Snowpack melting out a month early | VailDaily.com
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Snowpack melting out a month early

Cliff Thompson

If you’re waiting for high water in the Eagle and Colorado rivers, you probably won’t have long to wait.Just 20 percent of an average snowpack remains on mountain tops in the Eagle and Colorado river basins, and it’s melting fast, said Mike Gillespie of the Natural Resource Conservation Service.Statewide the remaining snowpack is 28 percent of average. The snowpack acts like a giant, frozen reservoir that releases water when it melts.

“There’s not much left at this point,” Gillespie said. “It looks like we’ll melt out about a month early.”The only thing that is keeping this year from being a repeat of the conditions that created the drought of 2002 – the worst in more than 300 years – was a wetter and cooler April, he said. Those conditions delayed the meltdown by a couple of weeks, though scant snow in March kept the snowpack from building.”The snowpack in the Colorado River basin is just a little better than in 2002,” he said. “At this point in 2002 we had totally melted out.”The snow reached its maximum depth in the Colorado River basin March 17 and even then was only 70 percent of average. Statewide, it was slightly better, at 78 percent. Gillespie said he expects flows in area rivers and streams to peak on or about June 1, depending on the weather, and then they’ll quickly recede.The water levels in the heavily-used Colorado River at the Colorado/Utah line probably illustrates the conditions of most rivers in the state. Monday it was flowing at 7,080 cubic feet per-second, or less than half of the mean flow of 17,390. The highest on record was 58,400.

Monday the flow of the Eagle River below Gypsum was 71 percent of he mean at 1,300 cubic feet per-second.Lawn watering restrictions across the county are expected to tighten with fewer watering days as the summer heat builds, but as always, the vagaries of summer rains will also play a part. The trio of reservoirs serving Eagle County – Homestake, Eagle Park and Black Lakes – are expected to fill.Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: cthompson@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.


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