CWCB: Water Availability Task Force meeting recap

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Below are my notes from today’s meeting:

Flood risk

Tom Brown (CWCB) said that there is a new timeline for the proposed floodplain rules. The new timeline and the current proposed rules are available at:

Mr. Brown says that they are not too worried about flooding from snowmelt. He took the opportunity to remind everyone that most Colorado flood damage is the result of heavy rain and flash flooding.

The CWCB has some federal funding available to help local communities update their floodplain maps. This is in cooperation with FEMA.

State Drought Plan

CWCB staff expects to have a draft of their revised drought plan available by early July.

The Colorado River Water Availability Study comments have been extended through July 15.

Jeff Brislawn said that the CWCB is shooting for submitting their updates to the state emergency management office by the end of September. Updates to the plan are mandated by federal authorities and can affect funding. The revisions to the plan are to make the plan more in line with the national framework. They are planning a future table top exercise when the drought plan revisions are made

They are also revising the state Impact Task Forces. The current plans call for a Water Availability Task Force, Agricultural Impact Task Force, Tourism Impact Task Force, Energy Impact Task Force, Municipal Water Impact Task Force, Wildfire Impact Task Force and Wildlife Impact Task Force. All proposed task forces will include economic impact analysis.

They now have a guidance framework for local government drought planners.

State Climatologist’s report

Wendy Ryan said that most areas in Colorado have experienced below average temperatures over the past month. There was good April moisture across the state. The Upper Colorado Basin and Northwestern Colorado are in D1 drought. The plains are doing really well for precipitation. May, so far, “has been really wet,” she said.

Grand Lake’s precipitation is below their historical minimum for the water year. The northeastern plains range from average (Akron area) to, “really good precipitation,” in Burlington, she said. Fort Collins is above average with Boulder well above average.

Snowpack and streamflow forecast

Mike Gillespie (NRCS) said that there has been a shift in moisture the last couple of months from south to north but that, “it could be too little too late,” for the northwestern part of Colorado. The cool temperatures and moisture have, “dragged out the snowmelt almost a month.” Most snowpack charts are showing 3 snowpack peaks for the water year. He also told the group that, “The percent of average snowpack is not the best measure this time of year.”

The Colorado River Basin snowpack is melting out and they currently have about half the annual year snowpack on the ground. Reservoir storage is at 116% of average in the basin and is the best since 2001. Streamflow forecast for the Colorado Basin is below average everywhere. At the end of the session Karen Rademacher from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District reported that they will not have to bring water from the Colorado Basin via the Adams Tunnel to fill Horsetooth Reservoir. Their Front Range reservoirs are going to fill with their east slope water rights.

Snowpack in the South Platte Basin was below average on May 1 (81%) according to Gillespie. By May 16 it was sitting at 91%. April precipitation in the basin was good and May is already at average. “Things have really turned around in the South Platte Basin,” he said. Reservoir storage is at 106% — not quite as good as last year. The forecast is looking at below average streamflow in the basin.

In the Gunnison Basin Gillespie said that there was a, “pretty rapid melt out,” over April and May due to warmer temperatures and dust on snow events. April precipitation was good. Reservoir storage in the basin is at 129% of average. Streamflow forecasts call for below average runoff consistently across the basin.

The southwestern Colorado basins are similar to the Gunnison, said Gillespie. The same dust conditions and warmer temperatures have combined to reduce what was a great snowpack earlier in the year to 77% of average on May 1. April precipitation was below average and May has been, “very dry,” he said. Reservoir storage in the area is at 100% of average. Streamflow forecasts are for below average conditions with the exception of the San Juan River (91% of average).

The Rio Grande Basin snowpack was at 90% on May1. It peaked at 112% of average on April 3. They’ve had a very dry May. Reservoir storage is at 89% of average. Streamflow forecasts for the basin are amongst the best in the state.

Gillespie said that the Arkansas Basin snowpack peaked at 104% of average on April 5. They are at 96% of average for precipitation for the water year. The reservoir storage is the best since 2001. Streamflow in the headwaters should be average with many of the tributaries below Pueblo Reservoir expected to have above average runoff.

Weather forecast

Klaus Wolter (NOAA) told the task force that we can say, “goodbye to El Niño and hello to La Niña.” He said, “Enjoy the spring weather,” for the next two weeks as temperatures are forecast to be near normal adding that Colorado, “will dry out a bit.” He expects daytime temps in most of the lower elevations to get to the 80s and stay there. He forecasts a dry summer in the South Platte Basin.

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