Wyatt Barnes, left, owner of Red Wagon Organic Farm in Boulder, plants sugar snap peas Wednesday with employee Ernesto Gonzales. Despite the dry March, weather watchers are hoping for significant moisture soon.
Kasia Broussalian
Wyatt Barnes, left, owner of Red Wagon Organic Farm in Boulder, plants sugar snap peas Wednesday with employee Ernesto Gonzales. Despite the dry March, weather watchers are hoping for significant moisture soon.

BOULDER, Colo. –

Boulder County’s plains haven’t seen significant snow in weeks, but local officials and farmers aren’t panicking — yet.

While snowpack levels in Colorado’s high country are healthy, the prairies are parched, having seen just an inch of snow this month.

“We really need some good, wet spring storms, whether it’s snow or heavy rains,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which provides much of Boulder County’s water. “That’s the key as we go from here.”

Heading into March, Boulder was 19 inches behind its average winter snow total, according to Camera weather historian William Callahan. Typically Colorado’s snowiest month, March hasn’t been much help so far.

But April and May are the state’s wettest months, which leaves room for optimism.

Boulder meteorologist Matt Kelsch said a storm could bring some moisture to the Front Range on Sunday or Monday.

“For spring we’re way behind, but it could just take one storm. The month is not over yet,” Kelsch said. “It’s unlikely we’re going to catch up, but it’s possible.”

Colorado’s mountains are faring better than its flatlands. According to the latest basin outlook report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Lakewood, snowpack levels “remain above average nearly statewide.” But the report, released March 1, offered a troubling prediction.

“If March weather continues the pattern established in February, Colorado’s snowpack will be below average by the critical April 1 date,” the report said.

Clouds that covered Boulder on Wednesday didn’t produce more than a smattering of evening rain, and long-term expectations aren’t good for water content. According to an outlook released by the National Weather Service last month, the entire southern Rocky Mountain region is expected to see “below-median precipitation” for March, April and May.

Most municipalities will wait until May 1 to decide on water restrictions, if any. In a memo to the Boulder City Council last week, the city’s water officials said the snowpack levels serving Boulder are “about average.”

The city of Lafayette receives its water from South Boulder Creek and Boulder Creek, along with water from the conservancy district. Douglas Short, director of public works, said his city will likely be in good shape if spring moisture totals meet average totals.

“We’ll play the cards we’re dealt,” Short said. “We aren’t in panic mode yet. We’ll just wait until May and see where we’re at.”

If dry conditions linger, local farmers — and the water storage from which they draw — could feel the effects. A lack of direct precipitation would reduce soil moisture and force farmers to make early calls on irrigation water, according to Werner, the conservancy spokesman. Junior water-rights holders would be particularly affected because they would have to make do with whatever is left.

Wyatt Barnes, owner of Boulder’s Red Wagon Organic Farm, wasn’t worrying much Wednesday afternoon. He was planting sugar snap peas and hoping rain or snow will eventually fall on his Valmont farm.

“Well, we’re going to put the stuff in the ground, and once that’s in we’re hoping to get some rain or snow, or something,” Barnes said. “Maybe it won’t. We’ll just have to see.”

Archived comments

Welcome to the ‘high desert plains’, we do not get that much annual moisture.Farms on the plains have traditionally had to rely on irrigation(mtn. snow melt), to water their fields, those with senior water rights win out.

By the way, the info. on the snow pack is not accurate…we have been well above average all winter.The person in charge of reporting the snow pack/water outlook is kind of like a budget forcaster, they get paid to be very pessimistic, and generally full of gloom.

So, the reservoirs will be full,and with the economy(side benefit), we are not seeing runaway residential subdivisions being built with no regard to water.

comcast777

3/19/2009 10:17:09 AM

Good job, DC. The video that accompanies this article is quality; it’s informative video. Do this more often! IMHO I see unnecessary video that does not dig very deep or is frivolous and sensational.

Back up and see the whole picture – introduce your readers to their own local heroes.

dc@ecom.com

3/19/2009 10:31:49 AM

If you want to farm, move somewhere that has an annual rainfall to support your crop.

Dick_Tater

3/19/2009 12:08:31 PM

There is plenty of water here here with the right crop.

Growing hay is easy, and a few acres easily feeds some cows…ya know, food ? (local+sustainable)

Intensively growing a vegetarian diet in this climate is not impossible, but very difficult and energy intensive…as the snow pea story goes, eh ?

As for residential subdivisions: true to some extent.Imagine the water use for Peloton alone !But, with CBT water, it can come in from the western slope and supplement Boulder.They may be buying it or leasing it from there.

JakPott

3/19/2009 1:10:22 PM

No doubt, it still looks probable that the city will cry for restrictions, yet plan a few thousand more units at transit village alone.Is that ‘environmental’?

While you may take many measures to save water, the city sees the demand go down, and uses that for planning more taps.

The problem is with the next drought when there isnt a ‘pool’ of water left for emergencies (like water normally planned for lawns is now used for someones tap) – the water is oversold.

JakPott

3/19/2009 1:19:06 PM

JakPott:

“No doubt, it still looks probable that the city will cry for restrictions, yet plan a few thousand more units at transit village alone. Is that ‘environmental’?”

****

Exactly. And the monstrous Peloton? If they could actually manage to sell all those units, how much water do the rest of us have to cut back to support that ugly yuppie hive? The “sustainable” in this council’s view of the future is more and more cutbacks on everybody already here while they continue to sell out to developers and increase population.

___________________

comcast777:

“By the way, the info. on the snow pack is not accurate…we have been well above average all winter. The person in charge of reporting the snow pack/water outlook is kind of like a budget forcaster, they get paid to be very pessimistic, and generally full of gloom.”

***

You’ve got that right. Gloom for some; joy for others. With this type of council, nothing gets them salivating like an opportunity to limit, control, up fees (i.e., tax) and fine. Remember the Water Police? The six dollar an hour security guards hired by the council to drive around and issue, not warnings, but immediate $50 tickets if there was a sneeze’s worth of residual moisture on your sidewalk? Were “watering zones” ever really legally defined? Remember when Mayor Will Toor suggested neighbors rat neighbors out (and then followed with a “humorous” anecdote during a council meeting about a friend of his that he failed to identify, who ran her hose into the gutter and turned it on full blast every winter to up her allotment).

Control freaks like those who seem to keep getting themselves elected to council positions, BEG for droughts so they can spring into action and save us from ourselves.

Oh lord, let it rain on their parade.

donwrege

3/19/2009 2:28:42 PM