Our luck hasn’t dried up yet: 2004 won’t be another 2002
Post Independent Staff
Although the state’s drought still lingers, water experts agree that 2004 won’t be another 2002.
The drought in 2002 was considered one of the worst in the state’s history.
After a March that felt more like May, melting large amounts of the accumulated snowpack, April precipitation has helped bolster levels in many parts of the state.
“During March, we saw a pretty substantial loss in snowpack. That’s during a time when we should be increasing the snowpack,” U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service snow survey supervisor Mike Gillespie said Friday.
“April’s been an OK month in the Colorado Basin, but I think it’s not going to be a good runoff year in the Colorado Basin at all,” he added.
As of Friday, the Colorado River Basin was at 64 percent of average in terms of snowpack, Gillespie said.
“Probably more than anything, we’ve had a substantial loss of snowpack in March. That really dropped it down,” Gillespie said.
Bleak predictions for Colorado River runoff, which is estimated to be just 50 to 60 percent of average, mean downstream reservoirs might not even catch up to 2003 levels.
“It’s not going to be a productive year for water supplies,” Gillespie said.
Gillespie said there is the possibility that the snowpack could increase in late April and early May, but it would be an unusual occurrence.
“Those are more and more rare and something you really can’t count on,” Gillespie said.
Statewide, the snowpack looks somewhat better. Thursday’s Front Range snowstorm lifted snowpack levels to 85 percent of average in the Arkansas River Basin and 76 percent in the South Platte Basin, Gillespie said.
“The recent snows have helped,” said Dave Merritt, an engineer for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “I think we’re going to see this is not a 2002-type year.”
He said the state won’t get ahead in terms of reservoir water storage, but at the same time, the state might not fall behind.
But states downstream of Colorado are facing another year of drought.
“Lake Powell is still going to be in deep trouble,” Merritt said.
Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511
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