Above-average snowpack in the Dolores Basin bodes well for McPhee Reservoir, farmers and recreational boaters on the Lower Dolores River.
Snotels in the basin show snowpack at 136 percent of the average as of Jan. 18, and more storms are on their way.
According to the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center, spring runoff into the Dolores River will fill McPhee and allow for whitewater boating release below the dam.
“Snowpack has record-setting potential already. We do feel comfortable that the reservoir will fill, and irrigators will get their full amount of water,” said Ken Curtis an engineer with the Dolores Water Conservancy District.
The forecast center’s latest most probable runoff outlook shows 285,000 acre-feet inflow into McPhee to start the 2017 irrigation season. The fact that the reservoir ended last irrigation season with 143,400 acre-feet of active carryover storage, makes the situation favorable.
The potential total exceeds the benchmark of 270,000 acre-feet needed to fulfill water obligations for irrigators in Montezuma and Dolores counties, the Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch operations, local municipal needs and the downstream fish pool.
With more storms to come, managers expect to fill the lake and also provide a whitewater boating release below the dam lasting up to a month or longer, says Vern Harrell of the Bureau of Reclamation.
And here’s the Westwide basin-filled SNOTEL map from the NRCS.
Here’s the release from Western Resource Advocates:
Western Resources Advocates (WRA) released a new analysis today that shows Central Arizona’s cities, suburban growth in significant areas, and agriculture face substantial cuts in Colorado River water supplies if Lake Mead levels continue to fall. Analysis of data from the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) and Central Arizona Project (CAP) identifies who could face a reduction of Colorado River supplies, and at what level, within Arizona as Lake Mead levels continue to drop.
Phoenix and Tucson suburban growth that uses the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District to prove there is renewable water to cover development will be cut first in a shortage declaration under existing agreements;
Four important Central Arizona Irrigation Districts could also lose a substantial portion of their CAP water, including Maricopa Stanfield, Central Arizona, Hohokam, and Harquahala; and
Major cities, including Phoenix and Tucson, could face a reduction of Colorado River supplies within this decade if Lake Mead drops below the 1,025’ level.
These cuts are looming because Arizona’s ”bank” for 40% of its water supply, Lake Mead, is being drained faster than it can be filled. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation estimates there is a nearly 50% chance of a federal shortage declaration, that would cut 320,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water deliveries to Arizona, happening as soon as 2018 under business as usual. This level of cuts could harm agriculture, lead to over-drafting of nonrenewable groundwater, reduce hydroelectric power, and provide a lot less water for Arizona cities and the environment.
“Arizona is facing perhaps its greatest challenge since the settlement of the region and development of modern cities, agriculture, and industry,” said Drew Beckwith, Water Policy Manager, Western Resource Advocates. “The time is now for ADWR and CAP to put in place longer-term solutions that prevent significant water shortages and stand the test of time. One cannot put Band-Aids on an ill patient, while failing to address the underlying illness.”
Arizona has already taken important action by implementing interim measures to keep more water in Lake Mead to help stave off federally mandated cutbacks of Colorado River water. The Arizona Department of Water Resources has also been working with California, Nevada, and key water users within Arizona on plans to keep Lake Mead from falling to critically low levels.
Western Resource Advocates and conservation partners at American Rivers and Environmental Defense Fund have developed seven policies and actions to protect groundwater and help Arizona’s agriculture, cities, Indian tribes, economy, and environment thrive in a future with less Colorado River water supplies.
Three of the seven proposed policies and actions are:
Water providers and farmers, with support from ADWR, should adopt next-generation water conservation and efficiencyfor our homes, business and agriculture.
The Central Arizona Project should expand its support of system conservation programs allowing municipalities and other water users to dedicate conserved water to stay in Lake Mead to prevent water levels from dropping farther.
Water providers, cities and agriculture, with support from CAP and ADWR, should increase the number of innovative water sharing arrangements between themselves,like the Phoenix-Tucson water sharing agreement.
“System Conservation Programs have proven to be a great success along the Colorado River, putting more water into Lake Mead and keeping the lake from falling to drastically low levels,” said Jeff Odefey, Director, Clean Water Supply, American Rivers. “Innovative water sharing agreements, like that between Phoenix and Tucson, are an ideal example other water interests should adopt, demonstrating the collaboration and flexibility we will need to stabilize Lake Mead levels for the long term.”
“We are all in this together in the Colorado River basin. ADWR is on the right track with increasing the level of collaboration and proactive actions with all Arizona water stakeholders. Now ADWR and stakeholders need to also adopt longer-term solutions,” said Kevin Moran, Senior Director, Colorado River Program, Environmental Defense Fund. “In the end, the strategy which has served Arizona and the Lower Basin states the most is to focus on collaboration and ongoing water management innovation that benefit both current and future generations.”
The Colorado Agricultural Leadership Program is proud to host the 26th annual Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture, titled “Label it: Agriculture,” and focusing on a future built by collaboration. This innovative and informative program will bring together producers, consumers, experts and other ag stakeholders to peel back the polarizing rhetoric often found in today’s society.
Stories can create divisive boundaries in agriculture between organic and conventional; urban and rural; large-scale and small-scale. The Forum will instead focus on the powerful history of collaboration and cooperation that has made agriculture in the state of Colorado the second largest driver of our economy. It will challenge and equip attendees to seek out novel alliances and ideas to benefit their own operations, the industry statewide, and beyond.
Registered attendees of the Forum are also invited to a pre-Forum reception, taking place from 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the Governor’s Residence at Boettcher Mansion (400 E 8th Avenue, Denver, CO 80203).
Joining a myriad of other speakers at the 2017 Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown will each be stepping up to the podium at the event.
Gov. Hickenlooper and Commissioner Brown will help lead a Forum that this year is titled “Label It: Agriculture,” focusing on how collaboration and cooperation have made agriculture in Colorado the state’s second-largest driver of our economy, and how similar efforts will be critical moving forward.
Other presenters and panelists at this year’s Forum – taking place on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at the Renaissance Denver Stapleton Hotel – will include:
* Krysta Harden, former U.S. deputy secretary of agriculture, and current vice president of public policy and chief sustainability officer for DuPont
* Gregory Graff, ag-economics professor at Colorado State University
* Keith Belk, animal sciences and public health professor at Colorado State University
* Holly Butka, global consumer engagement lead at Monsanto
* Norm Dalsted, professor and extension farm/ranch management economist at Colorado State University
* Tom Lipetzky, director of marketing programs and strategic initiatives at the Colorado Department of Agriculture
* Tom Kourlis, Colorado rancher
* Stephanie Regagnon, CEO of FieldWatch Inc.
* Dawn Thilmany McFadden, professor and agribusiness extension specialist at Colorado State University
* Virginia Till, recycling specialist and regional lead for EPA Region 8’s Sustainable Food Management
Looking back on Earth’s global temperature over the past three years…2014: record warm—wow! 2015: record warm—wow!! 2016: record warm—holy cow!!!
In 2016, the annual global temperature reached a record high for the third year in a row, a remarkable occurrence rarely seen in the 137-year NOAA record and one not seen since the streak of record warmth (at the time) of 1939, 1940, and 1941.
Those years, which ranked as third warmest, second warmest, and warmest, respectively, in 1941, now rank as 64th, 50th, and 38th warmest today. But back to the current streak…how did this happen?
If you guess long-term climate change—Yes! If you guess El Niño—Yes! Also correct. If you guess supermoons—umm, sorry, not so much.
First, Earth’s temperature has been rising at an average rate of 0.13°F each decade since the start of the record in 1880 and more than twice that rate (0.31°F) if you consider the past half century alone. That increase is due to long-term warming.
Second, natural climate cycles, the biggest player being the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), cause global temperatures to temporarily rise (El Niño) or fall (La Niña). Generally, the stronger the El Niño or La Niña, the greater the impact will be on the average global temperature. Over time, the effects of El Niños and La Niñas balance each other out, so the net effect on long-term warming is negligible.
Near the end of 2014, one of the strongest El Niños since at least the mid-20th century, and the strongest since 1998, emerged in the eastern Pacific Ocean and lasted through late spring 2016. So not only was this a strong El Niño, it was the longest-lasting one since the Climate Prediction Center began tracking the phenomenon in 1950. This extreme intensity and duration led to the fall of lots of annual and monthly global temperature records. And when they fell, they fell hard.
With a couple of months in the El Niño phase at the end of the year—but still weak at this point—2014 broke the annual record set in 2010 (another year with El Niño by the way) by 0.07°F.
El Niño continued to strengthen throughout 2015 and was among the strongest on record by the end of the year. (Side lesson: there are a lot of complicated dynamics between the ocean and the atmosphere, but to simplify here, a strong and long-lived El Niño exposes a lot of warm water to the atmosphere. If you take away some of the details, it’s like adding a subtle temporary floor furnace to the atmosphere.) With all the extra heat pumped into the atmosphere from the ocean, 2015 broke the annual record set in 2014 by an incredible 0.29°F, the widest margin on record.
El Niño began to weaken around the beginning of 2016, officially ending in late spring. Often, the effects of the phenomenon continue to impact global temperatures for up to a few months after the event has ended because all of that added heat in the atmosphere doesn’t immediately go away. And as sometimes happens, a La Niña event emerged a few months after El Niño’s demise, bringing its cooling effect with it.
Because of its strength and lingering effects, the 2016 annual global temperature was influenced more by El Niño than by La Niña. And so, with the global temperature already elevated at the beginning of the year, 2016 set yet another annual global temperature record, albeit by a slimmer margin of 0.07°F.
But how does the 2016 temperature stack up against 1998, the year of the last strong El Niño? If we were comparing apples to apples, we would expect the temperatures to be roughly close to one another. But it’s not apples to apples: this is where the effect of long-term global warming can clearly be seen. Although each year started with a strong El Niño and ended with La Niña, 2016 was more than half a degree (0.56°F) warmer than 1998. That matches up well with the average decadal rate of warming. Even 2014 beat out 1998 by 0.19°F.
The monthly records
While three record warm years in a row is pretty incredible, monthly temperatures during these three years were equally astonishing. Lots of records were broken, several in dramatic fashion.
In the 28-month span between May 2014 and August 2016, 24 monthly global temperature records were broken. That includes 16 in a row (s-i-x-t-e-e-n!) from May 2015 to August 2016. Fourteen of the 15 largest all-time monthly temperatures departures were set during 2015 and 2016, with the highest in March 2016 (January 2007 tied for 10th warmest, and yes, El Niño was involved here too).
El Niño is over. What now?
El Niños and La Niñas and other natural climate patterns are really difficult to predict far in advance. It is unknown exactly when they will occur, how long they will last, and how intense they will be. So it’s not really possible to know exactly how warm or cool next year, or the year after, or the year after that will be.
But underlying this uncertainty is the certainty that the annual global temperature record has been broken five times since the beginning of the 21st century and the certainty that the global temperature has been increasing around 0.3°F per decade over the past 50 years.
Although we don’t know when, the global annual temperature record will be broken again. Monthly global temperature records will be broken again. We will not see new global high temperature records every year, nor do we expect to. We probably won’t see a new record in 2017, but we probably will see one in the not so distant future.
Finally, it’s important to remember that the average global temperature is just that – an average. Different parts of the world will set new records at different times, and yes, we expect to see some records this year too. We expect a few of these will even be cold records. In some regions of the world, like the Arctic, temperatures are rising at a much higher rate than most other regions of the world. Increasing temperatures manifest into impacts, like melting glaciers and ice sheets that lead to sea level rise, among countless others. That won’t change—new record annual global temperatures or not.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
The snowpack graphs in the latest National Integrated Drought Information System/ Colorado Climate Center water supply and drought briefing show near-vertical lines in sub-basins across the Upper Colorado Basin as snowpack levels vauted from way below to way above average. Read the briefing here. As a result, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Jan 17 forecast for unregulated water year inflows to Lake Powell rose to over 12 million acre feet (maf), according to its weekly Lower Colorado Water Supply Report. That’s up from the Bureau’s 9.5 maf forecast on Jan 4 and 7.83 maf forecast on Dec 1, as reported in its monthly 24-Month Studies.