Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

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Here's an update on Governor Ritter's South Platte River Basin Task Force from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

In June, Gov. Bill Ritter seated a task force to find ways to manage the river so that surface water users and well owners can co-exist. But the tone Monday was less than optimistic, with members expressing doubt that anything meaningful will come from Ritter's initiative. "The reality is there is not much that can be done," said task force member Manuel Montoya, manager of the Brighton-based Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Co. "There are small tweaks that can be done, but they are not going to amount to much," he said.

The group, which has met five times since June, must craft a plan for lawmakers by Sept. 30. Monday, Ritter urged the group to put self-interests aside. "The whole hope of this was that we could take the decisions that have been dealt us and find some solutions," he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:54:50 AM    

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Here's a recap of last night's Aurora City Council meeting where councilors took up the issue of water rates, from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

On the heels of complaints from constituents such as Pomarico, council members discussed Monday changing a rate structure implemented in January that charges people for water based on four usage blocks. At the highest block, residents are charged $10.75 per thousand gallons of water...

...the rate structure has had "unintended consequences" on water bills, said Mayor Ed Tauer, who added that every council member has had constituents contact them about the issue. Council member Bob Broom introduced an ordinance Monday to eliminate the highest rate block by Jan. 1. The council will vote on the proposal in two weeks. Some council members questioned whether doing away with the highest block would bring the intended relief because most residents never reach that level of water usage. Council member Ryan Frazier suggested changing the baseline for the rate system.

Category: Colorado Water

6:50:20 AM    

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Here's a short look at dam safety in Colorado from The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (free registration required). From the article:

Jack Byers, deputy state engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources, said that while Garfield County has high-hazard dams, none are operating under restrictions or have immediate safety concerns. High-hazard dams are ones that could cause significant loss of life or property damage if they failed. "It doesn't dictate what is the likelihood of the dam failing, it is more how you have to manage these dams," said Dave Merritt, chief engineer with the Colorado River District, based in Glenwood Springs. High-hazard dams must undergo annual inspection in Colorado.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed [U.S. Representative John] Salazar's dam repair bill early this month. It is expected to receive consideration by the full House after Congress returns from its August break. The bill would authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide grants for rehabilitation and repair of publicly owned dams. It would make $200 million available over five years for work on the nation's aging dam infrastructure. States would have to provide 35 percent in matching funds. Byers praised the measure but also said the amount of money is relatively small compared to the need that exists...

The state has about 193 dams with restrictions out of about 2,000 in total, he said. Those restrictions might include prohibiting a reservoir from being completely filled, or used to store any water at all. Most of the dams with restrictions are considered low-hazard, meaning problems with them wouldn't endanger lives, he said. Locally, large dams such as the one at Rifle Gap are considered high-hazard. However, Merritt said much smaller dams also can be high-hazard, as in cases when they are located in narrow canyons. Salazar's bill wouldn't apply to privately owned dams. Nor would it pertain to federally owned ones, such as Ruedi Reservoir near Basalt, which the federal government maintains. Byers believes Salazar's focus on dam safety is well-timed, given the recent, deadly collapse of a highway bridge in Minneapolis.

Category: Colorado Water

6:42:01 AM    

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Here's an update on Cloudsat written by one of the principal investigators, Graeme Stephens, for The Denver Post. From the article:Despite the enormous number of images of clouds from space, previously there had been little real information about the properties of clouds. CloudSat is the first radar to look vertically at the characteristics of clouds, particularly their water and ice content. That data will help scientists better predict weather patterns and climate changes. Those improvements will give us more confidence in predicting droughts and severe storms in the future, including the effects of global warming...

CloudSat - designed at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and built by Boulder's Ball Aerospace - flies in NASA's "A-Train" constellation of satellites, maintaining a separation of about 15 seconds from the CALIPSO spacecraft, which carries a laser system called "lidar" to study clouds and aerosols (dust and pollution). The lidar complements the CloudSat radar, in that each is particularly well-suited for studying a certain class of clouds. Together, they give a complete picture of clouds from the thinnest cirrus high in the atmosphere to the thickest, most heavily precipitating clouds...

Among some of the new discoveries gathered in the first 12 months of CloudSat's operations:

- CloudSat research is leading to a promising new technique for estimating the intensity of hurricanes from space. The method could one day supplement existing techniques, assist in designing future tropical cyclone satellite observing systems and improve disaster preparedness and recovery efforts. Developed by scientists at CSU, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the technique uses NASA satellite data, including data from CloudSat, to remotely estimate hurricane intensity.

- CloudSat has provided the first real information on the fraction of clouds that produce precipitation. Over the Earth's oceans, CloudSat has shown that precipitation is much more common than was previously thought, due to the fact that precipitation over oceans is extremely hard to measure and the light rain that often falls has been completely missed by satellite observations until now. Weather and climate models fail to predict this precipitation, but the CloudSat observations will lead to improvements in the predictions. CloudSat has shown that 15 percent of all oceanic clouds produce rain that falls to the surface.

- Weather and climate-prediction models predict that the majority of rain that falls comes from deep thunderstorms. CloudSat has revealed that this is not the case, and instead the observations show that a large proportion of rain falls from much shallower clouds.

- CloudSat has provided new insights on the greenhouse effects of clouds, identifying where and when clouds trap heat in the atmosphere and where and when they increase the amount of heat lost from the atmosphere to space. This dynamic trade-off between heating and cooling is one of the basic controls on global climate and the new knowledge gives scientists better tools to estimate future climate.

The CloudSat radar also provides observations of clouds over the polar regions during winter. These clouds have been largely invisible to earlier satellite observations because of the lack of sunlight and the difficulty of sensing a difference, from space, between cold clouds and cold ice-covered surfaces. As we are finding out, the polar regions are extremely sensitive to climate warming, and the complex interplay between the polar surface and polar clouds can now be studied for the first time.

More on Mr. Stephens from The Denver Post.

More coverage here or here. More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:30:19 AM    

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