Colorado River bucks snow trend |

Colorado River bucks snow trend

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentA heavy April snow storm creates a wintry seen near New Castle on Friday, looking more like Christmas than Easter.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” While most of Colorado’s snowpack and water supply forecasts are hurting this spring, northwestern Colorado’s river basins are looking good.

“Overall the forecasts in the Colorado Basin are up there with some of the best in the state,” said Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) snow survey supervisor Mike Gillespie.

Overall mountain snowpack “suffered significant declines” in March, bringing snowpack to below average levels across most of the state. Statewide snowpack was down to 96 percent of average as of April 1, according to an (NRCS) report.

It’s the first statewide reading to be below average this season. On Jan. 1, statewide snowpack was 120 percent of average.

One exception to the trend is the Upper Colorado River Basin. It’s snowpack was 109 percent of a 29-year average Friday morning. The Roaring Fork River Basin had more snow at 118 percent of average. A monitoring site on Independence Pass had 119 percent of its average snowpack.

Friday morning’s readings were significantly less than readings on the same day last year, which brought the most snowfall anyone remembers since the 1980s.

Despite lots of new snow in a storm Friday, Gillespie said statewide snowpack levels will likely stay below average for the season. That could raise concerns such as junior water rights holders having to curtail water use in the late summer if water is short.

“Ag users get hit pretty severely during the late summer,” Gillespie said. “I don’t think the municipalities are in any great danger right now given that most have reservoir storage they rely on and storage is in pretty good shape.”

This year’s below average statewide snowpack on April 1 adds to a series of drier than average years. Below average statewide snowpack readings have been measured that day in 10 of the last 12 years in Colorado, the NRCS report says.

“In addition, the April first snowpack reading is the most critical for the state’s water managers. With snowpack totals nearing their seasonal maximum accumulations on this date, these readings are the best indication of what the state can expect for most of its yearly runoff and water supplies,” the report says.

However, Western Slope areas served by the Colorado River will probably have plenty of water this year. The basin’s water supply forecasts for April through July are mostly average or slightly above average, Gillespie said.

“It’s in really good shape considering the rest of the state,” Gillespie said.

The White and Yampa river basins are the only others in the state expected to flow at slightly above average volumes this year.

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

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