Drought/snowpack: ‘We have some real concerns about the availability of water in the Arkansas Valley’ — Steve Witte #codrought

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

As the drought moves into its third year in the Arkansas River basin, there are concerns about having enough water to meet typical needs. “We have some real concerns about the availability of water in the Arkansas Valley,” Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte told a state forum last week.

Witte spoke as part of a panel of the state’s seven division engineers at the Colorado Water Congress annual convention. Divisions are determined by water basins in Colorado.

The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor shows the entire Arkansas Valley east of Pueblo is in the worst stage of drought in the nation, and projections offer little hope for relief. Water supply could be further crippled because snowpack remains below average. This means less water than normal will be coming from the Colorado River basin through transmountain diversions.

Compounding the problem are:
● The winter water storage program, which allows farmers to use water at optimum points in the growing season, is at its lowest point in 25 years.
● Less water is available for lease by farmers.
The Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs plan to rebuild storage supplies this year.
● There is more demand for Fryingpan­Arkansas Project return flows, even though less water is available.

Ironically, Colorado has a 57,600 acre­foot surplus in delivery of water to Kansas under the Arkansas River Compact. “It was so dry this year that Kansas did not take any deliveries from John Martin Reservoir,” Witte said. The surplus is recorded on a 10­year average, and Colorado is planning on slowly adjusting the formula to determine presumptive depletions from well pumping. Witte said one bright spot is that less water for replacement by farmers is needed under surface irrigation rules designed to hold consumptive use in check. If farmers can find the water.

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Alex Burness):

The few inches of snow that fell on Boulder late Monday night and early Tuesday boosted the season’s total to 24.5 inches. Winter sports aficionados welcomed the snow, as a mild winter has left Boulder almost 3 feet short of the total accumulation at this time last year, according to meteorologist Matt Kelsch, of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. The storm dropped 2.9 inches of snow in Boulder, 4 inches in Louisville and just 1 inch in Nederland, Kelsch reported Tuesday.

Nonprofit ski industry trade organization Colorado Ski Country USA reported that all of the state’s 21 ski and snowboard resorts received new snow, though the Front Range got the least of it. While resorts such as Steamboat, Powderhorn and Sunlight all reported at least 20 inches, Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain and Eldora all had fewer than 6 inches of snow…

February and March historically have accounted for more than 25 inches of snowfall, giving Boulder plenty of time to catch up. Last February alone accounted for more than 32 inches.

From Steamboat Today (Nicole Inglis):

With just 8 inches of snow falling through Jan. 24, last month was about to go down in Steamboat Ski Area history as the driest January in more than 30 years. By the time January officially came to a close Thursday night, the month ended with a respectable — but still below average — 56.5 inches of snow. Historically the snowiest month of the year, January typically brings an average of 74.89 inches to the slopes of the Steamboat Ski Area…

Including the 4 inches that were reported Friday, the ski area has received 197.25 inches of snow this season, with two-and-a-half months left of lift-served skiing. Last year at this time, only 110 inches had fallen.

From The Denver Post (Brandon Swedlund):

Snowfall is not uncommon this month, but snow events are not as strong as late autumn and early spring storms. Denver averages a little less than 6 inches of snow during February, which is the sixth highest throughout the year. High temperatures can also fluctuate, but on average continue to warm throughout the month. The latest forecast from the Climate Prediction Center calls for near to above normal temperatures with near to below normal precipitation across Denver and much of northeastern Colorado.

As was expected, the weather pattern in Denver during January was largely dry with fluctuating temperatures. About 4 inches of snow fell last month at DIA, with the bulk of it coming late in the day on Jan. 28 into the early morning of Jan. 29.

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