Irrigation Outlook Comparable to 2002

Bureau of Reclamation Wyoming Area Manager Coleman Smith Jr.

This year's drought feels a lot like deja vu of the last drought this region experienced. The Bureau of Reclamation presented the irrigation outlook at the North Platte Water Operations meeting Thursday in Scottsbluff. Wyoming Area Manager Coleman Smith Jr. says outlook is dismal. He says irrigators should prepare for a year comparable to 2002 - the bench mark year being the worst in the previous drought.

Recent winter storms have improve snowpack levels in the mountains in Wyoming, but conditions remain well well-below average. The Bureau of Reclamation is forecasting inflows April through July of 250 thousand acre foot, that's about 30 percent of normal. Smith says all water users will need to look at water consumption and conserving as much water as possible. The Bureau of Reclamation says irrigation districts may also consider water loans from the storage in the upper reaches. The last time water loans were used was in 2002 and 1989.

The recent snow storms improved snowpack. From Monday to Wednesday the snowpack for the Lower North Platte increased six percentage points while the Upper North Platte increased two points. As of Wednesday the Upper North Platte is 78 percent snowpack, the Lower North Platte is at 64 percent, the lowest snowpack level in the state of Wyoming.

Smith is forecasting inflows into Seminoe Reservoir to be approximately 210 thousand acre foot. That's below 2012 inflows of 268 thousand acre foot, but higher than the nearly 118 thousand acre foot of inflows in 2002. Smith says levels will be highly dependent on the runoff. If a lot of the snow melt is absorbed by the dry soil, then inflows will lower than anticipated.

Currently Seminoe Reservoir is 48 percent full with nearly 487 thousand acre foot, which is 96 percent of average for time of year. Pathfinder is 39 percent full with 414 thousand acre foot, Glendo is 72 percent full with 352 thousand acre foot and Guernsey has almost 7 thousand acre foot, which is 15 percent full and only 29 percent of average.

The weather outlook April - June is calling for equal chances of above or below average precipitation, while temperatures are forecast to above normal over the next three months.

Allocations will be in place this year and likely for 2014 unless conditions greatly improve.

© 2014 Rural Radio Network. All rights reserved. Republishing, rebroadcasting, rewriting, redistributing prohibited. Copyright Information