Snowpack/drought/runoff news: Arkansas River Basin snowpack is at 30% of average, statewide = 25%




Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current statewide snowpack map, the Basin High/Low graph statewide and the Basin High/Low graph for the Arkansas River Basin. Things are generally better east of the Great Divide but snowpack is near 2002 levels everywhere.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Some are planting as if they forgot a drought ever showed up,” said Dan Henrichs, superintendent of the High Line Canal. “I’m going to recommend we run more water at the next ditch board meeting, like I did last month.” Finding additional water to irrigate crops with could be tough this year. At last month’s Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District meeting, the possibility was raised that no agricultural water allocations may be available this year.

The Bureau of Reclamation has not completed its May 1 forecast, but water supplies are likely to be at 2002 levels or less. Statewide, snowpack is at 25 percent of average, and it has begun to melt at lower elevations. “The conditions we’re seeing are about five weeks ahead of normal,” [Steve Witte, Water Division 2 engineer] said. “It doesn’t look or feel like 2002, however. You can drive out on the plains and see green.”

Cities have more water in storage in 2012, but farmers could feel the pinch because the National Climate Prediction Center is predicting higher temperatures and average precipitation through October for this area. So far this year, Pueblo precipitation is half of normal.

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Laura Snider):

In April, Boulder got 1.32 inches of precipitation, compared to an average of 2.92 inches, according to local meteorologist Matt Kelsch. Taken together, it was the fourth-driest March and April on record in Boulder. Normally, the two months bring a total of 5.02 inches of water. But this year, only 0.01 inches of precipitation fell in March, making the total 1.33 inches for both months.

The situation hasn’t been better in the mountains. A lack of spring snowfall and above-average temperatures have conspired to shrink the already-small snowpack. The snowpack in the South Platte River Basin is 32 percent of what it normally is on May 1, and statewide, the snowpack has shrunk to just 25 percent of average.

On Tuesday, Boulder water managers met to discuss whether the city should declare drought conditions and enact water restrictions. City officials are expected next week to announce their decision, which will be based on snowpack measurements in the mountains where Boulder draws some of its water, the amount of water stored in the city’s reservoirs, the amount of water Boulder can expect to draw from the Colorado River through the Colorado-Big Thompson project, and the amount of expected demand for water…

The snowpack on May 1 was similarly low during the 2002 drought, when the snowpack in the South Platte River Basin was 31 percent of normal…

“Boulder’s storage situation is currently good, which will help get us through the summer,” Wilson wrote. “The worry is really whether we have low snowpack next winter. That could be very serious.”[…]

The low snowpack — and correspondingly low creek flows — isn’t bad news for everyone. It could make for good fishing on Boulder Creek, according to Randy Hicks, manager of Rocky Mountain Anglers in Boulder. Normally, fishing on Boulder Creek is nearly impossible in June, and last year, the creek wasn’t especially fishable until even later in the summer.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

March inflow into [Lake Powell] was about 10,000 acre feet higher than forecast, mainly due to the early snow-melt season, but still only 84 percent of average. Through July, the inflow is only expected to be 49 percent of average. For the water year, the inflow is now projected to be about 63 percent of average. That marks a setback in regional water storage, which saw improvement since 2005, following a string of dry years. Between 2005 and 2011, Lake Powell’s inflow was 101 percent of average, thanks in particular to the 2011 water year, when inflow peaked for the period at 147 percent of average.

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