June 21, 2012--Thirsty for more (Durango Telegraph)

The Colorado landscape is looking pretty thirsty these days. Seventy-five percent of the state is under drought conditions, the snowpack is only 19 percent of its average, and forecasts predict the same situation or worse through August. According to a May report from the National Resources Conservation Service, “as the disappointing winter of 2012 draws to a close, the state’s water managers prepare for what will likely be one of the lowest runoff years since 2002.” As Durangoans know, that was the year of the Missionary Ridge Fire, and this year marks its 10-year anniversary. But no one’s ready to push the panic button just yet; current conditions are not the same. In 2002, La Plata County was suffering from exceptional drought. This year the county is under moderate drought. Ten years ago, 78 percent of the state was under extreme drought. Currently, less than 10 percent of Coloradoans are feeling those kinds of conditions. Also, the Animas River is running around 1,200 cubic feet per second. That’s less than half the average, around 3,000 cfs, but still a far cry from the record lows in 2002 of 500 cfs. “There’s still some moisture out there,” said Durango Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Noonan. “But with each passing day, the situation is changing.” The snowmelt came four to six weeks earlier than normal this year, rushing the rapids and depleting the water sources a little early. And the state is trending toward drier and drier conditions. Three months ago, 40 percent of Colorado was suffering from moderate drought. Last week, it was 68 percent. Now that number has jumped to more than 75 percent.

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