Despite plentiful snowfall this winter and a rainy spring on the Western Slope, local water experts took a cautious tone at the 2019 State of the River meeting Tuesday night.
Snowpacks and inflow at reservoirs across the state are well above average, but that isn't necessarily an indicator for the future, said Erik Knight, a hydrologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
There have been multiple examples of precipitation swinging from very dry to very wet and back again the next year, Knight said.
"Unusual is now the usual," Knight said. "There's variability in the whole situation. Just because it's wet doesn't mean it can't turn dry the next year, and just because it's dry doesn't mean it can't turn around and even out."
Hannah Holm, coordinator for the Hutchins Water Center at Colorado Mesa University, said while a wet year can give water users a break, it doesn't change trends.
"The long-term trend is that it's drier," Holm said. "The overall precipitation trend is flat, but because of increased temperatures over that same time frame, the amount of water in the river is going down."
Water users like towns and cities, farmers and the recreation industry are still collaborating on a solution for the problem of less water to go around, Holm said.
Many of those solutions are still in the early stages, like incentivizing farmers to irrigate less as a way to increase water storage in reservoirs.
"Even if we had one more year like last year, we would have a whole lot of people in a lot of hurt," Holm said. "Nobody really expects this to make a difference in the fact that long term, we expect to see less water in the river."