Drought news: Little relief in Bent, Crowley and Otero counties #COdrought

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Despite some encouraging snowfall in November, large parts of the state remain on drought alert, according to the latest report from the state drought task force. Conditions in the Arkansas Valley, particularly Bent, Crowley and Otero counties, are listed as exceptional drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor, an interagency monitor of long-term weather conditions. About three-quarters of the state is in some sort of drought. Only the South Platte and North Platte basins are listed as drought-free.

“Storage levels are strong and better than they were this time last year, easing concerns of municipal providers,” said Taryn Finnessey of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Early season snow has been decent, but long-range forecasts paint an unclear picture as to what we can expect throughout the winter months.”

Snowpack moisture statewide is slightly above average after the November snow. The northwest corner of Colorado is at about 115 percent, while all other basins are hovering around 100 percent. Water supply cannot be predicted from early snowfall reports, since the majority of snow typically falls in March and April.

Water storage levels have increased to about 83 percent of average statewide, up from 66 percent at the same time last year. Levels have increased by 10 percent since Sept. 1, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Storage in the Arkansas River basin is only about 72 percent of average and only 18 percent of capacity. In the Rio Grande basin, it is only 47 percent of average; 12 percent of capacity. Pueblo Board of Water Works storage is at about 55 percent capacity, which is close to the annual target for storage. The water board was able to increase the amount of water stored by about 37 percent this year, mostly by cutting back on raw water leases.

Colorado Springs Utilities reports its water storage is at 56 percent of capacity, or about 70 percent of average for this time of year. A report estimates it will finish the year with 1.6 years of supply in storage.

Aurora, which exports water from the Arkansas River basin, lists its reservoir storage at 67 percent of capacity systemwide, slightly below its target levels. A cool spring and September storms led to fuller reservoirs and reduced use, spokesman Greg Baker said.

Because of the September flooding, Denver Water reservoirs are nearly full.

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