2021 Drought Monitor: How Dry Is It In Douglas County? — MSN

From MSN (Amber Fisher):

For the week ending June 1, 30 U.S. states were experiencing drought conditions described as moderate or worse, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But rainfall has left Denver’s metro area and eastern Colorado drought free — at least for now.

Some [western] Colorado counties — such as Moffat, Rio Blanco, Garfield and Delta counties — are facing extreme drought conditions, according to the latest weekly report released June 1 by the National Drought Mitigation Center…

Nationally, nearly 39 percent of the United States was experiencing some type of drought for the week ending June 1, according to the latest NOAA data. In addition to 93 million people, more than 73 million acres of crops are being affected by the dry conditions.

Last week, rain brought respite to much of the Great Plains; however, as extreme heat moves into the dry West and Northern Plains, NOAA forecasters warn that drought may intensify.

Meanwhile, in the Southeast, dryness and drought have been steadily spreading in Virginia, the Carolinas and Florida…

The worst areas of drought are in Southwest states, where parts of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and western Colorado are experiencing extreme or exceptionally severe drought conditions, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center…

So what exactly is drought?

Drought is defined as a lack of precipitation such as rain, snow or sleet over a period that typically results in a water shortage. While drought usually stems from an area’s specific weather pattern, it can also be triggered by human activity such as water use and management.

Behind hurricanes, drought is the second-most-costly form of natural disaster in the United States, exacting an average toll of $9.6 billion in damage and loss per event, according to statistics from the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Usually, some level of drought has some part of the country in its grip.

During the historic dry spell of 2012 — the nation’s most extensive since the 1930s — as much as two-thirds of the country was affected by drought at its peak.

U.S. droughts can sometimes last longer than a season. From 2012 to 2016, scant rainfall and record-breaking heat in California created what is estimated to have been the state’s worst drought in 1,200 years, according to the National Resources Defense Council…

About 70 percent of the annual precipitation returns to the atmosphere by evaporation from land and water surfaces and by vapor from vegetation. The remaining 30 percent eventually reaches a stream, lake or ocean due to runoff during and immediately after rain, as well as soaking into the ground.

If you’ve ever wondered where a raindrop ends up when it falls in Colorado, check out this interactive map developed by data analyst Sam Learner that traces the path of a raindrop depending on where it falls.

Montezuma County declares drought disaster — The #Cortez Journal #SanJuanRiver #DoloresRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Montezuma Valley

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

State and federal programs offer drought assistance, emergency loans

The order passed by the Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners on June 1 says the purpose “is to activate the response and recovery aspects of any and all applicable local and interjurisdictional disaster emergency plans, and to authorize the furnishing of aid and assistance under such plans.”

Recent winters in Southwest Colorado have seen below-average snowpack, and a lack of monsoonal rains has depleted soil moisture. The lack of precipitation has left reservoirs unfilled this year, a devastating impact for the agricultural economy…

La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain with historical Montezuma County apple orchard in the foreground.

McPhee Reservoir irrigators will receive just 5% to 10% of their normal allocation this year, leaving thousands of acres fallow.

Montezuma County has only had one good snow season (2018-19) in the past four years and has had dry summers, said Peter Goble, drought specialist with the Colorado Climate Center, during a meeting with county officials…

The disaster status opens up emergency assistance programs from county, state and federal agencies. It also helps the Dolores Water Conservancy District receive drought assistance from the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the infrastructure of McPhee Reservoir and its canals.

In May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 63 Colorado counties primary natural disaster areas because of the severe drought conditions.

Emergency loans are available for producers. The loans can be used to replace equipment or livestock, reorganize the farm operation and refinance certain debts.

Colorado State University Agriculture Extension provides education and connects farmers and ranchers with resources for drought management and assistance, said Greg Felsen, Montezuma County director and extension agent.

The forecast for a summer monsoon is not favorable for Southwest Colorado, according to the National Weather Service.

Dry conditions are predicted for June, July and August, according to the National Weather Service meteorologist Megan Stackhouse.

Mcphee Reservoir

‘Nonfunctional’ grass to be banned in #LasVegas Valley — The Las Vegas Review-Journal #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

An elaborate fountain in Las Vegas. One of the biggest water meetings of the year takes place every December in Las Vegas, which has driven down water use down by paying people to remove thirsty turf and grass. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Las Vegas Review-Journal (Colton Lochhead):

Nearly one-third of all of the grass in Southern Nevada will need to be removed by the end of 2026 under a new bill signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak Friday, a significant conservation effort that comes as the state is facing its first federal water shortage amid declining Lake Mead levels and a two-decades-long drought that has shown no signs of ending.

“I think that it’s incumbent upon us for the next generation to be more conscious of our conservation of our natural resources, water being particularly important,” Sisolak told reporters last week when asked about the bill before he had signed it.

Specifically, Assembly Bill 356 will prohibit Colorado River water distributed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority from being used to irrigate “nonfunctional turf” starting Jan. 1, 2027. The water authority has said that this will include the grass between roads and sidewalks, in medians and traffic circles and decorative grass outside businesses, housing developments and similar areas. Single-family homes, golf courses are parks are excluded from the ban.

According to the water authority’s estimate, the new law will lead to the eventual removal of 3,900 to 4,000 acres of nonfunctional grass, or about 6 square miles worth of thirsty turf.

That’s about 30 percent of the 13,000 acres of grass currently in the Las Vegas Valley.

West Drought Monitor map June 1, 2021.

For the nation’s driest state, water conservation efforts will take on even greater importance going forward as the Southwest U.S. drought has intensified and is only expected to worsen.

The latest study from the Bureau of Reclamation in May predicts that the water level of Lake Mead, which supplies about 90 percent of the water for Southern Nevada, will drop low enough this year to trigger its first federally declared water shortage. A formal declaration on the shortage could come in August if those predictions hold true.

That shortage would reduce Southern Nevada’s allocation of 300,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado River by 13,000 acre-feet.