@ColoradoClimate: 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.

#Drought news: Some areas of D4 (Exceptional Drought) and D3 (Extreme Drought) erased from the depiction for SE #Colorado #monsoon

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


Moderate rainfall was less common in this region than farther east, with 7-day rainfall exceeding an inch restricted to portions of southeastern Texas, west-central and southeastern Louisiana, southern and east-central Mississippi, eastern Tennessee, and small pockets in the western Oklahoma Panhandle and adjacent Texas. Large portions of western Tennessee, northern Mississippi, northeastern Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma (excluding the Panhandle), and interior Texas received little or no rainfall. As a result, dryness and drought improved across the northwestern Oklahoma and the northern Texas Panhandle, but persisted or intensified farther south and east. Small areas of D4 were introduced in central and southwestern Texas and southwestern Oklahoma (mostly based on large multi-month rainfall shortages and (in central Texas) depleted moisture in grass, shrubs, and even large trees that could serve as efficient fuel for wildfires). D3 expanded to cover a large area from southwestern to northeastern Texas, and smaller regions of D3 now cover several patches in northwestern Louisiana, along the Red River Valley, and in northwestern Texas. Across Texas, primarily outside the Big Bend and the northern Panhandle, mandatory water use restrictions have been imposed by 665 public water supply authorities according to the Texas Drought Preparedness Council, with a few mandating moderate to severe restrictions. Voluntary cutbacks have been requested by another 400 authorities. 90-day rainfall totals below two-thirds of normal are common in the D3 areas, and across the D2 regions of northwestern Texas. A few patches in southwestern and interior northeastern Texas recorded less than 25 percent of normal during this period. Substantial multi-month rainfall deficits are less widespread (scattered to broken in coverage) north and east of the Red River Valley…

High Plains

Moisture deficits have been slowly increasing in northern parts of this region for the past several weeks. However, significant deficits are patchy and relatively short-term in nature, so only modest D0 and D1 expansion was brought into the drier parts of the Dakotas. Severe to exceptional drought is limited to southern parts of this region, primarily in south-central through western Colorado and parts of central and eastern Kansas. Drought conditions were essentially unchanged here, save for some small, spotty areas of improvement in eastern Kansas. Between these two areas, across southeastern Colorado and western Kansas, above-normal rainfall has been the rule for the past few months. 90-day rainfall totaled 4 to locally 10 inches more than normal here. To wit, broadscale improvement was assessed, eliminating dryness in much of southwestern Kansas, and leaving moderate to severe drought covering most of southeastern Colorado…


Periods of heavy rainfall have affected parts of New Mexico for several weeks now, sufficient to bring improvement into portions of central and west-central sections of the state. But despite these beneficial rains, exceptional drought (D4) still covers most of north-central and northwestern New Mexico. some west-central, south-central. In contrast, there was a palpable worsening of conditions along much of the northern tier of Montana, south-central Washington, southwestern and east-central Oregon, and a small area near the mountains of extreme northwestern Utah. Livestock progress and production has been seriously impaired by the drought, particularly in southern Oregon and part of northeastern Utah. Farther south, California was seasonably dry, and only isolated locales in Arizona and Nevada reported light rain. Dryness and drought remained essentially unchanged in these states…

Looking Ahead

For the next few days (through August 14, 2018), a broad area of moderate to heavy precipitation is forecast in central and southeastern Arizona, across southern and eastern New Mexico, and from northern and central Texas eastward to the Atlantic Coast. Rainfall totals exceeding an inch should be widespread, with two or more inches expected in the eastern half of the Carolinas and from southern Arkansas westward through the northern tier of Texas (excluding the Panhandle), part of the Big Bend, and southeastern New Mexico. Similar amounts (one to locally two inches) are expected in western and northern Maine. Heavy to excessive amounts (three to five inches) are forecast in western Texas in a region bounded by the Pecos, San Angelo, Wichita Falls, and Lubbock areas. In contrast, light rain at most is anticipated from the Lower Ohio Valley, the central Plains and Rockies, and northern Arizona northward to the Canadian Border and westward to the Pacific Coast, though a little more may fall on parts of the Great Lakes Region. Nationally, above-normal temperatures will cover most of the country. Daily nighttime lows should average near or slightly above normal across most of the Plains and Mississippi Valley, and at least 3°F above normal from the High Plains westward to the Pacific Coast, across the northern Plains and Great Lakes Region, and from the Appalachians through the Eastern Seaboard. But despite unremarkable minimum temperatures, daytime highs should average significantly below normal (anomalies -3 F or lower) where persistent rainfall is forecast, specifically in the swath from the upper Southeast and interior Lower Mississippi Valley westward through Oklahoma, central and northern Texas, New Mexico, and southern Arizona. Highs will average 6°F to locally 10°F below normal across southern Oklahoma, central and northern Texas, and eastern New Mexico. Meanwhile, anomalous heat will continue across areas from the central and northern Rockies westward through the Intermountain West. Daily highs averaging 9°F or more above normal are forecast in western Montana, the northern Intermountain West, and northern Great Basin.

Surplus precipitation is favored for the ensuing five days (August 14 – 18, 2018) in the Desert Southwest, southern Rockies, central Great Plains, Texas (outside the southeast tier), middle Mississippi Valley, Ohio Valley and adjacent Great Lakes Region, and central and northern sections of the Appalachians and Eastern Seaboard. All but the western and northern tiers of Alaska are also expected to record above-normal precipitation. Meanwhile, subnormal rainfall is favored in the South Atlantic States, central Gulf Coast, and in a swath from the northern Intermountain West eastward into the western Great Lakes Region. Enhanced chances for warmer-than-normal conditions cover much of the contiguous 48 states, with only the region north of the immediate Gulf Coast extending from the central and southern Appalachians westward through the lower Ohio Valley, middle and lower Mississippi Valley, most of Texas, and the southern Rockies excluded. Odds favoring abnormally cool weather are limited to areas from the southern tier of Arizona and New Mexico eastward through the Big Bend, central and northern Texas (excluding the Panhandle), central and eastern Oklahoma, and adjacent Arkansas.

#Kansas, #Colorado reach agreement on Republican River

More than 9,000 Landsat images provide vegetation health metrics for the Republican River Basin. Credit: David Hyndman

From the Kansas Department of Agriculture via The High Plains Journal:

The Governors and Attorneys General of Kansas and Colorado announced that they recently reached a settlement of claims regarding Colorado’s past use of water under the Republican River Compact. The Compact allocates the waters of the basins between the states of Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.

“This settlement is an investment in the basin to ensure a better future for Kansas water users.” said Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer. “Kansas and Colorado are committed to continuing to make the Compact work for the benefit of the citizens of our states, and this settlement recognizes the ties that bind our states together and is an important step for the economic development of the region.”

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt also expressed his approval. “The Kansas water team at the Department of Agriculture and our legal team at the Attorney General’s office have done an outstanding job of resolving years of past disputes without litigation,” Schmidt said. “This settlement going forward promises a more cooperative approach to what really matters—the best possible management of the water resources in the basin’s South Fork on both sides of the state line.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper agreed that “This settlement provides funds that could be used in the Republican River Basin within Kansas and Colorado and creates additional opportunities for cooperative water management between the States.”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman also expressed her approval, saying the agreement “avoids the costs and uncertainty of litigation and furthers the principles of the Compact, including removing controversy and fostering interstate cooperation.”

The agreement resolves the existing controversies between the two states regarding Colorado’s past use of water under the Republican River Compact and allows them to continue to work collaboratively through the compact as part of an overall ongoing effort which also involves the state of Nebraska.

The settlement was signed by the governors and attorneys general of both states. A copy of the settlement is available at http://agriculture.ks.gov/RRCA.

Crystal River low streamflow update

Cows graze near the Crystal River, just upstream from the fish hatchery. The Crystal just downstream was running at around 8 cfs on Aug. 1, spurring action by state officials. Photo credit: Heather Sackett via Aspen Journalism

From The Sopris Sun (Will Grandbois):

A voluntary afternoon fishing ban is in place for sections of the lower Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers, among others.

“When those flows drop, you reduce habitat space, and warm waters are extremely stressful for trout,” explained Liza Mitchell, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Roaring Fork Conservancy (which is opening its new River Center at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 10). “It seems like there’s been pretty good compliance. It’s pretty cool when you have everyone in the industry working together.”

Mitchell sends out the Conservancy’s weekly streamflow report, which of late shows mostly red (meaning flows less than 55 percent of average) or only-recently-needed maroon (less than 30 percent). The one bright spot is the Fryingpan River, which is flowing at slightly above average thanks to an agreement that increases how much is released from Ruedi Reservoir, as well as the “Cameo call” on the Colorado River which has basically shut down diversions to the Eastern Slope in favor of senior water rights downstream.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board has also placed a call on the Crystal, but the junior water rights may not be enough to keep water in the river. Additionally, a recent agreement aimed at reducing agricultural diversions won’t be enacted this year.

Still, Mitchell sees efforts at conservation as a step in the right direction amid increasing aridity. She praised the Town of Carbondale’s decision to enact water restrictions on both treated and ditch systems, and encouraged individual residents to do what they can to reduce their use.

“It’s easy to become complacent, but it’s better to act than not act,” she said. “Any little thing you do shows that you’re invested in protecting our local waterways.”

Reservoir releases are bolstering #ArkansasRiver streamflow

Headwaters of the Arkansas River basin. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journlaism

From KOAA.com:

“This year has been a particularly challenging year. Not the best of snowpacks and an extremely hot and dry spring and summer,” said Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, Manager, Rob White. It means the water level in the river could be at its lowest in decades for this time of year. The solution is supplemental water from reservoirs.

This week water from Colorado Springs Utilities reservoir storage is going into the river to help make it through next week. The middle of August typically ends the peak season along the river. “It looked like we may not have a large enough bucket to make it to the 15th,” said Echo Canyon River Expeditions, Owner, Andy Neinas, “That’s where the cooperation and coordination among so many water owners and water providers really came to save the day for many of us.”

The rivers natural flow is supplemented every summer through agreements with the Bureau of Reclamation. This year even more water was needed. Colorado Parks and Wildlife made a deal with Pueblo Water earlier in the summer.

Colorado Springs Utilities agreed to help this week. CSU will send water from storage at Twin Lakes to storage in Pueblo Reservoir.

It is good for rafting and also fishing. The fish population can be threatened when the water gets too low and too warm.

@EPA PFAS “community engagement” hearing recap

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From TheDenverChannel.com (Lance Hernandez):

Residents who live in Fountain Valley southeast of Colorado Springs are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the perflourinated compounds which have contaminated their drinking water supplies.

The requests came during a two day “community engagement” event sponsored by the EPA.

“I think this is a big deal,” said Fran Silva-Blayney of the Sierra Club’s Fountain Creek Water Sentinels. “It’s a big deal in terms of bringing public awareness to the issue and in terms of the EPA recognizing that we need to take regulatory action.”

Silva-Blayney said the community wants the EPA to set “maximum contaminant levels.”


The contamination in the public water supplies of Fountain, Security and Widefield came from firefighting foam, which was used for decades at Peterson Air Force Base.

Health Impact

Several residents and former residents raised questions about the health impact of long-term exposure.

“My father died of kidney cancer last year,” said Mark Favors, a member of the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition.

Favors told Denver7 that he was born and raised in the valley, and then moved to New York eight years ago.

“My cousin was here yesterday,” he said. “His grandson, at 14 years of age, had to have a kidney replaced, a transplant last year.”

“We would really like to know, do we have hereditary cancers, or do we have environmental cancers?” said Liz Rosenbaum, who founded the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition.

“Summit was amazing”

Rosenbaum said she is encouraged by what’s going on.

“The community wants to be more actively involved,” she said, adding that it’s a way to stay informed.

“When you’re scared, you get angry,” she said, “and if you know what’s going on, you can develop solutions and ideas.”

State health officials say they don’t know yet how widespread the contamination problem is in Colorado.

So far, contamination has been found during tests of public wells in the Fountain Valley, Commerce City and at a fire station on Sugar Loaf Mountain in Boulder County.

“We’re in the initial stages of identifying potential sources in the state,” said Kristy Richardson, an environmental toxicologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We’re looking at all those sources that have been used in industry and manufacturing.”

Advisory limit

The EPA’s advisory limit for Perfluorooctanesulfonic acids (PFOs) and PFAS is 70 parts per trillion.

Residents who attended the EPA’s meetings would like to make it a regulatory standard and much tougher than 70 ppt.

“We have a health advisory for two substances, in a family of 3,000… so we don’t know if we’re removing all of them,” Richardson said. “Residents are very concerned about getting them out (of the water) and making sure they’re not exposed to them anymore.”

From KRCC.org (Jake Brownell):

The Colorado Springs meeting was the third of four community forums scheduled across the country this summer, each hosted by the EPA, to collect feedback from people on the ground dealing with PFAS contamination.

“Understanding and addressing emerging contaminants such as PFAS is difficult, but critically important,” explained Doug Benevento, administrator of EPA Region 8, which includes Colorado and other western states. “The experiences and perspectives shared by state and local officials as well as community groups today, in addition to the numerous members of the public, will be invaluable as EPA develops a plan to manage PFAS.”

PFAS contamination is a growing concern among public health and water management professionals nationwide, with at least 40 states experiencing some form of contamination, according to the Environmental Working Group. The EPA says it has identified the issue as a high priority, and is in the process of developing new rules to regulate contamination levels in drinking water…

“We need regulatory infrastructure in order to, number one, compel investigation and clean up, but also to promote a more consistent approach to addressing PFAS nationwide,” Tracie White of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told EPA officials Wednesday.

Her concern was echoed by members of the public and by those responsible for managing affected drinking water systems, who urged the EPA to establish a legally-binding Maximum Contaminant Level, or MCL, for the chemicals.

“Health advisories have the same connotations and effect as maximum contaminant levels, but none of the support that an MCL provides,” said Brandon Bernard, water manager for Widefield Water and Sanitation.

For their part, EPA officials didn’t say whether an MCL would be forthcoming, but said the agency is looking at a range of options to regulate the chemicals, including listing them as “Hazardous Substances” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, otherwise known as Superfund. Jennifer McLain, deputy director of the agency’s Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water, said she couldn’t give a timeline for any future regulatory decisions, but stressed that the agency is “moving as quickly as possible.”

Over the course of the two day forum, residents of Security, Widefield, and Fountain also shared their experiences with contamination in the area. Liz Rosenbaum, who has lived in Security and Widefield for 15 years, spoke on behalf of the grassroots group, Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition…

Many community members also said that they feel they’ve been left out of important discussions about the future of their drinking water, and haven’t been treated as stakeholders in the process.

Still, Rosenbaum said the community forum was a good first step, and that she was encouraged by the dialogue that took place. Going forward, she said she hopes the conversation can continue, so that the “community feels more connected in decision making processes” as the EPA and other agencies work to address the issue of PFAS contamination here in El Paso County and nationwide.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

Over and over, residents and clean water advocates implored the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday evening to set enforceable drinking water standards for the toxic chemicals contaminating their water — and at tighter levels than the agency currently deems acceptable.

Their pleas came during the EPA’s third stop in a nationwide tour meant to help its leaders create a management plan for the toxic chemicals, called perfluorinated compounds. It marked the first opportunity in more than two years for people affected by the toxic chemicals to sound off to the EPA on the contamination of their drinking water.

Many argued that the EPA’s response was past due.

His voice cracking, Mark Favors, 49, listed several family members who drank the water most of their lives and have since died, many from kidney cancer. He read the obituary of one, Shelton Lee King, a retired master sergeant who served in Vietnam and died in 2012 of kidney cancer…

The EPA’s current process for regulating chemicals does not call for instituting any new drinking water standards for perfluorinated compounds until 2021.

Jennifer McLain, the agency’s deputy director in charge of groundwater and drinking water, said the agency is trying to accelerate that process, though she gave no timeline for when that might happen.

“We are working as quickly as we can,” McLain said.

So far, the EPA has only committed to evaluate the need for an enforceable drinking water standard for the two best-known types of perfluorinated compounds: perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

The EPA also is seeking to propose that those two chemicals be classified as “hazardous substances,” easing the process for seeking Superfund cleanup funding. And it is seeking to develop groundwater cleanup recommendations for both chemicals.

In addition, the agency is working to set toxicity levels for two other types of perfluorinated compounds. Neither was included in a different agency’s recent list of possibly dangerous chemicals.

The EPA’s management plan is due out by the end of the year.

From Colorado Public Radio (Anne Marie Awad):

Water managers for the El Paso County communities of Security, Widefield, Stratmore Hills, and Fountain have been working to rid their drinking water systems of Perfluorinated Chemicals since 2016. The contamination, discovered that year, traces back to firefighting foam used at nearby Peterson Air Force Base.
“Fifty years from now, 100 years from now, the Widefield Aquifer will still be contaminated if we don’t figure out a way to clean it,” said Fran Silva-Blayney, chair of the Sierra Club Fountain Creek Water Sentinels. “Is remediation even possible?”

Silva-Blayney was one of a handful of community stakeholders invited to speak at a listening session organized by the Environmental Protection Agency. Her comments and others carried the same message: the EPA isn’t doing enough.

“We are past the point of evaluating, proposing and recommending,” Silva-Balyney said. “People’s lives have been compromised. It’s time to regulate, enforce and remediate.”

In a statement, EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento said the community listening session would “inform our path forward in addressing PFAS in communities here in Colorado Springs and across the country.” Regulations are under consideration that would create an enforceable drinking water standard for two of the most common PFCs — mainly PFOS and PFOA.

Right now, EPA has an advisory in place, which isn’t enforceable. Water districts in the area have chosen, voluntarily, to make sure drinking water has no more than 70 parts per trillion of the chemicals. The agency could also classify certain PFCs as hazardous, and they’re developing groundwater cleanup recommendations if contamination is found.