Drought situation improves in Mesa County

Conditions have moved to abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions. This is a dramatic difference from the exceptional and extreme drought conditions we were in over the summer.
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 8:52 PM MST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2022 at 3:19 PM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Last week Mesa County’s drought conditions improved, moving to abnormally dry (D0) and moderate (D1) drought conditions. This is a dramatic difference from last year at this time when the county was in exceptional (D4) and extreme (D3) drought conditions, which is the highest scale on the drought meter.

“What we experienced this year was very unique and it was kind of the perfect storm,” said Ute Water External Affairs Manager Andrea Lopez.

Andrea Lopez explains that in October Mesa County had really heavy rain and precipitation, followed by a significant amount of early winter snow.

“So we’re hoping when we get towards the runoff season which is late spring, early summer, that the snow will turn into water and run into our reservoirs and watersheds,” said Lopez. “As opposed to what we saw last year of the ground soaking up a majority of that runoff and hardly giving any to our watersheds.”

Colorado River District Director of Technical Advocacy Brendon Langenhuizen says the snow pack and storm cycles that came through in late December brought the Grand Valley from below average snow pack up to exceptionally above average snow pack.

“So the Colorado basin as a whole inside our state we’re about 125% above average and in the grand mesa area its 160% above average which is great news,” said Brendon Langenhuizen.

Officials are hopeful that between the early rain and early snowfall that the area will have a good runoff this year.

“Drought not only impacts our water supply and our water availability, it impacts many different industries that are near and dear to our community that help us keep an economic driver in our community,” said Lopez. “Things like ag and recreation are also impacted by drought.”

Ute Water pulls water primarily from the Jerry Creek reservoirs on the Grand Mesa. They ended 2021 at 82.6% full.

“That is water that comes directly to our customers taps and it comes down canals as irrigation water,” said Lopez. “It’s so vital to our community.”

Although drought conditions are looking up, officials urge residents to still treat water as a scarce resource and to keep practicing water conservation efforts so we don’t use up what we’ve built up and the progress we’ve made. Andrea Lopez’s trick is to treat these habits like a diet and make it part of a lifestyle, instead of fluctuating based on current conditions.

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