#Drought news: Monsoon poised to set up again for Colorado

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


An upper-level ridge dominated the southern Plains, bringing hot and dry weather, while an active storm track triggered areas of rain across the northern tier States during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week. Cool fronts sliding southward brought showers and thunderstorms to parts of the central Plains to Southeast. Moderate to exceptional drought maintained its hold on the West. Low streams, parched soils, and the risk of wildfires helped extreme drought to tighten its grip on the Pacific Northwest, while the lack of tropical cyclone rainfall in the Caribbean continued to worsen drought conditions in Puerto Rico. Florida to southeastern Georgia was blanketed with areas of 2+ inches of rain. Hit or miss showers and thunderstorms across the rest of the Southeast gave local downpours to some localities while their neighbors remained parched…

The Northern and Central Plains and Midwest

Storms moving along cool fronts dropped areas of 2+ inches of rain, with locally 4+ inches, mostly in drought-free regions. But the storms largely missed the Great Lakes region. Areas of D0 were added to the Arrowhead of Minnesota, northern parts of Michigan, and northeast Wisconsin to reflect recent dryness as well as longer-term deficits. Green Bay, Wisconsin is nearly 5 inches below normal for the year-to-date. Meanwhile, local storms (dropping 2+ inches of rain) trimmed D0 in west central Minnesota, eastern South Dakota, and northwest Iowa.

Showers and thunderstorms gave parts of Nebraska and Kansas 1+ inches of rain, while neighboring counties received little rain. July 27 USDA NASS reports indicated that 30% of the topsoil and 26% of the subsoil in Nebraska was rated short or very short of moisture, and 35% of winter wheat was rated in poor to very poor condition, a result of dryness earlier in its growing season. In Kansas, 24% of topsoil and 25% of subsoil was rated short or very short of moisture. While most crops in Nebraska were weathering the recent dry spell well, sandier soils were beginning to show signs of stress. D0 expanded into central Kansas and southwestern to central Nebraska, and D0 ovals were added to parts of the Nebraska panhandle and southeast Nebraska, where the last 30-60 days have seen below-normal precipitation. An SL drought impacts area was added to northwestern Kansas and southwestern Nebraska where precipitation deficits were longer-term and stream levels were below normal…

The Southern Plains to Southeast

Hot and dry weather continued across parts of eastern and southern Texas, increasing evaporation and the risk of wildfires. July 27 USDA NASS reports indicated rapid drying of topsoil and subsoil moisture in eastern and southern Texas and the Trans-Pecos. In the Northeast district, 54% of the topsoil and 47% of the subsoil were rated short or very short of moisture. The values were 57% and 49%, respectively, for the Southeast district, 63% and 37% for the Upper Coast district, 66% and 57% for the South district, and 48% and 56% for the Trans-Pecos district. As a result, D0 was expanded across parts of eastern Texas, spots of D0 were added in southern Texas, and an oval of D1 introduced in northeast Texas. But most crops across the state were rated in fair to good condition, except 33% of oats and 20% of wheat were rated in poor to very poor condition…

The West

Frontal rains and leftover moisture from Hurricane Dolores brought above-normal precipitation to parts of California, Nevada, Montana, and the Pacific Northwest this week. The heavier rainfall amounts ranged from half an inch to 2 inches, with less than half an inch common. This is the dry season for the Far West, so even minor amounts of rain equate to well above normal.

While the rains in southern California during the past couple weeks have caused local flooding and inhibited wildfire development, reservoirs saw no increase in storage. A frontal low near the end of the week gave parts of Montana 3+ inches of rain, resulting in contraction of D0-D2 east of the Rockies. In northern Nevada, D3 was pulled back over Humboldt County due to above-normal precipitation at many time scales and improving range land conditions. The SL/L impacts boundary was shifted westward a bit in southern California to reflect the impact of rains the last two weeks from the remnants of Hurricane Dolores.

In New Mexico, 52% of the topsoil and 39% of the subsoil was rated short or very short of moisture, but recent rainfall aided crop development, with most crops in fair to good condition. D1 was deleted from Rio Arriba County due to above-normal precipitation at many time scales and improved soil moisture conditions. The D0 and D1 in western New Mexico reflected long-term hydrological impacts, with reservoir levels at Caballo, Elephant Butte, and Heron reservoirs still well below normal.

The lack of mountain snowpack has contributed to record and near-record low streamflows across much of the Pacific Northwest, with tinder-dry conditions resulting in the closing of the forests in northern Idaho. According to July 27 USDA NASS reports, topsoil and subsoil moisture continued to decline, with topsoil short or very short of moisture across 80% of Oregon, 65% of Washington, and 52% of Idaho, and subsoil short or very short of moisture across 80% of Oregon, 65% of Washington, and 46% of Idaho. Pasture and range conditions were rated poor to very poor across 47% of Oregon, 41% of Washington, and 14% of Idaho, which were slight increases compared to the previous week. Crop harvesting continued, and while most crops were in fair to good condition across the region, 32% of the winter wheat crop in Oregon was rated in poor to very poor condition.

The stream and soil moisture conditions prompted expansion of D3 across the Idaho panhandle and into eastern Washington, and the introduction of D3 and fill-in of D2 along coastal Oregon and Washington. D3 expanded into the upper John Day of Oregon and further in west central Idaho due to fish kills caused by warm temperatures and low streamflows. Warm stream temperatures due to low flows and hot weather caused fish trauma and disease, and fish kills, which prompted the closing of streams to all fishing along the Washington Cascades. D3 was added to the Washington Cascades to reflect these impacts as well as agricultural and water supply impacts. In Idaho, the Salmon Falls Tract that irrigates from Salmon Falls Creek was shut down for the season on July 19th with an allotment that was estimated to be between the 6th and 10th of the 1910-2015 historic record, and a shutdown date that was much earlier than normal. This shutdown cuts off irrigation water which will have a serious impact on agriculture in the region for the remainder of the season. D1-D2 were expanded in southern Idaho as a result. Improved water supply conditions along the Snake River and cooler temperatures prompted improvement of D2 to D1 in southwest Idaho…

Looking Ahead

Monsoon showers and thunderstorms will bring rain to the Southwest during July 30-August 5, while frontal rains will moisten parts of the country east of the Rockies. A tenth of an inch or more of rain, with locally 2+ inches, is expected across the Southwest and into the southern Plains. A quarter of an inch to locally over an inch is forecast to fall from the central Plains to the Northeast and parts of the Southeast, with parts of Florida expecting locally 4+ inches. It will be dry across much of northern California and the Pacific Northwest, as well as the Mid-Mississippi Valley, and into the Northern Rockies. Near- to cooler-than-normal temperatures shift to the Great Lakes, while hotter-than-normal temperatures return to the Northwest and continue over the South.

The 6-10 day and 8-14 day outlooks keep the area of below-normal temperatures across the Northern Rockies to Northeast, with warmer-than-normal temperatures expected for the southern tier States, West Coast, and most of Alaska. The greatest chances for above-normal precipitation during August 6-12 are expected to be across the Rockies, central to northern Plains, Midwest, and into the Northeast. Below-normal precipitation is expected over the southern Plains to Southeast, Far West, and most of Alaska.

August 4 thru August 9 precipitation probability outlook via the Climate Prediction Center
August 4 thru August 9 precipitation probability outlook via the Climate Prediction Center

Colorado River System Conservation Program off to a good start #ColoradoRiver #COriver

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

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean):

Water officials insist a pilot program designed to save Colorado River water and boost Lake Mead and Lake Powell is off to such a promising start that they are already looking to pour more money into it.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority is poised to chip in as much as $1.5 million on top of the $2 million it already committed to the Colorado River System Conservation Program, which was established last year among the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the water suppliers from the four largest communities served by the Colorado.

“I think it’s working very well. We were very pleased with the level of interest in the lower basin and the upper basin … and the diversity of the proposals,” said Colby Pellegrino, the authority’s Colorado River programs manager.

Pellegrino said the program has received about 20 proposals for conservation projects so far, more than a dozen of which came from the lower basin states of Nevada, Arizona and California. Negotiations are now underway on five of those projects — three in Arizona and two in California — to determine how much money they should receive and how much water they might save.

To date, the only project to receive final approval is one actually proposed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Pellegrino said the authority has agreed to leave 15,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead over the next two years instead of storing it for future use.

The water in question is being leased by the authority from water-right holders on the Virgin and Muddy rivers. In return for leaving that water in Mead and relinquishing any claim to it, the authority will be paid $2.25 million — or about $150 per acre-foot — out of the conservation program’s coffers to recoup its costs…

The Colorado River System Conservation Program’s interstate conservation program was originally seeded with $11 million — $3 million from the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that oversees the river and many of its dams, and $2 million each from the water authority, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Denver Water. The Bureau of Reclamation recently agreed to contribute another $3 million.

The money is being used to help cities, farms, factories and power plants pay for efficiency improvements and conservation measures that reduce their use of river water.

But unlike previous conservation collaborations on the Colorado, the water saved under this program is being left in the river to help bolster lakes Mead and Powell, its two largest reservoirs.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

The latest newsletter from the Water Center at CMU is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:


The Western Association to Enjoy Rivers (WATER) invites the public to participate in the annual cleanup of the Colorado River in the Grand Valley on August 8. For the event website, click here; for an article giving details and background on the event, click here.

From The Grand Junction Free Press (Bob Richardson):

It is time to think about the Summer Colorado River Cleanup on Saturday, August 8th 2015 in the Grand Valley. Find a boat, find a team and join the fun!

The Colorado River is an important part of the identity of Grand Junction as well as a contributor to the quality of life in Mesa County. With commercial outfitters, fishermen, locals and tourists all using the river, it is vital to keep it as pristine as possible.

This will be the 11th official river cleanup coordinated by the Western Association to Enjoy Rivers Club, but for many years prior to that, the WATER Club organized informal cleanups.

Are you compelled to participate in this year’s cleanup? There will be three crews cleaning the river from Corn Lake to the Loma boat launch. The first crew will put in at Corn Lake State Park and go to the Blue Heron boat ramp at the Redlands Parkway. The second crew will put in at Blue Heron and go to Fruita State Park. A third crew will put in at Fruita State Park and go to the Loma boat launch. If there is enough water in the river, a section may be added from Palisade to Corn Lake.

On August 8th, each crew will meet at their respective put-in at 9:00 A.M. and organize a shuttle. There will be dumpsters at each take out provided by the City of Grand Junction, Town of Fruita and the Bureau of Land Management. The WATER Club does not supply boats, so you will need a raft, canoe or kayak and a tarp to protect the boat. Also, a bucket for sharp items is useful. Participants should wear sturdy shoes that can get wet, gloves and wear a life jacket.

The WATER club will supply trash bags, State Park entry tags, and beautiful t-shirts funded by 5-2-1 Drainage Authority. Amec Foster Wheeler will provide an appreciation BBQ at Canyon View Park at the “handball shelter” at the southwest corner of the park at 5:00 P.M. Donated items from Cabelas, REI and Edgewater Brewery will be given away by raffle.

In the past we have found a lost dog, a hot tub and even a kitchen sink. So be prepared for an interesting day!

You can sign up for a section of river at Whitewater West (418 South 7th St.) 970-241-0441. You can also contact Bob Richardson at 970-261-5061 with questions.

While the river cleanup is currently the WATER Club’s main activity, the group has a long history of activities to help people enjoy rivers. The group was started in the early 1980s by a local sporting goods store when kayaking was first starting to get popular. When that shop closed, volunteers took over.

Projects included organizing the Westwater volunteer ranger program and working with public lands agencies to talk with local boaters about the paper permit system. Back in those days you couldn’t get information about permits on the web and the paper system was complicated, so they had meetings to educate folks about how to work their way through the system.

The WATER club was also instrumental in the proposal to try to get a whitewater park at the Price-Stubb dam near Palisade, which ultimately failed, and they helped organize against a major fee increase by Dinosaur National Monument because the fees wouldn’t have gone back to the river.

The WATER Club is currently organized by Dennis Adams and Bob Richardson.

This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. You can also find the Water Center on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.

Bleak to Bright: Future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund — Public News Service NM

A forested lava dome in the midst of the Valle Grande, the largest meadow in the Valles Caldera National Preserve
A forested lava dome in the midst of the Valle Grande, the largest meadow in the Valles Caldera National Preserve

From the Public News Service NM:

The future appears positive for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal government program that in New Mexico has helped to create Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge and the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

A bipartisan deal recently reached in the Senate would extend funding for the 50-year-old program, which is set to expire at the end of September. Carrie Hamblen, executive director of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, said preserving public lands can help create tourism opportunities.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund really helps us ensure that public lands will be protected,” she said, “and then from there, the local communities can go ahead and explore all of the different options on how to really reap the economic benefits.”

Outdoor recreation contributes an estimated $6 billion to New Mexico’s economy each year and supports about 70,000 jobs. Created by Congress, money for the Land and Water Conservation Fund comes from fees paid by oil and gas companies for drilling offshore.

U.S. Interior Department Deputy Secretary Michael Connor said climate change is another factor in the mix, adding pressure to better protect dwindling water supplies.

“The dramatic droughts going on in the West, and just the fact that water resources are most affected by increasing temperatures – there is a renewed focus within the LWCF to specifically look at investments that protect watersheds,” he said.

U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both D-N.M., are longtime supporters of permanently reauthorizing and fully funding the LWCF at $900 million per year. Even when full funding has been recommended, Congress typically raids the fund for other purposes.

Big Thompson remembrance Friday

Looking west into the narrows after the Big Thompson Flood July 31, 1976
Looking west into the narrows after the Big Thompson Flood July 31, 1976

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The annual remembrance service for victims of the 1976 Big Thompson Canyon Flood will be held at 7 p.m. Friday next to the Big Thompson Canyon Volunteer Fire Department station a mile east of Drake on U.S. Highway 34.

This year’s event will honor firefighters, law enforcement officers and other emergency services workers who responded to the disaster. The flash flood hit July 31, 1976, taking the lives of 144 people and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

The program will include speakers, music and light refreshments. Participants are welcome to bring a chair and a snack to share.

I was backpacking in the Flat Tops Wilderness that week with Mrs. Gulch. Monsoon drizzle in between downpours pushed us to hole up in Steamboat Springs to get a room at a place with a hot tub.

I called my mother the night of July 31 to check in. She asked, “Johnny, are you anywhere near the Big Thompson? There’s been a terrible flood.”

More Big Thompson River coverage here.

Drip irrigation for your xeriscape — Colorado Springs Utilities

Drip irrigation graphic via Sonoma County Nurseries Resource
Drip irrigation graphic via Sonoma County Nurseries Resource

From the Colorado Springs Utilities Re:Sources blog:

I thought I knew enough about xeriscape to feel I could successfully convert a portion of my lawn to low-water plants and shrubs. That is, until I was reminded that my irrigation system will need to change too.

Whether you’re replacing grass or establishing new planting areas, xeriscape plants only need water those plants at their root zone. Drip irrigation is an efficient way to deliver water directly to the soil at the root zone of each plant, eliminating most evaporation. When used properly, drip irrigation systems can increase your water efficiency by up to 50 percent.

If you’re the handy type, you might try retrofitting your current system to drip irrigation. Take a few minutes to watch our drip irrigation video to learn more.

When you make the switch, remember that we offer a drip irrigation conversion rebate. Residential customers can save up to $200 and business customers up to $1,000, when you convert a portion of your lawn irrigation system to a drip irrigation system.

Get started today to start soaking in the savings.

Fluoride dosing: “Why should we impose it on people?” — Paul Connett

Calcium fluoride
Calcium fluoride

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Anti-fluoridation activists blitzed the Denver Water Board on Wednesday, pressing their case that adding fluoride to water to cut cavities is harmful “mass medication.”

“Why should we impose it on people?” Fluoride Action Network director Paul Connett said.

Denver is the latest target of a campaign that in the past five years has persuaded 200 cities worldwide — including Snowmass Village, Pagosa Springs, Palisade and Montrose — to stop adding fluoride to water.

Water board members told the roughly 130 activists who packed a hearing that they are reviewing current practices and will make a decision by Aug. 26.

The campaign run by FAN and “We Are Change Colorado” has gained enough traction that Colorado public health director Larry Wolk and Gov. John Hickenlooper launched a counter-attack before the hearing. They issued a statement recommending that all communities add fluoride to water supplies.

Today about 72 percent of Coloradans on municipal systems receive water containing natural or added fluoride…

Activists contend fluoride is “neurotoxic” and weakens bones. They say children are grossly over-exposed. Too much sugar, not lack of fluoride, is the problem, Connett said. They denounced government assertions that fluoride is necessary to prevent tooth decay as propaganda…

In April, federal health officials changed the national standard for the first time since 1962, citing recent studies finding people get fluoride from other sources such as toothpaste. Instead of a range between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams per liter, the feds now recommend a concentration of 0.7 milligrams per liter.

State dental director Katya Mauritson cited a 2005 state study that found adding fluoride saves residents $61 a year for dental care at a cost of less than $2 per customer to utilities.

More water treatment coverage here.