#Runoff news: The #ColoradoRiver’s peak will be early this year

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Peak flows are expected Sunday on both the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, which will combine to deliver flows of about 8,500 cubic feet per second of water at the Utah state line.

“Definitely, I would say it ranks in the bottom five on record for those peak amounts,” said Brenda Alcorn, senior hydrologist with the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center in Salt Lake City.

This year’s peak at the Cameo gauge is expected to be the fourth-lowest in the 85 years of records kept by the Colorado River Water Conservation District. Only the critically dry years of 1977, 2002 and 2012 stand to be lower than what’s expected this time around.

And it’s early, too.

Should the peak occur on Sunday, it will be the third-earliest ever, according to the River District.

The earliest recorded peak on the Colorado at Cameo was May 10, 1966, when the river was flowing at 8,750 cfs. The latest recorded peak was on July 1, 1957, with flows of 31,400 cfs, according to the River District…

Projections of when the peak, such as it is, will hit remain an imperfect science because of the difficulty of forecasting melting in the high country, especially as it coincides with the timing of releases from reservoirs for the benefit of endangered fish species in the Colorado River basin, Alcorn said.

There could be another bump in the Gunnison about the middle of next week.

“Could there be another, later peak?” said River District spokesman Zane Kessler. “Certainly, depending on weather patterns going forward.”

As it is, though, river managers expect Colorado flows into Lake Powell to be 42 percent of the long-term average, delivering about 3 million acre feet into the lake.

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