Summit snowpack still short
SUMMIT COUNTY – Although a series of soggy spring storms has moved through Colorado’s mountains in recent weeks, the snowpack in Summit County’s mountains is still limping along at about 80 percent of normal, said Scott Hummer, the Silverthorne-based water watcher for the State Engineer’s Office.Hummer, who tracks stream flows and reservoir levels, said flows have been below their historic averages for this time of year. Measured at the Highway 9 gauge near the Tiger Run RV Park, between Breckenridge and Frisco, the Blue River has been running below the state-mandated minimum stream flow of 10 cubic feet per second (cfs) for about a month, as the town of Breckenridge diverts water out of the river to refill Goose Pasture Tarn, Hummer said.The town’s water rights, dating to 1885, predate the minimum instream flow right held by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
Tuesday morning, the flow had climbed to 10.1 cfs, Hummer said, but explained that the historic average is in the high teens.”It’s nice to get this late-season snow, but locally, we’re not out of the woods yet, as far the drought situation,” Hummer cautioned. “We need to understand that Denver will again be relying on Dillon Reservoir this summer.” Denver Water owns Dillon Reservoir and sends water over the Continental Divide to serve its 1.2 million customers.For the entire Colorado River Basin, the snowpack was recently reported at 98 percent of normal, but that includes some big totals from areas to the south and west of Summit County, Hummer said.
Above the Roaring Fork River, the snowpack is at about 86 percent of the historic average, and that’s very close to the status of the snowpack in Summit County, with the four automated Snotel sites above Dillon Reservoir combining to register a snowpack that’s about 82 percent of average for this date. Individually, those readings vary from as high as 93 percent of average at Hoosier Pass to only 69 percent at Grizzly Peak, near Loveland Pass.At those snowpack levels, it will once again be a game of catch-up to fill Dillon and Green Mountain reservoirs, Hummer said. “What it says is that inflows into our two major reservoirs will be about 75-80 percent of normal.”Averaged statewide, snowpack levels are higher than they’ve been in five years, boosted by huge snow totals in the Southwestern part of the state, where the numbers come in at up to 140 percent of normal in some basins.
And that’s good news for the section of the state that was hit especially hard by the five-year drought. Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or email@example.com.
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