State snowpack at lowest level in a quarter century
April 3, 2002
The fourth straight month of below average snowfall has left Colorado with its lowest snowpack level in 25 years, according to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The federal agency said the state’s snowpack overall has dwindled to only 52 percent of normal for April 1.
“The state now has its lowest percent of average snowpack since the drought year of 1977, when the state’s snowpack was only 46 percent of average,” said Allen Green, state conservationist with the NRCS.
The picture isn’t quite as bleak in the Roaring Fork River drainage. Basinwide, the snowpack is 64 percent of average. On Independence Pass, it is 67 percent of average, according to NRCS data.
Some of the seven computerized snow-measuring stations in the Roaring Fork drainage registered less than half the average amount of snowpack. Nast Lake was only at 36 percent of normal. North Lost Trail, between McClure and Schofield passes, was at 49 percent of normal.
Schofield Pass was at 79 percent of average snowpack, registering the highest amount in the area. McClure Pass was at 61 percent.
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The Kiln site at the 9,600-foot level in the Fryingpan Valley was at 60 percent of average snowpack. The Ivanhoe site, higher up the Fryingpan, is broken.
The Colorado River drainage, which the Roaring Fork feeds, is at 63 percent of average.
The month of March marked the fourth consecutive month of below average moisture across Colorado’s mountains, bringing the current readings to the lowest of this season. The state’s winter snowpack typically reaches its maximum levels around April 1, according to snow survey data.
The anemic level leaves the state’s water users hoping for ample spring moisture and a strong late-summer monsoon to help ease drought concerns, according to NRCS officials.
Streamflow forecasts, issued by the NRCS and the National Weather Service, call for below average runoff across the state. Many streams across southern Colorado can expect extremely low runoff, in the range of only 20 to 40 percent of average.
“Irrigators, especially those relying upon direct diversions from streams and rivers, will be impacted the most. Also, those water users with junior water rights can expect to be impacted by this summer’s low runoff,” said Green.
After four previous years with below average snowpack across the state, Colorado’s reservoir storage has also dipped to below average. Reservoir storage levels are currently only 88 percent of average. This year marks the first time in the past 20 years that the state is reporting a below average reservoir storage on this date.