#Drought news: Kiowa County downgraded

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


Frontal and thunderstorm activity provided moderate to heavy rain (at least 0.5-inch) over northern, eastern, and central portions of the CONUS this past week. A weakness in the mid-tropospheric subtropical ridge over the Gulf of Mexico and southeastern states contributed to the influx of subtropical moisture across this region. Over the weekend, a cold front moved into the mid-Atlantic area and stalled, providing a lifting mechanism for the inflowing moisture. This resulted in heavy rain (generally 2-6 inches, locally greater) across much of Virginia, Maryland, eastern West Virginia, and southern Pennsylvania. Temperatures were near to above average across practically the entire contiguous U.S., with the greatest departures (6-12 degrees F above average, locally greater) for a large portion of the southern Great Plains, the Mississippi Valley, the Dakotas, the Great Lakes region, and the Ohio Valley…


According to ACIS, measured precipitation during the past 7-days was less than 0.5-inch over much of the South. Weekly temperature departures generally ranged between 4-10 degrees F above average. Significant 30-day precipitation deficits and near-record warm temperatures prompted the expansion of D0 across portions of Texas. In fact, the entire Texas drought depiction experienced another major overhaul this week. Low stream flows have been an issue in the Texas Hill Country for several months already. The position of the impacts line was adjusted to approximately bifurcate the state into a western portion (now SL, with longer-term deficits appearing), and an eastern portion (still S). Across the deep South Texas counties of Willacy and northern Cameron, conditions were degraded this week from D1 to D2, based on stressed fields of cotton (despite ongoing irrigation), high KBDI levels (600-700), and a 120-day SPI blend. In Oklahoma, continuing degradation of conditions led to an expansion of both D0 and D1 in southeast parts of the state. A few tweaks were made to the depiction in western Oklahoma as well, based on recent rainfall. Hot, relatively dry conditions prompted a broad expansion of D0 across most of Louisiana, western Arkansas, and adjacent portions of western and southern Mississippi this week. Current NLDAS soil moisture anomalies for the root zone (top one-meter) indicate values ranging from 1-3 inches below normal. Shreveport, LA, reported its warmest May on record, 78.4 degrees F, which supplanted the old record of 77.8 degrees F set back in 1933. Two areas of D1 were introduced in northwestern and south-central Louisiana this week. Topsoil moisture (Very Short to Short) for a few states include: Louisiana (73% this week, 55% last week), Arkansas (34%, 21%), Mississippi (22%, 14%) and for the Contiguous U.S. as a whole (28%, no change from last week). For Rangeland/Pastures, the percentages rated Very Poor to Poor this week compared to last week include: Louisiana (30% this week, 17% last week), Arkansas (6%, 8%), Mississippi (11%, 11%)…

High Plains

Heavy rain (2-6 inches, locally greater) fell over portions of North Dakota this week, with the highest amounts over the northwest part of the state. Much of the heaviest rain actually fell north of the Canadian border in extreme southeastern Saskatchewan. Slight alterations (both improvement and deterioration) were rendered to the depiction in western, north-central, and southeastern North Dakota, based in part on the 1-month EDDI, which takes into account evaporative demand. Both improvements and degradations were also made to the South Dakota depiction, which received much less rain this week than its northern counterpart. For example, Aberdeen reported only 0.52-inch of rain in May (2.59 inches below normal), making it the seventh driest on record. An area of severe drought (D2) was introduced to northeastern South Dakota, based on 60-day precipitation deficits, 30-day and 60-day SPI, recent warm temperatures, and increased water demand through evapotranspiration. A spectacular dust storm, attended by 50-80 mph winds, blew through this region (Hand and Faulk Counties) on June 1st. In southeastern Colorado, a one-category degradation was made to the depiction in Kiowa County. Decent soil moisture from the wet summer and fall of 2017 is now gone, due to the recent hot, dry weather. This, in turn, has taken its toll on crops. Although welcome rains fell across eastern Nebraska this week, it was decided not to make any changes to the state depiction until more information is at hand next week…


Minor adjustments were made this week to the D0 area along the eastern Montana state line. In northwestern Montana, it was eventually decided to postpone the introduction of D0 to the region. Although some drying has occurred, this area experiences healthy stream and river flows, due to continuing snow melt. In nearby northern Idaho, recent flooding precludes the introduction of any D0 at this time. This area will continue to be monitored for the possible inclusion of D0 in the next week or two. In western Oregon and western Washington, an extended dry pattern set in ahead of schedule, with rapidly declining stream flows (most are now within the lowest quartile of the historical distribution for the day of the year). There is a notable degradation in the SPI maps going from 60- to 30-days out. The more recent SPI values in this region range between -2.0 and -2.5. Accordingly, D0 was expanded across western portions of both Oregon and Washington this week. Finally, in southwestern New Mexico, water restrictions were initiated as storage in the Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs (along the Rio Grande in Sierra County) dropped below 400,000 acre-feet…

Looking Ahead

For the ensuing 5-day period (June 7-11, 2018), the northern and eastern CONUS are generally predicted to receive 0.5-1.5 inches of rain. Heavier amounts are forecast over portions of the western Corn Belt, the southern Great Lakes region, and the Florida peninsula. A relative maximum of 3-4 inches is possible in Iowa, likely due to nocturnal thunderstorm clusters (MCS) which are common at this time of year. Little to no precipitation is expected elsewhere during this period. For the subsequent 5-day period (June 12-16, 2018), CPC predicts elevated odds of above normal rainfall across the southern CONUS, with a weak tilt toward above running northward across the Mississippi Valley and eastern Great Plains region. Elevated odds of below normal rainfall are highlighted over the Northwest, the northern High Plains, and most of the Atlantic Coast states from Maine to Virginia.

CU Denver to begin testing blood of residents exposed in Widefield Aquifer PFCs pollution

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

…this week, a University of Colorado Denver public-health study funded by the National Institutes of Health will begin testing the blood of 200 residents, The Denver Post has learned.

No government agency has systematically investigated health impacts of the contamination. This area of southern El Paso County is among the most populated of more than 70 places where PFCs detected at levels up to hundreds of times higher than an EPA health advisory limit are spreading from military bases that used firefighting foam containing the chemicals.

Municipal firetrucks also carry the foam and PFCs are used in consumer products, including fast-food wrappers. They have emerged as one family in a widening array of synthetic chemicals detected in water that cannot be removed easily due to molecular structures…

Neither the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment nor the EPA has been monitoring PFC levels in the Fountain Creek watershed. Tests done more than a year ago showed contamination at levels far above the EPA health advisory limit.

CDPHE officials last week welcomed the EPA visit and said they’re pushing the Air Force to move faster into a planned 2019 “remedial investigation” phase that would include tracking the spread of PFCs in groundwater beyond the military base and airport.

The CU public health study will focus on people exposed to PFCs between 2012 and 2016, study leader John Adgate said. “We recruited more than 200 people from Security/Widefield/Fountain who will be coming to our temporary clinic for the blood draws.”

Air Force civil engineers last week provided their latest data to The Post from an “expanded site investigation” on Peterson Air Force Base and the adjacent Colorado Springs airport. They’ll drill 21 new wells to measure PFC contamination of groundwater.

The testing found PFCs at levels exceeding the EPA health limit contaminating 42 municipal water supply wells, which were shut down, with seven now back in use after the installation of treatment systems. (Fountain and Security stopped using wells for water supply, shifting to water diverted from the Arkansas River. Widefield bought and installed new water-cleaning systems to filter out contamination.)

Air Force officials said they have found 37 private wells with water containing elevated PFCs…

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs attorney Mike McDivitt, with colleagues in Denver and New York, has filed a second massive lawsuit in federal court, seeking funds from PFC manufacturers for medical monitoring. A federal judge is expected Aug. 2 to rule on whether an earlier lawsuit can proceed as a class action.

Northwest Colorado Food Coalition: Protecting Yampa River more than just recreation

The headwaters of the Yampa River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From the Northwest Colorado Food Coalition via Steamboat Today:

his time of year embodies the pastoral landscapes the Yampa Valley is known for. The change of seasons brings the return of the familiar sights and sounds of geese, cranes and other migratory birds. People, too, flock from around the world to celebrate this rebirth, as our valley sheds its winter coat and begins to bloom.

While many in our community are watching the weather to see how long they can continue to ski, when bike trails will be dry and how high the river will be for the 38th annual Yampa River Festival, another group of valley residents is tuned into the weather for another reason.

Our agriculture community is tracking the same indicators that skiers, bikers, rafters and fisherman are watching: snowpack, water flows and historical averages. Area farmers and ranchers need this crucial data to determine how long they will be able to irrigate their fields.

Without the extensive use of irrigation on area ranches, our landscape would be very different. Irrigated land provides numerous benefits beyond agricultural yields: It provides habitat for migratory birds, feeds riparian zones along the Yampa and increases late-season flows.

Friends of the Yampa, or FOTY, has done a lot of growing during the past several years. FOTY received its nonprofit status in 2008 and has been hard at work ever since. Branching into roles beyond building recreational features, we now facilitate projects that address noxious weeds, late season flows and other issues specific to the Yampa River.

The Leafy Spurge Project, for example, aims to address a weed that is threatening agricultural and riparian lands throughout the West. Leafy spurge, for those who are not familiar, is an invasive weed that is becoming more prevalent each year. Through partnerships with public and private landowners, state and federal agencies and other advocacy groups, FOTY and its partners hope to address this growing threat.

FOTY continues to support exploring innovative options to provide late season flows through Steamboat Springs. Options such as Alternative Transfer Methods, headed by the Colorado Water Trust and the State Engineer’s Office, provide water-rights holders the ability to lease water to downstream users for up to three years in a 10-year period, while still retaining original rights.

Similarly, FOTY is excited about research into the creation of a water fund. Groups, including the Nature Conservancy, are exploring this concept, which could be used to finance and implement similar transfers to benefit the health of the river into the future.

It is through these collaborative efforts that FOTY hopes it can continue to be a helpful resource for water users throughout the basin. Agriculture, recreation, municipal and industrial users are in this together. Using strategic partnerships and innovative water use practices, we can insure a vibrant river community for generations to come.

Learn more about this and all our work at friendsoftheyampa.com. See you on the river.

Mesa County District Judge Lance Timbreza rules that the Grand Valley Drainage District’s stormwater charge is a tax and subject to TABOR

Grand Valley Irrigation Canal. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The Grand Valley Drainage District’s charge, which for most of its residents is $36 a year, “runs afoul of (the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights) and is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt,” Mesa County District Judge Lance Timbreza wrote in a 43-page decision handed down a year after Timbreza presided over a trial on the case.

Mesa County and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce sued to halt the charge, contending that it was an illegal tax.

While the ruling halts the district from continuing to collect the charge, it’s silent on how or whether the district is to return the $7.2 million already collected over the last three years.

None of the drainage district board members now serving were on the board that instituted the fee and two said they expected to discuss what steps to take next in the coming weeks.

Board Chairman Cody Davis, who joined the board two years ago as an opponent of the charge, preferring that voters approve of any revenue-increasing measure, said he was surprised by the ruling…

Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis said it’s now time to deal with stormwater drainage issues across the county and said the drainage district should return to the bargaining table to “pick up where they left off and work toward a unified valley authority. And frankly, they don’t have the leverage to say no.”


Previous board members had leaned away from an appeal in the event they lost the suit, but the subject has yet to come before the current board.

Timbreza’s decision makes no mention of whether the district should return money to its customers. The county and chamber had made no request in their arguments about the money already collected…

While residents were asked to pay $36 a year, many businesses paid much more than that, up to $10,000 a year, Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Schwenke said…

The chamber and Grisier both noted that the need to deal with stormwater hasn’t gone away.

The drainage district charged businesses, churches, local governments and others with large-area parking lots and rooftops $3 per month for each 2,500 square feet of impervious surface, or surfaces that shed, rather than absorb water.

Residents were charged $3 per month or $36 a year.

Contiguous U.S. had its warmest May on record — @NOAA

From NOAA:

Last month, the U.S. sizzled with record warmth. It also had drenching rains in the East, with lingering drought conditions in the Southwest and Great Plains.

Let’s see how May 2018 and spring fared in terms of the climate record:

Climate by the numbers

May 2018
The average May temperature across the contiguous U.S. was 65.4 degrees F, 5.2 degrees above average, making it the warmest May in the 124-year record, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. This surpassed the previous record of 64.7°F set in 1934, during the dust bowl era. There were more than 8,590 daily warm station records broken, or tied, in May.

The average precipitation for May was 2.97 inches (0.06 inch above average), which ranked near the middle of the record books. Two weather systems, including Subtropical Storm Alberto, helped bring record and near-record rain across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Meanwhile, more than a quarter of the contiguous U.S. remained in drought.

Year to Date I Meteorological Spring (March – May)
The average U.S. temperature for the year to date (January through May) was 45 degrees F, 1.6 degrees above normal and the 21st warmest on record. The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during Meteorological Spring (March through May) was 52.4 degrees, 1.5 degrees above average and ranked as the 22nd warmest on record.

The average precipitation for the year to date was 12.66 inches, 0.27 inch above average. For the Meteorological Spring, the average precipitation was 7.91 inches, which ranked near average.

An annotated map of the U.S. showing other climate events that occurred in May 2018. For details, see the bulleted list below in our story. (NOAA/NCEI)

Other notable climate events

  • Subtropical Storm Alberto: Three days before the official start of hurricane season, Alberto made landfall along the panhandle of Florida, packing 65 mph winds and bringing torrential rain to parts of the South.
  • Soggy Conditions: Record rainfall triggered floods and mudslides in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions. Florida and Maryland saw record-wet conditions.
  • Temperature spike: Record warmth was observed in parts of the Northwest and stretching from the Southern Plains through the Midwest and into the Mid-Atlantic. On May 28, Minneapolis, Minn., hit 100 degrees F – the earliest on record it got that hot.
  • Cool, dry Puerto Rico: San Juan was cooler and drier than normal. It was the coolest May since 2011 and precipitation was 85 percent of normal.
  • Coastal high tide flooding increased last year: An update to NOAA’s annual State of high tide flooding and outlook found that the Southeastern U.S. is currently experiencing the fastest rate of increase in annual high tide flood days, with more than a 150 percent increase since 2000 predicted for the coming year (May 2018 – April 2019) at most locations.
  • More: Find NOAA’s report and download images on the NCEI climate monitoring report.

    @COParksWildlife personnel and volunteers work in Bear Creek watershed to catch and spawn Greenback cutthroat

    Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

    From KRDO (Stephanie Sierra):

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists set up a creekside laboratory along Bear Creek Tuesday to catch and spawn an endangered trout species…

    Each spring since the trout was located, CPW biologists have waded into Bear Creek to catch the greenbacks, spawn them, and send the fertilized eggs to the National Fish Hatchery in Leadville.

    @EPA finds place near Silverton to store #GoldKingMine sludge #AnimasRiver

    The EPA’s wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 — photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

    EPA officials announced last week that the agency has entered an agreement with a property owner who owns the Kittimac Tailings, a historic mine waste pile about six miles northeast of Silverton along County Road 2.

    The EPA built a $1.5 million temporary water treatment plant north of Silverton in October, three months after the agency triggered the Gold King Mine blowout, which sent a torrent of mine waste down the Animas and San Juan rivers.

    Since, the water-treatment plant has been treating and removing potentially toxic metals out of water that continues to discharge from the Gold King Mine. In April, the EPA said the mine was still leaking 450 gallons a minute.

    The water treatment plant adds lime to the mine wastewater to raise the pH of the water so that dissolved metals become solid and can settle in settling ponds – a highly effective process.

    The process, however, generates a lot of sludge. EPA has said an estimated 4,600 cubic yards of sludge is generated a year.

    The agency had been storing this sludge waste product – which is considered non-hazardous – at the site of the water treatment plant in an area known as Gladstone, about six miles north of Silverton along County Road 110.

    The EPA announced this spring, however, room was running out at Gladstone for the sludge…

    Scott Fetchenheir, a San Juan County commissioner and former miner, said Wednesday local residents are pleased to learn the EPA found a better solution to the sludge waste issue.

    “I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “But it’s almost like this big experiment.”

    The EPA has said it will mix the Gold King Mine sludge with mine tailings located at Kittimac.

    The EPA believes this will reduce high water content of the sludge, and will allow more efficient management, while at the same time immobilize heavy metals found in the tailings pile…

    The EPA said it is conducting a bench-scale testing of the sludge and tailings mixture to ensure the maximum reduction of metals leaching from the tailings. The agency plans to conduct a pilot test of this transfer process for one week in mid-June.

    The Kittimac tailings pile for years has been used illegally by dirt bikers and ATVers who have disregarded “no trespassing” signs to ride on the mine waste that looks like a pile of sand. Now that the EPA is using the site, access will be more guarded, Tookey said…

    While the short-term problem of where to put the sludge is temporarily solved, Fetchenheir said there remains the larger, more complicated matter at hand: what to do for long-term treatment of the mines draining into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River considered the worst polluter in the headwaters.

    While lime treatment plants are effective, they are also expensive to operate ($1 million a year) and have to be run in perpetuity. The EPA has yet to release its plan for long-term treatment options.

    “It’s hugely open-ended,” Fetchenheir said. “The true hope is some new technology arrives that removes metals without generating a huge amount of sludge. But I haven’t seen anything like it.”

    For now, the EPA said it will transfer the sludge via truck using the County Road 110 bypass. The agency said it hopes to reduce negative impacts, such as noise and dust suppression.

    After the pilot test in June, the EPA will resume transferring the sludge to the Kittimac tailings after the tourist season, around early fall, for a duration of about five weeks.

    Some folks in SW #Kansas are pushing the “Great Canal of Kansas”

    Kansas Aqueduct route via Circle of Blue

    From the Kansas News Service. (Ben Kuebrich) via the Hillsboro Free Press:

    Great Canal of Kansas

    Clayton Scott also uses the latest water technology on his farm in Big Bow. Yet he said that just using water carefully won’t be enough.

    He thinks any pumping limits severe enough to preserve the aquifer would dramatically cut back the region’s harvest. That would push up local grain prices, and without cheap grain, livestock feed yards would close, and meatpacking plants would follow.

    At its core, the western Kansas economy is built on irrigation.

    A 2015 study calculated that losses in irrigation could cost some 240,000 Kansans their jobs and wipe out $18.3 billion of yearly economic activity, or about 10 percent of the state economy.

    Scott and others in the region have their eyes on a more drastic solution to the water problem. Kansas could invest in a 360-mile series of canals and pumping stations to bring in water from the Missouri River.

    He knows it sounds extreme, but Arizona has already built a similarly sized aqueduct. The Central Arizona Project diverts water from the Colorado River and there’s been extensive research into building a similar canal across Kansas.

    “Arizona looked at their situation and decided, ‘We have no other choice,’ ” Scott said. “They estimate almost a trillion dollars of benefit to the economy of Arizona.”

    Arizona’s aqueduct has always been controversial. The federally funded canal remains at the center of multi-state disputes of water usage.

    Experts say that a generation later, the legal and regulatory hurdles of building a long-distance canal through Kansas only look more daunting.

    Water from the Colorado River is channeled through Arizona, much the way some people think it should be diverted from the Missouri River across Kansas.

    Pricey pipeline

    Still, Kansas and surrounding states have been considering aqueducts for a long time. A 1982 study came up with a plan to bring water from the Missouri River to a reservoir near Utica, Kansas, but nothing ever came of it. At the time, though, losing the Ogallala seemed like a distant prospect.

    In 2011, while western Kansas was in a drought and farmers struggled to pump enough water to keep their crops alive, the Missouri River was flooding. Scott says that sparked renewed interest in a canal.

    “It’s a long-term solution,” Scott said. “We can harvest the high flows of water off of the eastern rivers and bring them out here into the western High Plains, offset the droughts … and bring things into more of a balance.”

    In 2015, the Kansas Water Office and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers re-assessed that 1982 study. The agencies estimated that, depending on the capacity of the canal, it would now cost between $5 billion and $20 billion to build.

    Because the water would have to be pumped uphill as it goes west, it could take more than $500 million a year in energy costs alone, for the largest-capacity canal. With interest costs from construction, the yearly tab could exceed $1.5 billion.

    At the time, the head of the water office said, “this thing we studied is unlikely to happen.” The costs would simply run too steep.

    A canal project would have other barriers. Although the Missouri river sometimes floods, it also experiences lows, and levels would have to be maintained to permit barge traffic. There would also be challenges displacing people in the path of the aqueduct. While a highway can be redirected to avoid a town, a canal’s path is more constrained by topography.

    At the same time, environmental issues could come both from taking water from the Missouri and in the path of any aqueduct. Upstream and downstream states on the waterway already tangle over how to manage the water. An effort to siphon away water would further complicate the situation.

    Scott knows the project would be massive, and massively controversial, but that’s why he’s talking about it now—before the Ogallala runs dry.

    An uncertain future

    At a conference in April, Kansas Secretary of Agricul­ture Jackie McClaskey said public support for an aqueduct is unlikely unless farmers show first that there’s no other way to water their crops.

    “Until we can show people that we are utilizing every drop of water in the best way possible, no one outside of this region is going to invest in a water transfer project,” McClaskey said.

    Clayton Scott says he isn’t looking for the rest of Kansas to bail out the farmers out west.

    Scott imagines the canal would be a federal project, similar to Arizona’s aqueduct. Water users would repay the costs of construction and maintenance through a water use fee.

    He also contends that an aqueduct could help a broader region.

    Scott says an aqueduct could extend out to Colo­rado’s Front Range to supply booming cities such as Denver and Colorado Springs that draw water off of the dwindling Colorado River. If they drank from Kansas’ aqueduct instead, that would leave more water to trickle down the Colorado, which extends out into water-starved southern California.

    A canal, advocates contend, could supply water at a fraction of the price that southern California farmers pay now and help alleviate shortages in that region.

    Scott’s interest in water transfer is common in southwest Kansas but far from universal. For example, Roth isn’t convinced.

    “It’s impractical and it’s one heck of a distraction,” Roth said. “Right now we need to concentrate on local conservation with what we do have, what we can do right now.”

    Ray Luhman, Northwest Water district manager, thinks the state should consider all options, including channeling water across the state.

    “The conversation needs to be had,” Luhman said. “But to, let’s say, mortgage your future on a project maybe 20 to 30 years from completion? We also need to look to something in the interim.”

    Ben Kuebrich reports for High Plains Public Radio in Garden City and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and HPPR covering health, education and politics.

    Hot new world: May 2018 county by county temperature departures from average — @NOAA

    Click here to go to the NOAA website.

    Reusing water to craft a unique summertime beer – News on TAP

    Declaration Brewery serves up a sustainable beer to celebrate Denver Water’s 100th anniversary.

    Source: Reusing water to craft a unique summertime beer – News on TAP

    ‘Written in Water’ — Coming to a TV near you – News on TAP

    Behind the scenes of a new documentary celebrating Denver Water’s 100 years of service.

    Source: ‘Written in Water’ — Coming to a TV near you – News on TAP