Drought news: The current drought is really taking its toll on the Arkansas River Basin #CODrought

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From KCUR (Frank Morris):

High in the Rocky Mountains, about 10 miles north of Leadville, Colo., the Arkansas River starts as a trickle running off some of the tallest peaks in the continental United States.

In a normal year, “you would see snowcapped peaks and water rushing down,” says Garry Hanks, a retired high school teacher who now serves as a deputy water commissioner in southeast Colorado.

But this year there’s hardly even a dribble of water coming down from the mountains. And the drought intensifies just downstream…

The drought has resulted in withered cornstalks and cracked land near Lamar, Colo.

“You can see by the cracks in the ground how dry it is,” [Dale Mauch] says, as he points to a withered cornstalk. The Fort Lyon Canal, which four generations of his family have relied on for irrigation, dried up last month.

“This is the first time that we went to zero before the Fourth of July,” Mauch says. “That’s just something [that] … in 152 years has never happened.”

From the Summit Daily News:

Colorado is experiencing a severe drought in many parts of the state. Due to the drought conditions in Summit County, the flow in the Blue River continues to decline, and while the Breckenridge water supply is not in as dire straits as others, the town feels it is important to apply mandatory water restrictions to all Breckenridge water users, including out-of-town users.

2012 Colorado November election: Initiatives 3 and 45 withdrawn, supporters hope to regroup for 2014

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Practically everyone in the water business will breathe a sigh of relief now that Initiatives 3 and 45 have been pulled from the November ballot. The organization behind the attempt to get Coloradans to reject Prior Appropriation cannot get the required signatures. Here’s a report from Cathy Proctor writing for the Denver Business Journal. From the article:

Supporters of the initiatives “have withdrawn No. 3 and 45,” spokesman Rich Coolidge said. “They are not going to be submitting signatures.”[…]

Richard Hamilton, who worked on drafting the initiatives, said Monday that supporters decided it “would be a near impossibility” to get the needed number of signatures. But he said that supporters will continue work on them, hoping to submit similar proposals for the 2014 ballot.

More Initiatives 3 and 45 coverage here.

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

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Click here for the summaries from last week’s webinar. Click on the thumbnail graphics for the July month to date precipitation summary and the current U.S. Drought Monitor.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

July rainfall through the middle of the month was well above average at many mountain weather stations, with Dillon, for example, reporting 1.94 inches through July 17, more than twice the average .92 inches. Estes Park and Georgetown both reported about triple their average rainfall amounts for the period, but drought conditions still persist across much of the state…

Thanks to the rain, drought conditions were downgraded from exceptional to extreme in southwest Jackson and northwest Grand counties, but even with the monsoon precipitation extreme drought conditions persisted across north-central and northeast Colorado.

Here’s why: In between rainstorms, temperatures remained well above average, resulting high rates of evapotranspiration, continuing to decrease soil moisture. In the hardest-hit areas, about 45,000 acres of crops, mainly wheat, have completely failed. Some farmers in northeast Colorado have abandoned alfalfa fields to save water from corn.

Many dryland crops in northeast Colorado are extremely stressed or have already withered, including millet, considered to be a drought resistant crop. Any millet that did sprout on the plains is now dying. There are numerous reports of ranchers selling off livestock, to an extent not seen since the summer of 2002. Rangeland conditions improved slightly in some areas but pastures are still in critical condition…

Temperatures since June have been running about 6 degrees above average along the Front Range and 3 degrees above average in the rest of the state, and Denver has already hit the 100-degree mark 11 times this year. For the sake of comparison, the city has reached 100 degrees 71 times total in the 140-year climate record dating back to 1872.