#Drought/#snowpack news: “We really do need a good water year to replenish [Upper #ColoradoRiver reservoirs] — Jim Pokrandt #COriver

Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

A shift in the weather pattern in the West has made for a welcome dose of moisture locally, with Grand Junction getting 1.72 inches of rain for the first seven days of October and snow showing up in the high country, including on Grand Mesa.

The Grand Junction precipitation is more than the 1.56 inches the city received for all of May through September, said Chris Cuoco, a senior forecaster at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“We’ve had over 10 percent — well over 10 percent — of our annual precipitation average just in the first seven days of October,” he said…

He said the moist weather is expected to linger, with a chance of showers each day through Thursday.

Then, after a forecasted brief break with the possible exception of a few mountain showers, potentially more moisture could arrive if the eventual remnants of Hurricane Sergio, now off the Baja California coast, push far enough north, Cuoco said.

Cuoco said the weather change has occurred because a big high-pressure ridge in the West that kept moisture from moving into the area during the summer was pushed off the West Coast and a low-pressure trough has taken its place.

“Most of these storms are riding through that trough and that trough is staying there,” he said.

He said storms that had been going through Montana and into the Midwest are now plunging down into the Great Basin, Utah and Colorado…

Numerous entities have stepped up to contribute water from Ruedi Reservoir above Basalt for downstream late-season agricultural needs and to help endangered fish in the Colorado River in Mesa County. The donors include the river district, Ute Water Conservancy District in Mesa County, ExxonMobil, Carbondale, Palisade, Aspen, Garfield County and the Snowmass Water & Sanitation District.

The contribution agreements included a contingency that if a change in weather makes some of the water releases unnecessary, it will be kept in the reservoir for future needs.

“This moisture right now has taken some pressure off the reservoirs for sure, both Ruedi and Green Mountain,” Pokrandt said.

The Ruedi water donations have been designed to substitute for water that typically comes from what’s called a historic users pool in Green Mountain Reservoir outside Kremmling and is used to meet the needs of those holding senior water rights in the valley.

Pokrandt said western Colorado reservoirs “got used for what they’re supposed to be” during the dry water year that has just ended.

“We really do need a good water year to replenish them,” he said.

A snowpack season that will continue into next spring is only getting started, but it’s hard to ask for much better of a start.

Mike Wenner, owner of the Grand Mesa Lodge, said about a foot of snow has fallen there, with about eight inches on the ground as the snow has settled and melted…

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an above-average chance of precipitation in Colorado through December, but also an even better chance of higher-than-normal temperatures in the state during that same time frame.

If the latter forecast holds, “that raises the snow line,” Pokrandt said.

Lower-elevation precipitation would fall as rain rather than as snow that is stored until next year when it melts and is released in the form of runoff.

Still, Pokrandt said, rain going into winter can boost soil moisture, meaning that soil absorbs less moisture during spring runoff and more water makes it to streams.

“Soil moisture is always important,” he said.

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