Eric Brown
ebrown@greeleytribune.com

Back to: News
December 14, 2013
Follow News

Snowpack data system in Colorado to be fully funded this winter and spring

State officials have found a way to maintain funding for Colorado’s Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program — described as vital by many water users and officials in Weld County and across the state.

However, Natural Resources Conservation Service officials said in a news release Friday that the plan is only a temporary fix.

The plan, which repurposes money within the NRCS’s budget, only funds the snow-monitoring program through August 2014.

Still, the move brought much relief to farmers across Colorado.

The snowpack program consists of automated “Snotel” measurement devices in the mountains and also of manual snow readings done by NRCS staff.

With the data collected, water officials each year estimate what river flows will be when snow melts in the spring, and also how much of that water will run off into the region’s reservoirs and irrigation ditches.

Based on those forecasts, farmers — who use the majority of the state’s water — decide what crops they’ll plant and how much.

Cities, too, decide whether they’ll have enough water, not only to meet their own needs, but also whether they’ll have enough water left over to lease to local farmers during the growing season.

In addition to providing water projections, some of the data-collection system dates back to the early 1900s, and continuing that historic data is critical, water officials say.

While important, the snowpack-measuring program’s future had been uncertain.

Phyllis Ann Philipps, state conservationist for the NRCS in Colorado, announced in recent weeks that, with its budget this year, the NRCS’s automated Snotel system would still be up and running as normal, but 47 of the 104 sites where manual measurements are taken wouldn’t be operational.

Soon, though, a number of representatives from water providers, conservation districts and other operations across the state stressed that they would provide whatever resources are needed — technical assistance, dollars, staff or all of the above — to make sure the data-collection system is fully functional this year.

“Upon hearing about the potential cuts in snow survey courses, we were so pleased when so many stakeholders came together to help strategize a solution,” said Philipps. “We will need their continued input and support, as the fix I’ve implemented is an interim one.”

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., had all urged the NRCS in a recent letter to prioritize funding for the program, according to a news release.


Explore Related Articles

Trending in: News

My Windsor Now Updated Dec 14, 2013 05:40PM Published Dec 17, 2013 02:03PM Copyright 2013 My Windsor Now. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.