#Drought news July 20, 2023: With the Southwest #Monsoon2023 off to a slow start, abnormal dryness has developed over a large part of the southwest quarter of #Colorado

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

Last week featured a highly variable precipitation pattern across the contiguous states. Over 3 inches of rain fell on broad areas across the central Appalachians, central and southern Virginia, parts of the northern and central Carolinas, much of New England and the adjacent Northeast, parts of Florida, the central Gulf Coast Region, the lower and middle Mississippi Valley, the Upper Midwest, the southern Great Lakes Region, and the central Great Plains. Between 5 and 7 inches soaked some areas in the southern tier of Arkansas, areas near the central Alabama/Mississippi border, the Florida Panhandle, and southwestern Virginia. In contrast, very little precipitation fell from the Rockies westward to the Pacific Coast,, the Dakotas, Oklahoma and western Kansas, most of Texas, central and western Louisiana, part of the Illinois Valley, the Tennessee Valley, the interior Southeast, parts of the upper Ohio Valley, most of the coastal and piedmont areas in the Carolinas, upstate New York, and the central mid-Atlantic Region. In the south-central and southwestern parts of the Lower 48, intense heat accompanied dry weather, with the week averaging 5 to 9 deg. F above normal from Texas westward through the desert Southwest and part of the southern half of the Rockies. Temperatures reached 129 deg. F near Baker, CA on July 16. Elsewhere, the Northeast, Florida, the lower Mississippi Valley, and the West Coast States were also warmer than normal…

High Plains

Drought remained widespread across Kansas, Nebraska outside the Panhandle, and southeastern South Dakota, with some swaths of improvement incurred in eastern parts of Nebraska and Kansas. Meanwhile, dryness and drought expanded slightly across northern North Dakota, and with the Southwest Monsoon off to a slow start, abnormal dryness has developed over a large part of the southwest quarter of Colorado. Other parts of the central Rockies and most of the Dakotas are unchanged from this past week. In South Dakota, 31 percent of Spring Wheat and 19 percent of oats are in poor or very poor condition, along with 15 percent of Spring Wheat in North Dakota…

Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending July 18, 2023.


There was little rainfall in the West Region this past week, but since this is a dry time of year in much of the Region outside the Four Corners States, there was little change in dryness and drought for most areas; however, monsoonal rainfall was again lacking in the Four Corners, prompting a significant expansion of abnormal dryness across New Mexico, Arizona, and southeastern Utah. D0 and D1 also increased across west-central and northeastern Montana…


A broad range of conditions can be found across the region, and even regarding the week’s rainfall totals, some got too much while others languished in heat and drought. Most of Texas was dry this past week, and conditions deteriorated south of the Panhandle. D3 and D4 conditions (extreme to exceptional drought) expanded in the middle of the state, and severe drought (D2) pushed northward toward the central Red River Valley. Agriculture is increasingly impacted by the drought here, with 45 percent of the Texas cotton crop in poor or very poor condition. Almost half of rangelands were in poor or very poor condition, increasingly stressing livestock. In addition, 27 percent of Texas oats are in poor or very poor condition.

Elsewhere, the only other area remaining in D2 to D3 are north-central and southwestern Oklahoma, and agricultural impacts have been far milder outside the Lone Star State. Heavy rains over the past two weeks have left a large swath across the Panhandles, central Oklahoma, the north half of the Lower Mississippi Valley, and much of Tennessee free of any abnormal dryness…

Looking Ahead

According to the Weather Prediction Center (WPC), over the next 5 days (July 20 – 24, 2023) moderate to heavy precipitation is expected across parts of the central and southern High Plains from central New Mexico northward into southeast Wyoming, and eastward across western Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, and adjacent locales. Totals near or over 2 inches are forecast for parts of northeastern Colorado, western Kansas, and the Oklahoma Panhandle. Light to locally moderate amounts are expected in higher elevations of the southern Rockies and some adjacent locations, with at least a few tenths of an inch possible over the central Rockies and part of the Great Basin. Little or no precipitation is expected elsewhere from the Plains States westward to the Pacific Coast, except in parts of extreme southeastern Texas. Most of the Lone Star State is forecast to receive little if any precipitation. Farther east, moderate to heavy rains are expected near the central Gulf Coast, southeaste4rn Georgia and the eastern Carolinas, eastern Tennessee, and parts of the northern Appalachians. Anywhere from 1.5 to locally 3.5 inches of precipitation may fall from extreme southeastern Louisiana across southern Alabama and the adjacent Florida Panhandle, The Coastal Plains in Georgia and South Carolina, northeastern North Carolina, and a few areas scattered across northern Pennsylvania, central and northeastern New York, and western New England. Light to moderate totals are expected over most of the middle and lower Mississippi Valley, the mid-Atlantic Region, the Great Lakes Region, and the Ohio Valley, and portions of Peninsular Florida. Temperatures are expected to remain considerably above normal from the Rockies to the Pacific Coast, over much of the northern and southern Plains, across Peninsular Florida, and in New England. Temperatures should average closer to normal elsewhere, with slightly cooler than normal conditions expected over and near the greater Ohio Valley and the adjacent interior Southeast.

During the ensuing 5 days (July 25 – 29), the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) favors above normal temperatures for almost all of the contiguous states and Alaska, except in the Pacific Northwest. Odds for significantly above-normal temperatures exceed 70 percent in a large area encompassing the eastern Great Basin, central and southern Rockies, and most of the Plains from central North Dakota southward into central Texas. Meanwhile, there are slightly enhanced odds for wetter-than-normal weather over the southeastern Great Lakes Region, the interior Northeast and New England, the western Great Lakes Region and upper Mississippi Valley, and western Washington. Odds slightly favor drier-than-normal weather in the northern Intermountain West, the Great Basin, much of Oregon and adjacent California, the southern High Plains, most of the central and southern Great Plains, the middle and lower Mississippi Valley, the lower Ohio Valley, the Tennessee Valley, the Southeast, and the South Atlantic Coastal Plain from northern Florida into North Carolina.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending July 18, 2023.

#Colorado takes emergency action to oversee #wetlands, after U.S. Supreme Court removes protections — Water Education Colorado #WOTUS

Photo credit from report “A Preliminary Evaluation of Seasonal Water Levels Necessary to Sustain Mount Emmons Fen: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests,” David J. Cooper, Ph.D, December 2003.

Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Jerd Smith):

Looking to oversee hundreds of streams and wetlands left unprotected by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Colorado water quality officials have taken emergency action to provide at least temporary protections while a more permanent program can be set up.

The move comes just weeks after a U.S. Supreme Court decision sharply reduced the number of wetlands and streams protected under the Clean Water Act.

“We will rely on this temporary policy while we work out something longer term,” said Nicole Rowan, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) Water Quality Control Division.

Under the new policy, the CDPHE is requiring notice of discharge into state waters and it will use its new authority to guide its enforcement actions when unpermitted dredge and fill materials are discharged into state waters, according to Kaitlyn Beekman, a CDPHE spokesperson.

Members of a working group, which includes environmental and agricultural interests, as well as water utilities and mining companies, have been working with the state to explore how to create a permanent mechanism to protect Colorado’s streams and wetlands in the future.

At issue is how the U.S. EPA defines so-called Waters of the United States (WOTUS), which determines which waterways and wetlands are protected under the federal Clean Water Act. The definition has been heavily litigated in the nation’s lower courts since the 1980s and has changed dramatically under different presidential administrations.

But on May 25 in Sackett v. EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, among other things, that the WOTUS definition that included wetlands adjacent to streams, was too broad.

In its ruling, the court said only those wetlands with a direct surface connection to a stream or permanent body of water, for instance, should be protected.

The court decision has far-ranging implications for the environment, as well as agriculture, construction and mining, all major parts of Colorado’s economy, officials said.

The decision may also have more impact in semi-arid Western states, where streams don’t run year round and wetlands often don’t have a direct surface connection to a stream.

“Although the court’s decision directly addresses only the scope of ‘adjacent wetlands,’ its description of ‘waters of the United States’ as including only relatively permanent bodies of water connected to traditional interstate navigable waters will likely result in ephemeral and intermittent waters, which constitute the majority of Colorado’s stream miles, being outside the scope of federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction,” the CDPHE said in a statement on its website.

Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are responsible for issuing permits and enforcing violations when dredge and fill activities associated with construction and road projects, among others, harm wetlands and waters considered to be waters of the United States.

Right now, though, as a result of the new Supreme Court decision, no agency has the authority to issue a permit or take enforcement action on these newly unprotected wetlands, according to Trisha Oeth, CDPHE’s director of environmental health and protection programs.

“There are waters that used to be protected under federal law and you used to be able to get a permit [for dredge and fill work]. Now there is no protection and no way to get a permit,” Oeth said.

Alex Funk, director of water resources and senior counsel at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said he was pleased the state was moving quickly to fill in the regulatory gap.

“We were not excited about Sackett,” Funk said. “But we’re glad Colorado is doing something about it.”

Funk is hopeful that the CDPHE and lawmakers will move to introduce legislation next year that will create a wetlands law specific to Colorado that will offer broad, lasting protections. Funk said a handful of states, including Ohio and New York, have taken similar action to address the changes to the Waters of the U.S. rule.

Agricultural interests have long been worried about the WOTUS rule, because irrigators routinely work with streams and irrigation systems on their lands, where wetlands also exist.

Austin Vincent, general counsel and policy director for the Colorado Farm Bureau, said his members are comfortable with the approach the CDPHE is taking in part because there are critical exemptions for on-farm work, such as irrigating, plowing and irrigation system maintenance.

Part of the problem in the past is that the law changed so frequently, that it was difficult to know with certainty where and when permits were needed, Vincent said.

“It’s a big, big issue,” he said. “We want to make sure that the definition the state comes up with doesn’t encompass an overly broad number of waterways … Certainty is difficult in water. But we want as much certainty as we can get from the regulatory community.”

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

Ephemeral streams are streams that do not always flow. They are above the groundwater reservoir and appear after precipitation in the area. Via Socratic.org

Research article: Archaeological sites in #GrandCanyon National Park along the #ColoradoRiver are eroding owing to six decades of #GlenCanyonDam operations — Science Direct #COriver

Click the link to access the article on the Science Direct website (Joel B. Sankey, Amy East, Helen C. Fairley, Joshua Caster, Jennifer Dierker, Ellen Brennan, Lonnie Pilkington, Nathaniel Bransky, Alan Kasprak). Here’s the abstract and highlights:


  • •Integrity of 362 Colorado River archaeological sites assessed 60 years after damming.
  • •River-sourced aeolian sand decreased since 1973, making most sites more erosion-prone.
  • •Proportion of sites eroding by gully processes has increased since 2000.
  • •Erosion limits management goal to maintain or improve site integrity in situ.
  • •Environmental management opportunities: floods, low flows, riparian plant removal.


The archaeological record documenting human history in deserts is commonly concentrated along rivers in terraces or other landforms built by river sediment deposits. Today that record is at risk in many river valleys owing to human resource and infrastructure development activities, including the construction and operation of dams. We assessed the effects of the operations of Glen Canyon Dam – which, since its closure in 1963, has imposed drastic changes to flow, sediment supply and distribution, and riparian vegetation – on a population of 362 archaeological sites in the Colorado River corridor through Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA. We leverage 50 years of evidence from aerial photographs and more than 30 years of field observations and measurements of archaeological-site topography and wind patterns to evaluate changes in the physical integrity of archaeological sites using two geomorphology-based site classification systems. We find that most archaeological sites are eroding; moreover, most are at increased risk of continuing to erode, due to six decades of operations of Glen Canyon Dam. Results show that the wind-driven (aeolian) supply of river-sourced sand, essential for covering archaeological sites and protecting them from erosion, has decreased for most sites since 1973 owing to effects of long-term dam operations on river sediment supply and riparian vegetation expansion on sandbars. Results show that the proportion of sites affected by erosion from gullies controlled by the local base-level of the Colorado River has increased since 2000. These changes to landscape processes affecting archaeological site integrity limit the ability of the National Park Service and Grand Canyon-affiliated Native American Tribes to achieve environmental management goals to maintain or improve site integrity in situ. We identify three environmental management opportunities that could be used to a greater extent to decrease the risk of erosion and increase the potential for in-situ preservation of archaeological sites. Environmental management opportunities are: 1) sediment-rich controlled river floods to increase the aeolian supply of river-sourced sand, 2) extended periods of low river flow to increase the aeolian supply of river-sourced sand, 3) the removal of riparian vegetation barriers to the aeolian transport of river-sourced sand.

Glen Canyon Dam construction. Credit: Sibley’s Rivers