Colorado’s snowpack slides despite storms
April 5, 2009
DENVER ” Colorado’s snowpack has fallen below average despite a series of spring snow storms.
Snowpack in the state’s seven major river basins was at 120 percent of the historic average on Jan. 1. It dropped to 96 percent of average on April 1 after the warm, breezy weather in March. It was at 104 percent of average Saturday, following a storm.
Mike Gillespie of the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service in Lakewood said the level on April 1 was the lowest percentage recorded all season.
“We may have thought we got an improvement in the last couple of weeks, but that’s only been pretty marginal as you look at the month of March as (a) whole,” Gillespie said. “It didn’t pull us out of the deficit. I’m not anticipating a recovery out of this.”
The snowpack percentage is measured against a 30-year average. Melting snow contributes about 80 percent of the water in rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs, which comprise much of the state’s water supply.
The state’s snowpack matters to other states, too, because eight major Colorado river systems provide water to 10 western states.
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Metro-area water managers use the April and May 1 snowpack numbers, along with reservoir storage levels, to forecast their summer seasons and set watering rules.
Denver water managers say reservoirs the city draws on are in good shape.
“We’re optimistic about the water-supply situation, but we’re monitoring it closely,” said Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney. “The recent moisture we’ve had has been very helpful.”
Water providers are on guard, though, for any signs of a dry April and May, prompting people to soak their lawns early.
“We really want people to remember that regardless of snowpack and supply, we live in a semiarid climate and need to use water wisely,” Chesney said.
Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com