Snowpack remains well below average
Drought that has plagued the Roaring Fork, Fryingpan and Crystal river basins for the past few years will continue for the coming growing season.
According to the latest snow survey from the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin was 66 percent of the April 1 average as of Friday, March 29.
Averages are figured over a 25-year period, said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor with the NRCS.
Snowpack on McClure Pass was 38 percent of average for April 1. Independence Pass at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River stood at 79 percent and Nast Lake on the Fryingpan River measured 56 percent of average, according to the NRCS.
Low snowpack means lower river and reservoir levels and less water available for irrigation, as well as increased fire danger because of dry plant conditions.
“The Colorado River Basin is doing a little better than the rest of the state,” Gillespie said.
Statewide, snowpack is 57 percent of average for April 1, he said.
The lowest readings are in southwest Colorado where the San Juan, Dolores, Animas and San Miguel basins are only 40 percent of average.
Last year at this time, snowpack in the Colorado Basin was 84 percent, but by June it dropped to only 24 percent of average, Gillespie said.
That’s likely to happen this year as well, he added.
“We’re looking at the fifth consecutive April being well below average,” he said. Gillespie predicts it will be under 60 percent.
“The only hope for real relief is if we have good spring moisture followed by a strong monsoon,” he said. Monsoon season, when afternoon thundershowers are the norm, usually comes in July and August.
“June is usually a very dry month. If we don’t get moisture this month, we’re looking at a slim chance in June,” he said.
In other areas of the state, the Gunnison River Basin stood at 57 percent of average, the South Platte at 56 percent, the Laramie and North Platte basins at 65 percent, the Yampa and White River basins at 68 percent, the Arkansas River Basin at 55 percent of average and the Rio Grande Basin with 41 percent.
The highest snowpack readings were found in the Blue, Williams Fork and Eagle river basins, which stood between 70 and 85 percent of average as of March 1, Gillespie said.
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