Colorado’s mountain snowpack dwindled amid a heat wave Monday as the state’s rivers and streams continued to run low, taking a toll on reservoirs and farmers already struggling with drought.
Snowpack comprises more than three-quarters of the water in the state’s rivers, streams and reservoirs. But the snowpack was well below average this year, and many rivers and streams are running at half their usual volume.
“Our snowpack has essentially melted out,” said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Denver had a second day of record-breaking temperatures with a high Monday of 98 that broke the record of 97 set in 1884. On Sunday, Grand Junction, Pueblo and Montrose set or tied records.
After a dry March, April brought several storms that helped build up the snowpack. But May turned dry again. Now, the already sparse snowpack has dwindled to 12 percent of the 30-year average.
The South Platte River’s water level, low for the past several years, has taken its toll on farmers in northeastern Colorado.
“It’s just sand in places, and it’s gotten overgrown with a lot of trees because we didn’t have enough water to flush it out,” said Jim Aranci, an alfalfa farmer near Sterling.