Overheated creeks dangerous for salmon populations
from the Yakima Herald-Republic
August 25, 2014
CLE ELUM, Wash. — Walking along the North Fork of the Teanaway River, it’s easy to see its waters sparkling in the sunshine.
It may look like a healthy forest creek, but the state actually considers it a polluted waterway because of a surprising culprit: heat.
Salmon and steelhead prefer cold waters and too much heat can kill them, so finding a way to keep creeks cool is a top priority for scientists working to rebuild the Yakima Basin populations.
“You can have great habitat, but if the water is too warm, you are still going to have sick salmonids,” said Jane Creech, an environmental specialist with the state Department of Ecology. “If we really want to bring salmon back to spawn in the upper reaches, if we want the fry and smolts to rear, the water has to be colder.”
Creech just wrote a proposal for reducing the heat pollution in most of the Yakima River Basin’s upper tributaries in Kittitas County.
Although it may sounds strange, under the federal Clean Water Act, states have to monitor heat pollution the same way they watch for factory wastewater or farm runoff and fix problems if they are found.
“If the water is too hot, it makes the fish sick, so it’s a real pollutant, but it is different because it comes from the sun’s rays,” Creech said.
Water naturally warms as it flows downstream from the frigid headwaters and snowmelt high in the Cascades, but roads, logging and clearing for development or agriculture can expose streams to too much sunlight.
The solutions, Creech said, include planting more bushes and trees for shade, increasing water flow, restoring creeks to a more natural state and preventing erosion from roads that slough sediment into the water.
A similar plan was written for the Teanaway River watershed in 2002 and it spurred projects designed to cool the river’s water.
The new plan is based on a decade of temperature research in the region’s creeks showing that many tributaries can get too warm in the summer to provide healthy habitat for young salmon.
Each fish species has its own ideal temperature range, said Eric Anderson, a fish biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“If the water is persistently high for a long time, they can become stressed and growth rates can suffer and they can die,” Anderson said.
Anderson said it’s a problem more commonly associated with the lower Yakima River in the summer, when young salmon have to swim through a “gauntlet” of warm water that stresses them out and cope with predatory fish better adapted to the warm conditions.
Steps to deal with warm water in the lower Yakima River have included keeping more water flowing and reducing the amount of water returning from shallow irrigation ditches where it warmed in the sun.
“But, as more growth and development occurs in the upper watershed, more trees and riparian vegetation being taken away from the banks, there is a big concern over elevated water temperatures,” Anderson said.
The upper tributaries are critical habitat for spawning and rearing. Eggs and very young fish are more at risk to warming temperatures because they can’t move, or move as far, in search of more suitable conditions.
Water that’s too warm also carries less oxygen and can negatively effect the rest of the stream ecosystem, including the insects salmon eat, Anderson added.
The Ecology Department’s plan covers largely forested land managed by private, state and federal owners. Temperature pollution is also a problem in the creeks that crisscross the farmland around Ellensburg, but Creech said because those landscapes are so different, Ecology decided to address them separately.
The largest forest landowner is the U.S. Forest Service and Cle Elum Ranger District hydrologist Bill Ehinger said that they have been monitoring water temperatures for years and trying to improve problem areas whenever funding allows.
Ecology’s plan won’t directly impact the federally managed forest, but it will help conservation groups working in the forest to secure grant money for restoration projects, he added.
“It’s good to have a clean up plan because our watershed has such a complex fabric of land ownerships and practices,” Ehinger said. “It brings everybody together on where the problems are and how we can improve them where we can.”
But, he cautioned that the problems, and therefore the solutions, are more complicated than they initially appear. Some creeks are naturally warmer, others are cooled downstream when groundwater seeps to the surface. Unlike a chemical pollutant, hot weather or a dry summer can temporarily raise temperatures too.
“It’s a very complex subject. … We’re trying to understand how to manage for the coldest water for the salmonids that we can,” Ehinger said.
The importance of shade plants to keep creeks cool is obvious, but Forest Service fish biologist Richard Vacirca said eroding roads may be an even bigger problem across the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
Water can move faster on dirt roads than natural surfaces, so it has more power behind it to erode roads and stream banks, Vacirca said. That carries extra sediment into the streams.
“Looking at aerial photos, we can see rivers downstream have a tough time moving all that sediment, so it widens the river and the water gets shallower and it exposes water to more sunlight,” Vacirca said.
After the Teanaway River plan was approved in 2002, road work was performed to reduce erosion. Volunteers planted native riparian vegetation along the stream and farmers installed more efficient irrigation systems, leaving more water flowing in the river.
Creech said that a lot of progress has been made, but sampling to determine if the work had its intended effect hasn’t been done yet.
She hopes her proposal will kick-start the same process for the rest of the basin’s upper tributaries.
“We need to start making plans to get this addressed and get the streams cooler and the fish happier and healthier,” Creech said.
Images of Rimrock Lake from Google Earth
Rimrock Lake Overview from Google Earth
Tieton River from Rimrock Dam Rimrock Dam viewed from the Tieton River
Rimrock Lake Shoreline
On Rimrock Lake
Images of Bumping Lake from Google Earth
Bumping Lake overview from Google Earth
Dam Outlet Bumping Lake Dam
for video overview of climate change prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change click here
Click Here for complete Report Summary “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Cle Elum Fish Ladder Model
Keechelus-to-Kachess Conveyance pictured above shows possible routes to move water from Lake Keechelus to Lake Kachess.
Kachess Pumping Plant Alternative pictured above shows the possible location of the pumping plants to withdraw water from below Kachess Dam.
Cle Elum Fish Passage pictured above will allow fish to move from Lake Cle Elum to the Cle Elum River during maximum drawdown. The fish returning will be trapped and hauled from the river to the lake.
Saturday Soapbox: Don’t give up on idea of Black Rock Reservoir
Yakima Herald Republic
Posted on May 10, 2014 by Carol Smith
Thirteen years ago, we were learning of the proposed Black Rock Reservoir, planned for 30 miles east of Yakima. Wow! A reservoir of 1.3 million cubic feet for storage, irrigation, recreation, fishing, boating, camping … who could oppose such a plan?
The ingenious plan was to pump water from the giant Columbia River during peak flow and winter months. Plenty of water flows downriver. Storing and controlling the Columbia is something we should study and implement.
The Yakima River currently is used to irrigate thousands of acres of apples, peaches, cherries, vegetables, hops, grapes, mint and more. Anything that grows with lots of sunshine and plenty of water, Yakima County grows and ships around the world. But nothing grows without water. Black Rock would free up the demand on the Yakima River for irrigation, which would raise stream flow, which in turn would improve salmon habitat. Who could possibly be negative? The Yakima Basin has not added any water storage infrastructure since 1933.
In 2008, at the cost of $18 million or more, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation determined that Black Rock Reservoir would be too costly. The estimated cost eight years ago would be about $5.69 billion, but potentially as high as $7.7 billion. The impact statement also showed Black Rock would return 13 cents for every dollar spent to build and operate, down from 16 cents stated earlier in the study.
An independent impact study by the Yakima Basin Storage Alliance found that $8 billion in economic benefit would generate revenue from the large agricultural community, tourism and filling construction jobs. Some $3.5 billion would be in recreational opportunities alone, which was not accounted for by Reclamation.
Another report revealed that the reservoir might seep so much that it would raise the water table at the neighboring Hanford Nuclear Reservation and run the risk of spreading radioactivity and toxics to the Colombia River. It was reported that efforts could be made to mitigate seepage to Hanford. Supporters said the economic analysis did not consider the powerful importance of recreational revenue, jobs during construction, future employment and seriously understated benefits to fish and salmon recovery. They also said efforts could be made to mitigate any seepage to Hanford.
Charlie de La Chapelle, a Yakima Valley farmer and Yakima Basin Storage Alliance member, said, “We are already spending billions on salmon recovery, Hanford cleanup and other federal projects across the U.S. With climate change and measurable increases in droughts affecting our Yakima Valley’s $2 billion agriculture industry for food alone, we don’t have the luxury of waiting.”
When I first heard about the Block Rock Reservoir 13 years ago, I immediately thought about boating, camping, recreation and water for our orchards! My husband tried to temper my enthusiasm, saying I would never see Black Rock as a reservoir in my lifetime. What a damper.
But I can’t give up. My lifetime isn’t over yet. I hope others with clout and vision feel the same.
• Carol Smith lives in Yakima.
Click Here to see information on why the Black Rock project is beneficial.
from National Climate Assessment Report
With craggy shorelines, volcanic mountains, and high sage deserts, the Northwest’s complex and varied topography contributes to the region’s rich climatic, geographic, social, and ecologic diversity. Abundant natural resources – timber, fisheries, productive soils, and plentiful water – remain important to the region’s economy.
Snow accumulates in mountains, melting in spring to power both the region’s rivers and economy, creating enough hydropower (40% of national total) (NWPCC 2010) to export 2 to 6 million megawatt hours/month (EIA 2011). Snowmelt waters crops in the dry interior, helping the region produce tree fruit (#1 in the world) and almost $17 billion worth of agricultural commodities including 55%, 15%, and 11% of U.S. potato, wheat, and milk production respectively (USDA 2012a, 2012b).
Seasonal water patterns shape the region’s flora and fauna, including iconic salmon and steelhead, and forested ecosystems, which cover 47% of the landscape (Smith et al. 2009).
Changes in the timing of streamflow related to changing snowmelt have been observed andwill continue, reducing the supply of water for many competing demands and causing far-reaching ecological and socioeconomic consequences.
Description of observed and projected changes
Observed regional warming has been linked to hydrologic changes in basins with significant snowmelt contributions to streamflow. Since around 1950, area-averaged spring snowpack decreased 0% to 30% (depending on method and period of analysis) (Mote 2006; Pierce et al. 8 2008), spring snowmelt occurred 0 to 30 days earlier (Stewart et al. 2005), late winter/early spring streamflow increased (Hidalgo et al. 2009) and summer flow decreased 0% to 15% as a fraction of annual total flow (Luce and Holden 2009; Stewart et al. 2005), and winter flow increased, (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation 2011a) with exceptions in smaller areas and shorter time periods (Mote et al. 2008a).
Figure 21.1: Observed Shifts in Streamflow Timing
Caption: Reduced June flows in many Northwest snow-fed rivers is a signature of warming in basins with a significant snowmelt contribution. The fraction of annual flow arriving in June increased slightly in rain-dominated coastal basins and decreased in mixed rain-snow basins and snowmelt dominated basins for 1948-2008 (Fritze et al. 19 2011). June is during the high flow period for most Northwest river basins; decreases in summer flows can make it more difficult to meet a variety of competing human and natural demands for water.
Hydrologic response to climate change varies by type of watershed, with the largest responses in basins with significant snow accumulation, where warming increases winter flows and advances the timing of spring melt (Hamlet and Lettenmaier 2005; Hidalgo et al. 2009). By 2050, snowmelt is projected to shift 3 to 4 weeks earlier than the 20th century average (Barnett et al. 2005; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation 2008), and summer flows are projected to be substantially lower (Elsner et al. 2010). Change in flood risk depends on many factors, but is projected to increase the most in mixed basins (those with both winter rainfall and summer snowmelt-related runoff peaks) and decrease in higher basins (Hamlet and Lettenmaier 2007; Mantua et al. 2010). Regional climate models project increases of 0% to 20% in extreme daily precipitation depending on location and definition of “extreme” (for example, annual wettest day), with a 13% regionally averaged increase in number of days with over one inch of precipitation for 2041-11 2070 compared with 1971-2000 (Kunkel et al. 2012). This increase in heavy downpours could increase future flood risk in transient and rain-dominant basins.
Figure 21.2: Future Shift in Timing of Stream Flows
Projected increased winter flows and decreased summer flows in many Northwest rivers will cause widespread impacts. Mixed rain-snow watersheds, such as the Yakima River basin, an important agricultural area in eastern Washington, will see increased winter flows, earlier spring peak flows, and decreased summer flows in a warming climate. Changes in average monthly stream flow from baseline (simulated 1916-2006 average, black) to the 2020s (blue), 2040s (yellow), and 2080s (red) indicate that the Yakima could change from a basin deriving most of its streamflow from snow melt to a rain-dominant basin by the 2080s under a scenario that assumes continued increases in emissions through mid century but declines thereafter (A1B) (Elsner et al. 2010). 25
Figure 21.2: Reduced Summer Flows
Across most of the Northwest, flows during the already low summer flow period would be significantly reduced in the 2040s compared to baseline (1915-2006) conditions under the same scenario (A1B) (Littell et al. 2011). This would put stress on freshwater fish species such as endangered salmon and bull trout and necessitate increasing trade-offs among conflicting users of summer water.
Consequences and likelihoods of changes
Reservoir systems have multiple objectives, including irrigation, municipal and industrial use, hydropower production, flood control, and preserving fish habitat. Modeling studies indicate, with near 100% likelihood, that reductions in summer flow will occur by 2050 in basins with significant snowmelt (Elsner et al. 2010). Combined with summer increases in heat-driven electric power demand for cooling (Hamlet et al. 2010) and evaporative demand from crops and forests (Kunkel et al. 2012; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation 2011b), these reduced flows will require tradeoffs among objectives of the whole system of reservoirs (Isaak et al. 2011). For example, reductions in hydropower production of as much as 20% by the 2080s could be required to preserve in-stream flow targets for fish in the Columbia River basin (Payne et al. 2004). Springtime irrigation diversions increased between 1970 and 2007 in the Snake River basin, as earlier snowmelt led to reduced spring soil moisture (Hoekema and Sridhar 2011). In the absence of adaptation, annual hydropower production is much more likely to decrease than to increase; economic impacts of hydropower changes could be substantial, on the order of hundreds of 20 millions of dollars per year (Markoff and Cullen 2008).
Several aspects of hydrologic change, such as increased flooding in mixed rain-snow basins, region-wide increased winter flows and summer temperatures, and decreased summer flows, will threaten many freshwater species, particularly salmon, steelhead, and trout. Rising temperatures will increase disease and/or mortality in several iconic salmon species, including spring/summer Chinook and sockeye, especially in the interior Columbia and Snake River basins (Mantua et al. 2010) – although some streams are less sensitive to warming because of the temperature buffering provided by snowmelt and groundwater (Mohseni et al. 1999). By the 2080s, suitable habitat for the four trout species of the interior western U.S. is projected to decline 47% on average compared to 1978-97 (Wenger et al. 2011). Some Northwest streams (Isaak et al. 2011) and lakes have already warmed, on average, over the past three decades, contributing to changes such as earlier Columbia River sockeye salmon migration (Crozier et al. 2011) and earlier blooms of algae in Lake Washington (Winder and Schindler 2004). As species respond to climate change in diverse ways, there is a potential for ecological mismatches to occur – such as in the timing of the emergence of predators and their prey (Winder and Schindler 2004).
Changes in the timing of streamflow related to changing snowmelt are already observed and will continue, reducing the supply of water for many competing demands and causing far-reaching ecological and socioeconomic consequences.
Description of evidence base
This message was selected because of the centrality of the water cycle to many important human and natural systems of the NW (hydropower production and the users of this relatively inexpensive electricity; agriculture and the communities and economies dependent thereon; coldwater fish, including several species of threatened and endangered salmon, the tribal and fishing communities and ecosystems that depend on them, and the adjustments in human activities and efforts necessary to restore and protect them), these impacts and any societal adjustments to them will have far-reaching ecological and socioeconomic consequences.
Evidence that winter snow accumulation will decline under projected climate change is based on 20th century observations and theoretical studies of the sensitivity of NW snowpack to changes in precipitation and temperature. There is good agreement on the physical role of climate in snowpack development, and projections of the sign of future trends are consistent (many studies). However, climate variability creates disagreement over the magnitude of current and near-term future trends.
Evidence that projected climate change would shift the timing and amount of streamflow deriving from snowmelt is based on 20th century observations of climate and streamflow and hydrologic model simulation of streamflow responses to climate variability and change. There is good agreement on the sign of trends (many studies), though the magnitude of current and near-term future trends is less certain because of climate variability.
Evidence that declining snowpack and changes in the timing of snowmelt-driven streamflow will reduce water supply for many competing and time-sensitive demands is based on:
(1) hydrologic simulations, driven by future climate projections, that consistently show reductions in spring and summer flows in transient and some snow-dominant watersheds;
(2) documented competition among existing water uses (irrigation, power, municipal, in stream flows) and inability for all water systems to meet all summer water needs all of the time, especially during drier years;
(3) empirical and theoretical studies that indicate increased water demand for many uses under climate change;
(4) policy and institutional analyses of the complex legal and institutional arrangements governing NW water management and the challenges associated with adjusting water management in response to changing conditions.
Evidence for far-reaching ecological and socioeconomic consequences of the above is based on:
(1) model simulations showing negative impacts of projected climate and altered streamflow on many water resource uses at scales ranging from individual basins (for example, Skagit, Yakima) to the region (for example, Columbia River basin);
(2) model simulations of future agricultural water allocation in the Yakima, showing increased likelihood of water curtailments for junior water rights holders;
(3) model and empirical studies documenting sensitivity of coldwater fish to water temperatures, sensitivity of water temperature to air temperature, and projected warming of summer stream temperatures;
(4) regional and extra-regional dependence on NW-produced hydropower;
(5) legal requirements to manage water resources for threatened & endangered fish as well as for human uses.
Evidence that water users in managed transient basins (mix of snow and rain) are likely to be the most vulnerable to climate change and less vulnerable in rain dominated basins is based on:
(1) observed, theoretical, and simulated sensitivity of watershed hydrologic response to warming by basin type
(2) historical observations and modeled simulations of trade-offs required among water management objectives under specific climatic conditions
(3) analyses from water management agencies of potential system impacts and adaptive responses to projected future climate
(4) institutional and policy analyses documenting sources and types of management rigidity (for example, difficulty adjusting management practices to account for changing conditions)
New information and remaining uncertainties
A key uncertainty is the degree to which current and future interannual and interdecadal variations in climate will enhance or obscure long-term anthropogenic climate trends.
Uncertainty over local groundwater or glacial inputs and other local effects may cause overestimates of increased stream temperature based solely on air temperature. However, including projected decreases in summer streamflow would increase estimates of summer stream temperature increases above those based solely on air temperature.
Uncertainty in how much increasing temperatures will affect crop evapotranspiration affects future estimates of irrigation demand.
Uncertainty in future population growth and changing per capita water use affects estimates of future municipal demand and therefore assessments of future reliability of water resource systems.
A major uncertainty is the degree to which water resources management operations can be adjusted to account for climate driven changes in the amount and timing of streamflow, and how competing resource objectives will be accommodated or prioritized. Based on current institutional inertia, significant changes are unlikely to occur for several decades.
There is uncertainty in economic assessment of the impacts of hydrologic changes on the NW because much of the needed modeling and analysis is incomplete. Economic impacts assessment would require quantifying both potential behavioral responses to future climate-affected economic variables (prices of inputs, products) and to climate change itself. Some studies have sidestepped the issue of behavioral response to these and projected economic impacts based on future scenarios that do not consider adaptation, which lead to high estimates of “costs” or impacts.
Assessment of confidence based on evidence and agreement or, if defensible, estimates of the likelihood of impact or consequence
Confidence is very high based on strong strength of evidence and high level of agreement among experts.
See specifics under “description of evidence” above.
for National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee’s website on the Third National Climate Assessment information click below:
for Executive Summary of the National Climate Assessment Report Draft for Public Review Click Below:
from The Washington Post by Jason Samenow on May 6th, 2014 “National Climate Assessment: 15 arresting images of climate change now and in the pipeline,” click below:
Impacts on Water Cycle and Water Demand
from the United States Environmental Protection Agency: The water cycle (shown in the following figure) is a delicate balance of precipitation, evaporation, and all of the steps in between. Warmer temperatures increase the rate of evaporation of water into the atmosphere, in effect increasing the atmosphere’s capacity to “hold” water.Increased evaporation may dry out some areas and fall as excess precipitation on other areas. Changes in the amount of rain falling during storms provide evidence that the water cycle is already changing. Over the past 50 years, the amount of rain falling during the most intense 1% of storms increased by almost 20%.Warming winter temperatures cause more precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow. Furthermore, rising temperatures cause snow to begin melting earlier in the year. This alters the timing of streamflow in rivers that have their sources in mountainous areas. As temperatures rise, people and animals need more water to maintain their health and thrive. Many important economic activities, like producing energy at power plants, raising livestock, and growing food crops, also require water. The amount of water available for these activities may be reduced as Earth warms, and if competition for water resources increases.
Impacts on Water Resources
A reliable water supply is crucial for energy production, agriculture, and ecosystems in the Northwest. Much of the region’s water is stored naturally in winter snowpack in the mountains. The snowpack melts and runs off into streams and rivers in the late spring and summer, a time when there is very little rainfall. Climate change will likely threaten this natural storage, with important consequences for the timing of runoff and amount of water available in streams and rivers (streamflow) throughout the year.
- Higher winter temperatures are projected to cause more precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow. This would decrease snow accumulation. The April 1st snowpack, an indicator of natural water storage available for the warm season, is projected to decline by as much as 40% in the Cascades by the 2040s.This reduction in available snowpack (and thus water) could increase the risk of drought during normally dry summers.
- Higher temperatures will likely contribute to earlier snowmelt and major changes in the timing of runoff. As a result, the peak of spring runoff is projected to shift 20 to 40 days earlier by the end of the century.
- Warmer temperatures are projected to cause more precipitation to fall as rain. Overall winter precipitation is projected to increase. These changes would increase winter flood risks.
- Changing streamflows would strain water management and worsen existing competition for water. Competing demands for water in the Northwest currently include hydropower, agricultural irrigation, municipal and industrial uses, and protection of ecosystems and threatened or endangered species. Increasing temperatures and population could increase demand and further stress urban water supplies. Meanwhile, the climate change impacts listed above could decrease supply.
- About 70% of electricity in the Northwest is supplied by hydroelectricity. Decreasing summer streamflows would reduce hydroelectric supply and stress electricity supplies. Meanwhile, rising temperatures would increase electricity demand for air conditioning and refrigeration.
For more information on climate change impacts on water, please visit the Water Resources Impacts page. For more information on climate change impacts on energy, please visit the Energy Impacts page. Information on Climate Change in the Pacific Norhtwest: http://cses.washington.edu/cig/pnwc/pnwc.shtml Yakima wants to bank Naches River water in aquifer By Kate Prengaman / Yakima Herald-Republic April 13, 2014 Yakima’s four municipal wells normally pull water from a deep aquifer, but with a few adjustments, two of the wells can be reversed to send water back into the ground. These dual-action wells are about to become very handy. If temporary permits are approved, as expected, Yakima plans a test project in May to determine if the aquifer can be used to store water from the Naches River. “We want to take water out of the river when it’s available and put it in (the aquifer) when our customers don’t need it,” said David Brown, the city’s water and irrigation manager. “If we store it, then we can use it during drought years.” Yakima relies primarily on the Naches River for its domestic water. But some of that supply falls under junior water rights, which can be cut during a drought. The city also has rights to the aquifer, which accounts for about 20 percent of the city’s supply during a normal year, Brown said. But during the 2005 drought, the city relied on that groundwater for about half its supply, he said. Brown envisions a system where the city takes advantage of its current water rights, existing wells and distribution system, and the natural groundwater reservoir to improve its ability to meet demands during times of drought. But the technology is relatively new in Washington and the path to getting the necessary permits is complicated. However, because this project is part of the Yakima Basin’s Integrated Plan for water management, the state funding of $150,000 is supporting it. Taking stored water from the aquifer during a drought, rather than from the river, benefits all the basin’s water users, from farmers to fish, Brown said. Advocates of the technology, known as Aquifer Storage and Recovery, or ASR, point out that using aquifers as reservoirs costs less and has fewer environmental consequences than building surface storage. Dan Haller, an environmental engineer who works on ASR projects, said that while the technology is still new here, several Eastern Washington communities, including Walla Walla, Kennewick and White Salmon, are developing such projects. None, however, has received final permits. Yakima has been researching ASR since 1998, when a consultant noted that the geology below the city would be well suited to storing water. The aquifer beneath Yakima is basically shaped like a bowl, explained Chris Pitre, a hydrogeologist for Golder Associates who has worked with the city for years. But the bowl leaks a little bit. Water in the aquifer slowly moves through a layer of sandstone to eventually feed into the Yakima River. “What we have to figure out is if we store some water in the ground, how long can we retain it?” Brown said. The pilot project planned for May will help answer that question: the city will pump water into the aquifer for five days and then use monitoring wells to track it as it moves for several months. This will be the city’s second such test. The first was done in 2000 at a different well, Pitre said. Running a model with data from that experiment, they found that about 40 percent of the water would probably “leak” out over 10 years. Since the city’s goal is to use this technology as drought insurance, Brown said they don’t expect to get all their water back. Instead, he said, having additional supply available when they really need it will be worth some slow loss over time. Droughts are predicted to become more frequent in the region, Brown said, and he believes this storage, along with conservation measures, will help the city prepare for that future. Moreover, the “lost” water eventually adds to the flow of the Yakima River, which has environmental benefits. So the pilot project will help the city learn how much of the added water it can expect will remain in the aquifer over time. But, Pitre said state policy is not clear on how Ecology will determine how much water cities will be allowed to recover from these systems. State law allows ASR projects to only withdraw the water that remains from what was put in, but it’s complicated to regulate because each aquifer loses water at a different rate. Because of that, Ecology has decided to set the recovery limits on a case by case basis during the permitting process, said Guy Gregory, a hydrogeologist with Ecology. Another challenge for permitting these projects is ensuring that they meet groundwater quality standards. “The state is trying to encourage ASR as a responsible water resource management tool, but they are bumping into this (water quality) regulation we also have to deal with,” Pitre said. Yakima plans to treat the water, just like the drinking water, before it puts it into the ground. But Haller explained that water quality regulations for groundwater can actually be stricter than drinking water standards, because they are designed to prevent pollution. Yakima treats its water with chlorine to kill pathogens to prevent disease, but that process creates chemicals known as disinfection byproducts, Haller said. The chemicals are considered safe to drink. But since they don’t naturally occur in the groundwater, they can be treated like pollution by regulators. “You have to go through an evaluation of whether it is reasonable to treat and remove (the byproducts) or whether it is OK to degrade groundwater slightly to do this project,” Haller said. Once the water quality data has been analyzed, the director of the Department of Ecology can determine whether the project’s benefits outweigh the risks and allow it to move forward. That’s what Ecology staff has recommended for the Kennewick project and that’s what Pitre believes will happen for Yakima. During the experiment in 2000, Pitre said the water quality analysis showed that after six weeks the byproducts broke down into water, chloride and carbon dioxide. The pilot project operating under a temporary permit this summer will also study the water quality, Pitre added, and help the city get a permanent permit. Once it has that permit, the city can start storing water right away, without needing any construction. It’s one piece of the Integrated Plan that could be up and running quickly. Eventually, Brown said, the city could work with other water users, like the county or irrigation districts, to store water for them as well. “This has lots of long-term potential,” Brown said. “There is hundreds of millions of gallons of free space in this reservoir.” Teacup chart from Bureau of Reclamation Above charts and more information can be found at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/ What is climate change? Climate is usually defined as the “average weather” in a place. It includes patterns of temperature, precipitation (rain or snow), humidity, wind and seasons. Climate patterns play a fundamental role in shaping natural ecosystems, and the human economies and cultures that depend on them. But the climate we’ve come to expect is not what it used to be, because the past is no longer a reliable predictor of the future. Our climate is rapidly changing with disruptive impacts, and that change is progressing faster than any seen in the last 2,000 years. According to the report, Preparing for a Changing Climate, rising levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere have warmed the Earth and are causing wide-ranging impacts, including rising sea levels; melting snow and ice; more extreme heat events, fires and drought; and more extreme storms, rainfall and floods. Scientists project that these trends will continue and in some cases accelerate, posing significant risks to human health, our forests, agriculture, freshwater supplies, coastlines, and other natural resources that are vital to Washington state’s economy, environment, and our quality of life. Because so many systems are tied to climate, a change in climate can affect many related aspects of where and how people, plants and animals live, such as food production, availability and use of water, and health risks. For example, a change in the usual timing of rains or temperatures can affect when plants bloom and set fruit, when insects hatch or when streams are their fullest. This can affect historically synchronized pollination of crops, food for migrating birds, spawning of fish, water supplies for drinking and irrigation, forest health, and more. Some short-term climate variation is normal, but longer-term trends now indicate a changing climate. Our state and societies around the globe need to reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions to avoid worsening climate impacts and reduce the risk of creating changes beyond our ability to respond and adapt. Washington state is addressing this challenge and has adopted policies to reduce energy use, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and build a clean energy economy. Some changes in climate — and impacts on our state — are unavoidable, even if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions today. But we can take more actions to reduce progressively worsening impacts. Weather trends As of 2012, the 12 hottest years have all happened in the past 15, with July 2012 the hottest month ever recorded in the United States. The year 2012 broke the most U.S. heat records of any year to date, and it tied with 1998 for the most extreme weather events. While 2012 was also the ninth-warmest year on record world-wide, all 10 of the warmest years have occurred since 1998, continuing a trend of temperatures well above the mid-20th century average. The record dates back to 1880 because that is when there were enough meteorological stations around the world to provide global temperature data. NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt says, “What matters is this decade is warmer than the last decade and that decade was warmer than the decade before. The planet is warming. The reason it’s warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” More information on climate change in the State of Washington can be found at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/ and http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/effects.htm
Click on The Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment for summary of report.
Snow shortage worries Yakima River water users
By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 16, 2014
The recent snow on the valley floor should help reduce some of the demand for water in the spring, Trull said. Since October, it’s been unusually dry, said Nic Loyd, Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet meteorologist. This is the time of year when the mountain snow pack in the Cascades builds up. Snowpack, which Washington uses as a reservoir, hasn’t improved enough yet to prevent a drought, Pattee said. Snowpack for the Lower Yakima River Basin was up to about 72 percent of the average as of earlier this week. That’s up about 7 percent from the beginning of the month. As the snowpack melts during the spring and summer, it helps feed the Lower Yakima River Basin. The impact of a potential drought on some Mid-Columbia water users is tempered because some irrigation districts, including Columbia and Sunnyside Valley, have senior water rates that the state and federal government can’t limit. But for junior water right holders, the state can prorate their water rights when there is a drought, meaning that the water users will only get a percentage of the water they have the right to use when water is plentiful. Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District, which provides irrigation water in Yakima and Benton counties, is in a better situation than some others because two-thirds of the district’s water rights are senior, Trull said. Only receiving a percentage of one-third of the district’s junior water rights could be a significant issue, but it’s not at the same level as those who only have junior water rights. Columbia Irrigation District is the last to take water out of the Yakima River, said Joel Teeley, general manager and board secretary. “There is usually enough water for us,” he said. Kennewick Irrigation District does have junior water rights. The board of directors will discuss drought planning at its Tuesday meeting. It’s not just Washington that has been hit with lower-than-average levels of rain and snow. Most of the Northwest, including Oregon and California, are in the same situation, with less-than-average precipitation between November and January, research climatologist Greg Jones said in a forecast earlier this month. While forecasts are heading toward normal precipitation and snow through April, Jones, with Southern Oregon University in Ashland, cautioned in his forecast that likely would not be enough to catch up on the current deficits. For most of the basins, snow doesn’t normally accumulate past April 1, Pattee said. While snow has accumulated up until May before, it’s not likely. About 70 percent to 80 percent of the state’s surface water supply comes from mountain snowpack, Pattee said. Lack of storage means water concerns for the Yakima Basin aren’t unusual. A statewide drought nine years ago ended up better than expected because of a cool, wet, long spring, despite having worse snowpack than this year, Pattee said. In 2005, it didn’t stop raining until the end of June. During several winters, the snowpack has started out poor into February, but then the state got enough precipitation in February and March to catch up, Loyd said. The next week looks like there will be some buildup of mountain snow, Loyd said. Even a few large snowstorms in the mountains would help. “We’re making up ground, but we are still below normal,” Loyd said. But after that, it’s back to dry conditions for the foreseeable future, he said. One saving grace is that the Snake River is in good shape, with 94 percent of the normal snowpack, Pattee said. Walla Walla snowpack is near average, about 90 percent. The upper Columbia also got good snow early on, and looks to be in good shape for this year, Pattee said. That’s critical for power generation since some of the other tributaries may be lacking and California likely will be desperate for power due to its lack of water. That means the South Columbia Basin Irrigation District, which is part of the Columbia Basin Project, is expecting normal, adequate water supplies and delivery, said Dave Solem, the district’s secretary/manager. Most of the snowpack to feed the Columbia River is in Canada. Pattee said officials will have a better idea of the water supply in the beginning of March, when the federal Bureau of Reclamation will release its first water supply forecast for the year. Trull said the Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District is waiting for that forecast before making any decisions about how to handle water supplies this year. But it may be difficult to know how junior water right holders will be affected until the first of April, Pattee said. Caution is the best advice officials say they can give for now. This year may not be best one for activities that require plentiful water, such as replacing a perennial crop or planting a lawn. State and federal agencies met early February to discuss a possible drought. As of the beginning of the month, more than 90 percent of the state was suffering from a moderate drought and statewide snowpack was at 55 percent of average. The next meeting of the Water Supply Availability Committee, which will decide on whether to recommend Gov. Jay Inslee declare a drought in any region in the state, is scheduled for March 7.
Drought concerns rise as state remains dry
SEATTLE — Officials monitoring lower than usual snowpack levels in Washington say it’s not time to panic, but they’re nevertheless preparing in case of a possible drought. The Department of Ecology plans to ask the Legislature for drought-relief money in case dry weather conditions persist into spring. And a committee of state and federal officials that monitors the state’s water supply is meeting next week to start preparing for the worst. The last time they met was 2010, when there were similar concerns about a possible drought. “Nobody is blowing a whistle yet or raising a red flag. It’s more of a yellow flag,” said Scott Pattee, a water supply specialist with Natural Resources Conservation Service in Mount Vernon. His office, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tracks snowpack levels using a network of weather stations throughout the state. The state relies on mountain snowpack to supply water for drinking, irrigation, fish migration, power generation and other needs through the year. Statewide, snowpack levels are about 50 percent less than average for this time of year, though basins vary, Pattee said. The Olympic Peninsula basin is at 34 percent of normal, while the Lower Columbia Basin is at 45 percent of normal, Pattee said. Precipitation on the slopes of the Cascade Mountains east of Yakima stands at about 59 percent of average, according to the latest available estimate from the USDA’s Washington Snow Survey Office. About 93 percent of the state is in moderate drought conditions, according to the latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor. The winter has been drier than usual, with ski resorts opening later than usual. But experts say there’s still time to catch up. “We could have a wet, snowy February and March and people will stop talking about this. It’s rare that it doesn’t turn around,” said Brent Bower, a senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle. “That being said, it is very dry and the snowpack is low.” The state declared drought emergencies in 2005 and 2001. “It’s time to get prepared for dealing with a possible drought in the state,” said Dan Partridge, a Department of Ecology spokesman. “It’s not time to panic or anything like that.” Partridge said it’s early in the season and “we have quite some time to catch up on snowpack. That, of course, would be our best hope.” The state was viewing similar dry conditions in 2010, and lawmakers approved about $4 million for drought relief, but that money was never needed, he said. Snow and rain in the spring boosted the snowpack and reduced the threat of a drought. Ecology isn’t sure yet how much it plans to ask for, but it needs legislative action before the short 60 day-session adjourns in early March, Partridge said. The money would be used to make loans and grants on such things as leasing water rights or drilling emergency wells or deepening existing ones for cities, farmers or fish hatcheries. The state’s water supply committee is meeting Thursday, and will meet regularly. That group is convened when there appears to be persistent dry conditions in the state that could eventually require a declaring a drought. Ecology would declare a drought at the direction of Gov. Jay Inslee. Under state law, a drought is declared if an area receives or is projected to receive less than 75 percent of normal water supply and water users in those areas are likely to incur undue hardship because of the shortage.
Low Snowpack Gives Yakima Valley Farmers Concern
Snowpack has left other merchants worried as well. Mark Barrett, owner of Barrett Orchards in Yakima, is a fourth generation farmer. He hasn’t a snowpack this low in years. “Maybe 1 or 2 years in the last 20 that we’ve been this low at this point that I can remember,” Mark Barrett said. Things can still turn around though. “It’s not a good pattern but hopefully the weather pattern will change and we’ll get more snow,” Willard said. Farmers in the valley missed out on a white Christmas, so now they’re desperately hoping for a white spring. Farmers say no need to sound the alarm quite yet, with a strong next couple of months, snowpack levels may still return to normal.
Inland Northwest snow pack low as drought looms
A drought spreading across the Western United States is creeping closer to the Inland Northwest. The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that abnormally dry conditions have moved into the Columbia Basin as well as the Cascades and Western Washington. Far Eastern Washington and North Idaho are still outside the drought area. In the mountains of the Inland Northwest, snowpack on Friday was about 76 percent of normal for this time of year. That compares with 33 to 44 percent of normal in the central Cascades of Washington and only 22 percent of normal near Mount Hood in northern Oregon. Much of the snow that has fallen in the mountains came from a series of storms in November. “Since then, we really haven’t had much,” said Jeffrey Cote, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Spokane. A storm Thursday night brought 3 to 4 inches of snow to the mountains of North Idaho and more than 6 inches to the North Cascades. But only 0.03 inches of rain fell at Spokane International Airport, where precipitation amounts are less than half of normal for the season. It was the latest in a stubborn pattern where storms are being shunted to the north and east by a strong ridge of higher air pressure along the Pacific coast. Storms that break over the ridge are weakened and provide only glancing blows, Cote said. “Looking at long-range patterns, it’s not very promising,” he said. Dry and cold weather is expected over the weekend. Weak storms are possible on Tuesday into next weekend, when a stronger storm may develop. “Beyond that, the ridge tries to rebuild itself,” Cote said, and that will bring more dry weather. Sunshine should accompany the higher air pressure today and Sunday, with highs in the lower 30s today and upper 20s on Sunday. Lows should be in the teens. An analysis this week by meteorologists in Spokane showed only a 15 to 20 percent chance of catching up to normal precipitation and snowpack by the time spring arrives. That is based on a study of previous dry years, Cote said. Most of California and Nevada are in severe to extreme drought. The Rockies are faring better, with parts of western Montana, Wyoming and Colorado reporting above-normal snowpacks so far. Below are recent articles & Videos from the Yakima Herald Republic Below normal snowpack brings concern about water supply Study to look at bottom line for Yakima Basin water plan (Story) Yakima River Basin Plan Approved by Legislature Cle Elum Pool Raise The Cle Elum Pool Raise Project (Pool Raise) was authorized for implementation, including construction, under the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project (YRBWEP) Title XII, October 31, 1994. It has also been identified as a component of the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan (Integrated Plan). Section 1206 of Title XII includes authorization to modify the radial gates at Cle Elum Dam to provide an additional 14,600 acre-feet of storage capacity in Lake Cle Elum; provide for shoreline protection of Lake Cle Elum; and provide environmental mitigation for impacts from the Project, as necessary. The Pool Raise consists of raising the maximum water level of Cle Elum Lake by 3 feet from a current maximum elevation of 2,240 feet to 2,243 feet. The Pool Raise would increase the volume of available storage in Cle Elum Lake by approximately 14,600 acre-feet, which would be used to improve instream flows for fish. http://www.usbr.gov/pn/programs/eis/cleelumraise/index.html
Keechelus-to-Kachess Conveyance Project
The Bureau of Reclamation and Washington State Department of Ecology are conducting a feasibility study for the Keechelus-to-Kachess Conveyance (KKC) Project to examine the feasibility and acceptability of conveying water from the Keechelus Reservoir to Kachess Reservoir in order to reduce flows in the upper Yakima River for fish rearing and habitat, and to augment flows into Kachess Reservoir to improve the capability for refill in dry years. The KKC Project is one of several potential structural and operation changes projects being analyzed to improve water resources management in the Yakima River basin. The Study is being performed under the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project (YRBWEP) Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan (Integrated Plan). The purpose of the Integrated Plan is to provide additional water supply for agriculture and municipal and domestic uses as well as improving ecological conditions for fish. The Integrated Plan was developed under authority provided to Reclamation by under the 1979 YRBWEP Feasibility Study Authorization (Public Law 96-162, December 28, 1979); existing YRBWEP Act (P.L. 103-434, October 31, 1994, as amended by P.L. 105-62, October 13, 1997; and P.L. 106-372, October 27, 2000). The Integrated Plan, in effect, constitutes Phase 3 of YRBWEP. The KKC Feasibility Study will be performed concurrently with the Kachess Drought Relief Pumping Plant (KDRPP) (formerly identified as Kachess Reservoir Inactive Storage) Feasibility Study. The KDRPP Feasibility Study involves analyses of accessing reservoir water currently stored below the elevation of the existing reservoir outlet works. Each separate study will produce its own feasibility reports including a planning report, feasibility design report, and economics technical report. However, due to the potential connectivity of the two projects, a single environmental impact statement (EIS) will be prepared, which will include site-specific environmental analyses for both proposed projects. http://www.usbr.gov/pn/programs/eis/kkc/index.html
Kachess Drought Relief Pumping Plant (Kachess Reservoir Inactive Storage Project)
The Bureau of Reclamation and Washington State Department of Ecology are conducting a feasibility study for the Kachess Drought Relief Pumping Plant (KDRPP) (formerly identified as Kachess Reservoir Inactive Storage Project) to examine the feasibility and acceptability of withdrawing an additional 200,000 acre-feet of water from Lake Kachess and transferring that flow into the Yakima River for beneficial downstream use in a drought year. The KDRPP is one of several potential surface water supply projects being studied to improve water resources management in the Yakima basin being developed under the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project (YRBWEP) Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan (Integrated Plan). The purpose of the Integrated Plan is to provide additional water supply for agriculture and municipal and domestic uses as well as improving ecological conditions for fish. The Integrated Plan was developed under authority provided to Reclamation by under the 1979 YRBWEP Feasibility Study Authorization (Public Law 96-162, December 28, 1979); existing YRBWEP Act (P.L. 103-434, October 31, 1994, as amended by P.L. 105-62, October 13, 1997; and P.L. 106-372, October 27, 2000). The Integrated Plan, in effect, constitutes Phase 3 of YRBWEP. The KDRPP Feasibility Study will be performed concurrently with the Keechelus-to-Kachess Conveyance (KKC) Project Feasibility Study. Each separate study will produce its own feasibility reports including a planning report, feasibility design report, and economics technical report. However, due to the potential connectivity of the two projects, a single environmental impact statement (EIS) will be prepared, which will include environmental analyses for both proposed projects. http://www.usbr.gov/pn/programs/eis/kdrpp/index.html Lake Keechelus Lake Kachess Potential Keechelus to Kachess Pipeline
A New Look at Snowpack Trends in the Cascade Mountains
Warming Climate Is Affecting Cascades Snowpack In Pacific Northwest
May 15, 2009 — There has been sharp disagreement in recent years about how much, or even whether, winter snowpack has declined in the Cascade Mountains of Washington and Oregon during the last half-century.
The following is an excerpt from the “Water Woes” article in the Northern Kittitas County Tribune, Cle Elum, Washington by Bruce Coe (for full article Click Here): A public meeting was held in Ellensburg concerning the development of new wells outside the Upper Kittitas County Groundwater Rule Area. The proposal retains the concept of an exempt well which would allow 350 gallons a day, metered with higher usage compensated with a mitigation plan. For a more comprehensive look at the proposed rules Click Here Click Here for a little history of irrigation in the Yakima Valley Click Here for Bureau of Reclamation site on background and history on the Yakima Project
The location of the proposed enhancement identified in the Integrated Plan of the Yakima River Basin can be viewed by clicking here for Map and may be enlarged for clarity. It includes maps of the Yakima River Watershed WIRA’s 37, 38, & 39. Important areas identified in the Integrated Plan are – the location of the property to be purchased by Washington State is the area around the north, middle, & west forks of the Teaneway River. – the drainage area for Lake Kachess and Lake Kachelus available to provide the additional water for the lake Kachelus additional storage. – the location of the proposed Bumping Lake enlargement and it’s proximity to the William O. Douglas Wilderness Area. The proposed dam site is near where the Bumping River Road crosses Bumping River. – the boundaries of the Yakama Nation, the United States Department of Energy Site (Hanford), the Yakima Training Center, and other public lands such as national forests are identified. – the map of the Yakima Basin was developed by the Department of Ecology GIS Technical Water Resources Program in March, 2004. Click for Yakima Watershed Map Click to view New Storage is the only Solution for the Yakima River Basin Comparison Grand Coulee Dam early July 2013 spilling water. Bumping Lake enlargement would submerge great amounts of old growth forest and recreational areas by the larger reservoir. Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan Images
Lake Cle Elum Lake Kachess Lake Keechelus Rimrock Lake Click on image to enlarge. From Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan The Future With climate change estimating a reduction in snow pack the ability to provide the additional water needed annually in the Yakima Basin for fish, agriculture, and residential, municipal and industrial use needs to be addressed. Bumping Lake Reservoir Bumping Lake Reservoir Lake Cle Elum Reservoir Lake Kachees Reservoir Lake Keechelus Reservoir Lake Keechelus Reservoir Rimrock Reservoir