City of Aspen to adjust its water-efficient landscaping regulations — @AspenJournalism

An irrigated landscape at the John Denver Sanctuary along the Roaring Fork River in Aspen. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith Aspen Journalism.

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

City of Aspen staffers may recommend some changes to the water-efficient landscaping regulations adopted by the city in May before the most stringent aspects of the new rules kick in after a yearlong pilot phase.

The new regulations, which city staffers say have been well-received, require new or substantially remodeled residential projects in the city’s water-service area to include a landscape plan, an irrigation plan, and a water budget for the site.

But the city also now requires that an irrigation audit be completed after a new landscaping system has been installed. And the audit has to be done by a third-party certified landscape irrigation auditor. Trouble is, such certified auditors are rare in Colorado and only found in Grand Junction and Golden.

“We currently do not have anyone in the whole valley that has this certification,” Lee Ledesma, a utilities manager for the city, told the City Council at a work session [February 13, 2018].

Developers and property owners still can obtain a certificate of occupancy from the city even without a certified irrigation audit, at least during the ongoing pilot phase of the new regulations, which is set to end in June but may be extended.

The city also is exploring setting up a local training program to increase the number of certified auditors in the valley to make it easier for people to comply.

Outdoor residential use of water accounts for the largest percentage of use of the city’s treated water, according to a 2015 water efficiency study adopted by the city.

From 2009 to 2013, the city’s water customers used an average of 795 acre-feet a year for residential outdoor watering, according to the study, while using 598 acre-feet for indoor commercial uses, 486 acre-feet for indoor residential uses and 151 acre-feet for snowmaking.

The city’s regulations have set a water-budget goal for landscaping to use no more than 7.5 gallons per square foot. To date, 17 properties have been landscaped and irrigated using the new regulations, and the projects have averaged 7.2 gallons per square foot, according to Molly Somes, who works in the city’s parks and utilities departments.

However, some lushly landscaped homes in the West End of Aspen are coming in above average, in part because of the turf planted along the public rights of way.

The city may exclude the public rights of way from the water budget calculations to deal with that issue. It also may build in more incentives for owners to maintain native vegetation, which does not require irrigation.

The landscaping regulations state that they do not apply to “irrigation of public parks, sports fields, golf courses and schools.” And in response to a concern raised by City Councilman Bert Myrin about the city holding itself to the same high standards as others, Somes said the city is working diligently to improve irrigation efficiency on its own properties.

Commentary: Cape Town Is Running out of Water. Could More Cities Be Next? — @PeterGleick

Water reuse via GlobalWarming.com.

From Fortune (Peter Gleick):

After more than three years of severe drought, Cape Town, a city of nearly 4 million people, is running out of water. “Day Zero”—the day city officials estimate the water system will be unable to provide drinking water for the taps—is less than three months away, and substantial rains are not expected before then.

In response, city managers have imposed a series of increasingly severe water-use restrictions to cut demand and are working to find emergency sources of supply, but it is difficult to see how a cutoff can be avoided. People will not die of thirst: Emergency water will be brought in for basic needs. But the social, economic, and political disruptions caused by a water cutoff will be unprecedented.

Cape Town is not alone. California, São Paulo, Australia, the eastern Mediterranean, and other regions have all recently suffered through severe droughts and water crises.

Short-term droughts and water shortages aren’t new. Under normal circumstances, cities can respond by temporarily cutting water waste. But circumstances aren’t normal anymore. More and more major cities will face their own Day Zero unless we fundamentally change the way water is managed and used.

The growing water crisis is the result of three factors. First, more and more regions of the world are reaching “peak water” limits, where all accessible, renewable water has been spoken for and no traditional new supplies are available. Second, urban populations and economies are expanding rapidly, putting additional pressures on limited water supplies and increasing competition with agricultural water users. And third, the very climate of the planet is changing because of human activities such as burning fossil fuels, affecting all aspects of our water systems, including the demand for water and the frequency and intensity of extreme events like floods and droughts.

Where these three factors combine, urban water crises explode.

The good news is that there are two key solutions to making our cities more resilient to water crises and disruptions: Reduce water demand and find new non-traditional sources of water supply.

Reducing demand means improving the efficiency of water use and changing water-using behaviors to reduce immediate needs. The first option includes installing efficient irrigation technology, replacing inefficient toilets, showerheads, washing machines, and dishwashers, and eliminating leaks. The second option includes cutting outdoor landscape water use and replacing water-intensive gardens, taking shorter showers, flushing toilets less often, and eliminating luxury water uses like private swimming pools.

The potential for these two approaches to reduce demand is enormous. During the severe drought in Australia from 2000 to 2009, urban water efficiency measures saved more water at lower cost and greater speed than traditional supply options, like tapping rivers and groundwater. During the drought, water demand dropped 60% in South East Queensland through a combination of investments in water efficiency programs and restrictions on outdoor water use. California urban water use was cut by over 25% during the 2012-2016 drought through similar indoor and outdoor efficiency programs, and there is much potential for even greater savings.

There are new supply options available too, even in regions where traditional sources are tapped out. South Africa has long pioneered the restoration of watersheds by removing invasive species like blue gum, wattles, and the vine kudzu, and increasing water flows in rivers. Artificially enhancing groundwater replenishment can increase the storage of water far more effectively than building new surface reservoirs. Wastewater treatment and reuse turns what used to be considered a liability into a valuable resource.

Cape Town currently only treats and reuses 5% of its wastewater—up until now they haven’t thought they had the need—and could greatly expand treatment and reuse. Just next door to South Africa in Namibia, the city of Windhoek has been reusing treated wastewater for decades. About 40% of Singapore’s total water demand is now being met with high-quality treated wastewater. California currently reuses about 15% of its wastewater and has the potential to greatly expand reuse in coming years. And when less costly options have been exhausted, seawater desalination offers a way to provide drought-proof supply.

It will rain again in Cape Town, and the emergency responses implemented over the next few months will be relaxed. But water problems are not going to disappear until we consistently and comprehensively change the way we think about and manage water. Peak water limits will be felt in more and more regions as traditional sources of water are tapped out. Urban areas will continue to expand. Global climate changes will accelerate and worsen, especially if we delay the transition to clean energy. The sooner we accept these facts, the sooner every city can move to manage water in a more sustainable fashion, postponing or even eliminating the risk of their own Day Zero.

8th Annual Conservation in the West Poll Finds Strong Support for Protecting Land and Water; Voters Reject National Monument Attacks

Here’s the release from the State of the Rockies Project (Colorado College):

Western voters say protected public lands are critical to state economies, oppose Trump administration efforts to eliminate land, water, and wildlife protections

Mountain West voters weighed in on the Trump administration’s priorities for managing the use and protection of public lands in a new Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll released [Thursday, January 25, 2017].

The poll, now in its eighth year, surveyed the views of voters in eight Mountain West states on some of the most pressing issues involving public lands and waters, including proposals to eliminate or alter national monuments.

Underpinning the importance Western voters place on protecting public lands, 93 percent of Westerners surveyed view the outdoor recreation economy as important for the economic future of their state. 81 percent view the presence of public lands and their state’s outdoor recreation lifestyle as an advantage in attracting good jobs and innovative companies. Western voters are more likely to identify as a conservationist today than two years ago, with significant increases in every Western state.

Overall, voter approval for President Donald Trump and his administration’s handling of issues related to land, water and wildlife sits at 38 percent, with 52 percent disapproving. The administration’s approval rating on the issue was below 50 percent in every state surveyed — ranging from 34 percent in Nevada and New Mexico to 47 percent in Utah — with the exception of Wyoming.

Asked where the Trump administration should place its emphasis between protection and development, 64 percent of respondents said they prefer protecting water, air and wildlife while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on national public lands. That is compared to 23 percent of respondents who said they prefer the administration prioritize domestic energy production by increasing the amount of national public lands available for responsible drilling and mining.

Westerners hold national monuments in especially high regard. Eighty-two percent described them as helping nearby economies, 86 percent as national treasures, 90 percent as important places to be conserved for future generations, 90 percent as places to learn about America’s history and heritage, and 95 percent as places they want their children to see someday. Twenty- four percent said national monuments hurt the local economy and 27 percent said they tie up too much land that could be put to other uses.

Majorities in every state—and 66 percent overall—view the recent Trump administration’s decision to remove existing protections and reduce the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monuments in Utah by 2 million acres as a bad idea. In Utah voters are divided on the national monument changes in their state, with a slightly higher percentage of voters (49 percent) saying President Trump’s action was a bad idea than those saying it was a good idea (46 percent).

A Trump administration decision to alter or eliminate additional national monuments would be unpopular with 69 percent of respondents across the Mountain West. Locally, 70 percent of Nevadans view changes to Gold Butte National Monument as a bad idea and 68 of New Mexicans think the same of changes two national monuments in their state, Organ Mountains- Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

“Over the eight-year history of the Conservation in the West Poll, a passion for the outdoors and strong support for American public lands have remained constant in the Mountain West,” said Dr. Walt Hecox, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Colorado College and founder of the State of the Rockies Project. “Nearly all of the people surveyed said they visited national public lands in the past year and plan to go to a national park in 2018. Public lands drive our economy and define our way of life. A leadership agenda that does not recognize that reality is going to be met with strong disapproval in the West.”

Specifically, several actions recently undertaken or currently under consideration by the Trump administration are unpopular with voters in the Mountain West:

  • 37 percent of respondents support [49 percent oppose] raising fees to enter some of the country’s largest national parks during peak season;
  • 32 percent of respondents support [50 percent oppose] privatizing the management of campgrounds, visitor centers and other services provided at national parks and other national public lands;
  • 29 percent of respondents support [59 percent oppose] expanding how much public land is available to private companies which pay for the ability to drill for oil and gas on public lands;
  • 26 percent of respondents support [60 percent oppose] expanding how much public land is available to private companies which pay for the ability to mine for uranium and other metals on public lands;
  • 18 percent of respondents support [70 percent oppose] allowing mining on public lands next to Grand Canyon National Park, a practice that is currently banned;
  • 27 percent of respondents support [64 percent oppose] changing current plans to protect habitat for threatened sage-grouse in Western states;
  • and, conversely, 75 percent of respondents support [15 percent oppose] requiring oil and gas producers who operate on public lands to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas during the extraction process and reduce the need to burn off excess natural gas into the air – a regulation the Trump administration is seeking to overturn.
  • With the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show beginning this week in Denver, after the Outdoor Industry Association ended its 20-year partnership with Salt Lake City as a result of Utah politicians’ hostility toward land conservation and U.S. public lands, the impact of the Trump administration’s recent actions on local outdoor economies is top of mind for the outdoor recreation business community:

    “Protecting public lands is a bipartisan issue with constituents across the West agreeing that public lands and waters should remain open and accessible for all to enjoy,” said Travis Campbell, chairman of the board for the Outdoor Industry Association and President of Smartwool. “Unfortunately, the current administration’s actions are not lining up with voters’ desires. We need people from both sides of the aisle to express their dissatisfaction with their legislators and let their voices be heard.”

    The poll showed strong support for cleaner forms of energy in the Mountain West. Respondents in six of the eight states surveyed pointed to solar as the source of energy that best represents the future of energy in their state. Wind was the top choice in Montana and Wyoming, and the second-ranked choice in four other states.

    With record-low snowpack in parts of the West, the drought remained a top concern this year, as low levels of water in rivers and inadequate water supplies were identified as serious issues facing their state by 82 percent and 80 percent of respondents respectively. 78 percent of respondents prefer addressing the water shortage by using the current water supply more wisely through conservation, reduction and recycling rather than by diverting more waters from rivers in less populated places to communities where more people live. 75 percent of respondents in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah view the Colorado River as “at risk.”

    This is the eighth consecutive year Colorado College has gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. Idaho was added to the survey for the first time this year. The 2018 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

    The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in each of eight Western states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT & WY) for a total 3,200-person sample. The survey was conducted in late December 2017 and early January 2018 and has a margin of error of ±2.65 percent nationwide and ±4.9 percent statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies website.

    From Wyofile.com (Angus M. Thuermer Jr.):

    Eighty-two percent of Wyoming voters believe elected officials in Washington D.C. do not reflect their values, a poll released Thursday says.

    When it comes to elected officials in the state itself, 59 percent of respondents said local officials generally reflect voters’ beliefs.

    The 2018 Conservation in the West Poll randomly quizzed 400 Wyoming voters, 67 percent of whom were registered Republicans. The survey had a 4.9 percent error margin, was conducted for the eighth year in a row, and covered seven other Western states alongside Wyoming.

    Colorado College released the findings in its State of the Rockies Project at the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show in Denver where gear and clothing makers meet this week. The trade show is sponsored in part by the Outdoor Industry Association, which abandoned its traditional Salt Lake City venue this year because of Utah’s public-lands policies, seen as detrimental to the industry.

    Voters were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “Elected officials in Washington, D.C. generally reflect my values.” They responded to a similar question regarding elected officials in Wyoming.

    The Wyoming poll also found that more than three-quarters — 76 percent — of state voters would rather conserve water, recycle it or reduce use than divert water from rural to urban areas.

    The survey also found 55 percent of Equality-state voters back the state’s conservation plans for greater sage grouse. A minority of 38 percent would see Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke change those plans to allow more oil and gas production and other activities.

    Wyoming was the only state in which respondents said they approved of President Trump’s handling of issues related to land, water and wildlife. The 59 percent approval buttressed observations that Wyoming “tends to be a bit of an outlier,” pollster Dave Metz told an audience at the trade show during a live-streamed presentation. Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah also were polled in the survey that contacted 3,200 persons overall through cell and landline telephones.

    Palisade: Colorado West Land Trust nears goal of protecting 1,000 acres

    Palisade peach orchard

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Katie Langford):

    As the Colorado West Land Trust nears a long-term goal of preserving 1,000 acres of farmland in Palisade, a new 22-acre conservation easement of peach and apricot orchards is moving the needle that much closer.

    Rob and Clare Talbott of C&R Farms have previously conserved 59 acres of orchards through the land trust, and Director of Conservation Iliana Moir said she was happy to hear the Talbotts wanted to do it again.

    The land trust has conserved approximately 800 acres of Palisade farmland through conservation easements since 2009. Conservation easements are an arrangement in which landowners agree not to subdivide their property and the land trust agrees to hold it in perpetuity. In Palisade, it means those 800 acres will only be used for farming.

    “That area is the only area in the Grand Valley that consistently produces good fruit, so it’s really important,” Moir said. “The winds that come through De Beque Canyon in the spring keep the frost from settling on the peach buds, and the area around Palisade has prime, unique soil that’s excellent for growing fruit trees. They have excellent water rights, so they can invest in long-term crops.”

    Colorado West Executive Director Rob Bleiberg said preserving Palisade’s agriculture industry is key for the future success of the Grand Valley.

    “We have been focused on the fruitlands of Palisade since our founding in 1980, and for the simple reason that the orchards and vineyards are an incredible asset for our community and an economic driver,” Bleiberg said. “They define Palisade.”

    The Talbotts started farming in 1979 and have long understood the need to preserve the farmlands of Palisade, said Rob Talbott.

    “Our family believes it’s important to preserve farming for future generations,” he said. “There is a lot of pressure on orchards to subdivide their land so homes can be built. Once these homes are built, the small orchard on the property can’t sustain the cost of the home, therefore putting the property out of reach of young farmers to purchase the property as an initial investment or an existing young farmer to expand. We want future generations who want to make farming their livelihood to have the ability to afford to do so.”

    @AmericanRivers podcast: Rivers at a turning point — Reflections on 2017 and the year ahead

    Prior to 1921 this section of the Colorado River at Dead Horse Point near Moab, Utah was known as the Grand River. Mike Nielsen – Dead Horse Point State Park

    Here’s a look back at the world of rivers in 2017 and a look ahead at projects for 2018 from Amy Souers Kober and American Rivers. Click through and have a listen:

    2017 was a rough year for rivers and clean water, but thanks to all of you, American Rivers was able to make significant progress for the rivers that connect us all. Listen to our newest podcast “Reflections on 2017” to learn more about what we did to protect and defend rivers and clean water supplies in 2017.

    In this episode of our We Are Rivers podcast, hear from Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers and other staff about challenges and successes for rivers in 2017, and our priorities for the coming year.

    2017 brought many challenges for rivers and clean water, but thanks to you, our supporters, American Rivers was able to make significant progress for the rivers that connect us all.

    We mounted a strong defense, sounding the alarm about attacks on our clean drinking water, public lands, and the rivers that flow through our communities. American Rivers supporters sent more than 286,000 letters sent to decision makers, making their voices heard loud and clear.

    We removed 11 dams, restored more than 400 miles of rivers, and our volunteers cleaned up 2.58 million pounds of trash from local streams.

    In this new episode of our We Are Rivers podcast, hear more about the threats we’re continuing to fight, victories we achieved, and what we’re focused on in 2018.

    Culebra watershed: Grant from the Trinchera Blanca Foundation will allow Colorado Open Lands to work toward the conservation of 2,000 acres

    Culebra Peak via Costilla County

    From Colorado Open Lands via The Alamosa News:

    Colorado Open Lands announced continued support from The Trinchera Blanca Foundation to protect historic water rights and increase awareness of conservation across the San Luis Valley. A generous grant from The Trinchera Blanca Foundation, an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation, founded by Louis Bacon in 1992, will allow Colorado Open Lands to work toward the conservation of 2,000 acres of naturally and culturally significant land and acequia water rights in the Culebra Watershed.

    The protection of these important lands will promote working agriculture throughout the Culebra Basin. Dating back to the historic Spanish Land Grant, the Culebra Basin has the oldest water rights in Colorado and serves as a major wildlife corridor for the nationally protected Southwest Willow Flycatcher, Yellow Billed Cuckoo, and Sangre de Cristo elk herds. Conservation easements will ensure that the water rights can never be sold separately from the land. The LOR Foundation and Great Outdoors Colorado are also supporting this critical initiative.

    “We are grateful for the support of The Trinchera Blanca Foundation to help Colorado Open Lands kick off our Acequia Initiative Project and support ongoing efforts to encourage conservation leadership,” said Judy Lopez, Colorado Open Lands Conservation project manager. “Protecting these local farms and ranches and the water that irrigates them ensures they can remain in historic agricultural production, which is essential to the future of the community.”

    “Colorado Open Lands’ Acequia Initiative Project is an essential and significant effort to preserve working agriculture and the unique cultural and conservation heritage in Costilla County,” said Ann Colley, executive director and vice president of The Moore Charitable Foundation and its affiliates.

    A portion of The Trinchera Blanca Foundation grant will continue support for the “Emerging Leaders Program,” an ongoing initiative to promote conservation leadership among people with business, community, conservation and philanthropic backgrounds. The funding will help encourage individuals to champion conservation in their respective fields.

    The partnership between The Trinchera Blanca Foundation and Colorado Open Lands has helped complete important community projects, including:

    The creation of comprehensive outreach programs to educate communities of the value of conservation and urge them to participate in conservation efforts.

    Conservation Easement Acquisition in the southern San Luis Valley. To date Colorado Open Lands has completed three conservation easements, totaling about 700 acres, on acequia-irrigated lands along the Rio Culebra. This group of conservation easements have paved the way for the new and more widespread 2017 Acequia Initiative Project.

    About Colorado Open Lands

    Colorado Open Lands is a statewide land conservation organization dedicated to preserve open lands through private and public partnerships, innovative land conservation techniques, and strategic conservation tailored to the land it protects. All of Colorado Open Lands conservation easements share the same goal: permanent protection from the property being subdivided or developed. That means that all the treasures that come from the land remain: scenic views, fresh water, wildlife habitat, local food production, and Colorado’s heritage.

    About The Trinchera Blanca Foundation

    The Trinchera Blanca Foundation, the Colorado affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation, founded by Louis Bacon in 1992 supports organizations committed to protecting land, water and wildlife habitat in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

    The Trinchera Blanca Foundation also supports community programs dedicated to improving quality of life in the surrounding region.

    The Taos Land Trust scores $575,000: “It was a beautiful series of serendipitous events” — Kristina Ortez de Jones

    From The Taos News (Cody Hooks):

    In a partnership between the Coca-Cola Company and the nonprofit National Recreation and Park Association, the land trust was awarded a $575,000 grant to make those visions a reality.

    The “timely … and transformational” money will mostly be put toward the revival of the wetland associated with the Río Fernando, according to Taos Land Trust Executive Director Kristina Ortez de Jones.

    Some of the funds will also be used to rebuild the Vigil y Romo Acequia on the property so that mountain streams can again irrigate the land, opening opportunities for experiments in community gardening and other agricultural projects.

    “The Río Fernando Park is emblematic of the values held by all Taoseños with its seven acres of wetlands and 13 acres of now-fallow land that will be brought back to life with this important award,” Ortez de Jones said. The Romo property and future park are adjacent to Fred Baca Park.

    “It was a beautiful series of serendipitous events,” she said of getting the award. “We are grateful for the opportunity to create a public space that meets our community’s need for open space, locally grown food and pathways for walking and bike-riding.”

    The land trust purchased the Romo property in December 2015 and moved into the house-turned-office this past April. Since then, a quarter-mile trail was built on the property — laying the physical and mental foundations for the Río Fernando Park that will now come into shape a lot faster thanks to the grant, explained Ortez de Jones.

    The beginning of the wetland restoration, she said, will start with “safely and deliberately removing those introduced species,” like Russian olive and Siberian elm. At the same time, the land trust will reintroduce native plants that can help maintain and mitigate the flow of the river through the wetland.

    The stream has been channelized, such that water rushes through the stream bed, making it harder for wetland life to really flourish. In some places, the river may need re-engineering to improve the banks.

    In the long run, the land trust wants the Río Fernando to be a functional wetland — slowing down and cleaning water. As climate change forces water users to take a hard look at the availability, timing and quality of water in the future, wetlands have come to be seen as an important tool.

    At the same time as the land trust works to restore the wetland to peak conditions, the organization will use that momentum to continue planning for more trails and access to public spaces.

    “We’ve asked neighbors, the community — What is missing in terms of public spaces and places? What should we do here? Overwhelmingly, people felt this place should be a park. People really want trails,” said Ortez de Jones.

    Yet not all parks are created equal. “You have to look at this through the lens of access. You have to make an effort to get to our parks in Taos. And who doesn’t have access to those public places … the immigrant community, people without cars. A lot of people don’t have access,” she said.

    The money for the land trust is part of Coca-Cola’s corporate effort to fund water-related projects in important watersheds around the country. Coca Cola’s money has also funded stream and wetland restoration in the Valle Vidal in the Carson National Forest.