Snowpack news: The South Platte Basin jumps up to 70% of average #codrought

snowpackcolorado03122013

From The Greeley Tribune:

This past weekend’s storms gave another slight boost to snowpack numbers. According to a figures from the Colorado SNOTEL Snowpack Update Map, statewide snowpack on Tuesday was 78 percent of its historic average, continuing a slow but steady climb up from where numbers were at the start of 2013.

On Jan. 1, snowpack had been at 70 percent of average. Snowpack remained at its lowest in the South Platte River basin on Tuesday, sitting at 70 percent of average — just a slight improvement from Jan. 1, when snowpack was 67 percent of average.

Any improvement brings relief to farmers, who depend heavily on winter and spring snows to provide runoff that fills reservoirs and irrigation ditches for the growing season.

The Colorado River basin, from which many northern Front Range farmers divert water, had the third-lowest snowpack figures among the state’s eight river basins. Snowpack in the Colorado basin was 77 percent of average on Tuesday, an improvement from 68 percent on Jan. 1.

Here’s a guest column, written by U.S. Senator Mark Udall, running in Steamboat Today. Here’s an excerpt:

In the short term, we need to address the problems the ongoing, severe drought has created. To start, we need to be proactive and secure essential tools now that will help us battle wildfires. We must ensure that we have a modern air-tanker fleet, including repurposing surplus Air Force planes. Our existing fleet consists of Korean War-era planes. These simply will not cut it in this age of mega-fires.

Concurrently, we need to better manage our national forests. Four million acres of Colorado forests have been decimated by insect epidemics, fueled in part by warmer weather patterns. We must continue to support Colorado’s timber industry and foster partnerships that reduce fuel loads and create jobs repurposing this otherwise strong high-country timber. And we also need to encourage the private sector to turn this abundant biomass into energy. It’s a win-win for Colorado.

We also need to ensure that we are properly managing and maintaining our most precious resource: water. We must review present and future demands on our water supply and agree to look critically at energy sources, such as oil shale, that might require too much of our valuable water during these drought years.

And what good is water we cannot use? After the mega-fires outside Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, made larger by hot weather and dry conditions, sediment and ash from fire-charred hillsides flowed into drinking water supplies for Coloradans living 50 miles away or more. Congress needs to adequately fund the Emergency Watershed Protection program to protect our drinking water supplies and restore the eroded watersheds damaged by last summer’s wildfires.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Lake Powell won’t be looking its best for its 50th birthday this year. The key reservoir in the Colorado River Basin is almost 100 feet below full pool and recently dipped to below 50 percent capacity, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s operations update.

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