Snowpack/runoff news: Cool April to lead to a gangbuster season for whitewater sports?

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From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

Recent cold and snow have meant a slow start to the snowmelt, as most rivers are running below normal, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs was flowing at 962 cubic feet per second Sunday. The 30- year median for this time of year is 1,930 cfs. Rafters on the Colorado River, however, got an earlier start because of dam releases, said Sandra Winslow, manager at Whitewater Rafting LLC, a 36-year-old business in Glenwood Springs. As a result, the Colorado River was running at 2,200 cfs Sunday, she said. The normal peak of the season is late May, but delayed snowmelt could mean a gangbuster season with the fast stream flow later this month.

From the Summit Daily News (Julie Sutor):

Denver Water, which supplies water to about 1.3 million people in the Denver Metro area, has 10 major reservoirs, including Dillon Reservoir, in its water-storage system. “They’re all going to fill, so that’s good news,” Denver Water’s Bob Steger said.

As of May 15, snowpack in the Upper Colorado River basin, which includes Summit County’s Blue River, was 89 percent of average; year-to-date precipitation in the basin totaled 92 percent of average on Saturday. The Colorado River Basin’s peak snowpack this year was 83 percent of the 1971-2000 average peak. Snowpack in the South Platte basin was 106 percent of average on May 15, and year-to-date precipitation was 91 percent of average, which is good news for Summit County. Denver Water gets about half its water from the South Platte basin, and about a quarter from the Blue River basin. So when the South Platte is dry, the agency draws more water from the Blue, including Dillon Reservoir.

As for the quality of kayaking, rafting and fishing on the Blue River below Dillon Dam, that will depend on the next few months’ weather on both sides of the Continental Divide. If wet weather persists, Steger predicts the Lower Blue will have five to six weeks of good rafting and 14 to 15 weeks of good fishing. If the weather turns dry for the next few months, the Blue River will only be conducive to rafting for one or two weeks. But fishing, which is better at lower flows, will be good for 18 to 19 weeks during late spring and summer…

Denver Water is now conducting research to quantify how dust storms affect the timing of snowmelt and peak river flows and the implications the storms have on its operations. Several dust storms have come through Summit County this spring. Drought and human development are the major causes of dust storms, as disturbances to soil allow it to be picked up more easily by winds.

Boulder: Summit on Nitrogen pollution May 18-20

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From the Public News Service (Eric Mack):

Scientists call it the biggest environmental disaster no one’s heard of, and they are gathering this week in Colorado to try to change that. Nitrogen pollution from fertilizers and other sources can be detrimental to both water and air quality, experts say, leading to major health and environmental problems ranging from the onset of Alzheimers to the notorious “dead zones” at the mouth of the Mississippi River. University of Colorado professor Alan Townsend with CU’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research says this meeting aims to create the first national nitrogen assessment. “On one hand, we depend on fertilizer to grow our crops, and one of the key ingredients in that fertilizer is nitrogen. On the other hand, in general the world tends to use too much of it and use it too inefficiently.”[…]

Nitrogen pollution has had documented impacts on Colorado’s alpine lakes, and Townsend adds that nitrogen is a key component in those “ozone alert” days that Coloradans are familiar with. “Nitrogen that we end up emitting to the atmosphere through driving cars or running factories or putting fertilizers on fields is one of the key ingredients in making that ozone happen.”[…]

The nitrogen assessment meeting will be held 8 a.m.-5 p.m. May 18-20 at Millennium Harvest House, 1345 28th St., Boulder. More information is available at

More water pollution coverage here.