U.S. Drought Monitor warns of 'extreme' conditions in northwest Colorado

By Real Vail
Real AspenJune 1, 2012
The U.S. Drought Monitor expanded the area in northwest Colorado that is designated as being in extreme drought, growing 3 percent in the last week to cover about 10 percent of the state. The May 29 map, released Thursday, shows 100 percent of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought condition.

The extreme drought area abuts Eagle County and includes most of Garfield, Rio Blanco, and Routt counties as well as portions of Moffat, Pitkin, and Mesa counties. Drought intensity in Eagle County is D2, severe, and D3, extreme – just on the western boundary – on a scale of D0 to D4.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is one of several drought monitoring tools produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center that helps people assess drought severity and impacts. Another tool is the Vegetation Drought Response Index that depicts vegetation stress across the contiguous United States. The vegetation condition in Eagle County is described as pre-drought, moderate drought, and severe drought.

Water available for local vegetation could be limited this year. At Wednesday's Eagle River Valley State of the River meeting, Mage Hultstrand of the Natural Resources Conservation Service said the snow water equivalent for the Eagle River basin on May 30 was just three percent of the historical average.

Hultstrand also noted the Vail Mountain SNOTEL (snow telemetry) site melted out completely on April 7, nearly eleven weeks earlier than normal, and said stream flows for the Eagle River below Gypsum are forecast to be at 43 percent of average.

With community water supply largely dependent upon adequate flows in local streams and rivers, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District encourages its customers to take action to lessen the impact of drought.

Customers are also urged to protect their investment made in landscaping by following best practices that encourage a deep root system, which helps plants get through dry spells.

Should drought conditions persist, ERWSD officials say water available for irrigation and other outdoor uses may be less than normal, or unavailable, this year. Currently, normal year-round Water Use Regulations are in effect. For more information go to www.erwsd.org or call ERWSD Customer Service at 970-477-5451.

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