After desiccating winds, low precipitation and warm weather caused a precipitous drop in early May snowpack, Colorado welcomed a weekend storm that brought precipitation across the Arkansas River Basin, especially in the high country.
The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor map, based on data from May 17, before the storm arrived, shows extreme drought across portions of Fremont, Las Animas and Kiowa counties and all of Bent County. The map shows all of Prowers and Baca counties under extreme to exceptional drought. The new NOAA three-month temperature and precipitation outlook shows a 70-80% probability for above-average temperatures and a 33-40% likelihood of below-average precipitation across the Arkansas Basin.
The National Weather Service reported the following three-day snowfall totals resulting from the recent storm system:
Arkansas Basin Snowpack Graph for May 23
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% of full. With Turquoise Lake receiving Fryingpan-Arkansas Project imports, water storage has increased to 69,266.3 acre-feet or 53.5% of full, up from 44.8% a week ago. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data show 29,625 acre-feet of water currently stored in John Martin Reservoir.
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board approved 32,848 acre-feet of Fry-Ark Project water allocations during its May 19 meeting in Pueblo. The District's forecast for total 2022 imports is 45,300 acre-feet. Southeastern District Senior Policy and Issues Manager Chris Woodka reported that approximately 16,000 acre-feet of Project water have been brought over from the West Slope as of May 23.
Arkansas River flows, fed by spring runoff, continue to increase. Flows are 170 cfs near Leadville, 606 cfs below Granite and 892 cfs at the Wellsville gauge, which reported a peak flow of 1,620 cfs May 20. The Cañon City gauge currently reports 1,060 cfs, the same as last week; however, river flow at Cañon City reached 1,750 cfs May 21. Flows are currently 1,690 cfs below Pueblo Dam and 2,330 cfs near Avondale. Flows are 1,840 cfs near Rocky Ford and 598 cfs below John Martin Reservoir. The gauge at Lamar currently reports 53.5 cfs.
Currently, the Arkansas Basin has 13 active calls. The three calls on the mainstem remain unchanged from a week ago – the 1887 Amity Canal water right, the 1889 X-Y Irrigating Ditch right and the 1949 Arkansas River Compact. The most senior calling right is the Titsworth Ditch with an 1861 priority date on Fourmile Creek. The 1866 Gonzales Ditch right continues to call for Apishapa River water, and the Hoehne Ditch, with an 1865 priority, has a call on the Purgatoire 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 the R.B. Willis Ditch.