Colorado leaders press USDA to maintain snow data, water supply monitoring program funding
On Monday, U.S. Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Congressman Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to prioritize funding for its Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program.
The program, which monitors snowpack in Colorado’s mountains and helps water managers forecast supply issues before they occur, is in danger of losing funding due to looming budget cuts, according to a joint news release.
“In the face of prolonged drought, significant population growth and climate change, NRCS’ snow program data provides vital information on precipitation and future water supplies essential for Colorado and the entire American West,” the lawmakers said in the letter to USDA undersecretary Robert Bonnie. “Our state contains nine major watersheds, each with its own distinct snowfall patterns and obligations to downstream states.”
Current water supplies across Colorado range from 40 percent to 100 percent of normal, the letter continued. The ability to accurately measure snowpack in each basin, using both SNOTEL and manual snow course data, is essential for water districts and municipalities to meet the demands of competing users, the lawmakers contended.
“Intelligent and thoughtful water supply planning is critical to ensure a prosperous future for Colorado and the west,” the letter stated. “We call on the USDA and NRCS to ensure that the voices of Coloradans are heard as budget priorities are determined and to thoroughly assess the impacts of proposed changes the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program.”
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