Colorado water update: State at about 67 percent of average snowpack
Colorado snowpack/reservoir levels
Figures represent percentage of historic average in January
Basin / Snowpack / Reservoir Storage
Gunnison / 56 / 107
Upper Colorado / 77 / 117
South Platte / 81 / 110
North Platte / 86 / 125
Yampa/White River / 77 / 125
Arkansas / 57 / 142
Upper Rio Grande / 51 / 121
San Miguel (others in SW. Colo.) / 48 / 114
Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service
Continued dry weather in Colorado this winter may mean tough choices for water users in the coming months.
As of March 14, the state sits at about 67 percent of the average snowpack, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Things are looking slightly better in northern Colorado, with the two basins that impact Weld County — the Upper Colorado and the South Platte — at 77 percent and 81 percent of the average year, respectively.
Though March and April are historically the snowiest months of the year in Colorado, there hasn’t been any recorded snowfall on the front range yet, and March is halfway over.
Eric Brown, spokesperson for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said the dry weather is on Northern Water’s radar, just like it’s on farmers’, but there may be one saving grace — a healthy amount of water in reservoir storage.
Northern Water’s reservoirs are at one of their highest ever levels, with storage at 121 percent of average. Across Colorado, reservoir storage is at about 117 percent of the historic average. While Brown said the water district is optimistic that, in true Colorado fashion, there’s a big spring storm a’comin’, its prepared to use some of its reserves to combat an abnormally dry year.
“In general, farmers who have access to some sort of water in storage should be okay for 2018, as Northern Water’s C-BT Project and reservoirs across the South Platte Basin are sitting at solid levels for the most part,” Brown said. “But for the farmers who don’t have access to water that’s in storage, they really need snow and/or spring rains in the near future.”
But for everyone, use of the water in storage this year creates uncertainties down the road, as some of the current surplus will be used up. Plus, a good, wet snow would bring some much-needed moisture to the plains and help with soil quality, which plays an important role in crop health.
The Northern Water Board will set its quota for C-BT deliveries for the remainder of the 2018 water delivery season at its April 12 board meeting. Both snowpack and C-BT and local non-C-BT reservoir levels will factor into this decision. The board sets a quota each year to balance how much water can be used and how much water needs to stay in storage, and the historic average for the quota is 70 percent. ❖
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