NRCS: February Returns to Near Normal Precipitation

Click here to read the news release from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Brian Domokos):

Near normal February precipitation graced Colorado after significant accumulations during December and January. February totals were as low as 88% of normal in mountains of the Arkansas River basin and as high as 119% the South Platte River basin, with the average across the state on par with normal at 100%. “Statewide year to date precipitation now stands at 123% of normal on March 1 while snowpack is a robust 139% of normal” said Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor. He continued, “All but two of the major basins in Colorado have already surpassed average annual peak snowpack.” Those two basins are the South Platte and combined Yampa & White basins. Snow accumulations typically continue through early to late April.

Statewide Time Series snowpack summary March 6, 2017 via the NRCS.

The plentiful snowpack in the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains is excellent news for water users in the Rio Grande where snowpack conditions in the previous six years failed to reach normal peak snowpack. Snowpack this year in the Rio Grande surpassed the average annual peak snowpack in mid- February and soared higher with late February storms. While predicted runoff is not as favorable as the present snowpack situation, forecasts point to near to above normal runoff. Reservoirs in the Rio Grande basin, currently at 91% of normal storage, have not breached the normal mark in over seven years, hope to see a boost from the plentiful snowpack.

Statewide reservoir storage is slightly above normal at 107% heading into what streamflow forecasts are indicating will be an above normal runoff year in most watersheds. With nearly all runoff projections pointing toward at or above normal streamflows, many locations will likely see adequate water supplies. Further to the southwest conditions warrant a more watchful eye where runoff projections are currently well above normal in the Gunnison River and Western San Juan mountain watersheds. Despite favorable outlooks sufficient time remains to significantly change predictions from dry, warm and windy weather to cool and rainy or snowy, future weather can still impact runoff even in years of surplus snowpack. Continued monitoring and forecasts are needed to prepare for suitable water management.

Snowpack and reservoir storage March 1, 2017 via the NRCS.

#Snowpack news: SWE as a % of normal dropping in N. and E. #Colorado

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

From The Vail Daily (John LaConte):

The Snow Survey is a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Colorado. A skier and a whitewater rafting enthusiast, Wetlaufer follows the snow-water equivalent — the amount of water in fallen snow — closely throughout the season. He echoed a statement powder hounds have been saying since January — in the Eagle River Basin, this has been a good season for snow.

“Many sites in the Eagle River Basin have already reached their normal peak (snow-water equivalent) or snowpack values, or if they are not, they are very close to it,” Wetlaufer said Thursday. “At many of those sites those don’t usually occur for at least another month or so.”

“Currently, the Eagle River at Gypsum is forecasted to have 115 percent of its normal volumetric summer stream flows,” Wetlaufer said. “A lot of it depends on the timing at which the snow melts and translates to stream flow, but it looks like pretty good flows in the rivers for the whitewater enthusiasts.”

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 10, 2017 via the NRCS.

Steamboat Springs: Colorado Ag Water Alliance workshop, March 22, 2017

Yampa/White/Green/North Platte river basins via the Colorado Geological Survey

From the Colorado Ag Water Alliance (Marsha Daughenbaugh) via Steamboat Today:

If you have an agriculture water right, then the Colorado Ag Water Alliance workshop is for you. If you are concerned about the future of Colorado’s water, then the CAWA workshop will be of interest to you. If you want to learn more about water, you might attend the CAWA workshop.

The Colorado Ag Water Alliance is composed of representatives from all the major ranching and farming organizations in the state. The organization’s goal is to preserve Colorado’s irrigated agriculture through education and constructive dialogue. Its role is to provide the best information to Colorado’s agricultural water users and increase the understanding of water rights to help balance the gap between limited water supplies, population growth and the deficit in the Colorado River Basin.

CAWA engages with a variety of entities to address environmental and economic concerns. Currently, CAWA is hosting a series of meetings throughout Colorado to allow and encourage agricultural producers to take an active role in the implementation of the Colorado Water Plan.

A workshop for the Yampa-White-Green River Basins will be held from noon to 4 p.m. March 22 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center, 1605 Lincoln Ave. The workshop is free, and lunch, featuring locally produced food, will be served.

Discussion topics will include the Colorado Water Plan, status of the Colorado River Basin, alternative transfer methods, water leasing, water banking, “use it or lose it” policies, water efficiency and waste, challenges of ditch renovations, collaboration opportunities and research results.

Speakers from CAWA, Colorado Water Institute, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado River Water Conservation District, Colorado Division of Water Resources, Colorado Water Trust, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy and the Maybell Ditch Company will give spirited, quick presentations explaining different parts of Colorado’s complex water issues. Attendees will be encouraged to ask questions and provide feedback throughout the afternoon.

Colorado’s population is predicted to double to 10 million people by 2050, bringing with it a water shortage of more than 500,000 acre-feet per year. Agricultural water rights are being scrutinized as a potential solution to the deficit.

Ideas take time and multiple discussions before anything becomes reality. This workshop is part of a much larger conversation, and it is critical that agricultural producers provide their invaluable knowledge and voices to the deliberations. If not you, then who will speak up? This is a close-to-home opportunity for Northwest Colorado agriculture to participate.

Those planning to attend are encouraged to RSVP to for a lunch count.

This workshop hosted by CAWA, Community Agriculture Alliance and the Yampa-White-Green Basins Roundtable. Other sponsors include CSU Routt County Extension, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, CSU’s Colorado Water Institute, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Corn and Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union.

Marsha Daughenbaugh is the executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance and a member of the Routt County CattleWomen.

@ASCETweets: 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, US #infrastructure gets a D+

Click here to go to the American Society of Civil Engineers website to read the report. From the website:

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure depicts the condition and performance of American infrastructure in the familiar form of a school report card—assigning letter grades based on the physical condition and needed investments for improvement.