Nolan Doesken snags the President’s Award from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education

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Nolan Doesken, Colorado’s State Climatologist, was presented with the President’s Award yesterday evening.

He asked, “I’m feeling naked because I don’t have a what?”

The answer to his question was a rain gauge, of course. He often carries a rain gauge with him as he travels around the state to speak to groups about Colorado’s climate and the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS). Actually, I’ve seen Nolan speak many times over the years and I don’t remember a time that he didn’t have a rain gauge with him.

Nolan credits his father for nurturing his interest in weather. He reminisced about buying his father a rain gauge in the late 60s. His father, he said, kept a journal of precipitation records, carefully recording data from a gauge that was only accurate to the nearest quarter inch of moisture. While that may have been accurate enough for Illinois where Nolan grew up, “In Colorado you sort of need that nearest hundredth,” he said.

He describes his work as a, “Never ending roller coaster ride because we never know what the next week or the next month will bring.” He says he spends his time, “Telling stories with numbers.”

The big effort for CoCoRaHS over the next year — in conjunction with Colorado Water 2012 — will be to get rain gauges into all schools in Colorado. Doesken hopes that the schools will participate in the program for at least part of the year.

As I wandered around the reception I sensed a general feeling of admiration and respect for Doesken from everyone I talked with. In point of fact he is genuinely well liked by those that know him and work for him. One person told me, “You’ll never hear anyone say anything bad about Nolan.”

Congratulations Mr. Doesken the award is well deserved and don’t worry, I remember where I can purchase my very own weather station and sign up to be part of the network, http://www.cocorahs.org/.

2011 Colorado legislation: State Joint Budget Committee approves preserving a floor of $10 million of severance tax revenues for water projects

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Marianne Goodland):

[JBC member Rep. Jon Becker] negotiated a lower cash transfer from a severance tax fund, an agreement that he said will preserve at least $10 million and maybe more for water projects…

[Sen. Greg Brophy] lauded [Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg] and especially Becker for making sure HB 1005 would pass. “Jon ensured that the money was there for the ag tax exemption, and he also made sure we put [millions more] into water projects. We cannot continue to fall behind in developing our water infrastructure.”

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Lake Mead news: Reclamation forecasts a strong runoff season for the upper Colorado River basin, the bounty should help the reservoir fill a bit more

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From The Arizona Republic (Shaun McKinnon):

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Friday that runoff from snow in the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado is expected to increase storage on the river enough to adjust water levels at two key reservoirs and avert drought restrictions. The decision comes just six months after Lake Mead dropped to within 7 feet of a level that would have triggered drought restrictions. Under those restrictions, Arizona would have lost about 11 percent of its allocation for at least one year.

Arizona officials had prepared contingency plans that included forfeiting a small amount of the state’s allocation as a hedge against larger losses. Those plans are no longer necessary. “We still want to be somewhat cautious,” said Tom McCann, assistant general manager of the Central Arizona Project, which delivers Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson. “We’ve been in drought for 11 years. We’ve had a good year, and that’s very helpful. It pushes us further away from shortages, but it doesn’t mean the drought is over.”

Still, Friday’s action will give the CAP and other water users more time to plan for future shortages. The extra water should postpone the potential for shortages until about 2016, even if conditions turn dry again, McCann said.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District sets an 80 percent quota for project water

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Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Brian Werner):

An 80 percent quota for Colorado-Big Thompson Project water was agreed upon today by the Northern Water Board of Directors. The quota is a 30 percent increase from the initial quota set by the Board for this water year, effective Nov. 1, 2010.

The quota establishes the percentage of an acre foot that a C-BT allottee will receive during the current water year for every unit of C-BT water the allottee owns. The 80 percent quota means that each unit will yield eight-tenths of an acre foot.

Every year the Board bases its April quota decision on updated snowpack and storage information while striving to balance the overall water needs within Northern Water’s district boundaries. This year, the Upper Colorado River Basin’s snowpack is 42 percent above average, and C-BT reservoir storage is also above average. However, Board members said that dry conditions on the East Slope are a significant concern.

They said an 80 percent quota would help farmers who are trying to get their crops started in low soil moisture conditions. Precipitation in Northeastern Colorado is 30 percent below average year to date.

Several Board members emphasized that they want to revisit the quota in May. The Board has the ability to increase the quota in subsequent meetings.

“We want to watch precipitation. We’ll keep an eye on things and consider a supplemental quota next month,” said Director Bill Brown from Larimer County.

The quota will make 248,000 acre feet of C-BT water available to agricultural, municipal and industrial users within Northern Water’s boundaries until the end of the water year on Oct. 31, 2011.

Thanks to The Greeley Tribune for the heads up.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

Snowpack news: Statewide reservoir storage about average while snowpack is 112 percent of average

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What are the similarities between 2002 and this water year? Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“The difference between this year and 2002 is that we have a huge snowpack,” said Alan Ward, water resources administration for the Pueblo water board. “Going into 2002, there was a triple whammy: no snow in the mountains, a dry spring and no rain that summer.”[…]

Precipitation is actually looking better this year, so far. By April 8, 2002, Pueblo had received only 0.54 inches of moisture in 2002, compared with 1.54 inches so far this year. That’s about 85 percent of average for early April. Pueblo officially had only 3.94 inches of precipitation in 2002, the driest year on record and about one-fourth of average.

In April 2002, statewide snowpack was 52 percent of normal, while reservoir storage was 55 percent of average. This year, Colorado snowpack is about 110 percent of average and reservoir storage is right at average.

The 2002 drought actually was the third year of a statewide drought that primarily affected the Colorado River basin, while the effect was masked by wet summers in the Arkansas Valley. Colorado has had average-to-wet years in the four years prior to 2011.