New preliminary animation computer model of Oso landslide illustrates 60 sec.of devastation

The latest ENSO update is hot off the presses

midmarchplumeofensopredictionsviacpc

Click here to read the latest ENSO discussion from the Climate Prediction Center. Here’s an excerpt:

ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch

Synopsis: While ENSO-neutral is favored for Northern Hemisphere spring, the chances of El Niño increase during the remainder of the year, exceeding 50% by summer.

Drought news

Click on a thumbnail graphic for a gallery of images from the US Drought Monitor website.

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

The Plains

As was observed in the Midwest, the plains states are experiencing a delayed spring with cooler than normal temperatures. This week was not any different, with departures from normal temperatures of 4-6 degrees Fahrenheit quite common. Precipitation was scarce in the region, with a few areas of eastern Kansas, northeast and central Nebraska, and western South Dakota recording amounts that were generally less than 1 inch total for the week. Even with the delayed spring, the departures from normal precipitation for the year are starting to reach 4 inches below normal from southern South Dakota into eastern Nebraska as well as eastern and central Kansas. Drought conditions were expanded in southeast Nebraska so that D1 now includes the entire region. In South Dakota, D0 was expanded into the southern portions of the state and including all of north central Nebraska as well. As the northern plains begin to thaw, there is ample moisture in the snowpack, which will help diminish any concerns for dryness, allowing for the D0 in North Dakota to be removed this week as well…

The West

Most of the western United States was dry this week, with the heaviest precipitation recorded in areas west of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon. The warmer than normal conditions also continue for much of the region; this has been the trend for 2014 up to this point. In response to continued dryness and also approaching the end of the typical rainy season and snow accumulation seasons, some drought areas were expanded this week. In northern Arizona and southern Utah, D1 was pushed to the north while D1 was also pushed to the east in eastern Utah. In the Four Corners region, D2 was expanded into southwest Colorado and southeast Utah. In New Mexico, D2 was pushed to the east in the western portion of the state while D2 was expanded in the north central areas of the state. In response to the snowpack conditions, which are well above normal, the D0 and D1 conditions were improved upon in the eastern regions of northern Utah…

Looking Ahead

Over the next 5-7 days, an active weather pattern will take shape over portions of the plains, Midwest, and southeastern United States. Precipitation chances and amounts are greatest over the Midwest, the Ohio River Valley, and portions of the Gulf Coast. Areas of thunderstorms may produce 2-3 inches of rain locally. Precipitation chances are also high over the central to northern Rocky Mountains. Temperatures during this time should be above normal over the western United States, where high temperatures will be up to 12 degrees above normal in the Great Basin and northern California. Normal to slightly below normal high temperatures are expected in the plains and northern plains, respectively, while high temperatures will be above normal over the eastern United States.

The 6-10 day outlook continues with the cooler than normal temperature pattern over the eastern half of the United States, with the best chances for below-normal temperatures in the Great Lakes region. The chances for above-normal temperatures will also continue west of the Great Divide and also for southern Florida. The eastern seaboard and the Pacific Northwest are the two areas with the best chances of above-normal precipitation during this time. The Midwest and southwestern United States have the best chances of recording below-normal precipitation during this period.

American Rivers names the Upper #ColoradoRiver the #2 most endangered for 2014 #COWaterPlan

Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey
Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

From American Rivers:

Threat: Water diversions
At Risk: River health and recreation

The Upper Colorado River and its tributaries include some of the most heavily degraded rivers and some of the last truly healthy rivers in the West. The rivers are critical to Colorado’s heritage; they are the life-line for much of the state’s fish and wildlife, they sustain a vibrant agricultural economy, and they provide world-class opportunities for fishing, paddling, and hiking. However, these renowned rivers are threatened by increasing water demands and new proposed water diversions. The Governor of Colorado must take a stand now and keep water flowing in the rivers by promoting responsible conservation measures in the Colorado Water Plan.

The River

The Colorado River Basin in the State of Colorado includes the mainstem Colorado River and headwater rivers, such as the Eagle, Roaring Fork, Blue, Yampa, White, and Gunnison. Gold medal trout fisheries, world class paddling, and glorious massive canyons can be found throughout this river system. The resort areas of Winter Park, Breckenridge, Aspen, Steamboat Springs, and Vail, as well as much of the urban Front Range (on the other side of the Continental Divide), all get some or all of their drinking water from these rivers. The Upper Colorado River Basin is home to 14 native fish species, including several fish listed as endangered.

The Threat

n 2013, American Rivers listed the Colorado River as #1 on our list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® due to the overarching concern of outdated water management throughout the entire basin. To begin addressing this concern in the Upper Basin, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has directed the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop the first statewide Water Plan to determine how Colorado will meet its water needs in the future. With its population expected to double by 2050, Colorado must seize this opportunity to chart a more sustainable course for water management.

Approximately 80% of Colorado’s population lives on the Front Range in cities like Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins, but 80% of Colorado’s snow and rain falls on the Western Slope, primarily within the Upper Colorado River Basin. The Front Range has long depended on “trans-mountain” projects that pump, pipe, and divert water over the Continental Divide from the Colorado River Basin for municipal use, lawn irrigation, and agriculture. These dams and diversions decrease river flows, degrade the environment, and harm river recreation that is a key element for the tourism economy on the Western Slope. Having tapped the headwaters of the Colorado mainstem, some Front Range water interests are currently considering diversions from rivers further away, like the Yampa and Gunnison Rivers— rivers not yet impaired by trans-mountain diversions.

The Governor of Colorado and the Colorado Water Conservation Board cannot afford to fall back on outdated, expensive, and harmful water development schemes as acceptable solutions when they develop the water plan for Colorado’s future. Rivers are vitally important for Coloradans, and protecting and restoring rivers needs to be a top priority. If we want rivers to continue to support fish, wildlife, agriculture, and a multi-billion dollar tourism industry, we must ensure they have enough water.

What Must Be Done

Colorado Basin Rivers have played an important role providing water for Front Range development, but many of the rivers are drained and have no more water to give. The Draft Colorado Water Plan is scheduled to be released in December 2014, and the Governor and Colorado Water Conservation Board must make the following common sense principles a core part of the plan:

  • Prioritize protecting healthy flowing rivers and restoring degraded ones
  • Increase water efficiency and conservation in cities and towns
  • Modernize agricultural practices and make it easier for irrigators— who now use more than 80% of Colorado’s water— to share water with urban areas in ways that both maintain valuable ranches and farms and keep rivers healthy
  • Avoid new major trans-mountain diversion projects so as not to further harm Upper Colorado rivers and the communities that depend upon them
  • Adopting these strategies will allow sustainable use of water from the Upper Colorado River Basin, without building costly, environmentally harmful, and ultimately ineffective projects on these cherished rivers. Greater cooperation, innovative technologies, and best practices will enable Colorado to build prosperous communities, support thriving agricultural and tourism industries, and keep our rivers healthy and flowing.

    Colorado’s Water Plan will influence water development and impacts to rivers in Colorado for decades to come. Taking additional water from the Upper Colorado River Basin, already over-taxed by existing water diversions, should not be an option and will be unnecessary if the Governor and Colorado Water Conservation Board adopt a sensible Water Plan.

    From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

    A nearby tributary of the Colorado, the White River, is No. 7 on the list because of the amount of energy exploration taking place along its length, American Rivers’ Director of the Colorado River Basin Program Matt Rice said Wednesday.

    #The threat of future trans-mountain diversion that would export water from the upper Colorado to the state’s Front Range is the reason the basin ranks high among the top 10 again in 2014. However, Rice said, it’s also the process already underway to establish a new water plan for Colorado that is putting the focus on the Colorado and Yampa rivers.

    #“We want to make sure common-sense principles are included and prioritized in Colorado’s new water plan. We want healthy rivers to be a core component,” Rice said. “And we want to make sure this plan doesn’t support a new trans-basin project. That’s why it’s No. 2 on our list this year.”

    #Steamboat resident Ken Vertrees is uniquely situated in the ongoing discussions about the future of the Yampa as it fits into the Upper Colorado Basin and the water needs of all of Colorado. He sits on the combined Yampa, White, Green river basin roundtable that was tasked by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2013 with coming up with a water plan for this basin that will be incorporated into a statewide draft plan in December 2014 and ultimately into the finalized Colorado Water Plan due to be completed no later than Dec. 10, 2015.

    #In addition, Vertrees sits on the board of the Steamboat-based nonprofit, Friends of the Yampa, which is a partner with American Rivers on its 10 most endangered project. He said the rivers of the upper Colorado have in-basin needs of their own to meet before other basins come after their water.

    #“The state has a 20 percent gap in water supply going out to 2050. That’s the whole impetus for everything we’re doing right now,” he said.

    #Vertrees thinks there is potential for the people of the Yampa Basin to become a “complete loser” in the statewide planning process as water officials seek to close that gap either by redirecting water across the state or conserving, or both.

    #One presumption is that the Front Range, where 82 percent of the state’s population is located, will seek the last great trans-mountain diversion, with water now leaving the state in the Yampa, on its way to the Green and ultimately the Colorado, one of the primary targets.

    #The possibility of spending several billions of dollars to capture some of the water leaving Colorado in the Yampa and pumping it eastward across the Continental Divide to the Front Range surfaced in the middle of the past decade. But two proposals to do just that since have languished…

    Ultimately, Vertrees said, he’s hopeful that the state of Colorado as a whole will recognize the intrinsic value of the Yampa in its lower reaches as a wild desert river that supports a rare community of plants and animals.

    #“It’s a very scary time, in some ways, for our river and our basins,” Vertrees said. “Our non-consumptive water rights are critical to the health of the river. It maintains globally rare habitats and federally endangered fish that are found nowhere else. Isn’t that critical for us, as the state of Colorado, to protect forever?”

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

    Northern Water hears from C-BT customers about this year’s quota #ColoradoRiver

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water
    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

    City officials, farmers and industry representatives Wednesday urged the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to significantly raise the amount of water the district allocates from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project this year…

    The meeting comes as Colorado-Big Thompson Project reservoirs contain an average amount of water. Officials say that water storage will swell with higher than average snowpack in the Colorado and South Platte river basins.

    Farmers such as Steve Shultz, who farms corn, sugar beets and other crops, advocated a 100-percent quota at Wednesday’s meeting. Shultz said he needed the added water to finish his crops later in the growing season when he runs out of other water supplies.
    “We still depend on that late season storage water,” he said.

    Beth Molenaar, water resources engineer for the city of Fort Collins, said the city would support a quota of at least 70 percent this year because it has received multiple requests from farmers to rent water. The city rented very little water to farmers last year because of shorter supply of water related to poor Cache la Poudre River water quality caused by fires. Fort Collins gets about half of its water from the Poudre River and the other half from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    Much to their relief, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District officials aren’t in the same predicament now that they were a year ago. During presentations on Wednesday, Northern Water personnel — tasked with overseeing the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, the largest water-supply project in the region — explained how they now have nearly enough water to meet full quotas for two years.

    Since the C-BT Project went into use in 1957, the Northern Water board has set a C-BT quota every April to balance how much water could be used through the upcoming growing season and how much water needed to stay in storage for future years. In nearly all years, the board can set a quota of 100 percent, although it rarely does, and still have some in storage for the next year.

    That wasn’t at all the case a year ago. Snowpack in the mountains and reservoirs were so low that a quota of 87 percent would have depleted everything in the C-BT system. It was only the second time in the 57-year history of the project that the board had been so limited in the quota it could set. The board last year settled on a 60 percent quota, falling short of the historic average of about a 70 percent quota.

    “The outlook is much brighter this year,” said Andy Pineda, water resources manager for Northern Water, referring to his numbers, some of which showed snowpack in the South Platte Basin, as of April 1, rivaling that of 2011 — one of the best snowpack years on record (although a sizeable chunk of that year’s historic snowpack came after April 1).

    As part of Wednesday’s meeting, C-BT shareholders and the public — about 225 people altogether — provided input as to what they think the quota should be set at this week. While good snowpack typically calls for a low C-BT quota (the C-BT was built to serve as a supplemental supply, with high quotas usually set in dry years, Northern Water officials stress) the majority of input from the crowd called for the typical 70 percent quota. Agricultural users said that while there’s plenty of snowmelt expected to fill their irrigation ditches this spring, they’d still like to see a higher quota set to make sure water is still available later on — especially if things turn dry in the middle of the growing season, in July or August.

    Water officials from the city of Fort Collins and other communities also asked for a 70 percent quota on Wednesday — not to meet their own needs, but because they’re getting a lot of inquiries from farmers in the region wanting to rent extra water this year. A number of city officials said in recent days they’re waiting to see where the quota is set before deciding how much water they’ll have to lease to farmers this year. Most cities leased little or no water to ag users last year, forcing some farmers to cut back on how much they planted.

    A 70 percent quota means that for every acre-foot of water a C-BT shareholder owns, they’ll get 70 percent of an acre-foot to use throughout the year. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons of water.

    While cities and ag users were seeing eye-to-eye at this year’s water users meeting, it was a different story in 2013. Last year, farmers wanted a quota of 70 percent, stressing that with little snowpack in the mountains at the time, they would need the supplemental C-BT water to get them though the growing season. But cities, for the most part, wanted the quota set at 50-60 percent, worried about using too much water in storage last year, because of the shortages and uncertainty.

    A 10 percent difference in the C-BT water quota amounts to about 31,000 acre-feet of water — or about 10 billion gallons.

    More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.

    “The roundtables have no authority…But let’s define what a good project looks like” — Gary Barber #COWaterPlan

    Basin roundtable boundaries
    Basin roundtable boundaries

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Preparing for a flood of meetings on the state water plan, Arkansas Basin Roundtable members are wondering what style of umbrella to bring.

    “How will the plan be used?” asked Sandy White of the Huerfano County Conservancy District. “There are a lot of cranky people like me in Huerfano County who want to know.”

    White elaborated, saying that it’s apparent that projects listed in the plan won’t be fast-tracked and those omitted won’t be black-listed. The plan also won’t alter water rights.

    Betty Konarski, roundtable chairwoman, said it’s important to know which projects are being contemplated, even if the plan doesn’t say how or when they will be accomplished.

    “One of our goals is following on,” she said. “Which of these can we turn into a project and initiate. Once we see them all, we can see how they can work together.”

    Alan Hamel, the basin’s director on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said there is value in identifying needs in order to reinforce the importance of projects and coordinate permitting by state agencies.

    Dave Taussig, of Lincoln County, asked how the state plan would interact with local planning efforts, which could override state edicts on growth and water development.

    “The roundtables have no authority,” said Gary Barber, who stepped down as chairman of the roundtable in order to work as a consultant on the basin implementation plan. “But let’s define what a good project looks like.”

    Barber spent most of Wednesday afternoon going over details of the plan, and reviewed the history of how the roundtable formed after the 2004 State Water Supply Initiative was crafted.

    SWSI was updated in 2010, and from it, Gov. John Hickenlooper charged the roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop a state water plan.

    Roundtable members are being asked to fan out into the countryside to gather input before an Arkansas Basin implementation plan — just one ingredient in the state’s recipe for its water future. Some meetings already have been held and comments are filtering back to the roundtable.

    At least 15 meetings are planned throughout the basin. A complete list, as well as details about the water plans, can be found at the website, http://arkansasbasin.com.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.