2023 Streamflow Forecast

april runoff

With record snowfall in parts of Colorado this winter, we’re excited to share this year’s Streamflow Forecast with you!

Every spring, Colorado Water Trust staff begin outreach to our project partners to analyze streamflow forecasts and determine which rivers will most likely be in need of water. And we’ve just begun this exciting process for 2023.

For the first time in a number of years, the streamflow runoff forecast is 100% of median or more in nearly all basins! This is especially good news for the Southwest part of the state which is seeing record amounts of snow after several very dry years. The totals are nearing all time records but we would need a snowy April to match the record peak.

Spring conditions are increasingly important to the summer streamflow picture and dry windy conditions can take a serious toll on the available runoff, but for now, these are the best conditions one could imagine for a summer of healthy rivers and streams.

Because many of our projects use a short-term lease to restore water to a Colorado river or stream, some of our temporary projects will likely not need to operate this year. Short-term leases allow the Colorado Water Conservation Board to use a lessee’s water in 3 or 5 out of 10 years, so we aim to run those projects in the years when the river needs the most help.

That said, there are still rivers and streams, such as the Yampa River and the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado, where flows can be too low, even in a good hydrological year. We are currently talking with our partners on those projects and others to determine how much water these rivers might need this year to support healthy flows.

In addition, a good hydrological year frees up some of our time to focus more on developing new projects. Each year, we receive dozens of inquiries through Request for Water and we have a number of new projects in our pipeline that require investigation, assessment of potential streamflow benefits, and identification of restoration options. We are excited to start developing more viable projects that will restore water to rivers and streams throughout the state.

Stay tuned to learn which rivers will be boosted this year as well as the progress on our new projects that all aim to keep rivers flowing for Colorado’s communities, ecosystems, and economies!