National Weather Service – Drought Information Statement


Monsoon rains have brought some relief in the drought for portions of southern Colorado.  Widespread precipitation levels were reported between three and four inches across the southeast mountains so far in July.  However, this moisture still has not been as much or widespread enough to bring any long term relief to the drought gripping the region for the past two years. 

The current drought monitor reports D4-exeptional conditions across most of the southeast Colorado plains and includes south central and southeast portions of El Paso County, portions of Pueblo and Las Animas Counties as well as all of Crowley, Otero, Kiowa, Bent, Prowers and Baca Counties.  Some D3 and D2 conditions exist in other south central and southeast portions of the state. 

With the onset of the summer monsoon, areas in and around some recently created burn scars resulting from wildfires in the state, have also experienced destructive flash flooding due to the loss of vegetation and the development of hydrophobic soils caused by the fires.  Hydrophobic soils become somewhat water repellant following fires, which accelerates water runoff and subsequent mud slides which have been experienced in portions of Colorado Springs and Manitou recently.  At the same time, the monsoon rains have provided some short term relief to the area with several large municipal water providers easing or having plans to ease their water restrictions implemented this past spring including Denver water and Colorado Springs Utilities. 

The latest CPC and VIC soil moisture calculations continue to indicate slight improvements in conditions across portions of south central and southeast Colorado.  However, conditions remain generally below to well below normal, with the largest deficits in soil monitors indicated across central portions of the southeast Plains. 

The latest USDA Colorado Crop report also indicates some improvement in soil moisture conditions with 80% of top soil moisture rated at short or very short across the state.  This compares to 86% of top soil moisture rated tat short or very short last week and to 78% at this tame time last year.  Not much change was indicated in subsoil moisture across the same with 89% rated at short or very short this week, compared to the same 89% last week and to 87% at this same time last year.  However, the previous lack of moisture has prompted agriculture officials to lower the forecast for this year’s Colorado winter wheat harvest.  As reported by AP in the Colorado Springs Gazette, the latest forecast estimates the winter wheat harvest will be 49.5 million bushels this year, which is 18% lower than the June 1st forecast and is 33% below last year’s harvest. 

This year’s low snowpack across the Colorado Rio Grande Basin is rearing its head on downstream users, especially in New Mexico.  The Albuquerque journal recently reported that officials expected water in the Rio Grande Downstream of Elephant Butte Reservoir to begin Drying by July 14, ending the shortest irrigation season on record for water users in the lower Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico and leaving Elephant Butte Reservoir at its lower point in more than 40 years.  With some late season runoff helping to fill some reservoirs, mainly across the northern basins of Colorado, statewide storage was up to 78% of average at the end of June. 

In the Arkansas Basin, storage levels at the end of June were running at 58% of average overall and 81% of the storage available at this same time last year. Streamflow forecasts remain below average across much of the state with the Arkansas and Gunnison Basins also are indicating low forecasts ranging from 26 to 71% of normal flows. 

Precipitation levels for these southeast Colorado cities are listed for the past 365 days and a comparison to how they are off normal levels for the same time period: 

                                        Current        Departure from Normal

Eads                                   5.46                        1.85
Haswell                             7.68                        7.66
Lamar                                6.52                        8.68
Campo                              9.82                        7.14
Walsh                             13.92                        5.24
Las Animas                       7.58                        6.15
Kim                                    8.78                        8.06
Walsenburg                     9.87                        8.17
Trinidad                            6.38                        9.93

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