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Low water volumes due to drought could affect Colorado River recreational activities

Water volumes along the Colorado River are 55% of average for the amount of volume that would normally be seen from April to July, according to Aldis Strautins, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

That’s due to drought conditions that have persisted over the last year.

The Eagle River’s water volume is also at 55% of the average, and the Roaring Fork River is at 51% of the normal average volume, Strautins said.



“They’re really well below average, and a lot of that has to do with last year and what happened going into the snow accumulation period,” Strautins said. “We were really dry last year — soil moisture levels were exceptionally dry. The soil took a lot of that runoff, and that’s what we’re seeing here is the combination of below normal snowpack for a good portion of the Colorado basin.”

Without the spring rains and kinds of storms the Colorado River Basin would likely have in the springtime, the area will continue to stay dry and below normal, Strautins said.



“We’re hoping for some monsoonal rains that might help it. The climate prediction center is predicting a higher probability of below average precipitation through the summertime,” Strautins said. “So that’s not good.”

Meteorologists are also expecting a higher probability for higher temperatures,” Strautins said.

“We do see some slight indications that there might be some moisture coming into Arizona in two weeks out or so.”

Strautins said moisture could be pulled up to Arizona that could come close to Colorado.

“Whether it makes it to the Colorado basin, it’s hard to tell,” Strautins said.

“The outlook is that even if we do get that it won’t bring above average precipitation. It’s a bleak outlook right now.”

Paula Stepp, executive director for the Middle Colorado Watershed Council, said the drought will likely impact the Glenwood Springs area in many ways.

Stepp said there are concerns about how the drought and lower water volumes along the Colorado River will impact agriculture, recreation and aquatic habitat.

Water use by agricultural producers is already stressed by the drought, Stepp said.

“There was already a lot going on with the historical users pool. When I sat in on those calls in April, there were already concerns about low water — who needs the water and where that water is going to.”

Stepp said she’s already heard that there’s not a lot of water available, and there’s a need to be conservative with water usage.

On the recreational side of things, Stepp said there could be a much shorter rafting season.

“We’ve already passed the peak, from what I understand,” Stepp said.

Stepp explained that conditions one would experience while rafting in August may be the kind that appear in July.

“Angling and fishing will also be impacted, probably,” Stepp said. We might end up seeing where we have to stop fishing in the middle of the day because the water is too warm because it’s too low. Those are the concerns that have been expressed.”

Stepp said there’s a need for rain, but a deluge could result in debris slides within the Grizzly Creek burn scar.

“Post-fire means that if there’s a huge rain storm, or the wrong kind of quick rain, we could see some debris flow,” Stepp said. “So we’re concerned about that as well and how that might impact downstream.”

Currently, Stepp said the best thing local residents can do is to conserve their water.

“It’s that kind of year,” she said.

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or smarvel@postindependent.com.


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