Drought/snowpack news: La Junta watering restrictions start April 1 #codrought

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From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Candi Hill):

La Junta has announced water restrictions will begin April 15. La Junta will be in stage 1 watering restrictions at that time, which means no watering can be done between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. This applies to both residential and commercial properties. Watering restrictions will be enforced. Restrictions will be in place until Oct. 15, but during hotter and drier months, adjustments may be made as needed.

The reason behind the watering restrictions is the drought. The city wells are drier (lower static water levels) than they have been at any time since measurements started in 2000, including the drought year of 2002. City officials attribute it to two years the equivalent of 2002. The difference in the local situation this year is that there is enough water stored in Pueblo Reservoir to cover two years. At the end of the second year, however, we would be completely out of water to be used for outdoor purposes.

From the Associated Press via The Denver Post:

Agriculture officials said Thursday that Colorado farmers only intend to plant an estimated 1.25 million acres of corn, which is 12 percent below their plantings last year.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows all of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought. A large portion of southeastern Colorado is experiencing exceptional drought, which is considered the most extreme condition on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s five-level scale.

Statewide mountain snowpack was 78 percent of average as of Thursday.

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

The [Fort Collins] City Council has voted to approve possible water rates increases for commercial and residential customers in response to the drought. The rate increases, approved at the council’s meeting Tuesday night, would go into effect only if the city decides to reduce water use beyond the Level 1 restrictions that take effect Monday. Rates do not increase under Level 1 restrictions, though officials will consider limiting water use further if the situation worsens.

The city has up to four levels of restrictions outlined in the ordinance, depending on the severity of drought conditions.

> If the city raised restrictions to Level 2, water rates for single-family homes would increase from $2.19 for up to 7,000 gallons to $2.63. Commercial rates per one thousand gallons would increase from $2.20 to $2.90.

> At Level 3, water rates for single-family homes would rise to $3.07 while commercial customers would pay $3.60.

> Water rates would surge to $4.61 for commercial customers and $3.63 for single-family customers at Level 4…

The $3.37 surcharge for every 1,000 gallons of water used will take effect in May. The surcharge will apply to commercial customers because residential customers use much less water, said Laurie D’Audney, the city’s water conservation specialist.

From the Vail Daily (Laura Glenndenning):

The 2011-12 season was one of the worst winter seasons on record in terms of snowfall, but the statewide snowpack only just passed 2011-12 abhorrent levels. Storms have arrived on weekends and when big crowds are in town, and temperatures have generally remained colder than last year, which proves that drought conditions and snow conditions are not always aligned. Surpassing 2011-12 snowpack totals isn’t really much to celebrate, though, said Diane Johnson, spokeswoman for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. The Water District is already planning for this summer’s drought in the same way it planned for last summer, she said.

Last year, the ground was plenty saturated from the previous winter of 2010-11. But because the moisture never came in large enough numbers last winter, the ground this winter is dry. “The previous year’s precipitation was kind of carrying us through,” Johnson said.

Currently, the U.S. Drought Monitor rates Eagle County as “extreme,” or a level 3, the second-to-worst drought rating behind “exceptional,” which is a 4. A year ago, Eagle County was rated “abnormally dry,” or 0 on the 0-4 scale.

“We’re still about 20 percent below normal. But with an active week next week and hopefully continuing into mid-April, we shouldn’t slip any further and may actually make up a little ground,” said snow forecaster Joel Gratz, a meteorologist who runs the powder forecasting site http://www.opensnow.com.

The current basin-wide totals put the local snowpack at 78 percent of normal, and 118 percent of last year. But last season the snowpack accumulation peaked March 4-8 before declining for the rest of the year, while the snowpack accumulation this season is still rising. It could start to decline any day, or it could continue to rise into April. The average peak date for the Upper Colorado River Basin is April 10.

From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

Approximately 10-12 inches of snow fell in Yuma, and throughout the region, last Friday night and all day Saturday. It came with cold temperatures also, as the low Sunday and Monday was 2 degrees. The National Weather Service in Goodland, Kansas, could not confirm if that was a record low, though it had to be close. The low Tuesday was 10 degrees, with a gradual warmup for the rest of the week…

The storm’s timing was even better in regards to bringing the region moisture. Snow measurements ranged from 8 to 14 inches. It was a very wet snow, so a fairly-safe estimate in regards to actual precipitation is around three-quarters of an inch to 1-1/4 inches. “It’s going to be very helpful for the winter wheat crop,” local agronomist Merlin VanDeraa said. “…very beneficial for pastures and for spring dryland crops.”[…]

“It didn’t end the drought but it should put a dent in it,” said Mike Ferrari, another local agronomist.

The precipitation also is critical to pastureland, which was struggling in the drought conditions. A large swath through the center of the county also was trying to recover from last March’s Heartstrong Fire, putting area ranchers on edge in regards to how much, if any, grazing their herds would be able to do this year.

From the Aspen Daily News (Dorothy Atkins):

Area snowpack is currently 21 percent above what was recorded last year, but it is 23 percent short of the average, according to a report issued on Wednesday by the Roaring Fork Conservancy.

It took a while for this winter’s snowpack to outperform last season’s because the area had little to no snowfall in October and November, said Sarah Johnson, education and outreach coordinator at the conservancy. The amount of precipitation collected in December was about average and snowfalls in January and February were slightly below that. March was the first month that enough snow fell to push past last year’s numbers, she said.

“We’ve finally gotten a little bit above where we were last year,” Johnson said. “But if you look at where we are in terms of averages we’re still well below [the norm].”

Conditions are similar to those during the 2002 drought and that will likely persist throughout the summer, she said. Forecasters expect local river flows to be 50 percent below average this summer, according to a Natural Resources Conservation Services report.

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