The July/August 2016 newsletter “Colorado Water” is hot off the presses from the #Colorado Water Institute

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Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s the Director’s Letter from Reagan Waskom:

Big promises are being made for big data. The tsunami of data resulting from new technologies has created some headaches, but also intriguing opportunities. Satellite images, wireless sensor networks, and model output
all produce data that must be processed and analyzed to create useful and reliable information. Data does not enhance our understanding or management decisions. Rather, it must be transformed into information that is accurate and reliable to become truly useful.

Data acquisition capacity has grown to the extent that a new branch of information sciences has emerged, known as big data. Big data has been called a “fad” in scienti c research, but it is more accurate to call it a “hot topic”, as we know the cascade of data from expanding new technologies will only continue. Numerous scienti c conferences and papers on the topic of big data have occurred since the Obama Administration launched the Big Data Research and Development Initiative in 2012 to “greatly improve tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and glean discoveries from huge volumes of digital data.”

Big data has been described as high volume, high velocity, and/or high variety information in excess of one terabyte that is too large for a single machine to handle and that traditional techniques are insuf cient to analyze. This de nition is fluid and may soon be described in petabytes, but it also includes the velocity at which the data is acquired from multiple independent data sources. Thus, cloud-linked servers are typically needed to adequately store and process the data. Real-time acquisition and processing that enables trend detection and improved decision-making is the goal of businesses and government agencies seeking to exploit big data. In other cases, the goal may be to enable public access to useful, interesting, or important information.

A number of questions must be resolved as we develop new data technologies and capacity. For example, who owns big data when it is crowd-sourced or provided by multiple public and private entities? How does the information remain secure and individual privacy protected? From a scienti c perspective, what about data quality and veracity? How do we avoid sampling bias and misinterpretation? Again, data itself is not the goal, but the information gleaned from the data can enhance our understanding of trends, processes, demographics, etc.

Water data collected from multiple public water systems (such as used in past Statewide Water Supply Investigations conducted by the CWCB) is an example of using big data to determine statistical patterns that suggest significant correlations and trends in water use and conservation, forecasting future demands, and to optimize coordination of resources. Water managers with multiple sources of water supply could also bene t from better data- driven forecasting and real-time operations. Sensor technologies have arrived on the market to help water utilities survey underground pipes and detect leaks. Smart meters could help managers and individual users ne-tune their system. In terms of academic research, both the NSF funded NEON and CUASHI networks described in this newsletter have been organized to provide big and open data to researchers. NEON represents the largest single investment in ecological research data ever made. This “research infrastructure” is transforming our ability to advance data visualization and statistical methods to understand patterns, processes, and detect outliers.

The value of big data is the opportunity to answer big questions. What is also exciting about big and open data is the potential for innovations that can improve our decision- making capacity. This issue of the Colorado Water newsletter provides examples of how big data for water can be accessed and used. The data tsunami keeps coming at us—the power of that data to help solve big water challenges is ours to capture.

CFWE: Collaborative Water Management Tour, Roaring Fork Watershed September 12, 2016

Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy
Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy

Click here for the inside skinny and to register. Draft agenda. From the website:

Join the Colorado Foundation for Water Education for a one-day tour of the Roaring Fork Watershed that will showcase exemplary collaborative water management projects. Gain an understanding of how multiple public and private entities are working together on water quality, water quantity, and riparian habitat improvement projects. The itinerary will showcase collaborative stream management plans and water management projects with municipalities, landowners, state and federal agencies, recreationists, watershed groups, and the local community. Tour attendees will get an in-depth look at how water managers and leaders are putting the Roaring Fork Watershed Plan into action.

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The August 2016 Headwaters Pulse is hot off the presses from CFWE

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Click here to read the current newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Paying for what’s ahead

Money. We all know it doesn’t grow on trees. As Colorado works to balance funding priorities for public safety programs, human services, transportation, education, and other government spending areas, Coloradans will need to come up with about $20 billion by 2050 for water projects across the state. The question is: How will we do it, and what will it mean for our bank accounts? That $20 billion figure is what the Colorado Water Conservation Board estimates is necessary to implement Colorado’s Water Plan.

“[The water plan] identifies a lot of solutions for the state and comes with a very high price tag,” says Margaret Bowman, a consultant working with the Water Funder Initiative to develop impact investing in the West. “Now the state’s got to figure out how to finance it.”

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Our summer issue of Headwaters magazine takes an in-depth look at water finance and other aspects of water economics. Click here to read the issue’s feature article “Paying for What’s Ahead” by Headwaters associate editor Caitlin Coleman as she explores traditional water financing mechanisms like bonds, loans and grants, plus new innovative pathways to securing funding through private investors, public-private partnerships, and philanthropic institutions. And read the rest of the issue for more water economics coverage such as water rates, water markets, and other valuation methods that attempt to put a price on an indispensable good.

“An ice core without any depth references — I shouldn’t say this — it’s good for margaritas” — Geoffrey Hargreaves

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

Smooth and milky white, the 4- to 5-inch-diameter pieces — called ice cores — provide scientists with a wealth of historical information, from air temperature to greenhouse gases to evidence of cosmic events. The record reaches as far back as 800,000 years.

The ice is the remnant of centuries of snowfall, compressed by the weight of successive years of accumulation.

“You can drill into it, and it’s much like looking at tree rings,” Fudge said. “It’s just year after year after year of climate information that’s preserved out in the ice sheet.”

Specialized drilling rigs pull the cores from as deep as 9,800 feet below the surface of the ice sheets. Crews then tuck them into protective tubes, pack them in chilled containers and ship them to the U.S. Refrigerated trucks haul them to Colorado lab, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.

In a bustling, white-walled workroom in the Lakewood freezer — kept at about minus 11 Fahrenheit — workers push the cores through a series of saws on metal frame benches, divvying up the ice according to a prearranged pattern for different experiments.

Part of every ice core is archived in another, larger room at about minus 33 degrees, so future researchers can verify old results or try new tests. The archive contains nearly 56,000 feet of ice.

Scientists tease data from the ice in various ways. Differences in the weight of molecules in the frozen water hold clues about the air temperature at the time the snow fell.

Air trapped in bubbles can be analyzed to measure how much carbon dioxide and other gases were in the atmosphere when the ice formed.

A solar flare or other cosmic events can leave distinctive radioactive atoms on the snow. Dust blown in from distant continents offers clues about atmospheric circulation.

“The ice sheets are in direct contact with the atmosphere,” said Mark Twickler, the lab’s science director. “Everything that’s in the atmosphere we capture as time goes by, and it gets buried in snow.”

The depth of the core and evidence of volcanoes help determine how old the ice is.

Scientists already know when major eruptions occurred, so a layer of volcanic residue indicates the year the adjacent ice formed. That becomes a reference point for annual layers above and below.

The record is remarkably precise, even reflecting seasonal changes, scientists say.

“It’s as if we’re standing on the ice sheet writing down the temperature for the last 800,000 years,” said Bruce Vaughn, a University of Colorado-Boulder lab manager who works with the ice. “It’s that good.”

Without a record of its depth and age, the ice has little research value, said Geoffrey Hargreaves, curator of the Lakewood lab.

“An ice core without any depth references — I shouldn’t say this — it’s good for margaritas,” he said, poker-faced.

ERWC: The latest “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses

Macro Invertebrates via Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge Water Quality Research
Macro Invertebrates via Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge Water Quality Research

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

We had a wonderful time with Beaver Creek Summer Day Camp, bug sampling on Gore Creek and learning about different types of macroinvertebrates. Stoneflies and mayflies galore! Looking for a fun, engaging, and educational way to get kids on the river during the summer? Email schoder@erwc.org for inquiries!

Headwaters Summer 2016: Accounting for Water (The Economics Issue)

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Click here to read Headwaters from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. From the website:

The Summer 2016 issue of Headwaters Magazine examines the economics of water. In addition to looking at water’s role in Colorado’s economy, this issue covers creative funding opportunities to pay for sustainable water infrastructure as well as watershed planning and river restoration. Dive into how water is priced through water markets, rates and valuation methods—including those that account for non-market values—and explore both advantages and considerations in pursuing regionalized, multi-partner projects. Flip through or download the issue here.

#COWaterPlan: CWFE & CWC August Webinar — Paying for Colorado’s Water Future

Stagecoach Dam and Reservoir via the Applegate Group
Stagecoach Dam and Reservoir via the Applegate Group

Click here to register.

From the registration page:

Tue, Aug 16, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM MDT

Join the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and Colorado Water Congress with support from CoBank on August 16th from 12:00 to 1:00pm, for a timely interactive webinar that explores some of the promising creative funding options available to pay for Colorado’s water future. Learn more about the funding gap, and creative funding mechanisms as discussed by the state finance committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Then dive into options, tips and examples of financing through P3s and cooperative partnerships; venture capital and impact investing; and philanthropic donations and investment. We’ll hear about these very real financing ideas and provide a forum to engage in discussion with experts.

In the face of population growth, Colorado communities are solidifying the work outlined in Colorado’s Water Plan around water storage, infrastructure, education, conservation, and more. Amid new growth, we also face an era of repair, with emerging needs in infrastructure replacement and recovery, environmental and stream management and recovery, recreational needs, and the continued viability of water for agriculture. The water needs of the future may be far different, with more financing needs than we’ve seen to date.

Where will Colorado find the billions of dollars necessary to fund its water future and pay for what’s ahead?

Webinar Panelists:
Eric Hecox, South Metro Water Supply Authority
Ben McConahey, Hydro Venture Partners
April Montgomery, The Telluride Foundation and CWCB Board Member