Drought news: Colorado drought ‘extreme’ across most of the state #CODrought




Things just keep getting worse across Colorado. It’s time to start doing your serious Monsoon dancing. Click on the thumbnail graphics for the U.S. Drought Monitor maps for this time of year in 2012, 2011 and 2010.

Aurora: Potential water lease to Anadarko could target utility debt load


From The Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. is expected to 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.

Members of council’s Management and Finance committee said the revenues should be used to partially pay off debt from the construction of 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.

A second option would have been to use the revenue to reimburse taxpayers for helping to foot the bill to construct the project. But committee members decided that reimbursement wouldn’t amount to much anyway. According to Jason Batchelor, the city’s finance director, the credit to the average residential rate payer would be about 95 cents a month.

Councilman Bob LeGare said it makes better financial sense to put the money toward the Prairie Waters project. “Everyone understands paying down your (debt) early,” he said.

More Aurora coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update: Anthropologist plans to request dough from the Ark roundtable to study the impact of the project


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Ken Weber, an anthropologist who lives in Pueblo, told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board he plans to take a proposal to study the Super Ditch to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable soon. Otero County commissioners already have agreed to review the study…

“It would seek to document what happens over a three-year period,” Weber said, adding that impacts to participating farmers, nonparticipants, service industries and communities would be evaluated. “It would provide accountability and transparency.”[…]

Weber replied that his study proposes to measure actual impacts, rather than predict what those impacts would be. The Lower Ark’s studies actually call for this sort of evaluation, he added.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

The Huerfano County Water Conservancy District is looking for a mill levy increase to fund supplies and augmentation


From the Huerfano World Journal (Carol Dunn):

Monday night, Jay Winner, General Manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, attended the HCWCD meeting to offer some insight and assistance.
After being briefed on the precarious augmentation plan situation in Huerfano County, Winner told the board, “You need to buy water.”[…]

“Your engineering needs to start immediately,” Winner told the board. Although the HCWCD Enterprise only has leased water at this time for augmentation, Winner encouraged the board to proceed and offered to help procure the grant for engineering. “I just need a cost estimate,” he said…

Besides funding the purchase of water, the proposed mill levy increase will play a key part in the augmentation plan going forward, and eventually through water court. Board member Mace mentioned two major expenses: $3,000-$4,000 per acre-foot for water rights; $55,000 per acre-foot of reservoir storage. The first goal of the enterprise is to obtain about 15 acre-feet of prime water rights on the Huerfano River and build a reservoir to store it.

According to one board member, there is some push-back from taxpayers around the county because the main area involved at this time is Gardner. “Some people say they got themselves into this mess, and now they want taxpayers to help them out,” said Dawson Jordan, chair of the Enterprise. “But you can’t look at it that way. You’ve gotta work for the good of the entire community.” And Mace added, “This is good for the county. We can be a bond between Walsenburg and La Veta.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

Drought/runoff news: NWS July 7 thru July 10 hazards outlook forecasts good moisture across Colorado #CODrought


Click on the thumbnail graphic for the map from the National Weather Service.

From the CWCB Flood Threat Portal:

The highest threat period of the early summer season appears likely to develop over the July 8-11 period. Moist easterly winds will prevail along the Front Range from Fort Collins to Pueblo while monsoon moisture drips across the Continental Divide to provide plenty of fuel for slow moving thunderstorms. The recent burn areas will face a MODERATE TO HIGH flash flooding threat during these three days as storms could produce 1-3 inches of rain in less than two hours. It is way too early to develop any particulars on this evolving threat but the ingredients appear to be coming together.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We don’t envision the need for restrictions this year,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager for the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “We will monitor our storage levels and see how the snowpack develops for next year.”[…]

Pueblo West also has plenty of water in storage, but is looking at adapting voluntary conservation measures as part of a new water conservation plan, said Jack Johnston, manager of the metro district…

More than 120,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Pueblo — two thirds of its current contents — is set aside for municipal use. About 55 percent of that is for El Paso County use. Colorado Springs, Aurora, Pueblo and Pueblo West also have water set aside in Turquoise and Twin lakes higher in the watershed…

Right now, the river call is sitting on the Rocky Ford Ditch 1874 right, and without summer monsoons will stay at or senior to that level, since runoff has ended, said Bill Tyner, assistant engineer for Water Division 2.

From 9News.com (Blair Shiff):

As monsoon rains intensify, water managers will be paying more attention to how the fire might impact drinking water. Runoff mixes with debris and sediment in burn areas during monsoons. That mix often hurts the ability of water treatment plants to purify water. As a result, tap water could have a smoky taste – though is typically not harmful.

From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

“The most important thing is to have community awareness and involvement,” city Utilities Director Stephen Salka said Monday in briefing water commissioners about possible drought issues. “It’s important not to use water in a wasteful manner.” Cooperation is preferable to coercion, he said…

It appears residents are getting the message, Salka said. The city population has increased since 2002, the peak of a severe drought that saw the Missionary Ridge Fire spread over more than 72,000 acres, but water consumption is down. In May 2002, residents used 305.6 million gallons of water, compared to 290 million gallons in May 2012. June use in 2002 and this year, was 350.6 million and 350.3 million gallons, respectively.

The flow in the Animas River barely topped 300 cubic feet a second Tuesday. The channel was carrying 481 cfs on June 8, 2002, the day the Missionary Ridge Fire started, but dropped to 172 cfs June 30. The city fills Terminal Reservoir, which holds 74.1 million gallons of water, from the Florida River by gravity flow and from the Animas by pumping.

From the La Junta Tribune Democrat:

Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall on July 3 announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated 62 of Colorado’s 64 counties as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by drought, excessive heat, and high winds since the beginning of the year. The other two counties have been named contiguous disaster areas.

“The entire state of Colorado has been severely affected by hot and dry conditions that have hampered the production of our agricultural producers,” Bennet said. “The designations from USDA will provide much-needed assistance to farmers to help offset their losses due to drought. Agriculture is a critical part of Colorado’s economy, and these resources will help producers weather a difficult growing season.”

“I am pleased that U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, has granted Governor Hickenlooper’s request to designate eligible counties in Colorado as disaster areas in response to severe drought conditions across our state,” Udall said. “The losses that face Colorado’s agriculture producers are mounting and now that this declaration has been made, Colorado’s farmers and ranchers will have access to additional resources to get them through these tough times.”

Meanwhile, the feds declared a drought disaster for most of Colorado recently. Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack notified Gov. John Hickenlooper today that 62 of the state’s 64 counties qualify for federal disaster relief because of drought conditions [ed. emphasis mine].

“The Department of Agriculture has reviewed the Loss Assessment Reports and has determined that there were sufficient production losses in 62 counties to warrant a Secretarial disaster designation,” a letter from Vilsack says. “Therefore, I am designating all Colorado counties, except Delta and San Juan counties, as primary disaster areas due to losses caused by drought, excessive heat, and high winds that occurred from Jan. 1, 2012, and continuing.”

Hickenlooper sent a letter last week to Vilsack seeking the drought assistance.

“We are very grateful for Secretary Vilsack’s speedy review of our request,” Hickenlooper said. “This federal disaster declaration will give farmers and ranchers in Weld County and nearly every other part of the state much needed relief.”

Typically, counties must meet certain crop loss criteria to qualify for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster assistance. Once that crop loss criteria is met, the governor then make a request to the Secretary of Agriculture asking for a disaster designation for that county.

This year, because of severe drought conditions in across the state, the Colorado Department of Agriculture worked with the local USDA Farm Service Agency office in seeking a disaster designation before each county shows the minimum crop loss.

The federal assistance approved today includes Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for emergency loan assistance. FSA will consider each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses, security available and repayment ability.

Local FSA offices can provide farmers with more information.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin #CODrought


Click here for the summaries from Tuesday’s webinar. Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary.

Drought news: Forecasters see good chance that El Niño will develop over the eastern Pacific Ocean #CODrought


From the Boulder Daily Camera (Joe Rubino/Erica Meltzer):

Klaus Wolter, a climatologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, said he believes Colorado’s weather is transitioning from a La Niña pattern to an El Niño pattern.

El Niño, the result of unusually warm temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, tends to cause wet weather for the southwestern U.S…

However, fires burning across the state could delay the arrival of the wet weather. In 2002, another dry year in which a La Niña pattern was transitioning to an El Niño pattern, the Hayman Fire and others contributed to rain being delayed until mid-September. “Back in 2002, we had an El Niño developing, and it didn’t deliver,” Wolter said. “The monsoon was trying to work its way up, but we had all these fires and it has all these microphysical effects.

“We have all this haze and all this soot in the air, and it’s harder to get thunderstorms going because there is less heating on the ground, believe it or not,” Wolter said. Wolter said he thinks the Front Range is in a better position now than in 2002. Because the fires are concentrated along the Front Range, the circulating monsoon system is exposed to fire-free areas farther west…

Boulder meteorologist Matt Kelsch warned against getting too excited for a strong monsoon season in Colorado or the wetting effects of an El Niño pattern this early in the year. El Niño’s effects are most often felt in the fall and winter, Kelsch said, and while this week looks promising for moisture, he worries the conditions may not last long.

Rifle: Council approves loan agreement with the Colorado Water Resources and Power Authority for new treatment plant


From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

Councilwoman Jennifer Sanborn, one of two council members to vote in the minority when the issue has arisen, criticized Mayor Jay Miller for what she felt was a “gross exaggeration” about a possible plant failure leaving the city without water for perhaps months.

“I think it’s wrong for an elected official to try to instill fear in people when it’s not warranted,” Sanborn said. “I just don’t think it’s morally right.”

Miller had earlier said he did not want to see the city step back and consider other plant alternatives, as Sanborn suggested.

“We’ve been diddling around with this for the last five years and I feel if we push this back and back, we’re going to have businesses leave town, then we will have a catastrophic failure of the city,” Miller said. “I’m not willing to take that chance.”

Miller added that if a core part of the current plant on Graham Mesa fails, it would take months to have a replacement part manufactured. The plant was designed to use a treatment process that is outdated and replacement parts are no longer manufactured on a regular basis…

The motion passed 4-2, with Sanborn and Councilman Randy Winkler opposed, as they have in several previous votes on the issue. Councilman Keith Lambert was absent from the meeting. City Attorney Jim Neu later noted council’s action meant city staff will move forward to close on the loan, but pointed out the city does not have to spend the entire $25.5 million on a new plant.

City Manager John Hier said he will schedule a work session with city council in the near future, to review various funding options for the new plant in an attempt to lessen the burden on rate payers. In his closing comments at the end of the meeting, Miller said his earlier statements were not intended to instill fear in residents, but felt the issue had to be discussed among councilmembers. He also asked the Citizen Telegram to not portray his comments in that light.

More Rifle coverage here and here.