Some climate models project more rainfall in the West
While most recent research suggests that the Colorado River will be depleted well beyond current demands as global temperatures increase, there may be one small bright spot on the horizon. Even if runoff from snow declines, groundwater replenishment in the basin may hold stead under projected increases in precipitation, the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation found in a new study.
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” said Fred Tillman, lead author and USGS scientist. “These results are the first step in understanding the quantity of groundwater we can expect in the Upper Colorado River Basin; however, further studies are needed to help more accurately forecast future groundwater availability.”
The Colorado River is a critically important source of water for more than 35 million people in the United States and 3 million people in Mexico. As much as half the water flowing in the rivers and streams in the Upper Colorado River Basin originates as groundwater. Understanding how much groundwater is available and how it’s replenished is important to sustainably manage both groundwater and surface water supplies in the Colorado River basin now and in the future.
In the new study, USGS and Reclamation scientists estimated projected changes in groundwater recharge for the Upper Colorado River Basin from recent historical (1950–2015) through future (2016–2099) time periods using climate projections and a groundwater-recharge model.
Simulated future groundwater recharge through 2099 is generally expected to be somewhat greater than the historical average in most decades due to an anticipated wetter future climate in the basin under the most advanced climate modeling projections. Groundwater resources are replenished through increases in precipitation, which may offset reductions from increased temperatures. The full report is available online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
But researchers urged caution interpreting the results because a few of the models suggested decreased future recharge relative to the historical climate period.
Research to help shape efforts to reduce dangerous air pollution
By Bob Berwyn
Emissions from oil and gas production along the Colorado Front Range are a significant, measurable part of the region’s chronic summer ozone problem, scientists concluded after taking a close look at air pollution during an extensive research project in the summer of 2014.
Ozone levels in the area often spike above 70 parts per billion, a level deemed by the EPA to be dangerous to human health and to the environment, causing respiratory problems and damage to plants. About 17 ppb of that ozone are produced locally; about 3 ppb come from oil and gas industry emissions, according to a new study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
State plans predator control research on Roan Plateau
Colorado wildlife managers say they are set to start a three-year study on whether killing bears and mountain lions can help boost deer populations in the northwestern part of the state, where hunting is a big part of the local economy.
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, mule deer populations remain below objective in the state’s largest mule deer herds in the Piceance Basin. Part of a 2015 strategy to boost those numbers is predator control, which is not a popular concept with some wildlife advocates, who believe that habitat fragmentation from oil and gas development is probably a bigger factor in the long-term decline of deer herds. Continue reading “Colorado will kill bears and lions to boost deer herds”→
New growth in delta could offset CO2 released from riverbed
Human management of natural ecosystems always has unintended consequences, and the Colorado River is no example. After decades of intense dam building and diversions, the mighty river is a mere shadow of it former self, reduced to a trickle in some places and polluted by return flows in others. Along its entire length, ecosystems, including riparian zones and native fish, have suffered, with some of the biggest impacts in the Colorado River delta.
In an effort to restore at least some key reaches of the river, scientists and water managers have teamed up to try mimic some of the Colorado’s natural functions, with controlled releases of water to build up beaches. Those efforts culminated in early 2014 during an eight-week experiment that unleashed a mighty torrent of water from Morelos dam (on the border with Mexico and the USA).
The huge surge (130 million cubic metres) of water raised river levels down to the delta, which has been starved of water for decades. Scientists closely monitored how the release — and potential future releases — affect agricultural crops and natural plant and animal life of the lower delta.
Since everybody on the subway in Vienna stares into their “Handy” pretty much the entire time they’re on board a train, I thought I would do the same during a recent jaunt to Heiligenstadt. But rather than texting or checking email, I played with a couple of photo apps to put together this short plant-oriented set. The three edited shots are from Vienna, including the great, green chestnut leaves; the other two pics are from a slot canyon in southern Austria, the Heiligengeistklamm, so I could’ve called this set from the holy gorge to the holy city. What can I say — it’s a Catholic country.
Non-native predators could threaten endangered species in Colorado River
Colorado wildlife managers will try to curb expansion of non-native northern pike in Summit County’s Green Mountain Reservoir by paying anglers a $20 bounty for each fish they deliver to the Heeney Marina.
The illegally introduced fish are taking a toll on trout in the reservoir north of Silverthorne and could escape to the Blue River and make their way to the Colorado River. That could add to the challenges of trying to recover four endangered native Colorado River fish species, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
New organization to push for more aggresive steps to curb greenhouse gases
Nine Colorado cities and counties are forming a new group that aims to push the state to take more aggressive action to slow climate change.
The new group, Communities for Climate Action, will lobby the state government and participate in state agency proceedings to to represent local interests in climate protection, energy efficiency, and clean energy, according to Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, which is administering the new organization.