Garfield County Commissioners hope West Slope says “Not one more transmountain drop” #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiverMay 21, 2015
The commissioners are organizing a meeting of Western Slope elected leaders to draw up a unified message ahead of the completion of Governor Hickenlooper’s statewide water plan. Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky:
“You take Pitkin County and Garfield County – they’re miles apart philosophically on how things should be done. But, when it comes to transmountain diversions, we have the same mindset: no more water to go to the east slope.”
Some water officials in the state have endorsed what’s called the “7 points of consensus.” It includes consideration of new transmountain diversions that would move Western Slope water east. Already, 13 major diversions move water through the mountains.
Drought news: Secretary Jewell Announces $50 Million to Help Conserve Water in Drought-Stricken WestMay 21, 2015
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
Nearly coast-to-coast storminess reduced drought’s footprint across the nation’s mid-section but triggered lowland flooding from the southeastern Plains and the western Gulf Coast region into the mid-South. Farther east, however, only light showers, if any, dampened the eastern U.S., except for some briefly heavy rain in the northern Mid-Atlantic region. In the Northeast, where little precipitation has fallen during the spring, another mostly dry week raised concerns about a lack of soil moisture and declining streamflows. Meanwhile, cool, wet weather in the upper Midwest provided much-needed moisture, following a period of rapid planting progress. In fact, below-normal temperatures dominated much of the country, with widespread freezes noted across the north-central U.S. from May 18-20. Elsewhere, broadly unsettled weather prevailed in the West, with the heaviest precipitation falling across the northern Intermountain region and the central and southern Rockies. The Western precipitation boosted topsoil moisture, aided winter grains, and reduced irrigation requirements. Beneficial showers dampened parts of California and Nevada, but failed to dent the Far West’s serious hydrological drought…
Frenetic weather led to further reductions in drought coverage. Late-season snow briefly blanketed several areas, including parts of North Dakota on May 17-18 and western Nebraska on May 19-20. Farther south, multiple rounds of heavy showers and locally severe thunderstorms led to flooding, particularly across the southeastern Plains. Several gauging points, including the Red River near DeKalb, Texas, and the Poteau River near Panama, Oklahoma, climbed to their highest levels since May 1990. The Red River near DeKalb rose 4.51 feet above flood stage on May 13, while the Poteau River near Panama surged 14.54 feet above flood stage on May 12. By May 20, cumulative storage in Texas’ reservoirs climbed to 24.78 million acre-feet (78.5% of capacity)—the highest in more than 4 years. Only a month ago, Texas’ storage was 22.53 million acre-feet, or 71.4% of capacity. Six months ago, on November 20, 2014, storage stood at just 19.43 million acre-feet, 62.0% of capacity.
On the southern Plains, month-to-date rainfall has already exceeded a foot in many locations, including Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (13.88 inches, or 508% of normal), and Wichita Falls, Texas (12.43 inches, or 570%). Record-high May totals in those two locations are 14.52 inches (in 2013) in Oklahoma City and 13.22 inches (in 1982) in Wichita Falls. In the Plains’ cotton belt, incessant rains have hampered fieldwork. For example, only 19% of Texas’ intended cotton acreage had been planted by May 17, compared to the 5-year average of 36%.
Farther north, spring precipitation arrived mostly too late to revive winter wheat but has aided rangeland, pastures, and summer crops. By May 17, roughly one-third of the winter wheat was rated in very poor to poor condition in South Dakota (36%), Nebraska (31%), and Kansas (30%). The damage to wheat was caused much earlier due to a combination of drought and winter weather extremes. Meanwhile, South Dakota’s rangeland and pastures—which were rated 33% very poor to poor on May 3, improved to 24% very poor to poor by May 17. Spring wheat, grown primarily in six Northern States from Washington to Minnesota, was off to a good start, with 65% of the crop rated good to excellent (and only 4% very poor to poor) on May 17…
Cool, occasionally showery weather across much of the western U.S. reduced irrigation demands, boosted topsoil moisture, and benefited rangeland, pastures, winter grains, and spring-sown crops. However, the late-season moisture failed to significantly alter the bleak hydrological situation in drought-affected areas, including California. By April 30, reservoir storage as a percent of average for the date was significantly below normal in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon. Storage in California’s 154 reservoirs stood at 18.0 million acre-feet (64 percent of average) on May 1, about 1.6 million acre-feet lower than a year ago. With little snow in the mountains above California’s lakes, further inflow will be negligible, meaning that the reservoir recharge season has ended early.
An exception to the West’s cool, damp pattern was the Pacific Northwest, where abnormal dryness (D0) expanded to cover western Washington. During the first 19 days of May, rainfall totaled just 0.65 inch (20% of normal) in Quillayute, Washington. Farther inland, USDA on May 17 rated only a little more than one-third of the winter wheat crop in good to excellent in Washington (39%) and Oregon (34%). In addition to less-than-ideal crop conditions, snowpack and streamflows remain at extremely low levels in most of the Northwest. As a result, severe drought (D2) was introduced across portions of northeastern Washington and northern Idaho, while moderate drought (D1) was expanded. Farther south, recent precipitation has been heavy enough in southern Idaho to prevent significant drought expansion, although hydrological concerns persist.
Despite atypically heavy showers for May in California, Nevada, and Arizona, the drought depiction remained effectively unchanged. Simply stated, the late-season rain and snow showers have improved the appearance of the landscape but have left the underlying, long-term drought virtually untouched. Even with the showers, California’s topsoil moisture was rated 85% very short to short on May 17, while subsoil moisture was 90% very short to short. Similarly, Nevada’s topsoil moisture was 65% very short to short, while subsoil moisture was 85% very short to short. Nevertheless, locations reporting their wettest May day on record included San Diego, California (1.63 inches on May 14; previously, 1.49 inches on May 8, 1977), and Phoenix, Arizona (0.93 inch on May 15; previously, 0.91 inch on May 4, 1976).
More widespread precipitation has fallen in recent weeks across the central and southern Rockies and environs. In fact, the water content of the high-elevation snowpack climbed above the mid-May average in several river basins in the Rockies of Colorado and New Mexico. Due to the extensive precipitation, improved water-supply prospects, and boost in soil moisture, another round of sweeping improvements in the drought depiction were introduced in Colorado and New Mexico, extending northward into southern Wyoming and westward into eastern Utah. Through May 19, month-to-date precipitation has totaled 200 to 300% of normal in locations such as Grand Junction, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Denver, Colorado; and Evanston, Wyoming. Parts of New Mexico have been even wetter in recent weeks, relative to normal, with May 1-19 totals reaching 5.45 inches (524% of normal) in Clayton and 1.50 inches (484%) in Albuquerque…
During the next several days, a parade of storms will continue to emerge from the western U.S. As a result, 5-day precipitation totals could reach 1 to 2 inches from Oregon and northern California to the Intermountain West. Meanwhile, totals of 2 to 5 inches or more can be expected across the central and southern Plains and parts of the mid-South. In contrast, little or no rain will fall in the eastern U.S. and across the nation’s northern tier. Most of the country, excluding the Southeast and Northwest, will continue to experience cool weather.
The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for May 26 – 30 calls for likelihood of above-normal temperatures along the Pacific Coast, in the Northwest, and east of the Mississippi River. Meanwhile, cooler-than-normal conditions will cover the central and southern High Plains and parts of the Southwest. A wet pattern will persist nearly nationwide, with drier-than-normal weather likely limited to the northern Pacific Coast, southern Florida, and a small area near the Canadian border centered on northern North Dakota.
From the Department of Interior (Jessica Kershaw/Peter Soeth/Albert Rodriguez/Tonya Durrell):
As part of the Obama Administration’s continued effort to bring relief to western communities suffering from the historic drought, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced that Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation will invest nearly $50 million to improve water efficiency and conservation in California and 11 other western states.
“In a time of exceptional drought, it is absolutely critical that states and the federal government leverage our funding resources so that we can make each drop count,” said Secretary Jewell. “Being ‘water smart’ means working together to fund sustainable water initiatives that use the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand.”
Joined by Nancy Sutley, Chief Sustainability and Economic Development Officer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the funding announcement was made today at the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, CA, where millions of gallons of wastewater are purified each day. Secretary Jewell, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López and Sutley emphasized the importance of federal-state partnerships to help work toward a more sustainable and resilient water future.
“Through the WaterSMART Program, Reclamation is providing funding for water conservation improvements and water reuse projects across the West,” Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López said. “We commend the state of California for all the steps they have already taken to alleviate the impacts of the drought. We hope this federal funding for water reuse and efficiency will help us leverage scarce resources between the state and federal governments to bring much-needed relief for the people and environment of California.”
“The federal government’s support for critical water efficiency and reuse projects is most valuable especially during this historic drought in California,” said Sutley. “The investments will help cities like Los Angeles carry out our sustainability objectives, further build our local water supply and reduce our reliance on imported water. We look forward to all these important opportunities ahead of us.”
“We are honored to host Secretary Jewell at our Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant and Japanese Garden today,” said LA Sanitation Director Enrique C. Zaldivar, P.E. “We look forward to learning more about the environmental partnership opportunities she will announce during her visit.”
Reclamation is investing more than $24 million in grants for 50 water and energy efficiency projects in 12 western states, more than $23 million for seven water reclamation and reuse projects in California, and nearly $2 million for seven water reclamation and reuse feasibility studies in California and Texas.
WaterSMART is the U.S. Department of the Interior’s sustainable water initiative. Since it was established in 2010, WaterSMART has provided about $250 million in competitively-awarded funding to non-federal partners, including tribes, water districts, municipalities and universities. These investments have conserved enough water to meet the needs of more than 3.8 million people. Every acre-foot of conserved water delivered means that an equivalent amount of existing supplies is available for other uses.
WaterSMART water and energy efficiency grants can be used for projects that conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, carry out activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict. The 50 projects announced today will be leveraged with at least 50 percent non-federal funding for a total of $133 million in improvements over the next two to three years. For a complete description of the 50 projects, please visit the WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grant website.
Through Title XVI of the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act, Reclamation provides funding for projects that reclaim and reuse municipal, industrial, domestic or agricultural wastewater and naturally impaired ground or surface waters. Title XVI provides up to 25 percent of project costs. Project sponsors provide the remaining 75 percent of the funding necessary to carry out projects, thereby leveraging limited federal funding to implement as many water reuse projects as possible. Seven projects in California will receive $23.2 million. For a complete description of these seven water reuse projects, please visit the WaterSMART Title XVI website.
Also under the Title XVI Act, Reclamation is providing $1.6 million for communities to study whether water reuse projects would help them to meet their future water needs. Four feasibility studies in California and three studies in Texas were selected this year. Feasibility studies are funded jointly by Reclamation and project sponsors. A cost-share of at least 50 percent of study is required. For a complete description of the seven new studies selected for funding, please visit the WaterSMART Title XVI website.
From The Pueblo Chieftain:
Water from this week’s rainfall is flowing into storage now, as farmers wait out the wet spell to get back into fields.
“What we need now is for it to quit raining and warm up,” said Rocky Ford farmer John Schweizer. “We’re happy for the rain, but it’s so wet we can’t do anything.”
Most canals were shut off during this week’s rains, and flows from Lake Pueblo were cut as the Arkansas River reached flood stage at Avondale. Flows at Avondale topped 10,000 cubic feet per second overnight Wednesday, more than 4,000 cfs above flood stage. Avondale remained above 6,000 cfs for most of the day Wednesday.
For farmers, there is still a lot of planting to do, particularly corn, which is grown for feed and a major cash crop in the Arkansas Valley.
“We got most of our stuff planted when it should be planted,” said Joe Mauro, who farms on the Bessemer Ditch in Pueblo County. “We put the corn and chiles in before this rain, and they’ll do well if the crust from this moisture isn’t too thick. We will put in pinto beans and pumpkins by June.”
In other parts of the valley, most crops are delayed.
“The stuff planted earlier hasn’t gotten up yet, and corn planting is delayed,” said Mike Bartolo, of the Colorado State University Research Center at Rocky Ford. “There was a window to get stuff in last weekend, but most of it should be planted. It’s a mixed bag, but it’s generally delayed.”
Even alfalfa — plants that winter over — has been problematic, Schweizer said.
Warm weather this year got it started early if it hadn’t been knocked back by dry, cold weather over the winter. But that brought out bugs, too. Farmers who have already sprayed for bugs have to spray again once temperatures warm up.
Because corn prices have dropped, some farmers in the Lamar area are planting milo, or sorghum, and even soybeans, crops that use less water and have a longer planting window, said Dale Mauch, who farms near Lamar.
“We’ve been dry for so long. Everything changed after May 1,” Mauch said. “This is the first time in a long time that you’ll be able to plant all your acres on all your land. It’s sure nice to see green country.”
Grasslands also are coming back, so those who nursed their cattle herds through the drought should be in good shape. Because of the shortage of cows, it will be expensive to rebuild herds that were culled, however.
The Colorado Canal, which is mostly owned by Colorado Springs and Aurora, and the Fort Lyon Canal were the only large ditches taking water Wednesday, because they can store it. Colorado Springs and Aurora were releasing water from Lake Meredith and leasing it to the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte said.
Combined, the ditches took about 1,280 cfs of water.
The rest is being stored in John Martin Reservoir under conservation storage, or in the Amity Canal account in lieu of flowing into the Great Plains reservoirs via the Fort Lyon storage canal. John Martin storage has increased from about 6,300 acrefeet in November to 80,000 acre-feet. Water in conservation storage is used for later release in Colorado and to satisfy Kansas demands for water at the state line, so any water stored by Colorado farmers carries a 35 percent surcharge.
Witte couldn’t say how much water will be contributed to John Martin during this event, since there were delayed flows yet to come from the Purgatoire and Huerfano Rivers, as well as Fountain Creek. More rainfall is expected through the weekend throughout the area.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon/Matt Hildner):
Water levels at the reservoir have risen significantly, leading to changes that will impact guests and those planning on visiting in the near future. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Abbie Walls, most areas on the south side of the reservoir are under water, so areas where trailers can be parked will be limited…
John Martin Reservoir gained almost 27,000 acre feet of water in the past week due to storms. As of Monday, the reservoir had 77,600 acre feet of water and was still rising, compared to about 31,000 acre feet and dropping last year at this time.
More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.
From the Wyoming News (Trevor Brown):
…with a historic drought hitting California and much of the Southwest, parts of the river have reached their driest points in hundreds of years.
And this increased demand on the river is causing Wyoming, along with the other western states, to take notice.
“Anything that puts more pressure on the Colorado River should be a concern for all the states, including Wyoming,” said Douglas Kenney, who heads the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “There is only so much water to go around.”
Wyoming’s water managers say the Cowboy State hasn’t been directly affected by the water shortage in the downstream states.
This is because a nearly 100-year-old interstate compact ensures Wyoming can use a predetermined amount of the water that flows through its borders.
“Anytime a drought occurs in our country, it is worth watching,” said Harry LaBonde, director of the Wyoming Water Development Commission. “But if you are asking if California is going to demand more water from Wyoming, the answer is no.”
LaBonde and other state officials say the western drought, and the threat that the situation could worsen, is still enough of a concern that Wyoming should see the situation as a warning and take steps to safeguard its own water supplies.
This is partly what prompted Gov. Matt Mead to include a plan in his recently announced statewide water strategy to build 10 reservoirs in 10 years.
Nephi Cole, a policy adviser to the governor, said it’s important for the state to begin planning these projects, which can take years and millions of dollars to complete, so Wyoming isn’t caught off guard in the future.
“The challenge is many times when you need a water project and you realize you are in a really dry year, it is already too late,” he said…
Wyoming and the “Law of the River”
Unlike much of southeast Wyoming, several western parts of the state don’t have the luxury of being able to rely on plentiful groundwater resources.
That means many municipal water systems, agricultural users and other industries largely depend on the Green River, which is the main tributary of the Colorado River, to meet their needs.
The 730-mile waterway begins in the Wind River Range of Sublette County and travels south into Utah before it connects with the Colorado River.
In total, a drop of water that starts in Wyoming could travel through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and California.
So, who owns that droplet of water?
That hotly contentious question was largely answered by a 1922 interstate deal known formally as the Colorado River Compact. This, combined with a complex series of other compacts, federal laws, court decisions and decrees, make up what is colloquially referred to as “The Law of the River.”[…]
It goes on to say that Wyoming is allowed to use 14 percent of the 7.5 million acre-feet of the upper-basin states’ allocation. That amount is equal to more than 342 billion gallons – or the equivalent of 517,844 Olympic-sized swimming pools – of water…
Cooperation and tension
David Modeer is the president of the Colorado River Water Users Association, a nonprofit group made up of the states and other groups that rely on the waterway.
He said all seven of the states have been working together through the years on a number of projects to preserve the water supply.
For example, many of the lower-basin states have provided some funding for cloud-seeding projects, which are designed to bring more precipitation, in the Rocky Mountain states.
More Green River Basin coverage here.
From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best) via the Summit Daily News:
In Colorado, snowpack this winter was about average in the Blue River Basin, which is where Breckenridge, Keystone, and several other ski areas are located. “Everybody has Blue River envy,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, at a recent meeting covered by the Summit Daily News.
Blue River’s snowpack will soon fill Dillon Reservoir, one of the main reservoirs for metropolitan Denver. However, endangered fish in the Colorado River downstream near the Utah border won’t fare so well, because of less snowpack in the other tributary basins. Peak flows must be at least 12,900 cubic feet per second; they’re expected to peak at 9,600 cfs.
Taking a broader view, Kuhn sees this time in the 21st century as one of transition. “After 100 years of develop more, develop more, develop more, we’re going to have to cut back our uses.”
Kuhn pointed to the declining water levels in both Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two giant “buckets” on the Colorado River. “Bad things happen when Lake Mead and Lake Powell get drained,” he said, a distinct possibility in the next few years, particularly at Lake Mead.
What about building a pipeline to the Mississippi River or some other water-rich location? “To expect that we can export our problems to somebody else, I just don’t see that somebody else will willingly accept them,” he said.
More Colorado River Basin coverage here.