Snow everywhere, but not enough

Western part of state lags in current mountain snowpack levels

Despite recent snowfalls, western Colorado still is experiencing low moisture conditions, and that holds true when examining the current mountain snowpack levels.

Brian Avery, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, warns that while the eastern side of the continental divide is above normal in measurements of snow/water equivalents, the same does not hold true for west of the divide.

"The Yampa and White River basins are currently at 68 percent of normal," he said. "December was fairly warm, and it melted some of the snowpack."

Avery said the winter started out with good, early snowfall, and recent snowstorms added a foot to the levels of snow on much the Western Slope, but western Colorado still is falling short.

"On Feb. 1, 2006, we were at 125 percent of normal," he said. "We're about half of that right now."

Snowpack measurements are important because those numbers are indicators of how full the rivers will be in the spring and summer, and how much irrigation water will be available to farmers and ranchers in western Colorado.

Low measurements on Colo-rado's Western Slope also mean less water available for refilling major reservoirs in the west, such as Lake Powell in Utah, and Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border.

Though snowpack levels currently are lower than normal in the west, it still is very early in the winter, according to statistics at the National Weather Service.

"February and March are building months for the snowpack," Avery said. "It usually peaks in April, and we still have two months until then. March is historically one of the wettest months, along with October."

Statistics for Colorado snowpack levels can be found at the National Weather Service Website at weather.gov/gjt by clicking on winter weather and the snowtel data sites.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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