The 2013 water year has gotten off to a slow start in the mountains of Colorado. As of Jan. 1, Colorado’s statewide snowpack was 70 percent of average and 91 percent of last year’s readings, according to Phyllis Ann Philipps, state conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“Conditions could have been much worse if we had not received the moisture we did in December,” Philipps said. The much-needed snowfall in December boosted the snowpack from just 36 percent of average recorded on Dec. 1. The Jan. 1 snowpack is the fourth lowest within the last 32 years, she added.
Mountain precipitation was 112 percent of average for December, but due to exceptionally dry conditions statewide in October and November, total water year-to-date precipitation remains below average. In October and November, Colorado received only 50 and 41 percent of average precipitation respectively.
Statewide year-to-date precipitation was at 68 percent of average as of Jan. 1. Basins in southern Colorado have the greatest deficits. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins reported only 59 percent of average year-to-date precipitation on Jan. 1. The Upper Rio Grande and Arkansas basins recorded 62 and 61 percent of average for year-to-date precipitation respectively.
So far this winter season has been dominated by high-pressure weather systems and a jet stream that has not cooperated. Jan. 1 snow surveys confirm that snow accumulation is below average for this time of year across the state. Total accumulation ranges from 82 percent of average in the Yampa and White River basins to 61 percent of average in the Arkansas basin.
Due to last spring’s well-below-average snowpack and subsequent low stream-flow volumes throughout most of the state, reservoir storage is currently well below average throughout Colorado. Statewide reservoir storage at the end of December was just 68 percent of average and 38 percent of capacity.
As far as local reservoirs are concerned, Twin Lakes is at 13 percent of capacity, 24 percent of average and 20 percent of last year. Turquoise Lake is at 33 percent of capacity, 48 percent of average and 44 percent of last year.