#Drought/#Snowpack news

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map November 16, 2018 via the NRCS.

From The Kiowa County Press (Chris Sorensen):

In south central Colorado, extreme drought was replaced with severe conditions in western Las Animas and southern Huerfano counties. Slivers of several north central counties saw abnormally dry conditions overtake moderate drought.

Drought was unchanged across the remainder of the state, including southwest Colorado, which continues to suffer under exceptional drought – the worst category…

Early snowpack gives some reason for hope. Snow water equivalent levels for Front Range mountain areas, along with the Sangre de Cristos and Mosquito Range in the central part of the state are above normal for this time of year according to the National Drought Mitigation Center…

Overall, 17 percent of Colorado was drought-free or abnormally dry, both unchanged from the previous week. Eleven percent of the state was in moderate drought, down one point. Severe drought is impacting 21 percent of Colorado, up from 20 percent one week ago. Extreme drought dropped one point to 21 percent, and exceptional drought was unchanged at 13 percent.

From the Craig Daily Press (Lauren Blair):

In the midst of record-breaking heat and drought this year, Craig residents have been blissfully buffered from the water worries of the rest of the county and the state. Even as the Yampa River turned to a trickle by the time it reached Dinosaur National Monument, the City of Craig had all the water it needed.

The reason for this has a lot to do with water rights and good planning on the part of Craig’s forefathers…

The Yampa River is Craig’s main source for drinking water. Some of the city’s water rights date back as early as 1883, according to Dan Davidson, director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado. Situated right next to the river, the water treatment plant diverts the water it needs through an intake structure. Even with this year’s historically low flows, “there were never any issues drawing water into the plant,” Sollenberger said.

And while the main source is the Yampa, Craig has even more water stored as a backup at Elkhead Reservoir, constituting more than a two year’s supply.

“With our senior water rights coupled with backup emergency storage at Elkhead… we’re pretty secure,” Sollenberger added.

In the 20 years he’s been on the job, Sollenberger said he has never had to draw any water from Elkhead. The reservoir reliably refills each spring with runoff from the 205-square-mile basin that drains into the reservoir (though a string of bad snow years could change that). This year, the reservoir is only slightly lower than usual at about 14 feet below capacity compared to a more typical 12 feet at this time of year, Sollenberger said, though it can look dramatically lower because of the exposed shoreline.

At a time when water worries are skyrocketing statewide, conservation is a hot topic in many municipalities, but Craig is not alone in enjoying water aplenty.

“Water use anywhere in Colorado is really locally oriented,” said Jim Pokrandt, Director of Community Affairs for the Colorado River District. “Craig is not unique in that they have great water rights and didn’t have to ask residents to cut back. And you have to remember that they’re in the water-selling business too, so the less water that gets used, the less they make. That’s the case with everybody.”

West Drought Monitor November 13, 2018.

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