Andrea Lopez, spokeswoman for Ute Water Conservancy District, Center, talks about the Drought Response Information Project at a joint news conference along the banks of the Colorado River at Redlands Boat Ramp.

Abundant rain and snow this winter washed away Mesa County’s drought, but depleted water reserves are still recovering from one of the worst dry spells on record.

Most of Mesa County is now considered “normal,” local water officials announced Wednesday, with the southern part of the county still experiencing “abnormal dryness.”

It’s a dramatic shift from the end of September, when the entire county was in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Ute Water Conservancy District spokeswoman Andrea Lopez compared the state of water in Colorado to finances, with reservoirs as the state’s water savings accounts.

“Last year we dipped into our savings account, so while we’re well above average this year, many water providers are replacing water they took out of savings and trying to store as much of this year’s water as they can,” Lopez said.

Mesa County residents should continue to conserve water whenever possible, Lopez said, to make sure there’s enough water for future dry years.

If weather patterns change in the next month, or if this summer is as hot and dry as 2018, water gains will quickly disappear, said Amanda Fleming, water treatment operator for the Clifton Water District.

Clifton Water District pulls from the Colorado River, and the upper river basin is currently at 130 percent of average, Fleming said.

As snow melts, it will start to refill reservoirs that were severely depleted during the 2018 drought.

“Last summer we were consuming our regular amount of water and we weren’t getting the precipitation filling the reservoirs after consumption,” Fleming said.

But if this summer is as hot and dry, the state’s water reserves will be in the exact same place as they were in September.

Locals should consider that they live in the desert, Fleming said, and not try to landscape their properties like they live somewhere that gets plenty of rain.

“Living in the desert doesn’t mean it has to be brown and have no color,” she said. “There is a lot of information about species that don’t require as much water and are just as pleasant to look at.”

Tope Elementary School students Annalisa Bradley and Estella Berry are working with Ute Water to promote water conservancy in Mesa County.

Annalisa and Estella, both fifth-graders, worked on a project to solve the problem of drought in the community. They combined their ideas and research to design posters with information about how long and how often to water outdoors.

Their ideas are being used on fliers, billboards and mailers sent out by Ute Water.

“We ask that water conservation still be a community priority and to not forget the drought of the past year,” Lopez said.

As originally published by in the Daily Sentinel by Katie Langford on April 4, 2019

Original URL: https://www.gjsentinel.com/news/western_colorado/river-half-empty-half-full