The Colorado Water 2012 June newsletter is hot off the press

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Download or read a copy from here. Here’s a preview:

In early May, Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet announced a resolution recognizing 2012 as the “Year of Water” in Colorado. This resolution from the U.S. Senate helps recognize water as a precious resource in Colorado. In addition to the “Year of Water” resolution from the Senate, Colorado’s Governor Hickenlooper and communities all over the state made their own proclamations earlier this year. “Year of Water” videos, resolutions, and declarations are available on the Water 2012 website.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

The Wineinger-Davis ranch in Lincoln and Crowley counties receives the 2012 Leopold Conservation Award in Colorado

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Here’s the release from the Sand County Foundation:

Sand County Foundation, in partnership with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. and Peabody Energy, is proud to name the Wineinger-Davis Ranch as the recipient of the 2012 Leopold Conservation Award in Colorado.

“The Davis family views conservation as a lifestyle, going the extra mile to educate those on and off of their ranch about the importance of sustainable agriculture,” said Dr. Brent Haglund, Sand County Foundation President. “Russell, Tricia and their family are true representatives of a land ethic and their commitment to sharing their story through a remarkable amount of agricultural education and outreach is exceptional and important.”

Russell and Tricia Davis’ Wineinger-Davis Ranch was established in 1938. It currently consists of over 12,000 acres and is located in Lincoln and Crowley Counties. The ranch successfully integrates not only the needs of a successful and productive beef operation, but also the habitat needs of a suite of shortgrass prairie wildlife species. Among other conservation achievements, in 2004, Russell and Tricia placed perpetual conservation easements on the ranch through the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Colorado Species Conservation partnership program. This easement protects 12,245 acres of intact native shortgrass prairie and riparian ecosystems. This agreement focuses on proper livestock grazing to benefit all short grass prairie and plains riparian wildlife species.

The $10,000 Leopold Conservation Award will be presented to the Davis family on June 12 at the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association’s Annual Convention in Loveland.

The Leopold Conservation Award in Colorado is sponsored by Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Peabody Energy, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Credit.

Thanks to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat for the heads up.

More conservation coverage here.

Cortez: Colorado Water 2012 events include a tour of the water treatment plant

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From the City of Cortez:

Through a statewide program called Colorado Water 2012, the Cortez Public Library, in partnership with the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, The Colorado State Library, the Dolores Water Conservancy District and the Cortez Water Plant are offering this educational opportunity to learn about state and local water. At 10:00 AM on June 28th, there will be a presentation by Mike Preston, of the Dolores Water

Conservancy District and Don Magnuson of Montezuma Valley Irrigation at the overlook at the end of the McPhee campground. Last, on the same day at 1:00 PM, there will be a tour of the Cortez Water Plant, hosted by Bruce Smart. Maps and directions are available at the Library.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Drought news: Colorado State University Extension Offers Horticulture Tips During Colorado Drought

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Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Kayla Green):

With most of the state of Colorado experiencing drought, Colorado State University Extension agents and specialists are available to provide information about maintaining lawns and gardens.

“This year, the mountains didn’t get their normal precipitation,” said Andrea Cummins, CSU extension agent for Douglas County. “The mountain snow melted earlier and faster than normal due to warmer weather conditions, so we are going into the summer with dryer than normal conditions in the lower elevations. Plants under drought stress will often have more insects, develop dieback where the top stems of trees and shrubs don’t leaf out, and show premature fall color.”

Extension agents suggest Coloradans take special care this season to protect and maintain lawns, gardens, plants and trees and offer tips to help them thrive in drought conditions.

Efficient watering

Water lawn and planting beds according to their needs. Check soil moisture before watering. Insert a 6-inch screwdriver into the soil; if it can be easily inserted, you don’t need to water.

Water at night. Water at night between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m., but not during the heat of the day or when the wind is blowing.

Look for footprints. Water when footprints or mower tracks become easily visible on the turf or when large areas of the lawn take on a bluish-gray color.

Check your sprinkler system. Check to see how long each zone is scheduled to run and adjust the timer. A shaded zone will require less water than a hot, sunny area, and cooler seasons require less water than hot summer months.

Grass

Aerate. Aeration is an important part of lawn maintenance because it relieves soil compaction and allows better water, air and fertilizer penetration. The result is less water run-off and better plant health. Aerate in the spring and fall under moderate moisture conditions for best results.

Mow efficiently. Set your mower at the highest level possible and make sure the blade is sharp. Leave your lawn clippings on the turf and use a mulching mower to recycle moisture and nutrients back into the yard.

Brown spots? Respond to brown spots by hand watering.

Fertilize. Consider applying iron fertilizers moderately. Fertilize in summer with a slow-release fertilizer and in fall at the rate suggested on the product label.
Flowers

Know flower tolerance. Select and plant flowers by their specific water and sunlight needs. Many low water-using flowers are available.

Improve the soil. Prepare your flowerbeds by mixing in soil amendments like peat moss, compost or other organic material for maximum water efficiency and growth.

Newly planted flowers. Check and water flowers daily for a short time during the first two weeks after planting to help them get established, and then gradually reduce water. To determine if the flowers need water, insert a 6-inch screwdriver into the soil; if it can be easily inserted, you don’t need to water.

Mulch. Apply mulch to reduce evaporation, retain moisture in the soil and control weeds.
Trees

Established trees. Roots extend out from the tree three to five times the height of the tree. Soaking the tree next to the trunk is not adequate. Normal, general landscape irrigation provides water for the established areas.
Newly planted trees. Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch at a minimum of 2 feet wide around the trunk. Keep mulch 2 inches away from the trunk. Check moisture in the root ball weekly and water to maintain adequate moisture.

Runoff/drought/snowpack news: Northwest Colorado slips further into severe drought territory

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Click on the thumbnail graphics to the for the March 1, 2012 through June 2, 2012 hydrograph for the Colorado at the Utah state line, the current U.S. Drought Monitor map and the statewide snowpack map from May 31, 2012. Streamflow at the Utah border is well below average and much below water year 2011 near record flows were roaring through Cataract Canyon on the way to Lake Powell.

From email from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District:

The U.S. Drought Monitor expanded the area in northwest Colorado that is designated as being in extreme drought, growing 3 percent in the last week to cover about ten percent of the state. The May 29 map, released Thursday, shows 100 percent of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought condition.

The extreme drought area abuts Eagle County and includes most of Garfield, Rio Blanco, and Routt counties as well as portions of Moffat, Pitkin, and Mesa counties. Drought intensity in Eagle County is D2, severe, and D3, extreme – just on the western boundary – on a scale of D0 to D4.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is one of several drought monitoring tools produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center that helps people assess drought severity and impacts. Another tool is the Vegetation Drought Response Index that depicts vegetation stress across the contiguous United States. The vegetation condition in Eagle County is described as pre-drought, moderate drought, and severe drought.

Water available for local vegetation could be limited this year. At Wednesday’s Eagle River Valley State of the River meeting, Mage Hultstrand of the Natural Resources Conservation Service said the snow water equivalent for the Eagle River basin on May 30 was just three percent of the historical average. Hultstrand also noted the Vail Mountain SNOTEL (snow telemetry) site melted out completely on April 7, nearly eleven weeks earlier than normal, and said streamflows for the Eagle River below Gypsum are forecasted to be at 43 percent of average.

With our community water supply largely dependent upon adequate flows in local streams and rivers, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District encourages its customers to take action to lessen the impact of drought.

Protect the investment made in landscaping by following best practices that encourage a deep root system, which helps plants get through dry spells. Should drought conditions persist, water available for irrigation and other outdoor uses may be less than normal, or unavailable, this year. Currently, normal year-round Water Use Regulations are in effect. For more information go to http://www.erwsd.org or call ERWSD Customer Service at 970-477-5451.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Eagle and Summit and Grand counties are designated as being in a severe drought, with streamflows forecast to be well below normal across the region. The latest update from the U.S. Drought monitor shows all of Colorado now experiencing some level of drought, with Eagle County, for example, experiencing pre-drought, moderate drought and severe drought conditions, depending on the exact location…

Lake Powell, the key reservoir on the Colorado River system, is at 79 percent of average and only about two-thirds full. Daily inflows are well below average for this time of year. [ed. At last week’s NIDIS webinar a participant said that inflows to Lake Powell in May 2011 were a million acre-feet, this year 54,000 acre-feet.] For the next week, dry conditions are expected to continue under a strong ridge of high pressure, with precipitation confined to the highest terrain of Colorado. There’s a chance of significant precipitation at the western edge of the Upper Colorado River Basin during the coming week, as a Pacific trough approaches the region.

From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

A weekly report updated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday indicates extreme drought conditions continue to expand in Northwest Colorado. “And they’re expected to get worse,” said Joe Ramey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. “We have just been spiraling into more and more severe drought, and that has not changed this week.”

The Drought Monitor shows that nearly all of Northwest Colorado is experiencing at least a severe drought, and much of the area is seeing extreme drought conditions. Ramey said the Drought Monitor is based mostly on past precipitation as well as soil moisture levels…

According to Steamboat Springs weather observer Art Judson, 0.68 inches of precipitation fell in May compared to an average of 2.08 inches.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

The City of Loveland is partnering with the Center for ReSource Conservation to offer free sprinkler audits to Loveland residential water customers. Slow the Flow is a free sprinkler inspection program designed to optimize sprinkler operations and be efficient with outdoor water use. This free pilot program enables Loveland customers to have their automatic, underground sprinkler systems inspected by trained water auditors who inspect for performance and efficiency. After the inspection, residents will receive a customized watering schedule and tips for easy do-it-yourself sprinkler maintenance. Inspections are available June 1 through Aug. 31 while supplies last.

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Joe Rubino):

Boulder received just 3.01 inches of precipitation over the three-month period, meteorologist Matt Kelsch said, making it the driest spring — as he defines the season for weather purposes — since the city began keeping records in 1894. The average amount of precipitation Boulder receives in March, April and May is 7.85 inches, Kelsch said. Snowpack levels statewide are about 5 percent of average for this time of year, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “It was a dismally dry spring,” Kelsch said…

Klaus Wolter, a climatologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, called this spring “miserable” but noted it could have been worse. February was the snowiest in Boulder’s records, according to Kelsch, and May’s weather conditions were not particularly far off averages for the month. As recently as early May, Wolter said he was optimistic that an El Nino pattern would form, bringing more moisture to Colorado in the coming fall. Now, he said, he is concerned Colorado may be facing a third straight La Nina year, though he is at least a few months away from being able to say if that outcome is likely. “My concern is not so much with the summer,” Wolter said. “If we were to go back into a third-year La Nina … that would be a big worry. That’s how we got into a big drought in the early 2000s.”

The Parker Water and Sanitation District board decides to keep Frank Jaeger on the payroll through the transition to his retirement this fall

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Even before the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by the approximately 60 people in attendance at the Parker Water and Sanitation District meeting May 31, chairwoman Darcy Beard announced that the board would be retaining Jaeger indefinitely to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership.

Just two weeks ago, Jaeger said he believed his days as district manager were numbered. Three new board members were elected May 8 after running on a platform that promised a change in spending habits, transparency and planning. At the five-member board’s first meeting May 17, they stripped management of their ability to sign checks, but stopped short of discontinuing Jaeger’s contract for fear of losing the person with the most intimate knowledge of district operations and plans. The tone early on at the May 31 meeting was conciliatory as Beard cited Jaeger’s “dedication and vision” for making the district one of the more respected water providers in the state. Beard also apologized because she was told that Jaeger “felt my criticism was directed to him personally” during comments she made at the May 17 meeting.

Jaeger, who has been at the helm of the PWSD for 31 years, wrote a letter to the board that expressed his willingness to pass on his knowledge during an “orderly and well-thought-out” transition period. Jaeger said he wants to schedule a full-day learning session to catch the new board members up to speed on reasons behind water planning policies and update them on growing concerns about the cost of treating wastewater.

More Parker coverage here.