Lower Colorado Water Supply Forecasts available: http://t.co/ytOh42FsGg
— NRCS Water Supply (@ColoradoBasin) April 3, 2014
Here’s the release from the University of Colorado at Boulder:
A free, downloadable guide for individuals who want to collect baseline data on their well water quality and monitor their groundwater quantity over time was released this week by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Colorado Water and Energy Research Center (CWERC).
The “how to” guide, “Monitoring Water Quality in Areas of Oil and Natural Gas Development: A Guide for Water Well Users,” is available in PDF format at http://cwerc.colorado.edu. It seeks to provide well owners with helpful, independent, scientifically sound and politically neutral information about how energy extraction or other activities might affect their groundwater.
The guide spells out the process of establishing a baseline for groundwater conditions, including how best to monitor that baseline and develop a long-term record.
“Baseline data is important because, in its purest form, it documents groundwater quality and quantity before energy extraction begins,” said CWERC Co-founder and Director Mark Williams, who is also a fellow at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and a CU-Boulder professor of geography.
“Once a baseline has been established, groundwater chemistry can be monitored for changes over time,” Williams said. “The most accurate baselines are collected before energy extraction begins, but if drilling has already begun, well owners can still test their water to establish a belated baseline and monitor it for changes. That might not be scientifically ideal, but it’s a lot better than doing no monitoring at all.”
CWERC’s guidance builds on the state’s public health recommendations that well owners annually test water for nitrates and bacteria. The guide encourages well water users to collect more than one pre-drilling baseline sample, if possible.
CWERC recommends collecting both spring and fall samples within a single year because water chemistry can vary during wet and dry seasons. Well owners should measure the depth from the ground surface to the water in their wells in the fall, during the dry season, so that they can keep track of any changes.
“Colorado’s oil and gas regulators have established some of the most comprehensive groundwater monitoring regulations in the country, but those regulations do not require oil and gas operators to sample every water well in an oil or gas field,” Williams said. “So we wanted to develop a meaningful tool for people who want to test their water themselves or those who need information to help negotiate water testing arrangements as part of surface use agreements with drillers in their area.
“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the well owner to know their own well and understand their water. This guide will help Coloradans do just that.”
The guide specifically outlines what well water users may want to test for and provides a list of properly certified laboratories that offer water-testing services. In addition, the guide assists individuals in interpreting the scientific data, chemical references and compound levels that are outlined in the laboratory results they will receive and any industry tests or reports related to drilling in their area.
CWERC studies the connections between water and energy resources and the trade-offs that may be involved in their use. It seeks to engage the general public and policymakers, serving as a neutral broker of scientifically based information on even the most contentious “energy-water nexus” debates.
CWERC was co-founded in 2011 by Williams and Joseph Ryan, a CU-Boulder professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, with funding from the CU-Boulder Office for University Outreach.
To download a free copy of the guide, visit http://cwerc.colorado.edu. For questions about obtaining the guide or to order a printed version, visit the website or call 303-492-4561.
Having exhausted all toilet puns, #coleg House approves SB103. Unamended, 1 more vote and this thing is down the drain (to the gov's office)
— Kristen Wyatt (@APkristenwyatt) April 3, 2014
— Bart Miller (@seeBartrun) April 4, 2014
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
This U.S. Drought Monitor week saw an active weather pattern across much of the West coast and northern Rockies as a series of disturbances moved through the region delivering rain showers to the lower elevations and mountain snow showers to the higher elevations. Scattered snow showers were observed in higher elevations of the Intermountain West while the Southwest remained in a warm and dry pattern. Across portions of the South and Southeast, scattered rain showers were observed while locally heavy rain and snow showers fell across much of New England. In the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest, the pattern of below-normal temperatures and snow showers persisted. Across the Southern Plains and western portions of Texas, dry and windy conditions continued to deplete soil moisture levels. On this week’s map, slight improvements were made in northern California and northeastern Oregon, while conditions deteriorated in southern Colorado. Moving eastward, conditions in the southern Plains, western Texas, and the lower Midwest deteriorated while New England saw improvements…
As with most of the northern tier, the northern Plains experienced below-normal temperatures and areas of snowfall including blizzard-like conditions early this week in the Dakotas. According to the NWS in Bismarck, North Dakota, record daily maximum snowfall (8.1 inches) was observed in Bismarck on Monday. In the southern Plains, continued short-term precipitation deficits, declining range and pasture conditions, and areas of below-normal streamflow activity led to expansion of areas of Moderate Drought (D1) and Severe Drought (D2) in the eastern half of Kansas and central Oklahoma where areas of Severe Drought (D2) pushed eastward. Temperatures were generally near-normal to slightly above-normal in the southern portions of the Plains during the past week…
During the past week, a series of disturbances pushed on-shore from the Pacific delivering much-needed rain and snow to northern California and Oregon. In northern California, liquid precipitation accumulations ranged from two-to-six inches in the northern coastal mountains while the northern Sierras received three-to-eleven inches. In the northern half of the Central Valley, precipitation accumulations were less than one and a half inch. Despite short-term gains, the long-term deficits across the region remained substantial. According to the California Department of Water Resources, California’s snowpack has increased since the first snow survey on January 3rd, but the latest survey results show California’s snow-water equivalent is only 32 percent of the average April 1st measurement when the snowpack is generally at its peak level prior to spring melt. In light of this week’s significant precipitation accumulations in the northern Sierra, a one-category improvement from Extreme Drought (D3) to Severe Drought (D2) was made to reflect short-term gains over the areas of greatest precipitation accumulations ranging from four-to-eleven inches. In northeastern Oregon, a one-category improvement from Moderate Drought (D1) to Abnormally Dry (D0) was made to reflect near-normal snowpack conditions in the Blue and Wallowa Mountains. In the Southwest, a warm and dry pattern continued across the region leading to slight deterioration of conditions in southwestern Colorado…
The NWS HPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for moderate-to-heavy precipitation accumulations (two-to-six inches) across the lower Midwest and moderate accumulations (two-to-three) in the South and Southeast. The Upper Midwest, New England, central Rockies, and Pacific Northwest are forecasted to receive accumulations of less than two inches. The 6-10 day outlooks call for a high probability of above-normal temperatures across the West while below-normal temperatures are forecasted across the South, Midwest, and Eastern tier. A high probability of above-normal precipitation is forecasted across portions of the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, New England, northern Plains, and Pacific Northwest while the remainder of the West, southern Plains, and western portions of the South are expected to have below-normal precipitation.
From the Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):
It is time for the Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors to hold its regular quarterly meeting in Yuma. It will be held at Quintech on Thursday, April 10, beginning at 10 a.m. Public comment is scheduled for 1 p.m.
The board will receive a report from Assistant Attorney General Scott Steinbrecher on the negotiations with Kansas regarding compliance with the Republican River Compact, the Bonny Reservoir accounting issue, and the compact compliance pipeline. There also could be other matters addressed by Steinbrecher.
The pipeline has been put to use this past winter as Kansas agreed to a one-year test run in 2014. Tracy Travis, the pipeline manager, will provide a report on the pipeline.
Conservation has been a focus, particularly with a symposium sponsored by the RRWCD and local businesses held last month highlighting the need to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer, the region’s source of water. The board will discuss conservation survey results during the April 10 meeting.
Also on the agenda, HDR Engineering will give a report regarding the Colorado Water Plan. There also will be a presentation on the Great Divide.
The board will consider purchasing agency bonds, and receive reports on various recent meetings and programs.
Quintech is located at 529 N. Albany St. in Yuma. For further information, or having any questions, please call RRWCD General Manager Deb Daniel at 970-332-3552, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The RRWCD website is http://www.republicanriver.com.
Click here to register.
From email from the Colorado Water Congress:
John McClow, Colorado’s Commissioner on the Upper Colorado River Commission, will provide a brief summary of the Law of the Colorado River: the Colorado River Compact, the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact, and the Mexican Treaty of 1944. This will be followed by a description of collaborative efforts among the seven Colorado River Basin states, the Department of the Interior, and Mexico to adapt the law to changing conditions on the river.
From 1999 through 2013, the Colorado River Basin has experienced serious drought. Policy makers have responded to this drought with the development of new management strategies for the major storage reservoirs in the system (Lake Powell and Lake Mead) to prevent them from reaching critical storage levels. These strategies could affect all Colorado River stakeholders.
This is a “not-to-be-missed” presentation for all professionals interested in management of the Colorado River and the effects of long-term drought in the Colorado River Basin. Tune in for recent updates from the Upper Colorado River Commission.
Click on a thumbnail graphic for a gallery of snowpack data from April 1, 2014 from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
From KRDO.com (Bonnie Silkman):
“In 2013 at this time we were in a pretty dire situation. We were well below average for snow pack and snowfall,” said Patrice Lehermeier, spokesperson for Colorado Springs Utilities.
Fortunately, that’s not the case this year.
“The best way to describe it is cautiously optimistic,” said Lehermeier.
Optimism that this winter’s snow will mean years of water.
“If the snow that we’ve received in the mountains melt like we think it will, we can see our reservoirs and water storage at a two year supply. That’s a really good number for us,” said Lehermeier.
The majority of Colorado Springs water comes from the Upper Colorado Basin. Right now it’s 130% of average snowfall.
“Here’s the important part though- just because we’re not in mandatory restrictions doesn’t mean you should start over using water. Our goal is to sustain public safety. We know the drought is only one winter away, and who knows what could happen next summer. We also know that wildfire is a huge concern across our state and this area is a victim of some of that devastation,” said Lehermeier.
From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):
The past two years have been challenging for whitewater-rafting companies. A meager snowpack created particularly tough times in summer 2012. There were very few Class IV rapids in the entire state, Ingram said, and most of the rafting that could be offered was a Class II float trip.
Business was better last summer, thanks to an improved snowpack and stronger economy, Ingram said.
Savvy tourists nowadays check streamflows before booking a rafting trip just like they check snow conditions before blowing a wad on skiing vacations. Ingram said reservations are rolling in already because of the prospects of impressive flows.
“I’m looking at a good Slaughter House season,” he said, referring to the Class IV Slaughter House Falls downstream from Aspen. Based on current conditions, experience tells him the streamflow will allow his company to run the falls at least halfway through July if not the entire month…
The Roaring Fork River Basin ecosystem also will be a winner this year. The riparian areas and wetlands located alongside rivers and creeks will be replenished from high flows and high groundwater, said Sharon Clarke, watershed action director for the Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Basalt-based nonprofit focused on education and activism on water issues…
Snowpack levels in the Roaring Fork Valley have been higher than average since the region was hit by storms in late October. The Roaring Fork River Basin as a whole is at 126 percent of average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the agency that tracks snowpack.
In the vast geographic area covered by the Roaring Fork Basin, the snowpack ranges from a low of 115 percent of average at McClure Pass to 135 percent of average at Schofield Pass in the Crystal River headwaters and 134 percent of average at Ivanhoe, near the Fryingpan River headwaters.
East of Aspen, near the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River, the snowpack is 123 percent of average.
“It’s touching where it was in 2011, but in 2011 it kept cranking,” Clarke said. That’s the spring when the snow didn’t stop coming in April and May.
Conditions were perfect in late May and June 2011 for a long, sustained runoff that didn’t peak as abruptly as feared, given the high snowpack. The Roaring Fork River peaked at about 8,000 cubic feet per second at Glenwood Springs, according to the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center, a division of the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Roaring Fork River’s highest recorded level was 11,800 cfs at Glenwood Springs in 1995, according to the forecast center. The low was 1,870 cfs in 2012…
It’s too early in the runoff season for an accurate picture of the Roaring Fork River’s peak. That will depend on how warm it gets, for how long and when, said Eric Kuhn, director of the Colorado River District, an organization that protects western Colorado water interests. However, it appears the volume of water produced by the snowpack melting from May through July will range between 110 and 120 percent of average.
“We’re thinking it’s going to be a good year,” Kuhn said.
The big advantage of the higher volume is that water managers can build storage levels in reservoirs, he said. There should be enough water remaining after irrigation and municipal uses to store in the reservoirs. Even Lake Powell in Utah, which has been drawn down to sustained, low levels, will “bump up a little” this year, Kuhn said.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has boosted releases from Ruedi Dam to above 210 cfs to make room for anticipated runoff. It increased the discharge to a higher level than usual earlier than usual. Ruedi Reservoir is currently two-thirds full. With the higher-than-average snowpack in the upper Fryingpan River Valley, prospects are great for a long boating season at high water levels on Ruedi.
Diversions from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project from the upper Fryingpan River basin and from the Twin Lakes Canal Co. diversion system, from the upper Roaring Fork River basin, will likely benefit from the above-average snowpack. The diversion systems are limited by capacity, Kuhn said. If the snow melts at a slow and steady pace rather than during a more compact time period, they can divert water for more days.
From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):
A thin layer of dust that a windstorm deposited on the Aspen area Sunday evening may play a key role in how the snowpack melts this spring and early summer, according to Chris Landry, executive director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton.
High winds blowing the dry sands of the Southwest and the Colorado Plateau slammed into the Colorado mountains late Sunday afternoon and into the evening. There was so much dust in the air, blowing through in plumes, that the sky turned an odd orange-ish hue before sunset.
“It was a significant event,” Landry said. The nonprofit center runs the Colorado Dust-on-Snow Program, which monitors “dust events,” measures how much dust gets deposited in the snowpack and assesses how it will affect the spring runoff.
Landry was in the field Sunday visiting 11 sites in Colorado, including McClure Pass in the Crystal River Valley, where the program monitors snowpack and assesses dust. He and a colleague stayed in Steamboat Springs on Sunday night and weren’t sure initially how extensive the dust incident was because fresh snow fell overnight at the resort. It became more apparent, by the time they reached Interstate 70, that dust had coated the snowpack, and it was “dead obvious” by the time they reached the Roaring Fork Valley that it was significant, Landry said.
It affected the mountains as far east as Loveland and extended into the Grand Mesa to the west and Red Mountain Pass and the surrounding San Juans to the south. The Dust-on-Snow Program still is assessing how far north the dust spread.
“This was a huge event. It might have got most of the mountains,” Landry said.
Although it covered a widespread geographic area, it didn’t leave a layer of dust as thick as windstorms did at some locations in the Colorado mountains last spring, Landry said. His staff will collect snowpack samples in June, where all layers have merged, to assess the dust’s potential impact on runoff. The dust leaves a distinctive layer in the snow sample.
Most dust storms occur in March, April and May, so the prospects are high that more will roll through the mountains, according to Landry…
Sunday’s storm was the fourth incident to deposit dust in at least a portion of the mountains. Two earlier events left smaller amounts of dust in the Aspen-area snowpack, he said…
More information on the Colorado Dust-on-Snow Program is available at http://www.codos.org/#codos.
From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):
The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City is signaling that a warming trend next week could kick off low elevation runoff, causing the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs and downstream in Moffat County to begin to rise steeply.
The center is projecting that the Yampa will flow well above its historic norm at more than 350 cubic feet per second Thursday through Sunday. But the river’s flow could begin to stair-step more steeply to more than 700 cfs late next week. And if that comes to pass, it will because of a significant warming trend.
The Yampa at Maybell, west of Craig, also is expected to rise but with bigger peaks and valleys than further upstream in Steamboat. At Maybell, the river was flowing at more than 1,000 cfs Tuesday and could spike to nearly 1,700 cfs by Monday.
From The Greeley Tribune:
Greeley had far less precipitation than normal in March — typically a big snow month — but three months deep into the year, 2014 overall is still a wet one.
During March, Greeley received just .4 inches of snow — only 5 percent of its typical 8.3 inches for the month — and, with rain factored in, received just .75 inches of total precipitation, which is only 67 percent of its historic average of 1.12 inches, according to numbers provided by the Colorado Climate Center based in Fort Collins.
However, thanks to an abnormally wet January and February, Greeley’s total precipitation for 2014 is 3.23 inches — well above the typical 2 inches it receives through the end of March, and ranking as the fifth-wettest year on record — and it’s total of 18.9 inches of snow this year are right about normal for the city.
From the National Snow and Ice Data Center:
Arctic sea ice reached its annual maximum extent on March 21, after a brief surge in extent mid-month. Overall the 2014 Arctic maximum was the fifth lowest in the 1978 to 2014 record. Antarctic sea ice reached its annual minimum on February 23, and was the fourth highest Antarctic minimum in the satellite record. While this continues a strong pattern of greater-than-average sea ice extent in Antarctica for the past two years, Antarctic sea ice remains more variable year-to-year than the Arctic…
Arctic sea ice extent for March 2014 averaged 14.80 million square kilometers (5.70 million square miles). This is 730,000 square kilometers (282,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average extent, and 330,000 square kilometers (127,000 square miles) above the record March monthly low, which happened in 2006. Extent remains slightly below average in the Barents Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk, but is at near-average levels elsewhere. Extent hovered around two standard deviations below the long-term average through February and early March. The middle of March by contrast saw a period of fairly rapid expansion, temporarily bringing extent to within about one standard deviation of the long-term average.
From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):
The Weld County Youth Corps Association recently received grant dollars to help mitigate invasive plant species along the area’s rivers and protect the state’s water resources.
This will likely come as exciting news to water users in northeast Colorado’s South Platte River Basin, who see invasive phreatophyte plants — deep-rooted plants that obtain water from permanent ground supplies or from the water table — as a major problem.
A study conducted last year by the Colorado Water Institute showed that invasive phreatophyte plants continue to increase in the South Platte basin, resulting in large quantities of non-beneficial consumptive water use — perhaps as much as 250,000 acre feet per year, or 80 billion gallons.
According to a news release, the Weld County Youth Conservation Corps will receive $15,000 to remove invasive vegetation from riverbanks and sandbars of the South Platte River.
The project is coordinated with and sponsored by Ducks Unlimited.
The corps will also receive $7,500 to eradicate tamarisk and Russian olive along the St. Vrain River in a project for the Weld County Weed Division.
A total of five projects in 2014 — funded through a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which is a division of the Department of Natural Resources — will be conducted by Colorado Youth Conservation Association-accredited youth corps in conjunction with local project sponsors in four counties throughout the state.
For the South Platte River project, the Weld County Youth Corps Association crew will clear invasive vegetation from three protected properties located along the South Platte River in Weld and Morgan counties. This work will improve the river channel habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife and reduce consumptive water use.
The project will start at Weld County Road 1 and extend about three linear miles toward the confluence with the South Platte River.
The Weld County Youth Corps Association proposal was one of eight representing $105,000 in requests for 14 weeks of work to mitigate these plants throughout the state.
The Weld County Youth Corps Association — serving youth and young adults ages 14-24 — engages its corps members in community and conservation service projects throughout Weld County.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):
A crowd of more than 100 people echoed a mantra in unison that multiple Colorado Springs officials stressed at a flood preparedness meeting on Tuesday night.
“Up, not out,” the said loudly after being prompted by police Lt. Dave Edmondson…
City officials, including Emergency Manager Brett Waters and others talked about the 2013 floods that struck the city and El Paso County in July, August and September. Waters said his colleagues and the residents need to “take flood risk very seriously,” noting that flash floods coming out of the Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar are going to be an issue “for at least the next 10 years.”
Tim Mitros, the city’s development review and stormwater manager, showed slide after slide of the dangers that lie in the Camp Creek drainage in the hills to the west of Colorado Springs. The pictures illustrated barren, burnout out slopes that have already, and could, send tons of dirt rocks and other debris into the channel along Garden of the Gods Park. and into the Pleasant Valley neighborhood.
“We’ve got to keep the sediment up in the burn area,” Mitros said.
Mitros said city crews will begin building a large sediment detention pond on the east end of Garden of the Gods Park in the next month. At that time, workers will also begin doing repairs to the channel in the middle of 31st Street near Pleasant Valley. They will be adding a “protective layer of concrete” to badly damaged parts of the creek between West Fontanero Street and Echo Lane.
The work is the beginning stages of a $37 million project to rebuild the channel from Garden of the Gods Park to Colorado Avenue, Mitros said. The city already allotted $8.8 million to do work in Camp and Douglas creeks. MIiros said the final designs for the entire project will be unveiled at another Camp Creek watershed public meeting from 5 to 7:30 p.m. April 29 at Coronado High School.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jennifer Stark also talked about the dangers of debris in the Camp Creek and Douglas Creek areas. She said storms in September that ravaged the Front Range from El Paso County north to the Wyoming border left tons and tons of debris sitting just above the city.
“The next big rain event could bring that stuff down,” she said.
More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The images of a glowing sky that filled the air with choking smoke won’t soon fade, but the damage to forested hillsides charred by the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 will be more troublesome for years. Colorado Springs had a taste of things to come during last September’s torrential rains, but it will take millions of dollars and at least a decade to recover the damaged landscape.
“We built basins to collect sediment over a 10-year period, but they filled up during the flooding last September,” said Tim Mitros, Colorado Springs stormwater manager, during a media tour of projects Wednesday.
So now the city is building a series of ponds that will trap floodwater, along with making other drainage improvements on North Douglas Creek, South Douglas Creek, Queens Canyon, Cheyenne Creek and Camp Creek on the west side of Colorado Springs. Altogether the projects will cost $8.8 million in additional stormwater funding from federal, state and city sources.
The catch basins worked, but filled too quickly, Mitros explained during a tour of one on North Douglas Creek on the Flying W Ranch. The idea behind them was to allow new vegetation to sprout as they filled, but the storms left a bed of gravel that would just sheet off water in the next storm.
Jason Moore, director of land management for the Flying W, explained how downed trees are criss-crossed along the creek bed to slow down minor flows.
“They’re in a W shape, so we call them Flying W’s,” Moore joked.
The ponds are being constructed with the cooperation of landowners, but must be cleaned by city crews after each storm dumps its load of sediment. Mitros said the city is fortunate because it is working with only two large landowners, the Navigators and Flying W, and both have been cooperative.
“Without the ponds, the sediment will continue to fill the concrete channel below and put them in danger of being overtopped,” Mitros said.
That will continue to be a big job. Colorado Springs still is hauling 6,000 cubic yards of sediment — 600 truckloads — that washed into Garden of the Gods Park after last summer’s storms. There would be some benefit to Pueblo, because anything done high up in the watershed helps to slow down the water reaching Fountain Creek, Mitros said. Primarily, however, the projects are being undertaken to protect the homes and businesses in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood that was decimated when the Waldo Canyon Fire burned 347 homes. Those homes are being rebuilt, but now face a different threat. They lie below valleys that are normally dry, but which become running rivers when it rains. Because the fire burned off much of the vegetation, any flood becomes about 10 times as powerful, said Leon Kot, restoration coordinator for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Besides the new threat of runoff, Colorado Springs also is dealing with miles of concrete storm ditches, some more than 50 years old, that have fallen into disrepair. About 1,000 feet of 8-foot diameter pipeline buried near Eighth Street and Cheyenne Boulevard was overwhelmed by the September flooding and is being replaced in a $750,000 project.
More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here.
Click on a thumbnail graphic for a trip down the snowpack memory lane for the past three years. The 2012 map followed a warm and dry March when the below average snowpack melted out early. The 2013 map preceded the monster April and early May that helped end the drought over northern and central Colorado. The current snowpack bodes well for runoff this season.