West-wide snowpack has mostly melted, according to data from the fifth 2015 forecast by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
“Across most of the West, snowpack isn’t just low – it’s gone,” NRCS Hydrologist David Garen said. “With some exceptions, this year’s snowmelt streamflow has already occurred.”
Garen said that for much of the western US, the snowpack at many of the stations is at or near the lowest on record. Months of unusually warm temperatures hindered snowpack growth and accelerated its melt.
“We still have some snowpack in northern Colorado, western Montana and southern Wyoming,” said Garen. “In addition, snowmelt from Canada will flow into the Columbia River.”
“It’s been a dry year for the Colorado River,” NRCS Hydrologist Cara McCarthy said. “Snowmelt inflow into the Lake Powell Reservoir is forecast at 34 percent of normal.” The Lake Powell Reservoir supplies water to much of the Southwest, including Las Vegas, Los Angeles and southern Arizona. “We only forecast streamflow from current conditions,” McCarthy said. “Spring and summer rains might relieve areas that are dry.”
In Western states where snowmelt accounts for the majority of seasonal water supply, information about snowpack serves as an indicator of future water availability. Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm in spring and summer. National Water and Climate Center scientists analyze the snowpack, precipitation, air temperature and other measurements taken from remote sites to develop the water supply forecasts.
NRCS monitors conditions year-round and will continue to issue monthly forecasts until June. The water supply forecast is part of several USDA efforts to improve public awareness and manage the impacts of climate change, including drought and other extreme weather events.
Through the creation of the National Drought Resilience Partnership, launched as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, federal agencies are working closely with states, tribes and local governments to develop a coordinated response to drought
With field offices in nearly every county in the country, NRCS provides science-based conservation solutions to farmers and ranchers that help mitigate the effects of drought and prepare against future weather events. These practices enable farmers and ranchers to use water more efficiently as well as boost the health of soil, which is better able to store water for when it’s needed most. For information on assistance, visit Getting Started with NRCS.
For information on USDA’s drought efforts, visit USDA Disaster and Drought Information. And to learn more about how NRCS is helping private landowners deal with drought, visit the NRCS’ drought resources. View information by state.