Despite early winter storms, December snowpack likely to be average

Snowfall in the West Elk and San Juan mountains has a long way to go before it begins making up for an arid 2012.

The snows that blanketed western Colorado “just kept us on an average accumulation track,” said Erik Knight, hydrologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation office in Grand Junction. “We didn’t really gain any ground back. Outside of a big change with the storm at the start of next week, I see December as an average snow accumulation month.”

For the entire Gunnison Basin, snowpack is about 73 percent of average, while on the Colorado River side, it’s about 72 percent of average, Knight said.

In the Upper Gunnison River Basin, the snowpack is 60 percent of average. The total is buoyed by high snowpack on Grand Mesa and the Uncompahgre Plateau, neither of which feeds into the major reservoirs the bureau operates on the Gunnison, including Blue Mesa. That reservoir, the state’s largest, was filled to 39 percent of capacity as of Thursday.

The higher snowpack on Grand Mesa stands to benefit water suppliers in the Grand Valley, Knight said.

Grand Junction officials will take their own measurements next week as the new year begins, said Rick Brinkman, water services manager.

“We expect good numbers on the west side,” but the question mark is the east side of the mesa, Brinkman said.

Two sites tracked by Ute Water Conservancy District show Mesa Lakes at 84 percent of average and Park Reservoir, farther east, at 79 percent of average.

On the Colorado River side, where snowpack was reported to be 72 percent of average, the reporting sites tend not to be those over reservoirs, Knight said.


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