May 23 Arkansas River Report

Colorado hosted a weekend storm that brought snow and rain to the Arkansas River Basin following a sharp drop in snowpack in early May caused by drying winds, weak rainfall and above-average temperatures.

The most recent US Drought Monitor map, based on data from May 17, before the storm landed, shows extreme dryness throughout Bent County and parts of Fremont, Las Animas and Kiowa counties. The map shows Prowers and Baca counties in extreme to exceptional drought, the driest drought classification.

snow cover

The National Weather Service reported the following three-day snowfall totals from the recent storm system:

  • Buena Vista – 29.9 inches
  • Twin Lakes – 24.8 inches
  • Leadville – 24.5 inches
  • Salida – 20.8 inches
  • Maysville – 19.7 inches
  • Canon City – 17.2 inches
  • Flourishing – 11.9 inches
  • Westcliffe – 10.7 inches
  • Manitou Springs – 7.5″
  • Colorado Springs – 5.4 inches

According to the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the storm pushed the Arkansas Basin’s snowfall to 66 percent of the median as of May 23, more than double the basin’s snowfall percentage from last week.

The National Weather Service‘s observed precipitation map shows total precipitation, measured in inches of water, across Colorado.

Tank storage

Current reservoir data from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation shows Pueblo Reservoir is 64.7% full as of May 22 with 209,009 acre-feet of water in storage. Twin Lakes Reservoir water storage increased to 105,150 acre-feet, 74.6 percent of full. With Turquoise Lake receiving imports from the Fryingpan-Arkansas project, water storage rose to 69,266.3 acre-feet, or 53.5% of full, from 44.8% a week ago. Data from the US Army Corps of Engineers shows that 29,625 acre-feet of water are currently stored in the John Martin Reservoir.

River flows

Flows in the Arkansas River, fed by spring runoff, continue to increase. Flows are 170 cfs near Leadville, 606 cfs under Granite and 892 cfs at the Wellsville gauge, which reported a peak flow of 1,620 cfs on May 20.

The Cañon City gauge is currently reporting 1,060 cfs, the same as last week; however, the river flow at Cañon City reached 1,750 cfs on May 21. Flows are currently 1,690 cfs below Pueblo Dam and 2,330 cfs near Avondale.

At the Rocky Ford gauge, the river is flowing at 1,840 cfs. Below the John Martin Reservoir, the flow rates are 598 cfs. The gauge at Lamar reports 53.5 cfs.

River calls

Currently, the Arkansas Basin has 13 active calls. The three appeals on the Main Section remain unchanged from a week ago – the Amity Canal Water Right of 1887, the XY Irrigation Ditch Right of 1889 and the Arkansas River Compact of 1949.

The oldest right of call is the Titsworth Ditch on Fourmile Creek with a priority date of 1861. The Gonzales Ditch of 1866 continues to call water from the Apishapa River, and the Hoehne Ditch, with a priority of 1865 , has a call on the Purgatory River.

The Spanish Peaks Ditch (1873 priority) now has a call on the Cucharas River, and the Upper Huerfano No. 2 (1869 priority) has a call on the Huerfano River. New this week is a call on Wahatoya Creek, a tributary of the Cucharas River, by RB Willis Ditch.

NOAA’s new three-month temperature and precipitation outlook shows a 70-80% chance of above-average temperatures and a 33-40% chance of below-average precipitation in the Arkansas Basin for June, July and August.

The Arkansas River report is provided by the Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative.

Peter Joe
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