Colorado aims low in using water but won’t set target for how low to go

Water conservationists are calling on Colorado leaders to set a clear target in the state’s first water plan: reduce use by 1 percent a year through 2050.

But state officials crafting the plan to address a 163 billion gallon projected shortfall are reluctant to commit — even though Gov. John Hickenlooper has called conservation a priority.

An aggressive water-saving goal, if it spurred action, could put Colorado on course to closing its growing gap between water supply and demand, which looms as a barrier to future economic and population growth.

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Colorado weighs taking “waste” out of wastewater to fix shortfall

Colorado water providers facing a shortfall of 163 billion gallons are turning to a long-ignored resource: wastewater.

They’re calculating that, if even the worst sewage could be cleaned to the point it is safe to drink — filtered through super-fine membranes or constructed wetlands, treated with chemicals, zapped with ultraviolet rays — then the state’s dwindling aquifers and rivers could be saved.

Colorado officials at work on the first statewide water plan to sustain population and industrial growth recognize reuse as an option.

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Suncor to pay $1.9 million to settle lawsuit over South Platte spill

Suncor oil refinery operators responsible for a toxic spill that contaminated Sand Creek and the South Platte River have agreed to pay $1.9 million to settle a lawsuit by federal and state authorities.

A consent decree filed in U.S. District Court says the government authorities agree to drop further legal action unless the spill worsens. This settlement requires court approval after at least 30 days for public notice and comment.

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Colorado girds for proliferating people and increasingly scarce water

Colorado is looking for 163 billion gallons of water, and a long-awaited state plan for finding it calls for increased conservation, reusing treated wastewater and diverting more water from the Western Slope.

The plan, ordered by Gov. John Hickenlooper to deal with a massive projected water shortfall, is about to be unveiled. Rising demand from population growth and industry, if continued through 2050, threatens to leave 2.5 million people parched.

But water suppliers east and west of the Continental Divide are clashing over details that the draft plan does not specify.

Those on the water-poor east side, where Colorado’s 5.3 million population is concentrated, prioritize diverting more western water under the mountains to sustain Front Range growth. Those on the west side oppose new diversions — and want this reflected in the plan.

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Bear Creek mystery: Water testers seek source of E.coli contamination

Twice a month, Metropolitan State University student biologists David Watson and Stephen Aderholdt have been slogging through contaminated Bear Creek testing the water, at work on a mystery of how its once-pure currents turned foul.

They’ve documented E. coli bacteria levels up to 19 times higher than the state health limit. “Why is there so much E. coli? Where is it coming from?” Aderholdt, 31, said on the banks on a recent Saturday.

While government agencies have done their own testing and in 2008 deemed Bear Creek officially “impaired,” expanding data gathered by the students — trained by the Environmental Protection Agency and a community group called Groundwork Denver — may be crucial in crafting a cleanup plan.

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Chatfield Reservoir water supply project OK’d by feds, faces lawsuit

Federal water engineers on Thursday launched the long-planned and controversial Chatfield Reservoir water supply project, closing a deal with Colorado sponsors.

Audubon Society opponents filed a lawsuit in federal court trying to block construction.

A reallocation of the South Platte River water that is captured in the reservoir, created in 1975 for flood control, is expected to add 2.8 billion gallons a year to water supplies.

But the project will inundate 10 percent of the premier state park.

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Iraq Kurds collect history at CU, want ‘new Israel’ Kurdistan

BOULDER — A Kurdish delegation in Colorado retrieving cached documents detailing Iraqi persecution say Kurdish fighters can provide the increasingly sought ground force to defeat the Islamic State — because this will help Kurds gain independence and be “the next Israel.”

But battle-hardened Kurdish forces, credited with gains in Syria, need better weapons like night vision, artillery, anti-tank, delegation members said Tuesday.

And U.S. officials must realize that trying to keep semi-autonomous Kurdish Iraq as part of a united Iraq ultimately “will fail,” said Woshiar Rasul, an adviser to the governor in Kurds’ main city Sulaymaniyah.

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CU fire study of 8,000 trees finds pre-suppression forests burned hot

Wildfires along Colorado’s Front Range, long assumed to be intensifying, may not be when understood in historical context before 20th-century firefighting, a new study finds.

The findings could complicate the analysis of whether thick forests should be thinned.

University of Colorado researchers, led by fire ecologist and geography professor Tom Veblen, analyzed 8,000 tree-ring samples, starting in 1996, and concluded that severe fires have been an inherent part of mountain ecosystems.

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Ex-CIA chief Petraeus, master of “surge” in Iraq, gives 9/11 talk in Denver

The Army general and ex-CIA chief who led the 2007 U.S. surge to stabilize Iraq praised President Barack Obama’s stepped-up efforts against Islamic State fighters who now have torn that country apart.

But far more difficult than defeating the Islamic State, Gen. David Petraeus said Thursday night in a 9/11 remembrance talk, will be dealing with friction between Shia, Sunni and Kurdish factions afterwards. And neighboring Iran is trying to increase its influence.

Iraqis and their new prime minister Haider al-Abadi “can and should do the reconciliation this time,” Petraeus said, calling Iraqi security forces capable if free from political medding.

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Rocky Mountain forests are dying, report finds, blaming climate change

The main evergreen and aspen tree species making up Rocky Mountain forests are dwindling and likely will die out dramatically by 2060, according to a report by science advocacy groups.

It’s not clear what will replace them.

The Union of Concerned Scientists and Rocky Mountain Climate Organization report, unveiled Wednesday, draws on U.S. Forest Service data documenting tree deaths and projecting future growth based on climate.

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