Snowpack/drought news: San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River Basins sitting at 82 percent of average

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Ellen Metrick):

Last week, when [Jim Boyd] and his co-worker John Lestina of Dove Creek measured the local snowpack, they came up with a below-average average over four sites. North Mountain, near Miramonte Reservoir, is at 98 percent of average snowpack, but Trout Lake area measured at 74.6 percent, and in the town of Telluride, the snowpack moisture content is at 67 percent. The fourth site, on Lizard Head Pass, is close to 85 percent. Overall, the snow water equivalent for the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River Basins measure at 84 percent. The highest in the state — the Laramie and North Platte River Basin — is at 138 percent of average, while the lowest — the Upper Rio Grande Basin — is at 75 percent. In addition to the moisture content of the snow, other factors come into play, as well — spring winds can suck the moisture out of the snowpack, and above-average temperatures could melt it more quickly, reducing the amount of water available later. In the Norwood area, where water storage is limited and spring “natural-flow” irrigation is a common event, a fast run-off can be a concern.

From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

The problem, [Karen Rademacher, a senior water resources engineer for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District] said, is there’s only room enough to store about 215,000 acre-feet of water. As a result, Northern Water will start spilling water out of Granby Reservoir, the main collection point of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, before that runoff starts next month. The Colorado-Big Thompson brings a supplemental water supply to the northeast part of the state from the Colorado River. While that means there will be a lot of water flowing down not only the Colorado, but the Big Thompson, Poudre, St. Vrain and South Platte rivers as well this spring, while the eastern part of the state remains in the grips of a moderate to extreme drought. Rademacher said the most recent outlook calls for those drought conditions to continue into the spring months. “The water equivalent of the snowpack is spectacular. It’s the biggest year we’ve seen since 1986, but at the same time, we’re seeing conditions on the eastern plains that are similar to what we saw in the drought of 2002,” Rademacher said…

As a result of those conditions, Dave Nettles, division engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources in Greeley, said there already have been calls for irrigation water along northern rivers, such as the South Platte, which have come a little earlier than normally expected. At the same time, the major reservoirs along the South Platte and its tributaries, are at near capacity, he noted. But Nettles also said there have been below-average flows on the South Platte and other rivers since July and August of last year, noting the majority of the water coming from this year’s snow melt will be used along the Front Range by senior water right holders.

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