Snowpack news

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

2009 precipitation levels through November stood at 7.87 inches, only 59 percent of the 13.21 inches normally received in the area, according to Jim Andrus, the National Weather Service’s cooperative weather observer in Cortez. The early winter storm helped the situation, providing almost 80 percent of the precipitation normally received in December, Andrus said…

“As far a snowpack, we are looking like we are sitting at 119 percent for the day (Thursday),” Preston said. “That is 19 percent above where we normally are. That is what matters to us the most, is how much water is in that snowpack up there.” The district measures snowpack at five snowpack telemetry – or SNOTEL – sites located at El Diente Peak southwest of Telluride, Lizard Head Pass between Rico and Telluride, Lone Cone south of Norwood, Scotch Creek near Rico, and Sharkstooth Peak northeast of Mancos. The Sharkstooth station is not figured into the average because it has not been in operation long enough to build an average, according to Preston. “We get real time readings of the snowpack to see where we are at,” Preston said. “We don’t get too serious until January. The winter is just shaping up.”[…]

“It is looking much better now than it did a week ago,” Preston said, referring to the snow-water equivalent levels. Those levels, which measure the inches of water snow would produce if it melted, help determine the impact of snowpack on reservoir levels…

“As of Nov. 30, we had active capacity of 104,000 acre feet (in McPhee),” Preston said. “So we are down by about 124,000 acre feet. That is about 26,000 acre feet less than where we were this time last year.” The lower levels in the reservoir are the result of early pulls from reserve waters and arid summer conditions. “We were already pulling storage by the first of June this summer,” Preston said. “Then we had a very dry summer.” Water levels at both Groundhog and Narraguinnep reservoirs look relatively normal for this time of year, according to Brad Reed, water master for Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co. “We are very close to normal,” Reed said. “Maybe a little behind on Narraguinnep, but there is no major concern.” Narraguinnep currently stands at 8,659 acre-feet, and Groundhog is at 14,200 acre-feet. Though the early winter storm eased dry conditions, Preston cautioned that the season is still in its infancy. “It is pretty early in the year to tell how things will go,” he said. “We are off to a promising start, but we have a long ways to go. We need snowpack that is going to produce at least another 155,000 in inflow just to meet our obligations.” A runoff of that magnitude is well within the realm of possibility, according to Preston. Runoff for 2009 produced 260,000 acre-feet. Runoff in a dry year can be much worse. Preston noted that the dry year of 2002 produced only 48,000 acre-feet of runoff.

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