Runoff news

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From (Jeffrey Wolf/Matt Renoux):

Without massive moisture, rivers like the Colorado, Eagle, and Clear Creek are expected to be 30 percent to 40 percent below average.

That does not mean the rafting season is washed up, thanks to big rivers, like the Gunnison and Arkansas where snow has been pretty good and water flows are expected to be normal. “The Gunnison should flow well, and the Upper Arkansas will have runoff well above 90 percent, or very close to average,” Hummer said.

Republican River Basin: Kansas asks the U.S. Supreme Court to find Nebraska in contempt of court

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From the Salina Journal (Michael Strand):

Through much of the 1990s, Kansas and Nebraska argued in court over water usage, with the dispute being settled in 2002 and the U.S. Supreme Court adopting the settlement as a court order, Barfield said. The first measure of Nebraska’s compliance, Barfield said, was in 2005 and 2006. “Nebraska used 80,000 acre-feet more than allowed,” Barfield said; that’s roughly the amount of water a city of 100,000 would use over 10 years.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Towns and farmers in Kansas “have been deprived of the water they rely upon,” Kansas Attorney General Steve Six said. He vowed to “continue this fight until Nebraska complies with our agreement.”[…]

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers expressed disappointment at the slide into litigation. “We have seen in the past that litigation is not an effective or efficient alternative for resolution of interstate disputes,” Suthers said. Suthers called on Nebraska and Kansas “to sit down with us” to hash out a solution…

Kansas officials have been trying to bring groundwater pumping along the river in Nebraska under control. Past agreements were aimed at letting states monitor and control water use to comply with the 1942 compact, which allotted 300,000 acre-feet a year for Nebraska, 240,000 acre-feet a year for Kansas and 40,000 acre-feet a year for Colorado. Kansas officials argue that Kansas is losing 16 percent of its water under the compact.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Black Canyon peak flows

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):

As of April 29, the Bureau of Reclamation reported the Colorado River basin registered among the lowest overall snowpack in the state at only 72 percent of average. Most of the other major basins ranged from 61-80 percent ranges, including the Gunnison Basin at 71 percent. The upper Rio Grande Basin topped the state list at 87 percent of average. Although reservoir storage remains adequate across the state, the lack of a snowpack to augment water needed for early-summer irrigation may mean shortages or cutbacks later in the year…

Hydrologists from the Bureau of Reclamation said neither Taylor Park nor Blue Mesa reservoirs are expected to fill this summer. The Bureau on its website said it’s likely Blue Mesa will top out at 7,512 feet elevation, about 4 feet short of filling. At current snowpack levels, it’s predicted the Gunnison River through the Gorge and Black Canyon will remain in the 550-600 cubic feet per second range most of the summer. The most recent forecast for a peak flow to meet the senior Black Canyon Water Right is a one-day peak in the range of 3,425 cfs, along with a six-day ramp up and a six-day ramp down to about 800 cfs. If and when that peak might occur won’t be decided until after the May snowpack readings are available, said lead hydrologist Dan Crabtree of the Bureau’s Grand Junction office. “It may be the middle of May but we can’t pin ourselves down until we get the May 1 forecast and we know what we are working with,” Crabtree said…

Bureau of Reclamation hydrologists are watching the Cimarron River and the level of Silver Jack Reservoir, changes in which affect the Cimarron’s flows into Crystal Dam, the last dam before the Gunnison River spills into the Black Canyon. “We want to use that water as efficiently as possible, but I’m guessing (the peak flow will come) the second or third week of May,” Crabtree said…

A sudden burst from the upper Cimarron River basin last spring pushed Silver Jack to spill and that in turn pushed the Gunnison River higher and faster than expected. Those Cimarron flows, along with additional runoff flows from the North Fork of the Gunnison, gave water managers a little concern when peak flows at Delta neared flood stage.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Gardner):

“This is our favorite time of year,” said Bryon Lawrence, a hydrologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Grand Junction. “Because this is when things start to happen.” However, Lawrence is not too excited about the spring runoff season this year due to a lack of snow accumulation this winter. He said that this year is shaping up to be a “mediocre” runoff year at best…

As of Monday, the Colorado River Basin was reportedly at 90 percent of year-to-date precipitation average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The recent snowstorms have helped bring the precipitation levels up slightly, but they have not added much to the snowpack, according to Dave Merritt with the Colorado River Water Conservation District…

According to Merritt the area from Grand Lake to Grand Junction remains at 78 percent of average snowpack levels. And statewide, Colorado is at 84 percent of average, he said. Western Colorado is currently at 80 percent of annual snowpack, he said. The low amount of snowpack will result in a less than average runoff, Lawrence said. According to the National Weather Service, The Colorado River peaked on May 21 in 2009, running at 10,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) at Dotsero. The average peak runoff for the Colorado River at Dotsero is 9,425 cfs. The weather service predicts the peak runoff to be well below the 2009 levels, at only 4,500 cfs this year at the same location.