Snowpack/runoff news: The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan watersheds turn red (<50% of normal)

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From Rocky Mountain PBS INews (Jim Trotter):

The so-called Snotel readings, which measure the moisture content of snowpack, are a product of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They started in the late 1970s, and now have 885 reading sites Westwide. The percent of average is based on the last 30 years.

In Colorado, the lowest readings are in the southwest quadrant of the state, at 54 percent of average. The highest reading is at 88 percent of average on the South Platte basin side of the northern and central Rockies.

Particularly along the ranges in the Pacific Coast states, the readings are disastrous, of course, for summer water supplies to both urban areas and agriculture, and set up the potential for another brutal fire season.

And it’s not inappropriate for us to feel a little apprehension, as we wait for what April will bring.

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

Colorado’s overall snowpack is the third worst in 30 years for this time in April, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The snowpack is down to 69 percent of normal. It fell from 87 percent of normal one month ago, the federal agency said.

In addition to the dry conditions, spring temperatures are higher than normal, so the snowpack is disappearing earlier than usual, according to the conservation service…

The snowpack disappeared rapidly throughout the Roaring Fork River basin after a series of storms dumped about six feet of snowfall on slopes in two weeks during late February and early March. The snowpack in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River is 89 percent of average. In the Fryingpan Valley, the snowpack completely melted at Nast Lake, which is at 8,700 feet in elevation, according to the conservation service. The snowpack is still at 93 percent at Ivanhoe Reservoir, which is at 10,400 feet in elevation.

The snowpack is only 64 percent of normal at Schofield Pass at the headwaters of the Crystal River. It’s at 44 percent at the North Lost Trail snowpack measurement site near Marble.

March came in like a lion but ended like a lamb for Aspen Skiing Co. ski areas. Snowmass received 54 inches of snow during the month, about 90 percent of average, according to company spokesman Jeff Hanle. Aspen Mountain received 41 inches or 77 percent. Aspen Highlands received 44 inches or 80 percent. Buttermilk collected 25 inches or 50 percent of average, Hanle said.

From CBS Denver:

“We’re the headwater state to 18 downstream states and the country of Mexico, so when we do anything on water issues everybody notices,” James Eklund with the Colorado Water Conservation Board said.

Colorado snowpack is currently only 65 percent of average, but where that water is heading is a different story.

Right now the Colorado reservoirs are 108 percent of average.

“We’re actually better this year storage-wise than we were last year,” Eklund said.

“We need to really be cautious, we live in a dry state, you never know what the next year or even the summer will bring, so it’s just smart to use water efficiently,” Stacy Chesney with Denver Water said.

Denver Water services nearly 25 percent of the state’s population, but only uses 2 percent of the water. This year its resources are in the wettest parts of the state.

“Denver Water supply is actually in pretty good shape at this point, and that’s thanks to normal snowpack in our collection area, as well as reservoir levels that are higher than average, and really efficient water use by our customers,” Chesney said.

“If California has another year like they have this year, then we need to have that plan stood up and ready to go,” Eklund said. “So time is of the essence.”

State officials say they’re learning quite a bit from California. The state is in the works of finalizing the Colorado water plan so in case of a dangerously dry year water officials will know what to do.

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