from Montana southward through Utah, Arizona, the Southwest and the Great Basin. This pattern brought areas of improvement to parts of the Northeast the western Ohio Valley, the northern half of the Mississippi Valley, and northern sections of the Rockies, Intermountain West, and Pacific Northwest. In stark contrast, conditions deteriorated through most of central and eastern Texas, parts of the central Great Plains, the southern High Plains, and the central tier of the Four Corners States. As the period ended, dryness had persisted or worsened throughout the large area of entrenched drought from the Rockies westward, and dry conditions were intensifying quickly across Texas and the central Plains…

High Plains

A few inches of precipitation fell on the highest elevations, particularly in western Wyoming. This induced some reductions in drought severity there, but broad areas of extreme to exceptional drought remained across the rest of Wyoming and Colorado, with the most severe classification D4 almost ubiquitous across western Colorado. Farther east, moderate to severe drought persisted across North Dakota, and generally moderate to severe drought stretched over much of Kansas and Nebraska. Conditions deteriorated across most of Kansas, but conditions were more stable farther north…

West

Exceptional D4 drought now extends across large sections of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah as conditions intensified along the middle tier of the Four Corners States. In some areas, moisture budget shortages date back to the weak monsoon season of 2018. Across most of Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico, precipitation totals were among the driest 5 percent on record at many locations. Surrounding these areas, a large area of D3 extreme drought extended from New Mexico and Colorado [westward] through most of Arizona and Nevada, and D3 also stretched from northern California northward through a large part of Oregon into southern Washington. This despite patches of improvement from moderate to heavy precipitation in parts of the Pacific Northwest and northern sections of the Intermountain West and Rockies. Dryness has not been as severe along the northern tier of the region compared to areas farther south, and precipitation was sufficient to remove all dryness from central and northern Idaho eastward across western and much of northern Montana…

South

Dryness and drought expanded and intensified significantly across Texas and adjacent parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas. Since mid-September, precipitation totals were 4 to locally 8 inches below normal across central and northeastern Texas, southern Oklahoma, and adjacent Arkansas. D0 and D1 broadly expanded across central and eastern Texas. Drought is more entrenched farther west in Teas, where many areas near New Mexico declined into D3 and D4 this week. Drought has been entrenched longer here than farther east. In the last half-year, much of western Texas outside the Panhandle received only 15 to 35 percent of normal precipitation…

Looking Ahead

Through November 23, 2020, moderate to heavy precipitation should primarily fall on a swath from Kansas and Oklahoma through the lower Great Lakes Region, the Ohio Valley, and upstate New York. Over 1.5 inches are expected across parts of southern Illinois, central Missouri, and southeastern Kansas. Through the rest of the country, amounts over 1.5 inches should be restricted to the northern half of the immediate West Coast and the windward Cascades. Light to moderate precipitation – from a few tenths to about an inch – is forecast in the Sierra Nevada and the higher elevations across Idaho, western Montana, northwestern Wyoming, and central Colorado. Light to moderate precipitation could also fall on Florida’s immediate Atlantic Coast, and a few tenths of an inch should dampen the Northeast. Little or no precipitation is expected elsewhere, including most areas in the West experiencing extreme to exceptional drought. Specifically, a dry week is expected in the Southeast, the Gulf Coast, Texas, the northern Great Plains, the High Plains, lower elevations of the Four Corners States, the valleys of the Pacific Northwest, the Great Basin, and the Southwest. Meanwhile, unusually mild weather will prevail across most of the country. Most areas from the interior Atlantic Coast States through the Rockies should average at least 6 degrees F above normal, with means exceeding 12 degrees F above normal over a large area from the Plains through the Southwest. Only portions of the northern Intermountain West and West Coast can expect near to slightly below-normal temperatures…

The Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 day outlook (November 24-28) favors subnormal precipitation to continue across most of the Plains, the upper Great Lakes Region, the Rockies, the Four Corners States, the Great Basin, and most of the Southwest. Subnormal precipitation is also favored in northwestern Alaska. Meanwhile, odds tilt toward surplus precipitation in southern Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, from the southeastern Great Plains and lower Great Lakes Region eastward to the Atlantic Coast. Meanwhile, a large part of the country has enhanced chances or warmer than normal weather, including central and western Alaska, the southern Rockies, the Plains, the Ohio Valley, the Southeast, and the mid-Atlantic region. Subnormal temperatures are not significantly favored anywhere in the continental 49 states.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 17, 2020.

Helping the ski industry with better #climate data — @ColoradoClimate Center #ClimateChange #ActOnClimate

Photo credit: Colorado State University

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Katie Courage):

The ski slopes of the Rocky Mountain West are facing new challenges as a shifting climate brings shorter winters and more severe droughts.

Few people, of course, are more aware of this than those in charge of running these ski resorts. But new research by the Colorado State University-based Colorado Climate Center found that these same ski managers often lack the tools and information to integrate the latest and most local climate data into operations and in planning for a successful future.

The interdisciplinary center, which is housed in the Department of Atmospheric Science at the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, recently conducted in-depth interviews with 21 ski area managers and critical staff members from 11 Rocky Mountain ski resorts, including seven in Colorado, about their use of climate data.

“Many ski areas we talked to recognized that they were doing the bare minimum and there was so much more to be learned,” said Natalie Ooi, an assistant professor in Warner College of Natural Resources’ Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. “They are hungry for this information to best position their business, and their communities, to address climate change for the sustainability of the destination.”

Properly informed planning can help ensure the survival of this critical regional industry, which provides not only a popular pastime but also generates $4.8 billion and creates 46,000 jobs annually in Colorado alone.

How resorts are planning for climate change

Snow depth, lift operations, avalanche mitigation, overnight temperature. Ski area managers have a lot of moving pieces to worry about to keep their resorts running smoothly and safely each day. So it’s no surprise that most managers have little bandwidth to integrate complex climate modeling and projections in their already hectic jobs.

In their research with ski area operators, the Climate Center team, which is also supported by the Colorado State Agricultural Experiment Station, found that “climate data, whether historical climate averages or future climate model projections, were generally beyond the planning ranges of most decision makers,” said Trevor Even, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology and Geography in the College of Liberal Arts.

That doesn’t mean the mountain resorts aren’t taking general climate-preparedness steps. Aware that winter temperatures are steadily rising and precipitation patterns are changing, essentially every ski resort in the United States now incorporates some sort of artificial snow-making to help ensure enough of the powdery stuff for visitors. Many are shoring up these efforts by buying additional water rights and creating water storage facilities. They are also buffering against fluctuating oil prices for this energy-intensive work by shifting to renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, and hydroelectricity.

Additionally, some resorts are working to mitigate risk from wildfires and changes in forest health. They are also investing heavily in fall and summer attractions to diversify revenue streams.

And they are learning about weather and climate as they go. “They have become – often self-taught – weather experts in their local mountain environment,” said Ooi, who is also the program coordinator of the Ski Area Management program. “However, many are unaware, beyond general climate change studies and data, of the kinds of changes they can expect to see – and therefore plan for – at the local level.”

Even agreed, adding that, “even for those few resorts and companies that were looking out to the long-term horizon, climate change was treated more as a generalized issue, without much time being put into understanding the local-scale implications.”

How the Colorado Climate Center can help

Becky Bolinger. Photo credit: Colorado State University

The Colorado Climate Center is tasked with providing climate services and support to the state.

“We already have long-standing relationships with the agricultural and municipal water sectors, but we have had more limited relationships with recreation,” like the ski industry, said Becky Bolinger, the assistant state climatologist for Colorado. “We have a wealth of climate information to share, and the ski industry is particularly sensitive to climate variability.”

So they saw an opportunity to help.

Newly informed by their conversations with the ski industry managers, the Climate Center team is now working to create a dashboard to bring together key weather and climate forecasting – tailored specifically for winter mountain recreation businesses. Bolinger noted that her group is also on hand to help ski areas make sense of climate data.

These conversations also help Bolinger and her colleagues find out what more they can do. “Sometimes it helps us identify gaps between what the ski area managers want and what is currently available.”

The sharing goes both ways. Ski resorts have been collecting extremely detailed slope-side weather information for decades. This sort of granular data could go a long way in making weather forecasting and climate modeling more accurate for these niche locations. This will help scientists “understand how high elevation, topographically complex areas fit into the overall weather and climate data picture – because these areas have been notoriously difficult to provide accurate predictions and modeling outputs for,” Even said.

Filling in these gaps in forecasting will be a big help, Ooi added, because “many ski areas acknowledged a difference between what they see out their window on the mountain versus what the weather forecasts say for their region or nearby town.”

Deepening these lines of communication can also help “develop a foundation of trust between those generating information and those receiving it,” Even said.

It will also help resort managers make a case to their directors or shareholders for the smartest preparations to weather the near- and long-term changes, “such as bigger investments in forest management and wildfire mitigation,” Even noted. “More importantly, ski areas can play a huge role in helping the broader population understand changes that are already occurring locally – and what sort of cherished experiences and places are at stake when we’re thinking about the real impacts of climate change,” he said.

This partnership work can also reassure people that Rocky Mountain skiing has a future.

“The surprise is that many ski areas are more vulnerable to the public perception of drought and climate change impacts” than the changes themselves, Bolinger said. “This is an opportunity to share with people what the ski industry is doing to tackle these issues – and also to communicate that this industry is resilient and, with proper planning, can continue to be successful in the midst of a changing climate.”

LM Collaborates with Gunnison County, #Colorado, to Ensure a Safe Water Supply — US Department of Energy

Here’s the release from the Department of Energy:

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM) is collaborating with Gunnison County, Colorado, to connect more domestic residences with private water wells within the groundwater contamination boundary at the former Gunnison uranium mill site to a municipal water supply.

“This is a major milestone that reflects LM’s mission of protecting human health and the environment,” said Jalena Dayvault, site manager for LM’s Gunnison, Colorado, Site. “Gunnison County Public Works Director, Marlene Crosby, worked diligently to get remaining domestic well users on-board so this project could move forward.”

The Gunnison site is a former uranium ore processing site located about a half-mile southwest of the city of Gunnison. The mill processed approximately 540,000 tons of uranium ore between 1958 and 1962, providing uranium for national defense programs. These ore processing activities resulted in contaminated groundwater beneath and near the site.

In 1994, a water treatment plant, storage tank, and distribution system were partially funded by DOE and installed to supply municipal drinking water to all residences within the contaminated groundwater boundary. This project was part of the remedial action plan at the former uranium mill site and is considered a protective measure in case the contaminated groundwater plume was ever to affect domestic well users within this boundary.

A small handful of homeowners with domestic wells in use before the cleanup continue to use those wells for drinking water. As part of LM’s long-term stewardship activities at the site, the office has monitored these wells annually to verify that mill-related contaminants have remained below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum concentration limits for the groundwater.

Working closely with Gunnison County Public Works, LM made funds available in September 2020 to support Gunnison County Public Works in connecting more residences with domestic wells to the municipal water supply. Excavation work began in November to connect the first residence to the alternate water supply.

“We started putting a game plan together back in early January of this year, reaching out to homeowners to get their buy-in and preparing a scope of work and budget for the project,” said Joe Lobato, site lead for the Legacy Management Support Partner (LMSP). “The LM and LMSP team has a great working relationship with Gunnison County.”

This map shows the municipal water system that provides clean water to residents near the former uranium processing site. Credit: Department of Energy

Chaffee County calls for more time, study of contentious Nestlé water-bottling plan — The #ColoradoSun

From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

Commissioners want to measure the potential impact of Nestlé’s proposal to pump, truck and bottle up to 65 million gallons of water a year.

After several meetings in the last two months featuring hours of public input — virtually all of it opposing the plan — and executive session discussions with attorneys, the county’s three-member board of commissioners on Tuesday announced a plan to hire an economic analysis firm to study the economic impacts of the water-pumping proposal.

“I want to make the best decision I can with just three people here trying,” Commissioner Greg Felt said on Nov. 10 as he floated the idea of hiring an economist to study Nestlé’s request for a 10-year permit to pump and bottle water from a network of wells on the Arkansas River.

Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company, began drawing water from the valley in 2009 as part of a 10-year permit. That permit allowed the company to drill wells, build a pipeline and truck water to Denver for bottling under the Arrowhead brand. The company acquires water from the Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District every year to augment flows in the river and replace its removal of groundwater.

Last year the company asked for a permit renewal and, after pandemic delays, the county began studying the request in October. Chaffee County’s commissioners have heard from dozens of residents that a lot has changed in the decade since Nestlé first arrived…

Nestlé earlier this year announced a plan to replenish all the water it sucks from watersheds and offset the carbon impact of bottling and transporting water. That “zero environmental impact” sustainability plan was followed by news that the international conglomerate was exploring the sale of bottling operations in the U.S. and Canada. The possibility of a sale troubled Chaffee County commissioners. The board drafted new permit rules that, if approved, would require local approval of a new owner to operate under the Nestlé permit.

Nestlé Waters North America was amenable to the new requirement. And the company earlier this month, in response to local input, crafted new conditions for the permit that would direct more Nestlé money into the local community…

The new conditions divide the company’s contributions to the county into two tiers based on how much water is extracted for bottling.

When the company pumps less than 125 acre-feet, or roughly 41 million gallons a year, the school districts in Buena Vista and Salida would get $15,000 a year for the length of the 10-year contract and up to $10,000 more a year for each school district depending on matching funds…

Ruby Mountain Springs site. Photo credit: Nestle Waters North America

The commissioners will meet again on Dec. 8 to discuss a contract with an economic advisory group — the cost of which will be covered by Nestlé Waters North America — as well as the possible extension of the company’s permit during the analysis.

Helping farmers while keeping water in the #ColoradoRiver — Western Resource Advocates #COriver #aridification

A powerful sprinkler capable of pumping more than 2,500 gallons of water per minute irrigates a farm field in the San Luis Valley June 6, 2019. Credit: Jerd Smith via Water Education Colorado

From Western Resource Advocates:

When Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, it included provisions tailored specifically to help Western farmers, ranchers, tribes—and for the first time, irrigation districts—transition to water-efficient practices. The new programs help meet several important needs for farmers, irrigators, and the environment. Unfortunately, many potential applicants are too busy handling the day-to-day challenges of their farming operations to learn about the funding and other assistance.

That’s where Kim Mitchell, Western Resource Advocates’ Arizona-based senior water policy advisor, comes in.

Mitchell is a native Arizonan and hydrologist who has worked to solve some of Arizona’s biggest water challenges. She knows how important water efficiency is to revitalize the Colorado River and benefit farmers struggling with more frequent drought brought on by climate change. She saw that by connecting farmers and irrigators with the Farm Bill’s new funding and programs, she could help growers and advance WRA’s goal of keeping more water in the river.

Mitchell assembled a fact sheet about the Farm Bill programs and started reaching out to state agriculture officials, decision makers, irrigation districts, producers, and Arizona’s tribal communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit just as Mitchell was starting her outreach, so she moved some of her meetings to Zoom. Still, she’s been able to have a few—socially distant—field visits to learn more about how to help growers connect the resources in the legislation with their everyday challenges.

For example, she visited an Indigenous community interested in improving water conservation by transitioning from flood furrow irrigation to sprinklers or drip and adding other infrastructure improvements.

Mitchell is talking to other growers who are considering changing cropping patterns or transitioning to less water-intensive crops—like substituting cotton or alfalfa with wheat that uses about one-third less water. This can be unaffordable because such lower-value crops often bring in less income. The Farm Bill provides financial incentives, but growers have to know about the programs to take advantage of them. That’s one reason Mitchell’s outreach is so valuable.

The November 2020 newsletter is hot off the presses from the Water Information Program

Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt (Elaine Chick):

The Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District (ALPWCD) Celebrates Final Water Purchase from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority

The Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District (ALPWCD) celebrates the Districts final purchase of the water from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority.

On Saturday, October 17th the ALPWCD held a celebration at the Tribute Gardens at Lake Nighthorse commemorating the final payment option of their incremental purchase from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority (CWR & PDA) for their share of 700 AF of depletion purchased as part of the Animas La Plata Project.

First authorized by the U.S. Congress on September 30, 1968 (Public Law 90-537), the Animas-La Plata Water Project experienced a few decades of delays due in part to political concerns, farming claims, environmental challenges, cost overruns and government funding issues. A breakthrough to the delays came with the Colorado Ute Settlement Act Amendments in December 2000 (Public Law 106-554).

Christine Arbogast, Kogovsek & Associates, lobbyist at that time with ALPWCD for the project, stated, “Advocacy is all about relationship. This project would not have happened if all of the partners for the project had not stuck together in that family relationship that is ALP.”

The Bureau of Reclamation began construction in 2003, with the reservoir filling to capacity on June 29, 2011 at a total cost of $500 million. Lake Nighthorse is named in honor of former United States Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo. The reservoir is part of the Animas-La Plata Water Project, providing water storage for tribal and non-tribal water right claim-holders on the Animas River in both Colorado and New Mexico.

The Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District was one of the seven original sponsors of the ALP Project: The other sponsors included the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, State of Colorado, La Plata Conservancy District in New Mexico, and San Juan Water Commission in New Mexico.

The general purpose of the District includes, but is not limited to: “acquire and appropriate waters of the Animas and La Plata rivers and their tributaries and other sources of water supply by means of ‘works’ as defined in the ‘Water Conservancy Act’ and to divert, store, transport, conserve and stabilize all of said supplies of water for domestic, irrigation, power, manufacturing and other beneficial uses within and for the territory to be included in the District.”

The ALPWCD Statutory Project Allocation was purchased in advance on behalf of local entities by the Colorado Water and Power Resource Development Authority. ALPWCD being one of those entities, worked for many years to make that incremental purchase from the Authority, and now that water is in local hands and is being put to use. ALPWCD has made subsequent sales of their portion of the original allocation of that water that provides multiple benefits to the community. One of ALPWCD’s principle missions is to develop water for the benefit of the local community, and that has happened!

The City of Durango has purchased the remaining amount of the original ALPWCD Project Allocation from the Authority to firm up their future water supplies, and the La Plata West Water Authority and Lake Durango Water Authority have made subsequent purchases of water from the Animas-La Plata District which is being put to use for rural domestic water in the western part of La Plata County.

The Animas-La Plata Project is managed by the ALP Operations, Maintenance and Replacement, Association, and includes representatives from the project participants. (ALPOM&R Association). Recreation at Lake Nighthorse is managed by the City of Durango in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation.

Water projects can take decades to come to fruition, but after many years of hard work by countless individuals and organizations uses are occurring from this reservoir and associated project facilities. This is one more step in making the water in Lake Nighthorse of beneficial use to local communities!

U.S. Forest Service approves protection of Colorado’s Sweetwater Lake, but big questions remain

Sweetwater Lake, Garfield County, Colorado. Photo credit: Todd Winslow Pierce with permission

From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

Interior Sec. David Bernhardt’s order on Friday requires new provisions for Land and Water Conservation Fund allocations, further clouding the Great American Outdoors Act.

The White River National Forest’s request for Land and Water Conservation Fund money to permanently protect Garfield County’s Sweetwater Lake — a pristine oasis surrounded by public lands — has been granted.

But the agency did not say how much of the requested $8.5 million from the fund will be distributed. That’s just one of several recent examples of foot dragging by Trump Administration land managers who have missed critical deadlines imposed by the Great American Outdoors Act, a sweeping public lands bill that President Donald Trump promoted to help buoy Republican senators facing tough re-election bids in the West.

The Forest Service on Friday released its 2021 list of Land and Water Conservation Fund projects for state grants under the Forest Legacy Program and for land acquisition. The list was due Nov. 2 as part of the passage this summer of the Great American Outdoors Act, which promised to whittle down an estimated $20 billion in deferred maintenance on public lands and directed $900 million a year into the Land and Water Conservation Fund. (The fund is supported by oil and gas royalties paid by energy companies exploring and drilling on federal land and water.)

The Great American Outdoors Act requires the Forest Service and the Department of Interior to submit “a detailed description of each project, including the estimated expenditures from the fund for the project for applicable fiscal years,” by Nov. 2. Both agencies missed that deadline. The list released Friday by the Forest Service also lacked the dollar figures required by the legislation.

As an added twist, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Friday issued an order that added new provisions to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, including severe limitations on the Bureau of Land Management’s ability to add new acreage. Bernhardt’s Secretarial Order 3388 prioritized land acquisitions by the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the BLM.

A vague list he scripted last week distributing $900 million worth of Land and Water Conservation Fund money sent just $2.5 million to the BLM for land acquisition, and dismissed six projects that had been previously trumpeted by the Trump Administration during the summer’s cheerleading for the Great American Outdoors Act.

“That is consistent with the disdain Bernhardt has had for the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Aaron Weiss, the deputy director for the Center for Western Priorities. “He tried to defund it for three years and now he’s throwing sand in the gears before he leaves. Really, these guys are just making it up as they go along right now because they know it doesn’t matter. They are going to be gone soon.”

Bernhardt’s order also requires both the approval of state governors and local county leaders for all federal land acquisition. The Garfield County Commissioners have long opposed adding federal land in their county but they do support the protection of Sweetwater Lake…

In the final line of Friday’s order, Bernhardt added a legally questionable clause.

“The termination of this order will not nullify the implementation of the requirement and responsibilities effected herein,” he wrote.

A workaround emerges

But there is another option for seeing the Great American Outdoors Act fully deployed. Congress could force Bernhardt and the Forest Service to fund all the projects that were part of the promotions for the legislation. And lawmakers appear to be preparing to do just that.

The U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released funding recommendations for the Interior Department and Forest Service with specific projects and dollar amounts. The committee plan directs $54.1 million to the BLM — a $51.6 million increase over Bernhardt’s plan — and $120 million to the Forest Service for land acquisition. The committee’s list for LWCF acquisition projects includes $8.5 million for the Forest Service for Sweetwater Lake.

Sweetwater Lake and the surrounding 488 acres has been owned for decades by private developers who pondered a luxury retreat, a golf course and even a water-bottling facility. The White River National Forest’s request for Land and Water Conservation Fund support was among the agency’s Top 10 priority projects for 2021.

Officials with the White River National Forest directed all calls about plans for Sweetwater Lake to the agency’s national press office, where spokeswoman Babete Anderson said there was no more information to share…

When, or if, the land becomes part of the National Forest System, the White River has a long list of priorities for Sweetwater Lake, including improvements to the water supply on the property and upgrades to a campground and boat launch.

The agency is in talks with Colorado Parks and Wildlife about a shared management plan at Sweetwater Lake that could lead to the property becoming a new state park.

“Sweetwater checks some important boxes for CPW and what we want stuff to look like. There is obviously water recreation and we also like the location as close as it is to I-70,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton. “Then there’s the access it provides to federal land, just a massive amount of land. So yes, there are many reasons we want to be part of that conversation with the Forest Service. We are in a mode right now where we are looking at other parcels. The governor has let his intention be known that he wants more state parks.”

The 77-acre Sweetwater Lake and more than 400 acres surrounding it could be open to the public if a conservation plan shifts the property into the White River National Forest. (Provided by The Conservation Fund via The Colorado Sun)

More fires, bigger fires trend likely to continue in #Colorado — The #ColoradoSprings Gazette

The East Troublesome fire as seen from Cottonwood Pass looking north on the evening of Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020. (Andrew Lussie via InciWeb via The Colorado Sun)

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Evan Wyloge):

Over the past two decades, fire seasons in Colorado have consistently grown larger and more destructive. The three largest wildfires in tracked history ignited within 10 weeks of one another this year, putting the year’s total wildfire-burned acreage above the past six years combined.

It’s a trend caused by several factors, experts and researchers say, and it’s likely to continue.

large fires that characterized this year, said Camille Stevens-Rumann, a Colorado State University professor whose research focuses on fire ecology.

“If you think about other areas like California, or even other Rocky Mountain states, like Montana or Idaho,” she said, “they’ve had huge fires. We’ve not seen those. We had Hayman in 2002, then bad years in 2010 and 2011, but we haven’t had to face this reality until this year.”

Hotter, drier seasons, along with some misguided forest management practices, are to blame, she and other experts agree.

Fires in Colorado are a natural event, they stressed. The lodgepole pine is cited as an example of how the ecology has evolved to coexist with regular fires. The tree’s pine cone opens and releases the seeds when it raises to a certain temperature. And the natural cycle is for the adult lodgepole pines to be burned…

Higher temperatures — average global temperatures have risen about 1 degree Celsius since the middle of the 20th century — mean the mountain snowpack doesn’t last as long, Hurteau said. The same higher temperatures that shorten the winter then, in the summer, sap moisture from the ecosystem, priming Colorado’s forest vegetation for a fire.

Two key metrics quantify for researchers how much the higher temperatures cause the more rapid drying of the environment.

“Vapor pressure deficit and climatic water deficit: How much moisture does the atmosphere want to pull out of the soil, versus how much there is,” Stevens-Rumann said. “As temperatures increase, there’s more demand in those two metrics.”

The natural process plays out every summer, but with snowpack disappearing earlier in the year and not arriving until later, it happens more intensely and for a longer duration…

Bark beetle is another factor that stokes Colorado’s wildfires. If a patch of trees becomes infested, after time, the trees die, leaving dead, drying timber that’s primed to ignite because of the drying pattern, the experts said. And while pine needles, twigs, loose foliage or leaves on the forest floor can burn quickly without burning larger trees, standing dead trees burn hotter for longer, further contributing to more intense fires…

Forest management practices have contributed to the problem as well. The doctrine of extinguishing forest fires as quickly as possible, without regard to the natural cycle of burning and regeneration for forests, has led to more fire-prone wildland…

He said there are now efforts to bring a better approach to forest management, which lets some of the fuel burn, to better match the natural cycle.

Why understanding #snowpack could help the overworked #ColoradoRiver — The Deseret News #COriver #aridification

Horseshoe Bend.

From The Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

The U.S. Geological Survey is in the beginning stages of learning more about this river via an expanded and more sophisticated monitoring system that aims to study details about the snowpack that feeds the river basin, droughts and flooding, and how streamflow supports groundwater, or vice versa.

Begun earlier this year, the probe is part of a larger effort by the federal agency to study 10 critical watersheds throughout the country by expanding its monitoring capabilities.

According to the research agency, it maintains real-time monitors that provide data on the nation’s water resources, including more than 11,300 stream gauges that measure surface-water flow and/or levels; 2,100 water-quality stations; 17,000 wells that monitor groundwater levels; and 1,000 precipitation stations.

While that may seem like a lot, the network falls short of meeting the demands of modern-day analysis. The monitors in place cover less than 1% of the nation’s streams and groundwater aquifers and were designed to meet the needs of the past, according to the agency.

The USGS will be installing new monitoring equipment and enhancing existing streamgages in the headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison River Basin (Upper Colorado River Basin) beginning in 2020, subject to availability of funding. Credit: USGS

Because of this, the agency is investing in the Next Generation Water Observing System, which will tap sophisticated new monitoring capabilities resulting from recent advances in water science.

The effort will also bring together the knowledge and expertise of agency scientists, resource managers and other stakeholders to determine water information needs not only now, but into the future.

The system will use both fixed and mobile equipment — including drones — to collect data on streamflow, evapotranspiration, snowpack, soil moisture, water quality, groundwater/surface-water connections, stream velocity distribution, sediment transport and water use.

When it comes to the Colorado, understanding snowpack is critical because the Upper Colorado River Basin supplies about 90% of the water for the entire Colorado River Basin — with about 85% of the river flow originating as snowmelt from about 15% of the basin at the highest altitudes.

The lower basin is arid and depends upon that managed use of the Colorado River system to make the surrounding land habitable and productive.

“New monitoring technology is essential to addressing many issues associated with our annual water balance in the Upper Colorado River Basin,” said Dave “DK” Kanzer, who is deputy chief engineer at Colorado River Water Conservation District.

#Nebraska expects to meet #RepublicanRiver pact with #Kansas — #Kearney Star-Herald

From The Associated Press via The Kearney Star-Herald:

Todd Siel with the Lower Republican Natural Resources District said he expects the state will be able to meet the terms of the Republican River compact next year without putting additional restrictions on irrigation or pumping additional water into the basin.

Siel told the Kearney Hub that Harlan County Lake is still mostly full thanks to the extremely wet weather of 2019, and that is a major factor in helping Nebraska comply with the river pact next year.

The Republican River Compact allocates the waters of the basins between the states of Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.

Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado have fought for decades over water entitlements provided under the compact. The compact has resulted in lawsuits among the states, which regulate access to the water.

The compact signed in 1943 gives Nebraska the rights to 49 percent of the river’s water, while Kansas receives 40 percent and Colorado gets 11 percent. The Republican River originates in Colorado, crosses the northwestern tip of Kansas into Nebraska, then runs through Nebraska before re-entering Kansas through its northeastern corner.

More than 9,000 Landsat images provide vegetation health metrics for the Republican River Basin. Credit: David Hyndman

#Snowpack news: The #RioGrande leads in early snowpack totals = 154% of normal

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

And here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for November 16, 2020.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map November 16, 2020 via the NRCS.

Next Generation Water Observing System: Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin — @USGS #COriver #aridification

Colorado River. Photo credit: USGS

Here’s the release from the USGS (Chad Wagner):

The Next Generation Water Observing System provides high-fidelity, real-time data on water quantity, quality, and use to support modern water prediction and decision-support systems that are necessary for informing water operations on a daily basis and decision-making during water emergencies. The headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison River Basin provide an opportunity to implement the NGWOS in a snowmelt-dominated system in the mountain west.

The USGS Next Generation Water Observing System (NGWOS) is generating integrated data on streamflow, groundwater, evapotranspiration, snowpack, soil moisture, water quality, and water use. When fully implemented, the NGWOS will intensively monitor at least 10 medium-sized watersheds (10,000-20,000 square miles) and underlying aquifers that represent larger regions across the Nation.

The USGS will be installing new monitoring equipment and enhancing existing streamgages in the headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison River Basin (Upper Colorado River Basin) beginning in 2020, subject to availability of funding. Credit: USGS

The USGS has selected the headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison River Basin (Upper Colorado River Basin) in central Colorado as its second NGWOS basin. This decision was based on rigorous quantitative ranking of western basins, input from USGS regions and science centers, and feedback from targeted external stakeholders in the west.

The Upper Colorado River Basin is important because nearly all flow in the Colorado River originates in the upper basin states and runoff from the Upper Colorado River Basin is nearly three times that of other basins in the area. Thus, the Upper Colorado River Basin is particularly critical for downstream users.

Long-term drought conditions facing the Upper Colorado region, interstate ramifications of the drought, water-quality issues, stakeholder support, and alignment with Department of Interior and USGS priorities make the Upper Colorado an ideal basin to implement the USGS’s integrated approach to observing, delivering, assessing, predicting, and informing water resource conditions and decisions now and into the future. Of note, a newly released (October 2019) Federal Action Plan for Improving Forecasts of Water Availability includes a milestone to pilot long-range water prediction in the Upper Colorado River Basin, an activity that will greatly benefit from the newly selected USGS NGWOS basin.

An integrated data-to-modeling approach in the Upper Colorado River Basin will help improve regional water prediction in other snowmelt dominated systems in the Rockies and beyond. The approach is useful for addressing issues of both water availability and water quality and for evaluating the effects of both short-term climate perturbation (for example, fire, insect mortality, drought) and long-term climate change.

Water Resources Challenges in the Colorado River Basin

The Colorado River supplies water for more than 40 million people and nearly 5.5 million acres of farmland across the western United States and Mexico. The Colorado River and its main tributaries originate in the mountains of western Wyoming, central Colorado, and northeastern Utah. The large amount of snowmelt that feeds the Upper Colorado is central to water availability throughout the Basin. In 2019, urgent action was required to prevent previously developed rules from potentially reducing Colorado River water allocations to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico due to declining water levels in the two largest reservoirs within the Colorado River Basin—Lake Powell and Lake Mead. A Colorado Drought Contingency Plan was signed in April 2019.

NGWOS Characteristics

  • State-of-the-art measurements
  • Dense array of sensors at selected sites
  • Increased spatial and temporal data coverage of all primary components of the hydrologic cycle
  • New monitoring technology testing and implementation
  • Improved operational efficiency
  • Modernized and timely data storage and delivery
  • Briefing sheet

    The USGS Next Generation Water Observing System Upper Colorado & Gunnison River Basin: Briefing sheet

    The hydraulics of the world’s first industrial plant: a unique construction in the Barbegal water mills —

    View of the ruins of the Barbegal mill complex in 2018. Photo credit: Universitaet Mainz

    Here’s the release Universitaet Mainz:

    An elbow-shaped water flume as a special adaptation for the Barbegal mill complex and a symbol of the ingenuity of Roman engineers

    The Barbegal watermills in southern France are a unique complex dating back to the 2nd century AD. The construction with 16 waterwheels is, as far as is known, the first attempt in Europe to build a machine complex on an industrial scale. The complex was created when the Roman Empire was at the height of its power. However, little is known about technological advances, particularly in the field of hydraulics, and the spread of knowledge at the time. A team of scientists led by Professor Cees Passchier from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) has now gained new knowledge about the construction and principle of the water supply to the mills in Barbegal. The research results were published in Scientific Reports.

    A mill complex consisting of a total of 16 water wheels in two parallel rows

    Watermills were one of the first sources of energy that did not depend on the muscle strength of humans or animals. In the Roman Empire they were used to make flour and sawing stone and wood. As one of the first industrial complexes in European history, the Barbegal watermills are an outstanding example of the development at that time. The mill complex consisted of 16 water wheels in a parallel arrangement of eight wheels each, separated by central buildings and fed by an aqueduct. The upper parts of the complex were destroyed and no traces of the wooden structures have been preserved, which is why the type of mill wheels and how they worked remained a mystery for a long time.

    However, carbonate deposits that had formed from the flowing water on the wooden components remained. These were stored in the archaeological museum in Arles and only recently examined in detail. The researchers found an imprint of an unusual, elbow-shaped flume that must have been part of the mill construction. “We combined measurements of the water basins with hydraulic calculations and were able to show that the flume to which this elbow-shaped piece belonged very likely supplied the mill wheels in the lower basins of the complex with water,” said Professor Cees Passchier. “The shape of this flume was unknown from other watermills, either from Roman or more recent times. We were therefore puzzled as to why the flume was designed this way and what it was used for.”

    Carbonate deposits from the side wall of the elbow-shaped water flume, which have formed on the inside of the wooden flume. The vertical patterns are imprints of saw marks on the wood. Photo credit: Universitaet Mainz

    An elbow-shaped flume as a unique adaptation for the Barbegal mills

    At first glance, the team found such a flume unnecessary and even disadvantageous, because it shortens the height from which the water falls onto the mill wheel. “However, our calculations show that the oddly shaped flume is a unique adaptation for the Barbegal mills,” explained Passchier. The distribution of the carbonate deposits in the elbow-shaped flume shows that it was inclined slightly backwards against the direction of the current. This created a maximum flow rate in the first, steep leg of the flume, and at the same time the water jet to the mill wheel obtained the correct angle and speed. In the complicated mill system, with small water basins, this unique solution was more efficient than using a traditional, straight water channel. “That shows us the ingenuity of the Roman engineers who built the complex,” emphasized Passchier.

    “Another discovery was that the wood of the flume was probably cut with a mechanical, water-powered saw, which is possibly the first documented mechanical wood saw – again evidence of industrial activity in ancient times.” The research was carried out by a multidisciplinary team of experts in geology, geochemistry, hydraulics, dendrochronology, and archaeology.

    Sketch of the Barbegal mill complex with the lower three water basins with mill wheels and water flumes: The lower basins most probably had elbow-shaped flumes. Credit: Cees Passchier

    The carbonate deposits that formed on the ancient hydraulic structures are an important tool for the researchers for archaeological reconstructions. In an earlier project, the team led by Professor Cees Passchier was able to show that the flour from the Barbegal mills was probably used to make ship biscuits. “The carbonate deposits give us extremely exciting insights into the skills of Roman technicians at a time that can be seen as the direct predecessor of our civilization,” added Passchier, Professor of Tectonic Physics and Structural Geology at the JGU Institute of Geosciences from 1993 to 2019, now Senior Research Professor in Geoarchaeology.

    #Thornton warns of looming #water shortage that could hamper long-term growth in the northern suburb — The #Denver Post

    From The Denver Post (John Aguilar):

    …city leaders say they are increasingly frustrated by Larimer County’s unwillingness to let them build a critical pipeline that would carry the water from the Cache La Poudre River near Fort Collins to Thornton — so much so that they have started alerting developers that the city may have to stop issuing building permits.

    The new language warns that “the City does not guarantee capacity in its water or wastewater systems for proposed or future developments.”

    Among the projects at stake for the state’s 6th largest city is dense multi-family housing planned around new N-Line rail stations that just went operational in September.

    That’s frustrating to Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, who points to the thousands of acre-feet of water the city owns free and clear in the Cache La Poudre River northwest of Fort Collins — water rights it purchased more than three decades ago…

    The answer goes back to February 2019, when the Larimer County commissioners unanimously voted to deny Thornton a permit for a 72-mile-long pipeline the city wants to install to carry that water to this suburb of 140,000. Jeff Coder, Thornton’s deputy city manager of city development, said the denial essentially holds Thornton’s growth plans “hostage.”

    The city has enough water in its portfolio to supply 5,000 additional housing units, he said, or approximately 160,000 residents. The city’s long-term vision is for a population of 240,000 by 2065.

    While no builders have pulled out of the city, Coder said, that day may not be far away. Maybe as soon as 2024 or 2025, he said.

    “It’s understandably creating a great deal of concern,” he said. “In fairness to those who are making significant investments in our community, we don’t want someone who has gone through the approvals process expecting to get a building permit to have us at the last minute tell them we can’t because of this water issue.”

    We want to prepare people for a worst-case scenario.”

    […]

    Fort Collins community members kayak and sit on the shore of the Poudre River during the grand opening of the Poudre River Whitewater Park off of North College and Vine Drive Oct. 12. (Alyssa Uhl | The Collegian)

    The obvious solution, [Gary Wockner] said, is for Thornton to let its water flow down the Poudre through Fort Collins — “use the river as a conveyance” — and take it out further downstream near Windsor, obviating the need for a $450 million pipe that will require trenching and burial across 26 miles of Larimer County…

    The city counters that allowing its share of water to flow through Fort Collins — and past several water treatment facilities — would severely degrade its quality and cost the city dearly to clean it. Emily Hunt, deputy infrastructure director for Thornton, said the river option was merely one of a number of alternatives the city put on the table as it was firming up plans to access its water.

    “We specifically picked a site that was above urban impacts and the price we paid reflected that,” she said. “If we wanted a low-quality source that we clean up later, we could have done that and paid less money.”

    According to the city, Thornton paid $578 million for 289 shares of water and storage rights in the Poudre River, along with $92 million for more than 18,000 acres of farmland in Larimer and Weld counties, where it has been sending its Poudre shares by ditch over the last 30 or so years.

    But that level of investment wasn’t enough to sway the commissioners in Larimer County last year.

    Outgoing Commissioner Steve Johnson said then that the proposed 48-inch diameter pipe, which would run across the northern edge of Fort Collins to Interstate 25 before turning south toward Thornton, ranked as one of the most contentious issues he had ever seen raised in the county.

    But just this past September, the same commissioners voted 2-1 to approve a 1041 permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a controversial $1.1 billion water storage initiative that would create Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and a second reservoir out on the eastern plains.

    It also involves several water pipelines running through Larimer County.

    Thornton recently included the NISP approval in its court filings appealing Larimer County’s denial of its pipeline project, citing it as evidence that the commissioners’ 2019 decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

    TomTalks Episode 16: Veterans to Farmers — One World One Water Center

    This TomTalks was a huge labor of love! Josie Hart, from the Denver Botanic Gardens, joined us on site at DBG’s Chatfield Farm to discuss their Veterans to Farmers program and the incredible healing nature of farming. We did have some issues with wind and apologize for the sound issues. We hope you enjoy learning about this great program that aims to honor, support, and educate veterans.

    On environmental protection, @JoeBiden’s election will mean a 180-degree turn from [the current administration’s] policies — The Conversation


    President-elect Joe Biden opposes proposals to allow uranium mining around the Grand Canyon, which the Trump administration supports.
    Michael Quinn, NPS/Flickr, CC BY

    Janet McCabe, Indiana University

    The Trump administration has waged what I and many other legal experts view as an all-out assault on the nation’s environmental laws for the past four years. Decisions at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department and other agencies have weakened the guardrails that protect our nation’s air, water and public lands, and have sided with industry rather than advocating for public health and the environment.

    Senior officials such as EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler assert that the Trump administration has balanced environmental regulation with economic growth and made the regulatory process less bureaucratic. But former EPA leaders from both Democratic and Republican administrations have called this administration’s actions disastrous for the environment.

    Rolling back laws and hollowing out agencies

    The Trump administration has used many tools to weaken environmental protection. For example, Trump issued an executive order in June 2020 to waive environmental review for infrastructure projects like pipelines and highways.

    The EPA has revised regulations that implement the Clean Water Act to drastically scale back protection for wetlands, streams and marshes. And the administration has revoked California’s authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own standards for air pollution emissions from cars, although California is pressing ahead.

    The Trump administration has also changed agency procedures to limit the use of science and upended a longstanding approach to valuing the costs and benefits of environmental rules. It has cut funding for key agency functions such as research and overseen an exodus of experienced career staff.

    Worker at Iowa wind turbine plant
    A worker installs components at the base of a wind turbine blade at the Siemens plant in Fort Madison, Iowa. President-elect Joe Biden views renewable energy as a major source of high-wage manufacturing jobs.
    Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images)

    A quick about-face

    I expect that the Biden administration will quickly signal to the nation that effectively applying the nation’s environmental laws matters to everyone – especially to communities that bear an unfair share of the public health burden of pollution.

    With a closely divided Senate, Biden will need to rely primarily on executive actions and must-pass legislative measures like the federal budget and the Farm Bill to further his environmental agenda. Policies that require big investments, such as Biden’s pledge to invest US$400 billion over 10 years in clean energy research and innovation, can make a big difference, but may be challenging to advance. Coupling clean technology with infrastructure and jobs programs to build back better is likely to have broad appeal.

    I expect that officials will move quickly to restore the role of science in agency decision-making and withdraw Trump-era policies that make it harder to adopt protective regulations. A Biden EPA will end efforts to impede states like California that are moving ahead under their own authority to protect their residents, and will make clear to career staff that their expertise is valued.

    The agency is likely to withdraw or closely scrutinize pending Trump proposals, such as the ongoing review of the current standard for fine-particle air pollution. Officials also will review pending litigation, much of which involves challenges to Trump administration rule revisions and policies, and decide whether to defend any of them. There likely won’t be many.

    In their final campaign debate, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden offered sharply contrasting views of how environmental protection affects the economy.

    One area where EPA can quickly change course is enforcement. Biden’s climate and energy plan pledges to hold polluters accountable, and his administration reportedly plans to create a new division at the Justice Department focused on environmental and climate justice. Biden has promised greater attention to environmental justice communities, where neighborhoods are heavily affected by concentrations of highly polluting sources such as refineries and hazardous waste sites.

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

    Many of these actions can be done quickly through new executive orders or policy changes. Regulatory changes will take longer. In my view, Biden’s biggest challenge will be deciding what to prioritize. His administration will not be able to do (or undo) everything. Even with a revitalized career workforce and political staff all rowing in the same direction, there won’t be enough bandwidth to address all the bad policies enacted in the past four years, let alone move forward with a proactive agenda focused on public health protection and environmental justice.The Conversation

    Janet McCabe, Professor of Practice of Law, Indiana University

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

    Our way of life defends on oil, gas rules that protect wildlife — Leroy Garcia

    Christmas Elk via the Middle Colorado Watershed Council December 2013

    Here’s a guest column from Leroy Garcia that’s running in The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Just 1 percent of Colorado’s landscape borders rivers and streams, yet these areas support 80% of all wildlife habitats. Big game like elk and deer pass down migration routes for generations. Oil and gas developments that happen too close to rivers, streams or within these historic migration corridors, could sacrifice the health of our waterways and disrupt the sustainability of big game in Colorado.

    Why does this matter to a sportsman like myself? It is simple: hunting is about tradition. Most hunters I know have learned about the sport from a loved one. Things like field dressing techniques, safety protocols, and recipes have been shared through generations. But if we don’t protect our land, water and wildlife, it’s not just family tradition that will suffer — many Colorado communities will have to find new ways to compensate for the loss of revenue that the hunting community provides.

    For families, small businesses and rural communities, navigating the world as it rapidly changes is no small task. Now more than ever, we need to support cultural traditions and invest in the long term economic health of rural towns across Colorado.

    As we look to the future, it is imperative that the COGCC adopt development buffers that bravely defend wildlife and the ecosystems that support them. Only then can we protect local sporting communities, the rural towns they call home, and the Colorado way of life that makes us all say “there’s no place else I’d rather be.”

    Fires, #drought and dust storms: #Colorado’s extreme weather events in the past year — The Ark Valley Voice #ActOnClimate

    From The Ark Valley Voice (Brooke Gilmore):

    This year, Colorado has seen the two worst fires in its history. On top of this, the dust levels in the Great Plains have doubled in the past 20 years. Both are examples of the real impacts of global warming and the changing of our climate…

    It’s November, and the Colorado fires are still not out. According to the Denver Post the East Troublesome Fire, the second-largest fire in Colorado’s history, has burned 193,812 acres and was only 47 percent contained. The Cameron Peak Fire, the largest in Colorado’s history has burned 208, 913 acres and as of November 5 was 92 percent contained with ongoing investigations of the fire…

    There are currently seven active wildfires across Colorado. The fire season is in part due to the compound issue of short-term natural climate variability layered with fundamental changes to the long-term climate from global warming. According to the Colorado Climate Center, Colorado is experiencing a drought for the first time since 2013. Fully 97 percent of the state is in exceptional, extreme, or severe drought categories.

    The senior water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University, Brad Udall told CBS News “This year was shocking because we had a decent winter and on April 1, we had 100 percent of the snowpack. With 100 percent of snowpack, you’d expect a decent runoff year. Instead, we ended up with 52 percent of what is normal.”

    This water runoff is important because how quickly it melts determines water availability for soil and vegetation. The decrease in runoff is due to an increase in evaporation brought on by significant heatwaves in the state.

    The high country isn’t the only landscape impacted by rising temperatures and climate change. In October, a storm reminiscent of the dust bowl swept across the Great Plains creating a wall of dust that could be seen from space stretching from eastern Colorado into Nebraska and Kansa.

    A study conducted by Gannet Haller, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Utah, explained that these dust storms have become more common and more intense over the past 20 years, due to frequent droughts and the expansion of croplands. Haller even went as far as to say that the result of this study suggests a tipping point that mirrors the return of conditions of the 1930s dust bowl.

    These dust storms remove soil nutrients and decrease agricultural productivity while also presenting health hazards, according to Andy Lambert the co-author of the study and a meteorologist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. This dust contains ultrafine particles that can penetrate cells in the lungs, impacting people with long conditions like Asthma, and causing cancer and heart disease.

    Snowpack news: Wolf Creek Summit SWE = 8.1″ #ColoradoRiver #COriver #SanJuanRiver #aridification

    From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

    Snow report

    According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek Summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 8.1 inches of snow water equivalent as of 2 p.m. on Nov. 11.

    That amount is 169 percent of the Nov. 11 median for the site.

    The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basins were at 148 percent of the Nov. 11 median in terms of snowpack.

    River report

    With more winter storms rolling through Pagosa Springs and the surrounding areas, the San Juan River flow spiked to over 300 cfs on Nov. 8. As of 2 p.m. on Nov. 11, the river flow at the U.S. Geological Survey station in Pagosa Springs was listed at 58.1 cfs.

    Based on 84 years of water records, the average flow rate for this date is listed at 99 cfs.

    The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1987 at 340 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 13 cfs, recorded in 1951.

    The San Juan Water Conservancy District Invites Public Participation in Budget Decision — The Pagosa Daily Post #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Swim class on the San Juan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From the San Juan Water Conservancy District (Al Pfister) via the The Pagosa Daily Post:

    As is custom and per State procedures, the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) is in the process of developing our 2021 budget.

    Our draft 2021 budget sets the framework for our activities in the coming year. In an effort to better communicate with our district taxpayers as to how we can provide the appropriate amounts of water under wet and drought conditions, we are inviting you to a public meeting and hearing on November 16, 2020 at 5:00pm via ZOOM to discuss our proposed 2021 budget.

    We have developed our proposed 2021 budget to be used to set the framework for activities that we will implement in the accomplishment of our mission. Our mission is to ensure water resources are available for beneficial use to those who do provide water (such as the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District) for the community. This may come in the form of consumptive uses like agriculture, municipal, fire protection, and industrial pursuits. This may also mean non-consumptive uses such as recreational, wildlife habitat, and aesthetics.

    Our main focus with the 2021 budget will be implementation of our Strategic Plan that will deal with the challenge of serving the water needs of the majority of Archuleta County. We look forward to seeing and hearing from you on November 16. If you would like more information or want to discuss the budget and associated issues, please contact me or any board member whose contact info is listed on our website — http://www.sjwcd.org — under the “About Us” tab. The website also has the draft 2021 budget, our draft Strategic Plan, the meeting agenda, and the ZOOM information.

    Accomplishment of our mission must take place in accordance with Colorado water law (including the prior appropriation doctrine), and following the direction set forth in the Colorado State Water Plan.

    The Colorado Water Plan (Plan) was completed in 2015 and is based on three foundational elements: interstate compacts and equitable apportionment decrees (ie. each of the States are entitled to a certain amount of water as detailed in the respective compacts), Colorado water law, and local control. The Plan is the result of several years of statewide collaborative efforts and discussions about how the water needs of Colorado residents and downstream users will be met. “It sets forth the measurable objectives, goals, and actions by which Colorado will address its projected future water needs and measure its progress- all built on our shared values”. As a headwaters state we need to be actively involved in ensuring our water needs and rights are met, while also complying with interstate compacts.

    The San Juan River, and its tributaries, contribute water needed to comply with local water rights user’s needs, as well as several interstate compacts (Colorado River Compact 1922, Rio Grande River Compact 1938, Upper Colorado River Compact 1948, others). Admittedly, how all these water rights needs are met is a very complex and confusing scenario, under which SJWCD is charged with accomplishing our mission under State statute. Nonetheless, the Water District is responsible for ensuring the conditional water rights owned by the District taxpayers are utilized to meet our shared water needs. In order for the District to better understand how the District’s taxpayers want that to happen, we need your input.

    We hope to finalize our Strategic Plan that outlines our implementation of the statewide Plan in the next couple months.

    Al Pfister is Board President for the San Juan Water Conservancy District.

    Shoshone power plant outages concern Glenwood Canyon #water users — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    The Shoshone hydro plant in Glenwood Canyon, captured here in June 2018, uses water diverted from the Colorado River to make power, and it controls a key water right on the Western Slope. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    It has been a rough year for operations at the Shoshone hydropower plant in Glenwood Canyon.

    First, ice jammed the plant’s spillway in February, damaging equipment that required repair. The plant came back online in July but was able to generate electricity for only a few weeks before the Grizzly Peak Fire burned down its transmission lines.

    According to the plant’s owner, Xcel Energy, the electricity impacts of the outages at the 15-megawatt generating station have been minimal, and the utility expects the plant to go back online this week. But while the electric grid can manage without the plant, the outage presents a much bigger threat to the flows on the Colorado River because the plant has senior water rights dating to 1902.

    This means that any water users upstream with junior rights — which includes utilities such as Denver Water that divert water to the Front Range — have to leave enough water in the river to meet the plant’s water right of 1,250 cubic feet per second when the plant is running. When the Shoshone makes a call, the water makes its way through the plant’s turbines and goes downstream, filling what would otherwise often be a nearly dry section of river down toward Grand Junction.

    A Shoshone call keeps the river flowing past the point where it would otherwise be diverted, supporting downstream water uses that would otherwise be impossible on this stretch of river. But when the plant is down, as it has been for most of 2020, that call is not guaranteed.

    The Grand River Diversion Dam, also known as the “Roller Dam”, was built in 1913 to divert water from the Colorado River to the Government Highline Canal, which farmers use to irrigate their lands in the Grand Valley. Photo credit: Bethany Blitz/Aspen Journalism

    “Historically, what the Shoshone plant has done is kept a steady baseflow, which makes it easier for irrigators down here to be able to divert their own water right,” said Kirsten Kurath, a lawyer for the Grand Valley Water Users Association, which represents agricultural water users. “When the river goes up and down, it takes a lot of operational effort.”

    The Shoshone water right also supports important nonconsumptive water uses. It provides critical flows needed for fish habitat and supports a robust whitewater-rafting industry in Glenwood Canyon. When the river drops too much below 1,250 cfs, it can create for a slow and bumpy ride.

    Glenwood Canyon/Colorado River. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    “Customers get off and think, ‘Ugh, it would have been more fun to go to Disneyland,’ ” said David Costlow, the executive director of the Colorado River Outfitters Association. “Much lower and you are really scraping down that river and at some point you just pull the plug.”

    The nearly year-long outages at Shoshone have many on the river worried. When the plant is down for repairs or maintenance, it does not make its call on the river allowing users upstream — including those that pipe water to the Front Range — to begin diverting. The Shoshone call can be the difference between the water remaining on the Western Slope or being diverted to the Front Range. Long outages, such as this one, reveal the vulnerability of the water on which so many rely.

    “It’s a critically important component to the way that the Colorado main stem water regime has developed over more than a century now,” said Peter Fleming, the general counsel for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “It’s sort of the linchpin or the bottom card.”

    Water interests on the Western Slope have made some headway in recent years to maintain the status quo on the river even when Shoshone is down. Most of the major junior water-rights holders upstream of the plant — including Denver Water, Aurora and the Colorado Big Thompson Project — have signed on to the Shoshone Outage Protocol (SHOP). When the protocol goes into effect, as it has this year, these diverters have agreed to manage their diversions as if the Shoshone Plant — and the call — was online.

    The agreement has been in operation for about a decade, helping to maintain flows during periods where the plant has undergone repairs or maintenance. The agreement was formalized in 2016 with a 40-year term. While the outage protocol has staved off major drops in the Colorado River flow over the years, the agreement is not as secure as water users that rely on Shoshone’s flows would prefer.

    “SHOP is the best alternative that we have right now, but it doesn’t completely restore the flows,” said Kurath. “And one of the other problems right now is that it’s not permanent.”

    For water users downstream of Shoshone, SHOP has three major issues. First, it is only guaranteed for 40 years, which for water planners is considered a short time frame. Second, the agreement does not include every upstream diverter, meaning that it doesn’t completely restore the flows to the levels where they would be if the Shoshone plant were on. Third, the agreement allows some of its signatories to ignore SHOP under certain water-shortage scenarios.

    Despite the drought this year, the conditions never reached a point where SHOP’s signatories were able to opt out of the protocol, so the agreement went into effect when river levels dropped. But even though SHOP worked this year, the long outages at the Shoshone plant highlight the uncertainty of the plant’s future.

    “We’ve always been nervous about it,” Fleming said. “It’s an aging facility, it doesn’t produce a ton of power, and we don’t know how long it’s going to be a priority to maintain and operate.”

    The River District has been working to negotiate a more permanent solution for the Shoshone water rights for years. They have considered everything — from trying to buy the Shoshone plant outright to negotiating with diverters on the river to make something such as SHOP permanent.

    The Shoshone outages have given these efforts renewed importance. In a recent board meeting of the River District, Fleming said that resuming talks with Denver Water that had stalled during the pandemic is a top priority.

    While Fleming would not elaborate on the specifics of the ongoing negotiations, all options have the potential to impact many water users on the river — even those who aren’t at the negotiating table.

    “We don’t approach this like we have water rights that we don’t have,” Costlow said. “But our business depends on water, and it depends on water levels that make water fun.”

    This story ran in the Nov. 13 edition of The Aspen Times.

    “The Trump administration has been probably the most anti-environmental administration in history” — Will Toor

    Denver’s Brown Cloud via the Denver Regional Council of Governments.

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    The state officials overseeing efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, conserve natural landscapes and beat rising heat in Colorado anticipate better opportunities for federal help under Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.

    And they’re preparing for teamwork with the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and the departments of energy, transportation and agriculture, among other federal agencies, to move beyond planning to aggressive action on challenges from saving dying forests to cutting vehicle emissions.

    “It’s going to be a 180-degree shift,” Colorado Energy Office director Will Toor said in a video call with state agency chiefs. “The Trump administration has been probably the most anti-environmental administration in history. Certainly when it comes to addressing the challenges of climate change, they’ve done a surgical attack on virtually every federal policy that would support climate action… making it harder to act at the state level…

    Biden’s pledge to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and an expected push to contain warming sync with efforts under Democratic Gov. Jared Polis to reduce heat-trapping pollution within Colorado by closing coal-fired power plants and increasing regulation of the fossil fuel industry.

    Colorado ranks among the leading oil-and-gas producer states, exporting fossil fuels that when burned elsewhere accelerate climate warming. Biden has called for a $2 trillion stimulus investment to hasten a shift to clean energy and create jobs — funds that Colorado officials planned to tap.

    Biden also has promised reversals of Trump rollbacks of environmental regulations for protecting air, land and water. If Congress doesn’t collaborate, Biden has indicated he’ll wield executive power where possible to act unilaterally, which may reduce oil and gas drilling on western public lands.

    And Biden transition team officials are reviewing proposals that would advance climate action Colorado officials have begun to consider. For example, they’re mulling creation of a “carbon bank” run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would pay farmers who adopt no-till methods and store more carbon in soil — helping a draw-down of heat-trapping air pollution that causes climate warming…

    At the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, state efforts dealing with air pollution, emerging water contaminants such as PFAS “forever” chemicals and degradation of waterways traditionally have hinged on cooperative support from federal agencies.

    John Putnam, director of the state public health department’s environmental programs, anticipated a reinvigoration of agencies for better enforcement of national clean air and clean water regulations that under Trump were weakened…

    State officials cited examples where they felt the Trump administration stymied Colorado environmental efforts, including legal action against California’s stricter fuel-efficiency standards, which Colorado recently decided to follow. Trump officials also pressed Colorado to take the lead on toxic mine cleanups, and assume liability if things went wrong. And the weakening of Clean Water Act protections removed safeguards for many streams across Colorado.

    The increasing costs of dealing with climate change are falling largely on local communities where extreme weather and wildfires linked to warming hit home. In Boulder County, commissioners recently allocated $1.5 million to help deal with erosion and destruction of homes caused by the Calwood and Lefthand Canyon fires. A consultant hired by the county estimated costs for building resilience to climate warming will top $150 million a year for non-disaster impacts on infrastructure such as roads.

    The shift from Trump to Biden “means the world — the future of our planet,” said Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones, who also serves on Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission.

    “We have to get on track on climate change in the next decade,” Jones said. “If we spent four more years under a climate change denier, we might have dug ourselves into a hole bigger than we can get out of.”

    High Plains researchers to help protect Rocky Mountain National Park — Agrilife Today

    From Texas A&M University (Kay Ledbetter):

    A Texas A&M AgriLife-led team will work with the Colorado Livestock Association and a large team of Colorado stakeholders to refine and evaluate management practices to reduce agricultural ammonia emissions into Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Dream Lake with Hallett Peak in the background, one of the Rocky Mountain National Park’s most distinctive summits. Photo credit: Texas A&M University

    Agricultural operations along the northern Front Range of Colorado, including livestock operations, are believed to be a significant source of gaseous ammonia and other reactive nitrogen species in the atmosphere. Some of these may travel with air masses into Rocky Mountain National Park under so-called “upslope” conditions.

    The Colorado Livestock Association, CLA, has been at the forefront of the nitrogen deposition issue for the last 15 years. Over that period of time, the association has acknowledged that animal agriculture is a source of ammonia and does contribute to ammonia deposition.

    Last year, CLA conducted a survey of feedlot and dairy operations in Weld and Larimer counties to determine their use of best management practices recognized as effective in reducing ammonia emissions and the related barriers to adoption of those practices. Going forward, CLA is committed to communicating to the ag community and the public about the progress and results of the research.

    Texas project outlined for Rocky Mountain work

    Reducing ammonia emissions from livestock operations during upslope events will be the goal of the project led by Brent Auvermann, Ph.D., a Texas A&M AgriLife Research biological and agricultural engineer and Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center director, Amarillo.

    This Trail Ridge Road view of the Colorado Front Range shows how the upslope conditions are created. Photo credit: Texas A&M University

    “Upslope conditions bring rain and snow to the eastern side of the Continental Divide,” Auvermann said. Some of the reactive nitrogen in the atmosphere ends up dissolved in that precipitation and lands inside the national park, a process known as “wet deposition.”

    Auvermann’s research team has operated a wet-deposition monitoring site on the rim of North Cita Canyon in Palo Duro Canyon State Park south of Amarillo since 2008.

    “Our site is nearly identical to the monitoring sites in the (Rocky Mountain National) Park, where ecologists first discovered nitrogen enrichment changing the park’s vegetation and water chemistry,” he said.

    Although not all of the atmospheric ammonia along the Front Range comes from agriculture, agriculture has an important role to play, he said.

    “It doesn’t all come from Front Range sources either,” Auvermann said, noting that some of the nitrogen drifting into the national park comes from hundreds of miles away. “Still, we can make some good headway with the emitters nearby.”

    Joining Auvermann on the research team are Ken Casey, Ph.D., AgriLife Research air quality engineer, Amarillo; and David Parker, Ph.D., research agricultural engineer and leader of the Livestock Nutrient Management Research Unit, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Bushland.

    The research team has a lot of experience with ammonia from cattle feed yards and dairies, having developed the emissions-reporting mechanism that was adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 2009 to 2019.

    “EPA’s reporting instrument was based on research conducted right here in the Texas Panhandle,” Auvermann said. “Dr. Casey and Dr. Parker are widely known for their expertise in reactive nitrogen emissions.”

    The new research project is funded by a Conservation Innovation Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, NRCS.

    Colorado’s “glidepath” approach

    Stakeholders, consultants, and state and federal agencies have been working on a strategy to reduce nitrogen enrichment in Rocky Mountain National Park for nearly 20 years, Auvermann said.

    Rocky Mountain National Park entrance. Photo credit: Texas A&M University

    Their ultimate goal is to return the national park’s nitrogen budget to where it was many years ago using a strategy called the “glidepath.” The glidepath’s goal is to reduce the rate of nitrogen wet deposition in the park to 1.5 kilograms per hectare, or 1.34 pounds per acre, per year by 2032, with milestones along the way.

    “That’s a little less than half of what’s landing in the park right now,” Auvermann said.

    The Colorado team designed an early warning system, EWS, to notify crop and livestock producers of weather events that are expected to move the atmospheric nitrogen from Colorado’s eastern plains toward the Continental Divide.

    “With a little advance notice, we think producers can make short-term changes that will reduce nitrogen loads in the park,” said Auvermann. “Now we need to figure out how to optimize those changes and make them work cost-effectively.”

    Auvermann said while the effectiveness of those practices is proven scientifically, their project will deal with timing, amount, frequency, mode and operational variations of those practices. These details have not been worked out within the specific context of the EWS and components such as the forecast timing, duration and intensity of the upslope conditions.

    Details determine management practices success

    “We plan to help develop a decision tool for the voluntary implementation of two key practices by livestock producers in northeastern Colorado, both of which are intended to reduce ammonia emissions,” Auvermann said.

    The two tools are:

  • Applying water to open-lot pen surfaces via sprinklers or water trucks. Variations include timing, depth and frequency of application, plus injection of acidifying or enzyme-inhibiting agents.
  • Diluting irrigated wastewater with fresh water having a low concentration of dissolved nitrogen. Variations include the method of dilution – in-pipeline mixing, alternating effluent and freshwater applications – and injecting acidifying or other ammonia-suppressing agents.
  • Once the research is complete, the team will work with producers to optimize site-specific operational variables, and gain consensus for including those practices in cost-sharing programs, such as NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program, EQIP.

    Some practices may be part of routine agricultural management and can be delayed or rescheduled due to the upslope conditions with little additional cost or management effort. Others, however, may be more labor-intensive or costly, in which case producers may incur significant costs in increased expenses and/or foregone revenue.

    The team believes eligibility to receive EQIP cost-sharing funds to help defray the cost of implementation will increase the potential for voluntary adoption of those practices.

    “Rocky Mountain National Park is the crown jewel of the national park system as far as I am concerned,” Auvermann said. “It’s a real privilege to be invited to help protect her.”

    City of Sterling seeking public input on plan to curb water use — The #Sterling Journal-Advocate

    Photograph of Main Street in Sterling Colorado facing north taken in the 1920s.

    From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):

    The Sterling City Council got its first look at the proposed 2021 Municipal Water Efficiency Plan put together by BBA Water Consultants of Englewood during their meeting Tuesday night. The city must have a new water efficiency plan in place in order to access the financing for the wastewater treatment plan; a previous water conservation plan was completed in 2010.

    BBA Water Resources Engineer Tara Meininger gave a short presentation on the plan that focused on the 30 “water efficiency activities” outlined for implementation in the 2021-2027 plan period. Ultimately, the goal of those activities is to reduce unbilled water consumption within the city system, as well as reduce average individual demand, thereby extending the city’s water supply and reducing infrastructure and water treatment costs.

    If adopted, the efficiency plan would call for Sterling to:

    1. Install AMR [AMI?] meters in Sterling parks that still have manual meters.

    2. Identify unmetered uses if they still exist.

    3. Identify metered taps that have been inadvertently excluded from the billing system (primarily municipal metered taps) and adding those taps into the system

    4. Consider adding a “Municipal” customer type to the water billing system

    5. Consider adding a “School” customer type to the water billing system

    6. Determine whether current billing software can enhance water bills with customer-specific water use information and comparisons to the use patterns of similar water users.

    7. After completion of the waste water treatment plant upgrades, Sterling will consider whether changes to its water rate structure (for example, transition back to an inclined tiered water rate structure) would be feasible and appropriate.

    8. Sterling water staff will attend training through the Colorado Water Loss Initiative.

    9. By 2023, Sterling will implement a year-long technology-assisted leak detection program for its potable distribution network. Mapping of Sterling’s potable distribution network will be included.

    10. Sterling will proactively repair small leaks identified by detection efforts, provided repairs are within Sterling’s budget after higher-priority leaks have been addressed.

    11. Hire a new Water/Wastewater Compliance staff member who will also contribute to water efficiency programs.

    12. Install irrigation controllers at Sterling parks.

    13. If municipal facilities are upgraded or plumbing fixtures are replaced, Sterling commits to replacing those fixtures with water-efficient models.

    14. Sterling water staff will research the possibility of equipping fire department hose trucks with water meters.

    15. Consider whether any areas (especially parks) currently served by potable water supplies could be transitioned to non-potable supplies.

    16. Inventory cooling towers in Sterling to better understand cooling water demands and potential water efficiency activities.

    17. Consider a technical assistance program to assist Riverview Golf Course and Riverside Cemetery in controlling their irrigation water use.

    18. Sterling staff will approach the Department of Corrections to propose a rainwater collection program to irrigate the approximately 8 acres of fields within the Sterling Correctional Facility compound. Depending on DOC’s responsiveness and program details, the city might consider an incentive such as project assistance or funding.

    19. Consider a rebate program for irrigation controllers, using local plumbers as the intermediary.

    20. Consider implementing overspray watering restrictions.

    21. Consider whether additional ordinances could be passed to regulate cemetery and golf course irrigation.

    22. Consider improving Sterling’s existing landscape requirements so that xeriscaping options are highlighted and so that properties that do not maintain existing turf are required to replace it with xeriscape.

    23. Consider whether point of sale ordinances could achieve both water efficiency goals and property maintenance goals.

    24. In 2021, send out at least two educational inserts with water billings: one on water softeners/in-home water treatment, with information related to both water waste and water quality, and a second insert on xeriscaping and rainwater collection.

    25. Sterling would also consider installing a xeriscape garden and rainwater collection at City Hall as an example of what can be done.

    26. Include information about water efficiency during water treatment plant tours and presentations to the public.

    27. Consider whether water staff could make informational presentations at local schools, including information on how Sterling’s water supply is treated and the importance of water efficiency.

    28. Consider sending Sterling water staff to participate in the annual Logan County Children’s Water Festival.

    29. Post monthly water-efficiency related information on the Public Works Facebook account, or similar social media platforms.

    30. As part of the permit approval materials Sterling provides building permit applicants, Sterling Planning staff will include an educational insert on rainwater collection.

    Meininger noted that Sterling’s potable water consumption has been declining since the 1990s, which is credited in part to the implementation of watering restrictions and increased water rates. But, she said, when comparing the usage rates to other, similar Colorado municipalities, there is still room to improve…

    The council voted 7-0 to put the plan out for a 60-day public comment period, after which time the council will review the comments and possibly incorporate those along with any other changes, then adopt the plan. It will then be forwarded to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for approval, which will allow the city to draw down the loan for the wastewater treatment plant improvements.

    “Apparently, they’ve [the administration] already lost their interest in taking care of our public lands” — Senator Michael Bennet

    From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

    Funding details promised by the Great American Outdoors Act were due Nov. 2, but state and federal land managers are still waiting for specifics of what is supposed to be a record amount of money for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and deferred maintenance projects.

    The Great American Outdoors Act — brokered in part by Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and trumpeted by President Donald Trump as they both ran for re-election — directed the full $900 million a year to the LWCF, which uses royalties paid by energy companies to buy federal land for protection. And the legislation spread $9.5 billion over five years toward catching up on an estimated $21.6 billion in delayed upkeep on public lands. It also promised to more than double federal funding to several Western states that rely on LWCF support to acquire and protect public lands and access.

    But fear is growing that the promises of the Great American Outdoors Act — which had bipartisan support this election year — were more about politics than public lands.

    The deadline for the Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to submit its project lists for deferred maintenance and LWCF projects was last week. The agencies submitted lists for maintenance projects on time. But the LWCF lists arrived a week after the Nov. 2 deadline, following a Nov. 9 memo from the Trump Administration that delegated authority to the Interior and Agriculture departments to release the LWCF funding lists.

    The broad-stroke lists have left state and federal land managers scratching their heads.

    The lists included no details on specific projects or costs, even though those details — like $116 million for 61 ready-to-go BLM, Fish and Wildlife and National Park Service projects — were circulated by federal land agencies earlier this year when lawmakers were studying the Great American Outdoors Act. (The act requires “a detailed description of each project, including the estimated expenditures from the fund for the project for applicable fiscal years.”)

    And perhaps most troubling is the Interior Department’s Nov. 9 plan for spending the LWCF’s $900 million. The note from Interior Sec. David Bernhardt to the U.S. Senate allocated only $2.5 million to the Bureau of Land Management for land acquisition. The Forest Service’s list of 36 LWCF projects totaling $100 million included a note that one project was in Colorado’s White River National Forest. The White River National Forest’s only request for LWCF funding for Fiscal 2021 was for $8.5 million to acquire and protect Garfield County’s 488-acre Sweetwater Lake property.

    Sweetwater Lake, Garfield County, Colorado. Photo credit: Todd Winslow Pierce with permission

    Calls and emails to state BLM and Park Service officials were directed to the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., which did not respond. White River officials said they had not received any information about LWCF funding for Sweetwater Lake, which was acquired by conservation groups this spring with a plan to transfer the property over to the Forest Service.

    “The monumental nature of the Great American Outdoors Act deserves more information so the private sector can engage and we know where these investments will be made,” said Jessica Turner with the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a coalition of 33 outdoor organizations representing more than 110,000 businesses…

    “Apparently they’ve already lost their interest in taking care of our public lands,” Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said in an emailed statement. “Coloradans worked for years to secure full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fact that the Trump Administration is failing to follow through and meet LWCF deadlines, while not surprising, demonstrates a serious lack of commitment to conservation.”

    A spokeswoman with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the agency is waiting for information on project lists, official funding, timelines and whether the state grants the agency applied for have been approved…

    The U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Nov. 10 released funding recommendations for the Interior Department and Forest Service that provides specific details. The committee plan directs $54.1 million to the BLM and $120 million to the Forest Service for land acquisition. The committee’s list for LWCF acquisition projects includes $8.5 million for the Forest Service for Sweetwater Lake, $20.5 million for “recreational access” on BLM lands, $1 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s San Luis Valley Conservation Area and $850,000 for Dinosaur National Monument.

    The committee, in its allocation recommendations said it was “disappointed by the lack of specific bureau- and project-level information” offered by the Interior and Agriculture department secretaries and dismissed Bernhardt’s issues with precise price tags for repairs as “insufficient reason to withhold more specific costs by project.”

    The committee directed the two departments “to provide specific project information, including estimated costs by project, as soon as possible,” noting that it intended to fund LWCF through final appropriations — without or without the department lists.

    Aspinall Unit operations update November 12, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #GunnisonRiver

    #Drought news: W. #NE, most of #Colorado, and central #WY covered by extreme (D3) drought, and (D4, exceptional drought) was common across W. #CO

    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

    The heaviest precipitation fell on northwestern and southeastern parts of the country. The higher elevations of Washington and Oregon recorded 1.5 to locally 8.0 inches, with 2 to 4 inch totals reported in northwest Montana, north Idaho, and parts of eastern Washington and Oregon. On the other side of the country, Tropical Storm Eta dropped heavy rains on southern Florida. Amounts between 5 and 10 inches soaked parts of the greater Miami area. Meanwhile, moderate precipitation – with locally heavy amounts in the higher elevations – fell in association with the Pacific Northwest storm as it moved eastward. In general, precipitation totals (and drought relief) generally increased moving north and west away from southern California and the southern Rockies. Most higher elevations, in addition to a broad area across Montana, received at least 0.5 inch. East of the Rockies, moderate precipitation of 0.5 to locally 2.5 inches covered a swath from the central Great Plains northward through the upper Mississippi Valley and western Great Lakes. Similar amounts fell on a small area in the Louisiana Bayou, but across the rest of the central and eastern United States, little or no precipitation fell. The High Plains and lower elevations of the southern Intermountain West and Rockies also recorded no more than a few tenths of an inch. Above-normal temperatures broadly dominated the Nation from the Intermountain West eastward to the Atlantic Coast. Temperatures averaged 10 to 18 deg. F above normal from the southern High Plains northward and eastward through the Great Plains and Great Lakes Region. Slightly below normal temperatures were restricted to the western tier of states…

    High Plains

    Moderate to heavy precipitation brought some improvement into eastern Nebraska and small sections of southeastern South Dakota, but drier conditions farther west allowed dryness and drought to persist. Some deterioration to D1 was brought into a small area in south-central South Dakota, and D2 was expanded northward through much of north-central North Dakota. Across the vast majority of the region, dryness and drought remained essentially unchanged from the previous week. Now, a few areas of D1-D2 extend from northern Kansas northward through the Dakotas, with a small area of extreme drought assessed in southeastern South Dakota. Across Wyoming and Colorado, protracted and entrenched drought continues. Western Nebraska, most of Colorado, and the central tier of Wyoming are covered by extreme (D3) drought, and the most intense drought classification (D4, exceptional drought) was common across the western half of Colorado…

    West

    The Pacific storm dropped significant, widespread precipitation on areas from Washington and Oregon northeastward through the northern tier of Montana. Improvement was introduced in much of this region, although D2 to D3 conditions remain in central and southern Washington, and large areas of Oregon south of the immediate Washington border. Farther south, scattered light precipitation fell on lower elevations while moderate to isolated heavy precipitation dotted the higher mountains. Amounts were insufficient to bring improvement anywhere to south and east of northern Oregon, and conditions deteriorated in northern California, and in much of a broad swath from southwestern California eastward across New Mexico. Severe drought (D3) now covers most of Nevada and the Four Corners States, and broad sections of D4 persisted or expanded in east-central Nevada, much of central and southern Utah, north-central and south-central Arizona, and portions of northern and eastern New Mexico…

    South

    Light to moderate rain fell on much of Louisiana, but the rest of the region was warm and dry. As a result, dryness expanded in parts of Oklahoma, and a few patches of D0 began to dot the lower Mississippi Valley. More significantly, dryness and drought broadly intensified across Texas south of the Panhandle. Conditions are abnormally dry or worse across much of the state. Areas of D1 and a few patches of D2 were brought into parts of central and eastern Texas, while severe to exceptional drought is common in central Texas and the western tier of the state. Broad patches of D4 exceptional drought now cover much of the Big Bend and along the New Mexico border. Farther north, little change was noted across the Panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and near the Red River Valley…

    Looking Ahead

    Through November 16, 2020, heavy precipitation is expected from an interaction of a frontal system and Tropical Storm Eta in the Southeast. Up to 5 inches are expected in parts of the eastern Carolinas, and amounts of 1.5 to 4.0 inches are expected in the west-central Florida Peninsula and across the remainder of the Carolinas northward into the middle Atlantic states. Heavy precipitation is also expected in the Pacific Northwest, with 5 to 10 inches fairly common along the north half of the Pacific Coast and over the central and northern Cascades. Lesser amounts are forecast over the rest of the Pacific Northwest from the Cascades westward, and in some higher elevations across the Intermountain West. Moderate precipitation, with isolated amounts approaching 2 inches, could fall on the higher elevations in the central Rockies and in a swath across central Missouri and southern Illinois. In contrast, little or no precipitation is expected through the Plains, Gulf Coast, desert Southwest, and southern parts of California and Nevada. Meanwhile, most of the contiguous United States should average a few degrees above normal, with subnormal temperatures restricted to the northern Rockies and Intermountain West.

    The Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 day outlook (November 17-21) favors above-normal precipitation across much of Alaska, the northern and central Intermountain West, northern California, and the Pacific Northwest. From the Great Plains eastward to the Atlantic Coast, odds favor below-normal precipitation outside Maine and southern Florida. It should be cooler than normal in southeast Alaska, New England, the middle Atlantic region, and the eastern Carolinas. Warm weather should cover northern and western Alaska, from the Mississippi Valley west to the Pacific Coast, and along the Gulf Coast.

    US Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 10, 2020.

    Amber Weber appointed to Arkansas Basin Roundtable — Ag Journal

    From The Ag Journal (Christian Burney):

    Amber Weber via LinkedIn

    At the Nov. 2 Board of County Commissioners meeting, commissioners decided to appoint Amber Weber to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable at the recommendation of County Administrator Amy White-Tanabe…

    Weber is no stranger to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. She has participated on the roundtable in other capacities before. Since 2018, she’s served at the roundtable as Public Education, Participation and Outreach Coordinator. She is also on the Basin Implementation Plan Committee, which Weber said facilitates the discussion of how the Arkansas Basin fits into the Colorado Water Plan.

    “I facilitated educational opportunities, discussions, curated content, hosted workshops, et cetera, all surrounding one goal — water in the Arkansas Basin,” Weber told the La Junta Tribune-Democrat in an email.

    As a PEPO Coordinator, Weber has engaged in agricultural, municipal, recreational and environmental sectors of water, she said.

    “As I transition into a voting role, I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to represent Otero County and will be able to represent the best interests of the County and the citizens within it,” said Weber. “Through this voting seat for Otero County, I will be speaking with the commissioners regularly and ensuring each of them are kept in the loop on all items that come to the roundtable.

    Likewise, Weber will communicate Otero County’s ideas and concerns to the roundtable.

    Weber works as a consultant to Otero County Commissioners in other areas of county interest as well, such as the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance, a state-wide organization whose goal is to serve and protect water delivery providers, Weber said; she also serves as the soil health director for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District “as the district works to navigate the nexus between water and soil quality.”

    @DenverWater Notifies Littleton Residents Of Rate Increases — Patch.com

    From Patch.com (Amber Fisher):

    Rate changes are needed to help pay for Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program, officials said.

    Denver Water has been notifying Littleton residents of rate increases, which are set to begin Jan. 1.

    Most residents can expect rate increases of less than 70 cents if they use water at similar volumes to 2020, the agency said.

    Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

    The rate changes will help Denver Water pay for its Lead Reduction Program. The agency has sent letters to hundreds of Littleton homes — those built between 1983 and 1987 — to warn of possible lead contamination. The water does not contain lead, but the homes may have lead solder between copper pipes that could contaminate the water.

    To protect customers from lead in drinking water, Denver Water raised the pH of the water in March to reduce corrosivity, and the agency will be replacing all customer-owned lead service lines over the next 15 years, officials said.

    Will the West figure out how to share #water? — The Deseret News

    From The Deseret News ( Sofia Jeremias):

    Can farmers stop cities from buying their water rights and drying out agricultural land?

    Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

    Crowley County relied on water from the nearby Arkansas River, and had over 50,000 acres of irrigated farmland until a spate of water sales took place in the ’70s and ’80s. (An acre-foot of water is enough to meet the needs for two families in a year.)

    By 2002, only about 6,000 irrigated acres remained, and by 2017, the number had dropped to roughly 4,600.

    In the dry and arid West, where little rain falls, irrigation is the life blood of farming.

    As droughts become more persistent and urban growth across the Mountain West continues to skyrocket, agricultural communities are increasingly worried about losing their water to far away cities — turning the towns into dust bowls with few job prospects.

    Photo of Crowley County by Jennifer Goodland

    Since 2010, the West’s large cities and small towns have seen an average population growth of 9.1% and 13.3%, respectively. From 2018-2019, Utah, Idaho, and Colorado were the top three fastest growing states in terms of new housing.

    At the same time, the West is experiencing one of its worst droughts in years. More than a third of the West is experiencing “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, and 72.5 million people are living in areas “affected by drought,” The Washington Post recently reported.

    According to Colorado’s 2015 Water Plan between 500,000 to 700,000 acres of irrigated land in the state could disappear by 2050 due to urbanization.

    While places like Colorado’s Front Range, home to a corridor of the state’s largest cities from Denver to Boulder, continues to grow and climate change exacerbates drought conditions, the discourse over water is only going to get more tense.

    Water markets didn’t consider the ripple effects

    Heimerich, who is originally from New York, met and married a girl from Crowley County and they decided to move there in 1987 after his wife was offered a job as a nurse practitioner.

    His father-in-law was a farmer, and he decided to try his hand at the business.

    Heimerich’s father-in-law was one of the few who refused to sell his water rights in the past decades…

    In Crowley, water wasn’t just sold from one farmer to another, or even to nearby cities. Instead, the water flowed out of the county and to Colorado Springs, Aurora and Pueblo (towns between 50 to 100 miles east of the county).

    Because farmers in Crowley organized their farms around joint irrigation canals, once a certain percentage of the farmers that owned shares in a canal sold out, it made maintenance (from repairing breaks in lining to removing vegetation) more difficult and a heavier burden on those left behind.

    Heimerich said the water sales were like a divorce, or the splitting of assets after a family member has died and didn’t leave a will: “It’s that kind of underlying tension, and there’s no real forethought to what the long-term consequences are going to be.”

    Or, as one Crowley County farmer told a newspaper in 1992, “The ones who sold their water sold out their county.”

    […]

    Permanent dry up, like the one time sales that happened in Crowley, happens for a few different reasons: One is if there’s a water shortage that affects both cities and farms, another is water shortages that affect only agriculture, and another is an increased demand for water in areas outside of agriculture.

    What happened in Crowley County was so dire that it has since become the poster child for the negative consequences of “buy-and-dry,” when water goes from supplying farms to cities…

    Plus, the large swaths of dried out farmland have also created ecological problems — from dust to weeds…

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    A new way to share water

    People in Colorado, and other states in the West, have been looking into alternatives to “buy and dry” — a way to balance booming urban populations, water shortages and the needs of agriculture.

    In the past, the roll of water courts in Colorado wasn’t to consider the ripple effects that water sales have on the communities when large amounts of land go dry, said Scott Campbell, a conservation planner and water consultant. “We just need to figure out better ways to help manage our water sources.”

    One of the solutions that’s been gaining traction is water sharing agreements. Campbell has been a proponent for a new kind of water market: one where water is a “cash crop,” something farmers can lease to municipalities (rather than a one-off sale) and provides another form of stable income…

    However, despite a handful of pilot programs, water sharing agreements have yet to become ubiquitous, although they originated in California nearly two decades ago.

    Palo Verde, California, farmers started leasing water to the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California in the early 2000s. A similar agreement occurred with the Imperial Irrigation District in Southern California…

    In March, Utah’s governor signed a water banking bill, which would allow farmers to lease water to municipalities. And in Wyoming, ranchers were paid to forgo irrigation and instead let their water run down the rivers that feed Lake Powell and Lake Mead…

    Eric Hanagan is a fifth generation farmer in Otero County. He farms about 1,500 acres, primarily vegetables, seedless watermelons, cantaloupes, peppers and tomatoes, along with a few alfalfa fields…

    Hanagan began participating in a water leasing agreement a few years ago. A third of his farmland is fallowed (i.e. he does not plant crops) each year. The water is then leased to municipalities…

    Hanagan’s land is irrigated by the Catlin Canal, one of many irrigation ditches that feeds water from the Arkansas River to the surrounding land.

    His farm is one of six on the canal that participates in the lease-fallowing program. Farms that leased their water received about $700 dollars per fallowed acre according to the 2019 report from the Lower Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company…

    Will cities and farmers accept alternatives at greater scale?
    It remains an open question whether or not cities in the Mountain West will be open to leasing rather than buying water rights and permanently drying up farms.

    “It just gives us a level of certainty and control that you don’t get as part of a rotational leasing program,” said Alan Ward, the division manager for water resources for Pueblo, another city in the Arkansas Basin that has been experiencing moderate population growth in the past few years.

    In 2009, Ward started to worry about the impacts of climate change, making the water they receive from the Colorado River less reliable. So the city of Pueblo started purchasing water in an irrigation ditch east of the city…

    Bessemer Ditch circa 1890 via WaterArchives.org

    While Pueblo doesn’t need the water they’ve purchased just yet — they currently lease the water back to farmers, some are worried about what will happen when the city does need the water it purchased.

    “They are poised to dry about 5,000 acres of some of our best production ground in the state,” said Campbell, who is working on an effort called the Bessemer Project, which aims to retain some of the irrigated land along the Bessemer where water rights were sold to Pueblo.

    “Unfortunately what happened in this sale, and what happens in a lot of these buy and dry deals, is that some of the best farm ground could be dried.”Campbell hopes to try a variety of different methods to keep some the best irrigated land along the Bessemer ditch in production — from rotational fallowing to water sharing to using more efficient ways of irrigating.

    #ColoradoRiver District plan offers ideas for spending on #water projects after tax passage — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel

    The Grand River Diversion Dam, also known as the “Roller Dam”, was built in 1913 to divert water from the Colorado River to the Government Highline Canal, which farmers use to irrigate their lands in the Grand Valley. Photo credit: Bethany Blitz/Aspen Journalism

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    The district plans to use 14 percent of the new revenues to shore up its finances, funding existing staff positions and business expenses after financial difficulties in recent years. The rest is to be used to partner with others on projects focused on agriculture, infrastructure, healthy rivers, watershed health and water quality, and conservation and efficiency.

    District spokesman Jim Pokrandt said the district board will be discussing the project spending at a Dec. 10 meeting where it will be looking to revise its 2021 budget now that the tax has passed.

    He said it’s too early to call out any specific project that might be funded at this point, as more analysis and board approval will be required. However, in its July resolution to put the tax measure on the ballot, the district board also adopted a fiscal implementation plan elaborating on how it intends to spend the funds. That plan included specific examples of possible projects the money could help pay for. The district didn’t commit to pursuing those specific projects should the tax pass, noting in its plan “uncertainties associated with most projects related to permitting, litigation, additional funding and other third party actions.” Rather, the projects are representative of the types of projects it intended to pursue, and also are ones that have been endorsed by basin roundtable organizations in the Colorado, Gunnison and Yampa/White/Green basins.

    “Those projects listed in the plan are illustrative of the kind of work that we want to do, and indeed some of them could come to fruition in the next year or two,” Pokrandt said.

    In the Colorado River Basin, the examples the district gave include rehabilitation of the Grand Valley Roller Dam, which was built in 1913 and is the point of diversion for several large senior irrigation rights in the Grand Valley, and maintaining flows secured by the senior Shoshone hydroelectric plant water right in Glenwood Canyon.

    That plant is owned by Xcel Energy and is more than 100 years old, and questions about its longterm viability have the district and others looking for solutions for maintaining the plant’s nonconsumptive right, which is crucial to maintaining river flows through Glenwood Canyon and all the way to Grand Junction.

    Among several possible projects in the Gunnison Basin are the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association Westside Valley infrastructure improvement project, which would modernize and improve water diversion, delivery and other infrastructure; and the Paonia Reservoir and Fire Mountain Canal rehabilitation, which would involve implementing a sediment control system.

    Among possible Yampa/White/Green river basin projects are addressing an algae problem on the White River, and assisting with efforts to build a possible new water storage project in the lower White River basin. The state is challenging a proposed White River reservoir project in water court, questioning the need for the amount of water the reservoir would supply, according to recent reporting by the nonprofit aspenjournalism.org website.

    Pokrandt said that while it’s helpful to projects’ chances for them to be on the district’s implementation plan list, funding could go for things that aren’t listed, and that the district may not even know about now.

    @JoeBiden Can Leverage Larger Trends to Make #Climate Progress — The Revelator

    Leaf, Berthoud Pass Summit, August 21, 2017.

    From The Revalator (Dan Farber):

    Even if Republicans hang onto the Senate, Biden can use these three strategies to make major progress on climate issues.

    With the next president of the United States finally decided, we can now begin moving on to the work at hand.

    Joe Biden’s election creates an exciting opportunity for climate action. But there’s one clear hurdle: Unless the January runoff elections in Georgia for two Senate seats deliver surprising success to the Democrats, President-elect Biden will face a Senate led again by Mitch McConnell. That narrows the range of available policy instruments, but Biden should still be able to make real progress.

    He has the advantage of the tide moving in the direction of clean energy. Market forces are shifting strongly away from fossil fuels and toward renewables and energy storage. State governments are moving in the same direction. And public opinion has shifted, with more people recognizing the importance of climate change and the benefits of clean energy. The trick will be to leverage these trends into faster and larger changes.

    I’d advocate a three-pronged approach to take advantage of these trends: (1) aggressive use of established regulatory tools; (2) funding to improve and deploy new technologies; and (3) government support for state and private sector climate efforts.

    The first prong was utilized heavily by the Obama administration.

    Like Obama Biden needs to make aggressive use of existing law. Given a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court, it would be best to avoid anything that looks legally innovative and instead push as hard as possible on legally established channels.

    That would mean strictly regulating conventional pollution from fossil fuels, using the Clean Air Act as well as other environmental statutes. Additional avenues include ramping up standards for methane emissions, cutting back on leasing public lands for fossil fuels, and higher fuel-efficiency standards.

    There will be industry resistance to these efforts, but economic trends may help dampen that.

    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

    The second prong is legislative.

    Although a GOP or 50-50 Senate will be a challenge, some kinds of legislation may have a chance of sneaking through.

    Sen. Lisa Murkowski has an energy bill she has been trying to get to the floor that seems to have bipartisan support. The bill focuses on spending for research and demonstration projects. Even when the GOP controlled Congress during the first two years of Trump’s presidency, Congress voted to increase funding for renewable energy for the Defense Department and to increase funding for research into innovative new energy technologies.

    If Murkowski and fellow Republican Sen. Susan Collins can be brought on board, it may also be possible to adopt energy-related amendments to must-pass bills.

    Finally, increased funding for adaptation-related spending by FEMA, the Defense Department and the Army Corps of Engineers may also be feasible.

    The third prong involves climate efforts outside the federal government.

    During the Trump administration, many states increased their use of renewable energy and a smaller group have adopted serious carbon reduction targets. The federal government can defend these efforts in court; can provide states technical resources; and can use its regulatory powers over energy markets to reinforce state climate programs.

    We’ve also seen a serious movement by investors away from fossil fuels and toward renewables. The federal government can support these trends through its regulation of financial markets.

    And the power of presidential jawboning should not be underestimated. Presidential appeals to business leaders can carry considerable clout, as can public praise or shaming.

    Even if Biden is handicapped by the lack of Senate control, a lot can still be done. And the climate crisis is too urgent for us to pass up any available tool for addressing it.

    The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Revelator, the Center for Biological Diversity or their employees.

    #FortCollins #water restrictions end Tuesday, with completion of work on the outlet at Soldier Canyon dam — The Rocky Mountain Collegian

    The Soldier Canyon Dam is located on the east shore of Horsetooth Reservoir, 3.5 miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado. The zoned earthfill dam has an outlet works consisting of a concrete conduit through the base of the dam, controlled by two 72-inch hollow-jet valves. The foundation is limey shales and sandstones overlain with silty, sandy clay. Photo credit Reclamation.

    From The Rocky Mountain Collegian (Nicole Taylor):

    The mandatory water restrictions in Fort Collins are scheduled to end Nov. 10. On Nov. 8, Darin Atteberry, Fort Collins city manager, signed a declaration to end the restrictions.

    The restrictions were put in place on Oct. 1 as a level IV restriction due to the Horsetooth Outlet Project. The repairs were successfully completed over the past month with the help of backup pumps and community efforts, according to the announcement…

    Recent concerns for the water supply with the recent drought conditions and the Cameron Peak fire also played a role in the water reduction.

    The residents managed to reduce water use by 35% within the first day of restrictions, according to the HOP page on the Fort Collins Utilities website. The community then stayed below the 15 million gallons a day request since Oct. 14 rather than the usual 35-40 million gallons.