Runoff (snowpack) news: Fry-Ark projections

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday scaled back its allocations for water after up-to-the-minute estimates of the water yield of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project indicated more unwelcome meltdowns. The district allocated about 35,000 acre-feet of water Thursday, with about 55 percent going to cities and 45 percent to farms. It also allocated about 5,000 acre-feet of agricultural return flows, mainly to well augmentation groups. “It’s coming off hard,” said Roy Vaughan, Bureau of Reclamation manager for the Fry-Ark Project. “There’s still a lot of high snow, but it’s melted at the lower sites.”[…]

On the other side of the equation, high temperatures have plummeted snowpack in the Roaring Fork basin to about 60 percent of normal, and there are similar numbers for the Arkansas River basin. Earlier this week, the numbers were at nearly average levels. Vaughan revised his May 1 forecast of more than 60,000 acre-feet to the project’s historic average of 52,400 acre-feet. Only about 85 percent of that is available for allocation, however. On top of that, the first 5,000 acre-feet of allocations will go to the Pueblo Board of Water Works to repay last year’s loan for a shortfall in allocations. The board was determined to avoid a repeat of overestimating the project’s yield. The allocations committee already had shaved another 15 percent off the May 1 projection, but the board took it down another 5 percent. The board rejected an idea to only allocate half the water until the runoff picture clears up…

The move will mean about 3,500 acre-feet for Pueblo, which is using its allocation to fill its space in Pueblo Reservoir. The water board typically has not taken its allocation other than for drought recovery or to help well users meet obligations to Kansas under the Arkansas River Compact. “We’re gearing up for Comanche Power Plant to come online,” Executive Director Alan Hamel explained. Pueblo has contracts to supply water for the third unit at the Xcel electricity generation station. Pueblo West would get a little more than 100 acre-feet under a new category of water added last year. El Paso County water users will receive about 9,500 acre-feet, which includes repayment of a water debt to Colorado Springs, water for the Fountain Valley pipeline and a new allocation for Manitou Springs. The east of Pueblo allocations were complicated this year by a squabble between Ordway and Crowley County. Ordway’s population was subtracted from Crowley County’s in determining the amounts each received, said Bob Hamilton, engineering director. In all, users east of Pueblo will receive about 4,500 acre-feet, about 70 percent of what they requested. West of Pueblo, users will get about 85 percent of what they sought, about 1,500 acre-feet. Farmers will get about 16,000 acre-feet of water, about 15 percent of what they requested, based on a formula involving eligible irrigated acres.

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