CWCB: September 2012 Drought Update


Click on the thumbnail graphic for Klaus Wolter’s forecast for October thru December.

Here’s the summary from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Kevin Rein):

The western slope of Colorado benefited from August and September rains; alleviating but not eliminating drought conditions; while portions of the eastern plains received no measurable precipitation in August and has seen an increase in exceptional drought conditions. Temperatures in August were cooler than June and July, but were still above average. For this calendar year to date, the statewide average temperature of 51.4 degrees Fahrenheit ranks as the 2nd warmest on record (1895-2012).

 Many municipalities have activated their drought stages resulting in both voluntary and mandatory watering restrictions. Highlands Ranch is now utilizing non-renewable groundwater supplies; and Pueblo has begun to utilize their “strategic reserve” and is forecasting that they will have limited water to lease to the agriculture sector during the 2013 growing season. Should drought conditions persist this may result in further impacts to the agricultural sector within the Arkansas River basin.

 Reservoir storage is at 68% statewide. Highest storage levels are in the Yampa/ White River Basin, at 104% of average while the lowest storage in the state is in the Rio Grande River basin at 50% of average. The Yampa/ White is largely dominated by energy producers who are keeping their water in storage in case the drought persist, roughly 2/3 of storage in the major reservoirs of that basin is held by energy producers. Some Front Range providers are reporting system storage levels as low as 33%.

 Surface Water Supply Index values have improved with some areas seeing near normal conditions. This is partially the result of municipal year-to-year carryover in large projects such as the Fryingpan-Arkansas. However, the vast majority of the state remains in the severe drought category with values below -3.

 Many weather stations are on track to set new record low reference evapotransipiration rates, a result of both dry conditions as well as consistently high temperatures throughout the growing season.

 As of the September 25, 2012 US Drought Monitor, 100% of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought classification. D2 (severe) and D3 (extreme) predominate over 80% of the state. 17% of the state is experiencing exceptional drought all of which is isolated to the eastern plains. Conditions over the eastern plains have deteriorated over the last month.

 While dry conditions have resulted in decreased yields, high commodity prices have helped to alleviate some of the impacts and markets remain strong. To date, the state has seen a 40% increase in agricultural exports.

 The latest long term experimental forecast released September 24, shows a chance of increased precipitation over the eastern plains and drier conditions over the four corners region. While conditions have switched to an El Nino, which often favors wetter conditions in Colorado, this El Nino is very weak and is not expected to result in “typical” conditions.

Click here to go to the CWCB website to download all of the presentations.

I live-tweeted the meeting at Twitter hashtag #cwcbwatf.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Despite occasional rainstorms, 2012 is shaping up to be one of the hottest, driest years on record for Colorado. That could be changing, as long-term forecasts predict the Eastern Plains of Colorado, at least, could see more rain from now until March 2013. But nothing is guaranteed. “Should drought conditions persist this may result in further impacts to the agricultural sector within the Arkansas River basin,” Assistant State Engineer Kevin Rein said in the most recent report from the Colorado Water Availability Task Force.

More CWCB coverage here.

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