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Have the February snowfalls boosted the water supply?

The snow surveys that the City of Grand Junction does monthly in its watershed in the Grand Mesa are a snapshot in time, comparing that month’s snow depth and water content with the average for that time period over many years. (Full results are a www.gjcity.org/WaterSupply.aspx. Click on the link marked Grand Mesa Monthly Snowfall and Water Content Summary.)

Last month’s snows certainly helped out, but they are not the full picture of what our water supplies will be for this summer and throughout next winter. We are still counting on March and April snows, and hoping for cool weather for a while longer. So while our snow levels and content in the City’s watershed as of March 6 are at 93 percent of average for snow depth and 97% for water content for this time of year, it is still too early to make predictions on how we will end the winter season. The Colorado River basin remains at about 76% of normal snowpack, and the eastern plains are at 69% of normal.

An early, warm spring such as we had last year could negatively impact our snowpack, and conversely, some heavy, wet spring snowstorms in the mountains would be beneficial. It’s just too early to tell.

Last summer, the three valley water providers—the City of Grand Junction, Clifton Water District, and Ute Water Conservancy District, all declared a Stage 1 Drought, which asks water users to voluntarily cut their usage by 20 percent. The Stage 1 Drought declaration is still in effect, and water users are encouraged to make wise choices when using water.

Take a look at your water usage and see where you can cut back. Indoor water savings can come from changing habits—from taking shorter showers to waiting until you have a full load of dishes and laundry, and fixing all leaks in faucets and toilets. By far the highest usage of residential water is for outdoor watering—from overwatering our lawns to using water and hoses to wash our cars and remove debris from our decks and sidewalks. Think about how you can change some of your habits to save water.

The valley domestic water providers, including the City of Grand Junction, Clifton Water, and Ute Water Conservancy District, are all monitoring snowpack conditions throughout the winter. They will be meeting in mid-April to assess and discuss the situation, and look at projected reservoir levels.

The three entities formed the Drought Response Information Project  (DRIP) during the last severe drought in 2002, and they continue to work together to encourage water conservation. In fact, they recently completed a Joint Water Conservation Plan that is fairly unique in the state. It is a cooperative plan that addresses how all three entities will educate the public about drought and water conservation, and sets forth some action steps to achieve their goals.

They are applying for a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board that would fund residential landscape audits and commercial audits for some of the largest water users. These audits can identify areas where users can decrease their water use and decrease their water bills as well. Their outreach and education program will continue with advertising of conservation messages and conservation tips and information on this DRIP website.

So the word on water right now from all three water providers is we need you to continue to conserve water and be careful about your outdoor watering. We are unlikely to see a movement out of the Stage 1 Drought for this summer, and voluntary reductions in use will likely continue. If the situation were to change dramatically for the worse, there is the possibility of moving to a Stage 2 Drought this summer, where restrictions could become mandatory and drought rates for water may be implemented to encourage reductions in water use. Let’s all look to the heavens for additional moisture this spring!

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