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Colorado River Water Availability Study
With no fanfare or press attention, the Colorado Water Conservation Board in March posted online the final version of its Colorado River Water Availability Study (CRWAS) phase one report, intended to determine how much water from the Colorado River Basin System is available to meet Colorado's future water needs under alternate hydrologies. The report and its appendices, which contain the most important information, are available here . The 2010 draft of the report had prompted many suggestions of changes, and major changes were made. (Among the suggestions were several in a joint letter by RMCO and allied organizations .) The combination of the CRWAS report and the Joint Front Range Climate Change Vulnerability Study featured in RMCO's March newsletter provide the best information yet on how climate change may affect Colorado water. (For information on the next major report, being prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, see the Resource of Month at the end of this newsletter.)
RMCO prepared the figure below illustrating the CRWAS projections of possible climate-change effects on future water availability for two of the key locations on the main stem of the Colorado River in the state, for 2025-2054 (summarized as "2040" in the report) compared to 1950-2005. The projections are based in part on five climate projections representing the range of projected future conditions. For comparable projections for other locations and for 2055-2084 (called "2070" in the report), see the report's Appendix F
News about RMCO and Partners
News about RMCO Partners
With drought looming again, Denver Water issued "Stage 1" drought measures, calling for voluntary reductions in water consumption. Colorado rivers, streams may get boost from lease of water rights, Denver Post, April 26, 2012.
The City of Boulder is in the market for solar trees in its parking lots, partnering with a local business and White House-recognized Champion of Change to take advantage of a unique opportunity. Boulder company's plan to create power in parking lots wins praise, Denver Post, April 18, 2012.
News about Climate Action
In poll, many link weather extremes to climate change , New York Times, April 17, 2012. A recent poll shows that a large majority of Americans ( graphic ) believe that last year's sweltering summer and this year's warm winter as well as other weather disasters were probably made worse by global warming.
U.S. voters favor regulating carbon dioxide: survey , Reuters, April 26, 2012. Three out of four American voters support regulating carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas pollutant and a majority think global warming should be a priority for the president and Congress.
National Climate Policies
California leads green tech funding, reduces greenhouse emissions , Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2012. Helping to both drive economic recovery and cut emissions, investments in California green tech companies rose 24 percent between 2010 and 2011 to $3.5 billion, including 62 percent of all venture capital funding in the U.S. in 2011 in the solar power industry.
Fuel to burn: Now what? , New York Times, April 10, 2012. As part of a comprehensive look at the United States' energy outlook , the New York Times examines the recent explosion of natural gas production and what it means for future emissions and renewable energy generation.
Utah criticized for ignoring climate change in water planning , Salt Lake Tribune, April 5, 2012. A recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council on how well states are planning for climate-change impacts on water resources ranks Utah and Montana in the lowest tier, most of the rest of the Mountain West ranked just one tier higher, and Colorado getting a higher ranking.
$4 gas reinforces trend toward lower U.S. fuel consumption , Washington Post, April 17, 2012. With gas prices hovering near $4 a gallon, American drivers have slashed their consumption of gasoline to its lowest levels in a decade, a result of both driving less and using more fuel-efficient cars.
Bears keep threatened status until at least 2014 , Billings Gazette, April 20, 2012. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will wait until at least 2014 to revisit its attempt to remove protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears. In the interim, wildlife officials will attempt to gather new information that could be used to reverse a court ruling that found that grizzly bears face a continued, climate change-driven threat from the loss of whitebark pine trees, a key food source for some bears.
News about Climate Disruption
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions headed up again , New York Times, April 16, 2012. Following a two-year decline during the economic downturn, U.S. output of heat-trapping pollutants rose 3.2 percent from 2009 to 2010 as the nation climbed out of the recession, according to the annual Environmental Protection Agency emissions inventory . When hitting 400 is not good: Levels of key greenhouse gas pass milestone, trouble scientists, Washington Post, May 31, 2012. For the first time, CO 2 concentrations are measured above 400 ppm at multiple places in the Arctic, a sobering milestone. A NOAA press release acknowledges the reading is a seasonal peak that will be balanced out for the year, but says the world annual average will likely reach 400 ppm by 2016, as compared to the 2011 average of 390.4 ppm and pre-Industrial Revolution average of 280 ppm.
Warmest January to March period on record in U.S., including Washington, D.C., Chicago , Boston, Washington Post, April 9, 2012. The January-February-March period was the hottest such period on record for the lower 48 states, with an analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimating heat-trapping gases contributed 5 to 10 percent of March's unusual heat. NOAA also found the 12-month period from April 2011-March 2012 the hottest such 12-month period recorded in the lower 48.
The West this year experienced a classic La Niňa-dominated winter, with more snowfall in the northern part of the region and less in the southern . In western Colorado, where our mountains are the major source of water for the Colorado River, March was the fourth driest and sixth warmest March on record (going back to 1895). The statewide snowpack, which historically peaks on April 12, hits its peak this year exactly one month early, with net melting after March 12. On that date, the average snowpack across the entire Upper Colorado River basin was 76% of normal for that date, but by April 12 had fallen to 35% of the average for that date. The latest forecast is for this year's inflow to Lake Powell, the conventional measure of the hydrological condition of the Colorado River Basin , to be about 63% of normal.
Jeff Mitton: The mountain pine beetle's unprecedented summer generation , Boulder Daily Camera, April 26, 2012. A new mountain pine beetle study reveals some startling facts: the current mountain pine beetle epidemic is a full order of magnitude larger than any on record, beetles are now killing trees above 11,000 feet when just 25 years ago trees above 9,000 feet were safe, flight season has skyrocketed from a historical norm of 50 days to over 130 days in 2010, and the theoretic potential exists for one beetle to produce as many as 3,600 -- as opposed to 60 -- descendants in just one year.
Warm spring may mean drought and wildfires in West , National Geographic, April 25, 2012. As of April 10th, 61 percent of the lower 48 states were experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions, and in the West, Lake Powell and Lake Mead were at only 64 percent capacity following a decade-long drought and a winter with less than 70 percent of the average snowfall across much of the basin. The precarious situation leaves the region primed for a dangerous wildfire season, which has already begun, and has states hurrying to prepare. Parched Western states rush to prepare for a dangerous fire season that's already under way , Associated Press, April 12, 2012.
Resource of the Month:
Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study
Later this year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is scheduled to release a Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study, the most comprehensive look yet at how climate change may affect this resource that is all-important to seven western states. (An RMCO analysis shows that in those seven states, 22 of the 32 cities with populations of 200,000 or more use Colorado River water.) A draft of the final report is not due until June, but the study website already includes a wealth of information, including updated technical reports and a compendium of options to resolve imbalances in the basin between water supplies and demands.
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Suggestions and comments are welcome!
Stephen Saunders, RMCO president: email@example.com