From February 12-14, myself and five others, attended the “Snow Course for Water Professionals” hosted by the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies (CSAS). The class was held at the CSAS office on the main street of Silverton, CO.
It was through both lectures and hands-on field experience that I gained a greater understanding of how Colorado water management and hydrologic modeling relies heavily upon snowpack data to plan for the variability of the state’s climate and water supplies. This data is collected primarily with manual course surveys and snow telemetry (SNOTEL). While CSAS operates a unique and crucial study area (Senator Beck Basin), the majority of Colorado snowpack data comes from manual snow course and SNOTEL sites funded and operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Mapping layers in the snowpack. Left to right: Matt Hoobler (Wyoming State Engineer’s Office), Fiona Smith (Colorado Water Congress), Dave Kanzer (Colorado River District). Photo courtesy of Chris Landry.
Measuring snow water equivalent. Left to right: Jim Pokrandt (Colorado River District), Slade Connell (City of Grand Junction), Mark Ritterbush (City of Grand Junction). Photo courtesy of Matt Hoobler.
Last year, the NRCS was compelled to consider retiring 47 manual snow course sites throughout the state as a result of their declining budget and sequester cuts. Through a last-minute reallocation of funds they’ve stretched the budget to fund these sites through August 2014, after which lies a big question mark.
CSAS will offer a similar course in 2015. Learn more about the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies online, and follow them on Facebook. Check back to find out when next year’s course registration will be open.