Colorado snowpack the worst in more than 30 years in some areas leaving water suppliers on high alert | SummitDaily.com

Colorado snowpack the worst in more than 30 years in some areas leaving water suppliers on high alert

Bruce Finley
The Denver Post
High mountains in central Colorado were mostly dry in December. This is a view from the Crested Butte Mountain Resort looking up the Slate and East rivers, tributaries of the Gunnison River on Dec. 19, 2017. By the first week of January 2018, snowpack in the Gunnison River Basin was 35 percent of normal, the lowest on record for this time of year.
Brian Domonkos / Special to the Daily |

Colorado mountain snowpack shrunk to record-low levels this week, raising concerns about water supply, and some federal authorities calculated even big late snow — if it falls — may not make up for the lag.

Survey crews have measured snow depths in southwestern Colorado at 22 percent of normal, the upper Colorado River Basin at 65 percent of normal and the Arkansas River Basin at 49 percent of normal. National Weather Service meteorologists forecast limited snow through mid-January, though they also see a possibility that ocean-driven atmospheric patterns will shift by March and bring snow.

Water suppliers have intensified their monitoring, weighing how to leave as much H2O as possible stored in reservoirs without risking dam safety if high flows do come.

Colorado natural resources officials plan to review “emerging drought conditions” next week. While most of Colorado currently is classified as abnormally dry, areas of the Western Slope are officially in drought.

There’s still time. In recent years, heavy spring snowstorms have saved Colorado and its booming population from serious water trouble.

But the Colorado mountain snowpack that feeds the nation’s main rivers hasn’t been this paltry statewide in the more than three decades since systematic measuring began, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service snow survey supervisor Brian Domonkos said.

“There’s definitely concern,” he said. “Can we count on a big spring dump to save us at this point? No, I certainly wouldn’t count on that.”

“The current situation does not look good. However, we still have more than half our snowpack accumulation season remaining. There’s the opportunity for change,” he said. “But it is not very likely we are going to make up the deficit and get back to normal in spring when it comes to snowpack.”

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