Jord Gertson, hydrologist with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, discussed water storage, snowpack and the precipitation outlook at the district’s January meeting.
Gertson reported that the district currently stores 3,500.6 acre-feet of water in various reservoirs.
Additionally, Gertson said the district currently stores 284.9 acre-feet of Salida water in North Fork Reservoir, 50 acre-feet of Poncha Springs water in O’Haver Lake and 9.8 acre-feet of Buena Vista water in Cottonwood Reservoir.
Gertson also reviewed snowpack data from Jan. 10 for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project collection basin on the Western Slope, which supplies water that is diverted into the Upper Arkansas River Basin.
Records show the current snowpack in this area is below average, similar to levels documented in 1995, 2002 and 2012. 1995 ended up being one of the best years on record for snowpack while 2002 and 2012 were bad drought years.
Gertson also presented data showing Upper Ark Basin snowpack at 80 percent of median.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 3-month outlook predicts The Upper Ark Valley will continue to experience above-average temperatures while a weak La Nina weather pattern indicates an “equal chance” of average precipitation.
Gertson also estimated 80 percent of spruce trees in the high country are dead because of bark beetles and said the dead trees will result in decreased evapotranspiration.
Meanwhile, needles that have fallen from the dead trees will reduce water evaporation from soil. These factors will combine to increase surface runoff, Gertson said.
Board member Jeff Ollinger said he had learned from a U.S. Forest Service employee surveying spruce trees in the high country that all spruce species between Monarch and Cottonwod passes would be dying within 5-6 years.