June/July 2020 Newsletter is hot off the presses from The Water Information Program

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Basin Implementation Plan Update
Ed Tolen, SW Basin 1st Vice Chair, explained that in January a sub-committee was set up to select a local expert to work with the SW Basin Roundtable on updating the Basin Implementation Plan (BIP). From the proposals received the committee chose Harris Water Engineers to be local expert. Steve Harris (Harris Water Engineering) will no longer participate on the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) or the SW Basin Roundtable, and Carrie Padgett, P.E. of Harris Water will also step down from the SW Basin Roundtable. Roundtable elections will take place in October, Officer elections will take place in July.

There will be a team approach to working on the BIP update that will include the SW Basin Roundtable, the Local Experts (Harris Water Engineers), who work with the General Contractor (Brown and Caldwell) and the CWCB.

Matt Lindberg with Brown/Caldwell, the General Contractor, gave a presentation on next steps regarding the BIP review process. The purpose of the review and update is to improve project data, unpack technical update, revisit goals and objectives and invest in process efficiency.

The timeline for the BIP update is as follows:

  • March – August 2020 – Local Expert Workshops, Work Plans and Project lists.
  • September – December 2020 – Basin Analysis/Study
  • January – December 2021 – Update the Basin Implementation Plan
  • December to March 2022 – Incorporate Updated BIP’s into the Water Plan Update
  • To view the full Technical Update to the Colorado Water Plan go here.

    #Runoff news: San Juan River at Pagosa Springs = 31.5 CFS, median for day = 224 CFS

    From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chris Mannara):

    River report

    As of Wednesday, the San Juan River had a flow of 51.5 cfs. This total is well below the average for July 8, which is 466 cfs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The highest reported flow total for the San Juan River came in 1995 when the river had a reported flow of 2,200 cfs.

    The lowest flow total for the San Juan River came in 2002 when the river had a reported flow of just 18.6 cfs.

    Find the opportunities during #drought — The Fence Post

    Cattle in a pasture along the Gunnison River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From the Fence Post (Teresa Clark):

    In his own operation, [Jim] Faulstich has used drought to improve genetics and clean up problem animals. He keeps two herds of cattle. The second group of cows are ones with problems like big bags, bad eyes or a not so perfect disposition. He keeps these cows with his heifers and breeds them for a short season. “If I need to pull the trigger because it’s dry and we don’t have enough forage, I can easily disperse those,” he said. “It’s nice to have that option.”

    Haigh reminds producers how important it is to maximize the health and flexibility of an operation before drought. “Monitor the health of resources and precipitation, as well as soil moisture and the plant, itself,” she said. “Maximizing the health of resources can be through the grazing system or adjusting the stocking rate and resource base. Maximizing the hydrologic base and plant diversity in the rangeland system are also important.”

    Faulstich sees drought as an opportunity to improve infrastructure and natural resources on the ranch. “During a drought, the government will usually step forward with emergency cost-share programs,” he said. “I take advantage of that by putting in waterlines and new water sources. On our operation, we have made natural resources a priority. As a result, we have an increase in wildlife, which is a good indicator of how healthy our land is.”

    Drought has also shown Faulstich the importance of wetlands, and how they can be used to survive a drought. “Wetlands have saved us a number of times when it is dry,” he said. “We have windrowed cattails, chopped them up and poured molasses on them. One winter, we fed them to the cows along with some ear corn I was able to buy.”

    “While we can’t control whether or not it rains, we can control what we do before, during and after drought,” Haigh said. “Recovery can really change the impact drought can have. The more we can do to minimize the impact, the better off we are.”


    A drought plan could be more accurately called a disaster plan, Faulstich said, because it should also cover other disasters like fire, storms and insect damage. “Every operation is different, so there is no drought plan that will be the exact same as someone else. It applies to large operations as well as small ones,” he said “Profitability, sustainability, and resilience are all important to the ranching business, and they require working with nature, diversity, flexibility and soil health.”

    In a drought situation, Faulstich said the decisions made are the result of basic business plans he learned the hard way. He points out a photo from his own operation where a piece of land looks grazed to the ground. “It was actually one of the nicest pieces we ever had. It was 18 inches to 2 feet tall, and then we got snow and 3 inches of rain on it. It formed a layer of ice and was just like concrete. There was no grazing left. It was our winter pasture, and if we wouldn’t have had a drought plan, we wouldn’t have been prepared for it,” he said. “It is situations like this that bring us that much closer to be ready for a drought.”

    Another year, they left one acre plots of corn in the field, harvesting strips in-between those one acre plots. “We moved those cows every day, but it was the cheapest we had ever wintered cows. We grazed 320 cows per acre per day,” he said. “A lot of it was poor quality corn where some didn’t tassel or make ears. It was a way to utilize that.”

    Faulstich also paid for three hay sheds in three years many years ago by selling hay to a dairy farmer in another state suffering from drought. “We keep those three hay sheds full. Our goal is to never use any of that hay, but of course we do. Some of it in one of the buildings is pretty old, and will need some supplement fed with it, but another shed has some top quality alfalfa” he said.

    Between harvested feed, grazing grass and standing crops, Faulstich keeps a year’s supply of forage available at all times. He has also used planning to establish flexibility in his operation. A custom grazing program was added to the operation that allows him to graze yearlings on a piece of invasive bromegrass in the spring, without having to invest in the cattle or worry about rain. “It is built into the contract that they have two weeks to remove the cattle if we are running out of grazing,” he said. “It provides us some flexibility from a drought standpoint, while giving us some enterprise opportunity.”

    — Clark is a freelance livestock journalist from western Nebraska. She can be reached by email at tclarklivenews@gmail.com.

    Slight improvements in eastern #Colorado’s #drought picture — The Kiowa County Press

    From The Kiowa County Press (Chris Sorensen):

    Parts of southeast and east central Colorado saw drought improvements this week, while moderate conditions increased in the northeast and Denver metro area according to the latest update from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

    Exceptional drought – the worst category – entered Baca and Prowers counties last week, only to be removed this week after 0.5-2.5 inches of rain fell in the area.

    Colorado Drought Monitor July 7, 2020.

    Eastern Kit Carson County saw heavy rain last week, allowing areas of moderate and severe drought to be replaced by a bubble of abnormally dry conditions.

    Moderate conditions moved into Sedgwick County, and expanded in eastern Logan County. Moderate drought also appeared in southern Jefferson, western Douglas and Arapahoe, and much of Denver County.

    Monthly Drought Outlook for July 2020 via the Climate Predication Center.

    The U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center calls for drought to persist through July. Through September, drought is expected to expand further in northwest and central Colorado.

    Overall, 16 percent of Colorado is drought-free, unchanged from the previous week. Abnormally dry conditions decreased one percent to 15, while moderate drought increased from 12 to 14 percent. Severe drought improved from 22 to 21 percent, while exceptional conditions increased one percent to 34.