La Niña: Will Colorado’s winter be wet or dry?

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

National Weather Service forecasters are pinpointing the potential effects of strengthening La Niña conditions this winter, predicting a dry winter on Colorado’s eastern plains and in the southern part of the state, but above-average snowfall for the northwestern quadrant of Colorado. The forecasters said there is still some disagreement about whether this year’s La Niña will be a strong event, but they said that the strong cooling of sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific and a positive feedback loop of the ocean and atmosphere are tilting the odds in favor of a moderate to strong La Niña.

Mr. Berwyn is linking to the National Weather Service powerpoint.

More Colorado Water coverage here and here.

2010 Colorado elections: Kathleen Curry faces an uphill battle as an independent and write-in candidate despite being a 6 year veteran of the State House

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From New West (David Frey):

She’s considering more oil and gas regulations to protect landowners from the impacts of spills and water contamination and to ensure royalty owners get all the money they’re owed by energy companies…

And she hasn’t backed away from her right-to-float bill, which would give rafters and kayakers the right to boat through private property, another issue unpopular with many Republicans…

“I’ve kind of walked down the middle,” Curry said. “This is a diverse district. We walk the gamut, from Silt to Aspen, Lake City to Crested Butte. It can’t get much more diverse.”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

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Here are the notes from yesterday’s webinar.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Precipitation news

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From the Cortez Journal (Reid Wright):

Measurements taken in Cortez show 2.42 inches, or 197 percent above normal precipitation for July; and 1.97 inches, or 144 percent above normal precipitation for August. Typically the driest month of the year, June reached 0.43 inches, which is 100 percent of normal, [local meteorologist Jim Andrus] said. Last summer was relatively dry, and the area has not seen this much summer precipitation since 2006, Andrus said.

Horsetooth Reservoir update

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Although the reservoir’s level dropped nearly 16 feet in the last month with the onset of hot, dry weather, its elevation was at 5,400 feet going into the Labor Day weekend and remained there Monday. The water hasn’t been that high this late in the year since 2004, said Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the reservoir. Prior to that, the measure wasn’t seen since the late 1990s. “We had a full reservoir all summer, and that’s not typical,” she said…

Demand this year for irrigation water in the Colorado-Big Thompson system, which includes Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake, is about 50,000 acre feet below normal, said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Precipitation for the year so far is about 118 percent of average. All of that bodes well for the start of the next boating and irrigation season, Werner said. “Unless something completely crazy happens, we should have good carryover water for next year,” he said.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Arkansas River Basin: The Pueblo Board of Water Works closes on nearly 27% of Bessemer Ditch water rights

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Right now, financially, we’ve acquired what we’re comfortable with to meet our needs for the next 30-40 years,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo water board. “I don’t see any more major purchases in the next seven or eight years.” Still, the water board is acquiring a few more shares. This year, the board budgeted $3 million to purchase another 300 shares. In 2009, the board bought about 5,300 of the 20,000 shares on the Bessemer Ditch…

The board’s offer to allow farmers to lease water back for 20 years was so popular — 97 percent took the deal — that it was difficult to find land to revegetate this year, so that program was delayed. The board has completed engineering for three measurement and control stations, and plans to build them when the ditch is dry, during winter water storage from Nov. 15-March 15. The estimated cost is $250,000-$300,000. “The structures will allow the Bessemer to control local flooding, protect the ditch and improve the efficiency of running water in the ditch,” Hamel said.

The board also is working with one landowner to set up a lease-fallowing program, where the landowner would keep one-third of his water and irrigate a different portion of the farm each year. That way, none of the land would be permanently removed from production, Hamel said. “It has the potential to serve as a model for future shares, or possibly for some we have already purchased,” Hamel said…

In the next year, more engineering work is planned. A change case, which would allow other uses for water now decreed agricultural, will not be filed until late 2011 at the earliest, Hamel said…

“My concern is that we’re headed down the road where they buy more water to the point where there is nothing left to support agriculture,” said Mike Bartolo, a Bessemer shareholder who manages the Colorado State University Agricultural Research Center at Rocky Ford. Bartolo was a vocal opponent of last year’s change in the bylaws of the ditch that make it possible to use the water outside the area historically irrigated by the Bessemer Ditch. The vote, 2-1 in favor of changes suggested by the Pueblo water board, cleared the way for the sale. “The municipal interests can’t see beyond the end of their spreadsheets,” Bartolo said. “They are exterminating the best farm ground in the state.” Bartolo has seen the effects of ditch sales from the Rocky Ford Ditch, now almost completely owned by Aurora, except for the research center and other holdouts. A 20-year agreement to lease back to farmers only delays the demise of agriculture, he said.

Leonard DiTomaso, who opposed the water works’ bid to change the bylaws and briefly served on the Bessemer board as an opponent of the sale, said the only regrets he hears are from others who would like to sell.
“There are more who would sell if they could,” DiTomaso said. “The larger ones are those who had the opportunity, but it’s really a matter of time before someone else comes in with an offer.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.