Strong winter snowpack has water managers optimistic
A parade of snowstorms through the American West this winter has water managers across the region cautiously optimistic about the near-term water supply.
According to data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Upper Colorado River watershed is at about 113 percent of its annual average for precipitation. Further downstream in the Colorado River Basin, other tributaries such as the Gunnison River and San Juan River are showing even larger snowpack totals compared to historic averages. For communities throughout the basin, that is great news.
The above-average snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin means there is a strong chance that the Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) Project reservoirs will fill this summer, too. That’s good news for residents of Northern Colorado who depend on the supplemental water supply that it delivers, but it’s not as good for Windy Gap Project participants. They have an agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that allows them to use available capacity in Lake Granby to store Windy Gap water for future delivery, but if Lake Granby is full of C-BT Project water, no storage capacity is available for Windy Gap water.
With the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir, Windy Gap Firming Project participants will have the opportunity to capture and store water for multiple-year deliveries with greater frequency and flexibility in years when Lake Granby would otherwise be full of C-BT Project water. The construction of reservoirs helps moderate the ups and downs of annual precipitation and has enabled Colorado’s population and food production systems to grow and prosper for more than a century.
Glen Canyon Dam released higher flows over the past three days, with a peak discharge of over 40k cfs. This experiment aims to rebuild beaches, disrupt invasive fish breeding, and increase invertebrate abundance and diversity.
On April 11, the Bureau of Reclamation released a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The SEIS is a mechanism to adjust the current operating guidelines for Glen Canyon (Lake Powell) and Hoover Dams (Lake Mead), providing tools for Reclamation to adapt to potentially dry years in the next few water years. Several news outlets, including The Colorado Sun, Politico, Colorado Politics, and AP News, covered the release with commentary from CWCB experts. CWCB Director and Colorado Commissioner Becky Mitchell is seeking public input to inform Colorado’s response to the SEIS. Share your feedback.
High snowpack in the San Juan River Basin this year has led to an above-average inflow forecast into the reservoir. The latest most probable inflow forecast from the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center is for 150% of average inflows from snowmelt runoff.
While most of the releases will be made to recover reservoir storage, Reclamation is planning to conduct a channel maintenance release from Navajo Dam. The release will ramp up slowly, peaking at 5,000 cfs for at least 11 days before ramping back down. This operation is expected to begin the last week of May and last through the third week of June. The exact schedule dates are to be determined as they will be timed to coincide with the peak on the Animas River. A notice with the final start date will be sent out approximately one week prior to beginning this release. Please stay tuned for updates…
For more information, please see the following resources below:
Bureau of Reclamation:
Susan Behery, Hydrologic Engineer, Reclamation Western Colorado Area Office: firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-385-6560
Earlier this month, Colorado Senator Dylan Roberts, House Speaker Julie McCluskie, Senator Perry Will, and Representative Marc Catlin introduced bipartisan legislation — “Senate Bill 23-295, Colorado River Drought Task Force” — to create a task force to make legislative recommendations to address the historic drought conditions on the Colorado River. The task force will be responsible for generating legislative recommendations that:
Proactively address climate-driven drought impacts on the Colorado River and its tributaries;
Avoid disproportionate economic/environmental impacts to any region of the state, ensuring acquisition of agricultural water rights is voluntary, temporary, and compensated;
Provide for collaboration among the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Southwestern Water Conservation District, and the State of Colorado in the design and implementation of drought security programs;
Explore ways new programs can benefit the environment and recreation;
Evaluate sources of revenue for the acquisition of program water; and
Establishes the Tribal Sub-Task Force to ensure there is appropriate space and time for their unique consideration.
A three-decade long drought threatens the Colorado River. Just last week, and previous years before, our allies at American Rivers listed it number one on their top endangered rivers in the United States. Colorado’s water security is decreasing as a result. These diminishing supplies are threatening our drinking water, agriculture, and environmental and recreational opportunities.
More flexible tools, that could be recommended by the task force established in SB23-295, can help Colorado communities respond to threats and impacts of drought exasperated by a warming climate and over allocation. Without clear action in the immediate future, these problems will only get worse.
Reach out to your legislator today to let them know you support action to make Colorado more resilient in the face of drought and climate change.
If you have lived in Denver for a few years or longer, you probably know that the efficient way to water landscapes is to follow Denver Water’s summer watering rules, which begin every year on May 1 and run through Oct. 1.
But what about those thousands of people who have moved to the City and County of Denver in recent years?
As it turns out, they are pretty familiar with Denver Water’s rules too.
Best practices for efficient, healthy outdoor watering are not just a Denver thing. They are the same best practices you’ll find utilities advocating for in California, Texas, Arizona, Illinois and Florida — the states where many of Denver’s newcomers came from.
How did we figure that out? We looked at federal census data (specifically the 72,490 people who moved in between 2012 and 2016) to learn which five states, and which county in each of those states, were the biggest suppliers of our recent round of new neighbors in Denver.
Then we looked at a sampling of the water providers in each of those counties to see what they advise their own customers to do.
Here’s what they all said:
There is no need to water when it’s raining, Mother Nature can handle it. And if it’s windy, it is best to hold off on watering.
When using a hose to wash the car, or water the lawn or trees, always use a shut-off nozzle in order to use only what you need, right when and where you need it.
Allowing water to run off onto sidewalks or the street wastes water.
Watering in the cooler parts of the day, between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m., cuts down on evaporation.
So, when it comes to outdoor watering, there’s no need for a native versus transplant turf battle. Instead, let’s raise a cool glass of safe, clean tap water to everyone who knows the best way to water landscapes efficiently.
And if you need a refresher on the ins and outs of Denver Water’s annual summer watering rules, check out denverwater.org/BestPractices for more information. You’ll find all kinds of efficiency tips there for water use inside and out.
Density concerns, soundscapes and dark skies, wildlife impacts, preservation of the Animas River Corridor, and water and sanitation demands are only half of the issues Animas Valley residents face if a proposed luxury RV park is approved by La Plata County. Residents of the Animas Valley have also questioned the legality of the proposed RV park in terms of zoning. A preliminary sketch plan of the development targeting 876 Trimble Lane (County Road 252) was approved by the La Plata County Planning Commission in January and is now moving through a minor land-use permit process. Arizona-based developer Scott Roberts wants to build a 306-stall luxury RV park, which includes 49 tiny homes the proposal calls “adventure cabins.” But some residents fear the scope of the potential development would impede on the rural lifestyle they enjoy.
The Animas Valley Action Coalition, a community group organized to protect the Animas Valley from developments that pose major impacts to the area, hosted a meeting Saturday at the Durango Public Library to discuss impacts and continue the conversation about Roberts’ RV park. About 58 residents and friends of the Animas Valley gathered to hear two presentations about the history of the valley and an opportunity to protect the Animas River Corridor. Tom Penn said AVAC community members have different expectations of the RV park proposal. Some people don’t want an RV park to be built at all and others would prefer a smaller development.