Fountain limits outdoor watering — The Pueblo Chieftain

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

City wants to avoid using wells that could become contaminated

Fountain restricts outdoor watering to avoid well use.

How scary was Alaska’s early spring? Very — The High Country News

January to May global temperatures 2016 via NOAA.
January to May global temperatures 2016 via NOAA.

From The High Country News (Teresa Sundmark):

But now it seems there is evidence that our wish for a warmer climate has been granted. Two nearly snowless winters back-to-back have prompted many cross-country skiers to exchange their skinny skis for fat-tire bikes, and the local ATV dealerships have started displaying four-wheelers instead of snow machines. In fact, 2014 and 2015 were two of the warmest years on record for Alaska.

As if the fantastic summer of 2015 and mild winter that followed weren’t enough, spring in 2016 came a full six weeks earlier than it normally does. During the Memorial Day weekend, wildflowers bloomed everywhere. The snowline on the Kenai Mountains across the bay had already risen precipitously, and the kale in my garden has never grown higher. It seemed more like the Fourth of July than the end of May. I’ve spent 24 years in Alaska, and so this extra six weeks of summer feels something like winning the lottery or receiving a year-end bonus big enough to pay off the mortgage. I’m enjoying every minute of this newly extended summer.

Ken Buck gets it wrong about DOD #climatechange plan

January to May global temperatures 2016 via NOAA.
January to May global temperatures 2016 via NOAA.

But at least he admitted that the planet is warming.

From Politico (Danny Vinick):

DOD officials have been warning for years that climate change could have dire consequences on U.S. national security. Increased refugee flows, which are already straining Europe, are likely to accelerate as the climate heats up and have the potential to destabilize large swaths of the world, including the Middle East and South Pacific. The “oil wars” of the 20th century could give way to “water wars,” with countries competing for scarce natural resources. Higher energy costs may further strain the military’s budget and rising water levels could force the DOD to adjust locations of critical infrastructure facilities like ports.

The Department of Defense’s Directive 4715.21, released in mid-January in accordance with Obama’s 2013 executive order requiring government agencies to prepare for climate change, received little coverage when it was first published. At just 12 pages, it isn’t especially long. But according to military and climate experts, it’s a critical step toward streamlining how different offices prepare for climate change, including designating specific officials to attend to specific tasks…

Republicans say the directive is a distraction from the real threats the Pentagon should be focused on, particularly terrorist groups in the Middle East. “The military, the intelligence community [and] the domestic national security agencies should be focused on ISIS and not on climate change,” said Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who sponsored the amendment to block the funding. “The fact that the president wants to push a radical green energy agenda should not diminish our ability to counter terrorism.” Buck dismissed the idea that the military should focus on climate change as a threat: “The president has talked about an increase in the climate temperature on the planet,” he said. “It is a fraction of a degree every year. How that is a current threat to us is beyond me.” [ed. It is beyond you Congressman Buck, because you are lazy in your research, and you cherry-pick your facts.]

Dakota Wood, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who spent two decades in the Marine Corps, argued that the directive will require additional resources to implement, a costly effort in a time of tight budgets. “You’re just overloading the military with yet more tasks,” he said.

But experts who have spent years working on climate and defense issues say the directive would save money in the long run by ensuring the Defense Department accounts for climate change in its planning process. It also doesn’t require much in the way of new resources, said Sherri Goodman, a former deputy undersecretary of defense for environmental security and a fellow at the Wilson Center. “We already have meteorologists in the military,” she said. “We already have biologists. We already have military construction analysts.”

Titley said that it could also put a “chilling effect” on other DOD officials as they implement measures to adapt for climate change. The department is capable of fighting the Islamic State and preparing for climate change at the same time, he added, arguing that Buck’s position represented “almost a cartoonish or stereotype of the military’s job, that it is [only] to kill people or break things. OK. But when you are running an adult organization of $600 plus billion, you have a lot of people and you need to consider a lot of things.”

Larger infrastructure and operational changes that are necessary to address climate change will, of course, have significant costs when they take place. But foregoing such changes now will only cost more money in the future, experts say, and risk leaving the military ill-prepared for future engagements.

The military’s warnings about climate change date back to a 2008 National Intelligence Assessment issued during the Bush Administration which stated that climate change could cause disputes over natural resources as well as mass migrations, both of which could lead to further political instability. More recent DOD reports, including the 2014 quadrennial defense review, reinforced that message and advised that the Pentagon begin preparing for such a future.

While agencies within the Department of Defense have already begun such preparations, the directive is a way to streamline the separate efforts, ensuring that officials have clear responsibilities and that no job duties are ignored. Defense experts say that blocking the DOD from implementing the directive won’t stop the Pentagon’s climate change preparations in their entirety, but will cause fragmentation and wasted resources.

The House GOP’s efforts to block the directive demonstrate the political toxicity around the issue of climate change. At the best of times, government agencies struggle with long-term planning; that the Defense Department is proactively planning for future problems would normally earn praise on Capitol Hill. The Navy, for instance, has modernized its energy program to reduce fuel costs—yet has not referred to it as preparing for climate change and Republicans have not objected. That suggests that terminology matters: GOP lawmakers have become accustomed to objecting to any efforts from the Obama administration related to climate change.

Titley, who formerly led the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change, said that he was careful how he referred to policies during his time in government. “There’s a program I got through the Department of Defense called our system prediction capability,” he said. “We take forecasts out to 30 years. Some people might call that short-term climate. I didn’t. The word climate is nowhere in that budget document.”

The Senate’s defense spending bill, which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee in late May but has not yet received a vote on the floor, leaves the climate change directive intact. Whether the House amendment will make it into the final bill is “above my grade” Buck said.

But experts worry that if it does find its way into law, the risks are high; such preparations are necessary now, they warn, before it’s too late. “It’s like people who drive down the road and all they can do is look 10 feet in front of them on the bumper and they’re all going about 75 mph,” said Titley. “That’s great until three cars up there are stopped. You don’t see it until you’re all of a sudden slamming on the brakes.”

Where Will We Find New Water for Newcomers Moving to the West? (Part 1) — Tom Cech

Photo from
Photo from

Here’s the first of a series dealing with the future of water, from Tom Cech running on the Project Wet website:

America’s Water Future: Where Will We Find New Water for Newcomers Moving to the West? (Part 1):

The following is the first in a series of guest posts by Tom Cech, the director of the One World One Water (OWOW) Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship at Metropolitan State University of Denver in Colorado. Born and raised on a farm in Nebraska, Tom graduated from Kearney State College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Math Education and later received a Master’s Degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He was Executive Director of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley and taught undergraduate and graduate level water resources courses at the University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University before becoming the OWOW Center Director. Tom is the author of Principles of Water Resources: History, Development, Management and Policy, co-author with Dr. Karrie Pennington of Introduction to Water Resources and Environmental Issues and co-author with P. Andrew Jones of Colorado Water Law for Non-Lawyers.

Today’s water managers are faced with huge challenges and will need new paradigms for future water resource issues. However, legal and institutional constraints limit what can be done with physical and institutional infrastructure that has been built up during the past centuries.

How do we provide adequate water supplies for growing populations? Is it best to allow individual states to enact water laws, or would a federal approach provide greater protection for the environment and other public issues? How can we manage our current water systems in the face of changing climate patterns? How can we afford to make necessary system improvements amid economic downturn? And how do we protect, and even enhance, our environmental systems? Is more money the answer? Or are we at a flashpoint in our history of water management which will require entirely new paradigms?

The Reclamation Era of the past century shows the ability of the U.S. to fund and construct massive irrigation, flood control and hydropower projects. These efforts have changed the face of the western U.S. Megacities have evolved, desert lands have greened, economies have flourished, and air conditioners purr across the landscape. Other changes have been equally dramatic – Native American communities were permanently uprooted by dam construction projects, free-flowing rivers are now captured and held behind massive storage structures and some fish spawning routes have been destroyed.

Coupled with the influx of population is climate change. This will lead to warmer temperatures, which in turn will cause earlier snowmelt runoff – and less water availability during the dry summer months of July and August. Water managers will face challenges to account for increased water needs over changing precipitation patterns.

The water history of the western United States can provide examples and lessons of how certain management schemes can be accomplished, and how other management systems are lacking. Our challenge is to learn from the mistakes and accomplishments of the past to prepare for the water needs of the future.


Urban water is part of America’s Water Future. Find out how you can support education about water in cities and other vitally important water topics by visiting the America’s Water Future web page.

#AnimasRiver: EPA weighs options for dumping Cement Creek treatment plant sludge

The EPA's wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 -- photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio
The EPA’s wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 — photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio

From The Durango Herald (Jessica Pace):

Environmental Protection Agency officials said Wednesday they are deciding where to haul sludge from the temporary water-treatment plant for Gold King Mine wastewater.

The EPA periodically has updated the communities of San Juan and La Plata counties in recent months as a Superfund proposal moves forward, and most aspects of the agency’s work has been in the evaluation stages thus far.

On Wednesday, the EPA told La Plata County commissioners that the agency is considering whether to dispose of nontoxic sludge produced by the temporary treatment plant at a mining district site or a landfill.

La Plata County Commissioner Brad Blake said he opts for the least expensive option.

“It’s not toxic waste, so it can go anywhere,” he said.

Commissioners inquired about the life of the plant, which is supposed to end this fall.

“It was designed and constructed to be an interim measure,” Superfund project manager Rebecca Thomas said. “We’ll continue to evaluate options, but we’ll come up with a comprehensive remedy for the entire mining district.”

Thomas said for now, the temporary plant is operating as usual, and a long-term solution could include a permanent water-treatment facility.

The EPA also is evaluating what Superfund designation will mean for private property owners, officials said Wednesday.

Floatin’ on the 4th: Making waves on the Blue River

Mile High Water Talk

Dillon Reservoir’s water managers help extend the whitewater rafting season while meeting customer needs downstream.  

By Jay Adams

Nothing says Fourth of July in Colorado like a day of rafting on a mountain river. Paddling through rapids is as much a tradition in our state as fireworks, hot dogs and apple pie.

Our nation’s birthday is one of the busiest days of the year for whitewater rafting. But there’s no rafting without rapids — and that’s where Dillon Reservoir comes in.

With a capacity of 257,304 acre feet, Dillon Reservoir in Summit County is Denver Water’s largest storage site, supplying 30 percent of Denver’s water. Water managers work to balance the demands of Denver customers while supporting the recreational economy on the Blue River and Dillon Reservoir.

“In the spring and early summer, Denver Water carefully manages outflows from Dillon Reservoir,” said Cindy Brady, water resource engineer at Denver…

View original post 282 more words

Interior, USDA Announce More Than $47 Million in Investments for Water Conservation, Energy Efficiency, #Drought Response & Agriculture Operations Across the West

West Drought Monitor June 21, 2016.
West Drought Monitor June 21, 2016.

Here’s the release from the US Department of Interior (Peter Soeth):

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Interior today announced more than $47 million in investments to help water districts and producers on private working lands better conserve water resources. The funds include $15 million in USDA funds and $32.6 million from the Bureau of Reclamation for local projects to improve water and energy efficiency and provide a strengthened federal response to ongoing and potential drought across 13 states in the West.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Reclamation Commissioner Estevan Lopez announced the funding in Brighton, Colo. The Bureau of Reclamation funding will support 76 local projects through the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART program. Funding from USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) will support on-farm water delivery system improvements through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program, in tandem with the 76 Interior-funded projects. Vilsack and Lopez were joined by a local water authority and landowner who spoke about the importance of the federal funding in the cost share program.

“By working with communities and producers to more wisely manage the water they have, we help ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, agriculture, economic activities, recreation, and ecosystem health,” said Secretary Vilsack. “As drought continues across the west, our farmers and ranchers are stepping up to the plate to partner with communities and strengthen efficiency to better conserve our water supply.”

“Water and energy efficiency are intricately linked,” Commissioner López said. “When we conserve water, we also conserve the energy it takes to move it. One way we can achieve these efficiencies is to bring federal resources to the table for local projects that focus on saving water. This program represents one more way we’re focusing resources on projects to provide resiliency in the face of drought.”

Interior’s funding is made available through competitive grant programs, which are part of the WaterSMART sustainable water initiative. The grants and selection process are managed by Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, which is the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier, providing one in five western farmers with irrigation water for 10 million acres of farmland and potable water to more than 31 million Americans across 17 western states.

Of the 76 new projects announced today, Reclamation has selected 53 projects in 11 states to receive a total of $25.6 million in WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants which, when leveraged with local and other funding sources, will complete more than $128 million in efficiency improvements. In addition to the new grants announced today, Reclamation will provide $2.1 million to support previously selected WaterSMART projects. Together, these projects are expected to enable water savings of more than 123,000 acre-feet. More details on the program and projects announced today can be found on the WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants website.

Alongside the 53 water and energy efficiency grants, Reclamation also selected 23 additional cost share grants through its WaterSMART Drought Response Program, totaling $4.9 million, which when leveraged with cost-share funding will provide a total of $23.5 million in efforts associated with the program. More detail on the program and the projects announced today can be found on the Drought Response Program website.

Through its EQIP program, NRCS is investing $5.2 million in on-farm assistance to complement several projects that have been funded previously by BOR, and will provide an additional $10 million in 2017 to support some of the Reclamation projects announced today. NRCS is able to complement WaterSMART investments by targeting assistance in areas where WaterSMART sponsors indicated that water delivery system improvements might facilitate future on-farm improvements. NRCS will work with producers in select WaterSMART project areas to offer financial and technical assistance for practices that increase on-farm efficiencies, such as improving irrigation systems.

USDA works with private landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that conserve and clean the water we drink. USDA support—leveraged with historic outside investments—boosts producer incomes and rewards them for their good work. At the same time, USDA investments have brought high quality water and waste services to rural communities, which are vital to their continued health and economic viability. For information on USDA’s drought mitigation efforts, visit USDA Drought Programs and Assistance. To learn more about how NRCS is helping private landowners adapt to changing climate conditions including drought, visit the NRCS’ drought resources.

This partnership is a priority action identified in the President’s Memorandum Building National Capabilities for Long-Term Drought Resilience and accompanying the Federal Drought Action Plan. USDA, as permanent co-chair, is working with DOI and other members of the National Drought Resilience Partnership to better coordinate drought-related programs and policies, help communities reduce the impact of current drought events and prepare for future droughts.

From the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the grants Thursday in Brighton, just outside Denver. He was in Colorado to speak at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen on Friday.

The grants will help complete 76 projects and save 123,000 acre-feet of water, or about 40 billion gallons, each year, said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan Lopez.

The projects are in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Vilsack said $15 million of the grants will come from his department and $32.6 million from the Bureau of Reclamation, part of the Interior Department.

He said the grants are an effort by the Agriculture and Interior departments to coordinate their drought-response efforts. President Barack Obama in March directed government agencies to cooperate on drought preparedness and planning.

“We’re not going to go off in one direction and have the Bureau of Reclamation go off in another direction,” Vilsack said.