Abnormally Dry In Western Colorado to Severe Drought in the High Plains

A couple of weeks ago I notice our desert landscaping needed more water. We usually apply drip irrigation for 10 minutes in the morning to keep the variety of flowering plants, shrubs, and trees happy. This worked in April and May. However, June became very dry so we've added another 10 minutes of irrigation in the evening. Right away the plants perked up. I hope it will be enough!

Looking at the U.S. Drought Monitor, Grand Junction area is listed as Abnormally Dry. We are fortunate to have an exceptional snow pack this year. However, the High Plains area of eastern Montana and the Dakotas that depend largely groundwater are not so lucky with experiencing Severe Drought. The drought.gov website states over 15 million people in the U.S. are affected by drought. Severe heatwaves in Arizona even grounded airplane flights!

Ready for Spring in the Valley and Snow in the Mountains

Yesterday in Grand Junction, Colorado we reached 72 degrees F! Seems warm for early March and the trees are beginning to bud. We are happy for the sunshine and getting outside but beginning to feel the start of allergy season with the index going from near zero three weeks ago to the medium level now. We still have more snow skiing we would like to do this year and the forecast is calling for a couple of inches of fresh powder on Sunday night. According to NOAA and the Weather Channel we are still in the El Nino cycle and may get some wet weather in the spring time especially in the southern U.S.

The drought is still very severe in southern California and here is the latest map. Heavy rains up to 18 inches and 4 feet of snow predicted for California today can help with drought conditions but hopefully there we be no severe flooding.

Open comment period on Colorado Water Plan until September 17th

The Colorado Water Plan is open for public comment for about six (6) more weeks. Here a brief description provided by the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

People love Colorado: our population ballooned from 1 million in 1930, to over 5 million today, and is projected to grow even faster in the future. So how do we ensure that we are able to preserve what we know and love about our state alongside population growth? When it comes to our water, Colorado’s Water Plan has answers. This plan offers a strategic vision:  a productive economy that supports vibrant and sustainable cities, productive agriculture, a strong environment, and a robust recreation industry. How can we achieve this vision for Colorado water? This plan provides the strategies, policies, and actions by which Colorado can address its projected future needs in a manner consistent with this vision. This plan will be accomplished through collaboration with basin roundtables, local governments, water providers, and other stakeholders. It represents a set of collaboratively developed policies and actions that all Coloradans and their elected officials can support and to which they can adhere.

Not only is Colorado River water in great demand in the western U.S., there are statewide conflicts between the East Slope (including the Denver area) and the West Slope (including Grand Junction). Currently, over a half a million acre-feet of water is diverted each year from the West Slope to go to the East Slope according to news reports. Future diversions will need to increase as the population is booming in the Denver area which will continue to put more pressure on West Slope to conserve. 

In my opinion, rather than West Slope supporters demanding that no more water be provided to East Slope users, which will be a losing battle due to voter populations, the entire state needs to adopt strict conservation measures taken by many other cities. For example, the tremendous waste of water in the West Slope is astounding to me after having lived in Las Vegas.  Here is an updated video taken at the same location as shown on the July 17th blog where the mortuary business watered grass during a rain storm! I've also noticed they routinely water at 9:30 am and 5:00 pm. By contrast, the City of Grand Junction Parks and Recreation sets irrigation to occur between 10 pm and 6 am to limit loss by evapotranspiration and growth of disease. Rain moisture sensors are used to obtain the proper amount of irrigation water. So far, the business has not responded to my email offering them free advice on proper irrigation techniques.

Today's paper says 'Colorado is out of the drought' -- so does that mean we have plenty of water to waste?

Today's newspaper in Grand Junction, Colorado front page headlines:

"State out of drought, experts say

Wet weather won't last meteorologists reminds uS"

Despite the headlines, the local water managers say, "...in a desert, water is gold and that's still true, drought or no drought..."

Look for yourself how some people treat this precious resource - I caught this video this morning at of all places, I kid you not, a mortuary!  Look how the water is spraying around onto the pavement and into the air to evaporate. One problem is overpressurized sprayers in an attempt to cover such a large area of grass. Here are some great tips to correct irrigation problems from the Alliance of Water Efficiency.



Which is the Most Endangered River in America?

Of all the rivers to choose from in America, can you guess which one is the most in danger of running dry? Here is a hint, it currently flows through nine (9) National Parks. Let National Geographic show you how and where this mighty river is drying up. For us in the arid west, we all can all help by conserving water: taking shorter showers and installing drip irrigation with native plants. Conservation Colorado and other groups have many activities and events to join.

CBS news reports that not only is this river drying up in America, groundwater depletion is occurring at an alarming rate - an estimated thirteen (13) trillion gallons in a decade. Obviously this is not sustainable.

Does this river make it to the ocean? No, not in the past 50 years - see what affect this is having on the people and the environment as documented by Alexandra Cousteau in a short film Death of a River. She says it would only take increasing the river flow by 1% to enable the river to return to the ocean.

The Nature Conservancy partnered with government scientists to conduct a pulse flow experiment to return water flow to this endangered River!

In future blogs, let's explore how we can contribute to the campaign of returning rivers to the ocean! Contact us at ConserveProsper@gmail.com to find out how we can join together to take action now.


Will Las Vegas run out of water?

While the demand for water increases and supply decreases due to droughts and other causes in the Colorado River basin, Las Vegas is a model for water recycling that many other cities will need to follow in the future. Water recycling is a process to collect and treat waste water that is returned to Lake Mead. The lake supplies 90 percent of the valley’s water and is in critical condition due to 15 years of drought dropping the lake to 38 percent of capacity. 

So to help make sure Vegas can continue to quench it's thirst, the Southern Nevada Water District proposes to build a 250-mile pipeline from rural northern Nevada to claim groundwater from the Spring Valley. Efforts to take water from Utah farmers were thwarted.

So it's a very safe bet that Vegas will have adequate water supply but prices will continue to rise. You get billed for every gallon of water you use so think about shutting off the water while you brush your teeth. It’ll save you some money!