Northern Water ups water quota due to record reservoir levels

Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Board increased the Colorado-Big Thompson Project quota allocation to 70 percent on April 10. With C-BT project storage at an all-time high for April 1, local storage reservoirs above normal and mountain snowpacks declining, the board chose to make available an average supplemental quota for 2015.

The approval increased available C-BT water supplies by 20 percent, or 62,000 acre feet, from the initial 50 percent quota made available in November.

The board considered input from farmers and municipal water providers, demonstrating the varying demands and complex circumstances directors must consider when setting the quota. C-BT supplements other sources of water for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within the district’s 1.6 million-acre service area.

Directors carefully considered streamflow forecasts, which have declined since the beginning of March to below average in all C-BT related watersheds. Snowpack in watersheds contributing to C-BT inflow have gone from above average on March 1 to approximately 15 percent below average in April. In addition, March precipitation throughout the district’s boundaries was just 21 percent of average.

Directors also took into consideration the drought throughout much of the American West and the potential for a dry spring or summer. Board Vice-President Kenton Brunner emphasized, “The board always has the option to increase the quota in future months if conditions warrant.”

“We’re in good shape storage-wise and better prepared to have a down snowpack year than in many other years,” said Andy Pineda, Water Resources Department Manager. “The weather changes from year-to-year, and we never know how much precipitation the mountains will receive. So having storage reservoirs this full is very beneficial for water users.”

Directors based their decision on the need for supplemental water for the coming year, while balancing project operations and maintaining water in storage for future dry years.

To learn more about the district and C-BT quota, visit www.northernwater.org.

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