Weeks of back-to-back storms in Southwestern Colorado have not lifted the area out of drought.
There’s still bright news, though: Those storms have beefed up the snow-water equivalent in the Gunnison River Basin to 142% of average for this time of year, as of Jan. 25. According to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation data, actual snow accumulation was only 67% of average in November of last year, but was 115% of average come December. Hydrologists didn’t celebrate — the previous December had been comparable, but January 2022 dried out considerably. This January, things are different.
“We are doing pretty well for snow so far,” said Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist Erik Knight. “That’s a good situation. … We were about 200% of average for the first two weeks.”
The first weeks’ snowfall this year is above what has been recorded for the entire month of January most years, he said…That was especially true at Snotel measurement sites near Butte and Schofield, where the snow-water equivalent came in at 4.9 inches and 9.7 inches, respectively, for January. The average, to-date SWE at those sites is 1.8 inches and 3.8 inches, while the average January total is 2.9 inches and 6.7 inches…
Snow-water equivalent is above average in basins across the West, according to Saffell’s data. “We’re happy to see that. We’re hopeful it maintains. Do understand that this can change,” she said. Soil moisture percentages are a “good sign” that conditions will allow for efficient runoff as peak runoff time nears. Colorado’s peak melting time is usually in April – May. “We’re happy to see these kinds of things, allowing us to hold onto that water,” Saffell said.