Arkansas Valley: Winter water storage may set record low #codrought

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

With less than a month left, the winter water storage program rivals 2002-03 as the worst year on record since 1978. Storage in the program was at 56 percent of average for mid-February. Winter water storage allows nine large canals and two smaller ditches downstream of Pueblo Dam to store water from their Arkansas River water rights from Nov. 15 through March 15 for use during the irrigation season. Water is stored in Lake Pueblo, John Martin Reservoir and reservoirs owned by some of the ditch companies.

This year, throughout the entire system, storage totals 53,858 acre-feet, compared with 85,899 acre-feet last year, and a 20-year average of 94,877 acre-feet. Last year’s total on March 15 was 125,000 acrefeet, among the driest years on record. The lowest years on record were 2002-03, with 74,775 acre-feet, and 2003-04, with 81,439 acre-feet. In general, the years since 2000 have been significantly lower than the wetter 1980s and 1990s.

Storage at that level is a drop in the bucket for ditch systems that are several miles long. For perspective, in a more normal precipitation year, large ditches like the Bessemer, High Line, Catlin and Amity could expect deliveries of 60,000-100,000 acre-feet at the headgate during the entire irrigation season. The largest ditch, the Fort Lyon Canal, typically would receive 200,000-250,000 acre-feet to cover its 113-mile length. In terms of winter water, Fort Lyon gets about 26.5 percent; High Line and Catlin, about 15 percent each; Bessemer and Amity, about 10 percent each. Other ditches in the winter water program are Oxford, Las Animas Consolidated, Riverside, West Pueblo, Colorado Canal and Holbrook.

Stream flows gained little following storms that moved through the area last week, according to U.S. Geological Survey and state river gauges.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

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