Dry February leads to slight drop in snowpack numbers, but water storage still in good shape barring a dry Spring
Changes in Colorado snowpack levels
Figures represent percentage of historic average at the start of February versus the start of March
Basin / Snowpack for February / Snowpack for March
Gunnison / 120 / 98
Upper Colorado / 115 / 99
South Platte/ 112 / 100
North Platte / 102 / 92
Yampa/White River / 106 / 92
Arkansas / 120 / 97
Upper Rio Grande / 119 / 97
San Miguel (others in SW Colo.) / 127 / 96
Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service
A warm, dry February led to a drop in snowpack numbers across the state, according to the latest numbers from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Still, all basins — including the South Platte and the Upper Colorado River Basins, which feed northern Colorado — are at or slightly below average for this time of year. Since the last snowpack update at the beginning of February, the state’s river basins dropped an average of nearly 19 percent. A month ago, numbers showed the state’s snowpack totals for all river basins were above average.
The reservoir storage numbers for the end of February for all the state’s basins had not yet been updated late Wednesday. But Sarah Smith, water resources engineer at Northern Water, said if the reservoirs for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project are any indicator — and they likely are — the state is still sitting pretty when it comes to water storage.
Though the state’s future water sources are still running close to average, if the streak of dry, sunny weather continues through March, that prognosis might change.
“February was just dry,” Smith said. “We had a pretty big storm in the beginning of the month and then after, that we just didn’t get the storms that we normally would.”
Smith said right now in the South Platte River Basin, snowpack is slightly above 100 percent of the historic average, but if the snow stopped right now, it would only be at about 70 percent of what’s needed for the year.
That’s why springtime storms are so important.
“We’re right around where we should be on March 1, but March and April are critical months for snowpack development,” Smith said. “I think we need to keep an eye on the weather during March and see if the storms come in. If the dry weather from February continues, we could be in a bit of a bind in terms of water supply.” ❖