Snowpack news: The snowpack as a percent of average is declining across the state with the southern basins leading the way

A picture named snowpackcolorado03252011

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Arkansas River basin snowpack slipped below average for the first time this season, while snowpack throughout the state declined slightly. Dry conditions continued to worsen in the Rio Grande basin as well, according to measurements by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Statewide, snowpack is 111 percent of average, about 10 percent less than it has been most of the year. The Arkansas River basin is a mixed bag of snow conditions, listed at 91 percent of average, but not as bleak as the numbers would appear. “We’ve seen no appreciable increase in snowpack since the second week of March,” said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor, of the Arkansas River basin conditions. “Dry periods right near the peak of snowpack are not good. A wet trend is needed to get back to average, and one good storm could do that.”[…]

Near the Arkansas River headwaters above 10,000 feet in elevation, snowpack has already surpassed the average peak, which usually occurs in mid-April or early May. The readings are running 114-132 percent of average. In the headwaters of tributaries lower in the basin — the Purgatoire, Apishapa and Huerfano rivers — readings are only 20-80 percent of average.

It’s part of the continuing La Nina weather pattern — cooling in the Pacific Ocean — that keeps sending storms through the northern part of the state, missing the southern mountains…

The bright spot is that reservoir storage remains high and imports from the Western Slope are expected to be above average. “We’ll have enough space to store the water we bring over,” said Roy Vaughn, Bureau of Reclamation manager for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Over the next week, Reclamation will cut back its releases from Turquoise and Twin Lakes to Lake Pueblo to make room for an expected 70,000 acre-feet of imports. The water is brought in from the Hunter-Fryingpan watershed in the Upper Colorado River, where snowpack remains well above average. On average, about 54,000 acre-feet is imported.

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