Snowpack’s looking good, but reservoirs remain low

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IMG_6399The federal government just released its February forecast for New Mexico’s streams and rivers—and things are looking pretty good.

Or rather, they’re not looking as bad as they have in recent years.

Right now, statewide snowpack is above normal. And although there weren’t as many storms in January as December, the winter’s storms have helped build up snowpack in the mountains.

Most of the mountain snow season still lies ahead of us, according to the report. But right now, it looks as though New Mexico might receive good spring runoff.

For that to actually play out during the spring, temperatures will need to remain cold enough to preserve the snowpack until later in the year. As NMID reported last year:

“The warm spring temperatures are one of the clearest observed climate change signals in North America,” says David Gutzler, a professor in the University of New Mexico Earth and Planetary Studies Department and one of the lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2013 Assessment Report.

Those warming temperatures are affecting not just when and where snows fall, but how and when snowmelt finds its way—or doesn’t—into streams, rivers and reservoirs downstream. Put another way, the warming temperatures have made it more difficult to predict how much water will be available through the spring and summer—when water demands are greatest.

Among the highlights of the February Natural Resources Conservation service report:

Precipitation across New Mexico during January 2016 was near- to above normal across the northwest and north central areas, while mostly below normal elsewhere.

  • Statewide, reservoir capacity is still low: only at 29 percent, a six percent increase from this time last year.
  • In reservoirs throughout the Rio Grande Basin, storage capacity is only 14 percent of the 30 year average. At this time last year, storage levels were 12 percent of normal. Things look better on the San Juan River, where Navajo Reservoir storage is 82 percent of the 30 year normal.

To learn more about snow, precipitation, snow surveys and forecasting, visit the New Mexico NRCS Snow Survey Program. 

One thought on “Snowpack’s looking good, but reservoirs remain low

  1. The long-term forecast for most of the Southwest continues to trend dry:, which briefly summarizes this study–

    Both researchers and policy wonks alike get nervous when the precipitation and run-off numbers start to tick up, because we worry about growing complacency. Thanks for citing the reservoir levels–that’s information that helps bring the public back to reality.

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