#Snowpack/#Runoff news: Snowmelt is occurring in some #RioGrande tribs in #NewMexico

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map April 15, 2019 via the NRCS,

From the Associated Press via CBS Denver:

Forecasters say northern Colorado will warm up slowly after this week’s snowstorm, minimizing the danger of flooding this week. National Weather Service hydrologist Triste Huse said Thursday that daytime temperatures will reach only into the 40s for the next few days and dip below freezing at night.

Huse says deep winter snows in the Colorado mountains could worsen the flood danger in May, however.

The water content in the mountain snow on [April 11, 2019] ranged from more than 110 percent of normal in the northern part of the state to more than 150 percent in the southwest.

Ponderosa Gorge, Dolores River. Photo credit RiverSearch.com.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Seth Boster):

In Colorado rafting country, anticipation is building with the water.

“It’s going to be a great season, no doubt about that,” says Brandon Slate, president of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association, whose members at this time last year faced a much different outlook.

With parched mountains amid drought, 2018’s preseason story lines focused on the Upper Arkansas Voluntary Flow Management Program. Regulators delivered by releasing enough from reservoirs to keep boats afloat through the summer — “a lifesaver,” says Salida-based Bill Dvorak, with 40-plus years in the rafting business…

At the start of April, river rats were eyeing charts that showed the state’s snowpack well above 100 percent of normal — a bounty set to melt and swell rivers to epic proportions.

Longtime outfitters are thinking back to 1995, the last time the forecast looked this promising. That year, Dvorak recalls the Arkansas raging 6,700 cubic feet per second (700 is “optimal” under the voluntary flow management program).

“It’ll get up to 4,000 I’m sure this year,” he says. “Maybe up to 5,000, 6,000.”

But what excites Dvorak most is the potential of a lesser-known river outside his home territory…

In circles like his, the Dolores is regarded as legendary. Stretching through remote forests, canyons and deserts in the state’s southwest corner, it stacks up with America’s best, Dvorak says, the Grand Canyon and Middle Fork of the Salmon among them.

But whitewater buffs’ chances on the stretch have been few and far between. Since the late ‘80s, the McPhee Dam has trapped the water that once kept the Dolores running strong…

Utah’s Cataract Canyon is expected to reclaim its Class 4 and Class 5 reputation. The Yampa River through Dinosaur National Monument’s storied land should be back to consistently raftable levels.

From The Sante Fe New Mexican (Robert Nott):

The Rio Grande was running fast and wide around a bend near the Buckman Direct Diversion near Diablo Canyon one recent April day — a healthy sign that the snowpacked mountains of southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico are already providing a welcome, healthy spring runoff…

Water experts and conservationists agree. Following a particularly dry 2017-18 winter season, the spring 2019 runoff into the region’s rivers, streams and arroyos is looking downright wonderful, offering at least a brief respite from continuing drought conditions…

The 216 million-gallon Nichols Reservoir is full, said Alan Hook, a water analyst for the city. The larger McClure Reservoir — with a capacity of 1.06 billion gallons — is 61 percent full, with about 648 million gallons of water in it, he said.

The runoff also will help recharge city wells, Hook said.

Farmers and ranchers around the state stand to benefit as well. Elephant Butte Irrigation District officials said last week that farmers can expect to get their share of irrigation water as soon as early June, with an allotment of 6 inches per acre. That allocation could increase, depending on how much snowmelt ends up in the Rio Grande.

From a recreational standpoint, more water in the state’s rivers, streams and reservoirs could lead to more fishing, boating and rafting throughout the spring and summer…

Still, she said, the actual flows into New Mexico are uncertain. Under the 1938 Rio Grande Compact, Colorado is required to deliver a certain amount downriver every year, but that volume is largely dependent on how much water southern Colorado farmers use to irrigate their fields…

While much of the flows into the Rio Grande come from headwaters in the San Juan Mountains, Steve Harris, executive director of Taos-based Rio Grande Restoration, said about a quarter of the water comes from runoff from Northern New Mexico mountains.

The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service issued a report April 1 that said with year-to-date precipitation totals “coming in with impressive triple digit numbers as high as 139 percent, the spring runoffs are looking favorable” in New Mexico.

The report also said major reservoirs in the state are “storing well below average amounts of water. … They have been depleted and await runoff this spring for a recharge.”


For the first time since January 2018, New Mexico has no areas considered to be in extreme or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

From The Conejos County Citizen (Sylvia Lobato):

According to SNOTEL readings as of mid-February, Colorado’s statewide snowpack sat at 108 percent of normal and the Rio Grande Basin also was above the norm…

Snowpack is higher in the northern and eastern basins and lower in the southwestern basins.

Climate forecasts through the runoff season suggest that these numbers could climb higher as forecasts indicate a wet spring statewide.

Statewide snowpack basin-filled map April 15,2019 via the NRCS.

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