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Water supply outlook for Colorado and downstream states improves

Cucharas and Huerfano Rivers precipitation chart

DENVER — For the first time during 2016, statewide snowpack improved over the previous month as opposed to the declines that have occurred each month since January 1st.

April weather conditions yielded a seven percent improvement in snowpack, which now stands at 104 percent of normal. Mountain precipitation across the state of Colorado during April was the best of the 2016 calendar year, at 110 percent of normal. Now water year-to-date precipitation is exactly at 100 percent of normal.

Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor, illustrates how fortunate the Colorado water situation is, “At this time last year the water supply outlook was grim at best. Colorado’s current snowpack and precipitation levels are right where we want to be this time of year. Elsewhere in the Western United States seasonal snowpack during 2016 succumbed to early spring warming and did not recover as Colorado did from recent storms.”

Snowpack in the Arkansas River basin is above normal at 110% of the median. Precipitation for April was 142% of average which brings water year-to-date precipitation to 100% of average. Reservoir storage at the end of April was 120% of average compared to 79% last year. Current streamflow forecasts range from 98% of average for the Arkansas at Salida to 77% for the Cucharas River near La Veta.

The seven major mountain watersheds in Colorado all received 90 percent of normal April precipitation or better.

Special mention is warranted in the Arkansas, Upper Rio Grande and combined Yampa, White and North Platte Basins, because these areas received 120 percent of normal or better precipitation. The seven major watersheds also have 90% of normal or better water year-to-date precipitation.

Colorado statewide snow chart
Streamflow forecast for all the major Colorado drainage basins.

Snowpack metrics indicate that the North and South Platte River basins have the best snowpack in the state at 114 percent of normal. The Arkansas saw the greatest improvement in April, while the Upper Rio Grande and combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan Basins saw little change. It is fortunate those basins saw little change downward given that snowpack there is now 77 and 85 percent of normal respectively.

Although not reflected in snowpack values, it is also fortunate that rain was abundant most particularly in the Upper Rio Grande, which added to the greater water budget.

Statewide reservoir totals increased one percent since April 1st ending the month at 112 percent of normal, with declines occurring in the Rio Grande, Arkansas and combined Yampa, White and North Platte watersheds.

Precipitation chart

2016 US summer forecast: More 90-degree days than normal to scorch East; West to battle drought, fires

AccuWeather reports as a strong El Niño fades, the weather across the country will slowly change. In much of the eastern United States, a hot summer is in store.

Southern Plains, Southwest: Rain, thunderstorms may keep summer temperatures down

While much of the country will endure above-normal temperatures this season, the southern Plains region may be the only exception. Rainfall and thunderstorms will be frequent over this region, keeping temperatures at bay. Abnormally dry conditions already present in eastern New Mexico, the northern Texas Panhandle and southwestern Kansas are expected to persist, although there will be enough chances for rain to prevent conditions from deteriorating to widespread significant drought. In the Southwest, a weaker monsoon season is forecast overall, despite a strong start in July. The pattern will quickly trail off in August, leading to normal to slightly above-normal precipitation. Despite the rain, the risk for fires will be high due to increased wind.

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