#Snowpack #drought = need for #conservation

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 20, 2018 via the NRCS.

From Weather Nation (Mike Morrison):

Snow pack in the Colorado Rockies acts as water storage and about eighty percent of Denver’s water comes from this mountain snow pack. Snow falling west of the continental that flows into the Colorado River feeds a demand, more than it can supply downstream. Years with a lack of snow in the mountains of Colorado (and other locations) can adversely impact recreation, agriculture, businesses, and residents who depend on the water from snow pack.

In Colorado, agriculture represents about 86 percent of the states water use. Farmers are dependent on snow pack “reservoirs” and in turn so are the customers who ultimately by the crops they produce. Colorado farmers are cognizant about the need for conservation and are generally open to new ideas and technology to reduce water use. Farmers in Colorado are moving away from flood irrigation to more efficient sprinkler and drip system irrigation methods but a majority of irrigation is still done through flooding fields.

While agriculture does take the lion’s share water, there are more than 5 million people in Colorado that can be more efficient with the water they use, myself included. Xeriscape landscaping for homes and businesses is a great way to reduce water use in the summer and can also save big bucks on the water bill. Water efficient buildings with more efficient water fixtures are a plus in the conservation game, but a conscious, educated efforts to be efficient will also make a major impact.

Low snow pack in the mountains can also adversely impact the recreation and tourism of Colorado. Water-related activities, like fishing, canoeing, commercial rafting, snowmobiling, camping, skiing, boating, tubing on snow or rivers and even ice climbing are impacted by a lack of snow and water. Tourism and recreation pump between $7 and $8 billion into the state’s economy annually and employs some 85,000 people.

Snowpack levels across the Colorado Rockies are running well below average so far this year but there is still time for a comeback. There is a chance through the next couple of months for the La Nina phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation or ENSO to become neutral which could bring more moisture to the state through the spring.

Even so Colorado water managers are preparing for the consequences of a lower snow pack and have taken precautions to keep reservoirs full. The Colorado Water Plan https://www.colorado.gov/cowaterplan is in its third year of implementation and serves as a road map for managing water now and into the future.

I still have big hopes for more snow this season but these lean years certainly remind us that water is a limited resource that we need to manage astutely.

From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

Farmington officials do not think it will be necessary to implement the city’s drought management plan this year.

The drought management plan was developed in the 1990s and includes four stages of water restrictions.

The city staff is beginning an education campaign about water conservation. The City Council may choose to impose stricter penalties for violations of water restrictions if the drought management plan is implemented.

Public Works director David Sypher presented information about the plan to the City Council during a work session this morning at Farmington City Hall. Sypher said Farmington Lake is at 100 percent capacity.

“It is the primary protection we have against drought,” Sypher said…

The city has various criteria that it looks at when determining whether to implement water conservation steps, Sypher said. He said the most important criteria in his mind is snowpack…

The storm on Monday increased the snowpack in the Colorado mountains near Silverton from 48 percent of normal to a little more than 52 percent of normal, Sypher said. He said earlier in the season the snowpack was down as little as 21 percent of normal.

The snowpack is expected to improve over the upcoming days. Sypher said the forecast for Silverton calls for snow seven of the next nine days.

Other criteria the city looks at includes precipitation, weather projections, the Palmer drought index and stream flow in the Animas River.

The city has four stages to the drought management plan. The first stage is a water-shortage advisory that is intended to get people to start thinking about conserving water.

The city has never had to implement any of the subsequent stages of the drought management plan. The second state requires mandatory conservation, such as only watering lawns three days a week. The third state is a water shortage warning. If the city went into stage three, residents would need to use commercial car washes to wash their vehicle. The fourth stage is a water shortage emergency. If the city had to implement the fourth stage, nearly all outside water use would be prohibited.

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