Click the link to take a deep dive into the data on the Rio Blanco Herald-Times website (Bob Dorsett). Here’s an excerpt:
The river tried its best in 2022 but didn’t get much help. Total precipitation at the headwaters was low, again. Temperatures at the headwaters were much higher than normal, again. Consequently, total runoff came near historic lows, and daily flow hovered below the 25th percentile for most of the year. Again. Following are summary data documenting the historical records of climate and flows in the White River Basin.
You can find the full data sets at http://dorsett-edu.us/Climate/ClimateTrendsSummaryData_2022_PDF.pdf…
Peak runoff in the White River also occurs earlier in the year. Historically, peak runoff occurred in early June, but peak is trending earlier. April runoff is increasing and June runoff is trending downward (data not shown). Longer periods of low flow in the summer provide favorable conditions for algae growth, increase stress on fish, and also decrease available irrigation and municipal water supplies.
The data presented here document global and regional trends toward a hotter, drier world. Updated climate models predict that climate conditions in the White River Basin 30 or 40 years from now will resemble the present brush and sandstone regime of southeastern Utah (Talsma et al, 2022; NCA 2018).
On a positive note: we haven’t seen a big algae bloom for the past couple years. It’s not at all clear what happened to stifle the algae. Low water and higher water temperatures, such as we are seeing in the basin, generally encourage algae growth. A plausible assumption is that efforts by the Conservancy Districts and the White River Alliance are paying off. People have stepped up to try to reduce nutrients going into the river and to reduce insecticide application. A final report from the USGS algae study group is still pending, and some particulars, such as point sources of nutrients, are not available. However, we can take some hope that people are making a positive difference in the health of the river.