Western Colorado Continues to Suffer From Drought



Drought conditions improve in NE Colorado while the Western Slope continues to suffer.

According to the May 4 update from the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), 16% of Colorado is in the exceptional drought category, 15% is in an extreme drought, 21% is in a severe drought, 28% is in a moderate drought, and 12% of the state is abnormally dry. Collectively, 92% of Colorado is in a drought. While drought conditions improved on the Front Range and parts of the Northeast region became drought free, the Western Slope suffers from worsening drought conditions. The map featured above shows the drought conditions on May 4.

According to the April 2021 Drought Update from the Water Availability & Flood Task Forces, April snow accumulation was below normal as considerable snow melt continues to occur. Low base flows will likely persist due to dry soils and below normal precipitation. Basins should continue to prepare for a low runoff year. Colorado’s Drought Plan remains in Phase 3 Activation, which is likely to continue. Water providers across the state report average to slightly below average storage levels and near normal demands. Drought management planning and potential restrictions are being discussed through multiple coordination groups.

As of now there are no restrictions being enforced by Denver Water other than the annual Outdoor Watering Rules. Following the summer watering rules is the right thing to do in our dry climate and helps preserve reservoir levels, reducing the risk of water restrictions in the future.

As of May 11, 2021 statewide snowpack is at 66% of average. Only one part of Colorado is above the to-date median – the South Platte zone at 107 percent.

As of May 10, cumulative precipitation in the Colorado River watershed was tracking at 82% of average and the South Platte River watershed was tracking at 96% of average. On April 29, snowpack peaked at 91% of normal in the Colorado River watershed and on April 24, snowpack peaked at 97% of normal peak in the South Platte River watershed.

Denver Water’s reservoir levels are 79% full. This time last year they were 82% full. Denver Water’s supply reservoir contents as of May 10, 2021 are represented in the table below.

 

ReservoirPercent Full: CurrentPercent Full: Historical Median
Antero101%100%
Eleven Mile99%102%
Cheesman79%92%
Marston81%77%
Strontia Springs92%93%
Chatfield103%93%
Dillon84%92%
Gross33%51%
Ralston54%81%

The district will continue to work with Denver Water on monitoring the watersheds and will provide updates to our customers through our website and social media channels.