#Snowpack/#Runoff news: Ullr delivered the past week

Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS. Remember to be cautious about your evaluation. Percent of average peak may not reflect conditions accurately since melt-out started up a few weeks ago. The percent of average may be high but how is the current SWE as compared to this year’s peak and the average peak volume and date? How much SWE is left to come off?

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Sarah Jane Kyle):

Snowfall in Fort Collins is 26.5 inches below the seasonal average following this weekend’s storm.

As of 8 p.m. Saturday, Fort Collins received 2.2 inches of snow in April, bringing seasonal snowfall to 28.5 inches. The average seasonal snowfall by this time of year is 55 inches.

From email from the US Bureaus of Reclamation:

Water managers are preparing for the best runoff the Rio Grande has seen in nearly a decade, as the snowpack in the mountains that feeds the river and its tributaries melts.

Flows through Albuquerque topped 3,500 cubic feet per second on April 19, 2017, as temperatures rose and the snowmelt continued. The flows are expected to increase further and continue for several months with sustained deliveries from Colorado on the main-stem and above-average runoff on the Rio Chama. This is a stark contrast from years when Reclamation and cooperating agencies struggled to keep the river connected to Elephant Butte through the spring months.

“We are really pleased to finally see above-average snowpack and the potential to start the long process of rebuilding our water supplies,” said Albuquerque Area Manager Jennifer Faler. “We realize that dwindling supplies are the result of years of extended drought and it will take many years to completely recover. But this is a good step in the right direction.”

For the first time in the last few years, it appears San Juan-Chama Project contractors could receive a full allocation of water stored in Heron Reservoir this summer. And irrigation districts are also expecting to replenish some of the water stored in reservoirs. The April forecast for inflow to El Vado Reservoir in northern New Mexico is 160 percent of average. That translates to a predicted inflow of approximately 360,000 acre-feet of water. It’s more than a 100 percent increase over last year’s inflow.

The Rio Grande at Otowi gage, an important measuring point for the Rio Grande Compact, is forecast to pass approximately 920,000 acre-feet of water this year, also a large increase from recent years.

Elephant Butte is expected to have good inflow into June and could reach about 500,000 acre-feet in storage at the high point this summer. This is welcome news for Rio Grande Project beneficiaries including Elephant Butte Irrigation District, El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1, and Mexico, as well as recreationists and boating enthusiasts.

“We have not seen these kinds of natural flows on the Rio Chama and Rio Grande in New Mexico in many years,” Faler said. “Through many years of drought, some folks have become complacent and we’ve seen more encroachment on the river. It’s important to remember that rivers are active channels that can migrate and change in times of higher flows. We all need to be vigilant and aware as we live, work, and recreate near and in New Mexico’s rivers and reservoirs.”

Reclamation is coordinating closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District to manage the higher flows through the Middle Rio Grande Valley. Reclamation has authority for river maintenance to protect Middle Rio Grande Project facilities and ensure the delivery of water. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has authority for flood control.

To view the 2017 Rio Grande Annual Operating Plan, visit https://www.usbr.gov/uc/albuq/water/aop/2017AOP.pdf.

Here’s the Westwide basin-filled map for May 1, 2017 via the NRCS.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map May 1, 2017 via the NRCS.

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