With so much happening at the state and local levels with our Western Rivers work, you may be wondering what is happening with our rivers at the federal level. Some of you got a bit of teaser on that subject on last week’s webinar with our Arizona team and Brian Moore, Audubon’s Legislative Director who is keeping an eye on policy movements on rivers in DC. But for the rest of you, we will do another policy update webinar soon and include more of a federal component for the entire Colorado River Basin. Stay tuned for more information on that webinar. Also look for opportunities emerging soon for all of you to add your voices of support for federal funding programs that will aim to protect the Colorado and other important western rivers. And certainly there will be some proposals in Congress that we are tracking closely aimed at protecting—or in some instances harming—our precious rivers and water resources. We will be sure to give you every opportunity we can to weigh in on those measures as they become available for comment.
Mark your calendars Our webinar series continues this Wednesday, January 28 from noon to 1pm MST with Common Sense Solutions for the Colorado River presented by Drew Beckwith of Western Resource Advocates and our own Abby Burk of Audubon Rockies. This webinar will be valuable for anyone interested in hearing about what you can do to help protect the Colorado River. Whether you live in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona or elsewhere, you will get lots of great information from this engaging presentation. Advance registration is required.
The new Republican majorities in the 114th Congress are mostly — 56 percent — on the record denying the reality of climate change. And barely two weeks into its tenure, the 114th is on a roll, with the new Senate Environment Committee Chair going on a rant about climate change being a hoax the first day he got his gavel, and a series of odd amendment votes on a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline revealing that the Senate itself may be a hoax.
What about the leaders of each of the 50 states, unburdened by congressional backbiting, national lobbying, or being whipped by party leaders? Working closer to the various impacts of climate change, do governors fare any better on either acknowledging humans cause climate change or working to do something about it?
COLORADO Governor John Hickenlooper (D)
Colorado Governor Hickenlooper has said humans are contributing significantly to climate change and that to reverse it will take “a concerted effort, not just on the part of the United States, but worldwide.” Hickenlooper spearheaded efforts and signed into law first-of-their-kind limits on methane — a potent climate pollutant — from oil and gas production. As a former petroleum geologist, he’s been a big supporter of the oil and gas industry in Colorado. He appointed an industry campaign donor to oversee the oil industry. In 2012, he appeared in paid advertising supporting the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry lobby and trade group which has a history of fighting health and safety standards. He has even drank fracking fluid to prove there was no risk to human health. More recently, he compromised an 11th-hour deal to keep contentious oil and gas measures off the November 2014 election ballot. Hickenlooper has also developed a troubling record of opposing protections for at-risk wildlife in oil and gas producing areas, including the lesser prairie chicken, the Gunnison sage grouse, and the Greater sage grouse. Despite his close ties with the fossil fuel industry, Hickenlooper has been a proponent of renewable electricity, and signed a bill that doubled the renewable power target for rural electric cooperatives. Governor Hickenlooper won re-election in 2014 and this will be his last term.
Snow water equivalent forecast April 1, 2015 via Klaus Wolter
Colorado average temperature 1895 thru 2015 via the Colorado Climate Center
Colorado average precipitation 1895 thru 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center
Statewide snowpack as a percent of average January 23, 2015
US Drought Monitor January 20, 2015
Click here to go to the Colorado Water Conservation Board Water Availability and Flood Task Forces website. From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:
Globally, calendar year 2014 was the warmest on record. In Colorado the year ended with above average temperatures, making it the state’s 18th warmest calendar year and the warmest since 2012. Following a wet month of precipitation in December, January 1st snow accumulation was above average for the northern half of the state. 2014 was the wettest calendar year in Colorado in 15 years. However, temperatures and precipitation have been warm and dry this month, with many basins receiving less than 50% of average January precipitation, and short term forecasts do not indicate any major storms in the last week of the month. Along the Front Range, water providers continue to indicate that storage levels are at, or near, record levels.
Year-to-date precipitation at mountain SNOTEL sites, as of January 20, was 87% of normal statewide. The South Platte basin has the highest snowpack at 103% of normal, while the Upper Rio Grande basin had the lowest at 64% of normal. We have reached the mid-way point towards peak snowpack in most basins, so it will be increasingly harder to make up for the biggest deficits.
Reservoir Storage statewide is at 105% of average as of January 1st. The lowest reservoir storage statewide continues to be the Upper Rio Grande, with 67% of average storage. The South Platte has the highest storage level at 124% of average.
Reservoir Storage in the Upper Rio Grande has been below normal for most of the last 14years.
South Platte Reservoir storage levels are at the highest levels in Natural Resource Conservation Service records; and Northern Water is reporting that Carter Lake, Lake Granby and Horsetooth Reservoir have the highest combined levels in the history of the project.
January 1st streamflow forecasts are near normal for most of the northern half of the state and below normal for the basins in the southwest and Rio Grande. However, the lack of precipitation in January will likely result in decreased forecasts for February 1st statewide.
The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) for the state is near normal across much of the state. The lowest value in the state reflects low reservoir levels in Platoro reservoir.
Both the Climate Prediction Center and the Long-term Experimental forecast predict above average precipitation for the next three months. However, this year has been unique and there are no good analog years that can provide insight on how reliable these forecasts are.