#Drought news: No change in depiction for #Colorado, sorry #Arizona

Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

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

This Week’s Drought Summary

Rapidly intensifying “flash drought” — attributed in part to extreme late-summer heat — continued to afflict many areas from the lower Midwest and Mid-Atlantic States to the Gulf Coast. Likewise, an abysmal Southwestern monsoon (to-date) led to increasing drought intensity and coverage in Arizona, while short-term drought persisted across the Hawaiian Islands. Conversely, moderate to heavy rain eased or alleviated dryness and drought from the Great Lakes into the Northwest as well as in southwestern Alaska and southern Puerto Rico…

High Plains

Widespread moderate to heavy rain (1-6 inches, locally more than 8 inches) over the northern half of the region contrasted with pockets of dryness and drought in the southern and western High Plains Region. The rain eliminated the last vestiges of Abnormal Dryness (D0) in North Dakota and eastern Nebraska. Conversely, input from local experts as well as 60-day rainfall locally less than 50 percent of normal led to a minor expansion of D0 and Moderate Drought (D1) in southwestern Kansas. The rest of the region remained unchanged and largely devoid of dryness concerns, though D0 and D1 remained in place over western and southeastern portions of Colorado as well as southwestern Wyoming…


An abysmal Southwestern monsoon contrasted with increasingly wet weather in the Northwest. The Southwestern monsoon, which typically runs from June 15-September 30 and accounts for up to half the total annual precipitation in some parts of the Southwest, has featured less than 50 percent-of-normal rainfall (locally less than 30 percent). While showers over the past week in New Mexico (1-3 inches, locally more) helped stem the recent trend toward increasing drought in the east, rain bypassed most of Arizona. Input from local experts as well as mounting 6-month rainfall deficits supported an expansion of Severe Drought (D2) in the driest locales of southern and central Arizona.

Farther north, moderate to heavy rain fell for a second consecutive week from the Pacific Northwest into the northern Rockies, with the highest totals (2 inches or more) observed on the windward slopes of the mountains. This pushed two-week totals to locally more than 4 inches, spurring additional reductions of Abnormal Dryness (D0) as well as Moderate to Severe Drought (D1-D2). Reductions to D0 in the eastern Great Basin were spurred by input from local experts, who indicated a lack of any lingering impacts due to a recent uptick in precipitation in northeastern Utah (locally more than 2 inches over the past two weeks)…


As with the Southeast, intense late-summer heat and acute short-term dryness led to a sharp increase in drought intensity and coverage across central portions of the region. Excessive heat (95-102°F) and pronounced short-term rainfall deficits (30-day rainfall totaling locally less than 10 percent of normal) heightened evapotranspiration rates and soil moisture losses, resulting in quickly escalating drought impacts (often referred to as a “flash drought”.) It should be noted that “flash drought” often occurs more quickly (in terms of impacts) than the data indicates. In terms of temperatures, Wednesday, September 18th marked the 18th consecutive day of 90-degree heat at Little Rock, Arkansas (the long term historical total-September average is 9 days); September 18th also marked the 7th day with 100-degree readings at Meridian, Mississippi (only one other year—1980—had this many, and only 7 other years total had 3 or more (records dating back to 1889)). For this weeks’ analysis, the expansion of D0 (Abnormal Dryness) as well as Moderate (D1) to Extreme Drought (D3) was driven by guidance from local experts, impact reports from observers, as well as temperature- and rainfall-driven data products which focused on the past 30 to 60 days. Increases in drought were most pronounced from central and northeastern Texas into the central and northern Mississippi Delta, where 60-day rainfall has totaled a meager 25 percent of normal or less. State-wide average topsoil moisture was rated more than 70 percent short to very short (according to USDA-NASS) as of September 15 in the Mississippi Delta States, and 83 percent poor to very poor in Texas (tied for second highest in the nation with Virginia, only 2 percentage points behind California’s 85 percent). Despite the generally dry, hot weather pattern, heavy showers and thunderstorms (2-4 inches) provided highly localized drought relief across southeastern and north-central Texas as well as western Oklahoma. After the end of the monitoring period (12z Tuesday), heavy showers associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda were bringing rain to southeastern Texas; the impacts of this rainfall will be incorporated in next week’s U.S. Drought Monitor…

Looking Ahead

An active weather pattern will foster periods of moderate to heavy rainfall from the southern Plains into the Midwest, while intermittent rain and mountain snow linger from the Pacific Northwest into the northern Rockies. Meanwhile, moisture associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda will fuel locally heavy showers in southeastern Texas and the western Delta. Some late-season monsoon showers are also possible in the Four Corners Region, though the heaviest rain may stay east of the region. Despite the stormy weather pattern, little—if any—rain is expected across the Southeast, with only light showers in the offing farther north in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern States. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for September 24–29 calls for above-normal temperatures along the central California Coast and from the Rockies to the East Coast; cooler-than-normal weather will be confined to the Northwest and lower Southwest. Near- to above-normal precipitation across much of the nation will contrast with drier-than-normal conditions from the Southeast into the Mid-Atlantic States.

#ColoradoRiver District Annual Seminar

I’ll be at the Colorado River Water Conservation District Annual Seminar today. I will post the seminar hash tag as soon as we work it out this morning. You can follow along on my Twitter feed @CoyoteGulch.

Sunset from my campsite at the James M. Robb State Park Fruita Section, September 17, 2019.

I’ll try to catch up on posts this evening.

“Having the [#WOTUS] rule removed doesn’t remove the regulation…It doesn’t remove the protections that are still there. So I don’t think people have to worry.” — Chris Treese

Wetland on the west side of La Poudre Pass, July 2017. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

From Aspen Public Radio (Alex Hager):

Now that the 2015 extensions have been rolled back, federal water rules revert back to where they were in 1986. Experts say while the move has created uncertainty, it does not erase the bulk of federal water protections.

“Having the rule removed doesn’t remove the regulation,” said Colorado River District spokesman Chris Treese. “It doesn’t remove the protections that are still there. So I don’t think people have to worry.”


“There is state permitting and there is local permitting that would protect from any of the horribles that people suggest could happen.” Treese said. “That you could dump a toxic waste with impunity if the Trump era rule were in place. I don’t believe that’s true.”

Renewable Water Resources San Luis Valley transmountain diversion project update

Aerial view of the San Luis Valley’s irrigated agriculture. Photo by Rio de la Vista.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Dangling money, the developers at Renewable Water Resources — which counts former Gov. Bill Owens as a principal — contend that because the urban Front Range is the richest part of the state, it has the potential to give the most to the poorest.

They envision pumping 22,000 acre-feet per year from 14 wells drilled 2,000 feet deep at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, building a pipeline costing $250 million to $600 million, and then pumping water at least 40 miles northward over Poncha Pass toward Front Range cities.

“We need between 300,000 acre-feet and 500,000 acre-feet of new water for the Front Range. The question is: Where’s that going to come from?” said Sean Tonner, managing partner of Renewable Water Resources.

“We can take it out of the Colorado River, but we know what the stresses are there. The Poudre River? The Arkansas? The South Platte is already the most over-appropriated river. Folks are looking at moving water from the Mississippi River back to Colorado,” he said. “These are the lengths people are looking to for adding water.”

Exporting San Luis Valley water would be “fairly easy” compared with other options, Tonner said…

The San Luis Valley retort? “There is no win-win,” said Cleave Simpson, manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and a farmer, who has been traveling statewide to make the case against this trans-basin diversion of water…

The intensifying water battle here reflects the rising tensions and inequities across the arid western United States, where water and control over water looms as a primary factor of power. Thirsty Castle Rock, Parker, Castle Pines and other south metro Denver suburbs, where household incomes top $110,000 and development has depleted the groundwater, can marshal assets that dwarf those of farmers in the San Luis Valley, where families’ average income is less than $35,000…

State officials in Denver say they will study Renewable Water Resources’ proposal once the developers file it at the state water court in Alamosa.

“We’ll have to have a perspective of being open to anything,” said Colorado Department of Natural Resources director Dan Gibbs, declining to take a position…

A Renewable Water Resources diagram provided to The Denver Post presented details of a water-siphon project that would begin near Moffat on a company-owned ranch with 14 wells spaced 1 mile apart. A pipeline, 24 inches to 32 inches in diameter, would convey no more than 22,000 acre-feet of water per year northward at least 40 miles over Poncha Pass to Salida, and also to a point west of Fairplay, Tonner said.

San Luis Valley water then could be diverted into the Arkansas River, the Eleven Mile Reservoir used by Colorado Springs and the upper South Platte River that flows into a series of Denver Water reservoirs, he said.

The exported valley water purchased by south Denver suburbs ultimately would be stored in the newly enlarged Chatfield Reservoir southwest of Denver and Parker’s Rueter-Hess Reservoir, still barely half full. Suburban water users would pay the cost of the pipelines, Tonner said, and Renewable Water Resources would use $68 million raised from investors to purchase water rights in the valley — rights to pump 32,000 acre-feet of water for irrigation. But the developers would export no more than 22,000 acre-feet a year. The difference would mean a net gain for the aquifer…

At least 40 farmers have inquired about selling water rights, some of them meeting with former Gov. Owens and other Renewable Water Resources officials. Tonner also declined to identify those farmers…

The ethics of siphoning water away from low-income areas toward the richest parts of the state would have to be considered as part of the state’s water project planning process, said Rebecca Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“That is definitely something that has to be looked at. Is that the way we want to grow as a state? Is that what the value structure is?” Mitchell said. “There are cases where those (trans-basin diversions) can be win-win. But without the buy-in of the local community, there are going to be struggles.”

In recent months, Renewable Water Resources’ principals have been working quietly in the valley, meeting with farmers and proposing the creation of a $50 million “community fund” and possibly other payments. Just the annual interest income from such a fund could exceed Saguache County’s current budget, Tonner said.

By paying farmers for a portion of their water rights, Renewable Water Resources could help them stay on their land, perhaps growing different crops that require less water such as hemp, and infuse the valley with the $50 million and possibly other payments while also retiring wells to ensure a net gain of water in the aquifer.

James W. Broderick Hydropower plant at Pueblo Dam dedicated

Workers prepare a turbine and generator at the James W. Broderick Hydroelectric Power Facility at Pueblo Dam shortly before it began producing electricity this week. Photo credit: The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

The James W. Broderick Hydropower Plant at Pueblo Dam was dedicated on Monday, September 16, [2019], before a crowd of about 100 people.

The hydroelectric generating facility was completed in May 2019 and is named for James W. Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Southeastern President Bill Long hailed Broderick’s vision for pursuing the project under a Lease of Power Privilege with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The process was started in 2011, and culminated in 2017, when the lease was signed. Construction of the $20.5 million plant took 18 months.

“Jim has given a lot more than his name to the James W. Broderick Hydropower Plant. It has been Jim’s vision to create this project, and to use the revenues generated by the plant to enhance the benefits of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project,” Long said. “this is an example of the type of creative thinking and leadership that Jim brings to every aspect of his service to the Southeastern District.”

Broderick, in accepting the honor, credited his wife Cindy and their daughter Amy for his own success as a water leader not only in southeastern Colorado, but throughout the state and the western region. Broderick currently is president of the Colorado River Water Users Association, and has led other agencies within the state, including Colorado Water Congress and the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.

Broderick also recognized the Southeastern District’s early partners in the Lease of Power Privilege, Colorado Springs Utilities and Pueblo Water, for technical assistance and support in bringing the power plant project to completion. Other contributors during the planning and construction process included Black Hills Energy and Pueblo West.

[Those on] hand for the event [included] Brenda Burman, Commissioner of Reclamation, and Becky Mitchell of the Colorado Water Conservation Board…

Burman said the plant is one of 14 built on existing dams so far under a Lease of Power Privilege, and shows how maximum benefits can be realized from existing federal projects. Reclamation operates the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in cooperation with the Southeastern District. The Project provides supplemental water for cities and farms in the Arkansas River basin by importing water from the Colorado River basin.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board provided a $17.2 million loan to construct the hydroelectric plant. Mitchell hailed the plant, which uses water to produce energy, as the type of project the state will become involved with as it moves in the future.

The power plant will generate, on average, 28 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power 2,500 homes a year. It was constructed under a design-build contract with Mountain States Hydro of Sunnyside, Wash.

Power will be sold to the City of Fountain, and to Fort Carson, through Colorado Springs Utilities.

The latest “E-Newsletter” is hot off the presses from the Hutchins Water Center #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Many Indian reservations are located in or near contentious river basins where demand for water outstrips supply. Map courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

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


An August report from the Colorado River Research Group outlines the magnitude of water rights held by Native American tribes, barriers to more complete development of these rights and the need to meaningfully engage the tribes in negotiations on the future management of the Colorado River. You can find the report here.

The latest “Fountain Creek Chronicles” newsletter is hot off the presses

UCCS Clean the Stream Team at the 2015 Creek Week. Photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District.

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

Creek Week – YOU Can Make a Difference!
From September 28 – October 6
1 – 2-hour commitment
Anyone can participate – All Ages, Demographics

What is approximately 40 times as heavy as a hippopotamus, is 180 times as heavy as a grand piano, and is 42 times as heavy as a car? The answer is the amount of trash, in tons, that volunteers have picked up during “Creek Week” since its inception in 2014.

“Creek Week” began as a way to encourage citizens to help remove litter and debris from our land and waters, raise awareness of watershed health and to foster a sense of community, and has grown into an annual event. It provides an opportunity for communities to give back, to enjoy the parks and trails they are cleaning and to understand their place in the Fountain Creek Watershed.

Concerned citizens from Palmer Lake, Monument, Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Green Mountain Falls, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Pueblo and beyond will come together from September 28-October 6, to clean and protect the Fountain Creek Watershed.

Participants include individuals and groups, from towns, cities, churches, and organizations. Last year nearly 3,000 volunteers removed 24 tons of litter from Palmer Lake to Pueblo and further. Volunteer participation has grown 350 percent over its 5-year history. Now it’s your turn to get involved. Complete the online form to facilitate a Crew, or click on Public Event Registration to join in on 40+ public cleanups at: at http://www.fountaincreekweek.com . For any “Creek Week” related questions, email the Steering Committee at creekweeksoco@gmail.com.