#Snowpack is holding on, rain and snow on the way

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 26, 2017 via the NRCS.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Colorado’s mountain snowpack water supply registered healthy Sunday, but exceptionally high temperatures in metro Denver over several months — 9 degrees above normal so far in March — rendered the past winter relatively wimpy.

While December and January temperatures dipped a bit below normal, February and March in metro Denver meant enduring temperatures at least 7 degrees higher than the average, according to National Weather Service data. And metro Denver temperatures during the pre-winter month of November also measured above normal.

Even at higher-elevation icy areas, such as Leadville, late winter temperatures this year in Colorado turned mild. Leadville’s average temperature was 5 degrees warmer than normal in February, 4.7 degrees in March through last Wednesday and 4 degrees in November.

For Denver, weather service meteorologists on Sunday said storms this week could pull down the plus-9 degree March average of 48.7 degrees through Saturday, well above the March norm of 39.7 degrees. However, precipitation doesn’t guarantee lower temperatures, meteorologist Natalie Sullivan said. Denver residents were told they would face temperatures in the 50s and 60s through the week…

For Colorado food producers and urban residents, this is the key time of year for assessing mountain snowpack. The snow serves as slow-release water storage, closely watched by irrigators and municipal supply managers, because melting snow determines the amount of water that will end up in streams, rivers, reservoirs and irrigation canals. Water in mountain snowpack normally peaks in April.

@CWCB_DNR: March 2017 #Drought Update

Click here to read the update (Taryn Finnessey/Tracy Kosloff). Here’s an excerpt:

February of this year was the second warmest February on record, and the warmest since 1954. Well above average temperatures have continued into March. Precipitation in February was average but has slowed considerably with only 29 percent of average month –to-date in March. However, the forecast for the next two weeks indicates that the state will likely see cooler temperatures and more significant moisture. Demand has already increased for municipal water providers, indicative of an increase in outdoor watering typically not seen for another month. Agricultural producers are also expressing concern and are hopeful that forecasted storms will materialize and help to alleviate worsening drought conditions. Fires have already been an issue in the foothills and on the eastern plains.

  • Statewide water year- to- date snowpack as of March 20th is at 116 percent of normal, down from 133% of normal on March 1st. The Upper Rio Grande currently has the lowest snowpack in the state at 105 percent of normal while the basins of the Southwest and Gunnison have the highest snowpack at 130 percent of normal.
  • Above average temperatures have resulted in snowpack beginning to melt off at some mountain locations. All basins have seen a decline in snowpack with respect to normal since March 1st due to combined dry and warm weather. This is typically the snowiest month of the year in the Colorado mountains. Normal peak accumulation typically occurs around April 9th,so the possibility remains to return to snowier weather and accumulate more snowpack potentially providing a higher peak snowpack this year.
  • Following an average February, all basins are well below average for precipitation thus far in March, with accumulation ranging from a low of 19 percent in the Gunnison to a high of 55 percent in the Yampa & White. Statewide March-to-date precipitation is only 29 percent of average.
  • Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 107% of normal. The Yampa & White River basins along with the Southwestern basins have the highest storage levels in the state at 127 and 114% of average, respectively. The Upper Rio Grande has the lowest storage levels at 91% percent. Reservoirs are already beginning to see inflow from the early snowmelt.
  • Reservoir storage and above average streamflow forecasts have resulted in the Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) indicating slightly wet to moderately wet across most of the state, with the eastern plains showing less available water than the west slope.
  • Streamflow forecasts, while still above average, have been trending downward over the last month and without additional snow accumulation are expected to continue decreasing.
  • Neutral ENSO conditions are present, and are favored to continue through spring, with the possible development of an El Nino this summer. The April-June forecast looks dry for the season, with the promise of an enhanced monsoon season based on current analogues. Should an El Niño develop this summer, precipitation during the latter half of the growing season becomes more favorable.
  • Short term forecasts show an increased probability of precipitation across most of the state over the next two weeks with widespread 1-4 inches of moisture expected over the mountains and northeastern plains.
  • Colorado Drought Monitor March 21, 2017.

    Boulder County adopts new oil and gas regulations

    From KUNC (Jackie Fortier):

    The county calls them the “most restrictive” of such regulations in Colorado. They are about 60 pages and require a much higher environmental and public health standard than the state. Boulder County began the new rule process following two state Supreme Court decisions in 2016 that invalidated hydraulic fracking bans or long term moratoriums.

    “In light of those decisions, the board terminated our moratorium that was in effect until 2018, and established a new moratorium until May 1, 2017, for the purpose of allowing us [Boulder County planning department] to update the regulations that we had adopted in 2012 and prepare for their implementation,” said Kim Sanchez, chief planner for the county.

    Now that the commissioners have adopted these regulations, here are three key takeaways:

    These regulations are ‘the most restrictive’ in Colorado

    Boulder County wants to push the envelope. For example, an oil or gas company that wants to drill in unincorporated Boulder County would have to give notice to surrounding landowners and residents, have multiple public meetings, and do soil and water testing, which could be a very long and probably more expensive process than anywhere else in Colorado. State officials told Boulder County it is overstepping their local authority, a position that Commissioner Elise Jones said they would defend.

    “Our focus is on adopting regulations that we think are the strongest possible, for our citizens and the environment, and our understanding of the law as we see it,” she said. “If the state disagrees well, so be it, we’ll deal with that. If the state wants to pre-empt local governments, on oil and gas then they need to do their job and protect us from the impacts of oil and gas, and they are not doing that. And until they do that, local jurisdictions like Boulder County will continue to push to do that work themselves.”

    What can the state regulate and what can local governments like Boulder County regulate?

    The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulates location and construction of drill sites and associated equipment, for example what machinery is used. Local governments like Boulder County have substantial regulatory authority through their land use code, such as building permits for structures, traffic impact fees, and inspecting for compliance with local codes and standards related to water quality and wildlife impacts. Boulder County’s new regulations are the most stringent in terms of land use.

    You could get paid to live by oil and gas drilling

    One of Boulder County’s regulations could require a company to pay residents “disruption payments.” Not every company would have to do this; it’s an option for the county to require. Within a mile radius of the drill site, companies would need to pay residents enough money to move and pay rent somewhere else during some operations. The closer you are to the drill site, the more money you would get. The amount would be calculated based on federal data for the area. Every month residents would get a check. It would be up to them if they would want to move temporarily or just keep the money.

    Commissioner Jones said they thought disruption payments were necessary to include.

    “Industry has never been required to say ‘Yes, I’m impacting those people’s lives and I’m going to pay to help move them to a place so their quality of life isn’t diminished by my noise and my dust and my vibrations and my emissions,’ Jones said. “We think that it’s an important first step in industry taking ownership of the significant impacts that drilling has, particularly when you’re drilling near homes and schools and the like.”