Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
During the 7-day period (ending Tuesday morning), heavy to excessive rainfall eased or eliminated dryness and drought across much of the eastern, southeastern, and southcentral U.S. Conversely, drought intensified and expanded from the central Corn Belt southwestward across the southern Plains into the Southwest, including much of southern California. Other modest changes to the nation’s drought depiction over the past 7 days included reductions to drought intensity in Montana as a result of recent snowy, cold weather, while dryness and drought expanded in Oregon due in large part to subpar snowpacks…
For the second consecutive week, moderate to heavy rain in eastern portions of the region contrasted with intensifying drought across the southern Plains and environs. Rainfall totaled 2 to 6 inches from eastern Texas into Tennessee, with two-week totals of 6 inches or more in east-central Mississippi. The net result was a widespread reduction of Abnormal Dryness (D0) and Moderate to Severe Drought (D1 and D2). Despite the moisture, longer-term deficits persisted in the Delta’s core D1 area, with 90-day precipitation 50 to 70 percent of normal (locally less). Farther west, Extreme Drought (D3) expanded further across northern Texas, with even more notable increases in D2 in central Texas. The drought situation remained unchanged in Oklahoma, with rain sorely needed as warmer weather begins to stimulate the growth of crops and vegetation. From Lubbock, Texas, northward into Oklahoma, little — if any — precipitation has fallen over the past 90 to 120 days; the four-month Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) was well below D4 levels (-2.0 or lower, with some below -3.0) in these locales. The lack of rainfall is affecting winter wheat, pastures, pond levels, and streamflows. Impacts will rapidly escalate if rain does not materialize soon. To put the dryness in perspective, February 14th marked the 124th consecutive day without rain in Amarillo, shattering the previous mark of 75 days (records date back to 1892). In Lubbock, February 14 marked the 98th consecutive day without measurable precipitation, tying the record. Other notables in Texas include Plainview and Memphis, which are both now at 130 days without measureable precipitation. Similar statistics are emanating out of Oklahoma, where Woodward and Laverne just reached 127 days without measureable precipitation as of February 14. The situation on the southern Plains is rapidly becoming dire, and precipitation will be needed soon to prevent further expansion or intensification of drought…
Additional snow in central portions of the region contrasted with dry conditions elsewhere. There were no changes made to the drought depiction in the Dakotas, where a lack of snowfall to date has led to declining prospects for spring meltoff; resultant detrimental impacts on topsoil moisture and stock pond levels remained a primary concern. Meanwhile, a continuation of the recent snowy weather pattern in northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming, northwestern Kansas, and much of Nebraska (30-day surplus of 1-2 inches, liquid equivalent) supported the reduction of Moderate Drought (D1) and Abnormal Dryness (D0). Likewise, moderate to heavy snow (depths averaging 12 to 24 inches, liquid equivalent 1 to 2 inches) in northeastern Montana supported some reduction of the state’s persistent long-term drought. Conversely, southern Kansas remained locked in the same drought which has held a firm, intensifying grip on the southern Plains. However, additional detailed assessment of data coupled with information from the field led to a minor adjustment of the Extreme Drought (D3) which slices over the south-central U.S., with the depiction shifted slightly east from southeastern Colorado into western Oklahoma to reflect the updated information.
Outside of bitter cold, snowy weather in the northeastern corner of the region, warm and mostly dry conditions prevailed. In Montana, moderate to heavy snow (depths averaging 12 to 24 inches, liquid equivalent 1 to 2 inches) in northern and eastern portions of the state supported some reduction of the state’s persistent long-term drought. Meanwhile, an increasingly poor Water Year as well as historically low mountain snowpacks led to the continuation or expansion of dryness and drought. In southwestern Colorado, Severe Drought (D2) was expanded slightly to the northeast of the San Juan Mountains, as the southwestern corner of the state continues to wrestle with sub-par season-to-date precipitation (locally less than 25 percent of normal since October 1) and very poor mountain Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) for spring runoff. More notably, D3 was added in northern New Mexico where SWE’s are at or near 0. In fact, similarly abysmal SWE’s encompass much of the Four Corners States into northern Nevada and — to a lesser extent — the Sierra Nevada. The Drought Monitor and local experts will continue to closely monitor the snowpack situation over the upcoming weeks. Exacerbating the situation has been the very poor Water Year, with precipitation-to-date totaling less than 25 percent of normal over large tracts of southern California and the Southwest; Severe Drought (D2) was expanded accordingly to reflect the driest areas. Conditions also have begun to slip farther north as well. Moderate Drought (D1) was added to Oregon and northern Nevada, where precipitation during the current Water Year has slipped below 50 percent of normal and mountain SWE’s are in the 10th percentile or lower…
An unsettled weather pattern will maintain periods of rain and snow over much of the nation, although pockets of dryness will persist. A series of storms will bring moderate to heavy rain and mountain snow to much of the west, although unfavorably dry conditions will persist from California into western Nevada. East of the Rockies, an active southern storm track will bring much-needed precipitation to locales from southeastern New Mexico across the southern two thirds of Texas into southern Oklahoma and the northern Delta. Despite the welcomed storminess, dry weather will linger from the south-central Plains into western Missouri as well as over the lower Southeast. Farther north, another round of moderate to heavy snow is expected from Montana into the Great Lakes and eastern Corn Belt, and may include the Mid-Atlantic as well as Northeastern States. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for February 20 – 24 calls for near- to above-normal precipitation over much of the nation, in particular areas east of the Mississippi save for Florida and the lower Southeast, where drier-than-normal conditions are expected. Below-normal precipitation is also anticipated in the Southwest and on the southern High Plains. Above-normal temperatures over the southern and eastern U.S. will contrast with colder-than-normal weather from the Pacific Coast States into the upper Midwest.
Here’s a profile of Cindy Medina and her work with the Alamosa Riverkeeper via the Waterkeeper Alliance (Lesley Adams and Kate Hudson). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
Inspired by the leadership of Alamosa Riverkeeper Cindy Medina, a community united to bring the Alamosa River back to life.
The San Luis Valley and the headwaters of the Alamosa River rest between the snow-capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado rest. Rising more than 14,000 feet above sea level, the “Blood of Christ” mountains are the southern tip of the Rockies and stretch over the New Mexico border to where the Kapota Ute Indians once lived.
Three centuries ago, Spanish settlers came north from what was then Mexico and settled in the San Luis Valley, where they took root amidst the cottonwood and aspen trees along the Alamosa River and became farmers and ranchers with an unflagging commitment to hard work and their Catholic faith. Cindy Medina, a present-day descendant of one of those families, became one of the first women to join the Waterkeeper movement.
The middle child of seven girls, Cindy was raised on a farm, helping with chores, playing in alfalfa fields, and splashing around in the irrigation ditch, called an acequia, that brought water to the farm. In her memoir, A Journey into the Heart of the Black Madonna, Cindy wrote lovingly of her family, whose pulsating force sustained her as a girl. Her memories of growing up in the San Luis Valley send aromas through the pages – of fresh tortillas and cinnamon rolls made by her mother, of the home-heating fires fueled by wood gathered in the mountains with her grandfather, of the potent herbal remedies wild-crafted by her grandmother. Her connections to family and the natural world around her were woven together. She wrote: “This lifeblood was no different than the acequia, the ditches lined with dirt that irrigated this arid land with water. . . The acequia was my ocean.”
Like many others in the rural West, Cindy left as a young adult to pursue a formal education. She earned a master’s degree in counseling from Arizona State University and relocated with her husband to Seattle. There she began a successful practice as a psychotherapist, gave birth to two daughters and, while on a trip to Zurich, Switzerland to attend a psychology seminar, came across an 8th century statue of the Black Madonna at a Benedictine Abbey and experienced a spiritual transformation that led her to environmental activism. The Black Madonna is considered by some to be the Queen of Nature,” Cindy explains, “and the archetypal energy that fuels change.” She is the mother who fertilizes all life and urgently demands a return to balance and wholeness, honoring the earth. In her memoir, Cindy describes her encounter with the Black Madonna as a spiritual awakening to the interconnectedness of all living things. In 1988, propelled by that journey of self-discovery, Cindy moved back home to southern Colorado, where she found that a pollution crisis threatened the heart of her community, the Alamosa River.
Gold, Greed and Cyanide
The mountains in southern Colorado are rich in minerals, gold and silver, which attracted extensive mining in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. And, in turn, like all boom-and-bust extraction, the mines left a toxic legacy. Acid mine drainage polluted and continues to pollute many Colorado waterways downstream. Mining in high-elevation areas like the San Juan Mountains petered out in the 1920s, and remained dormant for more than half a century, until a new, far more destructive method was developed to allow precious metals to be recovered from otherwise uneconomic ore.
In 1984, Canadian-based Galactic Resources and its subsidiary, Summitville Consolidated Mining Company (named for the local ghost town) acquired 1,230 acres of the San Juan Mountains that loomed above the San Luis Valley, and convinced the state of Colorado to grant them a mining permit for a new “state of the art” mining technique known as “heap leaching” – large-scale open-pit mining that involved slicing off half the side of a mountain and putting the mined ore in a lined open pit (“heap-leach pad”) with sodium cyanide to leach out the copper, gold and silver. This “state of the art” technique was efficient for the mining company, but disastrous for those who lived downstream. The liner of this pit almost immediately sprung leaks, contaminating nearby creeks with heavy metals and acid, and creating a 17-mile dead zone and a massive fish kill in the 51-mile-long Alamosa River.
Decisions on these cases are expected by June.
If SCOTUS holds in Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado that the United States has an independent cause of action under the Rio Grande Compact, it could open the door for the federal government to sue states for violating the terms of other interstate water compacts.  Depending on the scope of the ruling, it could either set a precedent for claims by the United States in other interstate water disputes or be narrowly limited to the facts of the case. Included at the end of this alert is a map showing all current interstate compacts.
From a practitioner’s perspective, the issues at the crux of Florida v. Georgia highlight the need for clear guidance from technical experts in determining priorities in complex allocations. Moreover, the decision will have implications for how SCOTUS may handle equitable apportionment in future water disputes, such as between Mississippi and Tennessee.  There is a dearth of recent case law on equitable apportionment, particularly in Eastern states; the last time SCOTUS equitably apportioned water between Eastern states was 1931, when it resolved a conflict between New Jersey and New York.  There also is a lack of precedent as to how the Court will treat considerations of ecological impacts in equitable apportionment. Whether the decision in Florida v. Georgia will provide clear insights into these issues remains to be seen, but if it does, it will certainly impact upcoming interstate water disputes.
The allocation of water from interstate compacts directly impacts the amount of water available to users within the party states. Thus, the outcome of these two cases apportioning water between and among states, and deciding the role of the federal government in that distribution, will have impacts across various economic sectors, including agriculture, power production, municipal water supply, food processing, technology manufacturing, and data storage, to name a few.
Denver Water employees share what Black History Month means to them and how their culture provides inspiration today.
From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):
Water quality is a sticking point for Thornton, which faces challenges getting all its water to drinking quality standards. Much of the city’s water comes from the South Platte River and requires extensive treatment because it’s diverted downstream of many areas of runoff and pollution, [Emily] Hunt said.
If Thornton drew the water from the Poudre near Windsor as suggested, the city would end up with water run downstream of three wastewater treatment plants and numerous runoff areas, [Mark] Koleber said.
“Urban runoff, agricultural runoff, wastewater plants, industrial discharge — it’s just not what you do for a municipal drinking water supply,” he said.
Especially considering Thornton bought the [rights to divert] because of its high quality, Hunt added.
Recent rule changes to accommodate development result in reduced water use and better customer service for homeowners.