State’s snowpack surplus slips after dry month

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—Snow drapes Mount of the Holy Cross in the Sawatch Range south of Vail, though maybe not as much as a month ago. Snowpack in Colorado decreased to 117 percent of average on Feb. 1 from 136 percent of average on Jan. 1, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

A dry January erased much of the surplus snowpack built up earlier in the season around the state.

The state’s snowpack decreased from 136 percent of average on Jan. 1 to 117 percent on Feb. 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service said in a news release.

Particularly dry conditions returned to southwest Colorado, which last month received only about one-fourth of its normal January precipitation. That area also started out the winter in poor shape until being hit by giant storms later in December.

The Gunnison basin snowpack fell from 158 percent of average a month ago to 126 percent. The San Miguel/Dolores/Animas/San Juan was at 106 percent, down from 144 percent.

All basins remain above average with the exception of the Rio Grande, which is at 80 percent.

“Without those big storms back in December, most of the state would be well below average right now,” said Allen Green, state conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, in the news release. “At this point, they’ve allowed us to endure a dry month, yet maintain good snowpack readings nearly everywhere.”

The Colorado River Basin is at 135 percent of average, down from 147 percent a month ago. Other basin readings as a percentage of average include the Yampa/White, 126; South Platte, 120; North Platte, 132; and Arkansas, 103.

Reservoir storage statewide is 103 percent of average. The Colorado basin has the highest storage level, 112 percent of average, followed by the Gunnison, 109; San Miguel/Dolores/Animas/San Juan, 102; South Platte, 99; Yampa/White, 93; Arkansas, 91; and Rio Grande, 79.

The NRCS and National Weather Service River Forecast Centers are predicting this year’s water supplies will be close to or slightly above average in most places, with the possibility of below-average summer runoff in parts of the Rio Grande and Arkansas basins.

“With only about 40 percent of the winter snow accumulation season remaining, the next two months will be critical for maintaining the current streamflow forecasts for the state,” the conservation service said in its release.


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