VAIL, Colorado - Extreme drought conditions have been introduced in the Yampa, Colorado and Gunnison river basins, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The latest map, released Thursday, shows 96 percent of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought condition, with drought intensity in northwestern Colorado "extreme."The U.S. Drought Monitor classifies drought intensity on a scale of D0 to D4. Drought intensity in Eagle County remains at D2, severe, while points just west were elevated to D3, extreme, from the previous week. The area includes most of Garfield and Rio Blanco counties and is the only region in Colorado currently categorized as extreme. The "extreme drought" area comprises 7.27 percent of the state.Gov. John Hickenlooper expanded the activation of Colorado's Drought Mitigation and Response Plan last week to include the Yampa/White, Colorado and Gunnison river basins. Phase 2 of the state plan was activated more than a year ago due to deteriorating drought conditions in the Arkansas and Rio Grande river basins, and it remains active for those portions of Colorado.According to Colorado's Water Availability Task Force, April 2012 was the fourth warmest on record in Colorado. March 2012 was the third warmest for Colorado and tied 1966 for the driest on record. Records date back to 1895. The past two months' temperatures have been five degrees above average for most of Colorado.This winter's warmer- and drier-than-normal weather resulted in record low snowpack, which has been melting earlier than normal, leaving streamflow forecasts well below average. Statewide streamflow forecasts have dropped 5 percent to 15 percent since April 1.Data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service showed the Colorado River basin had its lowest May 1 snowpack on record (45-year record) at 21 percent of average for that date. The service's May 1 streamflow forecast puts the entire Colorado River basin at less than 50 percent of average, with the Eagle River below Gypsum forecast to be at 43 percent of average.Eagle River Water & Sanitation District continues to closely monitor variables affecting local water supply. Should drought conditions persist, water available for irrigation and other outdoor uses may be less than normal this year. Currently, normal year-round water-use regulations are in effect.The district encourages customers to take action to lessen the impact of drought on our community by carefully considering their outdoor water needs and adhering to the regulations, which allow up to three days per week of outdoor water use, per the odd/even schedule. For more information, call the district at 970-477-5451.
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