From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
If at least one thing is becoming clear, it’s that a weak La Niña pattern is beginning to set up. La Niñas occur when surface-level ocean temperatures cool in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Their opposite, El Niños, are associated with warming temperatures there.
In Colorado, La Niñas typically result in good snow years in the northern mountains, whereas El Niños tend to benefit southern Colorado…
Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, agrees that a La Niña, although not an overly strong one, is shaping up, which should mean good snow in the northern mountains.
But he noted that uncertainties involved in predicting the effects of La Niñas and El Niños, especially in Colorado. With La Niñas typically bringing more moisture to more northern states out West, and El Niños doing the same for southwestern states, “the problem with Colorado is we’re right in the middle of the country,” Phillips said.
While La Niñas typically boost snow in northern Colorado, and El Niños in southern Colorado, the actual dividing line can be dictated by where weather ridges or troughs set up in the Pacific Ocean, Phillips said.
He said what are called “atmospheric river events” also contribute to what happens in Colorado. These usher in subtropical or tropical moisture caught up in the jetstream from the central Pacific, a phenomenon that used to be referred to as the Pineapple Express, he said. While last winter was a La Niña winter, atmospheric river events contributed to the whole state having a good snow year, rather than just the northern part, he said.
Here’s the link to Klaus Wolter’s long-term forecast from the last Colorado Water Conservation Board Water Availability Task Force Meeting.
Here’s a report Laura Paskus writing for The NM Political Report. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
In 2013, Texas sued New Mexico and Colorado in the U.S. Supreme Court, alleging that New Mexico was taking water that legally should flow to Texas under the terms of the 1938 Rio Grande Compact by allowing farmers to pump groundwater connected to the river.
Were the Supreme Court to side with Texas, it could force some southern New Mexico chile, pecan and cotton farmers to stop pumping groundwater. Or, the state could even wind up paying Texas up to $1 billion in damages. For perspective’s sake, the state’s operating budget for 2017 was $6.1 billion, and the Land Grant Permanent Fund currently has $16 billion.
But New Mexico State Engineer Tom Blaine, the state’s top water official, painted an optimistic picture for LFC last week, saying settlement discussions are moving forward.
Blaine said he and Texas’s Rio Grande Compact Commissioner, Patrick Gordon, “talk about issues that would have to be considered for settlement.”
He also told the 18 members present and LFC director David Abbey that one of the “most noteworthy accomplishments” of his office in recent years has been building relationships in and outside the state. “Previous engineers have referred to the Lower Rio Grande as ‘Compact Texas,’ meaning ‘We don’t really represent you in New Mexico,’” Blaine said of southern New Mexico farmers who irrigate below Elephant Butte dam. “I am trying to change that paradigm, trying to build a coalition where everybody south of Elephant Butte and north of Texas, you’re in New Mexico.”
Blaine said he’s made “deliberate efforts to build relationships” with the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, or EBID.
That’s the irrigation district stuck smack dab in the middle of the lawsuit.
From The Arizona Daily Star (Tony Davis):
…a second round of releases is headed to the delta that won’t be nearly as dramatic [as the Minute 319 pulse flow]. But these flows will restore more riverfront with cottonwoods and willows than the last time and their impacts will likely last longer.
The new U.S.-Mexico Colorado River agreement, announced last week, sets aside 210,000 acre-feet of river water for environmental restoration in the delta over nine years, starting next year. This 2017 agreement also calls on the two countries to share shortages on the river in equal proportions in times of drought.
The earlier, 2012 agreement under which the huge pulse flow was unleashed also enabled the more gradual release of another 53,000 acre-feet over four years that will end Dec. 31, 2017.
The first round of flows has restored about 1,100 acres of cottonwood, willow and mesquite habitat, said Osvel Hinojosa, water and wetlands program director for Pro Natura Noroeste and a co-chair of an environmental working group that developed restoration ideas for the new agreement. Pro Natura is headquartered in Ensenada, Baja California.
In that time, more than 230,000 native cottonwoods and willows were planted along the river, said a coalition of six U.S. and Mexican conservation groups calling itself Raise the River. The groups raised more than $10 million for restoration work and to buy water rights for those releases.
This time, the goal is to restore about 4,300 acres over the next nine years, the new agreement says.
Now, “We will see a resurgence of the Colorado in its delta, the ribbon of green that is re-emerging in the Sonoran Desert,” said Jennifer Pitt of the National Audubon Society at last week’s signing ceremony in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “It offers relief to every living being that seeks rest in the cool shade of a cottonwood, renewal in the bounty of life that flows from the waters of the Colorado River. We are finding new ways to share the water, among our communities, but also with hundreds of thousands of egrets, herons, flycatchers, rails and other birds that need it to survive.”
Although smaller pulse flows may be released later, the immediate plan is to focus on lesser, steadier amounts of base flows, Hinojosa said. Pulse flows release lots of water over short periods from a single point such as the dam. Base flows deliver lesser amounts, often over longer periods to specific restoration sites.
“At this point, the best way to proceed with restoration is base flows. That’s the best use of the water,” said Karl Flessa, a University of Arizona geosciences professor who oversaw the scientific monitoring of the 2014 pulse-flow impacts and hopes to be involved in similar work this time.
A lot of the 2014 pulse flow infiltrated into deep groundwater and was not available to nourish cottonwoods and other trees, he said.
“By applying base flows to restoration sites, you make sure water gets to the right place at the right time,” Flessa said.
Hinojosa said he considers base and pulse flows equally valuable, and may want to use smaller pulse flows for social purposes — allowing people living nearby to enjoy water in the river and reconnect with nature.
The Sterling Journal-Advocate’s series on women in agriculture (tip of the hat to Jerry Sonnenberg):