drought

In 2007, years into a record-breaking drought throughout the southwestern U.S., officials along the Colorado River finally came to an agreement on how they’d deal with future water shortages -- and then quietly hoped that wet weather would return.

But it didn’t.

It's no secret that water is a problem in the West. Historically, the humble beaver helped maintain wetlands and ponds across the arid landscape but their populations were decimated during the fur trade and their numbers dropped dramatically from 400 million to just 100,000 by the turn of the twentieth century. But Canada's national animal is making a comeback and scientists think they have an important role to play as our region fights drought.

In early August three years ago, Barb Horn stood along the banks of the Animas River in the city of Durango, Colorado. Word had spread of a mine waste spill upstream near Silverton. She waited, alongside hundreds of others, for the waste to appear. But the plume took longer than expected and eventually arrived at night.

The next morning, she saw the change.

“It was absolutely surreal,” Horn says. “And I think that's why it went viral. It’s like somebody photoshopped the river orange.”

Warming temperatures are sapping the Colorado River, the water source for more than 40 million people in the southwest. A new study finds over the last 100 years the river’s flow has decreased by more than 15 percent.

https://pg-cloud.com/ColoradoSpringsCO/

Picture the street where you live. Now imagine that same street without any trees. Just homes, maybe a sidewalk, asphalt. Does that change your perception? Dennis Will thinks it would. He’s the interim city forester for the Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Department.

The Colorado River is running low on water. The lifeline that slakes the thirst of 40 million southwestern residents is projected to hit a historic low mark within two years, forcing mandatory cuts to water deliveries in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.   

Facing exceptional drought conditions, cities throughout the watershed this summer have imposed mandatory water restrictions, ranchers have begun selling off cows they’re unable to feed, and the river’s reservoirs are headed toward levels not seen since they filled decades ago.

Photo Courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo says two additional animals were killed in a hail storm early this week that caused significant damage and injured animals and people. In a press release, Jenny Koch, the zoo’s marketing director, said a meerkat pup that was missing underground has not been recovered, and they assume it has passed away.

“One of our peacocks also passed due to hail injuries,” Koch said.

We're In Drought. So Why Can We Still Water Our Lawns?

Jul 24, 2018
clipart.com

Smoke-filled skies. Record-breaking heat. Brittle forestland closed to the public. And yet, for some Colorado residents conserving water remains optional, even as the state grapples with widespread drought and wildfire. 

In the shadow of remote Dry Mountain in central Oregon, branding is the only way to guarantee a fair sorting of cattle among ranchers in the fall. Ear tags can rub off in the rough, sage-studded country.

So each year, before cattle are let out to graze on the summer range, the young are branded, castrated and vaccinated. Neighbors gather in the early morning to do the work.

The federal agency that oversees water in the West says southwestern states are facing an increasing risk of water shortages. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is now adding pressure to stalled talks over the Colorado River’s future.

Without action from states that rely on the river, there’s a 52 percent chance the Colorado River will be in an official shortage in 2020, according to figures compiled last month. Arizona and Nevada would be among the first to take cutbacks during a shortage. An extended drought and chronic overuse have sapped the river’s largest reservoirs.

2018 wasn't the worst winter on record for the southern Rocky Mountain region, but it was close to it.

“It was an extreme year on the dry side, widespread across the Colorado River Basin,” says Greg Smith, a hydrologist at the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) in Salt Lake City.

From the roof of Chuck McAfee’s adobe farmhouse in rural southwestern Colorado, you can see into three other states: Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Mountain peaks are just barely visible above the horizon.

Even though this part of Montezuma County is considered the high desert, it’s common for these grass and sagebrush hills to be snow-covered into spring. This year they’re bare, and have been since last winter.

Drought has basically divided the Mountain West into two separate regions this year.

Storms kept Idaho, Montana and Wyoming wet over the winter, and the national Drought Monitor shows no drought in those states.

Gallup

A new Gallup poll shows the majority of Americans do believe in climate change. The poll shows 66% of Americans believe that most scientists think global warming is occurring, 64% believe it is caused by human activities, and 60% believe its effects have already begun.

How bad is 2018 snowpack in the southern Rocky Mountains, you ask?

Let me count the ways.

Currently, snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin, which supplies the vast majority of water for what is arguably the southwest’s most important river system, sits at 69 percent of median. In 2002, the watershed’s driest year on record, there was more snow on the ground at this point in March than there is now.

Western Illinois might be close to the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, but it’s the driest part of the state this year.

“We really haven’t really had any measurable rain since the middle of October,” says Ken Schafer, who farms winter wheat, corn and soybeans in Jerseyville, north of St. Louis. “I dug some post-holes this winter, and it's just dust.”

National Resources Conservation Service / www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov

Southern Colorado progressed from abnormally dry to moderate drought this week, according to the latest data from the US Drought Monitor. This comes as the region -- like the rest of the state -- is also seeing unusually low snowpack.

When you’ve held on to something valuable for a long time, it can be hard to choose to give it up. When that something is water, it’s even harder — especially in the desert southwest.

But that’s the reality facing water managers in the lower stretches of the Colorado River, a lifeline for farms and cities in the country’s driest regions.

Public Domain

A recent study suggests the Colorado River could see a 35% flow reduction by the end of the 21st century due to the effects of climate change.

Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [LC-USF343-001617-ZE] / Library of Congress

A new study looked into what would happen if the modern agricultural industry was to experience a 1930s Dust Bowl style event.

Malika Ladak / Flickr-Creative Commons

The Colorado State Forest Service is reminding folks to keep up with watering their trees throughout the winter.

Deborah Bathke / National Drought Mitigation Center

Colorado residents have been enjoying unusually warm weather so far this fall, but that means drought conditions throughout the state.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows most of Colorado in some state of dry or drought conditions.  That's compared to about 20% last year at this time.

Mark Wankowski is a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Pueblo. He says we're likely to have snow in the northern mountains this winter, but it will probably stay dry in the southern part of the state.

Megadroughts Could Become More Common, Study Shows

Oct 19, 2016
Toby R. Ault, Justin S. Mankin, Benjamin I. Cook and Jason E. Smerdon / Journal: Science Advances

A recent study shows megadroughts could become more common throughout the Southwest. The study suggests droughts lasting at least 35 years will become longer and dryer as temperatures continue to rise.

Moisture Helps Conditions in Southeast Colorado

Apr 19, 2016

Southeast Colorado received some much needed precipitation after experiencing some pretty dry conditions.

Thursday Newscast, 4/14/16, 5:32 PM

Apr 14, 2016

Newscast for Thursday, April 14, 2016, 5:32 PM:
 


Thursday Newscast, 3/17/16, 5:32 PM

Mar 17, 2016

Newscast for Thursday, March 17, 2016, 5:32 PM:
 


USGCRP

A recently released study suggests droughts in the southwest could last longer and have more severe impacts in the future.  The study, performed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), compared 35 years of observational data to existing climate models.

Environment Colorado / Screen Grab

An environmental advocacy group has a new interactive extreme weather map that charts natural disasters across the nation and in Colorado. 

Wednesday Newscast, 2/10/16, 7:04 AM

Feb 10, 2016

Newscast for Wednesday, February 10, 2016, 7:04 AM:
 


U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation

A new interactive website from the U.S. Department of the Interior looks to educate the public on the effects of drought in the Colorado River Basin.

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