Snowpack news: Lake Pueblo dropping some

A picture named snowpackcolorado04082010

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The past five years have been close to or even above average in terms of precipitation, causing Lake Pueblo to fill for the first time in a decade last month. In March, Vaughan and other water managers were worried about the possibility of a spill. Since then, Lake Pueblo has stopped filling, as farmers are running out water stored in winter water and project accounts from last year. That water has to be out of the reservoir by May 1. Farmers may actually need the water despite good soil moisture coming into the spring, because high winds raked the plains for more than a week. Those same winds could have diminished the snowpack in the mountains with dust, which causes snow to melt faster, or sublimation, which blows some of the snowpack away, but that was offset with a foot of new snow in the mountains that affect the Arkansas River watershed and imports. Meanwhile, Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Aurora are continuing to store by exchange in Lake Pueblo…

As of Friday, snowpack was 94 percent of average in the Upper Arkansas, although the Arkansas River basin as a whole was 105 percent because of snow in the southern mountains. The Roaring Fork basin was 96 percent of average Friday, slightly more than the 86 percent average of the Colorado River basin as a whole. Fry-Ark and the bulk of other diversions into the Arkansas River rely on Roaring Fork. Vaughan said if current conditions hold up, it should be an average year for Fry-Ark imports, about 50,000-55,000 acre-feet. Reclamation made space for that water in Turquoise Lake over the winter, by running some water into Lake Pueblo. “Right now, it looks like everything is going to work out,” Vaughan said.

From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

2010 precipitation levels through March were at 4.46 inches for the Cortez area, according to Jim Andrus, the National Weather Service’s cooperative weather observer in Cortez. That is 134 percent of the average 3.3 inches for the first three months of the year. Overall, Cortez has seen a winter snowfall total of 69.1 inches – just under six feet…

Lizard Head Pass between Rico and Telluride has received 12.7 inches of precipitation during the season, and Sharkstooth Peak northeast of Mancos sits at 20.4 inches. That puts Lizard Head Pass at only 75 percent of average, according to data collected by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Sharkstooth station is too new to accurately predict an average. Two other sites, El Diente Peak southwest of Telluride and Lone Cone south of Norwood, both rest at 97 percent of average. The Scotch Creek site near Rico is measuring close to 83 percent of normal. “As it’s turned out, what we’ve got as far as snowpack and everything, it is fairly close to equivalent to last year,” said Mike Preston, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District. “There was more low snow this year, but less high snow. We are right on the border between filling the reservoir (McPhee Reservoir) and maybe having a small spill.”[…

The final piece of the 2010 water forecast is the unexpected amount of snow at lower elevations. Dolores Water Conservancy District measurement’s placed this winter’s low-elevation snowfall at 152 percent of average, the highest since 2005. No one is quite sure how that will affect reservoir levels.

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