Snowpack news: Check out the the cool chart generation application from NOAA for watersheds west of the Great Divide #coriver


Check out the cool application for generating snowpack charts from the Colorado River Forecast Center.

Click here for the Blue River Group above Dillon. Today the SWE is sitting at 44% of average.

More education coverage here.

Alamosa above the freezing mark after 36 days in the inversion cooler #cowx

From the NWS Pueblo office:

The thermometer topped out at 40 degrees in Alamosa today. This is the first time the temperature went above the freezing mark since December 18th, 2012. The 36 days (December 19th-January 23) of at or below freezing temperatures sets a new record of consecutive days of high temperatures at or below 32 degrees in Alamosa. The previous long streak of consecutive days with temperatures at or below 32 degrees was 32 days set in December of 1997 and January of 1968.

The average temperature in Alamosa for the month thus far (24 days) has been -0.4 degrees, which is an amazing 16.7 degrees below normal! Despite several more days of near normal temperatures expected through the weekend before colder air works into the state again by early next week, January of 2013 still remains on pace to be one of the coldest on record in Alamosa.”

Snowpack news: All eyes at Denver Water are on the mountains #codrought


From Aspen Public Radio (Marci Krivonen):

Snowpack in the Roaring Fork Watershed is just 55 percent of average. It’s a number water utilities on the populated Front Range don’t like to see. They take much of their water from these Western Slope rivers and streams. And with this year’s lackluster snowfall, they’re already making plans for a dry summer.

Water for residents of Colorado Springs comes from 200 miles away. That’s because there’s no river to tap within the city itself. The water utility there depends heavily on spring runoff. And, they’re anticipating less this year…

Right now the 25 reservoirs the utility draws from are collectively less than half full. Typically they’re about twenty percentage points higher. Over the years, the utility has increasingly encouraged its customers to use less. But this summer, it may no longer be an option. The Utility will likely limit outdoor watering and raise rates for people who use lots of water.

North of Colorado Springs, in Denver, it’s a similar story.

“We’re heading into 2013 with much lower reservoir levels than usual,” says Travis Thompson with Denver Water.

He says the utility’s reservoir levels are 67 percent full. Normally they’re above 80 percent. Even in 2002, one of the driest years in recent memory, reservoir levels were higher than they are today.

Thompson says the utility is considering implementing drought restrictions this summer that would require its one million-plus customers to cut back on outdoor watering…

The outlook isn’t rosy. Below average snowfall is predicted through the end of January and long-term forecasts call for warmer than normal conditions. [Eric Kuhn] says there’s a chance the state could see water shortages, and a bad fire season.

Controlled Flood in Grand Canyon a Dud: Federal Scientists Say Sand and Beaches Continue to Erode Away #coriver


Here’s the release from Living Rivers (John Weisheit):

Just two months after Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar opened the jet tubes at Glen Canyon Dam, launching a five-day (24-hour peak) controlled flood into Grand Canyon, the results are in and they are not positive.

During today’s Annual Reporting Review for the Grand Canyon Adaptive Management Program’s Technical Working Group, representatives from the Glen Canyon Monitoring and Research Center reported:

Just 55% of the target beaches showed improvements, while 36% remained the same and 9% were worse off. 25% of the sediment scientists had hoped to mobilize and distribute with the flood never moved. No evidence of improved nursery habitat for native fish. Nothing is stopping the long-term erosion of sediment from Grand Canyon’s river corridor.

“Ken Salazar claimed that this was going to be ‘A milestone in the history of the Colorado River’, but like the three previous experiments in 1996, 2004 and 2008, it too has shown that at best some beaches are temporarily improved, but the long-term prognosis for the Grand Canyon is a system without sediment,” says Living Rivers Conservation Director John Weisheit

Since 1963, 95% of sediment inflows to Grand Canyon National Park’s river corridor have been trapped behind Glen Canyon Dam. This has completely transformed habitat conditions for Grand Canyon native fish, leading to the extinction of the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail chub and roundtail chub, and the endangerment of the humpback chub.

The November 19th 2012 flood is the first to occur in a ten-year time window that scientist have been granted to experiment with Glen Canyon Dam operations. Additional controlled floods can be attempted if certain conditions are met, mainly the existence of large amounts of sediment entering the Colorado RIver from two tributary rivers that feed into the upper part of Grand Canyon, the Paria and Little Colorado.

“Far too much public time and money is wasted on preparing for, publicizing, executing and monitoring these useless floods that do nothing but perpetuate a science welfare program masquerading as an endangered species recovery effort,” adds Weisheit. “Scientist know, but won’t publicly state, that the only real solution to addressing Grand Canyon’s sediment deficit is to transport it around Glen Canyon Dam or decommission the dam altogether.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge Task Force’s phase one report is hot off the press


Click here to view the report and appendices A through F. Click here for appendices G through I. Thanks to Heather Bergman for sending them along in email. Here’s an excerpt from the report:


In the course of its work, the Committee has come to more fully understand and appreciate the gravity and risks of the status quo and the need to develop new supply1 solutions that balance the current and future consumptive and nonconsumptive needs of both slopes and all basins. The municipal gap on the Front Range is immediate, the dry-up of agriculture is real and certain, and the environmental and economic concerns are serious and numerous. In the process of becoming informed about and discussing the benefits and costs of a specific new supply project focused around Flaming Gorge, the Committee has identified a key threshold step that must happen in order to move beyond the status quo in developing any significant new supply solution: an immediate and focused conversation with each roundtable and state leaders at the table must begin, aimed at developing an agreement or agreements around how water supply needs around the state can be met. Our conclusion and consensus is that the conversation needs to be transparent and inclusive in order to arrive at consensus agreements that can lead to meaningful statewide-level water supply solutions. The immediate need for this robust, focused, transparent, and balanced conversation is at the heart of each of our recommendations.

The Committee has developed a consensus flow chart that identifies threshold steps and a process framework for moving forward with major new supply allocation from the Colorado River. The flow chart and the process it outlines suggests a pathway to achieving statewide consensus for a new supply project, based on roundtables defining the scope of a project, the IBCC and CWCB providing insight and approval, and project proponents or participants designing a project based on statewide consensus about the criteria of what characteristics and components are needed to be included into the design, implementation, and operation of a water project for that project to be considered a “good” project for Colorado. The flow chart is based on several assumptions:

  • The goal is to minimize the risk of a Compact call.
  • An M&I gap exists and needs to be filled. Some of the water needed to fill that gap may come from the Colorado River. That portion of the gap that is not satisfied by identified projects or processes, conservation, or new supply will likely come from the change of agricultural water to municipal and industrial use.
  • The current legal framework will apply.
  • All roundtables are affected by a new supply project.
  • This process would be voluntary. An inability to complete the process (all STOP signs in the complete framework) means that proponents revert to “business-as-usual” for building a new project.
  • More coverage from KUGR News:

    A task force studying issues related to proposals to divert water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado says state leaders first need to agree on how Colorado’s water needs can be met. In a report to be presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Basin Roundtable Exploration Committee says questions that should be addressed include how Colorado can maximize its entitlements to Colorado River water without overdeveloping the river and who would finance a new water supply project. It also lists characteristics of “good” water supply projects, which it says shouldn’t reduce supplies to existing water users, for one. The report, released Wednesday, says there is an immediate gap between the Front Range demand for water and the supply and mentions “risks of the status quo.”

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

    Forecast news: Series of storms to move across western Colorado today through the weekend #codrought #cowx

    From the NWS Grand Junction Office:

    A disturbance will move across the area today, with light snow across the mountains. 2 to 5 inches are possible in the higher elevations with little to no accumulation in the valleys. At this time, it does not appear strong enough to break valley inversions. A more unsettled pattern will set up for the weekend heading into the coming work week, with a series of systems affecting the area. The first arrives on Saturday from the southwest with milder temperatures generating rain among some lower elevations mixed with snow, with snow above 9000 ft. The second stronger system arrives Sunday and affects the area through at least Tuesday, with widespread snowfall and colder temperatures. (Please visit for more information.)

    From (Joel Gratz):

    While January started dry, it’ll end snowy. I’ve been tracking this change in the weather pattern for over a week, and while the details are still not set in stone, it does look like the last week of January will offer powder across the I-70 corridor from Beaver Creek to Vail to Breckenridge to Keystone.

    To set the stage, plentiful Pacific moisture is streaming eastward and will saturate the air over Colorado from Thursday (January 24th) through the middle of next week. While this moisture brought a few inches of snow to Tahoe and a few more inches could fall over the weekend, the main story will be snowfall in Colorado.

    One weak storm will bring a few inches on Thursday night (January 24th), and another weak storm will move through southern Colorado and only bring a few inches to the Vail resorts from Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning.

    The bigger story will be the strong storm that moves across the state on Monday night through Wednesday morning (January 30th).

    Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Region #codrought #cowx


    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary from this week’s webinar. Click here for all the summaries from the Colorado Climate Center.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.