Colorado River peaks early this year, is at record low levels – The Denver Channel
DENVER — With dangerously low snowpack levels across the state, Colorado is facing water shortage.
“Our whole quality of life in the west and in Colorado stems from health of snowpack and stream flows,” said Jim Pokrandt with the Colorado River District, a public water policy agency chartered by the state General Assembly.
The Colorado River District is based in Glenwood Springs and monitors river flows constantly. Pokrandt said Colorado’s dry winter and lack of snow is where the trouble started and we’re now seeing those impacts.
“It is very serious,” he said.
Snowpack runoff to the Colorado River peaked over the weekend, way too early for this time of year and millions of gallons below normal, according to Colorado River District officials.
Sunday’s peak near Grand Junction was the third earliest peak ever, and delivered water levels around 6,520 cubic feet per second. Officials said this was the fourth lowest water volume level on record.
The only years with lower levels were 1977, 2002, and 2012. These critically dry years fueled two of the worst wildfires in Colorado history.
The Hayman fire in 2002, which killed five people, scorching 137,760 acres of land and destroying 133 homes, still ranks as the largest wildfire in history.
Then in 2012, Colorado experienced one of the worst wildfire seasons on record. More than 4,000 wildfires burned across the state; six people died, and more than 648 homes were destroyed. The fires also caused record losses of $538 million, according to a report by the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.
Five wildfires — the Lower North Fork, Waldo Canyon, High Park, Weber and Wetmore qualified for $25 million in reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
If history is any indication, Colorado is likely facing another bad wildfire season this year and state fire officials are