#Drought/#Snowpack/#Runoff news: Most SNOTEL sites below 10,000 feet are melted-out

From The Aspen Daily News (Madeleine Osberger):

Rafting companies, who count novices and families among their core clientele, might actually see more customers when rapids are less intimidating and the rivers are running slower, said two people in the industry Monday. The local fly fishing industry, another popular visitor activity, also doesn’t foresee negative impacts to business, at least during the first part of summer.

“In a light snow year when rivers drop and clear sooner, it’s better for the fishing industry,” said Will Sands, senior manager at Taylor Creek Fly Shops. “In our valley there are more visitors here in June, when the water typically is too high to fish.”

The statewide rafting industry that in 2017 carried a record number of boaters — about 575,000 — has the flexibility to take advantage of the preferable flows, be they on the Arkansas, Roaring Fork or Colorado rivers, said David Costlow, executive director of the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

Aspen Whitewater Rafting owner Jim Ingram, who has commercial permits to run those rivers, agreed.

“We’re not going to see epic water. It should be decent in Slaughterhouse through June and maybe into July,” he said, using one local example.

The city of Aspen may also be proactive in reacting to the drought conditions.

During today’s city council work session, in which Aspen snowpack and stream flows will be discussed, staff is expected to recommend that a stage one water-storage resolution be adopted at the next regular council meeting, which is May 14…

A recent map produced by the U.S. Drought Monitor “identified Pitkin County as displaying mostly moderate drought conditions, with severe drought conditions in the western tip of the county and abnormally dry conditions in the northeastern tip,” wrote Margaret Medellin, the city’s utilities portfolio manager, in a memo to council members…

The snow-water equivalent in the Roaring Fork watershed as of Monday was 61 percent of median. Last year at this time it was 116 percent of median; in 2016 it was 94 percent of median and in 2015, snow-water equivalent was 76 percent of median, she said.

Measurements are taken at seven stations, ranging from Ivanhoe Lake above Ruedi Reservoir, which is a little over 100 percent of normal right now, to McClure Pass…

“All SnoTel sites below 10,000 feet are completely melted out or are reporting negligible amounts of snowpack left,” said Mitchell.

She added that the Ivanhoe reporting station has been reporting relatively high snow totals all season, but it may be at a location where wind loading occurs.

Upper Colorado, Great, Virgin River Basins: 2018 April-July forecast volumes as a percent of 1981-2010 average (50% exceedance probability forecast)

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the Colorado River is expected to carry only 43 percent of the average amount of water into Lake Powell, one of two huge reservoirs that store and distribute the river.

It’s the fifth-lowest forecast in 54 years…

But officials have said that Lake Powell and its companion, Lake Mead, will be high enough to avoid mandatory cutbacks for water users this year…

The river is under increasing stress because of rising demand and declining flows. The region has been in a drought for 18 years — long enough that some researchers say it may represent a permanent shift.

Global warming is also contributing to the reduced river flows, scientists said.

Last year’s snowfall was uneven but mostly below average across the mountains that feed the Colorado.

The western Wyoming mountains that give rise to the Green River, the Colorado’s largest tributary, received 116 percent of their average snow at the peak of the winter, Smith said.

But river valleys in southwestern Colorado ranged from 44 to 56 percent of average at their best.

“Southwest Colorado had their lowest precipitation on record,” Smith said.

One significant storm hit the Colorado River region in April, but snow fell only at the highest elevations, Smith said. Lower regions got mostly rain, and unlike snow, rain runs off immediately and can’t be as easily captured in reservoirs for later use.

Water levels in some mountain rivers will peak in the next week or so as the snow melts, Smith said. That’s earlier than usual but mostly within the normal range, he said.

West Drought Monitor May 1, 2018.

From The Produce News (Kathleen Thomas Gaspar):

As a means to cope with water shortages in Colorado’s Lower Arkansas Valley, Hirakata Farms in Rocky Ford will cut back its melon acreage this season, according to sales rep Gene Schneider.

“There’s a drought situation in the Arkansas Valley,” Schneider said. “Last year we suffered from it as well.”

He noted that water officials have told growers to plan on a 40 percent reduction in surface water.

“That means we have to cut back on acreage in most of our crops,” he said.

Schneider said in mid-April the 2018 planting, which began in late April, would see cantaloupe and seedless watermelon acres each down by 10 percent. Honeydew is down by 30 percent, he said. Acreage for the operation’s mini watermelons, which have proven to be a favorite with consumers, will remain the same.

“We know if we don’t plant and perfect the mini watermelons, we’re losing out on an important market segment,” he said. “We can grow a really tasty mini — a very flavorful watermelon — and we’re pretty happy about that,” he said.

Staggered seeded field plantings began the third week of April, and transplants were scheduled to start early May. Schneider said the majority of product comes from transplants, and 90 percent of the operation’s organic volume is from transplants.

The planting is planned for orderly harvests, with cantaloupe traditionally coming off July 17 and running through Sept. 21. Honeydew come off Aug. 1 and run through Sept. 14; watermelon, both mini and full sized, come off Aug. 3 and run through Oct. 1; and pumpkins for pie and carving come off Aug. 25 and run through the third week of October.

Dan Hobbs planting near Avondale. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

From KOAA.com (Tom Kackley):

The Town of Monument announced water restrictions will start next Tuesday and will last through the end of September this year.

The announcement applies to all Town of Monument water customers. People living at even numbered addresses will be able to water Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday while people living at odd numbered addresses will be able to water Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Watering will only be allowed on those days before 9 am. and after 5 p.m.

No outdoor watering will be allowed on Sundays.

Anyone who needs sod permits should call 719-884-8037.

The restrictions will be in place from May 15 to Sept. 30.

Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

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