Colorado River Named Most Endangered in United States #ColoradoRiver


Here’s a release from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):

The Colorado River is the most endangered river in the United States, according to the 2013 list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® released today by the nonprofit group American Rivers. Western Resource Advocates, a conservation organization that works throughout the entire Colorado River Basin, issued the following comments in response to the new listing:

“We all have our own dreams and visions for the future of the West,” said Bart Miller, Water Program Director at Western Resource Advocates. “But this is one subject where there can be no disagreement: If we don’t protect the Colorado River, we don’t have a future. It’s really that simple – an endangered Colorado River is a danger to us all.”

The Colorado River provides drinking water for more than 36 million people in seven states. The river is also critical to our regional and national food supply, providing irrigation for 4 million acres of farmland.

“We are using water in the West at a rate that is simply unsustainable,” said Drew Beckwith, Water Policy Manager at Western Resource Advocates. “The good news is that we can solve this problem if we act quickly. If we implement aggressive conservation, reuse, and efficiency programs for both municipal and agricultural users, we can protect the Colorado River and its many species, while at the same time exceeding projected water demand through 2060.”

The population in the West is expected to rise by 50% in the next 50 years; at the same time, Colorado River flows are projected to decline by 10% or more. Not only would this decline impact food and water availability, but it would be a huge blow to a growing recreation economy responsible for more than $26 billion in annual revenue for the Colorado River Basin states.

Western Resource Advocates has long advocated that water conservation and reuse should be the backbone of any plan for meeting future water demands in the Colorado River Basin. This is particularly critical in the face of climate change scenarios that experts agree will lead to increased frequency and severity of drought.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

American Rivers Designates the Colorado River the Nation’s ‘Most Endangered’. Explore Diverse Perspectives on CFWE Tours!

These tours sound like a hoot. I’m wondering if there will be a stop at the Grand River Ditch, a favorite of mine?

Drought/snowpack news: Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers Plan for Continued Drought #COdrought #NMdrought




Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current statewide snowpack map, current U.S. Drought Monitor map and the most recent drought forecast from the CPC.

From the Bureau of Reclamation (Mary Perea Carlson):

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Office and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today released their Annual Operating Plan for the Middle Rio Grande.
As we head into our third consecutive year of severe drought, Reclamation is focused on working closely with all partners to operate to meet both water user needs and flow targets under the 2003 Biological Opinion for the Rio Grande silvery minnow.

In a dry year, the biological opinion requires Reclamation to keep the river wet to Isleta Diversion Dam. Below that diversion dam and in the San Acacia reach, the river can be dried in a controlled manner after June 15. The current model projection for demand to meet flow requirements is somewhere between 65,000 and 80,000 acre-feet, however that forecast assumes minimal monsoons.

The April forecast data released by the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows snowpack volumes throughout northern New Mexico are approximately 45 percent of average. The inflow at El Vado Reservoir is expected to be about 80,000 acre-feet of water or about 36 percent of average. The inflow at Heron Reservoir is expected to be about 45,000 acre-feet or about 55 percent of average.

Reclamation is currently negotiating additional water leases and expects to have approximately 40,000 to 50,000 acre-feet of water to supplement river flows. Reclamation is working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and other stakeholders to optimize the use of supplemental water. Reclamation will again be working with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority to move water from El Vado Reservoir to Abiquiu on the weekends to allow for rafting flows on the Rio Chama.

One weather system this week = flooding rains, heavy snow, severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes in the Rockies and Midwest


From the CoCoRaHS blog:

This has been an interesting week for spring weather from the Rockies through the Midwest. In the last 24 hours there have been flooding rains, heavy snow, severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes, all related to the same weather system

Much of Colorado got more snow in the past 24 hours, with as much as 15 inches in south-central Colorado near Pueblo. Snow also accumulated 2 to 3 inches in western South Dakota and 2 to 4 inches in northern Minnesota. Snow also occurred in Nebraska and northwestern Kansas.

Forecast news: Isolated showers possible in the mountains, cold air to settle in #COwx #COdrought

From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

We’ll get off to a cold start to the day with snow showers lingering along the continental divide throughout the day. The arctic airmass left in the wake of yesterday’s storm will keeps highs well below normal this afternoon, despite plenty of sunshine for much of the region. Overnight lows are expected to dip below freezing again tonight threatening tender vegetation and budding fruit trees. Temperatures will begin to warm Friday reaching near normal values this weekend. However…a pair of spring storms will impact the area Friday afternoon through Saturday night and another Sunday afternoon through Monday night bringing additional snow to the Colorado mountains…especially in the north.

From the National Weather Service Pueblo office:

Lingering snow showers and cloud cover will gradually decrease through the morning, though the mountains will continue to see isolated to scattered snow showers throughout the day. Additional accumulations of an inch or two will be possible over the mountains. Gusty north winds will continue across the area this morning, though will gradually decrease through the afternoon. Temperatures today will remain well below normal, topping out in the 30s and 40s across the lower elevations with 20s and 30s across the mountains.

From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

Cold air spreading was across eastern Utah and western Colorado tonight. Low temperatures in the teens and 20s across the valleys tonight prompted a freeze warning for the Grand Valley, the Delta, Montrose and North Fork areas, and the lower valleys of southeast Utah including Moab. The heaviest snow from the most recent storm has shifted to the east, but scattered light snow will continue near the Continental Divide until morning.

Snowpack news: Good late season numbers north, runoff underway south #COdrought



Click on the thumbnail graphics for the statewide snowpack map along with the statewide Basin High/Low graph for yesterday. It’s been a long time since there was any green (average) on the statewide snowpack map. Back on February 12, 2013 the combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel snowpack showed up green, narrowly, at 91% of average. Yesterday, the Upper Colorado River and the North Platte River basins turned green due to the recent snowfall. Keep in mind that the Upper Colorado River Basin is often melting out by now so it is gaining against a declining average. In any case it increased 2-3 inches of SWE this month so far and that is good news.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

… a steadily increasing snowpack…is approaching nearly normal levels at a few sites in the mountains. Statewide, snowpack was about 82 percent of normal Wednesday, 73 percent in the Arkansas River basin, but 94 percent in the Upper Colorado basin, which provides supplemental water to Arkansas River users. However, snowpack in the Purgatoire River basin, which helps farmers below John Martin Dam, is far below average.

Reservoir levels are well below 2012, and at 2003 levels for Turquoise and Twin Lakes. Lake Pueblo is at 88 percent of normal, better than it was in 2003, after drought had tapped out water supplies.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Tom Hacker):

Five straight days of stormy mountain weather have pushed a once-dismal snowpack much closer to normal. High mountain snows that feed the Big Thompson and Poudre rivers were at 70 percent of normal levels April 8, but on Wednesday they had reached 86 percent of the average for the date. It’s a big jump, and at just the right time. “The good news is that this comes when we’re not watering and we’re not irrigating,” said Mage Skordahl, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Denver…

Just a week ago, municipal water providers and farmers heard gloomy predictions for the summer ahead from Northern Water, the agency that manages the water supply from the Colorado Big-Thompson Project. And board members of the agency on Friday said Northern Water would distribute just 60 percent of the annual water shares to users. That was before the snow began falling. The forecast for the northern Front Range calls for more mountain snow in the week ahead. “This is a good month, no question about it,” Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said Wednesday. “It plays hell with my golf game, but I’m willing to forgo golf if it means we’ll have more water.”[…]

…a [SNOTEL site snow] pillow that transmits data from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park on April 1 counted 10.3 inches of “snow water equivalent” — the conservation service’s most-watched measure. On Wednesday, it hit 14 inches, moving toward the 30-year median April peak of 18.6 inches. “From the point of view of the municipalities, we’re still below normal,” Skordahl said. “We depleted our reservoir storage so much last year that there’s still some concern. But if this keeps up, there’s a chance we could reach our normal peak. It’s great news that these storms have finally arrived.”

2013 Colorado legislation: HB13-144 (Authorize Graywater Use) passes state Senate Ag committee #COleg


From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins and Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Lawmakers there will consider a $110,000 appropriation to fund development of gray water standards by the state Department of Public Health and Environment.

The measure passed the House Appropriations Committee unanimously earlier this month. “It’s looking pretty positive, I think, in terms of its possibility” of passing the Senate Appropriations Committee, Fischer said. “There’s no opposition to it that I’m aware of.”

Colorado water law allows just one use of water before it goes down the drain, through a wastewater treatment plant and back into the river for others to use. Gray water systems “actually aren’t legal right now,” Fischer said. He pointed out that the University of Colorado at Boulder cannot use a gray water system it installed in a newer residence hall because of state health regulations. “The most important thing the bill does is direct the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission to promulgate minimum statewide standards for gray water systems,” he said.

The bill also lets cities and towns decide whether to approve gray water systems, he said.

More 2013 Colorado legisation coverage here.

Lower Ark board meeting recap: ‘Wells provided a one-year hedge against drought’ — Steve Witte


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Wells in the Arkansas Valley protected the agriculture economy in 2012, but reduced pumping levels this year are likely to hurt farming if weather conditions don’t improve. “Wells provided a one-year hedge against drought,” Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board Wednesday. “To quote Dale Mauch (a Lamar-area farmer quoted in The Pueblo Chieftain last summer): ‘If you’ve got a well, you’ve got a crop.’ ” This year, the situation is worse for farmers who rely on wells. Because of in-state shortfalls, pumping levels have been curtailed for most farmers. Unless farmers use their own surface rights to augment wells, pumping levels will be at only 10 to 30 percent of normal, with many farmers forced to shut off the pumps completely.

Last year, farmers pumped about 110,000 acrefeet of water (36 billion gallons), which was roughly three-fourths of the historical average prior to restrictions. The farm economy suffered much more, however, because of other factors.

During the drought of 2011-12, soil moisture plummeted, a trend that has continued since 2000. There also was less water available to surface ditches in both years.

Another problem for farmers will be increased transit loss as water from storage is released to headgates downstream. Normal loss from Pueblo Dam to the Rocky Ford area would be about 12 percent, but with river levels lower, it increases to 50 percent, Witte said.

One ray of hope offered at the meeting is a steadily increasing snowpack that is approaching nearly normal levels at a few sites in the mountains. Statewide, snowpack was about 82 percent of normal Wednesday, 73 percent in the Arkansas River basin, but 94 percent in the Upper Colorado basin, which provides supplemental water to Arkansas River users.

However, snowpack in the Purgatoire River basin, which helps farmers below John Martin Dam, is far below average.

Reservoir levels are well below 2012, and at 2003 levels for Turquoise and Twin Lakes. Lake Pueblo is at 88 percent of normal, better than it was in 2003, after drought had tapped out water supplies.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A water quality study spawned 10 years ago is focusing on finding causes for sedimentation and loading of harmful elements like selenium and uranium into the Arkansas River. “The real desire is to assist resource managers to find the source of a problem and attack it there, rather than put an ineffective plan in place,” said David Mau, head of the U.S. Geological Survey Pueblo office. He spoke at Wednesday’s meeting of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

The study began through a 2003 agreement among Aurora, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District.

The water resources group also includes Colorado Springs Utilities, the Pueblo Board of Water Works and the Lower Ark district. Aurora provided the initial funding.

The purpose of the study was to establish a water quality baseline before large projects like the Preferred Storage Options Plan, Southern Delivery System and Arkansas Valley Conduit went online. The USGS cataloged existing data on the river.

A 2009-11 study looked at two threatened reaches of the Arkansas River: from Canon City to Lake Pueblo, and from Lake Pueblo to La Junta. Loading of solids and uranium were found in both reaches, while heavy loading of selenium from Fountain Creek was prevalent downstream.

Mau said studies will continue to pinpoint sources of the pollution to help minimize the impact on water quality as projects continue.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.