Runoff news: 950 cfs in Black Canyon

Black Canyon via the National Park Service
Black Canyon via the National Park Service

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Flows at the Whitewater gage on the lower Gunnison River are right at the baseflow target of 1500 cfs and the forecasts show the river flows trending downward over the next several days. Therefore releases at Crystal will be increased by 100 cfs today, July 17th. This should result in flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon of around 950 cfs.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Despite all the rain last night, we have not seen any operational changes at Pueblo Dam. The rain was largely downstream of the reservoir. Pueblo is still around 60% full and operating normally.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Just a quick update on Granby spill releases.

We had more rain on the East Slope last night. As a result, we once again shut down diversions through the Adams Tunnel. Without the tunnel pulling water from Granby Reservoir to the east, more water is now being released to the west at Granby Dam to the Colorado River.

Granby releases bumped up to about 630 cfs. That release is a combination of what is going through the river gate and what is coming over the spillway. The river gate is releasing about 430 cfs; the remainder is coming over the spillway.

Later this afternoon, the total release is expected to drop down to about 530 cfs. The plan is to maintain the 530 cfs release through the night into tomorrow.

Drought news: Wetter May and June along with start of the monsoon allow for improvement in New Mexico and Colorado #COdrought

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


During the past 7-days, a series of slow-moving cold fronts traversed the eastern two-thirds of the Nation, triggering numerous and widespread showers and thunderstorms. Areas that recorded over 2 inches of rain for the week included portions of the central Plains, Midwest, Tennessee Valley, lower Delta, the Appalachians, most of Florida, the coastal Carolinas, and the mid-Atlantic. A northward surge of monsoonal moisture into the Southwest brought welcome rainfall to portions of the Four Corners States and Nevada, including more than 2 inches in southern and eastern Arizona, western New Mexico, and eastern Colorado. Unfortunately, hot and dry weather enveloped much of the Far West, including California. In the Northwest, temperatures averaged 8 to 12oF above normal with highs in the 90’s and 100’s, and numerous wild fires were reported. In Puerto Rico, scattered showers fell across the northern and eastern sections of the island, but dry weather prevailed in the southwest as D0 developed there. Scattered showers on Hawaii were enough to maintain conditions.

Southern and Central Plains

Similar to the middle Missouri Valley (e.g. Nebraska), southeastward moving thunderstorms dumped heavy rain (>2 inches) on swaths of central Kansas into eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas, providing improvement where the greatest rains fell. In central Kansas, D2 replaced D3 as both short and medium-term (to 6-months) surpluses existed. In Oklahoma, D3 and D2 were improved by 1-category in the northeast, D2 was chipped away in central sections, and D0 was eliminated in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. However, the southwestern section of Oklahoma observed dry and warm weather, justifying a small expansion of D2 there. In Texas, it was a relatively dry week, following a wet May and near-normal June. Accordingly, only small changes were made, with a slight reduction of D4 and D2 in the Panhandle, some trimming of the D0 along the western Gulf Coast, and slight downgrades in southwestern, south-central, and extreme south Texas. Although Oklahoma’s winter wheat crop was estimated to be the smallest since 1957 (51 million bushels) and its 17 bushels per acre yield matched 1967 (due to drought and freezes), summer row crops and pastures were rated much better, with the worst conditions in the west. Similarly, Texas crops were doing okay, with oats, cotton, and sorghum rated 28, 23, and 9% poor or very poor, respectively, and pastures and ranges at 22%, generally better off than the past several years.

Southwest and Great Basin

With much of California in either D3 or D4 and May-September normally dry, there is not much more room for further deterioration, at least during the dry season. With that said, however, further investigation of the long-term (36-month) deficits in southern California east of San Diego were similar to conditions to the north, along with overall impacts. Therefore, D3 was expanded east of San Diego to include the mountains, and to cities such as Riverside and San Bernardino. With June in the books, NCDC rankings for California for the July 2013-June 2014 period were the warmest and 3rd driest since 1895. The only drier July-June periods were in 1923-24 and 1976-77. This is the first time California experienced 3 consecutive years in the top 20 for dryness: 2011-12 ranked 20th, 2012-13 ranked 18th, and statewide precipitation has averaged 67% of normal during this 3-year period, and was just 56% of normal in 2013-14. Fortunately California’s reservoirs hold more water than they did in 1977 when the state experienced its 4th and 2nd driest years on record from July 1975-June 1977. However, a recent study estimated that this drought will cost California $2.2 billion in 2014, with a loss of over 17,000 agricultural jobs.

In contrast, a robust start to the July southwest monsoon was seen in parts of the Southwest. More than 2 inches of rain fell on central and southeastern Arizona, much of western and central New Mexico, and most of southern and eastern Colorado. Totals were much lower (<0.5 inches) in southwestern Arizona, southeastern California, most of Nevada and Utah, western Colorado, and southeastern New Mexico. Since this was the first wet week in Arizona, only small improvements were made where the largest rains fell (southern sections). In New Mexico and Colorado, wetter weather back in May and June, plus this week’s rains, allowed for larger and more significant 1-category improvements as both short and medium-term (to 180-days) surpluses existed, albeit somewhat tempered in New Mexico and southeastern Colorado by 2- and 3-year deficits. Fortunately, over 2 inches of rain fell on D4 areas of eastern Crowley, northeastern Otero, and northwestern Bent counties, improving conditions to D3 there, while just to the south, similar totals upgraded conditions from D3 to D2 (southern sections of Otero and Bent and northern Las Animas). Eastern Colorado and adjacent western Kansas also saw a 1-category improvement with additional rains this week. Elsewhere, status-quo prevailed.

Looking Ahead
During July 17-21, moderate to heavy rains are expected from the central Rockies southeastward to the lower Delta, and then into the Southeast during Days 6-7. Florida should also see moderate rains. The largest amounts (3 to 6 inches) for the 5-day period are forecast for the Red River Valley and eastward into Arkansas. The West will be seasonably dry, and the southwest monsoon is predicted to be quiet, with only light totals (<0.5 inches) in eastern Arizona and New Mexico. The northern Rockies and Plains, plus the Midwest, should be mostly dry. Subnormal temperatures are forecast for the West Coast and eastern half of the Nation, with above-normal readings expected in the Rockies and northern Plains.

For the ensuing 5-day period, July 22-26, the odds favor above-median precipitation in the eastern half of the U.S., Pacific Northwest, and northern Alaska, with below-median rainfall likely in the Great Basin, Rockies, High Plains, and south Texas. Temperatures are expected to average below normal in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, but likely to be above-median in the Southwest, Rockies, Plains, Great Lakes region, and New England.

EPA: Proposed rule to protect clean water — exclusions and exemptions for agriculture will not change

Fort Morgan kicks in another $45,000 for the Northern Integrated Supply Project

Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative
Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

Fort Morgan City Council members unanimously approved an extra $45,000 for the Northern Integrated Supply Project at their regular meeting Tuesday night.

Many of the necessary reports and studies for the water project are nearly done, but that effort cost more than anticipated, said Brent Nation, water resources and utilities director for the city.

Fort Morgan had paid the project $90,000 earlier this year, which is essentially the dues for the project, but the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District asked for an adjustment to the dues to pay for the studies that have been done recently, he said.

The city of Fort Morgan has a 9 percent share of the project, which will come to about 3,600 acre feet of water the city could tap when the NISP reservoirs are completed, Nation said…

Altogether, NISP is expected to cost $500 million, Nation said, and Fort Morgan’s share would cost $40 million.

Once the supplemental draft environmental impact statement is done, which could be soon, NISP will begin thinking about starting construction, said Fort Morgan City Manager Jeff Wells…

Once the environmental impact report is published, there will be a period of public review and public meetings, Nation said.

There are those who are opposed to the project, and they will come out to say so, he said. However, this will also be an opportunity for supporters to say why they want NISP.

Nation said it is encouraging to be at this point in the project after 10 years of work.

Wells said Fort Morgan has spent about $1.2 million on the project over the past 10 years…

McAlister noted that there are a number of municipalities on the plains that have serious water supply problems, and Fort Morgan must do something or it could have similar problems.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

We must make sure Weld County’s voice is heard in water planning effort — The Greeley Tribune #COWaterPlan


The Greeley Tribune editorial staff weighs in on the Colorado Water Plan:

We know that readers’ eyes tend to gloss over when we write about water issues in northern Colorado. One almost needs to go through four years of law school, with an emphasis on water law, to truly understand the complicated system that provides water throughout our state.

But we would strongly suggest that readers should pay attention to the South Platte Basin Roundtable, which is a group of water officials and experts who meet regularly to address water issues and plan for the water future of northeastern Colorado.

We won’t blame you for being bored by the topic. But the truth is, the availability of water — or the lack thereof — probably will have more to do with the future of our region than any other issue.

The South Platte water plan is part of a statewide effort, coordinated by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which is piecing together the South Platte Roundtables plans with seven other roundtables around the state, to create a comprehensive water plan by the end of 2015.

The South Platte Roundtable’s work outlines how agriculture, cities and industries can coexist in the future. The plan for northeastern Colorado is nearing completion, and probably will be released to the public by late July.

Once the draft plan is released, the Colorado Conservation Board wants the public’s input. That should be our cue to pay attention and participate.

The South Platte Basin includes six of the state’s 10 top ag-producing counties, including Weld County, which ranks ninth nationally for its value of production. Three of the other top 10 are also in northeast Colorado in the nearby Republican River Basin, which is impacted by South Platte basin functions.

Also, eight of the 10 largest cities in Colorado are in the South Platte basin, including Denver and Aurora. That’s why the South Platte and Metro roundtables are combining their implementation plans.

Because of that, and continued growth along the northern Front Range and in the metro Denver area, the South Platte basin faces the biggest expected water shortages in the state.

“With each basin having its own interests and each facing its respective challenges, it’s going to be a Herculean effort … to bring all of these together without something getting lost,” said Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District in Berthoud, which oversees the largest water-delivery system in northern Colorado and is working to put in place more water-storage projects. “Each basin has put in a lot of time and thought into their plans, and to see something get lost along the way going forward would be tough for any of us.”

If you only pay attention to one water discussion this summer, make sure this is the one.

We must make sure our eyes are clear and are voices are loud to help shape the future of Greeley, Weld County and northern Colorado in a real and direct way.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

USGS Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Water Resources Research Act