International Day of Women and Girls in Science, February 11, 2022 #internationalwomenandgirlsinscienceday

Hellchild in the lab 2021.

Click on this link to go to the UN website:

Full and equal access and participation for women and girls in science

Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Over the past decades, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science. Yet women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science.

In order to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, the United Nations General Assembly declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science in 2015.

The latest El Niño/Southern Oscillation (#ENSO) discussion is hot off the presses from the #Climate Prediction Center

Click this link to read the discussion from the Climate Prediction Center:

ENSO Alert System Status: La Niña Advisory

Synopsis: La Niña is likely to continue into the Northern Hemisphere spring (77% chance during March-May 2022) and then transition to ENSO-neutral (56% chance during May-July 2022).

Below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) weakened during January 2022, though anomalies stayed negative across most of the east-central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Most of the weekly ENSO indices remained between -0.5oC and -1.0oC in the last week, except for the Niño-4 index, which was -0.2oC. In contrast, subsurface temperatures (averaged between 180o- 100oW and 0-300m depth) trended to near average during the month. This large change in recent weeks reflected the eastward progression of a downwelling Kelvin wave, as indicated by the extension of above-average subsurface temperatures across much of the Pacific. Below -average subsurface temperatures were confined to the eastern Pacific Ocean at the end of the month. For the monthly mean, low-level equatorial winds were near average across much of the Pacific, while upper-level westerly wind anomalies remained over the east-central Pacific Ocean. Below-average convection strengthened near and west of the Date Line, while convection was near average over Indonesia. Overall, the coupled ocean-atmosphere system reflected a weakening La Niña.

The IRI/CPC plume average for the Niño-3.4 SST index continues to forecast a transition to ENSO-neutral during the NorthernHemisphere spring. Because the easterly tradewinds have recently been strengthening and are predicted to continue in the near term, the forecaster consensus favors those models suggesting as lower decay of LaNiña through the spring. However,ENSO-neutral is still anticipated to return by the Northern Hemisphere summer, although the chance does not exceed 57% duringJune-August 2022, reflecting the uncertainty associated with the spring predictability barrier. In summary, La Niña is likely to continue into the Northern Hemisphere spring (77% chance during March- May 2022) and then transition to ENSO-neutral (56% chance during May-July; click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chances in each 3-month period).

La Niña is anticipated to affect temperature and precipitation across the United States during the upcoming months (the 3-month seasonal temperature and precipitation outlooks will be updated on Thurs. Feb. 17th).

February 2022 #LaNiña update: just along for the ride — NOAA #ENSO

From From NOAA (Emily Becker):

La Niña is likely to hang around through the spring, with a transition to neutral favored for the May–July period. Hop in, and we’ll cruise through some updates on current conditions and the recent past!

On the road again

The November–January average Oceanic Niño Index, that is, the three-month-average sea surface temperature anomaly in the Niño-3.4 region of the tropical Pacific, was -1.0 °C. Anomaly means the difference from the long-term average; long-term is currently 1991–2020. This marks our fifth three-month period in a row with an Oceanic Niño Index that exceeds the La Niña threshold of -0.5 °C. Passing this mile marker means this La Niña has persisted long enough to be awarded a bold blue color in our historical table. Congratulations, La Niña 2021–22, already the second La Niña of this young decade.

Monthly sea surface temperature anomalies (difference from average) in the Niño 3.4 region of the tropical Pacific for 2020-21 (purple line) and all other years (gray lines) starting from first-year La Niña winters since 1950. graph based on ERSSTv5 temperature data.

Will there be a third? We still don’t have a very clear picture of that. Right now, there’s a 77% chance that La Niña will last through the spring (March–May), largely based on computer model forecasts and bolstered by a recent uptick in the trade winds. Neutral is most likely for summer (June–August), with a 57% chance. By fall (September–November), neutral still has the edge, but forecasters can’t currently give any category a strong chance.

Every day is a winding road

ENSO (El Niño/Southern Oscillation, the entire El Niño/La Niña system) is a seasonal forecaster’s best friend because it changes atmospheric circulation in (somewhat) predictable ways, allowing us to get an early picture of how the average seasonal climate might turn out. For example, during La Niña, the Pacific jet stream tends to be retracted to the west, and high pressure often forms south of Alaska. These effects tend to lead to a colder Northwest/warmer Southeast pattern over North America, along with more rain and snow than average in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio/Tennessee valleys, and drier conditions across the southern tier of states.

Average location of the jet stream and typical temperature and precipitation impacts during La Niña winter over North America. Map by Fiona Martin for NOAA

I’m sure you noticed all the qualifying words in the previous paragraph. “Somewhat,” “might,” “tends,” etc. Believe me, I wish we could make stronger statements and more confident predictions! But I try to remember that it’s pretty amazing that we can get any idea of what the average weather might be like months into the future, given our complex and wildly chaotic Earth system. La Niña doesn’t guarantee warmer weather in the southeast or dry conditions in southern California—far from it—but it makes those conditions more likely overall.

There’s more that goes into the seasonal forecast than ENSO, of course, like trends, or other climate patterns. Check out Mike Halpert’s post on the winter outlook for an overview of the seasonal outlook process, and a set of maps that illustrate just how much outcomes can vary from one La Niña event to another. That said, ENSO has a big imprint on the seasonal forecast. You can see the Climate Prediction Center’s outlook for November–January 2021–22 here.

The November–January average temperature ended up looking a lot like what we’d expect during La Niña: colder than average through Canada, warmer over most of the US. Not exactly the same, but reasonably similar.

Precipitation difference from the 1991–2020 long-term average during November 2021–January 2022. Precipitation is rain plus the liquid equivalent of snow and ice. Map by from CPC Global Daily Precipitation data.

Seasonal climate averages matter—for example, your heating bill is going to reflect if the winter was warmer or colder than average overall. However, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, like when you have a December that’s 6° F warmer than average, followed by a hair-pin turn into a January that’s 2° F colder than average. (Hello, Annapolis area!) More on this just a mile down the road.

The precipitation map for November–January also looks a fair bit like the typical La Niña impacts map for this season. Lots of rain and snow in the Pacific Northwest, substantially drier than average through the south-central and southeastern states.

Precipitation difference from the 1991–2020 long-term average during November 2021–January 2022. Precipitation is rain plus the liquid equivalent of snow and ice. Map by from CPC Global Daily Precipitation data.

Shut up and drive

If we break December and January out individually, we can see some big changes between the two, especially in temperature, and rain/snow in California. For simplicity, I left out November here. You can toggle between the various months for precipitation and temperature in the IRI Maproom.

Temperature (left maps) and precipitation (right maps) difference from the 1991–2020 average during December 2021 (top row) and January 2022 (bottom row). Maps by from CPC Global Daily Temperature data and CPC Global Daily Precipitation data.

What’s behind these big swings? It’s tough to do a full attribution in the time I have to write my monthly ENSO Blog post, but we do have some thoughts about a culprit. The Pacific-North American pattern (aka the PNA) is a major atmospheric circulation pattern that has a big impact on North American weather. The PNA’s positive phase is primarily characterized by below-average air pressure over the North Pacific and above-average pressure over northwestern North America.

Air pressure in the lower atmosphere compared to the 1981-2010 average during February 2016 (top), when the PNA was positive, and in February 2019 (bottom), when it was negative. The location of highs and lows and the flow of the jet stream around them often produce a sharp warm-cold split in temperatures in the western and eastern halves of the United States. NOAA, based on data from the Physical Science Lab.

The negative phase of the PNA is the opposite: higher pressure south of Alaska, lower pressure over Canada. Be sure to check out Michelle’s post on the PNA, featuring one of our more excellent titles; the PNA Index can be viewed here. During La Niña, the PNA tends to be in its negative phase (that higher pressure over the north Pacific should sound familiar from earlier in this post). However, the PNA can change quickly, so, like the weather, the relationship to ENSO is weaker on a month-to-month basis.

One-month-average Pacific-North America pattern index (vertical axis) versus the one-month-average Niño-3.4 index (horizontal axis) during Decembers and Januarys, 1950–2022. graph from CPC data.

December 2021 featured the strongest negative winter monthly PNA pattern on record (1950–present). Then, in January 2022, the PNA moved into a positive phase, making the largest jump on record from one December to January. Why did the PNA flip? That is a topic for another day. The PNA can be affected by other climate patterns, but, as Michelle says in her earlier post, “a large chunk of the PNA is internally driven.” This means that apparently random, chaotic behavior, aka internal variability, often determines the state of the PNA.

The PNA is forecasted to move back into a more La Niña-consistent negative phase in mid-late February, so this La Niña is not done with us yet. With Nature behind the wheel, we’re all just along for the ride. However, that’s not going to stop us from trying to figure out where we’re going, and how we got where we are! See you next month.

#GunnisonRiver Basin #Drought persists — The #CrestedButte News #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Colorado Drought Monitor map February 8, 2022.

From The Crested Butte News (Katherine Nettles):

Water experts are monitoring closely how the series of big storms at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022 will affect local stream runoffs, or if the dry spells since then will continue to counteract the gains made in snowpack and snow water equivalency. Drought conditions have worsened across the state, becoming more widespread and more extreme in general, and a large portion of Gunnison County is now considered ‘abnormally dry.’ That may be the new normal, even with sporadic large snowstorms. However, the runoff forecast for both Blue Mesa and Taylor Park reservoirs look on track to fill up to 90 percent of capacity or more, as of February 1 calculations. No additional emergency releases are expected out of Blue Mesa at this time.

Upper Gunnison River Water District (UGRWD) water resource specialist Beverly Richards gave an overview of the Upper Gunnison Basin water supply as of early February to Gunnison County commissioners during a work session on February 8, and said overall conditions have worsened this water year.


“There are no areas now in the state of Colorado that have no drought conditions,” she reported. “Last summer there was quite a big area that was considered not in drought, however that is changing slowly and there has been an increase in the area where extreme drought conditions are worsening.”

Areas of the state characterized as in ‘extreme drought’ have increased from 7 percent to about 19 percent since the beginning of the water year on November 1, said Richards…

The entire Gunnison Basin is at 110 percent of normal for snow water equivalent, having fallen from 150 percent of normal. The upper basin has fallen from 160 percent of normal to 118 percent of normal and is expected to fall further unless meaningful precipitation arrives…

Reservoir outlooks

Reservoir storage is up overall in the Gunnison River basin at 52 percent of average, with Taylor Park reservoir standing at 55 percent of capacity as of February 6 and Blue Mesa still at 29 percent of capacity.

Based on early season projections from the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center (CRBFC), the Bureau of Reclamation has projected the total 2022 unregulated inflow into Blue Mesa will be at 825,000 acre-feet, or 90 percent of average. “Hopefully the snowpack will continue to grow so that we do actually see that,” said Richards.

At Taylor Reservoir, the CRBFC has forecasted runoff into the reservoir to be 1000,000 acre feet, which is 106 percent of average. The Taylor is projected to be 93 percent full after runoff, which is considerably higher than last water year. “The next couple of months, the forecast is going to be really important,” said Richards, as releases will be planned and adjusted based on those.

Growing hostilities greet Douglas County meetings on Renewable #Water Resources proposal — The #Alamosa Citizen #RioGrande

Denver Basin Aquifer System graphic credit USGS.

From The Alamosa Citizen (Chris Lopez):

RENEWABLE Water Resources promoter Sean Tonner touted a $50 million community fund in his pitch to Douglas County commissioners Monday to support a plan to move water from the San Luis Valley to Douglas County.

San Luis Valley farmers countered with figures that showed an annual loss of $53 million, or 5 percent, to the Valley’s economy from dried-up irrigated land resulting from the acre-feet of water that RWR wants to pump out of the San Luis Valley on an in-perpetuity basis.

In their fourth work session studying a possible investment in the RWR plan, Douglas County commissioners heard differing views on the economic impact of pumping water from the San Luis Valley to Douglas County. At this point Douglas County isn’t sure how much of its federal COVID relief money it can invest in the RWR plan, or what it actually gets for the money.

The work session also raised questions around Douglas County’s motivation, since it is not a water utility and doesn’t have water customers, and why Douglas County is intently focused on the RWR plan rather than other water projects closer to Douglas County that also have been submitted.

“Why are you doing this and not talking about the Platte Valley Water Partnership with as much gusto?” said Heather Dutton, manager of the San Luis Valley Water Conservation District. She was referencing a proposal to Douglas County from neighboring Parker Water and Castle Rock Water on a renewable water supply through the Platte Valley Water Partnership.

“We are actively looking at all of the proposals,” said Douglas County Commissioner Abe Laydon.

Douglas County also received a letter from the San Luis Valley Board of County Commissioners voicing their opposition: “The proposal from RWR is a threat to the life we are already struggling to maintain. Frankly, we think the use of Federal funds to take the livelihood from an area whose median income is $37,663 to increase the population of Douglas County, median income $119,730, is insulting.”

The work session on the economic impact from the RWR proposal was similar to the previous work sessions covering other topics: Little agreement on the impact 70 years of groundwater pumping and 20 years of drought have had on the Upper Rio Grande Basin, and growing hostilities between RWR pitchmen and San Luis Valley farmers and water managers.

At one point, Douglas County Commissioner George Teal, who during his run for county commissioner benefited from RWR-related campaign donations and now supports the RWR plan, grew testy with Conejos County farmer James Henderson. Teal said he took offense at statements last week by Nathan Coombs, also from Conejos County, when Coombs said ag operations in the San Luis Valley were taking a back seat to unchecked growth in Douglas County.

“It’s almost like, ‘What makes the San Luis Valley more valuable than the agricultural interests in Douglas County?’” said Teal.

Tonner said the proposed community fund would bring a needed infusion of money to help address a myriad of problems he sees in the San Luis Valley, from the lack of restaurants and hotels to the distance he has to travel to find a gas station.

“I have to drive almost 40 minutes to get gas,” Tonner said. Finding a restaurant to eat at is another challenge of his, he said. “It gives you some context of what a community fund like this can do for everyone,” he said.

Henderson and Chad Cochran provided the commissioners with figures on the market value of the crops grown in the San Luis Valley to highlight the damage to the Valley’s ag economy that would come with exporting water from the drying Rio Grande.

“How does the value of land go up when there’s not water,” said Cochran, challenging RWR’s assumption that its plan won’t harm the Rio Grande. “It’s a dust bowl.”

He wasn’t at the meeting with Douglas County commissioners, but retiring 12th Judicial District Court Judge Martín Gonzales perfectly framed what’s at stake in the San Luis Valley’s latest battle to stop a water exportation plan when he talked earlier to

“In my mind the seminal struggle for the Valley is water,” Gonzales said. “I think it’s important to keep agriculture alive. I think it’s important to have the water to keep it alive, kept in the Valley. That’s in my mind the seminal struggle by which I define as ‘If you don’t win that, you may not win anything else.’”

Douglas County.

From The Highlands Ranch Herald (Elliott Wenzler):

As a part of their process to evaluate a multimillion-dollar proposal to pump water into Douglas County, the Douglas County commissioners on Jan. 31 heard presentations from advocates and farmers from the place the water would come from: the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado.

Speakers from the San Luis Valley Conservancy District, the Conejos Water Conservancy District and the Rio Grande Water Conservation District spoke to the commissioners with one main message: this plan would damage their community.

“We are struggling to keep our ship correct and to try to recover our aquifer and then here comes this seemingly predatory-natured entity to exacerbate our problem when we’re in the middle of a hardship,” said Nathan Coombs, the district manager for the Conejos Water Conservancy District.

Representatives from Renewable Water Resources, a water developer, also sat in the room, defending the proposal at times. One of the representatives, Jerry Berry, is a farmer from the San Luis Valley and spoke in support of the proposal, which would ask some valley residents to sell their water rights and promises to contribute $50 million to the community to use as they see fit.

The two-hour meeting was one of seven that the board plans to hold to evaluate the controversial proposal, which would use a portion of the $68 million in federal money given to the county from the American Rescue Plan Act. In March, commissioners plan to travel to the San Luis Valley to hear from locals about the plan.

While RWR originally proposed that the county pay an initial fee of $20 million for the project followed by a cost of $18,500 per acre-foot for water, they recently revised that request.

In a letter to commissioners dated Jan. 27, RWR said that their attoreys recently informed them that “the rules and regulations governing the use of ARPA funds may not allow the county to spend $20 million on projects that are not completed by 2026,” according to the document provided to Colorado Community Media by the county.

If those restrictions remain, RWR suggests that the county instead pay an initial amount of $10 million from the general fund for the project with a cost of $19,500 per acre-foot. They say they believe the county could then use $10 million from ARPA to backfill the general fund.

During the meetings evaluating the project, proponents and opponents have sparred over whether or not the plan would be harmful to the San Luis Valley, a huge area that relies on agriculture as a primary source for its local economy.

So far, the commissioners have also heard presentations from RWR, the Colorado Division of Water Resources and from various water lawyers.

The northern end of Colorado’s San Luis Valley has a raw, lonely beauty that rivals almost any place in the North American West. Photo/Allen Best

Canal proposal seeks to preserve #Nebraska #water rights under #SouthPlatteRiver compact with #Colorado — Unicameral Update

The Platte River is formed in western Nebraska east of the city of North Platte, Nebraska by the confluence of the North Platte and the South Platte Rivers, which both arise from snowmelt in the eastern Rockies east of the Continental Divide. Map via Wikimedia.

From The Unicameral Update (Mike Hilgers):

A canal would divert South Platte River flows from Colorado to Nebraska under a bill heard Feb. 9 by the Natural Resources Committee.

LB1015, introduced by Speaker Mike Hilgers of Lincoln at the request of Gov. Pete Ricketts, would authorize the state Department of Natural Resources to develop, construct, manage and operate the canal and its associated storage facilities, called the Perkins County Canal Project, under the terms of the South Platte River Compact.

The bill also would authorize the department to use eminent domain to acquire land and resolve any legal disputes that arise as a result of the project.

The 1923 compact between Nebraska and Colorado apportions flows of the South Platte River between the states.

Nebraska Senator Mike Hilgers at Natural Resources Committee hearing February 9, 2022. Photo credit: Unicameral Update

Hilgers said the agreement entitles Nebraska to 120 cubic feet of water per second from the river during the summer. It also allows Nebraska to divert 500 cubic feet of water per second during the non-irrigation season if the state builds a canal, he said.

If Nebraska does not act to preserve its rights under the compact, Hilgers said, development along Colorado’s Front Range could “capture” those winter flows.

“This will certainly jeopardize our existing water uses and force us to seek more expensive and less certain water supplies,” he said.

Ricketts testified in support of LB1015, saying reduced South Platte River flows would affect irrigated agriculture, hydroelectric generation, endangered species protection and drinking water supplies for communities along the Platte River, including Lincoln and Omaha.

Compared to the economic cost of losing that water, he said, the $500 million canal and reservoir system would be a “bargain.”

Tom Riley, director of the state Department of Natural Resources, also testified in support. If Colorado follows through on proposed water management projects, he said, 90 percent of the South Platte River flows that Nebraska receives would be lost.

Building the canal would secure Nebraska’s right to the South Platte River’s winter flows “in perpetuity,” Riley said. If the Legislature authorizes the canal, he said, construction could begin as early as 2025, and it could be in use within a decade.

“In my 35 years as a water resources engineer practicing in the field, I have never seen a more important water project for Nebraska,” Riley said.

Testifying in opposition to the bill was Al Davis of the Nebraska chapter of the Sierra Club. He said further changes to the Platte River’s flow would affect the many species of birds, fish and mammals that rely on the river.

Davis questioned whether the project is viable and said it could be delayed by lawsuits. He said the proposed funding could be put to better use by retiring irrigated acres in overappropriated river basins and giving grants to farmers to help them reduce the amount of water they use.

“There are far too many unanswered questions to tie up $500 million for decades when that money could be used for an immediate benefit of Nebraskans,” Davis said.

Katie Torpy gave neutral testimony on behalf of the Nature Conservancy. She said colleagues in Colorado told her its list of proposed water management projects is a “brain dump” and that Colorado does not intend to pursue them all.

Torpy questioned whether Nebraska has exhausted all avenues to secure its rights under the compact. She said understanding how the proposed canal and reservoir system would affect the Platte River’s natural flow is “paramount” before moving forward.

The committee took no immediate action on LB1015.

Nebraska Rivers Shown on the Map: Beaver Creek, Big Blue River, Calamus River, Dismal River, Elkhorn River, Frenchman Creek, Little Blue River, Lodgepole Creek, Logan Creek, Loup River, Medicine Creek, Middle Loup River, Missouri River, Niobrara River, North Fork Big Nemaha River, North Loup River, North Platte River, Platte River, Republican River, Shell Creek, South Loup River, South Platte River, White River and Wood River. Nebraska Lakes Shown on the Map: Harlan County Lake, Hugh Butler Lake, Lake McConaughy, Lewis and Clark Lake and Merritt Reservoir. Map credit:

From the Associated Press (Ariel Pokett) via

Leaders from Nebraska’s irrigation and natural resources districts cast the plan as a crucial step to preserve as much of the state’s water supply as possible.

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts identified it as a top priority, arguing that not moving forward would eventually cost Nebraska billions as farms, cities and other water users struggle with shortages.

Colorado officials say they don’t fully understand Nebraska’s concerns, noting that they’ve always complied with the compact.

People work on the Perkins County Canal in the 1890s. The project eventually was abandoned due to financial troubles. But remnants are still visible near Julesburg.
Perkins County Historical Society

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jeff Rice):

“It’s now or never!”

That was the refrain being sung before the Nebraska Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee Wednesday as state officials tried to persuade the senators to approve building the Perkins County Canal…

Proponents all told the committee that the Perkins Canal must be built as soon as possible, or Nebraska will never be able to claim the water it has a right to. Riley told the committee the canal is “central to water security in Nebraska. I’ve never seen a more important project. To fail to build this project now would be catastrophic.”

The now-or-never urgency of the canal is predicated on the assumption that Colorado water storage projects will soak up all but the absolute minimum flow required by the compact. Colorado officials estimate that even in a dry year, 10,000 acre feet of water escapes into Nebraska, beyond that which is required by the compact. Between 1996 and 2015, Colorado delivered to Nebraska nearly 8 million acre feet of river water, for an average of more than 400,000 acre feet per year.

Nebraska officials were quick to point out Wednesday that that’s water Nebraska counts on for irrigation, recreation and even municipal use. Ricketts told the committee that Colorado’s plans for water development and storage threaten to choke off that water supply.

“They’ve listed 283 projects, at a cost of $90 billion, and that includes projects already approved and underway,” Ricketts said. “That would eliminate 90 percent of the (winter time) stream flow coming into Nebraska. It would devastate our economy.”

Riley said he’s talked personally with Coloradans who vow they’ll “not let one drop beyond the Compact (rights) come into Nebraska.”

Asked if the canal project would increase Nebraska’s water supply, Riley said it won’t, but it will protect the water Nebraska gets now. And, because there’s no minimum specified for the non-irrigation season — essentially October to April — it would be possible for Colorado to dry up the South Platte River.

Kent Miller, manager of the Twin Platte Natural Resources District in North Platte, told the committee that’s the intent of Colorado’s water community…

Committee members grilled the witnesses on the absolute necessity of the canal and were clearly concerned about the $500 million price tag attached to it. When Riley testified that Nebraska needed to prove to Colorado that they were going to build the canal, he was asked whether perhaps $200 million would be convincing enough, at least to begin with. Riley said the funds need to be secured immediately because costs will escalate as time goes on.

Only one person spoke in opposition to the bill. Al Davis, legislative director for the Nebraska Sierra Club, said the project would interfere with the timing and flow of the river, and would have a negative impact on habitat. He suggested that, instead, the $500 million be spent on things like child care and infrastructure.

Platte River Recovery Implementation Program target species (L to R), Piping plover, Least tern, Whooping crane, Pallid sturgeon

Melissa Mosier, vice chair of the Land Advisory Committee for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, testified in a neutral position on the bill, but expressed concern that the canal project could disrupt the work done by the PRRIP board, of which Tom Riley is a member…

Katie Torpy, climate and energy policy lead for Nature Conservancy of Nebraska, also testifying in a neutral position, told the committee that her Colorado contacts led her to believe that Colorado has no intention of pursuing all of the 283 projects to which the bill proponents kept referring.

Governor Clarence J. Morley signing Colorado River compact and South Platte River compact bills, Delph Carpenter standing center. Unidentified photographer. Date 1925. Print from Denver Post. From the CSU Water Archives

From The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District:


The Platte River, including the South Platte River tributary, runs about 400 miles through the heart of Nebraska from its western border with Colorado to the Missouri River. In Nebraska, the basin supports a population of well over one million people, including Lincoln and portions of Omaha. The river provides water for more than a million acres of irrigated agriculture, produces up to 140 megawatts of hydropower, provides cooling water for Gerald Gentleman Station – Nebraska’s largest power plant, sustains multiple threatened and endangered species, and generates countless recreational opportunities. It is arguably Nebraska’s most precious natural resource. Now, it faces an imminent threat.

Colorado’s South Platte River basin population is expected to
increase from 3.8 to as much as 6.5 million by 2050 (more than three times the population of our state today). Seventy thousand people move to the Front Range region every year. To support this explosive growth, Colorado’s legislature commissioned a study in 2016 to identify every drop of water “in excess of that required” to be delivered to Nebraska under the 1923 South Platte River Compact. Today, Colorado has nearly 300 projects in various phases of completion, planning, and assessment, all with the singular aim of preventing this “excess” water from reaching the state line.

Every drop of South Platte water that fails to reach Nebraska’s state line will need to be made up from storage in Lake McConaughy on the North Platte River. This means lake levels will be lower, carbon-free hydropower production will decrease, and storage supplies needed to mitigate drought within the Platte River Basin will be less reliable.

This growing threat led the editorial boards of the Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World Herald, in the summer of 2019, to call upon State officials to protect Nebraska’s South Platte rights, echoing what we in the basin already knew – Colorado was coming for our water. But what could be done? To address that question, the Nebraska Legislature appropriated $350,000 in 2020 to study Colorado’s upstream development and its potential impact on Nebraska. The proposed Perkins County Canal Project is, in part, the culmination of that and other efforts by basin stakeholders to ensure Nebraska gets what it’s owed on the South Platte.

Most in the basin understand the 1923 Compact provides for a flow of 120 cubic feet per second (cfs) during the irrigation season. Many people have just recently learned the Compact also allows Nebraska to divert 500 cfs in the non-irrigation season. This right can only be enforced in priority, however, if Nebraska constructs a diversion near Ovid, Colorado to transport the water to Nebraska, as authorized by the Compact. For over 100 years building this diversion has been deferred, and as a result, Colorado has been taking the water Nebraska is not demanding. The proposed canal will allow Nebraska to fully exercise its Compact rights for the first time since the Compact was signed.

Beneficiaries of this multi-purpose project will include water users across the entire Platte River Basin. This includes those reliant on the Platte River to irrigate crops and those who rely on hydropower to light their homes and businesses. It also includes small and large municipalities that draw water from the Platte River but need more reliable water supplies to attract new industries and promote Nebraska’s future growth and development.

Some have claimed that even if constructed, such a project would yield too little water to justify itself. This is contrary to the available hydrologic data. Colorado itself has stated that over 300,000 acre-feet of “excess” flow enters Nebraska annually – water the new canal would help to protect for Nebraska. Critically, if the project is not built, Colorado can simply cut off this supply. To safeguard against this, Nebraska’s proposed project would capture the bulk of this water, deliver it to a series of reservoirs for temporary storage, and return it to the river.

Some say the project is too complicated and fraught with legal challenges. However, Nebraska’s entitlement to this water is cast in law by the two state legislatures and by Congress. Rarely is a legal right so clear and compelling. Moreover, for a century, we have been able to work cooperatively with Colorado in administering the Compact during the irrigation season. There is every reason to believe our State officials will continue to do so. Ultimately, if litigation became necessary, what alternative do we have? If Colorado develops as projected, it will reduce flow in the South Platte by 90%, forcing Nebraska to search out more expensive and less certain alternative supplies. We can’t simply abandon our water rights.

Some fear such a project could harm key species by reducing flows to the river. The opposite is true. If Nebraska fails to assert its rights on the South Platte, less water will cross the State line. By protecting our non-irrigation season rights, Nebraska will ensure South Platte flows are maintained in the key stretches of the river that support these species and their habitats. Indeed, the project would aid in species recovery by offering water managers greater flexibility to deliver water at times and locations needed to maximize wildlife benefits. This makes it easier for Nebraska users to remain in compliance with their obligations under the Endangered Species Act and the Platte River Recovery and Implementation Program.

South Platte River Storage Study Area. Illustration shows water availability, in blue circles, compared with demand at various places along the South Platte River. The yellow area is the study area. (Illustration by Stantec).

Finally, some argue the price tag is too high. Certainly a $500 million investment must be carefully assessed and evaluated. But, to put that figure in context, our neighbors are planning to spend approximately twenty times that amount ($10 billion) to access the same water we would divert through the project. One of the projects Colorado has identified as most critical would cost $800 million alone, piping tens of thousands of acre-feet of South Platte water every year about 150 miles uphill to the Parker area near Denver. Colorado understands the value of what’s at stake; we can’t afford to be pennywise and pound foolish while our water is diverted away from the river and from future generations of Nebraskans. The time to act is now. The South Divide Canal is our last best chance to protect and preserve the South Platte River in Nebraska.

Western Irrigation District
Twin Platte Natural Resources District
South Platte Natural Resources District
Central Platte Natural Resources District
Nebraska Public Power District
Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District

Ovid, entering from the east on U.S. Route 138. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0,

From Nebraska Public Media (Jackie Ourada):

In 1889, the stretch of the South Platte River in Perkins County, Nebraska was a threadbare nothing.

In an old newspaper clipping from the Grant-Tribune Sentinel, the county’s elected surveyor Mark Burke described what he saw once he arrived in Grant, Nebraska in the 1880s.

“After the ‘June Rise,’ the water disappeared entirely and the river channel became a waste of dry river sands without islands or vegetation,” Burke wrote.

He was the original mind behind the South Divide Canal, now known as the Perkins County Canal…

In the 1923 South Platte River Compact, Nebraska is guaranteed water during the irrigation season. Burke wanted to bank on water coming in during the off-season too…

Capability and feasibility are a few of the bigger questions from some water experts, such as Joel Schkneekloth, a water specialist at Colorado State University.

“It was something I had never heard of. A few people here have in Colorado. They know of it. They hear it once in awhile get popped back up,” Schneekloth said…

Burrowing through sandy southwestern Nebraska soil, the canal may need to be lined, which makes for a costly water project.
“Through talking and discussing with other people… they were going to have to cross a fairly sandy stretch to get out of the South Platte River. Sand and water would make for very low conveyance,” Schneekloth said.

“The sand would act like a sponge.”

The latest briefing is hot off the presses from Western Water Assessment

Click this link to read the assessment from Western Water Assessment.

February 9, 2022 (CO, UT, WY)

January was very dry throughout most of the region; snowpack and streamflow forecasts that were much above average on January 1st dwindled to near-to-below average conditions by February 1st. Drought conditions remain over nearly the entire region and continued La Niña conditions are projected to bring below average precipitation and above average temperatures to Colorado and Utah for the remainder of winter.

January precipitation was below average for much of the region, especially in Utah where large portions of the state received less than 50% of normal precipitation. In Colorado, January precipitation was below average west of the Continental Divide and above average east of the Divide, especially in the eastern Plains. Much above average precipitation as observed in southeastern Wyoming and in the Wind River Range.

Temperatures were near average (+/- 2 degrees) for much of the region. Warmer than average January temperatures were observed in the Uintah Basin in Utah and west-central Wyoming. Below average temperatures were observed in western Wyoming, northern Colorado and eastern Colorado.

Despite a dry January, regional snowpack remains near average in most river basins of the Intermountain West. Snowpack declined relative to average in all river basins in Utah and Colorado, except for the South Platte River Basin. In Colorado, snowpack remains above average in the North Platte, South Platte and Gunnison River Basins, but is below average in the Rio Grande and Arkansas River Basins. Snowpack is below average in northeastern Wyoming, but near average in the remainder of the state.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 10, 2022 via the NRCS.

Dry conditions during January resulted in a decrease in seasonal streamflow forecasts relative to average except in the Bear, Upper Green, South Platte and Wind River Basins. Near-average streamflow volumes are forecasted for the Mainstem of the Colorado, Laramie, North Platte, Provo, Six Creeks, Upper Snake, South Platte, Weber and Upper Yampa River Basins. Above average streamflow is forecasted for the Virgin River Basin. Most other regional river basins are forecasted to see below normal seasonal streamflow volumes, with the Arkansas, Dolores, Powder and San Juan River Basins forecasted to see the lowest flows.

Drought conditions remain in place over 94% Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Despite a dry last three weeks of January, drought conditions improved in parts of the region. Along the mainstem of the Colorado River in western Colorado and in central Utah, there was a one category improvement in drought conditions. Regionally, the area of extreme (D3) drought decreased, but still covers 18% of the region, including 32% of Utah.

West Drought Monitor map February 8, 2022.

La Niña conditions remain in place over the eastern Pacific Ocean with ocean temperatures running 0.5-1º C below normal. La Niña conditions are expected to continue through April-May. A typical La Niña weather pattern, with wetter and cooler weather in the Northwest and warmer and drier weather in the Southwest, is forecasted to dominate the western United States through April. NOAA seasonal forecasts for February-April forecast an increased probability of above average temperature and below average precipitation for much of Colorado and Utah.

Significant January weather event.
Severe or prolonged storm cycles and periods of drought have characterized the 2022 water year. After a very wet and snowy October left most regional river basins with much above average snowpack, few storms impacted the Intermountain West during November and most of December. Beginning on December 23rd, a series of atmospheric river events impacted the region bringing significant snowfall to nearly the entire region until January 7th. Regional snowpack was much-above normal in early January. Over a 16-day period from December 23rd to January 7th, regional snowpack increased dramatically. In Utah, statewide snow water equivalent (SWE) went from 69% to 141% of normal. In Colorado, SWE increased from 67% to 131% of normal and Wyoming SWE increased from 73% to 118% of normal. Dry conditions returned to most of the region during the remainder of January except for southeastern Wyoming and east of the Continental Divide in Colorado. As of February 1st, statewide SWE as a percent of normal fell to near-normal conditions in Utah (97%), Colorado (107%) and Wyoming (93%). Dry conditions remained in place over the first week of February and are forecasted to remain dry until at least the middle of the month. Without significant snowfall during the last half of February, regional snowpack and streamflow forecasts will continue to decline relative to normal.

US Army releases its #Climate Strategy #ActOnClimate

Photo credit: The US Army

Here’s the release from the US Army:

The U.S. Army announces the release of its first Climate Strategy that guides decision making in response to threats from climate that affect installation and unit sustainability, readiness, and resilience. The strategy directs how the Army will maintain its strategic advantage through deliberate efforts to reduce future climate impacts and risks to readiness and national security.

Experts have shown that climate change increases worldwide drought and insecurity, which places demands on fragile states and contributes to food scarcity, migration, and security concerns, and threatens U.S. national security interests and defense objectives. As a guide for future decisions, this strategy is the next step in the Army’s decades-long effort to combat climate change in support of national security interests.

“The time to address climate change is now. The effects of climate change have taken a toll on supply chains, damaged our infrastructure, and increased risks to Army Soldiers and families due to natural disasters and extreme weather,” said Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth. “The Army must adapt across our entire enterprise and purposefully pursue greenhouse gas mitigation strategies to reduce climate risks. If we do not take action now, across our installations, acquisition and logistics, and training, our options to mitigate these risks will become more constrained with each passing year.”

The Army developed its Climate Strategy as a roadmap of actions that will enhance unit and installation readiness and resilience in the face of climate-related threats. Changing climate conditions requires the Army to meet new operational challenges, expand disaster response missions, and address risks to our people and lands.

These Army-wide efforts include enhancing resilience and sustainability on our installations, reducing sustainment demand, and preparing a climate-ready force with the appropriate knowledge, skills, concepts, and plans necessary to operate in a climate-altered world.

The Army will remain the dominant land fighting force by adapting to changing global conditions including climate change. This strategy will position our installations and supply chains to better withstand extreme weather, improve our training relevancy to a changing world, and our Soldiers will fulfill their missions under the harshest conditions.

View the Army Climate Strategy.