From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):
Across the Upper Colorado River Basin, and across Colorado, a generous monsoon season has made August nice and wet, with the exception of northwestern Colorado and adjacent areas of Utah and Wyoming. The Four Corners region and Colorado’s Eastern Plains, both areas where the drought has been particularly persistent and extreme, have received some of the highest rainfall totals.
Little by little, this moisture is starting to put a dent in drought conditions, although there is still a lot of ground to make up from a very dry winter on the heels of a very dry 2012. Current stream flows are starting to get back up into the normal range, with the exception of the White River Basin in northwestern Colorado, which is experiencing very low flows. Cumulative stream flows for the 2013 water year, which started Oct. 1, 2012, remain significantly below average across the region. In southwestern Colorado, dry soils have soaked up a lot of the recent rain, blunting its impact on stream flows.
Vegetation remains drier than average across most of the Upper Colorado River Basin, with the most extreme conditions in southwestern Wyoming and northeastern Utah. The northern and central Colorado mountains, on the other hand, are showing normal-to-wet vegetation moisture levels.
Forecasters are anticipating that the next few weeks will bring more monsoon moisture to western Colorado and the rest of the Colorado River basin, but the 3-month forecast is totally up in the air for Colorado and the rest of the Southwest.
Although conditions have been improving, the U.S. Drought Monitor still shows over 98% of Colorado under some level of drought classification, with similar conditions in surrounding states. Long-range forecasts are only moderately optimistic about any improvement.
Meanwhile, reservoir levels, our best indicator of the long-term water supply-demand balance, continue to drop, as they normally do in August. Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest, and Lake Powell, the Upper Colorado River Basin’s largest, are both at about 45% of capacity, containing just over half their historical average August volumes.
From Government Executive (Todd Woody):
According to a new report from Ceres, the Boston-based nonprofit that promotes corporate sustainability, the price tag to modernize pipes, pumping stations and other water infrastructure in the US will reach $300 billion by 2030.
But budget-stressed municipalities, which operate most of the water systems in the US, face a conundrum. Customers’ bills are based on how much water they use. But thanks to low-flow toilets and other water-efficient appliances, as well as successful efforts to promote conservation, revenues are dropping as customers use less water. That means less money to finance much-needed improvements to the water delivery system.
From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):
Just what part of this drought and increased temperatures is natural and what part is a result of human-caused greenhouse effect, scientists cannot say with precision. Tree rings document decades-long droughts in the Colorado River Basin a millennium ago similar to the one now underway. But while climate models haven’t figured out how increased greenhouse gases will affect precipitation, they are clear about rising temperatures – which are almost certain to exact much higher tributes of water for everything from corn fields north of “Denver to residential lawns in Salt Lake City to fountains in Las Vegas. All depend on the Colorado River in some way.
Mulroy long ago accepted the science of climate change. “It’s time to stop the religious discussion about climate change,” she said.
She also called for greater federal involvement in drought planning and mitigation in advance of climate change. “We have an interesting attitude in this country,” she said. “We think we only have to pay once the destruction has occurred.”