Report: Colorado snowpack only 52 percent of average

DENVER — The Natural Resources Conservation Service released its January snowpack report and indicates this water year is one of the driest on record for Colorado.

Since the late 1970s, a network of snow monitoring stations has tracked Colorado’s snowpack for water resource planning.

This year, the network of stations shows one of the driest ever recorded with snowpack at only 52 percent of average as of Friday.

There is some good news in that the amount of snowpack isn’t too far off the mark for the northernmost ranges.

But it is a dismal season so far for the southern parts of the state in the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basin (25 percent); the Upper Rio Grande basin (30 percent) and the Gunnison basin (38 percent).

“From a water supply standpoint the good news for Colorado is that this is the first January in many years where every major river basin in the state is holding above average reservoir storage volumes,” according to the report.

“These values range from a low of 104 percent of average in the Gunnison to a high of 143 percent in the Arkansas River basin. Statewide reservoir storage currently resides at 115 percent of average.”

This is a very typical scenario for the state during a La Nina weather pattern that is currently happening. And the forecast for La Nina shows little change through early spring.

The chance of catching up to the average by the end of the season is not a very good one.

“While there is still a lot of winter left we would need to receive well above average precipitation for the rest of the season to achieve a normal peak snow accumulation, especially in southern Colorado,” NRCS hydrologist Karl Wetlaufer said.