Snowpack news (% of normal): Upper Rio Grande River Basin = 86%, South Platte still on top = 144%

Statewide snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 13, 2014
Statewide snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 13, 2014

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

If the snows keep coming, the San Luis Valley might rise up to an average water year yet. Snowpack in the Rio Grande Basin is currently 87 percent of average, Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten said on Wednesday.

“Hopefully we will have some snowstorms coming and get a lot closer to that average line.”

He said the snowpack is not quite up to average but is better than it has been the last three years at this point.

“We are a little bit higher than we were last year,” he said, “and we have a few good months to go where we could get measurable precipitation and snow.”

The stream flow forecasts for this year are all over the board at this point, Cotten added. Some in the southern drainages are predicting as low as 40 percent of average this year while the Saguache Creek, on the northern end of the Valley, is forecast at 116 percent of average. Most are in the 80-percent-of-average range, Cotten said.

“But we have a couple of months to go,” he added.

Irrigation season has begun on a couple of the smaller streams, as of March 12, but typically the official season begins April 1. The Rio Grande Water Users Association , for example, voted April 1 as its irrigation start date. Cotten said his office is meeting with irrigation companies and water user groups yet this month to discuss further irrigation turn-on dates. On another water-related note, Cotten said the water division was going to start cracking down on folks who have exceeded their fiveyear average on acre-foot limitations for their wells but decided to incorporate those rules into the pending groundwater regulations. That means those rules will go to the water court as a part of the overall groundwater regs this spring and go into effect when the water court clears them, if there are no objections.

If the rules are promulgated this spring and go into effect next spring, the water office will use the 2011-2015 time period to calculate the five-year average for those under decreed well limits. Cotten said his office has a list of people who have already or will likely exceed their annual pumping limitations, and they will receive letters this year so they know what could be coming down next year.

From The Wet Mountain Tribune (Cyn Williams):

For the past several days, the Sangres have worn scarves of snow clouds. The mountains shine with snow, an optimistic sign of water. As of March 11, SNOTEL reports for South Colony show 67 inches of snow, which equates to 17.2 inches of precipitation. On March 10, South Colony registered 70 inches of snow, which means three inches melted over two days.

March shows an increase from SNOTEL readings in February, which registered 50 inches, or 15.5 inches of moisture. In January of this year, the reading was 41 inches of snow, with 13 inches of precipitation, so clearly March has bounded ahead in water accumulation.

According to Jim Sperry of the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), of a 30-year average, this year equals 104 percent, meaning moisture is up four percent. He said, “we have a good start and still have a lot of March and April left to get snow, which we need to get through the drier months of May and June.”

The entire Arkansas River Basin stands at 101 percent of the long term average. So far, water percentage for the entire state of Colorado is 108, compared to last year’s 150.

Statewide the snowpack is 116 percent of median, with February’s precipitation total reaching 133 percent of average. Last year in March snow pack was 161 percent of median. In 2014, the reservoir storage percentage sits at 87, in contrast to 67 recorded in 2013.

In the state, the deepest snow depth is recorded at SNOTEL station Tower at 134 inches, which equates to 46.6 inches of precipitation. At 10500 feet, Tower feeds the Laramie and North Platte River basin. Max temperature average at South Colony, elevation 10,800, on March 11 was 9.4 degrees.

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