Mountain Snowmelt Two and a Half Weeks Behind Normal — NRCS #snowpack #runoff

Here’s the release from the NRCS (Brian Domonkos):

Spring and summer conditions are emerging slowly in Colorado’s high country. Highlighting one snapshot of these conditions, mountain snowpack monitoring stations across Colorado observed an average increase of 1.4 inches of snow water equivalent, equal to about one foot or more of snow depth, from one storm system during May 20th through the 24th. Spring storms such as these are generally normal and often occur twice during the snowmelt season, but usually come earlier in the spring. As of June 1, statewide snowpack stands at 511 percent of normal. The last time statewide snowpack was this high was in 2011 when conditions were much the same as this year. However when focusing in on the basin scale, most individual basins’ current snowpack most closely compares with 1995, particularly in the southern and western basins. In 1995 snowpack peaked higher compared to this year. This year snowpack peaked at 134% of statewide normal.

Statewide Basin High/Low graph June 6, 2019 via the NRCS.

“May was a particularly wet month, the second wettest month of the year at 174 percent of normal statewide This coupled with the cool temperatures have aided mountain snowpack to persist later than normal,” comments Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor. In fact, this spring has exhibited one of the slowest snowmelt rates in many years. With May’s above normal statewide precipitation the year-to-date totals are now 124 percent of average, correspondingly all major basins in Colorado are above average. The combined Yampa, White & North Platte maintains the lowest percent of average in the state at 116. Reservoir storage remains generally low in anticipation of rising streamflows as rivers have yet to peak. “Below normal reservoir levels will help in absorbing above normal streamflows,” says Domonkos.

Since the snowpack peak in early to mid-April snowpack is nearly half melted according to SNOw TELemetery (SNOTEL) snowpack monitoring stations. With half of the snowpack remaining to melt, streamflows will rise as temperatures continue to warm. As this happens it is important to monitor weather, river levels and snowmelt rates.

This year’s snowpack is particularly high compared to last year and normal conditions, which are both relatively small. This disparity explains the relatively high percent of last year’s snowpack numbers such as in the Colorado, South Platte and Statewide snowpack values. Absent values in the table below are due to no snowpack present at this time last year.

For more detailed information about June 1 mountain snowpack refer to the June 1, 2019 Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report. For the most up to date information about Colorado snowpack and water supply related information, refer to the Colorado Snow Survey website.

Kate Greenberg, Colorado’s first female ag commissioner, reaches out to farmers, ranchers across the state — The Denver Post

Kate Greenberg. Photo credit: National Young Farmers Coalition

Here’s a report from The Denver Post (Judith Kohler). Here’s an excerpt:

As state agriculture commissioner, Greenberg wants to travel to as many places as possible. She has also mapped out a set of four major priorities and relishes detailing them.

“Are you ready for the next one?” Greenberg asks as she dives into discussing her priorities. “Are you ready for No. 3? Are you ready for No. 4?”

The road Greenberg traveled to her new job as Colorado ag commissioner is different from most of her immediate predecessors, many of whom grew up farming and ranching. Greenberg did not.

Besides her background, Greenberg is different from her predecessors in an even more fundamental way. She is the first woman to hold the job in the state’s history.

Greenberg grew up in Minnesota, was around agriculture and had friends and neighbors who farmed and ranched. However, it wasn’t until she moved to eastern Washington state that she farmed and ranched herself. There and in western Washington, Greenberg raised vegetables and livestock on community-supported farms. While with the Sonoran Institute, Greenberg worked with communities on restoration projects and managed greenhouse operations.

Most recently, Greenberg was the Western Program Director for the National Young Farmers Coalition, working on water issues and based in Durango. She graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., with a degree in environmental studies-humanities.

“I’ve always loved and worked on behalf of the outdoors, natural world,” Greenberg said. “The piece that really shifted when I came West was realizing the work people put in behind the scenes…

She wants to ensure that agriculture remains vital by supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

“We don’t have enough young people coming into agriculture, which means not only do we risk losing the legacy of the current generation, the assets, but also the land,” Greenberg said. “We are really at a fork in the road with the aging demographic overall of farmers, paired with the economics of farming right now.”

Agriculture contributes about $40 billion annually to the state’s economy, Greenberg said, making it the second-largest sector of the state’s economy.

What to expect in the new disaster aid package — The Fence Post

Photo courtesy of Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and Farm Aid

Here’s a report from the American Farm Bureau The Fence Post:

American producers have been hit hard in the past few years by hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms and wildfires.

Farmers and ranchers in the South still are recovering from Hurricanes Michael and Florence, while producers in the Midwest are reeling from unprecedented flooding this spring.

Several Market Intel articles have reviewed recent disasters as well as the historical delays in planting this year. On June 3, the House passed a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill, H.R. 2157, that previously passed the Senate with overwhelming support. Now awaiting a presidential signature, this package includes more than $5.2 billion to assist USDA and related programs. The bill also includes funding for nutrition programs in Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. This Market Intel highlights the agriculture-related provisions in the disaster aid package.

Farm Disaster Assistance

USDA was allotted $3.005 billion to assist with the loss of crops because of Hurricanes Michael and Florence, as well as other natural disasters occurring in the 2018 and 2019 calendar years. These crops and commodities include milk, on-farm stored commodities, crops prevented from planting in 2019, trees, bushes, vines and harvested adulterated wine grapes. Funding will be available until Dec. 31, 2020. A provision is also included for losses due to Tropical Storm Cindy, as well as losses of peach and blueberry crops from extreme cold and hurricane damage in 2017 and 2018. Orchardists and pecan tree growers may receive payments if their tree mortality rate is over 7.5% and below 15% (adjusted for normal mortality) in calendar year 2018.

Importantly, payments for crop insurance policies under the Federal Crop Insurance Act or the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program will cover up to 90% of the loss. Crops not covered under these programs can receive up to 70% of the loss. If a crop is offered a revenue insurance policy under the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, the greater of the projected price or harvest price for that crop will be used to determine the expected value. (Note: There is widespread confusion among growers as to how this provision may relate to crops prevented from being planted, i.e., if prevent planting payments are made on 70% to 90% of the revenue guarantee it could influence planting decisions given the historic delays experienced in both corn and soybean plantings.)

If producers receive these payments, they are required to purchase crop insurance where it is available (under NAP if crop insurance coverage is not available) for the next two available crop years.

Finally, up to $7 million is provided for Whole Farm Revenue Protection indemnity payments that were reduced in 2018. This program provides a safety net for all commodities on a farm under one insurance policy.

Farm Service Agency Emergency Programs

To help owners of non-industrial private forests restore forest health, the Emergency Forest Restoration Program was allotted $480 million. In addition, the measure allocates $558 million for the Emergency Conservation Program, which helps farmers and ranchers recover damaged farmland and install methods for water conservation during a severe drought, and $435 million for Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Practices to assist with rural watershed recovery.

Rural Development

The bill provides $150 million for Rural Development Community Facilities grants. These grants assist small rural communities in improving and repairing essential public services and facilities. However, these payments will not be applicable if the community is already receiving assistance from the Rural Community Advancement Program via the Rural Development Trust Fund, grants and guaranteed loans.

Market Facilitation Program AGI Waiver

As of May 13, the first round of trade aid provided $8.5 billion in market facilitation program payments to farmers and ranchers, Figure 1. One limiting factor, however, was that trade assistance was capped at $125,000 per operator and farmers with an adjusted gross income above $900,000 were not eligible for trade assistance.

The disaster relief bill amends this provision and waives the eligibility requirement with respect to adjusted gross income. A person or legal entity is now eligible to receive payments under the Market Facilitation Program if the average adjusted gross income exceeds $900,000 and more than 75% of the adjusted gross income comes from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Payment remains capped at $125,000 per operator.

Nutrition Assistance

The disaster bill includes provisions for disaster nutrition assistance in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and American Samoa. Assistance totals $643.2 million to these U.S. territories in response to major disasters or emergencies designated by the president.

Hemp Crop Insurance

The disaster aid package also included language offering coverage for hemp under the whole farm revenue protection insurance policy starting in the 2020 reinsurance year. The 2018 farm bill Provides A Path Forward for Industrial Hemp, but there was uncertainty about when hemp would be eligible for federal crop insurance.


The recently passed disaster relief bill provides emergency assistance to farmers dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters, as well as farmers impacted by late planting. Most of the agriculture-related funding — slightly more than $3 billion — is for farm disaster assistance related to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms and wildfires. Other funding is allocated for nutrition, conservation, forestry and watershed assistance programs.

#Runoff news: @DenverWater is drawing down Dillon Reservoir in anticipation of big #snowpack melting-out

Grays and Torreys, Dillon Reservoir May 2017. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.

From the Summit Daily (Deepan Dutta):

This year, instead of supplying helicopters with water to dump on fires, Denver Water is draining water from Dillon Reservoir in anticipation of runoff, which is expected to really begin coming down in the next few weeks.

“This year being a high snowpack year, we know there’s going to be a lot of water getting into the reservoir,” Denver Water supply manager Nathan Elder said. “We’re trying to have enough space to catch that runoff while providing for safe outflows to the Blue River below the reservoir.”


At the moment, the reservoir — which is the main drinking water supply for 1.4 million people in the Denver metro area — is 75% full with 192,554 acre-feet of water. When full, the reservoir holds 257,304 acre-feet. An acre-foot of water would cover an area the size of an acre 1-foot deep. Given the current estimate for runoff volume, there will be more than enough water to fill it.

“The forecasting for the rest of June and July project a volume of anywhere from 169,000 acre-feet to 211,000 acre-feet coming into the reservoir,” Elder said. “That’ll fill it, but we’re probably not going to fill it until the Fourth of July to make sure we’re past that peak-inflow time.”

Elder said peak inflow to the reservoir is expected to start about a week later this year than usual, which also means Summit’s two marinas in Dillon and Frisco will have to wait before the reservoir is full enough for boating. However, boaters should have a lot more time for play this year compared with last, when boat ramps were retracted weeks before they normally would be due to low water.

“Typically, every year we target June 18 to be at 9,012-foot elevation needed for both marinas to be completely operational, but it’s going to be a little delayed this year,” Elder said. “But while the boating season might be shortened by a week on the front end, on the tail end, it should last quite a bit longer.”

The delay also means local emergency officials will be watching streamflows longer into the month, looking to spring into action if Tenmile Creek, Straight Creek or the Blue River approach the verge of flooding.

Current two-week projections show all three waterways approaching “action stage,” the threshold at which the towns and county are called to start flood mitigation preparations, by June 15.

Summit County’s director of emergency management Brian Bovaird said he closely has been watching the forecasts for flooding. That is opposed to last June when Bovaird, who recently had gotten the job as emergency director, was given a literal trial by fire.

“It’s like picking your poison,” Bovaird said. “Last year, it was wildfire. This year, it’s flooding. We’re expecting heavy runoff moisture, which is good for wildfire but makes us uneasy about the flooding risk.”

Barker Reservoir

From (Amber Fisher):

Barker Dam’s scheduled spill is expected to begin over the next few days, officials said. Each spring as temperatures warm, runoff from melting mountain snow increases stream flows. Before peak stream flows occur at lower elevations, like in the City of Boulder, mountain reservoirs must first fill and start spilling, officials said.

“This is a normal and expected event that will increase flows in Boulder Creek throughout the city,” The City of Boulder said in a statement.

The Barker Dam spill normally occurs between mid May to late June, but is dependent on weather, snowpack and early spring reservoir levels. This spring, cool temperatures and continued snow accumulation have delayed snowmelt runoff, the city said.

From (Nikki Sheaks):

The waters of the Gunnison River are currently at 10.7 feet. It has passed the bankfull stage. This means some water is beginning to spill out into the floodplain. The floodplain is the low-lying area next to the river. The Gunnison’s Flood stage is at 13 feet. It’s expected to rise near 10.8 feet by Saturday.

Orchard Mesa and Whitewater are under the current advisory.

Parts of the Colorado River are rising, but it’s not under an advisory. The Colorado River near Loma is nearing bankfull. According to data from a National Weather Service gauge near the state line, water levels are at about 10.5 feet and are expected to rise to 12.5 by Saturday afternoon.

PHOTO CREDIT: McKenzie Skiles via USGS LandSat
The Great Salt Lake has been shrinking as more people use water upstream.

From The Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue)

The south arm of the Great Salt Lake is up by 2.5 feet since December and its north arm is 2 feet deeper thanks to the wet water year, and the Western Hemisphere’s largest saltwater lake will take on even more water in the weeks to come.

“It’s a pretty good jump so far, but we’re not done yet,” said Todd Adams, deputy director of the Utah Division of Water Resources.

The highest elevation snowpack has yet to melt, and with most reservoirs brimming, that water will bypass those storage infrastructures and help quench the thirsty saltwater body…

Water managers along the Wasatch Front will be keeping their eye on stream flows and reservoir levels to keep enough storage going into the summer and time releases into rivers to hopefully avoid flooding.

While most reservoirs are already full, Echo above East Canyon sits at just 49 percent of capacity and Rockport sits at 78 percent, ready to take on snowmelt.

“We could have filled it (Echo) twice this year,” said Tage Flint, general manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. “The peak flows have not occurred yet coming out of the Uinta Mountains coming down the Weber River, so we are purposefully leaving Rockport down some and Echo down more to use them as shock absorbers to take those big flows.”

Much of that extra water will be sent on downstream to the Great Salt Lake…

The lake is critical to wildlife, multiple industries, recreation interests and more, contributing $1.3 billion into Utah’s economy and drawing tourists from all over the globe.

It serves as the Pacific “flyway” for thousands of migratory birds and supports a $57 million brine shrimp industry…

Mike Styler, who recently retired as executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, said maintaining the viability of the Great Salt Lake will be one of the critical challenges the state faces going into the future.

He stressed that as agricultural water gets converted for urban use in Weber and Davis counties and reuse of waste water becomes more popular, that threatens to dry up marshes and wetlands that support the lake.

The Great Salt Lake has an average depth of 16 feet, covers 1,700 square miles during an average year and is two to seven times saltier than the ocean.

Telluride councillors told: “We are a steward to our water resources…We are stewards for what we need now and into the future” — Karen Guglielmone

Photo via

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Suzanne Cheavens):

Karen Guglielmone, the Town of Telluride’s environment and engineering division manager, presented the yearly water audit to Town Council in a Tuesday work session, which emphasized the importance of conservation, despite the town’s abundant water supply.

“We are a steward to our water resources,” she told council. “We are stewards for what we need now and into the future.”

The annual report has been produced since 2014, when the town adopted a Water Efficiency Plan, which was subsequently approved by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) late that year. The annual report reveals figures such as overall municipal water use — and losses — and indicates trends that can help officials modify the plan.

Water losses are attributed to a number of factors including leaks, unauthorized consumption, faulty metering and data errors.

Leaks, Guglielmone explained, are common in municipal water systems as they age. One such leak occurred under East Columbia Avenue in 2018, which officials then said had likely been a progressive event due to pressure from a rock. Directly on the waterline. There are more of those, Guglielmone said.

“We can expect a slow increase of leaks over time,” she said. “We have others we can’t locate precisely.”

Despite the challenges of controlling losses, in 2018 the loss rate dipped by 13.5 percent when compared to the last five years of collecting data. Last year’s losses were calculated to be 26 million gallons, down from 2017’s 37 million gallons. Telluride’s losses are still high compared to other municipalities.

“We’re high on our water loss,” she said. “Fifteen percent is the goal, though 25-30 percent is more the reality,”

Residential water use is holding steady, according to the report. The fact that it stayed about the same (118 million gallons) is “pretty cool,” Guglielmone said…

Town Attorney Kevin Geiger noted that overall the town is in good shape as far as its supply is concerned.

“Our water portfolio is robust,” he said. “(Blue Lake) is a very large reservoir for our town. It is the envy of municipalities in Colorado.”

Telluride’s water rights are also strong…

Incorporating the Blue Lake reservoir and the Pandora water treatment plant became necessary when the town’s growth overtook what Mill Creek could provide, Geiger explained. Past water usage reports, which reflected peak days such as those that occur during the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, necessitated the work to bring Blue Lake into the fold…

Council member Geneva Shaunette said she liked the idea of the stricter irrigation practices that the town imposed during last year’s parched summer.

“I’m a fan of every other day irrigation,” she said. “Maybe grass isn’t the best thing.”

Unfortunately, even though low maintenance buffalo grass uses half the water, many landscapers’ clients prefer water-hungry Kentucky bluegrass, Guglielmone said. “We can’t police everything.”