#ColoradoRiver: Reclamation Announces Completion of Orchard Mesa Irrigation Disrict Regulating Reservoir @USBR #COriver

Graphic credit US Bureau of Reclamation.

Here’s the Here’s the release about using a small reservoir to change the timing of direct flow irrigation water (Justyn Liff):

The Bureau of Reclamation announced today that construction is complete, except for seeding this coming fall, on Orchard Mesa Irrigation District’s 74 acre-foot regulating reservoir on Orchard Mesa, Colo. The $8.86 million reservoir was built for the District on behalf of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and is the latest feature of the District’s Canal System’s Improvement Project.

Major features of the project include: construction of the regulating reservoir, upgraded check structures in canals, installation of remote monitoring systems, canal interconnect pipeline, improved operational procedures, and potential replacement of some open earth laterals with pressurized pipeline.

The improvements will provide a more reliable water supply throughout the canal system and conserve approximately 17,000 acre-feet of water per year. This water will also benefit endangered fishes, wildlife and river recreation in the important “15-Mile” reach of the Colorado River downstream of Palisade, Colorado.

A media tour of the reservoir will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Officials from Reclamation, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and the Colorado River District will be on site to answer questions. To attend the media tour, please RSVP by noon on Tuesday, June 13, to Justyn Liff at 970-248-0625. If no media RSVP’s for the tour, the tour will be cancelled.

Small Steps Add Up to a Secure Water Future for Colorado — @wradv @WaterBart

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From Western Resource Advocates (Bart Miller):

Steady progress means that Colorado can achieve the big goals set out in its Water Plan.

One step in front of the other—and milestones to see progress along the way. For a journey of any length, we need waypoints and measurements to understand how far we’ve come. And, just as importantly, we need enough energy to continue making steady progress.

This is equally true about our collective progress toward meeting the objectives of Colorado’s Water Plan. The Plan, a final version of which was released 18 months ago, has now entered its most important phase—implementation—putting the Plan into practice.

Stepping forward to achieve big goals

The Plan has many excellent objectives, including those for stream health, urban conservation, land use planning, and more flexible arrangements for irrigators to get paid to share water to meet a range of other needs. I encourage you to check them out—they’re clearly articulated in the Plan’s Chapter 10—Action Plan. But, because many of these objectives have due dates many decades into the future, we need milestones to make sure we’re moving fast enough down the path.

Take municipal water conservation as a good example. The Plan spells out the goal of saving 400,000 acre-feet annually by 2050. An acre-foot of water is enough to cover one acre (about the size of a football field) with one foot of water, equivalent to one third of a million gallons. In other words, the 400,000 acre-feet goal is saving a football field of water stacked 75 miles high, every year. That’s a lot of water.

Reducing water use by 1% per year is a great step

The good news is we can get there by hitting key milestones along the way. Reaching the goal means reducing water use by roughly 1% each year, something that many customers, encouraged by their water utilities, already have been doing for more than a dozen years. Continuing this active municipal conservation will include replacing indoor fixtures with more efficient ones, encouraging the replacement of some of our outdoor landscaping with more xeric (i.e., drought-tolerant) options, and incentivizing water savings by charging less per gallon when water customers are water-thrifty.

Connecting water conservation to land use and new development

A couple other keys pieces to the puzzle. First, we need to accelerate making the connection between water use and land use. Many communities have figured out that it saves water and money when new residential and commercial growth embed water efficiencies from the outset, being “water-smart from the start.” New growth can have a smaller water footprint, thereby placing less of a burden on our rivers and less pressure on cities to build expensive new water supply projects.

We’re all in this together

Second, and just as important, is to make sure funding is made available for communities all around the state to become able to save water. Smaller and mid-size communities usually have fewer financial and human resources to deploy, and so need more assistance. We really need additional public funding to give all communities the ability to set their conservation goals and implement the programs to meet them. In the end, we all benefit, because we’re all in this together.

Aspinall Unit operations update: 4,500 cfs in Black Canyon — @USBR

Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The spring peak operation is nearing completion. Releases are currently being made to sustain half bankfull flow levels at the Whitewater gage, as well as to manage the forecasted runoff into Blue Mesa Reservoir. Releases from the Aspinall Unit have been around 5,500 cfs during the past week and that release rate will continue through Sunday, June 11th. Flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are currently around 4,500 cfs and can be expected to stay near this level through Sunday, June 11th. Starting on Monday, June 12th flows will begin to ramp down towards the summertime release level. This should result in flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon around 900 cfs to 1,000 cfs once the ramp down is completed on Monday, June 19th.

#Drought news: Slight increase in D0 (Abnormally Dry) in W. #Colorado

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


Above-normal rainfall fell across the southern and eastern portions of the country. The rainfall eliminated the lingering abnormally dry areas in the Northeast and helped to alleviate drought conditions across parts of Texas, Georgia, and Florida. Due to variations in totals, pockets of dryness remain in the Texas Panhandle and southeastern Oklahoma; this has led to the expansion of abnormally dry conditions in small areas. Warm, dry weather combined with high winds in the northern Plains continued to dry out vegetation and deteriorate drought conditions while drought persisted across the Southwest. Note that the effects of rainfall falling after 8 AM EDT on Tuesday, June 6, will be reflected on next week’s map…


Drought conditions persist in the Southwest as the dry season continues. Eastern New Mexico saw rainfall over this past week, resulting in a small reduction in abnormally dry (D0) conditions. Eastern Utah and western Colorado saw a slight expansion in abnormally dry (D0) conditions as above-average temperatures and a lack of rainfall dried out the region. Farther north, warm and dry weather continued in Montana. Pasture and crop conditions further deteriorated, resulting in the westward expansion of abnormal dryness (D0) and the introduction of moderate drought (D1) in the eastern part of the state…

High Plains

The lack of precipitation combined with near record temperatures and high winds has created very dry growing conditions across the Dakotas, with little to no hay production expected. The U.S. Department of Agriculture rates more than half of the top soil in these two states as short to very short. Moderate drought (D1) was expanded so that it now covers the majority of North Dakota as well as northern South Dakota, and severe drought (D2) was introduced…

Looking Ahead

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center forecast calls for continued rain June 7-14 across the South and eastern portions of the United States. Average predictions range from ¼ of an inch across the Lower Mississippi and Tennessee River valleys to more than 5 inches along the coastal Carolinas and in Florida. Widespread rainfall is also expected across the Rockies and the central United States. Most locations are forecast to receive less than an inch of rain. However, if the forecast holds true, drought-stricken areas of eastern Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota could see over 2 inches of rain. Finally, a frontal system in the Northwest is expected to bring unseasonable rainfall from northern California to western Montana.

Generous May Precipitation Ends #Snowpack Season — NRCS

Here’s the release from the NRCS (Brian Domonkos):

Precipitation during the month of May has failed to disappoint in recent years. While Colorado’s mountains did not receive the same amounts seen during May of 2015, May 2017 totaled 135 percent of normal precipitation after a lackluster combined March and April. This May also brought more precipitation than last year and in 2014. As a result, water year-to-date precipitation trended upward from 108 percent of average last month to 111 percent of average this month.

About 25 percent of this year’s snowpack remains and is currently melting out slightly later than normal. Brian Domonkos, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Colorado Snow Survey Program, adds “For Colorado it is normal to see snow fall at all elevations during the month of May, however sun and warm temperatures often follow 24 to 48 hours later.” Sun and warm temperatures often prevail in May melting the snowpack and causing streams to rise.

Statewide snowpack time series June 5, 2017 via the NRCS.

Looking more broadly across the western U.S., Domonkos highlights, “Colorado and more particularly the Front Range and Sangre de Cristo Mountains were the epicenter of heavy mountain precipitation during May, relative to normal amounts.” Some SNOTEL sites reported 200 percent of normal or more monthly precipitation. The South Platte River basin was the largest benefactor of a mid-May storm that dropped snow at most elevations and delivered precipitation to much of Colorado. After a turbulent winter, May provided a boost to water supplies, reassuring water managers that this year’s snowpack could provide ample water supplies entering the summer months.

Reservoir operators have continued to maintain encouraging storage levels across most areas, such as the South Platte and Arkansas watersheds, which are at 112 percent and 119 percent of average respectively. Statewide, reservoirs decreased slightly from 113 percent to 109 percent of average over the last month, due in large part to planned spring peak outflows of the Aspinall Unit on the Gunnison River. Despite these simulated seasonal flows, combined reservoir levels in the Gunnison River basin remain above normal at 103 percent of average.

Although there are extremes of both high and low volumes, most water supply forecasts are within 20 percent of normal for future runoff volumes. Current forecasts range from 167% of average on the Los Pinos River near Ortiz to 58% of average on Elkhead Creek above Long Gulch. For more specific forecast values and water supply prospects view the Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report.

For more detailed and the most up to date information about Colorado snowpack and supporting water supply related information, refer to the Colorado Snow Survey website at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/co/snow/ Or contact Brian Domonkos – Brian.Domonkos@co.usda.gov – 720-544-2852

#Runoff news: Streamflow will peak soon

From The Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

A cool month of May suppressed local runoff and streamflows. But recent warm weather, with more sunshine in the forecast, may bring streams to peak runoff in the next several days.

The runoff picture is good news for the GoPro Mountain Games, set to begin today with the Steep Creek Championship on Homestake Creek…

While runoff will be good for the games’ boating events, this year’s so-so snowpack ensures there’s little danger of flooding. That also means boating events will almost certainly go on as scheduled…

Keeping safe on local streams is an all-the-time thing. Current conditions should soon turn more friendly for casual float trips.

Boyd, a valley native, said he looks every day from his home in Avon up to Game Creek Bowl on Vail Mountain. The bit of snow remaining on that slope means there should be a little more room for higher streamflows, he said.

Pete Wadden is the town of Vail’s water quality education specialist. Unsurprisingly, Wadden is also a boating enthusiast. Wadden has only lived in the valley for a few years, but looking at this year’s snowpack — bolstered by a large May snowfall — as well as the weather forecast for the next several days, he believes local streamflows should peak soon.

Boyd said he thinks streams will peak during the weekend. Wadden thinks the peak will come within the next 10 days or so.