April 2018 Early Season Outlook
April 12, 2018
By Mickey O’Hara, Water Resources Engineer, Colorado Water Trust
Early April brought significant moisture to the northern mountains, but unfortunately, the southern part of the state largely missed out. This geographical split is reflected in the official April 1st streamflow forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Colorado River Basin Forecast Center. The April-July runoff volume for the La Plata River at Hesperus is forecast to be 25% of median, while the Fraser River at Winter Park is forecast to be 91% of median.
April 1st streamflow forecasts from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) show a similar pattern, with April-July runoff volume for the Rio Grande River near Lobatos forecast to be 17% of median, and the Colorado River below Lake Granby forecast to be 98% of median. In general, flows in higher elevation streams in the northern part of the state are expected to be closer to normal, while streams at lower elevations and those in the southern part of the state may experience a near-historic low runoff this year. There are no streams in Colorado forecast to have above average runoff according to official April 1st forecasts.
Low streamflow conditions will likely impact all water uses – from junior agricultural water users, to water suppliers, to recreation and the environment. Long term climate probability forecasts call for dry and warm weather through early summer. Late summer forecasts – while still predicting above average temperatures – hint at potentially trending back towards average precipitation. We’re hoping for rain this summer and fall, but preparing to use the tools available to address expected low streamflow conditions.
In years like 2018, the Water Trust’s new Request for Water Acquisitions Pilot Process with the Colorado Water Conservation Board is a great way for water right owners to consider their options related to streamflow restoration. If interested, don't delay, as the deadline to submit preliminary offers is April 30th.
For all the data and charts as of April 9, please see the document below. We'll update these numbers one more time in May, so keep an eye out here for more news, or be sure to subscribe to our e-newsletter (look in the footer of this page under "Connect with us") to have it delivered straight to your inbox.