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Conditions are Ripe For High Wildfire Season Come September

The U.S. national drought early-warning information system, called NIDIS, gave a rundown Thursday on when much of the Southwest will experience conditions that heighten the potential for wildfire.

Drought is one of the main drivers because less water means drier soils, drier plants and drier air, all conditions that fuel wildfire.

Adjusting Past Hydrology for Changes in Climate

Segal’s Law: “Someone with one watch knows what time it is. Someone with two watches is never sure.”  Time is certain, but its estimation and measurement are uncertain, yet we are not in total ignorance. Many water management and regulation decisions require an understanding of current and future hydrology.

‘Extreme Year’: Past 12 Months Among the Driest Ever in California History

The current ongoing two-year dry period in California, punctuated by the third-driest water year on record for the Central Sierra, is part of California’s overall arid fate so far in the 21st century, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

The Golden State’s hydrology now increasingly resembles conditions in the Colorado River Basin this century, where multiple, consecutive, drier-than-average years are mixed with an occasional wet year. California’s last wet water year was 2016-2017, the second-wettest on record.

California Weighs Changes for New Water Rights Permits in Response to a Warmer and Drier Climate

As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply. A report for the State Water Resources Control Board recommends tailoring new water rights permits to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology. And it warns that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing climate could require existing rights holders to curtail diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.

Feds Start 2021 with Light Water Supply for Valley Farmers

Valley farmers had low expectations heading into the spring. Federal water authorities likely met them, to say the least.

Tuesday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced its first water allocations for farmers and water users along the Central Valley Project.

Light snowpack is, once again, the culprit, Federal officials said.

“Although we had a couple of precipitation-packed storms in January and early February, we are still well below normal for precipitation and snowfall this year,” said Bureau region director Ernest Conant. “We will monitor the hydrology as the water year progresses and continue to look for opportunities for operational flexibility.”

Is California Heading for a Multi-Year Drought?

Yes, California will have another multi-year drought.  California has immense hydrologic variability, with more droughts and floods per average year than any other part of the country.  California’s water users, managers, and regulators should always be prepared for droughts (and floods).  Eventually, California will have a multi-year drought worse than any we have ever seen.

After the Blazes: Poisoned Water and ‘a Flood on Steroids’

Historic wildfires raging from California to Colorado are weakening watersheds and setting the stage for deadly mudslides and flooding and, in some places, threatening to poison critical water supplies.

‘The Pie Keeps Shrinking’: Lake Mead’s Low Level Will Trigger Water Cutbacks for Arizona, Nevada

Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will again receive less water from the Colorado River next year under a set of agreements intended to help boost the level of Lake Mead, which now stands at just 40% of its full capacity.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation released projections on Friday showing that Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, will be at levels next year that continue to trigger moderate cutbacks in the two U.S. states and Mexico.

Complex Dynamics of Water Shortages Highlighted in Study

Within the Colorado River basin, management laws dictate how water is allocated to farms, businesses and homes. Those laws, along with changing climate patterns and demand for water, form a complex dynamic that has made it difficult to predict who will be hardest hit by drought.

Cornell engineers have used advanced modeling to simulate more than 1 million potential futures – a technique known as scenario discovery – to assess how stakeholders who rely on the Colorado River might be uniquely affected by changes in climate and demand as a result of management practices and other factors.

Can a New Approach to Managing California Reservoirs Save Water and Still Protect Against Floods?

Many of California’s watersheds are notoriously flashy – swerving from below-average flows to jarring flood conditions in quick order. The state needs all the water it can get from storms, but current flood management guidelines require reservoirs to dump water each winter to make space for flood flows that may not come. However, new tools and operating methods could lead the way to a redefined system that improves both water supply and flood protection capabilities.