Upper Colorado River Basin states buy ag and municipal water to shore up Lake Powell storage

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A pilot water purchasing program could help preserve storage in Lake Powell, Photo via NASA Earth Observatory.

‘Forbearance’ of water use eyed as new tool in race to avoid water crisis

Staff Report

FRISCO — Water allocation in the Colorado River Basin may be entering a new era, officials said last week as they announced finalization of 10 pilot projects that will allow farmers, municipalities and other water users to voluntarily and temporarily forego use of their water in exchange for compensation.

The pilot projects, including one in the Yampa River Basin, are the result of a cooperative effort by Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico to shore up declining reservoir levels if the 15-year drought that has plagued the Colorado River continues into the future. Continue reading

Winemakers eye native American grape species as a way to reduce pesticide use

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Wine without pesticides?

Chemical analysis informs potential hybridization efforts

Staff Report

FRISCO — As the widespread and disastrous consequences of heavy pesticide use become ever-more apparent, wine-makers and grape growers are trying to figure out ways to make their grapes more resistant to bugs and fungi without using toxic chemicals.

The answer may lie in crossing the domestic grape species used in most wine production — Vitis vinifera — with native wild American grapes, like Vitis californica, which make terrible wine but are pest-resistant. Continue reading

Environment: Wild bees are critical to pollination

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Wild bees need love, too. @bberwyn photo.

‘protecting a wide variety of our wild bees is crucial …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new bee tracking study shows that protecting wild bees may be just as important as tackling the decline of domesticated honeybee colonies.

After tracking bees around the world, researchers concluded that only two percent of wild bee species pollinate 80 percent of bee-pollinated crops worldwide.

That means there’s a powerful economic rationale for conserving wild bees. It calculates the value of wild bee pollination to the global food system at $3,000 per hectare of insect-pollinated agricultural land, amounting to billions of dollars globally. Continue reading

Opinion: Climate, drought and the political Bizarro-land of the House Natural Resources Committee

Right-wingers frame drought as battle between environment and people; Colorado could avoid similar showdown with good planning

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Delta smelt, via USFWS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Apparently, the lack of water in California has hindered the ability of some of the state’s elected officials to think straight.

Completely ignoring the facts that California’s precipitation has been well below average for four years in a row, and that the state’s temperatures have running at or near record highs, some Republican congressmen are calling the Golden State’s current dry spell a “man-made drought.” Continue reading

Climate: CO2 hinders plants’ nitrogen uptake

Wheat field in Upper Austria

Wheat ripens under a summer sun. @bberwyn photo.

Study suggests that greenhouse gas pollution will have a fundamental impact on plant-nutrient cycles and food production

Staff Report

FRISCO — Increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide is hindering some plants from absorbing nitrogen, the nutrient governing crop growth in most terrestrial ecosystems.

Concentrations of nitrogen in plant tissue is lower in air with high levels of carbon dioxide, regardless of whether or not the plants’ growth is stimulated, University of Gothenburg (Sweden) researchers found in a new study, published in the journal Global Change Biology.

The study examined various types of ecosystems, including crops, grasslands and forests, and involves large-scale field experiments conducted in eight countries on four continents. Continue reading

May precipitation breaks records in southern Colorado

Wet spring boosts streamflow forecasts

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Miracle May?

Staff ReportFRISCO — Statewide precipitation was more than twice the average, federal water watchers said in their June update. The rain and snow, along with cool temperatures at higher elevations, delayed the onset of runoff and boosted streamflow forecasts for the summer. “This substantial addition of moisture, both in the form of snow and rain have notably increased water supply forecasts across the state from a month ago,” said Brian Domonkos, the Colorado snow survey supervisor for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Continue reading

Colorado steps up sage grouse conservation

Habitat exchange scheme eyed as key component in efforts to protect dwindling western birds

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is ordering state agencies to boost greater sage-grouse conservation efforts. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is calling for an all-out state effort to protect greater sage-grouse by stepping up coordination among state agencies, improving habitat on state-controlled lands, and boosting the role of the state’s oil and gas commission.

The new conservation push, announced in a May 15 executive order, also outlines a market-based habitat exchange program that would let ranchers and other landowners buy and sell conservation credits to developers, including the oil and gas industry with the goal of mitigating “residual impacts” to sage-grouse habitat. Continue reading

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