2019 Colorado Water Congress Annual Summer Conference @COWaterCongress #cwcsc2019

The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

Posting to Coyote Gulch is likely to be impacted by the events this week in Steamboat Springs including the horrible bicycle commute each morning and evening between my campsite on the west edge of town and the conference location at the Steamboat Grand Hotel.

Click here for all the inside skinny.

Follow along with the Twitter hashtag #cwcsc2019 or my Twitter feed @CoyoteGulch.

@MWDH2O: Metropolitan statement on #ColoradoRiver reservoir conditions #COriver #DCP #aridification

Here’s the release from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Rebecca Kimitch/Maritza Fairfield):

Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, issues the following statement on the Bureau of Reclamation’s latest 24-month study on Colorado River system reservoir conditions:

“We’re certainly grateful that nature provided some relief to the critical conditions in the Colorado River Basin. But the Southwest wouldn’t be in this encouraging position without also the successful collaboration of the Colorado River Basin states to develop the Drought Contingency Plan. The DCP wasn’t just about sharing the pain of potential water cutbacks; one of its primary benefits was to incentivize storage in Lake Mead. It creates new storage opportunities for California, Arizona and Nevada and increases the flexibility to access stored water.

“Today is evidence the DCP is working as we hoped. By the end of the year, the Lower Basin states and Mexico together anticipate storing an additional 700,000 acre-feet of conserved water in Lake Mead in 2019 – a record amount that will boost the lake’s elevation by nearly
9 feet. Metropolitan alone will store 400,000 acre-feet this year, bringing our total stored in the lake to nearly 1 million acre-feet, another record.

“While all that storage helps keep Lake Mead out of shortage, it also helps prepare Southern California for our state’s next drought. Being able to store water when it is available for use in times when it is not is the key to ensuring the region has reliable water in the future. We got some reprieve from drought conditions on the Colorado River this year, but Lake Mead is still less than half full. And climate change is likely to lead to drier conditions in our future. As we begin work to resolve the water supply imbalance on the river, we’re pleased the DCP helped address the immediate concerns.”

All American Canal Construction circa. 1938 via the Imperial Irrigation District

@NOAA: “[July 2019] Warmest month overall in the 140-year NOAA global temperature dataset record” #ActOnClimate

From NOAA:

The global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average for July 2019 was the highest for the month of July, making it the warmest month overall in the 140-year NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880. The year-to-date temperature for 2019 tied with 2017 as the second warmest January–July on record.

This monthly summary, developed by scientists at NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making.

July 2019 Temperature

  • The July temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.71°F above the 20th century average of 60.4°F and was the highest for July in the 1880–2019 record. July 2019 bested the previous record—set in 2016—by 0.05°F.
    • Nine of the 10 warmest Julys have occurred since 2005, with the last five years (2015–2019) being the five warmest Julys on record. July 1998 is the only value from the previous century among the 10 warmest Julys on record.
    • Climatologically, July is the globe’s warmest month of the year. With July 2019 being the warmest July on record, at least nominally, this resulted in the warmest month on record for the globe.
    • Record warm July temperatures were present across parts of North America, southern Asia, southern Africa, the northern Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as across the western and northern parts of the Pacific Ocean. No land or ocean areas had record cold July temperatures.
  • The July globally averaged land surface temperature was 2.21°F above the 20th century average of 57.8°F and the second-highest July land temperature in the 140-year record. July 2017 holds the record for the highest July global land temperature departure from average at 2.23°F.
    • The most notable warm temperature departures from average were present across Alaska, central Europe, northern and southwestern parts of Asia, and parts of Africa and Australia, where temperatures were at least 2.7°F above the 1981–2010 average or higher. The most notable cooler-than-average temperatures were present across parts of Scandinavia and western and eastern Russia, where temperatures were at least 2.7°F below average or cooler.
    • Regionally, North America, Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Hawaiian region, the Caribbean region, and the Gulf of Mexico had a July temperature departure from average that ranked among the 10 warmest Julys on record. Of note, Africa had its warmest July at 2.97°F, besting the previous record set in 2015 by 0.32°F.
  • The July globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.51°F above the 20th century monthly average of 61.5°F and the highest global sea surface temperature for July on record. Compared to all months, this value tied with September 2015 as the sixth highest monthly global ocean temperature departure from average among all months (1,675 months) on record. The 10 highest global ocean monthly temperature departures from average have all occurred since September 2015.

  • The Arctic sea ice extent set a record low for July at 726,000 square miles (19.8%) below the 1981–2010 average and 30,900 square miles below the now second-lowest July sea ice extent set in 2012, according to an analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center using data from NOAA and NASA. During July 2019, sea ice loss occurred at an average rate of 40,800 square miles per day, surpassing the 1981–2010 average of 33,500 square miles. Only seven other years (1990, 1991, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2015, and 2018) had a daily rate of sea ice loss exceeding 38,600 square miles.
  • The July 2019 Antarctic sea ice extent was 260,000 square miles (4.3%) below the 1981–2010 average and was the smallest July extent in the 41-year record. This value is slightly below the previous record set in 2017 (250,000 square miles).

Year-to-date (January–July 2019)

  • The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.71°F above the 20th century average of 56.9°F — tying with 2017 as the second highest for January–July in the 140-year record. Only January–July 2016 (+1.96°F) was warmer.
    • The most notable warm temperature departures from average were present across parts of the Northern Hemisphere, specifically Alaska, western Canada, and central Russia, where temperature departures from average were at least +3.6°F or higher. Meanwhile, the most notable cool temperature departures from average were present across much of the contiguous United States and southern Canada, where temperatures were at least 1.8°F below average or cooler.
    • Record warm January–July temperatures were present across the southern half of Africa and parts of North America, South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and its surrounding ocean, as well as parts of the western Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and western Indian Ocean. No land or ocean areas had record cold temperatures during January–July 2019.
    • Regionally, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania had a January–July temperature that ranked among the five highest such periods on record, with South America and Oceania having their second warmest year-to-date on record.
  • The year-to-date globally averaged land surface temperature was 2.63°F above the 20th century average of 46.8°F. This value was the third highest for January–July on record, behind 2016 (+3.20°F) and 2017 (+2.74°F).
  • The year-to-date globally averaged sea surface temperature was the second highest for January–July in the 1880–2019 record at 1.37°F above the 20th century average of 61.0°F. Only July 2016 (+1.49°F) was warmer.

@USBR Announces 2020 #ColoradoRiver Operating Conditions #LakeMead #LakePowell #COriver #DCP #aridification

Lake Mead December 2017. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

From Grist (Nathanael Johnson):

For the first time in history, low water levels on the Colorado River have forced Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico to cut back the amount of water they use. It’s the latest example of climate change affecting daily life, but also an encouraging sign that people can handle a world with less: These orderly cutbacks are only happening because seven U.S. states and Mexico had agreed to abide by conservation rules when flows subside, rather than fight for the last drops.

“It is a new era of limits,” said Kevin Moran, who directs the Environmental Defense Fund’s Colorado River efforts…

A Bureau of Reclamation study of Colorado River levels, released Thursday, triggered the cutbacks. The Rocky Mountains finally turned white with heavy snow last winter, but despite a galloping spring runoff, drought persists and bathtub-ringed reservoirs in the Grand Canyon are low. In its study, the Bureau highlighted the unique circumstances: “This 20-year period is also one of the driest in the 1,200-year paleo record.”

Rising temperatures brought on by rising carbon emissions are partly to blame. “Approximately one‐third of the [Colorado River] flow loss is due to high temperatures now common in the basin, a result of human caused climate change,” wrote scientists Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeck in a study published in 2017 that anticipated water will only become scarcer in the future.

But these water-use reductions are also an example of people binding themselves to rules to deal with scarce resources, rather than going to court, or war. The cutbacks come from an agreement hammered out by the Southwestern states and Mexico to impose limits on themselves.

“It’s not necessarily well known or talked about, but this collaboration between the states and Mexico is one of the most successful cross-border water management stories in the world,” Moran said.

From the Associated Press (Felicia Fonseca) via The Las Vegas Sun:

Arizona and Nevada are faced with the first-ever cuts to their Colorado River water supply in 2020.

But the cuts aren’t expected to be overly burdensome for either state because they’ve been conserving and storing water for years…

Arizona will leave 7% of its allocation in Lake Mead under a drought plan approved earlier this year by several states that rely on the river. Nevada will leave 3%.

Mexico also gives up 3% under a separate accord.

The states and Mexico can recover the water if Lake Mead rises to a certain level.

Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, shows the effects of nearly two decades of drought. (Image: Bureau of Reclamation)

From The Nevada Independent (Daniel Rothberg):

The decision to implement those cuts came on Thursday after federal water managers released a study that serves as a key benchmark for Southwest states. That forecast predicted that Lake Mead would start 2020 at 1089.4 feet above sea level, below the 1090-foot trigger for the cuts.

By forgoing water in dry years, the states store more water in Lake Mead, a reservoir that has decreased over the past two decades because of overuse, drought and climate change. If the reservoir drops further, states would be required to take more cuts to their allotment. When reservoir levels rise, the states are allowed to access the stored water for future use.

In practice, the cuts will have no effect on Nevada’s short-term water security or water management. The Southern Nevada Water Authority is expected to voluntarily conserve about nine times more water this year than the required cuts under the drought plan in 2020. Since 2003, Nevada has used less water than what the state is allowed to take under the river’s interstate compact.

In 2017, the state used about 80 percent of its allotment, largely in part because of indoor water recycling and conservation programs that incentivize removing grass. This year the water authority is on track to use even less. That means Nevada is likely to leave substantially more water in the reservoir this year — as much as 75,000 acre-feet — than what is required by the cuts — about 8,000 acre-feet — next year. (An acre-foot is an agricultural term for the amount of water that can fill an acre to a depth of one foot. Nevada’s allocation is 300,000 acre-feet).

Bronson Mack, a water authority spokesman, said that the agency has cut its Colorado River water use by 25 percent since 2002, even as Las Vegas’ population has grown by 40 percent…

But the cuts are still significant, said John Fleck, a University of New Mexico professor who has a forthcoming book, “Science Be Dammed,” that looks at the history, politics and hydrology of the river. They mark the first time the states have been required to use less than their allocation…

It is also a recognition of a future where there is expected to be less — not more — water to go around. Even though above-average levels of snow fell across much of the West this year, the long-term trend in the Colorado River is toward declining streamflow. Research has found that high temperatures have made runoff less efficient. Scientists say that climate change could further reduce the river’s flow and make managing it more difficult, even as demands grow.

Heavy precipitation made a difference this year. When the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released its 2019 forecast last year, the study predicted an official shortage in 2020. Water users avoided that declaration, although the federal water agency warned that they are not out of the clear.

Changes in the northeastern reaches of Lake Powell are documented in this series of natural-color images taken by the Landsat series of satellites between 1999 and 2017. The Colorado River flows in from the east around Mile Crag Bend and is swallowed by the lake. At the west end of Narrow Canyon, the Dirty Devil River joins the lake from the north. (At normal water levels, both rivers are essentially part of the reservoir.) At the beginning of the series in 1999, water levels in Lake Powell were relatively high, and the water was a clear, dark blue. The sediment-filled Colorado River appeared green-brown. To see the complete series go to: earthobservatory.nasa.gov/WorldOfChange/LakePowell. Photos via NASA

From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

“This is a big deal for everybody on the Colorado River system,” said Jim Pokrandt, the head of community affairs for the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water District.

The study won’t have much of an impact on Colorado, where the Upper Basin Drought Contingency Plan has water users hammering out the details of “demand management.” Those details include asking for temporary, voluntary and compensated curtailment of water rights to build a bank of Colorado water in Lake Powell before mandatory cuts are imposed by the federal government.

Pokrandt said the dawning of mandatory cuts in the Lower Basin increases the urgency of demand-management talks in Colorado. Without a demand-management plan encouraging water users to volunteer their water rights in Colorado, the state could see mandatory cuts, where “nobody gets paid,” he said.

“The news from the Lower Basin is a reminder that 2019’s snowpack cannot give us a false sense of security,” Pokrandt said, recalling that Colorado’s super-snowy 2011 was followed by an exceptionally dry 2012. “This is a reminder of the importance of what the Upper Basin states have to do for their own Drought Contingency Plan.”

[…]

hat’s called demand management. Across Colorado, water districts and water users are studying whether demand management will work.

“Nobody knows if it will be feasible,” said Pokrandt, whose 15-county district spans the Western Slope, noting that the Colorado Water Conservation Board just launched its Demand Management Workshop to educate the state’s water users on the idea of temporarily suspending water rights for cash in order to build a bank of Colorado water in Lake Powell. “Determining feasibility will be a long process.”

Lake Powell will enter 2020 in the “Intentionally Created Surplus Condition,” which allows for the release of the usual 8.23 million acre-feet of water in 2020 to fill Lake Mead. It also means the Upper Basin states will increase their own banked storage in the reservoir, enabling them to better weather low-snow years with a protected cache of extra water.

Total storage in both reservoirs is 55% of capacity, compared with 49% at this time last year.

The bathtub ring in Lake Powell in October 2014. Today, the reservoir is under 40 percent full and water managers in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico are working on demand management programs that would reduce water use and send more water to the big reservoir that sits on the mainstem of the Colorado River. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Potentially harmful blue-green algae confirmed in multiple Colorado lakes — 9News.com

Sloans Lake at sunrise via Redbubble.com

From 9News.com (Caitlin Hendee):

Boulder residents are advised to keep their children and animals out of Wonderland Lake in north Boulder and a similar warning was issued for Quincy Reservoir in Aurora.

Sloan’s Lake is the only body of water in Denver that has tested positive for the algae. Signs are posted there warning people not to swim or wade in the lake, though health officials said they haven’t heard of anyone getting sick from it.

Thunderbird Lake in southeast Boulder also has reports of blue-green algae. Swimming and wading are not allowed there.

Blue-green algae is a bacteria found in non-flowing freshwater that can be fatal to animals if ingested. The algae naturally occurs in aquatic ecosystems and can appear rapidly – especially during the summer with hot weather and in slow-moving water bodies, such as lakes, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment…

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, harmful algae blooms often have the following characteristics:

  • May look like thick pea soup or spilled paint on the water’s surface.
  • Can create a thick mat of foam along the shoreline.
  • Usually are green or blue-green, although they can be brown, purple or white.
  • Sometimes are made up of small specks or blobs floating just at or below the water’s surface
  • Blue-Green algae bloom

    Eco-vandals shut down high country water diversions bound for the #FrontRange, causing $1 million in damage — @WaterEdCO

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    Vandals caused an estimated $1 million worth of damage to the City of Northglenn’s collection system on top of Berthoud Pass earlier this month, shutting the system down for several days. As the Grand County Sheriff investigates, Northglenn water officials say they fear the damage is the work of eco-vandals, upset over ongoing diversions from the drought-stressed upper Colorado River to the Front Range.

    For years, the City of Northglenn has captured water on top of Berthoud Pass and delivered it down to its customers north of Denver.

    But on Aug. 2, when water should have been flowing freely, the reading on the measuring gauge on what’s known as the Berthoud Pass Ditch fell to zero. On investigation, the city found the system had been vandalized, with diversion structures torn apart and locks cut, allowing millions of gallons of water to flow back into the Fraser River, a tributary to the upper Colorado River, instead of Northglenn’s ditch.

    “It seemed very intentional,” said Tamara Moon, Northglenn’s manager of water resources. “They did a doozy on us.”

    Roughly $100,000 worth of damage was done to the diversion system, with another $900,000 in water lost, according to the Grand County Sheriff’s office.

    Lesser damage to the structure, part of which can be accessed off a hiking trail near the old Berthoud Pass ski area, occurred in March, Moon said.

    But she believes now that both efforts are linked to the political tension over transmountain diversions from the water-stressed upper Colorado River to the Front Range.

    Two major expansion projects, including an effort by Denver Water to bring more water from the Fraser River and one by Northern Water to bring over more from the upper Colorado River near Granby, have sparked major lawsuits by several environmental groups, including Save The Colorado, WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club, among others. The lawsuits are pending in court…

    Though Northglenn isn’t involved in either project, Moon said the fact that her city’s diversion system is pulling from the same watershed has likely exposed it to the frustration over the diversions.

    The week the system was disabled, Northglenn was delivering water to the City of Golden, one of its customers on the system.

    Golden lost several days’ worth of water as a result of the incident, but because its system, like most, has benefited from an abundance of water this year, the temporary cut-off didn’t affect the city’s ability to provide water to its own customers.

    “It really hasn’t had an impact on us,” said Anne Beierle, Golden’s deputy director of public works. “From our perspective though, it’s a little disconcerting and it’s disappointing. If it turns out to be [eco-vandalism], it is unfortunate.”

    The Grand County Sheriff’s office is still investigating the incident.

    Grand County, home to Winter Park and Granby, is also one of the most heavily diverted counties in Colorado, with millions of gallons of water from the upper Colorado and Fraser rivers being diverted to the Front Range to serve dozens of communities.

    “This was a purposeful, deliberate act,” said Lieutenant Dan Mayer, the Grand County Sheriff’s public information officer.

    The four diversion gates that were broken were roughly one-half mile apart, Mayer said. “Somebody wanted to break these gates. You had to [hike in to] find them.

    “We have a lot of water agencies running [water] out of here. But we haven’t seen any incidents like this at other systems. It makes it seem as if it could very well be some kind of eco-terrorism, and we would very much like to find out who did it.”

    Mayer said the charges any suspect would face include felony theft, felony criminal mischief, and first degree criminal tampering and trespass, all of which could result in significant jail time and fines.

    In addition to installing new diversion gates and locks, Northglenn’s Moon said the city is installing remote cameras in an effort to better monitor the site and to be able to identify the culprits should they return.

    “We don’t even have power up there,” she said. “There’s not a lot more we can do.”

    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.

    View down Clear Creek from the Empire Trail 1873 via the USGS

    @USDA Using Flexibility to Assist Farmers, Ranchers in Flooded Areas #ActOnClimate

    Percent of normal precipitation Water Year 2019 via the Regional Climate Centers.

    Here’s the release from the USDA:

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) today announced it will defer accrual of interest for all agricultural producers’ spring 2019 crop year insurance premiums to help the wide swath of farmers and ranchers affected by extreme weather in 2019. Specifically, USDA will defer the accrual of interest on spring 2019 crop year insurance premiums to the earlier of the applicable termination date or for two months, until November 30, for all policies with a premium billing date of August 15, 2019. For any premium that is not paid by one of those new deadlines, interest will accrue consistent with the terms of the policy.

    “USDA recognizes that farmers and ranchers have been severely affected by the extreme weather challenges this year,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “I often brag about the resiliency of farmers but after a lifetime in the business, I have to say that this year is one for the record books. To help ease the burden on these folks, we are continuing to extend flexibility for producers with today’s announcement.”

    RMA Administrator Martin Barbre added, “This administrative flexibility is not unprecedented but is a move RMA takes seriously and only under special circumstances like we’re experiencing today. Growers typically have some crop harvested and cash flow to make their billing date, but with so many late planted crops, this year will be an anomaly.”

    America’s farmers and ranchers have been especially challenged throughout the 2019 crop year, struggling through severe flooding and excessive moisture conditions across the grain belt and in many other rural communities, with some areas also dealing with extreme heat and drought. Such weather conditions are expected to take a serious toll on acres planted, crop yields, and crop quality as harvest begins. One of the largest operating costs for producers is crop insurance premiums paid to their Approved Insurance Provider. Many spring crop insurance premiums are due to be paid before October 1.

    Without the interest deferral, policies with an August 15 premium billing date would have interest attach starting October 1 if premiums were not paid by September 30. Now, under the change, policies that do not have the premium paid by November 30 will have interest attach on December 1, calculated from the date of the premium billing notice.

    USDA announced Monday that U.S. farmers filed prevented planting claims on more than 19 million acres during the 2019 crop year. Earlier this summer, USDA announced a series of flexibilities to reduce stress on producers affected by weather, including: providing more time for cover crop haying and grazing by moving the start date from November 1 to September 1, 2019; allowing producers who filed prevented planting claims then planted a cover crop with a potential for harvest to receive a $15 per acre Market Facilitation Program payment; holding signups in select states for producers to receive assistance in planting cover crops; and extending the crop reporting deadline in select states. USDA also will provide producers with prevented planting acreage additional assistance, which will be announced in the coming weeks, through the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019.