Snowpack/runoff news: The Mother’s Day beautiful snow boosts snowpack across Colorado #COdrought

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS. What a difference one storm can make. Pay closer attention to the current SWE as a percent of average since the melt-out had started.

From (Maya Rodriguez):

Sunny skies, climbing temperatures and mountain snow: it’s a combination that could signal a coming thaw this weekend. For those who live near the rivers fed by spring runoff, it is now a time to be vigilant, according to meteorologist and Lyons resident Greg Berman…

After this past weekend’s winter weather, the snowpack in Colorado is high. The National Weather Service said it is at 136 percent of normal for the Upper Colorado Headwaters, 143 percent for the North Platte and Laramie Basin and 145 percent for the South Platte.

One of the tributaries of the South Platte River is the St. Vrain River, which runs right through Longmont. It is an area that is scarred when it comes to high water and officials are already taking precautions.

“Our staff is periodically moving into a daily regimen where they are traveling up and down the river, looking at any signs of high water coming up, debris catching up on bridges and those kinds of things,” Longmont’s Director of Public Works and Natural Resources Dale Rademacher said…

One of the other unknown factors in all this is the topography itself. It has changed since last year’s flooding, and that could also mean changes this year’s spring runoff, including what areas may see the most impact, something that may not be clear until it happens.

From the Estes Park Trail-Gazette (David Persons):

“It was extremely wet,” said John Gulliksen, who gathers information locally for the National Weather Service. “It’s as wet as I’ve ever seen (for this time of year). I couldn’t push the snow very far or lift it to throw it.”

The numbers support Gulliksen.

According to his instruments, this two-day snowstorm dumped just over a foot (12.4 inches; ) of snow on the town. The 22-year average for snowfall in May in Estes Park is 6.9 inches; .

“This is pretty significant for May considering the amount,” Gulliksen added. “We do get snow in May but usually we get most of it in March and April. This year was an exception.”

Of course a late, wet snow is not exactly what Front Range officials want to hear. They are already weary of a swift, sudden snowmelt that could bring flooding back to the Front Range area which is still recovering from last September’s record-setting event…

Area snowfall totals from the National Weather Service for the May 11-12 snow event:

Allenspark, 23.5 inches; Bailey, 9.5 inches; Bergen Park, 12 inches; Black Hawk, 16.8 inches; Breckenridge, 10.9 inches; Broomfield, 6.2 inches; Castle Pines, 6 inches; Cheesman Reservoir, 7 inches; Conifer, 16 inches; Eldorado Springs, 11 inches; Elizabeth, 7 inches; Evergreen, 13 inches; Federal Heights, 6 inches; Fort Collins, 6.9 inches; Four Corners, Larimer County, 29 inches; Genesee, 16.6 inches; Greeley, 2.8 inches; Green Mountain Reservoir, Summit County, 8 inches; Highlands Ranch, 7 inches; Hugo, 3.5 inches; Karval, 2 inches; Ken Caryl, 7.8 inches; Lafayette, 4.5 inches; Littleton, 5.2 inches; Nederland, 16.5 inches; Northglenn, 8.1 inches; Pinecliffe, 15.1 inches; Pingree Park, 28 inches; Silver Plume, 16.8 inches; Thornton, 4.3 inches; Thurman, 6 inches; Virginia Dale, 16 inches; Westminster, 6.7 inches; Wheat Ridge, 5.3 inches.

It’s the 50th year of the Wilderness Act

The latest briefing from Western Water Assessment is hot off the presses

Click here to go to the Western Water Assessment Climate Dashboard. Here’s an excerpt:


  • April was generally drier than average across the region, with few mountain areas seeing above-average precipitation, in contrast with previous months. The second week of May brought heavy precipitation to many parts of the region.
  • As of May 13, snowpack conditions are similar to one month ago, with near-normal to above-normal SWE in Wyoming, northern and central Colorado, and northern Utah, and below-normal SWE in central and southern Utah and southern Colorado.
  • The May 1 spring-summer streamflow forecasts slipped a little from the April 1 forecasts, though still calling for most forecast points in Wyoming and northern and central Colorado to have above-average or much-above-average spring runoff. Most forecast points in south-central and southwestern Colorado, and in Utah south of the Wasatch Front, are expected to have below-average or much-below-average runoff.
  • Watersheds in the northern Front Range of Colorado most affected by the floods last September still have well-above-normal SWE. There is an elevated potential for snowmelt flooding given the large snowpacks and sediment-impacted stream channels.
  • The emergence of an El Niño event in the next several months looks increasingly likely, with atmospheric and oceanic conditions consistently moving in that direction.
  • Ogallala water rights are being tested in a Kansas county court

    More Ogallala aquifer coverage here.

    US Representative Tipton was stumping in northwest Colorado this week

    From the Craig Daily Press (Erin Fenner):

    “We’ve got an out-of-control regulatory environment,” Tipton said.

    It’s important for Western states to speak up because leaders in the east don’t fully comprehend the issues of water rights or what and endangered species listing can do to public and private land use, he said.

    “Gov. (John) Hickenlooper is fighting for the state’s rights on this,” he said. “This is not a partisan issue.”[…]

    Many residents were concerned about water usage and rights.

    “The headwaters of the Yampa need to be storing water right now,” Moffat County resident Dean Gent said.

    Other people shared their concern that the Environmental Protection Agency or other regulatory agencies would prevent them from storing water.

    Water in Colorado is private property and should be treated by the federal government as such, Tipton said.

    “This is a private property right that we got to be able to protect,” he said.

    Weekly Climate, Water and #CODrought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

    Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation May 5 to May 11, 2014
    Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation May 5 to May 11, 2014

    Click here to read the current assessment from NIDIS. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

    2014 Colorado legislation: Colorado Water Congress SB14-023 webinar July 16 #COleg

    #ColoradoRiver Delta pulse flow should connect with the sea by Thursday, feds say

    From The Arizona Daily Star (Tony Davis):

    Based on aerial photos taken of the Colorado River Delta, the world-renowned delta pulse flow that started nearly two months ago is likely to connect with the Gulf of California on Thursday, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation official said this morning.

    “Based on these more recent aerial images . . . with Thursday’s projected high tide event in the delta, the river should re-connect with the sea then,” said Jack Simes, the bureau’s area planning officer for Southern California and its spokesman for the delta pulse flow project.

    Here is one link to the aerial photos Simes was discussing — from a website run by the environmental coalition Raise the River. Here is another, from the Save the Colorado River Delta website.

    Having the river reach the gulf was not the purpose of the delta pulse flow, which ran from March 23 to May 8. Its purpose was mainly environmental restoration. That includes raising groundwater levels and bringing back the cottonwood-willow tree habitat that used to adorn the delta before Hoover, Glen Canyon and other dams choked off the river’s flow into Mexico.

    But this event — assuming it happens — will have symbolic importance, conservationists say.

    Jennifer Pitt, of the Environmental Defense Fund in Boulder, said she doesn’t know if the river reaching the gulf will have ecological significance, but there will be cultural significance in the river reaching its natural destination.

    “It’s deeply satisfying to see the river meet the upper gulf. We’ve been missing that connection for a long time,” said Pitt, director of the fund’s Colorado River Project.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.