Fall is here, and winter is right around the corner.
During this time of year, the river isn’t expected to be rushing. The San Juan River normally winds leisurely through Pagosa Country being adorned by the falling golden leaves — a perfect backdrop for a lovely photo. Or possibly the river might take on another meaning for those looking to catch fish.
Either way, those who have looked closely at the San Juan River during the past week may have noticed something: it is running low. In fact, according to U.S. Geological Survey data, on Oct. 17, the river was running at 66 cubic feet per second.
Last year on Oct. 17, USGS recorded the streamflow at 358 cfs.
This year’s streamflow in the San Juan is much closer to that recorded in 2002 — a year of severe drought. On Oct. 17, 2002, the USGS recorded the streamflow as 53 cfs.
According to the records of the USGS, the lowest streamflow from 1936 to 2002 was recorded in August 2002 at 8.3 cfs, marking the year of 2002 as one of the driest years on record for Archuleta County and most of Colorado.
The 1936-2002 mean for the San Juan’s streamflow in October, according to the USGS, is 146 cfs.
Yet, even with streamflows unseasonably low, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District does not anticipate any problems providing customers with water through the season.
“Despite the low stream flows, PAWSD is not currently experiencing any difficulty in pulling the water needed for either of the primary water treatment plants — San Juan and Snowball,” PAWSD Special Project Manager Renee Lewis said, adding, “Because fall is typically a lower-demand season, as irrigation tapers off or ceases entirely, and all of our reservoirs are almost full except for Hatcher and Stevens, we do not anticipate encouraging any conservation measures at this time.”