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High Hopes for Water in 2011

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All the snow that’s been blanketing ski resorts in the high country is making for a hopeful outlook on water levels. Statewide snowpack is at 159 percent of last year’s January 1 readings and 136 percent of the 30-year average, says the Natural Resources Conservation Services’ snow survey office (via The Denver Post). The downside is a potential for floods this spring if we see another spate of hot days too early in the season. “It depends on how the weather patterns are entering the spring. We don’t see [major] flooding in most years, but it’s not uncommon to see some minor flooding,” says Mike Gillespie, snow-survey supervisor for the NRCS.

One area of concern is Boulder’s Fourmile Canyon, where a wildfire swept through last year, stripping away plants that would typically absorb snowmelt. Worry is so serious that Mike Chard, Boulder director of emergency management, is already working to position sandbagging equipment for use. Another area of unease lies along the Cache La Poudre river in northern Colorado. The snowpack levels are at their highest for this time of the year since 1997, according to The Associated Press.

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And while the agricultural eastern plains have suffered an abnormal dry spell, at least reservoir storage levels are at or slightly higher than normal across the state, making water providers optimistic about the year ahead, reports The Greeley Tribune. Despite all the moisture, southern Colorado’s Crowley County is nevertheless at high risk for wildfires, points out The Pueblo Chieftain.

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