#Drought news: Reservoirs in S. #Colorado have dropped precipitously over the summer

West Drought Monitor September 25, 2018.

From KOAA.com (Andy Koan):

The latest drought monitor released Thursday shows more than 85 percent of the State of Colorado is under unusually dry conditions. The worst affected areas are the 20 counties in the southwest corner of the state where all or parts of each county is experiencing exceptional drought.

An example of the impact can be seen in Custer County at the Deweese Reservoir. Large areas of dry cracked mud from what used to be lake bed now encircle the remaining water stored here…

The dam and the water are privately owned. It’s managed by the Deweese Dye Ditch Company in Canon City. The business began over a century ago to provide fresh water from Grape Creek to agricultural customers in Fremont County.

A dry weather pattern over the Rockies this spring melted the mountain snowpack earlier than usual. That early runoff, combined with prolonged periods of hot dry weather in late summer, have put the area under extreme drought…

The lake won’t go completely dry. Years ago, the Colorado Game and Fish Department bought a 500-acre-foot conservation pool here. Colorado Parks and Wildlife now keeps the lake stocked with fish.

Deweese’s Winter Water Storage [decree] allows them to close the headgate and begin storing water again on November 15.

From The Albuquerque Journal (Maddie Hayden):

The Rio Grande is again looking mighty puny where it crosses through Albuquerque as persistent drought continues to afflict the Southwest.

Flows on Thursday afternoon were at 133 cubic feet per second, below the historical Sept. 27 average of 410 cubic feet per second.

But water groups around the state have pulled together to keep it flowing, at least until the end of the water year…

John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program, said natural flows of the Rio Grande dried up in July, and the only reason it’s still flowing is due to water from the San Juan-Chama program, which allows for the transport of Colorado River Basin water to supplement the Rio Grande.

“It’s a reminder of how important this project is for New Mexico’s water supply,” Fleck said.

The Rio Grande is in dire straits throughout its run from Colorado through New Mexico, Fleck said.

Levels at Embudo, in north-central New Mexico, have reached record lows this year.

In south-central New Mexico, near Truth or Consequences, the Elephant Butte Reservoir is at just 3 percent capacity.

The Animas River at Farmington, an area in exceptional drought, is just above 0 flow — the lowest level in the area station’s history…

Frey said this year’s die-offs due to low water levels have occurred in the Chama, Brazos, Mora and Pecos rivers as well as various lakes and ponds around the state.

During a conference call Tuesday on drought conditions in New Mexico, Royce Fontenot, a senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service, said precipitation has helped ease some drought on the eastern side of the state since last month.

But just .22 percent of the state is drought-free. The exceptional drought area in the northwest corner of the state showed a little growth, with over 15 percent of the state now in the worst class of drought.

With most of the state’s reservoirs pushed to their limits to cover damage done by last winter’s dismal snowpack, another bad snow year would leave water users without a fallback next year, Gensler said.

“I was hoping we wouldn’t be going into winter like this, but I think this is where we’re going to start winter,” Fontenot said.

Fontenot said there’s a 65 to 70 percent chance of an El Niño weather pattern moving in during the coming months, which typically brings higher temperatures and more snow.

But even if El Niño does arrive, it isn’t certain which areas it will affect and how much precipitation it’ll bring.

“It’s not a blanket term anymore,” said Chris Romero, a snow survey hydrological technician with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Albuquerque. “We had an El Niño forecast here two years ago and it was great for about two months until the jet stream moved farther north and winter kind of turned off.”

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