Radar getting another look at snowpack — The Pueblo Chieftain

Conejos River
Conejos River

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Water officials in the San Luis Valley will once again set up a temporary radar station this winter to help measure the region’s snowpack.

Although the technology was in use last winter, it’s hoped another season of gathering data from radar and other new technologies will eventually lead to a model that can more accurately translate snowpack to stream flows.

“No one in the country has ever used radar to measure snow,” Nathan Combs, manager of the Conejos Water Conservancy District, told a committee of state lawmakers Monday.

Getting an accurate prediction of stream flows is important for valley water users, who are often forced to forgo flows to help the state comply with the Rio Grande Compact.

Delivery obligations under the compact, which divvies up the river’s flows between Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, go up in wet years and down in dry years.

Combs told lawmakers in April the forecast for the Conejos called for 235,000 acre-feet of stream flow for the year, with a delivery requirement of 65,000 acre-feet for the compact.

But runoff was bigger than expected, boosting both stream flow projections for the year and the amount of restrictions on irrigators.

As of the beginning of the month, the Conejos’ stream flow projection had jumped to 255,000 acre-feet and its compact obligation grew by another 12,000 acre-feet.

Combs said that kind of jump is hard to deal with after runoff has come and gone.

“The farther we get down the season, the less water there is to pay this increased obligation,” he said.

Nor is an overestimation of stream flows any help.

“If we’ve overpaid early and then we go through and our stream forecast goes down, now we’ve sent all this water we can’t get back,” he said.

Combs said in the past the snow measurements and forecast data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service had not caused problems.

But that has changed over the last decade as forest fires, spruce-beetle infestations and increasing dust storms have changed the snowpack’s behavior.

Combs’ district has taken part in a pilot project funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Rio Grande Basin roundtable that also added extra stream and snow gauges to the Conejos’ watershed.

Likewise, water officials have also been active in the revision of the Rio Grande National Forest Plan.

“We need more instrumentation in the wilderness areas,” said Travis Smith, who represents the Rio Grande on the state conservation board.

The tour and hearing with the Water Resources Review Committee did not include any funding requests for projects and was mainly a way for water officials to educate lawmakers about valley water issues, Smith said.

Scaling “The Great Divide” — a movie review

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

Havey Productions’ documentary comes at a critical time for Denver and the West.

By Jimmy Luthye

Great Divide “The Great Divide” premiers on television Monday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. on KTVD-TV (Channel 20) in Denver.

It looks like Denver is kind of a big deal now, huh?

Recent lists (here and here and here) have positioned our dusty old mining town as one of the best places to live, work and drink tasty tap water in the country.

Although, this isn’t exactly a recent development.

From our first days in 1858 during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, to our rapid expansion after World War II, and our quick recovery following the 2008 recession, Denver keeps growing stronger and more appealing to the masses. And it’s only going to continue, with Colorado’s population projected to double by 2050.

But there would be no hip restaurants, no Broncos games on…

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EPA releases internal report on Animas River Spill

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

EPA releases first results of internal investigation

FRISCO — EPA officials say that workers at the Gold King Mine likely underestimated the pressure building up inside the mountain. That miscalculation likely resulted in the massive 3 million gallon spill that tainted the Animas and San Juan rivers for miles downstream.


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The “why” behind our fluoride policy

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

Denver Water’s board decided to continue community water fluoridation by weighing the evidence. Now you can, too.

By Denver Water staff

Denver Board of Water Commissioner members listen to information at the July 2015 fluoride information session. Denver Board of Water Commissioners listen to information at the July 2015 fluoride information session.

In the end, it came down to the science. And there’s a lot of it.

On Aug. 26, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners voted to continue its practice of community water fluoridation.

That decision was not entirely unexpected. Denver Water has been regulating fluoride in the water since 1953, but board members said they took opposition to the policy seriously and requested a review of the latest science from the foremost national and local authorities to inform our policy.

Fluoride naturally occurs in many of Denver Water’s supply sources. We add fluoride as necessary to achieve an average concentration equal to the target recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service and the Colorado…

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Lake Powell April-July inflow was 94 percent of average

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

Wet spring and summer help avert worst of water shortages for now

Staff Report

FRISCO — Water storage in Lake Powell peaked on July 14 this year and has started its annual seasonal decline that will continue until spring runoff starts early in 2016, according to an Aug. 18 update from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

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New documents show EPA tried to warn Colorado about blowout potential at Gold King Mine

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

New records show the agency was keenly aware of potential blowout danger at the mine

*Story corrected Aug. 22 at 12:02 a.m. in paragraph 5. Colorado and Utah attorneys general are taking aim at the EPA, not the Colorado and Utah governors.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The EPA knew there was potential for a dangerous blowout at the Gold King Mine at least since the summer of 2014, when the agency issued a Task Order Statement of Work.

In the July 25, 2014, order, the EPA wrote that conditions at the “Gold King Mine present an endangerement to human health and the environment and meet the criteria for initiating a removal action …”

Just more than a year later, the mine spilled about 3 million gallons of water tainted with arsenic, zinc, manganese, cadmium and lead. Concentrations of some pollutants spiked to many times the level deemed toxic for…

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July 2015 was the hottest month on record for Earth

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

All signs point toward more record-breaking heat ahead

dfg Only a few small parts of the planet saw anywhere near average or below average temperatures in July 2015.

sdfg There is little question that average global temperatures have been soaring since the 1970s.

Staff Report

FRISCO — July 2015 was the hottest month on record for planet Earth by any measure, federal climate scientists said this week during their monthly global climate update. What’s more, the researchers are 99 percent sure that 2015 will end up as the hottest year since humankind has been tracking the climate, going back to about 1880.

That would break the record set just last year and is sure sign that greenhouse gases are inexorably heating the planet, despite year-to-year variations in the rate of warming.

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