As you may have already noticed, the reduction in releases from Ruedi to the Fryingpan did not happen this morning [April 6]. It has been postponed at least through the weekend. As a result, the 67 cfs release from Ruedi will continue for the time being.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
Currently, the reservoir is only about four feet below capacity. Last summer the reservoir filled July 27, one of the latest dates on record, as Denver Water made way for abundant runoff required by drawing the water level way down in spring and early summer…
Denver Water is releasing about 53 cubic feet per second to the Lower Blue, just a shade more than the required mininum flows of 50 cfs set to protect the fishery. More than three times that amount of water is going through the Roberts Tunnel to the Front Range. Tunnel diversions have been averaging about 150 to 225 cfs in recent weeks, according to Bob Steger, manager of raw water supplies for Denver Water.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
BuRec spokesperson Kara Lamb said the agency isn’t sure yet whether Green Mountain Reservoir will even have a so-called paper fill this year. As of April 5, water experts were still crunching snowpack numbers and streamflow projections, with at least some preliminary projections for Green Mountain Reservoir due by the end of next week.
Those projections will be of interest to recreational stakeholders at Green Mountain Reservoir, who rely on a short summer boating and fishing season to maintain businesses through the year.
A paper fill is when some the water that’s technically part of the Green Mountain water right is held back in Dillon Reservoir. Instead of letting that water flow down the Blue to Green Mountain Reservoir, Denver Water, through an exchange, uses water from Williams Fork Reservoir to meet downstream demands for Green Mountain water.
The April 1 start of fill declaration by the BuRec is the earliest date that the agency can start calling for water to fill Green Mountain Reservoir. The timing was triggered by the dismal snowpack and the expectation of an early runoff, said BuRec spokesperson Kara Lamb.
Already, many streams in the headwaters region are running well above average for this time of year, and the snowpack in the Upper Colorado is below 50 percent of average and dropping fast.
From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):
A couple days ago, I updated you on the reduction of flows at Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue. We had scaled back releases to about 72 cfs. Tonight [April5], I am updating you again to let you know that, with recent snow pack conditions in mind, that release rate is likely to remain in effect well into May–and possibly longer, depending on weather.
We also declared our “start of fill” at Green Mountain on April 1, this year. That means, we started storing water in the reservoir on April 1–the earliest date we can start storing.
Mage Skordahl, assistant snow survey supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said the entire Arkansas Basin is at 56 percent of average – downstream basins that have received above-average precipitation account for the higher overall snowpack. Statewide snowpack is also 52 percent of average – down 29 percentage points since March 1.
In a press release, Phyllis Ann Philipps, state conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, reported statewide snowpack conditions have not been this low since 2002, when the April 1 snowpack also was reported to be 52 percent of average.
Containing the headwaters of four major U.S. river systems, Colorado seemingly has plentiful water resources. However, due to interstate compacts and agreements, the state must allow much of this water to leave its borders. As increasing temperatures challenge traditional notions of water management and availability in the West and municipal demand continues to grow as populations swell, conflicts over water resources will intensify. Consequently, the potential economic impacts to the state from climate change are significant. In 2007, winter recreation alone contributed nearly $2 billion to the Colorado economy.1 Warmer temperatures could lead to less snow and a shortening of the ski season. In fact, a 2006 study projected a loss of 43 to 82 percent in April snowpack for Colorado counties with ski resorts by the end of the 21st century.2 Dwindling water resources and higher temperatures as a result of climate change could also impair the state’s $5.5 billion agricultural industry.3 To lessen these impacts, Colorado should continue to fund research on the impacts of climate change on water resources and work to incorporate climate change considerations into all aspects of water resources planning—both statewide and locally.
More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
NRDC analysts looked at water-supply planning, as well as the extent to which states were trying to reduce greenhouse-gas pollution linked to global warming. “While Colorado has done more than many states, it should engage in more robust planning and implementation to prepare for climate change,” the NRDC report said. The primary challenges in Colorado are expected to be shifts in water supply, extreme storms, increased flooding and changes to aquatic life…
Colorado’s ranking “seems about right,” said Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi, a state drought and climate change specialist in the Department of Natural Resources. “We definitely have done more within the Interior West on the planning side, especially with regard to water.”
More coverage from Brandon Loomis writing for The Salt Lake Tribune. From the article:
The Natural Resources Defense Council released a report Thursday that groups the states in four categories for their efforts to prepare and prevent calamity. The council’s “Ready or Not” report puts Utah’s efforts in the lowest tier, partly because it found state agencies ignore the threat while legislators have passed resolutions downplaying the phenomenon.
“It seems like the [Utah] state water plan hasn’t really taken a look at what climate change will do to water supply and hydrology in the state,” NRDC water policy analyst Ben Chou said in a telephone news conference.
Numerous studies have predicted less supply for the Great Basin and Colorado River watersheds as snowfall turns to rain and temperatures increase evaporation. Timing of precipitation also may shift, requiring greater storage capacity to maintain irrigation water when it is needed.
NRDC says states facing potential shortages should incorporate them into their projections, while areas projected to get more water in fiercer storms should plan for better flood control. Some states, such as California and New York, are ahead in planning, according to the report. Utah is behind most, in the group’s reckoning, and behind all states that share the Colorado River.
More coverage from Michelle Mehta writing for Switchboard, the NRDC staff blog. From the post:
California has already experienced the kinds of climate change-related impacts projected only to get worse. For instance, due to “stubbornly dry conditions” the Department of Water Resources recently reduced its estimate of the amount of water the State Water Project will deliver in 2012, from 60 percent to 50 percent of the requested amount of slightly more than 4 million acre-feet. Record-setting heat in 2010 caused nearly 40,000 Los Angeles homes and residences to lose electricity and prompted adjustments to train speeds and schedules.
Fortunately, leaders across this state have recognized these risks and are acting to reduce statewide greenhouse gas pollution and prepare for the impacts of climate change. As detailed in a new NRDC report released today, California is one of just nine states in the U.S. to develop a comprehensive climate change preparedness plan, making it one of the most engaged states compared to the rest of the nation. And even among this elite group, our state stands out. Our state has established statewide greenhouse gas pollution reduction targets and is using a cap-and-trade regulation to limit greenhouse gas pollution from major sources.