Newsletter Article

What Creek Connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans?

The Panama Canal is not the only water line connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. There's a place in Wyoming—deep in the Teton Wilderness Area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest—in which a creek splits in two. Like the canal, this creek connects the two oceans dividing North America in two parts. Yes. You read that right: North America is divided in two parts by a single water line that—no matter how hard you try not to—you will have to cross to go from North to South and vice versa. The creek divides into two similar flows at a place called the Parting of the Waters. To the East, the creek flows 3,488 miles to the Atlantic Ocean via Atlantic Creek and the Yellowstone, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers. To the West, it flows 1,353 miles to the Pacific Ocean via Pacific Creek and the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Of course, unlike the Panama Channel, you can't navigate these waters—unless you are a fish. At Parting of the Waters, water actually covers the Continental Divide such that a fish could safely swim from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean drainages. In fact, it is thought that this was the pass that provided the immigration route for Cutthroat Trout to migrate from the Snake River (Pacific) to Yellowstone River (Atlantic) drainages.


20th Annual Children’s Water Festival: Community Volunteers Needed--May 6th!

The 20th Annual Children’s Water Festival is being held Wednesday May 6, 2015 at Fort Lewis College. To help make this event the success that it is, guides—about 30, are needed to lead more than 700 regional fifth-grade students and their classes to various water-related stations on campus. In exchange for this valuable and FUN service a continental breakfast will be provided, a Water Festival t-shirt, gourmet lunch, as well as a keepsake water bottle and tote. In addition, if you are a student, the festival qualifies for seven (7) hours of community service. Guides will need to meet at 7:30 am sharp at the FLC Student Union Ballroom and will likely be finished sometime between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm. If you or your organization can help, please contact Denise Rue-Pastin with the Water Information Program at (970) 247-1302, (970) 946-9024, or [email protected] by April 21st. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration of this important community service need and opportunity.


Book Review: Blue Mind

The following book review is appreciatively provided by Laura Spann, with the SWCD:


Southwest Basin Roundtable Meeting

At their January 14th Southwest Basin Roundtable (SBR) meeting, chair Mike Preston reported the fund balance is approximately $606,000. In addition to administrative items, there was discussion of the seven points of: the “draft conceptual agreement” regarding transmountain diversions; alternative water sources to meet future east slope urban water demands that should be included in the SBR Basin Implementation Plan (BIP), as well as a recommendation that the CWCB also consider alternatives language; lawn conservation policies; and municipal conservation versus agricultural efficiency. The SBR also heard a conceptual proposal from Trout Unlimited for $15,000 in support of the development of a cold-water-fisheries adaptive management plan on the Upper Dolores River. The management plan would identify the appropriate places to invest limited conservation dollars and time and facilitate coordination between stakeholders. Project partners include the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Roundtable members made recommendations and asked questions. In the end there was consensus to recommend that a full application be submitted for consideration.


History of Water Conflicts

The Pacific Institute has created a 5,000-year timeline (http://www2.worldwater.org/conflict/index.html) of water conflicts that shows that water politics have been messy since the beginning. The timeline goes as far back as 3,000 BC and includes such examples as poisoning enemy wells, targeting and destroying hydroelectric dams, bombing of irrigation canals, and riots sparked by insufficient water supplies. The Pacific Institute indicated that “the problems are expected to continue.” By 2025, scientists predict that one in five humans will live in regions suffering from water scarcity and many analysts have predicted that pressure on water resources could spark wars in the coming years. Moreover, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world has not woken up to the water crisis caused by climate change. The latest report from the United Nations IPCC predicted a rise in global temperature of between .5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit by the late 21st century. More extreme weather such as droughts will lead to serious water shortages and affect agricultural output and food security. Development experts around the world have become increasingly concerned about water security in recent years. More frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, pollution of rivers and lakes, urbanization, over-extraction of ground water, and expanding populations mean that many nations will face serious water shortages.


PV Across Canals

Two major advantages to building photovoltaic (PV) plants atop irrigation canals are: efficient and cheap land use and reduced water evaporation from the channels underneath. Leading the way in these type of projects is India. According to the Indian government agency that administers PV irrigation projects, a 10 megawatt plant saves 40 acres of land and will potentially prevent 24 million gallons of water from evaporating each year. In addition, lower temperatures due to the water body below the canal-top plants boosts PV panel efficiency by approximately 7 percent. Disadvantages include higher construction costs, long-term exposure to environmental stresses, ingress of water into the panels which could reduce their performance, and questions about keeping long stretches of PV panels secure. Another problem is that PV panels are usually mounted facing southwards for optimal performance, but canals generally curve and change directions. Additional research into overcoming some of these disadvantages could help to address multiple water and energy challenges. 


Colorado Agricultural Hydropower Projects

In January the Colorado Small Hydro Association (COSHA), based in Telluride, announced a $1.8 million grant awarded to the Colorado Department of Agriculture by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support the development of agricultural hydropower projects in the state. The COSHA indicated that the grant will be important in stemming energy costs for area farmers. A COSHA report indicated that Colorado farmers spend an average of $33,000 each year on electricity, mostly to power irrigation pumps. A 2013 analysis by the Colorado Energy Office found that farmers in Colorado report energy expenses around 7 percent of total operating costs. Through the newly established Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the USDA is investing $370 million in the implementation of conservation projects in all 50 states. According to COSHA, the new hydro projects won’t result in any new dams or water diversions, but will instead rely on existing untapped water pressure. COSHA estimates 500 new jobs could be created by the new hydro development in Colorado. The new agricultural hydropower program will facilitate the conversion of flood irrigation systems to pressurized irrigation systems with integrated hydropower.


Conservation: Projects Aim to Remove Salt Cedars Along the Colorado and Verde Rivers

The growth of invasive salt cedars within the flood plains of the Verde River in Arizona has become a serious impediment to the flow of water into the Colorado. Extracting salt cedar from riverbeds and replacing it with native grasses is an enormous undertaking, but one that could have a dramatic impact on Colorado River water flows. At least that is part of the thinking behind conservation projects proposed to repair habitats along both of the rivers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced three such conservation projects as part of a $1.2 billion, five-year enterprise included in the massive 2014 farm bill. About 35 percent of the overall funding will be dedicated to projects such as this along the Colorado River.


Quality: Study Finds Human Waste in Rivers

As part of a two-year study of the Animas and San Juan Rivers, the San Juan Watershed Group recently reported findings of elevated levels of bacteria from human waste in the waters. Researchers focused on water quality in New Mexico, except for one point at the Colorado and New Mexico border. The point on the border was studied for only one year, making the sample size smaller. But it is a red flag, especially because the levels of human bacteria dropped at sites tested downstream. “The public should have some concern about the recreational use of these rivers,” said Geoffrey Smith, biologist at New Mexico State University, who worked on the study. However, the bacteria is not found in treated drinking water. The study found bacteria from animals such as cattle and elk in 90 percent of the samples and bacteria from humans in 80 percent of the samples across both rivers. Bacteria from human waste could be coming from leaking septic tanks, people who illegally dump waste, going to the bathroom outside or from wastewater treatment plants. These finds are concerning because bacteria from human waste is more likely to make people sick with viral and bacterial infections than animal bacteria, Smith said. Finding where the bacteria is coming from is the next step in eliminating the pollution.


Syndicate content