Colorado Snowpack at 30-Year Low Raising Concerns over Water Supply

Steven Agar | | WeatherWeather
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Most of southern Colorado is way below average. Credit: DenverPost

Colorado mountain snowpack shrunk to 30-year low levels this week, raising concerns about water supply, and some federal authorities calculated even big late snow, if it falls, may not make up for the shortage reports the Denver Post.

Survey crews have measured snow depths in southwestern Colorado at 22 percent of normal, the upper Colorado River Basin at 65 percent of normal and the Arkansas River Basin at 49 percent of normal. National Weather Service meteorologists forecast limited snow through mid-January, though they also see a possibility that ocean-driven atmospheric patterns will shift by March and bring snow.

“The current situation does not look good. However, we still have more than half our snowpack accumulation season remaining. There’s the opportunity for change, but it is not very likely that we are going to make up the deficit and get back to normal in spring when it comes to snowpack,” said U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service snow survey supervisor Brian Domonkos.

colorado, snowpack, low, monarch pass
This picture was taken a few days ago. This time of year this Monarch Pass should be buried under snow. Credit: DenverPost

A few years ago, feeble mountain snowpack in California and Nevada led to severe water shortages and droughts. California’s governor got involved and ordered urban water use restrictions. In Colorado, state officials leave water supply and drought response largely to the discretion of utilities and local government, and natural resources officials plan to review “emerging drought conditions” next week. While most of Colorado currently is classified as abnormally dry, areas of the Western Slope are officially in drought.

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