2015 Colorado legislation: Governor Hickenlooper signs HB15-1144 (Prohibit Plastic Microbeads Personal Care Products)

March 27, 2015
Graphic via 5Gyres.org

Graphic via 5Gyres.org

From TheDenverChannel.com:

Gov. John Hickenlooper has made Colorado the third state to ban on tiny plastic particles from soaps and cosmetic products.

In May 2014, the CALL7 Investigators were first to expose concerns over microbeads in Colorado water. That investigation confirmed the plastic particles — which are found in some toothpastes, face washes, body washes, shampoos, eyeliners, lip glosses and deodorants — had made their way through state filtration systems and into the South Platte River. The CALL7 Investigators sent water samples from the South Platte to a specialized lab in Marietta, Ga., which found microbeads made of polypropylene, a type of plastic. The toxic particles can be consumed by fish, and ultimately, by humans.

The bill signed into law Thursday bans microbeads by 2020.

The ban has the backing of large personal-care product manufacturers including Johnson & Johnson.

Illinois and New York have already enacted bans, and other states are considering bans.

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Montrose: Gunnison Basin Roundtable urges public input to the #COWaterPlan, April 6

March 27, 2015
Gunnison River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

Gunnison River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

From the Ouray County Plaindealer (Bill Tiedje):

Members of the Gunnison Basin Roundtable are urging the public to attend a scoping meeting on April 6 at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose to make suggestions or comments regarding the Gunnison Basin Implementation Plan.

Tri-County Water Conservancy District’s GBR representative Mike Berry explained the BIP will become a part of the Colorado Water Plan.

“The BIPs are the critical information in the state water plan in my opinion,” Berry said.

Berry said the meeting will offer the public a chance to learn more about the Gunnison BIP, including strategies and opportunities for water use in the basin.

“It’ll be an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback,” Berry explained.
Public comments will be considered as GBR representatives finalize the BIP before submission to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The BIPs will then be incorporated into the CWP, which is scheduled for completion in December 2015.
Berry said, “The whole idea behind the Roundtable process is a bottom-up strategy.”

The BIP has identified a number of potential water projects in the basin, including upper basin portions of Ouray County, but Berry said federal funding is currently lacking to make large projects a reality.

“I think our solutions are going to come from other directions,” Berry said, suggesting conservation or demand management water strategies may be more feasible in the near term.

Ridgway and Ouray GBR representative Joanne Fagan said the goal of the BIP process is to determine strategies to meet the water needs of the state.

Fagan agreed that conservation is the “low hanging fruit” to meet growing municipal and industrial water needs.

Fagan said members of the public can read the Gunnison BIP online at http://www.coloradowaterplan.com and can find a list of potential projects under Table 7 in the document.

She described the upcoming meeting as a “more global process” looking at ways to address perceived shortfalls without drastically changing ways of life in Colorado.

According to a March 18 press release, “The GBR was formed by statute in 2005, under the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act; it is one of nine roundtables in Colorado, charged to ‘encourage locally driven collaborative solutions to water supply challenges,’ assess ‘basin-wide consumptive and non-consumptive water supply needs,’ and ‘serve as a forum for education and debate regarding methods for meeting water supply needs,’ according to Colorado Governor’s Office.”

The GBR consists of 32 members representing local governments of the basin and other environmental, industrial, agricultural and recreational interests.

“To encourage locally-driven and balanced solutions to water supply challenges, the plan identifies water projects through targeted analyses of water issues in the basin,” the press release stated. “The BIP includes analyses of water shortages, water availability under variable hydrologic conditions, and various site-specific water supply issues. The ultimate purpose of the plan is to better identify priority needs in the basin and highlight proposed projects that will excel at meeting these needs in the future.”

Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership Coordinator Agnieszka Przeszlowska said her organization is helping to promote the event.

Przeszlowska said, “The BIPs are an opportunity for anyone in the Uncompahgre Basin to provide input on needs or projects that they see value in.”

Summary information regarding the Gunnison BIP will be posted on http://www.uncompahgrewatershed.org/events prior to the April 6 meeting.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

#Drought news: Four Corners, drought worsened in the northwest, while conditions improved somewhat in southeastern portions of the region

March 27, 2015

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

Rain across southern-most portions of the nation provided drought relief, while dry weather maintained or worsened drought from California into portions of the Rockies, Plains, and Upper Midwest. In addition, above-normal temperatures further reduced already-dire mountain snowpacks over much of the West and accelerated pasture and crop-water demands in the nation’s mid-section. Dryness also increased in the Northeast, though below-normal temperatures mitigated the impacts of the precipitation deficits…

Central Plains
Dry, unseasonably warm weather maintained or worsened drought over the central Plains. With temperatures approaching or topping 80°F from southeastern Colorado into Kansas as well as little if any rain, drought conditions remained or intensified. In particular, pronounced short-term dryness (25 to 50 percent of normal over the past 90 days) across central and southern portions of Kansas supported the expansion of Moderate (D1) to Severe Drought (D2). Soil moisture continued to decline, and many streamflows were in the 10th percentile or lower…

Northern Plains
Despite pockets of light rain, unseasonable warmth (up to 10°F above normal) coupled with increasingly dry conditions over the past 90 days led to the expansion of Abnormal Dryness (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) in the western Dakotas. Over the past 90 days, precipitation has totaled 60 to 75 percent of normal (locally less) in the newly-expanded D0 areas of the northern Plains, while the D1 area of South Dakota has received less than 50 percent of normal precipitation. The dryness coupled with rapid snow melt and temperatures well into the 70s in South Dakota have accelerated water demands for emerging pastures and greening winter crops. In addition, reports from the field indicate dry soils are becoming an underlying issue…

Southern Plains and Texas
Worsening drought in the north contrasted with heavy rain and drought reduction in the south. Across Oklahoma and northern Texas, most areas received less than 0.5 inch of rain during the monitoring period, which coupled with daytime highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s (degrees F) afforded no relief from drought. In areas where rain was sparse or non-existent, Severe to Exceptional Drought (D2-D4) expanded as streamflows continued to decline well below the 10th percentile. Soil moisture likewise rapidly diminished as the unseasonable warmth increased crop- and pasture-water demands. Meanwhile, moderate to heavy rain (1 to 4 inches) from southern Oklahoma into central and southern Texas reduced drought coverage and intensity, with the most notable improvements occurring between San Antonio, Texas, and the Big Bend. Despite the soaking rainfall, little change was made to the drought coverage and intensity northwest of Austin, where reservoirs levels struggled to rebound due to a persistent, pronounced long-term drought…

Western U.S.
The overall trend toward drought persistence or intensification prevailed, with relief confined to a few scattered locales in the Four Corners Region and southeastern California. The west continued to cope with much-above-normal temperatures, further depleting already-dire snowpacks and reducing spring runoff prospects over much of the region.

In the north, a steady influx of Pacific moisture and weekly average temperatures up to 7°F above normal resulted in moderate to heavy showers from the Cascades into the northern Rockies. However, plentiful water-year precipitation (since October 1) in the Northwest was in sharp contrast to virtually non-existent snowpacks, with the snow-water equivalents less than 25 percent of normal (locally less than 10 percent) across Oregon as well as southern and northwestern Washington. The lack of snow maintained concerns for spring and summer water supplies despite the generally favorable 2014-15 water year.

In the Four Corners, drought worsened in the northwest while conditions improved somewhat in southeastern portions of the region. In particular, Severe to Extreme Drought (D2-D3) expanded over northern Utah to account for water-year precipitation averaging 30 to 45 percent of normal; the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) – a measure of drought severity – depicted values at or below -1.75 (D3 equivalent) in this same area . In addition, snow-water equivalents southeast of the Great Salt Lake were near or below 50 percent of normal (3-10th percentile). In New Mexico, however, improving conditions were noted in the southern Rockies, where locally more than an inch of rain and high-elevation snow afforded relief from Moderate Drought (D1).

In California, changes to this week’s depiction were generally minor as the state entered a fourth consecutive year of drought. Locally more than an inch of rain was noted in the Cascades and in the Coastal Range, but the moisture fell well short of supplying drought relief. Even with this week’s rain, precipitation deficits over the past two weeks exceeded 2 inches in these same locales. In the D4 areas of the Cascades and southern San Joaquin Valley, water-year precipitation has averaged 30 to 50 percent of normal, and locally less than 50 percent of normal over the past 3 years. Short-term moisture has been somewhat more plentiful in northern California, though even areas north of Sacramento are dealing with significant long-term precipitation deficits (70-75 percent of normal over the past three years) that will take considerable time to erase. Despite the generally worsening conditions, a small reduction in Extreme Drought (D3) was made in southeastern California’s Mojave Desert, where the wildflower bloom has responded favorably to showers…

Looking Ahead
Warm, mostly dry weather over the west will contrast with chilly, wet conditions east of the Mississippi Valley. The greatest likelihood for drought-easing rainfall will be from Texas and the northern Delta into the Northeast. Spotty showers are expected over the Rockies and Northwest, though the light rain coupled with persistent warmth will not ease drought or aid spring runoff prospects. Mostly dry, warm weather is expected over California and the Southwest. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for March 3 – April 4 calls for near- to above-normal temperatures nationwide, except for colder-than-normal conditions across the nation’s northeastern quadrant. Meanwhile, above-normal precipitation from the northern Plains and Upper Midwest into the Great Lakes and Northeast will contrast with drier-than-normal conditions in the south, particularly from California into the Four Corners and southern Plains.

From Arizona Republic:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast predicts drought will persist or worsen in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and western Colorado through June.

“Periods of record warmth in the West and not enough precipitation during the rainy season cut short drought relief in California this winter, and prospects for above-average temperatures for this spring may make the situation worse,” said Jon Gottschalck, with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Washington had their warmest winters on record, Gottschalck said.

Above-average temperatures are expected to continue this spring in the Far West and northern Rocky Mountains.

Above-average precipitation is predicted for parts of the Southwest and the southern and central Rockies.

The above-average precipitation predicted for Colorado over the next three months could reduce drought conditions in the southeast part of the state. The moisture could ease the fire season, Gottschalck said, but also could increase undergrowth that worsens the situation…

Thursday’s NOAA spring forecast is the most recent in a series of grim reports on the drought.

Last month, scientists from NASA and Columbia and Cornell universities published a study predicting a better than 80 percent chance of a “megadrought,” one lasting at least 35 years, hitting the Southwest and central Great Plains in the second half of this century.

From KJCT8.com (Makenzie O’Keefe):

The United States Drought Monitor is claiming Western Colorado is currently undergoing a moderate drought, but the National Weather Service disagrees – saying we aren’t seeing those effects just yet.

According to the Drought Monitor, a moderate drought means there can be some damage to crops or streams, as well as some water shortages developing.

The National Weather Service says within the past few months we have actually seen more precipitation here in Grand Junction than in past years.

That being said, snowpack levels right now are showing that we are trending towards more of a drought in upcoming weeks which could be more dangerous.

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

March 26, 2015


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.

Snowpack news: Aspen snowpack dust-free for first March in a decade — The Aspen Times

March 26, 2015
Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 25, 2015 via the NRCS

Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 25, 2015 via the NRCS

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, a nonprofit organization based in Silverton, said no dust has been observed at 11 high-elevation sites that it monitors around the state, including McClure Pass on state Highway 133. The organization has operated the Dust-On-Snow Program since 2005.

Last winter, there were three major dust storms at the Senator Beck Basin, a sentry site for the organization in the San Juan Mountains. The dust affected many other sites, as well. Skiers at the Aspen-Snowmass ski areas negotiated a red layer of grit on the snow.

The dust does more than mess up the slopes. It reduces the reflective ability of the snowpack, said Chris Landry, a former Roaring Fork Valley resident who is executive director of the Center for Snow and Avalanches. Clean snow reflects solar energy from the sun pretty effectively, he said. Dust is “the 800-pound gorilla” because it absorbs the sun’s energy and the snowpack melts more quickly.

“That’s why dust is so important — it completely alters the absorption,” Landry said.

The snowpack isn’t in the clear yet. History shows that dust gets deposited in April and May, as well. Spring storms on the Colorado Plateau blow in dust from the south and west of Aspen. When accompanied by rain or snow, it sometimes creates a scenario where it rains mud.

The snowpack — the lifeblood for much of the arid West — needs any break it can get this year. The overall snowpack level for the Upper Colorado Basin, which covers much of the Central Mountains, is 89 percent of average for this time of year, according to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Not only is the snowpack below average, but it is already substantially eroded on sunny slopes on east, west and south aspects, Landry and his colleagues discovered on a tour of the center’s 11 sites March 17 through Friday. Lower elevations are already melted out in many areas, according to an update on the center’s website.

In addition, the center found that the snowpack has ready warmed to 0 degrees Celsius in many places. That means any energy consumed by the snowpack will result in melting rather than cooling the layers down.

“People refer to this as a ripe snowpack,” Landry said. “Just add energy and you’ll get water.”

How the warming climate is transforming your garden: Planting zones are marching northward — @AssaadRazzouk

March 26, 2015

$1.5 Million Contract Awarded to Repair Colorado-Big Thompson Infrastructure Damaged by 2013 Flooding — Bureau of Reclamation

March 25, 2015
The Big Thompson River September 14, 2013 via The Denver Post

The Big Thompson River September 14, 2013 via The Denver Post

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Tyler Johnson):

The Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a contract totaling nearly $1.5 million to Lillard and Clark Construction Company Inc., Denver, for repair to the Big Thompson Diversion Structure, an element of the Colorado-Big Thompson project that was damaged during the September 2013 flood, known as one of the worst natural disasters in Colorado history.

“Reclamation is addressing the infrastructure damage that occurred during the 2013 Colorado River flooding,” said Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López, while announcing today’s $1,457,570 contract award. “This work will ensure the project’s continued reliability.”

Big Thompson Diversion Structure, located 8.5 miles west of Loveland, Colorado, in Larimer County, requires removal and restoration of flood-damaged concrete areas, installation of a precast concrete building, repair and replacement of electrical systems, gates, gear boxes, electric motors and other rehabilitation tasks. The work is expected to begin in April 2015.

The Colorado-Big Thompson project spans approximately 250 miles in Colorado. It stores, regulates and diverts water from the Colorado River on the western slope of the Continental Divide to the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, providing supplemental water to irrigate about 720,000 acres of land for municipal and industrial uses, hydroelectric power and water-oriented recreation opportunities. Major features of the project include dams, dikes, reservoirs, power plants, pumping plants, pipelines, tunnels, transmission lines, substations and other associated structures. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District apportions water used for irrigation to more than 120 ditches and 60 reservoirs. Eleven communities receive municipal and industrial water from the project. Electric power produced by six power plants is marketed by the Western Division of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


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