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Pagosa Springs
Saturday, July 31, 2021

Community help sought in revising drought plan

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer

The drought management plan for Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) will be going through some changes soon, and the PAWSD board is seeking input from a variety of community members on the plan’s trigger points.

In an email, PAWSD Manager Justin Ramsey explained that the drought management plan will have triggers that are based on river, lake and/or hydrologic data to encourage or require water use reductions.

Within the 2018 drought management plan, there are voluntary drought management water reductions that go all the way up to level four, or severe, drought management measures.

“It was based on the cumulative amount of water we had in the district, so how much water was in the river, how much water was in the lakes, including Hatcher,” Ramsey said in an interview on Wednesday.

Ramsey added that if totals were below a certain threshold, drought restrictions would occur per the 2018 drought management plan.

However, the basis for the 2018 drought management plan was determined to be “flawed,” Ramsey described.

“As you remember in 2018, we had somewhat of a drought. The river still flowed pretty good, but Hatcher really dropped,” he said. “I can have all the water in the world in the river; if I don’t have water in Hatcher, then we’re still screwed.”

In 2018, drought restrictions were not triggered until late October, Ramsey explained.

“But the lake got very low, and we don’t want that to happen again,” he said. “If we would have based it solely on the lake level, then we would have triggered it much earlier than October.”

The revised drought management plan will be “broken up” with various triggers, Ramsey explained, citing examples such as how much water is in Hatcher Lake, the water in the San Juan River and snow water equivalency, among other things.

“Any of those things could cause a trigger to occur. It’s not going to be a cumulative effect anymore. That’s what the major change is going to be,” he said, “instead of it being cumulative, we’re going to break out each of those little components and say if one of these happens, any of these components, we’re going into it.”

PAWSD is looking for input from people on both the environmental side and business side of the community, Ramsey explained.

Anyone interested in serving on a committee to help with the revising of the plan can contact Ramsey at 731-7641 or justin@PAWSD.org.

Drought outlook

As of June 4, Archuleta County is in “extreme drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The next classification from extreme drought is “exceptional drought,” which is the highest standard of drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

 The southwest portion of the state features counties such as Archuleta, Conejos and Alamosa being fully in extreme drought, while others — such as La Plata, Mineral and Hinsdale — feature a mixture of extreme and severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Water and river report

According to a press release from Ramsey, four out of the five local lakes are full this week. This is up from last week’s total, when just three were full.

Stevens Lake, Lake Pagosa and Village Lake all remain full from last week.

This week, Hatcher Lake is full. Last week, it was 1 inch from full.

Diversion flows have increased with the San Juan plant being turned on.

This week, cumulative diversion flows are at 5.8 cubic feet per second (cfs). Last week, total diversion flows were at 4.5 cfs.

Contributing to this week’s total, the West Fork diversion is adding 3 cfs, the Four Mile diversion is adding another 1.5 cfs and the San Juan diversion is contributing 1.3 cfs.

From May 29 through June 4 of this year, water production totaled 11.64 million gallons.

Contributing to that total, the Snowball water treatment plant produced 4.33 million gallons, the Hatcher water treatment plant produced 6.98 million gallons and the San Juan water treatment plant produced 4.66 million gallons.

As of Wednesday, the San Juan River had a reported flow of 374 cfs, lower than the average for June 10 of 1,480 cfs.

The highest reported flow total for June 10 came in 1952 when the San Juan River had a reported flow of 4,120 cfs. The lowest total came in 2002 when the river had a flow of just 67.1 cfs.

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