State facing continued drought |

State facing continued drought

SUMMIT COUNTY – State climatologists now believe the drought that has gripped Colorado for the past three years probably will last a lot longer than originally thought.

Members of the state drought task force said this week that 2003 will be no better – and might even be worse – than 2002, meaning Colorado citizens likely will face continued water restrictions and devastating wildfires.

According to state climatologists Roger Pielke and Nolan Doesken, Colorado’s leaders have not given enough thought to coping with a multi-year drought. For the near future, they suggest water-conservation and water-use-efficiency measures should be continued throughout the winter months.

But for the long term, the climatologists recommend Colorado’s water managers and communities work together to create plans for long-term irrigation and municipal water use.

Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center researchers say that from 1979 to 1999 the state witnessed massive growth and a great increase in municipal water demand. Colorado also saw its longest drought-free period in recorded history during this two decades.

“We live in a semiarid region and are always on the edge of drought,” said Climate Center research climatologist Nolan Doesken. “Many people were lulled into complacency by the greater-than-average precipitation during the 1980s and 1990s.”

“Due to the current drought situation and the state’s water supplies already being so low, the lack of precipitation in January is making it even less likely that Colorado will quickly recover from the current drought,” said state climatologist Roger Pielke. “Additionally, because of the cumulative effect from the 2002 drought, Colorado is at even more risk today than at this time last year.”

State climatologists believe many of the effects of last year’s drought will last several years, even if precipitation returns to average or above average for the remainder of 2003. Furthermore, they say it is unlikely the state will be able to make up water supply deficits in the next few years.

Part of the problem is that Colorado’s reservoirs are so depleted that an average snowpack and precipitation year will not replenish the water supply. Much of the precipitation that falls this winter will be absorbed by the extremely dry soils and replenish shallow aquifers before running into already low reservoirs, water experts say.

As of Tuesday, Green Mountain Reservoir was 25 percent full; Dillon Reservoir was 52 percent full.

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