@NOAA: Assessing the Global #Climate in October 2018

From NOAA:

Second warmest October and fourth warmest year-to-date on record

The global land and ocean temperature departure from average for October 2018 was the second highest for the month of October in the NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880. The year-to-date was fourth warmest on record.

An annotated map of the United States showing notable climate events that occurred in October 2018. (NOAA NCEI)

This monthly summary, developed by scientists at NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.

October 2018 Temperature

  • The October temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.55°F above the 20th century average of 57.1°F – the second highest temperature for October in the 1880-2018 record. The record warm October temperature was set in 2015 at 1.78°F above average. October 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive October and the 406th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average.
  • The 10 warmest October global land and ocean surface temperatures have occurred since 2003, with the last five years (2014-2018) comprising the five warmest Octobers on record.
  • Record warm temperatures during the month were present across parts of the Atlantic and Indian oceans, Alaska, the Bering and Barents seas, central and eastern Russia, northern Australia, and central Africa. No land or ocean areas had record cold October temperatures.
  • The October globally averaged land surface temperature was 2.23°F above the 20th century average of 48.7°F. This value was also the second highest October land temperature in the 139-year record, behind 2015 (+2.41°F).
  • The most notable warm land temperatures were present across the Northern Hemisphere, specifically central and eastern Russia and Alaska, where temperatures were 9.0°F above average or higher. The most notable cool temperature departures from average during October were observed across much of Canada, parts of the contiguous U.S., and central China, with temperatures 1.8°F below average or less.
  • On a continental level, Asia and Europe had their third warmest October on record. Meanwhile, North America’s October temperature was 0.13°F below average, marking the first time October temperatures were below average since 2009.
  • The October globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.30°F above the 20th century monthly average of 60.6°F – tying with 2016 as the second highest global ocean temperature for October in the record. The years 2014-2018 comprise the five warmest Octobers on record, with 2015 the warmest October at 1.57°F above average.
  • October 2018 Sea Ice

  • The average Arctic sea ice extent for October was 884,000 square miles (27.4 percent) below the 1981-2010 average, according to analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center using data from NOAA and NASA. Sea ice extent was below average throughout large parts of the Arctic, particularly in the Beaufort, Chukchi, and Laptev seas. Overall, this was the third smallest October extent since records began in 1979.
  • Antarctic sea ice extent during October 2018 was 170,000 square miles (2.4 percent) below the 1981-2010 average, the fourth smallest October value on record. On October 2, the Antarctic sea ice extent reached its annual maximum extent at 7.01 million square miles. This was the fourth smallest Antarctic sea ice extent maximum on record.
  • According to data from NOAA and analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during October was 0.97 million square miles above the 1981-2010 average. This was the 14th largest October Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in the 51-year period of record. The North American snow cover extent was the second largest on record, slightly smaller than 2002, while the Eurasian snow cover extent was the 22nd largest.
  • Year-to-date (January-October 2018)

  • The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.39°F above the 20th century average of 57.4°F – the fourth highest for January-October in the 139-year record. The years 2014-2018 comprise the five warmest January-October periods on record, with 2016 the warmest such period at 1.76°F above average.
  • The year-to-date globally averaged land surface temperature was 2.03°F above the 20th century average of 48.7°F. This value was also the fourth highest for January-October in the record.
  • Europe had its warmest January-October since continental records began in 1910 at 3.31°F above average. This value exceeded the previous record set in 2014 by 0.23°F. South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania had a January-October temperature that ranked among the seven warmest such period on record.
  • The year-to-date globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.15°F above the 20th century average of 61.0°F. This value tied with 2014 as the fourth highest for January-October in the 1880-2018 record.
  • For a more complete summary of climate conditions and events, see our October 2018 Global Climate Report.

    #GlenwoodSprings close to securing rights for new #whitewater parks — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Upstream view of the Colorado River at the mouth of the Roaring fork River

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    The city of Glenwood Springs has paddled around the last of several big obstacles in its way to obtaining water rights for three potential whitewater parks in the Colorado River, at Two Rivers Park, Horseshoe Bend and No Name.

    While final approvals are not expected from various entities until late January, the city’s water attorney, Mark Hamilton of Holland and Hart, told a state agency last week that general agreement in the water court case was at hand.

    The proposed water rights are for “boating, rafting, kayaking, tubing, floating, canoeing, paddling and all other non-motorized recreational uses.”

    Glenwood Springs made the crux move in its five-year journey on Wednesday, when Aurora and Colorado Springs signed off on a “call reduction provision” in the city’s proposed water rights decree.

    The provision carves out 30,000 acre-feet from the city’s proposed 2013 water right to allow for future upstream transmountain diversions by the Front Range cities. Glenwood Springs had earlier offered a 20,000 acre-foot carve-out provision.

    The city made another key maneuver on Thursday, when the directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board agreed to amend a negative 2015 finding on the city’s water rights application, and agreed to settle with the city in water court.

    “Forgive us for being cautious and careful and slow,” said Russ George, who represents the Colorado River basin at CWCB. “This one is not an ordinary [Recreational In-Channel Diversion]. It has its own complications, and overall it had become just a tricky, thorny, complicated project.”

    It was also announced Thursday that the Colorado River District and the town of Gypsum support the settlement in concept and are working on final approvals.

    The Colorado River at Horseshoe Bend, upstream of Glenwood Springs. Colorado Water Parks and Wildlife has let the City of Glenwood Springs know that this is their least favorite of three potential whitewater parks the city is pursuing water rights for, due to the use of the area by bighorn sheep. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

    Horseshoe Bend lowest priority

    Under the settlement, Glenwood Springs has agreed to consult with Colorado Parks and Wildlife on the location, size, design and construction at the three prospective whitewater park sites, including giving Horseshoe Bend the lowest priority of the three locations because of bighorn sheep in the area.

    “Horseshoe Bend kind of sits in third position for a variety of reasons,” Jay Skinner, an instream flow specialist for CPW, told the CWCB directors on Thursday. “It certainly is our least favorite of the three sites.”

    The Two Rivers Park location is just downstream from central Glenwood Springs, and just above a busy boat ramp at the park.

    Horseshoe Bend and No Name are not far upstream from downtown in Glenwood Canyon. They are on a Class II stretch of river below the Class III-to-Class IV Shoshone run. The highway is separated from the river at Horseshoe Bend, and there is an I-70 rest stop next to the river at No Name.

    The city has previously obtained settlements in the water court case from BLM, CDOT, Denver Water, Ute Water Conservancy District, Grand Valley Water Users Association, West Divide Water Conservancy District and the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool.

    “This ends three years of really intense negotiations and collaborations with the applicant (Glenwood Springs) and a lot of work finding compromise and middle ground on this,” Pat Wells, general manager of water resources and demand management at Colorado Springs Utilities, told the CWCB Thursday.

    Aurora and Colorado Springs, as partners in the Homestake storage and diversion project, have a high interest in the city’s claims for flow levels in the Colorado River, as they now intend to build a dam and reservoir on lower Homestake Creek as part of the “Eagle River MOU” project, according to an October report from the attorney of the Colorado River District to the district’s board.

    That project includes diverting 20,000 acre-feet of additional water under the Continental Divide from the upper Eagle River basin. It also includes diverting 10,000 acre-feet of water for Western Slope uses.

    In 2012, the two cities told federal officials “as much as 86,400 acre-feet of water supplies may be developed by completion of the Homestake Project.”

    As such, Aurora and Colorado Springs wanted some protection from Glenwood Springs’ pending water right, which would carry a priority date of 2013.

    The Colorado River at No Name, above Glenwood Springs, and just off of I-70 near the No Name rest stop. This is one of three sites where the City of Glenwood Springs is pursuing water rights for a potential whitewater park. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

    Protects flows

    The city’s water right would span 183 days, from April 1 to Sept. 30 each year.

    For 137 of those days, the water right calls for a steady flow 1,250 cubic feet per second, which is the same level of flow that the senior Shoshone hydropower right can call for on the river, above the proposed whitewater parks.

    So, for the bulk of the time, the Glenwood’s new water right would make no difference on the river, as it is in the shadow of Shoshone.

    But the city wants to step out of that shadow and call for 2,500 cfs of water for 46 days, from June 8 to July 23. And it could call for 4,000 cfs of flow on five days around the Fourth of July, in order to hold competitive boating events.

    It is in the 46-day high-flow period when the carve-out will kick in, and reduce by about 25 percent the amount of water the city was pursuing.

    “It does limit, significantly, the amount of time that this water right is going to be able to call,” Rob Harris, an attorney representing both Western Resource Advocates and American Whitewater, in support of Glenwood Springs, told the CWCB. “But frankly, that’s the nature of compromise.”

    Harris said the remaining flow levels in the river still work for the whitewater parks.

    “These are the proper flow rates,” he said. “These rates are the rates that stakeholders in the city and in the community have asked for, and balancing that with this carve out is appropriate.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism covers rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, and other Swift newspapers. Both the Times and the Post published this story on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018.

    City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

    A look at renegotiating the #ColoradoRiver Compact

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

    Colorado River water managers have plenty to argue about. But there’s one thing on which nearly everyone who relies on the southwestern river can agree. The foundational document that divvies up the water — the Colorado River Compact — has some big flaws.

    Discussion on how to fix the compact’s problems is where that consensus breaks down, often with the invocation of one word: renegotiation…

    The R-word inflames decades-old tensions in the watershed, Kenney says, among states in the Upper Basin, including Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah, and those in the Lower Basin, which includes Arizona, California and Nevada.

    “I think a lot of the parties think it’s scary simply because it’s a little scary to negotiate when not all the parties have the same political power,” Kenney says.

    That power imbalance is what initially brought political leaders within the watershed to come to the table back in 1922 when the Colorado River Compact was signed. The desert southwest was beginning to growing rapidly and rather than acquiesce all of the river’s flow to the sprawling cities and cropland of southern California, water managers felt it was in their best interest to come to an agreement to divvy up the river amongst themselves. The alternative path was one of conflict and litigation…

    Conventional wisdom about the compact’s math goes something like this: When water managers sat down to divide the river among themselves they used the data available to them to figure out how much water they were working with. The period they looked at was uncharacteristically wet. Soon after the compact’s signing the river returned to its more arid state, and right from the start the compact mismatched with reality. More water existed on paper than in the river, creating a gap between water supplies and demands that continues to today. So the story goes: it was no one’s fault, just a historical fluke.

    John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico’s water resources program, says that conventional wisdom is wrong. Allocating more water was the politically expedient thing to do. He’s finishing a book with Colorado River expert Eric Kuhn on what water managers of the 1920s knew about the river’s flow and when they knew it. Scientists with the highly respected U.S. Geological Survey were crowing about the inflated numbers even before the river compact was finished.

    “They all concluded the same thing, ‘You’re basing this on an unusually wet period. You need to take into account dry periods. There is really less water than you think,’” Fleck says. “And all those scientific experts were ignored.”

    Today, there’s broad consensus about the compact’s math problems. While scoffed at a decade ago, McCain’s proposal to renegotiate has support among some environmentalists, like Jen Pelz, wild rivers program director with WildEarth Guardians. She says the only way to fix the river’s fundamental supply-demand problem is to go back to the beginning.

    “It’s just like curing illness, right? You have to get at the source,” she says.

    Old agreements among states to manage water in the West are out of date and don’t reflect modern realities, like climate change or broader environmental concerns, Pelz says. Compacts for the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers allocate every drop for human use. There’s value in leaving water in rivers for recreation and ecosystem health, she says.

    “I think that is a huge problem and I think that we don’t want to have that conversation because it’s hard,” Pelz says.

    The river’s foundational problems are front of mind these days as Colorado River water managers are attempting to finalize new agreements called Drought Contingency Plans, designed to boost declining reservoirs and cut back on water use throughout the watershed. Pelz says the plans don’t go far enough.

    “It’s all like shuffling chairs on the Titanic,” she says. “The ship is sinking still. And if you shuffle all those chairs around and you make it look pretty it’s still not going to make any difference, like the boat is still sinking.”

    To ever get to a point where the Colorado River Compact was opened back up, you’d need the support of people like Pat Tyrrell, the Wyoming state engineer. And he is not interested.

    “No, I would never advocate going back to the compact,” Tyrrell says.

    There’s a work around, he says. Rather than renegotiate the original document, water managers like him come up with new agreements that build on it, and address some of the compact’s bad math. But, he says, it would be unwise to throw the whole thing out.

    “If it were to go away there would be a free for all,” Tyrrell says. “There is no magic second compact sitting in the wings behind it, and the battle between Arizona, California, and Nevada against us four upper basin states would be brought anew.”

    A judge just dealt a potentially fatal blow to #KeystoneXL — @HighCountryNews #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    From The High Country News (Jonathan Thompson):

    After a slew of climate-friendly ballot initiatives went down in flames on Election Day in Arizona, Colorado and Washington, greens needed something to cheer them up. Days later the good news came in the form of a possibly deal-killing setback to a controversial oil pipeline: A federal judge sent the Keystone XL proposal back to the drawing board because it failed to comply with federal environmental regulations.

    First proposed in 2008, the 1,200-mile pipeline would carry as much as 830,000 barrels of heavy crude oil per day from Alberta oil sands to Steele City, Nebraska, en route to Gulf Coast refineries. In 2015, President Barack Obama denied a permit for the pipeline, citing climate concerns; but in 2017, President Donald Trump reversed the denial, allowing the project to move forward.

    The Indigenous Environment Network then sued the Trump administration, claiming that it erred by relying on an outdated analysis of the pipeline’s environmental impacts. On Nov. 8, U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on several issues, vacated the 2017 approval decision and ordered the State Department to supplement the Environmental Impact Statement, completed in 2014. That additional analysis must include a “hard look” at the effects of current oil prices, potential increases in greenhouse gas emissions, possible damage to cultural resources and new data on oil spills.

    A sign along U.S. Highway 20 in Stuart, Nebraska, in May 2012. Stuart is on the edge of the Sand Hills, a few miles from Newport. Photo/Allen Best – See more at: http://mountaintownnews.net/2015/11/15/rural-nebraska-keystone-and-the-paris-climate-talks/#sthash.Hm4HePDb.dpuf

    A major sticking point in the 2014 impact statement is its prediction for how the pipeline would contribute to climate change. In short, the analysis concludes that although burning the oil carried by the pipeline would emit about 168 million tons of carbon each year, constructing the pipeline would result in no new greenhouse gas emissions.

    The conclusion assumes that even without the pipeline, the same amount of oil would get to market by some other means. That’s because as long as oil prices remain at or above $100 per barrel, oil producers are willing to spend the extra cash to ship their bitumen — the waxy crude that comes from oil sands — via rail. When the analysis was completed, the price of oil was closing in on $150 per barrel.

    But oil prices did not stay high. Just months after the impact statement was published, global prices crashed, falling below $40 per barrel and plunging most oil sands mining operations into the red. That radically altered the climate impact calculus of the pipeline. When oil sinks below $75 per barrel or so, it no longer makes economic sense to pay to move it by train, meaning production will fall. The Keystone XL, however, would decrease shipping costs, helping to keep the oil sands viable. That would lead to an increase in production and concurrent rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

    Furthermore, independent analyses have found that Keystone XL could also up emissions by displacing other, less carbon-intensive forms of crude, and by adding enough oil to the global market to lower prices, thereby boosting consumption — and emissions. Both scenarios were discounted in the original impact statement.

    It was during the price slump that Obama put the kibosh on the pipeline. Today, domestic prices have bounced back up to about $60 per barrel, still far below the level at which the pipeline would result in no net increase of greenhouse gas emissions.

    Also missing from the 2014 analysis is a full accounting of potential impacts to cultural resources along the pipeline’s route. The analysis identified hundreds of cultural sites, but also said that over 1,000 acres remained unsurveyed. Apparently the surveys had not been completed when the 2017 approval was made.

    And then there are the potential oil spills. The 2014 analysis predicted that the new pipeline would not spill more than once every 10 years. Data from federal pipeline regulators, however, suggest this is a lowball estimate. The Dakota Access Pipeline and its southern counterpart, ETCO, for example, have experienced 11 spills since they went into operation in 2017. Furthermore, the National Academy of Sciences in 2015 published a study finding that spilled bitumen “… starts to turn into a heavy, viscous, sediment-laden residue that cannot easily be recovered using traditional response techniques.”

    All of this information must be taken into account and addressed before the project can be permitted, Judge Morris said in his recent ruling. That could take years. The Trump administration has indicated that it will appeal the ruling.

    Morris directed his harshest scolding toward the Trump administration for reversing its predecessor’s policy and dismissing the environmental concerns without adequate reasoning. In so doing, he could have been referring to any number of Trump’s regulatory rollbacks. “Even when reversing a policy after an election, an agency may not simply discard prior factual findings without a reasoned explanation,” Morris wrote. “An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate.”

    Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster. Email him at jonathan@hcn.org or submit a letter to the editor.

    @CWCB_DNR/@DWR_CO: November 2018 #Drought Update

    From the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Taryn Finnessey/Tracy Kosloff):

    In response to persistent and prolonged drought conditions throughout the southern half of the state and along the western border, the Governor activated the Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan for the agricultural sector on May 2, 2018, additional counties in northwest Colorado were added in September; information can be found HERE

    The 2018 Water Year (which ended on September 30) was the warmest and second driest in 124 years of records for the state of Colorado. Water Year 2019, which began on October 1st, has seen above normal precipitation and below average temperatures across most of the state. This is the first time in over a year that the statewide average monthly precipitation was above average and monthly temperature was below average. Recent precipitation gains have helped to relieve some drought conditions in Southeastern and Northwestern Colorado; and have led to a good start to the snowpack accumulation season. Cold temperatures and above average precipitation has continued in the first half of November, however, precipitation has not benefited southwestern Colorado as much.

    ■ As of November 13th, exceptional drought, D4, continues to affect southern Colorado covering 13 percent of the state, extreme drought, D3, covers 21 percent of the state; severe drought 21 percent and 12 percent is classified as moderate drought. An additional 17 percent of the state is currently experiencing abnormally dry conditions.

    ■ An El Niño watch remains in effect, with a greater than 80 percent chance of an El Niño developing by the end of the calendar year, which could bring an increased chance of wet extremes for southern Colorado.

    ■ SNOTEL water year to-date precipitation statewide is 124 percent of average, but ranges from 92 percent of average in the Southwest basins to 170 percent of average in the South Platte River Basin. The Arkansas is at 163 percent, while the Colorado is at 134. The Rio Grande and Yampa- White are at 115 and 113 percent of average, respectively; while the Gunnison is at 96 percent.

    ■ Reservoir storage, statewide is at 81 percent of normal, with the Arkansas, Rio Grande, Yampa-White, and South Platte all above 90% of average for the end of October. Storage in the Colorado River basin is 89% of normal. The Southwest basins of the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas & San Juan, and Gunnison are now at 55 and 53 percent of normal, respectively.

    ■ Ridgway Reservoir is currently at its lowest point since it was first filled. Recovering from the rapid reservoir declines seen during the summer of 2018 will likely take some time. As of November 1, reservoir storage levels vary widely from near record high to near record low levels, with the Colorado, Gunnison and Southwest basins all below normal.

    ■ Long term forecasts indicate an increased likelihood of above average temperatures statewide November through January. Southwestern Colorado is forecast to continue to benefit from moisture as a result of the developing El Niño and has an increased likelihood of above average precipitation over the same time period.

    ■ Water providers are seeing decreased demands consistent with typical winter demands.

    ■ Fall moisture has helped with winter wheat planting and limited prevented acres were reported.

    Widespread precipitation in October helped to alleviate drought conditions in some areas. Many areas of the state saw more precipitation in October than they saw collectively in the first half of Water Year 2018.

    Colorado basin-filled snowpack map November 19, 2018 via the NRCS,

    Snowpack is off to a good start with most areas of the state seeing above average accumulation in October and the first half of November.

    Colorado Drought Monitor November 13, 2018.

    Despite recent precipitation, Western Colorado is still dealing with severe, extreme and exceptional drought. Continued above average snow accumulation may help to alleviate these conditions as the winter progress and will be closely monitored.

    Stay flexible #Arizona — @AmericanRivers #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    From American Rivers (Eric Boucher):

    Collaboration might be the only way forward for communities facing an uncertain water future.

    It’s a fact of life in the Colorado River Basin that no one is really in charge.

    Instead, the complicated business of managing the basin’s water supply is achieved collaboratively by an array of federal and state agencies, quasi-agencies, irrigation districts, cities, Native American nations and the Republic of Mexico — all operating according to a complex set of rules called the Law of the River. It’s a cumbersome machine that’s challenged to respond quickly to crises, even the slow-burning kind.

    And yet, as John Fleck wrote in his book “Water is for Fighting Over,” the Colorado River Basin’s complex web of collaborations is perhaps the strongest asset as the people and agencies tasked with managing the river’s water supply face an uncertain and daunting future in the Southwest.

    As we tend to say around the American Rivers’ watercooler, the best response to uncertainty is flexibility.

    In the absence of a commanding authority, tribes, cities and irrigation districts should be empowered to develop and pilot new ways to use the river’s dwindling water supply efficiently.

    Tribes and farmers may be able to lease some of their un-needed water to cities or other farmers. Irrigators and cities may adopt voluntary conservation programs that reduce water use to leave water in the river or to provide to other users. Cities may find opportunities to work together, saving water today to create shared supplies for the future.

    These tools and others create increased connectivity between people and the river, as well as between communities who rely the river’s waters. Increased collaboration and connectivity can create flexibility that helps the river and its communities adapt in the face of shortages.

    Those of us in the business of posing solutions to problems facing the Colorado River call these voluntary agreements between willing parties “water sharing” to emphasize the collaborative spirit behind them.

    Nowhere is this spirit more apparent than in Arizona, where competing interests in how water gets stored and used have made it difficult to agree on steps toward ensuring the state has abundant water for the future.

    Much of the water for the farms and growing cities in central Arizona is provided by the Central Arizona Project canal, which brings Colorado River water more than 300 miles across the desert before ending near Tucson. Under the Law of the River — the set of compacts and laws that dictate how the Colorado River is managed — this water has some of the lowest priority, meaning it’s the first to get cut back when the river is too low to meet all needs. In central Arizona, irrigators and homebuilders will be the first to feel these cuts, raising questions about equity and unintended impacts. Insecurity in their waters supplies are motivating many cities and irrigators to find creative, collaborative solutions.

    Leaders from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District have conceptually approved a Drought Contingency Plan with the other six states that rely on water from the Colorado River system, accepting that cuts to Arizona’s water supply are necessary to shore up the Colorado River. However, finding the deals necessary to implement those cutbacks within the community of Arizona water users has been difficult. Some of the more promising responses have flowed (pardon the pun) out of one-on-one, collaborative deals between communities that have water to share and those that are at the greatest risk of suffering shortages in the future.

    The cities of Tucson and Phoenix, for example, pioneered a partnership in which Tucson will store some of Phoenix’s water today and provide it back to its northerly neighbor when Phoenix requires water in the future.

    Another example: The Gila River Indian Community and the managers of water supply for growing central Arizona communities have crafted an innovative set of short-term water leases and water exchanges that benefit both parties. The deal they have proposed includes swaps of stored groundwater, investments in pumps and canals, and deliveries of some of the community’s currently unused water over a span of 25 years. The innovation and flexibility in this arrangement could take pressure off of other parts of the state’s water supply portfolio, making it easier for all to adjust to a reduced supply.

    These kinds of collaboration are necessary if Arizona, and the other river states, are to adapt to long-term changes in the river’s hydrology, and correct the over-allocation built into the Law of the River.

    To help illustrate this concept, we’ve posted a short animated video.

    #Drought news: Elkhead operations review

    Elkhead Reservoir “teacup” graphic illustrates who owns water stored at Elkhead, measured in acre-feet or AF, both before and after it was expanded in 2006. Credit: The Craig Daily Press

    From The Craig Daily Press (Lauren Blair):

    …in dry, hot years like 2018, owners of Elkhead water were glad to have the backup.

    “The reservoir served a good purpose for multiple reasons in Moffat County,” said Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs for the Colorado River District.

    Both the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and Tri-State Generation & Transmission had to call on their water stored at Elkhead this year. They are among four major owners of water in the reservoir, which also includes the city of Craig and the river district. The city drew ample water from the Yampa and didn’t need Elkhead water this year.

    The Fish Recovery Program owns 5,000 acre-feet of water, which it procured when the reservoir was expanded in 2006 in exchange for a $13.5 million contribution to the project. An acre-foot is enough to cover one acre, about the size of a football field, with one foot of water, or about 326,000 gallons.

    The Recovery Program also has the option to lease an additional 2,000 acre-feet from the River District, bringing its total to 7,000 usable acre-feet of water…

    The Recovery Program utilized every drop of its 7,000 acre-feet, releasing water into the Yampa beginning in late July — unusually early — and continuing until October.

    With the prolonged summer drought, Yampa flows dropped to a precipitously low 38 cubic feet per second by early October in Maybell, where the United States Geological Survey operates a stream gauge. The Maybell gauge is used to determine how much water is making it downriver and how much to release from Elkhead. For comparison, the Recovery Program ordinarily aims to keep flows at 93 cfs or greater, Anderson said.

    Drought poses some obvious challenges to native fish populations. Colorado pikeminnow can reach lengths of 2 to 3 feet, according to Tom Chart, director of the Recovery Program, and low flows in the river can make it difficult for them to swim…

    When river flows dropped too low this year, Tri-State called on its water in both Elkhead and Stagecoach reservoirs to keep the plant operational.

    From Elkhead, it used 341 acre-feet of water, according to the River District, though it owns much more. Tri-State secured 2,500 acre-feet of water when the reservoir was expanded, plus it owns a portion of an 8,408 acre-foot pool shared by owners of Craig Station Units 1 and 2. Additionally, Tri-state owns 4,000 acre-feet of storage in Yamcolo Reservoir and 7,000 acre-feet in Stagecoach, according to the 2004 Yampa River Basin report.

    Tri-state would not divulge how much water it used from Stagecoach this year. According to historical data provided in the 2004 report, however, Craig Station’s annual water use averaged more than 11,000 acre-feet per year between 1985 and 1991. Again, Tri-state declined to provide more recent data.

    Decisions about how much water to release out of Elkhead are evaluated in a weekly phone call between the reservoir’s partners and users, state officials, meteorologists, irrigators, and other stakeholders, all led by Anderson. Water levels in the reservoir dropped slightly lower than average this year, down to 12 feet instead of 14 — revealing more shoreline than some are used to seeing — but recreational use of the reservoir by fisherman and boaters wasn’t significantly affected.

    The reservoir collects water from a 205-square-mile basin and reliably recharges with spring runoff each year. Water managers worry about what would happen if drought persisted for several years, but so far, Elkhead has offered a measure of security to Moffat County’s biggest water users.

    Elkhead Reservoir