Print Back to top

Weekend snowstorm delivers big shot of moisture

Heavy, wet snow increases snowpack just in time for runoff season, giving a boost to Denver Water reservoirs.

It was tough to shovel, but last weekend’s wet, heavy snow delivered a three-day punch of liquid gold for Denver Water.

The storm ramped up on April 15 and finally cleared out on April 17. When it was over, 2 to 4 feet of snow pounded areas of Boulder, Grand, Jefferson, Park and Summit counties where Denver Water captures the snow that produces up to 80 percent of our water.

In just 72 hours, the snowpack shot up 15 percent in the Upper South Platte River basin and 9 percent in the Upper Colorado River basin. As of April 18, the snowpack for the South Platte and Colorado River basins stood at 109 and 113 percent of normal, respectively.

SP_SnowpackCO_Snowpack“This weekend’s snowstorm was really good for our snowpack,” said Bob Steger, manager of raw water supply. That heavy, wet stuff produced around 2 inches of snow-water equivalent — a measure of how much water comes out of snow when it melts. To put that in perspective, the water gained from the three-day storm accounts for 16 percent of the snow-water equivalent in the South Platte River basin so far this season.

Gross Reservoir in Boulder County received nearly 3 feet of snow during the April 2016 snowstorm. The reservoir is expected to fill to capacity later this year.

As temperatures rise later this spring, the snowmelt will reach Denver Water’s mountain reservoirs. Steger expects 10 of Denver Water’s 12 major reservoirs to fill (two won’t be filled due to construction projects).

The bulk of the storm hit the Front Range — a typical spring pattern during an El Nino year — but that also brings benefits to both eastern and western Colorado. “A storm like this weekend’s means we don’t have to bring as much water over the Continental Divide, so more water stays in West Slope creeks and streams,” Steger said.

The moisture in the metro area also means good things for Denver Water customers. Late-season snow in the city means people don’t have to start watering their lawns as early as they do in a warmer, dry spring.

Steger said Denver Water’s annual watering rules, which kick off May 1, serve as good guidelines to follow in our unpredictable climate.

“The rest of this spring we could see a dry spell or more moisture like last year,” Steger said. “We all have to remember, we live in Colorado. Almost anything can happen with the weather.”