CODY, Wyo. — Despite a solid snowpack and above-average moisture in Wyoming's river basins, experts are waiting to see what spring weather holds before calling it a good water year.
Greg Bevenger, hydrologist with the Shoshone National Forest, said that while the snowpack is looking good, it's too soon to make projections for the spring and summer.
“We use the snowpack on the first of April,” Bevenger said. “That's our indicator of what the runoff is going to be on an average year.
“But if it continues at the pace it's going, it looks like it will be an average or a little above average runoff year.”
As of this week, the snow-water equivalent — or how much water is in the snow — varied across much of Wyoming.
At the high end, the North Platte River Basin in south-central Wyoming measured 143 percent of normal, while the Shoshone River Basin marked the low end at 104 percent of normal.
The Bighorn Basin reported 109 percent. The Powder-Tongue River Basin measured 114 percent.
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“We were in a drought for quite a few years,” Bevenger said. “But the last few years have been looking better. The entire state is above average.”
The current outlook has Dallen Smith, a Bighorn County agricultural expert with the University of Wyoming, hoping the trend holds through spring and summer.
“That snowpack affects our irrigators more than anything,” he said. “Our spring rains are really what affect our pastures. But so far, everything is looking pretty healthy.”
With commodity prices up, Smith said the timing may be right. If the moisture holds, he said, it may result in a productive year for area producers.
“When we have drought, there's not as much forage and you can't run as many livestock,” Smith said. “If you don't have enough irrigation, you can't grow your crops.
“It's pretty premature to say what's going to happen, but it's good to have that moisture, and it's looking like a good year.”
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