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Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor:
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
This Week’s Drought Summary
Pacific weather systems migrated across the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) in a fairly westerly jet stream flow during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week. East of the Rockies, they tapped Gulf of Mexico moisture and dropped above-normal precipitation in a storm track that stretched from Texas to the Great Lakes. The jet stream flow amplified as the week progressed, producing a strong trough over the eastern CONUS with a ridge migrating across the West into the central CONUS. Cold arctic air was directed by the trough into the East behind surface frontal low pressure systems. The Pacific fronts dropped precipitation along the coastal ranges, but the air masses quickly dried out as they crossed the interior West, resulting in below-normal precipitation from the High Plains west to the coastal ranges. The Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts were mostly drier than normal. Weekly temperatures were warmer than normal from Texas to the Mid-Atlantic, and colder than normal along the West Coast and northern to central Plains. Drought and abnormal dryness expanded across parts of the West, southern Plains and Gulf Coast, and Mid-Atlantic coast, but contracted in parts of the northern Rockies and southern to central Plains, as well as Hawaii and the Alaska panhandle…
Half an inch or more of precipitation fell across parts of the eastern Dakotas and eastern Kansas, with less than half an inch westward. Very little to no precipitation occurred across large parts of the western High Plains from Colorado to the Dakotas. D0 was trimmed in parts of southern Nebraska and adjacent Kansas. But D0 expanded in northeast Colorado into adjacent Nebraska, and a spot of D0 was added in north central Wyoming. Dry conditions were evident in northeast Colorado in many indices, especially SPI, SPEI, soil moisture, and groundwater indicators, and most notably at the 4-month time scale. Temperatures have been warmer than normal in this area, December was drier than normal, and very little precipitation has fallen in January. An area to watch is southeast Colorado, where reports note that winter wheat is suffering and soils are very dry, and evaporative demand (as measured by the EDDI [Evaporative Drought Demand Index]) is high, indicating the occurrence of warm temperatures, low humidity, and higher winds…
The Pacific weather systems have brought precipitation to coastal Oregon, Washington, and northern California this week, with 2 to locally over 5 inches measured in favored upslope areas. But this is the wet season and precipitation normals are high, so only a few parts of southwest Oregon, northwest California, and northwest Washington were wetter than normal for the week. The rain soaks the coastal soils and makes it wet in the short term, but the bigger hydrological picture is dry. Precipitation in the Pacific Northwest is below to much below normal for the water year to date (beginning October 1, 2019), and mountain snowpack is below normal in many areas. The Pacific fronts move quickly across the region, drying out as they cross the coastal ranges and leaving below-normal precipitation in interior Washington and Oregon. Streams are near to above normal along the coast, but below normal east of the coastal ranges. Other indicators reveal dryness east of the coastal ranges, including soil moisture, SPI, and SPEI, especially for the 1 to 9 month time scales. As a result, the 3 D1 areas in interior Washington and Oregon were joined, and D0 expanded in northeast Washington. D0-D1 expanded in southeast Idaho and D0 expanded in southwest Montana, where 3-month precipitation deficits were notable. But above-normal precipitation over the last 30 days prompted contraction of D0 in the Idaho panhandle and adjacent Montana, and in parts of eastern Idaho. The impacts indicator in the Pacific Northwest was changed from S to SL to indicate both short-term and long-term precipitation deficits…
Bands of 2+ inch precipitation occurred across parts of Texas into central Oklahoma, and from eastern Texas into Mississippi, with some reports exceeding 5 inches. Half an inch or more of precipitation surrounded these areas across the region. But some areas had less than half an inch, including parts of western, southern, and east-central Texas, western Oklahoma, southeast Louisiana, and parts of Arkansas. For the dry areas, this week’s subnormal precipitation added to deficits stretching back 6 months or more. For the areas that were wet this week, the precipitation helped with short-term deficits, but longer-term deficits remained and were especially still severe at the 6-month time frame. The D2 in southwest Oklahoma was eliminated and its surrounding D0-D1 contracted. D0-D3 was contracted in the wet areas of Texas, but D0-D2 expanded in the dry areas. D0-D1 contracted in northwest Louisiana into adjacent Texas. Three-month precipitation deficits prompted expansion of D0 along the Louisiana coast into southern Mississippi…
Pacific weather systems will continue to cross the CONUS in a westerly jet stream flow. For January 23-28, 3 or more inches of precipitation is forecast for the northern California to Washington coast and coastal ranges, with an inch or more across parts of the Rockies, especially the northern Rockies. An inch or more of precipitation will be widespread from central Texas to the Tennessee Valley, across parts of the central Plains to Midwest, and from northeast Georgia to New England. Half an inch or less of precipitation is predicted for the rest of the West to central and northern Plains, and parts of Florida and the Great Lakes. Temperatures are forecast to be warmer than normal for much of the CONUS. For January 29-February 1, odds favor above-normal precipitation across eastern Alaska and the panhandle as well as most of the CONUS. Below-normal precipitation is expected for western Alaska, parts of the southwestern CONUS, and northern portions of the Great Lakes and New England. Odds favor a continuation of warmer-than-normal temperatures across most of the CONUS and the Alaska panhandle, with below-normal temperatures in the Four Corners area and across most of Alaska.
From The Arvada Press (Casey Van Divier):
A court ruling from the end of 2019 determined Denver Water officials must obtain an additional permit for the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — a project that Arvada is depending on so it can continue developing land…
Arvada has a contract to purchase raw water from the reservoir and, in return, is sharing the cost of the project with Denver Water…
Denver Water is one of two sources through which Arvada obtains its water, with the other being Clear Creek, said Jim Sullivan, the city’s former director of utilities.
In total, the city has the rights to roughly 25,000 acre-feet of water, with about 19,000 of that provided through its existing contract with Denver Water, he said.
“We have a comprehensive plan that shows what the city limits will eventually grow to” by 2065, when an estimated 155,000 people will live in Arvada, Sullivan said. This plan would require approximately 3,000 additional acre-feet of water, which will be provided by the expansion project.
If the project was canceled, the city would need to halt development until it could secure alternate resources, Sullivan said.
Those other resources “have been harder and harder to come by,” said Arvada water treatment manager Brad Wyant. Other entities have already laid claim to the other major water supplies in the area, he and Sullivan said.
“The next big water project will be some kind of diversion of water from the Western Slope to the Denver area,” Sullivan said. This would be a major endeavor and “there’s nothing even on the horizon at this point,” he said, making the success of the Gross project a necessity for Arvada development.
So far, the city has contributed about $3 million to the project, with plans to contribute about $100 million by 2030.
The contributions are funded through Arvada Water’s capital improvement budget, which consists of one-time tap fees that customers pay when they first connect to the Arvada Water system. Resident’s bimonthly water billing funds ongoing operations and will not be used for the Gross project, Sullivan said.
Denver Water has estimated the project will cost a total of $464 million.
Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Boris Kondratieff):
Editor’s note: Boris Kondratieff, professor of entomology and curator of the C. P. Gillette Museum of Arthropod Diversity at Colorado State University, wrote this piece for The Conversation in January 2020. Colorado State is a contributing institution to The Conversation, an independent collaboration between editors and academics that provides informed news analysis and commentary to the general public. See the entire list of contributing faculty and their articles here.
Experienced anglers recognize that for a trout, the ultimate “steak dinner” is a stonefly or mayfly. That’s why fly fishing enthusiasts will go to extreme lengths to imitate these graceful, elegant and fragile insects.
I share their passion, but for different reasons. As a an entomologist who has studied stoneflies and mayflies for over 40 years, I’ve discovered these insects have value far beyond luring trout – they are indicators of water quality in streams and are a crucial piece of the larger food web. And they are in trouble.
I have served as director of the C. P. Gillette Museum of Arthropod Diversity since 1986. The greatest thrill of my career has been collecting and adding mayflies and stoneflies to our collection.
To find specimens, I have traveled to pristine streams in every U.S. state, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Brazil, Ecuador, the Arabian Peninsula and Europe. My collecting trips have yielded more than 100 new species of mayflies and stoneflies.
One of my favorites literally fell into my lap as I was beating lush foliage along a pristine stream in southern Oregon during May 2014. The beating sheet is an efficient means of sampling dense, streamside vegetation, where adult insects hide. The sheet itself is made of sturdy canvas stretched over two wooden cross members. A stick is used to knock the insects from the vegetation onto the canvas, where they are collected.
When I saw a large yellow and black insect drop onto my sheet, I knew immediately it was a new stonefly species, previously unknown to science. I was ecstatic. My colleagues and I subsequently described it as Kathroperla siskiyou, after the Siskiyou mountains of southern Oregon.
Mayflies and stoneflies thrive in unpolluted water – a fact my colleagues and I have witnessed firsthand on our numerous expeditions. Not only do we see greater overall abundance of these insects in clean streams, but more diversity of species, as well. In polluted areas, we observe the exact opposite. Without a doubt, the presence or absence of mayflies and stoneflies in a stream is a reliable indicator of the quality of its water.
The role of mayflies and stoneflies in the food chain is fundamental, as well. Immature mayflies and stoneflies consume algae, living plants, dead leaves, wood and each other. In this nymph phase, when they have gills and live exclusively underwater, they are an important food source for many animals further up the food chain, including fish and wading birds. When the mayflies and stoneflies emerge from the water as adults, they are essential food for spiders, other insects such as dragonflies and damselflies, and many kinds of birds and bats.
Currently, scientists estimate that 33% of all aquatic insects are threatened with extinction worldwide. Many of these species are mayflies and stoneflies. The mayfly species Ephemera compar has already gone extinct in Colorado, and several other species of aquatic insects are threatened in my home state.
Life drains into a stream
Less than 1% of Earth’s water is potable and available for human use. Maintaining water quality has become an ever increasing challenge because of the large number of chemicals people use in everyday life and in commerce. Common contaminants such as sediment, organic enrichment including fertilizers and animal waste and heavy metals are constantly making their way into the waters, as well. Declining water quality is like a police siren alerting humanity to current, ongoing and emerging pollution problems.
One of my great passions is to enlighten others on how to protect the most valuable natural resource of the planet: streams and rivers. Individually, citizens can make a difference. Storm water is the number one water quality problem nationally. Enhancing and planting riparian buffers – that is, planted areas near streams – can help to prevent precipitation and sprinkler runoff. People can also prioritize using only native plants; decreasing mowing areas; recycling or composting yard waste; using less or no fertilizer; avoiding the use of pesticides; and bagging pet waste. Insisting that environmental laws be enforced and strengthened will also help reduce water pollution.
Without clean water, life on Earth will become difficult or impossible for mayflies and stoneflies, not to mention people.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
From KNAU (Ryan Hensius):
A Virginia-based company has proposed a hydro-storage facility on the Navajo Nation near Lake Powell. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it’s the latest hydro proposal to harness Colorado River water.
The company Daybreak Power has proposed a 2,210-megawatt facility near the south shore of Lake Powell. It’s dubbed the Navajo Energy Storage Station. According to the company, it would use solar and wind energy to pump lake water to a 6-billion-gallon upper reservoir and then release it, generating 10 hours of electricity daily. The project would include a 131-foot concrete dam and other infrastructure. The $3.6 billion project would also utilize power lines left from the now-closed Navajo Generating Station to deliver electricity to Arizona, Nevada and Southern California.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accepted Daybreak Power’s preliminary application last week.
From The New York Times (Carol Davenport):
The Trump administration on Thursday will finalize a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and other water bodies, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens.
From Day 1 of his administration, President Trump vowed to repeal President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, which had frustrated rural landowners. His new rule, which will be implemented in the coming weeks, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s push to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws, loosening or eliminating rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling and endangered species protections…
His administration had completed the first step of its demise in September with the rule’s repeal.
His replacement on Thursday will complete the process, not only rolling back 2015 rules that guaranteed protections under the 1972 Clean Water Act to certain wetlands and streams that run intermittently or run temporarily underground, but also relieves landowners of the need to seek permits that the Environmental Protection Agency had considered on a case-by-case basis before the Obama rule.
It also gives President Trump a major policy achievement to bring to his political base while his impeachment trial continues.
“Farmers coalesced against the E.P.A. being able to come onto their land, and he’s delivering,” said Jessica Flanagain, a Republican strategist in Lincoln, Neb. “This is bigger news for agricultural producers than whatever is happening with the sideshow in D.C.,” she added…
The new water rule will remove federal protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands, and hundreds of thousands of small waterways. That would for the first time in decades allow landowners and property developers to dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into many of those waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects.
“This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen,” said Blan Holman, a lawyer specializing in federal water policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.”
Mr. Holman also said that the new rule exemplifies how the Trump administration has dismissed or marginalized scientific evidence. Last month, a government advisory board of scientists, many of whom were handpicked by the Trump administration, wrote that the proposed water rule “neglects established science.”
The Obama rule protected about 60 percent of the nation’s waterways, including large bodies of water such as the Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi River and Puget Sound, and smaller headwaters, wetlands, seasonal streams and streams that run temporarily underground. It limited the discharge of pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and industrial chemicals into those waters…
The new rule, written by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, will retain federal protections of large bodies of water, as well as larger rivers and streams that flow into them and wetlands that lie adjacent to them. But it removes protections for many other waters, including wetlands that are not adjacent to large bodies of water, some seasonal streams that flow for only a portion of the year, “ephemeral” streams that only flow after rainstorms, and water that temporarily flows through underground passages.
Legal experts say that Mr. Trump’s replacement rule would go further than simply repealing and replacing the 2015 Obama rule — it would also eliminate protections to smaller headwaters that have been implemented for decades under the 1972 Clean Water Act.
“This is rolling back federal jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act further than it’s ever been before,” said Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School. “Waters that have been protected for almost 50 years will no longer be protected under the Clean Water Act.”
That could open millions of acres of pristine wetlands to pollution or destruction, and allow chemicals and other pollutants to be discharged into smaller headland waters that eventually drain into larger water bodies, experts in water management said. Wetlands play key roles in filtering surface water and protecting against floods, while also providing wildlife habitat.
Ean Thomas Tafoya, a Colorado-based clean water activist with the group GreenLatinos, said the new rule could harm the quality of the water in the Colorado River, which supplies water to 17 western states.
“We are a headwater state,” he said. “This rollback will affect almost every single stream that flows into the Colorado River.”
Mr. Tafoya said about 90 percent of the streams that supply the Colorado River run only after rainfall or snowmelt. Under the new Trump water rule, many of those streams will not qualify for federal pollution protection. But Mr. Tafoya said pollutants such as chemical pesticides that end up in those dry stream beds could nonetheless be swept into larger bodies of water when the streams begin running after the spring thaw of mountain snow.
“The toxics or poisons that lie dormant will still be there when the streams are reactivated,” he said. “They will still get into the larger bodies of water.”
Government scientists, even those appointed by the Trump administration, say those concerns are justified. The E.P.A.’s Scientific Advisory Board, a panel of 41 scientists responsible for evaluating the scientific integrity of the agency’s regulations, concluded that the new Trump water rule ignores science by “failing to acknowledge watershed systems.” They found “no scientific justification” for excluding certain bodies of water from protection under the new regulations, concluding that pollutants from those smaller and seasonal bodies of water can still have a significant impact on the health of larger water systems.
Those scientific findings, although they are not reflected in the administration’s policy, could still play a role in the fate of the new rule. Several state attorneys general are expected to join with environmental groups to sue to overturn the Trump water rule, and those groups are likely to cite those findings as evidence that the rule is not legally sound.
“The legal standing all has to do with whether you have a rational basis for what you’re doing,” said Mr. Parenteau. “And when you have experts saying you’re not adhering to the science, that’s not rational, it’s arbitrary.”