This year’s presentation to focus on low stream flows and reservoir operations in the face of a potential drought
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — What a difference a year makes.
In early May 2011, Colorado water managers were sounding the alarm about possible flooding as they eyed one of the biggest snowpacks on record. Just 12 months later, some water providers are implementing conservation measures as the state faces drought conditions.
This year’s record-low snowpack and unprecedented early runoff in the Colorado River Basin will present water users with challenges, as ranchers in the Lower Blue grapple with irrigation and municipal water providers try figure out how to keep their reservoirs as full as possible while still meeting demand.
It won’ be easy, considering that much of the Colorado River Basin has already been designated as being in a severe drought by the National Integrated Drought Information System.
Some of the key players in managing stream flows and reservoirs in the Blue River Basin will try answer those questions May 8 at the annual state of the river meeting in Frisco (6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Summit County Community and Senior Center). he event is sponsored by the Colorado River District and the Blue River Watershed Group.
Don’t expect to see these flows in the Blue River this year
Troy Wineland, Blue River Basin water commissioner for the State Engineer’s Office will discuss local stream flows, while Denver Water’s Bob Steger will give an update on the operation of Dillon Reservoir, a key reservoir for Denver and a crucial recreational amenity for Summit County.
According to the latest projections, Denver Water would expect the reservoir to fill by June if precipitation the next few weeks is near- or above average, but if the weather stays dry, the reservoir won’t rise much higher than it is right now.
Regardless of precipitation in the next few weeks, the water level in the reservoir will drop quickly this summer, to well below 9,000 feet with normal to dry conditions (full elevation is about 9,017 feet). Denver Water this past week declared a Stage 1 drought, asking customers to voluntarily cut water use by 10 percent.
So far, local governments have not taken any public steps to acknowledge impending low stream flows, nor have they asked residents to start thinking about water conservation in what could be one of the driest years on record.
At the north end of the county, Green Mountain Reservoir probably won’t fill this year, and is likely to end up well short, according the Bureau of Reclamation. The BuRec’s Ron Thomasson will give a more detailed overview at the May 8 meeting.
All this and more factors into a far-reaching water agreement aimed at ending decades of trans-mountain feuding over water. Summit County, Grand County and Denver Water are scheduled to sign the deal on May 15, and Summit County manager Gary Martinez will provide some details on the agreement, which provide some assurance for reservoir levels, provides more water for snowmaking and streamflows, as well as money for water, sewer and environmental projects. Read more in this Summit Voice story.
The meeting also celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Colorado River District, which was formed in 1937 to protect Western Colorado water against diversions across the mountains to the Front Range.
Author George Sibley will talk about how the Summit County-Denver Water relationship has evolved. Sibley is writing the book: “Water Wranglers: the 75 year History of the Colorado River District.”
For more information, please contact: Jim Pokrandt, Colorado River District: email@example.com, 970-945-8522 x 236.
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Drought, Environment, La Niña, rivers, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather, water Tagged: | Blue River, Colorado, Colorado River Basin, Colorado River district, drought, State of the River Summit County, water