After expressing some hope last month - USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service National Water and Climate Center hydrologists say it’s now highly unlikely the snowpack will recover to normal levels over the Four Corner States. As was the case in February - water and climate experts say March streamflow forecasts show a decline in nearly every Western state and basin. The hydrologists predict dry conditions to continue from the less-than-average precipitation during February - which indicates reduced spring and summer water supply for much of the West. Snow in other parts of the country just didn’t have an impact in the western mountains. Hydrologist Tom Perkins says New Mexico, Utah and Colorado are especially vulnerable because their reservoirs are at low levels due to sustained drought conditions. He says it looks like water supply conditions will end up below average for most of the West’s rivers - leaving water resource managers with difficult decisions in the coming months. There are a few exceptions to the dry forecasts. For Oregon, Washington, Idaho and western Montana - spring and summer streamflow forecasts as of March 1 are calling for near normal levels.
Perkins says NRCS streamflow forecasts do not directly predict drought. But he says they do provide valuable information about future water supply in states where snowmelt accounts for as much as 50 to 80-percent of seasonal runoff. The streamflow forecast compares the current level of water content in snowpack in the 12 western states with historical data to help the region’s farmers, ranchers, water managers, communities and other stakeholders make informed decisions about water use and future availability. The March forecast is the third of six monthly forecasts issued each year between January and June by the national center.