Warm weather bad news for spring runoff | SummitDaily.com

Warm weather bad news for spring runoff

garfield county correspondent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Despite snow this week, March came in like a lamb and could very well go out like one and that does not bode well for spring runoff this year.

Warm temperatures and frost-free nights in the last week have made for a quickly melting snowpack. Snow runoff accounts for most of the state’s surface water supply.

“We’re drying out awfully fast,” said Dennis Davidson, district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Glenwood Springs.

Early snowmelt can mean runoff goes directly into streams and rivers rather into the ground where it’s needed for crop growth.

All was well with this winter’s mountain snowpack until March, said Colorado River Water Conservation District water resource specialist Mike Eytel.

Going into March, the Colorado River Basin snowpack was 95 percent of the normal.

“Some areas were lower,” he said, such as the Yampa River basin which was 65 percent of average. Some basins, the Blue and upper Colorado in particular, were over 100 percent.

However, the warm weather has changed that picture.

Flows on the Colorado River through Glenwood measured 2,700 cfs at Devereux Road. Average flows for that day are 1,700 cfs, Eytel said.

One bright spot in the early runoff picture is the fact that meltdown is occurring chiefly at lower elevations.

“Above 10,000 feet it’s not melting as fast,” Eytel said, so there is still a snow savings account to charge rivers and streams.

In addition, West Slope reservoirs are expected to fill this spring, he said.

But there still remains the potential for problems. If runoff comes by early June, Eytel said, “there could be a potential Shoshone call and even a Grand Valley call.”

A call or demand to exercise a water right on the Colorado River could be made by the Shoshone Hydroelectric plant in Glenwood Canyon and by the Grand Valley irrigation associations, both of which are historically senior calls on the Colorado River. If that happened, farmers and ranchers with junior irrigation rights could experience water shortages this summer.

“This could be an interesting year if April doesn’t come out to be a snowy month,” Eytel said.

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