Drought

  • After six years, Colorado River drought plan finally signed at Hoover Dam
  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife inspectors already finding invasive mussels
  • Interview with expert about Red Flag laws

  • Trump praises Colorado law allowing Canadian prescription drugs
  • New restrictions on winter driving along I70 set to begin on Sept. 1
  • Deal for drought mitigation signed today in Las Vegas
  • Oprah Winfrey gives graduation address at Colorado College
  • Access to mental health care for men in Colorado to be expanded
  • Governor appoints interim Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

  • House budget offers funding for full day kindergarten across state
  • Governor Jared Polis signs SB 181, oil and gas regulations could take years
  • Federal government approves Colorado River Basin drought agreement
  • Iconic chapel at Air Force Academy has unique history

  • Capitol Coverage of new driving regulations for I70 corridor during winter
  • Accidental wetland created in Colorado River Delta
  • Colorado River Compact states worked for years on Drought Mitigation plan

  • Colorado River Drought Mitigation Plan goes to President for approval
  • Delta County School Board hears from parents about key issues in district
  • Life changing for residents in Colorado River Delta in Mexico

  • Democrats fail in their effort to repeal state death penalty
  • Western lawmakers pitch Drought Contigency Plan to Federal government
  • Pilot program in West End helps unemployed miners get back to work

  • New oil and gas regulations causing strong debate on both sides
  • Feature story on Arizona and California failure to meet drought deadline
  • Controversial bill that would end death penalty in state taken up again
  • EPA officials working to clean up drinking water in El Paso County

  • Controversial sex education bill going through State House
  • Cloud seeding science offers possible drought solutions
  • Fourth Democratic candidate declares intent to run against Gardner
  • Montrose committee holds public meetings about police department

  • Representative-elect Matt Soper faces residency challenge
  • Colorado Seniors pushing back against plan to rollback prescription drug discounts
  • DMEA asks state commission to help decide fee for buying out of contract with Tri State
  • Seven Southwestern states meet in Las Vegas to discuss drought mitigation plan

  • Troops from Colorado Springs headed to Mexican border
  • Federal drought mitigation plans might not be enough
  • Enrollment for Affordable Care Act begins today
  • Colorado voters will have say in state health care benefits

photo of Lance
Suze Smith

Host Jill Spears and gardeners Lance Swigart & Lulu Vockhausen discuss hot, dry summer gardening tips.

  • State senators likely to trim 'Christmas tree' budget in debate
  • CU scientists say one third of animal species in country face possible extinction
  • Feature on farmers facing 18 year drought in Southwest

Update 5.13.2016: Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed legislation finally legalizing rain barrels. Our original story continues below.

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Colorado is the only state in the country where it is illegal to capture rainwater for use at a later time. State lawmakers are once again debating whether to allow residents to use rain barrels to collect precipitation that falls from their roofs.

"This is really straightforward," said Representative Jessie Danielson (D-Wheat Ridge), one of the main sponsor's of House Bill 16-1005 [.pdf]. "You could use that water when you see fit, for your tomato plants or flower gardens."

KVNF Regional Newscast: Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015

Oct 7, 2015

  • Former Delta chief of police received $50K severance package
  • Local organizations hope to create business and resource center in Delta
  • Governor heads aboard on trade mission
  • Demonstration plot help farmers optimizes, prepare for drought
  • Nonprofit announces $20 million prize for CO2 innovation

Colorado's South Platte River basin is a powerhouse for crops and cattle. Massive reservoirs quench the region's thirst, with farm fields generally first in line. Wildlife? It's often last.

A small win-win though is giving waterfowl a little more room at the watering hole. It's a program that creates warm winter ponds for migrating ducks — then gives the water back, in time for summer crops.

Colorado's ban on collecting rain from residential rooftops has been a contentious topic at the statehouse, and a proposed bill for 2016 means it will likely be debated once again.

"Colorado is the only western state where rain barrels are illegal," said Drew Beckwith, a water policy manager with the nonprofit Western Resource Advocates.

"Every other western state that has our water laws has them legal, and it has not caused the Earth to come crashing to a halt."

So why is there so much controversy over collecting rainwater? The sticking point is whether doing so impacts downstream water users.

Rural Tulare County, Calif., is now being called the epicenter of this drought.

That's because at least 1,300 residential wells have run dry, affecting at least 7,000 people. When your taps start spitting out air here, Paul Boyer and his team are who you call.

Under a punishing midafternoon sun, Boyer helps muscle down five of these hefty 400-pound water tanks from a semi-truck flatbed. He helps run a local nonprofit that's in charge of distributing these 2,500-gallon water tanks to drought victims.

In 1922, seven Western states — Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming and California — drew up an agreement on how to divide the waters of the Colorado River. But there was one big problem with the plan: They overestimated how much water the river could provide.

As a result, each state was promised more water than actually exists. This miscalculation — and the subsequent mismanagement of water resources in those states — has created a water crisis that now affects nearly 40 million Americans.

For some people, too much salt is bad for health. Too much salt is also bad for growing most crops.

Salty soil is a common problem for farmers in the arid West and it's gotten worse because of the ongoing drought. Water is necessary to flush salts out; without it, salt builds up over time.

In New Mexico, one crop that's suffering is the state's beloved chile pepper.

Rudy Mussi is not the California farmer you've been hearing about. He is not fallowing all his fields or ripping up his orchards due to a lack irrigation water.

For Mussi and most of his neighbors in the bucolic Sacramento Delta, the water is still flowing reliably from the pumps and into the canals lining the fields.

"If you had to pick a place where you would say, 'Okay, where should I stick my farm?' You'd come to the Delta," he says.

Copyright 2018 CPR News. To see more, visit CPR News.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In the 19th century, before Americans fully settled the West, some called it the Great American Desert. It wasn't considered fertile enough to develop.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The historic four-year drought in California has been grabbing the headlines lately, but there's a much bigger problem facing the West: the now 14-year drought gripping the Colorado River basin.

One of the most stunning places to see its impact is at the nation's largest reservoir, Lake Mead, near Las Vegas. At about 40 percent of capacity, it's the lowest it's been since it was built in the 1930s.

California is parched. Wells are running dry. Vegetable fields have been left fallow and lawns are dying. There must be some villain behind all this, right?

Of course there is. In fact, have your pick. As a public service, The Salt is bringing you several of the leading candidates. They have been nominated by widely respected national publications and interest groups.

There's just one problem: Not all of these shady characters live up to their nefarious job description. Let us explain.

1. Almonds

The water outlook in drought-racked California just got a lot worse: Snowpack levels across the entire Sierra Nevada are now the lowest in recorded history — just 6 percent of the long-term average. That shatters the previous low record on this date of 25 percent, set in 1977 and again last year.

The message from park rangers, amateur metal detectors and regular fisherman at California's Lake Perris is unanimous: The water is lower than they've ever seen it.

Just when we thought craft beer couldn't get any zanier, we learn that Oregonians want to make it with treated wastewater.

Clean Water Services of Hillsboro says it has an advanced treatment process that can turn sewage into drinking water. The company, which runs four wastewater treatment plants in the Portland metro area, wants to show off its "high-purity" system by turning recycled wastewater into beer.

Ask Northern California sheep rancher Dan Macon what this drought is doing to his pocketbook and he'll break it down for you real quick.

"It's like if you woke up one morning and lost 40 percent of the equity in your house," he says. "Our primary investment in our ranch is in these sheep and we just sold 40 percent of our stock."

The past few years have been California's driest on record. Forecasters predict that punishing droughts like the current one could become the new norm.

The state uses water rationing and a 90-year-old water distribution system to cope until the rains come. The system is a huge network of dams, canals and pipes that move water from the places it rains and snows to places it typically doesn't, like farms and cities.

Imagine flushing the toilet and watching sand come up. That's what happened to Pam Vieira, who lives south of Modesto, Calif. Her water well has slowed to a trickle, and you can see the sand in the tank of her toilet.

"Sometimes we have brown water," Vieira says. "Sometimes we have no water."

Vieira is one of as many as 2 million rural California residents who rely on private domestic wells for drinking water.

Some of those people are among the hardest hit by the state's severe drought, as wells across the state's Central Valley farm belt start to go dry.

California's historic drought is partly to blame for the recent rise in West Nile virus infections, public health officials say. There have been 311 cases reported so far, double the number of the same time last year, and the most of any state in the country.

West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes. They contract the virus when they feed on infected birds, then spread it to the birds they bite next. A shortage of water can accelerate this cycle.

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