@USBR expects above average #runoff on the #RioGrande through #NewMexico this Spring

The headwaters of the Rio Grande River in Colorado. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation:

Irrigators, municipalities, recreation community and the overall ecosystem of the Rio Grande will experience the benefits of an above average spring runoff this year. That’s according to the Annual Operating Plan based on above average snowpack in the mountains that feed the Rio Grande and its tributaries released today by the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s April streamflow forecast predicts that Rio Chama flow into El Vado Reservoir will be 142% of average, up from just 18% of average last year. This is a forecast inflow of approximately 320,000 acre-feet, up from 41,000 acre-feet at the same time last year. Rio Grande streamflow at Otowi Bridge is similarly predicted to be at 142% of average.

“This is a complete turnaround from last year when we were preparing for drying in the Middle Rio Grande in April,” said Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Office Manager Jennifer Faler. “We are looking forward to a good spring runoff that will improve storage supplies and help the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow spawn. Reclamation will continue to work closely with our water management partners at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, State of New Mexico, Bureau of Indian Affairs and irrigation districts to manage the Rio Grande safely and efficiently through the summer.”

The Rio Grande is currently operating under the Rio Grande Compact’s Article VII restrictions. Under Article VII when the combined usable Rio Grande Project storage in Elephant Butte and Caballo is below 400,000 acre-feet, storage in upstream reservoirs, like El Vado, is only allowed under limited circumstances. Reclamation expects Article VII restrictions to end in mid-May for several months, allowing for storage in El Vado during that time. Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs ended the last irrigation season holding less than 3% of their combined storage capacity. They are already rebounding and are currently holding more than 288,000 acre-feet or about 13% of capacity.

The Elephant Butte Irrigation District, El Paso County Water Improvement District Number One and Mexico plan to begin irrigation the first week in June. Reclamation will begin releasing water from Elephant Butte to Caballo Reservoir on May 3 in preparation for the irrigation season. Releases from Caballo will begin on May 31. The dry riverbed between Elephant Butte and Caballo and below Caballo will take on water quickly. As such, it will be both unpredictable and very dangerous. The public is asked to stay out of the river channel for their safety.

Governor Polis signs long bill (budget)

Colorado Capitol building

Here’s the From Governor Polis’ office:

Governor Jared Polis today signed SB 19-207, FY 2019-20 Long Bill, into law. He was joined by sponsors and Joint Budget Committee members Senator Dominick Moreno and Representative Daneya Esgar. The budget funds top priority items including free full-day kindergarten, saving people money on health care, and investments for water and transportation.

SB19-207 establishes an operating budget of $31.9 billion total funds of which $11.8 billion is General Fund.

“This budget lays a strong foundation for a bold vision for our state, creating opportunity for all,” Governor Polis said. “A product of collaboration and teamwork with Colorado’s leaders in the General Assembly, this budget ensures that our state’s economic success can be realized by every child, adult, and business in our communities. My top priority in this first year as Colorado’s 43rd Governor was to provide access to free, full-day kindergarten to every Colorado family. I am proud to say that this budget makes that vision a rapid reality, with funding now available for the school year that starts this fall.”

To read the FY 2019-20 Budget letter transmittal click here.

From the Associated Press via The Denver Post:

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed into law a $30.5 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Colorado Politics reports Polis signed the document on Thursday, his 100th day in office.

The budget includes $175 million to offer free full-day kindergarten throughout the state, a top Polis priority.

Tuition at Colorado’s public colleges and universities won’t rise in the 2019-2020 school year. Transportation needs get an extra $300 million. And state employees will receive a 3% pay hike.

The latest e-WaterNews is hot off the presses from @Northern_Water

Water courses through the new fish passage at Watson Lake State Wildlife Area. The passage allows fish to swim up and down the river past a diversion dam. Photo credit: Northern Water

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Fish passage begins its work reconnecting Poudre River segments

Construction crews have completed a new fish passage along the Poudre River at Watson Lake State Wildlife Area northwest of Fort Collins.

Built with the cooperation of the participants of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, noosa yoghurt and Morning Fresh Dairy, the passage serves to reconnect stretches of river that had been separated by a diversion dam.

Fort Collins company OneFish Engineering designed the project, and the construction company L4 Environmental built it over the past four months.

A dedication ceremony for the new structure is planned for early May. The Poudre Heritage Alliance and Trout Unlimited are also providing assistance, and a public celebration for the new passage is planned during the Pleasant Valley Rendezvous on June 2 at Watson Lake.

#Drought news: No change in depiction for #Colorado

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


Two rapidly-moving strong storm systems, one “bombing out” in the central Plains during mid-week while a second storm intensified over the middle Mississippi Valley during the weekend, brought severe weather and widespread precipitation to many areas of the lower 48 States, including heavy snows to parts of the north-central Rockies, north-central Plains, and western Great Lakes region. In the Northwest, moderate precipitation falling on an unseasonably late (and above-normal) mountain snow pack (due to a minimal melt from a cold spring) produced near- to record high stream flows in much of Oregon and southern Washington. Widespread precipitation, including mountain snows, fell across Idaho, Montana, northeastern Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. In the Plains, moderate to heavy rains (1-3 inches) were measured in the south-central sections (Oklahoma and Texas), which then moved into the lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys (up to 6 inches in northern Louisiana). To the north in colder air, South Dakota was buried under heavy snow (locally over 2 feet). Moderate to heavy snows also blanketed Minnesota, Wisconsin, northern Michigan, and northern Illinois. Meanwhile, light to moderate precipitation was measured in the eastern third of the Nation, with a stripe of heavier rainfall (1.5-3 inches) falling from northern Georgia northeastward into southern New England. In contrast, most of the Southwest, extreme southern, central, and extreme northern Plains saw little or no precipitation. Temperatures generally averaged below-normal in the western two-thirds of the U.S., especially in the northern Plains and upper Midwest (6 to 12 degF), and above-normal in the eastern third of the Nation (6 to 9 degF in the Carolinas)…

High Plains

The mid-week storm system tracked out of the Northwest and into Wyoming, finally dropping decent precipitation (including heavy snow) across much of the state before it moved eastward into South Dakota (up to 26 inches), southern Minnesota (nearly a foot), and central Wisconsin (to 10 inches) by Friday. Liquid equivalents of 1-3.5 inches fell across central Wyoming and much of South Dakota, which was welcome for Wyoming as drier conditions had prevailed there before this week. The storm increased the WYTD basin average precipitation and SWE in Wyoming, with some basins now with WYTD surpluses. Accordingly, a 1-cat improvement was made in central Wyoming where the heaviest totals occurred and WYTD surpluses existed. In northwest Montana, 1-3 inches of precipitation in northwestern Teton, western Ponderosa, and southwestern Glacier Counties was enough to remove D0 as WYTD precipitation and SWE edged above 100% on April 16. Decent precipitation also fell on northwestern Montana (Lincoln County), but longer-term deficits lingered, and D0(L) remained. In Colorado, some scattered precipitation (0.25-1 inches) fell on southern D0 and drought areas, but it was not enough for additional improvements. Drier weather prevailed in Kansas and eastern Nebraska, but that was welcome after wet and cold weather earlier this spring…


Two storm system brought moisture to most of the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, and southward into northeastern Nevada and most of Utah. In the Pacific Northwest (mainly Oregon and Washington), this week’s precipitation + late-season snow melt = record high stream flows (flooding), even though WYTD was below-normal in northern areas, and long-term drought (more than 1 year) lingered in some Pacific Northwest areas. Fortunately, reservoirs were filling with the high stream flows, and were expected to rise to normal levels. Accordingly, improvements were made where 12-month SPEIs were normal to wet, precipitation fell this week, and WYTD surpluses existed. Thus, D0 was removed along the southern & eastern edges in Oregon, in central Washington’s Grant & Kittitas Counties, and D1 was shrunk (western edge) in the northern Cascades where 2-5 inches of precipitation fell. In Utah, the same storm system dropped 1-3 inches of precipitation in northern and central Utah, bumping WYTD basin average precipitation to 130-150% and SWE to 150-180% of normal as of April 16. 12-month SPEIs are normal or even wet, thus the western edge of D1 was shrunk and D0 erased thru central Utah. Little or no precipitation fell across the Southwest, but with late winter and spring surplus precipitation, generally below-normal temperatures this year, and mostly WYTD precipitation surpluses, no changes were made in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado…


With the mid-week (first) storm system mainly impacting areas farther north, the second system that occurred during the weekend developed and rapidly intensified over the southern Plains and lower Mississippi Valley. Widespread moderate to heavy rains (2-4 inches, locally to 6 inches), including numerous reports of severe weather that took several lives, soaked parts of the South, resulting in 1-cat improvements in southwestern and southeastern Oklahoma, northern and central Texas, central Louisiana, and southwestern Mississippi. Arkansas, Tennessee, and northern Mississippi also received abundant rains and remained drought free. In contrast, the rains missed southern sections of Texas and Louisiana, leading to status-quo or some slight D0-D1 expansion. The small D0-D1 area in southwestern Louisiana was shifted southward to better line-up with the driest short-term conditions…

Looking Ahead

During the next 5 days (April 18-22, 2019), another strong storm system will impact the eastern half of the Nation, bringing heavy rains (2-3 inches) and possible severe weather to the Tennessee, Ohio, and lower and middle Mississippi Valleys and the East Coast. Unsettled weather will also impact the Northwest, Rockies, and most of the Plains, although precipitation totals will be much lower. Temperatures will average above-normal across much of the contiguous U.S., with closer to normal readings likely in the Southeast.

The CPC 6-10 day extended range outlook (April 23-27, 2019) favors above-normal precipitation from the Rockies eastward to the Appalachians and in southern and eastern Alaska, with the strongest probabilities over the southern Plains and the lower Mississippi Valley. Below-normal precipitation odds are likely in California. Above normal temperatures are favored for much of the lower 48 States, while Alaska is expected to see below-normal readings.

Here’s the one week CONUS change map.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending April 16, 2019.

The Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project update

From The North Platte Telegraph (George Haws):

The Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project brings together 70 researchers, along with specialists and students based at seven universities and two USDA research locations…

OWCAP involves research, demonstration and education. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Water Resources Field Laboratory near Brule is one of the research sites.

The TAPS competition at North Platte is also part of OWCAP. TAPS stands for Testing Ag Performance Solutions. A highly respected and innovative program, TAPS is made up of miniature corn and grain sorghum “farms,” where individuals and teams make decisions such as when and how much to irrigate, and how much nitrogen fertilizer to use. Participants earn awards for efficiency and profitability.

UNL water management specialist Daran Rudnick is an active member of the OWCAP research team. He worked with other educators at the West Central Research and Extension Center at North Platte to implement TAPS three years ago.

OWCAP is about identifying and promoting practices that conserve water and prevent water pollution, said OWCAP Manager Amy Kremen, who is also a water expert at Colorado State University.

Sharing ideas is an important part of OWCAP. For example, TAPS is now expanding in coordination with Oklahoma State University to offer a sprinkler-irrigated corn competition at Guymon, Oklahoma, this year.

OWCAP participants in Texas have something to share, too. The Natural Resources Conservation Service and North Plains Groundwater Conservation District there have implemented a master irrigator program that involves intensive training and certification. Now other states are considering implementing similar programs, Paulman said. Programs like that help increase adoption of water conserving practices, he said.

OWCAP has also resulted in research projects that each span three or more states, Kremen said. That “helps us to draw broader conclusions” about the potential of water conservation practices.

Those practices include making effective use of soil moisture sensors and aerial photography to inform irrigation and fertilizer decisions, carefully timing irrigation based on crop growth stages, using university-supported irrigation scheduling tools, and transitioning successfully to dryland…

OWCAP has also resulted in publication of over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and other reports, which are available at ogallalawater.org.

Kremen said the OWCAP team is on track to complete its USDA-NIFA funded work within the next two years. Team members are the lead organizers for a summit to take place in early 2020 in Amarillo, Texas. There, water management leaders from throughout the region will share their experiences and findings in hopes of benefiting agricultural producers and communities throughout the region.

#Time100: @GretaThunberg

Greta Thunberg via Twitter

From Time Magazine (Emma Gonzalez):

The civil rights movement leaders of the 1960s had no idea that school-shooting survivors from one of the most southern points in the U.S. would lean on their teachings to power a modern nonviolent movement to end gun violence. Students around the world began standing up for their survival, leaning only on the fire inside them to prevent the pain they understand too intimately.

Greta Thunberg saw her power in us, and we in turn see our power in her. Fighting in her home country, Sweden, for a future free from pollution, environmental degradation and climate change, Greta is inspiring steadfast students and shaming apathetic adults.

She realized early on that the powers that be would be stacked against her and her mission, stating, “We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed.” Greta went on to plan a multitude of student protests centered on action against our changing climate. Climate change is our reality, and youth activists like Greta are doing everything within their power to work against it, and demand a change.

González, a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is a March for Our Lives co-founder.

Click here for the full list.