Drought news: Comments being accepted for state drought plan revision #COdrought

usdroughtmonitorcolorado07302013.jpg

usdroughtmonitor07302013.jpg

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Colorado was just the third state in the country to come up with a statewide drought plan. Former Gov. Richard Lamm requested it to be written, in response to dry years in the late 1970s. The state kept the plan, even though the next two decades were wetter than average.

The last decade, however, has been a much different story. Eight of the last 11 years have been drier than usual, including 2002, which ranked as the driest year in Colorado’s recorded history. The Colorado Water Conservation Board updates its drought plan every three years, and the latest revision is due this fall. The board is soliciting public comment on the 700-plus-page document.

The plan specifies what state agencies and local governments should do to prepare for a drought, respond to one when it starts and monitor its effects.

As of this month, 100 percent of Colorado still is suffering from some level of drought, which has blanketed the state since the summer of 2012. It’s mildest in the Front Range foothills and worst on the southeastern plains, which are in the throes of an “exceptional drought” – the worst category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Although it’s common for parts of Colorado to be in a drought, it’s rare for it to affect the whole state, according to the drought plan.

The Drought Mitigation and Response Plan is available for review on the Water Conservation Board’s website, cwcb.state.co.us.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Melinda Mawdsley):

The rainfall total for July was one for the record books. According to the National Weather Service, Grand Junction received 1.37 inches of rain in July, making it the 12th-wettest July on record dating back to 1893. The 30-year average for July is just 0.61 inches.

The National Weather Service is located near Grand Junction Regional Airport, and meteorologist Joe Ramey said rainfall totals were “very variable across the valley and western Colorado.”

Despite the above-average rainfall in July, Darren Starr, manager of streets, storm water and solid waste for Grand Junction, said his department is on schedule with its summer projects, particularly its chip seal program. “In years past, we always allot for rain-out days, but we haven’t used one this year,” he said. The city dealt with flooding in July but certain areas often flood after heavy storms, he said.

As wet as July was, however, Grand Junction is behind its average for yearly rainfall through the first seven months. The 30-year rainfall average through July is 4.87 inches. After a below-average February and March and a “very dry” June, the city has received 4.79 inches of rain this year, Ramey said.

“Even though we have had a wet July, we had a very dry spring and early summer,” he added. “We are officially still in a drought. Yes, our vegetation is doing well in the short-term, but . . . go look at the reservoirs. We do not have stored water.”

Joe Burtard, spokesman for the Ute Water Conservancy District, echoed Ramey. Ute Water relies heavily on snowmelt to build its water supply, so July rainfall, although helpful to keep moisture in the air and lower temperatures, didn’t significantly alter that supply. Burtard said Ute Water customers used 368 million gallons of water in July when 1.37 inches of rain fell compared to 360 million gallons in June when 0.01 inches fell. Those numbers were from Ute Water’s treatment plant and excluded Wednesday, Burtard said.

A bump in moisture is typical in July thanks to what’s commonly called the monsoon season. The monsoon is essentially a seasonal shift in wind direction, Ramey said. From September through early summer, the winds typically blow west to east. However, during the monsoon, winds often blow south to north, bringing in moisture from the sub-tropical regions. When the winds shift back in September, Grand Junction benefits from storm systems generated in the Pacific, as well as those in sub-tropical regions, resulting in the wettest months of our calendar year. “July is a fairly wet month on average, but August, September and October are wetter yet on average,” Ramey said.

As August begins today, rain’s in the forecast. August’s average rainfall in Grand Junction is 0.94 inches. September is traditionally the wettest month with an average rainfall of 1.71 inches.

As an aside, the wettest July on record in Grand Junction was in 1929 with 2.72 inches of rain.

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