Category: Colorado

Will global warming boost groundwater supplies in the Upper Colorado River Basin?

Some climate models project more rainfall in the West

A bend in the Yampa River near Dinosaur National Monument in northwest Colorado.
Will global warming boost flows in Colorado River tributaries? @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

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.

Continue reading “Will global warming boost groundwater supplies in the Upper Colorado River Basin?”

Study quantifies role of oil and gas emissions in ozone formation along Colorado Front Range

Research to help shape efforts to reduce dangerous air pollution
ozone map

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.

The researchers said their findings could help shape efforts to improve air quality in the region. Along with the volatile organic compounds released from oil and gas operations, nitrogen oxides from cars, buses and trucks are also a big factor. Any meaningful effort to improve air quality will have to address both sources. Continue reading “Study quantifies role of oil and gas emissions in ozone formation along Colorado Front Range”

Colorado will kill bears and lions to boost deer herds

Colorado mule deer.
Colorado mule deer. @bberwyn photo.

State plans predator control research on Roan Plateau

Staff Report

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”

Colorado River pulse flow released surge of greenhouse gases

New growth in delta could offset CO2 released from riverbed

Colorado River delta
The Colorado River Delta captured in a 2004 image from the International Space Station. Via NASA Earth Observatory.
Our special series on the Upper Colorado River is made possible with support from the Colorado River Water Conservation District. Contact Summit Voice for other sponsorship opportunities and click on the banner to visit the river district online.
Supported by the Colorado River District.

Staff Report

Human management of natural ecosystems always has unintended consequences, and the Colorado River is no exception. 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.

But the pulse flow had another side effect. As the water washed over earth and rocks that had been dried out for many years, it dissolved carbon and sent a surge of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Continue reading “Colorado River pulse flow released surge of greenhouse gases”

Morning photo: Subway doodles

iPhone edits

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.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife targets illegally stocked pike in Green Mountain Reservoir with a bounty for anglers

Northern pike
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is offering a $20 bounty for northern pike caught in Green Mountain Reservoir. Photo courtesy CPW.

Non-native predators could threaten endangered species in Colorado River

Staff Report

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.

“The (pike) were dumped in there several years ago by someone who selfishly didn’t consider the serious consequences we are now dealing with,” said CPW aquatic biologist Jon Ewert. “People should know that illicit stocking is a problem not only for ethical reasons but legal reasons as well. Anyone caught doing it faces severe penalties.” Continue reading “Colorado Parks and Wildlife targets illegally stocked pike in Green Mountain Reservoir with a bounty for anglers”

Colorado cities, counties to lobby state on climate change

New organization to push for more aggresive steps to curb greenhouse gases

Is Colorado a hotspot for global warming?
Is Colorado a hotspot for global warming?

Staff Report

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.

Saunders said the coalition’s goals could include support for pro-climate bills in the State Legislature, advocating for an effective state plan to comply with the federal Clean Power Plan and lobbying Gov. John Hickenlooper to urge more aggressive state climate actions. Continue reading “Colorado cities, counties to lobby state on climate change”