The case that % of normal can be misleading after runoff starts

May 23, 2015

Down in the comments for this post, Coyote Gulch reader Gunnar wrote:

Thanks as always for your tireless work. I would be interested in seeing a primer post from you explaining why “% of normal is misleading after runoff starts.”

You’ve mentioned this a few times in your posts, but I am unclear about why.

So here’s a dive into current conditions to make the case that % of normal can be misleading if you are hoping for adequate late-season water.

Below are the most recent Basin High/Low graphs for the South Platte River Basin and Arkansas River Basin in Colorado. You can click on either thumbnail to view the gallery.

Note that current snow water equivalent has blown through the median on both graphs.

South Platte diverters are confident that they will have some late season water, both because the snowpack peak just before melt-out started was close to average, and due to the current SWE volume being at 93% of that peak. The South Platte Basin still has 15 inches of SWE to melt-out and that’s a lot of water.

Down in the Arkansas it’s a different story. The current snowpack peak is 77% of the 2015 peak which was 88% of the median peak. The basin has 8 or so inches of SWE to melt-out and that’s a lot of water as well. It just depends on how fast in comes off.

This time of year it makes sense to look at the Natural Resources Conservation Service streamflow forecast issued the first of each month. Below is the May 1 statewide map and narrative. You can click on the thumbnail for a readable view.

May 1, 2015 Colorado streamflow forecast map via the NRCS

May 1, 2015 Colorado streamflow forecast map via the NRCS

Water Values podcast: Steve Cavanaugh discusses the untapped water supply that every utility has — non-revenue water

May 19, 2015

Congratulations to Metropolitan State University of Denver Graduates! — @CoyoteGulch (Class of 1978)

May 16, 2015

More education coverage here.

“Conservation without storage is not worthless but it’s close to it” — Eric Wilkinson

May 14, 2015

From The Greeley Tribune (Kayla Young):

The complexity, drama and careful planning behind Colorado’s water system took center stage Wednesday afternoon at the Union Colony Civic Center.

The Greeley Chamber of Commerce symposium, “Water: Yours? Mine? Ours?” began with “Water 101,” as panelists explained the ins and outs of Colorado’s management system, and wrapped up with pointed questions from attendees on some of Weld County’s largest water-use dilemmas.

Moderator Nicole Seltzer, executive director of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, described the conversation as “moving upstream to downstream,” flowing throughout the diversity of topics and interests that influence resource management.

Harold Evans, chairman of the Greeley Water & Sewer Board, highlighted the challenge of preparing for a Colorado population expected to double by 2050 while maintaining the agricultural economy. Even with supplies flowing into Greeley from four river basins — the Poudre, Upper Colorado, Big Thompson and Laramie — Evans said much more work remains to be done. “We are fortunate to have forefathers who had the vision, courage and understanding of good water planning,” he said, emphasizing that water planners of the future will need to maintain the same dedication.

A message that resonated throughout panelist comments was a call for greater storage capacity and more efficiency in completing reservoir projects.

In years of heavy rainfall and high stream flows, Erik Wilkinson, general manager of Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said Colorado must take better advantage of storing supplies to prepare for times of drought,

“Conservation without storage is not worthless but it’s close to it. If you conserve the water, you have to have a place to store it,” Wilkinson said.

Evans and Wilkinson both attributed the lack of progress in reservoir projects in large part to long and complex federal permitting processes.

Evans pointed to the delays in expanding Seaman and Windy-Gap reservoirs, both sources of Greeley water storage, as prime examples of the lag in permitting.

“These projects are all going in excess of 10 years, and we still don’t have a permit on any of those projects,” Evans said.

During the session’s question-and-answer period, Pierce-based dairyman Charles Tucker turned the conversation toward the issue of agricultural buy-and-dry from municipalities. He described his hometown as “Thornton territory,” referring to the extensive purchase of agricultural water supplies by the Denver Metro-area city in the 1980s.

Seltzer asked the panelists if a silver lining could be found in the situation.

The panel at first struggled to answer the question, with Evans saying, “I don’t know if right now there is a silver lining.”

He later added that perhaps the silver lining is Colorado’s dedicated water planners that are working to address difficult questions.

Charles Bartlett, chairman for the Colorado Ag Water Alliance, said the future of agricultural supplies will depend on the industry’s ability to stay competitive.

“The best way to keep water in agriculture is to keep agriculture profitable,” he said.

For those struggling to find the value in maintaining stable supplies for agriculture, New Cache la Poudre Reservoir Co. manager Dale Trowbridge said we need look no further than our dinner plates. Trowbridge said the importance of Weld County agriculture and its water supply can be seen in Fagerberg onions, Hungenberg carrots, and Petrocco red cabbage, to name a few.

More education coverage here.

Poem: OUT HERE — Greg Hobbs/Emmett Jordan

May 10, 2015

Justice Hobbs was researching a future article about Emmett Jordan’s contributions to the success of the Colorado Water Foundation recently:


(in celebration of Emmett Jordan and his foundational role in designing the publications of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education 2003-2015)


Out here, on the high plains,


I marvel at the water trickle
a windmill flows,


All the possibilities,
all the dreams,
a hundred years or so—


To the south,
a forgotten cemetery


cows now graze


Claims a handful of
nameless homesteaders—


to the west, a ditch

That never carried
more than dreams
of irrigation bounty—

To the north, the waterless
Keota water tower—


to the east, the ruined

Grasslands of
“Government Ground”
busted into lost 160s—


New directions
brittle foundations
squeezed from the planet—


Pardon my ramblings.
In the rhythm of the rivers,


the west finds its most treasured experience.

Thank you, Emmett!

Poem “Out Here” by Greg Hobbs and Emmett Jordan published in Colorado Mother of Rivers, Water Poems (Colorado Foundation for Water Education 2005, designed by Emmett Jordan).  Photos by Greg Hobbs 5/3/2015

Greg Kernohan, 2015 Emerging Leader

May 7, 2015

Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

THIS FRIDAY, May 8th, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education will celebrate water education and water leadership at its annual President’s Award Reception.  This year, CFWE will honor Greg Kernohan with the Emerging Leader Award, and Jim Lochhead with the President’s Award. Join the celebration. Register here to attend at 6 pm this Friday, May 8 at Space Gallery. We’ll enjoy hors d’oeuvres, beverages, a famous game of “Wine Toss”, an art giveaway, a photo booth, and a fun evening with friends.

By Justice Greg Hobbs

Greg Kernohan helps farmers and cities address water needs while benefiting waterfowl. For more than 15 years, he has served as manager of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited in Colorado. He has been both entrepreneurial and innovative in leading the South Platte Wetlands Focus Area Committee, managing the Union Mutual Ditch Company, and participating for the past 10 years as a member of the South Platte Basin…

View original 306 more words

The latest “Headwaters Pulse” newsletter is hot off the presses from the CFWE

April 30, 2015


Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Water scarcity and planning for Colorado’s future

Everyone is talking about water. California is in a drought crisis, Lake Powell is only 45 percent full, and in Colorado, though needed moisture has been falling over much of the state, anything could happen! Although it’s impossible to accurately predict the future, the immediate pressures of drought in the lower Colorado River Basin highlight the importance of preparedness. How can Colorado be ready for whatever the future brings?

Our winter issue of Headwaters takes a close look at the state water planning process’ inner workings, including why we need the plan now, what it took to complete a first draft as of December last year, and where we’ll likely need to go further to achieve success. Plus, we help you chart your water future—looking at elements like climate, population growth and social values that could change Colorado’s future (flip to page 16 of the magazine for this feature). Colorado’s Water Plan won’t be finalized until December 2015, so pick up, flip through or download your copy of Headwaters Winter 2015 issue today to see what we’re planning for.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.


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