CWCB: June 23 Water Availability Task Force recap

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Below are my notes from last Wednesday’s meeting:

Drought Plan

Veva Deheza (CWCB) announced that Colorado’s drought plan revision is currently in internal review. Public comments will be solicited starting July 19. Final approval on the mitigation plan is expected by 1/1/2011.

Colorado River Water Availability Study

Comments are trickling in for the study and are due by July 21.

Colorado River mainstem

Currently water storage in Lake Powell is 64% and Lake Mead is at 41% for a system-wide total of 58%, according to Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi (CWCB). This is slightly below last year. So far this year streamflow into Lake Powell is much higher than predicted earlier in the year.

State Climatologist’s report

Colorado’s weather was cool to considerably cooler than average in May, according to Nolan Doesken. This was the, “Coolest May in a number of years,” he said. The one week of warm weather in May kicked off the runoff in a big way.

Klaus Wolter (NOAA) told the group that we are in the, “coolest one year running record on record,” with his 28 years of data.

In May it was dry in the southwestern part of the state with very good moisture on the eastern plains, according to Doesken. The first half of June has been dry as well. Morgan County has already received half their average annual moisture, and, “The northeast corner of the state is doing dandy,” he said.

Doesken reported precipitation news from around the state. He said that Grand Lake got off to a slow start and is tracking with the driest year on record. Grand Junction is tracking along with median precipitation. The Uncompahgre Valley is near normal. Mesa Verde had a surge of mid-winter moisture but has moved from above average to below average since. Del Norte had a wet start as well but is now showing a pattern similar to Arizona in an El Niño year — dry. Pueblo is above average with a big May. Burlington continues at near record precipitation. Doesken added that, “crops are looking fantastic and I hope that hail will leave them alone.” Akron is tracking at near average. Fort Collins in above average as is Boulder.

Report from the NRCS

Mike Gillespie remarked, about Colorado, that we’ve gone, “from floods to fires in the same month,” and the, “remnants of the 2010 snowpack are rapidly melting out.”

The Yampa/White River basin precipitation was at 94% of average for the year and reservoir storage is 113% of average, he said. Streamflow forecasts are below average.

The Colorado Basin precipitation is at 92% of average and reservoir storage is 119% of average while the streamflow forecast anticipates 70-80% of average. Basin storage is the best in a decade. Karen Rademacher (Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District) said that Granby Reservoir will probably start spilling Monday, adding that Northern’s reservoirs on the east slope filled with east slope water rights this year and that no water is currently moving through the Adams Tunnel.

In the South Platte Basin Gillespie noted that precipitation is 93% of average, reservoir storage is at 108% of average and the streamflow forecast is below average. Snowpack had a, “nice late peak with a number of rebounds,” he said.

The Gunnison Basin snowpack started out like gangbusters but experienced an early melt from warm weather and dust events. Precipitation is at 94% of average, reservoir storage is 119% of average. Streamflow is expected to be below average with inflow to Blue Mesa forecasted at 69% of average.

Gillespie said that southwestern Colorado experienced, “a rapid early melt out,” with little precipitation in May and so far in June. Precipitation for the year is at 82% of average and reservoir storage = 115% of average. Streamflow is forecasted to be 70-80% of average. Down in Dolores they are, “worried about the back-end of the season,” with the lack of moisture and early runoff.

In the Rio Grande Basin precipitation is at 92% of average but, “June has been terribly dry,” he said. Reservoir storage is 90% of average but the streamflow forecast is, “fairly good,” at 90-98% of average.

The Arkansas Basin precipitation is sitting at 87% of average. Reservoir storage is 105% of average with below average (75-80%) streamflow expected.


Taryn reported that the current outlook predicts average fire potential with a quieter grass fire season than 2008 and 2009.

Short term and long term weather outlooks

Klaus Wolter told the task force, “La Niña looks inevitable now.” The weather forecast for the next 5 days looks dry. The 2 week forecast is not calling for a, “super heat wave,” he said, and, “Summers after El Niño years tend to be dry.”

The final word came from Nolan Doesken quipping, “The last time reservoir storage looked really good was just before it got really bad.”

More CWCB coverage here.

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