2013 Drought: Time to Conserve!
Despite these late season storms and snowy days, Colorado is currently in a drought and faces water conservation challenges in the months ahead.
The U.S. Drought Monitor, last released on April 9, indicates moderate (D1) to exceptional (D4) drought conditions across Colorado. The Colorado Climate Center also hosts Weekly Drought Webinars, which provide updates on precipitation, snowpack, streamflow, water supply and demand, and precipitation forecast. During their last update, the Climate Center indicated that in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB) alone, precipitation percentiles are below the median throughout the entire basin and accumulated snowpack is currently less than normal across the entire UCRB, with sub-basins ranging from 72% -81% of normal snowpack.
Things seem grimmer when you look at the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) Water Availability Task Force’s Drought Update that is released each month. Some of the key reports from last month include:
- Despite an increase in beneficial moisture during March statewide snowpack has maintained, but not improved, and is currently 77% of average. The highest snowpack in the state is in the Southwest basins (82%) while the South Platte is experiencing the lowest at 67% of normal for the water year. All other basins range from 73-79% of average.
- Statewide reservoir storage is at 71% of average and 39% of capacity, a slight increase from February.
- NRCS is forecasting below average spring stream flows for the entire state, with most of the basins falling within 50-69% of average forecast range.
In response to the drought, the US Department of Agriculture is activating its Disaster and Drought Assistance programs, which includes additional emergency funding to assist livestock and crop producers, range management assistance, and emergency haying and grazing initiatives.
Water providers across the state are responding by implementing both mandatory and voluntary restrictions. To find out the restrictions in your region, visit www.COH2O.co and enter your city, county, or zip code. When I entered my information, the website took me to the Denver Water Drought 2013 webpage, which indicates a Stage 2 Drought has been declared and Denver Water customers may water no more than two days a week and must follow a set schedule. Failure to follow these mandatory rules will result in a warning for the first violation, followed by $250 and $500 fines for the second and third violations respectively.
The Colorado Legislature is also considering two bills that may help with water conservation. The first is HB-1044, the Colorado Graywater Bill, which would authorize the use of Graywater in Colorado from sources like kitchen sinks and laundry machines. To learn more about this bill, check out this story on Colorado Public Radio. The second bill is SB13-019, which would promote water conservation and declares that increasing water use efficiency by appropriators promotes the maximum utilization of Colorado’s water resources and is in the public interest. Be sure to track these bills and other legislation on the Alliance’s Policy Page.
In times like this, I’m reminded that water is a precious resource. We should each do our part by staying informed and trying to conserve as much as possible—I’m thinking of pulling out the 4 minute shower timer from college. What will you do to conserve water this year?