#Snowpack #Runoff news: So far it’s been a good water year, but not huge — The Pueblo Chieftain

Westwide SNOTEL map May 19, 2016 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL map May 19, 2016 via the NRCS.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

If you just went by the numbers on the map of state snowpack, you’d be digging out the mittens and skis to enjoy a winter wonderland in the high country.

But the state’s lush snow numbers are more a function of timing, not quantity. [ed. emphasis mine]

Colorado snowpack moisture content was reported at 144 percent of median on Thursday, largely because of late spring snowstorms last week and cool temperatures that kept it from melting.

“I’m not sure it means a lot,” said Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project for the Bureau of Reclamation, at the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s monthly meeting Thursday.

He showed graphs that explained why the numbers look so good right now. In most years, the snow would have already begun a precipitous melt-off by now, and that may happen with warmer temperatures this weekend.

In the Arkansas River basin, the total snowpack briefly climbed higher than the average peak for the entire season — usually that occurs in mid-April. The snowpack was listed at 158 percent, but that’s mostly because some high-altitude sites are 2-5 times normal, while lower points already have melted out.

The same is true of the Rio Grande basin, which was listed at 153 percent of normal.

Reclamation projects that 65,000 acre-feet of water will be brought over the Continental Divide this year through the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. While above average, it would be far from a record year. It would rival last year’s imports of 72,000 acre-feet, which increased throughout the season because of heavy rains.

Storage in the Arkansas River basin remains at high levels with nearly all reservoirs at above-average elevation.

Pueblo’s precipitation for the year is 5.19 inches, more than an inch above normal, but an inch less than at this time last May, when it rained nearly every day.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Farms will get a lot more water from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project as cities curtailed their requests for water under the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s annual allocation.

Because many municipal storage accounts are full, they did not take as much water as they would otherwise be entitled to. About 53 percent of Fry-Ark water is tabbed for cities.

Instead, the cities took only about 16 percent, leaving 84 percent for agriculture.

The district projects there will be about 52,500 acre-feet of water available to allocate this year, the net amount from about 65,000 acre-feet that could be brought through the Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Lake from the Fryingpan River on the other side of the Continental Divide. The difference accounts for obligations to deliver water, evaporation and transit losses.

Only 80 percent of the allocations will be delivered initially, providing a cushion if less water is imported.

Even though imports are higher this year, cities requested less water because storage is higher, said Garrett Markus, engineer for the district.

Both Pueblo and Pueblo West declined their allocations this year. El Paso County cities were allocated about 3,700 acre-feet; cities east of Pueblo, 4,500 acre-feet; cities west of Pueblo, 214 acre-feet.

Agricultural ditch companies requested more than 100,000 acre-feet of water, but will get only 43,200 acre-feet of water that’s available. The largest ditch, the Fort Lyon Canal, will get 17,000 acre-feet.

“It’s always good to see a little more go to agriculture,” said Carl McClure, of Crowley County, who chairs the allocation committee.

Another 15,200 acrefeet of return flows will be allocated to well associations or farmers to replace depletions of groundwater under either state well or surface-water irrigation improvement plans. Fort Lyon farmers are exercising their first right of refusal for about 4,900 acre-feet of that total.

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