The Rockies are having a snowy winter, but not all of that #water will make it to the #ColoradoRiver — KUNC #COriver #aridification #snowpack

West snowpack basin-filled map February 15, 2023 via the NRCS.

Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Alex Hager). Here’s an excerpt:

New data show a snowy start to 2023 for the Colorado River basin. Inflows into Lake Powell, the nation’s second largest reservoir, are currently projected to be 117% of average during spring runoff thanks to heavy winter precipitation in the Rocky Mountains… Snow in Colorado is an important factor in determining the amount of water that will flow into the Colorado River system each year. About two-thirds of annual flow starts as snow high in the mountains of Colorado. Across the state, snow totals are almost all above average, with most zones showing 120 to 140% of normal for this time of year. Northwest Wyoming and central Utah, which also contribute to the basin’s water supply, posted January snowfall totals that nearly broke precipitation records. Many parts of Utah are showing snow totals above 170% of average, boosting the odds of above-average runoff in the spring, and fostering memorable seasons for the area’s ski resorts

New data from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center show heavy precipitation through much of the Colorado River Basin states – especially Utah, Wyoming and Arizona.

In the Colorado River’s Upper Basin – which includes parts of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico – the strongest precipitation fell in southwestern Colorado. The Gunnison, Dolores and San Juan rivers all saw January precipitation that ranged from 160 to 200% of average. Meanwhile, the lowest January precipitation totals were along the Eagle River in central Colorado, and the Green River above Fontenelle Reservoir in Wyoming. The Lower Colorado River Basin – which includes parts of Nevada, Arizona, and California – also saw strong precipitation. The Virgin, Little Colorado and Verde rivers all saw January precipitation above 200% of normal. Rain and snow in the Lower Basin is typically less important for the Colorado River’s flow, but is helpful for plants, farms and ranches and wildfire mitigation…

When it comes to predicting the amount of water in the Colorado River each year, snow totals don’t tell the full story. Scientists look to soil moisture for a clearer picture of how much water will actually reach the places where humans divert and collect it. This year, soil moisture in the mountains is well below average. That could prevent some melting snow from ever reaching the Colorado River. That soil acts like a sponge, soaking up water before it has a chance to flow downhill to streams and lakes. Scientists have recorded years with 90% of average snowpack, only to see 50% of average runoff into reservoirs.

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