From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):
Pagosa Country also remains in a voluntary drought stage…
“Under the Volun- tary Drought State there are no mandatory water use restrictions, however PAWSD does encourage responsible water use. This spring we have seen higher than normal temperatures. These high tempera- tures along with a reduction in late spring precipitation resulted in a quicker than normal melting of the snowpack reducing our available water and could lead to water use restrictions.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 221 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 30.
Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 759 cfs.
The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1957 at 3,020 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 19.9 cfs, recorded in 2002.
As of 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 30, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 176 cfs.
Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 764 cfs.
The highest recorded rate for this date was 2,030 cfs in 1979. The lowest recorded rate was 10.6 cfs in 2002.
According to the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) as of 10 a.m. on June 22, 100 percent of Archuleta County is in a moderate drought stage.
The NIDIS website notes that under a moderate drought stage dry-land crops may suffer, range- land growth is stunted, very little hay is available and risk of wildfires may increase.
The NIDIS website also notes that 71.17 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage.
According to the NIDIS, under a severe drought stage, fire season is extended.
Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 51.04 percent, mostly the western portion, of the county is in an extreme drought.
The NIDIS website notes that under an extreme drought stage, large fires may develop and pasture conditions worsen.
According to the NIDIS, 6.24 percent of the county, in the south- western portion, is in an exceptional drought stage.
Under an exceptional drought stage, agricultural and recreational losses are large and dust storms and topsoil removal are widespread.
For more information and maps, visit: https://www.drought.gov/states/Colorado/county/Archuleta.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Mary Shinn):
Developers have dreams for Fountain that would quadruple the community’s size up to about 40,000 homes.
“It just hit us, that huge number of quadrupling,” Fountain City Manager Scott Trainor said. The requests to build the tens of thousands of homes poured in over the past two years, with many developers wanting to start immediately, he said.
Trainor said the city’s chances of adding more than 30,000 homes are “slim to none,” even with Security and Widefield water and sanitation districts serving about 20% of the city’s land.
The flood of proposals forced Fountain officials to take a step back and look at the critical needs with water at the top of the list. The community currently owns enough water to serve a little more than the equivalent of 1,200 taps and is setting out to find more as part of a water master plan.
The rush to build tens of thousands of new homes in Fountain is indicative of the growth pressure facing the bedroom community that supports Colorado Springs, Fort Carson and Pueblo. Fountain homes have traditionally been more affordable than those in Colorado Springs, in part because the land is cheaper, but the community has not been immune to rising housing construction costs, such as lumber, Trainor said.
If Fountain’s water supply can’t support the growth, developers will have to look for water from other sources and new residents may be pushed out to communities such as Pueblo West…
With current water supplies, Fountain officials said they expect to serve five new developments that will help fill the immediate need for housing…
The city will need to purchase, lease or otherwise secure water to meet additional demands outside of the Fountain and Widefield services areas and it is working on a water master plan to identify those future water sources, Blankenship said. The plan will work to identify water for the next 30 years, he said…
Not all of Fountain is dependent on the city’s water supply because Widefield and Security water and sanitation districts are serving numerous projects. Among them, the Security district may serve a shopping center redeveloping near Highway 85 and Main Street, and the Widefield district may provide water to a new subdivision of 1,180 homes called Corvalis, Trainor said.
From The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (Peter Gleick):
No one wants to be a statistic in a climate disaster—an anonymous entry in a dataset of extreme events. But sometimes things sneak up on you. A couple of weeks ago, during one of the extraordinary and severe heat events striking western North America, I almost suffered from heat stroke.
You’d think I would know better—I’m a climate scientist and hydrologist. I’ve been researching, writing about, and discussing climate and weather risks for nearly four decades. I know that heat deaths are the most prevalent of all deaths from natural disasters, killing thousands or even tens of thousands of people every year. I know that extreme heat events are getting worse, precisely because of human-caused climate change.
And yet, there I was, trying to dig a simple hole in the ground for a wooden post in the dense, clay soils of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in 100-degree-plus heat. Fifteen minutes was all it took for me to suddenly experience extreme dizziness and nausea. I came very close to passing out and was only saved by two nearby workers who brought me cold water and a cold compress to put on my head and neck and saw me safely back to an air-conditioned enclosure.
Climate change is already causing an increase in extreme events, including droughts and heat. The western United States is suffering from perhaps the most widespread and severe drought in recent history. As of early July, more than 98 percent of the American West was suffering from drought, with more than 80 percent in severe drought or worse. Extreme heat has struck several times since June, breaking records throughout the region and putting more than 20 million people under heat warnings from Canada to Mexico. Portland, Oregon broke a new record high of 115 degrees Fahrenheit; Seattle set a new record high of 108. Temperatures in the small town of Lytton, British Columbia, climbed to 121 degrees Fahrenheit (49.5 degrees Celsius), the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada, and then the town was destroyed by a fast-burning wildfire. Wildfires are now spreading rapidly throughout the region. Water levels in the major Colorado River reservoirs are at record lows, and Arizona and Nevada will almost certainly see reductions in their allocations from the river next year.
We’re not prepared for climate change, even in one of the wealthiest countries of the world and even with decades of warnings from scientists, in part because of extensive efforts of climate denial, the waffling of politicians, and legacy infrastructure built for yesterday’s climate, not tomorrow’s. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, struck by the recent extreme heat, very few people have air-conditioners, worsening the risk of heat illnesses among the most vulnerable populations. In a severe heat wave in Europe in 2019, several thousand people died and power plants had to be shut down because water temperatures were too high to cool them. A worse European heat wave in 2003 killed an estimated 70,000 people.
This is just the beginning. The Earth has only warmed by around a degree or two so far and is on track for several more degrees of warming. And yet the severe imbalances we’re now experiencing in extreme weather are only going to get worse with each passing year if rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can’t be achieved. The heat extremes we’re seeing now will become the baseline—regular events—punctuated by even more extreme high temperatures as the planet warms further and weather patterns are increasingly disrupted.
I think I know better now than to try to do physical labor during extreme heat. But many workers have little or no ability to avoid these risks: farmworkers, construction workers, laborers of all kinds who are exposed to increasingly severe conditions and are often not informed about the risks or offered protections from them. More people are going to get sick; more are going to die from climate threats. Try not to be one of them, and do what you can to get our politicians to acknowledge and work to reduce these risks.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Mary Shinn):
Monument is planning to install a new water treatment system in the coming months that will remove radium from one of its wells allowing it to start serving the town again.
The town expects to spend about $1.5 million on the new water treatment system, an associated building and lab space. The work will expand an existing facility at Second Street and Beacon Lite Road, said Tom Tharnish, Monument’s public works director.
Extended exposure to radium, a naturally occurring element and common along the Front Range, can cause cancer and other health problems over time, according to the Environmental Protection Agency…
The problem was discovered in the city’s 9th well about four years ago and no unsafe levels of radium ever reached residents’ taps. Monument’s engineers designed a system that diluted the radium to safe levels, but that proved to be only a temporary fix. The well was shut down late last year while the town worked on a more permanent solution, Tharnish said.
The new filtration system will employ a resin that will filter out the radium at the end of the water treatment process, he said…
The new technology will also come with ongoing maintenance costs. The resin will need to be replaced every year to 18 months and will require between $18,000 to $20,000, Tharnish said…
Monument’s board of trustees approved drilling a 10th well in November to help offset the loss of water from the well that had to be shut off because of radium pollution. The work was expected to cost $624,975. The new well is expected to be in production next week, Tharnish said.
The community is also seeking additional water rights, so that it doesn’t need to rely as heavily on its groundwater, Wilson said.
From The Durango Herald (Shannon Mullane) via The Cortez Journal:
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis declared a drought emergency Wednesday for La Plata County and 20 other counties on the Western Slope.
The declaration applies to counties experiencing severe, extreme or exceptional drought conditions, including the five-county region in Southwest Colorado. In response, Polis directed several state task forces to monitor the area and gather input about urgent, unmet needs…
The most recent water year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, was the 12th warmest on record in Colorado since 1895 and saw record-breaking fires around the state. It was the third driest water year, trailing 2002, the driest year, and 2018, the second driest year, according to the conservation board…
The Drought Response Plan and supporting task forces will remain activated, assessing conditions and recommending mitigation measures, until statewide conditions significantly improve, according to the conservation board…
Annual precipitation in Colorado averages 17 inches statewide, and its semi-arid climate means water availability is a consistent concern, according to the conservation board website.
Severe, widespread, multi-year droughts – like the one affecting the Western Slope – are less common.
Since 1893, Colorado has experienced six droughts that are widely considered “severe.” These droughts affected most of the state, involved record-breaking dry spells and/or lasted for multiple years.
Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:
The Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) celebrated with Governor Polis and legislative leaders on signing legislation into law, which will provide $20 million in state stimulus funding towards the Colorado Water Plan, the state’s collaborative framework for addressing water challenges.
“This investment in our water is a significant boost for the Colorado Water Plan. Our water supply is highly variable, and our demands are growing, all while much of our state deals with a lingering drought. The Water Plan sets a vision and allows our state to plan better for Colorado’s water future,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado DNR. “We greatly appreciate the strong support of legislators, water providers and other partners for this needed and timely funding to help us address our water challenges head on.”
Of the funding from House Bill H.B.21-1260, $15 million is directed from the state’s General Fund to the Water Plan Grant Program for statewide goals, and $5 million is directed to local water projects recommended by each of the state’s nine stakeholder-driven basin roundtables.
“We are so grateful for the legislature’s support in funding critical water projects around the state that will help us all meet our future needs. This funding is not only important for water supply, but also for ensuring that we have a healthy environment, productive agriculture, and robust recreational opportunities,” said CWCB Director Becky Mitchell.
CWCB awards Water Plan Grants to agricultural water projects, conservation and land use planning efforts, engagement and innovation, environment and recreation projects, and projects that enhance water storage and supply. The upcoming deadlines for grant applications are July 1 and December 1.
Funding dedicated to projects at the local level are intended to assist Colorado water users in addressing their critical water supply issues and interests. Grants must be approved by at least one of Colorado’s nine basin roundtables and are then forwarded to the CWCB for final approval.
On the same day, Governor Polis signed Senate Bill 21-189, the annual CWCB Construction Fund Projects Bill, which includes funding for a variety of CWCB programs and projects including satellite monitoring systems, the floodplain map modernization program, weather modification permitting, and funding for Water Education Colorado, among other programs.