March 8, 2012--Keeping an eye on the sky: Drought task force monitors water supply (Great 8 Newspapers)

In some parts of the world, the monsoon rains bring most of the water that comes to an area, but in Colorado, it’s the snow season that really matters. The source of all Colorado’s water is precipitation, rain and snow, but more factors affect water supply than just how much falls from the sky. When and where precipitation falls, how fast and how it is affected by current conditions, including temperature and the dryness of the soil, all affect how much of that moisture is available. Front Range communities tend to get about half of their water supply from the snow that falls in the mountains during the winter, according to Dave Nettles, division engineer for Division 1 of the Colorado Division of Water Resources. He noted that most of the precipitation and stream flow is on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, while most of the people live on the eastern slope. That, he said, has led to the development of intermountain diversion tunnels, such as the Moffat Tunnel system that supplies a portion of the Denver Water Board’s supply. Further east, he said, most of the moisture comes with thunderstorms from May through September and the monsoons in late July and August. “In terms of total volume for the eastern plains, 70 to 80 percent comes in the form of rainfall,” Nettles said. For Front Range communities, snowpack is one of the biggest factors in water supply throughout the year.

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