Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Reclamation is turning up releases from Ruedi Reservoir

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Similar to last year, we have begun to see a slight increase to Ruedi Reservoir inflow in early April, rather than mid-to-late April as in other years. As a result, this evening (April 8th) we will increase our release from Ruedi Dam to the lower Fryingpan River. In a couple of hours, we will raise the release from Ruedi by about 40 cfs.

The result will be about 220 cfs by the gage below Ruedi Dam. The current reservoir elevation is around 7721 feet and still creeping down. Our increased release will keep the reservoir dropping, slightly, making room for the snow pack run-off we are anticipating late next month.

I’ve updated the Ruedi webpage to reflect these changes. Please give it a look and let me [Kara] know what you think:

We also have an additional snow pack and water level page now available at Please give that a look as well.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update: The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association is calling for water, an additional 100cfs will be diverted at the Gunnison Tunnel

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (Water Users) continue to fill canals for the irrigation season and are in immediate need of additional water from the Gunnison River. The only operating powerplant at Blue Mesa Dam is operating at full capacity and the bypass tubes will not be operational until next week. Therefore the Water Users will divert another 100 cfs at the Gunnison Tunnel which will reduce flows in the river by a corresponding amount. The result will be a flow of about 1,300 cfs in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Poudre River watershed: ‘The Poudre Runs Through It’ final installment — public dialogue — April 11

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From the editorial staff of the Northern Colorado Business Report:

The final public dialogue portion of the program will be held in two sessions in Fort Collins: Monday, April 11, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Timberline Church on South Timberline Road, and Saturday, April 16, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at The Drake Center on West Drake Road. These sessions, facilitated by CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation, will be where we all can discuss alternatives for Northern Colorado’s water future.

To prepare for the public deliberation and to see recordings from previous sessions of The Poudre Runs Through It, go online to

More Poudre River watershed coverage here.

Water Education Foundation to Honor State Climatologist at Colorado State University tonight

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Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Emily Wilmsen):

Nolan Doesken, state climatologist and founder of CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network based at Colorado State University, today will receive the 2011 President’s Award from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

Doesken will receive the award in recognition of his advancement to greater understanding of Colorado’s climate and water resources.

Doesken founded the volunteer precipitation monitoring program, CoCoRaHS, as a small local project in Fort Collins soon after an extreme localized storm in 1997. The storm was not well detected by traditional weather observing networks and caused devastating flooding. For this effort, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration honored him as one of 10 “Environmental Heroes” in 2007.

NOAA’s Office of Education awarded CoCoRaHS an Environmental Literacy grant in December 2006 to make its first formal push to expand nationally. Since then, CoCoRaHS has grown to include nearly 15,000 volunteers nationwide.
CoCoRaHS taps volunteers of all ages to document the quantity, intensity, duration and patterns of precipitation by taking simple measurements in their own backyards. Volunteers only need a cylindrical rain gauge, some training and an interest in weather to participate in the program.

Doesken will receive the award during the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s 2011 President’s Award reception from 6-9 p.m. Friday, April 8, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Mesa Laboratory in Boulder. For more information, go to

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education is Colorado’s only non-profit, non-advocacy organization that provides water resource information and education. Their mission is to promote better understanding of Colorado’s water resources and issues by providing balanced and accurate information and education. For more information about the CFWE, go to

More coverage from the Associated Press via The Denver Post:

Hannah Holm, coordinator of the Mesa County Water Association, has received the Emerging Leader Award…Holm’s work with the Mesa County group includes organizing water education activities and encouraging western Colorado residents, water managers and officials to work together.

Snowpack news: The San Luis Valley continues to dry up ahead of the runoff season

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

As of Tuesday, the Rio Grande Basin that encompasses the San Luis Valley was sitting at 75 percent of average basin wide, factoring the western San Juan Mountains in with that 41 percent for the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Just the week before, the basin-wide average was 80 percent.

The tops of the Sangres now look more like they usually do in May, water attorney David Robbins related to members of the Sub-district #1 board during its annual meeting on Tuesday. He said generally this time of year when he flies into the Valley from the Denver area, he can see big snowfields in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, but this year those snowfields are already gone. “It looks like May even in the protected interior,” he said…

Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division 3 Craig Cotten said the annual forecasted stream flow for the Rio Grande at Del Norte is also below average, with about 505,000 acre feet predicted for the calendar year, or 78 percent of average. Last year the Rio Grande ran 535,000 acre feet through Del Norte. Even the 505,000-acre-foot prediction may be too optimistic, Cotten said. “The only way we can get there is if we get some summer moisture,” he said. “If we do not get some summer moisture, we are not even going to get to that.”

From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

A new record high in snowpack was set for Gore Pass, with a total snow moisture content of 16.6 inches and a depth of 50 inches. This beats the old record high of 16.0 inches, which was set in 1965, according to USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Kremmling Field Office snow surveyors Mark Volt and Jenny Stricker…

Snowpack in the mountains above Middle Park now ranges from 108 percent to 194 percent of the 30-year average. Snow density is averaging 32 percent, which means that for a foot of snow there are 3.8 inches of water. The highest snowpack, relative to normal, is in the Laramie and North Platte River Basins, which measure 135 percent of average…

Reported average readings for the major river basins in Colorado are as follows:

• Colorado River Basin averages 124 percent
• Gunnison River Basin, 116 percent
• South Platte River Basin, 117 percent
• Yampa and White River Basins,127 percent
• Arkansas River Basin, 96 percent
• Upper Rio Grande Basin, 81 percent
• San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River Basins 92 percent
• Laramie and North Platte River Basins, 135 percent

Colorado rainwater harvesting — legally harvesting the rain that falls on your property is limited by prior appropriation

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There is a nexus between groundwater and the surface water streams and that is the premise used to limit rainwater harvesting in Colorado. A portion of the precipitation that falls on your property would end up in groundwater and therefore surface streams and has most likely already been appropriated since most streams in Colorado are over-appropriated. Here’s a look at the legal means available to Coloradans that want to capture rainwater for irrigation, from Charmaine Ortega Getz writing in the Boulder Weekly. From the article:

For more information on our state’s water laws and what is currently permitted, check out “Graywater Reuse and Rainwater Harvesting” from the Colorado State University extension at http://www.ext.colostate. edu/pubs/natres/06702.html.

And for a more hands-on kind of how-to, there are local classes to check out.

Transition Colorado and Real Earth Design! are offering weekend workshops April 16-17. The cost is $65 each day. Information and registration are available at http://www.transitioncolorado. org/events.php. For more information, contact Jason Gerhardt by calling 303-258-7982 or by e-mail at

In addition, Harlequin’s Gardens is offering a one-day “Introduction to Rainwater Harvesting” class on Saturday, July 16, at 1:30 p.m. The cost is $15, and early registration is strongly encouraged. Harlequin’s is located at 4795 N. 26th St. in Boulder, and can be reached at 303- 939-9403. Also see http://www.harlequins

Arkansas Valley: Farmers closing in on decision time — Should they bet on the runoff or pass on planting this year? Will dryland winter wheat farmers get a crop?

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Precipitation has been sparse for the past nine months and the eastern half of Colorado is in a severe drought. Snowpack at lower elevations is nonexistent, while concerns are high about how the ample snow in the high country will melt off. Low soil moisture everywhere in the valley, below-average streamflow and just-average storage are raising concerns…

The winter wheat crop could be the first casualty of drought. Although prices are high, dryland wheat that sprouted last fall has had little moisture over the winter months. Pockets of fields that got some water have germinated, but will need more water to mature…

One of the decisions farmers on the Fort Lyon face is whether to plant corn or choose preventive planting — the inability to plant a crop under federal crop insurance regulations. “If we don’t get a 3-inch rain sometime in April or May, I won’t plant corn on my flood ground. There’s not enough moisture in the soil,” [Farmer Dale Mauch] said. He will plant corn under sprinklers, which many farmers on the Fort Lyon have installed in recent years. The sprinklers, fed from ponds rather than wells, are regulated under new state rules, but give the advantage of more certainty because they deliver water more efficiently…

A decision many of the canal companies face is how much winter storage water to use at the beginning of the season or the end of the year as crops are ready to harvest…

Like others, High Line farmers are closely watching the snowpack, which is still 20 percent to 30 percent above average in the higher elevations, while sputtering along below 10,000 feet. “We’re hoping it doesn’t melt off too quickly and flow on by,” [Dan Henrichs, superintendent of the High Line Canal] said…

On the Bessemer Ditch, farmers have encountered dry conditions, but look to have ample water throughout the year with relatively senior ditch rights. “We had to work the ground more than usual, but everything’s coming along,” said Joe Mauro. “We’re going to plant a lot of chile and sweet corn, and the veggies. We’ll also have pinto beans, corn and alfalfa.”

“We need a three-day drizzle,” Henrichs said. “Or a foot of wet, heavy snow. That’d do us some good.”

“You know, I’d still rather farm than do anything else,” Mauch said. “It’ll rain again. It always does.”

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

If you click on the thumbnail graphic above and to the right you’ll see the huge drought area across the southern tier of U.S. states. Here’s a report from Doyle Rice writing for USA Today. From the article:

“The biggest drought concern now is the southern tier of the U.S.,” says climatologist Brian Fuchs of the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb. And no real relief is in sight for the spring and summer: Drought conditions are expected to persist and worsen for the next three months across the USA’s southern tier and along the Mid-Atlantic seaboard, according to the Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md.

Texas is the hardest-hit state, where almost half the state is under an “extreme” drought, according to the Drought Monitor, a federal website that tracks drought. “This is the driest winter we’ve had since the late 1960s,” says John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas state climatologist. “It’s in the top five historically, back to 1895.”[…]

In Florida, the South Florida Water Management reported last week that the area is in the midst of its driest dry season (winter) in about 80 years. The water level of Lake Okeechobee — which supplies water to millions of people in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties in Florida — was recently reported at 11.59 feet, says Susan Sylvester, the director of operations control for the water management district. The average level at this time of year is 14.25 feet…

The southern dryness this winter can be blamed on the La Niña climate pattern, a periodic cooling of Pacific Ocean water that affects weather patterns worldwide. Southern states almost always have a winter with less precipitation during a La Niña winter. “This was a fairly strong La Niña event,” Fuchs says. “One of the strongest on record” — and it’s expected to continue through the spring and into the early summer.