Leading the way with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

September 19, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

Denver Water’s Recycled Water Treatment Plant and Distribution System opened in 2004

Denver Water’s Recycled Water Treatment Plant and Distribution System opened in 2004

By Dave Noel,who recently retired from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science after serving for 10 years as vice president of facilities, capital projects and sustainability.

In 2009, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science initiated the design process for the Morgridge Family Exploration Center, a new addition designed with the primary goal of being a green facility to support the museum’s mission of being a leader in sustainability.

And, with water being the most valuable commodity in the West, the museum partnered with Denver Water to implement an innovative and efficient system using recycled water. The recycled water runs through pipes that are buried deep underground in a process known as geothermal exchange. The earth maintains consistent temperatures throughout the year, so the water in the pipe is cooled by the earth in…

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Report: Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk — Union of Concerned Scientists

September 17, 2014


Click here to read the report. Click here to go to the website. Here’s an excerpt:

Tens of millions of trees have died in the Rocky Mountains over the past 15 years, victims of a triple assault of tree-killing insects, wildfires, and stress from heat and drought.

Global warming is the driving force behind these impacts, bringing hotter and drier conditions that amplify existing stresses, as well as cause their own effects.

If climate change is allowed to continued unchecked, these impacts will significantly increase in the years ahead, dramatically reduce the ranges of iconic tree species, and fundamentally alter the Rocky Mountain forests as we know them.

25th Headwaters Conference: The Working Wild, Sept. 19 and 20, 2014

September 17, 2014

Culebra Peak via Costilla County

Culebra Peak via Costilla County

Click here for all the inside skinny from Western State Colorado University. Here’s the pitch:

Wildness rests upon willfulness – the willfulness of land, of people, of species, and of places. Environmental historians such as Roderick Frasier Nash, and environmental activists such as Dave Foreman, have long reminded us the Old English word wildeor-ness was based upon “Wil: willful, self-willed; Doer: beast, animal; Ness: place.” So what does it mean for a place to be “self-willed”? What kind of human and ecological work cultivates such willfulness, such autonomy and agency, such wildness? What is the human place in producing wildness? Is “the working wild” the path to Headwaters Elder Devon Pena’s challenge that we have and can become a “keystone species?”

This year’s Headwaters Conference, our 25th program, will explore the intersection of wilderness, working landscapes and environmental-justice perspectives on self-willed lands, self-willed species and self-willed communities in the Headwaters. In this year, the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, we will go beyond the wilderness debate to discover how Headwaters communities are innovating upon the concept of wildness, while closing the political, philosophical and geographical gap between work and the wild.

More education coverage here.

Photo gallery from the CWC Summer Conference

September 16, 2014

The latest newsletter from the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University is hot off the presses

September 16, 2014

Climate Change in Colorado report for the CWCB from the Western Water Assessment and CIRES

Climate Change in Colorado report for the CWCB from the Western Water Assessment and CIRES

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

In August, Western Water Assessment released its updated “Climate Change in Colorado” report, a sythensis of climate science relevant for water resources planning. According to the report, even if precipitation doesn’t decline, higher temperatures could still increase stress on water resources. You can find the report here.

A wet monsoon season following a solid winter snow season has left most of the Upper Colorado River Basin with above-average precipitation for the current water year, and prospects for additional moisture over the next 3 months are good.

The Grand Canyon & Hydropower — a complicated relationship — Grand Junction Free Press #ColoradoRiver

September 10, 2014

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

The Grand Canyon is one of America’s most famous wild places, but the river that runs through it is one of the most managed in the world.

On Monday afternoon (Sept. 8), Lucas Bair, an economist with the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, told an audience at Colorado Mesa University’s Saccamano Lecture Hall how the price of electricity factors into river flows through the Grand Canyon. His lecture was part of CMU’s “Natural Resources of the West” weekly fall seminar series (schedule available at http://www.coloradomesa.edu/watercenter ).

The demand for air conditioning in Phoenix and the performance of power plants across the vast western grid both affect when electricity demand and prices peak, which in turn determines the most profitable time to maximize power production with high releases through Glen Canyon Dam. Hydropower plants can respond quickly to changes in demand, as can natural gas power plants; coal plants respond more slowly, and wind and solar plants’ power production is dependent on natural conditions and is thus intermittent.

Hydropower production is only one of the purposes for which the dam was constructed, however, and only one of many factors driving the quantity and timing of releases (along with the experiences of rafters in the Grand Canyon).

The “Law of the River” — a complex set of laws, plus interstate and international agreements on how to allocate Colorado River water — sets the broad framework for how much water is released in each year. Seasonal and daily release fluctuations are influenced by attempts to maximize benefits and minimize harm to native fish and riparian habitat, as well as recreational boating.

Prior to a 1995 Environmental Impact Statement for the operation of Glen Canyon Dam, which raised the priority of environmental and recreational considerations in dam management decision-making, daily flow fluctuations were much more extreme than they are now. The 1995 EIS also introduced the concept of periodic high releases to rebuild beaches and otherwise benefit riparian habitat by mimicking pre-dam floods.

Knowledge about how releases at Glen Canyon Dam and other management measures affect the environmental, recreational and cultural resources downstream are still imperfect, and any potential change in dam operations to benefit those resources must also be assessed for its impact on water users and hydroelectric power generation. An adaptive management advisory group was set up to respond to new information and integrate all of these considerations into decision-making about how the dam is operated. Bair’s task is to provide information on the economic efficiency of different management options.

The impacts of Glen Canyon dam’s operation extend upstream as well as downstream. This is in part because Lake Powell serves as the Upper Colorado River Basin States’ primary “bank account” for meeting downstream obligations, and partly because revenues from power generation at the dam help fund salinity control and endangered fish recover programs. These programs have funded many irrigation infrastructure upgrades in the Grand and Uncompahgre valleys.

Likewise, water use and hydrology in the Upper Basin impact the operations of the dam. When lake levels drop, whether due to drought or increased water use or a combination of the two, power generation through the dam becomes less efficient. And if levels drop far enough, the dam won’t be able to generate power at all.

The already complex challenge of optimizing management of Glen Canyon Dam gets more complex the farther you broaden the scope. If measures that decrease hydropower production in order to benefit riparian habitat lead to increases in power generation from natural gas or coal-fired plants (and decreases in funding for other management measures), then what is the net environmental benefit? How should economic values be weighed against environmental and cultural values in decision-making?

These are questions that require a combination of sophisticated scientific and economic analysis and informed public deliberation, and will probably never be settled for good. To learn more about the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center’s work to do their part in informing the process, go to http://www.gcmrc.gov.

This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. You can also find the Water Center on Facebook at http://Facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or Twitter at http://Twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.

Reading Rainbow: LeVar Burton Explores the Grand Canyon #ColoradoRiver

September 10, 2014


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