Dolores River 2018 Outlook - March Update
Southwest Colorado - The lower Dolores River, which peaked at 4000cfs and ran at boatable levels for more than 60 days last year, is now facing one of the driest years on record. 2018 conditions across the region are setting new lows for water-level and snowpack - both key factors affecting the 2018 boating season.
AW and a small group of decision-makers and water managers met last week to review the emerging water supply forecasts and Dolores Project operating plans for 2018. The Dolores River Monitoring and Recovery Team meets each spring once the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center (CRBFC) releases its March Outlook for the basin. This time of year the Dolores watershed typically holds about 295,000 acre-feet of water, with more snow arriving through March and April.
The March 2018 forecast from CRBFC puts that number down around 113,000 acre-feet, or 38% of average for this time of year. Without additional snow storms, this number is likely to drop and there won’t be water available for boating releases. 2018 is shaping up like other notable low-water years, such as 2002, 1990 and even 1977.
McPhee currently has 132,000 Acre Feet of active storage that can provide nearly half of the 2018 water needs for the local community. This higher than normal carry over provides some insurance given the current conditions. With inflows remaining on the low end, carryover into 2019 will be low and increase the potential for future shortages.