Drought news

US Drought Monitor January 7, 2014
US Drought Monitor January 7, 2014

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor Website. Here’s an excerpt:

The Central and Northern Plains and Midwest

Bitter cold and snows swept across most of the Plains and Midwest this past week. Given the time of year, frozen soils and lack of impacts, no changes were made on the map this week as the dryness and drought remain freeze dried in place…

The West

There seems to be no relief in sight as the calendar flips over to 2014. Persistent ridging has kept precipitation at bay for many, leading to record-setting dryness for many locations in California and Oregon; this has become more of an issue of late in Washington as well. Even though California sees no changes on this week’s map, more deterioration could be coming soon given the weather pattern, or lack thereof, and concern for water supply, fire and other impacts grows each week the rains and snows don’t come. In fact, many locations in California reported the calendar year 2013 as being the driest on record [ed. emphasis mine], smashing previous record dry years (including 1976). One such example is Shasta Dam, where only 16.89 inches was reported in 2013, more than 11 inches below the previous record low of 27.99 inches in 1976. Shasta’s calendar year average is 62.72 inches. Upper elevation Sierra station snowpack and snow water equivalent (SWE) values in California have been abysmal for the Water Year (since October 1) as well. The historic low precipitation totals haven’t just been confined to the upper elevations either as dozens of locations have shattered their previous record low calendar year totals.

In the Pacific Northwest, D1 has pushed northward across western Oregon and into western Washington up to the Canadian border this week. Both snow pack and snow water equivalent SWE levels are very low as we move deeper into the wet season. In Idaho, D0 now covers the entire Panhandle and has pushed into more of extreme northwestern Montana. The D3 pockets in southern Idaho have been combined and D3 now stretches across most of the southern part of the state.

The Southwest has also been dry for the Water Year as the monsoon season is now out of the rear view mirror as we head into the second half of the wet winter season. The resultant lack of precipitation means D0-D2 has expanded slightly in southern and central Arizona as well as in northwestern Arizona, where D2 has pressed southward out of extreme southern Nevada. Southern New Mexico also sees a slight expansion of D1 this week…

Looking Ahead

During the January 9-13, 2014, time period, a strong ridge appears primed to set up camp for the next couple of weeks, bringing better prospects for well above-normal temperatures across most of the country. The only notable exception is southwestern Colorado, where temperatures are expected to be slightly below the norm. A strong storm system could bring the first considerable widespread winter event to the Pacific Northwest, particularly the western halves of Oregon and Washington as well as the Idaho Panhandle. Good moisture is also predicted for the southern Plains (eastern Kansas, eastern Oklahoma and eastern Texas), Lower Mississippi Valley, Gulf Coast and the Southeast. The Northeast may also see some good precipitation materialize over this period. The Southwest and northern Plains look to remain dry.

For the ensuing 5 days (January 14-18, 2014), the ridging pattern looks to remain entrenched bringing better odds of continued above-normal temperatures across the entire West and into the western Plains from Texas northward to North Dakota. New England is another region looking to share in the warmth. Alaska, the Great Lakes and the Gulf Coast appear to be headed for below-normal temperatures. As for precipitation, this pattern tilts the odds toward below-normal for the West and central and southern Plains while Alaska, the northern Plains, Great Lakes and the eastern Seaboard can expect a better chance of above-normal precipitation.

‘It would be a lot easier for a change of use to occur without having to go back to water court’ — Rep Randy Fischer #COleg

Scales of Justice via Property Blogs
Scales of Justice via Property Blogs
From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

Northern Colorado lawmakers are planning a raft of legislation to aid businesses, including measures related to the rural renewable-energy standard, angel-investment and job-incentive tax credits, flexibility in renting water and business personal property tax refunds.

The bills are aimed at improving the economy, including helping startups and small businesses with an investment capital injection or flood recovery…

Another bill would let irrigation ditch companies rebuild their flood-damaged infrastructure without some approvals from a water court. That would expedite repair schedules to prepare for growing season.

“If we wait until end of the summer to get some of these projects going, we can’t afford to have our agriculture industry shut down because of lack of water,” [House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso] said…

Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, plans to introduce a bill that paves the way for authorization of a variety of uses for water without water court approval. Fischer’s bill would give farmers, for example, the ability to rent water for municipal or industrial uses without water court approval. Some kinds of water rights are limited in how the resource can be used.

The bill stems from Fischer’s work in the Water Resources Review Committee. Fischer also serves as chairman of the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee.

“It would be a lot easier for a change of use to occur without having to go back to water court,” he said.

The latest monthly briefing from the Western Water Assessment is hot off the presses

Doing a snowdance
Doing a snowdance

From the website:


A major storm on a southerly track in late November led to much-above-average monthly precipitation for southeastern and west-central Utah and western and south-central Colorado.

Snowpacks are above normal across nearly all of the three-state region, with the wettest basins (>140% of median) in northern Wyoming, southern Utah, and the southern half of Colorado, and the driest basins (80–100% of median) in northern and central Utah and far southwestern Wyoming.

The NOAA CPC climate outlooks show a wet tilt for Wyoming over the next three months, with a slight dry tilt for southern Colorado and Utah for late winter (January–March). The NOAA PSD ‘SWcast’ is more pessimistic, showing a dry tilt for most of Colorado and Utah for late winter.

Arkansas River: Colorado doubles Gold Medal stream miles — Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Arkansas River near Leadville
Arkansas River near Leadville

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Randy Hampton):

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is pleased to announce the upper Arkansas River as the newest addition to the statewide list of Gold Medal Trout Waters.

The Gold Medal reach is 102 miles long from the confluence with the Lake Fork of the Arkansas River, near Leadville, downstream to Parkdale at the Highway 50 bridge crossing above the Royal Gorge.

The designation has been 20 years in the making, and although anglers have enjoyed the improved conditions for years, it is an official acknowledgement of the myriad efforts undertaken by state and federal agencies to turn an impaired river into one of the most popular fishing destinations in Colorado.

“The upper Arkansas River fishery is the best it has been in over a century thanks to the efforts and hard work of many agencies and individuals that have recognized its great potential,” said Greg Policky, CPW Aquatic Biologist. “I am very pleased that this outstanding river has received the Gold Medal designation and is now ranked among the elite trout fisheries in Colorado.”

In order to receive a Gold Medal listing, a body of water must consistently support a minimum trout standing stock of 60 pounds per acre, as well as consistently support a minimum average of 12 quality trout – trout larger than 14 inches – per acre.

In the last 20 years, the upper Arkansas River has undergone a habitat transformation. Fish populations in the area were impacted by heavy metal pollution from mining in the Leadville area. Because of the pollution, trout could not live in the area, and they did not live beyond three years old further downstream.

Today, trout are living up to ten years old due to habitat restoration, improved water quality and creative fishery management. The present-day fish population has benefited from these habitat efforts and has met the Gold Medal designation since 1999 for both the quality of trout per acre and the standing crop.

The Arkansas River ranked as the favorite fishing destination for residents of Colorado, according to a 2012 angler survey. Angler use reached a significant milestone in 2012 when an estimated 100,000 anglers fished the river throughout the year between Leadville and Parkdale. More than 65 percent of the river stretch is open to the angling public via federal and state-owned land and numerous state-controlled fishing leases and easements.

With the addition of the Arkansas River, total Gold Medal stream miles in Colorado increases by 50% to 322 total miles. It will also be the longest reach of Gold Medal water in the State.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Construction of the Hoover Dam, 1934 — @History_pics #ColoradoRiver

CWCB: Next Water Availability Task Force Meeting January 22 #COdrought

Western San Juans with McPhee Reservoir in the foreground
Western San Juans with McPhee Reservoir in the foreground

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

The next Water Availability Task Force meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 22 from 9:30-11:30am & will be held at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Headquarters, 6060 Broadway, Denver in the Bighorn Room.

The agenda has been posted at the CWCB website.