Greeley, statewide water situation ‘in good shape’ — so far | TheFencePost.com

Greeley, statewide water situation ‘in good shape’ — so far

Bridgett Weaver

Brian Werner of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District explained Wednesday when it comes to Greeley and Weld County, they watch the South Platte and the Upper Colorado river basins to determine what the water supply will look like for the year.

As of Wednesday, the South Platte River basin was 9 percent above the historic average for snowpack, and the Upper Colorado basin was 6 percent above historic average.

"So we're in good shape," he said. "Anytime you're above average, you like that. We want to stay there."

Likewise, the reservoir storage for the South Platte was 7 percent above average and the Upper Colorado storage was 8 percent above average. Storage amounts were recorded Jan. 1.

"It means that Greeley, at this point in time, should have adequate to above-adequate water supply this year," Werner said.

The El Niño weather pattern likely is a factor in the healthy snowpack so far this winter, said Nolan Doesken, Colorado state climatologist.

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"There's clearly been a much better flow of Pacific moisture this year than in the last few (years) in terms of the midwinter time period, and that's sort of consistent with El Niño," he said.

With snowpack in the mountains above the long-term average so far, experts from the drought-stricken Southwest were hopeful.

But water and weather experts said it's too early to predict how deep the snow will get or how much of the Colorado River water will make its way into the river and on to Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona, one of two major reservoirs on the Colorado.

"We are cautiously optimistic, but nature has a way of doing what it wants," said Chris Watt, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the water in Lake Powell.

The Colorado River serves about 40 million people and 6,300 square miles of farmland in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Mexico also is entitled to a share of the water.

Lake Powell, behind the 580-foot-high Glen Canyon Dam, has a key role in regulating and distributing the river.

Some people worry there won't be enough water in the river to go around in the future because of protracted drought, climate change and unrealistic estimates about how much water was available in the first place. Lake Powell is only about half full after multiple dry years.

April is the key time for predicting how much water will flow into the lake from the annual spring snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains, Watt said. The bulk of the snow has fallen by then, and the runoff has begun.

Most forecasts call for average or above-average water flow in the upper Colorado River and other waterways in the state, Doesken said, but the snow season is only about half over and the picture could change quickly.

"We haven't gotten so much snow that we're assured of an average or above-average runoff," Doesken said. "It could turn on us."

Although it's looking good, Werner agreed it's still necessary to be cautious.

"We're fairly confident at this point but we never get over-confident with Mother Nature," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. ❖

Colorado snowpack, reservoir levels

Figures represent percentage of historic average in January.

Basin Snowpack Reservoir Storage

South Platte 109 107

Upper Colorado 106 108

Gunnison 111 109

North Platte 98 119

Yampa/White 99 119

Arkansas 112 128

Rio Grande 107 89

San Miguel (others in SW Colo.) 116 103

Note: Reservoir numbers represent data up until Jan. 1. Snowpack numbers are as of Wednesday.

Source: National Resources Conservation Service