COLORADO– On the morning of November 17th, 2016, Colorado’s statewide snowpack was off to the worst start in over 32 years. Mountain temperatures were well above normal, preventing snow from accumulating in many areas. While temperatures struggled to reach freezing, precipitation also failed to fall altogether, ranking in the bottom tenth percentile of water year accumulations to date. At that point, prospects for reaching normal snowpack conditions by January 1st, 2017 were bleak, and chances of achieving a normal peak snowpack by late April, looked doubtful. However, on November 17th, 2016 a change was in store; late summer seemed to give way to winter as if Mother Nature decided to skip right over fall. From that point through January 1st, 2017, snow water equivalent measurements from statewide automated Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) stations have accumulated at the greatest rate in over 32 years. This first publication of 2017 snowpack numbers, based on January 1st SNOTEL data, boasts a healthy 114 percent of normal snow water equivalent across Colorado. Statewide year-to-date mountain precipitation is currently 98 percent of normal on the heels of bountiful December precipitation at 171 percent of normal. Reservoir storage rounds out 2016 at 105 percent of normal. The start of water year 2017 has been on both ends of the extremes, ending up on the favorable side for now.
ARKANSAS RIVER BASIN
Snowpack in the Arkansas River basin is above normal at 116% of the median. Precipitation for December was 168% of average which brings water year-to-date precipitation to 85% of average. Reservoir storage at the end of December was 101% of average compared to 128% last year. Current streamflow forecasts range from 102% of average for the Arkansas River at Salida to 75% of average for Grape Creek near Westcliffe.