Reservoir storage reaching historic low levels
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Heading into April, Colorado water managers say snowfall the next few weeks would have to be more than twice or normal for the snowpack to reach the average peak snowpack, which typically happens April 8.
A big swath of the high country, including Summit and Eagle counties, is still classified as being in extreme drought.
After spending the last few months hoping for more snow, water providers now say they are preparing for continued drought conditions in spring and summer. Some towns have already announced strict outdoor watering restrictions staring early in spring. More information on watering restrictions is online at www.COH2O.co.
Almost a quarter (21 percent) of Colorado is classified as experiencing exceptional drought, with half the state seeing moderate to severe drought conditions. The entire state is experiencing some level of drought, according to last week’s update at the monthly Water Availability Task Force meeting.
Near-normal moisture in March helped maintain the statewide snowpack at about 77 percent of average, with the highest readings in the southwestern mountains and the lowest snowpack level in the South Platte Basin.
Statewide reservoir storage is at 71 percent of average and 39 percent of capacity, up slightly from last month. The highest storage levels are in the Yampa/ White River Basin, at 106 percent of average while the lowest storage in the state is the Rio Grande River basin at 53 percent of average. Last year this time the state was at 105 percent of average reservoir storage.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service is forecasting below average spring streamflows for the entire state, with most of the basins falling within the 50-69 percent of average forecast range.
The precipitation forecast for the spring is mixed, with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center saying the odds are better for below average moisture, while an experimental long-term forecast offers hope for wet conditions, especially in Southwest Colorado.