Steamboat Springs: Stage 2 watering restrictions remain in place

The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

From Steamboat Today:

With the Western Slope under a NOAA heat advisory, the four water districts in Steamboat Springs will continue mandatory stage 2 water restrictions for the remainder of the summer.

“Conditions continue to dry out in our region, and we’re seeing hotter temperatures across Colorado, and in many cases, record temperatures for many areas,” said Frank Alfone, with Mount Werner Water, in a news release.

“As a community, we were able to get a jump on what’s shaping up to be a very hot and dry summer with the early implementation of Stage 2 in May. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation and their support as we head into the heart of summer.”

As part of stage 2 restrictions, home and property owners are allowed to water based on the last number of their street address. Even address numbers water Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, while odd addresses are set for Monday, Thursday and Saturday. There is no watering Wednesday…

In an effort to help reduce use of treated water, the city of Steamboat Springs Parks and Community Service Department is now using non-potable water for irrigation in several parks. Drawn from the river and other sources, non-potable water systems are utilized in Ski Town, Emerald, Memorial, Howelsen, West Lincoln and Heritage parks.

Western Governors approve policy resolutions @westgov


From the Western Governors Association:

Western Governors formally approved five policy resolutions on: Workforce Development; Species Conservation and the Endangered Species Act; National Forest and Rangeland Management; Western Agriculture; and State Wildlife Science, Data and Analysis at the Western Governors’ Association 2017 Annual Meeting in Whitefish, Montana.

The five new policy resolutions formally approved include:

  • Workforce Development: To meet current and future workforce development challenges, Western Governors are committed to identifying innovative approaches that connect western citizens in need of career advancement opportunities to western business sectors with employment vacancies to be filled. The Western Governors’ Association is ideally situated to collect and disseminate workforce development information (such as best practices, case studies and policy options) to enhance workforce development in the West. This resolution directs WGA to pursue a workforce development initiative that leverages the region’s best thinking to help bridge the gap between prospective workers and western employers, now and in the future
  • Species Conservation and the Endangered Species Act: Western Governors applaud the principles and intent of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Governors believe that targeted, legislative, regulatory, and funding refinements could improve the operation of the ESA. The Governors also recognize that much can be accomplished by working collaboratively with federal partners and that the ESA can only be reauthorized through legislation developed in a fashion that results in broad bipartisan support and maintains the intent of the ESA to protect and recover imperiled species. This is an amendment to WGA Policy Resolution 2016-08, incorporating year-two Species Conservation and ESA Initiative principles by reference.
  • Pawnee Buttes. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.
    • National Forest and Rangeland Management: Western Governors support sound forest and rangeland management policies that maintain and promote environmental, economic and social balance and sustainability. The Governors support programs intended to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest health and resilience, and believe the federal landscape should be focused on environmentally-sound forest and rangeland management practices that also provide sustainable economic opportunities for local communities. Western Governors encourage collaboration as a tool to achieve community-supported and durable land management outcomes.
    • Western Agriculture: Western Governors support a broad array of funding, education, research, and conservation programs that enable farms, forests, and rangelands to be important contributors to the economies and quality of life in western states. The Governors encourage responsible management of federal lands in the West, given that western states include more than 75 percent of our national forest and rangeland ecosystems. Western Governors encourage integrating these policies into legislative action as Congress considers the 2018 Farm Bill.
    • State Wildlife Science, Data and Analysis: Western Governors direct U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to utilize state wildlife data, analysis and expertise as principal sources in development and analysis of science serving as the legal basis for federal regulatory action to manage species and habitat. The Governors support efforts to provide statutory exceptions to Freedom of Information Act disclosure for state wildlife data and analysis in instances where publication of state data provided to federal agencies would be in violation of existing state statutes.
    Credit: TechCrunch

    Oil & Gas folks find 129,000 underground oil and gas pipelines <= 1,000 feet (300 meters) of occupied buildings

    Photo credit Croft Production Systems.

    From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

    The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ordered energy companies to identify and test all pipelines near occupied structures after a natural gas explosion killed two people and injured a third in April…

    The data reported to the state by Friday showed more than 7,700 pipelines had at least one end inside a city or town.

    The house that exploded was within 200 feet (60 meters) of the gas well, and the pipeline was severed about 10 feet (3 meters) from the house, officials said. The well and pipeline were in place several years before the house was built.

    Anadarko Petroleum, which owns the well, said it would permanently shut it down.

    The pipelines are known as flow lines and connect wells to tanks or other collection points. A well can have multiple flow lines of varying lengths. Some carry petroleum from the well to a separator, which removes water and divides oil from the gas. Other lines carry the water, oil and gas from the separator to tanks.

    Many are 1 or 2 inches (2.5 or 5 centimeters) in diameter…

    Oil and gas companies reported 128,826 flow lines within 1,000 feet of buildings, although a few companies included lines up to 1,500 feet (460 meters) away, said Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

    About 113,000 of the pipelines are in use.

    The purpose of the inventory is to see whether any inactive lines still protrude above the ground, where they might mistakenly be put back in use, Stuart Ellsworth, engineering manager for the commission, said in an interview.

    “My goal is to get rid of this guy,” Ellsworth said, pointing to a diagram showing the above-ground section of a flow line, called a riser. “I do not want the opportunity for an error.”

    Since 2001, the commission has required companies to disconnect and purge flow lines when they are abandoned. They also have to be cut off 3 feet below the surface and sealed at both ends.

    Ellsworth said the owners of abandoned pipelines identified in this year’s inspections will have to comply with that rule, even if the lines went out of use before the rule was enacted.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper and some lawmakers suggested after the April explosion that Colorado could compile a map of all flow lines. Ellsworth said the data the state is collecting now is not enough to create a map because it shows only the end points of a flow line, and the path from one end to the other is not always a straight line.

    #ActOnClimate: States and cities are forming a kind of parallel national government around #climatechange

    Map credit

    From Vox (David Roberts):

    Since Trump gave the world the finger over Paris, more than 1,400 companies and institutions, 200 cities, and a dozen states have committed to meet the carbon targets the US originally pledged there.

    There’s been so much activity that it can be difficult to track all the new initiatives and groups. There’s the US Climate Alliance, representing 12 states and about a third of the US population. There’s We Are Still In, representing nine states, hundreds of cities, and thousands of businesses and institutions of higher learning. There’s Climate Mayors, with 338 US mayors representing 65 million constituents. And probably more I’m missing.

    Just this week, at the US Conference of Mayors in Miami Beach, Florida, US mayors of 1,481 cities signed a unanimous resolution calling on Trump to rejoin the Paris agreement, implement the Clean Power Plan, and help build electric vehicle infrastructure.

    All of this action was more or less symbolic until earlier this month, when yet another coalition, as yet unnamed — consisting of three governors, 30 mayors, and more than 80 university presidents, led by ex-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg — began negotiating with the UNFCCC to have their contributions officially counted alongside other nations in the Paris agreement.

    It’s not clear if that effort will come to anything. There is currently no formal mechanism in the Paris agreement to account for subnationally determined contributions (SNDCs, a spin on nationally determined contributions that I just made up). And the Paris agreement is nonbinding anyway, so even if this coalition’s SNDCs end up formally included and reported, it will still mostly be symbolic. There’s no legal authority holding states, cities, and institutions to these commitments.

    Still, it’s notable that the US subnational climate diaspora — mostly Democrats, but more than a handful of Republicans too, especially at the city level — is spontaneously organizing itself.

    #ActOnClimate: Humans need to come together quickly to fight #GlobalWarming

    Yes, there is still lots of ice in Antarctica, but it’s melting faster than ever. bberwyn photo.

    Here’s a report from The Guardian (Fiona Harvey). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Avoiding dangerous levels of climate change is still just about possible, but will require unprecedented effort and coordination from governments, businesses, citizens and scientists in the next three years, a group of prominent experts has warned.

    Warnings over global warming have picked up pace in recent months, even as the political environment has grown chilly with Donald Trump’s formal announcement of the US’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement. This year’s weather has beaten high temperature records in some regions, and 2014, 2015 and 2016 were the hottest years on record.

    But while temperatures have risen, global carbon dioxide emissions have stayed broadly flat for the past three years. This gives hope that the worst effects of climate change – devastating droughts, floods, heatwaves and irreversible sea level rises – may be avoided, according to a letter published in the journal Nature this week.

    The authors, including former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, argue that the next three years will be crucial. They calculate that if emissions can be brought permanently lower by 2020 then the temperature thresholds leading to runaway irreversible climate change will not be breached.

    Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, under whom the Paris agreement was signed, said: “We stand at the doorway of being able to bend the emissions curve downwards by 2020, as science demands, in protection of the UN sustainable development goals, and in particular the eradication of extreme poverty. This monumental challenge coincides with an unprecedented openness to self-challenge on the part of sub-national governments inside the US, governments at all levels outside the US, and of the private sector in general. The opportunity given to us over the next three years is unique in history.”

    Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, added: “The maths is brutally clear: while the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence [before] 2020.”[ed. emphasis mine]

    Ten Years The State Engineer Dick Wolfe Celebration — Greg Hobbs

    Greg Hobbs was one of the guests at the celebration of Dick Wolfe’s retirement as State Engineer hosted by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources at the Governor’s Mansion’s Carriage House. He sent in this short poem and gallery of photographs.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    Ten Years The State Engineer Dick Wolfe Celebration

    Invite Dick Wolfe to his farewell party,
    you’d expect somewhere out there
    along a Colorado creek

    A water commissioner on the other end
    would be holding up a cell for

    The Mother of Rivers dialing-in
    to say, “Well done, my
    faithful friend!”

    Greg Hobbs 6/28/2017

    Adiós Dick, it has been my great honor knowing you. I really appreciate your support for Coyote Gulch over the years. Keep on trucking. Here’s a quote from that blues guitarist we both loved. I think he could be talking about your service to Colorado:

    “I don’t like to feel that I owe anything. I like to feel that I pay my own way — there’s no free lunch. And when people give me all these great compliments, I thank them but still go back to my room and practice. And a lot of times I say to myself ‘I wish I could be worthy of all the compliments that people give me sometime.’ I am not inventing anything that’s going to stop cancer or muscular distrophy or anything, but I like to feel that my time and talent is always there for the people that need it.” — B.B. King, from an interview on Slate.

    Photo: The commissioners of the Republican River Compact Administration sign the long-term resolutions on August 24, 2016: (from left) Commissioner David Barfield, Chief Engineer, Kansas Department of Agriculture; Commissioner Dick Wolfe, State Engineer, Colorado Division of Water Resources; Commissioner Jeff Fassett, Director of Nebraska’s Department of Natural Resources, via Governor Hickenlooper’s office.

    Southwestern Water Conservation District annual Water Seminar presentations are now online

    Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

    Click here to view the presentations. Click here to go to the website:

    Thanks for talking water with us!
    It’s never too late to say thank you for attending the Southwestern Water Conservation District’s 2017 Annual Water Seminar! Just under 200 people gathered in early April to discuss the current funding needs for water-related projects in the state.

    Missed the seminar this year? Fortunately, many of the speakers have generously shared their presentations; click on the button below to view them online. You can also read a short summary of the event in the Durango Herald, “Water conference explores financial solutions.”

    Mark your calendars for the 2018 Annual Water Seminar on Friday, April 6, again at the DoubleTree Hotel in Durango.

    Every Drop Counts: What You Can Do to Save Water in the West — @Water4Colorado #conservation

    From Water for Colorado (click through to view the videos and learn some tips for lawn care):

    Modern conveniences have made it easy to forget how much water we’re using and where that water really comes from. This makes it even more difficult to grasp how your water usage habits can have a long-term impact on the collective water supply.

    With a predicted water deficit of 560,000 acre-feet (one acre foot is 326,000 gallons) in Colorado by 2050, water conservation efforts in states that rely on the Colorado River for their water supply have never been more important. Though some states such as Colorado and California have adopted laws that encourage the installation of more water efficient toilets, faucets, and showerheads, these small adjustments are just the first step in preserving the water supply for the long-term.

    While water conservation efforts have historically focused primarily on water usage inside the home, the current conversation around water conservation is shifting its focus to water usage outside of the home. Continuously running your sprinklers may be healthy for your lawn, but it’s not so great for the long-term health of our water sources like the Colorado River. Although most of the water used indoors eventually makes its way to a water treatment plant where it is recycled and ultimately repurposed, the same cannot be said for water that is used outdoors. The gallons of water you’re spraying on your lawn and driveway, unlike the gallons going down your drain, don’t make their way to a treatment plant and cannot be recycled. Rather, this water is absorbed into the ground, only to later be evaporated into the air.

    To make a lasting, impactful difference everyone must do their part in order to save our water. Luckily, there are a few simple lawn care changes that not only save water but can even help keep lawns healthier.

    The June 2017 e-Waternews is hot off the presses from @Northern_Water

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    Chimney Hollow Reservoir receives final approval
    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently signed a final Record of Decision and approved a 404 Clean Water Act Permit for the Windy Gap Firming Project. This decision paves the way forward to construct Chimney Hollow Reservoir following a 14-year federal permitting process that began in 2003. Chimney Hollow Reservoir will be located in the foothills immediately west of Carter Lake in southern Larimer County. It will store up to 90,000 acre-feet of water behind a 350 ft. tall dam, which will be one of the first constructed in the United States with an asphalt core. For further information please click any of the links below.

    Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

    @AuroraWaterCO Prairie Waters Project wins national award

    From the U.S. Water Alliance website:

    At the US Water Alliance, we bring together public, private, and community leaders to advance One Water solutions—holistic and integrated water management strategies that improve economic, environmental, and community outcomes. While the challenges facing our water future are great, our capacity for innovation and problem-solving is even greater. There are inspiring examples across the country of sustainable and integrated water resource management. That is why we annually award the US Water Prize to organizations that are leading the way with creative One Water solutions…

    Aurora Water
    Prairie Waters

    Aurora, Colorado is facing the water supply problems of many cities and regions in the arid west—a changing climate alongside a growing population. To combat these issues and secure the area’s water stability, Aurora Water worked with regional partners to create the Prairie Waters system, a innovative system that recapturing and recycling water to provide drinking water and drought insurance for the region. Using a multi barrier treatment process that includes both naturally-existing systems and state-of-the-art purification systems, Prairie Waters provides an additional twelve million gallons of clean, safe and dependable water each day. The Prairie Water program will help meet Aurora’s complex water needs for decades to come and can be a model for other regions experiencing changes in their water supply needs.

    From (Sarah Schueler):

    Aurora’s Prairie Waters system has won the U.S. Water Prize from the U.S. Water Alliance.

    The system was given the honor for its environmentally friendly and sustainable approach to water development.

    The aware panel also said the Prairie Waters system can be a model for other regions experiencing changes in water supply needs.

    Accepting the award at a ceremony in New Orleans on Tuesday night was Marshall Brown, the director of Aurora Water.

    @EPA proposed repeal of #WOTUS exacerbates environmental political polarization

    A paddle-boarder drifts down the Colorado River [May 2017] near the entrance to Burns Hole. Photo/Allen Best

    From (Peter Marcus):

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said this week that the administration will repeal the so-called Waters of the United States rule, or WOTUS. The rule, enacted under the Obama administration, clarifies regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to protect streams and wetlands.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, successfully pushed a measure through the House Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday to prohibit the departments of Agriculture and the Interior from requiring the transfer of water rights as a condition of any land-use permit. The bill also requires that future directives from the departments be consistent with state water law.

    Tipton said he became concerned over federal attempts to manipulate federal permit, lease and land management processes to circumvent state water law and “hijack” privately held water rights. He pointed to a U.S. Forest Service attempt to require a transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government as a condition for granting permits on National Forest System lands…

    Concerns raised over repealing WOTUS

    The WOTUS announcement by the Trump administration on Tuesday left environmental groups on edge. They say repeal of the rule “turns the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency on its head.”

    “Instead of safeguarding our drinking water, the Trump administration is proposing to stop protecting drinking water sources for 3.7 million Coloradans,” said Garrett Garner-Wells, state director for Environment Colorado. “It defies common sense, sound science, and the will of the people of Colorado.”

    The group said the 2015 rule restored federal protections to 73,000 miles of Colorado’s streams, which feed waterways such as the Colorado River and, in some cases, provide drinking water.

    The Obama administration took action on small bodies of water after confusing and complex guidelines resulted from Supreme Court decisions. Polluters escaped fines for violations because of uncertain jurisdiction. But ranchers and farmers worry that even small ditches and ponds on private property could be subject to federal regulation, raising costs and overall compliance burdens.

    The Trump administration’s reversal on the rule was expected after Trump in February signed an executive order directing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to review the regulation, a move the president described as “paving the way for the elimination of this very destructive and horrible rule.”

    “The previous administration used the vague language in the WOTUS Rule to harm local communities – including ranchers, farmers, and small business owners,” said U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs. “I look forward to a revision of this rule that will empower local landowners instead of giving power solely to the federal government.”

    “Farmers and ranchers across Colorado will now be free from Washington bureaucrats who want to regulate every small body of water on their private property,” added U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Greeley.

    Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner also applauded the action, saying, “The harmful impacts of the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule on Colorado’s farmers, ranchers, and small business owners cannot be overstated. Colorado’s agriculture community is already facing hardship and it is welcome news that this over burdensome regulation will never go into effect.”

    But Kristin Green, water advocate for Conservation Colorado, said repealing the rule will put Colorado at greater risk of pollution and development on precious lands.

    2017 has been hot so far across the U.S. #ActOnClimate

    State temperature ranks for January through April 2017. Red states were record warm for the year to date. Click image to enlarge. Credit: NOAA

    From Climate Central (Andrea Thompson):

    For a swath of states from New Mexico over to Florida and up to Ohio, 2017 has been the hottest year on record through April. For the Lower 48 as a whole, the year is the second warmest in records going back to 1895.

    Several states in the mid-Atlantic had their hottest April on record and a few Southeastern states were near-record warm, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data released Monday.

    The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. through April was 43.7°F (6.5°C), 4.5°F (2.5°C) above the 20th century average, NOAA said. This put the four-month period behind only 2012, which saw major heat waves and drought across much of the central part of the nation.

    The exceptional heat of February is what’s keeping 2017 so high in the rankings, Jake Crouch, a NOAA climatologist, said in an email. With eight months left, though, it is unclear whether 2017 will stay warm enough to ultimately beat 2012 as the hottest calendar year for the Lower 48…

    Fourteen states along the southern tier of the country and up the Ohio Valley are record hot for the year so far, with another 17 states having a top 5 warmest year through April. Numerous cities in those states, including Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Miami and Charleston, S.C., are also running record hot so far in 2017, according to the Southeast Regional Climate Center. Only the Pacific Northwest had temperatures at or below average for the year.

    During April, the eastern half of the country was the center of warmth, with the West Coast running closer to average. North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio all had their hottest April. Several other states surrounding that area had a top 5 warmest April.

    Two natural climate patterns, called the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Arctic Oscillation, were in phases that tend to bring warm conditions to the eastern U.S., Crouch said. The phases of those patterns have just switched, bringing the much cooler conditions of the last couple weeks.

    But rising global temperatures have also titled the balance in favor of more record heat. April was the 29th month in a row where heat records outpaced cold records in the U.S., the longest such stretch in the books and 10 months longer than the previous record stretch. Of the five longest such streaks, four have occurred since 1998 (in a stable climate, record heat and record cold would be roughly even over time).

    Global temperatures are rising because of the continued release of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The most important of those gases, carbon dioxide, recently passed the threshold of 410 parts per million at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii for the first time in recorded history.

    Global temperatures for April will be released next week by both NOAA and NASA, but through March, 2017 was the second hottest year on record. It trailed behind only the record heat of 2016, which was the third record-hot year in a row.

    From NOAA (click through to follow their links):

    National Overview:

    Climate Highlights — April


  • The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 53.8°F, 2.7°F above the 20th century average during the month of April. This was the 11th warmest April on record for the Lower 48 and warmest April since 2012.
  • Locations from the Mississippi River to East Coast were much warmer than a

  • verage. Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia each had their warmest April on record. The average April temperature for Washington, D.C. was also record high at 63.8°F, 1.8°F warmer than the previous record set in 1994. Reliable temperature data for D.C. date back to 1872.
  • Near- to below-average temperatures were observed across the Northwest, Great Basin, Northern Rockies and Northern Plains. For the third time this year, the Washington state monthly averaged temperature was below average.
  • The Alaska statewide average temperature was 29.9°F, 6.6°F above average. This was the sixth warmest April in the 93-year record for the state. Above-average temperatures spanned Alaska during April, with much-above-average temperatures across the southern third of the state.
  • The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during April was 65.9°F, 2.4°F above the 20th century average, the 20th warmest on record. Above-average maximum temperatures were observed across the Southwest and Southern Plains and locations from the Mississippi River to East Coast. Twenty-two states had much-above-average maximum temperatures with maximum temperatures for Delaware and Maryland record warm. Below-average maximum temperatures were observed in the Northwest.
  • The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during April was 41.7°F, 3.0°F above the 20th century average, the sixth warmest on record. Above-average minimum temperatures were observed for most locations across the country, with the exception of the Northwest, Great Basin, and Northern Plains. Much-above-average minimum temperatures were observed across the East, where 15 states from South Carolina to New Hampshire were record warm.
  • During April there were 3,126 record warm daily high (989) and low (2,137) temperature records, which is more than three times the 962 record cold daily high (749) and low (213) temperature records.
  • Based on NOAA’s Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), April 2017 was zero and ranked as the lowest in the 123-year record for April, due to much-warmer-than-normal temperatures across the densely populated Midwest and Northeast.
  • Precipitation

  • The April precipitation total was 3.43 inches, 0.91 inch above the 20th century average, making it the second wettest April in the 123-year period of record.
  • Above-average precipitation was observed across a large portion of the nation, including much-above-average precipitation in the Northwest, Northern Rockies, Central Plains, Mid-Mississippi Valley, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes. Record precipitation was observed in parts of the Northwest, Southern Plains and Mid-Atlantic. North Carolina had its wettest April on record with 6.75 inches of rain, 3.22 inches above average. Below-average precipitation was observed in parts of the Southwest and Northern Plains.
  • Several storm systems impacted the Southern Plains and Mid-Mississippi River Valley in late April with the precipitation continuing into May, resulting in widespread flooding across the region. At the time of this report’s release, at least five fatalities were attributable to the flooding with significant impacts on agriculture.
  • During April there were over 200 preliminary tornado reports, continuing an active tornado year. Large tornado outbreaks impacted the central and southern U.S. in early and late April resulting in eight tornado-related fatalities in Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas.
    Alaska had its second driest April on record with 0.92 inch of precipitation, 0.97 inch below average. Only April 1932 was drier with 0.84 inch of precipitation. Record and near-record dry conditions were observed across the central and eastern parts of the state. April is climatologically the driest month of the year for Alaska.
  • According to the May 2 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 5.0 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down 9.2 percent compared to the March 28 values. This is the smallest drought footprint reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor since its inception in 2000. Drought improved across the Great Plains, Mississippi River Valley, interior areas of the Southeast, and Northeast. Drought worsened in the Southwest and across parts of the Southeast where several large wildfires burned in Florida and southern Georgia.
  • Climate Highlights — year-to-date (January-April)


  • The year-to-date average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 43.7°F, 4.5°F above average. This was the second warmest January-April, behind the record of 44.7°F set in 2012.
  • Above-average temperatures spanned the nation with only the Northwest being colder than average. Forty states were much warmer than average during January-April with 14 states record warm. Record warmth stretched from the Southern Rockies to Southeast and Midwest.
  • The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during January-April was 54.6°F, 4.2°F above the 20th century average, the third warmest on record. Above-average maximum temperatures were observed across the Southwest and from the Great Plains to East Coast. Thirty-six states had much-above-average maximum temperatures with maximum temperatures record warm for nine states across the South and Midwest. Below-average maximum temperatures were observed in the Northwest.
  • The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during April was 32.7°F, 4.9°F above the 20th century average, the second warmest on record. Above-average minimum temperatures were observed for most locations across the country, with the exception of the Northwest. Forty-one states has much-above-average minimum temperatures with 18 states record warm.
  • Precipitation

  • The year-to-date contiguous U.S. precipitation total was 11.46 inches, 1.99 inches above average. This was the fifth wettest January-April on record and wettest since 1998.
  • Above-average precipitation spanned most of the West into the Great Plains and Great Lakes. Seven states in the West, three in the Great Plains and two in the Great Lakes had year-to-date precipitation totals that were much above average. Idaho had its wettest January-April on record with 15.17 inches of precipitation, 5.42 inches above average, and 0.12 inch above the previous record set in 1904. Below-average precipitation was observed in the Northern Plains, Northeast and Southeast.
  • Extremes

  • The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the year-to-date was more than twice the average and the second highest value on record. The January-April USCEI in 2012 was slightly higher. On the national scale, extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures, one-day precipitation totals, and days with precipitation were much above average. The USCEI is an index that tracks extremes (falling in the upper or lower 10 percent of the record) in temperature, precipitation and drought across the contiguous United States.
  • Regionally, the was record high for the Southeast, second highest for the Northeast, Upper Midwest, Ohio Valley, and South. In each of the regions above, extremes in both warm maximum and warm minimum temperatures were record or near record high. In the Southeast, the spatial extent of drought and one-day precipitation totals was much above average. In the Northeast, one-day precipitation totals were much above average. In the Upper Midwest, the spatial extent of wetness and days with precipitation was much above average. In the South, one-day precipitation totals were much above average. The West had its third highest CEI due to extremes in warm minimum temperatures, the spatial extent of wetness, one-day precipitation totals, and days with precipitation
  • […]

    High Plains Region: (Information provided by the High Plains Regional Climate Center )

  • The wet pattern that has been a primary feature since March continued in places like Wyoming, Kansas, and eastern Colorado during April. As a result of the wetness, mountain snowpack continued to increase throughout the month and is expected to peak later than normal in the Missouri River Basin. Continued wet conditions also nearly eliminated drought in Kansas and eastern Colorado and vastly improved topsoil moisture as well. However, storm systems that passed through the High Plains toward the end of the month caused devastating impacts, particularly to agriculture and livestock.
  • Heavy rain and snow, sub-freezing temperatures, and high winds accompanied a couple of storm systems that came through in late April. These conditions killed cattle in Colorado and especially put calves at risk. The long-term presence of drought conditions and early emergence put a stressed winter wheat crop at additional risk for damage in western Kansas. Losses are projected to be greatest in southwestern Kansas where the crop was at a critical growth stage and the greatest impacts occurred. Even in areas that did not sustain sub-freezing temperatures, prolonged cold and wet conditions caused diseases to emerge, such as wheat stripe rust and leaf rust. Besides winter wheat, corn that had already been planted was put at risk in north-central and western Kansas where soil temperatures took a dive. While it appears that southwestern Nebraska may have escaped damage to winter wheat from these storms, the heavy snow may have damaged the alfalfa crop. Damage will be assessed in May after temperatures rise and the snow melts.
  • An excessive northern Plains snowpack caused flooding in North Dakota during April. Major flooding occurred in Devils Lake, the Pembina River, and the Souris River. Although April was not a particularly wet month in the northern Plains, excess soil moisture from last fall was preventing producers from getting into the fields. Cool and wet conditions in late April slowed planting of sugar beets in North Dakota and corn in North Dakota and South Dakota.
  • After a very warm March, April’s temperatures were closer to normal throughout the region. Temperatures ranged from about 2.0 degrees F (1.1 degrees C) below normal to 3.0 degrees F (1.7 degrees C) above normal. Areas experiencing the greatest warmth included southwestern Nebraska through western Kansas, as well as eastern Kansas. However, the region did not experience the record-breaking warmth that occurred in February and March.
  • The biggest story of the month in regard to temperatures was several potentially damaging freezes throughout the region. While freezes are common in the area during April, the early emergence of plants due to late winter/early spring warmth put them at risk for freeze damage. With the exception of southeastern Kansas, most of the region had a freeze during April.
  • Prolonged freezing temperatures occurred in conjunction with the late-April storm system that impacted much of the region. In particular, the swath of snow that fell throughout central Nebraska and western Kansas held maximum temperatures down into the 30s. The following locations experienced their lowest maximum temperatures on record for April 30th: Grand Island, NE (tie); Dodge City, KS; Garden City, KS; and Ulysses 3NE, KS (COOP). In Dodge City, the high temperature was only 37.0 degrees F (2.8 degrees C), which crushed the previous record by 6.0 degrees F (3.3 degrees C), set in 2004 and 1893. Minimum temperatures were also quite low in some places, and areas of western Kansas sustained sub-freezing temperatures for 12-24 consecutive hours, likely causing freeze injury to winter wheat.
    Precipitation varied across the High Plains during April. Wet conditions were present throughout much of Wyoming, Kansas, and southeastern Colorado, as these areas received greater than 200 percent of normal precipitation. Heavy rain and snow that fell during the month led to several top 10 records for wettest April in these locations. Meanwhile, dry conditions prevailed across much of the Dakotas, but the dryness was not record-breaking.
  • Two storm systems that brought rain and snow to the region toward the end of the month contributed to much of the wetness experienced by a large part of the region. One system came through on the 25th-26th, bringing snowfall to the Rockies of Wyoming and Colorado, as well as South Dakota. According to the National Weather Service office in Aberdeen, South Dakota, Aberdeen received 1.8 inches (5 cm) of snowfall on the 26th, which was the most snow to fall there that late in the season since April 1994. In fact, a tornado drill was held on the 26th while snow was on the ground in Aberdeen!
  • A second, more impactful storm system moved through the region from April 28th-May 1st. This potent system produced heavy precipitation across parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, and southeastern South Dakota. This same system spawned tornadoes across the South and Midwest and caused deadly flash flooding in Missouri and Arkansas. A band of heavy snow fell across central Nebraska and western Kansas, with some areas receiving as much as one to two feet (30-61 cm), resulting in several locations setting records for top 10 snowiest April. Because this storm system also impacted the region on May 1st, more details on records will be provided in the May climate summary.
  • While this system helped eradicate drought conditions across the central and southern Plains, it caused many negative impacts, particularly for agriculture and ranching. According to agronomy specialists at Kansas State University, snow covered approximately 40 percent of the wheat acreage in Kansas. Heavy snow in the western part of the state knocked winter wheat to the ground, causing stems to break. Damage will be assessed in May after the snow melts and the wheat stands back up. Meanwhile, in Baca County, Colorado, hundreds of cattle were lost or killed due to deep snow and blizzard conditions.
  • Another wet month allowed snowpack to continue to build in the Rockies of Wyoming and Colorado. Once again, the Wind River Range in Wyoming received precipitation that exceeded 300 percent of normal for the month. Temperatures were near normal in both states during April, which helped keep the snowpack in place. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) above Fort Peck Dam was 107 percent of average at the end of April, which was a 13 percent increase from the previous month. Snowpack greatly increased between Fort Peck and Garrison Dams, as SWE went from 129 percent of average to 155 percent of average during the month. The Missouri River Basin mountain snowpack normally peaks near April 15, but given the increase in SWE in both reaches, snowpack will peak late this year.
  • Major improvements in drought conditions occurred during April, as beneficial precipitation fell across drought-stricken areas in the High Plains. Regionwide, all severe drought (D2) and extreme drought (D3) were removed by the end of the month on the U.S. Drought Monitor map. The area in drought (D1-D4) in the region decreased from 17 percent to 4 percent, and the area experiencing drought or abnormal dryness (D0-D4) decreased to 20 percent.
  • The biggest improvements occurred throughout Kansas. Most of the state received at least 150 percent of normal precipitation, while precipitation exceeded 300 percent of normal in western portions of the state. As of the end of March, nearly half the state was in drought, but it was drought-free by the end of April and only 12 percent of the state was experiencing abnormally dry (D0) conditions. Portions of eastern Colorado and western South Dakota experienced relief in drought conditions as well. Reports state that regionwide, April precipitation has helped grasslands recover in drought-stricken areas.
  • Despite recent precipitation and improving conditions, the impacts of drought are still being felt across the parts of the region. Drought conditions during the past six months have caused the winter wheat crop to suffer in Colorado and Kansas. Additionally, ranchers in Kansas are still dealing with the impacts from devastating wildfires in March, which included the loss of cattle and miles of fence, and many are culling herds and buying costlier feed.
  • […]

    Western Region: (Information provided by the Western Region Climate Center)

  • Temperatures were near normal across most of the West this month, with some areas of above normal temperatures along the far southern boundary of the region. Precipitation was variable across the West, though with generally wetter than normal conditions across the northern half of the region and drier than normal conditions across southern portions of California, Nevada, and Arizona.
  • The first half of April saw a continuation of the very active storm track that has persisted throughout the cool season. Portions of northern California, notably along the I-80 corridor and in the Sierra Nevada, experienced over 200% of normal precipitation. Sacramento received 3.36 in (85 mm) precipitation, 258% of normal. In the Feather River basin, Portola observed 5.76 in (146 mm), 420% of normal and the second wettest April since records began in 1915. At some higher elevation Sierra Nevada stations, April snowfall was sufficient to eclipse previous snowpack records. At 8801 ft (2683 m), the Mt. Rose Ski area SNOTEL recorded its largest highest snow water equivalent value on record at 94 in (238.8 cm), surpassing the previous record of 87.1 in (221.2 cm) set in May 1995. SNOTEL observations began at Mt Rose in 1979. Areas in and around the Washington Cascades logged over 200% of normal precipitation this month.
  • Wenatchee recorded 2.15 in (55 mm), 467% of normal and the second wettest April since records began in 1959. Above normal precipitation also occurred in areas of western and central Montana, where Great Falls observed 3.58 in (91 mm), 252% of normal, the 3rd wettest April since records began in 1937. Further south, in northeastern New Mexico, Clayton reported 3.33 in (85 mm), 354% of normal and the 10th wettest April in a 122-year record. Above normal rainfall prompted improvements in drought conditions for eastern New Mexico this month. The Sierra Nevada, Cascades, Great Basin ranges, and northern and central Rockies continued to report above normal snowpack values at the end of April, ranging from roughly 125% to over 250% of normal. The southern Rockies reported near normal snowpack with SWE values, roughly 85-110% of normal.
  • Drier than normal conditions dominated far southern California, southern Nevada, and much of Arizona this month, not uncommon for the spring season. San Diego, California, recorded only 0.01 in (0.3 m), 1% of normal and tie for 5th driest April since records began in 1939. Both Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona, recorded no measurable precipitation this month, as in many other years in their records. Only 3.8% of the West is currently denoted as having moderate drought conditions or worse; most of this area is in southern California and southwestern Arizona.
  • Temperatures were slightly (0-4 F/0-2 C) cooler than normal from the Rocky Mountains westward, with the exception of southern portions of California, Arizona, and New Mexico. These areas reported temperatures +2-4 F (1-2 C) above normal. In Los Angeles, California, temperatures averaged to 67.8 F (19.9 C), 4.7 F (2.6 C) above normal, the 4th warmest April since records began in 1877. Phoenix reported an average temperature of 75.3 F (24.1 C), 2.6 F (1.4 C) above normal and the 8th warmest April in an 85-year record. Areas east of the Rockies were generally within 2 F (1 C) of normal with scattered locations reaching 2-4 F (1-2 C) above normal.
  • April was warmer and drier than normal across Alaska. Stations north of the Arctic Circle experienced the greatest temperature departures from normal; Kotzebue reported an average temperature of 24.3 F (-4.3 C), 11 F (6.1 C) above normal. This was the 3rd warmest April since records began in 1897. In the southern part of the state, Anchorage observed an average temperature of 40.4 F (4.7 C), 3.6 F (2 C) above normal and the 4th warmest April in a 66-year record. April is typically a dry month in Alaska, and this year was no exception. Anchorage received 0.4 in (10 mm), which was 85% of normal. Kodiak was the only long-record station with above normal precipitation at 7.35 in (187 mm), 127% of normal. The breakup of ice on various Alaska rivers typically occurs in April, and this year’s breakups were within a few days of normal. Further south, above normal temperatures were observed at most reporting stations across the state of Hawaii; departures from normal were typically 1-2 F (0.5-1 C). Hilo recorded an average April temperature of 74.2 F (23.4 C), 2 F (1 C) above normal and the 6th warmest since records began in 1949. Precipitation was variable across the state, though most stations on Oahu and several on Maui reported above normal rainfall. Kahului recorded 7.77 in (197 mm), 501% of normal and the 4th wettest April in a 113-year record. Much of Big Island observed drier than normal conditions; 5.08 in (129 mm) of rain fell at Hilo, 44% of normal. The leeward side of the Big Island saw a small area of drought improvement, while abnormally dry conditions were introduced across the rest of the islands. Central Maui and western Molokai were classified as moderate drought this month.
  • April 6-8: Strong late season storm impacted West Coast: High winds (60+ mph/97 kph) downed trees and power lines in northern California and western Oregon, causing temporary power outages for thousands of households. One death was reported in Oregon due to a falling tree. Heavy rainfall associated with this storm initiated a landslide near Oakland, California, destroying three homes. Snowfall of 12+ in (30 cm) was observed in the Sierra Nevada.
  • April (all month) landslides cause/threaten damage in West: Saturated soils due to the above average wet winter have primed western soils for landslides. A series of large landslides caused closure of Highway 101 in Mendocino County, California. In Washington, geologists are tracking a slow-moving landslide near Oso. This event prompted temporary closure of a state highway and officials have recommended evacuation for several homes.
  • @COWaterPlan implementation: “Goodbye to the carrot method. Bring out the stick” — Jim Martin

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Jim Martin):

    This is a call for action: We need a real Colorado water plan, and we need it now. Between the state’s rapidly increasing population and rising global warming, it’s projected that Colorado will run out of water by 2050.

    Predictions say by then, the state’s population will have grown from 5.5 million now to 10.3 million, and there’ll be a statewide water shortage of over 1 million acre-feet per year. One acre-foot equals about 323,000 gallons, enough to cover Mile High Stadium between the end zones with one foot of water or to supply four families for one year.

    Yes, the state spent $6 million to create a water plan in 2015, checking in at 540 pages of whatever. No, it did not offer a plan. All it did was give us general ideas, but no specific way forward.

    What is it going to take for us to take this issue seriously? How do we convince our state government to stop toweling off and get back in the game? Goodbye to the carrot method. Bring out the stick. Here are some ideas for conserving more water:

    I recommend that all Colorado residents demand action from the state’s leadership to pass legislation that requires mandatory water conservation. We lag behind other Western states in this, particularly Nevada, California and Arizona. Make it easy for all Colorado residents to learn about practicing more efficient water use, just as the state did when it promoted the expansion of recycling practices…

    Front Range residents forget about the rest of the state. But know that some of its regions, particularly the southeast, experience drought nearly every year. It gets little attention because it doesn’t happen in the Denver metro area. Drought can be caused by inadequate snowpack and rainfall, and rising temperatures. Why do you think our TV weather forecasters put up graphics about reservoir levels?

    Have you heard of greywater? It’s the mostly clean wastewater produced by baths, sinks, washing machines and dishwashers, plus “green infrastructure,” with stormwater runoff used to irrigate natural vegetation. In Colorado, new homes are allowed to recycle gray water, but it’s not allowed for existing homes. Let’s reverse that and allow existing homes to recycle greywater.

    It’s going to cost money, but let’s line ditches with state-of-the-art materials, such as synthetics that don’t crack. There’s so much water seepage from ditches, and that water never joins the state’s supply. Lining ditches with synthetic materials can reduce, if not eliminate, seepage.

    Farmers, instead of flood irrigating, need to look at irrigation at the ground level. That makes water use more efficient by putting it right into the root system of plants, etc.

    We have too much Kentucky bluegrass, exploiting our unrealistic expectations of Colorado’s semi-arid climate. We should not expect to maintain the lush grass lawns and landscaping that many of us grew up with back in our native states. We should encourage more xeriscaping, and perhaps put a 15 percent cap on how much of one’s landscaping can be grass and plants.

    Make it mandatory to teach about water conservation starting in middle school. Show students that we can meet the difficult challenge of maintaining a healthy water supply.