Snowpack/runoff/drought news: ‘It’s going to be a tough year, but our storage is up’ — Alan Ward (Pueblo Board of Water Works)

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“It’s going to be a tough year, but our storage is up,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager for the Pueblo Board of Water Works at Tuesday’s monthly meeting…

Snowpack in the Arkansas River basin is at 44 percent of normal, and has been melting since late March. The normal peak date is April 13. Things are worse in the Colorado River basin, which provides supplemental water for the Arkansas River, where snow levels have dropped to 37 percent. Normal peak is April 14, but was reached about three weeks ago. Pueblo has opened the Wurtz and Ewing ditches, which bring water across the Continental Divide. There also was recent heavy snowfall in the Busk-Ivanhoe collection area, which brings water through a tunnel…

In Pueblo, precipitation through mid-April is about 1.5 inches, about 65 percent of average.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

This year, snowpack in the Colorado River basin, which supplies the Fry-Ark water, is at its lowest point in 45 years, melting off a month ahead of average and quickly reaching problematic limits on the amount that can be moved. “Storage is what’s saving us,” Executive Director Jim Broderick told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. “If they wouldn’t have taken the clue in 2002, the cities would be in trouble today.” After the drought of 2002, the cities increased their levels of storage. Lake Pueblo is nearly full because cities are storing Fry-Ark water and water from other sources. The cities also have filled up accounts in Twin Lakes, Turquoise and municipal reservoirs to the point where they are not anticipating further water restrictions this summer.

But the Southeastern district’s operating principles give priority to domestic uses and after the 2002 drought, the district began discussing what sort of “trigger” would cut off agricultural allocations. The district never agreed on what the trigger should be, instead relying on a group of indicators including snowpack, municipal storage, drought designation, soil moisture and water availability forecasts…

he lack of water from the Fry-Ark Project has a domino effect because it will affect return flows, and to some extent water supply plans that rely on its contribution. Other diversions, like Twin Lakes or Pueblo’s transmountain ditches, also are expecting lower yields.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District voted Wednesday to charge farmers under the [augmentation] plan $75 per acre-foot to cover the cost of water to the district…

The district supplies water to make up for consumptive use depletions caused by sprinklers fed from surface ponds under Rule 10 of the state engineer’s consumptive use rules. The rules measure depletions under a formula and are designed to prevent depletions to Kansas.

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

[Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten] said one of the few hopeful signs in the water world right now is the National Weather Service’s new three-month precipitation outlook for May, June and July. Where the last forecast showed the basin (the San Luis Valley) in a below-average precipitation area of the U.S., the new forecast puts this area in an average or equal chance of precipitation this summer.

In another bit of good news, Cotten’s office has been able to decrease curtailments of irrigators in the Conejos River system where flows the first part of April substantially boosted deliveries to downstream states to help satisfy Rio Grande Compact requirements. Irrigators on the Conejos waited until April 7 to turn on their ditches and initially were under a 6-percent curtailment. However, due to the deliveries made prior to April 7, Cotten said he was able to reduce curtailments to 4 percent on Tuesday. From April 1-15, 5,800 acre feet was sent downriver from the Conejos River system to meet compact obligations, leaving only 6,500 acre feet to be delivered between now and the end of the irrigation season. Cotten said the projected annual index on the Conejos is 215,000 acre feet, with 54,000 acre feet or 25 percent obligated for compact purposes. As much as possible of that is sent downriver during the winter months to lessen the curtailment during the irrigation season.

The April 1 forecast on the Rio Grande calls for a projected annual index flow of 465,000 acre feet, of which 116,500 acre feet or 25 percent must be sent downriver for the compact. Cotten said about 32,500 acre feet will need to be delivered downstream during the remainder of the irrigation system…

The Upper Rio Grande Basin as of yesterday stood at 47 percent of average, and Beartown, one of the major SNOTEL sites for the Rio Grande was 30 percent of average. Slumgullion, which is not in the basin but is close enough to assist with basin averages, showed the highest snowpack at 80 percent of average on Tuesday.

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