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Throughout the history of the American West, water issues have shown their ability to both unite and divide communities. As an imbalance between water supplies and demands grows in the region, KUNC is committed to covering the stories that emerge.

With Weekend Snowstorm, Significant Drought Relief Arrives For Front Range And Plains

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Karlie Huckels/KUNC
Snow totals across Colorado varied wildly, with some portions of the northern foothills receiving upwards of 42 inches.

This weekend’s snowstorm will likely translate to significant drought relief for portions of Colorado, while others remain mired in drier than average conditions.

Snow that blanketed the northern Front Range and northeastern plains will provide two to three inches of liquid water when it melts. Some localized areas are seeing even higher amounts ranging from four to five inches of water held in the snow, said Colorado’s assistant state climatologist Becky Bolinger.

“I do think we’re going to see clear improvements all along the Front Range from this event,” Bolinger said.

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National Weather Service
The National Weather Service estimates that areas of Colorado's northern Front Range and northeastern plains received between 2 and 4 inches of liquid water in the form of heavy, wet snow, with some localized areas receiving more than 4 inches.

The city of Burlington, for example, recorded nearly three inches of precipitation in 72 hours over the weekend. In a normal year, Burlington averages a total of 2.78 inches for the period of November through March.

“So they got more in three days than they would typically get, November through March,” Bolinger said.

Much of Colorado’s Front Range has been locked in severe drought since August 2020. Bolinger expects the next U.S. Drought Monitor, released weekly on Thursdays, to show a contraction of severe drought on the Front Range and northeastern plains.

The Western Slope, the part of the state in the most need of added moisture, is unlikely to see any drought relief from this storm, Bolinger said.

“West of the divide this is probably not going to be a drought buster. And we might not see improvements looking west of the divide,” she said.

Mountain snowpack feeds the annual springtime pulse of the state’s rivers and streams. It also fills reservoirs and provides drinking and irrigation water supplies throughout the year. The added snow relieves some pressure on Eastern Slope water managers, cities and farmers, but doesn’t eliminate it completely.

This story is part of ongoing coverage of water in the Western U.S., produced by KUNC and supported by the Walton Family Foundation.

As KUNC’s managing editor and reporter covering the Colorado River Basin, I dig into stories that show how water issues can both unite and divide communities throughout the Western U.S. I edit and produce feature stories for KUNC and a network of public media stations in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada.
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