Drought news: The June Drought Update is hot off the presses from the CWCB #COdrought

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Here’s the update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Taryn Finnessey):

Following a near average May, with regard to temperature and precipitation (93%), June has brought increased temperatures and below average precipitation for much of the state. While storms have brought some moisture relief to the southeastern plains which have been faced with exceptional drought conditions for two years, soils are so dry in this region that some fields have become hydrophobic. Rolling dust storms have been reported on multiple occasions and many more storms will be needed to alleviate dry conditions. Areas of the state that saw beneficial springtime moisture have now begun to dry out; and the southwest has seen recent changes in their drought classification from “severe” to “extreme.” Fires have broken out statewide and many communities have implemented fire bans.

  • As of the June 18, 2013 US Drought Monitor, 100% of Colorado continues to experience some level of drought classification. Conditions across the state have either remained constant or declined since May. D1 (moderate) conditions cover 25% of the State; while D2 (severe) covers 40% and D3 (extreme) accounts for an additional 18%. 18% of the state is now experiencing exceptional drought (D4).
  • Fires have broken out across many parts of the state and the fire situation rating for the Rocky Mountain Area has increased to Preparedness Level 4. This rating indicates highly complex large fire activity is occurring, with multiple large fires in the zone. Fire severity is extreme as reported in multiple areas, and fires are escaping initial attack, as evident by the number of large fires. Multiple regional dispatch centers are experiencing an incident requiring type-1 or type-2 teams, and a majority of zone resources are committed.
  • Thus far in June the Yampa/White, South Platte and Gunnison River Basins have received 0% of their average June precipitation. The Rio Grande has receive 13% of average while the southwestern basins have gotten 14% of their average monthly rainfall. All of these basins, with the exception of the South Platte, were also below average for May.
  • As of the first of June,statewide reservoir storage is at 78% of average. The highest storage levels are in the Yampa/ White River Basin, at 111% of average, while the lowest storage in the state is the Rio Grande basin at 40% of average. All other basins range from 50% to 92% of average. Last year at this time the state was at 98% of average reservoir storage.
  • Despite runoff that has filled some reservoirs, most municipalities and water providers have maintained watering restrictions implemented earlier this spring. The CWCB drought response portal http://www.COH2O.co continues to help individuals determine the restrictions in their specific community. Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District continues to hold the C-BT quota at 60%.
  • Streamflow forecasts indicate below average streamflow across much ofthe state, although improvements have been made in the forecasts since May. The Colorado and South Platte have the highest streamflow forecasts ranging from 62-111% of normal. The lowest forecasts in the state are in the Upper Rio Grande, with flows ranging 14% to 52% of normal. The Southwestern, Arkansas and Gunnison also have low forecasts ranging from 26-71% of normal.
  • Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) values represent near normal surface water conditionsin parts of the Colorado and South Platte, but remain negative elsewhere in the state.Below average reservoir storage and low streamflow forecasts contribute to these values and data reflect conditions on June 1, 2013.
  • More coverage from the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    June is living up to its history as one of the driest months in the Colorado high country, with very little precipitation in the state’s key river basins.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

    Two members of the Colorado Springs City Council are concerned that the city’s watering restrictions are too hard on residents with big yards.

    Some homeowners have to choose between letting a lawn die and paying a premium to water it, council member Joel Miller said.

    The drought, coupled with the watering restrictions and the higher price tag on water usage over 2,000 cubic feet per month, is forcing some people to decide what is more important – saving the grass or saving money, he said last week in his role as Colorado Springs Utilities board member.

    “People are saying, ‘I have to choose – is it going to cost me $5,000 to put in a new lawn,'” Miller said. “People are doing the math. I wish we didn’t have to do that. There are lawns that are dying.”

    It’s the 2,000-cubic-foot threshold triggering higher water rates that troubles Miller and council member Don Knight.

    If water restrictions are needed next summer, there should be some consideration for residents who have yards larger than 3,000 square feet, which was the figure used to calculate typical usage, Knight said. Even if homeowners with yards larger than 3,000 square feet follow the two-day-a-week watering restrictions, they find themselves going over 2,000 cubic feet of water per month, he said.

    Denver Water has relaxed watering restrictions. Here’s the release (Stacy Chesney):

    Denver Water’s supply situation has greatly improved since Stage 2 drought restrictions were put in place April 1, thanks to an unexpectedly wet spring and citizens’ reduced water use. As a result, at its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted a resolution declaring a Stage 1 drought — which removes the two-day-per-week assigned watering schedule — effective immediately. Customers may water no more than three days per week and must follow Denver Water’s annual watering rules.

    “Our customers have responded very well to the call to use even less water, and we can finally be confident that enough water from the late-season snows has reached our reservoirs to bring them to reasonable levels,” said Greg Austin, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners. “While the drought is not over, conditions have improved enough that customers may water a third day, if their lawns need it. We all still need to do our part to protect against the possibility of another dry winter, and we ask everyone to continue to use even less.”

    On March 27, 2013, the board declared a Stage 2 drought, based on 60 percent snowpack, extremely dry conditions and lower-than-normal reservoirs. Late-season weather improved conditions significantly, and the snowpack in both of Denver Water’s watersheds ended up above 90 percent of the average peak. More important, much of the snow made its way into Denver Water’s reservoirs, which are currently 92 percent full on average. Runoff is ending, and Denver Water doesn’t expect reservoirs to fill much more. The utility’s reservoirs were about 91 percent full this time last year.

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Denver water commissioners on Wednesday decided to let customers water their lawns and gardens three days a week, instead of two. Denver Water’s mountain reservoirs are 92 percent full, and since restrictions took effect April 1, the utility’s 1.3 million customers have used 3.4 billion gallons less than average, spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said.

    The conservation has reduced Denver Water revenues by $12 million, Chesney said. That sum could climb to $30 million by year end, so Denver Water has trimmed its budget by $22 million, she said. “There’s a delicate balance between protecting water supplies and investing in the maintenance and repair our system needs, especially in times of drought,” she said.

    Thornton, too, lifted its two-day-a-week restriction as reservoirs reached 80 percent full.

    However, because Aurora Water’s reservoirs are still only 67 percent full, the utility is sticking with its two-day-a-week lawn rule, even though residents have used 4,000 acre-feet less water — 1.3 billion gallons — this year spokesman Greg Baker said.”We’re not as fortunate as Denver. They were lucky to get the snow where they needed it.”

    Colorado Springs officials continue to charge extra for water. As a result, lawns once green are turning brown…

    In Denver, residents cut overall average daily usage to 85 gallons, down from 104 gallons in 2001, utility data show.

    Yet south suburban Parker residents still use 123 gallons a day. Beyond metro Denver, water use remained elevated in Scottsdale, Ariz. (219), Salt Lake City (117), Phoenix (110), San Diego (136) and Los Angeles (123). Only in one major city, Albuquerque, did people use less than in Denver — 70 gallons a day.

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