Category: water

Western fires take toll on water supplies

Erosion a huge factor as burned areas grow

A wildfire burns in Texas. Photo via U.S. Forest Service.

Staff Report

The growth of wildfires in the West could double the amount of sediment moving through the region’s rivers, U.S. Geological researchers found in a new study. Increased sediments can affect both water quality and the amount of water available for communities.

The USGS scientists analyzed a collection of climate, fire and erosion models for 471 large watersheds throughout the western U.S. They found that by 2050, the amount of sediment in more than one-third of watersheds could at least double. In nearly nine-tenths of the watersheds, sedimentation is projected to increase by more than 10 percent.

Continue reading “Western fires take toll on water supplies”

Advertisements

Federal court stalls Las Vegas water grab

Federal court slows Las Vegas water grab.

Environmental studies flawed

Staff Report

A federal court has at least temporarily stifled a major water grab in Nevada, finding that the Bureau of Land Management didn’t adequately study and disclose impacts from groundwater pumping scheme by Las Vegas. At issue are losses of wetlands and wildlife habitat that would result from the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s massive groundwater pipeline development project.

The court ruled that the BLM violated federal environmental laws by failing to demonstrate how it would compensate for the destruction of thousands of acres of wetlands and sensitive habitat in eastern Nevada. Continue reading “Federal court stalls Las Vegas water grab”

Trump’s EPA cuts threaten Colorado environment

USGS and EPA scientists take earth and water samples below the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine in Summit County, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

EDF report details risks to clean air, water programs

Staff Report

The Trump administration’s attempted dismantling of the EPA could have far-reaching consequences for Colorado, according to a new report issued by the Environmental Defense Fund.

The organization warns that the proposed 30 percent budget cut would affect public health and environmental cleanups by reducing the agency’s budget to levels last seen in the 1970s.

“The president seeks to roll back common-sense environmental safeguards that have protected the health and well-being of Colorado for decades,” said Elgie Holstein, EDF’s senior director of strategic planning, “This is not just an assault on an agency. It is an assault on public health and safety.” Continue reading “Trump’s EPA cuts threaten Colorado environment”

Thirsty Las Vegas pushes legislative water grab

Nevada water zombies seek legislative sanction for destructive groundwater exploitation.

Proposed bill would enable desert-killing groundwater exploitation

Staff Report

After failing several times to win approval for a new groundwater depletion scheme via regulatory channels, the Southern Nevada Water Authority is now pursuing a legislative water grab that could devastate fragile desert ecosystems and push some endangered species even closer to extinction.

Most recently, the Nevada Supreme Court rejected the Las Vegas bid for a new pipeline.

Assembly Bill 298 would enable for groundwater export projects that would harm prings and wetlands, degrade air quality with fugitive dust and impact existing water rights holders. During the hearing numerous members of conservation groups and the public spoke to vigorously oppose the bill. Continue reading “Thirsty Las Vegas pushes legislative water grab”

How does global warming affect flows in the Rio Grande?

New study to help water planners in changing climate

A 2016 Landsat 8 image of the Lower Rio Grande canyons courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

There are more and more signs that global warming triggered a step-change in many natural systems in the 1980s. A new study, led by scientists with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, tracked a big change in flows in the Rio Grande watershed, a key source of water in New Mexico and Texas.

According to the study, the percentage of precipitation that becomes streamflow in the Upper Rio Grande watershed has fallen more steeply than at any point in at least 445 years.

In another recent study, European researchers showed how major lakes across Central Europe warmed dramatically starting about that same time, and the meltdown of Arctic ice has also accelerated rapidly since then. Continue reading “How does global warming affect flows in the Rio Grande?”

Study tracks startling salinization trend in U.S. lakes

Road salt, development blamed for spiking chloride levels

Water quality in freshwater lakes near roads where salt is used is rapidly deteriorating. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Lakes from New England to the Midwest are getting saltier from the massive use of chemicals to melt ice on roads, as well as from urban development. Under the current trend,  many North American lakes will surpass EPA-recommended chloride levels in 50 years, spelling trouble for aquatic ecosystems.

The majority of the lakes (284) were located in a North American Lakes Region that includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ontario, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Continue reading “Study tracks startling salinization trend in U.S. lakes”

Sunday set: Wien scene

City sights …


A short photographic stroll through a city that consistently ranks near the very top worldwide for quality of life.  Vienna’s coffee houses and parks are definitely part of its charms, but it’s also a European hub science, culture, literature and tech innovation. And there are connections to my old stomping grounds in Colorado. For example, I spent several years following the story of how parasitic whirling disease wiped out most of Colorado’s rainbows, and how biologists were working to restore the popular game fish with a population resistant to the disease. Then last summer, as I was working on a story about a massive fish die-off in the Yellowstone River, my research led me to an Egyptian-born research scientist at the University of Vienna who has been studying various parasitic trout diseases, and linking them with global warming. Turns out that Mansour El-Matbouli also was an instrumental figure in the efforts to breed the strain of rainbow trout that are resistant to whirling disease, and that he had worked closely with aquatic biologists in Colorado that I also had interviewed for my stories in Colorado. We’re facing global environmental challenges, and they require a global and science-based response. It’s a small world.