Record levels reported for Northern Colorado’s reservoirs
Fence Post Editorial Director
The message about northern Colorado’s water resources was decidedly positive Wednesday at Northern Water’s annual year-in-review meeting at the Hilton in Fort Collins, Colo.
Wet weather from spring and summer continued momentum started by 2013’s floods and replenished reservoirs to some of their highest levels on record, the conservancy district reported.
“We are in one of the best positions we’ve been in a long time,” said Andy Pineda, water resources department manager for Northern Water.
The Colorado-Big Thompson project has the highest storage levels on record, said Brian Werner, Northern Water’s communications director.
As of Nov. 1, Granby, Carter and Horsetooth reservoirs held over 700,000 acre feet. At the same time in 2012, a notable drought year for Colorado, the same three reservoirs hovered around half of current levels.
“We’ve known for quite a while that this is one of the best water years we’ve ever had. Anytime you’re at those kinds of numbers, you’re feeling pretty good about next year,” Werner said.
Pineda said storage levels began to climb with Colorado’s massive floods in 2013. Since then, snowpack has remained high and rainfall has stayed consistent.
“Because the year was so good and the rivers produced well, there was less pressure on our water in storage. So, we have the ability to carry that over to the future. We start off the year without having to worry about filling those reservoirs,” Pineda said.
“Even if it is dry, it’s going to have to be one of those extraordinary dry years, which I don’t see right now, in order for us to not get through that year. From what we’ve got in the system right now, we have a comfortable two-year supply.”
Division 1 engineer Dave Nettles explained that water abundance has also relieved pressure on the South Platte.
“We are under a free river in basically the whole basin right now. If you want water in the South Platte Basin right now, you can take it. We have plenty of water,” he said, in sharp contrast to the messaging in 2012.
Lower pressure on the river should provide farmers the opportunity to ease off of groundwater resources.
“Generally wells and pumps are supplemental. With abundant surface supplies, there is probably going to be less reliance on that. It will also give those farmers using those wells the opportunity to do some recharge,” Pineda said.
Going into winter, Pineda forecast some El Niño weather that could bring more moisture to Colorado and possibly to drought-stricken California. ❖
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