Snowpack/drought news: The outlook for the San Luis Valley remains dry in the second year of drought, snowpack checks in at 51%

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

“It does not look like a good year for stream flows, worse than last year. Last year was not a good year either. It is so low in certain areas of the Valley we are looking at probably a lower stream flow than we had in 2002,” Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten said on Tuesday.

That was one of the Rio Grande Basin’s worst drought years. Cotten explained that the 2002 levels would not hit the San Luis Valley’s bigger streams, the Rio Grande and Conejos, “but we could have it in isolated smaller creeks.”

He said the Natural Resources Conservation Services’ (NRCS) annual forecast currently for the Rio Grande is 465,000 acre feet, or about 71 percent of the long-term average. The NRCS forecast for the Conejos River system is 215,000 acre feet or about 65 percent of the long-term average…

The Rio Grande Basin, encompassing the San Luis Valley, stands at 51 percent of average for snowpack right now, Cotten reported to the Rio Grande Roundtable members on Tuesday…

“We just have not had a good snowmelt year for several years,” Cotten explained. “We started off this last winter with a decent snowpack up until maybe February. We were looking at a fairly good, at least average year. Then the snow stopped.” Even the big snowstorm a week and a half or so ago did not help the overall picture much, he said…

Cotten said the stream flows now are higher than average, but that is not a good sign because it means the water will be gone faster…

Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi, technical specialist for the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s drought program, told the Rio Grande Roundtable members on Tuesday that every part of the state, including the San Luis Valley, is listed at some level of drought classification according to the U.S. Drought Monitor…

Hutchins-Cabibi said some assistance could be available for members of the agricultural community should the drought continue. Other areas of the economy throughout Colorado including municipalities and tourism-related industries could also potentially be adversely affected should drought conditions persist another year, which is quite possible, Hutchins-Cabibi explained.

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