From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):
So far this year, water managers do not like what they see — less snow and less water in that snow. Colorado is sitting at 72 percent of its 30-year average, while the Colorado River Basin on the Western Slope is at 71 percent of average and the South Platte Basin, which includes the Big Thompson River, is 78 percent of average. The numbers have drawn a comparison to the 2002 drought.
The data are similar, but each year is different, and a possible storm expected to deliver several inches of snow in Estes Park and Loveland and maybe even more in the national park later today could be just what the water doctors ordered. “It’s a potential game-changer,” said [Dana Strongin, spokeswoman for Northern Water]. “But we can’t rely on that. We are really far behind this year.”[…]
With equipment that has been fine tuned but is essentially the same since it was invented in the 1930s, [Todd Boldt and John Fusaro] make sure to get a clean sample of snow in a hollow aluminum pole in set locations. The numbers on the pole — and from a manual scale — seem like another language to the untrained eye or ear, but with those figures and a few punches of the calculator, Fusaro and Boldt are able to know how much water is in an inch of snow. On Monday, they found an average snow depth of 18 inches with 80 percent snow water equivalent compared to last year and 125 percent compared to the 30 year average at Deer Ridge (9,000 feet). Although there was 22 inches of snow at Hidden Valley (9,480 feet), the water equivalent was 74 percent compared to last year and 91 percent of average. Numbers were much lower at the automated sites in the national park — 71 percent of average at Willow Park (10,700 feet) and 86 percent at Bear Lake (9,500 feet)…
“The importance of this information is not only for farmers and agriculture, but for cities and electrical generation on hydroelectric plants,” said Boldt. “Everyone’s interested in snowpack information.”