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SLV snowpack improves

Posted: Wednesday, Feb 13th, 2013

From the top of Lobo Outlook on Wolf Creek pass, the San Juan Mountains’ snowy peaks go for miles. This year's snow pack is looking better everyday. Courier photo by Lauren Krizansky

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — Although still below average, the snowpack in the Rio Grande Basin is healthier than it was last month.

Tuesday’s snowpack figures for the basin were about 86 percent of average, compared to 60 percent in January, Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten told members of the Rio Grande Roundtable during their February 12 meeting in Alamosa.

“We have had significant progress in getting our snowpack up over the last couple of weeks,” Cotten said. “We’re still below average, but we are making some progress.”

He said the snowpack is now about at the same point it was at this time last year.

Cotten said the basin would need 125 percent of normal precipitation from now on to reach average.

“We still need a fair amount of snow, but we are on the right path,” he said.

Modeling efforts are also still on the right path, Cotten said, with the goal of a completed groundwater computer model this spring, hopefully in the next couple of months. Once the groundwater model is ready, it can be used to help future water management sub-districts of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) complete their processes of formation and work towards implementation.

Currently the first sub-district sponsored by RGWCD is operational and replacing injurious depletions by wells to surface water rights based on computer model calculations, RGWCD General Manager Steve Vandiver said.

“We have met our obligations so far and have delivered water to the river every day to meet the depletions according to the way the model results came out and under Craig’s direction,” Vandiver said. “We feel real good about how the year went.”

He told the roundtable members the sub-district is working on its 2013 replacement plan now.

Groundwater rules/regulations for this basin are also waiting on the completed model. The large advisory group helping the state engineer formulate those groundwater rules will begin meeting again once the model is ready. Cotten said he hoped the groundwater rules and regulations would be completed by the end of this year so they could go to water court for approval.

Cotten also reminded the roundtable members that Colorado will host the annual Rio Grande Compact meeting this year. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 21, at 10 a.m. at Adams State University. Representatives from the three states included in the compact — Colorado, New Mexico and Texas — will meet at that time.

Cotten said most compact meetings are not contentious but this year might be different. New Mexico and Texas have not been getting along, and Colorado has been trying to stay out of the fight. Last month Texas sued New Mexico over the Rio Grande Compact, and Colorado was named in the suit because it is a party to the compact, but Cotten said Texas does not really have issues with Colorado.

“We are still trying to work through the lawsuit and understand what it means for Colorado,” he said.

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