by Kelen Dowdy, City of Greeley Water Resources Administrator IWater Resources personnel in
Northern Colorado continuously forecast water supply to plan for the upcoming water
year by monitoring snowpack and snow water equivalent (SWE) data. Snow data are
collected through surveys using active and passive sampling techniques. Active
sampling involves a team of personnel traveling to each survey site to manually
collect data using snow core measurements. Passive sampling includes SNOTEL or snow
telemetry that remotely monitors snowpack, precipitation, and temperature using
a combination of equipment including snow pillows and radio telemetry devices.
The values gathered through these
surveys can be graphed, used to compare to past water years, as well as predict
spring runoff. Years with less snow generally translate to years that water
resources personnel must guarantee that storage is adequate to provide water to
all consumers during a water short summer season. Comparatively, years that
snowpack is high and river flows follow suit are years where storage systems
can be replenished. Paired with drought data, predictive precipitation, and
temperature, snowpack values provides crucial data for users water.
This year, snowpack values peaked higher than both the
average and the median. Compared to 2017, the South Platte River basin that
serves Northern Colorado currently has 117% snowpack and compared to the normal
values we now have 105%. Statewide snowpack numbers follow the positive trend
with a statewide average of 130%. These numbers suggest an adequate water
supply year for Northern Colorado.