Below-normal Colorado snowpack raises water supply concern

February 5, 2015

A new report says a dry spell during January has left Colorado with little time to catch up to normal snowpack levels.

The Natural Resources and Conservation Service released its latest snow survey Thursday

"Looking back at Colorado’s mountain snowpack over the course of January, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find promising water supply outlooks for spring and summer 2015," said the agency

According to statewide data, 1986 was the only drier January going back 29 years.

The state gets 80 percent of its surface water from melting snowpack.

Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor Brian Domonkos noted that there is only one third of the winter remaining.

"We need about 125 percent of our normal precipitation to get back to that peak snowpack that is normal for Colorado. So it's becoming more out of reach, but I wouldn't say that it's impossible to get back to that at this point,” Domonkos said. 

Photo: Colorado water basin snowpack map
The area of each water basin for the state of Colorado.

Some areas of the state are suffering more than others. In the Northwest corner of the state, the North Platte and Yampa/White River basins both experienced significant deficits in snowfall. 

But the South Platte, Colorado, and Arkansas basin all remain near normal snowpack levels. And last year's above average snowfall is buoying  reservoirs fed by the South Platte, North Platte, Colorado and Yampa/White basins to above average storage. 

While January is an important month, April and March typically provide the most snowfall, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.