A winter with low snowpack and a dry, hot summer combined to create the second-worst water year on record for Colorado.
Environment reporter Elizabeth Stewart-Severy discussed the data with host Zoe Rom.
Oct. 1 marks the start of a new water year, and data from snow telemetry (SNOTEL) sites across the state show that precipitation levels in Colorado were near record-lows in 2018, with a total of 21.4 inches. The only year with less precipitation in the 32-year record is 2002, at 20.7.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which tracks this information, has a longer record of streamflows in the state, and those numbers are very low this year, too.
Karl Wetlaufer, a hydrologist with NRCS, explained that streamflows across the state have been augmented by releases from reservoirs. NRCS reports the “naturalized” streamflow, in which the water from reservoir releases is subtracted.
Reservoirs that started the water year near or above average have been depleted. In parts of southern Colorado, reservoirs are now below 50 percent of average.