Snowpack news: There’s been some melt-out above the Grand Valley

Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal via the NRCS
Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal via the NRCS

From (Kelsey Perkins):

Just weeks ago, the snowpack levels in Colorado were at abnormally low levels, but the past two snowstorms have brought much needed precipitation to the mountain basins. It puts many crop farmers in the clear.

900-acre Bernal Farms in Loma depends on the Upper Colorado Basin to grow wheat, alfalfa, corn, and sudan grass.

“It’s all a desert here in this area, so we need water from the Colorado River to divert, or there wouldn’t be anything out here,” said Bernal Farms’ Bryan Bernal. “All the irrigation water in the Grand Valley is diverted at the diversion damn in De Beque Canyon and it spreads out to a couple different canal systems from there.”

Unlike orchards, crop farms rely on snowpack and runoff water.

“The advantage to irrigating is more consistency,” said Bernal. “You don’t depend on weather patterns quite as much to ensure the survival of your group.”

The snowpack levels are on their way back to normal from an extremely dry February.

“In the middle and end of February we were really dry, especially the southwestern part of the state,” said National Weather Service Hydrologist Aldis Strautins. “But the last couple storms we’ve had in the last two weeks have really bumped us up into a better place.”

The recent storms brought the Colorado Basin up to 98 percent of normal from 89 percent, The Gunnison River Basin up to 86 percent from the 70th percentile and the Grand Mesa, where the valley gets most of their water, up to 71 percent of normal from the 50th percentile.

Water doesn’t start diverting from the Colorado River for farms until April 1st however, causing other potential issues.

“The thing we’re most concerned about is the fact that the winter has been warm and runoff has already started,” said Bernal. “That’s decreasing the levels of snowpack before we can have a chance to irrigate with that water.”

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