Snowpack news

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Here’s a release from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District (Diane Johnson):

The “snow water equivalent” at the Vail Mountain SNOTEL site is measuring 107 percent of the historical average for March 23. Eagle River Water & Sanitation District closely follows snowpack because most of the water supply comes from snowmelt. The District tracks the snow water equivalent, a measure of how much water is in the snowpack, to help determine the water supply outlook for the upcoming summer and fall.

Higher moisture content in the snow should result in more snowmelt feeding local streams, which are the source of our public water supply. The snow water equivalent at the Vail Mountain SNOTEL site has been above the historical average since mid-December, and Wednesday’s measurement of 20.5 inches is far above last year’s (3-23-2010) value of 13.7 inches.

The average March 23 measurement for the Vail Mountain site is 19.1 inches, which puts this year’s 20.5 inches at 107 percent of average. March 23, 2009, saw the same value, while March 23, 2008, was at 23.5 inches.

While the District keeps close watch on the statistics, the weather creates the numbers. For example, 2010 saw an abundance of late season snow, peaking at 20.80 inches on May 16 and May 20, and the District saw a normal water supply year. 2009 peaked at 28.20 inches on April 21, while 2008 peaked at 29.40 inches on May 16. The drought year of 2002 saw a peak of only 14.60 inches, and occurred early, on March 24, and stayed there until mid-April.

The Vail Mountain site shows a historical average peak at 23.594 inches on April 28, so there’s about five weeks of accumulation to add three more inches to reach an average snow water equivalent year.

Data comes from the National Water and Climate Center SNOTEL (or snow telemetry) system, which is operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Weekly graphs are available on the District’s website or they can be emailed to you by contacting ERWSD Public Affairs at 970-477-5457.

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