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Energy & Environment

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.

Bill Barron sits in his office.
Judy Fahys / KUER News

Updated at 2:30 p.m. MST 7/19/18

 

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a resolution Thursday that condemns carbon taxes as detrimental to the U.S. economy.

Judy Fahys / KUER

Separate bills are active in Congress to alternately strengthen or weaken the law used to create national monuments.

In an open field in Longmont, Colorado, about a dozen people crouched in the tall grass, moving slowly and deliberately through mud that squelched underfoot. Some carried huge, serrated knives called hori-hori, a Japanese tool made specifically for gutting weeds. Others wielded gardening shears, saws or chemical sprays as their weapons of choice.

Four U.S. Senators are objecting to a program that teaches TV weathercasters about the science of climate change. As the Mountain West region deals with record high temperatures, that’s left meteorologists here figuring out how to report on the science of the weather.   

A photo of firefighters taking a water break at the Dollar Ridge Fire east of Strawberry Reservoir in Utah.
Courtesy/Dollar Ridge Fire Team

Expenses are piling up for fighting the recent wildfires in Utah.

 

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.

Aerial map showing the stretch of highway near carbonville utah
Utah DEQ

Updated 4:40 p.m. MST 7/13/18

Traffic was detoured Friday on Route 6 for most of the day after a double tanker crashed and spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil onto the roadway and into the Price River in Carbon County.

Jose Alvarez, a supervisor at R. H. Dupper Landscaping, stood up from changing a sprinkler nozzle on a large grassy field at a homeowner’s association in Chandler, Arizona. He surveyed the turf, a patchwork of green and brown.

Kirk Siegler/NPR

A Utahn who joined a 2016 standoff at a wildlife refuge in southeastern Oregon is relieved by President Trump’s decision to pardon two ranchers whose case sparked anti-government protests.

Aerial view of St. George, Utahl.
iStock.com/alpenarts


Brooks Kelly stopped at a display of smart sprinkler-system controllers.

"This 6-station timer — it's got a rebate," said Kelly, who works the plumbing aisle at the St. George Home Depot. "You buy it [and the] Washington County water district gives a $99 credit to your water bill. So, this is free."

File photo / KUER

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Scott Pruitt may have resigned but the controversies continue. A recently disclosed collection of emails between the EPA, an oil and gas lobbyist and at least one elected official in Utah are causing concern.

Smoke plumes from wildfires in front of clouds.
With permission, Spring Creek Fire Facebook

So far around 60 wildfires are burning on 700,000 acres of land nationwide. Here’s a look at the 2018 fire season in our region and the forecast for the summer.

Cory Maylett/Wikimedia Commons

Drought has settled Sanpete County, and last week conditions in central Utah reached the worst official category possible: "exceptional drought."

Dustin Stettler / Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Utah is the only state in the Mountain West region that offers a bounty for coyotes — a major predator of young mule deer. Now the program is being updated because some people are cheating.

Water leaders in Arizona are again trying to get to “yes” on a deal that deals with drought. This would help prepare the state for future cuts to its water supply if -- and likely when -- Lake Mead drops below specific levels. A renewed effort to achieve an agreement comes after a year of anxiety and gridlock over the future of the Colorado River.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

The House of Representatives passed its newest version of the farm bill this week. It includes stricter work requirements for people who get food stamps.

A study in the journal Science says a lot more methane is leaking from oil & gas sites than previously thought -- about 60 percent more than the current estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Judy Fahys / KUER

The Great Salt Lake is vast — around 1,700 square miles of state and federal public lands.

Tom Baker, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

A recent study published in Science magazine reports some animals are becoming more nocturnal. The cause is human activity.

Reservoirs that store water along the Colorado River are projected to be less than half full later this year, potentially marking a historic low mark for the river system that supplies water to seven U.S. states and Mexico.

Forecasters with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation expect the river’s reservoirs -- Lakes Mead and Powell among them -- to be at a combined 48 percent of capacity by the end of September. That would be one of the lowest points ever for the combined water storage.

A new study published in Science magazine found that many of the world’s trout species are facing extinction due to climate change, overfishing and pollution.

A federal watchdog group said the U.S. Interior Department didn’t give an adequate reason for cancelling a study on the health impacts of coal mining last year.

Governor's Office

A fast-moving brush fire destroyed eight homes in the Utah tourist town of Moab, while more than 3,000 people in Colorado and Wyoming fled multiple wildfires scorching the drought-stricken U.S. West on Wednesday.

Erik Neumann / KUER

A lot of people may not have heard of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, or that it’s in jeopardy.

The effects of climate change are already being felt at the headwaters of the West’s most important river system, according to a study released earlier this year.

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization compiled the latest science on climate change in the Colorado River headwaters in a report titled Climate Change in the Headwater: Water and Snow Impacts (PDF), presented to the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments in February.

Wildfire season is ramping up in the region. Fire teams are now working to quash one outside Durango, Colorado, and Utah recently stopped another. That state is now doing prescribed burns to reduce the chance of a bigger blaze.

Jordan Clayton/USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Utah received a little more than two-thirds of the snow and rain normally expected from October through May, which could mean more water restrictions in the southern part of the state if it's a dry summer.

Wildfire season is ramping up across our region. There are all sorts of people involved in waiting, watching and fighting them -- people you might not expect. We’re profiling some of them in a series, Faces Behind The Fires.


Over the last decade or so, states in the Mountain West region have used less and less coal to make electricity. Wind is one of the energy sources replacing it.

Colorado’s biggest wind farm is set to be completed by this fall — and it might even help keep a piece of state history intact.

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