Dry March saps state snowpack

Colorado snowpack totals plummeted in March, a month that usually accounts for about one-fifth of seasonal snow accumulations, the Natural Resources Conservation Service said Wednesday.

The state’s peak snowpack level occurs April 12 on average. This year, the snowpack already has begun to melt because of dry, warm and windy conditions, and there’s little hope for significant improvement before the runoff season, the agency says.

Although above-average precipitation in February boosted the average snowpack to 81 percent at the start of March, it had fallen to just 52 percent of average on April 1. That’s the lowest since the drought year of 2002, when April 1 snowpack was the same percentage.

The NRCS said March precipitation was just 29 percent of average for the month.

The Colorado River basin’s snowpack is at 49 percent, and the Yampa/White basin is at 47 percent.

Other levels include the Gunnison, 56 percent; Rio Grande, 53; San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan, 54; Arkansas, 56; South Platte, 55; and North Platte, 57.

Runoff is expected to be well below average in all major basins.

Fortunately, thanks to the big snow season of 2010–11, the NRCS says reservoir storage is better than in 2002, at 108 percent of average statewide. The Colorado basin is at 106 percent, and the Yampa/White at 137 percent. The only basins below 100 percent are the Arkansas (95) and Rio Grande (89).


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