Colorado’s Current Snowpack and Reservoir Storage

By Chris Rundall, PE

 In the state of Colorado, where our offices are headquartered, there is constant concern over snowpack levels and reservoir fill.  Because snowfall in the Rockies provides the main source of water for the state’s reservoirs, we keep a close eye on annual percentages and averages. Currently, the statewide snow pack is well below where we were last year at this time.  According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado’s statewide snow pack  as of January 6, 2012, was 71% of average and 52% of last year’s readings.  Here in Steamboat Springs, the snow pack in the Yampa River Basin is 57% of average. (See the detailed list of snow pack averages for each basin).

From a statewide reservoir storage standpoint, last spring’s above-average snow pack and subsequent runoff has kept reservoir storage above average.  It will be interesting to see where reservoir storage levels sit next fall.  The map below (and subsequent updated versions) can be found on the NRCS website.  There is an abundance of well-presented and informative maps and graphs on their website for further research and information.

One worrying by-product of the current snow drought will be the potential for large scale forest fires this summer. With the vast amounts of fuel in the form of beetle killed pine, the threat of a massive forest fire lurks.

Municipalities, government agencies, water districts and ski resorts, as well as other water rights holders, will be closely monitoring these issues.

Hopefully La Nina weather patterns take shape and we won’t have to worry about fire and low reservoir levels this summer: my skis and I are waiting patiently for that La Nina winter we were promised!