Southern Colorado Very Dry

Published online: Apr 18, 2002
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Potato growers will be just one segment of water users in Colorado who will be severely affected by the worst drought in at least 100 years.

Now stretching into its fourth year, the drought will be felt as far away as Texas and California.

Headwaters of the Rio Grande Basin in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado already have big problems. Water managers have been telling growers that they won’t be getting any irrigation water this year and wells may also be in trouble. This is also affecting other rivers, their basins and reservoirs which could be dry by June.

High winds and dry soil have already caused the snow pack to vanish without any runoff. In the past 15 days, snow has declined and measurements show the area at 13 percent of normal snowfall amounts. None of the snowmelt is making it to the streams.

Record keeping shows it to be a serious thing for the front range as well as the rest of the region. Water managers are bracing for a long, hot summer and angry water users.

Poor range conditions may force the BLM to impose restrictions or stop grazing altogether. Fire danger is severe. Wildlife and fish will be affected.

In the north, the North Platte River is also low and towns like Casper and other Wyoming cities will have to buy water from the BLM.

In the Colorado Basin, bare minimum amounts of water will be sent down the Colorado River to California, Nevada and Arizona. “The water isn’t there and it will not come. It’s going to be a long hot, ugly season,” officials say.

The Navajo Reservoir in New Mexico will be affected because inflow is only at 26 percent of normal. The Conejos River is at 38 percent and the Rio Grande at 33 percent.

Highest of all the drainages is the Arkansas River which is at 65 percent of normal.

In the North, the South Platte is 40 percent of normal and the Yampa River at 47 percent.