Partner, Kogovsek and Associates, Inc.
Ex-Officio: Federal Affairs Liaison
Christine Arbogast is a native Coloradan. She has a degree in journalism and political science and has worked with Congressman Ray Kogovsek since 1979. Since 1985 when Kogovsek & Associates was established, the small firm has worked primarily in the Western states on resource and tribal issues as well as local government concerns, capital construction projects and health care. Christine is an active member of the Water Congress Federal Affairs Committee and the National Water Resources Association. She chairs the NWRA’s federal affairs committee, and is a member of the Colorado River Water Users’ Association and the National Congress of American Indians.
Colorado snowpack is registering well above normal across the state, and reservoirs are plenty full, a situation water managers say bodes well for this year’s water supply, assuming that spring snows materialize as they normally do.
“We’ve been shut out [in terms of snowfall] on the Front Range and Eastern Plains,” said Peter Goble, climate specialist at Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center. “But January is normally our dry season. If there is a good time to be shut out, it’s now.”
Even with a dry January, statewide snowpack is measuring at 110 percent of average. Snowpack along the Front Range is registering at 111 percent in the South Platte River Basin and 112 percent in the Arkansas Basin.
Consistent high mountain snows are helping keep ultra-dry conditions at bay, Goble said at a meeting of the state’s Water Availability Task Force on Jan. 23 in Denver.
Reservoir levels are also holding strong, with stored water statewide measuring at 106 percent of average. The same time last year that number was just 81 percent.
Looking ahead to the warm spring months, Goble said he had some concerns that forecasts called for an essentially equal chance of wet or dry weather.
Southern Colorado and the Eastern Plains have been hit particularly hard by chronic drought conditions over the past eight years, and weather watchers expressed concern that these regions will suffer if the spring turns out to be warmer and drier than normal.
Still, Karl Wetlaufer, assistant snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said mountain snows are remarkably healthy and consistent across the state.
Snow levels in each of the major river basins are above average and nearly equivalent. The Yampa River Basin, in northwestern Colorado, stands at 114 percent of average this week, while the upper Rio Grande is measuring at 110 percent of average.
Snowpack is closely watched across Colorado because every region in the state relies on melting mountain snows for the majority of their water supplies.
Each month, until May, the snowpack is measured and runoff forecasts are made so that water managers can plan for the year.
Though Colorado left a severe drought behind last spring, after a winter of spectacularly deep snows, a dry fall pushed large swaths of the state back into drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Now just under half of the state, largely the southern portion, is classified as being in moderate or severe drought.
Still, if the spring turns out to be dry, forecasts indicate snowpack will likely be in the 85 percent of average range at their peak in mid-April. But if spring storms bring plentiful snow, that number could easily soar above 115 percent of average. And even that may be conservative.
“We could see something really wacky happen that will bring us well above even this current forecast,” Goble said.
Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at email@example.com or @jerd_smith.
Water managers are cautiously optimistic about the current snowpack and predicted runoff, even though the overall picture right now points to a moderate-dry year for the Gunnison Basin.
“I feel like we’re in pretty good shape. Of course, you can’t have too much snow. It’s like having too much fun,” said Steve Anderson, manager for the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association.
“But we’ve got full reservoir accounts. It’s kind of amazing, but we’re almost exactly where we were a year ago at this time. If we can have what we had last February, March and April, we would be in really good shape, but we could settle for less and still be in good shape.”
Within the Bureau of Reclamation’s Aspinall Unit, the snow-water equivalent was 110 percent of normal for this time of the year, as of Monday, BuRec hydrologist Erik Knight said…
According to the runoff forecast as of Jan. 1, Blue Mesa’s inflow was close to 87 percent of average, at 590,000 acre feet. Ridgway and Taylor Park each were sitting comfortably at 86 percent of average.
“With mid-January at 590,000 acre feet, that just puts us in that average-dry category. That is based on historic numbers. We consider ourselves to be in an average-dry year,” Knight said. “It’s got the opportunity to go any direction so far.”
The drought monitor shows moderate drought, with pockets of severe drought as of mid-month, although compared with the situation at the same time last year, that is an improvement.
Precipitation-wise, Montrose was sitting a bit below average just prior to Monday’s surprise storm, according to the National Weather Service.
For the month of January, Montrose had measured 0.28 inches; usually, it is 0.56. The tally did not include precip from Monday’s snow dump, which as of 6 a.m. that day, was about 1.5 inches — 18-hundredths of an inch liquid equivalent.
Anderson also said statewide efforts continue to update the Colorado Water Plan, slated for completion in 2023, and to fully fund its implementation.
Voters last November passed Proposition DD, establishing a 10-percent tax on net proceeds from sports betting, to help pay for implementation…
He also invited water users to UVWUA’s annual board meeting, set to begin at noon Feb. 4, at Bill Heddles Recreation Center in Delta. Keynote speakers include Greg Peterson of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance and Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado River District.
FromBiz West Media/Boulder Daily Camera (Dan Mika) via The Fort Morgan Times:
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment gave approval to efforts to build the Northern Integration Supply Project, or NISP, securing one of three final permits the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District needs before it can start on the $1.1 billion water project.
In a letter to Northern Water earlier this week, officials said the state has “reasonable assurance” the project would comply with all required water quality standards at the state levels.
The letter said while the project wouldn’t directly discharge pollutants into water sources, it has “the potential to cause or contribute to long-term water quality impacts.” It is requiring member cities to monitor 21 locations along the NISP for water conditions needed to sustain healthy aquatic ecosystems, and to watch for bacteria, sediment and runoff material that could harm humans in contact with the river…
NISP member cities and organizations include the Fort Collins Loveland Water District, Left Hand Water District, Erie, Lafayette, Windsor, Frederick, Firestone and Dacono…
Northern Water spokesman Jeff Stahla said the state’s approval is a major milestone for the project as it approaches the final few months of getting required permits.
“This is something we’ve been working on for years to submit the required data, and we’re pleased to see this response from the state,” he said.
Northern Water requires two more permits before it can start construction on the project. A final decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected by June, while the utility next month plans to file for a “1041 local powers” permit with Larimer County. Residents would then have 90 days to offer feedback before county commissioners make a decision.
The state’s report card on infrastructure is not necessarily one to hang on a refrigerator this year, as officials with the Colorado Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers said Thursday there is room for improvement.
The organization gave 14 categories of infrastructure in Colorado an overall grade of a ‘C-.’ The 2020 Report Card for Colorado’s Infrastructure was released Thursday…
According to the report, civil engineers evaluated the following individual categories: aviation (B), bridges (C+), dams (C+), drinking water (C-) [ed. empahasis mine], energy (C+), hazardous waste (C-), levees (D+), parks (C), rail (B-), roads (C-), schools (D+), solid waste (C-), transit (C-) and wastewater (C-). Schools received one of the lowest grades (D+), exhibiting needs that far exceed the funding available for necessary replacements, repairs or upgrades – adding up to an approximately $14 billion funding gap…
The Report Card, which did not list specific cities or areas in the state, was created as a public service to residents and policymakers to inform them of the infrastructure needs in their state. Civil engineers used their expertise and school report card letter grades to condense complicated data into an easy-to-understand analysis of Colorado’s infrastructure network…
Officials said though drinking water capacity is currently sufficient, some rural areas are challenged to provide clean water to their constituents due to aging pipelines.
Water consumption in Colorado is nearly 50% lower than the national average. Officials said that is mostly due to a successful public education program focusing on water conservation implemented in the early 2000s by various water utilities…
Dams scored about the national average at a “C+.” In Colorado, the number and quality of Emergency Action Plans have significantly increased: Today, approximately 98% of high hazard potential dams now have an EAP, putting fewer residents at risk in the event of a dam failure…