#Drought news: Little or no precipitation for much of the Far West, Southwest, southern halves of the Rockies and High Plains

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


With a blocking ridge of high pressure anchored over the Southwest, a series of cold fronts tracked across the eastern two-thirds of the Nation. The fronts, however, slowed their southeastward advance across the South and Southeast, and after picking up Gulf moisture, produced numerous and widespread showers and thunderstorms with heavy precipitation (more than 2 inches) from the southern Great Plains northeastward into the northern Appalachians. This was similar to the weather pattern back in mid- to late February when the lower Mississippi, Tennessee, and Ohio Valleys were deluged. Lighter precipitation also occurred across the northern halves of the Rockies and Plains, the upper Midwest, Great Lakes region, western New England, the central Gulf Coast States, and along the Pacific Northwest Coast. Little or no precipitation fell on the remainder of the Far West, Southwest, southern halves of the Rockies and High Plains, western Corn Belt, along the eastern Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, and most of Alaska. Weekly temperatures averaged below normal in the northern Rockies, northern and central Plains, Midwest, mid-Atlantic, and Carolinas, and above-normal in the Far West, Southwest, southern Plains, along the Gulf Coast, and in northern New England. In Alaska, readings were much-above normal in western and northern sections and near to below normal in southern and eastern portions. Most of Hawaii and Puerto Rico observed showery weather…


Similar to mid-February when heavy rains inundated the south-central Great Plains, lower Mississippi, Tennessee, and Ohio Valleys and provided instant relief from drought, heavy rains fell along an identical track, except this time south-central Texas received more precipitation than 6 weeks ago, and Arkansas saw less. Eerily similar was the demarcation line of minimal rain versus decent rain in central Oklahoma where western sections of the state yet again missed out on the moisture. Luckily, this was not the case in western Texas where areas between Lamesa and Lubbock finally received 0.5-1.5” of rain. Lubbock’s 0.77” of rain on Mar. 27 exceeded their Oct. 7-Mar. 26 total of 0.40”. Amarillo’s 0.24” on Mar. 27 was even more than their Oct. 7-Mar. 26 amount of 0.07”. Take away an extremely wet early October (2.14” from Oct. 3-6) and Amarillo’s conditions would have been even worse. From south-central Texas northeastward into western Louisiana, a swath of 3-8” of rain provided 1-2 categories of drought improvement, while more scattered bands of moderate to heavy rain allowed limited 1-category improvement in parts of southern and central Texas. The aforementioned rains in west Texas were responsible for a D3 to D2 upgrade as most tools responded. Some slight westward adjustments (improvements) of the D0 edge in north-central Texas and central Oklahoma were made as the cutoff between decent and scanty rains occurred. Unfortunately, another week with little or no precipitation in northern Texas, western half of Oklahoma, and Kansas led to additional deterioration as D4 spread into parts of the Oklahoma and northern Texas Panhandles as gusty winds produced sand storms in the area…

High Plains

The persistent fall and winter pattern of above-normal precipitation and subnormal temperatures continued this week across Montana, Wyoming, and the western Dakotas, building up the existing snow cover and gradually providing additional relief from long-term drought. In eastern Montana, SPIs out to 9-months were wet except in the extreme northeastern part of the state (Daniels and Sheridan counties) where D2 lingered. Similarly in extreme western Dakotas and northeastern Wyoming, additional precipitation allowed for a slight nudge of the D0-D2 areas to the east (improvement). However, since this drought goes back to 12-15 months ago, it will take more precipitation to remove these long-term deficits (6-10 inches) and subsoil impacts where D1 and D2 are currently depicted, hopefully during the upcoming wet season (April-July). In central and eastern North Dakota where the drought was short-term, snow totals of 1-2” in the central and 4-6” in the east added to 90-day surpluses. Even though soil moisture conditions are less than desired (ground barely frozen at 4” depth), 90-day percent of normal precipitation has shown significant improvement. Therefore, some D1 was improved to D0 in central parts of the state while D0 was erased from eastern areas. In Nebraska, moderate snows fell across southern sections of the state, but D0 was kept as subsoil dryness lingered due to frozen ground earlier in the year that limited infiltration of melting snow or rain. As conditions thaw and additional storms occur, infiltration should increase. Farther south in Kansas, little or no precipitation meant another week of growing deficits, and based upon indices going out to a year, D3 conditions were common in central and northeastern portions of the state; therefore D3 was expanded northeastward…


After a very wet March and prior week in California, tranquil weather (mild and dry) enveloped the state and much of the West, with only light precipitation falling on western Washington and Oregon, northern Idaho, most of Montana, northern and eastern Wyoming, and northern Colorado. Fortunately for California, March provided several welcome slugs of moisture to the Sierra Nevada snow pack after one of the driest Februarys on record, bumping April 1 statewide SWE readings to 52% of normal, up from 23% on March 1, but still below the average. Major state reservoirs were at or above normal April 1 averages largely due to last winter’s bountiful precipitation. In Oregon, last week’s precipitation was also enough to keep status-quo during this week’s dry weather, although April 1 NRCS average basin numbers were still below normal (75-87% precipitation, 44-64% SWE). WYTD precipitation and SWE statistics are better toward the north and east, with northern Oregon, Washington, most of Idaho, northeastern Nevada, Montana, and Wyoming at or above normal.

Unfortunately, the trend of the Southwest missing significant precipitation during the winter has extended into the spring, with NRCS average basin (especially the Four Corners region states) precipitation and SWE running at 20-70% and 0-60% of normal, respectively. With most WYTD tools depicting D2-D4 conditions, along with reported impacts, some deterioration was made in northwest Arizona (D2 expansion in Mohave County); north-central Utah (D2 into Salt Lake County, D3 increase in Utah County); southern Colorado (D2 in Pueblo County, D3 into eastern Las Animas, eastern Otero, and western Bent Counties); and a slight southward extension of D3 into west-central and east-central New Mexico. As the spring season continues, temperatures will rise and precipitation normally decreases, so the short-term outlook is not favorable for any improvement based strictly on climatology…

Looking Ahead

During April 5-9, 2018, unseasonably heavy precipitation (2-6 inches) is expected in western sections of Washington, Oregon, and the northern half of California, plus the Cascades and Sierra Nevada, with lesser amounts in the remainder of the Northwest and northern and central Rockies. Unfortunately, a sharp cutoff of precipitation (dry) is forecast for southern California, southern Nevada, and much of Arizona, New Mexico, and west Texas. Light precipitation (less than half an inch) is predicted across the northern half of the Plains, Midwest, and southern Great Plains, with greater totals (1-3 inches) in the lower Mississippi Valley, Southeast, mid-Atlantic, and New England. Temperatures will average above-normal west of the Rockies, southern Texas, and Florida, and below-normal east of the Rockies except along the Gulf Coast.

For the ensuing 5 days (April 10-14), odds favor above-median precipitation for much of the Far West, northern thirds of the Rockies and Plains, Midwest, lower Mississippi Valley, New England, and southern Florida, with sub-median totals in the Southwest and south-central High Plains, Southeast, and northern Alaska. Chances for sub-median temperatures are likely across the northern half of the Nation, but especially in the upper Midwest and along the Northeast Coast. A tilt toward above-median readings are expected in the Southwest, southern Rockies, southern half of the Plains, southern Florida, and southern Alaska.

Pharmaceuticals in the water supply — @AmericanRivers

Cartoon via Environmental Issues in Canada

From American Rivers:

In recent years there has been mounting concern about the presence of chemicals from pharmaceuticals and personal care products, such as cosmetics, in the nation’s streams and rivers.

There is no question that these chemicals are present in the nation’s waterways. The USGS conducted the first major investigation in 2002 and found, on average, seven chemical compounds in the streams they surveyed.

In 2008, the Associated Press found an array of pharmaceuticals, from pain killers to antibiotics to mood stabilizers, in the drinking water of 24 major metropolitan water suppliers. Further, 34 of the 62 water suppliers contacted by the AP couldn’t provide results as they had never tested for pharmaceutical compounds.

This problem won’t go away anytime soon.

American drug consumption has increased rapidly in recent years, and Americans fill 3.7 billion prescriptions every year. The chemicals in these drugs end up in waterways after being excreted from the body or when unused medication is flushed down the toilet.

Most municipal sewage treatment facilities do not remove the pharmaceutical compounds from your water, and major upgrades would be required to do so. The federal government hasn’t stepped in to require testing or set safety limits, leaving many questions unanswered.

Pharmaceutical compounds are found at much lower concentrations in rivers and streams than the normally prescribed doses, but there is concern that chronic exposure to numerous compounds could cause serious health problems and that compounds can act synergistically to cause adverse health effects.

Of particular concern is the presence of endocrine disruptors, which come from a variety of agricultural, industrial, and domestic sources, including pharmaceuticals.

These compounds disrupt internal biological processes such as development, growth, and reproduction that are regulated by hormones.

Whether these compounds are present in sufficient levels in our waterways to affect human health remains a topic of serious concern and ongoing research…

The fish in the Potomac River may look normal at first glance, but many of the Potomac’s male bass are producing eggs, and similar “intersex” fish are being found in rivers across the country.

While scientists have yet to pinpoint the cause of this mutation, it’s thought that a group of compounds known as endocrine disruptors are responsible.

These chemicals affect key biological processes regulated by hormones, such as growth, development and reproduction, and include common medications including birth control pills.

Whatever the cause, it’s unknown what effects these compounds are having on us when we drink or swim in the same waters. Like the canary in the coal mine, the story of intersex fish may be an early warning of the effects that pharmaceuticals are having on the health of our waterways and on the people and organisms that depend on them.

Use the following steps to reduce the risk of long-term human health effects of pharmaceuticals in your water supply:

The cheapest and easiest way to limit pharmaceutical contamination is to keep drugs from entering our waterways in the first place. Drug take back programs, public education on proper disposal, and regulations to limit large-scale medicine flushing at hospitals and nursing facilities are important first steps that can greatly reduce the amount of contaminants entering our waterways. Some states and counties have begun to experiment with take-back programs. For example, Washington State collected and disposed of over 15,000 pounds of unwanted medications during a two year pilot program.

Additional research is needed to assess potential human health effects and identify the best methods for removing pharmaceutical compounds at treatment plants. If there is a significant long-term risk to public health, more aggressive efforts to control the problem may be needed.

While proper disposal can limit pharmaceutical contamination, more work on source control will ultimately be needed in addition to upgrading treatment infrastructure and reassessing our approach to use and dispose of pharmaceuticals and personal care products.

Reuse demonstration project at @DenverWater’s recycling plant

Denver Water’s Recycled Water Treatment Plant and Distribution System opened in 2004

From The Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Colorado’s next big source of drinking water may be recycling and reusing what customers flush down the drain.

That’s the idea behind a cutting-edge demonstration project set up at Denver Water’s recycling plant on York Street in north Denver.

A group of engineering companies and water policy groups set up the project, which has been running since January, to show that metro-area water that normally would be treated and sent down the South Platte River could be captured and cleaned to the point where it’s safe to drink…

Some of Colorado’s water providers have recycled water for reuse — mostly for irrigation purposes — for more than 50 years, said Laura Belanger, a water engineer with Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates, a policy group.

But the demonstration project takes the recycling to the next step — treating water via a five-step process to a level where it’s safe to drink.

The equipment, which can treat up to 15 gallons per minute, mimics nature’s water-cleaning ability but does it much, much faster. A gallon can pass through the system in less than 30 minutes, said Austa Parker, a water reuse technologist with Carollo.

Water that’s passed through the Metro Waste Water treatment plant and destined for the South Platte River is passed through the system.

The system involves using ozone, filters and microfilters that are 100 narrower than a human hair. Activated charcoal and ultraviolet light also are part of the process at the demonstration plant…

The demonstration system is unique in that it doesn’t produce an extremely salty brine that requires its own disposal process, she said.

Interest in recycling water and using it inside homes is growing across Colorado, Belanger said.

The Colorado Water Plan, adopted in 2015, called for recycling more water.

And a group of utilities, state health officials and water recycling enthusiasts are exploring issues around using and drinking recycled water with an eye toward crafting new state-level regulations, Belanger said.

The cost of building and equipping such a treatment plant depends on many variables, including the quality of the source water and the type of treatment it needs, she said.

But a recycling plant is cost-competitive when compared to the costs of obtaining and transporting new water supplies, she said.

From Business Wire:

Xylem Inc. (NYSE: XYL) has been engaged as a water technology solutions provider to the PureWater Colorado Demonstration Project, which aims to demonstrate direct potable reuse (DPR) as a safe, reliable and sustainable drinking water source. Denver Water has partnered with Carollo Engineers, WateReuse Colorado (WRCO) and Xylem on the project which is located at the Denver Water Recycling Plant and will run during the month of April this year. Some of the water produced will be used to brew beer to raise awareness among the general public about this water purification process.

Water reuse is part of Colorado’s Water Plan to reduce the amount of water diverted from rivers and streams, creating a sustainable, efficient way to extend the state’s water supplies.

Steve Green, Business Development Manager, Xylem said, “We are very excited to be part of this forward-looking, important project that aims to promote a sustainable, reliable and safe drinking water treatment process. It is crucial that we implement sustainable solutions, like water reuse, to meet future water needs. We hope that this demonstration will help to raise awareness and understanding among the local population and community leaders about how DPR can help to provide for their water needs now and in the future.”

A range of Xylem’s solutions including a Wedeco MiPRO advanced oxidation process (AOP) pilot system and a Leopold granulated activated carbon (GAC) filter pilot will be used in the project which features a unique treatment train that avoids the use of reverse-osmosis (RO) membranes and their associated high capital and operating costs as well as brine disposal.

John Rehring, Vice President, Carollo Engineers said, “As national leaders in water reuse, we were happy to partner with Xylem to demonstrate the use of advanced technologies – an extension of our efforts to develop a regulatory framework, and public outreach activities specific to Colorado.”

Xylem is a frontrunner in the field of water reuse technology, providing advanced solutions and expertise to reuse applications across the US, as well as globally. In California for example, Xylem’s Wedeco MiPRO advanced oxidation processes (AOP) is operating at Los Angeles Sanitation’s Terminal Island Water Reclamation Plant. The customized solution is the first greenfield AOP design using ultraviolet light with chlorine – a significant innovation to make water reuse more sustainable and cost-effective.

Last year Xylem signed a multi-year commitment (2017-2019) to support Water Environment Research Foundation (WE&RF) research into water reuse, building on a previous three-year research partnership and solidifying Xylem’s commitment to advancing the use of recycled water. Internationally, Xylem works together with the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and the Singapore Public Utilities Board (PUB) to progress water reuse.