Drought news: Some improvement over Colorado #COdrought


Click on the thumbnail graphic for the current US Drought Monitor map. Click here to go the website.

From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

While Salida’s year-to-date precipitation remains below average, the monsoon season “looks promising” as the forecast calls for rain throughout the week, Steve Hodanish with the National Weather Service in Pueblo said Monday. To date Salida has received 6.76 inches of precipitation, 1.08 inches less than the January-August average of 7.84 inches.

The monsoon season “has been pretty good for everyone,” Hodanish said. Most areas have received some rain.

With the monsoonal rains, Salida’s July precipitation of 2.2 inches exceeded the month’s average by 0.4 inch. The monsoon season usually starts in Salida near the beginning of July.

Precipitation from the monsoon season has kept the Arkansas River closer to average levels, which helps agricultural, municipal and recreational users, Terry Scanga, Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District manager, said. As a whole, he said the season “has been very positive.”

The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project came in higher than anticipated this year, Scanga said. Anyone in the district who requested water from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project this year got it, he said. That was possible mostly because of spring snows that happened this year, but the monsoonal rains helped to sustain the water.

The monsoon season, caused by a high-pressure pattern that moves moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into the area, usually runs to the start or middle of September, Hodanish said. Climate predictions show average precipitation through mid-September, “which is good,” he said.

In September the monsoon season will end as a Pacific cold front brings dry air down, pushing out the monsoon pattern, Hodanish said.

From The Washington Post (Darryl Fears):

It is all but certain that human activity has caused a steady increase in global temperatures over the past 60 years, leading to warmer oceans and an acceleration in sea-level rise, according to findings in the most recent climate change report by an international panel of scientists.

In a draft summary of the fifth climate assessment since its creation in 1988, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that continued greenhouse gas emissions “would cause further warming” and induce changes that could “occur in all regions of the globe . . . and include changes in land and ocean, in the water cycle, in the cryosphere, in sea level . . . and in ocean acidification.”

Six years ago, in its last report, the IPCC concluded that there was a 90 percent certainty that human activity was responsible for most of Earth’s warming. The 2013 draft summary increased that certainty to 95 percent.

“Human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global surface temperature from 1951-2010,” the report said. “There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level, and changed some climate extremes, in the second half of the 20th century.”

Lochbuie: Voters will get a chance to recall their town trustees over water rate increases


From The Denver Post (Adrian D. Garcia):

Lochbuie Mayor Pro Tem Leon Sanders and town trustee Candy Veldhuizen could lose their seats six months before their terms expire because their votes in increase city water rates last year outraged some residents of the southern Weld County town.

Sanders and Veldhuizen both voted to double Lochbuie’s base water rate to $40.07 from $20.01, the first rate hike in 12 years. In response, three community members formed a committee and circulated recall petitions that were certified in June.

The recall election is being held in coordination with Adams and Weld counties general elections, according to Lochbuie Town Clerk Monica Mendoza.

More 2013 Colorado November election coverage http://coyotegulch.blog/category/colorado-water/2012-colorado-november-election/”>here.

Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference recap: Gov. Hickenlooper talks about the state water plan


From Steamboat Today (Michael Schrantz):

As Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed the attendees, some had doubts about the state’s role in water plans, but Hickenlooper stressed there were ways to reach solutions to Colorado’s water worries. If you get parties to broaden their definitions of what’s in their own self-interest, Hickenlooper said, it’s easier to get to an alignment of self-interest. Using anecdotes from his time spent as mayor of Denver and experience with federal agencies as governor, Hickenlooper sought to persuade the crowd that his goals were attainable.

“The truth is Colorado is facing a water crisis,” he said. The West is growing, he said, and Colorado is among the states with the highest population growth rates, of which the top five are Western states.

“We know it’s essential not only to quality of life but our economy,” Hickenlooper said. “You know what it means because you all live it. You can feel it.”[…]

“It’s not a top-down, imposed policy,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s not going to be one size fits all.” Instead, each basin will develop a plan that takes into account its resources and needs, he said, and the strategies will be compiled to form the Colorado water plan.

Hickenlooper said that in his position as the chairman of the Western Governors’ Association, he’s trying to forge a regional plan.

He said he’s under no illusion this will be easy but wants to do whatever he can to make sure the people who were in the audience are empowered to make a plan “that the entire state can invest itself in for decades to come.”

More Statewide Water Plan coverage here.

2013 Colorado legislation: HB13-1248 (Irrigation Water Leasing Municipal Pilot Projects) implementation


Chris Woodka is at the Colorado Water Congress’ annual summer shindig up in Steamboat Springs. Yesterday the interim water resources review committee met and implementing last session’s HB13-1248 was part of the discussion. Here’s Mr. Woodka’s report:

Lawmakers are hoping a bill that would expand opportunities for demonstrating projects that share water between farms and cities is implemented as quickly as possible. The interim water resources review committee Wednesday heard from the prime backers of SB-1248, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and the Super Ditch, on the need for it.

“I think this is about having a conversation about keeping agriculture vital in the Arkansas River basin,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark District.

“Agricultural-municipal transfers have to become the preferred alternative, rather than continued buy-and-dry,” added Peter Nichols, attorney for both the Lower Ark and Super Ditch.

At the heart of the bill is an attempt to streamline state procedures in order to allow transfers to occur on a short-term, limited basis, said Kevin Rein, deputy director for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. Winner said the current structure of law and engineering hung up a pilot project to transfer 250 acre-feet (81 million gallons) last year over the timing of delivery of 23 gallons in the 74th month of return flows. The new law gave the Colorado Water Conservation Board authority to look at programs that could sidestep those types of issues in order to allow water users to work out details of such plans. Rein said the CWCB should develop criteria and guidelines by November.

Legislators want the program to be implemented soon and smoothly. “My concern is that CWCB is on board to implement it in as timely fashion as possible and that we’re not going back to rehashing arguments made against HB1248 when we were passing it,” said Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, chairman of the House ag committee.

The arguments included that it bypassed water court proceedings meant to prevent injury to other water users. The bill also has been criticized because it disallows transfers only from the Colorado River and Rio Grande basins, while ignoring more exports from the Arkansas River basin.

“I want to make sure there is the opportunity for public input, comments and concerns,” Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, said. “There needs to be the opportunity for the public to weigh in.”

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

The U.S. Forest Service is evaluating its policies as it deals with the damage from two years of large wildfires in Colorado and other Western states. “The unfortunate side effect of fires is flood and mud,” Dan Jiron, regional forester for the Forest Service told the interim water resources review committee of the state Legislature Wednesday. He cited recent damage in Manitou Springs from last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire as an example.

In Colorado, 60 percent of the water that affects the population comes off Forest Service lands. “We still have a very active fire season,” Jiron said. “Even though there were large fires earlier, we continue to fight fires every day. The Forest Service is looking at partnerships, as well as redirecting resources, to mitigate large fires and prevent future blazes, he said.

About $500,000 already has gone into rehabilitation of the West Fork Complex near Creede, which has been difficult because much of the fire was in steep canyons in an inaccessible wilderness area. That’s part of $35 million in resources the Forest Service has put into firefighting and remedial work in Colorado.

Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, questioned whether the Forest Service would look at changing policies in wilderness areas to allow more proactive thinning. “We were west of the West Fork Complex and it looked like an atomic bomb cloud,” she said.

“It would not have been safe to put firefighters on the ground at West Fork,” Jiron said. While firefighters are sometimes deployed in wilderness areas, the steep slopes in the West Fork Complex were more of a factor than wilderness declaration. “A lot of Forest Service land is not in wilderness,” he said.

Partnerships with timber companies, utilities, counties and water districts are providing more proactive protection in areas prone to fires, Jiron added. “It’s important how we pull together at a regional level to put resources in place, to be proactive and to protect communities,” committee chairwoman Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, said. “We are at a very important juncture. This is critical.”

More HB13-1248 coverage here.