— Denver Water (@DenverWater) May 13, 2015
Click here to go to the Western Water Assessment climate dashboard (scroll down to the current briefing). Here’s an excerpt:
While April was overall wetter and cooler than the previous three months, and May has gotten off to a wet start, very poor runoff is still expected in most basins across the region. April precipitation was well-above-average in some areas, and below-average in others. The first part of May has been very wet so far over most of the region. Snowpacks in most basins peaked 4–6 weeks early and are well along towards meltout, with many individual SNOTEL sites at lower and middle elevations having already melted out. The May 1 spring-summer runoff forecasts are even lower than the April 1 forecasts in most basins. Most points are expected to see much-below-average (50–69%), far-below-average (25–49%) or extremely low (<25%) runoff, especially in Utah. El Niño conditions have strengthened further and are expected to continue into the winter. A wet tilt in seasonal precipitation through the summer is forecasted for our region, largely due to El Niño’s influence
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Rose Davis/Carly Jerla):
The Bureau of Reclamation and stakeholders throughout the Colorado River Basin (Basin) released a report today that documents opportunities and potential actions to address the future water supply and demand imbalances projected in the 2012 Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study.
The Moving Forward Phase 1 Report is part of the Colorado River Basin Study Moving Forward effort launched in May of 2013. The Moving Forward program is an effort by the Department of the Interior (DOI) and stakeholders throughout the Basin to respond in a coordinated and collaborative manner in identifying and implementing actions that address projected water supply and demand imbalances, have broad-based support, and provide a wide range of benefits.
In Moving Forward Phase 1, funded jointly by Reclamation and the seven Colorado River Basin States, over 100 stakeholders spanning all water use sectors engaged in three workgroups focused on water use efficiency (urban and agricultural) and environmental and recreational flows. The Phase 1 Report includes chapters contributed by each workgroup.
“The impacts of the ongoing drought are widespread and are currently being addressed at the local and regional levels. Looking ahead to the longer-term challenges facing the Basin documented in the 2012 Study, it is clear that these challenges must be tackled collaboratively involving all sectors of use,” Lower Colorado Regional Director Terry Fulp said. “The Phase 1 Report is a critical first step towards this level of collaboration.”
Twenty-five opportunities were identified by the workgroups. Similar components resulting from each workgroup’s individual set of findings include opportunities related to funding and incentives, data and tools, outreach and partnerships, coordination and integration, infrastructure improvements, and flexible water management.
Building from the Phase 1 Report, Phase 2 of the Moving Forward effort will be underway later this year and includes the selection and implementation of several pilot projects.
The Moving Forward Phase 1 Report is publicly available at http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/crbstudy/MovingForward/index.html. Comments are encouraged on the report during the next 90 days and will be summarized and posted to the website for consideration in Phase 2.
More Colorado River Basin coverage here.
From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):
Snowpack statewide measured 68 percent of normal Tuesday, up from 62 percent May 1, federal data show. Traditionally, snowpack has served as a frozen, slow-release water supply reservoir for the state.
Denver Water reservoirs overall were 93 percent full, above the normal May median 82 percent, and Northern’s dozen reservoirs overall were 92 percent full.
Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway urged accelerated efforts to complete the Northern Integrated Water Supply Project, which would install two new reservoirs, and to expand the Halligan-Seaman reservoir.
“This would be a way to capture that high runoff in May and June and store that water for farmers and growing municipalities to meet their needs — and at the same time provide a flood-control option,” Conway said.
From the Summit Daily News (Ali Langley):
April precipitation statewide underperformed, according to the monthly update released May 8 by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
The report doesn’t include data from the latest storm, which bumped snowpack in Summit County’s Blue River Basin to above-average for this time of year and brought about 12 inches of snow to Arapahoe Basin Ski Area…
Statewide April 2015 precipitation was 71 percent of normal, while the South Platte April precipitation was 110 percent of normal.
Snowpack follows the same storyline. The South Platte snowpack was at 96 percent of normal on May 1, while statewide snowpack was 61 percent of normal.
The Rio Grande snowpack was the lowest in the state at 25 percent of normal.
From Growing Produce (Christina Herrick):
Snowpack in the West has almost all melted, according to data from the fifth 2015 forecast by USDA’s National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).
“Across most of the West, snowpack isn’t just low – it’s gone,” NRCS Hydrologist David Garen said. “With some exceptions, this year’s snowmelt streamflow has already occurred.”
Snowpack at many stations in the Western U.S. are at record or near record lows, says Garen. Unseasonably warm weather accelerated melt and hindered snowpack growth.
“We still have some snowpack in Northern Colorado, Western Montana, and Southern Wyoming,” said Garen. “In addition, snowmelt from Canada will flow into the Columbia River.”[…]
It’s been a dry year for the Colorado River,” NRCS Hydrologist Cara McCarthy said. “Snowmelt inflow into the Lake Powell Reservoir is forecast at 34% of normal. We only forecast streamflow from current conditions. Spring and summer rains might relieve areas that are dry.”
The Lake Powell Reservoir supplies water to much of the Southwest, including Las Vegas, NV; Los Angeles, CA; and southern Arizona.