water

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. 

Environmental Protection Agency's January 2010 sampling.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Scientists and landowners are gathering in Riverton Thursday night to discuss ongoing issues in the Pavillion gas fields. There have been signs of oil and gas components detected in water wells and sediment for years but the extent and cause of the contamination is still unknown.

Fontanelle Dam in southwestern Wyoming
Public Domain / U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

A massive federal infrastructure bill could help Wyoming make more use of the Fontanelle Dam, part of which has never been used. U.S. Senator John Barrasso sponsored the America's Water Infrastructure Act that supports projects for flood protection, repairing old irrigation systems, and upgrading dams.

The Environmental Protection Agency is making $20 million available for states and tribes to voluntarily test drinking water for lead at schools and childcare facilities.

The federal agency overseeing the Lake Powell Pipeline license application issued a key ruling on Tuesday which some critics are saying will delay the project. But supporters insist that now they're actually a step closer to getting final approval.

A new study reveals how much water the U.S. uses in energy production. The answer is a lot – 58 trillion gallons. The data breakdown may be critical information for the Mountain West, where energy industries are big, but water can be scarce.

Maggie Mullen

It's no secret that water is a problem in the West. Historically, the humble beaver helped maintain wetlands and ponds across the arid landscape but their populations were decimated during the fur trade and their numbers dropped dramatically from 400 million to just 100,000 by the turn of the twentieth century. But Canada's national animal is making a comeback and scientists think they have an important role to play as our region fights drought.

The Colorado River is running low on water. The lifeline that slakes the thirst of 40 million southwestern residents is projected to hit a historic low mark within two years, forcing mandatory cuts to water deliveries in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.   

Facing exceptional drought conditions, cities throughout the watershed this summer have imposed mandatory water restrictions, ranchers have begun selling off cows they’re unable to feed, and the river’s reservoirs are headed toward levels not seen since they filled decades ago.

Colorado is called “the mother of  rivers” for a reason: it’s one of the most popular states for river rafting in the country.  But like the rest of our region, unprecedented growth, a changing climate, drought, and wildfires are taking their toll on this multi-million-dollar industry.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Public Domain

In the arid West, how do we manage the limited amount of water available to us? Exploring the complex issues of water…where it comes from, how it’s used, and who gets to use it.

Low water levels on the Colorado River could force water shortages in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico in 2020, according to a new forecast from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

A shortage on the river is tied to the level of its main reservoir, Lake Mead near Las Vegas, Nevada. If the lake drops past an elevation of 1,075 feet, water users downstream have to start cutting back how much water they use. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projects the lake to drop below that level next year, triggering water cutbacks in 2020.

Westerners in many states are using less water.  However that’s not the case in the Mountain West. In Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho, home usage went up; in Montana it stayed the same. Experts say these figures are based less on population growth and more on state water policies.

Throughout the Western U.S., water conservation is in the toilet.

And that’s a good thing.

Between growing populations and changing climate conditions, our water sources are only expected to get more crunched. Communities in some very dry states have had to get creative about where to get their water, sometimes purifying sewage into drinking water. More western cities are beginning to get on board, too. But there’s a problem: the ick factor.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Public Domain

Wyoming U.S. Senator John Barrasso helped craft a sweeping bipartisan bill that could go a long way to deal with Wyoming water issues.

Battle Creek is a tributary of the Yampa River, which flows into the Colorado River.
By Dicklyon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

At the end of the 2018 Legislative Session, the Wyoming House and Senate resolved two water project bills, ultimately agreeing to fund the West Fork Reservoir. The original legislation would have allocated $40 million, but the House eliminated the project completely. The Senate later resurrected it with $10 million in funding, and eventually, lawmakers reached a compromise of $4.7 million. 

Wyoming Water Resources Data System;http://www.wrds.uwyo.edu/wrds/nrcs/snowrept/snowrept.html

Wyoming’s snowpack is currently in a better shape to protect against a drought than most other Western states.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service reported this week that statewide, there is more snow in the mountains than the 30-year average. But the agency’s Ken Von Buettner said it is a lot more useful to look at how individual basins are doing.

Environmental Protection Agency

The Wyoming Department of Education encouraged schools across the state to test for lead.

A memo sent out earlier this month informed superintendents and principals of a program offered by the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s called the 3T Program — for training, testing and telling — and it’s designed to support schools in monitoring and keeping lead in drinking water at minimal levels.

Visit Pinedale

 

In 2015, the town of Pinedale turned off its sodium silicate water treatment--a type of corrosion control that helps prevent lead contamination from old plumbing. The next year, dangerous levels of lead were found in one residence and at the town’s high school. The treatment has been turned back on, but residents want to know why it was shut off in the first place. 

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