Snowpack news (% of avg.): Statewide = 110%, Gunnison Basin best in state at 122%

Mage at the NRCS has been busy this week updating snowpack graphics. Click on the thumbnail graphics to scope out your favorite areas for winter fun. Click here to go to their FTP site for more informative graphics.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

The region’s snowpack, critical for meeting water demands each year, will enter 2014 in much better shape than it did the past two years.

On Thursday, the South Platte Basin’s snowpack was right at normal — 100 percent of historic average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s SNOTEL data system.

Snowpack for the basin sat at only 70 percent of average at the start of this year, leaving many water providers and users concerned about supplies for the upcoming year — although late spring storms increased snowpack up to 153 percent of average by the end of May, helping the situation. At the start of 2012, South Platte snowpack was 85 percent of average — then drought set in, and snowpack plummeted to only 2 percent of average by the end of spring.

Typically, heavy snowstorms in March and April play the biggest role in determining water supplies each year, eventually providing runoff that fills reservoirs and irrigation ditches.

Still, the good early snowpack start has many water providers and users more optimistic than they were the past two years. In addition to normal snowpack, heavy rains in September that caused flooding also put more water in reservoirs, which was much needed after reservoir water was heavily used to get through the drought of 2012 and water levels dwindled.

Many — particularly the agriculture industry, which uses about 85 percent of the state’s water, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources — would prefer a repeat of the record-high snowpack levels of 2010 and 2011. But they’ll take the average snowpack they have heading into 2014, after the rollercoaster ride of 2012 and 2013. Even though snowpack rebounded by May 2013, much of that snowmelt was only used to fill reservoirs that had been depleted by 2012’s drought, and some users didn’t get as much water as they had hoped.

Like the South Platte Basin, the Colorado River Basin, from which the northern Front Range also diverts some of its water through trans-mountain tunnels, also is well ahead of where it was during the past two years. The Colorado Basin’s snowpack was 105 percent of average Thursday, after sitting at 68 percent at the start of 2013, and at 63 percent at the start of 2012.

All eight of Colorado’s river basins were above average as of Thursday.

The Gunnison River Basin was in the best shape at 122 percent of average.

The South Platte Basin was the lowest at 100 percent of average.

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