#Drought news: No change in depiction for #Colorado

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


A vigorous Pacific storm system and a series of low pressure centers traversing along a semi-stationary front in the eastern half of the Nation brought moderate to heavy precipitation to portions of the Northwest, the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys and eastern Great Lakes region, and parts of the lower Mississippi Valley and west-central Gulf Coast. With subnormal temperatures present, heavy snows fell on higher-elevations of the Cascades, northern Sierra Nevada, and northern and central Rockies, producing an early Water Year to Date (WYTD; Oct. 1-Nov. 7) basin average snow water content (SWC) much above normal across the northern half of the West, along with above-normal basin average precipitation. Unfortunately, the WYTD basin average SWC and precipitation values were below to much below-normal across the southern third of the West. In the East, strong upper-air energy and low-level moisture produced widespread showers and thunderstorms, including some that were severe, in the Ohio Valley. In contrast, little or no precipitation fell on Southwest, southern Rockies, much of the Plains, western Corn Belt, the Southeast, and along coastal New England. Temperatures averaged below normal in the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, northern half of the Plains, upper Midwest, and Florida while above-normal readings occurred across the Southwest, southern Plains, Southeast, Ohio Valley, East Coast, and Alaska. Drier weather returned to both Alaska and Hawaii after several weeks of ample precipitation while light to moderate showers fell across Puerto Rico…

High Plains

Cold weather and light precipitation (about 0.5 inches or less) occurred across most of the High Plains region, including light snow blanketing parts of the Dakotas and northern Nebraska. The combination of subnormal temperatures and light precipitation was enough to keep conditions from deteriorating, but not enough for improvement, thus no changes were made. The exception to this was some improvements made in southeastern Wyoming and adjacent southwestern Nebraska where short-term surpluses existed and most indices were normal or wet, even out to 1-2 years. Accordingly, D0 was removed in southeastern Wyoming and D0 and D1 slightly trimmed in southwestern Nebraska. The D0 and D1 remained where long-term indices were still negative. In South Dakota, winter wheat conditions continued to be poor, with the USDA condition index reported as the second lowest in the last two decades. Causes included the ongoing long-term drought impacts, and most recently the sudden cold spell…


This week’s weather pattern produced a story of the haves (northern half) and have nots (southern half) as a strong storm system brought plentiful precipitation to coastal and mountainous areas (including high-elevation heavy snows). Along coastal Washington, Oregon, and northern California, 1-4 inches of rain fell while the Cascades, northern Sierra Nevada, and northern Rockies reported 1-5 inches of liquid equivalents. After a rather wet September in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana (although precipitation is normally low) and a wet October is Washington and Oregon, November has also started out wet in the Northwest, leading to favorable WYTD basin average precipitation and snow water content (SWC). Since October 1, the basin average precipitation was between 100-150% of normal across the northern half of the West while recent colder conditions have increased basin average SWC from 100-900%, although it is early in the season and normal SWC values are low. However, with the recent wetness across much of the northern half of the West, and since the abnormal dryness and drought were short-term in western and southern sections (e.g. Washington, Oregon, Idaho, southwestern Montana), it was easier to justify improvements across this area as compared to long-term drought in northern and eastern areas (e.g. northern and eastern Montana, the Dakotas). Accordingly, with most short-term deficits nearly erased or some areas now with surpluses, most USGS streams have risen to near or above normal levels, including western Montana’s Clark Fork, Bitterroot, and Blackfoot River basins that indicate they have recovered from the dry summer, and SPEI values during the past 2-3 months have been positive (wet) across most of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and the southern half of Montana. The 2-month SPEI values, however, have remained negative (dry) across northern Montana but not as significant as earlier (thus less or no improvement here), but SPI values depicted significant improvements nearly statewide. Soil moisture continued to show low values along the U.S.-Canada border and northeast Montana, and it may be a while (spring thaw?) before we know if the soil moisture has truly improved. Large precipitation deficits remained in northeastern Montana, and stock ponds have water quality issues or no water currently. Unfortunately, cattle pregnancy terminations are likely due to the high nitrates in the feed due to the drought.

Further south, the opposite is true of the WYTD conditions, with subnormal basin average precipitation and SWC, including no snow at some Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico basins. But the majority of the cold season precipitation normally occurs later in the winter here, so there is still plenty of time left. However, due to a weak summer monsoon and early withdraw, 90-day deficits existed in northwestern and southeastern Arizona, southwestern Utah, and extreme western New Mexico, thus D0 and some D1 was added to these areas.

The latest #ENSO discussion is hot off the presses, La Niña Advisory

Click here to read the discussion:

NSO Alert System Status: La Niña Advisory

Synopsis: La Niña conditions are predicted to continue (~65-75% chance) at least through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2017-18.

During October, weak La Niña conditions emerged as reflected by below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across most of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. The weekly Niño indices were variable during the month, with values near -0.5 C during the past week in the Niño- 3.4 and Niño-3 regions. Sub-surface temperatures remained below average during October, reflecting the anomalously shallow depth of the thermocline across the central and eastern Pacific. Also, convection was suppressed near the International Date Line and slightly enhanced over parts of the Maritime Continent and the Philippines. Over the equatorial Pacific Ocean, low-level trade winds were mainly near average, but the upper-level winds were strongly anomalously westerly and the Southern Oscillation Index was positive. Overall, the ocean and atmosphere system reflects the onset of La Niña conditions.

For the remainder of the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2017-18, a weak La Niña is favored in the model averages of the IRI/CPC plume and also in the North American Multi- Model Ensemble (NMME). The consensus of forecasters is for the event to continue through approximately February-April 2018. In summary, La Niña conditions are predicted to continue (~65-75% chance) at least through the Northern Hemisphere winter (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period).

La Niña is likely to affect temperature and precipitation across the United States during the upcoming months (the 3-month seasonal temperature and precipitation outlooks will be updated on Thursday November 16th). The outlooks generally favor above-average temperatures and below-median precipitation across the southern tier of the United States, and below-average temperatures and above- median precipitation across the northern tier of the United States.

Aspen voters turn down Woody Creek land acquisition bonding

A map provided by the city of Aspen showing the two parcels in Woody Creek it has under contract. The city is investigating the possibility of building a reservoir on the site, as well as looking at the possibility of a reservoir in the neighboring Elam gravel pit.

From The Aspen Times:

Aspen voters denied the city permission Tuesday to use $5.5 million in general obligation bonds to buy a piece of land in Woody Creek that would potentially be converted into a reservoir for future water storage.

Unofficial results showed the measure was decided by a 53.4 percent to 46.6 percentage margin.

The outcome of the vote won’t preclude the city from acquiring a 58-acre parcel of land from Woody Creek Development Co. The city has had the property under contract to buy for $2.65 million.

The city had said that even without voter approval, it would still buy the property possibly by using certificates of participation to finance the deal or through cash and internal financing.

The city’s pending purchase of the land was in response to public outcry over statements it had made in previous water court filings that it could dam both Maroon and Castle creeks for future water supply.

The city has various reservoir options for the Woody Creek land, as Aspen Journalism reported in October that the largest one would span 8,000 acre-feet at a cost of $81 million, with a 5,000-foot-long dam, based on a study by Longmont-based engineering firm Deere and Ault.

The actual development of the reservoir is not in the city’s immediate future, Aspen Journalism reported.

“Developing water storage is an effort that will take time to fully implement, as it involves property acquisition, studies, planning, permitting, engineering and design before any construction can begin,” Margaret Medellin, a utilities portfolio manager in the city’s water department, was quoted as saying. “This is not an overnight process. Securing the property is the first step.”

Archuleta County voters turn down Ballot Issue 5A — San Juan Headwaters Project

Credit The Pagosa Daily Post.

From The Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

Ballot Issue 5A, the San Juan Water Conservancy District’s (SJWCD) request for an increase to 1 mill to help with the land acquisition for and support the San Juan River Headwaters Project reservoir, was soundly defeated Tuesday, with 75.44 percent of voters against the measure (2,697 votes).

A total of 878 voters, or 24.56 per- cent, were in favor of the measure.

SJWCD board chair Rod Proffitt indicated Wednesday morning the district knew it would be an uphill battle and will now obtain feedback on the loss at the polls and “proceed accordingly.”

“The District was disappointed in the results, but we knew even when we negotiated the terms of the $2 Million loan with CWCB [the Colo- rado Water Conservation Board] that it would be a difficult challenge we might have to put in front of the vot- ers more than once,” Proffitt wrote in an email to SUN staff.

Proffitt added, “The facts have not changed. In fact, the need for this water storage project is becoming more apparent. CWCB and PAWSD agree this community may face a serious demand supply gap as early as 2024. The Growing Water Smart Group that formed this past summer and committed to endorsing a 3 Mile Plan and a Watershed Management Plan as good ways to integrated better land use Planning and wise water conservation also determined the best, most important thing we can do is arrive at a set of data and popula- tions projections we can agree on by consensus, and then use for planning purposes by the various entities responsible for infrastruc- ture needs is (sic) the community.”

#California commits to #SaltonSea agreement #ColoradoRiver #COriver


From The Desert Sun (Ian James):

California’s top water regulators adopted an agreement that commits the state to following through on plans of building wetlands and controlling dust around the shrinking Salton Sea over the next 10 years.

The order approved Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board sets targets for state agencies in building thousands of acres of ponds, wetlands and other dust-control projects around the lake.

The agreement is based on California’s 10-year plan for the lake, which Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration released in March. So far, most of the funding hasn’t been secured for the $383 million plan.

California’s largest lake is about to start shrinking more rapidly at the end of this year under a water transfer deal, leaving vast stretches of dusty lakebed exposed near communities that already suffer from extremely high asthma rates. The Salton Sea is also growing progressively saltier, threatening to kill off remaining fish and drive away birds that have relied on the lake as a migratory haven for more than a century.

The agreement represents a consensus among local and state agencies after years of delays, and formalizes state officials’ commitments over the coming decade…

Officials from several agencies and water districts told the board at the meeting in Los Angeles that the agreement is a key step toward preparing for a “smaller but sustainable” Salton Sea.

Under the order, state agencies are to build a total of 29,800 acres of dust-control projects and habitat areas around the lake by the end of 2028. The State Water Board, which is taking on an oversight role, set a timetable of increasing annual targets for building those projects, starting at 500 acres in 2018 and increasing to 4,200 acres in 2028.

State agencies will have to report on their progress each year, and if they fail to meet an annual acreage target by more than 20 percent, they’ll be required to present a plan to “cure the deficiency” within 12 months.

The agreement requires that at least half of the total acreage must “provide habitat benefits for fish and wildlife.” The remaining areas could include dust-control projects that don’t require water, such as plowing sections of lakebed or laying down bales of hay to block windblown dust…

The agreement was reached during negotiations involving state officials, the Imperial Irrigation District, Imperial County and the San Diego County Water Authority…

Board member Tam Doduc asked a few of those who spoke how they define a “smaller but sustainable” Salton Sea.

Kelley said it’s “a lake that won’t make people sick.” Others added that it’s also critical to protect the important bird habitats that the lake provide along the the Pacific Flyway…

The lake has been sustained for more than a century by water running off farmland in the Imperial Valley. But the amount of water flowing into the lake is decreasing, and more than 18,000 acres of dry lakebed have been left exposed as the shorelines have retreated over the past two decades. The lake, which has no outlet and is already saltier than the ocean, regularly gives off odors resembling rotten eggs.

The sea’s decline reflects the growing strains on the Colorado River. Under a water transfer deal signed in 2003, the Imperial Irrigation District is selling increasing quantities of water to cities in San Diego County and the Coachella Valley.

The agreement called for the Imperial district to send “mitigation water” from its canals into the sea through 2017. At the end of this year, that flow of water will be cut off and the lake will recede more rapidly.

Over the next 30 years, the lake is projected to shrink by a third.

State officials touted the new consensus as a landmark agreement that defines California’s commitment to restoring and managing the Salton Sea…

Many communities around the Salton Sea are predominantly Latino and among the poorest in California.

Imperial County already has the highest rate of asthma-related emergency room visits for children in California, and the problem is expected to get worse as tens of thousands of acres of lakebed are left high and dry around the lake over the next decade.

If the ponds and wetlands are fully built as planned, they would cover up less than half of the more than 60,000 acres of dry lakebed that are projected to be left exposed over the next 10 years…

Funding for the state’s plan also remains uncertain. So far, $80.5 million has been approved. California voters will have the opportunity to approve $200 million more for Salton Sea projects as part of a $4 billion bond measure on the ballot in June.

Malissa Hathaway McKeith, a Riverside lawyer who leads the nonprofit Citizens United for Resources and the Environment, urged the board ahead of the meeting to put the ramp-up of the water transfer on hold until there is an “actual Restoration Plan.”

McKeith said in a letter that adopting an agreement that treats the state’s 10-year Salton Sea Management Plan as a restoration plan “is a disservice particularly to the communities” around the lake. She said the board should hold more hearings to address “the core issues of what inflows will be needed to sustain this undefined ‘smaller Salton Sea.’”

The agreement includes requirements for state agencies under the next governor who takes when Brown steps down after the 2018 election. Among other things, the Natural Resources Agency is required to complete a long-term by the end of 2022.

With the agreement finalized, Wilcox said his agency is focused on getting projects going on portion of the exposed lakebed…

The agreement on the Salton Sea also could help ease the way toward a larger Colorado River deal between California, Arizona and Nevada. Representatives of the three states have been negotiating a proposed Drought Contingency Plan, which would involve drawing less water from Lake Mead to avert severe shortages.

The Imperial Irrigation District holds the biggest single water entitlement along the Colorado River and supplies water to lucrative farms producing crops from hay to Brussels sprouts. During the past year, the district had warned the state that without a credible plan for the Salton Sea, it wouldn’t take part in the proposed Colorado River deal. That condition now appears to have been met.

“This is a fine example of the new relationship between Pueblo and Colorado Springs” — Terry Hart

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

Pueblo County officials said Wednesday that they are excited about Colorado Springs voters approving a ballot measure securing $17 million in annual stormwater fees to be used exclusively for stormwater drainage and flood control projects.

“This is a fine example of the new relationship between Pueblo and Colorado Springs. I think it’s wonderful to have two communities rolling up their sleeves to tackle problems the two communities share,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said.

The money coming from the new ballot measure will be used to fund projects, including the list of 71 projects identified in the intergovernmental agreement between Pueblo County and Colorado Springs regarding the permit for the Southern Delivery System. SDS is the large pipeline that transfers water from the Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs…

The IGA commits the Front Range city and its utilities department to pay $460 million for storm water infrastructure, maintenance and education programs over the next two decades.

“As evidenced by the incredible progress that has been made in our stormwater program over the past two years, the city of Colorado Springs is committed to operating an outstanding stormwater program,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.

“Our commitment, and the commitment of our citizens, is evident in passage of Ballot 2A to provide a dedicated funding source for stormwater infrastructure, operations and maintenance.”

Suthers said this commitment will continue as the city of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities invest $460 million over the next two decades to stormwater operations that will improve the city’s ability to mitigate flooding and preserve water quality while meeting the requirements of its MS4 Permit.

Broomfield: Question 301 aims to prioritize health and safety for oil and gas operations

Drilling rig and production pad near Erie school via WaterDefense.org

From The Denver Post (John Aguilar):

Voters on Tuesday passed a controversial ballot issue that gives Broomfield more local oversight of oil and gas operations in the city, a move that probably will invite a legal challenge from Colorado’s large energy sector.

According to a late-night vote tally in the mail-in election that accounts for most of the ballots cast in the city, the yes vote for Question 301 was comfortably ahead of the no vote by a margin of 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent…

Jennifer Dulles, a Broomfield resident who supports 301, attended a watch party at Brothers BBQ in Broomfield…

As to the question of whether the industry would sue, Dulles said, “The concept that an industry would need to sue the people over a ballot initiative that is about health and safety is incredulous.”


Question 301 has been a highly contentious topic in Broomfield and is perhaps one of the most fought-over issues on a Colorado ballot in 2017. The measure attracted nearly $400,000 from groups either pushing it or trying to quash it.

Of that amount, the energy extraction industry put in the lion’s share — nearly $345,000 — in both monetary and in-kind contributions to defeat 301.

“It is in violation of state law as upheld by the state Supreme Court,” said Don Beezley, a “No on 301” committee member. “The result will be Broomfield spending tens of thousands of dollars or more defending lawsuits, most likely from both the state of Colorado and the operators, with apparently 100 percent likelihood of losing said suits.”


Past efforts by cities — including Fort Collins, Broomfield and Lafayette — to temporarily ban oil and gas drilling have met defeat in court. In May 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that municipally imposed fracking bans are illegal because state power to regulate the industry trumps local efforts to do so.

While 301 doesn’t propose an oil and gas ban, its potential to restrict energy extraction activities doesn’t sit well with the industry. Last month, two industry groups sued Thornton weeks after the city passed oil and gas regulations that the industry claims conflict with state law, characterizing the city’s new setback distances for wells and requirements on abandoned flowlines an overreach…

But the pro-301 side points to a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling from March, known as the Martinez decision, that stipulates the protection of public health and the environment is “a condition that must be fulfilled” by the state before oil and gas drilling can be done.

That’s essentially what the measure asked of Broomfield voters, said Judy Kelly, co-chair of the 301 Committee. The measure is an amendment to Broomfield’s home rule charter requiring protection of health, safety and the environment as preconditions for drilling inside city limits.

“It might be worth taking a step back to ask ourselves, ‘Why in the world would people be sued for simply stating that their city places health and safety as a first priority?’” Kelly asked. “If the industry is safe and can operate safely, this is a non-issue for them.”