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Gauging our water supply: It ain’t over ’til it’s over

It may be a cliché, but when it comes to predicting summer water reserves, we really do take it one day at a time.

Summit and Grand counties received more than 13 feet of snow in December 2016 and January 2017. But Denver Water is still taking it one day at a time, keeping a close eye on snowpack numbers during this recent dry spell.

Remember the advice your English teacher gave you? Avoid clichés.

Clichés are lazy; they’re the easy way out. Even the definition of the word is a downer — “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.”

But clichés become overused for a reason: They work! Sometimes a cliché perfectly captures what you need to say. Take sports clichés for example: “We have to stay focused”; “We’re taking it one day at a time”; “It’s game of inches.”

But it’s not just sports. We at Denver Water may get a little cliché happy ourselves, especially when answering the question we get every spring: What does our water supply look like?

So many clichés, so little time:

“Though the outlook is favorable, there is significant time left for conditions to change and turn the tide,” said Nathan Elder, senior water resource engineer. “It’s not over until it’s over.”

That’s the way our planners think (and sometimes talk). They do take it one day at a time, keeping a close eye on our mountain snowpack totals, where Denver Water gets most of its water supply.

“The season got off to a slow start,” Elder said.  “But thanks to a blitz of snow in December and January, snowpack in Denver Water’s collection system is still above normal.”

But a recent dry spell that now has much of Colorado in various stages of drought also has many weather watchers spouting a cliché people in Colorado know too well: We sure could use the moisture. Our answer?

The latest snowpack numbers for Colorado are above the historic average, but more moisture is needed in March and April to finish the season strong. Courtesy: USDA/NRCS National Weather and Climate Center.

“Certainly we’re not resting on our laurels,” Elder said. “March and April tend to be the wettest months in our watershed areas, so we’re hoping Mother Nature gives it 110 percent and finishes strong.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because we face this simple truth every year. Whether we have ample snowpack like this year or last, or whether we’ve had a dry winter, these next several weeks are always critical to heading into the summer with a strong water supply. A few good mountain snowstorms could put the finishing touches on a strong snowpack, while a prolonged dry period could start to chip away at those snowpack totals.

So we’re keeping our eye on the ball and not getting ahead of ourselves, and really, we’re just happy to be here. We’ve been successful so far. And certainly the last thing we want to do is to get out to a big lead, only to lose it in the final moments. We’ve seen that happen to others recently. (Too soon, Atlanta?)