Lakewood- Colorado′s mountain snowpack has gotten off to a good start with much of the state recording above average totals for the New Year. According to the latest snow surveys, conducted by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the state’s snowpack is 120 percent of average. With the 2009 totals topping last year′s January 1 readings, the current snowpack is the highest since 1997. Additionally, this year′s snowpack marks only the third time that above average January totals were measured across the state in the 12 years since 1997, according to Allen Green, State Conservationist with the NRCS.
The latest surveys are welcome news to the state′s water users, since up to 80% of Colorado′s surface water supplies originate from the melting snowpack during the spring and summer months. The best news comes from those river basins across southern Colorado once again this year. A series of heavy storms have delivered abundant snowfall to the Rio Grande, Arkansas and San Juan River basins in December. "We′ve seen a snowfall pattern which is strikingly similar to last year in these basins", said Green. After a very dry fall, several intense storms brought heavy accumulations to boost snowpack totals to well above average by the January 1 surveys. The current snowpack readings in these basins range from 135 to 140 percent of average, and are nearly identical to those statistics of a year ago. The Rio Grande basin′s 140% of average is the highest January total measured since 1985, bringing the best news to water users in this basin in decades.
Meanwhile, snowpack totals across northern Colorado remain at near average to slightly below average for this date. With the December storm pattern favoring southern Colorado, the northern basins received smaller totals, which range from 86 to 99 percent of average in the Yampa, White, and North and South Platte basins. While these basins remain slightly below average, only the North Platte is short of exceeding last year′s totals for this date.
Overall, the state is on track to experience another good runoff year when spring arrives. Streamflow forecasts for the spring and summer months call for near average to above average runoff for most of the state. "At the present time, we still have 60 percent of the snowpack accumulation season ahead of us. There′s a lot that can happen in the next few months that can change this picture; but right now, things look great", said Green.
As the New Year begins, reservoir storage is in good condition statewide. With no basins showing any potential shortages, the statewide totals are at 98 percent of average and are 101 percent of last year′s storage volumes.