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News Release

Current Conditions Support Near Normal 2014 Streamflow Predictions

Contact:
Brian Domonkos
406-587-6991


February 7, 2014


Bozeman--Based on current conditions, the 2014 water year is near normal as of Feb. 1, according to data collected by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  Warm, dry conditions prevailed through the majority of January 2014.  However, during relatively short periods at the beginning and end of the month, moisture-laden storms dropped above normal snow.  

“Despite the dominating dry spell, snowpack figures only showed a slight decrease,” said Brian Domonkos, NRCS water supply specialist for Montana.  “Montana is seeing its best snowpack since 2011 and the fourth best snowpack of the last ten years.”

Statewide snowpack dropped only two percentage points, rounding snowpack to 109 percent of median on February 1.  Last January experienced an even greater dip than was seen this year.  Overall, the state’s snowpack for this year is looking most like 1989, 1991, 2004 and 2009, of which 2004 was the only year with a snowpack peaking below average.

At 125 percent or better, Central Montana—including the Bridger, Belt, Big Snowy, and Crazy Mountain ranges—continues to boast the strongest snowpack.  The Red Lodge area, most particularly Rock Creek, has the most snow water equivalent on record dating back to 1981. Western Montana made improvements in the Clark Fork with the exception of the Flathead.  The Bitterroot saw the greatest improvement in the state, jumping from 91 percent of median last month to 109 percent of median at the end of January.

Snow Water Content
River Basin Percent of Median Last Year Percent of Median
Columbia 102 95
Kootenai, Montana 89 97
Flathead, Montana 106 96
Upper Clark Fork 110 95
Bitterroot 109 87
Lower Clark Fork 91 97
Missouri 114 100
Missouri Headwaters 108 103
- Jefferson 115 103
- Madison 100 103
- Gallatin 111 106
Missouri Mainstem 126 93
- Headwaters Mainstem 125 96
- Smith-Judith-Musselshell 144 97
- Sun-Teton-Marias 108 93
- Milk (Bearpaw Mountains) 121 79
St. Mary 99 103
St. Mary and Milk 107 95
Yellowstone 116 91
Upper Yellowstone 119 98
Lower Yellowstone 114 86
Statewide 109 96

“Across the state, reservoir storage is in excellent standing, said Domonkos.  “Precipitation last month was a mixed bag from basin to basin, but the state averaged a slight gain.”   

Year-to-date precipitation starting on October 1, 2013 remains below average in most watersheds but did post a two percent gain throughout January 2014.  After a month with 138 percent of average precipitation, the Gallatin River basin is now the only tributary with above average year-to-date precipitation for the water year.

Streamflow forecasts are currently foreseen to be lowest in the extreme southwestern & northwestern portions of the state such as the Tobacco, Yaak, and Beaverhead River basins, all below 80 percent of average.  While the vast majority of the state is between 90 and 110 percent of average, the Smith, Judith, & Musselshell River Basins show the most promise for springtime runoff at 125 to 150 percent of average.

Streamflow Forecasts

Below are the averaged River Basin streamflow forecasts for April 1 through July 31. These forecasts assume near normal moisture and runoff conditions January through July.

April-July Streamflow Forecast Period
River Basin Forecast as Percent of Normal This Year Forecast as Percent of Last Year Streamflow
Columbia 97 98
Kootenai 85 70
Flathead 99 91
Upper Clark Fork 108 134
Bitterroot 100 131
Lower Clark Fork 100 110
Missouri 95 134
Missouri Headwaters 90 160
- Jefferson 89 198
- Madison 83 115
- Gallatin 103 143
Missouri Mainstem 96 128
Headwaters Mainstem 96 129
Smith-Judith-Musselshell 135 252
Sun-Teton-Marias 93 101
Milk (Bearpaw Mountains) 108 Incomplete
St. Mary 94 87
St. Mary and Milk 95 87
Yellowstone 106 140
Upper Yellowstone 102 129
Lower Yellowstone 108 148
Statewide 98 114

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