#Drought news: W. #NE, most of #Colorado, and central #WY covered by extreme (D3) drought, and (D4, exceptional drought) was common across W. #CO

Click on a thumbnail graphic below 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

The heaviest precipitation fell on northwestern and southeastern parts of the country. The higher elevations of Washington and Oregon recorded 1.5 to locally 8.0 inches, with 2 to 4 inch totals reported in northwest Montana, north Idaho, and parts of eastern Washington and Oregon. On the other side of the country, Tropical Storm Eta dropped heavy rains on southern Florida. Amounts between 5 and 10 inches soaked parts of the greater Miami area. Meanwhile, moderate precipitation – with locally heavy amounts in the higher elevations – fell in association with the Pacific Northwest storm as it moved eastward. In general, precipitation totals (and drought relief) generally increased moving north and west away from southern California and the southern Rockies. Most higher elevations, in addition to a broad area across Montana, received at least 0.5 inch. East of the Rockies, moderate precipitation of 0.5 to locally 2.5 inches covered a swath from the central Great Plains northward through the upper Mississippi Valley and western Great Lakes. Similar amounts fell on a small area in the Louisiana Bayou, but across the rest of the central and eastern United States, little or no precipitation fell. The High Plains and lower elevations of the southern Intermountain West and Rockies also recorded no more than a few tenths of an inch. Above-normal temperatures broadly dominated the Nation from the Intermountain West eastward to the Atlantic Coast. Temperatures averaged 10 to 18 deg. F above normal from the southern High Plains northward and eastward through the Great Plains and Great Lakes Region. Slightly below normal temperatures were restricted to the western tier of states…

High Plains

Moderate to heavy precipitation brought some improvement into eastern Nebraska and small sections of southeastern South Dakota, but drier conditions farther west allowed dryness and drought to persist. Some deterioration to D1 was brought into a small area in south-central South Dakota, and D2 was expanded northward through much of north-central North Dakota. Across the vast majority of the region, dryness and drought remained essentially unchanged from the previous week. Now, a few areas of D1-D2 extend from northern Kansas northward through the Dakotas, with a small area of extreme drought assessed in southeastern South Dakota. Across Wyoming and Colorado, protracted and entrenched drought continues. Western Nebraska, most of Colorado, and the central tier of Wyoming are covered by extreme (D3) drought, and the most intense drought classification (D4, exceptional drought) was common across the western half of Colorado…

West

The Pacific storm dropped significant, widespread precipitation on areas from Washington and Oregon northeastward through the northern tier of Montana. Improvement was introduced in much of this region, although D2 to D3 conditions remain in central and southern Washington, and large areas of Oregon south of the immediate Washington border. Farther south, scattered light precipitation fell on lower elevations while moderate to isolated heavy precipitation dotted the higher mountains. Amounts were insufficient to bring improvement anywhere to south and east of northern Oregon, and conditions deteriorated in northern California, and in much of a broad swath from southwestern California eastward across New Mexico. Severe drought (D3) now covers most of Nevada and the Four Corners States, and broad sections of D4 persisted or expanded in east-central Nevada, much of central and southern Utah, north-central and south-central Arizona, and portions of northern and eastern New Mexico…

South

Light to moderate rain fell on much of Louisiana, but the rest of the region was warm and dry. As a result, dryness expanded in parts of Oklahoma, and a few patches of D0 began to dot the lower Mississippi Valley. More significantly, dryness and drought broadly intensified across Texas south of the Panhandle. Conditions are abnormally dry or worse across much of the state. Areas of D1 and a few patches of D2 were brought into parts of central and eastern Texas, while severe to exceptional drought is common in central Texas and the western tier of the state. Broad patches of D4 exceptional drought now cover much of the Big Bend and along the New Mexico border. Farther north, little change was noted across the Panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and near the Red River Valley…

Looking Ahead

Through November 16, 2020, heavy precipitation is expected from an interaction of a frontal system and Tropical Storm Eta in the Southeast. Up to 5 inches are expected in parts of the eastern Carolinas, and amounts of 1.5 to 4.0 inches are expected in the west-central Florida Peninsula and across the remainder of the Carolinas northward into the middle Atlantic states. Heavy precipitation is also expected in the Pacific Northwest, with 5 to 10 inches fairly common along the north half of the Pacific Coast and over the central and northern Cascades. Lesser amounts are forecast over the rest of the Pacific Northwest from the Cascades westward, and in some higher elevations across the Intermountain West. Moderate precipitation, with isolated amounts approaching 2 inches, could fall on the higher elevations in the central Rockies and in a swath across central Missouri and southern Illinois. In contrast, little or no precipitation is expected through the Plains, Gulf Coast, desert Southwest, and southern parts of California and Nevada. Meanwhile, most of the contiguous United States should average a few degrees above normal, with subnormal temperatures restricted to the northern Rockies and Intermountain West.

The Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 day outlook (November 17-21) favors above-normal precipitation across much of Alaska, the northern and central Intermountain West, northern California, and the Pacific Northwest. From the Great Plains eastward to the Atlantic Coast, odds favor below-normal precipitation outside Maine and southern Florida. It should be cooler than normal in southeast Alaska, New England, the middle Atlantic region, and the eastern Carolinas. Warm weather should cover northern and western Alaska, from the Mississippi Valley west to the Pacific Coast, and along the Gulf Coast.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 10, 2020.

Amber Weber appointed to Arkansas Basin Roundtable — Ag Journal

From The Ag Journal (Christian Burney):

Amber Weber via LinkedIn

At the Nov. 2 Board of County Commissioners meeting, commissioners decided to appoint Amber Weber to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable at the recommendation of County Administrator Amy White-Tanabe…

Weber is no stranger to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. She has participated on the roundtable in other capacities before. Since 2018, she’s served at the roundtable as Public Education, Participation and Outreach Coordinator. She is also on the Basin Implementation Plan Committee, which Weber said facilitates the discussion of how the Arkansas Basin fits into the Colorado Water Plan.

“I facilitated educational opportunities, discussions, curated content, hosted workshops, et cetera, all surrounding one goal — water in the Arkansas Basin,” Weber told the La Junta Tribune-Democrat in an email.

As a PEPO Coordinator, Weber has engaged in agricultural, municipal, recreational and environmental sectors of water, she said.

“As I transition into a voting role, I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to represent Otero County and will be able to represent the best interests of the County and the citizens within it,” said Weber. “Through this voting seat for Otero County, I will be speaking with the commissioners regularly and ensuring each of them are kept in the loop on all items that come to the roundtable.

Likewise, Weber will communicate Otero County’s ideas and concerns to the roundtable.

Weber works as a consultant to Otero County Commissioners in other areas of county interest as well, such as the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance, a state-wide organization whose goal is to serve and protect water delivery providers, Weber said; she also serves as the soil health director for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District “as the district works to navigate the nexus between water and soil quality.”

@DenverWater Notifies Littleton Residents Of Rate Increases — Patch.com

From Patch.com (Amber Fisher):

Rate changes are needed to help pay for Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program, officials said.

Denver Water has been notifying Littleton residents of rate increases, which are set to begin Jan. 1.

Most residents can expect rate increases of less than 70 cents if they use water at similar volumes to 2020, the agency said.

Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

The rate changes will help Denver Water pay for its Lead Reduction Program. The agency has sent letters to hundreds of Littleton homes — those built between 1983 and 1987 — to warn of possible lead contamination. The water does not contain lead, but the homes may have lead solder between copper pipes that could contaminate the water.

To protect customers from lead in drinking water, Denver Water raised the pH of the water in March to reduce corrosivity, and the agency will be replacing all customer-owned lead service lines over the next 15 years, officials said.

Will the West figure out how to share #water? — The Deseret News

From The Deseret News ( Sofia Jeremias):

Can farmers stop cities from buying their water rights and drying out agricultural land?

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

Crowley County relied on water from the nearby Arkansas River, and had over 50,000 acres of irrigated farmland until a spate of water sales took place in the ’70s and ’80s. (An acre-foot of water is enough to meet the needs for two families in a year.)

By 2002, only about 6,000 irrigated acres remained, and by 2017, the number had dropped to roughly 4,600.

In the dry and arid West, where little rain falls, irrigation is the life blood of farming.

As droughts become more persistent and urban growth across the Mountain West continues to skyrocket, agricultural communities are increasingly worried about losing their water to far away cities — turning the towns into dust bowls with few job prospects.

Photo of Crowley County by Jennifer Goodland

Since 2010, the West’s large cities and small towns have seen an average population growth of 9.1% and 13.3%, respectively. From 2018-2019, Utah, Idaho, and Colorado were the top three fastest growing states in terms of new housing.

At the same time, the West is experiencing one of its worst droughts in years. More than a third of the West is experiencing “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, and 72.5 million people are living in areas “affected by drought,” The Washington Post recently reported.

According to Colorado’s 2015 Water Plan between 500,000 to 700,000 acres of irrigated land in the state could disappear by 2050 due to urbanization.

While places like Colorado’s Front Range, home to a corridor of the state’s largest cities from Denver to Boulder, continues to grow and climate change exacerbates drought conditions, the discourse over water is only going to get more tense.

Water markets didn’t consider the ripple effects

Heimerich, who is originally from New York, met and married a girl from Crowley County and they decided to move there in 1987 after his wife was offered a job as a nurse practitioner.

His father-in-law was a farmer, and he decided to try his hand at the business.

Heimerich’s father-in-law was one of the few who refused to sell his water rights in the past decades…

In Crowley, water wasn’t just sold from one farmer to another, or even to nearby cities. Instead, the water flowed out of the county and to Colorado Springs, Aurora and Pueblo (towns between 50 to 100 miles east of the county).

Because farmers in Crowley organized their farms around joint irrigation canals, once a certain percentage of the farmers that owned shares in a canal sold out, it made maintenance (from repairing breaks in lining to removing vegetation) more difficult and a heavier burden on those left behind.

Heimerich said the water sales were like a divorce, or the splitting of assets after a family member has died and didn’t leave a will: “It’s that kind of underlying tension, and there’s no real forethought to what the long-term consequences are going to be.”

Or, as one Crowley County farmer told a newspaper in 1992, “The ones who sold their water sold out their county.”

[…]

Permanent dry up, like the one time sales that happened in Crowley, happens for a few different reasons: One is if there’s a water shortage that affects both cities and farms, another is water shortages that affect only agriculture, and another is an increased demand for water in areas outside of agriculture.

What happened in Crowley County was so dire that it has since become the poster child for the negative consequences of “buy-and-dry,” when water goes from supplying farms to cities…

Plus, the large swaths of dried out farmland have also created ecological problems — from dust to weeds…

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

A new way to share water

People in Colorado, and other states in the West, have been looking into alternatives to “buy and dry” — a way to balance booming urban populations, water shortages and the needs of agriculture.

In the past, the roll of water courts in Colorado wasn’t to consider the ripple effects that water sales have on the communities when large amounts of land go dry, said Scott Campbell, a conservation planner and water consultant. “We just need to figure out better ways to help manage our water sources.”

One of the solutions that’s been gaining traction is water sharing agreements. Campbell has been a proponent for a new kind of water market: one where water is a “cash crop,” something farmers can lease to municipalities (rather than a one-off sale) and provides another form of stable income…

However, despite a handful of pilot programs, water sharing agreements have yet to become ubiquitous, although they originated in California nearly two decades ago.

Palo Verde, California, farmers started leasing water to the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California in the early 2000s. A similar agreement occurred with the Imperial Irrigation District in Southern California…

In March, Utah’s governor signed a water banking bill, which would allow farmers to lease water to municipalities. And in Wyoming, ranchers were paid to forgo irrigation and instead let their water run down the rivers that feed Lake Powell and Lake Mead…

Eric Hanagan is a fifth generation farmer in Otero County. He farms about 1,500 acres, primarily vegetables, seedless watermelons, cantaloupes, peppers and tomatoes, along with a few alfalfa fields…

Hanagan began participating in a water leasing agreement a few years ago. A third of his farmland is fallowed (i.e. he does not plant crops) each year. The water is then leased to municipalities…

Hanagan’s land is irrigated by the Catlin Canal, one of many irrigation ditches that feeds water from the Arkansas River to the surrounding land.

His farm is one of six on the canal that participates in the lease-fallowing program. Farms that leased their water received about $700 dollars per fallowed acre according to the 2019 report from the Lower Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company…

Will cities and farmers accept alternatives at greater scale?
It remains an open question whether or not cities in the Mountain West will be open to leasing rather than buying water rights and permanently drying up farms.

“It just gives us a level of certainty and control that you don’t get as part of a rotational leasing program,” said Alan Ward, the division manager for water resources for Pueblo, another city in the Arkansas Basin that has been experiencing moderate population growth in the past few years.

In 2009, Ward started to worry about the impacts of climate change, making the water they receive from the Colorado River less reliable. So the city of Pueblo started purchasing water in an irrigation ditch east of the city…

Bessemer Ditch circa 1890 via WaterArchives.org

While Pueblo doesn’t need the water they’ve purchased just yet — they currently lease the water back to farmers, some are worried about what will happen when the city does need the water it purchased.

“They are poised to dry about 5,000 acres of some of our best production ground in the state,” said Campbell, who is working on an effort called the Bessemer Project, which aims to retain some of the irrigated land along the Bessemer where water rights were sold to Pueblo.

“Unfortunately what happened in this sale, and what happens in a lot of these buy and dry deals, is that some of the best farm ground could be dried.”Campbell hopes to try a variety of different methods to keep some the best irrigated land along the Bessemer ditch in production — from rotational fallowing to water sharing to using more efficient ways of irrigating.

#ColoradoRiver District plan offers ideas for spending on #water projects after tax passage — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel

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 The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The district plans to use 14 percent of the new revenues to shore up its finances, funding existing staff positions and business expenses after financial difficulties in recent years. The rest is to be used to partner with others on projects focused on agriculture, infrastructure, healthy rivers, watershed health and water quality, and conservation and efficiency.

District spokesman Jim Pokrandt said the district board will be discussing the project spending at a Dec. 10 meeting where it will be looking to revise its 2021 budget now that the tax has passed.

He said it’s too early to call out any specific project that might be funded at this point, as more analysis and board approval will be required. However, in its July resolution to put the tax measure on the ballot, the district board also adopted a fiscal implementation plan elaborating on how it intends to spend the funds. That plan included specific examples of possible projects the money could help pay for. The district didn’t commit to pursuing those specific projects should the tax pass, noting in its plan “uncertainties associated with most projects related to permitting, litigation, additional funding and other third party actions.” Rather, the projects are representative of the types of projects it intended to pursue, and also are ones that have been endorsed by basin roundtable organizations in the Colorado, Gunnison and Yampa/White/Green basins.

“Those projects listed in the plan are illustrative of the kind of work that we want to do, and indeed some of them could come to fruition in the next year or two,” Pokrandt said.

In the Colorado River Basin, the examples the district gave include rehabilitation of the Grand Valley Roller Dam, which was built in 1913 and is the point of diversion for several large senior irrigation rights in the Grand Valley, and maintaining flows secured by the senior Shoshone hydroelectric plant water right in Glenwood Canyon.

That plant is owned by Xcel Energy and is more than 100 years old, and questions about its longterm viability have the district and others looking for solutions for maintaining the plant’s nonconsumptive right, which is crucial to maintaining river flows through Glenwood Canyon and all the way to Grand Junction.

Among several possible projects in the Gunnison Basin are the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association Westside Valley infrastructure improvement project, which would modernize and improve water diversion, delivery and other infrastructure; and the Paonia Reservoir and Fire Mountain Canal rehabilitation, which would involve implementing a sediment control system.

Among possible Yampa/White/Green river basin projects are addressing an algae problem on the White River, and assisting with efforts to build a possible new water storage project in the lower White River basin. The state is challenging a proposed White River reservoir project in water court, questioning the need for the amount of water the reservoir would supply, according to recent reporting by the nonprofit aspenjournalism.org website.

Pokrandt said that while it’s helpful to projects’ chances for them to be on the district’s implementation plan list, funding could go for things that aren’t listed, and that the district may not even know about now.

Young Voters, Motivated by #ClimateChange and Environmental Justice, Helped Propel Biden’s Campaign — Inside Climate News

Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.

From Inside Climate News (Ilana Cohen):

They turned out in big numbers and overwhelmingly supported the former vice president. Young voters of color played a critical role in battleground states.

…young voters between 18 and 29 will have played a critical role in his election, turning out in force and favoring the former vice president over President Trump by 61 percent to 36 percent, according to an analysis by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning at Tufts University.

The Center concluded that those young voters, and particularly young people of color and women, may have helped put Biden over the edge in crucial battleground states, based on an analysis of votes counted by midday Friday.

The Tufts’ center estimated the youth share of the vote in the 2020 election at 17 percent, compared to 16 percent in the 2016 presidential election and 13 percent in the 2018 midterms, based on the 2020 VoteCast from the Associated Press, the National Election Pool exit poll from Edison Research and its own analyses of census population data. That figure could change as more data becomes available and the election comes to a close.

The center, a non-partisan, independent research organization focused on youth civic engagement, also projected that once all votes are counted, youth turnout may rise to 53 to 56 percent, compared to 46 percent in the 2016 election and 36 percent in the 2018 midterms. That would represent the highest youth voter turnout since at least 1984.

Young Black, Asian and Latino voters supported Biden over Trump by margins of 77, 72 and 49 points respectively. By comparison, young white voters supported Biden over Trump by a margin of only 6 points. Support for the two candidates also divided along gender-based lines within racial and ethnic groups, with young white women preferring Biden over Trump by a 13-point margin, while young white men preferred Trump over Biden by a 6-point margin.

The center’s analysis also found substantial pro-Biden youth voter turnout in key battleground states, including in closely-watched Georgia, where youth comprised 21 percent of the vote and gave Biden a 19-point edge over Trump. Specifically, young Black voters, who favored Biden over Trump by an 82-point margin, “put Georgia in play,” the center said in its analysis.