Snowpack/streamflow forecast news

A picture named snowpackcolorado03282011

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division 3 Craig Cotten informed water users recently that the river forecast for this year is less than last season, and the snowpack in the mountains surrounding the San Luis Valley is less than average. As of last week, when Cotten presented his report at the Rio Grande Water Users Association annual meeting, basinwide the snowpack stood at 80 percent of average, but that averaged 90 percent for the Upper Rio Grande Basin with 56 percent for the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. On Monday, March 28, the Upper Rio Grande Basin was sitting about the same, at 91 percent of average, while the Sangre side of the Valley had dropped to 53 percent. “It is not looking real good,” Cotten told water users. He said a recent storm helped some but not much…

He said the Natural Resources Conservation Service and National Weather Service are forecasting stream flows this irrigation season (April-September) at lower levels than normal, as well. They are forecasting 420,000 acre feet of stream flow through the Del Norte gauge on the Rio Grande for the April-September time frame, or about 83 percent of average. Adding in about 90,000 acre feet that runs through the gauge during the off season, the forecast for the Rio Grande at Del Norte would be about 510,000 acre feet for this calendar year, Cotten explained. He said the current forecast could drop even more if the mountains do not collect some spring moisture. Last April 1, the forecast called for 590,000 acre feet on the Rio Grande at Del Norte, and by May 1 that forecast had dropped to 570,000 acre feet. The river ended the year with substantially less than that, 539,300 acre feet. Of the 510,000 acre feet currently predicted for the Rio Grande this year, about 130,400 acre feet of water will have to be sent downstream to New Mexico and Texas to meet Rio Grande Compact obligations. Considering the state’s credit status, estimated flows from the Closed Basin Project, return flows to the river and other factors, water users are looking at a 7-percent curtailment to meet that compact obligation.

On the Conejos River system, the current annual forecast is for 250,000 acre feet, with 75,000 obligated downstream to meet the compact. That means water users on the Conejos River system are looking at 17 percent curtailments, according to Cotten.

From the Vail Daily (Randy Wyrick):

A spring storm dumped 12 inches on Vail and 10 inches on Beaver Creek, with more snow expected later this week…Aspen, meanwhile, got 5 inches…

The Natural Resources Conservation Service keeps track of it, and they don’t really look at snow depth when they measure water. They’re looking for moisture content, said Diane Johnson with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. We’re still ahead of snow water equivalent for this winter, running slightly ahead of the historical averages and way ahead of the 2002 drought levels, Johnson said…

The Vail Mountain site is at 108 percent of the historical average, Fremont Pass is 123 percent and Copper Mountain is 130 percent, according to Monday’s report. The Copper Mountain site has already exceeded its average high for the year, Johnson said.

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