Despite surpassing last season’s snowpack numbers, the amount of precipitation that has fallen this winter is still well below the average.
Area snowpack is currently 21 percent above what was recorded last year, but it is 23 percent short of the average, according to a report issued on Wednesday by the Roaring Fork Conservancy.
It took a while for this winter’s snowpack to outperform last season’s because the area had little to no snowfall in October and November, said Sarah Johnson, education and outreach coordinator at the conservancy. The amount of precipitation collected in December was about average and snowfalls in January and February were slightly below that. March was the first month that enough snow fell to push past last year’s numbers, she said.
“We’ve finally gotten a little bit above where we were last year,” Johnson said. “But if you look at where we are in terms of averages we’re still well below [the norm].”
Conditions are similar to those during the 2002 drought and that will likely persist throughout the summer, she said. Forecasters expect local river flows to be 50 percent below average this summer, according to a Natural Resources Conservation Services report.
“Everybody thinks that we’re improving because everybody sees there’s more snow,” Johnson said. “But it’s very misleading because we have to remember that last year was a significant drought.”
This summer’s drought will be particularly challenging because water reserves used last year have not been refilled, Johnson said.
For the second year in a row, the Denver-based Colorado Water Trust is reaching out to people who own water rights in the Roaring Fork Valley to see if they will temporarily lease a portion of their water flow to the rivers.
“The intention is to work quickly enough with the owners to affect the river this summer,” Johnson said.
As temperatures warm, homeowners who are planning to landscape their properties should be mindful of the fact that water will be limited this year, Johnson said. The conservancy suggests that local gardeners invest in drought tolerant plants native to Colorado.