Drought news: Vail area remains in moderate drought #COdrought

US Drought Monitor Map September 17, 2013
US Drought Monitor Map September 17, 2013

From the Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

The Colorado Climate Center, the National Integrated Drought Information System and other agencies hold regular conference calls to determine what the next regional drought map should look like. As you’d expect, the flood-drenched areas of the Front Range have been removed from any drought designation. Most of the Western Slope, though, remains in “moderate” drought, despite the fact that the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University reports most of the region received at least 150 percent of its usual rainfall between Aug. 18 and Sept. 16…

State climatologist Nolan Doesken said the western part of the state has had enough rain to relieve “vegetative water” issues — keeping everything green. Streamflow is another matter.

“We still have the impacts of long-term dryness,” Doesken said. That dryness means streamflows, which are still suffering a kind of hangover from 2012. Doesken said the snowfall we received in April and May helped bolster stream levels, but the ground on the mountainsides was so dry from the drought that much of the late-season snow soaked in before it could run off into streams.

While streamflows have stayed below normal this season, the massive rainfall on the northern Front Range has helped the Colorado River going into the fall, according to a report from Hannah Holm, coordinator of the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University. The Colorado is tapped for Front Range use, mostly from high-elevation reservoirs in Summit and Grand counties. Since there’s no real need for Western Slope water right now, reservoir levels and Colorado River streamflows will be healthier than usual this fall.

That will help the river going into the next “water year,” which starts Oct. 1. And, Doesken said, September rains have helped build ground moisture going into this next year…

Doesken said that Klaus Wolter, a researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has a more clear estimate for the fall. In the last drought report conference call Doesken said Wolter showed “distinct optimism” that the state could have a nearly-average fall season.

“Everyone (on the call) really breathed a sigh of relief when we heard that,” Doesken said. “It would really be nice to have a year that’s near average.”

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