Snowpack/drought/runoff news: Southeastern approves 65% of Fry-Ark imports for irrigators this season

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Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current statewide snowpack map along with the Basin High/Low graphs for the South Platte and Arkansas river basins from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The allocation committee of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District on Thursday voted to recommend that about 65 percent of the water from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project go to farms this year. The district board will consider the action next week…

The bad news: There isn’t much water. The Bureau of Reclamation’s May 1 projection for Fry-Ark imports from the Colorado River basin was 12,400 acre-feet, about one-fourth of average. So far, about 4,000 acre-feet have moved — and moved earlier than usual…

In the end, the district staff estimated about 9,900 acre-feet will be available for allocation this year, after evaporation, transit loss and obligations are accounted for. Of that, about 3,500 will go to municipal use, and nearly 6,400 acre-feet to farms. The ag allocations are spread out under a formula that incorporates eligible acres among nine canals and 15 smaller ditches or farms.

There will be a ripple effect because of smaller than projected return flows, which well groups rely on for part of their augmentation water. However augmentation plans are likely to be rewritten as farmers scale back operations to match conditions.

From the Leadville Herald-Democrat:

The latest snow surveys conducted by the NRCS show that most low- and mid- elevation-measurement locations have little or no snow, and the higher-elevation sites are well-below average and rapidly melting. The May 1 statewide snowpack report reflects this; measuring just 19 percent of average. For the second month in a row, statewide snowpack conditions match those recorded during the record-setting drought year of 2002. In the Arkansas River Basin, snowpack is at 25 percent of average and 22 percent of the amount measured at this time last year.

From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart):

This year’s runoff throughout the Colorado River Basin is expected to be about 50 percent of average. No one is predicting flows of 870 cubic feet per second in the lower Fryingpan River below the Ruedi Dam this year (it was flowing at about 120 cfs Thursday), but Ruedi Reservoir could be employed to help ease late-summer drought conditions on the Western Slope, according to Don Meyer, senior water resources engineer for the Colorado River District. The reservoir might not fill this summer but could inch above 100,000 acre-feet under the most optimistic projections, according to Tim Miller, of the Bureau of Reclamation. The reservoir is considered full at 102,369 acre-feet…

The reservoir might send very little water to the Front Range this year through the Fry-Ark transmountain diversion, Miller added. On average, 54,000 acre-feet are sent from the upper Fryingpan drainage to the far side of the Continental Divide. Last year, 98,000 acre-feet went east, but this year, about 12,430 acre-feet are expected to be diverted…

Between drought mitigation and other calls on Ruedi, flows could bump up to the 300-cfs range on the lower Fryingpan come August, which is not unusual, giving a boost to the Roaring Fork below its confluence with the Pan. The upper Fork, however, could see low flows and high enough water temperatures to harm the fishery if dry weather persists, Meyer said. The Roaring Fork at Glenwood Springs hit about 1,100 cfs last weekend, according to Meyer, and could do the same this weekend. A peak of about 1,500 is projected, he said…

The Colorado at Glenwood hit about 3,500 cfs last weekend and could do so again in the next couple of days, matching what is predicted to be the peak this season, he said. The high water is about a month ahead of last year’s peak.

From the Fort Collins Coloradodan (Kevin Duggan):

Drought conditions and historically low snowpack levels are not expected to translate into mandatory water-use restrictions this year in Fort Collins…

Supplies are strong enough that [Fort Collins] likely will be able to “carry over” up to 8,000 acre feet of water in local reservoirs for next year’s use. An acre foot of water is enough to meet the needs of two American families of four for a year…

Fort Collins’ main water sources are the Poudre River, where the city holds senior water rights, and Horsetooth Reservoir through the Colorado-Big Thompson system administered by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Because of the dry conditions, the district has agreed to provide a high amount of water this year to share owners. With its strong supply and limited storage capacity, the city plans to rent 5,600 acre feet of water to area farmers.

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