Snowpack news: Narraguinnep and McPhee storage is up over last year

From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Snowfall measured by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources is showing above normal rates in some key areas.

Devices called “snotels” measure snow depth, and more important, snow water equivalent, a key indication of runoff levels essential for filling McPhee Reservoir in spring. Overall for Jan 21., the snowpack in the Dolores River drainage is at 80 percent of average.

Two snotels are showing above-average readings for water content. The Lizard Head location, at 10,200 feet, reads at 8 inches water equivalent for Jan. 21, or 103 percent of average, based on historical readings on the same day.

And the Scotch Creek location, at 9,100 feet, shows 6.5 inches water equivalent, or 107 percent of the historic average.

“The two doing the best are in the critical part of the drainage,” said Mike Preston, manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District, which operates McPhee Reservoir. “If the winter is near average, we are set up to meet our water allocations.”

Another advantage the Dolores River drainage has going into this year is the 2013 monsoon season recharged depleted soil moisture in the mountains. August saw steady rain totaling 3.69 inches, or 269 percent of normal. In September, the region saw 2.92 inches of rain, or 223 percent of normal.

“Overall, we are in a better shape than this time last year,” Preston said. “The hydrologic system is charged up, and we have deep ground moisture…

Another advantage over last year is that Naraguinnepp Reservoir, owned by Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co., was able to fill thanks to the summer monsoon rains. Now when the snowmelt comes, McPhee will fill up quicker…

January is zero percent of normal for precipitation; there has only been a trace of moisture in four weeks; it is not an El Niño year — the Pacific Ocean warming that brings wetter weather to the Southwest; and a persistent high pressure ridge off the Pacific Coast is blocking all storms from even glancing the Four Corners…

Improving over last year, the bar is set pretty low. In 2013, irrigators with local water districts had just 25 percent of their normal share because of low levels at McPhee, Narraguinnep and Groundhog reservoirs.

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