By Clayton Chaney
At a special meeting on Monday, July 19, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors voted unanimously to enter into Stage 1 drought restrictions in compliance with its 2020 Drought Management Plan.
At the special meeting, District Manager Justin Ramsey explained that the primary factor behind deciding when to enter into the restrictions is the San Juan River flow rate.
“We’re not seeing an average flow anywhere near median, so that’s where we’re at,” Ramsey stated.
He explained that it is not likely that the river will rise enough in the next month or two to where it would no longer meet the Stage 1 restriction requirement.
Ramsey explained that with entering into the Stage 1 restrictions, there is still no requirement as to which days residents are allowed to water lawns.
However, he mentioned that PAWSD is still asking people to voluntarily irrigate on an odd/even schedule where those with even-numbered addresses irrigating only on even-numbered days and odd-numbered addresses irrigating only on odd-numbered days.
Ramsey explained that one requirement with the Stage 1 restrictions is that residents must irrigate after 6 p.m. and before 9 a.m.
Board member Glenn Walsh noted that this is the first time the district has been through this process under the 2020 Drought Management Plan.
“We came up with a plan that maybe not everyone is completely comfortable with, but everyone saw as being valuable and fair,” Walsh said.
He indicated that in the fall of this year, the board may reevaluate the plan as to how the district can incorporate best practices simply for the sake of them being best practices and not just drought-management tools.
“What we don’t need is empty virtue signaling and feckless regulations that we don’t enforce,” Walsh said.
According to a July 20 press release from Ramsey, Hatcher Lake dropped 4 inches from last week’s report and is now at 14 inches from full.
Stevens Lake dropped another 3 inches from last week’s report and is now at 6 inches from full.
Lake Pagosa’s water level remained the same from last week’s report at 5 inches from full.
Village Lake dropped 2 inches from last week’s report and is now at 6 inches from full.
Lake Forest’s water level remained the same for the third straight week at 2 inches from full.
Total diversion flows rose from 4.5 cubic feet per second (cfs) in last week’s report to 5.5 cfs this week.
The West Fork diversion flow rose from 1.5 cfs to 2.5 cfs and the San Juan diversion flow remained the same at 3 cfs.
Water production from July 8 through July 14 was listed at a total of 19.19 million gallons. The Snowball water plant contributed 4.82 million gallons, while the Hatcher plant contributed 8.4 million gallons and the San Juan water plant contributed 5.97 million gallons.
Last year, total water production was listed at 21.68 million gallons for those dates.
The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) was updated on July 13, showing that 100 percent of Archuleta County is in a moderate drought and more than half of the county is in severe drought.
The NIDIS website notes that under a moderate drought stage, dry-land crops may suffer, rangeland growth is stunted, very little hay is available and risk of wildfires may increase.
The NIDIS website also notes that 71.17 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage.
According to the NIDIS, under a severe drought stage, fire season is extended.
Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 51.04 percent of the county is in an extreme drought, mostly in the western portion of the county.
The NIDIS website notes that under an extreme drought stage, large fires may develop and pasture conditions worsen.
According to the NIDIS, 6.24 percent of the county, in the southwestern portion, is in an exceptional drought stage.
Under an exceptional drought stage, agricultural and recreational losses are large and dust storms and topsoil removal are widespread
For more information and maps, visit: https://www.drought.gov/states/Colorado/county/Archuleta.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 81.7 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20.
Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 263 cfs.
The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1941 at 1,470 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 15.4 cfs, recorded in 2002.
As of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 66.2 cfs. This is an increase from a July 14 reading of 62.3 cfs.
Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 232 cfs.
The highest recorded rate for this date was 1,350 cfs in 1986. The lowest recorded rate was 10.3 cfs in 2002.
According to the National Weather Service, today, July 22, temperatures are forecasted to reach a high of 85 degrees and low of 52 degrees, with an 80 percent chance of precipitation and a 60 percent chance of rain at night.
For Friday, July 23, the forecasted high is 84 degrees with a low of 52 degrees. There is a 90 percent chance of thunderstorms and a 70 percent chance of showers at night.
For Saturday, July 24, temperatures are forecasted to reach a high of 82 degrees and a low of 51 degrees with an 80 percent chance of precipitation that day.
For Sunday, July 25, the forecasted high is 80, and showers and thunderstorms are likely. The forecasted low for this day is 52.