#Drought news: Improved depiction for W. #Colorado

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

Summary

During the U.S. Drought Monitor week ending on December 4, 2018, a powerful storm system impacted much of the continental United States. The storm delivered heavy rain and mountain snow to the West, snow and wind to parts of the Plains and upper Midwest, and severe weather and tornadoes to the mid-Mississippi valley and Southeast coast. The precipitation with this storm brought improvements to drought areas in parts of the Sierra Nevada and Central Valley and helped to relieve long-term deficits in parts of the Intermountain West and Plains. With the exception of the Florida Peninsula, all remaining drought areas east of the Mississippi River have been eliminated. Degradations this week were limited to an expansion of abnormally dry conditions in Texas…

High Plains

Moderate to heavy precipitation from this weekend’s storm, in the forms of rain and wind driven snow, fell roughly from the western reaches of the Dakotas to the northern half of Kansas. The precipitation allowed for the removal of moderate drought in east-central Kansas. While last week’s snowfall in the Dakotas was near normal for this time of year, long-term precipitation deficits have shown recovery, resulting in the removal of moderate drought in South Dakota and reductions in North Dakota. Moderate drought and abnormal dryness remain in those areas still experiencing low groundwater levels, soil moisture shortages, and long-term precipitation deficits…

West

Widespread rain and snow fell across the region over the past week. Heavy snowfall in the Sierra Nevada and precipitation in the Central Valley led to improvements in these areas. These changes were made in coordination with local experts and supported by improvements in a number of indicators, including precipitation indices, snow water equivalent, and soil moisture. The drought depiction in northern California was changed to “SL” as signals for drought are now apparent in both short and long term data. Recent precipitation in the Intermountain West improved current snowpack and long-term precipitation deficits, resulting in widespread improvements to long-term drought conditions in Utah, Colorado, and northeast Arizona…

South

Rainfall from this weekend’s storm affected parts of eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana, which allowed for a slight reduction in moderate drought in northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas. Other than this moderate drought area, no other changes to drought were made, and the region remained drought free with the exception of the Texas Panhandle and northeast Oklahoma…

Looking Ahead

Over the next week, cold air is expected to remain entrenched across parts of the central and eastern United States. One storm system is forecast to traverse the southern US from late this week through the weekend. With ample amounts of moisture available, the National Weather Service quantitative precipitation forecast calls for moderate to heavy precipitation in the form of rain, snow, and some areas of a wintry mix from parts of the Southern Plains eastward into the Southeast. Elsewhere, another storm system is expected to move in from the Pacific early next week, bringing additional precipitation to the west coast states. In between these two storm systems, a ridge in the jet stream will deliver dry conditions to the Plains and Midwest.

US Drought Monitor Change Map November 27 compared to December 4, 2018.

#ColoradoRiver: The Gila River Indian Community Council votes unanimously to approve water deal with @CAPArizona #COriver #aridification

The Central Arizona Aqueduct delivers water from the Colorado River to underground aquifers in southern Arizona. UT researcher Bridget Scanlon recommends more water storage projects like the aqueduct to help protect against variability in the river’s water supply. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

From The Phoenix New Times (Elizabeth Whitman):

Under the deal, the Gila River Indian Community would supply the district, often referred to as CAGRD, with up to 830,000 acre-feet of desperately needed water over the next 25 years, starting in 2020. The board of the Central Arizona Project, which governs CAGRD, approved the deal in a meeting at the beginning of November.

The deal would help ensure that developers in Arizona can continue to build well into the future…

“We believe our action today helps build momentum to have Arizona approve DCP and protect Lake Mead, but at the same time ensure that water supplies are available for an important sector of Arizona’s economy,” Gila River Indian Community Govenor Stephen Roe Lewis said in a statement Wednesday.

But, in a strategic move as DCP negotiations continue, Lewis has not yet signed the deal between the Gila River Indian Community and CAGRD.

That moment will have to wait until Arizona’s DCP is passed by the Arizona Legislature and signed by the state. In other words, if the DCP doesn’t happen, neither does the CAGRD deal.

Lewis alluded to this contingency in his statement Wednesday, as he explained how the negotiations for the CAGRD deal had proceeded in recent months.

“The Community had been very concerned that DCP might not happen and was re-examining whether these agreements were the best use of our water supplies in times of shortage,” he said. “As a result, we had been waiting to see whether DCP was a realistic possibility or whether we should wait and perhaps move in a different direction.”

In the contentious world of Arizona water politics, the CAGRD deal is closely linked with ongoing DCP discussions, in which Arizona water users are working out how they’ll distribute expected cuts in the state’s supply of Colorado River water…

Under the deal, Gila River Water Storage, a water-storage company formed jointly by the Gila River Indian Community and Salt River Project, will sell 445,375 acre-feet of long-term storage credits to CAGRD. An acre-foot is roughly 326,000 gallons.

Long-term storage credits are crucial to CAGRD, an entity that helps developers meet requirements under the 1980 Groundwater Management Act to show that their water supply is secure for at least the next 100 years. If developers don’t have 100 years’ worth of water wherever they’re developing, they can enroll in CAGRD and gain access to this future supply.

They can do this because of long-term storage credits. Water users earn these credits when they store water underground for more than a year. The credits, which can be transferred, give whoever holds them the right to recover that water in the future.

Without the deal with the Gila River Indian Community, if a drought were declared on the Colorado River, CAGRD’s supply of long-term storage credits for Phoenix is project to hit a shortage in the year 2028 and to run out completely by 2030.

With the deal, CAGRD would have enough water to meet all of its obligations, even if there is a shortage on the Colorado River. Based on current environmental conditions, the federal Bureau of Reclamation projects that a shortage has a 57 percent chance of occurring in the year 2020.

The deal also creates a way for the Gila River Indian Community and CAGRD to swap supplies of water stored underground with surface water from the Colorado River. The infrastructure for that exchange would cost $2.5 million. The deal allows CAGRD to lease Colorado River water from the Gila River Indian Community.

The Central Arizona Project plans to pay for this plan by increasing the cost of water deliveries in Phoenix and potentially in Tucson.

Starting in 2020, rates would increase 11 to 15 percent over the next two or three years. That translates to a total average increase of $3.11 per month, per home, by the end of the third year. After that, the impact on rates would be “small,” according to CAP.

From KJZZ (Bret Jaspers):

The board of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District meets Thursday in yet another high-stakes moment in the state’s effort to agree on a drought plan for the Colorado River.

The board could vote — or not — on a drought framework described last week in a meeting of the Arizona Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee.

The state’s plan has the backing of Gov. Ducey, Native American tribes and Valley cities, but was greeted with skepticism by Pinal County farmers and home builders.

A proposed “Friendly Amendment” to the plan, introduced to the Steering Committee last week by CAWCD board member Karen Cesare, asked for 21,000 acre-feet of water to mitigate developers, spread out over three years.

It would also re-apportion some of the water that the Colorado River Indian Tribes in Western Arizona would provide through a farm fallowing program. Instead of storing it all in Lake Mead to keep the level healthy, some would go towards the state’s required water cutbacks under the basin-wide DCP. That change could potentially make more water available for developers and Pinal County farmers who are at the end of the line for Colorado River water (and therefore, the first to be cut).

The idea, however, is unlikely to pass muster with on-river water users in Yuma and Mohave Counties. Those communities are against any on-river allocation being redirected to central Arizona, something Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke wrote in a letter to CAWCD Board President Lisa Atkins and Cesare.

At least one development group, Valley Partnership, thinks the amendment isn’t needed because a separate deal between the Gila River Indian Community and the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District will come through.

#AnimasRiver: No immediate long-term effects from #GoldKingMine spill according to @EPA

Click here to read the report. Here’s the executive summary:

Executive Summary

In response to the Gold King Mine (GKM) release on August 5, 2015, EPA mobilized field crews to sample water, sediment, and biological data from river segments impacted by the plume. Rivers downstream of the GKM release included the Animas River near Silverton, CO to its confluence with the San Juan River in Farmington NM, and the San Juan River from the Animas confluence to Lake Powell in Utah. A detailed examination of the water chemistry and sediment data collected from the Animas and San Juan rivers is presented in the EPA ORD report Analysis of the Transport and Fate of Metals Released from the Gold King Mine in the Animas and San Juan Rivers (EPA/600/R-16/296).
In this report, EPA presents its analysis of available biological data collected from the Animas and San Juan rivers to assess how the aquatic life responded to the GKM release. Biological communities provide a measure of water quality and aquatic habitat quality by responding to extreme events, such as the GKM release, and integrating stressors over time. Data gathered for this analysis include the EPA near-term (post-GKM release fall 2015) and long-term (fall 2016) biological monitoring of 30 locations, as well as biological data collected by federal, state, and tribal partners. The sampling and analysis approach was designed to evaluate potential changes in the species compositions, population abundance, and the concentration of metals in the tissue by comparing the post-GKM release data to the pre- release conditions.

Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

The upper Animas River immediately below the confluence with Cement Creek experienced the highest metal concentrations, the greatest number of water quality standards excursions, and the greatest deposition of GKM sediment, during and immediately following the GKM release. A significant increase in copper and decreases in manganese concentration were observed in benthic macroinvertebrate tissue in the near-term 2015 samples. Although these conditions existed, the pre- and post-GKM release analyses did not reveal any clear changes in the aquatic community. The lack of a biological response is largely because the aquatic life in this section of the river has been impacted for decades by legacy contamination from historic mine ore processing and ongoing acid mine drainage contamination. The sensitive macroinvertebrate and fish species that would be expected to respond to the GKM release were already extirpated from the upper reaches of the Animas River.

In the middle Animas River, we also did not observe a clear loss of, or change in the more sensitive macroinvertebrate and fish taxa that start to appear as one moves away from the concentrated historic mining operations in the headwaters. Our review of the Animas River adult fish population data collected by Colorado Parks and Wildlife near Durango agrees with existing state analyses, reports, and press releases that concluded fish were not exposed to acutely toxic concentrations in 2015. Naturally reproducing fish species (suckers and sculpin) and trout fry continue to be found in the Animas River at pre-release abundance levels weeks after and a year following the GKM release, however small bluehead suckers less than <200 mm were not observed in the 2016 data. The lack of a substantial biological response in this section of the river can be attributed to dilution of the plume, the dominant form of the metals was particulate rather than dissolved, and exposure duration was short, which resulted in fewer excursions of water quality standards.

Our analysis of fish tissue data collected by New Mexico Department of Game and Fish showed that many metals were significantly elevated in bluehead sucker and flannelmouth sucker liver and speckled dace muscle tissue samples collected in weeks after the GKM release in the lower Animas River. The degree of metal accumulation in liver differed by species, sampling location, and among the metals, with aluminum, cadmium, lead and manganese exhibiting the greatest concentrations. Cadmium and mercury in liver tissue and selenium in muscle were greater in the San Juan than in the Animas. When fish were sampled the following spring and fall in 2016, the concentration of metals in muscle/filet samples were similar to pre- release concentrations and were low throughout both rivers. For the most part, the elevated liver concentrations in 2015 did not translate to elevated muscle concentrations. Metal concentrations in muscle tissue never triggered human health consumption advisories. There were no fish population data available from this section of the Animas River to help us understand if the metal concentrations in fish tissue were sufficiently high to adversely affect the fish populations.

By the time the GKM plume reached its confluence with the San Juan River, total metal concentrations had declined by three orders of magnitude from what they were when the plume entered the Animas because of the combined effects of the dilution, chemical reactions, and deposition. The excursions of aquatic life water quality criteria in the San Juan were limited to metals that are also naturally high in the sediment and water.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fish population data for the San Juan River show that fish abundance in 2015 and 2016 was generally within pre-release levels. The exception to this was the abundance of bluehead sucker, flannelmouth sucker, and speckled dace in the middle reaches of the San Juan River. These species had historically low abundance in this area in both 2015 and 2016. The razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow and channel catfish, however, had high abundance in 2015 and 2016, which are potential predator/competitor species. We cannot conclude that changes in the physical (i.e., release from the Navajo dam resulting in a short duration of increased flow) and chemical conditions in the San Juan River during and after the plume contributed to changes in species abundance as, the aquatic life water quality criteria excursions were limited and the flow increase was similar to a moderate-sized storm event. It is as plausible that a combination of ecological (increase of predator/competitor species) and physical interactions, and/or fisheries management actions (stocking of razorback and pikeminnow), contributed to the observed changes.

With respect to metals accumulated in biota one-year post-GKM release, metal concentrations measured in benthic macroinvertebrate tissue and fish tissue generally track the gradient of concentrations measured in sediment and water through the watershed. The highest metal concentrations in tissue were typically observed in the upper Animas and the lowest concentrations were observed in the San Juan. Localized high metal concentrations were observed in the post-release tissue data; however, the location at which the high concentrations were observed was not consistent among years highlighting the high intra- and inter- site variability in tissue concentrations. In fall 2016, many metals were elevated in benthic macroinvertebrate tissue when compared to the pre-release concentration; however, the high concentrations were also observed in the upstream and tributary samples suggesting that something other than the GKM release contributed to the concentration change. Likely explanations include differences in sample collection methodologies between years and taxonomic differences between sampling locations. A comparison of pre- and post-GKM fish muscle data among data provider showed similar concentrations that did not exceed human health consumption screening advisory levels.

The EPA 2016 sampling was the first effort to obtain biological data that covered the entire Animas and San Juan rivers in a single sampling event with consistent sampling methods. Our ability to conduct a watershed-scale analysis of data collected by all partners was limited by the different sampling and analytical methods and revealed the need for a consistent sampling approach. This was especially true for studies focusing on bioaccumulation of metals. Future watershed-scale monitoring efforts should include the development of consistent sampling methods when an objective is to compare results to data collected from other areas of the watershed.

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

The EPA last week released a “Biological Response Report” that shows the agency’s analysis of the Gold King Mine spill…

Based on data from before and after the spill, the EPA “concluded there was no measurable changes to fish populations and bottom-dwelling organisms” after the Gold King Mine blowout.

The EPA said aquatic life in the river near Silverton had already been killed off from decades of legacy contamination from historic mine ore processing and ongoing acid mine drainage contamination.

In Durango, where aquatic life does exist, populations were not affected because the spill had been diluted, the metals were not toxic and the time of exposure was relatively short, the EPA said.

The EPA said that while some fish accumulated metals after the mine release, water quality returned to normal when samples were taken the next spring.

The study highlights what many researchers in the watershed have known for some time: The Gold King Mine spill’s tangible effect on the environment has been relatively small.

Just days after the Aug. 5, 2015, spill, Colorado Parks and Wildlife placed more than 100 hatchery fish along the Animas River. None of the fish died.

In August, San Juan Basin Public Health released the results of a three-year water-quality study, also finding the Gold King Mine spill had no lasting impacts.

Mountain Studies Institute, which has extensively monitored the river since the spill, has long maintained aquatic life had not been seriously affected. Recently, the group released a study that showed the 416 Fire runoff was by far more impactful.

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

Grand Junction councillors approve 2019 budget

Grand Junction back in the day with the Grand Mesa in background

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Amy Hamilton):

Councilors unanimously voted 7-0 during their public meeting to approve the city’s budget for next year, a plan which is $12.6 million more than the city’s 2018 approved budget…

Sales tax revenues have increased by an average 8 percent this year, thanks to a rebounding economy, that has revealed a tight labor market and a low unemployment rate, said Greg Caton, Grand Junction’s city manager…

Water rates will increase $1.14 a month from $19 to $20.14 for the minimum water usage of 3,000 gallons per month…

Step rate increases for water are based on a 10-year plan based on financial needs and intended to increase slowly over time instead of hitting ratepayers with large increases, the city said in its report.