Climate: U.S. cooler than average in November

Summit County Citizens Voice

Drought footprint keeps shrinking

Staff Report

FRISCO — The average temperature across the U.S. was slightly below average in November, mainly driven by cool readings in the eastern half of the country, according to the monthly climate update from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

A large swath of states extending from Texas up to the Northeast reported below average temperatures for the month. Warmer than average temperatures were reported across the desert Southwest and in Florida.

The average temperature of 41.6 degrees was just 0.3 degrees below the 20th century average, ranking near the median value in the 119-year period of record.

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John Wesley Powell at his desk—same desk used by the USGS Director today

Cortez: Some sewer rates skyrocket

Cortez early 1900s via Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
Cortez early 1900s via Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

From the Cortez Journal (Tobie Baker):

Cortez City Manager Shane Hale said municipal leaders have been meeting with CSD officials to fully understand the impacts new rates would have on city facilities.

“Preliminarily, it looks as though the majority of city buildings will be assessed with exorbitant increases, ranging from four to eight times what the city currently pays for this service,” Hale said.

The most dramatic increases will be felt at the recreation center, where the sewer rates would increase from an average of $93 per month to $762 per month. City Hall, Cortez Police Department, municipal pool and city service center are all projected to see rates increase four-fold.

“From our standpoint, these increases are excessive,” Hale said.

Current sewer rates for the city and other businesses are based on actual metered water usage. City Hall currently uses 3,000 to 4,000 gallons per month of water, approximately half what a single family home is presumed to use.

“The bill for City Hall will go from $29 a month to a proposed $116 per month, or four times what a single family home pays,” Hale said.

Taxpayers would be responsible for picking up the city sewer tab, with total annual municipal sewer collections increasing from $27,600 in 2013 to $52,500 in 2014, according to CSD budget forecasts.

CSD’s new proposed sewer fees would be billed starting Jan. 1. Commercial and municipal rates would be determined based on six different classifications, with a majority of the new rates based on square footage. Hotel charges, however, are linked to the number of units, the hospital is related to the number of beds, and schools and day cares are subject to student capacity. And new rates for the Cortez Journal will be determined based on the number of employees.

CSD officials have indicated that each business type is awarded a Single Family Equivalency (SFE) ratio based on American Water Works Association guidelines. The SFE ratio is then multiplied by the square footage, number of employees or number of beds, for example, which is then multiplied by $30 to determine the business’s monthly sewer rate.

According to CSD budget figures, annual sewer collections from area schools are also expected to nearly double starting next year. CSD officials project the school district’s annual rates will increase from $19,200 in 2013 to $37,920 in 2014…

New residential sewer rates, including single-family residences, duplexes, apartments and mobile homes, contain a flat $30 monthly sewer fee without regard to the number of occupants.

Under the new rate structure, a 10,000-square-foot warehouse would pay $12 per month for sewer; a 1,000-square-foot beauty salon, $51 per month; a 200-seat movie theater, $18 per month; a 5,000-square-foot nursing home, $216 per month; a five-bay self-serve car wash and a 25-space RV park with full hookups, $300 per month; a 5,000-square-foot restaurant or bar, $364.50 per month; a 50-unit hotel with restaurant, $1,035 per month; a 50-unit hotel without a restaurant, $720 per month; and a 1,000-square-foot laundry mat, $357 per month.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Arkansas Basin Roundtable recap: Identifying critical watersheds should be part of the #COWaterPlan

Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey
Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Fires and floods have emphasized the need to protect watersheds in Colorado and should be incorporated into state water planning. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable, which is drafting its piece of the state water plan, discussed how to evaluate which watersheds are most critical and how to prevent damage from drought, insects and fire at its meeting Wednesday.

“The question we’re trying to answer is how do you expedite permitting and how do you come up with a common technical platform,” said Gary Barber, chairman of the roundtable.

Forest fires in the last two years have damaged critical watersheds in the Colorado Springs, Canon City and Walsenburg areas. Grassland fires have created other problems in the Lower Arkansas Valley as well. Fires increase the severity of flooding and increase levels of contaminants in the water.

Some watersheds may deserve higher priority because cities and farms rely on them for water supply, he said. Barber suggested the roundtable use the same sort of method it employed for recreation and environmental uses by breaking the watershed into small units and analyzing each. By having priorities in place, it will be easier to “invite” federal and state agencies to participate in programs to improve watershed health, Barber said. Using watershed models also would help in protecting from threats that arise in other basins, such as fires that top a ridge or spruce beetles that are blown by winds from one area to another.

“All of these ecological processes don’t care about which basin they’re in,” said SeEtta Moss, of the Arkansas Valley Audubon Society.

Manual collection of snowpack data
Manual collection of snowpack data

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

State water interests are chipping in to keep federal snow surveys in operation, but say the measurements should remain a federal responsibility. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday agreed to ask the state to fund this year’s snow course measurements by the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the Arkansas River watershed, about $8,500. Funds come through the portion of the Water Supply Reserve Account dedicated to the Arkansas River basin. Other roundtables and water agencies such as Denver Water are providing similar funding, about $80,000 statewide.

The snow course measurements have been made since the 1930s in some places and pre-date more technological methods such as Snotel. They rely on physical measurement of snow depth to provide ground truth to automated methods. Because they are labor-intensive, the federal government has indicated they would be phased out.

“Basically, they hike in and measure the snow,” said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. “I think these snow courses are important to our basin.”

Other roundtable members supported funding the snow course readings this year, but said they should remain a federal responsibility. They agreed to back efforts to restore funding to the program.

“This is a statewide problem caused by Congress,” said Reed Dils, of Buena Vista and a former member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “The value of Snotel readings far exceeds the cost…These long-term programs where the federal government is a partner are important.”

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and U.S. Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., last month wrote a letter to the Agriculture Department urging continuation of snow measurement programs. Such programs help water suppliers plan for spring runoff.

More IBCC — Basin Roundtables coverage here and here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

Upper Colorado River Basin November 2013 precipitation as a percent of normal via the Colorado Climate Center
Upper Colorado River Basin November 2013 precipitation as a percent of normal via the Colorado Climate Center

Click here to read the December 10 assessment from NIDIS via the Colorado Climate Center website.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Water demands grow on both sides of the Continental Divide — Aspen Journalism #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

Here’s a recap of the December 4 IBCC meeting in Golden, from Aspen Journalism (Allen Best). Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Many of the members of Colorado’s Interbasin Compact Committee, or IBCC, risked icy roads and snowy weather to get to their state-level water meeting in Golden on December 4. And when they got there – to talk about water for the state’s growing population – they didn’t find the going any easier…

The IBCC includes representatives from the state’s nine river basin roundtables. And as it convened, it did so knowing the Colorado River Basin Roundtable had just drawn a line on the Continental Divide in a position paper, telling the IBCC that “new transmountain diversions projects, if any, should be the very last ‘tool’ out of the box.’”

“Everybody knows the new supply will come from the Colorado River basin, except those of us in the Colorado River basin,” Stan Cazier of Grand County, who represents the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, told the other members of the IBCC.

Today, nearly three-quarters of the water in the upper Colorado River is sent east before the river reaches the Grand County seat in Hot Sulphur Springs. In all, 450,000 acre-feet to 600,000 acre-feet of water is moved each year from the Western Slope to cities along the Front Range and farms on the eastern plains.

But faced with a growing population, representatives of water interests on the Front Range want to plan for additional diversions, or “new supply,” from the Western Slope. Still in doubt is whether that water is available…

Taylor Hawes, Colorado River Program director for The Nature Conservancy…wants conservation and efficiency fully explored before additional water projects are considered.

“It’s premature to talk about a big project on the Western Slope, because we don’t know what problem we’re solving,” said Hawes, who is one of the governor’s appointees on the IBCC to represent environmental viewpoints. “Depending upon the problem, the solution may look different.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here and here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here