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Northern Water Reservoirs Full As Spring Runoff Intensifies

Luke Runyon

Northern Colorado’s water storage is nearing capacity headed into the peak season for farm and residential users due to mountain snow melt and rains. Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake are already full.

“We haven’t been this full for a couple years at the two reservoirs,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

“We’re anticipating that we’re going to fill our west slope storage as well. Lake Granby the second largest reservoir in the state, we anticipate, that if we don’t fill it up completely we’re going to get very close,” Werner said.

"What it means is we can't capture much of that water."

Both the Cache La Poudre and the Big Thompson rivers have gone over their average peak Werner notes.

High mountain snow melt and recent rains caused the Big Thompson River to peak at 11 hundred cubic feet per second over the weekend, well above its usual peak of 900 cubic feet per second.

The Cache La Poudre peaked at 4700 cubic feet per second over the Memorial Day weekend, it’s normal peak is 3,000 cubic feet per second.

Flooding from the Poudre river closed several streets in Greeley, including a section of the Poudre River Trail, a hiking and bicycling trail that runs along the river.

“What it means is we can’t capture much of that water. And most of the local storage, the reservoirs, that people see when they drive around Northern Colorado are full for the most part, so what’s going to happen unless ditches are opened and are ready to take as much of that water as they can, we’re going to see a lot of that water just pass downstream into Nebraska,” he said.

The rivers aren’t expected to drop below flood stage until Thursday morning.

“What we’re hoping this year is that maybe we’ve seen the peak on those rivers, and it’s sort of the slow steady melt off in the mountains which helps with your rivers instead of it gets up to 90 and it all comes out at once,” Werner said.

Werner cautioned that river banks remain unstable due to water level fluctuations. 

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