#Drought news: Improvement in the Southwest #US and Rockies

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


This U.S. Drought Monitor week saw improvements on the map across parts of the Southeast, Northeast, Northern Plains, the Rockies, and Desert Southwest. In the mountains of drought-stricken areas of Colorado and New Mexico, the cool-season is off to a positive start in portions of the central and southern Rockies where snow shower activity continued this week. In California, persistent dry conditions led to expansion of areas of drought in northern parts of the state where a dangerous and fast-moving wildfire broke out late last week in the Sierra Nevada foothills leading to destruction of the community of Paradise. The Camp Fire is now the most deadly and destructive fire in the state’s history and so far has resulted in the loss of 48 lives and destroyed 7,600 homes. In southern California, the Woolsey Fire broke out late last week and spread quickly across the Santa Monica Mountains because of dry vegetation and strong Santa Ana winds. The fire led to the evacuation of more than 100,000 residents in Los Angeles and Ventura counties and has been responsible for the destruction of >400 homes. In the Southeast, widespread rain shower activity helped alleviate areas of dryness in Alabama and Georgia while short-term precipitation deficits led to expansion of drought in portions of Florida…

High Plains

On this week’s map, improvements were made in North Dakota with the removal of two areas of Severe Drought (D2) in response to normal to above-normal precipitation during the past 30-to-60 days. In northeastern Kansas, areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) were reduced in response to improving soil moisture conditions and above-normal precipitation during the past 60-to-90 days. For the week, the region experienced below-normal temperatures with the largest negative anomalies (12-to-24 degrees below normal) observed in North Dakota, northeastern Nebraska, and northeastern Wyoming…


In California, several dangerous and destructive wildfires broke out in both southern and northern California during the past week. In Butte County in northern California, the Camp Fire devastated the Sierra Nevada foothill community of Paradise – destroying nearly the entire community including 7,600 homes. According to CAL FIRE, the fire has burned in excess of 130,000 acres (35% contained) and has been responsible so far for the loss of 48 lives – making it the deadliest wildfire in California history. North of Los Angeles, the Woolsey Fire has burned 97,000 acres (40% contained) in and around the Santa Monica Mountains leading to the evacuation of more than 150,000 residents and destruction of >435 homes. Continued dry conditions in California led to expansion of an areas of Moderate Drought (D1) in the Sacramento Valley, extending to the western foothills of the northern Sierra Nevada. In the Rockies, widespread snow showers were observed in the Front Range and adjacent foothills as well as in the Sangre de Cristo Range, leading to improvements on the map in north-central and south-central Colorado. Overall, Colorado’s snowpack is off to a positive start with above-normal snow water equivalent (SWE) levels in the Front Range, Sangre de Cristos, and the Mosquito Range of central Colorado. In New Mexico, recent snowfall and above-normal SWE levels led to reduction of Extreme Drought (D3) in the north-central part of the state. In eastern New Mexico, recent storm activity and improved soil moisture levels have improved conditions leading to reduction in areas of Moderate Drought (D1) and Severe Drought (D2). In central Arizona, wet conditions during the past 90-days led to reduction in areas of Moderate Drought (D1). In the Northern Rockies near Glacier National Park, areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) were removed in response to above-normal SWE levels associated with recent snowfall. Average temperatures were below-normal across most of the region during the past week…


On this week’s map, only minor improvements were made in the region including removal of remaining areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) in northeastern and southwestern Mississippi where heavy rains this week erased existing short-term precipitation deficits. In the Texas Panhandle, areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) were reduced in response to improving soil moisture levels from snow shower activity in and around Amarillo. During the past 120-days, precipitation across Texas has been well above normal. For the week, average temperatures were well below normal with the greatest negative anomalies (9-to-15 degrees) observed in the Texas Panhandle and northern Oklahoma…

Looking Ahead

The NWS WPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for light-to-moderate accumulations ranging from 1-to-3 inches (liquid) along the Eastern Tier with the heaviest accumulations forecasted for portions of the Southeast and southern Mid-Atlantic. In the central and southern Appalachians, a wintry mix of rain, freezing rain, and snow is expected. West of the Mississippi River, conditions are expected to be dry with the exception of light-to-moderate accumulations in the Northern Rockies and western Washington. The CPC 6–10-day outlook calls for a high probability of above-normal temperatures across portions of the West including Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and western Washington. In contrast, there’s a high probability of below-normal temperatures in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. In terms of precipitation, there is a high probability of above-normal precipitation across California, the western Great Basin, and Arizona while the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies are expected to be drier than normal. Moving eastward, above-normal precipitation is expected across Texas, the Gulf Coast, Southern Plains, and Florida while below-normal precipitation is expected in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast.

@Northern_Water fall water users meeting recap

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

The Northern Integrated Supply Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project, both projects managed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, have been decades in the making, and once they’re complete, they’ll result in three new reservoirs intended to address a growing Front Range population.

During the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s fall water users meeting Wednesday in Fort Collins, officials took an audience through the progress of both projects.

The Northern Integrated Supply Project, which would affect Windsor and Evans, hit a major milestone in July after an Environmental Impact Statement was released.

“In 2019, we’re hoping for a really big, exciting year, in addition to the really big year we had this year,” said Stephanie Cecil, water resources project engineer for Northern Water.

The Windy Gap Firming Project, which would affect Greeley, is moving forward even as the project has been hit with a federal lawsuit.

In July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final Environmental Impact Statement on the project — a process that took 14 years.

“It’s a really significant step in the project to be able to have all of those things done,” Cecil said.

Right now, the group is focused on design, particularly for the Glade Reservoir and the Galeton Reservoir. One pressing step in the project will be to relocate a section of U.S. 287 to allow for construction of the reservoir.

Additionally, the organization is working on mitigation projects, including one to help pass fish though a diversion structure and measure the amount of water the group is handling.

The group is also working on permitting with counties and the state, and developing a financing plan.

“How is this over $1 billion project going to be financed, and how is the construction schedule going to line up with the financing plan?” Cecil asked.

Construction could start by 2021, Cecil said, and the projects that will likely get started first are the Glade Reservoir and the U.S. 287 relocation. Cecil said the group hopes that the reservoir will be filled in 2026 and able to serve water in 2030.

“We’re looking at about a five-year timeline, but it’s dependent on weather,” she said. “Hopefully by 2026, we’ll have some really wet years and we can fill it really fast.”


A graphic from Northern Water showing the lay out of Windy Gap Firming Project.

The Windy Gap Firming Project, a collaboration between 12 northern Colorado water providers, including Greeley, will result in a new reservoir — the 90,000 acre-foot Chimney Hollow Reservoir — and the largest dam on the Front Range.

When it’s complete, the project intends to make water supplies more reliable by installing the reservoir west of Carter Lake in Larimer County.

For the past year, the project has been in the middle of a lawsuit filed by environmental groups against federal agencies. The lawsuit questions the need for the project, saying it would make significant water diversions from the Colorado River, and that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Crops of Engineers did not have enough information before they issued initial permits to the district.

Still, Jeff Drager, director of engineering for Northern Water, said the project hasn’t been stalled by the lawsuit, especially because funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Service requires the group to use the money within the next five years…

Right now, the project is in the permitting process. So far, the organization has $11 million and is seeking ways to fund the final $4 million…

The project has been in the process of permitting the project for 15 years, Drager said…

Drager said the group hopes to start construction in 2021 or 2022.

Sterling councillors hear about water supply and water law

Photograph of Main Street in Sterling Colorado facing north taken in the 1920s.

From The Sterling Journal Advocate (Sara Waite):

The Sterling City Council — and those attending their regular Tuesday night meeting — got a lesson on Colorado water law and Sterling’s water supply this week.

Alan Curtis, a water attorney with White & Jankowski LLP, which has represented the city for 39 years, explained the basic tenets of Colorado’s water laws before getting into Sterling’s water rights and the pro-active approach the city has directed them to take in water cases. Curtis noted that over the past four decades, Sterling has taken part in over 180 water court cases and has gone to trial in only three, all of which ended with favorable outcomes for the city. Right now the city is involved in six pending cases…

Water engineers Jon George and Kristina Wynne of Bishop-Brogden Associates Inc. also spoke, giving an overview of the city’s existing water supply and augmentation plan. Wynne explained that in 2014, they developed a long-range plan to project the city’s future water needs. However, the last several years the city has not used as much water as projected, and she suggested that it would be appropriate to revise the long-range plan to make it more accurate going forward.

The three experts had some suggestions for projects the council should consider in the near future, including construction of a storage reservoir for augmentation.

They also noted that the city’s wastewater recharge pond represents an unknown. It has been an integral part of the city’s augmentation to offset its water use in the past, but for the past year the city has not been able to discharge wastewater to the pond because of violations of public health standards. If the city is unable to resume pumping to the recharge pond, it may need to develop other augmentation resources.

“This application is the latest episode in Aaron Million’s decade-long effort to profit off of the private sale of #GreenRiver water” — Ariel Calmes #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Recreation, in progress, on the Green River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The Division of Water Rights last week heard from project proponent Aaron Million and from numerous entities that oppose it, before deciding to request more information from Million before a decision can be made.

Million, a Fort Collins resident, filed the Utah application through the company Water Horse Resources LLC, seeking to divert 55,000 acre-feet a year and pipe it east to Wyoming and then south to Colorado…

The idea is being opposed by federal agencies including the Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Fish and Wildlife Service. Other opponents include western Colorado’s Colorado River District, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District in Colorado, multiple water conservancy districts in Utah, conservationists, and notably the Utah Board of Water Resources and Division of Water Resources. That board works to conserve and develop the state’s water, and is worried that the proposal would let Colorado benefit at Utah’s expense…

Peter Fleming, general counsel for the Colorado River District, questions the project’s economic feasibility.

“Water Horse’s application has not shown that it has any significant committed recipients who are willing to pay for the water that’s supposed to be diverted,” he said…

The decision on Million’s water right application will be made by Utah’s state engineer, who heads the state’s Division of Water Rights.

Million said he thought the hearing went well and he’s awaiting a letter from the state engineer detailing what additional information is needed…

He said probably one-third or one-half of the 28 or so objectors didn’t show up at the hearing.

In the case of those who testified, “every point they made we’ve already looked at inside and out and so we’ll answer the issues related to the permit and move on,” he said.

A 30-day comment period will be provided after Million responds to the request for more information.

Ariel Calmes, a staff attorney for Western Resource Advocates, said in a news release after the hearing, “This application is the latest episode in Aaron Million’s decade-long effort to profit off of the private sale of Green River water. Million is proposing to divert water from Utah to the detriment of multistate water agreements, the recovery of endangered species, and millions of dollars in recreation spending.”

Green River Basin