Funding allocated for more snow surveying |

Funding allocated for more snow surveying

Leia Larsen

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has assembled funding to help keep an eye on snowpack and water supply through the 2014 winter.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service, under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, runs the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program. It collects data on snowpack in the Western U.S., including Colorado, helping water managers forecast future supplies. It also serves as a useful tool in collecting and comparing snow information in Colorado’s mountains and ski areas, by day, week or year.

The program was in danger of losing funding from looming federal budget cuts. Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, worked with officials in the U.S. Department of Agriculture to repurpose funds in the Natural Resources Conservation Service budget.

“Water is the lifeblood of the West, and our water managers need the best information on snowpack to keep our rivers, farms and cities strong,” Udall said in a press release.

Udall acknowledged it only serves as a temporary fix, providing money through August 2014. But he said the additional funding will both keep monitoring sites open and help give stakeholders more time to work on ways to supply long-term funding.

As of Dec. 19, Snow Survey data shows the Upper Colorado River Basin, which includes Grand County, at 98 percent of average for snow and precipitation. It’s at 164 percent of the 2012 snowpack comparison. Data also shows the Winter Park area at 102 percent of average year-to-date precipitation. Averages are calculated for the period between 1981 and 2010.

Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

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