CWCB Drought Update for November 2014


Warm and dry conditions persisted throughout October and early November, with October 2014 the sixth warmest on record. However, recent precipitation and below average temperatures have resulted in improved snow accumulation across the state. The Arkansas basin, which has been the hardest hit by the drought, has received significant beneficial moisture this fall, and is no longer classified as experiencing extreme drought conditions; however severe conditions remain. Along the Front Range, water providers indicated that storage levels are at, or near, record levels, the South Platte basin is experiencing the largest positive departure from average in storage since records began in 1992.

Year-to-date precipitation at mountain SNOTEL sites, as of November 18th, was 82% of normal statewide. The Arkansas basin had the highest snowpack at 99% of normal, while the Yampa/White basin had the lowest at 73% of normal. This time of year it does not take much to increase snowpack levels and below average numbers are not of great concern.

The short term forecast calls for the mountains to get a good snowstorm this weekend into early next week. The plains will remain mainly dry, with a chance of snow on Thanksgiving.

Reservoir Storage statewide is at 105% of average at the end of October 2014. The lowest reservoir storage statewide continues to be the Upper Rio Grande, with 59% of average storage. The South Platte has the highest storage level at 147% of average.

In the South Platte Basin, Halligan Reservoir is spilling, which is unprecedented. While Carter Lake, Lake Granby and Horsetooth Reservoir have the highest combined November 1 levels that Northern Water has ever seen. Flows along some portions of the Poudre River are forty times higher than average.

The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) for the state is near normal or abundant across much of the state. The lowest values in the state reflect very low reservoir levels in Green Mountain and Platoro reservoirs.

A weak El Nino is expected to continue into early next year. If the event continues into spring, more widespread moisture is possible, starting in March. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts slightly favor a wet late winter for Colorado.

For Colorado River runoff, the end-of-season snowpack on the ground in the Gunnison basin will be the best indicator for the runoff next spring.

The US Drought Monitor indicates current drought conditions across Colorado. Currently, 70% of the state is free of drought while 30% is experiencing drought ranging from abnormally dry to severe. The drought that is impacting southeastern Colorado is now well into its fourth year, but recent rains have some brought relief and extreme drought has been eliminated.

Statewide reservoir levels are 105% of average, with better storage levels in the north than the south. However, storage levels in the Arkansas, Upper Rio Grande and Southwest basins have improved significantly over the past year.

Current snowpack is 82% of normal for this time of year, with significant gains seen in the most recent storms. With snow forecasted for the next 6-10 days and the fact that it is still early in the snow accumulation season, the below normal value is not overly concerning.

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