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The environment desk at Aspen Public Radio covers issues in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the state of Colorado including water use and quality, impact of recreation, population growth and oil and gas development. APR’s Environment Reporter is Elizabeth Stewart-Severy.

2018 Is 2nd Driest Year In CO Records

Courtesy of Natural Resources Conservation Service

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.


Aspen native Elizabeth Stewart-Severy is excited to be making a return to both the Red Brick, where she attended kindergarten, and the field of journalism. She has spent her entire life playing in the mountains and rivers around Aspen, and is thrilled to be reporting about all things environmental in this special place. She attended the University of Colorado with a Boettcher Scholarship, and graduated as the top student from the School of Journalism in 2006. Her lifelong love of hockey lead to a stint working for the Colorado Avalanche, and she still plays in local leagues and coaches the Aspen Junior Hockey U-19 girls.
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