Posted on March 13, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Lake Powell has dropped to below 50 percent of capacity. Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Colorado River Basin storage expected to drop to 50 percent of average by end of summer
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Lake Powell won’t be looking its best for its 50th birthday this year. The key reservoir in the Colorado River Basin is almost 100 feet below full pool and recently dipped to below 50 percent capacity, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s operations update.
Specifically, the reservoir level was 98.5 feet below full as of March 11, and at 49 percent of capacity. Water managers expect the reservoir level to continue dropping for at least several more weeks before it begins to refill with spring snow melt and runoff.
But just how much it refills remains to be seen. Snowpack in the Colorado River Basin has been bumped up by February and March storms, but BuRec estimates that inflow for the key April to July runoff season will total just 3.4 million acre feet, which is 47 percent of average. Releases for the 2013 water year are projected to total 8.23 million acre feet, which would draw the reservoir down to about 44 percent of capacity by the end of the current water year.
Based on current conditions and projections for the next few months, the Colorado River Basin is expected to deliver just 49 percent of the average annual flows, with basin-wide reservoir storage dropping to about 50 percent of capacity by the end of September.
Filed under: Colorado, Environment, rivers, water | Tagged: Colorado River, Colorado River Basin, Lake Powell, Lake Powell water level, water | 6 Comments »
Posted on February 5, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Bare ground above 9,000 feet in early February is not good news for Colorado’s water situation.
Statewide snowpack 30 percent below seasonal average
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite some late-January storms, snowpack in the Colorado River Basin continues to lag behind last year and is 30 percent below average for this time of year, according to the latest tally from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Colorado’s southwestern mountains benefited the most from the January precipitation, with snowpack in the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins climbing to 88 percent of normal; up from 70 percent of normal measured on January 1. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Drought, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather, Uncategorized, water | Tagged: Colorado drought, Colorado reservoir storage, Colorado River Basin, Colorado snow, Colorado snowpack, South Platte River Basin | Leave a Comment »
Posted on July 12, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Lake Powell from a NASA satellite in 2000.
2012 on track to be third-driest year in Colorado River Basin
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Showing just how little snowpack there was, and how early it melted, June inflows into Lake Powell totaled just 13 percent of average, according to the Bureau of Reclamation’s latest update. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Drought, Environment, La Niña, rivers, water | Tagged: Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado, Colorado River, Colorado River Basin, Lake Powell, water | 4 Comments »
Posted on May 4, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Low flows increase predation by non-native game fish; recovery effort could see temporary setback
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service biological technician Rick Smaniotto captured this endangered Colorado pikeminnow in a fish passage at the Redlands Water and Power Company Diversion Dam on the Gunnison River near Grand Junction, Colo., on July 3, 2002. The fish weighed 16.8 pounds and measured 37 inches. After collecting research data, the fish was tagged and returned to the river. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Ben Schleicher holds an endangered bonytail captured in the Gunnison River in western Colorado in 2011. Bonytail are being raised in hatcheries and stocked in Upper Colorado River Basin rivers in an effort to establish self-sustaining populations. PHOTO COURTESY UPPER COLORADO RIVER ENDANGERED FISH RECOVERY PROGRAM.
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — With 2012 shaping up to be at least a near-record drought year in the high country, some of the Colorado River’s endangered native fish could be facing a battle for survival, especially in key tributaries like the Yampa, in northwestern Colorado.
As flows are reduced to a trickle, the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, and especiallly the humpback chub and bonytail chub, will face serious threats from competing non-native species.
But they’ll get a little help from Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program biologists, who will be doing their best to remove remove smallmouth bass, northern pike, and in some areas, white sucker, walleye and burbot. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Drought, endangered species, Environment, rivers, water | Tagged: Bonytail chub, Colorado, Colorado Pikeminnow, Colorado River Basin, Colorado River endangered fish recovery, drought, razorback sucker, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program | Leave a Comment »
Posted on April 28, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
This year’s presentation to focus on low stream flows and reservoir operations in the face of a potential drought
The Blue River below Dillon Dam, July, 2011. BOB BERWYN PHOTO.
Peak flows! BOB BERWYN PHOTO.
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. (more…)
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 | Leave a Comment »
Posted on April 22, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
March precipitation across the intermountain West shown as a percentage of normal.
Spring and summer runoff may reach record-low levels
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The mid-April snowfall helped reduce the immediate fire danger, but didn’t do much to alleviate the season-long moisture deficit. In fact, the region as a whole is drier now than it was at the beginning of March, according to the Western Water Assessment’s April report.
To-date, April precipitation at the Dillon weather observation site is 88 percent of average, at .65 inches. For January through March, the Dillon site has measured 1.94 inches of water compared to the average 2.74 inches, which is 71 percent of the historic average.
On April 1st, 17 Colorado SNOTEL sites set new record lows, while 16 others were near-record lows. By April 9th, several sites had either melted out with record early melt-out dates or were on a likely trajectory to do so.Spring and summer runoff in some areas may approach record-low volumes. Only 5.2 percent of the country still is covered by snow, the lowest level since 2004. Last year at this time, it was 22 percent. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Environment, rivers, Snow and weather, water | Tagged: Colorado, Colorado River Basin, drought, Lake Powell, runoff, water | Leave a Comment »
Posted on February 23, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Instead of worrying about floods, water managers will be looking to maximize storage of what could be a very low runoff year in some of Colorado’s river basins
This year's snowpack (bright blue) is tracking close to the levels of 2002 (black) and well below average (light blue). Last year's near-record snowpack is shown in red.
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Even though it feels like winter is just getting started in the high country, Colorado water managers are starting to think about spring runoff, flooding and water storage.
Denver Water will issue its first spring reservoir outlook early next month after the March 1 snowpack figures have been compiled, and the National Weather Service this week issued its first outlook for flood potential.
No surprise, the spring runoff flood potential is slightly below average in the South Platte Basin, the Upper Colorado Basin and the North Platte Basin, including the headwaters tributaries in Grand, Jackson and Summit counties. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Environment, La Niña, Snow and weather, Summit County news, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: Colorado, Colorado River Basin, Colorado water supplies, Denver Water, flooding, spring runoff | 1 Comment »
Posted on February 20, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Water in the desert. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. BUREAU OF RECLAMATION.
Colorado River Basin snowpack at about 77 percent of average as of early February
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Low season flows into Lake Powell have been near normal in recent weeks, with the Colorado River delivering about 356,000 acre feet (99 percent of average) during January, leaving the reservoir about 63 feet below full pool.
With the overall snowpack in the Upper Colorado Basin at about 77 percent of average and the long-term weather outlook uncertain, water managers aren’t sure how the runoff season will go.
For now, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s water supply forecast for April through July is predicting an inflow of about 5 million acre feet, which is about 71 percent of average — but that outlook comes with a caveat: “At this time of year however, there is a high level of uncertainty in hydrologic forecasts and the annual release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in WY2012 will ultimately be based on the actual inflows that occur during 2012 rather than this Water Supply forecast,” the USBR wrote in the monthly update. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Environment, rivers, Summit County news, water | Tagged: Colorado, Colorado River Basin, Lake Powell, United States Bureau of Reclamation, West | 3 Comments »
Posted on December 20, 2011 by Bob Berwyn
The Colorado River delta, photographed from a NASA satellite.
Sustainability of regional water supplies at stake
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A federal focus on water issues and climate change is paying dividends in the Colorado River Basin, where, under the WaterSMART program, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has made 15 grants to various organizations to improve water and energy efficiency and to develop climate-change analysis tools.
Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science Anne Castle discussed the WaterSMART efforts last week at the annual Colorado River Water Users Association Conference.
A recent WaterSMART report is online at www.usbr.gov/watersmart. It highlights scientific efforts underway in the Colorado River Basin such as the USGS Water Census, the newly formed Southwest Climate Science Center, established by the USGS at the University of Arizona, and Reclamation’s ongoing Basin Supply and Demand Study. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, rivers, water | Tagged: Colorado River, Colorado River Basin, sustainability, United States Bureau of Reclamation, water | Leave a Comment »
Posted on August 13, 2011 by Bob Berwyn
2011 could turn out to be the second-best year ever for Lake Powell inflows
This Landsat 5 image from a NASA satellite shows Lake Powell on Aug. 6 2010. Click on the image to visit a NASA Earth Observatory website that documents the year-to-year changes in Lake Powell.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Flooding in the high country in early spring and summer may have been a nuisance for some, but in the big picture, it helped push Colorado River inflows into Lake Powell to near record levels. At times, Powell was rising at the rate of about 12 inches per day, bringing the water level up by 50 feet for the runoff season so far.
The Bureau of Reclamation reported that July inflow along totaled about 4.5 million acre feet (278 percent of average), the second-best year since Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963. Only 1995 was wetter, with a total inflow of 4.41 million acre feet in July. Total inflows for the runoff season, April through July, reached 12.9 million acre feet, which is 162 percent of average. June inflow was even higher, totaling 5.4 million acre feet. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Environment, rivers, Snow and weather, Summit County news, water | Tagged: Colorado River, Colorado River Basin, Environment, Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell, Lake Powell water levels, NASA, Summit County News, United States Bureau of Reclamation, water | 2 Comments »