State of Summit streams
Ryan Summerlin April 23, 2013
Looks can be deceiving.
In spite of April’s powder skiing and snow shoveling, Summit County and the rest of Western Colorado remain in the grip of a drought, water officials say.
“One good month – which is what April has been – doesn’t a winter make,” said Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado River District.
“Every little bit helps but there are still huge holes in the reservoir, and the basin, to fill,” he said.
Summit County’s snow level has soared recently to more than 90 percent of average for 2013, but Mother Nature is still trying to overcome the extraordinary dry year of 2012 – when a feeble accumulation stood at 33 percent and the runoff was already under way.
“This winter fell on the heels of one of the worst winters in record,” Pokrandt said. “We live in a parched area.”
A public meeting is being held Tuesday, May 7, that will give locals a comprehensive perspective on the state of the rivers. Those who attend the meeting can learn more about the long-term drought, snowpack and critical reservoir operations.
“We are very water dependent in Colorado, and we can take water for granted,” Pokrandt said.
State Climatologist Nolan Doesken will give an overview of the status of the drought, its causes and the outlook at the State of the Rivers meeting.
Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District, will discuss the Western Colorado perspective, outlining the findings from a new Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study that predicts water shortages in the millions of acre-feet in the coming decades.
Summit County water commissioner Troy Wineland will detail local water rights administration. Bob Steger of Denver Water and Ron Thomasson of the Bureau of Reclamation will discuss the operations of Lake Dillon and Green Mountain reservoirs. Summit County officials will give an update on the status of the enlarged Old Dillon Reservoir, and the Blue River Watershed Group will address its ambitious watershed work at the old Pennsylvania Mine on Peru Creek, the Swan River and Ten Mile Creek.
Coloradans live in an arid climate, and depend on snowfall in the winter months to sustain us throughout the year, Pokrandt said.
“Over the decades we’ve learned how to capture and store water and it’s only by that means we are able to live here,” he said.
A population spike in Colorado has affected the supply and demand of our systems, he said.
“The amount of water in the river didn’t matter as much in recent decades until we really started to grow,” Pokrandt said. “There’s some fears that population alone will put stress on the current system. If you compound that with climate change, which could change the amount of precipitation coming into the system, then we will need to start planning for a different kind of future.”