water

Many communities in the West are growing, and in some places that’s putting pressure on already scarce water supplies.

That’s the case in northern Colorado, where a proposed set of reservoirs promises to allow small suburbs to keep getting bigger. The project, called the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), has stirred up a familiar debate over how the West grows, and whether water should be a limiting factor.

Bernard Spragg

A study by the Bureau of Reclamation predicts that the current water levels in the Colorado River Basin will only postpone water shortages.

K Kendall

Most of the West has been experiencing drought this year. Bart Miller, with the environmental group Western Resource Advocates, said that the water levels we are seeing this year are nothing new.

Mitch Tobin/waterdesk.org

The water has made development possible and is used for farms, homes and businesses. Meanwhile, recreation has risen to over 4 million annual visitors in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, with tourists bringing in over $420 million to local communities.

Courtesy of Crow Creek Revival

Restoring a critical source of water in Cheyenne has been the goal of many in the area for several years. And that revival effort for Crow Creek just got another significant boost in funding.

As water becomes more scarce in the Mountain West, a new analysis finds that a surprising amount is being used to raise cattle.

Ivy Engel

A lot of the water that Wyomingites drink comes from the same source: the Casper Aquifer. In many areas, the aquifer is deep underground. Though in some areas where the water source surfaces, it can be a source of major controversy.

It was a dry start to the year for some mountain ranges in the region, but recent storms brought most Mountain West snowpack levels back to normal.

 


Bern Hinckley

On Tuesday, Dec. 7, Albany County Commissioners voted 2 - 1 to change the zoning on a piece of land near the Casper Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone (APOZ) from residential to commercial.

Wikipedia via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

Albany County Commissioners voted on Thursday, Jan. 2, to extend the temporary moratorium that prevents building on the Casper Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone (APOZ) by 90 days.

USGS

The Wyoming State Engineer's Office recently heard a proposal to drill eight high-capacity water wells in Laramie County, and now 17 ranchers and farmers in the area are protesting.

Tested well locations around Pavillion
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

Wyoming's Department of Environmental Quality's (DEQ) confirmed its 2016 findings that Pavillion, Wyoming's groundwater contamination is not connected to oil and gas activity.

It released a 4,228 page report Monday that dug into questions remaining from the previous version in 2016. The department used improved technology to dive into its past findings and ensure there wasn't some critical compound or bacteria missed.

The West’s water security is wrapped up in snow. When it melts, it becomes drinking and irrigation water for millions throughout the region. A high snowpack lets farmers, skiers and water managers breathe a sigh of relief, while a low one can spell long-term trouble.

EPA

Water issues in the West have been around, basically, since the West was claimed and divvied up. And they haven't really let up since, which was on full display in the Environment and Public Works Committee this week.

Charlie Craighead

Scientists at the University of Wyoming wanted to know how fish fare in streams near energy development. Their results were recently published in the Journal of Applied Ecology and paint a picture of how human disturbance and less water can crunch the habitat that some fish need to survive and thrive.

A report out this week shows a significant number of Americans don't have access to basic services like running water. And many of the places that lack plumbing are in the Mountain West.

“Small pockets of communities without complete plumbing exist in every state,” write the researchers, who also say the gap isn’t driven by people who choose to live off-the-grid, but instead by a lack of basic infrastructure. 

The Environmental Working Group on Wednesday updated its Tap Water Database, which aggregates data from nearly 50,000 water utilities across the country to spotlight dangerous levels of contamination

Reservoirs can get messy after a big wildfire. The issue isn’t the fire itself, it’s what happens after. 

Savannah Maher

Earlier this summer, the Northern Arapaho Tribe came out against a proposal by the energy company Aetheon to discharge oilfield waste upstream of the Wind River. But the opposition was not for the reasons that some tribal members would like.

Roads Less Traveled

Multiple energy industry trucks have crashed on a stretch of mountain road between Laramie and a booming energy field in Jackson County, Colorado. The trucks spilled fracking fluids and diesel into a nearby creek; one driver was killed.

Catherine Wheeler

On a sunny and warm Friday in Northeast Wyoming, Levi Jensen and I drove east on Highway 51 out of Gillette.

Eric Barnes

For the last four years, Green River and Little Snake River basin ranchers have been getting paid not to irrigate in late summer to conserve Colorado River water. But the pilot phase of the program is now over. The next step is developing the technology to measure how much water is actually saved.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Construction on the Fontanelle Reservoir won't get started until extreme drought strikes because officials say the unfinished bottom won't be accessible until then.

Greg Goebel via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

A proposed expansion of Aethon Energy's Moneta Divide Oilfield could significantly increase the volume of water and dissolved solids the company sends into the Boysen Reservoir near Shoshoni.

Pixabay

The water supply in and around Sheridan no longer contains added fluoride after the city council voted to remove it.

States that rely on the Colorado River for their water supplies are currently unable to finish a series of agreements that would keep its biggest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, from dropping to levels not seen since they were filled decades ago.

Five states — Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nevada — are done. The country of Mexico has also completed its portion. But California and Arizona failed to meet a Jan. 31 federal government deadline to wrap up negotiations and sign a final agreement.

Hoggs555 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY_SA-3.0

The surface temperature at a major reservoir in Colorado has risen 5 degrees over a 35 year period. That's according to a new study from researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Funding for one of the Mountain West's key environmental protection programs is on hold until after the holidays. 

Since 1964 the Land and Water Conservation Fund has used royalties from oil and gas leasing to protect natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, as well as to provide recreation opportunities. The Fund expired at the end of September, but both the House and Senate have proposed bills to permanently reauthorize it so its future doesn't remain in jeopardy.

Flickr Creative Commons/momo go via Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Western states are likely to be affected most by the Trump administration's proposal to roll back parts of the Clean Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency would no longer give special protections to thousands of miles of seasonal streams and millions of acres of wetlands that often go dry by late summer in the arid West. That would leave states to decide whether to protect such waters themselves. 

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