New snow makes tiny dent in drought |

New snow makes tiny dent in drought

SILVERTHORNE – It takes a lot to make Blue River Basin Water Commissioner Scott Hummer smile these days, and despite this week’s snowfall, he’s still not happy.

Snowpack in the Blue River Basin, which includes Summit County, is now at 96 percent of average. And this week’s snowfall is three times the average when compared to this same week in other years.

Between 20 inches and three feet of snow have fallen in Summit County during the past six days, according to local ski area reports. It’s a welcome sight after a light 2001-02 winter and dry December and January this season.

“We’re inching our way toward normal,” Hummer said, “but it’s going to take three years, at least, of normal to fill our reservoirs back up.”

Hummer also pointed out that the ground is parched, which means when the snow melts, a lot of that moisture will soak into it – never making it to mountain reservoirs. Those reservoirs, which supply water to much of the Front Range, are in dire straits.

The five major mountain reservoirs – Dillon, Green Mountain, Williams Fork, Wolford and Granby – normally store 1,111,000 acre-feet combined. All told, they now hold a mere 285,000 acre-feet.

“I’m happy that it’s happening,” Hummer said of this week’s snow. “But it’s definitely not the end of our drought situation.”

State snowpack surveyor Mike Gillespie shares Hummer’s viewpoint.

Each day’s snow recorded during the past six days has contained about one-third of an inch of precipitation – a measurement far more critical for drought relief than snow accumulation.

“But I think it would take us three more weeks of this kind of weather to get us back to an average runoff year, to start filling our reservoirs again,” Gillespie said. “It would take us almost two more months of this weather nonstop to get us pretty much out of the drought. And it’s highly unlikely we’re going to get two more months of this kind of weather.”

But at least, Gillespie said, the snowfall that’s come this past week, coupled, hopefully, with a wet March, could soothe fears set in motion earlier this winter.

“We may be able to salvage what was early on thought to be pretty much another disaster year,” he said.

Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at

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