Bureau of Reclamation Improves 2013 Outlook

Wyoming snow pack has gradually increased this spring. After a dismal start, the irrigation outlook improved substantially in March and April with several rain and snow events. The Bureau of Reclamation is increasing their projections for inflows into the reservoirs in Upper reaches of the North Platte River. In a interview with KNEB/Rural Radio Network, Wyoming Area Manager Coleman Smith says the Bureau's May first forecast has improved greatly.

The Bureau of Reclamation is forecasting inflows into Seminole Reservoir of 450 thousand acre foot, which is 25 thousand acre foot more than the inflows in 2007. The updated forecast is double what the Bureau was forecasting in April, before the region received multiple rain and snow events.

While snowpack levels have improved greatly to near normal, it's hard to make up the months that the snowpack has been below average. The snow - water equivalent in the Upper North Platte basin is now at 95 percent, the Lower North Plate is at 104 percent, Laramie River is at 103 percent and the South Platte is at 103 percent. The March and April storms have helped preparing the soils, but Smith is concerned how quickly the runoff comes off.

Smith says depending on how quickly temperatures warm up in the mountain in Wyoming and how soon irrigators begin demanding water will have a impact on the water supply.

He says the longer the water can be kept in the mountains the better off the situation be because the temperatures are cooler so there is less evaporation.

With the improved outlook, Smith says doesn't think irrigation districts will take out water loans this year. The last time districts used water loans was in the severe drought year of 2002.

For the 2014 irrigation outlook to improve, Smith says it will be important there will be water carried over for next year.

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