2016 #COleg: State Rep. Sonnenburg’s new rain barrel bill will require registration and augmentation

Rain barrel schematic
Rain barrel schematic

From KUNC (Bente Birkeland):

“If you have a rain barrel, that’s less that’s going to run into the street,” said Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling).

And he believes, less water for farmers and ranchers – which is why Sonneberg opposed the rain barrel bill when it last came up and made sure it was defeated. He’s now floating a new measure that would allow rain barrels, if people register them. Then it would be up to water providers to determine how to replace the lost water.

“We’re going to bring a bill that does it right and honors the prior appropriation system and Colorado water law,” said Sonnenberg. “We need a simple and fair process on how that water should be replaced.”

But during a recent hearing at the state capitol, academic water experts from Colorado State University testified that there would be no need for a bill like Sonnenberg’s.

“This water doesn’t run off any way, and we capture a little of it and we put it on our gardens or we put it on our roses or something,” said Dr. Larry Roesner, a civil and environmental engineering professor at CSU.

“It would take a lot of water before it made a significant impact,” said Roesner.

Two other CSU experts, along with Roesner, testified before the Water Resources Review committee, which is meeting in the interim to discuss water policy.

“When you have scientists come in and give you the facts I think it’s important to incorporate that into your thought process,” said Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

As the chair of the committee, Roberts was frustrated when the previous rain barrel bill didn’t pass. She wanted to come back to the topic in between sessions – especially since next session will be during an election year.

“I’m struggling myself to explain to people on the street why this is so controversial. In my district in southwest Colorado, those who want to use rain barrels, use rain barrels today, and a lot of people across party lines were appalled that the legislature was struggling so much with this,” said Roberts.

For Drew Beckwith with Western Resource Advocates the measure is mostly about educating the public about water. He said too many people fail to understand where their water comes from, and he said water providers in other states where it is legal say rain barrels help connect people to water policy.

The latest ENSO diagnostic discussion is hot off the presses from the Climate Prediction Center


From NOAA:

ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Advisory

Synopsis: There is an approximately 95% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, gradually weakening through spring 2016.

During August, sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies were near or greater than +2.0°C across the eastern half of the tropical Pacific. SST anomalies increased in the Niño-3.4 and Niño 3- regions, were approximately unchanged in the Niño-4 region, and decreased in the Niño-1+2 region. Large positive subsurface temperature anomalies persisted in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific during the month, with the largest departures exceeding 6°C. The atmosphere remained coupled to the anomalous oceanic warmth, with significant low-level westerly wind anomalies and upper-level easterly wind anomalies persisting from the western to east-central tropical Pacific. Also, the traditional and equatorial Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) were again negative, consistent with enhanced convection over the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and suppressed convection over Indonesia. Collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic anomalies reflect a strong El Niño.

All models surveyed predict El Niño to continue into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2016, and all multi-model averages predict a peak in late fall/early winter (3-month values of the Niño-3.4 index of +1.5°C or greater. The forecaster consensus unanimously favors a strong El Niño, with peak 3- month SST departures in the Nino 3.4 region near or exceeding +2.0°C. Overall, there is an approximately 95% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, gradually weakening through spring 2016 (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period).

Across the contiguous United States, temperature and precipitation impacts associated with El Niño are expected to remain minimal during the early Northern Hemisphere fall and increase into the late fall and winter (the 3-month seasonal outlook will be updated on Thursday September 17th). El Niño will likely contribute to a below normal Atlantic hurricane season, and to above-normal hurricane seasons in both the central and eastern Pacific hurricane basins.

Building Hoover Dam: A wonder of engineering — CNN

Click here for a great gallery of construction photos for Hoover (Boulder) Dam.

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

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


A draft program and registration/ sponsorship links are now up for the Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum: Managing for Extremes. The forum will be at CMU in Grand Junction on October 28-29. Full details here.


NOAA: The State of the Climate Summary Information August 2015

Click here to read the summary for August 2015. Here’s an excerpt:

Global average temperature record high for August, June–August, and January–August;

Separately, global oceans and global land were both highest on record for these periods of time

The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for August 2015 was the warmest August on record, 1.58°F (0.88°C) warmer than the 20th century average, and surpassing the previous record set in 2014 by 0.16°F (0.09°C). August 2015 tied with January 2007 as the third warmest monthly highest departure from average for any month since record keeping began in 1880. The combined global average land and ocean surface temperature for January–August was also record warm.

Global highlights: August 2015

The August average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.58°F (0.88°C) above the 20th century average—the warmest August on record, surpassing the previous record by +0.16°F (+0.09°C). This was the sixth month in 2015 that has broken its monthly temperature record (February, March, May, June, July, and August).

The August globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.05°F (1.14°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for August in the 1880–2015 record, besting the previous record set in 1998 by +0.23°F (+0.13°C). Record warmth was observed across much of South America and parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.

The August globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.40°F (0.78°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest temperature for any month in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in July 2015 2014 by +0.07°F (+0.04°C). Large portions of the seven seas (where temperature records are available) recorded much-warmer-than-average temperatures, with some locations across all oceans experiencing record warmth.

El Niño conditions were present across the tropical Pacific Ocean during August 2015. According to analysis by the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, there is a greater than 90 percent chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015/16.
The average Arctic sea ice extent for August 2015 was 620,000 square miles (22.3 percent) below the 1981–2010 average. This was the fourth smallest August extent since records began in 1979, according to analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center using data from NOAA and NASA.

Antarctic sea ice extent during August 2015 was 30,000 square miles (0.5 percent) below the 1981–2010 average. This marks a shift from recent years when Antarctic sea ice extent was record and near-record large. This is the first month since November 2011 that the Antarctic sea ice extent was below average.

Are #ColoradoRiver Basin water users adapting to scarcity? — Hannah Holm

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

Since the early 2000’s, use of Colorado River Basin water has exceeded the amount of rain and snow that’s fallen into the basin — hence the famous bathtub rings at Lakes Powell and Mead, as their water levels dip ever lower.

The 2012 Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study led by the US Bureau of Reclamation indicated that the situation could get even worse in the future. The study compared the median of water supply projections (lower, taking into account climate change) against the median of demand projections (trending higher, if no action were taken to change how water is managed) to show an imbalance of 3.2 million acre feet/year by 2060.

Does this mean that we’re running out of water and destined for societal collapse, as imagined in The Water Knife, a new novel from Paonia-based writer Paolo Bacigalupi?

Not necessarily, according to longtime water journalist John Fleck, who is currently writing a book on the Colorado River called Beyond the Water Wars. Speaking at a September 10 seminar in Grand Junction organized by the Colorado River District, Fleck presented an updated version of the supply/ demand graph from that 2012 study, which shows that in recent years the supply and demand lines have come much closer together.

On the one hand, we’ve had a few decent water years, which have nudged the supply line up a little. On the other, the line showing actual water use has trended downward since right about the time the two lines crossed. Fleck argued that the forces bending down the demand curve include cooperation, in contradiction to the old saw that “whisky is for drinking, and water is for fighting.”

Fleck pointed to conservation and fallowing agreements between southern California farmers and cities as an example of how water scarcity can actually be a catalyst for collaboration. In addition, the agreement between water users and stakeholders in Mexico and the US to bring water back to the Colorado River Delta showed that the environment, as well as people, can benefit from efforts to make the Colorado River system work better for all parties.

Fleck also noted that in recent decades, there has been a “decoupling” of water use from economic activity. While in past decades, the two rose together, that’s no longer the case. Water use trends have sharply diverged from population and economic growth trends in Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and Southern California, and Arizona’s water use actually peaked in 1980 despite continued growth since then. Likewise, Imperial Valley farm sales have also gone up in recent years, while water use declined.

Despite these encouraging developments, the water use line on the graph is still higher than the supply line, and Lake Mead hit a historic low point this summer. The demand curve will have to continue going down to get the system back in balance and avoid letting the reservoirs get to truly critical levels.

Other speakers at the seminar discussed some of the measures that are underway to further control demand. These include additional work on fallowing, deficit irrigation and efficiencies in agriculture, as well as changes in homeowners’ notions about what kind of landscaping they need. Additional water re-use and de-salting were mentioned on the supply augmentation side.

Speaker Ken Nowak of the Bureau of Reclamation spoke of “silver buckshot” rather than a silver bullet in describing the multi-pronged effort to align supply and demand.

Speaker Pat Mulroy, former head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, encouraged us all to think of ourselves as citizens of the great, interconnected system of communities that rely on the Colorado River, and to do what we can to protect that system rather than each of our more narrow interests. She argued that we have the opportunity to do that now, but if we wait until the system is truly in crisis, what we’ll get is irrationality and chaos.

To learn more about the seminar, go to http://www.coloradoriverdistrict.org/district-business/annual-seminar/ 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 about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. You can also find the Water Center at http://www.Facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or http://www.Twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.

Colorado River Basin
Colorado River Basin

CWCB hopes that its instream flow right on the Dolores River will keep fish species off the endangered list

From Western Resource Advocates (Rob Harris/Joan Clayburgh):

Yesterday afternoon the Colorado Water Conservation Board rendered a unanimous decision to seek a water right on the Dolores River to protect fish and wildlife, securing up to 900 cfs of water during spring peak flows, as well as essential winter base flows, on one reach in western Colorado’s Red Rock Country. This will help prevent three native fish in the Dolores River from becoming threatened or endangered species. The reach slated for the largest instream flow protection on the river to date is near the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway between Gateway and Uravan Colorado…

The Board heard testimony opposing this water right that asked for water for unspecified future urban or agricultural water demands. The Board determined these requests for withholding water from this instream flow water right were speculative and unfounded. Now the Board will approach the state water court to secure the water right and it appears at this time that it should be a straightforward process.

Precipitation and temperature outlook for October through December 2015 is hopeful

Precipitation outlook for October through December 2015 via the Climate Prediction Center
Precipitation outlook for October through December 2015 via the Climate Prediction Center
Temperature outlook for October through December 2015 via the Climate Prediction Center
Temperature outlook for October through December 2015 via the Climate Prediction Center

Click here to go to the Climate Prediction Center website.

#Drought news: It’s been a dry and warm start to September in parts of #Colorado

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


At the beginning of the period, a slow moving cold front draped itself across the CONUS from the Great Lakes stretching down into the Southern Plains. Along its boundary were scattered showers and thundershowers. As the front stalled out, another stronger cold front ushered in cool dry air, providing the first taste of autumn across areas of the eastern half of the US. Oppressive heat continued into the first half of the period in the Northwest where the average temperatures were 10-20 degrees F above normal. Cooler temperatures moved in during the latter half of the week. In the West and Southwest, scattered showers and thunderstorms kicked off with the arrival of an upper-level disturbance…

High Plains

Conditions as a whole were drier and warmer than average across the region. The exceptions occurred in the southeastern part of the region where average temperatures were dampened by above normal precipitation. In excess of four inches fell in northwest North Dakota which is about 700 percent of normal for the 7-day period. This resulted in the removal of D0 for that area. Abnormally dry conditions resulted in an introduction of D0 in southeast North Dakota, stretching into Minnesota and South Dakota…


Average temperatures were 4 to 8 degrees above average across the region. Precipitation amounts reached 800 percent of normal in southern California and 200% in southeastern Oregon, southern Idaho, southwestern Nevada and southern Utah. Precipitation was non-existent elsewhere. For the region as a whole, no changes were made in this week’s Drought Monitor…

Looking Ahead

For the immediate period, precipitation remains light for much of the CONUS. Several smaller systems track from the Northwest through the High Plains and exits out into Canada just north of the Great Lakes. For the next 6-10 day period, chances of above average temperatures are likely for the majority of the CONUS. The greatest chances are in the High Plains and down into the Great Basin and Southern California. Chances are likely that a small portion of the Northwest will experience below normal temperatures as well as Alaska. Chances of below normal precipitation are likely for the Midwest, Great Lakes and Northeast regions. The probability of precipitation increases to the northwest and southwest.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

Upper Colorado River Basin water year 2015 precipitation as a percent of normal through August 31, 2015
Upper Colorado River Basin water year 2015 precipitation as a percent of normal through August 31, 2015

Click here to read the current assessment.