Click on the thumbnail graphic for the hydrograph for the Arkansas River above Cañon City from earlier today. Here’s a report from Rachel Alexander writing for the Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:
Cañon City’s rights date to Dec. 30, 1863. However, the rights of the Highline Canal east of Pueblo date to Dec. 31, 1861. Officials from the Highline have informed Cañon City officials that if conditions do not change, they will put in a call to the Division of Water Resources to get their water, thus shutting off the diversions of junior water users, such as Cañon City. Hartzman said that could occur as early as next week. “If they don’t get some relief down their way, they’ll be forced to (make the call),” he said.
“That means as long as the priority date is senior to us, then we can’t draw out of the river. We would make a call on our project water and have them do release for us.” The city has about 300 million gallons of water in storage that would be released from either Turquoise or Twin Lakes.
“We’d still stay in business,” Hartzman said. “We would have to ask the folks at that time to really step up the conservation.”
Hartzman said the city probably would immediately move to [stage] two water restrictions, which put in mandatory usage limits. The limits would include when and on what days lawns can be watered.
From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (David Young):
Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi, drought and climate change technical specialist with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said any industry reliant on water is at risk by the the drought. However, the extent of the impact depends on water rights, especially when it comes to agriculture.
“Any time there’s a long-term, sustained drought it forces water users to think about and prioritize water use, but as of right now storage is pretty good,” she said. “If this drought were to continue, many municipalities would have to reconsider … Virtually all industries are impacted by drought in some way or another.”
Nolan Doesken, state climatologist at Colorado State University, said while Fort Collins and most of Colorado is in an extreme drought, reservoirs are full and the water supply is secure based on enough runoff from the 2010-11 winter…
“This is bad drought at its worst,” he said. “Water supplies and municipal water is doing OK on the shoulders of stored water. It would not do so good without last year using that carryover. The big worry is back-to-back drought years.”
Here’s a release from Colorado Trout Unlimited asking anglers to take it easy on trout in the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers during this drought:
Trout Unlimited today asked Colorado anglers to voluntarily restrict their fishing on portions of the Colorado River headwaters stricken by drought and high water temperatures. TU is urging anglers to avoid fishing on the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers during the hottest part of the day, or to fish in Grand County’s higher-elevation lakes or cooler tailwater areas until conditions improve.
“Trout need cold, clean water to survive. The combination of drought conditions, extensive diversions, and record heat is putting enormous stress on fish populations,” said Drew Peternell, director of TU’s Colorado Water Project. “With low flows and high water temperatures, trout populations will be in survival mode this summer. Unless and until flow conditions improve, we’re asking anglers give our fish a break.”
Trout Unlimited’s recommended closure comes on the heels of a similar call by Colorado Parks and Wildlife for anglers to voluntarily limit their fishing on the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs, which recently recorded temperatures of 72 degrees through town. 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.
“These problems underscore how important healthy flows are to our rivers,” said Peternell. For years, the Upper Colorado and Fraser rivers have struggled with low flows and stressed habitat due to major water diversions to the Front Range. Two new projects, the proposed Moffat Tunnel and Windy Gap expansions, will add to that stress. “Drought and water diversions have put these rivers in a vulnerable state, and, as anglers, we need to do our part to protect fisheries.”
“We are asking our 10,000 state members and all Colorado anglers to exercise restraint and good sportsmanship in the use of these priceless resources,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado TU. “Failure to do so could set back fishing opportunities and the region’s recreation economy for years to come.”
When fish are struggling with elevated water temperatures, it makes them much more vulnerable to hooking mortality when they are caught and released. As long as temperatures remain scorching and streamflows low, “anglers should fish in the cooler hours of the early morning, and bring along a thermometer to check water temperatures regularly,” said Kirk Klancke, president of TU’s Colorado River Headwaters Chapter. “As a simple rule of thumb, when water temperatures rise above 65 degrees, that’s a good time to give the fish a break.”
Anglers can also seek out Grand County’s outstanding higher-elevation lakes and tailwater fisheries that are less affected by heat conditions.
TU plans to step up efforts this summer to educate anglers about the dangers of low flows and high stream temperatures, and the need for proper handling and release of fish.
“Incorrect handling of caught fish can lead to mortality,” said Nickum. “Proper release is always important, and that’s especially true during times of high heat and stress.”
Anglers should avoid playing fish to exhaustion and return fish to the water as quickly as possible. They should also wet their hands before handling fish and avoid overhandling them, which can remove the protective layer of slime on fish. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible. These proper catch-and-release methods can help promote fish survival.
From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Kristen Lodge):
June typically, however, is characterized by low precipitation and humidity, which has many people wishing for rain. The humidity is low right now since the North American monsoon doesn’t begin until mid-July. The moisture comes up to the Central Rockies but it hasn’t arrived yet, according to Meteorologist Kyle Fredin, of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration headquartered in Boulder.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
As of June 29, almost half the state (46 percent) was classified as being in extreme drought, with almost all the rest of the state under severe drought conditions. Temperatures running up to 10 degrees above average means moisture is evaporating from soils far faster than it’s building up, and all major reservoirs have dropped below average levels for this date. Nationally, drought conditions reached a dubious milestone, with 72.01 percent of the contiguous 48 states classified as abnormally dry, the most widespread drought conditions on record…
Temperatures have been running between 4 to 8 degrees above average in the southwestern corner of the state and 8 to 10 degrees above average across the rest of the state. At those temperatures, between .3 and .5 inches of moisture can evaporate per day, meaning that any small amounts of rain that fall offer only very short-lived temporary relief. Simply put, evaporation is far outpacing precipitation, which means conditions are getting drier.