March ensured area will have plenty of water


March came in like a lion and helped Northwest Colorado snowpack totals.

The latest snow surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) shows that March storms helped increase the snowpack in Northwest Colorado and statewide.

The Yampa and the White river basins are above average for snowpack. They have been measured at 101 percent of average snowpack. This is up from last year by 20 percent. Reservoir storage in Northwest Colorado is also higher than last year even though it's still slightly below average at 90 percent.

Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the NRCS, believes the snowpack totals for the Yampa Valley basin are slightly higher than the White River basin totals.

"Right now on the Yampa near Maybell, we're expecting 104 percent of average runoff from April through July," said Gillespie. "In the White River basin near Meeker, we're expecting 84 percent runoff. Water reserves should be stocked well into the summer, barring any droughts or abnormal weather."

April 1 is typically the most important snowpack measurement for projecting the spring and summer water supplies for the support because the snowpack typically reaches the seasonal maximum water content at the beginning of April.

According to Steve Black, state conservationist with the NRCS, March storms helped make up for a lack of precipitation earlier in the year.

"The April 1 snowpack readings mark the fourth consecutive month of increasing percent of average snowpack for the state," said Black. "Since Dec. 1, 1999, when the statewide snowpack was only 29 percent of average, each month's readings have shown steady increases. Most of the remainder of the state has made a steady and quite remarkable improvement."

Readings from April 1 are 40 percent above the April 1 readings from 1999. The only parts of the state that may be lacking water this summer are the San Juan and Rio Grand basins. They remain well below average for snowpack levels at this time of year.

According to the NRCS, the high precipitation levels in March will assure that all of northern Colorado will have average water supplies, assuming that average precipitation continues throughout the spring and summer months.

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