#Drought news: Streamflow in Eagle County at or near record lows

Colorado Drought Monitor September 4, 2018.

From The Vail Daily (Scott Miller):

According to Diane Johnson, communications and public affairs manager for the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, this year’s late-summer streamflows are currently below those recorded in 2002, the previous record-low year.

In an email, Johnson wrote that September rains in that year boosted streamflows to near-normal levels. Those rains haven’t come this year.

As of Sunday, Sept. 9, Gore Creek in Vail above Red Sandstone Creek was running at just 45 percent of normal. On the same date, the Eagle River at Avon was running at 51 percent of normal.

Those flows are being bolstered somewhat by the district adjusting to increase “in-stream flows” to support aquatic life in the rivers. The state-issued rights for those flows are junior to the ones the district holds.

Releases for in-stream flows have bolstered streamflows elsewhere. For instance, the Colorado River at Dotsero was running at 1,270 cubic feet per second, far above the all-time-low flow of 673 cubic feet per second measured in 2002. That year was before requirements were imposed to maintain in-stream flows…

In July, district officials asked customers for a voluntary 25 percent reduction in outdoor water use. Many customers, including local governments, cut their outdoor water use by 25 percent to 50 percent.

District officials on Monday, Aug. 13, sent letters to hundreds of customers who were using the most water — more than 10,000 gallons per week in some cases.

Johnson wrote that the district’s call for reduced outdoor watering has been well received…

Still, water supplies up and down the valley remain adequate for domestic use…

At the town of Gypsum Public Works Department, water operator Emmanuel Quezada said that town’s supplies are holding solid through the drought. In fact, he said, the town hasn’t imposed watering restrictions this summer.

From The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Kyle Mills):

Drought conditions on the Western Slope have the Colorado, Roaring Fork, Frying Pan and Crystal Rivers at historically low levels…

As of last week, the Roaring Fork River between Basalt and Carbondale was running at 330 cubic feet per second, just 59 percent of average, according to the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s weekly Roaring Fork Watershed report.

The Crystal River is in even more dire straits, running at just 8.1 cfs as of Aug. 9; just 6 percent of average for this time of year…

The earlier-than-usual spring runoff this year fast-forwarded the rivers usual levels by around six weeks. “We didn’t have snow melt for sustainable flows for very long,” [Lani] Kitching said.

From KRDO (Abby Acone):

A few years ago, El Niño sparked frequent snowstorms in southern Colorado. To be specific, we were under the influence of El Niño between fall of 2014 and summer of 2016. That El Niño period was the strongest on record. People we talked to during that time said the crazy, snowy weather just comes with living in Colorado.

The last two years – 2017 and 2018 – we’ve had two La Niña cycles. That meant we dealt with above-average temperatures, drier weather and lots and lots of wind…not to mention high fire danger.

In the next few months, we have a 60-70 percent chance of El Niño developing.

So what exactly is an El Niño event? When an El Niño pattern develops, the trade winds near the equator slow down and reverse the flow of water across the Pacific. The warm water in the Pacific Ocean moves east toward the coast of South America. This has major implications on the Americas’ weather. An El Nino event brings more precipitation to the southern parts of the U.S., including southern Colorado. Meanwhile, drier conditions and warmer weather are forecasted in the northern portions of the U.S. during the winter. A note: the first part of the winter can be dry in an El Nino pattern with the latter part becoming more active.

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