#Drought news: 27% of #Colorado winter wheat crop in poor or very poor condition

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


Generally moderate precipitation (up to 3 inches) fell on most of the Southeast, Lower Mississippi Valley, portions of the California and Oregon Coasts, and the higher elevations of northern California. Lesser amounts (0.6 to 1.0 inch) dampened the central Appalachians, the Tennessee Valley, portions of the northern Intermountain West and southern Rockies, and most other sections of California outside the interior valleys and arid southeastern areas. Meanwhile, little or no precipitation fell on a large swath encompassing most of the Plains, and negligible amounts were also recorded in parts of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys north of the confluence, the central Rockies, the Great Basin, and the desert Southwest. This includes some of the nation’s most intensely impacted drought areas from the Four Corners states eastward into the south-central Great Plains…

High Plains

Drought persisted or worsened from Kansas, central Oklahoma, and eastern Texas westward into Colorado and New Mexico. Drought intensity was degraded in many areas, with Exceptional Drought (D4) introduced in a patch of northern Oklahoma east of the Panhandle. Extreme (D3) drought now covers a large swath across northeastern New Mexico, most of the Panhandle and adjacent areas in Texas, western Oklahoma, south-central and southwestern Kansas, and southeastern Colorado. The last 5 months have been intensely dry from southern Kansas and adjacent Colorado southward through western Oklahoma, parts of northeastern New Mexico, and the Texas Panhandle. Most of this area has recorded only 0.05 to a few tenths of an inch of precipitation since early October, and impacts have steadily intensified. Winter wheat is struggling to grow, even in irrigated fields, and many crops planted after the early October rains never germinated. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, a large proportion of the winter wheat crop in several states is in poor or very poor condition, including 74 percent of the crop in New Mexico, 72 percent in Oklahoma, 53 percent in both Kansas and Texas, and 27 percent in Colorado. In addition, significant proportions of several other crops in Oklahoma are in poor or very poor conditions, specifically 60 percent of canola, 59 percent of rye, and 54 percent of oats. Texas oats are also suffering from the dryness, with 38 percent in poor or very poor condition. 38 percent of Texas oats are in poor or very poor The lack of rain has been accompanied by low humidity and strong winds at times, enhancing wildfire danger and causing some soil erosion. Many ponds and reservoirs are low, and some shallow wells have dried up.

The Governor of Kansas declared a drought watch in northern and eastern counties, drought emergencies in south-central and southwest counties, and drought warnings in the remaining areas.

Farther north, dryness and drought eased somewhat in northeastern Montana and remained mostly unchanged farther east, though some D2 expansion was introduced in southwestern North Dakota.

The winter wheat crop here has been affected by the dryness, but not to the degree observed in the southern Plains. South Dakota reports32 percent of its crop in poor or very poor condition, as are 18 percent of the North Dakota winter wheat crop…


Outside the patches of moderate precipitation in California and adjacent Oregon, it was a dry week, with more than 0.5 inch of precipitation restricted to parts of Arizona and far southern Nevada. Recent precipitation has been sufficient to end abnormal dryness along part of the west-central California coast, but conditions persisted or intensified elsewhere. In Utah, D3 expanded to cover a sizeable chunk of the middle of the state, and D2 extended farther northward in northeastern areas. Dryness and drought in Oregon remained unchanged from last week, but the Governor of Oregon declared a drought emergency in Klamath County due to low snowpack, subnormal precipitation, diminished streamflows, and above-normal temperatures…

Looking Ahead

During March 15-19, 2018, most of the lower elevations in California expect moderate precipitation (0.5 to 1.5 inches). Another significant snow event is forecast in the Sierra Nevada, where precipitation totals may reach 5 inches. Elsewhere, generally moderate precipitation (0.5 to 1.5 inches) is expected across western Oregon and in broad area covering the southern Appalachians, central Gulf Coast States, Middle Mississippi Valley, central Plains, and central and northern Rockies. Amounts under 0.5 inch are expected elsewhere, with little or none falling in the desert Southwest, Upper Mississippi Valley, southern High Plains, south Texas, and Middle Atlantic States. Daily maximum temperatures should average above normal across the Southeast, the southern half of the Mississippi Valley, and the central and southern Plains. Daily average highs may average over 12 degrees F above normal across much of Kansas and Oklahoma and adjacent parts of Missouri and Arkansas. In contrast, days will stay cooler than normal through most of the Rockies and Far West, the northern Plains, and the Middle Atlantic States.

For the ensuing 5 days (March 20-24), odds favor above-normal precipitation over a large part of the contiguous states, including most areas from the Atlantic Seaboard westward to the Mississippi Valley, the northern Plains, and from the Rockies westward to the Pacific Coast. Enhanced chances for below-normal precipitation cover the central and southern Plains, most of the Florida Peninsula, and the southern rim of Alaska. Abnormally warm weather is favored in southern Florida, the west half of the Gulf Coast, most of Texas, the southern High Plains, and the southern Rockies. Most of the country farther west, north, and east should average cooler than normal, including southeastern Alaska.

The next week is shaping up OK for moisture for much of the Rockies (sorry SE Colorado and San Luis Valley).

Grim Forecast for the #RioGrande #snowpack #drought

Rio Grande River near South Fork via Division of Water Resources

From Water Deeply (Laura Paskus):

Water managers in New Mexico will be relying on stored water to meet ecological, agricultural and water supply needs as the runoff from this winter is expected to be notably low.

According to the National Water and Climate Center’s forecast for the Rio Grande Basin, the water supply outlook for spring and summer remains “dire.” In his monthly email, forecast hydrologist Angus Goodbody noted that while storms did hit the mountains in February, particularly along the headwaters in Colorado, snowpack in some parts of the Sangre de Cristo mountains continued to decline. That means the river and its tributaries will receive less runoff than normal this spring and summer – and many areas may reach or break historic low flows.

A new study in the peer-reviewed journal, Nature, also heralded troubling news. According to the authors, more than 90 percent of snow monitoring sites in the western United States showed declines in snowpack – and 33 percent showed significant declines. The trend is visible during all months, states and climates, they write, but are largest in the spring and in the Pacific states and locations with mild winter climates. To drive home the numbers, they noted the decrease in springtime snow water equivalent – the amount of water in snow – when averaged across the entire western U.S. is 25 to 50 cubic kilometers, or about the volume of water Hoover Dam was built to hold in Lake Mead…

Hard Choices

At the same time, water managers in New Mexico know they’re also in for a tough year.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation watches snowpack and streamflow forecasts closely, said spokeswoman Mary Carlson: “And the current outlook is grim,” she said.

“We are grateful in years like this, when it appears we will have very little runoff from snowmelt, that we are able to rely on the water that has been stored in our reservoirs in previous years,” she said. “Without those reservoirs, conditions on the Rio Grande would be much more extreme in a year like this.”

Reclamation currently has about 12,400 acre-feet of supplemental water in storage, she said, and the agency expects to get another 9,000 to 14,000 acre feet to augment Middle Rio Grande flows.

“We are working with our partners, including our sister agency the Fish and Wildlife Service, to determine when and how to use that water to benefit the Rio Grande silvery minnow and other endangered species in the area,” she said.

Rio Grande Silvery Minnow via Wikipedia

The Rio Grande silvery minnow was listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1994. Two years later, in 1996, about 90 miles of the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque dried. Biologists scrambled over the fish, environmental groups sued, political wars waged and water managers tried to figure out how to serve cities and farmers while keeping the fish from going extinct. For 15 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) required water managers to keep at least 100 cubic feet per second of water in the Albuquerque stretch of the river – even if it dried to the south, as it did many years, typically between Las Lunas and the southern boundary of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Then in 2016, FWS pivoted. Under its new biological opinion for the silvery minnow, the agency said water operations in the Middle Rio Grande were not jeopardizing the fish’s survival. It stopped requiring flow minimums and instead expects Reclamation and its partners to manage the river to improve fish densities.

David Gensler, the hydrologist for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, said the district still has water stored in upstream reservoirs for the valley’s farmers. “But not enough. Reclamation has storage for fish, but not enough,” he said. “[There are] some hard choices facing us.”

Typically, irrigation season runs from March 1 to Oct. 31, but due to dry conditions and low soil moisture, this year, the district started its diversions earlier.

Last year dealt water managers a good hand, Gensler said, but this year will be the opposite. And 2018 is shaping up to be similar to that notoriously dry 1996. “I’m optimistic we will all come together and manage through it,” he said.

From Wild Earth Guardians (Jen Pelz):

The reality of the problems the Rio Grande faces from source to sea is vast:

  • Climate change is predicted to reduce flows in the Rio Grande by 25 percent in Colorado, 35 percent in New Mexico, and over 50 percent in Texas and Mexico in the remainder of this century;
  • A border wall (or series of walls) could destroy connections between countries as well as migratory corridors for rare and beautiful ocelots and jaguars, among other species;
  • A 200-mile stretch of the Rio Grande known as “the forgotten reach”, between El Paso and Presido, Texas (or Ojinaga, Mexico), is already channelized and bone-dry year round;
  • Flows in the 75-mile stretch of one of America’s first Wild & Scenic Rivers—the Rio Grande from the Colorado-New Mexico state line to south of Taos, NM—is in danger of disappearing due to unsustainable use in Colorado and implementation of the Rio Grande Compact, especially during dry years;
  • and The lack of flooding and peak flows, as well as the lack of accountability of agricultural water use from the Rio Grande in central New Mexico, threatens to increase ecological damage to one of the largest contiguous cottonwood forests in the world.
  • A cottonwood forest. Credit: Matthew Schmader/Open Space Division

    There is no doubt the solutions to these problems are complicated and hard, but we can chart a new course for this iconic river.

    [March 14, 2018] is the International Day of Action for Rivers and serves to encourage people from around the world “to lift their voices to demonstrate, educate and celebrate the world’s rivers and those who struggle to protect them.” The Rio Grande is one of the world’s most iconic and endangered international rivers, and to protect the river as a whole, we must join together as neighbors in a basin-wide community.

    We cannot do this by remaining in silos and maximizing the use of the river to benefit a few at the expense of others. We must find ways to build connections that will help restore this once-mighty river. Our vision is to build a River Guardian Network exclusively along the Rio Grande and its tributaries that will serve to defend, protect, and keep the river healthy and safe for this and future generations. Please contact me to learn more or to join forces with us.

    Rivers are a source of kinship and serve to bridge communities both locally and regionally. We may love different sections of this icon, but we are all creatures of the desert southwest. If we connect ourselves, we create hope to reconnect and restore the imperiled Rio Grande we all love.

    Upper Rio Grande River snowpack and precipitation March 1, 2018 via the NRCS Colorado Water Supply Outlook.

    “There’s a general sense that there will be less water in the future” — Michael Cohen

    From Mother Jones (Nathalie Baptiste):

    A huge swath of the US is facing massive droughts. It’s only going to get worse.

    While it’s unlikely that the Southwest United States is headed for a full-scale disaster like in Cape Town, South Africa, where residents have severely restricted water usage after three years of drought. But thanks to climate-changed linked droughts in the Southwest, water will become a precious commodity in this part of the US. “There’s a general sense that there will be less water in the future,” says Michael Cohen, a senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank.

    Within the next several decades, states in the Southwest will receive considerably less rain than they do now. The region is naturally dry, but over the last 100 years developers have turned sprawling deserts into communities with lush green grass and green golf courses. Historically, droughts aren’t unusual in this part of the US, but climate change is set to make them worse as less rains fall. Reservoirs will be dry, the agriculture sector will be forced to cut back on water usage, and individuals will be required to adopt conservation measures which can range from getting rid of lush green lawns to shorter showers.

    The five states currently facing droughts, plus Wyoming and Nevada, depend heavily on the Colorado River Basin, which includes the two largest man-made reservoirs in the United States, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, for water…

    According to NASA, rainfall may decline by 20 to 25 percent over California, Nevada, and Arizona by 2100. Anticipating drier times, California and Arizona are currently in talks over a drought contingency plan to prevent Lake Mead from losing so much water that it must declare a shortage, which would require states in the river basin to deliver less water to consumers…

    “The fear of drought and climate change in the West is the long-term lifestyle changes that are required to cope with more people and less water,” says John Fleck, a water resources professor at the University of New Mexico. “All these big cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Albuquerque are going to have to continue using less water and conserve more and more.”

    22 National Science Academies Urge Government Action on Climate Change — @insideclimate

    From Inside Climate News (Georgina Gustin):

    As some of the world’s biggest polluters resist efforts to address climate change—most glaringly, the United States—thousands of scientists from countries that make up the Commonwealth of Nations say their governments need to take bolder steps to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

    On Monday, the national science academies of 22 Commonwealth countries, including from the UK, Canada, India and Australia, issued a “Consensus Statement on Climate Change,” declaring that the “Commonwealth has the potential, and the responsibility, to help drive meaningful global efforts and outcomes that protect ourselves, our children and our planet.”

    The statement comes one month before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, where leaders intend to discuss sustainability and climate change.

    Monday’s statement warns that countries need to adopt stronger measures to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels—the goal of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The statement points out that, even if countries meet their existing greenhouse gas reduction targets under the agreement, a recent report from the United Nations projects “a global temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”

    In the statement, scientists from 22 national academies of sciences call on the government leaders to use the “best possible scientific evidence to guide action on their 2030 commitments” under the agreement and “take further action to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions during the second half of the 21st Century.”

    Getting to Net Zero Emissions

    The academies say that the Commonwealth countries will have to hit net zero emissions by midcentury to meet the Paris goals, though developing countries might need a longer time frame.

    “Recognising different capacities, challenges and priorities, the approaches of each nation will not be the same,” David Day, secretary of science policy at the Australian Academy of Science, said in a statement. “But, they must be informed by the best available scientific evidence, monitoring and evaluation.”

    The 53 countries of the Commonwealth comprise former territories of the British Empire, including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and are home to about 2.4 billion people.

    DWR Job Opportunity: Physical Science Researcher / Scientist IV – Greeley, CO

    Click here for all the inside skinny and to apply. Here’s the description:

    Description of Job

    This position provides leadership, guidance and oversight as a work leader to the Division 1 operations group responsible for Augmentation Plan and Water Operations coordination and administration. This group supports water rights administration by developing methodologies to collect and analyze water diversion and delivery data from water users reported water accounting submittals to verify augmentation plans and water diversions are operated and accounted for in compliance with all applicable court decrees, statutes, rules and regulations. This position identifies and determines applicable professional standards and concepts incorporated into governing water court decrees and provide written protocol and guidance to staff regarding proper analysis of Augmentation Plan, water diversions, and return flows operations submitted in water accounting in accordance with water court decree requirements. This position, when necessary, provides recommendations for new process and procedures to collect, report, analyze and coordinate practices to allow compliance of these plans with the applicable decrees. This position prepares expert reports and expert testimony in Water Court trials not related to enforcement actions. Position is the work leader of three or more full-time positions.


    Oversee the performance of detailed reviews of existing and future Water Court decrees obtained by large capacity well augmentation plan and municipal entities to determine the specific requirements of each decree. Develop methodology for the collection, analysis, evaluation, reporting (water accounting) and administration of these plans on a plan by plan basis.

    Responsible for the development of methodologies to collect and analyze water diversion and delivery data for large capacity well augmentation plans, water diversions and return flow tracking.
    Perform and direct the analysis of water diversion, delivery, and return flow data contained in water users submitted water accounting using the application of established procedures, principles, conceptual models, professional standards and engineering/scientific judgment.

    Oversee the performance of periodic field inspections of large capacity well augmentation and water users diversions structures, return structures, and water measurement devices to assure the structures and devices are all functioning within allowable tolerances, usually with the assistance and input of the applicable Water Commissioner, Well Commissioner and the South Platte Main Stem Coordinator.
    Participate in all phases of any necessary enforcement actions resulting from the above described data analysis and review.

    This position is the work leader, supervising the work product of 3 or more subordinate positions including correctness, timeliness and soundness of the work product in accordance to developed methodologies, standards and written protocol. The position assists in aspects of supervisory authority, but will not be directly accountable for signature authority for actions and decisions that directly impact the pay, status and tenure of other employees.