Tag: rivers

April storms boost Colorado snowpack

Much of West reports record-fast meltdown under El Niño heat

Colorado snowpack May 1 2016
April storms boosted Colorado’s snowpack, with near average runoff and river flows expected during the spring and summer in most parts of the state.
Colorado snowpack map
Southern parts of Colorado have not had above average snowpack readings for several years in a row, which could be part of the “new normal” in the global warming era

Staff Report

April storms helped boost Colorado’s statewide snowpack to above average, but two river basins in the southern part of the state continue to report below normal readings.

The state’s mountain areas benefited the most from a series of wet, El Niño-fueled storms, bringing precipitation for the water year to average, according to Brian Domonkos, the Colorado snow survey supervisor for the USDA Natural Resources conservation service.

“At this time last year the water supply outlook was grim at best,” Domonkos said. “Colorado’s current snowpack and precipitation levels are right where we want to be this time of year. Elsewhere in the Western United States seasonal snowpack during 2016 succumbed to early spring warming and did not recover as Colorado did from recent storms,” he added. Continue reading “April storms boost Colorado snowpack”

Environment: Can dams be operated without killing rivers?

Glen Canyon Dam. Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.
Glen Canyon Dam. Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

New study eyes impacts to aquatic insects

Staff Report

Using a vast sample of data collected in a citizen science project, researchers say they’ve been able to discern how hydropeaking affects aquatic insects that form the base of river food chains. The information could help resource managers develop alternative hydropower practices that aren’t as harmful to ecosystems, according to a new study published in the journal BioScience.

Hydropeaking refers to the practice of increasing river flows at times of peak demand, generally during the day. This study shows how abrupt water level changes affect aquatic insects in every stage of life. The research was done by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, Oregon State University, Utah State University and Idaho State University. Continue reading “Environment: Can dams be operated without killing rivers?”

Climate: Warmer springtime temps cut Colorado River flows

A wintry icescape along the Blue River north of Silverthorne, Colorado.
A wintry icescape along the Blue River north of Silverthorne, Colorado.

It’s not just the snowpack

Staff Report

A new study showing the link between warmer spring temperatures and decreased river flows could spell more challenges for water managers trying to stretch supplies from major western rivers.

The research suggests that warmer-than-average spring temperatures may have a bigger effect on upper Colorado River flows than expected.

“Forecasts of stream flow are largely based on precipitation,” said University of Arizona professor Connie Woodhouse. “What we’re seeing since the 1980s is that temperature plays a larger role in stream flow and in exacerbating drought, said Wodehouse. Continue reading “Climate: Warmer springtime temps cut Colorado River flows”

Rhine River plastic pollution is the highest measured

3.9 million plastic items per square kilometer …

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A sample from the Rhine near Duisburg shows the variety of plastic pollution found in the water. Photo courtesy University of Basel.

Staff Report

Given the fact that microplastic debris is so widespread, it’s probably no surprise that the Rhine — Europe’s workhorse river — has been found to be among the most polluted by plastic.

The Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area has the highest concentration, at about 2,333,665 particles per square kilometer, with a peak at Rees on the Nederhijn, where 3.9 million plastic items per square kilometer (or 21,839 particles per 1000 cubic meters) were found in a single water sample. In general, extreme peaks may be reached after heavy rain or accidents. Continue reading “Rhine River plastic pollution is the highest measured”

Nitrate pollution remains high in many U.S. rivers

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Agricultural runoff has left many major rivers polluted with nitrates.

‘Unfortunately, there is no widespread evidence of improving conditions …’

Staff Report

Massive efforts to improve water quality haven’t been effective in many large U.S. rivers, where nitrate levels remain at high levels after surging in the second half of the 20th century.

Between 1945 and 1980, nitrate levels in large U.S. rivers increased up to fivefold as chemical fertilizer use increased dramatically in the Midwest. In some urbanized areas along the East and West coasts during the same period, river nitrate levels doubled.

In recent decades, nitrate changes have been smaller but nitrate levels have remained high in most of the rivers examined in a new U.S. Geological Survey study. Continue reading “Nitrate pollution remains high in many U.S. rivers”

Environment: Danube plastic pollution out of control, scientists say after intensive sampling effort

At times, there’s more plastic than baby fish in Europe’s second-largest river

Sunrise along the Danube in Linz, Austria.
Sunrise along the Danube in Linz, Austria. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —The Danube River has long been a source of inspiration for songs, fairytales and dreams. But in recent decades, those dreams have morphed into plastic nightmare of sorts, as the mighty European stream sends at least 1,500 tons of plastic debris surging into the Black Sea each year.

So much plastic is being washed into the Danube that, at times, the debris outweighs the amount of fish larvae drifting down Europe’s second-largest river, a team of Austrian scientists found after two years of intensive sampling.

Most of the plastic (about 80 percent) is from pre-consumer industrial sources — in other words, from the factories that make the tiny plastic pellets and flakes that, in turn, are used to make everything from toothbrushes to kids toys, says Aaron Lechner, a researcher with the University of Vienna who teamed up with other scientists to take a close look at the problem. Continue reading “Environment: Danube plastic pollution out of control, scientists say after intensive sampling effort”

Colorado: Water sharing a good deal for rivers

State water board, conservation group team up to create innovative new water rights agreement

By Bob Berwyn

Photos courtesy Colorado Water Trust

* Tools like the Little Cimarron agreement could be used to improve environmental conditions in many of the state’s rivers, and the evolving Colorado Water Plan can help identify places where deals like this could be used. Read more about the Colorado Water plan here.

FRISCO —For thousands of years, the Little Cimarron River trickled out of the snowfields of the San Juan Mountains, coursing unimpeded through steep alpine canyons and rolling sagebrush foothills before merging with the Gunnison River.

That changed when European settlers arrived in the region. Eager to tame the rugged land, ranchers and farmers took to the hills with shovels and picks, diverting part of the river’s flow to water hayfields and pastures. The back-breaking work brought the imprint of civilization to the area, but just as surely wrought huge changes to natural systems that had been self-regulating themselves since the end of the last ice age.

Like nearly every other river in Colorado, the Little Cimarron was free-flowing no more. Continue reading “Colorado: Water sharing a good deal for rivers”