This week the PBT team is gathering footage and servicing timelapse camera systems in the farthest reaches of the Platte River Basin, high up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. We’re looking at snowmelt and runoff in the North Platte drainage at Jack Creek and Silver Creek……and at our highest camera at Lake Agnes just below the Continental Divide.
We’re following up on a trip the PBT team took to the headwaters in late January, reporting on how scientists and water managers figure out how much water results from mountain snowpack.
After hiking, or in some cases, snowshoeing (even in mid-June!) into our camera locations, we’ve been upgrading our cameras outside of cell service range with satellite confidence technology. This will allow us to ensure the cameras are working from our home base of Lincoln, Nebraska, by sending an email every time the camera takes a photo.
During the past year we’ve been updating the technology on nearly all of our cameras (42 total) throughout the Platte Basin. Those in areas with sufficient cell service now upload photos directly to our servers, meaning we no longer have visit them and swap out image cards every few months.
This trip also marks the start of our three-year effort to produce a public television documentary on the Platte River Basin. We’ll also use video footage in our forthcoming multimedia stories and projects.
We also traveled to the South Platte watershed, which received very high snowpack this year. Here we’re investigating the trans-basin water diversion from the upper reaches of the Colorado River.
Each year, more than 250,000 acre feet of water, mostly snowmelt, travels through a series of dams and reservoirs including Willow Creek Reservoir (where one of our cameras is located) through the Adams Tunnel under Rocky Mountain National Park into the South Platte drainage to reach thirsty cities and fields along Colorado’s Front Range.
That complex plumbing system, called The Big Thompson Project, has been delivering western water to the more populous east since it was officially completed in 1957.
Before heading home we’ll visit the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River in the heart of downtown Denver, where the gold rush community began in the late 1850s. We’ll see how much of that high mountain water is flowing through the city as the snow melts down the crest of the Front Range.
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