Winter brings high snowpack

Water expected to be plentiful for spring, summer


By the numbers

Percent of 30-year average snowpack

Yampa/White River basins: 108 percent

Statewide: 115 percent

Percent of last year's snowpack

Yampa/White River basins: 259 percent

Statewide: 172 percent


Yampa River near Maybell:

• 1.2 million acre-feet of water

• 117 percent of 30-year average

Little Snake River near Maybell:

• 475,000 acre-feet of water

• 130 percent of 30-year average

Ranchers, farmers and other water users might be glad to hear numbers and forecasts coming out of regional weather offices.

Representatives from the National Weather Service's Grand Junction office and the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Lakewood said snowpack figures are above average across Colorado.

Compared to recent droughts, that's good news, they said.

"This overall is really excellent snowpack and (water) runoff we're looking at," said Mike Gillespie, Conservation Service snow survey supervisor. "Most water users really couldn't ask for better snowpack in a year statewide.

"It's a nice change of pace from talking about how bleak it's going to be from all the drought."

The Yampa and White River basins are at 108 percent of their 30-year snowpack averages set between 1971 and 2000, according to Conservation Service reports.

Conservation Service reports depict a starker contrast between this year's snowpack and last year's, showing there is 2 1/2 times more on the ground as of May 1, 2008, than May 1, 2007.

With higher snowpack numbers, Gillespie said officials predict higher stream flows. For the Yampa River near Maybell - where the Conservation Service has a flow measurement station - Gillespie said officials forecast about 1.2 acre-feet of water, which is 117 percent of its 30-year average.

For the Little Snake River near Lily, Gillespie said officials expect 475,000 acre-feet of water, or about 130 percent of its 30-year average.

Looking at the numbers, however, reservoir water storage amounts for the Yampa and White River basins is below the 30-year average - at 92 percent - and below last year's figure - at 81 percent.

Gillespie said there are many explanations, including the amount of water taken out of reservoirs last year and the fact that a lot of snow has not melted yet.

Once the weather warms up more consistently, Gillespie said, reservoir numbers should come up.

"I'd expect this year's reservoir numbers to be up against the average across the board," he said.

Flooding from snowmelt isn't much of a concern at this point, said Mike Chamberlain, Weather Service general forecaster and meteorologist in Grand Junction. Temperatures have increased gradually, and forecasters do not expect dramatic changes, but it sometimes is hard to predict with certainty.

A sudden stretch of warm weather could be the worst possible scenario for water users, Chamberlain said.

In addition to flooding, he added it could force all the water into streams at once, making it scarcer for late summer, when it is most needed.

"So far, it's been manageable," Chamberlain said. "But what we're concerned with right now is if we have a couple extended days of warm weather above average temperatures. When we get to that point where it's staying above freezing at night at peak locations, then we can expect more runoff and high river conditions.

"At this time, there's no adverse conditions expected."


taxslave 8 years, 10 months ago

"and other water users"...uh, that would be each and everyone of us. It's water for goodness sakes, we need it to survive. The snow used to drive me nuts until one day I realized it was "water", the greatest, MOST IMPORTANT commodity in the world.

Please everyone, keep your eye on federal water grabs, drillers polluting it, etc. We need fresh, clean water and the world is running short of it. Cherish it. Both Lake Mead and Lake Powell are over 1,000 feet below normal levels. Time will tell if the snow pack will refill them but experts don't believe so.

Avacado growers were told their water will be cut back 30% this season. They have cut down 30% of their fields. Result, higher prices for guacamole'.


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