CPC: El Niño Watch

Mid-May 2018 plume of ENSO predictions.

Click here to read the discussion:

ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch

Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is favored through Northern Hemisphere summer 2018, with the chance for El Niño increasing to 50% during fall, and ~65% during winter 2018-19.

ENSO-neutral continued during May, as indicated by mostly average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. The latest weekly Niño indices were between +0.2°C and 0.0°C, except for the Niño-1+2 index, which remained negative (-0.5°C). Positive subsurface temperature anomalies (averaged across 180°-100°W) increased over the past month, as another downwelling equatorial oceanic Kelvin wave reinforced the already above-average subsurface temperatures. Convection remained suppressed near the Date Line and was slightly enhanced over Indonesia. Low-level and upper-level winds were near average across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Overall, oceanic and atmospheric conditions reflected ENSO-neutral.

The majority of models in the IRI/CPC plume predict ENSO-neutral to continue through the Northern Hemisphere summer 2018, with El Niño most likely thereafter. The forecaster consensus favors the onset of El Niño during the Northern Hemisphere fall, which would then continue through winter. These forecasts are supported by the ongoing build-up of heat within the tropical Pacific Ocean. In summary, ENSO-neutral is favored through Northern Hemisphere summer 2018, with the chance for El Niño increasing to 50% during fall, and ~65% during winter 2018-19 (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period).

Courts deal blow to @EPA over #CleanAirAct #ActOnClimate

From The Hill (Miranda Green):

Two separate courts ruled this week that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must enforce regulations that restrict states from emitting pollution that could cross borders into neighboring states.

U.S. district courts in Maryland and New York both ruled separately that EPA was derelict in its duty by not enforcing states to comply with the “Good Neighbor provision” under the Clean Air Act meant to address smog pollution.

The New York court found that EPA failed to meet an August 2017 deadline that would begin the process of enforcing the law throughout states. The court’s judge ruled that EPA must take necessary steps to limit the smog that blows into New York and Connecticut from five surrounding states: Illinois, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan and Virginia.

The court set a Dec. 8 deadline for compliance.

In Maryland, a similar verdict found that EPA must take a final action by Sept 15.

“The court notes that it does not grant the above extension lightly,” Maryland’s district court wrote in its verdict. “On the contrary, the court is troubled by EPA’s apparent unwillingness or inability to comply with its mandatory statuary duties within the timeline set by Congress.”

An EPA spokesperson said said the agency plans to propose a new action that will address the good neighbor policies in CAA by the end of the month.

“As we have already publicly announced, we intend to propose – by the end of June – and finalize – by December – an action that will address any remaining good neighbor obligations related to the 2008 ozone standard for these and other states,” the EPA said in a statement.

#Drought news: Conditions downgraded in the central and northern mountains

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

Summary

Over the last week, dry conditions continued in the Desert Southwest and in parts of the Central Rockies, leading to drought persistence and degradation in these areas. Farther east across the Great Plains, scattered thunderstorms led to some areas improving or staying out of drought, while some areas that missed the rain were degraded. In the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains, precipitation patterns also dictated areas which experienced degrading and improving conditions. Near normal or wetter than normal conditions occurred over most of the eastern United States, where few changes to the USDM depiction were made…

South

Warm weather occurred over much of the Southern region; the warmest temperatures (6 or more degrees warmer than normal) took place in the Texas Panhandle, western Oklahoma, and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Paltry rain amounts for this week combined with high temperatures and long term precipitation deficits added additional stress to the water systems in parts of the Texas Panhandle, leading to the expansion of extreme and exceptional drought conditions. Moderate to heavy rain over the Interstate 35 corridor in Oklahoma and in north-central to west Texas allowed for 1-category improvements in some areas that were experiencing abnormal dryness, moderate drought, severe drought, and extreme drought. Meanwhile, continued dry and hot conditions led to the introduction of extreme drought west of Lubbock and in areas near Corpus Christi where soil moisture deficits and mid to long term precipitation deficits supported degradation. Additionally, extreme drought was expanded in the Del Rio area northeast of the Rio Grande and in a corridor north of Houston and College Station in response to building precipitation deficits in these areas. The drought impact designation in far south Texas was changed from S to SL, indicating that drought conditions are present at both short and long term timescales. Elsewhere in the South, a few areas of abnormal dryness and moderate drought formed or expanded in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and eastern Oklahoma that missed out on the moderate to heavy rains in the region…

High Plains

Significant rainfall fell in parts of the High Plains region, while most of the mountainous areas remained dry. Thunderstorms in northeast Colorado, Nebraska, and northwest and eastern Kansas delivered between 0.5 and 3 inches of rain, helping to prevent additional drying caused by the high temperatures. Similar rainfall totals in southwest Kansas were enough to lessen precipitation deficits and result in an improvement from extreme to severe drought. Aside from the Black Hills, much of the Dakotas saw rainfall amounts over a half inch, with some areas exceeding 2 inches. This rainfall led to the removal of abnormal dryness in some areas west of the Missouri River in South Dakota and far southern North Dakota. Recent rainfall also helped decrease moderate drought in northwest South Dakota, though if recent hot weather and a high atmospheric demand for moisture continues, a reversion back to moderate drought conditions may occur. Severe drought was reduced in coverage in north-central North Dakota, where precipitation deficits over multiple time scales had decreased sufficiently for an improvement. Meanwhile, over the central Rockies, continued warm, dry weather exacerbated longer term precipitation deficits leading to an expansion of drought and abnormal dryness in north-central Colorado and south-central Wyoming…

West

During the past week, precipitation fell in the mountainous areas of western Washington and Oregon, northern and central Idaho, and parts of western Montana. The highest amounts, with isolated spots in the 2 to 3 inch range, fell in western Washington, western Oregon, southwest Montana, and the southern Idaho Panhandle. Precipitation, some heavier, also fell over the high plains of Montana. Elsewhere across the region, conditions were quite dry, aside from some isolated precipitation south of Tucson. In the drier areas of central Washington and north-central Oregon, abnormal dryness developed as 1 to 2 month precipitation deficits increased. Severe drought crept south in southwest and south-central New Mexico due to increasing short- and medium-term precipitation. Relatively cool conditions occurred in most of central and northern California and in much Oregon and Washington, while above normal temperatures were found in eastern Montana, parts of Idaho, Utah, most of Nevada, and Arizona. The warmest areas, primarily in New Mexico and Utah, had temperatures reach at least 6 degrees above normal for the weekly average, while the coolest areas saw mercury drop 4 to 8 degrees below normal…

Looking Ahead

The National Weather Service medium range forecast calls for two significant areas of wet weather over the next 7 days (June 13 to June 20). Widespread and potentially heavy rainfall is expected to bring 2 to 5 inches of rain to coastal and central Texas and southern Louisiana. Rainfall may also extend into the Southern Plains and the remainder of the Gulf Coast region.

Farther north, showers and thunderstorms are likely from the Northern Rockies to the High Plains and Upper Great Lakes. Rainfall over the northern tier is likely to be locally heavy (3 to 5 inches) creating the potential for isolated flooding. In contrast, dry weather is expected to prevail over the Pacific Coast and the drought inflicted areas of southern California, southern Nevada, and western Utah.

The Grand Valley Drainage District will not appeal recent court decision

Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

The district’s three-member board of directors voted 2-1 Tuesday to forego any legal challenge to District Judge Lance Timbreza’s ruling last week, saying there was no guarantee they would prevail in an appeal and they didn’t want to subject district businesses and residents to more legal uncertainty.

As a result, the board said it would refund the $7.2 million it’s collected so far — plus interest — to the 40,000 property owners who have been assessed the tax since 2016, but exactly how that will happen is yet to be determined.

That’s partly because the district has already spent about $2.2 million of the money, and isn’t yet sure how much in interest it is obligated to pay.

The district’s board and staff is to spend the next couple of weeks trying to figure all that out, said district manager Tim Ryan.

First, the district staff has to figure out how much in interest it is obligated to pay, and then — because it doesn’t have the cash to cover the entire refund and interest — how it will do so. That could involve taking out a loan, laying off some workers, declaring bankruptcy of the enterprise fund the district formed to finance the stormwater improvements, or a combination of those options.

Under the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, any overcollected tax that isn’t refunded within a year requires a 10 percent interest payment along with it, Ryan said.

“The ruling was (the fee) exceeded TABOR, and that it’s an extra tax, so those who paid it are entitled to what they paid plus 10 percent,” he said. “It’s no longer a fee, that’s the conundrum. Now we have to go back to 2016 and 2017. Those are the years that require interest because we’ve held their money for over a year. Everybody else will get their refunds within a year.”

While board member Mary Brophy was adamantly opposed to appealing the decision, and Jim Grisier cast the lone dissenting vote against not going ahead with one, board chairman Cody Davis stood somewhere in the middle.

While he ultimately cast the deciding vote not to appeal, Davis said part of him wanted to because there are aspects to Timbreza’s ruling that he saw as incomplete. The judge ruled that unlike fees charged in other jurisdictions that were for specific purposes, such as Aspen’s grocery bag fee, this fee was for a core function of the district’s mission, to handle drainage needs.

2018 Black & Veatch Strategic Directions Water Report

Graphic via wamda

Click here to read the report. Here’s an excerpt:

MARRIAGE OF DATA AND WATER LAY THE FOUNDATION FOR TOMORROW’S SMARTER CITIES

The water industry has reached a turning point. Utilities are finally recognizing the power in digitizing operations and increasing economies of scale to extend asset life and address legacy funding issues. As the industry focuses more on sustainability, value and innovation, a new water economy appears to be emerging: Utilities are embracing data and infrastructure in
new ways to maximize efficiencies.

The reality conveyed throughout the 2018 Strategic Directions: Water Report is that capital costs will continue to rise as infrastructure ages well beyond end-of-life expectations and regulatory uncertainty increases. Skepticism about a proposed federal infrastructure plan adds additional complexity to questions about who will pay for vital repairs and upgrades. Calls to prepare for climate change and build resilience against extreme weather events also are stretching already thin budgets. However, water industry leaders in the United States and abroad are now innovating at an unprecedented pace, reinventing how technology is used to solve industry challenges.

The water industry’s digital evolution continues to be linked to conversations regarding sustainability, as maintaining or expanding asset life again was chosen as the most significant sustainability issue for utilities. As we see throughout this report, utilities are examining how data analytics can inform smarter operations and maintenance decisions and they are integrating these programs in their capital planning. Technology also is helping utilities communicate more effectively within their workforces and to their ratepayer and stakeholders, as well as within their infrastructure systems.

This year’s report explores how data are supporting innovations in alternative water supply, smart water solutions and case studies from state-of-the-art water infrastructure projects from around the world.

Hope for the North American #Monsoon

North American Monsoon graphic via Hunter College.

From 12News.com (Jen Wahl):

After a very dry winter and spring, Arizona is desperate for any moisture to help relieve some of the extreme drought.

There are indicators that Arizona could experience a wetter than normal summer, but there’s still a question mark because several weather factors have to come together in the atmosphere for the skies to open up…

While Monsoon is not as helpful as winter rains, the desert and High Country do benefit, says meteorologist, Marvin Percha…

Percha said there are signs Monsoon could start sooner and dump more rain.

“When we have years like this when the winters are dry, that high pressure that normally moves northward, tends to move northward earlier,” Percha said.

When that happens, it draws moisture from the south. Combine that with desert heat and thunderstorms and walls of dust can erupt.

“We get impulses of moisture that move up and it’s difficult to predict when and how much rain they will bring, if and when they do occur,” Percha said.

Another good sign is warmer Eastern Pacific waters for tropical storms.

“[It] gives more moisture and energy to develop so they tend to be stronger,” he said.

Percha said that could mean more Pacific hurricane moisture moving into the southwest, especially during August and September.

July 4 weekend, Percha said, is when Arizona really starts to see Monsoon action across the state and the upcoming weekend appears to be an earlier start.

Meteorologists are also looking to a better than average chance of an El Niño developing, which could bring us more rain in late summer and early fall.

While the odds appear to be in the favor of a busier Monsoon and El Niño, it’s still early.

@DenverWater prepared a 100 years ago for #Denver to become a population center in the west

Denver Water Collection System via Denver Water

From 9News.com (Cory Reppenhagen):

Cheesman Reservoir is named for Walter S. Cheesman, who helped Denver Water’s predecessor – the privately-owned Denver Union Water Company – build the dam.

“It was completed in 1905, and it really is the beginning of Denver Water’s story, and actually the beginning of Denver itself,” Mahaffey said.

The 221-foot dam, constructed with gray granite from a nearby quarry, was at the time the largest dam in the world. It’s proof they were thinking of water needs long into the future.

Thirteen years later, in 1918, the citizens of Denver voted to purchase the private company running their water, and the utility Denver Water was born.

In 1963, Denver Water built an even larger reservoir in Summit County. They had to relocate the town of Dillon to do so, and the former town site is still below the waters of the reservoir that now bears its name.

To get that water down to the city of Denver, they had to build the Harold D. Roberts tunnel. At 23 miles in length, it was the longest tunnel of its kind.

It took some incredible feats of engineering to lead Denver Water through its first 100 years, and more innovation will be needed to sustain the booming population in the Mile High City into the future.

A look at “Buy and Dry”

Photo credit: Allen Best

From KUNC (luke Runyon, Matt Bloom & Esther Honig):

“Buy and dry” describes a class of water transactions that typically involve a municipality or other local government paying the owner of a farm for some or all of their available water rights.

It’s a slow, mostly invisible flow of water from the region’s heritage industry — agriculture — to a new powerhouse: real estate development and urban growth.

The transactions go back decades, with plenty of cautionary tales to guide both farmers and government officials, casting various Front Range cities and Eastern Plains farming communities as both villains and victims.

Concern about the practice has reached a fever pitch. The state’s water plan, adopted in 2015, frowns at buy and dry tactics. Water prices continue to rise. Some alternative methods for leasing water are slowly being implemented, at the same time multi-million dollar checks are passed from developers and city planners to farm families.

Urban growth is a driver

The practice of buy and dry is primarily driven by the growth of water-short cities – of all sizes – along the Front Range. According to Colorado’s State Demography Office, communities along the I-25 corridor in Weld and Larimer counties are the fastest growing. Populations there are increasing at a rate twice as fast as the state as a whole…

Windsor, like many fast-growing Front Range communities, sees agricultural water as a viable source to supplement future growth. As recently as May, Windsor purchased water rights from at least two different farming families, according to allotment contracts from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

One purchase was of units of water within the Colorado-Big Thompson Project from the John Ernest Lucken Revocable Trust. The other with the Andrew H. Blase Family Trust.

In both cases Wagner says he doesn’t know whether the town’s purchases led to farms “drying up.”

“I’m not sure of what’s happened to those farms,” he said. “Whether they still have enough water rights to irrigate or whether they’ve reduced the farming acreage.”

Wagner added that Windsor, unlike other cities, has not specifically purchased farms to own them and take the water off them. When asked about the likelihood of the town doing that, Wagner said it very well could…

Water rights worth millions

For farmers in the West, access to water is a key part of making agriculture possible in an arid region. Without irrigation farmers are significantly limited on the range of crops they can grow and in the profitability of the land they own.

With commodity crop and milk prices at low points, selling water rights can help make a farm operation whole.

That’s the case for Colorado dairy farmer Timothy Bernhardt, just down the road from Windsor in Milliken. The Bernhardt family has farmed there since the 1920s. Access to water to quench the thirst of his 900 dairy cows is essential, Bernhardt says.

“Cattle drink a lot of water, so about 50 to 100 gallons of water a day,” he says. “So it’s critical for milk production because milk is made up mostly of water.”

In May Bernhardt and his brother made the choice to sell 175 units of water within the Colorado-Big Thompson Project — about 57 million gallons — to the city of Milliken for nearly $5 million.

That money will be used to pay off debt, Bernhardt says. Like many businesses, farms rely on loans and credit to operate and the brothers wanted to pay it off because they’re each older than 60 and looking at retirement. Their children aren’t interested in running a dairy farm, so when they retire, the business ends with them…

Cautionary tales

There’s no arm-twisting in buy and dry, cities are often quick to say. These transactions involve willing buyers and sellers. Cities get what they need — new water supplies — and farm families get an opportunity to pay off debt, make on-farm upgrades or retire.

But on a regional-scale, water managers and government officials are troubled. Water flowing from farms to the Front Range means a movement of power and economic activity, from rural areas to cities. Take the Colorado-Big Thompson Project as an example.

When the vast network of reservoirs was originally built in the 1930s to transport water from the state’s wetter Western Slope to the east, agriculture was the majority user of its stored water. Today, 70% of the project’s water is used by municipalities and industry…

Conversations about buy and dry often turn to the Arkansas River valley and the communities of Crowley, Ordway and Sugar City. Water managers don’t really have to imagine what a future of rampant buy and dry could look like. It has already happened there…

Cronin and a handful of other water managers in the South Platte Regional Opportunities Working Group recently started a conversation about what it would take to allow Front Range cities to keep growing, without draining farms in the process. It looked like at least three — maybe four — new reservoirs positioned along the South Platte River to the stateline with Nebraska to supplement water supplies for cities and farmers.

Cronin cautions that these are preliminary discussions.

He calls the discussion of new reservoirs a “generational” one — if the idea gains enough supporters for it to happen at all. Large-scale water projects often take decades in planning, permitting and litigation before a shovel hits the ground. This one would likely follow a similar timeline, Cronin says. Questions still linger about how much it would cost, another big hurdle to bringing it to fruition.