#Drought news: D0 shows up in the White, Yampa, Colorado, South Platte, and Arkansas basins #ColoradoRiver

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


A more tranquil weather pattern emerged this week, with light to moderate precipitation falling on the Pacific Northwest, southern High Plains and Rio Grande Valley, western Tennessee Valley, southern Appalachians, and South Carolina, and most of New England. Heavier totals (more than 2 inches) were limited to extreme western Washington, parts of the Rio Grande Valley and southern High Plains, central South Carolina, and along the southeastern Alaskan coast. Elsewhere in the lower 48 States, mostly dry and warm weather was observed, with temperatures averaging more than 6 degrees Fahrenheit above normal across the Far West and the northern halves of the Rockies and Plains. The first 12 days of October have seen little or no rain from eastern Texas to Mississippi and northward from the eastern Dakotas into southern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Unfortunately, this dry pattern has persisted for at least 3 consecutive months in the southern Great Plains and Delta, leading to severe to extreme short-term drought. While a limited period of dry and warm conditions is ideal for the maturation, dry down, and harvesting of summer crops, too much time under such conditions degrades topsoil moisture, pasture conditions, and winter grains growth while creating ideal wild fire conditions…

California and Great Basin

After last week’s widespread and unseasonably heavy (0.5-1.5 inches) rains in southern and eastern California and western and northern Nevada (locally to 2 inches), more typical dry and warm weather returned to the region. There were no changes made this week. The recent wet weather did nothing to offset the long-term drought, but may have aided in the suppression of wild fires as September and October are normally the biggest months for fires in California…

Northern and Central Plains

Short-term dryness (less than 25% of normal precipitation at 30-days, less than 50% at 60-days) warranted an expansion of D0 westward into south-central North Dakota and southward into northeastern South Dakota. The dryness, combined with strong winds and high temperatures, quickly dried out crops and produced blowing dust, with some wind-driven fires over the weekend. Several stations in northeastern South Dakota had one of the ten driest Septembers on record, ranging from Watertown (0.27”) to Clear Lake (0.63”), while stations in the southwest were similarly dry (Rapid City 0.25”, Newell 0.04”, Hill City 0.26”). Several locations in the Plains also set record October highs (degF) including 98 at Broken Bow and Norfolk, NE; 97 at Grand Island and Hastings, NE, Wheaton, MN, and Fargo, ND; 95 at Sisseton, SD; 94 at Pueblo, CO; and 88 at International Falls, MN. Farther south, light rains during the past 2 weeks were not enough to offset development of short-term dryness in northern and southeastern Kansas as warm and windy weather is impacting fall planted crops such as winter wheat and canola. In northwestern Colorado, D0 was introduced to Grand, Routt, Moffat, and Rio Blanco counties based upon low SPIs at 30- and 90-days, and degrading vegetative health and soil moisture conditions…

Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies

Moderate to heavy precipitation (2-5 inches) fell on western Washington, especially the Olympic Peninsula and northern Cascades, continuing a trend of consistent precipitation (near to above normal amounts) during the past 3 months. Since these two areas had 90-day surpluses and near to above normal average USGS stream flow values, they were improved a category (from D2 to D1), and the Impact type changed to L (from SL). Elsewhere, the precipitation was not great enough (less than an inch) to make any improvements to the drought (coastal Oregon, southern Cascades, extreme northern Rockies), while little or no precipitation fell (interior Oregon and Washington, southern Idaho), keeping them status-quo…


Scattered light showers (less than 0.5 inches) were observed across most of Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, with heavier totals (0.5-2 inches, locally to 4.5 inches) measured in southern and eastern New Mexico (in association with the rains in west Texas and the Rio Grande Valley). Nearly all of the significant rains, however, fell on non-drought areas, except for D0 in southern Chaves and eastern Otero counties. This small D0 was trimmed somewhat as the heavier rains fell to its east and west, still leaving deficits at 60-, 90-, and 180-days, and year-to-date. Elsewhere, decent precipitation from last week was enough to offset this week’s drier weather, keeping conditions unchanged…

Looking Ahead

For the upcoming 5-day period (October 15-19), a rather dry weather pattern should exist east of the Rockies, with only light to moderate precipitation expected in the Great Lakes region and New England, and extreme southern Florida. In the West, however, widespread and heavy rainfall (1-3 inches) is possible in the Southwest (southeast California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, western New Mexico, southwest Colorado) and western Washington, with lighter amounts in Idaho, Oregon, and western Wyoming and Montana. Temperatures should average below normal in the eastern third of the Nation, with much above normal readings from the Plains westward.

For the ensuing 5 days (October 20-24), the odds favor above-median precipitation throughout much of the middle third of the U.S., in the Northwest and Southeast, and southern Alaska, with a tilt toward sub-median precipitation in California, along the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts, and western Alaska. Above-normal temperatures are favored in much of the lower 48 States and southern Alaska, with only near-normal readings expected in northern Alaska, the Carolinas, and New Mexico.

Strong El Niño sets the stage for 2015-2016 winter weather — NOAA

Here’s the release from NOAA:

emperature - U.S. Winter Outlook: 2015-2016  (Credit: NOAA)
emperature – U.S. Winter Outlook: 2015-2016 (Credit: NOAA)

Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued the U.S. Winter Outlook today favoring cooler and wetter weather in Southern Tier states with above-average temperatures most likely in the West and across the Northern Tier. This year’s El Niño, among the strongest on record, is expected to influence weather and climate patterns this winter by impacting the position of the Pacific jet stream.

“A strong El Niño is in place and should exert a strong influence over our weather this winter,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “While temperature and precipitation impacts associated with El Niño are favored, El Niño is not the only player. Cold-air outbreaks and snow storms will likely occur at times this winter. However, the frequency, number and intensity of these events cannot be predicted on a seasonal timescale.”

Precipitation - U.S. Winter Outlook: 2015-2016  (Credit: NOAA)
Precipitation – U.S. Winter Outlook: 2015-2016
(Credit: NOAA)

Other factors that often play a role in the winter weather include the Arctic Oscillation, which influences the number of arctic air masses that penetrate into the South and nor’easters on the East Coast, and the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which can impact the number of heavy rain storms in the Pacific Northwest.

The 2015 U.S. Winter Outlook (December through February):

Precipitation Outlook:

Wetter-than-average conditions most likely in the Southern Tier of the United States, from central and southern California, across Texas, to Florida, and up the East Coast to southern New England. Above-average precipitation is also favored in southeastern Alaska.

Drier-than-average conditions most likely for Hawaii, central and western Alaska, parts of the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, and for areas near the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.

Temperature Outlook:

Above-average temperatures are favored across much of the West and the northern half of the contiguous United States. Temperatures are also favored to be above-average in Alaska and much of Hawaii. Below-average temperatures are most likely in the southern Plains and Southeast.

Drought Outlook:

The U.S. Drought Outlook shows some improvement is likely in central and southern California by the end of January, but not drought removal. Additional statewide relief is possible during February and March. Drought removal is likely across large parts of the Southwest, while improvement or removal is also likely in the southern Plains. However, drought is likely to persist in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, with drought development likely in Hawaii, parts of the northern Plains and in the northern Great Lakes region.

While it is good news that drought improvement is predicted for California, one season of above-average rain and snow is unlikely to remove four years of drought,” said Halpert. “California would need close to twice its normal rainfall to get out of drought and that’s unlikely.”

This seasonal outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.


A shift to renewable water in south metro area — The Denver Post

WISE Project map via Denver Water
WISE Project map via Denver Water

From The Denver Post (Eric Hecox and Diane Hoppe):

After decades of drawing down nonrenewable groundwater aquifers, the region of 300,000 people spanning most of Douglas County and some of Arapahoe County is transitioning to sustainable supplies. This provides much-needed security to future generations hoping to call south Denver home.

The latest success came last month when a first-of-its-kind partnership among the metro region’s three major water entities — Denver Water, Aurora Water and South Metro Water Supply Authority — received unprecedented statewide support.

The Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) project now stands alone as the only water project in Colorado to receive funding from basin roundtables across the state. The Colorado Water Conservation Board, the state of Colorado’s lead agency on water, also provided grant money in support of WISE.

The reason for the broad support lies in the collaborative approach that has been the hallmark of South Metro Water’s plans. WISE is widely seen as a way for a growing part of the metro area to cooperatively help solve some of its own water supply issues…

When WISE water deliveries begin in 2016, some of Colorado’s fastest-growing communities will receive a new sustainable water supply. Participating South Metro members include Highlands Ranch (served by Centennial Water), Cottonwood, Dominion, Inverness, Meridian, Parker, Pinery Water, Rangeview, Stonegate and Castle Rock.

At the same time, Denver Water will receive a new back-up supply, and Aurora Water will receive funding to help offset costs of its Prairie Waters project.

WISE is a significant part of South Metro’s plan for a sustainable water future. Combined with other infrastructure investments in supply, storage and reuse, and aggressive conservation efforts that have seen per capita use drop by 30 percent in the past decade, we are witnessing a seismic transition.

In 2003, the Rocky Mountain News ran an explosive three-day series, “Running Dry,” on what many perceived as a looming water crisis in the south metro region. At the time, aquifers in some parts of the region were being drawn down at a rate of about 30 feet per year and the vast majority of the region’s water came from nonrenewable sources. A year later, local water providers joined together to create the South Metro Water Supply Authority and started creating the plan that is being executed now.

Today, annual aquifer declines are one-sixth of what they used to be and continue to decrease. And while areas such as Highlands Ranch are already mostly renewable, the region as a whole is on track to receive the majority of its supplies from renewable sources by 2020.

That’s remarkable headway in a short period of time given the complexities of water planning.

The region still has more work ahead. But given the progress to date and with continuing support for South Metro Water’s plans and projects, we can feel confident in predicting that the days of alarming headlines around the south metro region’s water future are in the past.

Eric Hecox is the director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Diane Hoppe is a former state representative and current chair of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The October 2015 ENews is hot off the presses from Northern Water

Site of proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir -- Windy Gap Firming Project via the Longmont Times-Call
Site of proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir — Windy Gap Firming Project via the Longmont Times-Call

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

South Platte Forum

Register today for the 26th Annual South Platte Forum, which is Oct. 28-29 at the Embassy Suites in Loveland. The South Platte Forum is an avenue for timely, multidisciplinary exchange of information and ideas important to resource management within the South Platte River Basin. A special screening of The Great Divide will be immediately following the luncheon on Oct. 29 followed by a South Platte Water Related Activities Program meeting…

Windy Gap Water Year Ends

The Windy Gap water year ended Sept. 30. For the second year in a row, Windy Gap water was not pumped due to lack of storage in the Colorado-Big Thompson Project system. In total, 32,300 acre-feet of Windy Gap water was ordered while only 13,967 AF was delivered. The need for additional storage is becoming more apparent. When constructed, the Windy Gap Firming Project will provide additional storage in Chimney Hollow Reservoir for years like 2014 and 2015 when water was available but storage was not.

EcoFlight Flight Across America 2015 engages Fort Lewis College students


From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

On Wednesday, a handful of environmental studies students from Fort Lewis College took part in EcoFlight’s Flight Across America 2015, which engages college students about environmental issues, both in the air and on the ground. This year’s focus is the “mega-drought” occurring in the West, drawing attention to conservation concerns as the region’s tenuous water supply is increasingly threatened.

“Our mission is to educate and advocate for the environment,” said Bruce Gordon, executive director for EcoFlight. “This is a great way to get more bright young adults involved.”

Crews took the students up the San Juan Skyway to Silverton as Olson explained the events of the Aug. 5 Gold King Mine blowout, and the other risks to the vital headwaters of the Animas River.

“It was a unique opportunity to fly over the watershed,” said FLC professor Brad Clark, who added he has incorporated the Gold King Mine spill in his curriculum. “I wanted them to understand how the watershed and basin are connected, and what happens here affects the entire basin.”

Afterward, students received a short lecture from Olson, as well as members of Mountain Studies Institute, Trout Unlimited and the Southwestern Water Conservation District. Joe Ben Jr., a representative from the Shiprock Farmers Board, said the spill revealed the imperative responsibility for keeping the waters of the Animas healthy. He explained the farmers have still not received water test samplings from the Navajo Nation’s environmental experts – a reason why many have still not turned on their irrigation channels.

“There is still a continuous discharge of uncolored metal coming through,” he said. “On this Earth there is a shortage of clean water for humanity. We all, equally, should take care of this.”

Anna Amidon, a senior at FLC, said she was backpacking in the San Juan Mountains when the plume cascaded downstream, and her group actually had to wade across the orange waters. An environmental studies major, she’s followed the issues of the Upper Animas mining district closely, and Wednesday was a good chance to see it from above. “I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and it’s interesting to see the different organizations looking at the issues,” she said. “And that airplane ride was sweet.”