Take a trip down memory lane by clicking on the thumbnail graphics for the U.S. Drought Monitor maps from around this time of year from 2013, 2012 and 2011.
From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):
Wednesday’s declaration — the first such designation made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 — makes all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans…
All of the designated counties have shown a drought intensity value of at least D2 (severe drought) for eight consecutive weeks based on U.S. Drought Monitor measurements, providing for an automatic designation. Logan County has ranged from extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) — the highest level on the scale — since early August 2012. The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Jan. 3 shows Logan County in a large swath of central and western states where the drought is expected to persist or intensify at least through March 31.
In 2012, USDA designated 2,245 counties in 39 states as disaster areas due to drought, or 71 percent of the United States. At the height of the 2012 drought, Vilsack announced a series of aggressive USDA actions to get help to farmers, ranchers and businesses impacted by the 2012 drought, including lowering the interest rate for emergency loans, working with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers, and expanding the use of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres for haying and grazing, which opened 2.8 million acres and brought nearly $200 million in forage for all livestock producers during a critical period.
At the same time, the ag secretary and many other officials were calling on Congress to pass a new Farm Bill to replace the expiring 2008 bill to ensure that the USDA would continue to be able to provide certain programs to help farmers and ranchers facing losses from the drought. As part of the so-called fiscal cliff deal, the 2008 Farm Bill was extended temporarily, but according to Logan County FSA director Sherry Lederhos, it is still unclear what that means for relief programs. She said the office is waiting for direction on which programs have been extended and what assistance they can provide to local producers…
In addition to Logan County, Wednesday’s designation includes Adams, Arapahoe, Baca, Bent, Chaffee, Cheyenne, Crowley, Custer, Douglas, Elbert, El Paso, Fremont, Huerfano, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lake, Las Animas, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Otero, Park, Phillips, Prowers, Pueblo, Sedgwick, Teller, Washington, Weld and Yuma counties as primary disaster areas. All contiguous counties are also eligible for natural disaster assistance.
In all, the designation affects 597 counties in 14 states: Alabama, 14 counties; Arkansas, 47; Arizona, 4; Colorado, 30; Georgia, 92; Hawaii, 2; Kansas, 88; Oklahoma, 76; Missouri, 31; New Mexico, 19; Nevada, 9; South Carolina, 11; Texas, 157; and Utah, 17.
Meanwhile, CSU Extension is holding drought summits through March 12. Here’s the inside skinny:
As calendar year 2012 came to a close, most of the State of Colorado was categorized in D2 – D4 drought stage. The outlook for 2013 is toward above average temperatures and average to below average precipitation. Management decisions will be critical for agricultural producers and families to maintain the resource base of their operations.
Colorado State University Extension in the Golden Plains Area is planning to host a series of Drought Summits to provide critical drought management information to producers and their families.
Five informational meetings will be held at different locations throughout the Golden Plains Area and will simultaneously be presented as a web cast. Anyone can attend either in person at the sites listed below or link to the web cast. There is no charge for attending in person or linking to the web cast. For those attending at the physical locations, lunch will be provided courtesy of sponsors.
Drought Summit dates, locations, and topics are as follows:
Feb. 12 – Burlington Community Center, Burlington – Weather updates and Crop Insurance issues.
Feb. 19 – Washington County Events Center, Akron – Crop production issues, forage production with limited irrigation, entomology and insect concerns during drought.
Feb. 26 – Yuma Community Center, Yuma– Livestock production issues including herd liquidation and tax consequences and livestock disease during drought.
March 5 – Phillips County Events Center, Holyoke – Range management issues, pasture management, invasive weeds, insects.
March 12 – Sedgwick County Courthouse Annex, Julesburg – Human resources issues, family financial management and communications.
All five summit presentations are scheduled to begin at 11:00am and conclude at 1:00pm.
Please RSVP by the Monday prior to each meeting to Dennis Kaan in the Washington County Extension office at 970-345-2287 if you are planning to attend a presentation in person so we can get an accurate count for lunch. The web cast will be presented via Adobe Connect. In order to login to the web cast, go to the following web address: http://connect.extension.iastate.edu/colodrought
When you go to that URL you will find yourself at a login page. Simply click on bullet “Enter as a guest.” You will then be prompted for your name. Enter your name and click “Enter Room” to enter the meeting space. You can hear the presentation but you will have to type questions in the chat box and the presenters will address them.
Any time before the meeting you can visit the following URL to confirm your ability to connect to the Connect server:
From The Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos) and the Associated Press:
Aurora’s water reservoirs are at about 57 percent of their storage capacity, which is low and “not normal or ideal,” said Marshall Brown, director of Aurora Water. Brown said he’s concerned because if this year’s mild winter continues, it would be compounded with the dryness of 2012 which would lead to water levels being even lower in Aurora’s reservoirs.
“The forecasts for 2013 are not good right now, so the potential is for this drought that we’re in now to be as bad as anything we’ve seen in recent history,” he said.
The city uses about 50,000 acre-feet of water annually. As the drought continues, the Prairie Waters drought hardening project will be operating at full-blast, Brown said. “Prairie Waters is a huge help for us now,” Brown said.
Currently, the Prairie Waters project is being operated at half its capacity, said Joe Stibrich, deputy director of water resources for Aurora Water. By the summer, Prairie Waters is expected to deliver 10,000 acre-feet of water, or 20 percent of Aurora’s total water consumption, which wouldn’t need to be pulled out of Aurora’s reservoir storage. “As demand increases we’d ramp Prairie Waters up (in the spring),” said Stibrich.
It’s too early to tell whether any updates will be made to the city’s watering restrictions in the spring, but it’s always a possibility, Brown said. Aurora City Council members would have to approve new watering restrictions for 2013 before they would go into effect…
The outlook for a major change in Colorado’s drought is uncertain even though holiday storms have improved the mountain snowpack, according to climate researchers. “It’s not quite good enough to pull us out of the ‘drought,’ but at least (it’s) bringing temporary relief and optimism,” State Climatologist Nolan Doesken said.
Snow levels were as low as 40 percent of average earlier this month in the state’s eight major river basins. Doesken said the forecast for the first part of 2013 doesn’t include much moisture, and the longer range outlook is uncertain.