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.

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.

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.

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.

#Snowpack news: Wolf Creek Ski Area passes 200 inches of snow for the season — The Pagosa Springs Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Upper San Juan Basin snowpack January 31, 2021 via the NRCS.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

Pagosa Country received nearly 20 inches of snow throughout the past week.
As of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27, Wolf Creek Ski Area reported 51 inches of new snow received over the previous seven days. The recent storms put the ski area at 228 inches of total snowfall received so far this season…

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek Summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 20.4 inches of snow water equivalent as of 2 p.m. on Jan. 27.

That amount is 102 percent of the Jan. 27 median for this site.

San Juan, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan Basin High/Low graph January 29, 2021 via the NRCS.

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River basins were at 79 percent of the Jan. 27 median in terms of snowpack.

River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 37 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27.

Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 58 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 2005 at 152 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 22 cfs, recorded in 1990.

The Piedra River was flowing at a rate of just under 50 cfs near Arboles as of Monday, Jan. 25. An instantaneous value was unavailable for Jan. 27.

Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for Jan. 27 is 75 cfs.

The highest recorded rate was 287 cfs in 2005. The lowest recorded rate was 18.6 in 2003.

The Water Information Program August/September 2019 Newsletter is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

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

Southwestern Water Conservation District Hires New Executive Director

Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD) is pleased to announce the confirmation of their new Executive Director, Frank Kugel.

Frank Kugel. Photo credit: Upper Gunnison River Conservancy District

Kugel was the General Manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District for almost 13 years, and is a registered Professional Engineer with a Civil Engineering degree from the University of Colorado – Denver. Frank was involved in construction engineering in the Denver area before joining the Colorado Division of Water Resources as a Dam Safety Engineer. He served in the Denver and Durango offices of DWR before moving to Montrose where he ultimately became Division 4 Engineer for the Gunnison, San Miguel and lower Dolores Basins. Frank joined the UGRWCD upon leaving DWR in 2006. He was a member of the Gunnison Basin Roundtable since its inception and chair of its Basin Implementation Planning Subcommittee.

WIP had a brief chat with Frank to give you a bit more information. Here are a few questions and answers from our conversation.

WIP: What experience and knowledge do you bring to the District?

Frank: I have been the General Manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District for the past 13 years. During that time I worked on local and statewide water issues and reported to an 11-member board. Prior to that, I was Division Engineer for Water Division 4, encompassing the Gunnison, San Miguel and lower Dolores River basins. As Division Engineer, I frequently attended SWCD board meetings and the SW seminar. Before that, I lived in Durango for 11 years while inspecting dams for the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

WIP: As the new Executive Director of SWCD, what is your vision for the district?

Frank: My vision as Executive Director is to build upon the many successes accomplished by the Southwestern Water Conservation District. I intend to work closely with the board of directors in developing policies that will help guide the district. Instream flows and drought contingency planning are two of the areas that could benefit from policy guidance.

WIP: What are some of your top priorities with/or within the district?

Frank: A top priority for me is to reach out to the local communities. I plan to attend a county commissioner meeting in each of the nine counties within my first year at the district. Working on Colorado River issues will also be a high priority.

WIP: What do you foresee being challenges?

Frank: Facing a future with reduced water supplies due to climate change, coupled with increasing population, is a challenge for all of Colorado. The Southwest District can play a lead role in educating our constituents about this pending gap between water supply and demand and how the District can mitigate its impact.

We welcome Frank Kugel to SWCD and wish him all the best in his new position!

Southwestern Water Conservation District Area Map. Credit: SWCD

Piedra River: Say hello to Chimney Rock Farms #ColoradoRiver

Chimney Rock Farms photo via the Cortez Journal
Chimney Rock Farms photo via the Cortez Journal

From the Cortez Journal (Mary Shinn):

At Chimney Rock Farms on the Piedra River, Brewer has built two commercial-scale aquaponic greenhouses that house fish tanks and thousands of square feet of troughs where kale, lettuce and tot soy float on a foot of water in rafts from seed to harvest.

“We’re pioneering this, no doubt,” said Brewer. He said that the operation, located 6,600 feet above sea level, is the largest commercial aquaponics farm venture in Colorado.

Brewer plans to supply new Southwest Farm Fresh, A Farm and Ranch Cooperative, which was started in Montezuma County. He also plans to supply the Pagosa Springs farmers market, his Community Supported Agriculture membership, organic grocery stores and restaurants.

In March, the operation had already been supplying a grocery store for three weeks.

In the aquaponic environment, the greens mature in six weeks, which allows him to provide custom mixes of greens and meet demand quickly.

“It’s revolutionary for us,” he said.

In addition to greens, his tilapia – the “aquaponic” aspect of the hydroponic system – can also be sold. Brewer may sell the fish whole on ice at farmers markets, but they are not his main focus.

How it works

In the most basic terms, fish poop feeds plants. In technical terms, the tilapia excrete ammonia. Bacteria break the ammonia down into nitrites and then into nitrates, which feed the plants. The plant roots filter the water, and the water is pumped back to the fish.

The tilapia can’t be kept with the plants because they’d eat the roots. But very small mosquito fish clean the roots and fend off potential mosquitoes.

The seeds are germinated in soil, and the fish-fertilized water flows beneath. As the plants mature, they are transferred into rafts that allow for more space and push down the trough. This system reduces man hours and eliminates all weeds.

“We were spending 60 percent of the time to produce a leafy green, weeding our beds,” he said. To harvest, the roots just need to be trimmed off.

It is also very efficient in terms of water. Aquaponic systems use less than 5 percent of the water of traditional agriculture, Brewer said.

“This is a good fit for us in the desert Southwest,” Brewer said.

As green as possible

Brewer was looking for ways to grow year round, but the inefficiencies of a greenhouse held him back.

“Heating traditional greenhouses with fossil fuels – propane and natural gas – is a very, very tough way to make a living,” he said.

In his newly built greenhouses, the water is heated by solar panels, and a wood boiler. This allows him to grow when temperatures are below freezing outside. He also uses solar panels to power air and water pumps, and grow lights. The solar panels allow him to put electricity back into the grid, and his monthly electricity bill has dropped from more than $600 to just $16.

In the new greenhouses, he hopes to grow from mid-February through Thanksgiving.

He expects that he will make back his investment in his capital improvements in five to six years.

It was important to him to reduce his use of fossil fuels because they are limited resource and their ballooning costs can cut into thin farm profit margins.

“As a farmer, your margins are too thin to rely on fossil fuel costs as a line item,” Brewer said…

“Hopefully, we can prove the economic viability of this such that other people are willing to take the capital intensive risk to build a system like this to grow local food,” he said.

More San Juan Basin coverage here.

Colorado Water 2012: A look at the basins of Southwestern Colorado

sanjuan.jpg

Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series, written by Bruce Whitehead. Here’s an excerpt:

Southwestern Colorado’s rivers are unique in that many of the rivers and tributaries flow from north to south and are administered as independent river systems.

This is due to the fact that many, such as the Navajo, Blanco, Piedra, Pine, Florida, Animas, La Plata, and Mancos Rivers, are tributary to the San Juan River in New Mexico or just upstream of the state line. The Dolores River flows from north to south, but makes a “U-turn” near Cortez and heads back to the northwest and joins the Colorado River in Utah. The San Miguel River originates just above Telluride, and flows to the west where it joins the Dolores River just above the Colorado-Utah state line.

The southwest basin has many areas that are under strict water rights administration on a regular basis, but there is still water available for appropriation and development pursuant to Colorado’s Constitution and the Colorado River Compact. The region is also known for its beautiful scenery and recreation opportunities, which is the basis for the establishment of the Weminuche Wilderness area as well as nearly 150 reaches of streams with in-stream flow water rights. Over 50 natural lake levels are also protected by the state’s In-Stream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program.

Water leaders have been active for many years in the basin and recognized early on that in order to meet agricultural and municipal demands storage would need to be developed. The Southwestern Water Conservation District was formed in 1941, and has been responsible for the planning, development, and water rights acquisition for many of the federal projects in the region. Reservoirs such as McPhee (Dolores Project), Jackson Gulch (Mancos Project), Ridges Basin a.k.a Lake Nighthorse (Animas-La Plata Project), Lemon (Florida Project), and Vallecito (Pine River Project) provide for a supplemental supply of irrigation and municipal water in all but the driest of years. The delivery of these supplemental supplies assists with keeping flows in many critical reaches of river that historically had little or no flow late in the season due to limited supplies and water rights administration.

Southwest Colorado is also home to two Sovereign Nations and Indian Reservations that were established by treaty in 1868. Under federal law the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Southern Ute Indian Tribe were entitled to federal reserved water rights, which had the potential to create conflicts with Colorado water law and non-Indian water users in the basin. After nearly a decade of negotiations, a consent decree was entered with the water court that settled the tribal claims. The Tribal Settlement included some early dates of appropriation for the tribes, and a water supply from some of the federal storage projects including the Dolores, Animas-La Plata, Florida, and Pine River Projects. This landmark settlement is evidence that both tribal and non-Indian interests can be provided for with water storage and cooperative water management.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

San Juan Mountains: Acid rock drainage predated mining activity by millennia, mining made it worse

acidminedrainageuniversityofcolorado.jpg

From The Telluride Watch (Peter Shelton):

The report, titled “Natural Acid Rock Drainage Associated with Hydrothermally Altered Terrane in Colorado,” was recently given an award by the Geological Society of America as the best environmental publication of 2011. The report identifies a number of high-country streams in Colorado, including Red Mountain Creek, where surface water is acidic and has high concentrations of metals upstream of historic mining.

“Of course, the mining made it much, much worse,” commented Don Paulson, a former chemistry professor who is now curator of the Ouray County Historical Museum. Paulson has followed efforts to identify sources of stream pollution and the remedial measures undertaken to improve water quality in the Uncompahgre River and its tributaries.

There was a big push to clean up the water affected by mine waste (and the role it plays in the inability of high country waterways to support aquatic life) in the 1980s. At that time the Colorado Department of Health (now Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) first sued under the Superfund Act, then negotiated with Idarado Mining and its parent company, Newmont Mining, substantial cleanups on both the Telluride and Ouray sides of the mountain. The Telluride side saw improvements to the water quality of the Upper San Miguel River. But the acid pH and the levels of zinc and other minerals in Red Mountain Creek has not changed significantly despite Idarado’s remediation in the area of the Treasury Tunnel.

More water pollution coverage here.

The Piedra River Protection Workgroup will meet December 6

piedrariver.jpg

From the Piedra River Protection Workgroup via the Pagosa Sun:

The Piedra River Protection Workgroup will meet on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Ross Aragon Community Center in Pagosa Springs.

The Piedra River Protection Workgroup is a diverse group of stakeholders exploring protection tools on the Piedra River north of U.S. 160.

Everyone is invited to participate.

For more information, contact Tami Graham at 759-9716 or go to http://ocs.fortlewis.edu/river protection/. [ed. I could not get the link to work]

More San Juan River basin coverage here and here.