Snowpack/runoff news

May 1, 2015 Colorado streamflow forecast map via the NRCS
May 1, 2015 Colorado streamflow forecast map via the NRCS

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The high elevation snowpack in the Roaring Fork watershed has surged off the charts this month after cold temperatures halted melting and storms kept adding layers of heavy, wet snow.

The snowpack is 373 percent of average at the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s automated snow measuring station at Ivanhoe Reservoir in the upper Fryingpan River Valley. The snowpack contains the equivalent of 13.8 inches of water at the site, which is at an elevation of 10,400 feet.

The conservation service’s snow measuring station near the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River east of Aspen showed a snowpack 236 percent of average with snow water equivalent of 8.5 inches on Friday.

The snowpack was below average for most of the Roaring Fork River basin for much of the winter.

The gloomy forecast for a dry summer and low stream flows suddenly doesn’t look so bleak.

“Typically this time of year, snow at high elevations is melting as temperatures are increasing,” the Basalt-based Roaring Fork Conservancy said in its weekly snowpack and stream flow report this week. “Due to the recent wet, cold weather we are receiving snowfall at the higher elevations, rain in the valley, and slower melting of snow. Therefore, streams are flowing between 40 and 68 percent of average for this time of year.”

The onslaught of precipitation has altered outlooks for peak runoff. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation initially figured the peak this year would be during the end of May, according to Mark Fuller, director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, which works closely with the agency on a number of issues.

“They’ve pushed that back a couple of weeks,” Fuller said.

Ruedi Reservoir, 13 miles east of Basalt, is currently 80 percent full at 81,520 acre-feet of water in storage.

The reclamation bureau’s office that oversees Ruedi Reservoir didn’t respond to messages from the Aspen Times requesting comment on water management issues this year.

“The Bureau of Reclamation tries to manage it so it will fill by the first of July,” Fuller said.

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