Summit “State of the River” meeting recap #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

From The Summit Daily (Deepan Dutta):

Highlighting the event was newly hired state climatologist Russ Schumacher. He gave a presentation offering some explanations about the extremely dry season we experienced this past winter. Schumacher confirmed that Colorado experienced one of the driest winters on record, after experiencing the 30th wettest year in 2017. The state experienced a bump after a heavy snowstorm in early April pushed precipitation numbers a bit closer to average.

Schumacher also confirmed that snowpack was terrible this past season. While Summit and most of the northeast portions of the state did OK, the southern part of the state did not. In the southwest, for example, snowpack levels averaged out between 30 and 40 percent of normal.

“There’s a clear dividing line between north and south,” Schumacher said. “Summit County is kind of at the middle of that. North of Summit, snowpack and precipitation are pretty OK, even above average. But in the south, they really struggled.”

Schumacher said warmer temperatures was a big factor for why the southern part of the state has been suffering.

“Everywhere in the southwest was extraordinarily warm,” Schumacher said. “Pretty much everywhere west of the divide was record warm, everywhere else that wasn’t was close to that.”

Schumacher attributed the warmer temperatures, especially in the southern part of the state, to the La Niña weather pattern that pushes the jetstream north and creates dry, warm conditions in the south and western parts of the state.

The long-term problem for Colorado’s waterways is how long these patterns can continue before it becomes a crisis. That’s where Andy Mueller, the new general manager for the Colorado River District and the night’s other featured speaker, came in.

Mueller pointed out that the current U.S. drought monitor has over 80 percent of Colorado’s population experiencing some form of drought, with the southwest experiencing extreme drought. But the problem extends beyond Colorado’s boundaries. However, Mueller said the biggest concern going forward are water flows going west to Lake Powell, one of the most important water reservoirs in the country.

Mueller called Lake Powell the state’s “water savings account.” Under the Colorado River Compact signed in 1922, the Upper Basin states — Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico — are required to keep an annual flow of 7.5 million acre-feet per year flowing from Lake Powell to Lake Mead and the Lower Basin states — Arizona, Nevada and California. At the moment, flow into Lake Powell is forecasted to be at around 3.1 million acre-feet, or around 43 percent of average, because of the lack of snow melt…

If Lake Mead — which is currently at 1,084 feet above mean sea level and has been less than half full for well over a decade — drops to 1,075 feet, [the 2007 Shortage Sharing Agreement] will activate and force cuts to water users downstream. That will have a domino effect that may lead to water cuts for Upper Basin states as well. There may be severe water rationing, shutdowns of hydroelectric dams and a whole other set of emergency measures that have never before been instituted by the Department of the Interior. That means economic uncertainty for a wide variety of industries including ranching, skiing and electricity.

“To avoid that, Lake Powell is expected to pump out and drop 20 feet this summer,” Mueller said. “It’s currently at 54 percent of capacity.”

Mueller added that while catastrophe will probably be avoided this summer, it might not be next year or the year after that. Because of this complex water dance, Mueller said it was important for agricultural water users with senior claims in the Western Slope to maintain those claims, because if they’re abandoned they are abandoned forever.

“It keeps the water in our streams for our recreational users and for our quality of life here on the Western Slope,” Mueller said. “It keeps that water flowing to the West. Because they have those senior rights, they are able to pull that water downstream and not let it get diverted away.”

Mueller attributed the dangerously low water levels to overusage from lower basin states, but also in large part to climate change…

That means the overdevelopment in Colorado — which includes water-hungry lawns and outdoor irrigation — is not sustainable. Mueller ended his presentation with a dire warning and plea for the land-use people to start listening to water-use people.

“From the Colorado River District’s perspective, this has to stop,” Mueller said, pointing to a slide of a cookie-cutter subdivision near Denver. “We need the folks across the state putting these massive subdivisions in to realize that this is not OK. This is putting all of us in danger of significant chaos and the possibility of a compact curtailment.”

Jury still out: Upper Colorado River Commission wants more action from Arizona’s CAP

#ColoradoRiver #COriver

Your Water Colorado Blog

By Jerd Smith

Water Education Colorado

Whether a high-level meeting between an Arizona water agency and the four upper basin states earlier this week will help restart a critical drought contingency planning effort in the Colorado River Basin isn’t clear yet, officials said.

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This despite an apology from Central Arizona Project managers for publicly discussing a strategy they were using to force more releases from the upper basin’s Lake Powell to fill its own Lake Mead, mining what it called the “sweet spot” in a set of guidelines used to jointly manage Powell and Mead, the largest reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin.

The meeting, held April 30 in Salt Lake City, came after the four upper Colorado River Basin states – Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico – as well as Denver Water, sent angry letters to the Central Arizona Project (CAP), protesting the project’s actions.

The CAP is…

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2018 #COleg: Governor Hickenlooper signs SB18-066 (Extend Operation Of State Lottery Division)

The upper Colorado River, above State Bridge. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Governor Hickenlooper’s office via The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 18-066 into law Monday, reauthorizing the Colorado Lottery through 2049.

“The Colorado Lottery is the only lottery in the nation that commits nearly all of its yearly proceeds to outdoor recreation or habitat and wildlife conservation,” Michael Hartman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue, said in a press release. “Coloradans can rest assured that their lottery game spending will continue to support the incredible resources that make our state so special, including supporting the capital needs of our state’s great school systems.”

According to the release, in the last five fiscal years, the lottery has distributed more than $670 million to its four beneficiaries — the Conservation Trust Fund, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado and the Building Excellent Schools Today program.

Since its start in 1983 through fiscal year 2017, the Colorado Lottery has returned to more than $3.1 billion to its beneficiaries.

The money is distributed 50 percent to the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, 40 percent to the Conservation Trust Fund, and 10 percent to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. GOCO funds in fiscal year 2018 are capped at $66.2 million and funds that exceed the cap will go to the Colorado Department of Education’s Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund, according to the lottery website.

The current structure of the primary lottery beneficiaries has been in place since 1992, when the people of Colorado voted to the amend the Colorado constitution and create the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund.

Lottery funds have been used to create and restore hundreds of miles of trails, protect hundreds of miles of rivers, create thousands of jobs, add thousands of acres to the state parks system, create more than 1,000 parks and recreation areas, and protect over 1 million acres of land.

Under a reauthorization passed by the Colorado Legislature in 2002, the Lottery division was extended 15 years from 2009 to 2024. The new bill adds 25 years, authorizing the lottery until 2049.

To learn more about where the funds go, visit http://coloradolottery.com/en/about/giving-back.

#Snowpack in the West — @wradv

From Western Resource Advocated (Bart Miller @WaterBart). Click through and read the whole article for the in-depth look at western snowpack by state. Here’s an excerpt:

Snowpack in the West is essential to creating healthy flowing rivers that support recreation, tourism, and habitat for thousands of species. Communities also rely on the snowpack to fill reservoirs that supply cities and towns with a steady supply of drinking water all year-round.

Why is snowpack important to the West?

Snowpack in the West is essential to creating healthy flowing rivers that support recreation, tourism, and habitat for thousands of species. Communities also rely on the snowpack to fill reservoirs that supply cities and towns with a steady supply of drinking water year-round.

What are the major trends in snowpack in the West this year?

We can monitor how current snowpack will impact streamflow later in the year by measuring something called Snow Water Equivalent (SWE). SWE is the amount of water contained within the snowpack. The Natural Resources Conservation Service maps below show percentage of SWE on the first of every month compared to what has been considered normal over an almost 30-year period.

  • Any basin colored in red, orange, or yellow means there is currently less snowpack than what is considered normal.
  • Any basin colored in green or blue means there is currently the same or more snowpack than what is considered normal.
  • Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map May 3, 2018 via the NRCS.

    The Arizona Department of Water Resources & CAWCD Announce: They Will Work Collaboratively on the Drought Contingency Plan

    #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Arizona Water News

    horseshoe_bend_20150425_1273884712ADWR and CAWCD are committed to bringing DCP to closure in Arizona by addressing a broad range of issues that respect the concerns of all stakeholders across the State.  The discussions between ADWR and CAWCD are only the first step in a process that will expand to include participation by stakeholders.

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    CBRFC: May 1, 2018 Water Supply Forecast Discussion #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Here’s the discussion from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center:

    The ​Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC)​ geographic forecast area includes the Upper Colorado River Basin, Lower Colorado River Basin, and Eastern Great Basin.

    Water Supply Forecast Summary:

    The month of April was generally dry over much of the CBRFC forecast area. While the month was not void of storm systems the greatest precipitation impacts were limited to the northern Bear River Basin, Yampa River Basin, Colorado mainstem headwaters, and parts of the Gunnison River Basin. In every month of the 2018 water year dating back to last October at least some part of the Colorado River Basin or Great Basin has experienced very dry conditions with monthly precipitation less than 50 percent of average. Only February of 2018 saw widespread precipitation that was near or above average in areas that are the primary contributors to the April-July runoff. However, even then impacts were limited to the upper Colorado River Basin as very dry conditions were widespread in the Great Basin.

    April-July water supply volume forecasts increased from those issued in early April in parts of the Yampa River Basin, Colorado River headwaters, eastern headwaters of the Gunnison River Basin and some headwaters of the Green River Basin in Wyoming. The most significant decreases from early April occurred in the Dolores River Basin, Sevier River Basin, and Duchesne River Basin.

    Forecasts are highest with respect to average in the Green River Basin of Wyoming, Colorado mainstem headwaters, and in northern parts of the Bear River Basin. Lowest forecasts with respect to average are in the southern basins of the forecast area and include the Dolores River Basin, San Juan River Basin, Sevier River Basin, and Virgin River Basin.

    April-July unregulated inflow forecasts for some of the major reservoirs in the Upper Colorado River Basin include Fontenelle Reservoir 900 KAF (124% of average), Flaming Gorge 1000 KAF (102% of average), Blue Mesa Reservoir 350 KAF (52% of average), McPhee Reservoir 62 KAF (21% of average), and Navajo Reservoir 200 KAF (27% of average). The Lake Powell inflow forecast is 3.00 MAF or 42% of average.

    Upper Colorado, Great, Virgin River Basins: 2018 April-July forecast volumes as a percent of 1981-2010 average (50% exceedance probability forecast)

    Humans didn’t exist the last time there was this much CO2 in the air — Grist

    From Grist (Eric Holthaus):

    On Wednesday, scientists at the University of California in San Diego confirmed that April’s monthly average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration breached 410 parts per million for the first time in our history.

    We know a lot about how to track these changes. The Earth’s carbon dioxide levels peak around this time every year for a pretty straightforward reason. There’s more landmass in the northern hemisphere, and plants grow in a seasonal cycle. During the summer, they suck down CO2, during the winter, they let it back out. The measurements were made at Mauna Loa, Hawaii — a site chosen for its pristine location far away from the polluting influence of a major city.

    Increasingly though, pollution from the world’s cities is making its way to Mauna Loa — and everywhere else on Earth.

    In little more than a century of frenzied fossil-fuel burning, we humans have altered our planet’s atmosphere at a rate dozens of times faster than natural climate change. Carbon dioxide is now more than 100 ppm higher than any direct measurements from Antarctic ice cores over the past 800,000 years, and probably significantly higher than anything the planet has experienced for at least 15 million years. That includes eras when Earth was largely ice-free.

    Not only are carbon dioxide levels rising each year, they are accelerating. Carbon dioxide is climbing at twice the pace it was 50 years ago. Even the increases are increasing.

    That’s happening for several reasons, most important of which is that we’re still burning a larger amount of fossil fuels each year. Last year, humanity emitted the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions in history — even after factoring in the expansion of renewable energy. At the same time, the world’s most important carbon sinks — our forests — are dying, and therefore losing their ability to pull carbon dioxide out of the air and store it safely in the soil. The combination of these effects means we are losing ground, and fast.

    Without a bold shift in our actions, in 30 years atmospheric carbon dioxide will return back to levels last reached just after the extinction of the dinosaurs, more than 50 million years ago. At that point, it might be too late to prevent permanent, dangerous feedback loops from kicking in.

    This is the biggest problem humanity has ever faced, and we’ve barely even begun to address it effectively. On our current pace, factoring in current climate policies of every nation on Earth, the best independent analyses show that we are on course for warming of about 3.4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, enough to extinguish entire ecosystems and destabilize human civilization.

    Climate change demands the urgent attention and cooperation of every government around the world. But even though most countries have acknowledged the danger, the ability to limit our emissions eludes us. After 23 years of United Nations summits on climate change, the time has come for radical thinking and radical action — a social movement with the power to demand a better future.

    Of the two dozen or so official UN scenarios that show humanity curbing global warming to the goals agreed to in the 2015 Paris Accord, not one show success without the equivalent of a technological miracle. It’s easier to imagine outlandish technologies, like carbon capture, geoengineering, or fusion power than self-control.

    Our failed approach to climate change is mostly a failure of imagination. We are not fated to this path. We can do better. Yes, there are some truly colossal headwinds, but we still control our future. Forgetting that fact is sure to doom us all.

    From Scientific American (Brian Kahn):

    On Tuesday, the Mauna Loa Observatory recorded its first-ever carbon dioxide reading in excess of 410 parts per million (it was 410.28 ppm in case you want the full deal). Carbon dioxide hasn’t reached that height in millions of years. It’s a new atmosphere that humanity will have to contend with, one that’s trapping more heat and causing the climate to change at a quickening rate.
    In what’s become a spring tradition like Passover and Easter, carbon dioxide has set a record high each year since measurements began. It stood at 280 ppm when record keeping began at Mauna Loa in 1958. In 2013, it passed 400 ppm. Just four years later, the 400 ppm mark is no longer a novelty. It’s the norm.

    “Its pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled,” Gavin Foster, a paleoclimate researcher at the University of Southampton told Climate Central last month. “These milestones are just numbers, but they give us an opportunity to pause and take stock and act as useful yard sticks for comparisons to the geological record.”

    Earlier this year, U.K. Met Office scientists issued their first-ever carbon dioxide forecast. They projected carbon dioxide could reach 410 ppm in March and almost certainly would by April. Their forecast has been borne out with Tuesday’s daily record. They project that the monthly average will peak near 407 ppm in May, setting a monthly record.

    Carbon dioxide concentrations have skyrocketed over the past two years due to in part to natural factors like El Niño causing more of it to end up in the atmosphere. But it’s mostly driven by the record amounts of carbon dioxide humans are creating by burning fossil fuels.
    “The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease,” Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. “But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.”

    Even when concentrations of carbon dioxide level off, the impacts of climate change will extend centuries into the future. The planet has already warmed 1.8°F (1°C), including a run of 627 months in a row of above-normal heat. Sea levels have risen about a foot and oceans have acidified. Extreme heat has become more common.

    All of these impacts will last longer and intensify into the future even if we cut carbon emissions. But we face a choice of just how intense they become based on when we stop polluting the atmosphere.

    Right now we’re on track to create a climate unseen in 50 million years by mid-century.