Tribe focused on drought resiliency planning

The Southern Ute Water Resources Division (WRD) has a Drought Management Plan (DMP) that was developed in May of 2019 as part of Drought Resiliency Planning for current and future droughts. The DMP describes actions that Water Resources Division and a Drought Task Force must take when certain drought triggers are met. The only current action is to update the Drought Task Force periodically about local drought conditions. Historically, WRD has sent updates about every two months. WRD decided to publish this drought update to keep everyone up to date on current drought conditions in our area. 

Monsoon rains have been intense since the last drought update in June and the moisture has helped significantly improve local drought conditions. This update describes precipitation and temperature, changes in local drought conditions, and local forecast outlooks for this fall. 


Over the last two months, the rain gauge outside the Southern Ute Water Resources Division office has collected 6.25 inches of rain. Southwest Colorado has received above average precipitation over the last month. However, we’ve also had a month of slightly above average temperatures. This summer has been wetter and warmer than normal, but the rains have helped our region greatly. 

Figure 1. The 30-day percent of normal precipitation throughout the western U.S.


Figure 2. The 30-day departure from normal temperature throughout the western U.S.

Regional data shows current reservoir capacities in our watershed. Vallecito Reservoir is currently 56% full and still receiving substantial inflows from monsoon rains. The Pine River will more than likely have a full irrigation season. However, Lemon Reservoir is currently 39% full. At the beginning of the irrigation season, Florida irrigators were told they would have a 50% supply and the season would end mid-July. But with the recent monsoonal rains, Florida irrigators have a 60% supply, and the season will likely end the week of August 15 unless the Florida Water Conservancy District (FWCD) determines they can extend the season longer. Florida irrigators may have a longer season but only time will tell.

Figure 3. Reservoir capacities in our region as of 8/7/2022.

Figure 4. The 7-day U.S. precipitation forecast from 8/8 to 8/15.

Drought Changes 

The monsoon season has helped local drought conditions since the last drought update. Southwest Colorado drought conditions were slightly alleviated with the onset of monsoons. We’re still in a drought, but the rains have helped a lot. And looking at the Southern Ute reservation specifically, drought has been alleviated since the last update, especially where most of the irrigation takes place in the central part of the reservation. Drought conditions are much better this year compared to last year, so this year’s monsoons have been extremely helpful and much needed. 

Figure 5. Drought condition comparison in Colorado.

Figure 6. Drought condition comparison within the Southern Ute reservation boundaries.

Figure 7. Drought condition comparison within the reservation between 2021 and 2022.

Forecasts and Outlooks 

As you may have noticed, the first week of August was very wet and the rest of the month is forecasted to have above average precipitation. Data trends show August through October having slightly below average precipitation, but our area is on the edge of that forecast, so anything could happen. 

Figure 8. The 3-month precipitation outlook for the U.S.

Figure 9. The 3-month temperature outlook for the U.S.

The 1-month temperature outlook shows August having below average temperatures for our area, with September and October being warm. Regardless, expect August to be wetter and cooler than average, and expect the fall to be slightly drier and warmer than average. 

However, even with our region forecasted to have a drier and warmer fall, the drought outlook shows our area improving in drought conditions. This just goes to show things can change even when outlooks don’t look promising. 

Figure 10. United States seasonal drought outlook from August to October.

To sum up this drought update, this summer has had above average precipitation and temperatures which has improved local drought conditions, especially compared to last year. The Pine River will likely have a full irrigation season and the Florida will likely have the irrigation season ending in the next week or so. This fall will likely be slightly drier and warmer than usual, but drought conditions are forecasted to improve. 


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