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A Boating Spill Into The Lower Dolores River Is Now Extremely Unlikely

Amanda Wilson
Creative Commons
  • A boating spill from McPhee Reservoir into the lower Dolores River is now extremely unlikely.
  • Western snowpack drops at record speed in April.

A boating spill from McPhee Reservoir into the Dolores River is now “extremely unlikely”. On its website, the Dolores Water Conservancy District, which manages the reservoir, says the May 1st Colorado River Basin Forecast Center forecast for inflow has dropped by 15,000 acre-feet. April precipitation was below normal and McPhee is 80,000 acre-feet short of being full. Although runoff is expected to increase quickly, the district says, irrigation will too. Only an extreme event such as last year’s so-called “miracle May” could fill the reservoir and allow for a spill at this point.

Western snowpack dropped at record speed in April, according to the final 2016 forecast by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Snowpack is at 85 percent of median in the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River Basins, though the Dolores watershed alone is at 104 percent. The latest weather models predict that El Niño will end by early summer, to be followed by a neutral summer, then La Niña conditions beginning in fall. La Niña produces generally the opposite effects of El Niño, with above-average  precipitation in areas such as the northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest but dry weather in the Southwest.

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