March 12, 2010--Water shortages may hit northern Rockies (USA Today)

Much of the nation may be snow-weary, but farmers and ranchers who rely on winter snowpack in the northern Rockies for irrigation during the dry months of the growing season could face water shortages this summer unless more snow arrives soon. Wet spring and summer conditions in 2008 and 2009 helped pull the region out of a decade-long drought, but now hydrologists are once again reporting below-average mountain snowpack throughout much of the northern Rockies. As of early March, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, snowpack was at or near record low levels in many locations from northeastern Utah northward along and near the Idaho border with Montana and Wyoming. It's going to mean water rationing for junior water-rights holders. According to hydrologists across the region, most Rocky Mountain river basins typically accumulate 80% to 85% of their seasonal snow by March 1. They said April 1 is when most states in the region reach the peak snowpack. Long-term forecasts suggest that warm and dry conditions will persist in the final month of the snowy season, meaning many areas have already reached their peak for the season.

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