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State snowpack remains above average

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News

River basins with their sources in the northern mountains are seeing their highest snowpack totals since 1996, the Natural Resources Conservation Service reports.

The Colorado, Yampa, White and South Platte rivers are among those favored by March’s La Nina weather patterns, which favored the northern mountains and left but a dusting on the southern mountains. The North Platte River is at the highest percent of average across the state, at 135 percent.

The April 1 totals for the northern mountains are the highest for the time of year since the computation of basinwide totals began in 1968, a conservation service news release said.

Which means this year’s outlook for spring and summer water supplies in those river basins is excellent.

“Seasonal runoff volumes are anticipated to be well above average, and this year’s flows are expected to be drastically different than last year which was plagued by low runoff,” the release said.

Statewide, there’s been a slight decline in snowpack from last month, but April’s numbers are still showing above average snow amounts statewide – it’s at 113 percent of average and is 28 percent above the state’s readings a year ago.

The entire winter has been above average, data from the conservation service shows, which is “good news for the state’s major water users who rely on melting snowpack for a majority of their annual surface water supplies,” officials said.

In the Upper Colorado River Basin, snowpack rose again after three months of decline and remains above average. January’s measurements showed the basin was at 147 percent of average. In February and March, it dropped to 135 percent and 128 percent, respectively. But with March snowfall, the April 1 amounts are back to 130 percent of average and 172 percent of last year.

The Arkansas River Basin is at 103 percent of average, down from March’s 108 percent of average. January and February were at 105 and 103 percent of average, respectively. The basin currently sits at 99 percent of last year’s snowpack, compared to 110 percent last month.

Percentages elsewhere in the southern mountains declined sharply in April 1 readings. They’re now at the lowest readings of the year and are consistently below average in the Rio Grande and combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins.

Compared to northern Colorado, some smaller tributary basins in the Rio Grande Basin have dropped to nearly 50 percent of average, meaning the spring and summer water supply in the southern portion of the state – including the southern tributaries of the Arkansas River – is for below average runoff this year.

“While it’s still possible for spring snowstorms to improve conditions in these basins, the chances are extremely remote, given that the normal maximum snowpack is reached in early April in these basins,” the news release said.

“(March) was a month where the rich got richer and the poor just got poorer”, said Allen Green, conservation service state conservationist.


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