Regional update on snowpack, drought conditions

With irrigation season around the corner, the Water Resources Division (WRD) has decided to provide a quick drought update on current conditions. Below is information on snowpack, drought conditions, and forecasts for our area.  




Through February, snowpack in Colorado was below average, causing concerns for water managers in the state. However, March had some snowstorms that boosted snowpack in the high country and some rain and snow mix in the lower elevations helped out soil moisture. 

Throughout the update, I will use “Normal” to refer to the 30-year median. For example, 101% of Normal snow-water equivalent (SWE) is referring to 101% of the 30-year median SWE. As of April 1, 2024, snowpack across the western United States is currently doing well, especially the Colorado River Basin which has 101-281 % of Normal SWE across the basin. Watersheds in Colorado also have great snowpack levels right now, with Southwest Colorado doing well at 104% of Normal SWE (Figure 1).  


Figure 1: Current Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) % of Normal for Colorado watersheds.  

The March precipitation helped snowpack a lot and hopefully April will produce some valuable moisture as irrigation season begins. Figure 2 below shows annual snowpack trends for the last 30 years. I have highlighted the 30-year median (bright green), last winter (purple), and this winter (black) for reference. Although this winter has not been as great as last winter, we are still trending towards a normal winter which is good. A normal winter and decent snowpack will be important during runoff season.  


There are three SNOTEL sites above Lemon and Vallecito reservoirs that are very important in modeling snowpack and runoff in our area. Those SNOTEL sites include Stump Lakes, Vallecito, and Weminuche Creek. For those interested in snow depth, snow-water equivalent, and % of Normal SWE for these three sites, visit the NRCS National Water and Climate Center’s Colorado Snow Survey Products webpage, which contains a lot of valuable information (  

The 7-day forecast shows some precipitation arriving this week, so another boost to snowpack is always welcomed. 





The western U.S. currently has regional drought conditions with some areas experiencing Extreme to Exceptional droughts. Southwest Colorado currently has Abnormally Dry to Moderate drought conditions. We are in much less stressful drought conditions than we were in January before the extra snowpack arrived. Future precipitation may improve these conditions further.  




The current forecasts (Figures 7 and 8) show average precipitation with slightly warmer than average temperatures throughout the Spring (April-May-June). The seasonal drought forecast shows no changes to Colorado drought conditions.  

In early discussions with Lemon and Vallecito water managers, both reservoirs are likely to fill this year. However, things can change, so the WRD will provide updates as we receive information and/or conditions change.   

If you’d like more information on snowpack, drought, and forecasting resources, feel free to reach out to George Gavrielides, Water Resources Specialist, at (970) 563-2932. 

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