Drought conditions across southern Colorado are comparable to the summers of 2012 and 2013 when a combined 857 homes burned in the Waldo Canyon (2012) and Black Forest (2013) wildfires in El Paso County. "The fuels are dry, they’re plentiful, and the heat is a problem," said El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, who on Tuesday enacted Stage II Burn Restrictions. "We decided that based on the predictions for moisture content in the next couple of days we weren’t going to waste any more time."
According to the United States Drought Monitor, nearly 64 percent of Colorado is experiencing at least moderate drought, half of the state has at least severe drought, and the entire southern one-third of the state is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. By comparison, at the same time last year, zero percent of Colorado was in drought status. First Alert 5 Lead Forecaster Mike Daniels says the La Niña cooling of the Pacific Ocean during the winter of 2017-18 is the reason behind the current drought. "Once that La Niña kicked in and pushed the storm track well up to the north of us, all the storms that contained the moisture that we needed so badly were shifted up to the north of us, so after September, we had real dry conditions throughout the fall, throughout the winter, and most of the spring, as well," Daniels explained.
Despite the drought, Colorado Springs Utilities says there is no risk of water conservation restrictions this summer. "Fortunately, we’re coming out of about four years of average to above-average snow pack and our customer demand has been down for the past several years, so our storage situation is actually pretty good, given the conditions," said Colorado Springs Utilities project engineer Kalsoum Abbasi. "Certainly, if we go through another dry winter like we did this year, that’s when we may need to reevaluate next spring and that’s when the conversation about watering restrictions may come into play," Abbasi said.