Update on 2023 Drought and Snow Conditions
For the first time since early in 2019, a large portion of the Upper Gunnison River Basin is experiencing no drought conditions whatsoever, particularly in Gunnison and Saguache counties, which are currently 74 and 85 percent of the basin area respectively. This is a huge improvement from this same period in 2022 where these same areas were still experiencing the full range of drought conditions from abnormally dry to exceptional drought. The turnaround in these conditions was due in part to the monsoon rains the basin received in June, July and August 2022, which benefitted a good portion of western Colorado, as well as continued precipitation for December 2022 and January 2023. Even with this recent precipitation, water supply conditions within the basin remain low with streamflows throughout the water year below the historical average. Reservoir storage in the Upper Gunnison Basin currently stands at 41percent of full and the current snowpack is at 120 percent of normal. In 2022 conditions in the spring led to continued stress on the water supply due to low or no precipitation, severe wind events, and considerable dust on snow events. For 2023, the seasonal predictions for February, March and April state that there a 33 to 40 percent chance that precipitation will be below normal for the time period although the long-range weather forecast for March and April show several opportunities for more snow. Thankfully, due to precipitation received over the past several months in the Upper Gunnison Basin, soil moisture should not be a factor in reduced snow runoff.