Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Here in Colorado, we tend to think of precipitation in discrete, measured amounts: Inches of snow, cubic feet per second, acre feet of water. In an arid region often afflicted by drought, this is an understandable way to perceive our water situation. But if we dig deeper, the issues we face surrounding water are much more nuanced than simple measurements. Two other factors related to precipitation, the timing and type, are just as important as the amount, if not more so.
As any boater or skier will tell you, a storm bearing an inch of rain in July is very different from a system dropping an inch of rain in January. Though they may produce the same amount of precipitation, all storms are not created equally. Rain and snow are both welcome forms of precipitation and serve their own purposes, but the effects and consequences of each are quite different.
It is a classic case of “the tortoise and the hare.” Rain, the hare, moves quickly through watersheds, rapidly passing from cloud to ground to waterway and beyond. On the other hand, snow (the tortoise) stockpiles water in winter, gradually releasing it into waterways through spring runoff. Rain has more immediate benefits to and effects on the system, while the impacts of snow are on a time delay. I think we all remember who wins the metaphorical race.
For our rivers and streams and for our recreation-based economy, it is imperative that the majority of our annual precipitation (approximately 80 percent) comes in the form of snow. For a few important reasons, rain just won’t cut it.