Snowpack totals looking good across northern Colorado, predictive of good water year
Spring Water Users Meeting
The meeting is at 8 a.m. April 13 at The Ranch, 5270 Arena Circle in Loveland.
For more information, call (970) 622-2220.
Colorado snowpack, reservoir levels
Figures represent percentage of historic average in April
Basin / Snowpack / Reservoir storage
Gunnison / 91 / 115
Upper Colorado / 102 / 111
South Platte/ 104 / 107
North Platte / 108 / 120
Yampa/White River / 99 / 120
Arkansas / 84 / 120
Upper Rio Grande / 85 / 94
San Miguel (others in SW Colo.) / 81 / 105
Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service
According to the latest snowpack reports from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, northern Colorado water users may finally get to let out the breath they’ve been holding.
In February, Brian Werner of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District said a wet, snowy spring would be key for a good water year. March and April are the most important months of the year for snowpack, he said.
Those wet spring snows came in March, with the official state total coming out of Denver International Airport at 18.4 inches of snow. Greeley, on the other hand, only got a total of 4.4 inches, according to the National Weather Service office in Boulder.
While those storms dropped varying depths of snow along the Eastern Plains of Colorado, they were of huge benefit to mountain snowpack, boosting most of the basins across northern Colorado to numbers near or above the historic average. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, as of April 4, the state was at 97 percent of the average for snowpack.
“March was good pretty much statewide,” Werner said. “We never get too over-confident, but we’re feeling pretty good about the water year.”
As of April 6, both the river basins that feed into northern Colorado — the Upper Colorado River Basin and the South Platte River Basin — were above 100 percent.
As for reservoir storage, the state is currently at 111 percent of average, according to the April 1 update from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Upper Colorado River Basin is at 111 percent of average and the South Platte River Basin is at 107 percent of the average.
Werner said not only are the water totals looking good, but since the snow had high water content, it helped improve soil moisture, something vital to farmers.
April will be key to deciding what the good water totals mean for farmers, Werner said. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District will hold its the Spring Water Users Meeting on April 13 at The Ranch in Loveland, where officials and producers can talk needs and forecasts. The next day, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District will decide water allocations.
Southern Colorado may still be in murkier water, though. Though the storm that rolled through on March 26 hit southern Colorado harder than the metro area or northern Colorado, the March 23 blizzard didn’t. That kept the basins from getting a needed jump in moisture-packed spring snow. The Arkansas River, Upper Rio Grande and several other southern Colorado river basins are at or below 85 percent of the average.
“That’s a concern for southern Colorado,” Werner said. “We always say this — you want to be average or above average.”
The area’s saving grace may be in reservoir storage. The Arkansas River Basin and the rivers that make up the San Miguel area basin are both over 100 percent of the average, and the Upper Rio Grande Basin is at 94 percent storage, according to the NRCS report.
So while southern Colorado, which has struggled with drought for several years, will start the summer nearly 20 percent below average in snowpack, the area’s water storage may offset at least some of that burden, Werner said. ❖
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