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2004 U.S. Drought News


December, 2004

Federal researcher says drought may ease in Colorado River Basin

In an encouraging forecast for the drought-stricken West, David Brandon, chief hydrologist for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, says snowmelt could send twice as much water to Lake Powell next spring as it received last spring. Melting snow flowing down the Colorado River could supply 7.3 million acre-feet of water to the reservoir. Last spring, it received 3.6 million acre-feet. One acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, or about enough water to supply one or two typical families for a year.The river supplies about 25 million people in the West, including about half the water needed by the 3.6 million people on Colorado's heavily populated Front Range. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 12/17/04

Above-average snowpack eases Colorado's drought fears; Other parts of the West still parched

Colorado appears to be bouncing back from a five-year drought, thanks in part to above-average snowpack that has been good news for farmers and skiers alike. "I think it is too early to say the drought is over. But now I would bet against it becoming a 10- or 20-year drought," said Klaus Wolter, an atmospheric scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Vast stretches of the West remain parched, however. Parts of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana are still mired in severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor index maintained by the University of Nebraska.  AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer_ 12/10/04

November, 2004

Mild El Nino could result in drier winter for Nevada

People who hope that a mild El Nino might signal an end to five years of drought may be in for a disappointment. Weather experts say this year's phenomenon is not only mild, but is located 1,500 miles farther west than would be needed for the wettest weather conditions in the Western United States. Reno Gazette-Journal/AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 11/15/04

Soggy October gets Nevada water year off to a good start

While weather experts caution that one good month means little after five years of drought, National Weather Service hydrologist Gary Barbato said in eight of 10 water years following a wet October, precipitation was average or above average. The water year begins Oct. 1 and runs through Sept. 30. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 11/2/04

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano calls for new water conservation efforts

Napolitano used a wide-ranging speech on water policy issues to call for a general "culture of conservation" and to announce a new collaborative effort on water-related research by the three state universities. A "one-two punch" of record drought and record growth demands action on many fronts, from conservation at the local level to multistate negotiations on Colorado River supply issues, Napolitano said. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 11/1/04

October, 2004

Storm-drenched Nevada declared drought disaster area

Governor Kenny Guinn asked US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman in late August to declare the entire state a disaster area, saying this was the fifth straight dry year. The designation came on a day that rain and snow blanketed northern Nevada.   AP/KRNV_ 10/19/04

Denver Water board to wait two weeks before deciding if angry customers will get millions in refunds

Those who may receive the refunds say they met the agency's water-saving goals, but were charged a drought surchage anyway. The surcharges generated about $14.4 million for the utility. Restrictions and the surcharges were lifted in late August, in part because summer rains on the Colorado Front Range reduced demand on Denver Water's stored water supplies. As of Wednesday, its reservoirs were 76 percent full, about 11 percent below normal. Rocky Mountain News_ 10/14/04

Weak-to-moderate El Nino could mean wet winter in parts of the Western U.S.; wetter than average December through February also on tap for Southern U.S. - NOAA

The NOAA 2004-2005 Winter Outlook calls for above-average temperatures in Alaska, much of the West and the northern and central Great Plains. Below average temperatures are expected across the Gulf Coast states, the Southeast and the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. There are equal chances of warmer, cooler or near-normal temperatures this winter in the Northeast, Midwest and parts of Southwest. The precipitation outlook calls for wetter-than-average conditions in parts of California, the extreme Southwest and across the Southern U.S. – from Texas to Florida. Drier-than-average conditions are expected in the Midwest, northern Plains, and Pacific Northwest. The winter outlook indicates some improvement in drought conditions in the West, but long-term drought is expected to persist through the winter in many areas. Press Release_ 10/6/04

Drought eases in parts of Wyoming but dry ground will take years to recover

Drought in much of Wyoming has eased this year thanks to bountiful rain and snow this summer in many areas, state Climatologist Jan Curtis said. John Lawson, the Wyoming area manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said levels in some eastern Wyoming reservoirs will continue to drop next year even if the snow pack is normal this winter and spring. That is because the ground is so dry that it will soak up much of the moisture, reducing the amount of runoff that makes it to the reservoirs. AP/USA Today_ 10/5/04

Feature: As Colorado River reservoirs recede, fears of a water shortage rise

Behind Glen Canyon Dam, one of the West's mightiest reservoirs is in steady retreat. Five years of record-breaking drought in the Colorado River basin have drained Lake Powell of more than 60% of its water. Flows on the Colorado are among the lowest in 500 years. Downriver, Lake Mead, the biggest reservoir in North America and supplier of water to Southern California, Arizona and Las Vegas, is little more than half full. The 1,450-mile-long river that greens 3.5 million acres of farm and range land and helps feed the faucets of 25 million people may within a few years lack the water to quench the West's great thirst. For the first time ever, the seven states that rely on the Colorado are confronting the possibility of a shortage. Los Angeles Times_ 10/3/04 (logon required)

Rain and snow didn't do much for Utah this year, but at least the ground isn't so dry

Utah's precipitation during the water year that ended Sept. 30 was close to normal, but it came at the wrong times to break the drought. With the ground dried out by previous years of drought, much of the snowmelt just soaked into the earth. Streams barely rose, doing little to replenish the reservoirs, which are at record or near-record low levels. But normal summer rainfall also improved Utah's soil moisture, and next spring's runoff may not have as much water soaked up by the ground as happened this year. AP/Daily Herald_ 10/2/04

September, 2004

Nevada water officials consider third intake pipe at Lake Mead

A third pipe, which would be deeper than the existing two, might be needed to ensure access to drinking water if the lake level continues dropping, said officials with the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Water officials said it's too early in the evaluation of a third intake to say how much it could cost or when it would be built. The second intake, which became operational in 2002, cost $80 million and took two years to construct. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 9/28/04

Feature: Researchers say air pollution is reducing mountain snowfall, a wellspring for the West

Along the western slope of the Rockies, in a laboratory 10,500 feet above sea level, a team of atmospheric researchers has spent the past decade deciphering a deeper meaning from the blizzards that blanket Colorado's Steamboat ski resort in its famously pillowy "champagne powder." And they have come to a provocative conclusion: Air pollution is reducing mountain snowfall, the wellspring of drinking water for Los Angeles, Las Vegas and much of the urban West. Los Angeles Times_ 9/11/04 (logon required)

$20 million plan to keep Navajo Generating Station going as water levels drop in Lake Powell

The plant near Page was built in part to help run the pumps that deliver Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson through the Central Arizona Project's 336-mile canal. Without the station, the CAP's power costs could increase three to five times, which would likely mean higher water prices. The $20 million construction cost would be split among the plant's six owners -- the CAP and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service Co. and power companies in California, Nevada and Tucson. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 9/10/04

$2.7 million preliminary study of Colorado water needs pummeled by utility managers and environmentalists

The taxpayer-funded Statewide Water Supply Initiative indicates that utilities can provide 90 percent of the water for the state's growth through 2030. That finding, however, drew heavy criticism. Experts said many of the projects designed to meet that need may never get built and some are in competition for the same future water rights. The final report is due Nov. 15. Denver Post_ 9/9/04

August, 2004
Western U.S. drought: Researchers review old reports with an eye to Colorado River's future water sharing

As the ongoing drought drags into a sixth year, the conclusions of a 10-year-old report on the impact of a prolonged water shortage are getting a new look in Colorado. The report, "Coping With a Severe Sustained Drought on the Colorado River," was written by a group of Western water scholars at a time when reservoirs were brimming. It analyzed how states would react to a recurrence of the severe drought of 1579-1600. A 1995 report found that under the Colorado River Compact, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah suffer more than California, Nevada and Arizona.  Denver Post_ 8/30/04

Snow closes mountain roads in Colorado but the early storm doesn't signal an end to drought
It's too early to say whether the rainy summer across most of eastern Colorado will turn into a snowy winter and break a five-year dry spell, climate experts said. Melting snow provides about 80 percent of the water in Colorado's rivers and lakes.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 8/28/04

Denver, Colorado's water board lifts water restrictions, effective Sept. 1, just before its staff delivers a recommendation to raise rates
Other major metro utilities with drought restrictions in place - including Aurora, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins - said they have no immediate plans to end them. Denver Post_ 8/26/04

Weak El Nino forecast by the end of the month: NOAA

The weather pattern distorts wind and rainfall patterns worldwide. El Nino, Spanish for "boy child," is a periodic, abnormal warming of water in the Pacific Ocean, which can last up to 18 months. The last one, from May 2002 through March 2003, caused record rains in Europe and Australia's worst drought in a century. In the United States, it aggravated drought in the Plains states and unleashed heavy storms in the south and east. Reuters_ 8/24/04

The seven states sharing the Colorado River consider cutting water releases to protect Lake Powell during drought
The reduction could help keep Lake Powell, on the Utah-Arizona border, from shrinking further but it could also accelerate a drop in the water level downstream at Lake Mead, the primary water supply for Las Vegas. Don Oster, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, called reducing the flow from Powell one option. He said the upper basin's proposal involved reviewing the operating plan for the river every six months instead of once a year during the drought. AP/Arizona Republic_ 8/23/04

Wet spring and summer take eastern Colorado off the U.S. drought map for the first time since early 2002
The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook map is published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center. The rest of the state appears in the “drought ongoing, some improvement” category. In the June Drought Outlook, most of the state was in the “drought to persist or intensify” category. Colorado Springs Gazette_ 8/20/04

Arizona stashes big share of water underground
Arizona's two largest water providers spilled billions of gallons of water onto dry riverbeds and flat, undeveloped desert over the past decade,.  The water banking program allows Arizona to collect its full share of teh Colorado River even when it doesn't use it and shields the water from the pressures of growth or a long dry spell.  Neighboring states are grumbling. The Arizona Republic _ 8/18/04 (log on required)

July, 2004

Drought may have triggered toxic algae in Nebraska lakes
The unusual blooms of toxic algae in several Nebraska lakes have sickened more than 40 people and killed several dogs, state officials said. Lower water levels create greater concentrations of the naturally occurring blue-green algae, and sunlight reaching to greater depths could stimulate more growth, said Brian McManus, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 7/27/04

Interior Secretary Gale Norton says western U.S. drought will force fast-growing states like Nevada and Arizona to scramble even more to conserve water and secure additional supplies

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey have said the drought could be the worst in five centuries. State and local governments -- not the federal government -- should forge ways to avoid water shortages, Norton said. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 7/23/04

Las Vegas-area schools start thinking artificial turf, dig up grass to save water
A severe drought has the Clark County School District, the largest single water user in southern Nevada, considering a plan to remove more than 2 million square feet of existing turf, a move that would save an estimated 60 million gallons of water a year. The measures come with the water level at Lake Mead expected to drop below 1,125 above sea level by year's end, its lowest point in 39 years. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 7/12/04

South Dakota governor seeks federal drought assistance for 30 counties
Most of the counties are located in western South Dakota. Many are in their fifth consecutive year of drought, the governor said. If the designation is approved, farmers and ranchers in the 30 counties would be eligible for low interest loans and income deferral on the sale of livestock. AP/Aberdeen News_ 7/7/04

Drought may cause Montana river users to 'share sacrifice'
The Blackfoot Challenge, a watershed group that coordinates an emergency drought plan, will ask irrigators to voluntarily reduce their use when flows on the Blackfoot at Bonner drop to 700 cfs. When levels get low enough to dangerously elevate water temperatures, the group will ask fishermen and outfitters to adopt less-intrusive fishing tactics. Missoulian/Billings Gazette_ 7/5/04

Daschle disappointed with Bush adminisration drought response
Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. asked President Bush for help with drought relief, but he said a letter from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman indicates that Bush will not support drought legislation.  AP/Aberdeen News_ 7/2/04

Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns seeks more federal drought assistance from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman for state producers
But the governor said getting more federal drought funding will be an uphill struggle because of federal budget problems and the widening deficit.Johanns has been among the nation's leaders in urging the federal government to implement a national drought policy that would approach drought disasters the same way the federal government deals with other natural disasters, such as floods, tornadoes and hurricanes. Grand Island Independent_ 7/1/04

June, 2004

Welcome rains ease restrictions on Colorado watering, but drought not over
Colorado's largest water utility eased water-use restrictions because of recent rain but
the return of hot, dry weather to the West could drop reservoir levels even further. The region has been stuck in a crippling drought for years. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 6/30/04

Dropping water supplies force Riverside, California to use costly alternatives

The city plans to buy more imported Northern California water and is considering reuse of treated sewage water now discharged into the Santa Ana River. In the past, the utility relied on groundwater in Riverside and San Bernardino to provide 78,000 acre-feet of water to about 230,000 people. The search for new sources is spurred by a drop in the Bunker Hill basin, a vast aquifer that supplies the city but is diminishing. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 6/28/04

Drought sticking around West; too early to tell if El Nino will arrive to spread snow across the southern half of the US next winter
For the winter outlook, the West must look to the Pacific Ocean, where small temperature changes in the water can create an El Nino, which pushes moisture-bearing storms over the Southwest and southern Rockies, or a La Nina, which pushes the moisture north, sometimes into Canada. None of the scientific computer models predict El Nino yet.  AP/San Fraancisco Chronicle_ 6/23/04

Year-long drought declaration lifted for Texas' Edwards Aquifer

Recent rains end drought which reached Stage 2 restrictions that required a 20 percent cut in water use.  News 8 Austin_ 6/22/04

$4 million in new federal grants aim to avoid water conflict throughout the west as drought continues
U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced $4 million in grants among 19 projects as part of the U.S. Interior Department's initiative, Water 2005: Preventing Crisis and Conflict in the West. The grants to irrigation and water districts are intended for projects that will help conserve water, use it more efficiently, and market water where it is most needed.  Arizona Republic_ 6/21/04

Western U.S. governors decry lack of federal drought policy
Drought-aid packages can't always be counted on and low-interest loans don't help with a problem that recurs yearly for farmers and ranchers, said Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns during the annual Western Governors conference. The WGA endorsed a proposal for an early warning system for monitoring and forecasting that also could provide a close-up look at drought impacts. The governors proposed the system as part of a comprehensive federal drought policy they say is needed to replace Congress's current "hit and miss" response. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 6/21/04

Western U.S. governors to discuss drought during annual three-day meeting

will gather beginning Sunday to tackle a number of issues that transcend state borders
The agenda for the Western Governors Association includes a number of issues that transcend state borders and are crucial to the region, but the drought impacts a range of topics from agriculture and fire protection to tourism. AP/North County Times_ 6/18/04

Rain eased drought in some areas of Montana, but it's worse than ever in the southeast

The governor's Drought Advisory Committee concluded recent rains spared many Montana farmers from ruin this year but generally failed to tame the crippling drought. The exception is northeastern Montana where some counties aren't in a drought at all.
Billings Gazette_ 6/18/04

Southern Nevada drought deepening: Alert will increase to a drought emergency in January if the latest water supply projections for the Colorado River come to pass
In its monthly operations report, the Bureau of Reclamation projects that the water level at Lake Mead will finish the year at 1,124.8 feet above sea level, its lowest point in 39 years. Anything below 1,125 feet at the start of a new year would prompt the Southern Nevada Water Authority to declare a drought emergency because no surplus water would be made available from the Colorado River, which supplies the Las Vegas Valley with about 90 percent of its water. Las Vegas Review-Journal_ 6/18/04

Western U.S. drought beats Dust Bowl, could be worst in 500 years
Effects in the Colorado River basin could be even worse than during the Dust Bowl years, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey say. The drought has produced the lowest flow in the Colorado River on record, with an annual average flow of only 5.4 million acre-feet at Lees Ferry, Ariz. During the Dust Bowl years, between 1930 and 1937, the annual flow averaged about 10.2 million acre-feet, the report said. Droughts seldom persist for longer than a decade, the report noted. But that could mean the current drought is only half over. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 6/17/04

Idaho and rest of Western U.S. moving toward longterm warming and less water, researchers says
The West, without question, is moving into a transitional period when precipitation will dwindle and snow will melt earlier, said Phillip Mote, a researcher with Climate Impacts Group from the University of Washington. What that means is management of water in Idaho and throughout the West has to change. The majority of scientists working on the issue agree that the warming trend is human-caused, he said. During the next 50 years, global temperatures could rise 7 degrees, Mote said.  Idaho Mountain Express_ 6/9/04

Colorado snowpack continues to melt away amid heat wave as state's rivers run low
Snowpack comprises more than three-quarters of the water in the state's rivers, streams and reservoirs. But the snowpack was well below average this year, and many rivers and streams are running at half their usual volume. After a dry March, April brought several storms that helped build up the snowpack. But May turned dry again. Now, the already sparse snowpack has dwindled to 12 percent of the 30-year average. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 6/7/04

Western U.S. drought uncovers bits of Nevada history
Months after foundations of buildings in the old Mormon town of St. Thomas became visible near Overton, the subsiding water of Lake Mead reveals a concrete water tank from the construction in 1931 of Hoover Dam in Boulder Basin. Since 1998, when the lake was near capacity, the water level has dropped 80 feet. The Hoover Dam reservoir is at its lowest level since 1968, at 1,129 feet above sea level.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 6/7/04

Las Vegas plans to pipe water, upsetting its unwilling donors
Water agency officials in Las Vegas are scrambling to meet the seemingly unquenchable demand for water, as the region suffers through one of the worst droughts on record. They are also opening old wounds that pit rural areas against one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the nation. Among the plans under consideration by the Southern Nevada Water Authority: drawing groundwater from remote areas, piping it into the Las Vegas area, and compensating farmers for taking land out of production so the water once slated for irrigation can be used by thirsty subdivisions. The plans are triggering protests, just as they did when they were first filed in 1989.  Boston Globe_6/6/04

Utah water situation remains dire despite big rainstorm
Unseasonably warm and dry weather in March devoured much of the winter's snowpack, plunging the state into a sixth straight year of drought. During May, Utah's reservoirs usually gain about 300,000 acre-feet of water from the snowmelt. This year, they gained just 7,900 acre-feet in May. Total rainfall for May stood at 0.95 of an inch -- less than half the normal May precipitation of 2.09 inches.  Salt Lake City Tribune_ 6/2/04

May, 2004

Denver consumers cut water use by 31%: Water restrictions may ease if rains arrive
Wet weather might prompt Denver Water to give customers a third day of lawn watering under the utility's drought restrictions program, which the board adopted in April, board members said. Reservoirs are at 78 percent of capacity, with improvement expected in coming weeks as the mountain snowmelt increases. Denver Post_  5/27/04

Top Bush administration water issues official, Nevada senators to talk drought in Las Vegas
Assistant Interior Secretary Bennett Raley is expected to join Senators Harry Reid and John Ensign at a Las Vegas area wastewater treatment and recycling plant. The Southern Nevada Water Authority has imposed restrictions that it says cut southern Nevada water use 15 percent last year. But the region's still near the limit of the amount of water it can take from the Colorado River under an interstate agreement with Arizona, California and other river states. KRNV Reno_ 5/27/04

Above average rainfall in May gives farmers around Helena, Montana hope but does little to end drought

Two inches fell in eight days raised the Missouri River a bit, along with Canyon Ferry Reservoir. Even so, the reservoir stands 17 feet below full pool. Helena Independent Record_ 5/26/04

Wyoming offers to meet with Montana in water rights dispute
But Wyoming officials said they don't feel they have any obligation to make more water available to senior water rights holders in Montana. Last week, Montana regulators asked Wyoming to shut off pre-1950 junior water rights in the Tongue, Powder and Little Powder rivers to provide much-needed drought relief to senior water rights holders in Montana, who Montana officials say have priority based on the Yellowstone River Compact.  AP/Billings Gazette_ 5/25/04

$900 million Colorado water pipeline hinges on two cities
After years of complicated water trades, legal maneuvers and government bureaucracy, Colorado Springs is poised to see a clear path for its Southern Delivery System, a $900 million pipeline to bring to the city water it already owns in Pueblo Reservoir 43 miles away. But to get the deal through, Colorado Springs must appease Pueblo and Aurora, both with water rights in the river - and the clout to tie up the deal in court. Denver Post_ 5/24/04

Montana asks Wyoming to shut off junior water rights in the Tongue, Powder and Little Powder rivers

The move would provide drought relief to more senior water rights holders in Montana, who officials say have priority. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation hopes it can reach an amicable settlement with Wyoming, but is prepared to take action to protect water rights under a 1950 compact the two states signed.  AP/Casper Star Tribune_ 5/22/04

Drought-stricken New Mexico offers $10 million for ideas to increase state's water supply

The state will entertain proposals from everybody, including local governments, private businesses and backyard inventors. Applicants have until June 11 to submit a proposal. Those that make the first cut will submit more detailed applications in July. The ideas must be based on good science and economics, ready for testing or deployment and able to provide results within 18 months. AP/Albuquerque Journal_ 5/22/04

Texas farmers to sell irrigation water to the city of El Paso for the first time at market price

The agreement up for approval by the El Paso Public Service Board comes after years of on-and-off negotiations between El Paso Water Utilities and the board of the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1, which earlier approved the proposed agreement. El Paso has gotten as much as half its annual drinking water from the irrigation district because of land the city owns and water it has purchased. But a six-year river drought that has nearly emptied the Elephant Butte Reservoir near Truth or Consequences cut the water allotments to landowners and the city in half last year and again this year.  El Paso Times_ 5/22/04

San Francisco Bay-area company plans to build water storage on islands and sell to Las Vegas
In a private meeting last week, representatives of the Delta Wetlands Project pitched an offer in which the drought-stricken Nevada city would buy Delta water to trade for Colorado River water. The plan is considered a long shot by California water officials because of the costs. Contra Costa Times_ 5/21/04 (logon required)

Arizona officials plan to share the pain if reservoirs keep shrinking

There's no immediate threat, officials say, because Arizona won't face a shortage of Colorado River water until 2011. But plans indicate non-Indian farmers would bear the brunt of any shortfall because of the way the Central Arizona Project was set up. The CAP's 336-mile aqueduct pumps river water uphill from Lake Havasu to Phoenix and Tucson, where city residents would be the last to receive cuts. Lakes Mead and Powell were at 89 percent capacity in 2000, but total storage on the Colorado is now 53 percent of capacity, down 6 percentage points from last year. Lake Powell hasn't been this low since 1970 - when the reservoir was filling for the first time. AP/Casa Grande Valley Newspapers, Arizona_ 5/20/04

Great Salt Lake is at lowest level in 34 years
The lake's elevation of 4,196.3 feet above sea level is about a foot lower than last year at this time and the lowest it's been since 1970. The lake's lowest level since measurements began was 4,191.3 in 1963. At its historic peak of 4,211.6 feet in 1987, the lake covered 3,300 square miles. Now it covers only about 1,200 square miles.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 5/19/04

California's Klamath River Basin faces water shortage after hopeful early spring
In a reversal of previous projections, the Bureau of Reclamation revised water estimates for the Klamath Basin Project and changed the 2004 water year-type for the area from a "below average" to a "dry" water year. Klamath Lake is "severely depleted." Mt. Shasta News_ 5/19/04

Water supply forecast down again for Northwest
Water supply forecasts for the entire Columbia River Basin have been below normal this spring, pointing to a difficult summer ahead for electricity management and protection of threatened fish. Runoff at six hydroelectric dams in the basin bottomed out at 63 percent of normal for January through July 2004, according to a forecast produced by the National Weather Service's River Forecast Center and presented to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 5/13/04

Nebraska governor seeks federal drought disaster designation for 21 counties

Gov. Mike Johanns is seeking federal agricultural disaster designations for 21 western Nebraska counties due to ongoing drought conditions. It follows the Governor's signing of a drought emergency declaration last week. He also unveiled a drought readiness and response plan at that time. Press Release_ 5/10/04

Yakima, Washington water basin forecast continues below average

Flow figures, current snowpack and 2004 precipitation data indicate junior water users will only receive 70 percent of their supplies. KAPPTV_ 5/9/04

For 28 cows and precious Arizona water, Wally Klump vows to sit in jail
"Sometimes a man has to die for what he believes in before anyone knowed he truly believed it," says the 70-year-old rancher who refuses to remove cows from federal land. Arizona is expected to grow by 40 percent in the next 20 years and officials wonder where the future's water will come from. Recycled toilet water is one idea. The retirement of ranchers is another. About 20,000 ranchers have their cattle grazing on federal land in the West, and how the land and water regulations are being enforced is the key to their survival or death.  New York Times_ 5/9/04 (logon required)

Eleven water districts in Colorado's Douglas and Arapahoe counties agree to water-sharing strategy to cut use of aquifers
The traditionally fragmented water districts, which serve a total of about 180,000 residents and businesses, will band together as the South Metro Water Supply Authority to build the area's water supply through conservation and to buy renewable surface water from the South Platte and Blue rivers, officials said. Denver Post_ 5/7/04

Colorado water survey predicts Denver area needs enough additional water for 100,000 families by 2030
The region could need much more if Denver and other cities fail to develop water projects already on their planning books, according to a groundbreaking report on the state's water supplies. The $2.7 million undertaking is the first comprehensive look at how much water the state will need in the future, how much it has now, and how any gaps in supplies might be closed. Rocky Mountain News_ 5/6/04

Across the western U.S., climate change has pushed temperatures up and water levels down

"Humans can take a drought and make it even worse," said Tom Whitham, a regents' professor of biology at Northern Arizona University. The West is unique in that it depends so heavily on snowpack -- melting snow provides three-fourths of the water in streams. Over the past 35 years, temperatures across the region have inched up 1 to 3 degrees, causing the snow to melt as much as three weeks earlier, said Kelly Redmond, regional climatologist for the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, Nevada. AP/CNN_ 5/5/04

Nebraska governor to declare drought emergency; Announces drought readiness plan

The Governor's drought emergency declaration activates emergency funding to address unmet drought-related needs. The declaration also means that state government is prepared to assist communities in dealing with drought related emergencies.  Press Release_ 5/3/04

Water Study: No Easy Fix
Process raises suspicions on both sides of the divide. The Colorado and Gunnison river basins - long thought to be a solution for future Front Range water needs - have little of the precious liquid to spare, according to the preliminary results of a new state study."We all knew this was going to be the study from hell," said Bill Ferguson, Ouray County commissioner. "But everyone's concerned about how this data is going to be used."  Rocky Mountain News _  5/1/04

April, 2004

States That Use Colorado River Water Need Conservation Plan
The federal government is prepared to impose water restrictions along the Colorado River if Arizona and the other states that use it don't come up with a plan of their own.
States insist they are making progress.  AP/Tucson Citizen_ 4/30/04

Salt River Project asks judge to stop more than a dozen Verde Valley landowners from taking water from the Verde River

Drought and illegal use could leave Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe and other cities that rely on the river for drinking water at risk of running short, utility says. The battle over the Verde is part of a mammoth court case that marked its 30th anniversary April 26. The case will eventually settle tens of thousands of individual water rights claims on the Verde, Salt and Gila rivers, ending disputes that, in some instances, date to the 19th century. Arizona Republic_ 4/28/04

Bush administration threatens unilateral water cutbacks on California, Arizona and Nevada if the three states can't plan to deal with historic drought on the Colorado River
Following five years of dry weather, the two largest reservoirs on the Colorado are roughly half-empty and dropping fast, and Interior Department officials are urging water agencies to work together on a contingency plan or have one imposed on them. Sacramento Bee_ 4/27/04

Tucson, Arizona groundwater levels on the rise, although a long-term drought could cause future problems
Last year, Tucson Water launched a full-fledged water recharge program in Avra Valley. The program, which releases about 56 million gallons of Colorado River water per day to be absorbed into the ground, has helped raise groundwater levels citywide by an average of about one foot, said Mitch Basefsky, a spokesman for Tucson Water. Inside Tucson Business_ 4/26/04

Colorado's top water users must plan for the unthinkable: a federal demand that it shut down its water users to provide more water for California, Arizona and Nevada
Under the new Colorado River compact, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico are required to allow an average of 7.5 million acre-feet per year to flow past a river gauge below Lake Powell for use by California, Arizona and Nevada. The four upper-basin states have met their compact obligations during the five-year drought by releasing water from Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona. But the lake is expected to fall below its current 42 percent of capacity by year's end. And federal Bureau of Reclamation officials say the lake could drain completely if the drought continues for two or three more years.  Denver Post_ 4/25/04

Utah governor urges state residents to conserve water
Governor Olene Walker also signed an executive order for state agencies to cut water use. KSL-TV_ 4/23/04

Lamar, Colorado skips the preliminaries and jumps straight to stage three water restrictions

Almost all outdoor water uses are banned except landscape watering which is limited to two days a week. Lamar Daily News_ 4/17/04
For the third straight year, millions of Coloradans face water restrictions as Denver joins other cities enacting controls
Weather and water experts have warned of a summer that could be as dry as 2002, when reservoirs were drained, crops withered and wildfires swept through hundreds of thousands of acres. AP/Rocky Mountain News_ 4/14/04

Weekend snowstorms fail to halt third straight year of water restrictions in Aurora, Colorado
The city's utilities department will send out letters to its 69,000 customers warning of tough restrictions that will take effect May 1. Rocky Mountain News_ 4/13/04

University of California, Santa Cruz, climate study shows disappearing Arctic sea ice could reduce water availability in western U.S.
The study highlights the vulnerability of western states, which depend on winter precipitation for their water supplies, to changes in the regional climate. The results also show the surprising ways in which a small change in one component of the global climate system can affect particular regions, said Lisa Sloan, professor of Earth sciences at UCSC.  Press Release_ 4/13/04

South Dakota governor"concerned" about likelihood of 5th drought year
State workers are already planning how to move water around western South Dakota and help ranchers find feed if it's another dry year, Gov. Mike Rounds said Monday. AP/Aberdeen News_  4/12/04

Six-year drought reigns across much of West
From the brittle hillsides of Southern California to the drying fields of Idaho, from Montana to New Mexico, a relentless drought is worsening across most of the West where a once-promising snowpack is shrinking early, water supplies are dwindling and the threat of wildfires is already on the rise. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 4/10/04

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation: Wyoming drought outlook bleak
There is no end in sight to the drought conditions that have plagued Wyoming for the past few years, a Bureau official says. Snowpack in the North Platte and Wind/Bighorn river basins are substantially lower than their historical averages, and reservoirs are expected to be drawn down to their lowest points in years by the end of September, according to Ed Kouma of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation field office in Mills. Casper Star-Tribune_ 4/7/04
The Southern Nevada Water Authority says Las Vegas won't hurt rural areas by pumping more water
Nevada State Engineer Hugh Ricci has said he will decide by the end of the year whether to let Las Vegas tap groundwater rights it claimed 15 years ago. The decision could prompt court appeals no matter how he rules. AP/Las Vegas Sun_ 4/8/04

How cities in the western U.S. deal with drought
Desert cities and mountain towns are watching water supplies. But their actions differ, with conservation measures ranging from strictly enforced regulations to polite attempts at persuasion. Reno Gazette-Journal 4/5/04

Lake Powell is now more than half empty and if the western U.S. drought persists could be dry by 2007
That would propel Colorado - and 30 million other Westerners who depend on the Colorado River for their drinking water - into an uncertain future punctuated by recurring water shortages and decades of litigation, experts warn. Denver Post 4/4/04

Snowmelt disappoints California but fills reservoirs
The California Cooperative Snow Survey's April 1 survey, taken at the theoretical end of the winter storm system when the snowpack is deepest, shows a pack that is only 86 percent of normal. Even so, this year was far better than the 2003 season, when the snowpack turned out to be only 65 percent of normal in California. San Francisco Chronicle 4/3/04

The general manager of Arizona's largest water provider accuses the governor of ignoring critical Western water issues
David "Sid" Wilson said that since taking office 15 months ago, Gov. Janet Napolitano has yet to meet with him or anyone from the Central Arizona Project, which delivers Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson. He characterized her administration as arrogant, ignorant and indifferent when it comes to water. Napolitano's spokeswoman said the governor is not ignoring the CAP nor water issues in general and is aware of specific concerns Wilson raised about a federal water project. Arizona Republic 4/2/04
Colorado snow pack sends 'grim' message as state enters fifth year of drought
The statewide snowpack - a critical indicator of fresh water supplies - measured just 65 percent of average April 1, well below the 94 percent of average recorded one year ago, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Rocky Mountain Newa 4/2/04

Arizona may be on verge of its worst drought on record
Salt River Project hydrologist Charlie Ester said four of the five driest years in the past century have occurred in the past decade. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_4/1/04

Northern Nevada enters fifth year of drought
Though the winter season got off to a promising start, the storms largely dried up after the first of the year. What snow did fall in the Sierra was followed by periods of warm, dry conditions that quickly diminished the snowpack.
March 31 marked the end of the northern Nevada's traditional wet season. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_4/1/04

March, 2004

California appeals court upholds right of Los Angeles to get more water during a drought than San Diego
The case centers on the formula used by the Metropolitan Water District to determine water rights. Because real estate in Los Angeles is more expensive, that city has rights to more water than San Diego County. San Diego Union-Tribune 3/26/04

Las Vegas-area poll finds overwhelming support for drought restrictions
In the most lopsided result, 77 percent of Clark County voters said they would support a limit on water permits for new construction until the drought restrictions are lifted. Las Vegas Review Journal 3/22/04

Las Vegas water myth: Hotel water shows get a bum rap. Blame the grass.
Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager Pat Mulroy says in reality, hotel-casinos consume a very small proportion of the water used here. Las Vegas Review Journal 3/21/04

Drought to continue in West, lower risk of flooding in Midwest
In addition, above-normal precipitation is likely in the far Northwest and below normal likely in Texas, parts of surrounding states, and most of Louisiana and Florida.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle 3/19/04

West Faces Drought, Wildfires - NOAA
Drought conditions blanketing much of the Western United States are not expected to improve this spring. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned in its spring weather outlook, which covers the April-June period, that above average precipitation during the winter has done little to improve multi-year drought conditions in Western states such as Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho and Montana. Reuters 3/19/04

Reno and Sparks, Nevada officials order crackdown on water wasters
People who let water run down the street from their lawns, water their lawns on the wrong day or at the wrong time will get a warning the first time, a $25 fine the second time and $75 for a third offense. And that’s not all. After they're caught three times, they’ll also get a water meter. Reno Gazette-Journal 3/18/04

Drought over in some states, Others face summer water worries
Areas in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Nevada are of particular concern to officials who told a Senate subcommittee Tuesday that prolonged drought will cause serious problems in coming years. Scripps Howard/infoZine 3/16/04

Feature: Stubborn drought choking the western U.S; What is the longterm impact?
Withered hulks of ponderosa and pinon pines dot the mountains of northern Arizona, victims of a persistent drought that is entering its sixth year in the West and raising fundamental questions about how habitable the booming region truly is. Philadelphia Inquirer 3/12/04

Federal official says West water woes likely to continue
Although the West's drought is easing slightly, communities will continue to face water challenges because of booming populations and endangered species protection, an Interior Department official said. AP/Las Vegas Sun 3/10/04

February, 2004

Normal spring rain and snow will fill Denver's reservoirs to 92% of capacity. Officials still drought wary. Rocky Mountain News 2/18/04

January, 2004

Colorado wrestles with water problems in a drought year.   Salt Lake Tribune 1/30/04

Rival California water districts reach settlement. New agreement clears way for $690 million plan to boost water supplies during droughts. Contra Costa Times 1/28/04

Denver's new $164 million water recycling plant adds water to drought area. It goes on line next month. Rocky Mountain News 1/28/04

Snow in the Rockies not helping Denver. Officials say supplies to the Front Range are about like two years ago. That was a dry year. Denver Post 1/19/04

Colorado Supreme Court upholds state's right to order conservation in the town of Golden. Action two years ago was taken during severe drought. Rocky Mountain News 1/13/04

Early forecast calls for more water in Rio Grande. Snow pack in New Mexico and Colorado up. Two states provide 70% of river's water. Last year flow was 10% of normal. AP/Star Telegram 1/9/04
Colorado snow pack best since 1997. But experts warn: "You're not out of the drought yet." Durango Herald 1/8/04

Colorado drought in 2002 the worst in 300 years. Trees tell the tale. Summit Daily News 1/4/04

California snowpack well above normal. State depends on Sierra snow to fill drinking water and irrigation channels. San Jose Business Journal 1/2/04


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