Leave Your Lawn for Life on the Urban Farm — TakePart.com

Mrs. Gulch's vegetable garden 2012
Mrs. Gulch’s vegetable garden 2012

From TakePart.com (Rachel Cernansky):

Urban gardeners have no shortage of motivation to grow food: access to fresh vegetables, a chance to interact with nature in a concrete jungle, an excuse to spend time outdoors and take in some of the depression-alleviating microbes that live in soil. Now there’s another reason to replace your green lawn with leafy greens: water conservation.

Vegetable gardens often use less water than many picturesque green lawns—in some cases, half as much, according to gardening and water experts. In Denver, for instance, residents, schools, and water agencies have started installing vegetable gardens to save water. The push to factor water consumption into the decision to replace lawns with urban gardens seems to be strongest in metropolitan Denver, but the potential exists in just about any drought-prone area…

Denver Water, Colorado’s largest water utility, used to promote xeriscaping—replacing lawns with drought-resistant plants—as the optimal water-saving way to landscape a piece of property. Today, though, the agency encourages people to look not just at the amount of water used but at the overall value that that water will provide.

“I think vegetable gardens are a perfect example: You can save water. You can grow food. You can have organic vegetables for your family at the same time,” said Mark Cassalia, water conservation specialist for Denver Water.

“Our years of data from water bills and our partnership with Denver Water has helped us to understand that community gardens use about 40 percent less water than lawns,” said Jessica Romer, director of horticulture at Denver Urban Gardens, a nonprofit that operates a network of community gardens around the city…

Aurora Water, the water agency that serves the city of Aurora, just east of Denver, is also pushing urban farms. After converting large grass plots that the agency owned to vegetable gardens at two sites, the city noted a 74 percent drop in irrigation. The agency also offers a gardening class for residents interested in learning how to grow vegetables.

Save the Ales! — August 27

savetheales

From the Conservation Colorado website:

Colorado’s water: it’s some of the best in the nation, and it makes some of the best beers in the world.

And it’s limited.

Join us for the 5th annual Save the Ales on Thursday, August 27 to taste beers from 40 Colorado breweries and learn about Conservation Colorado’s efforts to protect one of our most important natural resources — the water that runs through our rivers and sustains our livelihoods.

VIP Tickets: Entry at 6:00 P.M. | $50 for Conservation Colorado members
($60 for non-members)

General Admission Tickets: Entry at 7:00 P.M. | $30 for Conservation Colorado members ($35 for non-members)

Click here to RSVP.

Event Details:

This is one event you won’t want to miss. Need proof? Scroll down to see the list of breweries that will be there! All attendees will enjoy unlimited beer tastings, drawings for beer swag, live music, and access to food trucks throughout the evening. VIP tickets include all that PLUS early entry to the event, food, a commemorative tasting glass, and entry into an exclusive VIP-only drawing.

Last but not least, there will be a beer brewed exclusively for this year’s Save the Ales — the Fir Needle Ale by Crazy Mountain Brewery!

Getting There:

EXDO Event Center
Thursday, August 27
1399 35th St
Denver, CO 80205

We encourage you to bike or take public transportation to the venue. Larimer Street provides a protected bike lane. The RTD Bus Routes 12, 38, and 44 drop off near the venue.

Water Lines: May rains & cooperation benefit endangered fish — Hannah Holm #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program
Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

May rains not only greened up lawns and gardens across western Colorado, but also significantly increased runoff forecasts from Upper Colorado River Basin rivers and streams. The Colorado River Basin Forecast Center increased projections of inflows to Lake Powell from 3 million acre-feet forecast on May 1 to 5 million acre-feet forecast on June 1, up to about 70 percent of average. In the Colorado River’s headwaters, moisture accumulations for the year rose to “normal” and even above average in some locations.

That was good news on two fronts for the four species of endangered fish that dwell in the 15-mile stretch of the Colorado River between Palisade and the mouth of the Gunnison River: the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, boneytail and razorback sucker. In the short term, the fish are benefiting from coordinated releases from reservoirs upstream to maximize peak flows in this critical habitat area. In the longer term, the increased flows help keep Lake Powell above the level needed to keep generating hydropower at Glen Canyon Dam, which in turn generates revenue for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

High peak flows improve habitat by cleaning sediment out of gravels and connecting the river to its floodplain. As reported in the Summit Daily News on June 4, this was the first time in five years that reservoir releases were coordinated to benefit the fish. In the dry years of 2012 and 2013, not enough water was available to release extra water for the fish without compromising storage needed by water users. In 2011 and 2014, conditions were so wet that enhancing peak flows could have caused flooding.

Coordinated reservoir operations are just part of the Recovery Program, which also includes screens to keep the fish from getting stranded in irrigation canals; fish ladders to reconnect stretches of habitat; technological improvements to keep more water in the river while still maintaining deliveries to water users; raising fish in hatcheries; and managing populations of non-native fish that prey on the endangered species.

The recovery program, initiated in 1988, has a lot moving parts and a lot of partners. As stated on its website (http://www.coloradoriverrecovery.org), the program is “a unique partnership of local, state, and federal agencies, water and power interests, and environmental groups working to recover endangered fish in the Upper Colorado River Basin while water development proceeds in accordance with federal and state laws and interstate compacts.”

The recovery program provides Endangered Species Act compliance for over 2,000 diverters, meaning that they don’t independently have to take action to protect & recover the fish.

In the Grand Valley, the recovery program has funded fish screens, which keep debris as well as fish out of irrigation canals, fish ladders, and a series of check structures in the Grand Valley Water Users Association canal. This enables full service to water users without having to divert as much “carry water” from the river to keep water levels high enough to reach headgates. Similar improvements are underway on the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District system.

According to Mark Harris and Kevin Conrad of the Grand Valley Water Users Association, the technology installed through the recovery program has generally been a benefit to their system, and they would keep most of the upgrades even if the program ended — provided that the maintenance costs were not prohibitive.

The efforts to provide adequate base and peak flows for the fish also involve significant coordination and communication among the entities that divert water above the 15 Mile Reach and other stakeholders. Throughout the irrigation season, weekly conference calls are held to share information on the latest weather forecasts, reservoir levels, and irrigation needs. These calls aid in optimizing river flows to meet multiple needs, not only those of the endangered fish.

So how are the fish doing? According to the program’s 2015 Briefing Book, progress is being made with flow and habitat restoration measures, as well as stocking from hatcheries, but predation by nonnative fish is a growing problem. This has led to setbacks for the Colorado pikeminnow and Humpback chub in recent years, after having previously neared recovery goals. Northern pike, walleye and smallmouth bass are among the non-natives impeding recovery.

The boneytail was essentially absent from the wild when the recovery program was established. Survival rates for stocked boneytail are low, but appear to have improved since 2009. Razorback sucker stocking efforts appear to be more successful.

The goal of the program is to recover all four species to the point where they can be removed from the Endangered Species List by 2023.

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 at http://www.Facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or http://www.Twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

CPW: Hermosa Creek native cutthroat restoration project moving along nicely

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

The multi-year project to restore native Colorado River cutthroat trout to more than 20 miles of the Hermosa Creek watershed is continuing this summer. The project is a cooperative effort of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited.

The Hermosa Creek project is one of the largest native trout restoration project ever done in the state. The work is critical for bringing this species back to western Colorado.

Located about 30 miles north of Durango, wildlife biologists identified the Hermosa Creek area as a prime spot for restoration more than 20 years ago. The first project was completed on the upper East Fork of Hermosa Creek in 1992. Cutthroat trout now thrive in that section. A second part of the project was completed in 2013 on the main stem of Hermosa Creek above Hotel Draw; and the native trout are thriving in that section of water.

All the projects include construction of rock barriers that prevent non-native trout from migrating into the restored sections of stream. Agency officials hope that the entire project will be completed by 2018.

On Aug. 4-5, crews will apply an organic piscicide to a 2-mile long section of East Hermosa Creek below Sig Creek Falls to just above the confluence with the main stem of Hermosa Creek. The piscicide, Rotenone, will eliminate non-native fish species—primarily brook trout. Rotenone has been used for years throughout the world for aquatic management projects because it breaks down quickly in the environment and poses no threat to terrestrial wildlife or humans. CPW biologists also use a neutralizing agent just below the treatment area to prevent any fish kills downstream.

Short sections of Relay Creek and Sig Creek above will also be treated.

The work area will be closed to the public during the operation. An administrative campsite will be reserved for use by CPW and USFS employees during the treatment work. Signs are posted in the closed areas and the public is asked to observe the closure.

Visitors below the treatment area might see rust-colored water–-that is the color of the neutralizing agent. Anglers will still have full access to Hermosa Creek and the upper section of East Hermosa Creek. Any cutthroat trout caught must be returned to the water.

Because of the complexity of the habitat along the East Fork, the section will most likely be treated again next summer to assure elimination of non-native fish. If all goes as planned, native cutthroats will be stocked into the stream late next summer.

While the project is scheduled for the first week of August, project managers will be keeping an eye on the weather as recent rains have swelled the creeks in the area. If the water is running too high, the project could be delayed until next summer.

The Hermosa Creek project is one of the most important native cutthroat trout restoration endeavors in Colorado. After completion of the lower East Fork section, more work will be done in the coming years on the main branch of Hermosa Creek. The end-point of the effort will be just below the confluence of the East Fork and Hermosa Creek.

“This project is especially important because it connects several streams in a large, complex watershed,” said Jim White, aquatic biologist for CPW in the Four Corners area. “The connectivity provides what biologists call ‘resiliency’ to the system. There are more stream miles available to the fish which allows for more genetic exchange. It also makes the fish less susceptible to disease and to large sedimentation events such as fires, mudslides or avalanches.”

Every year Colorado Parks and Wildlife deploys significant resources for native trout restoration efforts. Colorado’s native trout include: the Colorado River cutthroat trout; the Rio Grande cutthroat trout; and the Greenback cutthroat trout.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

Longmont to begin building Heron Lake flood mitigation channel — Longmont Times-Call

Heron Lake flood relief channel project vicinity map via Times-Call and the City of Longmont
Heron Lake flood relief channel project vicinity map via the Times-Call and the City of Longmont

From the Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar):

Construction is to start in early August on the project, which will include a spillway and low-flow outlet structure that will be built at Heron Lake — the easternmost pond on Boulder County’s Pella Crossing open space area about ½ mile west of Airport Road — as well as a drainage channel from the lake south to the St. Vrain River and a maintenance road alongside that channel.

In September 2013, a breach on the St. Vrain River’s north bank resulted in floodwaters filling and overtopping the ponds at Pella Crossing, with the sheet of water eventually crossing Airport Road north of the river and affecting more than 400 properties after entering the city’s Longmont Estates Greens, Champion Greens, Golden Ponds Estates and Valley subdivisions.

The Heron Lake Relief Channel drainage system will intercept any floodwaters in Heron Lake and divert that water back to the St. Vrain River rather than having them flow east into Longmont, according to a news release from the city’s Public Works Department and Boulder County’s Parks and Open Space Department…

It will span three property parcels. Two, including Pella Crossing and land adjacent to the river, are owned by Boulder County, and the third is owned by the private Golden Land Company, which eventually plans to mine gravel there.

The city is the lead agency on the project. Boulder County, which assisted in the planning and engineering, is contributing $100,000 in funds it’s getting from the Federal Emergency Management Agency toward the $925,000 estimated total design and construction cost. City officials said Longmont is pursuing federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds to cover the rest.

More St. Vrain River coverage here.

13 major US companies are pledging $140 billion to fight climate change — Business Insider

arcticoceanecorazzi
Melting Arctic sea ice via Eccorazzi

From Reuters (Valerie Voccovici) via Business Insider:

Google, Apple, Goldman Sachs and 10 other well-known companies joined the White House in launching the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, a campaign that the White House said would inject $140 billion in low-carbon investments into the global economy.

Massive private sector commitments are seen by participants as essential to getting a global agreement on climate change in Paris in December. Emerging nations have demanded that any agreement include tens of billions of dollars in financing from developed nations to help their economies adapt to a low-carbon future.

Although not all the corporate pledges represented new commitments, Monday’s announcement showed the administration’s ability to get private sector buy-in for international climate change financing.

Mindy Lubber, president of environmental investor group Ceres, applauded the announcements but said the White House cannot rely solely on these pledges.

“Voluntary commitments alone will not get us the meaningful reductions we need,” she said. “Strong carbon-reducing policies are hugely important.”

None of the companies involved in Monday’s announcement were from the fossil fuel sector of the economy, though the White House said there could be a second round of pledges in the fall ahead of the Paris conference.

Colorado State University Western Water Symposium recap #COWaterPlan

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs
Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ryan Maye Handy):

The battle between cities and agriculture for water was the theme for a Monday gathering of water experts from around the West who came to Colorado State University for the institution’s first Western Water Symposium. The all day discussions were timely, as Colorado is in the last few months of approving its first statewide water plan, which is due on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk by early December.

The plan, broken up by basins, seeks to prepare for a future with more Colorado residents and less water. The plan’s default solution is that the water will come from Colorado’s agriculture, said Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs, who directed the symposium.

“The Colorado Water Plan, it’s really a plan about agriculture, how do we get water for the cities and not destroy agriculture,” he said. “And we’ve got a short water supply, and the farmers can be on the short stick of this if we don’t look out for their water rights.”

While the experts spent much of Monday discussing the future of water in the Rockies, they also reminisced about how the West got here, with its water needs exceeding its resources.

It began in the mid-19th century, when three acts passed under President Abraham Lincoln, the Homestead, Land Grant College and the Pacific Railway Acts, opened the West for settlement.

But what settlers found was not the water-rich land and easily accessed gold mines depicted in popular maps of the day, said Susan Schulten, a professor of history at University of Denver. Instead, they found a sort of “American desert,” an arid plains landscape that needed water to sustain the kind of livelihoods people were accustomed to on the East Coast.

What followed was more than a century of work, building dams and reservoirs, and legal wrangling that transformed Colorado into a place that had enough water for gold miners, farmers and growing cities along the Front Range.

In the 21st century, agriculture in Colorado spans both sides of the Continental Divide, and most of it relies on water coming from the mountains. About 70 percent of the Colorado River allocations to Colorado go to agriculture, which is about average, said Reagan Waskom, the director of CSU’s Colorado Water Institute.

But water headed to Colorado’s farms isn’t the only share being eyed in the negotiations to bolster Colorado’s dwindling water supply. In 2012, the Bureau of Reclamation completed a study of the Colorado River, which has its head waters in Rocky Mountain National Park and is the lifeline for much of the arid states to the west of Colorado. To help preserve the river, the study suggested that agriculture and urban users cut back on their flows by one million acre feet…

But it was hard to figure out how to take from agriculture, which has been plagued by drought, and expanding urban areas, said Waskom, who sat on the agriculture committee.

“This big report I don’t think really got us to the future,” Waskom added.

The report suggested that much of the reduction in agriculture’s water reserves be done through fallowing, or letting farmers’ fields go dry. But that solution comes at too high a cost for Colorado’s farmers, Waskom said.

“The way you are going to get ag water is by reducing consumptive use,” he said. “How can you reduce it in such a way and that you can get water and not hurt a farming operation? There really aren’t too many ways that you can reduce consumptive use other than fallowing. If you are paid enough for that water when you fallow, maybe you come out ahead and go golfing.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.