PDO Breaks Record for Highest Positive for Month of December — Weather 5280

From Weather5280.com (Brendan Heberton):

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) index broke the record for highest positive ever recorded during the month of December in 2014. At 2.51, this is also the highest value since August of 1997 according to NWS Albuquerque. Below is a chart of all December PDO indices since 1900, this past one well above any other (far right).

December Pacific Decadal Oscillation indices 1900 thru 2014 via Weather5280.com
December Pacific Decadal Oscillation indices 1900 thru 2014 via Weather5280.com

USGS: Monitoring-Well Installation, Slug Testing, and Groundwater Quality for Selected Sites in South Park, Park County, Colorado, 2013

Upper South Platte Basin
Upper South Platte Basin

Here’s the abstract (click through to read the report) from the United States Geological Survey:

During May–June, 2013, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Park County, Colorado, drilled and installed four groundwater monitoring wells in areas identified as needing new wells to provide adequate spatial coverage for monitoring water quality in the South Park basin. Lithologic logs and well-construction reports were prepared for each well, and wells were developed after drilling to remove mud and foreign material to provide for good hydraulic connection between the well and aquifer. Slug tests were performed to estimate hydraulic-conductivity values for aquifer materials in the screened interval of each well, and groundwater samples were collected from each well for analysis of major inorganic constituents, trace metals, nutrients, dissolved organic carbon, volatile organic compounds, ethane, methane, and radon. Documentation of lithologic logs, well construction, well development, slug testing, and groundwater sampling are presented in this report.

NWS Boulder: Got questions about global warming?

Snowpack news: Upper Rio Grande Basin behind 2014

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Similar to last year but not quite as good the moisture situation in the northern part of the Rio Grande Basin is better than in the southern end.

The current storm moved in from the south, however, so local forecasters were hopeful the southern part of the Valley would receive some moisture.

“We are below where we were last year,” Colorado Water Division 3 Assistant Division Engineer James Heath told attendees of the Rio Grande Roundtable meeting yesterday in Alamosa. “We didn’t get the early snow like we did last year.”

Heath said last year stream flows in Saguache Creek in the northern part of the basin ran better than average, the Rio Grande at Del Norte right at average and the Conejos River at Mogote 80 percent of average.

“We are in that same boat again this year,” he said.

Once again, the northern part of the basin seems to be receiving more moisture than the southern end, he explained.

Heath said the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has released its first stream flow forecast for 2015, predicting 78 percent of average on the Rio Grande at Del Norte, 109 percent on Saguache Creek and 66 percent on the Conejos River.

“We are following in the same pattern as last year,” he said. “Hopefully we get some more storms.”

He said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting higher than average precipitation for this region for the next three months, so he is hoping that turns out to be true.

When Roundtable member Travis Smith said, “you have to be very optimistic. You have some room for improvement ,” Heath said, “We have had 20 years of drought ” It can only get better from here.”

Smith said, “We are ever hopeful it’s going to be better .”

As of Tuesday, the Rio Grande Basin had the lowest snowpack in the state, according to NRCS snow measurement data. This basin stood at about 65 percent of average snowpack overall, with “runner up” lowest in the state being the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basins sitting at 73 percent of normal. All the other river basins in the state were either slightly under or over average snowpack on Tuesday, with the highest being the Arkansas and South Platte River Basins at 106 percent of average.

Colorado met its Rio Grande Compact obligations to downstream states in 2014, and the state engineer advisors are currently finalizing compact data. Conejos Water Conservancy District Manager Nathan Coombs is involved in a project to improve stream flow forecasting, particularly on the Conejos. He said meeting the compact obligation in 2014 was a significant task for water users on the Conejos River system where the initial forecast was off, so water users wound up owing a greater percentage of water during the irrigation season.

“We came out on the compact, but what it took was significant. It took 90 days of number-one’s being curtailed or shut off. It takes a lot to make that work,” Coombs said.

In better news, Rio Grande Water Conservation District General Manager Steve Vandiver reported yesterday the water reduction efforts of the water district’s first sub-district are making a difference in the basin’s aquifer. The unconfined aquifer storage, which has been measured since 1976 and has declined more than a million acre feet since that time, has recovered about 60,000 acre feet from its lowest point and is about 45,000 acre feet ahead of where it was last year, Vandiver said.

He added pumping over the last three years has decreased about 30 percent.

“There’s been significant savings and reduction of pumping, unlike some areas of the state where pumping actually increased,” Vandiver said.

“Mother Nature” needs to step up too, however, Vandiver explained. He said under current conditions it looks like it takes about 600,000 acre feet annual flow or above on the Rio Grande to make any significant gain.

“There has to be that level of diversion to support the well pumping that’s currently going on.”

The NRCS late-season forecasts for the Rio Grande in 2014 were 640,000 acre feet annual flow , or close to the long-term average.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Arizona State University study: Drought and the economic impact ($1.4 trillion) of the #ColoradoRiver


Here’s the release from Protect the Flows:

A first-ever comprehensive report by noted economist Tim James at W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, commissioned by business coalition Protect the Flows, identifies the economic value and number of jobs dependent on the river for all the basin states and major economic sectors that use water from the river.

The study reveals that hanging in the balance of the health of the Colorado River system are more than $1.4 trillion in economic activity, $871 billion in wages, and 16 million jobs. Put into perspective, an estimated 64.4 percent of the combined value of each basin state’s output of goods and services – could be lost if Colorado River water is no longer available to residents, businesses, industry, and agriculture. Read the Executive Summary here.

From The Wall Street Journal (Jim Carlton):

A new study for the first time quantifies the economic importance of Colorado River water to seven Western states—and the dire outcome should ongoing droughts dry up even a portion of it.

The river’s water fuels $1.4 trillion in annual economic activity in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, says the research by economists at Arizona State University. With just a 10% reduction in the water available for human use the gross economic product of those states would fall by $143 billion and cost 1.6 million jobs.

At a 20% drop, those numbers would shoot up to $287 billion in lost economic activity and 3.2 million jobs, according to the study.

The study assumes that no increase in water from other sources would be available. Those states, all of which have contractual rights to water from the Colorado, so far have managed to largely offset reductions in river flow brought on by a 15-year drought by drawing from underground reserves and stepping up conservation, among other measures.

The researchers warn that real economic pain could occur when shortfalls no longer can be made up as population continues to grow and climate change affects rainfall.

“We are getting to the crunch now,” said Timothy James, an Arizona State economics professor who led the study. “The Colorado River is the lifeblood of the entire region.”

California’s drought, for example, has forced municipalities to draw so much more water from underground that some wells have gone dry. The state relies on the Colorado River, along with the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, to meet much of its water needs.

The river’s troubles are well documented elsewhere. The water level at Lake Mead—the largest reservoir for the Colorado River—has fallen more than 100 feet over the past decade to an elevation of 1,089 this week, according to Bureau of Reclamation figures.

So far, the declining flows haven’t significantly affected the region’s economy, though farmers have suffered cutbacks and boating and other river-related businesses have taken a hit.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.