Drought/snowpack news: ‘Many people don’t realize how close Colorado is to being out of water’ –Paul Bernklau #codrought

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From The Rifle Citizen Telegram (Nelson Harvey):

In Western Colorado…all thoughts are on the ongoing drought…

“To go through a second year like 2012 would definitely be tough,” said Ken Kuhns, who manages Peach Valley Community Supported Agriculture Farm near Silt with his wife, Gail, growing about six acres of mixed vegetables, flowers and fruit. “We’ve learned that we need those mid-summer rains.”

Although Peach Valley enjoys decent rights to water from a nearby ditch, Kuhns said the drought certainly affected last year’s production. He plants spinach in the fall for early spring harvest, and harvested about 100 pounds of it last spring, compared to 600 pounds the year before. “A lot of that was due to moisture,” he said.

As of Feb. 7, snowpack in the Colorado River basin hovered around 60 percent of average. That’s about where it stood at the same time last year. But that was before the scorching summer heat depleted millions of gallons of water from area reservoirs.

“I think this drought is going to last us longer than the one in 2002, and that’s because the reservoirs are all empty,” said Paul Bernklau, a retired rancher from Rifle and a former president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. “Many people don’t realize how close Colorado is to being out of water.” Bernklau is a seasoned drought-watcher. It was during the drought of 2002 that he was forced to sell out of the cattle industry.

“Getting out was the only smart move I made in the cattle business,” he joked. “A lot of ranchers in the area had to sell out that year.”

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

At 61 percent, the [Colorado River Basin] got off to a slow start in terms of snowpack and subsequent reservoir volumes, according to information provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. As of Jan. 1, Colorado’s statewide snowpack was at 70 percent of average. The winter season thus far has been dominated by high pressure weather systems and a jet stream that has not cooperated…

Overall, the Colorado River basin shows 69 percent of average for snowpack. Total snow accumulation ranges from 82 percent of average in the Yampa and White River basins to 61 percent of average in the Arkansas basin. In general, the Colorado River basin has a slightly better snowpack than last year at this time, while the southern basins in the state are receiving less snow this year compared with last year.

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