Snowpack news: The snowpack is dropping daily across the state, statewide snowpack is 64% of the thirty year average




Colorado has abnormally dry conditions or one stage of drought or another across the entire state except for a area around Metro Denver and points north to Wyoming. This week’s U.S. Drought Monitor will come out tomorrow. Click on the thumbnail graphics above and to the right for the current snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the 8-10 day precipitation forecast from the Climate Prediction Center and last week’s drought map from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Remember to conserve water going into the summer. The nights are still cool so there is no reason to water the bluegrass yet. Trees and shrubs probably do need water though since it’s been so dry. Send some positive energy towards the storm that is expected over the weekend.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Northern Colorado’s mountain snowpack is now diminishing to levels matching that of 2002, the notorious year of drought and wildfire across the state. “It’s just really, really dry,” said meteorologist Judy Fossum of DayWeather in Cheyenne, Wyo. Looking at the long-term forecast, “Honestly, there’s nothing significant headed our way for the next 10 days.”[…]

The water content of the snow in the Upper Colorado River Basin was 40 percent below normal Tuesday morning. For the same date in 2002, it was only 33 percent below normal. In the South Platte River Basin, which includes the Poudre River drainage, the snowpack was 34 percent below normal Tuesday. In 2002, it was 41 percent below normal, according to U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service data. According to the National Weather Service, the warm weather, wind and lack of new snow contributed to the South Platte River Basin showing Colorado’s greatest basinwide decrease in snowpack this month, diminishing 16 percent between Feb. 24 and March 22. But, Colorado can often see dry spells and numerous wildfires during March, and this dry spell isn’t enough to catapult Northern Colorado into a drought, said Mike Baker, a meteorologist and climate scientist at the NWS in Boulder…

Two of Colorado’s major shots of winter weather this season were thanks to a moisture-laden tropical wave over the Pacific Ocean, Baker said, and a similar shot of moisture appears headed in Colorado’s direction for early April…

“The models are showing a wimpy sort of system that comes through on Sunday,” Baker said. “Maybe a rain shower on the plains.”

From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

The Upper Colorado River Basin snowpack has an average peak date of April 14, the date when the snowpack is typically the highest it is all winter. Currently, the basin’s snowpack is at just 57 percent of its peak. That means the river basin needs 740 percent of its average snowpack between now and April 14 to reach that average, according to snowpack telemetry (SNOTEL) data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service…

Mage Skordahl, assistant snow survey supervisor with the National Resources Conservation Service, said even if the area “has a huge April, we still probably wouldn’t reach our average peak.” “We’re so far below average and things are starting to melt,” Skordahl said…

She expects the April 1 data to show statewide average streamflow conditions at 60 percent of average, and maybe lower in some places. “It’s definitely going to be a low runoff year,” Skordahl said, adding that there are still unknowns, like spring rains, that could change things for the better…

Statewide, the good news is that last year was a record snow year, which left reservoirs full or almost full. In 2002, a major drought year, reservoirs were low because the previous years had also been grim in terms of precipitation. Currently, the snow water equivalent — the amount of water actually in the snow — is much lower than it was even in 2002. As of March 20, this year’s snow water equivalent was around 10 inches. In 2002 around the same time, it was closer to 15 inches, according to Eagle River Water and Sanitation District data. The data also shows the current snow water equivalent as being the lowest out of all of the “low” years on record.

IBCC: Wyco Water and Power, Inc. and the Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project proponents briefed the state task force yesterday


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A private developer and a public group who want to build major water supply pipelines from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range met Tuesday for the first time with a state task force. “Can both projects go? Folks, there should be collaboration. If this task force wants an additional task it could look at finding collaboration,” said Aaron Million, who first came up with the idea for the project about six years ago. “One of the outcomes of the task force has been a huge pushback from the environmental community.”

Million’s Wyco Power and Water Inc. faces competition from the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Parker Water and Sanitation General Manager Frank Jaeger. The task force, formed at the request of the Arkansas and Metro basin roundtables, was formed to identify issues, interests and impacts associated with a Flaming Gorge project. It won’t recommend either project, and right now just has a growing list of questions and concerns…

The Colorado-Wyoming Coalition still is investigating whether it even wants to pursue the project and is waiting on a Bureau of Reclamation determination of whether water is available, Jaeger said. “We don’t have all the answers,” Jaeger said. “We have to know what the Bureau of Reclamation plan says before we go any further.” The group has clearly identified it would serve a population of 569,000 in the next 60 years. The project would divert 100,000 acre-feet of water, which through re-use could provide about 200,000 acre-feet of need. About one-fourth of the water would go to communities in Wyoming.

Million filed for water rights in 2007 on the Green River in Wyoming and has applied for a contract with Reclamation. He is using an earlier decision by Reclamation as the basis for his claim of 250,000 acre-feet. He has identified potential users, but does not have a specific list, unlike the coalition. So far, $5 million has been spent to develop his plan…

While the project faces stiff opposition in Western Wyoming, there is a growing realization that the decision could be made without the area’s consensus. There is a spectrum of opinion heavily weighted toward stopping the project to those who realize control of the water is in someone else’s hands and the object is to reduce the impacts of diverting some of it. “I think our mission is to stay informed on the issues,” said Don Hartley, of the Rock Springs, (Wyo.,) Chamber Enterprise Committee. “We have to stay abreast of the issues with an eye to minimizing the impacts.”

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

CWCB: March additions to the 2012 proposed instream flow program includes eight reaches in the Upper Laramie River watershed


Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the March list, I couldn’t get the email attachment to open on my Macintosh computer this morning. Below is the email from the CWCB (Rob Viehl):

At its March 20-21, 2012 regular meeting, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) declared its intent to appropriate instream flow water rights for the 8 streams listed on the attached instream flow appropriation list. The attached list contains a description of the instream flow recommendations including: stream name, water division, watershed, county, upper terminus, lower terminus, length, USGS quad sheet name(s) and recommended instream flow amounts. Copies of the Instream Flow Recommendation Summary Reports and Appendices submitted into the Official CWCB Record are available for review during regular business hours (8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) at the CWCB’s office, located at 1313 Sherman Street, Room 721, Denver, Colorado, 80203. This information is also available on the CWCB website at:

In addition to the above Instream Flow Recommendation Summary Reports and Appendices, staff may rely on any additional data, exhibits, testimony, or other information submitted by any party as part of the Official CWCB Record to support its Instream Flow Recommendations. Pursuant to Rule 5d.(3) of the Rules Concerning the Colorado Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program adopted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, it should also be noted that:

(a) The Board may change flow amounts of contested ISF appropriations based on information received during the public notice and comment period.

(b) Staff will maintain, pursuant to Rule 5e.(3), an ISF Subscription Mailing List for each water division composed of the names of all persons who have sent notice to the Board Office that they wish to be included on such list for a particular water division. Any person desiring to be on the ISF Subscription Mailing List(s) must send notice to the Board Office.

(c) Any meetings held between Staff and members of the public will be open to the public. Staff may provide Proper Notice prior to any such meetings and may provide notice to persons on the ISF Subscription Mailing List(s).

(d) Any Notice to Contest must be received at the Board office no later than April 30, 2012. Notice of any Contested Appropriations will be sent out to the ISF Subscription Mailing List(s) by May 4, 2012. All Notices of Party status and Contested Hearing Participant status must be received at the Board office no later than May 31, 2012.

(e) Staff will announce its Final Staff Instream Flow Recommendation concerning contested appropriations at the November 2012 Board meeting and, prior to that meeting, will send notice of the Final Staff Recommendation to all persons on the Contested Hearing Mailing List.

(f) The Board may take final action on any uncontested ISF appropriations at the May 2012 Board meeting.

A notice to contest an ISF appropriation shall be made in writing and contain the following information: (a) Identification of the Person(s) requesting the hearing;(b) Identification of the ISF appropriation(s) at issue; and, (c) The contested facts and a general description of the data upon which the Person will rely to the extent known at that time.

Should you wish to comment on the proposed Instream Flow Recommendations, you may do so by writing Jeff Baessler of the Board’s staff at the address given above or by sending your comments by email to It should be noted that while your appearance at any meeting is welcome, such an appearance is not necessary for your concerns to be recognized. Staff will take your comments into account and, if you so request, will present them to the Board in your absence.

More instream flow coverage here.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 125 cfs in the Blue River below the dam


From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We made another change at Green Mountain Reservoir earlier today [March 27]. As we continue to prepare for some upcoming maintenance, we scaled releases from the dam to the Lower Blue back another 50 cfs. The Lower Blue is now running at about 125 cfs.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.