There may be some snow on the ground this week, but Colorado State University climatologists are saying that 98 percent of Colorado is facing drought conditions and warning that if the state does not receive more moisture soon, water restrictions may be necessary later in the year, The Denver Post first reported.
Greg Baker, Aurora Water spokesman, told The Denver Post that an arid, wildfire-heavy March and low snowpack in the mountains (statewide, snowpack is 49 percent of average) have state water managers concerned. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that 97.75 percent of the state is in drought conditions, up from only 59.01 percent at this same time in 2011.
The Drought Monitor website has a revealing map of just how deeply affected Colorado is by drought -- view the map for Colorado here.
According to the Associated Press, the most severely drought affected region in the state is the Arkansas Basin which is reporting extreme drought conditions due to last summer's Texas drought which affected much of the West and Midwest. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that Arkansas Basin areas of Colorado fall into "extreme," "severe," and in some cases "moderate" drought intensity.
Toward the North of the state, Fort Collins experienced the driest March in history. The Coloradoan reports that in the 144 years of record keeping by CSU, this was the only March that the city saw no measurable precipitation.
The severe dryness has many comparing 2012 to 2002, Colorado's last major drought year. But despite the dry conditions, many state reservoirs are in good shape with plenty of water supply and that was not the case in 2002, Mage Skordahl with the Colorado Snow Survey Program told 9News. However, the concern is that a very dry 2012 will lead to a draining of the reservoirs this year leaving very little water supply for 2013.
In summer of 2011, when drought conditions were not as pronounced as they are this year, Gov. John Hickenlooper declared a drought emergency for much of the southeast of the state, 25 counties in total, which made some of Colorado's farmers eligible for low-interest emergency loans.