Water managers are cautiously optimistic about the current snowpack and predicted runoff, even though the overall picture right now points to a moderate-dry year for the Gunnison Basin.
“I feel like we’re in pretty good shape. Of course, you can’t have too much snow. It’s like having too much fun,” said Steve Anderson, manager for the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association.
“But we’ve got full reservoir accounts. It’s kind of amazing, but we’re almost exactly where we were a year ago at this time. If we can have what we had last February, March and April, we would be in really good shape, but we could settle for less and still be in good shape.”
Within the Bureau of Reclamation’s Aspinall Unit, the snow-water equivalent was 110 percent of normal for this time of the year, as of Monday, BuRec hydrologist Erik Knight said.
The unit includes Blue Mesa Reservoir, Taylor Park Reservoir and Ridgway Reservoirs, where UVWUA members’ water is stored.
According to the runoff forecast as of Jan. 1, Blue Mesa’s inflow was close to 87 percent of average, at 590,000 acre feet. Ridgway and Taylor Park each were sitting comfortably at 86 percent of average.
“With mid-January at 590,000 acre feet, that just puts us in that average-dry category. That is based on historic numbers. We consider ourselves to be in an average-dry year,” Knight said. “It’s got the opportunity to go any direction so far.”
Reservoirs are in good condition going forward, although it is not possible to know how the water year will shake out in the end, he and Anderson said.
“You can hope for more, but we’re in good shape. That’s just the bottom line to it,” Anderson said.
The drought monitor shows moderate drought, with pockets of severe drought as of mid-month, although compared with the situation at the same time last year, that is an improvement.
Precipitation-wise, Montrose was sitting a bit below average just prior to Monday’s surprise storm, according to the National Weather Service.
For the month of January, Montrose had measured 0.28 inches; usually, it is 0.56. The tally did not include precip from Monday’s snow dump, which as of 6 a.m. that day, was about 1.5 inches — 18-hundredths of an inch liquid equivalent.
Anderson also said statewide efforts continue to update the Colorado Water Plan, slated for completion in 2023, and to fully fund its implementation.
Voters last November passed Proposition DD, establishing a 10-percent tax on net proceeds from sports betting, to help pay for implementation.
Anderson said the measure, although it was never touted as a means of fully paying for the plan, is going to help. Income projections from the Prop DD tax are at about $30 million.
“The shortfall is $100 million. We’ve satisfied about one-third of it. Again, we’ve got a long way to go,” Anderson said.
He also invited water users to UVWUA’s annual board meeting, set to begin at noon Feb. 4, at Bill Heddles Recreation Center in Delta. Keynote speakers include Greg Peterson of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance and Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado River District.