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Program That Tracks Snowpack Is In Trouble

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – The snowpack is starting to build but the program that tracks it is in trouble.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is facing some budget cuts. What may go is monitoring the snow, but it’s a vital resource, such as at Lake Dillon where Denver Water uses that information to gauge whether there will be water restrictions in Denver or not.

“We’re trying to take a positive light on it and hope that it spins into something good for us here in the future,” said William Shoup, state soil scientist.

It’s a vital resource for the NRCS and many other agencies. But because of budget cuts, manual snow measurements on Berthoud Pass are on the chopping block.

“When it comes down to it, we just hope to do the best with what we get,” Shoup said.

This week three of Colorado’s federal congressional delegation said it must not go. It’s essential information for cities and water districts.

“Everybody from ski resorts, to interested users, to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), to other entities out in the field use our data to get an idea of what sort of snowpack we have in the mountains and what to expect for the water year.”

The legislators say water is the state’s most precious resource, and one agency said nearly every drop in the state comes from snow. Some snow records date back nearly 100 years.

“This is the longest term weather record of anywhere in the western United States, so I think it is very valuable and I think it’s very important we continue that,” Shoup said. “We hope to actually encourage our partners to come to the table and have a network of cooperators.”

Another concern is the changing environment. Denver Water says they rely heavily on the data, and with climate change they’re hoping for more information, not less.

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