Topic: Current Water News


Colorado snowpack at 90 percent of long-term average

Excerpt: Water experts say snowpack in the mountains and valleys where the Colorado River originates has been shrinking since the start of the month.

Brian Domonkos, supervisor of the Colorado Snow Survey for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Tuesday that the snow was about 90 percent of the long-term average.

Figures for the early March snow levels weren't immediately available.

Excerpt: The Colorado River is under especially close scrutiny because it helps supply California, which is in the midst of a historic drought.

Forecasters predict another down year for Lake Mead

Excerpt: Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: A lackluster year so far on the Colorado River has local water managers and National Park Service officials bracing for further declines at Lake Mead.

According to the latest federal forecast, released Wednesday, the reservoir is expected to fall to a new record low next month and slip downward from there, shedding a total of about 20 feet through June 2016.

The bleak new estimate is based on current projections pointing to below-average flows on the Colorado in the coming months, as the snow pack melts in the mountains that feed the river and its tributaries.

According to the latest federal forecast, released Wednesday, the reservoir is expected to fall to a new record low next month and slip downward from there, shedding a total of about 20 feet through June 2016.

The bleak new estimate is based on current projections pointing to below-average flows on the Colorado in the coming months, as the snow pack melts in the mountains that feed the river and its tributaries.

Excerpt: The Southern Nevada Water Authority is almost finished with a new deep-water intake pipe designed to keep water flowing to the community even as the reservoir shrinks. Water authority spokesman Bronson Mack said the $817 million intake is on track to begin delivering water in August.

Excerpt: In January 2000, Lake Mead was close to full with a surface elevation of 1,214 feet above sea level.

Today, the surface of the lake sits at about 1,088 feet above sea level, a difference of more than 125 feet.

Williams water woes looking up

Excerpt: Last week’s winter storm helped rescue the city of Williams from the Stage 4 water restrictions the city has been living with for more than a year.

Excerpt: But the recent rain and snow was a big boost to the city’s reservoirs, which now hold a 16-month supply of water based on peak summer demand. Those surface water supplies are the basis for water restrictions, according to city code.

Excerpt: Between the end of December and this week, Dogtown Lake, the city’s biggest reservoir, grew from 119 million gallons to 191 million gallons and is now 56 percent full. Cataract Lake, another reservoir, more than doubled in size, from 45 million gallons to 98 million gallons and is now 72 percent full. Buckskinner Lake is now completely full. Santa Fe Dam and Kaibab Lake, which were so low they were untreatable, also filled up considerably.

Arizona per capita water use declining

Excerpt: The good news, as Kathleen Ferris of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association points out, is that demand in major cities has actually dropped amid conservation efforts. Per capita water usage has leveled or decreased in many Valley cities over the past five years, according to data from the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

Excerpt: "People have lost the love affair with turf," Woodard said. "A lot of people would rather have an attractive, drought-tolerant landscape than get up Saturday morning and fire up the lawn mower."

Excerpt: If demand for water further declines, some water providers may find that their pipes are over-sized for the lower volume, which may take the water longer to reach its targeted source. If that happens, disinfectants used at the water treatment plant may wear down, requiring more to be added somewhere down the pipeline, Woodard said.

Arizona town of Williams drought

Excerpt: In February, the town went into level four water restrictions, the highest level of restrictions that prohibits the use of water for anything other than public health or emergencies.

Excerpt: The Santa Fe Reservoir is more than 20 feet below its full line. Thick, black, white and rust-red rings mark the dam's cement wall like a bathtub, an ugly reminder of how full the reservoir once was.

Excerpt: Sadly, if widely accepted predictions for a drier Arizona hold true, the story of Williams may serve as a cautionary tale. Many rural Arizona towns will have to adapt to climate change as their water supplies become less and less reliable.

Williams is a town that is trying to adapt to its longstanding water shortage and could serve as a harbinger of how the Southwest's increasingly hotter and drier conditions begin to change the way we live.

Winter Storms Dramatically Increase Flagstaff Water Supply

Excerpt: According to the City of Flagstaff’s Utilities Division, the storms added more than a billion-and-a-half gallons of water to the city’s supplies. That’s more than half of all the water the city delivers to its customers in a year.

Excerpt: According to the National Weather Service, last month was the warmest February on record for Flagstaff, Winslow and Prescott with nearly two weeks of daytime highs reaching into the 60s. It was also dry, with snowfall for that month less than half of the February average. So far this season, Flagstaff has received about three-quarters of its normal snowfall.

Slick idea proposed to stretch water supplies

Excerpt: In drought-ridden US, water managers consider using a coating one molecule thick to reduce evaporation from reservoirs.

Excerpt: They propose to stretch dwindling water supplies by slowing down evaporation from reservoirs by means of a surface barrier of cheap, non-toxic, biodegradable chemicals just one molecule thick — two-millionths of a millimetre. The technology is far from proven, but it showed some potential in field tests in Texas last year.

Excerpt: Last summer, a field test in Texas attempted to overcome that problem. The US$325,000 test ran from July to October on Lake Arrowhead, a 21-square-kilometre reservoir that serves the city of Wichita Falls. Flexible Solutions International, a company in Victoria, Canada, that makes evaporation-reducing coatings for small water bodies, programmed a boat to run on autopilot and make a grid pattern across Lake Arrowhead spreading the coating behind it.

Supervisors to revisit reclaimed-water rules

Excerpt: The county supervisors on Monday will again discuss a proposed county ordinance dealing with reclaimed water.

Excerpt: District 5 Sup. Steve Moss of Fort Mohave said at a previous meeting that unless the Southwest sees significant precipitation to relieve the decades-old drought, the Phoenix and Southern California urban areas will see water shortages by 2017 with Mohave County impacted by shortages the following year.

Excerpt: The proposed ordinance would not affect residential homes but would deal with reclaimed water for agricultural, irrigation, manufacturing or landscaping uses.

Overpopulation and city expansion cause water shortages

Excerpt: According to John Weisheit conservation director for Living Rivers, the only thing that will stop water from disappearing is to put the brakes on city expansion and population growth.

Excerpt: "It's not something that can be fixed in one year - it'll take 30 years," Weisheit said. "The problem is that if the cycle of drought ends this year or next year, what they're going to do is wipe their brow and say 'whew, we lucked out.' There's going to be even more consumption and less flow and the situation is going to get worse."

Excerpt: "There's an imbalance of demand and what have they been doing in the last 60 years? The answer is nothing, absolutely nothing," he said. "Knowledge is important and when people turn on their faucets they don't know the history they don't realize the history that's coming out of that faucet."

Worst Drought in 1,000 Years Predicted

Excerpt: Large parts of the U.S. are in for a drought of epic proportions in the second half of this century, scientists warn in a new study that provides the highest degree of certainty yet on the impact of global warming on water supplies in the region.

Excerpt: That's because rising temperatures spurred by the greenhouse effect result in more evaporation and less precipitation for the region, which is already relatively dry.

Excerpt: "Over the past year, water managers and the public have started paying more attention to the possibility of a megadrought," said Painter. "Water demand has passed supply in some areas. Throwing 30 years of drought on top of that means we're going to have to change the way we live out here."

Climate change will increase evaporation of Colorado River

Excerpt: The Colorado River faces a dual threat from climate change as rising temperatures increase the demand for irrigation water and accelerate evaporation at the river’s two largest reservoirs.

Excerpt: The upper half of the basin, above Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, is expected to see demand for agricultural water jump by almost 23 percent, while Lake Powell loses 7 percent more water to evaporation than it did during the last half of the 20th century.

Excerpt: According to the report, rising temperatures will drive up agricultural demand on the Truckee and the Carson by more than 14 percent over the next 65 years, while evaporation will increase by 14 percent at Lake Tahoe and by 7 percent at Lahontan Reservoir.

Colorado to California: Hands off our water

Excerpt: Colorado is moving to keep tighter control over its own water supply, rankling drought-stricken western states like California.

Excerpt: James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, initially gave some tough remarks in explaining his state’s intentions in an interview with The Associated Press. “If anybody thought we were going to roll over and say, 'OK, California, you're in a really bad drought, you get to use the water that we were going to use,' they're mistaken," he said.

Excerpt: Every state gets a predetermined share of the resource, a quantity divided up in 1922 under a federal compact. And while the 1922 Colorado River Compact governs the system, scientists now know the 93-year-old agreement was reached at a time when the region was going through an unusually wet period. States get their allowance regardless of whether they need more or less.

City of El Paso to wean itself from river water

Excerpt: Coming in 2018 is perhaps the most dramatic step yet. The utility will begin reusing the water that runs out one of the city's four wastewater-treatment plants.

"We want to prepare for the real possibility that there will be no river water at all," said water utility spokeswoman Christina Montoya.

Excerpt: They think the climate in the river basin might be returning to historical norms after a few abnormally wet decades. Man-made global warming, which almost all climate scientists believe is happening, would only make the scarcity worse, they say.

Excerpt: The water is not appreciably different when it comes back out of water-utility wells, but for some, its trip through the ground might supply the "gap in time and space and imagination" that Fishman mentioned in the book.

As the water leaves the plant, however, it smells and tastes just like the water that comes out of any kitchen faucet in El Paso. No sudden cramps or urgent calls to the bathroom follow in the hours after drinking it.

Water utility officials say water from the Bustamante plant in the city's Southeast will be at least as clean as that coming from Hervey or the city's other water plants and will be among the cleanest drinking water available.

Water Wasters May Face Jail Time

Excerpt: When California water regulators authorized $500 fines for water wasting, the public marveled at how far the state was willing to go to face down the drought.

Excerpt: The crackdown on water wasters is a statewide affair. A measure approved by the State Water Resources Control Board in July imposed "new restrictions on outdoor water use starting Aug. 1 that could result in fines of up to $500 per violation," the San Jose Mercury News reported.

El Niño forecast is up in the air for Southern California

Excerpt: While a mild-to-moderate El Niño weather pattern is widely expected to develop in the fall, forecast models have "projected many different outcomes," said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Excerpt: El Niño winters in Southwest California have been historically wet, which would be a welcome reprieve for a region parched by a prolonged drought.

Nearly 60% of the state is experiencing "exceptional" drought conditions, the harshest on a five-level scale as measured by U.S. Drought Monitor.

Water in the West: The West gets thirstier as water supplies dwindle

Excerpt: The state of water supplies in the arid West is volatile, and forecasts are grim. Lake Powell and Lake Mead are at alarmingly low levels, while populations across the West are swelling past the capacities of current water supplies.

The Colorado River Basin is facing a battle of sorts as the state works to create a water plan. It’s a battle against time and against competing water needs, both here in Colorado and in lower basin states including Nevada, Arizona and California.

Excerpt: The Colorado River Compact

With climate, population and water resources change upon us, those working toward drafting the state water plan sense that the potential for a Colorado water catastrophe is real.

That catastrophe could come in many forms, but the most feared is a curtailment of the Colorado River Compact of 1922.

Excerpt: When prices are low, people overuse water. But when they’re high, conservation becomes a lot easier and more attractive. And conservation is a big theme in the first draft of the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan, which came out last month and will undergo several more revisions before it’s sent to the state later this year for incorporation into the state water plan.

5 reasons to panic about Arizona's water, and 5 reasons not to

Excerpt: As brown became the new green in drought-stricken California this summer (and as "Drought-Stricken" became that state's unofficial first name), some of the national media took a quick look around and started asking: If the Golden State was shutting down its sprinklers, was the whole West about to dry up and blow away?

Excerpt: It's true, rain in metro Phoenix doesn't do much for the water supply, because there's so little of it that most water is imported from elsewhere. But a lot of that water comes from the Colorado River, which is a source of water for 40 million people in seven states, including Arizona. And the Colorado has seen below-average runoff in all but three years since 2000. Lake Mead has fallen to its lowest level since it started filling in the 1930s.

Excerpt: So yes, Arizona is running out of water — just the way it was when it built the Central Arizona Project, the same way it was when it passed the groundwater-protection laws. It's highly unlikely that anything dramatic will change for most Arizonans in the next six years. There's a lot of water left out there. But only time and people's decisions will tell if it's enough.

Arizona Town Runs Low on Water

Excerpt: Officials in the community about 60 miles from the Grand Canyon's South Rim have clamped down on water use and declared a crisis amid a drought that is quickly drying up nearby reservoirs and forcing the city to pump its only two wells to capacity.

Excerpt: Officials in Williams jumped straight to the most severe restrictions after receiving only about 6 inches of precipitation from October to April — about half of normal levels — and a bleak forecast that doesn't include much rain. City leaders acknowledge the move is extreme but say it's the only way to make the city has enough water to survive.

Excerpt: "We don't have enough water to waste it," said Evans, president of the Northern Arizona Municipal Water Users Association.

In Williams, Moore recently looked out at the reservoirs surrounding town in anticipation of a monsoon season that could help replenish them.

"We know in due time, the lakes will fill back up, the snow will come," he said.

California will tap its water bank, even as Lake Mead shrinks

Excerpt: Punishing drought in California could force that state to make a sizable withdrawal from a virtual water bank in Lake Mead this year, even as the reservoir shrinks closer to an all-time low and an unprecedented shortage declaration.

Excerpt: “Things are so bad in California, unless it starts raining like crazy we are probably going to take another 150,000 to 200,000 acre-feet this year,” said Bill Hasencamp, Metropolitan’s manager of Colorado River resources.

Excerpt: “As soon as it gets wet again in California, we’ll start storing water and putting it in Lake Mead,” Muir said.

Hasencamp said 2011 and 2012 were “big storage years” for Met, with a total of about 330,000 acre-feet of water socked away in the lake.

“We were hoping we could keep that in there,” he said. “But we’re still keeping an account balance. We’re not taking it all out.”

Lake Mead is shrinking

Excerpt: "This was all underwater," said Pat Mulroy, the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. "I mean boats were everywhere. There was a who

Excerpt: "It's a pretty critical point," Mulroy said. "The rate at which our weather patterns are changing is so dramatic that our ability to adapt to it is really crippled."

Excerpt: Despite its wasteful reputation, Las Vegas actually reuses 93 percent of its water. It's paid homeowners $200 million to rip up their thirsty lawns. The city added 400,000 people last decade but cut its water use by 33 percent.

Havasu water supply healthy in the face of looming shortages

Excerpt: Lake Havasu City’s bucket is looking safely wet in the scheme of looming water shortages that could affect communities along the Colorado River as soon as June 2016 if drought conditions continue to siphon water levels in Lake Mead.

Excerpt: The city’s Water Resources Coordinator Doyle Wilson told the Lake Havasu City Council Tuesday that drought conditions began in 1999, and have grown to proportions of a new name.

“It’s a mega-drought at this point in time because it’s lasted longer than 10 years,” Wilson said.

Excerpt: To date, the city has kept shortages at bay with turf reductions, irrigation upgrades, and educating the community through rebate-type water conservation programs.

Colorado River Drought Forces a Painful Reckoning for States

Excerpt: The sinuous Colorado River and its slew of man-made reservoirs from the Rockies to southern Arizona are being sapped by 14 years of drought nearly unrivaled in 1,250 years.

Excerpt: But many experts believe the current drought is only the harbinger of a new, drier era in which the Colorado’s flow will be substantially and permanently diminished.

Excerpt: These new realities are forcing a profound reassessment of how the 1,450-mile Colorado, the Southwest’s only major river, can continue to slake the thirst of one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions. Agriculture, from California’s Imperial Valley to Wyoming’s cattle herds, soaks up about three-quarters of its water, and produces 15 percent of the nation’s food. But 40 million people also depend on the river and its tributaries, and their numbers are rising rapidly.

Is the West's dry spell a megadrought?

Excerpt: The drought that has been afflicting most of the Western states for 13 years may be a “megadrought,” and the likelihood is high that this century could see a multidecade dry spell like nothing else seen for 1,000 years, according to research presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting last week.

Excerpt: He said that the chances of a widespread multidecade megadrought are high in the worst-case scenario, but he quoted University of Arizona geosciences professor Jonathan Overpeck to characterize the chances of megadrought in less severe scenarios: “It’s extremely non-negligible, the risk of prolonged multidecadal megadrought.”

The bottom line: “The picture looks like we’re going to have to take this seriously,” Ault said.

How not to kill the mighty Colorado River

Excerpt: The challenges in the Colorado River basin are large, but the good news is that cost effective solutions are available and already being tested in different parts of the basin. Implementing these solutions now will be good not only for the region’s iconic Colorado River, but also for the region’s economy.

The reality is this economic engine and lifeline of the West is running out of fuel. The Colorado River literally dries to a trickle before it even reaches the sea. Increasing populations, extended drought and uncertain future weather patterns undermine a secure water future for the region.

Excerpt: A more efficient water future will not only create a more secure water supply, but will also provide a boost to the economy. Farmers can increase productivity and use less water by upgrading aging irrigation systems. And they can reap financial rewards from voluntarily sharing some of their saved water with cities and rivers.

Biggest Water Losses Are Groundwater

Excerpt: During presentations this week at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, announced that the region’s most visible signs of drought – shrinking reservoirs – are dwarfed by groundwater losses.

Excerpt: From March 2005 to June 2013, the Colorado River Basin lost 5.7 cubic kilometers (4.6 million acre-feet) of water per year, or more than 47 cubic kilometers (38 million acre-feet) over the 100-month study period. The cumulative losses are equal to 1.3 times the storage capacity of Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir. Most of the water losses are attributed to groundwater pumping, mainly for irrigated agriculture.

Excerpt: If the federal government’s river-flow forecast holds true, the lower release from Powell will set up the Lower Basin for a shortage that could be declared as early as 2015 or 2016. Such a declaration is based on how much water is in Lake Mead. Arizona and Nevada would be the only states to endure water restrictions at this first shortage tier. Moreover, water managers in Arizona told Circle of Blue in August that they would weather cuts in water deliveries from the river by pumping more groundwater.

Dry with chance of shortage

Excerpt: There's a better than 50 percent chance of an official water shortage being declared in 2016 for the Lower Colorado River Basin as a result of the drought that has gripped the river's watershed for the last 14 years.

Excerpt: That's if the current trend continues, Daniel Bunk, a hydrologist for the Lower Colorado Region with the the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, told the Colorado River Citizens Forum Wednesday during an update on the status of the Colorado River Basin.

He noted that 2000 to 2013 was the driest 14-year period in more than 100 years of historical record. And based on tree ring studies, it is the fourth or fifth driest period in the past 1,200 years.

Excerpt: If a shortage is declared by the Secretary of the Interior, Arizona would bear by far the biggest impact, according to an agreement in 2007 that established shortage sharing guidelines. Under the guidelines, Arizona, which is allocated 2.8 million acre-feet of Colorado River water a year, would receive 320,000 acre-feet less water. Nevada would receive 13,000 acre-feet less water and Mexico 50,000 acre-feet less. California would not be impacted.

Water summit garners support for water conservation

Excerpt: Population growth, drought and increasing demand are challenging the Colorado River and threatening Western economies and outdoor lifestyles.

"In order to meet those challenges, we have to acknowledge that the current management and current use of the river is unsustainable. We've got to start from that point," said Udall, addressing the first Business of Water Corporate Leaders Summit in Denver, hosted by Protect the Flows, a network of almost 1,000 businesses advocating for protection of the 1,450-mile river.

Excerpt: Every speaker offered concrete strategies for not just protecting water but educating consumers on its value. George Wendt urges the 3,000 people a year who float his OARS rafts down the Colorado River to support conservation. Broomfield's WhiteWave Foods makes sure consumers know its plant-based drinks require 77 percent less water per half gallon than cow milk. MGM Resorts International is fighting to include water conservation in energy-saving metrics that often focus only on reducing carbon impact.

Excerpt: "Conserving the great outdoors is a long-term investment in jobs that can't be outsourced," said Udall, who suggested that a balance between increased conservation and wastewater treatment, expanding storage and recharging groundwater supplies would alleviate pressure on the Colorado River.

Colorado River faces critical snow season

Excerpt: After 14 years of record drought, it will take an unusually wet year — one like the basin saw in 2011 — to stave off the first-ever water shortages on the overdrawn river and slow the decline of its two main reservoirs.

Lake Mead, the source for 90 percent of the Las Vegas Valley’s water supply, has seen its surface fall by more than 100 feet since the drought began. Current projections call for it to lose another 25 vertical feet of water and sink to a record low by November 2014.

Excerpt: “This is an alarming trend, and one that we would really like to see come to an end,” said water authority spokesman J.C. Davis. “Even if we have an ‘average’ year on the Colorado this year, Lake Mead is projected to continue falling. In order to make a significant dent, we would need at a minimum something on the order of 150 percent of normal.”

Excerpt: Each lake is now more than half empty, and the combined amount of water left in them is nearing its lowest point since Powell was filled for the first time.

Top Vegas water official talking drought disaster

Excerpt: The top water official in Las Vegas is floating the idea of seeking federal disaster aid to deal with ongoing drought and decreasing water levels at the Colorado River reservoir that provides most of Sin City's water.
With federal water managers due next week to release Lake Mead water level forecasts, Southern Nevada Water Authority chief Pat Mulroy told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she thinks drought could hurt the Southwest as much as Superstorm Sandy did the Atlantic seaboard in 2012.

Excerpt: But drought has federal water managers warning water decision-makers from seven Western states, conservation groups and Indian tribes that the river could be unable to meet demands of a growing regional population over the next 50 years.

West Slope snowpack still below normal

Excerpt: GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — Snowpack in river basins throughout western Colorado is well below average for Jan. 9, but the driest conditions are in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork, Fryingpan and Eagle rivers.

“There are a few sites in the Roaring Fork, Eagle and Gunnison basins that are at near record lows for this time of the year,” said Ashley Nielson, hydrologist with NOAA's Colorado River Basin Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, in a teleconference held Tuesday.

Excerpt: Forecasters are now looking to another storm system expected to roll into western Colorado later today, bringing snowfall tonight through Friday night and pushing temperatures downward over the weekend.

It's another welcome amount of precipitation, Nielson said.

“It will help the snowpack, but it's not going to bring it back to average,” she said.

Arizona welcomes above-average snowpack

Excerpt: "The Mogollon Rim is around 218 percent above the norm for snowpack, and the Verde System is at about the same level," said climatologist Nancy Selover.

Excerpt: Arizona's reservoirs, including Roosevelt Lake, are at 36 percent of capacity, which in this case is a good thing because they'll have room to hold the spring runoff. Meanwhile, the snowpack in Colorado is at about half of what it should be. That snowpack feeds the Colorado River, Lake Mead, Lake Powell and the Central Arizona Project, but Selover said she's not concerned about that yet.

Drought: Food prices poised to rise

Excerpt: The great drought of 2012 has run its course on America's farms. Grain producers have harvested shriveled corn and soybean crops. Livestock producers are cutting back herds to avoid higher feed prices.

Excerpt: "This drought was timed and located to hit two of the largest field crops in the United States: field corn and soybeans," says Ricky Volpe, research economist at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington. It affected about 80 percent of agricultural land, the most extensive dry spell since the 1950s, and resulted in the smallest corn harvest in six years.

Excerpt: The drought's impact on packaged and processed foods will take longer to trickle down, about 10 to 12 months by USDA calculations. The pinch shouldn't be as severe as with meat. "In a given year, given normal conditions, we would expect retail prices to increase about 2.8 to 2.9 percent. If you look at 2013, we'll be at 3 to 4 percent," Mr. Volpe says. "Food price inflation is on the rise, not entirely due to drought."

Landmark water pact with Mexico

Excerpt: After years of negotiations, the United States and Mexico have struck a deal that could keep more water in Lake Mead and help improve water efficiency and the environment south of the border.

Excerpt: The landmark five-year agreement would allow Mexico to store some of its annual Colorado River allotment in Lake Mead for future use.

Excerpt: For one thing, the lower the lake sinks, the closer it gets to the trigger point for the authority's multibillion-dollar plan to pipe groundwater to Las Vegas from across eastern Nevada.

The surface of the lake now stands at 1,116 feet above sea level. If it drops to 1,075 feet, authority board members will cast their final vote on whether to proceed with the pipeline.

"That project is our protection from catastrophe. It's our safety net," Mulroy said. "As long as we can continue to defer it, we will."

Suit filed over Cadiz water project

Excerpt: Four environmental groups filed their second lawsuit against San Bernardino County on Thursday, Nov. 1, over a hotly contested proposal to pump water from Mojave Desert aquifers and send it to cities across the state.

Excerpt: The Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project would extract groundwater from an open valley beneath 45,000 acres that Los Angeles-based Cadiz Inc. owns south of the Marble Mountains, 40 miles east of Twentynine Palms. The area lies between the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park in eastern San Bernardino County.

Excerpt: “This shortsighted water grab will benefit those pushing more sprawl in Orange County, but it’ll rob some of California’s rare species of the water they need to survive,” said Adam Lazar, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our desert, the residents of San Bernardino County and Orange County ratepayers all deserve better.”

Rupture in CAP puts water in desert

Excerpt: The Central Arizona Project, Tucson's main drinking water source, is shut down after the first break in its concrete canal in the project's 27-year existence.

Excerpt: The break allowed about 400 to 500 acre-feet, or 130 million to 160 million gallons, of Colorado River water to escape into a desert wash about 27 miles east of where the canal begins at Lake Havasu. The 336-mile-long CAP aqueduct ends at Pima Mine Road, 14 miles south of Tucson.

Excerpt: "Was the soil not compacted enough? Is there evidence of some kind of hole that developed because of rain behind the panels?" Basefsky said. "Even though a lot washed out, there's enough there to look for clues as to what might have happened. It's like a crime scene, where we're saying, 'What do we see, and what can we infer from what we see?' "

Three Ways To Solve The Water Crisis Now

Excerpt: For years now people have been calling water “the new oil” and talking about what will happen when water becomes more and more scarce and the price of it starts to skyrocket. In fact, that time has already come, it’s just less obvious in developed countries. And guess what? Unlike oil, water has no viable alternatives. Sure we can desalinate salt water but it’s pricey and energy-intensive, and there are only so many spots on earth where it really makes sense.

Excerpt: 1. Fix Some Pipes – It’s an oft-cited truism that some Americans still get their water from wooden pipes. But our water infrastructure problems don’t start and end with a few comically outdated pipes.

Excerpt: 2. Reduce Consumption, Even a Little Bit. It’s a no-brainer and yet … we’re not doing it. According to the Pacific Institute the average American uses about 70 gallons of water per day while the average Gambian uses about 1 gallon per day and the average European is somewhere in the middle.

Excerpt: 3. Take a Page from Nature’s Book Biomimicry–a design practice that mimics natural designs to increase efficiency and reduce waste–could be quite valuable in the design of water infrastructure.

Drought Pose Problems for U.S. Electric Power

Excerpt: Record heat and drought conditions across the United States this summer have plagued power plants that require cool water to produce electricity.

From Connecticut to California, high water temperatures and diminished access to water caused by drought have forced a number of power plants to ramp down production or acquire waivers to operate with cooling water above regulated temperatures. At least one plant has suspended operations.

Excerpt: But heat and drought work together to overtax the electrical grid, said Michael Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin. Water is far more important for energy production than most people understand, Webber said, adding that families use more water to power their homes than they use from their tap.

"In summer you often get a double whammy," Webber said. "People want their air-conditioning and drought gets worse. You have more demand for electricity and less water available to produce it. That is what we are seeing in the Midwest right now, power plants on the edge."

Excerpt: Although the summer months are drawing to a close, and unseasonably warm temperatures have fallen in many parts of the country—including the Midwest—the electric power industry continues to face drought conditions in many areas. Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska, said drought conditions continue to expand and intensify in parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois. "The drought is heading into the fall and we are not seeing any widespread improvement at all," Fuchs said.

Drought set to ease for Arizona

Excerpt: TUCSON - Above average monsoon rain and an El Nino Watch for the winter months have drought conditions in Arizona likely to improve.

Currently 100% of the state is classified as being in a moderate drought situation. 94%, including Tucson, are under a long term severe rating. Other parts of Arizona are even worse off as 25% owns an extreme rating.

Excerpt: Even though the drought is expected to ease up it's important to point out that it's not likely to be completely washed away. Crimmins explains, "It has taken us several years to dig this hole and it's going to take several years above average precipitation or even normal precipitation to start filling that hole back in."

8 Easy Ways to Save Water This Summer

Excerpt: Saving water is particularly important during the summer, when the days are hot and the rainfall sporadic at best. It's even more so this year as much of the country faces an unrelenting drought. If you want to cut your water bills or just do your part to conserve a precious resource, here are a few smart tips to reduce water usage around the house.

Southwestern Drought

Excerpt: But in the Southwest, drought has been the norm since 1999. The only year since then that the federal government’s Palmer Drought Severity Index has not registered dryer-than-normal conditions there was 2006.

Excerpt: Still, the glut of water in 2011 is to some extent masking the dearth of water in 2012. Bruce Williams, a river operations group manager at the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region, says despite this year’s paltry inflows, the lower river system’s stored water filled little more than than 60 percent of the total storage capacity until recently. Now it’s dropping to the decades-long average of around 50 percent.

Given this year’s dryness, that savings account is likely to be drawn down fast. Water managers anticipate this year’s exports from Lake Powell to Lake Mead will be down 25 percent from last year’s.

First-Ever Colorado River Day Celebrated

Excerpt: It was 91 years ago this week that the "Grand" River was renamed the "Colorado." States that rely on the Colorado for drinking water and economic benefits marked the occasion on Wednesday by celebrating the first-ever Colorado River Day.

Excerpt: "We need to recognize the importance of this river to not only the whole state of Arizona but to the City of Phoenix in particular, because the CAP - the Central Arizona Project - is such an important source of water."

Excerpt: Arizona has already done a lot to conserve water, Stitzer says, especially for agricultural uses. However, she is concerned Arizonans might be experiencing conservation fatigue.

"There's sort of a feeling that 'we've already done all this conservation, what more can we do?'. But we've seen per-capita rates - they're dropping by 1 percent a year. So there's certainly savings that can be had by stepping up our water conservation program."

Arizona Reservoir Levels

Excerpt: Storage in each of the Arizona reservoirs listed in Figure 6 declined during the last month. Combined storage in Lakes Mead and Powell decreased by 679,000 acre-feet in June. Total reservoir storage in the Colorado River Basin is 60 percent of capacity (rounded to 0 percent in Figure 6, around 5 percent lower than it was at the beginning of the water year. Storage in the San Carlos Reservoir, which completely dried in 1976 and 1977, is at about 0.2 percent of capacity, an extremely low level that reflects scant precipitation in southeastern Arizona for two consecutive La Niña winters. The reservoir is also nearing its lowest capacity in 20 years. Combined storage in the Salt and Verde river basin systems is 59 percent of capacity, which is about 20 percent less than it was one year ago. 

Will Drought Cause the Next Blackout?

Excerpt: WE’RE now in the midst of the nation’s most widespread drought in 60 years, stretching across 29 states and threatening farmers, their crops and livestock. But there is another risk as water becomes more scarce. Power plants may be forced to shut down, and oil and gas production may be threatened.

Excerpt: Our energy system depends on water. About half of the nation’s water withdrawals every day are just for cooling power plants. In addition, the oil and gas industries use tens of millions of gallons a day, injecting water into aging oil fields to improve production, and to free natural gas in shale formations through hydraulic fracturing. Those numbers are not large from a national perspective, but they can be significant locally.

Excerpt: Because rivers and aquifers can span many states (or countries), because there is no alternative to water, and because water represents a critical vulnerability for our energy system, governments at all levels have a stake in working with industry to find solutions. The downsides of doing nothing — more blackouts — are too serious to ignore.

Energy & Water are Closely Related

Excerpt: While we are always reminded in the media about the questions of energy security, water resources are equally important and increasingly linked to energy in what became known as the energy water nexus, or how much of each is needed to make the other available.

Excerpt: While total water resources are renewable, the increasing use of water for human consumption, irrigation and industry is putting pressure on the readily available resources and forcing governments to seek others.

Excerpt: The linkage between energy and water is now well established and water security should receive the same attention if not more than energy security. Energy and water policies and plans should be viewed in an integrated manner to improve the efficiency of use of both. Energy conservation has been a great success in the last 40 years and water conservation is yet to be given equal regard especially with the expected increase of world population and its consequent economic growth.

America's big drought: Time to rethink water conservation

Excerpt: Most of the continental United States is experiencing the worst drought since 1956. In some parts of the Midwest, hot weather and little rain have created conditions like those just before the 1930s Dust Bowl.

Excerpt: As during previous big droughts, people most dependent on water for their livelihoods feel as if they are at the mercy of nature. “If I had a rain prayer or rain dance I could do, I would do it,” said Tom Vilsack, the US agriculture secretary.

Excerpt: Water conservation has indeed come a long way since the 1930s. Farmers, for example, now plant trees for shelter from wind. Aquifers, irrigation canals, wetlands, and sprinkler systems are better managed. More farmers use no-till sowing. New seed varieties have better drought resistance.

Excerpt: In Australia, which recently endured a decade-long drought, landscape restorer Peter Andrews argues that Australia, which is the world’s driest country, must return its countryside to the natural water patterns of the 19th century. Thousands of farmers have followed his advice and built swampy meadows and chains of ponds to keep rain stored for dry spells. They also have grown reeds in streams to slow down rain runoff and minimize evaporation.

Arizona endures 15th year of drought

Excerpt: As drought continues to spread across much of the nation, forcing some regions to consider water rationing, Arizona is coping with yet another dry year in a string that reaches back nearly 15 years.

Excerpt: Sparse winter snow produced below-average runoff this spring into the rivers and reservoirs that supply Phoenix and other towns and cities, but water already stored in those reservoirs has helped most communities avoid the kinds of mandatory restrictions being imposed in the Midwest.

Excerpt: The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week declared all 15 Arizona counties as drought disaster areas, a designation that will speed government assistance to farmers and ranchers suffering from dry soil and poor grazing conditions.

Excerpt: Almost two-thirds of the country is now enduring drought conditions, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s outlook for August through October predicts continuing dry conditions in the Midwest.

7 surprising health concerns created by drought

Excerpt: With more than half the U.S. currently in drought, concerns have mounted over the consequences of the arid climate on the country's crop yields. But droughts have far reaching effects beyond the farm, including many effects on human health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Excerpt: Droughts can reduce air quality and compromise the health of people with certain conditions, according to the CDC. During a drought, dry soils and wildfires increase the amount of airborne particles, such as pollen and smoke.

Excerpt: In a drought, farmers may also use recycled water to irrigate fields. Although the use of recycled water for agriculture is legal in the United States, if the process is not properly monitored, crops can become contaminated with pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli, the CDC says.

Drought In U.S. Now Worst Since 1956

Excerpt: With about 55 percent of the continental U.S. suffering from "moderate to extreme drought" conditions the nation is withering under conditions that haven't been this bad since 1956, according to a new report from National Climatic Data Center.

Excerpt: Weather Underground's Jeff Masters adds that the costs associated with this drought "are certain to be many billions of dollars, and the disaster could be one of the top 10 most expensive weather-related disasters in U.S. history." As he points out, "droughts historically have been some of the costliest U.S. weather disasters."


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