“It’s the craziest water year I’ve ever seen,” said Roy Vaughan, Fryingpan-Arkansas Project manager for the Bureau of Reclamation. “We may be looking at a third peak for runoff.”[…]
The Fry-Ark Project, the largest single diversion, has brought over more than 72,400 acre-feet – almost 140 percent of average – and Boustead Tunnel into Twin Lakes is still flowing. “Nobody foresaw this,” Vaughan said. “The Twin Lakes Co. is in a similar situation. We’re filling the upper reservoirs and moving water to Lake Pueblo.”[…]
The Arkansas River is running near or above 3,000 cubic feet per second from Buena Vista to Avondale, which is not unusual for this time of year over the long-term, but far more than most recent years. Much of that is because of the imported water, since precipitation in many parts of the Arkansas Valley has been only about 80 percent of average this year…
“Everyone thought as hard as it ran early, that it would be over by now,” Vaughan said. “Up until a couple of days ago, we were seeing rain every day and in the early part of June it was adding snow above the 12,000-foot line.”
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which allocates water from the Fry-Ark Project, is still not planning to adjust allocations until its next meeting, Aug. 27, said Bob Hamilton, engineering director.
In May, the district’s board took a cautious approach to allocations, because it did not want to find itself facing a shortfall like the one that developed last year, when a much heavier snowpack faded late in the season.
This year, the snowpack seemed to be fading in April, and the early runoff had water managers spooked. Vaughan projected 60,000 acre-feet on May 1, adjusted the figure to 54,000 two weeks later. The Southeastern district allocated water based on 80 percent of that rate, after 5,000 acre-feet was repaid to the Pueblo Board of Water Works for its help in 2008. As a result, only 29,500 acre-feet were allocated…
The outlook for more moisture later this summer is favorable because of fluctuating water temperatures of the Pacific Ocean that are creating alternating periods of La Nina and El Nino, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s long-term forecast. Colorado’s southern Rocky Mountains are in a bull’s-eye for better than average precipitation. Temperatures should be in the average range, according to the forecast.