Denver Water should predict droughts more often. Their announcement last month triggered several blizzards, hail storms and rain – Tom Noel, aka Dr. Colorado, Denver Post opinion: Drought along the South Platte? Not this week
Oh, if only that were true!
While the most recent announcement of Stage 2 drought finally provoked some moisture in this state, we’ve been managing our water supply during this drought since July 2011, the last time our reservoirs were full.
Following the summer of 2011, we saw an extremely dry winter (snowpack reached 57 percent of peak in the Colorado River watershed and 60 percent of peak in the South Platte River watershed), prompting us to declare a Stage 1 drought during the spring of 2012. Unfortunately, we don’t control the weather, and the hot and dry conditions continued through the 2012-13 winter leading to lower reservoir levels than we had during the 2002 drought – with no hope in sight.
As we entered our second year of extreme drought, we responded with Stage 2 drought restrictions that began April 1. At that point, we needed more than 10 feet of snow in our watersheds just for snowpack numbers to reach their normal levels, a seemingly impossible feat. But unexpectedly, our watersheds saw snowstorm after snowstorm, and our snowpack levels ended up just below the average peak above our diversion points at about 90 percent of average. A great start for our road to recovery, if the cool and wet weather continues.
It is now runoff season, and we are finally seeing the reservoir storage reach the levels that they were at during the 2002 drought. But watching the precipitation levels, we are reminded that in Colorado the weather can shift at any moment, and we must continue to manage this precious resource in case the April weather was only a blip on the radar, and the drought conditions continue into 2014 and beyond.
It is too soon to look into our crystal ball and predict whether or not we are out of this two-year drought. But, we’ll continue to monitor the weather and our runoff to see how our reservoirs will end up this summer, and we will remain flexible if our water supply situation prompts a change in response.