#Drought news: 10% of #California is out of drought, improved depiction for #Kansas, D1 in eastern New Mexico was removed

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

Summary

An active weather pattern over much of the eastern United States brought with it cooler than normal temperatures for most areas east of the Mississippi River. Areas of the Mid-Atlantic and Florida recorded above-normal precipitation with departures of up to 2 inches above normal for the week. Temperatures were also cooler than normal over the Southwest as above-normal precipitation from southern Oregon to western Arizona helped to keep temperatures down. Areas of the central Rocky Mountains recorded up to 4 inches above normal precipitation as a series of low pressure systems developed there and tracked onto the Plains. Drier than normal conditions dominated much of the South and much of the northern United States had above-normal temperatures…

High Plains and South

Areas of Nebraska and South Dakota were above normal for precipitation this week as a series of storms tracked through the region. After a reanalysis of the region, portions of the D0 in western North Dakota were improved this week. Additional rain over the D0 areas in Kansas allowed for the removal of most of the remaining abnormally dry areas in the state with only a small area of southeast Kansas remaining. In Oklahoma, D0 was improved in the central and western portions of the state while in Texas, D1 was removed from the western panhandle and D0 was expanded to the south in the eastern panhandle. New areas of D0 were added in south Texas in response to developing dry conditions while some improvement to D0 was made in west Texas…

West

As an analysis of conditions in New Mexico and Colorado was done, D0 conditions were improved in southeast Colorado and eastern New Mexico and the D1 in eastern New Mexico was removed. Abundant precipitation in Wyoming this week allowed for a full category improvement to the D0 and D1 conditions in the southwest part of the state. Northeast Utah also was improved as D0 was removed over this portion of the state. Based upon recent conditions and discussions that started last week, areas of D2 and D3 were improved over southern Nevada and southern California. For all of the West, the indicator type was changed to “L” (long-term drought) as the areas of short-term impacts have improved enough to remove that designation…

Looking Ahead

Over the next 5-7 days, the Plains, Midwest, and Northeast remain in a very active weather pattern; the greatest precipitation amounts are projected from northeast Texas into southern Missouri, where up to 5 inches of rain is forecast. With this active pattern, a shot of cold air out of Canada will impact temperatures all the way into the south, with below-normal temperatures. Temperatures are expected to be coolest over the central Plains with departures of up to 15 degrees below normal.

The 6-10 day outlooks show that the best chances for above-normal temperatures are in Alaska and the southern United States from Texas to the Carolinas. Projections show that the below-normal temperatures could be experienced over the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and New England. A wetter than normal pattern looks to be likely as there are above-normal chances for precipitation above normal over areas from the Pacific Northwest, Central Plains, and most of the eastern United States. The greatest chances of above-normal precipitation are expected over the lower Mississippi River Valley and the Great Basin.

#AnimasRiver: #GoldKingMine spill study seeks participants — The Farmington Daily Times

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)
The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

From the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University via the Farmington Daily Times:

A study of the Gold King Mine spill being conducted by researchers from two universities is seeking participants from three communities on the Navajo Nation.

The research team is from the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. The study was started last year with researchers collecting and testing water, sediment and soil samples from the portion of the San Juan River that flows through the communities.

This part of the study will focus on the short-term exposure and perception of risk of residents who were impacted by the mine spill, which saw the release of millions of gallons of toxic mine waste into the Animas and San Juan rivers last August, according to a press release.

Researchers are looking for enough participants to develop four focus groups in Shiprock and Upper Fruitland and in Aneth, Utah. Each group will consist of 10 individuals, and the names and identities of participants will remain private, the release states.

A series of community meetings to explain the study will be held for Shiprock residents at 10 a.m. Friday, at 6 p.m. Monday and at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Each meeting will be at the Shiprock Chapter house.

Meetings for Upper Fruitland residents will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Walter Collins Center and at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Upper Fruitland Chapter house.

The research team will also have meetings in Aneth, Utah, at 10 a.m. May 20-22 at the Aneth Chapter house.

For more information about the study, contact Karletta Chief, principal investigator, at 520-222-9801 or email her at kchief@email.arizona.edu.

Sixteen years of #drought in the #ColoradoRiver Basin: Reality or talking point? — Eric Kuhn

Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam December 2015 via Greg Hobbs.
Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam December 2015 via Greg Hobbs.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Eric Kuhn):

I was recently reading an article on the negotiations among the Lower Basin states concerning their use of Colorado River water when I came across this phrase: “after 16 years of drought.” It’s a phrase I’ve been seeing for many years now. Except, of course last year it was “after 15 years of drought” and two years ago it was “after 14 years of drought” and so on.

That same day I read another article discussing a forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that the El Niño is waning and the atmospheric models are predicting that by fall we have a 70 percent chance of a La Niña. These two conditions in the Pacific Ocean greatly influence Colorado precipitation patterns. Why do these two seemingly unconnected events concern me? I’m concerned because the term drought implies conditions will get better. The reality may be otherwise. [ed. emphasis mine]

Glen Canyon Dam June 2013 -- Photo / Brad Udall
Glen Canyon Dam June 2013 — Photo / Brad Udall

First, if we look at inflows to Lake Powell since the year 2000, they’ve been below the long-term average. Therefore, we can make the case that the Colorado River Basin is in a drought. However, if we look to our local conditions in Colorado, we are certainly not in a drought. In fact, since the flooding rains in the fall of 2013 I believe we’ve been in time of plenty or “pluvial.”

Let’s look at water supply conditions in Colorado. In the Upper Colorado River Basin, Granby Reservoir, the largest reservoir in the transmountain Colorado-Big Thompson Project, spilled last year and may again this year. Granby Reservoir, the second largest in the state, spills quite rarely. It last happened after the mid-1980s and late-1990s wet cycles.

Last year Denver Water barely operated the Roberts Tunnel that delivers Dillon Reservoir water under the Continental Divide to its service area. This year, it may not have to turn on the tunnel until July or August. On the West Slope, in 2015, the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon saw the highest run-off flows since 1984. And since 2013, West Slope river calls by senior water rights holders have been infrequent. In the Arkansas River basin, Pueblo Reservoir and John Martin Reservoir, its two largest, are close to full. Again, all of this only happens after multi-year wet spells.

OK, if Colorado has not been in a drought, and Colorado’s mountains produce about two-thirds of the total run-off of the Colorado River system: Why is total storage in Lake Powell and Lake Mead continuing to decline?

I believe there several reasons: First, the demand for Colorado River water in the Lower Basin exceeds the available supply. As required by the 2007 Interim Operating Criteria, Lake Powell has been delivering a little extra water to Lake Mead. It did so in 2015, will this year and will most likely do so again in 2017. Even with this extra water, the demand for water below Lake Mead exceeds its inflow, thus it continues to lose storage.

Which in turn requires Lake Powell to continue delivering extra water. This means that even with decent inflows to Lake Powell, it can’t gain storage. Lower Basin water officials refer to this imbalance as the “structural deficit.”

They are working on solutions, but the solutions will be painful. Thus it helps to refer to what is happening in the basin as a “16-year drought.” Second, it’s looking more and more likely that warming regional temperatures have turned above-average to abundant precipitation into just average run-off. Recently published science papers have zeroed in on this problem and the consequences of warming on the Colorado River basin are very serious.

Finally, what does this have to do with a potential La Niña? Just like they have in the past, our current period of plentiful precipitation in Colorado will come to an end and it may well be replaced with a period of real drought. Often, but not always, this happens as a strong El Niño is replaced by La Niña conditions. After the 1957-58 strong El Niño, 1959, 1960 and 1961 were all dry years. After the 1973 strong El Niño, three out of the next four years, 1974, 1976 and 1977 were dry and 1977 remains the lowest single year of record for inflow to Lake Powell.

After the 1998 strong El Niño, 1999 was an OK year, but it was followed by the 2000-2004 drought, one of the driest on record for Colorado. There are, of course, exceptions. After the 1982-83 strong El Niño, conditions in Colorado remained very wet for the next four years. So I’m not making a prediction.

We don’t know exactly how deep or how long the predicted La Niña will last or if it will bring drought conditions. But, I’m putting out a warning. If we are headed for a real drought as opposed to a talking point, the consequences for the Colorado River basin are frightening. Unlike, the beginning of the 2000-2004 drought period when the Lake Mead and lake Powell were brim full, today they are only about 40 percent capacity when measured jointly!

What does this mean for western Colorado? I believe the answer is that we can’t be fooled by talk of continuing drought. Instead we need to be diligent and fully prepared for the next drought. It means a continued focus on conservation, the development of drought contingency plans, the wise use of our existing, and where possible, the expansion of water storage reservoirs. Finally, we need to better inform and educate our public on the vulnerability our water resources. If indeed, our current pluvial is replaced by drought in the next few years and we are not prepared — shame on us!

Eric Kuhn is the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, based in Glenwood Springs.

From CBS Las Vegas:

Lake Mead’s already low water levels are expected to drop even further. The “Las Vegas Sun” says the man-made reservoir could surpass its historic low after next Wednesday. And by the end of June, Lake Mead’s water level could be the lowest since its creation in 1935.