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Stream flow forecasts diminish

Posted: Thursday, Apr 11th, 2013

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — Unfortunately not an April Fool’s joke, the April 1 stream flow forecasts for the Rio Grande and Conejos River systems predicted even less water than the previous month’s forecast.

“It looks like we are starting to drop pretty hard on the snowpack,” said Colorado Division of Water Resources Division III Assistant Division Engineer Matt Hardesty.

In a Tuesday report to the Rio Grande Roundtable, he said the April 1 forecasted annual index flow on the Rio Grande is 335,000 acre feet, or 52 percent of the long term average. Last month the prediction had been 435,000 acre feet or about 67 percent of the long term average.

The obligation to downstream states as part of the Rio Grande Compact will be about 82,700 acre feet, down from last month’s predicted obligation of 108,000 acre feet.

The curtailment to meet that obligation also went down between the March and April forecasts, Hardesty explained. The new predicted curtailment during the irrigation season is 6 percent, half of what was estimated last month.

On the Conejos River system, the April 1 forecast is 170,000 acre feet or 55 percent of the long term average. Last month’s prediction was 215,000 acre feet or 70 percent of the long term average.

The silver lining, Hardesty said, is there is no curtailment predicted on the Conejos River system to meet the Rio Grande Compact obligation to downstream states. Last month the forecasted curtailment was 8 percent.

“We will see how that pans out,” he said.

Hardesty said the rest of the state is not looking much better with many places predicting 50 percent of their long term average.

The National Weather Service’s three-month precipitation outlook places the San Luis Valley in an area of below-average precipitation with above-average temperatures.

The low stream flows and continued drought conditions are also affecting the obligations of the San Luis Valley’s first groundwater management sub-district, which is tasked with replacing injurious depletions to surface water users.

Rio Grande Water Conservation District General Manager Steve Vandiver told the roundtable the sub-district’s obligation will be higher this year than last year, its first year to begin replacing injuries to senior water users.

Last year the sub-district had to replace 4,800 acre feet and this year will replace about 5,400 acre feet. Not quite half of that, or approximately 2,500 acre feet, is proposed to come from Closed Basin Project production, one of the contested portions of the annual replacement plan last year.

“We started making releases to the river Sunday morning to replace depletions,” Vandiver said. “Since the irrigation season started Monday, we are off and running again for 2013.”

He explained that the sub-district is still in the 2012 annual replacement plan (ARP) year, which ends this month, and the sub-district will begin a new plan on May 1. A public meeting regarding the new plan is scheduled for tonight, Thursday, at 7 p.m. at Adams State. The plan is on the water district’s web site at www.rgwcd.org/

The proposed plan may also be viewed at the district office at 10900 Hwy 160 E., Alamosa. Comments may be emailed to steve@rgwcd.org

The sub-district’s sponsoring district will hold a special meeting Friday, April 12, at 8:30 a.m. at 10900 Highway

160 East in Alamosa to consider the 2013 ARP, and it will be submitted to the state and to the court on Monday, April 15.

The RGWCD board’s regular quarterly meeting will be held Tuesday, April 16, at 10 a.m. at the same location.

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