With dangerously low snowpack levels across the state, Colorado is facing a severe water shortage. We take a look at what that means for rivers, wildfires, and the future of water use in the West. It was another low snow season, the latest in what is becoming an increasingly common occurrence in Colorado. As skiers across the state bemoaned the lack of fresh powder this winter, climate scientists and hydrologists recognized something more acute: The dry winter exacerbated water scarcity in the Centennial State, placing more stress on our rivers and increasing the likelihood of an active fire season.To put things in perspective, on April 9—which is historically the peak day for snowpack in Colorado—almost the entire state was sitting at below-average levels. Southern Colorado had it worst. The Upper Rio Grande basin, for instance, boasted a meager 43 percent of its normal snowpack. The Gunnison basin sat at only 57 percent. The Arkansas basin was at 63 percent. Only the North and South Platte River basins approached normal levels.
Community health centers in Texas that helped thousands of people during and after Hurricane Harvey have new crisis-response tools from Facebook that could enhance their ability to reach victims when a hurricane hits. The hurricane season officially starts next month. And with the effects of Harvey still lingering in many communities — nearly nine months after the storm devastated parts of the coast and Houston area — about 20 centers from around the state met in Houston this week to hear about how the new tools could help them better publicize their services and distribute resources during a natural disaster. One is Community Help, a page within Facebook where aid organizations, businesses and government agencies can now post what services they offer during a specific crisis. The other is Disaster Maps, which uses geolocation data gathered from people using Facebook to show select organizations where people are located to help improve aid delivery.Disaster Maps is currently being used in Hawaii to show how local residents are moving in response to the eruption of the Kilauea volcano. It also used in December during wildfires in California to help with the distribution of respirator masks, said Andrew Schroeder, director of research and analysis for Direct Relief. The California-based medical aid nonprofit responded during Harvey and sponsored the workshop in Houston.
This county-level picture of the food retailing landscape also provides a starting point for measuring access to healthy, affordable food—a measure explored in more detail in another ERS mapping tool, the Food Access Research Atlas. The Food Access Research Atlas allows users to investigate multiple measures of access at the census tract level. These measures include a population’s distance from residence to a large grocery store, supermarket, or supercenter; household availability of a vehicle to drive to the stores; and the poverty rate and median family income for census tracts.
The Maryland Legislature approved the Fiscal Year 2019 State Operating Budget that includes funds to support the Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund (RMPIF), a key step forward in addressing disparities in the State’s rural areas. The Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund will receive $6,000,000 in funding for targeted investment to promote economic prosperity in Maryland’s traditionally disadvantaged and undeserved rural communities. These funds will sustain efforts to promote rural regional cooperation, facilitate entrepreneurial activities, and support key community colleges and nonprofit providers. For Fiscal Year 2018, 27 grants were distributed to 27 organizations throughout the State.
Ross County, with its rolling forested green hills and quaint two-century-old county seat, is an image of idyllic rural America. But as night fell here on a warm Tuesday in May, chaos descended on the Ross County Sheriff’s Office. A neighbor called to report a disturbance, likely a violent domestic dispute, and another called to report a man slumped over the steering wheel of his pickup, likely an overdose. Calls of other suspicious vehicles came flooding in. The violent-crime rate in rural areas rose above the national average for the first time in a decade, according to the most recently available data from the federal government. Though cities, on average, still have a higher violent-crime rate than rural areas, large metropolitan areas are safer than they have been in decades, while small communities in some states are getting more dangerous. “It is nothing but you and the cows and the sirens,” said Sgt. Brenton Davidson, a patrol sergeant at the sheriff’s office. “You are seeing more violence, and you never know where your backup is coming from.” Small departments, where budgets and the number of deputies have remained stagnant, are overwhelmed. The number of sheriff’s deputies patrolling 691 square miles in Ross County, which sits some 50 miles south of Columbus, has remained at four over the past two decades. The population over the same period has increased to 77,000 from about 72,000. Starting pay for deputies is $35,000 a year, compared with the Ohio average of about $60,000.
When the man in the teal hoodie mentioned that he had trained as a pharmacy technician, Lachelle Hill’s voice rose in excitement. “Why don’t I see that on here?” the state job counselor asked, pointing at the paperwork on the table between them. Unemployment insurance beneficiaries are required to look for work, but Hill wasn’t just checking Corey’s paperwork for compliance. She was helping him focus his job search, and trying to steer him toward positions he was qualified for.Such conversations are central to a reemployment grant program that the U.S. Department of Labor has touted for years. In February, Congress passed a budget bill that would make the program permanent and increase its funding from about $100 million last year to more than $3 billion over the next six years.To push states to improve their programs further, the law requires that starting in 2023 states must spend a quarter of their money on “evidence-based interventions” that have been proven to get people jobs faster. ut creating evidence-based employment programs can be tricky. While research generally shows that employment assistance helps people get jobs, it’s not always clear why certain programs work well and whether they can be expanded.The nationwide employment program that Corey’s benefiting from is based on a Nevada model that significantly reduced the amount of time people received unemployment benefits. Studies have yet to determine whether the Nevada approach can get the same results elsewhere.
Millions of dogs and cats are at risk of avoidable death from an increase in unproven anti-vaccination “remedies” being sold online, the RSPCA has warned. Amazon this week agreed to remove advertisements for products made from the diseased flesh of dead animals after a Sunday Telegraphinvestigation revealed misleading boasts claiming the “homeopathic nosodes” provide immunity from fatal conditions. The rise in online marketing of “anti-vax” materials risked “horrific suffering” among pets whose owners reject conventional jabs.
New research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has, for the first time, detected prions responsible for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in samples taken from sites where deer congregate. Scientists searched for prions at mineral licks — areas where deer seek out essential nutrients and minerals — in the CWD endemic area across south-central Wisconsin. Out of 11 sites, nine had detectable levels of the disease-causing misfolded proteins. Prions were found both in soil and in water from the sites, as well as in nearby fecal samples from one site, the announcement said. It is not clear if quantity of soil-dwelling prions detected in current study is sufficient to infect deer.
In case you missed it, Congress is in the midst of a pretty major food fight. At the center of it is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is the first line of defense against hunger for more than 21 million American households. Going forward, however, an estimated 2 million people stand to lose SNAP benefits if the farm bill proposal passed by the House Agriculture Committee last month becomes law. The bill’s draconian work requirementsand eligibility changes threaten to upend the lives of some of the nation’s most vulnerable individuals and families. But it could also deliver a serious blow to the economic vitality of many rural and small-town communities, in an economic domino effect that often starts at the local grocery store.
The Supreme Court cleared the way on Monday for states to legalize sports betting, striking down a 1992 federal law that had prohibited most states from authorizing sports betting.The 6-3 ruling is a victory for New Jersey and other states who have considered allowing sports gambling as a way to encourage tourism and tax revenue. The NCAA, NFL and NBA had backed the federal prohibition.