Runoff news: Lake Powell is rising a foot a day

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From the Deseret News (Joi O’Donoghugh):

The water is rising at Lake Powell about a foot a day and by mid-August it is expected to reach an elevation of 3,665 feet — a level not seen since 2001. As of Wednesday, the measurements of flows from rivers that feed into Lake Powell show them at nearly 257 percent of average and half the snowpack is left to melt, according to the Bureau of Reclamation…

Overall, the 2011 water year has bumped storage at Lake Powell by nearly 2.2 million acre feet of water and rivers that feed into it are still running high. Measurements at the San Rafael River near Green River, for example, show it flowing at 1,430 cubic feet per second, when the average on July 6 typically is 194 cubic feet per second. That drastic difference puts it at a little more than 742 percent of average.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

If you drive up Pikes Peak Highway and circle the lakes, the dramatic drop in the water level is unmistakable. On the east end of South Catamount Reservoir, the lake bed is bone-dry for hundreds of yards in the same spot where a friend of mine and a buddy of his caught 136 fish on three outings in the first half of June. It’s the lowest my friend has seen South Catamount in at least a decade…

The entire Springs water system, which spans the Western Slope to Pueblo Reservoir and includes Pikes Peak reservoirs, currently is 76 percent filled. While that’s lower than last year’s levels, and also lower than normal levels, the relative shortfall stems from cool May temperatures that delayed runoff, Utilities spokeswoman Patrice Quintero says. That is expected to change soon with the snowmelt…

South Catamount Reservoir, a Great Depression project along with Crystal Reservoir further east, contains only 45 percent of its 848-million-gallon capacity, while nearby North Catamount, added in 1960, stands at 70 percent of its 3.9-billion-gallon capacity, says Abby Ortega, Utilities’ water resources planning supervisor. Both are fed by Pikes Peak runoff and via a pipeline from the Blue River System, near Hoosier Pass. So when Pikes Peak got only half the snow it normally does, the reservoirs took one hit. But the bigger one came from maintenance on Montgomery Dam on Hoosier Pass, which has required draining that reservoir. Ortega says the project is to be completed in September, and the Catamount reservoirs will fill as usual next May and June. In any event, the Catamounts are nowhere near their historic low of 21 percent capacity, which came in December 2002, amid a drought. There’s actually at least one more reason the lakes are lower than normal: lack of rain. Ortega says the city has received only slightly more than 3 inches this year, 30 percent of normal. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Drought Monitor describes portions of the Front Range, including Colorado Springs, as in a severe to extreme drought.

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