#COdrought news: Wet monsoon season?

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

The Plains

Heavy rains fell across western, northern and eastern Nebraska last week, leading to significant improvements in the Panhandle, where D0-D2 have been pushed back to the east and from the north to the south. The biggest improvements, however, were seen in east-central Nebraska, where the storms dumped anywhere from 3 to 5 inches or more, leading to reduction of drought and a pocket that is now drought-free with short-term and lingering long-term dryness/drought concerns eased for now. The recent wet trend continued across southeastern South Dakota as well, bringing more improvements with the reduction of D0-D1 there and across the border into Minnesota as described above.

Farther south, Kansas also saw a mixed bag this week with heavy but narrow bands of storms putting a small dent in the drought there, particularly in central Kansas where the D3 was trimmed, leaving D2 behind. Elsewhere in Kansas, though, the drought strengthened its grip and was accompanied last week by well above normal temperatures, leading to an expansion of D4 into the extreme southwestern reaches of the state to the Oklahoma border.

Oklahoma also felt those hotter temperatures along with some below-freezing readings late in the period, leading to more damage to the winter wheat crop, which has felt the brunt of a cold winter and coinciding drought. However, heavy rains did fall across the southeast corner of the state, bringing some 1-category improvement there.

In Texas, scattered totals of 2 to 4 inches fell across northeastern and eastern counties this past week, leading to some relative improvement with a push west and south of D0-D3 in these areas. In fact, the area of D3 located just off the coast in southern Texas has been removed this week. Some slight trimming of the D4 was also seen this week in south-central Texas. Deep south Texas also shared in the improvements with the elimination of D2 and trimming of D0-D1. The southeast coastal region continued to miss out on the rains (although rains were falling in this region just after the cutoff time for the USDM production), leading to a push of D2 eastward into southwest Louisiana on this week’s map…

The West

Most states in the West saw below-normal temperatures last week, helping preserve the precious liquid cargo contained in the upper elevations and reservoir systems. A mixed bag of improvements and deterioration is noted on this week’s map. In Colorado, storms continue to avoid the southeastern corner of the state, leading to an expansion of D3 westward along with D0-D2 south of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. Notable improvement in the moisture situation in northwestern Colorado also leads to a reduction of D0, which also pushed improvement west into east-central Utah.

In Arizona, continued dryness leading up to the monsoon season means an expansion of D2 in the northwest, northeast and southern regions of the state.

A very favorable precipitation pattern for the calendar year-to-date (10 to 50% above the average) continued this past week, which has led to gradual improvement in the Pacific Northwest region as a whole. In Washington, the remaining dryness and drought has been reclassified to long-term (given the larger-scale wetness on the year-to-date) as denoted by the “L” and a resultant shift in the “L” impact line area found in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, as these areas are now connected. Most of the Willamette Valley improves to D0 from D1 this week and more of northeastern and north-central Oregon has also improved to D0. The southern half of Oregon remains unchanged.

All of California is now depicted as being in severe drought (D2) or worse this week, with the D3/D4 areas remaining unchanged. Attention this week turns to the heat wave settling in, which will only serve to exacerbate and accelerate drought impact concerns across the state. Increases on water demand and the increased risk of fire will ramp up as the heat does…

Looking Ahead

Over the next 5 days (May 14-19), the National Weather Service is calling for a strong system to bring widespread and locally heavy rains to much of the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. West of the Mississippi River looks to be pretty dry for the most part except for Arkansas, where an inch or so is expected across the eastern half of the state. As for temperatures, most of the West can expect temperatures to run 3 to 6 degrees (or more in the Great Basin) above normal. For just about everybody else east of the Rockies, temperatures are looking to stay cooler than normal at 3 to 10 degrees below normal.

This week’s 6-10 day (May 20-24) day outlook from the Climate Prediction Center is showing a tilt in the odds toward above-normal temperatures in all but the interior of Alaska, the West Coast, Pacific Northwest, central Plains and Midwest, with below-normal temperatures expected in the Four Corner region and into the central Rockies as well as along the western Gulf Coast. As for precipitation during this period, above-normal precipitation is more likely in southeastern Alaska, most of the West Coast from central California up to Canada, southern New Mexico, the lower Mississippi Valley, the Southeast and the southern Mid-Atlantic region. Above-normal precipitation is looking favorable across the northern Great Lakes and Plains regions along with the Great Basin, central Rockies and western reaches of the southern Plains.

Meanwhile the Climate Prediction Center is predicting a wet summer over Colorado.

June, July, and August precipitation outlook via the Climate Prediction Center
June, July, and August precipitation outlook via the Climate Prediction Center

Weekly River Report – River flows throughout the Roaring Fork Watershed are significantly lower than normal for this time of year

Make Water Provocative: What’s Your Point?

Your Water Colorado Blog

Back when we first learned to write essays, we all learned that we needed to have a thesis statement.  The thesis outlined the main argument of the essay, and all points covered in our writing needed to tie back to this statement.

An interpretive programs, like an essay, should have a theme that not only ties together information, but may provoke the audience to make new connections to the resource discussed.

Coming up with a topic for a program is usually easy, but determining the theme can be much more difficult.  What’s the difference?  A topic is usually a broad concept, the subject of the presentation:  water, irrigation, prior appropriation, riparian restoration.  A theme is the central idea of the program, the thesis statement.  You can use your theme to tie together all the subsidiary topics you cover, as well as the goals and objectives for your program.

Why Have…

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Youth and water – how do you use water?

Mile High Water Talk

In our Youth Education series, we’ve followed a snowflake from the time it lands in our watershed through the journey it takes within our distribution system, including the complex treatment process. We’ve also highlighted the importance of conserving our most precious resource — water.

But, have you ever thought about how you use water?

Denver Water is constantly thinking about how customers use water now, and how that use may change in the future. By analyzing customer water-use patterns, we are able to better plan for an adequate supply of clean, reliable water in the next 50 years and beyond.

Week three: Water demand

Because Denver Water serves a wide range of customers — single- and multi-family homes, parks, businesses and many others — that all use water differently, it is important for Denver Water to understand the complexities behind how each uses water.

Here is the breakdown of Denver Water’s total retail treated water use by category Here is the breakdown of…

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Many eyes are watching the #ColoradoRiver to see if it reconnects with the ocean today

Photo via the National Geographic
Photo via the National Geographic

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean @RefriedBrean):

The blue of the river could spill into the brown of the Gulf of California’s tidewater channel during high tide Thursday, based on projections from conservationists and federal officials who are tracking the experimental flood unleashed in late March. It would mark the first time in 20 years that the Colorado has reached the sea, though such a re-connection was never guaranteed. It wasn’t even really the point of the so-called “pulse-flow,” said Jack Simes, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The goal of the two month, 34-million-gallon experiment was to send water down the river’s historic channel to five restoration sites in Mexico and one in Arizona where researchers are trying to bring back the flood-adapted willow and cottonwood forests that once lined the Colorado’s banks.

“That’s been achieved,” Simes said. “The bonus I guess is if (the water) made it to the sea.”

If that’s going to happen, it needs to happen soon. The pulse flow is scheduled to end Sunday, when Morelos Dam will close its gates and return to its usual role as the Colorado’s last stop…

Simes said regular water flow to the Gulf of California ended in the 1960s with the construction of Glen Canyon Dam and the creation of Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border. The last significant release of water to the delta came in 1983, when record flooding on the Colorado caused Lake Mead to spill for the first time. The last time the river reached the sea was in 1993, during heavy flooding on the Gila River, a tributary of the Colorado in southern Arizona.

The pulse flow was made possible by a 2012 amendment to a 70-year-old treaty between the United States and Mexico. Known as Minute 319, the amendment spells out how Mexico will share in shortages and surpluses on the river while allowing that nation to store water in Lake Mead for future use, just as Nevada, Arizona and California do.

The initial pulse of water to the delta eventually will be followed by a small but steady stream of “base flows” totaling about half of the current flood and designed to keep the channel wet during the growing season as the riparian habitat struggles back to life.

A coalition of nonprofit groups on both sides of the border will secure the water for the base flows by buying up temporary water rights from willing sellers in Mexico.

Jennifer Pitt is Colorado River project manager for one of those nonprofits, the Environmental Defense Fund. She considers what man has done to the Colorado “a fundamental disruption of nature,” so seeing the river reach the sea again certainly has symbolic value, even if it wasn’t why the pulse flow experiment was undertaken.

“We’ve been missing that connection for a long time,” Pitt said. “It does feel meaningful. What it will mean from an ecological perspective will be up to the researchers to figure out.”

If the river does reach the gulf on Thursday, the connection will be fleeting. As soon as the flow through Morelos Dam is halted this weekend, there will be nothing left in the river downstream to keep the delta from drying up once more.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

7News finds polypropylene microbeads in samples from the South Platte River

Polypropylene microbeads via CBS Chicago
Polypropylene microbeads via CBS Chicago

From TheDenverChannel.com (Theresa Marchetta, Catherine Shelley, Marianne McKiernan):

In the first known test for the small plastic beads in the river, CALL7 Investigators hired experts to test water samples. The results confirmed that the plastic microbeads from toothpastes, face washes, body washes, shampoos, eyeliners, lip glosses and deodorants had indeed made it through the state’s filtration systems and into the river…

Before our test, Greg Cronin, an aquatic ecologist and professor of integrated biology at CU Denver, told CALL7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta, “I’m sure if you went downstream of the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, where basically the sewage system for Denver, where all these microbeads pass through…you would probably be able to find these microbeads.”

He added, “People might not have just looked yet.”

Cronin was correct. We found no one is testing for microbeads in Colorado. So we did our own test, sending water samples collected from the South Platte River to a specialized lab in Marietta, Ga., where they confirmed “polypropylene,” or plastic was floating in the water.

Polyethylene and polypropylene are the same types of plastic used to make milk jugs, bottles and other common household containers.

The Water Quality Control Division declined our request for an interview, but an email from Meghan Trubee, spokeswoman for Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said,

“Drinking water treatment would capture and remove microbeads during the treatment process eliminating them from drinking water supplies. At this time, our work has not focused on this emerging issue nor have microbeads been brought to our attention specifically. Our research regarding microbeads reveals that this is an emerging issue.”

Some of the microbeads are easy to identify, like the ones found in face scrubs or toothpastes. Crest says the plastic is added to several of that brand’s toothpastes as “a safe, inactive ingredient used to provide color.”[…]

“Plastics don’t degrade. They actually just break into smaller particles of plastics,” said Cronin, the aquatic ecologist and biology professor. “The particles can be as small as a micron, the size of a bacterial cell, so that you wouldn’t be able to see them with the naked eye.”

According to Cronin, these plastics by nature attract toxic compounds like pesticides, and, ironically, are often used to remove harmful chemicals from water, which leads to other concerns.

“That same property causes these plastics to absorb these same toxins in the environment, so when an animal ingests it they’re getting extremely high concentrations of these pesticides and other industrial chemicals,” said Cronin. Then humans consume the toxins when they eat the fish or animals who have ingested the plastics.

Manufacturers using the microbeads in toothpaste readily admit the plastic serves no real purpose. There’s no flavor, nor any cleaning benefits. Lobbying efforts have created a greater awareness of this issue and some manufacturers set timelines to remove the plastics from their products.

Procter and Gamble, the manufacturer of Crest, stated in an email to CALL7 Investigators, “We are discontinuing our limited use of micro plastic beads as scrub materials in personal care products as soon as alternatives are qualified.”

Cronin says if you’re not thinking about microbeads, you should be.

“Yes we should care,” said Cronin. “What we should do is stop using them in the products, especially products that get flushed down the sink, immediately.”

More water pollution coverage here.