From The Albuquerque Journal (Megan Bennett):
The USGS’ stream gauge at Embudo is the oldest in the country, measuring streamflow in that area between Española and Taos since 1889. August is typically the driest time of the year for the river.
“The impacts are real,” said Fleck of the ongoing drought conditions. “The people downstream who need to use water have less. All of us – Santa Fe, Albuquerque, farmers across the Rio Grande (and) the ecosystem; the plants, the fish, the birds.”
The low flows are a direct result of poor snowpack in the San Juan Mountains upriver in southern Colorado, said both Fleck and Royce Fontenot, senior service hydrologist in Albuquerque’s National Weather Service office and part of the New Mexico Drought Monitoring Working Group.
According to Fontenot, drought conditions in that area this season mirror those experienced in 2002, when there was also D4 – or “exceptional” – drought conditions.
Fontenot added that the Rio Grande, especially in its northern section that includes Embudo, is a snowmelt-driven river.
“So when you have a very poor winter like this one, you’ll see these low flows,” with the possibility of just “spikes and bumps” with heavy rainfall, said Fontenot. Despite the big monsoon storms in Santa Fe, Fleck said there hasn’t been enough heavy rain up to the north to make a substantial impact.
Heavy farming in the San Luis Valley at the Rio Grande’s head also means less water in the river, noted Fleck, who added that the low discharge is also an effect of climate change.
“You get a bad snowpack, but also because the temperatures are so warm, (there is) increased evaporation or increased use by plants,” he said. “For a given amount of snow, we get less water in our rivers. This is climate change.”
Fontenot, though, says the main driver of 2018’s dryness is this past winter’s La Niña, the ocean-atmosphere phenomenon which he noted typically results in warm and dryer winters in New Mexico, rather than climate change.
From (News.com (Cory Reppenhagen):
ngram Falls near Telluride has come to a stop.
“Depending on when you’re up there, there’s either no flow … or just drips,” Telluride resident Amy Levek said…
Last weekend was the famous Mushroom Festival in Telluride. Damp woods, from monsoon rains, are a normal breeding ground for shrooms. Not this year, though.
“Two weeks ago, I went out and found a few, and that is very early for mushrooms, and then last weekend when I went out there was nothing, absolutely nothing,” Levek said…
To find the last time southwest Colorado had drought this exceptional, you must go all the way back 15 years to August 2003…
The San Miguel, the San Juan, and the Las Animas rivers have all hit record low steam flows at some point this summer, just to name a few. Many other creeks and rivers are running below 10 percent of normal this August…
Municipalities are starting to implement water restrictions. The city of Aspen announced they are going to stage 2 watering restrictions for the first time in their history.
From The Craig Daily Press:
The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District is releasing water from the Stagecoach Reservoir to supply the needs of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s Craig Station, which started on Thursday, Aug 16.
The released water will be protected by the Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 6 engineer Erin Light and her staff according to the Water Conservancy’s release. They will make sure the 80-mile section of the Yampa River Between Stagecoach Reservoir and Craig Station’s intake remains in the river and not diverted by other water users.
The Colorado Water Trust will continue releasing water to support the health of the Yampa River.
Upper Yampa Water manager Kevin McBride said, “Upper Yampa is pleased to release water to our customers, Tri-State and the Colorado Water Trust during this drought. These releases, for an industrial and environmental purpose individually, will combine to have a great beneficial effect for all of us in the valley.”
During droughts, Senior manager of communications and public affairs at Tri-State Lee Boughey said, it is critical to have water storage in the Yampa River basin. Working with Upper Yampa and the Colorado Water Trust will ensure power generation continues while improving the health of Yampa.
The release from Stagecoach Reservoir is the Upper Yampa’s largest release so far and includes up to 70 cubic feet per second of water from Tri-State’s leased water pool. The release will be reevaluated in the next week and could be reduced depending on the river conditions and forecasts.
From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):
Pagosa Area Water and Sanita- tion District (PAWSD) custom- ers remain in voluntary drought restrictions, but mandatory restrictions may be just around the corner.
According to a report made by PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey, as of Monday, the current and total cumulative available lake water for treatment and delivery sits at 72.5 percent.
If that total drops to 70 percent, stage 1 mandatory drought restric- tions will be put in place for all PAWSD customers.
Those restrictions would limit outdoor irrigation to the hours be- tween 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. and trigger a drought surcharge of $7.68 per equivalent unit.
Ramsey notes in his report that PAWSD may be entering into stage 1 mandatory drought restrictions at the end of this week or possibly next week…
Within his report, Ramsey also describes that Lake Hatcher is 57 inches from full, while Lake Stevens is 121 inches from full.
“They dropped a little bit, kind of expected,” Ramsey said.
Additionally, Ramsey’s report notes that Lake Pagosa is 23 inches from full, Lake Forest is at 10 inches from full and Village Lake sits at 9 inches from full.
PAWSD’s water use this past week was down quite a bit, Ramsey noted.
“This is the first time that we’ve used less water in the same week than we did in 2017,” Ramsey said.