Lower basin water managers pivot in the face of shrinking reservoirs
Happy Tuesday from Aspen Journalism. It is good to be back with you on our normal day for The Roundup, after some scheduling adjustments as we wrapped up our year-end campaign and took a few days off last week.
Over the long weekend, Water Desk Editor Heather Sackett published her latest piece, looking at how a recently announced deal from the Colorado River system’s lower basin states to leave more water in Lake Mead is an example of the kind of management pivots water managers are making in the face of changing hydrology. The article highlights the work of academics who note that an epically bad water year in 2021 — when near-average snowpack translated into record-low inflow into Lake Powell — has accelerated the need to advance water-savings and sustainability plans. The money quote, from the University of New Mexico’s John Fleck: “That visceral experience we have with low reservoirs and seeing the snowpack not end up in them last year is part of what’s created this moment of opportunity.” The piece also included an original data visualization from Aspen Journalism’s Data Desk Editor Laurine Lassalle, showing how low Lake Mead has fallen.
Lassalle’s ongoing data tracking projects — Tracking the Curve and the Data Dashboard — should also be on your radar this week. Tracking the Curve posts daily updates (Monday through Friday evenings) on the state of COVID-19 in Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield counties. The good news is that case counts look to be coming down from their recent peak, with Pitkin’s seven-day incidence rate dropping to about 1,900 new cases per 100,000 people on Monday, down from about 3,200 on Friday.
This week’s dashboard has December’s lodging occupancy data and the latest on snowpack. With mostly clear skies since the calendar turned to 2022, Independence Pass’ “snow-water equivalent” levels have fallen from 110% of average on Jan. 9 to 104% of average on Sunday. And somehow, nevermind flight-canceling snowstorms and anxiety-inducing pandemics, lodging occupancy was higher than ever in the last month of 2021.
Thanks for reading and supporting Aspen Journalism as we work to keep you informed on critical issues shaping our community.
Curtis Wackerle, editor and executive director
Dropping reservoirs create ‘green light’ for sustainability on Colorado River
Lower-basin 500+ Plan fits in window of opportunity
By Heather Sackett | January 16, 2022
Rapidly dropping reservoir levels create a “green light” scenario for river management where conditions shift from a situation to be monitored to a problem that needs to be solved.
Data dashboard: New record high December occupancies for Aspen and Snowmass
Snow-water equivalent at Indy pass reaches 8.9 inches, or about 105% of average. Schofield Pass at 25 inches.
By Laurine Lassalle | January 18, 2022
• Paid occupancy for Aspen reaches 64.1% in December, up from 61.8% in 2019.
• Snowpack at Schofield Pass has gained more than 15 in of SWE since Dec. 23.
Tracking the Curve
Documenting COVID-19 in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties
By Laurine Lassalle | January 18, 2022
Pitkin County’s seven-day incidence rate dropped from over 3,200 on Friday to about 1,900 per 100,000 on Monday.
Fee, reservation system proposed for all Maroon Creek Road bikers
“On summer weekend days, the number of e-bikers on Maroon Creek Road can average 350 or more a day, he said. RFTA drivers — who ferry tourists from Aspen Highlands to the Maroon Bells and back from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.— have written letters concerned about public safety.”
Source: aspentimes.com | Read more
Biodiversity study sheds light on how to protect the Roaring Fork watershed
“This data is now being combined with satellite imagery to create a set of maps that depict ecological conditions and biodiversity hotspots.’This whole project really is about a community effort towards a common goal that I really believe is shared throughout this whole watershed,’ Cardamone said.”
Source: aspenpublicradio.org | Read more
A slight tweak to a pile of rocks deep in the woods could flood a Colorado town
It’s a troubled tale, with a developer eager to build a scattering of luxury homesites, beavers building their own network of reservoirs, water engineers adjusting historic flows and a small community with homes built in locations that are, thanks to rearranged rocks, suddenly in a flood zone.
Source: coloradosun.com | Read more
Commissioner: Too much density at Phillips Trailer Park would be ‘putting duct tape on an old rusted car’
“Poschman is in favor of infrastructure improvements in the hillside area of the trailer park… . But he is adamantly opposed to the possibility of expanding the community into the agricultural field, a convenient area on which to build, but one that goes against the county’s stated mission of preserving rural character.”
Source: aspendailynews.com | Read more
Scientists see silver lining in fed’s latest efforts to avoid ‘dead pool’ at Lake Powell
“Despite a wet October giving water managers hope that the region might make some progress towards recovery amidst a 22-year drought, this past November was the second-driest on record and inflows came up 1.5 million acre-feet short of the Bureau’s projections from the previous month.”
Source: thespectrum.com | Read more
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