Drought news: D3 expansion in Kansas spills over to SE Colorado #COdrought

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


A large upper-level low pressure system slowly moved across the western CONUS (contiguous United States) this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week, forcing a strong upper-level ridge ahead of it over the central and eastern CONUS. The upper low, and its associated surface lows and fronts, dropped an inch or more of rain across many parts of the West, with local amounts ranging 3-5 inches or more. The upper ridge brought dry weather to much of the country east of the Rockies and much warmer-than-normal temperatures to the north central states. Two low pressure systems, one at the beginning of the week and the other near the end, brought rain to parts of the East, while a front draped across central Florida dumped over 5 inches of rain on many locations…

The Plains and Midwest

As the upper low in the West approached the northern Plains, it triggered heavy storms which dumped 3+ inches of rain over parts of western Nebraska and southwest South Dakota. Local storms also dropped an inch or more of rain over parts of central and southeast Nebraska, parts of Kansas, and central to south central Iowa. Lesser amounts of rain fell in other parts of the Plains and Upper Midwest, but Missouri and the Ohio Valley, all the way to the Central Appalachians, were mostly dry. The Nebraska rains shrank the D0 in the southeast and obliterated it in the panhandle. But D0 expanded in southern Missouri and a spot of D1 was added in southwest Missouri as the state’s soils further dried out. September 29 USDA reports had 27% of the topsoil and 32% of the subsoil rated short or very short of moisture, both increases compared to last week, and 16% of the pasture and rangeland rated poor to very poor. In nearby Kansas, showers kept the statewide values generally constant at 36% of the topsoil and 47% of the subsoil short or very short of moisture and 23% of the pasture and rangeland poor to very poor. But D2 and D3 expanded in southern Kansas. Low streamflows and drying soils expanded D0 in West Virginia, where 46% of the topsoil and 51% of the subsoil were short to very short. D0 was added to southern Ohio, extreme northern Kentucky, and northeast Minnesota, and D0 expanded in southwest Wisconsin. Over 40% (42%) of Kentucky’s topsoil was rated short or very short, a jump of 16% compared to last week…

The West

The upper low swept bands of heavy rain into the coastal Northwest and northern California, with over 3 inches of rain reported at several stations. But the rains had little impact on the ongoing drought, especially in California, where deficits are huge and the normal annual precipitation in parts of the northern coastal areas can reach 75-100 inches. Topsoil in a few areas benefited, wildfires were hindered, and streamflow increased, but the streamflow recovery was short-lived as streams rapidly returned to the low flows they had prior to the rain event, and reservoir levels did not improve. Statewide, California soil moisture conditions were the same as last week, with 80% of topsoil and 85% of subsoil rated short or very short of moisture by the USDA. Consequently, only D2 was pulled back in Del Norte County (California) and Curry County (Oregon), and D0 was trimmed in Washington’s eastern Olympic Peninsula. An inch or more of rain fell from southeast Oregon to central Idaho and southwest Montana, with heavier rainfall (3+ inches) in southeast Idaho and adjoining parts of Wyoming. But the weekly precipitation amounts were below normal across much of northwest Montana, where D0 expanded. D0 also expanded in Skamania County, Washington, to reflect 4-month dryness, and D2 expanded in north central Washington to better match short-term and long-term dryness.

The low continued a trend of above-normal monsoon rainfall for parts of the Great Basin and Southwest. D2 was removed in southwest Arizona and the nearby D1 was pulled back, D1 was contracted in southwest Utah and D0-D1 shrank in eastern Utah, D0 contracted and D1 was deleted in southwest Wyoming, D0-D2 were pulled back in southwest Colorado, and D3 slightly trimmed in northwest New Mexico. Even though 3+ inches of rain was reported in parts of Arizona, Colorado, and Utah, many of the reservoirs in these states remained depleted, and long-term precipitation deficits remained huge (especially in the Southwest), so no other changes were made to the drought depiction. Statewide soil moisture conditions in Colorado changed very little compared to last week, with 43% of the topsoil and 50% of the subsoil still rated short or very short of moisture, and 27% of the pasture and rangeland rated in poor to very poor condition. Some of the D3 expansion from southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma panhandle bled into the very extreme southeast corner of Colorado…

Looking Ahead

An upper-level ridge of high pressure will build over the West during October 2-9, bringing a return of dry and warmer-than-normal weather, while the upper-level trough of low pressure slowly moves east of the Rockies. The trough will funnel cooler-than-normal air into the north central and eastern states, with widespread areas of rain forecasted along fronts and surface lows from the Mississippi River to the East Coast, and in parts of the Plains. The heaviest rain, 1-4 inches, is expected from Missouri to the Great Lakes, with areas of about an inch in parts of Nebraska, the Tennessee Valley to Southern Appalachians, and parts of the Northeast.

The upper-level circulation pattern will become stalled during October 9-15, with a ridge over the western CONUS and trough over the east. Dry and warm weather should dominate the West, while colder-than-normal air masses frequent the Plains to Midwest states. Gulf of Mexico moisture is expected to feed weather systems which bring above-normal precipitation to the Plains, Midwest, and Northeast states. The Southeast is forecast to have near to below-normal precipitation during this period. Alaska should be wetter than normal in the south and drier than normal in the north, warmer than normal in the west and near to below normal in the southeast.

The Headwaters Conference – Celebrating 25 Years — Colorado Central Magazine

George Sibley
George Sibley

Here’s a recap of the recent Headwaters Conference held at Western State University, from Tyler Grimes writing for Colorado Central Magazine. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The 25th Headwaters Conference, The Working Wild, began Friday, Sept. 20 at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison. The auditorium was full in anticipation of the keynote speaker, Gary Snyder. One spectator mused, “It’s the gathering of the eagles,” with community leaders from all over the Headwaters region in attendance. After a poem by Art Goodtimes and a song by Alan Wartes, Conference Director John Hausdoerffer introduced Snyder. He revealed that Snyder, a beat generation poet, inspired Jack Kerouac’s famous character from the Dharma Bums, Japhy Ryder.

Snyder began by dissecting the words of the theme: wild and wilderness. Wilderness, he said, came from the Old English words meaning self-willed, beast and place. What does it mean for land to be self-willed, Snyder asked the audience. Wild in Germanic and Chinese, which Snyder studied, meant self-ordered or self-managed. He explained that when he thought of wilderness he looked at the percentage of wild processes. Snyder went on to give a few opinions on land management before moving into reading. He read mostly from Mountains and Rivers Without End, a collection of poetry he had written over the last 40 years. He lulled the audience into meditative stillness as he described white water and rivers, trees and forests, and rocks and mountains. Hausdoerffer said later, “It was like listening to a mountain speak.”

Near the end of his Keynote address, Snyder read from his famous poem For the Children, which ends, “Stay together/Learn the Flowers/Go light.”

The Headwaters Conference was started 25 years ago by former Western faculty member George Sibley. He recalled the years leading up to the Conference during his address Saturday afternoon. He said universities all over the country were struggling after the baby boomers were completing higher ed. He recalled a time when there were talks of turning Western into a medium-security prison. Sibley went to faculty meetings that “he didn’t belong in” to push his idea of a conference. He described thinking that Gunnison was just a few hours’ drive to the start of many major rivers. “We were the headwaters school,” he said. The Headwaters Conference was a way for headwaters communities to gather, network and collaborate…

Sibley ended the day’s events by addressing the Conference. “We’ve barely scratched the surface,” he said, on what the Headwaters Conference could be. “We hope for another 25 years.” In summary, Sibley turned to a table of students and built upon Snyder’s poem, “‘Stay together, learn the flowers, go light,’ and I would add to it, work wild.”

Feds: 2013-14 water year slightly above average in Aspen-area — The Aspen Times


From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

A snowy January and February plus a rainy May and August boosted total precipitation in the Roaring Fork River basin to slightly above average for the 2013-14 water year, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The federal agency tracks snow and rain at seven automated sites at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River as well as the Fryingpan and Crystal river valleys. The water year is considered from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

“Things were pretty normal until January, when it looked like it might be drying up. Then we started to get all that snow, which put us above average for a while,” Mage Hultstrand, assistant snow survey supervisor for the conservation service in Lakewood, said via email. “June was very dry, but thankfully we got some good rain in July and August and ended up right at normal precipitation for the water year.”

The conservation service’s website shows that total precipitation at the Independence Pass site east of Aspen was at 104 percent of average for the year. There were 32.4 inches of precipitation recorded. The average at that site between 1981 and 2000 was 31.2 inches.

The site with the highest reading for the year was Kiln, at an elevation of 9,600 feet in the Fryingpan Valley. It recorded 28 inches of precipitation for the year compared with an average of 25 inches. That was 112 percent of average.

McClure Pass in the Crystal River Valley was the only site in the Roaring Fork Basin that was below average for the year. The 33 inches recorded there was 96 percent of average.

Schofield Pass received 50.4 inches of precipitation for the water year, 102 percent of average.

The Roaring Fork Basin as a whole ended at 103 percent of average, according to the conservation service’s data.

Above-average precipitation in January, February, May and August kept the basin at average conditions despite the dry months of December, April and June, Hultstrand noted.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here.

The Special District Association of Colorado recognizes Parker Water and Sanitation for collaboration

Rhode Island Hotel 1908 Parker via Best of Parker
Rhode Island Hotel 1908 Parker via Best of Parker

From the Parker Chronicle:

The Parker Water and Sanitation District is one of three special districts to be given a collaboration award this year.

The award was given by the Special District Association of Colorado during an annual conference Sept. 10-12 in Keystone. The collaboration award is given to districts “that have effectively and efficiently partnered with other entities and local governments” to benefit water users, according to a news release.

The PWSD joined with the Rampart Range and Sierra Ridge metro districts on a sewer system for the RidgeGate development in Lone Tree, which is served by Parker Water. The joint effort resulted in reduced infrastructure costs for citizens and an award for all three districts.

Ann Terry, the executive director of the Special District Association, said the project is a “true testament to the success that can be achieved through partnerships.”

More Parker coverage here and here.

Gordon Jacoby and the #ColoradoRiver: “predicting hydrologic bankruptcy” — John Fleck


From Inkstain (John Fleck):

In my world, the 1976 tree ring analysis of the Colorado River’s long term flow done by Charles Stockton and Gordon Jacoby stands as one of the great works of policy-relevant science. But by the time I came on the scene, “Stockton and Jacoby”* (pdf) was just a marker, a signpost along our path to understanding the mistakes we made in allocating the Colorado River’s flow. I’d never looked at the details of how the work came about until we got news today of Jacoby’s death, and some reminiscing by some of Jacoby’s colleagues sent me down the rabbit hole of history to the wonderful story Jacoby told to oral historian Ronald Doel in 1996.

The National Science Foundation was funding a broad research effort into the impacts of the completion of Glen Canyon Dam and the filling of Lake Powell. Jacoby thought tree rings might be an interesting tool for understanding the long term history of flows on the river:

Douglas Fir tree rings via the Western Water Assessment
Douglas Fir tree rings via the Western Water Assessment

[I]n doing some of the water aspects, I heard somewhere — I can’t really cite a specific reference — this idea of using tree rings to find out about water supply. They realized first you have to know how much water is going to come into this reservoir. And I heard somewhere this concept of using growth rings of trees to estimate stream flow. And so I went and talked to Chuck [Charles] Stockton at the tree ring lab in Arizona and he’d been working on the Colorado River flow. So in the next contract that I put in, I put in a subcontract for us to work together on this.

Their findings were disconcerting.

The Colorado River’s allocation of 7.5 million feet annually for the Upper Basin, 7.5 million for the Lower Basin, with another 1.5 million acre feet tacked on for Mexico, had been negotiated during an unusually wet time. A very unusually wet time. [ed. emphasis mine]

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

How will CSU’s $50 million for Fountain Creek mitigation be spent?

Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation
Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While the decision of how to spend $50 million for flood control on Fountain Creek to benefit Pueblo will be made by the parties directly involved, other input will be needed.

“Anyone who wants to come to the table and says, ‘We want to find out where money for these projects will be available,’ is welcome,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said.

Last week, Hart made a pitch to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District to begin planning now for the arrival of $50 million in payments from Colorado Springs Utilities after Southern Delivery System goes online in 2016. That money is seen as seed money for projects that could amount to $150 million or more identified in a corridor master plan. The money was negotiated by Pueblo County under its 1041 agreement with Utilities in 2009 for the construction of the SDS water supply pipeline through the county. It is to be used for flood control projects on Fountain Creek that benefit Pueblo County. When the district was established later in 2009, it became the recipient of the money.

“At a minimum, Pueblo County, CSU and the Fountain Creek district need to be involved, and they will have the final say,” Hart said.

But the city of Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also should have input about how the money will be used, Hart said.

The greatest potential damage from Fountain Creek flooding is within the city of Pueblo and in the communities of the Lower Ark Valley downstream from Fountain Creek.

“The Lower Ark District was instrumental in developing the corridor plan, and we definitely need the technical input from the city of Pueblo,” Hart said.

The corridor plan, a joint effort of Utilities and the Lower Ark district, identifies projects between Fountain and Pueblo that could cost several times the $50 million that was earmarked under the 1041 agreement. Pueblo already has participated in pilot projects to demonstrate flood control techniques.

In addition to technical assistance, Pueblo County’s attorneys will have to be involved to determine whether projects meet the conditions of the 1041 permit. This will be important to avoid the kinds of dispute that developed when the Lower Ark raised objections about how its contributions to the district were being spent.

“I see this new committee working in concert with the steering committee (Utilities, Lower Ark and the Fountain Creek District),” Hart said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here.