This year’s winter snowfall provided a mountain of welcome statistics when it comes to the state’s water supply. The most eye-catching? According to the Colorado Sun, the snowpack reached a whopping 3,700% of normal.
Notes the online newspaper: “For the first time in 19 years, the entire state has been proclaimed 100% drought free. The fields are green, rivers are overflowing their banks and reservoirs are refilling.”
“In virtually every numerical sense,” adds the Denver Post, “Colorado’s mid-June snowpack (was) off the charts.”
It’s reason to celebrate, certainly. But before you uncork the champagne, consider this sobering fact: Experts warn that the state’s longtime struggle with drought is far from over. And climate change is exacerbating the problem.
In fact, Colorado River District engineers say it will take 8 to 13 years of snowpack equal to this year’s bounty to eliminate the effects of the previous drought, according to the Colorado Sun.
“This is a short-term boon, and we should be happy,” Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River District, told the Sun. “But we’re not out of the woods yet.”
Experts predict that by 2050, Colorado’s population will double. Meanwhile, hotter temperatures mean snowpack melts earlier, causing less streamflow in winter and fall. The heat also causes water to evaporate faster, and stressed plants require more water.
Anticipating these issues, a group of trade organizations, nonprofits and Colorado officials recently launched a campaign dubbed For the Love of Colorado. The awareness campaign will urge Coloradans to consider the state’s water future and the need to support Colorado’s Water Plan, which has outlined projects and ideas to help the state save 130 billion gallons of water each year, according to the Denver Post.
Additionally, the Post reports that officials plan to build several new reservoirs northeast of Denver to “capture more of the South Platte River’s Nebraska-bound water,” and direct it to metro suburbs.
While plans are in motion, however, the underlying message is clear: Our water woes haven’t dried up just yet.
“We were lucky this year,” Taryn Finnessey, Colorado’s senior climate change specialist, told the Sun. “But I don’t think that’s something that we can ever assume will happen again. So we need to be really wise stewards of our resources.”