NOAA: The National Climactic Data Center 2013 National Overview is hot off the presses

Graphic via NOAA
Graphic via NOAA

Click here to to to the website. Here’s an excerpt:

In 2013, the contiguous United States (CONUS) average temperature of 52.4°F was 0.3°F above the 20th century average, and tied with 1980 as the 37th warmest year in the 119-year period of record. The 2013 annual temperature marked the coolest year for the nation since 2009. The 2013 CONUS average temperature was 2.9°F cooler than the 2012 average temperature, which was the warmest year on record for the nation. Since 1895, when national temperature records began, the CONUS has observed a long-term temperature increase of about 0.13°F per decade. Precipitation averaged across the CONUS in 2013 was 31.17 inches, 2.03 inches above the 20th century average. This marked the 21st wettest year on record for the nation and the wettest since 2009. Compared to 2012, which was the 18th driest year on record, the CONUS was 4.50 inches wetter in 2013. Over the 119-year period of record, precipitation across the CONUS increased at an average rate of 0.17 inch per decade.

On a statewide and seasonal level, 2013 was a year of precipitation extremes, with temperature extremes being more muted than the previous year. Above-average temperatures during 2013 were observed in parts of the West, Northeast, and in Florida. No state had annual temperatures that ranked among the ten warmest. California tied its 12th warmest year with a statewide average temperature of 60.3°F, 1.4°F above average. Below-average annual temperatures were observed from the Northern Plains, through the Central Plains and Midwest, and into the Southeast. No state had annual temperatures that ranked among the ten coolest. Despite no state having a record warm or cool year, numerous locations across California and Florida had their warmest year on record, while numerous locations across the Plains and Mid-South had their coolest year on record. A map of those stations is available here. Based on NOAA’s Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during 2013 was 7 percent above average and ranked as the 49th lowest in the 1895-2013 period of record. On a local level during 2013, approximately 26,100 daily warm temperature records were tied or broken (10,100 warm daily maximum records and 16,000 warm daily minimum records); while approximately 28,800 daily cool temperature records were tied or broken (16,900 cool daily maximum records and 11,900 cool daily minimum records).

Overall, much of the CONUS was wetter than average for the year, particularly east of the Rockies. The largest precipitation departures from average were observed in the Northern Plains, the Upper Midwest, and the Southeast. In total 10 states had annual precipitation totals that ranked among the ten wettest years on record. Michigan had its wettest year on record with 40.12 inches of precipitation, 8.9 inches above average. This bested the previous record wet year of 1985 by 0.64 inch. North Dakota also had its wettest year on record with 24.54 inches of precipitation, 7.18 inches above average. This bested the previous record wet year of 2010 by 0.29 inch. In contrast, portions of the West were dry. California had its driest calendar year on record with 7.38 inches of precipitation, 15.13 inches below average. This was 2.42 inches below the previous record dry year of 1898. By the end of 2013, 27.6 percent of California was in Severe Drought. To the north, Oregon had its fourth driest year, while Idaho had its 12th driest. Numerous locations across the Southeast, Midwest, Northern Plains, and Rockies experienced their wettest year on record, while locations in California, Idaho, and Washington had their driest. A map of those stations is available here. In term of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, conditions improved across much of the southeastern and central U.S. during 2013, but deteriorated in the Far West and Northeast. At the end of 2013, about 31.0 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing drought, down from 61.1 percent at the beginning of the year.

SB14-023: Transfer Water Efficiency Savings To Instream Use

Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

Click here to read the bill in its present form.

From the Colorado Water Congress website:

Section 1 of the bill defines “water efficiency savings” as that portion of a water right used solely for agricultural irrigation or stock watering purposes in water division 4, 5, 6, or 7 that is nonconsumptive under existing practices and that results from efficiency measures, determined as the difference between:

* The lesser of the decreed diversion amount and the maximum amount that had been historically diverted using the existing facilities for a beneficial use under reasonably efficient practices to accomplish without waste the purpose for which the appropriation was lawfully made; and

* The diverted amount needed to meet the decreed beneficial use after increased efficiency in the means of diversion, conveyance, storage, application, or use.

Section 2 allows water efficiency savings to be changed or loaned, pursuant to existing water court and water loan statutes, only to the Colorado water conservation board, only for instream use, and only if:

* The application was filed within 2 years after the diversions were decreased due to efficiency measures;

* The change or loan will not materially injure decreed water rights; and

* The change or loan will not adversely affect Colorado’s interstate compact entitlements or obligations. The change decree or loan approval must identify the amount of water efficiency savings and the stream reaches within which water efficiency savings, as changed or loaned, will be used. Water efficiency savings that have been changed or loaned are not subject to abandonment. The parties who enter into a change or loan of water efficiency savings may provide conditions by which the original decreed diversion rate may be preserved for a future use by the water right owner who implements the efficiency measures if use of the efficiency measures is discontinued.

01/08/2014 Introduced In Senate – Assigned to Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Energy

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Happy 40th anniversary — Colorado Instream Flow Program

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

Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation month to date thru January 12, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center
Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation month to date thru January 12, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

South Platte Basin: Irrigators hope HB12-1278 study will help curtail pumping curtailment

HB12-1278 study area via Colorado State University
HB12-1278 study area via Colorado State University

From KUNC (Grace Hood):

Many Northern Colorado wells were shutdown, or access to them was reduced, by a 2006 Colorado Supreme Court ruling. Other owners had to follow augmentation plans, spending thousands of dollars to replace water they’ve taken out of the South Platte River.

Prompting the study was the issue of high groundwater in some locations along the river. When some farmers weren’t allowed to pump, homeowners were starting to see flooding in their basements.

Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute spent more than a year holding stakeholder meetings and researching the 209-page report [.pdf] — much of it before last year’s flooding. The report found a connection between the lack of pumping and required augmentation plans. It also said the system helped to protect senior surface water rights from injury.

The study proposes reintroducing well pumping as a way to manage the issue in specific locations like Gilcrest and Sterling. Other CWI recommendations call for more data collection abilities for the Colorado Division of Water Resources and a basin wide entity focused on more flexible management of water rights…

Longtime farmer Bob Sakata poked at the augmentation policy requiring well owners to cover past depletion of surface water. He thinks the situation was improved by the September floodwater.

“We should not have to pay past depletion,” said Sakata to applause. “That is the biggest nonsense there is in the rule.”

Republican State Senator and gubernatorial hopeful Greg Brophy enthusiastically took on the issue of erasing all past well debt along the South Platte.

“I agree with you guys,” Brophy said, announcing plans to co-sponsor a bill with Democratic Rep. Randy Fisher to wipe out those past pumping depletions as of Sept. 12, 2013.

Scientists question just how much September’s floods filled up the South Platte’s aquifers.

Colorado Water Institute Director Reagan Waskom says that floodwater replenishment may be true for wells right next to the South Platte. But that’s not the case miles away from the river.

“The groundwater data outside of the river floodplain was not affected by the flood,” Waskom said.

Meantime, Colorado legislators will need to introduce other bills to implement the recommendations of the Colorado Water Institute.

Rep. Randy Fisher says study recommendations that require funding — like proposed pilot projects in Gilcrest and Sterling — will require follow up…

In the last decade, [Nursery owner Gene Kamerzell] says state management of water rights has become more political than scientific, and farmers are suffering.

“A lot of our friends have gone out of business,” Kamerzell said. “We have friends that have large operations that have relocated to New Mexico because the water policy in this state isn’t being managed right.”

Kamerzell hopes that the scientific report and the proposed legislation will help restore a different balance. Along with most things in Colorado water policy though, he knows it can take years — not days — to measure progress.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

Rocky Ford: 10th Annual Arkansas Valley Farm/Ranch/Water Symposium and Trade Show, Feb. 6

Rocky Ford Melon Day 1893 via the Colorado Historical Society
Rocky Ford Melon Day 1893 via the Colorado Historical Society

From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat:

The 10th Annual Arkansas Valley Farm/Ranch/Water Symposium and Trade Show is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 6, at the Gobin Community Building in Rocky Ford.

The morning session will feature these presentations: Farm Service Agency Updates – Chuck Hanagan; Natural Resources Conservation Service Updates – Jason W. Peel and Lana Pearson; Heirs in Agriculture – Leaving a Lasting Legacy – Jeffrey Tranel, Colorado State University; Lessons Learned from Drought Grazing – Gracy Grissom, Rancho Largo Cattle Company; Barriers to Successful Re-Vegetation – Joseph Benjamin, USDA-Agriculture Research Service, Maysoon M. Mikha, Ph.D., USDA-Agriculture Research Service, Matt Heimerich, Crowley County Land Use Administrator; What to Expect in 2014 – Brian Bledsoe, KKTV.

The afternoon session will feature these presentations: Marketing – Back to the Basics – Wendy Lee White, Colorado Department of Agriculture; Good Agricultural Practices Update – Martha Sullins, Colorado State University; State Water Plan – James Eklund, Colorado Water Conservancy Board; Filling the Identified Augmentation Gap – Gary Barber, West Water Research, Travis Smith, San Luis Valley Irrigation District, Jeris Danielson, Purgatoire Water Conservancy District, Bill Tyner, P.E., Colo. Division of Water Resources, Jay Winner, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

The 2014 Trade Show will feature several vendors from throughout eastern Colorado.

When: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6
Where: William L. Gobin Community Building, 105 N. Main St., Rocky Ford
Cost: Registration (by Jan. 31): per person, $20; per couple, $30; per student, $5. Additional $5 after Jan.31.

For more information: CSU Extension Office-Otero County, 254-7608; website:; Facebook:

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

‘Water affects us all’ — Rachel Richards #COWaterPlan

Gore Canyon rafting via
Gore Canyon rafting via

Here’s a letter to the editor about the Colorado Water Plan written by Rachel Richards that is running in the Aspen Times:

Water affects us all

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s mention of the Colorado Water Plan in his 2014 State of the State address reinforces just how important the issue of water is for everyone in every region of Colorado. Water is critical to our common future, not just for growing cities, but to support Colorado’s traditional economies of agriculture and tourism, the natural environment and recreation opportunities.

Whether you are visiting the state, or a local out there hunting, fishing, skiing, rafting or just enjoying the scenic views, the health of our rivers and environment is what most determines the great Colorado outdoor experience. And that great experience, enjoyed by so many on or along the Colorado River and its tributaries, generates $26 billion annually for the economies of Colorado and the Southwest as well as a quarter million sustainable American jobs.

I and other members of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments look forward to working with the governor on the Colorado Water Plan. His focus on conservation and practical solutions will be critical to ensuring a balanced protection of water for our cities, farms and the rivers that sustain our Colorado way of life.

From Steamboat Today (Paul Stettner):

The number of water users is growing and the demand on this limited resource is increasing — in some situations leading to curtailment of use…

Two primary documents that guide the planning process are the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act (The Act) of 2005 and the Governor’s Executive Order D2013-005. Both documents set forth key values to be incorporated in the water plan. These are: a productive economy that supports vibrant and sustainable cities; viable and productive agriculture and a robust skiing, recreation and tourism industry; efficient and effective water infrastructure promoting smart land use; and a strong environment that includes healthy watersheds, rivers and streams and wildlife.

Overall, we, the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley, agree with these values, but are concerned that healthy watersheds, rivers and streams might be sacrificed for the other values.

In our comments to the Yampa/White River Basin Roundtable, the Community Alliance encouraged members of the roundtable to ensure that the value of a healthy river system is given high priority in the Yampa/White Basin Plan. Our full comment may be found on the website under the Yampa Basin tab.

Various sources tell us that the Yampa River is under-allocated, has surplus flows and therefore is targeted by some for more development and higher utilization. This can have many meanings, and effects — some detrimental to the health of the river system. The Community Alliance does not agree with the idea of unmitigated higher utilization and thinks that as one of the remaining free-flowing rivers, its natural hydrograph has value now and in the future and should remain as such. Approval of any proposed project should only be given after a rigorous analysis shows no negative impacts on existing water users or on the health of the river system.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.