State to host public confabs on next steps in study of #LakePowell drought pool — @WaterEdCO #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The Grand River Diversion Dam, also known as the “Roller Dam”, was built in 1913 to divert water from the Colorado River to the Government Highline Canal, which farmers use to irrigate their lands in the Grand Valley. Photo credit: Bethany Blitz/Aspen Journalism

From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

A statewide public effort to determine whether Coloradans should engage in perhaps the biggest water conservation program in state history enters its second year of study this summer, but the complex, collaborative effort on the Colorado River has a long way to go before the state and its water users can make a go/no-go decision, officials said.

On Aug. 26, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) will hold a virtual public workshop to unveil some of the key findings from the first year’s work, as well as to gather more input on where to go from here. Another meeting is scheduled for Sept. 2 to brief the agency’s board members and discuss next steps. It will also be open to the public.

More than a year ago, Colorado launched the study involving dozens of volunteer ranchers, environmentalists, water district officials, and others to determine if water users should opt to help fill a newly authorized drought pool in Lake Powell. The concept has been dubbed demand management.

Ken Curtis, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District in Cortez, said farmers in his district remain skeptical of the conservation effort primarily because there isn’t enough clarity about how it would work.

“Clearly, one of the themes of our conversations down here has been momentum. There has been a lot of talk but it’s not out there as a policy with well-defined terms that can be read,” he said. “That tells us that we’re nowhere near a demand management program.”

The 500,000 acre-foot pool, approved by Congress last year as part of the historic Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, would help protect Coloradans if the Colorado River, at some point in the future, hits a crisis point, triggering mandatory cutbacks in the Upper Basin above Lake Powell.

But finding ways to set aside that much water, the equivalent of what roughly 1 million average Colorado households use in a year, is a complex proposition. Although the concept is still evolving, most agree the voluntary program, if created, would need to pay water users who agree to participate. And it would mean farmers fallowing fields in order to send their water downstream and cities convincing their customers to do with less water in order to do the same.

The Colorado River Basin includes seven U.S. states, Mexico, and more than two dozen sovereign tribal nations. Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico comprise the Upper Basin, while Arizona, California and Nevada make up the Lower Basin before the river crosses the U.S.-Mexican border.

The drought pool would belong to Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico. Each of those states is examining whether filling it is doable and desirable.

In Colorado, eight demand management work groups involving dozens of volunteers and experts on such issues as agriculture, economics, stream health, and water law met throughout the past year. Among the overarching conclusions to date, based on a report issued in July, is the need for equity between rural and urban communities, the need to analyze environmental impacts and benefits, and the need for a multi-pronged approach to funding such a program, which could include taxes, water-user fees, and cash from the federal government. The CWCB is funding and facilitating the process.

“This has never been done before,” said Russell George, a former Colorado Speaker of the House who helped create the state’s hallmark system of local water governance, where each of its eight river basins, as well as the Denver metro area, is represented by a public roundtable.

“What we’re doing is writing the textbook from whole cloth,” he said.

Bart Miller is healthy rivers program director at Western Resource Advocates, which has participated in the work groups. Miller said the first year of work was noteworthy because no one was able to identify “a fatal flaw. No one came up with a reason this can’t be done,” he said.

Despite the pandemic and deep state budget cuts, the CWCB has enough funding to move forward with another year of work, according to Amy Ostdiek, deputy chief of the Federal, Interstate and Water Information Section at the CWCB. The agency spent nearly $268,000 in the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, and has set aside another $396,000 for the current year.

George said the work done to date represents only the beginning of the collaborative search for a statewide drought protection plan on the Colorado River.

“When we started this, we didn’t want to foretell the answer to the question, ‘What does the end look like?’ I don’t think we’re ready to say yet. This is still the beginning,” George said.

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

#Drought news: S. #UT W. #Colorado had severe and extreme drought expand this week along with moderate drought in N.E. Utah and N.W. Colorado

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

As Tropical Storm Isaias made its way up the east coast, many areas in the Northeast were beneficiaries of good precipitation amounts, but others missed out completely. In typical summer fashion, rains were hit and miss across the country, with the West and into the southern Plains as well as most areas of the South mainly being missed. Mixed precipitation was recorded through the Plains and Midwest as well as portions of the Southeast. A strong derecho ripped across the Midwest on August 10th with over 100 mph straight line winds doing damage to crops and property. Temperatures were cooler than normal over much of the Midwest and High Plains, with portions of Missouri and Illinois 6-8 degrees below normal for the week. Temperatures were near normal along much of the east coast and 6-8 degrees above normal over west Texas and into New Mexico…

High Plains

Spotty precipitation was common through the area, with dry conditions through most of Kansas and Nebraska and above-normal precipitation in central North Dakota, central to southeast South Dakota and pockets of northeast Wyoming and northwest South Dakota. Temperatures were cooler than normal over the eastern portions of the region to normal to slightly above over the western portions. Changes to drought status this week include an expansion of severe drought in both western and eastern Nebraska, expansion of moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions in central Nebraska, expansion of moderate drought in western Nebraska and some improvement of abnormally dry conditions in the central portion of the state. Southeast Kansas saw improvements to abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions this week. In South Dakota, abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions were expanded in the northeast while there was improvement to abnormally dry conditions in the east. North Dakota had some improvements to moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions over the north central portion of the state and expansion of moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions over the central area. Wyoming had an expansion of moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions over the southeast while portions of eastern Colorado had improvements to severe and extreme drought…

West

Much of the West was dry this week, with just some spotty summer rains along the coast and very spotty monsoonal rains in the Southwest. Temperatures were cooler than normal over southern Nevada and southern California as well as into the Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains. This was not the case in Arizona and New Mexico, where temperatures continued to be well above normal with departures of 3-5 degrees above normal. In Oregon, severe and extreme drought conditions were expanded slightly to account for the continued dry conditions throughout the current water year. Southern Utah and western Colorado had severe and extreme drought expand this week along with moderate drought in northeast Utah and northwest Colorado. Extreme drought was also expanded over southeast Nevada. Extreme drought was improved over southern Colorado in response to some rains in the area easing conditions. Moderate to severe drought was also expanded over most of central Colorado. Abnormally dry conditions were expanded over western Wyoming as well…

South

Temperatures were 2-4 degrees below normal over much of Oklahoma, Arkansas, western Mississippi and Tennessee, northern Louisiana, and portions of northeast Texas. Temperatures were warmer than normal from central Texas into the west and Panhandle, where departures were 3-5 degrees above normal. Outside of areas of Oklahoma, western Arkansas and north Texas, it was a dry week over the region. Coupled with the warm temperatures, much of the state of Texas had degradation shown this week. Improvements were shown over the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles as well as in eastern Oklahoma. Abnormally dry conditions and moderate drought were expanded over northeast Arkansas, with abnormally dry conditions expanded over western Mississippi. Tennessee had improvements to abnormally dry conditions in the east, but saw expansion of those conditions in the south along with the introduction of some moderate drought…

Looking Ahead

Over the next 5-7 days, it is anticipated that much of the area west of the Continental Divide will be dry. Areas of the central plains and upper Midwest will see an active pattern for precipitation while much of the area of the southeast into the Mid-Atlantic should also see the greatest precipitation during the period. Temperatures during this time should be well above normal over the West, with departures of 6-9 degrees above normal. In the areas anticipated to see the most precipitation, from the northern Plains to the Mid-Atlantic, temperatures will be cooler than normal as a trough digs into the region out of Canada.

The 6-10 day outlooks show a divide in temperatures, with the western half of the United States, including Alaska, having above-normal chances of seeing above-normal temperatures and the eastern half having above-normal chances of below-normal temperatures. A drier than normal outlook is expected over much of the country, with the area having the greatest probability of below-normal precipitation centered on the Midwest. Areas of the Mid-Atlantic south to Florida have the greatest chances of having above-normal precipitation.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending August 11, 2020.

#Drought taking toll on #Colorado’s dry land farmers, small town main streets — TheDenverChannel.com

From TheDenverChannel.com (Lance Hernandez):

This has been a windy, hot and dry summer for much of Colorado. Extreme drought has taken hold of a large swath stretching from from Mesa and Montrose Counties in the west, down to Montezuma and La Plata Counties and then eastward to Baca County.

On the high plains, Washington, Lincoln, Kit Carson, Cheyenne and Kiowa Counties are also experiencing extreme drought conditions, according to the U.S. drought monitor.

Many dryland farmers in those counties are seeing corn crops die in the field…

Much of the dryland corn grown in Colorado is used as feed.

Matt Pieper, noting that ditches and other low-lying areas have some corn stalks that are taller, said he’s not sure whether his field will produce enough of a crop to make it worth harvesting…

With pasture land drying up, he said some farmers and cattlemen have had to shift their herds to hay and feed much sooner than usual, which is an additional expense.

Tough times on the farm will trickle down to main street, explained Colorado State University Water Resource Specialist Joel Schneekloth.

“If the farmers don’t have money, it could affect the coffee shop and the hardware stores,” he said. “It’s going to affect the diners.”

Schneekloth is studying crops and water use on plots of land at the USDA Agricultural Research Station east of Akron.

Those plots are a veritable oasis compared to the rest of drought-stricken Washington County because irrigation is a big part of the study.

Schneekloth said they’re looking at newer genetics.

He said they’ll monitor water use and do growth staging.

“At the end, we’ll look at the yield,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal. How much yield did we get versus the water used?”

The water resource specialist said the study is all about getting the most out of every inch, every drop of water.

Schneekloth said that the aquifer in the Republican River basin of Colorado is a dwindling resource.

He said his study is intended to help extend the life of that resource by finding crops that will use less water on the arid plains.

“We have a very different climate here than the cornbelt,” he said. “We don’t have spare water to waste.”

It doesn’t look like much relief next week.

Notice of Stakeholder Meeting on ISF Rules Revisions to Implement HB20-1157 — @CWCB_DNR

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

The CWCB staff has drafted proposed revisions to the Rules Concerning Colorado’s Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program (“ISF Rules”). The revisions to the ISF Rules will: (1) address the rulemaking requirements of HB20-1157; (2) update a reference to the CWCB’s website; and (3) update references to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Staff will hold its second informal stakeholder meeting on Tuesday, August 18, 2020 from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. to discuss the draft ISF Rules revisions, which are posted on the CWCB website . Staff intends to post a second draft of ISF Rules revisions by the end of this week, and invites interested parties to submit written comments on the draft ISF Rules revisions by emailing them to linda.bassi@state.co.us. Note that any comments received will be posted on the CWCB website . At the meeting, CWCB staff and attendees will discuss the draft ISF Rules revisions, comments received, and comments expressed at the meeting. If you have questions, contact Linda Bassi at linda.bassi@state.co.us or (303) 866-3441, ext. 3204.

This meeting is a pre-Colorado Water Congress Conference Workshop for which no registration is required. The Colorado Water Congress Conference kicks off on Tuesday, August 25th at 12:00 p.m.

Meeting Details:

Tuesday, August 18, 2020 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM (MDT)

Click on the following link: https://zoom.us/j/96023989153. Or dial in: 669-900-6833; Webinar ID: 960-2398-9153.

The Roaring Fork River just above Carbondale, and Mt. Sopris, on May 3, 2020. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism