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Colorado Snowpack Starting 2023 at Above Normal Levels in Most Major Basins

Publish Date
December 2023 snow at Denver Zoo

Colorado news release for January 1st 2023

Denver, CO – January 6th, 2023 – Aided by a significant series of storms starting after Christmas and continuing into the New Year most major basins in the state are now holding well above normal amounts of snow water equivalent (SWE) for this time of year. Currently only the Arkansas and Rio Grande River basins have a below normal snowpack. In other basins across the state snowpack ranges from 114 percent of normal in the South Platte to 146 percent in the combined Yampa, White, and Little Snake River basins. NRCS Hydrologist Karl Wetlaufer notes that “While there are still several months of snow accumulation season to come, for most of the state this is certainly an encouraging place to be in early January from a water supply standpoint”. So far this winter the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in south-central Colorado, which feed water into portions of both the Rio Grande and Arkansas basins, have had the least luck with respect to accumulating significant amounts of snowfall.

Snowpack for end-of-December 2022

Streamflow forecasts across Colorado follow similar spatial trends to the current snowpack. The most plentiful streamflow forecasts are currently in the North Platte and combined Yampa, White, and Little Snake River basins. Forecasts in these basins are for 135 percent of normal streamflow volumes for the April-July runoff period. On the low end of the spectrum are streamflow forecasts for rivers flowing out of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains into the eastern Rio Grande and southern Arkansas River basins, where the least snow has accumulated this water year. Streamflow forecasts in this region call for between 54 and 76 percent of normal streamflow volumes. Many parts of the state continued receiving significant snowfall into the first few days of January not incorporated in forecasts.

Reservoir storage remains highly variable across the major basins of Colorado. Plagued by consecutive years of low streamflows and impacted by withdrawals to supplement storage in Lake Powell currently the Gunnison and combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan basins have the two lowest reservoir storage amounts in the state, both near 65 percent of normal.  On the high end, the Colorado Headwaters and Rio Grande basins are holding slightly above normal reservoir storage volumes. Hydrologist Karl Wetlaufer continued “In addition to current snowpack, reservoir storage, and streamflow forecasts soil moisture conditions going into this winter are improved over the previous several years thanks to ample summer precipitation. This has the potential to substantially improve the efficiency of snowmelt transitioning to observed streamflows, which has been a challenge in recent years.”


Colorado’s Snowpack and Reservoir Storage as of January 1st, 2023

January 1st 2023 current conditions
* San Miguel-Dolores-Animas-San Juan River basin
For more detailed information about February mountain snowpack refer to the January 1st, 2022 Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report. For the most up to date information about Colorado snowpack and water supply related information, refer to the Colorado Snow Survey website.