Snowpack news: Slow start to the runoff season

A picture named snowpack05182010.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

… the southwest corner of the state, Gunnison and Rio Grande basins have fallen far below average after an early runoff, dust and winds battered a hefty snowpack left by storms in the winter months. “That doesn’t mean there is lots more water in the state,” said Nolan Doesken, state climatologist. “There’s been some increase, but it’s mostly been a shutoff of snowmelt.”

The plains are still soaked from weekend storms, and the snow that fell in the mountains has added to the snowpack. More rain and snow are forecast for later in the week. As El Nino has weakened, the storms have been hitting further north. The snow in the southwestern areas of the state melted early, according to Snotel sites maintained by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Streamflows throughout that region are now at or below normal. In the Colorado River basin, streamflows have fallen far below normal, showing that a runoff that occurred in April has stopped, with colder temperatures holding snow longer in the high country. In the South Platte River basin, streamflows were well above average Monday because of the heavy rainfall over the weekend. The Arkansas River basin has seen above-average precipitation so far this year — Pueblo has seen 4.35 inches, about 20 percent above normal — but river flows and snowpack are both in the average range.

From the Aspen Daily News (David Frey):

The spring storms helped boost the snowpack in the mountains and slowed spring runoff, Kanzer said, keeping more moisture in storage as snow. “Snowpack is our greatest reservoir,” Kanzer said, speaking to a group of about 20 people at a State of the River presentation at the El Jebel community center. Forecasters expect local stream flows to be 70-90 percent of average. The Roaring Fork is predicted to be 82 percent of average at the mouth in Glenwood Springs. Ruedi Reservoir above Basalt is expected to fill, at least for a few weeks, this summer.

U.S. House Subcommittee on Water and Power hearing recap

A picture named glencanyonconst.jpg

From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

The formal hearing last more than two hours and was chaired by Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., who said the meeting was brought to Greeley at the request of Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., also joined on the congressional side. Two panels were invited to address the formal hearing, one primarily composed of federal, state and local government officials, and another featuring farmers and agricultural and municipal water experts. The purpose of the meeting, Napolitano said, was to look at managing water for the future and how federal, state and local entities are supporting agriculture. For the most part, the answer the politicians got was not very good.

All panel members agreed conservation is part of the puzzle to meeting future water needs of the state, but they said it’s not the only — or even the most important — part. “If Two Forks (pdf) had been built, this hearing today would not have been necessary,” said Bob Sakata, who began farming in Adams and Weld counties 65 years ago…

Sakata was joined by several others on the panels in urging the construction of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, paid for by the 15 municipalities and water and irrigation districts, which is currently undergoing environmental studies. That project, like others planned in the state, is tied up in the federal bureaucracy, several panelists said…

Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Stulp and Doug Rademacher, who farms in southwest Weld County and chairs the board of county commissioners, stressed that water is the lifeblood of the state. “Buy out and dry up is not acceptable to our future here in Colorado,” Stulp said, while Rademacher noted that Weld is ranked No. 8 in the nation in terms of receipts for agricultural products. “If you take all the nuts and fruits out of California, we’d be No. 1,” Rademacher said, which got the attention of the two California lawmakers in attendance. Stulp, in response to a question, said agriculture remains either No. 2 or No. 3 in terms of importance to the state’s economy…

Sakata, who farms 3,000 acres of vegetables in the two northern counties, said if more storage is not constructed, future farmers will be impacted. “If something doesn’t get done, my heirs will be forced to sell out or quit,” he said.

More infrastructure coverage here.