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Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:
August is National Water Quality month. This Sunday, August 31 is the 160th anniversary of the outbreak of one of the worst cholera epidemics to hit London – an epidemic that ultimately led to the identification of contaminated water as a conduit for the disease.
Humans have always sought sources of drinking water, and some water clearly looks and tastes better. But we didn’t always understand that the wrong water could make us sick.
Where Does Your Water Come From?
Before I came to CFWE, I worked as a historical interpreter. Whether wearing pioneer or Civil War-era dress, I always got the same question – “Don’t you wish you lived back then?” And my answer was always no. When asked why I prefer the present, the first thing on my list is always indoor plumbing.Jennie Geurts before she joined CFWE – the clothes were pretty, but the water quality…
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Click here for information on the first speakers series event. Here’s an excerpt:
“Sharing Water: What an Environmental Experiment in Mexico can Teach us About the Future of the Colorado River”, Monday, September 8, 2014, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
The first event of the 2014-15 State of the Rockies Speakers Series will feature journalist and author John Fleck. Fleck’s writing centers on water issues in the Southwest and the multitude of issues associated with the Colorado River Basin. His talk will focus on the recent work to reconnect the Colorado River with the Sea of Cortez, and the foundation for collaboration that has been laid for the future. Fleck’s blog can be found here: http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/.
More education coverage here.
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Water Lines: Dire water predicament spurs cooperation, compromise — Grand Junction Free Press #ColoradoRiverAugust 12, 2014
After a winter of happy news about the generous snowpack in Colorado’s mountains, summer brought reminders that our regional water situation is dire – or, at least, poised on the edge of direness.
Just as the ink was drying on mid-July headlines announcing that Lake Mead had dropped to its lowest level since filling 80 years ago, a new study found that groundwater loss in the Colorado River Basin has been even more dramatic. The study used satellite data to track changes in the amount of water in the basin from 2004 to 2013, and found that 75 percent of the nearly 53 million acre feet lost during that period was from groundwater depletions.
While it is easy to measure how much water is in reservoirs, it is much less clear how much groundwater remains in the region’s aquifers. Western Colorado doesn’t rely much on groundwater, but other states in the basin do.
Then, in early August, researchers at CU-Boulder released an updated report on Climate Change in Colorado. The report notes that higher temperatures are likely to put further pressure on the state’s water supplies, even if we get a bit more rain and snow, because plants will need more and more will evaporate.
An historic 14-year drought plus increasing demands are pushing the Colorado River system ever closer to the point where it could no longer be able to provide the services people rely on. And groundwater appears to be disappearing too fast to be much of a safety net.
The City of Las Vegas, Central Arizona farmers and power generation at Glen Canyon Dam are among the first in line to take a hit if water levels in Lakes Powell and Mead continue to drop.
However, disaster is not inevitable. The multi-state, bi-national agreement to send water back to the Colorado River Delta last spring, for the first time in 30 years, demonstrates that those who manage the river are capable of improbable feats.
Many of the same minds that negotiated the deal that provided water for the delta are working intensely to find ways to keep Mead and Powell functioning and to keep the region’s cities, farms and environment intact. There seems to be both a growing sense of urgency and an increasingly cooperative spirit to these efforts.
Not long ago, when I heard Colorado officials and water managers discuss the overuse of water in the Colorado River Basin, they made it clear that this was mostly a problem for California, Arizona and Nevada — and that Colorado was still intent on developing its full legal share. That tune hasn’t exactly changed, but more cooperative efforts have moved into the foreground.
Most recently, the Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority announced that they will team up with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to provide $11 million for pilot conservation projects to boost levels in Powell and Mead.
Cooperation is crossing constituencies as well as Upper – Lower basin divisions. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel recently reported that Denver Water, the Colorado River District, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Southwestern Water Conservation District, the Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited are working together to explore ways to use some of that $11 million to test “temporary, voluntary and fully compensated” conservation strategies.
Even within Colorado, some of the conflict between West Slopers and Front Rangers over additional transmountain diversions could be softening. A recent “conceptual agreement” released by Colorado’s Inter-basin Compact Committee, which includes representatives from all the state’s river basins, outlines how additional Colorado River water could be sent East “under the right circumstances.” Central to the draft agreement is the recognition by East Slope entities that a new transmountain diversion may not be able to deliver water every year and must be used along with non-West Slope sources of water.
These shifts in tone seem to indicate a coming-to-terms with the fact that Colorado River Basin water supplies are limited, and that everyone who relies on them has a stake in finding ways for all to live within those limits. What remains to be seen is whether we can adapt quickly enough to keep ahead of crisis. Don’t stop praying for snow just yet.
— Yahoo (@Yahoo) August 12, 2014
More Colorado River Basin coverage here.
Vail: 12 local high school students are participating [in the] Walking Mountains Natural Resource InternshipAugust 5, 2014
From the Vail Daily (Peter Wadden):
Thanks to ongoing support from the National Forest Foundation and Vail Resorts’ Ski Conservation Fund, 12 local high school students are participating in the third summer of the Walking Mountains Natural Resource Internship. The interns are working under the supervision of Matt Grove, fisheries biologist on the Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District of the White River National Forest, to monitor stream and wetland health throughout the valley. The interns have searched for endangered boreal toads to identify sites where they are still breeding in the area, but most of the students’ work focuses on monitoring stream health.
The interns have learned two tried and true techniques for collecting information that helps the Forest Service gauge the health of waterways. The first is by collecting and measuring stream substrates. This involves plunging their hands into icy water to pull out rocks, pebbles and gravel to be measured. The size of the stones in a stream dictates what aquatic insects can live there because those stones provide a place for the insects to hide and a surface to cling to in the rushing stream.
The second way the interns are gathering valuable stream data is by collecting the macroinvertebrates themselves. What species of insects are living in a stream is a great indicator of how healthy that stream is. Some insects are tolerant of pollution while others are not. If only pollution-tolerant species are found, then we can tell a stream may not be very clean. On the other hand, if insects that require clean, clear water to survive are found in abundance, then we will have strong evidence that the stream is doing well. Samples of insects are netted and collected by the interns in each stream they visit and then are preserved in ethanol so they can be sent to a lab for DNA identification.
The 12 Walking Mountains interns have mastered these data-collection techniques with training and supervision from U.S. Forest Service fisheries biologists and seasonal fisheries technicians. In addition to providing valuable information to the U.S. Forest Service, the interns are gaining experience in field ecology and exposure to careers in science and natural resource management. The high school students also earn four environmental science credits from Colorado Mountain College, giving them a chance to connect their observations in nature to broader concepts in ecology and biology…
Isaac Yoder, a rising junior at Eagle Valley High School, recognizes the value of this type of learning saying, “Through this internship, I gain experience relevant to real life jobs and collect information that affects the community instead of just seeing it in a classroom.”
More education coverage here.