Snowpack news

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

From The Mountain Mail (Maisie Ramsay):

Snowpack in the Upper Arkansas River Basin is holding strong even as much of Colorado remains gripped by drought. Upstream snowpack is carefully watched by the rafting industry, as it has the most direct impact on summer flows. After last week’s storm, upstream SNOTEL sites at Brumley and Fremont Pass registered at 96 percent and 110 percent of average, respectively. The blizzard offset some, but not all, moisture lost during a mid-April warm spell.

Statewide snowpack was at 65 percent of average on April 8. After the recent storm, that number was at 61 percent of average, according to April 21 SNOTEL data. The Arkansas River, North Platte and South Platte basins look strong compared to other areas of the state, particularly basins in the southwest. SNOTEL indicates the Dolores and Rio Grande River Basin snowpack is at about 40 percent of average, while the Gunnison River Basin is at 52 percent. The northwest corner of the state is faring only slightly better, with the Colorado River Basin snowpack at 67 percent and the Yampa River basin snowpack at 63 percent. The Arkansas River Basin has the second-highest snowpack in the state at 78 percent of average, behind the South Platte’s 94 percent of average.

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Although future months may bring above-average precipitation for the San Luis Valley, the current snowpack does not look promising. Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten reported to water leaders attending the Rio Grande Water Conservation District board meeting yesterday that the current basin snowpack sits at 38 percent of normal.

“It’s not looking real good,” he said.

He added the basin reached a high of about 70 percent of average at the beginning of March but has declined since then, reviving just a bit during the storm last week.

Irrigators are already being curtailed on the Rio Grande and Conejos River systems to make sure the basin meets its Rio Grande Compact deliveries to downstream states. Curtailments on the Conejos system are currently 15 percent and on the Rio Grande, 6 percent.

Cotten said one of the challenges for his office is preparing a good forecast, and he and staff are relying on more than one source to estimate how much water the Valley will actually see this year. They are using information from both the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) and the National Weather Service , with their own analyses thrown in.

For example, the NRCS is predicting 150,000 acre feet of stream flow in the Conejos River system, while the National Weather Service is predicting 250,000 acre feet for the April-September period. One of the main differences between the two, Cotten explained, is the NRCS focuses on snowpack while the Weather Service also looks at weather predictions .

Cotten’s office is currently predicting 203,800 acre feet stream flow on the Conejos system for April-September and 235,000 acre feet for the annual index, or about 70 percent of normal.

On the Rio Grande, NRCS is predicting about 300,000 acre feet stream flow for the April-September period while the National Weather Service is anticipating almost 500,000 acre feet.

“That’s just a really big range there,” Cotten said, “and it’s really difficult to get a handle how much we are supposed to send down to downstream states.”

Performing their own analyses , while taking the other predictions into account, Cotten’s office is estimating 390,000 acre feet on the Rio Grande during the April-September period with the annual projected index at 500,000 acre feet. Average is about 650,000 acre feet.

Cotten said the National Weather Service places the Valley in an area of above-average precipitation through November.

“They say we are going to be above average. We will see.”

From The Greeley Tribune (Kayla Young):

On the close of a dry winter, mid-April showers have provided needed moisture for northern Colorado farmers and the hope of late-season improvements to the state’s low snowpack.

While peak snowpack dates have already passed, conditions had improved notably for the South Platte Basin in the last 24 hours, said Colorado snow survey program manager Brian Domonkos of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

As of Thursday morning, the South Platte Basin snowpack was reported at 79 percent of average. By Friday morning, the basin had increased to 85 percent of average…

As of April 1, Colorado SNOTEL indicated 88 percent snowpack for the South Platte Basin.

The Upper Rio Grande Basin dropped from to 36 percent 61 percent snowpack in the same time frame. Likewise, the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basins dropped to 37 percent from 53 percent.

These particularly dry basins will likely remain dry at this point, Domonkos said…

Brian Werner, communications director of Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, however, said northern Colorado’s water community is celebrating the spring rain and snowfall.

“It’s the wet stuff we love this time of year,” he said, adding that the 10-day forecast as of Friday indicated much more rainfall to come for northern Colorado…

If the last two weeks of April continue to bring rainfall, as they typically do, the season could see a turnaround in terms of soil moisture profiles and supplies made available for irrigation, Werner said.

“That’s why we say these storms are so much more important than those in November, December,” Werner said.

Provided warm weather does not rapidly melt off mountain snowfall, water users along the South Platte should remain satisfied until the first of June, said Randy Ray, executive director of Central Colorado Water Conservancy District…

He recalled the insight of Jim Hall, former division engineer in Greeley, that the South Platte lives and dies by spring moisture.

Lake Mead expected to drop to a new low tomorrow — Circle of Blue #ColoradoRiver

Poem: Tent Like Openings — Greg Hobbs

Tent Like Openings

Let the music in your judgments sing!

The rule of law is nothing but the song of human beings
raised in hopeful expectation of yearning for a place to

Nourish, grow, and cultivate each and every living thing.

A cup of water from the widow’s well, a burning bush,
a father’s knife, spared to save a darling son

His future husbandry.

When so much is given, holding to the world’s rim
intonations of a cherished sister’s richer resonance,

If not to ask, “Why does each and every day re-circulate?”
as if, the day before, we’d missed the cairn the breaking light

Sets upon the ripples of a lake.

Greg Hobbs 4/19/2015