@CWCB_DNR/@DWR_CO: September 2017 #Drought Update

Here’s the update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado Division of Water Resources (Taryn Finnessey/Tracy Kosloff):

Following cooler than average temperatures in August across much of the state, September has been hot and dry. Consequently, both abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions have expanded across western Colorado. Reservoir storage is well above average, and municipal water providers have no immediate concerns with levels of supply and demand in their systems.

  • After receiving only 69 percent of statewide average precipitation in August at SNOTEL stations, September precipitation to date remains low at 30 percent of average as of September 14. The South Platte was the only basin to receive normal precipitation levels in August (100 percent); while the Arkansas is the only basin to receive above normal precipitation (122 percent) September to date. All other basins are experiencing well below average precipitation for the month, ranging from zero (Yampa/ White) to 44 percent (Upper Colorado).
  • Reservoir storage statewide is at 120 percent of normal, with all basins above average. The Rio Grande basin is reporting above average storage (133 percent) for the first time since 2009. The Colorado and Yampa/ White basins have the lowest storage levels in the state at 110 percent of normal.
  • 31 percent of Colorado is classified as abnormally dry (D0), while 4 percent is classified as experiencing moderate drought, predominantly concentrated in Rio Blanco and Garfield Counties.
  • Warmer than normal temperatures have affected Colorado over the last few weeks, with western slope temperatures averaging as much as eight degrees above normal.
  • ENSO-neutral conditions remain, but a La Nina watch has been issued by NOAA with more than 50 percent likelihood of a La Nina developing. Short term forecasts show that temperatures should cool off, with parts of the west receiving significant precipitation. This is a welcome change for those areas currently battling forest fires.
  • Long term forecast shows no major indication towards wet or dry in the upcoming months. If La Niña conditions set in, mountain snows are often enhanced during the winter season, but fall and spring tend to be dry.
  • San Luis Valley: “We have had a good season so far” — Craig Cotten

    Map of the Rio Grande watershed, showing the Rio Chama joining the Rio Grande near Santa Fe. Graphic credit WikiMedia.

    From The Alamosa News (Ruth Heide):

    Following record rainfall in July, water levels in area rivers have declined significantly, according to Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten.

    He said the annual streamflows on both the Rio Grande and Conejos River systems will wind up above normal, however, and the Rio Grande Basin (San Luis Valley) should have no trouble meeting its Compact obligations to downstream states.

    “We have had a good season so far,” he said on Tuesday.

    The basin experienced a good runoff, followed by a drop-off of flows and then above-average precipitation that bolstered streamflows, in some areas significantly, Cotten explained.

    “We always anticipate precipitation in the monsoon periods, July and August time period, but the extent of that was a little bit unanticipated,” he added.

    Streamflows in the San Luis Valley have dropped significantly in the last couple of weeks, Cotten said, on both the Rio Grande and Conejos River systems. The Rio Grande is currently below average for this time of year but should total about 700,000 acre feet streamflow for the year, which is above the average of 650,000 acre feet.

    The Conejos River system should wind up with about 425,000 acre feet, which is well above the average of just over 300,000 acre feet…

    Currently, irrigators are being curtailed 13 percent on the Rio Grande and 37 percent on the Conejos system, according to Cotten who said only three ditches with the highest priority are taking water on the Conejos River system right now.

    Cotten said his goal is to meet the Compact obligation with some to spare but not over-deliver too much downstream…

    With irrigation still ongoing, the Rio Grande Compact reservoir storage in Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs in New Mexico has dropped below 400,000 acre feet to about 350,000 acre feet, Cotten explained. When that happens, reservoirs like Platoro Reservoir in the Valley that were built after the Compact went into effect cannot store water until the Compact reservoir storage in New Mexico exceeds 400,000 acre feet again. The storage prohibition will probably last until January, Cotten said.

    Irrigation use is tapering off somewhat in the Valley for most crops except alfalfa, which is gearing up for a third cutting.

    @CWCB_DNR: August 2017 #Drought Update

    Click here to read the update:

    July was characterized by warm and wet conditions. The first half of August has been cool, particularly east of the Continental Divide with near normal precipitation. Reservoir storage remains high, and municipal water providers have no immediate concerns with levels of supply and demand in their systems.

  • Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 116% of average.
  • After receiving 130% percent of statewide average precipitation in July at SNOTEL stations, August precipitation through August 16 was 110% of average in the mountain areas. Much of eastern Colorado was exceptionally wet in early August.
  • Reference evapotranspiration (ET), an indicator of how much water that can be consumed by crops, has been below normal for the first half of August.
  • Colorado Drought Monitor August 15, 2017.

    Colorado water and climate professionals are bidding a sad farewell to our longtime State Climatologist, Nolan Doesken. Nolan is retiring after 40 years of service to Colorado. In his presentation to the August Water Availability Task Force meeting, Nolan provided some long-term graphs relevant to Colorado climate and water supply.

    Professor Emeritus and former State Climatologist Tom McKee, left, shared memories dating back to 1977, the year Nolan started working at CSU as Assistant State Climatologist.

    Three were instrumental in breaking a 40-year deadlock to secure water for a permanent fish and wildlife conservation pool in John Martin Reservoir

    The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission honored three water engineers for their work to secure water for a permanent fish and wildlife conservation pool in John Martin Reservoir. Celebrating, from left, are Dan Prenzlow, CPW Southeast Region manager, Steve Witte, Arkansas River Basin division engineer, CPW Director Bob Broscheid shaking hands with recently retired State Engineer Dick Wolfe, Bill Tyner, deputy Arkansas River Basin engineer, and Brett Ackerman, deputy manager CPW Southeast Region. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Bill Vogrin.

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    Three state water engineers who were instrumental in breaking a 40-year deadlock between Colorado and Kansas to secure water for a permanent fish and wildlife conservation pool in John Martin Reservoir were honored Thursday by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission at its meeting here.

    For their “outstanding support of Colorado’s wildlife,” CPW Director Bob Broscheid praised recently retired State Engineer Dick Wolfe, Steve Witte, Arkansas River Basin division engineer, and Bill Tyner, deputy Arkansas River Basin engineer.

    The three, working with CPW Southeast Region Manager Dan Prenzlow and Deputy Region Manager Brett Ackerman, negotiated the breakthrough agreement that resulted in a new source of water flowing into John Martin, beginning in June, to help stabilize the permanent pool.

    “This is a very big deal,” Broscheid said as Wolfe, Witte and Tyner were presented with wildlife statues in appreciation of their work.

    The water for the permanent pool was approved on a one-year agreement between Colorado and Kansas, the two states whose citizens are the primary recreational users of the reservoir. If extended beyond the first year, it would have a significant beneficial impact on fishing and boating in drought years when the reservoir can run dry, killing fish and destroying habitat and recreational opportunities at John Martin Reservoir State Park and adjacent State Wildlife Area.

    The improved maintenance of the permanent pool was made possible in May when the Arkansas River Compact Administration passed a historic resolution allowing CPW to run water in the Highland Ditch on the Purgatoire River in Bent County into John Martin Reservoir. Stipulations in the temporary agreement state that 6,000 acre-feet of water may be delivered during specific time periods, and with consideration of transit losses.

    If the water flow goes as planned, CPW hopes to renew the agreement for 2018 and work to make it a permanent agreement.

    The water agreement is the culmination of long negotiations between a variety of agencies including CPW, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association and the Attorney General’s office, and brought to fruition through extensive collaboration between the state engineers of Colorado and Kansas.

    “CPW has tried unsuccessfully for the past 40 years to get a new source of water approved by the Compact Administration,” Broscheid said. “That multimillion-dollar fishery has constantly been in flux and at risk. This will preserve that valuable fishery and recreational facilities at John Martin Reservoir State Park and State Wildlife Area.”

    Broscheid said there are significant benefits to the new agreement, including:

  • Reducing the hundreds of thousands of dollars CPW has spent leasing Colorado River water.
  • Lowering the risk of fish loss, saving CPW approximately $165,000 annually in restocking costs when the fishery is damaged.
  • Improving the economies in surrounding communities by as much as $825,000 a year when the fishery is healthy.
  • Wolfe retired in June after a 24-year career with the Colorado Division of Water Resources including the last 10 as director and state engineer.

    “This was a group effort,” Wolfe said, noting the intense involvement of Prenzlow and Ackerman and the important roles they played in elevating the issue as a priority and seeing it through the recent three-year negotiations.

    “It’s been a long time in the making,” Wolfe said. “And it shows the importance of fostering good relationships between state agencies and how cooperation between the various agencies solved a complex water administrative system issue.”

    John Martin Reservoir back in the day

    @CWCB_DNR: July 2017 #Drought Update

    From the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Taryn Finnesey) and Colorado Division of Water Resources (Tracy Kosloff):

    June was characterized by warm and dry conditions; statewide it was the 12th driest June on record and the driest we have seen since 2013. Above average temperatures have continued into July, particularly on the west slope where it has been as much as four degrees above average. Consequently, abnormally dry conditions have expanded west of the divide, should we have a strong monsoon season these conditions may be abated. Reservoir storage remains high, and municipal water providers have no immediate concerns with levels of supply and demand in their systems.

  • Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 113% of normal.
  • After receiving only 23% percent of statewide average precipitation in June at SNOTEL stations, July precipitation
    to date statewide is 125% of average as of July 24.
  • Long-term forecasts for the monsoon season indicate a continuation of above average temperatures and above average chances of precipitation, mostly in August.
  • ENSO-neutral conditions are forecast to persist throughout the fall.
  • 36 percent of Colorado is classified as abnormally dry (D0), with no other drought classifications in the state.
  • Warmer than normal temperatures have affected Colorado throughout the summer and are forecast to continue into the fall.
    Models indicate above normal chances of precipitation for parts of Colorado through the monsoon season (Aug-Oct). Should this forecast verify this would bring much needed moisture to parts of the state that are currently abnormally dry.
    Three month precipitation outlook through October 31, 2017 via the Climate Prediction Center.

    Who’s who in water Part 2: The Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3

    Pond on the Garcia Ranch via Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust

    From From The Alamosa News (Helen Smith):

    The Colorado Division of Water Resources is the authority behind daily water administration across the state. Many are not aware that this agency has been highly instrumental in shaping how water in the San Luis Valley is distributed and utilized.

    The Division of Water Resources operates under the authority of the office of the State Hydraulic Engineer, an office created by the state legislature in 1881. The office was directed by governor’s appointment and the initial duties included water rights administration, streamflow and diversion measurements, and reservoir capacity, cost and location. The office was added to the Department of Natural Resources in 1969.

    The first and foremost responsibility for the Division of Water Resources is the oversight of all surface and groundwater across the state. It is the only state agency that is tasked with the direct and daily administration of water. The division is required to uphold Colorado water law which operates under what is known as the Prior Appropriation Doctrine. This means that those who were first to utilize the water are the first to have access to it during periods of shortage. In 1879, water commissioners were established in order to administer this doctrine. This made Colorado the first state that provides water administration by public officials. Currently, the major responsibilities of DWR include water administration, public safety, groundwater permitting, interstate compacts, a hydrographic program, and public information services.

    The Division of Water Resources also has the authority to make recommendations in water court cases. This is an operation that occurs on a regular basis. Additionally, DWR can join the opposition in a case if there is potential for an injurious outcome and it is deemed necessary. Also, DWR can issue orders to those who refuse to comply with statutes and even take the matter to court.

    There are seven divisions in DWR, divided by Colorado’s major drainage basins. Each division is under the direction of a division engineer who administers ground and surface water within the division. The San Luis Valley falls within Division 3. As of 2017, there are approximately 30 DWR employees for Division 3 including 11 water commissioners and eight districts. There are also well metering technicians and hydrographers at DWR. The Division 3 Engineer is Craig Cotten.

    During his tenure, Cotten has observed that there are reasons why Division 3 is unique. The first reason is that it is arguably the most over-appropriated of all the divisions in Colorado. Secondly, it has one of the lowest storage capacities. This means that many of the other divisions have much larger reservoirs, hence much more ability to utilize and distribute water. However, Cotten attributed many challenges that occur within the division to over- appropriation. This has resulted in the need for closer monitoring of water usage in the San Luis Valley including well meters and 60 gauging stations along all of the rivers and streams of Division 3 to ensure that the correct amounts of water are delivered where they need to go.

    An important aspect of Division 3 is well rules and regulations. Due to a limited amount of highly appropriated water, DWR found the need to consider long term considerations in the San Luis Valley. Also, maximum utilization was/is needed to assure that water rights are fulfilled but not inappropriately curtailed, and to maintain the economy. The replacement of injurious depletions and maintaining a sustainable aquifer system were/are also key considerations as to why the rules now exist. The conclusion became that less pumping is necessary, particularly for the aquifer system. Thus, the result was the drafting of the rules and their submission to the court by the State Engineer in 2015. The current rules require well owners to choose one of three options. The first option is to obtain a plan for augmentation. The second option is to participate in a groundwater management subdistrict. The third option is to cease pumping. The rules are now set to be finalized by the court in January of 2018. DWR is currently working towards resolutions with objectors.

    One of the most important tasks that DWR oversees is the Rio Grande Compact. Quite simply, the Rio Grande Compact is law. Signed in 1938, it is an agreement between Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. Reasons for this agreement include a limited water supply and over- development of surface and groundwater resources. The compact is intended/designed to equitably apportion the waters of the Rio Grande above Ft. Quitman, Texas. This law is administered by three commissioners who are the state engineers of Colorado and New Mexico and a governor’s appointee from Texas. Colorado is required to deliver water to the New Mexico state line and New Mexico has been required to deliver to Elephant Butte Reservoir since 1949.

    The other compact that Division 3 administers is the Costilla Creek Compact. This is an agreement between Colorado and New Mexico. In addition, Cotten pointed out that the Costilla Creek Compact is also the only compact where Colorado is classified as the downstream state. This agreement operates under a priority system much like the Prior Appropriation Doctrine.

    “These compacts are the only ones to be administered directly from our office,” said Cotten. Yet another aspect that is unique to Division 3.

    This is also a time of transition at DWR due to the retirement of State Engineer Dick Wolfe. His successor is Kevin Rein. Despite the change, Cotten expressed confidence in the laws and system that are in place and that the high standard that was set by Wolfe will continue to be upheld.

    There are many tasks that the Division of Water Resources is charged with and there is a great deal that happens daily to ensure that they are all accomplished. The Division 3 office can be reached by calling 719-589-6683 or on the web at http://www.dwr.state.co.us.

    The Rio Grande Basin Roundtable meets the second Tuesday of every month at 623 East Fourth Street in Alamosa. For more information visit us at http://www.rgbrt.org

    Helen Smith is the Outreach Specialist for the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable. Read part 1 here.

    Rein appointed as new state engineer

    Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

    Gov. John Hickenlooper today announced Kevin Rein’s appointment as the new State Engineer and Director of the Colorado Division of Water Resources. Rein replaces Dick Wolfe, who retired at the end of June after 10 years in the position.

    Rein has served as the Deputy State Engineer since 2008, where he directed and supervised the review and engineering evaluation of substitute water supply plans; water court and well permit applications; subdivision water supply plans; and other instruments that guide the management of water rights throughout Colorado. He has worked for the Division since 1998.

    “The importance of water administration has never been more clear as we implement Colorado’s Water Plan,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “Kevin’s experience and leadership will be crucial to our state’s long-term success in protecting this vital resource.”

    As State Engineer, Rein will oversee and manage the Division of Water Resources within the Department of Natural Resources. The Division is responsible for administering Colorado’s water rights system, issuing water well permits, representing Colorado in interstate water compact proceedings, monitoring streamflow and water use, approving dam construction repair and safety inspections, and maintaining numerous water information databases.

    “The chance to serve the state in this new capacity is an honor and a privilege,” Rein said. “The Division of Water Resources boasts a team of committed individuals focused on administering the state’s water resources and serving the public, and I am honored by this leadership opportunity. We will work with our customers to solve problems, exercise good stewardship, and assist the public in understanding Colorado’s water heritage.”

    The State Engineer’s Office was created in 1881 and includes 260 employees. Its mission is to competently and dependably administer and distribute the waters of Colorado in accordance with the laws of the state, ensure that dams and water wells are properly constructed and maintained to ensure public safety, and to develop, maintain, and provide access to accurate and timely information regarding water resources.