— Circle of Blue (@circleofblue) October 23, 2014
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):
Too much water has become a bad thing in the Rio Grande basin. That might seem like nonsense in a region that has seen below-average stream flows for most of the last 12 years, but inaccurate stream forecasts coupled with the demands of the Rio Grande Compact have put water managers and users in a pinch. The compact governs how much water Colorado must send downstream and includes separate delivery schedules for the Rio Grande and Conejos River.
Those deliveries run on a sliding scale with the highest demands in wet years and the lowest ones in dry times. Each spring, the state engineer’s office relies on stream forecasts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to balance how much runoff can be diverted by irrigators with how much must go to New Mexico.
The service draws that forecast partly from the eight automated snow gauges and a string of manual snow survey sights in the basin. But this year’s projections were low by roughly 50,000 acre-feet on the Conejos and almost 150,000 acre-feet on the Rio Grande, Division Engineer Craig Cotten said. That has left Cotten and his staff in the position of curtailing or limiting the amount of water that irrigators would otherwise be entitled to according to their respective water rights.
“The most senior water rights on both rivers are being curtailed dramatically in order to meet the compact,” Steve Vandiver, director of the Rio Grande Water Conservancy District told the basin’s roundtable earlier this month.
Moreover, the service’s snow measurement and forecasting program may have an uncertain future. Last year, the service proposed eliminating 47 of the 110 manual snow survey sites in Colorado to meet agency budget cuts. While those sites were saved, the threat of future funding cuts along with the inaccuracies plaguing the forecast have led officials in the Rio Grande basin to look at other options.
The Conejos Water Conservancy District is in the middle of a $237,000 project that will install a temporary radar system, six weather stations and a string of new stream flow gauges. The aim is to get a more accurate forecast that will reduce curtailments for water users. In 2012, the Conejos district estimated that those curtailments cost water users in the basin up to $13,000 per day.
“We can’t realistically blame Craig because it’s the forecasting error,” said Nathan Coombs, the district’s manager. “We don’t have anything else that helps us.”
The Conejos basin is home to two of the automated snow gauges run by the service.
The radar, which will be located either at Antonito or Alamosa, will give officials a clearer picture of where storms are happening, while the six weather stations will allow them to determine how much the storms are depositing.
Moreover, the project will add flow gauges to key tributaries of the Conejos such as Elk Creek and the South Fork of the Conejos.
“If we can start measuring better what these tributaries are doing, that will give us an indication of what these sub-basins are looking at,” Coombs said.
The snowpack and stream flow data gathered by the district will be turned over to researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Severe Storms Laboratory. In turn, those researchers will try to use that data to create a forecasting model. Coombs said the district will stack up that end product with the service forecasts.
“If there’s enough discrepancy to pursue it, that’s how we’ll go,” he said.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board played a role in funding the Conejos project and also has pursued the use of satellite technology to help increase the accuracy of snowpack measurement.
“We’ve had this conversation a lot,” Travis Smith who represents the Rio Grande on the board, told The Chieftain. “Forecasting drives our compact decisions.” Smith, who has been heavily involved in fire recovery issues in the Rio Grande’s headwaters, said temporary radar near Wolf Creek Pass that’s been installed to warn of late summer and fall monsoon storms, may end up playing a role for winter snowstorms as well.
But moving state officials toward improved forecasting can be difficult given that two of the biggest water management organizations in the state — Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District — do their own forecasting independent of the service.
Still, Smith sees a potential ally in the Arkansas River basin, where water managers are dependent on service forecasting for its voluntary flow management program and reservoir operations.
Mike Gibson is chair of the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, which also divvies up state funds for water projects and funded a portion of the Conejos pilot project. He wants all options left on the table.
“I personally feel we need to pursue all avenues available until we come up with a better system than we have now,” he said.
More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.
Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:
“The one thing that is most interesting to me is that we can drink from any water faucet. Back in Tonga we weren’t allowed to drink from the water faucet. The water from the faucet was really bad and it could make you sick. It wasn’t a good idea at all.” – Former H2O Outdoors camper
Twice a year, Denver Water’s Youth Education team meets up with Aurora Water and the Colorado River District at Keystone Science School in Summit County for a three-day water camp called H2O Outdoors.
“This camp provides high school students from varied backgrounds throughout Colorado with an opportunity to learn about water in the state and all of its complexities in a fun, hands-on environment,” said Matt Bond, Denver Water’s Youth Education manager. “These students will be future decision-makers, and the camp sets them up to be experts on the state’s…
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Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:
Year to-date tied as warmest on record
FRISCO — This year is on pace to become the warmest on record, as the National Climatic Data Center reported today that September’s average global temperature hit a new all-time high. Three of the last four months have been record-warm. Visit the NCDC site for the full report.
Once again, warm ocean temperatures prevailed during the month, reaching 1.19 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, the warmest reading for any month of any year on record, dating back to 1880.
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From email from the CFWE:
The Colorado Foundation for Water Education and Colorado Water Congress are working together to bring you a series of webinars focusing on Transbasin Diversions in Colorado. The webinars will include a diverse range of panelists and presenters to expand upon CFWE’s newest Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Transbasin Diversions and coming blog series. Stay tuned for speaker information and details.
Click here to register.
More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.
From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):
Releases from Crystal Dam will be decreased from 1150 cfs to 1050 cfs on Wednesday, October 22nd at 10:00 AM. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association will be decreasing diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel Wednesday morning. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the October baseflow target for the foreseeable future.
Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for September through December.
Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are around 800 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 350 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be around 700 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will still be around 350 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.
More Aspinall Unit coverage here.