Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir in the Gunnison River Basin in 2018. The news about this popular recreation area is much better for 2019, say climatologists.

Colorado's drought-free summer is now at an end.

The U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday announced in its monthly update that southwestern Colorado is back in low-level drought, or D0. 

The folks who keep an eye on drought conditions at the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) didn't have anything good to say about it.

"Hi D0. You have not been missed," the CWCB said in a tweet Thursday.

The news means the state is 97% drought-free rather than 100%, which is where Colorado has been for the past month. According to the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University, Colorado was the last state to go drought-free this year.

US Drought Monitor July 2019

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported this week that Colorado has gone back into drought, albeit just at 3%.

Still, according to a Tuesday presentation for the CWCB's Water Availability Task Force, Colorado's snowpack has done the state well this year by every measure, and spring precipitation means many of the state's reservoirs are full or close to capacity.

The seven reservoirs in southwestern Colorado, tracked by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are at 100% full or nearly so. That's water from the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan rivers. 

Reservoirs, however, in southern and southeastern Colorado are still well below capacity, according to the NRCS data. Of the 13 reservoirs served by the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado, seven are at 50% of capacity or below. For the reservoirs served by the Rio Grande, including those in the San Luis Valley, average capacity of its eight reservoirs is around 50%. Rainfall in the Rio Grande basin was 83% of average in June and doesn't show much improvement for July, according to NRCS data.

The NRCS data also showed precipitation has remained strong for most of the state. The most moisture has hit northwestern Colorado, home to the Yampa, White and North Platte River basins, with precipitation at 214% of average.

The Colorado, the state's largest river and supplier to 40 million people in seven states and Mexico, also had precipitation well above average in June, at 151%. The 10 reservoirs served by the Colorado are nearly full, averaging well above 80% of capacity in June.

June ended with above average precipitation statewide, but July has been very dry across the state, the NRCS reported this week.

The Colorado Climate Center reported Tuesday that June's average temperature was the 42nd coldest for that month on record. The 2018-19 water year, which runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, is now the 8th wettest in state history.

Among the standouts: Grand Junction, which is experiencing its wettest year in history, according to the Colorado Climate Center. The state is still in an El Niño weather pattern, meaning above average precipitation for the the next three months for all but the southwestern portion of the state. And summer heat, which held off during June, is now in full force, Climate Center data shows.

Peter Goble of the Climate Center noted Tuesday that "our water supplies are coasting on the wet winter and spring."

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