Runoff (snowpack) news: Crystal River near flood stage

A picture named crystalriver.jpg

Here’s the link to the USGS Water Watch map for Colorado for your surfing pleasure.

From the Aspen Daily News (David Frey):

The peak runoff is expected within days, and the Crystal River at Redstone is within inches of overflowing the bank. Early Tuesday morning, a gauge station near Avalanche Creek showed the river running at 4.5 feet. Carbondale Deputy Fire Chief Carl Smith said flooding is expected to occur at 5 feet. “We’re right below that,” Smith said Tuesday afternoon…

The Crystal is running at record-high levels for the date. On Tuesday afternoon, it was flowing at 1,680 cubic feet per second. That’s nearly double the average of 874 cubic feet per second over 53 years of record keeping. The last record flow for May 19 was 1,500 cfs, set in 1997. The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a flood advisory for the Crystal above Redstone, warning that minor flooding in low-lying areas could come by today.

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

With unusually warm weather and dirty snow, the rivers in the San Luis Valley have peaked early this year so irrigators will have to look to summer rains for additional moisture. Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Division Engineer Craig Cotten said the Rio Grande peaked on May 8, about a month earlier than usual. “Most of the SNOTELs [Snowpack Telemetry] on the Rio Grande are showing dry right now,” he said. “We have only got two of the SNOTELs on the upper Rio Grande Basin that are showing any water content at all.”

The two sites still showing some snowpack are the Upper San Juan and Wolf Creek Summit. Everything else is at zero or very close to zero, Cotten said. He said traditionally the Rio Grande experiences two peaks between May 15 and June 15 with the early snow coming off during the middle of May and the higher snows melting off the first part of June. This year the peak period is already over…

Cotten explained that the early snowmelt does not mean the water was lost to the Valley. In fact some ditches that would not normally receive water this time of year were able to get water because the system had so much of it at one time. The reservoirs on the Rio Grande and Conejos have also come into priority this year, something that does not happen every year. “That’s a fairly good indicator we have some good flows through the system,” Cotten said. The downside of the rivers peaking early could occur later this summer according to Cotten. “It does cause some concern especially that we may not have the amount of water we traditionally are used to later on in the season.”[…]

Curtailments on irrigators are holding steady if not less than earlier predicted. The curtailment represents the amount of water local irrigators are not allowed to use so it can be sent downstream to meet the state’s water obligation to New Mexico and Texas through the Rio Grande Compact. Cotten said the water division began curtailments of 12 percent on the Rio Grande on April 1 and was able to lower that to 10 percent currently. Curtailments on the Conejos River system began this year at 28-29 percent and have decreased to 20 percent, a far cry from last year’s curtailment that was above 50 percent on the Conejos at the beginning of the irrigation season. Cotten said he will look at the numbers again at the end of the month and may lower the curtailment on the Conejos River even further. Cotten said that during the high water peak the Conejos system was able to send more water downstream because the ditches that had called for water were taking it, Platoro Reservoir was in storage “ and we were still delivering a fair amount to the downstream states.”


No homes have been jeopardized by flooding in Georgetown so far, but Clear Creek, which runs through the center of the small community, has risen four feet in the last week. The bigger concern is north of Georgetown where a 40-year-old water filtration plant has had to be shut down almost every day. The town’s water supply has been cut in half. The rushing water carries too many types of sediment to safely be processed.

From the Vail Daily (Scott Condon):

The Crystal River near Redstone was flowing at 1,580 cubic feet per second, according to a gauging station maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey. The median flow for that date is 809 cfs, and the previous peak for that date in the past 53 years was 1,450 cfs in 1966. The National Weather Service on Monday issued a flood advisory for low-lying areas of the Crystal River upstream from Redstone. The advisory will continue until Thursday afternoon. No problems from flooding were reported to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. The Roaring Fork River also is flowing well above average. The river near Emma was at 2,400 cfs Monday afternoon. It’s median for May 18 is 842 cfs. Its prior high flow was 1,320 cfs in 2007…

Warm temperatures and the dust have combined to consume the Roaring Fork River basin’s snowpack. It was at just 43 percent of average Monday afternoon.

Leave a Reply