Grand County snowpack above average
With snowpack peaking in Grand County, hydrologists have predicted that stream flow will be slightly above average for the region this summer.
Karl Wetlaufer, a hydrologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said that snowpack looked like it was going to peak at the beginning of this month, but the storms in mid-April extended the median peak to April 11. The median snowpack for the Colorado River Basin, which includes Grand County, was at 115% on Friday thanks in part to the late snow.
“It’s a good position that offers a lot of flexibility for people who utilize water resources for a lot of different purposes,” Wetlaufer said.
While the usual snow survey measurements taken manually at the end of March didn’t happen because of COVID-19 personnel restrictions, SNOTEL information is still able to roughly calculate snowpack. Snowpack and stream flow data is important for predicting the amount of water that will be available for agricultural and other uses through the summer.
This summer’s stream flow for the Colorado River Headwaters, based in Kremmling, is predicted to be around 108% the average, reflecting where snowpack is compared to historical numbers.
While the numbers are above the normal, it’s less than last year, which was plumped up by major snowfall in the spring. Kremmling’s stream flow prediction reached 126% this time last year. This was in the 60th percentile compared to historical averages, while this year’s flow was in the 55th percentile as of Friday.
“It puts people in a really good situation from a relative standpoint,” Wetlaufer said of this year’s snowpack.
Low snowpack leads to water shortages, but snowpack that’s too high can lead to flooding. While numbers are still tricky to interpret right now with snow just peaking and melting only starting, comparable to other years this puts water users in a good position. Wetlaufer explained that the levels right now are at what people are used to planning for.
Of course, in the High Country, snow doesn’t stop once spring hits and these numbers could change by May.
As for the fire season, snowpack alone doesn’t determine how high fire danger might be, but generally more moisture is a good thing. Future weather, vegetation and other factors will influence the fire danger for the county, but a good snowpack usually means healthier vegetation and higher soil moisture.
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