Upper Colorado River Commission ending participation in the System Conservation Pilot Program

The Upper Colorado River Commission, at its meeting this afternoon (Wed. June 20, 2018) in Santa Fe, voted to end its participation in the Colorado River System Conservation Pilot Program, in which water users, mostly farmers, were compensated for conservation measures in an effort to create “system water”. “System water” is a tricky concept, and …

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“We’re in uncharted territory”

Luke Runyon had a piece over the weekend about the latest Bureau of Reclamation 24-month study, the increasingly bleak monthly modeling run that shows Colorado River reservoir levels dipping and diving in a way that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Jeff Kightlinger described thus: “We’re in uncharted territory for the system,” says Jeff …

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At Glenwood Springs, the fourth driest Colorado River flows in a half century

A typical John Fleck morning these days involves a cup of coffee (or two) and a curlup in the comfy chair as dawn creeps over my backyard while I wander the western United States looking at USGS stream gauges. Today’s gauge-of-the-day is my friend and colleague Eric Kuhn’s, at Glenwood Springs, Colorado. It’s just downstream …

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Circa 1983, an early view of climate change and western water

From New York Times reporter Philip Shabecoff’s October 1983 piece examining some of the more significant findings in a new National Academies report on the implications of climate change: Paul E. Waggoner, a member of the assessment committee, said in an interview that ”people in California will be drinking their water,” instead of using it …

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Drought, climate change – we know more than we used to

Ben Cook, Justin Mankis, and Kevin Anchukaitis have an extremely helpful review paper in Current Climate Change Reports (ungated, thanks) sorting out what we do and don’t know about the impact of climate change on droughts. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report was cautious in its assessment of our knowledge of drought, reporting only “low confidence” …

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How to crash Lake Mead: Step 1 – crash Lake Powell

A new analysis suggests Lake Powell could crash in less than three years if there were to be a repeat of drought (aridification?) conditions seen in the recent past. While the basin community’s attention has been focused on the risk of Lake Mead plummeting at some point in the future, Lake Powell at the bottom …

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How Lake Mead could crash

Speaking last week before the Imperial Irrigation District board, Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman showed this remarkable slide. It is remarkable for obvious reasons – it shows how easily we could crash Lake Mead! But it’s remarkable in a more subtle way that reflects a shift in our approach to the hydrologic analysis of the Colorado …

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Federal pressure to do a Colorado River water conservation deal

Catching up after a busy final week of the semester at the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program, I had time today to sit down and and think through the implications of this remarkable Bureau of Reclamation press release. It did a great job of achieving one of the primary goals of a news …

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What happens if we have another dry year on the Colorado River?

One of the big problems caused by the current breakdown in Colorado River diplomacy is the danger it poses if we have another bad year on the Colorado River. A new Bureau of Reclamation analysis puts some numbers to the fear – a credible risk that Lake Mead could drop to elevation 1,062 by the …

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2017 Lower Colorado River Basin water use the lowest in a quarter century

Led by California, the states of the Lower Colorado River Basin had their lowest consumptive water use in 2017 since 1992, according to a near-final tally  by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The final numbers won’t be out until mid-May, so could change slightly, but at this point they won’t change much. And they show …

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