Can Colorado's Snowpack Recover?

Pop Quiz:

What percentage of Colorado’s water supply originates as snowpack?

A) 40%                 B) 60%                         C) 80%


Answer: C) An estimated 80% of Colorado’s water supply originates as snowpack. Source:


Everyone from skiers to water managers to weather scientists has been watching Colorado’s snow forecast this winter with some concern. Colorado’s snowpack is the state’s slow-release water storage, supplying us with water into the summer months.

As of early February, the state’s snowpack was about 63 percent of average. The southern part of Colorado, particularly the San Juan Mountains, are at only about 36 percent of average. That means those areas will need more than double the normal snowfall in the next few months in order to begin to catch up. Northern Colorado is below average, but close enough that it may catch up to normal.

Yet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) three-month outlook, Colorado will remain drier than average throughout the spring, particularly in the southern parts of the state.

In order to get back on track, Colorado would need to see several significant spring snowstorms and a healthy rainy season this spring and summer. The Colorado Climate Center notes that, “In many places, like southwest and west Colorado, current reservoir storage should be sufficient for seeing us through one summer following a poor snowpack year.”