Tag: streamflows

How does global warming affect flows in the Rio Grande?

New study to help water planners in changing climate

A 2016 Landsat 8 image of the Lower Rio Grande canyons courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

There are more and more signs that global warming triggered a step-change in many natural systems in the 1980s. A new study, led by scientists with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, tracked a big change in flows in the Rio Grande watershed, a key source of water in New Mexico and Texas.

According to the study, the percentage of precipitation that becomes streamflow in the Upper Rio Grande watershed has fallen more steeply than at any point in at least 445 years.

In another recent study, European researchers showed how major lakes across Central Europe warmed dramatically starting about that same time, and the meltdown of Arctic ice has also accelerated rapidly since then. Continue reading “How does global warming affect flows in the Rio Grande?”


Colorado: Big flows expected in Blue River

Good news for boaters

Healthy streamflows and good boating in the Blue River Basin. @bberwyn photo.
Blue River snowpack still growing.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Late-season storms have helped boost snowpack in the Blue River to near last year’s level, promising healthy runoff and flows in Summit County, according to Denver Water.

The effects of the steady barrage of spring storms is already showing up the Lower Blue River, where flows are increasing due to increased releases from Dillon Reservoir, according to Denver Water, which won’t be diverting water through the Roberts Tunnel until mid-July at the earliest. Continue reading “Colorado: Big flows expected in Blue River”

West: USGS streamflow monitoring faces challenges

Budget crunch forces hundreds of stations to shut down, many more threatened by lack of funding

Click on the map to visit an interactive version with site-specific information.
Scott Hummer, the former Blue River Basin water commissioner for the State Engineer’s Office, checks a USGS gage on Tenmile Creek in Frisco, Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —Unless it’s in a bucket or a measuring cup, water isn’t exactly the easiest substance to track. Ever-changing, from vapor to solid to liquid, and ever-moving, from stream to river to lake to ocean, it can be tough to measure.

So for years, ranchers, town planners and even angler and kayakers have relied on a huge network of streamflow gages maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey to help monitor water quality, measure and predict peak spring runoff and flooding potential, or even just the best time run some whitewater or to go fishing. In some places, the streamflow information is critical to helping protect endangered species.

But that network is shrinking, due mainly to budget constraints that already forced the USGS to shut down stations around the country. Just in the past few years, the agency stopped operating 133 water quality stations, many in New Mexico and Florida. Continue reading “West: USGS streamflow monitoring faces challenges”

Changing of snowmelt, runoff timing threatens fish

Snake River in Summit County, Colorado.
Earlier snowmelt and runoff in Colorado streams could mean big trouble for fish. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Changes in runoff timing have been studied for impacts to reservoir operations and diversions, but what about aquatic and riparian ecoystems?

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Earlier snowmelt and runoff in Colorado have been well-documented over the past few years and the finding were reinforced once again in a press release from the U.S. Geological Survey last week.

Water managers are already adjusting reservoir and diversion operations to account for the changes, but there’s been little discussion of the potential impacts to fish and other species that have evolved in tandem with historic streamflow regimes. Continue reading “Changing of snowmelt, runoff timing threatens fish”