Updated: @usda_nass weekly #cropprogress and condition reports for Nov 13. #harvest22 nearly complete #corn #soybean #sorghum (1/x) — @dennistodey

Winter Wheat Poor/Very Poor Compared to Last Year by usda_oce

Even with the recent moisture, we’re 12% worse than last year at this time, with the Southern Plains and CO at the highest levels of Poor/Very Poor

This week’s Topsoil Moisture Short/Very Short by @usda_oce

Good news: Topsoil moisture short/very short dropped 4% as much of the Plains to the East Coast saw good precipitation in the last week. Bad news: 2022 has been at an eight-year (by date) since early September.

South Dakota and Nebraska are the states with the most topsoil moisture ranked short to very short at 87% and 86%, respectively. For the Lower 48, this is the largest area ranked VS/S at this point in the year since prior to 2015. Topsoil moisture has improved lately, however.

@droughtdenise

#Drought news (November 17, 2022): One class degradation for W. Larimer County

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

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

This Week’s Drought Summary

In some areas of the country, storminess chipped away and dryness and drought. Notably, on the 10th, Nicole became the first November hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. mainland since 1985, when Kate struck near Mexico Beach, Florida, on November 21. Nicole, a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds near 75 mph, moved ashore just south of Vero Beach, Florida, around 3 am EST. Nicole’s remnants eventually affected the entire eastern U.S., providing varying degrees of relief from autumn dryness. Some of the heaviest rain, locally 4 inches or more, fell in the central and southern Appalachians and neighboring areas. The rain helped to boost streamflow in the upper reaches of the Ohio River basin, with runoff moving downstream as the drought-monitoring period ended. Farther west, a storm system produced heavy snow and local blizzard conditions in the north-central U.S., while parts of the West received drought-easing precipitation. However, many other areas of the country remained mostly dry. Frigid conditions developed in conjunction with the Western storminess and expanded eastward, while much of the lingering warmth in the South and East was swept away, shortly after Nicole’s departure…

High Plains

An early-season winter storm produced significant, wind-driven snow and freezing rain across parts of the Dakotas. Officially, 17.0 inches of snow—with a liquid equivalency of 1.23 inches—blanketed Bismarck, North Dakota, on November 10, accompanied by wind gusts as high as 37 mph. Elsewhere in North Dakota, wind gusts at the height of the storm reached or exceeded 40 mph in Garrison, Jamestown, and Minot. Bitterly cold weather trailed the storm. The northern Plains’ moisture, while highly beneficial for winter wheat, had a limited immediate effect on the drought situation, leading to only small improvements in the depiction. Farther south, drought continued to gradually worsen in other parts of the region. On November 13, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported topsoil moisture rated very short to short ranging from 65% in North Dakota to 87% in South Dakota. On the same date, winter wheat across the region remained in dismal condition, with more than one-third of the crop rated very poor to poor in Colorado (45%), Kansas (40%), Nebraska (38%), and South Dakota (37%)…

Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 15, 2022.

West

Over the past couple of weeks, beneficial precipitation has helped to establish high-elevation snowpack and has provided limited relief from long-term drought. The improved moisture has also benefited winter grains and cover crops. The latest round of significant rain and snow overspread much of the region early in the drought-monitoring period and lasted for several days. On November 7, the last full day of the previous period, Spokane, Washington, measured a daily-record snowfall of 3.8 inches. Also on the 7th, Elko, Nevada, set daily records for precipitation (0.76 inch) and snowfall (7.5 inches). Elko’s November 7-9 snowfall reached 13.1 inches. Similarly, Alta, UT, noted a 3-day (ending November 10) storm total of 27.7 inches. On November 8, daily-record amounts in southern California included 1.44 inches at Los Angeles International Airport and 1.13 inches in Burbank. Elsewhere in southern California, 48-hour totals on November 7-9 reached 6.84 inches on Palomar Mountain, 6.76 inches at Big Bear Lake, and 4.80 inches in Idyllwild. In Utah, 24-hour precipitation totals on November 8-9 topped an inch in Randolph (1.20 inches), Logan (1.09 inches), and Zion National Park (1.05 inches). Daily-record snowfall on the 9th totaled 3.1 inches in Pocatello, ID, and 3.0 inches in Kanab, UT. During the extended period of unsettled weather, Pocatello noted 8.8 inches of snow from November 7-10. Later, cold, dry weather replaced previously stormy conditions throughout the West. Sub-zero temperatures were common across the northern Rockies and northern Intermountain West, with Greybull, Wyoming, reporting five consecutive readings below 0°F from November 10-14, along with a daily-record low of -14°F on the 11th. In Glasgow, Montana, a daily-record low of -15°F on November 10 was preceded and accompanied by 11.5 inches of snow, starting on the 8th. Other sub-zero, daily-record lows in Montana included -15°F (on the 8th) in Great Falls and -17°F (on the 11th) in Miles City…

South

Late in the drought-monitoring period, precipitation developed across eastern sections of Oklahoma and Texas before spreading into the lower Mississippi Valley. Targeted reductions in drought coverage up to one category were made where the heaviest rain fell. However, much of the region received little or no precipitation. By November 13, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rated topsoil moisture at least one-half very short to short in Oklahoma (76%), Texas (71%), and Louisiana (58%). On the same date, the recently planted winter wheat crop continued to struggle in the driest areas, with 48% of the crop rated in very poor to poor condition in Texas, along with 42% in Oklahoma. In Arkansas, only 59% of the winter wheat had emerged by November 13, compared to the 5-year average of 66%. Rangeland and pastures continued to reflect the effects of drought, with 82% rated in very poor to poor condition in Oklahoma, along with 62% in Arkansas, and 57% in Texas…

Looking Ahead

Cold weather will continue to dominate much of the country through the weekend and into early next week. At the height of the cold wave, temperatures could fall to 20°F or below as far south as the Tennessee Valley, while freezes may reach nearly to the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and northern Florida. Meanwhile, continental U.S. storminess during the next 5 days will be minimal. However, snow squalls will continue for several days downwind of the Great Lakes. In addition, rain may develop in the western Gulf Coast region. Elsewhere, aside from snow showers in the Rockies and adjacent High Plains, dry weather will prevail during the next 5 days from the Pacific Coast eastward across the central and southern Plains, the middle and lower Mississippi Valley, and much of the Southeast.

The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for November 22 – 26 calls for the likelihood of near- or above-normal temperatures nationwide, except for lingering cooler-than-normal conditions in the middle and northern Atlantic States and parts of the south-central U.S. Meanwhile, near- or below-normal precipitation from California to the Plains, Midwest, and mid-South should contrast with wetter-than-normal weather in the Northwest and large sections of the Gulf and Atlantic Coast States.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 15, 2022.

What is hydroelectric energy and how does it work? — The Conversation

The Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam provides enough electricity for about 147,000 homes in the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. Martina Nolte via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Brian Tarroja, University of California, Irvine

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskidsus@theconversation.com.


What is hydroelectric energy and how does it work? – Luca, age 13, Boston, Massachusetts

If you’ve ever observed a river rushing down a mountain or played in the waves at the beach, you’ve felt that moving water contains a lot of energy. A river can push you and your kayak downstream, sometimes very quickly, and waves crashing into you at the beach can knock you back, or even knock you over.

There is a long history of harnessing the energy in the flowing waters of rivers to do useful work. For centuries, people used water power to grind grain to make flour and meal. In modern times, people use water power to generate clean electricity to help power buildings, factories and even cars.

Energy in flowing waters

The energy in these moving waters comes from gravity. As part of the Earth’s water cycle, water evaporates from the Earth’s surface or is released from plants. When the released water vapor is carried to cooler, higher altitudes like mountainous regions, it condenses into cloud droplets. When these cloud droplets become big enough, they fall from the sky as precipitation, either as a liquid (rain) or, if it is cold enough, as a solid (snow). Over land, precipitation tends to fall on high altitude areas at first.

A graphic showing land, a river, a mountain, sun and clouds
The water cycle. National Weather Service

The pull of gravity causes the water to flow. If the water falls as rain, some of it flows downhill into natural channels and becomes rivers. If the water falls as snow, it will slowly melt into water as temperatures warm and follow the same paths. The rivers that form consist of water from precipitation starting at high altitudes and flowing down the steep slopes of mountains.

Converting flowing water to electricity

Hydropower facilities capture the energy in flowing water by using a device called a turbine. As water runs over the blades of a turbine – kind of like a giant pinwheel – they spin. This spinning turbine is connected to a shaft that spins inside a device called a generator, which uses an effect called induction to convert energy in the spinning shaft to electricity.

There are two main kinds of hydropower facilities. The first kind is called a “run-of-the-river” hydropower facility. These facilities consist of a channel to divert water flow from a river to a turbine. The electricity production from the turbine follows the timing of the river flow. When a river is running full with lots of spring meltwater, it means the turbine can produce more electricity. Later in the summer, when the river flow decreases, so does the turbine’s electricity production. These facilities are typically small and simple to construct, but there is limited ability to control their output.

a graphic showing a river and water diverted to a series of structures
A run-of-the-river hydropower facility. U.S. Department of Energy

The second kind is called a “reservoir” or “dam” hydropower facility. These facilities use a dam to hold back the flow of a river and create an artificial lake behind the dam. Hydropower dams have intakes that control how much water flows through passages inside the dam. Turbines at the bottom of these passages convert the flowing water into electricity.

To produce electricity, the dam operator releases water from the artificial lake. This water speeds up as it falls down from the intakes near the top of the dam to the turbines near the bottom. The water that exits the turbines is released back into the river downstream. These reservoir hydropower facilities are usually large and can affect river habitats, but they can also produce a lot of electricity in a controllable manner.

a graphic showing a cutaway view of a dam with a turbine at its base
A dam-based hydropower facility. U.S. Department of Energy

The future of hydropower

Hydropower depends on the availability of water in flowing rivers. As climate change affects the water cycle, some regions may have less precipitation and consequently less hydropower generation.

Also, making electricity isn’t the only thing dam operators have to think about when they decide how much water to let through. They have to make sure to keep some water behind the dam for people to use and let enough water through to preserve the river habitat below the dam.

Hydropower can also play a role in limiting climate change because it is a form of renewable electricity. Hydropower facilities can increase and decrease their electricity production to fill in gaps in wind and solar generation.


Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com. Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live.

And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best.

Brian Tarroja, Associate Professional Researcher and Lecturer of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Irvine

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Global climate summary for October 2022 — NOAA

Click the link to read the article on the NOAA website:

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information released the agency’s October 2022 global climate report this week. Below are some highlights.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • October 2022 ranked fourth warmest for the globe.
  • Globally, land-only temperatures ranked second-warmest on record behind 2015.
  • Europe had its warmest October, and Africa tied 2003 for its third-warmest October.
  • Beneficial rainfall returned to parts of Europe, but October continued to be dry over the agricultural lands of Africa, the Americas, and eastern China.
  • October 2022 saw the second-lowest sea ice extent in the Antarctic and the eighth lowest in the Arctic.
  • There were 15 named tropical storms this month, which is the sixth-highest count since 1981.

Global temperature

The October global surface temperature was 1.60 °F (0.89 °C) above the 20th-century average of 57.1 °F (14.0 °C). This was the fourth-warmest October in the 143-year record. October 2022 marked the 46th consecutive October and the 454th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average.

(top) Temperatures in October 2022 compared to the 1991-2020 average, with places that were warmer than average colored red and places that were cooler than average colored blue. (bottom) October temperatures compared to the 20th-century average for each year from 1880 to 2022. NOAA Climate.gov image, based on data from NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.

Globally, land-only temperatures for October ranked second warmest on record, trailing October 2015 by 0.09 °F (0.05 °C). Unusually warm temperatures across much of the Northern Hemisphere land surface resulted in the warmest October land temperatures on record for the hemisphere, surpassing the previous record set in 2021 by 0.05 °F (0.03 °C). Combined with ocean temperatures, overall temperature in the Northern Hemisphere ranked second warmest on record after 2015.

Europe had its warmest October on record at 2.6°C (4.6°F) above the 1910-2000 average. This surpassed the previous record, set in 2020, by 0.38°C (0.68°F). More than seven countries in Europe recorded their warmest or joint-warmest October on record.

  • Austria had its warmest October on record. Austria’s national weather service reported that the average temperature was 2.8°C above the 1991-2020 baseline in the lowlands, and 4.0°C warmer in the mountains.
  • According to MeteoSwiss, Switzerland had its warmest October since the country began its records in 1865, with an average temperature 3.7°C above the 1991-2020 average.
  • Belgium tied 2001 for its warmest October on record, 3.1°C warmer than the 1991-2020 average, according to Belgium’s Royal Meteorological Institute.
  • MeteoFrance reported that France had its warmest October since records began in 1945, about 3.5°C above the 1991-2020 normal.
  • Spain recorded its warmest October since records began in 1961.
  • Germany tied 2001 for its warmest October on record according to the German Meteorological Service.
  • As reported by MeteoLux, October in Luxembourg tied a 2006 record for the warmest on record at 2.9°C above the 1991-2020 average.
  • According to the Ministry of the Environment and Space, Slovenia had its warmest October since at least 1950 at 3.2°C above the 1981-2010 average.

Global precipitation

  • The long-running (since 2020) La Niña provided background conditions for floods in Australia, South Asia and the Maritime Continent, and West Africa.
  • Precipitation deficits dominated North America (except for Arizona and New Mexico), which continued drought over large areas and low flow in the Mississippi River.
  • Western Europe reverted to rainfall deficits for October, endured a heat wave, and had its drought reinforced.
Percent difference from average precipitation across the world in October 2022. Places that were wetter than average are green; places that were drier than average are brown. The influence of La Niña is obvious across the tropical Pacific, with a broad band of drier-than-average conditions in the central/eastern part of the basin, and a strong wetter-than-average signal over the Maritime Continent. NOAA Climate.gov map based on data form the Global Precipitation Climatology Project.

October precipitation was generally less than normal across the western, central, and southeastern U.S., Central America, southern Europe, central Asia, southern South America, as well as across parts of eastern China and southwestern Asia. Wetter-than-normal conditions were notable across parts of northern and northwestern Europe, southern central Asia, central India, northern Oceania, and eastern and southern Australia.

More information

October 2022 global climate summary

Full monthly report for October 2022

Four things to know about the lower #ColoradoRiver basin: Western Slope #water officials tour sites integral to lower basin consumption — @AspenJournlism #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

The All-American Canal conveys water from the Colorado River to the Imperial Valley in Southern California. The Imperial Irrigation District is the largest user of Colorado River water. CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

Click the link to read the article on the Aspen Journalism website (Heather Sackett):

Staff and board members from the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District, along with other water managers from across western Colorado, this month visited the lower basin states — Nevada, Arizona and California — on what they called a fact-finding trip.

The tour took participants by bus from Las Vegas though the green alfalfa fields of the Fort Mohave Indian Reservation, past the big diversions serving the Central Arizona Project and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and to the hot, below-sea-level agricultural expanse of the biggest water user on the river: the Imperial Irrigation District. Among the about 50 participants on the three-day tour were Kathy Chandler-Henry and Steve Beckley, River District board representatives from Eagle and Garfield counties. Pitkin County representative John Ely did not attend.

The River District’s mission is to protect, conserve, use and develop the waters within its 15-county area of western Colorado and to safeguard the water to which the state is entitled.

With the nation’s two largest reservoirs — Lake Powell and Lake Mead, which store Colorado River water — at record-low levels that threaten hydropower production, and calls for conservation coming from the federal government, it’s more important than ever for western Colorado residents to understand how water is used in the lower basin, said River District general manager Andy Mueller.

“We have to be able to understand (lower basin) interests and their needs so that we can find ways to meet their interests while protecting our own,” he said. “There’s a system at risk of collapse, and we are an integral part of that.”

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California diverts water from Lake Havasu on the Colorado River at the Whitsett Pumping Plant. Water is then taken 242 miles through the Colorado River Aqueduct to urban Southern CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

One in 17 people

An often-repeated fact about the Colorado River is that it provides water to 40 million people in the Southwest. But perhaps an even more salient statistic is that 1 in 17 people in the U.S. — about 19 million — get their water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. About half of that comes from the Colorado River.

A map of the Aqueduct route from the Colorado River to the Coastal Plain of Southern California and the thirteen cities via the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Since 1941, MWD’s Whitsett Pumping Plant has taken water from Lake Havasu and pumped it into the Colorado River Aqueduct, where it then travels 242 miles to urban Southern California. The water district spans 26 municipalities and six counties.

The future of providing enough water to all these urban customers may be something called direct potable reuse — MWD calls it raw-water augmentation — which would allow them to recycle wastewater into drinking water instead of discharging it into the ocean. MWD is testing this concept with its Pure Water Southern California demonstration facility, located in Carson, Calif., which was the last stop on the tour.

Graphic by Chas Chamberlin, Source: Western Resource Advocates

Direct potable reuse takes sewage, treats it using sophisticated — and expensive — filtering and disinfection techniques and returns it to taps as drinking water without first diluting it in a larger body of water. Last month, Colorado’s Water Quality Control Commission gave preliminary approval to regulate direct potable reuse.

MWD is working toward using the recycled water for industrial purposes and groundwater recharge, and it eventually hopes to deliver it to residents’ taps. The water provider could have a preliminary portion of the project online by 2028. This new supply of recycled water could meet about 10% of MWD’s demands, according to Rupam Soni, MWD’s community-relations team manager.

“It provides us with so much operational flexibility and water reliability because this supply is available to us rain or shine, it’s climate resilient, and that’s really important to us right now, with climate change and the challenges it’s imposed on our imported supplies,” Soni said.

Rupam Soni, MWD’s community-relations team manager, gives a tour of MWD’s Pure Water Southern California demonstration facility. MWD is hoping to soon use recycled wastewater, known as direct potable reuse, to augment its supplies from the Colorado River. CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

Forage crops are No. 1

Although it’s true that much of the country’s winter produce, especially lettuce, comes from lower basin farmers, the No. 1 thing grown with Colorado River water is forage crops: alfalfa and different types of grasses to feed livestock.

Southern California water agencies have agreed on a deal to cut back on the amount of water they use for the Colorado River, some of which is used to grow crops in the Imperial Valley. Ted Wood/The Water Desk

The Imperial Irrigation District uses 3.1 million acre-feet a year of Colorado River water. By comparison, the entire upper basin (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming) uses between 3.5 and 4.5 million acre-feet per year from the Colorado River. An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre to a depth of one foot and is enough to supply one or two families for a year.

IID’s No. 1 crop is alfalfa and represents almost 31% of the acres grown. Bermuda grass and Sudan grass are second and third, respectively. These top three crops account for about 56% of the acres grown in IID.

Forage crops comprise the majority of what is grown in the upper basin, too. But growers in Colorado’s high-elevation valleys can expect about two cuttings a year, while much of the lower basin grows hay year-round, getting seven to nine cuttings. That means switching to less-thirsty forage crops in the lower basin could have a greater impact on the amount of water used.

In Colorado, some irrigators are experimenting with growing forage crops that use less water in an effort to adapt to a hotter, drier future.

Rancher and fly fishing guide Paul Bruchez’s daughter and nephew sit in a hay field at the family ranch near Kremmling. Bruchez is helping spearhead a study among local ranchers, which could inform a potential statewide demand management program. Photo credit: Paul Bruchez via Aspen Journalism

Kremmling rancher Paul Bruchez, a representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, is trying out test plots on his family’s ranch. He’s growing sainfoin, a legume with a nutritional value similar to that of alfalfa. Bruchez, a participant on the tour, said some lower basin water managers and growers have expressed interest in meeting with him to learn more about growing less-thirsty crops.

Bruchez stressed that switching forage crops in the upper basin is not about propping up Powell and Mead with water saved from agriculture, especially since there isn’t currently a demand-management program in place to account for that water savings. It’s about survival.

“People just don’t have enough water to irrigate the way they used to irrigate,” he said. “They are just trying to make a living and stretch their water to go further.”

A tractor sits in the fields of the Imperial Irrigation District in Southern California. The district is the largest water user on the Colorado River. CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

Upper basin bears brunt of climate-change impacts on streamflows

Over the past two decades, the Colorado River has lost nearly 20% of its flows. Part of that is because of the ongoing drought, the worst in 1,200 years, which means less precipitation. But according to researchers, about one-third of that loss can be attributed to hotter temperatures driven by climate change. Decreased river flows mean that less water ends up in Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

These reduced streamflows in the upper basin mean water users may have to adapt their operations because less water is available to them. If there’s less water in the stream, junior users may get cut off and senior users may not be able to take their full amount. Streamflows can be particularly inadequate during the late-summer and early-fall irrigation season and some water users are at the mercy of dry local conditions.

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. Credit: Brad Udall via Twitter

Upper basin water managers like to point out that this isn’t the case in the lower basin. Although western Colorado has thousands of small-scale water users diverting from dwindling rivers, the lower basin has just a handful of large-scale water users who have the benefit of two huge upstream storage buckets that release the water exactly when it’s needed.

“Our farmers in particular live within that hydrology in flux and we have learned how to adapt to climate change,” Mueller said. “In the lower basin, their agriculture and outdoor landscaping are absorbing more water because of the hotter temperatures, so they just call for more from the reservoirs.”

The Las Vegas wash is a 12-mile-long channel that returns the valley’s excess water to Lake Mead. The Southern Nevada Water Authority has recommended that lower basin contractors be charged for evaporative losses, something upper basin water managers have been saying for years. CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

Evaporation loss not accounted for in lower basin

The thing about building giant reservoirs in the desert is that a portion of the water evaporates into the hot, dry air. In the upper basin, these evaporative losses from the reservoirs of the Colorado River Storage Project are accounted for and charged as part of the consumptive use to each state depending on their allocation of water.

For example, as laid out in the 1948 Upper Colorado River Compact, Colorado’s allocation of upper basin water is 51.75%. Therefore, the state takes 51.75% of the evaporative losses for Blue Mesa, Flaming Gorge and Lake Powell. Such is not the case in the lower basin, where evaporative losses in reservoirs remain unaccounted for.

Upper basin water managers have long said this accounting is unfair and enables overuse in the lower basin.

“We are asking for (the lower basin) to be treated the same way we are so the system and the playing field is even,” Mueller said. “Once we are on an even playing table, then we can address the way we work in the future, but it’s really hard to do that when the rules they play by down here enable so much more water use than what we have in the upper basin.”

The upper basin may finally be making progress on this point, for at least one lower basin water provider has taken up the rallying cry. In an August letter to federal officials, Southern Nevada Water Authority’s John Entsminger recommended that each lower basin contractor be charged for evaporation losses so that “the lower basin can reduce its reliance upon excess water from the upper basin to balance reservoirs.”

Lees Ferry streamgage and cableway downstream on the Colorado River, Arizona. (Public domain.)

subsequent study by SNWA found about 1.5 million acre-feet in evaporation and transit losses each year downstream of Lee Ferry, the dividing line between the upper and lower basins that is just downstream of Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam.

“We divorced the water use in the lower basin from the hydrology,” Mueller said. “When you have 50 years of reliable water supply, you don’t think about the fragility of the natural system that’s providing that water.”

Aspen Journalism covers rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times.

Colorado River Allocations: Credit: The Congressional Research Service

A century ago in #ColoradoRiver Compact negotiations: Storage, yes. But in the compact? — InkStain @jfleck @R_EricKuhn #COriver #CRWUA2022

A 1920s-era Herbert Hoover, throwing a curve ball?

Click the link to read the article on the InkStain website (Eric Kuhn and John Fleck):

When the Colorado River Compact Commission’s members returned to negotiations on the morning of Nov. 14, 1922, they were presented with three important questions – one which survived as language in the final compact and two which did not, but all three of which remain important to the river’s management today.

As they convened that morning at Bishop’s Lodge, outside Santa Fe, Commission Chairman Herbert Hoover laid out what he called “our three main propositions” –

  • a division of the use of the water between an upper and lower basin
  • the term of a multi-year upstream-to-downstrom flow commitment (flow at Lee’s Ferry)and a minimum delivery for any one year
  • the question of whether the compact should be made contingent on construction of large storage reservoirs on the river.

STORAGE, YES. BUT IN THE COMPACT?

The desire for dams for storage and flood control had always been one of the main drivers for the creation of a compact. The questions was whether the provisions of storage should be included in the compact itself.

Speaking that morning, Hoover observed that if the compact was made contingent on storage, “one would have more courage to arrive at quantities if they are surrounded by safeguards.” Hoover believed storage would be a safeguard and that further, with sufficient storage a minimum annual flow would not be necessary.

Hoover, using his engineering background, noted  that storage falls into two phases: storage to “equate the flow seasonally in the terms of flood control”, and second,” to equate the water over a term of years.” In the short run, in other words, they wanted a dam that could capture some of the high flood waters of spring to stretch the irrigation season later in the year. In the longer run, “over a term of years”, large storage could capture wet year flows for use in dry years.

Hoover believed the seasonal storage was probably somewhere between 5 or 6 million acre-feet and storage to equate over a term of years was probably 10 million acre-feet. He later suggested a total capacity of 18 million acre-feet in either basin.

The issue of how a compact would address storage had divided the Commission since its first meeting back in January. Carpenter, while not opposed to the construction of storage, in concept, was opposed to making a compact contingent on storage by including it as a requirement. He viewed the compact a legal document defining rights and obligations of the parties. He viewed storage as an operational detail. His position split the upper river commissioners. Utah’s R.E. Caldwell and Wyoming’s Frank C. Emerson were both open to including storage in the compact. In fact, in Caldwell made his compact proposal contingent upon six million acre-feet of storage above Lee’s Ferry.

Reminding the others of his position on storage, Carpenter noted “with a minimum flow, the whole question of storage is largely removed, is it not?”

For the remainder of the 15th meeting, the commission continued to discuss the three main propositions occasionally drifting back to issues related to storage. The two main antagonists, Carpenter and Arizona’s Winfield Norviel, remained at odds on most issues. Importantly Norviel noted that the location of storage did matter. In a prescient comment, he argued that the basin where the reservoir was located would be charged for the evaporation.

The Commission adjourned at noon to reconvene at 3 PM.

16TH MEETING.

The 16th meeting began with a continued discussion of storage. While the commissioners continued their discussion, Arthur Powell Davis and Colorado Engineering Advisor R.I. Meeker were separately meeting to evaluate and report on the approximate flow at Lee’s Ferry. Davis and Meeker reported that their analysis of the river showed that on average the tributary inflows between Lee’s Ferry and Laguna Dam and the river’s natural losses in that stretch were nearly the same, therefore the flow at Lee’s Ferry was the same as the flow at Laguna Dam. The Fall Davis Report included a table of reconstructed flows at Laguna Dam showing the average flow over the period of 1899 to 1920 was 16.4 million acre-feet. Davis and Meeker went on to explain because system losses on the lower river were less during drier years (less overbank flooding which reduced evaporation), the flow at Lee’s Ferry could be up to 500,000 acre-feet more than the flow at Laguna, Likewise, during wetter years (and more overbank flooding) the flow would be 500,000 acre-feet less, but on average the flow over a period of years was the same.

The discussion turned to existing uses in the upper basin and on the Gila. Davis made it clear that Laguna Dam was upstream of the Gila River. Carpenter noted that for his compact proposal, he assumed that consumptive uses above Lee’s Ferry and on the Gila were about the same. Davis responded that upper basin depletions were more, about 2.3 million acre-feet per year, but Gila were probably less than 1.5 million acre-feet annually.

Hoover used the Davis/Meeker report to suggest a compact proposal. He suggested the upper basin deliver 82 million acre-feet every ten with a minimum annual flow of 4.5 million acre-feet per year. His proposal was based on splitting the estimated Lee’s Ferry flow (16.4 million acre-feet per year) on a fifty-fifty basis. Davis noted that 82 million acre-feet per year would be sufficient to meet the estimated lower basin mainstem uses plus provide a sufficient cushion to meet the upper basin’s share of a future delivery to Mexico. NOTE – today the ten-year obligation of Upper Division States under Articles III(c) and (d) could be as high as 82.5 million acre-feet per year.

Hoover asked the upper basin commissioners to caucus and consider his proposal, then report back tomorrow. The meeting was adjourned until Wednesday, November 14th at 11 AM.

Delph Carpenter’s original map showing a reservoir at Glen Canyon and one at Black Canyon via Greg Hobbs