Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Odds of shortage increase for vital river in U.S. Southwest By Dan Elliott | Associated Press Aug 24, 2018 Updated Aug 24, 2018

DENVER — The drought-stressed Colorado River carried even less water than expected this summer, increasing the odds of a shortage in the vital river system in 2020, federal water managers said Friday.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said the chances of a shortfall in Lake Mead, the river’s biggest reservoir, are now 57 percent, up from the 52 percent projected in May.
The river and its tributaries serve 40 million people and 6,300 square miles of farmland in Mexico and the U.S. states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah. A nearly two-decade drought, coupled with rising demand from growing cities, has reduced the amount of water available in Lake Mead and the river’s other big reservoir, Lake Powell.
If the surface of Lake Mead drops below 1,075 feet above sea level, some deliveries would be cut under agreements governing the system. Arizona, Nevada and Mexico would have their shares reduced first in a shortage.
A shortage has never occurred in the river.
“There is a real sense of urgency across the basin to protect the river’s supply in the face of increasing demand and ongoing drought,” said Brenda Burman, chief of the Bureau of Reclamation.
The forecast worsened because Lake Powell, which is upstream from Lake Mead, collected about 500,000 acre-feet less water than expected between April and July, said Patti Aaron, a spokeswoman for the bureau. One acre-foot is enough to supply a typical U.S. family for a year.
That means Powell will be up to 5 feet lower than expected, with less water available to release into Lake Mead.
Powell gathers water from the upper parts of the river system, where it originates as mountain snow.
Burman repeated her call for the seven U.S. states that use the river to come up with a contingency plan to avoid mandatory cutbacks.
Negotiations on the plan have been slow and difficult, in part because Arizona’s largest river users are still trying to agree on a unified state position, experts say.
The Bureau of Reclamation dates the Colorado River region’s drought to 2000, but some researchers have said the river might be experiencing a longer-term shift to a drier climate, called aridification.

‘The impacts are real’ By Megan Bennett / Journal North Reporter Friday, August 24th, 2018 at 12:02am

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
An average flow level recorded earlier this week at the Rio Grande at Embudo was the third driest seen for that date in over a century.
On Tuesday, Aug. 21, the average daily flow of the river was 170 cubic feet per second.
According to John Fleck, the director of University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program, data compiled by the United States Geological Survey show the lowest the Embudo flow has ever been measured on that date was 155 CFS in 2002; the next lowest was 160 CFS in 1902.
The river gauge at Embudo showed very low water levels on Tuesday. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)
The USGS’ stream gauge at Embudo is the oldest in the country, measuring streamflow in that area between Española and Taos since 1889. August is typically the driest time of the year for the river.
“The impacts are real,” said Fleck of the ongoing drought conditions. “The people downstream who need to use water have less. All of us – Santa Fe, Albuquerque, farmers across the Rio Grande (and) the ecosystem; the plants, the fish, the birds.”
The low flows are a direct result of poor snowpack in the San Juan Mountains upriver in southern Colorado, said both Fleck and Royce Fontenot, senior service hydrologist in Albuquerque’s National Weather Service office and part of the New Mexico Drought Monitoring Working Group.
According to Fontenot, drought conditions in that area this season mirror those experienced in 2002, when there was also D4 – or “exceptional” – drought conditions.
Fontenot added that the Rio Grande, especially in its northern section that includes Embudo, is a snowmelt-driven river.
“So when you have a very poor winter like this one, you’ll see these low flows,” with the possibility of just “spikes and bumps” with heavy rainfall, said Fontenot. Despite the big monsoon storms in Santa Fe, Fleck said there hasn’t been enough heavy rain up to the north to make a substantial impact.
Heavy farming in the San Luis Valley at the Rio Grande’s head also means less water in the river, noted Fleck, who added that the low discharge is also an effect of climate change.
“You get a bad snowpack, but also because the temperatures are so warm, (there is) increased evaporation or increased use by plants,” he said. “For a given amount of snow, we get less water in our rivers. This is climate change.”
Fontenot, though, says the main driver of 2018’s dryness is this past winter’s La Niña, the ocean-atmosphere phenomenon which he noted typically results in warm and dryer winters in New Mexico, rather than climate change.
Dry conditions on the northern stretch of the river affect the area’s outdoor recreation community, according to Steve Harris, a rafting guide and river conservationist whose company, Far Flung Adventures, has been riding the Rio Grande since 1978.
Though the overall averages may not be at the levels from ultra-dry 2002, he estimated that over the past several weeks, there have been moments where it was “lower than any moment” 16 years ago.
“(Other years), you get a nice ordinary spring runoff, and you get big waves and people are putting on wetsuits and stuff,” he said. “This year, they’re dodging rocks (and) getting stuck on rocks.”
Despite low flows, he said the number of rafters was up compared to last year, which Harris credited to a post-recession economy and more expendable income for potential rafters.
But Harris said rafting companies like his may see drops in their bottom lines because lower water levels mean using smaller boats. When the levels are high, 14-15-foot boats that carry an average of six to seven people can be used. But with narrower areas among the river rocks to maneuver, Harris is sending out 11-to-12-foot boats that can hold about four riders.
“If you used to make a dime and now you make a nickel (per boat), even though you run more boats, you’re not going to realize a profit,” said Harris. “We’ll see. It’s too early to look at those types of economics.”
In farms throughout the surrounding Embudo Valley, acequias that irrigate local farms get their water from the Rio Embudo, or small tributaries from that river, rather than the Rio Grande itself, according to Paula Garcia, executive director of the New Mexico Acequia Association.
Users of acequias right on the Rio Grande are often envied by those who draw water from other streams, but now the Rio Grande ditches are “feeling the shortage, too,” Garcia said.
“It’s such a dry year,” she said. “Nobody can point to a year it’s been drier.”
What’s important to pay attention to now, Fontenot said, is this upcoming winter’s snowpack.
New Mexico is expected to have an El Niño season, which he said typically brings “normal to above normal” precipitation, or higher snowpack levels.
“Right now, the outlook for the winter looks good,” said Fontenot. “How that is going to shape up, we’ll see.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Next Meeting

Next Meeting will be Fri October 12 at 10:00 in the conference room of the Artesia Agriculture Science Center.

Friday, August 10, 2018

New State Authority Over Local Waters a Boon to Farmers and Ranchers

New State Authority Over Local Waters a Boon to Farmers and Ranchers

The Trump administration’s decision to return water-permitting authority to more states means faster, better and more affordable decision-making for all Americans. Under terms of an agreement signed by the U.S. Army, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Justice Department and the White House, states can assume authority to issue permits for earth moving in and around regulated waterways, wetlands and land that sometimes channels water.
“The Clean Water Act was supposed to give states a real say in how water was regulated,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said. “Regular farming and ranching activities shouldn’t get tangled in bureaucratic red tape. Even so, only two states today―Michigan and New Jersey―have authority to issue permits to allow landowners to move soil that could potentially affect federally regulated waters. At least 14 more states have expressed interest in having those same powers, so today’s announcement takes us closer to [EMA1] how the law was intended to work.
“This is a major moment for federalism. Because permitting has been so complex and expensive, most farmers and ranchers have given up on exercising their rights under the law. This agreement is a step toward fully restoring the rule of law to environmental regulation.”
Mace Thornton
Executive Director, Communications
(202) 406-3641
Will Rodger
Director, Policy Communications
(202) 406-3642

Friday, August 3, 2018

Udall, Heinrich Urge Reauthorization of Land and Water Conservation Fund

Udall, Heinrich Urge Reauthorization of Land and Water Conservation Fund

WASHINGTON U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich joined a bipartisan group of senators urging Senate leadership to permanently reauthorize and to fully fund the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

“The LWCF is one of the country’s best conservation programs, preserving public lands and ensuring access to outdoor recreation in rural and urban areas,” the senators wrote. “For the last half century, it has protected lands, historic sites, national parks, wilderness areas, and urban parks in every state… It is critical that this program be reauthorized before its expiration on September 30, 2018.”

The LWCF has supported more than 42,000 state and local projects in communities across the country. In New Mexico, the LWCF has invested more than $312 million to protect public lands and open spaces and increase recreational opportunities. The fund, for example, helped add an additional 2,500 acres to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico, and helped protect 605 acres on Upper Bear Creek in the Gila National Forest in the southwest part of the state.

New Mexico’s $9.9 billion outdoor industry is a significant economic driver in the state, supporting 99,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in wages. The LWCF’s programs contribute to this key industry.

The program is funded by a portion of federal oil and gas royalties, and operates without any taxpayer funding. However, according to the senators, since its founding in 1965, more than $21 billion has been diverted from the LWCF trust fund to other purposes. Udall, Heinrich, and the other senators called for the inclusion of “mandatory full funding in any LWCF reauthorization package.” Full funding would restore LWCF funding to its original conservation and outdoor recreation purposes, the senators said.

The letter can be viewed here.

The public comment period for the DRAFT New Mexico State Water Plan has been extended 15 days and will now close on August 25, 2018.

The public comment period for the DRAFT New Mexico State Water Plan has been extended 15 days and will now close on August 25, 2018.


Update Posted July 27, 2018:
The public comment period for the DRAFT New Mexico State Water Plan has been extended 15 days and will now close on August 25, 2018.
Comments on the plan can be submitted online via the website below or can be mailed to:
Lucia F. Sanchez, Water Planning Program Manager
NM Interstate Stream Commission
407Galisteo Street, Santa Fe, NM 87504.
The Draft New Mexico State Water Plan can be accessed at http://nmose.isc.commentinput.com 
Posted on July 9, 2018:  The DRAFT New Mexico State Water Plan is available for public review. Please note that the State Water Plan has three parts. Follow the link below to view the plan and submit comments. The public comment period will close on July 29, 2018.

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