Snowpack news: Eagle River basin snowpack at 74% of average


From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

The Colorado River Basin snowpack, Eagle County’s river basin, started February at 69 percent of average, slightly lower than the statewide 72 percent average, but managed to creep up a few percentage points to 74 percent due to a few snow storms here and there, said Mage Skordahl, the assistant snow survey supervisor at the National Resources Conservation Center’s Snow Survey Office in Denver…

“We finally started getting some snow storms on the western side of the (Continental) Divide, which we hadn’t had much of that,” Skordahl said. “Conditions are improving, but at this point in the season you really have to be well above average for the rest of the season to meet our April 1 average numbers. I would say at this point, that’s pretty unlikely.” The forecast for stream flow volumes from April through July are all below average as of now, at about 70 percent for the state, she said. But luckily, this winter comes on the heels of a really good winter in 2010-11, so many of the reservoirs are full. “Statewide, (water) storage is average or above average,” Skordahl said. “About 80 percent of spring and summer stream flow comes from mountain snowpack.”[…]

Locally, reservoir storage is healthy, but reservoirs are less important to Eagle County than they are to other areas in the state. Diane Johnson, spokeswoman for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, said reservoirs here are “more strategic — they do not serve as a direct water supply.” “Our reservoirs serve to replace our depletion in the streams,” Johnson said. “It’s still important for us to have them full — we expect them to fill this year.”

From The Durango Herald (Doug Ramsey):

While many people I talk to think that we have had a good winter, the true information is that we are quite a bit behind on our snowpack and water supply in Southwest Colorado, as is most of the rest of the state. As of Tuesday, the San Juan Mountains are only holding about 81 percent of the average snowpack and stored water. From this data, the NRCS forecasts that we will have only 70 to 80 percent of our average stream flows this spring.

As an irrigator on the La Plata River, I could be in for a tough year if we continue in the current La Niña weather patterns that have prevailed this winter. With warm storms and limited precipitation, the outlook for everyone who depends on our rivers could be disappointing. With the threat of an early spring and possible dust storms to coat the snow, we could see our runoff gone before it can be enjoyed.

As I make my plans for the summer, the limited irrigation supply will affect how I fertilize, irrigate and make pasture rotations. As I look forward to spring, I will have to wait and see just how much irrigation water the mountains will give us. Until then, I will keep busy: It is almost shearing time, and then there will be baby lambs greeting me in the mornings.

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