#Colorado’s #snowpack is starting to melt. Warmer temperatures and #drought likely mean another year of struggling #water supplies — Colorado Public Radio

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado Public Radio website (Michael Elizabeth Sakas). Here’s an excerpt:

The amount of snow that’s collected in Colorado’s mountains over the winter is nearly normal for this time of year, according to the Colorado Snow Survey Program. But while statewide snowpack levels are about 91 percent of average, USDA officials say that number is starting to drop as snow in some areas starts to melt early with warmer-than-average spring temperatures…

Federal data has forecasted statewide streamflow to be 86 percent of average for the 2022 season. Despite close-to-average snowfall so far, other factors like dry soil and warmer temperatures are likely to reduce the amount of snowmelt that becomes runoff and enters streams, according to a report from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The report also shows that all of the state’s major river basins are forecasted to have below-normal streamflow this coming summer…

Back-to-back years of drought have taken a toll on water stored in Colorado reservoirs, which currently contain about 76 percent of average storage levels, data show. Only reservoirs in the South Platte river basin have reached above-average levels. Abnormally warm temperatures in late March triggered an early start to the snowmelt season in south-central and southwest Colorado, Assistant State Climatologist Becky Bolinger said in a recent climate update. Rapid snowmelt can lead to less reliable water supplies and an increased risk of wildfire in higher elevations, she said…

Colorado Drought Monitor map April 12, 2022.

Soil on the Western Slope isn’t likely to be as dry this spring and summer as it was in 2021, which Bolinger said is good news. That means more water will make it into streams and reservoirs because the soil isn’t as thirsty. Soils are drier in the eastern part of the state, which Bolinger said will likely cause problems for farmers during the growing season. About 83 percent of Colorado is currently in a moderate drought or worse, data from the U.S. Drought Monitor show.

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map April 17, 2022 via the NRCS.

Click the link to read “Colorado Weather: Mountain Snow Completely Misses Denver Causing Soaring Fire Danger” on the CBS Denver website (Ashton Altieri). Here’s an excerpt:

The snow on Thursday and Friday [April 14-15, 2022s] will be minor compared to earlier in the week. Since Tuesday Winter Park has measured 20 inches, Snowmass has had 18 inches, Aspen Mountain has had 16 inches, and Beaver Creek measured 10 inches.

All the snow has helped snowpack to increase across all eight of Colorado’s river basins in recent days. On Monday the statewide average snowpack was 88% compared to normal. As of Thursday morning it was 92% compared to normal. Ideally water officials would perfect it to be 100% but it could obviously be much worse.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map April 17, 2022 via the NRCS.

Click the link to read “Runoff into McPhee Reservoir below average from poor snowpack” on The Cortez Journal website (Jim Mimiaga). Here’s an excerpt:

Irrigation supply will be better than last year’s historic lows, but probably not by much, officials say

As of April 14, snowpack in the basin was at 70% of the average snow-water equivalent, and the runoff has started into the Dolores River and McPhee. It is too early to tell exactly how much will make it to reservoir, said Ken Curtis, general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.

“We think we are better off than last year, we’re not sure yet by how much,” he said. “The low-elevation snow below 9,000 feet is gone.”

A more definitive runoff forecast is expected in the coming weeks. A special meeting will be held May 5 at 7 p.m. at the DWCD office, 60 S. Cactus, St., Cortez, to provide an update on McPhee irrigation supply.

McPhee has 37,300 acre-feet of active supply, and is filling at a rate of 3 inches per day. The reservoir has a capacity of 229,000 acre-feet active supply. Most of the current active supply in McPhee will be used to fill up adjacent Narraguinnep Reservoir, of the Montezuma Valley Irrigation District, which has started delivering water. The Dolores Water Conservancy District has begun delivering water south via the Towaoc Highline Canal to the Ute Mountain Ute Farm and Ranch operation. Water delivery in the Dove Creek Canal to northern farms is expected in early May…DWCD’s early predictions are on the conservative side, with a 90% probability of 2.5 inches per acre and a 70% probability of 6 inches per acre, still far below average…

Dust covering snow near the Grand Mesa study plot on April 26, 2014. The Grand Mesa study plot was the third to be added to the network of dust on snow monitoring stations, and began transmitting solar radiation data in 2010.

Dust on snow is also a factor because the darker layer increases absorption of heat, melting and evaporation. It also contributed to runoff happening a week early in the Dolores River. There were five dust-on-snow events this winter in the San Juan Mountains, according to the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies. Dust layers are in the upper third of the snowpack, and the latest layer was deposited Monday, before Tuesday’s snowstorm, said Executive Director Jeff Derry…

One of the two Twin Otter aircraft used by the Airborne Snow Observatory mission to study snowpack in the Western U.S. Credit: NASA

To aid in the forecast prediction, on Friday a flyover of the Dolores Basin was planned by Airborne Snow Observatories Inc. to measure snowpack depth. The plane uses technology that scans the elevation of the snow cover, then compares it with the bare ground elevation to determine snowpack.

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