Heavy snowfall this winter has crashed the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s budget. Budget Officer Kevin Hibbard says WYDOT budgeted $22-million, but the department over-spent that amount at the beginning of March.
“February this year was the most expensive month,” Hibbard says. “We had about 6-million dollars in snow control expenditures in the month of February.”
Hydrogeophysicist Steve Holbrook marks the GPS coordinates of points where he and his team will seismically measure the subsurface. Holbrook co-directs the Wyoming Center for Hydrology and Geophysics, which hopes to better understand snowpack and aquifers in the state.
In such an arid state as Wyoming, water is precious. Last year, the University of Wyoming created the Wyoming Center for Hydrology and Geophysics, combining field experts and state-of-the art technology to better understand where water goes in after it falls from the sky, since much of it ends up in snowpack or underground.
There isn’t too much information available about that, but it’s important to state and local water managers, who need to know just how much water they have to work with. Rebecca Martinez reports.
Last year’s drought could impact the Wyoming water supply this summer.
The National Weather Service says that, although recent storms have helped replenish mountain snowpack, there might not be enough to get back to normal levels of runoff, which is state’s most common water source for crops and municipalities.
NWS Hydrologist Jim Fahey says that’s because the upper soil levels were parched by the drought and will likely absorb much of the runoff. Fahey says this could become especially problematic for some people during the summer months.
Recent snow storms have brought Wyoming’s level of precipitation back to normal for the month. That’s compared with April of last year– preceding the largest drought in history–when Wyoming was at 66% of average.
The Belle Fourche River Basin has the highest level of precipitation in the state at 300% of average. And the Sweetwater Basin has the statewide low at 81%.
Ken Von Buettner is a hydrologic technician for the Natural Resources Conservation Council. Von Buettner is optimistic about having a summer with normal levels of precipitation.
Wyoming’s snowpack is roughly 20% lower than it was at this time last year. It’s currently at 83% of what is considered normal. But state water supply specialist Lee Hackleman says forecasts indicate that 2013 will be a “neutral year”, meaning we may end up with only slightly below average snowpack going into the summer.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service is warning that the warm, dry weather this spring could drive up winter hay prices.
Wyoming’s snowpack is less than 30 percent of average, and Water Supply Specialist Lee Hackleman says farmers who get their water by diverting streams and rivers will be left high and dry.
“There’ll be a lot of people who will probably get their first cutting irrigated but won’t have any water for their second cutting,” Hackleman said. “So there’s liable to be a hay shortage again this winter.”
A water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service says recent snowfall has improved the snowpack in the state. Lee Hackleman says snowpack is 92 percent of normal statewide after sitting at 80 percent earlier this month.
“The whole state went up this last week,” says Hackleman. “Some areas went up quite a bit more, like around the Wind rivers and up around the Park, they significantly went up there. But even in the southern part of the state where we didn’t get as much,they still went up.”