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NIDIS Intermountain West
Drought Early Warning System
August 7, 2018

Condition Monitoring Reports

Condition Monitoring Reports are submitted to CoCoRaHS by volunteers who are observing conditions in the region near where they take their observations. View Current Condition Monitoring Map.

Impacts Reports

Highway 285 Observations

Driving south on 285 on Sunday, I observed that South Park seemed extremely dry.  Grasses were yellow in most spots with some brown patches scattered throughout.  Grounds looked very dry and dusty.  Crossing over the pass into the Arkansas Valley, conditions improved.  This area is likely climatologically wetter and greener.  But the native grasses appeared taller as well, possibly benefiting from rains that were missing South Park.  Most of Chaffee County didn't look too bad.  Crossing over the pass into Saguache County and descending down into the San Luis Valley, conditions appeared dry, but noticeably better than what I'd observed in South Park.  Indeed, many areas of the San Luis Valley are extremely dry, but I did see many herds grazing (i.e., there is still pasture for them to graze on) and irrigated alfalfa fields seemed in decent condition.  Driving back north through the area on Tuesday afternoon, there was little change in the San Luis Valley.  However, South Park grasses had seemed to perk up a little bit from decent storms passing over both Monday and Tuesday.  In Chaffee County, near Nathrop, a woman described the ditch outside her shop looking like a running river during the thunderstorm that had recently passed.  But with my visit only 30 minutes later, it was mostly dry again. - Becky Bolinger

Notes from Southwest Drought Tour

* Hay currently costing about $220 a ton when it’s normally around $100.
* One rancher’s herd is typically around 750 cattle.  He’s sold 200 already and will likely sell off 200 more.  Last time he culled the herd to this level, it took him almost 10 years to fully recover.  Because he has a special genetic breed that can survive the conditions and climate, he can’t just go buy more cattle from Texas or somewhere else.
* Irrigated crops are struggling as well.  We visited a crop, with a more senior water right, that got irrigated once at the beginning of the season.
* Wells are doing okay since the previous year was better.  But creeks are dry.  Downstream exchanges can’t happen, even if there is a water right and water upstream is available.
* One instance, there is a creek that crosses into New Mexico. The Compact says that 50% of the flow measured at one spot must cross the state line.  Problem is, the creek dries up before the state line.  So, how to deliver the water and meet the compact is a challenge.
* Lots of comparisons to the 2002 drought.  I think most here think this is the worst they’ve ever seen.
* While visiting the burn scar, a plume of smoke started rising. Apparently, the area is at a high risk for reburn. Speculation was that a smoldering tree stump could have reignited with a gust of wind or lightning from scattered storms over the last couple of days could have caused it.
* A guy brought samples of what the runoff looks like downstream from the burn scar after a thunderstorm.  One sample shows the sludge that comes down the river.  He also talked about watching the water over some of the worst burn areas.  Water would bead up and roll down the hill, looking like a ball bearing.  Not infiltrating the soils at all.
* Drought and fire have impacted the tourism/rec industry as well.  A guy working for the Durango-Silverton Railroad talked. Because of the fire, they had to close for 40 days, which cost them an estimated 40,000 visitors and about $6 million in revenue.  A woman who works for the ski resorts also spoke of the struggles they’re facing.  They had low numbers in the winter because of lack of snow.  Then, when they were hoping to ramp up their summer recreation activities, they had to close down because of the fires.

Kiowa County, FSA Report

The central part of the county has received some beneficial moisture this past week.  A producer just north of Galatea has registered 7 inches in a little over a week. 

The far western portion of the county hasn’t received nearly as much.  The Arlington area where you have the D4 received only 2-7 tenths in the past two weeks.  It is still very dry over there. The eastern portion of the county has areas that are dry and haven’t been getting the rains.   

It is very difficult to get a feeling as I live maybe .75 miles from the office.  We have a NWS weather station in the back of the office.  Sunday night at my house I got 7 tenths – here at the office 4 tenths.  That is the story -  spotty rains.  It will absolutely dump buckets at one place and 1 mile from there – they get nothing.