Snowpack/runoff news: Remember that the % of normal number is misleading after snow melt starts

Now is the time of year to pay attention to the current as a percentage of normal peak numbers on the High/Low graphs.

#Drought news: Many areas in the western half of the U.S. received 200-400 percent of normal precipitation for the past week

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


During the current U.S. Drought Monitor week, a series of storm systems moved out of the southwest and ejected onto the plains. With the Gulf of Mexico wide open, there has been ample atmospheric moisture feeding into these storms. Severe weather and record-setting rains were widespread on the front end, while areas on the backside of these storms recorded several feet of wet snow. The greatest precipitation amounts were recorded in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and north Texas, with widespread areas of 8-10 inches of rain. Portions of southeast Nebraska also recorded up to 10 inches of rain, with a swath of 6-8 inches from north central Kansas into southeast Nebraska. Many areas in the western half of the U.S. received 200-400 percent of normal precipitation for the week. Tropical storm Ana impacted portions of the southeast where 3-6 inches of rain fell along the coastal Carolinas. Temperatures for the week were above normal over the eastern United States with departures of 5-10 degrees above normal while the western half was cooler than normal with departures of 5-10 degrees below normal…

Great Plains

Most of the region had below-normal temperatures for the week, with the greatest departures (10 degrees or more) over portions of eastern Wyoming, western Nebraska and western South Dakota. Areas of eastern Kansas, eastern Oklahoma, and most of Texas were above normal for temperatures, with departures of 4-6 degrees common. The big story for the region was the torrential rains and severe weather. The widespread 2-4 inch readings across South Dakota resulted in 1-category improvement to the D2 and D1 conditions in the state. Much of the precipitation which did occur was snow. Snow amounts ranged from 12 inches in the plains of South Dakota to 16 inches in the Black Hills while portions of western Nebraska had up to 24 inches of snow. The improvements extended into North Dakota where D1 was improved in the southeast part of the state, while D0 was expanded over the northern and northwest portions of the state. There was a slight trimming of D1 and D0 conditions over Nebraska where the rains were enough to show improvements. The recent rains allowed for a large-scale 1-category improvement across southern Kansas and parts of southwest and west central Kansas. A small area of D2 was introduced into northwest Kansas where the recent rains have not been as substantial and conditions are worsening. In Oklahoma and Texas, large-scale 1-2 category improvements were made after copious rains of 6-10 inches or more were recorded. Most areas in Texas and Oklahoma were good out to 24 months, but some residual dryness was still evident at 36 months. D4 has been completely eliminated from Texas and Oklahoma for the first time since July 2012. With the short-term indicators all showing drought-free conditions, a substantial shift of the long-term delineation line to the north was made this week as only long-term issues are impacting the southern plains…


Cooler than normal temperatures along with scattered precipitation through the region this week allowed for some changes. The D0 in Montana was connected to the areas of D0 in the Dakotas. After another good week of rains and cooler temperatures, D0-D2 conditions improved in southeast Colorado. In west central Colorado, D2 was improved as well. Western Wyoming saw a large expansion of D0 while eastern Wyoming had improvements to D0…

Looking Ahead

Over the next 5-7 days, temperatures over the eastern United States are anticipated to be above normal with departures of up to 6 degrees. Most of the rest of the United States will have temperatures at or below normal, with the greatest departures (up to 9 degrees below normal) over the west coast. An active pattern looks to continue over much of the plains states and into the southeast. Precipitation forecast amounts of more than 6 inches are being projected over east Texas and up to 3 inches through the Dakotas. The latest 7-day projections have precipitation chances over almost the entire country.

The 6-10 day outlooks show the likelihood of above-normal temperatures over the southeast, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska while there are above-normal chances of temperatures being below normal through the plains, Midwest and southwest. There are below-normal chances of precipitation over the upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions. A good portion of the United States has above-normal chances of seeing precipitation above normal, with the best chances over the southeast and Great Basin.

2015 Colorado legislation: Governor Hickenlooper signs HB15-1006 (Invasive Phreatophyte Grant Program)


From KVNF (Laura Palmisano):

House Bill 1006 creates the Invasive Phreatophyte Grant Program.

Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bill at a ceremony in Montrose on Tuesday…

Republican Representative Don Coram of Montrose sponsored the bill.

He called the invasive plants ‘water thieves’ that menace riparian areas.

“I truly believe the eradication of phreatophytes is the first tool in the Colorado Water Plan,” Coram said at the signing ceremony.

Coram said these plants are a problem in his district and across the state.

“If you travel the Colorado River [and] the Dolores River for example, it’s a thicket in many areas that you can’t even walk through, but it’s also a water quality issue because the tree sucks up the water and it drops salt so nothing else really [can] grow,” he said.

The water conservation board will oversee the program and distribute grants for projects. The program is set to end in 2018.

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

May storms have caused millions of dollars in damage throughout Pikes Peak region — The Colorado Springs Gazette

Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground
Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu and Ryan Maye Handy):

Millions of dollars in damage has county officials preparing to request state and federal emergency money…

Swelling of North Rockrimmon Creek has torn chunks of back yards and retaining wall boulders from two houses in Rockrimmon. The saturated soils are so heavy, the banks of the creek gave way from sheer weight, said Travis Easton, public works director for Colorado Springs…

Damage was severe on Ute Pass Trail near Green Mountain Falls, at Rainbow Falls near Manitou Springs and in Bear Creek Park, said Jason Meyer, project manager with the county’s Community Services Department planning division…

Potholes, erosion, flooding and sewer system glitches now have the city’s public works staff responding to too many calls to count, Easton said…

The Colorado Springs Airport got 1.26 inches on May 4, breaking the 1902 record of 1.23 inches for that day, said Randy Gray, meteorological technician for the National Weather Service.

The Broadmoor area had received 7.36 inches and Manitou Springs, 7.32 inches, this month as of Wednesday, Gray said.

The Northgate area east of Interstate 25 had received 6.81 inches through Tuesday, he said…

The county’s quest for state emergency funds hinges on documenting $2.1 million worth of damage in the county and all its cities, Meyer said. If the state reaches the $6.9 million threshold, it can request money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), he added.

“Conservation without storage is not worthless but it’s close to it” — Eric Wilkinson

From The Greeley Tribune (Kayla Young):

The complexity, drama and careful planning behind Colorado’s water system took center stage Wednesday afternoon at the Union Colony Civic Center.

The Greeley Chamber of Commerce symposium, “Water: Yours? Mine? Ours?” began with “Water 101,” as panelists explained the ins and outs of Colorado’s management system, and wrapped up with pointed questions from attendees on some of Weld County’s largest water-use dilemmas.

Moderator Nicole Seltzer, executive director of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, described the conversation as “moving upstream to downstream,” flowing throughout the diversity of topics and interests that influence resource management.

Harold Evans, chairman of the Greeley Water & Sewer Board, highlighted the challenge of preparing for a Colorado population expected to double by 2050 while maintaining the agricultural economy. Even with supplies flowing into Greeley from four river basins — the Poudre, Upper Colorado, Big Thompson and Laramie — Evans said much more work remains to be done. “We are fortunate to have forefathers who had the vision, courage and understanding of good water planning,” he said, emphasizing that water planners of the future will need to maintain the same dedication.

A message that resonated throughout panelist comments was a call for greater storage capacity and more efficiency in completing reservoir projects.

In years of heavy rainfall and high stream flows, Erik Wilkinson, general manager of Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said Colorado must take better advantage of storing supplies to prepare for times of drought,

“Conservation without storage is not worthless but it’s close to it. If you conserve the water, you have to have a place to store it,” Wilkinson said.

Evans and Wilkinson both attributed the lack of progress in reservoir projects in large part to long and complex federal permitting processes.

Evans pointed to the delays in expanding Seaman and Windy-Gap reservoirs, both sources of Greeley water storage, as prime examples of the lag in permitting.

“These projects are all going in excess of 10 years, and we still don’t have a permit on any of those projects,” Evans said.

During the session’s question-and-answer period, Pierce-based dairyman Charles Tucker turned the conversation toward the issue of agricultural buy-and-dry from municipalities. He described his hometown as “Thornton territory,” referring to the extensive purchase of agricultural water supplies by the Denver Metro-area city in the 1980s.

Seltzer asked the panelists if a silver lining could be found in the situation.

The panel at first struggled to answer the question, with Evans saying, “I don’t know if right now there is a silver lining.”

He later added that perhaps the silver lining is Colorado’s dedicated water planners that are working to address difficult questions.

Charles Bartlett, chairman for the Colorado Ag Water Alliance, said the future of agricultural supplies will depend on the industry’s ability to stay competitive.

“The best way to keep water in agriculture is to keep agriculture profitable,” he said.

For those struggling to find the value in maintaining stable supplies for agriculture, New Cache la Poudre Reservoir Co. manager Dale Trowbridge said we need look no further than our dinner plates. Trowbridge said the importance of Weld County agriculture and its water supply can be seen in Fagerberg onions, Hungenberg carrots, and Petrocco red cabbage, to name a few.

More education coverage here.

New Reclamation map of the #ColoradoRiver Basin includes Mexico

From InkStain (John Fleck):

It’s a nuance, but of such subtleties are progress often made.

In the Bureau of Reclamation’s new “Moving Forward” report on the future of the Colorado River Basin, a subtle change to the bureau’s canonical map:

Colorado River Basin including Mexico USBR May 2015
Colorado River Basin including Mexico USBR May 2015

There, at the bottom. See that little bit poking down into Mexico? That’s the Colorado River Delta. The Bureau’s official map used to cut off its depiction of the Colorado River Basin at the U.S.-Mexico border…

On the heels of the enormously successful Minute 319 environmental pulse flow down through that Mexican Delta, a quiet recognition that the Colorado River Basin is a thing changed.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

In Photos: The Worst Droughts In U.S. History — @WillSarni