‘Drought years back to back, that’s when you start having problems across the state’ — Wendy Ryan #codrought #cowx



From the Summit Daily News (Jessica Smith):

The statewide snowpack is at 72 percent of the average for this time of year and 90 percent from last year. For Summit County, in the Colorado basin, snowpack is only at 67 percent of the average for February and 89 percent of where it was last year. This means that the Colorado basin currently has just over half of the amount of snow it should have and just over 10 percent less than it had at the same time last year.

Colorado is not seeing the snowstorms it needs to alleviate the powder deficit. The entire state has been experiencing high-level drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor website. Exceptional Drought (D4) has crept across the Eastern Plains, while Summit County is engulfed in red at the Extreme Drought (D3) level.

“When we start stringing drought years back to back, that’s when you start having problems across the state,” said Wendy Ryan, research associate at the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. “The odds are definitely stacked in favor of having a below-normal snowpack year again.”

The pattern of snowfall has been acting differently this year, Ryan said. In the past, snowfall has been continual, with small amounts falling in between big storms. Recently, however, periods of dryness and no snow have come sandwiched between the larger snowstorms.

“That’s really what sets us back. We should be accumulating about an inch of water a week in the mountains,” said Ryan, but that hasn’t been happening.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Snowpack in the high-elevation mountains above Middle Park are now around 73 percent of the 30-year average. Last year’s snowpack at this time was similar at 75 percent of average.

Snow density is low, however, averaging at only 19 percent, which means that for a foot of snow there are 2.3 inches of water, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Kremmling Field Office, from which Mark Volt and Noah Bates conducted snow surveys in the last days of January…

Reported readings for the major river basins in Colorado are as follows: The upper Colorado River Basin averages 68 percent; Gunnison River Basin, 77 percent; South Platte River Basin, 61 percent; Yampa and White River Basins, 79 percent; Arkansas River Basin, 64 percent; Upper Rio Grande Basin, 77 percent; San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River Basins 85 percent; and the Laramie and North Platte River Basins,73 percent of average for this time of year.

Water meters may be on the horizon for Ouray


From the Watch (Samantha Wright):

Council unanimously approved a resolution supporting a $35,000 water efficiency grant application to the Colorado Water Conservation Board to help pay for the development and implementation of a Water Efficiency Plan. The plan was mandated by the Colorado Division of Water Resources last summer, when Ouray’s water supply was called by downstream senior water users.

The ultimate purpose of the Water Efficiency Plan, according to the grant application authored by the city’s water consultant Wright Water Engineers, is to develop a program to better meter water usage and reduce future water demand through multiple steps including leak detection and repair programs; landscape irrigation programs; educational programs on water use; plumbing fixture ordinances and programs and a commitment to track and report progress and make adjustments as needed.

A recent study conducted by Wright Water Engineers showed that residential use accounts for 71 percent of Ouray’s water demand, and that residents use more water than the national average. In implementing the Water Efficiency Plan, the goal is to lower per capita water demands by at least 10 percent over the next decade.

More infrastructure coverage here.

A Brief History of the South Platte River Basin

Here’s a great use of social media to get the word out about HB12-1278. The YouTube video — produced and directed by Colorado Water Institute, animated by Noah Besser — follows the history of the appropriation and administration of the South Platte River downstream of the mountains.

Good luck implenting HB12-1278 Reagan and team.

Thanks to Coyote Gulch reader Greg from Nebraska for the link.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

HB13-013 passes out of the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee #coleg


From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Marianne Goodland):

[HB13-1013: Protect Water Right Ownership Rights], which is sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling), passed the committee unanimously, but not without a little last-minute wrangling during the Feb. 4 hearing. Rep. Mike McLachlan (D-Durango) announced during the hearing he intended to amend the bill to limit the impact to ski areas because he said the bill was too broad.

The issue was brought to the Legislature by the ski industry, but during a Jan. 28 hearing, attorney Glenn Porzak told the committee that the Forest Service had issued similar directives on water rights for ranchers and other agricultural users who lease federal lands for grazing.

McLachlan eventually decided not to add the amendment and HB 1013 is now awaiting action from the House Appropriations Committee. A companion measure, House Joint Resolution 13-1004, passed the full House on Feb. 1 and is headed to the Senate. Sonnenberg also won House support this week for HB 1034, which would allow commodities warehouses and elevators to issue electronic receipts that could be shared with banks and other financial institutions. HB 1034 passed the House 64-0 on Feb. 4, and is now in the Senate.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.