Water

Water managers along the Colorado River are trying to figure out how to live with less.

Climate change is growing the gap between the river’s supply, and the demands in the communities that rely on it, including seven western U.S. states and Mexico. The federal government recently released proposals called Drought Contingency Plans designed to keep the Colorado River’s biggest reservoirs from falling to levels where water is unable to be sent through the dams that hold up Lakes Powell and Mead.

Key reservoirs along the Colorado River are collectively at their lowest point at the start of a new water year since the last one filled nearly 40 years ago.

One Sunday morning several years ago Dave Huhn got a call. He’s usually off work that day, but it was the height of irrigation season and decided to answer. The woman on the other end was frantic, screaming as she watched her 82-year-old husband from the window.

Their 86-year-old neighbor was beating him with a shovel.

In 2007, years into a record-breaking drought throughout the southwestern U.S., officials along the Colorado River finally came to an agreement on how they’d deal with future water shortages -- and then quietly hoped that wet weather would return.

But it didn’t.

Town of Carbondale

Dan Richardson, Mayor of Carbondale, steps into a conversation about global warming, identity, and the gray zone of unresolved perspectives.

In early August three years ago, Barb Horn stood along the banks of the Animas River in the city of Durango, Colorado. Word had spread of a mine waste spill upstream near Silverton. She waited, alongside hundreds of others, for the waste to appear. But the plume took longer than expected and eventually arrived at night.

The next morning, she saw the change.

“It was absolutely surreal,” Horn says. “And I think that's why it went viral. It’s like somebody photoshopped the river orange.”

Avery Ecological Design

Water specialist Avery Ellis shares permaculture practices and strategies for times of drought.

Stand near a river and you’ll hear a symphony of sounds: birds chirping, frogs croaking and water flowing. But what would it sound like if the stream itself could be transformed into classical music?

David Merritt, a Colorado-based researcher and musician, is helping answer that question by turning river data into music to hear how we’ve changed rivers throughout the West.

US Drought Monitor 8/09/2018


Glenwood Springs is taking on voluntary water conservation measures and the town has gone to Level 2 of its Drought Management Plan. KDNK’s Amy Hadden Marsh talks to Brad Zachman, superintendent of the city’s Water and Wastewater Department, about the city’s water supply and why restrictions are not mandatory.

Between growing populations and changing climate conditions, our water sources are only expected to get more crunched. Communities in some very dry states have had to get creative about where to get their water, sometimes purifying sewage into drinking water. More western cities are beginning to get on board, too. But there’s a problem: the ick factor.

Town of Carbondale

 

One week ago, the Town of Carbondale inacted water restrictions. Will Grandbois, editor of The Sopris Sun, spoke with the town director of public works Kevin Schorzman to learn more.

H2O Media, Ltd.

The U.S. Geological Survey keeps track of how much water flows through rivers and streams across the country to help plan for shortages—or at the other extreme—brace for floods. But there are more waterways than the agency is able to track, so recently they added a new tool that will not only help them cover more ground, but also help them learn more about this precious resource—all without ever touching a drop. H2O Radio has more.

The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump

Sandra Hempel, author of The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump joins Will Evans to discuss the myth and legacy of John Snow, the British doctor who discovered that cholera is a waterborne disease.

Jose Alvarez, a supervisor at R. H. Dupper Landscaping, stood up from changing a sprinkler nozzle on a large grassy field at a homeowner’s association in Chandler, Arizona. He surveyed the turf, a patchwork of green and brown.

AH Marsh Photo

Drought is causing problems for Colorado anglers, ranchers, and recreationists. Brent Gardner-Smith, editor of Aspen Journalism, covered meetings in Glenwood Springs this month of water officials from around the state. Here he talks to KDNK’s Amy Hadden Marsh about impacts on Colorado industries and on Lake Powell.

In The Desert City Of Tucson, The Grass Is Not Greener

Jul 25, 2018

Tucson, Arizona used to be a city of lawns. Patches of Bermuda grass lined residential neighborhoods, kept green — even in blazing summer months — with diligent watering. Over the decades, that has changed. Tucsonans eschew lush lawns for landscaping that is more in tune with the city's desert setting — though that doesn't necessarily mean there's no green.

george2018.com

Republican candidate for Colorado attorney general George Brauchler currently serves as the district attorney for Colorado's 18th Judicial District. KDNK asked him about his views on water and proposed ballot initiative 97. The full interview is posted here.

Throughout the Western U.S., water conservation is in the toilet.

And that’s a good thing.

Phil Weiser

Colorado attorney general democratic candidate Phil Weiser describes the role of attorney general as the lawyer for the people of Colorado. While visiting the Roaring Fork Valley, Phil stopped by KDNK for an interview. These are his comments on water. The full interview is posted here.


Brooks Kelly stopped at a display of smart sprinkler-system controllers.

"This 6-station timer — it's got a rebate," said Kelly, who works the plumbing aisle at the St. George Home Depot. "You buy it [and the] Washington County water district gives a $99 credit to your water bill. So, this is free."

h2oradio.org

Wildfires have always been a part of life in the American West, but with climate change, it’s expected they will become more frequent and more intense. While some effects of wildfires are understood, their impact on water is just starting to come into focus. H2O Radio reports.

Courtesy Image

Hugh Kingery speaks about the American Dipper, a source water indicator species, and how Dipper came back when the Elwha Dam came down in Olympic National Park.  When the source water flowed, the salmon ran, the ouzels fed on salmon eggs and thrived again.

H2O Media, Ltd.

Agriculture uses a lot of water. But what if that water were used for more than growing food? What if it could generate energy—renewable energy? It can, and a program in Colorado is helping farmers harness hydropower to lower costs, save time—and conserve the water itself. H2O Radio has the story.

Fear can be a powerful motivator.

The mention of one plausible future scenario along the Colorado River is enough to make some water managers in the West break into a sweat. It’s called the Compact Call, and even though it’s never happened — and is years away from ever happening — its invocation conjures up dystopian imagery of a southwest battling over scarce water supplies.

Reservoirs that store water along the Colorado River are projected to be less than half full later this year, potentially marking a historic low mark for the river system that supplies water to seven U.S. states and Mexico.

Forecasters with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation expect the river’s reservoirs -- Lakes Mead and Powell among them -- to be at a combined 48 percent of capacity by the end of September. That would be one of the lowest points ever for the combined water storage.

It’s early in the morning and Juli Scamardo is in chest waders, guiding me through a beaver meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park.

“These are like mazes,” she says. “It’s hard to get through a meadow and know where you’re going.”

The effects of climate change are already being felt at the headwaters of the West’s most important river system, according to a study released earlier this year.

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization compiled the latest science on climate change in the Colorado River headwaters in a report titled Climate Change in the Headwater: Water and Snow Impacts (PDF), presented to the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments in February.

h2oradio.org

Trees—they're just like us. They sleep, they drink—and they even have a pulse. The latest research can also tell us about whether they're stressed out. H2O Radio reports...

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe operates a large farm and ranch on its lands in Southwestern Colorado. It grows crops like alfalfa and artisan corn, and raises over 600 head of cattle. The Tribe went through a long settlement process to obtain the water rights to operate the enterprise.  But just because it has the farm and the rights to the water doesn’t mean they can use as much as they want.


The gravel road that leads to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Farm and Ranch Enterprise winds through 11 miles of desert grass and dry brush.


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