From The Colorado Springs Gazette:
With a prolonged drought and watering restrictions hanging over Colorado Springs, it can’t hurt to do what you can to save every drop.
One way to save water — and money — is with a waterwise shower head, and on Saturday, Colorado Springs Utilities will be giving them away in exchange for your old ones. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., CSU water customers can bring in up to two shower heads to the Conservation & Environmental Center, 2855 Mesa Road, to exchange for WaterSense-certified models. People also need to bring their water bills. The waterwise shower heads can save up to $130 a year, compared with standard models, CSU says. About 3,000 will be available at the event, which is tied to Fix a Leak Week.
The event also features tours of the xeriscape garden and information on fixing water leaks, rebates, water-saving tips and a new online tool to track personal utilities usage.
More than 80% of seven states were as of last week in “severe drought,” characterized by crop or pasture loss, water shortage and water restrictions. Depending on whether the hardest-hit regions see significant precipitation, crops yields could fall and drought conditions could persist for months to come. Based on the latest data provided by the U.S. Drought Monitor, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the seven states running out of water…
> Pct. of state in severe drought: 89.0%
> Pct. of state in extreme drought: 48.1% (7th highest)
> Pct. of state in exceptional drought: 21.2% (3rd highest)
Colorado is one of five states where all of its area is considered to be in moderate drought, with nearly 90% of the state experiencing severe drought. With the exception of the Northeast corner of the state, the drought is expected to either persist or get worse over the next several months. Yet even most the Northeast corner is experiencing either extreme or exceptional drought. Due to the ongoing problems, several of Colorado’s largest municipal water providers are considering restricting spring and summer lawn-watering, potentially limiting landowners to watering their grass just twice a week. Crop production declined significantly in 2012 compared to 2011, with wheat production falling 9.3%, while corn production falling a whopping 29%.
From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):
Snowpack in the South Platte basin was only 67 percent of historic average this week, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Because of the drought that’s plagued the region for months, reservoirs in the South Platte basin were only filled to 82 percent of historic average at the beginning of March, according to NRCS figures.
Statewide, two-thirds of the state’s top soil was “short” or “very short” on moisture, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture released Monday, and 89 percent of the state’s subsoil was short or very short on moisture.
However, some in the South Platte basin are fairing better than others across the state when it comes to moisture. Through Wednesday, Greeley — in the heart of Weld County, where more than two-thirds of the Colorado’s sugar beets are produced — has received about 11 percent more precipitation than average so far in 2013. However, for the entire snow year, dating back to October, Greeley is still about 18 percent behind normal.
From The Durango Telegraph (Tracy Chamberlin):
With persistent drought conditions across Colorado and low reservoir levels in the southwest, water resource managers are looking at a potentially long and arid summer. Following a dry 2012, the warmest year on record, reservoir levels were already on the low side. Reservoir storage exactly one year ago sat at 104 percent of average, which helped the area get through late summer shortages. Currently, it’s only 67 percent of the average and 64 percent of last year, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s monthly snow survey…
Storage levels are down in all of the area’s reservoirs, according to officials from the Bureau of Reclamation. Lemon had 13,962 acre feet of storage in 2012 and now sits at 7,829 acre feet. McPhee was at 287,844 a year ago; the current storage is 188,976 acre feet. And, Vallecito is less than two-thirds what it was last year…
And although much of the state got a boost from the February storms one area that did not was the southwest. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan Basin, which includes the Durango area, saw a decline in its snowpack of 5 percentage points from the February readings. The area snowpack is 83 percent of the average and 89 percent of last year, according to the snow survey. The data collected for the survey “reflects what the state can expect for surface waters supplies this coming spring and summer.”[...]
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Farm and Ranch Enterprise, a 7,700-acre agricultural project headquartered in Towaoc, and the Dolores Project irrigators both rely on McPhee. Those groups are potentially looking at about one-third less water this year than they would typically get…
The one thing it won’t help is the boating community. “There’s not going to be a spill [From McPhee Reservoir] this year,” Preston said. Like last year, there just isn’t enough water to release downstream for kayakers and other whitewater enthusiasts. The focus for 2013 is on irrigation and municipalities. Still, the numbers leading off the spring and summer seasons still don’t compare to the record lows of 2002, the year of the Missionary Ridge Fire. “Mother Nature’s really in charge here,” Preston said.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ryan Maye Handy):
The decision to empty Antero will have a ripple effect for popular reservoirs in the Pikes Peak region and west into South Park. Eleven Mile reservoir, near Lake George, will be lowered in the next couple of weeks to make room for the waters of Antero, Thompson said. While the Eleven Mile might seem low during April, waters should rise again once Antero begins to empty. Eleven Mile, however, is one of two drought reservoirs owned by Denver Water, the reserves of which are only tapped in cases of extreme drought, Thompson said. This spring, Antero, the other drought reserve, will be empty, and Denver Water expects to start tapping Eleven Mile in the next few weeks…
Colorado Springs Utilities has been watching its reservoirs drop as the drought progressed, but it will handle things differently than Denver Water, said Lehermeier. “We are typically moving water in and out of most systems,” Lehermeier said. “There isn’t one that we set aside for a non-rainy day, so to speak.”
But the system of reservoirs that support El Paso County are showing signs of the dry season. Rampart, North and South Catamount reservoirs all are expected to be lower this year. Two other utilities-owned reservoirs in the Blue River water system near Breckenridge are drought impacted — the Upper Blue reservoir, another popular angling spot, is empty. Although the reservoir accounts for a smaller amount of utilties’ water, the fact that it’s empty is a red flag, Lehermeier said.