What does El Niño mean for the Colorado River Basin?

What does the growing El Niño oceanic pattern mean for the Colorado River Basin? Best to just shrug, and say the statistics are too small to say much of anything conclusive. In the nine El Niño years since the 1960s, three have been wet, three have been in the middle, and three have been dry. Here’s a …

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Imperial Valley, circa 1903: “an unlimited amount of water”

I would say “warm climate” is a fair description of the Imperial Valley in California’s southeastern corner. It’s 109 degrees there this afternoon (43C). Below is a great addition to my collection of adverts as the real estate boosters tried to lure folks to the desert during that oddly magical time when waves of immigrants …

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New Mexico’s 2015 San Juan-Chama Project allocation goes up

Our remarkably rainy spring and summer in New Mexico and southern Colorado has increased the allocation of San Juan-Chama Project water, which brings some of New Mexico’s Colorado River Basin water to the central part of the state. After a bad start to the year, flows have been above average basically continuously since the first …

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Nine Colorado River Basin counties that use water for golf

For grins, here’s some data on golf water use for selected Colorado River Basin counties:   Some notes: Data source: USGS Water Use in the United States People who fly into desert cities often look down out of the airplane on approach and comment on golf courses. I have nothing against golf. If I had …

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Coase’s reservoirs: how transaction costs are emptying Lake Mead

Updating my Colorado River reservoir storage spreadsheet today to make a graph for a friend was a pretty discouraging exercise. Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the system’s two massive reservoirs on which 9 states and a gazillion people and farm acres depend, are at their lowest combined level since 1967, when they were filling Powell …

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Imperial Valley, 1938: “a million parched acres awaiting for irrigation”

From the newly released archive of British Movietone newsreels, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes in October 1938 hits the button to open the gates on Imperial Dam, diverting the first Colorado River water into the All-American Canal and on its way to irrigate the farms of the Imperial Valley:   The newsreel makes …

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Gila River water governance gizmo built. Sort of.

New Mexico’s Interstate Stream Commission yesterday formally approved the creation of a “New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity,” a governance gizmo needed to move forward with a proposal to divert Colorado River tributary water from the Gila River in New Mexico: Interstate Stream Commission members have approved a resolution designating a 14-member unit to design …

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Ten amazing weeks in the Colorado River Basin

On the first of May, the official forecast for the 2015 water year on the Colorado River was 6.4 million acre feet. The July mid-month forecast is up to 10.2 million acre feet (pdf). That’s been enough to prevent the need for a Lower Basin shortage declaration (which would have forced water curtailment in Arizona) …

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Yuma: Colorado River produce powerhouse

William Yardley writes in the Los Angeles Times about the water rights and water fears in Yuma, Arizona: If you eat a green salad between Thanksgiving and April, whether in Minnesota, Montreal or Modesto, odds are good that some of it was grown in or around Yuma. The summer freshness on all of those winter …

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Risks of 2016 Colorado River shortage declaration pretty much gone, risks of 2017 also shrinking

The Bureau of Reclamation’s latest 24-month study, out this afternoon (pdf), shows continued improvement on the Colorado River system’s big reservoirs as a result of the hella rainy spring and summer, and therefore a continued reduction in the risk of a Lower Basin shortage declaration. The number to watch is a Lake Mead elevation of …

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