Snowpack news: Good start to the water year

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Although it’s way too early to make a prediction, the water year so far is shaping up better than last year.

“We’re in much better shape than we were at this time last year,” Alan Ward, water resources manager for Pueblo Water, said Tuesday.

All the indicators are good — maybe too good if there is such a thing when it comes to water supply.

Snowpack, boosted again by a storm this week, is above average in both the Arkansas and Colorado river basins.

Pueblo is storing nearly 50,000 acre-feet of water (16.3 billion gallons) in four reservoirs (Lake Pueblo, Clear Creek, Turquoise and Twin Lakes).

“We have more than we’d like at Twin Lakes, but we’re waiting to see how likely a spill (at Lake Pueblo next spring) will be before we move it down,” Ward said.

Lake Pueblo began storing winter water Sunday and is likely to reach capacity in April, when water above a certain level has to be evacuated to make room for flood control.

That depends, however, on whether conditions stay wet over the next few months. The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center shows it is likely that conditions will be wetter than average through next May.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Lake Pueblo is likely to fill to the brim and some water stored there released to make room for flooding next spring.

The prognosis came Thursday at the meeting of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

“The bad news is the (Army) Corps (of Engineers) will not provide deviation this year,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district. “The good news is they would be glad to take an informal look at our requests.”

The Corps has granted a deviation from a regimen that requires a certain level in Lake Pueblo by April 15, allowing water to remain in the reservoir until May 1, when flows increase and calls for water typically increase.

By that time, the reservoir is usually swollen from winter water storage and more water from upstream reservoirs that has been moved by the Bureau of Reclamation or other users.

Going into the winter, Lake Pueblo is at 138 percent of average, storing about 185,000 acre-feet of water. If average amounts of water are moved in over the winter, almost 20,000 acre-feet of water stored in Lake Pueblo by then could “spill,” or be released early.

One of the ideas Broderick mentioned was to use a sliding pool, based on the likelihood of flooding, that would allow for additional storage later in the season.

Opening the concept up formally could have the drawback of the need for an environmental impact statement that potentially could result in an even more restrictive storage regime.

This year resulted in nearly record flows on the Arkansas River, said Bill Banks, new chief of the U.S. Geological Survey in Pueblo. Nearly 1 million acre-feet of water flowed past the gauge at Avondale this year, which is at the top of the range over the past 40 years and nearly twice the typical year.

The Corps has granted deviation in storage criteria in recent years, partly for repairs and construction on the Arkansas River levee. That would not be needed this year.

Last spring’s high flows resulted in filling some of the flood-control capacity in Lake Pueblo.

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