Lake Powell Water Levels as a Proxy for Western Snowfall

In Debunking National Wildlife Federation Claims – Part 2 some commenters claimed that the snow data cited from WRI “was not good enough”. OK then, on to a bigger catchment. Steve Goddard replies in this brief essay.

File:Lake Powell Above Wahweap Marina.jpg
From Wikimedia: Lake Powell from above Wahweap Marina. July 2004, by Dave Jenkins

Lake Powell (Arizona and Utah) provides a good proxy for western slope snowfall, because much of the snow in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Northwestern New Mexico drains into the lake via the Colorado, Green and San Juan Rivers.  The lake currently contains more than 4.5 trillion gallons of water and is 490 feet deep at the dam.

Between 2000 and 2005, drought conditions (combined with greatly increased water usage in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado) caused Lake Powell levels to drop nearly 120 feet. This prompted a considerable consensus of global warming hysteria.

Every scientific study confirms that global warming will cause the amount of water in the Colorado River to decline

But a strange thing happened in 2006 – the lake level stopped declining and instead started increasing rapidly.  As you can see in the table below from, since 2005 the lake elevation has increased by more than 60 feet above the 2005 low of 3562 ft.  As of January 29, at 3622 ft. the lake is within three feet of the January 29 average of 3625 feet elevation.  The volume of water in the lake has increased by 65% in the last five years to 4.5 trillion gallons. (At movie theater prices for bottled water, that could almost erase the US National Debt.)

Wed       Jan 29, 1964
Fri       Jan 29, 1965
Sat       Jan 29, 1966
Sun       Jan 29, 1967
Mon       Jan 29, 1968
Wed       Jan 29, 1969
Thu       Jan 29, 1970
Fri       Jan 29, 1971
Sat       Jan 29, 1972
Mon       Jan 29, 1973
Tue       Jan 29, 1974
Wed       Jan 29, 1975
Thu       Jan 29, 1976
All Lake Powell water data for January 29th
Sat Jan   29, 1977
Sun Jan 29,   1978
Mon Jan   29, 1979
Tue Jan   29, 1980
Thu Jan   29, 1981
Fri Jan   29, 1982
Sat Jan   29, 1983
Sun Jan   29, 1984
Tue Jan   29, 1985
Wed Jan   29, 1986
Thu Jan   29, 1987
Fri Jan   29, 1988
Sun Jan   29, 1989
Mon Jan   29, 1990
Tue Jan   29, 1991
Wed Jan   29, 1992
Fri Jan   29, 1993
Sat Jan   29, 1994
Sun Jan   29, 1995
Mon Jan   29, 1996
Wed Jan   29, 1997
Thu Jan   29, 1998
Fri Jan   29, 1999
Sat Jan   29, 2000
Mon Jan   29, 2001
Tue Jan   29, 2002
Wed Jan   29, 2003
Thu Jan   29, 2004
Sat Jan   29, 2005
Sun Jan   29, 2006
Mon Jan   29, 2007
Tue Jan   29, 2008
Thu Jan   29, 2009
Fri Jan   29, 2010


The yearly change in volume is determined by the formula :

delta H = inflow – outflow – evaporation – seepage

Evaporation is relatively constant from year to year as is seepage, so the formula can be written as:

delta H = inflow – outflow – K

Outflow (water usage) has greatly increased over the last few decades due to massive population increases in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Southern California – not to mention the large and ever increasing amount of water being used by the biofuels industry.  (It has been estimated by the University of Twente in The Netherlands that the manufacture of one liter of biodiesel requires 14,000 liters of water).

The point being that despite large increases in outflow, the lake level has been rapidly recovering. This could be due to only one explanation – lots and lots of snow in the Rocky Mountains during the last five years.

And an extra bonus from the “weather is not climate” department – January 29, 2010 at 39.9 degrees was ten degrees below normal and the second coldest on record.

Lake Powell (Arizona and Utah) provides a good proxy for western slope snowfall, because much of the snow in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Northwestern New Mexico drains into the lake via the Colorado, Green and San Juan Rivers. The lake currently contains more than 4.5 trillion gallons of water and is 490 feet deep at the dam.

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January 31, 2010 8:35 pm

For those of you who haven’t seen the Green River, it’s fantastic at both Flaming River Gorge and the confluence with the Colorado, at Canyonlands Park, both on the map.

Mike Ramsey
January 31, 2010 8:35 pm

(It has been estimated by the University of Twente in The Netherlands that the manufacture of one liter of biodiesel requires 14,000 liters of water).

Kum Dollison
January 31, 2010 8:37 pm

not to mention the large and ever increasing amount of water being used by the biofuels industry
All them Midwestern Ethanol, and Biodiesel plants are just killing the poor ol’ Colyradoe, eh?

Kum Dollison
January 31, 2010 8:56 pm

the entire U.S. biodiesel industry used less processing water in 2008 than it takes to irrigate two Sun Belt golf courses annually.
Not many soybeans are irrigated, and the ones that are were irrigated before they started taking the oil out for biodiesel.
Silly statement.

Steve Goddard
January 31, 2010 8:57 pm

Huge amounts of western water is used to irrigate corn for biofuels.
Sometimes research should come before sarcasm.

Steve Goddard
January 31, 2010 8:58 pm

I’ve canoed from Green River, UT down to the confluence twice. 120 miles of some of the finest scenery anywhere.

January 31, 2010 9:02 pm

At 14,000 liters of water, and given Lake Powell holds 4.5 trillion liters of water, we could produce 82.5 million gallons of biodiesel, or 1.6 million barrels of biodiesel.
The input to US refineries –
is 13.8 million barrels / day.
Lake Powell converted to Biodiesel wouldn’t make 2 hours worth of US daily fuel.
If the 14,000 liters/biodiesel liter is correct, what a waste of water.

Mike Davis
January 31, 2010 9:04 pm

You failed to mention the “Fake” floods needed to maintain biodiversity on the lower river. Also the decision to lower the water level to avert the flooding that happened in the 80s. Remember this river dam system was designed to control flooding down river.

Steve Goddard
January 31, 2010 9:11 pm

The vast majority of biofuels in the US are generated from corn.
TABLE 1-1 U.S. Production of Biofuels from Various Feedstocks in 2006
U.S. Production in 2006
4.9 billion gallons
Less than 100 million gallons
Cane sugar
No production (600 million gallons imported from Brazil and Caribbean countries)
No production (one demonstration plant in Canada)
Soybean oil
Approximately 90 million gallons
Other vegetable oils
Less than 10 million gallons
Recycled grease
Less than 10 million gallons
No production
SOURCE: U.S. CRS (2007).

Steve Garcia
January 31, 2010 9:42 pm

Hahahaha –
Notice that 1998 – the highest temp year in everybody’s database (at least homogenized data) – is right in the middle of a fairly long high water stretch.
I know things have lag times, but for them to jump on 2007 and cry “The sky is falling!” – doesn’t that at least allow me to point at an even hotter year and cry “Weather is not climate!” or something of the sort?

Ed Murphy
January 31, 2010 9:46 pm

Great article about Lake Powell, all you guys, now this is the kind of stuff that opens eyes and turns heads. Keep ’em coming, you’re rolling like a juggernaut heading for victory over corrupt science and politics!
A side note… Liquefied natural gas doesn’t require any water that I’m aware of and we have at least a bit over one century worth, maybe two, and… nobody has to go hungry. That’s with running our vehicles and replacing coal and oil entirely. Correct me if I’m wrong.

January 31, 2010 9:49 pm

Steve, I ‘discovered’ the Moab area several years ago, and just fell in love with it. Took a flightseeing tour over Canyonlands, it was my favorite, til I did the flightseeing around Mt McKinley! One of the things I love about our country, there’s some of everything, and it’s all beautiful in its own, if different, way. We also produce great minds, like the ones who both post and comment here, and a fantastic thinker at HotAir, goes by the name of DocZero. I’m glad to have sites like these where average folks like me can go for good information.

January 31, 2010 9:49 pm

“weather is not climate”
So they say.
So where is all the hot weather that would be the result of global warming? I haven’t seen any reports of it (unless you look at GISTemp, the product of a global warming, mad scientist).
But I keep seeing all the reports of cold.

Steve Garcia
January 31, 2010 9:59 pm

A similar recovery of a lake:
Back in late summer of 2003, I made plans to visit Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco, in Mexico. 40 miles south of the city is Mexico’s largest lake, Lake Chapala. A friend down there emailed me and was bewailing the drying up of their lake. The water level was at 15% of normal, and it was imminently scheduled to be placed on the world list of endangered lakes.
This was the end of August, 2003. The rainy season there runs from the late part of June to about the end of September, so there was only one month to go before the dry season started – which everyone expected to dry the lake up pretty much all the way.
There were all kinds of causes brought up as to why the lake was drying up – population growth, farmer’s taking water out of the drainage basin feeding the lake, and a prolonged semi-drought. The one thing I did NOT hear being blamed for it, amazingly, was global warming. It might have been blamed by someone, but I never heard it as such…
How do I put this? You are all going to think I’m nuts, but I thought I would just put some mental energy into sending rain. The Huichole (sp?) Indians were hot on that angle, too. Coincidence or by magic, all September the rains came steadily (that rainy season up until then had been very much below average). Those rains extended past the normal ending of the rainy season, all the way through October and into early November. My friend had lived there for over 30 years and told me there had not been November rains in the city in all that time.
At the end of the rainy season, the water level was at 55% of normal. By the end of the rainy season in 2004, the water level was at 100%.
Water levels rise and water levels fall. Yes, people take water out of drainage basins and sometimes excessively – but usually we all realize what level is proper for maintaining a relatively “steady state.” Since 2004, the water level to my knowledge has been pretty normal – in spite of the population (which is still higher than before) and the farmers taking what they need.
The real variable was simply rainfall. When it returned to normal, so did the lake level.

Kum Dollison
January 31, 2010 10:02 pm

Steve, you made reference to Biodiesel. Biodiesel, in the U.S., is made from waste veg grease, or Soybeans, Not Corn.
I’m assuming that the Co corn that is irrigated is irrigated from groundwater, not snow melt water.

Steve Goddard
January 31, 2010 10:07 pm

Glen Canyon was one of the most beautiful sections of the Colorado River before it was flooded by Lake Powell. Many environmentalists have been hoping for the demise of the lake, but it looks like they will have to wait a bit longer ……
Prior to the building of Glen Canyon Dam, The Grand Canyon had warm muddy water flowing through it. Now it has cold, clear water which flows out of the bottom of the dam. This has radically changed the ecosystem – some of the largest trout in the world live in the cold water at Lee’s Ferry down below the dam.

Steve Goddard
January 31, 2010 10:28 pm

I said “not to mention the large and ever increasing amount of water being used by the biofuels industry.”
The vast majority of irrigation water in Colorado comes from rivers. Much of the water usage in the Front Range is pumped over from the western slope.

Pamela Gray
January 31, 2010 10:31 pm

Kum, in Wallowa County we have two sources of water in the ground, aquifer and ground table water. Aquifer water is what you drill for. It can be as little as 60 feet down or as much as 900 feet down. Ground water is what you find in low-lying areas if you dig through the layers of top soil and old river bottom gravel down deep enough. On the rare occasion, you will find an artesian water source. They can be caused by several different formations. One formation, that of an aquifer caught between two undulating ribbons of old lava, can loop up near the surface and bubble up to the ground if under pressure to do so. Ground water tables can be reduced by drought, and quickly. Aquifer water tends to be much more stable as it depends on centuries of water working its way to the aquifer level. Still, too many wells can cause pressure problems. What you would call a swamp, we call sub-irrigated ground. You might be able to grow timothy hay on it if you drain tile it. But alfalfa needs dryer soil with periodic irrigation, flood irrigation being the best choice.

January 31, 2010 10:43 pm

Kum Dollison,
here is a quote from the link Stephen posted:
“The worst offenders included making biodiesel from rapeseed or soya (14,000 liters of water to make just one liter of biodiesel)”
You must understand that water cost is not just irrigation. Processing of the crop also incurs heavy water cost.
Corn for ethanol is 1/10 the amount at 1,400. This is still stupid!!!
You should also note that he uses the phrase “ever increasing”. We do not yet know whether our gubmint will be stupid enough to continue to push rapeseed/soya for biodiesel with current technologies!! The amount of used vegetable oil is already being fully utilised for biodiesel in a number of areas.

Kum Dollison
January 31, 2010 10:45 pm

Well, Steve, you’ve been growing corn in Colorado for a long time. Have you “always” irrigated it, or did you just start when the biofuel market came to town?
And, I guess the next “Logical” question would be do you have more corn acres than in the past, about the same, or less?

Kum Dollison
January 31, 2010 10:53 pm

I read, somewhere, that although about 15% of corn is irrigated, only about 6% of the corn that’s used for ethanol is irrigated. Most of that in Nebraska. I’m wondering how much Colorado Corn actually goes to ethanol. If there’s not a plant within 30, or so, miles I would say very little. I bet most of it goes the same place it’s always gone – to feed Colorado cattle.
BTW in 2007 we planted 91 million acres of corn and produced 13.1 Billion bushels.
in 2009 we planted 86 million acres and produced 13.2 Billion bushels. An all-time record yield of 165 bu/acre. In spite of one of the most horrendous growing seasons on record.

Kum Dollison
January 31, 2010 11:09 pm

I see a refinery in Yuma, Co in the NE corner of the state
and, Windsor Co. Also in the NNE part of the state. They’ve been irrigating, there, since the 1870’s. Used to raise sugar beets. Now they’ve got Kodak.

Kum Dollison
January 31, 2010 11:36 pm

Steve it looks to me like those refineries are in the “South Platte Basin.” The South Platte flows out of the Rockies, through Nebraska, hooks up with the N. Platte, and goes into the Missouri/Mississippi River System.
The farmers there have 400 GROUNDWATER WELLS, and are in a fight over whether or not they’re taking water out of the S. Platte River.
I just can’t see how the Colorado River could enter into this at all. Why would one “Pump” water over a mountain when you’re sitting right beside a very nice river, already?

February 1, 2010 12:04 am

This could be due to only one explanation – lots and lots of snow in the Rocky Mountains during the last five years.
I’m waiting for someone to mention it could also be from the rapidly melting glaciers.

February 1, 2010 12:16 am

I’ve been following the resevoirs in WY the last few years, and they have rebounded to near normal levels recently as well……………

February 1, 2010 12:18 am

The cause or the lake level rise would be all the anecdotal evidence evidence piling up. I knew all the anecdotal evidence would someday manifest itself somewhere on somebodies door step in the form of crow eating.

Kum Dollison
February 1, 2010 12:20 am

Kuhnkat, that “Twent” article was just a silly hit-piece. Many (most?) biodiesel producers don’t even use water in the process anymore.
As for corn: as I said, something like 96% of the corn used for ethanol is Not irrigated. That that is was irrigated long before the local ethanol refinery was built. As for the plants, water usage can run from zero to 4 gal/gal of ethanol, with the average being around 3. Many plants use waste water from the local municipality, or from a local river. They put the water back cleaner than they found it. As I said, a couple have been built with zero-discharge.
You want to look at water? Get a number on how much they use in the typical California oilfield (water injection,) and the typical oil refinery.

February 1, 2010 12:23 am

Lake Lanier Georgia is full now too. California water wars will be put on hold this summer too. God is good. Thanks for turning down the heat old man.

February 1, 2010 12:23 am

Q. If there were no human extraction of water from the lake since 1992 then what would the likely level be today?
Due to time constraints I have not read all the comments before posting this question.

February 1, 2010 1:19 am

Who needs biofuel, besides Obama supporters who get government subsidies? From the environmentalist’s point of view, biofuel is as bad as any regular gas or diesel when it burns — but it takes much more natural resources to produce it. From the economist’s point of view, biofuel is waste of taxpayers’ money. Remove ideological pink glasses, and you will see that it is a sheer nonsense designed to raise taxes and grab more political power.
Meanwhile, nobody is running out of oil and natural gas. If we build enough nuclear stations for heating, railways, and heavy industry, Earth’s oil and gas reserves will last for centuries. By that time, surely, safe and portable compact nuclear reactors will be moving every vehicle and every flying machine (even if we won’t come up with something better, like direct mass-to-energy converters).
Biofuel is too expensive, silly, and harmful.

Nigel S
February 1, 2010 1:46 am

The point, surely, is that the crops for biofuels (and the water required) are new uses since we (rich westerners at least) have to eat.
Wouldn’t it be simpler to convert to steam power for cars? Not as efficient perhaps but a lot less water use I would guess. (This is not a serious suggestion but then neither is biofuel, apart from reprocessed cooking oil which seems like a win win since it is otherwise often tipped down the drain). The only downside is the faint smell of fish and chips which makes one a bit hungry at times.

February 1, 2010 1:54 am

You would think, that maybe someone among these researchers would have taken a look at the total water budget – how much is being drawn off. Only then, after having examined the obvious explanations, would they be in a position to look for a climate change explanation.
But then, what do I know about science?

February 1, 2010 2:17 am

Who doesn’t go to Climate Depot for their latest Man-made global warming Smack Down News? I bet the Obama administration does. I bet all the news agencies do. I bet all the AGW alarmists do. It seems that’s the only place to get the real consolidated news on climate science smack down updates. Good on ya Climate Depot

February 1, 2010 2:48 am

I think Kum has a valid point. You can’t talk about ‘biofuels’ and then quote a statistic about a biofuel which isn’t produced in the area under discussion.
As for advising someone to “research”, it’s a shame you didn’t do that with your infamous CO2-freezing-out-of-the-air-article. In that missive, it was a throwaway comment that created the rumpus, as it seems to be with this essay. Why not stay on subject, and avoid detracting attention from the point you are trying to make?

February 1, 2010 4:13 am

@ Nigel S (01:46:38) :
Steam power would be very efficient, and be very flexible on fuel supply as what is needed is a simple source of heat, not the precise burning characteristics required for an internal combustion engine. The major problem for people would be a 20-30 minute warm-up time to get the steam pressure up. Sure, people will buy electric cars that need an 8 hour recharge to do a 1 hour daily commute, but won’t give up being able to jump right in and go in an instant.
Oh, about used cooking oil… Back around 2007-8 I was studying online about homebrew biodiesel, checking out sites with all the info needed for DIY. As the fuel prices were skyrocketing, used restaurant oil went from being something discarded that you could have for the asking, to something people were paying for, and then there were outfits gathering it up for commercial processing. In short order it became something that had to be locked up so people wouldn’t steal it, when before they were paying to get rid of it. If it has gone back to throwaway status then fuel prices have dropped so low it’s no longer worth the effort to convert it, or there is a very low concentration of environmental and/or economical people with mechanical skills in that particular area where it’s being discarded.
Another quick biofuel note: They were selling online kits for homebrew ethanol, a thousand bucks or so each, probably still are. The sites said you could mix it with regular gasoline up to 15% without any modifications to the vehicle, recoup your investment pretty quick. About then here in central PA I started noticing new stickers at the gas pumps, “Contains 10% ethanol.” Currently, in what may be a nod to the real state of biofuels, there are stickers saying “May contain up to 10% ethanol.”

Nigel S
February 1, 2010 4:42 am

There was an excellent edition of ‘Top Gear’ in which they drove an unmodified old Volvo on fat straight from a chip shop cut with a little white spirit. The car seemed to run perfectly well.

February 1, 2010 4:51 am

Kum Dollison (23:36:05) :
RE the water being pumped over the mountain: I’m guessing that it’s for the City of Denver. There is in fact a resivoir near the Colorado River Headwaters, on the West side of the Divide, and a pipline going under the mountain. Probably not being used for irrigation in the East part of the state.
Traveling through E Colorado and W Nebraska last fall, there was in fact a prodigious amount of corn being grown, didn’t see a lot of irragation going on. This all being said, having travelled all over the Colorado River watershed, I’ve seen all manner of crops being flood irrigated. To the point that would make a Plains farmer blush. There’s a fair amount of corn crop in these parts (South Plains), almost completely irrigated, but with center pivot or drip. Much more efficient uses of water, IMO, certainly more so than the flood irrigation used even in the desert of South Arizona.

richard verney
February 1, 2010 5:33 am

Whilst I am unsure whether going back to steam is the future, regarding the post on steam cars, many of these were fitted with a flash boiler that warmed up in about 5 minutes. All one would have to do is steam up whilst you pack the car, it would then be ready to drive. Perhaps steam is making a come back since I seem to recall that within the last few months there was a land spped record set by a steam car of about 170 to 200 mph.

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 5:33 am

Here are some references.
One third to one half of water pumped over from the western slope is used for agriculture.
Over 90 percent of water consumed through human activities in Colorado occurs in agriculture.
Mesa County is the largest water user in the state. It is almost all agricultural and is 99% surface water. Weld County is the largest corn producer and the second largest water user in the state. 80% of the water used in Weld County is surface water.
One third of corn production in the US is for biofuels.

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 5:37 am

The freezing point of CO2 is -109 degrees. In Antarctica it gets as cold as -128 degrees.

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 5:42 am

Good luck trying to grow corn in Colorado or Arizona without irrigation. Most of the corn growing regions receive 15 inches of precipitation or less per annum.

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 5:48 am

How is biofuels water usage off topic? It is a big part of the water equation in the Rocky Mountains.

February 1, 2010 5:49 am

Well this certainly sheds new light on the greenies desire to drain the lake. No lake level to indicate that there must have been a lot of snow to result in those increases in lake level in spite of the increased outflow of water, would mean no further evidence that they are wrong!
I live in AZ and the greenies call for draining Lake Powell seem to occur in phases. Now I see what all the fuss was about the last time. They don’t even pretend to care anymore that millions of people depend on that stored water.

February 1, 2010 5:51 am

Biofuel from ‘food-stock’ is so wrong, at so many levels,,, inclusive of the fact that they are at least as carcinogenic for the acetaldehydes and formaldehydes formed and (est.) to result in ~10% higher incidence of asthma, emphysema and other pulmonary diseases.
Perhaps not the point, herein, but at least as relevant~

Nigel S
February 1, 2010 5:53 am

richard verney (05:33:05)
New steam car record, yes, these crazy guys
An American put up the money so thanks for that.

February 1, 2010 6:09 am

@ Nigel S (04:42:41) :
There was up to a certain year of certain Volvo diesel engines that could run straight vegetable oil (SVO), about 1986 I think. When using waste vegetable oil (WVO) the major issues are filtering out fine sediments and the oil contains acids, both picked up during the cooking. When using those fuels, outside temperature can be an issue. There can be dual-fuel dual-tank systems, where regular diesel is used at the start until things warm up and then VO is used. There can also be systems using heaters for the tank and engine.
Often with VO and biodiesel there are engine timing issues, older engines with manually adjustable timing are preferred. Sensor-controlled electronic ignition systems will likely have problems, although recently manufactured vehicles are being built for multi-fuel use and can handle biodiesel and perhaps VO.
A major issue with biodiesel is it has more of a solvent character than normal diesel, it is considered corrosive. Thus older vehicles may need the old rubber hoses upgraded, and certain seals and O-rings get upgraded to Viton.
Which brings up something interesting. Diesel is basically #2 heating oil, there may be some additives for cleaner burning and to keep it from “gelling up” in real cold weather. Home heating oil is dyed red for a quick check if truckers are using it to duck paying highway fuel taxes.
Home oil furnaces can, with no exceptions I know of, burn both #2 and #1 heating oils, with #1 otherwise known as kerosene, which is a solvent. After reviewing the expected quality of homebrew biodiesel, I concluded that old-fashioned “dead dinosaur” diesel is best for vehicles, while biodiesel would be best used for home heating. Furnaces are a lot less finicky than vehicles.

Pamela Gray
February 1, 2010 6:10 am

Continuing my comment about irrigation and water conservation. Some plants require root irrigation, while others prefer leaf. And you can get a better crop, or more suited for your intended purpose, by changing the way you provide water. For example, overhead irrigation of alfalfa can lead to a product with too much stem instead of a leafy one. Flood irrigation, done once or twice, can produce a leafy plant, which is what you want. Drip irrigation is a form of root irrigation if the drip occurs along the ground. It is potentially a better way to provide water at the root level but it is damn hard to harvest around the lines, let alone replant the field, even if you don’t replant every year as is the case of alfalfa. There are ways to lay down the flexible lines and pick them back up again but the space between rows has to be pretty wide, decreasing potential yield from a field. These ways of reducing or conserving water while getting a better product are not straightforward decisions.

Ken S
February 1, 2010 6:11 am

“bikermailman (20:35:01) :
For those of you who haven’t seen the Green River, it’s fantastic at both Flaming River Gorge and the confluence with the Colorado, at Canyonlands Park, both on the map.”
I considered purchasing property along Green River just a short ways north of the city of Green River. After finding the property on the sat image of Google Map I decided that living in in a house located approx 15 foot above river surface would not be a good idea if the spring runoffs continue to to increase each year.
Approx 12 acres with 183 foot of Green River River frontage, I would never run out of water, problem might be just too much?
Here is a link to the property listing not meant to be spam, not sure if this posting will even get past the spam filter.
There are a couple nice pictures of the area and you can see the river and if the trend contines I guess the entire property will be part of the river as well.

February 1, 2010 6:30 am

@ Steve Goddard (05:33:37) :
“Biofuels” may need some closer defining. They make these room-sized little furnaces they call “stoves,” that blow out hot air. They run on wood pellets, coal… and there are corn burners. Straight dry feed corn, just pour it in the hopper.
I don’t know what the percentage is of corn grown that goes straight to being bulk fuel, but people may assume that “biofuel” means all that corn is going right to ethanol or similar, and overestimate how much water and other resources are used in the conversion. When there might be no “converting” to speak of.

February 1, 2010 6:41 am

Re Steve Goddard (05:42:02) :
Same with lots of corn in Calif, although I do think this is a major distraction from the main point of what you were writing.

February 1, 2010 6:43 am

being more than familiar with the operation of lake powell (25 + years of forecasting inflow) there are things about the lake you have neglected. let us for a moment, consider the inflow as opposed to the outflow. above lake powell, there has been considerable developement as well. on the utah side, there are 485 diversions, ditches, canals and other water rights, many developed since the 1950’s. there are 2,220 lakes, ponds, impoundments. on the colorado side, there are approximately 33,000 diversions, 11,000 lakes, ponds and impoundments assoicated witha water right as well as 7,000 wells which take water eventually recharged by surface water. in the so called adjusted lake powell inflow data (observed usgs flow adjusted for upstream use – the data set most often used by researchers as the official lake powell inflow data) the data are adjusted for 18 major reservoirs and 16 major diversions. i suggest that the inflow over the past 50 years has significantly changed with much greater use above the reservoir. just look at 2 to 3 feet of evapporation off of these reservoirs and ponds – many of which were developed subsequent to lake powell. look at bank storage and the impact on the hydrograph. there are many more reasons why inflow to the reservoir has systematically declined: aspen to conifer conversion, a total of 2.5 million acres in colorado and utah. aspen lands have much greater water yield than conifers, in one study, aspens had 34% more snow and nearly 4.5 inches more soil moisture than conifers. what this means is by losing that amount of aspen land to conifer, average annual inflow to the lake would decrease by 2.5% to nearly 11%. now take grazing – in the late 1800’s, there were about 4 million cows and 5 million sheep in the western states – by 1900, there were nearly 20 million cows and 25 million sheep. the devastation was enormous until the 1930’s with the taylor grazing act. denuded watersheds had huge hydrologic changes – constant flooding, mud and debris flows – an increase in hydrologic response – we pre-loaded the hydrology in the early century by grazing. also by logging – we logged the heck out of the area to build railroads and settlements. fewer trees, more water, again preloading the early record. come the 1960’s and 70’s with the environmental movement, huge changes to watershed management. drastically curtailed logging, now we have as many as 200 trees per acre as opposed to maby 20 to 30 early on. more trees equals less water. see the bias here – for 100 years we did everything possible to increase water yield on western watersheds and then for the last 40, everything possible to decrease flows. lets not stop there – fire. early century, fires in the west would consume between 10 and 30 million acres. with smokey bear, now we have between 2 and 5 million acres annually. more tree=less water. on a huge scale. fraser watershed expirements in colorado, with a 40% tree harvest increased streamflow by nearly 50% as i recall (would have to look up exact figures) and the increase lasted 20 years before decline and was still evident after 30 to 40 years. pretty impressive. we are not done yet, irrigation practices have changed from flood to sprinkler on a large scale. with flood irrigation, water was put on the field, suplus water ran off and much percolated and provided subsurface return to the stream. with sprinklers, almost all is consumptively used, more accurate amounts, but virtually no return to stream.
people think they know what is going on at lake powell – i am convinced we dont have a clue what a true adjusted inflow to the lake really is, moreover, i am convinced that it is systematically lower that what we calculate due to many of the above referenced items and that the historical record is biased as well making meaningful comparisons impossible.

February 1, 2010 6:46 am

One thing I would have liked to see in the report is what level the lake would currently be if for example (pick a time period) the water drawn from 2005 – 2009 had been the same as from 1990 – 1994. How much effect has the increase in use had on lake levels?

February 1, 2010 6:51 am

Another study on how much more water would have been required from the lake, if we wanted to grow the same amount of agriculture, and we had only 280 PPM CO2 verses the 380PPM CO2 we now have. The extra 100 PPM CO2 saved a lot of water and land to get the same crop yield. Water was also saved in resedential lawns, golf courses etc. I wander of these savings were reflected in any IPCC reports?

February 1, 2010 6:54 am

feet2fire 2:59:03-“you all think I’m nuts…”
Nah..we know.Lol

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 7:40 am

Do you have a theory which proposes that substances no longer freeze when below their freezing point? I’ll be interested to hear about it.

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 7:42 am

A good indicator of Green River flooding is the Salt Cedar. During dry years it takes over the sand bars, but floods in wet years clear things out and produce new sand bars. Makes a huge difference when you are camping.

John Galt
February 1, 2010 8:13 am

Further down river, Lake Mead has a similar story.

Steve Keohane
February 1, 2010 8:32 am

Kum Dollison (22:02:57) : I’m assuming that the Co corn that is irrigated is irrigated from groundwater, not snow melt water.
Kum, where do you think the ground water in Colorado comes from? Answer is snow! Do you realize the rivers and streams here are often just surface symptoms of greater flow beneath the surface that comes from, snow? People don’t realize the whole Front Range, i.e. east of the Rockies, was sparse sagebrush, a few barrel and pear cactus, and cottonwood trees along rivers. It took damming the the flow on the eastern slope into reservoirs, piping water from the western slope where <3% of the state's population resides, to support the population and agriculture in the east. The western part of the state is much wetter than the east with many orchards and now wine grapes.

A C Osborn
February 1, 2010 8:43 am

Steve, do you know how much precipitation in that area is Rain and how much is Snow?

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 9:03 am

A C,
In the mountains the vast majority of precipitation is snow, because it is too cold to rain for 8-9 months a year. At lower elevations, precipitation is dominated by summer rains which have very little effect on reservoir storage. Mountain snow is the dominant control.

February 1, 2010 9:20 am

It wouldn’t surprise me for the “true believers” (as opposed to us “deniers” 🙂 ) to state that since the water level in the lake is rising it must be due to glaciers in the mountains melting, and hence… global warming! 🙂

Bill White
February 1, 2010 9:34 am

Steve G,
Your point about water recovery in the Lower Colorado is on target, but your added comment about biodiesel is incorrect, and your confounding of biodiesel and biofuels (a larger category dominated by ethanol) has added a lot of confusion.
As Kum attempted to point out, biodiesel in the U.S. is made almost exclusively from soybeans – the soybean growing areas of the U.S., mostly in the Mississippi watershed, are not experiencing water shortages. Furthermore, it takes almost no water to manufacture biodiesel – in fact, a small amount of water will kill the inter-esterification reaction.
As for the claim in the Dutch article, perhaps you might look into its accuracy and fairness before citing it in future essays. As an alternative, you could amend your initial post to use the word ‘biofuels’. There is no question that ethanol production uses a lot of water – for fermentation, steam generation, cooling, etc.

February 1, 2010 9:35 am

Ken S (06:11:38) :
Just speaking for myself, the land alone would be worth that price. Build some small levees, you’re good to go.
Randy, good comment. Good reminder that just as the global climate, things are far more complex than just a quick eyeballing can give you.

February 1, 2010 9:43 am

It seems to me that you guys have way too much time on your hands to be sitting in front of the computer and typing in all this bull! If you guys really want to do something about it you’d be going to the proper site provided by state parks in your area. Basically what I see is you guys talking to one another and not getting anything done! The problem is not going to get any better why, because more and more construction in Las Vegas Southern California and especially Phoenix will continue to go on, why will the problem has to do with immigration more and more immigrants across the border and guess what they need places to live and unfortunately they drink water, shower and all the parks that their kids go to have to have water to water the grass. The problem is never going to end there can be huge snowpack in the Rockies and this will fill the reservoirs and it will happen again the fact is there is nothing we can do about it and that’s a fact why have you ever heard the term lets cut off your leg to save your foot? This is what needs to be done. Immigration, our borders need to be closed and we can properly manage our water levels after all it’s our water we give Mexico enough water in fact we give them so much water that they have developed the new River and what do they use the new River for? They throw all their trash all their polluted runoff and septic tank waste into the river and on top of that they float down the river into our country! This new River flows into the Salton Sea and when these illegals use the river flow to cross into our country the border patrol can do nothing about it because the water is so polluted that can do nothing but watch as these people cross into our country well I guess I said enough let’s see some comments

Leonard Weinstein
February 1, 2010 10:35 am

Steve Goddard (5:37:15),
The freezing point of CO2 is -72 degrees F. However the vapor pressure, even over the solid CO2, is temperature dependent. If the vapor pressure of a layer of CO2 at the surrounding temperature was higher than the ambient PARTIAL PRESSURE of CO2, the CO2 would continually sublime. This would result in a continual loss of mass until it is all gone. Atmospheric pressure is 760 torr, so if this pressure were all due to CO2, the equilibrium temperature (where CO2 would stay in place) would be -109 degrees F as you stated. However, the actual CO2 partial pressure is only 0.3 torr. At this partial pressure, the equilibrium temperature would have to be about -220 degrees F. Since the coldest place on Earth is only -128 degrees F, the CO2 would not freeze out, and NONE would accumulate.

February 1, 2010 11:08 am

Leonard Weinstein:
Which is why ice (from water) disappears on below-freezing days, and the very cold air continues to have some water vapor content. Even when that air is below 32 degrees F (0 deg C).

Gail Combs
February 1, 2010 11:13 am

Kum Dollison (22:02:57) :
“Steve, you made reference to Biodiesel. Biodiesel, in the U.S., is made from waste veg grease, or Soybeans, Not Corn…”
You are incorrect because your information is old. Straight from the USDA:
“USDA closely monitors markets for many commodities, including corn and soybeans—important feedstocks for ethanol and biodiesel, respectively. Below is a collection of data sources on production, consumption, prices, and trade in feedstocks, coproducts, and the biofuels themselves. Please note that, currently, cellulosic ethanol is not yet widely manufactured or commercially available in the United States. Therefore, only grain ethanol data are presented here….”
This is why there were food riots in third world countries in 2008 and Monsanto and Cargill had record earnings.

Gail Combs
February 1, 2010 11:28 am

Kum Dollison (22:53:58) :
“… 2009 we planted 86 million acres and produced 13.2 Billion bushels. An all-time record yield of 165 bu/acre. In spite of one of the most horrendous growing seasons on record.”
Again you leave out the most significant part. It was “poor quality” corn and not of use as feed or biofuel stock as I noted in another post.
” …A bumper crop of poor quality corn is not the mark of a reliable food system; nor is one that requires tremendous amounts of propane in order to become dry enough to store. In some areas farmers are adding $75-100/acre to their cost of production, just to dry down their corn. That’s simply not sustainable in terms of natural resources or individual farm economics. If we look at this season with a lens broader than sheer yield, the story is far more complex–and ultimately less rosy. “
Poor quality corn is unsutible for biofuel because the bacteria and toxins intefere with the yeast in fermentation.

February 1, 2010 11:31 am

“Evaporation is relatively constant from year to year”
I’m surprised to read that.
Lake Powell is funnel-shaped, so the surface area increases dramatically as the level of the lake rises. I was under the impression that evaporation was much lower back in 2005 because the surface area had shrunk so much.
I would have expected evaporation to increase significantly since then.

Kum Dollison
February 1, 2010 11:43 am

Gail, I don’t know from your link why you think I’m wrong, but I’m not. The only exceptions are a couple of ethanol refineries separate out the “crude” corn oil and sell it to biodiesel production. A very small amount, overall. Also, on the W. Coast they were “splash, and dashing” (buying palm oil from Asia, adding some diesel *for the Tax Credit* and shipping it to Europe.) I think the Euros have pretty much put the kibosh on that.
The food demonstrations had a lot of causes, but ethanol in the U.S. had absolutely NOTHING to do with any of them.
Steve, I still don’t know what agriculture on the S. Platte River has to do with snow melt on the Colorado.

Kum Dollison
February 1, 2010 11:51 am

Gail, that’s total nonsense. The USDA takes water content into consideration when rating a crop. Also, you might not be aware that ethanol refineries were taking corn up to 23% waterweight. That corn did not have to be dried.
As far as the quality of the crop it was just fine.
By the way, you may not be aware that, due to the amount of corn, and soybean meal the DDGS replace, even the most ardent ethanol critics now admit that you get back at least 60% of your livestock feeding ability in the DDGS.
This is evidenced by the fact that corn is selling for $3.58/bu (a touch over $0.06/lb) this morning on the CBOT.

Gail Combs
February 1, 2010 11:55 am

Symon (02:48:42) :
“I think Kum has a valid point. You can’t talk about ‘biofuels’ and then quote a statistic about a biofuel which isn’t produced in the area under discussion.
As for advising someone to “research”, it’s a shame you didn’t do that with your infamous CO2-freezing-out-of-the-air-article. In that missive, it was a throwaway comment that created the rumpus, as it seems to be with this essay. Why not stay on subject, and avoid detracting attention from the point you are trying to make?”

I wish that was true. As I said I covered this issue in an earlier WUWT. The effects are not local. The bio-fuel use of corn and soybeans here in the USA caused farmers to plant more corn and soybeans, Monsanto to raise their prices for seed and Cargill, the grain trader, to raise theirs. Within the last couple years the cost of feed tripled in the USA and third world countries had food riots.
If a farmer can get more per acre planting corn than that is what he will plant. The veggies he might have planted and sold locally he does not and they get shipped in from elsewhere. One of the worse problems is corn is very hard on the land. It requires a lot of fertilizer and causes a lot of run off/soil erosion.
Also Texas and Colorado are two of the top 18 corn producing states in the USA. “Total unharvested corn production for the top 18 states is projected to be 630.4 million bushels, equaling 4.8% of USDA’s 2009 U.S. corn production projection of 13.151 billion bushels on January 12, 2010.”

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 12:17 pm

When the partial pressure of a gas equals atmospheric pressure, that is the boiling point, not the freezing point.
“The boiling point of an element or a substance is the temperature at which the vapor pressure of the liquid equals the environmental pressure surrounding the liquid.”

David Porter
February 1, 2010 12:53 pm

Symon (06:06:07) :
Nasty piece of work aren’t you Simon.

Kum Dollison
February 1, 2010 1:01 pm

Gail, you can have your own opinions, but not your own FACTS. We used to plant a lot more corn than we do now. In fact, as I posted, Corn planting was down 5% just from 2007 to 2009. Corn seeds are more expensive because they are much, much more advanced. Most of the 630 million bushels will be picked this month, and next. Corn doesn’t rot on the stalk.
Gail, field corn is selling for a touch over $0.06. It has NEVER sold for $0.02/lb. It costs between a nickel, and six cents just to grow it.
The price of cattle feed in the U.S. had absolutely nothing to do with the wheat crop in Australia, and Venezuela (drought,) Import/export problems in India, and China (rice,) or *Sweet Corn*/Tortilla prices in Mexico. In fact at the time Mexico had Severe Import Controls on U.S. Corn, and there was absolutely NO connection between the White *Sweet* Corn used in Tortillas, and the Yellow *Field* Corn we feed to cattle, and take the starch from to make ethanol.

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 1:08 pm

The solid/gas equilibrium is a balance between freezing and subliming molecules. Some molecules are moving from gas to solid, and others are going the other direction. If more are subliming than freezing, there is a net loss of solid. If more are freezing than subliming, the ice mass increases.
Regardless of the net equilibrium state, my statement “CO2 freezes directly out of the air” is of course correct below the freezing point of 109F. If others want to argue about something else, have at it.

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 1:25 pm

In summary.
1. Lots of corn is irrigated in Colorado (and Arizona) from surface water.
2. Most of the surface water comes from snow.
3. Large amounts of water are moved from the western slope to the front range for agriculture.
4. A substantial fraction of the corn crop is used for biofuels.
Biofuels has a significant impact on Colorado River streamflow.

Kum Dollison
February 1, 2010 1:48 pm

NO, I’m not buying it. You Prove to me that water from the Colorado watershed went to corn irrigation in the South Platte River Basin (where the two ethanol refineries are located.)
Your “logic” is not only faulty, it’s nonexistent.

john pattinson
February 1, 2010 2:05 pm

On the same web site as the water data is this graph showing the percentage of the average equivalent waer precipitation for the Upper Colarado
Of the three most recent years plus 2010 season so far only 2008 is above average. Is there a good reason for using the January water levels as a better proxy than this graph?

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 2:56 pm

You provided a link to a graph for one basin (out of dozens) that feeds Lake Powell.
You can’t grow corn in Colorado without irrigation. Large amounts of western slope water are used to grow corn on both sides of the Continental Divide.

Colorado corn acreage is expected to grow by 25 percent this year in response to the high demand for corn-based ethanol, but agricultural economists say fears of resulting higher food prices are largely unfounded.
Ethanol production has been growing at breakneck speed since President Bush announced his goal of decreasing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil through his Advanced Energy Initiative last year. Colorado has a handful of corn ethanol plants producing more than 100 million gallons of ethanol each year. More plants are set to open in the next few years that will easily double that number.

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 3:20 pm

I looked closer at your graph and it shows two out of the last three years as above the long term mean. WY 2009 hit 19 inches SWE compared to an average peak of 18 inches. WY 2008 hit 22 inches SWE. 2010 is a little below the mean. Normally El Nino years bring heavy spring snow to Colorado,

After Seven
February 1, 2010 3:37 pm

Why would one use January 29 as some magical date? I’d want to see the data for February 28, March 31, April 30, May 31 & June 30 before drawing any conclusions. If you think about it, most ski resorts open mid- December and close in late March/early April. By taking readings on January 29 you are missing all of the storm data from February March and April and all the spring runoff data for May & June.

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 3:40 pm

More for Kum,

Colorado-Big Thompson Project
The Colorado-Big Thompson Project is the largest transmountain water diversion project in Colorado.
Built between 1938 and 1957, the C-BT Project provides supplemental water to 30 cities and towns. The water is used to help irrigate approximately 693,000 acres of northeastern Colorado farmland.
Twelve reservoirs, 35 miles of tunnels, 95 miles of canals and 700 miles of transmission lines comprise the complex collection, distribution and power system. The C-BT system spans 150 miles east to west and 65 from north to south.
West of the Continental Divide, Willow Creek and Shadow Mountain reservoirs, Grand Lake and Lake Granby collect and store the water of the upper Colorado River. The water is pumped into Shadow Mountain Reservoir where it flows by gravity into Grand Lake. From there, the 13.1 mile Alva B. Adams Tunnel transports the water under the divide to the East Slope.
Once the water reaches the East Slope, it is used to generate electricity as it falls almost half a mile through five power plants on its way to Colorado’s Front Range. Carter Lake, Horsetooth Reservoir and Boulder Reservoir store the water. C-BT water is released as needed to supplement native water supplies in the South Platte River basin.
The C-BT Project annually delivers 213,000 acre feet of water to northeastern Colorado for agricultural, municipal and industrial uses.

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 3:45 pm

Nothing magical about Jan 29, other than the fact that it was the most up to date information. Feel free to try out any date you want – the pattern won’t change.

Kum Dollison
February 1, 2010 3:48 pm

Steve, if you had done just a little research, rather than finding a 2007 paper about what someone thought might happen you would have found that Colorado corn production dropped from 1.2 million acres in ’07 to 1.05 million acres in 2009.
Your article wasn’t even accurate for the time period given. As you can see from my above link there are two ethanol plants (both in the South Platte River Basin) with an annual nameplate ability of 40 million gallons, each. As I stated before, ethanol refineries are supported, almost always, and totally, by corn grown within 30 miles.
I sincerely hope your other work is more informed, and better sourced than this has been. However, it won’t matter to me, because I surely won’t be paying any attention to it. I can think of no reason to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Leonard Weinstein
February 1, 2010 3:55 pm

I am sorry you are questioning my comment. You are wrong! For water, the boiling point is 212 degrees F at one atmosphere. If the pressure dropped, the boiling point temperature would also drop (as people at high altitudes know). Boiling is when the vapor pressure of a liquid exceeds the total surrounding pressure. When water or CO2, or any substance is at a particular temperature, it has a vapor pressure if it is at a liquid or solid state. Solids also have a vapor pressure which is temperature dependent. It turns out that CO2 has a melting point of -72 degrees F at normal pressures. The vapor pressure changes with temperature, and at one atmosphere total pressure and 0.3 torr partial CO2 pressure, CO2 can only exist (in equilibrium) in solid form at below -220 degree F. This is also true if the total gas pressure were 1 torr or 10 atmospheres, as long as the CO2 partial pressure were still 0.3 torr. Look up the vapor pressure variation with temperature, and the freezing temperature of CO2 in a handbook of Physics or Chemistry. Non equilibrium events can be different (it takes a while for a block of dry ice to all evaporate, but it does all evaporate if the temperature of the surrounding is above -220 degrees F and the partial pressure of the CO2 is maintained at 0.3 torr).

Kum Dollison
February 1, 2010 4:01 pm

One last thing, the C-BT project was authorized by FDR in 1937.
That FDR was a prescient fellow, eh? Way back in 1937 he knew those ethanol plants were going to need Co River water. Truly impressive.

Andrew Parker
February 1, 2010 4:12 pm

Pamela Gray (06:10:41) :
I am not sure about the current status, but Fresno State has done considerable study on underground drip irrigation for turf and perennial crops. I do not know what would have to be done to prep such a system for a cold winter, or if ground squirrels and other animals would tear it up.
Steve Goddard (15:40:07) :
There is are also plans for diverting Flaming Gorge Reservoir water (about double that of C-BT, iirc) to the Eastern Slope and from Lake Powell to the St. George area in Utah. I believe that there are still some units (those with the least return) of the Central Utah Project that divert water from the southern slopes of the Uintah Mountains to the Wasatch Front, that.are still pending. Since I am listing grandiose water schemes, I will add the Snake Valley to Las Vegas pipeline, which will devastate the economy and ecosystem of that starkly beautiful desert valley.

Richard Sharpe
February 1, 2010 4:17 pm

Kum Dollison (15:48:32) says:

Steve, if you had done just a little research, rather than finding a 2007 paper about what someone thought might happen you would have found that Colorado corn production dropped from 1.2 million acres in ‘07 to 1.05 million acres in 2009.
Your article wasn’t even accurate for the time period given. As you can see from my above link there are two ethanol plants (both in the South Platte River Basin) with an annual nameplate ability of 40 million gallons, each. As I stated before, ethanol refineries are supported, almost always, and totally, by corn grown within 30 miles.
I sincerely hope your other work is more informed, and better sourced than this has been. However, it won’t matter to me, because I surely won’t be paying any attention to it. I can think of no reason to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Ha ha ha. For someone who says he won’t be paying any attention, you sure have been paying a lot of attention to date.

Kum Dollison
February 1, 2010 4:20 pm
Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 4:22 pm

This conversation is way past due for termination. Let me ask you a simple question to illustrate my point.
If the temperature at Vostok is -128F, are any CO2 molecules changing state from gas to solid (i.e. freezing.)
Of course the answer is yes. There may be just as many sublimating, but plenty are freezing.

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 4:28 pm

You are wrong, and you know you are. At this point you are just lashing out.
Western slope water is used to grow corn for biofuels, and I have provided you with plenty of documentation showing that. If you aren’t familiar with the geography discussed in the articles, please do a little of your own research.

Phil M
February 1, 2010 4:58 pm

Steve Goddard (16:28:24) :
“Western slope water is used to grow corn for biofuels, and I have provided you with plenty of documentation showing that. If you aren’t familiar with the geography discussed in the articles, please do a little of your own research.”
I believe Steve is correct on this point. A quick Google query turned up a approval of an ethanol plant near Grand Junction in 2008. And one can find all locations of current ethanol plants here:
On the other hand, this facility will utilize cellulosic technology and so won’t be as woefully inefficient in energy production as “traditional” ethanol production. In addition, that facility will be designed to convert a variety of feedstocks into biofuel. The decision to locate the facility in western Colorado was no doubt influenced by the proximity of the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden.

Phil M
February 1, 2010 5:15 pm

@ Steve Goddard:
Based on the information your provide here and on the previous post, I’m confused by what I perceive to be conflicting statements. It seemed the point of your previous post was that snowfall had remained stable in the central Rockies for ~100 years. If I recall correctly, you posted a graph demonstrating as much.
Then, on this post you assert that the levels of Lake Powell are “a pretty good proxy for snowfall”; one can see that the Lake Powell (and Lake Mead) varied considerably here in this report, which include data back to 1964 and 1937, respectively:
Also on this post, you assert that rising reservoir levels are a result of “lots and lots of snow”, which seems a contradiction to your original analysis, again, purported to show that snow levels had remained constant.
How should one reconcile these contentions?

Kum Dollison
February 1, 2010 5:17 pm

That C-BT project was flowing water a long time before anyone even thought about building an ethanol plant in NE Colorado.
And, I’m not “lashing out.” You’re just trying to defend some sort of preconceived bias in the face of all common sense.
I’ll give you the last word. I’m through with it.

Chris Edwards
February 1, 2010 6:14 pm

It seems to me that Kum is missing the point, ethanol production squanders water and corn, plain stupidity unless hostile foreign actions force it upon you, it is low octane and gives poor fuel economy, the whole car fuel/pollution saga is a can of worms, also I would guess the plants emit water vapor? we know that is actually a “greenhouse “gas.I would say the info Steve gives googles better than Kum’s and he comes over as even! but the spat over what is a moot point is a waste of good people.

February 1, 2010 7:00 pm

The score
Steven eleven, Kum Squat.

Steve Schaper
February 1, 2010 7:30 pm

Corn and soybean farmers don’t plant ‘veggies’. All they can plant are corn and soybeans because that is all that they can drive to the elevator and sell. We used to feed the world. Now the world feeds itself, but we are producing two or three times the corn. We have to or we can’t pay our property taxes (and other taxes). Now, when ethanol was the going thing, there was more corn than soybeans (neither of which are the types eaten by humans), but you aren’t going to see farmers in corn country planting tomatoes – they can’t sell them. Ethanol production is about 6% of the crop. The rest goes directly to feed. Of the 6% that goes to ethanol, much of that is usable afterwards as high-quality feed. Water, by the way, isn’t destroyed. There is this thing called the water cycle. You might have read about it in grade school.
The food riots overseas were about a short rice crop in Australia and environs and had NOTHING to do with ethanol or biodiesel.

Bill Parsons
February 1, 2010 9:18 pm

Your maps might focus a bit further south.
Thanks for your story. I’ve often wondered what Powell’s fluctuations tell us about drought and snowfall. Of some interest (the column missing on the right) is the outflow, I would think.

Steve Goddard
February 1, 2010 10:04 pm

Phil M,
The article mentions “lots and lots” of snow since 2005, and it also mentions a drought prior to that. Nevertheless, the long term trend in the Colorado Rockies has been towards increasing or at least steady snow over the last 100 years (with a very large year over year variability.)

February 2, 2010 1:36 am

Maybe I’m missing something, but the Plate and the Colorado are on opposite sides of the Continental divide. ??!
In the mountains northeast of Phoenix, the Salt River Project had to open the floodgates to prevent overflow of the various reservoirs that serve as the Central Arizona water sources.
One other interesting point is that for a few years (2002-2006 or so) it was often interesting that after torrential rains, the reported rainfall was something like a half inch. I know it’s anecdotal, but my wife and daughter got stuck at a drug store for four hours (August, 2003) taking cover from a rain storm that was purportedly 0.63 inches. Sky Harbor airport had to shut down for two hours due to the monsoon like rain.
Yeah, 0.63 inches my wet behind.

February 2, 2010 3:28 am

Mr Goddard,
1) Are you going to respond to the post from Randy (06:43:21)?
2) You say “Outflow (water usage) has greatly increased over the last few decades”. Have you downloaded the data from to confirm this? Unlike reservoir level, which is more or less the integral of the inflow minus the outflow, picking a single day of the year back through the record is not sufficient to meaningfully chart outflow trends. Where is the data to back your increased outflow claim?
3) I gather you are the guy who wrote about CO2 condensation at the South Pole on this website without understanding a phase diagram, and apparently, from your comments, still believe in this phenomenon despite the experimental evidence presented in a subsequent article on this website. I wonder, are you the same Steven Goddard as the one that wrote this article?
The article where ice area was equated to unweighted pixels on a satellite image.
The article where Dr. Walt Meier said:-
“Besides this significant error, the rest of the article consists almost entirely of misleading, irrelevant, or erroneous information about Arctic sea ice that add nothing to the understanding of the significant long-term decline that is being observed.”

Roger Knights
February 2, 2010 4:07 am

Gail Combs (11:13:36) :

Kum Dollison (22:02:57) :
“Steve, you made reference to Biodiesel. Biodiesel, in the U.S., is made from waste veg grease, or Soybeans, Not Corn…”

You are incorrect because your information is old. Straight from the USDA:

“USDA closely monitors markets for many commodities, including corn and soybeans—important feedstocks for ethanol and biodiesel, respectively.

But the word “respectively” matches soybeans with biodiesel, supporting Kum rather than disproving her. (Excuse me if this dispute has been resolved and I didn’t notice.)

Steve Goddard
February 2, 2010 5:16 am

Large amounts of water are transported from the western slope to the Front Range through several tunnels bored through the mountains.

Phil M
February 2, 2010 5:36 am

Steve Goddard (22:04:29) :
“The article mentions “lots and lots” of snow since 2005, and it also mentions a drought prior to that. Nevertheless, the long term trend in the Colorado Rockies has been towards increasing or at least steady snow over the last 100 years (with a very large year over year variability.)”
Again, in comparison to other studies, you present a minimal amount of evidence to support your claim. I kindly refer you to the follow peer-reviewed article. Ignore the sections inclusive of climate models if you wish, there are three graphs showing trends that dispute your claims. They present 50 years worth of SWE and temperature data for ~40 stations in the central Rockies, as well flow measurements for the Colorado River.

Steve Goddard
February 2, 2010 5:57 am

Steve Schaper,
I don’t think there is much question that growth of water usage in the west is unsustainable.
Water is not destroyed, but …….

“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

– The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Steve Goddard
February 2, 2010 6:28 am

What you are missing is the tunnels which transfer huge amounts of water from west to east across the Continental Divide.

Steve Goddard
February 2, 2010 7:06 am

It appears that Randy’s post bolsters my argument. What is it that you want me to respond to?
It would also appear that you are the person who doesn’t understand a phase diagram. Vostok at -89C is in the solid phase.
BTW – I must have missed it when the North Pole melted as forecast by the NSIDC director in 2008. Please remind me about that. And Walt Meier has apologized to me for his comments in The Register.
Hope this helps.

February 2, 2010 1:27 pm

Just a fun web site: Lake Mead Water Level
If the water level falls below 1050′, Las Vegas will be forced to close 1 of its 2 water intakes.

Bill Parsons
February 2, 2010 8:08 pm

Your graph indicates that Lake Mead has never been more full than it was in 2000.
This 2003 NASA site also shows the lake’s drop using a roll-over comparator of the lake (2000 / 2003)
Take a look at this Google satellite shot showing the Lake Mead in 2009. Compare it to the NASA view of 2000 The water level is clearly higher than it was in 2000.
Your point about water shortages in the West should be looked at carefully. You can’t sustain growing populations of people living in deserts like that on a fixed (and indeed diminishing) source of water like the Colorado River.

Bill Parsons
February 2, 2010 8:43 pm

Take a look at this Google satellite shot showing the Lake Mead in 2009.

Oops, the link doesn’t hold to scale. Just open Google Maps and zoom in to an approximate equal scale as NASA’s 2000 image. It’s pretty comparable, but you can see that the present level is more full by looking at the side canyons on the east side of the reservoir.
As I stated above, the dam can’t grow any bigger, and hydroelectric power is also finite. Its turbines were upgraded during the early ’90’s, but the total gross power rating for the plant, so Wiki tells us, is about 2080 megawatts.
Maybe you can find some population growth figures for that part of the U. S. Seems to me it’s been growing (Las Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc.

February 3, 2010 12:30 am

Bill, I don’t see the dates for the images at any particular scale on the google map.
Take a look at Grand Wash Bay at this scale:
Now move out a bit … like magic, the lake fills up.
The data on the chart I linked comes from here (as is explained on the web page)
I see no reason to doubt it — unless you think that the US Bureau of Reclamation is up to shennigans! 😉

February 3, 2010 12:47 am

Oh. And I wasn’t posting Mead as a counter-point to Powell.
If you really want to get into what’s up in the Colorado River Basin, you have to read The Plan

February 3, 2010 7:04 am

Here is the long term volume data at Powell.
You can get other upper river reservoirs here:
and the lower colorado here under “historical data”
And the good ol’ US Drought Monitor

Bill Parsons
February 3, 2010 10:21 pm

Didn’t have time to read all that you posted, but wrt:

And the good ol’ US Drought Monitor

Looking past the colorful graphics at the top, I noticed:

National Drought Summary — January 26, 2010
…Early in the period, a series of Pacific storm systems pounded the Southwest with severe weather and near- to record amounts of precipitation, providing ample moisture for easing drought conditions but also triggering flash flooding and mudslides. A widespread 2 or more inches of precipitation fell on nearly all of California and most of Arizona, including the desert Southwest, with locally over 10 inches in northern California, the mountains of southern California, and in central Arizona. As the week ended, another Pacific system was dropping additional precipitation on California…

and much more wrt snowpack, reservoirs, and other measures of current levels of precipitation.
I’m sure you can find other indicators of drought, which seems to be your thesis. But hey, it’s the West, Ron. These states are subject to droughts periodically, and they may or may not last.

February 3, 2010 11:19 pm

No question that the drought is easing some.
Will we recover out of drought conditions soon?
Will there be a ‘double dip’ without a solid recovery?
I dunno.
But it’s too soon to call this one over and done with.

Bill Parsons
February 4, 2010 8:39 am

Ron Broberg (00:30:52) :
Bill, I don’t see the dates for the images at any particular scale on the google map.

That’s my mistake. I made the assumption that the copyright date at the bottom of every Google Maps satellite image are the same as the date the photo was taken. I’m learning. These apparently are updated periodically, but not so often as I thought. Zooming in on my own house I noticed it was a nice fall day with the maple and aspen that I planted 15 years ago branched out as the would have appeared last year. Don’t know if / how often these satellite photos are updated.
Apparently Google Earth photos are dated, but no more current, so the most recent image of Lake Mead was 2005.

Leonard Weinstein
February 5, 2010 4:04 pm

Whenever more molecules leave a surface than arrive, there will be NO net accumulation. There are always some molecules of any gas present that will hit a surface, and depending on the vapor pressure and partial pressure, this point of net accumulation or lack of one is decided. The magic values of -109 or -128 or any other than -220 are only going to result in accumulation if far higher partial pressures than 0.3 torr of CO2 are present. Please look in a handbook of Physics or Chemistry and read the definitions of partial pressure.

Leonard Weinstein
February 5, 2010 4:15 pm

I see the later point you were trying to make. You are just arguing about the sublimation effect (gas to solid). However, CO2 becomes a solid at -72 degrees F, and there is nothing unusual from there on down. At all temperatures below -72, the exchange is gas to solid. However, if the partial pressure (0.3 torr) is considered, there will be NO solid present until -220 degrees F, as the molecules would leave at a faster rate than they can accumulate. The transition would be gas to solid, but for -128, nothing accumulates. Thus the very cold values anywhere on Earth cannot cause any frozen CO2 accumulation.

Steve Goddard
February 5, 2010 9:25 pm

Your assertion that there will be no solid present is incorrect. There is a continuous flux of molecules moving back and forth between the solid and gaseous state below the freezing point. Partial pressure is simply a function of the quantity of CO2 molecules in the air. If the partial pressure of CO2 is low, the probability of molecules moving to a solid state is reduced. Above the “dew point” of -220 degrees the number of molecules sublimating is as great as the number of molecules freezing so there is no accumulation. However, if you had an electron microscope you would see molecules continuously freezing and sublimating on the ground surface.
To an individual molecule, the concept of partial pressure is completely meaningless. It is just a statistical measure which affects the net movement/accumulation.
I went through a graduate program in geochemistry and worked for several years in a high temperature and pressure petrology lab where we studied solid/liquid/vapor transitions of many compounds extensively.
At any given time, there will be a certain number of frozen CO2 molecules present in the system. You are looking at this from a statistical point of view. I am looking at it from the micro-physical point of view.
Below the freezing point, things freeze. Don’t confuse the freezing point -(108F) with the “dew point” -220F , which is indeed the temperature where the dry ice accumulates.

February 8, 2010 5:17 am

Although the water level in Lake Powell has risen, this has been at the cost of the level in Lake Mead dropping. The result is that the total amount of water stored in the system has increased merely about 250K acre feet. It is this total that may reasonably be considered an approximate proxy for the winter snow pack. To make it more accurate you also need to include any changes to the total outflow from the system.

February 8, 2010 7:42 am

He he, the CO2 tweets were entertaining, if but intuitively obvious ; ) fun nevertheless. Any questions on the subject matter? he, he, he!~
well that clears that up, doesn’t it 🙂

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