Snowpack is vital to Colorado's water supply as well as to millions of people who live downstream

Posted at 1:30 PM, Aug 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-06 15:30:53-04

BERTHOUD PASS, Colo. -- Colorado’s snow covered mountains are more than just a magnet for skiers and snowboarders. They are a giant storage facility for our state’s water supply.

“If you go to your tap, four out of every five glasses of water you will fill up will have originated as snow,” said hydrologist Keith Musselman of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Colorado River: Lifeline of the West airs Saturday, August 5 at 6:30pm with an encore presentation Sunday, August 6 at 2pm. 

Musselman says the most sobering thought is that we are so reliant upon the resource.

“It’s that reliance and the increase in population here on the Front Range and in many cities across the west where we need to know exactly how much water there is in any given year,” he said.

Snow survey supervisor Brian Domonkos of the U.S. Department of Agriculture uses data collected at Snotel sites around the state to keep an eye on how much water is in Colorado’s snowpack.

“During the winter we want snow. During the summer, we want an appropriate amount of rain,” he said.

Domonkos agrees that water is increasingly important here in Colorado, but points out that what happens in Colorado impacts everyone downstream as well.

“There’s a lot that goes into it on top of making sure that all of your water users down below are getting the water they need,” Domonkos said. “Providing that water to them as well as making sure you’re retaining in stream flows and meeting all your compacts for downstream water users, downstate… it’s extremely complex.”