Showing posts with label water. Show all posts
Showing posts with label water. Show all posts

March 04, 2018

Western Snowpack, March 4, 2018

Click to embiggen.
Since I live in one of the tan areas, this snow-moisture map reminds me of 2002 — the year of the Hayman Fire, the year that M. and I went clear to Nelson, B.C., to see some greenery.

January 27, 2018

Windmills, Missing Cattle, and Free Online Hunter Ed

The model on the left needs a jacket that fits her, don't you think?
Outdoor gear made from women's bodies-- still too hard to find (NRA American Hunter magazine.)
The NRA is putting together free online hunter-education classes — they are only acceptable for a certificate in three states right now, but safety is safety, right? Here is an article about them from American Hunter.

• If you hunt on the High Plains, your eye is drawn to windmills? Is it still pumping? If there water there that might draw quail or whatever? You can still buy one if you need it. Otherwise, here is a good history of American windmills.

•  Range cattle are disappearing in the San Luis Valley, reports Saguache Today. And this being the SLV, the writer can't help write the expected lede: "Missing Livestock. For many residents, these two words usually conjure up one of two images: outlaw-cowboy rustlers or visiting-alien mutilators."
Last November, the largest herd of 46 was reported to have vanished from the Double X Cattle Company as they were out running in the Cumbers Forest Allotment. In total, 114 head of cattle went missing in Colorado during the month of November. And those were the ones that were officially reported.
But seriously, a really big rustling ring? Or maybe some insurance or loan fraud going on.

A  public meeting was held last Thursday—  sounds like it was mostly devoted to reporting procedures.

January 18, 2018

Navajo Nation in Real Estate Rampage

This has not been getting much coverage outside of southern Colorado, but the Navajo Nation has purchased two large ranches in Huerfano and Custer counties, along the eastern edge of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Range.

First was part of hair products-magnate's Tom Redmond's Wolf Springs Ranch (16,000 acres, 6,574 ha), mostly in Huerfano County. Next was the adjoining Boyer Ranch in Custer County (12,500 acres, 5,057 ha).

The photo on the banner of this blog was taken at the Wolf Springs Ranch in northwest Huerfano County.

From the Wet Mountain Tribune:
The acquisition extends the Nation’s presence in the county by another 12,505 acres for an approximate total of 28,855 acres straddling both Huerfano and Custer counties. The land is significant for the Navajo, as it is near the sacred mountain Tsisnaasjini’, also known as Blanca Peak. 
In announcing the purchase, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said , “It is a blessing for the Navajo Nation to once again have land in the state of Colorado. When land was being designated by the federal government they refused to include Colorado as part of Navajo. We now own more of our ancestral land with the purchase of Boyer Ranch. It is a beautiful place surrounded by mountain ranges in the shadows of Tsisnaasjini’.

He went on to speak about the economic opportunities the new addition brings to the Nation: “This is a place where we can develop the Navajo Beef program and eventually provide more opportunities for our ranchers. There is a good market for quality beef in restaurants and grocery stores and Navajo can meet that demand.”

The Nation’s portion of the Wolf Springs Ranch includes about 400 head of cattle, and over 900 head of bison.

The importance of the Boyer Ranch to the Nation goes beyond ranching however, as the ranch has early priority water rights, and the gravel pit there could be used to develop Nation infrastructure. Vice President Jonathan Nez also sees the potential to one day develop an athletic program that takes advantage of the high-altitude of the land.

“We have some remarkable athletes on the Navajo Nation,” he notes, “and this would be a great opportunity to train our youth and celebrate health and wellness. The land there is beautiful and it is not just for us but also for future generations.”
In other news, restaurant workers in Westcliffe, Silver Cliff, and Walsenburg are learning how to say "Yah-ta-hey" with the correct intonation.

(In other other news, insiders report that the Navajo Nation will petition the U. S. Board on  Geographic Names to rename the Sangre de Cristo Range the Monster-Slayer Mountains.)

Wolf Springs Ranch had been involved in Colorado Parks and Wildlife's "Ranching for Wildlife" program, which is a money-maker for the landowner as well as opening up private land to a limited amount of big-game hunting.  I wonder what will happen with that.

October 05, 2017

Make It Snow Make It Snow Make It Snow

1920s rain dance, probably at the Prairie Band Potawatomi agency in Kanas (WIkipedia).
Colorado ski areas and water managers keep employing rain-makers, but of the mechanical cloud-seeding variety, not the ritual variety, reports the Summit Daily.
The concept of cloud seeding has been around since the 1940s, when Bernard Vonnegut (brother of author Kurt) discovered that silver iodide could produce ice crystals when introduced into cloud chambers.

In those heady days, cloud seeding was heralded as a way to produce rain where there was none, boosting crop yields and filling reservoirs to the brim.

That was a wild overstatement, and cloud seeding's reputation suffered for it.
 • • •

Western Weather Consultants claims that its two seeding operations in the High Country generate between 180,00 and 300,000 added acre-feet of water per year, and that has been backed up by independent studies.
That's pretty impressive. Read the whole thing.

April 14, 2017

MOAB (Mother of All Bison) and Other Links

Steppe bison were the ones painted at
Altamira Cave in Spain (Wikipedia).
Research suggests that all North American bison (buffalo) are descended from one steppe bison, or Bison priscus, an ungulate that roamed Europe and Asia for millions of years.

And they were a lot bigger in the good ol' days:
"The scientists compared the mitochondrial DNA from the fossil found at Ch’ijee’s Bluff [Yukon] to that taken from 45 other bison remains, including one of the oldest and most interesting specimens, the fossil of a giant, long-horned bison — belonging to the species Bison latifrons — found in Snowmass, Colorado.

Bison latifrons is an interesting beast,” said Dr. Duane Froese, a geologist with the University of Alberta, in a separate statement.

“Its horns measured more than two meters across at the tips, and it was perhaps 25 percent larger than modern bison.”
All the kool kidz will be using these on their desert campouts soon. The Burners will have to have them. 

• Another illusion shattered. Human flesh may not be as nutritious as you thought.

May 14, 2016

Now It's Legal in Colorado

I can sell these barrels legally now.
I am not afraid to post this picture anymore, because rain barrels are legal in Colorado. (Not that I have ever heard of anyone prosecuted for saving rain water on that small a scale.)

After several tries, the legislature has passed a bill and the governor has signed it allowing state residents to collect up to 110 U.S. gallons of rain water at a time for lawns and gardens.  Why is 110 a magic number? I assume because 55 gallons (208 l.) is a common commercial barrel size.

Water is serious business here, where the Colorado, Rio Grande, Platte, and Arkansas rivers all begin.

This water is not moving downstream
to its rightful owner, don't you see.
Every little trickle that moves down hill is allocated to somebody, whether an irrigation company, a city, a farmer, whatever. Not only that, but if any other user goes to water court seeking, for example, to change a point of diversion — to remove water from a stream there instead of here —everyone whose rights might be affected will jump into the case lest they be accused of not practicing "due dilligence" and defending their claim.

It's sort of like how former brand names like "cellophane" and "escalator" became generic, because they were not constantly defended in court.

Consequently, Colorado has more water lawyers than the rest of the solar system put together, or so I was always told. (And please, no repetions of the old water/whiskey jokes in the comments.)

Now if Jane and Joe Homeowner catch the water and then siphon it onto their vegetable garden, they are not doing what the big interests do, like moving water under the Continental Divide. Their water moves in the direction that it always would, only just more slowly.
Sponsors of the bill struck a compromise with farmers and ranchers, adding a provision to the bill that says if there’s any proof rain barrels are hurting downstream users, the state engineer can curtail the usage of them
The new legalization is also defended as a teaching tool:
Conservation groups hope the legislation encourages Coloradans to capture and use runoff from their rooftops on their lawns and gardens to help people recognize that water is a precious resource in this arid state, compared to the amount they would have used from their garden hoses, otherwise.

October 11, 2015

War and Groundwater

Someone once explained the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel fought off Syria, Jordan, and Egypt and ended up controlling the Golan Heights, in terms of water.

By capturing the Golan Heights, the article asserted, the Israelis controlled the recharge area where precipitation filtered down to the wells watering their farms.

Western kid that I was, I thought, "Oh, I get it, it's all about water. No wonder the tanks are rolling."

Some students and I once kicked around alternative bioregional histories for southern Colorado. I suggested that if Kansas and Colorado were separate countries fighting over the Arkansas River's flow, we probably would have had a hard time stopping their troops. The citizens of Pueblo would have been digging trenches, like those of Warsaw in 1920. The border would probably be at Fowler now.

Fortunately, we have a judicial system which settled things, meaning that Coloradans do not have to say "Ar-KAN-sas" like those barbarians to the east. But I digress.

We all have heard about the California drought and the over-pumping of groundwater there. We should know that the same thing is happening on the High Plains (another argument for industrial hemp over thirsty corn).  Cities such as Santa Fe and Albuquerque, not to mention some Denver suburbs, depend on ground water—how long will that last?

What I did not know is that the Saudi Arabs have been playing the same game, and in about thirty or forty years they have drained an aquifer in the name of growing wheat. Saudi Arabia a wheat-exporting country? Who knew? Not me. But they are hitting the wall called No More Groundwater.

Just one more thing to stir up the Middle East. Over there, the tanks do roll.

August 10, 2015

The Machine That Must Run Forever

Leadville Mining District (Bureau of Reclamation).
This is the website for the "10,000 Year Clock" proposal, also known as the Long Now.
There is a Clock ringing deep inside a mountain. It is a huge Clock, hundreds of feet tall, designed to tick for 10,000 years. Every once in a while the bells of this buried Clock play a melody. Each time the chimes ring, it’s a melody the Clock has never played before. The Clock’s chimes have been programmed to not repeat themselves for 10,000 years.
Very nice, but we already have a "10,000-year clock." Several of them, in fact.

They do not tell time, but they must run forever. As in forever, as long as people live downstream from Colorado mine pollution.

Or until there is some major geological change, a technological breakthrough, or society devolves into some kind of Max Max, The Dog Stars, or World Made by Hand kind of future.

In that case, cadmium and other heavy metals in your drinking water and a lack of trout in the river might be lower down your list of problems. Who can say?

Maybe you heard about how work by the Environmental Protection Agency to remedy mine-drainage pollution in a tributary of the Animas River in SW Colorado went horrible wrong.

A toxic slug is flowing downstream into New Mexico and eventually to the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River.

Some people just want to use this incident to beat up on the EPA. Others worry about the effects on people dependent on the river and on its aquatic life.

My point is, this is not unique. Colorado, "mother of rivers," (South Platte, North Platte, Rio Grande, Arkasas, Colorado) is also a state built on mining.

Take the headwaters of the Arkansas River — the mining area around Leadville. It boomed on silver, but in the 1940s, the call was for zinc — zinc to make brass — brass for all the cartridge cases and artillery shells of World War Two.

But the mines filled with water as they went deeper, water percolating from rain and snow melt. So miners drilled a long, long tunnel to drain them, routing it into the river.
Leadville Mine Drain — the "floor" is water.

The metals that the tunnel picked up killed the river. So in 1991, the Bureau of Reclamation opened a treatment plant to neutralize the drainage. It's simple chemistry really.

When I co-taught an environmenal writing class at Colorado State University-Pueblo, my colleague and I used to take students up there on a field trip. We would rent some vans — it is about 160 miles one way, and many students had never been that far up the river that feeds their city.

We would tour the treatment plant and also drive past  the similar Yak Drainage Tunnel.

As some who read the old Whole Earth Review and CoEvolution Quarterly, I know about the "Long Now" project. I was interested, but I wanted to bring those Bay Area techno-hippies up to Leadville.

"Look here," I would say. "It's already running. Just add the chimes."

Because this "machine" has to run forever.

Forever.

Forever.

In the words of that old treaty with the Iroquois Confederacy in New York, "as long as the waters flow."

We all know how that worked out.

April 25, 2015

Current Drought, Snowpack Conditions in the West


As we await the formation of another "Albuquerque low" and with it some upslope rain and snow on Sunday and Monday, here is the situation as of two days ago.

February 06, 2015

Waiting for Some Snow

Click to embiggen.
Put this snowpack map together with this news release (PDF) from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service: "Snowpack Percentages Decline throughout Abnormally Dry January," and you will see why we are hoping that the predictions for a wetter spring come true.
January is an important month for mountain precipitation over the course of the average year.The month of Apriltypically provides the most mountain precipitation at 3.6 inches, followed by March at 3.4 inches, and January coming in the third highest at 3.2 inches. This January provided only 1.47 inches of mountain precipitation, 45% of the average. The South Platte saw the greatest precipitation totals compared to normal at 62% of average. 
Here in the foothills, I have had my snowblower out only three times, and the deepest snow was only seven inches. (Via Coyote Gulch, the go-to Colorado water blog.)

May 04, 2014

Blog Stew on Horseback

 ¶ Western dude ranchers are having to buy bigger horses for fatter guests.
"Little horses just aren't sturdy enough to hold up in a dude operation in the Rocky Mountains," Kipp Saile said, noting that about 15 of their 60 horses were Percheron mixes, the largest weighing 1,800 pounds.
¶ Colorado's oil and gas-drilling boom is polluting farm land (spills, drilling waste), and oil companies hope that microbes will clean up the hydrocarbons.
The number of spills reported by companies reached a 10-year peak of 578 last year (43 related to the September floods), contaminating an estimated 173,400 tons of topsoil, according to the COGCC data, which come from reports companies are required to file.

While energy companies responsible for spills recover much of the liquid hydrocarbons during cleanups, an analysis of the data shows that roughly 45 percent stays in soil.
¶ Never mind the propaganda about how corn-based ethanol is "patriotic." Even the business press, like Forbes, is moving to the position that ethanol is a loss overall. (Especially when you use High Plains Aquifer water to grow the corn.)

April 23, 2014

Getting More Water — by Magic?

Arrow #14 should be pointing into (2) Arkansas River, I think, as it is part of Colorado Springs' system. Maybe that part of the map was just too crowded. (Colorado State Engineer, via Coyote Gulch blog.)

I found this graphic at Coyote Gulch as part of a post about further planning by Front Range cities to get more water out of the Colorado — the already over-allocated Colorado River.

The graphic is helpful in explaining that much of the water used from Colorado Springs north to the Wyoming border is "transmountain" water.

Note that Denver is outside the gray area—the upper Colorado River watershed.

I still meet people from Colorado Springs who think that their water comes from the snow on Pike's Peak. For the Denver-plex, would that be the snow on Mount Evans?

Reading that piece, I can't help but think that a magic wand is being waved. The Front Range cities still think that there will be more water available when they want it  . . . somehow.

March 13, 2014

Southern Colorado Drought Conditions Improve

Click to enlarge
Drought conditions have eased in the Wet Mountains and Sangre de Cristo Range, but southeastern Colorado is still dry.

February 20, 2014

Mountain Snow Pack, February 1, 2014

Snow levels in central and northern Colorado are good (I can attest to that after last weekend's trip). Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges still way low.

January 16, 2014

Mountain Snowpack, January 1, 2013

And now the news that matters: water. Some graphics whiz at the Natural Resources Conservation Service has changed the style of the map. Instead of shading in drainages and sub-drainages, now it looks as though they are color-keying the individual measurement stations.* Click image for a larger view.

You can view previous winters' maps here. For Colorado, links to individual SNOTEL stations are here.

* Official explanation: "Due to data system changes and resource constraints, basin-filled maps for SNOTEL & Snow Course Snow Water Equivalent are no longer being produced and are replaced by point maps."

December 03, 2013

Reading Water Flows with Trees

Via Coyote Gulch, I learned about TreeFlow, a project to reconstruct centuries' worth of river flows in the West through correlating them with tree rings. "A tree-ring reconstruction is a best-estimate of past streamflows, based on the relationship between tree-ring data and observed streamflow over the modern period."

Here, for example, is the reconstruction of the Colorado River's flow at Lees Ferry, Arizona, going back to 750 CE (scroll down for that graph).

Closer to home, the Arkansas River at Cañon City, Colorado, from 1685–1987.

The process correlates tree rings with observed data from the late 19th century to the present, then projects the correlation back over older tree ring samples from cores or archaeological sites. More about the process here.
The persistent drought conditions that emerged across the West in 1999, especially the extreme drought year of 2002, indicated that the observed records of streamflow in the region did not capture the full range of natural hydrologic variability. This drought, along with increasing demands on water supplies led to a need to assess the range of drought conditions that were likely to occur. Tree-ring reconstructions of streamflow, extending several hundred years or longer, provide a more complete representation of past variability. Accordingly, streamflow reconstructions attracted more interest within the water management community as a potentially useful tool for planning.

November 18, 2013

Blog Stew with Sunflower Seeds (You'll Like Them)

¶ You could use this fancy online tool at the Cornell ornithology lab to find the best food for your favorite winter birds. Or you could just put out black oil sunflower seeds because almost all the cold-weather birds like 'em. As one of the local Auduboners once told me, "They're like ice cream for birds."

¶ The US Forest Service takes a step back in its tug-of-war over water rights with ski areas operating on national forest land — which is a lot of them. Durango Herald reporter Joe Hanel writes, "The Forest Service has tried sporadically for years to get legal control over snowmaking water rights, because of worries the rights could be sold to real estate developers or others not interested in using the water for skiing."

That, yes, but also conservation groups like Trout Unlimited have worried about ski areas drying up streams for snow-making.

¶ Workers at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico recently found a large new room. They are calling it Halloween Hall, whether for the date or for the multitude of bat bones in it, I am not sure. Photo at the link.