Early snowpack totals look good for Colorado, but it’s too soon to get comfortable
Colorado snowpack, reservoir levels
Figures represent percentage of historic average in February
Basin / Snowpack / Reservoir storage
Gunnison / 120 / 108
Upper Colorado / 115 / 109
South Platte/ 112 / 105
North Platte / 102 / 121
Yampa/White River / 106 / 121
Arkansas / 120 / 124
Upper Rio Grande / 119 / 90
San Miguel (others in SW Colo.) / 127 / 103
Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service
A snowy week across the state added to Colorado’s already positive snowpack numbers, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The whole state is above the historic average for snowpack, and the river basins that impact Weld County — the South Platte and the Upper Colorado — are both more than 10 percent above normal.
These levels impact what the summer water supply will look like for the area, according to Brian Werner of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
As of Thursday, the South Platte River Basin was 12 percent above the historic average, and the Upper Colorado River Basin was 15 percent above average.
Reservoir storage numbers are up as well, with nearly every basin in the state above average as of Feb. 1. Werner said it’s important to use both snowpack and reservoir numbers to examine future water supply, because once the weather warms up in the spring and summer, and the snowpack melts, the pressure will fall on the reservoirs.
The South Platte River Basin is up 5 percent, and the Upper Colorado River Basin is up 9 percent. As a whole, the state is up 10 percent.
For the southern part of the state, which has suffered from drought for several years, these numbers are cause for hope. Werner said at a recent water meeting, he saw water officials from the southeast and southwest counties smiling for the first time in a while.
However, Werner said it’s too early to get comfortable, because while the averages are up in comparison to previous years, the most important months for snowpack are March and April, because that’s when the wettest snows of the year come. Werner said he’s seen winters where the snowpack numbers have been up early in the winter, but a dry spring has derailed hopes of a good water year.
In order to see one of those, we’ll need to see more snow, he said.
Though it’s too early to get cozy, Werner said he anticipates a good water year for farmers and ranchers, who have been sitting mostly pretty since the massive drought in 2012. If the snowpack and reservoir numbers stay on track, farmers shouldn’t have to worry about water supply restricting their acreage, he said.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report
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