Inflows into Taylor Park Reservoir were 55 percent of normal in May, and down at Blue Mesa things were even drier. Inflows there were 33 percent of normal, and the reservoir is currently at 60 percent of capacity. With more dry weather in the forecast, the lack of water is posing some real challenges across the valley, including ranching, fire fighting and even road maintenance…
The valley is also being affected by demands from the Uncompahgre Valley, which relies on the Gunnison Tunnel for irrigation needs. The Upper Gunnison District is releasing what is known as the second fill, its storage right from the Taylor Reservoir, in anticipation of a call on the Gunnison Tunnel…
[Blue Mesa Reservoir] is at roughly 7,478 feet—that’s 41 feet below the spillway and a marked contrast to last year, when Blue Mesa was nearly brimming. Davidson said that current projections show the reservoir sinking to an elevation of 7,460 feet by the end of August and 7,448 feet by September. Releases will slow as the irrigation season ends, and the reservoir is likely to stay at that level through December, placing it about 40 feet below the target for that time of year.
Most Fort Lewis Mesa farmers’ irrigation rights were shut off in May, more than a month earlier than usual for most. Their crops are withering and finding places to graze their cattle is getting increasingly difficult, forcing many to make tough choices to survive while they wait, and pray, for rain…
Knowing water would be scarce, Trent Taylor said he cut back on all his spring planting this year. Usually Taylor, owner of Blue Horizon Farm, plants hundreds of acres of wheat to supply his business making whole wheat products. This year, he will be forced to rely on what he stored from last year…
Matt Isgar has produced a fraction of the hay he usually gets and had to cut his crop a month early before it started to die from lack of water. If their hay crop ends up dying this year because of lack of water, many farmers worried they will have to reseed hundreds of acres next year…
Florida Mesa farmer Gary Zellitti’s first hay cutting was one third of what he usually brings in. Zelletti said he is now using storage water from Lemon Dam since his water rights on the Florida River were shut off last month, two months earlier than normal. Because Lemon didn’t fill up this year, he also expects his supply of reservoir water to run out in August, when usually it lasts until October…
Farmers near Delta have faced reduced irrigation and some may be completely cut off in July, said extension agents in the office near Grand Junction. Losing irrigation is especially damaging to fruit tree growers in the Grand Junction area because a lack of water affects the trees roots and fruit production for years afterward, extension agent Curtis Swift said…
But for now, farmers’ only hope is that the summer monsoons will come on strong and early, said Darrin Parmenter, director and horticulture agent at the La Plata County Extension Office.
Underscoring the extreme drought conditions plaguing Northwest Colorado, city of Steamboat Springs residents and businesses were hit Friday with mandatory water restrictions.
The Stage 2 restrictions, which went into effect immediately, dictate the permissible uses of treated municipal water during times of drought. The restrictions include all water customers of the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, City of Steamboat Springs Water District, Steamboat II Metro District and Tree Haus Metro District. Those four districts provide treated water to all of Steamboat Springs and the immediate surrounding residential areas.
In a news release Friday, water officials from each district cited the historically low flows of the Yampa River, discharges from Fish Creek Reservoir that are exceeding natural inflows and the likelihood for continued drought conditions as the biggest factors in their decision to move forward with the mandatory restrictions.
Hot temperatures have created a record-high water demand, causing [Loveland] residents to experience low water pressure in their homes. The city system logged 27 million gallons of water Wednesday – 35 percent higher than a typical June day. To lessen the demand, residents are encouraged to water only on even or odd days, corresponding with address number. For example, people with an even number address should water on even calendar days.
Telluride’s restrictions were put in place last week by town council to conserve the town’s dwindling water supply. Though restrictions are at the lowest level [phase one], several mandatory items are in effect.
“We divert directly from two tributaries this time of year and both tributaries are showing rapid decline in volume of water,” Town Manager Greg Clifton said. “So we have very genuine concerns about the ability to meet the demand of water for the entire town.”
According to a June 12 Telluride administrative order, using treated city water is prohibited for washing exterior hard surfaces, power washing structures, filling pools or landscape features, installing new landscaping as well as commercial and non-commercial car washing unless done with a bucket.
Watering landscaping such as trees and other features is limited to 30 minutes a day between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. on specific days for odd or even addresses in town. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays residences and businesses with odd numbered addresses can water. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays residences and businesses with even numbered addresses can water. On Sundays everyone can water, and water used to grow plants for sale is not restricted.
The cities of Federal Heights, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster, in addition to the South Adams County Water & Sanitation District, are teaming up in an effort to ask residents to use water more efficiently this summer. Broomfield and Arvada are also part of the conservation campaign, which comes largely in response to low snowpack levels this year.
The reservoirs that Thornton draws water from are currently standing at about 70 percent of capacity, which is pretty typical for this time of year, said Emily Hunt, water resources manager for the city of Thornton. “But the snowpack from the mountains is already melted out,” Hunt said. “Normally, we would be seeing that capacity going up right now, but not this year. Usually we’re close to 100 percent full at the end of the spring runoff.”
Water usage among residents is also ticking up this year due to the hot weather. Summer temperatures began kicking in around April, which has led to a 10-percent spike in customer usage over last year, Hunt said. “We’re trying to get customers to cut back 10 percent this year,” she said. “The goal is to get back to the levels from last year.”
District Court Judge J. Steven Patrick issued a summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs/opposers Sheep Mountain Alliance in a case involving water rights on the Johnson Ditch. The county applied for the rights in 2010, it stated, to support industrial and residential growth anticipated to accompany the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill. Sheep Mountain’s attorney’s argued that Montrose County’s uses for the water were speculative, and the judge agreed…
In the just-dismissed case, the county had filed on water belonging to the Uravan Water Trust, rights that were held as part of the “decommissioning of milling activities at the [defunct] Uravan mill.” According to court documents, “Upon termination of the Trust, the water rights will be conveyed to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB).” Montrose County’s filings on the San Miguel River were made, in part, to beat an instream water rights filing by the CWCB to protect habitat and recreational uses on the Lower San Miguel.
Opposers to the Johnson Ditch filing claimed the “applicant must demonstrate . . . that its intent to appropriate is not based upon speculative sale or transfer . . .” And Judge Patrick concluded Monday that Montrose County failed to establish standing to seek the water right and that “the Applicants’ intent in the Johnson Ditch water rights is too speculative as a matter of law to satisfy the ‘can and will’ test.”
From the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):
Montrose County did not establish the standing necessary to secure water rights on the Johnson Ditch, a judge ruled Tuesday, dismissing its 2010 application for those rights…“I think it’s great news,” SMA attorney Jenny Russell said. “I think it supports our claim that Montrose County’s applications are speculative.”
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
…Trout Unlimited is asking anglers to voluntarily restrict their fishing on portions of the upper Colorado River until conditions improve…
To help protect the fish, anglers should avoid fishing on the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers during the hottest part of the day. A better option for fishing these days might be in higher elevation lakes or in river reaches just below dams that aren’t hit as hard by warm temperatures…
Water temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit can be stressful or fatal to trout. Peak temperatures on the Fraser River near Tabernash have surpassed 70 degrees in recent days. Anecdotal reports indicate that similar high temperatures are found on the Colorado River between Windy Gap and the Williams Fork. Warm water makes the fish more susceptible to stress from handling and also promotes the growth of algae that can suck nearly all the oxygen out of the water during the night.
Thornton City Council declared a Stage 1 Drought Watch at its May 22 meeting. The city’s goal is to reduce water-customer demand by 10 percent by encouraging residents to follow voluntary water practices, such as only watering lawns early in the morning and in the evenings twice a week…
The cities of Arvada, Federal Heights, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster, as well as South Adams County Water and Sanitation, and the City and County of Broomfield issued a joint statement on June 11, asking residents to be mindful of their water usage…
“We hope that this frankly isn’t the first year of an extended drought, and that it’s a fluke of unusual dry weather,” said Thornton City Manager Jack Ethredge at the May council meeting. “But you never know. So, we should prepare as if this might in fact be a first year so that we’ll be in better shape the second year.”
From the Grand Junction Free Press (Jim Pokrandt):
With this reality in mind, the Colorado Basin Roundtable has spent significant time and money to learn about its own consumptive and nonconsumptive needs — to make sure our economic potential, recreation economy and environmental concerns are properly balanced in the statewide equation.
On the consumptive side, we commissioned a study on the potential demand from the energy industry and developed a placeholder requirement of approximately 120,000 acre feet for a fully developed oil shale industry. This is now being used in model portfolios being developed by the CWCB for the Interbasin Compact Committee and the Roundtables.
We also know from SWSI and other work by the Colorado Water Conservation Board that we have our own agricultural water supply and M&I gaps. The Nonconsumptive Study has identified stream stretches that are environmentally challenged while also evaluating desirable flows for recreational purposes. Recreation in the Colorado high country and downstream on the Colorado is an important economic factor for the West Slope and the state…
The planning currently underway looks at a 2050 horizon, when the state demographer is predicting a statewide population of 10 million people. But life continues after 2050. The decisions we make based on 2050 will dictate what happens afterward. If the policies developed in the next five years (as per Gov. Hickenlooper’s request) result in an overemphasis on new water development in lieu of dealing adroitly and decisively with conservation, reuse, agricultural transfers and land use, we are only putting off until 2050 what should be happening within our lifetimes.
More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here and here.
While maintaining water service is the immediate concern, [Colorado Springs Utilities] will face some issues with its long-term water supply. “The fire has burned up against Rampart Reservoir,” Bostrom said. “We will have to do some post-fire mitigation. We’re still assessing what needs to be done.”
Rampart Reservoir, located northwest of the city, is the terminal storage for the Homestake Pipeline, which supplies more than half of Colorado Springs’ water.
More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here and here.
Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Water 2012 series written by Jon Monson. Here’s an excerpt:
The Union Colonists had big plans for irrigation ditches. Ditch No. 1 was going to come from the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, roughly where the Larimer and Weld Canal is now, and irrigate almost 40,000 acres. Another 40,000 acres were to be irrigated by the No.2, which eventually became the New Cache Irrigation Company.
They started smaller though, building the No.3 first to irrigate about 3,500 acres. The No.3 was closest to town, actually forming the southern edge of the colony. Located uphill from the Poudre, the ditch could irrigate the parks and gardens of the townspeople as it passed by to irrigate farms east and west of the city.
Back then people were fascinated by the power of water to make the dry prairie bloom with shade and green vegetables. Everyone had a garden. Even the kids diverted water from their parents laterals to play farmer.
The grownup farmers worked hard those first few years, learning how to manage water and how to run a mutual ditch company. Things went well until the summer of 1874 when the Poudre River suddenly dried up. Curious, someone got on their horse and rode up stream to see what was the matter. Turns out the new little town of Camp Collins had thrown a diversion across the Poudre and was taking the entire river to irrigate their farms.
Back in the Union Colony the cry went up, “To your tents boys! Rifles and cartridges!” Remember this was less than ten years after the Civil War. Cooler heads prevailed and the two groups met in Windsor to discuss (argue?) the matter. That summer they decided to allocate the water to who ever needed it most. Now that must have been one tough job. Two years later, when the Colorado Constitution was written, Article XVI Section 6 enshrined the prior appropriation doctrine, “The right to divert the unappropriated waters of any natural stream to beneficial uses shall never be denied.”
In an announcement posted on the Montezuma County Sheriff’s website, Mancos Rural Water Company asked Mancos-area residents to back off of water usage in the area as the Weber Fire battle continues. “Mancos Rural Water Company does not have enough domestic water to serve the tremendous amount of water that area residents are using to soak down the areas around their homes,” the announcement states. “If you live anywhere in the Mancos Rural Water District in the quarter due west to due north of Mancos, there is no immediate need to water down your house and the immediate vicinity. Don’t do this unless you have been given pre-evacuation notice. Leave some drinking water for others on the system.”
Mancos Rural Water manager Brandon Bell said the concern was prompted by the realization that the rural water system was not created to deal with crisis like the Weber Fire. “Our main problem is that our system was just not designed with the capacity for fire protection,” Bell said. “We’ve had a lot of homes running sprinklers and watering down their property day and night and we are just not able to keep up with the demand on our system.”
Water for the Mancos Rural Water system is an allocation from Jackson Reservoir, located northwest of the small community. Following a drier-than-normal winter and a hotter-than-normal spring, the reservoir entered the summer months less than full, which means resources were strained before a greater demand was added to the system.
From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Jon Mitchell):
“Our best years have been the hot years,” said 52-year-old Kevin Schneider, president and owner of Glenwood Resorts. “We’re really a family business, and moms aren’t interested in taking their kids out on the water when it’s really high and rough.”
That was definitely the case a year ago, when a massive late-season snowmelt caused high, rough waters and dangerous conditions in Glenwood Canyon and downriver. Now, with the winter snowpack long gone and temperatures routinely flirting with triple digits, water levels are at much more manageable levels.
What’s followed, as a result, is a trickle-down effect that’s helped the bottom line of local rafting companies in a big way…
There’s an obvious difference in the water flows, but the biggest difference is in the overall water-flow measurements. According to figures provided by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), river flows on June 27, 2011, measured 24,400 cubic feet per second (cfs) on the Colorado River below Glenwood Springs, reached water levels of 11.77 feet near Dotsero and were flowing at 7,220 cfs where the Roaring Fork River flows into Glenwood.
There’s a stark contrast in water levels and flows this year. As of Tuesday, the USGS reported that the Colorado River below Glenwood was flowing at 2,150 cfs, was 2.80 feet deep at Dotsero and was flowing at 727 cfs where the Roaring Fork flows into Glenwood…
The water flow from 2011, though long gone, still left an impression on the routes rafting companies take while business picks up this year. Rocks and boulders were moved by the water flow all around Glenwood Canyon, but especially around the area where Grizzly Creek meets the Colorado. In a spot guides call “Tombstone,” a new boulder moved by last year’s river flow has narrowed the water-flow gap to around 16 feet wide, upgrading the move from a Class III (moderate) move to a Class IV (difficult) move.
The Roaring Fork Conservancy has identified 14 spots where it needs help monitoring water temperatures in its new Hot Spots for Trout program. The data that’s collected will be shared with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which can implement restrictions or closures of fisheries if conditions warrant. The Roaring Fork River is running significantly lower than normal for this time of year because of the low snowpack and the warm spring. That has implications for the waters in rivers and streams…
No restrictions have been placed on streams or rivers in the Roaring Fork Valley at this point, though wildlife officers are monitoring flows, temperatures and oxygen levels, said Mike Porras, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The water temperature has been recorded as high as 68 degrees on the Roaring Fork River, he said. The wildlife division typically doesn’t close a stretch of river unless the daily maximum temperature exceeds 74 degrees or the daily average temperature exceeds 72 degrees, according to the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s website…
Roaring Fork Conservancy wants to make sure the best information on river and stream conditions is available to make decisions to ensure the fishery isn’t damaged. It has a small supply of thermometers available and asks that volunteers dip them into the water for one to two minutes away from river and stream banks, Tattersall said. They are asked to repeat the procedure to ensure they are getting an accurate reading. They should record the time and weather condition and get a picture of the site. The information can be submitted online at www.roaringfork.org/hotspotsfortrout.
More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here and here.
Here’s the release from the Colorado School of Mines (David Tauchen/Karen Gilbert):
As numerous wildfires burn across Colorado, a new study conducted by Mines Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate students last semester details how these fires can be detrimental to drinking water quality and suggests what municipalities could do to respond to this threat.
“While impacts of wildfires have been studied by scientists from forestry, biology and hydrology, this study is the first that combines these experiences with water treatment engineering and focuses on adverse effects on drinking water quality and appropriate response strategies,”said Professor Jörg Drewes.
Rain events following a wildfire can result in detrimental impacts on surface water quality in impacted areas. Run-off mixes with left over debris and sediment in a “chocolate milk shake-like mix” that can end up in drinking water sources. Increased turbidity (cloudiness), alkalinity and organic matter load can thwart purifying mechanisms inside a downstream water treatment plant. If a water plant is challenged by these conditions, the drinking water quality might be compromised including tap water that might have a smoky taste and perhaps doesn’t meet EPA drinking water standards.
“This project simulated a range of detrimental wildfire run-off conditions utilizing a surface water treatment pilot plant at the Colorado School of Mines in close collaboration with the City of Golden’s drinking water treatment plant,” said Drewes.
The study was conducted for the city of Golden as part of the Colorado School of Mines’ Environmental Engineering Pilot Plant class, a course in which Mines students solve real-world engineering problems. They examined how a fire in the Golden area would adversely affect the water supply in Clear Creek, the source of Golden’s drinking water. Finally, the study suggested action steps the city could take to be better prepared for these events and to protect drinking water quality based on the severity of a fire in the area.
“The aim of this project was to determine the impacts of wildfire on Golden’s drinking water supply, treat the affected water to exceptional quality, then develop preparatory suggestions for the city and an action plan for once a fire occurs,” said Alex Wing, a Mines civil and environmental engineering graduate student.
The former town of Fletcher is in the news again — this time for a deal with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. Here’s a report from Sara Castellanos writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:
Anadarko Petroleum Corp. will purchase $9.5 million worth of “used” water from Aurora for its oil and gas drilling operations across the state, pending Aurora City Council approval July 9. The Houston-based company would pay Aurora Water over five years to use 1,500 acre feet of “effluent” water per year, according to city officials…
Members of the city council’s Management and Finance Committee will meet Wednesday to decide how the city should use the $9.5 million generated from the sale of the water. One idea, according to city documents ahead of the meeting, is to use revenue to partially pay off debt from Prairie Waters, a $650 million project that was completed in 2010 to ensure the city’s residents had enough water during droughts. The city borrowed more than $540 million and raised water rates to pay for the project.
Aurora Water wants council to approve a five-year lease of 1,500 acre-feet for $1.8 million annually to Anadarko Petroleum Corp. in an effort to reduce utility rates. Water would be sewer return flows into the South Platte River…
The water is surplus to return flows Aurora is now able to reuse through its Prairie Waters Project, said spokesman Greg Baker.
Esri maintains a continuously updated map of wildfires throughout the nation, including those in Colorado that have forced 32,000 people to evacuate from their homes and businesses. The map integrates the locations of wildfires, fire potential areas, global burn areas and precipitation. The map also pulls in tweets, YouTube videos and photos from Flickr to provide a look into what the public is sharing online.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Aquatic Biologist Doug Krieger said some fish are dying [ed. in the Arkansas River watershed]. The dead fish tend to collect in deeper pools and when the water is clear they are more obvious to river users. Dead fish have been spotted from Salida to Parkdale and also in lower portions of Grape Creek near Canon City…
On Tuesday water was recorded at 70 degrees near Salida and Cotopaxi, while temperatures on Grape Creek ranged from 72-74. When water temperatures hit 80 degrees that’s when it becomes critical, Krieger said.
The cities of Arvada, Federal Heights, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster, as well as South Adams County Water and Sanitation, and the City and County of Broomfield are joining together to ask residents to use water more efficiently this summer.
Most water suppliers in the North Metro area depend on mountain snowpack for a majority of their water. Below-average snowfall has meant less water for 2012 and possibly 2013. Plus, a warmer spring has jump-started the lawn-watering season, prompting higher water use.
Here are some recommended ways to reduce water use, save some money and protect future water supplies:
· Water lawns no more than two times per week under normal conditions. Add a third day in extreme heat. Spreading out watering days helps lawns grow deeper, drought-tolerant roots.
· If it rains, water less. Watch the weather and adjust watering days and times accordingly.
· Do not water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Watering during the day results in less water reaching your lawn due to evaporation and afternoon winds.
· Check your irrigation system at least once a month for leaks and other problems.
· When you water at night, it can be difficult to see problems. Running each zone for a few minutes during the day once monthly will reveal needed repairs.
· Raise your lawn mower blade. Protect your lawn’s roots from heat by letting grass grow a little longer.
· Limit other outdoor water uses. Sweep driveways and sidewalks with a broom. Always use a nozzle on your hose when watering landscape or washing your car.
· Check your home and repair water leaks. Place a few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank and wait 10 minutes. If the water in the bowl turns color you have a leak. Replacing the flapper or other easy adjustments will generally solve the problem at little or no cost. Don’t forget to check showers and sinks for leaks as well.
· Know your water use. Check your water bill regularly to track use. Contact your water supplier for ways to identify and solve higher than normal water use issues.
On Monday, nearly 54 million gallons of water were used in Pueblo, the highest single day of consumption so far this year, said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works…So far in 2012, there have been 5 days when more than 50 million gallons have been used. Even on some 100-degree days, that threshold was not reached.
From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):
Record breaking heat continues to drive some water demands on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Water is moving from Pinewood Reservoir to points downstream: primarily water deliveries, hydro-power generation at Flatiron Powerplant, and pumping up to Carter Lake.
Residents around and visitors to Pinewood have likely noticed a steady draw down over the last few days, including today and continuing through Friday. By Friday, June 29, we anticipate Pinewood will reach a water level elevation of about 6560 feet above sea level. That is about 54% full. It is anticipated that by Friday evening, or early Saturday morning, water levels at Pinewood will start to rise again.
Pinewood has been basically full for most of the month of June.
We are continuing to pump water up to Carter Lake reservoir.
From the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain:
The [Air Force Academy] was telling families to leave two main housing areas, but an area of the 28-square-mile campus that houses cadets wasn’t immediately evacuated. A new class of cadets is still scheduled to report on Thursday. Fire officials had issued a pre-evacuation notice for the academy earlier Tuesday. El Paso County sheriff’s officials have ordered an estimated 32,000 people to leave. Fire information officer Greg Heule said earlier Tuesday that the fire was less than five miles from the southwest corner of the Air Force Academy’s campus. Television images showed homes burning and the Flying W Ranch southwest of the academy said on its website that the ranch had burned to the ground. Colorado Springs Fire Chief Richard Brown said “many, many homes” also have been saved.
Tuesday was the fifth consecutive day with temperatures of 100 degrees or higher in Denver, tying a record set in 2005 and 1989. On Monday, Denver set a record with 105 degrees. The previous record for June 25 was 100 degrees in 1991. Other areas of the state also topped 100 degrees Tuesday, including the northeastern Colorado town of Wray, which hit 108, the National Weather Service said. What the nation is now seeing is “a super-heated spike on top of a decades long warming trend,” said Derek Arndt, head of climate monitoring at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The U.S. set 107 new temperature records Monday and in the past week has set 782 of them, which are large numbers but hard to put in context because the data center has only been tracking the number of daily records broken for little more than a year, Arndt said.
Tanker planes based out of the Pueblo Memorial Airport use city water to fight fires, and the U.S. Forest Service picks up the tab. The tankers fly in and out of the airport up to eight hours daily, with each plane carrying between 2,500-3,000 gallons of retardant mix, depending on conditions, said Ralph Bella, Forest Service spokesman. One part retardant is mixed with five parts water, and the water comes from a 3-inch metered hydrant. The rate for the hydrant is 1.5 times the residential rate, or $15.90 for the first 2,000 gallons, and $3.40 for every 1,000 gallons after that, said Terry Book, executive director for the Pueblo Board of Water Works.
FromThe Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):
The Waldo Canyon fire has spread to one of the most crucial links in Colorado Springs’ far-flung water system, Rampart Reservoir. The fire destroyed power lines leading to the reservoir overnight Monday, forcing backup generators to kick on, and the flames were three-quarters of a mile away early Tuesday.
There wasn’t much good news during yesterday’s webinar. The onset of the North American Monsoon for a couple of days was about it. Click on the thumbnail for the precipitation summary along with a map showing water year to date snowpack for the Upper Colorado River region. Click here for the summaries from the webinar from the Colorado Climate Center.
Zach Podmore and Will Stauffer-Norris are at it again, this time journeying from Lake Powell above Grand Lake to Lake Powell in Utah. Readers may remember their journey last fall and winter down the Green River to the Colorado River to the Gulf of California, Source to Sea. Here’s a blog post written by Podmore running in the Huffington Post. Here’s an excerpt:
Lake Powell. You may have heard of it. It’s a picturesque alpine lake nestled in the craggy peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park. Fed by snowmelt and seated in a bowl of exposed granite, the lake lies cold and clear well above 11,000 feet. Lake Powell is the Rocky Mountains at their best: pristine, rugged and wild. No trail makes its way down from the lake but a creek does. It flows out of Powell over a series of waterfalls, which pour down a giant staircase of rock ledges. In the alpine meadows below, the stream meanders through swampy grass where moose abound.
If you follow that creek 500 miles and nearly 8,000 vertical feet downstream, you’ll end up in the middle of another, more famous, Lake Powell that stretches across much of southern Utah. The two lakes don’t have much in common save the name and their shared waters. One Powell is the second largest reservoir in the country, filling the sandstone walls of Glen Canyon. The other is about as close to a perfect source of the Colorado River as you can get. Situated well above tree line, this Powell marks the beginning of the North Inlet creek, which feeds Grand Lake below. Both the lakes take their name from John Wesley Powell, the one-armed civil war veteran who was the first known explorer to climb Longs Peak in Colorado and to navigate much of the Colorado River, including Glen Canyon and the Grand Canyon.
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:
Due to low flows in the White River, Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers are requesting that anglers fish only during the cooler, early morning hours, or to look for alternative fishing locations that are not as significantly affected by the current climate conditions.
An official, voluntary closure like the one implemented on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs last week is not currently planned for the White River. Wildlife managers hope to avoid an official closure by asking for voluntary cooperation from local anglers.
“The current situation is very stressful for fish,” said Bill de Vergie, Area Wildlife Manager in Meeker. “We ask the public to help us protect this fishery by honoring our request and avoid it during the hottest part of the day, or perhaps find a cooler, higher-altitude fishery.”
Wildlife officials have observed water temperatures approaching dangerous levels for cold-water fish in the White River during the early afternoon and evening. Although water temperatures dip into the 50s overnight, the high daytime temperatures are a source of concern. Under these stressful conditions, hooked fish may experience mortality even if released quickly back into the water.
It could take several years for an affected fishery to fully recover if a significant number of fish die due to the drought-like conditions
Like many rivers and streams in western Colorado, the White River offers world-class fishing and attracts thousands of anglers each year, providing a source of income to hotels, outfitters and many other local businesses that depend on outdoor recreation.
“Because of the importance of the river to our community, we believe that most anglers will cooperate,” said de Vergie. “As soon as we see a shift in the weather pattern, people will once again enjoy the great fishing in the White River.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife was created by the merger of Colorado State Parks and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, two nationally recognized leaders in conservation, outdoor recreation and wildlife management. Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, all of Colorado’s wildlife, more than 300 state wildlife areas and a host of recreational programs.
Before bemoaning the lack of rain barrels, consider an alternative, says landscape designer, Alison Peck. What you can do is channel rainwater coming off your roof into the landscape so that it flows to thirsty plants and stores in the soil. There, plants can access the water as summer heat dries the land.
“The interesting thing is that we’ve always been told you can’t use rainwater, but there’s nothing illegal about collecting rainwater in the landscape, storing it in the soil,” says Peck, a founding member of the Front Range Sustainable Coalition. “You can’t put rainwater in containers, but are they really helpful? Think about how small an area can survive on rain barrels, which only hold about 30 to 50 gallons.”
Generally, you can store between a 1/4-21/2 inches of water in your soil, but to make use of it you need plants with deep root systems, like natives, says Peck, an Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado member (alcc.org). As you plan your rain redirection, look over your landscape for the location of the plants with big root systems — perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
The dim outlook for the Yampa River in this summer of drought just got a little brighter, thanks to a water deal announced this week by the Colorado Water Trust, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board…
Under a law passed back in 2003 in response to the last serious statewide drought, the water trust will lease 4,000 acre feet of water stored in Stagecoach Reservoir to try and sustain some flows in the Yampa, in the worst-case scenario potentially preventing the river from going dry.
The water will be released strategically to meet hydropower demands and for streamflow benefits below the reservoir. The water trust has been working on the short-term water leasing pilot program, Request for Water 2012, for about three months…
The water trust will lease the Yampa River water for about $35 per acre foot, for a total of $140,000…
“When we saw the CWT Request for Water 2012, we thought it would be a great opportunity for collaboration in meeting multiple needs during this drought year, and the Upper Yampa Board is fully supportive of meeting multiple needs,” said district manager Kevin McBride.
Two water agencies and a conservation organization have engineered a lease allowing 4,000-acre feet of cold water from Stagecoach Reservoir to be gradually released in an effort to revive the river.
The Colorado Water Trust announced Monday it had reached an agreement with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, which owns the reservoir, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to lease the water and send it downstream.
“We’ll start making releases when we can ensure it will supply the benefit we hope it will,” Colorado Water Trust staff attorney Zach Smith said.
His organization will spend $35 per acre-foot to lease the water from Stagecoach, or about $140,000, Smith confirmed. The agreement marks the first-ever implementation of a 2003 statute designed to protect Colorado’s rivers in times of drought.
If the Trust were to release the water steadily, it is estimated it would generate a flow of about 26.5 cubic feet per second from July 1 through the middle of September — perhaps not enough to restore recreation in the form of tubing on the town stretch of the river, but enough to protect the resource. The Yampa was flowing at 69 cfs late Monday afternoon compared to a median flow for the date of 1,000 cfs.
The senators’ letter voiced concerns from Colorado agricultural producers to protect against severe financial and operational losses. “As producers continue to operate under what the U.S. Drought Monitor has found to be extreme drought conditions in much of the state, it is critical that we deploy the resources necessary that might minimize the damages from this looming threat,” the letter says. It calls for all available resources to address the growing threat to Colorado’s agricultural community.
As fires continue to scorch Colorado, the Pueblo Fire Department and the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office have ordered stricter fire restrictions countywide. At 5 p.m. Monday, Pueblo County adopted Stage II fire restrictions banning the sale and use of fireworks…
Sheriff Kirk Taylor said in a statement that because of the extreme heat over the past six days, data has changed significantly and now compels Pueblo County to act immediately to protect the community. “The conditions on the ground turned 180 degrees in less than a week. I am reinforcing to the citizens and guests of Pueblo the fire danger is far too high to take any chances,” Taylor said.
The persistence of above average temperatures throughout the state continues to exacerbate persistently dry conditions on the west slope and parts of the eastern plains. Some areas of the state have received good June precipitation. However, high temperatures and winds have decreased the beneficial moisture. Municipalities are reporting increased demand and decreasing storage volumes. Some have implemented restrictions. Evapotranspiration rates are at, or near, all time highs for this time period throughout much of the state. Wheat harvest is occurring 2 weeks early due to high temperatures and limited water supplies. Agricultural impacts to both crops and herds are being reported. Snowpack in most river basins is comparable to June 1, 2002 and melt out has completed in many. Extreme drought conditions have been expanded across the northwest quadrant of the state according to the U.S. Drought Monitor; similar conditions also exist on the eastern plains in the Arkansas River Basin.
The last three months temperatures have been five degrees above average for most of Colorado, with some areas experiencing temperatures eight degrees above normal.
Reservoir storage remains decent throughout most of the state, at 98% of average and 92% of this time last year. The Upper Colorado and Yampa/ White river basins have the highest percent of average storage with both at 113%, while the Rio Grande has the lowest at 57% of average. All basins have seen a decline in average storage volumes since last month.
As of the June 19, 2012 US Drought Monitor, 100% of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought classification. D1, moderate drought, conditions remain in much of the eastern plains, while the west slope is now classified as experiencing D2, severe, and D3 extreme drought conditions. Pockets of D2 and D3 also exist in the San Luis Valley and on the eastern plains. 27 % of the state is classified as experiencing “Extreme Drought”
All streamflow forecasts are well below average. Most are below 50% statewide, with Tomichi Creek at Gunnison the lowest at 7% and the Rio Grande at Wagon Wheel Gap the highest at 65% of average.
ENSO conditions remain neutral. A full transition to El Niño could occur in the second half of 2012. El Niño conditions would favor more moisture for the state.
Producers are reporting mixed yields from the early wheat harvest, with some areas seeing as much as 25-30 bushels per acre and others as low as six. Rangeland conditions are poor to very poor and many counties are in the process of requesting emergency grazing on CRP lands. Dry-land farmers are the most impacted at this time, although irrigators are reporting needing more water than normal for this time of year.
No federal drought declarations have been issued as of yet, but many counties anticipate needing to request a declaration due to commodity loss as a result of drought.
The fire situation rating for the Rocky Mountain Area remains at Preparedness Level 4, indicating that highly complex large fire activity is occurring. Fires are escaping initial attack, as evident by the number of larger fires. Fire severity is very high to extreme as reported in multiple areas. One or more regional dispatch centers are experiencing an incident requiring type-1 or type-2 teams, and a majority of zone resources are committed. Priority setting is needed for critical resources.
There is a statewide ban on open burning and the private use of fireworks due to high fire danger.
I live-tweeted the meeting using the hashtag #cwcbwatf.
The River Protection Workgroup for the Animas River will meet from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Kendall Mountain Recreation Center in Silverton.
The focus of the meeting will be to discuss protection tools brainstormed for Mineral Creek and Cement Creek. No final recommendations will be made.
The purpose of the workgroup is to make recommendations about how to protect values on the Animas River upstream of Bakers Bridge, including several tributaries, while allowing for suitable water development to continue.
FromThe Aspen Times via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Scott Condon):
The reclamation bureau boosted the releases from Ruedi’s dam by 60 cubic feet per second on Thursday. A total of about 170 cfs is now flowing into the Fryingpan River just downstream from the dam. All of the water that is flowing into the reservoir is being bypassed, so storage won’t increase barring a prolific monsoon, reclamation bureau spokeswoman Kara Lamb said.
The reservoir’s releases are being dictated by the “Cameo call” and an obligation to meet contract requirements, Lamb said.
The Cameo Ditch has the second most senior water right on the Colorado River. It irrigates farms and other land in western Colorado. There isn’t enough water in the Colorado River to meet the demands of the ditch, so additional water is being called, including from Ruedi Reservoir.
There is a Cameo call virtually every year, but usually there isn’t a direct effect on Ruedi, Lamb said. “It came early this year,” she said of the call.
Ruedi Reservoir also is receiving calls for water purchased by downstream municipalities, such as the town of Silt, Lamb said.
Ruedi was storing nearly 90,400 acre feet of water, or 88 percent of its capacity on Thursday.
The fire claimed 80 structures — 57 homes — in Glacier View Meadows subdivision and the Deer Meadows area northwest of Fort Collins when it ripped through the area Friday.
Residents learned the fate of their homes on Sunday during a meeting for evacuees at The Ranch in Loveland. No homes burned in Glacier View’s 10th and 11th filings or in filings 1-8.
Glacier View’s 12th filing suffered the bulk of the losses.
Crews previously confirmed that 191 homes had been destroyed by the fire. Friday’s destruction brings that toll up to 248 homes. No structures or homes were damaged on Saturday, incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said in a media briefing Sunday morning.
Sunday night, the skies above Fort Collins opened up, pouring rain — and accompanying lightning — down on the area. The squall’s effects on the fire won’t be fully known until the morning, when it will be easier to see where rain helped firefighters and where smoke from lightning will signal more work.
From the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain:
A wildfire near Colorado Springs erupted and grew out of control to nearly 6 square miles early Sunday, prompting the evacuation of more than 11,000 residents and an unknown number of tourists. On Saturday, a blaze destroyed 21 structures near the mountain community of Estes Park, where many visitors stay while visiting the park…
Also Sunday, a brushfire that began near Elbert, about 50 miles southwest of Denver, quickly spread to about 60 acres, forcing the evacuation of about 100 residents.
Half the nation’s firefighting fleet is now battling fires in Colorado, said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. C-130 military transport planes from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs would begin assisting today. With eight wildfires burning, including a fire that has scorched more than 118 square miles and destroyed at least 191 homes near Fort Collins, Colorado is having its worst wildfire season in a decade.
FromThe Durango Herald via the Cortez Journal (Shane Benjamin). Click through for the photo essay. Here’s an excerpt:
Conditions were preventing the Weber Fire from advancing on U.S. Highway 160 on Sunday evening, instead pushing the 7,000-acre blaze northwest and away from the town of Mancos. The hot, dry conditions were far from favorable, but they so far had failed to produce the manic growth firefighters feared…
The Type 3 team fighting the blaze was being replaced Sunday evening with a federal Type 2 team, which is larger and better equipped to wage a long-term and sophisticated attack on a complex wildland fire like Weber…
The possibility that the fire could jump U.S. Highway 160 continued to be one of officials’ top concerns. At Mancos Hill on Sunday evening, the fire was holding at about three-quarters of a mile south of the highway. The north side of the highway is more densely vegetated – and more populated…
Fire officials said the fire was moving down Menefee Mountain toward Mancos. This, actually, was good news because it was moving into an area where they can better attack it.
From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jordan Steffen/Kirk Mitchell):
An Estes Park cabin caught fire just after noon Saturday, sparking a wildfire that quickly grew to 20 acres in the hot and dry weather and consumed 21 homes and cabins…
Estes Park fire chief Scott Dorman said during an evening briefing for evacuees that the fire had “settled a bit.” Engines will remain on the fire, which he described as in a “mop up” stage. Crews still are waiting for gas lines to be shut off in the area. Some residents reported hearing explosions.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
The Weber Fire, burning in bone-dry southwest Colorado, grew to almost 8,000 acres by Sunday night, but at last reports, hadn’t burned any structures. The fire is burning near the towns of Mancos and Cortez, west of Durango, Colorado…
According to a late-breaking story from the Four Corners Free Press, the fire had reached 8,000 acres by late in the day. According to the story, the incident commander said the fire was still spreading rapidly in all directions. Read the full story here.
Wrangling over cleanup of radioactive waste at one of Colorado’s worst environmental disasters grew so irksome this past spring that Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Environmental Protection Agency, Cotter Corp. and Cañon City residents have declared a timeout. The official purpose is to reset the whole process for dealing with Cotter’s former uranium mill near the Arkansas River. The EPA deployed a private facilitator to create a new “road map” for finally completing a Superfund cleanup started in 1984. But the “pause” in cleanup actions, which otherwise were supposed to be done in March, is failing to quell conflict.
Cañon City residents point to recent data — collected by Cotter and accepted by state regulators — that show uranium contamination in groundwater exceeding health standards. “My well has been contaminated for decades, and they have no plans to actively clean up the groundwater, which could be done,” said Sharyn Cunningham, 65, who runs Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste and whose family previously produced alfalfa on irrigated land.
And accusations fly alleging that decisions may already have been made to bury waste permanently in an impoundment pond at the mill site, rather than considering its removal. The citizens group contends that the impoundment is leaking. Cotter’s top official said in a recent interview that the company favors burying waste in the impoundment, capping it with clay and turning over the site to the federal government…
The “pause” declared by Hickenlooper “was needed so we could provide a clear road map for how all of the actions taking place as part of the cleanup fit together,” spokesman Eric Brown wrote in an e-mailed response to queries.
This was done partly “so the community would not worry that important cleanup work was being done without their input.”
Some monitoring and cleanup activites continue.
“Once we have a road map, we will lift the pause and the community will have a better sense for how each cleanup document and proposal fits with the larger cleanup efforts under all laws and programs,” Brown wrote.
Eventually, the CDPHE and Cotter will conduct an analysis of alternatives, including costs and environmental aspects of moving waste to off-site disposal locations, he said.
More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.
The agreements pave the way for an emergency tie-in between the city’s water system and that of Quality Water.
This would provide water to the city from Quality Water or to Quality Water from the city if there were an emergency.
The agreements also will allow the city to treat and deliver to Quality Water “a portion of Quality Water’s water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project operated by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District,” which are sometimes referred to as C-BT units. Quality Water would be responsible for paying the city for the treatment and delivery, according to the agreement.
“Our treatment plant operates off of a direct source” of water,” City Manager Jeff Wells said. “There are very minimal byproducts from what we do to clean the water.” Because the city and Quality Water share a pipeline, Wells said it makes sense to share use of the treatment plant, as well. Wells said that treating Quality Water’s water at the Fort Morgan plant will bring in $60,000 to $100,000 per year, but that it shouldn’t mean a big rate increase for Quality Water customers.
Here’s a report about the Weber Fire from Shane Benjamin writing for The Durango Herald. Here’s an excerpt:
The blaze was about three-quarters of a mile from crossing U.S. Highway 160 near Mancos Hill at 8 p.m. Saturday, Wilson said. “There’s certainly a good possibility” the fire will cross the highway and disrupt transportation and movement of fire resources between Durango and Cortez, she said.
Firefighters spent the day on the defensive protecting homes. They said the blaze was zero percent contained Saturday night.
While the town of Mancos was not immediately threatened, it was placed on a pre-evacuation notice as a precaution.
Here’s a report about the Weber Fire from Kimberly Benedict writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:
U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management response teams, La Plata County Emergency Management, Pine River Emergency Response, Colorado State Patrol and Hot Shot crews from various locations all descended on the Mancos Valley Friday and Saturday to battle the fast-moving blaze.
Fire continued to spread Saturday, with active blazes across Weber Canyon and East Canyon. Mandatory evacuations were issued to 110 homes in the area, with many other residents being told to prepare to leave if the situation worsens.
Firefighting crews, with air support from helicopters, air tankers and slurry bombers, were fighting valiantly to save homes in the Elk Springs Ranch subdivision on the top of Mancos Hill Saturday afternoon as well as structures in Weber Canyon, south of Mancos, where the fire originated.
“We have brought a lot of resources in here,” said Incident Commander Craig Goodell, fire mitigation and education specialist with the Forest Service. “We have half of the large air tanker fleet in the nation working this fire. This is a high priority.”[…]
“It will get bigger in the next several days,” he said. “We will continue to see it grow and we are just going to try and keep it to the east of Weber Canyon, to the south of U.S. Highway 160 and to the west of Cherry Creek Road. If we can do that in the next few days, we will consider it a success.”
Information on the fire is available at 970-564-4999 and at www.inciweb.org.
As the High Park Fire exploded to 81,190 acres Saturday, becoming the second-largest wildfire in Colorado’s recorded history, firefighters made progress in protecting unburned areas in Rist and Redstone canyons despite extremely dry and hot conditions.
That progress came a day after a spot fire traveled through Glacier View Meadows’ 12th filing on Friday, burning an unknown number of homes.
Larimer County under-Sheriff Bill Nelson told evacuees Saturday evening that the spot fire did not spread during the day and filings 9, 10 and 11 remained unburned. And, he said, the High Park Fire did not claim any more homes on Saturday.
FromThe Denver Post (Jeremy P. Meyer) via the Loveland Reporter-Herald:
On the hottest day of the year so far, wildfires erupted throughout Colorado on Saturday, producing fast-moving blazes that burned down homes in Estes Park, forced evacuations in Colorado Springs and shut down state highways in southern Colorado. Firefighting officials are girding for more of the same as a hot and dry weather pattern probably won’t lift until midweek…
Fire managers use the “Haines Index” that looks at temperatures and moisture content to determine the fire potential on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being the worst possible conditions for large fire growth. Saturday was a “super 6.” Today is expected to be the same, Segin said. “We have got a couple of critical fire days ahead,” he said. “We are going to see fire activity (today) much like (Saturday). It is going to be very active. We haven’t had a fire season this bad since certainly 2002.”
Eight large-scale fires were burning in Colorado on Saturday, including the large High Park fire in Larimer County that grew to 81,190 acres after a large flareup on Friday.
Colorado Springs residents got a close-up view of a wildfire on Saturday when a new blaze sent a plume of smoke high into the sky west of the Garden of the Gods. The wildland blaze started in the area near Waldo Canyon just after noon and quickly spread across more than 2,000 acres. It was zero percent contained late Saturday…
Evacuations were ordered on the west side of Colorado Springs and in the towns of Cascade, Ute Pass and Manitou Springs. Hundreds of other residents were under voluntary evacuation orders and have been packing up. Colorado Springs police cruisers rolled down streets in some neighborhoods, issuing the order to leave through a loudspeaker. “Colorado Springs Police Department,” an officer said, according to Chieftain news partner Channel 13 News. “This is a mandatory evacuation notice. Evacuate now.”
From the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:
[Governor Hickenlooper] announced three executive orders Friday declaring the three areas a disaster and allocating money for firefighting efforts. The High Park fire will get $5 million under the order. That’s in addition to a previous order that authorized $20 million in aid.
FromThe Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold/Jakob Rodgers):
“I’m really darn scared and really sad. We built this house 18 years ago,” said Dianna Wagner, helpless as the flames crept over the nearby ridge and ever closer to her home. Fire crews were furiously cutting trees around her land while her family was taking photos of the valuables they couldn’t get out. By late Saturday afternoon, mandatory evacuation orders were given. So it went for residents in the fire’s path, from the neighborhoods north of U.S. Highway 24 in Cascade to the west side of Colorado Springs. The fire spread into a dangerous threat so quickly, Saturday afternoon plans were abruptly canceled as residents hosed down houses and packed their things.
Winter Park Ranch Water and Sanitation District will implement water use restrictions starting July 1 by limiting outdoor watering.
Minimizing lawn watering is the biggest step toward saving water, said Kirk Klanke, water district manager.
“Grass needs far less water than what people put on it,” he said. “This is the worst year I’ve seen to date. I really fear for what is going to happen to the river once we get in the warm months.”
Recommendation: Leave the grass 3 inches tall so that it doesn’t burn and need more water. Plus, it can provide shade, and can survive on less water.
Restriction: Watering will be allowed only on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m.
Bruce Hutchins, manager of Grand County Water and Sanitation District 1, is asking for a voluntary reduction of water use in his district to outdoor watering just three days per week from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m..
“The more users cut back on water use the more water is left in the stream,” he said.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
A worst-case fire scenario is unfolding in Colorado. In addition to the 80,000-acre High Park Fire, several new starts are growing rapidly and may stretch firefighting resources across the state.
FromThe Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
“Next week may be the peak of fire danger, then there is a hint the monsoon may come early … it’s going to be very interesting to watch,” said Boulder-based NOAA scientist Klaus Wolter, a researcher with the Earth Systems Research Laboratory.
The Rocky Mountain monsoon season usually starts in mid-July and lasts for about a month, with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and subtropical eastern Pacific streaming into the region from the south. Since formation of the monsoonal flow is partially dependent on large-scale regional surface heating, a year with early snowmelt, — like this year — can sometimes bring an early start to the season. And in the larger-scale weather pattern, a shift from La Niña to El Niño boosts the chances of monsoon rains, Wolter said.
“The possible onset of a La Niña can be good for us along the Divide and Eastern Plains, but my concern is, this year is very similar to 2002, when the efficiency of the monsoon season was reduced,” Wolter said, referring to what he called a “feeble” monsoon, despite generally favorable conditions. Similar conditions prevailed in 2000, when, after a seemingly promising setup, the monsoon fizzled.
Simply put, a regional blanket of haze may prevent the intense, localized heating needed to form the most productive thunderclouds, Wolter explained. Additionally, the haze may also become trapped in mid-atmospheric inversion, three miles high, that makes it harder for the thunderclouds to build vertically to their full potential.
“It reduces the sunshine that reaches the ground … that’s not a good thing if you’re trying to create thunderstorms,” he said, emphasizing that, at this point, the impact of haze on the monsoon is still a “back-of-the-envelope” concept.
Daily high temperature records were set in many parts of the state as afternoon temperatures soared into the 100 – 105F range. The prospects of another hot day with gusty southwest winds of 15-35mph prompted the National Weather Service to hoist RED FLAG warnings for high fire danger for the Front Range foothills and mountains and the northwest and west-central portions of the state. Evening satellite photos showed a new fire plume in La Plata County and a large plume from the continuing High Park fire. Today’s heat and winds may cause those fires to spread and intensify.
While no flooding was reported in the state, several rounds of severe thunderstorms occurred over the northeastern corner of the state. These storms did drop 0.25 – 0.75 inches of rain in a few small swaths of moisture with 0.75 – 1.50 inch diameter hail and wind gusts to 65 mph. In most respects these storms did more harm than good. A few weak storms rumbled in Huerfano and Las Animas Counties.
Look for another day with late evening and night thunderstorms along the Colorado-Wyoming and Colorado-Kansas borders. Today’s storms will form further east and not be as severe as Friday night’s storms. NO FLOODING is expected from these storms. A stronger surge of low level moisture is expected to move onto the northeastern plains Sunday morning and reach the Front Range foothills and the north face of the Palmer Ridge by late Sunday afternoon. This moisture will set the stage for a potentially stormy, wet Sunday night that will cool the area after another day of 100F heat.
High-based and mostly dry thunderstorms will begin to rumble this afternoon over other portions of the state as sub-tropical moisture arrives from Arizona. Activity will be most noticeable along a line from Durango to Limon. Gusty winds of 25-55mph, a sprinkle of rain and active cloud-to-ground lightning will be produced by these storms. Look for the fetch of moisture headed into Colorado from Arizona to deepen steadily through mid-week creating a potential for strong storms by Monday-Wednesday.
Colorado hikers, campers, climbers and bikers should be vigilant today for lightning at elevations above 9,000 feet in the central and southern mountains. Teller, Fremont, Custer, Huerfano and Las Animas Counties will be especially prone to brief but active thunderstorms over the popular recreation areas by mid-afternoon.
Monsoon 2012 IPW Tracker
This past week we shared some information about using IPW to track the development of the Arizona monsoon. The Integrated Precipitable Water (IPW) is a measure of how much water the atmosphere holds from the surface to ~30,000 feet. IPW is derived from the speed that GPS signals communicate with satellites. The figure below shows the IPW for Tucson AZ (Green) and Tempe AZ (Green) from June 20 to today. IPW values have doubled each of the past two days as the monsoon begins to surge northward. As values reach and exceed 1.25 inches of water the monsoon will establish itself over Arizona and begin to flow into western Colorado for the start of next week.
The Northern Hemisphere’s storm track is starting to slow down and turn over the weather reins to the sub-tropic’s warmth and humidity. The primary weather force on our summer weather is the development and strength of the Southwestern Monsoon. The monsoon refers to the development of a moist low level wind flow off the Gulf of Mexico and sub-tropical eastern Pacific into the heated land areas of northern Mexico, Arizona and New Mexico. Surges of moist disturbed air bring active thunderstorms with the threat of flash flooding rain, vivid lightning storms, dust storms and damaging winds. Lulls between the moist stormy surges are marked by periods of very hot dry weather.
Our outlook shows the Arizona Monsoon ready to send its first surge of moist air into Colorado later this weekend into next week. It’ll bring several active days of thunderstorms to the western half of the state before spilling over into the eastern half of the state by the middle of next week. A LOW THREWAT of flooding will exist in the eastern half of the state from June 28 to July 2 before a dry heat settles in for the 4th of July weekend. Read on for the details.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
West Slope streams have been hit a triple whammy this year. Along with the usual impoundments and diversions to the Front Range, this year’s scant snowpack melted many weeks earlier than usual, and above-average temperatures have persisted for months. In the Yampa, wildlife managers have already measured temperatures of 71 degrees and flows as low as 81 cubic feet per second. The median flows for this time of year are about 1,400 cfs. In these conditions, already severely stressed fish weakened by warm waters often die when caught, even if they are quickly released back into the water.
Warm water is oxygen-poor to begin with, and the warmer temperatures also promote the growth of algae, which adds oxygen during the day when there’s sunlight for photosynthesis, but uses up all the available oxygen during the night. That’s why fish kills often are evident first thing in the morning. Anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts can help document the impacts of low flows by reporting fish kills. Some Colorado streams are subject to minimum flows set to protect aquatic life, those flows are often barely adequate.
“There appears to be little chance of precipitation adding measureable volume to the stream flow in the immediate future,” said Senior Aquatic Biologist Sherman Hebein.
Wyoming is on the ropes, as well. Here’s a release from Governor Matt Mead’s office:
Governor Matt Mead has asked U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, to issue an agricultural disaster declaration for all of Wyoming, except Teton County. If granted, such a declaration could provide some federal emergency assistance to Wyoming producers.
“Wyoming farmers and ranchers are struggling to work through serious impacts caused by drought,” Governor Mead wrote. “Over the past month, County Commissioners throughout Wyoming have requested agricultural disaster designations for the 2012 agricultural production year. After consultation with the Wyoming Farm Service Agency it is clear that every Wyoming county with the exception of Teton County has suffered grazing loss and dryland hay loss in excess of the disaster threshold.”
“We are again managing the lake [Lake Isabel] for release,” said Paul Crespin, San Carlos District ranger. “We’ll try to maintain the lake level so it is suitable for fishing and recreation.”
The lake was constructed by CF&I Steel in the 1930s and filled once through the company’s water rights. Since then, it has been the Forest Service’s responsibility to provide water. Last year, the Colorado Division of Water Resources ordered a strict accounting of evaporative losses at Lake Isabel, which is located on the Pueblo-Custer county line near Rye. Levels dropped about 2 feet last year, and were restored in the fall when the Forest Service was able to lease water from the Pueblo Board of Water Works.
“Because it’s a dry year, finding water to lease is difficult. The water is scarce and costly,” Crespin said.
…the mighty Yampa — host to as many as 50,000 Steamboat Springs tubers, fishermen, rafters and kayakers each summer — slipped to a languid 77 cubic-feet-per-second as it dribbled through downtown Friday. That’s too low to support a healthy river, and this week local officials closed it to commercial tubing, which accounts for the vast majority of Yampa users in town. Authorities also issued a voluntary closure for fishing, kayaking, private tubing and swimming.
Steamboat is the first to succumb to the parched summer of 2012, featuring a statewide snowpack a mere 2 percent of average on June 1. Rivers are flowing at record-low levels, threatening not only river habitat and wildlife but the communities that have built economies around the recreation provided by rolling waters…
Jarett Duty pulled the plug on fishing the downtown stretch of the Yampa earlier this week. He’s bringing his Bucking Rainbow Outfitters clients to the Elk River and other high-country fishing holes. “A lot of the other surrounding waters around here are still fishing, but the writing is on the wall,” Duty said. “This summer is going to be brutal. I think by the middle of July a lot of our valley rivers are going to be done and we’ll just be in the high country. This will be our worst year in 20 years in business for sure.”
Finally, in New Mexico, 81% of the state is in D3 severe drougnt. Here’s a report from the Albuquerque Journal (John Fleck):
“Things are pretty desperate,” Warren Harkey of Mesilla Park told me Friday. Harkey’s a small fry in the ag world down south, with a couple of dozen pecan trees. He’s got no hope of a crop, and is just hoping at this point to keep the trees alive.
New Mexico’s ranchers must deal with the unpleasant fact that the state has the driest grazing land in the nation. Federal officials have rated 85 percent of the rangeland in “poor” or “very poor” condition, meaning little or no grass for cattle to eat. “We’re topping the nation in bad conditions,” Les Owen of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture said during a meeting Friday of the state’s Drought Monitoring Working Group…
If there’s a hope, it’s for robust monsoon rains. But even that comes with a price. More than 300,00 acres, mostly in southern New Mexico, have burned in wildfires and are now vulnerable to flooding during monsoon rains. “If they get a lot of rain real quick, it’s going to bring down a lot of sediment and be a real problem for the folks downstream,” Owen said.
On Friday, a task force of water interests from across Colorado charged to look into the feasibility of tapping the Green River met in Colorado Springs to discuss whether it’s possible or desirable to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline. While some on the task force said building a massive pipeline from western Wyoming to the Front Range would help restore the headwaters of the Colorado River while also preventing eastern Colorado farms from going dry, others were adamant that a Flaming Gorge pipeline is, at best, a project that could cause more strife than anything else…
“There’s been no real analysis of the environmental impacts,” [Chuck Wanner of Colorado Trout Unlimited] said, adding that he doesn’t believe that it’s possible for the task force to fully assess the feasibility of a Flaming Gorge pipeline by the end of the year.
Whatever project the state decides to build to bring more water to the Front Range, Colorado must tap all the Colorado River Basin water the state is entitled to, including Green River water, said Eric Wilkinson, general manager of Northern Water in Berthoud. That project, whether it’s a Flaming Gorge pipeline or something else, has to maximize currently-available infrastructure, and the proposed pipeline accomplishes that by using the Interstate 80 corridor in Wyoming, he said…
“The most important issue in this is whether or not a project unites the state,” said T. Wright Dickinson, a Brown’s Park rancher and former Moffat County commissioner. He said a Flaming Gorge pipeline as it is being envisioned would be too divisive to be built, doesn’t address what happens when Western Slope farmers need more water and isn’t adequate to address the state’s long-term water needs. Dickinson suggested an even bigger project: Tapping the Mississippi or Missouri rivers with a massive westbound pipeline…
The task force will meet once each month through December before making a final recommendation to state water regulators in January.
Here’s a recap of the first Valley Water 2012 tour from Lauren Krizansky writing for the Valley Courier. Here’s an excerpt:
A small group of water curious people listened hard through the sounds of water breaking over rocks in La Vega’s water channels to hear Cortez tell the story of the common grazing area, which is the last traditional commons left in America, and the power of The San Luis People’s Ditch, one of San Luis’ most precious veins.
“For nine generations we have been living here,” Cortez said. “We are a living history. We believe in the sustainability that has been handed down by our ancestors. We will never starve. We will never be alone.”
La Vega sits to the southeast of the oldest town in Colorado and is the only Mexican-Era land grant commons in the state. In 1863, villagers living in the Rio Culebra Basin allocated the commons 18 miles south to the New Mexico border. Today, 500 acres of La Vega remains and its fate rests in the hands of local descendants. A commission created in the ‘70s governs the commons, which is still a traditional, uncultivated wetlands used only for grazing cattle and horses for five months out of the year…
Running through La Vega is water from Rito Seco Creek and Río Culebra. It meanders through the meadow’s high grass and eventually finds it way to The San Luis People’s Ditch, an original acequia. The gravity-fed irrigation system was built in 1852 and it was eventually awarded the first adjudicated water rights in Colorado nearly a quarter of a century before Colorado became a state. Within the next decade, 14 other acequias were developed in the Culebra Watershed. Today, over 240 families in the Culebra watershed use acequias to irrigate over 24,000 acres of privately owned pastures and croplands.
Here’a a guest commentary written by Denis Reich running in the Summit Daily News. From the article:
Since the nine basin roundtables first convened across the state in 2006, the consensus has been that this form of water transfer does not serve the long-term health of the state. Agriculture has a critical role to play in the future of the state’s economy, open-space needs and cultural identity. More sustainable and agriculture-friendly strategies are needed. Researchers, ditch companies, irrigators and division engineers have been active in partnership with the roundtables and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to investigate and quantify water savings achievable from partial deficit irrigation (giving plants as much as they need, but less than they’d like), rotational fallowing and temporary leases. The simple objective of these investigations is to develop non-permanent transfers of water from agricultural users to urban areas during periods of high demand, such as this year’s drought: giving up some agricultural water without permanently drying up farms and the communities that go with them.
It’s a strategy that has many obstacles (legal and otherwise), but successful models exist in California and other states. Acknowledging that states with perennial water scarcity probably show us what we can eventually expect here, it’s likely Colorado agriculture will be a player in the municipal water business come mid-century. Some roundtable representatives still aren’t happy with such a compromise. It’s not just farmers and ranchers who are chagrined: environmental and recreational spokespersons prefer other opportunities for agriculture, recreation, and the environment to share water in a mutually beneficial and profitable fashion without selling water to communities that grow irresponsibly.
As these issues are debated, it is important to broaden the conversation beyond the “usual suspects” of water stakeholders represented on the roundtables. Public input is needed to help ensure the solutions found respond to community values, and to ensure that discussions are converted into implementable solutions.
Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board member Richard Skorman recognized his former boss, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, both for his concern about Fountain Creek and for his role in establishing the Great Outdoors Colorado program that funded a $2.5 million grant to benefit the creek this week.
“Ken Salazar was one of our regional leaders,” said Skorman, a former Colorado Springs councilman and mayoral candidate who served as a U.S. Senate aide to Salazar. “He talked about how we should stop turning our backs on our rivers, and learn to face them and embrace them.”
“You’re right,” laughed GOCo Executive Director Lise Aangeenbrug, who came to Friday’s Fountain Creek district board meeting to formally announce the grant. “Every time Secretary Salazar sees me, he bugs me about Fountain Creek.”
Initiative 45 would change Section 6 or Article XVI to require return flows from any water used in the state to be returned to streams “unimpaired,” which could create restrictive water quality standards, said Paul Fanning, the water board’s legislative liaison.
Both initiatives also give every citizen of the state standing in any judicial proceedings. Currently, water rights holders are allowed to enter water court cases to defend their own rights. “If they prevail, there would be an unprecedented amount of litigation,” said Fanning, who attended the Water Congress workshop.
The water board directed staff to prepare a resolution opposing the initiatives for a later meeting. “I think these would be a disaster for our state, and to the future use of water whether it’s for municipal, agricultural or industrial use,” Hamel said.
More 2012 Colorado November Election coverage here.
Because of the dry winter and spring the South Platte River is not flowing at a level to allow farmers, like Fritzler, to continue to use it as an irrigation source. Unless conditions change Fritzler will not receive any more above surface water for their crops. “We have no surface water,” [Glenn Fritzler] said. “We have an abundance of groundwater, but we do not have the permission to use it.”
Fritzler and other farmers in Weld County want to use their wells to pump groundwater from the aquifers beneath their farms. They are being prevented from doing that by a 2006 Colorado Water Court ruling. In that ruling, the court said farmers, like Fritzler, are only allowed to pump a limited amount of groundwater. If farmers exceed their allotment of groundwater, they are charged $3,000 a day for each pump used.
When the surface water ran out, Fritzler started pumping his allotment of groundwater. It will last for one week. The current drought conditions are expected to extend well beyond that one week supply.
Boulder County commissioners on Thursday approved a proposed pipeline that will deliver water from Carter Lake in Larimer County to the city of Boulder, the Left Hand Water District, the Longs Peak Water District and the Town of Frederick.
But the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which is heading up what’s called the Southern Water Supply Pipeline Project II on behalf of the entities that will be getting the water, will have to comply with nearly three dozen conditions that Boulder County is attaching to its approval. The project’s representatives expressed particular concerns about two of those conditions.
One, as recommended by Boulder County Land Use staff, will require the applicants to pay for a county-retained “project overseer” who’d monitor and inspect the work while it’s under way and would have the authority “to alter, direct and/or stop any activity that will result in adverse environmental or safety conditions” or violations of various county permits or “accepted construction standards.” Project proponents indicated discomfort over giving someone the ability to stop all work over issues they said could be resolved without bringing everything to a halt. County commissioners agreed to add language that the overseer couldn’t act arbitrarily. But they said some situations might require emergency work stoppages, rather than awaiting dispute resolution.
Pipeline project applicants also objected to a condition that they pay for the county Parks and Open Space Department to hire someone representing the county, as a landowner, during the project’s construction and reclamation work on county open space lands…
Northern Water’s Carl Brouwer, the project manager, said participants will now meet to work out a timetable for the phased construction of the pipeline, whose advocates have said is needed to improve the quality of the water being delivered, provide a year-round water supply and meet projected increases in demand. Brouwer said it’s been estimated that the work will about $35 million or more once it’s completed. At least some of the new underground pipeline will replace Northern Water’s and water recipients’ reliance of the portion of the current delivery system that channels water through exposed open-air canals that are closed in the winter and that can be polluted by storm runoffs and other surface sources. The new pipeline would run roughly in parallel to the old canal system between Carter Lake and a point near Longmont’s Vance Brand Municipal Airport. From there, it would run southwest to Boulder Reservoir. An eastern spur from the main pipeline would run from a point north of Longmont and go east to Frederick.
FromThe Pueblo Chieftain (Christine Ina Casillas):
The Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors approved a raw water rate increase and are in discussions with cost options that include $1.15 with Southern Delivery Systems costs spread over 10 years, $152 with 2011 actual SDS costs or $1.73 with 2011 actual SDS costs, including Hill Ranch and Wildhorse Pipeline. According to a Pueblo West Metropolitan Dsitrict water and wastewater rate study, the rate revenue needed to meet revenue requirements, the study showed.
A spill of 10,000 gallons from a sanitary sewer lift station at Fort Carson, including small amounts of petroleum, was reported to the Environmental Protection Agency on June 7, according to information provided by the Colorado Water Quality Control Division…
The spill occurred at a pre-treatment plant meant to separate oil from water before water is routed through a sewer plant. The EPA is evaluating corrective actions and steps that must be taken to prevent future overflows, said David Gwisdalla, environmental engineer with the EPA. The cause of the spill was an extreme rain that caused a manhole to overfill, sending 10,000 gallons of untreated sewage into a ditch leading into Fountain Creek, according to the report.
Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Tim Feehan/Ted Kowalski/Todd Hartman):
This week the State of Colorado and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation finalized a contract that allows the state to purchase of a portion of water from the Animas-La Plata (A-LP) Project in southwestern Colorado. This contract represents the completion of almost two years of intense negotiations, cooperation, and hard work on the part of Colorado Water Conservation Board staff and other stakeholders.
The Animas-La Plata Project was built to fulfill a water rights settlement between the federal government and two Indian tribes that live in southwestern Colorado: the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. But the project also has auxiliary benefits for other water users in the region as a much-needed municipal and industrial water source and reservoir for long-term storage in Lake Nighthorse. The state’s allocation of 10,460 acre-feet will go a long way toward securing a water supply for water users in the southwestern portion of the state.
In 2010, the General Assembly authorized the expenditure of up to $36 million towards the purchase of the State’s 10,460 acre-feet allocation of A-LP project water. This Bill appropriated the first $12 million installment, which was available on June 30, 2011. Subsequent legislation appropriated the remaining $24 million, which will be available July 1, 2012. After the contract was signed and executed, the State made its first payment of $12 million to the Bureau.
After July 1, 2012, the State will pay the final installment to the Bureau, retaining enough of the General Assembly’s appropriation for future operation and maintenance costs. The execution of the contract also grants membership to the State in the Animas-La Plata Operations, Maintenance and Replacement Association. Over the next few months, the State will work with other members of the Association to address issues such as engineering, modeling, water administration and protocol.
From the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:
Colorado lawmakers had authorized paying $36 million for the state’s allocation of 10,460 acre-feet from the water storage and delivery project in southwest Colorado. Money for the final payment will be available after July 1. The contract announced by the state Wednesday makes Colorado part of a group that will operate and maintain the project.
More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.