NRCS in Colorado Strategies to Maintain Manually Monitored Snow Survey Sites
Contact: Petra Barnes Walker
NRCS State Public Information Officer
Office Number: 720-544-2808
Fax Number: 720-544-2965
Reallocation of Budget Provides Short Term Solution
Denver, CO – Phyllis Ann Philipps State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Colorado recently announced the reallocation of operational funds to maintain the viability of 47 manually monitored snow survey courses threatened as a result of budgetary constraints. Although the redirection in funds resolves the immediate concern for fiscal year 2014, the long term solution remains a priority for NRCS as well as over 100 natural resource partners and stakeholders who will be asked to reconvene to help find a permanent resolution by August 2014.
“While we received our statewide operational budget for the year, the allocation for the snow survey program was far less than what is needed to fully implement the program even with the streamlining efforts we are implementing within the state,” states Philipps. “Upon hearing about the potential cuts in snow survey courses, we were so pleased when so many stakeholders came together to help strategize a solution. We will need their continued input and support as the fix I’ve implemented is an interim one.”
Colorado’s elected leaders were also concerned about the potential to close survey sites and the impact that would have on Colorado’s water managers and users. Individuals, organizations, state and Federal agencies use NRCS snow survey and water forecasts for decisions relating to agricultural production, fish and wildlife management, municipal and industrial water supply, urban development, flood control, recreation power generation, and water quality management. The National Weather Service also includes the measurements in their river forecasting function.
"Water is the lifeblood of the West, and our water managers need the best information on snowpack to keep our rivers, farms and cities strong. I am proud to have partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and thank it for working to protect the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program from looming budget cuts," U.S. Senator Mark Udall said. "Although this is a major win for Colorado's water managers, it is only a short-term solution. This additional funding will help keep all the monitoring sites open this winter and give stakeholders additional time to work on a long-term solution to sustain this important program."
“We are very appreciative for the support provided by Senators Udall and Bennet as well as Congressman Tipton,” Philipps goes on to say. “Their efforts helped foster the understanding about the importance of the snow survey program and the information derived from it.”
NRCS streamlining efforts in Colorado includes the data collection office assuming responsibility for monitoring seven manual snow courses in lieu of field staff, redirecting surveying responsibilities from 23 employees going from 42 to 19 NRCS staff having monitoring responsibilities and finally, this recent reallocation of funds. Even with all the efforts implemented these activities will only pacify the needs for 2014. Upon the installation of the new Data Collection Office Supervisor expected in February, a series of stakeholder and partner outreach sessions will begin to help detail the program’s viability for the long term.
NRCS’ snow survey and water forecasting program provides western states and Alaska with information on future water supplies. Field staff collects and analyzes data on depth and water equivalent of the snowpack at more than 1180 manual snow courses in US and Canada with 110 active sites in Colorado. This allows NRCS to estimate annual water availability, spring runoff, and summer stream flows. NRCS has managed the snow survey and water forecasting program since the early 1900’s.
For additional information about NRCS and the NRCS Snow Survey and Water Forecasting Program, please visit http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov.