Wolf Creek summit #snowpack 53 percent of median — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #arifdification

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snow pack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 4.2 inches of snow water equivalent as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

That amount is just 53 percent of that date’s median snow water equivalent.

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 33 percent of the Dec. 1 median in terms of snow pack.

River report

The Piedra River near Arboles continues to flow at record low rates.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Piedra River was flowing at a rate of 37.1 cfs as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 360 cfs in 1987.

Based on 59 years of water re- cords at this site, the average flow rate for that date is 85 cfs.

According to the USGS, the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 52.6 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1.

Based on 86 years of water records at this site, the lowest recorded flow rate for this date is 33 cfs, recorded in 1938.The highest recorded rate for this date was in 2008 at 761 cfs. The average flow rate for this date is 83 cfs.

Colorado Drought Monitor map November 30. 2021.

Drought report

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NI- DIS) was last updated on Nov. 23.

The NIDIS website indicates 100 percent of Archuleta County is abnormally dry.

The percentage of the county in a moderate drought is listed at 70.86, which is consistent with the previous report.

The NIDIS website also notes that 47.66 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage, consis- tent with last week’s report.

Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 10.33 of the county remains in an extreme drought, consistent with last week’s report.

No portion of the county is in exceptional drought.

For more information and maps,
visit: https://www.drought.gov/states/Colorado/county/Archuleta.

#Drought along a #ColoradoRiver calls for extreme efforts to enforce #water laws: A badge and a gun — The #ColoradoSprings Gazette

Dolores River watershed

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Carol McKinley):

water scarcity driven by drastic climate-change along the Dolores River in southwest Colorado has been a real jaw-grinder for folks who bear a century’s worth of grudges over who gets water, how much and when.

After 22 years of drought, the river is down to a trickle this late fall and the water storage it feeds, McPhee Reservoir, has shrunk to its lowest level in decades. Even when the runoff was flowing last spring, the Dolores project was already in water shortage mode and farmers only got 10% of what they’re normally allocated, which means they were only able to grow 10% of the crops they’re used to producing.

Much of the farmland lays fallow…

The water that was released from McPhee Dam tells the story, said Colorado State University senior water and climate scientist Brad Udall: “The agreement is for 25 cubic feet per second minimum flow release and they were releasing 1/5 of that.”

Colorado Drought Monitor map November 23, 2021.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows Colorado’s Four Corners region in bright red, in the extreme drought category.

“I have said for years that the southwest portion of the state is very much at risk for these kinds of drought,” Udall said. “We should expect for them to occur repeatedly throughout the 21st century.”

[…]

Desperate times

At the mouth of the Dolores, one of the only things standing between a shovel to the head and civility is a Montezuma County sheriff deputy whose job it is to keep watch on water robbers.

Dave Huhn is a tall, silver-haired deputy with a bad back from 12 years of ditch riding. He sips from a Big Gulp-sized iced tea as he travels miles of county roads; a badge, a gun and a tablet of citations are his shield.

“Communication is everything and just because you’ve lived out here 100 years doesn’t mean you’re doing it right,” explains Huhn, who was given the responsibility of enforcing complicated Colorado water laws by the county commissioners in 2009. “You can’t steamroll these people. You’re not out there talking with a physicist. You’re out there talking with someone who needs to produce your food. You’ve got to listen to the problem.”

[…]

[Marty] Robbins is the keeper of the ditch deeds, which are the official record of water rights. He opened a drawer and pulled out a thick leather-bound dossier of evidence. It is the smoking gun in the world of water crime.

“My whole world changed when Dave took over ditch issues,” Robins said. “Around here, you have a whole lot of attitude and very little forgiveness.”

Upper #SanJuanRiver Basin streamflow, #drought, and #snowpack report — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 51.5 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of noon on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

Based on 86 years of water records at this site, the lowest recorded flow rate for this date is 24 cfs, recorded in 1952. The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1995 at 312 cfs. The average flow rate for this date is 93 cfs.

As of noon on Wednesday, Nov. 17, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 48.1 cfs. The highest recorded rate for this date was 365 cfs in 1995. The lowest recorded rate for this date was 47.3 cfs in 2003. Based on 59 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for that date is 115 cfs.

Snow report

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snow pack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 4 inches of snow water equivalent as of 12 p.m. on Nov. 17.

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basins were at 69 percent of the Nov. 17 median in terms of snow pack.

Colorado Drought Monitor map November 16, 2021.

Drought report

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) was last updated on Nov. 9.

The NIDIS website indicates 100 percent of Archuleta County is abnormally dry. The percentage of the county in a moderate drought is listed at 70.86, which is consistent with the previous report. The NIDIS website also notes that 47.66 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage, consistent with the previous week’s report. Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 10.33 of the county remains in an extreme drought, consistent with the previous week’s report. No portion of the county is in an exceptional drought.

For more information and maps, visit: https://www.drought.gov/states/Colorado/county/Archuleta.

Upper #SanJuanRiver #snowpack, #drought and streamflow report — The #PagosaSprings Sun

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 59.2 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10.

Based on 86 years of water records at this site, the lowest recorded flow rate for this date is 20 cfs, recorded in 1951.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1987 at 348 cfs. The average flow rate for this date is 98 cfs.

As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 51.4 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 460 cfs in 1987.

The lowest recorded rate for this date was 50 cfs in 1965.

Based on 59 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for that date is 122 cfs.

Snow report

Pagosa’s high country received a small dusting this past week, with Wolf Creek Ski Area reporting 2 inches of fresh snowfall Wednesday morning.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snow pack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 3.5 inches of snow water equivalent as of 1 p.m. on Nov. 10.

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River basins were at 69 percent of the Nov. 10 median in terms of snow pack.

Colorado Drought Monitor map November 9, 2021.

Drought report

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) was last updated on Nov. 2.

The NIDIS website indicates 100 percent of Archuleta County is abnormally dry.

The percentage of the county in a moderate drought is listed at 70.86, which is up slightly from the previous report of 70.79 percent.

The NIDIS website also notes that 47.66 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage, consistent with last week’s report.

Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 10.33 of the county remains in an extreme drought, consistent with last week’s report.

No portion of the county is in an exceptional drought.

For more information and maps, visit: https://www.drought.gov/states/Colorado/county/Archuleta.

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District no longer in Stage 1 #Drought — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

The Pagosa Area Water and Sani- tation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors voted to exit the Stage 1 Drought, as defined in its drought management plan, at its regular meeting held on Oct. 28.

The board initially voted to enter the Stage 1 Drought on July 19.
District Manager Justin Ramsey explained during the meeting that the primary driver of the district’s drought management plan is the San Juan River flow in conjunction with the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Ramsey noted that the district has met conditions to exit the Stage 1 Drought for almost a month now.

He explained that since the only restriction was irrigation times, and not many people are still irrigating this time of year, he didn’t feel the need to call for a special meeting for the board to vote on exiting sooner…

Snow report

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snow pack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 3.2 inches of snow water equivalent as of 10 a.m. on Nov. 3.

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basins were at 106 percent of the Nov. 3 median in terms of snow pack.

The USDA website notes that readings “may not provide a valid measure of conditions” in regard to the basins.

River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 68.7 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3.

Based on 86 years of water re- cords at this site, the lowest recorded flow rate for this date is 22 cfs, recorded in 1956.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1987 at 657 cfs. The average flow rate for this date is 116 cfs.

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 53.2 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 800 cfs in 1987.

A new lowest recorded rate was recorded this year for this date, earlier in the day at 37.5 cfs.

Based on 59 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for that date is 146 cfs.

Colorado Drought Monitor map November 2, 2021.

Drought report

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) was last updated on Oct. 26.

The NIDIS website indicates 100 percent of Archuleta County is ab- normally dry.

The percentage of the county in a moderate drought is listed at 70.79, which is up slightly from the previous report of 69.81 percent. The NIDIS website also notes that 47.66 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage, consistent with last week’s report. Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 10.33 percent of the county remains in an extreme drought. This is up slightly from last week’s report of 9.12 percent. No portion of the county is in
exceptional drought.

For more information and maps,
visit: https://www.drought.gov/states/Colorado/county/Archuleta.

Share your project ideas for San Juan, Blanco, Navajo watersheds — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Al Pfister):

The Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership (WEP) has been working under the Colorado Water Plan to develop a stream management plan (now referred to as an integrated watershed management plan) for the Upper San Juan, Blanco and Navajo River watersheds.

The past three years of efforts have emphasized identifying the environmental, recreational and agricultural infrastructure needs of these three watersheds and what enhancements in the watersheds might be made. This has been accomplished via field data gathering, interviews and surveys with different user groups, stakeholders and landowners, under the guidance of a steering committee representative of the agricultural, environmental, municipal and recreational water interests of the community.

In June, the WEP initiated its third and final phase of a planning process to develop a local water plan that includes project opportunities that support river health and our community’s ability to rely on rivers for multiple uses, now and in the future.

For example, several projects have already been identified by or shared with WEP with the potential to enhance the efficiency of irrigation infrastructure, recreational opportunities and improve the health of the rivers.

We hope these will just be the start of many project ideas com- munity members can consider and add their own ideas for projects or actions to develop a shared list of on-the-ground opportunities to support the agricultural, environ- mental, municipal and recreational water use needs in the San Juan, Blanco and Navajo watersheds.

The WEP hopes to offer multiple options for community members and visitors to participate and in- form this water planning process.
First, we hope you will join our next public meeting on Dec. 8 from
5:30 to 7:30 p.m. (virtual or in-per- son to be determined depending on COVID-19 guidelines).

Second, you can take one or all three of the WEP’s watershed sur- veys (upper San Juan, Blanco and Navajo) to share your opinions and project ideas, including options to mark on maps specific areas or locations you are concerned about or want to suggest an improvement project idea.

Third, you can sign up as an individual or small group to discuss your water-related values, concerns or project ideas with members of the WEP.

Details on how to join our Dec. 8 public meeting, links to watershed surveys and to the project discussion sign-up sheet can all be found at: http://www.mountainstudies.org/sanjuan/smp.

If you would like to learn more about the WEP and the planning process, visit http://www.mountainstudies.org/sanjuan/smp and contact Al Pfister (westernwildscapes@ gmail.com) or Mandy Eskelson (mandy@mountainstudies.org).

Navajo Dam operations update (November 2, 2021): Releases bumping down to 300 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The outflow at the bottom of Navajo Dam in New Mexico. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing irrigation and increasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 300 cfs for Tuesday, November 2nd, at 4:00 AM.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). This release change is calculated as the minimum required to maintain the target baseflow.

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell. Due to low storage and forecast levels in WY 2022, the minimum release of 250 cfs, as documented in the Navajo Record of Decision (2006), may be implemented this winter as long as that release can satisfy the target baseflow.

Upper #SanJuanRiver Basin #snowpack, #drought, and #streamflow report — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

Snow report

Wolf Creek Ski Area got another round of snow, with 6 inches falling throughout the day on Tuesday, Oct. 26, according to its snow report.

The ski area has received 28 inches so far this season.

According to the U.S. Depart- ment of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snow pack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 3 inches of snow water equivalent as of 10 a.m. on Oct. 27.

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River basins were at 431 percent of the Oct. 27 median in terms of snow pack.

River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 80.4 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27.

Based on 86 years of water records at this site, the lowest recorded flow rate for this date is 29 cfs, recorded in 1967.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1942 at 870 cfs.

The average flow rate for this date is 133 cfs.

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 66.2 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 645 cfs in 1999.

A new lowest recorded rate was recorded this year for this date, earlier in the day, at 40.4 cfs.

Based on 59 years of water re- cords at this site, the average flow rate for that date is 158 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 4,140 cfs in 1973.

Colorado Drought Monitor map October 26, 2021.

Drought report

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) was last updated on Oct. 19.

The NIDIS website indicates 100 percent of Archuleta County is ab- normally dry.

The percentage of the county in a moderate drought is listed at 69.81 percent.

The NIDIS website also notes that 47.66 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage, which is up slightly from last week’s report of 42.68 percent.

Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 9.12 percent of the county, mostly the southwestern portion of the county, remains in an extreme drought, consistent with the previous report.

The NIDIS website notes that under an extreme drought stage, large fires may develop and pasture conditions worsen.

No portion of the county is in an exceptional drought.

Navajo Unit operations update October 26, 2021 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The San Juan River’s Navajo Dam and reservoir. Photo credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

Navajo Dam operations update (October 26, 2021): Bumping down to 350 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Lake Powell is shown here, in its reach between where the Escalante and San Juan rivers enter the reservoir, in an October 2018 aerial photo from the nonprofit environmental group EcoFlight. Colorado water managers are considering the implications of a program known as demand management that would pay irrigators on a temporary and voluntary basis to take less water from streams in order to boost water levels in Lake Powell, as an insurance policy against compact curtailment.
CREDIT: ECOFLIGHT

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing irrigation and increasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 350 cfs for Tuesday, October 26th, at 4:00 AM.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). This release change is calculated as the minimum required to maintain the target baseflow.

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell. Be advised, due to low storage and forecast levels in WY 2022, the minimum release of 250 cfs, as documented in the Navajo Record of Decision (2006), may be implemented this winter as long as that release can satisfy the target baseflow.

Navajo Dam operations update (October 16, 2021): Releases to decrease to 400 cfs for Monday, October 18th, 2021 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Navajo Reservoir, New Mexico, back in the day.. View looking north toward marina. The Navajo Dam can be seen on the left of the image. By Timthefinn at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4040102

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing irrigation and increasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 400 cfs for Monday, October 18th, at 4:00 AM.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). This release change is calculated as the minimum required to maintain the target baseflow.

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell. Be advised, due to low storage and forecast levels in WY 2022, the minimum release of 250 cfs, as documented in the Navajo Record of Decision (2006), may be implemented this winter as long as that release can satisfy the target baseflow.

Last month was the hottest September on record for San Juan Mountains, San Luis Valley — #Colorado Public Radio

September 2021 Gridded Temperature Percentiles Map

From Colorado Public Radio (Miguel Otárola):

The San Juan Mountains and parts of Larimer County also had their hottest September on record, the data shows. Statewide, it was the third-warmest September in Colorado’s history, tying with September 1998…

It was also a drier month than usual for the Front Range and much of southern Colorado, according to state climatologists. After a wet spring and summer — the result of timely monsoon rains — moderate to severe drought conditions have started to return to eastern parts of the state. A swath of northwest Colorado remains under exceptional drought.

State officials anticipate fall will be warmer and drier than normal, stressing vegetation and soil that is already parched across the state, according to a report from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

San Luis Valley residents are currently fighting about how much water is available to them, McCracken said. Farmers growing potatoes, barley and alfalfa are pumping much of that water from wells, he said, all while the area’s snowpack is melting earlier than normal and evaporating before it can recharge local water sources.

Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership plans survey, workshop — The Pagosa Springs Sun #SanJuanRiver

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

From The Upper San Juan Enhancement Partnership (Mandy Eskelson) via The Pagosa Springs Sun:

This summer, the Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership (WEP) started Phase 3, the last phase of a planning process to develop a local water plan, with potential project opportunities that support river health and our community’s ability to rely on rivers for multiple uses, now and in the future.

The WEP originally planned to host a public workshop in September to share updates and next steps of this planning process, but our group needed to delay this event due to scheduling challenges, as well as developments on new multipurpose pilot projects along the San Juan River that WEP and our partners have been exploring.

The WEP hopes exploring project ideas now could address immediate needs revealed through our Phase 2 watershed assessments and stakeholder interests for ecological and recreational improvements on the San Juan River. We hope these will just be the start of many project ideas community members can consider when we all get together again to develop a list of on-the-ground opportunities to support the agricultural, environmental, municipal and recreational water use needs in the San Juan, Blanco and Navajo watersheds.

We plan to share more about these concept-level projects at our upcoming workshop in October for the community to consider and weigh in on. Projects within the Yamaguchi South area have been publicly shared and reviewed through several town council meetings and http://MyPagosa.org. We hope to share other developing project components very soon, but first, the WEP is connecting with individual landowners adjacent to the project areas to gather their feedback and approval before we open it up to the broader community for input.

The WEP will announce a new workshop date in the next few weeks and details on how anyone from the public can attend this event. The goal of the workshop will be to share areas that our Phase 2 assessment results identified as highly valuable or areas of concerns for river health and/or our community’s ability to use the rivers we rely on.

The WEP is also working on drafting an initial list of goals and objectives to help in identifying specific actions or projects to address these broader watershed goals. We need your feedback to refine and add to this initial list, so we hope you all will attend the WEP’s future workshop to share locations, actions and projects you would like prioritized for this water plan.

If community members cannot attend the workshop, the WEP will offer other options for you to share your feedback and participate. We are currently finalizing a survey that can be done via your computer, phone app or printed options to submit your answers. We also intend to host other public events for stakeholders to help with this planning process.

The WEP will announce the workshop date and share details on how you can get involved and share your ideas in the next few weeks.

If you would like to learn more about the WEP and the planning process, visit http://www.mountainstudies.org/sanjuan/smp and contact Mandy Eskelson (mandy@mountainstudies.org) or Al Pfister (westernwildscapes@gmail.com).

The #PagosaSprings Town Council approves $150,000 for #SanJuanRiver projects — The Pagosa Springs Sun

View to the south into the snaking West Fork of the San Juan River as seen from US 160, halfway up to the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. By User:Erikvoss, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61976794

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

At its regular meeting held on Thursday, Sept. 23, the Pagosa Springs Town Council unani- mously approved two resolutions which approved $150,000 in matching funds needed for grants for river improvement projects in the San Juan River along Yamaguchi South Park and a portion of the river northeast of town.

Planning Director James Dickhoff presented the resolutions to the council, beginning with Resolution 2021-13, supporting submitting grant applications to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for recreational and ecological enhancement of the San Juan River adjacent to Yamaguchi South Park.

With this resolution, the council approved $96,000 of matching funds needed for the grant.

Town Manager Andrea Phillips explained in an email to The SUN that the council approved those funds to be taken out of the reserves for the 2021 budget.

“However, due to the timing of the grant application and notification, it may need to be included in next year’s budget instead. This would require additional council action in the future,” Philips wrote.

Dickhoff noted during the meeting that the total budget for the project along Yamaguchi South Park is $664,720 and the grant application is for $498,540.

Dickhoff explained that the Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership ( WEP) has been working on identifying projects that are eligible for grant funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

He noted that the town will administer the grant, if awarded, with help from the WEP…

The initial proposal presented by Dickhoff was structured in a fashion that contemplates the project over three years.

However, the council determined that it would have a stronger application for the funds if the entire amount of matching funds from the town is committed up-front…

Dickhoff explained that a total of $166,180 in matching funds is need- ed for the grant to be awarded.

Along with the $96,000 committed from the council, the WEP will also be requesting funds from other local entities.

He explained that WEP is planning on requesting $22,500 from the tourism board, $30,000 from Archuleta County, $10,000 from the Southwest Water Conservation District, $3,000 from Trout Unlimited, $750 from Friends of the Upper San Juan, $750 from Weminuche Audubon, $1,500 from the Nature Conservancy and $2,500 from Great Outdoors Fund…

The second resolution presented by Dickhoff during the meeting was Resolution 2021-14, supporting grant applications to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for recreational and ecological enhance- ments of the San Juan River upstream of town.

Dickhoff explained that the WEP is also assisting the town with this grant application as well, and that Trout Unlimited would be the entity to administer the grant “on behalf of the community.”

With the resolution, the council unanimously approved $56,000 in matching funds to be taken from the town’s 2022 budget and is contingent upon Trout Unlimited being approved for the grant.

Dickhoff explained that this grant is for river cleanup projects along the section of the San Juan River stretching from Bob’s LP to the Running Iron Ranch…

Dickhoff indicated that the WEP will also be presenting this opportunity to the other entities for requests for matching funds.

He explained that the WEP is planning on requesting $86,859 from the RESTORE Colorado Grant; $300,000 from the Bureau of Reclamation Watersmart Program; $22,500 from the tourism board; $30,000 from Archuleta County; $10,000 from the Southwest Water Conservation District; $3,000 from Trout Unlimited; $750 from Friends of the Upper San Juan; $750 from the Weminuche Audubon; $1,500 from the Nature Conservancy at $1,500 and $2,500 from the Great Outdoors Fund.

Agenda documentation on the topic also indicates funding being requested from the San Juan Water Conservancy District.

Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District meeting recap — The #PagosaSprings Sun

Pagosa Springs Panorama. Photo credit: Gmhatfield via Wikimedia Commons

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Terri House):

The perpetual pump problems that have perplexed the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID) continue to persist, with two additional pump failures occurring, leaving the district with no operational backup pump on site.

Should the pumps go down, there is potential for a sewage spill, with the district looking to reduce the possibility of any sewage going into the river.

The district’s sanitation system includes “three lift stations, and the pumping stations that transport
the town’s wastewater to Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) for treatment. There are approximately 835 customers using … the collection system,” according to an agenda brief from Tuesday’s PSSGID meeting.

“In 2016, the GID and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) entered into an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to pump the town’s sewage to the PAWSD Vista Treatment Plant,” explains the brief.

The board discussed the challenge of securing a backup pump in the event of another pump failure at Tuesday’s meeting.

“There continue to be unsustainable failures with the pumps,” a June board agenda brief reads.

The root of the issue is the ability for the district to pump poop uphill from town to the PAWSD ponds west of town.

“Since the last update to the board, we have experienced two more pump failures,” said Public Works Director Martin Schmidt as part of his update on the pump replacement process and the state of the district’s pump stations. “Staff was able to make the adjustments, and move the pumps around to keep the sewage pumping. We are currently out of spare shufflable pumps.”

“The pumps failed due to a seal failure and due to an electrical failure,” reads an agenda brief for the meeting. “Both were stemming from issues that we are addressing with the replacement pumps.”

Schmidt noted that an American Technical team from Farmington came up Tuesday to look at rebuilding a pump…

Schmidt explained they could get the pump to work with bearings and seal replacements. He also noted that it was an older type of pump that has tended to last longer and had the potential to become a spare for the future redesign.
The downside, according to Schmidt, is that rebuilt pump would not be at 100 percent of capacity. It would take about a month to rebuild the pump at a cost between $10,000 and $13,000. The district has spent approximately $2,000 on investi- gating the potential of the pump rebuild…

The rebuild project

The district is in the process of a re-engineering of the pump system. “A $400,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health Environment has been awarded for replacement of the eight pumps at Pump Stations 1 and 2,” reads an
agenda brief.

“The cost of the pump replacement project is $800,000 with a $400,000 grant helping to pay for that project,” Martin explained of the rebuild project.

“Staff is continuing to work with Pentair-Fairbanks on getting the pump engineering complete and all of the orders submitted. Pentair has assured staff that every element of the construction of the pumps is being expedited and and that the last of the submittals for construction are imminent. Once the submittals are complete, a meeting with all involved parties will be conducted to coordi- nate the planning and replacement of the pumps. This meeting will be critical for the smooth transition to the new pumping system because of the complexity of making the change while we are still receiving sewage at the pump station,” reads the agenda brief. “Staff is cautiously optimistic about getting the pumps changed out before the I&I season in the spring, but at this time there is no set schedule.”

In response to a question from board president DonVolger, Schmidt clarified that the district will be getting eight pumps from Pentair-Fairbanks.

“We’re hoping that when we take care of the re-engineering and installation of eight new pumps that our system will be pretty much intact, maybe like it should have been engineered in the first place,” said Volger, with Schmidt confirming.
Schmidt reminded the board that former employee Gene Tautges wrote a grant and the district built a 250,000-gallon overflow tank.

“Right now, in a 24-hour period, we are anywhere between about 215,000 and 260,000 gallons,” Schmidt said regarding current sewage flows. “That usually holds

#Water year precipitation rebounds with wet #monsoon2021 season — The San Juan Record #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

From The San Juan Record:

It was a strange water year in San Juan County, with months of deepening drought and three glorious months of rain. The overall result for the water year, which wrapped up on September 30, was remarkably close in some areas to the precipitation amounts for a normal water year.

For the water year, Monticello received 14.91 inches of precipitation. This is 99 percent of the multiyear average of 15.1 inches.

The year-end total represents a remarkable turnaround from the year-to-date totals in June, before the arrival of the annual monsoon season. On June 30, Monticello had just 66 percent of normal precipitation.

Since that time, Monticello has received 8.67 inches of rain, which is 172 percent of the normal three-month average of 5.03 inches.

In contrast, the monsoon season brought wet weather to other locations of San Juan County, but not in as dramatic a fashion. Bluff finished the water year with 4.53 inches of precipitation, which is just 58 percent of the historic average of 7.76 inches. Bluff received 2.04 inches of rain during the monsoon season.

Blanding received ten inches of rain for the water year, which is 75 percent of the historic average of 13.3 inches. Blanding received 5.46 inches of rain during the monsoon season.

For the water year, the Camp Jackson weather station in the Abajo Mountains received 25.4 inches of precipitation.

The months of wet weather have given a wonderful start to the dryland farmers who plant crops in the fall. The winter wheat crop appears to be green and healthy and gives hope to farmers who have struggled during the drought. Similarly, the landscape is greener than normal, offering hope to the ranchers who rely on grazing for their livestock.

While the monsoon season has alleviated the stress of the continued drought on dryland agriculture and ranching, the water storage situation remains a major concern.

The water level in Lake Powell, the massive reservoir on the Colorado River, has fallen to record levels…

Lake Powell currently holds less than 30 percent of its capacity, with a water level 155 feet below capacity. The water is 50 feet below the level one year ago.

Similarly, the level of local reservoirs – including Loyds Lake and Recapture Reservoir – is significantly below full capacity and below the levels of one year ago.

In the past summer, Loyds Lake has dropped ten feet and Recapture Reservoir has dropped seven feet.

Recent storms help river flows — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 41.6 cubic feet per second (cfs) in Pagosa Springs as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29.

This is up from last week’s instantaneous reading of 22.3 cfs.

Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the lowest re- corded flow rate for this date is 12 cfs, recorded in 1953.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 2014 at 1,120 cfs. The average flow rate for this date is 153 cfs.

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 43.2 cfs, which is up from last week’s instantaneous reading of 32.9 cfs.

Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for that date is 192 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 1,490 cfs in 2014. The lowest recorded rate was 13.3 cfs in 2018…

Colorado Drought Monitor map September 28, 2021.

Water report

The district remains in a Stage 1 drought per its drought management plan, according to the press release.

Ramsey notes that the primary driver of this drought stage is the San Juan River flow in conjunction with the U.S. Drought Monitor, which indicates our area is in a severe to moderate drought.

Ramsey notes that PAWSD is continuing to request voluntary odd/even watering days, “requesting that if your address is an odd number only irrigate on odd calendar days and vice-versa for even number addresses.”

There are no other mandatory water use restrictions in place, besides limiting irrigation to after 6 p.m. and before 9 a.m.

Drought report

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) was last updated on Sept. 21.

The NIDIS website indicates 100 percent of Archuleta County is abnormally dry. This is up from the previous report of 95.27 percent.

The percentage of the county in a moderate drought remains at 67.47 percent, consistent with the previous report.

The NIDIS website also notes that 42.68 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage, which is consistent with the previous report.

Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 9.12 percent of the county remains in an extreme drought, mostly in the southwestern portion of the county, consistent with the previous report.

The NIDIS website notes that under an extreme drought stage, large fires may develop and pasture conditions worsen.

No portion of the county is in exceptional drought.
For more information and maps, visit: https://www.drought.gov/states/Colorado/county/Archuleta.

Navajo Dam operations update: Releases to bump down to 500 cfs October 4, 2021 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

View to the south into the snaking West Fork of the San Juan River as seen from US 160, halfway up to the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. By User:Erikvoss, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61976794

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to increasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 700 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 500 cfs today, October 4th, at 12:00 PM. During this change, the Auxilary 4×4 release will be closed and all flow will be through the power plant.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

#Durango: Acid Mine Nation Day — A #GoldKingMine Spill Retrospective, September 26, 2021

The September 2021 Newsletter is hot off the presses from the Water Information Program

A map of the Southern Ute Reservation and nearby reservations. By U.S. Census Bureau – U.S. Census Bureau: American FactFinder, a combination of two maps, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3114932

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

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe (the Tribe) is taking public comment on their proposed water quality standards and certification procedures from August 23 to October 22, 2021. Although the standards apply only to Tribal Waters on lands where the tribe has jurisdiction, they can affect permits and licenses issued upstream by EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and/or the State of Colorado, on and off the reservation. Permitting and licensing entities must consider any possible impacts that could cause violations of standards downstream to Tribal Waters.

For several years, the Tribe has been developing its authority to set water quality standards within their reservation boundaries. In 2018, the Tribe was granted “Treatment as a State” (TAS) by the EPA to receive delegated authority for sections 303(c) and 401 of the Clean Water Act to set water quality standards and certify that those standards will not be violated under certain federal permits and licenses. They did not apply for any permitting or enforcement authority. This current step is part of the Tribe’s process to promulgate its initial water quality standards and certification procedures.

Documents related to the Tribe’s TAS application as well as the proposed standards and procedures can be found here and here. Comments can be emailed to SUIT’s Water Quality Standards Committee at wqs@southernute-nsn.gov. The Tribe will hold an online public hearing regarding the proposed standards on October 7th from 3:00 – 5:00pm. To pre-register, visit https://bit.ly/3wnzxAb.

Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

Upper #SanJuanRiver conditions report — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 23.7 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of noon Wednesday, Sept. 15.

Based on 85 years of water re- cords at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 165 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1970 at 2,000 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 13.5 cfs, recorded in 2018.

As of noon Wednesday, Sept. 15, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 24 cfs.

Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for that date is 123 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 2,650 cfs in 1970. The lowest recorded rate was 13.3 cfs in 2002.

Colorado Drought Monitor map September 7, 2021.

Drought report

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) was last updated on Sept. 7.

The NIDIS website indicates 95.27 percent of Archuleta County is abnormally dry, this is down slightly from the previous report of 95.29 percent.

The percentage of the county in a moderate drought remains at 67.47 percent, consistent with the previous report.

The NIDIS website also notes that 42.68 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage, which is up slightly from the previous report of 41.75 percent.

Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 9.12 percent of the county remains in an extreme drought, mostly in the southwestern portion of the county, consistent with the previous report.

The NIDIS website notes that under an extreme drought stage, large fires may develop and pasture conditions worsen.

No portion of the county is in an exceptional drought.

For more information and maps, visit: https://www.drought.gov/states/Colorado/county/Archuleta.

Navajo Dam operations update (September 17, 2021): Releases to bump to 900 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The San Juan River’s Navajo Dam and reservoir. Photo credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 850 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 900 cfs on Friday, September 17th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell. This release change is calculated to be the minimum release required to maintain the minimum target base flow.

Something in the water: Trying to get a handle on E. coli issues in the #SanJuanRiver, #AnimasRiver — The #Durango Telegraph

The Animas River in Durango, in Apri, 2018. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Durango Telegraph (Jonathan Romeo):

“We know who pooped in the river, now we’re trying to figure out where it’s coming from,” Alyssa Richmond said as she took a sample of water recently from the muddy San Juan River, in the blazing high desert outside Farmington.

Richmond is coordinator for the San Juan Watershed Group, a collection of local agencies and volunteers working to improve water quality on the San Juan River as it runs through northern New Mexico. The group’s ultimate goal, Richmond said, is to have the stretch of river meet national water quality standards. But as it stands, it’s not going well.

Among a plethora of water-quality issues that include mine pollution, urban runoff and rising water temperatures amid an increasing drought, is the issue of E. coli contamination. A naturally occurring bacteria that lives in all humans and animal stools, E. coli can contaminate ground and surface water, and lead to health implications.

For at least the past 10 years, researchers have launched a full-scale investigation to better understand E. coli issues up and down the San Juan River watershed, from high up in the San Juan Mountains to its major tributary, the Animas River, to stretches that run into the Navajo Nation.

Early results are not encouraging: the EPA’s standard for acceptable E. coli levels is 126 colony-forming units (CFU) per 100 milliliters. In stretches of the San Juan River through Farmington, water samples taken this summer exceeded nearly 1,500 CFUs. “We didn’t expect it to be as high as it was,” Richmond said on a sampling day in late August. “It was shocking.”

But it’s not all doom and poop. The San Juan Watershed Group’s efforts will ultimately help inform where cleanup projects should be focused to achieve the highest improvement in water health. And, all up and down the watershed, even to the highest reaches of the Animas River around Silverton, there is a concerted push to face E. coli issues head on.

“The good news is everyone agrees there should be no human poop in the water,” said San Juan Citizens Alliance’s Animas Riverkeeper Marcel Gaztambide, who probably never thought he’d have to make so obvious a statement to the local paper. “And it’s an issue of concern, so it’s good we’re talking about it now.”

Defecation detectives

E. coli is a difficult contaminant to fully contextualize because not only is it naturally occurring, it is also one of the most common bacteria. It can come from livestock as well as wildlife like elk, deer, birds, beaver – pretty much any animal that poops. And to complicate matters further, only some strains of the bacteria are harmful to human health.

In the early 2010s, however, researchers knew high E. coli levels were an issue in the San Juan River in northern New Mexico, but the question was, who was the main culprit? After conducting two years of microbial source testing, which not only shows the level of E. coli but also pinpoints the exact source, the results were not what researches were expecting. It came back that the largest contributors were … drumroll, please … humans.

In fact, test results showed human feces in 70 to 100 percent of samples taken from the Animas River at the Colorado-New Mexico state line down to the border of the Navajo Nation.

With the guilty party exposed, funding was again secured to take the investigation a step further this summer by understanding where exactly the human waste was coming from, Richmond said. It’s a process that’s rather simple, by testing upstream and downstream of suspected source points, and then seeing where the spikes in E. coli levels occur. And already, there are some potential smoking guns: failing septic tanks from homes and development, outdated wastewater treatment plants and illegal RV dumping.

What the sampling has also shown, Richmond said, is the high E. coli levels aren’t necessarily coming from upstream communities in Durango and elsewhere. Instead, early results indicate the highest spikes happen in and around Farmington…

It’s a watershed moment

But that doesn’t necessarily mean upstream communities are swimming in sparkling clean waters.

The Animas River, for instance, has issues all its own. Remember that EPA standard of 126 cfu/100 mL? Well, one study conducted by Fort Lewis College in October 2018 found E. coli levels in the Animas at Santa Rita Park, near the Whitewater Park (close your eyes kayakers and surfers) at 226 CFUs. Bare in mind, this was before the completion of the City’s new water reclamation facility in December 2019…

Over in the Florida River, which runs into the Animas about 18 miles south of Durango, progress is also being made, said Warren Rider, coordinator for the Animas Watershed Partnership, which focuses on water quality issues on the Colorado side of the border.

The Florida River for years has exceeded safety standards for E. coli and accounts for nearly a quarter of the bacteria and nutrients dumped into the Animas River before the state line. In a bit of a shock, the Florida was delisted last year, but that was mostly due to a lack of data, researchers say.

While natural sources do account for a portion of contamination in the Florida, agriculture and livestock operations also contribute a good amount of harmful bacteria. As a result, Rider said the Animas Watershed Partnership has tried to work with landowners to fence off waterways to livestock and reestablish vegetation along stream banks…

Up in the high country

And no one has forgotten about the highest reaches of the watershed atop the San Juan Mountains, where an unprecedented increase in recreation, and therefore human waste, has been well noted and nosed in the past year or so.

This summer, the U.S. Forest Service and Mountain Studies Institute partnered to test heavily trafficked recreation areas for E. coli. Colleen Magee-Uhlik, a forest ambassador with MSI, said areas with high use of recreation showed much higher concentrations than locations with little human impact.

In the obvious case study, South Mineral Creek – that of Ice Lakes fame – water samples taken above the highest areas of recreation tested at about 22 CFUs. Farther downstream, in a location that would catch all the cumulative impacts of recreation and camping, samples were more than four times as high, at nearly 90 CFUs. (And, it should be noted, South Mineral was closed this year because of fire damage, which likely means levels would be even higher if people were in the area)…

Christie Chatterley, Fort Lewis College assistant professor of physics and engineering, said in the popular backpacking spot Chicago Basin in the Weminuche Wilderness, a student-led research program also found high levels of E. coli in streams. FLC has plans to conduct microbial source testing to see exactly where the bacteria is coming from, but Chatterley said it’s probably safe to assume hikers and campers…

So what can be done?

For starters, using best practices in the high country, such as burying waste 6 to 8 inches deep and 200 feet away from water, and packing out toilet paper can go a long way. This message is even more important as record numbers of people visit the backcountry, many without a working knowledge of how to protect the very landscape they come to enjoy.

Farther downstream, upgrading septic tanks is seen as another obvious target. Brian Devine, with San Juan Basin Public Health, said new septic regulations require people selling their homes to have septic systems inspected. In 2020 alone, more than 500 systems were inspected, which led to many leeching septic tanks being fixed. “It’s resulting in systems getting repaired,” he said. Richmond, with the San Juan Watershed Group, said agencies are working with New Mexico health officials to tackle failing and outdated septic systems as well.

And, the city of Durango’s Biggs said the Clean Water Act continues to push water quality standards. “The Clean Water Act has really improved water quality, and the Animas would be a testament to that,” he said. “And everyone benefits, including our downstream users.”

So yes, there’s no quick and easy fix to E. coli issues in the Animas and San Juan rivers, but all these efforts are folded into the long history of communities along the watershed, and the responsibilities they have to one another, Biggs said. It’s an issue that dates back to the 1800s when Silverton would send down water contaminated by mining operations to Durango, and a few decades later, when Durango’s uranium pile sat along the banks of the Animas River, only to be swept downstream.

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

#NewMexico #drought picture has improved considerably over summer, thanks to #monsoon2021

From The Farmington Daily Times (Mike Easterling):

While monsoon season does not conclude officially until the end of September, it is clear the summer weather pattern that typically brings a good deal of moisture to the Southwest has helped ease the drought’s grip on much of New Mexico.

Chuck Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said the agency will not have figures on monsoon rain totals until early October, after the season has drawn to a close.

New Mexico Drought Monitor Map September 7, 2021.

But a look at the U.S. Drought Monitor map for New Mexico — and the rest of the Southwest — shows substantial improvement over the past two and a half months. Many parts of the state that were bone dry at the beginning of summer have emerged mostly, or even entirely, from the drought.

Nowhere has that change been more dramatic than in the southeast corner of the state. According to the Southwest and California Drought Status Update issued June 24 by the federal government’s National Integrated Drought Information System, parts of seven counties in that corner of New Mexico were characterized as being in exceptional drought — the worst category — and every county in that region was suffering from severe, extreme or exceptional drought, the three worst categories.

Now, two and a half months later, the picture there is much different, as portions of six of those counties are now characterized as normal. Much of the remaining territory in the southeast corner of the state is classified as being only abnormally dry or experiencing moderate drought.

While other parts of the state also saw marked improvement — portions of 13 counties in New Mexico now are drought free, compared to parts of just two counties on June 24 — others have not been so fortunate. Many parts of central, southwest and northwest New Mexico that were locked in drought at the beginning of the summer remain that way, even though their status has improved, as well.

The drought continues to take a heavy toll on San Juan, McKinley, Rio Arriba, Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Las Alamos, Catron, Grant, Hidalgo and Luna counties, with each of those counties still showing substantial territory characterized as being in extreme drought, the second-worst category.

That’s not to say those locations are as bad off as they were even a month ago, when large portions of all those counties were experiencing exceptional drought. In fact, the percentage of the state that is classified as being in exceptional drought has declined from more than 50% at the start of 2021 to approximately 33% three months ago, 4.5% on Aug. 10 and 0% on Sept. 9. And while 21.2% of New Mexico was in extreme drought on Aug. 10, that percentage declined to 19.1% by Sept. 7.

According to drought.gov, this was the 32nd wettest August in New Mexico over the last 127 years. Las Cruces has enjoyed an especially good monsoon so far, having racked up 5.06 inches of precipitation over that period, the third-wettest monsoon on record, according to drought.gov.

San Juan County has not seen that kind of bounty, but it has experienced a relatively good monsoon season, at least by the paltry standards of recent years. Jones said Farmington has received 1.6 inches of moisture at Four Corners Regional Airport over the three-month period, a figure that nearly matches the 30-year average of 1.62 inches.

For the year, Farmington has drawn 4.31 inches of precipitation, which comes close to matching the figure of 4.68 inches the city has received on average through the end of August for the last 30 years. Over the last three decades, Farmington has averaged a total of 7.76 inches annually.

As of Sept. 7, the vast majority of San Juan County was still characterized as being in extreme drought, with only slivers of the southwest and southeast corners in severe drought. But on Aug. 10, approximately half the county was in exceptional drought, and now none of it is.

Rivers flowing well below average — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 27.3 cubic feet per second (cfs) in Pagosa Springs as of noon Wednesday, Sept. 8. That rate is more than 100 cfs below the average flow rate for Sept. 8.

Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 139 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1970 at 1,160 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 17 cfs, recorded in 1978.

As of noon Wednesday, Sept. 1, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 40.1, which is up from last week’s instantaneous reading of 31.5 cfs.

However, the flow rate for that date is almost 80 cfs below the average flow rate for Sept. 8.

Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for that date is 120 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 1,300 cfs in 1991. The lowest recorded rate was 8.94 cfs in 2002.

Water report

According to a press release from the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Manager Justin Ramsey, the district remains in a Stage 1 drought per its drought management plan.

…the U.S. Drought Monitor…indicates our area is in a severe to moderate drought.

Ramsey notes that PAWSD is continuing to request voluntary odd/even watering days, “requesting that if your address is an odd number only irrigate on odd calender days and vice-versa for even number ad- dresses.”

There are no other mandatory water use restrictions in place, be- sides limiting irrigation to after 6 p.m. and before 9 a.m…

Colorado Drought Monitor map September 7, 2021.

Drought report

The NIDIS website indicates 95.29 percent of Archuleta County is abnormally dry, up slightly from the previous report of 94.84 percent of the county being abnormally dry.

The percentage of the county in a moderate drought remains at 67.47 percent.

The NIDIS website also notes that 41.75 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage, which is up slightly from the previous report of 41.2 percent.

Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 9.12 percent of the county remains in an extreme drought — consistent with the previous report — mostly in the southwestern por- tion of the county.

The NIDIS website notes that under an extreme drought stage, large fires may develop and pasture conditions worsen.

No portion of the county is in exceptional drought.

For more information and maps, visit: https://www.drought.gov/states/Colorado/county/Archuleta.

Stage 1 #drought restrictions still in effect — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

According to a press release from the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Manager Justin Ramsey, the district remains in a Stage 1 drought per its drought management plan.

This marks the sixth week in a row that the district has been in a Stage 1 drought. The PAWSD board initially approved entering the stage on July 19.

Ramsey notes that the primary driver of this drought stage is the San Juan River flow in conjunction with the U.S. Drought Monitor, which indicates our area is in a severe to moderate drought…

Colorado Drought Monitor map August 31, 2021.

Drought report

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) was updated on Aug. 24, re- porting the same numbers for the second consecutive week.

The NIDIS website indicates 94.84 percent of Archuleta County is abnormally dry and 67.46 per- cent of the county is in a moderate drought.

The NIDIS website also notes that 41.2 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage.

Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 9.12 percent of the county remains in an extreme drought, mostly in the southwestern portion of the county.

The NIDIS website notes that under an extreme drought stage, large fires may develop and pasture conditions worsen.

No portion of the county is in an exceptional drought.

For more information and maps, visit: https://www.drought.gov/states/Colorado/county/Archuleta.

River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 39.7 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 1.

Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 154 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 2008 at 1,290 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 8.66 cfs, recorded in 2002.

As of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 1, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 31.5 cfs.

Based on 50 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 191 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 1,210 cfs in 2008. The lowest recorded rate was 5.42 cfs in 2002.

Navajo Dam operations update: Releases to bump to 800 cfs August 27, 2021 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridifcation

Aerial image of entrenched meanders of the San Juan River within Goosenecks State Park. Located in San Juan County, southeastern Utah (U.S.). Credits Constructed from county topographic map DRG mosaic for San Juan County from USDA/NRCS – National Cartography & Geospatial Center using Global Mapper 12.0 and Adobe Illustrator. Latitude 33° 31′ 49.52″ N., Longitude 111° 37′ 48.02″ W. USDA/FSA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 700 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 800 cfs on Friday, August 27th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell. This release change is calculated to be the minimum release required to maintain the minimum target base flow.

San Juan #Water Conservancy District votes to oppose BLM water rights applications — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

View to the south into the snaking West Fork of the San Juan River as seen from US 160, halfway up to the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. By User:Erikvoss, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61976794

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Jessica Hanson):

The San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) board met on Monday, Aug.16, to hear a report, among other business, from the board’s attorney, Jeff Kane, on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) intent to file two applications for water rights.

According to agenda information posted on the SJWCD website, the two water rights applications are for transmountain diversions to the Rio Grande River basin from a tributary of Wolfe Creek. (Note: This spelling of Wolfe Creek is what is found in the BLM’s original application for water rights.) This is a tributary to the West Fork of the San Juan River.

These two applications could mean the diversion of up to 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water.

The BLM stated in its applications that the diversion of the water would be to support wildlife management and wetlands habitat at the BLM’s Blanca Wetlands Area and South San Luis Lakes Area.

According to the memorandum presented to the board by Kane, this means that any authorization of this type of diversion causes 100 percent depletion to the originating stream basin. The water that would be diverted under this water rights application would then not be available to support any uses or habitats in the San Juan River or its
tributaries.

The BLM is requesting a change in the places and types of use of the already existing 7 cfs of the Treasure Pass Ditch water right. This water right was purchased in 2019. This current agreement calls for a 1922 priority for the irrigation of 80 acres. The new water rights application by the BLM asks for 13 cfs for the Treasure Pass Ditch and for the right to authorize the BLM to store and deliver water from the Treasure Pass Ditch through several reservoirs in the Rio Grande Basin for support use to the wetlands in the San Luis Valley.

The BLM is also seeking flexibility in approval so it can use the water it wants to divert from the Treasure Pass Ditch in the Rio Grande Basin in a variety of ways, according to Kane.

Kane’s report to the board states, “the applications do not limit the ultimate use of diverted water to support wetlands and wildlife.”

The BLM has the burden of proof when making a request for water rights changes. In a request for a change of water rights, the applicant must prove that the request will not cause an increase in use of requested water as compared in amount, time and place to what has been historically used, according to the memorandum presented by Kane.

A request for an exchange of water rights is when proof is required of the applicant that the request will not harm or impede other water rights and can be applied, Kane’s memorandum explains. A request for a new water right requires the applicant to provide proof that the water to be used will only be beneficial and that there is actually water available to be diverted.

As Kane presented his report on the BLM applications to the board, he noted that both the board and its constituents could be adversely affected in many ways.

The ability of the district to divert and store water under existing water rights or future appropriations considering the diverting water from the Treasure Pass Ditch would not only reduce flows in the San Juan River, but also reduce the water available for Dry Gulch Reservoir, he suggested.

The report also states that the habitat in the tributaries of the San Juan River may also be impacted. The BLM’s applications could also affect the district’s constituents’ efforts to divert and use water if the event a Colorado Compact call were to arise.

The Colorado Compact call is the need to reduce the increasing risk of a compact-driven curtailment which could result in cutting of water to users across the upper basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Wyoming, Kane reported to the SJWCD board.

Heron Lake, part of the San Juan-Chama Project, in northern New Mexico, looking east from the Rio Chama. In the far distance is Brazos Peak (left) and the Brazos Cliffs (right), while at the bottom is the north wall of the Rio Chama Gorge. By G. Thomas at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1598784

Kane also noted that the San Juan-Chama Project is currently diverting an average of 110,000 acre feet a year from the San Juan River to the Rio Grande Basin and the BLM is proposing to divert more water from the Wolfe Creek tribu- tary than at any time in history.

Kane recommended that the board file statements of opposition to the BLM’s applications.

The next coordination meeting for the operation of the Navajo Unit will be virtual, and is scheduled for Tuesday, August 24, 2021, at 1:00 pm — USBR #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The Navajo Dam on the San Juan River.Photo credit Mike Robinson via the University of Washington.

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

The next coordination meeting for the operation of the Navajo Unit will be virtual, and is scheduled for Tuesday, August 24th, at 1:00 pm. At the meeting time, click here to join the meeting.

This meeting is open to the public and will be held virtually via Microsoft Teams video. The meeting should open in any smartphone, tablet, or computer browser, and does not require a Microsoft account. If you are away from a computer, you can also call-in at (202) 640-1187 (Phone Conference ID: 460 056 201#).

A copy of the presentation and meeting summary will be distributed to this email list and posted to our website following the meeting. If you are unable to connect to the meeting, feel free to contact me (information below) following the meeting for any comments or to ask questions.

The meeting agenda will include a review of operations and hydrology since April, current streamflow and hydrologic conditions, a discussion of hydrologic forecasts and planned operations for remainder of this water year and next water year, planned drought operations, updates on maintenance activities, and the Recovery Program on the San Juan River.

If you have any suggestions for the agenda or have questions about the meeting, please call Susan Behery at 970-385-6560, or email sbehery@usbr.gov. Visit the Navajo Dam website at https://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/cs/nvd.html for operational updates.

Navajo Dam operations update (August 17, 2021): Releases to be reduced to 700 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Navajo Reservoir, New Mexico, back in the day.. View looking north toward marina. The Navajo Dam can be seen on the left of the image. By Timthefinn at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4040102

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

The City of Farmington Hydroelectric Power Plant will be taken offline today, Tuesday, August 17th, at 1:00 PM for unscheduled work. The Bureau of Reclamation will open the Auxiliary 4×4 release at that time, to 700 cubic feet per second (cfs) (a reduction from the current release of 800 cfs). The Auxiliary will continue releasing for a period of up to a week while work continues at the Power Plant.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

Navajo Dam operations update (August 17, 2021): Releases to decrease to 800 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The San Juan River’s Navajo Dam and reservoir. Photo credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to increasing flows in the critical habitat reach and a forecast wetter weather pattern, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 900 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 800 cfs on Tuesday, August 17th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

Navajo Dam operations update (August 14, 2021): Releases to bump to 900 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The San Juan River, below Navajo Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 800 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 900 cfs on Saturday, August 14th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

Navajo Dam operations update (August 12, 2021) #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Conceptual framework, on the San Juan. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 700 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 800 cfs for THURSDAY, August 12th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

#Drought restrictions remain — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

According to an Aug. 2 press release from the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Manager Justin Ramsey, the district remains under Stage 1 drought restrictions.

“Under the Drought Stage 1 there is mandatory water use restriction limiting irrigation to after 6:00 pm to 9:00 am.,” the press release reads.

Ramsey notes that PAWSD is continuing to request voluntary odd/even watering days where “if your address is an odd number only irrigate on odd calender days and vice-versa for even number addresses.”

[…]

Colorado Drought Monitor map August 3, 2021.

Drought report

Drought Information System (NIDIS) website indicates that, as of July 27, 100 percent of Archuleta County is abnormally dry and 89.38 percent of the county is in a moderate drought.

The NIDIS website notes that under a moderate drought stage, dry-land crops may suffer, rangeland growth is stunted, very little hay is available and risk of wildfires may increase.

The NIDIS website also notes that 65.2 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage.

According to the NIDIS, under a severe drought stage, fire season is extended.

Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 38.59 percent of the county is in an extreme drought, mostly in the western portion of the county.

The NIDIS website notes that under an extreme drought stage, large fires may develop and pasture conditions worsen.

There is no longer any portion of the county in an exceptional drought.

For more information and maps, visit: https://www.drought. gov/states/Colorado/county/ Archuleta.

River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 132 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4.

Based on 85 years of water re- cords at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 196 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1999 at 845 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 20.1 cfs, recorded in 2002.

As of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 193 cfs.

Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 216 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 1,230 cfs in 1999. The lowest recorded rate was 18.2 cfs in 2002.

Navajo Dam operations update: Releases to bump to 700 cfs August 7, 2021

Navajo Reservoir, New Mexico, back in the day.. View looking north toward marina. The Navajo Dam can be seen on the left of the image. By Timthefinn at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4040102

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 700 cfs today, Saturday, August 7th, starting at 4:00 PM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

Navajo Dam operations update: Releases to bump to 500 cfs August 6, 2021 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

A kayaker makes her way down the San Juan River, which delivers water from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to Lake Powell. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 500 cfs on Friday, August 6th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

Invitation to propose ideas for natural resource restoration projects related to 2015 #GoldKingMine release — #NewMexico Office of the Natural Resources Trustee #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5, 2015. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

Here’s the release from the New Mexico Office of the Natural Resources Trustee (Elysia Bunten):

The New Mexico Office of the Natural Resources Trustee (ONRT) is in the preliminary stages of soliciting ideas for projects that will restore natural resources in New Mexico injured by the 2015 Gold King Mine release.

We welcome stakeholder engagement in our process and invite you, as a stakeholder who was affected by the contamination, to participate in this process. Please see the attached letter containing details about ONRT’s funding, process, upcoming information session, and timetable.

Project Solictation Letter to GKM Release Stakeholders 7.15.21

Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson

The Pagosa Area Water & Sanitation District Water district implements #drought restrictions — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

At a special meeting on Monday, July 19, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors voted unanimously to enter into Stage 1 drought restrictions in compliance with its 2020 Drought Management Plan.

At the special meeting, District Manager Justin Ramsey explained that the primary factor behind deciding when to enter into the restrictions is the San Juan River flow rate.

“We’re not seeing an average flow anywhere near median, so that’s where we’re at,” Ramsey stated.

He explained that it is not likely that the river will rise enough in the next month or two to where it would no longer meet the Stage 1 restriction requirement.

Ramsey explained that with en- tering into the Stage 1 restrictions, there is still no requirement as to which days residents are allowed to water lawns.

However, he mentioned that PAWSD is still asking people to voluntarily irrigate on an odd/even schedule where those with even-numbered addresses irrigating only on even-numbered days and odd-numbered addresses irrigating only on odd-numbered days.

Ramsey explained that one requirement with the Stage 1 restrictions is that residents must irrigate after 6 p.m. and before 9 a.m.

Board member Glenn Walsh noted that this is the first time the district has been through this process under the 2020 Drought Management Plan…

Colorado Drought Monitor map July 20, 2021.

Drought report
The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) was updated on July 13, showing that 100 percent of Archuleta County is in a moderate drought and more than half of the county is in severe drought.

The NIDIS website notes that under a moderate drought stage, dry-land crops may suffer, rangeland growth is stunted, very little hay is available and risk of wildfires may increase.

The NIDIS website also notes that 71.17 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage.

According to the NIDIS, under a severe drought stage, fire season is extended.

Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 51.04 percent of the county is in an extreme drought, mostly in the western portion of the county…

River report
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 81.7 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20.

Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 263 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1941 at 1,470 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 15.4 cfs, recorded in 2002.

As of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 66.2 cfs. This is an increase from a July 14 reading of 62.3 cfs.

Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 232 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 1,350 cfs in 1986. The lowest recorded rate was 10.3 cfs in 2002.

Navajo Dam operations update: Releases to decrease to 400 cfs July 27, 2021 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Since the late 1980’s, this waterfall formed from interactions among reservoir levels and sedimentation that redirected the San Juan River over a 20-foot high sandstone ledge. Until recently, little was known about its effect on two endangered fishes. Between 2015-2017, more than 1,000 razorback sucker and dozens of Colorado pikeminnow were detected downstream of the waterfall. Credit: Bureau of Reclamation

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to increasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 400 cfs on Tuesday, July 27th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

For families of color, #ClimateChange in #NewMexico is already here, say experts — The New Mexico Political Report

Rio Grande River, March 2009 (CC BY-SA 2.0) by gardener41

From The New Mexico Political Report (Susan Dunlap):

Climate change isn’t in the future for New Mexico—it’s already here and impacting families of color, according to climate change experts.

From Navajo leaving their land due to dwindling resources, hotter wildfires altering landscapes, an increase of climate change refugees crossing outside ports of entry and wells running dry in rural areas, families of color in New Mexico are already feeling the heat from climate change, various sources told NM Political Report.

Joan Brown, executive director of climate justice organization New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, said it’s hard to not feel “immobilized” by the immensity of the problem…

According to a Yale Project on Climate Change and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication report, communities of color are likely to disproportionately feel climate change more than white communities due to socioeconomic inequities. Communities of color are likely to be more vulnerable to heat waves, extreme weather events, environmental degradation and the resulting job opportunity dislocations, the report said.

Brown said she believes the first aspect of climate change to have the greatest impact on families of color in New Mexico will be the intensity of forest fires in the state.

This week forest fire smoke from western states has affected skies and air pollution in the eastern part of the U.S. and the Bootleg Fire in Oregon is so intense it is causing its own weather…

Families of color who live in Albuquerque are also feeling the effects of climate change and the ensuing severe drought, Brown said. Her organization has been involved in tree plantings, as part of the City of Albuquerque’s initiative to plant thousands of trees in city neighborhoods. Brown said New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light has focused its efforts in the International District in Albuquerque because the area acts as a “heat sink” due to a lack of vegetation and too much concrete, she said.

Heat sinks, which occur in urban settings, are more likely to affect low income and diverse communities such as the International District, Brown said…

Brown said there are places around New Mexico where wells are running dry. She said the state needs to allocate money and put more effort toward water preservation, adaptation and mitigation…

In southeast New Mexico, where significant oil and gas extraction takes place in the Permian Basin, Brown said the “folks suffering the most” are those who have less access to income. She said families of color who are low-income suffer from pollution-related health issues such as asthma.

With the anticipated increased heat from climate change, she said, low income families of color will suffer the most because they often don’t have evaporative coolers, insulated houses or air conditioning.

In another corner of the state, local organizer Nena Benavidez works with the social justice organization New Mexico CAFé in the Silver City area, the home of the Santa Rita Copper Mine. As the state plans to transition to meet legislation enacted to plan for a 50 percent renewable energy standard by 2030, Benavidez is focused on the transitioning economy for rural locales, such as Silver City, which has been dependent on the metal mining industry since the late 1800s.

The Energy Transition Act is about phasing out the state’s reliance on coal, not copper, but New Mexico CAFé is concerned about what happens to jobs in rural communities, such as Silver City as the planet heats up. Johanna Bencomo, executive director for New Mexico CAFé, said immigrants and people of color in rural areas frequently work outside in the extractive industries or agriculture…

Bencomo said this summer, which has been one of the hottest and driest on record, impacted people of color picking green chile, as well as people of color working in the copper mine and in dairies.

New Mexico CAFé is pushing for a “just transition” to a green economy especially for the state’s rural communities. Not everyone wants to leave their small towns for a bigger city, Bencomo said…

The Navajo Nation

Mario Atencio, who is Diné [Navajo] and a board member of Diné C.A.R.E. (Citizens Against Ruining our Environment), said the Navajo, who are still living on their traditional land, are already being dispersed from their homeland due to climate change.

“Even now, people are selling their cows. It’s kind of happening. There are no jobs, you can’t raise and sustain a herd of cows, what else are you going to do? You’ve got to go work. It’s not going to be a mass migration. It’s happening very slowly, a climate change diaspora,” he said…

He said some Indigenous people who rely on medicinal plants are not finding those plants due to climate change and worsening drought, which he said is a matter of food security and food sovereignty…

But, the biggest climate change challenge facing the Navajo will be sustainable water resources, Atencio said. Robyn Jackson, Diné [Navajo] and climate and energy outreach coordinator for Diné C.A.R.E., said a number of Navajo farmers did not plant this year because of the significant decrease in water due to the severe drought…

Not being able to plant, as Navajo people have done for generations, affects mental health because many dry land farmers received their seeds from their grandparents. She said maintaining the generational traditions are a reminder of the Navajo way of life.

Navajo and other Indigenous people have had to suffer the effects of environmental racism for generations. Jackson said that during the 1970s, the U.S. government named areas of the Navajo Nation a national sacrifice zone to meet the energy needs for large cities in the southwest region…

Oil and gas wells have been in operation on Navajo land since the 1920s, Jackson said. The extractive industries have brought “huge environmental impacts” with air and water quality issues and now that some, such as the coal industry, are in decline and closing, this brings additional economic impacts as well, Jackson said.

In a land where water is scarce and a third of Navajo families lack electricity and running water at home, the Navajo’s water issues have been exacerbated by different types of mining that American industry has extracted on Navajo land, including uranium mining and strip coal mining, Jackson said. This has left the Navajo with some contaminated water sources. She said there are over 1,000 abandoned mines on Navajo land.

The Weminuche Audubon Society: Monthly chapter meeting, Wednesday, July 21, at 6:30 p.m.

Swim class on the San Juan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From the Weminuche Audubon Society (Jean Zirnhelt) via The Pagosa Springs Sun:

The Weminuche Audubon Society invites you to join us for our monthly chapter meeting on Wednesday, July 21, at 6:30 p.m.

The meeting will take place on Zoom and the link may be found on the Events tab of our website, http://www.weminucheaudubon.org.

Water, always an important topic in our area, will be the focus of this month’s meeting. In July, we will learn about the work of the Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership (WEP), a local organization working to address the management of this precious resource.

Al Pfister, on behalf of the WEP, will be presenting the results of data collected in Phase II of the WEP’s assessment of the environmental, recreational and agricultural infrastructure needs in the Upper San Juan River. The WEP’s data collection is a part of the implementation of the Colorado Water Plan of 2015 in the development of a Stream Management Plan/Integrated Watershed Management Plan. The WEP’s data collection efforts were done to assess local environmental, recreational and agricultural infrastructure needs in the face of a warming and drying climate.

Pfister is a semi-retired fish and wildlife biologist who has worked in seven western U.S. states dealing with endangered species issues, trying to find a balance between conserving imperiled fish, wildlife, plants, herptiles and invertebrates, while still allowing the various uses (development, recreation, grazing, timber harvest, energy development, etc) to coexist. In addition to his work with WEP, he serves on the board of the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership and on the board of the San Juan Water Conservancy District. He is a past board member of the Weminuche Audubon Society.

Audubon meetings are open to the public. Please come with your questions about this important management tool. We hope to be able to return to in-person meetings this fall if conditions allow.

Upper #SanJuanRiver Basin conditions — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridfication

Colorado Drought Monitor map July 13, 2021.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

Drought report

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) shows 100 percent of Archuleta County is in moderate drought, with almost three-quarters of the county in severe drought and just over the half the county is in extreme drought.

The NIDIS website notes that under a moderate drought stage, dry-land crops may suffer, range- land growth is stunted, very little hay is available and risk of wildfires may increase.

The NIDIS website also notes that 71.17 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage.

According to the NIDIS, under a severe drought stage, fire season is extended.

Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 51.04 percent of the county is in an extreme drought, mostly in the western portion of the county.

The NIDIS website notes that, under an extreme drought stage, large fires may develop and pasture conditions worsen.

According to the NIDIS, 6.24 percent of the county, in the southwestern portion, is in an exceptional drought stage.

Under an exceptional drought stage, agricultural and recreational losses are large and dust storms and topsoil removal are widespread.

For more information and maps, visit: https://www.drought. gov/states/Colorado/county/ Archuleta.

River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 92.2 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 14.

Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 328 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1995 at 1,550 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 10.9 cfs, recorded in 2002.

As of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 14, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 62.3 cfs.

Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 266 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 1,160 cfs in 1979. The lowest recorded rate was 9.44 cfs in 2002.

Reclamation’s July 24-Month Study implements contingency operations in the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin #COriver #aridification #GreenRiver #SanJuanRiver #GunnisonRiver

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Patti Aaron):

The Bureau of Reclamation today released the July 24-Month Study, confirming declining hydrologic conditions for the Colorado River system. To protect Lake Powell’s target elevation, the study incorporates the implementation of drought operations under the Upper Basin Drought Response Operations Agreement (DROA).

The July 2021 Operation Plan for Colorado River System Reservoirs 24-Month Study (July 24-Month Study) shows that the Lake Powell water year 2021 predicted unregulated inflow volume has decreased 2.5 million acre-feet in the six-month period between January and July 2021. The current forecast for WY2021 is 3.23 maf (30% of average).

In addition, 5-year projections released by Reclamation last week predicted a 79% chance that Lake Powell would fall below the DROA target elevation of 3,525 feet within the next year. That target elevation provides a 35 vertical-foot buffer designed to minimize the risk of dropping below the minimum power pool elevation of 3,490 feet, and balances the need to protect the infrastructure at Glen Canyon Dam and meet current operational obligations to the Lower Basin States of Arizona, California and Nevada.

Consistent with DROA provisions to protect Lake Powell’s target elevation, the July 24-Month Study includes adjusted releases from the upstream initial units of the Colorado River Storage Project Act to deliver an additional 181 thousand-acre feet of water to Lake Powell by the end of December 2021. The additional releases are anticipated to be implemented on the following schedule:

Upper Basin Drought Response Operations Agreement (DROA) planned releases July 16, 2021. The “Last Flush”. Data credit: USBR

The releases detailed above are in addition to the already established releases determined by operational plans for each of the identified facilities. The additional delivery of 181 kaf is expected to raise Lake Powell’s elevation by approximately three feet. The additional releases from the upstream initial units do not change the annual volume of water released from Lake Powell to Lake Mead in WY2021, as those volumes are determined by the 2007 Interim Guidelines.

Reclamation publishes a 24-Month Study for Colorado River System reservoirs each month. The August 24-Month Study will set the operating conditions for Lake Mead and Lake Powell for the upcoming year. Reclamation will also release an update to the 5-year projections in early September.

Reclamation and the Colorado River Basin states continue to work together cooperatively to closely monitor projections and conditions and are prepared to take additional measures in accordance with the DROA.

Reclamation remains committed to reducing the collective risk of both Lake Powell and Lake Mead falling to critical elevations and will continue to work with entities in the Colorado River Basin to ensure that both facilities continue to function as authorized to meet the natural, municipal and agricultural needs of the basin.

To view the July and prior 24-month studies, visit http://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/studies.

Graphic via Holly McClelland/High Country News.

Navajo-Gallup #Water Supply Project completion expected to move from 2024 to 2029 — The #Farmington Daily Times #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Pipes are laid for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project on the Navajo Nation. Photo credit: Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments via The High Country News

From The Farmington Daily Times (Noel Lyn Smith):

Completion of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project is expected to move back a few years since the project intends to use facilities at the San Juan Generating Station for its future water delivery.

Members of a state legislative committee were told this week by a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation official that the bureau decided to use the existing system that intakes water from the San Juan River to help deliver water to the Navajo Nation and the City of Gallup once the pipeline is completed and operational.

Pat Page, manager of the Bureau’s Four Corners Construction Office, explained that among the apparatuses that will be acquired are the diversion dam, pumping plant and reservoir.

The tribe is the primary beneficiary of the project through its water settlement for the San Juan River Basin in New Mexico. The project will also serve Gallup and the Jicarilla Apache Nation – through a separate lateral…

Extension of the project’s completion date from 2024 to 2029 is due to upgrades of existing structures and construction at the site, he explained.

However, it is also viewed as a cost savings because the original plan was to build a new diversion system off an irrigation cancel downstream, Page added.

The bureau is continuing negotiations to acquire the facilities from the power plant’s owners.

San Juan Generating Station. Photo credit: Jonathan Thompson

Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District board meeting recap — The #FortMorgan Times

Hunter in fog at Prewitt Reservoir via Colorado Open Lands

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jeff Rice):

It’s going to be difficult for legislators to strengthen Colorado’s already strong water anti-speculation laws, but that’s what a study group is looking at.

Joe Frank, manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, told his board’s executive committee Tuesday it will be tough for the study group to come up with viable recommendations to the legislature.

The study group was authorized by Senate Bill 20-048 during the 2020 legislative session. The bill “requires the executive director of the department of natural resources to convene a work group to explore ways to strengthen current anti-speculation law and to report to the water resources review committee by August 15, 2021, regarding any recommended changes.”

Frank said the 18-member working group, which has been meeting since November 2020, is “a pretty diverse group,” and that has caused some concerns about the viability of recommendations that it may propose.

“The hard part, in my mind, is how you distinguish between traditional speculation and investment speculation, and how you protect people’s property rights,” Frank said. “How do you tell a landowner who he can and can’t sell his property to? (Some states have) laws about selling (farmland) to people outside the state, but I’ve talked to some (Colorado) tenants whose out-of-state landowners are really good landlords.”

Water speculation is generally thought of as buying water rights without having an immediate beneficial use for the water, hoping to later sell the water for a profit. The concern is that agricultural water would be taken off the land and sold out-of-state. Current water law requires that anyone buying water shares or buying ag land with a water right must have an immediate beneficial use for the water.

That has led to the practice “buy and dry,” in which cities and utilities buy agricultural land and use the water for their own purposes. One example is when Sterling purchased the Scalva Bros. farm in the early 2000s so it could use the farm’s strong water right to augment pumping for municipal use. Although the water is still being used to irrigate crops on the farm, eventually it will have to be taken off the cropland and the land returned to a natural state.

Board member Gene Manuello said anti-speculation legislation can be a double-edged sword. He referred to a 2009 Colorado Supreme Court decision in which the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and San Juan Water Conservancy District were denied permission to build Dry Gulch Reservoir. Trout Unlimited sued the districts claiming their projections of water needs over the coming 50 years were excessive and amounted to water speculation.

The high court ruled that the Pagosa area water districts, which supply water to nearly all of Archuleta County, had not sufficiently demonstrated a need for the amount of water they claimed, based on projected population growth and water availability over a 50-year planning period…

A report on recommendations from the study group is due in mid-August, Frank said.

In other business Tuesday the executive committee when into executive session to discuss legal and negotiation issues concerning the proposed Fremont Butte project. That project would store excess South Platte River runoff in Prewitt Reservoir and a new reservoir south of there, to later be pumped upstream for use by the Parker Water and Sanitation District.

Governor Polis declares #drought emergency for western #Colorado — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

West Drought Monitor map July 6, 2021.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

On Wednesday, June 30, Gov. Jared Polis formally declared a drought emergency for 21 counties in the western portion of the state by proclamation.

The proclamation states that Colorado is now in phase 3 activa- tion of the State Drought Plan for 21 counties, including Archuleta, Hinsdale and La Plata counties.
Mineral County was not in- cluded in the governor’s proclamation.

However, a press release from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) explains that counties along the Continental Divide in abnormally dry conditions or a moderate drought “will continue to be closely monitored and added to the drought emergency proclama- tion as appropriate.”

The CWCB press release explains that phase 3 is the highest level of activation under the State Drought Plan.

The CWCB press release notes that on June 22, 2020, phase 2 of the State Drought Plan was activated for 40 counties and expanded to all 64 counties by September 2020…

Colorado Drought Monitor map July 6, 2021.

Drought report
According to the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), as of 10 a.m. on June 29, 100 percent of Archuleta County remains in a moderate drought stage, with more than half of the county in extreme drought.

The NIDIS website notes that under a moderate drought stage, dry-land crops may suffer, rangeland growth is stunted, very little hay is available and risk of wildfires may increase.

The NIDIS website also notes that 71.17 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage.

According to the NIDIS, under a severe drought stage, fire season is extended.

Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 51.04 percent of the county is in an extreme drought, mostly in the western portion of the county.

The NIDIS website notes that under an extreme drought stage, large fires may develop and pasture conditions worsen.

According to the NIDIS, 6.24 percent of the county, in the southwestern portion, is in an exceptional drought stage…

River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 149 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 7.

Based on 85 years of water re- cords at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 482 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1995 at 2,080 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 17.5 cfs, recorded in 2002.

As of 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 7, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 119 cfs.

Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 372 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 1,920 cfs in 1975. The lowest recorded rate was 8.05 cfs in 2002.

Low water levels in #LakePowell could affect #NavajoLake — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Graphic credit: Brad Udall via InkStain

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Joe Napolitan):

During a meeting on June 21, members of the San Juan Water Conservation District (SJWCD) board discussed local implications of historically low water levels in Lake Powell.

“The article that came out today just said that there’s a threshold that Lake Powell has to reach for the CWCB (Colorado Water Conservation Board) to enact some legal movements,” said board member Joe Tedder. “Apparently we’re going to hit that, probably by the end of June.”

The threshold Tedder referred to is outlined in the Colorado River Drought Contingency Management and Operations Plan (DCP).

The plan states that if Lake Powell reaches a surface elevation of 3,525 the upper-basin states and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) shall take action to send more water to Lake Powell from reservoirs upstream.

According to the USBR, the surface elevation of Lake Powell was 3,559 feet on July 4. Aside from the drought in 2005, such low water levels have not been seen since the 1960s, when Lake Powell was still filling after the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963.

Low water levels in Lake Powell have implications for the Colorado River Basin, which includes the San Juan River and Pagosa Springs.

According to a report by the Pacific Institute in 2013, roughly 70 percent of the Colorado River Basin’s water is used to irrigate nearly 5.7 million acres of land for agriculture. The USBR estimates that more than 40 million people depend on the river to support their lives.

Another report prepared by Southwick Associates in 2012 esti- mated that 5.6 million people over the age of 18 use the Colorado River for recreational purposes each year.

The same report totals the value of all spending resulting from such recreational expenditures to be $25.6 billion, generating $1.6 billion in federal tax dollars…

SJWCD board member Doug Secrist outlined provisions in the DCP, stating that in an effort to stabilize Lake Powell, water would be reallocated from reservoirs up- stream, otherwise referred to as initial units…

“I can tell you that PAWSD is senior to all those reservoirs, so PAWSD water is pretty well protected,” SJWCD Board of Directors President Al Pfister said of the Pagosa Area Wa- ter and Sanitation District. “But it is a very intricate and interwoven issue.”

[…]

The National Integrated Drought Information System reports that Archuleta County is experiencing its driest year in over a century, and that the initial units from which water is planned to be supplied to Lake Powell are already low in volume and inflow…

The USBR predicts that the preliminary unregulated flow which supplies the Navajo Reservoir, which presently has a pool elevation 27 feet below the 1981-2010 average, will be 36 percent of the average for the month of July.
For Blue Mesa, which presently rests 43 feet below the 1981-2010 av- erage, is projected to have an inflow volume 40 percent of average.
Flaming Gorge, which rests only 3 feet below its average pool eleva- tion, is projected to have an unregu- lated inflow volume of 42 percent of average.

Half of Archuleta County in extreme #drought — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

West Drought Monitor map June 29, 2021.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

Pagosa Country also remains in a voluntary drought stage…

“Under the Volun- tary Drought State there are no mandatory water use restrictions, however PAWSD does encourage responsible water use. This spring we have seen higher than normal temperatures. These high tempera- tures along with a reduction in late spring precipitation resulted in a quicker than normal melting of the snowpack reducing our available water and could lead to water use restrictions.”

[…]

River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 221 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 30.

Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 759 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1957 at 3,020 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 19.9 cfs, recorded in 2002.

As of 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 30, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 176 cfs.

Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 764 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 2,030 cfs in 1979. The lowest recorded rate was 10.6 cfs in 2002.

Drought Report

According to the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) as of 10 a.m. on June 22, 100 percent of Archuleta County is in a moderate drought stage.

The NIDIS website notes that under a moderate drought stage dry-land crops may suffer, range- land growth is stunted, very little hay is available and risk of wildfires may increase.

The NIDIS website also notes that 71.17 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage.

According to the NIDIS, under a severe drought stage, fire season is extended.

Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 51.04 percent, mostly the western portion, of the county is in an extreme drought.

The NIDIS website notes that under an extreme drought stage, large fires may develop and pasture conditions worsen.

According to the NIDIS, 6.24 percent of the county, in the south- western portion, is in an exceptional drought stage.

Under an exceptional drought stage, agricultural and recreational losses are large and dust storms and topsoil removal are widespread.

For more information and maps, visit: https://www.drought.gov/states/Colorado/county/Archuleta.

Navajo Dam operations update: Release bump to 600 cfs Monday, July 5, 2021 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The outflow at the bottom of Navajo Dam in New Mexico. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 600 cfs on Monday, July 5th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

Wildlife officials ask anglers not to fish the #DoloresRiver for the first time ever as rain fails to dent Western Slope #drought — The #Colorado Sun

West Drought Monitor map June 22, 2021.

From The Colorado Sun (Michael Booth):

Fish and wildlife leaders say they have their eye on potential closures of the Animas and San Juan rivers as well.

Devastating drought and disappearing runoff in far southwestern Colorado have prompted state officials to seek voluntary fishing restrictions on the Dolores River for the first time, and fish and wildlife leaders say they have their eye on potential closures of the Animas and San Juan rivers as well.

Intense rain over the weekend — generating eye-opening but perhaps deceptive coverage of flash floods and mudslides — are not nearly enough to bring Colorado’s Western Slope out of a 20-year drought that has drained rivers and desiccated pastures.

Conservation groups, meanwhile, say they are also worried about low river levels in more visible, main-stem branches of waterways usually popular with anglers and recreators in July, including the Colorado River…

Voluntary fishing closures on prime stretches of the Colorado are “imminent,” too, as soon as state weather warms up as expected in a few days, said Kendall Bakich, aquatic biologist for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife division in the Glenwood Springs area. Portions of the Colorado are seeing water temperatures above 70 degrees and related fish stress a month earlier than in a usual year, Bakich said.

Moreover, sediment from the heavy rains and mudslides that make some Front Range residents hear “drought relief” are actually making things harder on trout and other species, Bakich said. The murky water makes it harder for them to find food.

Even if you release a caught trout and it survives, Bakich said, this year’s far earlier than normal heat stresses are threatening the sperm and egg health in the species…

Bakich said she has worked the waters from Glenwood Springs upstream to State Bridge since 2007, and has not seen Colorado River temperatures rise this fast, this early…

Ranchers are seeking alternate pasture and culling herds. Fruit orchards south and east of Grand Mesa predict smaller crops. Reservoir managers told the Ute Mountain Ute tribe and other growers they will see only 10% of their usual water allotment.

Flow in the Dolores River is controlled almost completely by McPhee’s dam. Normally at this time of year, the stream is running at 60 to 80 cubic feet per second. Last week, it ran at 9 cfs, White said. Managers believe it will be down to 5 cfs later in the summer, barely a trickle in the wide stream bed.

So Parks and Wildlife is asking Dolores anglers to stop fishing by noon each day. Water comes out the bottom of McPhee at a chilly, trout-friendly 45 degrees, White said. In typical weather, anglers have a few miles of river to work below the dam before the water heats up to 75 degrees, a temperature band that starts weakening fish survival rates. Those 75-degree stretches have moved much closer to the dam this summer, he said.

The same is happening on the Animas and San Juan rivers in the southwest corner of the state, and voluntary closures are close on the horizon there, White said.

“We anticipate probably asking anglers to refrain from fishing at some point later in the summer if water temperatures start to get high, which we do anticipate this year,” he said.

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

The Colorado River sections could see some relief, from engineering if not from the weather.

Wildlife and conservation leaders said they are in talks with Front Range water diverters, who have rights to send Western Slope river water under the Continental Divide for urban and suburban household water, to release more flow west from their healthy reservoirs on the Colorado and its tributaries.