#Drought news: One category improvement in parts of Crowley, Otero, Las Animas, Baca counties

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


Frontal systems brought thunderstorms and some heavy rainfall to parts of the Plains, the Midwest, and the South. While rainfall was enough to reduce or alleviate drought conditions in some places, such as Arkansas, northern Missouri, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Michigan, it wasn’t enough in other areas, such as southwestern Missouri and Idaho, as deficits and impacts remain. This past week saw temperatures slightly below average across much of the nation, with areas of eastern Montana and western North Dakota 4-8 degrees F cooler than normal, which helped to slow, but not halt, drought development. Conversely, parts of the Southwest, Texas, and areas along the eastern northern tier of the U.S. were well above their average temperatures. In Texas, notably, the widespread heat exacerbated evolving and ongoing drought…

High Plains

Conditions along parts of the northern tier of the U.S. bordering Canada continue to deteriorate. This week the remaining area of normal conditions from northwestern North Dakota into northeastern Montana (see West for more information about Montana) was degraded to abnormally dry (D0). The area has missed out on all the rains from the last few storms.and the soil has been very dry, dating back to the previous year’s drought. In Kansas, conditions improved enough to contract D0 in the central and south central part of the state eastward. In east central Kansas, some areas of moderate (D1), severe (D2), and extreme (D3) drought also improved. However, there are still longer-term deficits and impacts remaining in the state. In eastern Colorado, D3 was improved to D2 in Crowley County and northern Otero County, where there were a few isolated thunderstorms in the area over the past week. D2 improved to D1 in southeast Las Animas County and western Baca County, where up to 2 inches of rain fell. Eastern Baca and Prowers Counties also received up to 2 inches of rain, allowing for improvement from D1 to D0. No changes were made this week to the depictions in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming…


Similar to North Dakota, some areas across the northern tier of Montana continued to deteriorate. The area of abnormally dry conditions (D0) was expanded eastward to connect with the dry area in North Dakota. Also along the northern tier, the two severe drought (D2) areas expanded slightly westward. However, improvements were made in southern Beaverhead, Madison, Gallatin, and Park counties in the southwest where precipitation has been more abundant. Conditions there are now considered normal. Drought continues to plague Oregon and grow worse in areas. This week the area of D2 expanded through most of the southern part of the state. In Utah, D2 improved to moderate drought (D1) across eastern Washington County and western Kane and Garfield Counties. This area has received its typical moisture since the beginning of July. No changes were made this week to the depictions in Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. Additionally, no changes were made to the depiction in Idaho, but, as an aside, some precipitation did provide enough relief to Boise to make the region smoke free for the first time in a couple of weeks. Conditions still remain dry…

Looking Ahead

Over the week beginning Tuesday August 28, the Midwestern states are expected receive the highest precipitation, including northern Missouri, which as been plagued by extreme (D3) and exceptional (D4) drought conditions. Temperatures are forecast to reach the 90s (F), and even the 100s in places, across most of the central and southern tier of the U.S.. The Northeast will begin with temperatures in the 90s, but is forecast to cool into the 70s and 80s by the end of the Labor Day weekend. Daytime highs in the 70s and 80s are also forecast across much of the northern tier. Southern Florida and the central Appalachians are forecast to receive up to 3 inches of rainfall, while most of the West and the High Plains are expecting a quarter of an inch or less, with no rain forecast for much of the region. Looking further ahead at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 6-10 day Outlook (September 2-6), the probability of dry conditions is highest in the Northwest from southern Alaska into Oregon, northern Idaho, and western Montana., while wet conditions are most likely across the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. During this period, below-average temperatures may be seen over the much of the forecasted wet areas — upper Northwest into Alaska — while above-average temperatures are forecast for most of the contiguous U.S., especially the eastern half. Looking two weeks out (September 4-10), the likelihood of above-average temperatures is highest in central to southern California and in the eastern third of the contiguous U.S. The probability of below-average temperatures is highest across most of Alaska and Montana. The probability of above-average precipitation is highest over a swath of the central U.S. stretching northeast from New Mexico to eastern North Dakota, Minnesota, and western Wisconsin, with the highest probability of dryness now expected across Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

@WestGov: Western Governors advocate House reauthorization of National Integrated #Drought Information System

Drought impacted corn

Here’s the letter from the Western Governor’s Association:

On behalf of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), we are writing to express the Governors’ support for reauthorization of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) program under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and urge you to make consideration of such legislation a priority in 2018. In May 2018, we expressed our support to Senate leadership for S. 2200, the National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act of 2018.

Western Governors were instrumental in the creation of NIDIS in 2006, and WGA has since worked with NOAA and other partners to champion the system’s implementation. The NIDIS program represents a vital tool in western water management, promoting a coordinated and integrated approach to coping with future drought. Rather than creating a new bureaucracy, the program draws from existing capacity in states, universities and multiple federal agencies, as called for in the original authorizing legislation. NIDIS continues to serve as a cost-effective model for federal-state collaboration in shared information services.

Western Governors are well-acquainted with the significant environmental, economic and social impacts of drought cycles on the West and its communities. The repetitive nature of drought conditions, as well as increased populations and their dependence on limited water resources, continue to push drought to the forefront of western water issues. Adequate measures to manage western water resources in the face of inevitable future drought conditions must be prioritized and implemented. Drought contributes to forest and rangeland fires, impairs ecosystems, degrades agricultural productivity, and poses threats to municipal and industrial water supplies.

The NIDIS program’s forecasting and monitoring activities provide the authoritative, objective and timely drought information that farmers, water managers, decision-makers, and local governments require for effective preparedness and response. NIDIS has established a drought portal on its website (www.drought.gov) where information from state, federal and academic partners is integrated into a single online source of information. Through NIDIS, NOAA is building a network of early drought warning systems and working with local resource managers to identify and address unique regional drought information needs. Federal reauthorization should further strengthen NIDIS with increased focus on soil moisture retention and sub-seasonal forecasting, critical factors in understanding and predicting drought conditions as identified by the Western Governors’ Drought Forum.

Water users throughout the West – including farmers, ranchers, tribes, land managers, business owners, recreationalists, wildlife managers, and decision-makers at all levels of government – must be able to assess the risks of drought before its onset to make informed decisions and implement effective mitigation measures. Western Governors continue to support the NIDIS program and urge the Committee to make its reauthorization a legislative priority in 2018.

The latest @WaterEdCO “Fresh Water News” is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver #COriver

A view of the location of the proposed Chimney Hollow dam and reservoir site in the foothills between Loveland and Longmont. The 90,000 acre-foot reservoir would store water for nine Front Range cities, two water districts and a utility, and is being held up a lawsuit challenging federal environmental reviews. Graphic credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt (Jerd Smith):

Upper Colorado River restoration project entangled in bitter lawsuit

A rare river restoration project in the Upper Colorado River Basin near Grand Lake is in danger of being stopped because of a lawsuit by environmentalists.

The restoration project has been proposed to compensate the West Slope for environmental damages to the Upper Colorado River caused by a large Front Range water storage project known as Windy Gap Firming.

Sponsored by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the new storage project would bring more Colorado River water from Grand County to rapidly growing, water-short towns on the Front Range, including Lafayette, Longmont, Louisville and Broomfield, among others.

The restoration project would reconnect a section of the Upper Colorado River severed by the original Windy Gap dam Northern Water built years ago. But Northern Water said it may halt the restoration work because Save The Colorado, an environmental group, is seeking to stop the large reservoir project in U.S. District Court in Denver.

With the future of the reservoir now in doubt, Northern Water officials said it may not make sense to proceed with restoring the river channel.

“It’s painful,” said Jeff Drager, Northern Water’s director of engineering.

Restoring a river channel in the Upper Colorado Basin

The reservoir has been under review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, Grand County and others for 15 years. The project was within months of starting when the lawsuit was filed last October.

Save The Colorado has been challenging the project for years, saying that no more water should be diverted from the drought-stressed, over-used Colorado River. According to a number of different estimates, more than 65 percent of flows in the river’s headwaters region are already being diverted across the Continental Divide to the Front Range, endangering the river’s health.

For his part, Save The Colorado Executive Director Gary Wockner disagrees with Northern Water’s assessment of the restoration project’s future, saying that a number of agencies and stakeholder groups, including his, will have to weigh in on the project’s fate.

The original Windy Gap Project began supplying Colorado River water to the Front Range in 1985. But it has never been able to deliver the full amount of water it has rights to because storage space in its collection system on the West Slope isn’t always available. The new $570 million reservoir, called Chimney Hollow, would be near Carter Lake in Larimer County.

Environmental groups such as Trout Unlimited, along with several mountain communities and other stakeholder groups, spent years working with Northern Water to develop a set of environmental projects that would help restore the Upper Colorado River watershed. Reconnecting the river channel near Grand Lake was among those environmental projects.

In an open letter to Save The Colorado last December, Trout Unlimited’s Kirk Klancke, president of the group’s Colorado Headwaters Chapter, urged the litigants not to interfere in the decade-long negotiations that have given Western Slope communities more water for streams and helped restore habitat for fish and the bugs they feed on.

“It took 10 years of fighting to get a package of measures that will restore our rivers and prevent additional impacts. The viability of those solutions depends on Windy Gap Firming Project moving forward,” Klancke wrote. Klancke could not be reached for comment this week.

Connecting the channel would make it easier for trout to migrate and would help restore miles of streambed where critical sand and gravel had long been trapped by the dam at Windy Gap Reservoir, supporters say.

But it is the larger question – how to prevent more water from being taken out of the headwaters of the drought-stressed Colorado River – that prompted the lawsuit by Save The Colorado.

The lawsuit is being litigated by the University of Denver’s Environmental Law Clinic, where students overseen by faculty members take on cases that have national environmental implications for free.

The suit is one of three major efforts by environmental groups to halt new water projects that would serve the Front Range. Just last week Save The Colorado filed a “notice of intent” to sue Denver Water over the proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. This project too would bring additional water from the Upper Colorado River headwaters over to the metro area.

And four years ago, the Environmental Law Clinic filed an unsuccessful suit to stop a project that would free up space in Denver’s Chatfield Reservoir to store more water for metro area cities and South Platte farmers. The students represented the Audubon Society, which argued that the project would remove too many wetlands that provide critical bird habitat. The Audubon Society lost the case last year, but it is currently on appeal in the U.S. District Court in Denver.

Kevin Lynch, the supervising professor for the DU law students, said the law clinic’s work is critical to ensuring that groups that are not politically powerful have their day in court. “We see that as a vital role, giving these groups clout and giving them the opportunity to engage in these processes. And it gives students a chance to work on meaningful real-world litigation,” he said.

That some groups from the environmental community are backing the river channel restoration project doesn’t mean Save The Colorado shouldn’t proceed with its broader mission to stop any additional water from being diverted from the headwaters, Lynch said.

Regardless of the lawsuit, “There is no reason that [Windy Gap proponents] couldn’t do the project anyway…Doing a bypass would be great. They don’t need to further drain the Colorado River to do that,” Lynch said.

But Northern Water’s Drager said the $15 million channel project’s primary reason for being was to mitigate the impact of Windy Gap’s Chimney Hollow Reservoir.

“We don’t have a plan to do the channel project if Windy Gap doesn’t move forward,” Drager said.

Drager said Windy Gap proponents will decide by February whether to proceed with the channel or to halt the design work that is underway now.

Bart Miller, an attorney with the Boulder-based conservation group Western Resource Advocates, declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit. But he said the channel project is important not just because of its restorative effects, but because it demonstrates the power of collaboration between water interests, cities and towns, and environmentalists.

“When we have an extremely dry year like this one, and going forward we’re going to have more of them, this cooperative effort between conservation groups and water providers and interests like Grand County is a very good example of efforts to address these pressing challenges. I hope the effort can continue,” Miller said.

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith. Fresh Water News is an independent, non-partisan news initiative of Water Education Colorado.

Colorado River District Annual Seminar, “Risky Business On The #ColoradoRiver”, September 14, 2018 @ColoradoWater #

Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:

The risk of draining a half-full Lake Powell is real. The risk one-third full Lake Mead going lower and triggering big water cutbacks is real. Uncle Sam has told the states to develop drought plans or else the U.S. will do it for them. Speakers and panels from the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the Upper Colorado River Commission, the Colorado River District and others will detail current conditions on the river and what the states plan to do about them. Whether you are a toothbrusher, ag producer, angler or rafter, there’s a lot to care about.

Register now at the discounted rate of $30, lunch buffet included. Early registration ends at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 11th after which time the cost is $35 at the door.
No cost to students unless partaking of lunch, which is $10.

Registration Form

For information, call Meredith at 970-945-8522 or email mspyker@crwcd.org.

Speakers include:

David Bernhardt, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior
John Entsminger, General Manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority
Amy Haas, the new Executive Director of the Upper Colorado River Commission (invited)
Andy Mueller, General Manager of the Colorado River District
Eric Kuhn, Author, retired Colorado River District General Manager, adviser to the Upper Colorado River Commission
Eric Millis, Director, Utah Division of Water Resources and Commissioner to the Upper Colorado River Commission and Chair of the Colorado Basin Salinity Control Commission
Uwe H. Martin, photographer and producer, Bombay Flying Club, Germany
and more…

Coyote Gulch plans to be front and center live-Tweeting from the seminar.