Water supply good even as snowpack lags
Ryan Summerlin March 7, 2012
Statewide snowpack is still well behind average, and even further behind last year at the same time, but it’s slowly improving, Natural Resource Conservation Service officials say.
The organization eyes snowpack to determine what the upcoming summer’s water supply looks like, while others look to the manual and Snotel reports to determine how Colorado’s ski industry fares in terms of product offerings.
So far, water supply closely mirrors the state’s below-average snowpack.
“All major basins in Colorado are expected to have below-average runoff conditions this spring and summer,” conservation service officials wrote in a press release. “The South Platte Basin has the highest snowpack percentage in the state and boasts some of the highest streamflow forecasts.”
That’s due to several upslope storms that dropped precipitation along the Front Range before petering out at the Continental Divide.
The Colorado River Basin is at 75 percent of average snowpack and 59 percent of last year’s snowpack. That’s improved from Feb. 1’s 69 percent of average snowpack.
Water storage in the Colorado basin, though, is at 116 percent of average, indicating good planning on behalf of water managers in a high runoff year last year.
“Fortunately for most water users, reservoir storage is above or near average across most of the state. This available stored water should help alleviate any late-summer shortages,” officials said.
Basins below average water storage include the Arkansas and Rio Grande, which suffered from last year’s lack of storms.
Statewide, snowpack is at 81 percent of average, up from 72 percent recorded on Feb. 1. Water storage statewide is at 107 percent of average.
“This year’s La Nina pattern has been dramatically different than the previous La Nina pattern,” conservation service officials said. “At this time last year, many basins in Colorado had broken records that had been in place since the 1930s; this year, average would be a welcome benchmark.”
Meanwhile, February’s snowfall pounded the Yampa, White and North Platte basins as well as the combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins, putting those areas in a much better position than in previous months.
“The Arkansas, Upper Rio Grande and Colorado basins benefited the least from the February storm systems, but their snowpack percentages still improved,” officials said. “Across the state, all major river basins received near or above average snowfall for the month of February.”