As the brilliant blue October skies brighten and contrast the spectacular colors of the fall foliage, the outlook for our rivers and streams are bleak, with a lack of rainfall (even after the passing of Hurricane Matthew) continuing the drought that has affected the area so adversely this past summer. On Tuesday afternoon, October 11, the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls was flowing at just 56 cubic feet per second. The average flow for this date over 102 years of record-keeping is 187 cfs. The East Branch Delaware at Fishs Eddy was recorded at 184 cfs, as compared to the average flow of 525 cfs over 61 years of record-keeping, with water temperatures last week from a high of 62 degrees to a low of 48 degree Fahrenheit just last night. The West Branch at Hale Eddy was not faring much better, flowing at 293 cubic feet per second, compared to the 52-year average flow of 522 on this date. Water temperatures this past week ranged from a high of 63 degrees to a low of 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The low flows on the East and West Branches are dictated by NYCity’s DEP, which monitors the Catskill reservoir system, and they are directly affected by reservoir capacity and water releases. As of this writing, the NYC DEP website showed the storage of the Catskill reservoir system as being only 68.4% capacity, compared to the “normal” reading of 75.8% capacity in October. Of our 6 Catskill reservoirs, Rondout has the highest capacity - 90.4%, followed by Neversink at 72.1% and Pepacton at 71.2%, Ashokan at 66.9%, Cannonsville at 45.3%. Schoharie Reservoir is just 10.3% (due to the work that is being done on the outlet). It’s easier to understand the reason for the low capacity of the reservoirs when looking at the rainfall we’ve received over the past three months: During the month of August we received just 3.69 inches of rain as compared to the historical average of 4.15 inches. September was much more dramatic, with just 2.28 inches of rainfall, less than half of the historic amount of 4.63 inches. And heading into the middle of October we are also below the historic level, receiving 0.36 inches as compared to 0.42 inches of rain that has fallen up until the first week October.