From the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain:
Dust blown in from the Southwest settled on snow over many of Colorado’s mountains during last week’s storm and will eventually affect how fast the snowpack melts and possibly how much water the state can hold onto. Researchers say the dust kicked up from Arizona, New Mexico and Utah by southwesterly winds fell in Steamboat Springs, Summit County, Vail, Aspen and the San Juan mountains. Dust also was scattered in the snow that fell along the Front Range but it’s likely that dust could have been carried by southeasterly winds from other areas too, including parched Southeastern Colorado, the San Luis Valley and the Arkansas River Basin, state climatologist Nolan Doesken said.
Jeffrey Deems, a research scientist for NOAA in Boulder, said dust on top of snow can absorb up to twice as much sunlight as clean snow, speeding up melting. He compares the effect to wearing a dark T-shirt on a sunny day.
This week’s dust storm was the second widespread one in Colorado’s mountains this season. Another storm on April 8 left a thick layer of dust in the state’s snowpack, which has now been boosted to 79 percent of the peak average thanks to this week’s storm. ‘‘It’s kind of a mixed blessing now,’’ Deems said of the new, dusty snow.
More snow is in the forecast but whenever the dust layers from this week and earlier this month are eventually exposed, there will be a significant speed up in the melting of the snow at that time, said Chris Landry of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton. The center is studying the impact of dust on snow for water providers across the state and periodically checks sites at mountain passes across the High Country for dust. If clean snow keeps falling the impact will be delayed, Landry said, helping farmers without storage who don’t need irrigation water just yet and rafting companies hoping to attract customers to big flows later in the season.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Barbara Cotter):
Colorado Springs Utilities expects to take a $17 million bath because of watering restrictions this year, but it has no plans to push for a rate hike to make up for the budget shortfall.
“Our approach is to look internally,” Utilities spokesperson Patrice Lehermeier said Thursday. “We’re already running a pretty tight shop, but we’re looking at maybe cutting other programs. So it’s a little bit of robbing Peter to pay Paul, internally, at least, while we look at where to make further reductions in other programs.”
With the Pikes Peak region facing a persistent, severe drought, the Colorado Springs City Council approved Utilities’ request for two-day-a-week landscape watering restrictions beginning April 1, with the goal of saving 5.8 billion gallons water through Oct. 1, compared with same six-month period last year.
But when customers use less water, their bills drop, and Utilities gets less money. From 2002 to 2005, when watering restrictions were in place, Utilities lost $24.4 million. Rates did go up, though Lehermeier said the increases were tied to projects and other items not related to the restrictions.