Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current US Drought Monitor map and the current drought forecast from the Climate Prediction Center.
Sadly, wildfire is directly associated with drought. From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton):
Santa Fe’s water department is one of several urban utilities – including those in Colorado Springs, Denver, and Flagstaff, Arizona – that are putting ratepayer dollars to work in the forests. The U.S. Forest Service, for its part, helps the utilities with the technical aspects of forest restoration and some of the physical work while using most of the money in its budget to focus on other high-risk forests in the state…
Recent forest fires, including the High Park fire outside of Fort Collins, Colorado last year, have water utilities on edge. Yet the most destructive blaze for drinking water infrastructure happened more than a decade ago near Denver.
The 2002 Hayman fire, still the largest in Colorado’s history, burned 55,800 hectares (138,000 acres) southwest of the city. Subsequent rainstorms swamped Strontia Springs reservoir with enough sediment – 765,000 cubic meters – to fill Denver’s basketball arena five times. Combined with the damage from a 1996 fire in the same area, Denver Water, the public utility, spent $US 26 million dredging and restoring two of its reservoirs.
In 2010, Denver Water entered into a five-year partnership with the U.S. Forest Service with the goal of reducing the risk of catastrophic fire. The two agencies will each spend $US 16.5 million on forest restoration, with Denver’s share coming from ratepayers.
This type of investment is called a payment for ecosystem services, a financial model that protects the natural processes that benefit people. Forests filter water, and their soil helps to slow down the surge of runoff after a storm, calming potential floods. Fires eliminate these benefits for some time. Erosion, poor water quality and higher flood risks persist long after the flames have been snuffed out.
Earth Economics, a research group, has charted at least 17 instances in the U.S. in which money from city or utility budgets is being put toward watershed management, most in areas other than wildfire risk.
Spending money on fire prevention is tricky, said Rowan Schmidt, an analyst at Earth Economics, because there is no rule of thumb for how much investment in a watershed will pay off.
Here’s a video about sustaining your lawn during drought, from Colorado Springs Utilities:
From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):
After imposing watering restrictions in April, it appears the public is doing its part to hold water usage down. Of course, there are higher charges for water if you exceed certain levels of usage, so that discourages over-watering.
Click through for the usage graph from Colorado Springs Utilities.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
Western Colorado and eastern Utah have warmed in the last century, and it appears that precipitation in the region has also increased, according to a new analysis of historic climate data compiled by Grand Junction-based National Weather Service forecaster Joe Ramey.
General long-term trends include cooling from the 1940s through the 1960s, towards warmer and wetter conditions since the 1970s, on par with many other parts of the country and the world.
Specifically, maximum temperatures have risen 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit and minimum temperatures have risen 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit during during the study period going back to 1911, when several towns and cities in the region started to maintain detailed climate data.
According to an abstract of Ramey’s study, posted on the Grand Junction NWS website, there are eleven sites within eastern Utah and western Colorado that have mostly unbroken climate records back to 1911. In eastern Utah these sites include Vernal, Moab, Blanding, and Bluff. Western Colorado sites are Steamboat Springs, Grand Junction, Crested Butte, Gunnison, Montrose, Telluride, and Silverton. This study is an analysis of the trends in those data.