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Without Active Spring Snow, Colorado's Snowpack On Track To Be Below Average

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo (CBS4) - Colorado's high country is just weeks away from its average peak snowpack date. Current measurements are on the fast track to coming up short.

"Our snowpack has been struggling. We're close to average, but not quite to average so the likelihood of getting average snowpack is pretty low at this point. It's most likely that most areas of our state will have a little bit below average snowpack when we end the season," said Becky Bolinger, Assistant State Climatologist with the Colorado Climate Center at CSU.

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Bolinger's specialty is drought, and the state of Colorado has been keeping her busy.

"I am like the doctor for the state's climate and keep a pulse and keep the measurements and when things aren't healthy, point that out," she said.

With the average peak snowpack for Colorado's northern mountains in mid-to-late April, the time to make up for the deficit is running out. Bolinger doesn't see March and April producing enough moisture to get back to average.

"This is going to impact two things. We're not going to get as much to the reservoirs as we want to get, and that will be a second year in a row of that. We're also not replenishing our soil moisture deficits that we started last year with. When the snow melts, soil moisture is that first bucket that needs to be filled," Bolinger said. "We would need above average snowpack to help fill that bucket and adequately supply water to the reservoirs, and that's not going to happen."

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Snowfall in February, while not enough to make an overall impact, did help some. Denver Water reported its collection system was at 140% of its normal accumulation for the month. While it's not far from normal for the season at 92%, Denver Water says it could use more.

"Typically, March and April are the snowiest months and very important for water supply. We are constantly monitoring conditions and will be prepared in the event March and April come in below average, but of course would love to see a long run of good snow over the next couple months," Denver Water explained in an email.

Bolinger says utility providers are constantly monitoring drought conditions and advises people pay attention to what they have to say.

"We're going to continue in this situation where we don't have quite enough water in the system, so another thing I'm expecting is to see, as we move into the summer, is that many of us are likely going to have some watering restrictions."

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The good news? The lack of moisture means less new growth and fewer fuels for potential fires to burn, but Bolinger is still hopeful the state sees a few strong spring storms.

"What's keeping me up at night, very specifically, is that we go unseasonably warm, and we don't get much more snowpack, and it melts too fast, and it melts too early, and we start our summertime temperatures too early. That means we will get into a fire season early, and then we run the risk of having another large and devastating wildfire season."

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