Those of us living in the vast region dependent on the Colorado River received a sobering reminder last week that our individual communities operate as part of a larger, threatened system, and that preventing that system’s collapse is a high-level national priority.
Record-low water storage levels at lakes Mead and Powell after more than two decades of drought conditions are among the chief indicators that the basin is “facing the growing reality that water supplies for agriculture, fisheries, ecosystems, industry and cities are no longer stable due to climate change,” Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo said last week at the Conference on Natural Resources at the University of Colorado Law School, as reported by Water Desk Editor Heather Sackett. Trujillo’s comments came on the heels of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton’s testimony at a U.S. Senate hearing on drought that an additional 2 to 4 million acre-feet of conservation is needed just to protect critical reservoir levels in 2023.
The kicker is that if the seven basin states can’t come up with their own plan to conserve water in line with those targets in just 60 days, the federal government has the responsibility and authority to take action to protect the system and the infrastructure.
The annual water-buff conference that this year was expected to focus on the 100th anniversary of the Colorado River Compact was shaken by the news, and Sackett was there to get the real-time reaction of upper basin experts. As expressed by author and conference moderator John Fleck, we are at a moment of reckoning and realizing the West of the future will look much different than it does now.
Also this week at Aspen Journalism, our data desk continued to provide the critical public service of reporting updated metrics related to COVID-19, as well as climate and the environment. The long and short on COVID from Tracking the Curve is that Pitkin County’s numbers have come down following a spike from the last two weeks. Over at the Data Dashboard, we noted that June has seen some exceptionally high temperatures so far, while local streamflows dropped sharply this week after coming in for a second, and somewhat unexpected, seasonal peak the week before, fueled by those abnormally warm temperatures.
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– Curtis Wackerle
Editor and executive director
Colorado’s contribution to keep system from crashing remains unclear
By Heather Sackett | June 18, 2022
The actions taken in the 2022 Drought Response Operations Plan will add about 1 million acre-feet, or 16 feet of elevation, to Lake Powell. But these actions are not enough.
The Crystal River ran 20% lower on June 19 than the prior week when the river reached its peak.
By Laurine Lassalle | June 21, 2022
• The Crystal River ran at 1,350 cfs near Redstone. That’s down from its seasonal peak of 1,770 cfs on June 12.
• Independence and McClure Passes still have some snowpack, while it is gone at Ivanhoe and Schofield Pass.
• Maximum air temperature reached up to 87°F on June 11 at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airpot. That’s 15 degrees above normal.
Documenting COVID-19 in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties
By Laurine Lassalle | June 21, 2022
Pitkin’s incidence rate remains the second highest in the state, with a rate of about 300 per 100,000, but that is down from 600 on June 16. Hospitalizations across the state remain low but are increasing, with 323 people in the hospital.
“‘You have long had this influx of workers from all the way down into Parachute and really great public transportation compared to other mountain communities, so you’ve been able to import some workers. But these demographic trends are affecting the entire (region) from Aspen down to Parachute, so the ability to bring in your workforce to your more affluent communities is going to get harder and harder over time.’”
Source: aspentimes.com | Read more
“[Boebert’s lawyer] sent Wheeler a three-page letter Wednesday outlining the claims against Boebert and refuting them as ‘patently false.’ Two days later one of Wheeler’s sources told The Denver Post they were threatened at a Glenwood Springs health spa by a man who approached them, asking about politics and indicating that he knew where the source lived.”
Source: denverpost.com | Read more
“‘Impacts from the widespread drought include reduced grazing for cattle in New Mexico due to wildfire closures in national forests and hydropower production concerns at reservoirs in Nevada and California due to very low water levels,’ the Drought Monitor’s weekly report explains.”
Source: gazette.com | Read more
“Touton noted the bureau has the authority to act unilaterally to protect the system. ‘And we will protect the system,’ she said, adding that, for now, the bureau is trying to work cooperatively with the states and tribes in reaching a consensus in the next 60 days. ‘Faith is not enough. We need to see the action.’”
Source: coloradopolitics.com | Read more
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