Snowpack/runoff news: NRCS Colorado Snow Survey and Water Supply News Release #COdrought


Click on the thumbnail graphic to view the snowpack/storage table from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Here’s the June 1, 2013 release:

Colorado’s latest snowpack data, compiled by the USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), shows the profound impact that a cool and wet spring can have on the state’s water supplies, in terms of both timing and quantity. The state’s mountain snowpack typically reaches its seasonal maximum in early April; this year’s snowpack finally reached its peak on April 21st, about two weeks later than normal. Cool weather has helped further delay snowmelt across the higher elevations, and continued wet weather patterns in the northern part of the state have contributed to additional snow accumulation across the high country in this region. This year’s June 1 snowpack readings are at 92 percent of median statewide, according to Randy Randall, acting State Conservationist with the NRCS. “This respectable percentage is due mainly to the generous amount of snow that remains across northern Colorado. In contrast, the snowpack in the southern portion of the state is nearly depleted even at the higher elevations”, said Randall.

With snowmelt nearly completed in the Upper Rio Grande and combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores, and San Miguel basins after reaching below average totals this season, the current streamflow forecasts for these basins call for well below average flows this summer. Late season snow accumulation in April and early May considerably improved the water supply outlook in the northern basins of the state. Streamflow forecasts for the Colorado and South Platte river basins still generally call for slightly below average flows this season but have improved considerably from predictions earlier this year.

At this stage in the melt season, high elevation temperatures will play an important role in how rapidly snowmelt will occur in the northern basins. Water managers can monitor these temperatures using data from the automated SNOTEL sites located in their watersheds. The additional snow accumulation and relatively cool weather this spring has helped ease some of the strain on water supplies in the northern part of the state. On the flip side, it is unlikely that the southern part of the state will see much relief from drought conditions this year.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Springtime in the Rockies was a tale of two states in Colorado. The snowpack rebounded in the northern mountains, which benefited from a series of wet spring storms, but the southern half of the state was dry and warm, with serious drought conditions persisting in the Rio Grande, as as the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins. This year’s statewide snowpack peaked April 21, several weeks later than the average date, and cool weather helped further delay snowmelt across the higher elevations, resulting in a statewide June 1 snowpack at 92 percent of median, according to Randy Randall, acting State Conservationist with the NRCS.