LAKE COUNTY – Snow in Colorado’s high country starts the transition into water-supply in just weeks. This year, the run-off is going to be above normal.
Water managers with Colorado Springs Utilities want to know just how much water. “We do a snow read twice a month. Mid month and then the end of the month,” said Josh Propernick with Colorado Springs Utilities. The measurements happen from January through April. Crews head deep into the mountains at the Continental Divide to find out how much to expect.
The measurements done by hand, add detail to other measurements done by automated sensors. “We really do depend on this data to help us kind of plan our operations for the year,” said Colorado Springs Utilities, Water Planning Supervisor, Kalsoum Abbasi, “Figure out how much room we need to make in our downstream reservoirs.”
Depth, density and weight of snow are calculated. “What I’m interested in when I’m looking at these reads, is what’s called snow-water equivalent,” said Abbasi, “So that’s how much water in inches would there be if you melted that snow column down.”
“Very large numbers this year, the most I’ve seen,” said Nick Miller who is one of the team out taking measurements. He is from this area. Abbasi confirms his observations with historical data she keeps. “Our snow water equivalent is definitely above average. It’s about 137% of our long term average.” The numbers could rise even higher with additional snow that is likely into the month of April.
The amount of run-off from snowpack this year will be more than reservoirs in the Colorado Spring Utilities system can hold. Excess water ends up going down stream. It is a preferred scenario compared to a year ago when snowpack was well below normal because of drought conditions.