Snowpack news: Statewide snowpack drops to 72% of the thirty year average, Upper Colorado = 69%, South Platte = 76%

snowpackcolorado03192012

It’s not shaping up to be a good year for diverters. We’ve had it easy the past three water years in the South Platte basin and storage is still very good. With all the warm and windy weather folks are starting to talk about the possible sublimation of the snowpack. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the latest snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

The amount of water in the snow, as of Monday, is 70 percent of average in the Upper Colorado basin and 73 percent of average in the South Platte basin — the two basins that affect Northern Colorado.

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Laura Snider):

On the eastern side of the Continental Divide, where Boulder draws the majority of its water, conditions are slightly better. In the South Platte River Basin, which encompasses Boulder County, the snowpack total is at 79 percent, and in the much smaller Boulder Creek Basin, the snowpack is 104 percent of average. Most towns in Boulder County, including Boulder, draw some of their water from the South Platte River Basin and pump some of their water across the Continental Divide from the headwaters of the Colorado River, where the snowpack is 71 percent of normal…

At the end of March 2002, the snowpack in the Colorado River Basin was 68 percent of average for that time of year, and the snowpack in the South Platte River Basin was just 52 percent of average. The snowpack in the Boulder Creek Basin was 50 percent.

From the Cortez Journal (Reid Wright):

Water officials are optimistic that McPhee Reservoir will fill this spring, possibly offering the chance for a water release for rafters and ecological efforts on the Lower Dolores River. As of last week, measurements of high altitude snow in the basin feeding the reservoir indicated snow levels at 84 percent of average. “The reservoir will fill this year,” said Mike Preston, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District. “I’m feeling pretty confident about that. But it’s a question of what we’re going to have in the way of rafting flows. If we stay in this 84-85 percent realm, we could have a pretty decent spill.”[…]

“What was a little spooky about this year, in the early season we weren’t getting much snow,” Preston said. Snowpack lingered at dismal levels below 50 percent of average until storms in February brought snow levels back up to near-average…

Combined with 141,000 acre feet already stored in the reservoir, the snow melt forecast adds up to a full reservoir in the spring.

“We’re sitting 16,000 acre feet higher than we were this time last year,” Preston said. “So our reservoir is really in good shape.” McPhee Reservoir provides drinking and irrigation water for much of Montezuma and Dolores counties…

While Preston emphasized it is not set in stone, the current forecast indicates a spill worthy of 10 days of whitewater boating that fluctuates between 900 and 2,000 cubic feet per second. “Right now, we’d like to do 2,000 cfs over Memorial Day,” he said. “The nice thing about 2,000, is it’s a brisk raft trip. Quite a few people can fit on the river when it’s flowing like that. And it’s pretty comfortable. It covers up the big rocks and makes for smooth sailing.”[…]

More up-to-date information is expected to be provided at a McPhee Reservoir and Dolores Project operation meeting, currently set for 7 p.m. March 21 at the Dolores Community Center. Topics of discussion will focus on anticipated water releases to the lower Dolores River and an overview of the Dolores Project.

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