#Drought news (June 16, 2022): Areas in S.W. #Colorado and just east of the Front Range in #WY experienced some degradation

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click the link to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

This Week’s Drought Summary

The storm track remained active across much of the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) this week. Much of the Northern Tier states experienced beneficial rainfall and near to below-normal temperatures, predominantly leading to drought improvements from the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains. Storm systems and clusters of thunderstorms also resulted in some improvements from the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast. However, where the heaviest rains did not fall, there was some deterioration and slight expansion of abnormal dryness or drought conditions, particularly in parts of the Southeast and Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. Above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation was the main story across much of the southwestern CONUS, extending into Texas, leading to general persistence and degradation of drought conditions. Weak trade winds in Hawaii and below-normal precipitation in Alaska have continued, resulting in degradations this week. Warm and dry conditions also contributed to worsening conditions in Puerto Rico…

High Plains

Much of the High Plains Region has seen beneficial rainfall and temperatures averaging near to below-normal over the past 30 days. However, above-normal temperatures finally crept in this week, as temperatures ran more than 3°F above-normal for much of the region. Despite the above-normal temperatures, precipitation was also above-average for many locations, warranting broad 1-category improvements in the drought depiction where more than 1 inch 7-day surpluses were observed and where longer-term deficits were appreciably diminished. Only areas in southwestern Colorado and just east of the Front Range in Wyoming experienced some degradation, as temperature anomalies were highest in those areas (6°F to 9°F above-normal). Also, high winds have helped to exacerbate ongoing drought in those locations…

Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending June 14, 2022.

West

Much of the Northern Tier of the U.S. from the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains, has seen marked improvements in recents months due to a persistent storm track and near to below-normal temperatures. That same pattern continued this week and continued to eat away at long-term precipitation deficits and indicators, such as groundwater. Additionally, some high-elevation locations have even picked up additional snowpack and stream flows are running near to much above-normal over the past 28 days. Given the wet conditions in recent months and the continuation of the active storm track, broad improvements are warranted again this week. The only exception is parts of north-central Montana, where precipitation has generally missed many areas near the Golden Triangle in recent months, warranting some slight degradation this week, as precipitation again missed these areas. Elsewhere in the Western Region, despite the much above-normal temperatures, a general status quo depiction was warranted, the exception being Nevada and New Mexico. A slight expansion of extreme drought (D3) was warranted in central Nevada, where 7 to 28-day average stream flows are running below the 5th percentile of the historical distribution, vegetation indices are indicating similar signals as D3 areas to the east, and KBDIs are indicating high soil moisture deficiency in the upper layers. Despite some nearby monsoon precipitation in parts of New Mexico and Arizona, accumulations were not enough to change the severe (D2) to exceptional (D4) drought depictions in areas where the rains fell. Given the temperatures were running anywhere from 5°F to 10°F above-average, and coupled with windy conditions, additional degradations were made in parts of western and southern New Mexico. Additionally, CPC soil moisture continues to remain below the 5th percentile much of the region and nearby stream flows are averaging in the bottom 2 percent of the historical distribution.

South

Short-term (30 to 60-day) rainfall deficits continue to mount across parts of the Lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys. Coverage of D0 (abnormal dryness) was generally expanded, although coverage is sporadic. Seasonal temperatures in these areas helped keep evapotranspiration rates at bay this week. However, daily soil moisture anomalies continue to become more negative, particularly over the past couple of weeks from northern Louisiana, extending northeastward toward the Tennessee Valley, as several locations have seen continued declines in surface moisture. Similar to the Carolinas, these areas will need to be watched in the coming weeks, as potentially excessive heat and below-normal precipitation is forecast through the end of the month. Drought deterioration is also warranted across much of Texas, which saw another week of much above-normal temperatures, high winds, and below-normal precipitation. Some of these degradations extended into western Louisiana also. However, in eastern Louisiana, a cluster of thunderstorms provided some relief to abnormally dry (D0) and moderate drought (D1) areas. Improvements are also warranted in western Oklahoma, particularly in areas that received at least 1 inch rainfall surpluses this week. Some 2-category improvements occurred in areas where year-to-date precipitation deficits declined and daily soil moisture estimates improved to near-normal down to 200 cm…

Looking Ahead

A storm system with a trailing frontal boundary will exit the northeastern contiguous U.S. (CONUS) over the next 2 days (June 16-17), bringing below-normal temperatures and chances for precipitation to parts of the Great Lakes and Northeast. High pressure is forecast to build over the central CONUS and spread eastward through Tuesday, June 21. Maximum temperatures across parts of the north-central CONUS may reach 15°F to 20°F above-normal. The northwestern CONUS is expected to remain active, as another storm system is forecast to push onshore into the Pacific Northwest and into the Intermountain West during the weekend and leading up to the Tuesday cutoff. With it will come increased chances for precipitation in areas that experienced improvements in recent weeks. Below-normal temperatures are also forecast across much of the western third of the CONUS, in the wake of this passing system.

The Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 day outlook (valid June 21-25, 2022) favors above-normal temperatures and near to below-normal precipitation across the eastern CONUS. Below-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation are favored across the Pacific Northwest and northern Great Basin, in the wake of a passing storm system near the start of the 6-10 day period. However, there is a weak tilt in the odds toward above-normal precipitation in northern Washington. A surge of moisture is expected to bring increased chances of precipitation to the Four Corners region, signaling a potential early start to the Southwest Monsoon season, with probabilities of above-normal precipitation extending northeastward into portions of the Central and Northern Plains. Near to below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures are favored over much of California.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending June 14, 2022.

Latino activism leads in grassroot efforts on #ClimateChange — The Associated Press #ActOnClimate

Photo credit: Green Latinos website

Click the link to read the article on the Associated Press website (Anita Snow). Here’s an excerpt:

After experiencing global warming’s firsthand effects, U.S. Latinos are leading the way in activism around climate change, often drawing on traditions from their ancestral homelands.

Juan Roberto Madrid via LinkedIn

“There has been a real national uprising in Latino activism in environmentalism in recent years,” said Juan Roberto Madrid, an environmental science and public health specialist based in Colorado for the national nonprofit GreenLatinos. “Climate change may be impacting everyone, but it is impacting Latinos more.”

[…]

Latino activists are now sounding the alarm about the risks of global warming for their neighborhoods and the world. They include a teen who protested every Friday for weeks outside U.N. headquarters in New York, a Southern California academic who wants more grassroots efforts included in global climate organizing and a Mexico-born advocate in Phoenix who teaches young Hispanics the importance of protecting Earth for future generations.

“Many members of the Latinx community have Indigenous roots,” said Masavi Perea, organizing director for Chispa Arizona, a program of the League of Conservation Voters. “A lot of us grew up on ranches, so many of us already have a relationship with nature.”

[…]

A Pew Research Center study released last fall showed about seven in 10 Latinos say climate change affects their communities at least some, while only 54% of non-Latinos said it affects their neighborhoods. The self-administered web survey of 13,749 respondents had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points…

Colorado College’s Conservation in the West Poll published this year showed notably higher percentages of Latino, Black and Indigenous voters in eight western states concerned about climate change, pollution and the impact of fossil fuels.

Latino and other communities of color are disproportionately affected by climate change, such as more frequent, intense and longer heat waves in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Palm Springs and other arid western communities.

Graphic credit: Colorado College Conservation in the West poll 2022

Reclamation warns #ColoradoRiver Basin #water usage could be cut as #drought worsens — #ColoradoNewsline #COriver #aridification #ActOnClimate

A view of Reflection Canyon in Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, in 2013. Sedimentary rock forms the landscape surrounding Lake Powell, on the Colorado River at the Utah-Arizona border. (Gary Ladd/National Park Service/Public domain)

WASHINGTON — The federal agency in charge of managing much of the West’s water warned Tuesday that it will act unilaterally to reduce water usage in the Colorado River Basin if state and tribal leaders can’t reach an agreement this summer. 

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille C. Touton told a U.S. Senate committee that states within the region will need to cut usage between 2 and 4 million acre feet in 2023 to protect the Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs.

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For now, Touton said, the bureau is “pursuing a path of partnership,” though she noted the agency has the authority “to act unilaterally to protect the system.”

“There is so much to this that is unprecedented and that is true. But unprecedented is now the reality and the normal in which Reclamation must manage our systems,” she testified. “A warmer, drier West is what we are seeing today.” 

Touton said the Bureau of Reclamation is currently prioritizing short-term actions to prevent Lakes Mead and Powell from reaching dead pool, a condition where water levels get so low they can’t flow past a dam. 

“This is the priority for us, between the next 60 days to figure out a plan to close that gap,” she said. 

The Colorado River Basin covers more than 250,000 square miles and provides water to Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Extreme drought

The hearing in front of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado sits, gathered together officials from the Environmental Defense Fund, the Family Farm Alliance and the Southern Nevada Water Authority to look at short- and long-term solutions for extreme drought. 

John J. Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, told panel members that while the situation is bleak, it’s not unsolvable. 

“I can assure you from on the ground that the ominous tenor of recent media reports is warranted,” Entsminger said. “What has been a slow motion train wreck for 20 years is accelerating and the moment of reckoning is near.”

I can assure you from on the ground that the ominous tenor of recent media reports is warranted …What has been a slow motion train wreck for 20 years is accelerating and the moment of reckoning is near.

– John J. Entsminger, general manager of Southern Nevada Water Authority

The solution, he said, is working toward “a degree of demand management previously considered unattainable.”

Entsminger pointed to his home state of Nevada as an example for others in the region to follow, noting that while the state’s population has increased by 800,000 people during the last two decades, its water consumption dropped by 26%. 

The state, which gets 1.8% of the Colorado River Basin’s water allocation, has paid residents to remove grass, set a mandatory irrigation schedule and enforced water waste rules. 

He said that long-term solutions cannot just focus on residential and urban water use, but must include changes to how farms operate in the region. 

Eighty percent of the Colorado River’s water allocation is used for agriculture and 80% of that is used for forage crops like alfalfa, Entsminger testified. 

“I’m not suggesting that farmers stop farming. But rather that they carefully consider crop selection and make the investments needed to optimize irrigation efficiency,” he said.  

Patrick O’Toole, president of the Family Farm Alliance, told U.S. lawmakers that he believes water storage and improving forest health are important steps to addressing severe, ongoing drought in the West. 

The Alliance formed three decades ago to “ensure the availability of reliable, affordable irrigation water supplies to Western farmers and ranchers” in 17 states. 

O’Toole cautioned that taking water away from farms would increase the amount of food the United States needs to import from other countries. 

“We are about to do with agriculture what we did with manufacturing and let it go overseas,” O’Toole testified. 

Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck.

‘Aridification’

New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich, a member of the panel, pushed back against the committee using the term drought to refer to the situation in Western states, using aridification instead. 

That word refers to a region gradually moving to a drier climate, whereas drought often refers to a shorter term reduction in water. 

“This is not some random event, it’s frankly a direct result of the lack of action on climate that we have seen for more than 20 years,” Heinrich said. “And we all collectively own that.”

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s the release from the Central Arizona Project:

The drought on the Colorado River is critical and we recognize the importance of taking additional actions now to protect the system.

Central Arizona Project has been participating with our partners in conservation efforts to protectLake Mead since 2014. This has included voluntary contributions of funding and water, mandatory

Tier 1 reductions and actions associated with the Drought Contingency Plan and the 500+ Plan.

In 2022 alone, this equals a contribution to Lake Mead of approximately 800,000 acre-feet. In Arizona, reductions have been borne primarily by CAP water users.

Despite our very best efforts, our reservoirs have rapidly declined to record low levels. This is a serious situation and it’s clear that Colorado River Basin users need to do much more. We support
the efforts of the Bureau of Reclamation to address this concerning issue.

Collaboration has been a hallmark in Arizona and across the Basin. Now, more than ever before, it will be essential to work together as we take action to address the effects of drought and climate change throughout the Colorado River Basin system.

SNWA intake #1 exposed April 2022. Photo credit: SNWA

Click the link to read “Major water cutbacks loom as shrinking Colorado River nears ‘moment of reckoning’” on The Los Angeles Times webasite (Ian James). Here’s an excerpt:

As the West endures another year of unrelenting drought worsened by climate change, the Colorado River’s reservoirs have declined so low that major water cuts will be necessary next year to reduce risks of supplies reaching perilously low levels, a top federal water official said Tuesday.

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton said during a Senate hearing in Washington that federal officials now believe protecting “critical levels” at the country’s largest reservoirs — Lake Mead and Lake Powell — will require much larger reductions in water deliveries.

“A warmer, drier West is what we are seeing today,” Touton told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “And the challenges we are seeing today are unlike anything we have seen in our history.”

The needed cuts, she said, amount to between 2 million and 4 million acre-feet next year. For comparison, California is entitled to 4.4 million acre-feet of Colorado River water per year, while Arizona’s allotment is 2.8 million.

The push for a new emergency deal to cope with the Colorado River’s shrinking flow comes just seven months after officials from California, Arizona and Nevada signed an agreement to take significantly less water out of Lake Mead, and six weeks after the federal government announced it is holding back a large quantity of water in Lake Powell to reduce risks of the reservoir dropping to a point where Glen Canyon Dam would no longer generate electricity. Despite those efforts and a previous deal among the states to share in the shortages, the two reservoirs stand at or near record-low levels. Lake Mead near Las Vegas has dropped to 28% of its full capacity, while Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border is now just 27% full.

Click the link to read “Painful Colorado River cuts are coming, whether basin states agree or not” on the AZCentral website (Joanna Allhands). Here’s an excerpt:

The window to avoid even more painful cuts on the Colorado River just closed. The federal Bureau of Reclamation is asking states to conserve 2 to 4 million acre-feet of water, just to keep Lake Powell and Lake Mead out of critically low territory in 2023. And we’ll need a plan to do so by mid-August when shortage levels and other important operating details for the next water year are set…

Colorado River users have about 8 weeks to decide

We’re talking a mind-boggling amount of water. That’s roughly 650 billion to 1.3 trillion gallons…

If we were to carry out every cut contemplated in the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, which applies to Arizona, California and Nevada, that would amount to 1.1 million acre-feet of water. That means the full basin would need to conserve at least twice as much as the deepest levels of shortage for which our three states have planned. In the best-case scenario. And we’ll need to agree on a plan to do so in about eight weeks – or else, the feds will act for us. Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton made that clear during a June 14 Senate hearing on drought.

Finding this much water will be tough

That’s going to be tough, considering that the Lower Basin has only met about half of this year’s target under the 500-plus plan, which calls for the three states to voluntarily save 500,000 acre-feet in Lake Mead, over and above what we are mandated to cut, each year through 2026. Most of what has been saved so far this year has come from tribes, cities and farmers in Arizona. California is not yet mandated to cut its use, so it has instead decided to take its full allocation this year, plus withdraw some of the water it had previously volunteered to store in Lake Mead, to help cushion the blow of a severely curtailed State Water Project. Meanwhile, the Upper Basin has not agreed to a plan to temporarily curtail use among states. Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico have been talking about conservation and demand management ideas for years, including paying folks not to use water, but have never reached consensus…

It must be noted that saving 2 million to 4 million acre-feet next year won’t rebuild Lake Mead or Lake Powell; it just keeps them from falling to the point where hydropower can no longer be generated.

Remains from a batch plant used in construction of Glen Canyon Dam emerged from the receding waters of Lake Powell in February. Photos/Allen Best