Watershed snowpack levels frighteningly low

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- The Mesa is filled with beauty. It's part of the draw of Colorado, but it also helps water the Grand Valley.

"When it all melts, the water runs down and then it goes to drinking (water)," said Slade Connell, Water Supply Supervisor City of Grand Junction. "Not only drinking water, but also in town there's not necessarily a lot of irrigation water, so they water their lawn with it as well."

People like Connell need to measure the snowpack monthly to see how much potential water the City will get from the watershed. They take a pole that weighs 19 pounds and push it into the snow until it hits the ground. It collects snow, and then they weigh the pole with the snow on it.

That tells them how much water they can expect from snow levels. 18 inches of snow makes about four inches of water.

That's where the northernmost point of the watershed is sitting, and that's not a lot.

"Since I've been up here, in eight years this is the worst, like for example last year at this time, January 1, we had 56 inches right up there at towers," said Connell.

Now, the towers is at 22 inches.

"It's going to affect the ranchers, all their water rights are going to be prorated if we don't get the snow to get us up to where we need to be," said Connell.

So, when you turn on your sink and drink from a fountain, it's this snow that's coming out, and it serves 27,000 people in Grand Junction.

"If things don't change, they're really getting a (glimpse) of what they could be looking at as far as watering that kind of thing for the city of Grand Junction, there may be some cuts," said Connell.

The watershed is currently at 24 percent of its normal snowpack. Some areas have only 4 inches of snow.

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