Drought news: August was the driest month on record for Alamosa

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the August 30, 2011 U.S. Drought Monitor map.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The average daily high temperature for June, July and August was 85.5 degrees, while the average daily temperature during those three months was 65.3 degrees. Technically, summer runs from June 21 to Sept. 23 this year, but the three months yearly hold the hottest days as September starts the gradual cool-down to fall…

This summer topped previous records for average daily high temperature set in 2002 and average daily temperature in 1980…

Normally one of the coldest spots in the state, Alamosa’s average daily high was still more than 8 degrees below Pueblo’s figure, which ranked as the Steel City’s third highest on record.

Meanwhile, Denver County also set a record for August. Here’s a report from Jordan Steffen writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The average temperature in the metro area last month was 77 degrees, climbing above the previous record average of 76.8 degrees, set in 1937, according to the National Weather Service…Wednesday marked a record hot streak for the metro area, with 71 consecutive days above 80 degrees, shattering the previous record of 59 days set in 2002. Last month tied for the most days in the month of August with temperatures at or above 90 degrees with 22 days. The previous record was set in 1960 and 1995. Five record highs were matched or set in the month of August, including Wednesday’s record [ed. 98].

Even Steamboat, where the mountains set records for winter snowpack this season, experienced one of the driest Augusts on record, according to Tom Ross writing for Steamboat Today. From the article:

Local weather observer Art Judson recorded 0.68 inches of rain at his weather station between downtown and the ski mountain. That compares with the August average of 1.63 inches. August rainfall often is driven by a monsoonal pattern that pumps subtropical moisture into the Colorado Rockies through Arizona. While the monsoon hung on into August this year, it began earlier than usual in July and appeared to have spent itself before August arrived. July, typically the second driest month of the year in Steamboat, was quite the opposite this summer. Last month was the second wettest July on record for Steamboat, with 3.68 inches of rain…

Steamboat avoided an overnight frost in August, an event that is not uncommon. The average daily low was 46 degrees and the average daily high was 83.4 degrees. The coldest reading at Judson’s weather station was 41 degrees Aug. 8, and the warmest reading was 90 degrees Aug. 25.

Finally, the southern U.S. can’t catch a break. Record exceptional drought and the possibility of another La Niña season are worrying water suppliers across Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arizona. I’ve lost count of how many counties in Colorado have received a disaster declaration from the USDA. Here’s a report from Carey Gilliam writing for Reuters. From the article:

The drought is edging its way to the east even as it intensifies in the southern states, according to a weekly report released Thursday by a consortium of state and federal climatologists dubbed the U.S. Drought Monitor. “We are seeing intensification in the southeast, in particular Georgia, eastern Alabama,” said Svoboda.

The drought increasingly looks likely to extend into next year, he said…

Texas has been the hardest hit, and 2011 was expected to be the driest calendar year since records were first kept in the late 19th century. In that key agricultural state, levels of extreme and exceptional drought totaled 95.04 percent of area this week, up from 94.42 percent a week ago, the Drought Monitor reported…

Oklahoma was also suffering, with extreme an exceptional levels of drought now across 85.37 percent of the state. And nearly a third of Kansas is in extreme or exceptional drought, according to the Drought Monitor. Wheat farmers are questioning whether or not to even try to plant their new crop this autumn with soils lacking moisture the plants need to grow.

The drought was starting to engulf Louisiana, where extreme and exceptional drought grew to 59.50 percent of the state, up from 55.97 percent a week earlier.

Durango: ‘The Water Crisis at Home and Abroad,’ a study and discussion series to be held Tuesdays from September 6 – 27

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From The Durango Herald:

The League of Women Voters of La Plata County and the Durango Public Library will host “The Water Crisis at Home and Abroad,” a study and discussion series, from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesdays Sept. 6-27 in Program Room 2 at the Durango Public Library, 1900 East Third Ave.

Dennis Lum, professor emeritus at Fort Lewis College, will speak and moderate discussions.

For more information and a syllabus, visit www.lwvlaplata.org/waterseries.html.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

Flaming Gorge Task Force: Colorado conservation organizations have collected 16,195 signatures opposing funding the task force (and the project) as of this morning

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The groups plan to ask the Colorado Water Conservation Board not to fund a proposed task force that has been approved by basin roundtables throughout the state…

As of Thursday, more than 13,000 [ed. 16,195 as of 5:30 a.m. today) had signed the online petition at the Change.org website.

From the Change.org website:

As population increases along the Front Range of Colorado, from Pueblo to Fort Collins, some developers and water utilities have proposed projects to ship and sell more water to the region. One extreme proposal is to take 81 billion gallons of water every year out of the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwest Wyoming and pump it 560 miles across Wyoming, up and over the Continental Divide, and down to Colorado. This proposal – called the “Flaming Gorge Pipeline” – could cost up to $9 billion. If it were constructed, it would deliver water at a price that would be the most expensive in Colorado’s history.

The true cost only begins with the outrageous financial figures. The environmental damage would be severe. A world-class trout fishery, the ecosystem within Dinosaur National Monument, and other important habitat would be harmed by the project. This, in turn, would hurt the local tourism economy, and take away recreational opportunities that are the core of our Western way of life. This great river system and the people who depend upon it need your help to speak up for its protection!

On September 13, 2011, the Colorado Water Conservation Board – which is appointed by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper – will consider a $150,000 grant request from a regional water authority pushing the Flaming Gorge Pipeline to create a special task force to study the proposed project. There are existing stakeholder forums, such as the Interbasin Compact Committee, that can, and are, evaluating this project and others, but the pipeline’s proponents want a special process with their rules and their participants. We are petitioning the Colorado Water Conservation Board to deny this grant request – taxpayer money should not used to study or support a project that would irrevocably damage Colorado’s rivers.

Please sign the petition. You do not have to live in Colorado to sign – anyone, anywhere who wants to protect the Green River and the Colorado River can sign on.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here.

Lamar pipeline: The Cherokee Metro District could become one of the GP Water’s customers

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Colorado water law does not allow speculation so when the GP Water starts their change case in water court it will be important to have customers lined up. Municipalities are given wide latitude (Great and Growing Cities Doctrine) in planning because of the length of time it takes to plan, fund and build facilities but speculation findings bit Pagosa Springs and High Plains A&M in recent years.

The Cherokee Metropolitan District has supply woes after they were deemed to be pumping out of priority from the Upper Black Squirrel designated groundwater basin. They’ve been buying supplemental water supplies from Colorado Springs but they’re looking for a permanent supply. It looks like they’re in talks with GP. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The pipeline, proposed by GP Water of Littleton, is one of two options that survived a review Wednesday by Cherokee’s board, said Sean Chambers, manager of the district. A contract with GP Water would move its proposal from the realm of speculation by identifying an end-user, a condition required under Colorado water law. GP has purchased 40 percent of the Lamar Canal, and plans to market it to Front Range communities, but has not filed an application in Water Court…

Cherokee is also looking at a proposal by the Greenland Basin Pipeline Co., which would provide water from Denver Basin aquifers in Northern El Paso County through a much shorter pipeline that the district would have the option of purchasing…

Currently the district buys about one-third of its water supply — 1,000 acre-feet a year — from Colorado Springs at the rate of $13.60 per 1,000 gallons. (Pueblo water customers pay $2.21 per 1,000 gallons.) The rate is tied to Colorado Springs’ rate increases of 12 percent each year expected through 2016 to pay for Southern Delivery System. That gets compounded, since Cherokee’s rate is 187 percent of the Colorado Springs base rate. The proposals Cherokee is looking at would cut the cost of water to $6-$7.50 per 1,000 gallons, Chambers said…

In June, GP Water also submitted a proposal to Castle Rock, and continues to negotiate with other water providers, [Karl] Nyquist said.

More Lamar pipeline coverage here.