#Drought news August 31, 2023: For the week, some light precipitation accumulations (generally < 1 inch) were observed in isolated areas of the Four Corners states and Intermountain West

Click the link 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

This U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week saw continued intensification of drought across areas of the Midwest, South, Southwest, and the Pacific Northwest. In the Midwest, extreme heat impacted areas of the region including Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois with temperatures soaring 6 to 10+ degrees F above normal. Daily high temperature records were broken across the region during the past week including in Chicago (98), Milwaukee (101), Minneapolis (101), and Des Moines (100). Similarly, areas of the South including the northern Gulf Coast of Texas, Louisiana, and southern Mississippi saw continued drought-related deterioration on this week’s map as the heatwave continued to push high temperatures over 100 degrees F with numerous records broken during the past week. Record daily highs were set or tied in various southern cities including Houston (109), San Antonio (104), Austin (107), Dallas (109), Baton Rouge (106), New Orleans (103), Jackson (106), and Mobile (101). In Louisiana and southern Mississippi, the continued hot and dry conditions have led to numerous wildfire outbreaks as well as widespread poor hydrologic conditions and severe impacts within the agricultural sector. In the Southwest, monsoon precipitation has been well below normal across much of the region with areas of southern Arizona and New Mexico reporting rainfall deficits ranging from 3 to 6 inches since the beginning of July. In the Pacific Northwest, areas of drought expanded on the map in Oregon, Washington, and Montana in response to a combination of above-normal temperatures over the past 90-day period, precipitation shortfalls, and poor surface water conditions. Conversely, some areas saw improved drought-related conditions on the map, including southern Texas where heavy rains, in association with Tropical Storm Harold last week, provided much-needed moisture to the region. Rainfall accumulations along the southern Gulf Coast and South Texas Plains regions ranged from 2 to 6 inches. In the Southeast, areas of Florida braced themselves for the impacts of Hurricane Idalia as it intensified rapidly early this week. The hurricane made landfall in the Big Bend region of Florida early Wednesday morning (8/30) as a dangerous Category3 hurricane bringing a life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds, and severe flooding…

High Plains

On this week’s map, degradations were made in northern portions of North Dakota and in eastern Kansas. Conversely, recent precipitation during the past 30-60-day period led to some minor improvements on the map in drought-affected areas of southeastern Nebraska. Across most of the Plains, hot and dry conditions prevailed this week except for some isolated shower activity along the Kansas-Nebraska border region where 1 to 3 inches were observed. Average temperatures for the week were well above normal (2 to 8 degrees F) with the greatest departures observed in northwestern North Dakota and eastern portions of Nebraska and Kansas…

Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending August 29, 2023.


On the map, degradations were made across areas of the Southwest and Pacific Northwest including New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Montana. In the Pacific Northwest, an area of Extreme Drought (D3) was added in the North Cascades where precipitation has been below normal both in the short and long term. Moreover, 7-day average streamflows on numerous creeks and rivers were below the 10th percentile and numerous other drought indices were supporting deterioration in the Cascades as well as other areas in the state. Likewise, poor soil moisture and low streamflow levels led to expansion of Extreme Drought (D3) in northwestern Montana. In New Mexico, the combination of short- and long-term precipitation deficits, poor soil moisture, and impacts in the agricultural sector (eastern New Mexico) led to continued deterioration on the map across parts of the state. For the week, some light precipitation accumulations (generally < 1 inch) were observed in isolated areas of the Four Corners states and Intermountain West…


In the South, the heatwave continued across the region during the past week with record-breaking temperatures observed across the eastern half of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. On the map, areas of Extreme Drought (D3) and Exceptional Drought (D4) expanded along the northern Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana as well as areas of Severe Drought (D2) and Extreme Drought (D3) in southern Mississippi. According to the latest U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) Weekly Weather and Crop Progress Bulletin (8/29), the percentage of topsoil in Texas rated short to very short was 92%, while neighboring Louisiana was rated 88% short to very short. In addition, Water Data for Texas was reporting (8/30) reservoirs in the Edwards Plateau Climate Division were 35.9% full, while the South-Central Climate Division reservoirs were 44.2% full. In terms of drought-related impacts, the National Drought Mitigation Center’s Condition Monitoring Observer Reports (CMOR) were reporting hundreds of impact reports from across Louisiana and Mississippi during the past 30 days. For the week, average temperatures across the region were well above normal across most of the region with temperature departures ranging from 2 to 10+ degrees F above normal. In terms of precipitation, the region was generally very dry except for some isolated areas of light to moderate accumulations observed in areas of Texas (East Texas, Trans-Pecos), Louisiana, and southern Mississippi. In South Texas, some locally heavy rainfall was observed in association with Tropical Storm Harold making landfall and providing beneficial rainfall to drought-affected areas…

Looking Ahead

The NWS WPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for heavy precipitation accumulations ranging from 4 to 10+ inches in association with impacts of Hurricane Idalia, which is forecast to bring very heavy rains across the Big Bend region of Florida as well as across areas of the Coastal Plain of Georgia and the Carolinas. In the Northeast, dry conditions are expected, while most of the South, Midwest, and the Plains states are forecasted to experience generally dry conditions. In the West, some light to moderate accumulations ranging from 1 to 3 inches are expected across portions of Arizona, Utah, and in isolated areas of the central and northern Rockies. The CPC 6-10 Day Outlooks call for a moderate-to-high probability of above-normal temperatures across much of the conterminous U.S. in an area extending from the Rocky Mountains to the Eastern Seaboard, while near-normal temperatures are expected over the remainder of the West except in Washington state where temperatures are forecasted to be below normal. In terms of precipitation, below-normal precipitation is expected across much of the southern tier of the conterminous U.S. as well as portions of the Mid-Atlantic, Great Basin, and Intermountain West. Meanwhile, above-normal precipitation is forecasted for areas of the Upper Midwest, Northern Plains, and the Pacific Northwest.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending August 29, 2023.

Sackett v. EPA: How the Supreme Court Decimated the Clean Water Act — Getches-Wilkinson Center #WOTUS

Credit: Earth Justice

Click the link to read the article on the Getches-Wilkinson Center website (Andrew Teegarden):

August 22, 2023

After reading, rereading, and rereading again, I can’t help but conclude that the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett v. EPA makes no sense. The case presented the decades-old question of which waters, and by extension, the wetlands adjacent to those waters, are considered “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) and therefore subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Section 404 of the CWA requires operators to obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) before beginning dredge and fill operations on WOTUS. But the confusion surrounding the meaning of WOTUS, most of it caused by the Supreme Court itself, puts anyone potentially subject to regulation under the CWA in a difficult spot. If they fail to get a permit when one is needed, they could be subject to fines and ordered to restore any land or water they disturbed. The Corps has also been placed in the untenable position of not being able to ascertain what lands and waters are deemed WOTUS.

The Supreme Court has now issued four decisions addressing WOTUS. With each decision they seem to show greater hostility towards the law, even as they fail to offer clear guidance to the public and the agency about what activities, lands, and waters are subject to regulation.

Riverside Bayview Homes was the first of these, issued in 1985. It was a unanimous decision upholding the Corps’ authority to regulate the proposed filling of wetlands adjacent to a navigable stream. Although Riverside was arguably an easy case, the Court signaled its intention to support a broad reading of the WOTUS, consistent with Congress’ declaration in the conference report to the CWA that they intended “the broadest possible constitutional interpretation” of federal jurisdiction.

But in its subsequent 5-4 decision in SWANCC, which came down in 2001, Justice Rehnquist, speaking for the Court, narrowly construed the CWA because it believed that a broad reading might violate the commerce clause of the constitution. Specifically, the Corps struck down the “migratory bird rule,” whereby waters used by migratory birds were deemed WOTUS. Oddly, the Court failed to even assess the scope of the CWA against the commerce clause or other constitutional authorities like the treaty clause. Had it done so, it surely would have found grounds to uphold the statute under the constitution.

The SWANCC decision forced the Corps to develop a process whereby a party could seek a “jurisdictional determination” from the Corps. This added another bureaucratic layer to the policy of protecting our nation’s waters and forced the Corps to back-off from claiming jurisdiction where the administrative cost of doing so was simply too high.

Five years later, in 2006, a divided Court once again narrowly construed the CWA in Rapanos. Justice Scalia’s plurality opinion for four members of the Court held that only those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to a traditional navigable water would be deemed WOTUS. In a concurring opinion, Justice Kennedy held that wetlands should be deemed WOTUS if they have a “significant nexus” with traditionally navigable waters. Kennedy based his opinion in part on the CWA’s main purpose of restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters. But like Scalia, and Rehnquist before him in SWANCC, he ignored Congress’ admonition that it intended WOTUS to have the “broadest possible constitutional interpretation.”

SWANCC resulted in confusion across the country for the interested public, regulated parties, administrative agencies, and the courts. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers took the position that Justice Kennedy’s “significant nexus” test would control the issue moving forward, but the application of that new rule, forced upon federal and state agencies by the Supreme Court, would prove to be a costly and uncertain process.

That tortured history set the stage for the Supreme Court’s most recent opinion in Sackett, in which the Court compounds these mistakes by ignoring the science and prior precedent by further narrowing the CWA’s reach by defining “adjacent” to mean “adjoining.” Even using a plain meaning of the word, adjacent realistically includes wetlands that are ‘next to’ or ‘beside’ a navigable water. However, relying on Justice Scalia’s decision in Rapanos, the Court held that WOTUS covers only those relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water with a continuous surface connection to a traditional navigable water body. According to the Court, the surface connection must be so extensive that it is difficult to determine where the water ends, and the wetland begins.An even larger problem with the majority approach is their use of section 404(g)’s parenthetical reference to ‘adjacent wetlands’ as the justification for limiting the jurisdictional reach of the CWA. According to the Court, “because section 404(g) includes adjacent wetlands within WOTUS, these wetlands must qualify as WOTUS in their own right, i.e., be indistinguishably part of a body of water that itself constitutes waters under the CWA.”

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

Limiting the Corps jurisdiction to only those wetlands with a continuous surface connection will result in catastrophic damage to our nation’s waters because many ecologically important areas will not be protected by the CWA. The ruling goes even farther than the Trump-era Navigable Water Protection Rule which removed protections from 51% of wetlands nationwide.

In a few weeks, the EPA and the Corps will release a proposed rule to clarify the meaning of WOTUS and issue guidance to States and Tribes looking to assume their own 404(g) permitting and compliance program. Given that EPA plans on issuing a new operational definition of WOTUS without public comment, we encourage all partners to read the pre-publication version of the § 404(g) rule which solicits comments on each area of the program, particularly funding, operations, and judicial review of final determinations. The Getches-Wilkinson Center plans to submit a comment to the EPA on this proposal. If you have any comments or concerns that you believe we should address in our comment, please feel free to reach out to me via email to andrew.teegarden@colorado.edu.

Download the document here.

Justice Scalia’s opinion in the Rapanos case, and now Alito’s in the Sackett decision, would remove most or all intermittent or ephemeral streams from Clean Water Act protections. That would leave 94% of Arizona’s streams more vulnerable to development. Source: U.S. EPA.