Warm weather, wildfires and watersheds

Mile High Water Talk

How reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires improves the quality of water flowing into our reservoirs.

By Steve Snyder

Not cool, bro.

That’s one way to describe the warm, dry fall we experienced in Colorado this year, not only from a temperature standpoint, but from a broader view of what these conditions mean to our water supply.

Denver Water gets almost all of its supply from mountain snowmelt, so the lack of snow so far is a bit concerning. But weather like this also has a big impact on another part of our system — our watersheds. As melting snow travels downhill, it may pass through forests, farmland and even commercial, industrial and urban areas. This land is called a watershed, and it directly impacts the quality of water that eventually gathers in Denver Water’s reservoirs.

And warm fall weather only increases the risk of wildfires in…

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#Arctic and #Antarctic #SeaIce hit record lows

Here’s the release from the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. NSIDC scientists provide Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis content, with partial support from NASA.

Unusually high air temperatures and a warm ocean have led to a record low Arctic sea ice extent for November, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). In the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctic sea ice extent also hit a record low for the month, caused by moderately warm temperatures and a rapid shift in circumpolar winds.

Arctic sea ice extent averaged 9.08 million square kilometers (3.51 million square miles) for November, 1.95 million square kilometers (753,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average for the month. Although the rate of Arctic ice growth was slightly faster than average, total extent actually decreased for a brief period in the middle of the month. The decrease in extent measured 50,000 square kilometers (19,300 square miles) and was observed mostly in the Barents Sea, an area of the Arctic Ocean north of Norway, Finland, and Eastern Russia. NSIDC scientists said the decrease in extent is almost unprecedented for November in the satellite record; a less pronounced and brief retreat of 14,000 square kilometers (5,400 square miles) happened in 2013.

The graph above shows daily Arctic sea ice extent as of December 5, 2016, along with daily ice extent data for four previous years. 2016 is shown in blue, 2015 in green, 2014 in orange, 2013 in brown, and 2012 in purple. The 1981 to 2010 average is in dark gray. The gray area around the average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. Sea Ice Index data. High-resolution image. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.
The graph above shows daily Arctic sea ice extent as of December 5, 2016, along with daily ice extent data for four previous years. 2016 is shown in blue, 2015 in green, 2014 in orange, 2013 in brown, and 2012 in purple. The 1981 to 2010 average is in dark gray. The gray area around the average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. Sea Ice Index data. High-resolution image. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

November 2016 is now the seventh month this year to have hit a record low extent in the 38-year satellite monitoring period. The November extent was 3.2 standard deviations below the long-term average, a larger departure than observed in September 2012 when the Arctic summer minimum extent hit a record low.

Arctic sea ice is still in the early stages of winter freeze-up and is expected to continue expanding until it hits its maximum extent around March next year.

NSIDC scientists said unusually high temperatures over the Arctic Ocean, persistent winds from the south, and a warm ocean worked together to drive the record low Arctic extent. Extending from northeast of Greenland towards Svalbard and Severnaya Zemlya, air temperatures at the 925 hPa level (about 2,500 feet above sea level) were up to 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1981 to 2010 long-term average for the month. Sea surface temperatures in the Barents and Kara Seas remained unusually high, up to 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) above average around Novaya Zemlya and Svalbard, preventing ice formation. These high temperatures reflected a pattern of winds from the south, which also helped to push the ice northward and reduce the ice extent.

NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve was in Svalbard during November and noted the lack of sea ice. “Typically sea ice begins to form in the fjords at the beginning of November, but this year there was no ice to be found,” she said.

“It looks like a triple whammy—a warm ocean, a warm atmosphere, and a wind pattern all working against the ice in the Arctic,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze.

In the Southern Hemisphere, sea ice surrounding the continent of Antarctica declined very quickly early in the month, and remained far below the range of past November daily extents. The average extent for the month of November was 14.54 million square kilometers (5.61 million square miles), 1.81 million square kilometers (699,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average. This was more than twice the previous record departure from average set in November 1986 and was 5.7 standard deviations below the long-term average.

This photograph from NASA Operation IceBridge shows broken floes of sea ice floating in the Weddell Sea. A large area of open water can be seen on the horizon. Credit: J. Beitler/National Snow and Ice Data Center.
This photograph from NASA Operation IceBridge shows broken floes of sea ice floating in the Weddell Sea. A large area of open water can be seen on the horizon. Credit: J. Beitler/National Snow and Ice Data Center.

NSIDC scientists said that higher than average air temperatures and a rapid shift in Antarctic circumpolar winds appears to have caused the rapid decline in Antarctic sea ice.

Air temperatures 2 to 4 degrees Celsius, or 4 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than average and an earlier pattern of strong westerly winds worked to create a more dispersed sea ice pack in the Antarctic. A rapid shift to a more varied wind structure, with three major areas of winds from the north, rapidly compressed low-concentration sea ice around Wilkes Land, Dronning Maud Land, Enderby Land, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Moreover, several very large polynyas (areas of open water within the pack) have opened in the eastern Weddell and along the Amundsen Sea and Ross Sea coasts.

NSIDC lead scientist Ted Scambos said, “Antarctic sea ice really went down the rabbit hole this time. There are a few things we can say about what happened, but we need to look deeper.”

NASA scientist and NSIDC affiliate scientist Walt Meier said, “The Arctic has typically been where the most interest lies, but this month, the Antarctic has flipped the script and it is southern sea ice that is surprising us.”

See the full analysis and relevant graphs and images in the NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis page.

See the NASA Earth Observatory story.

Years with sea ice above and below the median are displayed in the grid view. The eight panels show the November extent roughly every five years since 1978, when satellites started monitoring sea ice. Every November is different, as freeze-up is influenced by factors such as water temperature, air temperature, and wind patterns. All three factors played a role in the November 2016 record low.
Years with sea ice above and below the median are displayed in the grid view. The eight panels show the November extent roughly every five years since 1978, when satellites started monitoring sea ice. Every November is different, as freeze-up is influenced by factors such as water temperature, air temperature, and wind patterns. All three factors played a role in the November 2016 record low.

Years with sea ice above and below the median are displayed in the grid view. The eight panels show the November extent roughly every five years since 1978, when satellites started monitoring sea ice. Every November is different, as freeze-up is influenced by factors such as water temperature, air temperature, and wind patterns. All three factors played a role in the November 2016 record low.

From The Independent UK (Andrew Griffin):

The amount of sea ice at both the Antarctica and the Arctic has hit record lows, leading scientists to worry that the effects of global warming might be far worse than previously thought.

The worrying findings come after an area roughly the size of India melted away because of rising global temperatures and bizarre weather.

Despite global warming and melting elsewhere, ice in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica has tended to expand.

But it is now quickly shrinking at both ends of the planet, leading scientists to worry that the effect of global warming might be worse than perviously thought.

The worrying findings come after an area roughly the size of India melted away because of rising global temperatures and bizarre weather.

Despite global warming and melting elsewhere, ice in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica has tended to expand.

But it is now quickly shrinking at both ends of the planet, leading scientists to worry that the effect of global warming might be worse than perviously thought.

This time series of daily global sea ice extent (Arctic plus Antarctic, month and first day of month on the x axis) shows global extent tracking below the 1981 to 2010 average. Sea Ice Index data.
This time series of daily global sea ice extent (Arctic plus Antarctic, month and first day of month on the x axis) shows global extent tracking below the 1981 to 2010 average. Sea Ice Index data.

#AnimasRiver #GoldKingMine: Navajo Nation files $160 M claim with EPA over mine spill — The Denver Post

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)
The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

From the Associated Press via the The Denver Post:

The Navajo Nation has submitted a claim of more than $160 million in damages to the federal government over last year’s mine waste spill that fouled rivers in three western states.

A cleanup team led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency triggered the August 2015 spill while working at the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado.

The 3-million-gallon blowout tainted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah with tons of toxic heavy metals including arsenic, mercury and lead.

In a letter Monday to the EPA, attorneys say the tribe still awaits more than $3 million in unreimbursed expenses for costs through Sept. 30 to deal with the spill that contaminated the San Juan River.

The tribe also is seeking $159 million for 10 years of health monitoring and other assessments.

CWCB and City of Aspen oppose Maroon Creek Club water rights application

A map showing the location of four ponds on the Maroon Creek Club's golf course for which the club is seeking refill rights. The ponds are located between Maroon Creek and Buttermilk Mountain.
A map showing the location of four ponds on the Maroon Creek Club's golf course for which the club is seeking refill rights. The ponds are located between Maroon Creek and Buttermilk Mountain.

By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

ASPEN – The Colorado Water Conservation Board and the city of Aspen are objecting to an effort by the Maroon Creek Club to broaden a 1989 water right so it can refill four ponds on its private golf course as it sees fit.

Both the CWCB and the city have filed statements of opposition in the water court case, which was filed in Division 5 Water Court on Aug. 10.

Maroon Creek LLC has told the court it is not asking to expand the 1989 water right, but is instead seeking “determination of surface water rights” regarding potential refill rights for four ponds, arguing that the 1989 right includes a refill option.

The ponds are usually filled once a year with water diverted from Maroon and Willow creeks, via the Willow Creek Ditch and the Herrick Ditch under the club’s 1989 water right.

But both the state and the city are concerned that in seeking such a determination, the club will actually expand its water right, and do so despite an earlier settlement agreement that sets a cap on the amount of water that the ponds can store in a year.

The four ponds can hold between 4.7 acre-feet to 13.6 acre-feet of water and altogether can store 35.1 acre-feet.

Two of the ponds are on the Buttermilk Mountain side of Highway 82 and two are on the clubhouse, or north, side of the highway. The ponds were built in the 1990s when the club’s golf course was shaped by a fleet of earthmovers.

Overall flow into the ponds, per the club’s 1989 water right decree, is not to exceed 4 cubic feet per second at any one time from the two irrigation ditches that feed them.

The Willow Creek Ditch can divert 10 cfs from Willow Creek, a tributary of Maroon Creek that enters at T Lazy-7 Ranch. And the Herrick Ditch can divert 60.86 cfs from Maroon Creek, which is a tributary of the Roaring Fork River.

Maroon Creek LLC concedes the original decree is silent as to refill rights, but points to an amended 
application from the 1989 case that says “the reservoirs will be filled and refilled, in priority, as needed.”

“The explicit reference to reservoir refill indicates the original applicant’s intent to alter the presumptive one-fill rule with respect to the reservoirs,” states the “application for a determination” from Maroon Creek LLC. “Further, the reservoirs are on-ditch structures and are part of the greater Maroon Creek Club golf course. Keeping the reservoirs full through refill is ‘consistent with and implicit in the normal operation’ of key golf course ponds, which provides further evidence that reservoir refill was intended to be a part of the final decree in the original case.”

Attorneys with Garfield and Hecht in Glenwood Springs prepared the water court filing. And Andrew Hecht, a founder of and a partner in Garfield in Hecht in Aspen, is the manager of Maroon Creek LLC.

Looking over the Maroon Creek Club golf course from Tiehack on Dec. 5, 2016. One of four ponds on the course is visible, barely, in the foreground.
Looking over the Maroon Creek Club golf course from Tiehack on Dec. 5, 2016. One of four ponds on the course is visible, barely, in the foreground.

City and state file statements

The Colorado Water Conservation Board, which owns instream flow rights in Maroon Creek and the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, filed a detailed statement of opposition in the case on Oct. 27.

“The principle that reservoirs are limited to one fill per year is well-established in Colorado water law,” states a filing from the CWCB, prepared by attorney generals for the state of Colorado. “Therefore, absent specific language in a decree to the contrary, a decreed right to fill a reservoir is limited to a single filing per year.”

The CWCB argues that the 1989 water rights held by the Maroon Creek Club were the result of a stipulated agreement in the water court case that created the rights, and as such are explicitly limited to a single fill of each of the four reservoirs.

“The decree unambiguously awards a single fill,” the CWCB says.

And addressing any potential decision to the contrary, the CWCB told the court it “should reject an interpretation which is contrary to the long-accepted single-fill rule.”

The CWCB holds instream flow rights on Maroon Creek and on the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.

Water attorneys for the city of Aspen also filed a statement of opposition in the case.

“Aspen owns numerous water rights decreed for diversion from Maroon Creek and the Roaring Fork River and its tributaries, including certain water rights that applicant (Maroon Creek LLC) has contracted for use on the property that is the subject of this application, which may be injured by the requested determination of surface water rights,” the city told the court.

As such the city says Maroon Creek LLC “must prove that the request for determination of surface water rights does not create a new water right or expand the decreed amount of use of the water rights” from the 1989 decree.

A status conference in the case is set for Dec. 22.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Daily News, and Coyote Gulch are collaborating on coverage of water and rivers. The Daily News published this story on Monday, Dec. 6, 2016.

Do you know your hand-washing personality?

Mile High Water Talk

From speedster to perfectionist, preventing colds and flu begins with proper scrubbing and the main ingredient: H20.

By Kim Unger

’Tis the season for sharing — germs, that is. handwashing quick facts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seasonal flu outbreaks can start as early as October and last through May, peaking between December and February. Happy holidays, folks.

So how do you survive the holidays without picking up a cold or the flu? Wash your hands.

“Washing your hands with soap and clean water — which is an easy task we can all do — reduces the bacteria on your hands by approximately 95 percent,” said Jessica Thompson, occupational health nurse for Denver Water’s employee health clinic, which performs annual physicals, provides health screenings and treats minor on-the-job injuries.

CDC says the best way to eliminate dirt, harmful chemicals and germs is to wash your hands with…

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CFWE Board Member Lisa Darling to Head South Metro Water Supply Authority

Your Water Colorado Blog

lisa-darling-headshotColorado Foundation for Water Education board member Lisa Darling, a leader with 25 years of experience in Colorado water resources, is the new executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Darling has served on the CFWE board since 2012.

Darling will work with SMWSA’s 13 water provider members to continue the region’s progress toward securing a sustainable water future for its residents. Together, SMWSA members provide water to 80 percent of Douglas County and 10 percent of Arapahoe County.

“Lisa is a highly respected leader on Colorado water resources with a proven ability to advance our agenda for meeting the water needs of generations to come in the South Denver Metro area,” said Dave Kaunisto, president of the SMWSA board of directors. “She will be a tremendous advocate for our members as we continue to implement our strategic plan.”

Darling served 18 years with Aurora Water, the state’s…

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

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

Here’s the release from the USGS:

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