Snowpack/drought/runoff news: Summit ‘State of the River’ public meeting May 8



Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current U.S. Drought Monitor map and the Colorado snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From the Summit Daily News:

The National Integrated Drought Information System has declared a severe drought in Summit County and the Colorado River Basin. As of Wednesday, snowpack levels in the basin stood at 33 percent of average, tracking below the last memorable drought year of 2002.

The public can learn more about the drought, snowpack and critical reservoir operations at the annual Summit County State of the River meeting set for 6:30-8:30 p.m. on May 8, at the Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco. The event is sponsored by the Colorado River District and the Blue River Watershed Group.

Presenting on the river and snowpack conditions will be Summit County water commissioner Troy Wineland. Bob Steger of Denver Water and Ron Thomasson of the Bureau of Reclamation will discuss the operations of Dillon and Green Mountain reservoirs, respectively.

The meeting will also update the public on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which Summit County is scheduled to sign on May 15 in conjunction with Grand County and Denver Water. Summit County manager Gary Martinez will offer details.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

“We have an adequate water supply for the entire year, in the bank,” said Ken Huson, the city’s water resources administrator. “We’re doing quite well and we’re very happy about that.” If the figures are right, “quite well” might be an understatement. The city is projecting that its water supply will be 147 percent of its demand — basically, that for every acre-foot Longmont needs, it’ll have one and a half. Surpluses are projected over the next two years as well…

As of mid-April, the Upper Colorado river basin had about a third of the snowpack that it should. The South Platte basin had about half its usual levels — low, though still above the desperate levels of the 2002 drought. In fact, of all Longmont’s river basins, it’s the St. Vrain that’s holding up the best, and even that’s at about 65 percent of its typical snowpack…

…communities that draw their water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project — which brings water from the Western Slope to the Front Range and the plains — got an extra dollop this year. This year, the participants get a 90 percent quota, meaning they can draw nine-tenths of an acre foot for every share they hold. A normal year sees a 60 or 70 percent share. In plain numbers, that means Longmont can claim 19,424 acre-feet of “transbasin” water this year. Even after putting aside 2,542 acre-feet for future use, that’s still almost enough to meet the city’s demand by itself…

Now add in the rest, such as a lot of very senior water rights — the city’s oldest, on the 1861 Beckwith irrigation ditch, is the third-oldest claim on the St. Vrain — and storage reserves such as Button Rock Reservoir. Put it all together, take out the water that Longmont rents and leases to other communities, and it comes to an estimate of 25,921 acre-feet for this year. The city’s demand estimate, meanwhile, comes to 17,621 acre-feet. It might even come out tighter — the first three months of this year saw the lowest Longmont water use of the past 10 years, according to Huson. Through March, Longmont had used 2,310 acre-feet. (By comparison, the city’s residents used 2,488 at the same point in 2002.)

From The Aspen Times (Randy Wyrick):

There are good years and not-so-good years, but as long as there’s water where water’s supposed to be, there are no bad years, Hoeve said. So far, the Colorado and Arkansas rivers are “dam” good — they’re dam controlled. The Arkansas River and the Colorado River are running at 100 percent because they’re fed from reservoirs, and those reservoirs are full because last year’s snow and water levels were so high. “They’re augmenting the rivers by running water out of these dams,” [Ken Hoeve, a local television personality and competitive kayaker and stand-up paddler] said.

Not getting out on the river because you think the likely summer drought is already here is a bad idea, Hoeve said. “People are misinformed, I think,” he said…

Locally, Homestake Creek, where they hold a Teva Mountain Games event, is running at 61 cubic feet per second. You can run at it at 25 if you don’t mind getting knocked around a little…

The average snow accumulation in February that boosted the snowpack across the state was short lived. March brought dry, warm and windy weather to Colorado, resulting in significant declines in the snowpack, the NRCS reported. When that warm and windy March hit, that February statewide snowpack shrank by 29 percent. By April 1, the statewide snowpack was 52 percent of average, said Phyllis Ann Philipps, state conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Also, March snowfall was 29 percent of the historical average, Phillipps said.

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