Knowing when to water in Colorado’s crazy climate

Mile High Water Talk

Follow these simple rules of (green) thumb for watering your trees, gardens and lawns this spring.

It’s common to see a lot of “green thumbs” in the garden during the springtime. Photo: Kate Ter Haar, Flickr Creative Commons It’s common to see a lot of “green thumbs” in the garden during the springtime. Photo: Kate Ter Haar, Flickr Creative Commons

By Travis Thompson

Denver’s first day of summer will arrive Monday, June 20, at precisely 4:34 p.m.

Of course, summertime weather doesn’t appear with the flick of a switch. We’ll almost certainly experience some hot, dry spells in the months prior to this moment, which is why Denver Water’s annual summer water use rules go into effect May 1.

But these are just dates, not predictors of the bipolar Colorado climate. Weather patterns are the true indicators for proper watering habits.

When it comes to knowing when and where to water this spring, follow these rules of (green) thumb:

Trees and shrubs: During prolonged dry periods, water once or twice a…

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EPA proposes Superfund for San Juan County — The Durango Herald

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

The recommendation will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, which sets off a 60-day public comment period before the rule can be finalized.

The proposal calls for adding eight new sites to the National Priorities List, including Bonita Peak Mining District in San Juan County.

The EPA recommended the site after Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter to federal officials in February backing the designation, which would inject large amounts of federal dollars into permanent restoration efforts. The action came in the wake of the Aug. 5 Gold King Mine spill.

Hickenlooper sent the letter to the EPA after Silverton and San Juan County expressed support for the listing.

“This is a crucial next step in making the region eligible for necessary resources and comprehensive cleanup efforts under EPA’s Superfund program, but our work is not done,” Hickenlooper said. “We are working with the EPA to ensure that adequate funding for this site is provided, including immediate interim measures and options to mitigate any further water quality deterioration.”

The listing would impact as many as 50 mining-related sites in the Gladstone area that have contaminated the Upper Animas, Mineral Creek and Cement Creek for more than a century.

Restoration efforts would likely include a permanent water-treatment facility, as well as long-term water quality monitoring…

Local officials, however, vow to closely watch the process, which could last for many years. They want a voice at the table and to ensure that boundaries of the proposed Superfund site don’t expand. Some also worry about blocking access to the backcountry.

Meanwhile, Hickenlooper on Wednesday renewed his support for Congress to pass Good Samaritan legislation, which would ease liability concerns for government and private entities to restore draining mines.

And the state Legislature on Wednesday advanced a bill that would allow the state to use emergency response funds for hazardous conditions at a legacy hard rock mine site that is a danger to the public. Currently, the state can only use those funds at mining sites subject to the state’s regulatory authority, so the bill would expand the state’s authority.

House Bill 1276 passed the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee unanimously without any conversation. It now heads to the full House for approval.

@NOAA: State of the Climate, March 2016

significantanomaliesevents032016noaa

Click here to go to the NOAA website for the current State of the Climate. Here’s an excerpt:

March was 4th warmest for contiguous US

Lower 48 states had 3rd warmest year to date, and Alaska was record warm

The March temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 47.5°F, or 6.0°F above the 20th century average, the warmest since 2012. The January-March temperature was 39.7°F, 4.6°F above the 20th century average, also the warmest since 2012. The March precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.89 inches, 0.38 inch above the 20th century average. The January-March precipitation total was 6.92 inches, 0.04 inch below average.

This analysis of U.S. temperature and precipitation is based on data back to January 1895, resulting in 122 years of data.

U.S. climate highlights: March

Temperature

Every state in the contiguous U.S. had an above-average March temperature. Temperatures were much warmer than average across parts of the Rocky Mountains, Central and Northern Plains, Midwest, and along the East Coast. No state had a record warm March.

The Alaska March temperature was the sixth warmest on record at 18.6°F, 7.8°F above average. Record warmth was observed across southern parts of the state. The end of March was particularly warm for Alaska with several locations setting new March daily temperature records. On March 31, the temperature at Klawock in southeastern Alaska reached 71.0°F, the warmest March temperature ever observed in the state.

Precipitation

Above-average precipitation was observed along the West Coast, Midwest, Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi River Valley. Seven states were much wetter than average. Record-breaking rain events at both the beginning and end of March caused significant flooding across parts of the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Memphis, Tennessee and Little Rock, Arkansas, each had their wettest March on record with 16.20 inches and 12.33 inches of rain, respectively.

Below-average precipitation was observed across parts of the Southwest and Central Plains and along parts of the East Coast, where eight states were much drier than average. New Mexico had its driest March on record with 0.06 inch of precipitation, only 8 percent of average.

According to the March 29 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 15.1 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up about 0.8 percent compared to the beginning of March. Drought conditions improved across parts of the Northwest and Northern California, however, drought conditions continued to impact over 90 percent of California. Drought conditions worsened in the Southwest and parts of the Southern and Central Plains. Short-term drought created ideal wildfire conditions along the Oklahoma and Kansas border, where a grassland fire charred more than 400,000 acres, the largest wildfire on record in Kansas.

Eagle approves sales tax for river park project — The Denver Post

From The Denver Post (Jason Blevins):

Surf’s up in Eagle.

Eagle residents overwhelmingly approved a sales tax increase to fund a river park project in a record-turnout election for the town.

The 20-year, half-percent sales tax increase to 4.5 percent will spark development of a $12 million riverpark project designed to transform a dirt parking lot used by truckers into a gateway for the growing town.

In a record turnout election for Eagle — spurred in part by an abundance of yard signs urging support for Ballot Question 1 — voters approved the measure 962 to 589. The project includes a whitewater park for kayakers and stand-up paddlers and terraced fields designed to lure passersby off Interstate 70 and into town. The hope is the project spurs mixed-use development on private land between the park and Eagle’s historic downtown.

“This is total validation for what’s going on right now in Eagle,” said Mayor Yuri Kostick, noting the proliferation of mountain bike trails that has elevated his town as a biking destination.

Kostick was heading over to the Bonfire Brewery, which served as an informal headquarters for river park supporters.

“It’s going to be such a sweet scene,” he said.

Eagle River
Eagle River

2015 #coleg: HB16-1337 (Appellate Process For Decisions About Groundwater) passes out of House

Groundwater movement via the USGS
Groundwater movement via the USGS

From the South Platte Sentinel (Greg Brophy/Mark Hillman):

Local ground water management districts protect the underground water rights of farmers and other residents of rural Colorado. House Bill [HB16-1337], now under consideration at the State Capitol, will ensure that water speculators cannot play deceptive games in court in order to exhaust the limited legal budgets of these districts.

HB 1337 will clarify a recent court decision, which found that state law was unclear regarding whether new evidence could be introduced when decisions of the Ground Water Commission are appealed in district court.

Essentially, the court said that entirely new evidence can be presented in court – evidence that was never considered by the commission or local ground water district.

HB 1337 is an easy fix. It simply requires parties in contested appli-cations to present all their evidence at the administrative hearing level. This is in line with how things are done in Water Court where the applicants must prove they are not injuring existing water rights and show all their evidence at that time.

HB 1337 ensures applicants only get one bite of the apple and aren’t able to put on multiple cases on the same contested application in order to run up the costs to the detriment of our communities, farms and towns.

Because of our roots in rural Colorado and in agriculture, we wanted to be sure people are aware of this important legislation.

We urge you to call or e-mail Senate President Bill Cadman to thank him for his leadership and let him know that this bill is important to rural Colorado.

While you’re at it, thank Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (Sterling) and Sen. Larry Crowder (Alamosa) for their leadership in protecting Colorado agriculture. The future of eastern Colorado is in their hands!

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

Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal March 2016 via the Colorado Climate Center.
Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal March 2016 via the Colorado Climate Center.

Click here to view the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.