“The snow was dense and heavy, so heavy we almost broke the shovel.”
From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):
The May 15th forecast for the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 990,000 acre-feet. This is 147% of the 30 year average. Snowpack in the Upper Gunnison Basin peaked at 143% of average. Blue Mesa Reservoir current content is 457,000 acre-feet which is 55% of full. Current elevation is 7473.2 ft. Maximum content at Blue Mesa Reservoir is 829,500 acre-feet at an elevation of 7519.4 ft.
Based on the May forecasts, the Black Canyon Water Right and Aspinall Unit ROD peak flow targets are listed below:
Black Canyon Water Right
The peak flow target is equal to 7,158 cfs for a duration of 24 hours.
The shoulder flow target is 966 cfs, for the period between May 1 and July 25.
Aspinall Unit Operations ROD
The year type is currently classified as Moderately Wet.
The peak flow target will be 14,350 cfs and the duration target at this flow will be 10 days.
The half bankfull target will be 8,070 cfs and the duration target at this flow will be 20 days.
(The criteria have been met for the drought rule that allows half-bankfull flows to be reduced from 40 days to 20 days.)
Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations ROD, releases from the Aspinall Unit will be made in an attempt to match the peak flow of the North Fork of the Gunnison River to maximize the potential of meeting the desired peak at the Whitewater gage, while simultaneously meeting the Black Canyon Water Right peak flow amount. The latest forecast for flows on the North Fork of the Gunnison River keeps river flows below their projected peak flow level for most of the 10 day forecast period. Warmer weather and higher flows are forecast to return by the first days of June.
Therefore ramp up for the spring peak operation will begin on Wednesday, May 22nd, with the intent of timing releases with this potential higher flow period on the North Fork of the Gunnison River. Releases from Crystal Dam will be ramped up according to the guidelines specified in the EIS, with 2 release changes per day, until Crystal begins to spill. The release schedule for Crystal Dam is:
Crystal Dam will be at full powerplant and bypass release on May 26th. Crystal Reservoir will begin spilling by May 27th and the peak release from Crystal Dam should be reached on May 30th or 31st. The flows in the Gunnison River after that date will be dependent on the timing of the spill and the level of tributary flow contribution. Estimates of those numbers will be determined in the upcoming days.
The current projection for spring peak operations shows flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon between 7,000 cfs and 8,000 cfs for 10 days in order to achieve the desired peak flow and duration at Whitewater. Actual flows will be dependent on the downstream contribution of the North Fork of the Gunnison River and other tributaries. Higher tributary flows will lead to lower releases from the Aspinall Unit and vice versa.
Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Matthew Rogers):
One of the nation’s most influential atmospheric science-oriented research institutes, based at Colorado State University, has been awarded a new $128 million cooperative agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, known as CIRA, supports a broad spectrum of NOAA research, including forecast model improvements, hurricane track and intensity forecasting, real-time satellite tools for the National Weather Service, and forecaster training on use of satellite observations.
First established in 1980 as a partnership between CSU and NOAA, CIRA is among just 16 cooperative institutes established at premier centers of research excellence across the country.
CIRA is a research center of CSU’s Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering. The institute is based on the foothills campus at Colorado State, with off-campus teams at NOAA labs in Boulder; Kansas City, Missouri; Washington, D.C.; and Miami, Florida.
CIRA is led by Christian Kummerow, a professor in CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Science.
“We’re very excited to reestablish this fruitful partnership between NOAA and CSU – one that’s lasted nearly four decades and stands on the shoulders of some of the preeminent scientists in our field,” said Steve Miller, CIRA acting director. “This award ensures that our satellite and model development expertise continues to improve NOAA’s regional and global weather forecasts while providing integrated weather information to meet growing needs of the operational weather forecaster.”
Meteorologists around the country rely upon NOAA satellite imagery and forecast models supported by CIRA on a daily basis. CIRA researchers make the connection between forecast models and real-time weather and climate observations, leading to better forecaster awareness and guidance to decision makers and the public.
CIRA leverages partnerships with other agencies, including NASA, the National Park Service (for air quality research), the National Science Foundation, the World Meteorological Organization, and the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy.
For example, CIRA plays a key role in data processing for NASA Earth science missions such as CloudSat, which probes the internal structure of clouds worldwide, and the forthcoming GeoCARB, which will measure global atmospheric carbon as it relates to climate change.
Among the recent contributions of CIRA to the NOAA enterprise:
Transforming massive volumes of satellite data into high-resolution imagery and tools for tracking hurricanes, wildfires, dust storms, and other high-impact weather events in real-time – informing decisions such as early evacuations during severe weather, helping to save lives. Exploiting the new generation of NOAA’s satellite technology to characterize the nighttime environment in new ways, and at unprecedented quality. Helping NOAA to develop, test, and deploy weather forecast models used operationally by the National Weather Service. Supporting forecasters dedicated to the nation’s commercial aviation sector – providing safe and efficient routing for domestic and international flights. The NOAA award is renewable for a second five-year period upon successful mid-term review.
For more information about CIRA, visit: http://www.cira.colostate.edu.
From the Environmental Defense Fund (Brian Jackson):
The Colorado Legislature approved a bill [May 3, 2019] for a measure to legalize sports betting and dedicate a 10% tax on net profits to protect and conserve our state’s water. The measure will go to voters for approval this fall.
The bill enjoyed widespread, bipartisan support, clearing the House in a 58-6 vote and the Senate in a 27-8 vote. Environmental Defense Fund was a key member of a large, diverse coalition of supporters of the bill, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado River District, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver Water, Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates.
Colorado is one of several states considering a sports betting tax since a Supreme Court decision last year gave states such authority.
“Colorado leaders are making a safe bet to ensure a more resilient future for our thriving communities, agriculture, businesses, recreation and wildlife. We are hopeful voters will recognize the urgent need to protect our most precious resource, water, and that this measure will be a slam dunk at the ballot box this fall.”
From the Environmental Defense Fund (Brian Jackson):
Here’s a pop quiz: What are two finite resources in the West?
If you answered money and water, you win. This is especially true when it comes to money for water in the state of Colorado, where hurdles for raising new funds are particularly high.
It’s a rare opportunity when new money bubbles up for water projects in the Centennial State. But that is exactly what is happening as a result of a bill approved this week with strong bipartisan support in the Legislature.
The bill, HB 1327, proposes to raise new money to protect and conserve water in Colorado by legalizing sports betting and imposing a 10% tax on its revenue. But legislative approval isn’t the final play. State legislators are handing off the measure to voters for a final decision at the ballot box this fall.
Down payment on much larger need
The measure could raise roughly $10 million to $20 million a year – a down payment on the $100 million that Colorado’s Water Plan is estimated to need annually for the next 30 years to secure the state’s water into the future. Colorado’s population is projected to double by 2050. But at current usage rates, the state’s water supply will not keep up unless Colorado establishes a dedicated public funding source to protect it.
Since the water plan was developed in 2015, Environmental Defense Fund and partners have been looking for creative ways to fund and implement it. Nearly a year ago, a Supreme Court ruling authorized states to legalize sports betting. Since then, 40 states and the District of Columbia have proposed or enacted laws to legalize, study or regulate sports betting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
EDF has been a key player on a large, diverse team of supporters of the Colorado measure, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado River District, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver Water, Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates.
Revenue would go to a Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund governed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to support a variety of water projects, including conservation, river health, storage, water education and outreach.
Funds from the measure would make an immediate impact across the state. For instance, in Durango, $500,000 would fund the first phase of restoration of the watershed damaged in the 416 fire, which burned 54,000 acres of mostly Forest Service lands last year. Steamboat Springs could begin a $4 million floodplain restoration. Both projects would protect vulnerable water supplies.
Here’s the release from Arizona State University (Karin Valentine):
An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Arizona State University has received a $1 million grant from NASA’s Earth Science Division to provide long-range scenarios for water management for the Colorado River Basin.
“Water management is a pressing issue for Arizona,” said Enrique Vivoni, principal investigator of the project and professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. “This grant will assist in helping local, state and federal entities with their drought contingency planning.”
Arizona depends heavily on the Colorado River Basin, the drainage area of the Colorado River that includes parts of seven states in the U.S. and the country of Mexico and supplies the majority of the state’s current renewable water.
With this grant, the team will provide a comprehensive evaluation of climate and land-use changes and how these impact the Colorado River Basin. Data collection for the study will involve Earth-observing satellites as well as ground data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other entities.
The Colorado River is one of the most engineered watersheds in the world with three major tributaries and 10 major regulating reservoirs. In the U.S. and Mexico, the river supplies more than 40 million people with renewable water in nine states, 22 Native American nations and 22 national parks and refuges. It is also used to irrigate 5.5 million acres of agricultural land and to produce 4,180 MWh of hydroelectric power.
This crucial water resource is currently under threat from rising demands linked to population growth and economic activities, as well as declining amounts of available streamflow and reservoir storage.
“The focus on a major freshwater source in the Colorado River Basin and how it impacts stakeholders highlights how and where we want to target NASA Earth observations and science to meet our freshwater management challenges,” said Bradley Doorn of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate Earth Science Division. “We are focusing on advancing the use of satellite observations and hydrologic modeling to monitor and assess local and regional water quality and quantity for improving water resource decisions.”
For this grant, ASU has partnered with Central Arizona Project (CAP), Arizona’s largest resource for renewable water supplies. CAP brings water from the Colorado River to central and southern Arizona via aqueducts, tunnels, pumping plants and pipelines.
Mohammed Mahmoud, a senior policy analyst at CAP and co-investigator on the grant team, will provide expertise on the Colorado River management system.
“The work produced by this project will be beneficial not only to CAP, but to many of our partners in the Colorado River Basin,” said Mahmoud. “We are fortunate to have been a selected recipient of this grant. This is a testament to the quality and importance of the work in the submitted proposal, which was made possible by our continued partnership with professor Vivoni and his team at ASU.”
In addition to Vivoni and Mahmoud, the interdisciplinary team includes ASU co-investigators Theodore Bohn of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Dave White of the School of Community Resources and Development and director of the Decision Center for a Desert City, Giuseppe Mascaro of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and graduate students Kristen Whitney of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Zhaocheng Wang of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.
From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Nicole Seltzer):
Boring. Arcane. Those are words I hear when I ask people their opinions on water management. If you don’t own a water right or rely on water for your paycheck, it’s usually an afterthought in the grand scheme of things.
Until it isn’t.
Until there isn’t enough water in the river to bring in tourism dollars. Until low river levels mean ranchers without senior water rights must stop irrigating hay fields. Until water levels in Nevada’s Lake Powell go low enough to require all Colorado water users to send more water downstream. These realities are at the forefront for only a small percentage of people, but the rest of us will notice the ripple effects eventually.
One of the reasons I moved to Routt County a few years ago was the slow pace of change. Having witnessed 15 years of Front Range growth, I was ready to celebrate the value of maintaining the status quo. The Yampa River is healthy and hard working, and most water users don’t face imminent threats. But we can’t let the lack of an emergency blind us to a slow accumulation of changes that require good planning.
That’s why I am involved in helping the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable develop the first Integrated Water Management Plan for the Yampa River basin. The planning effort takes advantage of state grant dollars available for water planning. A coalition of Basin Roundtable members, local water agencies and NGO partners has raised over $500,000 to make progress on roundtable goals and build relationships with water users.
This plan will combine top-down and bottom-up tactics. The roundtable is currently hiring segment coordinators to meet with water users and other stakeholders to understand the opportunities they see and the challenges they face. They will also hire science and engineering experts to characterize existing conditions and identify future trends.
The outcome of the plan will be a prioritized list of actions that users can take to protect existing and future water uses and support healthy river ecosystems in the face of growing populations, changing land uses and climate uncertainty. The roundtable has its own grants to help fund implementation of those actions and will identify federal, state and local partners that can contribute as well.
The plan is just starting to take shape, and there will be ample opportunity for involvement. You can learn more at yampawhitegreen.com.
Nicole Seltzer is the science and policy manager for River Network, a national nonprofit that empowers and unites people and communities to protect and restore rivers. She lives in Oak Creek and now owns more irrigation boots than high heels.