#Snowpack / #Runoff news: Recent snow bumps % of avg

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view the snowwater equivalent data for your favorite basin. Remember to check the total SWE and where your basin is as a percent of avg peak.

Here’s an explainer that I wrote last year about the considerations of percent of avg after runoff had started.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Snow and rain pushed Colorado into a comfortable position for water ahead of the wildfire season and dry months when farmers rely on mountain snowpack for crops.

The latest federal data Sunday showed snow levels above the median across the northern half of the state. Snowpack hit 116 percent of the median in the South Platte River Basin, which supplies metro Denver and northeastern Colorado, compared with 95 percent last year.

The heavily-tapped Colorado River Basin held snowpack at 114 percent of the median.

In southern Colorado, Arkansas River Basin snowpack measured 109 percent of the median — just as Colorado Springs begins drawing more heavily from Pueblo Reservoir. Southwestern Colorado snowpack in the San Miguel and San Juan river basins held at 87 percent of the median snowpack. Snowpack along headwaters of the Rio Grande River was at 94 percent.

From The Denver Post (Yesenia Robles):

Denver’s recent weekend snowstorms made April one of the snowiest in history.

As of Saturday afternoon, the total snowfall for last month stood at 15.6 inches, as recorded at Denver International Airport — far above the April average of 8.9 inches.

Snow, traces of which fell through the day and were expected to continue through the night, could push April’s total snowfall into the record books.

The 20th-snowiest April on record since 1882 brought 16.1 inches of snowfall in 1924 — just a half-inch more than what had been recorded Saturday afternoon…

Among the snowiest Aprils in Denver history are those of 1973, with 24.8 inches; 2013, with 20.4 inches; and 1999, with 19.7 inches.

The city’s snowiest April came in 1933, with 33.8 inches.

For the season total, Denver could also be reaching records this year.

So far in the 2015-16 season, the Weather Service has recorded 72.8 inches, making it the 26th snowiest since 1882-83.

The most recent season with more snow was 2012-13, which recorded 78.4 inches. The snowiest season ever recorded was in 1908-09, with 118.7 inches.

From The Crested Butte News (Alissa Johnson):

“Our user group represents five different categories of use on the Taylor River and none of the five representatives are satisfied with the current amount of water available,” said Frank Kugel, general manager for the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD).

Kugel explained that the Taylor Local Users Group—which is made up of representatives from boating, fishing, property, irrigation and flat-water recreation interests—requested changes to the proposed operations plan, including provisions for more flows in the latter half of July and reduced flows in October. Yet representatives at the meeting, which also included the UGRWCD and the Bureau of Reclamation, also opted to wait until May to finalize the plan.

“We were heartened by the fact that the snowpack went up a bit last week, another 2 percent on the inflow forecast [into Taylor Park Reservoir]. Every little bit helps, and we’re hoping for more this week the way storms have lined up in the forecast,” Kugel said.

At the time of the meeting, that put projected inflows into Taylor Park Reservoir at 82 percent of normal for the April through July inflow period. By Monday of this week, that projection had dropped to 79 percent. Unless April and May bring significant moisture, that means the reservoir is unlikely to fill.

“As envisioned right now flows would be significantly less than last year and that’s primarily due to the miracle May we received. Last year it rained much of May and into early June and we received a great deal of wet snow in the high country,” Kugel said.

As a result, the reservoir was nearly brimming and kept water managers on their toes, releasing enough water to prevent a spill. According to Kugel, the latest projections mean that, barring similar conditions this spring, there will be less flow than normal on the Taylor River this summer.

The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center will update its forecast on May 1, and the local user group will meet again on May 9 to make any additional changes to the operations plan.

Ultimately, the suggested changes to the operation plan will go to the UGRWCD board of directors for approval and then to what is known as the Four Parties meeting in May. There the UGRWCD, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado River District and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users will ratify the plan.

Westwide SNOTEL map May 2, 2016 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL map May 2, 2016 via the NRCS.

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