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The sun sets over the Never Summer Range in the headwaters of the Colorado River in 2020. Photo credit: Northern Water

From email from Northern Water (click to subscribe):

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.

Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

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