By Clayton Chaney
and Randi Pierce
The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) is asking water users to practice responsible water use, with the district currently in a voluntary drought stage in compliance with its 2020 Drought Management Plan.
According to a press release from PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey, “The primary driver of this drought stage is the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM),” which indicates that “our area is in a Severe to Extreme Drought.”
Ramsey’s press release notes that Hatcher Lake is lower than the median volume for this time of year, “however the lake is currently filling.”
Water from the Four Mile diversion is being used to fill Hatcher lake.
“The flow of water in the San Juan is currently above the median flow for this time of year,” the press release further notes.
Ramsey also noted in his press release that so far this spring Pagosa Country has seen higher-than-normal temperatures.
He explained that the higher-than-normal temperatures combined with “a reduction in late spring precipitation will lead to a quicker-than-normal melting of the snowpack,” which will reduce the volume of available water and “could lead to water use restrictions.”
According to the press release, there are no mandatory water use restrictions, “however PAWSD does encourage responsible water use.”
Ramsey provided a document with ways to save water, which includes watering your lawn only when it needs it, soaking your lawn to ensure water reaches deep down to the roots, watering during the cool parts of the day, positioning sprinklers so water only lands on the lawn, putting a layer of mulch around trees and plants, checking toilets for leaks, putting a plastic bottle in the toilet tank and taking shorter showers or baths, among other things.
According to Ramsey’s press release, Lake Forest is 1 inch from full, after being completely full according to an April 5 press release.
The current water level in Hatcher lake is 9 inches from full, rising 2 inches from last week’s report.
Stevens Lake is the lowest of the five local lakes with a current water level of 25 inches from full.
Consistent with last week’s report, Lake Pagosa is currently 1 inch from full.
Village Lake remains completely full.
Total diversion flows are listed at 8 cfs.
The West Fork diversion flow is listed at 3 cfs and the Four Mile diversion flow is listed at 5 cfs.
Water production from April 2 through April 8 was listed at a total of 10.99 million gallons. The Snowball water plant contributed 2.73 million gallons, while the Hatcher plant contributed 8.26 million gallons.
Last year, total water production was listed at 10.91 million gallons for those dates.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 606 cubic feet per second (cfs) in Pagosa Springs as of 10 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13.
Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 514 cfs.
The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1985 at 1,930 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 120 cfs, recorded in 1977.
As of 10 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 492 cfs.
Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 784 cfs.
The highest recorded rate for this date was 2,600 cfs in 1985. The lowest recorded rate was 128 cfs in 1977.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 33.8 inches of snow water equivalent as of 10 p.m. on April 13.
That amount is 79 percent of the April 13 median for this site.
The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River basins were at 61 percent of the April 13 median in terms of snowpack.