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It’s dry, and it can get drier

All it takes is a little.

No one knows this better than the people who live connected with the land of Pagosa Country. A few raindrops can bring the green out in a garden. In a time of drought, a few sparks can set a forest ablaze.

According to Colorado state climatologist Nolan Doesken, Archuleta County had better winter precipitation and snowpack than most of Colorado. Doesken explained that this is why Archuleta County has stayed at a D1 or D2 drought rating. D1 being moderate drought, and D2 being severe drought. The highest drought rating is a D4 which is exceptional drought.

“Even though you often have dry weather this time of year, conditions there have deteriorated more quickly and thoroughly than usual,” Doesken explained, adding, “For almost all of the state, reservoir levels this year were better or much better than 2002 and streamflow in your area, even though it’s been bad, has still been better than 2002.”

Doesken said that, in 2002, the Pagosa area was horrifically dry, and in 1977, it was remarkably dry.

As of press time, the San Juan River was running at 76 cfs, which is low, but not as low as the 40 cfs in 2002.

Relief from both the high temperatures and the dry weather are not probable in the near future. Jim Pringle, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service Grand Junction station, said that temperatures for the Pagosa region in the month of June have been running five to 10 degrees above normal. He added that, according to climate prediction models, above normal temperatures can be expected through the fall. As far as precipitation, Pringle said that for the next week, there are no big changes expected.

“Right now, there are no strong hints of widespread, heavy precipitation,” Pringle said.

At this time, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District is beginning to look at moving to Level 1 drought restrictions.

“We are monitoring water levels daily, from the streamflows to the lake levels, primarily at Hatcher,” PAWSD special projects manager Renee Lewis said. In addition, Lewis said PAWSD is taking into consideration weather patterns, conditions and temperatures.

At full capacity, Lake Hatcher holds 1,629 acre feet of water. As of June 25, Lake Hatcher was at 18 inches below spillway. On June 25, 2002, Hatcher was at 52 inches below the spillway. According to PAWSD Water Conservation Coordinator Mat DeGraaf, approximately three inches per week is drawn from Lake Hatcher.

“Demand dictates what we have to draw,” DeGraaf said, adding that, right now, Pagosa is at its peak usage.

If PAWSD decides to go into Level 1 drought restrictions, the following may be expected:

• Watering lawns may take place only from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m.

• There will be designated watering days: odd-numbered addresses on odd calendar days, and even-numbered addresses on even-numbered days. Watering by hand may be done on any day.

• Curtailment of water waste, i.e. water flowing down the pavement.

“The policy is only as strong as the level of enforcement,” DeGraaf said, adding that PAWSD did not put itself in the position of “water police.”

“The next week or two we will watch the weather and see what it does,” Lewis said.

PAWSD personnel will also continue to work on upgrading the district’s drought management plan. DeGraaf hopes to have the new plan finished by mid to late September.

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