Drought possible without more snow

(courtesy image)

Cinthia Stimson, cinthia@glenrockind.com

As of now, hopes for a lush, green, grass-filled summer are looking a bit forlorn. If area precipitation levels don’t change in springtime, Glenrock and surrounding areas are in for another parched, brown season this summer, according to Wyoming Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Hydrologist Jim Fahey in Casper.
That spells bad news on many levels – bad news for ranchers and farmers irrigating land and crops, bad news for feeding and watering cattle, bad news for irrigation districts, cities and municipalities – and the list goes on.
The majority of the state is in need of water – the only places not in the yellow or red hazard zones on Fahey’s hydrology map for precipitation are the Yellowstone and Shoshone basins.
“For a lot of places east of the Continental Divide, which includes Douglas and the Laramie Range, we’re really waiting for spring to see what happens then. The time period from March to late-to-end-of June kind of makes or breaks us, especially central and south central Wyoming. If we do get precipitation then we can reverse this trend toward a drought. If we don’t (get water) it is going to get worse. It will lower reservoir storage, lower spring flow and so on,” Fahey said Monday.
NRCS’ weekly snowpack report, released Jan. 25, includes Wyoming maps showing snowpack levels. The Sweetwater Basin is at 60% of median (1981-2010); Wind Basin is sitting at 69%; and the Lower North Platte Basin is at 67% of median.
Fahey said snowpack/snow water equivalent (SWE) averages are still generally below average along many Wyoming basins for this time of year, although the state median average is at 78%, with a basin high of 99% at Yellowstone and a basin low of 16% at South Platte.
“The greatest increases in snowpack/SWE in the past week were in southeast Wyoming at Little Snake, Upper/Lower North Platte, Laramie and Cheyenne Basins. All basins west of the continental divide generally had small SWE decreases last week. The best chance for mountain snow will be in northwest Wyoming – by the end of the week into next weekend,” he said.
For more information on the state’s median averages visit https://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/normals/median_average.htm or the Water Resources Data System & State Climate Office at http://www.wrds.uwyo.edu/wrds/nrcs/nrcs.html


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