Forecast news: Snow showers for northern mountains today #codrought #cowx

Snowpack news: Upper Colorado Basin = 73% of avg, Statewide = 76% #codrought

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Click on the thumbnail graphics for yesterday’s statewide snowpack map and Upper Colorado River Basin graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From KOAA.com (Bill Folsom):

“We’ve improved our snowpack, but we’re still in a lower snowpack year,” said Dan Olson with Natural Resources Conservation Service in Teller County. Over the past couple of days crews with Natural Resources have been in Colorado’s high country for their monthly snowpack measurements. It is runoff from snowpack that determines how much water there will be to fill reservoirs that hold Colorado’s water supply.

They take samples of snow and determine the water equivalent. With our ongoing drought situation this year’s measurements have added importance. The snowpack for the state is at 75% of normal. At close to 65% of normal it is even lower in southeast Colorado. “We’re going to need a really big March to catch up to our average,” said Olson.

From KOAA.com (David Ortiviz):

Farmers along the Arkansas Valley are facing a dire outlook this summer, following news of a huge water shortage this year. One farmer estimates the industry stands to lose at least $80 million and all of this will have a trickle down affect on you the consumer…

This all impacts about 100,000 acres of crops in Southern Colorado. According to [Shane] Milberger and a board member with the association, that’s an $80 million hit to their industry. “The end result is to the consumers, which is we don’t have a commodity to sell,” said Milberger. Meaning the next time you head to the market there will be less produce and potentially higher prices.

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

Snowmass has been the big powder winner this month with 58 inches through Tuesday morning, or 111 percent of average, according to Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle. He noted there is a “big disparity” in snowfall amounts this month at the company’s four ski areas. Aspen Mountain had received 49 inches of snow as of Tuesday and was at 98 percent of average. However, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk were well below their averages. Highlands has picked up 30 inches of snow, or 65 percent of average, while Buttermilk scooped up 30 inches, or 67 percent of average…

Sustained snow improved portions of the snowpack over the sprawling Roaring Fork River watershed — which includes the Crystal and Fryingpan river basins — but that also is seeing a wide disparity. The Independence Pass automated Snotel site east of Aspen was showing a snowpack just 56 percent of average Tuesday, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

In the Fryingpan Valley, the snowpack has bounced back nicely in the higher elevations but is still meager on lower slopes. The snowpack is 96 percent of average at the Ivanhoe site at 10,400 feet, the conservation service said. The snowpack is only 62 percent at Kiln, 9,600 feet, and 52 percent at Nast Lake at 8,700 feet, the agency reported.

While spotty, snowpack at three sites in the Crystal River drainage are averaging the highest. McClure Pass is at 87 percent of average, according to the conservation service. North Lost Trail outside of Marble is at 92 percent of average while Schofield Pass is at only 72 percent of average.

Castle Rock still wants WISE Partnership water but there are worries about rates

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From the Castle Rock News-Press (Rhonda Moore):

Castle Rock’s utilities department on Feb. 19 updated councilmembers on the Water and Supply Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency agreement for the purchase of water from Denver and Aurora. The agreement is a partnership with 10 members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Castle Rock in January selected WISE as one of two solutions for its long-term water supply. WISE has been on the map since February 2008, when the WISE partnership signed an intergovernmental agreement with Denver Water and Aurora Water.

Since the town began its analysis, rate increases from Denver and Aurora prompted Castle Rock to order another rates and fees feasibility study. The rate structure in the WISE agreement is one of the greater considerations, said Heather Beasley, water resources manager. Since 2011, the WISE delivery rate has increased about 20 cents per thousand gallons, Beasley said. Aurora also added a temporary surcharge between 17 and 51 cents per thousand gallons, Beasley reported. “It sounds small, but we could be talking (potentially) millions in increase for our residents,” said Mayor Paul Donahue. “We are concerned about being able to control that rate.”[…]

Other factors impacting WISE are negotiations among Western Slope providers, who must sign off to allow Denver and Aurora to sell the water to the WISE partners; targeting the pipeline infrastructure to get the water from Aurora to the south metro service area; and meeting the terms of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit amendment requirements to store the water in Rueter-Hess.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

The Colorado Water Trust hopes to build on last season’s success with expanded program #codrought

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

This year, the water trust wants to try and expand the voluntary Call for Water. Building on last summer’s success, the short-leasing program — authorized by a 2003 state law — could once again help maintain flows in drought-vulnerable streams.

Details on the 2013 Call for Water will be posted this week at this Water Trust web page. Under the 2003 state statute, parties may temporarily lease or loan their water rights only to contribute water to fill existing instream flow water rights.

An audit of last year’s program showed that water users wanted more time to consider the short-term leasing option. As a result, the water trust is launching the 2013 program this week, well before the irrigation season begins.

Essentially, the water trust uses donated funds to lease water rights that might otherwise be used for irrigation or simply stored upstream. Under those leases, the streams benefit from added flows in sections that might otherwise come close to drying up. Last summer, for example, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District leased 4,000 acre-feet of stored water in Stagecoach Reservoir in one-year deal that helped boost flows in the Yampa by as much as 26 cfs during the driest parts of the summer. The lease enabled flexible management if conditions on the Yampa improved or deteriorated.

More instream flow coverage here.

Reclamation Releases Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment on Ridgway Dam Hydropower Interconnection Facilities

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Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Steve McCall/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation announced today that it released a draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment on Ridgway Dam Hydropower Interconnection Facilities. The draft EA supplements the 2012 Ridgway Hydropower Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact and addresses additional details and information on the interconnection and transmission facilities.

The proposed action in the EA is to issue a license agreement and rights-of-way to Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association for construction of interconnection facilities to interconnect Tri-County Water Conservancy District hydropower facilities to the existing 115-kV transmission line that runs along U.S. Highway 550. In addition, a memorandum of agreement will be signed with Tri-County to relocate dry storage facilities and utilities operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as part of Ridgway State Park.

Tri-County is currently constructing the hydropower facilities at Ridgway Dam on the Uncompahgre River in Ouray County, Colo. and operates and maintains Ridgway Dam.

The draft supplemental environmental assessment is available on our website or a copy can be received by contacting Steve McCall with Reclamation in Grand Junction at (970) 248-0638 or smccall@usbr.gov.

Reclamation will consider all comments received prior to preparing a final environmental assessment. Comments can be submitted to the email address above or to: Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 2764 Compass Drive, Suite 106, Grand Junction, CO 81506. Comments are due by Friday, March 15, 2013.

More Uncompahgre River Watershed coverage here.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Region #codrought #coriver

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the February 2013 precipitation summary. Click here to read all the summaries.

More Colorado River Basin coverage

Drought news: Colorado Springs to see Stage II watering restrictions starting April 1 #codrought

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From KRDO.com:

CSU said it is looking into implementing a Stage II restriction, which would limit watering to two days per week. “You don’t go on to three days a week and expect to see a savings and expect to get benefit from that, and so that’s why we’re having to go right into the two days a week,” said Abby Ortega,CSU water rights administrative supervisor.

Ortega said while the recent snow has been beneficial with respect to local soil moisture, the snowpack and moisture relied upon to replenish reservoirs remains limited. CSU said if restrictions are not implemented, water storage could drop below the designated risk tolerance threshold, which is enough water to supply the community for an entire year without additional inflow.