#ArkansasRiver streamflow: “We have come down to what we really refer to as the sweet spot” — Andy Neinas #runoff

Arkansas River headwaters. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From KOAA.com (Bill Folsom):

The extreme water flow in the Arkansas River through Southern Colorado is finally dropping, It is now half of what it was a month ago. “We have come down to what we really refer to as the sweet spot,” said Echo Canyon Rafting, Owner, Andy Neinas, “So all sections of the Arkansas are open.”

Through the month of June there was arguably too much of a good thing. Water so high some potential customers staying away. Water was running over 5,000 Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS). Rafting companies agree to avoid certain sections of the river when the water is that high.

The flow dropped to 2,800 CFS this week. It means all sections of the river are now prime for rafting…

There is still a lot of snow on mountain peaks that feed water to the Arkansas River. Similar to the extended ski season this year, rafting will likely run longer than normal. Above average flows could continue into September.

From TheDenverChannel.com (Ryan Osborne):

We knew the June snowmelt would boost Colorado’s thirsty reservoirs, and now we can see just how much: Statewide, the reservoirs went from 59% capacity at the end of May to 76% at the end of June.

That still leaves plenty of room for more water, but the reservoirs are now sitting above average, at 105% of the normal capacity…

The Gunnison River, Upper Colorado River and Upper Rio Grande basins all saw significant upticks in reservoir levels. The Gunnison jumped from 60% to 85%; the Upper Colorado from 67% to 92%; and the Upper Rio Grande more than doubled, from 26% to 54%.

“It took a little while for the melt to happen (which was generally a good thing to mitigate any flooding concerns), but now that the melt has nearly completed, the streams and rivers are really flowing, and the reservoirs have started to fill nicely,” Russ Schumacher, a climatologist with the Colorado Climate Center in Fort Collins, wrote in an email…

The Dillon Reservoir is now at 97% capacity, up from 73%. The Blue Mesa Reservoir is now at 84%, up from 54%. Lake Granby is at 91%, up from 64%. The McPhee Reservoir, which was already at 88% capacity, is now full…

Further down the Colorado River, Lake Powell in southern Utah has seen its levels rise slightly, Schumacher said, but it’s still below average. The levels there should rise as the uptick in Colorado and Utah rivers travels south. But it could take one more wet year to see Lake Powell return to normal levels, Schumacher said.

The moisture in Colorado has had another benefit: The state is still 100% drought-free. And there’s been even more improvement in that area. The Palmer Drought Severity Index in Colorado , which sat at -0.72 in May, jumped into positive territory, at 2.28, indicating normal levels for the first time since the latter half of 2017.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Big water flows remain on the Arkansas River but the level has finally subsided enough for commercial raft trips to return to the Royal Gorge section of the river west of here…

The high water level advisory was lifted Wednesday after the water level went below 3,200 cubic feet per second for the first time since June 8. The advisories mean commercial rafters voluntarily avoid certain sections of the river because water levels are considered dangerous…

To put this year’s river levels into perspective, when the water level dipped to around 3,000 cubic feet per second Wednesday, it was well above the average level of 1,730 CFS for this time of year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The river flow has varied wildly this time of year from a minimum flow of 254 CFS in 2002 to a maximum flow of 4,600 CFS in 1983.

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