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Environment

Highest January Snowpack For Colorado In Three Years

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SNOWTEL
/
Natural Resources Conservation Service
This water equivilency map shows even the southwestern water basins are above normal. The information is current of Jan. 13, 2017.

After a very dry fall, Colorado’s snowpack has bounced back. Statewide, the snowpack is at almost 160 percent of normal, with the state’s historically snowiest months still to come.

“To have our snowpack where it is right now for the state is a really good position to be in going forward for water supplies into the spring and summer,” said Brian Domonkos, Colorado snow survey supervisor and hydrologist.

The good news extends to cities and reservoirs downstream of Colorado, like Lake Mead in Nevada which has experienced record lows.

According to Domonkos, a strong snowpack is great news for farmers and water utilities, though it could change in the next few months.   

“At this point we are about 50 percent done with our snow accumulation season. We could dry out to some degree, and we may not be quite as high for snowpack when the peak snowpack comes around in late April early May,” he said.   

Colorado could see a record snowpack this spring — a situation Domonkos said was unimaginable in just November — but it could come with a price.

“As with any year that you have high snowpack, it all depends on how it melts,” he said.

“If it melts gradually that’s more what you want to see. Soils become saturated and then you can have a nice steady runoff and that provides a steady water supply through the summer.”

snowtel_jan_12_2017.jpg
SNOWTEL
/
Natural Resources Conservation Service

But under the right conditions, flooding could pose a problem later in the year for parts of the state.

“If we have a very high snowpack late into spring and then off a sudden temperatures warm up really quick and we have potential rain on snow events, then we can worry about very high [stream and river] flows,” Domonkos said.

At this point in the season, reservoirs across Colorado are at average levels. If they fill up too early in the season more water will be sent downstream.

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