Extreme Drought Area Grows

Ten percent of Colorado in extreme drought; entire state at some level of drought


From a recent press release from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District:

The U.S. Drought Monitor expanded the area in northwest Colorado that is designated as being in extreme drought, growing 3 percent in the last week to cover about ten percent of the state. The May 29 map, released Thursday, shows 100 percent of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought condition.

The extreme drought area abuts Eagle County and includes most of Garfield, Rio Blanco, and Routt counties as well as portions of Moffat, Pitkin, and Mesa counties. Drought intensity in Eagle County is D2, severe, and D3, extreme – just on the western boundary – on a scale of D0 to D4.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is one of several drought monitoring tools produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center that helps people assess drought severity and impacts. Another tool is the Vegetation Drought Response Index that depicts vegetation stress across the contiguous United States. The vegetation condition in Eagle County is described as pre-drought, moderate drought and severe drought.

Should drought conditions persist, water available for irrigation and other outdoor uses may be less than normal or unavailable this year. However, reservoir storage remains strong throughout most of the state– 112 percent of average according to the May 2012 Water Availability Task Force Drought Update. As a result, many water providing utilities aren’t implementing mandatory water use restrictions. Back in early April, Chris Woodka of the Pueblo Chieftain reported:

“As we all know, water is one of our most precious resources,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “And, even though we don’t anticipate any restrictions on irrigation this year, we encourage all of our customers to use water very wisely and not waste it.”

Water providers and others across the state are encouraging wise water use. Here’s a brief list of resources and actions that some folks are taking across the state. What’s happening near you? What other resources are out there? Have you seen impacts of drought?

  • The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District is currently following normal year-round Water Use Regulations. For more information go to www.erwsd.org or call Customer Service at 970-477-5451.
  • As of April 25, Denver Water declared a Stage 1 Drought— this calls for customers to voluntarily reduce their water use. Of course, Denver Water is famous for their ‘Use Only What You Need’ campaign, a marketing effort that has helped reduce water consumption by about 20 percent over the past six years.
  •  Aurora Water has permanent watering restrictions in place to conserve water every year. Aurora prohibits residents from watering more than 3 days a week and does not anticipate additional restrictions in 2012. Aurora does have some exciting rebate programs to encourage customers to save water– through their xeriscape rebate program, qualified customers may receive up to $1 for every square foot of highly watered turf they replace with low water use plant material.
  •   Colorado State University Extension has compiled drought tip sheets to help you with everything from storing food in case of emergency, feeding cattle during drought, irrigating your landscape wisely and more.
  • The Colorado Water Trust is piloting a program in 2012 to try and keep streams flowing this summer. CWT is using Colorado’s short-term leasing statute to put water back in the state’s rivers while compensating water users at fair market value.
  • The Aspen City Council recently adopted an ordinance to encourage water conservation. In the event of a water shortage, Aspen will be able to penalize water overuse by high quantity customers with higher rates. Read about it in the Aspen Daily News.
  • The Grand Valley’s Drought Response Information Project (DRIP) offers water conservation tips and best management practices.
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