PHOENIX, January 10, 2013 - The Arizona Basin Outlook Report released this week by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) shows the state snowpack to be above average levels. The federal agency monitors snow conditions in Arizona’s mountain watersheds each winter to estimate the amount of water available for spring and summer uses.
Among the findings in the Basin Outlook Report, the Salt River basin snowpack was measured at 132 percent of the 30-year average; the Verde River basin at 188 percent of average; the San Francisco-Upper Gila basin at 95 percent of average; and the southern headwaters of the Little Colorado River basin had 145 percent of average snowpack. In the Chuska Mountains of northeastern Arizona, snowpack conditions were measured at 112 percent of average.
Despite the current above normal snowpacks, the initial streamflow forecasts for most basins are low, based in large part on preexisting dry soil moisture conditions, as well as an outlook for below normal precipitation for the remainder of the winter. The current streamflow forecast calls for normal to well below normal streamflow for the spring runoff period.
As the snowpack accumulates, hydrologists estimate the runoff that will occur when it melts. As the season progresses, forecasts become more accurate, primarily because a greater portion of the future weather conditions become known.
“One big storm can make all the difference in Arizona for determining if it is a good runoff season or not,” said Dino DeSimone, State Water Supply Specialist with the NRCS in Phoenix, Arizona.