Drought eases in Grand as rain keeps falling
September 19, 2013
Flash floods ripped through the Front Range on Wednesday night, Sept. 11, closing state parks, municipal buildings, and schools and claiming at least three lives.
Grand County didn't see the inches of rain the Front Range did, though the county could possibly move out of the D1 — moderate drought category — if precipitation continues, according to Treste Huse, a hydrologist with National Weather Service in Boulder.
Recent rain showers have brought most of Grand County to the average amount of precipitation in normal years and continued rains in the forecast could possibly bring portions of Grand County into a D0 classification, or abnormally dry.
Improvements in the lasting drought could come as early as next week for the county if precipitation continues, according to Zach Schwalbe, a research associate with the Colorado Climate Center.
“We are really grateful for the rain and the difference it has made in our water supply system.”
Denver Water spokesperson
The most recent release from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows an improvement from the beginning of the year, when all of the state was considered to be in a moderate drought and 95 percent of the state was considered to be in a severe drought. Currently, 1.97 percent of the state is considered to have no drought at all, 98.03 percent of the state is considered abnormally dry, and of that percentage, 93.08 percent of the state is still in a moderate drought.
Around this time last year, the percentage of the state considered to be in an "exceptional drought," or D4 classification, hit its highest point at 16.89 percent. Currently, only 3.01 percent of the state is considered to be in an exceptional drought.
The current forecast calls for rain through the weekend with the weather starting to dry up early next week.
Partly sunny skies will be accompanied by chances of rain showers and thunderstorms throughout the coming week, according to Kyle Fredin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder.
Getting close to normal
So far, Winter Park has received 6.69 inches of rain during the months of June, July, and August. The normal rainfall for Winter park during these three months is 5.93 inches, bringing the area to 113 percent of their average rainfall. In 2012, Winter Park received 6.28 inches, and in 2011 the area received 4.23 inches during these three months.
Grand Lake is currently at 94 percent of their normal rainfall for June, July, and August with 5.46 inches. The average rainfall during these three months for the Grand Lake area is 5.82 inches. In 2012, the area fell short of the average receiving 4.4 inches of rain, and in 2011 the area was above the average with 6.15 inches.
Kremmling has received the lowest amount of rainfall in the county by only receiving 2.66 inches of rain over the three-month period, 69 percent of the 3.86-inch average. Though the area has been above their average rainfall in the past two years with 4.04 inches falling in 2012 and 4.17 inches in 2011. The area still has a good chance to reach the average amount of rainfall with the current forecast and received 1.02 inches of rain between Sept. 1 and Sept. 10.
More rain, less water need
The increased amount of rain has also decreased the demand for water from reservoirs in the area, allowing the reservoir managers to slow down releases, which increases reservoir levels.
Denver Water has seen an overall increase in the storage of its reservoirs by 1 percentage point above the median storage amount for normal years.
"We are really grateful for the rain and the difference it has made in our water supply system," according to Denver Water spokesperson Stacy Chesney.
When heavy rains came, they lessened the demand for water from storage facilities as well as increased the amount of water coming into reservoirs, creating a win-win for water managers.
Despite the overall increases in Denver Water storage, Williams Fork and Wolford Mountain reservoirs have not seen an increase due to the area surrounding those reservoirs not receiving as much precipitation as other areas, according to Chesney.
Currently, 485 cubic-feet per second of water is being released form Green Mountain Reservoir, according to Kara Lamb, public information officer for the Bureau of Reclamation. Average release during this time of year is 528 cfs.
"We didn't have that much snow melt this year," Lamb said. "But despite that, we have gotten the reservoir pretty much filled."
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334