‘At the Kansas state line, the Arkansas River has been reduced to just a trickle’ — Chris Woodka

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Flows in the Arkansas River are lower than usual this fall because of drought conditions and reservoir operations. In the Upper Arkansas River, flows are about half of normal for this time of year because the Bureau of Reclamation is not running the usual amount of water from Turquoise and Twin Lakes to free up space for storage of transmountain flows next spring. The reservoirs were drawn down this year in anticipation of refilling during spring runoff. But drought on both sides of the Continental Divide meant that the reservoirs did not fill to average levels.

Lake Pueblo was also drawn down throughout the summer months as water stored in accounts for both farms and cities was released. Winter water storage, which allows canals to store Arkansas River flows from Nov. 15­March 15, will begin to refill Lake Pueblo, but has not affected the flow below Pueblo Dam as much as it would in a typical year.

The river has been at minimal flows since late June.

“Our goal is to maintain 75 cubic feet per second below Pueblo Dam through the winter water program. That’s a little lower than usual, but those are the circumstances,” said Steve Witte, state Water Division 2 engineer.

The flow, measured by releases from the dam and at the state fish hatchery, usually would be targeted for 100
cfs.

All exchanges of water into Pueblo from Fountain Creek are being curtailed.

The reusable return flows from Colorado Springs are being stored through the Colorado Canal in Lake Meredith. Winter water that normally would be stored on Holbrook or Fort Lyon systems also is being stored in Lake Meredith.

Some winter water also is being stored in John Martin Reservoir, both for the state program and under the Arkansas River Compact.

At the Kansas state line, the Arkansas River has been reduced to just a trickle

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo should be able to weather another year of drought, but was forced to draw down its storage in 2012.

“We’re in a good position if there is a continued drought,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager. “Water that is normally leased will be put in storage next year.”

Pueblo had 27,500 acrefeet in storage in mid­October, compared with about 43,600 acre­feet at the same time last year.
“It’s the lowest storage level we’ve had since May of 2005, but the lowest in October since 2003,” Ward said. “It’s still twice what we had in 2002.”

The difference is Fryingpan­Arkansas Project water. The water board had not used its 10 percent allocation of Fry​Ark imports prior to 2002. About two­thirds of the water that remains in storage is from Fry­Ark allocations over the past decade.

The Fry­Ark project brings water to the Arkansas River basin from the Colorado River, and provides 31,200 acre­ feet of storage space for the water board in Lake Pueblo.

So far this year, snowpack is 23 percent of average in the Arkansas River basin, and 28 percent in the Colorado River basin. It’s still too early in the snow season to determine what kind of year is ahead, however.

While the water board plans to fill long­term contracts for leased water next year, it will not offer spotmarket water leases. The long­term contracts have higher rates, partially offsetting the revenue loss from the spot leases.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

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