#Drought news: Drought remains entrenched in the Four Corners

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


During the period covering July 17-24, precipitation fell across a vast majority of the East, the heaviest of which flooded parts of Maryland, including the Washington D.C. area. Heavy rains also fell in parts of Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina. In the central U.S., moderate precipitation fell in parts of the High Plains while lighter rains provided little to no relief in parts of Kansas. The drought-stricken areas of Oklahoma and Texas saw little to no precipitation and triple digit temperatures, exacerbating drought conditions…


Across much of the South, no measureable rains fell during the period. This was especially true for Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee received moderate precipitation – generally less than 2 inches, although eastern Tennessee had locally higher amounts of 3-5 inches during the period. Departures during the last 30- and 60-days were generally about 10-25 percent below normal. One of the driest parts of the region was around the borders of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas where two separate areas of extreme drought (D3) were introduced this week. Extreme drought was also introduced in a small area to the west of Dallas, Texas. The drought has been exacerbated by extreme heat. Many locations in Texas have had two straight weeks of maximum temperatures reaching 100 degrees F or more. On July 23, Waco, Texas recorded an all-time high temperature of 114 degrees F. The heat also stretched into Louisiana where, on the 22nd, Shreveport hit 108 degrees F, besting its monthly record. Conditions in some parts of Texas are being compared to the drought of 2010 and 2011. One rancher reported that he had only had 6 inches of rain since January and another reported just 4.5 inches. The persistent heat and dryness has browned grasses, dried up stock tanks and ponds and increased fire danger…

High Plains

Precipitation across this region was scattered during the USDM week. The heaviest amount, generally in the range of 2-4 inches, fell in the eastern Dakotas and parts of Nebraska. Short- and long-term effects of drought/dryness remain along the Canadian/North Dakota border and northeast South Dakota. Recent rains in South Dakota contracted drought along the southern portion of the depiction, but expanded the abnormal dryness (D0) in the western part. Abnormal dryness was introduced in south central South Dakota. In Nebraska, drought/dryness began to creep back into the southeast part of the state where 30-day precipitation departures were apparent. Drought/dryness worsened in Kansas during the period, especially in the eastern half of the state where precipitation deficits have grown. Year-to-date precipitation percent of normal values were 25-50 percent across parts of east central Kansas. Exceptional drought (D4) was slightly expanded in this area and the two areas of extreme drought (D3) were connected. Drought conditions remained unchanged for the most part In Colorado. The lone exception was a slight contraction of exceptional drought in the southeast where heavy rains recently fell. Severe drought was expanded slightly in the north central part of Colorado…


Drought remained entrenched in the Four Corners region but, as the monsoon season begins to ramp up, there is hope that improvement is on the way. In fact, 30-day surpluses of 2-3 inches were common near and west of Flagstaff. Year-to-date precipitation totals were now reaching the positive side. It was reported that the Eastern Rim and the White Mountains have also seen very beneficial rains. As a result of the robust start of the monsoon season, there was some contraction of D3 and D4 in Arizona. In the Pacific Northwest, dryness in Oregon prompted the expansion of D2 across the Cascades and into the Willamette Valley. In California, persistent heat and dryness increased fire danger. As of July 24, it was reported that the Ferguson fire had burned 57 square miles in Yosemite, but was only 25 percent contained. Yosemite Park was closed for the first time in 28 years due to the fire hazard there…

Looking Ahead

During the next 5 days, moderate precipitation (2-4 inches) is forecasted to fall in parts of the drought stricken areas of the Midwest and High Plains. The heaviest of these rains is projected to fall in southwest Missouri and eastern Kansas and Oklahoma. The front range of Colorado is also expected to receive 2-4 inches of rain. Elsewhere, lighter precipitation (1-2 inches) is expected to fall in the Northeast, Coastal Carolina’s and south Florida. Temperatures are forecasted to be cooler-than-normal for much of the High Plains and Midwest during the next week. Above normal temperatures are projected for much of the West and East. The 6-10 day outlook from the Climate Prediction Center calls for an increased chance of below-normal precipitation in the drought stricken areas of Missouri as well part of the High Plains and Northwest. The probability of above-normal temperatures are highest in the Southwest and Northeast while the probability of below-normal temperatures are the highest in the Southeast.

Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

@CWCB_DNR Water Availability Task Force Meeting recap

From Colorado Politics (Marianne Goodland):

The water year, which runs from October to October, is the third warmest in the 123 years the state has been keeping those records, said Becky Bolinger of the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University on Tuesday.

The average for this water year has been 2.9 degrees above average from October through June, she reported.

This warm year includes three months with above-average temperatures: last November, which was the warmest on record; May, which was the second warmest; and June, the third warmest.

Temperatures in June and July have been averaging three to five degrees above average, she said. And that’s not likely to change for the next three months, either, especially in Southwestern Colorado, which is facing the worst drought of any part of the state. At the same time, rainfall in June and July are still below normal, no surprise to many drought-stricken parts of the state, where rainfall is 4.21 inches below the state’s average annual rainfall of 12.74 inches.

But the moisture numbers, beginning in July, are promising, she said. Drought monitors are predicting a more active monsoon season, particularly for western Colorado. And an El Niño watch has been issued, which means that there’s a greater than 70 percent chance that an El Niño weather pattern will develop this fall and into the winter.

For Colorado, that means water, almost everywhere.

Bolinger sees it as a bright spot that will mean Colorado could be at the tail end of its current drought. She hopes for a “nice, snowy winter,” especially for Colorado’s southern mountains, which this year have been hit the hardest by lack of snow and rain and faster than average melting of the snowpack.

Brian Domonkos, a hydrologist with the National Resource Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reviewed the situation for each of Colorado’s major river basins.

The Gunnison basin is at its worst point, Domonkos said, with rainfall in June at just 17 percent of average, drawing a comparison to the rain that failed to fall in 2002, the state’s worst drought year. Combined with a record low snowpack, Domonkos called the situation in the Gunnison basin “a double whammy.”

However, the start of the July monsoon season has been welcome in the area, which is drawing 75 percent of its normal precipitation.

The news for southwestern Colorado, home to the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan rivers, is better — sort of. The area, which has been plagued all summer by the 416 fire, had 64 percent of average rainfall in June and 106 percent, or above average rainfall, so far in July. But that’s for an area that only sees an inch of rain per month, and the area’s reservoir levels are still fairly low, he said.

If you’re a farmer, the news on water supply in Colorado’s northeastern region couldn’t be better. There’s been record moisture in some parts of the South Platte River, the main waterway that serves that area, Domonkos said.

The state is so far at about 85 percent of normal rainfall through the first three weeks of July, not counting Monday or Tuesday’s heavy downpours in much of the state.

But the heavy rains are now creating other problems, according to southwestern Colorado representatives on the task force. Heavy rain in the 416 burn area has led to ash and other debris flowing into the Animas River. That’s led to a massive fish kill, according to Ryan Unterreiner, the southwest region water resource specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He believes the fish kill will be fairly significant and that it will take years for the fish population to recover.

#Drought news: Narraguinnep is reduced to minimum pool; Groundhog also is low

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Narraguinnep and Groundhog reservoirs are at their lowest level in 16 years, said Brandon Johnson, general manager for the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co.

The limited water supply caused a reduction in allocations for MVIC shareholders Thursday to 36 inches, or 3 acre-feet per share. Shareholders who have reached that allocation will be shut off on Friday…

During normal snowpack years, a full allocation is 48 inches, or 4 acre-feet per share…

Groundhog Reservoir has a capacity of 21,700 acre-feet, but is at 11,000 acre-feet right now, Johnson said. It is expected to be drawn down to the minimum level of 4,000 acre-feet that is required for the fish pool.

During normal years, Groundhog is kept at 13,000 acre-feet going into winter.

“It will take two to three years of normal winters to refill Groundhog,” Johnson said.

MVIC owns Groundhog and Narraguinnep and also has storage and water rights in McPhee Reservoir. MVIC officials are releasing water from Groundhog, via the Dolores River, into McPhee to be delivered into the MVIC canal system.

As a result, the Dolores River is running at 182 cubic feet per second, but 150 cfs of that is coming from the Groundhog Reservoir release.

The irrigation supply in McPhee Reservoir is also running low, but the system is still delivering water, said engineer Ken Curtis.

Farmers had shortages this year, and the season was reduced from the usual three cuttings of alfalfa to two cuttings for most farmers.

During average years, irrigation supply in McPhee is 240,000 acre-feet of water, but this year, only 150,000 acre-feet was available, or 60 percent of normal. And most of the supply was carried over from the previous above-average winter.

There will be no carryover going into next year’s water season.

@CSUWaterCenter goes on the road — @ColoradoStateU

Colorado’s diverse landscape has a rich natural and agricultural heritage that fuels the economy. Photo: Michael Menefee

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jenny Frank):

The Colorado State University System is conducting monthly listening tours to gather ideas from people around the state about the type of educational programming they would like to see at the future National Western Center (NWC).

“CSU is committed to serving all of Colorado through the National Western Center project, and these listening tours are a first step toward understanding how best to do that,” said Jocelyn Hittle, CSU’s director of Denver program development and a participant in the tours.

The tours are a brainchild of Christie Vilsack, a lifelong educator and the former first lady of Iowa, who, along with her husband and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, joined CSU in April 2017 as special advisors for the NWC.

Christie Vilsack recognizes the importance of not only providing updates to communities around the state, but also listening to ideas and insights to create a space that reflects the needs and wants of Colorado residents.

Kathay Rennels, associate vice president for Engagement at CSU, sees the tours as a way to ensure the future NWC is as much a part of Colorado as the National Western Stock Show has been for the last 112 years.

“The input and ideas from all across the state are important,” Rennels said. “All citizens of Colorado need to see themselves at the NWC and the NWC needs to reflect all of Colorado.”

Building collaboration for the future

Many Colorado communities are already doing great work around water, energy, food systems, the environment, and health – CSU’s five themes at the NWC. And, as Vilsack often points out during the tour’s community meetings, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

“As we travel to communities around the state, our CSU team is learning about the wealth of STEM-Ag related programming that local communities have developed for their students,” she said.

“I look forward to partnering with schools, organizations, and communities around the state as CSU develops K-12 programming for the water building, the animal and equine health center and the CSU food systems center.”

Hittle agrees.

“We want to hear from educators, our Extension and Engagement staff, elected officials and leaders, and others who work in community and economic development to best understand how the NWC can showcase the excellent work that is happening statewide, and to connect communities across the state to the various types of resources that the NWC will be uniquely suited to provide,” she said.

Creating statewide understanding

The tours also provide the opportunity for CSU to share its vision for the National Western Center beyond the Denver metro area, where it is most well-known. Darlene Carpio, regional director for U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, helped organize stops in Yuma County and expressed her appreciation for the tour.

“The listening tour provided valuable information and connections on the expansion of the National Western project,” said Carpio. “The effort to include the rural portions of Colorado in the conversation was greatly appreciated and will prove to be positive to the entire state moving forward.”

Colorado communities visited to-date include Fort Morgan, Sterling, Yuma, Wray, Burlington, Lamar, La Junta, Rocky Ford, Castle Rock, Lone Tree, Steamboat Springs, Rifle, Grand Junction, Montrose, Gunnison, Greeley, Center, Alamosa, Pueblo, Eagle, Keystone, Frisco, and Lake City; and more tours are planned for the fall.

The CSU team notes that the experience of connecting with constituents around Colorado has been important to the process of creating a well-rounded project and understanding the topics that matter to different communities – but they admit it hasn’t been all work.

“Traveling the state to introduce the current plan and vision has been so much fun,” said Rennels.