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Old 08-29-2012, 10:32 AM
 
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A brief note on a couple reservoirs I've recently observed.

Horsetooth Reservoir, just west of Fort Collins, is appreciably low. Come early autumn it seems it is always drawn down some, possibly due irrigation; although this year it was already well down even in the middle of summer when more often mostly full, as enjoyed by boaters and other recreationalist. Now it is well down, the lowest I've seen it this time of year, if possibly ever. At the south end there are three concrete boat ramps; the two furtherest south presently only lead into mud quickly becoming dry; access into the water is still possible from that located a bit farther north, in a deeper area. Dixon Cove—the inlet where a marina, park, and private homes are located—is still accessible; it must enjoy a deep channel.

On the other side of the Continental Divide, the reservoir of "Lake" Granby is well down as well. Perhaps the most I've seen it, although it too will be drawn down some near autumn. Nearby Grand Lake hasn't changed a bit, but of course a natural lake.

If memory serves, some of the water in Horsetooth Reservoir is derived from the Cache la Poudre River. That river, by the way, is still running nearly black due the large wildfire having burned on both sides of it. A closer examination will reveal a lot of fine black silt within and having formed drifts along its edges. Horsetooth may also receive water from the Big Thompson diversion, but in any event is part of an intricate network of man-made plumbing diverting a lot of water from the mountains and west slope to the Front Range.

Both the Big Thompson River and the Cache la Poudre have been compromised towards this end: if still flowing in their natural channels, with extra water added to their natural volume, so in effect as ditches. The Grand Ditch in RMNP captures the water of the Colorado watershed in the Never Summer Mountains, to divert it into the upper reaches of the Cache la Poudre. In the case of the Big Thompson River, the Alva B. Adams Tunnel under RMNP diverts water from Grand Lake into it beginning with Lake Estes, just east of Estes Park. Only upriver from there does it flow as a natural river.

One can best gauge these rivers where still natural and uninfluenced by mankind. The Big Thompson and Fall River are both down in volume from that more normal this time of year. A tributary of the Big Thompson I am more familiar with was running at a level more usually seen in September, when at its peak flow in early June. It has only slowly dropped from that low level since, if helped briefly with any good rain.

The source of these rivers is within the high peaks of RMNP. Those with more years and longer memories may recall something similar, yet I've never seen as little snow remaining in these mountains. It was evident even in May, and by now only a few deep patches dot the higher flanks of these mountains. Enough surely to remain until what hopefully are strong winter snows to come. If the question if that being drawn down now will be sufficiently replenished?

Aspen and other vegetation are already beginning to turn color, even at lower elevations. It seems earlier than normal, but so little presently is.
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Old 08-29-2012, 11:35 AM
 
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10 days ago, the Rio Grande River was essentially not flowing at Alamosa, just standing pools of water. According to one of the most knowledgeable sources I know in that area, this is the worst water year in the San Luis Valley in 75 years. Unless there is a normal or above normal winter, next year will spell catastrophe for anyone in that area relying on surface water supplies for irrigation. A major fight is brewing down there because it is now quite evident that the well irrigators--who have been irrigating as if there is no drought--are pulling the San Luis Valley aquifer so hard that it is decimating surface streamflows. The one positive outcome of that has been that it is proving that, in fact, a good part of the San Luis Valley aquifer is indeed "tributary" water--that is, the aquifer is at least being partially fed from surface streamflows. About 25 years ago, a private outfit called AWDI proposed a grandiose scheme to pump billions upon billions of gallons of water annually out the San Luis Valley and divert it to the Front Range metro areas. (By the way, "AWDI" stood for American Water Development, Inc.--but many residents of the SLV thought the acronym meant "A****les With Dastardly Intent.") AWDI's argument was that the San Luis Valley aquifer was a near "endless" supply of ancestral water and not tributary. Thank God, that project never went anywhere. Anyway, this year pretty much discredited the idea that all of the water in the San Luis Valley aquifer is non-tributary. The fight will be on, though, between the well-users and the surface water right holders as to how much of the aquifer is tributary and how much damage pumping has done to the surface water right holders. Water attorneys should have a field day.

Meanwhile, as Idunn noted, Colorado reservoir levels are in bad shape in most of the state. One of my water expert friends who is quite familiar with the Gunnison Basin reiterated to me the other day that Blue Mesa Reservoir is so low now (and I saw the level personally about a week ago) that it will likely take YEARS of normal precipitation for it to refill.

One more dry winter would likely prove that relying on reservoir storage to support growth is a really bad idea--when a multi-year drought hits, a lot of people just run out of water.

Finally, as a side note, Colorado has experienced this year what likely is the hottest summer on record in terms of average temperature. That is bad in numerous ways when it comes to water. The snowmelt occurs earlier and quicker--peaking water supplies and depleting them well before the heavy irrigating season, increasing evaporation from both reservoirs and soils, increasing water demand in plants, and damaging dryland forage and crops dependent solely on rainfall. If this hot year is part of a long-term warming trend--and many experts think that it is (in some areas of the state, average summer temperatures have been above normal and trending upward for 8 of the last 10 years)--we are in real trouble in the Rocky Mountain West.
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Old 08-29-2012, 12:08 PM
 
Location: Midland, TX
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I read an interesting article today about the shrinking Arctic ice - some scientists have hypothesized that it is a contributor to the recent weather phenomena in the northern hemisphere. . . somehow (they're still conducting their studies.) If it is, then get used to the weather we've been having (and impending water shortages) because it's going to be the norm.

I read another article a few weeks ago about how current climate models predict a very wet winter for the Northeastern US. The Midwest and the Rockies? Much harder to predict. The present view is that it's going to be dry, but they'll have more reliable results come October.

I hate to say it, but a serious water crunch next year may be just what this state needs - people often roll their eyes and gloat about their Kentucky Bluegrass lawns whenever talk about conservation comes up, but if their water bills quadruple, they'll get their heads out of their asses real quick. Yes, I understand that some have moved into houses that already have such lawns and their HOA forbids them from suddenly tearing all that grass out, but fines be damned; nobody is going to tolerate an $800 water bill.

I also understand that ~90% of this state's water is for agriculture, and that urban water requirements have priority. However, isn't Gov. Hickenlooper a friend of agriculture in this state? (Honest question; I'm asking because I don't know.) This summer's drought has ravaged crops nationwide, and the possibility of substantially higher food prices this winter is very real. This may create a perfect storm of sorts in highlighting the importance of local agriculture and accelerating improvements in efficiency of water use. At the very least, more people will start growing gardens in urban lots and their back yard, which is certainly a good thing (anything that pisses off Monsanto is worth doing.)
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Old 08-29-2012, 12:20 PM
 
Location: Wherabouts Unknown!
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Antares45 wrote: (anything that pisses off Monsanto is worth doing.)

Like Smokey Robinson & The Miracles once sang, I second that emotion!
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Old 08-29-2012, 12:41 PM
 
Location: Wherabouts Unknown!
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jazzlover wrote: Colorado has experienced this year what likely is the hottest summer on record in terms of average temperature.

Not sure about this being the warmest summer ever, but it is indeed the warmest summer ( June, July, & August ) in Grand Junction during the past 7 years ( EACH which has been ABOVE average! ) that I have been recording the daily highs and lows in my database. With so many cloudy days this summer, a bigger portion of the above average temperatures this summer is attributed to the overnight lows running 5.29 degrees above the norm, while the daytime highs have been running a more modest 4.02 degrees above the norm. With so much cloud cover, it just doesn't cool down that much overnight. Many nights this summer with muggy overnight lows in the lower 70s and upper 60s. 68 to start the day today ( August 29th )! Normal low for the date is 57. Although we've had a steay diet of cloudy days this summer, we have very little rain to show for here in the Grand Valley....just an unending stream of muggy days. I went for a moderately paced 3 mile walk on relatively level ground, on a partly shaded trail at 10 AM this morning. My shirt was soaking wet at the finish of the hike, and today the humidity level is lower than it has been for much of the summer. Except for the lack of rain, this has been a summer more typical of a summer back east.

Last edited by CosmicWizard; 08-29-2012 at 01:17 PM..
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Old 08-29-2012, 12:51 PM
 
555 posts, read 579,496 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
Finally, as a side note, Colorado has experienced this year what likely is the hottest summer on record in terms of average temperature. That is bad in numerous ways when it comes to water. The snowmelt occurs earlier and quicker--peaking water supplies and depleting them well before the heavy irrigating season, increasing evaporation from both reservoirs and soils, increasing water demand in plants, and damaging dryland forage and crops dependent solely on rainfall. If this hot year is part of a long-term warming trend--and many experts think that it is (in some areas of the state, average summer temperatures have been above normal and trending upward for 8 of the last 10 years)--we are in real trouble in the Rocky Mountain West.
This is both anecdotal and a small-sample size, but over the last 10 or so years I've been told by six different "lifelong" Colorado Springs residents (who are all up and down the political spectrum) that they've "never needed home air-conditioning and never will." Four of those six responded to the extreme heat this past Summer by installing home air-conditioning units. That strikes me as a classic self-perpetuating feedback loop. The hotter it gets, the more we do to accelerate climate change. For what it's worth, I'm still a holdout, but I doubt that'll be enough to slow down the accelerating feedback loop. Here we go.
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Old 08-29-2012, 01:49 PM
 
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Originally Posted by smdensbcs View Post
This is both anecdotal and a small-sample size, but over the last 10 or so years I've been told by six different "lifelong" Colorado Springs residents (who are all up and down the political spectrum) that they've "never needed home air-conditioning and never will." Four of those six responded to the extreme heat this past Summer by installing home air-conditioning units. That strikes me as a classic self-perpetuating feedback loop. The hotter it gets, the more we do to accelerate climate change. For what it's worth, I'm still a holdout, but I doubt that'll be enough to slow down the accelerating feedback loop. Here we go.
I've always used evaporative cooling, when necessary, which is far more energy-efficient. That said, I've had to use it more this summer than any summer in the last 10 years. As Cosmic noted, one of the problems this year in west-central Colorado is that, while the daily high temperatures have not regularly treaded into record territory, the days have been getting warmer earlier in the day and the heat has often lingered well into the night--enough so to heavily influence the average low temperatures over the summer (typically those low temperatures that I've measured at my home have been running almost 10 degrees higher than normal night after night most all summer--that is a dramatic variation from normal).

The only fortunate trend this summer in western and southern Colorado is that the Southwest Monsoon has been fairly active, especially in the areas down around the Colorado/New Mexico border. That has at least greened up some mid and high elevation areas, though the Monsoon does very little for streamflows. Unfortunately, the rains have pretty much stayed up in the higher mountain areas while, as Cosmic noted, the lower elevation areas have mostly seen some elevated humidities but little rain.
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Old 08-29-2012, 02:14 PM
 
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I recently dug up about half my lawn and replaced it with xeriscape. My wife and neighbor, who has almost a quarter acre of lawn, thought I was crazy for doing so. I now have just enough lawn for the kids to play in and a much lower water bill. I see a future where taking water from agriculture to support large unproductive lawns will be irresponsible and expensive. Some people in my area irrigate up to 2 acres or more of lawn and I'm guessing this will be discouraged soon if we don't get more precipitation.
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Old 08-29-2012, 08:14 PM
 
Location: Wherabouts Unknown!
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jazzlover wrote: those low temperatures that I've measured at my home have been running almost 10 degrees higher than normal night after night most all summer--that is a dramatic variation from normal

Same here. The OFFICIAL GJ temperature is recorded at the airport where it tends to be cooler than it is closer to the Monument where my home is located. When the weather guys are saying the early morning current temp is 62, I look at my thermometer, and it's 68 where I live. It's typically 5+ degree difference in the morning temp. Even the official temperature has averaged 5 degrees above the norm thru June, July, & August. Add 5 degrees to that and I get the same 10 degree differential that you have monitored.
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Old 09-02-2012, 10:35 AM
 
Location: Littleton, CO
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Higher nighttime temperatures are consistent with global warming theory. Because there is more CO2 in the atmosphere, the solar radiation that used to diffuse back into outer space at night is being kept in by our new CO2 "blanket."

We have dug ourselves a great hole, and I am not sure we can get out of it. I just hope we can start to work together to create a new lifestyle that minimizes future damage.
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