Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Thursday, February 1, 2007

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Proving the theory that the West will be fighting over water forever Montana is suing Wyoming over stream flow on the Tongue River and the Powder River.

Check out the current U.S. Drought Monitor map showing drought conditions in the western U.S. See if you can tell why they're fighting.

Category: Colorado Water

6:49:03 PM    

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Earth Times: "U.S. scientists have created the first historic temperature record of the North American Great Plains -- an area stretching from Canada to north Texas. Baylor University geology Professor Lee Nordt, along with Professor Joseph von Fisher of Colorado State University and Larry Tieszen of the U.S. Geological Survey, produced the 12,000-year temperature record by studying the stable isotopic composition of buried soils.

"The results really surprised us, especially between 12,000 and 7,000 years ago, Nordt said. Earth temperatures should have been getting warmer during that time, but they weren't. We concluded it was caused by negative feedback from the melting glaciers. The ocean water temperature was colder because the glaciers were melting. That, in turn, caused temperatures to drop.Nordt said the sun's intensity on the Earth is the main reason why temperatures generally increased during the last 12,000 years. That intensity is decreasing but temperatures are not."

Category: Colorado Water

7:10:48 AM    

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HB 07-1013 [pdf] is the subject of this article from the Brighton Standard Blade. They write, "A group of Adams County business owners say Central Colorado Water Conservancy District is unfairly tapping tax dollars for one of its subdistricts. The business owners are backing legislation that would let them -- and countless others -- out of a water conservancy subdistrict for the land they own -- land that once used a well tapped for agriculture. The well hasn't pumped for 25 years and all post-pumping depletions have been repaid, the owners say. Now they want out of their obligation to pay taxes to the subdistrict for which they receive no service. House Bill 1013, expected before the House Agriculture Committee in coming weeks, would allow subdistrict members of a water conservancy district to get out if they no longer use water for agriculture and have met all their augmentation requirements. If the opt-out bill passes, Tom Cech, director for Central, said he would be concerned for school districts, fire districts and other special districts throughout the state. 'Similar legislation could be attempted toward those groups in the future,' he said.

"Central is already tight on water and the money it has for water projects that would benefit well users within the district. An order by the state water engineer in May required about 440 wells within one of Central's subdistricts shut down -- and wells in another subdistrict to operate at 50 percent of historic pumping averages -- because a plan to repay past depletions had not been accepted. Central hopes that a water court appearance Feb. 5 will give farmers the ability to pump wells at least at partial ability this year."

Category: Colorado Water

7:06:25 AM    

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Scientists are using NASA's Aura satellite to track water vapor on earth, according to the University of Colorado at Boulder. From the article, "For the first time, scientists have used a spaceborne instrument to track the origin and movements of water vapor throughout Earth's atmosphere, providing a new perspective on the dominant role Earth's water cycle plays in weather and climate. A team of scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer on NASA's Aura satellite to gather data on 'heavy' and 'light' water vapor in order to retrace the history of water over oceans and continents, from ice and liquid to vapor and back again. The researchers were able to distinguish between the two because heavy water vapor molecules have more neutrons than lighter ones do. By analyzing the distribution of the heavy and light molecules, the team was able to deduce the sources and processes that cycle water, the most abundant greenhouse gas in Earth's atmosphere, said David Noone of CU-Boulder's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Noone, an assistant professor in CU-Boulder's atmospheric and oceanic sciences department, is the corresponding author of a paper on the subject that appears in the Feb. 1 issue of Nature. The team found that tropical rainfall evaporation and water 'exhaled' by forests are key sources of moisture to the tropical atmosphere. The researchers noted that much more water than expected is transported into the lower troposphere over land than over oceans, especially over the Amazon River basin and in tropical Africa. 'One might expect most of the water to come directly from the wet ocean,' said Noone. 'Instead, it appears that thunderstorm activity over the tropical continents plays a key role in keeping the troposphere hydrated.' The team found that in the tropics and regions of tropical rain clouds, rainfall evaporation significantly adds moisture to the lower troposphere, with typically 20 percent and up to 50 percent of rain there evaporating before it reaches the ground. 'This mechanism allows the atmosphere to retain some of the water, which can be used later, for instance, to make clouds,' Noone said."

Category: Colorado Water

6:55:52 AM    

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming is due out tomorrow, according to the Christian Science Monitor. They write, "By 2100, retired snowbirds will be joined by 'sun birds' -- who flee north to escape oppressively hot, humid summers not just in Miami, but Milwaukee as well. In the US West, deep mountain snows -- currently a key natural reservoir for fresh water -- will virtually vanish. And while the growing season will expand by about a month, urban gardeners will spend more time indoors as higher temperatures help boost smog at ground level. Welcome to a world where the climate is, on average, 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than today. That projection -- more specific than any previous one -- is just one element expected to emerge this week as some 500 scientists from around the world gather to put the finishing touches on a major report on the Earth's climate and what the future may hold for it as humans continue to pump heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It's the first of three volumes set for release this year by the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Details in the document, which focuses on climate change, remain closely held until its release Friday morning. Leaks to the press based on earlier drafts, however, suggest that the researchers are projecting temperature increases of between 2 and 4.5 degrees C (3.6 and 8.1 degrees F.) by century's end if carbon-dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere reach twice their preindustrial levels. Their 'most likely' increase is expected to be about 3 degrees C...

"For the US, global warming will squeeze more moisture out of the already dry Southwest. "But the consensus among models is not as high," he explains. One reason: Models are still having a hard time capturing the wind patterns that bring seasonal monsoons to the region. Mountains in the US West will still get precipitation in winter, but it's more likely to be rain than snow. Throughout the country, when it rains, it will pour, as extreme-weather events become more common -- raising the likelihood of floods and giving fits to Western water managers. In one study published last year, researchers from the US and Australia compared projections from several models and found that climate extremes -- ranging from more frequent and intense heat waves and fewer frost days to longer dry spells and heavier rainfall -- appear around the globe, although consensus among the models begins to evaporate when they tried to look at regional patterns. One broad area that may receive more scrutiny: the portions of Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado that host vast expanses of sand dunes. A recent study by researchers at the University of Nebraska and the University of Wisconsin notes that many of these dune systems are on the knife's edge of mobilization, and could begin to wander across the landscape if moisture becomes much more scarce."

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:45:47 AM    

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HB 07-1132 [pdf] was narrowly approved in the state House of Representatives yesterday, according to the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article, "Rep. Buffie McFadyen's water quality bill won preliminary approval Wednesday in the Colorado House. The measure, which is expected to receive a final House vote today, is designed to allow water court judges to consider how water quality of a river basin will be adversely affected if large, permanent transfers are approved. Because of some minor changes, and a promise from new Gov. Bill Ritter to sign it, the Pueblo West Democrat has managed to secure support for it from water officials in Aurora and Colorado Springs, two areas of the state that traditionally have venomously opposed the idea in the past. 'House Bill 1132 has brought parties to the table that had never been to the table before,' McFadyen said. 'It's a bill supported by the Colorado Water Congress, by Colorado Springs Utilities, it's supported by the city of Aurora, the city of Pueblo. If you know anything about water law in this state, having those entities sitting at a table together is pretty amazing.'

"The measure is nearly identical to one that squeaked through the House last year by one vote. The only difference between this year's measure and that bill, which ultimately died in the Senate by a single vote, was a change that limits it to permanent water transfers. McFadyen said it was that change that won the support of longtime opponents. But she said its real selling point is that the legislation allows, but doesn't require, judges to weigh water quality issues before approving water transfers of 1,000 acre-feet or more. If a judge opts to consider water issues, they must be based on standards established by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission...

"Freshman Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said the bill's true intent is similar to earlier incarnations of the idea, including a mitigation water measure that U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., introduced in 2003 when he was in the Colorado House. 'This bill is not about water quality. This bill is about stopping the movement of water throughout the state of Colorado, and I think that's a problem,' McNulty said. 'We have quested for years and years to develop a more comprehensive statewide policy management policy, and when we start to move in the opposite direction that this bill takes us, I think that's a problem.' McNulty said that because the bill deals with consumptive use of water, that proves it's not about water quality. 'If this bill was about water quality, we wouldn't be talking about the historic consumptive use,' he said. 'The very definition of historic consumptive use is that that water is consumed in the process of the use of that water right and does not make it back to the river or stream. Water transfers of all sorts ... have some impact on water quality.'"

Category: Colorado Water

6:29:17 AM    

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