Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

October 29, 2014

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Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


October heat wave delays start of Colorado ski season

October 29, 2014

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

Snow guns silent in late October as temps run 15 degrees above average

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2014 on track to become warmest year ever.

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How will the ski industry weather global warming?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Last year’s winter Olympics helped cast a spotlight on global warming and the ski industry. As the snow at Sochi’s alpine venues visibly melted during the live television coverage of the games, winter sports athletes advocated for action on climate change.

Now, just a few months later, some of those same ski racers who had planned early season training sessions at Copper Mountain, Colorado will have to wait. A run of extraordinarily warm temperatures in October all but silenced industrial snowmaking operations at several resorts, as both Copper and Keystone delayed scheduled openings because of the balmy conditions.

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Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area celebrates 25 years #ArkansasRiver

October 29, 2014

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Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Abbie Walls):

The public is invited to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Join us for the festivities from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Nov. 7 at the Salida SteamPlant Ballroom, courtyard and the nearby Salida boat ramp.

“It’s only appropriate that the AHRA extend an invitation to the entire Upper Arkansas Valley community to help us celebrate our 25th Anniversary,” said AHRA Park Manager, Rob White. “They are the ones that helped establish the AHRA and it’s these citizens, along with local officials, employees and volunteers, who continue to make the AHRA the success that it is today.”

For 25 years CPW has worked together with the BLM and USFS to provide residents and visitors alike with some of the best recreational opportunities found in the country, while continuing to safeguard the significant natural resources of the upper Arkansas River Valley.

“The AHRA partnership has been instrumental in developing the Arkansas River into the gem that it is today,” said John Nahomenuk, BLM’s river manager. “The resources along the river are in better condition today than at any point since the inception of AHRA.”

Bring the family and try some of the activities that make the AHRA so popular! Youth activities will be open to the public from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the SteamPlant and the surrounding area. Activities include gold panning, fly fishing lessons, wildlife and geology touch tables and OHV demonstration rides. Refreshments will be served in the SteamPlant Ballroom at noon, followed by presentations from former Gov. Roy Romer and other state and local officials, including CPW Director Bob Broscheid and BLM State Director Ruth Welch.

WHAT: AHRA 25th Anniversary Celebration

WHERE: Salida SteamPlant Ballroom, 220 W Sackett Ave., Salida

WHEN: 10:30 am – Noon: Youth Activities
Noon – 12:30 pm: Light Refreshments
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm: Formal Presentations

WHO: You! Bring the whole family for a day of fun!

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Fun Facts about AHRA:

  • The AHRA manages 152 miles of the Arkansas River and claims first place for providing more commercial whitewater trips than anyplace else.
  • AHRA offers a choice of six campgrounds and 102 campsites along the Arkansas River.
  • The Arkansas River through the AHRA is Colorado’s newest Gold Medal Waters Fishery
  • The Arkansas River within the AHRA, between Granite and Lake Pueblo, has almost 100 named rapids, Class II-V, with names like: Pea Shooter, Zoom Flume, Gosh Awful, Lose Your Lunch, Sledgehammer and Piglets Nightmare.
  • There are 14 mountains over 14,000 feet bording the western side of the AHRA. This is more than 25% of the 14ers in the entire state of Colorado and the most that can be found in any one location.
  • AHRA visitors can enjoy fishing, hiking, camping, picnicking, wildlife watching, mountain biking, rock climbing, off-highway vehicles and even gold panning!
  • For more information contact Abbie Walls (CPW) at 719-227-5211 or Kyle Sullivan (BLM) at 719-269-8553.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Dry October for Colorado #COwx

    October 29, 2014

    From InkStain (John Fleck):

    Most of the way through October, it’s been a dry start to the 2014-15 “water year”, the season in which we build the snowpack to feed the rivers of the southwestern United States.


    “As groundwater contamination problems go, the stuff leaking from septic systems isn’t terribly sexy” — John Fleck

    October 29, 2014
    Septic system

    Septic system

    From the Albuequerque Journal (John Fleck):

    That, says University of New Mexico engineering professor Bruce Thomson, is precisely the problem.

    “It’s groundwater contamination that’s happening all around us, and we’re not paying any attention,” said Thomson, an expert in treating human waste who delights in describing his academic specialty as “turd mechanics.”

    Septic systems drain away household waste into settling tanks, with the water spilling out into drain fields and the natural filtration of the soil doing the cleanup work. But when they don’t work – because homes are packed too closely together, or the systems are old or poorly maintained, contamination can result. The key problem is nitrates, which can render water dangerous to infants…

    The Carnuel neighborhood, located in Tijeras Canyon, is a good example of the problem that septic systems can cause. Homes in the area depend on wells for their water and use septic tanks to dispose of their waste. Measurements of water quality taken in the area show the problem, Thomson said. The higher up the hill you are, the lower the levels of nitrates. But for residents downstream from the clusters of septic systems, the contamination from uphill neighbors has left well water of questionable quality.

    It’s a classic example of what economists would call an “externality” – when the actions of one person impose costs on someone else.

    “You have an area where the groundwater is essentially undrinkable because of contamination from septic systems,” Hart Stebbins said of Carnuel. When that happens, taxpayers are often on the hook for coming in and helping fix the problem by providing piped-in clean water. That is what is happening in Carnuel, where the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority is now building a water distribution system extension to serve the community.

    More water pollution coverage here.


    “We need rivers like the Yampa – to remind us how rivers are supposed to function” — Matt Rice #YampaRiver

    October 28, 2014

    Here’s a post about the Yampa River from Matt Rice writing for The River Blog. Click through for the photos and video. Here’s an excerpt:

    There are simply not that many wild rivers in the Colorado River Basin. By wild I mean rivers that are not controlled or diverted to other basins – rivers that fill with torrents of raging muddy brown water during spring floods providing nourishment to valleys below – rivers that provide a varied, unique and unparalleled recreational experience.

    In the Colorado River Basin, there is one river that stands above them all. It is a river that sustains a vibrant agricultural community while providing for world class whitewater boating and trophy trout fishing. Downstream its turbid waters provide life for endangered fish, wildlife, and plants. It is a natural model – a living classroom – a poster child for balance, community heritage, and livability. Despite being the second largest watershed in Colorado, very few people outside of the state know about this river and its importance to the Colorado River Basin, all the way down to Lake Powell.

    The wild Yampa River rises in the Flat Top Mountains above Steamboat Springs, Colorado. While it would certainly not be accurate to characterize the Yampa as “undammed” because there are two relatively small storage reservoirs that capture its water in the headwaters, it functions as a wild, free-flowing river. The reservoirs are high in the basin and do not have the storage capacity to capture its powerful spring flows. From Steamboat it meanders through rangeland, past the rural agricultural towns of Hayden, Milner, Craig, and Maybell. Below Maybell, the river flows through the Class V whitewater of Cross Mountain Canyon and into Dinosaur National Monument.

    We recently teamed up with our partners at Friends of the Yampa, American Whitewater, and OARS to support a film created by the talented group of artists at Rig to Flip. The film documents the history of Warm Springs rapid, the unique role the Yampa River played in creating the modern river conservation movement, and the importance of keeping the Yampa wild and free.

    Click here to view the trailer.

    Click here to view the full film.

    We need rivers like the Yampa – to remind us how rivers are supposed to function, to demonstrate that it is possible to sustain vibrant agriculture while conserving endangered fish and recreation, and to help us improve the management of other rivers in the Colorado Basin. Unfortunately, because of its abundant water, increased demand, and diminishing supplies in the Colorado River basin due to climate change, the Yampa River will continue to be a target for diversion. This is why American Rivers is actively working with partners across the basin to find solutions that will safeguard the Yampa for generations to come. We will always stand up for the wild Yampa River.

    More Yampa River Basin coverage here.


    Aspinall Unit update: Uncompahgre Water Users scheduled to turn off Friday

    October 28, 2014
    Gunnison Tunnel via the National Park Service

    Gunnison Tunnel via the National Park Service

    From email from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Erik Knight):

    “Releases from Crystal Dam will be decreased from 950 cfs to 450 cfs on Friday, October 31st between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association will be shutting down diversions at the Gunnison Tunnel on Friday. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

    Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for September through December.

    Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are around 550 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 350 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be zero and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 450 cfs.


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