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Water levels in Colorado rivers, basins and reservoirs

Colorado River at Las Colonias Park
Colorado River at Las Colonias Park(KKCO / KJCT)
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 4:45 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - Colorado has been going through an extensive drought this summer, and we can say that this has been an ongoing trend for the past several years. While conditions stay dry and temperatures remain hot, one aspect that many overlooks are our rivers, streams, reservoirs, and basins.

Drought conditions can severely affect many bodies of water within the state. Snowfall during the winter season is just as crucial as precipitation, especially for areas across the Western Slope. Below-average snowfall during the winter can translate to below-average snow melt when the summer season rolls around. Below-average snowmelt leads to little runoff, an essential part of our water bodies. As a result, we can see many more changes in the lower valleys where some snowfall occurs but does not compare to the higher elevations.

Little snowmelt in the lower valleys can translate to less saturated surfaces. In the higher elevations, this is a different occurrence. As a result, higher elevations can receive snowfall more often throughout the year, even leading into the start of the summer and excessive amounts. With more significant amounts of snowfall in the higher elevations and areas in the high country, it can lead to levels in rivers, basins, and reservoirs in that area staying closer than average compared to the lower valleys.

The location of the body of water can have different measurements, which can relate to the levels and stream flow. An example of the lower valleys is near the Utah and Colorado state lines, where the average of the Colorado River is 17,000 CFS (cubic feet per second). However, the river at this location only flows at 10,300 CFS, where the difference is 6,700 CFS. In comparison, in Glenwood Springs, the average is 10,000 CFS, currently flowing at 7,480 CFS which makes a difference of 2,520 CFS. Glenwood springs sit in the high country, which translates to more snowmelt in the area. While both locations are still below average, there is a significant difference between the stream flow.

There are ways that the community can help contribute to water conversation, and this can include using less water, avoiding sprinkling your grass, or taking shorter showers. In addition, it can help prevent pulling water from active basins or reservoirs.

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