WATER Availability Summary

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Water Availability Summary – Water Year 2022 as of November 15, 2022

Observed Temperature:

Water year 2022 was the sixth warmest and 35th driest on record going back to 1896. At a national scale, Colorado was part of a southern and central plains drought over the Water Year 2022. The South Platte basin was much drier than normal, while parts of the state west of the continental divide experienced wetter conditions. 2022 was a “warm dry” year as compared to historical average temperatures and precipitation data. However, this temperature data was heavily impacted by a very mild early season period from October through November 2021. As in recent years, February 2022 was the coldest month of the year.

Observed Precipitation and Drought Conditions:

Precipitation for the 2022 water year started dry, then was impacted by about 15 days of strong moisture in late 2021. April was dry and also recorded as the windiest month on record. The state had a wet July and monsoonal moisture in the central and southern parts of the state was very impactful on overall precipitation trends. In the October/November timeframe the state experienced wetter conditions in the Northwestern/Western parts of the state, while it has remained very dry on eastern plains. The 30-Day Standardized precipitation Indices (SPI) shows dry conditions over the last month, but the longer term 24-month SPI indicates wetter than normal conditions throughout the central part of the state.

Abnormally dry and moderate drought remains across much of the west slope. The Drought Monitor reflects few or no changes because changes move slowly this time of year, however drought doesn’t stop. Precipitation has been very low in Baca, Bent, and Prowers counties. Overall, the country is suffering from extensive drought, and Colorado is no exception.

Observed Streamflows:

Going into Water Year 2023 Colorado has some of the best antecedent soil moisture in years. This is good news but not the only variable that matters. Vegetative health shows decent conditions west of the divide, but on the eastern side of the divide conditions are a lot drier than normal.  Precipitation is near normal at 95% of median WYD precipitation.

Snowpack and Reservoir Storage:

Statewide snowpack is at 118% above median for this time of year, but that number is skewed a bit by higher than average low elevation snowpack for this time of year. Snowpack on the western slope is generally above average, while the eastern slope is generally below average. All basins are above average except South Platte and Laramie.

Statewide reservoir storage is at 77% of normal. Releases from Blue Mesa are driving low reservoir storage in Gunnison Basin. There is a human element to low storage in Gunnison and Southwest basins due to water being sent downstream.

Seasonal Outlook:

La Niña looks likely to continue through early winter and possibly beyond. On average, the Northern Rockies are wetter during La Niña and with colder temperatures that can result in good snowpack conditions. Drier conditions may impact the southern part of the state.

Reservoir Storage:

Water storage in Pueblo Reservoir increased during November, from 177, 342 acre-feet to 184,866 acre-feet or 57.2% full. Water storage in Turquoise Lake fell from 85,368.5 acre-feet a month ago to 84,452.2 acre-feet or 65.3% full. At Twin Lakes storage levels also decreased in November, from 120,899 acre-feet to 114,014 acre-feet or 80.9% full. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports water storage in John Martin Reservoir increased from 11,442 acre-feet to 15,921 acre-feet in November.

River Flows:

With Fyingpan Arkansas project water releases currently suspended and the WWSP in effect, Arkansas River flows have generally decreased in Colorado. The Leadville gauge hasn’t reported any new data for the past week, and the gauge at Granite currently reads 119 cfs. River flow at Wellsville is 315 cfs, and at Cañon City, 380 cfs. The flow below Pueblo Reservoir has dropped 69.9 cfs, a reflection of the WWSP. The gauge near Avondale currently reads 289 cfs, while the flow at Rocky Ford has dropped to 68.8 cfs. Flow below John Martin Reservoir has dropped to 1.16 cfs but has increased to 16.3 cfs near Lamar.

Calling Water Rights:

With the WWSP in effect, only eight water rights are currently calling for water in the Arkansas Basin. The most senior calling right is the Lewellyn McCormick right with an 1864 priority date on the Purgatoire River. The 1866 Gonzales Ditch right on the Apishapa River is next in priority, followed by the 1867 Coleman Ditch right on Hardscrabble Creek.

​The Fernandez Ditch (1868 priority) has a call on Turkey Creek, the Upper Huerfano No. 2 (1869) has a call on the Huerfano River, and the Doris Ditch (1870) has a call on Fourmile Creek. On the Arkansas River mainstem, the 1910 Fort Lyon Storage Canal right has a call, and as always, the Arkansas River Compact has a call at the Kansas state line to ensure that Colorado sends water to Kansas.

Next Water Availability Task Force Meeting: January 18, 2023 9:30am

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