#Snowpack news: Continued dryness in the Four Corners

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map December 17, 2017 via the NRCS.

From The Durango Herald (Mia Rupani):

Weather forecasters say the dry conditions may be a sign of what’s to come for much of the winter, which officially starts Thursday. A La Niña weather pattern appears to be shaping up, bringing cold and snow to the Northwest and unusually dry conditions to the southern tier of the U.S.

Meteorologist Andrew Lyons with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction said there has been no recorded precipitation in Durango this month, making it the driest start to December on record.

He said temperatures, too, are continuing to run above average.

“We started off November very dry and warm, and we broke several record highs here and around the state,” Lyons said.

Precipitation levels are recorded at Durango-La Plata County Airport. The National Weather Service recorded 0.13 inches of precipitation for the month of November, more than an inch below what was recorded in November 2016.

Snowpack is 22 percent of average for this time of year for the San Miguel, Dolores, San Juan and Animas basins – the lowest average in the state. Statewide, snowpack is at 52 percent of normal.

The average high temperature for December is 39 degrees, with an average low of 13 degrees. And although most nights have been cold this month with an average of 11 degrees, the days are significantly warmer, with an average of 48 degrees – nine degrees above average…

He said an area of high pressure over the western United States is pushing storms up into Canada and down into the Upper Midwest and East Coast.

And because big snowstorms are memorable, people often forget the dry winters in Durango, he said.

#ColoradoRiver: Developing the accounting is slowing the Lower Basin #Drought Contingency Plan #COriver

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

From The Associated Press via The Hour:

The plan, known as Minute 323 , calls for Mexico to give up claim to some water in exchange for U.S. investment in water improvement projects there. It also calls for an international plan to respond to drought conditions in Lake Mead that would include Mexico in water reductions.

Before that can take effect, however, a drought contingency plan between U.S. states and water users has to be worked out.

At the time of Minute 323’s approval, Sen. Jeff Flake, R- Arizona, called the deal “a major step forward in guaranteeing a reliable long-term water supply by protecting Arizona’s share of the Colorado River” and said the binational deal was “setting the table for the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.”

That drought response plan would call on California, Nevada, Arizona, Mexico and the Bureau of Reclamation to reduce their shares of the Colorado River water in times of drought, according to Sarah Porter, the director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University.

“What it is really about is creating an accounting system for water forbearance,” Porter said. “The plan creates an incentive for all the lower basin states, and the big water players to keep their water in Lake Mead, ensuring its levels.”

Even though serious negotiations are ongoing, however, the draft plan is far from completion. Disagreements between states, namely Arizona and California over who would take cuts, as well as conflicts within the states have stalled any draft from moving forward.