March 2018 Early Season Outlook
March 22, 2018
By Mickey O’Hara, Water Resources Engineer, Colorado Water Trust
February snowfall helped Colorado’s snowpack, and put smiles on the faces of those who enjoy winter recreation, but it was not enough to foster a return to average snowpack conditions across the state. March started dry, but snowier conditions through the end of the month should give the snowpack a slight boost before runoff. With low snowpack and expected hot and dry conditions into the summer, 2018 is shaping up to be a tough year for rivers. The winter’s La Niña conditions have left the southern half of the state very dry. The northern basins have fared slightly better, but conditions vary widely across the region.
Conditions will likely remain warmer and drier than average across the state through the spring, so the Water Trust is taking action to get more water back in rivers and streams that suffer from flow shortages in drier years. Each spring, we closely monitor snowpack conditions and streamflow forecasts, and consult with project partners to determine which temporary projects to operate. This year, we expect to implement (pending partner approval) up to seven temporary projects that can bolster flows in the Gunnison, Colorado, and Yampa River basins. While each temporary project looks different, many agreements have triggers related to streamflow forecasts, snowpack conditions, or streamflow conditions. In coordination with our partners, it’s important for us to make determinations about which projects to implement early in the year, usually by April 1st. This offers certainty to agricultural producers and allows time for critical tasks such as planning for project implementation, fundraising, or negotiations with water right owners.
In addition to implementing existing projects this year, the Water Trust is also partnering with the Colorado Water Conservation Board on a Request for Water Acquisitions Pilot Process to invite, in part, to invite voluntary water offers from willing water rights owners to benefit streamflow and to add flows to river segments in need. If you want to learn more about the RFWA Pilot Process, please join us on April 2, 2018 for a free informational webinar.
For all the data and charts as of March 22, 2018, click on the document below. We'll update these numbers again in several weeks, and hopefully this spring will bring April showers!