The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Kremmling Field Office snow surveyors Mark Volt and Derrick Wyle took the April 1 snow survey measurements during the last days of March. Snowpack for Middle Park and the upper Colorado River Basin stands at 89%. We were at 103% last year and only 58% back in the drought year of 2012. Lack of snowfall and warm weather during March, which is usually our snowiest month, has melted all of the valley snow and most of the mid-elevation snow up to 8,500 feet. Snow density is averaging 30%, which means that for every foot of snow there are 3.6 inches of water and that’s about normal for April 1st. From this point on, spring runoff will be highly dependent on melting conditions (i.e., temperature and wind), as well as additional spring snow accumulation and/or rainfall. It would take several good snowstorms to put us back up to average at this point in time! Irrigators, water users and river runners should anticipate lower stream and river flows for the upcoming summer.
Reported median readings for the major river basins in Colorado are low as well: Colorado River Basin 82%; Gunnison River Basin, 60%; South Platte River Basin, 83%; Yampa and White River Basins, 91%; Arkansas River Basin, 59%; Upper Rio Grande Basin, 52%; San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River Basins 51%; and Laramie and North Platte River Basins, 93%.
Most of the snow courses around Middle Park have been read since the 1940s. Snow course readings are taken at the end of each month, beginning in January and continuing through April. March is historically the snowiest month, and the April 1 readings are the most critical for predicting runoff and summer water supplies, as most of our high country snowpack peaks around that time. Manual snow courses will be read for the final time this year at the end of April.
For further information, including real-time snow and precipitation data for SNOTEL (automated Snow Telemetry) sites, visit http://www.co.nrcs.usda.gov/