Colorado Drought Update-November 2017


Representative Drought Map

Water Year 2017 ended up being tied for the third warmest on record and the 30th wettest on record. So far in October and November of the current water year, most of the state has experienced above normal temperatures. The southern half of the state has recorded below normal precipitation at SNOTEL stations, while the northern half is experiencing above average precipitation. Abnormally dry conditions remain on the west slope as well as a small portion of moderate drought conditions along the western border in Rio Blanco and Garfield Counties. The winter wheat crop is in very good shape compared to past years due to beneficial storms back in September. 

As of November 13, statewide precipitation at SNOTEL sites is at 77 percent of average. The North and South Platte basins have experienced above normal precipitation levels as of November 13 at 119 and 118 percent, respectively. Southern basins such as the Southwest and Rio Grande basins are well below normal precipitation at 21 percent and 38 percent respectively. It is still early in the water year and a dry time of the year historically, so a current precipitation deficit can be made up with one or two decent snow storms. 

Reservoir storage statewide is at 116 percent of normal, with all basins above average. The Rio Grande basin is reporting the highest average storage (130 percent) it has been since 2008. The Southwest basins have the lowest storage levels in the state at 106 percent of normal. 

28 percent of Colorado is classified as abnormally dry (D0), while 1.2 percent is classified as experiencing moderate drought (D1) along the northwestern border of the state. 

Water providers in attendance report their respective system storage levels are at or above average for this time of the year and customer demand is lower than last year. 

Short term forecasts show that it will be warmer and drier than average for much of the state although the central west slope mountains could see snow storms in the next few days. 

A weak La Niña has emerged since the last drought update and forecasters predict these conditions will continue through the spring of next year. La Niña conditions typically mean mountain snows are often enhanced during the winter season, but fall and spring tend to be dry for Colorado.


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