The Runoff Conundrum

Your Water Colorado Blog

When a summer storm crosses the eastern plains, drowning farmlands in a deluge, more than water ends up flowing into Colorado’s rivers, lakes and streams.

On April 13, 2017, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education was joined by Troy Bauder, with Colorado State University Extension, for a webinar in which part of the discussion centered on nonpoint source pollution. Bauder focuses on working with agricultural producers to reduce nutrient losses on their fields.

Runoff, a nonpoint source, occurs when there is more water than the soil can absorb. Agricultural runoff carries a bit of everything it touches—excess fertilizer, animal waste, soil and more. Water that is not absorbed into the ground moves across the land, picking up whatever it can carry, and drains into surface water and groundwater sources.

AgRunOffLynnBettsPhoto Credit: Lynn Betts

“Ag nutrients—nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P)—are absolutely required for productive agriculture,” Bauder says. “Of course, we need…

View original post 759 more words

#Drought news: Some D0 (Abnormally Dry) and D1 (Moderate Drought) reduced in E. #Colorado

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


PLEASE NOTE – The Drought Monitor reflects observed precipitation through Tuesday, 1200 UTC (8 am, EDT); any rain that has fallen after the Tuesday 1200 UTC cutoff will be reflected in next week’s map.

During the 7-day period (ending Tuesday morning), widespread heavy rain eased drought but caused local flooding from Oklahoma to the Carolina Coast. In contrast, dry, hot conditions caused drought to intensify over the lower Southeast, though tropical downpours afforded some drought relief in southern Florida. Additional improvements to drought intensity and coverage were noted in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic in response to late-spring rain as well as recovering groundwater levels. Conditions also improved on the central Plains, while drought remained largely unchanged elsewhere…

High Plains

Wet weather brought drought relief to the southern half of the region, while conditions remained unchanged on the northern High Plains’ long-term drought areas (denoted by an “L” on the map). Precipitation amounts were highly variable, but well-placed moderate to heavy rain and wet snow (1-3 inches liquid equivalent, locally more) led to reductions of Abnormal Dryness (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) over southern-most portions of Wyoming, northern and northeastern Colorado, as well as the northwestern and southeastern corners of Kansas. Additional D1 and D0 reductions were made from eastern Colorado into southwestern Kansas despite lighter rainfall (half inch or less), as precipitation totals over the past 90 days were now mostly well above normal, with 30-day totals locally more than three times normal. Meanwhile, despite recent wet weather, long-term deficits linger in the north’s D1 and D0 areas; 12-month precipitation stood at 65 to 80 percent of normal in northeastern Wyoming and adjacent portions of the Dakotas, though some parts of southwestern South Dakota were closer to normal and may be removed from D0 in the near future…


As the region’s climatological wet season draws to a close, there were no changes made to the drought depiction from the Rockies into the Southwest. Farther east, well-placed moderate to heavy rain and wet snow (1-3 inches liquid equivalent, locally more) led to reductions of Abnormal Dryness (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) over southern-most portions of Wyoming as well as northern and northeastern Colorado. Additional D1 and D0 reductions were made in eastern Colorado despite lighter rainfall (half inch or less), as precipitation totals over the past 90 days were now mostly well above normal, with 30-day totals locally more than three times normal…

Looking Ahead

The focus for heavy rainfall will shift to the nation’s mid-section over the next 5 days. An area of low pressure and its attendant cold front will produce moderate to heavy showers and thunderstorms as it moves from the Mississippi Valley toward southern Canada and the Atlantic Seaboard, though rain from this system will largely bypass the East Coast States. In its wake, another storm system will develop over the south-central U.S. during the weekend and lift slowly northeastward, producing heavy rain from the central Gulf Coast into the central Great Lakes Region; moderate to heavy wet snow is likely in the colder air on the northwest side of the storm over central and southern portions of the Rockies and High Plains. Combined, these two storms are expected to produce a large swath of 1- to 3-inch precipitation totals from the central Plains to the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley, with excessive rainfall (4-12 inches) possible from the northern Delta into the central Corn Belt. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for May 2 – 6 calls for above-normal precipitation across much of the nation east of the Mississippi as well as central and northern portions of the Rockies and High Plains. Conversely, drier-than-normal conditions are expected from Texas into the upper Midwest and from the Great Basin into the Northwest. Colder-than-normal conditions from the western slopes of the Appalachians to the High Plains will contrast with warmer-than-normal readings along the Atlantic Coast as well as California and the Southwest.

Aspen: Open House today to discuss Roaring Fork River health

Roaring Fork River back in the day

From Aspen Public Radio (Elizabeth Stewart-Severy):

The Roaring Fork has been on Colorado’s impaired rivers list for five years, and the city of Aspen is working with Pitkin County to put together a plan to improve its health.

“This stretch of river through the city of Aspen is the most threatened stretch in the entire river,” said April Long, who heads up Aspen’s Clean River Program.

A variety of factors may be contributing to the Roaring Fork’s degrading health. Water is pulled out of the river through a transbasin diversion, and lawns have replaced natural river bank in many areas. Plus, stormwater from the city core contributes pollutants.

Long and the city of Aspen have been working for years on improved stormwater systems, and now staff is looking at other projects to improve water quality.

The city and county are working together to develop a river management plan, and Long said public involvement is critical. There will be an open house Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Old Powerhouse Property in Aspen.

@ClimateCentral: Western Water Crunch Has Climate Change Fingerprints, Scientists Find

SNOTEL Site via the Natural Resources Conservation Service

From Climate Central (Bob Berwyn):

The American West has already lost between 10 and 20 percent of its mountain snowpack since the early 1980s, and climate change is partly to blame, new research shows. If greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed, the region could lose 30 percent of the snowpack the region relies on for irrigation and drinking water—and potentially as much as 60 percent—over the next 30 years, the authors write.

The loss can’t be explained by natural climate variations alone, however it is consistent with model simulations that include both natural and human-caused changes, the study says.

“These results add to the evidence of a human influence on climate that will have severe impacts on our water supply,” said Benjamin Santer, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientist and a co-author of the paper, published last week in Nature Communications.

Less snowpack is more than just a blow to the skiing and snowboarding industries. The snow that falls in winter, and melts slowly during spring and summer, fills regional reservoirs and is used for irrigation, hydropower and drinking water. The Western snowpack, spread across thousands of miles of high-elevation terrain, holds far more water than all the reservoirs in the region combined.

“A 60 percent loss would be a huge concern to farmers, ranchers and water managers,” said lead author John Fyfe, a senior research scientist with Environment Canada, who did some of the earliest studies on global warming impacts to western water supplies.

The findings are based on data collected between 1982 and 2016 from 354 snow measuring stations across 11 states, from the Cascades of Washington and Oregon through California’s Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and New Mexico. The stations measure the amount of water in the snow, a critical metric for calculating downstream water supplies.

The maximum amount of water in the snowpack declined at 307 (87 percent) of the sites between 1982 and 2016 at a rate of about 9.5 percent per decade. Projecting ahead, the models show a range of potential losses over the next 30 years reaching as high as 60 percent under a high-emissions scenario but likely closer to 30 percent, the authors write.

Fyfe said the models his team used to project the snowpack decline are similar to those used for attributing the man-made global warming to single climate events like heatwaves or droughts. The models reproduce many possible climate outcomes from a single starting point in 1950. Running the models with and without the effects of greenhouse gas forcing factored in enables the scientists to separate the effects of natural cycles like El Niño from the effects of heat-trapping gases.

Douglas Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Project at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said the projections reinforce the need for immediate actions to avert water shortages in the West, including massive conservation efforts, more efficient agricultural irrigation and rethinking how water from the region’s major rivers is allocated.

#Colorado Springs: Flood mitigation and restoration on Camp Creek

Camp Creek channel via City of Colorado Springs

From (Zach Thaxton):

A group of around a half dozen southeastern Colorado water and wildlife leaders toured Phase One of a three-phase improvement project on flood-damaged Camp Creek in Garden of the Gods Wednesday. The tour was part of the two-day Arkansas Valley River Basin Water Forum, happening in Colorado Springs. The group observed part of the Camp Creek Stream Stabilization Project, which was completed last fall as Phase one of the Camp Creek Drainage Improvement Project.

“They’re protecting the channel and providing storage for stormwater, so that will benefit the community down below,” said Gary Bostrom with the Southeast Colorado Water Conservancy District. The $1 million project is designed to channel floodwater coming out of Queens Canyon, ravaged during 2012’s Waldo Canyon Fire, through Garden of the Gods and into the Camp Creek channel along 31st Street in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood. Flooding in 2015 spread coarse sediment through the northern section of the park, destroying trails.

Phase Two of the project is construction of an $8.5 million detention basin below The Navigators. “The detention facility is a huge part of holding back flows and making the lower reach much more safe,” said Richard Mulledy, Water Resources Engineering Division manager for the City of Colorado Springs. Construction on the basin is set to begin in late 2017 following the conclusion of monsoon season.

Phase Three includes rebuilding of the 31st Street channel and making landscaping improvements and adding sidewalks and bicycle paths. View details of the entire project HERE.