Water level in Lake Mead drops to ‘warning mark’

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The steady drop in Lake Mead’s water level is a sign of the West’s long-term drought.

Some states may see water cuts in years ahead

Staff Report

FRISCO — Early summer runoff is surging high in the headwaters of the Colorado River, but far below, in the Nevada desert, the water is draining out of Lake Mead faster than the river can replenish it.

The giant reservoir this week hit a new all-time low level, dropping just below 1,075 feet above sea level — a warning sign that some states may have to curtail their use of Colorado River water in the years ahead. Continue reading

Summit County: Dillon Reservoir outflows boosted again

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The Blue River near flood stage near Silverthorne.

Blue River running high through Silverthorne

Staff Report

FRISCO — Flows in the Lower Blue River, below Dillon Dam, are going up again.

With snowmelt speeding up under warm and sunny skies, Denver is boosting the outflow to 1,800 cfs to avoid a scenario where Dillon Reservoir spills at a level that causes outflows to go over that level.

That’s exactly what could happen without upping controlled releases now, Denver Water spokesman Matt Wittern said via email.

“Our experts predict that, if we maintained 1,700 cfs outflow and inflows remain around 2,400, Dillon Reservoir would be full and spilling within a week,” Wittern said. That could bring excessive flows and the potential for flooding below Dillon Reservoir.

Wittern said Denver Water is estimating the remaining snowpack in the Blue River as equivalent to between five and seven inches of water near Hoosier and Fremont passes.

That snow is melting fast, with no letup in sight. Inflows from runoff into Dillon Reservoir averaged 2,467 cfs Tuesday, which was well above current and planned outflows. And those inflows aren’t expected to drop below 1,700 cfs in the next seven days, which means Dillon Reservoir will continue to fill quickly, at the rate of about six inches per day. As of Wednesday, the reservoir was 3.25 feet below capacity.

Wittern also explained that Denver Water can’t legally divert water through the Roberts Tunnel if it’s not needed.

“Right now water levels are very high on the South PIatte River, eliminating this action as an option,” he said.

Troy Wineland, state water commissioner for the Blue River, said property owners in the Lower Blue who face flooding risks can prepare by perusing Summit County’s High Water Preparedness” manual which includes instructions on sandbag preparation and placement, as well as free sand / bag supply locations.

Wineland also said water users in the Lower Blue should be aware that higher flows will push more water through diversions, possibly over-topping in irrigation ditches.

Environment: New Clean Water Rule finalized, but the fighting is not over

Runoff and rainstorms have combined to keep flows high in the Blue River.

A new EPA rule aims to define which streams and rivers are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Big loopholes for industry, farms will continue to threaten water quality

Staff Report

FRISCO — After years of wrangling, the EPA has finalized a new rule intended to define which streams are covered under the Clean Water Act. The debate goes back more than a decade to a pair of court rulings that called into question whether smaller tributaries and seasonal streams are subject to federal regulations.

Yesterday’s announcement probably won’t end the fighting — Republicans in Congress have launched a bitter attack on the rule at the behest of big polluters like industrial farms and factories, and some national conservation groups like the Waterkeeper Alliance say the new rule is too weak, and rolls back protection for some streams that were previously covered. Continue reading

Study shows link between air, water pollution

This Meadow Creek, a wild, free-flowing stream that starts in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and ends up flowing right past our house before its confluence with Dillon Reservoir, where it's wild no more.

Atmospheric emissions of hormone-disrupting chemicals found to pollute rivers and streams.

Hormone-disrupting toxins in Missouri streams traced to factory emissions

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists say atmospheric releases of hormone-disrupting chemicals may be a big source of of pollution in streams and lakes. After studying water quality near industrial sites permitted to release toxic chemicals into the air, the researchers said they found unexpectedly high levels of BPA in water around those factories.

“This finding suggests that atmospheric BPA releases may contaminate local surface water, leading to greater exposure of humans or wildlife,” said Don Tillitt, adjunct professor of biological sciences at MU, and biochemistry and physiology branch chief with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Columbia Environmental Research Center. Continue reading

Anglers invited to join citizen science effort

TroutBlitz helps conservation and restoration efforts

Fishing for cutthroat trout at Clinton Gulch Reservoir, Summit County, Colorado.

Fishing for cutthroat trout at Clinton Gulch Reservoir, Summit County, Colorado.

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s not always easy to gather good scientific data, especially in an era when political ideology drives policy, resulting in budget cuts that hamper government agencies.

That’s where citizen science can help, and Trout Unlimited wants anglers around the country to help record evidence of their trout catches both photographically and via mapping coordinates with the relaunch of TroutBlitz.

TU’s science team uses the data collected from anglers to learn more about native trout water, non-native trout proliferation and the health of entire watersheds. Continue reading

Can a water plan save the Colorado River?

In-depth coverage of the Colorado water plan is unfolding in a new series of stories for the Colorado Independent

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Gotta love that Colorado River. Want to help save it? Conserve! @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado’s creeping water crisis isn’t as dramatic as a wildfire or a flood, but its consequences could be just as severe. State and federal water experts say the state will see a huge gap between supply and demand within a few decades, and possibly sooner if regional drought continues. Continue reading

Environment: UK study shows how heavy metal pollution alters genetics of trout populations

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Some trout populations in Colorado have been affected by toxic heavy metal pollution from abandoned mines.

Historic UK mining contamination has cut genetic diversity of brown trout

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a study that has implications for Colorado rivers and fish, scientists in the UK have shown that heavy metal pollution from mining has dramatically reduced  genetic diversity of brown trout.

The University of Exeter researchers say their findings show that human activity can alter the genetic patterns of wild populations — an important issue in modern conservation. Continue reading

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