Colorado: Annual State of the River sessions include vital information on snowpack, stream flows and reservoirs

Colorado River Basin snowpack and streamflow forecasts now similar to 1977, 2002 and 2012 drought years

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Statewide snowpack is just half of average going into the crucial phase of runoff season.
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Don’t miss this year’s State of the River.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Continued drought in the Far West, along with Colorado’s push to develop a first-ever statewide water plan, should be reason enough for Coloradans to take an interest in the state of the Colorado River.

One of the best chances to get a user-friendly update is at the annual State of River meeting, sponsored by the Blue River Watershed Group.

Hands-on water experts will explain how this year’s snowmelt will play out and how that affects operations of Dillon Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir — both for water deliveries downstream and for onsite recreational use.

To accommodate a bigger turnout, the State of the River presentation has been moved to the Silverthorne Pavilion (Tuesday, May 5, 6-8 p.m.)

This year’s speakers include:

– Troy Wineland – CO Division of Water Resources

– Bob Steger – Denver Water

– Ron Thomasson – US Bureau of Reclamation

– Eric Kuhn – Colorado River District

This year’s snowpack across the Colorado River Basin peaked early and is well below average. Warm spring conditions across much of region melted the snow early. According to the Western Water Assessment’s latest update, the  January–March period was the warmest on record for both Utah and Wyoming, and in the 97th percentile for Colorado. Since the beginning of the 2015 water year, only November has been colder than average across the region.

As a result, water managers have been lowering streamflow forecasts the past few weeks, although the Blue River Basin (encompassing Summit County) is in better shape than most.

But the Blue River Basin is just one small part of the Colorado River system, and overall, snow conditions and forecasted runoff are … similar to 1977, 2002, and 2012 in many parts of the region, particularly in Utah, according to the Western Water Assessment.

The keynote talk at this year’s Summit County State of the River meeting will feature the Colorado River Water Conservation District’s Eric Kuhn discussing the implications of the continuing Far West drought for the Upper Colorado River Basin.

The dropping water level in Lake Powell stresses the entire framework for dividing up water between the Upper Basin and Lower Basin states, and a pre-set trigger level in Lake Mead could result in cuts of water to Arizona, Nevada and California, although some water experts say that’s unlikely to happen this year.

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