Snowpack continues rise in February

Snowpack accumulations rose even further above average in Colorado as a whole last month, but continue to lag in the southwest part of the state.

The statewide snow water equivalent was at 118 percent of median Thursday, compared to 107 at the start of February, thanks to multiple storms, the Natural Resources Conservation Service says. The Upper Colorado River Basin was at 129 percent and the Gunnison Basin, 112 percent. The Laramie/North Platte and South Platte basins are even higher than the Upper Colorado, with the South Platte at 144 percent of median.

But the southwest Colorado remains a different story, with the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins at 95 percent of median and the upper Rio Grande at just 90 percent.

“It’s sort of been the story all season long so far,” said Mage Hultstrand, assistant snow survey supervisor in Colorado for the NRCS. “It seems like the storm track’s just been missing that area somewhat.

They’ve gotten some additional snow, but not what they normally get.”

The good news for the southwest is that snowpack levels rose from Feb. 1 levels of just 82 percent for the Upper Rio Grande basin and 79 percent for the four other basins.

On a statewide basis, Colorado has received above-average precipitation for three months in a row, NRCS says. The state usually reaches peak snow accumulation on April 9, and under current conditions only needs 8 percent of typical precipitation between now and then to reach that peak, Hultstrand said.

The Upper Colorado Basin already is an inch above the 15.5 inches of snow-water equivalent it reaches during its typical peak.

NRCS says that while reservoir storage is still below average, at 89 percent, that’s much improved from the 67 percent at this time last year.

“With the current snowpack conditions and storage volumes drought conditions in most basins should be alleviated and reservoir storage should improve this spring,” the agency said in a news release today.

“Data collected during the recent snow surveys directly reflects what the state can expect for surface water supplies this coming spring and summer. The most recent streamflow forecasts continue to point towards above to well above normal volumes for this spring and summer in most of the major river basins in Colorado; the exceptions will be the Upper Rio Grande and southwest basins.”



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