Latest measurements by U.S. Drought Monitor shows Colorado is 99.9 percent drought-free, a huge turnaround for the state.
On May 23, the most recent U.S Drought Monitor update was released, and the news is good for the Centennial State. Colorado is drought-free for the first time in 21 months with only 0.01 percent of the state experiencing abnormally dry conditions. This area covers almost eight-square miles in Yuma and Montezuma counties, though nowhere in the state is in a drought currently. This is a big turnaround from last year and even back in February of this year, as 35 percent of the state was under severe drought conditions.
Late winter and spring snowfalls have been plentiful this year and have brought enough moisture to the state that we are now actually sitting at the lowest amount of dryness Colorado has experienced in close to 20 years.
The mountains and the Front Range saw large amounts of rain and snowfall in recent months, which has resulted in a mountain snowpack that is double what is normally expected. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado’s snowpack was at 240 percent as of May 22. At the end of April, reservoir storage across the state is at 90 percent of average, with 53 percent of capacity. Medano Creek at the Great Sand Dunes National Park is currently flowing at 160 percent of the average.
With a large amount of snowmelt and runoff expected, these numbers will likely continue to increase through the summer months.
An increase in moisture and late runoff will hopefully help with this year’s wildfire season; none of us will soon forget the devastation of last summer when Colorado faced dry conditions in almost 80 percent of the state. The extremely dry conditions led to one of the worst fire seasons the state has ever seen. The damage from 2018 wildfires in Colorado was extensive leaving long-lasting damage and amassing $130 million in firefighting costs.
The increased moisture levels will be beneficial for the state’s agriculture, with more water to go around for everyone. Wildlife will benefit from the increased moisture, as will environmental and recreational usage of the land. Less expensive water rates for farmers and higher rates of water storage are possible benefits the state may see this year.
Image courtesy of the National Integrated Drought Information System (Facebook).
The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) program began in 1999 and maintains a map of the country that shows the location and intensity of drought conditions across the United States. This information is updated every Tuesday and released on Thursday, a series of measurements and analysis to keep the public updated on the water supply and drought conditions across the country.
Being drought-free is wonderful news for Colorado, but does not erase the risk for wildfires, nor does it mean the state can be careless with the water resources we have. It is a constant struggle to maintain and conserve this valuable resource. The recent influx of moisture brings long-needed relief to many areas of the state, though it does not solve long-term water issues that we have often faced here.
We have all noticed the colors of spring bursting onto the scene and have the recent snowfall and rain to thank. As we welcome the summer into Colorado, it is wise to keep in mind that we should still work to conserve and protect the waters of the state, as well as remember that there is still a significant amount of snow up in the mountains so be prepared for a possible summertime day in the snow when you head out.
Do you have any water conservation tips and tricks that you use in the summer? Have you personally seen the effects severe drought can have in Colorado? Share your ideas and stories with us in the comments below!