Global warming: Water shortages loom for millions

‘This is not about ducks and daisies, but the very basis of life’

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO — As many as 500 million people could face water shortages in the coming decades, as a warming climate affects global water supplies.

“We managed to quantify a number of crucial impacts of climate change on the global land area,” said Dieter Gerten, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Mean global warming of 2 degrees Celsius, the target set by the international community, is projected to expose an additional 8 percent of humankind to new or increased water scarcity. If global temperatures increase by 3.5 degrees Celsius, shortages would affect  11 percent of the world population. Continue reading

Environment: Streams at risk from ‘Frankenstein’ steroids

Research shows how some bioactive pollutants can hide from sampling

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Blue River, Summit County, Colorado.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with remnants of makeup, antibiotics and even caffeine, researchers now say that some steroids are also likely to persist in the environment for a long time, posing a threat to water quality and aquatic species.

Some steroids may even “hide” by breaking down in sunlight, but regenerating at night, according to a new study, led by University of Iowa scientists that took a close look at the anabolic steroid trenbolone acetate and two other drugs. Continue reading

Summit County: Happy Birthday, Dillon Reservoir!

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Dillon Reservoir, Summit County, Colorado.

Dillon Marina hosting a jubilee, with free boating, music and more

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — There may be a few old-timers left who remember what Summit County looked like in the pre-Dillon Reservoir era, but most residents take the 3.200-acre impoundment for granted.

The reservoir was completed 50 years ago as a key step in Denver’s growth as a regional metropolis. The reservoir is operated by Denver Water, which serves more than 1.3 million people as the state’s largest water provider.

This Sunday (Sept. 8), the Dillon Reservoir Recreation Committee is hosting an anniversary celebration at the Dillon Marina. The free event includes pontoon boat tours, canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, as well as a preview of the 2014 air and water show. On land, there will be a free performance by the band Eyes Wide Open, balloon sculptures for youngsters and tasty treats from local vendors. Continue reading

Draft Colorado water plan eyes west slope rivers

Conservation groups concerned about impacts

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A map included in a draft version of a water plan is reason for alarm, according river activist Gary Wockner, with Save the Poudre, who says Front Range providers are targeting additional diversions from West Slope streams.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Front Range alternative for a statewide water plan ordered by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is drawing fire, as watchdog groups charge that the draft version puts too much emphasis upping diversions from Western Slope rivers.

“Just laying out this scheme of diversions and pipelines on a map enflames the political chaos around the Colorado River water supply crisis,” said river activist Gary Wockner director, of Save the Poudre.

According to Wockner, the draft plan being developed by the South Platte, Arkansas and Metro Roundtable could be an effort steer the state water plan toward more dams and diversions, at the expense of losing sight of the need for much more robust conservation measures. Continue reading

Climate: Big changes projected for Patagonia ice fields

Global warming pushes southern hemisphere’s westerlies farther south, with profound implications for water storage and management in South America

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A 2009 NASA image from the International Space Station shows a Patagonia ice field glacier flowing into the Pacific Ocean. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory Page for more information.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Parts of Chile and Argentina may face significant water issues as global warming pushes a belt of westerly winds farther south. Those winds are critical to maintaining the central and northern Patagonia ice fields, which maintain seasonal water storage capacity for both countries.

“We found that precipitation brought to this region by Southern Hemisphere westerlies played an important role in the glaciation of the North Patagonian Ice-Fields,” said Dr, Chris Fogwill, with the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. Continue reading

Global warming: Big changes projected for snowpack in low-elevation coastal mountain ranges

 Provided by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE

Low elevation coastal ranges could see dramatic snowpack changes in the next few decades as global temperatures continue to rise. Satellite image by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE.

Summer river flows will decrease as winter snowpack shrinks

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Low elevation maritime snowpacks around the world could be hit especially hard by global warming, according to scientists with Oregon State University, who are projecting a 56 percent decline in the amount of water stored in peak snowpack in the McKenzie River watershed of the Oregon Cascade Range.

The projections are based on a projected 3.6 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase, and highlight the special risks facing many low-elevation, mountainous regions where snow often falls near the freezing point. In such areas, just a modest temperature increase means the difference between snow and rain.

Winter snowpack in the Cascade Range provides much of the water for the populous Willamette Valley, significant changes in the hydrological regime could have significant social, environmental and economic implications, especially in summer when water demands peak. Continue reading

Hearing shines spotlight on Colorado River woes

The dried up delta where the Colorado River reaches the Sea of Cortez

The dried up delta where the Colorado River reaches the Sea of Cortez is symbolic of the challenges facing the river.More information at this NASA Earth Observatory website.

‘Make every drop count’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Colorado River took center stage in Congress for a few hours this week, as the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power focused on a recent Colorado River study that predicts a growing gap between what the demand for water and what the river can deliver.

The hearing was chaired Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, who knows first-hand what is at stake, from the headwaters in the mighty Rockies down to the Gulf of California. Business as usual just won’t cut it, Udall said, advocating for a short-term focus on conservation, innovation and better management of supply. A video of the hearing, as well as the written testimony of the witnesses, is online here. Continue reading

Water: Stream flow issues crop up in Mono Basin

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power chided for missing minimum stream flow targets and gaps in Mono Lake monitoring

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A Landsat image of California’s Mono Lake at an elevation of about 6,383 feet, about 9 feet below the ordered restoration level.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Conservation advocates in California say recent failures by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to live up to the terms of a restoration agreement for Mono Lake show a lack of attentiveness to the crucial unfinished work of healing an ecosystem that was nearly destroyed by decades of water diversions.

The Mono Lake Committee, which advocates for the saline eastern California lake, detailed some of the violations in a letter to the California State Water Resources Control Board. The committee also outlined some of the issues in a recent update of its online newsletter.

LADWP started diverting the freshwater tributaries of the ancient saline lake in 1941. By 1982, the lake had dropped 45 feet, lost half its volume – and the salinity of the water doubled, resulting in all sorts of negative impacts to the unique desert-lake ecosystem and the riparian corridors along its tributaries. More details about the impacts of the diversions are online at this Mono Lake Committee web page.

Continue reading

Op-ed: Some water lessons from Mono Lake

Bob Berwyn portrait

Bob Berwyn.

Public Trust doctrine offers hope for Colorado’s rivers

By Bob Berwyn

I first discovered Mono Lake quite by accident in the early 1980s. I was driving from Colorado toward Mammoth Lakes and somehow I ended up cutting across the Eastern Sierra high desert on Highway 167 — I think I was probably looking for an obscure hot spring. Just before dawn, with a fat moon hanging over the Sierra Crest, I saw this great  disk of a lake, shining silvery blue in the crepuscular light, looking completely out of place in the high, dry plains of the Great Basin.

I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was starting to hallucinate after 15 straight hours behind the wheel, then turned south on Highway 395 until I found a shady spot at Mono Lake County Park where I slept for a few hours. In the afternoon, I wandered down to the edge of the water and learned just a little bit about the magical tufa towers and the natural history of the lake, as well as the water diversions by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power that threatened to collapse the ecosystem. Continue reading

Colorado: ‘Extreme’ dust events can speed runoff by 6 weeks

Dust abatement could be part of a climate adaptation strategy in the Upper Colorado River Basin

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Desert dust from the Southwest tints the spring snow cover at Loveland Pass, Colorado.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Even before a series of intense dust storms coated the Rocky Mountain snowpack in 2009 and 2010, scientists had calculated that the dust speeds the spring meltdown and reduces runoff in the Colorado River Basin by as much as 5 percent, based on data gathered between 2005 and 2008.

Dust storms in subsequent years saw unprecedented levels of dust loading, on the order of five times the 2005–2008 loading, a team of researchers wrote recently in a paper published for online discussion in the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. Continue reading

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